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.