Sights & Sounds
Prince's death has hit us all hard. When we lose a true icon, we lose a part of ourselves as well. As a tribute, we revisit an article first published in 2013, ahead of Prince's two sold out shows at the Vogue:
It is time to revisit a classic: Purple Rain. Considered by most publications and critics to be one of the top albums of all time, the best album of the 1980’s, and the best soundtrack of all time, Purple Rain is a seminal work of art, and it cemented Prince’s status as a true musical icon, and influenced a slew of artists to follow.
Released in the Summer of 1984 as a soundtrack to Prince’s semi-autobiographical film of the same name, Purple Rain was an instant hit. It contained nine songs, a diversity of musical styles, and his trademark flamboyance: Prince burst onto the scene as the love child of Jimi Hendrix, George Clinton and Liberace. Purple Rain was the perfect storm of superior songwriting, musicianship, and production. It changed the game.
Purple Rain took off due in large part to the success of the leadoff single, “When Doves Cry.” I was in junior high in 1984, and I can still remember the first time I heard the squealing guitar and warped-voice intro, and then the hypnotic piano lines which open the song. It remains an almost perfect pop song and contains everything that made Prince such a unique and influential artist: The sexually-charged and mystical lyrics; the effortless fusing of musical styles – funk, R & B, pop, rock, new wave – which came to be known as “the Minneapolis Sound”; the mix of tenderness and swagger; the hypnotic catchiness of it all.
“Let’s Go Crazy” was the next number one hit, and it is in almost direct contrast to “When Doves Cry”. Where the latter is languorous and hypnotic, the former is an all out funk-rock-dance jam, a seemingly simple party anthem, with a complex musical arrangement. You couldn’t help but bob your head, sing along and think about going crazy.
Like a lot of artists, Prince wore his influences on his sleeve, but what made him great, what made him original, was how he was able to channel his influences while staying to true to his own musical aesthetic: he borrowed, not stole. This was never more apparent than in the nine songs that make up Purple Rain. In the haunting and beautiful title track, he channels his inner Jimi Hendrix, showing off his often underrated guitar chops. In the emotional and poignant “The Beautiful Ones,” he channels his inner Marvin Gaye. On “Computer Blue” and “Baby, I’m A Star,” he channels his inner George Clinton. The sexually-charged “Darling Nikki,” which earned the album a Parental Advisory sticker, is a wonderful combination of all three. In the end, you have an album that you can party to, chill to, groove to…do pretty much anything to.
Although Prince would go on to great success, and the release of some classic singles, Purple Rain was his apex. It was original and fresh, slightly ahead of its time. And its influence remains to this day. Artists as diverse as Dr. Dre, Justin Timberlake, Phoenix, and Toro Y Moi all site Prince, and Purple Rain in particular, as a major musical influence.
Having been immersed in punk rock and heavy metal at the time of Purple Rain’s release, it was a true awakening for a white kid from the ‘burbs. I became borderline obsessed with both the movie and the album, and like some sort of reverse osmosis, it was through Purple Rain that I discovered and grew to appreciate the 70’s funk that I still hold dear to this day. It taught me that music could be eclectic, diverse and funky, and still be cool. It taught me that music could be fun and emotional at the same time. It truly opened my mind.
Stranded On A Desert Island…
We asked our PrevailPrevail contributors and staff to come up with the 3 books and 3 albums they would take with them if stranded on a desert island. We are an eclectic bunch, and the choices reflect it. Feel free to share your own choices in the comment section.
I'm going double soundtrack and then a full length album. At least that way I can visualize the movie as well as listen to the tunes.
Crooklyn Soundtrack – A mix of dope Motown songs and the intro jam featuring Special Ed, Masta Ace and Buckshot is a pure hip hop classic. And "Time Has Come Today" by the Chambers Brothers is gritty as hell. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uHfB63ln1Ig
The Big Chill Soundtrack– Ok so it's not the worlds greatest flick but the soundtrack slams. With double Marvin Gaye hits it's a great listen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ktjJtDmsy8A
AC/DC: Back In Black. If you've heard it you know all the reasons why. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pAgnJDJN4VA
Herman Hesse – Siddartha. I first read this while living in L.A. in 98. It's a thought provoking coming of age book full of colourful language and great characters.
Herman Hesse – A Journey To The East. Extremely well written yet very cryptic. I know the premise but upon reading it you find yourself questioning if you really know what's going on.
Esquire – The Handbook of Style. All the secrets of chivalry and gentlemanly decorum are presented in this book. All of them.
Christopher Ryan is the New York Times best-selling author of Sex at Dawn, a columnist for Psychology Today, the host of popular podcast, Tangentially Speaking, contributor to PrevailPrevail.com, and a pretty amazing fellow.
