Archive for January 26th, 2009

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Music Review: The Urbane Decay

January 26, 2009

Once in a while, someone enters your orbit who makes you wish you’d worked harder at making music, writing, painting and taking photos. And when I say “you,” I mean “me.”

This is because of this guy Jakob, whose new album, One True Soul, has just come out. It would be bearable if all he did was make great music at a prodigious rate, like a Canadian version of Prince (but with glasses). It might even be bearable if he also excelled at one other thing, like writing, or photography. But no, the Toronto-based Jakob really is Canada’s King of All Media. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, you should.

Enough of my petty jealousy issues …

I was really surprised by One True Soul. I was expecting some kind of buzzy lo-fi shoegazathon. But Jakob, who appeared with me on the Big Bad Hair show a couple of weeks back, has crafted a remarkable recording that manages to pump out some serious energy without ever being big, loud or fast. And I like that. I like music that makes you stop what you’re doing so you can just soak it up, take in its subtle energy.

There are some elements of 80s gloom-pop roaming around these songs. I hear Smiths, I hear Cure. But it isn’t blatant, and those elements weave their way in and out of the songs gently and effectively. There is some trace of “shoegazing” here — it’s a word I actually don’t like, now that I’ve used it again — but if you’re expecting a depressorama, this isn’t it. The songs — Chinese Astrology, I Just Don’t Feel It and Done With Crazy are among my favourites — are short, smart and solid.

Jakob’s Urbane Decay made this record at the same time he was producing brilliant books, gorgeous art, frosty photos, two funky podcasts and maybe even a day job. The man is a media machine … he can come up with brilliant concepts in the course of a three-station subway ride, and I admire that to no end. That kind of balancing act can lead to mediocre output if an artist is stretched too thin, but that’s not an issue here. I have come to the conclusion that he just does not sleep.

There are thousands of CDs in my home. This one, this week, is at the top of the heap, and has been playing steadily.

Jakob’s world can be found here.

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Starbase 66: The Latest Epic

January 26, 2009

The galaxy’s newest Star Trek and science fiction podcast is back. This week Rick, Karen and I look at the life and legacy of Ricardo Montalban and one of Star Trek’s most memorable characters, Khan Noonien Singh. And also Mr. Roarke.

A new segment, Pando Ro’s Boxes, offers a look at Karen’s very cool collection of memorabilia, and we go through listener mail.

At the Admiral’s Table, there’s an exclusive interview with leading podcaster and Star Trek fan Richard Smith. There is also mention of Buck Rogers and I probably made some bad jokes.

In other news, there are a few place to find us online.

We’re loving all the feedback — keep it coming, and we’ll read it on the air.

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Why Your Phone Rang During Dinner

January 26, 2009

I got two phone calls today, one on my mobile, one on my landline. And both were recordings that sounded like this: “This is your final warning. Your automotive warranty is close to expiry. Do not risk driving without a warranty. Press 1 for …” I pressed “hang up” instead.

This is the latest phone scam making the rounds here in Canada. It’s wonderfully stupid, but still, a lot of people fall for it. After all, who doesn’t worry about the warranty on their car?

A few months back, Canada introduced a national Do Not Call registry. It’s fairly simple. If you don’t want these dinner-time calls from telemarketers, you register your name and number on the list. If a telemarketer calls you, they can be subjected to a $15,000 fine.

Sounds great, right? But it isn’t. It has gone terribly wrong, and here’s how it happened.

  • The government introduced the Do Not Call registry
  • People were urged to sign up, via phone or Internet.
  • Phone numbers are listed on a DNC master registry.
  • Telemarketing firms are required, by law, to purchase this list and refer to it before making any calls.
  • Telemarketers calling a number on the list are subject to a fine.

While all that looks good on paper, and is actually how the program was sold to voters, it instead has turned into an aural mess. Here’s what happened at the telemarketers’ end:

  • Telemarketing firms paid their money and received their lists of numbers they can’t call.
  • Telemarketing firms realized they have just bought millions of active phone numbers.
  • Telemarketing firms realized they tend to be based offshore and overseas, so it will be tough for the Canadian government to ever get around to issuing fines or even knowing who they are.
  • Telemarketing firms hired new employees and began bombarding Canadian homes with calls … because they have your number now, and they don’t care if you complain.

Here’s an actual newspaper article about it.

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