Friday, May 30

Now Downtown Daily

Reason I should learn to bring my own lunch to my new downtown office #47:

Quiche should not have a consistency that could be described by the word "bouncy".

Sunday, May 25

I'm Your Man

So last night's performance at Meow Mix at Sala Rossa went over quite well with the audience, but on reviewing this video, my impressions from on stage were confirmed. We couldn't hear ourselves. And it sounds like we can't. And one of the mikes is much louder than the others, which means the whole barber's shop feel gets a bit lost. And half of us forget half the choreography at any given moment. And for some reason they didn't use much lighting (possibly best that way, though...)
Still, not bad for my Drag Debut and considering we had about 4 hours rehearsal together, in total.
So here we are: The Men of Maha singing Leonard Cohen's I'm Your Man
(I got a friend to film this on my new toy - it's a phone! no, a computer! no, a camera... It's an N95! I'm rather impressed with the video quality, at least)

UPDATE: Ok, so I just watched it one more time, and it's not so bad really. We did alright. At least in some parts!

Keyed Up

For someone who is essentially homeless at the moment, I have a ridiculous number of keys in my pocket. I have:
Marie-Eve's keys (where I was living for the last 3 months - I will return them soon)
Shane's keys (Where I am catsitting until tomorrow)
Emily's key's (Where I may move to tomorrow, and where most of my stuff is)
Eileen's keys (the other place I may live in for the next couple of weeks)
The DIRA keys (so I can open up for marching band practice tomorrow)
The Office keys (although the office moved this weekend, I still have to go back there to collect the mail)
That's a total of 12 keys. For a while today I had the new office keys too, but I gave them back.

Off now to get ready for tonight's performance of "I'm Your Man" - in four part harmony and drag. Pics and maybe even video will be posted when I can.

Saturday, May 24

Can You Hear Me?

Remember way back in the early days of long distance telephony when 'trunk calls' were mostly about delayed responses, "Are you there?", "What time is it with you?" and "I can hear you, can you hear me?" ? (ok, so I don't actually remember these days, but I've heard about them)
Well, thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can relive these experiences on a regular basis.
I love Skype. I use it a lot, both for voice and text. It has, in some places I've lived, been my main or only telephone. But when I'm living or staying in places with less-than-perfect net connections, I get to experience all the historical/hysterical joys and frustrations of the old-fashioned trunk call.
Lucky me.

For Macaronic Ecdysiasts with Glossitis...

I don't know about the rice donation thing, but I am currently obsessed with this vocabulary game.

Help end world hunger

My best level so far: 50!

Saturday, May 17

Tonight's entertainment....

Including a friend's band called "Please Don't Put Charles On The Money ('cos he's even uglier than we are)" (apologies if I got that wrong, but you get the gist...)
And tomorrow - the Choeur Maha Yard Sale, followed by the anarchist bookfair, at which the marching band is planning to play, randomly.

Monday, May 12

Stretching my hitching wings

I haven't hitched much in the last year or two. The summer of 2006 that I spent hitching around spain and surrounding countries seems a long time ago. And this North America jaunt has been all about vans and rideshares and buses instead. But a month or so back, after a couple of nights spent in a cabin in the Laurentian mountains near here, Telyn and I found that we had a choice of either getting a bus at crack of dawn (erk) or late in the evening, or of hitching the 10km or so to the next town for an afternoon bus. Which is what we did. It was a near thing, as we ended up arriving just 15 minutes before our bus, but it felt so good to be back on the side of the road with my thumb out, and I realised I had really missed this form of transport.

