The choice is ours

March 21, 2007

Better late than…

Filed under: Business Development, music — shippingpal @ 10:02 am

It’s weeks like the last two that make maintaining a blog rather difficult – so much happening, so many meetings, so much code to write/evaluate/re-write… between that and my busy social life, there isn’t much time at the end of the day to gather one’s thoughts into anything approaching coherence. At any rate, a brief rundown would have to at least include mention of our ever-improving API, now being written in ASP and .NET versions for all you Microsoft victims, our expanding network – we’re now returning results continent-wide from FedEx and UPS, with Dynamex soon to come – and our continuing efforts to get our second round of capital in place. As the company has grown over the last 12 months, I’m somewhat less hands-on when it comes to decisionmaking on the corporate level, as I’m busy in the trenches building the technology that the firm is valued on. That said, I am still in close contact with the partners and all decisions made are unanimous – aside from a few…

Out in the real world, I was devastated to find out that Friday’s Booka Shade concert was cancelled when the band got snowed in at NYC; it was rescheduled to Sunday, but that didn’t suit me as Monday promised to be insanely busy – I now have the dubious pleasure of having missed my favourite band in London AND Toronto. Still, we compensated somewhat beforehand by heading to the Trane Studio to see my good friend Waleed Abdulhamid kick it with his band of jazz musicians, and they were on fire that night.

Currently reading: ‘Woolmer’s death treated as murder‘ – intrigue in the intl cricketing community

Currently hearing: Neon Bible – The Arcade Fire

Currently watching: Fast Food Nation (dir: Richard Linklater)

January 31, 2007

Work it

Filed under: Business Development, music — shippingpal @ 12:47 pm

Out last night at Century Room for Industry night, we stumbled upon the after-party for Justin Timberlake, who played the ACC last night. Though the man himself did not appear to be in attendance, we were treated to a rare live PA set from Timbaland, his genius producer, who dropped a bunch of his hits and generally got the crowd whipped into a frenzy. It was pretty packed in there, and the energy was wild. A lot of fun. On a more laid back groove, I’ll be hitting the Dominion to see my good friend K Obsidian mix some classic jazz tonight, which better suits the tempo of a Wednesday evening.

Workwise, we are in the midst of a fairly significant overhaul of the ordering system, so that we can bring our data closer in line with the requirements of the national level carriers we now deal with. This requires a modification of our current package type selector to compel the user to enter the dimensions and weight of each individual package. It is resulting in a fair bit of extra coding, mostly to facilitate passing the variables through the system from one end to the next, and it’s fairly exacting work, as everything needs to be totally accurate. Anyway, between that and project managing our outsourced work, I’ve been keeping busy.

Currently reading: nothing in particular

Currently hearing: Anything – Martina Topley Bird

Currently watching: Ricky Gervais interviews Christopher Guest

January 16, 2007

Time you will never recover

Filed under: music, News and Comment — shippingpal @ 11:24 am

There are certain headlines I come across every so often which instantly scream, ‘DO  NOT CLICK!’  They warn of facile self-promotion disguising itself as comment.  A recent example must be that annoying English guy from American Idol stating that Bob Dylan would never win American Idol.  Now, needless to say I didn’t read the article for a number of reasons – most having to do with the limited number of hours in the day and the fact that the opinions of someone who thinks teenage singers should aspire to become the new Michael Bolton really don’t interest me – but I can get the gist of it just from the headline.  The man who inflicted S-Club 7 on the world has the temerity to question the musical abilities of someone who has added immeasurably to the canon of popular music and is considered by many to be among the greatest American poets of the postwar era.  Let’s just let history be the judge in that particular instance.

