Much Ado About Something – The Cover Story That No One Read

Somehow everyone forgot that this guy has been in the news for the last few months, on occasion.

Somehow everyone forgot that this guy has been in the news for the last few months, on occasion.

If you believe everything you read, then you might, at this point, believe that the editors (and the graphic designers) of Rolling Magazine are the devil incarnate.

Placing an image of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev on the cover of their latest issue has sparked a firestorm not seen since Kanye West grabbed a microphone from a young Taylor Swift, a gal with whom he happens to share a PR firm and record label. But enough about that particular bullshit, on to this particular bullshit.

Conspiracy theories about government involvement long forgotten, the somethingsphere has moved on to demonizing Rolling Stone for putting this man on the cover of their magazine in conjunction with a story about who he was, accounts of his personality from people who knew him, and the bitter reality of who he became.

Interestingly, most of the discussion around this cover story (and it is a cover *story* as well as a cover picture) happened before anyone even had a chance to read the article. I wonder how many people spinning around in outrage like dreidels spun in anger during Chanukkah because holy-shit-what-a-fucking-shitty-thing-to-get-instead-of-a-real-fucking-Christmas-present have even read it now.

What you’ll find is an insightful and frightening look into one of the Boston Marathon bombers — a kid who many just can not, for the life of them, believe could have been involved in something like this. A kid who made every effort to assimilate, was accepted by his peers (how many kids born on American soil can even say this?) and ended up becoming the very thing we stay awake at night watching Fox News worrying about.

Essentially, the argument is that if kids who read Rolling Stone (do kids actually read Rolling Stone anymore? I’d have thought their target demographic would be more 40 – 70-ish at this point) will idolize him. That they’ll want to emulate his actions to become famous. The claim is that the cover picture glorifies Tsarnaev, that it shows a glorified image of the person who would claim the lives and limbs of far too many people who could just as easily have been us.

Even Weird Al has pitched a hissy fit, tweeting that he has, apparently, been going about trying to get on the cover of Rolling Stone “the hard way.” Because no one before this person has gotten on the cover based on their infamy alone. I mean, come on. Britney Spears has been on the cover… how many times? Seven? Eight? And what the fuck did she ever do musically? She’s a stripper with a track that she can lip sync to on stage.

Well, here is a (non-definitive and entirely incomplete) list of some people that Rolling Stone magazine has placed on its cover to entice the young people of the world to be more like them.

Abbie Hoffman
Charles Manson
Tricia Nixon
Narc Agent Gerrit Van Raam
George McGovern
Crime Victim Dirk Dickenson
Jesus Freaks
Senator Sam Ervin
Daniel Ellsberg
Richard Nixon
P.O.W. Rick Springman
The Economy (for fuck sakes)
Evel Knievel
Patty Hearst
Jimmy Carter
Roman Polanski (AFTER the “incident”)
Sean Connery (He may not be relevant here, but it does remind me that I moustache you a question, but I’m shaving it for later)
Bill Clinton (BEFORE the “incident”)
Bill Clinton (AFTER the “incident”)
and on and on for another 20 years

It would appear as though Rolling Stone wants the youth of America to be… well, it’s a bit confusing, isn’t it? Maybe a murderous Christian with an aim for political power who jumps motorcycles over canyons, lusts after women (and girls) and suffers from a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome.

If we think that each and every one of these people had an aim towards becoming famous via a magazine (clearly, many of those in this list were after as much infamy as they could get, but MY GOD, what about the children who may want to become saxophone-playing philanderers who are smarter than just about fucking everyone they’ll ever meet in their entire lives??!!!!), then we’re probably going to need to go to our room and think about what we’ve done.

The real problem appears to be that they put a picture on the cover of a magazine that shows the man-become-monster as he actually once was.

His face is not irrelevant to the issues, no matter how much you may want that to be the case. This is the face of a human man. You may not like that he once looked the way he did, but it may just expose the fact that you prefer your villains to be more stereotypical for your mind to be able to grasp the implications of the acts committed by the person in question. You may prefer a long beard or turban or some other identifying feature that would label the person as “foreign” and therefore “dangerous.”

And do you really believe that someone will commit an act of this sort in an attempt to obtain the kind of infamy that comes with being on the cover of Rolling Stone? Do you really — I mean REALLY — believe that this cover photo is the thing that is going to push someone over the edge? Is this actually the first time we’re hearing about this guy. He was non-stop, 24-hour news for days and weeks after the Boston Marathon bombing.

This is not even the first time this image has been used in the press.

