My “B-List” Songs

I hesitate to call these tracks the “B-list” of my favourite music, as the term is slightly derogatory. These are all special songs to me and remain some of my favourites, but they don’t quite merit a place on my Desert Island Songs list. Like my other lists, this one remains a work in progress.

Here then, is more of my life’s soundtrack:

Moments Of Pleasure – Kate Bush
Only You – Yaz
Boy – Book Of Love
Il Mio Cuore Va – Sarah Brightman
Minuet in G Major – J.S. Bach (comp.)
Suddenly Last Summer – The Motels
I Want You Back – The Jackson 5
Safe And Sound – Capital Cities
Lady Marmalade – Labelle
Nothing But A Heartache – Freemasons (feat. Sylvia Mason-James)
The Sailor Song – Autoheart
Hello In There – Bette Midler
Something Just Like This – The Chainsmokers (with Coldplay)
Unfinished Business – Boy George
The Last Song – Elton John
The Power Of Love – Frankie Goes To Hollywood
No Promises – Icehouse
Breaking Us In Two – Joe Jackson
Shadow Man – David Bowie
Pavane – Gabriel Fauré (comp.)
It Couldn’t Happen Here – Pet Shop Boys
Man On The Moon – R.E.M.
Crying Out Loud For Love – The Box
Canon In D – J. Pachelbel (comp.)
Life On Mars? – David Bowie
Half-Light (Day Version) – George Fitzgerald feat. Tracey Thorn

A Danforth Photowalk

On August 18th of this year I took a photowalk along Danforth Avenue. I started at Broadview Ave. and finished at Greenwood Ave., at which point I crossed the street and returned to Broadview, snapping all the way.

Here’s a few shots from that day:

Entering Greektown
Mopeds In The Window
Alexander The Great Parkette
Alexander The Great Parkette
Abandoned Store Near Greenwood Avenue
Madinah Masjid Islamic Centre
Chalk Artist Outside Carrot Common
Holy Name RC Church
Love Gone To Seed
Patios
Church Of The Holy Name

Ulysses (excerpt)

This small excerpt is the last few lines of Tennyson’s Ulysses. It is significant to me because I included it in the eulogy I delivered at my Dad’s funeral. I feel this segment of the poem is all about looking back over a life of hard work and even though it’s now time to rest, we must keep going and keep seeking as the will remains strong.

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

– Alfred, Lord Tennyson

“Vicious”

By way of Matt Baume’s fascinating YouTube channel, where he takes a light-hearted look at issues affecting and involving the LGBT community, we recently discovered the British TV comedy series Vicious.

Vicious_(TV_series)

The primary stars of Vicious are Sir Ian McKellen and Sir Derek Jacobi. With a core cast like that, how can you lose? There’s not a lot of characters throughout the episodes; the regular cast never goes beyond six members. There are the two central characters Freddie Thornhill (Ian McKellen) and Stuart Bixby (Derek Jacobi), their friend Violet Crosby (brilliantly played by Frances de la Tour) and younger upstairs friend/neighbour Ash Weston (Iwan Rheon). Occasionally we see the mostly-senile but lovable, long-time family friend Penelope (Marcia Warren), and Mason (Philip Voss) as Freddie’s acid-tongued brother who is also gay but disapproves of Freddie and Stuart’s relationship.

Vicious is very British with its sly insult-humour, a genre the English do especially well. The plot centres around the love-hate relationship of gay male couple Freddie and Stuart (played by our two aforementioned knighted actors) who have been together just shy of fifty years. Each episode’s plot also includes their circle of friends – Violet, Ash, Penelope and Mason – each generating their own form of lunacy. The two seasons weave the characters in and out of various hilarious predicaments, ending in The 2 knightsFreddie and Stuart’s wedding (after fifty years of being together) in the final episode of the second season. This wedding episode is not to be missed.

