Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fun With the Elderly

The populace at large has probably only become familiar with M.I.A.'s track 'Paper Planes' once it started airing in those Pineapple Express ads [added: thinnest premise for a movie, ever. But since when does a pot comedy need a premise?]. But with awareness of the song growing, what better time to choreograph a line dancing routine for you and your grandparents.

I love how the grandfather clearly has no idea what he's doing, or why he's doing it, or what the song is even about. If you see him on the streets, you better watch your ass, that's all I'm saying.

EDIT: And can someone tell me why it is that Ice Cube's been catching heat for twenty years over violence in his lyrics, but she gets a pass from the press? I guess Cube needs to move to Sri Lanka and buy some novelty sunglasses.

The State of the World

As someone who came of age hanging out at Amherstburg's House of Shalom at least three nights a week, I'm a little saddened, but not surprised at reports on the difficulties local community centres are enduring. Workers and members of the Mayor's Youth Advisory Committee chalk it up to everything from awareness, to the cost involved to use the space, to the unappealing image attached to centres ["I think of young kids playing basketball," said one area youth].

I wish them the best, I know I certainly wouldn't be the charmer I am today if I hadn't had a place to go to at as a youth.

God. Damn: In the worst bit of press for Greyhound ever, an 18-year-old man was stabbed to death and beheaded by his seatmate on a bus trip from Winnipeg to Edmonton Edmonton to Winnipeg. Witnesses say when the act was finished, the attacker carried the head of the victim to the front of the bus and casually dropped it, " he was having a day at the beach." Again: God. Damn.

Served with ample grains of salt: Johnny Depp as the Riddler? Related: Warner Brothers claims victory in keeping The Dark Knight off torrent sites for 38 hours. Wait, what?

Missed Joss Whedon's webshort series Dr. Horrible's Singalong Blog when it aired in segments? Have 42 minutes to spare? Knock yourself out.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I am intrigued by your ideas, and wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

For real. I will make a capital investment in this product.

Unfortunately, it's just an ad for Absolut vodka, but oh that it were real.....

The State of the World

While I have no intention of linking to it [I doubt it would hold much interest for this audience anyway], I wonder how Gord decides which tact to take from column to column: chide people for questioning Eddie's ideas and buying into the 'poor Windsor'-victim mentality [as in today's column on the proposed riverfront development], or continue peddling that mentality to his readers in the first place [see: any column blaming people in politicians/the university/anyone in Toronto for abandoning the Rose City].

Like, does he flip a coin?

Related: Sources present at today's announcement tell me the man's tall, maybe 6'3", is a rightie who jots notes on a pad, no recorder for him, and his shoes aren't particularly nice.

But then again, I always preferred paper over tape myself. And they always say you can judge a reporter by his shoes. If they're nice, he spends too much time at the desk. Way to keep the faith, Henderson!


In your doomsday story du jour, a large chunk of Ward Hunt Ice Shelf [the largest of its kind remaining in the arctic] snapped off, bringing the total area of the arctic coast from 9,000 square kilometres to just under 1,000 in the last 100 years.

Want to be on the cusp of the future and make a long term commitment to your siginificant other? Lose the condoms. [As a child brought up during the height of AIDS hysteria, I in no way condone this. Just find it interesting. And probably sad.--Ed.]

Nerdgasms all over as Virgin Galactic[?!] unveils WhiteKnightTwo, which will launch commercial suborbital ships into space. Gizmodo has pics, and an interview with the pilot.

Cracked provides five teeny mistakes that resulted in catastrophe.


Monday, July 28, 2008

And Did I Forget to Mention...?

Machine Girl: Hysterically gory. Also hysterically bad. Though to be fair, I'm sure it was trying to be. Still, I'm a little concerned about the opening credits, which listed the movie as a Tokyo Shock co-production or original or whatever [Tokyo Shock being the North American distributor for a lot of weird and extreme Japanese movies]. The movie is like a checklist of every bad otaku-fantasy-baiting cliche. I suspect this was totally the point, but it made it difficult to even enjoy the mayhem because I kept thinking in the back of my head, 'Damn, is this all they think I want out of my storytelling? The thinnest of plots and an ongoing red rain?' Violence is cool, y'all, but without something to give it weight or meaning, the visceral pleasures run short in a hurry.

Stepbrothers: Dear McKay, Ferrell, and Reilly. Please take at least a couple of years off before doing anything again. Pass the message to Apatow and Rogen. The well is getting mighty dry.

Honestly, that movie could have been a series of web shorts and it would have been funnier than the movie, since it wouldn't have had to be encumbered by nuisances like plot. I just know I'm getting sick of every three months bellowing, 'From the Cinematographer of Superbad and the Gaffer of Talladega Nights!'. Let's just cool out for a moment, everyone.

Oh, and also: two lines from the trailer were not in the actual film. This is bullshit, and it's the second time McKay's done it to me. That is all.

