Sunday, July 28, 2013

And In The Weird Crime Section

Montréal police are looking for an unusual type of criminal these days... a man who, uh, specializes in the theft of women's underwear.

He steals them when they're hanging to dry and, more often than not, goes back to the crime scene and deposits an envelope containing explicit pictures of him and the stolen lingerie. He seems to have a preference for women in their fifties or sixties - or takes what he can get in his comfort zone, comprised of Jeanne-Mance, Saint-Urbain, Legendre and the Metropolitan.

He has that kind of familiar face, like one of my friends (sorry, Kevin), or one of those cheesy French-language comedians, be it Billy Tellier or another of his generation that I can never differentiate either by their looks or their content. I guess if you have any information, you could call the cops at 514-393-1133...

Saturday, July 27, 2013

This Week's Top 10s

Top 10 Songs:

10. CAME BACK HAUNTED, Nine Inch Nails (2013)
9. EVIL THINGS, The Black Angels (2013)
8. DON'T WALK AWAY EILEEN, Sam Roberts (2003)
7. X, Xzibit (2000)
6. DESPAIR, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2013)
5. SUBWAY, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2013)
4. MAJOR DISTRIBUTION (feat. Snoop Dogg and Young Jeezy), 50 Cent (2013)
3. FOUR BLACK SHEEP, Martha Wainwright (2012)
2. SUNSHINE OF YOUR LOVE, Cream (1967)
1. LEAVE BEHIND, Martha Wainwright (2012)

Top 10 J.J. Cale Songs:

10. When This War Is Over (with Eric Clapton) (The Road To Escondido, 2006)
9. Crazy Mama (Naturally, 1972)
8. Cajun Moon (Okie, 1974)
7. Call Me The Breeze (Naturally, 1972)
6. Carry On (Shades, 1981)
5. Lies (Really, 1973)
4. After Midnight (Naturally, 1972)
3. Cocaine (Troubador, 1976)
2. Magnolia (Naturally, 1972)
1. Sensitive Kind (5, 1979)

Sure, Breeze has a similar feel to When This War Is Over,  that's because they both keep the mix of blues and bluegrass to its essence. And while some of his songs from the 1980s were very well-written, I have trouble with drum machines and the overall 80s sound, which is why only the sublime and subtle Carry On made the list.

R.I.P. J.J. Cale

A lot of the folks I grew up reading (Hunter S. Thompson), listening to (Lux Interior) have died, and it was a matter of time before one of my Sacred Five Songwriters (Tom Waits, Eddie Vedder, J.J. Cale, Lou Reed and Renaud) also went down that road...

And yesterday, it was Cale, who died of a heart attack at age 74 in La Jolla, California (near San Diego).

The man whose songs were made popular by other artists - usually just a few years after he'd released them himself - such as Eric Clapton, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Tom Petty, Carlos Santana, and Captain Beefheart was widely considered as the pioneer of the Tulsa sound, which was pretty much a cross between blues, bluegrass and country found on either side of Oklahoma, where he grew up.

The only time I was aware that he came to Montréal was around 2003, but tickets had been sold out by the time I had gathered the cash for my ticket. A musician's musician, he was respected by the biggest names in rock, most of whom are in the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame:
Clapton, when asked by Vanity Fair several years ago "What living person do you most admire?" replied simply "JJ Cale." Neil Young has said, "Of all the players I ever heard, it's gotta be (Jimi) Hendrix and JJ Cale who are the best electric guitar players."
High praise indeed, but all well deserved.

I've covered three of his songs myself, Sensitive Kind, Magnolia, and Cocaine, usually a heckler-friendly tune to play in seedy bars in the wee hours of the night, though very few people are aware Cale wrote it - as is the case for pretty much all of his songs.

Losing this major talent is a huge blow to great music. I urge you to grab any one of his 14 albums, his 2006 collaboration with Clapton The Road To Escondido, or at the very least, his first hits package Special Edition, which also happens to be how I got to discover him as the CD was given to me by my brother's godfather, Jacques Thériault, on my 13th birthday.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Video Of The Week: The Raveonettes

In the first half of the 00s, I legally downloaded thousands of live concerts from bands I knew, loved, respected and was fond of. From going on such sites as Etree or Dime A Dozen and its predecessor whose name I forget, I also got to learn of new bands I'd otherwise never have heard of, like The Kills, Sahara Hotnights, and The Raveonettes.

The Raveonettes hail from Copenhagen, Denmark and draw their influences from 50s and 60s rock (the chord progressions), the Velvet Underground (the atmospheres and lyric content) and dark electronic pop à la Joy Division.

And while the line-up has changed and diminished from one record to the next (they're now on their 12th release - six albums, 5 EPs and one B-sides compilation), there have been two constants: vocalists Sune Rose Wagner (also guitarist and composer) and Sharin Foo (one-time bass player, now percussionist). They are the two remaining members and have been for the last six years.

This particular track is from their 2003 release, Chain Gang Of Love, which I listened to a lot back in the day, interspersed with some Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, White Stripes, VU and Richard Hell.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Oh, Anthony Weiner!

One-time budding stand-up comic Anthony Weiner turned to politics at a relatively young age, first as New York City councilman, then the House OF Representatives, until he was caught in a sexting scandal, where he tweeted and texted pictures of his naked self and/or erect penis (covered or not) to several women. The ''star'' of the scandal was this picture, which made the rounds for months:

Anthony's weiner
He formally resigned from Congress of June 21, 2011, and entered rehab.

He warned us upon his return to the limelight - as he officially entered the NYC mayoral race a month ago - that new pictures could eventually come out, but that he is now ''rehabilitated'' from his ''sex addiction''.

But pictures have surfaced, and they seem more recent than we were led to believe, though the only timeline Weiner admits is ''some did occur after my resignation''. Here's what he said:
I said that other texts and photos were likely to come out and today they have... I want to again say that I am very sorry to anyone who was on the receiving end of these messages and the disruption this has caused.
But when a guy goes by the nickname Carlos Danger, isn't he kind of asking for it? Slate seems to think so, and they've established a possible timeline of his activities...