Rolling Stone is, and always has been, a magazine that goes after the issues of the day. It is, at its heart, quite obviously, a music magazine. It’s also more than that, and has had its pages graced by some of the most eloquent political writing ever accomplished. Make no mistake, what’s been done in that magazine is an accomplishment.

Dismissing this individual as nothing more than a monster smacks of nothing short of intellectual laziness, and in no way allows us, as a society, to look more closely at the issues that caused this act, and how a — by all accounts — a sweet, kind, friendly kid ended up causing so much pain and sorrow.

Dismissing Rolling Stone as an irrelevant, washed-up rag with hopes of days gone by is forgivable because, let’s face it, it is. But in this particular instance, it would seem that contempt prior to investigation would not only be unwise, but a thing that one might want to keep from doing in order to keep from looking like a complete fucking idiot.

Go ahead and read the article. If you still disagree, I’m willing to listen to what you have to say.

Just Keep Making Something, Edmonton

Make Something Edmonton,” he says, and that’s all he needs to say to get people taking action

It’s an initiative started by author Todd Babiak, and the thing has taken on a life of its own. It seems every single day I see someone else from Edmonton talking about what that means to them, and then putting something into action based on that idea, or demonstrating how their actions are, currently, accomplishing that very thing.

So, why even talk about what Edmonton should be or could be or wants to be or why people should give a shit about life in a northern town?

The whole thing is, to me, a great way for the people of the city of Edmonton to find out more about the people who are already making things around them.

Does it lead to a sense of identity that isn’t already in place? Maybe, and that may be because it shows people that they are not alone in their desire to be better in the place where they are. It gives creators a chance to know more about what else is being created around them. I’m not sure it has anything to do with the place, but speaks more to the attitude of the individuals in that place.

I’m not sure a place can ever be summed up in a tagline, nor should it be, in the same way that a company can never be summed up in a tagline.

A tagline is just the thing that creates enough interest to read through to the rest of the story.

So, then, the issue seems to be the question, and the question is, “What is the story of Edmonton?”

For me, the best parts of Edmonton have never been about what is there, but rather who is there. While no one city has an attitude that is shared by an entire population, my favourite part of Edmonton has always been the fact that conversations I have had with people about things we might do have always led to the actual doing of the thing, as opposed to just talking about it and then passing out in a heap of exhaustive, lofty ideals that never see the light of day.

Of course, having some money kicking around to make things happen never hurts.

Perhaps the greatest part of the Fringe Festival in Edmonton is that it gives artists a license to fail. This sounds somewhat counterintuitive to the means by which success might be achieved, and may even sound like an excuse for occasionally wearisome programs, but you’ll find the best content at a venue like this is created by people who are unafraid to have their ideas fail. When you’re not afraid to fail, you can try new things, find out what works, and in that process one might even come across ideas that might never have seen the light of day without that permission.

This should extend far past the arts and lead to innovation in every industry, with the idea firmly entrenched in a city’s psyche that the arts are, in fact, an industry like any other. And to remember that it’s an industry that opens the doors to a life that is far more interesting and creative than one devoid of unimpeded creation.

I would never be able to do what I do without having failed, and sometimes spectacularly, many, many times.

There’s nothing more important than following through. A great idea is nothing but bullshit until someone puts that idea together into a plan of action, and then actually takes action to attempt to create something.

And failure is always an option. It’s not learning from that failure that should be taken off the table.

The great part about Edmonton, to me, is not that people may or may not “Make Something Edmonton,” but that the people there are constantly creating, innovating, and attempting new things.

Whether or not that leads to a municipal identity, I’m not sure. But, what I am sure of is that Edmonton is already making something, and is built, like most cities, on the idea that if enough people make something, the entire populace has the opportunity to thrive.

The mantra where I live, in Montreal, appears to be – at least for the moment — “Give us something,” which is completely out of step with the idea that this place was built upon.

That said, there are many, many people here in Montreal creating amazing art through just about every medium in existence. Somehow, this drive to create does not seem to translate to innovation in other fields.

All cities require the opportunity for its citizens to get something, but the process of how they do that will best be served by allowing those citizens to be great, to innovate and create, and exchange their best ideas for the best ideas of someone else, which results in real, sustainable commerce.

So, Edmontonians, despite the fact that I’m being somewhat semantic (and I am, admittedly, anti-semantic), and not quite following the line or reasoning behind the statement “Make Something Edmonton,” feel free to just continue making something, and don’t worry about whether or not it is “Edmonton.” This is the real path to continuing to maintain a city that already has an identity, like it or not, that screams, “We Make Things!” or perhaps even more appropriately, “We Make Things Happen.”

