Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Year End Wrap-Up, Part 2 -- Books

Quote of the day: John Lennon -- Another year over, a new one just begun

Back in the last century, before i bought my first home computer, i was an avid and omnivorous reader -- i would read at least a book a week.  (I had worked with computers in the late 70's and early 80's, but i'd long been out of the bizness.) (The old Nixdorf green screens, remember them?) (Running DOS of course, Windows wasn't even a glint in Bill Gates' eye at that point.) (Yes, i decided to give up good pay and working conditions to become a cook LOL.) 

Anyway, where was i?  I bought my first computer in, i think, 1999.  It ran Windows 95 but Windows 98 had just been released.  I remember it clearly: the man in the shop told me that i didn't need 98, as 95 couldn't possibly ever be surpassed.  What did i know?  I upgraded to 98 perhaps a year later.  And as one of my first Internet friends once remarked, "The Internet is TV for people who read."  My consumption of books has declined from one per week to one or two per month.

And here's everything i've read this year: 

Jan. 11 Anthony Powell – At Lady Molly’s
Jan. 31 Michael Dibdin – Dead Lagoon
Feb. 14 Nick Hornby – Juliet, Naked
Mar. 4: Anthony Powell – Casanova’s Chinese Restaurant
Mar. 18: George MacDonald Fraser – Flashman At The Charge
Apr. 6: Sarah Dunant – The Birth Of Venus
Apr. 22: Ian McEwan – Solar
May 4: Anthony Powell – The Kindly Ones
May 9: Thomas G. Aylesworth – Great Moments Of Television
May 20: Gareth Roberts – Cracker: To Be A Somebody
May 31: Anthony Powell – The Valley Of Bones
Jun. 19: Martin Amis – The Pregnant Widow
Jun. 27: Scott Adams --The Joy Of Work
July 6: Robert Hughes – Culture Of Complaint
July 15: Anthony Powell – The Soldier's Art
Aug. 7: Mikhail Bulgakov – The Master And Margarita
Aug. 17: Martin Amis – The Rachel Papers
Aug. 26: Anthony Powell – The Military Philosophers
Sept. 10: Paul & Beth Garon – Woman With Guitar: Memphis Minnie's Blues
Sept. 21: Anthony Powell – Books Do Furnish A Room
Oct. 3: Brian Payton – The Ice Passage
Oct. 11: Leonore Fleischer – The Fisher King
Oct. 15: P.G. Wodehouse – Bachelors Anonymous
Nov. 6: Margaret Atwood – The Year Of the Flood
Nov. 16: Anthony Powell – Temporary Kings
Dec. 7: Keith Richards – Life
Dec. 18: Anthony Powell – Hearing Secret Harmonies
Dec. 28: Robert Barnard – At Death's Door

(Yes, i'm a list freak, i keep track of stuff like this.)

You'll notice i read a lot of Anthony Powell -- all volumes in his 12-volume set "A Dance To The Music Of Time," a classic of 20th century literature -- read for a second time at the suggestion of my beloved Astrid.  (I started it last October!) She also told me that there was a BBC series devoted to the books, of which i had not previously been aware, and i've just started watching the DVDs.

And what, i hear you ask, was my favourite book this year?  Brian Payton's "The Ice Passage" came close -- in fact i wrote about it on this very blog at the time i read it -- but ultimately i have to say that my favourite book was:

A fascinating and enthralling read, "co-written" with James Fox.  I wonder how much of it Keef wrote himself?

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Christmas -- Fail

Quote of the day:  Benjamin Franklin -- I didn't fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong

I confess, i failed Christmas this year.  Not sure what went wrong.  It didn't fail me, but i failed it.

Normally, it's my favourite day of the year, a day of meditation and spiritual uplift, but for some reason that didn't happen this time, and i'm wondering why...?  (I'm also wondering why my font keeps changing....)

Possibly because the preceding week at work had been such a nightmare and i wasn't feeling all that sanguine towards mankind in general.  Possibly because, instead of watching a festive film in the afternoon i instead watched the devastating finale of "Between The Lines."  And also possibly because, as i mentioned in my previous post, i didn't listen to "Messiah" in the morning!

It was an okay day, though -- i mustn't complain.  I managed to sink a few glasses of my favourite bevvy
(oh, look! there's its picture!) and in the evening i stuffed myself stupid with turkey and ham and smashed potatoes and peas and gravy and then, apple crumble and ice cream.  I mean, count yer blessings and all that.  Most of the people on this poor old planet don't have food on their tables.  Heck, a lot of them don't even have tables....

And in the evening i watched "Who Framed Roger Rabbit"....

So it could have been a lot worse.

And we're getting ready for the end of the year wrap-up, so we begin with music.

Here are my favourite 15 CDs of 2010 (in no particular order):

Terje Rypdal -- Crime Scene
Slash -- Slash
Buddy Guy -- Living Proof
Peter Hammill -- Thin Air
Billy Talent -- III
Jeff Beck -- Emotion And Commotion
Florence & The Machine -- Lungs
Joe Bonamassa -- Black Rock
Keane -- Night Train
Sarah Fimm -- Karma Phala
Robert Plant -- Band Of Joy
Rory Gallagher -- The Beat Club Sessions
Richard Thompson -- Dream Attic
The Albion Band -- Natural And Wild
John Jones -- Rising Road.

(Once upon a time i would buy maybe 100 CDs a year; i think i bought about 35 in 2010!)

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Get Up! (Christmas Morning Diary)

Quote Of The Day: Jay Leno -- The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn't for any religious reasons. They couldn't find three wise men and a virgin.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

I hope Santa was good to you all.

My Christmas Day is starting off in fairly traditional fashion, with the spiced rum 'n' eggnog and cashews breakfast. I skipped listening to Handel's "Messiah" this year, though -- i listened to it every Christmas morning for years but to be honest, a couple of years ago i realised that i found a lot of it -- and it lasts well over two hours! -- really tedious.  A work of genius, no doubt, but life's too short.

I have, however, listened to my favourite Christmas album of all time, "A Christmas Present From The Albion Band" 
and it seems to just get better and better every year.
Right, well, i'm off now to listen to The Goon Show, "A Christmas Carol (with custard)," another favourite and another tradition. I may write more later, depending upon how compos mentis i am.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like....

