Friday, January 30, 2009

16 Things. Maybe 25.

Expedeient Return of Chair
A fact not mentioned on this list: I like a comfy chair. Who doesn't?

This shit is nuts. I first came across this 16/25 things meme via my wife and my friend Amber, who tagged my wife in the first place. Then, my friend Andrea tagged me via LiveJournal. In addition to all of that, Facebook caught the bug.
If I've tagged you via Facebook, it's because you may have inspired me somehow during the writing of this – which has taken ages – or I think it'd be cool to know more about you. But het, you're under absolutely under no obligation to do this. Really. Participating in things like this is quite rare for me.
  1. G. Michaels /L. Yuskavage: I just checked this, so I do believe I'm the first dude to make this comparison (online): I can't help but compare porn performer extraordinaire Gianna Michaels to a Lisa Yuskavage painting. If the thought ever crossed your mind, I commend you for being on my genius wavelength. If Gianna ever posed for Lisa, I'm sure I'd explode upon hearing the news. Kinda like this.

  2. Old Dutch: It bugs me greatly that the U.S packaging for Old Dutch snacks kicks serious ass, while the Canuck stuff is pretty bland and lacking in unity. This makes me leave Grand Forks' SuperOne Foods in tears.

    Okay, not really.

  3. Rope light-based figment of my imagination: There are townhouses adjacent to my building, and the rear balcony of one of the dwellings has rope lights attached to it. I assume they were put up for Christmas. Every time I make my way from the parking lot to the building, I'm greeted by a visage created by these decorations: three eyes and a large mouth made up of white lights, with a string of red and green lights strung across the middle. I've dubbed this configuration "Kwanzaabeast".

  4. Two pseudonyms I may never have a use for:
    1. Fritz Quadrata. Inspired by the typeface Friz Quadrata (if you're a fan of Black Flag or any of the Law & Order shows, you know what I'm taking about).
    2. Ginger Minge. Inspired by my admiration of the Coachwhips and redheads. I think I'd have to write female-oriented erotica to use this one.

  5. J.P. Stassen: I just finished reading Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by this man, and it totally opened my eyes to the activity that took place there in 1994 and '95. I was 19 at that time, and mostly unaware of the bloodshed, despite the news coverage. His very appealing artwork, combined with his use of flashbacks, tell the story of the title character's descent into madness due to his involvement in the genocide. This, coupled with an introduction that sheds light on the history behind the genocide (written by Alexis Siegel, the book's translator), made for a very riveting read. I felt like a pretty spoiled North American afterward.

  6. Mike Doughty: I'm a fan, and I hate to admit it but Mike's last album, Golden Delicious, didn't really do it for me. I haven't listened to it for months, but as I'm writing this, I'm willing to throw it on, because as I said, I'm a fan. With that said, there's nothing better than that man playing solo, or backed up by his man Scrap on cello. Ever since his Soul Coughing days, I've loved his often witty lyrics, the way he plays with words, and how they come through a microphone. It's magic. Hearing him sing is quite comforting to me. There was a point two years ago where I was listening to Skittish and Rockity Roll at least once a day while working. That must have lasted a couple of months. I think I was just in a good groove. I'm hoping that on one of his many tours (he's on the road constantly), he'll see about heading to Winnipeg...maybe after a Minneapolis stop.
    BONUS BIT: Mike allows audience taping, so a number of his shows can be found at This one from Portland in 2002 is a regular listen for me. The stage banter is priceless.

  7. Right now...: I'm gonna make a sandwich. Mushrooms, cheese, and hoisin sauce. (I think I wrote this bit on Monday.)

  8. Raisins: Hate 'em. Alone, or in anything. Grapes that fell from grace, that's what they are.

  9. Big girls/fat chicks/BBWs: What triggered my passion for women of size? Two things: porn and a (then) student teacher. I've been reading porn ever since I was 13, and back then, I was a devotee of Gent magazine. Some time later, a sister magazine by the name of Plumpers and Big Women was launched, and, can say I had an epiphany of sorts. Don't read anything dirty into that; it was truly a moment of clarity. I realized that women like the ones in Plumpers were all around me (Winnipeg has some thick ladies). After that, I looked at the world with wider eyes.
    Those wider eyes locked on a student teacher, the one I mentioned earlier. She came into my life via 11th grade English. She was blond, boisterous, and beautiful. Needless to say, she was also everything I wanted. She triggered some incredible fantasies, but I won't elaborate...I'm a gentleman (adjusts collar).