The Dirty, on the other hand, got a hold of a bunch of texts he exchanged with one woman in particular, of which I'll just re-post this one (check it out here for the rest):

And yet he won't back out of the race... then again, he didn't want to resign in 2011, but the Democratic Party forced him to...

More on this story as it, uh, unfolds develops.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

R.I.P. Dennis Farina

As fate would have it, within hours of Kate Middleton, Duchess Of Cambridge giving birth to England's newest member of the Freeloader Family (and owner of Canada), the (rest of the) world lost one of the acting world's most precious actors, Dennis Farina.

The irony wasn't lost on me, as the very first thing that came into my mind upon learning this news was this clip from Snatch:

Farina died of a blood clot in the lung, at age 69. If you wonder why he was so good at playing cops, detectives, or hardened criminal bosses, he spent 18 years as a police officer in Chicago, of all places.

Good actor deaths often come in threes. First James Gandolfini (heart attack), now Dennis Farina. The following actors who specialize in ''tough guy'' roles should check into a hospital immediately for a preemptive check-up: Harvey Keitel, Samuel L. Jackson, Bruce Willis, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Madsen, Clint Eastwood, Steve Buscemi, Mickey Rourke, Danny Trejo, Sam Elliott, Jean Reno, Robert Forster and Christopher Walken.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Welcome To The 14th Century

By now you've probably heard about Marte Deborah Dalelv, the Norwegian woman who was sentenced to 16 months in prison in Dubai after having gone to the police to report she had been raped by a colleague.

If not, here are the facts - those that can be proven in a court of law, at least: she went out one night with friends and work colleagues, was accompanied to her hotel by a colleague around 3AM, things ensued, she managed to get out of the room she was in when room service came for the wake-up call, called the police to report she had just been raped, then spent four days in jail; her passport was confiscated and never returned.

After four days, the only thing that happened was this:
A piece of paper with Arabic text was handed to her, she said. An Arabic speaker told her it listed two charges against her: one for sex outside of marriage and the other for public consumption of alcohol. Both are violations of the law in the United Arab Emirates.
She claims her colleague raped her that night - and it is (most) probably true.

She was later told by either the police or the person managing her case (who was also her translator, the United Arab Emirates being an Arab country) that she should change her story from ''rape'' to ''consensual sex'' so she could just forget about the ordeal and go back home, and deal with the situation from there.

But as anyone in the right frame of mind would have realized, that would not only be admitting guilt about the two charges against her, it would also add perjury to the mess - and that's what she was found guilty of. Well, that and the other two, of course, which her recant pretty much admitted to:
Dalelv was convicted Tuesday on all three charges and was sentenced to one year in jail for having unlawful sex, three months in jail for making a false statement and one month for illegal consumption of alcohol.
There are three things I want to say about this case. First, it's fucking awful what happened to her, her government should stop at nothing to get her back home safely. And I do mean nothing: money, bribery, sending in the fucking army, getting Bill Clinton to act as negotiator - anything.

Secondly, though, we all need to reflect a bit more before we accept to go into foreign countries, find out what we're getting into before accepting the consequences. Many all over the world are reacting to this particular story and saying the UAE is an ''ass-backwards'' country, where women have no rights, etc. Which is all true. She is not the first woman in this situation. 99% of them know not to go to the police with their story because it'll just make matters worse, but all of those who did got in trouble for it:
In December 2012, a British woman reported being raped by three men in Dubai. She was found guilty of drinking alcohol without a license and fined.
In January 2010, a British woman told authorities she was raped by an employee at a Dubai hotel. She was charged with public intoxication and having sex outside of marriage.
An Australian woman reported in 2008 that she was drugged and gang-raped. She was convicted of having sex outside marriage and drinking alcohol, and she was sentenced to 11 months in prison.
The men there live in a culture that lets this happen all the time; every time one (or a bunch of them) get away with it, it just reinforces their attitude and almost encourages them to act this way. If 91 women can get raped in merely 4 days in public in Egypt (other reports claim ''at least'' 169 were raped in Tahir Square in the same period, 80 on July third alone), a 'moderate' country which has just discovered democracy, how the fuck do you think they're going to act in one where Sharia Law is in full effect?

Which brings me to #3. I'm all for instituting rules, and protecting people - heck, I've often been quoted as saying many troubles would be saved if all countries pledged that well-being laws would apply to all citizens equally and if there were also a universal minimum wage - which would put an end to child labor and poorly-maintained death/suicide-factories in third world countries.

But one thing we can't do overnight - nor in a few centuries, apparently - is change the mores and customs of folks. Countries are different for a reason, and immigration is massive for another - well, a lot of other reasons, but one of them is that if you don't like where you were born, and it doesn't fit your moral compass, and you do not feel like you can make enough of a difference there to make it more like you'd want it to be, you can leave. You can smuggle yourself out, or you can apply for a visa, for immigration - as a potential resident or refugee. Almost anywhere.

Sure, you can be born into a world where your rights are negated from day one and not even be aware that it's wrong, much less that you can change it. This is particularly true of countries who restrict their citizens' rights and/or access to media and information. But people from the West should know what they're getting into by now when working abroad - especially since most of them are qualified, certified, highly-paid skilled workers, usually very educated. They should refuse at the very first sign of unsettling business.

Now, don't get me wrong: I AM NOT BLAMING THE VICTIM for getting raped. She ''wasn't asking for it'', she was just overpowered by the wrong asshole who happens to have been taking advantage not only of her, but also of the fact that he was in a country that forgives men for those types of actions while it judges women for far simpler transgressions (drinking? really?).

Maybe she knew that those things happened in Dubai, but didn't know how frequent it got, because most of those crimes go unreported, and she wrongly evaluated her chances of it happening to her as being similar to Norway.

