Friday, August 25, 2006

MFA : short for...

I was doing some research on music and aggression a while back, which naturally led me to heavy metal. I am, I would say, more than peripherally aquainted with this genre, having spent my high school years caught in the thick of a banger maelstrom (or should I say Maëlström) in my tiny home town in southern Manitoba. Whatever I absorbed and have retained since then was done entirely through osmosis, as I have never in my life pressed play and cranked it up to 11 when a Judas Priest tape was on deck. All the really cool kids were bangers. Their standard uniform of dress was the raglan-sleeved metal band shirt (Mondays = Iron Maiden, Tuesdays = AC/DC, Wednesdays = Mötley Crüe, etc. reserving that most special of days, Fridays, for the Mother of all metal bands: METALLICA), paired with super tight black jeans (this is before stretch denim, so rips beneath the arse were de rigeur), high top runners, and lessen there be a slight chill in the air, the LUMBERJACK SHIRT. Preferably in black and red. Astrologically-speaking, black is associated with the planet Saturn, a male planet, typified by dominant behaviour. Everything in the universe is connected.

My Internet research led me to the Metallica Fan Association, (of course, now that I'm trying to track down the source to provide y'all witha handy link I come up with nothing. Why don't I write these things down when I find them? Apologies to the author). Anyway, this logo (above) appeared on their site. MFA are three letters that I've been branded with, because in my world, they stand for Master of Fine Arts, which I am. Yes, you may call me Master. Or Mistress if you prefer. The point is, my original thought was to screen print a bunch of t-shirts and sell them to MFA students who are in the thick of this utopian "it's all about memememememe!!!!" bubble. I never did get around to it, but now that's what this bloody blog is for!

Back to the heavy metal. There is something strangely appealing about it, I must admit. Something that puts you in touch with your inner neanderthal, reaches into your inner core and makes your jaw go slack and your tongue stick out and your eyes bug out and your limbs play air drums or air guitar, whichever you fancy. I'm partial to drums myself.

In "Sound of the Beast: The Complete Headbanging History of Heavy Metal", Ian Christe writes: "As ordained by Black Sabbath, heavy metal was a complex maelstrom (there's that word again) of neurosis and desire." That's what I was looking for - that mix of emotional and psychological unease that is the basis for much creative activity.

For a brief primer on the basics of metaldom, here's an article in The Manitoban that could save you from looking too square the next time you inadvertently find yourself strolling into an outdoor metal fest. Good luck.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Sadies : HOT HOT HOT

Toronto-based quartet The Sadies played the Main Hall in Montreal on August 18. The sweat was flying as the tallest band in Canada blistered through a marathon set of songs from their previous four albums. Seeing The Sadies play their special brand of high energy country/surf/rock live before your eyes and ears is an experience worth repeating again and again (as I've done). I think I lost about 15% of my hearing as a result of standing at the front, but a couple days later the old eardrums seem to have fully recovered. One highlight was a surprise appearance by Greg Keelor who was in town to do a show with Blue Rodeo. He joined them up on stage to do a few numbers for the already-drunk-on-love-gone-berserk crowd. Mr. Keelor, along with over 20 other guests, including Neko Case, The Good Brothers, Jon Spencer, Jim Cuddy and many others appear on The Sadies' latest release, The Sadies In Concert, Volume One. Good times indeed.

The Sadies are (left to right in photo): Travis Good (guitar, fiddle, vocals), Sean Dean (upright bass), Mike Belitsky (drums, vocals), Dallas Good (guitar, vocals, keyboard)
Photo credit: Amanda Schenk (Dallas' woman)

Curios, collectibles and other crap

A few of my favourite things to collect are old 'home economics' type manuals, such as recipe books, etiquette and hygiene books and how-to encyclopedias from the 1940s - '70s.

Spot the ham: 20 points
From The General Foods Kitchen's Cookbook, 1959

Now that my student days are over, I've grown to hate potlucks. Next time I'm invited to one, this is what I'm bringing: Liver-sausage Pineapple. You've been warned.
From Better Homes and Gardens New Cook Book, 1953

Since knitting has made such a huge comeback (or is that over already? I can't keep up), I thought I'd show the world just how creative it can get. This is from a book called Royal Knits, by Nicolette McGuire. Don't ya just love that British wit?
Thanks to Tod and Joanne for this little gem.

I live for this stuff. I think it should be compulsory reading for every adolescent in the land, even if it's hilariously outdated by now. LEARN SOME MANNERS KIDS! Read on... (click on the images to enlarge)

Pay close attention to Chapter 22: NECKING. This will be on the test.

