Monday, December 28, 2009

Video of the Week: Arcade Fire

It was January 1998. Too cold to be comfortable, too hot not to sweat in your winter jacket, slippery as fuck outside.

At first, the ground was covered in snow in time for Christmas, but when New Year's came along, it started raining. The ground became a cold, muddy gray, slushy and wet enough to go through your winter boots and drench them, yet too cold to wear rubber boots. Then it got colder and colder, so all streets and sidewalks turned into uneven ice patches almost fit to skate on.

A lot worse than the first picture below may lead you to believe:

A lot less romantic than the picture right below:

More along the lines of this one here:

To move anywhere, even in the City, you had to figure things would take at least three times longer than usual. On ground level, things were surely not looking up.

The thing is, neither were things up above: the weight of the ice was straggling trees, who aren't used to carrying such a burden in winter.

Many branches snapped; you can imagine that the bigger trees wrecked cars, but they also killed unlucky pedestrians who were just trying to find their way.

Many cars were... unavailable, to say the least...

The power pylons and lines also fell victim to that, thus cutting the power to roughly 90% of the population at once.

It fucked those of us who'd been here our whole lives, but you can imagine that for those who'd just moved here, it was a bit of a culture shock. Especially those who came from the USA, like Win Butler.

And thus, you have the basis to start writing a song; it's just weird that Power Out would be so anthemic, so positive, rather than depressing, like that winter was. Although, in retrospect, even I can find things to reminisce about from those days: families sticking together, friends helping each other out, sharing human warmth - and going back to our roots, as humans, as the human animal, devoid of the electricity we had grown too accustomed to.

The car's locked in ice? Who cares - we have legs. The freezer doesn't work? But... it's minus-20 out there. It's cold... nothing fire, a blanket, hot cocoa and a bit of the human touch won't fix.

This is by no means Arcade Fire's brightest moment, but it's one of many really good songs off their first international record, Funeral (after the locally-produced EP Arcade Fire).

J.P.: The Panhandler Who Owes Me $80

It's the time for giving, and receiving; TV ads urge you to do good and give to help people in faraway places. Many provide food and cash locally to shelters and help groups and food banks...

I did better, years ago: I cut out the middle-man. I gave a huge chunk of cash to a begging junkie. Sure, at first, I expected him to give at least some of it back to me, especially because it was supposed to be a loan. But I knew what I was getting into from the start.

It was probably 1997; I was working at L'Échange, the first ''job I've always dreamed of'' that ever let me down (we'll get to that eventually, I promise). Everyday, walking up or down St-Denis street, either while going to or from work, or just hanging out with friends, I'd cross him as he was asking for change. He had a friendly demeanour and stories galore, but I'd never stay too long.

Eventually, he started coming into the store to exchange some of the change he'd collected for bills, sometimes asking if he could page his dealer from the store phone. It only took a few months before he started coming in with 'hot' merchandise he needed to unload for cash. Being the authority figure at the store by that time, I'd always have to be the one to kick him out when he was selling stuff. But as Spring came along, he had a bike for sale: $10. I knew it was wrong, but it was a great deal, and someone was sure to buy it from him at that price, so I bought it; thing is, I only had a 20 on me, and not enough change in the register to trade, so I gave him the 20 in exchange for a promise to bring me back my change, which he did, 5 hours later.

One night, after going out, a bunch of friends and I were looking for a place to eat up on St-Denis when he comes up to me and asks for spare change, but I didn't have any. That's when he first asked to borrow money. I was in a good mood, and perhaps under the influence, so I gave him a $20 bill, right then and there, despite my friends telling me I was nuts. He promised to come bring it back the next day, right and my workplace; which he did.

Came another occasion where he borrowed another 20, which he gave back. Then 40. Same result. Then another 40. But that one never made it back. And every time I'd cross him on the street, he'd promise that he would, eventually, give it back. Then I was fired.

That's when he promised to not only give it back, but with interest - an extra 5 dollars a week taht h would be late for. We were probably in 2000 by this point, and I'd start seeing him more and more - but never on St-Denis. Now he was hanging around Place-Des-Arts, sometimes at McGill. Always remembering our ''new'' arrangement, always up-to-date with his current debt, neevr more than $5 in his pockets at a time, but always ''on the verge of getting clean, man, I swear, I'll be on methadone next week'', which, of course, never happened.

I stopped adding to his debt towards me at $80 - it was just unfair.

And I stopped seeing him around in 2003. I hope he isn't dead; not just because I want my money back, also because he was genuinely a good-natured junkie, one that only lied to those who knew the deal and weren't going to fall for it anyhow, and was polite to the rest.

It'd be too much to hope that he'd gotten out of it, that he'd overcome his habit; only those who can afford to can manage to get off heroin - I'm talking Hollywood-type money; most people are on it until death comes to free them.

There are two ways to look at it - either I got screwed out of $40 and helped feed his demons and make his dealer rich - or I had money I didn't really need at the time (it'd be a totally different story nowadays) and made someone happy for a minute. These days, I'm eyeing #2.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Do You Know It's Christmas Time At All?

It's disturbingly ironic that today would be Christmas in my City. It's almost 10AM, I haven't slept a wink since I woke up yesterday morning, I had dinner with family last night and yet... it's all so out of place.

Coming out of the subway station and walking towards my home, someone wished me ''Merry Christmas'', which I thought was nice enough, but crossing him through the door I was suddenly outside - in the greyest almost post-apocalyptic setting possible.

Sure, in some suburbs, houses might be decorated to the point where you can see them from the moon, but on Ontario street, there's nothing, just grey; the Subway fast-foo joint is conveniently across the street, but it looks like it's been closed since 1995; the bar that runs diagonally seems a leftover from a bygone era that is about to be brought down through implosion later today; the dollar-pizza place across from it looks like even roaches wouldn't want to approach it. Every single tree is without leaves - as winter would have it - but each one of them, when contrasted to the greyest sky I've seen in ages, looks more like the night after Halloween and the Devil's Night than something as festive as Christmas.

The walk home takes but a couple of minutes, but the only thought that was running through my head was ''hm... this looks like the ideal setting for a suicide''.

So I get home, turn on my computer, and the first news I see is that Vic Chesnutt, songwriter extraordinaire, has attempted just that.

I'm still not in a festive mood, I still don't feel like seeing anyone - I just want to stay home and watch Season 7 of 24, by myself. But I have to attend another family gathering tonight, and must therefore find a way to fall asleep before then. Hopefully aim for 5 hours of Zs, but time seems against me on that one.

There's that saying : ''damned if you do, damned if you don't''. There's also an expression that just says: ''damn''. Neither applies here, so my day just started off by getting fucked - and chances are it'll end fucked up.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Video Of The Week: The Pogues With Kirsty MacColl

I touched upon the fate of Kirsty MacColl in a previous post, relatively recently, but the time of year has caught up with me and, really, I see no other song fitting and deserving to be Song Of The Week for Christmas - especially since everybody I know will listen to that Bowie & Crosby song anyway.

The Holidays aren't always a joyous occasion; as a matter of fact, when you're past the age of 12, more often than not, perhaps as a contrast to what they should represent, some mountain-sized pile of shit makes its way on your doorway, usually on fire.

That's where this song comes in, reminding you that, for better of for worse, someone's there for you; maybe not the person you'd rather have, maybe not maybe someone you're tired of, but still someone who gets you, knows you, your intricacies and idiosyncrasies, someone to make the pain seem bearable.

Because after all is said and done, really, the most important thing in life - considering you never when your last breath will take place - is having someone to slow dance with at the end of the night.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Stolen Band Gear: Taking It Into Our Own Hands

A year ago, a ton of bands either from Montréal or just touring in our fine town got their gear or van stolen, a veritable who's-who of national and international talent: Iggy & The Stooges, Patrick Krief, The Dears, Black Halos, Earl Slick, Bison, Hamilton trading Company, French Kicks, Attack In Black, Comeback Kid, Pascale Picard Band, Mike Deway, Priestess, Panthers, Malcolm Bauld, People For Audio, Speakerbruiser, Yomul Yuk - as well as the offices of Signed By Force Records.

Well, it's happened again, recently, to at least 4 more.

But change is on the horizon.