So, when we went to Quebec city last week, we caught the bus there, (a marching band gig prevented us from leaving until late afternoon, so the bus was expedient), but decided to hitchhike back. And it was brilliant.
By the time we got to the place we had chosen to start from, it was about 5pm, but we figured traffic might get us a lift all the way, but then accepted a short distance lift to start with. This was probably a mistake, as it left us in the middle of a maze of highways and on and off ramps that was certainly not a good place to be a pedestrian and where there was no chance of anyone being able to stop. It also probably ruined our chances of one ride all the way. But it meant we got to have adventures instead, which is the whole point of hitching!
We ended up climbing a fence and walking a couple of kilometres through Parc des Chutes-de-la-Chaudière - a lovely waterfall park with a great suspension bridge - until we got to the gas station we had seen in the distance an hour earlier.
20 minutes there, and we were picked up by someone who turned out to be Elvis Presley's wife's cousin. And Elvis Presley's wife's cousin's wife. He even showed us his drivers licence to confirm that his name was indeed Beaulieu (although a quick look on wikipedia tells me that was actually Priscilla's stepdad's name, but close enough!). and hour and a half of non stop Presley songs (but not the slow ones, or he'll fall asleep!) and brush-with-fame anecdotes later (delivered in quebecois thick enough to make me only get about half of it) they got us to sign their newest Elvis album cover and dropped us off in Drummondville.
We were still looking for a good place to stand when we got picked up again, dropped off 20 entertaining minutes later, by which time it was getting disturbingly dark for hitching on the side of the road, but we persevered anyway, standing under the highway lights and trying to be as visible as possible. The next ride was a sleek black vehicle with two guys who didn't say much, but drove ridiculously fast. A glance at the speedo reassured me, until I realised it was in miles, not kilometers! We were only in that car 10 mins or so, but we covered quite a lot of ground! Then finally, a nice man originally from Morocco, and with an easily comprehensible french-french accent (finally!) picked us up and took us all the way to a metro station in Montreal. The whole trip took under 5 hours, which isn't bad, considering the bus is at least 3!

The adventure didn't quite stop there though. Before getting on the metro we decided to get some food, and, despite being on a side of town to which I had never before ventured, ran into some acquaintances of Telyn's who spent the next hour telling us all about their roller derby league! Educational, it was!
I arrived home utterly exhausted, but very happy with our hitching adventures! My next chance will probably be in the UK next month, and I'm already looking forward to it!

Sunday, May 11

Like a little worm in an apple...

Originally uploaded by Ptraci
Subcollisions is my new favourite band. I found them through Willow Rutherford, who performed as part of our Maha concerts a month ago, and who is seen here playing her accordion. I saw them in a brilliant performance at Sala Rossa last week, and in a slightly less good performance last Friday night (due to venue and sound problems, I think). Idiosyncratic songs, a drummer who stamps his feet on the stage in lieu of a bass drum, a trombone, a saw, a banjo, an upright bass, a charismatic singer... all brilliant really. Pity they don't have a cd yet!
But you can hear them here, at least.

Saturday, May 10

Quebec City

Quebec City was lovely. Like being in Europe. I had lot's of "this feels like Edinburgh" moments, strangely enough, but then I'd turn a coner and feel I was in France, or one of England's walled cities. And this promenade reminded me of Nice, despite the lack of beach. The whole place was very pictureskew, really. Click on the pic for more.

Wednesday, May 7


1. Mathelicious!

2. Social Networking Wars.

Sunday, May 4

The May First March

The marching band (at least some of us) played for the May 1st March the other day. A march/protest that the police apparently don't much like...

