Saturday, April 30, 2011

Conversations With the Magic 8-Ball

In trying to discover the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything, I am honoured to have the opportunity to speak to an expert on the topic. Ladies and Gentlemen, for your reading pleasure, I present a transcript of my interview with the greatest soothsayer of our time, the Tyco Magic 8-Ball™.
  • ME: Well, first of all, Mighty 8-Ball, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to do this with us today. It's a pleasure to meet you. Are you pleased to be involved with this little interview here today?
  • 8B: My reply is no.
  • ME: Oh. Sorry. Okay, well I promise it won't take long. First of all, let's cut to the chase instead of beating around the bush. Is there a God?
  • 8B: Better not tell you now.
  • ME: Oh. Okay... Well, if you insist... We'll get back to that one. Then we can move onto politics for the time being. Will things get better in Libya?
  • 8B: Outlook not so good.
  • ME: I thought so. Will Obama be re-elected in 2012?
  • 8B: Most likely.
  • ME: Oh, well that's good news. I guess they'll start making some real progress on universal health care, right?
  • 8B: Very doubtful.
  • ME: Oh. So what you're saying is that insurance companies will still run the show, whoever's in the White House?
  • 8B: Without a doubt.
  • ME: I'm sorry to hear that. Okay, will they find a cure for AIDS?
  • 8B: Signs point to yes.
  • ME: Well, that's good news. When? Oh, right... yes/no questions only. Okay, will they find a cure for AIDS in my lifetime?
  • 8B: Don't count on it.
  • ME: Oh no. But wait! Does that mean that the cure for AIDS is a long time away or does it mean that I'll die soon?
  • 8B: Reply hazy, try again.
  • ME: Right. That wasn't a yes/no question. Okay, will I live a long life?
  • 8B: Reply hazy, try again.
  • ME: Perhaps you'd like some Windex?
  • 8B: My reply is no.
  • ME: Okay. Anyway, I mustn't keep the questions personal. There are a lot of other things to discuss and I know you don't have much time. Will Canada regain its position on the world stage?
  • 8B: My sources say no.
  • ME: Well, who exactly are your sources? Can I just speak directly to them?
  • 8B: My reply is no.
  • ME: Yes. I realise it's your duty to protect their anonymity... Well, will the Toronto Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup this year?
  • 8B: Don't count on it.
  • ME: Next year?
  • 8B: Outlook not so good.
  • ME: In my lifetime?
  • 8B: My sources say no.
  • ME: You know, you're very negative. Oh, by the way, Doris Day asked me to ask you whether she'd be rich and whether she'd be pretty.
  • 8B: Cannot predict now.
  • ME: Yeah. Neither could her mother. Oh well. Has enough time passed? Can we get back to that God question? Is there a big old guy up there looking down over is?
  • 8B: Reply hazy, try again.
  • ME: Fair enough. I'll ask it more directly: Is there a God?
  • 8B: Concentrate and ask again.
  • ME: Um... Okay... Give me a second here... Aum... O Mighty 8-Ball... I beseech you... Is... there... a... God?
  • 8B: Cannot predict now.
  • ME: You don't really know anything, do you?
  • 8B: My sources say no.
  • ME: And your sources don't know anything either, do they?
  • 8B: Very doubtful.
  • ME: So asking you about the future is just as useless as praying to God?
  • 8B: As I see it, yes.
  • ME: Ha! I gotcha! So there is no God, right?
  • 8B: Better not tell you now.
  • ME: Damn it. Okay, well let's put it this way: if there is a God, and if there is a Heaven, am I going there?
  • 8B: Outlook not so good.
  • ME: Yeah, that's what I thought.

