Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Con aquistions

For the second time in in two years I'm just back from the Emerald City Comic Con. I had so much fun in 2017 that I immediately began making plans to go back. There are a lot of perks to that con....Seattle is a great city, it's a four-day con so it's worth the work to get to it, a break from Nunavut in March is always nice....plus it's just a great con. It's big, but not insane like New York has become. And they work hard on their artist alley to make it diverse. So it's not just white guys selling art. There's lots of women, POC, GLBTQ and artists just getting started so this kind of con is a big break for them.

Some may go to ECCC for the cosplay, or the gaming section, the show floor and the endless supply of Funko toys (so, so much Funko at this show. Dear god....), but I live for a good artist alley. I don't normally post this kind of thing up. It feels like bragging, which I guess it is, but I have all this cool art and can't really show it to anyone. Cathy will certainly nod and make appreciative noises, but she doesn't love this stuff like I do. Which is fine. She has her things as well....

I might have gone a little overboard. But I always do. So here's the artwork I got, along with a bit of information about the artist. If you like the art, I really encourage you to go and track down the artists. They often have all kinds of things you can buy...original art, t-shirts, pins, prints, etc.



After a couple of false starts, my first commission was from Valentine Barker. Absolutely go and check out his site for some of the awesome "....Like a Girl" prints and t-shirts he has for sale. My niece may be getting a few things from him for her birthday. I often hem and haw about what I'm going to ask an artist to draw. It's why I've started carrying a list on my phone. However, Ms. Marvel was a pretty obvious choice for Valentine and he did a spectacular job.



Phillip Nguyen was a spur of the moment commission. I was walking past his table and saw the prints he had there and started chatting with him. He had a particularly nice Batgirl when she was Stephanie Brown and I asked if he could draw her. He turned this about in about two hours. 



One of the funnier interactions I had getting a commission from the con was with Brianna Garcia. I carry a list of characters on my phone that I would like to see get drawn and ask the artist if they have a preference. When Brianna saw Holtzmann from the last Ghostbusters movie (I loved that movie. Fuck fanboys who hated it because it had women as the leads) on the list she got super excited and really, really, really wanted to draw her. Always have a list, just for this reason.



Jim Zub is the co-creator of the Inuk super hero Snowguard and it was absolutely a priority for me to get a sketch of her when I was in Seattle. Jim mostly writes these days, but as you can see, he's still a damn good artist. He was deeply reluctant to draw her for me. As he flipped through my sketchbook he was horrified I wanted his art in my book because he didn't think he was good enough. Which is ridiculous because it's a fantastic sketch and I'm thrilled I got it.

Just in case you ever doubt your skills, realize that some of the very best in the business still don't think they're good enough. I also can't say enough nice things about Jim. Had a great chat with him about how important Snowguard is and to keep fighting for appearances for her. He also signed a ton of comics for me, which was kind of him.



Michael Cho is one of the hottest and best artists in the business. He was the first table I went to at the con. By the time I got to it there was already three people in front of me. He draws everything well, but since he was only doing headshots I wanted something unique. Batwoman was, I think you'll agree, a pretty good choice.



Steve Lieber is one of those artists that everyone in the comic industry admires not just because he's good, but because he's also pretty smart about the industry and what it takes to put together a good comic. He's drawn just about everyone at some point. I first remember discovering him reading the excellent Whiteout which he drew and Greg Rucka wrote (ignore the awful movie). Recently he was drawing the pretty damn funny The Fix. He also drew Hawkworld many moons ago, so I asked for this Hawkgirl. I think he drew this in an hour. 

Artists are freaky, man.


Terry Dodson is one of my absolute favourite artists. Two years ago at ECCC in Seattle he drew a beautiful Princess Leia. This time I hit him up for a Bombshell Batgirl (DC's Bombshells are a significant weakness of mine. I love the costume design). If you look closely you can see a page torn out of the book (this was a new book I was starting). He started drawing, hated it, tore the page out and started over. 

"It was technically fine, but there was no fun in it. So it had to go." I'm pretty damn happy with results.