  10. What I want played at my funeral service: Jeff Buckley's cover of "Satisfied Mind". Dig out your copy of Sketches for My Sweetheart the Drunk and listen to it. It's on the second disc. There you go. That's a fitting send-off, don't you think?

  11. Call me crazy, but I miss the '90s: A lot of my favorite music (rap and other genres) came out of this decade. Sue me.

  12. I also miss high school: Seriously, I had a great fucking time. Sure, I got teased n' shit, but in retrospect, that didn't last long. This isn't some revisionist/happy-memories-whitewashing-the-bad sort of thing, that was a great time in my life. My friends were dope, and I knew really cute girls. I was kinda sad to leave, but life moves on. However, don't be surprised if you see me walking across the field of my alma mater (Gordon Bell) after a late-night Tim Hortons visit.
    I feel bad for the folks that didn't have as good a time as I did.

  13. Scribe: It took over six years of owning a blog, but I can truly say that I enjoy writing, even though it takes me ages. Writing this list has taken several days.

  14. While we're at it...: I've become a stickler for proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation. I blame Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day and the Grammar Girl podcast. I'm far from perfect, but I'll take any opportunity to improve. Believe me, I'll be the last dude to hold your habit of misplaced punctuation over your head. In the end, it's all about being understood as clearly as possible and knowing as much as I can about my primary tongue.

  15. That girl: I'm sure you know her...the one at Dominion News? With the Bettie haircut, the piercings, and the glasses? Yeah, her. Isn't she awesome?

  16. On the subject of "awesome": I'm fully guilty of overusing this word (see #15). I knew of this even before Rod Filbrandt's blog post against it. I'm sorry, but when I come across works of art on a daily basis (that includes everything from a tight drawing to a woman's ass), I can't help but revert to childhood glee. That's when I run out of superlatives. "Awesome" is all that's left.

  17. A trigger: Want to send me into a murderous rage? Trim your fingernails in public. I'm sure people in your life love it when you leave little bits of yourself all over the place; however, seeing you commit such a crime just makes me want to put your fucking lights out.

  18. Music: Needless to say, it's very important to me. My taste is broad for two reasons:
    1. Every genre is valid, and I want to experience them all.
    2. I decided a long time ago that I wasn't gonna be put in some sort of musical taste box because of my race. No-fucking-body is gonna tell me what I can/can't like.

    Related story: During my first trip to Chicago in 2002, I decided to see the lovely Holly Golightly at the Beat Kitchen. I knew in the back of my mind that I was gonna be the only black dude there. I was used to that shit in Winnipeg, but this was like starting all over again. Sure enough, I was – until another dude came in with his white girlfriend. What happened next, I'll remember until the day I die. Reading her lips, I distinctly saw the white girlfriend say, "See? There's another!" Classic.

  19. Tight-ass lines: When I see incredible line work of Coop, Giant, Dan Clowes, Charles Burns, and many others – well, I die inside just a little bit. I'm not hatin', I just don't think I can rock tight-ass shit like that. I really don't think my brain is wired for that. Part of me wishes I was a sign painter's son (I fiend for painted signs).

  20. Musician: I want to be able to play something before I die. I can't read music, and it bugs me. I was a choir geek in high school (Senior and Vocal Jazz).

  21. Me and God: I was baptized at a United church, attended a non-denominational one for Sunday school, and sang at an Anglican one. My relationship with God is complicated. I know he's watching, yet I curse, consume porn, and wish death upon those that wrong me.

    I was kidding about that death bit.

  22. Effective advertising: On a recent shopping trip to Grand Forks, I came across an Aéropostale location. I had a moment of déjà vu. Then I remembered where I saw that name before: it was on the ass of the girl that served us at Cold Stone Creamery.

  23. How wealthy would I like to be?: Wealthy enough to drop everything and fly to Japan several times a year. It could happen.