Friday, April 29, 2011

An Alternate Voting Proposal

One day, the internet will be seen as trustworthy enough that we'll be able to vote online, from the comfort of our houses. And then that might be the time to consider an alternative method of voting, one that I've carried in my mind for years. There are huge practicality issues, but I can't help liking it as a concept and wishing it were true. Start with the electoral system exactly the way we have it right now here in Canada: 300-some ridings, first past the post, Prime Minister the person who holds the confidence of a majority of MPs in Commons, etc. But eliminate the concept of an 'election day', and replace it with this: every adult citizen gets one vote, but keeps it 'parked' with a certain party - or rather with a certain local candidate. So if at some point in time I realise that I like the Liberals most, or like the local Liberal MP more than whoever I previously supported, I log on to the election website and transfer my vote from one person to the Liberal guy. Inasmuch as this isn't enough to change the 'winner' in my riding, it probably wouldn't affect anything. However, if over time enough voters in the same riding shifted their voting allegiance that the Liberal candidate surpassed the sitting MP (let's say he was NDP, just to make the hypothetical less predictable), then the sitting MP would stand down and be replaced by the Liberal. At a certain point, if this happens in enough ridings that it affects the overall confidence of Parliament (perhaps by having one party lose an overall majority), then the Prime Minister changes. Obviously there are certain kinks here - for example, for a riding to change hands, it must pass a point where the two parties are at approximately equal numbers. In this transition period, the person in the lead might vacillate back and forth. So we might insist that the contender maintain a lead over the incumbent for a month continuously before officially making the change. Similarly, seats might vacillate frequently enough that an evenly split house would find it difficult to maintain a consistent majority. To ensure the Prime Minister did not flicker back and forth between two candidates, we could require the new status quo to hold for a month or something, or perhaps require a slight supermajority - say 156 seats in 308. Additionally, this might possibly result in stasis. A certain number of people might never change their vote, making it difficult to overturn incumbents. Two possibilities here are (1) that a vote would 'expire' if it were not 'renewed' every, say, two years. So the apathetic would find that their vote was parked with nobody until they chose to re-park it. Additionally, upon retirement of an incumbent, all of the electors in that riding could perhaps be required to recast their ballots. Not on a particular day, of course, but within a few weeks of the party selecting a replacement. What I like about this idea is that we could return to majority governmnet without fear of sacrificing half a decade to the whims of any one person: the moment Canadians started to disapprove of the 'man in power', we would be able to replace him. We would be able to ensure that our vote always reflected our current preferences. And all without having to drop $300 million on elections. Or without parties ever campaigning. It would make the democratic proces a constant one, not a once-every-few-years one. or indeed - if regular voting bothered you, you could abstain and only vote when your vote needed renewing. Either way. I'm not sure how feasible it would be, but the idea holds real appeal to me.

Daily Fortune Cookie: 29 April 2011

By this time next year, you'll be in clover. Hope you're not allergic.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Vote Moustache

Just a quick plug for a blog entry I did on another blog of mine (I've been so neglectful of the poor darlings), "A Lust for Lists". It's about political moustaches like the Big Man himself, possibly cruising to the PMO with a face full of fur. Strange times!

Here it is: Ten Political Moustaches

Eddie Murphy Movies Make No Sense at All

Some three years ago I had a blog that I called "Makes No Sense At All", named after the Hüsker Dü song. The point of it was to give me an occasional soap-box from which to give into Andy Rooney tendencies and just grumble and complain about whatever took my fancy. I didn't carry on with it too long, and it was read by, like, a maximum of five people who were not GoogleBots. So since it's just sat there moribund, collecting digital dust down the years. I decided I might as well close down the old blog and syndicate its contents here, in weekly installations. I've eliminated a few blog entries that seem too anachronistic by now, but the blogs that I have included I've not edited at all. So enjoy watching me at my grumpiest... Makes No Sense at All.

Originally published 24 July 2008.

...You’d think I care about Hollywood or something. I really don’t; trust me. In fact, high on my list of Hollywood-related things I don’t care about is Eddie Murphy and everything about him.

