Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hello Sir I Am A Wealthy American Government Organization

I like Uptown Magazine; you should too! I'm in this week's issue, so have a look-see.

Owing to the recent change in publishing equipment and consequential smaller format of the newspaper, all biweekly columnists will henceforth be appearing monthly instead. Kind of a bummer, but alas; since I'm still published as often as David Suzuki is, I figure I'll manage. Take that, environment!

In internet news, I can personally report and confirm that the email spam of the world remains as ill-advised as ever. Earlier today, one of my inboxes reeled in a very serious and formal notice claiming itself as -- stop me if you've heard this one before -- a rebate notice from the Internal Revenue Service. How nice of the IRS to email me personally with promises of a couple hundred dollars, available to me only if I click the included link to an incomprehensible and obviously Korean address!

This strain of spam is a good couple of years old, is well-documented, and is particularly stupid even by spam standards. It's not terribly difficult to spot the man behind the curtain when A) the IRS is not exactly notorious for giving people money, B) the implicit idea that the American government knows everybody's email address raises more questions than answers, C) the email I received proclaimed itself to be from despite IRI actually being the Islamic Republic of Iran, and D) I live in Canada, you mouthbreathing subhuman nimrods.

And somebody somewhere is falling for this even as we speak! That's always the worst part about these things -- no matter how garbled, how obviously fake or how mind-searingly stupid the message is, there are still people out there who must just be gleefully clicking on anything they see.

Couldn't you people at least send me some pandering all-Canadian spam for a change? I mean, I'm still not going to fall for it -- but if I open up my inbox and see "hooray you are winner anne murray tix and delicious beer click now for priez" or "CONGRATS YOU HAVE BEEN CHOSEN AS MAPLE LEAFS GENERAL MANAGER", I'll at least get a smile out of it for a change. Come on, spambots! You can do this!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Slurpees and Murder Home Video: Numbers One, Two and Three (Homicide Watch 2K8)


The second video arrives; perhaps not as quickly as I would have originally planned, but informative and up to date nonetheless.

(If you're curious: the Greisman article mentioned above.)

As you can probably tell for yourselves, brightness levels are hell to keep consistent when the sun is rising outside your window -- and I did briefly consider trying to toil endlessly with the video settings and various filters to compensate, but ultimately said nuts to that and just rolled with it. I figured, hell, if the production values are up a bit wonky on this one, big deal; as amusing as the idea would be, I doubt somehow that YouTube keeps a dude on staff specifically to wear a monacle and sputter indignantly at anything with diminished video quality. (He'd be long dead of exhaustion by now. It's YouTube.)

Slurpees and Murder Home Video! Yes!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Well I'm Sure He Hates You More

Normally I can barely be bothered to comment on news out of the (err) entertainment industry; it's usually a sea of vapidity and thinly veiled schadenfreude, both of which I'm more than capable of producing for myself. And since most people are far more interested in Section D of the Free Press than I ever could be (comics page aside, that is), usually I take it as a given that you've already heard anything I would be about to tell you.

For example, I'm sure by now you'd heard that actor Heath Ledger was found dead a few days ago; I was only passingly aware of any of his work, and as such I didn't really have anything to contribute to the news.

(I did see A Knight's Tale once, now that I think about it, and I don't recall liking it in the slightest -- but I think that was less about the principal actor and more about the elaborate, ostensibly medievally-themed David Bowie dance number. ANYWAY I DIGRESS)

While I personally wasn't too drawn to the matter, I can understand how his sudden death was troubling for many. And the industry's writers are still on strike, so it's not as though there was anything else for anybody to pay attention to. (I'm excluding local, national and world news here, because a lot of people usually do.) But then, late Tuesday evening, the story took another interesting and awful turn -- and few things render an ongoing issue simultaneously more interesting and more awful quite like the addition of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church, who seemingly exist only to appear in random news stories and do terrible things under the auspices of faith.

You may recall them as the people who picketed the Matthew Shepard funeral, picketed the return of dead American troops from Iraq, picketed the Sago Mine memorial, picketed Billy Graham revivals (of all things), and announced their intention to picket against the entire nation of Sweden. You can probably gleam their modus operandi from the previous sentence; they like pickets.

And, using their usual gentle and charming command of the language, they've announced their intention to picket Heath Ledger's eventual memorial service on the grounds that he played a homosexual character in a critically acclaimed movie once. (And no, nobody is making this up; that press release is real and unaltered. Much to the chagrin of pretty much anybody.)

