Friday, December 30, 2005

neither here nor there in week 52

For me, the week between Christmas and New Year's is almost always an uneasy time. There's just something inherently unsettling about being caught between what'll be left unaccomplished in the current year and the inevitable burden of expectations for the upcoming year.

Transamerica Pyramid and Sentinel Building, San Francisco, California (2005). Was looking through some of my old travel pictures and thought this one of the modern, iconic Transamerica Pyramid and the old, 1906 earthquake- surviving Sentinel Building would be fitting for my last post of 2005. I snapped this photo last January with my 35mm Olympus Stylus while waiting for a stoplight at the intersection of Kearny and Columbus in the middle of a blue sky rain.

It's the same story this year and here in week 52, once again I find myself neither here nor there. But who knows? Maybe this time next year, things will be different.

Thanks for taking the time to read my website over the past nine months. Have a Happy New Year and make 2006 your own the best way you know how, because it's the only way it's going to work. (And don't forget to check in here from time-to-time to make sure I'm following my own advice).


Sunset over Mont Royal while looking west on Rue University, Montréal, Quebec (2003). I made several business trips to Montréal (Canada's best city, in my opinion) over the summer of 2003 and took this photo while I was on my way out to meet a friend for dinner. Yes, it's yet another sunset photo posted on my site. Lest that this read like a personal ad, but what can I say? Photography is remarkably similar to the reality it attempts to capture ... the light at the end of the day is better for taking pictures just like the end of the year is better for personal reflection. Or something like that.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

merry christmas

The dedicated employees of felix's daily starfish and waffles wish you a very Merry Christmas. Pictured above: felix's daily starfish and waffles' Editor-in-Chief.

Friday, December 23, 2005

my simulated reality tv life: episode six

Four out of five mathematicians and three out of four lie-purveying statisticians agree: My Simulated Reality TV Life is the most popular simulated reality series of 2005. Miss the last episode? Quick, click here to get up to speed. Never had the privilege of tuning into North America's favourite simulated reality program until tonight? Don't delay, click here to start at the very beginning. Now put away your pocket calculator, operator ... an all-new episode is only seconds away.

Why go out for supper when you have The Chef at home? And by "The Chef," I mean Chef Boyardee, whose 99-cent canned pastas are beloved by everyone from pregnant ladies (like Bridgette) to their simulated flaky husbands (like simulated Felix).

Episode Six
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ... or something like that. First, the good news: thanks to a romantic evening of grilled cheese sandwiches and malfunctioning simulated birth control, the simulated me and wife Bridgette are expecting our firstborn. Oh baby. Literally!

Next, the bad news: we're running out of money. I've been, umm, between jobs for awhile now, and it appears as if Bridgette's maternity leave from her semi-pro soccer team is of the zero-income variety. (Her team must be non-unionized). It's not that we need lots of money to be happy, but we do need money to eat ... and with Bridgette getting seemingly more preggo by the minute, things are starting to look pretty grim. My wife and unborn baby can't just subsist on canned spaghetti, you know.

So what to do? Think, simulated Felix, think! And then, just like that, a lightbulb turns on and a brilliant money-making scheme is hatched ...

Who needs a job when you have alcoholic neighbors like Jan, who will pay upwards of $10 for your cheap booze. Bottoms-up!

How about ... a lemonade stand! If pathetic-looking, loser kids can make some coin selling water-downed lemonade to unsuspecting passersby, why not (simulated) me? I can be twice as pathetic as any loser kid in the neighborhood. And moreover, my lemonade doesn't have to be lemonade at all but, rather, it can be booze from my liquor cabinet served at a fair markup, heehee. Ahhh alcohol: the cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems. This is genius, I tells ya, pure genius!

With Bridgette taking a nap and no time to waste, Chez Simulated Felix is set up within seconds on my front lawn. And remarkably, it doesn't take long for my lush neighbors to take notice. A crowd gathers and they start ordering drinks. Cold beer? $5. Polar Bear Milkshake? $8.50. Star Martini? $10. Sure, it may only be 11 o'clock in the morning, but the drinks are flowing, the party's a-hoppin', and the cash is rolling in. Today, simulated Felix can do no wrong. Pure genius!

But just when I start to think that I'll never have to work another day in my life, some unexpected visitors drive up ... oh no, it's the cops! That's not good. What? You mean selling open liquor on a residential street without a license is illegal? Uh oh ...

Uh oh ... who called the police? Quick, bribe the cops with a drink!

What's going to happen to simulated Felix? Will he get a slap on the wrist or will he be thrown in jail? And who ratted him out? Was it the bastard in the llama suit? And what will the unsuspecting Bridgette think? Find out the answers to these questions and more on the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life!

Thursday, December 15, 2005

no soup for you!

Well, hold on, wait - I can't. Withholding soup from you without you doing something to justify such soup withholding would truly be a cruel act of soupy proportions. And since it's against the corporate values of felix's daily starfish and waffles to be cruel - what can I say, I'm a lover, not a hater - just forget the whole title of this post. Except the part about the soup.

Trust in, and eat, Felix's delightfully-fattening Pancetta & Potato Minestrone and, verily, thou shalt have died and gone to heaven. Amen!

A great chef must have a great signature soup. Now don't argue with me: I believe this is one of the laws of thermodynamics. Unfortunately, this great chef (haha) has been without a great signature soup for years and enough is enough - it's due time to put an end to this shameful circumstance. So, for the past few weeks, I've been secretly toiling day and night in my kitchen, experimenting with the finest ingredients from the four corners of the world and the latest, cutting-edge culinary techniques, all in an effort to come up with a soup recipe that will overwhelm the likes of humankind.

Why go to all the trouble, you ask?

Because this is my Everest, damnit!! It is my destiny! Don't question me or else there will be no soup for you!

