Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Top 20 Albums of 2006

It's time again for my top 20 albums of the year. I've listened to an absolute ton of music during the past 12 months, but for every CD I sampled there were an umpteen number of others I didn't get a chance to hear. Consequently, I tried to be as selective as possible.

2006 was a particularly strong year for music. Choosing a top 20 was not easy, and because there were so many good albums I decided to create an 'honourable mention' category. These are solid albums, each a special gem worthy of consideration and respect -- but not quite the cream-of-the-crop. I've also listed several disappointments and/or overrated albums from the past year.

Your feedback is welcomed. Please let me know where you agree or disagree and if I missed something! Here are my lists:

TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2006:

1. Neko Case: Fox Confessor Brings the Flood

While coming up with a top 20 was not easy, selecting the #1 album of the year was a no-brainer: Neko Case's Fox Confessor Brings the Flood was by far the most spectacular release of 2006. With this album, Case has established herself as a world-class song writer, producer and vocalist.

Every track shines on this album; Case's confidence and talent as an artist has never been more obvious. Her performances are emotional, personal and powerful. The songs are sad, revealing and honest. And adding to this perfection-of-craft is her newfound willingness to step outside familiar genres, styles and conventional song structures.

The first three tracks are absolute stunners -- the kind of 1-2-3 punch you would expect on a Best Of album (Margaret vs. Pauline, Star Witness, and Hold on, Hold On). These are quintessential Neko tracks that are the best examples of music that is distinctly her own -- not quite alt-country, not quite adult alternative and not quite pop.

From these opening tracks she ventures into new territory, drawing from diverse musical styles. There's a sloppy 50s era highschool dance number, a pagan rite, and a foot stomping gospel track. At no times, however, does Fox Confessor feel disjointed or inconsistent; it's a Neko Case album from start to finish.

A beautiful album. Way to go, Neko!

2. Isis: In the Absence of Truth

The best progressive metal album of 2006 and my #2 CD of the year goes to Isis's In the Absence of Truth. These brooding post-metal experimentalists from Los Angeles keep pushing the envelope of what it means to be heavy. They're kind of a Mogwai meets Neurosis and Tool (who they toured with in 2006).

Absence's tracks are sonically dynamic, slow-paced with long and drawn out builds that often deliver crushing finales. Isis's arrangements thrive on repetition and evolution of structure; hidden melodies reveal themselves with each passing listen. Instruments work in counterpoint with circular rhythms.

Aaron Turner's minimalist vocals, sometimes deathy, sometimes half-sung, are placed back in the mix along with the other instruments. And the drumming, performed by Aaron Harris, is nothing less than spectacular. He relentlessly works the toms and delivers brilliant hi-hat fills.

With this, their fourth studio release, they have firmly defined the post-metal/sludge-metal sound for the early 21st century. Isis is now the most important metal band coming out of the United States.

3. Tool: 10,000 Days

Five agonizingly long years after the release of Lateralus comes Tool's fourth studio release, 10,000 Days. While quite possibly their weakest effort to date, this is still the kind of album that most bands can only dream about releasing. I was initially unsure about this CD and it wasn't until I starting contrasting it with other similar artists that its strengths were revealed. Make no mistake: 10,000 Days is a great album.

As always, each track is an epic journey. Maynard, still mourning the death of his mother, offers some of his most touching and personal lyrics. On Jambi, he credits his mother for showing him the way out of his darkness: "The devil and his had me down/in love with the dark side, I found/Dabblin' all the way down/Up to my neck; Soon to drown/But you, changed that all for me, lifted me up, turned me 'round." And on the title track, in awe of his mother's unswerving religious faith after a life lived in misery, he brazenly demands that God let her into the Kingdom: "Fetch me the spirit, the son and the father/Tell them their pillar of faith has ascended/It's time now!/My time now!/Give me my/Give me my wings!" It's hard not to get goosebumps when you're listening to this stuff.

Musically, Tool has not strayed too far from the sound they established on Lateralus. The album can be frustratingly derivative of their previous work, but they make up for it by offering great tracks and doing what they do best. The Pot is undoubtedly the best song of 2006 and will go down as a hard rock classic. Vicarious is their best radio single since Aenima, and Rosetta Stoned -- a song sung from the perspective of an alien abductee -- has quickly become a fan favourite: Goddamn, shit the bed.

