Wednesday, 30 September 2020


Just Another Day in the End Days

The New York Times Sunday revealed that a certain self-proclaimed billionaire and “very stable genius” has paid out more in hush money to a porn actress than he has in income taxes to his nation’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS). This researched and documented “fake news” will not of course sway the loyalty of der Trumpenfuhrer’s constituency of armed white supremacists and morbidly obese Wal-mart women who can only fantasize about being groped by a pudgy orange paw.

I try not to turn my attention south too often because I’m embarrassed for the United States of America. Mortified. Besides, we Canadians face challenges up here in the cool blue north. Last week’s Throne Speech had as much depth as a government public service announcement in a newspaper: “Wash your hands!” Times are hard in most sectors of the economy and our first covid-19 winter in a winter country always beset by flu season is sliding at speed like an avalanche in the Rockies. I am afraid of heights but sometimes I find myself compulsively compelled to look down on Canada’s major ally. All I see is actor Nicholas Cage in midair slow motion yelling, “Noooo!” Too late the hero.

Covid-19 has killed one million people, 200,000 of whom were Americans. The rose red blood of incompetence drenches the green lawns of the White House grounds. Not a surprise on the watch of a commander-in-chief who believes wind turbines cause cancer, forests should be raked like golf courses and ingesting bleach is a good idea.

Der Trumpenfuhrer also believes November’s presidential election is already “rigged” in favour of the Democrats, the QAnon fix is in. Ironically, it is traditionally the Republicans who gerrymander electoral districts and enact policies intended to make voting as arduous a Constitutional right to exercise as possible. Still, the odious and vulgar incumbent has refused to commit to the sacred democratic convention of a peaceful transition of power should he be defeated. Grace and good manners are for losers.

Renowned French author Victor Hugo wrote, “Let us study things that are no more. It is necessary to understand them, if only to avoid them.” The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is Washington’s newest cabinet. Established in 2003 in the wake of 9/11, its remit was a panicky, knee-jerk grab bag of duties already seen to by more established and expert federal agencies such as the FBI and the CIA. Think “mayochup” on the grocery shelf between jars of mayonnaise and bottles of ketchup. In Canada, we say, “Qu’est-ce que fuck?” No agent in the DHS new model army could’ve imagined they’d be deployed as White House paramilitary shock troops to both quell and incite civil unrest. The historical parallels here are both ugly and obvious. 

My hunch is that the American people will not choose their next leader in November. My hunch is that a certain dodgy casino owner is betting the West Wing on a hastily and righteously stacked Supreme Court. And I wonder who fronted him the money for the chips he’s playing with. Casinos are lovely places for laundering cash should one’s operating funds be provided by a sleazy oligarchy whose client vetting process isn’t quite as thorough as a legitimate bank’s. This plague on America demands eradication. Will the magic bullet come from Pfizer or Remington?


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of end of empire observations since 2013. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right. It’s safe to emerge from isolation now, honest. Everything’s copasetic.

Monday, 14 September 2020


 Scotch Bonnet or Botched Sonnet


Morag was my comely bride

She gave birth before she died

Our pale babe did not survive

A very nasty case of hives

And then the Redcoats occupied

Our murky bogs and River Clyde

The laird’s land all up and dried

His tartan flocks they did not thrive

I broke my staff, knelt and cried

For mighty Robbie Burns had lied

I could not ask the poet why

No grey mutton in my Scotch pie

I distilled the peat ‘neath the sky

Drank cheers to life and a another try       


meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of depressing Celtic laments since 2013. Sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, use that thingy on the right. It’s safe to emerge from isolation now, honest. Everything’s copasetic.

Monday, 7 September 2020


Not the Same Old Song

The Rolling Stones last Friday re-released 1973’s Goats Head Soup. At the time it was considered something of a louche and lazy follow-up to its predecessor Exile on Main St. which was considered a sprawling, incoherent mess compared to its predecessor Sticky Fingers. Still, the Stones were the biggest band in rock ‘n’ roll in the early 70s and those years coincided with my elevation from elementary to secondary school and the awkward onset of puberty. There was bound to be a chemical reaction, an eruption.

