Canada Reads 2016: Anticipation

As I write this entry, I’m eagerly awaiting the announcement of this year’s Canada Reads panelists. I already know the books which will be on this year’s edition of the show. Ideally, I would have found out during the broadcast of q, but I looked at the Canada Reads page before said announcement. Oops.

I wasn’t always a book person, but ever since I became one, Canada Reads has turned into an event I look forward to every year. If you’ve never experienced it for yourself, imagine Survivor, but with a much more intellectual bent. This may be a literary contest, but the discussions can get quite heated.

Without further ado, this year’s books and panelists…

Birdie by Tracey Lindberg (panelist: Bruce Poon Tip)
Bone and Bread by Saleema Nawaz (panelist: Farah Mohamed)
Minister Without Portfolio by Michael Winter (panelist: Adam Copeland, a.k.a. former wrestler Edge)
The Hero’s Walk by Anita Rau Badami (panelist: Vinay Virmani)
The Illegal by Lawrence Hill (panelist: Clara Hughes)

Apart from Clara Hughes and Edge (!!), I know pretty much nothing about these panelists. That said, their thirty-second defenses on this morning’s edition of q give me no reason to think that any one of them would be a weak link. Actually, much like Lainey last year, I think The Edge may surprise a lot of people.

Needless to say, I’m very much looking forward to Ms. Hughes’ defense of The Illegal; I hope she does it justice. Her initial defense reminded me of Samantha Bee’s defense of Cockroach from a few years ago; that’s a very good sign.

I haven’t read any of the other shortlisted books yet, but I’ll solve that problem soon enough. 😉


Lawrence Hill: The Illegal

Sometimes, the simple act of reading becomes such a riveting experience that every spare moment must be devoted to it. Previously, books like The Mountain Story by Lori Lansens and Armada by Ernest Cline have given me that feeling.

Yesterday evening, I finished a book which gave me that feeling and then some: The Illegal by Lawrence Hill.


This work of fiction is almost four hundred pages, but I breezed through it in five days. It’s not light reading by any means, but its story is so efficiently structured and paced that delving into it was such a pleasure. It introduces many characters, but not so many that I lost my way at any time. I did, however, frequently review earlier chapters to jog my memory.

It’s a pity that this is my first experience with Lawrence Hill’s work. I’m probably the only person in Canada who hasn’t read The Book Of Negroes yet, but don’t be surprised if I change that! If it’s nearly as good as The Illegal, then I’m in for another treat.

Speaking of treats, this year’s Canada Reads longlist becomes a five-book shortlist tomorrow. The Illegal is on the longlist and I’ll be very happy if it ends up being one of the final five. In the right panelist’s hands, The Illegal has a significant chance of becoming Lawrence Hill’s second book to win Canada Reads, especially given its timeliness in relation to Canada’s response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis.

The book I’m currently reading is also on the longlist. Given the buzz surrounding it, I won’t be surprised if it’s also shortlisted.

Interesting fact: Lawrence Hill has one sister and one brother. You may have heard the brother’s work.

Tie Domi: Shift Work

There’s more to me than making unlikely musical hookups. If you’ve been paying attention to previous blog entries, you already know that reading books is one of my favourite pastimes.

Some folks like to party and others prefer to attend numerous events; I don’t look down upon either choice. However, on some nights, nothing appeals to me more than going to the Reference Library and reading a book. To wit: yesterday, I was planning to visit the Art Gallery Of Ontario; free admission is offered every Wednesday night. However, right before leaving home, I changed my mind and opted to visit the library so that I could do puzzles and finish off the book I was reading.

That book was Shift Work by Tie Domi.


Here in Toronto, Mr. Domi is most well-known as a former hockey player for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Proving that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, one of his children, Max, is making headlines with his own hockey career. As for Tie’s book, while there wasn’t anything deep or mindblowing about, it was easy to to read and I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.

It’s a good thing that I went to the library instead of the art gallery last night. A book which I’ve had on my Must Read List for a few months was available for borrowing. I won’t divulge the title yet, but I’ll blog about it when I’m finished reading it.

A caveat: this isn’t a book blog, but I plan on blogging about books I’ve read from time to time. Blogs like Musings Of A Writer go into much more depth than I feel like doing.