Mahler’s Second Symphony (conducted by Leonard Bernstein). I can’t think of another piece of music that so powerfully expresses such a wide range of experience, from sublime contemplation to sheer terror. Mahler was a maniac in the best sense, and Bernstein “got” him like no other conductor ever has, IMHO. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bdc5n562zZg)
Beethoven’s Late Quartets. Just too profound for words. Dude was totally deaf and on his last legs. He says things so clearly that cannot be said in any other way, by any other man. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDbi9MpglzU)
Pat Metheny and Lyle Mays: As Falls Wichita, So Falls Wichita Falls. This has always been my preferred record when coming in for a landing after a long, strange trip. There are mushrooms on this island, right? (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SwfVarzG1js)
The Collected Plays of Shakespeare. Every time I read him, I’m blown away, but there’s so much I haven’t read, and probably won’t—unless I’m stranded on an island with mushrooms.
Dee Brown – Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee. Love this book, even though it pisses me off to no end.
NEPH is a talented local hip hop artist, graphic artist, and one half of the rap duo, Alpha Omega.
Pink Floyd: The Dark Side of the Moon. After assessing the situation and realizing I was indeed, stuck. On a desert island. The first and most important mission would be to locate the specific species of toad that makes you hallucinate. Your gonna wanna trip out for a bit so you can get in touch with nature and let it speak to you & such. It will be much easier to build shelter and fire, not to mention the fishing benefits. Your gonna want some Floyd playing while all this is happening. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6tYu_LaNx9E
Michael Jackson: History: Past, Present & Future. Hits. Then some more hits. And then a second CD of some hits that you didn't even know were hits. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wt9KgFnXk3c
D' Angelo: Voodoo. I got a copy of D' Angelo's first album 'Brown Sugar' when I was 6 or 7 years old. It was one of the first CD's that I remember owning. I had stolen it from my mom's car one day on the way to school and remember having to listen to it quietly in my headphones so that she didn't hear me playing her CD. Long story short, she never got her CD back because I lost it. But the good news was that D' Angelo eventually made an album called Voodoo which ended up being a much better project and thus, we all forgot about the lost Brown Sugar album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p_8S9QzMLiI
J.K. Rowling – The Harry Potter Collection – If you haven't read Harry Potter there's nothing I can do for you.
The Dictionary – I would still rap, even if stuck on a desert island. In fact, I would do much, much more of it. In order to keep progressing, having a dictionary would be very beneficial because of the stuck on the desert island part.
Encyclopedia of the World – Sort of the same principal as the dictionary. Plus learning is fun for everyone.
AlphaSiren is a local writer and contributor to PrevailPrevail.com, focusing on love, sex, and relationships. She is also a strong, independent, heavily-tattooed woman.
Tom Waits: The Heart of Saturday Night. This album was listened to a lot, the summer of ’94, when I returned to my hometown for the summer and met a long-haired guitar-playing songwriter, with whom I would spend most nights drinking red wine and watching the sunrise before sneaking back into my family home. He was my first real love and he broke my heart, but there isn’t a lazy summer day, or rainy winter night where I don’t think back to that summer and smile. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7UHd7NVegE
LCD Soundsystem: Sound of Silver. Came on board a bit late to LCD Soundsystem, but as soon as I heard this album, I knew I was in love. James Murphy is a golden god and the way in which he was able to blend and marry various genres like punk, underground NYC dance music, modern ‘pop’ music and indie, was truly genius. If you haven’t heard the track ‘All My Friends’, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. Listen NOW. A true anthem. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IX1_civ9WMY
The Cure: Disintegration. Forever to be the album I associate with my sophomore year of high school, I will never tire of it, for both the wonderful memories I carry of that time as well as the sweeping, modern symphonic aspects of Robert Smith’s music. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LeWhUL7kS80
C.S. Lewis – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. As a little girl who lived almost entirely in her head, this was the first book to truly take me away into another place that wasn’t my own brain. I still read this book every couple of years and still enjoy it just as much as I did when I was a kid.
Gabriel Garcia Marquez – One Hundred Years of Solitude. This book is one of the most heartbreakingly beautiful tapestries of emotion, experience and history, penned by an astounding storyteller.
Ayn Rand – The Fountainhead. This book sat on my mom’s shelf for years before I finally picked it up at the age of 30. When I finally cracked the cover (and incidentally, read it in two days), I chastised myself for not having read it sooner. The themes of individualism and not compromising one’s vision and ideals for the sake of others, spoke to me loud and clear.
Tobin is the Managing Editor of PrevailPrevail.com, and a writer for the Gazette.
The Beastie Boys: Paul's Boutique. Even alone on a desert island, it would still take a few years to count all the samples. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Naf5uJYGoiU
Pink Floyd: The Wall. Double albums are key on a desert island, and this will do just fine. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQbOoUmhSPo
Sasha and Digweed: Northern Exposure. On a desert island, I would crave electronic sounds, and this is the best and mos eclectic (double) electronic album I know. It's the electronica version of The White Album. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jb_RW1YqK60
1. The Complete Works of William Shakespeare. With apologies to Ali, Jordan and LL Cool J, Shakespeare is the G.O.A.T. No one even comes close to coming close.,.
