Friday, December 29, 2006

An Hour and a Half

So, do you want to hear about how I proposed to the LUC? Sure you do, the spam I get implies that the internet is full of romantics, well, er, something like romantics anyway.

This is a perfect story for my new expanded content blog. It features two things I'm passionate about in the same way I'm passionate about music: the LUC and bicycles. Sure, I haven't made a secret about my bike fetish on this blog, but I don't think it's clear just how important they are to my life.

You see, the LUC and I met through a shared love of bikes. She does a bike traffic report on the local campus and community radio station. It's an antidote to the ususal "There's a stall on Whitemud Drive." and "Watch out for radar northbound on 109th Street." sort of report you get on commercial radio.

I used to listen every Wednesday morning to this lovely Australian voice enthusing about all things bi-wheeled and human powered and wonder just what she was like in real life. At this point I'd been commuting by bike year-round for about a decade but I wasn't really part of the bike community. Indeed, I didn't really know anyone in any of the sub groups that can be labeled "Bike Nuts". If had been part one of those groups I'd have met the LUC much sooner.

To speed up a long story, she held a contest and I won. All I had to do was guess the email address she'd been given by the radio station and drop her a line. I was the only one who entered and she presented my prize (a bell) on-air. That was the beginning of our story together, and the end? Well, it's nowhere in sight.

Let me make something clear: the nature of marriage should be entirely up to the individuals involved. So long as they're consenting adults anything goes. Religion, government and families should only be involved to the extent that the participants wish them to be involved and my feeling is that institutional intervention in affairs of the heart should be minimal if not completely absent.

So why get married?

The LUC has made it clear that she's willing to make a long term commitment to our relationship without the rigmarole of marriage. I mean, she's said she's willing to have a child with me, and if that isn't a long term commitment? Well, I'll buy a Hummer and start voting Conservative.

The problem of course with children as sign of commitment is that that is a commitment through a third party. I'm not the sort of person who'd walk away from any child I had any part in creating. This means of course, that even if the LUC and I can't sustain a relationship I will always be a part of her life. Pretty obvious. So before we have that external tie I'd like to make a commitment to her and her alone. It just seems like the right thing to do.

On to the story.

This summer we'd discussed getting married and agreed that is was a good idea. This discussion took place at a fine restaurant, the kind where the wait staff not only take the time to know your name, but also treat cyclists who change into their fancies in the washroom exactly the same as they treat those who debark for SUV's in tailored suits and designer frocks.

Our conversation was overheard by our server and she made a joke that involved asking if we were married. I replied that I had in fact just proposed, mostly joking. The LUC looked me in the eye and said "No. No you didn't. And you better do it right buddy." Ah, it's good to have unambiguous instructions: a fuss had to be made.

Over the years I've made a habit of tying little gifts to the LUC's bike when its been locked up outside. I've left chocolates, flowers, bicycle Haikus even a couple of chemical hand warmers taped to the saddle on a particularly cold winter's day. This seemed like a good place to start.

My original plan was to put some kind of clue on her bike directing her to the opera, where we had our first date. Waiting at the opera house would be one of our friends who would have the next clue directing her to where we first kissed where another friend would be waiting ect.

The problem was, I couldn't decide which friends to include and she wasn't attending her dance class (the scene of many a gifting) regularly enough to set a date to swing into action. The encroaching winter was also a factor; if I wanted a "Yes" making her ride all over the city in the cold and snow was poor idea. I had to scale it back a bit.

I ended up making a crossword puzzle in which the answers were Meet, Me, Where, We, First, Met. I tied this to her bike with a bunch of red and white balloons. I then rode along the route she'd most likely take tying balloons to lamp posts, guard rails and street signs. The point of the balloons was to make sure she find me and to give myself something to do to keep the nerves at bay while I waited.

It turned out that she knew where to go (she's got her some smarts, that woman o' mine) and I wasn't really nervous at all. Excited yes, but not scared. That was the most surprising part of the whole thing, my lack of nerves.

I'm a doubting person. On a good day this makes me curious and eager to learn, on a bad day it paralyzes. I doubt myself, my emotions and my motivations more than I doubt faith healers, astrologers and economists. But from the time I tied the crossword to her bike to when she said "Yes" I had no doubt at all.

I spent an hour and a half waiting the LUC to arrive. It was a time were I wasn't just convinced I was doing the right thing, because conviction is a conscious act and I wasn't really thinking about it at all. For that hour and a half I simply existed in a state were spending the rest of my life with the LUC was right. It wasn't a decision or any other kind of thought, it simply was. I'm hard pressed to remember another time when I felt that good.

