Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Edmjønton and Valhalgary: Tyr in Concert(s)

This past weekend I had the opportunity to see Tyr, one of my favourite bands, not once, but twice.


Saturday night, Mike T. And Pete and I made our way to The Union Hall (formerlyThunderdome, and in times of yore, Goose Loonie's) for the 'Halo of Blood' tour, headlined by Finland's premier 'melodious death-metal' act, Children of Bodom. When I had purchased the tickets back in December, I knew my guys from the Faroes were only an opening act, but since the bill read Children of Bodom, Tyr and Special Guest, my presumption was that Tyr would have the second longest set, but, alas, this was not to be.


After an interminable wait outside in the minus 20 degree weather, we finally got in through the rear entrance, checked our coats and staked out a good position on the upper level, prior to browsing the merch table and securing some lagers, which, sadly, could only be purchased in cans and not horns.


Tyr was the first act onstage, a downtempo synth arrangement of the title track to Valkyrja playing while their touring drummer got into position (founding member Kari Stremoy had to leave last year, having never fully recovered from an auto accident in 2008), and then the three guitarists strode onstage and banged out their signature single, "Hold Your Heathen Hammer High". This was very well received by the decent sized crowd in this smallish venue, especially in the surging mosh pit right in front of the stage.


Lead singer and songwriter Heri Joensen is a personable frontman who seemed genuinely gratified by the crowd's response, as well as the frankly startling number of Tyr t-shirts visible in the audience. After playing "Blood of Heroes" and "Mare of My Night" from the new album, he apologized for not having as much time as they'd like, since they needed to make way for Death Angel and Children of Bodom, then launched into "Lady of the Slain" before wrapping up with "Shadow of the Swastika", their brilliant dual rebuttal to liberal guilt and racist idiots.


From the upper floor of UH, and situated close to the side of the stage, we had a great view of lead guitarist Terji Skibanæs as he fretted his way through the frantic fingerwork that is the hallmark of modern metal. Bassist Gunnar H. Thomsen had a positively gleeful look on his face as he made eye contact with the diehards right in front of the stage. While the sound mix could probably have been better, my only real complaint is that I only got to hear a mere 5 songs from the band I came to see. Still better than nothing, and five more live songs than I had seen up to that point, so I was still pleased on the whole.


Concord California's Death Angel was up next, and I have to say, while his vocal style is a little more screamy than I would like, lead singer and frontman Mark Osegueda comes across as one articulate and sincere individual. His fan-service did not involve any disparaging references to Calgary or an endorsement of 'local' beers 'like Labatt's', but on Edmonton being a source of great memories from the band's early days, and having a vibrant underground and vinyl collecting scene even back in the day. It's also gratifying to see some diversity on the metal stage, to break up the seemingly endless wall of white faces.


The music itself was classic thrash metal played with speed, reckless abandon and a complete disregard for aural safety, so us oldsters decided discretion was the better part of valour in this instance, and discreetly applied the earplugs I had brought. By the time Death Angel got to their most recent single, "The Dream Calls for Blood", the mosh pit was at a fever pitch, with some of burliest lads having removed their shirts to better facilitate shoving anyone within reach with maximum force.


That's not to say it was unfriendly; whenever anyone lost their footing, there was always someone on hand to help them up, dust them off, and then, usually, shove them again in another direction. The bravest were those trying to keep their beers from being spilled as they held them above the teeming mass, lowering them only to sip.


T-shirts notwithstanding, the majority of the crowd had clearly come to see Children Of Bodom, with occasional chants of "BO-DOM, BO-DOM, BO-DOM!" punctuating the crowd noise at fairly regular intervals before and between sets. By the time they got onstage, there was a full size Finnish flag and a hockey jersey on display, in addition to t-shirts old and new. They were the only band featuring a keyboard, which I tend to really appreciate in heavy music (Rammstein, Sonata Arctica), but overall, I have to say melodeath just isn't my thing.


I'm not much of a judge of musicianship, since I can't play anything myself, but even as a layman I could appreciate the speed and technicality of their guitar work, and the syncopation of their power chords that turned the entire band into a most impressive percussion unit. Children of Bodom know their business, but I am clearly not their customer; just as clearly, there are many who are, and they left Union Hall happy. We departed before the end of their set in order to avoid the inevitable coat check mob, and to get at least some merger amount of shut-eye prior to arising at 4:00 am to go and watch the gold medal hockey game.