Lynne Yoshii is one of those artists I really didn't know too much about until I walked past her table, did a double take and asked if she was taking on any commissions. It was late Saturday, so I was pretty lucky she was. She scrolled down my list and settled on Bombshell Harley Quinn. This was the sketch that made me decide I was finished at ECCC. I picked this up Sunday morning, decided it wasn't going to be topped and stopped asking artists for commissions. Because I'm evil, when I go to the next con and an artist is flipping through my sketchbook, this is the last piece I want them to see before they start drawing. Because artists are competitive. Go ahead. Top this.


I tried very hard to focus on sketches at ECCC simply because I have no wall space left. However, my will power is for shit. I also bought several other pages of art. Now I have to find homes for them.


Some of you may recall the Bruce Willis movie Red that came out in 2010. It was originally based on a comic by Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner. The movie and comic have very little to do with one another. I believe Ellis once said the movie would have been 20 minutes long if based only on the comic. I love the movie, but it's its own thing. The comic is one of those things that looks effortless and slight until you dig into it and see everything that's going on. Hamner is a large part of the reason why it's great.

I actually bought this before the con and picked it up there. Hamner was apparently cleaning up and found a bunch of pages from the series. Which is hilarious. I took this page out at another table when putting something away and other artists wanted to look at it and were in awe I managed to get a page. It is a masterclass in graphic story telling.



I am, I admit, slightly obsessed with Snowguard. I desperately wanted a page of original art with her in it. The problem is that most of the artists that have drawn her so far work digitally. This was especially frustrating when Marcus To did the recent Champions annual that focussed on her. Fortunately Max Dunbar did a recent story arc where the team visited Weirdworld and became fantasy character versions of themselves. This was an easy page to pick. Snowguard, Ms. Marvel, Brawn, Wasp and Man-Things. All good stuff.

Aside from being a great artist, Max is one of the nicest, most chill guys you'll meet.



This page was a bit of an ooops. I was waiting to get Aaron Lopestri to sign a copy of the Wonder Woman/Conan book he did with Gail Simone, but he talking to someone. So I started flipping through his portfolio. sigh....Not a splashy action page, but a nice quiet character moment between Conan and Wonder Woman. I also got Simone to sign it and she spent a few moments appreciating the page and singing Aaron's praises. Justifiably.



One of the cool things ECCC does each year is put together an art book called "Monsters and Dames" with all proceeds going towards a children's hospital in Seattle. It's a good cause and there's normally huge demand to get into the book even though artists aren't paid for it. One thing many people, including myself, then do is walk around Artist Alley and get the book signed by everyone. It's fun, you get to chat to the artists and sometimes pick up something from someone whose table you might have ordinarily walked past. But everyone understands you can't buy something from every table. There are 80 pieces of art in the book.

This page, by Ryan Fisher, was one of the ones in the book. I hit his table early Saturday morning and while he was signing the book I noticed he had the original piece of art on the table. I'm always going to have a weakness for cute magicians in fishnets, but this was a cool piece and he had priced, in my opinion, a bit too low. I'm surprised it was still there on Saturday, but I'm glad it was.



Charity comic art auctions are always dangerous for me. Fun, but there's almost 100% certainty I will accidentally buy something. This Captain Marvel by Chrystal Fae was it. It was the second piece auctioned off and Captain Marvel had just opened. I liked it but thought the bidding would keep going after I raised my paddle. Nope. It's a very lovely ooops, though.



This last one I actually did gun for. I got outbid on a few pieces (always set a price in your head and stick to it, no matter how much it hurts to let it go), but this one by Chris Uminga came in less than I was ready to go, so that was nice surprise. I like Uminga's style and own a Wonder Woman figure based of his art. Also, I'm always a sucker for Ben Grimm/The Thing.

So there we go. A lot of art, but it's all lovely to look at and I got some good stories to go along with it. It's another reason I like going to cons. I buy from the artist, talk to them, get a good story or help out a good cause.

Last Five
1. Politik - Coldplay
2. Time of your life - Green Day
3. Candy - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
4. Sweet fire of love - Robbie Robertson*
5. Guest room - The National

Wednesday, November 07, 2018

A cautious return

With the mid-term elections over I'm apparently supposed to come back to social media. I have one friend on Twitter who has been eager for me to come back for my geek knowledge if nothing else (dude, seriously, we can just meet for coffee at the Black Heart or something). And I probably will dip my toes back into it.

However....

