Friday, January 28, 2011

Maybe We Never Really Knew Each other Anyway

'Enid' was a nice little song released as a single by the Barenaked Ladies in 1992, off their album Gordon. The Canadian band was just getting their start on Canada's music scene and the song was quite a good start for them (that and 'If I Had $1,000,000').

Hence, this is my song review on it.

I must admit that part of what largely inspired me to write this wasn't just the allure of the song but the way it makes me think of my past relationship, and certain similarities I see in the song's lyrics and overall story - I read on Wikipedia that it's about Steven Page's first girlfriend (Page being the lead singer).
According to the article, inspiration also came from the name of a waitress at a diner in Moncton, New Brunswick, who had such a name. The band had apparently found it interesting that the Welsh name spelled backyards is 'dine.'

To me, the song is about the lead singer's state of thought and bottom-line resolution of what he thinks of his first girlfriend and the ending of the relationship. The chorus goes 'Enid we never really knew each other anyway' and 'maybe we always saw right through each other anyway.'

Lyrically, it's full of the singer's past memories of his first girlfriend, her idiosyncrasies and quirks, his memory of the taste of her lip gloss, etc. etc. He also honestly dishes out his own past thoughts and feelings (e.g. "There were times when I wanted to hurt you/and there were times when I know that I did (whoa whoa)/There were times when I thought I would kill you/but can you blame me I was only a kid").

Essentially, it's a complete analysis of a past relationship, resolving with the singer proving that he's over it (after taking several years) by pointing out all the things he could do to make it work - but rather not wanting to.

"I took a beating when you wrote me those letters" - man, that was so '92. Today it would be 'I took a beating when you texted me those messages' or 'sent me those e-mails.'

Musically, it's quite complicated, especially for such a new band at the time. There's a horn section, acoustic guitar, steel pedal guitar, stand-up bass (which I found a little complicated to learn by ear when learning the song on bass), a cuica, a tenor sax (most prominent in the final choruses), tamborine, and piano. To top it off you've got the rest of the band also providing back up singing during the final choruses.

When they played the song on the Conan O'Brien show in 1994, without all the extra instruments save for the horn section, it still sounded even more complicated drum and bass-wise.

It's a great song that sounds a little bit forlorn, quite reflective, and perky. Steve Page's vocals are fun, enthusiastic and engaging to listen to (and he performs some fun dance moves during the music video).

The music video is another matter altogether. It's one of those clips that uses very low-budget ideas very well. I don't actually know the budget but the effects are extremely simple. The big element of the video is the way the band members appear and disappear, in time to the song, in different places, usually dressed differently as well. The camera does not move at all as people appear out of nowhere to sing and play their instruments.

All the DOP did was stop recording a segment, had the band members change, then simply return to different places and resume playing just as he hits 'record' again.
Another element was the television sets hanging from the ceiling, showing footage of the band performing the song at various places in Toronto. The camera would suddenly zoom up to a TV screen to show a segment of the band playing at Kensington Market for example. Or the screens would show Steven Page or other various band members singing or appearing with a simple blue or light green background.

The whole thing is very funny to me. Not the changing positions of the band members, really, but the picture screen in the background and certain bits of the video. It opens with this odd little clip of two guys, one singing and the other jumping about in the background, wearing some odd piece around their wastes (and nothing else). The singer goes "The silence, the terror, the pain, the horror as your mom comes downstairs..." I read that this was a "pastiche of Depeche Mode." The voice was that of the band's producer Michael Wojewoda.
Then it zooms out from the TV screen and shows an empty studio. The cuica is played, the song starts, and suddenly the whole band appears, the rest of the TV sets turn on, and photos appear on a big screen at the back behind the drummer.

My humor is largely either derived from the sometimes humorous photos on the screen as well as certain segments. During the second chorus, the camera pans past each member - each of whom is smiling ludicrously as they play. Many images of Steven Page appear on the screen at the back, including a ridiculous one of him in an astronaut suit. Ed Robertson (the guitarist) is covered in green paint. There's a nice image of bassist Jim Creeggan wearing either a Balmoral bonnet or a beret (which he wears in studio throughout the video as well) and has a nice expression on his face. Other photos include one of the band on a double-decker bus, one of them all covered in paint and playing trumpets, and a few of Page with a woman likely to be Enid. I'll say quite a lot of those photos have great composition and often very funny-looking characters or great poses/portraits.

