Sunday, October 16, 2005

Plenty to laugh at

Speaking of Alberta:
"Before the Progressive Conservatives, there was Social Credit and before Social Credit, the United Farmers of Alberta and before them, the Liberals and before the Liberals, assorted Aboriginal tribes and before them, the dinosaurs . . . we've come full circle."
- Michael Kerr, What's So Funny About Alberta?

OK, it's an obvious cheapshot. But Michael Kerr's book really is full of comical satire and wit about the province-that-takes-itself-too seriously, aka Alberta.

Kerr pokes fun at such sacred (Grade A Alberta, don't forget) cows as western alienation, our claim of being a rat free province, and even those giant sculptures our small towns seem so strangely proud of. One of my favourite bits is Kerr's top 10 ways to become an Albertan. Some excerpts:

- Publicly denounce the province/nation of your birth.
- Write a letter to the editor denouncing the Liberals' National Energy Program of the 1980s.
- Visit Banff, but don't be too happy about it.
- Replace all your vehicles with pickup trucks.

And so forth.

Had Kerr written the book after Premier Klein's announcement this fall that every man, woman and child in Alberta will receive a $400 rebate cheque from this year's surplus, I think he would have amended the list. So in honour of the Alberta 2005 Resource Rebate, I would like to propose the 11th way to become an Albertan:

- Complain that newcomers and children don't deserve rebates while claiming you "built this province" and "paid taxes all your life." Suggest a residency requirement equivalent to one year less than you've been in Alberta. For instance, if you've lived here six years, the requirement is five.

An anthem worth singing

I cringed when a couple of years ago the Alberta government announced a contest for musicians to write the province's official song. Aside from the paltry sum of $2,005 (oh so cleverly coinciding with the 2005 Centennial) for the winning submission, these types of contests seem to promote mediocrity.

The 13-member jury was stacked with MLAs, ensuring their selection would be politically correct and crammed with platitudes about Alberta. And indeed, the lyrics for the winning song could have come straight from a travel brochure:
"Flatlands, rollin’ plains
Clear blue skies, prairie rains
A tapestry of colours in the fall
Snow covered mountain tops
Wheat fields, canola crops
Alberta has it all"
The best Alberta songs were written before the contest was even announced. One's from a living legend. The other is from someone well on his way to becoming one. Both Ian Tyson's Alberta's Child and Corb Lund's Short Native Grasses (Prairies of Alberta) do a lot more to inspire a sense of location, pride and belonging.

Take this example from Alberta's Child:
"Dumb stuff like chores when it's twenty below
They're the things that a country boy hates
Too much damn wind and not enough whiskey
Drives them ol' northern boys flat wild"
And the chorus of Short Native Grasses:
"The prairies of Alberta, they ain't never hearda
The things that are keepin' you down
And the short native grasses don't care that the ashes
Of your dreams match their dry shade of brown"
The songs evoke emotion and experience; they aren't just checklists of Alberta's geography and culture. Lund's song, in particular, resonates with listeners because it's about failed expectations and the fact that really, they aren't that significant out on the grand prairie. During his surprise Sidetrack performance Friday, a sell-out crowd sang along during the chorus. At the end of the song, Corb held his hat to his chest.

That's inspiring.

(By the way, Corb is in the running for Entertainer of the Year at the Western Canadian Music Awards. Drop by the web site to vote for him.)

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Pamela Anderson as a double-G?

Get your mind out of the gutter! Columnist Will McMartin argues in The Tyee that the silicone-enhanced Barb Wire and Baywatch wonder should be appointed Governor General after Michaelle Jean’s term ends in five years.

Why, you might ask? Damn good question. And McMartin has answers. First of all, appointing Anderson as Canada’s head-of-state would make amends for Ottawa continually overlooking B.C. when picking occupants for Rideau Hall.

McMartin sets out his case using history and recent precedents set with Adrienne Clarkson and Michaelle Jean:

"In addition to being female entertainers, both Clarkson and Jean are married to self-aggrandizing artiste-philosophers whose work is incomprehensible to ordinary folk.
Clarkson's mate is writer John Ralston Saul, a supercilious swell whose essays reportedly find great favour in salons and faculty lounges from one end of Toronto to the other. Jean is wed to Jean-Daniel Lafond, a former philosophy professor who now produces films.
Pam's in step. She once was married to Tommy Lee, the drummer for Motley Crue, a heavy-metal musical group which sold millions of albums. And just as regular people haven't got the faintest idea what Saul and Lafond ramble on about, no rational person can fathom the popularity of Tommy Lee or Motley Crue."
Haha, I get it – McMartin is being funny. But he doesn’t answer the all-important question - Lord Stanley bestowed the Stanley Cup upon hockey’s best, Earl Grey gave Canadian football the Grey Cup, and, most recently, the Clarkson Cup will recognize achievement in women’s hockey – which sport would get the Anderson Cups?

(Thanks to Minister Faust for that one.)

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

With a little help from my friends

Well, it’s that time of the year once again – CJSR’s FunDrive is in full swing and we need your money.

Our goal is $125,000 and, as always, the DJs have come up with a few incentives to make it easier to part you from your money. Dan Electreau, host of Flying Saucer Rock’n’Roll gave this poster away to everyone who donated during his show on Monday.

It took me some time to figure out how I could top my ill-fated pledge to enter the (pathetically chauvinistic) Itty Bitty Titty Contest two years ago. But the answer, in retrospect, was obvious. Throughout the past few months I’ve had several guest musicians play live over the radio. Under CRTC regulations, the station is required to keep recordings of our broadcasts. Thus, I was able to obtain recordings of each performance.

The artists graciously provided me with permission to use these recordings for a compilation to give away to you – my supporters. So Dusty Trails supporters who tune in this Sunday, Oct. 9 between 2 to 4 p.m. will receive a copy of Dusty Trails. . . live from the vault. . .

The songs (in order of track listings) are:

Mary JaneBramwell & the Leftovers
The Tiki RoomDaisy Blue Groff
Cherokee SurfThe D. Rangers
Heaven or Hell – The Crooks
A Little SomethingMelissa Majeau
One By OneTrevor Tchir
Whiskey Business – Matt Masters w/The D. Rangers
P.T. Barnum – Daisy Blue Groff
Outlet StreamMatt Masters
The Glow – The Crooks
You Won’t Show – Melissa Majeau
Knowing You’re All Right – Trevor Tchir
Sophie – Matt Masters
Three Barriers – The D. Rangers

You can only get these recordings on the compilation, which you can only receive by supporting my show. So tune in to Dusty Trails this weekend on CJSR FM88.5, or online at, dial 492-CJSR and donate!