The mid-term elections in the US fundamentally changed very little in social media. It was a convenient date on a map, but I see no end in sight to the level of online toxicity. It'll be Canada's turn next year. It won't get to the horrific heights seen in the US the last few months, but it's not going to be pretty.

And today essentially kicks off the start of the 2020 US presidential campaign. Yeah. Seriously. Feel free to start weeping now.

But I do miss elements of social media, I just need to do it smarter than the last time, just for the sake of my sanity. So what's the plan?

1. Do a significant purge on Facebook and anyone who annoys me in the slightest gets blocked/muted. That's a hint at trying to be civil and respectful in the upcoming federal election. The amount of Hitler references I saw in the lead-up to the last election was disgraceful.

2. Go though my Twitter and start purging accounts that I don't need to follow anymore.

3. Set up key word blockers on Twitter, particularly for "Trump" and anything else I find along the way.

4. I'm not reinstalling either Facebook or Twitter on my phone to limit my time using it.

5. No more than 1 hour a day, combined, looking at them. That's still probably too much, but it's a place to start and we'll take it from there.

I'm kind of sorry it's had to come to this. I like interacting with friends online simply because I get to see them so rarely in person. I like getting access to random, cool information from more knowledgeable people that I might have otherwise missed. But the problem with opening the flood gates is that everything comes through and a lot of it is really not good for you.

Cathy and I resolved awhile back to cut unnecessary drama from our lives. We've done a reasonably good job of it. A friend of mine asked recently how do you do that. Well, there's a way, and it's doable, but like all things there's a cost. You eliminate the sources of the drama. Sometimes that's people, sometimes it's social media.

(For friends who haven't spoke to me in awhile, it's more likely that I suck at being a friend and reaching out when I should. My hatred of talking to most people on the phone stretches back decades.)

It's not for everybody and not everybody would want to do it or even understand why we'd want to live like that. But we like it, and we like the relative stress-free aspect of our lives. So I'll give Facebook and Twitter another go, but much more cautiously this time.

Last Five
1. Parking lots - Josh Pyke
2. She's electric - Oasis
3. The needle and the damage done (live) - Neil Young*
4. The herring song - The Flash Girls
5. Ain't it fun - Paramore

Friday, September 14, 2018

8 years, 281 days

It was about nine years ago that Cathy decided we needed a house. She was very certain on this matter.

View from the living room window.
On the other hand, I thought this was madness. I had many solid reasons for thinking so. We'd just come back from a pricey vacation in Australia for almost four weeks. I was also unemployed, with my contract with the Government of Nunavut having expired earlier the summer. And while I was sure I would get something, I didn't have anything at the moment Cathy was hatching this scheme.

Plus I didn't see the need for the place. We had a perfectly nice apartment downtown. Cathy could walk to work in minutes. All the grocery stores were nearby and it had a perfectly nice view. And it was a quiet building. No kids. So why rock the boat?

But Cathy wanted a house and went about persuading me. She was convinced we were fine on finances (indeed, the bank pre-approved us for a staggering and insane amount) and she set about keeping an eye for new places. I distinctly remember having a conversation when driving where she said "Look, if you think this is a bad idea and feel that strongly about it, we don't have to do this."

I might have only been married for four years at that point, but a little klaxon was going off in the back of my head telling me that, at all costs, do not accept this offer. This was a trap and I would be punished in ways that would not be enjoyable.

Compromises were made. At some point I think Cathy dangled letting me having a spare bedroom and converting into a den/geek space/Room of Requirement. That and the promise that we weren't going to beyond our means on a house. I thought the later point secured us from having to worry about it for quite some time. Iqaluit real estate was insane in 2009; it's only gotten worse since.

View of the house at Christmas. Cathy loves to light the
place up.
After one failed attempt and several deeply meh houses, we stumbled on one. I should emphasize the amount of dumb luck karma that went into getting this house. First, there were no building inspectors in Iqaluit at that time. So we had to do the best we could to figure out what kind of shape it was in with our deeply limited experience. The people wanted to move quickly, so the process was expedited. We first looked at the house in mid-October; we moved in on December 1.

Where did the dumb luck come in? Turns out the neighbourhood we live in - Tundra Ridge - is one of the nicer ones in town. My neighbours include a former premier, the CEO of Nunavut Tourism and the President of QIA. The house itself was built by a mad Dane back at the turn of the century and all the ones he build are known for quality and sturdiness of the construction. And other than a contractor related disaster last fall on some renovations, we haven't had any problems. Plus the views are spectacular.

