Friday, February 16, 2018

Kidney Stone blues

First off, I'm all right. I have a puppy training pad stuffed in my shorts as I write this - basically a giant, folded maxi-pad, in case I dribble; they were much, much cheaper than an adult diaper, which is what I was sent home in. (Thanks to my smart wife for this brainflash; puppy pads can be purchased at any Dollarama and cost a fraction of their human equivalent, for those of you with incontinence issues). Now that the anaesthetic has worn off, the dribbling appears to have stopped, but it burns a bit in my urethra when I urinate; my pee has a pinkish hue (or did yesterday); and it doesn't take long for my bladder to feel uncomforably, even painfully full. Plus I have a bit of constipation, also caused, I think, by the anaesthetic.

But for a guy who had tubes stuffed up his dick yesterday, I'm doing just fine. 

I also still have a kidney stone, 6X9 mm, jammed up my left ureter, apparently exactly where it was before I went to the hospital. I would feel much, much better about my experience yesterday had it actually been effective in removing this blockage. My urologist DID manage to get a stent into my ureter, so the urine can now flow around my stone - which is definitely something - but - I had not realized this - apparently yesterday's treatment was kind of exploratory, of a "let's go in and see what we can do" variety.

The answer, sadly, was "not much."

Pretty sure my urologist was more definitive when he initially described the procedure to me two weeks ago, but okay, whatever: apparently my kidney stone is not in a place where it is accessible. The lasers and cameras and other mysterious technology that went up my penis, through my bladder, and into my ureter yesterday could not get far enough up into my tubing, as my buddy Mark has put it, to "blow up my Death Star." So I will have to go for a different procedure, involving heavy vibrations, at VGH. I'm not even sure what the hell it is called, or what the side effects to THAT will be. (No one warned me about urinary incontinence yesterday, though in hindsight, it makes sense; what will being vigorously vibrated about the guts do, I wonder?). Maybe I would rather have cut to the chase, on that, and spared myself the experience yesterday, had I known it might not be effective, but I guess I'll try to have some equanimity here. I got a stent. I am almost fully recovered. It was nowhere near as bad as I imagined it would be.

And while it may not have actually solved my problem, it was still an interesting experience, as those of you who follow me on Facebook will know. I got to have my feet in stirrups, just like a woman giving birth. (I was pretty much knocked out by that point, with a spinal shot and a general sedative, so my memories aren't very clear about that. I kinda wish I had pictures to show of it). I spent about three hours numb from the waist down, with nurses using ice to determine how effective the freezing was, moving it down my body to see where I was frozen up to ("is it cold?" became yesterday's equivalent of "Is it safe?"). I got to have first hand experience of the whole "wiggle your big toe" trip from Kill Bill, which scene I have new appreciation of. (Apparently my left big toe comes out of anaesthetic much faster than my right). And I had the singularly strange experience of feeling like there was some sort of small stuffed animal in bed with me, an odd lump between my legs that, on further investigation, turned out to be my penis. (As senstation returned to my feet and groin it felt like my dick and balls and the bottoms of my feet were all made of pillows).

And while the what's-that-oh-it's-my-dick moment was probably the high point of weirdnesses, there were, indeed others. At some point, for instance, I apparently involuntarily ejaculated, with no erection, because I could sniff semen on my fingers after touching myself. When I could finally stand, in order to demonstrate to the nurses that I could urinate and was therefore fit to be discharged, I got to Tim Conway my way from the bed to the bathroom, leaning  into the porter with my IV bags on it, dribbling urine every step of the way. Usually Erika gets annoyed with  me when I pee on the floor, but apparently yesterday I had a free pass. It has, further, been some time since I wore a diaper (which was soaked with pinkish pee by the time I got home; alas, we didn't think to ask for a second one to change into, which is where the puppy pad came in). All of these count as life-lessons, I suppose - a sort of practice-run on my old age. I probably didn't need to re-learn how little I like having tape ripped off my arm, though it may encourage me to shave my arms a bit before I go into VGH for phase two of this procedure.