As usual, all performances are virtuosic and the production is dynamic and creative. They take their times building tracks, not afraid to take it down for extended lengths of time (take Lost Keys for example, where 2 oscillating guitar notes are held and repeated for nearly two minutes). Their arrangements include tablas, native American vocals, and a solo performed on a talkbox. While Danny Carey, Justin Chancellor and Adam Jones rock on this album, this is clearly Maynard's tour de force.

4. Clearlake: Amber

I have a real soft-spot for British rock, which is why it pains me to watch a great band like Coldplay degenerate into sappy and institutionalized irrelevancy. Thankfully there's still a lot of great material coming out of the UK -- the best this year coming from Clearlake and their wonderful CD, Amber.

This album is simple, confident and great.

Clearlake, influenced by bands like Talk Talk, My Bloody Valentine, Doves and the Beta Band, have nailed it with their third release. Amber features solid and diverse tracks, wonderful melodies and driving rock numbers. Track highlights include the beautiful You Can't Have Me, Neon and Amber.

A very underrated band.

5. Built to Spill: You In Reverse

When I heard that Built To Spill was releasing an album this year it never occurred to me that it would end up on my top 20 list (let alone my top 5). It had been five years since their last album, and with this being their 7th, I got to thinking that their best years were behind them.

You In Reverse caught me completely by surprise. This is such a good album -- it has everything that Built To Spill fans have come to love about this band.

Firstly, as a guitar album, You In Reverse kicks. They still sound like they're an indie band that gets carried away with extended jam sessions in the garage. The album opener, Going Against Your Mind, rocks out for several minutes before the track actually comes together; the entire track clocks at nearly 9 minutes.

Second, the songs are simply great. Liar, The Wait and Wherever You Go are brand new tracks that instantly sound like familiar BTS classics. This album also contains several mid-tempo ballads delivered with the expected emotion and skill.

This is a solid album from a classic and classy band that has now re-established itself as one of the world's best groups.

Okay, now that I've listed the top 5, I'm just going to quickly run-down the rest of my top 20:

6. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins: Rabbit Fur Coat
7. Comets on Fire: Avatar
8. M. Ward: Post War
9. Dresden Dolls: Yes, Virginia...
10. Boris: Pink
11. The Mars Volta: Amputechture
12. Deftones: Saturday Night Wrist
13. High on Fire: Blessed Black Wings
14. Joanna Newsom: Ys
15. Thom Yorke: The Eraser
16. Mastodon: Blood Mountain
17. Mogwai: Mr. Beast
18. The Gathering: Home
19. Voivod: Katorz
20. Audioslave: Revelations

Honourable mention (listed alphabetically):

  • Beck: Information
  • Bob Dylan: Modern Times
  • Fiery Furnaces: Bitter Tea
  • Ghostface Killah: Fishscale
  • Graham Coxon: Love Travels at Illegal Speeds
  • Lacuna Coil: Karmacode
  • Matmos: The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of the Beast
  • Muse: Black Holes and Revelations
  • Prince: 3121
  • Pure Reason Revolution: The Dark Third
  • Red Hot Chili Peppers: Stadium Arcadium
  • She Wants Revenge: She Wants Revenge
  • Slayer: Christ Illusion
  • The Dears: Gang of Losers
  • The Raconteurs: Broken Boy Soliders
  • The Twilight Singers: Powder Burns

    Disappointments and over-rated albums:

  • Beatles: Love
  • Gnarls Barkley: St. Elsewhere
  • The Decemberists: The Crane Wife

  • Saturday, October 07, 2006

    Massive Attack live in Toronto, Oct. 6, 2006

    I saw Massive Attack in concert last night at The Carlu in Toronto. It was my first opportunity to see them live. The venue was quite unique -- a refurished concert hall on the 7th floor of a building. Very classy.

    I was with three other friends and we stood quite far to the back, but the view wasn't altogether that bad. I pretty much agree with everything in this concert review from the Toronto Star.

    There's couple of things I'd like to add to the review.

    First, the band hit a turning point afer performing "Angel" which was just past the half-way point. They started to show real intensity after that. The outro piece, "Group Four," was mind bending.