The music industry these days doesn’t sell a whole lot of physical product. Perhaps that is an O. Henry-like statement, a gentle irony about moving air, filling silence. But don’t old ways always die hard? Elaborately packaged re-issues, Goats Head Soup redux for instance, are, on the surface of the vinyl or CD, simple cash grabs from blindly loyal fanatics. But these re-masters, enhanced by outtakes, demos and live tracks add what was then contemporary context thereby transforming a simple album into something of a document, a ghost sign from its prime time. The sheer gravitas of most of these boxed sets encourages critical reassessment and historical revisionism: positive re-takes as opposed to the current fad of cancel culture.

Always the vanguard, His Bobness began the trend with his ‘Bootleg Series’ which was likely inspired by the success of his Biograph set from the 80s. Springsteen has subsequently released an entire parallel universe canon and alternative career whilst hawking collectible editions of his classic albums. Even for hardcore fans there are overly documented instances of overkill. I imagine an ‘Immersion’ edition of a Pink Floyd album would be both blue sky and pain. There are plans for a six disc reissue of Lou Reed’s seminal New York album. Take the straight razor to the strop.

I’ve been buying albums with my own money since I was 13, 1973. There are some I don’t listen to much anymore. That’s not because they were bad records or haven’t aged well, but because I love them so much I make the mistake of taking them for granted. Why listen to Born to Run again even though it changed my life the first time I brought it home and played it all the way through? We have been intimate; we are intimate. I know that album backwards and forwards and inside and out.

The pricy joy of a boxed reissue is that it compels the lover to revisit those initial crazy days of bliss, to remember. Goats Head Soup originally had a gatefold sleeve. Gee, wasn’t peeling the cellophane from the 2020 edition similar to the 1973 release, that anxious need to know what was under the cover? The audio was upgraded at source. Here at home too, thankfully I’m no longer a slave to my crappy little teenage bedroom stereo. The first plays have revealed sounds and nuances I’d never heard or perhaps ceased hearing. My true revelation lies with the lyrics. The words haven’t changed but their meaning has. Their message is necessarily transmitted to an upgraded receiver; I’m no pimply Catholic schoolboy these days. I’m all grown up now and able to superimpose myself, my experiences, listen differently and enjoy the songs all over again in a brand new manner.

There is a particularly lovely and forlorn ballad on Goats Head Soup called ‘Winter.’ “It sure has been a cold, cold winter, my feet been draggin’ ‘cross the ground/the fields has all been brown and fallow, and springtime take a long way ‘round.” I came of age on the urbanized island of Montreal. Now, all I can picture is the scrubby, arable land along Highway 2, the road between Edmonton and Calgary. And Alberta’s first covid-19 winter is coming on. Labour Day signals the end of summer. The nights are shorter and chillier. There’s a fresh nip in the morning air.

If that prospect isn’t depressing enough (the furnace just turned on), Jagger then conjures “the bell, book and candle,” a malevolent ritual of excommunication of the Catholic Church’s framed to frighten the faithful. Toll the bell, shut the Bible and kill the flame. Only really nasty people get fast-tracked to Hell prior to Judgment Day: “When the lights on all the Christmas trees went out.” The song possesses a doomed tenderness which suggests novelist Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair on cocaine and downers. “Sometimes I wanna wrap my coat around ya, but I can’t afford ya.”

‘Doo Doo Doo Doo (Heartbreaker)’ is a raucous complaint about police brutality, deadly illicit drugs and young people not getting a fair shake. Nothing’s changed but those tragedies are neither rare nor abstract now. I can see them all around, way too close to home. ‘Star Star’ could be about a social media influencer or a reality television meat puppet, a 21st century groupie, desperate for a brush or something like it with fame or at least account feed followers of some sort.

