Post Bathtime CanineGrendel got into some shit this morning. Literally.

I had been thinking about giving the little fugger a bath for a while now. Grendel forced my hand this morning by finding a pile of poop to roll around in. I turned him loose in my parents back yard so that he could answer natures call. After he scampered around for a minute or two, I noticed a slimy brown sheen to his coat. Instantly, I knew he had found something revolting to roll around in.

Apparently dogs don’t care much for how they smell, so occasionally they are compelled to mask it with something even worse smelling. I guess they figure they can be stealthy if they roll around in something hideous. I don’t know about you, but if I don’t like how I smell, I rather enjoy a warm shower with a big honkin’ bar of soap. Not so for Grendel.

I promptly grabbed him as best I could without getting too much poop on my own hands. Into the laundry sink he went, with some warm water and the aforementioned bar of soap. I rinsed the brown goo from him and lathered him up, much to his chagrin. As Barney looked on, Grendel tried to climb out of the sink to escape the dreaded stream of water and doggy shampoo. Grendel was no more pleased with me bathing him, as I was with him rolling around in a puddle of brown goo outside.

We call dogs “mans best friend”, but after this episode, the relationship has been strained a little. He was quite happy getting a horrible stink on, and I was quite happy with the polar opposite. The tension between “if it feels good, do it” and “cleanliness is next to godliness” was apparent.

All of this merely proves one point. There are different strokes for different folks. The big questions remain unanswered.

Get This. I’m listening to a recording by Pete Townshend. He’s the guy who wrote “I hope I die before I get old.”  It’s a live recording of a benefit concert for The Maryville Academy. Townshend and his quintet have been ably recorded by the House of Blues. Pete Townshend has not escaped old, but he’s still cranking out some good old fashioned Maximum R&B.

It’s not something that I’d ever heard of. It’s one of those surplus oddities that leap out at you when you’re browsing the clearance bookshops. If nothing, it’s a demonstration of Townshend’s relevance. I guess since his early utterances about age and relevance, he’s had to struggle with keeping his. He’s not doing too bad of a job.

I have to confess that I struggle with the same problem. I keep noticing that I’m not exactly a kid any longer, and like everyone else, my sensibilities are changing. As a saxophonist, I don’t feel too bad about what I can do with the horn. My technique keeps improving, and my solos make a little more sense. I mention this odd insecurity of mine because I’m hanging with some much younger players these days, and I keep wondering if I my approach to music is too weird.

I’m just a rock musician. I’ve dabbled at jazz music because I’m a sax player. But importantly, I am a rock player. I play rock music with other rock musicians regularly. The only aspect of jazz that might remain is there’s a lot of improvisation and making things up as  we go along. Otherwise, it’s plain old rock music.

It’s an odd challenge to play a horn, because as a listener, I tend to think that most of the time, a solo horn in a rock band is just out of place. It’s really hard to figure out how to play this screechy oversized kazoo, and make it relevant in the context. The sax has all the right elements. It’s loud and has a less than subtle timbre most of the time. Rock music is rife with all sorts of noisy sounds. I guess you could say that Hendrix cast a long shadow. But the tension remains, and for some damn reason, the saxophone just doesn’t fit too easily into a rock band. It’s been done, but it’s not too common.

My feelings haven’t changed since Steve, Gordie and Larry invited me to a jam at a very bohemian space on Eastern Avenue. Appropriately, they cranked it to 11 and did the best version of Communication Breakdown I’ve ever heard. This was some time in 1984. I’ve been winging it ever since.

I went for a good long stroll about our fair city yesterday afternoon. With the little fuggers at my side, I headed west on Queen St. Despite the crowds, Bernard Flaco, and Grendel escaped unscathed.  There were loads of things for the canine olfactories to delight in.

