Between Heaven and the Deep Blue Sea

Vancouver, my home, is a beautiful, safe, clean cosmopolitan city of glass towers and green spaces perched between ocean beaches and mountain playgrounds.   Yes, this is what it really looks like and yes, we are so lucky.

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And if the city itself isn’t spectacular enough, across the romantically named Salish Sea  we have Vancouver Island, home to our provincial capital, Victoria.  Once derisively called the home of the “newly wed and nearly dead”, Victoria has gone through a renaissance as young professionals seeking (slightly more) affordable homes for themselves and their families move to “the Island”.

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Victoria Inner Harbour

The jewels in our geographic crown are the stunning Gulf Islands, a collection of eclectic, magical islands dropped in the middle of the Salish Sea between the mainland and Vancouver Island.

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Southern Gulf Islands
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Nothing to see here, just another sunset on Fernwood dock.

I have the great good fortune of working in both Vancouver and Victoria, traveling back and forth on a regular basis.   A scenic, but somewhat time consuming way to travel is on a BC Ferry.  Imagine a small cruise ship that loads vehicles from 18 wheel trucks and buses to RV’s and personal cars into the cargo holds, with amenities for several hundred passengers in the passenger lounge areas.  And spectacular topside viewing decks.  If you have the time, the crossing from the mainland to Vancouver via Active Pass and the Gulf Islands is spectacular.

Northern-Expedition

The last time I sailed over, it was a warm, sunny Sunday afternoon and I was happy to relax in the lounge, reading and taking in the gorgeous scenery.  We were all absolutely thrilled when a pod of Orcas (Killer Whales) decided to put on a show off the bow of the ferry.  On other trips I’ve seen Orcas hunting seals on the rocky shore line and been entertained by dolphins playing in the ferry wake.

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But if you have a bit of spare change, or if it’s a work trip and you have expense account, the only way to go is flying Harbour Air float planes, or in deluxe mode, Helijet.  You can ride in style on a Sikorsky from Vancouver harbour to Victoria in 35 minutes.  And it’s AMAZING!  This was a fun, sunny trip last summer.  My commute never looked so good.

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Tonight it was Harbour Air on a 12 seater float plane and it was my lucky day because I finally got to ride co-pilot!  It was a blast to watch the pilot doing his thing to get us safely back to Vancouver.

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This is what the little float planes look like on a sunny day in Victoria  So cute, so much fun!

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This is what it looked like when we landed in Vancouver today.  Less cute, more dodgy. IMG_0790

Part of the serious responsibilities of the co-pilot is wearing the headset and monitoring air traffic control (well I wasn’t really monitoring, that’s the pilots job).  But I did get to listen in.   Who knew there were so many planes and helicopters flying through the Gulf Islands that they need air traffic control for both harbours.   As we left Victoria we had to check in with air traffic control for a weather update (rainy, not too windy but a growing chop coming up on the water) and then get our direction for take off and cruising altitude.

As we headed into Vancouver, we flew straight into this big black cloud.

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We had a Sikorsky off our right wing, it went past us and then we all dropped down to get under the weather.  We were not much above the water, following each other into Vancouver as we were passed off to the surveillance of the Vancouver harbour air traffic control.  Loved listening to all the chatter between the air traffic control and the planes, it was a whole different flying experience.   Home looked a bit gloomy on final approach, that was only outdone by how damn cold and rainy it was when we landed!

IMG_1104IMG_1106If you live here and have to go to the Island or are visiting Vancouver and have some time and money, fly to Victoria for the day, it is a trip you will never forget, though maybe do it on a sunny day!

Check out our local Island boys, Towers and Trees, with their dreamy song for the magical place we call home, the “West Coast”.

 

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Juno Awards Weekend – Vancouver

JunoFest, Juno Awards – a fabulous weekend celebrating all things Canadian music.  After a 9 year hiatus, the Juno Awards finally made a return appearance to Vancouver.   Hosted by CBC Music, it was a spectacular weekend the crossed genres, age and musical tastes.  Didn’t matter if you were into hip hop, funk, straight up rock and rock or some alt-country, there were shows for everyone.