Only two seasons of Vicious plus a Finale were shot and each season has only six or seven episodes, which is very typical of a British television series. The series premiered in April 2013 but was cancelled by ITV in the U.K. in 2016, with the Finale special airing in December of that year. The series was panned by British critics but, nevertheless, did well during its run. PBS in North America carried the show in 2014 but I’m not sure what the success rate was on this side of the Atlantic. The humour in Vicious does not appeal to everyone, and you have to approach the series with an appreciation of camp, gay humour, comedic put-downs, dark humour and a general love/appreciation of British comedy (which is interpreted somewhat differently by our North American sensibilities).

The series was twice nominated for the GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) Media Award for Outstanding Comedy Series, while the finale was nominated for Outstanding TV Movie or Limited Series.

If you do find the series somewhere online (i.e. streaming services, YouTube, etc.) and begin watching, my advice is to stick with it through the first season. I found the first two episodes of the first season, especially, just plain mean-spirited and cruel, and I felt quite the 2uncomfortable watching them; I just about gave up on the series at that point but I’m so glad I stayed with it. The script, characters and tone does soften, however, and the series becomes much more enjoyable and hilarious with each episode. By the end of Season One I was howling with laughter! I read somewhere that Ian McKellen and Derek Jacobi had a hand in rewriting some of the script and making the dialog a little “softer” and the characters more empathic.

The opening and closing theme is an abridged version of The Communards version of Never Can Say Goodbye (which is on my list of Desert Island Songs by the way); this scored big points with me.

You may love Vicious or you may hate it – everyone’s mileage will vary. I’ll leave you with a clip of Season One’s “Best Of”:

Rowley, Alberta

Rowley is a hamlet located in east-central Alberta, north of Drumheller. The official census lists the population of Rowley at 8!

Rowley dates from the early 1910s, when the railway came through. After the trains ceased to run through Rowley it more or less became a ghost town as people began to move away. Sometime in the mid-1970s the remaining locals came up with an idea to lure tourist dollars by promoting Rowley as an old “wild west” ghost town, and for the next 25 years they restored old homes and businesses. Soon visitors were attracted from all parts of Alberta, Canada and the U.S.

The grain elevators in these shots have been completely renovated and restored for tourism and heritage purposes. Part of Rowley’s charm is that while locals have spent thousands of dollars fixing up many of the old community’s homes and buildings to reflect the hamlet’s pioneer days, there are still many others left abandoned.

I took these shots on April 11, 2018.

Grain Elevators
Grain Elevators
"Yesteryear Artifacts Museum" Railway Car
“Yesteryear Artifacts Museum” Railway Car
Rowley Sights
Prairie School & Grain Elevators
Abandoned Buildings
Abandoned Farm Buildings
The Old Barn
The Old Barn
The Old Barn
Wagon
Old Harvesting Equipment
The Old Tractor
Main Street
On Main Street
Main Street
Signs On Main Street
Main Street
On Main Street
Main Street
On Main Street
Main Street
On Main Street
Rowley United Church On Main Street
Rowley United Church On Main Street
The Old Hospital On Main Street
The Old Hospital On Main Street

Rick’s 65th Birthday

The Sunshine Boy Turns 65!!

Yes, it was Rick’s big day, and a number of people got together to throw him a party for the occasion. We had a lot of fun with the “photo booth”, in which people were photographed holding signs of some of Rick’s famous (and infamous) sayings. It was a great party! 🙂

June 9, 2018

Do’s and Don’ts When Encountering Service Dogs

For a while now I’ve had it in mind to create a post talking about the “do’s and don’ts” when we see a service/working dog in our daily travels. I have a personal connection with this topic as my very good friend is visually impaired and has used service dogs for most of her life. A service dog is a lifeline to a blind or disabled person; I can attest to this as I see my friend’s challenges almost every single day as we make our way through busy downtown Toronto.

Despite the best efforts of programs to educate the general public, there are still many people who just simply don’t “get” the issue of service dogs and don’t know how to respond around them. Hopefully I can throw a little light on some of the “do’s and don’ts” for those who are not familiar.