We should seriously re-evaluate sending them workers at all, or at the very least make sure they're protected 24 hours a day. Anything else just seems like it would have no effect on how women get treated in the UAE anyway.

Again, my three points:
1. get her back home safely, quickly
2. I don't think we can change the UAE
3. we should stop sending folks there, short of having them be accompanied by a Blackwater commando for protection

Just writing this made me angrier than I was reading the article, because three hours went into it rather than 10 minutes. Now I need to go throw up.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Beating Glenn Danzig Into A Book Deal

You may have seen the video a few years back. It took place backstage at a festival show, and Glenn Danzig was being a bit of a prima donna, and got into an altercation with the North Side Kings' Danny Marianino, who knocked him out cold:

Danzig fans went nuts and for years took to the internets and called Marianino (and his band) names - usually a variation of or an expression containing the word 'fags' - and he has written a tell-all book about the whole situation. scored an interview. I think it's probably a better read than a whole book; I fail to see how 200 pages can tell the tale better than one article, though, unless it's just a way to get back at every Danzig fan who ever wrote him an angry email individually, which is an endeavor I endorse (but won't read).

How Poetically Aggressive German Sounds

Here are seven words and how they're pronounced in French, English, Italian, Spanish and German:

I'm particularly fond of the last two in German...

Of note, these were probably all done by Americans, because the French accent is somewhat off, and the British one sounds like an imitation of a parody...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Funny Of The Day

Cute or thug?

This raccoon steals cats' food. The last 17 seconds are particularly funny, of the watch-over-and-over-again variety...

Friday, July 19, 2013

Mid-July Top-10s

Top 10 Songs:

10. REAL A LIE, Melissa Auf Der Maur (2004)
9. HOLD ON, Alabama Shakes (2012)
8. LOVESONG, The Cure (1989)
7. NO WOW, The Kills (2005)
6. HOIST THAT RAG, Tom Waits (2004)
5. SUBWAY, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2013)
4. CAME BACK HAUNTED, Nine Inch Nails (2013)
3. FOUR BLACK SHEEP, Martha Wainwright (2012)
2. LEAVE BEHIND, Martha Wainwright (2012)
1. MAJOR DISTRIBUTION (feat. Snoop Dogg and Young Jeezy), 50 Cent (2013)

Top 10 Johnny Depp Films:

10. FROM HELL, The Hughes Brothers (2001)
9. PUBLIC ENEMIES, Michael Mann (2009)
8. THE RUM DIARY, Bruce Robinson (2011)
7. SLEEPY HOLLOW, Tim Burton (1999)
6. LOST IN LA MANCHA, Keith Fulton & Louis Pepe (2002)
4. ED WOOD, Tim Burton (1994)
3. BLOW, Ted Demme (2001)
2. DEAD MAN, Jim Jarmusch (1995)
1. FEAR & LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, Terry Gilliam (1999)

Superb Parody

I'll give you a choice today, between watching this parody of Jay-Z & Alicia Keys' Empire State Of Mind referring to Newark rather than New York, either as a stand-alone piece of art:

... or through a side-by-side comparison with the original:

The verdict?

Epic Win. A+

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Severe Thunderstorm Alert

You may recall this guy from a while back, warning Montrealers about snowstorms...

Now he's warning us about thunder storms:

Remember to ''keep your Iphones charged, stay away from golf fields, and get back inside your homes'' tomorrow...

I'm sure glad I no longer live in the dump I was in last year, when flood after flood degraded an already crumbling fucking building... I would have lost all my shit. And probably my cats, too.

So hide your kids, hide your wife, 'cause they're flooding everybody out here...

The (Cute) Face Of Terror

Big uproar in the social media (and media in general) regarding Rolling Stone's front page, showing Boston bombings suspect Dzhokar Tsarnaev...

Critics are saying they make him look glamourous, like a ''rock star'', comparing it to their covers featuring The Doors' Jim Morrison:

Sure, if dying in your bath is what passes for glamour.

Funny how no one batted an eye when the New York Times featured the exact same fucking picture on their front page:

I know the concept of ''innocent until proven guilty'' has taken a beating of late, and how there are innocents on death row and George Zimmerman walks free...

But to call for a boycott of one of the most important publications of the 20th Century because they dared show that appearances can be deceiving, that a popular kid who is a good student can veer from the straight path, that not all terrorists are disgruntled old men with long beards - is completely missing the point.

Shit can happen, and can spiral out of anyone's control. Not all troubled teens turn downright ''evil'', not every honor student becomes a killer, but the ''perfect storm'' of circumstances can bring a home-grown threat to life just as much as blindly waging useless wars abroad, or blindly supporting countries that get on other countries' nerves on purpose.

I say ''kudos, Rolling Stone''. Instead of putting Maroon 5 or Bruno Mars on your cover for a vapid, 3-page piece on how hard it is to do your own shopping when you're a superstar, you strapped your balls on and went ahead with the main article of the summer.

Then again, you also put Charles Manson on your cover once...

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bear Trap

Stephen Colbert would be proud...

New news reporter shows how to walk away from a bear, fend off its attack, and lie on the ground in this hilarious video... avoid eye contact at all costs...

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Tattoo You

Some tattoos are amazing, the vast majority are insipid. Or at least uninspired.

But a small percentage are also ridiculous, even more so when they are poorly spelled.

Two sites compiled lists of the worst, first the original, of which this is my favourite exerpt:

(I'd regret something right about now...)