Which should be exactly enough to give people a reason to find out more about what makes Edmonton, and its people, so very compelling. Just keep making something, and it will continue to be Edmonton.

Tourtiere Australienne | Montreal Oasis of Goodness on Parc Ave

Tourtiere Australienne Montreal I work with several Australians. The other day, one of them handed me a sheet of paper that said something about Australian pie. Instead of going immediately to HR, which was my first instinct, I took a look to see what it was all about, and am reasonably pleased to have done so. It was an advertisement for Australian meat pies. Who knew that Australians made pies? Well, Tourtiere Australienne, Montreal Oasis of goodness on Parc Avenue is the home of the best damn meat-filled pies you’ll ever taste, this side of… some place in Australia, one would presume.

I would be even more than reasonably pleased if I knew that I wasn’t going to be eating so many of these damn things. Let’s face it, they’re not exactly health food, but they are damnably tasty.

Apparently, this is something that is not at all uncommon in Australia. I suppose that’s why they’re called Australian pies. The sort of thing one eats when going to watch the football, or the rugby, or whatever else one does in Australia where one can sit and eat whilst watching other people do stuff.

My first trip to the shop, I didn’t know what to expect at all. I was thinking that Tourtiere Australienne would be something like a Quebecois meat pie, made by an Australian. This is not the case. These are personal-sized pies that come in many flavours. You can check their website for all the details. As I was “cooking” for three that night, I got four pies: two butter chicken, one spinach/ricotta and a steak and mushroom. And just because I’m such a good-looking guy, the fella behind the counter threw in a sausage roll.

First, the butter chicken: Imagine that your tummy is getting rubbed by an eight-armed Indian diety and she’s feeding you sweet savouriness lovingly placed in a crispy, buttery tart. Got it?

Second, spinach/Ricotta: An Italian woman tells you that she no longer loves you, but she will take you to bed one more time to comfort you. Pure, sweet comfort.

Third, the steak and mushroom: Been outside in the cold lifting shit all day? This is your pie.

And finally, the sausage roll:  Best. Sausage. Roll. Ever.

I’ve made a couple of more trips since then, and have also had the Lamb Roganjosh pie, which is a little slice of lamby goodness, and is not to be missed. I will make no complaints about the chicken, bacon and mushroom pie, either. Apparently, they also have breakfast pies, which I will be trying next.

Tourtiere Australienne, Montreal, Canada. Don’t miss it. They’re on 4520 Parc, just above Mont Royal and they’re generally open until about 8pm these days.

Go ahead and tell them I sent you, but they won’t know who I am, so it won’t do you any good. But go, and enjoy.

Le Poisson Rouge | Montreal Restaurant That Sucks

Le Poisson Rouge Montreal

I didn’t want to have to write a negative review of anything, but the experience that I had at Le Poisson Rouge, Montreal Restaurant on Rachel across from Parc La Fontaine was just so horrible that I cannot, in good conscience keep my proverbial mouth shut.

Once a month I’m able to take my girlfriend out for dinner at a Montreal fine dining restaurant, and I want for that experience to be a special one. Unfortunately, on this evening, it was not. Well, I suppose it was special in its way.

I made a reservation to Le Poisson Rouge a week before our engagement this evening. When we showed up, they offered us a table directly next to the door. Not a great start, but they did relent and allow us a table that was actually *in* the restaurant.

They promptly opened the bottle of wine that we had brought, a gorgeous little Pinot Noir courtesy of Kim Crawford, which, I must say, was excellent. We chose the table d’hote menu and we both ordered French onion soup, to be followed by mixed greens. The soup was good, based solely on the Gruyere cheese. The broth was grey and tasteless, except for the intense amounts of salt. Not a great soup.

The salad was presented in a very 90s presentation, but the dressing was pleasant enough. Very subtle balsamic vinegar dressing, but a little bit too much, I felt. And with the large portions of sugar in the dressing, it gave the salad a very sharp flavour. Still, not horrible; just not great.

My girlfriend ordered the mussels and fries, I ordered the veal, accompanied by spinach in a cream sauce. The mussels were okay, but not spectacular. They were, at least, cooked. The fries were sub par, served with what could only be a creme fraiche on the side. Not great.

The veal was not veal. The veal was a pork chop that was overcooked, dry, and horrendous. The cream that the spinach was served in swam around on the plate. In sharp contrast to the overcooked pork chop passed off as veal, the cream was just slightly warm, and kind of an insult to any developed palette, or, for that matter, any underdeveloped palette. I had four bits of the pork chop, and could not eat any more.