Never Distract A Service Dog

This is probably the most important thing to mention. Even though a service dog may not “look like” it’s doing its job, she is always working. Service dogs typically wear some sort of vest or harness and are easily identifiable as such. To distract a working service dog can have serious or dangerous consequences for the dog and handler team. A service dog needs all her attention to safely guide her handler through traffic and many other obstacles; to be distracted from that job is dangerous or even fatal for the dog/handler team, especially in big city traffic.

Never pet or touch a service dog or make distracting sounds to get their attention – for example, making “kissy” or clicking sounds, calling to them or talking to them. The best practice is to politely ignore the dog.

No Need To “Feel Sorry” For The Dog

Service dogs are dearly loved by their owner/handler. They are well adjusted, socialized and highly trained to be working much of the time. Service dogs are just like other dogs – they get plenty of time off duty to run, play, get treats and just be a “regular dog”. No need to “feel sorry” for a service dog; they are very happy doing their duty. Dogs love a routine and like to work, especially many breeds of bigger dogs.

Be Patient

Be patient when you see a service dog and handler team executing a climb up/down stairs, getting on/off public transit or any similar situation. The dog needs to work out the safest method for herself and the handler to negotiate the challenge. As a team they will usually successfully work it out, but in the rare case a handler needs assistance to navigate a problematic situation they will call out or ask for assistance if it is required.

Never grab a blind person by the arm and pull them across the street, etc. in an attempt to navigate them – this is probably one of the most confusing and frightening things a blind person can experience as it totally disorients them within their surroundings. If you do want to help, politely ask them if they require any assistance with whatever it is they’re navigating and proceed from there. It will be appreciated.

It’s Personal

Although people may mean well, it’s inappropriate to ask a service dog handler: “What happened to you? How did you go blind (or become disabled, etc.)”, or “How do you deal with it?”. Please understand this is personal information and the handler most likely does not wish to discuss this with anyone.

Don’t Discriminate – It’s The Law

The law protects service dogs and their handlers. Service dogs are not pets. They are allowed in all food stores, restaurants, food outlets and other public spaces. This is the law: both the Ontario and federal Human Rights Codes prohibit discrimination based on disability, and rejecting a service animal definitely fits that category.

Rejecting a service dog also violates the Ontario Blind Person’s Rights Act. If there is a rejection of the service dog, the service dog handler can file a human rights complaint with the appropriate tribunal, either Ontario or federal, and can pursue charges under the Blind Person’s Right Act, which fines any offender a maximum of $5,000 if convicted.

I hope this helps. I’ve also included a couple of relevant links below if you’d like to learn more about service dogs, their handlers, and the challenges they face:

Guide Dogs for the Blind

Blind Not Alone

Service dogs save lives

George FitzGerald’s “Half-Light (Day Version)”, feat. Tracey Thorn

A new artist I’ve just started to follow is George FitzGerald. At the moment I don’t know too much about Mr. FitzGerald other than he’s an English Dance/Electronic musician, producer and DJ. Initially he resided in Berlin, Germany to cut his teeth in the electronic music scene there but has since returned to England. Electronic music critics are heralding him as the up and coming one to watch.

Apparently George has been active in the electronic music scene since the early 2010s and has released several EPs and extended mixes during that time. It looks like he’s also been on tour through North America lately and did a Toronto gig in early October this year. George FitzGerald released his first full-length album (Fading Love) in 2015. He also has albums Update and All That Must Be under his belt. His latest album is All That George-FitzGeraldMust Be (Remixes), and this is the one that grabbed my attention.