Stuff from Comeback Kid, whose gear had been stolen in October 2008, was recently seen at a bazaar in St-Henri - 50 T-shirts and close to 20 CDs. The man selling them was claiming he had traded with another seller at a flea market in St-Eustache and gotten this lot in return, and he agreed to give the stuff back to a friend of the band and give a description of the St-Eustache vendor.

After talking about it with the band, the friend decided to get the police involved to maybe, hopefully, recover the rest of the stuff.

Predictably, the cop who took the call didn't think it was important enough to investigate further and just let it fly, adding that stolen band gear isn't a problem in this city and that the police have bigger and better fish to fry. I say ''predictably'' because that particular officer likely never answered the call when the 50 other acts reported their stuff stolen; it likely neevr even got to him, the reports were just filed and, after a while of not being resolved, just re-filed in the 'unsolved cases' lot and forgotten about.

This is where bands' responsibilities lie in getting their shit back: when you called the cops, they gave you a reference number, a file number, and the name of the agent in charge of your file. He's the one you need to call - and tell him about this particular situation, making sure to mention you are aware of up to 50 other such cases, and that if following this lead could resolve even half of them, it'd be that many 'unsolved cases' off the hands of whoever doesn't have the time to deal with it.

When you speak with him, do so respectfully. Their job is to serve and protect, but they do put their lives on the line for us on a daily basis - even if not in this particular case. That being said, also keep in mind that you, as a taxpayer, pay his salary. He is there to make your life safer. You are the boss, they do the hard work. If you can make that clear to yourself, in your head, before making the call, you should not have a problem being both authoritative and respectful - and you could possibly make this case go forward by giant leaps.

It's what ''Taking it into our own hands'' means: if all you do is call and inquire about how your case is developping and they have no idea where to look, it'll stay stale and nothing will ever move; if you help them out, they'll be grateful. Trust me, your case might be small potatoes compared to the shit they deal with on a daily basis, but it's also a welcome break from smack peddlers - and they hate leaving cases unfinished.

Good luck.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I Burnt Myself

I have a love/hate relationship with ovens...

Sure, they cook some of my meals (although I prefer cooking in a wok), but I'm also one of the clumsiest humans ever to walk this planet, so they're also a great source of pain to me.

I won't get into great detail as to why it's not safe to cook meals naked when you're a man - even if you're only using the stove top and a pan, the metal from the oven still stings and burns when your manhood makes contact - and will instead concentrate on my latest feat: burning a perfect rectangle on the inside of my left forearm.

I was making garlic and rosemary calamari, and BBQ-flavoured chicken strips; I'd already turned them over once and was pretty much ready to take them out of the oven when, as I bent over, my forearm must've touched the oven's door on the inside... the pain was instant and excruciating, but because I can handle most levels of hurt, I guess it didn't show at first.

The Lady Of The House seemed distraught when I walked to the freezer, grabbed some ice cubes and inquired where the plastic Ziploc bags were; her face let on that I was moving at too slow a pace to really be in pain which, it's true, could be misleading.

In any event, the food was terrific, much better than the movie we watched that night, Michael Bay's (apparently) Criterion Collection-worthy unrealistic bore The Rock. Yeah, like the U.S. Army's most-decorated general, three-time Vietnam touring, Gulf-war winning chief of military and a bunch of his closest associates-turned-guerrillas will fall to a lab rat and a single SIS agent who hasn't left his prison cell in 30 years... makes sense.

Then I spent the whole night applying cream to my wound rather than sleeping. Vitamins A and E, aloe, chamomile - three different kinds of cream to make sure it healed... but it didn't. 48 hours later, the perfect rectangle houses swelled skin that looks like a brain.

It stings now - rather than ache or burn - but it also feels like it's stretched-out, for some reason. But I'll survive. This, anyway.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sylvain Mondello Is A Bad Influence

Grade 4 was a fine time. After spending Grade 3 getting accustomed to yet another new school, new surroundings, and making new friends (for the third time in four years), I was finally feeling comfortable somewhere.

NDG is really an ideal place to learn how to live; I wouldn't have wanted to be anywhere else but Notre-Dame-de-Grâce school for most of my elementary education, nor to also live in the area during my high school years. You've got a decent mix of rich and poor, French and English, and enough visible minorities to teach you that viewing them as different types of humans would be wrong and learning their customs and fitting them into your life if you so choose is feasible.

So when it came to Grade 4, in addition to my neighbours, I had a few good friends I liked to hang out with at school: Philippe-Michel Whitehead, Alexandre Benoît, Bum Min Kim (all holdover friendships from Grade 3) - and Sylvain Mondello. It was also the year I stopped just looking at girls and started talking to them and hanging out with them. Oh, and I had a freak teacher, but that can wait for a later post, too, because I also got her in Grade 5...

So back to Sylvain. Out of all my friends, he was the most like me: borderline rebel, but with a good heart, always good for a laugh and fun time. Philippe, to compare, was a cleaner little kid, but he listened to metal (Iron Maiden was his choice band), while Alexandre was into rap (bad rap at first, luckily it developed into a love for House Of Pain and Cypress Hill, but at first it was terrible). Bum Min was a case of his own. I don't even remember what Sylvain used to listen to, and it's fine that way.

We shared a love for pop culture before we even knew it'd be helpful later in life; we'd make fun of TV ads, satirize TV shows, could talk about movies and sports - all at the tender age of 10. Which made the classes in school pretty dull - they weren't as entertaining as TV - heck, they weren't even as entertaining as we were. We soon became the class clowns, me more than he, but it soon got us both in trouble.

When the teacher made the mistake of seating both of us at the end of the class, it didn't do much good - every single word she said we turned into a double-entendre, saying it loud enough for the whole class to hear; suddenly, we were two stand-up comics excelling at improv in front of a whole audience. By the end of the week, Sylvain was still at the back of the class, but I was right in front, not even in a row, no: stuck to the teacher's desk like as if our desks were conjoined twins.

It was about that time that she set us up with some sort of counselor; to this day, I'm still unsure whether he was the school psychologist or guidance counselor - but he was now in charge of our individual cases. Each day, for a whole month, we had to colour a grid that represented a calendar of sorts in either red (bad), yellow (meh) or green (good), depending on how we'd behaved that day - and have it signed by the teacher (who also had to pick a colour for us), the principal, and our parents; if it wasn't green, we needed to write down the reasons why we hadn't been good, how we'd slipped (and why), and what was needed to correct the situation. If any one element was missing (one person's signature, one explanation that didn't match), we'd get suspended; if it happened again, we'd get expelled. And at the end of the month, if a certain number of non-greens occurred, it also could spell expulsion.

The first week was mostly green, with one yellow. It was fine, and all parties were happy with the situation. Determined to not have to have this system run my life for the remainder of my elementary school years (and perhaps even high school, since they said this was going on 'my permanent record'), and realizing having a yellow in there didn't seem to faze anyone, I tried to balance being a clown with being an attentive nerd (my hand was always raised answering her questions, most times with the correct answer, sometimes with a joke or a pun, many times with both), and I must've done a pretty good job, because some times I'd colour my square yellow but the teacher would colour hers green. Sylvain, on the other hand, couldn't juggle the situation as well as I did and got into a bit more trouble.

He had a knack for getting in trouble, even in the schoolyard. There was this kid named Leano, obviously of Italian descent, a bit chubby stomach-wise but a huge ass - he was a year older than us. At the time, there was an ad on TV for a furniture chain called Leon's and their ad was a remake of David Lee Roth's ''I Ain't Got Nobody'', with the words changed to ''I Ain't Got No Money'', as they offered to hand you their merchandise without paying anything for a full year, interest-free, which I guess was unheard of at the time. Anyhow, Sylvain had the bright idea to change the words to ''Ahhh, Leano bandé'', which, in Québec French, roughly translates to Leano's got a boner, which in and of itself makes no sense and is harmless, but Leano didn't take it so lightly and tried to pick a fight with Sylvain; I had to interfere and contain him while his friends (who, thanks to my playing hockey with them were also my friends, especially this HUGE and STRONG black guy named Trexis Griffin) tried to calm him down. Recess only lasted 15 minutes, but that particular one seemed to last over an hour.

And speaking of recess, I'm not sure if this one happened before or after our colour-coded Month Of Niceness - although it was probably after because of the end result - but there was one time where we went to school one morning, as usual, but at recess decided to bolt. We had had enough, we wanted the day off, and we just fucked off to his place, which was a couple of blocks away from school. The big mistake had been to go in at first, since we had registered as being 'present'; us not being there after recess made it more of a ''missing persons'' case rather than just ''absenteeism'', so our parents were notified right away rather than perhaps eventually. Shit came to a head when the phone started ringing at his place with school, parents and cops calling. We both got a good yelling that night.

