Saturday, November 09, 2013

Million Dollar App? Or Just Stop-Gap-Sap?

I just got an idea for an app that would have a sort of virtual pet/avatar that lives on your smartphone and corresponds with fellow avatars that live on your friend's smartphones. Ideally, it would somehow serve civilization in some way so more thought will have to go into this...

I guess it's not unlike a virtual nanobaby--recall the 90's when digital trinkets powered by CR2032 batteries were all the rage--except that it could have gigaflops to play with, and maybe this could be a good thing?

I can't see how virtual pets could really solve many challenges in our society but maybe if it helps to fund research that can bring us closer to the singularity/intelligent compute, then perhaps it's a frivolity that we can tolerate for a buck or so on our iTunes account.

Even though I just invented it with my MIND, I'm already convinced that the potential developer wouldn't have a Blackberry 10 version of the app. Also, how can it help us pass the Turing Test? I would love some feedback!

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Hello World again...

The intellectual malaise that I contracted while flunking out of Concordia's Journalism program with flying colours half a decade ago--which is a very competent, kind-hearted place, but where I failed Print Journalism with a 59--has finally passed by my door, and I am again feeling that desire to write about things that matter again. 

What would you be interested in reading about?  

Friday, July 11, 2008

Mudhoney Eats Babies

The greedy grocer put pills in the pile
his jowls were wet
and the lights were awkward
Many stars made witness
Love was something invisible

Green clean Josephine wandered through piss alley
with a sack sewn from hemp
and salmon-skin eyes
She wanted ways to face the day
Her tiny stomach needed packing

Josephine climbed in the blue ogre
She kicked a rat and squished it ochre
Her eyes turned to summer
She saw the bread and potatoes
A plate was prepared

The grocer still hates overbites
His jowls will never jump
The lights don't love anyone
The stars are still ambivalent
But Josephine turned into sky skin

Poison the well
Get out of my dumpster
Kill your friends
Maim your neighbours

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Moral Implications of Chasing the White Mouse

I was staring at the little white mouse while kneeling in my rarely-mopped bathroom. I flicked the baggie with my index finger and a question jet-skied across my slopes; how did this get here?

It was grown in the hills of Colombia by someone who was likely toting a semi or fully automatic weapon. The FARC is a noted supplier of the North American drug market but I have read articles (on BBC?) that their paramilitary counterparts (affiliated with the US-backed Colombian government) also have their place in the drugriculture scene. After being chopped and ground up into tiny slimy yellow grains, it was packed into blocks and carried north through sweaty verdant jungles by stoic foot soldiers. Do they use boats? Planes? I have even heard reports of submarines being used to get drugs onto the American continent.

Rather than digressing on the minutia of the drug smuggling process, I would rather bring the moral case to the forefront. I am an unabashed drug consumer and have always felt that as long as a substance's positive effects outweighed its negatives, it should be legally available. I felt safe in my glistening palace of rebel dream logic and sure that I was on the moral high ground.

I fear that I was wrong.

Because the war on drugs imprisons people that get caught smuggling drugs for me, I am a bad person. With each purchase, I am buying the lives of countless mules, soldiers, police officers, innocent civilians, and even drug lords (they're people too!).

Perhaps my moral compass has finally pointed towards something that fits with a secular humanist viewpoint. Instead of reveling in my savage cityscape until all hours of the night, the morally correct thing to do would be to avoid the stuff altogether unless I can talk to the grower personally.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Obama Blues

Is this really how things are going to turn out south of the border? America has been given a candidate of substance who writes his own speeches, who speaks from his heart (no matter how calculated his positions may be, he still sounds like he means what he says), and who could use his immense rhetorical powers to beat the Republicans... and he is being stymied by a slip of the tongue, an incorrect portrayal of middle America that apparently "disturbs" the populace.

Everyone says things that they regret. Most politicians offend someone just by getting out of bed with a check from a particular lobbyist in their hands. Obama committed the sin of being too "truthy" for the media, his opponents, and hence the entire population of Pennsylvania.