Okay; too cruel. Everything about him after, say, 1986. There was a time, no doubt, when Eddie Murphy was brilliant – you know, incisive stand-up, great cocky movie roles, amazing characterizations on “Saturday Night Live”. There was a time when he was one of the funniest guys out there. Okay, okay, there was “Party All the Time” too. But no-one can be perfect.

That was more than 20 years ago. Obviously people can’t keep it going that long. There’s got to bee a cooling of pace, a dulling of the cutting-edge. It doesn’t matter to me that Eddie Murphy’s turned to family comedies. The problem is that he’s turned to absolute garbage family comedies.

Take for instance his current vehicle, Meet Dave. It is, of course, absolute garbage. The fact that I haven’t seen it, seen clips from it or even heard much of anything about it does not affect the fact that I know it to be absolute garbage. I mean, come on

Playing multiple roles is not always a bad thing. Dr. Strangelove is an amazing movie, and Peter Sellers’s bravura performance gives it wings. Eddie Murphy can play multiple roles because he’s a decent character actor. He did Stevie Wonder and Gumby brilliantly on “Saturday Night Live”. His impersonations of his own family members during his stand-up routines are hilarious and filled with a loving humanity. The man has comedic talent.

But he just doesn’t care. By scouring, I can ascertain that Meet Dave is the seventh multiple-role Eddie Murphy vehicle. And, like Norbit before it (which I have seen and truly hated), it is clearly nothing more than a multiple-role Eddie Murphy vehicle. I can’t see it having a profound message, having noteworthy music or supporting actors, being produced by a visionary, using colours or sets in a novel way… the sum total of this film is “Eddie Murphy plays multiple roles!” Again, for the seventh time. Even if the diminishing returns in question diminish imperceptibly slowly, by #7 there can’t be much more than an empty shell left.

And I don’t see why it needs to be that way. Eddie Murphy is truly funny, yet family-friendly, in the Shrek franchise. He hasn’t lost it. But he seems to have lost the desire to do anything really new with himself. So he just churns out the same film over and over again.

The thought that anybody would still be intrigued enough by this to see these movies makes no sense at all.

Daily Fortune Cookie: 28 April 2011

Catch wily rabbits by singing Wagner.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Toronto MPs by Place of Birth

So a few days ago I looked at the Toronto MPs by their 'favourite words', which words they said the most often in parliament. I liked putting together the map, and thought I'd try some more maps based on the Elections Canada maps. I've got something going on at my Poll Vaulting blog that uses them, and here's another Toronto-based one.

(Click to make it larger.)

This shows a map of the current Toronto MPs (both the 416 and whoever else shows up on the map - not the whole 905 but a decent chunk of it) by their place of birth. In short, if they were born in Ontario, I list the city. If they were born in Canada but not Ontario, I list the province but not the city. And if they were born abroad, I list the country with no further details. The numbers are poetic - of the MPs for the 33 ridings on this map:
  • 11 were born in the city of Toronto - or to state that more precisely were born within the limists of present-day Toronto. This includes all three Etobicoke MPs (including Michael Ignatieff), and three 905 MPs. Among the ridings in 'old Toronto', only Carolyn Bennett is a native son... er, daughter.
  • 11 were born somewhere else in Canada - the Markham and Pickering MPs are local, and there are three others from elsewhere in the province. Add to that two from Québec (including Jack Layton), two from Manitoba and two from the Atlantic, and you've got 11.
  • 11 were born abroad. An amazing four of those are from Italy (including Julian Fantino), and two (in neighbouring ridings) are from Greece. The remaining five are from India, the UK, Portugal, Tanzania and Hong Kong.
Great numbers, eh? One-third from Toronto itself, one-third from the rest of the country,and one-third from the rest of the world. Toronto in a nutshell?

Daily Fortune Cookie: 27 April 2011

Instead of spilling a trusted confidante's secrets, try spilling some salad dressing on your tie instead.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Morphing by Name: A Quiz

This quiz serves two purposes: one is to allow myself to play further with the MorphThing website, and two is to allow myself to play with spoiler tags, which I learnt about here, and which I hope to use from now on for quizes.

