Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It slices, it dices . . . it makes julienne fries

Back on the subject of inner childhood, the web site HowStuffWorks has added the brilliant (and damn funny) article How Lightsabers Work, complete with these safety instructions:

"A lightsaber is not a toy! Keep it out of reach of children at all times. Lightsaber locks are required in most states. There are two ends to any lightsaber -- one end has the belt ring, while the other end houses the blade arc tip and blade emitter. NEVER point the blade emitter of a lightsaber toward your own body. NEVER look down the "barrel" of a lightsaber, even if you are "sure" it is in safe mode. If you accidentally activate the lightsaber, serious injury could result."

According to the site, benefits of owning a Jedi weapon include the ability to both cut and toast bagels in one stroke, trim hedges, light cigarettes, fend off would-be assailants and reheat coffee. And – here’s where it really gets nerdy – a diagram shows the inside of the lightsaber’s construction, with information on how the diatium power cells provide the juice while the primary and focus crystals convert that energy into a cutting blade of light.

Of course, there’s also a link to help you select the right model to defend yourself against the Sith. Prices range from $6.99 to $369.99.

Sadly, they’re only replicas.

Development plans Sidetracked?

For the last several days, both music fans and musicians have wandered Edmonton with long faces. Rumours about the sale of the landmark Sidetrack Café have long floated around the city, but a story in last week’s Edmonton Journal seemed to confirm it.
According to the article, land title documents show the valuable downtown land was sold in March to make way for condominiums.

The Journal quoted the owner, who asked that his name not be used, as saying the club will stay open until at least the end of the year.

Reading the story, I felt like it was the end of an era, another blow to Edmonton’s live music scene. The Sidetrack has long supported Edmonton acts and is known as one of Canada’s top entertainment live clubs.

Over its 20-some years, everyone from members of the Rolling Stones to Ike Turner played at the venue, not to mention Blue Rodeo, k.d. lang, Junkhouse, the Skydiggers and too many others to mention. The Sidetrack was also instrumental in launching the music careers of groups like The Painting Daisies and Wide Mouth Mason.

Now comes news the Journal story might be premature.

Sidetrack promoter Brent Oliver is vague on details, but insists the ‘track is staying put and will not be elbowed out by development.

So what’s the truth? We’ll have to wait to find out more, but at least there is some indication of hope for the much-beloved club.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Compass points to CJSR

Bless those folks at Compass Records. Not only have they sent me free CDs for the last couple years, but they've arranged interviews with Kevin Welch and Alison Brown for my special pre-Folk Fest radio show on July 31. Both artists appear at Edmonton's festival the following weekend.

Banjo wizard (and label founder) Alison Brown recently released a fine album, Stolen Moments, with amazing covers of Jimi Hendrix's Angel and Simon & Garfunkel's Homeward Bound (which features vocals from the Indigo Girls).

"Banjo on a Hendrix tune?" you might be asking. Well, it's just one of those things you have to hear to understand.

I've already talked in an earlier post about the great album Kevin Welch released last year with co-Dead Reckoners Kieran Kane and Fats Kaplan. All I can add is that it's one show you won't want to miss.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Alberta's unofficial songwriter laureate

Some years ago I went to see the legendary Ray Condo (RIP) in one of our local venues and was met by the sight of a tall, lanky guy on stage singing about Alberta in a Johnny Cash baritone. After his set, I struck up a conversation with the fellow and in the last few years our paths have crossed several times. Matt Masters was his name, and he had a hatful of songs about our fine province.

Most recently, he was in town with the D. Rangers when the Winnipeg five-some showed up at CJSR to play on my radio show, Dusty Trails. Matt played one of his songs, Whiskey Business, with the boys backing him up, and I just grinned in glee as the music from this special moment floated out over the airwaves.

Well, I couldn’t resist and invited him back to do a few songs of his own. He accepted and will be making an appearance on Dusty Trails this Sunday, between 2 to 4 p.m.

With Matt, I’m not sure what to expect. He usually has some surprise in store. Right now, he’s on a province-wide tour of Alberta in celebration of our Centennial year. He’s had some interesting experiences you can read all about here.
If you’re in E-town, you can listen in on the FM dial at 88.5. Or visit CJSR’s web site to hear the broadcast online.

Update: June 6, 2005

Matt’s visit to CJSR was a blast! He spent the better part of an hour playing music, talking about his experiences on the first third of his Centennial tour, and describing his latest project, a collection of 100 songs – either by Albertans, about Alberta or written in Alberta.

Matt is asking people to submit songs for the collection, which he eventually plans to publish in a songbook format for Alberta schools and libraries. He even played one of the songs already selected for the project – Rock and Roll Is My Guitar by Paul Spence, better known as Deaner from Fubar.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

A melted dummy, pig carcasses in the parking lot and ducks in the bathroom . . .

It can only be another episode of Discovery Channel’s Mythbusters, a mix of Monster Garage and

Last night’s show, Mythbusters Revealed, was a comical behind-the-scenes look at one of the best things on TV today – not only is it educational, but they also blow things up.

Two special-effects experts, Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman, host the show. I think its success is in large part due to the relationship between the two. Savage’s prankster Bugs is constantly eliciting scorn from Hyneman’s stern Elmer Fudd (without the speech impediment). Mythbusters Revealed highlights the friction between the two, generating some unforgettable laugh-out-loud scenes.

Oh, and did I mention they blow things up? In their mission to debunk long-held legends and modern urban myths, they’ll push things as far as they can – even if it means packing a cement truck mixer with dynamite or strapping home-made rockets to a chair.

They have a great web site that includes some "Lost Experiments" you won’t see on television. For a guy who grew up tinkering with a chemistry set and a Tandy 150-in-One electronics kit, the show sure appeals to the boy within.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

63 days and counting . . .

Picked up my Edmonton Folk Fest tix today. My boss and I snuck out 20 minutes before noon to avoid the lunch hour rush. I've never bought a full weekend pass until now - this is the best lineup I can recall.

It's seems like a yearly ritual - the local music pundits handicap festival producer Terry Wickham's selections and inevitably compare our event to the seemingly more hip Calgary festival (which Wickham also runs). Heck, even this year Calgary gets Buck 65 and Jeff Tweedy. But the criticism in Edmonton was noticeably muted this summer.

I'm not sure who I'm more excited to see. Sure, I've seen Steve Earle two or three times before, but each time was pure gold. And unlike his Winspear gig earlier this year, this crowd won't be shouting for Copperhead Road.

Then there's Ruthie Foster, Alison Krauss, The Bills, Carolyn Mark, local chanteuse Wendy McNeill, Danny Michel, The Weakerthans, Martha Wainwright, Alison Brown, David Francey . . . and as Chip Taylor sings, "old John Prine will do."

I'm particularly looking forward to Kieran Kane, Kevin Welch & Fats Kaplan. I had the chance to interview them on-air when they came here last fall for a show with the Full Moon folkies. Their latest album, You Can't Save Everybody, is solid from start to finish.

But I think the clincher for me just might be Ryan Adams. Say what you want about his predilection for releasing just about everything he happens to excrete, his latest offering, Cold Roses, has him back in fine Whiskeytown form, with a reverent nod to the Grateful Dead. Not to mention, his new band, the Cardinals, features one hot pedal steel player, Cindy Cashdollar.

Oh yes, this year I can't wait.