Underground Sounds

On Monday, August 23rd I’ll be returning to my old stomping ground: CKUT. I spent about 4 years co-hosting Underground Sounds on CKUT with Agata De Santis. Now Agata is leaving the show – after 15 years of holding down the fort. On Monday the dream team reunites as I join Agata as co-host of Underground Sounds.

Underground Sounds has been a show on CKUT since, well, forever. The show mandate is to promote local and independent music, with an overall emphasis on Canadian bands and artists. I learned a lot doing that show, and really liked the rock’n’roll boot camp afforded by volunteering at the station. In addition to hosting the show I was given a weekly stack of promo CDs to listen to and categorise for the station’s music library. I can’t imagine, nearly ten years since I left the station, how they’ve managed to maintain an ever-growing library that was already bursting at the seams, like a mini musical archive, walls lined with vintage vinyl on bowing shelves.

Anything I wanted to hear was there, anything I’d heard about or read about, I could listen to and I felt really lucky to have that privilege…just by being a volunteer. I suppose that these days this isn’t such an exclusive thing – everything is digitised now and can be previewed usually for free on the internet. I was at CKUT between 1996-2000, in the years before the internet broke and the term “MP3” was in its infancy.

All of this “radio talk” has got me to thinking: podcast? The idea’s been floating around in my mind for a few weeks now, but I was always troubled by the idea of what I would fill a podcast with. I’m totally stoked to be going back to CKUT, even if it’s just for one night because it’s got the ideas flowing…maybe I should go back on a more regular basis? And who are the new kids hanging out at the station? What’s the vibe over there? CKUT continues to have some really great music programming: if you haven’t already, consider listening to shows like The Lion’s Den, New Shit, Roots Rock Reggae, Positive Vibes, and the quintessential 90’s Montreal rock show, Aack! Check the programming grid for downloads of all these shows. Consider it a lesson in what makes this city tick.

Radio has certainly changed a lot, since the fall of the “analog” or “physcial” music industry. Everything is digital now, and local radio is less about who is listening locally and more about the city that informs it’s programming. The popularity and portable-ness of online media has pretty much allowed radio to remain relevant. Stations like WFMU in Jersey City really set the bar: local freeform radio without commercial constraints, supported by a far-reaching community of dedicated listeners. Music “culture” has become so sadly diluted by corporate incentives, marketing bravado, hidden subtexts and carbon-copy, cookie cutter bands. And all that totally drains the soul out of art.

CKUT has remained pretty much un-compromised, with music shows curated by music lovers for music lovers. Take a listen, volunteer for an afternoon, support your local station.

Underground Sounds: Tune in and listen: Monday August 23rd from 8-10PM EST on CKUT 90.3 FM in Montreal and online at ckut.ca. I’ll also post a link to the show/podcast once it is archived. Call us while we’re on the air on Monday: 514.448.4013.

Use the comments below to let me know if you think I should make a second go of this radio thing. Would you download/listen to my podcast?

COMA (game)

Play COMA (dark cute flash game). Because you know want to. Besides, this heat wave makes your brain mushy and only capable of such menial tasks. Take advantage while you have an excuse. ♥ Natalia

Black Locust Redemption

About three years ago my mom brought me a young sapling from her garden in Toronto. She assured me it was an acacia tree – one that flowers exquisitely. I was excited for an ornamental tree (our lot is treeless), and I planted it in the front, in order to fulfill my homeowner’s fantasy of looking out my bedroom window to leaves and a lofty canopy.

After two years, when the tree had hit almost ten feet tall my mom basically straight up told me it was not an acacia tree. Betrayed by its thorny branches, the tree was identified as a common weed: the black locust.

Cool name, but a weed? What constitutes the distinction? Something that just grows where we don’t want it to, that can’t be contained (also known as invasive)? Except for the fact that my black locust’s roots are choking out my peonies, astilbe and irises, I don’t feel like the tree is weedy at all.