While we're on the subject, you girls out there may want to get your hands on these volumes. Their tables of contents list many informative topics such as: The Form Divine - The Ideal Breast, Racial Differences; Making the Most of Your Figure - The Psychological Approach, Dangers of Breast Massage, Mechanical Aids; The Art of the Corsetière - Subterfuges and 'Gay Deceivers', Special Support for Special Occasions.
Sorry - no sneak peek at the pictures inside. This is a family friendly blog.
Thanks to Shari. (How could she ever part with them?)
From 1948 and 1944 respectively.

I found this at Fanny's Fabrics in the basement of The Bay in downtown Winnipeg. They had a post-Christmas sale and this item looked quite forlorn in the discount bin. Deceiving as it is, it's actually a uh, candy cane ornament for the Christmas tree. It has a little slit at the top through which you can stuff some pot-pourri to make your fake pine tree smell like cinnamon and roses or something. Looks to me something else could be stuffed in there...

Thursday, August 10, 2006


Winnipeg is strange. My sentiments for it have changed since leaving 10 years ago. There was a time when I could never imagine moving back there for fear of being smothered by its smallness, over-familiarity, and isolation. Now each time I go I try to experience the city as a tourist would, but one who is familiar enough with it to know where the real gems are.
Winnipeg is one of those plucky cities that has grit and history and enough strange-but-true facts that make its citizens proud, no matter how preposterous they seem. The 'Peg's got CBC "Heritage Minutes" galore (Winnie the Pooh, anyone?). But many of its citizens possess another strange sense of pride - like being dedicated to the pathos of living there.
I was there visiting my family and friends recently and had been warned by another ex-pat that the province is in the throes of another of it's "take-pride" campaigns: Manitoba - Spirited Energy! as evidenced by this massive banner right smack dab in the middle of the city's most famous intersection, Portage and Main, which is, of course, completely cut off to pedestrians.

In 1994 or thereabouts, Winnipeg attempted another civic pride campaign titled "Winnipeg: 100 Reasons to Love it!" which featured a checklist of unique features our city can boast about such as "the beaches", or "the women". Some people would sport this list on various merch like t-shirts. I remember the list was printed askew so as to suggest, oh, I dunno, a certain cool edginess or something. This current "re-branding" of Manitoba was launched in an effort to change the pervasive attitude of cynicism and negativity that many citizens feel about their home province (who, me?), as evidenced so acutely by local bands such as The Weakerthans, and by this image below that a friend sent along.

So to redeem this situation, here is my shortlist of things to love about Winnipeg:

Located in the Exchange District, the Royal Albert Arms Hotel is home of The Albert, a legendary watering hole where the early evening shift-change from drunken old men to indie and punk rockers still occurs every night. I have fond memories of this place from when I used to frequent it in the early '90s, on their infamous Thursday Draft Nights - I reckon the draft is probably not 69 cents a glass anymore, but just as watered-down. The Albert is where I saw The New Duncan Imperials, Duotang (pre-boom and bust), where I had my first kiss with my first love (classy!), and where, for a brief but intense period, I inaugurated The Star Wars Pinball Club. Good clean fun.

Next stop: Albert Street Burgers, home of the Fat Al. A tiny, homemade fast-food joint like no other, it's unique characteristic is the arrangement it has with the Fleet Framing shop across the street, which has the front of its store set up with modest tables, chairs, napkin dispensers a mustard and ketchup bottles. Just keep your greasy paws off the mat board.

(image: Colin Kent)

There's a cluster of three Nutty Club buildings just off the Exchange District which house among other things, artist studios. I doubt they still make candy there but I'm glad they haven't painted over the signage.

This was encouraging. The Forks Market (a big touristy area at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers) developed a skate park which actually seems to attract real skateboarders. What's most impressive is the inclusion of not only the usual bowl-type facility, but a reconstructed plaza-type area complete with stairs, railings and concrete benches. Just like downtown! Now maybe those pesky kids will quit terrorizing frightened business people with their board-flipping antics! Get your own stainless steel handrail!

Any self-respecting burger lover visiting Winnipeg must make a pilgrimmage to VJ's on Main street near Broadway. Get the Double Special. There will likely be a lineup, but it's worth the wait. Honourable mention goes to the Dairy Whip on Marion who make a super duper chili burger n' fries. I'll try to get a pic the next time I go. They've got a great vintage neon sign with a big pink springing arrow.

Some more great spots to visit:

Rae and Jerry's Steakhouse (they have a great 'Columbo' style lounge in black and red which hasn't changed since the late 1950s)

Bridge Drive In (BDI). Great ice-cream. Walk off those calories by taking a stroll over the bridge onto Kingston Row.

Still much more to come. Winnipeg truly is one great city. Too bad the people behind those feel-good re-branding schemes don't know where to look.