“My Brain Hurts a Lot”*

Every once in a while, the Facebook algorithm tosses us a bone so worthwhile that we punt “uninstall app” down the road another few months. This morning was one of those times.

I was fed a memory from 8 years ago. It was an image I took of a piece of plywood being used as part of a temporary wall at a construction site. Painted on the plywood was a Basquiat-style image, the type that often intrigues me.

In the image the plywood has a “mature” look to it and clearly gets reused (insert applause for one of “the 3 Rs here). The wood is weathered, no doubt has “seen things”, and served many purposes throughout its life. Who knows what other functions it has performed, and who knows where it has been?

“This art went on tour, like Peter Frampton, eh?”**

But perhaps even more importantly, by being painted on reusable construction site materials, the art enjoys a much larger audience than one that is painted on a building in an alley. And certainly, its audience is much more varied, widespread, and diverse, and larger than it would be if it were “static”, painted on a more permanent structure. It becomes “art about town”.

This Is Where the Brain Pain Starts

One of the most disposable things i can think of is a soup can, and yet Andy Warhol made eternal art by simply reproducing images of them. Perhaps that was his intention. As a window dresser, his art would have a similar lifespan as that of a graffiti artist, changing with the seasons, at best.

In the digital, Covid age, you might as well say “tossed them out like yesterday’s soup cans”, because when was the last time you even saw a physical version of a newspaper?

The artists who create graffiti put a LOT of time and effort into their street art, and yet their art has the life expectancy of a can of beans. It must be frustrating, seeing their creations come and go so quickly, and not being seen by the audience it deserves. Unless, of course, you paint a piece of plywood that is used on various construction sites.

Warhol may have been a genius, or he may have been a very lucky man. This is a “thought-totter” many of us ride.

The artist who painted on the plywood may have had an epiphany or simply a lack of “canvases” to paint on.


The world may never know.

Unit 102, Where Are You?

The location where I captured the image is the eastern end of Milky Way, an alley just south of Queen Street. It runs from Dufferin in the east to Cowan in the west, and is not unlike Graffiti Alley, “Toronto’s most unexpected tourist attraction”.

I would have been there to review a play at the Unit 102 Theatre, a place which I loved a lot. It was tiny, operated by hungry, committed, and talented young people who staged interesting plays. It had a vibe that must have been similar to downtown NYC when it was at its zenith in the late 70s/early 80s.

To make my case about Unit 102 Theatre being as vibrant as NYC, I offer the following as “exhibit A”. I once saw a play there that featured one-time Blue Rodeo keyboardist and 6-time Juno winner Bob Wiseman playing accordion “matter-of-factly” in the lobby. The play was called Smother and you can read more about it here.

Here’s links to 3 more plays I reviewed at Unit 102 Theatre. BIG THANKS for everyone there for what they accomplished and shared:

Sometimes it is easier to just wear the tinfoil hat though…

I don’t know, I just got my first Covid shot, so maybe the newly implanted tracking device in my body is working in cahoots with the Facebook algorithm…


* “My brain hurts a lot” is a lyric in David Bowie’s song Five Years

** Somewhere on the Bob and Doug McKenzie album The Great White North Canada’s Finest talk about “going on the road like Peter Frampton” and taking “50,000 lbs. of back bacon” with them. I can not help but think is an unconscious reference to the Irish folk song The Irish Rover and of course the 8× Platinum album Frampton Comes Alive!

Can Vegemite Prevent Alzheimer’s? (fun with lunch)

My good friend Mark Seabrook from Melbourne, Australia is a man of many talents. One of them is being an acclaimed artist. His award-winning work has been on display in many galleries. You can check out his Art Slightly Left of Centre online, and to conjure the chutzpah of Mr. T, “I pity the fool who doesn’t.”

Mark also knows the value of play, quizzes, and tomfoolery. So as a father, he refuses to cut his kids’ sandwiches in the usual way. Straight, or diagonal? Pshaw, so Passe! Mark doesn’t quite go “Full Escher” on the lunch front, but his culinary efforts are extraordinary, nonetheless. Here’s what his latest Sandwich Sensation looks like:

Photo by Mark Seabrook

My Rorschach Reading:

Being a playful sort myself, here is what went through my “mind” upon first seeing today’s lunch:

1) It kind of looks like the Cleveland Indians C eating a cactus

2) A “sandwich de sac“. Good luck clearing the snow on that dead-end street in the NW quadrant, mate. Even urban planning is upside down and backward Down Under!