As you can see, I am very passionate about soup. Anyway, before I have an aneurysm, I'm going to share with you the recipe of my Pancetta & Potato Minestrone - the first signature soup of the dingobear kitchen.

Felix's Pancetta & Potato Minestrone
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
800mL can of whole tomatoes
400mL sodium-reduced chicken broth
100-150 grams of pancetta (Italian bacon), cubed into bite-sized pieces
2 small or medium Russet potatoes, cubed into small pieces with the skin left on
2 fresh Roma tomatoes, diced
10 baby carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1/4 cup of parsley, coarsely chopped
4-5 fresh sage leaves
salt and pepper to taste

In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. When warm, throw in the chopped onions and lightly stir fry with a wooden spoon until they start to turn just slightly translucent. Once this happens, toss in the pancetta. Stir fry amongst the olive oil and onions for a few more minutes until the edges of the pancetta start to brown. That's your cue to add the potatoes. What you want to do is get a good start on cooking the potatoes and coating them with all of the good stuff that's already in your pot. So, like before, using your wooden spoon, stir fry your ingredients for, I dunno, say another 5 or 6 more minutes.

By now, some brown bits are going to start sticking to the bottom of your pot, so you'll want to deglaze a little to release all of those great bits of flavor. You do this by emptying your can of whole tomatoes. The liquid and acidity of the tomatoes will allow you to use your wooden spoon to easily scrape all of the brown bits from the bottom of your pot. Next, break up the whole, canned tomatoes into smaller pieces with your wooden spoon. (This is an important step because you're not going to want to bite into a whole tomato when you're eating your soup - you'll burn yourself). Give all of the ingredients in your pot a good stir.

Next, add the carrots, fresh Roma tomatoes, and celery, and stir those around a bit. Follow with your sodium-reduced chicken broth and, finally, your parsley and sage leaves. Reduce heat, cover your pot and allow the soup to simmer and thicken for 45 to 60 minutes. Remember to stir at least occasionally.

As the minestrone simmers, the wonderful smells of the ingredients will permeate your entire house. (If this doesn't happen, you've made it wrong! And I absolve myself from all blame). After the soup is done simmering, what you'll get is four servings of a hearty, chunky soup which is distinguishable by the salty smokiness of the pancetta and the satisfying flavor of the various vegetables and herbs.

Felix's Pancetta & Potato Minestrone is comfort food from the dingobear kitchen. Make lots and enjoy!

If you're the ambitious sort, you may also want to try the dingobear classic pizza. It's very good for stuffing your face with.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

my simulated reality tv life: episode five

The wait is almost over - you're only 30 seconds away from tonight's all-new episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life, the #1-rated simulated reality series on the planet! Did you miss the last episode? Click here for a rerun of last week's unbelievable cliffhanger. New to the series? Click here to start at the now-classic Episode One. You don't want to be left out.

Simulated Felix blacks out after Bridgette announces her pregnancy. Curse me and my potent, potent sperm!

Episode Five
Somehow, in the back of my simulated mind, I just knew Bridgette's recent penchant for morning toilet bowl hugging couldn't have been the mere result of a little food poisoning. Actually, it's pretty logical when you think about it ... I mean, is it even possible to get food poisoning from grilled cheese sandwiches made with processed cheddar? I don't think processed cheddar is even organic. Isn't that right, Kraft?

But if it isn't food poisoning, then it can only be one thing. Could there be a bun in the ... no! No!! I'm just not ready to come to grips with the gravity of that simulated reality. So, for now, I choose to live in denial. Ahh, denial. Happy, blissful, ignorant, denial. The sky is blue, the grass is green, and the birds are singing. All's well and nobody's having any babies.

Yep, all's well. That is, until Bridgette cruelly causes my blissful world of denial to come crashing down on me by saying something to the effect of: "Hi Honey, I like your new sandals. Guess what? I'm pregnant!"

All of a sudden, the grass doesn't seem so green and the sky doesn't seem so blue. And the birds aren't singing - they're probably out trying to have sex with the bees or something. Curse me and my potent, potent, sperm!

After that, everything's a bit of a blur. I'd like to say that I take Bridgette's news in stride but that would be a lie. First, I black out. Then, apparently, I go into some kind of cardiac arrest. Poor simulated me!

Take notes, all of you soon-to-be dads out there ... now this is the proper way to rub your wife's belly. Just like waxing your car.

Happily, I feel much better after my quadruple bypass. And Bridgette, who's been an emotional rock through all of this, is sure glad to have me home. Now that I've come to my senses, I'm really starting warm to the idea of us having a baby ... it's quite fun rubbing Bridgette's belly and talking to the baby. Congratulate me, everbody - I'm going to become a simulated dad!

"Hi, Baby!" Cute, but apparently the simulated me is unaware that our unborn child is unable to see through the walls of Bridgette's uterus.

The excitement of impending parenthood for Bridgette and the simulated me is definitely in the air. But many questions lurk beyond the horizon. Will it be a boy or a girl? Will Bridgette and I be good parents? How are we going make ends meet now that we're going to have an extra mouth to feed? Stay tuned for the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life and find out!

Sunday, December 04, 2005

i can't feel my toes

It gets damn cold in Canada during the month of December. The current temperature: -21C (-6F). Why humankind decided to settle here on the frozen tundra in the first place is beyond me. Perhaps humankind was on crack? Why I consciously choose to live in this country is also a mystery. Perhaps I am on crack?

There's even a polar bear outside my window right now. (Oh, by the way, he says "hi.") Meh. I know it's only 8:30am, but already I need a drink.

Dr. Felix says: "You'll feel less cold if you're drunk." Prescription: the Polar Bear Milkshake. Just hook it up to my veins!

Polar Bear Milkshake
0.67 oz. Crème de Cacao
0.67 oz. Vodka
4-5 oz. Milk
3 dashes Nutmeg
3 dashes Cinnamon

Combine the first three ingredients in an old-fashioned glass and stir with ice. Sprinkle on the nutmeg and cinnamon. Garnish with a fresh strawberry.

