Monday, September 29, 2003

Next time you get passed over for a promotion at work, or if your latest attempt at fame has been stifled by some editor or entertainment personality, thumb through a copy of the Tao-te-Ching, "The Way of the Tao". It will set your mind at ease, if you let it. For example...

If you want to grab the world and run it

I can see that you will not succeed.

The world is a spiritual vessel, which can't be controlled.

Manipulators mess things up.

Grabbers lose it. Therefore:

Sometimes you lead

Sometimes you follow

Sometimes you are stifled

Sometimes you breathe easy

Sometimes you are strong

Sometimes you are weak

Sometimes you destroy

And sometimes you are destroyed.

Hence, the sage shuns excess

Shuns grandiosity

Shuns arrogance.

If we could all live by the ways of the Tao, I think that the world would be a peaceful, bland, amazing place to live. If this taste of "Tao" is leaving you hungry for more, open your eyes @ the Tao Te Ching (Charles Muller Translation). Lao-Tzu was one wise old dude.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Wow. I had heard about the "Sabra and Shatilla" massacres, carried out by Phalagist Milita against the Palestianian refugee camps in 1982, but I didn't know that an Israeli inquiry concluded that Ariel Sharon was "indirectly responsible"! According to the Geneva Convention, an occupying force must ensure the safety of the civilians in the area it controls. According to Human Rights Watch,
"...then-Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Rafael Eitan testified that the entry of the Phalangists into the refugee camps was agreed upon between former Defense Minister Sharon and himself. Thereafter, former Defense Minister Sharon went to Phalangist headquarters and met with, among others, a number of Phalangist commanders. A document issued by former Defense Minister Sharon´s office containing “The Defense Minister´s Summary of 15 September 1982” states: “For the operation in the camps the Phalangists should be sent in.” That document also stated that “the I.D.F. shall command the forces in the area.”"
Since the IDF had a command post within 200 meters of the Shatilla camp, they had a moral and legal obligation to protect the Palestinians who were living there. So I guess Sharon is a war criminal, in the literal sense of the word. What will be done? As long as he's in the pocket of Right-wing American interests, nothing.
As a Jew, it is difficult to be constantly defending your faith while watching the only country on the planet that claims to stand for Judaism inflict pain and suffering on others. You can't change the past but why don't we try to change the future, for the better? Dialogue between Palestinian and Israeli moderates is imperative or else we'll never escape from the vortex of violence and destruction.
Today marks the passing of a great man, Prof. Edward Said. He was a Palestinian-American writer, a concert pianist, and an outspoken critic of Both sides of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He once even criticized Arafat and had his books banned from Palestinian bookstores. Oxford-educated, he wasn't just a Rhetoric-spiller--his arguments were soundly rooted in the Western intellectual tradition. Pay your respects and maybe read about him @ here at Electronic Intifadah. Personally, my thoughts are with his loved ones and the millions of people in that part of the world (both sides have a right to exist!).

Hopefully, the new generation of Israelis and Palestinians will be committed to living in harmony, even if their leadership is armed to the teeth and craving conflict for their own reasons. One example of freedom and hope triumphing over terror is the 27 Israeli pilots (9 active, the rest retired or reserve) who refused to conduct the "precision strikes" over the Palestinian territories. This brave act will send a message to the Palestinians that not all Israelis are the "enemy". Some of them are tired of the fighting and are willing to make concessions to the oppressed Palestinian population. Likewise, maybe a few Palestinians will come forward and refuse to participate in the suicide bombings (I suppose Hisbollah et al. would have something harsh to say to them, maybe kill their families, I don't know...).