Quote of the day: John Lennon -- War is over (if you want it)

Oh, i know, i haven't posted much lately.  It's the 21st century disease, lack of time.  But that should change soon, with the year end wrap-ups in the offing and now that all of the Christmas preps are complete.

And yes, i'm starting to feel the spirit

Sandra & Peter gave me a Christmas centrepiece today-- a floral thing of lilies, pine needles, butterflies (all made out of green, white & gold fabric) and beads and a candle in the middle -- it looks quite Celtic! I must get a photo of it.  I have it sitting atop one of my old computers (the only place i had space) and Catieboo is fascinated by it.  In fact i had the candle lit but had to blow it out -- she was investigating it and i was afraid she'd singe her nose.  I also (finally) got the Christmas lights up and some of them are blinky ones, and she's fascinated by those, too.
And i'm now listening to one of the Marillion Christmas CDs.  Yes, it's the most wonderful time of the year -- hey, that's make a good title for a song ;o)

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Customer Service Part 2

Quotation of the day: John Lennon --Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it.

It's time for a consumer revolution.

Small, independent companies in general, seem very good at customer service -- i guess they have to be, in order to survive -- and when they're good, they are really good.  (See my last post.)

It's the big corporations that treat their customers like dirt.  The answer?  Avoid the big corporations as much as possible.  I'm not afraid to name names and i, for one, will never buy a burger from A & W again, and will never buy anything from Maple Leaf Foods: i received crap service from them both recently, and complained each time, but my complaints fell on deaf ears.

OK, fine, i just won't give them any more of my hard-earned.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Customer Service

Quotation of the day: S.J. Perelman -- Love is not the dying moan of a distant violin -- it is the triumphant twang of a bedspring.

I think we might all be forgiven for thinking that "customer service" is a dying art.  We have become accustomed to being treated like dirt by the people whose wages we pay.  To some extent it's our own fault, of course -- mega-corporations treat we lowly customers with contempt and we put up with it.

So i am delighted to report that it still exists.

A couple of weeks ago, i ordered Dave Swarbrick's new CD, "Raison d'etre," from www.cduniverse.com, and it arrived yesterday.  Except it didn't.  What arrived was a "Raison d'etre" jewel case and a CD labelled "Raison d'etre."  But what was on the disc was actually Swarb's 1978 album "Lift The Lid And Listen" (which i already have).  (Don't worry if you've never heard of Mr Swarbrick -- he's an English folk fiddler, not exactly viral on YouTube, but i've been a fan since the 60s).

I wrote to customer service @ cduniverse, not really expecting any satisfaction but ... they've been in touch with me twice in the past hour, full of apology both times (although obviously it's not their fault, but a cock-up at the manufacturer's) -- first for a clarification of the problem, and then with instructions for the return and replacement of the disc.

So ... credit where credit is due:  well done CDUniverse!

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

The Wreck Of The Edmund Fitzgerald

Today is the 35th anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald (and thanks to Craig & Rita of www.therock.fm for reminding me), and if this song isn't a Canadian classic, i don't know what is...


I'm not a Canadian by birth, of course, but i have embraced this land.  I took Canadian Studies at university, gorblimey!

This country has a massive inferiority complex, thanks to living right next door to the colossus that is the U.S.A.  I talk to the natives and the impression i get is that they think that Canadian books, films, music and history are all really dull.  They couldn't be more wrong.

Canadian history is just as exciting as American history -- although you'd never guess it from the way it's taught in schools here, and -- i don't really want to start ranting, but the arts (or, The Arts) in Canada are (oh god i hate this term, i only use it cos i'm too tired to think of one that's preferable) "world class."

Friday, 5 November 2010

Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It... Oh, Shut Up

Quotation of the day: Sinclair Lewis --Winter is not a season, it’s an occupation.

We had the first snow of the season here today.  I was outside having my first cigarette break of the morning at around 8.30 when it started.  And it snowed -- not heavily, but steadily -- for most of the day.  It all melted as soon as it hit the ground, but it's here.

Future posts to this blog may well be influenced by the fact that i'm going to be cold for the next six months :o(

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Spriggsblog Goes To The Movies

Quotation Of The Day:  Van Morrison -- I'm nothing but a stranger in this world

 I watched the DVD of "Oceans" last night, and it was brilliant.

It's a documentary, distributed in North America by the Disney
Corporation, but was actually made in France, and it's a gorgeous study of oceans and ocean life.  Unforgettable scenes of dolphins stampeding, cormorants dive-bombing sardines, men swimming beside sharks, and film of the unbelievable creatures who live on the sea floor (in one instance, swimming around a shopping cart!).  My only complaint was about the narration -- by Pierce Brosnan and presumably added by the Disney folks and thus "dumbed down."  It was discursive at best and incoherent at worst.

But never mind, it's a feast for the eyes!

And, speaking of feasts, here's one for the ears:

I am, even as we speak, listening to Van Morrison's album "Astral Weeks."  If this isn't art, i don't know what is....

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Carpe Diem!

Quotation of the day:  Fran Lebowitz -- Very few people possess true artistic ability.  It is therefore both unseemly and unproductive to irritate the situation by making an effort.  If you have a burning, restless urge to write or paint, simply eat something sweet and the feeling will pass.

It's my diem off today and carpe it i certainly did!  Life is to be embraced, i always say.  No, really, i do.  I know several people who have promised to punch me in the throat the next time i say it, they're so fed up hearing it.

So here's how i seized it:  got up at 3 a.m., listened to the radio (94.9 The Rock, of course) until around 9, had a bath, went out for breakfast, listened to last Sunday's episode of "The Beatles Universe" (at www.streamingoldies.com), and then listened to CDs by The Mississippi Sheiks, J.B. Hutto, and Robert Wyatt.  Then i did last night's dishes and a load of laundry and watched two (2!) episodes of the second series of "Between The Lines."  Oh, look!  There's the National Portrait Gallery's portrait of Francesca Annis, who's a recurring character in series two....