  24. Sarah: If I'm considered any kind of good human being, it's because she's in my life. I love her muchly.

  25. Workin' out: I aim to get better with every drawing I make. It's all about working that creative muscle. Difficult things: women, buildings and cars.
There. Done.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Hello n' stuff.

Goober Strawberry
Goober Strawberry. Thanks, Nikki!

What up, y'all? It's been too got-damn long.
Yo, this 16 / 25 random things meme has been going nuts through my circle of friends on Facebook, in addition to appearances on Flickr and LiveJournal (Hi, Andrea!). I've been tagged a couple times, and my list is coming. I'm on number 13 or something. In the meantime, I'm...

So, yeah. Peace.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Birthday #34

Birthday #34.
Me and my new Dakota hoodie (thanks, Mumzy!).

I'm not much of a birthday dude. For me, they serve to mark how far I have to go, and how much I've fucked up, and my impending mortality. Yeah, leave it to me to be positive.
However, I'm fully aware that I'm blessed, and you can't tell me otherwise:
  • I've married my best friend, a woman that truly changed my life for the better.
  • My mom rules, even when we don't see eye-to-eye, which is rarer nowadays.
  • I was born and raised in Winnipeg, that perennial underdog of Canadian cities. There are times when this place drives me crazy*, but I can't think of a more nurturing environment be from. Anytime I think of leaving (there have been many), it's the little things about Peg Gritty that draw me back.
  • Speaking of Winnipeg, thanks to this place, I know what community is all about. Just by stepping outside, I'm bound to run into rappers, members of killer rock n' roll combos, painters, film buffs, writers...all of whom I'm connected to not because of the possibilities of personal upward mobility, but because we just want to make cool shit and a little bit of sense in this crazy-ass world. And we genuinely like and /or love each other. And we're sexy. Because of the cold-ass winters.
  • Through, I've been taught things that college couldn't. The site has given me the eyes and ears of the most talented people on the planet, which has pushed me to be a better illustrator and designer. And in the case of certain assholes that have hung out there, past and present, I'm also a better human being. Eternal props to you, Clay, for giving a place to hang out and learn something.
So yeah, even though it doesn't always sound like it, I'm thankful to be alive. Thanks to you.

* To see what I mean, y'gotta visit Winnipeg: Love and Hate, run by Bryan Scott. Unflinching admiration/condemnation for the place I call home via breathtaking photography.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Four Albums I Loved in 2008