So yeah, we've used some good luck on this house. Having said that, I remember in November 2009 signing my name committing to paying back what seemed like an ungodly amount of money over the next 25 years.

Except it wasn't 25 years. It was exactly 8 years and 281 days. As of September 7 we made our last mortgage payment. The house is now ours.

All ours.
(Yes, I know. I'm burying the lede. I prefer to think of as setting the scene for the payoff).

Cathy and I are phenomenally proud of this achievement. We both try not to brag much, but we've been bursting the last few weeks as we knew this day was approaching. Every two weeks we'd get a letter from RBC updating us on how much was left on our mortgage. You've never seen two people happier to be getting mail from a bank about a mortgage update.

We had help, of course. Cathy's parents kicked in a few thousand dollars when we first bought the house. Both sets of our parents installed in us an ethic to not get in over our heads financially. Bills got paid on time. We love our vacations, but they only happen after everything else is taken care of. Same with my geekery (Cathy's only bad habits, I swear, are Swatch watches and Fluevog shoes).

We've had a couple of people ask how we did it. Well, not having kids, not smoking, drinking little and not owning a ski-doo, boat, ATV or multiple cars helped too. You prioritize where you want to spend the money. Getting out from under the bank and our trips around the world were our priorities. Yours may vary.

As for what's next, we have a few things to catch up on. Cathy's laptop is about 8 years old. My desktop is 7 years old. I might get another year out of my computer, but Cathy's laptop is on death's door. We may even splurge on a new TV set. And in two years, when I turn...sigh....50, I'm taking a couple of months off work and we're going to travel to Australia (head's up, Sarah). So some reserves to pull that off will be a good idea.

And then back to saving money. It's not like we're suddenly going to be eating out every night and buying new cars or boats. It's not us. Plus, we have ambitious retirement plans. Cathy's insisting we retire to a place with palm trees. So that will take some doing.

But mainly we'll just enjoy not owing any money. I can't overstate enough how much we hate owing banks money.

Oh, and we'll be burning our mortgage at some point soon. Safely away from the house, of course. I like a little irony as much as the next person, but that would be a bit too much.

Last Five
1. Lazy bones - Joel Plaskett
2. Heart vs. doubt - Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case
3. Believe in me - Sloan
4. Old Dan Tucker - Bruce Springsteen*
5. Feud - Band of Horses


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Welcome to Ireland

So, vacation time 2018 is here. I haven’t done a great job of these little blogger journals the last couple of years and I miss them. They’re a nice reminder of what we’ve seen and done and impressions. Plus, you know, more writing is a good thing to get into the habit of.

But first, allow me to indulge in a small conspiracy.

The flight over was a slightly below par international Air Canada flight aboard an older plane with uncomfortable seats. And we were an hour late arriving. Among the many sins of Air Canada I certainly can’t get outraged over it.

But it did land us right in the middle of a flood of planes arriving in Dublin. A lot of eastern North American cities launch flights in the late evening so they arrive the next morning allowing you to save the cost of a hotel....at the price of being jetlagged out of your mind the first day you arrive. But details.

So as we’re wandering down the endless corridors of Dublin International Airport to get to customs and immigration when we walk past a sign that said it was five minutes ahead. Then, about 10 seconds later, we ran into a wall of people that didn’t move for the next 30 minutes. And then for the next hour begrudgingly crawled forward a few inches at a time.

Far be it for me to tell the Irish, well known for their efficiency, that perhaps taking a couple of hundred jetlagged people in a deeply irritable mood who want to do little more than get to a hotel room to shower and nap that this is not the best way to endear warm feelings and a desire to spend money in your country. But if there was a suggestion box at immigration I might have slipped that note in.

It got worse when you got near the front. EU citizens had been breezing past the non-EU citizens at a healthy clip during these 90 minutes. In fact, helpful immigration staff were routinely going up and down the line to rescue any that might have accidentally wandered into the wrong line. Which always buoys spirits....but only European ones.

(When one of the immigration officials checked to see if there were any wayward EU citizens in our area and asked “You’re all Americans, right?” a dozen voices sang out “No! Canadians!” Her response of “Americans, Canadians...whatever” was quickly matched by my annoyed “Irish, English....whatever”, but she didn’t hear it, much to Cathy’s relief.)