And the sequel, of which this genius is my stand-out performer:

With a special mention to this blissed-out lady:

Monday, July 15, 2013

Video Of The Week: Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band

In the wake of the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin debacle, one can't help but think back to 1999 Amadou Diallo murder. If you don't remember, here's a quick Wikipedia quote:
Amadou Bailo Diallo (September 2, 1975 – February 4, 1999) was a 23-year-old immigrant from Guinea who was shot and killed in New York City on February 4, 1999 by four New York City Police Department plain-clothed officers: Sean Carroll, Richard Murphy, Edward McMellon and Kenneth Boss, who fired a combined total of 41 shots, 19 of which struck Diallo, outside his apartment at 1157 Wheeler Avenue in the Soundview section of The Bronx. The four were part of the now-defunct Street Crimes Unit. All four officers were acquitted at trial in Albany, New York.[1]
Diallo was unarmed at the time of the shooting, and a firestorm of controversy erupted subsequent to the event as the circumstances of the shooting prompted outrage both within and outside New York City. Issues such as police brutality, racial profiling, and contagious shooting were central to the ensuing controversy.
Outrage ensued, of course, and many artists spoke out, first against the shooting, then the verdict. Among the most vocal singers who recorded songs in response were Wyclef Jean (Diallo, featuring Youssou N'Dour), Le Tigre (Bang! Bang!) and Bruce Springsteen, who gets the honors this week.

The video was filmed during the E Street Band's 10-night run at Madison Square Garden by filmmaker Jonathan Demme (The Silence Of The Lambs), which also spawned a DVD.

Springsteen's intensity is best appreciated through live performances - you want to see his face struggling, his neck veins nearly exploding, his fist clenched when hearing the songs. You also get a better feel for his backing band, capable both of balls-out rock and incredible subtlety.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Killer Promotion

There is a huge difference between the American Justice system and the Canadian one, particularly in Québec, which has a large part of its law book inspired by the French. And there are tons of differences between the George Zimmerman killing of Trayvon Martin in Florida and Constable Jean-Loup Lapointe killing Fredy Villanueva in Montréal nearly five years ago (and whose case has yet to result in a ruling).

But there are also tons of similarities: both were unarmed teenagers from visible minorities, murdered by people who were under the impression that they were unpunishable representatives of The Law.

I don't know what the future holds for Zimmerman, though I'm fairly confident that if he is tried in a civil case, he will receive tons of donations from right-wing bigots, racists and Fox News viewers; I do know, however, that Lapointe will now be a member of Montréal's SWAT team, where he'll have more leeway into firing his weapon.

We're talking about a man who took all of 57 seconds to exit his vehicle, wrestle a kid (Dany Villanueva, Fredy's younger brother) to the ground to handcuff him, tell him to stop squirming, shoot three bullets into the deceased and two more in two other teens. All while his partner, Stéphanie Pilotte, never once felt the need to pull out her gun. Can you say ''trigger-happy''?

The article appeared in this morning's Montréal Gazette, and while it mostly goes into listing facts and does its best to not take sides, two passages struck me as journalist Sue Montgomery subtly denouncing the prevailing situation in these cases:
“This squad is called on more often to use their guns because they’re involved in high-risk interventions,” said Alain Arsenault, whose client was injured by one of Lapointe’s bullets. “I think it was a bad decision on the part of police force management (to give Lapointe the job).”
Montreal police spokesman Ian Lafrenière said that Lapointe applied for the highly sought-after job, and got it after undergoing rigorous tests. (...)
“He has never been found guilty of anything, so it would be hard for us to keep him in an office or something like that,” he said. “And we’re not going to say don’t take that officer on the SWAT team because some people might think it doesn’t look good.”
The spokesman's quote is particularly revealing in this first passage, because it brings light to the fact that cops get investigated by other cops who almost always clear them of any wrongdoing, and even in the rare cases where they are taken to court, they get off Scott free. And then they have the audacity to brag about their so-called ''clean'' records...

Then there's this:
SWAT, or technical response officers, intervene in special police operations such as hostage-takings, bomb defusings or disappearances under water, which require them to have diving skills. Montreal’s SWAT team was present during the student demonstrations last year.
Reading between the lines, it comes down to this: if discontent people get together to mass-protest - like in the mass-strikes part of the student movement last Spring - there will be more (actual) killers present to stop you than last year, and now they've perfected their kettle technique, so there'll be no escape...

Saturday, July 13, 2013

''Not'' Guilty

I am just as angry as the next guy that the ''justice'' system has excused George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin. But unlike most of my friends, from what had transpired surrounding the case of late, I kind of knew that's where it was going to go.

But the shock is epic. Even The Huffington Post decided to get opinionated:

The Michael Moore quote up-top is quite true. Not just that, but Trayvon Martin's actions that night were scrutinized way beyond what normally transpires in ''normal'' murder cases. As a matter of fact, it was treated a little in the same way rape is, where they have more questions about the victim than they do the culprit (What was she wearing? Had she been drinking?), and the jury's fear of ''a Black man'' overshadowed the facts.

Because what this verdict means, pretty much, it's that since Black people appear more dangerous, it is excusable to kill them even if/when they're unarmed, teenagers, and coming home from the convenience store. Especially if they're wearing hoodies. A good lawyer could still get you off for killing one in a suit, but ''street'' wear is a no-brainer.

It has stopped being a ''Justice system'' and has become a ''criminal assessment system'' instead, where one type of victim is more complicit in their fate than others, and aggressors can be cleared of charges despite all evidence pointing to the contrary if they can arise enough suspicion on the victim.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for ''Innocent Until Proven Guilty'' - when the rules aren't rigged. This is exactly what I was referring to two weeks ago when I said:
with a legacy that lives on today in the disparity of the applications of the Law codes and how minorities are targeted most by the police and ''the system'' in general in the U.S.
And you can't ''just'' blame Florida, either. Case in point: this black woman mother who got a 20-year jail sentence for firing warning shots. WARNING SHOTS. At her abusive husband. And guess who's going to take care of their child now?

