On High Rotation

Sony mdr nc7 noise cancelling headphones

Here’s a sampling of what’s on high rotation on my various MP3-playing devices. Lately, they’ve been synthy…

Midnight City by M83

M83’s upcoming double album, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, isn’t due out until October, but they’ve let an advance single out: Midnight City. It’s big, it’s bold and audacious enough to open with a signature squawky synth and close with…a saxophone line? I suppose if polo shirts with popped collars made a comeback, the rock sax was bound to follow. Throw some headphones on for this one — and I mean headphones, not those blasted little white earbuds — and enjoy. If you like the song, you can download it, too!

The album from which this song comes looks promising: produced by Justin Meldal-Johnsen (he’s done Beck, Goldfrapp, Mars Volt and Nine Inch Nails) and featuring guitarist Brad Laner (Medicine) and vocals by Morgan Kibby (Saturdays=Youth).

Blackness by Digital Leather

I’m a happy-go-lucky guy, but many of my favourite tunes have some rather depressing lyrics. It could be that I’m a closet emo kid or that I hung out with the “perkygoth” crew at Crazy Go Nuts University (Miz Tweendom, Hard Harry and Krazy Karl, I’m lookin’ at you) or that I’ve picked up some kind of “without the shadows, you can’t know where the light is” Zen motorbike mechanic mindset along the way.

Anyhow, I love this song, which takes a lot of opposites and blends them together: acoustic guitar and synths, folky and punk sounds, a mellow start and a rockin’-out finish, happy chords and dark lyrics and a willingness to follow the line “I’ve got courage in my heart” with the Bloodhound Gang-esque “Love is a thing like cold black leather”. Whether you’re nursing a scotch in an empty hotel bar thinking “What now?”, working out or moshing in a dangerously overpacked dance floor — and I’ve done all three in the past little while — this song will make excellent background music.

(By the bye, I have no idea why that old-school surgery imagery is included with the video. Whoever uploaded it must’ve thought it was a nice match for the song.)

Forrest Gump by Digitalism (with Julian Casablancas)

If you’re going to build a song on the Holy Trinity of Rock — the I-III-IV chord progression, as in Purple Haze, Smoke on the Water (which Deep Purple lifted from Astrud Gilberto and Gil Evans) and so many other songs — you’d better bring something interesting to add to it. Digitalism do just that with this track; they start with those tried and true chords and build up to a very catchy chorus and even throw in a lovely bridge for good measure. There’s a great pop sensibility to this tune, and part of that is thanks to Julian Casablancas (lead throat and songwriter for The Strokes), who co-wrote this tune with these two German electro-poppers. This tune will stick in your head.


One Reason I Didn’t Vote for the Green Party

Elizabeth may tweet

Because it’s green-as-fashion, not green-as-science. Take Elizabeth May’s tweet, where she’s worried about electromagnetic radiation from wifi. Too bad she sent it from her BlackBerry, which emits non-ionizing radiation at frequencies in the same ballpark (wifi is typically 2.4GHz, mobile phones are in the 1.7 – 2.1GHz range).

I see that the National Post has caught this too. When the Post and I agree, strange things are afoot!

I’ll let Batman have the final word:

Enough of this hippie garbage


How Does Parks and Rec. Even Know?

Park with 'Please keep off the grass' sign broken so that it now reads 'Ease off the ass'.

Found via Certified Bullshit Technician.


Epic Meal Time’s “Pigs & Poultry” Episode, with a Cameo by Yours Truly

Back during the Canada Day weekend, Epic Meal Time came to the Shopify offices to cook ridiculous amounts of bacon-wrapped meat and make a video of the proceedings. I said that I’d announce it when the episode went online, and it has! Pigs ‘N’ Poultry is the end result. Watch the video carefully and you might get a glimpse of an accordion player around the 3:12 mark.

Epic Meal Time logo.