Near the front there were about eight machines which only required EU citizens to place their passport into a scanner to be admitted. A process that takes about 15 seconds. There were also four officials there to deal with the few who were EU-Ctizens but required help.

And for the hundreds of non-EU people in line waiting in line? Four people.

I mean, it’s so breaktakingly stupid that it gave me pause. When we were in Portugal last year the line was ridiculous, but it kept moving and there were about a dozen immigration agents. It took about 30 minutes to get through with more people.

And so, the conspiracy. After I saw how many agents were handing non-EU I said out loud “Jesus, is this some kind of EU ‘go fuckyourself Americans for voting for Donald Trump and giving us all migraines’ and Canadians are just caught in the crossfire?”

I uttered my conspiracy mostly for Cathy’s amusement, but then a voice behind me went “I’m from America and I was just thinking the exact same thing.”

So if you’re Canadian and travelling from North America to the EU, perhaps be prepared for a chilled welcome, no matter how many Canadian flags you have on your backpack.

Most of the rest of the first day was spent getting to the hotel, shower and napping. We did manage a wander of the area, and to hit a pub for a pint and a meal. The main wandering about will be in the next post.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Break time

After Trump won the 2016 presidential election I took a break from social media for a couple of months. The pure despair and misery on social media was simply more than I could handle. And it was a much needed break. But much like any addict there was an eventual lapse and I gave it another go.

I'm hit and miss on Facebook, to be honest. I like the vague idea of keeping in touch with friends, but it's not like I actually learn of anything going on in their lives on that site. People have learned their lesson and are much more judicious about what they say there.

And while I like Instagram, the realities of Northern internet means waiting two minutes for photos to load can quickly become annoying.

No, my major vice is Twitter. I'm an information junkie. I recall being at King's back in 1994/95 and spending hours reading news groups and my classmates thinking I was nuts. But it was information and I love knowing things. And Twitter gives you that constant flow of information. Whether it's political news, geekery, fun pics/memes, it's a constant hit of information.

But I hit my wall last weekend. Again. My social media news feeds were 90% seething rage. The rage was:

- Donald Trump
- Kids being snatched at the border
- The Red Hen story
- And, bizarrely, a woman being raked over the coals for calling the cops on an eight-year-old selling bottled water.

The start of this week hasn't calmed down much, what with the recent Supreme Court ruling in the United States. And today Justice Kennedy announcing his retirement that also means there will now be a fight over a seat on the Supreme Court. It is going to be a summer of unending, seething rage in the United States. That country is so messed up, so angry and incoherent, that if it were a patient you would commit it and give it all the drugs.

There is literally nothing I can do about this and frankly it is beginning to stress me the fuck out. I'm not thrilled with the idea of sticking my head in the sand, but I need a break. I have a perfectly lovely vacation planned for most of July. In August I have my usual "Movies Cathy Hates" marathon planned while she's in Newfoundland. I have about 30 books to read.

I have writing I've been putting off for ages. There are more useful things I can do....things that are better mentally for me, than having an online front row seat to watching the United States try to eat itself alive. Until the mid-term elections in November, most social media outlets will be unbearable. I mean, a solid third of my Twitter stream is just comic book geeks. You'd figure that would be safe, but you would be wrong.

So until that happens, I'm out of here. As of July 1 I'm off Twitter, Facebook and Instagram until November 15. Granted, no one reads this blog unless I post a link to one of those sites. So we'll see if anyone notices.

I'm sure there will be lapses. I'm hoping to go to Emerald City Comic Con next March, and registration is normally in October. So there might be some sneaking around at that time for any information. And there will always be lapses. But I won't be on it every day for what probably amounts to hours.

If you need to reach me, my email address (towniebastard (at) gmail ) will do the trick. And I'll still monitor Facebook Messenger if you really need to reach me. Plus there's this thing you can do with iPhones I've heard about. Apparently there's an app that allows you to call and speak to people. So that's a thing I could try to, I guess.

The next four months or so will be absolutely batshit crazy. Take care of yourselves, folks.

