Her Smell

The mere brashness of protagonist Becky in full flight fix is something to behold. This ‘90’s grunge band lead woman exposes the darkness of drug induced euporhia and the consequential effect on close relationships.  This movie’s scenes could have been done in one big take because of Director Alex Ross Perry’s apparent affinity for rawness on set. Fortunately, he found an ideal actress in Elisabeth Moss to play this unique role of a rocker gone bad.   

Backstage glam and drama is raucous . Recovery is a requisite for the real. Despite dysfunction, the bond of band mates is visceral with appeal. You’ll be left wondering about that. You’ll be perplexed by the acquiescent demeanour of a manager in quandary over a recording studio overtaken. Then there’s mom infusing support when she can digesting the chaos in context of her maternal past. 

Oh yes, there’s music but it’s secondary to the lifestyle plot and the preponderance of the prized backstage pass.  Consider the flick one ripe tomato.

Ever Been Blind Sided?

One reduces the risk of being blind-sided with awareness. The problem with awareness is that we are lacking it due to the imposition and acquiescence to life’s complexities. Even when one deploys discipline in erecting barriers to special interests, variables outside our control compel us to accommodate for the sake of functional conformity.

So, here we are in the information age where values are being blunted at the edges. Liberties are taken in the name of new culturally perceived norms when in actual fact subconscious minds are at work processing the impact of changing goal posts and impingements upon freedom.

Could there be a “reckoning day” when there’s a return to values in their pure form due to the consequences of such a negative change in behaviour? If so, what would that “reckoning day” look like?  Would it be tripping the circuit breaker of the New York Stock Exchange? Perhaps, it would be the removal of ATMs from banking kiosks? Then there’s the unthinkable but that which is showing up in the news. How about a tax revolt? As we speak, things are so dire in Venzuela that mothers are turning to prostitution in order to feed their kids. A report out today sponsored by Canadian firm MNP espouses that “48% of Canadians are on the brink of insolvency”. That’ right. Supposedly, first world country Canada has financially impaired citizens almost as its majority.

Perhaps it’s time to take the blinders off and examine what is actually happening behind the scenes in the offices of your elected officials, board rooms of banking executives, and line ups in corridors of corporate, environmental, and indigenous lobby groups. Perhaps, it’s time to reflect on the line item detail of government Balance Sheets and the injustice of untried tax evasion of elite cheats with offshore accounts. How about regulatory measures of our fractional reserve banking system in the context of spiralling public debt out of control with no apparent plan to pay back? Did you know that our tax system is over 3,000 pages of fine print?

John Titus has exclaimed that when the money supply retracted thirty per cent from 1929 to 1933, there were hundreds of U.S. financial institutions in play regurgitating financial paper. Right now in the U.S. Citigroup, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America basically represent those hundreds from the early thirties. These four banks are interconnected with derivative positions and they really are too big to fail in the context of what the effect would mean. When there’s deceit inherent within levers of power, there are strong winds ahead.          

The Urge For Adventure

As I write this I”m listening to “The Trip” by Still Corners. Call it up yourself and listen as I contemplate thrill seeking getaways as sources of reinvigoration for the soul.

As the youngest of six kids, I recall my brothers and sister tell tales about how the whole lot of us would pile into a station wagon” rambler” back in the sixties and head down to Michigan from our old home towns of Balmertown Ontario and Esterhazy Saskatchewan. You think there was just the eight of us. Nope…we brought along our border Collie, Smokey, as well. This was a day when there was no such thing as mini vans, walkmans or go-pros – but there was etch-a-sketch.  Mike, he would give noogies, Fred would play peacemaker, Terry would protect Marina, and Lloyd would scheme pranks with Mike. Dad wouldn’t stop for pee breaks until the whining became unbearable and mom was luckily tending to me on her lap. That’s right, no jumper seats or seat belt laws back in those days. Distracted driving with threats from the driver seat is how dad kept the car between the lines. 