After a wonderful and victorious time at Jeff and Heather's, followed by a refreshing nap at our house, Glory and I hit the road to go see the same show again at an all-ages venue in Calgary, the Macewan Ballroom. We had a great trip down, listening to a fantastic power metal compilation called Louder Than The Dragon, and then having dinner at the legendary Peter's Drive-In.


Glory was kitted out in the hoodie and hammer pendant I had purchased the night before, since there had been a lull at that able in Edmonton, and I was unsure just how chaotic it might be in Calgary, having never been to the venue. She took care not get any grease or barbecue sauce on her new sweatshirt as we ate in the Flex. I gently corrected the form of her metal salute, suggesting she put her thumb over the middle two fingers, and she nodded emphatically. "Right, right," she said agreeably, "thumb out is Spider-Man."


A short drive later and we were parked at the Olympic Oval at the University of Calgary, which was at least connected to the MacEwan Ballroom.


I have no gift for estimating numbers, but I would hazard a guess that the crowd at the U of C campus was easily triple whatever was at the Union Hall the previous night, and the line-up to get in was far more sizeable, but at least this one was indoors. I'm sure it was funny to watch the middle aged guy and the tweenager get frisked on the way in, but the security staff were courteous and professional, and no one made any wry observations at our expense. Best of all, when we checked our coats, we found that the earplugs that had been sold for $2 in Edmonton were free here, which was decidedly convenient, since Glory had forgotten hers in the car at the other end of the immense building we were in.


Inside it played much the same: Tyr's set was great, but too short, and Glory was extremely happy that they played her favourite song first.


Death Angel's Mark Osegueda was just as eloquent in his praise for Calgary, saying it's been important to them since 1987, so "if you don't know how Death Angel feels about Calgary, you've never been to a Death Angel show. And that's not a problem! Welcome! You are going to see a bunch of musicians doing what they love up here, and all we ask is that you listen with open ears, an open mind, and an open heart." Great stuff. And then a little later on, he got the crowd riled up by screaming, "I SAID I WANT TO SEE YOU MOVE, YOU GOLD MEDAL-WINNING MOTHERF*****S!!" which might have been pandering, but also felt really, really gratifying.


The stage was a little bigger than at the Union Hall, so Children of Bodom could space their stuff out a little more, and give a little more free reign to their light rigs. Unfortunately, the various types of smoke drifting in from outside and onstage were a little too much for Glory's asthma, so after a break and a brief return, we decided to call it a night.


We grabbed a Big Gulp and some pretzel bits at 7-Eleven for the trip home, through temperatures that made us grateful for the heated seats. We talked about the concert, and the people and things we saw, and going to see Sonata Arctica in September with the whole family, and how I was grateful for the opportunity to help her demystify what a heavy metal show looks and feels like. Thanks to bypassing the customary Red Deer pit stop, we were in our garage 2 hours and 46 minutes after getting on the Deerfoot. Glory wanted to go to sleep when we passed Leduc but managed to stay awake until getting into bed just before 2:00 A.M, a wonderful end to a long but glorious day.



T-shirt Sidebar: Fenya had heard the tale before, but had also been listening when I told Glory about the figure of Tyr on the back of her sweatshirt; about how Tyr was the Norse god of war and justice, and how he agreed to place his hand in the mouth of the great hellwolf Fenris as a hostage to his safety and freedom. And how after the other gods had chained the beast, Tyr had allowed Fenris to bite off his hand, because he had given his word, and how much credibility he gained from that sacrifice.


Later that afternoon, while Glory and I were driving to Cowtown, Fenya went to the IMAX Theater with our minister and his husband to see Jerusalem. When they asked Fenya about where Glory and I were going she said, "To a metal show in Calgary."


"That's right," Glen said, "I saw the t-shirt. Hey, why does the guy in the picture have only one hand?"


Fenya was perplexed. "Because he's Tyr."


Blankish looks.


"You know, the Norse god?"


A quizzical glance between the two of them.


"The one the band is named after? Geez, come on, guys!"


That made James laugh: "You are just like a teenage girl version of your father! Any other girl your age would be all, 'omigawd you guys, Katy Perry is just, like, the best,' but not Fenya; she is just 'you guys, Tyr is totally a Norse god'!"