I Can Break It Down Like Whatever You Want

I knew Hip Hop Karaoke this past Friday at the Gladstone hotel here in Toronto was going to be interesting, I just didn't know how crazy fun it was going to be. Never mind the sheer joy and positivity of being in a room with like-minded individuals all enjoying some classic music from years past, but imagine a karaoke night where everyone in the building cares about what's happening onstage.

This isn't like when you go to the bar with hour buddies and you're talking and drinking and somebody goes up and you all casually turn your head and say, 'Oh, she's doing Love Shack,' then go back to whatever you were doing. At HHK, all eyes are on the stage, singing along, throwing their hands in the air and waving them without much concern.

Highlights included:
--The dude who kicked off the night with Biggie's 'Kick in the Door.'
--The bridal party doing Kanye's 'Golddigger.'
--The mom-to-be, looking ready to drop child at any moment, ripping some MC Lyte.
--Infinite Kung-Fu creator [and former Windsor boy, IIRC] Kagan McLeod busting 'Reign of the Tec' by The Beatnuts.
--The girl who had to wait for like, three songs because they couldn't find the instrumental, and when they did, crushed 'Doo Wop' by Lauryn Hill, rapping and singing. Super nice.

But really, everything was a highlight, because I was in a room of people who all knew the words to 'Scenario' by A Tribe Called Quest, and that's never happened before.

Staying with hip-hop theme for a minute, I picked up a copy of Brian Coleman's book Check the Technique this weekend as well.

See, the thing is, when you were a kid in the 80s and 90s buying rap tapes, like I was, it was like the early days of rock and roll. Rap didn't get press in the magazines, so these people were mysteries, and their albums didn't give you any information either. All you ever got were some production credits, shout-outs, maybe a comic if you bought a De La Soul album. But never any insight into how the album was made: no pics of the studio, no stories on the process, not even endorsements from gear manufacturers. No liner notes, essentially.

This is what Coleman looks to provide: liner notes for over 30 classic hip-hop records, from the Run-DMC's Raising Hell to Wu-Tang's 36 Chambers. How does he do it? By interviewing the people who were there. So you get KRS-One talking about Criminal Minded; Pos, Dave and Prince Paul discussing 3 Feet High and Rising; Ice-T going over Power: one chapter, one album, track by track. At 21 bucks for just under 500 pages, it's a steal of a book for anyone who remembers throwing on your Raiders hat [like Chuck D did] and listening to the Jungle Brothers on your way to school.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Some o'This, Some o"That

--Still thinking you might want to attend UWindsor, but unsure if you'll be accepted? Get on the bus, Windsor, as the university's having a fire sale on all open programs, offering same day acceptance in some cases.

VP academic Neil Gold told the Star this is not a desperation move, adding that the university is currently meeting it's 2008 first year enrollment targets.

Interested parties can peep the available programs here. Oddly enough, English Lit not on the list. The dream still burns for some of you, Windsor.

--Nerd prom[TM Warren Ellis] is officially underway as of tonight, with the San Diego Comicon kicking off down south, which means the nerd brigade [myself included] will be glued to the interwebs for every scrap of news we can get. Already word of a Doc Savage movie from DC has come out, and Hugh Jackman crashed the Fox Studios panel to deliver some Wolverine footage [featuring a Gambit cameo, which allegedly blew the roof off. Meh.] If anything worthy of mentioning to the populace at large comes up, I'll let you know.

--Microsoft took a bunch of people who refuse to upgrade to Vista and had them try a new software they're developing called 'Mojave'. The test subjects loved it, and were shocked to find Mojave actually was Vista. Look for these 'Pepsi challenge' videos to start popping up as press for the beleaguered OS soon.

--You live in Windsor. You drive. Probably a lot. Possibly, you live in the burbs, like Kingsville o Amherstburg or Leamington. Behold, fourteen podcasts to soothe your commute. Surprise to no one to find the Ricky Gervais show on there. Lady Trail will be pleased to find Leo Laporte's podcast on there as well.

--Staying tech, I guess, dug up this editorial from X-Play's Adam Sessler, discussing the stew of racism and homophobia that XBox Live has become.

People keep asking me to get my XBox online, and truthfully, my hesitation owes more to technical difficulties than anything else, but I'm still in no hurry to have some 11-year-old from Arizona call me a 'faggot' when he snipes on GTA4. I don't always agree with Sessler [like a lot], but I commend him for calling this out, even if it does seem common sense.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dinner's in the Oven

Good God. If you recall that bad coffee service story mentioned earlier this month, it still rages on, with the coffee shop's owner explaining his position, and confusion over why the dude would get so angry over it, and extending to over 80 comments on the issue, split closer to the middle than you'd expect. Some are from the school that commend the owner for sticking up for his employee, others from the school that believes service industry people should bend over for customers no matter the request, since it's part of the job.

You can likely guess my thoughts.

Sad news from London as the media reports the infamous street artist known as Banksy has been identified as 34-year-old Bristol native Robin Gunningham. Evidence is still slightly sketch at the moment, but the circumstantial is pretty strong.

Observers say they don't believe revealing the man's identity will damage the image he's created, I know it will mean one more piece of magic has left the world.