Did anyone ask the people of PA about their opinion on this matter? I haven't seen a lot of print devoted to this burning question. Most has been flaming crud in projectile form being tossed at Obama because he dared to say that people who lose their jobs turn to religion or other red-meat issues because of their frustration with the failure of the political process to protect them.

I am not specifically against Hillary Clinton per se but I certainly have my reservations about her, mainly because of her uncanny resemblance to another candidate from days gone by who went by the name of John Kerry: another monied elite with nuanced opinions but no cogent way to present ones point; another Washington-fed politician who will say anything to keep one's post; another part of the system, assuring us all that he/she will be the ONE to fix everything and make the world spin properly again.

If Obama is seriously damaged by this minor gaffe and loses the Democratic nomination, expect John McCain to coast to a relatively easy victory in the general election in the fall. Hillary is a great person & has some good ideas but she has been co-opted by the entrenched corporate & political interests to really change things. Obama is our only hope, and he is being targeted by both camps.

The question is, should one phrase plucked from a campaign of rock-solid ideas derail Obama's whole campaign? Let the American voter be the judge. We all know that they follow the news & form independent opinions & are worthy to analyze the myriad political maneuvers that go on from day to day.

Obama in 2008, one hundred percent. I don't get to vote (being a Canadian) but if I could, I would have voted for Kucinich (Obama was my safety).

Love & Brotherhood to you all,
Bleeding Heart Liberal Whose Heart is Actually Not Bleeding (It's in great shape!)

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Van Morrison @ LeBreton Flats, Ottawa ON

I awoke Wednesday morning to the sight of my parents looming over my bed. "Get up," my father said curtly. "We're going to see Van Morrison." They got into my Parc Avenue apartment without assistance thanks to my roommates who are allergic to locking doors. I hopped into a phone booth, donned some dirty pants and a Telefauna t-shirt, and was ready to swoop down on Ottawa, city of bureaucrats and power-wielders. After a few brief stops and a lunch at Pizza Donini, we were en route to what promised to be a great rock show.

After unloading their luggage at the Quality Inn on Rideau Street, we took a bus towards LeBreton Flats, a large field near the water where the Ottawa Blues Festival is being held this year.

On the way, I struck up a conversation with a long-haired street person who was also going to the concert. He had been entertaining the entire bus with his personal take on "Brown Eyed Girl" only minutes earlier. I asked him if he was looking forward to the show. "I don't have the fifty bucks," he said. "But I'm going to be up on the hill sitting and listening. If it rains, I'll be standing." I advised him to find a hole in the fence to gate-crash. "Oh no," he said quickly. "I'm not that kind of guy."

Before long, we were at the site and joined one of two enormous lines of people waiting to be admitted to the show. Ottawaians are always prepared, like Boy Scouts, and most of them brandished a ticket bought in advance. The lines moved relatively slowly but we were in after 30 minutes or so.

Standing about 100 feet from the stage, I surveyed the scene. It was certainly a good turnout. By my rough count, at least 30 thousand people showed up to stand in circles and talk about office politics (more on this later) while drinking the reasonably priced Molson Canadian ($5.50 per cup, which is less than I have seen on Ile-Jean-Drapeau in Montreal).

A prozac-blunted middle-aged blonde P.R. flack took the stage and began cooing at the crowd. "We've been waiting for him for over 42 years...Van MORRISON!" Of course, he didn't appear for several more minutes since he apparently begins all his shows at the scheduled time of 7:30 PM, not a minute sooner nor later.

As he & his band of seasoned professionals took the stage, the crowd cheered weakly and then resumed chatting. This irritated my parents, veteran hippy rock-and-roll troopers who had been at Isle of Wight to see Jimi Hendrix and up front in NYC to catch the Doors, and my usually pacifist father began to grumble. "I hope these people don't talk during the show."

Van's voice has gotten deeper in the past 4 decades, and as he wobbled through his opening number (which was a bluesy sort of bop), I remarked that he rarely used his higher register, leaving it to his 30-year old backup singers.

On the two video screens, you could see him in his white fedora, eyes glued shut, sipping from a water bottle between songs. He only said 6 words during the whole set as far as I can tell--and that was at the end of the show, ie. "Let's hear it for the band"--and I was disappointed that I had caught an artist of his calibre on autopilot.