Fenya just laughed in return; "Yep, that's me."


Friday, February 21, 2014

Viking Metal is a Thing

Despite the intrinsic appeal of music to human beings regardless of age, language or culture, we insist on breaking it into styles, types and genres.  In one sense, we have to; these labels exist primarily as a convenience, a referential shorthand to make documentation and conversation easier.  But they can also turn fans against one another as they debate the perceived superiority of one style compared to another, or whether or not a given performer fits better in this category or that.

Take rock and roll as an example; originally a sub-set of popular music oriented towards the North American teenager (a demographic byproduct of the end of WWII), rock and roll was originally known for combining elements of jazz, blues and western swing styles, and was sometimes disparagingly referred to as 'race music'.  For much of its early days, Elvis Presley was known as 'The King of Rock and Roll', but today he is regarded by most youth as a quaint mainstream artist, as famous for his contributions to country, gospel and sequined jumpsuits as the rebellious sexuality conveyed in his Ed Sullivan appearance.  Music from the '50s is now regarded more as 'oldies' than rock and roll.

Rock fans today still feel the need to differentiate themselves: classic rock differs from modern rock, punk rock stands apart from alternative rock, and the once-frequent overlap between pop and rock is now populated almost exclusively by an eponymous fizzing candy.

Nowhere is this factionalizing more apparent than in the genre of heavy metal.  Once a relatively homogenous offshoot of rock and roll, heavy metal ( or simply 'metal') has broken into branches and sects in a way that would make most religions shake their collective and figurative heads in awe.

Some of these branches represent a progression through time, rather than style; the New Wave of British Heavy Metal (Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Saxon, etc) reflects a period as much as it does a sound, and it is unfathomable that a new act might lay claim to this genre, although I suppose we can never rule out the possibility of a Newer Wave, can we?  Others may be limited to a geographical region, such as the 'visual kei' of Japan, but most, appropriately, are dependent upon the sound of the music itself.

The spectrum of metal is as rich and broad as any musical genre, and this variety is reflected nowhere better than in the brilliantly presented and curated Map of Metal, an interactive tapestry of words, music and visuals that comprehensively guides the curious through both the history and scope of heavy metal. Metal encompasses a range of vocalization that stretches from guttural grunts and screams to the operatic wail of singers like Bruce Dickinson; guitar sounds might be muted, dark and distorted, played with ponderous intent reminiscent of swampy blues, or classically influenced arpeggios fretted out at blistering speeds, and everything in between.

The names themselves are evocative: speed metal, death metal, symphonic metal, folk metal, grindcore, thrash, industrial, black; all speak of a particular musical experience and effect that seems to matter far more to the listeners than most of the musicians.  One such variation is known as power metal.

Typically characterized by clear, melodic playing, impressive vocals, symphonic composition style and positive imagery with a decidedly fantastic slant, power metal is far more popular in Europe than North America. It is sometimes referred to as 'happy metal', which suits me right down to the ground, and power metal bands regularly come together for large outdoor music festivals across the continent, where hundreds of fans sing along with every chorus, and a significant portion of the verses.  So how the heck did an eclectic middle-aged nerd from the prairies fall into it?

Despite having a fairly broad based and eclectic taste in music, I had given metal almost a complete miss until about 8 years ago, when a GW co-worker in B.C. ('sup Boltgun!) went on at length about how much more there was to the genre than the frenzied solos and theatrical growling I'd come to associate with it.  "It isn't all music made to piss off parents you know," he chided me.  "I mean, there's lots of that, sure, but metal is still the only kind of music where they sing about epic stuff like dragons and honour."

Boltgun burned me an audio CD called "Epic Metal Mix" featuring an assortment of power metal bands, including  Dragonforce, Dream Evil, Three Inches of Blood, and Rhapsody.  Italian power metal pioneers Rhapsody (now known as Rhapsody of Fire), with their orchestral and choral backing, classically styled arrangements and folk elements, made the biggest impression on me, so I began collecting their albums.  Aided by the public library and YouTube, I was soon listening to a number of Scandinavian bands such as Sonata Arctica (also coming to Edmonton this September!), Nightwish, and Stratovarius (which may be my favourite musical group name ever).