And, because Lady Trail demanded it: Neil Patrick Harris in his upcoming appearance on Sesame Street. Singing about shoes.


Independent R&B musicians come to my door at 4.45 p.m. Sometimes Lady Trail answers the door, and calls me out because they think I would be interested. And sometimes I pay the guy $10 for his shitty CD just because I respect a dude on his hustle.

Maybe when I get around to redoing the audio player I'll fill it with tracks ripped from CDs I've bought on the street.

Ten f*cking dollars. And what was this fool doing in this neighbourhood? It's like the WASPiest part of town. Where was he going next, Rosedale?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Why So Serio---Ah, You Know

So. Shall we talk about The Dark Knight?

Click to continue reading this entry [POSSIBLY SPOILERIFFIC!]

What didn't work:

--I've never been a huge fan of Bale's raspy delivery.
--I thought the 'Pod' was a little poorly designed [wheels too thick].
--It was just *this* shy of being too long, but didn't totter over into the abyss of self indulgence.
--The dumb c*nt in our row who had her phone go off twice, and both times carried on coversations, one of which had her repeating over and over that she was in a movie. As such, I didn't catch what The Joker said regarding the hospital, and why the cops started evacuating. [I understand the c-word is offensive, but when the same thing happens twice, you deserve it.--Ed]

Now to what did work.

Full disclosure: I make no secret of the fact that I believe Batman and the Joker to be the greatest pair of nemeses in the history of literature. From Holmes and Moriarty to God and the Devil, I find no relationship more fascinating than that between the man who needs to have everything around him tightly organized, and the man who is chaos incarnate, and lives for no other reason than to upset the social order.

The hype over Heath Ledger's depiction of the Clown Prince was already deafening by the time I got to see the movie today. Opening weekend reviews [and box office receipts] suggest he deserves a nod from the Academy this Febraury, so I suppose I was prepared for something good. I was not prepared for what I got.

Given a script that cherry picks the best work done on the character in the last 25 years [Moore and Bolland's The Killing Joke, Loeb and Sale's Long Halloween and Morrison's Arkham Asylum, and recent reinvention in Batman and Son], Ledger took the charater and made it completely his own. For the first time, the Joker is what he always should have been: a tornado of death and destruction loosed upon a city by forces that have no idea how to control him, because he can't be. He doesn't value money, or power. He only values anarchy. And Ledger is terrifying in conveying this.

As a proper fanboy, I questioned some of the early decisions, like the greased out, heroin addict look, and the fact that he obviously wears makeup, but it all works so well in the world that Nolan and co. have created, that when something like Harvey Dent's scarred face and burned suit come on screen, it's actually a little jarring because it's too...'comic booky.' In a movie that has a guy in a supersuit airlift a Chinese mobster out of a skyscraper with a skyhook, that's saying something.

The thing that I was not ready for going in was that the movie has...themes. And big ones, ones that strike to the core of our existence as human beings. Themes like what good and evil mean, and how we choose to embrace one or the other. Themes like what it means to be a hero, and what sacrifices are made, and what lines are crossed to be one. Liberally borrowing from the aforementioned Killing Joke, amidst all the plots and explosions is the Joker's attempt to prove that anyone can fall, anyone can become him: all it takes is one bad day. In one memorable sequence he rigs up two ferryboats with explosives. One boat carries criminals from the jails and asylums, the other innocent civilians. The Joker challenges each ship to blow up the other to save themselves. What follows is a series of moral discussions among the passengers that pull the tension so tight the viewer is cringing at the idea of it snapping. All this while Batman and a SWAT team strike the Joker's hideout.

The madman brings a city to its knees and kills dozens in the process, and even when he's thwarted it doesn't matter. It's just part of the joke.

So yeah. It's the best take on the characters put to film I've ever seen. If I have one complaint that isn't just niggling over details, it's the fact that I have no idea how they can top themselves. By the time the movie ends, it really feels like Nolan has said everything he can possibly say about the character. I honestly don't know where they'd go from here.

Of course, all this talk of Oscars and greatness means the Fanboy Hater Train has officially left the station *toot!toot!*. The major criticisms seem to come from those who prefer their Batman as a superhero, shark repellent and all [as opposed to guys like me who prefer him as a badass with a cool suit], and resent when a director like Nolan tries to root the character in reality. A 'reality' where a henchman gets a cell-phone bomb in his gut and a group of criminals lay enough C4 to safely implode a hospital and no one notices, but there you have it. I for one would like to believe that Nolan's smart enough to take his 'comic book liberties' on those suspensions of disbelief rather than, I don't know, giving him a sweet ass plane! [insert douchebag hand gesture]. The guy did do Memento, for God's sake.

I can acknowledge why some of the old timers would be upset at this take on the characters [though it's not much different from Morrison's current writing of the Joker, anyway], for fans of my generation, this is the greatest movie we could ever hope for, and you will never convince us otherwise. When I was 12 years old, after seeing Burton's Batman and falling in love with Nicholson's Joker, I got a copy of The Killing Joke [a fan mag about the movie had mentioned it], and it blew my little prepubescent mind. From that day on, a chubby 50-year-old wouldn't cut it for me. I wanted my Joker insane, I wanted him repellent, I needed him free. And I don't know if it's a testament to Ledger as an actor or Nolan as a director, but that's what I got with The Dark Knight, and I'm thankful to both of them.