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Kicking Friday night off was the free concerts at the VAG courtyard.  Caught The Boom Booms before heading on to other venues.  The only question is, how have I not seen them before?  And when do they play again!

Got swept up in a wave of neon-clad EDM lovers arriving for The Funk Hunters with their a high energy show and Typecast album release party.  Sad to miss that, I’ve seen them before and it’s a high energy dance party, but so many shows and only one weekend . . .

$30 bought you a wristband to all Junofest venues all weekend.  Seriously, what a fabulous deal.   Didn’t want to get caught in lineups outside of capacity venues, so put all my eggs in one basket and headed over to the Imperial for the Outlaws and Gunslingers show.  Good choice me.  So much good music, so much party.  Ok, maybe too much party but heck, it’s once every 9 years.

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There was a collection of instruments on stage that would make you cry, this kind of says it all for me.  And I’m a sucker for pedal steel.

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Harrow Fair were my “oh wow” moment from this show.  A little bit Civil Wars, a little bit Shovels and Rope, just damn good.

We jumped at a chance to be “seat fillers” at the Juno Awards show.  Why not – free tickets and a glamorous, dress up night out. Ever wonder what it’s like pre-show leading up to a huge broadcast event like the Juno’s?  Hurry up and wait.  Hurry up, then wait some more.  Then hurry up.  Then do whatever you want, because it’s chaos and no-one really gives a f*ck what you do anymore!  Walking the concourse was like being a kid in a candy store – just kept bumping into musicians all dressed up and looking fine! And kudos to Vancouver for putting in the effort to ditch jeans and lulu’s (for once!) and showing up all rock and roll glamour and finery.

The Red Carpet outside Rogers Arena.  We didn’t get to walk it .  so sad.  We were lined up at the back gate . . .of course.

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It feels a little bit like Cinderella after the ball sitting at home now in pyjamas, having peeled off the sparkly dress, high heels and false eyelashes (I said it was glam!).  I’m still winding down from an amazing event, hosted by Michael Buble with Diana Krall, a Barenaked Ladies / Steven Page reunion and a tribute to Gord Downie that got it just right.

We were originally “holding” in seats looking down on the stage and could see both backstage and front of house at the same time.  It looks like a composite shot, but it’s not.  We watched performers arrive, walk up the stairs at the bottom of the picture and emerge through the screens on stage.  Super cool to watch the transition and not something you get to see every day.

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Arcade Fire opened the show, followed by Vancouver native, Lights.  Everyone was on their feet for the Gord Downie tribute from Sarah Harmer, Kevin Hearn and a perfect acoustic version of Bobcaygeon from City and Colour. If you’re a Hip fan the video montage and simple vocals will give you goosebumps.

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You always hope for a stand out, bring the house down performance and we got ours.  Jesse Reyes had the musical who’s who of Canada on their feet and owned the night with Figures.    A tiny little gal with a huge voice and a bigger attitude.  You go girl.

And …..that’s a wrap because this Cinderella has an actual real job Monday morning; my little rock fantasy weekend is over.  And what a fabulous, festive, fun-filled music weekend it was.  Bucket list – check and check!

Growing into Fearlessness

Courage

  • The ability to do something that frightens you
  • Strength in the face of pain or grief

Courage has been much on my mind lately.  Courage to make necessary changes.  Courage to step into the unknown. Courage to follow that path less traveled to pursue a dream.   Courage to live our best and only life.

