Stuart McLean and the Vinyl Cafe

By now I’m sure you’ve all heard the news that Stuart McLean died today, Feb. 15. I don’t know how you could have missed it – it blew up my twitter feed.


“Devastated” is not a strong enough word to describe how I feel about Stuart’s death. There really are no words that adequately express the extreme sadness I feel.

I don’t know when I first discovered the Vinyl Cafe. It may have been in my university days. I know for certain the summer of 2009 I would lie on my couch listening to the show every Sunday I didn’t have work. So I’ve been listening for at least seven years, and probably longer.

Then, when I got into podcasting, it was no longer appointment listening, so I never missed a show (although I have suspicions the podcast wasn’t exactly the same as the show, but that’s neither here nor there).

I can’t tell you how much Stuart and the Vinyl Cafe has affected my life.

I fell in love with the stories and the characters. I remained steadfast in my belief that while the stories could have made an amazing TV show, I would hate to have actors’ faces become the faces I see when listening to the stories.

Then there’s the music. I found a lot of great musical acts through Stuart.

If it wasn’t for the Vinyl Cafe, I would never have discovered:

  • The Once
  • Madison Violet
  • Ann Vriend
  • Hannah Georgas
  • Jadea Kelly
  • The Good Lovelies
  • Kathleen Edwards
  • Whitehorse
  • Said the Whale

And many others.

When Stuart announced his melanoma diagnosis, I was incredibly disappointed. I had bought tickets to his Edmonton Christmas show in 2015, and it would have been my first show. But obviously health comes first.

Then in late 2016 he announced the radio show would be on hiatus while he focused on treatment. That was disheartening, because it definitely made his health situation sound worse than he wanted to let on.

Then I’m scrolling through my Twitter today and I see a few references to Stuart dying.

I rarely tear up when people die. I didn’t even cry when I lost two of my grandparents in the last few years (I’m not cold-hearted; I had been out west for a long time by that point, and I had had less contact with them, so it was just a continuation of the separation that already existed). But I started to tear up.

Stuart and the Vinyl Cafe had been such a huge part of my life since university. I wouldn’t say the show kept me sane as I moved around Western Canada and went through ups and downs. But it was a constant. It was something that was there and something I felt comfortable with.

I laughed at Dave’s misadventures. I cried when Stuart read stories about war, especially the letter from the man who wanted to play his bagpipes at … I want to say Vimy Ridge. Being able to almost recite along with some stories.

He and the show were just a part of my life.

I think it speaks to the power of radio that my reaction, and those of countless others, has been so visceral. I and thousands of people welcomed Stuart and his guests into our homes on a weekly basis. We were soothed by his voice. We laughed along with his stories. We learned of new, predominantly Canadian, artists. We formed our own family.

Stuart would almost always end his shows with four little words: “So long for now!”

No, Stuart. So long forever. We miss you already.



In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. My last confession was ‘who the fuck knows?’ years ago.

I feel like talking a bit about my so-called religious upbringing, the concept of sin, and just what Roman Catholics deem worthy of “confessing” as “transgressions against God.”

N.B. I did 15 years of Catholic school, and early on I saw religion and prayer was bullshit — I was told God would answer my prayers, so I prayed for things and never got what I prayed for; this seemed like a real shady bargain. And that was just the start.

Anyway. The impetus for this little treatise is an acquaintance of mine, who attended both my elementary and high schools, who found a list of sins that needed to be confessed. It’s a fairly exhaustive list, and one that’s a bit too comprehensive for 12-14-year-olds, which would have been the age we were when we were given the list, as she said it was handed out during preparation for the sacrament of confirmation.

To wit, here is the list:


Where to start? No, seriously; where do I start? There is just so much here.

I guess a good place to start is the overarching concept that Catholics need to feel shame in being human. That they need to apologize to some omniscient being simply for living and making mistakes.

I mean, there are obviously times when you need to apologize for things, but to actual people you have wronged. Looking at this list, here are some things that have no victims and for which confessing and apologizing serves no purpose:

  • blasphemy
  • despair
  • presumption

Those first three also speak to a completely different issue, upon which I will touch briefly, because that issue is a completely different discussion entirely: whether there is a god. Based on the (highly likely) assumption there is indeed no god: A) how can you disrespect that which does not exist, B) what does it matter if that nonexistent being forgives you, and C) “sinning” means nothing if you don’t give it any significance.

