Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Hell's ''Valuable'' Collectibles

You know how once in a while (say, Spring cleaning) you realize you have way too much crap in your home and you throw some of it out? Well, I'm not like you at all...

I put the shit I don't want in boxes and wait for it to either disappear, or someone tells me they need it and I give it to them. Or I try to sell it and it never works.

Some of my stuff I never want to get rid of, even if it takes up more and more space every year...

I have a two-storey apartment in downtown Montréal, and the basement is just about loaded with shit I rarely see anymore - over 3000 CDs (most of them, now in mp3 format on my computer, are still listened to from time to time), hundreds (if not thousands) of books - but barely half of the amount I used before my appartment got flooded in 1998 - and tons of sports and non-sports cards, 25% of which mean a lot to me, the rest... not so much.

And pictures from my past. Every box of pictures seeming like a different life, with a different 'me' in each one - all of them different from the overweight bear I am now.

And a few special boxes as well, with memorabilia. The memorabilia that couldn't fit in my home office upstairs, because it's so tiny (and because it houses my DVDs that cover up a whole wall).

Some of them will be found here. Yep, a fourth blog. For now, it's a few sports cards, most of them with what makes it special (autograph, piece of cloth) already on/in it from the get-go, but a few that were obtained in-person as well. Some of the stories surrounding the collectibles (pictures, cards, posters, etc.) are pretty good.

Stay tuned on it, though, for future interesting pieces, like the Marcel Hossa autograph I got while spening a whole day with him as he was bored to death at a team jamboree. We'd made plans to eventually hang out, but unfortunately, he didn't last with the team long enough - and, judging by recent Habs' players' stories, maybe hanging out with a writer and musician who can surely drink a lot would not be something the team would look upon with a gleeful eye...

Creating a new blog for those pieces seemed like the thing to do, to not have this one, which is centered more on my actual life and the events in it and how I actually feel about certain issues that affect my life - and I didn't want the flow of my Life's Story to be interrupted by me describing the shit I own. Or something.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Meme Of 4

You see these all over MySpace and Facebook, you answer them sometimes, then revisit them a month later only to realize your tastes have change drastically.

Another Suburban Mom proposes this meme of 4, taken from The Writing Journey.

So here goes it:

4 jobs I have had:
1. Babysitter
2. Clerk/Assistant-Manager at a used records & book store (first Dream Job to let me down)
3. Night Shift guy at a convenience store (urgh, most held up one in Montréal, too, guns in my face every other night)
4. Call Centre Supervisor (which led to the Second Dream Job that let me down)

4 movies I can watch over and over
1. Pulp Fiction
2. 12 Monkeys
3. Ace Ventura, Pet Detective
4. Me, Myself & Irene

4 places I have lived
1. NDG, Montréal
2. New Harlem, NYC
3. Centre-Sud, Montréal
4. Le Plateau, Montréal

4 TV shows I love

1. Seinfeld
2. The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
3. The Colbert Report
4. South Park

4 places I have been on vacation
1. Cuba
2. Florida
3. Maine
4. Gaspésie

4 of my favorite dishes
1. Poutine
2. Lobster
3. Lasagna
4. Shrimp

4 Websites I Visit Daily
1. Cyberpresse
2. Stillepost
3. Eva Goes Hunting
4. La Vie Est Une Puck

4 Places I Dream of Going
1. back to Cuba - fuck, I wish I could be there 6 months a year!
2. Italy
3. Hawaii
4. Australia

I'm not really fond of these things, but when I start, I could go on answering them for hours.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Fall Of DVDs

So... are DVDs dying an early death?

According to Julia Boostin of CNBC, the numbers are way down, and it can't be blamed on the high definition discs (Blu-Rays), because they're still just a fringe percentage; they also can't be blamed on illegal downloading because broadband capacities just aren't there yet (and, especially in North America, internet service providers are capping most people, so it'll soon become more expensive to download stuff than just purchase it...).

So who's to blame?

In my French-language blog, I often write about the decline of quality in movie entertainment, as many theaters are closing their doors for lack of profits, blaming the media, the internet, the current economy, DVDs, the movie-going public - but never admitting that reserving six different screens in the same complex to such crap as Transformers 2, despite its genius casting of Hottie Of The Moment Megan Fox (yup, I plugged her in here again - and to think I'm not even a 'fan'! - then again, it seems even the film crew wasn't) is an obvious sign of a future downfall.