I'm not sure if it's because we'd gathered at his place, or if it was because I had the better grades - or perhaps they even did the good cop/bad cop routine to both of us using the same arguments - but an intervention of sorts was planned for me where my teacher, the principal, the councellor and my parents were all telling me that I had a terrific future ahead of myself, to be careful not to throw it all away, and that Sylvain was a bad influence on me.

Now, I wouldn't want to claim to be the ''brain behind the operation'', by any means, but to think that someone, in my life, would have been influential in any way regarding my actions... well, that just can't happen. I'm the type of guy who opens his fridge without even as much as an idea of what he wants in there - nor even a faint recollection of what's still in there. I live two blocks from my subway station and never even know what route I'm going to take and what streets I'm going to cross until I get there. I don't see anyone being able to help make my mind up, not now, not then, not ever. The only ''influential'' people I've met have been my mother, a few teachers, fewer people whose intellect I would respect - people who would show me what's right from what's wrong, even if I didn't always choose the 'right' path - and reading biographies and trying not to repeat every mistake in the book. That's it.

Still, we laid low(er) in class, and in the schoolyard for the rest of the year. We were still funny, but much of the actual 'fun' had dissipated. When the school year ended, he moved to Ville St-Pierre, changed schools, and I never heard from him again. I might have found him on Facebook, though...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Maiden's Classic Sounds Like Hell

Yep, some nerd who had way too much time on his hands compressed the song 'The Number Of The Beast' to mp3... 666 times.

Listen to it here. If you can.

Sounds like the Devil making techno underwater.

For those who don't believe mp3s are a ''lossy'' format and can't hear the difference in one compression, the result is clear after 666 of them.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Killing Culture: One Step At A Time

So my City's at it again...

After shutting down century-old establishments to make place for office space when there are empty lots available in the same area, after shutting down smaller-sized independent music venues (fitting anywhere from 50 to 250 people a night) either by force or by constant annoyance-becoming-too-much-of-a-nuisance, after getting caught giving construction contracts to their Mafia friends, and despite all the corruption scandals of the past 3 years still being re-elected (albeit with a minority) - they're finding new ways to annoy small business owners and independent artists.

This time, it's by sending $2000 fines for any artist, venue or promoter of any show being postered in our not-even-clean streets. That,s right - the one way to get your show known to the populace, the one promotional material that actually became a known and respected art form elsewhere in the world (Gigposters, for example, lists 8841 recognized poster artists whose works can be purchased from anywhere between $12 and $400; some have even gone to reach over $1000 on Ebay).

Show posters have been a staple of real cities' lampposts since the 60s (notably, at that time, in San Francisco, New York and Los Angeles). A city that bans them is a city that refuses to let its citizens evolve with the times, as they are a testament to what is going on, culturally, at that given time; I guess too many posters out there were advocating and advertising protests and marches (again, totally fitting of our Time, considering the massive corruption all three levels of governments have been involved in)...

But if no one had gone to see Arcade Fire in 2003 due to seeing their names on posters outdoors, would they have been one of the biggest bands in the world in 2005? How about the wave of Seattle bands in the early 90s, whose show posters now reach thousands of bucks for people who want to sell them? How about the Fillmore Auditorium - would it be the Cultural Icon it is today (and has been for the past 45 years) had it not been for the trippy psychedelic artwork of their posters and flyers?

Worst of all, still: there are still posters up there, really ugly ones for crappy movies and mainstream artists' Christmas shows - but they're all put up by Affichage Sauvage, a company allowed by the city to put up their crap, because they're part of The Machine, they're subsidized by the big radios - and the indies can't put up their hand-drawn, spectacular, original, passionately limited-edition, and made from actual human sweat works of art.

Fair system, eh?

Take the power back.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Video of the Week: Pearl Jam

Part 2 of my ''Favourite Videos Of All Time'' posts... good thing, too, because I have to get back to newer stuff that I've been listening to (and, of course, watching).

There are two sides when it comes to Pearl Jam - the I Hate and the I Love. Few people are ambiguous. You'll have guessed that if this is one of my two favourite videos of all time, I'm on the I Love team...

My passion for them, though, really is objective. As a matter of fact, I once made fun of people who liked them, back in the 'Jeremy' days, by rocking my head and torso like I was having a seizure and singing 'Jeremy spoke in... spoke in...' to people I knew loved them.

Then I saw them live... It was like witnessing the Second Coming, if you're religious. That Eddie Vedder character can really interact with a crowd, and that Jeff Ament dude can sure jump, and that Mike McCready guy can sure fire up his guitar with fiery solos.

And the songs were good too. All the songs apart from 'Jeremy'. Well, 'Jeremy' too, but it's been overplayed, for sure. But 'Black', 'Alive', 'Why Go', 'Garden' - top-quality stuff. Back then, I was also big on 'Even Flow', more than now, after having witnessed it a dozen times live (at least). And that second record, Vs, better than the first. And their willingness to go to bat for their fans, and their will to shed a part of their fanbase that they disagreed with (and thus a flood of more 'artistic' records like Vitalogy and, my personal favourite, No Code)... and their disdain for the video-making process and the way tehy're presented by networks like MTV...

It all led to them, in 1992, at the height of their popularity, after winning 5 MTV Awards for 'Jeremy' (and, I think, a Grammy for it as well)... until 1998's 'Do The Evolution' - in which they don't even appear.

'Do The Evolution' is Todd McFarlane's first all-animated video (ahead of the one he did for Korn just a few months later) and first aired, in Canada, the day after their 1998 Toronto performance (August 22nd, officially in barrie, Ontario, a great fucking show, of course). It depicts the evolution of mankind, through wars, famine and genocide - and paints a pretty bleak picture of where we come from and where we're headed, with a bit of the old 'History Repeats Itself' thrown in for good measure.

It was groundbreaking then, but because PJ had gone under the radar in those years, many people not only have yet to see their greatest video, they have also yet to hear one of their best songs - period. It's their loss. I present it here anyway, because I'm a good person, but those who don't like them likely won't even bother, but if they did, they'll be amazed that the whole thing still stands today - both the message and the quality of the art.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Welcome To The Working Week

Last Friday's staff party was such a blast, such a fine, fun time, that it kind of hurts coming back to work on this Monday and boss people around. And fine some sort of groove, productivity-wise. And it seems I'm not the only one: we're all sort of slow on our feet today.

The ambiance is still relaxed, but we need there is shit to be done. Unfortunately, our clients and respondents are making it hard for us; I guess the Holidays aren't a good time to chill out for everyone - stress is definitely in the air.

Everyone's coming up with Top-10 and Top-100 lists of everything sortable, some for the year, mostly for the decade. Someone should come up with a Top-10 'Worst Top-10 Lists' to help counter-balance it...

Time to get back to work!

Chasing The Dragon

This one is a weird one; even today, bits of that evening come to me in bizarre flashbacks that barely make any sense until I tack them on to whatever hazy memory I have and somehow the events are reconstructed a little bit more.

There was a particular night this summer, I must have played a show and then we'd gone to party at the bar near my house afterwards, it's pretty much the only way I can account for my friend, The Big E, to have been there.

The details of what went on before things started fucking up are still hazy today; it could have been a night where the Lady Of The House and My Dad had been there where an old woman came on to me a bit hard, grinding against my leg while I was just sitting calmly and talking with the folks at my table, then proceeding to give me a full-on ''I Touch Myself''-style show on a chair she'd pulled next to me and acting like a stripper (but keeping her clothes on, at least). Eventually, though, she was tossed out of the place, and chances are she ended up fucking some panhandler in an alleyway somewhere.

Then again, it may have been a totally different night. Oddly enough, I mostly remember the details of what happened after we'd all had, perhaps, a little too much to drink. There was this drunk nerdy girl, the type you see in movies - kind of cute but that you're pretty sure that is she took her glasses off she'd perhaps be hot, or maybe she'd be the type to get gang-banged by a boatload of sailors, you never know - anyhow, she was playing pool, for all we knew, but at some point when that ended, she came to sit at our table. By then, The Big E and I were the only ones left.

