Thursday, December 31, 2015

At Year's End

Everybody wants a great Christmas or New Year's story - the emotional kiss goodbye, the romantic kiss hello at a landmark, seeing long-gone friends or family members for the first time in years, new beginnings... the works.

And those who are lonely just feel lonelier, particularly if they happen to fall upon Holiday movies, which are usually centered around people finding others they connect with. Worldwide, the Holidays are the most common time of the year for suicides.

I don't have a dog in either race (that I know of), though I know people who will live those types of situations. I was just making the most out of the extended fall season when winter came back with a vengeance.

I usually live my life on the levels - a two-year plan for the ''big decisions'' (job, place to live, things relating to comfort level versus the problems that come with them), and a minute-to-minute reaction to everything else, which at times can involve big decisions (breakups, where friendships are going) but are mostly just paths, left or right, yes or no and the like.

Mid-term plans aren't usually my thing, which is why I'm not a fan of purchasing show tickets months ahead of time, because I'll forget and remember it's taking place at least a dozen times. The Holidays have that for me in droves, planning to go see my family here and there yet forgetting what day of the week we're at when I wake up in the morning (or afternoon, as was the case for the past few days). ''Yeah, let's meet on the 31st''... then ''oh shit, we're the 31st?'' and having ten minutes to do what I thought I would have three days to do them.

I've been putting off going to the grocery store for over a week now. But I watched all of The Boondocks, though... Netflix and sleep.

As I'm writing this, I realize I'm five days away from going back to work, 9 to 5, staring down an abyss of numbers that don't mean anything, listening to some Robert Schimmel CDs. I wish I could hibernate.

2015 was a year. It wasn't all bad (like, say, 2012), but it wasn't spectacularly nice. It had its moments; I had some good times, a few people made me smile a lot, I laughed, I cried. It would have made a terrible B-movie, or a great one if a character actor (John Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson, Paul Giamatti) played me better than I did.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Top 10s: Holiday/Christmas Movies

Here's a list that could go many ways...

Best Film (that somehow involves the Holidays):

10. LOVE, ACTUALLY, Richard Curtis (2003)
9. BATMAN RETURNS, Tim Burton (1992)
8. EIGHT CRAZY NIGHTS, Seth Kearsley (2002)
7. THE REF, Ted Demme (1994)
6. BAD SANTA, Terry Zwigoff (2003)
5. ELF, Jon Favreau (2003)
3. STALAG 17, Billy Wilder (1953)
2. DIE HARD, John McTiernan (1988)
1. BRAZIL, Terry Gilliam (1985)

Best ''Holiday Movie'' (i.e. ''Best use of the Holidays as a storyline''):

10. A CHRISTMAS CAROL, Brian Desmond Hurst (1951)
9. WHITE CHRISTMAS, Michael Curtiz (1954)
8. THE SANTA CLAUSE, John Pasquin (1994)
7. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, Frank Capra (1946)
6. HOME ALONE, Chris Columbus (1990)
4. BAD SANTA, Terry Zwigoff (2003)
2. MIRACLE ON 34th STREET, George Seaton (1947)
1. A CHRISTMAS STORY, Bob Clark (1983)

Best Actor In A Holiday Film:

10. WILL FERRELL, Elf (2003)
9. EDMUND GWENN, Miracle On 34th Street (1947)
8. DENIS LEARY, The Ref (1994)
7. EDDIE MURPHY, Trading Places (1983)
6. JACK LEMMON, The Apartment (1960)
5. JAMES STEWART, It's A Wonderful Life (1946)
4. BRUCE WILLIS, Die Hard (1988)
3. BILL MURRAY, Scrooged (1988)
2. JIM CARREY, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
1. BILLY BOB THORNTON, Bad Santa (2003)

Best Actress In A Holiday Film:

10. BARBARA STANWYCK, Christmas In Connecticut (1945)
9. TAYLOR MOMSEN, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
8. MARJORIE REYNOLDS, Holiday Inn (1942)
7. BEVERLY D'ANGELO, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
6. JANET LEIGH, Holiday Affair (1949)
5. SHIRLEY MACLAINE, The Apartment (1960)
4. CATHERINE O'HARA, Home Alone (1990)
3. LORETTA YOUNG, The Bishop's Wife (1947)
2. KITANA KIKI RODRIGUEZ, Tangerine (2015)
1. CATHERINE DENEUVE, Un Conte De Noel (2008)