All along our route, we encountered several buskers, performing their magic, and entertaining the crowds. I purchased a CD from the old geezer who plays his classical guitar in front of Osgoode Hall. He’s an amiable and talented chap, and he has a left hand that would make Earl envious. I don’t know what Barney and Grendel know of the Terpsichorean Muse, but it sure impresses me whenever I hear this man’s playing. His CD is prety good, and it’s a bargain at only $10.

Farther along we heard an accordionist, a bagpiper, and a jazz rock trio. The accordionist needed practice, and I guess that’s what she was doing on the street besides trying to make a few extra dollars. The piper is a regular on the street, and he plays all the standard highland tunes. If that’s your thing, he’s pretty good too. The jazz rockers were pretty racous and funky. Much to my dismay, the vast majority of people just kept on going without throwing a coin in their cases or even a second glance.

But the best act I saw on the street had to be the puppeteer. He was hamming it up for an old couple who were probably entertaining their grandson. The wee lad had to be only 4 or 5 months old at most. As his granddad held him to watch the puppet show, he was obviously enthralled with the performance. He sat with his jaw agape, flapping his tiny arms and giggling uncontrollably at the puppets. The man hidden behind the curtain sang a variation on twinkle twinkle little star, and the little guy couldn’t get enough.

Now this little display probably wouldn’t have made me take a second look, except for the fact that the youngest audience member was intensely drawn in by the show. Had the wee fellow not been there, I suspect I would have just kept on strolling. It just goes to show you that some of the silliest of entertainments can really hook you. It was so heart warming to see the look on the baby’s face as the puppeteer did his thing. His grandparents and the few other people gathered ’round were as tickled as I was to witness this.

There’s something to be said for taking your time when you have the time. Like everyone else, I can get caught up in my own mind, and not pay any attention to what’s going on around me. I have to say I’m glad I caught this brief scene, because it was proof that life is good, and the simplest of things can be a real turn-on if you’re receptive.

Summer in Toronto is so nice.

Torontonian Coyote's Breakfast

Torontonian Coyote's Breakfast

 

I read a news story in the Toronto Star today about a coyote attack on a chihuahua in the east end of town. Apparently, the unfortunate little fugger was out in the back yard for a morning whiz when a coyote jumped the fence, and made breakfast out of her. Gruesome to say the least. It’s certainly not what I would expect to see in suburban Hogtown.

I’ve seen coyotes here before, but usually in industrial areas and well away from residential parts. I guess the coyote population is booming these days, and people with small dogs and cats should beware of the growing threat. The coyote is not your friendly neighbourhood pooch. Not even close.

What really irked me about this story, besides the animal control department’s response was the comments left on the Star’s website after the article. The animal control officers said they couldn’t capture the animal without orders from their supervisor. If the owner had paid for his dog license, then I’d say it’s fair to suggest the coyote be trapped and dealt with. The comments to the article are even worse.

One reader had the audacity to suggest that the owner didn’t have a “real dog” anyway, and it was no big loss. This cold hearted bastard ought have his nuts removed and fed to a coyote before he reproduces, but perhaps I’m overreacting.

Other comments say we should embrace the natural world and respect the coyote’s natural instincts. Both are wrong in my opinion. Coyotes are a growing problem throughout the province. I don’t imagine that sheep and cattle farmers are too thrilled with a booming population of predators killing their livestock. I certainly know that pet owners don’t want to live with a seige mentality and keep their animals indoors at all times. The city is not the place for wild animals to be roaming about guzzling our furry companions.

Has anyone noticed that there aren’t any groundhogs around these days? It’s tough to spot them nowadays compared to even a decade ago.

Coyotes certainly aren’t endangered, so I would have no problems with some kind of bounty on them. Bounties were common in years gone by, and they were very effective when dealing with nuisance animals. Of course we don’t want trigger happy hunters running around, but we’ve got to strike a balance. I don’t think anyone would want to see a coyote attacking and killing a small child or another household pet. Reducing the coyote population isn’t such a bad thing when you think about the possibilities.

