Entries from August 2004

Painting with Sound

You’ve probably played “the hypothetical game” with friends way back when you were kicking it, high school-style. No doubt you were lying out on some cool, freshly cut grass with the stars twinkling overhead, a bottle of illegitimately procured alcohol beside you, and The Cure’s “A Night Like This” reverberating from a car parked nearby, when the person you were with asked:

If you had to lose one sense, which one would it be: taste, smell, touch, sight, or hearing?

This question would always provoke a deep contemplation on what life would be like with part of the sensory spectrum removed. For me, a life without a sense of taste or smell would be disastrous, but a life without the ability to hear would be unbearable.

oldEarsSound was ever-present at home. As a kid, I was brought up enveloped in the routine of music lessons (accordian, organ, piano, school band, etc.), as were my sister and brothers. I remember basking in the cacophony that were the stereo wars my two older brothers waged; punk rock and new wave vs. arena schlock and early 80’s guitar posturing. Upstairs, my father played crooners, 60’s lounge music, and a seemingly neverending stream of classic music to help inspire our piano playing.

No doubt because of this, my favourite art is sound-based. Music (the playing of and listening to) has played a huge role in my life, and to this day if I’m feeling stressed out or melancholy, plucking an acoustic guitar or listening to a choice album always helps. Playing music is what helped define who I felt I was in my late teens and earlier twenties. I won’t allow myself to stoop to rampant cliché (too late), but I don’t know what I would have done without music then. Music doth soothe the savage beast, indeed.

Sound fascinates me. I’m especially fascinated by animals and people with highly attuned senses of hearing, like the blind person who can tell who is approaching by the sound of their walk, or my cats, who ignore the sounds of anyone else opening the main door of our building, but leap to attention when some secret auditory signal tells them that Renée has just opened the door.

The idea of sound, and the act of actually listening to and absorbing the sounds you are hearing, are what opens up the possibilities of existence. This, even more so than seeing, allows you to truly connect with the act of living. Between experiences and memory is sound.

This post was inspired by the discovery this afternoon of The Quiet American’s One-Minute Vacation, which describes itself as:

“Surely you can spare a minute to clean your ears? Take a one-minute vacation from the life you are living.

One-minute vacations are unedited recordings of somewhere, somewhen. Sixty seconds of something else. Sixty seconds to be someone else.”

My answer to that hypothetical question posed so long ago? “Anything, as long as it wasn’t the ability to hear.”

Stupidity tries / The Nerd Rides Again

hemsley(With apologies to Sherman Hemsley, who is neither stupid nor a nerd.)

I must be scraping the bottom of the intellectual barrel these days, as lately I've been chock-a-block full of completely asshat decisions. I was really giving myself a serious self-beating today ("Yooooou eeedeeeot!") until I realized that with the end of school, the move, and all of the craziness of getting settled here, I've been going basically full-tilt since September 2003. I suppose that's some kind of excuse... <cough> <cough>

I need to figure out how to relax again. The fact that I have to "figure" that out in the first place is incredibly sad.

The good news is that our stuff finally arrived from AMJ Campbell (warning: gratuitous usage of flash and the Jefferson's theme song), and we're going to be getting a deduction from the cost of our move, which was very much expected. If I had only known what I was getting into...

It's very, very difficult to find good, accurate moving information online, which I think is bizarre, considering how stressful moving can be. To help alleviate this (and add my moving experience to the collective intelligence), I'll be writing a much more thorough review of AMJ Campbell very soon. I'll summarize it here for you now, though: great foot soldiers (the moving guys), poor internal communication, crap transport, and overall not a nightmare, but way more stressful than it needed to be.

Idiots-Are-Running-Wild-In-The-Big-City moment: I actually saw a guy riding a Segway a couple of days ago. Boy, it's no surprise that the Segway hasn't been the runaway hit everyone was expecting: it makes any rider look like the biggest dork on wheels. It fairly screams out, "I HAVE NO SEX LIFE AND THIS ISN'T HELPING".

The fact that the rider in question was already a nerd of epic proportions means that I had to shield my eyes, having allowed myself to gaze upon DAS MAXI-NERD. I proceeded to fall over and had a sudden craving to play a spirited game of Dungeons & Dragons right on the spot. "I can't be a nerd - I have 18 Charisma!"

Okay, enough of that. Sleep make stupid man go away.

Moving company reviews

PLEASE NOTE: If you post a review of a company, you must leave an email and your REAL name so I can confirm that you really are leaving a legitimate review. All reviews from now on that do not have an email and name attached to them will be deleted.

One thing that has kind of surprised me is how there doesn’t seem to be any resources online for Canadian moving company reviews. For an experience which often can end up being one of the more high-stress episodes in anyone’s life, you would think moving would be something people would research the crap out of.

(Note: I’m currently trying to find a Toronto-based moving company for a local move, so if you have any recommendations or companies to avoid, post ‘em in the comments, or email me. Thanks!)

Sure, there’s epinions.com’s list of moving companies, but it consists of mostly U.S. companies, and I don’t know how the quality differs between companies that have a continental presence (i.e. Atlas / Allied / North American / United Van Lines). I spent a bit of time digging through Usenet, which was a gigantic waste of time (quelle surprise), and also googling specific companies looking for reviews, but had no luck finding much. Even the trusty Canadian Better Business Bureau didn’t have a lot of information, and what was there was incomplete and sketchy at best.

