December 22nd @ Free Times Café

Technology gets blamed for a lot of things these days and it’s not always fair. We can’t put all of our failings at the door of Apple and Google and Facebook, much as we’d like to. Still, that doesn’t take Big Tech off the hook completely. For example, I think we can all agree that technology is at least partially to blame for a decline in the level of politeness in today’s society.

You might think that this is a reach, but you’re wrong – just like you’re wrong about everything else, you dummy!!! Sorry about that – not sure where that came from. What was I talking about? Oh yeah, the lack of politeness in today’s society and why technology is to blame.

Think about how we ask our artificially intelligent voice activated devices to help us out. In order to get their attention we have to say “Hey Siri” or “OK Google” or just “Alexa” – that’s all a bit abrupt and pretty informal. But we don’t really have a choice.

If you want to know what song has the lyrics “cat’s foot, iron claw, neuro-surgeons scream for more” you can’t go “Excuse me Siri, I don’t want to bother you but I’m curious about some lyrics that I can’t seem to get out my head.” Siri can’t help you unless you start your sentence with “Hey Siri.” You may feel that you don’t really know Siri well enough to start a conversation with a causal “Hey” but too bad, that’s the only way she’ll talk to you.

And once you get their attention you have to get right to the point. There is no room for small talk. You can’t start by idly commenting on the weather before asking what you really want to know, which is who won the Oscar for best song in 2003, because Alexa will annoyingly interrupt you tell you what the weather is when all you are looking for is a polite “yeah, that snow is a drag isn’t it” before getting to the real question.

And as for Google, much as you would like to start the conversation with “Would it be OK if you stopped listening in to everything I said and then cluttering up my inbox with offers for restaurants after I asked someone else, not you, what do you want for dinner” and then asked for a recipe that used artichokes, quinoa, and tuna – that won’t work because Google’s attention span is way too short.

Is it any wonder then that this informality, this abruptness, this immediately direct questioning has seeped from our digital interactions to our dealings with real people. No. it isn’t.

At this point in this missive you are probably doing two things. First you are nodding your head and quietly admiring the insights and wisdom conveyed so far and maybe even thinking “That Jonathan brings such a welcome perspective to the burning issues of today – I guess I’m pretty lucky to be reading this” (hey, a guy can dream can’t he?) and second, “When is he going to get around to Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room.” And to the second point – I am going to do that right now.

On December 22 (the fourth Sunday in December) Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room will be holding our annual, and much beloved, all-request show. Yes, it’s back again as it is every December – because we need holiday traditions we can rely on.

And just as not everyone can be home for holidays, not everyone will be able to be at the Free Times Café (on College just west of Spadina) at 8 pm for the show, but even if you can’t make it, you can still be part of the show by voting for the tunes you would like us to play. It’s easy – just click on this link and you will be magically transported to our site where you can pick from over 350 songs – and that is not a typo, there are over 350 songs on the site.

So please, peruse the site and vote. And for those of you who do attend, in honour of the holidays there will be no cover.

Hope to see you there.


PS. You know what else is abrupt, direct and just all in your face – of course you do – bagpipes.

December 22nd Set List:
Set #1: Set #2:
Christmas Pipe Tunes
I Believe In Father Christmas
Wagon Wheel
What Was I Thinking
People Are Crazy
Dream A Little Dream Of Me
A Prayer
Famous Blue Raincoat
Unchained Melody
Breathe In, Breathe Out
Buffalo Plaid
First We Take Manhattan
Come Together
Glenora Ferry
Fairy Tale Of New York
Christmas Island
Across The Border
Tracks Of My Tears
500 Miles
Stand By Me
Wichita Lineman
I Can See Clearly Now
Galway Girl
Pussy Willows Cat Tails
Saskatchewan Sky
Bang Bang
When The Night Hears My Song

November 17th @ Free Times Café

I’ve always been a bit of a sports fan, but until recently, as in last year’s magical playoff run by the Toronto Raptors (pause to think back how exciting that was), I never really paid much attention to the NBA – the National Basketball Association.

I am giving it a bit more attention now that the Raptors are the defending champions (that does sound good, doesn’t it?), but I’m not a huge fan. For example I don’t think I could name all the teams in the league. I do know that the team in Utah is called the Jazz which has to be stupidest name in professional sports. Admit it, when you think “jazz” pretty much the last place you think of is Utah. The most famous musical group from Utah is the Mormon Tabernacle Choir – and whatever you think of them, they ain’t jazz.

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October 20th @ Free Times Café

A couple Sundays ago (a Sunday when Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room – that wonderful band of which I am a member and whose very existence is the raison d’être for these missives – was not playing) I found myself in Stratford. I wasn’t there for a pilgrimage to the holy sites of that city’s most famous person – Justin Bieber – but rather to see a matinee at the Stratford Festival. You see, in addition to being a music lover, and a bit of a writer (I mean you are reading this, aren’t you), I am also a theatre-goer – I guess you could say I am a real lover of the arts – and I’ve been told it’s not bragging if it’s true.