The Polar Bear Milkshake is the perfect December drink to sip on while you and your special someone are cuddled up in front of the fire. The nutmeg and cinnamon will have you dreaming of the Caribbean. The strawberry will let you reminisce about summer. The vodka will get you drunk. Talk about win-win-win!

Are you living in the Southern hemisphere where it's currently summer or at a latitude where there is no winter? You lucky bastard, you. But in spite of my envy, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that, for you, the Star Martini might be a more appropriate seasonal beverage.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

my simulated reality tv life: episode four

The people have spoken: from sea to shining sea, My Simulated Reality TV Life has been declared the biggest simulated reality series in all the land. Miss the last episode? Click here for a quick refresher. A complete newcomer? Click here to start at the very first episode and don't worry, the fact that you're behind the curve will be our little secret. Just do it soon. Because if you wait too long, you just might find that these classic episodes are no longer free over the internet ... and instead, you'll be forced to pay me $29.99 for the smash-hit DVD! (And won't you feel sheepish then ... baaa-aa-a!)

Simulated Felix (bam!), cooking up (bam!) some gourmet (bam!) grilled (bam! bam!) cheese (bam!) sandwiches. (BAM!!)

Episode Four
It's 2005, folks. Clearly, the quintessential twenty-first century man must be able to cook. This simple truth is probably doubly true for the simulated me. Quite frankly, sometimes I wonder if the only thing that keeps Bridgette from leaving me is my superior culinary skills.

So, with the mindset that the quickest way to keep a girl's heart is through her stomach, tonight I cook. On the menu: grilled cheese sandwiches. Why? Because as any twenty-first century man worth his salt knows, nuthin' says luvin' like grilled cheese. I'm sure all of you ladies out there would whole-heartedly agree.

What an entertainer: the multi-talented Bridgette shows off her juggling prowess.

Jazzy music playing in the background ... scintillating back-and-forth conversation ... grilled cheese sandwiches ... this is one romantic dinner that's earmarked for success. And afterward, Bridgette sure seems happy enough. However, the simulated me is still a little bit depressed. Maybe this shouldn't be too surprising since, after all, I've had a tough run of it lately: I've been fired from my job, gotten into a fistfight, and had to deal with other men coveting my wife.

Fortunately, Bridgette has developed quite a knack for being sensitive to those times when I'm feeling down. Taking it upon herself to try and cheer me up, without hesitation Bridgette opens the fridge, takes out three water bottles, and starts juggling them. Unconventional for sure, but it seems to work: apparently, the simulated me is rather amused by simple things and immediately, the worried look on my face turns into a goofy grin.

But it doesn't stop there.

Maybe it's because of the aged cheddar in the grilled cheese sandwiches ... or maybe it has something to do with the gracefulness of the water bottles being tossed into the air ... but whatever it is, suddenly the simulated me is finding Bridgette absolutely ir-re-sis-ta-ble. Like a man lost in the desert who's stumbled upon an oasis, I lunge at Bridgette and plant a wet, sloppy kiss right on her lips! And then another!! And another!! Go simulated Felix, go for gold!

Smoochie, smoochie ...

... smoochie!

Early the next morning, Bridgette wakes up feeling kind of sick and immediately rushes to the bathroom. It's almost as if she's suffering from some kind of sickness in the morning. At first, I don't really think much of it. Then, I get kind of worried that I might have food poisoned her the night before with my, umm, "cooking." Which, in turn gets me thinking more about last night ... hmm, last night ... mmmm, last night ...wait a second, last night ... OH DEAR GOD!

Poor Bridgette! But is it food poisoning or morning sickness?

Is Bridgette merely suffering from the effects of some bad grilled cheese or is she fertile like the Easter bunny? Click on the comments link below and tell me what you think! And make sure to tune in to the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life to find out the conclusion of this incredible cliffhanger!!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

swedish november

Last Saturday, I upped and went to Stockholm. My overall impression: amongst the fresh air, fine architecture, lovely cafés, and stunningly beautiful women, the "Venice of the North" is a captivating locale to lose yourself in. I only wish I could have stayed longer.

Tomorrow, I start a new job which I'm grossly unqualified for. Send me your luck - I'm going to need it. But I suppose if things don't work out, I can always go back to Sweden. Maybe next time, I'll find myself a nice Swedish girl, settle down, and never come back to North America. On a day like today, that's something to look forward to.

Anyway, here are a few photos from my trip.

Sunset over Stockholm, Sweden. (2005). On the left is Kungliga Slottet, the official royal palace of King Carl XVI Gustav and Queen Silvia. To the right is the Swedish Riksdag (Parliament).

Stockholm Harbour at sunrise. (2005). I took this photo with my new Olympus SP-310 digital camera. Photo specs: exposure of 1/15 seconds, aperture of f/2.8, focal length of 8mm, ISO speed at 200, no flash. If I were a real photographer, those stats would mean something but I'm not, so I'm only listing them here because I don't really have anything else intelligent to say about the picture above other than it was beautiful that morning.

Olive oils and fruit at a stand inside Östermalms Saluhall. (2005). This colourful and delightul market has been in existence since 1888. I bought some chocolate here. The girl who sold it to me shyly declined to be photographed, which is too bad - she was absolutely goregous. Think goddess and multiply by two.

The narrow, cobblestoned streets of Gamla Stan (Old Town) with the clocktower of Storkyrkan, Stockholm's 700-year old cathedral, in the background. (2005). Having the priviledge of soaking in the atmosphere and wandering the maze of streets in Gamla Stan was alone almost worth the cost of flying across the Atlantic on short notice. Storkyrkan is a brilliant historical cathedral with some priceless artistic treasures including Bernt Notke's sculpture, St. George and the Dragon (circa 1489), which is considered one of the finest late Gothic works of art in Northern Europe.