  • Opio's Vulture's Wisdom Volume One
    I don't know about you, but I felt incredibly burned by Souls of Mischief's No Man's Land. So much so, that I played the Hiero crew rather distant ever since. Sure, I kept up with whatever they were doing, but I certainly didn't feel like buying anything from 'em. This post at UGSMAG turned me around. You and I know that the game has changed, so it's not uncommon to see these guerrilla-style videos posted all over YouTube. I can't put my finger on it, but I found "Original Lyricist" very refreshing – very off-the-cuff, and I'm talking about both the video and the song. Dude's exiting a Raiders game, rhyming about how dope he is/how you can't even come close, over this chaotic beat. How can you go wrong? I think you also have to give props to whomever edited that vid, too.
    Having checked the rest of the videos, I remembered seeing the CD at the Polo Park HMV and copped it as soon as I got a chance. Fourteen tracks at a breezy 39 minutes, all about lyrical superiority and mackin' on honeys internationally. A huge nod goes out to The Architect for creating a bouncy, layered soundscape full of movie dialogue, scratches and trippy keyboards. That dude's one to watch, f'real.
  • The Walkmen's You & Me
    I heard a number of rumblings about this album being a return to the energy and feel of their first two albums. I kinda see that, except there are no scorchers like "The Rat" and "Little House of Savages". If anything, this album is a slow, warm burn full of visions of traveling and regrets. My favorite moment with a song from this album came last month, as I was making my way through Portage Place and its aged food court. I use that place as a thoroughfare more than a destination, so I wasn't in the best of moods as I walked. At this time "Four Provinces" came up randomly on my iPod, and all the retail chaos around me melted, as Hamilton's voice accompanied by a single guitar sent me to a happier place. That's exactly what the best art does for me...I get transported.
  • The Roots' Rising Down
    Admittedly, I haven't listened to this album in several months. It seems that every Roots release since Things Fall Apart is doomed to be compared to it, or there's something riding on every new project. Internal conflict, label drama, whether Malik B. will be involved or all tends to overshadow the album (I'm pretty sure I've listened to Game Theory a total of 5 times). Plus, attention span sucks in a major way nowadays. Between buying physical releases, single tracks via iTunes and eMusic, and listening to way too many podcasts (I need something to make work go by faster), I can cram only so much in this dome of mine. And here's another thing: ?uesto's liner notes for this album? iTunes only. C'mon, man! That had me pretty pissed for a bit. The liner note experience is integral to a Roots album experience.*
    All that aside, this recording gave me two of my favorite musical moments in '08: Peedi Crakk's verse on "Get Busy", and the scintillating blast that is "75 Bars". "Get Busy" was definitely a wise choice as far as lead singles go, because that joint is all business. An insistent ?uesto beat, Jazzy Jeff scratches, and ripping verses from Black Thought and Dice Raw. As most of you know, BT and Dice are no slouches on the mic. However, it's Peedi's verse that effortlessly steals the show. Truthfully...when is the last time you heard a verse that was worthy of a rewind? Yeah, I can't think of one, either. "75 Bars" is Black Thought as his rawest, and the joint is propelled by drums and tuba. TUBA. Think about that.
    Surrounding these two joints are the Roots' most solid tracks I've heard from this bunch in a long time. Nothing worth skipping.
  • Q-Tip's The Renaissance
    This one was a long time comin'. Yeah, I skipped Amplified, despite "Breathe and Stop" and "Vivrant Thing" being incredible tracks. I guess I wasn't about to accept a glossy, Hype Williams-directed version of one of my favorite emcees. Fast forward through nearly a decade of label woes, and we arrive at The Renaissance. I like it. I like it a lot! What else can I say, really. A soulful experience with tight, live instrumentation, plus a couple of joints which serve as reminders that Tip can still drop rhymes over beats (Including this Dilla contribution at the tail end of "You".). Guilt-free listening is what this is.

Other Recordings Worth Mentioning
  • Shad's The Old Prince – Homie won me over big time. I can tell we grew up listening to some of the same stuff. Lyrically tight, and it's clean, so your moms can listen to it, too!
  • Wale's The Mixtape About Nothing – This actually made #3 on Exclaim's list. I found myself getting a little overwhelmed around "The Bmore Club Slam", but I did have fun listing to this overall. Wale is mad slick, his flow is effortless. Dope theme to this thing too (he's a Seinfeld fan...duh.), and it was FREE!
  • Pip Skid's Pip Donahue: I Can't Be Stopped – Yeah, I know...not fair. I did have a hand in this, design-wise. Still, no one does self-deprecation as well as Pip. My faves: "L' Emeni" (this one is incredible live) and "Cut Me Up Into a Thousand Pieces and Burn Them For 3 Weeks". It's like reading Ivan Brunetti's Misery Loves Comedy. Breathtaking, self-obsessive despair has never been so entertaining. If I didn't know the dude, I'd call for a suicide watch.
  • Jake One's White Van Music – Solid release with a diverse cast of characters. I knew from the get-go that I'd like it more than Bryon Crawford did. Does that dude like anything? (EDIT: I just checked. He liked Tip's album as much as I did. Well, all right!)

Stuff I Should've Bought
  • Gnarls Barkley's The Odd Couple – Seriously. Why haven't I bought this yet? I thought the first album was dope, and "Who's Gonna Save My Soul" is a dark gem. I'm slippin'. Hell, the album even sounds great backward!
  • Fleet Foxes' self-titled album – Everything I've heard from this has been lush and infectious. I still ain't got it.
  • Johnson & Jonson self-titled debut – Okay, this one I have on order. I ain't sleepin' on anything Blu does anymore.
  • Chad VanGaalen's Soft Airplane – I was in Music Trader a couple of weeks ago, and this was playing. And it was fucking great. "Willow Tree" is the most comforting, positive song I've heard about death, like, ever. And I fear death. I have no excuse for sleepin' on this one.