I have raved about this before, suggesting that it was the best police drama ever, but i have changed my opinion.  I now think it was the best television programme ever.  I was crying real tears at the end of the second episode i watched today -- you don't get that with "Friends" ....

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

...Not With A Bang

Quote of the day: T.S Eliot -- This is the way the world ends,
Not with a bang but a whimper.
So that's the end of the holiday, ruined completely by the fact 
that my Internet connection was down for most of the day
I started to listen to The Beatles Universe -- a great radio 
program that airs on 94.9 The Rock every Sunday morning but the 
connection went down after fifteen minutes, and stayed down. FAIL

Here was the playlist for the day:
Walter Trout, No More Fish Jokes
Mark Knopfler, Shangri-la
Wazmo Nariz, Things Aren't Right
And i watched yet another episode of "Between The Lines."
And that's the end of a holiday 

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Day 6, Part Two

I've been reading this book (to my left there), Margaret Atwood's latest, all week, and i'm having a real problem with it.  I used to love her work, she began life as a poet and her first few novels had the poet's gift for le mot juste.  Now she just seems verbose.

I'm having a great deal of trouble absorbing what i'm reading, it's very disappointing, it's as though she aspires to be Canada's answer to Marcel Proust but without the gift for detail.

Anyway, i did, as promised, watch another episode of "Between The Lines," such a powerful one ("Manoeuvre 11" it was called) that i was weeping real tears at one point.  (The child dies.) (Ha, ha, now i've ruined it for you.)  And then i watched (most of) disc 2 of the 4-disc deluxe expanded extended exploded edition of "The Return Of The King."  Fabulous stuff.  Literally!

And now i'm doing laundry (no, really) and  listening to Bruce Springsteen's CD "Magic."

Vacation Diary, Day 6

Quotation of the day: Earl Wilson -- A vacation is what you take when you can no longer take what you've been taking.

This may be difficult to believe, but i've actually been productive today (shock, horror).

I am, as i'm sure you're all aware, a huge fan of Rory Gallagher -- the best blues-rock guitarist ever.  I'm also a member of an Internet discussion group devoted to him, The-Loop (named after one of his tunes).  For the past six months, i've been running a weekly series on The-Loop called "The Roots Of Rory," in which i will upload a song by one of the people (usually early blues singers) who influenced him.  But this week, because i had the time, i tried something different....

This week's song was "Tobacco Road," which was written by John D. Loudermilk, but which was a top ten hit for The Nashville Teens in 1964 (long before i was born, of course!) (ahem...).  Rory never officially recorded it, but sometimes, in concert, he would interpolate it into his own song, "Seems To Me."  So what i have just done, is, i put together a .zip file of four versions of the song:  Loudermilk's original, The Nashville Teens' version, plus two (bootleg) versions of Rory's Seems To Me" -- one with, and one without the "Tobacco Road" interpolation.  If you're at all interested, you can download the file (it's 19 MB) here: http://www.mediafire.com/?gf8cn747c0sps4z

Normally, i wouldn't have the time to organise something so relatively complicated (especially as i had misfiled one of the CDs i needed and it took me a while to find it).

Otherwise, today's playlist has been:

Kathy Mattea, "Roses"
Peter Hammill, "In A Foreign Town"
Rush, "Retrospective II" (sorry, Helen!)

And i'm just about to watch yet another episode of "Between The Lines" -- love that program so much...

More later, i expect

Friday, 22 October 2010

Vacation Diary, Day 5

Quotation of the day: Camille Paglia -- Leaving sex to the feminists is like letting your dog vacation at the taxidermist.

Beer and clamato juice for breakfast -- well it is the most important meal of the day!

I watched "Lethal Weapon 2" last night.  Oh! There's its picture to the right, how did that get there?  Just sheer entertainment, nothing profound, but one can't -- or, at least, i can't -- watch Kubrick, Antonioni, Almodóvar or even Ridley Scott every day....

Well, i did a bit of cleaning, scrubbing 'n' scouring in my kitchen  today but i wasn't able to get terribly enthusiastic about it

Here's today's playlist:

I listened to the radio (94.9 The Rock) til 11 o'clock or so, then:
Roy Wood,  "Starting Up"
Jeff Beck, "You Had It Coming"
Paula Cole, "Ithaca" (her new one)
The Move, "Message From The Country" -- such a brilliant album that is!
 Kathy Mattea, Roses
Then i watched "Between The Lines" (series 2 episode 5)  but then:

Right, ABBA, and this may well be my favourite ABBA song and these harmonies break my spine.  These are the voices of angels, this is what i want to hear when i die and go to heaven.

Course, with my luck i'll probably die and go to Sebringville or something

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Vacation Diary, Day 4, Part 2

Today's Playlist:

The Beatles: "With The Beatles (alternate version)" (a --ssh! -- bootleg)
The Small Faces: "Itchycoo Park: The Best Of The Small Faces"
"The Best Of Roxy Music"
Robert Nighthawk, "Live On Maxwell Street"
Marillion, "Marbles"
Mike Oldfield, "Songs Of Distant Earth."

Oh, and i watched another episode of series 2 of Between The Lines this afternoon -- these DVDs have never been released in Canada but i now have all three series in digital format.  We have our sources (he says mysteriously.) (I have most of series 2 & 3 on videotapes taken from the TV broadcasts 15 years ago, but the quality is awful.  I don't think i'd ever seen any of series 1 until just recently.) (When it ran on TVOntario originally, they had to re-name it Inside The Line, because they already had a series called Between The Lines.)

Best police drama ever (IMFFHO)

I didn't do much else today, though.  Downloaded a really neat little app that will allegedly allow me to convert .m4a files to .mp3, but i haven't tested it yet.  Went to The Beer Store for lunch (i got take-out LOL). Um, er, otherwise it's just been a delightfully lazy day.

Vacation Diary, Days 3 & 4

Quotation of the day: Ray Davies -- Thank heaven for this holiday, holiday / I'm leaving insecurity behind me. / The environmental pressures got me down, / i don't need no sedatives to pull me round, / i don't need no sleeping pills to help me sleep sound.

