Wednesday, 27 December 2017


Ten Years After

On the lower right hand side of this site there always has and always will be a link to The Delete Bin, one of the most thoughtful and well written music blogs on the lifehouse grid. On December 18th, exactly one decade to the day, founder, writer and editor Rob Jones published his last post.

“I was mostly interested in talking about pop music as a means to understanding what it is to be alive and human. I felt like it was important work to do, as well as being a lot of fun. In terms of pure numbers, everyone loved blogs of the kind The Delete Bin was in 2008-09, which is roughly when I enjoyed quite a bit of traffic and interaction. I was lucky to get a number of regular visitors and commenters; very smart and articulate people who would add dimension to what I had written. That’s how that relationship used to be when it came to bloggers and blogs. It’s a lot tougher these days to be heard above the din and to get a sense of that connection.”

I first became acquainted with Rob on a music chat board with a British URL about 15 years ago. We learned that we were neighbours, sort of, the Rocky Mountains in the way. We’ve met over pints of beer on a couple of occasions at the Lennox pub on Granville Street in downtown Vancouver. I was a sporadic, irregular contributor to The Delete Bin. Rob said to me once, “You know, you should start your own blog.”

“When I started The Delete Bin, I knew I wanted to talk to people who didn’t already have a fixed opinion on everything that moves; I wanted to talk to people who were ready to be amazed by something they’d never heard before, or had heard but never thought about in a certain way. Aside from that, and to be honest, one of my biggest motivations to start my own thing was just to have some vehicle to force me to write something new every day, however that turned out, and for that to be mine. I wasn’t even sure if anyone would join me in my pursuit, or that I had much to really say that would resonate with anyone. It was just calisthenics at first.”

The Delete Bin was a doubly inspired endeavour. The name evokes a bygone era of vinyl, of record stores with dusty racks purveying discounted albums with the corners of their sleeves clipped, of radio play lists generated by payola instead of corporate computer programs; the days of a parallel and thriving music press. Rob says, “I got into reading music journalism primarily when I lived in England where that kind of in-depth writing and music history is treated pretty seriously, and not strictly as a means of furthering celebrity or selling ad space. Great music journalism reminds me of how important artists are to civilization. Artists’ efforts and the fruits of it help us to understand each other, to empathize with each other.”

The masterstroke came once Rob had found his stride. He avoided lists and the current hypes. The majority of his posts were narrowly focused, insightful, entertaining essays about specific songs: new releases, obscurities or classics. “Listen to this, good people!” That format allowed The Delete Bin to evolve from a daily scan into an archival resource. The content can never get stale because great records never die, and the Internet is forever presently.

“As much as I love the album format, I realized fairly early on that when it came to writing about music, it was ‘the song’ that is the base unit for me. That really helped to unlock a direction for the writing. From there, it was a lot easier to figure out what the nature of pop music and artistry is for. It was about the concept of connection as the prime motivator for creating anything meant to be consumed on a wide scale, whether that’s a song or a piece of writing about a song. Songs are written for different reasons. But for me the most interesting ones are those that touch on something personal, but also have some bearing on the human condition in some capacity.”

Ten years burned down the road, it’s time for a change. “I’m pretty excited about co-hosting the Deeper Cuts podcast. We touch on many of the same things as I tried to touch on with The Delete Bin, with a particular focus on the balance between personal associations with specific pieces of music, and how that translates from past to present, from person to person. It’s a unique approach, and I think it’s resonant.” The beat goes on. “There’s so much great stuff being made right now and so many ways to hear it. It’s a great time to be a music fan.”

Monday, 18 December 2017


The Eternal Running of the Heaven Stakes

The scene is an immense, infinite oval track. The infield is filled, rife with promises, rituals, weapons of all types, instruments of torture, sacred texts, and religious icons including statuary, stained glass and paintings. The grandstand, large enough to seat every person on the planet is decorated with festive bunting. Hawkers move about selling souvenirs, hope and hypocrisy.

Geoff: If you’re just joining us, welcome to the Heaven Stakes, the longest and longest-running race in the history of humanity. Track conditions are poor, the weather is abysmal and there is darkness all around. That said, this race has never been about the present so much as the reward beyond the finish line. Some have mused that the closed nature of the loop is beyond irony. I’m Geoff your host, sharing the booth with me, as usual, is the Other Voice in My Head.

