Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Music for Mark

A few years ago, a friend of mine was going through a very difficult period. He lost his mother, then his father, in the span of thirteen months, and then had some serious medical issues himself. To cheer him up — because we are both 80s kids — I sent him a mix CD with no track listing, so he had to play detective, something we both enjoy. I was particularly pleased with this mix and have embellished it just slightly in the last year. Perhaps you'd enjoy it too.

"Mowgli's Road" — Marina and the Diamonds
"Gobbledigook" — Sigur Rós
"Velvet Revolution" — Tori Amos
"Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" — Jet
"I Want You for Mine" — Michael Rault
"L'ours" — Tricot Machine
"Spinmeharder" (boot) — DJ Tripp
"Paper Shoes" — Hawksley Workman
"Salute Your Solution" — The Raconteurs
"Dude You Feel Electrical" — Shout Out Out Out Out
"This Wheel's On Fire" — Siouxsie & The Banshees
"You, Me and the Bourgeoisie" — The Submarines
"I Was Made for Loving You" — Kilt
"Booinlove" (boot demo) — DJ Tripp
"A.C.D.C." — Joan Jett and the Blackhearts
"Banditos" — The Refreshments
"Motorpsycho Nitemare" — Capt Nemo
"Jerusalem" — Dan Bern
"Love Ire & Song" — Frank Turner
"Sub su'a job" — Mad'moizèle Giraf
"Start Wearing Purple" — Gogol Bordello
"A Complete History of the Soviet Union, Through the Eyes of a Humble Worker" — Pig with the Face of a Boy
"Brave Sir Robin" — Brad Bradley and David Hyde Pierce (Spamalot)
"Float On" — Modest Mouse

I do love a well-crafted playlist!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Sailing, sailing

As we get ready for our trip north, here's an image from our circumnavigation of Vancouver Island in May 2015. This photo was taken at dinner the night before we left. Our captain, Tim, is at the far right of the image; his wife, Donna, was the photographer.

Here's to warm winds and good friends!

Monday, July 20, 2015

It don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing

More than ten years ago I started writing a magazine article about popular music and grammar. My premise was that the songs we sing along with transmit a great deal, including troublesome grammar — although the grammar trouble is probably not the songwriter's intention. I also observed an extensive use of rhetorical schemes in popular lyrics. Some day I may go back to the article, though the impetus for writing it has long since passed out of existence.

But since I'm thinking about grammar a lot lately, here is, in my opinion, the most obvious grammar error in popular music, generated in the aid of pattern and rhyme: "Song she sang to me / Song she brang to me / Words that rang in me / Rhyme that sprang from me" (from Neil Diamond's "Play Me"). Lovely song, but that line always clunks for me, a merciless editor.

Also demonstrating pattern, as well as the rhetorical scheme of anthimeria (in which one part of speech is used in place of another, expected part), is Paul Simon's cheeky "A Simple Desultory Phillipic," which opens, "I've been Norman Mailered, Maxwell Taylored; / I've been John O'Hara'd, McNamara'd; / I've been Rolling Stoned and Beatled till I'm blind" and continues on with similar name play.

Other examples included slips from Kate Bush, Laura Branigan, Melissa Etheridge, Rosanne Cash, and Bryan Adams. And perhaps you'd be surprised to learn that Jim Steinman's lyrics offer a rich vein of examples of rhetorical schemes. 

Bet you haven't thought about pop lyrics like this lately. If you have examples of your favourite grammar errors in pop lyrics, I'd love to hear them — please share!

Saturday, July 18, 2015


Here's a fun group of people — staff and faculty from the Centre for the Arts — at a restaurant on rue Saint-Laurent in Montréal, June 2006. Of the seven, one has died, three have retired, and the others have (been) scattered. How way leads on to way...

Friday, July 17, 2015

Tick tick tick tick

The time before we leave is growing short and my mind is scattered. Thus, today's blog is a collection of witty things I've found and liked. Perhaps Pinterest is the better medium for this kind of thing today, but whatever. Enjoy!


Copyeditors do it with style.

Today's rain is tomorrow's whiskey. — Old Scottish saying. (In which case, Scotland must make an awful lot of whiskey!)

Even overweight, cats instinctively know the cardinal rule: when fat, arrange yourself in slim poses. — John Weitz.

His face took on the expression of an Englishman about to speak French. — P.G. Wodehouse

Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana. — Groucho Marx

I am not a vegetarian because I love animals; I am a vegetarian because I hate plants. — A. Whitney Brown

I am returning this otherwise good typing paper to you because someone has printed gibberish all over it and put your name at the top. — English Professor

Thursday, July 16, 2015

La la la la ...

You may recall Bert and Ernie of Sesame Street singing the following lovely, lilting lyrics:

(Bert begins)
La, la, la, la lemon
La, la, la, la light bulb
La, la, la, la lamp post
La, la, la, la lump in my oatmeal

(Ernie makes some suggestions)
La, la, la, la laughter
La, la, la, la lullaby
La, la, la, la lollipop
La, la, la, la lights in the sky

(Bert has a good idea)
La, la, la linoleum!

(Ernie explains)
Listen to me
Because L is such a lovely letter
For words like "licorice" and "lace"
The letter L lights up your face
So why not la, la, la, la with me!

It's likely no surprise that this song has become something of a motif in my life. And so here's my take on the L song. (Who's the Bert in this scenario?)

La, la, la, la laundry
La, la, la, la lichen
La, la, la, la lugworm
La, la, la, la left-over lunch

La, la, la, la lava
La, la, la, la lachrymose
La, la, la, la laxative
La, la, la, la lay down the law

La, la, la lycanthropy!