In this particular case, it works like this: I've morphed together photographs of two famous people who share the same given name. In other words, I could perhaps morph a picture of Michelle Obama together with one of Michelle Rodriguez. Knowing only that, look at the resulting morphed picture and try to guess who the people are. Below each picture are two spoilers. The first is a 'clue' spoiler, and if you click on it, it'll tell you the shared first name of the two people in the morph. If you click on the second one, it will tell you the answer, including with thumbnails of the two people. Let's see how it goes...

» Morph #1 - Click for a clue. «

» Morph #1 - Click for the answer. «

» Morph #2 - Click for a clue. «

» Morph #2 - Click for the answer. «

» Morph #3 - Click for a clue. «

» Morph #3 - Click for the answer. «

» Morph #4 - Click for a clue. «

» Morph #4 - Click for the answer. «

» Morph #5 - Click for a clue. «

» Morph #5 - Click for the answer. «

» Morph #6 - Click for a clue. «

» Morph #6 - Click for the answer. «

» Morph #7 - Click for a clue. «

» Morph #7 - Click for the answer. «

» Morph #8 - Click for a clue. «

» Morph #8 - Click for the answer. «

» Morph #9 - Click for a clue. «

» Morph #9 - Click for the answer. «

» Morph #10 - Click for a clue. «

» Morph #10 - Click for the answer. «

Daily Fortune Cookie: 26 April 2011

Baby bok choi holds all the answers.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Can't Trust the NDP

I tried posting this fake poster on Reddit, where by and large they didn't seem to geddit.

Hint: it's pro-NDP.

YouGov Could Have Asked Canada

So I've been reading so many polls about voter intentions in Canada that I thought I'd take a break from it... and look at voter intentions in the UK.

So I looked at YouGov, the only British pollster I could remember by name. Labour well over Conservatives, LibDems still performing horrible. Business as usual.

But I found something interesting, where they took a few sentences and asked the people they polled which party (or 'none of them') the phrase applied to most. I'd be curious how those would look if asked of Canadians. Here are my speculations:
  • It seems rather old and tired. In the UK, Labour still leads regarding this slight. In Canada? Well, it's been clear since the dropping of the writs that within Québec, most people would say that about the Bloc (which remains one of Canada's newest parties). In the RoC, I'd have to guess it'd be the Liberals who would lead in this category.
  • Even if I don't always agree with it, at least its heart is in the right place. The NDP was made to score well on this. Green would be a good answer too, if people thought of Green at all, really.
  • It seems to have succeeded in moving on and left its past behind it. Well, this doesn't apply to the BQ. It probably doesn't really apply to the NDP either. It applies to the Liberals, but isn't complimentary when it does so. Whether or not Canadians would say it (and they probably would), it's the Conservatives who deserve this accolade - getting over their 90s rift and their early flirtations with populism and Western alienation.
  • It seems to appeal to one section of society rather than the whole country. God, where do we start? Perhaps this has always been true in Canada, but it feels probably even more true now, as the Conservatives reach for their majority by poring through demographics with a fine-tooth comb and the Liberals, bizarrely, seem content to let their support atrophy across all but a few key demographics. Live in Toronto or Montréal and the fact that the Tories are leading in the polls seems like science fiction. Live in Calgary or in rural-almost-anywhere and the fact that they don't have a majority seems bizarre. The BQ are a regionalist party, of course, and the NDP's current boost obscures the fact that they're dead in the water in suburbia and were a sub-frings party in Québec until... well, about last week or so, right?