2. Miguel de Cervantes – Don Quixote. The greatest and funniest novel ever written. It has Book 1 AND book 2: it's like the double album of classic novels, with no filler.
3. Haruki Murakami – 1Q84. Huge, epic, brilliant, mind-tossing madness from one the world's greatest contemporary novelists.
Eric Kaczmarowski is the Technical Editor at PrevailPrevail.com and while he bleeds Green and Gold he is a proud native of Minnesota.
The Undertones: S/T. The ultimate summer record. I play this every day the sun is shining and have been for 10 years. Never gets old. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JzWguSYLko8
Bob Dylan: Highway 61 Revisited. No respectable desert island playlist can leave out Dylan. This was the first album I fell in love with as a kid and still the Dylan record I probably pull out the most. Play it fucking loud! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pR8zjrPifkI
9 Shocks Terror: Zen and the Art of Beating Your Ass. Because sometimes you just need music that sounds like its going to hit you with a two-by-four in the face. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XVeG1nOHeNc
Don DeLillo – Underworld. A 700 page love story to America from the 1940's up until 1997. DeLillo builds a sprawling tale that is perfectly constructed and all centred around "The Shot Heard 'Round the World."
Robert M. Pirsig – Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. Probably the book I have re-read the most. A thought provoking work of philosophical fiction that begins right in my backyard of Savage, MN. Every time I pick this up I learn something new about myself.
Brett Easton Ellis – Glamorama. My favourite of Ellis' novels it reads as almost two books in one. A cautionary tale of the vanity we are all surrounded by.
James Gordon is a local media legend, PrevailPrevail contributor, CTV movie critic, and the host of Travel Guys.
Frank Sinatra: Live at the Sands https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RTrI74EH7X0
The Beatles: Greatest Hits, 67-70 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oRyym1Px7a4
Astrud Gilberto: Beach Samba https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3va6pG7-PO4
The Best American Short Stories of the Century (edited by John Updike)
Norman Mailer – The Time of Our Time
Richard Ford – Women with Men
Dave "The Honest Butcher" Ritzer is a local butcher, focusing on sustainability, and one of the coolest guys in Vancouver.
Rancid: Out Come the Wolves https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaBXx5lOipw
Jay-Z: Reasonable Doubt https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YEA-EBzAmak
Paul Simon: Graceland https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rDXzLeFUkpc
Hugh Fearnly-Whittingstall – The River Cottage Meat Book
J.D. Sallinger – The Catcher in the Rye
Gary Larsen – The Far Side Gallery
Jamie D. Grant is a local magician, TED Speaker, paramedic and Renaissance Man.
Nas: I Am… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fm4Km4DEl0Y
U2: Achtung Baby https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YgQIg8L7zl8
Dave Brubeck Quartet: Time Out https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MFbOE5GuiBE
James Jones – From Here to Eternity
Ernest Hemingway – The Old Man and the Sea
Yamamoto Tsunetomo – Hagakure/Book of the Samurai
Written By: Tobin Wait
So last week I was driving over the Burrard Street Bridge with my wife and two daughters. CBC Radio 2, generally a pretty safe source for decent music, was playing in the background of our conversations. Slowly, something about the music began to irk me. I paid closer attention to the song being played. I recognized it, barely. Then it hit me: it was Bruce Springsteen's “Dancing in the Dark,” being sung by a female vocalist, in a sort of quasi-folk style, with an orchestral musical arrangement. It was awful and it was annoying. Someone was messing with the Boss in the worst of ways. It destroyed the song. And it got me thinking…
Good cover songs need to be something special. They need to not just copy the original, but to add something unique, give it a new flavour, make it come to life: retain the old, but make it new. It's not an easy task. As is true for all art, there is a fine line between being derivative and being creative. Luckily, despite the numerous cringe-worthy cover songs dotting the musical landscape, there do exist some really cool, really unique, and really special ones.
So give these a listen and hear something new in the old:
1. Felix da Housecat – Sinnerman (Original by Nina Simone)
In keeping the original hypnotic piano riff, and the husky vocals of Nina Simone, Felix da Housecat crafts a catchy, head-bobbing tune, perfect for Saturday night or Sunday morning.
2. Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah (Original by Leonard Cohen)
Smokier, and more haunting than the original, Buckley's version drips with heartache and emotion.
3. Poolside – Harvest Moon (Original by Neil Young)
A chilled-out, groovy, barely recognizable take on a Canadian classic: a perfect soundtrack to a lazy Sunday morning.
4. Iron & Wine – Such Great Heights (Original by Postal Service)
A mellow, acoustic, heartfelt rendering of the upbeat and poppy original.
5. Rage Against the Machine – Renegades of Funk (Original by Afrika Bambaata)
A heavy, groovy, funky, militant take on the 80's funk-rap classic.
6. Method Man ft. Mary J Blige – You're All I Need (Original by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell)
The original is beautiful soul; the cover is beautiful hip hop.
7. DOA – War (What is it Good For) (Original by Edwin Starr)
A loud, abrasive and somehow catchy version of the 70's classic – about what you would expect from these local legends.
