FRENCH WORD OF THE DAY: Achalandage

Achalandage: The number or amount of people who visit a destination, ie a hotel.

As seen in: « Période difficile pour les hôteliers de Montréal. Le taux d’achalandage a diminué d’environ 12,5% en juillet par rapport à l’année dernière. »

(Translation: “Tough times for Montreal hotel owners.  The visitation rate decreased about 12.5 per cent in July compared to last year.”)

http://journalmetro.com/actualites/montreal/132883/baisse-dachalandage-dans-les-hotels-montrealais-sur-fond-de-negociations-collectives/

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Crazy From the Heat: London shuts down Olympic train service cuz it’s too hot outside…

When inclement weather disrupts public transportation, you’d usually expect some form of precipitation.  Such is not the case in London, however, where as tourists and athletes arrive ahead of the Olympic Games, train service to the Olympic Stadium has been suspended due to heat.  I can’t say I’ve ever heard that one before—here’s hoping the TTC doesn’t get any ideas…

Mind you, while Torontonians have almost gotten used to 30-degree temperatures by now, it’s still a rather rare phenomenon in rainy old England.  The hot weather has imposed a speed restriction on the Greater Anglia line, which has led to the cancellation of several trains, while many others simply won’t stop at Stratford, near the site of the stadium.  Apparently, old cables are to blame.  “A Network Rail spokesman said the heat affected the workings of the remaining older overhead cables out of Liverpool Street, dating back to the 1950s, which are in the process of being replaced,” according to The Guardian.

Gee, you’d think that with the Olympics coming to town, the cables closest to the stadium would be the first ones they’d replace, wouldn’t you?

If you can afford a $700-dollar iPad, you can afford a five-star hotel room, right?

Apparently, Mac users tend to stay in fancier hotels than plain old PC people, according to data gathered by travel site Orbitz.com.  The Wall Street Journal reports that “Mac computers spend as much as 30% more a night on hotels, so the online travel agency is starting to show them different, and sometimes costlier, travel options than Windows visitors see.”

Rest assured though, Justin Long-lookalikes, that you’re not being charged more money for the same room—just that some higher-priced hotels might appear first on search results.  The WSJ found that a search for New York hotels turned up the same Top 20 on both machines, but Macs had more expensive suites listed on Page 2.  And while Las Vegas, Orlando, Philadelphia and Boston displayed the same results on both machines, more expensive hotels appeared first on the Mac in Miami, as well as for the football mecca of Baton Rouge, LA.  Geaux Tigers!

Unlike competitors Expedia, Travelocity and Priceline, who don’t differentiate between computer brands, Orbitz has heavily invested in data mining, hiring miners away from big players like Google and EBay.  They also take referring sites, return visits and user’s location into account when pulling up results.  And while some iPads are purchased by starving college kids with their student loans, research shows that in general, Mac owners are indeed more affluent.  According to Forrester, “The average household income for adult owners of Mac computers is $98,560, compared with $74,452 for a PC owner.”  Who knew graphic design paid so well!?

EMP ain’t a bad place to be…

After getting a decent amount of sleep Sunday morning (the Church of Misery gig ended just after 12:30), I hopped on the monorail and headed down to the EMP Museum.  Opened in 2000, and named after Jimi Hendrix’s Experience Music Project, the 140,000-square-foot building houses science fiction and horror movie exhibits, including props from Avatar, as well as wings dedicated to native sons Hendrix, Nirvana–and until the end of September, anyways, a massive second-floor exhibition from The Thunder Down Under, AC/DC.  As I’ve said before, AC/DC was my first favourite band, and I still consider myself a fan to this day.  The real reason I flew out to Seattle was to see this exhibit–I just wanted to pick a weekend when some killer bands were in town, too. ;)

When entering the EMP museum, one can’t help but notice the massive sculpture made up of guitars, basses, drums and various other instruments.  It’s an impressive piece that clearly took quite some time to put together.