So the next time she and I are having trouble (And we will, this isn't a perfect world, nor are we perfect people) I'll be able to look back on that hour and a half of peace and certainty. I might not be able to feel it in our moment of conflict, but I'll remember that I once did. I'll remember that I can feel that way and will again in the future.

And that my friends makes all the legal nonsense and chaos of getting married worthwhile.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Alright, alright!

Here they are, my excuses for not blogging:

-Life has been terribly busy of late. I've been feeling like I have no time for anything that isn't a basic bodily function.
-This blog started as a means to keep myself motivated to practice guitar. It quickly became an exploration of why it was that I spent so much time doing music. It really puzzled me because I wasn't even playing gigs let alone being financially rewarded. Then I figured it out and I lost a lot of my motivation.
-I got engaged. Yup, the former Lovely Un-indicted Co-conspirator (LUC) has agreed to be indicted. It took me a long time to set up and execute my plan for the proposal and as you can imagine this was the biggest thing in my life for quite a while. If I was going to write about anything it would be that* and, well, she occasionally drops by these here parts. As does my mother and there's no way I'd live it down if she found out about the engagement by reading it in my blog.
-There's other big news that I can't talk about yet.

Anyway, those are my reasons such as they are. The plan is to open up my subject matter to include more than just my musical life although I suspect that will always be a large factor in what I have to say. I've never had a huge readership and don't expect one, but there are a few people who still drop by regularly despite my lack of posts. Thanks folks.

*I will be writing about it as soon as I have some time.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Still on the road

Here I am in Moab. One of the mountain biking mecca's. These last few weeks have been crazy. Las Vegas was surreal. Zion Canyon, the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, Moab, this whole part of the world: all surreal in a much more natural way. It's the sort of landscape that must be fake, the beauty of it is that absurd. It has an atheistic that speaks to the part of the brain that never climbed down from the trees, the part that still dwells on that African Savannah of our flint-knapping ancestors.

The trip's been pretty good. The highlights so far: riding the roller coaster at New York, New York in Las Vegas. Seeing Penn and Teller. Getting caught in a thunderstorm during a mountain bike ride at the Grand Canyon (lowlight actually, very scary indeed). Riding the Thunder Mountain trail in Red Canyon and getting around around almost all of the switchbacks on the scary descent. Driving across the desert of south west Utah blasting Richard Thompson's Mock Tudor album as the sun sets. All good stuff.

We're going to be in Moab for a couple of days then on to Fort Collins.

I've played my guitar a couple of times, mostly waiting for laundry to dry. Musically, I've been more inspired by the book I've been reading "Our Band Could Be Your Life" by Michael Azarred than the landscape and the camping, but I'm sure that'll change once I start sleeping in a comfy bed and having regular showers. :)

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Jet Set lifestyle

The LUC and I are going on three weeks vacation* starting next week. First to Madison Wisconsin for ProBike/ProWalk. Then flying to Las Vegas for two days, 'cause well, I've always liked Hunter S. Thompson's description of looking west out of his hotel room window and seeing the high-tide mark where the idealism of the 60's washed up around Las Vegas and retreated back. We're then renting a car and heading out to the Grand Canyon, Moab for some mountain biking, Fort Collins for beer and more bikes and ending in Denver.

The last time I spent longer than a day or two in the States the Canadian dollar was worth 9¢ more than the American. I'm really looking forward to it. Despite the bad image that the current US government is projecting around the world I've discovered through these here internets that there are plenty of warm, giving, funny and thoughtful neighbours to the south. (See above links for some of those folk)

I haven't the faintest idea if all this is achievable in the time we have, but the point really is to spend some time together, camp, ride bikes, boggle at wonders both man made and natural and generally relax.

This is not what you're waiting for.

*I know, believe me I know! She just gets back from a month in Australia and off again after a mere week at home. In all fairness she's speaking at Probike/Prowalk so that part of the trip is work and she's having to cram a whole month's worth of regular work into 5 days. There's more than a little stress going on right now.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

I'm waiting too

People, people, people, this is suppose to be a sleepy little corner of the internet. Ya make one comment on the Blurb's blog and next thing you know your site meter actually has something to do. :)

I can't talk about it yet. Sorry. There's an order to these things. I'm sure you understand.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

It's all down hill

So there's a name for it, I suspected as much. What I didn't realize is that it's a well known psychological phenomenon. It's called flow.

