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Saturday, July 31, 2004

I got my 500th hit on the counter for this page today. Thanks to everyone who has visited so far, especially those of you actually bored enough to come back. :-)

Friday, July 30, 2004

Its been a while since I posted a Japan themed link, so here we go. Only this time its not the country, but the British pop group Japan I'm talking about. Nightporter is Paul Rhymer's very comprehensive site on the group. Folks who are interested in Yellow Magic Orchestra and British guitarist Bill Nelson might also find it worth a look. And anyone who's a fan of Duran Duran might find it interesting given that the early image of Duran Duran, if not the music, was quite influenced by Japan.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

You could easily call this the Summer of Destruction in Saskatoon.  I can't think of a time when more large buildings have been under demolition.  I've already mentioned the old Hudson Bay parkade coming down.  The site is now nothing more than a big hole full of rubble.  Nearby another commercial building has just been knocked down over the past few days.  Located on 23rd Street by the City Transit bus mall it had contained various businesses over the  years, but had largely been empty in recent times.  The city ended up with it when the previous owner defaulted on his taxes.  Its been claimed that the bus mall has screwed things up for that building, but frankly I think there was something more than that going on.  In any case the city decided to demolish it because it was not only empty but suffering from some sort of mold problem. 

Then there's the Gathercole building by the river.  A former technical college in more recent years it had served as headquarters for the Saskatoon Public School Board.  Lots of folks, for reasons that really don't resonate with me(the building has never had any real appeal to me, it looked like an old box), wanted the building preserved.  But the consensus amongst city planners and others was that it should be knocked down to make way for the long planned and still nebulous South Downtown redevelopment project.  And so down it goes.  Of course things might have gone a bit differently if the tv series Body & Soul, filmed here in Saskatoon, including in the Gathercole,  had been successful.  Starring current garden products spokesman and miniseries favourite Peter Strauss it was filmed in 2002 for the US PAX Network, but was cancelled after 9 episodes were filmed.  Given how minor league of a channel PAX is the series must have done really poorly.  At the time production began the folks behind the series were optimistically talking about as much as a four year run.  Of course no one will have much luck marketing a series if they don't make lofty predictions.
I wonder how stupid the typical online con artist really thinks people are.  Over the last few days I've received a boatload of fake "verify the security of your bank account" spammails.  But the interesting is that they're arriving with words  missspelled in the subject line, presumably to get around spam filters.  Is anyone actually stupid enough to believe a spam e-mail with misspelled words is actually the product of the fraud department of a bank, especially when you get several hundred of them?

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Just spent some time reading the first bits of Ben Watson's new bio of free improvising guitarist Derek Bailey via the time honoured nuisance making activity of standing for a while in a bookstore.  Very interesting and amusing stuff reading about how he grew up in 1930s England and his early days as a professional guitarist.   Reading about the conditions of his childhood reminds me of the similar conditions that Bill Wyman describes from his childhood in his autobio/Stones history.  For that matter the thought just popped to mind of how my own father grew up in rural Saskatchewan in the 1940s.  Arguably better conditions than they did, but still they didn't have electricity on the Gueguen farm for the first few years of his life, and when they did get electricity it was via an on farm battery plant and not from the provincial electricity grid.  That would come several years later.  Anyways I hope that my local library gets a copy of the Bailey bio, as I just don't have 50 bucks to drop on a single book for the foreseeable future.  Other expenses take priority.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Its interesting to realise that despite the role the Internet has come to play in current North American society there are plenty of people who don't have even a lingering trace of their activities online.  Just out of curiosity I looked up the names of a couple of girls I went to high school with tonight.(No, I'm not going to tell you who they are, although one might not be hard to figure out for some people I went to school with.)  The only trace I found of them was a mention of the one winning a contest here in Saskatoon in the 1970s.  Otherwise there was nothing.  I know one of them got married a few years back, so she may not use her maiden name online anyways.  The other I have no idea what she's up to.  But whatever it is its not something that's generated an Internet presense under her name. 

The Statcounter.com counter I use to keep track of the hits on this blog is a nice piece of kit.  Amongst the things it tracks are were the hits are coming from, and what link if any brought them here.  Some hits come from not very surprising places, like the places where I've posted a link to here.  Others can be a bit of a surprise, like a number of hits I've gotten in the last few days because of my comments on the Canadian Forces maritime helicopter decision of last week.  One of the oddest was a hit from India back in May from someone looking for tips on ovenless cooking on Google.