Well, if they absolutely insist on building the wall…

Apparently creative sandwich slicing is an entire subculture, and it may or may not be headed toward the southern US border. So, if they insist on building that wall, I say build it so it resembles one of Mark’s sandwiches. There seems to already be efforts on that front, and artists may or may not have been mobilized. The proof is in the guacamole, as can be seen here:

Photo by Luise Torres/AFP/Getty Images.

You can see the resemblance to a sandwich, right? The seesaw slicing through the wall like a knife slicing through bread, cultures interlocking regardless of political philosophies, peanut butter and jam combining and becoming better once they do…

Enough of this sitting on the fence

I requested Mark create an art installation of his sandwich masterpieces, putting them on display in a Warholian soup can inspired installation. He responded with crickets. That broke my heart, making me feel like half my sandwich was soggy, the other half stale. A bit like the current state of what passes for political discourse these days, and a total #FAIL as the kids used to say.

This monkey gone to heaven?

Not able to accept “LOL, get bent” as an answer, I decided to conjure some old Peter Gabriel spirit, defiantly shouting “Don’t you monkey with the monkey” to the world wide void. I’m in a conjuring mood today (see above), and like Mark, I’m a monkey man. Seeing his sandwich today was the “lemon squeeze” that triggered all this monkey business.

In full-on monkey mode, I took Mark’s picture and altered it using Word and IrfanView, then putting the images together as a collage using the online tool befunky. Inspiration for making a collage came from The Doors of London, one of the prints that I recall hanging in my doctor’s office when I was young. (Odd they gave me a doctor and not a vet, with all this monkeying around, come to think of it.)

The Doors of London was one of those prints that were omnipresent in the 70s. You’d see it in real life and then on the TV show Three’s Company. To conjure John Lennon, “most peculiar, mama, roll!”. Oh yes, there goes that conjuring machine again…

OK, now on to the bit about Alzheimer’s…

As you may or may not recall, the title of this post is Can Vegemite Prevent Alzheimer’s? Again, see above. Here’s how that works:

  1. Mark is an Australian, a vegetarian, and an artist. He refuses to cut his kids’ VEGEMITE sandwiches with any form of orthodoxy whatsoever. I believe that has been proven without a doubt. (again, see above.)
  2. Keeping one’s mind active through play and games can offset the development of Alzheimer’s. Mark does this by including play when packing up his kids’ lunches.
  3. There ya go: Eat Y’Self Fitter1.
VEGEMITE contains vitamins B1, B2, B3 and folate. Enjoy as part of a balanced, varied diet and active lifestyle.

1 I conjured up the late, great Mark E. Smith when I mentioned Eat Y’Self Fitter. By my counts, Mark E. Smith sings the word “conjured” 4 times in the song. I lost count of how many times I used conjured, or a derivative of conjured, in this post.
*This just in from The Annotated Fall: “Eat Yourself Fitter” is a slogan used to sell Kellogg’s All-Bran breakfast cereal. This particular ad campaign seems to have begun sometime prior to 1982: “The TV campaign for All-Bran, in area test at the time, went national from July 1982″ (Twenty Advertising Case Histories, second series, edited by Charles Channon, Cassell, 1989.” View the commercial here.

Did You Pick up Your Dry Cleaning?

Do you like good music?” is a question that resonates more than 50 years after Sam Cooke, Arthur Conley, and Otis Redding first asked it in 1967. “Yeah, Yeah!”, has always been my unequivocal answer, but like natural resources, it seems rarer and rarer to find these days. So, I must continue my Covid thank you series with a heartfelt Thank You to my friend James Cheney for introducing me to the band Dry Cleaning.

From South London to Midtown Toronto via East Lansing

Cheney heard Dry Cleaning’s song Scratchard Lanyard somewhere within earshot of Michigan State University’s student radio station WDBM IMPACT 88.9 and sent me a link, along with the heads-up:

“The band members may or may not have The Fall in their music library.”

