Friday, March 26, 2010


I generally hate reality TV. I just find it so contrived. Now I admit to watching 3 reality TV shows; Survivor as the grandpapy of reality tv and a study in human nature and group dynamics, Amazing Race for the scenery and American Idol to admire the raw talent of the young singers often in awe and envy (I can't sing to save my life unfortunately).

This evening I added a fourth show.

I've just spent two hours watching the premiere of Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution on ABC where he takes on the American diet in homes and in schools, starting in Huntington, West Virginia.

This was riveting TV watching public school kids choose and eat processed food over Jamie's whole food creations. Most heartbreaking was watching the Edwards family caught in the fried and processed food trap leading to serious weight issues and potential health problems for them and their eldest son Justin in particular.

But there were glimmers of hope as Justin Edwards learns what good food is and how to cook it himself under Jamie's wing. Good on ya, Justin! One of the teachers decides to teach her children what vegetables look like and the school principal rolls up his sleeves on Jamie's last day in the kitchen and teaches the kids how to use a knife to cut their food! Even the lunch ladies' armour seems to be developing some chinks by the end of the episode.

Just "brilliant" as Jamie would say.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Courage and Strength

Courage and strength are... going on and skating when you would rather curl up in a ball and cry.

Go Joannie Rochette!

Our hearts are with you, on the ice and off.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

2009 - My Music Year in Review

Another timely blog post... !

2009 was another excellant year for music, both live and recorded for me. While people were partaking of the 100 mile diet, I was partaking of the 100 mile musical diet, finding a number of new and interesting local musicians, including Andrea Simms-Karp, Sarah Hallman, Tall Trees and Jill Zmud.

Concert highlights of the year included Stars at the Bronson Centre, a number of NAC shows including a pops concert (SciFi Spectacular) and two Stuart McLean Vinyl Cafe shows.

I didn't attend the Cisco Ottawa Bluesfest this year, mainly due to the preponderance of dinosaur rockers in attendance (Kiss, anyone?). It turned out to be a wise decision given the cold and wet weather of early July.

The Ottawa Folk Festival was wonderful again this year. I wrote about it in detail on a previous post. See

A November trip to Compact Music to look for a disc led to a surprise meeting with Ottawa's Jill Zmud who was there for an in-store performance to launch her record As we quietly drive by. The peculiar thing about the encounter was that I had just finished reading Ottawa Express' review of the Album, walked into the store and there she was.

December saw the family at the National Arts Centre to see Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe Christmas concert. Musical guests were Jill Barber and Matt Andersen. While Jill was entertaining, Matt was spectacular. When he finished singing, you could hear a pin drop and then the crowd rose to their feet in applause, with just his first performance. Matt plays a mean guitar and sings with incredible sould. Stuart commented that he was sure Matt would warm up for his next performance!..

The December 26th podcast of the show has Matt's performance at another location and he got a standing ovation there also. Another Vinyl Cafe / Matt Andersen is available on the March 13 or 16, 2010 CBC podcast. Check out his "Ain't No Sunshine" performance. Brilliant!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

5 Signs Winter is Coming

1) Puddles in the street were frozen this morning.
2) I'm wearing gloves.
3) The Rideau Canal is being drained. Can the Beaver Tail huts be far behind?
4) All the leaves fell off my ash tree today (I'm not kidding - they were all there this morning)
5) It snowed yesterday.

Quote of the Day

"The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be."

B. Ramaling Raju
Chairman, Satyam Computer Services. India.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Ottawa Folk Festival 2009

We spent 2 1/2 days last weekend at the Ottawa Folk Festival and had an exceptional time. This was our second year attending and we had the same problem as last year - too much good music all at the same time. Which show to choose?

Friday night we attended concerts by The Sadies, Victoria Vox, Vishten, Kinnie Starr, Amy Millan (solo but part of Stars and Broken Social Scene) and Stephen Page (formerly of the Barenaked Ladies).

Saturday night headliners were the Arrogant Worms, James Hill and Anne Davison, the Good Lovelies and Bruce Cockburn.

Sunday night headliners for us were the Good Lovelies and Friends (Charlotte Cornfield, Tall Trees and Digging Roots), David Ross Macdonald and Joel Plaskett. Unfortunately we were too tired for the last concert of the evening and missed Idy Oulo from Cameroon.

One of the special features of the Festival is workshops held during the day where a number of artists come together to perform their songs. Usually the workshops have themes. Most of the time, the artists perform in turn after a brief intro of how their song relates to the theme. However some of the other artists will frequently "jam" with the others, resulting in some amazing moments.

Workshops on Saturday were Double Bill (Tall Trees and Victoria Vox), Three (Joel Plaskett, David Ross Macdonald and Catriona Sturton - sans Joel who was stuck in New York and was replaced by John ??? on guitar) and Favourite Colours (The Sadies, Amy Millan and Charlotte Cornfield). I also attended an afternoon concert by Mr. Something Something, a great band from Toronto and a show by That 1 Guy that turned into a show by That 1 Girl when Mishirangi had to fill in. Another case of performance anxiety when That 1 Guy's instrument didn't clear Customs in time for the show.

The other special feature of the Festival is the Cross-Cultural Artist Collaboration. These are a series of concerts where the performers get together before the Festival opens to select, practice and play a few pieces. They also write a new piece of music. Different groups perform a series of concerts with 10 or 15 performers per show. This concert culminated with the musicians marching off the stage and playing on the centre of the Dance Tent dance floor, to great cheering from the audience.

