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Archive for November, 2005

30 Nov 05

my office tastes like asbestos

i’ve recently moved into a new office at u of t – i.e. one that isnt tucked away in what is essentially the attic of robarts library. it’s a pretty fantastic office, all things considered. it’s enormous, it’s in the same building as my department (although i have a bit of a buffer), and it’s newly renovated. have a look:

the only downside, until this week, is that it’s directly across from the elevator, making it an extremely high traffic area. i feel like i’m in residence sometimes with people screaming down the hallways at each other.

anyway, a new development has arisen this week. my office is now being used for asbestos testing in the evenings. don’t believe me? here are the asbestos detectors:

i guess maybe that’s a sign that they feel like i’m responsible enough to not lick the equipment? or maybe they feel i’m not pulling my weight, and it’s cheaper than firing me?

23 Nov 05

dual function wiring closet

this is true forward thinking, u of t-style:

(note the inclusion of TP on the shelf, suggesting that the non-wiring closet-function of the room is ongoing. ew.)

18 Nov 05

bell orchestre at the music gallery? perfect

a quick (much belated) note about the bell orchestre show last friday at the music gallery:

as expected, they continued the streak of fantastic music at my favourite venue. the openers, kepler (featuring mike from snailhouse/wooden stars) were not my favourite, although they had a few catchy songs scattered throughout their set. their stage banter really needs some work though, although i guess the long silences are to be expected since they apparently only tour sporadically.

bell orchestre, however, were fantastic. the set opened with the horn players (trumpet and french horn) walking through the crowd, and met the rest of the band on stage and launched into a fun, high energy, vocal-less set. as pretty much everyone in the world knows, bell orchestre features richard and sarah from a little band called arcade fire…but what i DIDN’T know was that they also feature pietro on french horn from torngat (who i’ve also seen at the music gallery…and loved), and even the aforementioned mike (wooden stars, etc.) they played most of the songs from their new album, recording a tape the colour of light, and capped off the set with the epic les lumieres pts 1 and 2. they even managed to step it up a notch for the encore when the crowd got up from their pews and crowded the stage to enjoy.

and how’s this for weird? two shows in a row at the music gallery featured a typewriter as percussion – both bell orchestre and the phonemes accomplished this feat. weird.

(for more pics, check out suckingalemon’s fantastic flickr page).

13 Nov 05

mmm, cheese

it makes me so happy that this magazine even exists:

10 Nov 05

that’s right, i went to see kanye west

just to mix things up a bit, we went to a decidedly non-indie show – nay, concert! – last night at the acc. kanye west’s touch the sky tour was in town, so we joined the masses and settled into our 300-level seats. on the bright side, the seats were in the first row of the 300s, which meant we didn’t have to deal with people standing in front of us. on the down side, our view of the stage was partially obscured by some enormous speakers suspended from the ceiling, and our vantage point wasn’t viewing the stage head on so we didn’t really have a super fantastic view. alas.

we arrived just in time to catch the end of keisha cole’s set (and heard her masterfully create a sentence containing the word y’all twice). i didn’t hear enough to make an informed judgement, but my uninformed judgement, based mostly on her: a) bragging about an almost-platinum record and b) desparate requests for the audience to purchase said record, is that i’m glad i missed most of it.

fantasia was next on the bill, which made me glad to have never sat through an american idol episode. ya-awn. yes, she can sing real purdy, but no, she’s not my thing. all i can really remember about her set was that she was wearing crazy high heels, that she sang purple rain, that she said “baby” a lot, and that she sang a song based on a conversation she had with her hairdresser earlier in the day. moving on…

kanye’s performance was definitely a spectacle. in spite of the fact that i’ve seen a couple hundred shows in my life, i can count the number of true “concerts” i’ve attended on one hand. yes, kanye’s ticket prices were exorbinant, but he did put on a show for our money. he had a pretty elaborate stage set up (from what i could see, anyway), with a crazy amount of amps, soundboards, lights, projectors, a disco ball, and even a bunch of glittery confetti at one point. he also tours with a large band (including strings), although, for whatever reason, most of the musicians were hidden behind white partitions that resembled office cubicles. they did look pretty cool when they were back lit and silhouettey, but in general, i don’t know why you’d tour with a band only to hide them.

the crowd was just about as interesting to watch from our perch as kanye. i’ve never before seen a crowd so obedient before: requests of “get your hands up”, “let’s see your diamonds”, “let’s see those cell phones”, etc. were all immediately obeyed. the crowd were also providing lyrics more often than not, without kanye having to resort to the microphone in the air routine. i do have to ask though: why did so many people have their cell phones on throughout the show? looking through the crowd, we could see dozens of amber lights. i’m sure some were digital cameras, but the rest? were people texting each other incessantly? were some people recording the show on their pda? it was a new phenomenon for me.

anyway, in truth, i’m actually quite happy about where our seats were situated. we weren’t in the middle of the crazy dancing masses, and we weren’t surrounded by girls/women who were dressed like they were going to a club. we did have two very high white guys directly to my left who had a serious case of black envy (and whose safety i feared for a few times as they got progressively closer to the edge), but otherwise, no complaints.

i won’t comment on the performance itself, other than to say it was solid (although who am i to critic hip hop?) i’m pretty mystified, as anne and i have talked about a few times, about why hip hop albums and live shows need to rely on skits and acting, but i guess that’s just something i’m not meant to understand. oh, and what was the deal with the lack of encore? i found it interesting that he ended the show by introducing his band and backup singers, and then leaving the stage. kind of anti-climactic.

anyway, in summary, i attended a hip hop show. that’s noteworthy in itself.