Hopefully this comment won't scare anyone off from visiting here.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Well, here's post #100.

Had another pleasant surprise tonight.  Deborah Goldsmith has posted chapter 2 of her fanfiction Notes From Julliard.  Its a continuation of the storyline started in Genma's Daughter, a fanfiction based on the popular Japanese cartoon and comic series Ranma 1/2.  If you're in any way interested in fanfics based on this series read her stuff, its damn good.  The basic idea has been done before, but the execution is what makes this series so interesting.  Her fiction page is located here. 
A pleasant surprise drifted out of my radio tonight.  Blue Jays broadcaster Tom Cheek was back on the air for a couple of innings tonight.  Cheek has been undergoing treatment for a brain tumour discovered earlier this year.  He sounded very much like his normal self, and you really couldn't tell he's been battling a very serious illness. He had been broadcaster for the Jays since their very first game, and had called all of them until the death of his father earlier this year.  This was followed by the discovery of the tumour soon afterwards, in another one of those "some people have all the luck, and all of its bad" kind of situations.  Hopefully he'll be able to get back in the saddle soon on a extended basis, even if its only a couple games a week.  It was interesting to here him comment how because of the illness he's actually had the chance to watch and listen to the games the way we baseball fans do, and several times had wanted to throw his radio at something because of how poorly they were doing. 
This morning the Liberal government finally announced the selection of a replacement for the Canadian Forces' aging fleet of Sea King maritime patrol helicopters, the Sikorsky H92.  This is a decision that should have been made years ago.  Of course if the Chretien government way back in '93 hadn't cancelled a contract for the purchase of EH101 helicopters the Sea Kings would have long been put out to pasture.  But the controversy isn't done, since losing bidder EH Industries, which offered a version of their Cormorant helicopter, claims the bidding process was biased against them and that they may sue as a result.  Then there's the fact that the Canadian Forces purchased a version of the Cormorant for search and rescue,  leading to the obvious question of why the Forces should be using two different brands of helicopters for maritime roles, losing the benefits of having similar aircraft from a single supplier.   And we may see concerns about the H92 being a modified version of the civilian S92, versus it being an aircraft designed from the ground up for military use.  There have been criticisms in certain quarters about the CH146 Griffon helicopter being developed by a similar route, claims being made its commercial heritage has made it a poorer aircraft than a purpose designed military copter.

This whole mess once more makes me feel that a major, comprehensive review of Canadian defense policy is needed.  Canadians need to decide what we want our military to do in the 21 Century, and develop a comprehensive plan of how to impliment these goals.  This especially needed since various systems are coming to the end of their useful lives, and we need to decide what to replace them with, or even whether we will replace them at all.   But with our current minority government we aren't likely to see anything along these lines happen anytime soon.

Speaking of military matters an interesting fact came to light this week.  Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Carlos Delgado has been coming off the field in American ballparks when they sing God Bless America during the 7th inning.  This is a protest both against the current war in Iraq and a continuation of his opposition to the use of Vieques Island in his native Puerto Rico as a US Navy gunnery range.  What I find fascinating about it is that he's been doing so without making a big deal about it.  He's just been doing it, not throwing himself at the media and shouting, "HEY, LOOK AT ME!  I'M PROTESTING!" like celebs tend to do.  Very classy.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Its amazing the kind of things you can find if you put enough imagination into examining common objects.  Like this.  And to think I was involved in a thread on Space:  The Imagination Station's bulletin board just this week about that wonderful example of '70s paranoia, subliminals.
Ah, the irritating "joys" of high tech.  In our house we have Shaw digital cable.  Today was the introduction of a new set of menues and so forth for the digital terminal used.  But, surprise! the new software is causing problems.  I could change channels and turn the cable box off, but otherwise nothing was working.  A phonecall to customer service has given me audio at least.  From what the service guy said they've been getting lots of calls today regarding similar problems.  Hopefully things will be completely operational soon and I won't have to call them again in the morning.
I just found out that Jerry Goldsmith has died.  Anyone who has ever watched more than a movie or two, or any amount of dramatic tv has heard his work.  Its a shame this very prolific composer has passed away.  Yet another music world loss in a year that has seen way too many.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Here's an interesting article from the New York Review of Books on the future of Turkey.  Hopefully democracy manages to take strong hold there, as we can do with more democracy in the Islamic world.
 