Stadion Tunnelbana Station, Stockholm. (2005). I stumbled across this vibrant mural deep within the Stadion T-bana (metro) station several stories below the city. Few people remember that Stockholm was an Olympic city, host of the Fifth Olympiad of the Modern Games in 1912.

The neon lights of the Söderhallarna, Medborgarplatsen (Citizen's Square), Södermalm. (2005). Instead of hostelling it like I usually do, on this trip I shelled out the extra kronor to stay at a hotel in the Södermalm area south of central Stockholm. One of my favourite streets in Söder was Götgatan, an endless strip of trendy bars, restaurants, cafés, and boutiques. Medborgarplatsen sits in the geopraphic centre of both Södermalm and Götgatan.

Some funky sculpture outside of the Moderna Museet (Museum of Modern Art), Skeppsholmen. (2005). This group of sculptures was created by Jean Tinguelys and Niki de Saint Phalles for the 1967 World Exposition in Montréal, and has stood on its current site since 1972.

Kastellholmen. (2005). A charming little medieval castle sits atop a hill on this tiny granite island southeast of central Stockholm. Every morning since 1640, a sailor has hoisted a three-tailed Swedish flag above the castle.

View of central Stockholm from Skeppsholmsbron at dusk. (2005). It was bitterly cold that evening but enduring it was worth it for the view.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

my simulated reality tv life: episode three

The water cooler chatter does not lie: My Simulated Reality TV Life has greater sex appeal than The O.C., more amazing moments than The Amazing Race, and definitely better hair than Donald Trump. Click here if you missed the last episode ... or here if you're new to the most talked-about simulated reality series anywhere and want to start at the very beginning.

The simulated me is a lucky man to have Bridgette.

Episode Three
Wow. I'm in complete shock. I can't believe they fired me for accidently driving my ambulance over an old lady. I mean, what was the big deal? I had to respond to a dire emergency and the lady I ran over was really old and decrepit. Let's just say for a minute I hadn't run her over. Left to her own devices, she probably would have died a slow, painful death, anyway. And who wants that? Exactly. Nobody.

So you could say that I, by driving over her repeatedly in my ambulance, was actually doing her a kind favor. In fact, since my kind favor single-handedly helped the old lady both get (1) closer to God and (2) into heaven in a fast and efficient manner, one might even consider what I did to be quite heroic. By extension, that would make me a hero. And since my employer had the gall to fire me - a hero who helped an old lady get closer to God - that clearly makes me a victim of religious persecution or, in other words, a martyr. And we all know that all martyrs are saints. Therefore, I stand humbly before you as the veritable St. (simulated) Felix. Yeah, that sounds about right: St. Felix. I wonder if Bridgette will understand if I explain it to her that way? She wouldn't leave a saint, would she?

It's late at night when I finally walk into my house, and Bridgette's already asleep. She looks so calm and peaceful ... all curled up as if she doesn't have a care in the world. The courteous thing for the simulated me to do would be to let Bridgette sleep and leave it until morning before breaking the bad news. But apparently the cross I'm bearing is simply too burdensome to wait and I immediately wake Bridgette up after shaking her (in rather disturbingly violent fashion) for a few seconds.

Bridgette looks a little dazed but the simulated me holds nothing back and out pours a rapid succession of speech balloons. Whoa, let me tell you, the simulated me can talk incredibly fast when he's stressed. I finish what I have to say and wait for the moment of truth ... how will Bridgette react? Did she marry me for the sexy, charming me or only for my awesome earnings potential as a future doctor?

Bridgette gets out of bed ... and without saying anything, simply gives me a big hug. What a relief! Right away, I feel so much better ... everything is going to be ok. This Bridgette is turning out to be a really great girl, and it's becoming apparent that the simulated me is very lucky to have her.

Simulated Felix lands a beautiful forehand to the cheekbone. Note the stars ... the fact there are two of them means there's double the pain!

However, it appears that I'm not the only guy who has noticed how great Bridgette is. The next day, the weird llama mascot of Bridgette's soccer team follows her home after practice and, right in front of me, starts flirting with her! In my house! Right in front of me! Flirting! This stupid loser is obviously choosing not to acknowledge that I'm the husband of hot Bridgette ... and I'm not impressed. Unemployed, a bit insecure, and definitely not happy, I do what any man would do in that situation - I slap the bitch! Take that, llama!!

Fight! Simulated me scores again with an awesome right hook. But I'm not really sure where the cloud of dust came from, considering the maid was in earlier in the day and did a bang-up job cleaning our place.

A good, old-fashioned fistfight breaks out but I don't have to tell you who's the one that's administering the whoop ass. After all, as you can tell from the pictures - I am 100%, all man. Before long, I have that wussy llama running out of my house crying. Score one for St. Felix!

You know what? Come to think of it, I kind of like hanging around this llama mascot crowd. Makes me feel kind of tough.

Yeah, let that be a lesson to all you other ... llamas.

Will the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life contain as much unrestrained, no-holds barred action and violence as tonight's episode? Make sure you tune in again next time to find out!

Saturday, November 05, 2005

three emm

Canada's own Emm Gryner is felix's daily starfish and waffles' 2005 Artist of the Year.

Stop the presses! Despite the fact that it's only the first week of November, Emm Gryner has already been unanimously declared as felix's daily starfish and waffles' 2005 Artist of the Year. Congratulations, Emm: you're the winner of what's widely-considered (by me) to be the most prestigious award of musical excellence in the entire universe. (By the way, please drop me a comment and let me know where you want your trophy shipped).