Other Voice in My Head: Hi, Geoff. Great to be here. Glad to be alive and living in the moment.

G: Likewise, O.V. Good to hear your voice again. And just to recap: the Atheists and Existentialists were early scratches and the Puritans and Quakers have dropped out.

OViMH: But hold your horses, it’s still a very crowded and complicated field. You know, Geoff, I always figured there are, what, three or four major religions on Earth?

G: You would think, O.V. But then you start talking about history, about sects and schisms…

OViMH: Don’t forget the culties!

G: And the members of various cults… By the way, this just in, the Raelians have killed themselves.

OViMH: That’s no way to run a race, you need to compete. Be more like the Mormons with a few extra fillies on the track, if you know what I mean.

G: The Catholics have changed jockeys, but still, there’s a tremendous amount of baggage to be hauled, centuries’ worth.

OViMH: So, Geoff, who do you like in this contest, this Run for Our Souls? I mean, there’s plenty to choose from and so where do you place your bet? By the same token, it’s a wager you can’t afford to lose, really. Or can you? Does any of it matter? Is it just an intellectual game?

G: Tough question, O.V. It’s all a human construct, isn’t it? The Lutherans have been complaining about the rules for 500 years. The Jews recently gained a home field advantage and you’ve got to like that chip on their shoulder. I wonder if the zealot strategy of the Sunnis and Shiites will backfire. Tough call.

OViMH: Well, you know the Seventh Day Adventists will always be a day late. And when was the last time you saw a Jehovah’s Witness? Get it?

G: You’re killing me, O.V. Hang on, there’s an orange, fiery flash down on the straightaway. I smell sulphur. It looks like Satan’s making a move. Audacious! He’s opened up a fast lane, a veritable highway! He’s on the inside approaching the turn!

OViMH: He’s always had an intense, albeit small group of supporters. They make their presence known everywhere you go.

G: Look at that little devil go! We could all be going to Hell, O.V.! But don’t bet on it! Here come the Baptists! The Baptists, so prim, pinched and proper, are giving chase! They’re calling for donations to run the dark horse off the track!

OViMH: A little tithing will do ya, apparently. Got to love those plucky evangelicals. Let’s see that again in slow-motion.

G: Here we go. Satan cuts to the inside past the Sikhs and the Anglicans. You can see the Baptists begin to thump the bejesus out of their horse ‘Bible.’

OViMH: Freeze it, freeze it right there. Now, look at the rear of the pack. Behind even the Parsees and the Pantheistic Mythologies, you can see the Buddhists. It’s as if their heads are in the clouds or something, as if the race has little or no meaning. Cool, calm, collected, la-di-da, laid back, they’re just so, so…

G: Zen?

OViMH: I was going to say, out of it, Rasta, almost: 'Every little thing's going to be all right.'

G: Love the way you lob those segues to me, O.V., just saying! Speaking of out of it, let’s break away from our broadcast for a brief, paid political commercial interruption.

Saturday, 16 December 2017



Stats Guy and I, charter members of the Tuesday Night Beer Club, have been close friends for some 35 years. He is a confirmed bachelor, and a packrat, but most of all a packrat. I have not been inside his apartment in over a decade. A couple of months ago he said he’d ordered some new bookshelves. I offered my assembly services because the task seemed like a good excuse to get inside his warren and see for myself the books, music and films he hoards. I imagine the floors are bowed. I am relieved that I don’t rent the unit directly beneath his place.

While medicine chests, closets and underwear drawers are strictly off limits, I’m the type of guest who will, given half a chance, examine your libraries of movies, magazines, literature and music. I’m a spine reader, different from a chiropractor. I won’t judge if you possess The da Vinci Code instead of The Confessions, but I will make a mental note. ABBA’s Gold over Endless Summer by the Beach Boys? Hmm. Which solo Beatle’s works drew you? I’m on the hunt for a slight slice of insight into you.

Netflix Derek and I have been close friends for maybe five years. Our homes are around the corner from each other’s. He’s one of those people who reinforced the hidden magic of existence for me: you meet a stranger and feel a bond and realize that this other person will ultimately become a confederate and confidante. You recognize a friend, a kindred soul even as you shake hands with someone you’ve never met before. He loves cars and I love songs about cars. We’re not that different.