After the play we strolled the main streets of Stratford (or perhaps more precisely the main street of Stratford) deciding where we would eat. We chose a brew pub which featured local beers and a menu drawn from the local meats and produce of the area. It looked fine and it was, in fact, very nice. I have to note however, that their local vegetable for the month – one that had a place of prominence in many of their dishes – was daikon radish. While daikon radish is certainly a vegetable, it’s not really the one I would want to build a whole menu around.

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September 15th @ Free Times Café

Hi all!

No rant from Jonathan I am sorry to say (although my poor beaten up bagpipes are glad to have a month off.) He will not be in attendance this month, and Stephanie has a work event, but the rest of us are ready to play and have some fun.

So… come and see us do our music thing starting at 8 pm at the Free Times Cafe at 320 College at Major Street.

See you there!

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August 18th @ Free Times Café


Late last summer I developed a sharp pain in my right knee when I was climbing stairs (‘oh no,’ readers think, ‘this oldish guy’ – I prefer ‘oldish’ to just ‘old’ there’s something about the ‘ish’ I like or perhaps it’s just the ‘old’ that I dislike – ‘is going to spend this whole missive talking about his ailments, maybe I should bail right now, this is not going to be good.’ I know that’s what you’re thinking but just wait a bit, please).

So, I went to my physiotherapist (having just written that I realize that it does seem a bit pretentious – ‘my physiotherapist’ – like I’m some sort of elite athlete who has a whole team of specialists to keep him in peak physical condition for his important sporting endeavours, including his very own physiotherapist. Looking at it in that context I should say that she’s not really ‘my physiotherapist’ as much as she is the physiotherapist I’ve seen twice in the past twenty years.). Anyway, she made me do some exercises and some things in her gym and then told me that the problem was that I wasn’t walking properly and that I didn’t climb stairs the right way either.

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July 14th @ Free Times Café

Readers of a certain age (old folks) and movie buffs will likely remember the scene early on in the 1967 film The Graduate (and in this context I’m more the film buff than the person of certain age) where a young Dustin Hoffman, playing Benjamin, just graduated from university and unsure of his future, meets Mr. McGuire (played by Walter Brooke – whose real name was Gustav William Tweer Jr.) at a party. Here, thanks to the magic of Google is that conversation: Mr. McGuire: I want to say one word to you. Just one word. Benjamin: Yes, sir. Mr. McGuire: Are you listening? Benjamin: Yes, I am. Mr. McGuire: Plastics (and if you’re wondering, that one word last line is ranked #42 in the American Film Institute’s list of the top 100 movie quotations in American cinema).

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June 16th @ Free Times Café

Something is happening next Sunday, June 16, and it’s not just that Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room is playing the Free Times Café (College just west of Spadina) at 8 pm. Regular readers of these dispatches will know that information about our shows is usually found much further down the page, in the fourth or fifth paragraph after a bunch of perambulating around by me, but I thought “I don’t have to write to some template or formula, I’m a creative guy and I will write what I want and if I want to put the date and time of our next gig in the first line then I’m damn well going to do that and if that makes me a rebel then so be it – I revel in the word rebel.” Although I should say that I have no idea on what world outside of the one in my head could this be at all seen as rebellious.

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May 19th @ Free Times Café

I’ve been travelling the last little while – I’ve been in Ottawa and Vancouver – and I’ve seen the same TV commercial in those cities that I’ve seen in Toronto and I feel compelled to tell you about it.

The commercial is for a dating site called Silver Singles. As you might gather, it is a dating site aimed at older folks – who apparently are all made of silver. Now there is absolutely nothing wrong with a dating site for older people, we all need love and whatever works is fine with me. So it’s not the fact that there is a dating site for older folks that bothers me about the commercial.

The ad opens on two healthy, fit older folks (a man and a woman) having a drink from huge wineglasses. And what it about these gigantic wineglasses by the way? They appear designed to hold half a bottle in a glass but still look like you’ve just had “a splash.” Anyway that is not the issue with the commercial either. These are two adults, if they want to kill a bottle of wine between them on a first date that’s certainly OK with me.

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April 21st @ Free Times Café

I was a bit confused recently when I read an article saying that the Ontario government planned to legalize tailgating. Why, I wondered did the government want to encourage people to drive too close behind other cars because, after all, that is the definition of tailgating.

As it turns out there is another definition however and it appears that the government wasn’t legalizing reckless driving but rather the practice of barbequing and drinking before a sporting event, which is also known as tailgating. This latter form of tailgating is particularly popular in the United States (as is the first form of tailgating) and the Ontario government’s embrace of this type of tailgating perhaps explains the new motto shortly to be found on our licence plates – “Ontario – more like Buffalo every day.” Makes your heart swell with pride.

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April 11th @ Annex Hotel

Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room was invited to perform their unique style of “extreme folk” music for a private party at the newly opened Annex Hotel, in the heart of downtown Toronto. It is believed they were the first musical performers in the new venue, which features loft-style hotel rooms and a generous common area to eat, meet, and drink.

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