I guess the next thing we have to worry about are the idiocy of reader comments to news websites. We can’t put a bounty on these people, but it sure would be nice to see people think before they post their asinine comments.

I watched the inauguration this morning. Me, and a few billion other people were interested in seeing this transition take place in the USA. I won’t go into my dislike for the Republiklan and Dubya because that’s been spelled out by a lot of other commentators.

America is a conundrum of sorts. I like Americans. They are open minded and friendly folk. At least the many I’ve met fit this description. The people of the USA are as nice as any you might meet, anywhere. There is also a societal thing about America that I can’t figure out. As individuals, you can’t find nicer people, but as a society, I have issues. The entrenched mentality of “every man for himself” and mistrust of government that pervades their society is hard to fathom. Stuff like their gun culture and their unwillingness to create a universal health care system make me scratch my head.

I think I’m qualified to speak about this, because I’ve spent some time living in the states. Back in the late eighties, I took up residence in Texas for a couple of years. Other folks had always spoken about how weird Texans were, and I found them to be very warm hearted and interesting people. Like anywhere else, there were rednecks as well as worldly and well educated people. Not unlike Ontario except we don’t speak with a drawl. I also met some people who had an unhealthy contempt for government of all kinds, and found it worrisome. One guy in particular had a gun collection that could have outfitted a small army, and he had enough ammo to kill every man, woman and child in town several times over. He said he kept this because “the government tells me I can’t have these things.”

The American people know how to work in cooperative ventures. The whole of their society is greater than the sum of it’s parts. Over the course of the twentieth century, America changed the world. Nobody can do that alone, and in the post depression era, men like FDR transformed the government of the USA into a galvanizing force for good. A cursory glance at the history books will instantly prove that an involved government isn’t always a bad thing. It wasn’t a collection of individuals, but a cooperative society that did it.

The last few years have really shown how the American people have abandoned that view. Their zeal to deregulate banking and industry has caused all sorts of problems, not just for America, but the whole world. The government has been starved of resources to do what should be done and the results are telling. Witness the banking meltdown and the overdone consumerism that imperils our environment. Some healthy government regulations could have saved a lot of the current misery that abounds. Dogmatism and pragmatism are always at odds.

It’s a breath of fresh air to see America choose a man like Barack Obama to lead them. Here’s a guy who has worked inside of government from the municipal level all the way to the Senate. He knows the positive effect that government can have on the day to day lives of people. He has arrived at a time where the government has to step in  to fix some serious mistakes and become more involved in the day to day lives of Americans.

Self reliance is all right and fine, but Americans are going to have to reexamine their dogma. Mr. Obama’s call to reinvent America will be an empty statement unless America thinks about the whole of their society rather than the selfish desires of it’s individual members. Me, and those few other billions of people can only wish Barack Hussein Obama luck in his quest. Perhaps a little of his cooperative vision could rub off on Canada.

 

Solos are taken in the C Dorian scale (Bflat Major starting on the second note). You can also hit on the odd Gflat note. The only note to avoid explicitly is the E.The tune is based on a Cminor11 chord. From this, the following chords can be derived from it, and will always fit:

  • Cm
  • Cm9
  • Eflat
  • Eflat M7
  • Gm
  • Gm7
  • Bflat M7
  • Dm

This is just the beginning. There are a bunch of inversions that will give you some juicy sixth chords and suspensions. The recipe calls for just trying to flesh out the big minor eleventh chord by expressing parts of it against other parts of the chord. The Bass part can focus on playing the C minor triad for the most part, but this is a recipe, so you’re allowed to mess with the ingredients.

Find as many musicians as you can. Spice liberally and cook for as many minutes as possible.

It might sounds like shit for all I know, but theoretically, it should work nicely.

I’ll let you know how it tastes.  

It’s an odd anniversary for me, because at this time two years ago, I was facing the prospect of blindness. I think the treatments were starting to work, and my eyesight was improving slightly. Still, the doctors weren’t willing to say how much or how soon I would see much of anything. Despite my best efforts to keep my chin up, I was daunted. I kept a positive viewpoint and did my best to keep my cool.