Israel may have to demolish this wall they're building. It violates the 4th Geneva convention (Article 53) because it is forcing the evacuation of many Palestinian families from their homes. Also, it won't exactly foster a sense of security for either side (have you ever seen how people act when they're "caged in"? They won't cease to strike back--it will only galvanize their sense of anger and probably encourage more attacks. Imposing punishment on a people will always swell the ranks of whichever Resistance Movement (or Terror Organization, depending on your opinion of Islamic Jihad & Hamas) claims to defend their interests.
To move a thousand kilometers or so east, Iraq is proving to be a violent, chaotic place for the American/British occupation. The shooting of Akila al-Hashemi (she passed away yesterday) marks a serious development in the battle to control Iraq. It means that the people responsible will stop at nothing to achieve their aims. It also means that the Americans should transfer power to a United Nations team and get their tanks out of there, ASAP. Polls conducted have shown mixed results and the Western media are spinning it to whichever direction they prefer (for example). Even though most Iraqis believe that Saddam was a despot who had to be removed, they also feel that for the time being, their situation is more desparate than when Saddam was in power. They do have optimism for the future (the majority believe things will be better in 5 years in Iraq) but it is tempered by the constant presence of American/British troops, the lack of access to basic needs like water and electricity, and the fear of attacks (from their fellow citizens and from the Occupying forces).
Every person on the planet should be allowed to live in peace and liberty. Any country, "terrorist organization", multinational, or individual who inhibits peace in the world is responsible for Terror, no matter whose dictionary you have in your bookshelf. Tell me the difference between the impact crater of a Cruise missile or that of a suicide bomb--they both kill people, they are both set off for the wrong reasons, and they both incite anger and fear in our hearts. In other words, let's put our guns down and use our mouths to speak. Speaking never kills but it does sometimes illuminate the truth.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Anybody know of a relatively clean, fairly cheap 4 and a half in the Greater Montreal Region? (We're greater than most!) I ask you this because our landlord is ready to skin us alive and we owe hundreds of dollars so we must evade his talons & flee to safety.

If you have any ideas (no roaches, no rats, preferrably close(r) to downtown than Pierrefonds, etc.), send them to this address: or click here. Thanks in advance!

Hunter S. Thompson did once say "Abuse your Credit for All it's worth" but then again, he was living in an abandoned shack on the coastline of San Juan at the time, drinking Rum like it was free & banging out all sorts of copy for the "Rotarian" Press ("The dry rot of American Journalism"), so he had some sort of income at the time. When all you've got to carry on your back is a typewriter and a couple of shotguns, it's easy to flop from place to place. I've got my guitar and amp & other junk that must be carted. It ain't easy being a consumer.

Last night, I was in a sort of self-destructive rant trip and I couldn't stop seeing things wrong with the world. Today, I awoke with the idea in my head that even if I couldn't change the world from this polluted ground, maybe 2 or 3 years down the line, I can get something done. In the meantime, I have to lay off the dope, stay at least 10 yards from any Pubs or Bars, and keep my hands out of the harder drugs. Easier said than done, especially since Drugs Are Cool and Fuck Authority and all those teenage slogans rolled into one. I've been carrying this Standard for so long that it has become tattered and faded without my noticing. I think it's time for a revamp of my goals & dreams. I have to put them back where they the top of the page.

Luckily, I'm in love (if you don't remember Kate, scroll down this Blog!!!) and I have a few good friends that I can count on. Let us hope that everyone in the world has a great day today.

Hey, I almost forgot. Former General Clark, who won the acclaim of Michael Moore and a few other Liberal pundits, seems to be a sure thing for Democratic nomination. He has several things going for him:

1) He's not Bush.

2) He used to be a general so he will appeal to the Right Wing Gun nuts out there.

3) He seems to believe that Multilateral action is preferable to Unilateral invasion; he also could command a large part of the Centrist vote (those Flip-flop voters who don't have an allegiance to either party but who go with the candidate that makes them feel warm and fuzzy).

4) He is against the Iraq war/occupation and wants to get the U.N. involved.

5) He seems like a tough motherfucker. He led NATO, for the love of Pete! Bush, being the draft-dodging oil baron that he is, has no way to sniff a victory this time, not even if Jeb puts those crooked voting machines into overdrive. With a failing economy, a military reserve force guarding quicksand, and with many civil liberties being lost day after day, Bush should be feeling the heat. This Clark guy might just be the Real Deal.

I'm not saying that Howard Dean isn't a great guy. I just can't see him winning the whole election because he's way too much of a hippy (he believes in Canadian-style healthcare!) and he doesn't have a backbone (he keeps changing his mind like a fucking weathervane). Don't believe me, though. Go to Google News for the best in Web Journalism! Or, better yet, visit and post some of your own!

My Regards. A la prochaine millenaire!

Friday, September 19, 2003

Reading through this review a couple of hours later, I realize that I've shortchanged Hawksley, to a certain extent. Just because the production is slick doesn't mean the album isn't great. All nine tracks are interesting and grow on you like a teenage goatee, little by little.