Speaking of annoying English guys, I made the mistake of clicking on Chris Hitchens’ recent absurd article about ‘why women aren’t funny’.  I’m not going to provide a link to it here, out of humanitarian considerations, but suffice to say it’s patently ridiculous and full of asides like ‘you know what I mean’ and ‘am I wrong?’, prompting the appropriate responses – ‘No I don’t’ and ‘Yes’.  I have two words for Mr. Hitchens – Sara Silverman.  I might also remind him of the legions of men out there who are simply unfunny or the many more who seem to be missing the humour gene completely.  Working in the tech sector, I meet them all the time.  In any case, I thought that a preeminent literary critic would have better things to do with his time than a poorly considered ‘Men are from/Women are from’ schtick.

On a more interesting note, Malcolm Gladwell – sometime Toronto resident and lately of New York and the New Yorker – has penned a couple of insightful articles lately, one on Enron and another, which is actually a series of blog postings touching on recent celebrity racist outbursts, both of which are worth a look.

Finally, and totally unrelated, I must give a mention to emusic.com, which is like iTunes’ cheaper, cooler kid brother.  They don’t have everything, but they have plenty of the good stuff, including today’s selection, and the subscription rates and lack of annoying DRM systems makes them preferable in my eyes.  On another musical note, Onsulade‘s DJ set at Therapy on Saturday night was a thing of beauty – mind blowing.

Currently reading:  Taking a breather after finally finishing ‘A Short History of Everything’ by Bill Bryson

Currently hearing: In White RoomsBooka Shade

Currently watching:  The Killer – dir. John Woo

December 11, 2006

Best of the best 06

Filed under: Blogroll, music, News and Comment — shippingpal @ 12:00 pm

As the year wraps up, I figured I might as well jump on the bandwagon and fire off a few best-of-year lists.

Most memorable meals (bear in mind, this list may be revised as a result of upcoming visits to London and Paris)

1. Le Lan, Chicago – a stunning, and completely unexpected meal back in September. The tapas place my brother and I planned to visit was packed, so we strolled around the corner and happened on this place, which I now know to be staffed by Roland Liccioni, ex of French Laundry. Inside, a tasteful room, attentive service and decent wine list whet the appetite for a truly incredible meal which made me re-assess everything I know about cooking. My main of lamb was so fresh I’m sure they must have slaughtered it in the back room moments before cooking, and it was plated with an eggplant and orange chutney that reminded me that truly great cooking has nothing to do with rare or fancy ingredients, but imagination. As Brillat Savarin once wrote, ‘the discovery of a new dish does more for human happiness than the discovery of a new star.’ (links to interesting manifesto by Keller, Feria, Blumenthal)

2. Bouchon, Las Vegas – Thomas Keller’s other restaurant, but whereas his French Laundry and Per Se spots are booked up months in advance, in the permanent twilight of Las Vegas, I was able to secure a table at 3pm for that very evening. The chef billed as America’s greatest did not disappoint, with classic bistro dishes served with style, an excellent wine list (we had the Dame de Montrose 01) and superbly attentive service. The steak frites was quite simply the best I’d had all year, a giant hanger steak cooked perfectly medium-rare, dressed simply with shallot and herb butter, and accompanied by properly salty frites. The appetizer of raw seafood (clams, oysters, lobsters) was similarly thrilling.

3. Po, New York – Lured in by the promise of the chef’s Sunday night 8-course prix fixe, it soon became clear that it would simply be far too much food. Instead, choosing from an extensive, all-Italian wine list, we opted for simpler fare, and were not disappointed. Founded by Mario Batali, but long since its own West Village institution, Po delivered the goods with heaps of flavour and finesse, the best comfort food I’ve had in a long while. The squash ravioli in brown butter and balsamic vinegar was good enough to compel licking the plate, and my main of back ribs braised in beer and served with polenta sealed the deal, the rich meat falling off the bone and into a sumptuous tomato-and-beer ragu.

