Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A Surplus Warning (or, Manitoba Does Not Actually Mean Business)

First things first, to follow up my previous post. In a stroke of good fortune for me, my car was saddled only with a minor coincidental setback -- or rather, it was minor enough that I still will have money someday in my life, but major enough that no professional out near Winnipeg Beach was willing to risk going into a Volvo over it.

(Perhaps the fanatical Ikea followers in our midst would be more likely to see their desired store in Manitoba if we as a populace seemed less unwaveringly wary of other Swedish niche products. I'm just tossing ideas around, is all.)

So that's good.

Now, to the main thrust of this post. In a stroke of good fortune for all of us bargain hunters, which last I heard was a great many of us, we all will have the rare opportunity to benefit greatly from the hideously crumbling state of Manitoba business!


Behold as I beheld:

This is important. This is news. We will come to pay tribute to the dearly departed memory of a longstanding downtown business staple, and by that I mean we are going to mercilessly raid its corpse and leave only another crumbling husk in a decaying core literally stacked with them.

We all know that I like to spend as little money as possible when purchasing items (to recap: I live in Winnipeg), so that sign on the front held great interest to me. But since I am also a man of eager curiosity and tireless imagination, it was the message on the other storefront sign that better grabbed my attention.

See what you make of this, standing in complete contrast to its more prominent counterpart:

I can't decide whether that's completely sinister or completely awesome, but I'm willing to accept the possibility that both descriptions apply.

What do you suppose the warning is for? Is it a warning to the rest of the downtown stores that any one of them could be next? Is it a general warning for any passerby that their current path will lead them into an urban wilderness where they risk life and limb by entering? Or will the warning be an unfortunate omen for someone, a serendipitious film-noir device serving as the last thing they ever see?

(I did warn you about the whole tireless imagination thing.)

Whatever the case, and whatever the warning may be, I felt I absolutely had to pass it along. If not for me, nobody else may have caught it in time--

--because, of course, nobody else is brave or foolish enough to be downtown after five PM.

So heads up, true believers! The United Army Surplus Sales liquidation sale begins this Wednesday, August 1st, at noon.

You've been warned.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

It Didn't Get Me Anywhere At All

This past Monday, I took my car in to be summerized. (I almost typed 'summarised', there, but I'm not lucky enough for my car to be that simple.)

And summerized it was, prepared for the rigours of seasonal transportation. I also had to buy four used tires to put on it, because my old summer tires were essentially trash by now, and I had to have some muffler and spoiler work done because my car is one of the lowest-slung automobiles you can operate without actually driving a Power Wheels.

All of this set me back a pretty penny, but they assured me that my car was now perfectly capable of taking me anywhere I could want to go this summer.

Early this afternoon I drove out to Winnipeg Beach, had a lovely time, and then returned to find that my car was now completely incapable of starting.

I just got home half an hour ago.

Let me post a song for you.

The Long Blondes - I'm Coping [site | myspace | album info -- man where the hell can you even buy a third edition of an overseas single]

Perhaps you've heard this song before, and if you have then you already know exactly where I'm about to direct you to -- because writing like this is precisely why everybody you know that follows new music collectively refuses to shut up about this band.

Two minutes and twenty-seven seconds in, right as the song switches gears:

Just like Winston Churchill
Forced to deliver the bad news,
Never in the field of human conflict
Have I been so unamused.


If you haven't heard this song before, on the other hand, then I would instead direct you to start at the beginning of the song and go from there. A novel idea, yes -- but humour me.

Be sure to join me next time, when my car will have found a way to devour my wallet right before my eyes and then explode at just the right angle to fire engine shrapnel directly through my brain.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

If You're Wondering

No, by no means have I lost interest in posting; I've got lots lined up that I mean to address. But, really now, it's thirty or hotter outside each day -- it's summer, baby! It's the season to get out and do stuff, just like I'd be doing if I weren't now working overtime at my job!

Besides -- as it turns out -- thirty or hotter plus humidity is a rough climate to write in when the most powerful fan in my room is the one inside my computer. (And no, I've no handle on this mythical beast people refer to reverently as 'air conditioning'; as far as I'm concerned right now, 'air conditioning' is the physical training I have to do for my body to handle our stagnant indoor climate.)