 There is a Mahatma Gandhi quote that goes along the lines of:
"There is a higher court than courts of justice, and that is the court of conscience. It supersedes all other courts."
But not only does it not apply to this situation, it doesn't even apply to this generation, because whenever shit like this happens, those in the wrong are convinced they're right. Say what you will about Barack Obama, he's always trying to choose between the lesser of two (or four) evils; Fox News, George W. Bush, John Ashcroft, Dick Cheney, Rick Perry, Stephen Harper: these people either deliberately force the choice to be between two evils, or just create one themselves.

And there are too many of them with too wide a platform to spread their stupidity around to masses who are unable of critical thinking (or too blinded by their stance on smaller issues to change sides for the larger ones). And that leads to this. And the system once again proves it's fucked.

The Perils Of Live TV

Bet you heard about the plane crash just outside San Francisco, from Asiana Flight 214...

Now watch this...

Wow. And she just read 'em as if everything was fine... someone's gonna lose their job over this, luckily for her, it won't be the anchor!

An intern at the NTSB will likely suffer the same fate, as this statement implies:
The National Transportation Safety Board apologizes for inaccurate and offensive names that were mistakenly confirmed as those of the pilots of Asiana flight 214, which crashed at San Francisco International Airport on July 6.
Earlier today, in response to an inquiry from a media outlet, a summer intern acted outside the scope of his authority when he erroneously confirmed the names of the flight crew on the aircraft.
The NTSB does not release or confirm the names of crewmembers or people involved in transportation accidents to the media. We work hard to ensure that only appropriate factual information regarding an investigation is released and deeply regret today's incident.
Appropriate actions will be taken to ensure that such a serious error is not repeated.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Top 10s Of The Week

Top 10 Songs:

10. MIND YOUR MANNERS, Pearl Jam (2013)
9. BELLBOTTOMS, Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (1994)
8. LIL WAYNE (feat. Ludacris), Eminem (2013)
7.CAME BACK HAUNTED, Nine Inch Nails (2013)
6. HELL BROKE LUCE, Tom Waits (2011)
5. SACRILEGE, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2013)
4. DOOM AND GLOOM, The Rolling Stones (2012)
3. MAGICAL THINKING, The Guest Bedroom (2012)
2. BROKEN PROMISE (feat. Michael Stipe), Placebo (2006)
1. MAJOR DISTRIBUTION (feat. Snoop Dogg and Young Jeezy), 50 Cent (2013)

With my Video Of The Week being Nine Inch Nails, I was inspired to reflect upon the band's past, and see where the new cut lies in the band's cannon...

Top 10 Nine Inch Nails Songs:

10. ME, I'M NOT, Year Zero (2007)
9. HERESY, The Downward Spiral (1994)
8. ECHOPLEX, The Slip (2008)
7. STARFUCKERS, INC., The Fragile (1999)
6. CLOSER, The Downward Spiral (1994)
4. HURT, The Downward Spiral (1994)
3. MARCH OF THE PIGS, The Downward Spiral (1994)
2. HEAD LIKE A HOLE, Pretty Hate Machine (1989)
1. THE PERFECT DRUG, Lost Highway soundtrack (1997)

 Honorable mention: DEAD SOULS (Joy Division cover, from the The Crow soundtrack, 1993)

Sure, CLOSER was overplayed and is now a staple of strip shows everywhere, spliced between Girls, Girls, Girls (Mötley Crüe) and Crazy (Aerosmith), but the fact remains: it's a superbly-written, great song. Also, if you'd have asked me in 1994, HURT would probably have ranked first, but PERFECT DRUG is a perfect mix of everything I love about NIN, and you can't help but think about Johnny Cash's version and figure in any other list, he'll have rendered it justice, too, so it's okay if it slips a tad. Also, while I can listen to Broken (and Fixed) in their entirety, on repeat, all day, there isn't a stand-out track I'd never skip on my Ipod, though HAPPINESS IN SLAVERY and PINION may come close. Still, I was surprised to see a variety of albums featured, though my preference for Spiral is obvious...

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Cash-Making Punks

About  a month ago, the D.I.Y./punk/music website Dying Scene ma a list that showed the ''10 Punks Who Are Richer Than You Think''. Here it is:

10. Marky Ramone: 2 million
9. Lars Frederiksen (of Rancid): 10 million
8. Tim Armstrong (founder of Rancid, Transplants, Operation Ivy, and label Hellcat Records): 13 million
7. Davey Havok (of AFI): 20 million
6. Ian Mackaye (of Minor Threat, Fugazi, The Evens and founder of Dischord Records)
5. Billie Joe Armstrong (of Green Day): 55 million
4. Dexter Holland (of The Offspring): 65 million
3, 2 and 1: Blink-182, who have two members worth roughly $60M each, and drummer Travis Barker (also of Transplants) who would be worth 85...

Notable absentee were Henry Rollins (whose worth is etimated at $12M but includes revenue from spoken performances and film work) and Brett Gurewitz, co-founder of both the band Bad Religion and the biggest punk label Epitaph. Then again, the list was about those you didn't expect, and you sure as hell expect those two to be on it.

Also, Green Day, The Offspring and AFI haven't been ''punk'' in a long time, and Blink-182 might never have been...

I've had many an argument with some folks about the veracity of these estimates, particularly Tim Armstrong and Ian Mackaye.

Let's start with Mackaye. As owner of Dischord, who not only sold their CDs to stores worldwide (mom-and-pop shops as well as huge surfaces) but also by mail at $10 a cassette and $12 per CD. They have released nearly 250 titles, some of which sold very well. Fugazi themselves have three albums that sold over a million copies each.

Of the 12 bucks, say 3 goes to the band, 6 to the label, and 3 to overhead and distribution... the band revenue gets split 4 ways, the label profits gets split in two. Mackaye gets shares of both for all of his projects, plus songwriter revenue (he always writes at least half the songs); he gets label revenue for all the other bands he puts out. Then there's touring revenue - not all that high considering Fugazi played for years with tickets prices below $10 a pop, but it's safe to say they at the very least didn't lose money touring. Just through Fugazi, Mackaye would have made 5-10 million, easily. He doesn't drink nor take drugs, either, so it didn't go up in flames - or down in vomit. Add the rest, you get your 25.