James Cheney, from Michigan

For me, it was love at first hear. The Fall was John Peel’s favourite band, a favourite of Cheney and one of mine as well. Frontman Mark E. Smith of The Fall had a unique vocal delivery and stage presence. His devotion to his craft meant that he almost literally died on stage doing what he loved, performing his last view shows while confined to a wheelchair. Sadly, that reminds me of Bette Midler dancing in a motorized wheelchair while dressed as a mermaid. If there was ever a “confederate statue” in need of being torn down…

Even with all their baggage, The Fall was ground-breaking and essential. There was always a beat, at times danceable, at times enough to make you feel like you were hungover. Mark and crew made you feel something but never like you we being ripped off by some corporate suck-ups. It was fun, and it was art.

The rise again of The Fall?

Singer and lyricist Florence Shaw reminds me of Mark E. Smith, not only in terms of delivery but also lyrics themselves, and her stage presence. In terms of presence, she seems like she’d rather be any other place on earth rather than fronting a band, while at the same time knowing she is exactly where she is supposed to be, and would die if she wasn’t delivering her lyrics with Dry Cleaning.

I suspect William S. Burroughs would be on board

In a KEXP interview, Shaw says her lyrics are snippets of conversations she has overheard over the years while on the bus, eating chips, popping over to The Rovers for a pint, or whatever it is they do in South London. That reminds me of William Burroughs’ writing, of connecting fragments of reality and creating something that is very intimately your own, but also something universal. We’re all on the same bus, but we all have our own memories to filter out what we see through our own window.

In pictures, Burroughs is almost always smartly dressed, as if his 3-piece suit was fresh from a mythical dry cleaner on The Bowery. He had a very dry delivery, too, and his topics of discussion were often centered around street scat, something dry cleaning removes. Maybe there is a connection, but likely I am nuts, just like you. Image though: William Burroughs, on a bus, carrying his dry cleaning.

We are the Mods, We are the Mods, we are… …Dry Cleaning!

There’s a certain minimalism inherent in the Dry Cleaning sound that reminds me a bit of Sleaford Mods which I find extremely interesting. It makes me think that maybe there is something important happening in England in terms of music again, something I find so direly lacking in current Canadian and American music. Live in-studio performances and interviews with both bands on KEXP can be found on YouTube, and when you listen to the artists respond to questions, the most refreshing part is that they seem like actual human beings.

There’s adults in the room/studio

The members of Dry Cleaning (Shaw, guitarist Tom Dowse, bassist Lewis Maynard, and drummer Nick Buxton) all come across as thoughtful adults. They’re not idiot rock stars and they’re not idiots anxious to sell their soul, and maybe even give up their #hashtagging to become rock stars. I find it very refreshing that these are actual people, people I might be able to have a conversation with beyond a nod. They don’t seem anxious to become heroin junkies for the sake of one good taste, which is essentially what most North American bands seem to crave.

Give Dry Cleaning a shot

Dry Cleaning has that same “feel” for me, and that is most certainly a good thing, not unlike the feeling of getting a COVID-19 shot. Yes, there IS hope.

Fun Fact: I had tickets to see The Fall back in the day, but Mark E. Smith socially distanced himself from Toronto because of the SARS outbreak and cancelled the gig.

George Perry, from Toronto

Check out Dry Cleaning on Facebook, on their website, or at 4AD.

Emergency! the first First Responders

I recently rediscovered one of my all-time favourite TV shows, Emergency! and everyone involved with creating it deserves a thank you. The show debuted 1972, ran for over 6 seasons, and helped to popularize the concepts of EMS and paramedics in American society. There are many more reasons why Emergency! deserves a thank you . Here are just a few.

Emergency! Inspired Me as a Boy

I’ve loved Emergency! ever since I was a kid. In those days I would watch with my dad, often falling asleep on the floor before the end credits. My dad would wake me up for big rescues, especially if the rescue involved the firefighters and paramedics of LA County’s Station 51 using a foam machine to put out a fire.

Johnny Gage: None Greater!

As a kid, Johnny Cage was bigger than Evel Knievel and The Six Million Dollar Man combined. In gym class, I was part of Squad 5 for running relays and stuff. We went on strike and refused to participate until we were recognized as Squad 51.

Randolph Mantooth portrayed Paramedic Gage, and he still does work as a speaker at Fire Service and EMS Conferences and Special Events. How great is that?

Emergency! Provides Comfort and Allows Sleep

My dad used to call TV “The greatest sleeping pill ever created”. Once upon a time, before reality TV, it really was. So instead of hacks and quacks and booze, I’ve been using classic TV shows as sleeping aids. And I don’t mean that in a negative way, whatsoever. Faintly hearing Hawkeye Pierce and Johnny Gage comforts me. The sound of their voices lowers my stress level and blood pressure. Emergency! and M*A*S*H rescued me from sleepless nights and rescue me from insanity.