    Second, the monitors were ridiculously quiet. You could actually hear the murmur of the crowd above the audio. Unreal. Frustrated audience members were shouting "turn it up!" For a show like this, considering that it's a band that records with such sonic excellence, it was a complete joke. Worse, the vocals were sibilant heavy (in and around the 6K range) and muffled like crazy. There were times when the vocals were so buried in the mix that I had to laugh in disbelief. Aside from that, the mixing of the rhythm section was spot-on and the guitar tone was outstanding.

    Here's a slide-show of photographs I took at the show.

    Videos ("Angel" and "Black Milk"):

    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Joanna Newsom, Toronto October 4, 2006: Concert review

    Last night I attended one of the most captivating and unique concerts I have ever seen. Yesterday at Toronto’s Mod Club Joanna Newsom, a 24-year-old harp-playing pixie from California, made her Toronto concert debut.

    I discovered Newsom a couple of years ago when she released her debut album, The Milk-Eyed Mender. She plays a fairly classical style of harp but implements her own percussive plucking technique, often adding majestic sweeps and dramatic chord changes. Her singing voice is quite striking and distinctive – a very childlike voice with hints of Bjork and reminiscent of actress Holly Hunter. Her vocal style, along with her brilliantly whimsical and quirky poetic lyrics, gives her music a kind of purity and innocence.

    Musically, she has situated herself in the neo-folk/indie-rock/adult alternative camp, often touring with the likes of Cat Power, Neko Case, and Devendra Banhart. But that’s where the comparisons stop. When she hits the stage there is no back-up band; it’s just Joanna and her harp. And yesterday at the Mod Club, where I’m used to seeing bands rock out, it was very strange to see this sort of set-up.

    Aside from the minimalist arrangement, the first thing that struck me when Joanna hit the stage was her astonishing beauty and presence. Joanna Newsom is one seriously attractive young lady. She wore a red dress with black stockings and her long blonde hair flowed down her back. As she sat down and started to position herself, she nervously noted how the microphone set-up had changed since the sound-check. At this point, the audience – which filled the Mod Club to overflowing – was deathly silent in anticipation. I don't think I was the only one in attendance who was eager to see what Newsom would be like live.

    And then she started playing and singing. It took the sound technician a few moments to adjust, the acoustics being dramatically different from a few moments before when opening act Ohbijou was playing. But for whatever reason, the mix was never perfect (the vocals had a tinny, tunnel-like quality); Newsom’s delicate and soft-spoken performance demanded silence from the audience so that they could hear all the nuances. Her graceful and intricate hand movements were mesmerizing, the audience completely captivated. When her first song, "Bridges and Balloons," was complete the audience exploded into applause. This went on throughout the evening, the audience offering their appreciation for an inordinate length of time following the completion of each piece.

    During “The Book of Right-On” the lights went down low and a blue light lit up from behind. It made for an excellent effect as her hands brushed back and forth along the strings. When she finished, however, she asked that no saturated light be used because it made her strings appear invisible to her.

    She completely enthralled the audience with not just her virtuosic abilities, but with her charm and grace as well. Soon into the concert I realized that this was not a suitable venue for someone like Joanna Newsom. The bar along the side of the Mod Club was busy with activity, and the incessant clinking of beer bottles and the slamming of fridge doors often competed with Newsom on stage. Half-way during the concert a rock band began playing in the basement on the second stage; the low end of the drums and bass were extremely distracting. And of course, there always has to be a pair of idiots who make inappropriate and rude remarks during the show.

    No, Joanna shouldn’t be playing at the Mod Club. Next time around, I fully expect to see her perform at a venue like Roy Thomson Hall or the Hummingbird Centre. Given the quality of her new material and the enthusiasm of her fans, this is all but assured.

    Click here for a slide-show of images I took at the show.

    Click below to see Joanna perform "The Book of Right-On."

    And here's Joanna's finale:

    Sunday, October 01, 2006

    Nuit Blanche Toronto 2006

    Last night was Nuit Blanche in Toronto -- the night that the entire city pulls an all-nighter. It's an amazing opportunity to see some local art and to reclaim public space.

    I was with friends last night and managed to stay up until about 3:15AM. I wussed out and couldn't last any longer than that. Nuit Blanche runs until 7:00AM.