Once that is established, the case for Tim Armstrong becomes intriguing: Rancid are much ''bigger'' than Fugazi, but Hellcat Records are distributed by Epitaph - which means label shares are smaller. Armstrong isn't as clean as Mackaye, so some of the money he's earned did go to, uh, waste. On the other hand, he did venture outside of punk, writing a few songs for P!nk, producing records for Jimmy Cliff and a bunch of punk bands, and collaborating with mainstream artists such as Cypress Hill. Also, Transplants licensed a song to a shampoo commercial that ran for three years - and Rancid's music was in a Gap ad. On the other hand, he did go through a really messy divorce with Brody Dalle (of The Distillers fame, now married to Queens Of The Stone Age head honcho Josh Homme). Those cost money...

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Not The Best Time For Toronto To Imitate Calgary

It's not enough that once-Liberal Toronto has taken a turn for the right politically with federal politics and a (crackhead) mayor worthy of Texas, it now has to deal with floods strangely reminiscent of the ones in Calgary a couple of weeks ago:

Calgary clean-up
The inside of the Calgary Saddledome is shown in this photo provided by the NHL’s Calgary Flames last week. The team said flood waters reached as high as the eighth row of seating in the stadium.
Toronto highway
Some Torontonians have been stuck inside the downtown subway system since Monday night.
A GO train is also partially submerged on the Richmond Hill line that left Union around rush hour. The murky brown water, which spilled through the bottom floor of the train has left passengers stuck for (...) hours.(...) All flights at Billy Bishop Airport have now been suspended due to the storm, according to Pamela McDonald, spokeswoman for the Toronto Port Authority.(...) Toronto EMS are recommending people do not travel if they can as cars are creating obstacles for paramedics. They also said they have received a large number of people stuck in elevators. (...) The Toronto Region Conservation Authority also warned that the banks of the Don River were at risk of collapse in the area of Hoggs Hollow in the area of Yonge St. and York Mills.
Shit, it's like a cross between a natural disaster in a third-world country in the 1960s with the information age and a million levels of bureaucracy/government agencies. At least Canada's version of FEMA won't stall for days with their rescue mission.

Good luck to all concerned.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Video Of The Week: Nine Inch Nails

This had all the promise and the making of an instant classic, of a timeless piece of art: Trent Reznor resurrecting Nine Inch Nails, returning to a sound more electronic, harking back to prior to The Downward Spiral, closer to the Fixed/Broken EPs, and an artsy black-and-white video directed by none other than David Lynch, one of the most daring, unique, visionary American film directors of the past quarter-century; the pair had previously collaborated on Lynch's amazing Lost Highway, as NIN wrote two songs for the film (The Perfect Drug and the end credits' Driver Down), and Reznor producing the film's soundtrack.

What we're left with is (relatively) standard experimental film fare, vaguely inspired by Luis Buñuel's and Salvador Dali's Un Chien Andalou (the eyes), at other times reminiscent of the works of Kenneth Anger (the subversive and repetitive subject matter), Norman McLaren (the animation, the scratching of the lens), René Clair, Stan Brackhage, Fernand Léger (the repetitive found images of an odd dance/ballet), and maybe even Georges Méliès (the moon-face).

I wouldn't call it ''cliché'', but it's not all that original, either.

But I decided to give it a few days, a few listens.

And this, despite its obvious references to a film grad and screenwriter such as myself, remains the best video I've seen in a (short) while. And to anyone without the experience to see where the inspiration comes from, this could open their eyes to a whole new world of (better) films out there. Which is also great.

And the song itself fits in the NIN pantheon. Very well. It's not as political as Head Like A Hole, not as obviously subversive as Closer (though that song is now a staple at strip clubs and sporting events...), not as heavy as March Of The Pigs nor as angry as Starfuckers, Inc., not as ''inclusive of all the ingredients that make up Nine Inch Nails'' as The Perfect Drug, but it's one of the better songs released this year so far. It grows on you.

And I'd rather have Nine Inch Nails doing the rounds, performing on talk shows, touring, grabbing your attention (and dollars) than modern-day futilities such as Macklemore, Bruno Mars and, or past success revivalists like Chicago and Bon Jovi.

I'll be purchasing the new album, Hesitation Marks, the day of its release - on September 3rd - as I have done since 1992 because, well, NIN is a great band project.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Word Of The Year: Racism

I guess the word of the year is ''Racism''. It's spit out left and right by - probably - well-meaning folks, whose good intentions are only matched by their ability to get offended by the most minute details.

Today's scandal comes courtesy of Disney's blockbuster The Lone Ranger, starring Johnny Depp as Tonto, with Armie Hammer (The Lone Ranger) almost looking like a sidekick in the previews. Seems people are mad about Depp's ''redface'', others about his Pirates Of The Caribbean over-acting schtick taking over his career, while some gather from looking at production stills that having his character be in tune with the mystical takes away any and all of the existing peoples' achievements. Although Comanche Chairman (an elected official) Wallace Coffey disagrees with the latter point:
“I think it was a very realistic portrayal of a Native American. It’s got drama and it’s got a lot of comedy; it fits right in with Comanche culture because we are well known as a humorous people,” he says. “In some instances [at screenings], it was only the Comanches that laughed, because we could relate to it.” Coffey adds that he was pleased by the spiritual elements of the Tonto character, as an accurate enough nod to the relationship between a Native American of that time period and the environment in which he lived.
But since when have White people considered Indians' opinions?

Where do I stand?

Absolutely nowhere on this side of the issue.