Being on tour for part of the spring and summer means oftentimes things in the garden will bloom and I’ll miss them altogether. I missed this last year (we were on tour all of May), but check out the black locust’s redemption:

Good news: The tree is totally covered in these delicate, cascading blossoms. And they fill the air leading up to our front steps with a sweet aroma that I totally dig. I feel like the success of this plant validates my role as a gardener.

Bad news: I’ve just learned from Wikipedia that the robinia pseudoacacia is totally toxic if ingested, from branch to leaf to seed pod to root (except for the flowers). Keep your horses away, or risk them experiencing depression! Note the Latin name confirms this plant is an acacia fake-out. My mom did tell me to rip it out last year, but I don’t have the heart. It’s too pretty.

Besides, bees love this thing, and those little guys need all the help they can get.


Check out my rad new wheels:

I haven’t owned a bicycle for over ten years because over ten years ago I got into a slow-motion accident and have been too chicken to get back on the horse. My previous bike was an electric blue, 70’s-era Supercycle. It weighed a ton, and I think I got it at Salvation Army. I rode it for several years, straight off the floor…that is, I’d never had it tuned up and so the chain fell off repeatedly and the brakes only kind of worked.

My accident was very minor. I was riding down the big hill on University, and saw a car slowly pulling out of a laneway. Of course, University is a one way going up, so the driver of the car wasn’t expecting something coming down the hill. I could see the driver not checking, and I swear I was pulling my brakes full blast for like 100m and barely slowing down. So, of course, both of us going pretty slowly, collided: the car bumper hit my knee, tossing me and my shit ride into the middle of the street. Lame.

The driver felt understandably terrible, and I really had no one to blame but myself (or, well, my useless brakes), so she locked my bike to a nearby post, lumped me into her car and drove me literally half a block back up the hill to the hospital. That was really nice of her. My knee was fucked for about a month, and I actually had to use a cane for a little while. I have one little scar on my forearm that has nearly totally faded. But really I am sooooo lucky I didn’t hit my head because we didn’t wear helmets back then.

Fast forward however many years, the turn of the century, the turn of the millennium later, and here I am purchasing my own bike (Raleigh Stowaway 1981, 3-speed). This one is still a bit of a clunker, but this bike is rad, its clunkiness has purpose. It’s in great condition, and was lovingly fixed up by the gentleman I bought it from at RetroVintage. BUT the best part about my bike is that it FOLDS IN HALF. Stick that in your tour bus cargo bay and smoke it.

We’ve been talking (as a band) about staying active and healthy on tour, and how liberating a tour bike is. We are also bringing our juicer on our next tour. This is an idea I’m stealing straight up from Arcade Fire, who apparently have a juice tech on tour. That’s probably not true (like the “juice tech” probably does other things, not just juice) but it’s such an awesome rumor I don’t feel bad about propagating it.

Anyway, look for the grey haired, conservative goth riding a certified old man bicycle around your town, next time we’re on the road.

I, Teenager (Pt. 1)

My mom recently sent me home with a real-life photo album full of pictures of me. It basically starts when I was a baby and goes up until my university graduation, at which time everybody switched to digital cameras, and therefore no more printed photos exist.

I found some zingers in there: bad haircuts, bad clothes, bad glasses, good memories, great friends. The one piece that totally blew my mind was a live review of WU-TANG CLAN that I had WRITTEN BY HAND and then FAXED to Suroosh at the then titled Voice (presently Vice). Now, which of the items in that declaration was more shocking: that my submission was 100% analogue, or that I went to see the Wu-Tang? I choose the former.

I know, you’re thinking: Is this a joke? I read it last night and had the same reaction. Weird “Al” on stage with the Wu? Did I just make that up? As I recall I had taken some bad drugs before the show and spent most of the time barfing in the toilet and trying not to pass out (moral: don’t do drugs). Did this concert happen as I described it or is this some sort of first-gen mashup sarcasm?

