The Smile: Thin Thing (Live at Montreaux Jazz Festival)
Radiohead is one of my all-time favourite bands, but for some reason The Smile’s A Light for Attracting Attention never quite grabbed me. After I saw them live (Seattle, December), I wondered if a reason might have been that, while Radiohead works (worked?) out songs live, often over the course of many years, A Light was a “pandemic album.” The track “Skrting on the Surface” was a candidate for this list, being perhaps the closest thing to a Radiohead track we’re ever again likely to get; but in performance everything came alive and “Thin Thing” was one of the highlights. The interplay of Yorke’s bass and Greenwood’s guitar at 3:12 is just so great.
“And then, she’ll steal the photos / From your phone.”
Long ago, I had a copy of Orton’s Trailer Park; but I lost track of her over the years. The Pitchfork review of her new album prompted me to have another listen, and the album one of my favourites of the year; the title track is a standout. She and her band were great live in Vancouver in November.
“Almost makes me wanna cry / The weather’s so beautiful outside.”
Every month, I receive an email from BC Hydro. Here it is.
Make a payment (from your bank account by entering transit number, instituion number, and account number — essentially paying by cheque, in 2022 … but, okay)
See my payment options (Online banking, direct withdrawal, pre-authorized payments, equal payment plan, credit card, by mail, at a Service BC location (outside the Lower Mainland), Electronic Funds Transfer — fair enough, but I have never used any of these; I just want to see the bill, get the amount, and pay via my bank’s site)
View your detailed bill — yes, please! I mean, can’t you just attach it to the email? Thanks.
View your electricity use — this would, presumably, be on my bill
Join Team Power Smart. Um, what?
Set up pre-authorized payments — fair enough
Phone scam info. Okay, but you sent me an email
Payment options for my bill (again?)
Move or cancel account
How to read my detailed bill — well, if I had the bill I’d be able to follow along, right?
Get help. I feel I need it at this point. But probably not the kind of help they have in mind
I want to view my bill — I don’t care so much how “detailed” it is, and wish they’d just attached it to the email, but I click or tap the button. This is what I see, after signing in:
Keep in mind that I clicked/tapped a button in the email that said “View your detailed bill”. I kind of expect that I might, you know, see my bill. But no. I won’t bother to inventory the absolute mess of information that is irrelevant to my task here. Here is what I have to scan to find, every month:
Question: How is “View my bill” distinct from the original “View your detailed bill”? Where along the way did I lose the detail? What detail? Is it important? Okay, well, I guess I’ll settle for my dumbed-down bill: remember, all I really want is the amount so I can … oh yeah, pay the bill.
So I click/tap the teensy little button that BC Hydro apparently does not want me to see — for reasons I can’t guess. Don’t they want my money? Why is “Starting a Challenge” or “Joining the Team” (is this the Electricity Olympics?), or contests, or consumption — only the last 7 days, mind you; is this a teaser for the “detail” initially mentioned … why are any of these things and more, more important than what I was initially promised? Wait, what was that? Oh yeah, my bill. So, the microscopic button leads here:
This is only the content that fits on my 5K display. But once again, I’ve been sold a false promise: “View my bill” actually should read “Display yet another messy page of crap that really has nothing to do with your bill or anything else you might be interested in” — but maybe that (a) didn’t fit in the button; and (b) would have been too large a target, distracting from the truly important information on the page, like kWh and the projected cost of my next bill.
It seems that a once-a-month task provides just enough time to forget exactly where the thing I was looking might be located on the page (as far as I recall, this mess hasn’t changed in years; the incompetent consultants who put this together may have long-since retired to a tropical isle). But oh yeah, there it is!
Recall: I have been offered:
“View your detailed bill” (email)
“View my bill” (after authentication … also, why has “your” changed to “my”?)
“View PDF bill”
So clicking/tapping the link, will I see my/your detailed/not-detailed/summary bill? It’s a mystery but at last I have reached my destination.
Dear BC Hydro: Just Attach My (Your?) Fucking Bill To The Email, OK?
There doesn’t seem to be a lot of information available on how to access CBC content using Siri on HomePod and HomePod mini, so I decided to put together a guide based on my experience and research. Last updated March 2023.
Someone, somewhere — CBC, TuneIn, and/or Apple — seems regularly to be tweaking many of these commands, as there are changes every month. But there tend to be as many regressions as improvements.