Yay, Toronto, and the day began with a good laugh.  I had to pass my place of employment on my way to the train station and obviously the person who was doing my job in my absence, hadn't arrived:  he has the key to the place and two staff members and a repairman were standing outside waiting to get in.  Two staff members who annoy me hugely, btw.  If it hadn't been for the repairman i would have called down a torrential downpour upon them, but, alas, it was a beautiful morning, not a cloud in the wossname, and besides i don't have that much influence with the weather gods. (I certainly wasn't going to let them in, though!)

But then i got to the train station and learned that the train was going to be late.   In fact, when we arrived, eventually, at Union Station, i had to go straight to my lunch date at the Wolf & Firkin pub with Julian, Gloria, Paul & Imogen -- basically the only friends i'm still in touch with from when i lived in Toronto 25 years ago.  And lunch lasted a very civilised two hours.

I had the Chef's Mac and Cheese -- which was very good but really wasn't much more than macaroni and cheese with a couple of slices of bacon on top, plus garlic bread.  Oh, but the Wolf and Firkin is a really nice pub, i always visit it when i'm in the big city.

And then, and then, everyone else had to go back to work and Imogen and i went for a walk, and we wound up on the patio of The Black Bull -- Toronto's oldest pub (first built in 1833, although the original building burned down at some point so it's not Toronto's oldest continually operating boozer). (I think that honour goes to The Wheatsheaf.)

It was a perfect day for sitting on a patio -- quite mild, not a cloud in the sky.  Absolutely brilliant.

But then we had to split up and i looked at my watch and, oh shit!  I had only a couple of hours before the train home.  Where had the day gone????

 Well, it was, perhaps, Prometheus who said "tempus tends to fugit when you're having fun."  Well, maybe not Prometheus, but one of those classical lit. chaps -- maybe Paul McCartney...

And so, i headed east to Sherbourne Street, hoping maybe to find my friend Barbara's shop--she only just opened and i'd love to see it, but wasn't sure of the address, but gave up on that (i should have persevered -- i have since learned that it's only a little further east).  But then had to reverse course and head west for the train home. (Ultimately I would have found her shop but then said, hi, well bye GTG catch a train). I had hoped to spend some time browsing through book and CD shops -- and i did, with an air of desperation, but had to leave each one without making any purchases.  No time left.

Well, i did in fact have time for one more pint, in a pub called The Sherlock Holmes in The Esplanade -- it was horrible and noisy -- grabbed some street meat from a vendor (sausage on a bun) and made the train home with minutes to spare.

And that, as they say, was that.

So, overall, a very good visit, but not all i had hoped it would be.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Vacation Diary, Day Two

Quote of the day: P.G. Wodehouse --  It must have been about one in the afternoon when i woke.  I was feeling more or less like something the Pure Food Committee had rejected

Well, P.G. notwithstanding, i awoke at about 4 a.m. -- my usual time, or thereabouts.

Having a very lazy day, too: i started to clean my kitchen but rapidly lost interest.  Went to Kelsey's for lunch, fish 'n' chips and a pint (yes, just one pint) came home and had a nap. Otherwise i've just been growing more and more frustrated over the fact that my Internet connection has been up and down like a yo-yo all bloody day -- why the hell can't they fix this?  The problem has existed for a while and i've complained many a time, had my modem replaced thrice, and now my ISP is blaming the phone line (and has allegedly placed a trouble ticket with Bell Canada, but they've done nothing AFAIK).

Here's today's playlist:
Martin Carthy & Dave Swarbrick, "Skin And Bone"
J.B. Hutto & The Hawks, "Masters of Modern Blues Vol 4"
Rob Hyman, "Largo"
Rory Gallagher, "The Beat Club Sessions"
Jimi Hendrix, "Axis Bold As Love"
Wazmo Nariz, "Things Aren't Right"
Howard Jones, "Ordinary Heroes."

Home-made burritos & store bought macaroni salad for my din-dins tonight....

Monday, 18 October 2010

Not As Domestic As I Thought (Vacation Diary, Day One, Part Two)

No, i didn't get the damn laundry done.  Stop nagging.  Jeez.  I got last night's supper dishes done, that must count for something. Here's Cate, weighing in:

Also listened to "Greatest Hits" by The Psychedelic Furs and "Henry The Human Fly" by Richard Thompson.

I think i'll go out now for some yummy KFC ....  No, no, sorry, that was a joke, and a rather vulgar one at that.

Vacation Diary, Day One

Quotation of the day: J.B. Priestley -- A good holiday is one spent among people whose notion of time is vaguer than yours.

Ah, at last, my long-awaited (and much-needed) week off.  And it's starting off very well indeed.  I'd be happier if it were about twenty degrees warmer, but at least there's no precipitation....  Also i've been up since 3 a.m., but that's not that unusual.

I watched one of my favourite films last night -- i've seen it umpteen times now, and it gets better with each viewing.

And now, thus far, i've had a very productive morning.  I went down to the Splatford train station and finally managed to buy my ticket for Toronto on Wednesday, third attempt in four days, third time lucky:  when i went down there on Friday and Saturday, the ticket wicket was closed -- a great shame because if i'd bought the ticket on Friday or Saturday i'd have been eligible for an early bird 40% discount.  Oh, well.  Here's the station (that's not me in the pic):

And then i had my hair cut, which i've been wanting to do for about a month, did some groceries and had a lazy late breakfast (two Sausage 'n' Eggers from A & W to be precise) (probably the only thing they serve that i find edible).

And now, although i'll probably toddle off to the beer store later on, the only thing i have left to do today, is laundry (i'm so domestic).  Dolce far niente!

And today's playlist?

Started off listening (online) to my favourite radio station, 94.9 The Rock (www.therock.fm) but when i switched to albums it was:

The Albion Band, "Natural and wild"
The John Kirkpatrick Band, "Force Of Habit"
Robert Nighthawk, "Live On Maxwell Street"
Genesis. "Brush Back Your Hair" (disc 2) (a bootleg)
Plus some bootlegged Beatles and Kate Bush stuff (oh, christ, don't tell the DRMA, i'll have the computer confiscated!).

And now, i'm going to watch another episode of "Between The Lines" -- the best TV police drama ever.

More later.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Happy Birthday, John Lennon

Today, October 9th, would have been John's 70th birthday.  Even though he was assassinated thirty years ago, he remains an inspiration.  Enjoy the video.

