Archive for the ‘Douglas Coupland’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Copps Coliseum, Hamilton, ON (December 11 1996).

This is the final show on Rheostatics Live in which the band is opening for The Tragically Hip.

For this show, the intro music is also from The Wizard of Oz, but this time it’s Judy singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”  It’s just one verse before fading out and then guitars fading in for Martin to play “A Mid Winter Night’s Dream.”

Turns out that this setlist is similar to the one from Buffalo with a lot of new songs.  Although there are a few older/more popular songs in places.

The new songs include “Fat” which sounds great of course.  I gather they are maybe sharing a microphone because at the end Dave says “See you in the next song, Martin.”  “Okay, Dave.”  This leads into a perfect version of “All the Same Eyes.”

Martin says “We are the Rheostatics.”  Dave says “We are the Rheostatics, not to be confused with The Howell Brothers (?).  They couldn’t make it but we got their jackets.  It’s nice of you to come out early.  We’re playing selections from our new record. Get it before it’s reduced to clear.”  (You can hear someone laugh on tape).

This is a segue into the single “Bad Time to Be Poor.”  It’s followed by another Tim song, “Claire” with the acoustic guitar opening in place.  There’s another lengthy guitar solo, although it’s not quiet as exciting as some of the other ones.  But Martin was saving up for a spirited version of “California Dreamline.”

They end their set with a rough rocking “Feed Yourself.”  During the spoken part, they slow things down to just a bass and washes of guitar.  It’s a pretty intense ending and a good preparation for The Tragically Hip.

[READ: June 25, 2017] The Story of Canada in 150 Objects

In celebration of Canada’s 150th year, Canadian Geographic and The Walrus created this special issue–a fun way to describe many elements of Canadian culture through “objects.”

The objects are grouped in vague categories.  Some have just a few words written about them while others get a few pages.  Some are humorous, some are more serious.  Most are happy or amusing, some not so much.  And all of it together paints a diverse and complex portrait of the country–as well as teaching this person from South of the border a number of things I did not know.

It’s with comic pride and humility that the first object is politeness (which is not an object at all, of course).  The amusing thing about this article about “politeness” is that while the author of it is very pleased to be so polite, he also can’t wait for his fellow Canucks to forget to be polite so he can rub it in with a extra smarmy “You’re Welcome.” (more…)


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unicornSOUNDTRACK: LIONEL LOUEKE-Tiny Desk Concert #56 (April 26, 2010).

louekeI had never heard of Lionel Loueke.   He is a West African jazz player with a wonderfully unique way of playing.  He uses low tuning, nylon strings electric guitars (the particular guitar he uses here is beautiful), and paper in his strings (to create a cool buzzing sound).

He also sings (but that’s not the right word), he makes sounds with his mouth–sometimes singing what he is playing, sometimes just making sounds.  He seems like he is having the best time up there.

According to the blurb, Loueke usually plays with a trio (with the bassist and drummer contributing to songs and shaping the direction of the band).  For this Tiny Desk only Loueke and drummer Ferenc Nemeth play.  Nemeth plays bells, bundle sticks and a little rig set up around a hand drum and a jangly tambourine–it’s a very cool percussive sound that perfectly matches Loueke’s guitar style.

They begin with of “Vi Ma Yon.”  It’s a five-minute traditional song that appears on Loueke’s album Mwaliko.  This is such a fun and interesting song, with Loueke’s voice floating above the interesting guitar styling he lays down (with that paper buzzing away).

The second song, “Merci,” feels more traditional–with what sounds like actual words done in a melody.  Although his guitar playing isn’t as interesting (the paper is gone), his skill is readily apparent as he flies around the neck.

This is yet another interesting Tiny Desk with a performer I’d never heard of who really impressed me.

[READ: May 29, 2015] Always Be Yourself.

The second bad book of the weekend is this one.  I have to admit I love the title of this book.  I don’t know exactly where it comes from (some Tumblr feed no doubt) but I think it’s very funny.  And that’s what attracted me to it.  But the book itself is really rather lame.

It’s always weird when a book tries to capture an online sensation.  Especially one that is completely of a time and basically ephemera.  So here we get this book about Tumblr.  Notice there is no “author” for the book.  Although on the inside we see that the text is by Perille Kok-Jensen and Els Dragt.