As a film graduate, I've admired Depp's 1990s output, preferred his dramatic roles (Blow, Public Enemies, Nick Of Time, Sleepy Hollow, From Hell, Ed Wood) to the comedic (the Pirates franchise, Edward Scissorhands), and feel he may have been at his best playing Hunter S. Thompson in Fear & Loathing In Las Vegas and The Rum Diaries. But this film looks like a complete piece of shit from start to finish, perhaps a tad higher on the quality scale than the 1999 Will Smith vehicle Wild Wild West, but probably not by much. I won't see it until I accidentally  stumble upon it, or if I'm dragged to it by someone whose company I enjoy enough to risk wasting 2 hours of my life smelling.

And I want to reserve judgement until I see it, because I'm not an idiot or an asshole.

I also want to give Depp - who claims to have ''Cherokee or Creek'' ancestry - the benefit of the doubt because he has, in the past - most notably in Dead Man - played in films in which the Aboriginals played important, smart roles.

I also want to point out that if they had used a Native American to play the part, Disney probably would never have funded it, Gore Verbinski wouldn't have directed it, and it just wouldn't be a blockbuster if it had been made at all. And it's a slippery slope. I get that ''blackface in America'' is a no-no for obvious reasons, and that similar situations will likely make many uncomfortable; Depp, in this case, never takes off the war paint he's sporting, probably because he doesn't want to have to be justifying anything else. But if we always have to pick people based on their nationality, then Americans shouldn't play Brits (as Madonna seemed to do for a decade even in her public life), Irish (see Brad Pitt in The Devil's Own), Rohms (Pitt in Snatch), Africans (Leonardo DiCaprio in Blood Diamonds), and Canadians shouldn't play Americans (Jim Carrey, Michael J. Fox, John Candy, Rick Moranis, Jay Baruschel). And it could be high time Germans stop playing Russians (I'm looking at you, Jürgen Prochnow).

While we're at it, we should be writing better parts for Black actors (more Spike Lee/Hughes Brothers, less Tyler Perry/first-to-die-in-scary-film parts), Asians (less kung-fu or nerdy types, more regular people) and Arabic (they're not all terrorists or the twist at the end where they end up not being the terrorist - they can also play normal people). As a matter of  fact, so many Arabs are refusing to take on terrorist roles that Hollywood has resorted to using actors of Mexican heritage to play those parts... is that ''brownface''?

Saturday Night Live had two instances fairly recently... one was Fred Armisen playing Barrack Obama - he's already of an ambiguous tone that he can play any race and is also great at stereotyping accents, for better or worse - and could easily pass as mulatto, so I guess they just tanned his face with some make-up; then there was Bill Hader, playing Al Pacino playing Conrad Murray on trial, even going as far as asking the sitting judge if ''it's ok'' (he nods 'yes'). I never thought I'd see the day, but there it was. Twice.

And on the other hand, you have comedians whose whole fucking routine is playing the race card - I don't mean Chris Rock talking about the Black experience, but more the likes of Russell Peters and Sugar Sammy who, because they are of Indian (you know, from India) descent, they think they're allowed to bash/make fun of/poorly imitate every race on the planet, as long as they kind of make fun of themselves as well on the way. And Sugar Sammy adds the double-whammy of living in Québec, so he can call French-speaking Quebecers racists for trying to protect their culture, because as an Indian/English minority in a French province of 7 million people, he doesn't see the need to protect it from its immediate neighbours - the 30-million-strong English Canadians and 350-million-strong Americans - and overlords, the British.

But that's a whole other debate.

So... uh... Johnny Depp as Tonto. How a bad idea from the start can only get worse...

Thousands Of Dead Bees

Being allergic to wasp, mosquito and bee bites/stings, as a kid, I couldn't have cared less if all the bees in the world became extinct.

Now that I know how important they are to an ecosystem and how pollination works, they are dying by the thousands in North America thanks to our over-use of pesticides - many despite clear label warnings not to be used near areas where bees are present.

Now think of the price of honey and natural sugar, which will grow exponentially, as will the price of corn and canola. And remember how they can be useful in controlling diseases? Yep.

There is always a price to be paid for not thinking of the consequences of our actions, and the bigger your operation, the likelier even your smallest action can result in a bigger catastrophe.

Of course, that just may be too logical for some. I wonder how long it'll take before we all die.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

This Week's Top 10s

Top 10 Songs:

10. LIL WAYNE (feat. Ludacris), Eminem (2013)
9. SACRILEGE, Yeah Yeah Yeahs (2013)
8. MONOPOLY, Bloody Diamonds (2012)
7.GELLO REGGAE, Pierre Verville (1989)
6. HOIST THAT RAG, Tom Waits (2004)
5. INTO THE VOID, Nine Inch Nails (1999)
4. DOOM AND GLOOM, The Rolling Stones (2012)
3. KARMACOMA, Massive Attack (1995)
2. BROKEN PROMISE (feat. Michael Stipe), Placebo (2006)
1. MAJOR DISTRIBUTION (feat. Snoop Dogg and Young Jeezy), 50 Cent (2013)

Top 10 Canada Day Songs:

10. SOUS UN CIEL ÉCARLATE, Banlieue Rouge (1996)
8. WICKED AND WEIRD, Buck 65 (2003)
7. LEAVE BEHIND, Martha Wainwright (2012)
6. MONOPOLY, Bloody Diamonds (2012)
5. ROLL THE BONES, Rush, (1991)
4. I LOST MY BABY, Jean Leloup (1996)
3. THE SUBURBS, Arcade Fire (2010)
2. LITTLE BONES, The Tragically Hip (1991)
1. WAKE UP, Arcade Fire (2004)

Top 10 4th Of July Songs:

10. I DON'T WANNA GROW UP (Tom Waits cover), The Ramones (1995)
9. GRIEVANCE, Pearl Jam (2000)
8. MAJOR DISTRIBUTION (feat. Snoop Dogg and Young Jeezy), 50 Cent (2013)
7. ALL BLUES, Miles Davis (1959)
6. HARD TIMES KILLING FLOOR (Skip James cover), R.L. Burnside (2000)
5. 9-1-1 IS A JOKE, Public Enemy, (1990)
4. LOVE SICK, Bob Dylan (1997)
3. TESTIFY, Rage Against The Machine (1999)
2. BORN IN THE U.S.A., Bruce Springsteen (1984) 
1. 4TH OF JULY, Soundgarden (1994) 

Happy July 4th

Teemu Selanne's birthday coincides with an important date in North America: Independence Day, the day the Declaration Of Independence was adopted (in 1776), when the United States emancipated from British rule.