Speaking of impressive instruments, here’s Jimi’s white Stratocaster:

And some of the effects pedals he used on stage…

Meanwhile, this guitar was used–and subsequently smashed–by Kurt Cobain:

While this drumkit belonged to Dave Grohl…

…as did this t-shirt:

One of Cobain’s early bands was called Fecal Matter.  Sounds more like a brown metal band to me…

Sub Pop obviously knew they had something when they first signed Nirvana.  Although they only offered a $600 advance on their first album, they were prepared to increase it to 12K and 24K for the next two.

Of course, that second album, Nevermind, would be released by Interscope.  I guess no one had a problem with his dick…

The ground-floor exhibits were cool ‘n all, but the main reason I came was to see AC/DC.  Even when going through the Nirvana wing, I could hear the Thunder, beckoning me to come up to the second floor, where I was greeted by this:

The exhibit included all sorts of mementos from the band’s past, including the Young family’s immigration papers…

…and this early childhood photo:

Bon Scott, unbeknownst to many, got his start as a drummer…

He also looked like this at one point:

Of course, Angus also had a couple crazy get-ups of his own:

Alas, tis a shame that the North American version of Dirty Deeds… didn’t have this cover art…

…and that I was never able to nab a copy of this picture disc:

Some tools of the trade–Malcolm’s white Gretsch…

Bon’s leather jacket…

…and this crew coat, which would probably fetch a pretty penny nowadays:

Check out some of the other albums on the Top 75 when Back in Black first topped the charts (click for larger image).  Looks like they bumped the Xanadu soundtrack down to Number 3…

And on that note…

Since the Space Needle is right next door to the EMP Museum, I figured I might as well take the 20-dollar ride up.  Hey, who knows when I’ll be back here–it’s not like I can buy Seahawks season’s tickets when I live in Toronto!  Unfortunately, that 20 bucks doesn’t include a drink at the top, but the views are pretty amazing.

This is what it looked like coming in on the monorail…

And the view from the top:

Even though the drinks weren’t free, I still decided to have a beer up here…

AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: CHURCH OF MISERY, Hail Hornet, The Gates of Slumber @ Studio Seven, Seattle, June 9, 2012

Nestled alongside the railroad tracks on a side street with no sidewalks in Seattle’s SoDo district, Studio Seven is a brisk 15-minute walk past a whole buncha fast-food places from the SoDo LINK Station.  What once was a warehouse has been transformed into a pretty decent all-ages concert venue, where most of the mid-major metal tours stop when they hit town.  While its ground floor is roughly the size of The Kathedral, it also has a balcony–which is the only place you’re allowed to drink.  Since I knew nothing about the local openers, I headed up for a coupla Rainiers while waiting for the touring bands to take the stage.  And I gotta say, it’s a pretty sizeable stage, at that.  This picture I took from the balcony (with the opening band on it) should give you some idea.

The last time I saw The Gates of Slumber, they were touring with Weedeater and Black Tusk–way back in April 2010.  At that time, they had yet to begin work on The Wretch, their latest (and greatest?) album.  They’ve also undergone a lineup change in the interim, “Iron” Bob Fouts leaving the touring lifestyle (and the drumkit) behind to take on bass duties with Apostle of Solitude.  So yeah, it had been a while.  The good news is that they still bring the doom, their stripped-down style ideally suited to the Vitus-throwback tunes of their new record.  As it turns out, they’re finally heading back to Toronto near the end of July, touring in support of Hammers of Misfortune–so I’ll be seeing ‘em twice now in two months. :)

Jason McCash is one of the best headbangers in doom.

Hail Hornet was up next, a sludge-metal supergroup/side-project comprised of T-Roy (Sourvein), Erik Larson (Might Could, ex-Alabama Thunderpussy), Vince Burke and the man, the myth, the legend, Dixie Dave Collins.  They brought a sludgier, gritter vibe to the table, in stark contrast to the clean tones of TGOS.  And I gotta say, Dixie’s even more entertaining when he’s not anchored to a mic stand…

Of course, when it comes to bassists, one would be remiss not to mention Tatsu Mikami, the founding father of Church of Misery.  He’s not an imposing figure by any stretch, but with his flowing hair, bell-bottom jeans and sunburst Rickenbacker hanging down around his ankles, you can’t help but notice him on stage.  His distinctive style of playing (I’ve never seen anyone else with their right hand so far up the neck) really adds the low-end groove to the band’s sound.  In fact, I haven’t seen a band that grooved like these guys since the last time I saw Sleep live.  Just a truly great, awesome, fantastic performance.  I can hardly put it into words–so here’s a few pictures. ;)