This is the state that I seek, the state that I haven't the skill to achieve in anything but music. Oh, I've felt it riding my bike, and a couple of times back when I fenced, but music is where it happens the most consistently and the most profoundly.

I'm not sure it's a good thing to know what to call it. I'm relentlessly curious and now I'm going to have to look into it. It might help, I could get some good tips on how to achieve it. But it might make it harder too. Conscious thought is the enemy of flow and the more I have to think about, well, the more I think. Truly, my head is a cement mixer, all restless and churny when on the go and setting up hard when at rest. No in-between.

What I really want to know is the connection, if any, between the flow state and the meditative state. The obvious difference being that in a flow state the body is active, but what about the mind? Interesting.

The bike fest gig, it seems so long ago now, went well enough. I had a great time at least. K wasn't really enjoying it though. The settings on his bass amp got messed up in transit and he struggled through the first couple of tunes trying to get it sounding right. Years ago I took some whiteout and marked my settings for just this eventuality, I'll have to suggest it. He also broke a string. This doesn't happen often with bass guitars, those strings are pretty thick. He also broke the one he replaced it with which is frankly weird. It might be he was nervous and over tightened it or there could be something wrong with that bass. Whatever, it really threw him.

Eventually he got going again with the wrong gauge string used as a temporary substitute. This was the point the gig got really fun. Despite the chaos I wasn't really uptight and as we got started again the band struggled. In the past I'd let such things get to me to the point of derailing my own performance. Not this time. I laid back and listened as we slipped in and out of time, dropping into the pocket* and falling out over and over. It was like listening to a car warming up on a cold winter's morning, running rough then steady in slowly inverting proportions.

The thing that had me grinning like a dope fiend was that I knew it was going to be ok. I could feel it from the band, we'd been here before, struggling and disjointed and everyone knew we'd get past it. What's more, we managed to convey that feeling to each other as we played. It really was astounding. I don't believe in telepathy or any of that sort of mumbo-jumbo but I do believe in the human ability to gain meaning from the smallest of physical clues. I'm a pretty cynical and negative person so the absolute conviction I felt that it was all going to be ok was really, really great. If only I could feel such optimism at will.

The last half of our second set was as good as we've ever played in front of an audience. We were tight and energized and made such a glorious racket that it's a wonder that Apollo himself didn't show up to see what the fuss was about. Flow indeed, a veritable four branched river if I may be permitted another watery metaphor.

Oh, and the memorabilia? They sold as a group for $30. This still makes me laugh.

*An expression used in jazz to mean perfectly in time, especially of bass playing that is 'in the centre' of the beat, i.e. neither slightly leading, or ahead of, nor slightly behind, or dragging the beat. [I took this definition from a on-line music dictionary. While strictly true, I think that when you're deep in the pocket you're constantly and consciously making the choice to stay on the beat, push it or drag it as the tune demands rather than simply being perfectly centered all the time.]

Friday, July 21, 2006

I have a plan

I'm pretty sure that there must be some kind of bloggy hell I'm going to for my lack of posts. So very busy: two jobs, the band, a relationship, a new cat and The Tour* are eating up all available time.

The LUC is going away for a month starting next week. Hello pseudo bachelorhood! Yup, it's going to be ice-cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner except when it's ice-cream for breakfast and lunch and beer for dinner. And hey, does anyone know how to get a hold of some cheerleaders who'll bring their own keg and perhaps some lawn darts?

Every other time she's gone away I've told myself I'll get a lot of practicing and or composition done, but who am I kidding? I'll probably just work more and spend the rest of my time sitting around in the self created rubble of dirty dishes and unpickedup undergarments. Joy.

*Yesterday's stage was 5 frickin hours. Even I'm not enough of a fan to get through that in one sitting.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Wrocking and Wrenching

The band is doing it's only regular gig tomorrow. I'm referring of course to the glorious B ikeology festival. A fine celebration of all things bicycle and a fun musical time.l We're the only electrified, rawk band in the line up, there's nothing like hearing slapback echo off of downtown office buildings after an hour or two of string quartets and singer/songwriter strumming.

For those of you who are a little soft in the cranium, we're going to be auctioning off E levators memorabilia, proceeds going to the P eople's Pedal. Sure this is a little conflict of interest-esque as the I'm the only paid employee of said not-for-profit, but we only expect to raise around $7.00 total for the broken pick, drum stick, string and used ear plugs each mounted on a handsome plague and signed by a band member.

I'm also going to be doing free bike checks and maintenance after we play. Had to point out to the organizers that I can't wrench first in a venue with no running water. Bike folk, lovely people but not always the most practical.

