Friday, September 30, 2005


This week was supposed to mark the arrival of the new Kate Bush single, "King of the Mountain." And it did, provided one lives in the United States. Fans in the UK, Canada, and other countries are unable to listen to legal copies of the single because, for whatever reason, the record company decided not to license the single for digital release anywhere other than the US, traditionally one of Kate Bush's least successful markets.

Further, the word from Sony Music, Kate's US distributor, is that Aerial will be the first CD released worldwide with DRM on all pressings. DRM (Digital Rights Management) is software that prevents CDs from being copied, legally or illegally, by embedding "errors" in the data; Sony plans to use different technology in different markets, in an attempt to thwart listeners who buy import editions that lack DRM. I predict this decision will compromise the success of this long-awaited album, some twelve years in the making.

I have strong feelings about digital music sharing and have not participated in P2P file-sharing as many other music lovers have. I try very hard to respect artists' copyrights, since I have spent a good chunk of my career in an industry where copyright infringement and financial exploitation of creators is all too frequent. That said, I do listen to most of my music digitally today, on my iPod or my Homepod, and I resent record companies taking away my freedom to make a legal copy of my legally purchased music. Like many other Kate Bush fans, I am currently wondering whether I want to buy Aerial with DRM in place; some fans have stated on mailing lists that they will refuse to buy it at all unless the record company removes DRM.

One commentator noted that the record company may be depending on the reputation of hardcore Kate Bush fans being obsessive completists and thus "compelled" to own the album regardless of controls. At the same time, we fans have grown and evolved over the last twelve years of silence; Kate's fan base has shifted, and the younger fans are likely to be much savvier about online music. If the change in her listeners is sufficiently great, the album is at risk of flopping because it will be roundly boycotted by people who despise DRM and its implications.

Despite my commitment to respecting copyright, I have listened to a bootleg copy of the single online. The file quality is poor, and I will replace it with a legal MP3 as soon as I can. Unfortunately, that may not be until November 7, and that's a long wait in recreational time. I am SO disappointed with EMI/Sony in their handling of Kate Bush's new album. Unfortunately, I'm too old to believe that my disappointment and frustration will register at all with the MBAs who run today's music corporations. Sigh.


Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Catchy catch phrase

"Our tolerance for crap is now zero"
--Stephen Mandel (or so I saw it attributed)

I have to say that it is an important point in one's life when our crap tolerance dips in to the single digits. To hit zero is a singular accomplishment. Perhaps if more people got there we could put away the hip waders and get something done in this world...

...or perhaps not.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Corn Harvest

Good day! I'm feeling much better than when I last wrote, thanks for asking, although I am as busy as ever. Now that I'm in the process of dropping one of my little pharmaceutical habits, I expect to regain control of my mornings, and thus my teaching life. Although I must admit I've grown rather fond of sleeping!

If you chase two rabbits, you will not catch either one. — Russian proverb

I found an interesting music survey on the web the other day. Here is one of the questions, along with my answer:

Is there any song that you just can't bear to listen to because of the memories? (If so, what + why?) "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" by Simon and Garfunkel: August 8, 1986. Nothing to do with the poet. Always keep your piano in tune.

Now I'm curious who knows the story behind this. Any takers?

Meanwhile, I've created a fabulous iMix... Tart Pops! Here's the track listing:

Pop Music, M
Precious and Few, Climax
Cruisin', Gwyneth Paltrow & Huey Lewis
The Power of Love, Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Strut, Sheena Easton
'65 Love Affair, Paul Davis
This Little Girl, Gary 'US' Bonds
All Touch, Rough Trade
Tiny Thing, Jenson Interceptor
My Wife with Champagne Shoulders, Mark Isham
Tokyo, Bruce Cockburn
Get Closer, Seals & Crofts
Don't Pull Your Love, Joe Frank Hamilton And Reynolds
Spirit Of Radio, Rush
Lady Marmalade, Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mya & Pink
You Think You're a Man, Full Frontal (I've been unable to find Divine's version in digital form, sigh)
This Wheel's on Fire, Siouxsie and the Banshees
Maniac, Michael Sembello
Too Shy, Kajagoogoo
(I've Had) The Time of My Life, Bill Medley & Jennifer Warnes
Boy Inside the Man, Tom Cochrane and Red Rider (the original single, not the later acoustic version)
Love the One You're With, Steven Stills
Ball of Confusion, Love and Rockets
Hush, Deep Purple
How Do I Make You, Linda Ronstadt
You Can't Win, Murray McLauchlan
Let Go the Line, Max Webster
Burning Buildings, Elton John
Kiss You All Over, Exile

Two hours of aural pleasure, ironic and otherwise. And some selections are excellent for loud play while driving to work and elsewhere. Enjoy!

The reward of mastering something is the mastery. — Jerome Bruner

Another music survey question:
What band/artist have you been playing the most this month? White Stripes. They've even started to show up on my blackboard, argh.

I'm currently reading The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler as part of an assignment for the course I'm taking. My professor raved about this book, saying that if you enjoy reading, you must own it; I haven't finished the novel yet, but I don't feel quite as enthusiastic so far, although I can appreciate the literary technique. I much preferred watching Bend It Like Beckham and Bride and Prejudice, also part of the assignment. But the book contains this lovely Mark Twain quotation, which I know some of you will appreciate: "Jane Austen's books, too, are absent from this library. Just the omission of Jane Austen's books alone would make a fairly good library out of a library that hadn't a book in it." And speaking of Twain, here's some good advice for writers:

Substitute 'damn' every time you're inclined to write 'very'; your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be. — Mark Twain

In the news: Earlier this year Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez printed 1 million copies of Cervantes’ Don Quixote to be handed out in public squares to mark the 400th anniversary of the Spanish-language classic. Chavez encouraged everyone to read the book, which includes a preface by Portugese author Jose Saramango, so as to “feed ourselves once again with that spirit of a fighter who went out to undo injustices and fix the world”.