Beers followed glasses of Jack Daniel's, then beer made a comeback. The girl was visibly way too fucking drunk - and so was E. E doesn't require much - usually a single shot of vodka will help derail his whole night - and, even though he stayed on beer all evening (he dislikes JD), he was way past his point of tolerance. Myself, I was in my comfort zone. Closing time - 3 AM - was rearing its ugly head, and I was just getting started.

Last call came and I ordered us a massive round - two beers each, and a quad-JD (four ounces) more for me. They let us finish our drinks before closing the place down, but apparently my partying mood was contagious. Many of the other customers decided it'd be wise to continue ingesting booze in the alley behind the bar; I went home (not even a block away) to grab a 40-ouncer of JD, that I planned to share with Big E.

When I got back, E and the girl were standing outside the bar's locked door, in full view of any and every passer-by, facing each other, forehead-against-forehead. I wouldn't have a problem with it, despite the girl saying she had a boyfriend for most of the time we were inside - he's no concern of mine - except E's Lady is possibly the closest friend I've had this past year, and I won't let him fuck their relationship up for a drunken tart in a shit-hole local bar - at least have it be something meaningful, for fuck's sake. So, when I'm near enough for them to hear me, I say ''am I interrupting anything?''

- No, E answers, you got here just in time.
- Good, I reply, now let's move out back.

They both get out from in front of the door and start walking ahead of me when I notice she's got the worst Plumber's Crack in the history of mankind - pretty much her whole ass is showing. All I could think was to use my best Denis Leary impression and say ''Pull up your fucking pants!'' while pulling them up; I didn't expect her to be so light, so I lifted her two feet in the air in the process. I can still make 'em fly, I guess.

When we got to the alley, sitting relatively comfortably, the girl doing her best to stick to E like glue, everybody there kept telling him to throw her away. We were all drinking, having a good time, when weed started making the rounds; that killed E and pretty much got him to fall asleep right then and there. I had to convince two girls to escort him home - one who had fake teeth, and her friend. I'll get back to the fake-toothed girl in a later post, she's so worth her own chapter, but we got E the hell out of there while his magnetized date-for-the-evening went to throw up. We got her in a cab before she realized what was happening.

Eventually, as more people left, the more obscure - or at least less public - habits and consumptions came to arrive. A girl we've come to nickname Duncan, coming off giving birth to her first child, and her boyfriend, Scary Bald Punk Dude, started doing lines of coke; that's not my scene at all, though, so I politely refused and kept drinking my Jack.

It wasn't long before more weed made the rounds, and for Duncan to offer me a ''special blend'' she'd just bought, in a pipe (I hate fucking pipes). I didn't take much, because it didn't seem right: no smell, no taste, no real buzz. It didn't feel like anything at all, yet I recognized the feeling - I just couldn't put my finger on it.

Suddenly I felt warm inside, like a fever taking over, but putting my hand to my forehead, I didn't feel a change in temperature; I just went back to my bottle, and to the conversation. By then the sun was coming up, and we all went our separate ways. I got home and was relaxed - but I couldn't sleep. And as my brain was trying to figure out why, my heart was pumping because I couldn't come up with an answer; I can usually control my main body functions to an extent that scares people, and when I lose that control, everything fucks up and a feeling of unease, of extreme nausea takes over. It took me a half-hour to get back to normal, and enough energy to do so that I was extenuated and went to sleep. Finally.

The next day was even more bizarre. I wasn't really hung over - that, in itself, wasn't entirely out of the ordinary, because I can take alcohol, but I had ingested copious amounts and was at least expecting a migraine - but I couldn't find the energy to move, either. Lying on my couch, watching TV, when a position had become uncomfortable, I had trouble mustering the strength to just shift over a little. And - another rare occurrence in my case - there were blanks in my recollections.

I remembered E wanting to keep our whereabouts secret, but I recalled having even better arguments in demonstrating that it'd just be easier to ready to disclose most of the night and, perhaps, just leave certain elements out of the retrospection - say, a certain lady whose forehead was glued to his and whose ass was taking in the Montréal air when I got there.

It took me hours to remember I'd smoked up, and a while longer to remember the ''special blend''. I was pissed off at myself for having forgotten, and at having agreed to it in the first place. Then I started wondering just what the hell it was; it couldn't have been pot, that's a given. Pot and coke - or pot and crack? It seemed unlikely, there was no ''uplifting'' effect to it, no heightened senses, no added strength, if anything, it was the opposite. And knowing how I have an ''addictive'' personality (weak self-control when it comes to consuming, whether it be simple stuff like goods or food, or others), I do my best to steer clear of hard drugs because I know I'm the type who wouldn't keep it recreational.

It took a few months during which I'd have occasional flashbacks of second-long moments from that night (yet another unusual occurrence) before I'd remember what that familiar feeling had been; it came to me in the most awkward way, too, reading Slash's autobiography... I'll have a complete post about it later, but when I was a teen, I was prescribed Oxycontin to re-balance my system after having been sick all Winter (something like 6 or 7 tonsillitis's in a row combined with a lack of sleep when Spring came)... and Oxycontin is nothing other than a semi-synthetic form of heroin.

Suddenly, it all made sense: the ''lack'' of effect, of smell, of taste... they weren't what I expected, so I didn't see it coming. The feeling from the next day was explained too: I couldn't get myself to do anything, but my brain was feeling fine, it's just my body that couldn't follow.

I still get flashbacks at times that help make the general picture of that evening clearer, pieces of the puzzle that help piece it back together. And, each time, I'm reminded to not take just anything from people I barely know, and, considering the way I am, to stay the fuck away from that substance because the next time could be the last time I enter a situation with my mind intact.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Video of the Week: EMF

I've been pondering how to go about this one for a few weeks already (despite this feature only having had two entries, I always knew what the first 4 videos would be)... I could either have one post with my two favourite music videos of all time, or give each one their own post, their own week; but if I were to do that, which one would come first?

Well, I'm giving each one their own week, and I'm starting with the one who has the best colours - even though this particular YouTube grab doesn't really do it justice. It's about one guy playing in the ocean, and another playing in the sand, but the landscapes and the song are breathtaking.

The song is 'It's You (That Leaves Me Dry)', the band is EMF. Yes, that EMF, the ones you though were one-hit onders ('Unbelievable', staple of 1990 and dancefloors ever since), but who, actually, have released 3 amazing albums that can only be classified as 'alternative' - not in a 'grunge-rock' type of way, but more in a 'groundbreaking, genre-melding, ahead-of-its-time' way. The watered-down version of this band was Jesus Jones; its legacy is Nine Inch Nails.

The band is from the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire, U.K. They are currently on their second hiatus - the first one occured in 2002 when member Zac Foley died of a drug overdose. They had formed in 1989 and performed a emre 4 concerts before signing a deal with EMI Records without even having recorded a demo - but after forcing EMI's A&R man to jump in a river to prove that he really wanted them.

Here it is, the video with the nicest colours - two years before Soundgarden's Black Hole Sun, two years after Unbelievable and Lies had made them stars... EMF, It's You.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cheated Hearts

Cheated by the opposite of love
Held on high from up, up, up above
Kept my high from the second one
Kept my eye on the first one

Now take these rings and stow them safe away
Wear them on another rainy day
Take these rings and stow them safe away
Wear them on another rainy day
- The Yeah Yeah Yeahs

I'm probably going to be singing this one tonight. It's kind of the flip-side to their other song 'Maps', but where 'Maps' is about the beauty of the beginning of a relationship, 'Cheated Hearts' is where it all goes sour, the downfall, whether it's fast or slow, whether there was 'actual' cheating or if the whole thing feels like a sham, whether it's a lack of trust both ways or just loss of enjoyment.

I was listening to both songs on my way to work today (it was the 'random' feature, not a Yeah Yeah Yeahs trip), and I thought about combining both as a medley for tonight's show, with one segueing into the other, but it turns out 'Maps' is harder to flesh out chords that fit with my voice to accompany it, so it'll be the other song alone.

It's somewhat fitting that a stroke of coincidence would make it so, though, because 'cheating' was a topic that came up today at work - I have to add that we're all friends, and all relatively close, so we know things would never leave the confines of ''secrecy'', if anything was to be kept silent.