I will gladly hand them my money for a second viewing.

Monday, July 21, 2008

In Summary

The FFIB celebrates the bass player's winnings at Caesar's Windsor. I look that way because it's 4.00 in the damn morning.

2: minutes I had to spare when I boarded my train to Guelph.
8: dollars spent on amazing chicken and brie sandwich at cafe in Guelph.
300: kilometres traveled to Windsor.
1: band who no-showed the gig.
4: Chanoso stirfrys consumed by the Ictusband.
1: former EiC chatted with.
20: people in the bar to watch us play.
7: awkward moments created by my friend the drunken off duty cop loudly discussing the foiled romantic history between him and the venue's bartender.
40: dollars earned by the Ictusband. It was the first time we made a profit in at least eight years.
220: dollars won by bass player at Caesar's after we decided to gamble our profits.
31: dollars spent at Wyandotte McDonald's at 4.30 a.m.
1: drunk American crying in said McDonald's
4: hours of sleep before checking out of hotel.
1: delicious breakfast with family at Elias Deli.
5: hours spent at Trail family home. Way nostalgic, as always.
4: mid-to-late-90s albums listened to on drive back to Guelph [If I Were a Carpenter tribute album, Mathew Sweet's 100% Fun, the Trainspotting Soundtrack and the No Alternative compilation].

Total length of trip: 36 hours.

The Prodigal will give you a full report after work tonight.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Yeah. There's really nothing more I can add to that.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

I Missed You, Gordo

Oh, Lord. It took him all of a week after his vacation ended, but your boy Gordo wasted no time getting his panties bunched, this time over Dr. Henry Morgentaler's induction to the Order of Canada, and former local recipient Frank Chauvin's decision to return his award, not wishing to share the same honour as a man who's beliefs he disagrees with.

A quick search of the blog tells me I never did comment on that story, even though I remember reading it. At the time, I probably sighed loudly and clicked something else. But I don't get paid to write a column in the city's only paper.

The man starts off well enough, pointing out that people who are pro-choice should allow Chauvin to do whatever the hell he wants, which is correct. Pro-choice means freedom to choose, not I <3 ABORTIONS, a distinction that typically gets lost when a hysterical argument over the issue begins. An argument like the one Gordo tries to incite later in the column. In a matter of paragraphs Gordo whips out all the favoured pro-life rhetoric: "flushing unwanted life down clinic drains," referring to Morgentaler as someone who "snuffed out countless incipient lives because their moms didn't want them, or couldn't cope with them?" [stay classy, Henderson] and mind bogglingly, referring to abortion as "a major industry in a country awash in birth control products and information."

Dude, if it's such a big industry, shouldn't we be luring it here? Find some jobs for those laid off autoworkers. [SATIRE!]

For the record, I am not inviting an argument here, and I am not picking a side of the debate. The only side I'm picking is the one that thinks Gord's penchant for frothy hyperbole is insulting while pandering.

As far as Morgentaler's induction, if I need to pick a side, so be it: I think the man performed a service to women at a time when few other options were available to them, in defiance of the law. If he is to be honoured, it should be for his actions then. It's too easy to judge from our position of historical privilege, when unmarried pregnant women can walk around and no one bats an eyelash.

But just in case anyone wants to beef with The Lance:

The views expressed on are those of its editor, Jordan Ferguson, unless otherwise noted. They do not necessarily reflect the views of The Lance, its editorial board or its volunteers. Thank-you, goodnight.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Trail's Music Club

This weekend the Rock the Bells Tour hits Toronto, and the Trails will....not be attending, since I have to work, and couldn't have booked it off due to the show I'm playing the previous Friday. It's at Phog. Around 11. Had I told you yet? Oh, right.

Anyway, the lineup includes underground heroes like Spank Rock and Murs, as well as all time greats like Nas and a Tribe Called Quest. But the one reason I'm sad I won't be at the show is that it features the reunion onstage of all four members of The Pharcyde.

I'm sure I've mentioned before how much I enjoy the Pharcyde. Passing Me By was unlike any song [or video] I'd heard before, and Labcabincalifornia is an album I continually revisit. As recently as 2005 they were still making appearances, with Bootie Brown spitting a verse on Gorillaz' jam Dirty Harry. But it's been over a decade since all four members were onstage together.

So in honour of such a momentous occasion, I present the video for Drop, off of Labcabin, directed by Mr. Spike Jonze.

Like I said, it's been slow.


Windsor, no lie. It's effing boring out there tonight. I'm used to Mondays feeling like pulling teeth, but Wednesday usually starts the downward news rush to the weekend. Not today, kids.

So what do we have?

25,000 feral cats in Windsor.

The Daily Show weighs in on that New Yorker cover. Results are typically awesome.