Dated May 28, 1996, means I had just turned 19 when I wrote this. AND from the handwriting on the date, it also appears that I got my DAD to fax it for me. A quick note to my Mom and Dad: you are brave and the greatest parents EVER. You trusted me – just sent those vibes my way – and I ended up at a sketchy concert with a poster that promised SECURITY STRICTLY ENFORCED. And lived to tell. I love you.

So: was this teenaged drivel fit to print? Viceland.com does not have archived print editions on the internet earlier than December 2005. Luckily, I have mild OCD and, had they printed it, should have a copy in the garage.

So until I can dig that out, this post is to be continued

Were Our Lives More Science-y in the 80’s?

I was thinking today about science, and how curious I was about things when I was a kid. I always wanted to mix the baking soda and vinegar together when no one was watching (just little bits at a time). I would invent things, take things apart, and my sister and I would burn stuff in our “play hibachi,” just to see what would happen. My dad is in science, and we could rely on Nova, The Nature of Things or Dr. Who being on TV at some point during the evening.

Anyway, whilst on the internet today I saw an interview with Bill Nye the Science Guy. I then remembered the whole Bill Nye vs. Beakman’s World debacle, with Bill Nye firmly out-geeking Beakman’s screwball laboratory hijinks (Disney always wins such battles). Next was a flurry of memories of how important science was in the 80’s. Like back then we really thought the future was going to be the bomb. People were building robots and we had computers (Commodore 64, bitches) in our homes. But was I unusually into science or was science just more mainstream?

There were definitely more science shows for kids. What do we have now that makes learning fun? Zoboomafoo? Mythbusters? There’s all the programming on DiscoveryKids and Bill Nye is still slugging it out. But shows about trashy tweens seem to be more in the mainstream. Science just isn’t as cool as it used to be. All these memories of stuff I was really into in the 80’s came to mind:

David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things, Nova (both still on the air), Owl/TV (theme song), Mr. Wizard’s World, Beakman’s World, Bill Nye The Science Guy, Edison Twins (couldn’t resist), 321 Contact (also, rad theme), Wonderstruck, Dr. Who…and my fave show that we watched as a family: Star Trek: The Next Generation, of course.

Weird Science, War Games, Short Circuit, The Fly, *Batteries Not Included, Cocoon, never mind crazy sci-fi blockbusters like Star Wars, E.T. and Close Encounters.

These days we take science for granted: we are tethered to the internet via tiny computing devices, and the digital word has replaced most analogue forms of communication. As a kid in Toronto, the best school field trip of all time was to the Science Centre. I mean, I was into learning about binary code and tectonic plates when I got there. I would also try and get my parents to take me downtown just so I could hit up Science City, the nerdiest store at Bay/Bloor Village (and which, to my total surprise, STILL EXISTS). They always had experiments or fun gadgets that I inadvertently learned stuff from. Like that little plastic threaded tube that connects two 2L soda bottles and acts as a giant tornado maker! Or light-sensitive paper that you put shit on top of and leave out in the sun and create cool silhouettes!

Did I have friends? As I recall, I did have some serious BFFs, but my memories are continually making me out to be a serious nerd. Quality, not quantity, I guess.

Auto-Horn Tooting

I am the best wife ever. In case any of you were wondering. Tomorrow is Murray’s birthday, but today God of War III came out. Knowing he would probably want to get the game today, I had to beat him to the punch. So after dropping off Neptune at preschool, I went straight to the Best Buy.

Allow me to illustrate the scenario:
1. It’s 10AM, Best Buy has just opened for the day.
2. There are at least four guys in their mid-thirties ahead of me buying the same game.
3. Don’t these people have jobs?

When the weather gets nice in Montreal, you may notice there is a large number of people just lolling around in the middle of the week. Sitting in the sun on a field in Jeanne Mance park (at 1:30PM); drinking coffee on a terrace (at 11AM), walking dogs (noon), riding a unicycle down Prince Arthur (all hours). I guess that’s what makes Montreal so great: it’s a primarily self-employed city. The cost of living is much less than in other “big” Canadian cities like Toronto or Vancouver…never mind real cities like New York or London UK. So while Montrealers are still incredibly productive, our lives are based on a work-week where every day is Casual Friday.