The video is great in terms of creativity and pulling it off. Page sings alongside his image on a TV screen, perfectly synced. Another funny scene I find is at the beginning of the 'I can do...' refrain, when it speeds up and the camera pans from one side of the studio to the next really fast. A funny image of Page is on the back screen, and the drummer looks funny sped-up. Page's image looks like it's one too many, and he's really posing for this one, almost like he's conceited or something (that's what I get from it) so his poses get more flamboyant or campy.
A great bit is where Tyler Stewart, the drummer, throws his sticks on the ground before his big drum fill, and as the camera zooms in on him, he instead takes a big bite out of a sub sandwich while the drum fill plays. The problem with him is that he can't move because his instrument is stationary, so while it gets fast near the end and the rest of the band is shifting around like crazy, all he's doing is rapidly appearing in different clothes behind his drum set all the time. There are a couple of admittances where he's shown up front with a little air horn device, and Robertson appears on the drums in the background instead, but it's not usual.

It's quite a creative clip, especially when each of the band not only cuts to different positions, but keeps all the instruments stationary so that suddenly Ed Robertson is playing drums and Jim Creeggan is playing lead singer (and dancing). Tyler Stewart is on the piano while Andy Creeggan is playing Jim's stand-up bass. Steven Page is playing Ed's guitar. And so on. This switches so that Page is now playing drums and Robertson is on the piano, etc. etc.

Embedding is disabled, so here's the link:

The creativity doesn't stop there. I think the album cover is interesting as well - it essentially features a bunch of cutouts of Canada Post mailboxes wrapped around the name. It's original and very Canadian-looking to me, which I like.

It's a very entertaining and engaging song, both musically and lyrically. You get a real sense of what it's about and how the singer feels and felt, and the music is fun and complicated. The music video is very creative and fun/funny, and even the album cover art is eye-catching. It's one of Barenaked Ladies' best and most classic tunes, I think, second only to 'If I Had $1,000,000' (which I think is okay but a little boring and repetitive).

Song (lyrics): A-
Music: A

I'd highly recommend listening to it, particularly if you've just left a relationship you weren't so sure about or have mixed feelings over. It's a great hit from nineteen years ago. I've loved it ever since late 2009 when I rediscovered it through the fun and engaging music video.

Justin C.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unusual Tuesday Night

Yes, it isn't very usual when I go to watch a small concert on a Tuesday night; I walked to my father's house after "work" instead of going home. I'd been invited to see the usual band that invites me to see them perform at a bar in the market.

Even more unusually, I went swimming that night as well, and almost got lost in the Bronson Centre. My half-siblings had got off school and one had had a cello recital. I had to go with my half-brother to pick her up, and she wasn't in the lobby. An hour later and we were swimming at the Plant Recreation Centre. Apparently my father takes them swimming on Tuesday nights, something I did not know.

After that it was dinner and then I finally departed for the thing. An hour after the time it starts.

I won't really be giving much of a review here since I've already talked about the music of the Birthday Girls. This is more of a "how things went in my experience" kind of thing. And they were three-quarters through their material when I arrived.
And as far as I'm concerned, they are still mostly playing their normal repertoire of songs, unless I missed the debut of a new song due to my lateness.

I got there to find most people I'd known by sight or general experience from high school there, like usual. The bassist and singer, Kyle, was screaming and picking as usual, while Kevin stabbed his fingers at a miniature keyboard. I could not see Lloyd for the most part; the band routinely uses rapid line-light effects and fake smoke when they play, so other than being obscured by toms and cymbals and stands, he was largely concealed within or behind the smoke.
"And this is Lloyd," Kyle introduced between one of their songs when he gave their names. In response, the drummer kicked his bass drum somewhere beyond the smoke. I assumed he did that just so people knew his general location on stage if he couldn't at least wave.