Whatever. I own a ton of DVDs and have hours of entertainment at home - enough to last me until the end of my life, possibly. So even if they stop making them, I'm taken care of.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Bulgarian Lotto Feeling Lucky

In these times of rampant corruption (see my recent piece about Van Halen's manager and most of the entries regarding my City's administration), it's nice to see transparency like this...

Maybe you've heard, likely not, but in Bulgaria, the same 6 lottery numbers came out as winners twice in a row, a likelyhood of 4,000,000 to 1. Four million. To one. You know, Vegas odds!

An investigation was called by Sports Minister Svilen Neikov, and no wrongdoing was found. Those who conducted it are the same people who run it, so it's fair to say they're trustworthy, I guess - or they would have asked someone else. Right?

I'm so happy we have the internet at weird times like these, so at least we can let the news fly around the world to make us more cynical, rather than just ignorant.

Now back to news about Megan Fox...

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Bagging Megan Fox

Most guys would love to; she's the ''it'' Girl Of The Moment, like Angelina Jolie was, at some point.

I know for a fact one of my kid brothers' dream is to bag Megan Fox.

Well, the guys at National Lampoon did it, and they put it online.

Oh yeah.

The video appears below.

Speaking of Megan Fox, anyone see her Rolling Stone pictorial? Apparently, they put all the pictures up so you'd be tempted into buying the magazine for the interview. It's what people call ''thinking outside the box''. Except this is the reason why there actually is a box to think in...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The History Of Hockey Video Games

With the NHL season looming, journalists are starting to try to predict which team(s) will finish in what position, while teams are figuring out who will remain on their rosters - while their marketing geniuses try to find yet another product (g-strings? really?) to adorn their logo on.

Which means it's also time for hockey video games - namely NHL 10 and NHL 2K10 - the chief rivals.

Here's a blog post for those looking for a historical perspective on the subject.

Myself? I'm getting NHL 10. I've never purchased a game from the 2K series, just the EA classics.

Well, those and Ice Hockey and Blades Of Steel, of course...

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Toronto Alcohol Situation

August 21st, 2009.

Me and 3 friends head to Toronto to see a show - one of many that go there but don't stop in Montréal - it's a nasty habit promoters have of ignoring a complete segment of a band's fanbase.

Now, Torontonians will tell you their city of the economic center of Canada, and they'd be pretty much right. It is, and not just because with every suburb integrated in everything the City calculates (city density, economic capital, revenue, cost of living) is tops, and not just because with those calculations it is the biggest city in the country, but also because it is the most American city we have. Not just in that it has the most corporations making it their base of operaions, but also because it breathes American values, for better or worse. It's also the most Puritan city we have.

But it's fun to be able to just drive there and feel like you're in a whole other country, whether you're from Vancouver or Montréal, it feels different just the same. Just don't expect to get any service in French despite Canada's claim of being a country with ''two official languages'', or you might turn out disappointed - or annoyed and insulted.

Me, I expected it, so I just had fun with it once and the rest of the time didn't even let on that I could even express myself in French. It was a 'blend in' type of day. With two six-hour car rides to get there and come back (which we were doing the same day), no one was in the mood to just fuck around with the locals anyway.

So we get there two hours before show time, found parking relatively close to the venue, and the temperature was amazing: high 20s, extremely sunny, perfect for a half-outdoors venue.

With a bit of time to kill but having eaten a bite on the way, we decide that, perhaps, a beer while we have a look around the venue at all the merch tables that were set up could be a decent idea.

They had a sign that said they'd be carding everyone ''under 30''.

I'm 30. Thus, not under.

The prices were ridiculously high for cheap-ass beverages... A draft Molson Canadian is $11.50, a tall-can Canadian poured in a glass is $9.50, and a tall-can Heineken in a glass is $10. In Canada, unlike, say, in Ireland or England, draft beer is the lowest of the low - watered-down and at times even salty so you're inclined to have more than one. So actual beer was cheaper than its pale imitation, and premium real beer was only 50 cents more than the lame local ale.

So I ask for a Heineken, as I often do because places like that rarely have Stella Artois or Sleemans (let alone Québec microbrews), and the dude proceeds to tell me he doesn't think it's a kind of beer that warrants paying ''premium'' prices on, so I tell him I don't think a fifty cent difference is enough to warrant me drinking Canadian.

He proceeds to ask for my ID, and I provide my health care card. He takes a look at it to make sure I'm old enough, but then said they don't accept that, asks if I have a valid drivers license or a passport. I answer that I live in a real city with relatively decent public transit, so I don't need to drive. He asks for my passport...