 

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Regular readers (yes, they do actually exist!) of this blog may remember my recent post about Charles B. Horn.  It seems my musing about the article and April Fool's wasn't far off the mark.  Apparently it was a hoax, if reports like this are to be believed.  The thing is "Horn's" purported  theory is hardly any more outre than the actual conspiracy theories and bizarre pseudoscience ideas that people actually believe, like British media personality David Icke and his claims that various famous persons are actually shape changing alien space lizards. 

Friday, July 16, 2004

Its amazing who they actually let have a blog.  Even green skinned Freudian alter egos of hapless atomic scientists.  BTW ole purplepaints says that this article  from the Onion was not written by him.  Then again who really trusts what those weirdos print anyways?

Thursday, July 15, 2004

More problems for Michael Moore.  A Canadian law student wants him prosecuted for violating the Elections Act, which amongst other things prohibits foreigners from trying to overtly influence voters.  I don't know which is sillier, the provision itself, or that someone actually thinks that Moore's statements had any sort of real impact on the election.  The kind of people most likely to listen to what Moore has to say are the same kind of people least inclined to vote for the current Conservative Party.
 
The whole thing brings to mind Charles de Gaulle, the late French president.  While in Quebec in 1967 he shouted "Vive la Quebec libre" during an appearance at Montreal's City Hall.  The statement was seen by many as supporting the then fledgling Quebec separatist movement, and still pisses off many federalists to this day.  de Gaulle advocating Quebec separatism is interesting when one considers that France ended its colonial rule of Algeria under his leadership only a few short years earlier, an act that split French society and lead to violence by the OAS, a right wing group opposed to French withdrawal from Algeria.  The OAS attempted to assassinate de Gaulle several times, acts which served as inspiration for Frederick Forsythe's classic nove The Day of the Jackal.  Some Quebec intellectuals even tried to draw a parallel between the Algerian independance struggle and their own desire for separation, an argument that ignored that Quebeckers had the same political rights as their counterparts elsewhere in Canada and were not ruled by a foreign power who suppressed their political movements by force.
Discussing that "wholistic" (as they spelt it) nonsense wasn't good for my blog, as for some reason the interface decided to post a bunch of copies of the post to the blog.  It was being a pain in the ass a bit yesterday as well.  I guess blogger.com needs its chakras aligned, or a LaStone thrown at the LaServer to get it to stop acting up.
For a while now a local bus or two has featured an external ad advertising something called Sage Stone Wellness Centre.  After seeing the phrase Raindrop Thearapy in the text I finally got around to looking at their website  I wasn't hugely surprised at the headshaking stuff I found, a bunch of weird "therapies."  For example they offer something called LaStone Therapy, which is supposedly based on Lakota practices.  Yet the description mentions chakras.  Someone getting their Indians mixed up perhaps?    There's other things anyone vaguely familiar with this kind of thing has probably run into before, like energy fields and talk about vibration rates of the human body and so forth.  "Science has proven that we are all connected and transfer information within the energy matrix or grid that surrounds all living things" is a statement found in the description of Geotran, which is a trademarked term btw.  I'm sure scientists who work in certain fields would be surprised to hear that this has been proven.  Not that I'm quite sure exactly what fields of science this gobbledegook is supposed to refer to.  And on it goes. 
 
Apparently there are enough people in Saskatoon who have fallen for this nonsense to make a go of it, especially since they're located in the Delta Bessborough, Saskatoon's premier hotel.  I doubt renting space in the Bess can be very cheap.  Unfortunately there's no price list given, the cost per hour I suppose depending on what they figure should be done to you.  Too bad, as I'd love to know how much they're fleecing people for.

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Here's an interesting story a member
of a mailing list I'm on sent me. You really have to wonder at the
thinking of some people in authority. Unfortunately I've read at least a
couple of similar stories elsewhere. You can bet they'd be a lot more
reticent to do crap like this if 911 had been pulled off by fanatical
"white" Americans of some stripe or another. I put "white" in quotation
marks because to the best of my knowledge the 911 hijackers were all
Caucasian. Mohammed Atta, the purported leader, certainly was.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Yesterday I managed to watch some of the notorious Gigli. No, its not the worst film I've seen, but it wasn't very good either. It just seemed rather limp. Some of it had a "stage play" feel to it, ie it seemed like was originally written as part of a stage play where you obviously are going to have lots of time with the actors sitting around talking in a single space. Gigli is probably a good example of the dangers to a relationship if a couple work together. The poor showing of the film and the rampant criticism of Jen Lopez and Benny Afleck for their part in the flick couldn't have helped their relationship.