For everyone who thinks Americans are stupid because they can't seem to work up any moral outrage over the acts of their president, hey, Russia voted Stalin its Face of the Nation.

Happiest convicted drunk driver ever. Even after the cops refused her offers of sex, she still has a smile on her face.

And that's about it. Pitiful, right? I'll try to find you a dumb video before bed.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The State of the World

The big story locally, aside from the Ictus show on Friday, is the start of Windsor Pride, commenced with a flag raising at City Hall this morning. Yes, everybody's saving their energy for the parade on Sunday, but there's so much more than that going on, so check out the website for a full list of events.

Robin Long signed up for the army in 2003. He thought his country was right to invade Iraq, and wanted to do his part. When it came out Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, combined with the abuse of prisoners at Abu Gharib by American soldiers, Long decided he would not go, and fled to Canada. After a lengthy debate, Long was deported back to the States this morning, to be returned to his army unit and handed whatever punishment they decide.

According to the piece, 94 per cent of deserters have been handed dishonourable discharges, instead of being dealt with criminal charges. The judge in Long's case said Long did not present sufficient evidence to prove he would be singled out by the military due to the press his case has garnered.

Followup: In the wake of the New Yorker cover [which four people at work asked me about today. I have no idea why they want it, if they'd ever read the New Yorker they know the rarely correlates to the contents], newspaper examines how and when you can poke fun at the second coming of Kennedy.

Professor X gets tenure.

Full tracklist for Rockband 2. Yeeeah. I know I'm a Guitar Hero loyalist who argues I don't have enough friends to justify buying Rockband, but that song selection is to die for. When the Lady saw Modest Mouse, it was all over.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Deuce Before Bed

#1. Feist will be appearing on the thirty ninth season of Sesame Street.

I think I prefer the new lyrics.


That is all.

Something Like the State of the World

You think I slack, Windsor. No no, merely giving the people who work so hard on Lance Out Loud a chance to have their work seen by as many as possible.

Hit up the Second City on Saturday. Figure if you live here, you need to go at some point, right? Improvisational comedy is a weird beast, I find. When it's firing on all cylinders, there's nothing like it. But when something is grinding down to an awkward halt, I don't know if there's anything more uncomfortable to watch.

Still, the preview of the upcoming show [Barack to the Future], was pretty good, and delivered some hearty laughs. B+ overall. When the 'Obama' character suggested changing the national anthem to 'Sexual Healing', you had me at hello.

I'll remind you all now for the final time this week that I'll be coming home on Friday night to open for Explode When They Bloom at Phog. We're probably going on around 11 or so, so you should have time to see Batman, then swing by.

So, I know what the New Yorker, a magazine I typically enjoy, was trying to do with its upcoming cover. But a lot of people won't, and I don't know that it's the New Yorker's job to try to instigate these sorts of discussions.

Last week we mentioned the furor that Picar's Wall-E is kicking up in some circles. In this fast moving internet world, who can keep up? Lucky for us, the Onion AV Club is here to break down all the angles.

Whenever people rank Batman as their favourite superhero, they without fail trot out the argument that Batman has no special powers. He's just a regular dude, man. Scientific American susses out how realistic such an argument is [hint: more than you might think]. Still, the be nerdly for a moment, the article doesn't take detection skills into account when examining training times.

Best parody of this....well, today.

Man gets bad service at coffee shop. Retaliates by acting like a dick, as is his right. Rants on blog about it. Micro class war breaks out in comments thread between 'entitled customers' and 'pisspoor customer service types'.

As someone who has to explain the economics of the publishing industry to ESLers and Jewish grandmothers at least once a week [no you can't pay the American price], it's hard for me not to respect the barista who condescends to the customer who thinks he's being sneaky to get his way.

Back later.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Time to LOL

The lovely Ms. O'Neil joins us again this week for another installment of Lance Out Loud. This edition looks at the recent Olympic trials held at the UofW as well as the parking pass price increase [more on that here].

Also remember to peep the mothership for loads more stories, including the Windsor Fringe Festival and the recent additions to the ever improving Lancer football team.

ASIDE: In the coming weeks, the Trails will be making an excursion with as many friends as we can find to Hip Hop Karaoke on July 26. No video screens, no cheesy MIDI music. Real DJ, real instrumental tracks, real crowd to move. After perusing the tracklist, the Trail has narrowed the possibilities to three. Vote in the comments for whether I should perform:

They Reminisce Over You [T.R.O.Y.] by Pete Rock and CL Smooth.
Hip-Hop by Mos Def [whom white people love].
Dueting with Lady Trail on I Got a Man by Positive K.

I don't know why I ask, I know what y'all will say.

Sometimes, My Friends Go to Vegas

And bring me back personalized autographs from prostitutes.

I don't need a jacket? What the hell does that even mean?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

It Started as the State of the World, Honest

So yeah, I'll join the chorus: Wall-E was amazing. It was the movie my inner eight-year-old had been clamoring for since 1985. Should it get best picture next year? Some seem to think so.