If This Was a Real Emergency…

Part of the success of Emergency! and why it has such longevity is because it was REAL. The rescues were taken from fire logs, some of the firefighters were real-life firefighters, the actors portraying paramedics had some paramedic training, and Jim Page, the show’s technical adviser, was one “the father of the paramedic program in LA”.

Australia to the Rescue!

Anyway, shout out to my man Mahk in Australia. I was talking to him about an episode of Emergency! I had just watched and assumed he knew the show. He thought I was referring to COPS or something. Needless to say, introducing the show to someone on the other side of the world during a pandemic was an opportunity to remember all the fantastic nuances of the ground-breaking TV show.

It was Season 5, Episode 1, The Stewardess. Here is how I summed it up to my man from down under:

Watching an Emergency! Heart attack on a plane, epilepsy, this one is a goodie

6 minutes left in the episode and a solvent factory just caught fire. Killer episode

-me

That exchange caused the Phoenix to rise again, so to speak.

Music Soothes the Savage Beast

Some very talented people contributed to the success of Emergency! At least two cast members were accomplished musicians, namely Julie London (Nurse Dixie McCall), and her real-life husband, Bobby Troup (Dr. Joe Early). Check out Julie’s version of Cry Me a River, if you don’t believe me.

Over 70 Years of Route 66

What’s more, Bobby Troup wrote the iconic song Route 66, a song that is essentially a travelogue of a highway that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles. You can see him performing it here. It’s been covered countless times, here a few that stand out for me:

Somewhere in Season 5, Dr. Kelly Brackett (Robert Fuller) tries to get through to a non-responding child by urgently asking “Tommy can you hear me!?”, an obvious wink to The Who’s rock opera Tommy. The people behind Emergency! were music fans.

I Could Go on and on about Emergency!

I could mention how the locker room chat was far more authentic than “grab her by the…” and that firefighter Chet Kelly’s line “cheatin’s easier, Gage” was an inside joke between my wife and me, how Emergency! was progressive and had a Black doctor played by Ron Pickard a decade or more before Denzel showed up on St. Elsewhere and…

Thanks for Decades of “Rescues”, Emergency!

So please just consider this another entry in my thank you series. Thank you to everyone involved with Emergency! for improving my quality of life for decades. Literally.

Tourism built back. Better?

Fact: The Tourism Industry is in serious trouble because of the pandemic.
Fact: People are curious and want to explore. Let’s enable them.
Fact: The vast majority Americans want to receive a vaccination.
Fact: Millennials value experiences. Let’s give them one.

You can see where I am going, can’t you?

Why not combine vaccinations with vacations? This will help to speed up vaccine distribution and kick start the tourism industry. Please allow me to introduce Vaccincations™, brought to you by Tourism Reimagined©.

Vaccincations™ offer a once in a lifetime opportunity to get your COVID-19 vaccine shot(s) at socially and historically important sites, locations where shootings and life-altering events took place.

Turn that frown upside down – visit a “life chamber”
Why stop at taking down statues and changing the names of places named for Confederates and other personae non gratae? We can repurpose death chambers as life chambers! Being sent to the chair can become a good thing!

Vaccincations™ allows you and your family to sit in the precise spot where so many received their life-ending shots. Instead of life-ending injections, receive your life-saving shot! Simply roll up your sleeve and rewrite history.

You’ll get the chair for this! is now something everyone in your family wants to hear!

Get vaccinated where JFK got assassinated!
Medical professionals tell us that being outdoors is safer than being indoors, so why not take the plunge on a certain grassy knoll in Dallas? There’s plenty of room to socially distance at beautiful Dealey Plaza! And how about a second shot* while you visit the book depository? Join the motorcade so you can get back to speeding on with your life!

Open our schools up again, for safety!
Are you a thrill seeker? Into the adrenaline rush of extreme sports? Intrigued by confinement and escape rooms? Why not experience what so many of our school children have: a life-or-death situation right in those same hallways and classrooms.