I’m reading “Hotel Honolulu” by one of my favourite writers, Paul Theroux.  A story of a writer whose life implodes and he retreats to Hawaii, broke, unable to write and ends up managing a seedy Waikiki hotel.  Maybe not one of his most literary efforts, but the interwoven stories of the characters follows a thread of lives well-lived, lives wasted, unexamined lives and the few that decided they didn’t give a f*uck and lived unconventional lives on their own terms, for better or worse.   One of characters, Benno Nevermann, started out with zero advantages and made his fortune by inventing a weather-proof window frame.  After selling the company, he spends his time traveling the world, searching for people from his past to discover what had become of them.  This is the paragraph that I keep going back to:

“Old girlfriends, old enemies, old bosses, competitors from the past – they necessitated his groping in the wonderful tunnel of time, searching for clues.  Why had so few people succeeded? Why had so many failed?  But for most of them nothing at all had happened except that time had passed and they had grown older; he found them living in the same town, on the same street, in the same house.”

Nothing at all had happened except time had passed and they had grown older.  That sounds like the worst indictment for a wasted life I can imagine.  But taking a diversion, or making a permanent re-route in life takes courage, a lot of courage.  Staying with the known and familiar is easier, it might have it’s own price, but it requires little effort.

For those of us blessed, or burdened, with a gypsy soul, it’s always going to be about the unknown, the unfamiliar, the uneasy.  Are we just born courageous, is it an inborn trait?  Maybe, but it can also be learned by practicing courageous behavior until small (or maybe large) successes help us develop the self-confidence to know we can step into the unknown and overcome obstacles. By practicing courageous acts we can grow into fearlessness.

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“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”  C. S. Lewis

How can we practice being courageous?

  1. Choose to act even in the face of our fears.
  2. Follow your heart and intuition. Everything else is secondary (thanks Steve Jobs, his Stanford Commencement address is something I come back to often).
  3. Persevere when times get tough, be braver five minutes longer.  Transitions are hard, but stick with them and they become our new reality.
  4. Knowing that you are standing up for what is right will give you strength.
  5. Let go of the familiar and expand your horizons.  Life is only as large as our courage to experience it.
  6. And when things go wrong, when you are lonely and sad (as will inevitably happen) face it with dignity and the knowledge that all things pass.  The ability to sit with the tough times and know you are already on your way to moving through them, will give you courage to keeping moving forward.

stay_hungry__stay_foolish_by_daeimonos-d4c2c47-560x350.jpg(original back cover of the final Whole Earth catalogue)

I love it when serendipitous things happen.  As I was finishing up this post I was thinking, well damn, what am I going to use for music?  Then Stand Up for Something by the feisty and supremely talented Andra Day popped on the NPR Tiny Desk rotation I was listening to!  Serendipity indeed.

Stand Up for Something – Andra Day

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Time Warp – Flotation, Sensory Deprivation and Theta Waves

My first flotation experience yesterday was so interesting, a quick check-in on FB just didn’t do it justice.  A friend suggested I join her for my first flotation session at Floathouse in Gastown last night, a twist on Saturday happy hour activities.  I’ve seen quite a few flotation places opening up and heard little snippets about it, but didn’t know anyone who had actually tried it.  Being shut inside a sensory deprivation tank, floating in super saturated water for an hour and a half . . . hmmm, well that sounds . . . interesting.  Not without a certain degree of anxiety (how big is this tank?) and because I’m usually pretty good at saying yes first and considering the consequences later . . .I said sure, I’m in!

What is flotation?  It’s a currently en vogue form of sensory deprivation with big health benefits flowing from the state of deep relaxation and meditation.  While not a formal practitioner of meditation, I’ve long enjoyed the deep relaxation and sometimes profound moments that come from the meditative process in yoga, hot yoga in particular has always been deeply meditative for me.  If I could overcome the thought of being shut inside this little dark tank for 90 minutes (would I be claustrophobic?  bored?  cold?) this might be kinda cool.  If you want to know more details, check out the video below.

What is Floatation

Each room is self-contained with shower, towels and everything you need.  I got naked, coz that’s how you float, took a cool, scent free shower (reduce all sensory input) and climbed into the tank.  10 inches of skin temperature water with about 900 lbs of epsom salts  – yes, 900lbs – several times more saturated than the Dead Sea.