It was while looking for reviews of a Rhapsody of Fire's e.p. that I stumbled across one for Lay of Thrym, from Faroese Viking metal band Tyr.  The reviewer spoke glowingly of not only the energy and instrumentation of the album, but of the skillful way it wove together the unlikely twinspirations of Norse mythology and the Arab Spring.  I got the album and was blown away by the phenomenal balance Tyr had struck between ancient folk music and accomplished modern guitarwork, as well as the tremendous harmonies they are capable of putting together.

Like power metal, Tyr's 'viking metal' lends itself well to strong choruses, belted out at high volume, singing of bravery in the face of oppression, brotherhood in the shadow of danger, and strength to confront adversity.  It's unfortunate to me, personally, that they take such a dim view of Christianity that one of their songs actually suggests using Thor's hammer to re-crucify Jesus, but on the other hand, a) this is what you get when you convert a bunch of Vikings to your faith at swordpoint a thousand years back, and b) I am fully confident that Jesus, having escaped one cross, could probably do it again if He needed to.  Due in part to this opposition, Viking metal actually claims two progenitors in the metal family tree: black metal and folk metal.

For his part, lead singer and songwriter Heri Joensen once described the band's sound as "progressive ethno metal", but admitted in an Edmonton Sun interview that this was probably a mistake:
“I said that once, but our booker said never mention the word ‘ethno’ ever again; The pagan, Viking, heathen stuff comes from our ethnic background. But apparently when you say ‘ethno’ in metal, it’s nerdy guys with girly ponytails drinking tea with their grandmothers. And that’s not the image we should go for.”

Thus far I have Tyr's last 5 albums, including last year's Valkyrja, and all of them get played fairly often in the car, especially Lay of Thrym, and their Viking apocalypse theme album Ragnarok.  Glory is also a big fan, and was crushed to find out that although they are finally returning to Edmonton, Tyr is playing a venue that doesn't allow minors.

This is why after seeing Tyr perform at the Union Hall (formerly Thunderdome, and known to some oldsters as Goose Looney's prior to that) tomorrow night along with Death Angel and 'melodious death-metal' band Children of Bodom from Finland (the "kings of melodeath!"), and then getting up at 4 am to go cheer on Team Canada at a friend's place, I will be driving to Calgary with my youngest daughter to see a bunch of shirtless tattooed pagans with leather pants play a lot of unrepentantly loud and aggressive music.  And probably buying a sweatshirt to prove she did.

A friend at church asked what I was doing this weekend, and after I told him, he grinned and said, "Viking metal is a thing?"

Viking metal is a thing.

Saturday, February 15, 2014


My baby sister is getting married tomorrow, to a wonderful fellow, and the wedding will be great fun I'm sure.  What I am enjoying the most though, is the opportunity to chat with both Tara and our Mum and the rest of the family about times past.

Human memory is a complex, fractured, ephemeral and multi-faceted thing; getting together means we can remind each other of things we have experienced together but may have forgotten in the meantime.

Tara met me at the 7-Eleven by the airport yesterday afternoon when I went to pick up Mum, and had Valentine's doughnuts to share while we waited for her to debark.  "Right on time," she grinned, as I pulled up beside her Escape.  We got on to talking about the difficulty in estimating arrival times, and she recalled our Manitoba pilgrimages as children, where one time three of Dad's brothers were waiting by the driveway, looking studiously at their wristwatches to taunt him about being a full 7 minutes off his ETA, which he always provided to the minute.

"I don't remember that at all," I chuckled, "but it sure sounds like himself."

"Oh, don't you?" Tara said, "I'm sure it drove him mental when he would have to stop for Mum and I to have a smoke or to let the dog do its business or whatever."

My mind flashed back to the many road trips I've taken with my family.  "How long until we get there, Daddy?" prompted by boredom, a full bladder or simple curiosity.  For someone who detested math as a child, I have a habit of calculating the odometer reading at destination.  Since I like a highway speed of 120 km/h, which works out to 2 kilometers a minute, I also like to give the ETA to a minute.  Of course I like to over-estimate just a little to allow for emergency vehicles, construction and traffic, but I can always drop my speed a little beforehand in order to arrive 'on time, on target' and enhance my reputation just a tad.  Of course, early arrivals can always be blamed on a tail wind or accredited to driving prowess, but the latter is getting a little harder to sell as the girls get older.

Returning to Tara, I said, "It sure sounds familiar."