09 Nov 05

reminiscing about dark star

i was just skimming through empire online’s 50 greatest independent films list when i came across #27: dark star. i remember watching this vividly with tyler king for inspiration when we were making a movie of our own, starring lego men that had a tendency to get blown up. also, the evil villain in our film was played by a vic 20.

anyway, i had no idea this was a john carpenter (of halloween) film, and it would honestly be hard to know – this might’ve been the poorest quality movie i’ve ever seen. what stands out most in my mind was the fact that all of the credits were at the beginning, and that the character’s space suit was made of a muffin tin.

and now i want to watch it again.

08 Nov 05

jens lekman proves that i never should’ve given up the ukelele

a general rule of thumb: all shows at the music gallery blow me away. for those of you not in the know, the music gallery is located in st. george the martyr church on john street just north of queen. my first experience was to see final fantasy, thanksgiving and holy fuck, and my second visit had final fantasy (again) and torngat on the bill. you can’t get much better than that.

saturday night was show #3 at the music gallery, this time featuring jens lekman and the phonemes. i’ll admit that i’m not a big phonemes fan. their set wasn’t my favourite, but i did like the inclusion of an olde tyme typewriter as percussion in one song. in general overall, quite forgettable.

jens lekman, however, totally wowed me. he made his entrance to the music gallery by walking up the church’s main aisle, singing with ukelele in hand, with percussion attached to his shoe. he played the ukelele in most songs and was joined on stage by a few members of the hidden cameras for several songs. jens also mixed things up by playing a song on the church’s organ, as well as a grand piano. the clear highlight of the night, at least in my mind, was his rendition of a sweet summer’s night on hammer hill, but do you remember the riots (complete with an interlude in the middle explaining that the riots were caused by a visit by george w. bush to sweden, and that bush is to blame for the break up of a relationship as a result) and the opposite of hallelujah (on an ep i picked up at the show) also shone. for added fun, he threw in a swedish lullabye, and translated another of his songs (i forget which) into swedish.

as was the case with the first final fantasy show i saw (as well as at FF’s opening gig with the arcade fire at the danforth music hall), shary boyle provided overhead projector art accompaniment, which was absolutely fantastic (in spite of the fact that it caused jens to hide behind the screen for a couple songs). what made this performance even better than the first couple times i saw her work was that the art was perfect for the songs being performed, and was in sync. jens liked it so much that he asked the crowd if anyone was video taping the show because it was so beautiful he wanted to see it later, calling it a “once in a lifetime experience”. for more samples of shary’s work, as well as pics of the jens and the phonemes, check out suckingalemon’s photoset.

after the conclusion of the show, jens invited the crowd to the courtyard where he apparently played a couple more songs on his ukelele, explaining that it’s nice to sing songs face to face sometimes. but, sadly, we elected to go for crepes instead. regardless, i have to ask: what is it about scandinavian performers blowing me away? first it was sondre lerche last year, and now jens lekman. i highly recommend going to see either of them, not to mention taking in a show at the music gallery sometime (for example, the bell orchestre show this friday. woo!)

07 Nov 05

russian cats theatre: needs more mr. mistoffelees

so, anne was faced with a decision: what to do when her parents came to visit for her birthday? her answer was obvious: the moscow cats theatre, of course. that website, incidentally, might benefit from a bit of an interface overhaul. (note this is not to be confused with the christmas present i got for my mom last year: tickets to cats: the musical.)

in truth, we had no idea what to expect. it could have been awesome, and it could’ve been mindblowingly bad. unsurprisingly, it was closer to the latter than the former; however, its sheer awfulness made it hilarious. let’s summarize the event:

  • the main clown, yuri, was on stage for 99% of the time (the only exception was a 5 second costume change). unfortunately, yuri is also the most terrifying and creepy clown i’ve ever seen.
  • yuri spent about 75% of his time on stage inexplicably doing jazz hands, often mixed with hand motions designed to elicit applause from the audience (although, as anne pointed out, this frequently resulted in hesitant rhythmic clapping from the audience for some reason, rather than true applause).
  • cats themselves were technically on stage approximately 75% of the time, but that includes the cats who spent about an hour sleeping on top of the set. in reality, cats doing tricks accounted for probably 20% of the show.
  • the standby trick that the cats (and one dog who was wearing pants) did by default was to have an animal push another animal in a cart of some kind. that got a bit old.
  • some of the cats really did do cool stuff: there were lots of skilled pole climbers, a cat who could stand on its front paws (handstand-esque), a cat who could walk a tightrope-esque prop upsidedown, and a cat who crossed parallel bars like a gymnast, using only its front “arms”. unfortunately, they spread out the really cool tricks and had lots of filler throughout.
  • the other clowns filled a lot of time whenever yuri “brought them to life” with his magic paint pallet. they did such tricks as hula-hooping dozens of hula-hoops at a time, and…um…randomly dancing around.

  • for whatever reason, there were two aliens on stage intermittently whose main function was to pick up props. at one point, they came out on stage wearing enormous hands. no explanation was given.
  • the crowd was worth the price of admission alone. i quite liked the woman wearing cat ears, or her companion who was wearing a collar with a bell. oh, and the little boy with his stuffed cat – a true fan. there were also more binoculars/opera glasses than i was expecting. and the sheer number of eastern europeans in one place was amazing!
  • as we were leaving, they were giving away free books. i thought it was a program or something, but no…they were giving away copies of the “russian master pages”, i.e. the yellowpages in russian. that was a perfect capper to the evening.

in summary: i liked it better than cats: the musical, which isn’t saying much. and i’ve determined that i really don’t understand the russian sense of humour. for another interesting summary of the show, check out this post on stillepost.

Pronunciation: 'ch&mp
Function: noun
Etymology: perhaps blend of chunk and lump
Date: 1883

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