Anyway, the vast majority of hits I get here (all 3 a day) are from elsewhere in the world, so I'll dedicate our version of Love Will Keep Us Together to you few blog readers and turn my amp to 11 for the solo, if the winds are right you just might hear it....

*That's me in the bucket hat with the sound guy extraordinaire M ike T ully, drummer E with her dog D igger at last year's event.

Friday, June 23, 2006

The little things

Enough with the whining already, time for something positive:

Hmmm, er, well.... I did run out a pen this week. This is the first time that I've used a pen from purchase to empty without losing it or having it fail in some way. I don't understand why that makes me so happy, but it makes me smile every time I think about it.

I'm planning on making the corpse into a bike mojo for my fixed gear. There's got to be some kinda good luck in such an object, oui?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

150 proof pity*

I turned 40 not so very long ago. I don't look it, well, most of the time anyway. If you catch me in the wrong mood and in a certain light I'm sure that my years show. Something around the eyes, a weariness, a brittleness that tells. Or maybe I'm reading too much into photos in which I know for damn sure I felt my age and more when they were taken.

I'll never be a front man, I don't have the knack. The "Lookit me, lookit me!" gene never expressed. But there is a desire. A desire to scream at the world in a voice that can't be ignored. To make others feel how I do, even if it's only a pale copy. I wish this were an act of joy on my part. But it's not. Joy is fleeting round these parts and it startles easily. Look at it too long and it's gone with nary a hoof print left behind. Pain, doubt, anger those are the things I know best.

Why do I want to share that? I have no desire to make anyone feel bad. So why? Is it because shared joy is increased and shared pain is lessened? That's part of it, I think. But even more it's because I don't know what it's like to feel normal. Or at least I don't think I do.

Deep down I hope that someone would hear something that I've written and say "You poor dear." I hope that they will be appalled and sympathetic in equal measure, not because I crave pity. No, I crave the certainly that how I feel is not normal. Because if this is as good as it gets, I'm not sure I could bear it.

Hope. Such a small word. So over-used and under-defined as to be a mere wisp of fogged breath on a cold and blustery winters day. But there it is, hope. Lying in wait in the overgrown corn maze of my mind. The sudden surprise of a horizon glimpsed after hours lost in green and narrow passages. Hope. At once both as unfamiliar as a rusting tool from the age of horses and as deeply rooted as the seventh generation working the land.

Playing in the band sucks, it takes a lot of time and is a constant reminder of my lack of drive. What have I done to be successful? Little and less. But it's also a real world manifestation of the hope that I refuse to consciously acknowledge: that how I am now is not permanent and that someday I'll be....I'll be.....Better? Happy? Peaceful? Normal? Damned if I know what exactly, but something other than how I am now.

*Cause this is a distillation of how I feel. Take my normal angst, boil it for a few days, feed it through the condenser of a very late night and voila! Angst deluxe, suitable only for aesthetic or perhaps stripping paint.

Friday, June 02, 2006

The stars? They're still there.

Last night I was working the bikeshare job, setting up some new bikes and getting eaten alive by mosquitoes. With visions of West Nile virus dancing in my head I got two done and took them out to the stations. I rolled down the little hill to the High Level bridge, two bikes in tow, just as the sun slipped below the horizon. As sunsets go, it wasn't much, just a smudge of brown and orange right on the horizon. Not enough dust in the air I guess, and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

I love to look up here. They talk about the "big sky" of the prairies and, well, the phrase doesn't really cut it. Perspective is everything and as I watched the sky darken through every iteration of blue there were times where I felt like I could stretch my arm and get fingerprints on the dome of the heavens. Somehow that made it seem even bigger.

As I coasted to a stop the Moon was up and Venus was the only other pinhole to be seen. By the time I got my helmet off there were two other stars (planets perhaps) peeking out. I'd look away and when I looked back there'd be a couple more stars, invisible the instant before. I haven't felt so peaceful in ages.

I also love skygazing here because for so much of the year it's cold, painfully cold, even dangerously cold at times. In that weather you don't stop peddling unless you have to. You don't look anywhere but where you're going, that focus is vital to keeping warm and safe.

The band practiced last night for the first time in a month. We sucked. I'm so out of practice that my calluses are thin. But it was good too; it was a reminder that I have to once again raise my head musically. I need to see beyond my current anxiety and lack of motivation because there's a universe out there waiting to come out one tiny bit at a time. All I have to do is look up.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Nothing to do with my upcoming birthday

Tired. Frantic. In a cycle of anxiety that's entirely a creation of the chemicals in my head. I've not been able to settle to anything in the last months. It always feels like I'm running behind, even if I'm not. I'm lo-fi and there's a loose wire somewhere and the record is worn down to pops and hiss. Bah.