Best Supporting Actor In A Holiday Film:

10. LEWIS BLACK, Unaccompanied Minors (2006)
9. PAUL GIAMATTI, Fred Claus (2007)
8. ALAN RICKMAN, Love, Actually (2003)
7. GARY OLDMAN, A Christmas Carol (2009)
6. RANDY QUAID, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
5. DAN AYKROYD, Trading Places (1983)
4. DANNY GLOVER, Lethal Weapon (1987)
3. ALAN RICKMAN, Die Hard (1988)
2. TONY COX, Bad Santa (2003)
1. KEVIN SPACEY, The Ref (1994)

Best Supporting Actress In A Holiday Film:

10. ELIZABETH HARNOIS, One Magic Christmas (1985)
9. FRANCES LEE McCAIN, Gremlins (1984)
8. PHOEBE CATES, Gremlins (1984)
7. LAURA LINNEY, Love, Actually (2003)
6. CHRISTINE BARANSKI, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
5. MELINDA DILLON, A Christmas Story (1983)
4. NATALIE WOOD, Miracle On 34th Street (1947)
3. MICHELLE MONAGHAN, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)
2. JUDY DAVIS, The Ref (1994)
1. LAUREN GRAHAM, Bad Santa (2003)

Best Director, Holiday Movie:

10. RICHARD DONNER, Scrooged (1988)
9. BILLY WILDER, The Apartment (1960)
8. JOHN McTIERNAN, Die Hard (1988)
7. JOE DANTE, Gremlins (1984)
6. RON HOWARD, Dr. Seuss' How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
5. SEAN BAKER, Tangerine (2015)
4. BILLY WILDER, Stalag 17 (1953)
3. TIM BURTON, Batman Returns (1992)
2. HENRY SELICK, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
1. TERRY GILLIAM, Brazil (1985)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Video Of The Week: Queen

When I was a child, around the age of 10 or 11, I had heard a few Queen songs: We Will Rock You, We Are The Champions, maybe Radio Gaga - but I was not familiar with their entire discography. By 1989, I was into Guns N' Roses, Michael Jackson, N.W.A., Ice-T, and The Cure.

When a friend of mine got his hands on the The Miracle cassette and wouldn't stop playing it, I got into it; when CDs became the go-to music medium the following year, my first purchases on the format were Jane's Addiction's Ritual De Lo Habitual, GN'R's Appetite For Destruction and GN'R Lies (I'd listened to the tapes so often I'd killed them), EMF's Schubert Dip, and The Miracle.

To this day, it remains the only Queen album I listen to at least once a year, and the only one I can listen to straight more than once. It's the perfect blend of the band's usual opera-meets-prog-meets-pop and the best of what the late 1990s' hair metal had to offer (big chords, complicated-yet-melodic guitar solos, perfect-pitch voices, creative drumming), and it wasn't getting stale by getting overplayed everywhere.

And the fifth single, the title track The Miracle, contains a message of hope for the future of mankind, despite it being ''a miracle we need'' to have ''peace on earth and an end to war''; essentially, it's the same message as John Lennon's Happy Xmas (War Is Over), but neither overplayed nor overused in ad campaigns for organizations which may or may not spend more money on advertizing and administrative fees and salaries than they do on helping the people they're supposedly collecting money for. I mean, sure, Lennon's song is a little better, objectively, but The Miracle deserves some air time alongside it, and I'm doing my part by naming it my Video Of The Week:

Fun fact: for most of the video, four British kids play the parts the members of Queen, sharing the stage with the actual adults at the end. The child playing singer Freddie Mercury is actor Ross McCall, of Band Of Brothers fame. Paul Howard, who plays the part of guitarist Brian May, is the frontman in Silvery, a London-based rock group.

Merry Christmas. I wish you peace of all kinds, but mostly peace of mind.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Death In Vegas

I was in Las Vegas a month ago when the Paris attacks took place.

And this week, fellow Quebecers were in an accident on the strip where I spent most of my time there:

Those interviewed keep asking ''why''? The same was said about what happened in Paris, and in Beirut.

But there is no why. This one was a distressed woman. Terrorists have a cause. People need to realize many things, chief among them the fact that even if we cure everyone and every ill, one dissatisfied customer can take things to the extreme and crack - and kill.