    Here are some photos that I took (click for slideshow):


    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    Tool, September 23, Toronto: Review

    Last night Tool played the Molson Amphitheatre in Toronto, marking the third time I’ve had an opportunity to see them perform live. And as I’m usually reminded at their shows, there are rock bands out there, and then there’s Tool. It’s truly an experience to seem live.

    I went to the show with 5 other friends, all of us die-hard fans. Our seats were in the front of the 300 section and off to the side, which is still closer to the stage than half way. Having seen many concerts at the outdoor Molson Amphitheatre, I knew not to expect anything acoustically; the PA system there is often mediocre. All considered, however, Tool sounded great last night.

    As is so often the case, the quality of the show is not always in the sound quality but in the precision of the performances, the amount of energy the band is willing to give out and the vibe given out by the crowd. Last night had all of these things in spades.

    Maynard, who is battling an illness, came out wearing a Leaf’s jersey. They opened with “Stinkfist,” “The Pot,” and “46&2.” Maynard was very animated and established a physical presence on stage that I’d never seen before. He would crouch over and spread his legs in characteristic fashion, lean into the mic, and then prowl around on stage. Maynard would often shift between singing duty and playing the keyboards.

    The set was quite minimal with two small video screens off the side displaying their usual artistic eye candy and clips from their videos. Above the band was a large black backdrop which was lit up with lights that created dynamic patterns. The floor could be lit up like a disco floor, as could a 6' wall that stood behind the band. These were used to brilliant effect. One specific moment comes to mind when they were playing “Lateralus” and the set was ablaze in fiery washes of orange and red.

    And then there were the lasers. As fog rose up near stage area, beams of green lasers would shoot up and sweep up and down. Individual beams were used to spectacular effect during “10,000 Days.”

    Musically the band was intense and creative, performing alternative intros and outros, constantly keeping the fans guessing as to what they were going to do next. As my friend noted during the concert, “Tool does whatever the hell Tool wants to do.” And that pretty much sums up what this band is all about. There’s very little that they do that can be considered cliché or run-of-the-mill. Even the way they position themselves on stage is unique; Maynard, the lead vocalist, stands far at the back next to Danny Carey, the drummer, while the two guitarists, Justin Chancellor and Adam Jones, stand out front.

    The highlight of the concert for me, oddly enough, was not a musical moment, but rather a moment when the audience took over to show their appreciation for the band. Late into the show Tool decided to take a break onstage. Danny moved himself away from his kit and sat on the stairs beside Justin and Adam. Maynard was lying down on his back next to them. After a few seconds the audience started to hold up their lighters en masse.

    Now, let me tell you, I’ve been to a fair share of concerts and I’ve seen the lighters go up time and time again – but nothing compared to last night. It was like looking into a sea of tiny flames as far as the eye could see. And this went on for what seemed an eternity. Even the members of Tool held up their lighters. It was truly a magical moment. Goosebumps.

    As for a musical highlight, it was “Lateralus” that moved me the most. Other strong songs included “Schism” and “10,000 Days.” They did not play any songs from Undertow, which for me was a disappointment.

    This was the most fun I’ve had yet at a Tool concert, and I can only hope they’ll come back to Toronto soon. Here’s the entire setlist:

    The Pot
    46 & 2
    Lost Keys / Rosetta Stoned
    Wings / 10,000 Days

    Saturday, September 23, 2006

    Roger Waters and the Dark Side of the Moon tour

    I'm a huge Pink Floyd fan, so it was with great anticipation and excitement that I went to see Roger Waters in concert last night at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. It was my first opportunity to see a former member of Pink Floyd perform live. Suffice it to say this concert was a big deal for me.

    Tickets for this show were larcenously expensive at $110 a pop. My seat was virtually dead centre stage, but back about 60 rows from where the far goal-line would be. I've had worse. The live production offered extravagant visuals, so no mater where you sat there was plenty of eye candy -- including explosions, fireworks, three video screens, a flying pig (of course), a floating astronaut, and plenty of fog effects. The lighting was for the most part low and understated, a reflection of the Dark Side of the Moon theme.