4. Fleur de Lys, Las Vegas – Located in Mandalay Bay resort, where we were attending the eBay conference, Fleur de Lys was a celebration meal to acknowledge how far we’d come in a short time (well, it was not that short I suppose). Opting for the four-course tasting menu with accompanying wine, we had all the usual suspects, served with a singular vision and expertly matched to some very interesting wine choices – foie gras done three ways with a sweet Loire wine, tuna tartare, and a mind-boggling venison dish, seared and served in its own juices, sided with a massive Californian zinfandel. The meal was polished off in grand style with an artisanal cheese plate accompanied by vintage port. Another fabulous evening.

5. Japango, Toronto – For my money, the best sushi restaurant in the city, and host to a holiday-end blowout for my brother, over from the UK where he studies law. We celebrated in grand style, with their signature dragon roll (soft-shelled crab) and lots of sake. Attentive service and a relaxed, almost bar-like atmosphere left us free to indulge in laughter, drinking and copious amounts of superbly fresh nigiri, sushi and sashimi.

Also notable:
Blowfish, Toronto
The Modern, NYC
Vong’s Thai Kitchen, Chicago

Best albums of 2006 (may not have been released this year)

1. Whatever People Say…, Arctic Monkeys – Of course. Soundtrack to Spring and Summer 2006. Can’t wait for the follow-up.
2. Snow Borne Sorrow, Nine Horses – David Sylvian partners with sometime K7 wunderkind Burnt Friedman to release the most lovely songs of loss and misery you’ll hear for quite a while.
3. Abattoir Blues/Lyre of Orpheus, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – A return to form after the rather sentimental Nocturama, the double-album format gives Nick the range to really explore his obsessions, and the accompaniment of backing vocals adds a gospel-style layer to the music which makes it instantly addictive. Lyrically and musically, it may be his best album since Murder Ballads.
4. Scales, Herbert – Perhaps my favourite artist these days, and continually inventive and melodic, Matthew Herbert releases another album of his instantly-recognizable glitch disco, and once again makes me wonder how it is possible to be so conceptual and so funky at the same time. Additional props for his superb August show at Harbourfront.
5. Dimanche a Bamako, Amadou & Mariam – The breakthrough album for this veteran Afropop duo, full of catchy, uplifting melodies and great musicianship. They are rightly becoming international superstars.

Also notable:
Another Late Night, Kid Loco
Faking the Books, Lali Puna
Is This Desire, PJ Harvey

Best films of 2006 (again, may not have been released this year)

1. The Edukators – Daniel Bruhl continues his rise to stardom with a fabulous performance in this ensemble piece about youthful convictions colliding with adult responsibility. It starts out a bit slow, but draws you into the confused and conflicted world of young people, struggling to acquire their own identities in stifling conformist settings. The ending will have you pumping your fist in the air, cheering. I think this premiered at the 05 Toronto film festival and was released on DVD earlier this year.
2. Infernal Affairs – Not having seen Scorcese’s The Departed, I can gladly endorse this film purely on the basis of its own excellence. Tony Leung exudes the kind of charisma actors like Colin Farrell would kill for, and Andy Lau keeps it buttoned down before revealing his murderous streak when it comes to self-preservation. The supporting cast, particularly Eric Tsang as crime boss Sam and Anthony Wong Chau-Sang as Inspector Wong, give superb performances as well, and the plotting and dialogue are utterly compelling. The sequel (actually a prequel) is worth seeing too.
3. Yes – One of the most unconventional films I’ve seen in a while, an interracial love story told entirely in iambic pentameter. Joan Allen is superb in her role, and Simon Abkadian breaks out in a role that in lesser hands could have fallen victim to the exotic-lothario cliche. Superb and unforgettable.
4. Cronicas – John Leguizamo grabs you by the throat in this incredibly compelling mystery/horror movie/ indictment of media hypocrisy. A superb supporting cast, multi-lingual screenplay and deft storytelling touch result in a movie that will make you want to stay up a while before going to bed after watching it. Damián Alcázar’s stunning performance gets way under your skin.
5. Murderball – An amazing documentary about a bunch of mean SOBs who just happen to be quadraplegics. As compelling as a feature film, with equally memorable characters, and a satisfying narrative arc, these guys don’t want your sympathy – in fact, they’ll kick your ass.