Quick, name me another tour where you’d see two Born Again shirts on stage…

This being the last date of the tour, Church of Misery brought Karl Simon and T-Roy up on stage for a rousing rendition of “War is Our Destiny” with the other members of TGOS and Hail Hornet lurking in the background.  This is the great thing about seeing the last date of a tour–the headliner not having any merch left, well, that’s the not-so-great thing.

Dave Chandler-style guitar solo provided by Karl Simon.

So, I went to Seattle last weekend (WARNING: May contain food porn)…

Although I’ve been a Seahawks fan for as long as I’ve been serious about NFL football, I had only ever been to the Emerald City once, and that was for a whirlwind 18-hour trip where I took a plane from Portland that landed around noon, got on the Link, went straight to the stadium, saw the Hawks come back to beat the Niners in Pete Carroll’s coaching debut (still have the program–and the front page of the Seattle Times), checked into my hotel, headed to a nearby Belltown sports bar for the Sunday nighter, left at halftime, fell asleep, got up early and was on another flight back to PDX at 6:30 the next morning.  I can’t say I got to see much of the city.  Last weekend, however, I had a chance to take in some of the sights and sounds of Seattle.  Church of Misery was in town for the last date of their North American tour, there’s an AC/DC exhibit at the EMP, and most importantly, I picked up a new Hawks jersey:


Yeah I know, it’s a 12th Fan jersey.  But I knew coming in that I couldn’t get Brandon Browner’s 39 anywhere, and apparently the Pike Street Pro Shop was sold out of Marshawn Lynch jerseys until July.  The only players they had on the shelves were the likes of Miller, Baldwin, Chancellor and Rice–while I almost went with Dougie B, I figured the Number 12 would be a safer bet.  After all, there’s virtually no chance of the team trading the 12th man–or not offering him a new contract after leading them to the biggest playoff upset in NFL history.  (Yeah, I’m still less than thrilled about that.  Here’s hoping Matt Flynn can be the next Matt Hasselbeck…)  So there you go.  Bills fans, if a fat fuck in the jersey pictured above taunts you in Toronto come December–it’s probably that other guy. ;)

Anyways, I took a whole buncha pictures that I’ll be posting over the next couple days of the gig, the museum and the view from the Space Needle, but I figured I’d kick things off with some culinary photos for all the epicureans out there.  I got to Pike Place right around 5 pm, when everything was either closed or closing, but that didn’t stop me from grabbing a bite to eat.

Lowell’s Restaurant has been a local institution since 1957, and still draws a decent crowd as the market shuts down on a Saturday night.  Though all the tables overlooking the ocean were taken, I could still gaze upon the fruit and vegetable stand below.

As they say, when in Rome, which translates over here to “When in Pike Place, drink Pike Pale Beer.”  The Heirloom Amber Ale had a nice smoky taste, with a finish that kinda reminded me of the Bacon Maple Ale from Portland’s Rogue Brewery–minus the maple, mind you.  I later had their IPA on tap at Ivar’s, and thought it was too citrusy, but this stuff, on the other hand, it ain’t too shabby.

I may not have a smart phone, but does yours take pictures in beer-goggle vision?  Didn’t think so!

As for the entree, I went with the Alaskan king salmon tacos.  It seemed like an interesting way to enjoy the local seafood.  The fish was fresh and moist, with the green picante giving it a nice little kick.  I will say that 18 bucks for two tacos and a small bowl of beans isn’t a screaming deal–but hey, I was on vacation.