Tourism Reimagined© allows you to experience the thrill of a mass shooting through the innocence of a child’s eyes as you get inoculated. And don’t worry if Columbine or Sandy Hook isn’t right for you. With 47 of the continental states having experienced a school shooting, there is an “inocucation” experience that is right for you, whether it is just down the block or across the country.

You will like Mondays again when you trust us to plan your Vaccincation™.  

But were those echoes of Eddy Vedder singing Jeremy in the hallway real or imagined? That’s entirely up to you to decide.

Seeking a more traditional experience? DO go postal!
In an effort to stamp out the pandemic, we are now happy to offer inoculation experiences inside actual US Post Offices that have been the scenes of shootings.

Take in the sights and sounds as you experience mail being sorted. Then a nurse in a US Post uniform approaches with a box of artisanal donuts in their hands. Feel your adrenaline rush as if you are riding a rollercoaster, as you watch your nurse opening their box, wondering if it contains a syringe or a sidearm.

Then relax as the spike goes into your arm, and the vaccine starts coursing through your veins. Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with the plunge of a syringe. Surely, this is as close to becoming Lou Reed as you will ever experience.

At Tourism Reimagined© love wins, science wins, and YOU win!

* second shot experience availability dependent upon which vaccine is available at time of experience.

photo by @dimhou

Thanks for everything, Lower Ossington Theatre. RIP

I am very saddened to hear that the Lower Ossington Theatre has permanently closed. When I was reviewing theatre I would seek out shows at the LOT because the staff was friendly, I liked the size and “feel” of the theatre, and Ossington at Queen is a cool part of town.

Reading about the closing on blogTO and cp24 reminded me of many great shows I have been lucky enough to see the Lower Ossington Theatre. I saw a lot of Toronto Fringe plays at there, as shows that played the LOT were to my tastes.

It also brought back memories of Ossington establishments I would visit before and after a play, most notably Sweaty Betty’s and the Communist’s Daughter. I also remember being sad as I passed The Dakota Tavern on the 63 Ossington bus because I didn’t have time to visit. 

Here are my reviews of 10 shows that I saw at Lower Ossington Theatre.

LEGALLY BLONDE: THE MUSICAL March 12, 2012

BUDDY – THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY April 10, 2013

JACKIE AND JACK February 27, 2011

REEFER MADNESS: THE MUSICAL June 10, 2011

MOLOTOV CIRCUS August 8, 2010

KASPAR & THE SEA OF HOUSES August 5, 2011

THE HEARING OF JEREMY HINZMAN 2012 SUMMERWORKS

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE: A LIVE RADIO PLAY December 9, 2015

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH May 7, 2014

TERRE HAUTE August 10, 2012

Here’s my Thank You note to Smalls Jazz Club, eh

Smalls Jazz Club livestreams gigs by NYC based jazz artists every day. During the pandemic, they have been a lifesaver for me and countless others. Here is my Smalls story, my Thank You note to the jazz club for everything they have done, and everything they continue to do for artists, patrons, and international voyeurs such as myself.


As a kid growing up in suburban Canada, my mother fed me a steady musical diet of The Beatles, 70s one-hit wonders, and Charley Pride. In my mind, jazz had something to do with women exercising in leotards on TV, and “Monk” was the nickname of stock car driver Lou Lazzaro, not the last name of the jazz icon.

A beat icon introduced me to jazz

Luckily, one thing led to another though, and eventually Jack Kerouac introduced me to the idea of jazz clubs. When you’re young, music and that sort of writing can really have an impression, and I was all-in. I was already quite passionate about music, and I think I must have recounted Kerouac’s stories as if they were my own.

Maybe a part of me really did believe that those stories revolving around wild jazz were mine. But even if they were indeed my memories, I knew they were just that, memories. They were impossible to duplicate, no matter how much time, money, or fortune I would ever have.

But then, EUREKA! I found out about Smalls Jazz Club. I even managed to visit once in person for a Saturday afternoon jam session. It wasn’t as good as the “memories” that Kerouac had provided me with and I made my own. It was better. Smalls is named Smalls because it is physically very small. It’s also a basement in the West Village, so you are jammed in if you are lucky enough to get in at all.

Forget Pearl Jam – a Smalls jam is heaven

Every seat in the club was accounted for when we visited, and then some. At stage right musicians queued up, waiting for their chance, their moment in the Smalls light. My friend Tyler and I kept count of how many pianists performed, how many drummers, and how many bass players, but eventually lost count as all tallies went into double digits. I recall an employee or two taking part, and I believe a bartender played a few songs on piano.