My answer: ''you guys have been telling me for 30 years that I'm in my own country when I come here. Why would I need a passport to travel inside the borders of my own country?''

''Well, I'm sorry, sir, I can't sell you the beer.''

''Yeah, but according to my ID, I'm over 30, so even if you don't accept it as valid ID, it proves I'm older than the target range where you card people, so you could admit your mistake and that you shouldn't have carded me in the first place, and give me the beer...''

''No sir, sorry sir, feel free to try with someone else.''

So I turn to my friend, give him a weird look, he produces his drivers license, and buys us two beers.

This is another reason why I love it here, and in the Maritimes, and Nunavut; we're the reasonable part of the country, us 6. B.C. is a hippie state (us on drugs and smiling), the Prairies are cowboy-culture-influenced religious nuts and Ontario is an uptight bureaucracy that everyone's willing to indulge in.

Or maybe they're just angry that we don't like their local shitty beer, that all their sports teams suck, or that they're sold stuff at twice their usual retail price for no apparent reason.

Either way, I'm glad the show was amazing, because it stopped me from thinking about how much I hate that city for for a while.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Oh, What A Night...

Attended a show last night, didn't really have a choice since I was hosting it as part of my festival, but had I had the choice, I wouldn't have gone - I was just too tired. But I'm really glad I did - and for all the right reasons too.

I got there a bit late, maybe 9:45-ish (start time was scheduled for 9:30), and I was really hoping I hadn't missed too much. At that point, I hadn't slept in nearly 34 hours, and not eaten in even longer, but I caught a shish-taouk on the fly from Amir next door and entered the premises of Quai Des Brumes only to realize soundcheck was nearing its end. All's good. But a guitar player breaks a string, and this night could sudenly turn out much longer than I thought - and I was in no mood for that to happen.

It takes all the way until 10 past 10 for the band to start, but when they do, all's forgiven. Technical Kidman, the most original name in this year's line-up of acts, is well worth staying up for. A three-man unit, they proceed to use 6 instruments (only the drummer sticks to his own the whole time) to produce some of the most melodic new sounds I've heard in a while. If Radiohead, in their Hail To The Thief era, had made an incredible record, they may have sounded this good. Granted, it took singer Mathieu a few effects to get the high-pitched perfection he was going for, but the result was clear as night - perfect. 4 songs, 20 minutes, bliss.

Then followed the computer-generated stylings of Low End Ensemble, two guys making two improv pieces of fully instrumental electronic music, the first piece, a masterpiece, resembling something more industrial, and the second more beat-oriented, less loud, but still quite potent. I meant to purchase their recording (which looked like a DVD), but they left before I could get my hands on hard, cold cash to do so. But that just means 'until next time'.

By now we were well past 11 PM, running over 40 minutes late, only to be caught watching the erection of the stage show that is Natalie Portland, four humans including one lady, two huge keyboards, a guitar, a bass, and a three-story workplace containing what seemed like a hundred effects pedals and a full monitoring console...

While it seemed like they were cutting every song short to make way for the headliner sooner rather than later, each one was a universe in its own right, with added instruments hidden from sight like distorted harmonicas and weird kazoos. Added bonus, the less-experimental final track, where the girl sings, accompanied only by a bass and a few subtle effects, like a modern-day Girl From Ipanema, except it'd take place in a war-ravaged metropolis rather than Rio De Janeiro.

It's a shame most patrons left during or after that set, even if they did get three very good shows - they missed the 'pièce de résistance' - A Devil's Din, a true rocker to wake us up for the ride home.

These guys are the real deal - you can see the experience in their faces, and you can hear the years of rock it took to get where they are today during every second they're playing. At times a bit psychedelic, at times balls-out rocking, this quartet knows their way around their instruments - and definitely turn the volume up to 11.

Quality stuff, all around.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Awake Is The New... Nightmare

I've now been awake for 37 of the last 40 hours, including the last 25 in a row. My eyes are doing everything they can to close, my brain can barely stop them anymore.

That Rockstar energy drink didn't work wonders, that's for sure, and the Diet Pepsi is making me want to puke.

I'm fucking freezing one minute, too hot to breathe the next - it's like I'm menopausing. My arms are twitching and moving uncontrollably.

I remember I wrote about not sleeping last year around this time, when I was in Cuba having the time of my adult life, but I was in good dispositions then, and I was drinking every hour I was awake, which isn't the case right now - on both counts.