Armed with boundless talent and an admirable do-it-yourself attitude, Emm Gryner is something of an inspiration to indie musicians everywhere. Emm's engaging live shows coupled with the highly creative work she's released on her own label, Dead Daisy Records, has earned her a loyal legion of fans, made her a sustained hit on college radio stations, and even garnered her some ever-elusive commercial airplay. For an indie artist such as herself, the latter is a notable feat, especially when one considers that the "mainstream" music industry today is sadly dominated by money-driven, image-peddling major labels that have effectively crowded out alot of very good music by flooding the airwaves with superficial drivel.

Describing Emm's brand of alternative-pop isn't easy because, like so many top-tier artists, her music is distinctive and unique. According to the bio on her website, Emm Gryner lists a diverse range of artists as influences: Peter Gabriel, The Pretenders, The Cure, Bright Eyes, PJ Harvey, Madonna, Beck, Prince, Guns ’N’ Roses, Tori Amos, and The Eurythmics. From these different influences, Emm has forged her own sound that is at different times melodic, expressive, happy, heartbreaking, and profound, yet never unaccessible. Quite simply, it's a good mix.

But for me, the one thing that makes the diminutive Emm Gryner stand head-and-shoulders above everybody else is the honesty. First, there's the honesty when she's dealing with her fans. Always appreciative and never condescending, Emm is a girl of the people. One example: she's remarkably devoted to posting new entries in her web journal several times a week in order to keep fans up-to-date on her current endeavours. Other artists? You're lucky if they bother to do this several times a year. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but this just goes to highlight Emm's tendency to go above-and-beyond what's expected. And this is something I really respect.

Second, and perhaps most importantly, Emm Gryner's music is honest. I'm not sure, maybe it has something to do with fact that she's both good and keepin' it real at the same time, but whatever it is, Emm Gryner has that rare ability which allows a listener to make each one of her songs his or her own. In other words, there's real depth here, and in a world where shallowness too often prevails, there's something to be said for that.

I, umm, "borrowed" this 2002 photo of Emm Gryner from her official website. Emm, if you're reading this, please do not sue me for copyright infringement. Thanks in advance.

The rural Ontario-based Emm Gryner has two full-length releases to her name in 2005. Songs of Love and Death, an album of Irish covers, was released in January. The Great Lakes, a homemade, limited edition, and autographed(!) album recorded for her Fall 2005 tour, was released in September. Both albums, in addition to her first true full-length LP, The Original Leap Year, are reviewed below for your reading pleasure and enjoyment. Because here at felix's daily starfish and waffles, we exist solely to enhance your reading pleasure and enjoyment. Oh baby.

Songs of Love and Death
Emm Gryner

Songs of Love and Death is Emm's second covers album, the first being 2001's critically-acclaimed Girl Versions. On Love and Death, Emm covers the songs of various contemporary Irish artists, many of which are likely to be unknown entities to the average North American listener. I had only heard a few of the originals myself - and of those, the covers sound markedly different, which is what one would expect from Emm Gryner. Of course, this makes complete sense: I mean, why bother to cover a song if you're only going to make it sound exactly like the original, right? Exactly. I thought so.

As a whole, the album is pretty solid throughout and especially noteworthy is Emm's rendition of "Moorlough Shore" - a diamond of a gem that's worth the price of admission alone, and then some. Love and Death should be available in a record store near you, so go buy it today. Right after you finish reading this feature.

dingobear track selections:

1. Forget Georgia. Originally by Something Happens. Your upbeat opener.

3. Deckchairs and Cigarettes. Originally by The Thrills. Emm's version is better than the original.

4. Breathless. Originally by The Corrs. If there's an original of a cover on this album you might have previously heard, it's probably this one. Fans of the Irish siblings take note: Emm has taken the happy, bouncy single and transformed it into a slow ballad of desperate obsession. You'll love it. Or be mortified by it. Or possibly both.

5. Dearg Doom. Originally by Horslips. As if she didn't know how to play enough instruments already, Emm plays the freakin' harpsichord here! I didn't even know harpsichords still existed outside of the odd museum. Anyway, harpsichords aside, "Dearg Doom" is also one of the stronger tracks on the album.

10. Nowhere. Originally by Therapy?. A catchy, head-bobbing, finger-snapping, toe-tapper. One of the best tracks on the record. "Making up for what you never had / Losing every single thing you ever had / Going nowhere."

11. Moorlough Shore. Traditional Irish folk song. There are numerous recorded renditions (by artists such as Sinead O'Connor, Dolores Keane, Patrick Street, Caroline Lavelle and most recently, The Corrs) of "Moorlough Shore" floating out there, which you may have heard at one time or another. None compare to Emm Gryner's astonishing arrangement. Beautiful, breathtaking and brilliant. I don't have the words to describe it. This is felix's daily starfish and waffles' 2005 Song of the Year. "Well perhaps your soldier boy was lost / While crossing the raging Maine / Or perhaps he's gone with some other love / You might never see him again. / She said, 'If my Irish boy is lost / He's the one I do adore / And seven years I'll wait for him / On the banks of the Moorlough Shore.'"

The Great Lakes
Emm Gryner

Late one night about six weeks ago, I surfed onto Emm's website and noticed she was selling an autographed, limited edition CD of all-new, all-original material for $20. An autographed, limited edition CD of original material from one of my favourite rock stars for $20? A no-brainer, if I ever I had one.

After days of eager anticipation (think Charlie Brown around Valentine's Day), two weeks ago I opened up my mailbox to find a simple, bubblewrap-lined, manila envelope from Dead Daisy Records. Finally! I opened the envelope and with the expected autographed CD came an unexpected autographed note. It read: "hi Felix, thanks for your order! hope Edmonton isn't too chilly. x Emm Gryner"

Up until then, I'd been kind of having a bad day but let me tell you, that handscribbled note sure cheered me up. Remember what I was saying before about Emm Gryner's predisposition toward going the extra mile even when it isn't expected? Before I got the album, I had already held her in really high regard but now she's managed to endear herself to me forever.