8. Chet Faker – No Diggity (Original by Blackstreet)
Soulful, mellow and groovy – a cool, indie take on the 90's R & B hit.
9. Cat Power – Breathless (Original by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds)
Sultry, smoky and sexy – Cat Power makes the original even more intimate and dreamy.
10. Supersuckers – Dead Homiez (Original by Ice Cube)
Ice Cube as re-imagined by a country punk band – enough said.
11. Johnny Cash – Hurt (Original by Nine Inch Nails)
Johnny Cash brings age, wisdom, soul and ache to a fully stripped down version of an already stripped down 90's alt classic.
12. Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower (Original by Bob Dylan)
By electrifying a folk classic, Jimi makes it wholly his own.
Got your own faves? Hit us up in the comments.
Written by: Tobin Wait
“When a true genius appears in the world,
You may know him by this sign, that the dunces
Are all in confederacy against him.”
Good books are ones that make you feel something, but also make you think; they provide the reader with a visceral and intellectual experience. Through character and plot, they make you think about people, about the world, in a different way. They change you. They become classics.
And then there is the rare book, the destined-to-be-a-classic that just makes you laugh your ass off. A Confederacy of Dunces is indeed a rarity: a work of literature that can accurately be described as a comic masterpiece, joining a very short list of novels, including Cervantes’ Don Quixote and Voltaire’s Candide.
The ironic and tragic story of the book’s history is now a literary legend. John Kennedy Toole was an intelligent and witty native of New Orleans. He was a scholar, a writer and a teacher, who also lived his whole life with his parents (except for a brief stint in the army). He finished the novel in 1964, and sent it to two major publishers, both of whom rejected it. Toole became depressed and dejected, and after a final rejection, committed suicide in 1969 at age 31.
The manuscript lay on top of his desk in his parent’s home. His mother found it two years later, and tried to get it published, believing it would validate her son’s life. It was rejected seven times, before she literally forced the author Walker Percy to read the manuscript in 1976, while he was teaching at Tulane University in New Orleans. He was blown away, and it was finally published in 1980, sixteen years after its completion. It quickly became a cult hit, then a mainstream smash, and then a literary success. In 1981, twelve years after his death, Toole was posthumously awarded the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
At the heart of A Confederacy of Dunces is one of the greatest comic characters of any era of fiction: Ignatius J. Reilly. Quixotic (a modern day Don Quixote, really), idealistic, eccentric, slovenly and delusional, Ignatius is both repulsive and fascinating. Like many great tragic-comic characters, Nabokov’s Pnin and Shakespeare’s Falstaff come to mind, Ignatius believes himself to be morally and intellectually above the rest of the world, and, therefore, able to criticize and object to all that is below him. This despite that fact that he is an obese, unemployed thirty year old man, still living at home with his mom, with very few skills besides eating, masturbation and cynicism.
The novel, then, is one series of misadventures after another, as Ignatius is forced by his mother to find a job and enter into the society that he is so quick to criticize. He eventually lands two menial jobs and both end in disaster. Needless to say, very little goes well for Ignatius, and a smorgasbord of comedy ensues: light and dark, highbrow and lowbrow. The title of the novel refers to the above lines from Jonathon Swift, and one of the novel’s great puzzles is trying to figure out if Ignatius is a genius or a dunce.
If Ignatius is the heart of the novel, then its star is the city of New Orleans, a perfect setting for this picaresque story. The sights, the sounds, the tastes, the smells, the architecture, the characters, the dialects: they are all captured vividly by Toole, a lifelong New Orleans resident. In fact, the novel is considered to be the most accurate portrayal of New Orleans ever written, and there is even a statue of Ignatius Reilly near the Chateau Bourbon Hotel in New Orleans today.
The beauty of A Confederacy of Dunces is that we don’t just laugh at Ignatius; we laugh with him as well. It’s easy to laugh at the misadventures of others, especially the delusional, but we also relate to Ignatius, and his over-bloated rants against the moronic nature of the world and the people who live in it. We may not want to be like Ignatius, but we can admire his unwavering buffoonery and eccentric worldview. In a way, Ignatius personifies the aversion we all have with stupidity and conformity.
The bottom line, however, is that the (mis)adventures of Ignatius J. Reilly, and the oddball characters that surround him, will leave you shaking your head, rolling your eyes and, best of all, laughing till it hurts.
Written by Joy Dutcher
Vancouver has a colourful history of neon signs. Between the 1950s and the 1970s, the city had over 19,000 neon signs lighting up our streets—more than Las Vegas or Los Angeles. With the ratio of signs to Vancouverites hitting 18:1, the city's population became polarized over the visual aesthetic of the signs. Some loved their glamour and others felt they took away from the city's natural beauty.
“We’re being led by the nose into a hideous jungle of signs. They’re outsized, outlandish, and
outrageous. They’re desecrating our buildings, cluttering our streets, and — this is the final
indignity — blocking our view of some of the greatest scenery in the world.”