Last Five
1. The trip to pirate's cove - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
2. Fever - Neko Case
3. From Finner - Of Monsters and Men
4. Road to joy - Bright Eyes
5. Kingdom of days - Bruce Springsteen

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Geekery for sale

Once a year I go though my geek den and ask myself the sickening question...."Do I need to keep this?"

I'm a geek and a collector. Getting rid of things is never an easy choice for me. However, I have a hard limit on how much space I have for my stuff as Cathy has decreed that while I certainly can buy all the graphic novels I want (a deal she has cursed on more than once), she has also decreed that the geekery cannot escape the room. And since my geekery has expanded beyond graphic novels to include Lego, figurines and original artwork, well, space is at a premium. So what's the sense of holding onto books or toys that I no longer need.

I should mention that most of the graphic novels are fine, just not my thing. The comic publisher Image, in particular, does this marvelous thing of offering up Volume 1 of most of their trade paperbacks at a low price. So you can try it out and if you like it, great and you will pay regular price for all future volumes. If not, you're out a few bucks.

I mention all of this because I'm going to list a bunch of graphic novels I have for sale. This is primarily for Iqaluit geeks....I can just link to this post from Twitter. But if you're abroad and see something you desperately want, and are willing to pay shipping, I'm sure we can work out an arrangement.

If you're local, DM me on Twitter is the best way. Or email me at towniebastard at gmail dot com.

Happy hunting....


All-Star Superman (Morrison/Quietly) Vol 1 and 2 (HC - sold as set. Contains #1-12) - $15
Transmetropolitan (Ellis/Robertson) Vol. 1-10 (sold as set) - $50

Magneto (Bunn/Walta) Vol. 1 and 2 (sold as set) - $8
Strange Tales (Various) HC - $5
Gotham Academy (Cloonan/Fletcher/Kerschul) Vol. 1 and 2 (sold as set) - $8
Shade, the Changing Girl (Castellucci) Vol. 1 - $4
Justice League: A League of One (Moeller) - $4

Low (Reminder/Tocchini) (sold as set) Vol. 1-2, $8
Jonsey (Humphries/Boyle) Vol. 1 - $2 (slight damage)
Ghost (DeConnick/Noto) Vol. 1 - $4
Tokyo Ghost (Reminder/Murphy) – Vol. 1 - $4
Mythic (Hester/McCrea) Vol. 1 - $4
Mara (Wood/Doyle) Vol. 1 - $4
Shutter (Keatinge/Del Duca) Vol. 1 - $4
No Mercy (De Campi/McNeil) Vol. 1 - $4 (signed)
Letter 44 (Soule/Alburquerque) Vol. 1 - $4
Black Magick (Rucka/Scott) Vol. 1 - $4
The Discipline (Milligan/Ferandez) - $4
Doctor Who: The Four Doctors (Cornell/Edwards) - $4
Bounty (Weibe/Lee) Vol. 1 - $4
Rockstars (Harris/Hutchinson) Vol. 1 - $4
Josie and the Pussycats (Bennett/Deordio) Vol. 1 - $4
Outcast (Kirkman/Azaceta) Vol. 1 - $4
Flutter (Wood) - $4
CSI: Dying in the Gutters (Grant/Mooney) - $2

Kids
Polly and the Pirates (Naifeh/Rodriguez) Vol. 1-2 - $4
Courtney Crummin series (Naifeh) Vol. 1-4 - $8
Newprints (Xi) - $2 (signed)

Toys
Rhino (Funko Pop. Still in box. Never open) - $5
Black Panther (Funko Wobbler) - $3
Thanos with Sanctuary II (Giant bloody Funko Pop. Limited edition)  - $25
Avengers: Infinity War heat changing mug - $3
C3PO Snapback hat (Funko) - $3
Spider-man snapback hat (Funko) - $3

Random assortment of figures (Batgirl, Wonder Woman, Buffy,  Mr. Freeze, Captain Marvel, etc) - $1-5 each. Not in package.

Monday, May 07, 2018

25 years after Guyville

My iPod currently holds 13,372 songs. And while I love music and I'm constantly poking around looking for new stuff, I confess I've gotten into a bad habit. I tend to buy albums, throw them on my iPod and then hit shuffle.

Now, I love the shuffle function. I've never been much one for creating playlists unless it's something to play at the gym. I like being surprised by the next song. It's a little radio station of songs I like. And yes, I know there's streaming. You understand I live in Iqaluit, the land where Internet comes to die, right?

