In my headphones this week

With their first album in 38 years, the Specials, or at least, a version of the Specials, are back with Encore, a blend of originals and covers that largely leaves their frenetic ska sound of the 80s behind.

It mostly works but I have a feeling I’ll be skipping some songs more than others. “We Sell Hope” is probably my favourite. Also the live tracks are pretty good.


Blog Round-Up: Things I Saw This Week

Tanya from Dharmage points out the very real and very frustrating problem of HR simply neglecting to follow up with you even after you’ve been in for interviews.

I have a hypothesis as to why this happens: After the final interviews are done, a decision is made within about a week or two. Then, the offer is made to the successful candidate. There is a period between the time the offer is accepted and when the candidate actually starts the job, which can be anywhere from immediately to a month, depending when their current job can release them. Until that new hire can start, HR cannot inform the unsuccessful candidates in the event the new hire is somehow unable to take the job. They may want to keep the runners-up in reserve. But by the time the new hire actually begins, they simply let the other candidates drop. Hence, the “ghosting.”

It is an HR practice that really needs to stop.

Hey, speaking of HR, I’ve had a few interviews in the past few weeks, both in person and over the phone. They’ve all gone well but I believe I’m in that zone between waiting to hear back and being ghosted myself.

I have another tomorrow that came together at the last minute. It would be in an industry that I’ve never worked before and doing a few things I’ve never, ever done like matter budgets. But they want to interview me anyway. It was one of those “invisible job market” things where someone I met at a networking group got on with this firm and suggested my name to them. So who knows? I’d be working downtown so there’s that.



Cartoon by Michael de Adder.

I am terrible at predicting political outcomes but here goes nothing: If reality TV star Kevin O’Leary becomes leader of the Conservative Party of Canada, I think Prime Minister Justin Trudeau can breathe easier in 2019, despite my own misgivings about his leadership. My family back in the Maritimes, who are generally Tories, are perplexed by O’Leary’s popularity. He’s done none of the work one would normally expect a successful leader to do: win a seat, become Opposition Leader, serve in a government, read the Constitution. Lisa Raitt, Michael Chong, Deepak Obhrai, Erin O’Toole, Maxime Bernier, and Steven Blaney have all done, in most regards, have done that work. Even Kellie Leitch has done that work and she’s a nutty racist. What O’Leary doesn’t know about government would fill a book that he would never read.


Former fellow YULblogger Frank went and lost a truckload of weight. That’s no small feat because for dudes in their forties, when that fat is on, it will fight every inch of the way to get off.

As I mentioned last time, I’m on a bit of weight-lifting kick so it’s harder for me to lose weight when putting on muscle at the same time. Still, as I’ve gotten better at the exercise part of it, I’m now seriously monitoring my food intake with my trainer. Apparently, you can’t just go lift 300 pounds and then go to Five Guys for lunch and expect your waist to shrink. And there’s nothing like doing a deep squat and seeing all that fat pool around your midsection.


Finally, here’s “Once They Banned Imagine” by Drive-By Truckers. A song I’ve been listening to since, oh, about November.

Are you now or have you ever been in cahoots with the notion that people can change
When history happens again if you do or you did you’ll be blamed
From baseless inquiry
To no knocking entry
Becoming the law of the land
To half cocked excuses for bullet abuse regarding anything browner than tan

Cause once they banned Imagine it became the same old war its always been
Once they banned Imagine it became the war it was when we were kids


Speaking of America in crisis, I finally started watching The Americans on FX, in which a pair of KGB spies go deep undercover in Reagan-era America. It’s so good, I have to put my phone down while watching it!


The Twelve (or Fewer) Days of Christmas Specials. Day 3: WTF Edition

The thing I like about digging through old Christmas specials on YouTube is seeing how they’re really like miniature time capsules. While guys like Tony Bennett have been famous for decades, most famous people tend to get famous for a short while but it never lasts. It’s the fleeting nature of fame, of course. So, as often as not, Christmas specials, in the tradition of all variety shows, are a reflection of the time in which they were produced.

I put this video, again, from a Dean Martin special, on my Facebook page a while back just to show how quickly things can date. A friend didn’t know who any of them were.

For those born after 1980, they were, from the left, Andy Gibb of the Bee Gees, once a massively popular pop group, Erik Estrada, who played a motorcycle cop best known for his tight fitting uniform and his dazzling white teeth (in those days a novelty), and Mel Tillis, a Country and Western singer known for his humourous songs and a stutter, which he played for laughs. For about 15 minutes in 1980, all of these men were superstars.

Then there was the appearance of Andy Kaufman at the Johnny Cash Christmas special, a comedian whose humour could best be described as “conceptual.”