But even beyond this debate, there is so much wrong with placing the burden of thinking living and having human feelings is somehow impure and worth confessing and feeling bad about.

Then again, I am reminded of what Reverend Lovejoy once said…


OK. I keep getting a bit off track. Let’s try to bring this back to the task at hand. Whatever that was.

This list was handed out to children who were between the ages of 12 and 14. Granted if they had been in Catholic school since they were four, several of these sins would have been known to them already, it’s still pretty much abusive to heap this kind of pressure on children who are in the early stages of puberty.

Look at the sins relating to sex. There are so many mixed and contrasting messages there.

Premarital sex is a sin, but so are contraceptive methods. Interestingly, heterosexual sodomy (i.e. anal sex) is not explicitly listed as a sin.

Another approach is how contraception is a sin, and so too is having an abortion. Yes, you could make the argument that you know pregnancy is a potential outcome of sex so you should be mature enough to accept that potential eventuality and abstain until you are prepared to have that baby, but let’s try looking at things on a scale of sin-ness: you could have unprotected sex, get pregnant and then abort the fetus; or you can use contraceptive methods and commit a lesser sin. Or, heaven forbid (pun intended) you get a vasectomy or get your tubes tied. But wait! Those are equally bad, because “every sperm is sacred” or some bullshit like that.

Masturbation? Who does that hurt? Only the person doing it if that person (usually a male) does it too often and causes chafing and potentially bleeding.

Not praying everyday? To what are you praying? When prayer has never shown any evidence of achieving anything? Do you know what that sounds like to me?


Einstein may not have actually said it, but the point is apt.

My acquaintance told me the origin of this list of sins was our local friar. My memories of that friar are mixed.

On the one hand, his visits to our classroom were a break from what I viewed as the drudgery of class, and he had some good stories (which were probably meant as fables with morals). From the perspective of my youth, he seemed like a nice guy. And he pretty much was.

But my opinion of him changed dramatically and immediately one Sunday after mass. I don’t remember the year, other than it was when I was still in high school, because as soon as university hit, it was my chance to finally stop going to church (another “sin” I might add), plus he died during my first term at university.

That Sunday was the Sunday of the Toronto Gay Pride parade, and he said to us, “I hope it rains on those nasty gays.”

In those eight words, he lost my respect and effectively cemented my opinion on organized religion. To use your faith in some all-loving god as a mask for your hatred is sickening. Isn’t hatred a sin?

OK. I’m done.

Why must I get ‘the sick’ as my vacation ends?

[Composed on Jan. 8, 2017; 21:33 EST, in an airplane]

Being sick while travelling is just about the worst thing there is.

Picture it: you’re away from work, enjoying a leisurely time when and where you have very few cares, and suddenly you feel your throats getting sore, your nose start to stuff up or run, and fatigue hits you like a flaming sack of crap.

And the worst part is, you often feel yourself getting sicker.

This is what I’ve had to endure the last three days. And it’s honestly a mix of emotions.

On the one hand, I’m getting sick at the very end of my time off work, so my time off hasn’t been ruined.

On the other hand, I’m getting sick, which is never fun.

I’m feeling fairly decent, all things considered, however. This sick is feeling like it could clear up with lots of sleep and keeping hydrated. And that’s a good thing, because my stupid body has treated me to some doozies over the years.

There was that time I had to cover a rodeo and a triathlon on the same day, and that day saw me feeling tired, achy all over and slightly chilled – it’s highly likely I had a high fever.

Thankfully my only experiences (that I can recall) with vomiting have been the result of excessive alcohol and not something like the flu.

Anyway, I survived my 17 days off without really getting sick.

Time to commence the countdown to a trip to Europe. When am I going? Absolutely no concrete idea yet. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Vacation at an end

It’s Jan. 7, and while I don’t leave the GTA to return to Alberta until tomorrow, this vacation is pretty much over.

