Daily Commute - Beirut

Wednesday, January 31

Beirut - Gulag Orkestar

I got this cd not long ago. I’d seen it in a store last summer with a sticker on it that said “The Best cd of the 19’th century” and that peeked my interest but I promptly forgot about it until I recently stumbled upon a track I must have downloaded at some point and that spurred me on to get the cd.

Beirut seriously does sound like some old school mish-mash of music. It’s as if a bunch of gypsies rolled into town and started playing music one night. The next thing you know Jose’s cousin and his mariachi band join in and you’ve got some really interesting music flying around your living room complete with trumpets and accordion.

Being from New Mexico and a trumpet player I guess explains the interesting mix if styles on the cd. When I play the disc I can’t help but think about Gabriel García Márquez, “100 Years of Solitude”. The songs have a sound born of the past but part of the present with a creeping influence of folk music and atmospheric stuff like Sigur Ros. And while I haven’t played my trumpet in awhile, I can certainly appreciate the trumpet work on the cd. Often when horns are in music these days its simple little background stuff with bad tone because the piano player just picked up the trumpet a month ago. This cd has great trumpet on it and I think even my old snobby high school band teacher would have trouble calling this disc McDonalds pop music. Postcards from Italy is the stand out track for me so check it out.

Postcards from Italy mp3
nicholas, 7:22 AM | link | 0 comments |


Thursday, January 25

It's become a little wintry in Toronto the last week which has led to the discover of a whole new species of urban animals. Albeit they're dead but still furry. Fur hats are apparently all the rage this year and it seems everyone has one. My working theory is that living in this fast paced urban life we don't have time for pets so we wear comforting furry substitutes.

Jodie was sporting fur and Christmas and I must admit I mocked a little and named it. Sebastian looked very good on her. Very KGB agent and wow was he soft so I take it all back. At least half anyway. Fur is fashionable!

So fur is apparently back. There are dead animals on everyone's heads and around their necks. Now don't get me wrong I'm not like a rabid anti fur person. I'm sure it's warm. I take a practical approach to such things as we were a country born out of the fur trade and I have yet to see anyone walking around with an endangered species on there head. They're probably just made out of cute little bunnies. I'm not sure I'll be jumping on the furry wagon but I do enjoy walking around feeling like I'm in a bad cold war era movie so I'm going to encourage this trend by directing you to a very nice website I found where you can get a fur hat. It says the store is closed for trapping season so you know when you get a hat, it'll be fresh.
nicholas, 6:33 PM | link | 2 comments |

Thursday Review - Jay Brannan

Saturday, January 20

First off the Shortbus soundtrack is awesome. A great companion to the movie. It's right up there with the Hedwig soundtrack in terms of best ever movie soundtracks though it's not all original music made for the movie (or musical as Hedwig was). There's a bunch of little indie New York bands on the cd including the absolute highlight of the disc, Jay Brannan singing his song Soda Shop. You can see the youtube of him above singing it in his bathroom.

The song has an infectious guitar line with the bass strings making you hum along with it and Jay's voice and lyrics make you want to pick up a guitar and write something just as great about that last Friday night when you over did it at the Soda Shop. Jay stared in the movie Shortbus and when I saw the scene where he plays this song I almost fell out of my seat in the theatre it was so great. I've got a couple other songs of his from his website and they're true acoustic song writing. While not as catchy as Soda Shop I can definitely see a great cd coming out soon which by the way it is. You can even vote for the title of it on his website. I'm looking forward to hearing more so keep an eye out for when the cd is released.

Half Boyfriend mp3
Ever After Happily mp3

nicholas, 9:32 AM | link | 0 comments |


Thursday, January 18

Working in Toronto likely means you will commute to work in some shape or form and being an environmentally minded person I’m trying to do my part to save the planet. That’s how I like to frame up taking public transit despite the fact that it would simply be ridiculous to live downtown Toronto and have a car. And by ridiculous, I mean ridiculously expensive. And so I am now a proud public transit pass holder and I grace two different regional transit systems on a day to day basis. My project right now has me using the always pleasant TTC and the impressive YTS VIVA. All in all it takes no less than an hour to get to work and again back home.

This is a pretty long commute that initially I was pretty disappointed about and I’ll admit that there are days I just want to work at the Starbucks a block from my house. I’ve discovered though that the key to commuting is doing something. True there are mornings when doing anything but nod off looking out the window is a task but when the commute feels productive I don’t resent it. I’m typing this on the bus while listening to a new cd.

This morning I typed out some personal emails on the way while other mornings I read. The key is to not get home and feel like the commute was a waste of time. If you’re driving, well, it pretty much is a waste of time plus there’s green house gas guilt. But public transit, while taking a little longer (not much in rush hour though) lets me at least lets me feel like two hours weren’t robbed from my life everyday. Not a nice feeling. I’m a fan of top 5 lists ever since High Fidelity and I’m working on incorporating them into life in general. So here are the top 5 things to do on public transit that keep me from going postal.

