A year in songs

As 2010 goes away tomorrow, I figured I'd do a little musical tribute about my year, 1 month at a time.

Real Emotion

January was taken up mostly by FASS, so I picked a FASS song. My most hated song from FASS last year. It was annoying to get good sheet music for it, getting it sounding good was tricky, this song was a pain.


February was the official launch of d'Archangel on the circuit, and our first gig was at The Hive in downtown Kitchener, so it is only appropriate I use our show closer song Situations. We keep getting better and better with each show we play, and big things are rumbling for 2011, so be on the lookout.

Lower Afterlife

I played a lot of Mass Effect 2 in March. That game is just all sorts of awesome. Seriously, if you've not indulged in the series, do so.

Ladies of the World

April was busy, but fairly uninteresting musically. So, let's default to a song about ladies.

No song. I was too sick.


The song over the bows for my One Act. Oh man, that was a lot of fun.

Blood Gulch Blues

Trocadero is an awesome band that did the music for the Red vs. Blue web series. I was big into that community a few years ago. But the reason this song applies to July is because it was the song I was listening to in the car just before I skidded off the road on my way to the cottage.

Atrophy of Entropy

Another d'Archangel tune, August is when our demo was finished and released to the world. It's pretty friggin' sweet. You should totally throw $5 at us and we can give you a copy.

Attic View

Though Heather and I split in July, her off-to-Calgary farewell party/concert was in September, and it was combined with the Clever Girls CD release. Much good music was had that night.


Techno makes for excellent packing music. Not much else to be said.

4 chord song

The band in Sleeping Cinder White did an epic version of this song. 'Twas super awesome. The rest of that show was also very good. Hard to go wrong with a pantomime.

Reign of Terror

I listen to this song a lot at work. It's good for getting the fingers typing.


Christmas time

All in all, I'm not quite sure what to make of Christmas from a philosophical standpoint.

Musically, I love Christmas. The old carols and stories translate well across musical styles. From disco to jazz to classical-metal fusion.

But as a rational, agnostic guy, where does the celebration of the birth of the Christian saviour fit into my life?

My take on it is as such: Growing up, my family was always pretty spread out, across Ontario and even Canada, so I don't get to see them often. But Christmas was always the time when everyone came together. Christmas was about family for me.

And really, that's what I still celebrate. The comforts of home, family and warmth, a quiet time of get-togethers and appreciation as the year ends. Regardless of what one believes in a metaphysical sense, that's something I can feel good about celebrating.


Driving Tunes

So last week d'Archangel was in the studio recording our newest song "Running Back to Jack". It's pretty awesome, and once it's all mixed and good, we'll be making it available very quickly, so keep your ears primed.

It is one of the band's favourite songs, and it's the top for a couple individuals as well. Frontman Deamon Jimmy thinks this is because it's our first completely collaborative song, and so all our best qualities and styles went into it. We are very excited to share this one with you once it's ready. It's very listenable, radio friendly, good energy, good beat, it's awesome.

It's also a driving tune. This is something that I had been thinking about for a while about how we would write a song that could be played on the radio, and I figured that we would have to write a driving song.

But then that got me thinking about what is a driving tune? What are the qualities that make a driving tune? As anyone who's taken a long drive before, good tunes make the drive that much better and make it almost seem shorter.

Here are some basic qualities that I think make for good driving tunes, and then we'll talk about sub-categoies and examples:

1. Strong, fairly fast beat.
2. Easy to sing along with.
3. Catchy, easily recognisable riffs.

You'll notice that those are not genre specific, which is very important. A driving tune can come from any style.

But now for some sub-categories:

Highway Songs
These focus mostly on rule 1, with an especially fast beat. The rhythm of the song echos the rhythm of the engine, they're meant to be played loud, and if the songs themselves are actually about driving, all the better. Rock and Heavy Metal feature heavily here.
Prime examples of these include Highway Star, Running Down a Dream and Ace of Spades.

Cruising Songs
This is more of a focus on rules 3, as these are songs more for city driving. You want something you can groove to as you drive. Not as fast as the highway, but a good pace none-the less. You see more pop, R&B, etc in this section.
Good examples include Low Rider, Brown Eyed Girl and Sweet Home Chicago.

Traffic Songs
Now we're into the rule 2 focus. You're stuck in traffic, but an awesome song comes on the radio and you are belting along with it to get your mind off the traffic. Mostly classics, epics and so on here.
We're talking songs like Bat Out of Hell, The Man Comes Around, Two Princes and Tainted Love (or if it's your cup of tea, Marilyn's Tainted Love(NSFW)).

Running Back to Jack is more in the 1st category, so be prepared to be blasting down the 401 at a buck 20 and have this song driving you forward at full volume.


Music of Starcraft 2, part 3, the last.

Yep, the last post I'll do about Starcraft 2 music, and this one is special and close to my heart because this is the one that I think proves how committed Blizzard is to its music content.

First, I need to establish some propositions that will help lay the groundwork for how awesome what I'm going to talk about is:
1. Blizzard is not afraid of musical humour. Proof.
Corollary to 1: Blizzard is aware of musical tropes, and employs a heavy metal band as such. Proof.
2. Blizzard has given the Terrans in general and Jim Raynor in particular a serious space cowboy theme to their music. Proof: Posts 1 and 2.

So, we can now talk about the glory that is the Revolution Overdrive soundtrack! This is a collection of the songs from the in-game juke box, and is intended to be thought of as Jim Raynor's personal playlist. Now I'm certain there are some who would call this a blatant money grab by Blizzard, or that they should focus on balance or other whiny fanboy antics, but we will roll right over them.

A soundtrack full of southern rock covers, hilarious country music, some instrumental bits plus a heavy metal closer, this is a great set of music.

On the southern rock side, we have two Elvis covers, two Lynyrd Skynyrd covers and an Iggy Pop cover. Oh yeah. Considering the space cowboy theme again, this is definitely music that would speak to a civilization like the Terrans. Plus, the covers are not bad. The Suspicious Minds cover is very listenable, and the more laid back, country-ish Free Bird is a nice change of pace for that tune.

As to the humour and country, we have the classic Excuse Me for Scribblin', and the ever popular A Zerg, A Shotgun & You by Whiteboy James and the Blues Express. Oh, that's awesome. In case you needed even more proof, check the live show from Blizzcon. I totally want a trucker hat and a denim jacket now.

We also have the instrumental stylings of Jem's Tune and Rumble for more the classic country blues. A little music to drink some whiskey to. There's also some bar covers of the Terran theme itself. All good stuff.

And the whole things concludes with the previously mentioned Level 800 Elite Tauren Chieftain with the wicked Terran Up The Night. Having an in house metal band mean Blizzard can get some badass songs pretty easily.

So, now that we've established the album itself and shown how it's a solid album in and of itself, easily worth a $10 download of iTunes, I want to talk about how this album relates to Starcraft 2 in particular and gaming in general.

As previously mentioned, this music comes from an in game jukebox you can listen to between missions. It provides good background to the cut scenes, and helps give us a little insight into Jim Raynor through his musical taste. But really, just the fact it exists as it does is not the cool thing. The fact that the songs are either thematic covers, originals or invitationals done in-house is. This is the advantage of having money behind you when producing something as big as Starcraft 2. It could have been much easier and cheaper to just pay some licensing fees to have the original songs compiled from the original artist and thrown on the jukebox, but Blizzard went the extra mile and used their talented composers and musicians to do something extra. And it's awesome.