After getting Mum and returning home, I offered Mum a coffee from the Tassimo machine, and explained how I could flavour the milk with vanilla syrup or even a liqueur if she liked.  Ten minutes later we were both enjoying an Amaretto latte, and the talk naturally came around to liqueurs.

"I love a small glass of liqueur after dinner," I confessed.  "Amaretto, Grand Marnier, Drambuie..."

Mum nodded.  "A glass of Drambuie on the side of a cup of coffee was pretty regular for your father after a dinner out."

I laughed, "Yeah, I remember!  I'm not too much on after dinner coffee usually, and recently I've gotten into Rusty Nails [a really simple but brilliant cocktail made of two parts Scotch to one part Drambuie over ice]."

She smiled, "Just like your dad."

I started a bit.  "Really?"  I said; I had no recollection of this at all, really.

"Oh, yes," she nodded, "Not usually at home, mind, but if we were out and he was in a position where he could have a cocktail, it would be a Rusty Nail."

Now, it's important to remember that for a very significant part of my youth, I felt like my life was defined by how un-like my father I was.  He loved facts, I adored fiction; he was interested in history, while I was always looking to the future; he enjoyed projects, and I was committed to leisure.

Finding out facets of my personality or behaviour are drawn of almost full cloth from my father is both a little disturbing, but also a little gratifying.  It's also interesting to see it trickle on down the line a bit.

Dad and Mum are both known for being able to turn a phrase, thanks to Dad's love of language and Mum's Newfoundlander background.  Children live what they learn, so now I enjoy the reputation of being the fellow who will say, "That is crazier than a fish in a car wash," or what have you.

The other day, Fenya was at school and the probability of a future event was being discussed among her friends.  When she offhandedly remarked, "I'll bet you a nickel to a fried doughnut that isn't going to happen," everyone turned to look at her like she had suddenly grown a second head.

Hearing this, I could only shake my head and say, "Get used to it kid; from what I hear from Nanny and Auntie Tara, it's not too likely to change."

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Voice of Fear

How do we learn to manage fear?  As small children, it is such a fundamental part of our learning about the world, but as we begin to mature and fear less of what we see, we learn from our parents and other sources about how much there is to fear that we can't see.

When I worked at Games Workshop, I thought their model of leadership values was, as they say, spot on: honesty, courage, and humility.  To this day, I use this simple rubric to assess the leadership of others, the quality of people entering my life, and my own behaviour.  When I berate myself for coming up short, more often than not, it is for a perceived lack of courage.  Why did I do that?  Why didn't I speak up when someone else did that?  Why did opt for the easy choice instead of the right one?

As a parent, your biggest fears reside in your children, whether it is not doing enough for them, or doing too much.  You try to teach them to listen to their fear, and to be informed by it, but not to let it control them. And you worry about how you model bravery to them.

Thursday nights are my chauffeur nights.  After dinner, Audrey takes Glory to Irish dance, then heads off to her own choir practice.  I take Fenya to her choir downtown, then head over to St. Albert to get Glory, and at one time, took her downtown to pick up Fenya before we all returned home.  She is big enough now that she likes staying home for the short bit of time it takes me to fetch her sister, and it lets her get to bed earlier to boot.

Two weeks ago though, I had left her downstairs working on a school project, and was on my way to pick up Fenya, when the speaker in the car chimed with an incoming call.  I saw the call originated from home and pushed the button on the steering wheel. "Hello?"

A ragged breath on the other end, rife with uncertainty.  "Daddy?" Glory whispered.

My blood ran cold, but I tried not to let it colour my voice, "It's me baby, what's the matter?"

"Daddy, I'm scared...I thought I heard someone upstairs," she said timidly.

I had locked the door when I left, and knew it was (almost) completely unlikely someone was in the house. I also knew, to my shame, that part of the reason for her trepidation was that she was also scared of my reaction.  I made my voice as reassuring as possible.

"I don't think that's very likely honey, but do you want me to come home?"


"Should I come home Glory?  Would you feel better if I did?"

Another whisper, almost a sob of relief, "Yes, please."

Running a couple of route options through my head, I elected to loop around rather than reverse my course; fewer lights and left turns.  "Okay kid, I am on my way, I will be home in six minutes; do you know why six minutes?"

A short pause, "No, how come?"  Still whispering.

"Because 'nothing takes five minutes', right?"  (One of our favourite lines from Blackhawk Down.)

