Anita Rau Badami: The Hero’s Walk

Reading Birdie and Minister Without Portfolio felt like swimming in molasses, so I was hoping that The Hero’s Walk would let me conclude this year’s Canada Reads reading on a positive note.


Like Bone and Bread, The Hero’s Walk focuses on the effects of an unexpected death in a family. While it didn’t amaze me in the same way as The Illegal did, it left a very good impression with its portrait of intra-familial conflict and upheaval. Among other things, we encounter a father who sees himself as an ordinary man, a mother mourning the life she could never achieve, and a grandchild who seems to be holding a grudge against her grandfather.

The Illegal set the bar impossibly high for the other four Canada Reads books, but this book came very close to clearing it. If Lawrence Hill’s book gets an early exit, I have no qualms in supporting The Hero’s Walk.

Michael Winter: Minister Without Portfolio

That’s four out of five books I’ve read for this year’s edition of Canada Reads.


This book started off with a lot of promise. The main character, Henry Hayward, goes through a few events which send him reeling into uncertainty. I was looking forward to reading how his recovery would play out, but when I was done, nothing stayed with me. Granted, the writing is such that I didn’t see major plot points coming, especially in the beginning. I thought that characteristic worked in this book’s favour.

Unfortunately, the most positive thing I can say about this book is that I finished it.

I’m hopeful that Adam Copeland can elucidate the strengths of this book which I missed. However, unless the next book blows me away, I’ll be rooting for The Illegal to win Canada Reads this year.

Passed Over

I was going to wrote a morose blog post about how I’m always passed over for things like jobs and romance, then I got lost in a whirlwind of Ellen DeGeneres clips on YouTube like this one.

A few hours later, I don’t feel like writing that post anymore.

So…as I listen to RushJet1’s latest album which just dropped (get it…that’s an order), I’ll just say that my night could have been much different (i.e. worse) if it wasn’t for the many Ellen clips I perused.

Dream big, folks.

On Vulnerability

I do not like to be vulnerable.

I don’t like being in situations where I open myself up to criticism and hurt. I like to control outcomes as much as I can; this desire for control probably explains why I’m an overthinker.

As a mashup producer, I set myself up for scrutiny every time I submit my work to Mashstix and upload it to other websites. I do this despite knowing that I cannot satisfy the wide-ranging music tastes of the global population. The feedback is usually positive, but on the rare occasions when it isn’t, the resulting effects feel like a hard punch to my gut.

Despite my ease with being creatively vulnerable, it does not extend to other areas of my life. From a young age, I’ve had a fear of rejection which has held me back from living what I believe to be a full life. I thought it would be a good idea to build walls to protect myself from it. I kept people at arm’s length. I didn’t let anyone get close enough to hurt me. Instead of leaning on others, I learned to rely on myself and enjoy my own company. While this strategy kept some bad things out, it also kept me from experiencing things like romance and close friendship.

A perfect example of this phenomenon happened a few years ago, when I developed a profound crush on a woman who attended my church. We met shortly after she joined the music ministry, of which I was also a member. (For the record, I still serve in that ministry.) I was smitten from the first look, but being the rejection-fearing man that I was, I couldn’t bring myself to say “Hello.” Fortunately, she broke the ice for me.

We developed a friendship which became very special to me. Gosh, she was special to me because, among other reasons, she actually cared about me and not just the person she saw every week on the church stage. Naturally, my thoughts turned toward asking her out. Unfortunately, I passed up every opportunity to do this when it should have been done. I didn’t think that I could financially support a relationship. I listened to other people’s advice when I should have trusted my intuition. Most of all, I was scared of the changes which would result from her becoming my girlfriend. As a result, instead of being direct, I dropped hints and hoped she’d clue in.

Meanwhile, I told many people about my feelings for her…except for her.

I finally asked her out about 1.5 years after we met, but by then, I already missed my window of opportunity. I don’t know if that was the catalyst for us drifting apart, but at this point, I can’t even say that we are friends anymore.

In avoiding the pain of rejection, I unwittingly chose to live with another kind of pain: that which comes with regret and wondering what could have been. The fact that I still think about it many years later is a testament to the depth of my feelings and the stupidity of letting fear dictate my choices.

I’m A Fugitive

Proving that history repeats itself, HearThis is now removing mashups due to record companies’ enforcement of copyright. Since February 8th, I’ve had six mashups removed; that number is sure to increase in the coming days.

In its early days, HearThis was touted as a bastion of safety for mashup producers. However, I always suspected that the same copyright tsunami which attacked sites like SoundCloud and would eventually come to HearThis. Since my premium account is up for renewal, the timing of these removals couldn’t be more perfect. I haven’t made a firm decision yet, but since I have no reason to believe that HearThis won’t end up like SoundCloud, I’m leaning towards letting my premium account expire.

I’m tired of being a fugitive. Websites like HearThis and SoundCloud were necessary evils, but I’m starting to think that they’re evils which I can live without. That’s probably an unrealistic and risky idea, but no more risky than looking over my shoulder for copyright enforcers every time I upload a mashup.

As for this blog, if all else fails, I can transition it to literature. I did name myself after two literary characters and I’ve recently started writing entries about books I’ve read. Anything is possible.

Fiction vs. Non-Fiction

Recently, author Yann Martel was a guest at the Appel Salon. He discussed, among other things, his latest book, The High Mountains Of Portugal. His name may ring a bell if you’re interested in literature and/or movies; he is the author of Life Of Pi, which was adapted into a wonderful film directed by Ang Lee. For the record, I haven’t read the book, but I’ve seen the movie.