I stumbled across George’s single Half-Light (Day Version) and was instantly blown away by the texture and dreamy, hypnotic quality of his sound. Leading me to this George FitzGerald track was the fact that vocalist, musician and personal Goddess Tracey Thorn is featured on the vocals. Where Tracey goes I follow willingly – she’s an amazingly talented woman with an incredible, heavenly, haunting voice.  Ah, those lovely soaring notes of Miss Tracey… always a treat:

Half-Light (Day Version), feat. Tracey Thorn

If you’re not familiar with Tracey Thorn, she was one half of the duo Everything But The Girl. Along with her husband Ben Watt they had enormous success as singers, musicians and songwriters in Everything But The Girl, first in Europe then in North tracey-thorn-by-edward-bishop-aug-2012-ref_mg_5212_hiAmerica, through the 80s, 90s and 2000s. It was their monster hit Missing that finally broke them in the North American mainstream market and propelled them forward over here; great commercial success followed for them after that hit. Since disbanding after an impressive group career Ben and Tracey have each gone on to many successful solo projects. Ben produces other groups in the studio and has a successful career as a musician, singer, songwriter, author, DJ and radio presenter. Tracey has released several excellent solo albums and written an autobiography called Bedsit Disco Queen: How I Grew Up & Tried To Be A Pop Star (love that title). In 2015 she published her second book, Naked at the Albert Hall: The Inside Story of Singing. Tracey also writes a regular column for the New Statesman, which is a British political and cultural magazine.

I hope to do a future post on Tracey Thorn & Ben Watt, aka Everything But The Girl, so stay tuned for that.

Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Strauss and… Falco

In September 2015 we journeyed to Vienna, Austria. That city is simply too amazing to describe in this short space, but I’d like to share a few shots I took when we toured Der Wiener Zentralfriedhof (or, in English, The Vienna Central Cemetery).

It might be somewhat crass to call this part of the cemetery the “famous dead composer” section, but… well, it is:

Beethoven's Grave at The Zentralfriedhof
Beethoven’s grave
Brahms's Grave at The Zentralfriedhof
Brahms’s grave
Franz Schubert's Grave at The Zentralfriedhof
The grave of Franz Schubert
Johann Strauss's Grave at The Zentralfriedhof
Johann Strauss’s grave

BUT…

The grave I really wanted to visit was none other than that of the beloved Falco. Yes, Vienna’s Central Cemetery is the final resting place of that famous Austrian pop star Falco, real name Hans Holzel. His grave marker is kind of hard to see in these shots as it’s made of curved, clear glass with etchings:

Falco's Grave at the ZentralfriedhofFalco's Grave at the ZentralfriedhofFalco's Grave at the ZentralfriedhofFalco's Grave at the Zentralfriedhof

Thank you for the beautiful music, gentlemen.

Good Songs Covered By Extremely Inappropriate Artists

Culled from my own music collection, Spotify and Rolling Stone “worst of” lists, here is my compilation of songs that have been covered by a completely inappropriate artist or are simply a bad cover of the song.

Some of these covers are funny, some are marginally bearable, some are nauseating and some are so abjectly, abysmally awful they make you lose your will to live.

What were these people thinking??!!


Life On Mars? – Barbra Streisand
Help! – Diana Ross & The Supremes
I Love Rock ‘n Roll – Britney Spears
Might Quinn (Quinn The Eskimo) – Julie London
Happy Together – Mel Torme
When A Man Loves A Woman – Michael Bolton
A Hard Day’s Night – Peggy Lee
Respect Yourself – Bruce Willis
Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds – William Shatner
American Pie – Madonna
Baby I Love Your Way/Freebird – Will To Power
Mrs. Robinson – Guy Lombardo
Funky Town – Pseudo Echo
I Am The Walrus – Jim Carrey
All By Myself – Celine Dion
Sugar, Sugar – Kurt Russell
Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? – Tiny Tim
It’s My Life – No Doubt
Love Grows (Where My Rosemary Goes) – Wayne Newton
Stairway to Heaven – Dolly Parton
Ring of Fire – Olivia Newton John
Piece of My Heart – Faith Hill
Big Yellow Taxi – Counting Crows & Vanessa Carlton
Everyday People – Peggy Lee
Live and Let Die – Guns N’ Roses
Cat’s In The Cradle – Ugly Kid Joe
More Than This – 10,000 Maniacs

Sadly, this list has a lot of growth potential…

Two Fat Ladies

Score! This past weekend I was thrilled to find a used DVD box set of the entire Two Fat Ladies TV series in mint condition at the always-amazing Sonic Boom on Spadina Avenue. For years Vince and I have looked at all the various online and streaming sources for the Ladies but no one carries the entire series, at least not at a reasonable price, and it remains out of print as far as I can see.