But I'll be along shortly, I assure you. This post, itself, is already progress; the last time I set out to write here, I instead laid back on my bed for a second and passed out for the next eight hours. It was, of course, a very hot day when I fell asleep -- and then when I woke up it was a very hot night, and I had to go to bed to be ready for work the next day.

Stay strong, true believers! Get out there and enjoy your summer; this is the weather we've been waiting for all year!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Reviewing Ain't Easy (But It Can Be Entertaining)

As you know -- or as you know now, because I'm mentioning it -- last night was the opening night of the 2007 Winnipeg Fringe Festival; I went and saw the production of Wolseley Tales at the Partners Deli in City Hall last night, and I must say I enjoyed it. The general consensus amongst our group -- my mother, my sister and I -- was that A) it was very endearing overall, B) it had a couple opening night kinks that (we were assured later by the performers when we talked to them) were going to be ironed out for the next show, and C) it is exactly the kind of gentle and quietly charming show that reviewers tend to bristle at.

Sure enough, the next day on the Winnipeg Free Press' staggeringly unappealing WhatsOnWinnipeg site:

Now, personally, I would have bumped the rating up by at least a star; your mileage may vary, of course, because reviewing anything is by nature a largely subjective and arbitrary activity. And I say this as a former arts reviewer myself, because I volunteered for two years at the Manitoban as a CD reviewer. (It was awesome. Ask me about it another time.)

Subjectivity and whatnot aside, this Fringe review was largely as I'd have expected. What definitely threw me about it, though, was the first sentence of that third paragraph:

"It's not a terribly compelling set of stories about everything from Mrs. Lipton's restaurant to Tall Grass Prairie's famous cinnamon buns, but the audience this night appreciated the amble down Home Street."

Or, to rephrase that -- "the show wasn't very good, but the audience enjoyed it".

Are you seriously allowed to write that in reviews? "It entertained the crowd, but it isn't entertaining" -- you can write stuff like that for the big papers? Oh, man!

When I graduated from university and was subsequently passed over by every newspaper in the city that went hiring since, I presumed it was because my writing skills are amateurish and unrefined in their current natural element. And, granted, they are -- but this looks like far less of a problem than I had originally assumed. Hell, I could do this stuff after all!

Oh, man, I'm all fired up now; that skittering noise you just heard was the writing bug crawling up and biting me. I loved doing record reviews back in university, and what's to stop me from doing them now? Since reviews are largely subjective, the credibility of reviews lies in the real or assumed authority of the person doing the reviewing -- and, hey guys, I've done this before! Clearly you can trust me!

I know I've still yet to post the concert pics and etceteras I'd proposed back in the day -- but nobody's really been clamoring for them, and I can always just backdate them to sometime and announce where (when?) I've put them up. Or I could do what I usually do, which is wing it to suit my whims and then hope for the best; these are the luxuries one has when one isn't specifically paid to write anything. (And if it turns out that is what one does when specifically paid to write, then I intend to shake violently with barely controlled jealousy.)

Anyway, to sum up, the Fringe production of Wolseley Tales is good for audiences and bad for reviewers. And I'm going to start reviewing CDs again at some point, just like the old days, because it'll be fun. Keeps me off the streets, at least!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Time-Sensitive Information

Man a-live, I keep getting distracted from my initial goal of recapping previous festivals and events. And it doesn't help my cause that I'm now being scheduled overtime hours at a job I would have sworn I was supposed to leave three weeks ago.

But what I have here is time-sensitive information, as the helpful post title may have suggested, and time-sensitive information requires immediate action.

You understand, of course. This is important.

See, fourty dollars in a mall CD store will get you two CDs that you can find anywhere, or maybe three CDs tops if you buy some of the terrible newer albums that are specifically priced lower to inflate their sales figures. And as you might expect from my intense and insatiable music geekery that example, I don't shop in mall CD stores very often. Instead I made a beeline for Into the Music today after work, and fourty dollars at Into the Music bought me two used local artist CDs, one new LP, three used LPs, two 45s and a much coveted cassette. Life is good.