Canada, for example, officially started in 1867 (although Lower Canada - part of what is now Québec, pretty much - and Upper Canada - Ontario - existed on their own 1791-1841) and has yet to declare itself independent from British rule. As a matter of fact, the Queen Of England remains Canada's political leader to this very day.

Which makes this quote from John Adams quite amusing:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever more.
Not just that he was off by two days, but also that ''the whole continent'' would celebrate... they don't. There are three other National Holidays celebrated on the continent: the Mexican Independence Day is September 16th, Canada Day is July 1st, and La St-Jean-Baptiste (Québec's national holiday) is June 24th.

The Philippines also celebrate on July 4th... but they celebrate the fact that they are no longer a U.S. territory... it's their own Independence Day. Oh, the irony!

Still... bring on the fireworks, the BBQ, the light beer, and celebrate the past to appreciate the present, on the day that John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe died and Calvin Coolidge was born.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Worst Wax Museum Ever (And That's Saying A Lot!)

I already had a negative opinion of wax museums in general, but seeing the pictures accompanying this scathing review of the Hollywood Wax Museum may have sealed the deal for me to never go to one again...

These only barely resemble the actors they're supposed to be, and they're not even the worst (Tom Hanks wins that one, but I'll let you see for yourself). Actually, they look like melted wax sculptures of bad celebrity look-alikes, 5 seconds after they've posed looking similar to the celeb, not quite there anymore...

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Dear CNN

If you can't spell out ''the N word'' on screen, you have pretty much answered your own question prior to the ''debate''...

We're not talking about the difference between ''dipshit'' and ''asshole'', here. The only thing that comes close to ''nigger'' (yes, I wrote it, because ''the N word'' is the worst euphemism in modern history, because we all know what the fuck is being said, yet the person using it wants to use it without having the balls to actually say it and instead forces you to think it, which makes the listener/reader the asshole...) is the modern use of ''sand nigger'' for anyone from the Middle East, which oddly enough seems more acceptable despite the fact that not only is it a direct attack on people from some 15-20 countries, it incorporates the previous ''nigger'' to imply one (sand) is worse than the other (regular).

I think now is an ok time for a debate on the use of words, on self-censorship and respect, and on the statute of limitations of the transgressions of the past in a time where education is at an all-time low. What I mean by that is the music selling the most units in the United States is rap, and the vast majority of the rappers are black, and even the smartest ones (like the cerebral Mos Def) use the word 'nigger' repeatedly. For adults in their 70s or older - not the target audience - the word conjures up images of the Civil Rights movement; for folks in their 40s and 50s, the images are still vivid, but instead of being from their own recollection, it's from education and their parents explaining how it went down; for folks like me, in our 30s, it's a struggle we haven't seen happen except in documentary footage, but with a legacy that lives on today in the disparity of the applications of the Law codes and how minorities are targeted most by the police and ''the system'' in general in the U.S.

But for suburban white kids, aged 10 to 25, rap is pretty much all they've known in terms of ''culture'', their education is a joke (schools teach Creationism as 'history' for fuck's sake!), not only do they not know about Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, they barely understand the concept of slavery except maybe that Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves (although they probably think slaves were freed from the British), and the richest people they've ever seen are the gold-wearing rappers in YouTube videos. They have no idea of the struggle, Rosa Parks, the C.I.A. using the actual Ricky Ross to sell crack to ghettos, they don't understand half of what Public Enemy are saying. What they do know is that Black folks call themselves 'nigger' all the time, and that the ultimate acceptance from a Black friend is when he deems the white kid worthy of being called 'my nigger'.

None of which makes for a healthy society, by the way.

But it's where we're at. We need to address that. In a much smarter way than what CNN did. Because it's not about which word is worse (nigger ''wins'', hands down), it's about how widespread it is and how its meaning and implications may be lost on an entire generation and more to come as the young replace the old - which may or may not be a good thing (on the plus side it renders an offensive word weak and takes power away from the fuckers who abused and owned other people, on the other, we should never forget any part of History lest we be condemned to repeat it, though we often repeat it without having forgotten).

Monday, July 1, 2013

Video Of The Week: Bloody Diamonds

It's Canada Day, and I was going to post some British band, sarcastically, to celebrate it. Except I've had this earworm in my ears since yesterday, thanks to my friend, awesome musician Jessica Kaye (of Chix N' Dix fame, also in new act Tanks And Bombs)... she opened for them last Friday, at Crobar.

The band is Bloody Diamonds, and they hail from Halifax, Nova Scotia. Some of their songs are more pop/funk-oriented, such as this single, Monopoly. Others, such as Monsters, have a decidedly hard(er) rock edge, bordering on sludge, grunge, and Queens Of The Stone Age-style stoner rock. It is the exact mix I want to hear over and over again these days.

They were offering their songs for free in May on their BandCamp page, hopefully they can do that again in the future, because their own website solely offers vinyl versions (which I grabbed at their show), but I'm left without being able to listen to them in my iPod. Luckily, in this day and age, YouTube and turntables still have my back.

Directed by vocalist/organist Sara Elizabeth, the video for Monopoly is an artsy, short black-and-white film pitting images of the band performing with footage of the good old glory days of yore, when the Madison Square Garden and Radio City Music Hall ruled the entertainment world, from music to dance shows to sporting events, and spawned countless imitators who tried to emulate their formula.