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I took the good advice on my first time to sit comfortably at the door and practice opening and closing it a few times to be comfortable with total darkness and finding the damn handle if I panicked.  So far so good.  Next step, lie down and start to float, which you do effortlessly.  I forgot the next piece of advice, which was to keep my hands on the sides until the water stopped moving. With the complete absence of light or sense of gravity to cue spatial orientation, the movement of the water as I lay down made me feel slightly motion sick, or that I was somehow falling forward.  Strange, but with absolutely nothing to cue me my body to it’s alignment I felt like I was tipping forward.  If you’ve scuba dived at night or in dark conditions, you will have some idea of the complete spatial disorientation of being in a weightless, gravity free, three dimensional world.

The water motion stopped and I just lay there, trying to relax wondering if I would sink.  My skin temperature and the water temperature matched perfectly and soon it was hard to tell where my body ended and the water started.  I chose a 30 minute guided meditation for my first time, it was a great choice.   A basic savasana progressively relaxing from toes to scalp.

Thoughts and some very vivid images came and went, I don’t recall when the guided meditation ended and it got very quiet and there were a few moments when thoughts brought me back to the present, but all sense of time disappeared.  It felt like 10 minutes later I heard more gentle music and was completely unbelieving that 90 minutes had gone by.  It took several minutes to reorient myself to the physical presence of my body and conscious thought and movement in my profoundly relaxed brain.   I had to check my watch when I got out to convince myself that 90 minutes really had gone by!

So what happened that made time cease to exist for me?  Current research says that we have four major types of brain waves or activity.

  • Beta – the waking rythmn  – that’s when we are awake and going through our daily lives
  • Alpha waves are slower, we are awake but calm and relaxed, often with eyes closed.
  • Theta – as the brain calms and slows we experience these slow, powerful, rhythmic waves.  Everyone generates theta waves at least twice a day as we drift from conscious drowsiness into sleep and again when we move from sleep to consciousness when we wake up.  If we have the luxury of not being instantly wakened by alarms, children . . you know, life, we can experience unexpected, unpredictable, dreamlike but very vivid mental images (known as the hypnagogic images ) and intense memories.  It’s hard to maintain, since we tend to fall asleep as soon as soon as we begin generating large amounts of theta.
  • Delta – extremely slow, low frequency brain waves usually generated when we are asleep or unconscious.

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The deep meditative state we can enter during the profound sensory deprivation of floatation allow our brains to slow down enough to remain in a theta wave generating state for extended periods of time.  It was, quite simply, incredible.  When I got out of the tank I knew I hadn’t been asleep or unconscious, but I also couldn’t explain where “I” had been during that time.  A profound, and profoundly calming and restorative experience.  A few of the images have remained with me, as the everyday busyness and sensory overload of daily life dropped away, crystal clear, full colour images and memories resurfaced.

Once out of the tank you have to shower and wash your hair to get rid of the salt and it took me a while to recover my spatial orientation – that usually unnoticed sense of where our physical bodies are located in space – I had kept tipping over in the shower. And then it’s recommended to spend some time in the lounge rehydrating and getting back in touch with the world before stepping out the door.   I had a long chat with one of the employees and he explained the Theta wave state!   How did I feel after?  Energized, it was like I’d had a long, refreshing nap, without the sleepy hangover feeling.   And I slept deeply and profoundly for 8 straight hours last night and woke up relaxed and refreshed.   I’m a convert to benefits of flotation.

Pro tips:

  • Don’t rub your eyes or touch your face in the tank – salt stings like heck and you’ll have to get out and wash your eyes!  Same for shaving or waxing . . . just saying.
  • Remember a hairbrush, elastics etc if you have a long shaggy mane like me. Chrome domes, you got nothing to worry about.
  • I wondered if my skin would feel dry and nasty from the salt, but it doesn’t, just clean and soft.
  • Leave enough time after to relax in the lounge and reorient yourself to the outside world.

I always like to finish my posts with some music, the Revivalists from New Orleans have been in heavy rotation for me and Soul Fight has been rocking my world.

