Saturday, March 7, 2009

When Does Garish Become Beautiful?

I stumbled across this amazing set of photos last week. Apparently this ship is rusting in the harbour in Shanghai. I suspect if I saw it in it's glory I would be totally disgusted. But somehow, in a state of decay, it looks stunningly beautiful.

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Sunday, February 22, 2009

Perfect Crime

I follow a bunch of different blogs for a bunch of different reasons. One is, my old friend Peter Rukavina's blog (I don't think he even knows I'm following him - Hi Peter, if you're reading this!).

Today he posted on a new meme called "Wikipedia Names Your Band." Here's how it works:

1. Go to Wikipedia and click on the "random article" link. That first random page's title is the name of your band.
2. Go to this random quotes page. The last few words of the last quote on the page is the title of your album.
3. Go to Flickr's Interesting photos of the past 7 days page. The third photo on that page is your album cover.

Here's what happened when I did it:

I kinda like it!

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Sunday, February 8, 2009

It's amazing what you find...

...surfing around the internet.

Check out this site of bad album covers.

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Go Steve!

It may seem a long stretch from "Let's Get Small!" but I say, go Steve! Comedian/Actor Steve Martin is releasing a new CD, called "The Crow." It's a CD of banjo music. (I guess I should have said "Comedian/Actor/Banjo Player Steve Martin.")

This New York Times Article gives more background on his banjo history and pedigree. And this article from The Banjo Newsletter (reprinted on Steve Martin's own website) gives some indication of the fact that he's respected in the banjo world (sidenote: it's interesting that in the interview, which seems to be at least five years old, he says he would never release a CD of banjo music!).

Now, some of you might be thinking, "He's gotta be kidding!" Or maybe, "Why doesn't he stick to comedy and acting?" But, as it turns out, Steve Martin is a good banjo player. (If you don't believe me, check out some of the sound samples on the page for the album.) The songs and tunes on "The Crow" are all original, and he's joined by a number of fine musical guests, including Tim O'Brien, Tony Trischka, Pete Wernick, Earl Scruggs, Dolly Parton, Vince Gill, and others.

Personally, I admire an artist who is not afraid to do something different. He's not a hack and it's not just a publicity stunt - playing the banjo has been a significant part of his life since he was a teenager, and he obviously has great respect for the music and the instrument. I look forward to seeing how the album is received and where this part of his artistic journey takes him.

Go Steve!

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Musical Sculpture

The Torontoist blog recently re-posted an interesting "help wanted" ad for a salesperson to help promote "musical water fountains." I was curious what that might be, so I snooped around on the internet and found out that the fountains in question are actually a musical instrument called a "hydraulophone." Here's an extensive Wikipedia article on hydraulophones.

It turns out that the fountain in front of the Ontario Science Centre here in Toronto is a hydraulophone, the largest one in the world. Who knew? In fact, it seems like Toronto is a hotbed of hydraulophone activity - Steve Mann, the inventor of the hydraulophone, is a professor at University of Toronto.

Here's a video of the Ontario Science Centre hydraulophone in action:

Here's a video of the Hart House Orchestra performing "Suite for Hydraulophone"

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

How Does This Sound?

Okay, maybe I'm fixated on this nickname thing.

Today there was another article in the Star about Toronto's nickname dilemma. In principle, I agree with Vinay Menon's point that there are probably far more important things to spend our valuable time and money on in this city.

But on the other hand, I love nicknames! And I thought of one for Toronto that I think is not bad. So here goes:

"Toronto: Home to The World."

Whaddaya think?

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

I'm Not The Only One...

A while ago I wrote about the fact that I've never had a nickname. It seems I'm not the only one.

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Saturday, January 24, 2009

Morris Dancers: Endangered Species or the New Hipsters?

Recently there was a spate of news articles declaring that Morris dancing, that ancient British past-time in which grown men and women strap bells to their feet, grab hankies or sticks, and prance around, is in danger of dying out. Since most of you probably don't keep up to date on the latest in the Morris dance scene, let me be the first to inform you that other Morris dance diehards disagree completely.

And yesterday, via the Dirty Linen blog, came a report that there might be hope in the form of this movie, which claims to be the "Spinal Tap of Morris dance." Maybe Morris dancing will become the new hip-retro-cool activity du jour. Why not? It happened to swing dance, bluegrass and old-time music, shape note singing, why not Morris dance?