My guess is that it is striving to be like a Douglas Coupland book (the font is very similar) with pictures and pithy slogans designed to describe all that is Tumblr.  The blurb says this book is designed to look at today’s Tumblr generation who are “bold, dreamy and unfazed by the grim context in which they’re coming of age.”  And that it is written “to all the unicorns out there: perhaps you could buy the book for your parents so that they will understand that you are in fact not a freak but part of a greater movement.”

Okay, fine, but how is Tumblr (Tumblr? really?) a great movement?  And are people actually defining themselves by using Tumblr?  Because I can tell you that all kinds of stodgy places use Tumblr, too.

Anyhow, it starts with a pithy comment:  “The nineties called, they want their individualism back.”  Which seems like a direct contradiction to page 61: “Blending in is the new standing out.”  Whatever.

And then it quotes Farrell’s “Happy.”  In fact it quotes lots of song lyrics and other famous quotes (with no attribution, actually). (more…)

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ageSOUNDTRACK: COURTNEY BARNETT-Live at SXSW, (March 21, 2015).

cbsxswI enjoyed Barnett’s single “Avant Gardener” a lot.  Then I got a little sick of it (I love WXPN, but man they can overplay a song).  And yet I still like Barnett’s wordplay and her sense of melody.

I was really psyched to hear how noisy her latest single “Pedestrian at Best” was.  When she played the NPR SXSW showcase, a night in which she played exclusively songs from her then unreleased new album, I did not expect her to be so rocking.

But she really embraces the noise.  The sharpest, clearest sound in this show is Dave Mudie’s ever present snare drum–a cracking sound that keeps the beat and the song steady while Courtney thrashes away on her guitar and Bones Sloane’s low bass thuds along.

The set is short, and Barnett seems genuinely delighted at the size of the crowd.  They run through 8 of the songs of the new album, and they sound great.

  • “Elevator Operator” a great opener, familiar sounding but new.
  • “Pedestrian at Best” noisy and rocking–she has a ton of fun with this.
  • “An Illustration of Loneliness (Sleepless in New York)” is a bit mellower
  • “Depreston” a slow song with great lyrics.
  • “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go to the Party” a bratty fast rocker with Barnett slurring her lyrics in a fun way.
  • “Aqua Profunda!” a song about swimming in Melbourne.  2 minutes long which she describes as “stupid.”
  • “Dead Fox” super catchy and poppy.
  • “Kim’s Caravan” closes this short show with a long song.  It starts slow and moody, But Barnett starts wailing on her guitar by the end.

It’s kind of a shame that the show is only 36 minutes, but it’s a great way to get in, play some great songs and get out leaving us wanting more.  I hope the full length rocks as much as this show does.

You can watch her whole set at NPR.

[READ: March 20, 2015] The Age of Earthquakes

I saw this book at work and could tell just from the typeface that it was a Douglas Coupland book (he is that much of a brand).  I was a little thrown off by the other names on the book as I’ve never heard of them, but it is clearly a Coupland production, even if he is alphabetically second.

I’m not even sure what the other two authors contribute (or who they are), as the book is so clearly Couplandy.  Of course, having said that, the majority of the book is pithy aphorisms about the age of technology and the future.  So truly any one could have said them.

There is something kind of staid and conventional about Coupland writing about the craziness of the future and all that.  He’s been doing it for decades now.  But I found this book enjoyable.  Not mind blowing (although some ideas are pretty fascinating), not life changing, but enjoyable. (more…)

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shoppingSOUNDTRACK: BECK-Modern Guilt (2008).

modern guil;As I mentioned, I missed Modern Guilt when it came out.  I guess I had burnt out on Beck after The Information.  But man, I have recently gotten into it big time.  It may be my favorite Beck album of all.  It is brief and simple but with enough going on to keep iot more than just interesting.  The feel is consistently retro by Beck but Danger Mouse throws in enough modern elements to keep it totally fresh (at least six years after the fact).