They're very peculiar, Fred Phelps and his followers; it's always painfully obvious that they crave attention, but not once have they ever accomplished or contributed anything that would cast their cause or their organization in a positive light. Who's to say what motivates their continued inscrutable behavior? Maybe they'd added an extra commandment about there being no such thing as bad publicity; maybe their extended networks of laywers rake in untold amounts of coin off the people who respond violently to their pickets and demonstrations. Maybe they have a convoluted strategy of reverse psychology for the greater good, like their own reprehensible actions will repulse the moderate majority into good behavior. Or maybe someone in Topeka went Kefka-style crazy one day and dumped a laboratory's worth of BZ into their water supply. I don't know.

Now, even with all that said, I still almost didn't write anything about any of this. Despite the whole bizarre mixture that the situation presents -- death and drugs and popular culture and religion and human sexuality and and and -- I would have left the whole thing aside were my brain not relentlessly retentive of relevent passages from songs of years past. Ultimately, what finally brought me to bring all this up was when my mind, unbidden, dredged up the catchy and earnest lyrics of--

"Fuck Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church."

That's the chorus. Have a listen!

I Can Lick Any Sonofabitch in the House - Westboro Baptist Church (Menace, 2004)
[buy | site | myspace]

Punk songwriting and country trappings are perfectly compatible, and let nobody ever tell you otherwise. This anthemic little ditty was written in 2004, yet it remains timely and one hundred per cent relevant to this day; that makes it both classic and kind of depressing to consider!

So, now you know: I will write a lot of leadup for a song if I deem it necessary. This was totally worth it!

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Return of This is How People Find Me

You've seen me do this before, albeit not for a few months.

So let me sate your curiosity! Or at least my own!

I've already mentioned these--

-- yahoo interruption of service
-- gary doer speechwriter
-- xs cargo mp3s
-- kate pierson eyeware
-- why slurpees are so good

--but I hadn't mentioned these others, which are just as entertaining to me. No, folks, I'm probably not what you're thinking of when you're after:

-- fyxx explosion
-- kyle wellwood party
-- ross mcgowan centreventure cellphone
-- murder gary larson
-- zombie polo park
-- the greatest thing whatever happened in
-- eyebrow piercing pembina hwy
-- 7-eleven strange things mp3 blog
-- lyrics slurpee -ben -lee -kottonmouth -amey -donnas
-- investors group annoying
-- manitoba provincial stuff
-- on election day, i stay home. voting is meaningless george carlin
-- kern hill furniture hours
-- lost husky story winnipeg free press
-- manitoba spirited energy what font?

...that's a good question, actually. Damn, now I wanna know that!

And I already know Google doesn't have the answer, since the search led someone here -- so I may have to raid various word processors and font sites, if the idea sticks with me. Man, the fun I could have with that typeset!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Guess What's Coming

Shake hands with Uptown!

As you've come to expect, I bring up this week's installment of Uptown Magazine because I'm in it. And of the columns I've contributed so far this one is my personal favourite, even taking into account that one where I gave the A&B Sound building what for.

The first Louis Riel Day is but a month and a day away! As per the inaugural tradition plans I mention in the column linked above, I've already got the history book picked out and everything:

I've never got around to reading any James Gray before, but I've only ever heard good things about his work; I saw this lying around at Book Fair one day, priced half-off at $6.50, and I figured what the hell. Then I put it aside when I got home and I never actually got around to reading it, because that's just how I roll.

Yes, I've got my LRD plan set up! I'm quite looking forward to it.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Jimmy's Got the Giggles

I watched this unfold on the television this afternoon; it was completely awesome, and I am folding all previous sports-related posts under the newly-created Sports tag specifically for the purpose of including this one.

I always feel bad for Andy Roddick; imagine devoting your entire life and training relentlessly almost every waking moment to be the absolute best at something, then being very briefly recognized as number one before being spending the bulk of your career as third best or lower because the people above you are modern day gods. Well, that's Andy Roddick -- he started strong but he's been slipping ever since, and the people in front of him are practically bulletproof.

Roger Federer lives solely to upstage the history of men's tennis to date, and Rafael Nadal is so indestructible on clay courts that they may as well nickname him the Juggernaut; they'll probably be the World Numbers One and Two until one of them gets seriously injured, retires, or just dies right on the court.

Also in front of Roddick are Novik Dokovic, Nikolay Davydenko and David Ferrer. Dokovic is the biggest feel-good Yugoslavia success story since Josip Tito told Stalin to stuff it; Davydenko spends his time nowadays having millions of suspicious dollars bet on his undercard matches and getting chewed out by the ATP for not even trying any more; and Ferrer is a stylish Spanish midget who rocks Juventud Guererra's old Never Surrender gimmick.