--The word on the street says most Canadians support awarding the Order of Canada to pr choice abortion doctor Henry Morgentaler. But as in all quickie surveys by Ipsos Reid, the sample size was about 1,000. So while I might agree with the views of the majority, anyone who thinks that's representative needs to have their heads examined.

--Ephemera: Someone tell me, is Gord on vaca? Or is he just refusing to have his columns posted online? He's robbing me of my Tuesday/Thursday/Saturday ritual, dammit. Things are so boring without him chewing the side of his face as he rails against whatever straw man has vexed him that day.

--Improv everywhere strikes again, using teams of twins to create human mirrors on the NY subway.

--So like I said, I saw Wall-E tonight, and as with any Pixar production, it had a short film at the beginning, which I always approve of for giving you that sense that you're getting more bang for a buck [to quote Grandpa Simpson: in my day you paid a quarter and got two movies, a cartoon, a bucket of popcorn and a whuppin']. Tonight's short is entitled 'Presto' and you can peep it for free on Pixar's website.

--One of the more genius blog ideas is 'Stuff White People Like,' devoted to the study of exactly that. From scarves to Mos Def to deciding what's best for poor people, Christian Lander and his team have pretty much all the bases covered. I mention this only because Lady Trail could not keep herself from buying the newly released book when she picked me up at work.

--Am I the only one who remembers Showbiz Pizza? And am I the only one who can't remember why I remember Showbiz Pizza? Anyhoo, the highlight of this Chuck-E-Cheese impersonator for most people was the animatronic band, The Rocka-Fire Explosion. Of course, this being the Internet, it didn't take long for these people to connect, providing the means for one of the more diligent fans to acquire a full set of the band, and reprogram them to play contemporary songs. Like this one.

This is exactly the sort of thing people like Lee Siegel get irritated by.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Criticizing the Internet: Ur Doing it Wrong

Yesterday the band got back together at a rehearsal space here in Toronto to put our set together for our performance at Phog on January July 18 [come for us, stay for Explode When They Bloom]. Since some new songs were being worked out, I brought my camera and tripod and took some single shot video of the rehearsals, thinking I might toss them on Facebook if anyone was interested.

Turns out they're too large for Facebook [or YouTube], so I've spent a total of about five hours between yesterday and today trying to find a freeware program that could compress the Quicktime files created by my camera into smaller MPEGs, with decent picture quality and audio/video sync. Only just now am I finishing the rendering of the second video I wanted to post [Sony's Vegas Video demo was the one to get the job done, btw].

The entire frustrating experience reminded me of all the others I've had like it and left me wondering why we seem so eager to work so hard during our free time? At what point did we start coming home from our job only to plop our ass in front of the computer and start working again, 'for fun'?

Continue reading this entry.
This 'commodification of leisure time' is just one of the many problems former New Republic blogger Lee Siegel highlights in his recent book Against the Machine. Normally I steer clear of such books, since even a cursory read reveals them to be little more than the fist-shaking of some pundit calling for the kids to stay off his virtual lawn [see Bauerlein's The Dumbest Generation]. Siegel addresses this concern in his early chapters: how no one ever wants to say anything bad about the Internet for fear of seeming behind the times, especially old media types. Siegel differentiated his book for me by courting some of the issues I have with the great online revolution, and have written about on this forum before. Among them:

The aforementioned erasure of leisure time, and the way it causes us as a people to further withdraw into ourselves. Shopping is fun. You go to a store, you're with other people, you browse the racks, maybe you bump into someone you know. Searching for something on eBay is not fun. You sit glued to a monitor scrolling screen after screen of items, making mental notes of details you'll need to remember, like the highest bid or time remaining. Take another example: flirting with girls at a bar is fun. Searching for potential mates on Lavalife, less so. Siegel [with more than a little snot in his tone] compares the two processes with identical language. But his point remains: these activities sound a lot like work.

The Internet loves to talk about freedom of choice and connectivity, as it limits our decisions and pushes us further inside our own heads. When I write, as does Siegel, I usually do it longhand in a cahier. Ideally, I do it in a coffee shop where I can be easily distracted by conversations around me, the music on the sound system, an argument being had on the sidewalk outside the window, etc. More and more, I'm the only one doing that. Everyone else in the place who's doing any sort of work is on a laptop with a pair of noise reducing earbuds jammed in their heads. Nothing gets out, nothing gets in. As well, those people on the laptops are probably browsing through their bookmarks, the customized list of content that speaks to their issues and concerns from a viewpoint they sympathize with. They can read Daily K-Os or Michael Geist, watch a video of Keith Olbermann and listen to their favourite underground Brazilian baile funk song. At no time does anything they disapprove of have to enter their experience. Is this democracy?

The Internet erodes originality, replacing it with imitation, and placing popularity as the primary currency of success. While I've written at length about the benefits of remix culture, I doubt Siegel would appreciate it. And he has some validity. Anyone can predict the first thing that happens when something breaks online: within minutes, hundreds of people will take the basic premise, add a minimum of innovation, and reap the page views. The subsequent success might prove the creation has a certain novelty, but it doesn't say much for the direction of Western culture as a whole [look at Family Guy]. And yet, could anyone in a million years have predicted the absurd beauty of Chocolate Rain?

