Sunday, 20 December 2009


Sunday, 20 December 2009
Victory for the Rage Against the Machine campaign... Tom Morello says, "Thank you, the people united can never be defeated."

Rage Against the Machine have promised to play a free 'thank you' gig in the UK some time next year -- now all we need to do is campaign to get them to play it in Joe McElderry and Cheryl Cole's home town of NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE.

Thanks to all my fellow downloaders; faith in humanity restored this evening.  Hurrah!

Rage Against the Karaoke Machine

Never before in my life have I woke up on a Sunday morning and asked, “What’s number one in the pop charts today?” But I did, today.

A little bit of background: over here in England there always seems to be a bit of a fuss made about the singles charts, especially the week leading up to Christmas. Hours of fun for a music junkie like me, right? WRONG. The charts are full of fluff and novelty records, nothing half decent and I pay about as much attention to them as I do the sliced salami at the supermarket. Take a look at this; here is a list of the Christmas number ones for the last few years and you’ll see what I mean (from

What a load of crap, right? I can never quite wrap my head around the music industry in this country – on the one hand we’ve produced the Smiths, the Stone Roses, U2, the Cure... a significant proportion of my music collection consists of artists that have come from this tiny isle. But I’m here to tell you that the ratio of crap to credible is probably about 20:1. It’s very depressing, and a quick glance through the years on the chart above should be all the testimony you need.**

In addition to having to painfully endure this musical equivalent of hotdog water on the every radio station in the land, our prime time TV slots are also imposed upon at regular intervals over the year. We’ve got ‘Britain’s Got Talent!’, we’ve got ‘Pop Idol’. We’ve also got ‘American Idol’ and ‘X Factor’. All of these result in what is usually tantamount to nothing more than a nationally televised karaoke competition, save for one important detail: the X Factor show just happens to announce its winner the week before Christmas, and it’s a pretty safe bet that whoever wins this fromage-fest will release a single just in time to be a contender for the renowned ‘Christmas number one’.

But the eagle eyed amongst you might notice a recurring theme over the last 4 years, and his name is SIMON COWELL. He is behind all of these god-awful TV shows, and he is the driving force behind all of these ridiculous warblers getting their number one in the penultimate week of the calendar year.

Well, I’m not the only one who is tired of it. There has been a movement to knock the current year’s X Factor winner off the top spot by a resourceful couple who started a Facebook group to encourage people to download Rage Against the Machine’s ‘Killing in the Name’ as a protest against all this manufactured drivel which threatens to suck the last dregs of credibility out of the music industry in the UK. You can read more about it here, at

As I type this we are waiting for the result. Being a Rage fan, of course I downloaded the single. But what made me download it more than once is reading what Joe McElderry (aka X Factor winner) has recently done – throw darts at a picture of Zack de la Rocha for a publicity stunt, saying, "I wouldn't buy it. It's a nought out of ten from me. Simon Cowell wouldn't like it. They wouldn't get through to boot camp on The X Factor - they're just shouting."

What a stupid idiot. As if Zack and Tom and the rest of RageATM are right now re-evaluating their life’s work because some crappy teenybop crooner has said that Simon Cowell wouldn’t like it? Hilarious. HIL-FREAKIN’-LARIOUS. If Joe McElderry’s ‘success’ was reliant upon the respectful way to earn his place in the charts (ie; writing it, busking it, gigging to 5 drunks and a dog in a bar which should probably be condemned, etc. etc.) he’d not last 5 minutes. On the flipside, if he understood anything at all about Rage Against the Machine and the kind of integrity it requires to be a shining light of awareness on behalf of many of the world’s injustices, he wouldn’t be on the bloody X Factor anyway. While Joe ‘Nothing-But-A-Ringtone’ McElderry is spitting his dummy out of his cot, someone should point out to him the comical irony of the lyrics of the very song he’s hoping will get to number one this afternoon:

There's always going to be another mountain / I'm always going to want to make it move / always going to be an uphill battle / sometimes you’re going to have to lose.

A dartboard? Seriously? Well, with Cowell in your corner no wonder you’re resorting to those kinds of riotously amusing tactics.

Rage Against the Machine aren’t everyone’s cup of tea – granted. But that was precisely why the track was chosen. I totally love it, and them, and I esteem Tom Morello for being one of the greatest guitar players of the last twenty years – his style is absolutely unique and innovative, and makes those six strings do things that sound effected to the rafters, but are usually pre-production. Check out the solo in this Audioslave track, ‘Like A Stone’ for a great example of what I mean:

Anyway – we’re all on tenterhooks in the Proctor Household waiting to see if a classic Rage track pips the Cowell Machine to the post in the race to the Christmas number one. I’ll be back later with the result.