Anyhow, we got to talking about a couple of friends, who happened to have been a couple at some point, as well as both having worked at the same place I'm at now, and how one of them (the guy) had, indeed, cheated on his ladies - numerous times, on numerous ladies, with numerous ladies. He was a Pussy Hunter. He claims, however, that this particular time, with this particular girl, it just wasn't the case. She had imagined it by going through his emails and past Facebook comments for the past 4 years, and he considered it the worst breach of trust he'd ever witnessed (the girls he's cheated on might argue otherwise, but that just adds to the fun of being a spectator in this one).

Now, I've had both done to me: cheating, and going through emails, Facebook comments, she even went through every single file on my computer. I'll agree that one is more invasive than the other, and that because the one doing the searching is actually looking for evidence, they might believe that what they see is evidence because it seems odd to them (for example, having a life-long friend in Copenhagen, Denmark say they'll ''help keep you up all night'' because it's daytime there and it's night time here, and I have to stay up for the night, and it's no burden to them to write once in a while - because they're up anyway - might look bad, if it weren't for who the sender is).

Hunter's attitude, anyway, now, is that if His Lady (or Next Lady) were to do that to him, it'd be over right then and there - ''move out, fuck off, and I don't want to have anything to do with you anymore'' is how he put it.

I'm not so sure I'm that cut-and-dry about it, myself. I'm not saying I'd let it slide totally, and I know I'd be pissed off (especially if she'd read this post beforehand), but I let it happen with The Lady of The House a few times already, and I'm not sure I wouldn't again - I haven't put a new password on the computer or anything. But it does feel like a major breach of trust every time, though.

I guess it depends what you want to base your relationship on. Me, it's Trust. But I still think a Soiled Vagina (especially if I'm dipping in it when it's still inhabited by someone else's leftovers) is more serious than a Breach Of Security In The Mail Room. I think. That's the thing with shit, and shitty situations: you can never be sure until it happens. But you can imagine.

Surprise Saturdays

When Life gets too serious, you have to take it upon yourself to get it back under your control.

We're Saturday, December 5th. 2009, of course. For a while, my schedule for upcoming live shows was set: December 8th (Tuesday), at Centre St-Ambroise, a solo gig with Torontonian Daniel Greer (on tour for his Victory Songs 2.0, release), the exquisite Philémon Chante and the incomparable Simon Schreiber; January 2nd (Saturday), at Casa Del Popollo with my band, Blooze Konekshun, headlining, with Infinite Moksha and one of two Montréal bands called LeMonade; a show in late January or early February at Barfly again with my band - opening for my current favourite live local band - and pretty damn good on record, too - Dead Messenger; and February 26th, a solo piece at Casa again with my now-Victoria-based UnPop-bro Nate's acousti-punk project, Small Wars, and Jonathan Jude.

But two days ago, my friend Triangles Stuart's show became short one headliner when out-of-towners backed out, and I was offered the gig - and I just couldn't say no, despite the fact that I knew I'd only be half-ready.

So that show is tonight. As usual, I don't know what I'm going to be playing yet, but I'm also going to have to rely on the power of my ad-libbing/storytelling/humour to make this enjoyable to all. Funny thing is, it's when I least expect it that I deliver the most memorable performances; I kind of wish I hadn't forgotten my recording device to immortalize the evening's goings-on.

Murphy's Law, doubled.

I hope those who do make it there know they might be in for a treat. And maybe a cover of Beyoncé's Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It), that I just can't seem to get out of my head.

In preparation, I've been downing Pomegranate Rockstar (with vodka) - breakfast of champions. It feels like Cuba, last year, when I'd have vodka and orange juice for breakfast - no big plans of binging or drunkenness, just a kick to get the body moving.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Homoerotic Wednesdays

It's been a bizarre day, to say the least.

I woke up around 11AM, which isn't so bad since I was only working at noon. But the reason I was working at noon was because I had to finish by 7PM to help Alternate Lady Of The House move some boxes from her current apartment to what will be, in a week, her new home.

I have a glance at the news on Cyberpresse to find out that the Habs traded Kyle Chipchura to the Anaheim Ducks for a 4th-round draft pick - could have been better, could have been worse, but that's another slow player no longer on our team.

Upon opening my email (mainly to see if work has unexpected news for me to attend to before getting there), I get this:

That's right: Traci fucking Lords wants to follow me on Twitter. The real Traci Lords. One of my first boyhood crushes (alongside Samantha Fox, Claire Pimparé, Nathalie Simard, ahead of Demi Moore - who caught up on lost time in my teen years, though! - or Christina Applegate) - and a pioneer in self-advertising (as well as in underage porn, pseudo-techno music and other things).

Then I get ready and leave, and just as I'm locking my front door, I notice the light from my porch broken on the ground. This, after twice having people de-pot flowers and put them in our mailbox at night... and our next-door neighbour not being targeted that way... it kind of got me wondering if we'd done anything wrong lately...

Then I walked to the subway to realize it was warmer out than I had expected - a very welcome surprise - accompanied by the extra surprise of having the subway attendant refusing to let me purchase a ticket, then scooting outside for no apparent reason, leaving me to pass through without paying - which, again, suited me fine because I'm dead broke, as the bank froze my fucking account for no reason whatsoever.

The ride to work was uneventful, as I was reading Slash's autobiography and listening to my mp3 player - both very entertaining.

I get to work and know I'll have three employees at my disposal for tonight's shift, two that are doing well and one who needs coaching, but that I'd have to give everyone at least a few common pointers to look for even though two of them don't really need them... except that Brendan, the one who needs help, isn't there... so we can just have the shift as is and not be bothered to give out a long speech and teach - and that works for me, too, because I just realized that my voice is on the verge of disappearing.

I then made a call to the Alternate Lady Of The House only to find out she may not need my services after all, as her mother's there already, painting and bossing people around.

So it was a mid-karmaic day, with one good thing offset by a bad one, but never to the extreme of any one side... and Greg, my employee and sometime drummer is in a homoerotic mood, mostly joking about balls, cocks and asses in double-entendres.

As Ice Cube once said, and as I've quoted on here before:
All in all, I gotta say, it was a good day

Monday, November 30, 2009

Video of the Week: American Devices

I think I'm liking this new Video of the Week feature... the week's barely starting and I'm already all up in it...

Here's another one I upped on my Facebook page quite a few times already: The American Devices' 'You Wouldn't Understand'...

For those of you who need a description of what they're about to see, it's about a guy, sitting on a chair, in what seems to be an empty apartment, and a dominatrix walking around him, sometimes whipping him gently.

Now that that's clear, here's a bit of info on the band itself: founded 30 years ago, this all-Montréal band is 'fronted' (although I'm 150% sure he despises this term) by Rick Trembles, cartoonist extraordinaire whose work has graced the pages of such prestigious zines as Fish Piss and such renown newspapers as the Montreal Mirror; he has also just released a second volume of his Motion Picture Purgatory series, in which he critiques and analyzes a film in one page - and in comic form. Also in the band are Rob Labelle and André Asselin, other legends of our local scene, as well as another comic-book genius, Howard Chackowicz on drums.

Former member Chris Burns (who has played bass, guitar and drums in the band and whom you could also know from bands like Crackpot and Nutsak, the latter with Asselin and Chackowicz) came up with a list of former members for me to tack onto this:

Jackie Gallant (drums), Cups Von Helm (drums), Suzy Joseph (farfisa organ), Mary-Jane Lamond (keys and vocals), Louise Burns (keys and vocals), Sylvie Payne (bass), and Dave Hill (bass).
to which Trembles added:

You missed Larry Vitus & Eric (hard rock goners) Sandmark who were both on bass for a bit (in the) late eighties.
There you have it, a complete list of current and former members of the longest-lasting freak unit (and apparent revolving door, especially on bass) in town.

You can call them punk, or new wave, or rock - but you would be dead-wrong. Sure, they rock and groove harder than Devo and The Ramones, but they can also slay their instruments with more love than Ravi Shankar at Woodstock.

But, hey - maybe you get it, or maybe You Wouldn't Understand.

Oh Yes: December Sucks

You know what? Maybe it's the Montréal bipolarity taking hold, but after a day of dirty fucking snow and sub-zero weather before December even got here, I have to say: scratch the previous post, this coming month will suck.

I always forget just how much I hate winter until it actually arrives.

I'm not your typical Montrealer who complains that it's too cold in winter and does a complete 180 and says it's too hot in the summer; I bask (and bake) in the 40-degree (115 for our American friends) humidity my island provides me with from June to August because I know how much I hate minus-40 degrees in February... but I forget the extent.

