By John Leonard

*This is a piece of short fiction that has nothing to do with the actual theme of the blog.

Though the thought made me sick, I managed to muster up enough confidence to leave work early, buy flowers and make reservations at my wife’s favourite restaurant. I even got her purple carnations. She loved those, but I never understood what was so great about them. Dandelions and sow thistles look pretty nice, if you arrange them properly.

Our relationship was souring. It needed rejuvenation. I intended on surprising her, if it was even possible at that point. The last time I surprised her was when I maxed out the credit cards. We couldn’t afford to pay the workers stuccoing the house. The scaffolding was still there.

I arrived home and parked the car in our driveway. My walk up the front steps felt long. I opened the front door to the house and called to my wife, letting her know I was home. Then I heard a noise that sounded like a blissful groan. I heard another one. And another. My heart sank into my stomach.

I walked outside, carnations in hand, and climbed the scaffolding at the front of the house. I got up high enough to see into our bedroom and saw what I figured I’d see. My neighbour, Jim, was in my bed ploughing cheeks with my wife. In a fit of rage, I pierced the screen, burst through the window frame and landed right on top of the two adulterers. My hands fell perfectly around Jim’s neck, and my wife screamed as I punched him repeatedly. She’d picked up the carnations and started hitting me with them. Purple petals filled the air. I thought about how nice carnations are. Jim grabbed his clothes and ran.

Exhaustedly, I glanced up at my wife. She looked nothing short of surprised.

Sorry if I've lost you...

In my last post, I strayed from the actual point of this blog—the evolution of certain musical instruments.

This time, I’m going to continue going off topic.

Sorry if this bothers you.

I try to listen to as many different types of music that I can. However, that can be hard because I’m really picky when it comes to what I listen to. My girlfriend has told me on multiple occasions that I’m a big ol’ jerk when it comes to music.

She’s lovely. No, really. She’s the best. And since she's said that, I’ve been able to admit that I am a bit of a snob when it comes to that stuff.

There have been times when I’ve said things that have probably offended people, even though I really wasn’t trying to make them feel ashamed for liking something that I don’t. I just needed to keep my comments to myself and I’ve starting doing just that.

Whatever music you like, you like. And that is all that's important.

It’s happened vice-versa, too. People have poked fun at me for liking a song or band that they thought were “lame.” It doesn’t make you feel good. I probably responded by saying, “It’s just one of my guilty pleasures.”

But that’s a crock of crap, too. God, I’m so insecure.

So in light of all of this, I’d like to use this last blog post to embarrass myself on the Internet in front of everyone.

Here are some songs I was always afraid to admit I like.

1)   “Purple Rain” by Prince—First off, Prince is brilliant. You heard me. I don’t care what you say about it

2)   “Toxic” by Britney Spears—I know, I know. Brutal, right? But it’s a pretty damn catchy song. My old band even covered it, but with way more screaming and crash cymbal than Britney's version.

3)   “I Can’t Make You Love Me” by Bonnie Raitt—Whatever, okay? It’s a beautiful song with beautiful lyrics. Justin Vernon’s cover is also great, but the original reigns in my opinion. Is this over yet?

4)    “Dancing On My Own” by Robyn—Okay, anything by Robyn is usually pretty rocking and her performance of this one on Saturday Night Live was rad.

And there you have it. That wasn’t so hard...


Bye for now. Maybe forever. 


John is a Professional Writing student who lives in Ottawa, Canada. In his spare time he plays music, takes bike rides, walks his dog and sits on his futon with a book, his laptop and a bowl of noodles. One day, he would like to have a job. 

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Sound the horns


I don’t have much personal experience with wind instruments, and I’m no jazz connoisseur, but saxophones sound great and I’m going to talk a bit about them.

Saxophones are a family of woodwind instruments, fashioned from brass and played with a single-reed mouthpiece made out of wood. If you ever tried to play a sax or a clarinet in grade-eight band, you’d know what that is.