One of the topics which Yann discussed was fiction’s ability to explore ideas and outcomes which non-fiction cannot explore to the same degree. To clarify his point, he used a David Grossman book as an example: See Under: Love. This book is set during the Holocaust; one of the characters is immortal and, therefore, cannot be killed. Since he is Jewish, he is put into a gas chamber where everyone around him dies…except him. Needless to say, this fact makes for very interesting possibilities. I explained it as best as I could here, but you really should hear it in Yann’s own words. (To be fair, there are stories of people who have survived gas chambers, including this one.)

This may sound pretentious, but hearing this example of the power of fiction reminded me of what I strive to achieve in my mashups. I can’t hope to evoke visceral reactions to significant historical events like Mr. Grossman; that’s definitely beyond my sphere of influence. However, since the majority of musical artists are content to work within narrow contexts, it’s easy for me to put them in unfamiliar environments. For example, even though Taylor Swift has transitioned from country to pop music, she has no immediate plans to make chamber music or work with The Piano Guys. Nonetheless, I realized those goals for her in “Adele Amadeus Swift.” If she ever makes a classical album, I’ll be happy to take the credit for it.

As it is in literature, so it is in music.

Saleema Nawaz: Bone & Bread

Now that I’ve read Bone & Bread by Saleema Nawaz, I’ve read three out of the five books shortlisted for Canada Reads.


Thanks to this year’s Canada Reads q Broadcast, before reading this book, I knew that there was a character who lost both of her parents and her sister. Thankfully, this knowledge didn’t affect my enjoyment of this book in any way. (For the record, I avoid book reviews and summaries before reading any books.)

Speaking of enjoyment, I didn’t find it as compelling as The Illegal, even though it treads on some of the same subject matter. However, I believe that this book strongly adheres to the theme of starting over. Beena (the character I was referring to beforehand) copes with tremendous personal tragedy while struggling to maintain a relationship with her son, Quinn. On top of that, Quinn also wants to start over and have a relationship with with his father. Considering how the relationship with my own father has crumbled to pieces, this point continues to hit home even after finishing the book.

I hope Farah Mohamed has other angles upon which to elucidate the strength of Bone & Bread. While The Illegal is still the frontrunner in my mind, make no mistake – it is definitely not the only strong book in this year’s Canada Reads shortlist.

Adele Amadeus Swift

I’m unashamed to say that I’m a huge fan of Adele’s music. I don’t mean to play the hipster card, but I discovered her around the release of her debut album, 19. All it took was one listen to the chorus of “Chasing Pavements” for me to believe that this young lady was destined for big things. Fast forward a few years: I own all three of her studio albums and, Lord willing, I’ll see her live in October.

I thought that Adele would make her way into my mashup canon, but I didn’t expect it to happen like this.

A few days ago, I found out about a lovely cover of “Hello,” the lead single from Adele’s latest album. Actually, calling it a cover doesn’t quite do it justice. The Piano Guys took it a step further and mashed it up with “Lacrimosa” by Mozart. I already knew about that song thanks to Evanescence’s second album, but I’d never actually heard it in orchestral form until I heard The Piano Guys’ mashup.

Now, if you’ve been following my work for a reasonably long time, I shouldn’t need to explain what happened shortly afterward. This isn’t even my first foray into chamber music, but nonetheless, this is a mashup which I am fiercely proud of. Given that I’ve released 87 other mashups, that’s saying a lot.

AAS 500
Photo credit: Leigh Graves Wolf (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Cast Your Fate To The Weezer

It’s been a very long time since I entered a mashup contest at Mashstix. The last time I did that, I ended up winning. I was hoping to continue that streak; that task would have been easier if there weren’t thirteen other entrants!

Truth be told, the theme of January’s contest, Decades, was pretty great. Suppose you made an A/B mashup and one of your sources was from the 90s. Your other source could come from the any decade up to and including the 1970s, or from the 2010s. However, the 1980s and 2000s would be off limits. These rules were more complicated as the number of sources increased, but you’ve got the basic idea.

I didn’t plan to enter this contest, but once again, a trip to the library sparked a mashup idea. I ended up pairing a jazz song from 1965 with an alternative rock tune from 2001. If that concept sounds as interesting to you as it did to me, you’re my target market for this release.

Photo credit: Matt Schilder (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)


Tracey Lindberg: Birdie

For all of the Canada Reads debates I’ve attended, I’ve never read all of the shortlisted books in any given year. I got the jump on changing that last week; when I noticed that one library branch had three of this year’s books available, I borrowed all of them at once. Meanwhile, I’m keeping my eyes peeled for the book which has thus far been the hardest to get. At press time, it has 150 holds on it with only seven copies available for distribution. Fortunately, in an early example of the Canada Reads Effect, copies are being ordered.

This afternoon, I finished reading book number two: Birdie by Tracey Lindberg.


I must confess that even though I was able to finish this book, I didn’t enjoy it like The Illegal. Whereas that book was a literary thrill ride, reading Birdie sometimes felt like a boring long-term homework assignment. In some ways, I actually wish I was studying it for an English course; I would have been more inclined to pay attention to the threads which the author weaves throughout. With that said, I did notice that Ms. Lindberg has a way with words which results in many memorable passages throughout her book. In retrospect, I wish I had an example for this blog entry.

I think Bruce Poon Tip has a difficult job ahead of him in defending this book, but I refuse to count him – and Birdie – out. Recall that in 2014, I didn’t like Rawi Hage’s Cockroach, but Samantha Bee’s defense of it was so good that I would have been pleased if it ended up taking the title. I even wanted to read Franz Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (which is often cited in discussing Cockroach), but I haven’t done that yet.

On to the next book!