But I'm home, I'm safe, and while there was probably wisdom in keeping a puppy pad on, I am no longer leaky, apparently. Sometime in March, I get to get my guts vibrated. We'll keep you posted on how that works, I guess.

Meantime, I leave you with this Frank Zappa song. Maybe you know the one...

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

A Shaw Brothers Night at the Vancity Theatre: Come Drink With Me plus vintage trailers!

You meet people who remember the Rickshaw as it was from time to time, back when it was known as the Shaw Theatre. One of my wife Erika's coworkers tells me he used to regularly go see Hong Kong-made Shaw Brothers movies there with his father throughout the 1980's, back when it was actually a movie theatre. The place was an institution for Vancouver's Chinese-Canadian (and/ or kung-fu-movie-loving) community for decades, run by the actual Shaw family, before it eventually closed and fell into disrepair. The resurrected Rickshaw's current proprietor, Mo Tarmohamed, has put up a couple posters for vintage kung fu movies in honour of the building's heritage, but - though I've chatted with him a bit about the building's past - I hadn't heard until recently that, when he took over the building, he also inherited film reels that had been left in an office, including some vintage Shaw Brothers trailers. (I believe Adrian Mack over at the Straight has actually seen the film cannisters in question, which Mo and co. are currently cataloguing; it was all news for me, as of a couple weeks ago).

That's all some cool local history. But besides being overwhelmed with other work, I'm maybe not the best-suited man to write a story about all this, because, despite a recent  failed attempt to make it through The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, the only actual Shaw Brothers movie I have seen to completion is an anomalous one: The Legend of the Seven Golden Vampires, a Hammer Studios co-production that features Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, battling, yep, kung-fu fighting Chinese vampires. It is very silly, very fun, and reasonably well-made, even if the film's Dracula pales next to Christopher Lee.

I mean, vampires are supposed to be pale, but... you know what I mean.

I do like a good kung fu movie, mind you, and have enjoyed two Ip Man movies, Bloodsport, Circle of Iron, and a couple of vintage Bruce Lees, but it's a genre I have less than exhaustive knowledge of. I am too fussy to watch poor-quality bootlegs, I can't abide most dubbing, and am even less fond of incompetent subtitling (which I have noted more than once on less-than-reputable DVDs of Chinese films). You just don't stumble across good quality DVDs or Blu's of classic kung fu actioners that often in your da-to-day scroungings in this town. (Or at least I don't). Hell, I don't even know if Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon counts as a wuxia film. To be totally honest, I'm not even sure what a wuxia film is, though I know that the 1966 feature Come Drink With Me is a wuxia film, because it is mentioned in the Vancity Theatre's program description.

Which brings us to the point. The Vancity Theatre will be playing Come Drink With Me and THREE of the Shaw Brothers trailers rediscovered at the Rickshaw on February 11th, at 9:45PM, to mark the occasion of Chinese New Year (the next day). Apparently the star of Come Drink With Me, who made a splash at age 20 in the film - her name is Cheng Pei Pei - was also in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, and acts in Mina Shum's upcoming Meditation Park. She's still around, and through Shum, she too has a Vancouver connection. All of this is more than enough to put this film on my radar (my crazy-busy worklife right now might still mean I don't make it, but I'm gonna try).

There really isn't a lot else I can tell you, but Tom Charity has posted a piece on the Vancity Theatre website which includes trailers for some classic Cheng Pei Pei films, including Come Drink With Me, and more news about the Rickshaw discovery. It should fill in a few blanks. I wonder if Erika would enjoy Come Drink With Me? (Maybe she should tell her aforementioned coworker?).

Friday, February 02, 2018

Paolo Angeli's Vancouver return: a real (rare) treat for guitar lovers

Welcoming Paolo Angeli back to Vancouver!