Now, this isn't even close to being my biggest Into the Music-related sale haul; I made it down to their old Osborne Village location in its closing days, and I swear to you I went home with over fifty CDs that day. (Some of them were ultimately priced as low as seventy cents, all of them in perfectly listenable condition -- blah blah dick I like music anyway story for another time.) But come on -- I can't simply pass up oldschool vinyl fun at three-quarters the regular price, and I don't think you should pass it up either.

Twenty years of Into the Music! Twenty... years of... man, I was three when Into the Music first opened. That's weird to think about.

The only music my parents actually got for me when I was three was classical music; back in the day (and to this day, now that I think about it), parents genuinely thought that classical music made children smarter. And I still grew up to be pretty dumb about most things, but I can spell 'Tchaikovsky' right on the first try -- so I guess it wasn't a total wash.

Woo, tangent. Huzzah for the power of music! Go buy some!

Friday, July 13, 2007

Rainbow Connection (What the Hell Just Happened)

This is a true story. It is a true story, and it is my story, and it began not more than fifteen minutes ago.

I was lying around in my room, reading this week's Uptown and minding my own business, just killing time before I head out to the Grand Analog show in a couple hours. (We've been over this. Go see it.) I was reading through their Folk Festival articles -- which were published yesterday, so that's good; mine will only be a couple days behind theirs -- and the pictures included reminded me how nice the weather had been for that whole weekend.

It had threatened to rain a couple of times during the weekend; it had threatened to rain hard, too, which tornado-dodging Manitobans did not want to hear again. But it never actually did rain save for a couple brief spits, and the entire weekend was gorgeous.

I don't know why I thought of rainbows right after that. The internal workings of human consciousness are mysteries to us all, don't you know; some loose association leapt up in my mind from the thoughts of sunshine and festivals and goodwill towards all man, so I had the mental picture of a rainbow for a few seconds before it flitted away again.

Now, here's the thing -- when rainbows came unsummoned to the forefront of my thoughts, I had the window open and the weather outside was nice. Partly cloudly out, nothing blocking the sun, a lovely July evening outside.

That was before I thought anything about a rainbow. Then, within two minutes -- I'm not kidding you here, two minutes later:




Out of nowhere and with no preamble, the tail of a hurricane materialized from thin air and began battering the neighbourhood. I'm not exaggerating when I say that, either; I used to live in the northeast parts of Nova Scotia, and hurricanes went there to die on a strangely regular basis.

I mean, this was fierce. The rain was going almost sideways, and I had to feel badly for any housepets that happened to be wandering outside at the time. Since my camera was three feet away, I figured what the hell and took a few shots.

Strangest thing, I tell you. A butterfly fluttered its wings somewhere in Australia, or something. I don't know. There was no readily reasonable explanation for this and I wasn't even about to attempt one.

This mysterious tempest only lasted for a few minutes, then disappeared as quickly as it had arrived; aside from a much wetter neighbourhood and puddles on the streets, nothing much seemed different from the way it had been moments earlier. Partly cloudly out, nothing blocking the sun, a lovely July evening outside.

I decided it was safe to open the window again, turned my head to reach for the clasp, and--

--and holy crap I have just accidentally summoned a rainbow into being with my mind.

Okay, no, that's impossible. (And completely self-centered, you rightfully point out.) This is of course a set of mischevious meteorological coincidences, and I am losing my mind.

But I can safely say, with all certainty, that never before in my life have I thought of rainbows out of nowhere for no reason and then seen a rainbow show up within the next five minutes. I hope you'll forgive me if it struck me as odd.

And now, as I'm writing this, it's gone as if it never came; it's partly cloudy out, there's nothing blocking the sun, and it's a lovely July evening outside.

Nice weather we're having!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Grand Analog CD Release Show is Tomorrow

Aww, yee-ahh. I’ve been waiting for this.

Tomorrow night at the Pyramid Cabaret, Grand Analog (who you'll recall I've mentioned before) are releasing their debut CD; $5 gets you in the door, and another $5 on top of that at the door gets you the CD too.

Ten dollars. Ten bucks gets you into what I can already confirm is an awesome live show, and nets you a CD that'll otherwise set you back twelve plus tax if you wait and buy it later. (And at twelve bucks plus tax, it's still going to be worth every penny and more. I am dead certain about this.) If you pass this up, I am going to stare at you disapprovingly for what will seem like days.

