Don’t Be Frightened

Last night, Chuck and I were able to see my #10 favourite band of 2008, Frightened Rabbit, Live in concert.  First, I loved the venue – especially for its location, which is here in Charlottesville!  Not having to drive an hour or two to see a show just makes the night so much better.  The venue itself (called “is venue”) was an intimate second-floor loft with hardwood floors and exposed brick walls: very “hipster.”

Frightened Rabbit put on an excellent show.  The highlight was their first song of the encore, Poke, which Scott Hutchinson played completely unplugged – no microphone or anything.  The entire crowd went completely silent to hear this quiet rendition of his heart-wrenching tune about a dying love.  Obviously, the video below isn’t of last night’s performance, but it’s the same idea.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

All and all, the show was great.  Frightened Rabbit sure have some interesting lyrics though.  Check out these lines from a song that challenges his ex-girlfriend’s new lover to a fight:

  • I’m armed with the past and a will and a brick
  • Don’t brush with her, she might have diseases
  • I’m armed to the teeth and I’m heavy-set

I don’t know about you, but it this song were directed at me, I’d be scared.  I mean, who would want to fight with a crazy, brick-wielding, heavyset ex-boyfriend with a disease-ridden girl.

Check out some great Frightened Rabbit live studio recordings at

The Coalition Is Dead

Ignatieff has today announced that his Liberals will “swallow hard and accept” Prime Minister Harper’s budget, providing that the Tories provide regular status reports to ensure they are keeping the commitments made.  This means that the present government will live to see another day.  The Coalition is Dead.

Personally, I think this is Iggy’s best move.  In fact, when Theresa and I were talking last night, it is exactly what I argued he should do.  And heres why: first, the Liberals have already succeeded in Humbling Harper: the threat of a parliamentary  defeat has caused our arrogant PM to tone down his defiant rhetoric and actually listen to its opposition.  Having done this, accepting the budget (which gives him a lot – but not all – of what he asked for) shows that Iggy can put the needs of the country ahead of partisanship, and distances himself from the radical NDP and Bloq.  At the same time, he is keeping Harper on a short leash and maintains the ability  to topple Tories sometime in the future, preferably when this economic crisis has stabilized and when Canadians have had a better chance of getting to know the new opposition leader.

Well played Iggy.  And well called Randal – maybe I should head back home and try my hand at Canadian politics (after all, if an American-educated historian/journalist can become the leader of the Liberals, maybe and American-trained lawyer can as well…)

UPDATE: The NDP certainly doesn’t seem happy about the recent turn of events.  One more reason to dislike Jack Layton.

Political Blizzard II: Iggy’s Revenge

The New Guy: Michael Ignatieff

When we last left our heros(?) in the Canadian Parliament, things were very tense between Prime Minister Steven Harper’s Conservatives and a hastily assembled coalition of the Liberals, the NDP and the Bloq.  In order to avoid a non-cofidence vote that would have resulted in the coalition taken power (or, at the least another election), Harper persuated the Governor General to suspend Parliament until Jan 26.  i.e. tomorrow.

Because I am sure you are all planning to glue yourselves to the CBC tomorrow, I thought it might be helpful to update you on what has gone down since my last report.  First, the coalition quickly fell apart after Parliament ended.   The Liberals removed their terribly inept leader, Stephane Dion, and replaced him with Michael Ignatieff, or Iggy as we like to call him.  Although Iggy has taken some flack for being an academic and spending most of his adult life outside of Canada (at Oxford and Harvard), recent polls suggest that he is more popular now than Harper.  Meanwhile, the conservatives have prepared a new budget that includes the first Canadian deficit in 10 years.  

The Parliament will vote on the budget this Tuesday.  Both the Bloq and the NDP have vowed to vote it down.  The Liberals, however are being very coy: they have not stated that they will join the other opposition parties in bringing down the government, but they have certainly not removed the possibility of either another election or a coalition takeover from the table.

So what will become of the embattled Canadian Government?  Stay tuned this week for another exciting episode!

Viva La Revolucion

As I write this, I am at home with little to do and Theresa is at work, collecting bacon to bring home. It is a necessary situation that I don’t think either of us are too crazy about. But to make things a little more bearable, we have begun a fun tradition – lunch dates. We  enjoy trying new restaurants, but on two of our first three dates, we’ve already visited one particular location twice (which is about the best way I can convey the magnitude of its awesomeness). Over the almost 3 years of my blog, I have only ever recommended a restaurant once before: Aqui Es Mexico. So in order to be honored in these pages you’ve got to be all kinds of delicious. But there is no doubt that this place deserves the honor; I’m just upset it took us over two years to venture into that downtown basement.

Don’t make the same mistake we did by waiting – if you live in Charlottesville, make a lunch date to visit Revolutionary Soup.

Speaking Of My Year End List

I am super excited that two of the bands whose albums made the list are coming to Charlottesville in the next couple of months: #10, Frightened Rabbit, and #3, Plants and Animals.  If anyone would like to accompany Theresa and I to these shows, please let me know.