Friday, 8 October 2010


Oh, wow, clock this:

It's Australian, or Strine (as it's pronounced) and it's by GB3, of whom i'd never heard until today.  Marvellous!

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Northwest Passage

I've become fascinated by Canada's arctic recently, for some unknown reason -- and in particular the tragic tale of the Franklin expedition.  I'm reading Brian Payton's "The Ice Passage" atm, which is probably the best non-fiction book i've read this year -- it's not exactly about Franklin, but is instead about the voyage of the HMS Investigator -- which set sail four years after HMS Terror and HMS Erebus, Franklin's ships, to both search for traces of the lost ships and find the passage.



Wednesday, 22 September 2010

It's Been A Great Week (For New Music)

Yes, i have bought three superb CDs in less than a week, and these are they.  (Them?) 

The music industry may be dying, but music is alive and well.  Or, to quote Buffy Ste. Marie, "god is alive, magic is afoot."

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Make No Bones

Yet another John Kirkpatrick CD arrived in the mail, "Make No Bones." 

In a previous posting, i wrote about his CD "Dance Of The Demon Daffodils" and how much i enjoyed it.  This is even better.  "D Of The DD" is entirely solo accordeon music,  but "MNB" has vocals (and he's a very good singer) and accompanying musicians.

Highly recommended to anyone who loves English folk music.

Spriggsblog Goes To The Movies

Quote of the day:  Winston Churchill -- If you are going through hell, keep going.

Nothing much to write about atm -- i am not going through hell these days, in fact i've just been relaxing and watching some DVDs.

These, for example (and this was just this week).

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

A Walk In The Park (I Took One)

Quotation of the day:  Woody Allen -- Life is divided into the horrible and the miserable.

Whew, it's hot.  Yesterday was the hottest August 31st on record -- it reached 33° C., and today it was 29° at 10:00 a.m..  I thought it might be a tad cooler in the park and so went for a stroll.  Well, it wasn't, but i took some pictures. Oh, look, there's one just above me there.  That shows the mighty Avon River as it approaches the Waterloo Street Bridge and way off in the background is Stratford's tallest building.  No, really.

Anyone interested can see the rest of the set at http://www.flickr.com/photos/34806425@N02/sets/72157624732135167/

Isn't it one of the wonders of digital photography, though?  In the olden times, you took your pictures and then took a roll of film to the drug store to be processed.  A week later, you'd get it back and discover that none of them had come out as well as you had hoped.  Nowadays, you discover immediately, that none of them had turned out as well as you hoped.  Instant ingratification!

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Working For A Living

Quotation of the day: Oscar Wilde -- Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

As you probably know, i -- for my sins -- make my living as a cook.  I've been doing it for a long time, in lots of different eateries, from greasy spoons to high-class French restaurants to my current job at a chicken joint.  I used to like it.  In fact i still like it, but i've reached the point where it's all so easy it's not like work at all and a certain je ne sais quoi has set in.  Not boredom, certainly (i don't really understand the concept of boredom), but it isn't really fun any more. It used to be.

But!  Yesterday, i was reminded why i do love doing what i do.

Apparently there's a baseball tournament in town this weekend.  I discovered this when two teams showed up at the chicken joint fifteen minutes before opening time.  My morning heart attack. And then, fifteen minutes later, another team arrived.  To make it worse, the other cook arrived looking a fetching shade of green -- so hungover he could barely stand up.  He gave it a good college try but he couldn't make it, he had to go home.

So there we were: the place was almost full at 11:30, most of the waitresses don't start 'til noon; Saturdays haven't been that busy lately so i didn't have an excessive amount of chicken in the ovens, and the kitchen was short-staffed.  It was a great laxative.

But do you know what?  We pulled it off.  Sometimes i amaze even myself la la.  It was hard work, i admit (nothing wrong with that, of course)  and we all were drenched with sweat when it was over, but, running on pure adrenalin and with each of my hands doing the work of two, we did it.

And ... it is the most satisfying feeling in the world

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

A Message To The Music Industry

From Rolling Stone magazine. 'Nuff said

Friday, 6 August 2010

Music History 101

At my work, we have a satellite muzak feed, usually tuned to an AOR channel but occasionally management, in its infinite wisdom, shifts it to the 60's channel. Whoever progammes this channel, though, needs a lesson in remedial music history.  I was there, i know this.

In music history, the sixties did NOT run from 1961 to 1970. The sixties didn't really begin until 1963, when Elvis Presley went into the army (and that was when The Fifties ended) and The Beatles exploded onto the scene -- and that was when the 60's began.

But our programmer seems quite oblivious to this;  thus we get horrors like Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon and Neil Sedaka (the latter being possibly the smarmiest singer it has ever been my misfortune to be subjected to) (and whose song "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" is close to being a paean to statutory rape) (not that i expect anyone in 1963 understood that) sandwiched between The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Hollies and The Byrds.

It's a truly painful experience....

Spriggsblog Goes To The Movies

Has anyone seen John Hillcoat's post-apocalyptic nightmare vision "The Road" -- Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron?
I watched it last night and although it's not exactly what you'd call light entertainment -- it's unremittingly bleak -- it's quite brilliant.  Viggo Mortensen is superb and although normally i detest child actors, young Master Smit-McPhee, as his son, is very good.  The supporting cast -- Charlize, Robert Duvall, Guy Pearce -- all have very small parts; this film belongs to Viggo & Kodi, and they shine (in a film where there is no sunshine).
Very highly recommended.

Monday, 2 August 2010

The Dance Of The Demon Daffodils

I ordered this CD about ten days ago and it just arrived in my mailbox on Friday.  John Kirkpatrick is an English accordeonist who has played on some of my all-time favourite albums by the likes of The Albion Band and Steeleye Span -- purveyors of traditional English folk-rock (one of my favourite types of music).   But this is very different -- it's solo squeezebox music.  Very nice, but not to everyone's taste, perhaps.  (But, as Barbara remarked to me recently, if we all liked the same thing there'd be a world-wide shortage of haggis LOL -- and, as John K. himself sang on an earlier solo album, "here's your harp, welcome to heaven; here's your accordeon, welcome to hell.")

