Wednesday, November 02, 2005

On A Side Note

Yesterday was my 69th posting in this blog and I forgot to make a juvenile comment about the sexual position. I'm losing my touch.

Anyway, a belated "Uh, Huh, huh, huh I said '69'," to all of you.

69 indeed.

Incidentally, for those of you out there who are not up to snuff on sexual positions, 69 is the position that leaves everybody in need of a Tic Tac.

And apparently they eat Tic Tacs around the world, which just goes to show you that 69 knows no boundaries.


I've been waiting anxiously for the past number of weeks. Why? Because The Tragically Hip's first ever box set Hipeponymous was slated for a November 1, 2005 release. Naturally, this being November 2, you can bet your ass I hauled my sorry carcass down to the nearest HMV to buy myself a copy yesterday, the day of, as soon as I woke up at noon, which is much earlier than I am used to getting out of bed.

I have to say that I am quite partial to The Hip. There's something that just makes listening to them a particularly Canadian thing to do. I've been a big fan of their work ever since I heard the opening bars of "Grace, Too" for the first time, which for those of you in the know, was actually not the very beginning of the band's rise to fame. I was quite late getting on The Hip boat, but now that I'm here I'm quite comfortable.

I've been fortunate enough to see them perform live three times, each time being a remarkable experience. The best show I saw was easily when I was able to see them perform at the New City Liqwid Lounge as a special club tour that the band went on in the week leading up to the release of In Between Evolution. But that's more of an aside to show you how much of a fan I am.

Anyway, back to the box set. The set is quite handsomely packaged, containing the double disc greatest hits package Yer Favourites as well as the live DVD That Night In Toronto. Both Yer Favourites and That Night In Toronto are being made available separately. What the box set has that neither of those packages have is a bonus DVD containing the entire Tragically Hip video catalogue, a documentary about the band, and a series of artistic shorts called The Right Whale. Naturally, the completist in me coveted the bonus DVD so I absolutely needed to get Hipeponymous as opposed to the smaller, more incomplete greatest hits and live concert DVD packages.

The actual greatest hits are pretty damn good, but I am not really that drawn to them because, while there are many, many great songs on the two discs of hits provided, there are many more songs that I would have loved to hear that didn't make the cut. No "Dire Wolf"? For shame. But it's really more of a trifle for me to complain about one or two songs that were excluded because I am aware there is a deep catalogue to cull from and only a limited amount of space for fan favourites.

The live DVD is awesome and makes me really want to see them play Edmonton again just for that Tragically Hip experience. The footage was shot in Toronto as the name of the DVD That Night In Toronto would suggest. Apparently it's not just a clever title. If you've listened to Tragically Hip live footage or you've seen them live you're probably familiar at least somewhat with Gordon Downie's on-stage presence. He rambles. He improvises spoken word parts into many of the songs. He dances spastically. Basically Gordon Downie is that weird uncle you would probably be embarassed of at family outings, but are strangely compelled to visit every chance you get. Hearing The Tragically Hip studio albums and listening to them live are definitely not one and the same and it's nice to finally have a high quality live performance recorded other than the live album Live Between Us, which is also worth checking out.

The bonus disc is just icing on the cake to resort to using a cliche. Being a fan of the music video medium it's nice to have a copy of the Hip catalogue so far. The videos for "Poets" and "Ahead By A Century" being two of my favourites, though I could certainly ramble off about a half dozen other titles worth checking out, which is a testament to how deep the Hip catalogue is. The documentary has some good footage of the band in a non-performance light, giving interviews and just being normal human beings. I haven't really delved into The Right Whale yet, but that will be on the itinerary in the very near future I'm sure.

I think that in Canada and being a poet, it's almost a requirement that you want to perform your work alongside Gordon Downie or to perform Gordon Downie or to be Gordon Downie. This is a package that will give you insight into his methods, though you still won't be able to write like the guy. There can be only one Gordon Downie. Sadly.

You have to check it out.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Singularity Is Near by: Ray Kurzweil

Last week I finally found a copy of Ray Kurzweil's latest offering The Singularity is Near. Ray Kurzweil is best known as a prominent inventor, having developed reading devices for blind people and working with synthesizers as well. He does also dabble in books.

His latest book seems to continue with some of his thoughts that arose in his last book Age of the Spiritual Machines and, yes, that was the book that inspired that Our Lady Peace albume Spiritual Machines.

I've only just started to read The Singularity is Near and it's likely going to take me a while based on the fact that when a lot of thought-provoking concepts are introduced in a text I tend to have to put the book down to ponder them awhile. So far this is proving to be the case with his writing once again.

One of concepts that has always fascinated me when it comes to Kurzweil's books is how he explains how our lives will be lengthened perhaps indefinitely. Advances in computing and the emergence of nanotechnology, Kurzweil believes, are going to transform humanity into beings capable of transcending the limitations of their own biology. The thought is that we could very well be living hundreds of years if not as long as we want to live.

So far what I have read into his latest book he explains how most people look at human advancement as being linear in nature. He argues, though, that it should be viewed as being exponential. That is to say instead of judging how much we will advance technologically over the next 50 years, say, by judging how far we advanced technologically over the past 50 years, we should actually be thinking about it in terms of exponential growth. The rate at which we develop technology as a species is increasing as well so the sheer volume of advancements we are going to be making is only going to go up as well. Reading it like this things tend to make sense.

But, alas, that's just the beginning of the book and I'm already raving about it. I'll keep you posted on how things go as I make my way through the body of the text. Last time I read a Kurzweil book it affected my poetry greatly and I wonder if the same things will happen this time around.

Time will only tell.


Starting November 2, 2005, the Raving Poets will be starting a brief reading series at the downstairs lounge of Yiannis Terverna (10444 - 82 Avenue) in Edmonton. The series will be running on Wednesday nights in November starting at 8:00 p.m. each time.

It will be exciting to be part of a regular reading scene, as brief as it may seem. So if you find yourself in the Old Strathcona area on a Wednesday night in November and you don't know what to do just remember that some of Edmonton's coolest poets are kicking some ass behind the mic at Yiannis Taverna.

I hope to see you there.