I used to be a lot more involved in the avant garde music scene in Vancouver - noise nights, pancake noise breakfasts (or was that "noise pancake," to differentiate from the sound of the noise MADE by pancakes?). I wrote a Wire article - my only one so far - largely focusing on the Fake Jazz Wednesdays scene and Vancouver New Music, also speaking to people involved at 1067,  and tipping hat to bands like Shearing Pinx and the Mutators (unfortunately, some editor capitalized my And, making them into one band, but ah well, by the time I saw it the article was in print.) I think I got Dave Chokroun, Flatgrey, Harlow McFarlane and Josh Stevenson in there, maybe under a band name in some cases. I missed a couple of obvious names - Bill Batt and Jeremy van Wyck deserved to be in the article, for sure (Anju Singh was only just getting involved in the scene, though I did plug the Her Jazz Noise Collective). But I was focusing on the fear of impending venue closures, and talked to wendythirteen about the Cobalt instead, not knowing either Bill or Jeremy at that time and trying to keep my interviews manageable. The punk in me was glad to get wendythirteen into the Wire, but missing Bill and Jeremy seemed a mistake afterwards (I don't even recall if I mentioned Bill's band at the time, Stamina Mantis, who I'd only barely heard of). Besides all that, I paid a little more press than was maybe strictly warranted to my friends in Ejaculation Death Rattle (but what can I say, I dug what they did, members of the band were my "in" to a lot of the cooler stuff I was aware of, and, I mean, that's a great name for a band). I also blogged here a lot on any of the noise events I went to - go back ten years or so. And I frequently volunteered at Vancouver New Music events, selling merch for a long list of very cool people: Paul Dutton, Fred Frith, Maja Ratkje, the Her Jazz Noise Collective, Sir Richard Bishop, Diamanda Galas, and one of the guys from Negativland (Mark Hosler, I think his name was).

Those merch table nights were really fun. I often bought a ton of merch myself; I sold merch to some cool people (Alex Varty and I both bought Kick the Dog, a live Fred Frith album that you just don't see in stores); and sometimes I got to have very interesting conversations with the artists in question (including a long talk with Jaap Blonk that didn't ever end up making into the world, if anyone is hungry for a Jaap Blonk interview; it's one of about five major interviews I've done that for one reason or another never actually got published). Often I would be sitting at the merch table, "guarding" it, instead of going in to the venue proper (we're talking the Scotiabank Dance Theatre, here, so there was definitely a separation between the merch tables and the performance area).  Frequently that meant hanging out with people who were waiting to perform, or just winding down. I missed Koichi Makigami's set but I got to see him do a little bit of warming up in the anteroom. I had a long, enjoyable talk with Paul Dutton. I got Otomo Yoshihide to sign a CD, and confirmed with him in my broken Japanese that his family name was indeed "Otomo," not "Yoshihide" (the program got it wrong). Got to meet Maja Ratkje, too (much less terrifying when not performing). And of the five, I think, Vancouver New Music festivals (and a couple of stand-alone concerts) that I did that sort of thing for, by far the set that got the most buzz was Paolo Angeli, at the Guitars! Guitars! festival (or was it "Guitars! Guitars! Guitars!"...?).

I had no idea who Paolo Angeli was at that time. I was keener to see Rene Lussier that night, if memory serves, doing a combination of traditional French-Canadian reels and improvised electric guitar stuff, so I decided to just stay on the table and let a co-volunteer go into the space. But when people came out, after Angeli was done, they were totally excited about this masterful performance they'd seen, of moving, tuneful music played on a totally unique prepared guitar/ cello that gave him a much richer, bigger sound than you usually get from a solo performance. People cued up to buy his CDs in droves - it was Tessuti that he was touring at the time, involving his covers and homages to the music of both Fred Frith and Bjork (!) - and we sold all but one or two.