My take on life here at the Crooked 9 is that any item or box that leaves the house permanently is a good, good thing. Godspeed. Conversely, whatever enters - groceries, cigarettes and beer aside – is bad. Last weekend Netflix Derek telephoned to say he was de-cluttering and would I enjoy flipping through two banker’s boxes of his 70s vinyl before he dispatched them to a better place, elsewhere. Would I? Would I! There’s always space for an overlooked musical gem or two but not much room for greedy acquisitiveness. I want to get rid of stuff too.

Whilst cherry-picking Netflix Derek’s herd cull I realized that if we’d known each other in high school or university, we’d have spent a lot of hours discussing music together. Our tastes back then would’ve overlapped significantly with enough deviation to argue about. I’ll see your Electric Chairs and raise you the Vibrators.

Sound is remarkable voodoo. You can sense it, but you can’t see it, touch it or taste it. Music is a time machine. Because of graphic design and packaging, sometimes you don’t even have to hear it. I’ve got two cardboard bins of Netflix Derek’s memories on the living room carpet by the stereo. What these sleeves, slip-sliding away, evoke for him, I can’t begin to guess. Maybe Lust for Life and Johnny the Fox remind him of downshifting, ripping his MG along the back roads beyond the outskirts of Edmonton. The Kick Inside might summon up a long gone girl and an unforgettable summer.

What intrigues is plausible synchronicity. It’s entirely possible that one night years ago we were both spinning Coney Island Baby at the exact same time, three provinces apart. My mental scrapbook which accompanies that album as a phantom insert would be entirely different from Netflix Derek’s, fewer pages, maybe many more. I don’t know and I suspect I never will. My favourite song on it is ‘Charlie’s Girl’ and I’ll bet he preferred another track and anyway, speculation is moot because Lou’s since been consigned to the delete bin. The big question for me is: what did he keep? I need to know. I’ll be an invitee at his place New Year’s Eve, a midnight snooper; a new year and a new opportunity knocking.

Thursday, 7 December 2017


And the Kitchen Sink

I don’t spend a lot of time rooting around in the cupboard beneath the kitchen sink because I’m not an amateur chemist who synthesizes crystal meth from abrasive cleaning products. But since which fruit flavoured dishwashing liquid to use at any particular time is a curiously compelling conundrum, there is always a selection, I do poke my head underneath once in a while. Recently, I was dismayed to discover a pool of grey water. I noted the blistered paint on the rear wall; black, mouldy stains cascaded like descending fireworks effects proximate to the pipe joints.

“Ann, we’ve got a problem.”

The drain has always been slow, beyond the scope of commercial cleaners. Well maintained for the most part too although who knows what has swirled away over thrice daily dishes over three decades. Dan the Demolition Man found a butter knife lodged in the U-joint. Pete the Plumber found a piece of a previous plumber’s snake. The pipe itself was kitchen cannelloni, an iron tube stuffed with petrified black sludge. The three-inch drainage channel had been reduced to the circumference of a sewing pin’s head.

So with the heart of the house torn out, why not replace the scarred kitchen countertops and the pale and neutral boring tile backsplash? We’re halfway there anyway and the room could use a fresh coat of paint. We set the coffeemaker up in the bathroom. We moved the cats’ bowls into the front hall. We emptied every kitchen drawer and cupboard and stored their surprisingly plentiful contents in the dining room, prepared to live like hoarding squatters.

Beyond conveniently situated hot and cold running water, we didn’t know what we had until it was out of commission. Off site Ann and I sat and analyzed where and how we spend our time in our home. Neither of us had ever given it any thought.

There’s the bedroom of course though neither of us are likely to sleep through the entire night. We tend to find evidence of each other’s visit to the kitchen. There’s cinnamon residue on the Montreal Canadiens mug: Ann had some hot milk. Geoff made a sandwich and left his plate in the sink; The Economist is splayed on the counter.

Ann practices her violin in a room dedicated to her music. I write in the basement surrounded by the works of more accomplished authors. The most comfortable chairs in the house are in the den but the tabbies have commandeered them. The television’s there too and it’s some kind of big day when it’s actually turned on. The desktop computer is essentially for correspondence.