You know how sometimes something pisses you off so much you could hurt someone, or even yourself? Winter turns me into Stalin - that rage, times a million.

It's so cold you could kill AIDS, it's so slippery even hiking boots won't stop you from falling, it gets so messy that your wool socks get a brownish hue; add that to the metal of cars breaking, the asphalt in the streets decomposing by the chunks, snow so heavy it makes rooftops collapse and bridges break, and a hockey team that hasn't won a championship since 1993.

I'm 12 hours away from Day One and I'm already angry and depressed.

Fuck winter.

The Year's Coming To A Close

November's ending, and the year's coming into its last throes - and what do I have to say for myself? What have I done this year that merits attention, that makes it worth havin spent 365 days in it?

I've remained in country (unless you consider Toronto to be another country - I don't yet, but I did feel rather alien in it, as always), I've played 15 local shows and hosted UnPop yet again, but without an actual Finale to speak of yet, few outside shows.

My book is still not out (although it's pretty damn close at this point), I'm expecting news in a matter of days and already have approved the texts, fonts and bar code.

I'll soon be living alone with my two kitties in an apartment that was made for two humans and maybe an extra tiny one...

I'll get to redecorate, though, that should be fun, sports and music memorabilia everywhere.

My grandparents celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary; I like that people who have trouble getting out of couches get more accomplishments done in a year than I do.

I wanted to exercise and walk, that didn't happen. I think I need to buy myself some skates and start playing outdoors hockey again - except for the fact that I hate the fucking cold. And I likely can't afford new skates, especially since I've been using goalie skates all my life and those would be the ones I'd need - and they're fucking expensive.

Oh well, we'll see what the new year brings. Either way, I still have a shot at ending 2009 with a bang.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Video of the Week: Dead Messenger

I started a new weekly feature just last week, Video Of the Week, and I nearly didn't post one this week... so much for continuity, eh?

Well, in the hopes of maybe getting myself to follow through on something for once in my life, here's a video from Dead Messenger that they did last summer (so it's still relatively recent). The song is 'Fat Black Heart', one of the best from their recent CD 'Love Is The Only Weapon', and usually the song they end their live sets with - not bad, considering they're one of the best live bands in this stinking town.

The song starts off as a convenience store in-line camera, then just slowly evolves into random acts of randomness that happen every day in town: people dancing in the streets, people walking down the streets with TVs on their heads, people hanging out in the middle of cinder blocks - and shots of Dead Messenger rocking out.

I like this song so much I've already linked the video four times on my Facebook page, and have used their chorus as an intro to a song of mine at a few live shows of late - and I like the band so much I've booked them for a fifth UnPop show in 5 years this Fall. I also plan on booking and opening for them for a future show at Barfly early in 2010.

Instant Karma

It sure feels like Scandinavia at this time of year: you can smell the snow begging to drop from the sky, it's dark in mid-afternoon, all sports talk is about winter sports and all arts talk is about dark, depressing art, be it music (heavy stuff like black metal), scary paintings, or black and white pictures.

For a night owl, though, it's an early Christmas.

Kind of makes you wish life were like an all-inclusive resort in the Caribbean, where you could drink all day, relax all the time, work if you feel like it, and not feel an ounce of remorse in the process.

My life will be undergoing some massive changes in the near future, mostly filled with people disappearing from it - it won't be a first, but this time I may not have close friends to fall back on like I did all the other times. Not that I don't have friends I love and that I think love me back, just that for the past few years, our ways of life have gone in totally different directions and I wouldn't want to impose my presence more than the twice-a-year habit the last half-decade brought us to.

I used to have three big bunches of friends I'd jump from every season or so, so it never got boring and was always new and fresh - plus I could alternate between English- and French-speaking gangs and not lose one in the process. But now...

With the Lady Of The House moving out, and Alternate Lady Of the House having purchased a faraway house with her long-time boyfriend, my immediate circle of friends went from 3 to 0. Add a best friend in Mexico, one with a one-year old - and a serious day job taking care of invalids and night school to better his financial situation - plus one who is perennially busy and has hundreds of other friends to see, and a music scene of hipsters I disagree with more and more on a daily basis - I'm starting to see my future path open up before me: to see other humans, I'll have no choice but to become a regular barfly at the corner Bar Fullum, like the old guys that seem to have their chairs molded after their asses for having been there too often and for too long.

Or maybe I need a car. Or maybe I need to move. And if I need to move... NYC, or the ocean side? A city filled with strong nightlife, or a quiet beach-side place where I can relax and die? Every time I keep pulling out, they keep pulling me in...

Monday, November 23, 2009

Physical Work Vs Mental Work

I was debating the values of physical, menial work versus more cerebral work, the other day, with the soon-to-be Former Lady Of The House who, as is customary when people have known each other for roughly a decade, seems to think her work has more value than mine.

Some folks refuse to admit they are both demanding - and at just about the same level, at that. Working physically, using your muscles to move and lift things, to run, stand, takes up energy; at the end of the day, tiredness occurs. Concentrating, thinking, creating also requires energy: the brain works and assimilates information, data, then organizes it; at the end of the day, you can still be ectenuated, exhausted, mentally fatigued.

In the first case, your muscles refuse to follow what your brain asks of them and you slouch or sleep; in the second, your brain refuses to work anymore, thus even if your muscles wanted to move, they couldn't, because the brain can't tell them where or how to move.

The end result is the same fucking thing: fatigue.

One isn't necessarily worth more than the other, by the way, they are different ways to accomplish things, and often, one person who cannot do one or the other just won't ''get'' the effort it requires.

That's all there is to it, really... I've been up for 20 hours, writing, thinking... it's almost 8AM and I should be getting at least some sleep. Guess I'm fatigued...

Friday, November 20, 2009

D'oh Habs D'oh!

So, I waited for the first quarter of the season before I got to talking about the Canadiens, to give them a chance to gel, to give the new coach a chance to get his system in, for a leader to emerge, for the goalies to take their rightful place.

The sum of this team's parts should be a playoff-contending team: a possible 40-goal scorer with tremendous speed who never backs down (Michael Cammalleri); the most consistent player of the past 3 seasons who happens to be perfect defensively and always be near the team's scoring lead (Tomas Plekanec); a 5th-overall pick in nets who is deemed by most to be a franchise player (Carey Price); a goalie who has always brought the team back into contention when no one else could (Jaroslav Halak); a Stanley Cup winner who played in the last 2 Finals (Hal Gill); a perennial All Star and one of the 5 most complete defensemen in the game (Andrei Markov); another Cup winner who was at one point seen as the best two-way player in the game and whom the Rangers deemed worthy of $7.33M per year (Scott Gomez); yet another Cup winner and former 48-goal scorer when paired with Gomez (Brian Gionta); a player who should now be hitting the 30-goal mark every season (Andrei Kostitsyn); a gifted playmaker with tons of grit (Sergei Kostitsyn); two potential 20-to-30 goal scoring powerforwards (Guillaume Latendresse and Max Pacioretty); last year's most improved player, quick as lightning and very good defensive forward, the team's best faceofff man (Maxim Lapierre); hard-nosed, hard-working veterans (Glen Metropolit and Cup winner Travis Moen); returning steady veteran defenseman Roman Hamrlik and his younger yet more reliable partner Josh Gorges, a young and potentially bruising defenser and great team player (Ryan O'Byrne); the best - and smartest heavyweight fighter in the game (Georges Laraque); a good offensive happy-go-lucky journeyman defenseman (Paul Mara); a couple of last-chance draft picks from years past (Matt D'Agostini, Ben Maxwell and Kyle Chipchura) and a host of talented up-and-coming prospects (P.K. Subban, Mathieu Carle, Yannick Weber, David Desharnais, Cedric Desjardins)...

Gone are the oft-injured heroes of the past decade (Saku Koivu, Chris Higgins, Mathieu Dandenault, Francis Bouillon, Alex Tanguay, Steve Bégin, Cristobal Huet, Mike Komisarek) and those whose heart and guts were sometimes doubtful (Alex Kovalev, Michael Ryder), all replaced with smaller yet youngerand healthier models of themselves.

With a new coach that's viewed as an experienced, winning (though never in the playoffs) teacher with a boring, defensive style - 3 things we needed, 2 things we could have lived without.