I'm locked in a cubicle, writing, surrounded by people who are constantly on the phone. Even their never-ending chatter barely keeps me awake. And once this is over, which can be in half an hour or an hour from now, I'm the one calling it, I have to go to a show I booked for my annual Birthday Festival - one I've been looking forward to for at least a couple of weeks now.

I'm just afraid I might fall asleep in the subway on my way there or, worse still, there.

And I know I'll forget how bad I'm feeling at this time tomorrow. Come to think of it, I guess I always do, because sleeping is not something I do on a regular basis, for better or worse - this time, worse. But I keep doing it, to the tune of a couple of sleepless nights a week.

And I feel bad for the familiar faces that I only see during my yearly festivities, and for the new faces I get to meet, but on nights like tonight, I'm just showing up to show up - I'm phoning it in. Good thing I'm just there to enjoy the show and not to perform!

Monday, September 7, 2009

(Not Quite A) Timeline

Man, I have no idea what day we are.

It's labor day, or something, I just checked, but that doesn't help me much.

Some days are different, some aren't, so even the clichés don't feel like helping me out.

It's weird, after spending the bulk of the summer doing just what I had intended to do, which is take it easy, catch up on organizing my shit, take care of my cats, write new songs, try out new bandmates, feed this blog more than just occasionally, look for a better-suited day job (ideally: columnist in a weekly paper, or writer of some sort) to no avail, book my annual festival so that it happens in early-to-mid September - and spend quality time with the people around me.

Along the way, fake priorities reared their ugly little heads, especially in the past 4 or 5 weeks. Suddenly, work weeks started taking up 60 hours of my time - and I started losing track of it. Time.

So much so that I booked a show for my festival, Wednesday August 26th, but for some reason, probably because I hadn't written a date all summer long, I drew flyers with ''May 26th'' all over them - and never thought twice. I went and got them printed... $10 for 200 wrong-date useless flyers.

Then I wrote checks to the government to reimburse my student loans... out of the four I made, two were ok. The other two? Incorrect date, of course. The year was 2008. Needless to say, they were returned to me.

Fucking time. It escapes me, eludes me. I'm 30 years old - the type who still acts like a 16 year-old, or so I've been told - and can't remember what I had to eat 48 hours ago. What's it going to be like if I ever reach 75?

In the meantime, I stopped for a breather this weekend, only to see my neat little fucking world crumble before my eyes. I should have just kept going with blinds on, like Forrest Gump when he starts running for no apparent reason.

Instead I sit here, alone, unable to confront my problems because they've been running away from me all fucking week even though they brought it up themselves. Someone's making me eat a shit sandwich with extra stink, and it so happens I'm not a fan.

I have a feeling that when Mick Jagger sang ''Ti-i-i-ime is on my side, yes it is, boy'', it was addressed specifically, to me, right now, telling me he's got time and can grasp it - but I don't. It flew past me all summer long, and today it stands still, taunting me. Tainting me, even.

Not everyone has the same amount of time, so it's more about what you do with it in life that matters, I think. And what matters, to me, is friends, family and lovers. Everything else is in the way, an obstacle, whether it's work, bills, pastimes - even the fun parts.

The rich can afford to make their time with their people more comfortable (and generous souls can even help others who are not in their close circle), but at the end of the day, that's all there is: people, and time. And at times, some people have had their time, and it runs out.

I'm still undecided where I'm going to run with mine.

Shit, I don't even remember what day we are.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Van Nailed 'Em!

Some stories deserve to be read elsewhere than just on music-specific websites...

Here's the deal: Irving Azoff has a day job: he manages rock band Van Halen. Now, I don't want to debate over the quality of the rock that Van Halen delivers - at least not today - but we can all agree that they've reached some level of success.

As their manager, Azoff has time and time again criticized scalpers and bootleggers as being the worst possible scum on earth.

When came the time to expand his horizons, however, he decided to found Front Line Management, a concert ticket 'brokering' company that profits from selling tickets at a higher price than face value.

Oh, but that wasn't enough. Front Line Management was co-owned by ticket giant Ticketmaster, a major ticket distributor if there is one... you can see it coming can't you?

Like every stupid idea, this one needed an obvious name, hence 'Project Showtime', which consisted of pulling (i.e. never putting on the actual market) the best tickets in the house and giving them to private sellers, who would sell them on Ticketmaster's affiliate, Front Line Management. At a 70% cut of all profits above face value (sometimes twenty times the actual cost), of course, for the band, its manager, and Ticketmaster.