Again, it's easy to criticize about how they're a gaming company and they should focus their time on the game, not put money towards "non-core" elements like music, art, humour or community. Blizzard got mixed reaction when they revealed a little tribute done by their art department to a tournament winning player from Korea named Fruit Dealer. Most people thought it was cool of them to go out of their way to help promote eSports, plus the art itself is pretty cool. But the Stop Having Fun Guys were all whining about how the balance wasn't perfect yet, or that their pet desire hadn't been implemented yet, and hence no other focus should be worked on.

That's just disappointing on so many levels, that people are so narrow minded and selfish about such trivial things. But then I remembered another blog I read. I then also remembered how nasty politics get on the small scale. Oh right.

But really, let me say Kudos to Blizzard for taking the time to produce some outstanding and varied music to accompany one of the biggest games of all time. If people are listening to it outside of the game environment, you know you did a good job.



I'm taking a break from being stupidly busy, and also from talking about Starcraft 2, in order to deliver a special message about musical emotion. I'm going to talk about soul.

And no, I'm not strictly speaking talking about that sweet soul music, but the example I'm going to use is relevant as such.

I was listening to my Commitments soundtrack which is always good for a subway ride. Oh, I'm sorry, a "rroeid". The movie was good, the musicians were good and the music was good. They picked good songs to cover, and for the most part did good justice to them. The Midnight Hour, Take me to the River and Try a Little Tenderness covers are particularly nice.

But there's also a cover of Slip Away. The cover is not terrible, but have a listen to the original by Clarence Carter.

Oh man, that dude has PAIN in his voice. There's EMOTION behind those words. The dude has SOUL. It's so hard to quantify what I'm talking about, but I can't be the only one hearing it.

You need to put some force behind what you're singing, some personality, a little of the ol' blood sweat and tears, especially if you're singing a song like that. That's what gives that kind of music its power. A song like that has emotion when it's written, so you need to give it some when you perform. The same lesson applies elsewhere as well, my bandmate and brother in metal Brian has a post on his own blog on screaming in heavy metal. Our points are similar, I think.

But yeah, soul. Not all music requires such emotional investment, but a good rule of thumb would be that if it was written with emotion, it should be sung with emotion. The pain in your voice(or even the dissonance of your instruments if you watt to get really subtle) should mirror the pain in the lyrics. Love songs are particularly bad for breaking this. That's why Justin Bieber is so lame. There's no soul in his voice. Compare that love song voice to this one, or this one. Range and technique only goes so far if you have no soul.

So things to take away from this include:
1. Put a little of yourself into the song and it'll sound better.
2. Having a dichotomy between lyrical and vocal emotions sounds very fake.
3. Reggae Got Soul.

PS. Here's a little Starcraft 2 after all: Yay!


Music of Starcraft 2, part 2

Well, here we go again.

This time, we'll be looking at a comparison of Starcraft 1 and 2 music, specifically in the "race" music, as that is the music that combines both theme music for the factions as well as the in-game music when you're playing that faction.

Let's begin with the Terrans.

Here is one of the Terran themes from Starcraft 1. There are others, but they are all variations on the central tones we hear in that one. We hear strong metallic sounds in the guitar and synth, and as the drums pick up into a solid rock beat we get some synthesized electric guitar solos. It's a perfectly fine piece of music, good at driving the action, gives a sense of the faction: mechanical; a bit loose, maybe even overconfident; powerful and not to be trifled with or underestimated. As to what's wrong with it, well, it's repetitive. It was perfectly fine as game music back in 1998 when SC1 came out, but video games and video game music especially have come a long way.

Here is the Terran theme from SC2, called "Heaven's Devils". We can hear many homages and remixes to the original theme, but we also hear a lot of updates, from the live instrumentation, to the more space cowboy feel, to a pace that seems a bit more frantic. From this, the Terran theme has stolen much of its flavour from Jim Raynor. We still get that sense of power, of overconfidence, but also a little sadness or penitence maybe. Country music is the music of pain for a reason, after all. We also get much more of an infantry feel as opposed to the first game, that this is the music of the rank and file. This fits with how Terran is played in SC2 as well, as anyone who has come across the MMM bioball will attest.

Next come the Zerg

Starcraft 1 Zerg Theme. Lots of big, slow, methodical power chords. Lots of short and creepy synth sounds. Atonal at times. Not a whole lot else to say about it. Again, it gives a good sense of the faction: massive, organic, sinister, almost overwhelming. The same problem, as with before, is that it's repetitive.

From SC2, comes the Zerg theme "The Hive". Starts off much softer, slowly building. More sounds slowly are slowly added and combined. We still hear some of the old themes of the Zerg from this, but you also get a sense of patience, of infestation. Of inevitability. Yeah, that's the theme you want for the Zerg: Inevitable. To echo a quote of Kerrigan, "Soon all will serve the swarm." Can you tell I play Zerg?

And to finish off, we have the Protoss.

Here is the SC1 Protoss theme. It's much more evenly paced than the other too, more classical instrumentation. We get a sense that the Protoss are an ancient people; very conservative, methodical. Hints of a choir suggest that their unity comes through faith and devotion. They are a people advanced, above.

And now, here is the SC2 Protoss theme, "The Firstborn". Right form the start, we hear a mournful choir that builds and fades away. This is still the Protoss, but their faith is broken, and with the upped tempo, we know they are on the run. We hear much more minimalistic themes now, emphasizing how the Protoss now travel and strike from the darkness.

As to my thoughts on the matter overall, I can understand people's love of the original music, as it was very good. For music made on pure synthesizer, it was WAY ahead of its time. In 1998. But this is 2010 now, and many of the same composers have now updated the classic themes to reflect the factions' various positions and tactics. Better instrumentation, better composition, more direct matching to the flavour of the race, I find the new soundtrack is far superior.

What do you guys think?


Music of Starcraft 2, part 1

Starcraft 2 is one of the biggest games of the year and arguably the biggest RTS ever. And rightly so: It's a great game with solid balance, diverse options, good methodology for playing with friends and is just in general fun to play. This is not to say that it's perfect. There are always some issues to work out, and no story is free of boring characters or lazy plots, but they're fairly easy to overlook right now if only because the game is part 1 of a trilogy. Not that this stops some people from complaining endlessly, because this IS a Blizzard game after all.

One of the weirdest consistent complaints I've heard about it is regarding the sound. The voice acting sounds a bit rushed, I can agree with that, but a lot of people are clamouring to have the original Brood War music back. What are these people smoking? The music for this game is outstanding! They put a LOT of work into the composition and orchestration and mood of the game through the music and it shows beautifully.

In this post, I will look at the music from a cinematic standpoint, then there will be a comparison of the actual game music from Starcraft 2 and Brood War to see how they compare, then we will look at the Revolution Overdrive soundtrack, which is a kind of personal playlist for the main character.