By comparison to the above players, Andy Roddick is just some guy with a wacky sense of humour who never wins anything. Now there's a cause I can get behind!

Anyway. Exposition aside. On a whim I tuned in this afternoon to the coverage of the 2007 Australian Open and sure enough there was Roddick, a couple of games away from beating the unseeded German Michael Berrer. (It was in the twenty-fifth game -- at 6-2, 6-2, 5-3 -- if you have the opportunity to go back and watch it.) It was Berrer's ball, and he knocked a perfectly normal serve across to Roddick; Roddick watched it patiently, stood in place as he got set to return it, and then completely missed it. He didn't even make contact with the thing.

Roddick made this hilarious 'dawwwww' expression then covered his face with his free hand and began fumbling around with the tennis racket in front of him, like Mr. Magoo except actually funny.

That's when the coverage cut to bonafide mens tennis living legend Jimmy Connors in the stands; Connors, as you may know, is Roddick's current coach. They got a good close-up shot of Jimmy Connors -- bless his heart, he looks like he could drink a whole case of wine and backhand something fifty yards just for old times' sake -- and Jimmy Connors had his face in his hands laughing helplessly.

What does Roddick do to bounce back? The very next rally, he decided 'fuck it' and just launched the ball thirty feet into the air with a hilarious Mario Tennis backhand lob -- then walked casually to the middle of the baseline. Berrer, apparently combating Mario Tennis with Mario Tennis, leapt into the air and full-power smash-returned that bad boy as hard as he could; Roddick stood in place, flicked his racket and put the ball out of Berrer's reach with a perfect tiny drop shot.

That's when they cut to Jimmy Connors again. And Jimmy Connors was almost crying by this point, having not stopped laughing since Roddick missed the serve.

"Jimmy's got the giggles," one of the commentators deadpanned.

As if deciding this was going to be his strategy from now on, Roddick went on to have three lob winners in that game alone; he dropped the ensuing deuce and won the match in the next game. The commentary team made sure to point out what a miserable hell the remainder of the match must have been for Michael Berrer -- because Jimmy Connors was sitting on his side of the court. And every time Berrer would miss a return, especially the lob shots, Berrer would look to his left and see undisputed tennis legend Jimmy Connors laughing uncontrollably at his continued failure.

Ah, tennis! So civilized, yet so basely entertaining.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Slow News Day?

I'm thinking yeah. Slow news day.

"(The Canadian Numbering Administrator) is slated to begin giving out numbers with the second area code as soon as January 2014."

Yeah, okay. Somebody may or may not get a phone number with a different area code six years from now. Good thing you told me this now! Imagine how confused I would have been six years from now when I tried phoning that guy!

What a peculiar thing to write about as a news item. Maybe for giggles I should write the blog like that.




(It's only proper to write about the future in all-caps. THE FUTURE!)

Alas. Well, hopefully something newsworthy happens tonight so the writers have something to write about; I'd hate to open the paper tomorrow and read twenty pages of THE 2016 OLYMPIC GAMES MAY OR MAY NOT BE HELD IN AZERBAIJANI and IN THE FUTURE BLU-RAY WILL BE THE HOME VIDEO STANDARD EXCEPT MAYBE NOT.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Slurpees and Murder Home Video: An Introduction (Homicide Watch 2K8)

Well, well!

See? I told you I was up to something. Guess who got a webcam!

(I'm a complete video-editing neophyte, so you can imagine how this took me some time to figure out. Granted, a lot of that was time I spent playing video games and walking an increasingly large dog instead of actually learning how to edit videos -- but let's not dwell on the past.)

Slurpees and Murder Home Video is go! As I mention above, my intent is to keep a running tally going on our city's homicide count; I see search tags along the lines of "winnipeg murders 2007" leading here pretty frequently, actually, so never let it be said I don't listen to my audience. Plus this'll keep me active and keep me focused, which is a good idea because otherwise I'd probably slack off and spend three straight months posting about Jolly Ranchers or something.

The grape ones are so much tastier than the other flavours, but the blue watermelon ones are also pr

Now, of course, I'm already a little behind; by the end of January 4th there had already been two people murdered in Winnipeg and another three murdered across the rest of the province. (Quebec City, by comparison, has had zero murders since Halloween 2006. Pesky do-gooders.) But I knew what I was getting myself into, so I'm not complaining.