Friday, 30 July 2010

Herman J. Theijsmeijer, R.I.P.

I am very sad tonight.

I took my little Cate-cat in to the Avon Pet Hospital yesterday for her annual shots and check-up (she's A-1 -- although i can't believe it's a year since i adopted her) and learned that Dr Theijsmeijer -- my vet for over twenty years and through six cats -- had passed away in June, of pancreatic cancer. That is he, to the left, there.  It was ... a helluva shock.  He was such a good man and there aren't so many of those around these days that we can afford to lose one (which could explain the tears welling up in my eyes as i type this).  I only just saw him, in April maybe, at the beer store.  (Yes, me at the beer store, that's stretching credulity innit.)  But he seemed perfectly fine.

He was a little eccentric, maybe -- but that made me like him even more.

The new vet, Dr Maal (sp?) seems really nice, but she's not Herman

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Tonight's Dinner

Finch & chimps, of course!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Working For A Living

Quote of the day: Mikhail Bulgakov: He looked slightly over forty. Crooked sort of mouth. Clean-shaven. Dark hair. Right eye black, left eye for some reason green. Eyebrows black, but one higher than the other.  In short -- a foreigner

Oh,  i am so glad i have tomorrow off.  I just did twelve days straight and it's been damned hot in that kitchen (as you know, i, for my sins, make my living as a cook -- when it's 30° outside it's generally ten degrees warmer in the kitchen and i go outside to cool down).

But here's something that has annoyed me for a long time about my job.  It's policy that if one works seven days in a single calendar week, i.e. Monday - Sunday, one is paid time-and-a-half on the seventh day.  But i've just worked twelve days -- six last week, six this week, and what do i get extra? Nada, rien and  zilch. 

Besides hypertension and cirrhosis, of course....

Sunday, 11 July 2010

World Cup Fever 7 (And That's It, Then)

Quote of The Day: Anthony Powell -- I wouldn't go so far as to say I'm actively enjoying what I'm doing at the moment -- but then how little of one's life has been actively enjoyable. At the same time, what I'm doing is what I've chosen to do.  Even what I want to do, if it comes to that.  Up to a point it suits me.

 Well, it's all over for another four years, and my teams have all lost, but well done Spain.  I was wrong every time, and "Paul Die Kraken" was right....  I have been outdone by an octopus

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

World Cup Fever 6

Ohh, what a shock, Germany lost today :o(

So my money is now on Holland, land of windmills and tulips....

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Ozzy Vs Slash Part 2

And so i did in fact buy Slash's CD -- full of trepidation and thinking that it could well be another $14.99 down the toilet -- an entire CD bought for only one song, but guess what, it's terrific!

I mean, let's face it, i basically never liked Guns 'N' Roses, which is where Slash cut his teeth.  Who'd 'a thunk he would have made such a superb album of really brilliant guitar playing? 

He doesn't sing himself, of course, but he has roped in a pretty impressive collection of guest singers -- including Ozzy himself (see previous post), Lemmy, Fergie, plus a few who actually have two names, like Ian Astbury, Dave Grohl and, er, Iggy Pop.

An excellent album, it could well wind up in my "best of 2010" list.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Ozzy Vs Slash

What have Ozzy Osbourne and Slash in common?

Well, they're both nut cases, for one, but beyond that they both have new singles out.  Ozzy's is "Let Me Hear You Scream," and Slash's is "By The Sword."  Both are in heavy rotation on my radio station (www.therock.fm)

Let's compare them.

Ozzy's comes from the kitchen-sink school of production: throw everything in, add a ridiculous (but fast!) guitar solo, and sell a million copies to deluded listeners who think that fast = good.

I wish i were a better journalist, and then i could better explain why Slash's record is so much better.  He has complete mastery of his instrument, the vocal (by Andrew Stockdale) is full of subtleties and Slash himself doesn't try to overwhelm with semi-hemi-demi-quavers -- although he is well capable of them.

I may buy Slash's album....

Sunday, 27 June 2010

World Cup Fever 5

England lost today, 4 - 1 to Germany, a humiliating defeat.  I'm devastated but, hey, Germany deserved the win, so good on them.

I'm now looking forward to a South Korea / Ghana final...

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Telemarketers (+ World Cup Fever 4)

So here i am, at 6:45 on a Sunday evening, in the middle of making my dinner, when the phone rings.  A gentleman with a foreign accent wanted to sell "me and my family" something -- i don't know what, i didn't let him get that far.  I exploded all over the poor bugger instead, waxed wroth, and slammed the phone down.

I mean, i was at a crucial and sensitive point in the cooking process: i was about to turn the stove on and crack open the TV dinner LOL

OK, i realise we've all got to make a living, but telemarketers must be the most detested group in the western world; why would anyone enter the profession?

On a happier note, it was New Zealand 1, Italy 1 in the World Cup today -- a real kick in the teeth for the Italians

Saturday, 19 June 2010

World Cup Fever 3

Watched Denmark vs Cameroon at the pub this afternoon -- best game i've seen so far, or, at least, the first one i've seen where the winning team deserved their win.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

World Cup Fever 2

Or, as my friend Jen called it, "World Cup Fifa."  Hi, Jen!

Watched Uruguay vs South Africa yesterday and in my far from humble opinion, South Africa wuz robbed.  Their goalkeeper should never have received the red card -- he stuck out his foot to stop the ball, the Uruguayan player just happened to be there at the time and tripped over it.  But that killed it for the South Africans.

They were down a goal at the time and they might have pulled it out of the fire, but losing their only trained goalkeeper was a loss they were never able to overcome and it was a nasty 3-0 defeat.

And, incidentally, am i wrong in thinking that the Uruguayans have studied the Italians well, in that they have learned how to take dives and roll around on the grass in agony?

Monday, 14 June 2010

World Cup Fever Strikes!

I don't have TV at home, so for my fixes i have to go to Kelsey's pub.  It's a tough life.

I watched England vs. the U.S.A. on Saturday -- "the hand of clod" indeed! -- and Italy vs. Paraguay this afternoon, and i really wanted Paraguay to win.... But it was not to be.

Not that i'm a huge fan of Paraguay, i just don't like Italy.