“Orphans” opens with a hyper drum beat and keyboards, but once the chords and Beck’s vocals come in it has a very sixties folk/psychedelic vibe.  But those drums keep coming it, making it sound very modern.  This has one of the catchiest verses that Beck has sung in addition to a great unexpectedly poppy bridge.  The song is unmistakably Beck, but the flourishes are very Danger Mouse.  “Gamma Ray” opens with a surf rock sound and backwards backing vocals.  It sounds very “future”, but future from the 60s.  This song ends abruptly just under 3 minutes, it’s especially abrupt after the length of some of his more recent albums.  “Chemtrails” opens like mid 70s Pink Floyd–synths and falsetto vocals.  But when the drums come crashing in it totally changes the song to a more modern sound–and yet that bass is still very Pink Floyd.  “Modern Guilt” has a very simple beat and seems like a simple catchy song.  Then the keyboards come along top and it feels kind of spacey.  Then the second guitar riff comes in underneath the song and it’s grounded again.  There’s so much going on in this little poppy gem.

“Youthless” is another straight ahead simple rocker, this one has disco synth lines over the top.  It reminds me of “Cellphone’s Dead” from The Information (I keep waiting to hear “One by One, gonna knock you out”).  It’s the only song on here that reminds me of another of his songs. “Walls” has a cool vocal melody that plays off of the music very well.  It also ends abruptly–a very cool two and a half-minute song.  “Replica” has very contemporary chaotic drumming that pins this floating song.  “Soul of a Man” makes me think of Deep Purple’s “Hush” for some reason.  But I love the way the guitars and noises just seems to come and go leaving the classic rock rhythm pulsing underneath it all.  “Profanity Prayers” has a very punk feel–buzzy guitars and a fast beat, and yet it’s also smoothed over somewhat with an interesting backing vocal line.  “Volcano” is a slow song that anchors the album nicely.  It runs a little long, but this brief album earns a longer coda like that.

I just can’t stop playing this.

[READ: April 2, 2014] “Shopping in Jail”

Just when I thought I had caught up with everything that Douglas Coupland had published, I came across this book, a collection of his recent essays.  I enjoy the very unartistic cover that Sternberg Press has put on this.  It looks extremely slapdash–look at the size of the print and that the contents are on the inside front cover.  But the essays contained within are pure Coupland and are really enjoyable.

I have read a number of his older essays in recent years.  And here’s the thing: reading old Coupland essays just makes you think, ho hum, he knew some things.  But you don’t really think that he was on the forefront of whatever he was thinking.  So to read these essays almost concurrently is really fascinating.

His thoughts are science fiction, but just on the cusp of being very possible, even probable.  He also looks at things in ways that the average person does not–he notices that on 9/11 people didn’t have picture phones–imagine how more highly documented it would have been.  These essays are largely about technology, but they’re also about the maturation and development of people and how they relate to things.  Coupland can often seem very ponderous, and yet with these essays he seems prescient without actually trying to predict anything.  I enjoyed this collection very much. (more…)

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walrusmarchSOUNDTRACK: RHEOSTATICS-Linwood Movie Theatre, Port Dover, ON (December 4, 1999)

portThis is the final concert on of the 20th century on Rheostatics Live (and I’ll be taking a short break from the Rheos concerts after this one).  Even though the site doesn’t list the venue, in the previous show they say they are playing at the Linwood Movie Theater in Port Dover.  As with every other venue, I can’t find any information about this, so I’ll just accept it as true.

The last few shows were recorded from the soundboard, so this one is a little jarring to hear the audience so loudly.  But the sound is good and clean.

They say during the show that they are going to play songs from all 10 of their albums. And they do a pretty good job.  They miss playing something from Greatest Hits (which is kind of a surprise as everyone was shouting for “Wendell Clarke.”  Unsurprisingly they do not play anything off of Group of 7, and, in what I think of as a huge surprise—nothing off of Introducing Happiness—they almost always play something from that album anyway.

The set is comprised mostly of Harmeldia and Melville songs and it’s quite a good one.
“I Fab Thee” even invites audience participation.

This show also has one of the great dialogues between fans and band.  Someone asks if they have CDs available for sale.  Dave says, yes in the lobby.  She asks if they have them anywhere else and he replies “Is the lobby not convenient enough for you, ma’am?” to much laughter.

It’s a good show to end the millennium on. And I look forward to seeing what 2000 brings in their live shows.