As I also mention above, this will hardly be the only thing I use the camera for; far from it, hopefully! I'm nothing if not full of ideas, after all, and some ideas call for alternate methods of expression. Like that post about the Pac-Man scratch ticket, for example; that one easily could have been done in video format, though looking back at it I'm still pretty pleased with how well it came out in text.

Slurpees and Murder Home Video! Yes! I have no idea what I'm doing, but damned if I'm not enjoying it!

Incidentally, something kind of funny I'd noticed -- have you ever set up a YouTube account? When you first check your account screen, they have an interesting way of trying to get you integrated into the community:

Damn, man, that's harsh. YouTube, why you gotta be mean like that.

So, anyway, that's what I've been up to; I've still a lot of things to take care of around here, but I should be back again soon enough. I mean, I went almost a whole week without updating! That's madness!

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Superstar, Where's the Music? Don't Hesitate, Kissy Baby; I Got It (What You Need)

No, this isn't the project I was talking about in my last post -- but it'll tide you guys over in the meantime!

Uptown enters 2008 with a bevy of looks back to 2007, so go grab it. (Or read it online, but hard copies are so much more satisfying.)

Me being me, I devoted my column this week to the Ten Best Songs of 2007 You Haven't Heard -- and surprisingly few people have heard 'em, considering the very long collection of top ten lists also included in this week's issue. Nine of the ten acts mentioned in my column weren't brought up anywhere else; the lone overlap was with Odario Williams of Grand Analog, who listed Antibalas' Security as one of his top ten albums. And rightfully so!

The old year having recently ended and this year having just begun, this is the best time of year to dig through music blogs; they have a wonderful habit of posting their yearly favourites up all at once. And if you want to hear the tracks that I listed in (mostly) no particular order, you could dig through the Hype Machine -- but you don't need to! Because I've posted them all below, in my dogged determination to have you listen to them.

(My apologies about the cumbersome interface of the download links; I keep trying to find a better free hosting site, and better free hosting sites keep collapsing or removing their free service. Have to play with what I'm dealt, I guess.)


The Procession - Don't Hesitate (Musique Magnifique, 2007)
[buy | site | myspace]

(Previously posted April 12th.)

As I've mentioned previously, all the other tracks are in no particular order; this song is my number one favourite of the year, undisputed, no challengers, no question. Its corresponding music video is also my undisputed favourite YouTube posting of the year, no small feat considering it was put up exactly a year ago today and still held onto the crown for the next twelve months.

Antibalas - Beaten Metal (Security, 2007)
[buy | site | myspace]

You'll recall I was at the Antibalas concert this summer; it would probably be on my top ten concerts list if I thought to make one. (Number one on said list would be Michael Franti at the Folk Festival this year. Because Michael Franti, that's why!) This is also by far the least accessible track on this list; this stuff ain't for everybody, as you'll quickly find out if you play it for people. Such are the risks involved.

Heavy Trash - Kissy Baby (Going Way Out With Heavy Trash, 2007)
[buy | site | myspace]

I can't listen to this song without grinning widely. Can not. This is a physiological impossibility for me.

I'm a longstanding, self-confessed Jon Spencer mark; this is not a new development. What was new for me, when I first discovered this song, was the realization that I will sing along with Jon Spencer even when he isn't singing real words.


Kiss a that baby gonna kiss a that baby
Gonna kiss a kiss a kiss a kiss a kiss a that baby
Gonna buh buh buh buh buh buh buppa
yowww a that baby
kiss a kiss a kiss gonna kiss a that baby

Yes, you will look at me funny, but I am going to sing this in my car whether you like it or not.

Old-school rock and roll lives! Whoo!

Plastic Operator - Why Don't You? (Different Places, 2007)
[buy | site | myspace]

Have you ever heard a song that was kind of pessimistic about relationships but still made you want to snuggle up to someone? Well, you have now!

I had initially written that this song erased Imogen Heap's Hide and Seek from my brain, and that's true -- but it hasn't stopped there, and even as we speak it's nibbling away at my mental recognition of Simple Minds' Don't You Forget About Me. At its current pace this song is going to erode all vaguely similar songs before it, until I end up singing these lyrics over whatever music happens to be playing at the time.

So watch for that. That'll probably be pretty funny.

Siobhan Donaghy - Ghosts (Ghosts, 2007)
[buy | site | myspace]

As a heterosexual boy becomes a heterosexual man, it is an inevitable rite of passage that a prominent member of the opposite sex will become imprinted on him as his first major object of affection -- the first to make him sit up straight, tilt his head forward a little and go "oh, hey, women".

