Archive for the ‘Metric’ Category

[ATTENDED: October 23, 2022] Metric

Metric’s Fantasties was one of my favorite albums of 2009.  I liked it so much I went back and got their first two albums as well and really enjoyed their brand of gritty synth pop all based around Emily Haines’ astute and observantly dark lyrics.  Then I kind of lost track of them.  They put out a record in 2012 Synthetica which I don’t understand why I didn’t listen to.  They’ve continued to release albums every three years or so, and I’d been hearing how good their live shows were so I decided to check out The Doomscroller tour.

The stage setup was quite simple–a wall of lights behind them.  The four members stood close to the center.   Amazingly, the four members have been the same since more or less the beginning (they had a different bassist but he left before their first album).  Joules Scott-Key on drums in the back.  Joshua Winstead on bass more or less in front of us.  James Shaw on guitar on the far side and singer Emily Haines in the middle.  They were all standing at keyboards as the moody intro to “Doomscroller” started.  Emily moved to one of the keyboards to add her parts and when the song shifted, she walked over to another keyboard–do they have different purposes?  

When the sound shifted, the guys moved away from the synths and started rocking out.  The lights changed.  Emily moved into the middle and the whole room rocked out.  Until things settled down again.  The song is ten minutes with several parts and it showed exactly what the band was going to do and what the show was going  to be like.

It was exciting and cathartic all together.  (more…)

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[ATTENDED: October 23, 2022] Miss Grit

Metric was on my radar back in the early 2000s, but their album Fantasties proved to be one of my favorite releases of 2009.  I had not considered seeing them live until I’d heard such glowing reviews of their live show.

When this tour was announced, Secret Machines was listed as the opening act for all shows but Philly and one other location.  No other information was given.  Even walking into the venue I wasn’t sure if there was an opening act.  The only clue was that Metric was live streaming their show at 9 and the venue said the show started at 8.

A few minutes after 8, the lights dimmed and two people walked out.  The crowd cheered, and then I heard someone say, “Wait. is there an opening band?”  So I wasn’t the only one confused.

The people on stage were a guy behind some keyboards and a woman with a guitar.

The first song began and the keyboards made some cool sounds–weird and catchy–with a beat.  Then the woman started singing.  I liked the whole vibe she projected.  As the song came to an end, she played some really wicked guitar licks–they reminded me of the earlier sounds that St. Vincent made on her first couple of albums–weird, unexpected and really compelling.

The rest of the set was more or less like this.  Sometimes the guitar parts were more of a lead.  Sometimes they were more like solos

She didn’t say much.  She thanks Metric.  Thanked us for coming early.  And just as she was about to start the last song, someone shouted, Who are you?  She smiled, leaned into the microphone and whispered something inaudible, which I think was her saying Miss Grit.  I had actually heard of Miss Grit on an All Songs Considered episode from a couple of years ago.  I remembered liking the song.

The only way I knew the band was by doing an audio search on my phone during the last song “Like You” which had a distinctive guitar riff.

Then they walked up, with the audience pretty much blown away.  I think we all enjoyed her set immensely and I’m surprised she didn’t make sure we all knew who she was.



Like you


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SOUNDTRACK: EMILY HAINES AND THE SOFT SKELETON-Live at Massey Hall (December 5, 2017).

I really like Metric a lot.  They hit all the poppy sweet spots that I like with enough rough edges to keep them interesting.

I had heard a song from Haines’ Soft Skeleton album and really liked it–the bass line outstanding.  When this tour came to Philly I conisdered going but ultimately didn’t.  So I’m glad I get to see an abbreviated version of it here from Massey Hall.

This is also the final show (I assume) of the fifth season of Live at Massey Hall as the historic venue now undergoes two years of renovations!

Haines says that Massey Hall is the place that when you’re growing up on Neil Young that you dream of playing someday. She did two nights with metric in 2010 and now to do it solo is an incredible honor.

The show starts with chirping birds and Emily walking around the stage which looks made up like a bedroom.  She takes off her coat, puts on a dressing gown and a sleep mask and lays down on a “bed.”