Today I watched a film on cable that i've always been aware of but never actually got around to seeing, Streets of Fire. Definitely an odd little piece, blending as it does a '50s look and feel with an '80s look and feel. Its seems quite dated much of the time given the music involved, and things like a dancer in a leather thong dancing in a very Flashdance-esque way to a performance by the Blasters. Rick Moranis plays a character that easily could have fit in with the roles he played on SCTV. Willem Dafoe is the villian of the piece, and in a number of scenes wears vinyl overalls that look like they were stolen from a member of Men At Work or some minor league British New Wave band. Michael Pare, who would go on to do Eddie and the Cruisers, is the hero, and its not hard to guess that his career has been hampered by the fact he sounds and looks a lot like a second league Sylvester Stallone. Ry Cooder does much of the music for the film, and I smiled when Dafoe shows up for his final confrontation with Pare to the strains of a Cooder version of Link Wray's "Rumble." The film was a big flop at the time, which reportedly forestalled plans by director Walter Hill to make further films based around Pare's Cody character. I can only imagine what he planned to do in them. One thing you can say about Hill is that he's always had some interesting ideas lurking around in his head, even if they don't always work, as opposed to many film makers who make the same lame cliche crap as everyone else.

And to make one more film comment its interesting to watch the ads for the new Will Smith film I, Robot, which seems to share little more than a name with the Isaac Asimov material its based on. The ads remind me of Runaway, a 1984 (geez, I hadn't realised it was that old!) film starring Tom Selleck as a cop trying to figure out why domestic robots have begun to kill people. Yeah, Selleck was fighting mechanical props that looked vaguely insectish instead of the CGI'ed humanoids Smith will be contending with, but the plot seems damn similar. Runaway's villain was none other than Gene Simmons, this being the start of an attempt by Simmons to build a movie career. It didn't really work, although it lead to the amusing spectacle of Simmons, a Jew born in Israel, playing an Arab terrorist in the Rutger Hauer vehicle Wanted: Dead Or Alive. Ah, two mysteries of the universe, why Selleck never managed to pull off a career doing "straight" action adventure films(even Quigley Down Under has a streak of humour running thru it), and why Rutger Hauer hasn't been as successful as Arnie S. when he's a better actor than the Austrian muscleman and made the effort to lose his accent.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Just as a followup to last month's comments about the death of guitarist Robert Quine, here's some comments I stumbled across about Quine from Craig Northey of Canadian band the Odds. While we're at it here's a link to a fansite about Quine.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

Its funny how sometimes when you want to find something amongtt your possessions it turns out to be a major chore, and other times its in the first place you look. For some reason this morning I started thinking about a cassette I hadn't listened to in years, and decided I should give it a listen. So just a bit a go I went looking for it, and bang! it was in the top row of cassettes in the first of my cassette boxes I looked in.

The album in question is Elli, by French(?) singer Elli Medeiros. I bought this on a whim years ago after reading a review of it in Option magazine(remember them?). I bought it for the same reason I'm sure Option reviewed it, because trumpeter Don Cherry was on it. No, this Don Cherry is not the white hockey coach, he's the unfortunately dead black associate of jazz saxophonist Ornette Coleman. There must have been a really interesting story about how he ended up on this recording. Its not bad, sort of a funk rock kind of thing, with vocals mainly in French. I actually saw the video for the second cut on the album, "Vanille," on the French network of the CBC a number of years ago, and Cherry was in it. Other than that I know zip about Ms. Medeiros.

You may be familiar with Mr. Cherry's children. His stepdaughter Neneh Cherry had a hit with "Buffalo Stance" in the late '80s. His son Eagle Eye Cherry had a hit in '98 with "Save Tonight," and has done some acting.

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

I was just sitting around looking at various blogger.com blogs and what, of course, did I find? Porno blogs. Its amazing how far and wide the porn infection has travelled across the online world. I also have to wonder if these aren't a violation of the terms of service of this system. If they aren't yet they probably will be once they get some complaints. Sooner or later someone will scream bloody murder when they allow little Johnny on here and he opens up a blog with a nice shot of some nude babe with silicone breasts giving someone else an "oral exam."

Tuesday, July 06, 2004

Just wanted to post a short quote that I've been carrying around for the last few weeks. For some reason it just appealed to me to write it down.