I informed our waiter that the meat was horrible and that the plate was overall incredibly unpleasant, which he said he would relay to the chef/proprietairre. I will say again, the plate I ate was an insult to my senses, and I shall never, ever, go back to this restaurant. It’s as though someone graduated from a cooking course and decided to become a chef. It was awful.

I do not recommend the Le Poisson Rouge Montreal restaurant. In fact, I would say, if you walk by it, just keep on walking. It is not worth the time, or the money that they charge you, even when you complain about the food and the fact that they are trying to pass off pork as veal. Give this one a pass. Seriously. Horrible.

Ben Henriques – The Responsibility Club

the-responsibility-clubLet me first start out by saying that, save for a few different things, I’m not the biggest fan of fusions of different styles of music. While I love In A Silent Way and Jack Johnson, (and the first Headhunters album) I get off the bus at On The Corner and don’t really feel like I need a transfer. I have some Weather Report albums for good measure, but don’t listen to them much unless they find their way onto my iPod when I have selected AutoFill. So, having seen a couple of descriptions of Ben Henriques’, The Responsibility Club, I was a bit apprehensive, but found myself pleasantly surprised by the stellar compositions and the thoughtful interactions on this album.

My first thought upon hearing the opening notes of the album was, “Man, this dude loves Stan Getz.” However, it lasted only a moment and I soon learned that these players have a style all their own (in the same way that Stan and Chet did). The tenor and alto saxophones dance around each other, coaxing sounds from one another until they end up like a two headed snake wrapped around the rod of Asclepius. Well, it’s probably not as pretentious as that, actually. However, the first track, entitled “Going South,” lays out their jazz roots and lets us know that they’re revving up to head elsewhere.

The second track, “Don’t Even Go There,” (and yet, they did!) is a slightly more avant-garde composition that is a clever mixture of soft tones and abstractions. It jumps from linear imaging to Jackson Pollock-esque splatters as easily as a chick in a short skirt moves from table to table at a nightclub on the prowl for drinks. The guitar player meanders from table to table while the rest of the band coaxes him on from the sidelines and makes sure he doesn’t run out of shots. From slightly dissonant to alarmingly good-natured and subtle, I found myself actually laughing out loud at a couple of points in appreciation of the delicate transitions.

My favorite composition on the album is “A City Map For Mermaids,” a track that gives the impression of being a heartbreakingly beautiful love song that simply demands your attention. And not by grabbing you by the neck and shaking you, but by kissing you softly on the ear and then gently working its way down and politely asking you if you wouldn’t mind very much if it put its hand down your pants.

“Sad Name For A Fish” is the perfect track for pleasantly melancholic moods and, like it or not, you will find yourself closing your eyes and floating along with the perfectly harmonized interactions between the two saxophones as they coax you into an opium like dream. The bass line saunters along like a fisherman deftly jumping from rock to rock at the shore while the drummer crashes waves against the rocks as on a perfect, if only slightly overcast, Sunday afternoon in Tofino. But the part where there are no hippies.

The only sour point for me on this record was a song called “Great Wakering” that I couldn’t quite seem to wrap my head around and might more aptly be called “Great Wankering” (sorry, boys). However, the track was over soon enough and I was played out of my confusion with “You Are A Protocol Droid, Are You Not?” While, for many, a yes or no answer would have sufficed, I was pleased with the outcome of this track and was glad to be back on what had, by now, become familiar territory.

It’s not as though there is a large range of musical styles on this album. Instead, the effect is more that the musicians have managed to recite their pedigree in a way that is both respectful and slightly brash. Quite simply, they have expressed their love of all music and managed to convey that to the listener in way that is not offensive or overt, as most fusion is wont to be. They are not given to thievery, but rather, having traveled down several paths, they are now able to strike out in directions that are theirs and theirs alone. Think of it as the Jeet Kune Do of Jazz music: free of all the conventions and useless forms of Traditional Jazz and leaving only the most effective aspects of the music: the most effective weapon aimed at the closest striking point.

There is also a sense of friendship on each of the recordings. There is a trust that each of these musicians places in each other as they travel along and there is not one note that is left unanswered or, if it were to fall out of the air, would not be picked up by another sound that would complement the outburst and allow it to continue on gracefully, having been acknowledged. Instead of fighting for space, these five musicians have found a way to interact that is seldom found in modern music. The Responsibility Club, courtesy of Ben Henriques will be on very heavy rotation in my playlist for some time to come and I highly recommend it to anyone that appreciates jazz music at its very finest.

You can buy this wonderful recording here, if you’re a Luddite(ish) or you if you prefer to use those iTunes that the kids are using these days, click here.