“The Martian”, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Matt Damon is a blueprint on how to adapt a complex, hard sci-fi novel to the big screen. Retaining the key elements of the book and resisting the urge to make major plot or character modifications (Mark is single in the movie, despite alluding to a different marital status in the trailer), “The Martian” is an entertaining romp through the travails faced by an astronaut stranded on Mars. The deadpan humor of astronaut Mark Watney from the book is translated beautifully to the big screen.

With a tremendous performance by Damon as well as solid supporting work by Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels, and Donald Glover, the movie sets a great pace and keeps it up for the duration. Great special effects and sound round out the picture that ranks as one of the most fun to see movies of the year.

Watercolor on Canson watercolor board. Click on the images for a larger version.

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U2 played a couple of great shows at the Bell Centre in Montreal on June 12th and 13th. They mixed a large selection of songs from their new album, Songs of Innocence, with a good dose of their classic anthems.

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As usual for these mega-tours, the setlist needs to be consistent from night to night to accommodate the stage show, videos, etc., that accompany a production of this magnitude. In this case, a suite of songs from “Innocence” reminiscing about the band’s origins in hard scrabble Dublin were projected on a giant screen that ran horizontally above a catwalk that connected the main stage with smaller stage at the opposite end of the arena.

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The screen was so large that the band could actually play inside of it, as they did in the shot below for “Invisible”.

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The band spent roughly equal time at both ends, so fans who had tickets near either stage were treated to close-up views. We were at the main stage on the 12th and at the other stage for the 13th show.

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The 12th featured a great rendition of “The Electric. Co.”, while the 13th had “Out of Control” in that spot. We got “Elevation” on the 12th and “Angel of Harlem” on the 13th. For the 13th show, we also got “Bad” and an audience-sung “One”. Overall, the show on Saturday, June 13th was a bit better and the audience was more into it.

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The band is still at the top of their game for live performances and Bono showed few after effects of his bike accident, other than not playing the guitar. The stage setup was clever and maximized fan enjoyment. Overall, this was one of the best U2 shows we have seen and we have seen a show on every tour since “Joshua Tree”.

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See the complete photo galleries for the shows here and here.

This is a bit of “Where The Streets Have No Name” from the 13th:

Here is “Out Of Control” from the 14th:

And here is “I Will Follow” from the 14th:

Setlist for June 12th

The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
The Electric Co. (with “Send in the Clowns” and “Anthem” snippets)
I Will Follow
Iris (Hold Me Close)
Cedarwood Road
Song for Someone
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Raised by Wolves
Until the End of the World

Intermission (The Wanderer)

Even Better Than the Real Thing
Mysterious Ways
Ordinary Love (Acoustic)
Every Breaking Wave (Acoustic)
Bullet the Blue Sky
Pride (In the Name of Love) (with “The Hands that Built America” Intro)
Beautiful Day
With or Without You

City of Blinding Lights
Where the Streets Have No Name (with “Mother and Child)
I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For (with “People Have the Power” snippet)

Setlist for June 13th

The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)
Out of Control
Vertigo (with “Do You Remember Rock n’ Roll)
I Will Follow
Iris (Hold Me Close)
Cedarwood Road
Song for Someone
Sunday Bloody Sunday
Raised by Wolves (with “Psalm 23” snippet)
Until the End of the World (with “Love And Peace Or Else” snippet)

Intermission (The Wanderer)

Even Better Than the Real Thing
Mysterious Ways
Angel of Harlem
Lucifer’s Hands (Live premiere)
Every Breaking Wave (acoustic)
Bullet the Blue Sky
Pride (In the Name of Love) (with “The Hands That Built America” segue)
Beautiful Day (with “Moment of Surrender” snippet)
Bad (with “Moment of Surrender” snippet)
With or Without You

City of Blinding Lights
Where the Streets Have No Name (with “Mother and Child)
One (with “Invisible” snippet)

Setlists courtesy of

ZZ Top Ottawa 2013

The Little Ol’ Band From Texas rocked the Canadian Tire Centre Monday night as Billy Gibbons, Dusty Hill, and Frank Beard put on a show featuring a healthy dose of ZZ Top classics mixed with some newer material from their current album, “La Futura”. Gibbons is a master and one of the best blues guitar players in history — he creates sounds out his instrument with the ease of someone dailing a phone…effortlessly. His command of artificial harmonics was in full display as he squawked out the solos on “Gimme All Your Lovin'”, “Legs”, “Pincushion” and others that feature this difficult technique.

The crowd was older and more subdued than normal — and sparse. Even though the band played in the smaller “bowl” configuration of the arena, it was clearly too large a venue and this seemed to take some of the energy out of the performance. However, the “Eliminator” anthems and a cover of Gibbons’ pal Jimi Hendrix’s “Foxey Lady” were the highlights of the evening, ending with the raunchy slide guitar on “Tush”.