Daily Fortune Cookie: 25 April 2011

Seek your destiny in 80s new wave music.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Best-Before Dates

Do you know what drives me crazy? Best-before dates. Wait a minute: let me explain. There are twelve months in a year and thirty-ish days in a month. Most of the world, and among English-speaking countries this includes the UK, write dates from the smallest unit to the largest. So they say, say, 'the ninth of October, 2011' and write this '9 October 2011'. When restricting themselves to mere numbers, they write it as '09/10/11'. Fair enough. The USA, which tends to stubbornly insist on marching to the beat of its own drum, does not. Instead, it writes dates as 'October 9, 2011', which requires a comma but is no big deal. Different, perhaps less logical, but fair enough provided it's done consistently. And it is. Americans are so proud of the consistency with which they write dates that they celebrate it every Fourth of July... er... well, let's call that one an exception. Anyway, if an American writes '09/10/11', they mean September the 10th. So if an American asks a Brit to meet him at the airport on '09/10/11', there might be a sitcom-worthy one month spent listlessly buying cheap scotch at Heathrow. But domestically neither Brits nor Yanks have a problem. What about us? Well, we in Canada who measure our height in feet but our distances in kilometres, buy liquids in litres but solids in pounds, measure the temperatue outside in Celsius but the temperature of our bodies in Fahrenheit... unsurprisingly, we don't have any idea what we're doing. It's true: if a Canadian writes '09/10/11', you have no chance in hell of knowing what he means unless you ask him. Hell, he could mean October 11, 2009. To that end, a lot of places choose to spell the month out, in whole or in short. So you'll see '9 OCT 11' or 'NOV 10 11' or some such. Or even better, they'll use only two letters, in a bizarre system that attempts to bridge the languages, where most of the months are almost exactly the same and all of them ae at least vaguely similar. It creates the rather horrid "MA", which leaves me wondering every time whether it's March/Mart or May/Mai (it's the latter). Which is a small price to pay for consistency. Except this is not consistent. Not everyone does this. And hey - why did I title this 'best before dates'? Because this problem is most annoying when trying to figure out the runic/hierogylphic logic underpinning the best-before dates on many products. If you can (a) find and (b) decipher the best before date, you might think you're off and running. But there's a good chance it will say something like '09/10/11', with no explanation of how to interpret those numbers. And hey... it's just a minor inconvenience, right? It's not like the end result is potentially getting life-threatening food poisoning from off-code food, right?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Toronto MPs and their Favourite Words, an awesome site, has many cool features. One of the most intriguing is that it scours Hansard to come up with the word used most often in the House of Commons by any individual MP. Stephen Harper's, it turns out, is 'Liberals'. Gilles Duceppe's, it would seem, is 'Québec'. Both of these are saddening in their predictability.

So I decided to try something different. I looked at the sitting MPs (well, sitting until dissolution) for each of the 22.5 ridings in the city of Toronto - that is, in the '416' proper. And I put their 'favourite words' onto a map of the city. It creates... well, it creates a bunch of words that are ultimately meaningless, but it's fun to find meaning in them.

What do Mario Silva of Davenport and John Cannis of Scarborough Centre have in common? Well, they're both Liberals - as are all but three of these people - but in addition, they both used the word 'country' more in Commons than any other word. One wonders why - although it's interesting to note that both Silva and Cannis were born in a different one (Portugal and Greece, respectively).

What do Ken Dryden and Olivia Chow have in common? Children, apparently. Dryden has two (and four grandchildren) and Chow is stepmother to Jack Layton's kids. Perhaps it wasn't parental bragging rights that put those words at the top of the list, though.

The other two paired words are 'health', a rather obvious parliamentary theme apparently harped on about by both Kirsty Duncan and Carolyn Bennett, and 'going' a rather more esoteric word choice (suggestive of vision?) favoured by both Jack Layton and Joe Volpe.

There are some odd ones, perhaps suggestive of personal interests or at least quirks. Michelle Simson has to win for weird with 'animal', while with 'infrastructure' Gerard Kennedy tops for boring. 'Respect', 'colleague', 'conservatives' and 'question' suggest that MPs spend more time talking about parliament in parliament than anything else.

And Derek Lee of Scarborough-Rouge River says 'may' most of all. While he might be referring to his favourite month or his favourite Green Party leader, he might also be an expert at equivocation. Someone make this man the next leader of the Liberal Party...

