Upgrading This Page

Erm, I’ll be upgrading this blog page over the next little while, so if it looks a little too “standard” or like crap, it’s because I’m trying to figure out how to re-write the code to make it look the way I want.

“X” takes the “Christ” out of Christmas

The title of today’s entry was something a teacher once said to me and other students, asking us not to remove “Christ” from “Christmas” by writing “Xmas”. It is a fair and interesting comment.
Right now I’m getting about 20 unique visitors to this blog page every day. I find this surprising. And people rarely comment. I must be boring. Actually, I must definitely be boring. I mean, I talk passively about my basement-only music career and my sick cat. La, la, la. Perhaps I should talk about racier things like “anal sex porn lovers”? (Hmm, now that I’ve typed that, I’ll have to see how many more visitors show up here on the statistics page.)
But now since you want to hear the exciting music news, you’ll be thrilled to know that I have continued to work on my synchronized video collages for my songs. It’s been slow-going, but a lot of fun. I just finished a collage for my song, “People are Porn” (“Porn” again! I didn’t mean it!) — which comments on our sexuality and how human nature and the media influences it. But the images I’ve assembled are non-pornographic — I’ve used medical diagrams and things like Budweiser ads to explain things. The Pope even makes a photo appearance!
However, I might find myself in Copyright Hell with my video fun. Will I end up selling DVDs of my cute little collages and then get sued to death like legendary copyright deviants Negativland?
I figure I’ll have some time after Christmas during my one week off to complete maybe 2 more video collages if I’m committed. I’m pretty revved-up for the eventual new live performance format I’ll have with all these collages. I’m technically creating a crappy music video for every song, which is some sort of bonus.
Oh, back to Xmas Christmas — if you need a gift quickly, you MUST check out my PERSONALIZED CHRISTMAS SONG. It’s pretty darn cute. I can e-mail you a copy in a jiffy to give to your loved one.
Hmm, having typed the words, “Christ”, “Pope”, “Catholic”, “Hell”, “anal”, “sex”, and “porn” in the same entry could get me in trouble, too.

October Update

I have been very busy between my day job and the time spent on an adopted cat who became very sick after I adopted her. I’m spending 2 hours per day force-feeding her through a tube that goes to her stomach. But hopefully she will be tube-free within a couple of weeks.
In music news, I did indeed have my first show using synchronized video. It worked out rather well! It definitely added to the show’s entertainment value. I saw people pointing at the screen, giggling, all sorts of interesting reactions. My plan is to perfect these first 4 slide-show songs and then do some more for about 10 slide-show songs in total. I dumped money into a small screen, a projector, and a portable dvd player. I believe that this will also influence my future songwriting since there isn’t a lot of meaningful visual stuff that can go along with general love songs and the like (unless I want meaningless images or MTV-style productions). My “opinionated” songs are much more appropriate to make use of visual assistance.
I also realized that I have a LOT of equipment to lug around now, and it will take me at least 30 minutes to set up. These will be serious considerations for future gigs.
In any case, I am looking forward to what will come…

Days of Less Music

These are the days of less music. My day job has intensified following a promotion. I come home, I’m pretty darn tired, and I avoid spending even more time than I did at work in front of a computer for the recording, website maintenance, show booking, or promotional activities that musicians are obligated to take care of. And let’s not talk about songwriting or rehearsing! But the few songs I have been writing have become even slightly weirder than my usual fare. I saw myself twice on video and thought I was a bit dull, so as a solo artist I think I have to make my songs weirder to keep an audience’s attention. I have definitely been influenced by quirky Hamilton musician Wax Mannequin, an excellent and unusual solo artist.
After the two shows I have next week, I’ll take a break, see what happens energy-wise, and feel where I should go. Creatively, I am very interested in focusing on creating simple video to accompany me while I play. This would also add to making my shows more interesting. It would be a heck of a lot of work and a costly investment in equipment, but that’s what feels right.

SHOW: TARS Get-Together

(back-dated to evening of performance)
Mid-week I got a call from Toronto Animal Rights Society head honcho Adam Wilson to play their bi-weekly potluck again. It’s a great local group — about 45 people attended this time with veg*n food to share and veg*n minds to confer. The feature of the evening was vegan writer Erik Marcus, who drove through the terrible weather from Boston to speak about his new book Meat Market. He spoke well and must have unloaded at least 30 copies of his book. He spoke of a “4th Movement” (in addition to health, environment, and ethics) for veg*ns to focus on in order to make real changes in the world. Specifically, the activist focus should be on dismantling the animal farming industry rather than taking other approaches. Animal farming is where the vast majority of all animal exploitation takes place, and the arguments against the practice are strong and compelling. You should order his book if you want the full scoop. I made sure to grab a copy. Apparently he also has podcasts on Vegan.com each week which I plan to check out.
As for my own performance, I went on late and therefore only got through about 6 songs. I am starting to make some of my songs a bit weirder so my show is more entertaining. And as I’ve noticed before, some people love it and some people think I belong on the Gong Show. Yee-har!
I am planning to have some simple video text footage accompany me in the near future for additional impact, and I wanted to try the idea out for the very first time at this gig — but I was unable to solve all the technical issues in time. No matter, it will happen soon methinks.
I saw quite a few people I knew at the show. I greeted Kera, Taunya from the Toronto Vegetarian Association and her boyfriend, Holly and her sister Brooke, Patrick, William, Paul, John, and a few others. I sold a handful of cd’s and hopefully made some new friends through my e-mail list. I will now endlessly spam Jenny, Angie, Somal, Rosemary, James, Isabelle, Gideon, and Nitasha. Welcome to Planet Dyniss!
In conclusion, it was an enjoyable evening as usual with the TARS gang.