Saying “We might be the only two people in here not to play” turned out to be prophetic. It really is a jazz community at Smalls, more tightly knit than the hardcore punk communities of the 80s and most assuredly more positive.

I gotta say it again: Being at Smalls in person was better than visiting a 50’s jazz club vicariously through Kerouac‘s words.

I’m listening to Nicole Glover Trio playing live at Smalls as I write, and once again I am back there, physically IN the pages of Kerouac’s prose. I’m also back inside Smalls, even though their streaming shows are audience free. I really love the music Nicole, Daniel Duke, and Nic Cacioppo create together. Somebody else can talk about the technical merits of the playing, but for me there is a life-affirming energy in the art they create, a sense of fun, intrigue, adventure, possibilities…

Canada may be receiving some vaccines from the US thanks to the Biden Administration, but for me, music from Smalls is even more appreciated!

Nicole Glover at Smalls
photo of Nicole Glover by William Brown

All is fair in jazz and ribs, right?

I keep my windows open during the summer, and great music sounds even better with a little bit of volume. Needless to say, midtown Toronto received an education in the NYC jazz community during the summer and fall of 2020, all thanks to Smalls and streaming.

My neighbours and I also had a few jam Smalls-inspired jam sessions in my hood last summer. At the West Village club, musicians have “conversations” with each other by trading licks. North of the border we put our own twist on an artistic conversation. The people next door sent the delicious smell of barbeque my way, and I responded by sending back the sweet sounds of jazz artists performing at Smalls.

So many artists to check out at Smalls, so little time

I was introduced to so many outstanding jazz musicians via Smalls since we were all locked down together that it is impossible to name them all. Here’s how I was introduced to a few though.

On a warm, lazy Sunday afternoon in the late summer of 2020, I fell in Love with Lucy again thanks to Smalls. Not with Ms. Ball, but with vocalist Lucy Yeghiazaryan. She has a voice that is better than sublime, be sure to treat yourself to some listens of her music.

Where was I when I first heard Omer Avital?
At Smalls, of course!

I absolutely must mention Omer Avital though. I “met” him through Smalls, of course. His life story and accomplishments are bigger than words, and his music moves me like hardly any other music does or ever has. His song Small Time Shit is a few years old now, but it’s the best “new” song I’ve heard in ages.

Omer Avital at Smalls
Omer Avital at Smalls

First Smalls took Manhattan, then they took Detroit (via Toronto)

Last summer my friend Jamey in Detroit mentioned a NY Times article that celebrated some of the great work Melissa Aldana is doing around NYC during the pandemic to keep artists spirits and chops up. Naturally I was already familiar with Aldana, having had seen her perform at Smalls via livestream. And as luck would have it, I’d seen her as part of the Omer Avital Septet.

So, there you have it. Somehow a basement jazz club in Gotham casts a shadow at least as far west as Motown. The magic of music, the magic of Smalls.

Now it is your turn to visit Smalls
~It’s safe and easy to do, too~

Go to Smalls in NYC if you ever get the chance once we get back to normal. In the meantime, definitely make it a point to check out some of their livestreams, whether it is live on Facebook or on their website. Smalls also has a YouTube channel that is well worth subscribing to. See you there!

Thank you, Smalls.

*photo of Smalls Jazz Club by Michelle Watt

Dick Valentine brought live music back. Better.

Everybody talks about missing sports and live music, but nobody does anything about it.

Nobody, that is, except people like Dick Valentine. While artists, audiences, patrons, and even critics haven’t really done much about missing a few of our favorite things, Dick Valentine and his band Electric Six have kept busy in the brave new world of live streaming events.

To date, Electric Six has done a few live shows without an audience and streamed them online. Dick Valentine has done over 50 solo shows via StageIt. His shows have varied in length, often been topical, and always a lot of fun.

Dick Valentine’s StageIt shows are FUN!

One of the fun things about StageIt shows is that they are never recorded and always live. There’s no sharing or watching later, so you gotta be there. It all adds to the excitement and fun, and there are a lot of “you shoulda been there!” moments.

When you attend a StageIt show, there is a window where you can clap and sing and chat with your friends, which also helps to give the feel of a live show. All of the audience participation is silent, so have no fear you strong, silent types.