Revivalists Soul Fight

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Earworms – 2015 Version

If you’re not a music fiend you probably don’t spend the day putting yourself through ridiculous mental contortions trying to remember THE SONG that is right at the edge of your conscious, but can’t quite grasp. That was my day yesterday trying to remember Rhye’s “Open”.

Not sure why it popped into my head half way through the morning, but it did and there was nothing to do but submit to the inevitable as the images and words ran on an endless loop but no name would shake out. Remembered I’d first seen it in an article on Elephant Journal, resulting in a significant amount of billable time spent riffling through old articles. Nada.  Had a vague recollection that the song had been featured on Grey’s Anatomy, had to hide my screen so no-one could see that I was spending the afternoon listening to multiple seasons of the soundtrack – all music cred instantly out the window.

If you love the super chill sound of Rhye, here’s a bit more about the Canadian – Danish male duo from NPR Music.  (that’s right, they are guys).  I’ll be listening to this today instead of Grey’s Anatomy.

What other singers grabbed my attention this year?  Top of the list has to be Jason Isbell, the current king of Americana and Drive-By Truckers alumnus.  This is a 2-for-1 deal for me, love DBT and Jason solo as well is a bonus. Astonishing songwriting and that Alabama twang – bring it on.

And here’s a treat – Ryan Adams and Jason live together from the Herbst in San Francisco.  They do need to do a record together – the song writing would be out of this world.

Who else has been getting too much airplay at my house this year?  Well there’s a bunch more, but one I’ve played over and over and over is Don Henley’s new record, Cass County.  As NPR puts it, “the Garths, Keiths and Kennys of the world stole country-rock, and now Don Henley’s stealing it back”. My love affair with the Eagles continues unabated and unashamed!

Talking about the record  being a return to his roots in Texas and the musical influences of his family and early years, Don quotes T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding” 

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

That’s some of the great music that made my days brighter in 2015, can’t wait to see what 2016 brings.

 

Creating Sustainable Change

Creating Sustainable Change

We (my amazing partners at Blankslate.Partners) had an fantastic opportunity yesterday to be part of a small, private event with We Free the Children; Me to We Day and Me to We founder, Craig Keilburger.  The event was hosted by the great people at Hootsuite (btw, they have an amazing work space!).

There are lots of good, well-intentioned traditional charitable organizations out there, but what Craig and his brother, Marc are doing is aspirational not only from a charitable, “doing the right thing” perspective, but also for any business, be it for profit or not.  The ideas hat really grabbed my attention were both ways of applying MBA level business smarts to a charitable operation.

First, measure your results against outcomes to create sustainable change.  This is a quantum difference from parachuting into a third world community with a group of well-meaning volunteers and cash-in-hand to create a one-off project like a clean water system.  Not to say this isn’t good work, but it’s not sustainable.  What happens when the volunteer team leaves and something breaks down?  Who has both the means and the knowledge to fix it and make it sustainable.  And what was the outcome you were hoping for by giving people access to clean drinking water (for example)?  Was it just to give them access to water (a great goal in and of itself).  Or did you want to enable girls to attend school or promote economic independence?   How will you know if you succeeded if you don’t define your outcomes, measure and then recalibrate?

“In eight countries, Free The Children works alongside the men, women and children who every day strive to free themselves from poverty, exploitation, disease and thirst. This effort is not charity. It is sustainability. It is freedom in action. It is Free The Children’s Adopt a Village development model.”

This is where the Free the Children group is light years ahead.  They define their outcomes, measure the results then pivot as needed.  And they create sustainability, not charity through their five pillars by linking clean water, education, health, alternative income and livelihood and agriculture and food security.

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Secondly,they are using technology and social media to both track success metrics and get the message out there, instead of paying for traditional marketing and advertising.  Their Track Your Impact app allows you to scan a code on your purchase and see exactly where that purchase is making an impact.  And the analytics the information generates gives great data on which products are most successful in the market.  How amazing is that!