Another pause, then, "Okay."

I accelerated up 127th street, and said, "I'm on my way back, but I have to hang up on you for a minute, okay?  I have to call Fenya and tell her I will be late picking her up.  Do you want me to call you back?  Would you feel better if I did?"

A quieter whisper now, barely audible: "Yes, please."

"Okay, I will call you back as soon as I can.  I love you," and hung up.

Reaching Fenya's voice mail, I explained what was happening, and that if she could get a ride home to please do so, but I would be back to pick her up as soon as I could.  After taking a moment to assure her that no, I didn't actually believe any one was really in the house, almost for certain, I hung up and called the house.

As the phone rang, there was the briefest of moments where the tactless, tactical side of my brain observed that if, in fact, there was an intruder in the house, Glory answering the phone in mid-ring was a sure tip-off that they were not alone, but before I could refute the absurdity of that insight, she answered.  Still the uneven breath as she greeted me, with an even quieter whisper this time: "Hello?"

"Hi honey, it's Daddy; where are you?"

"I'm in the basement, behind the couch...close to your desk.  Daddy, I'm scared..."

(The analytical side of my brain wryly observed that the C-sharp I was hearing was unquestionably the sound of a heartstring being plucked, and the associated pang was almost certainly not sudden-onset angina.)  "I know, sweetie, I'm coming as fast as I can."  It's true; if the photo-radar contractor was in his usual spot on 142nd Avenue, this would be an expensive trip.  "That's a smart place to be if someone is there, but I don't think there is.  What's Nitti doing?"


"That's right, and if there was someone at the door, he'd be barking lots, right?"

"I guess..."

"But I am coming anyways, because I know you're scared."  Thank God most of the ice was gone from the corners, this one was usually a skating rink.  "I'm going like a police car, can you hear the engine over the phone?"

"Yeah..." (Was that a smile I could hear?)

"I will be there in two minutes, all right?"

"Can you come in and say 'Glory, I'm home' really loudly?" still whispering, but less shaky now.

"Whatever you want kid.  I am at the end of the block now and can see the house.  I am going to hang up and I will be inside as fast as I can, okay?"

"Okay Daddy."

"I love you," I said again, and hung up.

Seconds later I was in front of our house, and out of the car, racing up the steps with the keys in my hand.  The door was locked, as I was (almost) certain it would be, but I still opened the door with what I have heard referred to as 'violence of action'.  I snapped on the light switches by the door and shouted, "Glory, I'm home!" at the top of my lungs, which produces a considerable volume.

I quickly turned left into the master bedroom, snapped on the light, and went to my bedside to retrieve the oak police-style club I keep there.  Before I could find it, I heard Glory in the kitchen and called her name so she knew where I was.

I met her at the door and she launched herself into my midsection as her arms wrapped around me, and we both felt quite a bit better for the experience.

"Are you all right?"  I asked her.  She didn't look up or loosen her grip at all, but nodded emphatically.  "C'mon," I said, "Let's go get your sister."

By the time she got her coat and boots on, Audrey had arrived, and by the time I was a block away, Fenya called me to say she had gotten a ride with another family.  When I returned home and explained to Audrey what had happened, she chided me a little bit for the alacrity of my response.

I bristled up a little bit.  "It's all fun and games until you hear your child whisper, 'Daddy, I'm scared,'" I said, and truth be told, the widening of my wife's eyes and the involuntary protrusion of her lower lip was both validating and gratifying.  "And even though I was (almost) certain everything was all right, I will gladly trade making Fenya wait a little while in a safe place for a chance to sort out the daughter that needed me as fast as I could.

"Maybe next time I will go through all the logical reasons why there can't be a stranger in the house, or monsters in the closet, or whatever, but this time, the first time?  The most important thing I could teach her was that if she needs me, I will be there."

Audrey nodded.  "And when we tell the girls that if they are at a party or with someone who has been drinking and they call us to come get them..."

"Sure," I relented, "A little credibility could go a long way if or when that ever happens."

Since I intend to be a parent for the rest of my life, it is important for me to make my peace with fear, and to teach my daughters to do the same.  It can't be ignored, because sometimes fear is our first and best warning that something has gone awry, but if we can deal with it in temperance and respect, then we are probably ahead of the game.