**If you’re a fan of any of the above music, I offer no apology; I’m not here to debate whether or not Robbie Williams is any good. If your finger is hovering over the ‘Post a Comment’ button to try and convince me of this fact, bring it on; I love a good argument! ;-)

Friday, 18 December 2009

Snow and the English

Friday, 18 December 2009
Only a week before Christmas, and we've already had a little flurry to make us all get in the mood.  Well, you know what I say:  ho, ho, mofos!  Bring it on!  As a displaced (replaced?) Canadian living in the North East of England I always like to see a bit of the old white stuff. 

At home in Canada, they measure precipitation in centimetres.  Here, I like to use the equally accurate but admittedly lesser-known depth guage of 'Adidas Print', as illustrated below:

Put the Army on standby; it's a white out.

That's what we woke up to this morning.  Ben was practically apopleptic with excitement, and all the way to school it was snowball this, snowmen that, and jingle all the way.  It made the trudge over to the school enjoyable indeed. 

"Look, Mammy!  I can make snowballs all by myself!"

I told my (British born 20+ yrs Canadian resident) Mum that it was snowing last night.  She says to me, "Buy the kid a toboggan."

Isn't language funny?  Imagine a scene in which the family walks into the nearest reliable retail outlet and asks the Geordie salesperson to sell us a toboggan.  I hope people on both sides of the ocean will find the provded translation helpful:

Salesperson: "Eeee, what’s SHE gannin' on aboot, like? What d'yer mean? Ah divvint knaa aboot nee 'toboggans', are ye askin' for a chinnin'?"

[Gosh! To what, exactly, are you referring? I’m afraid I’m unfamiliar with the word ‘toboggan’. Are you being deliberately impertinent? Would you like a slap?]

Me: “Dude, it's TOTALLY snowing, eh? My kid wants to go tobogganing, so I’ll be needing a new toque and a muffler as well! It’s cold!”

[It has snowed overnight. I would like to enable my child to partake of some snow-themed winter recreation. Also, if you have any woolly hats and scarves to protect me from the elements I would be greatly appreciative.]

Ben: How man, mutha man!

[Please, Mother. Don’t embarrass me.]

Jason (to the salesperson): Eeeh man, ye knaa what a mean leik (rolls eyes). Ahm gannin te the booza.

[I have put up with this ridiculousness quite long enough. I am off to partake of liquid refreshment in the nearest licensed establishment.]

Salesperson: Alreet, lass.  Ye’ll find a stack o’sledges in Aisle Forr. Mind, gan canny or ye’ll dunsch into summick if ye gans too fast doon the hill!

[Certainly, Madam.  The apparatus you require is in Aisle 4. Be careful, lest you crash into something during your recreational exertions!]

Ah... I love living here.  Canadians:  I love you all.  Geordies:  I love you as well.  My Mum said, "Perhaps I'm a bit more Canadian than I thought..."

Me in my toque and muffler this morning; this one's for you, Mum!

Undoubtedly quite the most ridiculous-looking Mama on the school run, but I don't eff around with snow.  Comfort and warmth before fashion, without exception.  I chuckled a little when I walked past a gaggle of Mammies talking about the state of the roads, who said what everyone the world over says when they talk about winter driving:  "The main roads are okay, " which is fine.  When the Canadians say it, it looks like this:

Jason, Christmas in Canada 2007

But when the English say it, it looks like this:

The view of my house from the school run this morning.

I am feeling homesick this week... in the run up to Christmas I flip-flop between mental-institution-excited for the kids, but lump-throatingly bereft at not being at home in Ontario. Sometimes a mile is no distance, especially with Skype and webcams, etc... but on mornings like this, one mile feels like a thousand.

So it is my Friday wish that we get some more of the white stuff for Christmas, and that my Canadian loved ones get a little less of it this winter.  And by way of apology for not giving you a Friday track to listen to in a couple of weeks, I'll leave you with this -- Jason's favourite Christmas song:

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Tragically Hip: Manchester, UK, 2nd December 2009

Wednesday, 16 December 2009
FYI, Husband: If Gord Downie asked me to run away with him, I totally would.

I really am bonkers. I’ve started and stopped this concert review a million times this morning and each time it spirals into what looks like a shopping list of reasons why Gord Downie is Hands Down No Contest Undoubtedly Indubitably Undeniably Absolutely The Sexiest Man in Canadian Music Indeed. I will try my very hardest to continue this review without dragging into the hot and sweaty gutter where my mind is. I can only endeavour to try; I shall not make any promises.