Friday, April 22, 2011

Containing My Excitement

I've supported the NDP my whole life. It's a frustrating activity - every now and then you get this surge of optimism, this feeling that 'this time is ours'. And then again and again we are disappointed. Something happens along the way - cold feet, maybe. Or a gas tank only half filled. Who knows.

And that's been a long, long time now - enough to temper my natural tendency towards excitement right now. Put that differently - I feel like dancing in the streets right now. Yesterday, I read poll stats in a daze and looked at the commentary again and again...

But I keep telling myself, 'don't rush to conclusions; we've been here before'.

I mean, we haven't. 1988 was probably my inaugural election as a person paying serious attention (I was 13), and it was a serious heartbreak for the NDP (and for Canada). But there's a lot different tis time out - most obviously 'the Québec issue'. We're entering a long-weekend family holiday with a most curious situation: one of the NDP as real contender. Obviously everyone else will sharpen their knives against Layton over the next few days - Duceppe in particular will need to spend the rest of the campaign doing nothing other than attacking Layton. But if the surge holds, or indeed if it even continues, all the attacks in the world might be too little too late. Indeed, attacks against Layton are more likely to backfire than attacks against anyone else because the man is just so damned likeable.

In fact, this might be what's currently happening: that the large numbers of people who like Layton as an individual, or who say they'd like to see him as Prime Minister, have realised that the best way to support him is by voting for his party. One hell of a realisation, surely.

And of course, if it is... if it really holds to 2 May, and we see a parliament that has a much strengthened NDP caucus... well, then I'll celebrate. I'll dance in the streets like I'd like to now. It's what I've wanted to see since I was a little boy.

But until then? Well... call me superstitious. Maybe I just don't want to jinx anything.

Daily Fortune Cookie: 22 April 2011

Avoid the letter 'w'.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Coca-Cola Zero Makes No Sense at All

Some three years ago I had a blog that I called "Makes No Sense At All", named after the Hüsker Dü song. The point of it was to give me an occasional soap-box from which to give into Andy Rooney tendencies and just grumble and complain about whatever took my fancy. I didn't carry on with it too long, and it was read by, like, a maximum of five people who were not GoogleBots. So since it's just sat there moribund, collecting digital dust down the years. I decided I might as well close down the old blog and syndicate its contents here, in weekly installations. I've eliminated a few blog entries that seem too anachronistic by now, but the blogs that I have included I've not edited at all. So enjoy watching me at my grumpiest... Makes No Sense at All.

Originally published 10 July 2008.

I’ve finally come to terms with Aspartame. All growing up, it seemed like a scary chemical where no scary chemical need be. I was no sugar junkie but I was, ahem, a kid. Sugar-phobic kids are hard to come by.

When Baskin-Robbins introduced a sugar-free cone to stick under a ball of cold sugar and saturated fats, it struck me as comical. I think the main reason it struck me as comical is that it is comical. Terribly so. I’m still of the opinion that the best way to decrease your Baskin-Robbins sugar intake is never to go to Baskin-Robbins, but I do acknowledge that in other situations, lowering your sugar intake can only be a good thing.

So Diet Coke it is. I’m not a big fan of Coke all told, actually (it’s the colour). From an all-round perspective of ‘healthiness’ (a/k/a making you feel good about what you consume), Coke regardless of sweetening method is still down at the bottom of the list near bongwater and dish detergent. Yet merely in regards to caloric intake and sugar, a glass of Diet Coke actually towers above mainstays like apple juice and a tall glass of blue-tinted milk. Okay, ‘towers above’ is completely the wrong phrase. But oh well.

I seem to remember Diet Coke being disgusting when I was a kid. Perhaps that’s because (a) I misremember, (b) it was different then than it is now, (c) I was actually drinking bongwater (and/or “Tab”, whatever the hell that is). Because the simple fact is that, prejudices aside, Diet Coke is precisely as foul as its red-canistered sugary twin.