(Why don't you put it in the middle of your forehead?)

Still, I think L is the loveliest, most likable letter of the alphabet and in my lexicon. So there!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Juvenes Dum Sumus

It's too muggy to write. Huh. I wonder whether Ernest Hemingway ever felt that way?

Regardless, here's a round-up of photos from various people's youth. Enjoy!

1. "The Artist"

Ah, bonjour, c'est moi. I am four in this picture, taken in January 1974 from the kitchen of my family home. (Helpful captioning by my mother, of course.) I am drawing on one of those drawing pads you likely remember from the Seventies: multi-coloured pages, poor-quality groundwood paper, purchased at the Safeway. Eventually I'd realize my true calling ...

2. Wind-swept away

Nicole and me post-concert. Having discarded the visual arts, I tried on the performing arts ... This is spring (probably May) 1986, outside our high school; the photographer is once again Nikki's mother.

3. Much ado about nothings

... and then moved to the literary arts. (And now I will abandon this silly linkage.) This picture features Allison, James, B, and me — plus a cameo from Tom W. Taken in February 1990 in the Honours Lounge at the U of A. "Then kill, kill, kill, kill, kill, kill!"

4. The Godmother

Nicole is Zak's godmother, although I think we're all grateful we never had to put that label to the test for real. This picture was taken on our moving day from Garneau to Bonnie Doon in December 1992. Bonus: a picture of Zak with Nuk. Happy times.

5.  Being cute together

Nicole took one of my favourite pictures of me and Zak — it's not this one; I'll have to find it one of these days — which generated the idea of Zak and me "being cute together." The picture above was taken in the kitchen of the Bonnie Doon house sometime in 1998: no more detail than that, regrettably. As always for me, the details make the picture: Zak is holding his pink blanket, his dragon backpack is in the background, we're sharing the chair with a bag of recycling, and I loved that red skirt (and probably still have it stashed somewhere in the back of a drawer).

6. Getting smarter

The wise Samantha absorbing knowledge from books. This is January or February 2000 as we prepared to sell the Bonnie Doon house in advance of our move to St Albert. Even the youth of a cat should be celebrated, don't you think?

Here's to Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Let's Celebrate Ohio Sheep Day!

According to the delightful book World Rat Day (see July 12 post), today, July 14, is Ohio Sheep Day. To celebrate, this lovely line (composed by J. Patrick Lewis): "No one will ever forget Ewe."

I love a good sheep pun. Almost as much as a good typographical pun:

Comic Sans walks into a bar. The bartender says, "We don't serve your type here."


Monday, July 13, 2015

The vault of lost lyrics, chapter 36

This project of my imagination is thwarted by the findings of communication scholars, who point out that song lyrics are typically fairly uninteresting, and even silly, when extracted from melody, rhythm, and inflection. Regrettably, that observation is especially true of this song; but if you've ever heard it, you know how optimistic and joy-filled it sounds with its multiple intersecting vocals and sparkling balalaikas. It rouses my triumphant inner fifteen-year-old girl, anyway.


"Burning Bridge" (Kate Bush)

Come close to me
Come cross the bridge

I need to know what you have to say to me
What have you got to say to me?
Tell me all about it
Tell me, please

Oh, I know
I know it works for me
As we cross the bridge — the burning bridge
With flames behind us
We front the line

It's you and me, baby, against the world
I've got to know what you have to say
What have you got to say?
Oh, I've got to get close now
Tell me all about it
All night long
All night long

It works for me
It's you and me, babe, against the world
All night long
It works for me
Let's cross the bridge

Oh, I know
I know, I know
It's you and me, babe
When you stand next to me, it's all right
It's you and me, babe, against the world!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

"What Are the Cephalop-Odds?"

 I read this delightful poem for children in the book World Rat Day: Poems About Real Holidays You've Never Heard of by J. Patrick Lewis. This one is written to mark International Cephalopod Awareness Day (and you know I've always loved cephalopods).

I wish I was an octopus
In inky-dinky weather.
Then you and I could octopush
Our suction cups together.

Isn't that cute?

In case you're looking for it, the book was published in 2013 by Candlewick Press.

Here's to not melting!

Friday, July 03, 2015

Piratical good humour

I have loved the operetta The Pirates of Penzance for a very long time. I must admit, however, that I hear the following exchange much differently now than I did when I was thirteen.

Frederick:    Ruth, I will be quite candid with you. You are very dear to me, as you know, but I must be circumspect. You see, you are considerably older than I. A lad of twenty-one usually looks for a wife of seventeen.
Ruth:    A wife of seventeen? You will find me a wife of a thousand!
Frederick:    No, but I shall find you a wife of forty-seven, and that is quite enough.

Indeed. Interestingly, the subtitle of Pirates is The Slave of Duty. Isn't karma playful?

Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Halfway through

Howdy, and Happy Canada Day! Can't believe we're halfway through 2015. Yikes! Also, today is officially the first day of my sabbatical. Heh.

A little data to mark the year so far.

• Books read to June 28: 79

• Books recorded in LibraryThing to July 1: 4125

• Top Five Songs Played in iTunes in 2015:

5. Brandi Carlile, "The Eye"
4. Over the Rhine, "When I Go"
3. The Lovin' Spoonful, "Summer in the City"
2. Bonnie Pointer, "The Beast in Me"
1. Exile, "Kiss You All Over"

Well, who knows? Maybe I'll discover good taste before the end of the year.

And for those who note these things, my half-birthday passed happily on a warm, sunny day. Cheers!