I was brought up being constantly reminded that the living room is for guests and not for children. I only venture in there to play music on the stereo. Nothing much has changed. Besides, visitors to the Crooked 9 tend to congregate in the kitchen. The couch is very comfortable for stretching out and reading but Mungo, the tabby named for the founder and patron saint of Edinburgh, never fails to find me, lie on my chest in a tugboat or decoy duck pose and drool on me or my book. Ann and I use the dining room table for Scrabble games and increasingly less frequent family dinners.

Our household thrums from the kitchen: two or three meals per day plus foraging in the wee small hours; coffee and crossword puzzles; newspapers and magazines; iPhones and iPads; cat dishes. The main landline is in there and it rings sometimes. There’s a vessel of pens and pencils beside the Beatles Yellow Submarine notepad. The erasable bulletin board features Elvis and Montreal International Jazz Festival magnets, and to-do lists. We can’t plan an afternoon, a day or a week without consulting the inky wall calendar. I log a lot of time looking out our back door, thinking and watching the jays, magpies and woodpeckers, on sentry duty because evil grey-and-white cat who lives across the street prowls our property ready to pounce on our aged pair of brothers. Ann and I live our lives in the kitchen.

I had expected the renovation to disrupt our routine, my routine, but I hadn’t planned for the personal anxieties the impromptu refresh would cause me. The framed Bob Dylan show bill was leaned up against the loveseat in the living room. The wall clock, the only way I can tell time, was face down on the dining room table. No sink, no countertops. The antique pine washstand on which I stack our current magazines was inaccessible and bowed beneath a stack of utensil trays. Where are the box of Kleenex, the garbage bin and the roll of paper towels? Everything was missing or out of place, I was discombobulated.

Allocating home ownership funds can be a bit of a tightrope walk. There are always the monthly bills. Ongoing maintenance of the structure and its physical plant is critical. There should be an emergency stash of cash because modern appliances are more delicate and more difficult to repair because of their electronics and fragile assemblies. Not much is manufactured to last a lifetime these days; warranties aren’t worth the web sites they’re uploaded to.

If there’s space in the household budget to splurge, Ann and I have two pieces of advice for you. First, buy a high quality mattress because you’ll find that you spend a lot of time lying on it. Don’t worry about the suite of furniture because most of the time you won’t be able to see it. Second, invest the rest in the room that’s used most often. In our case, that’s the kitchen. Provided you’re not incontinent, the room that wins the reno lottery may surprise you.

By this time next week our kitchen command centre should be back to a gussied up new normal. Ann and I will both be relieved by the completion of the process and the cessation of its troupe of indifferent strangers through what we now understand to be a crucial and intimate personal space. We look forward to rehanging pictures and restocking the cupboards and drawers, using the stove. And the sink will drain properly because we believe in miracles and hydrochloric acid. We expect all of this inconvenient work and redecorating to see us out in bold and colourful style, ours.

Friday, 1 December 2017



Rex Tillerson, the lame duck Secretary of State of the United States, is alleged to have described his superior, the 45th president, as “a fucking moron.” He and I have a lot in common. Who has not toiled under the fleshy, stubby thumb of a fucking moron? “Fucking moron” was my pet phrase for anyone I’ve had to report to throughout my varied working life. Granted, my job was mostly buying ink and paper, not averting nuclear war or inciting racial violence.

This week Tweeterdumbest retweeted three inflammatory anti-Muslim videos. The nasty and brutish shorts were productions of Britain’s lunatic fringe which, alas, is no longer comprised of the Goons, Spike Milligan and Monty Python. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders shrugged off the extremely dubious nature of the hate propaganda insisting, “Whether it’s a real video, the threat is real.”

An unsurprising and Orwellian double-think take by an administration that happily trots out “alternative” facts while decrying “fake” news. While it’s rather sad and perhaps even cringe-inducing to watch a great world power wane, it’s definitely cause for alarm when it’s apparent its most senior officials display difficulty grappling with the actual nature of reality. Truth is for losers.

Meanwhile, former Klu Klux Klan wizard or dragon or grand imperial whatever, David Duke cheered on the orange, odious vulgarian from the far right sidelines. “That’s why we love him!” And a fucking moron, at that.