    The visuals were so good, actually, that it was at times distracting. I often found myself lost in the images, which included spacescapes, psychedelic imagery, and even comic-book style story boards; it was easy to forget that you were at a music concert.

    The show was divided into 3 major sections. During the first part Waters played a number of Floyd songs that are mostly associated with him, while adding some material from his solo efforts. The opening set list went like this:

    - In The Flesh
    - Mother
    - Set The Controls For the Heart Of The Sun
    - Shine On You Crazy Diamond
    - Have A Cigar, Wish You Were Here
    - Southampton Dock
    - The Fletcher Memorial Home
    - Perfect Sense parts 1 and 2
    - Leaving Beirut
    - Sheep

    These first 10 songs were performed so well and were arguably superior in quality and punch than the Dark Side of the Moon (DSOFTM) section and the encore. Waters’s band consisted of 11 performers including himself and they played wonderfully (i.e. they did a great job emulating the absent Pink Floyd members, including the virtuoso guitar playing of David Gilmour). Considering that the concert was in a hockey arena, I can't complain too much about the sound, although there were at times some suspicious mixing decisions for the vocals. Personal highlights for me included "Set the Controls," "Sheep" and "Have a Cigar."

    Waters was, as usual, very political. He is known for his left-wing views and his pacificism, and in this time of geopolitical stress, Waters let it be known that he is not a happy camper. The trademark floating pig flew above us and was covered with messages, including one that read, "Don't be lead to the slaughter." Waters took several shots at George W. Bush, including a snide remark about his 'Texas education' and his comment about war actually being peace. He also had some nasty things to say about the religious right. Waters also took some jabs at Tony blair and mentioned how he feels the English have become stooges of the United States.

    Waters has introducd a new song during this tour, titled "Leaving Beirut." It's his recollection of being 17 years old and stuck in the Middle East trying to hitch-hike home. He was taken in by an Arab family and was overwhelmed by their generosity and concern. He used this story as a way to expose current misconceptions and issues as they pertain to the current Mid-East crisis.

    It's my understanding that much of Waters's anti-bush and anti-war commentary is not going over too well in some parts of the US. He was booed recently in New Jersey. Last night's audience appeared appreciative of Waters's message, but that's unsurprising here in Canada where anti-Americanism has become our national pastime.

    After the opening 1.5 hour set the band took a 15 minute break in preparation for performing DSOTM in its entirety. This was the part I was eagerly waiting for -- and Waters didn't disappoint. All 11 band members took part in an outstanding recreation of the entire album. I had goosebumps running down my back during the whole thing. The videos in particular were brilliant, all set inside a circle representing the moon.

    The band returned for an encore which consisted of the following tracks:
    - The Happiest Days Of Our Lives
    - Another Brick In The Wall (Pt 2)
    - Vera
    - Bring the Boys back Home
    - Comfortably Numb

    "Bring the Boys..." was particularly poignant given the political messages, as was Dollars and Sense from the opening set.

    The only downside of the concert for me was the dearth of Floyd material pre-1973 (a period which I love, but is somewhat obscure). It would have been neat to hear some Syd Barrett era songs, or even something like Grandchester Meadows or Echos. Ah, well – I’ll have to continue suffering from the tyranny of the masses and their fixation on post-DSOTM Floyd.

    The entire concert lasted 2.5 hours -- not bad at all and an epic by today’s standards. And even at that length, I didn't want it to end. Awesome, I truly had a blast last night -- a night I'll remember for some time to come.

    Now, I've got Tool to go to on Saturday :-) Life is good.

    Oh, and Dylan in November……

    Tuesday, September 05, 2006


    Florida's various themeparks now have their fair share of roller coasters. It had been a while since I visited amusement parks, so I was quite surprised to see the next generation of roller coasters -- the so-called 'megacoasters.' These things are truly amazing and even awe inspiring.

    There were two in particular that stood out in my mind: SheiKra at Busch Gardens and Kraken at Sea World.

    SheiKra is what's referred to as a dive coaster (or diving machine coaster) -- essentially a roller coaster that features a fairly lengthy 90-degree vertical drop. In this case, it has an impressive 200 foot vertical drop and a 138 foot 80-degree drop. It also features a 145 foot tall Immelmann loop.