Also, Hawksley did give us a couple of extra reasons to wait for his next album in good faith--"Motorbike" and "Addicted"--two hidden tracks that appear after the CD is finished. I'm not sure if he wrote either song but they both sound like lost tracks from his previous album(s).

Hawksley is a puzzle, a rock-solid poet who can turn lyrics into gold, much like the alchemists of ancient times tried to transmute lead into something worthwhile. At the same time, he is disappointing, because we all see the massive potential that he has within his grasp but minor details have obscured it from view (ie. pressure from his label to sell albums, production gaffes, etc.). Trust me, though...he is strictly on the up and up.

Take a look at the cheesy review I penned for The Mirror. Of course, they bounced it...I wouldn't expect otherwise from a street-smart free weekly with no money to pay me anyhow (sour grapes? yes, they taste very sour).

Tonight, Kate is coming to Montreal with her friend Lexi. It should be a great weekend. Even though I consider myself quite the emotional guy, it's been a real challenge just getting through a week or so without seeing her. Every time she leaves, I die a tiny death.

Last night, I watched a mesmerizing show on PBS with Dr. Dyer (?), some sort of New-Age Cultish Guru. He has a tape he's out flogging right now called "Ten Steps to Spiritual and Mental Well-being" (or something like that). The 5th of his 10 "Steps" is quite a handy one to keep in mind. It goes something like this:

"Embrace silence. It is the space between the bars that hold the tiger. It is the space between the notes that makes the music."

Think about that one, chug a beer or two, and call me in the morning.
Hello there, stranger. Sitting by this fire is real cozy. Could ya do me a favour and toss that hardwood in there, just to give it a kick? Hey, while you're at it, toss me that saddlebag from over behind that rock. Yeah, that's the one. The wind has gone somewhere tonight and quite frankly, it's a little bit lonely out here on this island.

(Out of the saddlebag comes two CD's. One of them reads "Hawksley Workman" and the other reads "Buck 65")


Hawksley Workman has returned and it's hard not to know about it -- Universal Music Canada has plastered his face everywhere, including on the front windows of HMV (a record chain from Canada?). This weeks "Hour" (a free weekly here in MTL) has Hawksley's mug on the cover. He is even getting some media attention south of the border and across the Atlantic (apparently the British press can't get enough of this guy).

Media blitz aside, I feel that his new album "Lover/Fighter" is somewhat of a let down. For those of us that have been following his curious career path (his original press bio said that he used to be the janitor of a dance academy and he would live in the studio and dance all night, or something to that effect), "Lover/Fighter" couldn't be anything but a disappointment.

There are still some great songs here--highlights include "Smoke Baby", "Anger as Beauty", and "Tonight Romanticize the Automobile", all epic tunes that blow the roof right off your house. Where the album descends to the level of us mere mortals is in the production. Hawksley has said himself in interviews that he is something of a "control freak" and the shiny, U2-esque production of his latest LP has proven this tenfold.

I'm not saying that I don't enjoy the pride of Ireland--Bono et al. have grown on me over the years, especially since the grunge explosion died down and it was OK again to branch out into mellow without crossing Bon Jovi's path. The only problem is that "Lover/Fighter" sounds subdued, even in its loudest moments. Hawksley is aiming for the cheap seats, trying to convince everybody of his genius, and despite a great selection of songs and impassioned playing (he plays nearly every instrument on the album), I can't honestly say that I prefer it to his other albums. He's pulling his punches and that might sell him some more albums but it won't result in the critical success he's longing for.

You have to take risks when you're making art, and I think he's trying to colour inside the lines and go for the "safe bet". Perhaps a fitting metaphor for Hawksley's new album would be a Deer head mounted to a wall. When you first see a deer running through the woods, it is easy to marvel at the speed and grace of the buck. Somehow, the deer just doesn't look the same once you've shot him and stuck him up on the wall of your den. I have the somber opinion that "Lover/Fighter" was mixed down and recorded in such a manner that it has killed the spontaneity and vitality of Mr. Workman's main strength, songwriting.

I hope that Hawksley brings in some help next time to man the boards. Aside from that, I don't see any smoke on the horizon. He will only improve, and Canadian music will be the better for it.


Buck 65 is another one of those musical luminaries, a "control freak" just like Hawksley, only he's been at this a lot longer. He's been DJ'ing since the early 90's and he released his first album in 1997 on his own label ("Language Arts").