Corporate Advertising Rules Toronto

If you walk around Toronto, you will see that the city is inundated with corporate advertising. The ads are big, colourful, and are everywhere but our public parks. (And did you know that advertising in our public parks is now being discussed?)
I was utterly dismayed when I heard of Toronto City Council’s recent decision to outlaw postering on 98% of public utility poles. If you think postering is just an eyesore, think of this: There are no other good ways for important community messages to be shown in public. No more music or art show announcements, piano lessons, babysitting, community get-togethers or celebrations. Toronto now says that if you can’t pay, you can’t be seen.
This is a great prejudice against community in general. The streets of Toronto now only show corporate advertisements for the public to look at when they leave their homes.
Toronto the very bad.
See where the war was being fought through this website.

SHOW: Zoocheck – Steam Whistle Brewery

(back-dated to night of performance)
This was my first show at the Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto near the CN Tower. Neat place, right downtown. I was playing a benefit for Zoocheck, an animal rights organization. I hadn’t heard of them before, but I was rather impressed to hear that it was their 20th anniversary. Organizer Mel had enthusiasm and seemed to be great with the PR, and I met the Zoocheck founder Rob, who was well-spoken and clearly had been dealing with animal rights issues for a long time. I drilled him for more info on the organization which he gave without hesitation. It was neat to discover that he was straight-edge like me.
As for entertainment that night, there was a big drum troupe, human acrobats, a fire-breather/dancer, and musicians. Quebecois musician Julie Crochetiere had a lovely voice and some jazz-influenced songs. She was backed by a guitarist and a violinist (Alex), who I chatted with for a bit and found out he quit mechanical (?) engineering to play music. Friendly DJ Hali did double-duty as the live sound guy. He cobbled together and ran the sound system for the night.
I pre-mixed myself (vocal, guitar, and iPod) through my spankin’ new Roland AC-60 amplifier. I know the amp will be a future life-saver when I won’t be able to count on a good sound person, which happens often.
It was my first night out of the house after being in bed for a week with a fever. I had a decent performance, although my runny nose ran and my cracking voice cracked. People were having a good time, and I estimated at least 120 people in attendance.
I saw some of my veg*n friends like Kira, Paul, and Holly, and my friend Laura hung out with us.
The best moment of the night however had to be watching one particular attendee dance. A young fellow in a wheelchair, obviously living without the use of his legs, hit the dance floor with two young women. He looked happy, they looked happy, and they all danced enthusiastically. The guy just swung his head to the beats (quite well, I might add). It was beautiful, and I wish I saw this sort of thing all the time.
DJ Hali spun some good funky stuff to close the evening, but feeling a bit ill meant I had to go before it was all over.

SHOW: El Mocambo – Acoustic Syndicate

(Back-dated to date of performance)
The El Mocambo upstairs was WAY nicer than the last time I was there (we’re talking several years ago), with mirrored walls, nice ceiling lights and speakers, and a stage at one end instead of the centered (but awkward) location it used to be at. Actually, mirrors are usually the worst thing you can put in a live music club for sound, but the trade-off here was the gain of artificial space.
I found out that the organizers had to pay $100 just to use the space, which is cheap as far as renting anywhere in Toronto goes. But many live venues are also in fact free to play at. The clubs really just want you to bring people out. Sadly, the rental fee didn’t include a house sound guy, which was evident through some occasional feedback and troubled mixes. But this was totally DIY, so a big fat “A” must go out to whoever was at the controls.
Supreme Organizer Jay Cleary added me to the list of acts for his first of hopefully many future evenings of the Acoustic Syndicate. I went on 2nd. I played 4 songs and gave out a free cd to the fellow who correctly identified the Green Party as the “best” Canadian political party (whatever “best” means) before I sang The Green Anthem. Do you think I’m politically biased? Naw!
I was feeling rushed to play my songs quickly, so I ran out of breath a wee bit while singing during my set. Must… learn… …to… …relax…
My performance of my slightly-silly song Seekers didn’t really go over all funny-like with the crowd like I had hoped, making me think that I should have whipped out only my delicate singer-songwriter tunes instead. But nay.
I stayed for about a half-dozen more performers. Some were “green” in terms of stage experience, some were decent. “Fin” followed me, along with some names I remember like Ben (somebody) and Little Girl. Todd from Trucks Leaving was on before me. It was a common mix for a singer-songwriter evening. Actually, I think I was the oldest dude there, next to a dad who came in to see his daughter play and who promptly left after her performance (along with the daughter).
The crowd appeared to be content and were attentive. The mood was good, the vibe was good. People were enjoying their drinky-drinks, and there seemed to be a fair number of couples hanging out. It was great to be back at the Elmo, where I’d played many times before in other bands as a drummer.
(Feel free to comment on this show, especially if you were there…)