I love my iPod Classic. It's a miraculous black slab of music. When Apple idiotically discontinued them, I immediately went out and bought another one as a back-up. I'm still on the first one and it's still working. I can't even tell you how many years I've had at at this point. The Classic was discontinued in 2014 and I've had that one a couple of years before that. I use it pretty much every day, either in a Bose station at home or sitting on my desk at work with my noise cancelling headphones.

But as much as I love it, I get lazy with it. I rarely, very rarely, listen to an album from start to finish anymore. I can buy a new album and it can be months before I go "huh, I don't recognize that song" and then check to see it was something I bought 6 months earlier. I kinda miss that. At the very least I should get back into the habit of listening to an album a few times before it gets lost in permanent shuffle.

I'm rambling about this because there are only a handful of albums I can remember where I was the first time I heard them. Transformative albums. Many, many years ago I used to be Entertainment Editor of the Muse, which meant dispersing music. A lot of it was crap, but every now and then you'd hit gold. Pretty sure I gave Nevermind by Nirvana to someone to review. I can't remember if they actually did. Giving away the music was easy; getting the reviews back required a hefty amount of death threats.

I recall giving the cassette (they were almost always cassettes. CDs were too expensive to waste on student newspapers) Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos to my friend Jaap. He came into the office the next day, dragged me into an office and made me listen to the tape on a battered ghetto blaster, proclaiming it was of the greatest things he'd ever heard.

(Jaap would probably say it still is one of the greatest things he'd ever heard. I wouldn't argue with him. It's a remarkable album).

Picking up An Irish Evening by the Chieftains at a college radio remainder sale in Halifax in 1994 and listening to it so much my roommate at King's begged me to stop. It quickly became an expensive quest while in Halifax to own everything by the band.

I remember buying Neko Case's Furnace Room Lullaby at Fred's after hearing a song on CBC's Definitely Not the Opera and driving around around St. John's for hours afterwards listening to it on repeat by myself because I'd never heard a voice like that.

And then there's Liz Phair's Exile in Guyville.

It is, god help me, the 25th anniversary of the album. Which means, of course, there's a special remastered edition of the album. Pitchfork, which hates almost everything, gave it a 10, which surely means the end is near. I normally curse on anniversary editions of albums because they're silly or make me feel old. But hearing the album is now 25 slams the specific moment I heard it for the first time.

I heard it at 3:30 in the morning at a house party (pretty sure it was Sherry Russell's place) after a night downtown. My friends Chris and Lisa were trying to convince others to let them put on the CD. I was deeply skeptical of it because at this time both of them belonged to the cult of Cub, a band they loved and tried to convert everyone too. I loathed the band and had grown to deeply distrust their musical sensibilities at this time.

But they won out and the CD eventually made it on, but in a bedroom so everyone else didn't have to listen and could continue on with what they were doing. I was roped in because, well, Chris is Chris. And it was jaw-dropping. It's that moment when you realize you've never heard anything like it before. I was a 23 year old guy when I heard it, so I wasn't exactly the target audience she was singing to. I was pretty much everything wrong in the world that she was singing about. But the honestly, purity and rawness made an impact. Again, next day I went out to buy it....and couldn't find it. Eventually Fred's got it in and I paid some silly amount of money for it. Worth every penny.

Others will, and have, written more eloquently about the album. And again, I think if you're a woman hearing that album it hits you in much different ways than if you're a guy.

There's been a segment of critics that have always been disappointed that Phair never lived up to the "potential" of Exile but I quite liked her next few albums. Whip-Smart  was quite good and Whitechocolatespaceegg had some moments of pure pop wonder like 'Polyester Bride'. Hell, even a song like 'HWC' has a humour and brashness that I can admire. They're not Exile, but hell, very few artists get one of those kinds of albums in a career. Asking to do it a bunch of times is insane.

So yeah, dig it out if you haven't listened to it in awhile. And if you've never listened, hop into your time machine to the early 90s and enjoy. You may have heard people try to duplicate it to some degree, but the original still holds all the power.

Last Five
1. The Parts - Manchester Orchestra
2. Who do you love - Lily Allen
3. Boogie Street (live) - Leonard Cohen
4. Trip my wire - Garbage
5. Extraordinary - Liz Phair*