Since that time, I’ve made a remarkable recovery, and my vision is pretty good relatively speaking. I’m not blind. I need strong reading glasses, and my eyesight gets a little uppity in changing light conditions. It’s a minor inconvenience and not a showstopper. After all of that, I figured the only way to look was up.

For a while that was true. Then something much worse happened. My partner of over 24 years went to Scotland and died.

It’s been a few months since PJ died, and life goes on. I’m back to work, and trying to keep from losing my grip. It’s harder recovering from this than my blindness. When I was blinded, at least I had PJ to look after me. Now, I’ve got a whole lot less. I have nobody. I wake up in the empty bed, and go through the motions and go back to an empty bed. It’s hard to know what I feel some times.

I look around and realize that I’m alright. I’m physically fit, more or less, and my day to day comforts are still available. I have the little fuggers and my friends to provide some solace. The material world is good to me. Not having anyone to share it with is the issue.

None of this crap matters sometimes. It’s fine to have clothes, books, and musical instruments. It’s nice to have the freedom to travel around in my automobile, but an almost crushing feeling of emptiness infuses every other sensation I have. I can still laugh, but I wonder if it’s the right thing to do. Am I allowed to be cheerful? Sometimes I cry, and wonder what the point of that is. Is there a requisite amount of crying that needs to be done?

I think all of us feel isolated from the world around us at times. The tension between individuality and society is ever present, and irreconcilable. It’s impossible to know exactly how anyone else really feels despite their best efforts to describe it. It’s hard to talk through whatever rough patches there are. Words are inadequate, but it’s all we have to deal with our feelings in a concrete way.

We can deal with our feelings in the abstract I suppose. Some of us play musical instruments. Some of us dance. Some of us assume other personalities and characters on  the stage. Some of us create physical objects like paintings or sculptures. It’s part of the human condition to use a lot of different means to describe our feelings. Words are direct and the most accurate way, but even so, nothing we say or write can cover all the bases.

It’s like calculus. We can approach the right answer, but we never actually get there. Happy New Year everyone. I hope I have a happier year, but I sure think it’s off to a miserable start.

Barney and Grendel have friends in the building. Well, at least they say hi to each other and they see eye to eye, because they’re all little fuggers. It’s the whole butt sniffing figure-out-the-pheromones kinda relationship. I think you know what I mean. They’re dogs after all.

This evening, their friend Sammie came across a different kind of playmate. Sammie is a Lhasa Apso or a Bichon Frise. He’s one of those dogs that looks like a dust mop with legs.  Sammie is visiting his friends down on the second floor. In the spirit of the season, they thought some company for Sammie would be a good idea. To cover all the bases, Sammie’s hosts are also celebrating their wedding anniversary today, so what’s the big deal? Lemme tell you.

A romantic dinner and company to entertain you guest are always nice, so J killed two birds with one stone figuratively speaking and purchased 4 cuddly little lobsters. While the water was coming to a boil on the stove, the condemned crustaceans were turned loose on the kitchen floor so they could meet Sammie.

Sammie was perplexed at first and approached warily while the lobsters mostly sat in the middle of the floor and tentatively waved their securely banded claws in the air. Three of the aqueous quartet weren’t too lively, but the fourth was up for a little more excitement. It proceeded to shamble across the floor a little more aggressively to chase Sammie towards the corner. It waved it’s claws in the air while Sammie continued to move backwards with a suspicious glance.

Now maybe Sammie’s hosts and I are somewhat cruel, but I for one thought this was quite the scene. Before the pot beckoned, the lobsters got to meet a vertebrate, and Sammie saw how the other orders of life live. I keep thinking about how Barney or Grendel would react when faced with a ten-legged crustacean. They’ve met lots of other creatures like cats and horses, so why not add an ocean dweller to the list?