Ask any modern male about this and you'll get examples ranging from the mainstream (Farrah Fawcett, Cindy Crawford) to the unexpected (Aimee Mann, Ally Sheedy) to the unsettling (...Cheetara? What--), or you might not get an answer at all if they aren't particularily forthcoming. Assuming they tell you, their answer will reveal a lot about them; what generation they belong to, what kind of women they're susceptible to, and to some extent the personality traits that emerged from their maturation.

My youthful years were spent increasingly besotted by Kate Bush.

Yeah, what. You wanna fight about it? I will fight you about this.

So I've an existing innate weakness for elegant, eccentric ladies who write music that is eclectic and kind of spooky. (For example -- I didn't particularly care about Norah Jones when she initially appeared, but good lord did the video for Sinkin' Soon win me over in a hurry. Cartoon hearts appearing from the top of my head and all.) With that said, when Siobhan Donaghy cast aside her Sugababes origins and came out on the other side as an obvious Kate Bush revival act--

--then my interests are quite clearly being catered to. But I would like this song no matter who put it out, because it is creepy and catchy and charming all at once.

Lupe Fiasco feat. Matthew Santos - Superstar (Lupe Fiasco's The Cool, 2007)
[buy | site | myspace]

This track was released onto the vast expanses of the internet last September, and the album came out just two weeks ago; I was sorely displeased to see this single vanish quietly, and I included it on my list as such. Go figure that I watch Letterman last night -- Letterman looks badass with that beard, by the by -- and the musical guest is none other than Lupe Fiasco, who performs this very song on worldwide television the night before this week's issue of Uptown comes out.

See? I'm smart! And there's still plenty of room on this bandwagon, guys!

(Incidentally -- the keyboards were mixed way too high, the bass was mixed too low, and Matt Santos' hairdo looked hideous. But these are minor complaints; it's an awesome song, it was an awesome 'live' rendition, and I marked out hard when it hit.)

Galactic feat. Lyrics Born - I Got It (What You Need) (From the Corner to the Block, 2007)
[buy | site | myspace]

This one should have been the feelgood radio megahit of last, this or any summer. It saddens me that it's not; it's hugely catchy, blazingly clever and marvellously arranged, and it is to our collective discredit as a civilization that we don't have this song playing through every shopping mall intercom and Top 40 station on the continent.

Those aren't sampled instruments, by the way; Galactic is actually a full five-piece funk band who dabble extensively in other genres, and for this latest album they collaborated with as many quality rappers as they could find. And that electric guitar you hear in the chorus sections? That's actually a distorted harmonica. Yes, really!

Alabama Thunderpussy - Words of the Dying Man (Open Fire, 2007)
[buy | official site | buy on vinyl (hells yes)]

(Previously posted April 12th.)

I have to be careful singing along with this one, because I'm probably going to throw my throat out one of these days. I know where it'll be, too; it'll be that gigantic surprise high note 2:31 into the song, the kind of note that a singer includes just because he can. (Consider it the Bruce Dickenson corollary: there is never a wrong time to hit the high octave rather than the low one.)

José González - Killing for Love (In Our Nature, 2007)
[buy | site | myspace]

(Previously posted August 28th.)

The Alabama Thunderpussy track above is something you would want playing when you're driving along the highway; this track is the song you would want above all else when you're a passenger being driven along the highway, staring off into the extended distance, through the occasional secluded groves of trees and over the seemingly endless fields of brightly coloured crops.

With this song in your ears, you feel closer to nature no matter what nature you're near; something about its steady pulse and echoed depth seems so hauntingly ancient and timelessly wise that you feel connected to a deeper reserve of experience and brilliance than you alone could be responsible for.

Nothing could be further from the truth, of course; when the song ends you're the same idiot that you always were, and you've spent three minutes staring at dandelions. But it's a very immersive illusion while it lasts, and such is the power that this song wields.

Medeski, Martin & Wood - Where's the Music? (internet exclusive single, 2007; Let's Go Everywhere to be released next week)
[preorder | label | free downloads]

(Previously posted February 12th.)

This album was originally intended to come out in April. It has been a long eight months to wait. When I have kids one day, they are going to be hearing this album a lot; it will be only the protestations of the eventual mother and hospital staff that prevent this album from being played during the birth of the firstborn. I am only partially joking about this.

2007 was a pretty good year for music, you guys! I can't imagine 2008 being any less astounding, so rest assured I'll be keeping my ears open; when I find new hotness, you'll be the first to know.