That's life.

Another part of life is that we all die.

At birth, at one year old, at ten, at twenty-five, at fifty, at eighty-three, at one hundred years of age. Natural causes, AIDS, cancer, accident, murder - no one walking the earth's surface survives, ever.

Who the fuck cares how you die. Live for the moment. LIVE. Because Life hangs by a thread, and a tiny one that no one can see most times.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Video Of The Week: Disturbed

After their version of Genesis' Land Of Confusion, it seems like Disturbed wants to steal the title of ''best cover band'' away from Marilyn Manson, and despite my finding them generic, cheap and unauthentic, they do pull these covers off better than expected.

Here, they tackle Simon And Garfunkle's The Sound Of Silence, in a video directed by Matt Mahurin (effects-ridden, though, and it looks like they ran out of budget near the end):

There's too much autotune in the voice for me to take it seriously, though.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Video Of The (Last) Week: Velvet Revolver

Fucking December, eh? John Lennon, Darby Crash... now Scott Weiland.

I wrote a (probably) mean post when he passed on my Facebook page:
All I meant was a counterpoint to those who Kurt Cobain-ed him and made him a music god now that he was dead when he was merely a musician. And I cited examples of some not-so-perfect people who had achieved greatness that perhaps may have redeemed some of the bad they'd done in their lives.

And his (second) ex-wife Mary Forsberg, with whom he had two children, agreed:
We read awful show reviews, watch videos of artists falling down, unable to recall their lyrics streaming on a teleprompter just a few feet away. And then we click "add to cart" because what actually belongs in a hospital is now considered art.(...)

I won't say he can rest now, or that he's in a better place. He belongs with his children barbecuing in the backyard and waiting for a Notre Dame game to come on. We are angry and sad about this loss, but we are most devastated that he chose to give up. (...)

Let's choose to make this the first time we don't glorify this tragedy with talk of rock and roll and the demons that, by the way, don't have to come with it. Skip the depressing T-shirt with 1967–2015 on it - use the money to take a kid to a ballgame or out for ice cream.
 So... yeah.

I wasn't sure of I was going to post this or not, and even as last week turned into this week, then late into the week, I hesitated. But I had words to get out there, and I decided to do just that.

So, here's a song that deals with some of the fallings-out Weiland and Forsberg (playing herself) had to deal with, with the Velvet Revolver power ballad Fall To Pieces, which all members (Weiland, guitarist Slash, bassist Duff McKagan, power-drummer Matt Sorum and guitarist Dave Kushner) contributed to and isa nice way for the former members of Guns N' Roses to avoid playing covers of their own songs Sweet Child O'Mine and Patience with their new band too often, as they are of the same type:

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Video Of The Week: Adele

Half a billion views in a month - that's Adele's Hello's statistics on YouTube, directed by French-Canadian filmmaker Xavier Dolan. Her album, 25, came out last year and will be #1 on the charts, probably well into the next year. It's already beaten Oasis' record for most sales in a week in England, and in the U.S. stands as the fastest selling in the new millennium.

She still has the voice that will shatter a million hearts and the face of an angel who's suffered too much, but is less surprised by what the world will bring; there's a certain weariness in both her tone of voice and in her eyes that adds depth to the intangibles she already had.

In short, she was always good - but she might be better now.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Video Of The Week: Queens Of The Stone Age

Because of last week's featuring of Eagles Of Death Metal, I've also been listening to a lot of Queens Of The Stone Age this week, as well as some Desert Sessions and Kyuss - all Josh Homme projects.

Here's a track that encompasses many of these projects, as it was first released on Desert Sessions, Vol. 9 featuring PJ Harvey on backing vocals and a ton of other musicians, and was eventually re-recorded by QOTSA for their 2007 release Era Vulgaris - the stoner-rock love song Make It Wit Chu. The video was directed by Rio Hackford and shows the band getting to and performing at the Desert Sessions bunker (a.k.a. Rancho De La Luna, situated in Joshua Tree, California), essentially for a bunch of couples making out:

The New Colossus

The world is still a shitstorm of awful humans who have the means to fuck it up not just for the rest of us of the same race (the Human Race, by the way, the only not one decided by religion or skin colour or language), but for every other living organism on the planet.