No word yet on when "Morris: A Life With Bells On" is due to be screened in North America. I'm holding my breath in anticipation.


Friday, January 2, 2009

And, In Watermelon News...

I wish I had heard about this earlier, or I might have changed my New Year's plans. It seems Vincennes, Indiana decided to create a new local tradition for ringing in 2009. They created a 500-pound watermelon (yes, you read that right!), which they hoisted 100 feet into the air at 11:59 pm on December 31st. At the stroke of midnight, they dropped nine real watermelons to mark the beginning of 2009 (nine watermelons for 2009, get it?). This is the kind of tradition I could get into.

Most of the coverage of this that I found on the internet was actually pre-watermelon drop (as in this piece here), but there was one local piece today that heralded the event as a complete success, despite a rope-pulling malfunction. And there was this picture for posterity. I'm waiting for the videos to be posted.

Signing off,

Your watermelon correspondent.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I Need a Nickname

I love nicknames. I've never had a nickname, and I'm thinking if I could find the right nickname, I could ratchet up my "cool" factor. Think about it. Having a nickname gives you a mysterious quality. A musician with a nickname obviously has friends, because who else gives you a nickname? But more importantly, it means you have some unmistakable quality that deserves to immortalized -- think Duke Ellington, or Screamin' Jay Hawkins.

Some nicknames describe a physical attribute -- like Fats Waller, or Blind Lemon Jefferson. Sometimes it has to do with where the person is from (Mississippi John Hurt), or the fact they aren't really from anywhere (Ramblin' Jack Elliott). Maybe some habit or style they have (Ringo Starr).

Even some of my folkie friends and heroes have nicknames: Curly Boy Stubbs (Paul Mills), Utah Phillips, Libba Cotten.

Then there are the honorific titles that people are given -- Queen of the Blues (Dinah Washington), Queen of Country Music (Kitty Wells), or Little Miss Dynamite (Brenda Lee). I could live with something like that.

But I think the best nicknames are the ones that are just completely unexplainable, like Satchmo (Louis Armstrong). You can't tell exactly where that came from (actually, here's the story), but it just sounds very cool.

That's the kind of nickname I'd like.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008


My friend Laurie has an excellent blog called "Not Just About Cancer" that (among other things) chronicles her experiences as a breast cancer survivor. Her writing is insightful and inspiring, and sometimes just downright hysterical. She's writing a "blook" that's due to be published sometime next year.

Recently she went to the "BlogHer" conference in San Francisco. And she got her picture taken with Grover. I'm jealous.

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Once: The Movie

Last night I rented the movie "Once". It's a low-budget Irish movie about two musicians who meet on the street and develop a musical partnership.

It's rare to see a movie about music that gets it right, but this one does. The main characters are played by musicians. Glen Hansard, the leading man, is a member of the Irish band "The Frames" (he also played the guitarist in one of the other great music movies of all times, "The Commitments"). The leading woman is Marketa Irglova, a compelling piano player and singer.

There's a lot in the movie about the process of musical collaboration, songwriting, trying to survive as an independent musician, and (of course!) love and its many twists and turns. And the music is stunning.

It's quirky, funny, sad, and very moving. Rent it!

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

A Very, Very Special Watermelon

In the interests of keeping my readers informed about the latest in watermelon news, I feel compelled to post this item.

Apparently, last month a watermelon was sold at auction for ¥65,000 (almost $6000 CDN) in Japan.

Who knew there were such things as "watermelon auctions?" This got me curious, so I looked up "watermelon auction" on Google. In between links about the $6000 watermelon, I discovered this link, about another watermelon sold at auction for $4000 in Australia.

Is this a trend or something? Is watermelon suddenly a "must-have" item, hipper than flip-flops or carrying a miniature dog around in your purse? I'm picturing Sotheby's or Christie's Auction House listings, with descriptions like,

"This watermelon, of the organic sugar baby variety, was grown by Lord Pommel of Grace Hill. It was believed to have been harvested in 1894, a fine vintage prized for it's texture and colour. Other watermelons in the vintage are reported to have an appealing nose with a hint of raspberry and an aggressive finish. This specimen is particularly valuable, having been owned by William Faulkner while he was writing his masterpiece 'As I Lay Dying.' Rind is in excellent condition, with no scuffs or pockmarks. Starting bid $9000."

I hope the buyers really enjoyed their watermelons.