‐ Tom Ardies, “Let’s Wake Up from Our Neon Nightmare,” Vancouver Sun, 1966
In 1974 a restrictive neon sign bylaw passed and the signs started coming down. As pieces of the city's history were turned off, we lost an important element of Vancouver's personality. As many of the signs were located in East Vancouver and Chinatown, when the lights dimmed, the city also turned its attention away from the local businesses. These communities went through a severe economic downturn in the 80's and 90's, and most of the remaining signs came down as a result.
With so many heritage signs being lost over the years, the 21st century brought a new appreciation for the city's old businesses. Heritage Vancouver started to prioritize putting older neon signs on the annual list of Vancouver’s most endangered heritage sites to reclaim lost stories. A fixture on the downtown skyline, the 'W' of the iconic Woodward's building was saved when the building was demolished and installed above the new apartment complex that was build on the land.
“It’s just of a hell of a time trying to save these things.”
– Don Luxton of Heritage Vancouver
In 2009, the City of Vancouver installed tall, white lights on Granville Street in the heart of the downtown core in an effort to revive the pedestrian only shopping corridor. The lights were unveiled for the 2010 Olympics and have brought back the street's old nickname "The Great White Way". In 2011, the Museum of Vancouver opened a permanent exhibit called “Neon Vancouver | Ugly Vancouver” that captures the history and colour of the city with many of the original neon signs.
As the community of Hastings-Chinatown has been experiencing a revival of creative businesses and bars, the signs have going back up as a nod to the area's history. A bright, art installation of the East Vancouver cross was created in 2009 by artist Ken Lum at the intersection of Clark and Great Northern Way. Where the city had once shunned big neon lights, it now had one shining over the city like a beacon.
"To me, neon was the best public art project ever. It completely expresses the neighbourhood that it’s in.”
— Judy Graves, City of Vancouver advocate for the homeless
As one of the few single-screen theatres left in Vancouver, the Rio Theatre on Broadway at Commercial has a neon sign that has lost it's lustre in recent years. After fighting and winning a 4 month battle with the BC Liquor Board over archaic provincial liquor laws preventing it from serving liquor and showing movies, the business was financially drained. To dig out of the legal debt, the theatre programming has grown to include a mix of films, festivals, live music, burlesque shows and variety shows; supporting an eclectic mix of films and local live talent. In the spirit of Chrismas, the theatre is partnering with the community in an Indigogo campaign to raise $15,000 for LED lights to brighten up it's historical sign once again.
If you want to help bring some neon back to our city's skyline, this December, buy a lightbulb to support the Light Up the Rio for Christmas. The Vancouver Sun said it best in 1934, “Vancouver is a city of perpetual fete… Vancouver has no rival and her signs will continue to illuminate her business section with a brilliance and variety that is a source of pride to her residents and a surprise to her guests.” It's time to make that quote come alive at 1660 East Broadway.
Written by Tobin Wait
Jim Harrison is nothing short of a literary juggernaut. Although you may not know his name, or see it on the top of best-seller lists, he is one of the most acclaimed and respected American writers of the last half century. Best known as the author of Legends of the Fall (adapted into a rather tepid film starring Brad Pitt), he has written over 20 novels and novellas, 5 books of poetry, 10 non-fiction works, and 3 screenplays. He is an integral member of the great American literary tradition, whose members include the likes of Twain, Faulkner, Steinbeck, and Hemingway.
Harrison writes with eerie insight into what it means to be human: our strengths, our flaws, our connection to each other and the natural world. His characters are flawed, like we are flawed; they struggle, like we struggle; they survive, like we survive. Harrison is a linguistic mastermind, infusing equal parts philosophy, wit, and stark reality to his master crafted prose.
Like many great writers, Harrison started out writing poetry, and his prose has a condensed, poetic feel to it. One of the unique things about Harrison is his fondness for a rather antiquated prose form: the novella. Longer than a short story, but slightly shorter than an average novel, the novella was a popular form in the 19th century. It's a demanding form in which to write, because everything – plot, language, character development – is condensed. Harrison has become its modern master. And many of his best-loved books (Legends of the Fall, Julip, The River Swimmer) are actually a collection of three novellas.
Harrison's only recurring novella character is also his most beloved and endearing: Brown Dog. Brown Dog appears in five of Harrison's books, and his exploits have entertained Harrison fans for decades. Now the complete collection of Brown Dog novellas, plus a brand new one, are available in one volume, aptly titled Brown Dog.
In this collection of novellas, we follow the life and times of Brown Dog, a loner of unknown origin living mostly off the grid in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Brown Dog is a loveable and classic anti-hero: despite his numerous faults, questionable antics, and stunted worldview, one cannot help but cheer for him. He comes across as the proverbial simpleton, wanting no more out of life than good fishing, easy women, and cheap booze – preferably in that order.
But deep inside this seemingly simple heathen lies the heart of a poet and the unfettered wisdom of a philosopher: a 21st century adult Huckleberry Finn.