Eventually the band finished and took their instruments down and I was able to talk to a few people. That lasted for about fifteen minutes while the next band, "Hooray for Earth" from New York (City) set up. As there were two other bands from international places (one from the aforementioned New York, and the other from Sweden), it was obvious the local band, Birthday Girls, open for them.

I think the Americans really did a good show. After all, I am not a punk or dubstep or indie fan, so for that music to raise my interests is an effort they accomplished to an extent. There were a couple of songs they did that I almost want to listen to again because they were stimulating and engaging enough. Unfortunately, I never knew what they were called because either the band did not announce them, or when they did they did it too fast or quietly. Mostly they segued into the next song without stopping. That's why I can only identify the songs by which notes the bassist played. For example, one of them had a C-E-D procession, I think. The drummer incorporated rim-clicks into his fast playing that really accented the beat and sound. One of the keyboardists, who was also the tamborine player and sometimes secondary or rhythm guitarist, had this guitar echo-like bit for the lead guitar (the louder lead goes, then the slightly quieter secondary responds). That was good style in my opinion.
The drummer, throughout the entire time, expressed extreme happiness and content at playing. He always had a smile of delight on his face. I'd never seen such a happy or into-it drummer. It radiated out into the crowd - it has an effect. When you smile, it makes other people feel better. That's what the drummer accomplished. That - and rhythmic rim-clicks. He also had a large emphasis on the floor tom and looked like Crispin Glover (with long hair, like in Hot Tub Time Machine) to an extent.

The only thing I did not like about that band was their dependence on a switchboard to include additional instrument pieces or sound effects (I'd hear a guitar or rhythm or bass or other instrument but no one would be playing it, it would be supplied by the switchboard). I would keep those to the recording room and finished product on an album; Keep it real and original on stage.

The time between them and the next group was spent with more talking, as well as making the Earth band's drummer uncomfortable by staring at him trying to get the courage to tell him of my liking his style and rim clicks. Eventually I did it. Sometime later anyway.

The last act was a Swedish band called The Concretes. A bassist, guitarist, drummer, and keyboardist who also played guitar sometimes. They were all headed by a woman who sung and played tamborine. Their songs were interesting and different, and I liked (as I would) the bass. I was able to figure out every note he played in one song. In fact, I spent most of the time stepping to the beat, watching each note the bass player hit, and, well, that's it other than mildly enjoying the sound.

Much later, after much conversation, I ended up walking back to Chinatown (my father dropped me off originally). What was different this time though was my walking with four other people instead of alone. We even stopped at McDonald's on Elgin, where I decided to get a milkshake. Unfortunately I only had a twenty-dollar bill, so I tried to use it to its potential by getting a small fries. That worked well. The cost rose from $2.99 to $4.75.
I ended up sharing it with everyone as someone's boyfriend talked about getting ants up his pants. And I proudly now had three five dollar bills and assorted change in my wallet.

By the time we separated and I continued home, I was apparently invited to another concert on Friday, through the fact that one of the boyfriends was a frontman himself.
Networking. It works.

It was a good night. It was nice to see people and be social and hear some music. The only thing now is I now see how awful I am at bass and drums in comparison. Yeah, I have an ear, sure, but no technique.

Nice to walk partway home with other people as well. But what will I do with all my new five-dollar bills?

Justin C.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Old-Fashioned Writing

The following was written by me in a notebook during lunch today:
Here I am, sitting here in the cafeteria of 22 O'Meara Street, in a building formally run by Nuns. I have a large chocolate milk, my music ('Bed and Breakfast Man,' Madness) playing in my ears.

My chocolate milk is in a large carton as they didn't have small cartons at the store from where I bought it.

To my left sits a buzz-cut, smooth-skinned character named Justin. He is eating Chinese stir-fry silently. To my northwest sits Brent, a bloke who has an infantile sense of humor, traces of a beard and the old habit of calling everyone around him 'guy.' His lunch consists of what his mother prepared for him, brought in a used Farm Boy grocery bag.

In front of me sits Étoile and like me he listens to music. Tall, with a dark complexion, he enjoys a glass of what looks like berry punch. A large book sits on the table with him, but he does not read it.