An alarm goes off and when she shuts it off, a piano melody starts with backing vocals.  It’s the song “Planets,” and she lays down on the bed and sings the lyrics.  The pretty piano melody and swelling backing voices are lovely.  Then she brushes her teeth and a voice (hers?) starts talking to her.  What are you doing here?  Did you sleep at all?

What revelation are you after?  Do you want to go back or are you scared you never left?  This is an introduction to “Nihilist Abyss.”  For this song, she plays the piano and sings.  As the song ends the voice returns, calling “Emily” (echoing) “come back now its time to come back.  You’ve got to get dressed, you have to play a show tonight.  You booked a tour for some reason and you’re on it now….”

“Put on your jacket…”  She stomps around the stage as the rest of the band comes out–Jimmy Shaw, guitar; Sam Goldberg, bass; Justin Peroff, drums (all of whom were in Broken Social Scene, which Haines performed in as well).  She sits at the piano and a robotic voice introduces “Emily Haines and The Soft Skeleton.”

“Our Hell” has  thumping drums and bass as washes of guitars flood in while Haines plays piano and sings.   It’s a dramatic change from the first songs, but not as immediate or poppy as Metric.

“Detective Daughter” is interrupted by her saying that this record and band are a different state of mind than metric–challenging in a different way.  The music and her role is to push herself to the threshold of emotion without cracking.  “It’s raw strong and real.”  There’s more intense guitar from Shaw (who has worked with her on nearly everything she’s done).

“Minefield of Memory” has a scratchy guitar playing a rhythm with the drums, while “Legend of the Wild Horse” has the biggest chorus yet.

“Doctor Blind” has a woozy da da da da middle section along with the echoing distorted guitars.

The set ends with “Fatal Gift,” the song that I love from this album. It starts with a slow piano but after a few minutes the song gets bigger and louder and that bass line is just a knockout.  I don’t rally like the that she repeats over and over “you own it and it owns you,” as it takes away from the music.  But this section of the song is so good the music is intense and wonderful.

I’m not disappointed that i didn’t see this live, although it sounds like an interesting theatrical experience (the venue is usually standing but for this show seats were being sold).

Over the credits she comments that now “because of technology people can use algorithms to pander and give the people what they want a feeling of pandering.  But what I have to offer is a glimpse of someone attempting to access their authentic self.”

[READ: April 15, 2016] “The Five Wounds”

This story surprised me right from the outset with the line “This year Amadeo Padilla is Jesus.”  There’s a few ways that could be taken and I was wrong about all of them.  The closest I came was thinking that Amadeo was a boy in a school play.

But no, Amadeo is a 33 year old man and being Jesus is very real.

People in the village are saying that Amadeo is the best Jesus they’ve had in years.  People are lining up to peek through the chain link fence and watch Amadeo.  He has build his cross out of heavy oak, not pine, and he’s even thinking of adding more nails to make it heavier.

But whats so surpring is that Amdeo is pockmarked and bad-toothed and worse.  If you name the sin, he’s done it: gluttony, sloth, fucked a second cousin on the dark bleachers at the high school.

Amadeo is working so hard at his cross that he is sweating–typically he only ever sweats when he eats and drinks too much. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: METRIC-“Synthetica” (Field Recordings, June 20, 2012).

After playing the Sasquatch festival, Emily Haines and James Shaw of Metric went behind the stadium and played a beautiful acoustic rendition of the title song from their latest album.  This Field Recording [Metric In A Non-Synthetic Situation] is just so wide open as to be inconceivable–especially since they’d just played a festival.

Metric make beautiful music which is rocking and usually full of all manner of electronic noises.  To hear Haines’ voice stripped from any effects shows just what a great and interesting voice she has.   It’s always nice to hear the song underneath the song.  This is a great version of the song.  Watch it here.

[READ: July 25, 2012] “Putting the Red in Redcoats”

Have you ever thought about how the redcoats’ coats became red?  No, me either.  Well, amazingly, it came from the Cochineal, the same bug that is still used today to color foods.

Cochineal bugs are pretty bizarre.  The female lives her entire life on a prickly pear cactus.  When she hatches, she clamps onto the prickly pear and starts feeding.  She grows to the size of a head of a pin. but never leaves the spot.  The male flies around, but only lives for a week.  The female lays eggs and the babies continue the process.