Mr. Angeli, after the performance, came out to square up, saw that he'd sold almost all his merch, was very surprised and happy, and - this was the only time, as I recall, that this happened - he gave me a tip: a copy of his CD. He tipped me! (That didn't happen very often).

It was terrific. I took it home, put it on, and commenced kicking myself for having missed his set. Understand, this was not really avant-garde music as the term is usually understood. It was fresh and new and virtuosic, sure, but there was none of the demanding/ indulgent/ noisy quality generally associated with the avant-garde. It was utterly beautiful to listen to, but also very earnest and down-to-earth, something that could easily bridge the gap(s) between people who liked classical music, jazz, experimental music and pop. I can't imagine anyone who likes guitar music, regardless of his or her background or tastes, spinning the album and not enjoying it (unless they really needed to be able to pigeonhole the genre, which I imagine would be frustrating). If you like music, you'll like it (and I'm tempted to say if you don't like it, you don't like music). And while I have sold off most of the CDs and LPs that I bought during that time, and almost never listen to anything remotely avant-garde anymore - the odd Eugene Chadbourne disc aside - I think I'm going to make up for my error and go see Mr. Angeli's Vancouver return performance on February 10th, again, put on by Vancouver New Music.

That's all I can really say about it, but an excerpt from the press release from Vancouver New Music follows. Note, fellow vulgarians, that in reading this through, I initially thought he adjusted tunings "on his fly," not "on the fly," which error lasted long enough in my head that I formed a mental picture of what it might look like.

Vancouver New Music presents
Paolo Angeli (Italy) – Solo Performance
Saturday, February 10, 2018; 8PM
Free pre-show chat 7:15PM 
Pyatt Hall at the VSO School of Music (843 Seymour Street)
Advance single tickets: $29 general / $21 senior / $12 student
At the door: $35 general / $25 senior / $15 student
(includes taxes and venue surcharges; ticket vendor surcharges extra)
Vancouver, BC – Virtuoso guitarist Paolo Angeli (Italy) returns to Vancouver on Saturday, February 10 for a one-night only, solo performance for prepared Sardinian guitar and voice at Pyatt Hall. This concert will be the final Canadian stop on his world tour for his new album, TALEA, which will begin at Carnegie Hall in New York City. 
Whatever you want to call it, nobody else plays music quite like this. Angeli, the Sardinian sorcerer, creates beautiful, multi-layered music from his unique prepared guitar: a hybrid orchestra of an instrument with strings that go in all directions, foot-pedal-controlled motorised propellers and hammers. Creating shimmering drones and bass-lines, Angeli bows, strikes, plucks and strums while producing rhythmic musical atmospheres by treading on a plastic bag and adjusting tunings on the fly. With this singular instrument he improvises and composes unclassifiable music, suspended between traditional music of Sardinia, free jazz, baroque, post-folk and pre-everything else. Every performance is lived through the practice of free improvisation, and represents for Paolo the chance to mould the sounds generated by his ‘orchestra’-guitar. The result is an ever-changing portrait where, in real time, can be found remnants of the ‘canto a chitarra’, Tasgia choirs, free jazz, punk noise, drum & bass, and avant pop. 
He has collaborated with Pat Metheny – who used Angeli's guitar in Orchestrion – Fred Frith, Hamid Drake, Iva Bittova, Butch Morris, Ned Rothemberg, Jon Rose, Antonello Salis, Evan Parker, Takumi Fukushima, Louis Sclavis, Paolo Fresu, and others. 
"Paolo Angeli is one of jazz’s best-kept secrets. The Sardinian guitarist (of sorts) has the ability to conjure incomparably beautiful multi-layered music, all from just one instrument. Playing a one- of-a-kind guitar/cello/motorised hybrid, Paolo bows, plucks and even provides his own percussion all at the same time without any need for loops." – Jez Nelson - BBC radio 3

More on the event here, and on Paolo Angeli here. Check him out on Youtube and tell me that it ain't lovely. Maybe we see you there?