One more music survey question:
If you had a band, what would you call it and what would be your role? I make up band names all the time. The latest is Shaggy's Green Shirt. I would play keyboards, duh!

... And you read your Emily Dickinson / And I my Robert Frost ...

Be obscure clearly. — E.B. White


Thursday, September 15, 2005

It's been a while...

Now I hear you saying to yourself, "Gosh, it's a little early in the term for you to be complaining about being SO busy" or something like that. (After all, no-one's THAT busy...) Sigh. The last few weeks have indeed been hectic, but also positive. I absolutely terrified myself on the Labour Day weekend climbing on wet rocks at Kootenay Plains. I am teaching a full load and also taking a course toward my eventual doctorate. I have been reading like a maniac, trying to get in a few extra narrative joys before the term takes hold, and have been decorating the house with books from four — count them, FOUR — library systems. Ta-dah!

So here are a few news bits and a fresh review. I'll try to think of something more insightful to write about soon. — L

Canadian sales of alcoholic beverages per capita, 15 years and over
• Newfoundland and Labrador: $733.80
• Prince Edward Island: $573.60
• Nova Scotia: $613.00
• New Brunswick: $551.70
• Quebec: $682.10
• Ontario: $601.70
• Manitoba: $530.10
• Saskatchewan: $524.00
• Alberta: $615.80
• British Columbia: $631.90
• Yukon: $1,035.20
• Northwest Territories and Nunavut: $858.90

A lightbulb comes on!
Replacing even one 60-watt incandescent bulb with a 15-watt compact fluorescent light in each of Canada's 12 million households could save up to $73 million a year in energy costs. It would also reduce GHG emissions by approximately 397,000 tonnes — the equivalent of taking more than 66,000 cars off the road each year!

And no, there are no F-ing postcards
This brite is apparently for real! See the full story by Toby Harnden here.

For the conservative inhabitants of a settlement called F***ing in rural Upper Austria near Salzburg that comprises just 32 houses (population: 104), the English meaning of their village's name is just one giant headache. One night, all four road signs on its approaches were stolen by tourists. Since records began, there has been no crime there - apart from the perennial theft of what officials call "street furniture". Now, the authorities are fighting back. The signs have been set in concrete bases and Kommandant Schmidtberger, the local police chief, hints at clandestine operations to combat what he calls "foreign criminals" disturbing the alpine order.

Review: Teach Me by R.A. Nelson
Teach Me wants to be a better book than it is. In this awkward coming-of-age story, brilliant 17-year-old Carolina (or Nine, as she's called) falls in love with her 30-something poetry teacher, Mr Mann (she refers to him by his first name at only a few points in the story). Their relationship is, of course, doomed, and the novel traces Nine's journey back from a broken heart. Unfortunately, this journey is unrealistic and renders absurd what is otherwise a passionate story of hard love.

The first 100 pages or so are cast in beautiful, sensitive prose, dense with cosmic imagery and told with authentic emotion. At about this point, however, the telling changes and becomes revenge fantasy of the highest order. (At several points I expected the section to end with "And then I woke up.") Nine stalks her ex-lover, steals from him, vandalizes his apartment, even attempts to shoot him (with blue paint pellets). Her thinking becomes cripplingly unstable and her fury quickly begins to hurt everyone around her. The story climaxes with an unbelievable chase scene in which Mann is forced to rescue Nine and her best friend, Schuyler, from drowning. In the hospital, Nine confronts Mann, who explains his reasons for behaving as he has. Although his explanation will make sense to an older reader, it will sound ludicrously hollow to the YA audience this novel was intended for. Yet in the last pages of the novel the author regains the lyricism of her opening, and the book ends surprisingly gently, with a sense of grace and finality.

This novel feels unsure of its audience. It is relentless for YA, including some scenes of graphic sexuality, but it is also just naïve enough to fail as mainstream adult fiction. Much of the writing is sumptuous, and the motif of Emily Dickenson poetry is scalpel-like in its precise underscoring of the action. But the middle of the novel feels stretched and unreal, as though the author was pushing her character to realize the fantasies of women scorned; given what we learn about her early in the novel, Nine simply wouldn't perform some of the acts her author imagines her undertaking. And as a self-proclaimed observer, Nine is remarkably blind to a critical detail about the marriage she tries to derail, a detail that a close reader could not miss and might even have predicted. The harmonious, if tense, resolution of the novel also feels inauthentic, as if the author is trying to follow the conventions of YA despite that the story resists a happy ending. As Nine herself observes, "Something has closed inside me. It will always be there, but it's closed." Despite its many strengths, the novel ultimately fails, too problematic to be mainstream fiction and perhaps too raw and discordant to be YA. That's a shame, actually, because I had high hopes for this book.

And the iPod says...
...As the sun is setting you'll be betting
I'll be getting through
I'll find a payphone babe
And take some time to talk to you...
— "Smoke Baby," Hawksley Workman

Thought for the Day
Only in grammar can you be more than perfect. — William Safire