Although she is immobile, she is also armed with carminic acid, which predators don’t like.  Carminic acid is a vibrant red colorant.  Aztecs first mined this amazing color, which naturally impressed Spanish conquistadores who wanted to take it for themselves.  And they made a lot of money selling it to Europe.  But the Spanish never told anyone that the color came from bugs–they kept the secret for themselves.

Of course pirates and privateers would often hijack ships (one score captured 27 tons of cochineal!). (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: METRIC-Live It Out (2005).

I enjoyed Metric’s Fantasies album so much that I bought their previous album (an album that I had written down as worth checking out about 5 years ago).  At first I was a little disappointed–the album doesn’t have the glow (or perhaps sheen or polish) of Fantasies.  Normally I prefer raw to polished, but it’s surprising to go the other way sometimes.  And after a couple more listens I really started to appreciate this album’s rawness.

The guitars are loud and pushy.  There are keyboards that dominate some songs, but they never make the songs poppy.  And Emily Haines’ voice sounds great.  The opener “Empty” has a lot of quiet sections, but the guitars really just burst forth.  It’s 6 minutes long but that’s mostly through a long intro and outro.  The rest of the songs stick firmly in the 3-4 minute range.  “Glass Ceiling” has a cool stuttering riff and a kind of awkward bridge–these first two songs kind of resist admittance (the piano/guitar solo is certainly a weird combination–which I like now of course).  “Handshakes” shows their more commercial side–a slick kind of guitar riff with Haines’ more aggressive vocals.  True the siren sound may turn off some, but it’s certainly a signature.  “Too Little Too Late” is a slow sultry number, but even more sultry is the sleazy-feeling (no doubt because of the keyboards) “Poster of a Girl.”  In addition to a cool spoken word section in French (the whole song is bilingual), we get the English lines “Coming in your pants/For the off chance/With a…poster of a girl.”

“Monster Hospital” is a fun punk blast that is still a live favorite for the band.  “Patriarch on a Vespa” has another rough riff with some cool bass.  It also features some disconcerting singing (ahahs that sound more than a little spooky).  “The Police and the Private” is one of the cool songs with easily singable but easily confusable lyrics.  While “Ending Start” has some great guitar riffs near the end.   “Live It Out” ends the disc with a staccato punk number.  It’s a perfect summation of Metric before they got more commercial.  And it’s a great addition for fans of the band.

[READ: July 8, 2012] The Big Meal

This play came as a supplement with Lucky Peach issue #4.

I have often maintained that it is much better to see a play than to read one.  Not a daring opinion, by any stretch. I have taken that to something of an extreme however, which means that I pretty much never read plays.  This has severely limited by Shakespeare intact, naturally.  It also means that a lot of great works are lost to me.

I’m using that information by way of introduction, not because I think this play compares to Shakespeare, but because this is one of a few plays that I have read recently that I’ve really enjoyed.  So I’m retracting some of my earlier thoughts about reading plays.  True, some plays with multiple characters can be confusing to keep straight (since defining characteristics are not given).  But in shorter plays or plays with not too many characters, it’s not so hard to read them.  And in fact, it can be a quick and enjoyable read.

Although this play complicates things immensely because of its (very cool) setup.  The setup is described in the introduction to the play: “The actors play multiple generations of one family…as they glide through time.  As the characters age, their “essences” pass from younger to older actors.”  So, the story takes places over a few generations of time.  There are eight actors.  Each actor plays multiple roles.  These roles correspond to the characters at certain ages.  So, for example, the youngest actor plays Character A as a child; the adolescent actor plays Character A as an older child; the middle-aged actor plays Character A as a middle-aged person, etc.   So that’s a little confusing (although I’ll bet it makes sense seeing it live).  What I like though is that this “gimmick” is not so much a gimmick at all, but a real indication of how we turn into our parents and an indication of how quickly time passes in this play. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: METRIC-Live at the 9:30 Club, June 18, 2009 (2009).