Fear of the unknown, fear of the other, fear of change, fear of loss; how much of the negative interactions of our world are driven by fear?  How much peace do we create when we help others deal with their fear?  I think the most universal wisdom in the Bible is that aphorism attributed to Solomon, "This too shall pass," but I am starting to think that the angelic greeting of "Fear not!" may be of even greater comfort.

Being able to do that for Glory certainly was a blessing for me.

Monday, February 3, 2014

G&G IX: Guinnessterial Appointments


Prime Guinnesster Stephen F. today unveiled his new cabinet for the highly anticipated Gaming & Guinness IXwhich is to be held in Ottawa for the first time ever this coming May.

"Obviously when you combine the shrinking timeframes with the logistical elements of moving the event so far afield, plus the sheer emotional momentum brought on by nearly of decade of success and excess, it is critical to have the right team in place.  I am confident that we now not only have that team, but on any roll of double-sixes, they are all prepared to switch portfolios in a random and haphazard manner, for maximum comedic effect."  

• Prime Guinnesster: Steve F

• Guinnesster of Libations; Deputy Guinnesster of Pimpin’: Mike P. 

• Guinnesster of Hospitality: Rob D. 

• Guinnesster of SWAG: Mike T. (reassuring update now part of our formal record, The Haznard)

• Guinnesster of Transportation: Scott F

• Deputy Guinnesster of SWAG: Vacant

• Deputy Guinnesster of Hospitality/ Kitchen Whip : Peter H.

• Deputy Guinnesster of Libations: Jeff P.

• Guinnesster of Communications:  Earl W.

The Guinnesstry of Food & Lodging has been renamed the Guinnesstry of Hospitality in order to make those particular responsibilities sound just a teensy bit less onerous.

The Guinnesster of SWAG is expected to either appoint his own Deputy shortly or to say he is contracting it out, do it himself, and then pocket the difference.

The Deputy Guinnesster of Food is hereby given the informal title of Kitchen Whip because it is succinct, and besides that, everyone knows he is kinkier than a bag of bent nails.

The position of Assistant Deputy Guinnesster of Libations will be filled on an ad hoc basis.

The Guinnesster of Communications is encouraged to come up with a better name for the record of our proceedings than The Haznard.  (Although now that I've typed it twice, it's beginning to grow on me...)

 - 30 - 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Blofeld and His Cat

Back in November we picked up the James Bond 50th Anniversary collection, everything from Dr. No to Skyfall, and it's been our regular Sunday night viewing ever since.  It's a great treat to watch them in order, since the haphazard manner in which I saw them on broadcast television in my youth left them a confusing mishmash of gunfights, car chases and glib one-liners.  it's been fun watching them with the girls, since they also provide a fascinating time capsule of what was considered exotic, fashionable or glamorous for the time, from hotels with questionable appointments to people smoking in airplanes through to the seemingly cyclical widening and narrowing of ties and lapels.

Tonight we watched 1987's The Living Daylights, the first of Timothy Dalton's two attempts to fill the shoes of Ian Fleming's immortal agent.  The discs all have a number of decent special features on them, and this one has a 25 year retrospective on the character hosted by Roger Moore.  As we watched the variously themed montages play out some of our favourite moments,  we came across Douglas Pleasence as 007's primary nemesis: Ernst Stavro Blofeld, head of the Special Executive for Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion, or SPECTRE for short.

Faceless for his few outings, and recognizable primarily for his omnipresent Persian cat, Bond finally comes face to face with Blofeld in Japan, in 1967's You Only Live Twice, the fifth film of the series.  With his careful diction and scarred face, most people would assume he is a take-off on Michael Myer's Dr. Evil from the Austin Powers movies, rather than the other way around, which is a little bit of shame.

Now, I've seen You Only Live Twice a number of times, partly due to love of Japanese culture and local intelligence chief 'Tiger' Tanaka ("For a European, you are exceptionally cultivated.").  How did I manage to overlook Blofeld's ubiquitous cat doing a bona-fide, grade-A, blue-ribbon freak out during the scene where there is an explosion in the control room?

Having seen it now, it is pretty much impossible to unsee, like that stormtrooper bumping his head on the rising door in Star Wars.  Still, it gives a bit of credence to that old show business adage about never working with children or animals.

Tonight we watched the 15th of 23 movies, and I am looking forward to compiling a retrospective of observations when we have viewed all of them, but Blofeld's cat could simply not be made to wait!