After wandering through the Jimi Hendrix, Nirvana and AC/DC exhibits at the EMP, and watching the guitar god’s stellar performance at the Monterey Pop Festival on the big screen, I grabbed a bite at POP Kitchen + Bar, the museum’s restaurant.  Not bad for a 12-dollar avocado club sandwich.  Dunno what’s the deal with those chips, though.  They also left a basket of them on my table at Lowell’s…

Ivar’s Acres of Clams is another local institution, one that’s been right down on the waterfront since 1938.  Although there was a considerable mass of humanity in their front hall waiting area shortly after 6 on a Sunday, they still had a couple empty seats at the Clamdigger Bar, no reservations required.  Did I mention it was Happy Hour?  Of course, Happy Hour is another Seattle tradition, though I thought it was only a Monday-to-Friday thing.  But, as Stephen Harper says, that’s simply not true.  Happy Hour at Ivar’s runs Sundays as well, and that means two pints, clam chowder and fish and chips, all for 21 dollars–or a couple bucks less than a beer and those fish tacos at Lowell’s.  Let’s just say I had plenty of fuel for the long uphill walk back to my hotel…

Definitely not English-style, but it’s not like the Brits catch fish from the Pacific…

ONE WEEKEND IN PITTSBURGH: How did they get incline from funiculaire, anyways?

I had originally planned to check out the Warhol Museum on Monday–but it turns out they’re closed Mondays, for whatever reason.  So I took to the net to find out what else there was to do downtown.  Couple things popped up: Station Square, the self-proclaimed “premier dining and entertainment destination with unique specialty shops” and the Pittsburgh inclines, old-school cable cars that take you up to the hoity-toity Mt. Washington neighbourhood and a great view of the city from the top.

Unfortunately, most of the bars and restaurants that make up Station Square aren’t open for lunch on Monday, and the “unique specialty shops” are few and far between.  I did buy some local chocolate from a candy store and picked up a Larry Flynt biography for the super-low price of $1.98, though.  There was also a massive store selling all kinds of Steelers stuff, but I didn’t dare set foot in that one.

This is the view of the Square coming in from across the bridge.

Pittsburgh’s first-ever steel furnace, or something like that…

Had lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe, where along with the AC/DC, Nirvana and Poison memorabilia, a Danzig road case, some stuff from shitty nu-metal bands–including a 10X platinum plaque awarded to fuckin’ Creed that almost made me lose my appetite–I was surprised to see this piece of Canadian rock history:

A signed Gil Moore bass drum head!  Oh, and some dude named Cobain’s guitar, off to the bottom right.

After lunch, I headed up on the Monongahela Incline, to see what I could see.  This thing is fully automated, with an operator at the top, and the inside looks a little like this:

The site of Pittsburgh’s first coal mine (as per this sign below), Mt. Washington is now an upscale neighbourhood (think Forest Hill) with nice restaurants, big houses, churches–even houses that look like churches.

Case in point.

The view from the lookout points along the aptly-named Grandview Ave offered a picture-perfect outlook down onto the city.  So naturally, I took a few photos.

Heinz Field, home of the Steelers, off in the distance.

The Wyndham hotel (where I stayed) is the beige building in the foreground, with PNC Park just across the river.

A closer look at Heinz Field.

I figured I’d take the Monongahela Incline up, then walk across and take the Duquesne Incline back down, since the latter was closer to my hotel.  Only problem was that there’s no way to get across the river from there, so I had to walk back to Station Square.  Let’s just say I got a lotta exercise on Monday…

View of Heinz Field from the Duquesne Incline.

COMMENT OF THE DAY: Immediate dismissal too harsh? Let’s start with forced sodomy…

From: http://www.torontosun.com/2012/04/27/ttc-to-rule-breakers-youre-on-your-own

Following another recent string of TTC employees caught on camera driving distracted or sleeping on the job, new CEO Andy Byford issued a company-wide memo stating such behaviour would no longer be tolerated.  And while he didn’t specify what kind of punishment would be doled out to confirmed offenders, that didn’t stop the Toronto Sun comment section from making a few suggestions:

Y’know, considering that the TTC’s Code of Conduct explicitly states its employees must not engage in “demonstrating little or no respect for others and/or their personal belongings,” I don’t think this proposal would fly.  Besides, I’d hate to see what would happen to a TTC driver caught masturbating at work if Louis had his way with them…

ONE WEEKEND IN PITTSBURGH: PNC Park is the best ballpark in America. It says so on their beer!