So, what more could possibly be written about the phenomenon that was Two Fat Ladies?

TFL1In case you were living under a rock in the 1990s, Two Fat Ladies were a British cooking duo consisting of Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright, who showcased their talents in a massively popular TV show. The TV show was later followed by their cookbooks, videos, autobiographies and other marketing paraphernalia. The TFL show was wildly popular in the U.K. and also really caught on in North America, which was surprising.

Many will probably think we’re weird for loving such an uncool, cheesy, old-fashioned show, but the episodes were glorious! The Ladies were refreshingly non-PC and such a breath of fresh air; TWL - sidecarthey really didn’t care about conventions or what other people thought of them or their cooking methods. Yes, they cooked with lard and butter – lots and lots of it. These two unconventional cooks travelled the British countryside in a sidecar-equipped motorcycle and prepared traditional dishes with an emphasis on strong flavours, fresh ingredients, and more than just a pat of butter. While their high-calorie meal selections were probably not the healthiest thing to eat, they looked utterly delicious and must have tasted fantastic.

Jennifer Paterson and Clarissa Dickson Wright took a lot of criticism for their style of unhealthy cooking. Optomen Television in the UK, though, had this to say in the Ladies defense:

The Ladies are cooks not chefs – they reject the pretensions and elaborations of haute cuisine and are aggressively unfashionable, delighting in such ingredients as clotted cream, lard and fatty meats.

The Two Fat Ladies have now both passed on, gone but certainly not forgotten, at least not by me. Jennifer Paterson died of lung cancer on August 10, 1999, one month after diagnosis, and Clarissa Dickson Wright died of pneumonia March 15, 2014.

Thank you Ladies – you were awesome.

“…The Serious Moonlight”

What a night…

Without a doubt, the best live concert I’ve ever attended in my entire life was David Bowie’s Serious Moonlight, here in Toronto on a hot, humid September night waaaaaay back in 1983 at the good old CNE Stadium, (remember that place?). Although I also went to his Glass Spider tour in 1987, it didn’t quite have the electrical spark that Serious Moonlight did. There was just something indescribable about that night, that performer, and the super-charged audience that sent Serious Moonlight over the edge and into Toronto concert history (folklore, even?).

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For some reason or other, the memories of that concert came into my mind the other day and I thought – hey! – what a great post this would make for the blog. I won’t, though, attempt to write a review for the Serious Moonlight concert; rather, I’m going to simply reminisce about it. All these years later I still cannot put into words what that concert meant to me; the intensity of the crowd, concert and performer all fused together to create a magical night.

I went digging in my memorabilia and found the concert program, carefully and lovingly preserved, from that night lo these many years ago. As is my way, I had meticulously scotch-taped my original ticket to the inside front cover of the program for safekeeping. The critical details of the ticket read:

David Bowie – The Serious Moonlight Tour
September 3, 1983, 8:30PM
CNE Stadium
General Admission (floors), $22.50

Wow! – “General Admission” seating! Who could ever forget that mad dash across the playing field to the front of the stage as soon as the gates would swing open. I believe “General Admission” seating has long been abolished in concert-going as, to be honest, it was kind of dangerous (it’s that old fear of being crushed to death in the rush of 10,000 rabid fans all trying to reach the front of the stage at the same time).