One Hand Clapping

Thanks to Facebook’s Real Name Policy, I’m locked out of my mashup Facebook account. I can no longer log in to it using my mashup alias; I now have to provide my real name. If I do so, Facebook may ask for identification in order to verify it. Since I believe that it’s ridiculous for a social networking site to force its users to use their real names and possibly provide ID, I choose to let that Facebook account gather dust.

I firmly believe in the stance I’m taking, but it comes with inevitable consequences. The one which hurts the most is that I have lost a significant promotional avenue for my mashups. I used to look forward to posting my work to the mashup groups I belonged to. These days, my only opportunities to promote myself come from this blog, Mashstix and HearThis.

My frustration is magnified when I finish a mashup which I feel really good about. To wit: I submitted my entry for a Mashstix contest yesterday. This month’s requirement is that for A/B mashups, each source must be separated by at least two decades. For example, if I use a song from the 70s, I can mash it up with songs from the 50s or earlier and the 90s or later. The only two decades from which I can’t pick songs are the 60s the 80s. This rule becomes more complicated as the number of sources per mashup increases, but I’ve explained the gist of it. Since my entry fuses a jazz song from 1965 with an alternative rock song from 2001, it definitely satisfies the criteria.

I’m waiting until the contest ends before I decide what to do with my mashup, but no matter what direction I take, I already know that I’ll miss out on valuable Facebook feedback.

Appel Of My Eye

I’ve been attending Appel Salon events at the Toronto Reference Library for many years. I don’t remember what my initial motivation was, but the free price tag likely factored into it. In the early days, there were no tickets given; on the day of any given event, you simply lined up before the doors opened.

When a ticketing system finally was implemented a few years ago, I stopped attending Salon events. Considering my faithful attendance in recent years, I cannot believe that I did that. It might have been because I wanted to be sure that I had no commitments before getting a ticket, but I’m not entirely sure of my rationale. Whatever it was, it seems so insignificant now. Fortunately, this self-imposed moratorium wasn’t permanent.

In late 2013, I found out that a world-famous Canadian astronaut would be making an appearance at the Appel. Considering his then-recent stint on the International Space Station, I knew it would be a heck of a big deal (that’s an understatement).

The astronaut’s name? You may have heard it before: Chris Hadfield.

On the day that tickets went on sale for his event, there were technical issues which almost caused me to end up empty-handed, but my second attempt was successful. The stage was set for my long-awaited return to the Appel Salon.

Since that event, I haven’t looked back.

Under the leadership of Tina Srebotnjak and Yvonne Hunter, the Appel Salon has thrived in Toronto’s literary scene. Many an author has graced its stage, including Margaret Trudeau, Caitlin Moran, Lena Dunham, and current Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In my opinion, 2015 was a banner year for the Appel; the hits kept coming night after night. It’s one thing to be able to book people like Margaret Atwood, Salman Rushdie, Mohamed Fahmy, and Judy Blume in the same venue. It’s another thing when you can book all of them in the same year. It shouldn’t surprise readers of this blog to find out that Judy Blume’s appearance is my all-time favourite Salon event; until that evening, Chris Hadfield had that honour.

On January 11th, the Appel Salon will open its doors for its first event of 2016: an appearance by chef Gabrielle Hamilton. This event is sold out, but given the Salon’s cachet, this shouldn’t surprise anyone.

Here’s another fact which shouldn’t be surprising: I’ll be there.

Ce Facile Matin La

Even though I struggled to come up with worthwhile mashup ideas in the latter part of 2015, I always held out a flicker of hope that I would hit paydirt once again.

Fortunately, my employment prospects were improving; I started working for a company on a temporary basis in August. I didn’t expect my tenure to last until December, but I’m glad that it did. In my last months with the company, I worked on a data entry project. In order to distract myself from the (tolerable) monotony of the task at hand, I brought CDs from home to play in the office. One of them was Air’s Moon Safari.

One of the songs which struck me as a possible mashup candidate was “Ce Matin La.” I must have listened to it shortly after the release of Adele’s massive comeback single, “Hello.” At the time, I thought that these songs would sound good together, but the time I had for making mashups was limited. I ultimately shelved that idea.

Fast forward to the evening of January 1st, 2016. I was still struggling for ideas, so I thought that checking my folder of unused acapellas wouldn’t hurt. One of the first songs I considered was Dragonette’s “Easy”; since the acapella sounded decent enough, it only needed a suitable instrumental match.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far to find it.