Stuff I Should've Liked More Than I Did
  • Portishead's Third and The Raconteurs' Consolers of the Lonely – I dunno...maybe I should listen to these again.
* Of course, I found a copy later via Von Pea's blog.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

John Smith's "30 @ 30"

Smitty picks a tune.
Smitty picking a tune for karaoke at Hooligan's on the 29th.

My homie Joe (aka John Smith) turned 30 a few days ago, and he made this here list. With his permission, I'm sharing it with you (just as he typed it, plus some type formatting), as I think it's too good for just the Facebook and Break Bread Board universes. This is some clear – and a little bit humorous at times – thinking. I wish I had my head together like this 3.95 years ago.

Hey yall.
  1. Thanks for the Xmas/Berfday/Season's greetings.
  2. Getting older does not necessarily mean getting wiser.
  3. My New Year's resolution is to become a gladiator.
  4. mcenroe is in town and we are recording a new album.
  5. mcenroe is in town and we're playing at the Lo Pub on Saturday, January 3rd.
  6. I did not make enough rap this last year. I think you all know why.
  7. No girlfriends in 2009. Only wives.
  8. I will be touring with Hunnicutt and Co-Op in February, if you out west, fuck with us.
  9. This album with Murdock, Its True Because It Rhymes, will be out soon, I promise.
  10. If you didn't listen to The Roots, Rising Down, then you missed out. Same goes for the Killer Mike and Roddy Bailey records.
  11. I stays loyal to TUB and my homie Kevin. Why wouldn't I?
  12. PNC STILL makes records.
  13. Break Bread is STILL the crew. DFA.*
  14. Recently I figured out that you can't change people. No matter how hard you try. Ever.
  15. Take number 14 and remember it when you hanging out with me.
  16. I love my mother more than any person in the world. I hope you feel the same way about yours. People who don't are usually awful.
  17. If your moms is a terrible person or you didn't know her, sorry for numero 16. That was a broad generalization.
  18. BROAD generalization. Puns rule.
  19. This one's for the ladies. Stop letting the gay dudes who run "fashion" tell you you're supposed to be skinny like pubescent boys. You are beautiful. And if you live in Winipeg its practical for you to have a likkle warmth on you.
  20. Also for the ladies. Put a likkle warmth on me. I'm cold.
  21. Again, for the ladies, do you wanna listen to the Isley Brothers while we warm up?
  22. I'm thinking about getting a tattoo. The word Discipline, on my wrist. Yay or nay? I'ma let yall decide.
  23. I made new, real friends in 2008. That rarely happens. I love you guys. The old ones, too.
  24. Me, Pip, and Skratch Bastid are gonna make a new record this year. Guess what? its gonna be about beer and being poor. Again.
  25. Beer and being poor made me the man I am today. And I'm thankful all the time for not growing up to be a sniveling, bitchmade, softbatch dependent.
  26. Except when the rent's late and and I'm buying two double cheeseburgers from Rotten Ronnie.
  27. One for now. One for later.
  28. Apologizing is the closest thing to divinity. If I have ever wronged or slighted you holler. You'll get yours.
  29. Every night at 11:11 I wish for the same things: fame, fortune, a long life, and love. Unless i'm wildin. Then just love.
  30. I have become the best man I can be. Now I have to work on being a better person.

Word 'em up.

* Don't Fuck Around.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Al'z 2009 Resolutions

Al'z 2009 Moleskine Monthly Notebook
Documenting 2009 in style with Moleskine. Sticker by Sasha Barr.

Last year, I came up with a list of ten. In October, I joined the Y to handle resolution #1, but I have yet to attend. Sad.
Looking back at the list, numbers 1, 2 and 5 were the most important to me, so I'm restating them for this brand-spankin' new year...and for public record.
  1. Health. Eating better, exercise, healthier habits all around. If I drop 100 pounds, I'll be happier than a dude that can fellate himself. Whoa...
  2. Drawing. Everyday. Every fucking day. Not just for a project, for fun, too. And I gotta draw things I have a hard time with. So that means buildings, women, cars and caricatures are on the menu.
  3. Illustration. I got an online portfolio started, now I just have to follow through. And I can't be afraid to sell stuff, either.
So, yeah. There y'go. Here goes nothin'!