I love the new Metric album and this tour supported that disc, so, it’s a win-win for me!  Metric sound great live, and the notes on the NPR page where I downloaded this give a fascinating history of the band.  Evidently they burnt out in 2005 while touring for Live It Out.  So they made solo records and kind of went their separate ways.  Then:

in March 2008, Haines was on stage, in the middle of a live solo performance, when she had an epiphany: She was tired of being sad. While playing one of the standout cuts from her gloomy but beautiful album Knives Don’t Have Your Back, Haines stopped, turned to the audience and said, “I don’t want to play these songs anymore.” Instead, she spent the rest of the show performing her favorite Metric tunes.

The band reunited and made Fantasies, the poptastic album that I love so much.

This show plays pretty much all of the album (except “Collect Call” and “Blindness”) and they rock the house!  The only odd part for me is the opening track, “Satellite Mind.”  The band chose to have the first half of the song performed with just the keyboards, so it has no bottom end at all.  It sounds kind of tinny and weird.  Then when the guitars and bass kick in (for the rest of the show, thankfully), the band sounds whole again.

The other weird thing is Emily Haines’ banter.  I like chatty lead singers (–The Swell Season’s banter is great, Wayne Coyne’s banter is emotional but enjoyable), but there’s something about Haines’ musing that are just kind of…lame.  She’s very earnest, but her thoughts are kind of, well, vapid.  So, I just skip past all the chatter and enjoy the music.

It’s a really great, rocking set and the crowd is very into it.

[READ: August 25, 2011] Atlas of Remote Islands

If you need an unusual but doubtlessly cool book, my brother-in-law Ben is your man.  For my birthday and Christmases he often gets me books that I have never heard of but that are weird and interesting.

This book is no exception.  As the subtitle states, this is a book about fifty remote islands that virtually no one lives on.  True, some are inhabited, but many are not.  And a goodly amount of them are little more than icebergs (I wonder how they will survive global warming).  There’s even one that the accompanying story implies was created from bird droppings. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACKMETRIC-Fantasies (2009).

I was hooked by the song “Gold Guns Girls.”  I liked it so much, I bought the disc, and I was absolutely not disappointed.  This disc reminds me of all of the best things about late 90s alt rock (one of my favorite musical periods).  There are echoes of later period Lush, or of Garbage or some other slickly produced commercial alt-rock.

I’m led to understand that this disc would merit cries of sell-out from older fans (their earlier stuff it a bit rougher, I gather), and yes, this is a pretty commercial release, but I don’t mind.  The songs are all top-notch: great songwriting, catchy choruses, wonderful production.  And there’s something slightly uncommercial about the lyrics which I think is what keeps this album from being too slick for its own good.

I have listened to this disc dozens of times at this point and I never get tired of it.  And, there’s no reason why I shouldn’t go back and get some of their earlier releases too.

[READ: May 15, 2011] Fraud

I’ve seen Rakoff on the Daily Show, and his name has been cropping up in various places lately.  So I decided to read his actual published work to see what he was all about.

Fraud is his first book.  It is mostly funny, although it also dwells on serious matters by the end of the book.  In many ways Rakoff is like a slightly wilder, slightly edgier version of David Sedaris (the two have a long history of friendship and working together, so this may not be totally surprising).

I’m not going to compare him to Sedaris in any meaningful way, just to say that there are similarities of temperament and style; I don’t think either one of them is hilarious, but that I enjoy both of them and often laugh pretty hard at their material.

I’m also not going to review each essay in this book.  It seems to be constructed in a vague sort of narrative arc.  Well, actually, the second half of the book has the narrative arc (I suspect that the essays that were published previously were modified slightly and that the new essays allude to some of the incidents mentioned there.

The first few essays of the book are the funnier ones (insert joke about Woody Allen’s early funny movies here), and they stick more to the idea of Rakoff as a “Fraud.”  In them, Rakoff, a Canadian ex-pat (he’s from Toronto), somewhat neurotic, gay, New York Jew goes to different locations where he is an atypical person and then reports on them. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE-World Cafe March 2, 2006 (2006).

Broken Social Scene played at the World Cafe not long after their release of Broken Social Scene (their 3rd album).  This download is primarily an interview between World Cafe’s David Dye and BSS’s Kevin Drew & Brendan Canning, but there’s also three songs that the band played for the session (it’s impossible to know how many songs they played in total, because the songs were recorded prior to the interview–I’m not even sure how many members played live as they were never introduced.)

