Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Love Letter to Leonard

This past summer, the legendary poet and songwriter, Leonard Cohen, hit the tour and interview circuit. I heard 2 poignant interviews with him: one on NPR and the other on CBC. Unfortunately, it wasn't entirely by choice: the aging artist was forced to leave his Montreal home, hit the road, and sing for his supper. Cohen had been swindled out of fortune by a nefarious manager.

Hearing the interviews stirred up many memories and emotions. Here are some:

The Era of Ignorance and Growth

When I was first introduced to Cohen, as a university student, I didn't get it. He had weird Zen lyrics that I couldn't appreciate. Many of the arrangements were too simple.

Over time, I began to understand the point. Leonard's songs weren't simple stories: they were open to interpretation, and often, mirror-like, reflected more of what we brought to them than what they offered outright.

The Concerts

In the early 1990s, I saw Leonard twice. One show in Kitchener, Ontario, was spell-binding. The audience was entralled by his smoky baritone, beautiful melodies, and showmanship. I believe I have blogged before that he returned from an intermission to announce the score of the Montreal-LA Stanley Cup playoff game (Montreal led 4-1).


Some friends and I looked out at the Pacific while playing a cover of Hallelujah. The Jeff Buckley version is much better known, but I had heard the song well before and always thought it beautiful. It is a treasured memory.


In July 2006, BryGuy, Matt, and I went to see a documentary about Leonard. Though the doc was mostly boring, I'll never forget a few details:
  • Near 2005, Leonard went to a Zen monastery in California. Matt was at the same monastery at the same time! I can't remember if he met Leonard, but he knew LC was there.
  • The monastic experience was the same time that Leonard was being truly ripped off by his management. (Not in the film, but this summer's interviews).
  • Within the 2-hour span of the documentary, a vicious windstorm decimated St Louis. We emerged from the Tivoli to find serious tree damage. The lights had flickered a bit during the film, but we had no idea it had stormed so badly.

And so, this summer, I heard the podcasts with the old songsmith. The interviews were a mix of his legacy, and his new chapter (chapter 13?).

Terri Gross (NPR) really probed his psyche, about his lyrics, which deal with sensuality and love, but in a way that is never easy. A modern-day Hamlet, he loves romance but can never seem to capture it -- or doesn't want to capture it. Interestingly, his lyrics are deeply personal: the song Chelsea Hotel famously describes a tryst between him and a woman who "usually prefers handsome man, but for me would make an exception". (The woman was later revealed to be Janis Joplin). His contradictions are real, not an act.

Where Terri really hit home though, was with an unoriginal but fitting point: Leonard is brilliant and insightful about his own lot in life, and the human condition, but at the same time seems utterly powerless to change his circumstances.

It was an electric moment for me. I don't compare to King Leonard, but I think it is an apt description of this blog, and especially the recent Saturday Night posts. Not with respect to love, per se, but the general sentiment of watching one's life from the outside in, capturing it in song and verse, and yet being unable to do anything about it.

Good luck, Leonard. Thanks for everything.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Random Email

I've been somewhat bummed about the tech blog lately for various reasons. But this buoyed my spirits... a random email (Ed's note: obscured to protect identity):

Hope you don't think this too weird. I saw a bumper sticker not long ago that had [tech blog -- Ed] on it whilst driving in St. Louis. Curious, I Google'd it and came across your blog.

Anyhow, just wanted to drop a line and say how much I enjoy the site. It's obvious you enjoy your work, which is nice to see in folks.

Pretty neat....

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tell Me A Story: RIP Don Hewitt

I just saw a 60 Minutes show that commemorated producer and innovator Don Hewitt. It was outstanding.

I have loved 60 Minutes ever since I was a teenager, long before coming to the USA. It is routinely the best hour of TV in a given week, and has been that way for 40 years.

I wish that Don Hewitt's passing received even 5% of the media coverage that Michael Jackson's did. I think they should play that tribute in every high-school class in this country.

He is a role-model for life, as he pursued his passion with dogged determination. As for journalism and TV production, he had one motto: "tell me a story".

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Big News

Some big news for my friends Stef and Jonathan:
  • J has branched out into photography and things seem to be going very well.
  • Stef famously runs Cupcake Project and has been scoring some big gigs, including a mention by the NY Times and a guest spot on Paula Deen's website.
  • Oh, and by the way: Stef recently gave birth to a baby boy! Huge news! Mazel tov to all!

Saturday Night

I had a chance to see Nickelback in concert tonight (a Saturday night), but passed on it.

I wonder if they will play the song below. I'm sure I blogged on this before but it is a cover of the old Elton John song.

As is well-documented on here, it is a perfect match for hockey: Saturday night as been hockey night in Canada since 1931. It is every bit as synonymous (if not more so) as Monday night with football in the US. This cover is so genius for hockey that I can't believe no one did before.

I had contemplated dyeing my hair blonde like the Nickelback lead singer, and even bought a decent "Canada" t-shirt back home for the show. (Though I'm not sure how that would go over with a hard-rock crowd in the midwest -- hard to say.)

It was probably an error to pass on it, but if I find out they played this song (and it is a Saturday), then I will be really bummed.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Canadian, Please

This is hilarious! Thanks to the anon commenter who turned me on to it....

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Successful Summer Rerun

I wrote a spoof piece on my tech blog back on April 1, 2008. On a lark, I winged it out on Twitter this past Friday.

The response was better than when I originally released it. It has pinged around Twitter and some other sites: 1,500 hits on a Saturday. That isn't a big deal for some friends of mine, but my blog has been quiet so it's nice to have a bit of comeback.

This especially true because I paid for some stock photography and took about 3 hours to write the piece. Thankfully, it made me laugh, which is always the primary goal (if that goal is achieved, then the work is worth it). But the gravy is nice too.