The team, that is. 

Sunday, 6 June 2010

Wishbone Ash

I've just been watching this DVD, and all i can say is "wow."

Actually, no, that's not true, i can say lots more than that.  I can say, for example, peter piper picked a peckle picker popper pupple, oh ok i can't say that.

Wishbone Ash was / is one of my favourite groups of the 70's and 80's.  They, along with Thin Lizzy, virtually invented the dual-lead-guitar line-up, and, for a while, one of my top-ten favourite guitarists, Laurie Wisefield, was a member and yes! he makes a guest appearance on this DVD.

Wishbone Ash's brilliance always lay in their instrumental prowess.  They never really had a strong vocalist and their songwriting was, er, how can i say? sometimes less than extraordinary.

One of my favourite groups nonetheless.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Jane Siberry

Jane's brand new CD, "With What Shall I Keep Warm?" arrived in my mailbox yesterday.

After two serious listens, i have to say i love it.

Buy it now! (It's available at www.cdbaby.com)

Monday, 31 May 2010

Spriggsblog Goes To The Movies

I watched this a couple of evenings ago -- "Red Cliff" by John Woo and wow it's good.  Think "Lord Of The Rings" set in mediaeval China (but with a little bit less magic).

The problem that i had with it, though -- it was originally released, in China, in two parts.  Four hours long.  The DVD i bought was the condensed North American version ( two hours, forty minutes).  I found it a bit confusing at times, in the battle scenes i couldn't always tell who was who, plus there was a difficulty with all of those completely alien Chinese names.  But i have the same problem with the novels of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy.

An extraordinary film nonetheless and highly recommended

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Jane Siberry 2

I sent Jane the link to my previous post and she wrote back.

Her message consisted, in its entirety, of...  :o)

But at least she read it.  Hey, i know famous people!  I shook Peter Hammill's hand once, too.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Jane Siberry

Jane Siberry is a "quirky" -- perhaps idiosyncratic would be a better word -- Canadian singer / songwriter who's been performing since the early 80's (currently on tour in the U.K.).  She's perhaps best known outside Canada for her song "Calling All Angels," which she performed as a duet with k.d. lang (it appeared on the soundtrack to Wim Wenders "Until The End Of The World").
Now in her 50's, she remains as rebellious as ever.  She changed her name to "Issa" for a while (but has since reverted), and her current tour includes loads of performances in private homes.
I just received an e-mail from her -- well, not to me personally, i subscribe to her mailing list -- and she has now made all of her albums available as free downloads from http://www.janesiberry.com/janesiberry/music.html, the only requirement being that you "pay it forward" -- i.e., pass the info on, which is what i'm doing now.
I downloaded a few of her older albums which i only had on vinyl -- i have most of her stuff on CD, and i just ordered her most recent album, "With What Shall I Keep Warm" (favourably reviewed in the February issue of Mojo, btw), from www.cdbaby.com  
No, this is not spam, and i don't work for her LOL

Monday, 10 May 2010

The Golden Age Of Television

Quote Of The Day: David St Hubbins (Spinal Tap): "There's a fine line between clever and illegal."

I've just been watching the DVD of the first season of the television series "Cheers."  What a magnificent programme it was -- at least at the beginning.  Actually it fared well through several seasons.

It has been said that the Golden Age Of Television was the 1950's -- Thomas G. Aylesworth says that in his book "Great Moments Of Television," but i'm afraid i can't agree.

In the 50's, America was infallible, in the cop shows and westerns you could always tell the bad guy because he hadn't shaved, and in the sitcoms, no one ever had any problems that Dad wasn't able to fix in under 30 minutes.

The 60's -- i dunno, the only remarkable thing about 60's television was The Beatles' appearance on Ed Sullivan

Reality asserted itself when "All In The Family" was first broadcast (1971) -- but i was never a particular fan (although i did watch it).

But then came "M*A*S*H"  which was great for a while, "Barney Miller," "WKRP In Cincinnati" -- all very clever in their own way.

In England, we had "The Sweeney," "Van der Valk" and, later, "Minder" -- and "Monty Pyhton" --all brilliant.

After that, "Hill Street Blues" and, later, "Seinfeld."

After that i pretty much lost interest in television.  With the exception, of course of "Father Ted."

Just So You Know

Quote Of The Day:  Henny Youngman -- I bought my wife a new car.  She called and said there was water in the carburetor.  I said where's the car?  She said in the lake.

I've noticed an annoying trend lately.  Someone will tell me something, but preface it with "just so you know."  I mean, really.  Why else would they inform me?

Anyway, just so you know, i watched "Footlight Parade" last night.  Man, i love those old Busby Berkeley / Dick Powell / Ruby Keeler films....


Wednesday, 5 May 2010

My Day (As If You Care)

Just made it home (via Kelsey's) literally seconds ahead of a major thunderstorm.  It was sprinkling when i reached Spriggs Towers, and it's now coming down in sheets!
I had quite an eventful day, really.
We had a busload of 40 students booked at lunch -- and, thoughtfully, they faxed us yesterday to let us know what they were all ordering.  Unfortunately, when they sat down to eat, half of them changed their orders.  Duh!  The kitchen was cooking meals according to our copy of the fax, the waitresses kept taking the fax away to make changes, and they screwed up the changes so much that it was all pretty much a fiasco and no one (in the kitchen) knew who was having what and / or what we were supposed to be doing....
And then the waitresses who had customers who were not part of the bus were getting annoyed because we couldn't do their orders until we took care of the bus and the bus order was so hopelessly confused.
But then, after that, it quieted down enormously -- we had a 15-minute power outage at around 1:00 o'clock.  So everyone else in the kitchen went home, the power came back on, and we got busy again.  I was hopping!
And, as i was hopping, who should show up at Take-Out but Thomas, home on leave from Afghanistan.  He ordered shrimp and told me not to burn it; i replied "one raw shrimp coming up."
I wasn't able to chat with him much, but he handed me a mysterious envelope -- which turned out to be an invitation to his and Carolyn's wedding in August (when his contract in Kandahar is up).  (What the heck can i buy them as a wedding present????)  Anyway, we're meeting tomorrow after work at -- oh, hey, i get to go to Kelsey's again, woo hoo! 
At Kelsey's this afternoon, Mike didn't exactly buy me a beer but he charged me a lower price for the two i did have -- so instead of the usual $13.78 plus $2 tip, he charged me $9.18 (and i left a $2 tip).  But beyond that....
They used to sell Stella Artois on tap.  They no longer do, but they have loads of 20 oz. glasses with the Stella logo.  I am now the proud owner of a case of six Stella beer glasses.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010


Quote of le jour:  Woody Allen: Sex without love is an empty experience, but as empty experiences go it's one of the best.