When I phoned the Pyramid Cabaret info line (which turned out to be a live person -- you have no idea how much I treasure small venues, and seeing two of them sold in the past week is a bit of a bummer), the info line suggested to me that the doors will open at nine and the openers will start about ten. This is important, and should be remembered as such.

Wild horses are not going to keep me away from this show. In fact, I pity the wild horses that might try to get in my way tomorrow night; you'd be able to track me to the Pyramid Cabaret by the trail of fresh glue left in my wake.

Or something. The metaphor kind of fell apart on me there.

Go to this show! That is what I am getting at! I cannot stress this enough!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

More to Follow

I just got back from the Winnipeg Folk Festival, if you were wondering where I've been the last little while. (If you weren't wondering, well, that's cool too.)

Short summary: it was awesome. And so was the Moses Mayes concert last... has it already been a week? Huh.

I'll be posting pictures and comments for everything in the next few posts, but for now I'm going to pass out unceremoniously and drag myself to work tomorrow. It's good to have a plan as well thought out as this one!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Antibalas w/ JFK & the Conspirators -- Pyramid Cabaret, Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

I keep forgetting how much I like JFK & the Conspirators.

I mean, I don't think I've ever actively disliked them; I think it's just that I've never been exposed to them for any significant length of time outside of campus radio. Which seems odd, because they've been around since at least the late 1990s. Maybe I've just been taking them for granted, I don't know.

Anyway! Oldschool dancehall reggae is alive and well and in good hands; they have some great charts, they've got a definite commitment to authenticity, and if nothing else I must say that I will not argue with a band that goes out of their way to include a cowbell solo in their set.

Damn right.

This show was perhaps the most packed I've ever seen the Pyramid Cabaret, so I probably caught like eight different colds the building warmed up pretty quickly. It was hot, it was crowded, it was noisy, and the women were gorgeous -- so since this almost perfectly describes New York City as well, the stage was set perfectly for the current standard bearers of Afrobeat. (Okay, yes, that's probably a title more applicable to Femi Kuti, but so far I've yet to meet anybody who values Fema Kuti over Antibalas musically. Humour me here.)

Hell with it, I couldn't really get any good photos; it's hard to take well-focused pictures when you're too busy dancing to stand still.

And dance I did, because that is what I do. Nothing like a couple straight hours of dancing to pick up your mood! (Or to tire you out completely at work the next day, but I'm not old enough yet to understand how consequences work.)

I love Afrobeat dearly; I believe I've mentioned that before. The Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra had been through the city once before, years ago; as I recall I'd been unable to go because of a school or work commitment (which narrows it down, har har), and as I recall I had been particularly frustrated by it. So I'd been looking forward to this concert like crazy, and it did not disappoint -- which is impressive, considering the buildup it had garnered in my mind.

I still don't own their new album (I intend to, oh yes, I intend to), so a lot of the material was completely new to me; from the sound of things they've improved their arrangement writing dramatically, and it was already hot shit to begin with. With that said, you can imagine the marking out I did when they hit their older stuff (IN-DICT-MENT~! WHAM WHAM WHAM); this concert was probably the happiest I've been since I graduated from university, which is a little demoralizing to consider but gets the point across that I had the time of my life.

I know that in the last little while I'd made a bit of a to-do about bad things happening when I go to concerts, but I'm happy to report that no calamities erupted this time around. A good time was had by all; a random passerby high-fived me for my choice in t-shirts (I was wearing the Working Class Hero one, if you're wondering -- I don't know why my shirt collection has been so appreciated lately, it's kind of bizarre); and as I left the show I ran into my half-brother, who I haven't seen in maybe a year and a half. So that was good.

Things are looking up!

It's the Canada Day weekend right now (okay, right now it is Canada Day -- happy Canada Day, folks!), and there's no shortage of things you could go out and do. I might poke around a bit here and there today, but most of my energy is being saved up for tomorrow -- because tomorrow night is the annual Moses Mayes concert at Old Market Square, and it is a personal tradition of mine to go and dance myself to the point of oncoming exhaustion death. See you there!