Here’s a review of the commands provided on those pages, and their current status.
“Hey Siri …”
“… play CBC Radio.”
In Vancouver: Success. Was previously and correctly playing CBC Radio One Vancouver, but with incorrect feedback like “Here’s a station inspired by CBC Radio One Vancouver on Apple Music.” Now I get “Now playing CBC Radio One Vancouver, provided by TuneIn” — assume this is using my location.
On the 2018 page (3), there is a video with Piya Chattopadhyay demonstrating the “play CBC Radio One” command. The video ends by promoting a url, cbc.ca/smart, which as of this writing only has instructions for Amazon Alexa.
Page (2) states “We will continue to work on our Apple implementation of the voice experience and will announce late in 2019 when it’s ready to go. Stay tuned!” Page (3) says “New experiences are coming in 2019.”
Communications with CBC
I wrote to CBC in June 2019, and received the following from CBC Audience Services:
“CBC Radio One is limited to the Ottawa feed on HomePod. CBC Music is not officially supported on HomePod either. All a work in progress and changing constantly. We are continually working on improvements and upgrades on all digital platforms.”
There is a lot more CBC content Siri on HomePod can access besides Ottawa Radio One (see below). But since that message, CBC had stopped responding to emails or tweets on the subject until, quite unexpectedly, an email arrived July 11, 2022, which stated in part:
“This is a known issue which we are currently investigating. Please read the following CBC Help Centre article referring to this issue: NEW Issues connection to CBC Radio networks on internet devices [apparently updated in early 2023, though it doesn’t appear there were changes]. We do apologize for any inconvenience.”
It’s also unclear who has responsibility for ensuring that Siri can be used to access CBC content. The page sent to me above says to “reach out to the software support team for your device or service and ask them to contact CBC directly.” But is this TuneIn (the service that provides radio to Apple Music and hence via HomePod)? Apple? I replied with all of these questions, but in a response sent July 19, 2022, only got back “As the article link from our help centre says:” with the first and third paragraphs of the above page quoted, and “That’s all I can give you for the moment.”
It’s not clear whether by “this” they were referring to issues with HomePod in general — every time I email or tweet CBC I include a link to this page, but have no way of knowing whether they’ve looked at it — or some specific issue, perhaps the recent problem with CBC Music Vancouver.
Siri Command Reference
Particularly with the introduction of the HomePod mini, not to mention the second-generation full-size HomePod, these issues would seem to be a significant oversight on the part of CBC. But in the meantime, I’ve discovered through trial and error that there are other commands that work, over and above the few documented on the original web pages from 2018-20. I also looked at the TuneIn pages for CBC stations and music. The following is my analysis of what plays based on various commands. It’s worth noting that some results may be affected by my location, Vancouver; thanks to ThiefClashRoyale for doing some tests from Ottawa in March 2023. (I have omitted podcasts, since they can be asked for directly; some generic commands like “play the CBC news” happen to redirect to podcasts.)
“… switch to CBC news.”
“Sorry, I’m unable to switch your news source preferences to CBC.”
Until February 2023, this usually worked. This used to — and I think probably should — play The World This Hour. It played The World at Six podcast for a couple of months until the November 2022 update.
“… play CBC Music.”
CBC Radio One Vancouver
Was playing CBC Radio One Vancouver for me in August 2022, perhaps based on my location; regressed to CBC Radio One Toronto in October 2022, then in February 2023 shifted to Montreal, then Vancouver in March 2023.
For a few weeks in May 2021, this no longer worked as CBC Music Vancouver disappeared from TuneIn. I tweeted at CBC and TuneIn and only TuneIn responded. They wrote, “CBC Music Vancouver have decided to restrict their stream within mobile device users only. This means CBC Music Vancouver can’t be accessed through smart speakers or receiver such as HomePod.” However, a week or so later the station had been restored to TuneIn. But this makes me wonder whether there might be a movement at CBC to try to force people to use their Listen app.
“… play CBC Music Halifax.”
Fixed some time between July and August 2022; for a time I got back, “Now playing CBC Music Halifax … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”
“… play CBC Music Edmonton.”
Fixed some time between July and August 2022; for a time I got back, “Now playing CBC Music Edmonton … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”
“… play CBC Music Winnipeg.”