For SiteMeter fans, here is a pic below. Not exactly "viral" but not bad.


I work in a war room that seats about 12 people. Several of my colleagues are from diverse backgrounds: one guy is from Turkey.

One day after a meeting, said chap came over to my desk. He had seen my browser onscreen, with the background image on Twitter (at right). From that alone, said he didn't realize I was Canadian.

I'm glad that the mighty Maple Leaf has such good recognition.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

RIP Les Paul

Quoteth (from Wikipedia):

In January 1948, Paul was injured in a near-fatal automobile accident in Oklahoma, which shattered his right arm and elbow. Doctors told Paul that there was no way for them to rebuild his elbow in a way that would let him regain movement, and that his arm would remain permanently in whatever position they placed it. Paul then instructed the surgeons to set his arm at an angle that would allow him to cradle and pick the guitar. It took him a year and a half to recover.

For non-guitar players, Les Paul not only invented the guitar that bears his name, but also was a fantastic player and a true innovator regarding studio equipment. He is credited as a pioneer with respect to multi-track recording.


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Whale Dance

I saw this via online news from PEI. Humpback whales spotted off the north shore!

(Please note that the music is by Coldplay, and Joe Satriani has a lawsuit against them for ripping off his song. If you like the tune, by it from Joe.)

Nonetheless, it is stirring video, especially at the beginning. Whales near PEI are fairly rare. I hope it isn't due to climate change.

Don't Talk: Watch

The video below is rated R for language and violent sentiments. Definitely not for everyone.

The gist is that it is an opening vid to a movie, with namby-pamby (and risque) characters asking people to mind their manners. Then some metal meanies burst in, with a stronger message (from a song by some neo-extreme metal band).

I love it... I was raised to stay damn quiet in a formal setting: at a movie, church, concert, meeting, tech talk, etc. I am less formal at someone's house, but if more than a few people are seated in chairs, you have 3 seconds to make a quiet, discreet point (e.g. "do you hear a smoke detector?").

A funny thing: this is how I expected to watch major-league baseball years ago, but I was surprised to learn that at a baseball game, everyone talks and it's fine. It was a true culture shock for me to learn that baseball is a big picnic where the game is more in the background.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Heat Hammer

We got away with a rather miraculously mild July, but the heat hammer is coming down on us in St Louis. This weekend was high 90's F, with the wretched heat index.

I don't know if I'll ever really get used to this. Long-time readers will know that I grew up in an environment where the dog days of August, replete with stifling humidity, would reach 85 F or maybe -- call us crazy -- 87 F.

As part of my body's natural reaction of shock, I have a cold with serious snufflies and weird gland pain, though that is subsiding. Bah.

I could continue to gripe and moan, but instead another heat-related story: this weekend is roughly the 2nd anniversary of my 1/3 Iron Man at Mattoon, IL. As documented in this post (when I actually wrote decent posts), I endured unbelievable heat and finished, in ignominious fashion. To this day, it is the longest tri I have done, and with Blackbird gone, will likely be one of my crowning achievements.

Many readers may remember that race as the one where I ended up in the ER. True enough, yes. However, I repeat here: I finished. It was hell on earth, but I finished.


ps. Another point on growing up: being on The Island, every hint of a breeze is a refreshing kiss from nature, because it brings sweet relief. It wasn't until that I moved to Ontario that I discovered that a breeze does not have to be a "cool breeze". In both Ontario and Missoura, the breeze can feel like a thousand hair-dryers.

pps. And don't get me started on Arizona! I have only visited once, but Holy Moley!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Does this taste offal to you?

Many years ago, I was at The Scottish Arms with the Dinner Club Gang for brunch (not for dinner club). I remember it being very good, but I don't remember what I ate.

I was there last night, and I shant forget the meal: I went for the gold, and ordered haggis.

It was very good! Quite heavy and a bit, well, gamey, but tasty. It came with a side of honey-roasted rutabaga and mashed potatoes. As with everything at The Scottish Arms, it was quite authentic. A friend in attendance has traveled the world (including Scotland) and vouched for the place.

I like food, but I can't say I'm a gourmand / foodie. I'm not one who raves about a dish, saying that the amount of nutmeg perfectly balances the amount of ginger.

With that as a modest disclaimer, I've had the following:
  • shark-fin soup (though I felt guilty and never again)
  • alligator (in several places)
  • cow's tongue (a delicacy on PEI)
  • raw oysters (in New Orleans)
  • and now haggis
I should write about the texture of each dish and how it brought me closer to the local culture. Alas, I don't really remember (see above). I was hungry.

How about you? What is the most exotic thing you've had?

Monday, August 03, 2009


Long before the advent of digital cameras, my family has been interested in photography. I remember many a Sunday, while visiting, with talk about F-stops, lenses, and film. In particular, my father and my Uncle Roland were big fans, back in a day where every roll of film had both a cost and a sense of apprehension (would they turn out?).

Back in the day, Dad was more utilitarian as a photographer, and interested in the science: a camera was a fascinating invention. My uncle understood the science but was much more interested in the aesthetics of the shot: dew on flowers, and especially cars. He often entered contests with worthy material, as I remember.

Today, they both snap pics in a different world. My father has a better sense of artistry now: Pedaling PEI is getting hits that rivals even the mighty CC.

I'm not sure how often my uncle plays shutterbug, but he sent me these photos, and I thought I would share. These cars must have gleamed in the summer sun of The Island. (There are several car shows there each year.)

Sunday, August 02, 2009

More Than Words

Our laundry rooms are in the basement of the building. They require a keycode to get in, and are fairly large, if empty, spaces.

I came across this sight last evening. The table is about 8 feet long.

I offer the pic without further comment, and will let you make up your own jokes.