Also notable:
Carandiru
Grizzly Man
The Ballad of Jack and Rose

Best websites of 2006

1. Guardian Unlimited – Whether it’s George Monbiot‘s commentary, Ricky Gervais‘s equal-parts hilarious and annoying podcasts, or Steve Bell‘s wickedly funny cartoons, it’s become my homepage for a lot of reasons. Plus, good football and cricket coverage, and Media Guardian too. Irresistible to expats the world over.
2. Epicurious – It really is the world’s best recipe collection. Too many favourites to count, but try the monkfish with leeks, chantarelles and ginger.
3. Metafilter – still going strong, one of the web’s most interesting community weblogs. Can be counted on to consistently deliver a wide range of interesting, funny postings ranging from the political to artistic to just plain weird. Just don’t call it best-of-the-web (or should that be teh internets?)
4. Der Spiegel – Their english-language site, along with sister Sign and Sight, provide an invaluable insight into european perspectives for a pathetic monolinguist such as myself.
5. eBay – still addicted.

Also notable:
php.net

imdb
Foreign Policy blog

November 11, 2006

Too Many Meetings

Filed under: Business Development, music — shippingpal @ 1:39 pm

It’s been a hectic week as we put the finishing touches on both the site and our launch strategy. A number of worthwhile meetings with key players, including one at Pure Spirits in the Distillery district, where all four diners had the steak frites – and mighty good it was, too. We’ve been co-ordinating our Daily Bread initiative, which should be great, and it’s been implemented on the website. You can fill out a simple order form for your donation, and if you schedule it between December 1 and 18, it’s free.

Went out last night with a bunch of friends to catch Robyn Hitchcock at the Mod Club. It was a great show – some hilarious asides and typically nifty wordplay, but it was the music itself that was so exciting. A massive, crunchy vibe, much harder than I’d expected, with deep bass and a really full sound. He thoughtfully dedicated ‘I Wanna Destroy You’ to former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Dynamite stuff.

Currently reading: UN: Water, Sanitation Crisis Killing Millions of Children (VOA)

Currently hearing: Back to Mine (Everything But the Girl)

Currently watching: The Ballad of Jack and Rose (dir. Rebecca Miller)

November 1, 2006

The Sound of Music

Filed under: music — shippingpal @ 11:17 am

I’ve been digging around on the Net for a few music related tools lately, mainly to mix my considerable MP3 collection, and then to post those mixes somewhere I can share them with a few friends. In my travels, I’ve come across a couple of cool apps. I’m still waiting for Acoustica to make a Mac version of their fab MP3 mixer, but I’d guess they probably won’t bother since the already-bundled GarageBand does almost the same job. I still prefer the Acoustica one though, because it allows for track dividing, and also doesn’t max out at 2000 bars (about an hour and a bit), even if I have to fire up my Windows PC to use it. Anyway, there’s a nice big pile (415 when I last checked) of iTunes related Apple scripts available here for Mac users, that can help you do just about anything you need to organize your music.

The mix complete (tentative title “October Surprise”), I came across a rather cool little sharing app called esnips, which provides you with a GB of web storage space and all sorts of customizable settings. Again, they’re still working on their Mac-compatible interface, but in the meantime there’s a web-based uploader that handles files up to 10MB – easily enough for individual MP3 tracks. They also just completed a $2 million round of financing with Greylock (nice one!) and have a couple of blogs on their site. Prior to finding esnips, I’d checked out the promising (and working-for-others) waxdj.com, but the automated responder never sent me my activation code, so I guess I won’t be posting any mixes there for now. Just as well, I wouldn’t know how to categorize the music I’m into anyway…

Currently reading: eBay Canada Message Boards: Payments, Customs and Shipping

Currently hearing: Sorry Sorry (Francois K’s Deep Afropop Mix) – Femi Kuti

Currently watching: Ah Pook Is Here (William S. Burroughs animation)

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