The Internet encourages your life to become a performance. Those videos I'm rendering as I type this, who are they really for? I could say I'm trying to market the band, but really now. When I or anyone else throws fifty photos of a night out onto Facebook, who are those for? For whose benefit are we posting them? We want our 'friends' to look at them, comment on them, tell us we look good or they like the photographic composition. When I post here, how much of it is for your benefit, Windsor students, and how much for my own ego or to squeeze my 'Google juice'? We're all putting ourselves out there, selling ourselves every minute of the day for popularity points, and then we cry foul when someone notices the fine print of Facebook quietly claims ownership for anything you put there.

So if I agree with a lot of what Siegel says, why does the book ultimately fall apart so spectacularly for me?

For one, despite his constant reminders that anyone who criticizes the net gets mocked for being out of step, to try and prevent the same from happening to him, he admits early in the book that he suffered the effects of bad online publicity, relating an anecdote of the abuse he took at his New Republic blog from anonymous commenters. When he then created a fake name to sign up and leave derisive comments at the people berating him, his deception was revealed and he was suspended by his work and tarred and feathered all over the blogosphere. As Siegel's tone turns combative [comparing Web 2.0 to Stalinism, equating the writing skills of Tim O'Reilly with that of a toaster], it's hard not to conjure up the image not of the old man shaking his fist at the clouds, but of the sour grapes of someone who got burned. For someone who says bloggers conduct no original investigations, they sure exposed Siegel's duplicity pretty quick.

But the book's ultimate failure is that it never fulfills it's basic premise. From the book's subtitle [How to be Human in the Electronic Mob] to his introduction [with its plea that "things don't have to be the way they are,"] Siegel gives you the sense that he has at least some semblance of a thought on why the issues he raises are damaging, and how we can use the Internet to correct them. But he never does. He has no hypothesis why the issues he raises are so bad, he just knows he doesn't like them. Siegel so stubbornly adheres to his anti-Internet rhetoric that even as he slams new media and old media coverage of it with being unbalanced, he does the exact same thing for two hundred pages.

Not once does Siegel acknowledge that the Internet has done anything well, even as he alludes to its sucesses. In his closing screed on bloggers [in short: leave it to the professionals], Siegel offers a list of lies and falsehoods mentioned on blogs, later proven false. Siegel doesn't mention that the proof a blogger is lying is 90% of the time presented on the blogger's own comment thread. Bloggers are kept honest by the people who read them. Unless you're one of the top percentile of bloggers [and how many of those are there really? Five hundred out of 500,000?], getting caught in a lie can destroy whatever readership you had.

Part of Siegel's distaste for the web seems to stem from his decidedly Western perspective on it. The most popular online destinations might involve celebrity gossip and videos of people acting stupid, but the National Enquirer and America's Funniest Home Videos existed long before anyone knew what e-mail was. American culture versus the Internet is a chicken/egg scenario, and one Siegel can't answer and doesn't try to. Siegel's willful ignorance of the people in the rest of the world who are trying to harness the Internet to tell their stories [the college student in Iraq, the Chinese journalist] is frustrating and unacceptable.

Despite my hopes for a balanced read debunking the hype of the Internet, Siegel practically begs those who see any value in the web to condemn his shrill cries of how better things were in his day. What a wasted opportunity.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

A Few Quickies

One, The Basement, your student pub, has now officially shut down. The Star has some factoids I hadn't heard yet, including the total debt they'd racked up over the years [$798,000] and that pubs at other universities across the province are feeling the squeeze from various sources.

Two, The Star also reports that incoming UWindsor prez Alan Wildeman will be netting $302K/year as part of his contract with the university, with a $15,000 raise in January. He also gets a car, a house [owned by the university. I've been there, it's nice], housekeeping and six weeks vacation. Sweet deal if you can get it.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that as I write this, LAdy Trail is on IM discovering yesterday's post in Dimitri the Lover. She did me the honour of finding his website if anyone wants to pay $600 to find out how to get a blowjob in a parking lot or buy a 'Worship the Cock' t-shirt. Or you could just ave the money by watching this amazing flash animation. [Soooo NSFW. And mind bogglingly offensive.] If you'd like the full story on the man who would be Dimitri, the Toronto Sun revisited his history in the wake of the voicemails. See the article here.

C'est tout!

Japan Overdose

Surely scholars smarter than me have begun to figure out why so many Japanese artists fascinate themselves with matters of truth, thought and the natures of identity and reality. Or maybe it's just the artists I've been encountering lately.

On the one hand, I finished up Kobo Abe's The Box Man last night, which is exactly what it says it is: a story about a man who wanders through town with a box on his head in an attempt to obfuscate his identity and existence as a part of his society. In his travels he encounters an old hospital with a nurse who drops her clothes for no reason, and a doctor looking to pay him off so he can take his place as a box man.