Midnight Bike Ride

Somerset bridge

I couldn’t pass up the invitation to Friday night’s Midnight Bike Ride, so I showed up at Ottawa’s Somerset Bridge just shortly after 11:30. A handful of people were already there, and we chatted for a bit.

Some of us has brought snacks. Jesse was waving about a bottle of a homemade concoction he called “Mana Potion”.

“What’s in it?” I asked.

“Spinach, mint and white grape juice, all blended together,” he said with a smile.

“Ugh. Count me out,” I said.

By about ten minutes after midnight, we’d decided that everyone who was going to show up had arrived. We pointed our bikes on the path running alongside the canal and started making our way towards the locks at the end of the Rideau Canal.


About three blocks into the trip — I heard some funny noises coming from my pannier, which was strapped onto the rack over my bike’s rear wheel. I reached back to make sure it was properly anchored when I heard a snapping sound. The next thing I knew, the pannier had sprung loose from its position and jammed itself into my rear wheel. I found myself going over the handlebars, and the next thing I knew was hitting the ground…hard.

I landed on the asphalt of the bikepath, but without skidding. It was as if I’d fallen from a height rather than a moving vehicle. I was in the air for a moment, and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled on terra maxima firma. My fellow cyclists surrounded me, and one of them put out his hand and pulled me up.

The wind had been knocked out me for a moment, after which I said “Whoa.”

I held up my hands and did a quick check. Nothing felt broken. It was a five-point landing: left elbow, right palm, both knees, and my chin. It took me a moment to realize that the knock on the back of my head was my accordion, which I was wearing like a backpack. My helmet took that impact quite well. My beard had grown a little scruffy and made a nice cushion, which is why I don’t have a scar on my chin right now (in some senses, a pity: chicks dig scars). I have a small scrape on my left elbow and since I was wearing jeans, not much damage to the skin on my knees.

“How can you even be standing?” someone asked.

“I dunno. Guess I landed right,” I said.

“Mana potion?” asked Jesse, proferring his bottle. “It’ll help.”

“Sure,” I said, “at this point, why not?”

I took a swig and discovered I liked it. I was expecting a spinach drink to taste terrible, but it was pretty nice. Perhaps I’d been knocked harder than I thought.

I gave myself another check. “Holy shit, I think I’m in one piece.”

I took a look at my bike. Aside from my bell, which had been flattened in the impact, no damage I could see aside from a few “battle scars”. I’m not one of those people who freaks out if his bike isn’t pristine.

“Oh, better check this — it’s like a part of me,” I said, reaching around for my accordion. I played a few notes and checked the keys and buttons. No apparent damage.

After a couple of minutes, I said to my companions “Look, I don’t really hurt. If I could borrow some of James’ tape to secure my panniers, I’m still good for this ride.”

And off we went into the night.

Parliament ottawa river night

Creative Commons photo by Endlisnis.

Ottawa is in the middle of a big river valley, so it’s delightfully flat. The bike paths along the Rideau Canal and Ottawa River make for nice leisurely rides, which this one was. None of us were trying to win a race; we were just in it for a nice right in the night. That’s a good thing: the paths aren’t too well lit at night, so you can’t go too quickly, or you’ll find yourself barrelling headlong into the woods, a tree or even the river.

James has strapped a Bluetooth speaker unit to the seat of his bike, which was being fed tunes from his phone: some Zeppelin, then Hendrix, Gnarls Barkley and even a string quartet. Between the surprising power of his speakers and the quiet of the bike path at night, the sound carried very well. It was like having our very own soundtrack. With the music around us the the shadowy shapes of trees whizzing past to the left and right, coupled with the fact that I’d “endo’d” just a few minutes before, it seemed a little unreal. Perhaps “cinematic” is a better word.

We crossed the Ottawa River at the Chaudiere Bridge and continued eastward along the river on the Quebec side. Across the river stood Parliament Hill and its buildings, all aglow and looking stunning. From this side of the river, you could be forgiven for thinking that you were in a European city: perhaps Prague, looking across the Vltava.