One of these days I'm going to go back and see if there's a pattern to these "poor, poor me" posts. Maybe I'm just somekinda half-assed lycanthrope, one were my brain is the only thing that gets hairy and enraged come the full moon.

Hey Fred, I hope you're doing ok.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Using You

To those few of you who come here fairly frequently, MJ, D-Ray, Fred, the one who's server is in Sunnyvale, the one in Kelowna and the few from other places: I'm sorry I don't post more often.

The reason is quite simple; if I don't have anything to say that's interesting to me I'd rather just shut the hell up. I mean, there's a reason I play in an instrumental band.

If something unusual happens or my interest gets peaked about an aspect of my musical life it tends to gurgle around in my slushy brain for a few weeks. I'm always trying to find the why and how of these things or the connection to a bigger issue. If I can't force some sort of conclusion out of my experience or observation I tend to let it drop. Yup, I'm taking a very limited topic blog and reducing the chance of a steady readership even more by deliberately restricting my output.

Hmmmm, and is there a reason I'm not famous yet? :)

This isn't a pity-fest, far from it. I simply wanted to say thanks to those of you who find what I write even moderately interesting. I don't want anyone thinking I don't notice and appreciate the modest attention I get on these here internets.

So thanks folks. Thanks for the comments, thanks for occasionally pushing my hit counter into double digits and most of all thanks for letting me use you. I put a great deal more effort into these post than I ever did writing a journal, and the reason for that is the public nature of it. If you folk didn't visit I'd have never come to some very important conclusions about my life and its relationship to music, cause frankly, without an audience I'm a lazy sot. The cheque's in the mail.

(Oh and BWE, that comment your brother made was classic, a perfect example of why playing live is so much fun. If it'd been me I'd have tried to get him to repeat it into a live mike, but then I'm a cruel sort.)

Thursday, March 30, 2006


So the day passes. I calm down. I no longer feel like beating the guy till he's as damaged as the woman he hit. I mean, I don't believe he's an evil man. The look on his face as he sat in the back of the police car was not one of triumph. He made a mistake but unfortunately someone else is paying the price for that mistake. And that my friends is the crux: the consequences of poor driving are far out of proportion to the punishment that our laws provide. Consider this, the man drove away after the police were done with him. At the very least someone who's put another person in hospital should not be allowed to drive away.

I can't say this often enough: driving a car is the most dangerous thing most people do in a day. Complete care and attention is the absolute minimum that the task requires. I beg of you, think about that for moment the next time you get behind a wheel.

Anyway, I was calm until I left work. There on the street was a small pile of sand, a dark red stain in the middle. The cops had put it down to soak up the blood. I stood there and watched as cars slowly tracked it to the west, each one carried away a tiny piece of that poor woman, unknowing and uncaring. Lynch mob. Justice ragged and personal, it sucks to know that I have the capacity for the these feelings, god help me if I'm ever in a position to act on them.


A woman is lying in the crosswalk in front of the store right now. She's old and she's hurt. Hit by a fucking SUV turning the corner and not paying attention. This woman is elderly, a mother, her grey haired daughter ran up as I was watching, crying "What happened." Her mother is crying in pain and bewilderment. Have you every heard a grandmother cry. A woman who's probably seen most of life's ups and downs, has given birth and probably buried a few people too. And now she's lying in the middle of the street crying as strangers watch helplessly as the abulance guys work.

I am so angry, I can barely keep it together.

For those of you with cars: driving is the most dangerous thing you do every day. 1.3 fucking million people are killed by cars every year in this world and over 500 million are injured. One of whom is right out front of my workplace right now. An inattentive driver has reduced a grown adult to a state helplessness that no one should be reduced to.

Anger doesn't even begin to touch it. PAY ATTENTION OR YOU'LL BE THE ONE ON YOUR CELL PHONE TO YOUR LAWYER. fuck

Saturday, March 18, 2006


The gig a couple of weeks ago is now but a fuzzy memory and now we've gotten down to work. Make no mistake about it, recording stuff is work. When you play live mistakes are gone instantly. Every beat is a new beginning, provided you don't make too many mistakes, the audience won't really notice. But recording, well, it's for keeps.