So, either everyone at Best Buy at 10AM on a weekday is self-employed, unemployed, a trustafarian, took a sick day to play video games, or works for Ubisoft and was sent there as part of their job.

All of the above are possible. So this is what Murray woke up to:

They were giving away free t-shirts to the gatecrashers, which I used as wrapping paper. I was compelled to say to the cashier: “Oh, it’s not for me, its for my husband,” to which he replied: “It’s one size fits all.”

Recovered Ramblings

After taking out (most of) the annoying bits, I am posting this draft I wrote on a recent train ride. I spent a few days away form my laptop: on one hand I loved “unplugging” and reading a real print magazine, on the other hand I was totally jonesing for the internet:

Presently, I am on a train, bound for Toronto. I’ll only be there one day plus two half days, so a brief trip.

A middle aged lady in the seat in front of me is watching Twilight on a DVD player, and for some reason I find that fascinating. I’ve been reading the March 2010 issue of Wired, intrigued by the idea that our “digital remains” may need management (page 60) (posthumous Facebook status updates? RAD!), and endeared by the brief Q&A with Kevin Smith on page 80. I was surprised that he is among the Twitter Elite – meaning someone with over a million followers. I only wish I had that many followers, but sadly I’m struggling to break 400. It reminds me of how my mobile phone is only a few years old but already totally and completely out of date. It is not even wifi-capable. How can I keep my social network a-flutter without it? How will I attract more followers, if I can’t even watch and/or post a YouTube clip on my mobile? I mean this confounded WordPress app is totally pushing my phone’s limits…if I see that hourglass one more time…

Yeah, I know: boo-frakking-hoo. I’m just bored out of my mind over here. My kid is asleep next to me, drooling all over the armrest. What else am I supposed to do? Anyway, all this stuff is boring, and I apologise.

Aren’t we collectively glad that I saved that? I’m making up for lost internet time today; wasting hours looking for cheap flights, appraising coins on eBay, and creating a profile on myouterspace.com (username: Natalia – Be my friend, nerdz!).

*giant sigh*

Spending Tuesday With the Internet

After a couple weeks of breakneck number crunching and paper pushing, I found myself with some spare time this Tuesday morning. My work, hardly done, but at a standstill…meaning I can’t move forward on anything until I hear back from some others. So I effed around on the internet for a while, reading the news and, invariably, being led astray. Here’s what I found:

1. ChatRoulette. Wow. It basically randomizes a video chat link from a list of thousands of users online. Sometimes I am truly grateful that my computer pre-dates built in cameras. This article in New York Magazine basically sums up the experience. All together now: WTF.

2. This spawned a short Facebook conversation with my mom about how “fornicating with a lettuce” is the apex of our culture.

3. Next I was transfixed by this article, reporting that the Right Wing Start to see IRS Suicide Bomber as a Hero. And I thought: “Only the far right?” Really? America, you are so weird sometimes (no offence to Americans). He’s protesting the only way that makes the media and the gov listen: extremism. Think about it. Interesting how the media reacted, too: as soon as it was known to be American-on-American, non-religiously motivated terrorism, we just stopped hearing about it. In swooped Tiger Woods’ apology, anyway.

4. Suddenly, I realised: “What you thinking for?” and created a URL that takes you to thedears.org: http://5z8.info/refugee-murder_n0r8s_REFINANCE-NOW. This made me laugh. Thanks ShadyURL and Rob Benvie!

5. What next? Somebody get me a bullet proof vest! Only $400. Cheap.

6. It just went downhill from there: Colonel and Ellen Tigh totally looks like John and Cindy McCain. Wrong, because Colonel Tigh totally looks like Mr. Lahey.

7. And then I saw this seagull steal chips from a store, and realised: “This is enough internettage to share with my friends!”

I am stepping away from the computer for a while, knowing that this was all a learning experience.