Lake leamy

A few more kilometres and a couple of bike paths later, we ended up at Lac Leamy, an artificial lake and our destination. A minute’s quick change in the shadows later, we were all chilling out, neck-deep in the lake. I do a lot of swimming, but it’s been ages since I swam in something that wasn’t a pool.

When we returned to shore and put some clothes on, the snacks came out. Cherries, raspberries, grapes, raisins, pistachios, baby-cut carrots and jellybeans. I had a little more mana potion, still amazed that it tasted good. I’m going to have to hit Jesse up for the recipe.

It felt like a camping trip; the only thing missing was a campfire.

Someone finally suggested that we make our way back, so we hopped on our bikes and started on our way home. A couple of kilometres into the ride, one of the girls had to take a pee break. We stopped, and while she ran into the woods, I played Plush on the accordion. The acoustics in the spot where we stopped were fantastic; it was like a concert hall!

We crossed back to the Ontario side on the Alexandra Bridge and parted ways, after which I made my way back to the Swank Tank, tired, sleepy and happy.

I’d be up for another midnight ride.


Lost Moments #3: Tommy Wiseau in Portland

Here’s another Lost Moment. a blog post that’s been sitting as a draft for far too long.

I was in Portland for the May 2-4 weekend to attend their BarCamp, an “unconference” for techies, creatives and entrepreneurs. Once the conference ended, we made our way over to Hotel Deluxe’s 1940’s–movie-themed lobby bar for some post-conference drinks:

Hotel deluxe lobby

Afterwards, we went out for dinner. We walked to the restaurant on a route which took us past the Cinema 21 theatre, whose marquee proudly announced that The Room was playing that night and that its producer/writer/director/star Tommy Wiseau would be there in person:

Wiseau 1

For those of you who’ve never heard of the film The Room, it’s a modern-day Plan 9 from Outer Space. It’s a movie that defines “so bad it’s good”. Watching it, you have to be impressed that somehow this hot mess of a movie, with its confused story, stitled dialogue, acting straight out of a fifth grade pageant and sloppy directing ever got made. As a result, it’s become a cult classic, making the rounds at midnight showings at alternative and repertory theatres in the English-speaking world.

Here’s a scene from the movie in which Johnny (the protagonist, played by Tommy Wiseau) buys flowers for his girlfriend Lisa. It’s even a minute long, but it’s more than enough to give you an idea of just how badly put together The Room is:

Tommy has no talent for either writing or delivering lines. Here’s a gem from the “Coffee Shop Scene”:

Here’s the scene everyone talks about: the “Rooftop Scene”, a.k.a. the “Oh Hi, Mark” scene. Johnny’s girlfriend Lisa want to break up with him and secretly seeing his best friend Mark. The dialogue here is all wrong:

Here’s the movie’s “Stella!” moment: You’re tearing me apart, Lisa!

As you might expect, there’s a big confrontation near the end of the film, and it’s Wiseau-riffic:

Initially, Wiseau wanted the movie to be taken seriously, but after seeing both the bad reviews and the cult following that gathering around his film, he started billing The Room as a black comedy.

As we passed the theatre, we saw Tommy himself, tossing a football with some of the people waiting in line. There’s a lot of football-tossing in the movie; he uses it as a symbol of friendship — good buddies always toss a football around in The Room, even when they’re wearing tuxedos.

Wiseau 2

I walked up to Wiseau and shook his hand. “Nice black comedy, man,” I said.

“See?” said Tommy in his trademark stilted speech pattern. “Someone who un’erstan’s my fil-um! And hey, nice accordion, guy!”

Wiseau 3

Anyone want to have a viewing of The Room anytime soon? I’ll bring some stiff drinks.


Live Long and Proper

In contrast to Gangsta Spock from an earlier post:

Live Long and Proper