His latest release "Talking Honky Blues" is a masterpiece, not inhibited by safe production values or sure-thing mixing. A fair comparison would be Beck hanging out with DJ Krush and Johnny Cash, all sharing a 40-ouncer of Johnny Walker and trading war stories.

The first time I tried to get down a solid account of this album, I was stumped. It's hard to type when your head is grooving to a good beat and you've got nothing left to smoke, especially when the words you're hearing are so masterfully spoken. Buck 65 is deep, a musical traveler without a home. (In one interview, he said he has no home address because he's been touring for so long).

Plus, he raps about houseboats and tramps and rusty water tanks. How many rappers do you know that tell a story like this? (Eminem is the only one I can think of off the top of my head but he's far more obsessed with hatred of his parental lineage to produce anything remotely artistic these days.) He talks about his father removing snow with a flame-thrower, about Blue Jays and trains, about everything without feeling the need to tell off anybody or attack his detractors.

The Hip-Hop orthodoxy down at The Source will probably write off Buck 65 as a whack MC with a slow flow and a couple of interesting beats but if they do, they'll be missing the point. He is proof positive that rap can be taken to new levels, when posturing and machismo is put aside in favour of poetry and ideas. I'm not saying that Nas or Jay-Z are going to be sweating -- nobody would even THINK of trying to unseat 50 Cent from the Hip Hop Throne -- but Buck 65 represents one of the latest in a recent uptick in Well-Made, Conscious rap (Although infinitely more political, Dead Prez is definitely another one to watch out for. Also on this short-list of amazing rap is K-OS, a Torontonian who takes it to a higher level on his album "Exit").

Here's hoping that Buck strikes gold again like he did on "Talking Honky Blues". It took years of floating down this river before we found the goldmine, but "Fast ain't always better than slow / you know". Go and buy his album! (or download it on Kazaa, whatever suits your fancy.

Thursday, September 04, 2003

Today, I was one of the lucky few who made it to the Hawksley Workman "Intimate & Interactive" at MusiquePlus. (I know, they have a French name but it escapes me. Sorry). I attended with trusted friend Dusk and we made it just as the crew member was announcing "three minutes until we're live" (trans. from French, of course). Hawksley made his way onto the stage decked out in a puffy retro pink shirt and green-black army pants. Dusk approved but shook her head in disdain when she saw his pointy strange boots. The old adage not to judge a book proved 100 percent true because Hawksley & his band put on one hell of a show.

He began with "We Still Need a Song", an ode to the healing power of music and it's influence on our lives. I think that Hawksley Workman is like a Van Morrison for our generation, one raised on the Ramones and U2 and The Clash. He is brash and a real showman, raising his arms like a preacher and opening his palms towards the ceiling. Hawksley's voice yelps, croons, sings, and sometimes leaps into a falsetto (not the irritating kind, the judiciously employed kind). He seemed confident in front of the crowd of 50 or so and his band was keeping pace quite well. His bass player sang on several songs including "Anger as Beauty" and "Smoke".(That may not be the right song title. Don't bother searching for this stuff on Kazaa...his record company put copy protection in the disks and all the songs have sections of backwards Hawksley intermittently ruining great songs).

The whole show focused on his new album, except for a momentary cover of the Police's "Roxanne" during the commercial break. He channelled Sting quite well and Dusk was most enthusiastic towards the performer. He was forced to cease by the MusiquePlus staff because we were going back to the show.

During the interview section of the hour-long show, they innundated him with a barrage of questions. Some of them were quite interesting, such as "Who is your favourite author?" He first said the Sears Catalogue but then mentioned Ernest Hemingway as one of his faves. He just returned from Paris so reading "A Moveable Feast" was interesting to him, "being a young artist reading about another young artist."

He excelled on "Anger as Beauty". I have the song locked in my consciousness like a mantra that never ceases, "Anger as Beauty, Anger as Beauty, Anger as beauty..." He was sweating under the bright lights but didn't hold back, belting his way through the set as if it was a stroll on a cool, windy day. One of the MusiquePlus hosts commented that the album had really touched him, and that it was a very good Autumn record. I think that after hearing this set, I must soundly agree.