It was either Aunt Mina and Uncle Art’s house who lived in Battle Creek Michigan or “the farm” in Reston Manitoba that would be our destinations. Imagine this…..losing your dog on a road trip. With all the excitement of adventure, during one pit stop Smokey must have caught the scent of wildlife and bolted into the woods. It had become hours and hours of calling for him up and down the rest stop until dad had concluded that it was time to go. The tears started flowing and moping kids were directed to pile back into the rambler. Once the engine turned over and the wheels skidded through gravel….of course Smokey came scampering back as if testing the family for its love of the household pet.

My childhood was full of road trips like this many of which were one way to new homes. Balmertown. became Esterhazy. Then Britannia Beach…then Revelstoke. There was Surrey and Cranbrook and Kamloops and Tungsten. There was Tucson. Each destination had a pairing back of kids with lives of the elders taking turns of another kind of adventure – that of career.

Interpersonal bonds grow stronger during times of excitement and play. Accessing nature while in the company of someone else also in the mode of discovery simply fortifies the spirit. The unwrapping of the unknown together in wonder is primal and reminds us of the backdrop of our lives.        

Back In Black At The Jack

Once you get past the imagery of hard rock being played in an opera house (Jack Singer Calgary) and digest the signature rasp of Brian Johnson’s sound alike, you’ll be perplexed and comforted that Classic Albums Live has done their homework in covering ACDC’s Back in Black. Why an all black album cover? It’s was produced in memory of lead singer Bon Scott who died of an “alcohol misadventure”. If you’re fifty plus, you danced to the pulsating beat of “Shoot To Thrill” and “You Shook Me All Night Long”.

It’s worth repeating that finding the on key screech to sing machismo minded lyrics must have been no easy task at auditioning. This man performed with distinction in this difficult role.

The opening was obviously anticipated with the dongs of the bell and the signature opening riff to Hell’s Bells. They weren’t going to master the 1980 studio version considering the work ACDC went through in the Bahamas back in the day to acquire the perfect sound with a real bell and studio tricks at their disposal. However; credit is cast in the delivery of the complementing solo piece which requires precision in developing the riff with timely rests. 

“Shoot To Thrill” is perfectly positioned as the two track. Things really get rumbling with an accelerated tempo and knee quivering trill of this somewhat forgotten gem. 

Having settled in, the next big moment of intrigue was upcoming on track one of the flip side. “Back in Black” has the memorable guitar solo and all three six stringers on stage took their turn on their Gibson SGs –of course. It was evident by now that all three guitarists were versant in playing lead and there was one in particular who was a bit more familiar with particular lead lines throughout the song list.  As we all know, exuberant solos get the crowd going and this rendition of Back in Black had the audience shimmering.

The sound engineer was getting things figured out a few short chords into You Shook Me. He’d moderated the extreme frequencies certainly giving some relief to patrons like me who had forgotten ear filters at home.

“Have A Drink On Me” exemplified the general sharpness of the band and to keep it tight with three six strings competing for attention cannot be easy.

“Shake A Leg” was played with more vigour here than I can remember on the album.  I believe this cover band turned the studio version into something better – not by making changes to the score but by turning up the dynamics.

Jumped free from my aisle seat right before the intermission and headed home after a long day of doing tax work. The audience would anticipate a second half featuring various other hits.              

Trip To Calgary Dance Stampede

Professional social dancers tutor and exhibit their talent once a year in what’s called the “Calgary Dance Stampede”. It’s an opportunity for dancers at any skill level to get acquainted with social dancing and improve their moves. Workshops are hosted throughout the weekend and are very well run. You need not have a partner because rotations are made frequently throughout the one hour workshop sessions.

Yesterday, I attended “nightclub two step”, “cha cha”, and a new innovative line dance called “Music To My Eyes”. After dinner at Bank and Baron, a few doors down from host venue – The Hyatt, I sauntered back and took in the “Jack and Jill” competition. It was a fun filled version of the normally competitive format of the contest whereby partners are paired through a draw thereby testing their aptitudes for adapting to random partners.  Imagine waltzing to a record played backwards. Well, not for the faint of heart for sure.