I come in the wake of a sad weekend. The first love of my life formally cut off any ties with me in a final e-mail. It was, in a way, expected, though not formally in an e-mail like that. Personally, I am much happier that it ended this way because I have closure. Still sad though.

Today I have spent my time in what I call 'the program.' This is why I am sitting here. This is why I know and can provide descriptions of these people. It's so much better than being at home, although I sometimes find that I am above some of the stuff we do. Like learning how to manage a budget, like we're doing today.

During that time I spent a lot of energy tying up a story thread I'd forgotten to finish in my novel that I've since finished last summer. It's quite romantic.

As I continue to write, Étoile is now the only one sitting here at this table other than me. He finishes the juice and reads the large book he has.

It's a mildly sunny day, but cold. It's always cold on sunny days in winter. It's a new day, a new week, a new year. I'm moving on which should be much easier now. I just wish and hope that finding the perfect person isn't too hard or complicated. I hope it's soon as well. I'm sure everyone wishes and hopes for this though.

The clock currently says 12:45pm. I've got 15 minutes before returning to meager budgeting issues. 'Rise and Fall' by Madness is playing in my ears. My chocolate milk is 90% finished. The cafeteria is largely empty except for myself, Étoile, and a man talking with Habon, another girl in the program. Oh, Brent just came back.

Time is almost up. I've just read this so far to Brent and Étoile, who seem to like it. The song fades away as lunch ends.
12:55pm, Jan. 10th, 2011
The reason I wrote that is because I kind of miss old-fashioned writing, and while I don't intend on keeping a diary, I do like to write and describe my surroundings now and then. It's a nice way to keep a record of something, or to have a hard piece of writing for once - people used to send each other real letters and actually write diaries that, in certain cases, their later biographers would use as reference and source information. I like the idea of having a record of a random lunchtime one day. I find that kind of information interesting.

Justin C. (4:11pm)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Year in Review

11:57pm. As I write this now.

At first, I was worried I would spend the last few minutes and seconds counting down the new year on a bus. I was at a friend's apartment all day, see. And coming back from Overbrook takes a long time. I left somewhere at almost eleven and took an hour to get home. Six minutes of 2010 were left. I spent a long time on a bus, then sped home from Fallowfield in a cab.
No countdown with the bus driver and a few passengers, that's for sure. Phewf.

Anyway, this is my year in review.

Generally, it was negative, turbulent, and either awful or sad/depressing. But there were a few good times. I have this superstition that, because I was born in an odd-numbered year, even years won't necessarily be as exciting or fun as odd years. This past even-numbered year really conformed to that.

January started off with a small bit of shock - I'd found a search on this website's lijit thing for the name of the girl that pops into my head when I listen to 'In the City.' Then a later search for another friend of mine. I got to thinking that either of them had found and started reading this blog.
I resumed classes at college, filming a day-long time-lapse video of my first day back:

Ironically, in the video I visit the same apartment in Overbrook there as I did today. You can see what I mean by a long commute in that time-lapse video. The exact time I stopped the camcorder at was 11:03 (of course).
I also joined Facebook, finally, on the 26th of that month.

In February, implementing an idea I had since October, I suggested to my friend Fred that I could visit him during the lunch hour at Merivale - and/or after he got off. He was happy with the idea, and I visited him for the first time, intending to be at lunch but ending up after school, on February 10th. These visits would continue once or perhaps twice each week. Why did I do it? Because I had no one else to see, it gave me something to do outside college, and I was still happy and eager to revisit the school I'd graduated - it felt like I never left. I felt very much at home there, even if I was supposed to have moved on.

March was not a bad month either. I continued to visit my then-friend, and things were going alright. I still continued at college. Not much happened in March to say the least. Oh, Fred and I went downtown on the 27th...that was quite fun and I know he enjoyed it.