    SheiKra is the first vertical-drop roller coaster in the United States, and the first roller coaster of its kind to include an inversion (in this case, an Immelman Loop) and a true 90 degree vertical drop. The other two coasters of its type are Oblivion at Alton Towers theme park in the United Kingdom and G5/Flying Submarine at Janfusun Fancyworld amusement park in Taiwan.

    I have to admit, when I first saw SheiKra, I seriously considered not doing it -- it looked that intimidating. I wasn't sure what was worse, the 90-degree drop or the extreme height. By the end of the day, however, I was determined to go on it, convinced that if I did not I would seriously regret it.

    As I waited in line, and as I boarded SheiKra, I was overwhelmed with feelings of surrealness. This was the first roller coaster in quite some time that had me this freaked. Once at the top of the 45 degree climb I could see much of Tampa Bay below me. Then the coaster re-adjusted itself as it prepared for the 200 foot drop. I took a deep breath and down we went. Looking straight ahead and going straight down at extreme speed, the experience seemed to last forever. It was as frightening as it was exhilarating.

    Once at the bottom, the coaster smoothly re-joined the world of gravity and we were thrust into the Immelmann loop and given yet another drop. At this point during the ride I started to feel the effects of higher than usual G-forces, including blood loss from the head and my extremities (I felt light headed and my hands were tingling). I actually worried for a brief while that I might lose consciousness. After the ride, I had to fight a bit of dizziness and a mild head-ache, both of which quickly subsided.

    Awesome. SheiKra was everything you would want in a roller coaster.

    The following day I was at Sea World, which features the excellent Kraken roller coaster. This megacoaster was not nearly as daunting as SheiKra, but it was elegant and thrilling.

    It was the first floorless coaster in Florida – but it’s not an inverted coaster; there’s nothing above you or under you, just the rail at the center. It has three tunnels, including one in Kraken's lair. Elements within this coaster include a loop, dive loop, zero-G roll, cobra roll, a second loop, and a corkscrew.

    Again, like SheiKra, this coaster pushed the limits of my own biology. I probably don't have the 'right stuff' to be a pilot -- this much I'm sure. But I have to wonder, at what point do the megacoasters start to push the limits of human tolerance? I'm sure the developers are aware of these limits. The trick is to keep pushing the envelope and making novel and exciting rides, but ones that are still human ridable.

    Star Wars Gift Shop at Disney's MGM Studios

    Having recently visited 6 theme parks in Florida, it's safe to say that I've seen my fair share of gift shops. There was one in particular, however, that stood out: the Star Wars gift shop at Disney's MGM Studios in Orlando.

    It was total Star Wars geekdom. I couldn't believe the stuff they had there, so I took the opportunity to snap some pictures. Click here to see all the photos or click here to see the slideshow.

    Sunday, July 09, 2006

    Beats, Breaks & Culture 2006

    I was at Harbour Front yesterday for the annual Beats, Breaks and Culture festival celebrating electronic music and related culture. Here are some photos and videos:

    Click to see photo slideshow

    Jamie Lidell live in concert:

    Konono No. 1 live in concert (a Congolese band that makes instruments from spare parts and scrap items:

    Sunday, June 04, 2006

    Victoria Day 2006

    Click image to see slideshow.

    Flight to San Fransisco

    Click image to see slideshow.

    Friday, May 19, 2006

    Mogwai @ The Phoenix: Video

    Mogwai, "Hunted By A Freak" live in Toronto, May 16, 2006.

    Wednesday, May 17, 2006

    Mogwai @ The Phoenix

    I saw Mogwai last night at the Phoenix Concert theatre -- one of my favourite venues in Toronto to see a show (click to see a slideshow).

    The Phoenix is supposed to be the loudest club in Toronto, but I don't think Mogwai earned their "world's loudest band" credentials last night. Recent Doves and Meshuggah shows that I've seen were definitely louder. That said, I was grateful to have my earplugs. My entire body shook at times last night. I think I heard the speakers crackle a few times, which may have explained why the volume never reached critical levels; the mixer may have had no choice but to ease off a little bit due to monitor limitations.

    As for the show itself -- absolutely wonderful. Everything you'd expect and hope for at a Mogwai concert. The atmosphere was excellent as the club will filled to the brim with what was clearly a large crew of devoted fans. People were packed inside, and it made for a hot, sticky, and smelly evening.