There were two Serious Moonlight shows in Toronto that year – Saturday, September 3rd and Sunday, September 4th – and they were both sold out with 60,000 fans in attendance each night. The opening act was Rough Trade, and I remember Carole Pope and Kevan Staples absolutely blowing the crowd away with their performance. I still remember how dynamic they were that night, with Carole Pope strategically grabbing and working her crotch during that key lyrical moment in Highschool Confidential (if you’re Canadian and were even slightly plugged in to music during the late 70s/early 80s, you know exactly what I’m talking about here).

When I went searching on the Internet for a little more info on the Serious Moonlight concert tour in Toronto, I was shocked at how much these two shows have been discussed and documented over the years by other Torontonians. Several bloggers I found in my search have documented extremely in-depth reviews and impressions of those two nights. Apparently the show on the following night (September 4, 1983) had a surprise appearance and performance by Mick Ronson, Bowie’s longstanding collaborator from the early days. By all accounts I’ve read, the crowd went absolutely ballistic when Ronson came onstage and joined the band for some numbers.

Crowd shot

In her autobiography Anti Diva, Rough Trade’s Carole Pope talks about their opening for Bowie at this concert:

When Bowie hit the stage, I stood riveted in the wings… David stood at the lip of the stage singing ‘Modern Love’ shaking one leg like Elvis. The show was an amalgamation of music and theatre. While performing ‘Cracked Actor’, Bowie was seated in a director’s chair, wearing dark glasses; like a new wave Hamlet, he sang a soliloquy to a skull… Bowie grossed $2.3 million from that show.

Bowie with skull

It has been 35 years since that concert so only parts of it remain sticking to my brain cells. I recall, though, certain “snapshots” and short segments of that incredible powerhouse show. I remember, quite vividly, Bowie hovering over the crowd on an elevated cherry picker machine singing Space Oddity, and I remember the Cracked Actor segment (pic above) with Bowie singing to a skull. He also did a great job on Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat, and tore the place up when he kicked into Rebel Rebel. It took two encores before the crowd would let him leave the stage for the night.

This is the concert setlist for the Serious Moonlight concert tour. It was the same setlist for both nights of the Toronto shows, as well as for other Canadian dates:

Look Back in Anger
Heroes
What in the World
Golden Years
Fashion
Let’s Dance
Breaking Glass
Life on Mars?
Sorrow
Cat People (Putting Out Fire)
China Girl
Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
Rebel Rebel
White Light/White Heat
Station to Station
Cracked Actor
Ashes to Ashes
Space Oddity
Young Americans
Fame
TVC 15

Encore 1:
Star
Stay
The Jean Genie

Encore 2:
Modern Love

The performers that night were:

David Bowie – lead vocals, guitar, saxophone
Earl Slick – guitar
Carlos Alomar – guitar, backing vocals, music director
Carmine Rojas – bass guitar
Tony Thompson – drums, percussion
Dave Lebolt – keyboards, synthesizers
Steve Elson – saxophones
Stan Harrison – saxophones, woodwinds
Lenny Pickett – saxophones, woodwinds
George Simms – backing vocals
Frank Simms – backing vocals

David Bowie On Serious Moonlight Tour

Here is the original Toronto Star article and concert review by Peter Goddard (who, if memory serves, covered just about every Toronto concert of any importance in the 80s and beyond):

60,000 berserk over Bowie

60,000 go wild for Bowie - Peter Goddard concert review

Sadly, Mr. Bowie left us a couple of years ago, but what a legacy he left behind! It is staggering. Over the course of 40 years, possibly more, he changed music and pop culture as we know it.

I am so grateful I was there in that 60,000-strong audience on that hot, humid night in 1983-Toronto. Years from now, when I’m sitting in my rocking chair swaddled in an electric blanket or some such heat-producing device, I hope I will still retain some of the special memories of that incredible night.

Today Is World AIDS Day

Created in 1988, World AIDS Day takes place on December 1st of each year. The Day is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.

World AIDS Day is important because it reminds the public and government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.

Colours

I like this shot. There’s something interesting about the colours, shades and textures of the dresses in the picture.

I took this shot at the Cabbagetown Festival this past September.

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