Sundays workshops that I attended were African Roots (Jah Youssaf, Abdoulayne Kone and Lewis Melville), Flowing with the Go (Anne Davison, Linsey Wellman, That 1 Guy and Robbie Anderman) and Outstanding In Their Field ( gardener Ed Lawrence, Charlotte Cornfield, The Arrogant Worms, Digging Roots, Stewed Roots and Tall Trees).

Of particular note was the Songs From The Road workshop with Bruce Cockburn, Stephen Page, Joel Plaskett and Ana Miura.

Songs from the Road drew such a crowd as to totally overwhelm the Hill Stage! It could easily have been a Main Stage show.

The afternoon concert was a rip roaring show by The Woodchoppers Association featuring Jah Youssaf and Abdoulayne Kone.

The highlights of the weekend were Victoria Vox, the Flowing with the Go workshop, Bruce Cockburn and Trevor Pool of Tall Trees:

  • Victoria Vox is a vivacious and fun ukelele musician from Maryland with a nice collection of well-crafted songs. She was busy playing a number of shows throughout the weekend and could often be seen watching other shows. My wife and I had a nice chat and learned where she honed her French skills, used on two of her great songs. She also produces her own tongue-in-cheek (pun intended) his and hers underwear collection featuring ukeleles! See them at her website!

  • The Flowing with the Go workshop was one of the best displays of musicianship I have seen. The concert began with That 1 Guy starting a very mid-eastern piece reminiscent of tracks from Peter Gabriel's Passion (Soundtrack to The Last Temptation of Christ) and the remaining artists improvised along. Here is a somewhat choppy sideways clip of the end of the piece (I must remember to keep the camera horizontal when filming video!) You can get a sense of the song in the dying notes. The remaining pieces from each of the other musicians were equally amazing.

  • Trevor Pool got my pick as an up-and-coming musician to watch. During the Good Lovelies and Friends show, Trevor was improvising on the guitar along with a Stewed Roots song as if he had played it all his life.

  • Finally, Bruce Cockburn was amazing as always on his own and improvising along during his Sunday workshop. Here he is signing an autograph for a young fan (my son).

  • One very unique aspect of the festival is that the stars are all wonderfully approachable and accessible. We had nice chats with Victoria Vox and David Ross Macdonald as they were walking on the Festival grounds and had CD signings, autographs and picture with Bruce Cockburn, Joel Plaskett, James Hill and Ana Miura. All were friendly and were genuinely pleased to talk with us. Compare that to other festivals where security guards usher the stars from their bus to the stage and back again.

    The festival also featured a number of kid-friendly activities such as an instrument "petting zoo", with more different stringed instruments than I have ever seen and a number of workshops. My kids attended a tin whistle workshop as well as a blued harp or harmonica workshop where they got to keep their instruments courtesy of the Ottawa Folklore Centre. Ukelele building was also available this year.

    I would like to thank the Festival organizers for putting on such a wonderful event this year. It was a very well run, fantastically family-oriented, friendly and intimate without any of the drunken roudiness of the other summer festival closer to town.

    Tuesday, August 18, 2009

    Bring On The Surveillance State!

    I know that our Privacy Commissioner is very concerned about the use of closed-circuit TV (CCTV) for monitoring the public due to privacy concerns, but I have recently been convinced that public safety trumps the right to privacy.

    About two weeks ago, we awoke in the middle of the night to a deep booming sound which repeated four times before falling silent, sort of like the goblin drums in Khazad-dûm (aka the Mines of Moria - LOTR). The noise shook the house itself and sounded like someone trying to kick in a door. I ran out to check on our house and our neighbour's but there was no sign of anyone or anything. However when I ventured around the corner of the street, I noticed that the glass in our bus shelter had been shattered. The booming sound came from the blows on the glass.

    This past weekend 5 bus shelters on Orleans Boulevard were smashed in a similar manner.

    Also on the same stretch of road last week, a teenager street racing, hit the curb on a curve in the road at estimated speeds of 100 km/hr, hit newspaper boxes and sent them flying through another bus shelter, hit a set of group mailboxes before finally hitting a concrete barrier with the car, sending shards flying through the back yard of the house behind the barrier. Fortunately no one was in the yard at the time. The driver and his passenger also lived to tell the tale. So much for Darwin.

    We frequently hear cars racing down the "main drag" outside our house which has a posted speed limit of 40km/hr in the middle of the night. Frequently you can tell that they haven't stopped for the stop sign on the nearby corner.

    Perhaps it is time with this kind of rampant lawlessness, to use surveillance to identify the villains and to protect the public and taxpayer from the costs.

    Thursday, July 23, 2009

    Define "normal"

    I occassionally think that I am not the most normal person in the world, but upon some reflection, for example, looking at the tabloids, I come to the conclusion that I am reasonably well adjusted.

    In the spirit of that thought, a quote of the day:

    "I am not strange, I am just not normal."

    Salvador Dali

    And On Your Right, Turkeys.

    I've had three serious turkey sightings in the last two weeks, including in some unexpected places.

    First sighting was two weeks ago riding the express bus downtown to work. Behind Hurdman Transit station there is a large area of green space and along the edge of the bike path, there - a turkey.

    Another big sighting on highway 416 near Oxford Station Road. I saw a group of turkeys numbering 10-16 foraging in a field.

    A group of turkeys is evidently called a flock, a brood, a bale or a rafter of turkeys.

    Finally a week ago, on the way home, (on the express bus again!) I saw three turkeys in the ditch near the Montreal Road exit of the 174. There is a large swath of woods and fields and I frequently see deer there, but this was the second sighting within urban boundaries.

    What I think is interesting is how rapidly they have rebuilt their population since being reintroduced in Eastern Ontario in the late 1980's and how they have migrated into and adapted to urban areas.