[READ: March 6, 2014] “We Be Naked”

I have really enjoyed Gartner’s stories in the past but this one rubbed me the wrong way from the start.  I do not like stories where language is deliberated misused and not explained.  I am fine with dialect and I am fine with uneducated narrators, but when a narrator appears educated enough yet consistently gets something wrong and there is no explanation, that story has a massive strike against it.

So when the story starts

We be naked, not nude. Something to remember as the memory of us moves into the slipstream. Nude is in the eye of the beholder, naked a true enough fact.

I thought the “we be” part was an affectation of that first line.  The rest of the language is quite beautiful.  But no, the word “be” is used as the verb throughout the story.  In more and more irritating ways: “Or demands be modest.  We not be asking…”  Ugh. So what has caused the slip in the most basic verb use that English speakers have?  Especially when two sentences later we get this beautiful piece of prose:

And lay down your arms and pick up your instruments, music being the only true and beautiful man-made thing in this world.

Well, the story begins in April 2014 (which I liked) after the collapse of the Kyoto Protocol after the Pirate Party Bombings.  For almost two years since then they be chill.  Shudder. (more…)

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wildstabSOUNDTRACK:RHEOSTATICS-The Nightlines Sessions (1998).

nightlinesI have mentioned this disc before,but having listened to some live shows from around this time, it made me want to check out this disc again.  I’ve always thought it was kind of a silly goof of a record without a lot to fully enjoy.  And while the goofy tracks stand out, there’s also a lot of really good music on it.

“The Pooby Song” opens the song and while it is a slight and silly song, it is a fun folky introduction.  What its title means is a mystery to me.  The second song is the first version of “The Junction Foil Ball,” a great track that would later get re-recorded for The Night of the Shooting Stars.  “Frank” is another interesting song with some cool scratchy guitars and a good riff. It doesn’t get played much live, but it could easily fit into their set.

“Majorca” is a pretty song from Tim, although it is very strange (to me) that these Canadians are singing about Majorca (a song they would play live in a few bootlegs).  Another vaguely silly song is the sitar (?) based “Ugly Manhattan,” which makes fun of Wall Street.  Perhaps the most unexpected song is “Trans Jam” a rap which features Farm Fresh and The Subliminal Kid.  It’s quite good, too.

And yes, there is a lot of really silly stuff.   “Henry’s Musical Beard” is a weird 27 second toss off. “Alien Boy” is a goof commercial about mysteries of the unknown.  “Baby, I love You” is introduced as being by MC Vanilli  and the Sedaka Prince.  It’s an absurdly goofy “pop” song which reflects some pop song stylings rather well.  “This is Nightlines” is a profane rambling by Dave about the radio show that’s going off the air.

And yet just as you think the end of the disc is going to be nothing but silly, they play a fantastic version of “Stolen Car” (click track notwithstanding).

It really makes me want to hear the some Nightlines shows.  And, ta da, I recently found Network Effects, a site where a kind soul has been digitizing his taped copied of Nightlines sessions.  That’s pretty cool–more radio stations should take chances like this.

[READ: February 24, 2014] A Wild Stab for It

I found a bunch of Dave Bidini’s smaller books online.  And after reading his book about Keon, it seemed complementary to read this book about Game Eight.

Now, if you’re not Canadian or Russian, Game Eight might be meaningless to you.  You might even somehow think that a game of Canada vs the USSR is an Olympic event.  But it wasn’t.  It was the Summit Series.  Bidini assumes you know what the Summit Series is–this book is pretty explicitly for Canadian hockey fans (meaning pretty much every Canadian) who were alive in the 1970s.  They would all know what Game Eight was and why it was so important.  So, here’s some context from Wikipedia, because again, they summarize it better than I could:

The series was played at the height of the Cold War, and intense feelings of nationalism were aroused in both Canada and the Soviet Union, as well as on the ice.  Known at the time simply as the Canada–USSR Series, it was an eight-game series of ice hockey between the Soviet Union and Canada, held in September 1972.  It was the first competition between the Soviet national team and a Canadian team represented by professional players of the National Hockey League (NHL), known as Team Canada. It was the first international ice hockey competition for Canada after Canada had withdrawn from international ice hockey competitions in a dispute with the International Ice Hockey Federation (IIHF). The series was organized with the intention to create a true best-on-best competition in the sport of ice hockey. (more…)

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wpeSOUNDTRACK: An open letter to the Rheostatics (2014).

rheosTo Dave, Martin, Tim and assorted drummers:

I’ve been a fan of the Rheostatics for a long time.  I recall traveling to Toronto from New Jersey back in the 90s and tracking down Introducing Happiness at Sam the Record Man.  And then later driving around the Niagara Falls region listening to the strange and wonderful album. I’ve enjoyed all of the subsequent albums.