The Goats Head Soup deluxe box hook for me is the inclusion of Brussels Affair, an astounding live portrait of the band at their absolute apex. The set list is weighted toward Exile on Main Street and Goats Head Soup because the Stones were in fact promoting two recent albums on their 1973 European tour. I’m overjoyed to finally own a cleaned up copy of what may be their most sought after bootleg. The other notable blessing of the new Goats Head Soup, the recipe card aside (two heads are better than one), is that there’s only one version of ‘Winter.’ Thank God.         
meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of musical musings since 2013. Don’t sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, stay safe.

Wednesday, 2 September 2020


The Good Neighbour

Across the street beside the monster house is a modest pale blue bungalow of similar vintage to ours, the Crooked 9. Ann and I are casual friends of its owner, Vin. We know his wife and daughter by name and by sight but not much more. Vin is his family’s social patriarch. He visits with us on our front porch about once a week and the three of us sit together and chat about what’s on our minds from a safe distance.

Vin is one of those intelligent, overly curious people who needs to know everything about everybody. He asks a lot of questions and some are sometimes beyond the boundaries of decorum because Vin believes life and everything in it is very expensive and those particularly awkward queries of his demand gentle deflection. Vin is a goldmine of neighbourhood intelligence. If Ann and I lived in a police state we’d cut him dead. Though we keep an eye on each other’s homes, look out for each other, I’d hesitate to give him a set of keys to the Crooked 9 should Ann and I ever take another holiday. He’d treat the place like a real estate open house walk through and I’ve a hunch bedroom drawers would be opened for inspection.

If I’m awake early enough I watch Vin’s morning ritual. He burns incense in the planter by his front steps under the branches of the Ohio buckeye on his lawn. He crouches in prayer. After a few moments of tranquility, it’s go, go, go! Vin will sleep when he’s dead. We compete, as we must: whose lawn was cut most recently; whose grass looks better; whose driveway was shoveled first, who spread more grit on the public sidewalk. Vin’s need for speed has created at least one predictable habit: he tends to back his SUV into his driveway at high velocity.

I have smoked 25 a day for over 40 years. That’s a few hundred thousand cigarettes. Sometimes I wonder if their cumulative effects will be the death of me or will the fatal trigger be the fourth puff on the smoke I’ll have 15 minutes from now? I imagine my life as some sort of cosmic movie, ultimately the screen must fade to black. But given the nature of the film industry, I worry there might be a sequel.

These past few years I’ve caught myself emitting a lot of involuntary old person noises. The pain is not physical. The sighs and the groans stem from the yoke of sin. Raw regrets about very stupid and very bad behaviour which now cause me to cringe with vocal embarrassment and sorrow. And until last Monday morning I was fairly confident that I’d come to terms with the cross I’d hammered together all by myself for me and me alone to bear. Monday morning sure looked fine; my slate was pretty clean. I was a weightless being.

Vin zipped up the street with a load of lumber jutting out from the rear of his SUV. He drove past his driveway and shifted into reverse. His vehicle was about five feet longer than he was used to. He accelerated into the turn. God help me, I thought, “Please ram your garage door. That would really make me laugh.”

As Vin revved his Toyota’s engine I realized I’d cleared the edge of a tipping point in my life; I was the speeding cartoon character who’d paused in midair to look down. Vin and I do many of the same chores, but I take my time. That revelation was sort of like the abstract awareness of my mysterious and ultimate lottery cigarette: eventually my time on Earth won’t allow for just one more. I have eviscerated my soul alone in the darkness and confessed my flaws with moans, humility and shame in the witching hours. But I really, really wanted Vin to smoke his garage door, repairs would be expensive. I would’ve been highly amused. I cannot apologize for that malevolent little thought even as it undid years of self-examination and self-admonishment. And just like that, I’m going to Hell now. I am not sorry. No regrets.   
meGeoff has been your most unreliable, unbalanced and inaccurate alternative source of too much information since 2013. Don’t sign up for e-mail alerts from the Crooked 9, stay safe.