So without further ado, I give you the first thing you hear upon loading, the main theme of Wings of Liberty: Wings of Liberty.
Immediately we here some very familiar tones for anyone who played the original, but upgraded with actual instruments as opposed to mostly synthesizer, and it builds up to this nice powerful fanfare complete with a chorus. This sets a good tone for the epic scale of the conflict to come. It softens to a slower section of quiet strings and horns, giving a sense of the pain suffered, but crecendoes towards a more hopeful tone. It then goes sharply into a much more dissonant and punctuated section, resonating with the action to come and the tension that rises. A soft piano hauntingly transfers into a strings and choir movement, then finally back into the fanfare at the beginning.

It's a good powerful piece that immediately sets the tone of the game very well. It reminds me a lot of the music from Gladiator, especially the Battle Theme.

Next we look at the Jim Raynor theme, Pubic Enemy
Blizzard has definitely committed to the Space Cowboy theme for the Terrans in general and Raynor in particular. Gee, I wonder what inspired that? With the bluesy harmonica tones, very minor key and menacing undertones, we get a sense that Raynor is a man broken and on the run. But the song turn hopeful as the non-slide guitars come in, helping to establish that he hasn't given up or forgotten what's at stake.

And finally, to look at a song from one of the actual cut scenes, here is Zeratul's Warning
It almost sounds like something out of a horror soundtrack with the screeching violins, giving way to a hint of the main Protoss theme. It then stays with dissonant high strings, building low strings and choir back up to the Protoss theme before cutting off. It fits the scene very well as you can see here.

As you can hear, there was definitely quite a bit of money spent on the music of the game. Lots of movement, good orchestrations, nice little homages to the previous game and to the overriding themes, it's a great soundtrack.

Musically and cinematically speaking, I'm not entirely sure if Blizzard can keep the same variety across the trilogy, if only due to time constraints. I can only hope that they have a lot ready to go for the next iteration and that the soundtrack for Heart of the Swarm is just as good.

Next, we'll look at the actual themes of the races that you hear as you play and how they compare to Brood War.


Satire and Sexism: A musical journey

As many can likely attest, and as Joss Whedon and most makers of musicals will say, singing and music are a way of expressing things that you cannot normally say. Your innermost feelings are laid bare through song. It's cathartic, it's illuminating and most of the time it's fun.

This fantastic quality of music unfortunately makes it difficult to produce satire. Not that it's impossible, but it's hard. Satire generally relies on two literary devices: sarcasm and irony. Sarcasm is REALLY hard to convey through singing, the same way that it is hard to convey through text: it relies so much on facial cues, tonality, social cues, etc that you have to either make it really obvious or unlikely to be normal. Plus, if music is about expressing your true feelings, those feelings can get lost in the sarcasm.

Irony is a bet easier to convey, if only because you're doing things that people don't expect so it's easier to notice. But again, the true feelings can get lost in the message.

There's an "internet law" that gets applied a lot to forum discussions, blog comments, etc called Poe's Law, which deals with the fact that without those cues I mentioned earlier, it is difficult to detect whether someone on the internet who is being outrageous in some way as genuine or a parody. Stephen Colbert is a great example of this, if only because it took genuine conservatives in the US so long to recognise it.

So, we come to the actual topic. I've picked sexism in music if only because it's a fairly obvious example with some decent studies and articles and other articles dealing with the topic. I am not going to be duplicating their efforts, but looking at some of the satire of the phenomenon.

And I have to point out that even though my examples may seem obvious to you, they will not to everybody. There are some people who still think that Swift's famous, albeit modest, proposal was serious.

First we're going to look at two songs from one of my favourite two man novelty bands from New Zealand: Flight of the Conchords. One is a straightforward parody, the other is more subtle.

The Most Beautiful Girl (In The Room)
While this song is certainly a satire of the male -> female beauty ballad, the lyrics themselves would be pretty sexist in any context other than comedic parody.
This one's subtle, since he's mostly singing about himself. And this is really a great example of the true feelings coming out, especially with the train of thought at the beginning:
"I want to tell her how hot she is but she'll think I'm being sexist. She's so hot she's making me sexist! Bitch!" What it means as a satire, though, it's hard to tell. Maybe it's nothing.

So while FotC is pretty obviously a comedy band, their satire on musical sexism is fairly subtle. And personally, that's the best way to do it constructively, because it's easier to recognise the satire. Satire is weird that way sometimes.

Now for something NSFW: Jon Lajoie.

NSFW! I cannot stress this enough. This is not safe for work.
Show me your genitals and pt.2
Yeah, there's no subtlety here. This is absolutely bound to offend people, satire or no. And unfortunately, because it's so over the top, he's succumbing to Poe's Law. For a first time listener, it would be difficult to tell this is satire. The only real giveaway to me the first time was the low quality of the rapping rather than the lyrics. Once you get over the offense and realise the parody, though, it's very funny.

So really, what does this mean? Satire is about improving society, exposing injustice and illuminating through wit. So can music be satirical? Sure, it's just tricky. Are the examples I showed good satire? Well, that's trickier. The first FotC song is a good satire of how sexist beauty ballads can be. Boom has more of a one liner, so it's hard to say what the message there is. Jon Lajoie's is a pretty big expose on how sexist hardcore rap can sound, but risks being lumped in with it.

So really, music writers, if you want to be satirical, here are some things to remember:

-The medium is the message, so be careful which medium you're using (Looking at you Lajoie).
-Subtlety can go a long way, but if you're too subtle you risk losing the message.
-Context is always important. FotC have a TV show to explain contexts, Lajoie does not. Think how the song will sound on its own.

'Til next time.


The more things change...

Well, I think I've found an actual focus for this blog: Music.

My posts that are musically related seem to be my most thought out and well written, so that's where things are going with this. It will be less review or deconstruction, and more mechanical analysis. I'll be looking into more of the purpose of music and how it works in various ways.

So be on the lookout soon for a look at the music of Starcraft 2, an analysis of musical satire, how heavy metal relates to classical music and much more.

If you are looking for other stuff to read, I highly recommend my friend's blog about sexism and games: Go Make Me a Sandwich.


It's the little things

As Rule #32 of Zombieland states, "Enjoy the little things".

Little things like finding old letters and postcards that were buried under mounds of paper.
Like throwing out dead weighted stuff you don't need anymore.
Like realising just how heavy books are..............Okay, that one's a big thing.
Putting your knowledge to work in unexpected ways like optimally packing a box.
Like enjoying the cool breeze taking dust out of your apartment.
Like the neighbour's cat who always comes by because he likes your carpet.

Gotta love the little things.

Also don't forget Rule #4: "Wear Seat Belts"


Countdown begins!

Well, there are 10 sleeps left until I move. It's crazy just how quickly things spring up like that.

But, I'm getting ready.

Boxes have been collected, packing will be done, contacts are being made, jobs are being applied to, ground rules have been set with new landlords(aka parents), so things are moving right along.

I'm less emotional about the move than I was when I first made the official decision and deadline, but I know I will still miss people here. That's probably what I'll miss the most. It'll take a fair amount of time to get a good network of friends and contacts going again in Toronto, which is why I'm starting now.

I am very excited to be back in Toronto though. St. Lawrence Market, ethnic restaurants everywhere, the TTC, opportunity, theatre, concerts, etc. It'll be awesome.