A live performance is about getting the band working together as a single unstoppable unit whose goal is to make the maximum impact on the audience. A hammer. When it's working right those listening will get what you're on about whether they want to or not. They might not go home knowing the chorus or humming that pretty little turnaround from the last bridge, but they should have felt the emotions you intended to convey. Of course on a bad night all they go home with is the emotional equivalent of a smashed thumb, but hey, that's why bars serve booze.

Recording is a whole 'nuther kettle of metaphor. Because any mistake you make is permanent, it's less about drive and unity of momentum and more about getting the details right. It's like building watches: little tiny pieces slotted into their places just so. Everything has to fit 'cause there's no place to hide when it can be played back over and over.

The process of getting the details right often sucks the life out of a great song. It's a common experience were the band was great in performance but the CD bought at the merch table sucks. There's a thing called "Red Light Fever" where performers who know the material inside and out still tense up when the recording light is lit. When you're trying not to make mistakes it's inevitable that you're going to play cautiously and caution isn't exciting.

So how the hell do you build a watch that's also be a hammer?

We're recording the band as a whole, where everyone plays at the same time rather than overdubbing each part separately. This help keep the energy up but it means that if any one of use has a bad take the whole track is lost.

We've also been employing tricks like playing two takes in a row without stopping in the hopes that the second will be a little less stressful. Segmenting the songs as much as possible so that a mistake in the last section won't ruin the whole take helps too.

All in all everyone seems to be enjoying this session a lot more than the last one. I'm not sure why. Maybe we're getting better at it. I know for myself I'm really enjoying the process of watchmaking.

We've isolated the instruments as much as possible and everyone is using headphones to hear each other. I love this. I can tailor who's in my ears and make it whisper quiet if I want. Sweet indeed. I've found all I really need is the drums to be clear and present with just enough bass and lead guitar to know where I am in the song.

Now that I can hear myself and the drums clearly I'm finding that it's getting easier and easier to fit my rhythm into what E's doing. Our parts are beginning to dovetail together in a way that they never did before. This is immensely satisfying. I'm getting a kick out of it that rivals what I get from hearing an audience respond.

There's satisfaction in swinging a hammer, it's primal and visceral. But there's satisfaction in an intricate job done right as well. In some ways it even goes deeper. Hammers are all about the moment and immediacy and because of that the feeling they create fades quickly. (Insert drug reference here.) But watchmaking speaks to grander things. Putting it all together correctly is a reflection of the intricacy of our world and perhaps even the universe as a whole. Each part has its role and the sum can't be achieved unless everything is working properly. This is as true for songs as it is for ecosystems and I think on some level we can feel that. Maybe it's hubris, treading on ground that is meant for the gods alone, or maybe we're just inseparable from our baroque clockwork universe. We are in it, and of it to such an extent that creating our own little universes is what we're meant to do.

If so, it doesn't matter if we can get the watch to be a hammer; the attempt is enough.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Tack, Thock, Tack, Thock... I'm not sure why my dress shoes make different sounds left from right, but I like it. It's musical. Black and a little pointy in toes, their wooden heels tap out a duple rhythm as fundamental to humanity as death and taxes. It makes me smile as I hurry back after donning my stage duds.

Saturday was the band's first gig since last summer. Well, to call it a gig is stretching things a mite. The P eople's P edal, the bike share co-op I work for, had it's AGM and to entice members to attend we held an after party. The total audience was maybe 10 people, of whom at least half were either sleeping with, or related genetically to, one of the band members. That didn't matter at all.

The band cracked wise and tasteless, the audience laughed and heckled and the women...the women danced. It was fine night.

We didn't play exceptionally well, but there were moments of ferociousness. Moments of drive and energy greater than the sum of our parts. There were even moments of rockdom, where tongues got stuck out and secret devil signs were made.

I'll be 40 in a couple of months. I don't feel it and I don't really look it, but there it is. I'll never be a rock star despite how I acted on stage this weekend.

I had a single moment of clarity during the set, a moment where I could picture how we might look to a disinterested observer. A bunch of never-were's kidding themselves that they're 20 years younger and a whole lot hipper.

Oh, I had a moment of clarity all right and I didn't care one whit. Instead I fell on the first chord of the chorus like an angel robbed of grace, got my head banging and grinned at K as he and I smacked the ever-lovin' shit out of the rhythm. It was glorious.

For that 45 minutes time had stopped being a matter of birth days and hair thinning on top but thickening in orifices. Time was kick and snare, verse, chorus, bridge, the count in and the pregnant pause before the big final chord. Time was ours to play with, to subjugate and subdivide, to throw out into space where it was caught by the feet of women.