But that's probably precisely where General Manager Bob Gainey's overhaul went wrong, to wit:

- If you keep the players and change the coach (with a real coach, not a GM-stepping-in-as-coach), generally, the dynamics change and the shock treatment is enough to get things going again.
- If you change most of the players, especially the ones who were carrying the bulk of the offense, half the team in this case, that's 8-to-11 new players, who have to get accustomed to playing in a new building, in front of new fans, living in a new city and new media environment, learning a new system.

What you don't need is 11 players learning how to live in a new city (the one who is most passionate about the sport you're playing, at that) and a coach who is dealing with the same issues - and have 23 players needing to learn a new system that may not suit them in the end because it wasn't instilled with the players in place in mind.

And the coach arrived here telling the media and the players that his team looked out of shape, and he got them to work harder than they were used to. Immediate results were seen: injuries to Markov, O'Byrne, Gill, Gionta, Laraque and D'Agostini were quick to materialize, putting more pressure on the goalies and on the kids who may not have been ready to graduate from the farm team.

So we have a team that's among the bottom-feeders, skating like chickens with their heads cut off, defensemen unable to make any passes, forwards who can't score (more shooters than passers in the line-up anyway, so it isn't balanced enough), goalies who are left out to dry and can't afford even the slightest mistake, no captain (my guess is they were going to name Markov but he got injured before they could do so) - and no redemption in sight.

Journalists are calling for Gainey's head, the crowds are booing the home team, and the only asset worth anything in a trade is the only guy everyone wants to keep here (I'll provide my thoughts on that in a post soon enough).

At least it can't get any worse, right?

Stalker Express

Facebook: the CIA isn't the only agency out to get you. Cops have busted criminals through their profile picture alone, the IRS is now using it as a tool... and people are using it to find shit out about their exes. Or people they had crushes on in high school. Or that person who works at the corner store that you think looks cute.

Thing is, it's not just the original user who's doing the stalking. With Firefox, Chrome and Explorer always vying to Facilitate Your Life, everyone who uses a computer after you can now stalk the exact same people you were stalking - in addition to the ones they were about to check up on!

I found an old friend from my early teenage years on there today; I wrote them to apologize for ending a pen pal relationship we had going when we were 11 or 12. I just never wrote back, even though I wanted to, it was just never the right time.

I'm in that kind of mood these days - apologetic, not stalker-y. It feels like I'm on a 12-step program or I'm dying of cancer or something, except I'm not. I guess I'm just trying to set things right, be a decent human being, give back. I'm not sure I'd go as far as the protagonists in My Name is Earl (one of my favourite TV shows of the past decade), where they actually make up for things they did wrong in the past by doing favours for the people they wronged - but I'll see where it leads.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Video Of the Week: Flairs

His name is Lionel Flairs - or so he claims. He's French (the real deal, the 'from France' type), but seems to work in England.

He's clever, and ballsy; he's released a 7'' titled Better Than Prince.

Now, he asked Jérémie Perin to direct a video for his song 'Truckers Delight'... in 8-bit Nintendo style.

Pretty damn entertaining, if somewhat 'wtf' and graphic and totally un-PC.

Oh, and not to be confused with the NYC-by-way-of-Vancouver band The Flairs...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Stinkiest Alley In Montréal

I guess when they got the cleaning the City, they cleaned up that alleyway, too, because when you pass by it, the stench no longer causes you to want to vomit, but having been there in the early-to-mid-90s, I still won't venture into it.

It's situated on Ste-Catherine West, right behind a Burger King that been there for ages and what is now the downtown core's biggest Future Shop, although we used to know it more as the block that housed Labyrinth (rock t-shirts and posters galore, knives and lighters and motorcycle stuff too) and Mars (a dusty asthma-inducing basement - even though it was on the second floor - where they would sell bootleg CDs for almost $100 and one-off collector's show posters from the 60s to the 90s) - still, it's an area that most Montrealers passed by on a daily basis.

You could smell it from almost a block away, putrid, like decomposing homeless bodies that had shat themselves prior to dying there. When you'd see a hobo walk in there, you just knew he'd never come out - you had probably witnessed someone's final moments in the World Of The Living. Whether it was summer or winter, there was an acidic steam coming out of it that would burn the eyes, a somewhat transparent cloudiness of stench that stood from the ground to about twelve feet high - and it stank so much that most people who would walk past it would just hold their breath to not be subjected to it in the pit of their lungs and settle for teary eyes and temporary burns to the face and hands; it's a surprise a fast-food joint could survive and thrive there, considering.

A few friends and I entered it once, as a dare, the one time that it didn't smell like the pits of Hell had thrown up a sack of shit and sweat - we must have been 14 years old, three or four of us. It was a Sunday. We saw it to the end, it lead to a parking lot where the cars that were closest to the alley were rotting, like its extension into the world of mechanics, like they had caught a mutated version of whatever virus lurks in the air of the alley.

We didn't want to stay too long to not catch it too, so we quickly fucked off to Labyrinth, but we were uneasy being there despite it only smelling like decayed garbage and stale urine that time. You should have seen the look on people's faces when they saw relatively healthy teenage boys come out of there: shock and - not awe, maybe mistrust. They even stayed clear of our way until we entered the store, it was weird and pleasant at once, like we were Ghost Riders or something.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Stéphanie: Girl Of My Dreams

Because you never know how or when a chapter of your life might end, it's always tricky to get started writing about it. But it never pays to wait too long, because you might forget crucial details or its termination might bring a sour taste in your mouth that will melt the good times from your brain forever.

This one though, was a big piece: my quest and obsession of the late 90s, my luck and love of the 2000s.

It's hard to pinpoint an exact date at which it started, because it seems we were often in the same area at the same time - even in the same building often enough - from the late 80s onwards, when I played a handful of shows at local dive La Brique despite being well underage. But that one's unlikely, if only because I was so young and she wasn't even legal yet either, and girls on the verge of adulthood in bars tend to hang around with older men, not younger ones.

So that brings me to the late 90s when I moved to the Plateau. The closest and best supermarket was only a few blocks away, a mid-sized Provigo where we'd both shop. I was single and enjoying life, at school during the day, rocking out in bars and hanging with a large group of friends at night, and working at my first dream job (L'Échange) the rest of the time; she was dating Fernando, a body-building jobless ape who apparently cheated on her all the time.

I don't remember when - but I sure remember how and why it was that she caught my eye; she had everything I ever wanted in a girl, the best of them all; top-notch quality everything. Long, flowing curly brown locks, a piercing stare from blue-green eyes, curves that would make a TV car commercial highway jealous - and breasts bigger than my hands can handle.

Problem is, the Ice Storm happened (bet you can't wait until that one's explained - as with my stint at L'Échange, it'll be in later posts) and created a shit storm in my life that led me to move to NYC and, later, move in with my mom at l'Île Perrot, then with my new-found dad and grandma in Pointe-Aux-Trembles for a summer - all while straddling one College and two universities in two languages.

Time passed and I ended up living in the Centre-Sud district in time for New Year's 2000, attending Université De Montréal. It turns out that a few fellow Cinema students also lived in my neighbourhood - and they all worked at Vidéo 20/20, two blocks from my place, open 24/7. I'd rent stuff there all the time, mostly at night as per my lifestyle (and because I was at school during the day) and eventually made friends with the night worker. He wouldn't give me free movies, but we'd drink beer and order pizza and eat it there during his shift, using the ice cream fridge as a table.

And because karma has a way of making things go full circle before spinning a complete 180, I started a habit of returning the films during the day, on my way to school and, lo and behold, who was the assistant manager? The afore-mentioned Girl Of My Dreams. She was going through changes in her life and they were reflected in her physical appearance: weight loss, sudden blondness (meh) and an eventual short-haired blondness (doh!)...

There was also one instance where a movie I had returned ('It', the TV miniseries based on the Stephen King book, in double-VHS format) hadn't registered in the computer (something you have to expect when the worker is a drinking buddy - during his shifts!), and she didn't believe that I had returned it, so she actually went downstairs to verify that it was, indeed, there. She thought I was ripping her off!

In any event, time passes, and one of the friends I'd made there, Norm, becomes my flatmate. It's early July 2000, and since many of the store's staff are celebrating moving into new apartments, they decided to celebrate at a local dive - L'Astral 2000 (no, they haven't updated their name to keep up with the times). Being one's roommate, I'm also invited. As luck would have it, the seating arrangements have me positioned between Norm and Stéphanie, as he would introduce her to me - the Girl Of My... you get the idea.