Saddest. Music. Ever.

Yeah, It's been awhile. Deal with it, I've been busy.

As the title should tell you, this post is about sadness. I was poking around my glorious iTunes library when I re-found some of my Final Fantasy soundtracks. Particularly Final Fantasy X. It is one of my favourite games of all time. Yeah, the world is kind of weird, the fights are pretty easy if you do some decent leveling, and the characters are kind of silly at time(Rikku, I'm looking at you). The characters develop very well, though, and there is definitely a lot of emotion that comes through. Oh, it's great.

However, it also had great music. Not as good as Final Fantasy IX, which had an excellent mix of styles, homages, rhythms, instruments and modes. Oh, I love that soundtrack and am happy to listen to the whole thing(all 3 hours of it.....) because I hear such a variety.

X had good music, but the vast majority of it was variations on a theme. A lot of piano, a lot of chorus, and a lot of orchestra. And for the most part, they do variations on one of three themes:
The "To Zanarkand" theme which in and of itself is very pretty.
"Suteki Da Ne", the love theme. It's a love song, not a whole lot else to say. (It's also in Japanese).
"Hymn of the Fayth", a choral chant. Depending on the singer and arrangement, it alternates between haunting, reverant, lifting, a whole slew of feelings.

So, now that you have all those themes in mind, I want to finally get to the point: Saddest. Music. Ever.
The ending of this game blows me away. Spoilers are ahead, so if you really care, don't watch the video I'm about to post.

To make a long story short, the game builds up the relationship between the two main characters Tidus and Yuna, to the point as you saw in the second video where they actually acknowledge their feelings for each other. But, one of them has to make a terrible sacrifice and it ends being the one that the rest of the characters didn't expect. So, at the end, once that sacrifice has to be made, it's heart-breaking. I am not ashamed to admit I cried.

You might not see the same emotion I do in the next video, but trust me that after the many hours of emotional investment the game puts into these characters, to see them torn apart and unable to do anything about it is just gut wrenching.

And when I found my soundtrack, I found the ending music. And damn if it didn't catch me off guard and make me mist up a little. It incorporates all those themes I described above so well: From the very sad and haunting oboe solo at the beginning, to the piano bit as he says goodbye, to the crescendo of the orchestra to the slow fade out as he literally fades away, oh man it's awesome.

Here it is. Watch until about 4:20

While it may seem like the love theme is missing, it actually comes in after that part, over the credits which are not in that video.

Oh man, just watching that again was hard.



Favourite places in KW

As my time in KW winds down, I start to think of some of the places here I will miss.

The Rum Runner. This is my favourite pub in the city. It's cozy, it's quiet, good beer selection, good food, friendly staff, good service, there is no bad news here. The only complaint is that it is slightly expensive, but that is easily overlooked.

Victoria Park. I like it, sketchy characters and all. It's very nice in the summer, and even more pretty in the fall.

Morty's. Back when I used to live up near King and Columbia, I would go here often. Best wings in town, excellent panzerotti specials, plus plenty of eye candy.

Taste of Philly Cheesesteak. If you've never been here, you really need to.

Yeah, the last couple blogs have been short. Deal with it.


Just shaaaaaaaaake it off

Sometimes you just need a mood changer. Some people like beer, others like music, I like video games.

Spend an hour or so on a video game when I'm having a rough day or have just been thinking too much, and I'm good for whatever comes next. You have to be careful with this, though, especially if you're playing something online or something particuarly hard. Your mood might get worse.

It has to be the right kind of game as well. High speed puzzle games are good, shooters are good. Beat-em-ups are especially good. Strategy games are usually not good for this purpose, if only because they are either frustrating or moving at the wrong pace.

Soundtrack goes a long way as well. The God of War and Prince of Persia series, Shadow of the Colossus, Starcraft 2, all have excellent soundtracks to get you in the right mood as well.


Winds of Change

1 degree, 2 girlfriends, 3 computers, 4 places lived, 5 countries visited, 6 FASSes, 7 years and countless friends later, I close the door on my time in Kitchener-Waterloo.

I arrived here in 2003 to begin my studies at UW, and now in 2010 I get ready to move back to Toronto. Between job prospects being slim, general ennui with the city, majority of d'Archangel already there or moving there soon and a sense that I don't really fit here anymore, I thought it was time.

At the moment, I plan to head back to Toronto at the end of October, move back in with the parents while I look for a new job, and then likely get an apartment with a friend.

Worry not, there will definitely be plenty of time to celebrate/mourn my departure, including get-togethers at my place to help me use up food that I don't want to transport. I also still have various books/CDs/movies/clothes that I am giving away, so if you want some free stuff, look me up. I will also likely need help eventually taking all of the stuff not claimed to charities and the like.

I don't make this decision lightly. I have made many friends here, and am loathe to leave them behind. I don't intend to stay a stranger, I don't intend to say goodbye forever. I do intend to move on, though. It's necessary.

I am sad that this will be the first FASS I intentionally do not participate in beyond audience. But really, many of the FASS band and crew I grew with have moved on between marriage/kids and other projects. It's sad, it's the end of an era, but life must go on.

I've titled this as the "Winds of Change" because it seems like so much of the status quo seems to be shaken right now. Economically, things are still up in the air, politically, things are up in the air, and things and people are moving all around me. Friends are moving and looking for new jobs, other friends are already elsewhere and settled, I've watched one girlfriend move on to another city, another ex is moving as you read this, and I've more or less been standing still the past couple years. I'm not ready to settle yet, though. I hate standing still. I had a solid adventure when I went to Ireland, and now it's time for another one.

Sorry if this seems disorganised and rambling, but I've been thinking about this for awhile and have only now gotten things moving, so I'm still a little emotional about it. I know things will end up fine.

I do want to try to see as many of you KWers as I can before I go though. I will miss all of you, but this is not goodbye. This is only "Au Revoir".



DISCLAIMER: This is the opinion and observation of a straight white guy, so take of that what you will.

I like to think I'm a pretty open-minded guy. Hell, just look at a lot of the company I keep. I have known/hung with/worked with people of all sorts of sexual and gender orientations, and I generally treat it like water off a duck's back. I am very interested in sexual and gender politics, and I like to think that the passion to suppress the queer community will die sooner rather than later.

That being said, the nomenclature and terminology of the queer community bugs me. The lack of consensus on definitions, coupled with the inevitability of picking the wrong term leads to a lot of embarassing moments for me. I can appreciate the need for appropriate definition, and I am more than aware of just how individual someone's gender and sexual identity can be, but you gotta draw a line somewhere.

I'm going to make a mathematical analogy(because that's what I do) to try to make my point a bit more clear.

Let's take the real interval R = [0,1]. That's every possible number from 0 to 1 inclusive. This interval is infinitely sized, and not just that, it's uncountably infinite. Let's take another set, the set of all rational numbers from 0 to 1, and let's call it Q. This set is also infinite, but it is countably infinite. If any of these terms are unfamiliar, don't worry about it. It's enough to know for now that R is much larger than Q.

But how much larger? Q actually has a measure of 0 within R. To give an imprecise definition of that, if R was a dart board, the probability of a dart hitting a point in Q is 0. Q basically takes up no space within R.