SHOW: Rancho Relaxo

(Back-dated to date of performance)
Going up the stairs via the understated door on 300 College Street brought me into Rancho Relaxo around 8:30pm. Things were barely set up for the other two bands, so I went downstairs to the restaurant and got an herbal tea. Without question, a hot herbal tea before a gig really helps vocals!
People were coming in at a steady pace and filling up the room even before I was on, but there was no doorperson. I later announced on stage to the audience that the musicians would be oh-so-happy if the cover charge got paid, and I’m pretty sure that a bunch of people paid.
There was no time for me to soundcheck, so when I hit the stage I started playing right away.
The crowd was smiley, upbeat, and attentive. I tried my song Do You Want to Love Iguanas? for the very first time in front of an audience, and methinks it was a success with some woo-hooing in mid-song that followed my baboon impression. However, I forgot some words in my song I Lost It, which is about ignoring homeless people. Oh well. The scary part on stage for me during the set was when I played The Green Anthem, when I thought I had broken a guitar string. I thought, “CRAP! I didn’t bring a backup guitar! I knew it, I KNEW it!” But I hadn’t broken any strings — I had simply hallucinated from pressing too hard on the guitar neck.
My friend Loran was kindly videotaping me at the back of the club. I snickered when he showed me some footage afterward — I had this weird rock pose going on at one point.
The Blueberry Trees followed me. I chit-chatted with Marc from the band for a bit, he seems to be a drummer gone songwriter with a pretty straight attitude. I talked with his brother who bought a CD and told me about his DJ-ing, and spoke with his girlfriend. All very positive folks. The other bandmembers should all also be added to the “nice guy” list. The band’s sound was sort of Barenaked Ladies meets R.E.M. — it had a nice and happy vibe overall.
The Fortunates closed the evening with an hour-plus set. It was the first time I had seen or heard them without me playing with them, and my absence was irrelevant, as they put on a good performance of original tunes plus one Beatles song. The crowd really perked up for the Beatles song, which goes to show how much people will respond to songs they already know!
I must mention the soundperson “Spock”, who kept my curiosity peaked while he played flute on and off at the soundboard while he was doing sound. I can’t say that I’ve seen that before. He had a bit of a fight throughout the evening, since a pesky hum just wouldn’t disappear from the speakers and monitors when the bands were on.
And The Fortunates had their friend Ian Gibbons whom Mike had spoken highly of many times taping their show on both video and audio. He appeared to be very attentive to technical considerations and well-prepared.
It was good to see my old bandmates again: Mike, Jay, Darren, and Anthony — and their significant others: Alex, Christine, and Laura. Jay and Christine are getting married in 5 weeks, zowie! Darren and I shot the s**t for awhile.
Loran and I were almost the last folks to leave the club, having thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
(Comment on this show by clicking below right)

SHOW: TARS Get-Together

(Back-dated to date of performance)
This show was the TARS (Toronto Animal Rights Society) bi-weekly get-together — my fave animal rights association. There was a decent turnout (60+ people) — I thought there would be low attendance with the snow and cold outside. I told a woman afterward that I didn’t eat before playing because I would have burped while singing — certainly not conducive to superior vocals…
I naturally began with my song My Guinea Pig. During my set, people were pretty chatty, but I was happy that my fellow animal rights friends were in such good spirits.
I met some new people like Pat, Suzanne and Cheryl(?). Saw folks I knew from before like Adam, Jill Binder, Holly, Paul (I met his kids who seemed pretty cool), Erik, William, Vishal, Alan, Kirti and others.
I had rented a 100-watt Yorkville combo amp that handles acoustic guitar and vocals, but I don’t think I’ll buy it — it’s lacking in a few features that I want, like eq for the vocal channel.
The documentary we watched after my performance had an excellent explanation of one animal rights lawyer’s take on the “legal wall” separating non-human animals from humans. He had a very realistic opinion of when the first inroad might be made giving animals rights : 10 to 15 years for maybe a chimpanzee. And the right would be very basic.
The realistic downer of the documentary was one woman’s comment saying that by the time we get some real non-human animal rights in effect, it may be too late to help any of them. Creatures such as chimps and whales are considered more “intelligent” than other animals, so they are the likely first recipients of any rights given to non-human animals. The problem is that by the time we give them any rights, they may be extinct.