In this collection of novellas, we follow Brown Dog from the waters of Lake Superior, where he rescues the preserved body of a dead Indian Chief, to the streets of LA, as he hunts an Indian activist who has stolen his sacred bearskin, and up North to Canada, on the run from various authorities. Along the way, he encounters an assortment of oddball characters and gets himself into an assortment of oddball situations. And along the way, readers will shake their heads, roll their eyes, and laugh…a lot.
Perhaps a proper description should be left to Harrison himself. Here he describes Brown Dog after his arrival in Los Angeles:
A forty-seven mile walk offers plenty of time to think things over but it is the walking rather than the thinking that calms the spirit. Brown Dog had none of the raw melancholy that the well educated often feel when first encountering Los Angeles. His frame of mind was a great deal more functional with the single purpose being to retrieve his bearskin and head back to the country, wherever that might be, though he had pondered Canada as a haven that might be safe from the long arm of the law, and not the lovely strip club in the Canadian Soo where the girls got down to no clothing at all, but perhaps way up on the Nipigon River. Sizeable trout were said to be plentiful there and he could always go back to the obnoxious job of cutting pulp.
Only Brown Dog would long for a Northern Canadian fishing river while wandering the warm streets of LA. But he is such a unique, loveable character – and after experiencing his travels and adventures, you begin to understand the longing. And more importantly, you begin to understand the simple lessons Brown Dog is able to teach you.
Hot Spot – Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar – The Sutton Place Hotel 845 Burrard Street
The Sutton Place Hotel has long been a top downtown spot but the restaurant, formerly known as Fleuri has been in need of a makeover for some time. That time arrived this summer with the opening of Boulevard Kitchen & Oyster Bar
This tastefully appointed restaurant (which also contains a cozy lounge with bar and tall tables) is far from “old school” stuffy and yet not pretentiously “hip”. It’s a perfect setting for breakfast, lunch, dinner or after work drinks. Part of the makeover was finding the right chef; someone who’s innovative and creative, but also knows our city and its West Coast flair. That’s when Alex Chen came into the picture. The former Vancouverite – who spent the first 13 years of his life in Malaysia – returned home after six years at the Beverly Hills Hotel’s Polo Lounge.
“As a Chef you set up to do a certain amount of style,” Chef Chen tells us, “but you also have to listen to what’s around you: the clientele and growing up here I’ve always been around seafood.”
Chen brings other influences into his creations which include those childhood years in Malaysia. “As a Chef through your training, through your travel, your childhood; those favourite dishes, if you cook with your heart, those things will always be an influential part of the process.”
What Chef Chen also brings to this scenario is the philosophy of inclusion with a desire not to alienate and that clearly comes across in the menu. We enjoyed the Shrimp Ceviche as well the Beef Carpaccio but were pleasantly surprised that, (a) wings were also available and (b) they were superb. Of course, the oysters met our high expectations as did the mouthwatering Summer Vegetable Risotto, but we didn’t expect to be trying and enjoying the Signature Burger. We’d also recommend the Spaghetti alle Vongole with Sawmill Bay clams, Wild White shrimp; Fresno chile, San Marsano tomato, and the Roasted Sablefish with gai lan flan, beech mushrooms, coconut rice and lemon grass vinaigrette. As for the wine, all selections chosen by the very capable Wine Director Lisa Haley were a perfect companion to everything sampled.
Hot Sound – Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga ‘Cheek to Cheek’
The 88 year old living jazz legend Tony Bennett teams up with pop superstar Lady Gaga for a brand new album of jazz standards. Among the 18 tracks are timeless classics such as ‘Anything Goes’, ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’ and ‘The Lady is a Tramp.
The collaboration of these two musical dynamos; albeit of rather disparate styles, blend together seamlessly on this tasteful revisit of the standards and is certain to become a gem for the generations.
First appearing on the charts in 1952, it was a decade later when Bennett’s signature tune, ‘I Left My Heart in San Francisco’ was released, becoming the first of a number of multi-platinum albums he would enjoy.
Gaga – who will appear with the jazz legend New Year’s Eve at the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas – has said, “I can’t wait kick off 2015 cheek to cheek with the legendary Mr. Tony Bennett. New Year’s celebrations are about cherishing families and friendship and the future – three things this man has taught me much about.”
‘Cheek to Cheek’ debuted at Number One on both the Billboard Top 200 and Jazz charts upon release and is available in stores now.
Hot Flick – Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance).
Michael Keaton – who spent most of the 1980’s making us laugh until the role of Batman came into his life – stars in what is one of the best movies of the year. This black comedy centres on a washed up actor (Keaton) known primarily for his portrayal of an iconic film superhero named Birdman. These blockbusters were made twenty years ago (sound familiar to Keaton’s Batman?). His only chance for survival and relevancy in the present time is to launch a Broadway comeback. The only things standing in his way other than his own ego: a troubled script which he wrote; draining finances; an estranged daughter (Emma Stone); a deranged method actor (Edward Norton); an unbalanced lawyer (Zach Galifianakis); and his melodramatic co-stars (Naomi Watts & Andrea Riseborough). Director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu has delivered a dizzyingly fast-paced and emotionally daring film which seems to stop only long enough for the characters to reveal parts of themselves and catch their breath. ‘Birdman’ is an amazing accomplishment and Michael Keaton will certainly be in contention for Best Actor come Academy Awards time.