We were just marching along, playing our music, waving our banners in support of worker's rights etc, and then suddenly there was a whole battalion of riot police behind us, banging their shields (and not in time to the music!) and saying something incomprehensible that may have been about the march being illegal. And then they were running. So the marching band also started running, somehow without stopping playing. The band made it to the sidewalk, and there was this whole tense standoff moment between the police and the protesters, with us sort of between them but on the side, looking down the no-man's land between them. So we started playing again. And somehow the situation didn't turn ugly. Well, not very ugly. There were a few scuffles, and some sort of gas from the police that we thought was going to be tear gas (shut your eyes and keep playing as long as you can) but turned out to be some sort of stinky gas that didn't affect our eyes or airways much at all. It seems the police are using stink bombs...
So we just kept playing, and the police backed off. I think we played an important part there. It seems that if the band is still playing, the mood stays more festive than tense. I think it might calm people down - both cops and protesters, and defuse the situation a bit. And then later, one of the protesters passed us and said how surreal and amazing it had been to be running from police, and hearing the music still going - and hearing it run along beside them! Our strategy of not stopping playing is a good one, I think.
Anyway, after the second time we nearly got run over by running, yelling cops, and once again used our strategy of running to the sidewalk and letting them go past (I believe that our instruments and music mean that we are not targets - it wouldn't look good if the cops beat up or arrested the band!) we got separated from the protest, which I think got uglier, so it's probably just as well we didn't go to find it again. We roamed the streets playing randomly instead, which is always fun!

Saturday, May 3

prolific performances

I never reviewed our Maha concerts from a couple of weeks ago, but they were great - at least the Saturday one was. Friday felt a little shakey in places... The venue, which we had had enormous troubles finding, was brilliant in the end - a blank canvas of a loft space that we decorated and lit with lamps brought from our houses and as much greenery as we could muster, both plastic and plant. And we certainly had the numbers - both nights had people sitting on the floor as we didn't have enough chairs! The pictures and a few little videos are here.

I've performed since then, too. The group of us who did the Quebecois folk song Ziguezon took it to a bar that has a traditional music jam last tuesday, a far noisier venue than we were used to, but it still went down pretty well, I think. We did Mouth Music too, while we had the floor, which is an Irish traditional piece that the whole choir had sung at our concerts. And were asked for more, but that was pretty much the end of our traditional repertoire!

And earlier the same evening a bunch of Maha members had met in a (rather beautiful) recording studio to record some backing vocals for friends of one of our members, which was also a fun experience!

And then my other small-group piece, Leonard Cohen's I'm Your Man has been invited to perform at a show in a couple of weeks too. We're going to work on making it a little more dramatic (or maybe drag-atic), but the singing is fantastic as is. We ended up with a lovely arrangement for it - rather barber's shoppy in places, which is great. And I sing the tenor line, basically, which has lots of lovely tenor-y notes.

And finally, the marching band continues to perform reguarly - I can even play a few of the songs without reading the music lately. I still make a lot of it up, though... But I did get to perform on bassoon in a small gig we did for the Rhizome a week or two back! I was organising the gig (playing on the street isn't so hard to organise, really) to help support my Rhizome friends who have been having some neo-nazi type hassling in their area. I decided we had enough people available to do the gig, but realised that there wasn't a single bass instrument among them. So I borrowed Telyn's bassoon, printed out what I could of the music, and spent 15 mins before the gig remembering fingerings and reading through the pieces. For the actual gig I pinned the music to our drummer's back, and lurked behind him to read it. A little silly, but it worked! And I had so much fun playing the bass lines!

We also played for the May 1st march the other day - I'll blog that separately. And tomorrow we march with the "Solidarity Across Borders - Status for All" march in support of immigrants rights. This is the march the band was born for, two years ago, so we're making it a festive brithday march, too! It should be fun.

And then straight after that, I'm off to Quebec city for a couple of days of exploring.

So yay for performance opportunities! And this town seems to provide many of them! *Sigh*. I like Montreal!

International Tuba Day!

Did you know that today is International Tuba Day? No? Well, why not?
It was. And in celebration, a few marching band members decided to surprise-serenade our tuba-player, Cathy, bringing her tuba with us so that she could join in!
Despite some problems in actually finding her to seranade (we missed her by less than 5 mins at the first rendezvous point, it seems!) we managed in the end, and she was appropriately surprised and pleased. We then spent the next couple of hours wandering around the streets of Mile End playing randomly in the streets and parks and train yards, and then having lunch and beer while sitting in the sun.
Such a nice way to celebrate this important international day!