You were a unique band with a unique sound.  I was sad when you split up, even if that meant that now there were three solo projects to enjoy.  Of course, there’s been a lot of bands that have broken up, it’s just part of being a fan.  But the thing about the Rheostatics breakup is that you three (or four or five or six) have remained friendly.  You’ve done a few reunion shows since the breakup, which I think that’s super cool.  It’s especially cool because RheostaticsLive tends to post them after a while so that those of us who don’t make the shows can hear them.

I’ve never seen you guys live, and I imagine I never will.  And I’m okay with that.  What I’m mostly bummed about is that there will be no more new music from you.  You put out approximately ten albums (there’s a few miscellaneous things that are hard to qualify).  Those records include soundtracks and live albums and all manner of things, so there’s really seven proper albums (the others are great, don’t get me wrong).  Anyhow, my gut feeling is that there needs to be some new Rheostatics music.  I know you’ve all been doing solo stuff (and I have it), but sometimes the sum is greater, etc.

Clearly I’m getting at that it’s time for a new album from the Rheostatics.  Before you scoff, I’m not talking reuniting for a grand tour, or even any tour, I’m not even talking a live show.  Heck, I’m not even talking about you guys hanging out for more than a couple weeks.  Just an album of new songs.  A decade ago it would have been unthinkable that you would get together for the expense of an album without major label support.  But now, the cost is so much lower and with your fan base expanding, I assume it would be easy to recoup the expenses.

So what do you say?  Since it seems like everyone is still friendly and creative, maybe you can throw some ideas around in the email, see if there’s anything magical happening.  Obviously, if there’s nothing there or you just can’t work together, then don’t continue.  No one wants to hear a crappy Rheostatics album.  But if there’s even a chance that you guys can throw some ideas together and pull out another “Horses,” or “Northern Wish” or “CCYPA,” or holy cow, “King of the Past,” or, hell, anything you’ve done, then it’s absolutely worth it.

I don’t imagine any of you will read this, but maybe if you google yourselves, Tim Vesely, Dave Bidini, Martin Tielli, you’ll see this and think that, yes, dammit, seven records of Rheostatics music is not enough.

Thanks for the music, Paul Debraski.

[READ: January 26, 2014] Worst. Person. Ever.

I told myself that I wanted to read this book before anyone requested it.  And I did.  In fact, I wanted to finish it before the weekend was up, which I did as well.  It’s nice to meet a minor goal.

The last few Coupland books that I read (see last week) were very dark.  Since those books, he has broadened his palette somewhat, including writing a  children’s book and some more non-fiction.  And then we get this.  A vulgar, very funny sendup of modern culture.  The introduction to the book says that it was based on a short story that he wrote for McSweeney’s #31 called “Survivior.”  That story was written in the style known a biji which they described as

Biji is sort of a notebook, which contains legends, anecdotes, scientific notes and local wisdom.  Accounts of everyday life mix with travel narratives as well as lists.  It is meant to represent a picture of the culture at the time of writing.

I thought that this style was well suited to Coupland, because he includes all of that stuff anyway.  And so he has taken that story and fleshed it out into this full novel.

The worst person ever is named Raymond Gunt.  He thinks he’s Jason Bourne, but he’s really just a metaphorical extra in a Bourne movie (one who probably gets killed).  Gunt is a cameraman working in England.  He is divorced.  His wife is a raging harpy (at least from his point of view, which is all we see).  Since their divorce, she has become wildly successful in television production.  He calls in on her at work and she tells him about a job working as a B cameraman on a show called Survival.  He knows that the job must suck or she wouldn’t give it to him, but he needs to work.  Of course, he is most upset at the thought of having to work with Americans (Americans are majorly abused in this story).  Although by its very nature a B cameraman position is not as good as an A cameraman, Ray needs the work, so he agrees to fly to some godforsaken tropical island to watch beautiful people starve and try to have sex with each other.