I've long since lost count of the number of gigs I've done, but this one was special.

Tack, thock, Tack, thock...time is inexorable, but every now and then, it's beautiful too.

Monday, February 13, 2006

I can tap into my feelings of grief at the drop of a hat, or milk carton for that matter. I've jokingly told people that I can cry on demand, and in truth, I can. All it takes is a little method acting, a conscious decision to think about all the things that hurt and boom, waterworks.

I'm still trying to decide what kind of songs to work on. I had felt that getting all of the angst out would be a good idea, but now I'm not so sure. A while ago I read this, and while some of the arguments in the comments were over my head, the basic gist rang true to me.

The Freudian notion of repression might not be what I'm doing. I feel sad lots, I think about and clearly remember the things that led me to my current mental state. Is that repression? Somehow I don't think so. If it's not repression, what good am I going to do by writing songs about it?

What if expressing the sadness is merely reinforcing it, building up neurons in the areas of my brain devoted to those feelings. What if I'm practicing sad? Wouldn't it be better to practice happy? And how the hell would I do that anyway?

The best argument I have for writing sad songs* is that I can sing them with conviction. Total honesty even. It doesn't take me any effort to inhabit that sort of song. I'm a lousy singer and not having to "fake it till ya make it" on the emotional expression appeals to me. Hell, it might be the only thing I have going for me as a singer.

My musical life is shifting again and making this question relevant. The band is recording again and around the time that finishes our practice space could go away. If that happens and we have a recording that most of us are happy with, well, I suspect the band will fold. There really isn't a lot of motivation in the group anymore. So, it looks like the digital recorder is going to be my primary musical outlet in the near future. Which means writing songs, which means making a decision.

What's it to be: sincere sadness or cartoon joy?

*No, not because they "...say so much." No offense to Mr.'s John and Taupin, but that's got to be the worst lyric in the history of pop.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Who is this Art guy anyway?

I believe in truth.

[Oh, god. Here we go again with the philosophizing.]
{Now, now, give him a chance.}

Unfortunately truth comes in two flavours: relative and concrete.

[Good, it's a binary thing, shouldn't take too long.]

Concrete truth is the province of science. The problem is that most people don't understand how science is supposed to work. Science is all about observing and explaining the natural world. The goal is to build up a testable body of knowledge that we can provisionally accept as fact. All theories in science are open to refutation, if they can't be falsified it isn't part of science. The reality we're observing doesn't change, but our understanding of it does.

[Really? What the hell is he on about, isn't this a music blog?]
{Patience my dear, patience. I'm sure this is relevant, er, somehow.}

Relative truth is the a trickier matter. It includes all the cultural assumptions, rules and customs we live by. Things that are subject to constant change.


For example, killing people isn't permitted in our society. Except in certain situations, like for example, during wartime. The situations in which lethal force is acceptable have changed through the years. Dueling is certainly not allowable today, but as little as 150 years ago it was a fact of life. It was a cultural truth that you could take up arms and kill those who had offended you.

[Killin' people, now we're getting somewhere. Where did I put that scimitar...?]

{That's not nice....and put that letter opener down before you hurt yourself!}

So if concrete truth is the province of science, what is the system for understanding relative truth?

[Rhetorical right? Please tell me he's being rhetorical.]

Religion is one answer. A flawed answer in my opinion. The problem with religion is that it tries to make relative truth into absolute truth. It takes the shifting tides of human interactions and tries to nail them down. With about as much success as trying to nail down a real tidal flow would have.

[Now he's done it. Flames ahoy!]

{Just because he's getting all nautical doesn't mean you have to.}

This isn't to say that most religions don't have something good to offer. Just that their, "We're right and everyone else is wrong.", approach causes more problems than it solves. Also, at it's worse religion stagnates a culture by not allowing it to grow and evolve.

[Evolve! Evolve? Is he
trying to piss people off?]
{I think he's trying to sort something out, you know thinking out loud. Stop interrupting}

For the record, I also think it's a really bad idea when people try and make concrete truths relative. The "new age" folk are often guilty of this. I don't care how much peyote you've ingested, how aligned your chakras are or how much you believe that all reality is a creation of your own mind: when you jump off of something you're going to accelerate at 9.8 meters per second squared. The result of which is very messy if you do it from any real height.

[Ha! He's picking on everyone. A glutton for punishment.]

{If you can't keep quiet I'm going to take away the remote, I mean it!}

So what is the answer? In short: art.