CFML 500
Photo credit: Tom Waterhouse (CC BY-NC 2.0)


The Kind Of Year It’s Been (2015 Edition)

2015 wasn’t much better than 2014, but at least it was better. That’s a start which I hope to build on this year.

I started 2015 in a bad place. I was unemployed and going deeper and deeper into debt. On top of that, I was on my annual social media hiatus, so I cut myself off from any aid I could have received…or so I thought. At least my creative well wasn’t running dry at that time.

Fast forward to the present: I’m unemployed again, though I expect it to be a temporary situation. I’ve cut back on my involvement in producing and reviewing mashups, though this was by necessity more than anything else. Fortunately, since I’m on another social media break, I have more time to play around with for at least a few months.

It was my goal to produce less mashups than I did in 2014, if only to reduce the number of misfires I published. At this point, only “Eye Of Murdoch” stands out as more of a good idea at the time than a good idea. With that said, it doesn’t make me retch like some of my other work.

Of the thirteen mashups I produced in 2015, these are my favourites (listed in chronological order):

Lone Shot (Pat Benatar vs. Hans Zimmer) | Download

Take My Medicine (Franz Ferdinand vs. Snoop Dogg & Willie Nelson) | Download

Waiting For Law & Order (Mike Post vs. Gwen Stefani) | Download

Ever Powerless (Moby vs. Linkin Park) | Download

Honourable mention:
Help I’m Nasty (Metric vs. Amon Tobin) | Download

Ever Powerless

Two months felt like forever.

After releasing “The Good, The Bad & The Bananas,” I struggled to come up with a worthy follow-up. It’s not that I lacked for ideas, but none of them inspired me to bring them to completion. On top of that, my employment situation started to improve, so I had less time to devote to the mashup scene. This meant that weeks would pass where I wouldn’t even log in at Mashstix, let alone give feedback on submissions. In my worst moments, I thought I was done with making mashups. Perhaps I’d exhausted every good idea and it was time to bid adieu to yet another creative pursuit.

Thanks to an ElectroSound mashup from last year, I started considering possible matches for a Linkin Park song called “Powerless.” However, this song’s odd verse structure further limits the number of songs it can be matched with. One of those songs was an old Moby song which I hadn’t listened to in many years. One morning, I fooled around with it to see if I could make it fit Linkin Park’s song.

This unexpected moment of creativity ended up being a long-awaited breakthrough.

EP 500
Photo credit: Chris Ford (CC BY-NC 2.0, image modified from original)


I Didn’t Ask For A Video, But… (Part 2)

I was hoping to update this blog with an entry other than “Here’s a video for one of my mashups,” but I’ll take what I can get. For now, I’ll just say that while my employment situation has slightly improved, mashup inspiration is constantly eluding me these days.

Given my creative drought, I’m glad that my latest, “The Good, The Bad And The Bananas,” is still making its presence felt. DJ Morgoth gave it the leadoff position in his latest edition of Mash-Up Your Bootz; if that was the end of it, I’d be happy.

Fortunately, that’s not the end of it.

I was surprised to find out that Tremenz made a video for my mashup; I didn’t even know that he was working on it! I only found out when I logged in to Facebook and clicked on a notification.


The Good, The Bad And The Bananas

Showering has been good for my mashup career, among other obvious things. It’s funny how I usually come up with nothing when I’m trying to generate mashup ideas. However, when my first priority is cleaning up, I can end up with pretty good combinations.

This one wasn’t quite born during the actual shower, but its conception started while I was moisturizing. I initially wanted to pair “Hollaback Girl” with a song from the From Russia With Love soundtrack. I thought that “Hollaback” was in the key of B minor, but a glance at Wikipedia proved me wrong; the actual key is E-flat minor. So much for that idea.

Fortunately, another soundtrack came to the rescue. I’ve had the theme song from The Good, The Bad And The Ugly on my radar for a while. Before I made “Waiting For Law & Order,” I considered pairing it with “Outside” by Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding, but the verses would have been too long. Fortunately, the verses in “Hollaback” fit quite nicely.

GBB 500
Photo credit: Ian Ransley (CC BY 2.0, image modified from original)

Download: CLEAN | DIRTY