Favourite, Not Favorite

Bruce Peninsula: A Mountain is a Mouth

You may have thought that there was a spelling mistake in the title of last year’s most popular post, Our Favourite Albums of 2008, but I assure you that it was not.  Favourite is how you spell the word in Canada, and in this case, as in many other instances, Theresa and I decided that although we may be in Rome, we would rather not do as the Romans do.  We, like most other immigrants, are trying to retain a as much as our homeland as possible.  But because Canada and the US are so similar, this patriotism usually manifests itself in entirely trivial yet authentically meaningful ways, such as spelling or our stubborn refusal to let go of the metric system (it just make so much more sense!).  To be sure, Theresa and I are proud of Canada, and for as long as we live south of the boarder, we will probably never consider ourselves Americans, or even Canadian-Americans, but rather Canadians who just happen to live in America.

One of the ways in which I do my best to forget that when I cross the boarder I have to write USA as my country of residence it to fully immerse myself in the Canadian Independent music scene.  The added benefit is that the Canadian music scene is so awesome.  And because we Canucks are so generous, I would like to take this time to introduce to all of my stateside friends to a few of Canada’s most talented up and coming indie rockers.  So, here are five of my favourite new Canadian bands (not including The Rurual Alberta Advantage, Plants and Animals, or any of the other bands featured on my year end list), along with an MP3 from each:

  1.  Black Hat Brigade (MP3 – Pictorial History)
  2. Bruce Peninsula (MP3 – Shutters)
  3. Ketch Harbour Wolves (MP3 – Midnight Dark Water)
  4. Rah Rah (MP3 – Tentacles)
  5. Entire Cities (MP3 – Cop Song)

If you would like to find more great Candian music, check out the blog, I (heart) Music, which is where all of these MP3s come from.


Theresa and I just returned to Virginia after a busy but wonderful two weeks back home in Alberta.  Here are a few of the great things about our trip.

100_1328Family: It is always great to be with family after a long absence, and this vacation was no exception.  Both the Millers and Valgardsons were privileged to have their entire families home for the holidays.  On Theresa’s side, we were especially excited to see Marvin Johnson, our new nephew who stole everyone’s hearts with his his consistently worried expressions.  As for the Miller clan, we were happy to see my brother Jeff, who returned from his mission less than a month ago.  From the time we spent with him, it defiantly seems like he’s returned from the missionfield a better person.

100_1350Winter:  Yes winter.  The temperature in Edmonton hardly ventured above -20 and often hovered at -30, but it was actually nice to experience a real winter for a couple of weeks.  It reminded me of my roots and made me appreciate Charlottesville’s mild winter.  And its always nice to have snow for Christmas.

100_0624Tim Hortons: Theresa and I love Canada, and whenever we go back we always make time to visit our Country’s favorite hang-out: Time Hortons.  This donut shop has more locations in Canada than McDonalds, and there really is little more Canadian than sitting around a Tim Hortons in you winter parka, sipping some of their hot chocolate and munching on one of their fantastic donuts. 

100_1301Food, Food, Food:  We all know that Christmas means candy, and we certainly fed ourselves plenty of it.  From the homemade chocolates to the Carmel Popcorn, we gorged ourselves to a degree that would shock any dentist.  But our calorie intake didn’t come entirely from sugar.  Both the Valgardsons and the Millers know how to prepare a feast too good to take in moderation.

Games, Games, Games: More of our time was spent playing games than probably any other activity.  Favourites included Killer Bunnies (neither of our families could get enough), Snorta, Zooloretto (a brand new game we received this Christmas – I highly recommend it), and What (I did not realize until we played this game that putting fireworks in a coworker’s pants was an effective method of securing a promotion).

100_1307Secrets: Perhaps this is due to Daniel Harker’s influence, but I love secrets!  In particular, I love making sure that the gifts I buy for Theresa remain a surprise, a task that is sometimes difficult when I live within such close quarters with a wife who is quite apt at figuring out my schemes.  I think I did fairly well this year, save a few slip-ups (I left a Forever 21 bag on our bed after wrapping a gift).  Theresa also did a good job, although she neglected to disguise her Zappos box, believing that I was unfamiliar with the shoe store.

100_1341Guitar Hero/Rock Band:  Sure it is easy to make fun of gamers who prefer fake plastic guitars to the real version, but these games are incredibly entertaining.  My sister received rock band for Christmas and I just couldn’t get enough.



Planet Earth:  Theresa has loved this show for a long time, and because I was able to find the set for $20 (regularly priced at $80), we were able to experience the amazing videos on my parent’s giant screened projector.  When we were in the hotel at Dulles, the Discovery Channel was even playing the show (although they dubbed over the British narrator with an American one – what’s up with that)


100_0676Shopping: With the largest mall in North America (yes, even larger than the Mall of America), Edmonton has some pretty good shopping.  And if there is one thing that Theresa loves (besides me, of course), its shopping.  Her enthusiasm has even rubbed off on me a bit, and I picked up a few pieces myself.  Top it off with a warm poutine, and you’ve got yourself a great day.

Books:  Because of this trip, our personal library has practically doubled.  We got a number of books as christmas gifts, and Theresa snagged a handful more from my mother, who buys books like an addict buys cigarettes.


For the full gallery, click here.