Fixed some time between July and August 2022; for a time I got back, “Now playing CBC Music Winnipeg … Sorry, there was a problem with Apple Music.”
“… play CBC Music Toronto.”
CBC Radio One Toronto
Wrong result, and with the 1974–1992 CBC logo. For a couple of years this played Norma Beecroft: Improvvisazioni Concertanti No. 1, From Dreams of Brass, Collage ’76, Jeu II, Accordion Play (Canadian Composers Portraits) [link].
“… play CBC Radio One.”
CBC Radio One Victoria
In Vancouver: Was working for a while, then in March 2023 switched to Victoria — close to Vancouver, but no cigar.
In Ottawa, 2023-03: Plays CBC Radio Victoria.
“… play CBC Radio One Vancouver.”
“… play CBC Radio One St. John’s.”
St. John’s, Newfoundland
“… play CBC Radio One Saint John.”
Saint John, New Brunswick. In October 2022 I noticed that this is no longer listed on TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, but it still works.
“… play CBC Radio One Kelowna.”
“… play CBC Radio One Toronto.”
Station artwork is, for some reason, the 1974–1992 CBC logo rather than the CBC Radio One logo that all the other stations use.
Was new to TuneIn some time in 2022 but couldn’t be accessed by Siri on HomePod until I got this track in March 2023.
“… play CBC Radio One Peterborough”
In October 2022, I checked TuneIn’s Stream CBC page, and discovered this station had been added — it resulted in an error until the November 2022 update.
“… play CBC Radio One Saskatoon”
Added some time in September 2022.
There’s clearly some room for improvement here. CBC should at least fix the incorrect mappings. It’s unclear to me what the relationship is between an entity like CBC and Apple, but there’s a blurb and link on Apple’s Siri for Developers page for integration of a streaming service with HomePod (I don’t currently have an Apple Developer account, so I can’t view the page).
Please let me know if you have any updates or other information, and I will try to keep this page current.
Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross said “the current [pandemic] crisis was the reason they completed the two records in the first place, ‘as a means of staying somewhat sane'” (Pitchfork). While my neighbourhood was boarded up in the spring, this track in particular seemed the pitch-perfect soundtrack; but both albums — Ghosts V: Together and Ghosts VI: Locusts — helped get me through that initial strange, disconnected time.
A Hopkins– like perfect balance of melody and electronics; her second appearance on these lists of mine (see 2017). The outtro, hinted at through the verses, is crowning. “And so / Let go of the hope / That it could / That it could be.”
I’ve posted a “Three Tracks” list for a number of years (2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020), but have always run into a bit of a problem: single cuts versus album tracks. A lot of the listening I’ve done has always been album-oriented; this has only increased for me in the era of Apple Music and HomePod (“Hey Siri, play the latest album by …”). So this list represents full-length works from which I have found it difficult to pull a single song — though I’ve done so for the videos below, largely randomly.
True. “Don’t look down, my dear, don’t be surprised […] Don’t look back, my dear, just say you tried.” Bonus points for striking perhaps the most musically interesting note of the year: the second note of the second “love” in each chorus’s “No one’s easy to love.”
Pathos for a difficult year. “Well Mary kept sewing / Holding on to her TV / Even if the water was rising past her knees.” I believe this is the only one of my yearly “Fall” playlists (all songs I’ve gathered in the last few years are here on Apple Music) to make it to this list so far.
I listen to a lot of jazz, but I’m not knowledgeable enough and my listening is not sufficiently comprehensive to produce any kind of narrowed best-of list. I put some of my favourite albums into a Recent Jazz playlist on Apple Music.
Hard to pick a track from my favourite album of the year, but this is a standout. “Everybody says that the war is over / It isn’t something you forget so easily.” Can’t wait to see them live in March. I hadn’t seen the video until I put together this post.
Women seem to be making the best rock music these days. “Hooo-oo, woo-oo-oo oooo-oo, whooo-ao-oo waaa-yyy-yooo, ya-aa-yoo i-yoooo; oo-ii-yaaaaaaaa, i-yaaaaaaa, aa, aa i-yaaa-yoo, oo-waaa-aa-aa.” Best lyric of the year, makes me tear up every time I hear her wail this.
Snail Mail, Stick (“What is it about them / They stick around”); Thom Yorke, Suspirium (“Is the darkness ours to take? Bathed in lightness, Bathed in heat”).