Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Don of Detergent Dumbfounded

I am by no means obsessive-compulsive. On the other hand, I am far from being an outright slob. However, there are simply times when life’s busy pace causes me to leave wholly inoffensive articles of clothing on the bedroom floor. 

The end of the world, it is not.

My wife will sometimes spontaneously pick up my strewn clothes and fold them, leaving them in a neat pile on the dresser.

Helpful, indeed.

And point taken.

Last week, she added a new twist.

The spontaneously folded clothes on the dresser somehow looked familiar and unfamiliar. That is to say, some looked like clothes I had left on the floor with definite plans to wear them again in the near future, while others looked like they had been freshly washed.

Impossible. No one would deliberately stack clean articles of clothing together with unwashed ones!

Intrigued and unsettled by the prospect, I began to sniff the various articles of clothing in the stack, only to conclude someone had, indeed, folded washed and unwashed articles of clothing and stacked them together.

What could the possible motivation be? Inquiring minds demanded to know.

After animated discussion, I decided Susan plainly had no intention to mislead; she sweetly insisted it just happened that way.

More to pile of laundry than meets the eye
Satisfied she had no surreptitious intent, I asked whether she could at least understand how her mixed pile of folded clothing might be confusing. She denied she understood. I persisted, stifling exasperation and patiently explaining, I had to separate the pile of clothes by using my nose!

My nose, not being nearly as reliable as the ones at the end of our dogs’ snouts, could lead to detection errors, causing me to wear something unwashed under the assumption it had been washed.

She did not see a problem.

I, being the Master of the Maytag, the Don of Detergent, the Laveur of Laundry, the Specialist of Spotless and Wise Man of Wash, decided I should fight fire with fire!

I do most of the laundry in the house (see September 2, 2011 blog "Inside-Out Privileges").

When I leave a stack of clothes for someone, rest assured the articles are all freshly and authentically cleaned and appropriately folded. There’s no “partially clean”! There’s no “unwashed”! There's no question what you see is what you get! I suggested to my wife that, in an effort to help her understand how disconcerting a mixed stack of clothing could be, I might just mix some of her washed and unwashed articles into the same pile of folded clothing.

She seemed completely unfazed.

Her being unfazed, has me completely fazed! Has she trained the dogs to separate washed and unwashed articles of clothing for her? Is her nose that much more sensitive than mine?

It’s preposterous to think she'd stack washed articles of clothing together with unwashed ones in the hopes I would tuck them all away into their drawers and closets, thereby limiting messiness and killing two birds with one stone - although the frightening deviousness of such a plan verges on sheer genius.

Hmmmm. Maybe I should train the dogs.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Steve Hill, Solo Recordings Volume 3

As the first notes of  “Rhythm All Over” explode from the stage, audience members rub their eyes, convinced they hear a band, but see one man. It’s like being pummeled by the hot exhaust of a jet engine as Steve Hill, singlehandedly, blows the audience back into their seats.

This is the launch of “Solo Recordings Volume 3”.

The new album by Steve Hill
The audience is quickly reminded Steve Hill is an exceptionally coordinated man. While his hands work the guitar, his mouth sings and plays harmonica, his right foot plays the snare and his left foot is busy with a bass drum. As the guitar neck crazily rocks up and down so the drumstick attached to the end can smash a cymbal, there are moments when he appears to be gigging aboard a fishing trawler on choppy seas. Through the impossibly hectic performance, Steve Hill doesn’t miss a note.
If there were no sound at all, his concerts would still amaze.

Amazing too, is that Steve Hill insists he is a far better musician on “Volume 3” than he was two albums ago. Chatting moments before his album launch, he explains his guitar playing, harp playing and drumming have all improved by virtue of the massive number of shows he’s done since the release of the first album in the trilogy. He will tell you that because he quit smoking, even his voice has improved, although to fans, it’s hard to imagine his rugged and roguish voice sounding better than it always did.

He says compared to Volumes 1 & 2, the new album “rocks more”. It does that; the opening track, “Damned”, is hard-driving. It’s followed by “Dangerous”, which has a solid rock groove. 

Last Thursday's launch at Le Verre Bouteille
He’s been garnering heaps of attention for his blues playing, but just as Lynn Anderson never promised a rose garden, Steve Hill never promised blues exclusively.  He did promise solo recordings and while “Volume 3” delivers thick, straight ahead blues tracks like “Smoking Hot Machine”, it also churns out songs built on both genres, like, “Walking Grave”.

The unplugged tracks on “Volume 3”, including “Slowly Slipping Away” and “Going Down the Road Feeling Bad”, deliver the clean, calming, more intimate sound his fans are so fond of.  “Emily”, co-written by Hill and Joshua Parlett, packs a carefree kick.

Winner of the 2015 Juno Award for Blues Album of the Year, Steve Hill, is the winner of multiple 2016 Maple Blues Awards. Just as he did in 2015, he has been recognized as Entertainer of the Year, Electric Act of the Year and Guitarist of the Year. 

Whether they’re buying his albums or attending his sold-out shows, people are listening to his music, which, according to Steve Hill, is better than ever. People are talking about his music, giving him all the more reason to do what his fans are doing, going down the road feeling good.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Smoking Out Cozy Conformists

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the roar of a crackling fireplace pouring forth generous warmth as much as the next person, but not at the expense of the planet!

I wish I was exaggerating when I say on brisk, crisp nights walking the dog, I’m choking on thick clouds of acrid smoke. 

Neighborhood fireplaces and wood-burning stoves are churning out a veritable fog of so-called fine particles!

Most people of decent intelligence, including cozy fireplace and wood stove owners, seem to recognize the urgency of reducing emissions that are not only harmful to the planet, but harmful to our health. Yet, within the confines of their homes, they’re seemingly oblivious to the reality they’re pumping out pollution!

Older models of fireplaces and wood stoves typically emit 10 to 20 grams of fine particles every hour. These particles, which penetrate deep into the lungs, contribute to 900 premature deaths in Montreal every year. 


Transportation, responsible for 45 per cent of the fine particles released into the Montreal atmosphere, is the main source of this dangerous pollution. The approximately 85 thousand fireplaces and wood-burning stoves on Montreal island are second, responsible for 39 per cent of the fine particles in the air.

By October 2018, fireplaces and wood stoves on Montreal island will have to prove they release no more than 2.5 grams of fine particles per hour.

In the US, the standard set by the Environmental Protection Agency is 4.5 grams per hour. The Montreal city committee that drew up the regulations was pushing for a limit of 1.3 grams per hour.
Enjoying the fresh winter air
The limit being enforced in Montreal is better than nothing.

Modifications to existing fireplaces and wood stoves will whack the wallet to the tune of between $2,000 and $8,000. That’s pretty expensive! Fines for using illegal stoves and fireplaces can go as high as $2,000.

Stoves that don’t meet the required limit cannot be used, unless, stipulate the regulations, the power has been out for more than three hours. Last Thursday, on what thankfully was a mild winter day, we were without power for 12 hours. A heat-generating fireplace or wood stove would be a welcome treat when Hydro Quebec falls flat.

I don’t own a fireplace or wood-burning stove but, if I did, I would certainly hope it conformed to standards deemed reasonable for the health of the planet and humans.

I long to breathe fresh, cold air on night walks again and our poor beasts will no longer wonder nervously why I’m salivating when I smell their fur.