    The stage was filled with many technological wonders. Mogwai are clearly gear freaks. I loved the way the band played with dynamics and worked the exquisite light show into their act. Lots of lovely blues and reds intermixed with some foggy effects. It was a visually intense show with lights flashing regularly directly into the audience.

    Mogwai were great last night, pulling off their material with class and expertise.

    Last night's set list:

    # yes! i am a long way from home
    # friend of the night
    # killing all the flies
    # travel is dangerous
    # hunted by a freak
    # mogwai fear satan
    # i know you are but what am i?
    # acid food
    # summer
    # may nothing but happiness come through your door
    # helicon 1
    # we're no here

    # ratts of the capital
    # glasgow megasnake

    Tags: .

    Friday, April 14, 2006

    Short, sweet, and one of my best games ever

    I played as black.

    What made this even sweeter is that it was a tournament game and my opponent's ranking was nearly 200 more points than mine.

    Challenge me.

    Friday, March 24, 2006

    The Gathering @ The Big Bop

    I saw The Gathering at the Big Bop last night in Toronto. It was an excellent show and I had an unbelievably good time. The venue was small, and the attendance even smaller, but those who showed up were an enthusiastic bunch. I could tell that the band appreciated the crowd, particuarly Anneke, and they played their hearts out.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the photos I took at the show.



    Tags: , .

    Big Squid @ The Big Bop

    Big Squid opened last night for The Gathering. They gave an intense and kinetic performance. Their lead singer, Aurielle Gregory, was absolutely gorgeous, all decked out in goth gear. It was truly love at first site :-)

    Click here to see a slideshow of the photos I took at the show.


    Tags: , .

    Monday, March 06, 2006

    Ripley's macromutations

    Robert Ripley, the creator of Ripley's Believe it or Not!, had a thing for documenting macromutations, both in humans and in animals.

    Most biologists believe that adaptation occurs through the accumulation of small mutations. However, some argue that macromutations (ie large-scale mutations) are responsible. This theory has generally been disregarded as the major explanation for adaptation, since a mutation on this scale is regarded as more likely to be detrimental than beneficial (eg. a frog with eyes on the inside of its mouth).

    I visited Ripley's museum in Niagara Falls recently, and I got to see firsthand some of these oddities. I took some photos as I ventured through the facility (which, from the outside, resembles a fallen Empire State Building, including a defiant King Kong up top):

    Two pupils in each eye.

    Man with a horn sticking out the back of his skull.

    Two-headed goat.

    Two-headed magpie.

    Two-headed boar.

    An eight-legged frog.

    This is most likely a fused twin rather than a macromutation.

    Another fused twin.

    One-eyed pig. Probably a fake.

    And here are a couple of fakes:

    Fur bearing trout.

    The (in)famous mermaid hoax.

    I love this one.

    Sunday, February 26, 2006

    Niagara Falls 26-Feb-06

    Took the kids to Niagara Falls this weekend.

    The Falls looks quite different in the winter.

    This is the US side of the falls. The snow and frost was spectacular.

    Clifton Hill -- as goddy as always, and goddier every year. But the kids just adored it. I can remember being their age and feeling the same way.

    This is what will happen to you when you eat at Burger King.

    Sunday, February 19, 2006

    Skiing Blue Mountain

    I finally got to Blue Mountain today for some unbelievable skiing. It was about -10 degrees celcius with a windchill about minus a zillion. I thought my face was going to fall off when going up the lifts. But the snow was luscious.

    This is me at the top of the Mountain without proper face gear. Later in the day I put on a scarf and a pair of goggles. I was wearing two hats, gloves, two pairs of trackpants, splash-pants, 3 shirts, and a coat.

    My mom and dad at the top of the mountain getting ready for their second run of the day.

    The recently retired South Chair Lift is now an historical site.

    Mmmmmm, moguls :-) Lots of moguls. I'm proud to say that I didn't fall once today.

    This is me going up the chairlift late in the day. Notice how cold I look. After I took this photograph -- with my bare hands exposed to the cold -- I thought my fingers were going to fall off.

    My parents on the lift directly behind me. Man, I love Blue Mountain, and hopefully we'll be able to make it out again this season.