Over the course of the weekend, there will be 110 workshops with most at the advanced beginner level.  I was impressed by the organization and strength of the instructors. The MC last night at the “Gala” was entertaining while introducing the challenges for the Jack and Jill contestants. Ample time in the evenings are scheduled for practicing those new steps. A Pro-Am, a show case, and a “Rising Star” competition round out the performance element of the event. It’s all sold out for today and tomorrow but do consider the event for next year in the spirit of your good health and the support of keeping social dancing alive.       

Steve Eisman Is Shorting Canadian Banks

Over at bnn.ca they kept the video link front and centre for three days. The fellow gained notoriety for correctly calling and profiting from the U.S. financial meltdown in 2008 having suspected issues with collateralized debt obligations. Now, he is shorting Canadian banks.

It’s no secret. Housing prices are under pressure. Mortgage qualifying criteria has contributed along with weakness in the oil and gas sector arising from distribution bottlenecks. Oh yes, there’s also the carbon tax, socialist policy, and higher taxes all tempering business investment. Governments of today don’t quite understand the fuel feeding their public sector pension plans. So, why is it then that a banking official in response to Steve Eisman’s rationale for shorting three Canadian banks makes the claim that he has “no basis in fact”? Mr. Eisman simply purports that loan loss provisions in the face of economic headwinds have been underrepresented in bank’s quarterly earnings. On an accrual basis, it seems fair that record profits under our current circumstances seem circumspect. After all, if you can under report your loan loss provision, you can keep that dividend in tact thereby satisfying institutional investors. 

Somebody has just specifically called out the Canadian banking sector and he’s done it with his trades.  Who am I to question his analysis especially in the context of political intransigence in facilitating industrial development inter-provincially?

We have weak leadership in Canada right now. We are also confronted by massive public debt which must be serviced. Then there’s the material increase in social programs which must be financed, namely the new generous “child care benefit”. Baby boomers are now tapping into CPP and OAS. The U.S. in recent years has become much more capable of supplying its own energy needs and may not be needing Alberta’s oil in the volumes of yesteryear. The Canadian lumber industry is weakened by trade sanctions. Out east, there are the new tariffs on rolled aluminum. Southern Ontario car plants are faced with unaccustomed competitive, political, and innovative pressure. The City of Calgary is raising property taxes due to mismanaged downtown core land use. 

I’m thinking Mr. Eisman has got it right. Canadian banks are going to pay the price for loan losses associated with home equity devaluations and the consequential inability of consumers to manage unsecured debt. I’m thinking that the culture of entitlement is going to have a reckoning.     

Venezuela Right Now

  1. Hyperinflation rate so astronomical you won’t believe it
  2. Water shortage
  3. Food shortage
  4. Civil strife
  5. Rolling black outs
  6. Russia installs military presence taking sides with Nicolas Maduro
  7. U.S. contemplates aid and incidentally has sided with declared President Juan Guaido
  8. Journalists arrested
  9. Socialist policy since Chavez leaderships in 1999

If you eliminate incentives for business to produce goods and services, they will stop. If you pay people not to produce, they will not produce. If you do not sanction poor behavior, people will continue to behave badly. If you overregulate the ambitious, they will turn elsewhere for a market. If you condone corruption, you will get more of it. If you sense injustice and fail to acknowledge it, you will subscribe to the status quo. If you witness crime and fail to report it, you are complicit. If your leadership is ambivalent toward justice, your society is regressing.

Calling Out The Drivel

I don’t mind playing a role in calling out stuff for what it is before new norms negatively take hold thereby attributing to societal decay. No I’m not naive enough to think that my single voice can make a difference so I implore you my friends to also stand your ground when confronted with drivel and provide your version of push back. I realize it’s tempting to simply cede in lieu of behavior unbecoming of a country’s President (Trump), but call it out anyways.