If we think of R as a spectrum of human sexuality and Q as the terminolgy of human sexuality, then it's pretty easy to see how a given person will often find it hard to find a term that is appropriate. It also helps describe the feeling of being adrift that a lot of queer people feel.

Now I'm not saying people need to define themselves narrowly, I'm just asking for a bone to be thrown. If I pick the wrong term, please don't get defensive or offended, just suggest the closest one.

I'm here, I'm straight but not narrow, get used to it.


Favourite moments in film

I have a few solid moments from movies that I can watch at any time. Spoilers may be nigh, ye be duly warned.

Metropolis The climactic scene
This video might seem like an edit or a tribute, but no. It's from the actual film. You'd normally expect some sort of urgent orchestral piece of music to accompany this scene, but instead you have Ray Charles. It's amazingly powerful, especially when you don't expect it:

Rob Roy Climactic sword fight
Most sword fights you see are between people with similar styles, with similar weapons. This is a great example of how differences in fight culture go.

Ronin The second car chase
Nothing like high speeds on tightly spaced Paris roads. "Take the tunnel now!" "Eh, merde!"


Failure to Drive in Marked Lanes

DISCLAIMER: No Chucks were harmed in the making of this post.

So, I was all ready to go to the family cottage on Saturday. The car was rented, the groceries were bought, the beer was ready, coffee was in hand and the tunes were blaring. I got on the road out of KW around 11:30

The driving was pretty good as I made my way North East. The 401 was its usual schizophrenic self, but things were clear once I got on the 115 and Hwy 7. At 2:30 I was starting to get a little restless, and was about 3 minutes away from Kaladar, which is a very town town at the intersection of Hwy 7 and Hwy 41, and I needed to go up 41 for a while. I planned to gas up, coffee up, food up and bathroom up at the gas station at this corner.

I was coming around a corner, and I lost my concentration for about a second, and found myself on the right shoulder, headed towards a guard rail and a 20ft drop. I turned left, but overcompensated and lost control. I was spinning out on Hwy 7, and the only thought on my mind was "Oh man, I am so glad there's nothing coming the other way." It is with those thoughts that the car fell backwards into a ditch at the side of the road.

After about 10 seconds of shock, I turned the car off and got out of the car. I took stock of myself, and climbed out of the ditch. A few people pulled over to see if I was alright, which I was. I borrowed the cell phone of one of these people and called 911. Fortunately, I new there was an OPP station not far down the road, and they were not long in arriving. I took the time to check the car out, and I was amazed to find out that aside from bending the muffler pretty badly, there was no serious damage to the car itself. Neither was there any damage to my stuff, the groceries or even the beer in the trunk.

The OPP constable was very helpful and understanding, getting a tow truck to the scene within 30 minutes of his arrival. He took my statement and let me relax in his cruiser since it was air-conditioned. I unfortunately had to be charged with something, so I got "Failure to drive in marked lanes" which is pretty mild considering I could have easily been charged with reckless driving(as the constable told me).

The next step was contacting the rental company to see if I could get a replacement vehicle sent out, since I was in Kaladar and had no vehicle. Again, the constable was kind enough to play the phone tag for me. While they couldn't get anything out to me since there were simply no cars at all available between Toronto and Ottawa, they offered to put me up in a hotel for a night or two until they could get something for me.

I then contacted some family members who were a couple hours away to see if they could help, and indeed they could, so I spent the night with my aunt and uncle in Consecon, and then got a ride to Toronto this afternoon with my aunt.

I called the rental company this morning(Sunday) to see if I could get another car, and they said the only locations open were airport branches, and we would have to go to one to get a car. I said that I would then wait for Monday morning for main branches to open.

As frustrated as I am with the whole thing, and as much as I wish I could be at he cottage with many beers in me right now, things could have gone a lot worse. I was not hurt, no one else was hurt, the car suffered pretty minor damage, I got charged very mildly, I opted for insurance with the rental company, and I got to sleep in a bed last night.


In Media Res

So now that the boring exposition is out of the way, we can go to the heart of the matter.[/lampshade]

In case you are unaware, In Media Res is a term for a piece of media that starts from the middle of the story as opposed to the beginning. It's more common than you might think.

What's interesting about it is how it relates to personal interaction. I read some interesting advice about how to set up a resume/prepare for an interview/talk about your job/etc. Use stories to convey the information. Stories stick in peoples minds far more easily than facts because they add context. Not to imply that these are fiction, just a narrative.

But if you think about it, just about everyone you meet and interact with you are joining In Media Res. You have not been around for that person's life until that point, and vice versa. You each need to create a narrative to explain who you are and why you are at this point in time. These narratives will add context to you, giving people a framework to understand you. If all you have to say is a few uninteresting words, you could easily be dismissed as a boring factoid.

So start practicing having a good "This is your life!" story handy for those times you need to sum yourself up.


Movies I can quote verbatim

One my measures of a movie's quality is how memorable the lines are. I have a very good memory for movie/TV lines, music lyrics, quotations, etc. I'm just in general very good at remembering things people say. Thus, it goes without saying that many of my favourite movies are those I have excellent line memory for.

Back when James Cameron cared about character depth and minimalism. This movies is one of the most influential SciFi movies ever. The grizzled space marine, the soulless pan-galactic corporation, artificial persons, and the general atmosphere have been copied a dozen times over afterwards.
"How do I get out of this chicken shit outfit?"
"Hey Vasquez, have you ever been mistaken for a man?" "No, have you?"
"What do we do now, man?" "Why don't we light a fire, sing some songs, how about that?"
The quotes go on and on.

Blues Brothers
Classic in so many ways. Great musical numbers, cameos, high point of both John Belushi and Dan Ackroyd, in my opinion. Also includes two of the greatest car chase scenes in music history.
"They broke my watch!"
"New Oldsmobiles are in early this year"
"Sweet Jesus tap-dancing Christ! I have seen the light!"

Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail
Goes without saying, really.

Though not necessarily one of my favourite movies, it's still awesome and has some great lines.
"Quaid! Start the reactor! Free Maaarr-*BLAM*"
"You blabbed, Quaid, you blabbed about Mars!"
"Hahahahaha, you think this is the real Quaid? It is."


Violently Non-Violent

I am very glad I am not in Toronto this weekend. With the core of city shut down, half from protesters, the other half from security, there would not be much to do. From the photos I see of the protests, I start to get very angry at these yahoos who come from miles around to turn the city I grew up in into their own personal playground.

Unfortunately, one of the big problems I've seen with regards to large scale protests is that the people at the top have no power(or desire?) to stamp out the douchebags in the group. There is little denouncing of the violence, and at times it's almost encouraged.

In some of the protests I've bene involved in, much tamer affairs with more specific goals and interests, some of the speakers that had been organised tried to point the crowd's anger at other, larger things(GWB was a popular target). The crowd promptly shut them down with chants reminding the speakers and the organisers of what the protest was actually about. The speakers then shut up and moved on.

That is the sort of thing that seems to be lacking in the aimless G20 protests. Lack of unified interest and lack of crowd control.