1. Get some sweet noise reduction headphones (Thanks Brother) and become a music connoisseur. Lately I’ve been looking for music that is a perfect sound track for the ride. This has led me into some new musical territory including a ridiculously good album by a harp player, Joanna Newsome. See my last post on I’m From Barcelona for a recollection of how the perfect soundtrack leads to a bus full of singing, happy passengers even if it is only in your head.

And now I’m on the train. Admittedly a sweeter ride than the bus.

2. Get your personal or work email before you leave home or the office. Now you can actually respond to email instead of ignoring people and getting on their email black lists.

3. Sit and Be Fit: I’m working on an exercise routine for the commute so I’ll keep you posted. It will involve spandex and sweatbands because that’s a hot look on public transit will ensure you make new friends.

4. Read magazines you might otherwise just skim through or maybe not even touch. I actually have read magazines like The Economist (shut up, economics are cool), Walrus, Runners World... I’m amazed at what I’ve been missing in the world. There was a particularly heart breaking / warming article on Terry Fox in the last Runners World that had me teary on the subway.

Well actually that’s all I’ve found to entertain myself so far so please give me more ideas before this commuting thing drives me insane and I end up one of those people who give up and just sleep on public transit.

nicholas, 7:34 PM | link | 5 comments |

Thursdays Review - I'm From Barcelona

Friday, January 12

Listening to I'm From Barcelona makes me wish I was from Barcelona. Actually it makes me wish I was from Sweden where the band is truly from. The band itself is a great and inspiring story. Emanuel Lundgren, a struggling singer songwriter wrote a few songs and then got a totally random group of friends and various other people together with the musical qualifications being, you must love music and began performing and recording.

If that sounded a lot like The Polyphonic Spree, you’re right, similar story and I had read a review that compared I’m From Barcelona to them. I don’t know if the comparison is fair though. The Polyphonic Spree always makes me think of a church choir on e while I’m From Barcelona is more like that time you were at your friends house and a few guys started playing guitars and singing and the next thing you know the whole group is jamming regardless of musical ability.

Their debut disc, “Let me Introduce my Friends” is a wonderful upbeat poppy record just rough enough around the edges that when you hear it you think, “wow these guys rock and I could probably join that band”. It drips with a love for music and friendship between the musicians. Every now and then you hear a voice stick out of the crowd or someone yell in the background and at the end of some songs a little chatting in the background. The atmosphere it creates is absolutely infectious. On the bus this morning I was wishing I had some tambourines, shakers and my guitar so we could just jam. Not sure it would come together as great as I’m From Barcelona does but that’s the feeling this disc gives you.

This is a must have cd and I hope that they get popular enough to support such a huge band to make a couple more discs or maybe cross the ocean for a tour because a live show would probably be pretty amazing and maybe then I could join the band.

I'm From Barcelona: We're From Barcelona
nicholas, 7:07 AM | link | 0 comments |

The Daily Commute - Double Double?

Thursday, January 11

I’ve been working in a new office for the past few weeks which means I have a whole new commute to the northern reaches of what the still call Toronto though I think when you have to pay to transfer to a new transit system you can consider that leaving the city. A half hour on the subway followed by another 25 min on the bus gives much time for contemplation. This morning I was pondering Tim Hortons or Timmies as most people call it.

For any non Canadian readers, Tim Hortons is a Mecca of donuts and watery coffee well loved across this country. It’s a national symbol even though it’s not a Canadian company anymore. The reason I was pondering Timmies is that in the Finch subway station there is a store. With 3 little cashiers on the three sides, the line ups block the rest of the station. It’s actually pretty amazing to see this tiny little store underground with people circling it like they’re giving away golden bricks.

I enjoy donuts and coffee as much as the next person and their donuts are not bad but they’re certainly not gold bricks and a double double (coffee with two cream and two sugar) makes me want to die. That was my random observation this morning. Maybe I’ll get a donut tomorrow morning but I’d have to leave abit earlier so I could stand in line.
nicholas, 2:45 PM | link | 4 comments |

I'm Back

Sunday, January 7

Hey all. Happy New Year, Merry Christmas ... I know it's been ages since I've been posting. Needless to say life has been pretty busy with the holiday season, a new job and just moving into a new apartment.

I won't bore you with all the details but I've spent the better part of my waking hours lately hanging with family at Christmas time and working at making my home livable. I have a wicked bruise on my thumb from those evil little IKEA alan keys but things are staring to come together in my apartment and the real plus is I have a bed to sleep on tonight. I've deffanitly gotten soft since my months on the floor in India because a week on an air mattress and my neck felt like i was being hammered by tiny little workers with tiny little sledge hammers. It may not have been just the bed though. There was the skiing over Christmas and countless over loaded trips to and from various stores pretty much every night this week. It all paid off though and I bought some tulips today to spruce up the place.

I've checked the tracking numbers on the various FedEx shipments coming my way and looks like the next couple of days are going to be Christmas all over again with things arriving from Edmonton, Kelowna and wherever Dell ships from. That's right, sweet new tv/computer monitor is on the way. Once I've got that I hope I'll be up and running on my own computer again so the blogging can get back to normal.

Here's a a couple shots from my holiday's. Hope yours were all as fun and loving as mine was! Check out the hot ski bunny I found!

nicholas, 7:42 PM | link | 1 comments |