Anyway, getting back to the actual CD ... The Great Lakes is excellent. Musically and lyrically, this is Emm's most mature work to date, and this is an album that really wears well with repeated listens. Highly recommended, this is a must-have for big Emm Gryner fans. To the best of my knowledge, The Great Lakes was sold exclusively on Emm's website and I'm not entirely sure the CD is even still available. But if you're interested in picking up a copy, try clicking here, and good luck.

dingobear track selections:

2. Case of Tornadoes. This is one that grows on you. "And then the room would flood with calm / And you'd say that the storm has come and gone / But you'd interrupt my song / I got a case of tornadoes / When you come around."

3. Angeltown. Does sweetness lie around the bend? "I'm flying around wondering how / All your orchards seem to burn into the ground / You're feeling your way through the northern parade / I'm ready now to leave this angeltown."

4. The Crying Rain. Poetry borne from a love gone wrong. "Don't you ask me what the / Dark sorrowed sky is saying / Down comes the crying rain / Weeping in your name."

8. Saturday Night in Nowhere. A dreamy, midtempo track. "Saturday night in nowhere / I wanna leave with you / Tonight."

10. Win The West. Dusty, hazy, forlorn, superb. "Win the west / You'll never come home / To the bitter end you left long ago / How I loved you you will never know."

11. Bulletstorms. There always seems to be an outstanding ballad at the end each Emm Gryner album; "Bulletstorms" keeps the tradition alive. "Clouds meet on the sky / Like cars in sudden death collide / I defend you like a guard / As though angels told me who you are / I opened the door / Saw you've been caught in bulletstorms."

The Original Leap Year
Emm Gryner

Emm Gryner's first full-length release, The Original Leap Year is the most "pop" sounding of all of her records and the one that's most comparable to 2003's brilliant Asianblue*. In spite of its radio-friendly leanings, Leap Year itself was never signed to a major label. However, it did succeed in attracting the attention of the Lilith Fair braintrust and 7 of the album's 12 tracks eventually made it onto 1998's Public, Emm's only major label release (courtesy of Mercury Records, which is now defunct).

Emm would have only been 20 or 21 years old when Leap Year was released but even then, the strength of her songwriting prowess and ear for pleasant-sounding arrangements was evident. Sincere and very personal, this multi-tempoed album is deeply moving in parts. Additionally, there's no filler here at all: each of the 12 tracks is good. Really good. It's not that often you can find an album where you can just put it in your stereo and press play, but Leap Year is one of those albums - and it's a debut indie release to boot. To me, that's remarkable.

If you're a fan of good pop (and in my opinion, truly good pop is rare) and/or an Emm fan, the extra effort it may take to track down a copy of the nine-year old Leap Year will be well worth it. Give it a try, you won't be disappointed.

dingobear track selections:

1. Hello Aquarius. The most pop song on Emm's most pop album, "Hello Aquarius" opens The Original Leap Year with similar flair as "Symphonic" opens Asianblue.

3. The End. The understated emotion of Emm's sparkling voice drips through on this piano-driven track.

4. Your Sort of Human Being. Well-paced, with a good hook.

7. Wisdom Bus. This one would've made a worthy single.

8. 89 Days of Alcatraz. Ahhh, the agony of young love gone wrong.

12. Doomsday. Gorgeous, standout track, the crown jewel of the disc. On the surface, it's just another lovely-sounding, piano-backed Emm Gryner song. However, listen closer and you find a magnificent, deeply touching piece of work that possesses the type of sad, futuristic irony vaguely reminiscent of Radiohead's "Street Spirit" or maybe Fiona Apple's rendition of "Across the Universe." "More than anything I need the last minute of your time / More than anything I need to uncover all that I would hide."

* Asianblue was previously reviewed on felix's daily starfish and waffles.

Monday, October 31, 2005

happy hallowe'en

Happy Halloween from the staff of felix's daily starfish and waffles. Some free advice: eat lots of candy. Trust us.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

my simulated reality tv life: episode two

And now, the much-anticipated new episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life, a simulated reality series exclusive to your favorite website, felix's daily starfish and waffles. Miss the last episode? Click here for a rerun and catch up.

Bridgette blasting her quads before the upcoming semi-pro soccer season. I don't know about the cherry-red jumpsuit but she sure has cool sneakers.

Episode Two
In real life, I must work to pay the bills. Therefore, in My Simulated Reality TV Life, it only follows that the simulated me must also work to pay the bills. In the last episode, we learned that I'm working in the field of medicine. For now, I'm only an ambulance-driving paramedic but you and I both know it's only a matter of time until I become a world-renowned neurosurgeon. But what about new wife Bridgette?

Since I met, proposed to, and married Bridgette in less than 20 minutes - what can I say, I'm very convincing - I neglected to ask her what she did for a living. So, you know, I ask. Her answer? Semi-pro soccer player. Cool! Makes sense, too, since this is one profession where Bridgette's deforming hand disability won't be a problem. In addition, if she ever makes the big leagues, we're going to be rich, rich, rich! Yes!! Everything is coming up simulated Felix.

The simulated me, hanging my head in shame after being fired as a paramedic.

Or is it? That night at work I'm faced with a difficult dilemma. I'm driving the ambulance while me and my partner are responding to a critical emergency. Problem is, we're stuck in a traffic jam two miles long. Do we get out and run 20 blocks to save the patient or do I steer my ambulance onto the sidewalk? To me, the answer is obvious: sidewalk.

However, I soon learn there's a reason why ambulances don't often speed down the sideWALK ... so yeah, I guess sometimes people walk on them. Anyway, long story made short: there's this old lady who's walking on the sidewalk and I don't see her and, well, let's just say there's some, um, "unpleasantness."

Luckily, the old lady doesn't die - immediately. But here's the real tragedy: when my supervisor finds out, I get fired!

A close-up of my shame. What am I going to tell Bridgette?