The songs sound interesting in this recording.  I haven’t listened to the album in a long time, so I don’t recall if these versions sound like the disc; however, these three tracks are fascinating for how quiet they seem to be, despite the fact that there are so many people in the session.  “Something for the Holidays” has at least one violin, a horn section, guitars and several vocalists, and yet it’s rather quiet.  Not mixed quiet mind you, but like everybody is whispering (even the horns).  It makes for an amazingly intimate session.

“Major Label Debut” is a bit more stripped down, but there are clearly a lot of people playing.  The final track, “Ibi Dreams of Pavement” really sounds like a Pavement song in the beginning.  The slightly out of tune violins work perfectly, and whoever is singing has a Stephen Malkmus thing down quite well.

The interview is fascinating (and quite lengthy).  They discuss the origins of the band, how fifteen people can play and tour together and the amazing success that so many of the individuals of the band have had (Feist, Metric etc).  There’s also an explanation about the origin of the title and the sounds of “Ibi Dreams of Pavement.”

It’s a good session and is certainly going to get me to listen to their discs again.

[READ: April 4, 2011] “The Counterpart”

This bizarre story can certainly be called Kafkaesque, if for no other reason than that the narrator, Aleksey, wakes up from a night of drinking to find out that his nose is gone.  Not torn off, not bloody, not broken, just gone.  His face is now flat with two holes for breathing.

This bizarre incident no doubt stems from his childhood hatred of his large Semitic nose (despite his being a Christian) and the years of abuse he received about it.  First he thinks his lover, Tatiana, is somehow responsible.  But when she comes over she is just as surprised as he.  Nevertheless, she is insistent that he must carry on as normal, for he must improve his lot (and thereby hers).

Because Aleksey is not faring so well (nose aside).  He has not been given tenure, his wife and child have left him and he is stuck translating poor Russian works into English.  Tatiana has set up a job interview for him and the interview is today.  But how can he go with no nose? (more…)

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[WATCHED: December 17, 2010] Scott Pilgrim vs the World.

I was delighted to finally get to see Scott Pilgrim vs the World on DVD. And man, it did not disappoint.  I love Michael Cera, so even though he’s not who I pictured as Scott Pilgrim, he played the character quite wonderfully (although he was within the realm of the “Michael Cera” character, he had an air of the sinister about him which was quite captivating).

The movie did  great job at capturing the hyper real video game quality of the books (I love all the little extra details which were not cute comic book details (like the phones printing RIIIIIIIIING) but simply part of the world they lived in.

I thought that the compression of this long (but not too long) series was wonderfully done.  Although I missed some aspects of the book, I thought it was all handled very well.  Plus, I liked the increased presence of the awesome Wallace and I really liked the way they adjusted the Knives storyline so that it could conclude at the same time as Ramona’s.  That’s very different from the final book, and, while I think the book’s version is more elegant (and fitting a longer story), for the movie, that truncation worked very well and allowed for a fantastic conclusion.  The end was great thanks to the introduction of the cool video game that Scott and Knives play early in the movie–a game which was made up for the movie.

I’m also thrilled to finally know how to pronounced Sex Bob-omb and I’m also thrilled to hear how much they rocked (Beck did most of the band music and über-god Nigel Godrich made the score for the rest of the film. Other great bands on the soundtrack include Metric, Broken Social Scene, Dan the Automator and Kid Koala.  I sort of ignored the soundtrack when it came out but I think i may have to go check it out now.

So in the movie, Scott must battle Ramona’s seven evil exes to win her love.  As for the seven evil exes themselves, they were all fun (and nicely diverse).  I enjoyed seeing Ann Veal (her?) working with George Michael Bluth again and Jason Schwartzman was simply terrific as the evil Gideon.  Also terrific was Satya Bhabha as the over-the-top first evil ex and Chris Evans as the bad-ass actor boyfriend.  I was only bummed that the Katayanagi brothers were given kind of short shrift (but hey you can only have so many characters).  The fight scenes were really well executed and fun.