Hot Retro – Pee-Wee’s Playhouse: The Complete Series
Hailed by critics as a cultural touchstone for a generation, all 45 wildly entertaining and wacky episodes are contained in this eight disc Blu-ray box set from www.shoutfactory.com
Amassing an amazing 22 Emmy Awards during its five seasons that aired between 1986 and 1991, Pee-wee’s Playhouse, created by, and starring Paul Reubens as the childlike fictional character captured a special place in the hearts and minds of viewers young and old.
Written by Joy Dutcher
Bif Naked has been an iconic artist in the Canadian music scene for going on 20 years. Her energetic stage presence and endearing personality have been a role model for young women to embrace being strong and feminine with equal confidence.
Successful business role-models are often described as ‘go-getters’, type A personalities and aggressive risk takers. The music industry is full of male lead singers who dominate the stage and the boardroom with a masculine ego publicly accepted as ‘what it takes’ to be a rockstar. Bif Naked started her journey with the music industry in high school and college bands in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Her energetic shows, impassioned lyrics and gentle personality prove that musicians can bring their heart to business, minus the ego, and be commercially successful.
Miss Naked officially started her journey as a business woman when she created Her Majesty’s Records with manager Peter Karroll. They had discovered that her current label was going bankrupt and need to make some quick decisions to buy the masters of the album she was recording.
Bif partnered with Peter and developed a team to continue her career and sign up-and-coming bands. Where Bif originally chose many of the signed artists and Peter administered the business, they have developed a democracy that brings the strengths and opinions of all the team members in making directional decisions.
With over 20 years in the industry, Bif is more confident than ever as a business woman in her 40s:
Choosing to be straight-edged in her early 20s was an important socio-political statement for Bif. Not wanting to participate in the ‘shenanigans’ of the touring life but still enjoying downtime with her band and crew, it gave her an avenue to live her values without having to explain them to everyone. As an artist with sincere compassion for animals, it allowed her to take a stance against animal cruelty and inspire others to be strong in their convictions.
In 2007, Bif’s life was dealt an enormous challenge when, shortly after getting married, she was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a lumpectomy and started chemotherapy.
In the middle of recording an album, Bif tried to keep up with her original recording and touring schedule throughout her treatments. She took on cancer, her new marriage and the growth of her recording career all at once; often prioritizing business meetings and recording sessions over her need for rest. Getting to know other cancer patients throughout her developed a new expression of Bif’s social compassion and she started doing volunteer for cancer agencies and joined Vancouver’s Women’s Advisory Committee. Bif continues her volunteer work and shows her support daily for many charities on her Twitter account (@BifNaked).
She is also currently writing her mémoires for Harper Collins, capturing memories and antidotes of her unique life.
With over 20 years in the industry, Bif is more confident than ever as a business woman in her 40s. A transforming piece of wisdom that she has uses in her daily and business life is that “the one who is talking is not listening”. This reminder to talk less and listen more is a valuable insight into making well informed business and life decisions. For Miss Naked, bringing your heart to business as a woman means “listening to the whisper” and recognizing that feminine intuition can be a powerful guide.
As women can be more relational in business dealings, we can often let our fear of being judged outweigh our gut instinct. Her advice to aspiring business women is to stay true to one’s intuition and always sleep on big decisions. Perspectives can change so quickly in arguments and things that you’re enamoured about, a good night’s sleep can give you that time to think over a decision and respond without feeling reactionary.
While Bif Naked has always been a moving force in the Canadian music industry and an energetic performer, the softer side of her personality is so evident in her warmth and approachability. She had developed trusted business relationships and networks because she is authentic, has the faith to give everyone a chance and is willing to step out of her comfort zone as an artist to try something new.
She comes to the stage and the office being true to her instincts and faith in people.
Written by Tobin Wait
Nothingness. Imagine nothingness. A complete sensory void – no sound, no smell, no taste, no sight, no touch. Imagine floating weightlessly, with nothing happening but your mind. Would you feel bliss…or fear…or something else?
Living half a block away, I had passed the Gastown Floathouse location almost daily. I peered through the windows, poked my head in the door, and read the brochure. The adventurous side of was intrigued, and curious: A relaxing “float” in a special water tank, giving me the sensation of floating in air, all the while alleviating my stress and my worries. Who wouldn't want that? The skeptical side of me was…well..skeptical: I am supposed to pay money to float in water? It sounded like a glorified bath.
But the intrigue and the curiosity nagged at me.
Then my birthday came, and along with it a Groupon for a 90 minute Float. I was about to find out what it was all about.