The President of the United States has declared that the press is the “Enemy of The People”. On the contrary, the press has a major role in reporting to the people behavior elicited by their governments.  Journalists actually become formally versed in ethics as part of their curriculum. Unfortunately, the business of journalism is not immune from pressures of bias arising from mediums in which their messages are expressed.  Hence; particular news outlets will be better than others and thankfully a democracy provides people with the power to discern the credible from the incredulous. 

It could be the case that Donald Trump believes that if he states something ridiculous enough times over and over through his Twitter account that those on the margins of self esteem with an unrequited vote may just step over to the dark side with him. 

Trump may believe he can take his dysfunctional, demeaning, and narcissistic management style and impose it on a populous weakened largely by events which were largely outside of their control but within the control of past governments and regulators. If he somehow can derive a correlation between liberal misgivings and CNN, then in his heart perhaps he can sway those undisciplined from objective thinking.     

One unfortunate consequence of the election of Donald Trump to President has been the attribution some will make of his character to the conservative philosophy.  The track record of recent Republican Party leaders has been lacklustre further weakening the image of the conservative philosophy. Although not much of a talking point to date, the conflation of populism and conservatism because of Trump will have a dulling impact on communicating fundamental conservative doctrine over the next decade.              

How Will You Vote in Alberta Election?

Strong conservative leadership in Alberta has been lacking for a lot of years. Jason Kenney…..a rather bland fellow stained by a lacklustre record serving under Harper as an MP at the federal level where he talked up social issues instead of what really matters to Canadians – their pocket book is now your choice. We hold our nose and vote for him of course.  You wouldn’t think for a moment during this critical time of burgeoning socialism to spoil your vote via voting for a fringe party, I know. We hope that he actually gets it. We hope that he understands that Albertans have industrial resolve at their core believing that a merit based capital system is foundational for the actualization of career dreams.

We hope that he understands that Alberta and Canada cannot alone solve the world’s environmental concerns. We hope that he keeps his mind out of the bedrooms of taxpayers. We hope that he materially aims to cut public expenditures including pensions to civil servants so that taxes can be reduced. We hope that he invigorates the legal system so that law enforcement can feel empowered rather than stifled. We hope that he leaves the abortion debate alone. We hope that he repeals intrusive regulatory burdens such as the “carbon tax” for small business. We hope that he rightfully imposes penalties to corporations behaving environmentally irresponsibly. We hope that he applies common sense to decisions affecting us all. We hope that he communicates interests of Albertans effectively with federal law makers. We hope that he is honest and immune from lobbying efforts of special interest groups. We hope that he understands that Confederation requires the cooperation of provinces for the good of economic development. Finally, we hope that he understand the level of exasperation felt by taxpayers constrained financially  while witnessing their governments blow away money as if it were confetti.  

Backstage At Loverboy

Forty years ago in Kamloops, B.C. as a teenager when at home listening to Loverboy’s self titled album with my aunt and mother on what can now be described as a vintage cabinet record player enraptured by songs titled “The Kid is Hot Tonight” and “Turn Me Loose” in no way could I have imagined that last night I’d be back stage of a concert in Calgary shaking hands with the lead singer Mike Reno and guitarist Paul Dean.

As if intended through some unknown protagonist, upon taking up guitar and piano there’s been opportunity to circulate in music circles and attend performances which have proved to be sources of inspiration and everywhere I turn I discover fellow amateur guitar players where we share about the instrument’s intricacies. 

Don’t be shy if you’re a single male in the crowd with a backstage pass encircling your wrist. Work it with the ladies preferably in a fashion that at least gets you a date. You see Tom Cochrane was actually the closing act and he apparently offered leverage power to backstage pass holder.

The question I had for Mike Reno last night was, “have you ever had voice training”? His answer was “no”. He still carries the high pitch exemplary of his singing. It’s not falsetto but just a high range he’s obviously carried throughout his career.

It was thanks to a client with connections that made this night out extra special. It was also fun to wear a neck badge with photo of the band purchased for me by my client’s wife from the souvenir stand. In response to perplexed inquiries I represented the keepsake as my “premium backstage pass” much to their astonishment and my silent guffaw.   

No photo….didn’t turn out.