{Shut it!}

Art is the expression of relative truths. It is our way to glimpse into the lives, emotions and realities of other people in a form that can connect at deeper level than daily interactions allow. It is our way of understanding who we are as a group and what matters to people outside of our group.

It's for this reason that you know you're deep in the shit when outside bodies start trying to control artists. It means that that group, be it governmental, religious or what have you, is trying to define the truth for everyone. This never works for long of course. People are just too diverse to be pinned down this way. My evidence of this: if it was possible make the relative truths of our lives concrete then someone would have done it by now. We'd all be believe the same things, live the same way, be in essence the same person. The very thought of such a grey, unvaried world makes my viscera shrink away from my skin.

Art is important. Important in a way that we often fail to realize when we're trying to find something to go on the wall above the couch or are scrolling through the ipod playlists.

[Looks like he's done, can I talk now?]
{I guess.}

[You know why he's on about this?]

{What do you mean, isn't he just giving an opinion? No wait, let me guess: He's trying to piss people off enough to generate some comments.}

[Oh, he's doing that alright, but I think he's got another motive.]

{And that would be....?}

[He's trying to convince himself that the time he's spent learning and playing music has some value over and above filling in time till he dies.]

{Huh, when did you become a brainiac?}

[Shut up.]

{You shut up!}




{Yes dear?}

[I love you.]

{Come here you...}

Friday, January 06, 2006

Wheels and Spirals

Still down, but not so out as to conjure the bad metaphor's of the last post.

One of the things that helped: I finished assembling my fixed gear bike! Yippee. The observant reader will note that the frame for the final product isn't the same as the one I started with. The original was just too messed up to fix.

Musically the band's on a holiday hiatus. But now that the bike's done I'm starting to feel the old itch to create some original tunes. Gotta have something to obsess over, don't yah know?

I did use my musical ability to build part of the bike. I can't afford a spoke tension gauge. A tool that's used to build wheels. It's important that the spokes have reasonably equal tension for the wheel to stay true.

I laced these wheels with alternating black and silver spokes. Unfortunately, the bike store gave me two different gauges ( thickness) of spokes. The hub I was putting them on has a disc brake so one set of spokes is shorter than the other to accommodate the brake rotor. This means that I had four different tensions to deal with. Thick spokes, thin spokes and left and right side of the wheel. I screwed it up on the first try.

By plucking the spokes and comparing the pitches I managed to tune each spoke of each group to the same tension. I'm not sure I would have managed it otherwise. Hooray for a musical education! Who knew it would be so practical?

Bike geek details:

It's an old "Made in Canada" Raleigh, Grand Prix, road bike frame with Tange 5 chromoly straight gauge tubing. Not a great frame, but in good shape and a spunky red colour. The handle bars are Bike Nasbar steel moustache bars. The stem is a no name downhill stem, the shortest one I could afford. 30mm reach and 10 degrees rise. I added a steerer tube extension to raise the bars up to about saddle height. The front brake is an Avid Mechanical disc brake. The front fork is a chromoly disc specific cyclocross fork. Front hub is a Real disc specific with sealed bearings. The cranks are Sugino 165mm track cranks running 1/8" inch chain. Rear hub is a Surley fixed/fixed flip flop. Gearing is 42 teeth on the front and 16 on the rear. Not an especially hard gearing but I live half way up a pretty steep hill. Planning on buying a 19 or 20 tooth cog to put on the other side for really snowy days. Saddle is Specialized Dolce with titanium rails. I found out yesterday that this is a woman's saddle. I got it out of the bottom of a sale bin. It had no packaging, but the price tag, $35 for a $100 saddle, was too hard to resist. Not too fussed bout the gender issue, it is in fact the most comfortable saddle I've ridden. Mind you my time on it has been pretty limited so far. Perhaps I have a large ass for a guy? Don't answer that.

I love riding this bike. I'm not sure I feel "one with the bike" and all the other mystical things people say about riding a fixed gear, but it sure is fun. The power transfer from legs to forward motion is incredible, there's no wasted energy and it's noticeable. It's also the most comfortable bike I own. Due mostly to obsessive calculation of handlebar distances and heights. This bike fits me perfectly. Well, almost, I had to make a few compromises because I couldn't afford the perfect stem.

The only thing left to do is grind off the cable and shifter mounts and have it powder coated. Also I'm going to fill in the bolt heads of the disc brake and stem with hot-melt glue to make it harder to steal those parts. Oh, the joys of the bike commuter life!

So much for the music blog. Sigh. I really am going to get more done musically now that the bike's finished. Honest.