So if any of you, dear readers, remember back to what seems to be a thousand years ago you will recall me absolutely losing! My! Mind! With excitement when The Tragically Hip announced they were doing a UK tour. I’m sure I was still pregnant with Jude and my fingers couldn’t put the credit card number into Ticketmaster Online fast enough... the nearest gig to us was Manchester on the penultimate night of their UK tour at Academy 3 at the University.

Oh, my friends. Oh, my heart! Such a gig. SUCH a gig. There was maybe 500 people in the whole place – the heads of my fellow Canadian Hip fans will likely explode at this point; so few for a Hip gig is nearly unheard of, but so it was. And I’d bet fifty bucks that 480 of them were Canadians. Straight to the front skipped we, waiting for them to take to the stage. The full setlist can be found here, courtesy Mr JackStraw.

Set 1 Setlist

GAH... three paragraphs in and I can’t NOT say anything about the delectable Mr Downie. The fact that he’s scrumptious to look at is nearly secondary – for me, his appeal lies in his intellect. His lyrics are poetry; poignant, witty, laden with Canadian stories and myths and interwoven with such delightful eclectic little observations that arouse almost immeasurable levels of artistic respect that I find nothing short of awe inspiring. Throw into the mix his between-song rantings and a lot of sweat – a LOT of sweat – and an arse like two eggs in a hanky and it’s SOLD TO THE BLONDE LADY IN THE FRONT ROW!

Not zooming in, y'all... we really were that close.  Hurrah!

The gig itself was top-notch. Jase was beside himself; having never saw them before, or really listened to them save the odd song which hit the iPod shuffle while I’m behind the wheel of the car. And living here in England for the last 10 years has certainly kept the band off my radar; I don’t think I’ve got any releases post-2000. But he loved it. He kept tapping me on the shoulder with regular assertions of how BLOODY BRILLIANT they were, mixed with the occasional reprimand that I hadn’t previously taken the time to explain to him just how BLOODY BRILLIANT they were in the ten years we’ve been together. (Which I totally have, obviously... :::sigh::: he never pays attention to the important things.)

Did I mention the sweat? If you’ve ever seen The Hip live before you’ll know that my fantasy husband Gord Downie sweats on stage A LOT. He keeps lots and lots of white handkerchiefs around to mop up said sweat to keep it from dripping everywhere.

*          *          *          *

(sorry, just needed a moment to swoon, there...)

So, imagine the fever-pitch of hot-and-botherederisation I experienced when this happened during “Courage (for Hugh McClennan)”:
• Gord Downie whips out hanky, wipes sweat off brow
• Puts it over his face, sings a few lines
• Walks over to me (singing along complete with goofy grin on face)
• BLOWS ME A KISS (and, consequently, my mind)
• Throws me the hanky
• I blow him a kiss back, he smiles at me

Who DOESN'T want a sweaty hanky?

I tried to maintain a dignified composure but inside I was as giddy as a Granny within underpants-throwing distance of Tom Jones. Jason was all, “HEY HEY, MY WIFE, EVERYONE... KISS RECIPIENT, RIGHT HERE!” and I was all, “Take THAT, other front row biatches!”

So the (subsidized) pints may have had a (very) little to do with it, but it wasn’t long before I was crying. Gord sang this line (from “Bobcaygeon”):

“...went back to bed this morning / and as I'm pulling down the blinds / I saw the sky was dull and hypothetical / a nd falling one cloud at a time / that night in toronto / with its checkerboard floors...”

Well, I only had to hear the word “Toronto” and I’ve go tears streaming down. Oh, lovely, lovely.  They were impeccable, very tight, note perfect... a total musical journey.  The songs they chose to share with us are the exact songs, in the exact order that I would have chosen myself.  It was a priviledge to be witness to 5 guys who were, to most intents and purposes, having a blast jamming in a basement.  I didn't mean for this gig review to be primarily about Mr. Downie's sweat (honest) because of course, it's about the music.  Which was BLOODY MARVELLOUS.  The first set was pretty intense, full-on, in your face, straight ahead bare bones rock-tastic - Courage, Fully Completely and Poets were particular highlights.  The second set was a bit more laid back; they came in and sat down and played a few of my very favourites.  Best track of the night?  Nautical Disaster, without a doubt.  Check out their official website -- grab a cup of tea and sit through my high school soundtrack the videos section.

Anyway – please enjoy the pictures I took, and some video, too. I always take my camera to gigs... but I only take snippets of the introductions of songs (otherwise I can’t dance!) so I hope you don’t mind the disjointed feel. (NB: the quality is AWFUL but I think it’s because I had to shrinkify the .mov’s so much to make them uploadable)

Thanks, fellas. A sweeter, more enjoyable homesickness I have never known.

Mammy P:  2 December 2009 - Tragically Hip, Manchester