But prejudices are what it’s all about (apparently), since somebody at Coca-Cola Ltd. (or whatever the hell the mothership in Atlanta calls itself) has decided, apparently quite successfully, that Diet Coke is too girly a kind of diet Coke. Apparently, guys don’t drink Diet Coke because its can is grey and it doesn’t feature a number in its name.

Enter Coca-Cola Zero, the ‘macho’ non-caloric Coke, which is completely different from Diet Coke, because its can is black and it doesn’t have that nasty four-lettered word in its name (hands up everybody who, in history class, thought “Diet of Worms” was the coolest name possible). Instead, it has a four letter word that means ‘nothingness’ and is pronounced “Jerro” by Korean people. This is why Korean people are cool.

But this is not why Coca-Cola Inc., or whatever they are, is cool. They are not. For some reason, apparently their ruse worked, as millions of people flocked to prove their masculinity by drinking Aspartame from a black can. So today, you can choose two completely identical products that differ only by the colour of their can. Coca-Cola GmBH are, of course, marketing geniuses. Because the rest of the world are total schmucks.

Daily Fortune Cookie: 21 April 2011

Discover a fun new food allergy.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Wailers Alternative Discography #2: "The Wailing Wailers"

Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer were incredibly prolific in the 1960s, topping the local charts so regularly they became known as 'the Jamaican Beatles'. Much of what they recorded before meeting Chris Blackwell was magnificent, and almost all of it needs to be heard.

I'm presenting a series called 'The Alternate Wailers Discography' - a kind of imaginary discography of 'should-have-been' albums that didn't, and don't, in fact exist - though the songs on them do. There are two aspects of the Wailers' legacy that trouble me, and I aim to address both of them:

  1. In the 1970s and beyond, the name "the Wailers" became little more than a suffix to the phrase "Bob Marley and". While I'll not even attempt to deny Bob Marley's greatness, or even his primacy, the Wailers were a trio. The logo of their early record label Wail N Soul M showed three hands holding each other's forearm to form a triangle. All for one, etc. It's sad and insulting to see Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer presented as merely Bob Marley's early-years backup singers.
  2. Throughout the 1960s, the principal medium of record distribution in Jamaica was the 7". The hordes of songs they recorded that decade were almost all released haphazardly on singles, never to be collected until years later on cheap, chintzy compilations: incomplete, unannotated and often overdubbed. By the standards of the modern music industry, this dilutes the music's impact, allowing the Wailers' 1960 work to be seen as a minor prelude to Bob Marley's 1970s albums in Island Records. Island surely bears much of the blame for this - it is in their interest to promote their own property at the expense of material they don't have the rights to - but it is yet another thing that distorts our perception of this supergroup.
With the aid of a relatively extensive selection of recent compilations and the absolutely essential Bob Marley and the Wailers: a Definitive Discography by Roger Steffens and Leroy Jodie Pierson, I've gone about creating an 'alternate discography' of the Wailers - what their discography might look like if the Jamaican record industry in the 1960s had cared about the 12" album. While the albums are figments of my imagination, the songs that make them up are not, and the albums are perfectly compilable, provided you have the originals.

This is not a project designed to aid in the illegal distribution of Wailers music. I would love to allow you to listen to the albums I've put together, as I think they play very well as albums. But that would be illegal. The best I can do is tell you how to assemble them yourselves. I've also attempted to repect Steffens and Pierson's copyright by (a) not including every song the Wailers recorded and (b) not including certain discographical details. I have, though, trusted Steffens and Pierson implicitly and built the entire project around the details as they've presented them.

For a more detailed background, read this earlier blog post.