Now what am I going to do? How am I ever going to become a doctor so I can prescribe myself drugs? What am I going to tell Bridgette? Will she leave me? Tune in to the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life and find out!

Scenes from My Simulated Reality TV Life are brought to you by The Sims 2.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

lancelin 6044

The sea was angry that day, my friends - like an old man trying to return soup at a deli. But Toby didn't care. And neither did I.

Lancelin, Western Australia. (2000). I took Toby out for a walk along the beach on a blustery June afternoon. He's a lucky dog: I wish my backyard had this much fine, ivory-white sand for me to play around in.

About an hour's drive north of Perth along the Indian Ocean coast lies Lancelin, a sleepy little crayfishing (that's Aussie for "lobsterfishing") port and emerging resort. Population: 600. Come for the lobster, windsurfing, and sandboarding. Sleep at the Lancelin Lodge, the finest backpackers' hostel in Australia and home of Toby, the playful Yellow Labrador retriever in the picture above. Stay for the gorgeous ivory-white sand, turquoise water, and quiet ambience. Now that I'm just another minion in the big-city rat race of work and career, sometimes I wish I were back in Lancelin, where time seemed to move a little bit slower.

Click here or here for travel stories previously posted on felix's daily starfish and waffles.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

x + y = 1


By now, you know who these guys are. Coldplay's meteoric rise to rock 'n' roll superstardom has been rather remarkable. If the spacey dreampop of Parachutes was the revelation and the vivid soundscapes of A Rush of Blood to the Head the amplification, then surely the earnest passion of X&Y is the confirmation.

Arguably the most eagerly anticipated new music release of 2005, it was virtually impossible for X&Y to live up to the hype, fanfare, and expectations. And while it might be true that X&Y may not even be Coldplay's best record to date (A Rush of Blood to the Head would have my vote), the album is ultimately impressive in its emotional and refined delivery.

Clearly, this is an album that establishes Coldplay in the starry firmament of the world's megabands. In fact, I'll even take it one step further. Congratulations, Coldplay: felix's daily starfish and waffles has just declared you to be the biggest rock band on the planet.

dingobear track selections:

2. What If. Simple lyrics, melodic composition, anthemic chorus. Vintage Coldplay. "What if you should decide / That you don't want me there by your side / That you don't want me there in your life?"

3. White Shadows. Guy Berryman's work on the guitar here is worthy of The Edge.

5. Talk. A stunning showstopper. Incorporates a sample from Kraftwerk, the German electronica icon. "Oh brother, I can't get through / I've been trying to reach you 'cause I don't know what to do / Oh brother, I can't believe it's true / I'm so scared about the future / And I want to talk to you."

7. Speed of Sound. Album's first single. Not the strongest track on the record but enough to warrant a mention here.

11. Swallowed In The Sea. A rueful return for sure, but to her open arms? "I can write a song / A hundred miles long / Well, that's where I belong / And you belong with me."

Coldplay is Jon Buckland, Chris Martin, Guy Berryman, and Will Champion.

Album reviews are a regular feature on felix's daily starfish and waffles. Click here for reviews of Endtroducing ... by DJ Shadow, Diamonds on the Inside by Ben Harper, and Asianblue by Emm Gryner; here for a review of Back to Mine by Everything But The Girl; or here for a review of Pass In Time by Beth Orton.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

my simulated reality tv life: episode one

Survivor. The Apprentice. The Amazing Race. Reality TV is alive and well for another season and, quite frankly, it's been destroying felix's daily starfish and waffles' ratings. That is, until now. Because today, I fire back and bring you scenes from the exclusive world premiere of My Simulated Reality TV Life*!

Take that, Trump.

That's the simulated me on the right. On the left, my new wife, Bridgette. I had a hard day, so Bridgette's giving me a backrub - because that's the kind of standup gal that she is. Apparently, Bridgette suffers from a debilitating, disfiguring disability that has rendered the middle, ring, and pinky fingers of her right hand so frighteningly webbed that they collectively resemble a 2x4 that's been left to warp out in the summer rain. But I married her anyway - because that's the kind of standup guy that I am.

Episode One
Welcome to my simulated life. On a non-descript kind of day, I move into a non-descript bungalow on a non-descript street in a non-descript kind of neighbourhood in a non-descript town. The new home is actually quite nice but furnishing it doesn't prove to be cheap. Alas, I'm quickly running low on cash and need a job. But in what profession? It has to be in medicine. Because as everyone knows, chicks dig doctors. (Haha)

My incredible logic and foresight pay off. Before long, Bridgette, the girl who lives across the street, comes over to introduce herself and it's love at first sight. Soon afterwards, in what has to be the shortest courtship ever known to humankind, I propose, we get married, and she moves in. Woohoo!

All is happy and blissful in my newfound simulated life. But can it last? Will I be able to defy the odds and continue advancing my career in medicine despite not having any kind of formal training whatsoever? Or will I leave a trail of casualties as I blaze down a path of some shockingly blatant medical malpractice? On the surface, Bridgette is sweet and considerate but what skeletons are hiding in her closet? Stay tuned for the next episode of My Simulated Reality TV Life and find out!

A perfect Thursday afternoon is playing hooky from work to lounge around in your underwear and read books with your hot wife. Note: in real life, I have much bigger muscles and am much better-looking than the simulated me in the picture above.

* All footage of My Simulated Reality TV Life provided by The Sims 2, people simulator extraodinaire, for my Mac.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

pennant race

No, I don't mean the Red Sox, the Yankees, or the Cubs. I mean, who cares about major league baseball anymore, what with all the steroids, competitive imbalance, and the fact that the only real team that was left in the bigs, the Montreal Expos, is now gone. What I'm talking about is across the Pacific, in the Japanese major leagues.

Forget about singing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the 7th inning stretch ... in Japan, they just release a bunch of balloons.