I got to my appointment just on time, tired and hot from a day of work, probably not the best physical state for someone who was about to enter 90 minutes of sensory deprived "bliss." After a viewing a short video on my own personal IPad about that was part instruction and part preparation, I was ready to give it a try. And like most things I try for the first time, I approached it with an open mind, lightly sprinkled with instinctive skepticism.
I was led down a hallway by a friendly dude who would not look out of place in a Tofino coffee shop or playing hacky sack on Kits Beach. We entered door #4. It was a smallish white room, with a curtained shower stall, a chair, and a large tank with a door hatch. Tofino dude gave me a towel, a robe, and some last minute instructions on how to maximize my experience: turn off my cellphone, shower properly, get into the tank through the door hatch, close the door, find my bearings in the dark, release my mind and…float. The only question I had, and one that I dare not ask for fear of looking the fool, was: do I go in naked? (We will not return do this topic).
I followed his instructions, showered the proper way, opened the door, and stepped into the tank, and closed the door behind me.
Once the water calmed, and I was able to achive balance and move my limbs away from the walls, I was floating! I put my head back, and it felt like it was resting on a pillow. It felt like I was suspended in air, not water. I just floated there, and soaked it all in.
Except there was nothing to soak in. There was only nothingness. Okay, this is pretty cool, I thought, but I have to lay here for 90 minutes…just alone with myself?
So I did what the Tofino dude told me to do: I let go. I stopped thinking, and just let my mind do its thing. I won't bore you with the details but my mind certainly did its thing. I am not a religious person, nor am I much into mysticism or spirituality or meditation, but totally got into my mind, man. I went places with that hunk of grey matter I have never been.
And then it was over: soft, ambient music began to play inside the tank, signalling the end of my float…and my return to reality. I didn't want to get out, didn't want to face the music that is life. I liked being in my mind.
I felt slightly altered when I left the building. I didn't experience Nirvana, or a life-altering epiphany, I didn't feel cleansed or rejuvenated. But I walked out of there happy I had done it, happy that I had spent some time with myself, and my mind.
Visit www.floathouse.ca to find out more and get your float on.
Written by Tobin Wait
This November 25 will mark the 40th anniversary of Nick Drake‘s death at age 26. The adjectives used to describe Nick Drake during the nearly 40 years since that day could fill a three ring binder: genius, recluse, brilliant, misunderstood, ahead-of-his-time, virtuoso, mysterious, enigmatic.
Here is what we do know: Nick Drake was a young British folk singer, who released three albums during his lifetime, all of which went virtually unnoticed. Intensely sensitive and shy, he only performed live only a handful of times during his short career – in fact, there exists absolutely no video footage off Nick Drake…zero, zilch, nada one. For the last two years of his life, he battled severe depression, disconnected completely from the world around him. On November 25, 1974, at age 26, he died in his childhood bedroom, after taking one too many anti-depressant pills – whether purposely or not remains one of the many mysteries surrounding Nick Drake.
And it is these mysteries that Patrick Humphries examines, and attempts to solve, in his 1997 biography: Nick Drake. And who doesn’t love a great mystery…especially one that involves a real person, a person who is considered one of music’s’s greatest singer/songwriters, despite having recorded only 31 songs in his lifetime.
Nick Drake’s story is not a unique one. From Mozart, to Shakespeare, to Robert Johnson, to James Dean, to Tupac Shakur, history is littered with tragic and mysterious stories: those who were ignored during their lifetime, only to achieve posthumous acclaim; those who died too young, unable to fulfill their limitless potential; those whose life and death are shrouded in rumour and mystery, but not necessarily truth. Nick Drake is unique because his life (and death) is all three of those storylines…an enigma stuffed inside a riddle.
Through interviews with family, friends and contemporaries, Humphries does a masterful job of tracing the arc of Nick Drake’s short life: from a happy childhood, to his time at Cambridge University, to his first record deal, to his ultimate demise. It is a gripping, heartbreaking and fascinating story. It by no means fills in the many blanks of Nick Drake’s life, but it does make the reader curious, and want to know more.
The book is also a revealing slice of social and musical history, capturing the emerging British folk scene of the late 60’s and early 70’s. Along the way, we discover some of Drake’s contemporaries, artists just starting out who would go on to enjoy successful careers: Van Morrison, Cat Stevens, and Elton John – their success and longevity the antithesis of Nick Drake’s career. It ie enough to make one wonder, “What if”?
And perhaps most important, you needn’t be a fan of folk music to be fascinated by the story of Nick Drake. It transcends music. It is the stuff of myth and legend: a young musician who refused to perform or conduct interviews, who sold fewer then 15,000 records, and who, after his death, goes on to become one of the 20th century’s most influential musicians. The list of musicians who have cited Nick Drake as a major influence on their lives and their music is long and diverse: Robert Smith, Peter Buck, Beck, Paul Weller, and Kate Bush, to name a few.
Nick Drake: the Biography is a well-researched book of non-fiction that reads like a novel. And although it leaves the reader with more questions than answers, it also makes the reader want to find the answers to those questions, to discover all they can about the legend of Nick Drake, and, most importantly, to discover the music that started it all.