Heck, there’s sites online which have reviews of ISPs, reviews of Web hosting companies, reviews of guitars and basses, even reviews of yarn for knitters - why no moving companies? Maybe my Google-Fu isn’t as merciless as I thought it was, or maybe it’s only me that thinks there should be reviews of stuff like this online…

Update - December 23rd, 2005

Seeing how this entry is the fourth listing for Google searches on moving company reviews I suppose I should post a quick update on who I ended up using.

For our move from Winnipeg to Toronto we went with AMJ Campbell. Their service was, in a word, underwhelming. Our stuff was over ten days late - it all didn’t even leave Winnipeg until seven days after their estimated delivery date.

It all arrived for the most part in one piece, but the fact that we had to do with an inflatable mattress, a yoga mat, and various bits of kitchen stuff for a total of over two weeks was pretty sad. We did end up getting reimbursed for the late time (around $600 off of our appr. $2800 moving bill) but that doesn’t make me want to use their services again in the future.

Once we got to Toronto we actually moved again to our present apartment, and that move was much, much smoother. We used a local company called Emerald Moving and Storage that were recommended to us by friends, and they were great.

I posted a bit about the move here. Overall it went really well, and I’d hire them if we ever moved again in the GTA.

Yet another update, Feb 27, 2008

It astounds me that people are still commenting on this entry, especially considering that the original post is over three years old. Turns out that this entry is the #1 Google result for moving company reviews Canada. Oh, that’s why.

I wanted to post an addendum as we moved (again) last March in the GTA. We ended up using Tippet Richardson based on a couple of word-of-mouth recommendations and they were very good.

(Aside: their web site is horrible, though - I keep getting their “you must have flash installed” landing page even though yes, I have flash installed. Turns out you only need flash to view a completely useless flash intro video. The above links past that into their non-flash web site.)

The initial estimate was done by a guy who literally breezed through our place in seemingly record time, but in the end their price was fairly comparable to what we had received from other companies.

On moving day, they sent out a massive truck with three guys who proceeded to pack everything from our apartment in equally speedy time, with no breakages or accidents. One of the guys was this short dude who could carry three completely full boxes of books in a single trip - very impressive.

All told the initial estimate was for six hours of move time, and the guys ended up finishing in under three. My one small quibble was that they charged us for some packing as there were some small bits and pieces that we forgot to pack initially — it would have been nice to have received a warning that there was going to be an extra charge.

Overall, though, big thumbs up.

I’m starting to wonder if I should set up a small discussion forum at this location - it seems like there is a lot of back and forth discussion here that’s getting lost in the sprawling comments thread. Hm.

Soda Pop and Graphic Design

guaranaI’m a sucker for a bunch of things, and one of them is soda pop from other countries. If I wanted to be all pretentious and self-serving, I’d say that this fascination stems from how “pop” is deeply woven into the mainstream of most cultures, and by drinking popular beverages from other cultures, I’m getting a part of that experience, albeit second-hand.

But I won’t be pretentious. The truth is that there’s way more variety in tastes and flavours from exotic pops than most North American ones, which tend to taste like liquified dust or syrupy, “HEY MAN, YOU’RE DRINKING ME!” sugar explosions.

Not international pop - it tastes good, man! Well, many of them do, though I haven’t had the privilege of trying Pocari Sweat yet. Maybe one day when I’m feeling daring.

Another thing that I really like about foreign soda is that they often have had some of the best poster art and graphic design attached to them throughout the years. Coca-Cola has had some great visuals in the past too, but the stuff tastes like crap so it doesn’t count here. smile

(Trivial note: The “Cola” in Coca-Cola comes from the Kola fruit, which was mixed with flavouring from the coca leaf to create the original taste of Coke. So Coke used to be a kind of fruit drink, though I highly doubt it tastes anything near what it used to taste like.)

» Soda Pop and Graphic Design continues...

If everyone wants you,
why isn’t anyone calling?

Laura Branigan Dies So much for the move back to Toronto kick-starting my webblogging mojo. It’s funny - I’ve had lots of ideas for posts pop into my head lately, but I just haven’t had the inclination to post here as much as usual. Yeah, I know I suck.

I’m constantly amazed by the incredible multi-culturalness of this city. Today Renée and I went down to walk around our so-to-be new neighbourhood (yes, we’re moving again: I ♥ masochism) - High Park and Bloor West Village. There’s tons of Polish and Ukrainian people that live there, and lots of great little ethnic shops and restaurants.

There was a street festival on today, with the requisite ferris wheel creaking away softly, while dishevelled carnies lurking behind plush Spongebob Squarepants dolls waiting to be won by some pasty. A ruddy-faced man sang loud songs in a robust Ukrainian as a smiling companion sawed away on an accordion, and Renée and I feasted on pierogi and cabbage rolls as people of countless nationalities walked by. The food reminded us of Winnipeg.

I’m almost shocked by this feeling of quiet patriotism that I sometimes feel, but I am unashamed to say that I am proud to be Canadian. Days like today when the beautiful sight of countless nationalities all together and enjoying each other's company just reaffirm this to me.

Rest in peace, Laura Branigan.

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