Today is my 31th birthday, so I’m apparently doing something right. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I have to say this is probably one of the best vacations I’ve taken since I started working like a mature, responsible adult.

What did I do? Heck, what didn’t I do?

I went to seven WJHC games at the ACC.

I went to the Centennial Classic at BMO Field.

I went to Ottawa for the first time since early 2010 (at least I think that was the last time).

I nearly achieved a gyarados, but did achieve several other top-level pokemon (if anyone even still plays that game).

And today, I’m holding a mini birthday party, since I haven’t been in the T.Dot on my birthday since 2010. So I thought, “why not?”

It’s going to feel weird going back to Edmonton, to an office that will be different (well, more different) than I left. To a job where I am a one-person department. We’ll have to see how that goes.

Hopefully I can get picked up from the airport. I don’t really want to take the bus.


Or not.

It’s 2017, and while I have often tried to make resolutions of some shape or form, I have not always been too successful. Sure, like always, I start out with the best of intentions, but things always tend to get in the way.

This year will be different. Or so I keep telling myself.

I have actual goals this year. I want to take a two-week trip to Europe. I want to take control of my burgeoning mass. I want to profane my body with the Dark Mark (because the mudbloods and halfblooded need to know they’re inferior!). I want to live a more wholesome life, W/eTF that means.

I think what might make achieving some of those goals easier is linking them together. Except for the Europe trip — that’s happening regardless.

Will I succeed? Hopefully.

I won’t keep you posted, because I think I read somewhere that regular updates to friends/family makes the chances of success less likely because you feel like you’ve achieved something before you’ve actually achieved anything.

Merry Christmas

Or something like that…

Christmas in your 30s, which is apparently where I find myself, is a strange thing.

You’re no longer super excited about what you’re going to get, so there’s no rush to wake up early and start ripping into your presents. Instead, you’re often more excited about getting friends and family the quote-unquote perfect present.

Really, it’s the experiences that become more meaningful than the actual items you’ll receive.

Heck, for me, I had a brief list that was pretty much essentials (e.g. grocery store gift cards) or something I would plan to get for myself anyway, but would rather wait to see if Christmas or birthday would produce it for me (e.g. wearable GPS).

So, as this, the 30th Christmas of my life is ready to happen (as I’m only barely waking up), I look more forward to the time spend with family (and friends in the coming days) than I am to what I will get.

The only thing I could get that would actually be disappointing would be socks and skivvies — I explicitly told people not to get me any because I have too many to begin with.

Home for the holidays

I’m still kicking myself for passing up the chance to go to Euro 2016 in France this summer. Tickets were still available when I bailed, so my regret is even stronger. Yes, I had a strong reason not to go, but that reason never materialized, so… yeah.

So, in a vain attempt to make up for that choice, I decided to go to the IIHF World U20 (WJHC) tournament in Toronto. I figure if I passed up international football, I may as well go to an international hockey tournament instead.

Adding in the fact my family is in Toronto, and it’s actually a much cheaper experience than Euro 2016 would have been. That said, I still would have preferred Euro 2016 to the WJHC.

I don’t know why I started this off with that mini treatise on my life choices in the past year, since I’m planning to discuss that closer to Dec. 31 (or on Dec. 31, I don’t know).

This year I will be home for Christmas for the first time since 2014, and only the second time since 2009. And it’s only the second time I will have headed back east to the GTA *not* for a wedding since I moved out here to Alberta back in 2010. Yes, you read that right – I had only ever flown into or out of Edmonton for weddings until this past September when I went home for a weekend to see a Blue Jays game, and watch my brother get recognized for his work as a Blue Jays physiotherapist.

Anyway. Yes. It’s going to be nice to be home for Christmas again this year. While pretty much every year I have been out here I have been invited somewhere for Christmas, there is still nothing like being with family and friends whom I have known for a long time – a.k.a. people I actually know.

It’s going to be a busy two weeks, too. I have seven WJHC games to attend, as well as the Centennial Classic (outdoor) game on Jan. 1. I hadn’t really planned on attending that game, but I decided I’m going to be in town, so why not? The only thing I worry about is that it’s outdoors, so I’m at the mercy of the weather, be it snowing and cold, or raining (it is Toronto, after all).