In fact, this gives me an idea:

If anything this big comes through Toronto again, I think I might organise something of my own. Not a counter protest, really, more of a volunteer security force. Violently maintain the non-violence of the protest. If any "Black Bloc" or other asshats start throwing rocks at the cops or breaking windows or otherwise cause excessive nuissances of themselves, I'd have myself and a few organised individuals photograph their acts, tackle them, unmask and photograph their faces, and then escort them out of the protest. Second offense is being handed to the police.

Again, this would not be a counter protest. This would be to ensure that it stays non-violent. Part of the obscene billion dollar price tag for the security is to deal with the violent fringe that always seems to show up. The less the cops have to deal with such shit themselves the less stressed they are, and calm cops are not a bad goal to have with regards to large, multi-national protests.



So, d'Archangel had a pretty awesome gig last night. We were very tight musically, there was good energy among the fans, the other bands were good, and there was that good feeling among the band you only get after something goes well.

Naturally, this has me worried. No good deed goes unpunished, after all, and I fear for what critics will say once we actually get big and exposed(I know it will happen: I am occasionally allowed to be optimistic).

Don't get me wrong, criticism and feedback are an important part of any kind of creative process. You want to make things that people will want to consume, and you also want to make things that fellow creators will appreciate. But the modern system of delivering that information tends to lead to alot of bad blood. All you need to do is spend some time on the forums of particular-popular-media of choice. Gaming forums are especially bad for this. There will always be people who are just never happy. Ever.

There is a SERIOUS sense of entitlement among fans. In fact, make that just about everybody with disposable income. I forget the exact source and verbatim, but I read a fantastic quote that sums up a lot of this entitlement sentiment: "Suburbs have no problems, so the residents have to create their own." You see this a lot with student politics, office politics, etc. The fights are so vicious because the stakes are so small.

d'Archangel is trying to avoid the interpersonal drama of this phenomenon by having it be band policy that we remain cool, but we have no control over fan reactions. That's why now I want our fans to enter this deal: d'Archangel will always strive to make awesome music and be fun, easy going guys; you fans need to like our music because you think its awesome and be cool to everybody. Just Be Excellent to Each Other and we will do the same thing.

One of my big concerns for the future generations of voters and government is that with more and more activity occuring over the internet, political discourse is starting become a lot like the unpleaseable fanbase. Let's not go there, please.


Value of Theatre

I think my being involved with theatre and hanging out with theatrically inclined people has done quite a lot to open me up. For the longest time I was(and still am a bit) very introverted and shy. It was always hard for me to break the ice and meet new people. All of that really started to change my first year of FASS.

People involved with theatre(whether cast or crew) have a tendency to be more out- and easy-going than your average dude. Through getting to know a lot of the people in FASS, and by extension KWLT, I have become much mroe adept at making new friends, being comfortable in a group, and all that jazz.

I have been involved with music for much longer than I was with theatre, but the dynamic is very different. With music, while you may associate with a lot of people on a regular basis, you only work with a few at a time. In theatre, you are likely working with a substantially larger group. Not to say that music does not have a valuable dynamic: You get to know those few people REALLY well, and that has its own challenges.


And so it starts

So the One-Act dress rehearsals begin tonight, and then the show opens on Thursday and runs until June 12th.

I am very excited for this. The cast has been outstanding, the show is funny, nothing has yet caught fire(though I have been quite sick for much of the duration) so I think I can safely say that everything will run smoothly.

For my first official directorial outing, I think I have done pretty well. I like to think I have a good eye for what is funny. Much of my directing involved the following phrase: "I noticed you doing X. It's hilarious, keep doing X". A cast that likes to experiment is simultaneously a director's friend becasue good moments can come out of it, but it can be annoying when you're trying to get a baseline of length/humour/blocking/etc. The hilarity outweighs the annoyance though. Gotta love iterative processes.

I think I knew I had succeeded when I had the following exchange last week with Amos my SM:

Amos: I just noticed X doing Y, that's really funny.
Me: I know, I told her to do that.
Amos: Really? Nice.

But the true determining happens when the show starts! So I better see you all out there cheering on my actors! They have been doing an amazing job.


Not in stereo

Bah. So I got sick again a couple weeks ago, and I still have a wicked sore throat that will not go away. I went to a doctor and got tested for strep-throat, and that came back negative. I asked my mom to take a look at it(it's handy having a doctor in the family) this weekend, and she thinks it might be mono.

Great. So I have weeks of this to look forward to? Why does my body hate me so?



In the past couple years I have become much more of a coffee drinker. It used to be tea and tea only, but now its mostly coffee. I do still enjoy tea though.

Working in an office full of coffee drinkers doesn't help, especially when we special order our own coffee(fair trade, international and delicious) and have our own office coffee maker. I will sometimes not realise just how much I've drank until after work. In the interest of minimal toilet humour, lets just say that I REALLY notice when I've had a lot of coffee to drink.

But being the guy I am, I always like to try things that are BIGGER and BETTER! A couple months ago when I was in Toronto I visited one of my favourite shops:Taste: The 4th Sense. They normally sell a whole bunch of hot sauces, olive oils and vinegars, etc, but they also had some ground coffee for sale. This coffee in fact. Yes, it is indeed called that. The only flavour they had was Chocolate Macadamia Nut, but I just could not resist.

I finally brewed myself up some not long ago.

First few sips: That's a nice nutty flavour! Don't need much sugar for this coffee.

1/4 cup gone: Ah, there's the caffeine I was looking for.

3/4 cup gone: Is there an earthquake? Why is everything shaky?



I have come to the conclusion that this coffee is best had blended in with other blends.....


"Who do you listen to?" "Uhhh......"

I hate questions like that. "What sort of music do you listen to?" "What's your favourite genre?" "Who are your favourite bands?" My tastes are very varied and have been prone to change over time. The same thing applies to movies, but slightly less so. I always have to wrack my brain any time I need to answer that question in person or for a questionaire. Especially for something like an online profile, I will sometimes notice the list a few months down the road and notice that it is way off.

That being said, here are a few stand bys that have lasted the test of my time:

I love jazz. I still listen to old albums and will warm up and jam on old blues tunes and stand bys on my bass. '50s smooth jazz and big band, '70s funk and fusion, '90s and '00s takes on classic styles, it's all good.

This dude is the undisputed master of the power ballad. Great voice, great prescence and good backing bands makes for a very memorable musical experience.

Led Zeppelin
I really need to justify this one?

Trans Siberian Orchestra
A more recent addition, but definitely a strong contender for a long lasting love. The combination of heavy metal, classical, holiday and story telling is a great mix.

Gotta love some German Industrial Metal. I've enjoyed these guys since the hey-day of "Du Hast". Bonus points go to them for having an excellent sense of humour about themselves. Translate a few of their songs and watch some of their music videos to see what I mean.

There are also a few bands and genres that have definitely started to wane in my taste:

Pop-Rock, Basic Rock
As you may have guessed from some of my favourites above, I like my rock music epic and big. Bands like Staggered Crossing, Matchbox 20, Collective Soul, etc, are certainly not bad, but my tastes are definitely drifting away from them.

I'm re-introducing myself to them, mostly for bass styles, but my phase with them and that style is definitely over.

There might be a similar post to this soon with movie stand bys and such as well.


Now for something completely similar!