Like in North America, there are two leagues in the Japanese majors - the Central League and the Pacific League. Each league has six teams, and the champions of the Central and Pacific face off against one another in the Japan Series, which is usually played in October.

The playoffs haven't started yet this year, with the pennant race still in gear. In the Pacific League, the excellent Fukuoka Softbank Hawks (89 wins, 45 losses, 2 ties) and the Bobby Valentine-managed Chiba Lotte Marines (84-49-3) are still battling for league supremacy. In the Central League, the Osaka Hanshin Tigers (87-54-5) have run away with the flag. And you know this just can't be sitting well with the folks in Tokyo - the struggles of their own Yomiuri Giants (62-80-4) are bad enough without having their rivals in Osaka celebrating in first place.

It's been a tough season for the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants.

By any measure, it's been a tough season for the Tokyo Yomiuri Giants, Japanese baseball's version of the New York Yankees and probably the most popular team in the country. Despite the the Giants' proud history of pennants, championships, and the highest payroll in the league, in 2005, they've already set a club record for losses with 80, and the season isn't even over yet. Mired in second-last place in the Central League, the Giants are ahead only of the lowly Hiroshima Toyo Carp (58-83-4), whose payroll is Montreal Expos-esque in its frugality. For Giants fans, this nightmare season can't end soon enough. But look on the bright side, Tokyo: at least George Steinbrenner isn't running your team.

Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan. (2002). Affectionately known as the "Big Egg" by fans and non-fans alike, the Tokyo Dome is home to the Yomiuri Giants, the New York Yankees of Japanese baseball. I took this photo early one November morning not long after the season in 2002. Note how amazingly clean the stadium grounds are kept. North America, this isn't.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

an important public service message

Go ahead, put that rake away and leap in. (You know you want to).

Friday, September 30, 2005

wild animal kingdom

The green Earth is filled with many furry animals. Some are cute. Some are friendly. Some will eat you the first chance they get. Welcome to the inaugural chapter of our continuing series of photos and stories on the fascinating critters of our animal kingdom - the wild animal kingdom! (Cue National Geographic theme music here).

Undated file photo taken from an undisclosed location deep in the wilds of Saskatchewan, Canada. From left to right: Pygmy kangaroo and joey, koala, and Brown bear. The kangaroo is believed to be an undercover Australian intelligence agent. However, when I asked her to confirm the details of her occupation, she kicked me. It hurt. The koala, presumably doped out on eucalyptus leaves at the time, declined comment when asked for an interview. The bear has a noted affinity for Sugar Crisp cereal and Charmin toilet tissue. Although there have been several fatal bear attacks in Canada over the past few months, this particular bear is reputed to be very friendly.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

for beth-heads everywhere

Pass In Time
Beth Orton

The other night, I picked up a copy of Beth Orton's Pass In Time. This was one of those purchases where I found myself second-guessing my decision as soon as I walked out of the store ... I mean, it's a little suspicious when an artist puts out a retrospective record despite having previously released only four full-length LP's. But I had no need to worry - as usual, Beth didn't disappoint.

The first thing you notice about Pass In Time is that it doesn't cheat you on length - there's two hours of music here spanning 24 tracks and two CD's. Yet, there's a pleasantly surprising lack of filler material, a bit of new stuff plus a bit of old obscure stuff, and nothing seems out of place. Musicians take note: this is how you make a retrospective album.

Born in Norwich, England, in 1970, Beth Orton has a distinct, soulful voice; is almost six feet tall; suffers from Crohn's disease; and has a nice smile. Describing Beth's brand of urban-folkie-occasionalelectronica(?) music to anyone who hasn't heard her before is difficult. Quite frankly, she doesn't sound like anybody else though I've heard people try to compare her to everyone from Gwen Stefani to Jewel to Sarah Slean. I won't do Beth the unjustice of trying to make my own comparisons so I'll simply say that Beth Orton sounds like Beth Orton, and you need to listen to this album.

dingobear track selections:

Disc 1
2. Someone's Daughter. Beth's comment on this song from the CD inset: "A song born from being in love and blissed out." My comment: it's happy, it's easy on the ears, it's from Trailer Park, released in 1996.

6. I Wish I Never Saw The Sunshine. Cover of the Ronettes' bittersweet ballad.

8. The Same Day. New, previously unreleased track.

9. Stolen Car. In my opinion, the track that best defines Beth Orton. That is, to the extent she's actually definable. From 1999's superb Central Reservation. Ben Harper guest stars on the slide guitar.

14. Thinking About Tomorrow. Maybe my favourite Beth Orton song to date. From the underrated Daybreaker album, released in 2003.

Disc 2
1. Central Reservation (Spiritual Life - Ibadan Remix). This mix sounds like it fell out of a Lemon Jelly record.

2. Where Do I Begin. Collaboration with the Chemical Brothers, with whom Beth's guest vocals earned her acclaim earlier in her career. Outstanding track. "Sunday morning, I'm waking up / Can't even focus on a coffee cup / Don't even know whose bed I'm in / Where do I start ... where do I begin?"

3. Stars All Seem to Weep. Maybe best known from its part on Everything But The Girl's Back to Mine compilation album. Vintage Beth Orton vocals plus flawless Ben Watt production. "I think about you on a moonlit night / And stars all seem to weep."

4. Safety. A recording of the first time Beth sang solo.

7. It's Not The Spotlight. Cover of a throwback Rod Stewart (yes! Rod the Mod!) tune, circa 1975.

9. Where Do You Go. "Where do you go when the wind doesn't blow? / Are you still like the trees ... only bend in the breeze?" Hauntingly brilliant, raw but pure, foreshadows greater things to come. From the 1993 album Superpinkymandy, which was released only in Japan. If anyone knows where I can find this record (without having to make a trip to Tokyo), please drop me a comment.

I think Beth Orton has a cute smile.