A Belgian instrument maker made the first saxophone in the late 1800s, and since then four different kinds have been produced: Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone. The bigger they get, the lower the note they play… I think.

Saxophones are commonly played in orchestras and jazz bands, but they have made their mark in pop music as well. There are some really famous songs that are defined by sax riffs.

George Michael’s “Careless Whisper” is the song with the passionate sax hook we’ve all heard. If you skipped the link, just go back and listen for a second. It’s worth it.

Mm, smooth.

Another great sax riff is in “Baker Street” by Scottish singer-songwriter Gerry Rafferty. I first heard it when Lisa Simpson played it in season 9– that one will stick in your head. After listening to the original, I realized how well Lisa played it on the show.

Trumpets (and Paul Simon’s Penny Whistle)

I’m running out of space to talk, but trumpets!

Trumpets date back pretty far, some think at least to 1500 BC. They have the highest register in the brass family – that is, the highest range of notes. It isn’t as warm of a sound as the sax, but it can be quite nice.

Once again, trumpets have made their mark in pop music, too.

In “Manifest”, by Winnipeg’s The Weakerthans, a great trumpet solo carries out the short opening track on their album Reconstruction Site. This one’s a personal favourite of mine. Don’t fast forward to the brass. Listen through!

Also, watch Louis Armstrong wipe sweat off his face, play a trumpet solo and sing “Hello, Dolly.” What a voice.

And finally one of the catchiest trumpet – and other brass too – riffs of all time: “You can call me Al” off of Paul Simon’s Graceland – a super-catchy song from a great album.

But the most skilful wind instrument playing out of all of this is easily Simon’s penny whistle solo at 1:45.

Take it away, Paul.


John is a Professional Writing student who lives in Ottawa, Canada. In his spare time he plays music, takes bike rides, walks his dog and sits on his futon with a book, his laptop and a bowl of noodles. One day, he would like to have a job. 

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Strings (of sorts) – Part 2

You know that fuzzy sound guitars can make? Yeah, that’s called distortion. It was all a mistake, and a pretty important one. For years, distorted guitar tones have been popular and there is now a lot of variety to choose from. So, a big thank you to that sound engineer who didn't repair the faulty connection within that sound board 50-some years ago – which is how the first distortion was produced.

Do you know what else? That fuzzy sound first appeared on a bass guitar track, not the six-string, in a song called “Don’t Worry” by country singer Marty Robbins. It’s not a song you’d think would include such a tone, because it's country music from the 60s, but it had to start somewhere and this just happens to be where. Listen to the fuzz kick in at the 1:39 mark.

Guitar distortion happens when the input of the guitar far exceeds the capacity of the amplifier. If you’ve ever turned your music up too loud in your ear-bud headphones or heard someone’s voice on the microphone break, it’s pretty much the same thing. And ever since this sound became tasteful, instrument and amplifier settings have been designed for musicians to be able to produce it.

The demand for fuzz really took over when the Rolling Stones released the song “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” in 1965. If you know the song, think of the opening riff. Also, leave it to those guys to set the trend and make something cool and popular.

Another classic tune to first incorporate fuzz – and more of a personal favourite – was “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks, which hit radio stations in 1964. Listen here.

These days, distortion tones vary significantly and guitar pedal manufacturers have a large variety of different-sounding effects for players to use. On top of that, you can use more than one effect at once if you want – which can get ridiculous, because the pickup on your instrument essentially becomes useless. Why play through six pedals at once when the pickup on your $2,000 guitar sounds amazing? That’s another story.

The existence of rock music rests pretty heavily on distortion tones, among other important things of course. You know, like musicianship and songwriting ability… But still! The buzzy, violent tones electric guitars create are important to the sounds of, as Reverend Lovejoy once put it, “Rock and/or Roll.”

Next time, I’ll dive into the riveting world of trumpets… Maybe. 


John is a Professional Writing student who lives in Ottawa, Canada. In his spare time he plays music, takes bike rides, walks his dog and sits on his futon with a book, his laptop and a bowl of noodles. One day, he would like to have a job.

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