Got Me Under Pressure
Waitin’ for the Bus
Jesus Just Left Chicago
Gimme All Your Lovin’
I Gotsta Get Paid
Flyin’ High
Certified Blues
Foxy Lady (Jimi Hendrix cover)
My Head’s in Mississippi
Sharp Dressed Man

La Grange / Sloppy Drunk Jam

Paul McCartney Out There Ottawa ON

Paul McCartney put on one of the greatest shows that Ottawa has ever seen as the former Beatle and his 4 piece backup band dazzled a packed house at the Scotiabank Place/Canadian Tire Centre arena. Playing a set largely consisting of well-known Beatles tunes and hits from his 70’s band, Wings, McCartney entertained the enthusiastic and appreciative crowd for nearly 3 hours, even returning for 2 encores. Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this concert was the lack of backup singers, scantily clad dancers, numerous auxiliary musicians, electronic backing tracks, etc. that are so prevalent with the shows produced today. Rusty Anderson and Brian Ray played lead and rhythm guitar and Ray played bass when Sir Paul strapped on a guitar, while Paul Wickens was a jack-of-all-trades, contributing keyboards, harmonica, percussion, and even accordian to the mix. Abe Laboriel, Jr., laid down a solid and energetic beat on the drums.

Paul McCartney Out There Ottawa

McCartney’s voice was in fine form (as evidenced by the fact that most of the songs were performed in their original keys) and the sound system was perfect — no distortion or bad mixing of voices and instruments that are common in venues of this kind. Highlights of the set were a rocking rendition of “Back in the USSR” and a literally explosive version of “Live and Let Die” in which the pyrotechnics almost overwhelmed the musical performance. The traditional favorites like “Let It Be” and “Hey, Jude” were soulfully performed and “Day Tripper” and “Helter Skelter” helped round out the evening as part of the encores.

As the first stop on this North American leg of the “Out There” tour, this show proves that McCartney is already in fine form and that future audiences can look forward to a terrific show. More pictures from the show can be seen here and a video of “Day Tripper” can be found here.

Paul McCartney Setlist, Ottawa, July 7, 2013

Eight Days a Week
Junior’s Farm (Wings)
All My Loving
Listen to What the Man Said (Wings)
Let Me Roll It (Wings) with snippet of Hendrix’s “Foxy Lady”
Paperback Writer
My Valentine (Solo)
The Long and Winding Road
Maybe I’m Amazed (Solo)
I’ve Just Seen a Face
We Can Work It Out
Another Day (Solo)
And I Love Her
Here Today (Solo)
Your Mother Should Know
Lady Madonna
All Together Now
Lovely Rita
Mrs. Vandebilt (Wings)
Eleanor Rigby
Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da
Band on the Run (Wings)
Back in the U.S.S.R.
Let It Be
Live and Let Die (Wings)
Hey Jude

Encore 1:
Day Tripper
Hi, Hi, Hi (Wings)
Get Back

Encore 2:
Mull of Kintyre (Wings) feat. Ottawa Police Service Pipe Band
Helter Skelter
Golden Slumbers
Carry That Weight
The End

HP Envy H8-1559
Well, the time finally came to upgrade from my old dual core, 2GB RAM dinosaur. I considered several options:

  • go Mac — limited customization options and I wasn’t sure I could run all of my software and devices
  • roll your own — looked at this via ShopRBC (which I highly recommend), but couldn’t seem to get the price point I wanted
  • buy a pre-made off-the-shelf system — after seeing the specs on the Envy, this is the route I decided to go
  • The HP Envy H8-1559 is an AMD-powered 8 core, 8GB RAM desktop computer with an AMD Radeon HD 7570 graphics card and a 2TB hard drive. I accessorized my Envy with a 27-inch HP monitor and wireless Logitech keyboard and mouse. Setup was simple, though Windows 8 requires an account to be setup with Microsoft. I was able to get virtually everything running, my Mustek 1200 A3 scanner needed 64-bit Windows 7 drivers. Stock drivers from Canon worked for my Pixma 9000. Regrettably, this might signal the end of the line for our venerable HP LaserJet 3150, which has not been supported since Vista. Perhaps the open source drivers will allow me to hook it up to our Linux server, but I’m not sure the Windows systems will be able to print to it.

    I then installed the Hauppauge 1201 WinTV HVR-1250 PCI-E Hybrid HD Video Recorder TV Tuner Card since the Hauppauge card in my old computer would not fit into the PCI-Express x1 slots that were available on the Envy. I downloaded the latest software from Hauppauge for this card, but it did not work as well as the software provided on the accompanying CDROM (the WinTV application froze sporadically with the newer drivers and software).

    For video encoding, the system is quite fast, it can encode a 2 hour movie into H.264 in about 20 minutes using Handbrake. The Beats sound is good (I’m using the optical sound interface to my amp) and the video card has both DVI and HDMI interfaces.

    So far, the most annoying part of this experience has been the fact that Windows 8 applications only seem to run at fullscreen. This is ridiculous in the world of multicore processors and 27 inch displays that allow you to have several programs running simultaneously. If I want the Windows 8 version of the Kindle app running in the corner of my screen, apparently I am out of luck.

    Next up will be the USB MIDI interfaces and guitar effects software. Overall, I recommend this system as a reasonably priced ($700CDN for the computer) high performance unit. For those of you who need a lot of oomph on your desktop that a notebook can’t provide, this might be the system for you.

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