Valentine, an accomplished acoustic troubadour and author, puts on shows that are just him and a guitar. There are no smoke machines, no spandex, and no legalized dope of any strain. What you do in the privacy of your own home remains your business, (at least for now), but two good things to do at home are watch March Madness and watch March Madness!

March Madness + Music = Bliss!

Valentine’s latest project on StageIt is a marriage made in heaven. In what is surely the greatest eureka moment anyone has had thus far in 2021, Dick has been playing live shows that pit his songs against each other.

It’s done in tournament style, with 64 of his songs entering his version of the hugely popular NCAA’s March Madness. There’s a bracket, of course, and all songs are seeded.

Instead of basketball games being played, songs are voted on by people who attend Dick Valentine’s StageIt shows. The song with the most votes moves on, and the “loser” is put back into Valentine’s mind, or wherever maestro Dick keeps his masterpieces.

Here’s the lineup from a recent day of competition:

1. Jimmy Carter vs. 8. Arrive Alive
4. Alone w/Your Body vs. 5. Vengeance and Fashion
3. Why You Waging War on Me, Divider? vs. 11. Skin Caboose
2. Destroy the Children vs. 7. The Band in Hell

It’s still rather early in the tournament as I write this, but so far there have already “games” so close that “overtimes” have been needed to determine which song moves on. the excitement is there, the excitement is palpable, and it the excitement building.

Get up off of that thing, dance and you’ll feel better

How Dick Valentine has chosen to deal with the lockdown and his livelihood being threatened is to be applauded and duplicated. It also reminds me of some wonderful old Paul Weller lyrics:

You don’t have to take this crap
You don’t have to sit back and relax
You can actually try changing it

Just one more thing

So now that Dick Valentine has brought back live music almost single-handedly, I really only have one question: has anybody sorted out how we bring back office pools in the age of working remotely? (Asking for a friend).

Update: 2022 Bracket

Painting with John: Review One

Before I begin my review of HBO’s Painting with John, let me set the table, as it were.

In the weird world of entertainment, a triple threat is someone who can act, sing, and dance. Judy Garland is said to be the ultimate example of the rare and precious talent. On the other hand, some triple threats develop over time and are collaborative efforts. For example, Mickey Rooney, Micky Dolenz, and Mickey Rourke combined to make a triple threat that spanned nearly half a century.

In the political world, triple threats are a dime a dozen. Any decent politician worth their salt can act like they care about voters, sing the praises of new taxes, and dance around the issues.

Are triple threats threatened with extinction?
On the other hand, the modern equivalent of the circus sideshow, binge-worthy streaming series typically contain one-dimensional animal trainers or cosplay enthusiasts. If we stick with the sodium theme here for a second, most popular series contain all the hypertension and none of the flavour of salt.

Things have gotten so bad that a used car salesman is calling himself a “triple threat” because they are the largest dealer of used Buicks in the tri-state area.

The Lurie Vaccine offers the Relief we need
A triple threat to covid-era depression, Painting with John offers viewers a balm, a tonic, and an ointment for our pandemic ills of the cognitive variety. John Lurie, the painter in question, has the triple threat thing covered in spades. He’s an actor, musician, painter, television producer, and acclaimed fisher.

The only drawback to the Lurie vaccine is that there are only 6 shots to take. HBO calls them “episodes”, but don’t be put off by their highfalutin TV mumbo jumbo.

Is John Lurie an “Omni Threat”?
As if those talents weren’t already enough, Painting with John reveals Mr. Lurie to be a master of all trades, jack of none. Some might simply call Mr. Lurie a bullshit artist, an “Andy Kaufman come lately”, but I call bullshit on that. In the series we learn that Mr. Lurie is a drone pilot, botanist, explosions expert, nutritionist, missing persons expert, maestro, job creator of some note who is loved by his employees, and much, much, much more. (how’d you like that triple “much”? 2 much?)

Explosions with John
Lurie goes into vivid detail on how to blow up a kitchen. The ingredients are surprisingly simple. They include shrimp curie, an hour of sleep, and having a gas oven turned on for 20 minutes with the pilot light burnt out. Lurie walks away relatively unscathed. This is no small miracle because the explosion he engineered is the Caribbean equivalent of the 2020 Beirut explosion that was caused by 2,750 tonnes of highly explosive ammonium nitrate.