The only weakness I would say in the film is that I thought Ramona was a little flat.  It was hard to know just what was so compelling about her for Scott (aside from the act that she was in his mind-portal all that time).  The book gives more details that show their relationship build, but the movie left that out.  I’ve never seen her in anything else, so I don’t know whose fault that was.  This compromises the ending a little bit because the decision between Knives and Ramona is actually kind of difficult (where it really shouldn’t be).  And yet, I thought the ending was really well done, with Ellen Wong really stealing the show).

The DVD itself is pretty awesome and there are a ton of special features.  Although Scott Pilgrim vs the Bloopers was a major let-down.  The movie is so understated that none of the bloopers are over-the-top hilarious.  However, the trivia track that you can play during the movie (I watched about ten minutes of it) was very interesting.  I especially enjoyed reading how parts of the movie that were finished before the book actually made their way into the book because O’Malley liked them so much.

I’m also thrilled that they filmed the movie in Toronto.  The trivia track points out all kinds of interesting locations.  From The Torontoist:

The first thing Wright did when he met O’Malley here in 2005 was visit all the real-life locations.”Pretty much everything that was in the book, we shot the same place Bryan had drawn,” he says.

A perfect example is the house in which Scott and his pal Wallace live. In reality, O’Malley lived at 27 Alberta Avenue, though he thinly disguised it as “Albert Avenue.”

As any true fan knows, however, the drawings in the book are actually at number 65, down the street. So, that’s where they shot, turning the garage door into the apartment door.

And there’s plenty more details in that article.  Like that those romantic and perilous stairs are real stairs on Baldwin St.  (I love crap like that).

It’s a really enjoyable romp of a film, unjustly ignored in the theaters.  And perhaps best of all…in no way is it setting itself up for a sequel!  A movie that just ends….how novel!

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SOUNDTRACK: METRIC-“Gold Guns Girls” (2009).

I mentioned to Sarah that WRFF plays this song all the time and that I really liked it but I had no idea what the band or even the song title was because they never say it.  And, I couldn’t really figure out any of the words (I’m usually working with loud tools) to investigate online.

Well, we were in the car the other day and, of course, they played it again.  Happily, the Prius has a “message” button on the radio that tells you the names of the band and the song title (if the radio station provides it).  Huzzah, here’s the song (hilariously, they played it on the way home from our Halloween party too, proving my point that they really over-play this song).  But I still think its great.

I’ve been interested in Metric for a while (there are members of Broken Social Scene in the band) but for some reason I never listened to them.

This track opens with a fast guitar riff which is undercut by this cool bass riff.  Over the top staccato vocals (that come in unexpectedly) and a nice harmony type vocal (like later period Lush) make this opening really captivating.

The repeated chorus “Is it ever gonna be enough” (with I think whispered “enough”s in the background) remind me so much of the mid 90s alt rock that I love so much.  I have no idea if the rest of the disc is like this, but I have finally bitten the bullet and decided to order the whole thing.  I hope I’m not disappointed.

[READ: 2005 & October 25, 2010] “Bird-Dogging the Bush Vote”

A while ago I read a whole bunch of pieces by Wells Tower.  I intended to read all of the pieces I could find by him and I discovered he had written a few pieces for Harper’s as well as the articles for Outside.  I’m fairly certain I read this story back in 2005 when it came out, as it sounds kind of familiar, but maybe I, like Tower himself, was too bummed with the results to actually read about it in detail.

In this piece, Tower decides to go “undercover” and volunteers at some Bush/Cheney offices in Florida (a pivotal state that year and one in which malfeasance was predicted on a large scale).  Tower is unabashed about his distaste for Bush (to us, not to the Floridians).  He admits that he did feel a bit of hope in the President right after the events of September 11, 2001, but by September 12, he was already disgusted with him again.

And so he spends a few weeks in Florida actually asking people to vote for Bush in hopes of finding something out of the ordinary.  Which, aside from some real mean spiritedness (which I’m sure was the same in the Kerry camp), there was nothing scandalous to report.   Although I will say that the example he gives (telling a Democrat that voting was on the day after the actual election, which I’d seen in a number of other places too, really pisses me off despite its fairly innocuousness and no doubt ineffectiveness–as a librarian I hate telling lies to people). (more…)

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