I think I recall there was a ''singer'' performing, the type of fucker who sings cover songs and is backed by a terrible Casio keyboard, but thankfully not loud enough to drown out our conversations or make us want to drink elsewhere. There was, however, this one dude, much older (think late 50s, early 60s), looking like a much older Jimmy from South Park, who wouldn't stop hitting on her - he was also a video store customer; she pretended I was her boyfriend (classic) to make him go away, and from then on, to help the story stick, she made sure to pay more attention to me than anyone else at our table.

When 3AM came around, two girls invited themselves to my place so we could continue the party - Stéphanie and her roommate and employee Mélanie; additionally, Norm brought a chick over, our friend (also in film school with us) Louis' ex-girlfriend, nicknamed ''The Star'' for her knack for lying on her back and not moving an inch during sex. Norm and The Star promptly went to his room, while me and the prettier ladies moved into mine, a luxurious double-length room with adjoined living room that made for a nice suite all to myself.

As we drank more and talked, time flew by, and Mélanie decided to go home to sleep. Eventually, Stéphanie and I made our way into my bed, and at least one of us was in it for the next 96 hours - that's 4 days, genius.

The rest of the summer was more of the same: if we weren't at work (and, most of the time, I wasn't), out drinking, or eating, we were fucking. My birthday - and September, i.e. Fall - came along, and we realized we were, pretty much, dating.

I had bagged my Dream Girl, and she had stayed; she was mine.

And, of course, all dreams end.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Another Day, Another Armed Conflict

It's Rememberance Day here, Veterans' Day in the U.S. of A. As per every year, my thoughts are scattered; since 2003, of course, it's between Iraq - and a hard place.

Like Edwin Starr, I think war is fucked up, rarely benefits average humans, always profits those who are in no danger of getting into the line of fire.

On the other hand, though, I do feel having an army is necessary, and I do feel the need to think of our soldiers, help them any way we can, take care of them as a country, as people, as some of the bravest citizens we have.

But their duty is to defend the homeland. Against potential assaults (for now), against the eventual assaults of our enemies, and our now-allies, should they become enemies.

They have to defend us against invasion, but also protect our lives, our infrastructures, our resources, our water, our melting Northern territories that will soon unveil water passages and be rich in minerals.

And in times when none of that is happening, they can also help out in other respects - clearing the snow off Toronto's streets (ha!), or when they helped out the whole province during the Ice Storm of '98.

It's as important to have them here as it is to support them; having them elsewhere should always only be for a limited time, never more than 6 or 9 months at a time (per mission, for the whole country, not per person) - because their main duty is to the homeland.

While half of my uncles are cops, my grandfather was in the military; he didn't lose any limbs, and only came back from a war with alcoholism, which wasn't all that new in his case, just more severe. But as he came here, October 1970 came along and he followed orders: he was forced to confront people he shared opinions with and arrest them, then lock them up.

And he did it because it was his job; he didn't agree with his boss (the Prime Minister), and he almost fully agreed with the protesters (maybe not with the most extreme of them planting bombs in mailboxes, though), but he felt that if he did his job to the letter like a stand-up man, that if those he supported politically ever came to power, it would serve as proof that he would do everything he could to stand by them as well. It was a show of civil duty and civic pride.

It's people like him we have to celebrate our military for, not the wars they were in, the politicians who forced them to be there, the targets they destroyed, or the fuckers who act liek animals and ruin the rest's reputations.

Proud, stand-up people respectful of the authority figures on our home soil; strong, dedicated people who will stand in the line of fire to protect the rest of us even if one order they're following makes them tick; professionals trained to defend us with whatever they have on hand.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Animal Planet

I was watching TV the other day, maybe last week, I'm not sure anymore, but it showed people swimming with dolphins. Just humans swimming with marine mammals. Mammals, together. Animals, all.

Then I thought to myself: hey, that's nice. As one species who likes to get along with other species sometimes, we really should do this more often.

Then: where did we go wrong? When did our existence begin to be all about working our asses off to make someone else richer, when we're the only animal on the planet that gives a fuck about money?

Shouldn't we just... live? Hang around, fuck around, walk around, run around...

Not: be treated like crap by a smart-ass teenager from the phone company telling us we asked for a long-distance plan last month when we haven't even called them in two years.

Not: getting shit on by our bosses for giving a customer what he rightfully deserved instead of what the company wants to give out.

Not pay half our hard-earned cash to the government and see it be wasted on giving it to their friends.

A German friend had an expression (in German) that sounded great, something along the lines of ''verfluchte scheize something something sheize something''... and it sort of meant ''fucking shit these fucking shitty fuckers have fucking shit for brains''.

That's us, as a species.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Fairytale Of New York... Ends In Tragedy

I've been listening to The Pogues' Fairytale Of New York today, over 10 times. It was cold out, bitter weather trying to bring the whole City down along with it. The sun looked grey, discoloured rays of discontent descended upon the streets, dull and unpolished, bleak. It smelled like winter, three months early.

The only thing that brought a smile to my face was the song - the saddest Christmas song ever written, ringing in my headphones.

It's a bittersweet time in the History Of Me, things are seemingly falling apart and I never know how to react to the blows that keep coming - so I just stand there and take them, like the strongest-jawed fighter in the history of boxing. And I keep standing, because it's how I was raised, even though it doesn't really make any sense to.

And the song... a duet bwteen Shane MacGowan and Kirsty MacColl - and I usually hate fucking duets!
Shane: It was Christmas eve babe, In the drunk tank
An old man said to me: won't see another one
And then they sang a song, The rare old mountain dew
I turned my face away and dreamed about you

Got on a lucky one
Came in eighteen to one
I´ve got a feeling
This year's for me and you
So happy Christmas
I love you baby
I can see a better time
Where all our dreams come true.

Kirsty: They got cars big as bars, They got rivers of gold
But the wind goes right through you, It's no place for the old
When you first took my hand on a cold Christmas eve
You promised me Broadway was waiting for me

Shane: You were handsome, you were pretty
Queen of New York City, when the band finished playing they yelled out for more
Sinatra was swinging, all the drunks they were singing
We kissed on a corner - Then danced through the night.

Both: And the boys from the NYPD choir were singing Galway Bay
And the bells were ringing out for Christmas day.

Kirsty: You're a bum, you're a punk
Shane: You're an old slut on junk
Kirsty: Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed

You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse, I pray God it's our last.

Both: And the boys of the NYPD choir's still singing Galway Bay
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day.

Shane: I could have been someone
Kirsty: Well so could anyone
You took my dreams from me, When I first found you

Shane: I kept them with me babe
I put them with my own
Can't make it out alone
I've built my dreams around you

Both: And the boys of the NYPD choir's still singing Galway Bay
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas day.

And if the lyrics weren't sad enough, there's the whole story-after-the-story...

The song was released as a single in late 1987, having appeared on the seminal Pogues record ''If I Should Fall From Grace With God'' and was an instant hit, going to #2 at the time; in years since, it has been voted Britain's 84th best song of all time, the best Christmas song ever - and even been re-released a bunch of times, all with chart success.

And yet, each time, with every listen, the spectre of Kirsty MacColl's useless death looms above it. For those who don't know, she died in 2000, in Mexico, while vacationning with her family. They had gone diving in an area where speed boats weren't allowed to venture, yet one came racing at her son as the family and their guide were surfacing. Her reflexes got the better of her, and she threw her son, Jamie, out of its path, but was hit herself and died instantly.

To this day, uncertainty looms regarding certain facts in her death, namely who was actually driving it (it was millionnaire Guillermo González Nova's boat, but he claims boathand José Cen Yam was actually manning the commands), and punishment for the accident - under Mexican law, Cen Yam took the blame and got to choose between almost three years in jail or a fine of 1034 pesos ($90 in U.S. funds). It would, technically, be conceivable for a millionnaire to give his employee the money to pay the ridiculous fine and walk away scott-free without even a blemish to his name, which led to MacColl's family launched the Justice For Kirsty campaign in response to the events surrounding her death.

So there you have it: the City has such a gloomy air nowadays that a sad Christmas song in which long-time lovers share bitterness and tenderness at once, sung by a drunken waste of talent (MacGowan) and a woman who died a horrible death that could easily have been avoided is the only thing turning the edges of my lips upwards even a little bit.