Archive for the ‘Good People’ Category

The Parkdale Revolutionary Duo @ Celeste’s Art Show (the Tranzac, November 7 2009)

09/11/2009

Kristin and I played some voice+piano versions of Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra songs (and some covers) at the opening party for Celeste Gillis’ art show at the Tranzac. Our mysterious friend Alan R. took a photo:

Kristin and I playing at the Tranzac

It was a good show – crowded and noisy, but a lot of fun. Since I don’t play the piano very often these days I’m finding that I really enjoy it when I do. Kristin was – as always – a nuisance to rehearse with: always complaining that I don’t know the songs properly. But the problem is that it’s only fun for me to play when I don’t know the material perfectly well… it’s more of an adventure when you know that you’re going to be making a lot of stuff up as you go!

Here’s a few of my favourites from this show:

Only the Sun:

Driving Me Backwards (Brian Eno):

The Day the Planes All Stopped (Chris Warren):

The Stars of Reality TV:

Impostor (Karl Mohr):

Letter From London:

Congratulations on the great art show Celeste – and thanks for inviting us!

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Pirate – Party – Propaganda: the Green Party of Canada is Ready For the Big Leagues!

13/08/2009

1: THE PIRATE

I live in an apartment a couple doors down from a very interesting (in every sense of the word) bar called Zemra Lounge. That place gets its ‘interesting’ character directly from its owner: a Croatian pirate. If he’s not actually a pirate, that’s only because the opportunity’s never come up for him. But he embodies all the finest character traits of a pirate (a storybook pirate a la Captain Blood, which is very different from currently-in-vogue Somali pirate type). Qualities:

Complete disregard for authoritarian morality (and any other type of morality); an enormous ego; a suave faux-aristocratic bearing, balanced by frequent episodes of alcoholic depression; …and, most importantly, incredible adaptability and resource in difficult situations. All he’s missing is a parrot and eye patch. But I’m pretty sure he has the requisite sabre and pistol stashed behind the bar.

And this is why, while businesses have been dropping like flies in saki along this street during the past year – which included both the ‘global economic crisis’ and the greatest streetcar track reconstruction fiasco ever attempted by mankind – the Zemra Lounge has thrived.

Our pirate transformed what was a hangout for the upper crust of the local Gino population into an event centre: Music! Magic Acts! Wine Tastings! Birthday Parties! Corporate Events! They all walk the plank at Zemra.

The man’s brilliant and cunning – I admire him. And he’s also a very nice guy. I run into him on the street all the time, typically finding him in furtive conversation with a shady-looking dude parked in a SUV in front of the bar. When he sees me he always breaks off the conversation to pass the time of day and ask how Madeline and Gus are doing, like Robert Frost:

When a friend calls to me from the road
And slows his horse to a meaning walk,
I don’t stand still and look around
On all the hills I haven’t hoed,
And shout from where I am, “What is it?”
No, not as there is a time to talk.
I thrust my hoe in the mellow ground,
Blade-end up and five feet tall,
And plod: I go up to the stone wall
For a friendly visit.

This character sketch has gone on way too far. The point is: he’s started hosting events lately. And today it was a Green Party of Canada local meeting.

The Zemra Bar and Pirate Hideout
the Zemra Bar and Pirate Lair

***
2: THE PARTY
As I walked by Zemra Lounge last night a great crowd of hippies, dotted with shiny suits and pinkshirt businessmen, were milling in and around the place. And at each corner of the patio a dissolute-and-untoothed fellow (members of the fanatical paramilitary wing of the Party) – was stationed, handing out bright blue and green pamphlets. (more…)

Forward Rocinante!

07/08/2009

Because an absurd action magnifies the absurdity of an absurd institution:

PZ “Don Quixote” Myers and 300 atheist Sancho Panzas jousted with the Creation “Museum” in Kentucky this afternoon. The windmill seems to have taken a beating this time.

There are more pictures at Blag Hag’s Blog.

My Drummer Is A Very Philosophical Guy: The Paradox Of Competence And Generosity.

07/08/2009

My new drummer is a very philosophical guy.

A couple months ago we had our annual drummer-juggling week, which is nowhere near as fun as it sounds. Over the lifetime of the Parkdale Revolutionary Orchestra (three years now?) we’ve had three solid drummers and more fill-ins than I can remember. And each new drummer and I quickly fall into a unique and strangely-intense relationship. This doesn’t happen with the violin and cello players who’ve been in the band. With them, it’s always been a gradually-evolving relationship: professional awkwardness develops to mutual respect and, over the course of many months, slips into a comfortable friendship.

For example, Alex Cheung (our violinist of two years) and I have always liked working together but only became what I’d call “friends” through a year long series of chess-like maneuvers. Alex McMaster (Ms.Cello) and I are still, I think, just a bit shy and cautious with each other. I’m not saying this slow way of learning to enjoy the people who share my creative life is a bad thing – in fact I prefer it in a lot of ways.

But that’s never been an option with our drummers. I’m not sure if it’s something ingrained in the personality of people who become drummers; or if it’s ingrained in the subset of drummers interested in making the sort of music we make; or whether it has to do with my approach to working with drummers… but with each drummer it seems that our relationship is carved in stone by the second rehearsal.

And it’s always different: Rosie was a demon-cupid Mercury of sarcasm, wild creativity, and dissoluteness; Chris Patheiger was a Jupiter, a true gentleman. Very kind, slightly reserved, self-regulating his orbit around the project to exert a solid gravitational pull without committing to a stable trajectory. But our new drummer, David MacDougall, is from Neptune – by far my most troubling planet-archetype.

This discovery came as a shock to me. By nature (and by practice) I’m very pessimistic. I do my best to predict catastrophes as early as possible, and on the most preliminary evidence. So, from the moment that David contacted me out-of-the-blue with “I hear you’re looking for a drummer. I play drums.” I was trying to figure him out by my special (and absurd) process of psycho-statistical analysis.

You must recognize the obvious dilemma: this strange character was immediately and unabashedly enthusiastic about this music; very generous with committing himself to rehearsals; incredibly competent and in-demand as a musician, and yet borderline-diffident in rehearsal. He asks questions about texture and structure. By the second rehearsal it was obvious that he understood the functional language of this music better than anyone else in the band, often including myself.

He’s a balanced professional on stage: he plays hard but never overplays. I’ve yet to see him lose his cool when a performance brushes up against the definite possibility of falling completely apart. Off-stage he’s always been relaxed, with a detached ironical sense of humour, and displays a marked absence of self-indulgence combined with a philosophical sympathy for my own not-infrequent displays of that lousy trait.

So you must see now that bringing David into the band was a shattering concession:

Is it worth abandoning thirty-three years’ worth of hard-earned pessimism – and the insulation against disappointment that comes with it and has sustained me through the past three years – in order to work with a drummer who contributes so much to every aspect of the band’s existence while causing no problems at all?

It’s a catch-22; a paradox; a no-win scenario.