And who came up with this scheme? Azoff, of course. But he also called it off, because none of the thieves who were part of it trusted each other enough to keep it going.

And what is Azoff's new side-job nowadays? Ticketmaster’s chief executive, of course.

And only Gibson Guitars' website has run this story so far, apart from the Wall Street Journal who did the investigating. Nice.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lizzie Miller: Groundbreaker - Or Glitch In The Matrix?

So Glamour made a healthy model (Lizzie Miller) a centerpiece of its last edition by showing her nude, un-airbrushed, showing a small belly and womanly curves. Most readers gave it praise for finally showing a normal, healthy woman - with reason. She's damn beautiful - and I say that with not usually liking blondes in particular.

But are we witnessing the rebirth of the actual Hot Woman (i.e. not one that is shaped like a 9-year-old boy), or is this just one eye candy before we go back to constantly seeing cocaine-fueled double-digit-weighing anorexic boobless walking sacks of bone?

My guess: I'm sure that despite the overwhelmingly positive reaction to this, it'll soon blow over and we'll have super-skinny/unhealthy models again for a long time, if only because Society's brains have been fed it so long it forgot anything better exists.

It's sad, but the way the world has been going this past decade, the spiral just seems intent on heading downwards until... well, we'll know when we get there, and we're not going to like it. As a species. Urgh.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I Smell A Crossover

Along the inevitable road to ''One Company Owning All Humans'', Disney announced it has taken over/merged with Marvel Comics. That's right - the empire that once brought critically acclaimed animation (and now only brings you safe, retarded-family-friendly material) has taken over the once mighty and almost fallen but now regarded as safe haven for serious writers place of creation/revisitation comic-book giant, home to roughly 5000 characters.

I guess they can stop stealing from Hans Christian Andersen and other cultures' mythology, at least for a few months.

But we're talking about a corporation that owned Miramax and wouldn't release Kids, Dogma, and Fahrenheit 9/11, arguably three of the most important films of the last 15 years. And I will argue it, if need be, in a later column. Three works of great artistic merit, one that served as a wake-up call to just how fucked up teens were getting in the mid-90s, one by Kevin Smith, one of the best writers (possibly the best dialogue writer) of the past 15 years, and one by money-making renowned documentary filmmaker Michael Moore - not just small names, ones that were sure to make a lot of cash.

But Disney didn't have the balls to stand up against 'parenting' and religious groups who threatened to not watch ABC (a TV network they own) or go to their movies. As a giant in the world of multimedia, Disney should have taken them on - like, really, you're gonna stop your kids from seeing Tarzan? You won't buy them the Buzz Lightyear movie for Christmas? Yeah, right. There's nothing else for them! You'll make them - and ourselves miserable! Go ahead!

But no. At every single occasion, Disney balked, backed, retreated.

Now we're talking about a publisher of comic books that has its own line of adult-oriented story arcs (Marvel Max), writers who have come back into the fold because they're finally free to express themselves completely again (after having departed to Vertigo and Image for most of the past decade), and a full line of superhero movies lined up until the middle of the next decade, in an era when superhero movies are dark, violent, psychological, and deal with real-life issues like war, terrorism, the search for one's self - where sometimes, someone good must do very nasty, evil things to get to where he's going.

And we're to believe Donald Duck and Goofy will let The Punisher torture and kill mob bosses, that Iron Man won't try to hit bag Snow White and catch some sort of disease, that Hulk won't be made into some tender beast who can snuggle up to Pluto?

Let me remind you we're talking about a corporation that turned a (family) movie franchise, and a bad one at that, into an actual professional sports team - and then took its players' names and used them in an animated TV series where they are turned into hockey-playing crime-fighting ducks, including one who sports a mullet. A show, of course, that ran on ABC.

We've had millions of examples how and why these corporations and conglomerates are not Keepers Of the Arts, but it seems even worse when the company in question is one that always pussies out.

The only way this could work out is if ALL these conditions are met:

* Disney has to keep out of all Marvel's decisions
* not the same screenplay over and over while just changing the character
* no songs sang by the cast in the movie
* having the balls to resist 'boycotting campaigns' from religious and 'parenting' groups
* a bit of the old ultra-violence
* T & A
* name directors with free reigns (as Sam Raimi in Spider-Man, Jon Favreau for Iron Man, Bryan Singer for the first couple of X-Men films...)

Only then might it work.