I've just begun to appreciate that i am one of the wealthiest people on the planet.

Unlike 90% of the population, i have shelter, i have so much food that when i open the door of my refrigerator's freezer compartment the stuff falls out, i have high speed Internet, and i have friends who love me.

But what makes me wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice, is that i don't need anything.  Oh, sure, there are loads of things i'd like to have, but i want for nothing.

I know people -- whether they make less or more money than i do is quite irrelevant -- who are constantly moaning that they need this or need that; they'll never be happy because they will never have all that they "need." What they really need is a swift kick and an awareness lesson or two.

Thursday, 15 April 2010

Tal Wilkenfeld

Quote of the day: "Those who dream by day are cognisant of many things which escape those who dream only by night." (Edgar Allen Poe)

As my regular reader will know, i am a huge fan of Jeff Beck's, and today i bought  his new album, "Emotion & Commotion" (pictured above).And of course i had to buy the deluxe edition, which includes a DVD.

The CD is good.  Jeff's ability to make his guitar sing remains unsurpassed -- equalled by a very few (Terje Rypdal & Rory Gallagher spring to mind), bettered by none.  But it's Jeff at his most mellow, performing the likes of "Over The Rainbow" and "Nessun Dorma!" with full orchestra and there's none of the full speed ahead and damn the torpedoes music i love him for.

The reason to buy it, though, is for the DVD -- a live performance from the Crossroads Guitar Festival, 2007.

 I was close to tears (of joy) when the DVD ended.  It is -- and i'm not a huge fan of music DVDs -- the reason to buy.  (Or, at least, search "Jeff Beck Crossroads" on YouTube -- there are clips up.)

I saw Jeff in concert in 2001.  It was great but he really didn't seem to be enjoying himself all that much.  This is different -- he's obviously having a wonderful time.  Possibly because his band is better?  And in particular...

... Tal Wilkenfeld, his bassist.  (I'll bet you were wondering when i'd get around to her.)

That's her up there.

 She's one of the best bass guitarists i've ever heard!  And she looks like she's about 19 (although she was born in 1986, which means she was 21 when the video was made).  She's a Kiwi -- not her fault, of course!

Anyway, the rapport between her and Jeff Beck is pure magic and she plays her bass like it's a part of her body -- indeed, there are moments when one might think she has a sexual relationship with it.

Is there such a thing as a child prodigy on the bass guitar?  If there is, she must have been one.

www.talwilkenfeld.com -- but there's nothing much there yet

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Toronto, The Celestial City

I have just returned from two days in Toronto, i went to see Oysterband (www.oysterband.co.uk) at Hugh's Room and they were superb.  The last time i was in Toronto was two years ago, when i went to see, er, Oysterband, at Hugh's Room.  I think that they were more enjoyable this time. Here's the group, in a picture taken by my friend Eric:

I used to live there, of course, and it's a beautiful city -- what New York would be like if New York were run by the Swiss, as someone (Peter Ustinov?) once said.  I took a few photos and they're up on my Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/34806425@N02/sets/72157623852955868/

Saturday, 10 April 2010

Hockey Tournament, Day Two (Eeeeek!)

Yes, we took another good kicking today at ye olde shoppe.  I'm convinced that these people don't really understand the concept of "restaurant reservations."

We had a party of 35 who booked for noon, at least they booked, but they didn't show up until 12.45.  Duh!  And then we had parties of 20/25/30 people showing up all afternoon, unannounced.

Well, it wasn't quite as bad as yesterday, but as i was leaving, another party of 30 was arriving unexpectedly...

And there's one more day but i don't care because i am now on holidays for a week.  Freedom!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Hockey Tournament! (Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid....)

As you may know by now, i, for my sins, make my living as a cook. 
We had our little butts kicked at the restaurant today, wow, we were busy.  There's a hockey tournament in town all weekend, and it began today.  Well, "there's a hockey tournament in town" are words which strike fear into the heart of any Stratford restaurateur.  These people are Neanderthal! (Knuckles all scraped from walking).  We had two parties -- total number of people was about 50 -- show up unexpectedly at 1.30, after we'd sent half the lunchtime staff home.  These people, i don't know what the problem is, have they never been to a restaurant before?  They don't understand the concept of making reservations?  Just down from the trees?
And so i went to Kelsey's after work for a refreshing alcoholic beverage, and they were getting their little butts kicked, too....  But it was worse there, because Kelsey's has more of a bar style (booze sales at my shop are minimal) -- so Kelsey's had a load of boozed-up Neanderthals.  And these people were on their way to a game?
Jen said (in the brief moment we were able to speak), "i'm not enjoying life right now."  And then had to dash off.
Jill said (in the brief moment we were able to speak) "i wish i were somewhere else." And then had to dash off.  (Yes, i did note her use of the subjunctive -- she has an English degree, you know.)
Lucy said (in the brief moment we were able to speak) "hi, Rich" and then dashed off.
Vanessa said (in the brief moment we were able to speak) "i 'm very tired," but then dashed off.
And, oh, hey, we get to do it all again tomorrow.
And then i'm on holidays for a week.  Hurrah!

Sunday, 4 April 2010

The Catieboo Seal Of Approval

Ah, right, Cate-cat approves.  There she is atop the new PC -- so i guess i'll keep it.
And i've been keeping busy with it an' all -- configuring, downloading apps, and configuring some more, hampered no end by the fact that my Internet connection has been really wonky lately.  It always seems down on Sundays -- my only day off! -- i can't imagine why this would be but am willing to accept the possibility that i've screwed something up.

And i haven't had much time for watching films recently, but i've managed these:

I know....