The game is on from there: Abe hops from narrator to narrator with a frequency that leaves you unsure at most times who is actually speaking. It's a frustrating move, but one probably by design in a novel so focused on themes of anonymity and identity theft.

While the concept itself intrigued me enough to buy it [combined with Abe's reputation from Woman in the Dunes], by the halfway point I felt like I had become involved in a physical fistfight with the book's clunky, heavy prose. It's either the case of a skilled writer capturing the voices of characters who are a little ill and not writers in the first place; or it's the result of a pisspoor translation. I can't tell you which. Ultimately, the book left me cold. I couldn't summon up one image, one metaphor, hell I can barely tell you one plot point from the thing.

On the other hand, I finished up Satoshi Kon's 13-episode series Paranoia Agent this week as well, and I can tell you at least half a dozen scenes that give you more to think about in 45 seconds than Abe does in 150 pages.

Starting as a mystery piece centering on a series of street assaults by a teenager with a golden baseball bat, PA quickly transforms itself into a meditation on guilt, and personal responsibility, and consumer culture, and despair, and the internet, and isolationism, and so on. The assailant transforms from a flesh and blood 'holy warrior' to the manifestation of a country's desire to escape the pressures and loneliness that accompany life in the 21st century. There's more symbolism jammed in the climactic revelatory scene than....well, probably anything I've seen in at least the last 12 months.

Still, the series is not without its flaws as well. Even at a scant 13 episodes, the series still feels padded, abandoning the main story arc after six episodes in order to cultivate the mythology surrounding 'Shonen Bat.' Characters enter and leave the stage with such frequency it's impossible to connect with many of them [which might be intentional on Kon's part, another comment on how incapable of bonding with each other we've become]. And Kon is the sort of director who loves to toss out mysteries he has no intention of explaining [a complicated mathematical equation that never has its result revealed; a 'next episode' preview at the end of the final show in the series, etc], which are compelling as exercises, I suppose, but ultimately left me rolling my eyes.

That said, you could do worse things with your time than checking out the series. Me, I think I'm a little burned out on Japan, and incomplete endings, and shows that look good but make no damn sense, and books with plodding narration. I was going to jump into Ryu Murakami's 'Coinlocker Babies' next, but I think I need some good old fashioned, dumb, Western reading.

After I watch Machine Girl.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Hail, King of the Douchebags

My old nemesis [you know who you are, miss you sweetums] has had his throne usurped! By who, you ask? One James Sears, or Dmitri the Lover, a former doctor [license revoked for sexual misconduct] who now charges losers to attend seminars cribbed from Tom Cruise's performance in Magnolia. Or, just another guy who read The Game by Neil Strauss and missed the point entirely.

Anyhoo, watch the master at work, in the following two voicemails, left to a woman named Olga who he met in San Fran.

The State of the World

Welcome back.

Most interesting item today would appear to be the appointment of Dr. Henry Morgentaler to the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honour. Notable because Morgentaler was at the front of the fight to legalize abortion in Canada, and still performs the procedure is still performed at his Toronto clinic.

The Tories wasted no time pointing out that the selection process has nothing to do with the federal government, in a terse statement issued yesterday.

For his part, Morgentaler expressed surprise that reaction to the announcement hasn't been more violent.

The last GTA4 item: with the lady out of town this week, back to your open arms, Windsor, I finally took the time to complete the game, on both endings. And I was struck by how dark it got. Unlike previous installments, there's no victory to be found here, no ascension to the top of the underworld heap. No matter the decisions you make, a life spent sowing violence can only reap the same. For all the criticisms of the game [from the moral hand wringing to the nerdcore backlash train that's officially left the station], what game is taking its audience that seriously?

Interestingly enough, Rolling Stone movie critic Peter Travers recently called it "it's better than anything I've seen at the multiplex so far this summer, except maybe Iron Man." High praise for the lowly medium.

I've stayed out of the ongoing trial of former area high school teacher Mark Baggio, accused of carrying on a sexual relationship with a pair of students when they were fourteen, mostly because I don't think this is the place for it, but man, is every story a new palace of treats or what? To be fair, who knows how the actual exchanges from the court are getting reorganized by the Star, but it rapidly starts to feel like this dude is out of touch with reality. Today's piece deals with the over 2,000 phone calls made to one of the girls from 2003-2005. Baggio claims the phone records aren't complete, and would show he's called his friends more than the girls.

Umm, number one, if I were to do an informal survey of all the teachers I know, they'd tell me they can count on one hand the number of times they've called students. Number two, dude, I've known my best friend two and a half decades, I don't think I've called him 2,000 since I met him, and you hit that milestone in two years? I'm not saying you ever took your pants off but... dude.

Funny: Fox News photoshops NY Times reporters to make them uglier. Very mature. Maybe I would have bought the Reddicliffe shot, maybe. But the Steinberg clip? You boys got greedy.

Surprised it took this long: Kentucky woman sells sex for gasoline.

WALL-E gets slammed by right-wing critics for being leftist propaganda. Then gets defended by other right-wing critics. Who can keep up anymore?