    Album #2:
    The Wailing Wailers
    (December 1964, Studio One)

    Side One
    1. 2:28 Dance With Me — Bob with Peter, Bunny
    2. 2:45 True Confessions — Bob with Peter, Bunny, Junior, Beverly
    3. 2:54 Lonesome Feelings — Bob with Peter, Bunny, Beverly, a, b, c
    4. 2:44 There She Goes — Bob with Peter, Bunny, Beverly, a
    5. 2:42 Teenager in Love — Bob with Peter, Bunny, Junior, Beverly
    6. 2:42 It Hurts to Be Alone — Junior with Bob, Peter, Bunny, Beverly
    Side Two
    1. 3:04 Nobody Knows — Bob with Peter, Bunny, Beverly
    2. 3:09 Love Won't be Mine This Way — Bob with Peter, Bunny, Junior, Beverly
    3. 3:28 Where Will I Find — Bob with Peter, Bunny, Junior, Beverly
    4. 3:07 I Need You — Bob with Peter, Bunny, d
    5. 2:50 Don't Ever Leave Me — Junior with Bob, Peter, Bunny, Beverly
    All tracks recorded August 1964,
    except "I Need You" September 1964,
    "Lonesome Feelings" and "There She Goes" October 1964.
    All tracks produced by Clement Dodd.

    The Wailers are: Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Bunny Wailer, Junior Braithwaite and Beverley Kelso.
    note: 'a' is Cherry Green, 'b' is Joe Higgs, 'c' is Sylvia Richards, 'd' is Rita Anderson

    This second volume covers the several months immediately after the début - which in reality means the several months immediately following that initial burst of activity in July 1964. Yet if Bunny's memory serves him right, all but three of the tracks on this second collection were recorded in August, meaning that the Wailers dusted off two album's worth in as many months. The idea that they recorded their main set during those initial sessions is reinforced by the sense that many of these tracks were perhaps hastily put together - to meet a commercial need in the wake of "Simmer Down", perhaps. Even though these weren't really albums, this collection still seems to suffer from the 'sophomore slump'.

    There are excellent tracks on this second album. But curiously, where the first collection was non-stop ska, this second one seems intentionally derivative of American music - most obviously in the straight cover "A Teenager in Love", the near-cover "Nobody Knows" (i.e. 'the trouble I've seen) and the semi-cover "Dance With Me" (largely a rewrite of "On Broadway"), but also on the originals, many of which take doo-wop or early Motown as a starting point.

    This is certainly true of Junior's two lead spots here: the faux-Motown "It Hurts to Be Alone" and the curiously international-sounding "Don't Ever Leave Me". The second title is ironic in that it was recorded in Junior's last session as a Wailer. This is the last album he appears on - and even at that he didn't see the whole album out, having already left before its final three songs were recorded. I let his two songs close out each side for one main reason: the fact that they are both awesome, beautiful songs with great vocals. Junior definitely leaves the band in a position of strength, reminding people to miss him on the way out.

    Junior's contributions might steal the spotlight, but Bob, who otherwise does every lead (none of Peter, Bunny or Beverley get any showcases here, for some reason), gets a few key performances. In particular, "Lonesome Feelings" and "There She Goes", a tune he'll return to a few years hence, are commanding and memorable tracks. But too much of this album goes by in half-decent unmemorable derivative numbers. Not embarrassing, but not world-changing either by any means. And the sound quality is, by and large, as bad as the first album.

    I should also mention that Rita Anderson, making her first appearance on a Wailers track here, would soon shed her maiden name for a rather more famous married name...

    "The Wailing Wailers" was actually the name of a 1960s era album - not an actual album but a compilation of Studio One-era tracks (it has little in common with my album). The 'nickname' became popular enough to kind of be an 'alternate' name for the band. But it's a cool title, and very evocative of how Coxsone Dodd saw the band. Plus, Junior engages in some proper wailing on this album, so it's the best batch of songs to put this name one.

    Being Studio One stuff, these eleven songs are culled from the same releases listed in the first album entry.

    Daily Fortune Cookie: 20 April 2011

    Dreams of dancing microwave ovens might mean a visit from an old school bus driver.
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