Now I’ve been to a buncha Blue Jays games at Rogers Centre, with its retractable roof and artificial turf, but I hafta say, I was looking forward to a more authentic MLB experience at the self-proclaimed “Best Ballpark in America.”  It helped that my hotel was right across the river from the stadium, the World Champion St. Louis Cardinals were in town and there were plenty of great sections still available.  What I wasn’t counting on were the frigid temperatures–a midday high of 44 degrees Fahrenheit, which translates to a balmy 7 degrees Celsius.

The ballpark largely lived up to its billing, though.  A well-designed, modern facility right on the river, twas just a short trip across the Roberto Clemente Bridge.  Outside the stadium were several statues honouring past Pirates greats–as well as a giant inflatable mascot.

Me, I was seated in Section 205, also known as the Pirates Cove.  A second-tier seat down the first-base line costs 20 bucks in Pittsburgh, and that also includes a 10-dollar food voucher.  As it turns out, a large trey of nachos and a plastic pint of local draught beer cost me 15 bucks, so that voucher covered two-thirds of lunch.  And hey, the view from 205 wasn’t too bad, either…

It’s worth noting this was taken about an hour before the first pitch, so that’s why the stands were empty…

Mind you, there weren’t too many people in the stands by the time this one was taken, either.

Local brew IC Light tastes kinda like Coors Light, but with a bit more flavour.

Sadly, the home team didn’t put up much of a fight against the defending World Series champs.  Held scoreless through seven innings, they finally got on the board in the bottom of the eighth, but any chances of a comeback were spoiled when they gave up two more in the ninth to lose 5-1.  The two Cards on my fantasy team didn’t do anything either, Holliday and Beltran combining for just one hit and three strikeouts.  So that was a little disappointing…

After the game, I headed over to the Jerome Bettis Grille to warm up and stifle my whooping cough with a few beers.  Apparently Hines Ward had just retired, which I wasn’t previously aware of.

As I watched the Bruins and Caps go at in in Game 6, I chowed down on a Bettis-sized burger.  Yes, that is a beef patty between two grilled-cheese sandwiches–with bacon, no less!

Alas, I didn’t stick around for the L.A.-Vancouver game, but I was quite pleased with the result. ;)

AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: DREAM DEATH/ARGUS @ 31st St Pub, Pittsburgh, April 21, 2012

It’s a good thing I took the band’s advice and bought my ticket in advance.  When I arrived at the 31st St Pub, on the outskirts of Pittsburgh’s Strip District (thing an elongated Kensington Market), the sign on the door said SOLD OUT tickets only, or something to that effect.  The bar is sort of a double-wide Bovine, albeit with its stage at the back of the room.  They had a big cupboard full of skulls, and the ceiling and back wall were decorated by drum heads, cymbals and guitars from the likes of High on Fire, Weedeater and Antiseen.  Also behind the bar was a G.G. Allin clock along with his obit and a ticker that said Fuck (pretty much every other venue in the city).  Classy joint.

The opening band was some sorta Pantera/Hatebreed hybrid, and since I noticed the low battery indicator flashing on my camera, I decided not to waste any juice on them.  As a result, I didn’t get too many pictures of Argus, either.  But lemme tell ya, they put on a great set.  One of my favourite epic doom bands going, they busted out material from their two studio albums, with affable frontman Butch Balich noting “This is definitely the biggest crowd we’ve played to in Pittsburgh–and also the ugliest!”  (I suppose I was partially responsible for that remark, being up front and all…)

As you can see, the force of Butch’s headbanging knocked my camera out of focus!

As Dream Death took an awfully long time to set up, you could feel the anticipation building, along with the urge to urinate–but hey, I was NOT giving up my spot for this.  It was, after all, their first gig in 24 years!  But the band sounded as good as ever, hell, better than some of the dodgy demos and bootlegs in their discography.  The live sound added bite to those lost classic tracks offa Journey Into Mystery, while they also included stuff from some of their demos (compiled under the Back from the Dead comp) in their 75-minute set and even busted out a brand-new tune.  Twas truly an evening to remember…  These pics hardly do it justice!

(Turns out I had plenty of battery life left, after all!)