Sammie's New Friend

I’ve just been watching a DVD containing footage from Miles Davis’ performance at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970. It’s pretty amazing stuff if you’re into the later electric music of Davis. It’s really weird music, and very difficult for a lot of people to wrap their heads around. There’s Jack Johnson, and the Bitches Brew, and some live recordings from the Fillmore that document this music. The electric music of Miles is quite radical because it’s usually an extended jam rather than a tightly structured thing. It can take a while for the thematic material to emerge from the intense groove.

The records are wonderful, but getting the visual side of it as well makes it something else. On this visual record, there’s a who’s who of modern jazz players. I’d like to see if you can keep your jaw from hitting the floor before you finish this list: Keith Jarrett, Chick Corea, David Holland, Jack Dejohnette, Airto Moreira, Dave Leibman, Herbie Hancock, and more. It’s remarkable that Davis had the foresight to hire these guys and more remarkable still that they are all playing and performing successfully almost 40 years later leading their own groups. Especially so in jazz.

It’s an amazing thing to see Davis performing. My pal, the burger flipper and I went to hear Miles at the OKeefe Centre back in 1980. There’s an intensity that the man brought to playing live that is simply astounding. I’ve heard lots of musicians perform in my day, and I think only a handful approach that same level. It’s not about volume or speed. It’s hard to define, but I think most people hear that ethereal quality in an extra gifted musicians’ playing.

Joni Mitchell said it accurately when she compared Davis’ electrification of jazz to Bob Dylan plugging in and using an electric guitar to play folk music. There was a similar shift, and a lot of people were shocked. The old methods had to change, and a lot of purists feelings were hurt. It didn’t matter whether it was jazz music, or folk music. What was shocking was the change from an acoustic setting to an electrified sound.

It’s interesting to see this footage now, because it’s not shocking at all to hear electric instruments in almost any setting. Maybe the classical snobs of the world are pissed off at Nigel Kennedy putting down his Stradivarius and pickup up an electric violin, but that’s the only example I can think of. Miles brought electric music to the world, and the world stood up and took notice. People hear electric instruments and don’t really think anything untoward is being done in the music. What a difference 40 years makes. What a difference Miles Davis made.

I took the wee fuggers out for some canine maintenance (a walk) this past sunday. I had to hook up with the Mightdoll to return some house keys, and as fate would have it, she was taking part in an event called the Zombie Walk. I had never heard of such a thing before. It was a nice sunny day in Hogtown, and I would never have suspected that a thousand or so undead would be shambling the streets of our fair city. Oddly enough, this was the sixth annual zombie walk. There were enough zombies this year that the organizers had to apply for a parade permit.

My curiosity was aroused to say the least. I hopped aboard the 504 streetcar and headed west. The horde of zombies gathered at Trinity Bellwoods Park to begin their agonizing parade/shamble. There were zombies of all kinds; zombie kids, zombie men, zombie women, and even a zombie dog or two.  There were zombie business men, zombie brides and zombie cheerleaders. I saw a zombie pirate too.  There was a even zombie curling team! 

Now some of you may wonder what is the point of it all. I couldn’t quite figure it out myself, but everyone was having a good time getting decked out in their blood soaked finery and pasty makeup. I guess it’s not such a bad idea to flirt with the absurd once in a while. If we were serious at all times, life would be pretty droll. You can find their web site at http://www.torontozombiewalk.ca . There are loads of pictures and details about this ultimately useless but fun waste of time.

I found my friend with her zombie kids in the playground. We briefly toyed with the idea of making up Barney with some fake blood to turn him into a zombie chihuahua, but reconsidered when we thought about whether the red goo was toxic or not. The prospect of an undead chihuahua was quite silly and would have certainly made for a great photo opportunity. I will look into some non-toxic ideas for next year. I don’t think I can unleash the hounds of hell, but a zombie chihuahua would just crack everyone up.  

Guuuuuurrrrrggghhhhh!