As the set dragged on, my parents began to whisper that the crowd was ruining the show. Although we were by no means far back, it was plain to see that many of the people were treating the show as if it were a social schmooze-fest. Some weren't even facing the stage, preferring to talk to Judy from Accounting about her new 2008 Highlander while sipping from a $6 glass of red wine. "I want to hit the guys behind us," said my father, teeth clenched. My mom silenced him and tried to dance in this sea of talking squares.

When Van began singing "Into the Mystic", my current favourite from his back catalogue, my hopes bloomed for a spell. "Maybe he'll let loose," I thought. Instead, he limped through the song with all the ferocity of a pampered housecat, phoning it in like some post-alcoholic lounge singer. By this point, I realized that half of the problem was the rinky-dink sound system.

I've never organized a major music festival but I have been to several, including Maximum Blues in Carleton, PQ and Osheaga in Montreal. I've never been so disappointed with the sound levels before. Despite what Patrick "50 bucks will get you 4 stars" Langston said on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen, the music was barely audible through most of the crowd, although Van's vocals were clear and rose above the mix.

Why didn't someone from the mainstream press point this out? How much money has exchanged hands for someone to print a lie like this, courtesy of Langston from the Ottawa Citizen (italics mine):

"Clean and crisp from almost anywhere on the grounds, it was good enough that most fans said they didn't care that they could only see Morrison and his band by watching the two large, bright video screens looking out over the grassed rectangular site."

One bright point was the tight performance of Van's backing band. Though I had to strain to hear them at all, they were definately on time and faithful to his Celtic Soul and rhythm & blues stylings.

I am sure the folks at the front of the stage, ie. within spitting distance of Van's Gucci loafers, got to hear it but for the rest of us, all 29 thousand of us, this concert was a bust. Even mildly upbeat performances of "Brown Eyed Girl" and "Gloria" didn't silence the chattering fools, and as Van exited stage right at 9 PM with no encores, my father opined bitterly, "I'm never coming back to the Ottawa Blues Festival. It's lost its intimacy."

"Remember John Prine last year?" my mother said. "Now THAT was a show."

If you will do me the pleasure, allow me to use the rest of this screed to write an open blog post to Van Morrison.


Dearest Van,

Hello, Mystical Sailor. Your album "Moondance" from 1971 has become a core part of my musical history, bringing back Proustian levels of childhood memories with each listen. My parents practically raised me on your works. Up until today, I would consider myself a big fan of Van.

You should consider your options. If you are going to piss all over your legacy by putting on heartless, soulless soul performances at Big Ticket Festivals, then retire. Leave the stage to people who actually give a damn.

Yes, Van, I'm aware that you've been in the music business for decades. Why should you listen to me? What do I know? I'm an unwashed, mostly broke troubador with greasy hair and some drug problems. I don't even know my scales on guitar. I get bad gas on regular occasion. Still, I know that I want my music served hot, steaming hot, not bland and tasteless like a bag full of Rice Cakes.

How come people in your age group like Eric Clapton can still put their heart into it? I saw him at Corel Centre in the fall of '06 and he thundered his way through classics like "Layla" and "Cocaine" as if the Rock and Roll gods were holding a '45 to his temple. And don't blame the sobriety. Clapton has been clean and sober since his son fell out that window.

Point is, some people play music because they love it. You used to. What happened to that moony, pukey, bittersweet poet, that powerful little mountain of a man? Is your reservoir depleted? Are you punching a clock? I sincerely hope that this was just a fluke and not representative of all of your shows these days.

Let your spirit fly!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Philip Shearing invited you to the event "Chemical Swings, Kieran Blake & New California Republic @ ...

Philip invited you to "Chemical Swings, Kieran Blake & New California Republic @ 1221 Crescent" on Friday, June 1 at 9:00pm.

Event: Chemical Swings, Kieran Blake & New California Republic @ 1221 Crescent
"Phil's 27th birthday shindig/boozefest/rock show"
What: Performance
Host: Philip Shearing
When: Friday, June 1 at 9:00pm
Where: 1221 Crescent Street Pub (Corner St-Catherine)

To see more details and RSVP, follow the link below:

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