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So to all the people who earned their ticket to attend We Day in Vancouver today, enjoy the entertainment, be inspired and go out there and do great things.  You get to enjoy the Bare Naked Ladies today, I get to see them tonight!

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea

Sometimes change is so incremental, or so long in transition, that when it finally happens it sneaks up on you unawares and without any fanfare, there it is.  You look back and it’s hard to fathom how you got from THERE to HERE.  Other times, however,  you find yourself in an untenable situation and have to make a choice.   But what if you don’t want the change and what if there there is no good choice.  It’s Shitty Choice A versus Crappy Choice B?   Or “I don’t want this change at all?”

“Between the devil and the deep blue sea is an idiom meaning a dilemna, ie to choose between two undesirable situations”  Thanks Wikipedia

This week I power-read through Cheryl Strayed book “Wild, From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” her memoir of hiking the PCT from California to Washington state solo.  

  

It’s about how she found herself one day with a pack that weighed more than half what she did, walking down a scorching trail in the Mojave Desert in California and realizing that she was wholly and completely unprepared for what she was about to undertake.  As the days and weeks of what was, truly, a pilgrimage in the oldest sense of that word –  a difficult journey involving sacrifice and often pain – passed, she realized that, on a daily basis, she really only had one choice to make.  Go forward or go back.   Here’s how she describes it: 

“The thing about hiking the PCT, the thing that was so profound to me that summer – and yet also, like most things, so very simple – was how few choices I had and how often I had to do the thing I least wanted to do. No numbing it down . . . or covering it up . . .I considered my options. There were only two and they were essentially the same. I could go back in the direction I had come from, or I could go forward in the direction I intended to go. . . And so I walked on”. 

Having to do the thing you least want to do.  I hate that.  

My gut reaction has always been  “I can fix that”, combined with “if I just persist and work long and hard enough, I can create the outcome I want”.  Maybe that’s a good way to deal with some situations, but I can say, with the most heartfelt conviction, that it can also lead us (read – ME) to stay in situations long after I should have high-tailed it out of there, maybe a bit beat up and scarred (metaphorically speaking) but considerably more intact than I eventually ended up being after hanging in long after the writing was on the wall.  

A recent imbroglio with my landlord has brought a long simmering situation to a head.  A supportive call from my partner to see if there had been a resolution to the most recent drama show with her (there wasn’t) ended up with me sobbing in the aisles at Costco – wow I wish it had been somewhere dramatic and evocative, but Costco it was.  As he calmly pointed out that what I wanted was not possible – all evidence of the past year was against it – we got to the point in the discussion where I realized I was faced with Shitty Choice A or Crappy Choice B – and I didn’t want to do either.  I wanted what wasn’t possible.  FML.  

I spent the next day hiding out, escaping reality in a good book – another go to place for me – books are always reliable escapism.  Not only was it escapism this time, it was also a life lesson.  As I followed Cheryl down the trail I was with her every time she was faced with a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea, and every time she chose to go forward, because standing still wasn’t an option and going back unthinkable.  

So forward it is for me too.  And if anyone knows of a great place to rent in Kitsilano, let me know!!  

  

I also learned while researching this post that “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea” is a jazz standard, orginally recorded by Cab Calloway and covered by everyone from Thelonius Monk to George Harrison.  This Ella Fitzgeral version caught me. 

Between the Devil and The Deep Blue Sea Ella Fitzgerald

A great surprise this week – one of my favourite bands dropped an unexpected new record.  Wilco’s “Star Wars” got a lot of airplay at my house (well at least it’s my house for now!!).  And because Jeff Tweedy and the bank are just supremely awesome people, it’s available as a free download for 30 days.  http://wilcoworld.net/splash-star-wars-links/  That blinking cat GIF is just spooky!
  
Here’s a live stream of the whole album from Pitchfork Music Fest a few weeks ago.  Enjoy!  Can’t wait for their Vancouver show August 12th.  

Wilco Star Wars Live at Pitchfork