It never quite seems to end. While my flu is gone, I am pretty sure that I now have some mild tonsilitis. Bah.

But onto more happy things: I do my part of recording for the d'Archangel demo tomorrow, and that should be good times. Recording is rough work, but is very worthwhile. We also have a show coming up this Thursday in Toronto at Rock & Roll Heaven and that should be a very good show.

The improving weather is also making me happier. While I'm not normally someone whose moods are directly proportional to the weather, sickness and busyness will bring that out in me.

I am also enjoying one particular song way too much: Curse you, Guild! How dare you make a song that catchy!
For that matter, I also curse the Gorillaz. Stupid catchy tunes....



This has not been the greatest week ever.

I got whacked with a nasty Flu last Saturday night, and it still hasn't fully cleared out. That, combined with a failed interview, missing get-togethers, and having to sit out of recording this weekend and the lame weather has made me very sour.

The only real bit of good news I received was that I would be getting an income tax refund. It was VERY good news.

But really, this sickness was amazingly inconvenient. Why couldn't it have come last week, when not much was going on? Or the week before when even less was happening? The only good thing about it hitting me this week was that it should clear up over the weekend so that I won't be sick for the d'Archangel set next week.



Though I missed the Centennial, I realised a while ago in a short seven years I will be alive for the Canadian Sesquicentennial. This comes to mind partly out of doing the math, but mostly out of thoughts coming about after reading the news. I am not a huge fan of the current government in parliament right now, or of modern politics in general. There is too much division at work in political discourse. Unity has been a defining part of Canadian politics off and on, but mostly what I realised is that(like many post-colonial nations) we lack a certain defining nationality. It's hard to pinpoint exactly what "Canadian" means despite many attempts to do so.

This may be one of the reasons I am a big fan of Stuart McLean and the Vinyl Cafe. From the well written and heart felt stories about Dave and Morley, to the promotion of young Canadian musicians and artists, to his highlighting of local histories, Stuart is easily the premier producer of Canadiana. I have a few of the books, and recently started downloading the podcasts to listen to regularly. The guy is definitely the Garrison Keillor of Canada.

Every time I read one of the stories or listen to the show, I feel a strong sense of "Wow. This is Canada." To follow in the footsteps of other CBC journalists, this guy would make a great GG. The dude knows Canada, and could inspire unity and progress like no current politician could.


Bass fundamentals

Being a bass player means that you need to be part of the rhythm section. You need to be the rock that allows the leads to do their thing. Even if you find this siffling or boring, just remember the immortal words of Victor Wooten: "You can't hold no groove if you ain't got no pocket."

But do not fret(pun totally intended)!You can be creative as part of the rhythm section, you can throw your own flavour into what your playing, you just need to be solid as you do so. The thing to be aware of, though, is that different styles require different levels and styles of groove.

This is one of those situations where you are generally needed to spam the root of the chord, which can be fairly boring. The trick to embellishing here depends on the kind of rock. More classic rock means adding some blues walk, pop means more specific riffs, punk and hard rock means speed and high action. Good general stuff to do: passing tones, 5ths and octaves. If you have lots of room, adding some slap and pop works well too.

Blues & Jazz
Jazz is very varied, but for the vast majority of jazz and blues, you will find that you are the time keeper as opposed to the drums. The horns, piano and such will be listening to you for their timings. This means a lot of quarter note walks and riffs. Creativity here lies in the subtle changes to the walks(a slight swing, finishing the octave rather than the blues scale, etc) and adding little bits of dissonance(tritones, minor seconds, etc).

You will likely have some specific riffs to be rocking out, but given that they are funk riffs, they should be pretty fun. Lots of creative timing, slapping, octaves, swing, etc. You likely have license to have fun so long as you do one supremely important thing: Hit the 1 on 1. That is the pocket in a funk tune.

Country and Folk
Bass generally doesn't do much in this style of music. Much more guitar/voice oriented. Most likely, you will be doing bars of roots. Not a whole lot of room for creativity. Maybe throw a 4th or an octave in.

Reggae is one of those genres where the usual arrangement is reversed. Here, the guitar will be the rhythm, often with offbeat upstrokes, while the bass does the lead riffs. The same rules as funk generally apply, but reggae tends to be a little tighter with its riffs and looser with its timing.

Personally, having learned bass from a bluesy/jazzy/funk standpoint, I tend to incorporate those styles in my playing(as d'Archangel can attest to), and even when playing a cover of a tame bass song, I like to add flavour. So take this knowledge and go out and add some low end! But always remember to get that pocket if you want to hold a groove.


One Acts and such

Uh oh, I'm late in updating!

I've been busy getting things ready, as I am directing a One-Act Play with KWLT and auditions are the coming week. Should be a fun adventure, my first official directorial debut. I like the script, I like the actors KWLT attract and am personally familair with many, I like the other plays in the One-Act Festival, this should be fun.

Yesterday was the FASS Annual General Meeting, where new constitutional changes came in, new committee members were chosen, and the new theme was chosen: Myths and Legends. Not my first choice, but still a good choice. Timely as well, considering that the Clash of the Titans remake is coming out soon.

d'Archangel has a show coming up soon in Toronto, at Rock & Roll Heaven on April 22nd. The last show was a HUGE amount of fun, and the whole band is excited to perform again. I hope to see oyu all out there!


Baile Atha Cliath was good Craic

It being St. Patrick's Day, there is lots of green and "Irish" abound. Thus, it is no surprise that I think back to my time in Dublin. Holy crap, it's almost been two years since I got back from there. I have very excellent memories of Dublin, from the food, the roommates, the work, the drink, the sites and the general good craic to everything in between.

North America for the most part, though, seems only to be aware of the "Guinness" and "Green" aspect of Ireland on St. Patrick's Day. Guinness isn't even that good. London Porter is a better export stout, and when in Dublin you can get much better local stouts(my favourite was a chocolate truffle stout).

So, here are some random facts about Ireland you may not be aware of:

-Despite the popular correlation of Catholicism and Ireland, the large old cathedrals and churches you see are not Catholic, but likely Anglican or Presbyterian. This was due to the Catholics not being allowed to build churches for many centuries.

-Each city and decent sized town in the Republic has a street named after Daniel O'Connell.

-Gaelic is actually the 3rd most spoken language in the country, after English and Mandarin.

-Each county(almost even each town) has its own unique dsitinct accent. Not a small difference either.

-The St. James Gate Guinness brewery used to be the largest in the world, now it's only the second. The largest is in Nigeria, but it too is a Guinness brewery.

So Slainte, my friends, and don't get too knackered.


I Want You Now

One of my favourite tunes by Big Sugar


Half awake in the morning
I want you now
This feeling grips me without warning
I want you now
Sunlight dancing on my curtain
And I want you now
My state of mind remains uncertain
But I want you now

Lying in the bed for hours
But I ain't sick don't send me flowers
You can kill me with your powers
And I want you now

Som misdeed or some infraction
But I want you now
I bet a billion of my actions
'Cuz I want you now

Don't lose the thread of your story
I've been a fool in all my glory
That's why I've come to say I'm sorry
ANd I want you now

Say it guitar, say it one time for me.