He said the artist he was listening to the most was Jay-Z. He is really inspired by the language and lyrical skill Jay-Z brings to the table, and that is probably why he decided to put a singing/rapping female vocalist (the Beautiful Lady from Black Corners) on his track "Smoke". He also mentioned Daniel Lanois and a greatest hits compilation CD from the 1980's. When he's on tour, his time away from the clubs and the stage is usually "quiet time", but when he needs good music, it is a soothing voice that brings serenity (Ed. Note--sorry for that ultra-new-age-sounding line).

He wrote a book of poetry, "Hawksley Burns for Isadora" last year (?) and he was asked if he planned on continuing with his literary craft. He said if the inspiration came to him, he would definately put himself totally into writing again. He also joked that he might write a cookbook because he is an avid chef. It "brings him back down to the soil" after the revelry and "bad habits" of a tour. I think he mentioned that music is the best drug, but the only drug he seemed to be on during the show was Red Wine--a "Good French wine is a good French wine," he said.

Buried deep within the lyrics of "Smoke" is a line about "Cocaine in Montreal / then back up on the plane Baby" and this pleased the crowd to no end. His ode to hedonism was not only well written but performed with a great enthusiasm, and everyone could sense the tingle in the air we were breathing, in the sounds we were hearing, and Hawksley was loving the attention.

During most of the show, the crowd was mostly subdued. Aside from the "Smoke" song, they didn't really participate but they cheered very loudly for Mr. Workman in and out of every commercial break, cued by a MusiquePlus worker who did the countdown "And trois deux un on Roll!". Many of the folks in the crowd probably wanted to hear his older material, such as "Jealous of your Cigarette" or "Bullet Bouncing off my Helmet" from his first LP "For Him and the Girls". He kept to newer stuff and this was a slight misfortune but not the end of existence.

Hawksley Workman is from Toronto and after the show, I approached a lady who had been singing and rapping beside Hawksley during the song "Smoke". She told me that her band was called "Black Corner" and to check out their website. I've been unable to find the site as of Press Time but I shall continue & hopefully add it to this blah in the near future.

I told the young lady that because of their innate talent and great music, I have been forced to take back half of the bad things I've ever said about Toronto (only half, don't think I'm selling out!) :)

To sum up quite ungracefully, Hawksley Rocked and he is a World Class Musical Genius. I think that he'll circle the globe and spread his music like magic lessons everywhere. He is a poet, a musician, a producer, a writer, and something of an eccentric, with his constant fibbing and self-analysing. I can't wait to hear his album without the backwards-playing Hawksley voice!

Anyhow, I must be off to call my one and only, Kate, so fare thee well and may a blessing of luck be cast upon your house. Rock on, my peeps.

I've developed a new habit and I'm quite proud of it. I believe you regular folks call it "sobriety". I try to stick to the "middle path" (I kind of stole it from the Buddhists. Sorry, Mr. Lama et al.) and it's working wonders for my psyche. Instead of drinking or smoking dope every night like in my Glory Days (my one fateful year at Concordia U. & my 3 years of inebriated consciousness at Gaspé CEGEP), I keep my hedonism to the weekends.

Up here in MTL, we can score a 20-bag (about 2 grams, give or take) for $20, although if you have the right connections, you can sometimes pick it for as low as $15. I used to smoke roughly one 20-bag per day, and if you calculate what I was spending on my smoke, you'll see that I could have put a down payment on a house or at least paid off my student loans in full ($20 CAD X 365 Days X 3 years=$21,900). This is a sickening concept and part of my reasoning behind cutting back on the reefer.

Booze is another matter. I've spend thousands of dollars on drinking but it is harder to quantify, especially since I don't usually have any recollection of how much I spent the next day. For awhile back in the summer of 2000, I was drinking enough to satiate the thirst of a Platoon of British commandos. I once even had a streak going of being drunk (or close to it) every night for 2 months straight.

You might call this a rookie Alcoholics whining, or a testament to the power and endurance of the human spirit. All I'm trying to say is that being sober is fun, especially when you start to get your memory back & you're in love with a beautiful woman & she's coming to visit in 2 days! (Actually, Kate is coming to town tomorrow, so Shady & I have planned a cleaning frenzy for the apartment.)

I forgot to tell you about my car accident the other day. I'll get to that later, perhaps? Anyhow, if you're watching MusiquePlus in the near future, keep your eyes open for the live Hawksley Workman performance. I will be in the audience, clapping until my hands bleed red.

Rock on, y'all!