April was when my year began to get dull and sad and depressing. I either did something wrong or they had a problem of sorts, but I apparently lost a friend that month. I was overcome with grief because I had feelings for them, and they disappeared without a real reason that I still can't figure out properly unless I was at fault. Still, I fought through it and finished up my final weeks of college. I attended, as the only guest, my then-friend's birthday and took him out for ice cream in Hog's Back.
On the 23rd something very happy happened and I fell into conversation with a nice girl I'd kind of had a small crush on in high school, on the bus. I'd never had a girl approach me before and introduce themselves. It was a new experience and I was extremely delighted and pleased by it. The one highpoint of that month.

May was a horrible time for me. I had a great day on the fifth as I visited my then-friend Fred for the final, happy time, after he got off from school. Everything was great, and I even talked to the 'In the City' girl that day. Can't I ever name her? Oh, it's easy to know who she is. I just rather not mention it here because it's obviously clear I had feelings for that darn person. I was to have a job interview as well. Things were good...until the tenth, when I had a police officer visit me, in the presence of my grandparents (and later, my mother) to warn me to stay away from my then-friend due to "violent, threatening behavior" I was said to have continuously exhibited towards him (and my former school at large).
None of that was ever true, notably in that I attended his birthday not several weeks prior and visited him five days earlier, and was a happy, pleasant guest/friend, but of course the school and the police officer didn't have interest or willpower to properly investigate; it's just easier labeling the unfortunate sap (me) a threat.

I spent the rest of May in my basement watching Lost episodes. Depressed, lonely, and isolated.

June was marginally brighter; I saw the girl I'd talked with on the bus working at McDonald's when I went there by chance. That was a stimulating (and in result pasty) meal. Otherwise it was overwhelmingly full of ennui and lack of energy; I was just lethargic that month. No close friends, no job, no one to hang out with or enjoy the summer breeze and air with, just myself at home.

July was probably the best month of the whole year, as a whole. It was amazing to visit my uncle's cottage again and swim in that lake; it is probably the only lake I could swim in perfectly without hesitation. And exceedingly warm. That was a great time.

August was almost as great; camping at Poulter Lake in Quebec was a new experience, and very fun, and I hadn't swam that far before (I'd swam from an outcropping of rocks in the lake to the shore which took twenty minutes). It's all on film but there's no photos unfortunately.
It was the month in which I got properly drunk for the first time, having gone to my first gig, and it was also the month in which I had lunch with a couple of nice, warm, welcoming girls (at McDonald's, no less). The one I'd talked to on the bus and the 'In the City' individual.  That was a memorable day.

September was not bad, and probably at its greatest when I started my first proper relationship. I ended that month on an extreme high, and also began the job quest program at that Causeway place.

October started off great and ended pretty rotten. My brilliant girlfriend disappeared without a reason, and I over-reacted. I considered myself single again, and quite depressed and empty.

November was pretty much the same.

December started to look a bit up when I started the solutions for youth program, because that structured my days again, and let me focus less on my lost girl. I was with other people too. Christmas was alright - not great, again, due to my depression, but alright. December 30th was probably the best day (or night). We come to here, today. Today was okay.

In the end, my year basically sucked.

There are only two amazing dates I had in this year - August 12th (the day I went out with those girls) and September 23rd (the day that girl and I properly opened up to each other and basically opened the door for a relationship). The awful dates - April 10th, May 10th, October 20th - were probably the worst days of the year. My friend (and later girlfriend) disappeared on two of those dates, and the May one was the day I was forbidden near the place I attended happily for four years.

This is where I get my hope - I had a bad year. They say in astrology or some other place that this year was supposed to be a turbulent one for me. Great. It's over with. On with 2011 - an odd year - where things can get better and nicer.

For this coming year, I want to accomplish a few things. For one, I want to travel somewhere on my own. I am not sure yet - originally it was Calgary - but it might be somewhere different. In this country? Very likely. I also want to get a proper job, and have direction - know what I want to do in my life, where to go - by the end of this year.
Most of all, I want it to be a happy, positive, easy, fun year full of love and support and happy times I won't forget.
No bans. No disappearing friends/girlfriends. No lost chances. Not this year.

Oh, and I guess I resolve to be more open. Yeah.

Happy new year, and may a hopeful, wonderful 2011 come upon us.

Justin C.