And speaking of miracles…

Caregiving with John
Lurie is not a vet, but he was a caregiver of an eel. In episode 3 of Painting with John, he recounts how the photography for the cover of his critically acclaimed jazz album Voice of Chunk came about.

During this time John served as a tour guide for the eel. He took it on a sightseeing tour of lower Manhattan that included visits to Chinatown, the Lower East Side, and Chelsea.

The eel eventually accomplished fantastic feats and was really the Jesus Christ of eels. In the hands of John Lurie, it became the Mirac-eel.

Mr. Lurie’s retelling of the events makes a convincing case for having a statue of the eel erected at 18th Street and 7th Avenue in NYC.

OK, who is ready for seconds?

painting by Mark Seabrook

According to Rogers CEO, someone who gives you money is a “consumer”.

When it comes to The Media Monopoly, Ben Bagdikian literally wrote the book on the subject back in 1983, and since then media ownership has continued to be controlled by fewer and fewer players.

Fewer owners mean fewer choices, fewer jobs, fewer voices being heard, and fewer checks and balances in terms of what companies can charge and get away with legally.

The “blanding down” of our news, entertainment, and culture may not be at “Big Brother” on our “how fucked are we” meters yet, but all credible indicators continue to creep in that direction.

So of course I find it disturbing when I read that Rogers seeks to buy Shaw for $20.4-billion in deal that would transform Canadian telecom market.

But let’s get down to the brass tacks

A CBC article attempted to make that “medicine” go down with a spoonful of sugar with their sub-heading “Rogers to invest $2.5B in 5G networks across Western Canada over next 5 years as part of transaction”.

News of the proposed takeover reminds me of an announcement from November 9, 2020. Entitled Connecting all Canadians to high-speed Internet. The following quote sums up the announcement:

“The Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, today announced an investment of $1.75 billion to help connect Canadians to high-speed Internet across the country, grow businesses, and create jobs.

So who is really paying for improvements to those networks?

Win, lose, or draw, Rogers gets your money

That amounts to taxpayer money being used to build infrastructure that companies like Rogers will use to distribute content to people, and of course charging those same people.

Prime Minister Trudeau gifting nearly $2 Billion to improve high-speed Internet across the country means that even if a Canadian taxpayer chooses not to subscribe to Rogers services, they will be giving money to Rogers. And in some areas of Canada, being able to not choose a company like Rogers is not a realistic choice.

People who give you money are consumers?

Regarding the $20 Billion acquisition, Rogers chief executive Joe Natale said:

“This combination is the right thing for Canada and consumers,”

The CEO of Rogers, a company ranked as #289 Canada’s Best Employers 2021 by Forbes, has the audacity to refer to his customers as consumers? And he has this attitude a mere 4 months after those same people had gifted his company $1.75 billion via the Prime Minister?

Personally, I wouldn’t consider someone effectively giving me money a consumer, nor would I refer to Kris Kringle as “Santa Consumer”.

When we give money to a company, we are a partner, not a consumer

When I choose to do business with a company or give them money in exchange for their goods and services, I am a partner with a stake in the company’s success. If my local baker goes out of business, I can no longer get the bread I like, and jobs are lost in my neighbourhood.

Can you imagine a small business referring to their customers as consumers? With that attitude, I wouldn’t imagine them staying in business very long. Even sports celebrities have enough sense to say things like “without the fans we’d be nothing.”

Who is the real consumer, Canadians or the CEO of Rogers?

People who are subscribers of Rogers services contribute to the success of Rogers, both financially and in other ways. As a matter of fact, the Prime Minister’s largesse with Canada’s coffers makes every single Canadian a contributor to Rogers, whether we like it or not.

On the other hand, what about Rogers President and CEO Joe Natale, the man who refers to his subscribers as consumers?

Certainly, his salary and total compensation consume financial resources that would otherwise go to shareholders, and perhaps infrastructure improvements or wages for other Rogers employees.

And just how much does Mr. Natale consume?

According to Notice of 2020 Annual General Shareholder Meeting and Information Circular, his total compensation averaged over $12 million per year from 2017-2019. Here is a breakdown:


According to Rogers, CEO Joe Natale also sits on the Board of Directors at both The Hospital for Sick Children and Soulpepper Theatre Co.

I wonder if Mr. Natale refers to sick children as “consumers” as well?

*Painting of The Lion Hunters 2021, Oil on wood panel 25 x 30 cm by Mark Seabrook