On his way out of the building he sees a homeless guy.  And since Ray is the worst person ever, he kicks him. But the homeless guy is no pushover and he chases after Ray.  He catches Ray in an alley and pummels him, ultimately pushing his face into some garbage. The man is Neal and although he acts crazy, he’s actually quite sharp (why he is homeless is not addressed).  After forcing Ray to sing the female verses of “Don’t You Want Me,” Neal gives him this sage advice:

“Stop being a cunt to the world and the world will stop being a cunt to you.”

Advice which Ray simply cannot follow.

When ray learns that he needs a personal assistant, um, slave, he immediately thinks of Neal.  So he tracks him down, cleans him up and gives him a job.  And off they jet to make some TV.

In the course of the book, a series of crazy things–the kind of things only Coupland thinks of–sidetrack them from Ray’s goal.  (His real goal is to get laid, naturally).  First, it turns out that Neal, despite being homeless, is a total babe magnet.  And throughout the story, as he gets cleaner and fresher, he becomes irresistible  This, of course, ruins Ray’s plans of bedding hot women.  And as Neal gets cleaner, he becomes less and less Rays assistant and more and more Ray’s equal.

They jet to L.A., (he was supposed to be in first class, but was bumped and is super angry).  He also gets in trouble with the airport bartender, Lacey, who comes back to haunt him in ways one could never predict.  He gets first class seats on the way to Hawaii and he abuses the privilege.  Then, because of unforeseen circumstances, they have to stay in Honolulu (with lots of Spam jokes).  And because of those unforseen circumstances, they need to recast the show, which means Ray’s wife has to jet down and be around them.  And Ray’s wife, Fiona, is delighted to make Ray’s life miserable.  Eventually, they head to their intended island and prepare to set up for the show.

In the meantime, the U.S. has decided to destroy the Great Pacific Garbage Patch–in a very imaginative way.  And ray is on hand to witness the destruction.  This plan causes all manner of trouble with shipping and airplane traffic.  Which has the effect of isolating everyone on the Survivor island–causing a literal survival situation.

Raymond Gunt may not be the worst person ever, but he is pretty darn close. He tries to sleep with anyone.  He tries to screw over everyone else (but never seems to get anywhere).  And he genuinely likes to torment others.  And all the while he repeats his mantra, “I consider myself a reasonable enough citizen.”  Despite Gunt’s personality, he (or at least the story) is funny enough that you want to keep reading (and maybe even to succeed in some of his designs).  And that made this story a major page turner.  And it was very funny as well.

Coupland really gets the feel for writing a British story.  It doesn’t read like any of his other books and while it’s not full of crazy accents or overt Britishisms, his main character is defiantly not American. As I said, all Americans are fat, sweaty, stupid and prudish in Ray’s mind.

This is also the worst person that Coupland has ever written. He is such an abominable person with an incredibly filthy mouth.  The above quote is just one of just many curses in the book.  In fact there’s a whole subplot about how prudish Americans are about people saying “fuck” despite their cavalier acceptance of violence and other things (we say friggin, when everyone knows we mean fucking).

I have to assume Coupland had a ton of fun writing this.  And it really comes through.  I’m also going to guess that a lot of people’ won’t like this book because Gunt is so reprehensible.  But if you can get past that, the story is funny, and makes some pointedly humorous observations about a lot of contemporary life.  Like “Survival [sic] is a popular reality TV show… You’re either into this show or you’re not.  It’s binary.”  or “‘Come on Eileen’ was a single in 1982…What’s weird about this song is that it was so huge at the time and now you listen to it and wonder, what the hell was everyone thinking?  Well, that’s pop culture for you.”  It even has what seem like Wikipedia entries of things throughout in the book (and a YouTube link which is bizarre to see in print).

I really enjoyed this, and I’m thrilled that Coupland has unleashed his inner black humorist.

Watch him talk about the book with Jian Ghomeshi, a great interviewer

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