"War is the dirtiest word I know."
-Sgt. Mahmud Nadeh, Egyptian Army, Oct. 1973.
Conservative Party leader Steven Harper may already have a post election reason to roll his eyes. One of his MPs wants two Saskatoon police officers who were convicted last year of dumping an aboriginal man outside of town in the middle of winter a new trial. Maurice Vellacott's request is hardly the kind of thing Harper needs in his efforts to convince more voters that the Conservative Party isn't "scary," especially those folks in Indian Country who are especially suspicious of the party. According to the Saskatoon Star Phoenix Vellacott's letter also mentions the fact that the victim, Darrell Night, has a considerable criminal record as a factor in why a new trial is warranted.(I'd post a link to that article but its a "subscribers only" feature on their website.) Someone should tell Vellacott that this is irrelevant. Breaking the law is breaking the law whether the victim is a saint or a real bastard.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Sitting at the computer tonight I've been listening to music, and in the process dug out a couple of CDs I haven't listened to in a long time. The first was Shoukichi Kina and Champloose's The Music Power From Okinawa, a great recording of a 1977 gig by Kina in Okinawa. Kina is a pioneer of combining traditional Okinawan music with Western influences, and this was the album that supposedly first began to get him attention in Japan. Its too bad more Asian music like this didn't get released during the world music boom of the mid '90s.

The other CD, which I'm currently listening to right now, is guitarist Sonny Sharrock's Ask the Ages. Recorded in 1991, it features Sonny teaming up with his old employer Pharoah Sanders on saxes, Elvin Jones on drums, and the somewhat younger Charnett Moffett on upright bass. Great playing on this one, with all the tunes written by Sharrock. Sonny plays, for him, very straight ahead on this album. This year marks the tenth anniversary of his death, which was especially unfortunate given that he was about to sign a contract with RCA when he died. Elvin Jones left us a few weeks ago as well, so its kind of appropriate to be listening to this right now.

Friday, July 02, 2004

I was looking at issue 185 of Fortean Times today. There's an article on one Charles B. Horn in that issue, who has a unique idea where some of the spam, including porn spam, we all get comes from. He claims its an attempt by an alien civilisation to communicate with us.

Hey, don't look at the screen like that, I didn't make this up, honest. Horn even has a website, altho' its rather short on content at the moment. As you can imagine I had to look at the cover date on the magazine to make sure I wasn't looking at their April issue.

Today's big news on the entertainment front is of course the death of Marlon Brando. Its kind of ironic he died today, as our local paper had a gossip column report that Brando was in financial trouble and might lose his house.

Brando was another one of those celebs who in the later years of his life became more famous for being famous than any work he actually did of late. It had been years since he'd been involved in a truly worthwhile production, and was more famous of late for his considerable girth and penchant for outrageous statements. Things weren't helped by personal tragedies, with his son Christian being convicted of in the death of his daughter Cheyenne's boyfriend in 1990, followed by Cheyenne's suicide in 1995.

But Brando will likely always be remembered for his role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Ironically the studio didn't want Brando in the film, as he had a bad rep after problems during filming of Mutiny on the Bounty years earlier.

Another unfortunate bit of news comes from the Star Trek front. James Doohan, who played Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the original series, is believed to be suffering from the early stages of Alzheimer's, at age 84. This is especially sad when you consider that he has a 4 year old daughter.

There was also a report this week that William Shatner will be making a guess appearance on Star Trek: Enterprise this fall. Can you say stunt casting? Its pretty obviously a gimmick to try and help the ratings of the poorly performing series, which may be gone by the end of next season if things improve. No word yet on who he's actually going to play, but if it isn't James T. Kirk one of Kirk's anscestors is a good guess. Shatner is going to be awfully busy for the next little bit, as he'll be starring in a spinoff of The Practice, set to premiere this fall.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Happy Canada Day to my fellow countrymen.

Could this be a sign the world is coming to an end? Don Zimmer, who has worked for the New York Yankees forever, is now working as a scout for the Tampa Bay Devilrays. Incidentally this is Zim's 53rd year in professional baseball.

On a more serious note a member of a mailing list I'm on posted a link to a pdf file of the Texas Republican Party platform. I sure am glad I don't live in Texas. Did they chase away all the Republicans who aren't religious conservatives? Reading that they want to bring back anti sodomy laws makes me wonder if they'll be like the old ones, and not just apply to gays. After all "sodomy" usually was defined as any sort of sexual activity that wasn't procreative penis into vagina sex. So a married couple who liked to perform oral sex could be charged with sodomy if they were spotted doing so. And someone needs to tell these mooks that creationism and so called Intelligent Design are not scientific theories.