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find the other clip from that broadcast in which Andy proposes marriage to Anne Murray.

And I’m just going to leave this one here:

Grace Jones, on the Pee Wee Herman Christmas special, wearing a molded plastic breast plate and singing “Little Drummer Boy”. The oddest thing? The joke in the show that she was supposed to delivered to the White House where, presumably, she would do this song for then President Ronald Reagan.

In Which I Feel Badly for Phil Collins

There was a time in 1985 when I’d do just about anything to keep Phil Collins off the radio. No Jacket Required was this monster album that spawned several hits, giving him seemingly unlimited airplay. And I hated it. It was safe, boring middle-of-the-road music by the same old baby boomers who were hogging the airwaves with their bland mid-life crisis albums.

Today, I read that, due to health problems from years of banging on drums and playing load concerts, not to mention his inability to get airplay on mainstream radio, he’s retiring. If your hearing is gone and it hurts you to play music, I’d say there’s no shame in retirement.

I feel kind of badly for him. It’s true that music has changed, as it always does, and today it’s next to impossible for someone over the age of 40, let alone 60, to get in the top ten. The oldest person on the current Billboard Top Ten has to be Dr. Dre.

There’s little that’s unusual in this. In 1985, artists who were massive in the 1955 weren’t selling like they once were and in 2011, as popular as Collins, or his former Genesis partner Peter Gabriel, may have been, you can’t convince a large mass of people to buy your records. It’s easier to sell Katy Perry than Carole King.

Of course, now that I’m older than Phil Collins was when he was at the peak of his success, I do find it a bit sad that older artists are pushed aside in favour of younger ones. I do try to keep up with the latest music and there’s much to recommend it. I have Dizzee Rascal as well as The Rolling Stones and The Decemberist on my iPod. I do find a lot of today’s popular music to be coarse and shallow and it seems that in an age of iTunes singles, there isn’t much room for thoughtful, serious albums, although Arcade Fire’s surprise Grammy win this year does offer hope. And I haven’t yet gone the way of former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson, decrying the music of "Snoopy Snoopy Poop Dogg" and "the enema man".

So is now a good a time as any to admit that I always really kind of loved In the Air Tonight?

The Liberty of Norton Folgate

The last time I gave much thought to Madness was a few years back when, while spending Christmas in Scotland, I saw this commercial on TV:

Yes, that’s Madness singer Suggs using his band’s biggest hit to help sell fish sticks. I didn’t mind it, really, because I was always a big fan of both Madness and fish sticks.

Early on as my tastes in music began to emerge, I decided that I liked bands with a sense of humour and for a kid raised on Monty Python and, I’ll admit it, Benny Hill, Madness suited that requirement very well indeed. It might be why I was hesitant at first to like Nirvana or Oasis in the 90’s. They seemed so miserable to be on stage. Go sit in a cubicle for a week and then tell me how awful it is to play and record music.

After losing track of them for the last twenty years or so, I was surprised when I heard their single “Sugar and Spice” on Radio 2 last week. It was from “The Liberty of Norton Folgate”, the first studio album off all new material in ten years. It came out in May. It’s a funny thing when you realize that artists you like have been at it for decades and that the stuff that connects with you may not be the most current, or the most popular, or will win the approval of the hipsters who liked that thing that you like long before it became trendy to like it and therefore they don’t like it anymore and you’re lame for still liking it. Despite having been pushed aside by a star system that prizes youth above all, Madness are still out there, doing their thing.

I’ve been listening to the album almost non-stop for a while now and I have to say it might be the best thing they’ve ever done.

Welcome back to the Nutty Boys.

Things You Need to Know About New Brunswick

In Moncton this summer, veteran rockers AC/DC will perform a show on Magnetic Hill. Local reaction has ranged from, and I’m paraphrasing here, “Fuckin’ A!!!” to “Give’r!!!” 

According to one fan, “This experience is going to be absolutely mind-blowing and will change the way you look at rock ‘n’ roll.”

In Fredericton, a similar outdoor rock show is promising to feature southern rockers The Black Crowes. 

Reaction to that has ranged from, and, again, I’m paraphrasing, “What is this rock and/or roll music of which you speak?” to “Will there be hip-swiveling?” to “Won’t somebody think of the children?”

According to one concerned citizen: “The speakers are going to be that much larger … the noise is going to be, I feel, overwhelming.” 

So the next time you’re planning your summer vacation to New Brunswick (and admit it: you are), take those factors into consideration when choosing the city you’ll be visiting.

Meanwhile, Saint John is still bitching that they never get the good acts.