Even the faithful can falter
But I want you now
That's why I'm kneeling at your altar
'Cuz I want you now

Don't lose the thread of your story
Honey I don't see no cause for worry
I've been a fool in all my glory
That's why I've come to say I'm sorry
And I want you now

I want you now

I want you now

I want you now



I love roleplaying games. They are great ways to spend some time with friends. From the character creation, to the story telling, to the joking, to the thrill of getting a big hit, everything just meshes together so well. It's so unfortunate that a good roleplaying group is so hard to keep together for a period longer than 3 or 4 months.

Whenever I mention to someone that I play Dungeons & Dragons one of the common questions that I get asked is "What is it like?" The answer I give is "It's collaborative storytelling." It has one person driving the main plot, while everyone else controls the actions and decisions of the main characters. The best sessions and campaigns come about when the player's character ideas and motivations become part of the bigger world, and when the themes and of the world get expressed int eh characters. There have been times when I wish someone was writing everything down so that it could be the next great fantasy novel.

I also know a lot of people with whom I've gamed that loved creating their character portrait, encouraging them to think of new things to draw. Especially with 4th edition of D&D, there is a lot more emphasis on flavour and visuals of the world and the characters as opposed to just the system they live in, which is very inspiring from an artistic and a storytelling perspective. I know I read a few fo the descriptions in the rule books and looked at the illustrations and though 'man that's cool, I totally need to send the players there.'

But yeah, this was just a little waxing about roleplaying.


The Olympics

I've always had a strange relationship with the Olympics. Despite my step-brother being in the business, I have never seemed to manage a huge amount of excitement about the Olympics, summer or winter. I am certainly very pleased and impressed at Canada's showing this year. Go national pride and such. Record setting amount of golds, I believe, and always good for something to talk about when all else fails.

But really, it's sports. And I've never been one to get too excited about sports in general. Rugby is a notable exception, but even then I don't really seek it out. I have always been far more interested and impressed by general physical feats and skills. I like the summer olympics better than the witner for this reason(gymnastics, weight lifting, shot put, etc). I also greatly enjoy strong man competitions and highland games and such.

When it comes to games and direct player competitions, I prefer more cerebral and strateic games. The kind played on a board, with cards or with words. I can appreciate the planning and staffing aspects of soccer, hockey, rugby and such, because they're akin to the sort of math I studied.

But really, I just can't get too excited about sports. I'll watch them if others are watching them, I'll cheer if something cool happens, but I don't actively seek them out.

Except Rugby. Rugby is always awesome.


Final Fantasy

While I've never been a huge gamer, I do play my fair share of video games. Among my favourites are those form the Final Fantasy series. Playing them is akin to reading a fantastic book and seeing it all unfold before your eyes. After almost 13 iterations on the main series alone, though, there have been some wide variations in quality and style. Here are some of my favourites.

Best Music: FInal Fantasy 9

The last one where Nobuo Uematsu composed everything, this one had the best music out of all the series. The whole game had lots of little homages to the previous games, but the music sold it perfectly. From the jazzy tones of the town music, to the creepy organ music of the dungeons, to the epic music of the bosses, the music is always fun to listen to.

Best Characters: FInal Fantasy 6

Very few games can pull off having 14 characters and have them all be meaningful and 3-dimensional. Very few games can pull that off with 4. The sixth game in the franchise had some outstanding characters with very distinct arcs and rewarding progression. From the kingdom retainer so tortured with grief over the loss of his wife and son that his dreams actually become a dangerous dungeon to navigate, to the sasquatch who joins up with you because a little puff ball says so, to the girl with a secret magical heritage that she can't control and the thief who manages to save his girlfriend only long enough for her to say thank you and goodbye.

Best Story: FInal Fantasy Tactics

Though not a true member of the series, the story for this game is just outstanding. Intrigue, mystery, betrayal, redemption, princesses, giants, true love, everything a good fantasy story needs.

Best Side Game: FInal Fantasy 10

Each Final Fantasy has its own little side game that you can play when you need a break form the main plot, and they often have specific rewards in the game of their own. THey're often little card or racing games, but none come close to Blitzball. Like a mix of underwater rugby and soccer, this minigame was so addicitive.

Most Challenging: Final Fantasy 12

While you could be lazy and just grind a lot, playing through the main game of 12 was very challenging. The enemies were tough, you're short on money and gear, lots of enemies get fought at once, everything happens pretty fast. Some of the bosses and hunts especially are very hard.


d'Archangel breaks onto the scene!

As you may or may not be aware, I am part of the exciting new musical sensation d'Archangel that is sweeping the greater KW area!

Well, okay, maybe not sweeping yet...

But we are definitely well on our way. Starting with our first show this Friday(the 19th) at The Hive in downtown Kitchener, we aim to rock hard and always be cool.

I realise that not everyone is into heavy metal, and that is perfectly understandable. However, I might tantalise you a bit to get fence-sitters coming to the show anyway:

For ONE NIGHT ONLY!!! I will have a mohwak, complete with hair dye. Are you really going to pass up the opportunity to see something like that on my head?

You can check out the link above or this one to check out our freshly minted single Situations, and many more will come.

Hope to see you all out on Friday.


Just the Bassics

Bass players are generally the mellower counterpart to the guitarist in a band. Mellower in attitude, anyway. Guitarists tend to be very loud in both their sound and their manner, whereas bass players are more relaxed. This does not mean that the bass guitar cannot be awesome and punch out out, which it can and totally does, but even when it does the players still tend to be fairly groovy and relaxed while it happens.

Here are my favourite 3 bass players that really stand out no matter how they play:

Jaco Pastorius

He was among the many artists who died early, but while he was around(and even now) he was considered the greatest bassist to ever live. This guy is the Jimi Hendrix of the bass guitar. Don't believe me? Check these:
The Chicken, with his big band
Havona, as part of Weather Report

Marcus Miller

Words cannot describe how funky this guy is. He knows exactly when to embellish, he knows exactly when to keep the groove, he knows when to just stay quiet. Plus the dude totally rocks that hat:
Bruce Lee

John Paul Jones

It may be cliche to speak of Zeppelin as influential to music, but JPJ is often overlooked, even by the band itself. After getting inducted into the hall of fame, John remarked that the band had "finally remembered my phone number". Take a listen into the fat bass in these two classic Zeppelin tunes. The man is rock solid:
Black Dog
Bring it on Home

This is by no means the extent of awesome bass players out there, they just deserve special mention.


Third time is the charm

There are a few things I find become more true about myself as time goes on:

1. I keep meaning to write more but always managing to get committed elsewhere
2. I have mini-encyclopaedic knowledge of random stuff
3. Life keeps happening all the time, and I don't need to wait until something big happens to do something about it.
4. I like pie. Also cookies.
5. Despite all efforts, people somehow think I'm cool.

As a result, this is now blog attempt number 3. I tried to set one up related to mathematics but I ended up running out of things to talk about. I did one for a while relating to my travels, but then I stopped travelling.

SO! Here is the new one. You may thank d'Archangel's drummer, Matt, for the title.

Prepare yourself for the following:

-lists of cool & not-so cool stuff.
-random musings and rants
-general life stuff
-thought experiments
-blatant self-promotion
-declarations of awesome
-miscellaneous bits of etcetera

I aim to update this once or twice a week, so heads up!