On this side of the Pond, the Right and the Left argue about petty stuff and both sides use the weakest possible arguments to get their points across; the Left has the added bonus of never being able to forgive past mistakes regardless of context (Thomas Jefferson owned slaves when it was legal! Paul Reubens is a sex offender!) and any good from anyone who's done something bad previously is wiped off the table - which is one context where the Right's obsession with religion should come in handy: let he who has never committed a bad action cast the first stone, where no one over the age of 3 would be able to do so.

The Big Topic of the day is that of Refugees.

There needs to be a debate, and each country has to decide whether to take them in or not, and how many, and how. NOT ALL COUNTRIES NEED TO OPERATE THE SAME WAY. Honestly, we really need to start accepting other cultures' differences more, whether we agree with them or not, whether we think their practices are humane or not, whether they go against our values and/or common sense and/or our conception of rights or not.

This will be the subject of a much longer exposé eventually, one that encompasses a worldwide minimum wage, universal dual citizenship, a complete repeal of the death penalty, and the ability to exclude or deport citizens who do not conform to one place's chosen way of life. Not everyone wants the same life or lifestyle, and freedom includes letting others live their lives the way they want to.

But I digress.

Here is the text that lies at the bottom of the Statue Of Liberty:

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door
Ideally, these are values I would like to strive for. But it's hard. Even Americans can't do it all the time. And I live in a country that I, myself, do not feel a part of, among people who refuse to stand up for themselves and declare their independence, their Humanity, and choose their own paths, despite all the old ones having failed.

I want to live in a place where people's differences are appreciated and encouraged. Where the only place religion has is as an equal to sports, meals or TV shows - as something you share with people close to you, people like you, that you can talk about in public but has no incidence on how the State operates. Three main rules: don't kill, don't steal, and don't fuck it up for everyone else. Where health and education are priorities and are NEVER cut in government spending. Where people don't get offended over the smallest fucking detail (or worse, WORDS!) because in this place, ALL PEOPLE ARE EQUAL, ALL THE TIME.

It's not about the past and all about the future, because this place hasn't existed yet.

Those who do not like it do not have to live there; they can go anywhere where their values are best reflected, because every place should have differences - we were not all meant to evolve at the same pace, nor should we force anyone to follow any rules they do not agree with when they can go to places where people think like they do, the same way we wouldn't like being forced to abide by shit that goes against the very fiber of our beings.

It's 2015, people. There are 8 billion of us. Either kill us all, or let's start tolerating our differences a little better, eh? And that includes intolerance as well, by the way. If, as a whole Russia seriously wants nothing to do with gay people, just make it clear to their President that jailing/killing suspected homosexuals before they become adults is wrong and punishable, and when those people turn 18 (or 21), help them to new lives in places where they'll be accepted better.

Intellectuals? Prague.
Speak French with a tendency to root for the underdog? Anywhere in Québec.
Big dreams? New York.

Same goes for people with all sorts of problems.

Which brings us back to refugees. And today's special, Syrians. Not every country can afford to take in huge masses of people - perhaps international aid would help, not just to pay for the refugees themselves, but also with a slight incentive, a bonus, to help the country itself and those already residing there who could use the pick-me-up (Greece, Spain, Québec) - that type of incentive would also invalidate any false sense of racism that refugees cost money, because they would actually bring in money.

We might also need to start planning long-term a little better: there are always a dozen wars raging, and there are always mass exoduses, and we need to start thinking about a permanent physical location where we can take care of their basic needs while they wait to be processed and sent to the best place for their needs, be it short or long term, depending on how badly they want to return home upon conflict resolution.

This is but mere reflection, possibly just the first step of a larger scale. But we do need to start thinking outside the box, because our old ways have always ended with the same old problems, and they have yet to adapt to this New World.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Video Of The Week: Eagles Of Death Metal

Yes, because of Paris. But also because they're a force of rock and roll, almost on par in my heart with Josh Homme's other projects, namely Queens Of The Stone Age. Because I've been to Eagles Of Death Metal shows.

Because rock and roll is freedom. Because music is a source of inspiration and good. Because.

Whatever you do today, this week, next year... from here on out, love. That's all that matters. Stop forgetting it. At the end of the day, be yourself, stay true to yourself, love who you love, find a way to be happy, be well.

Picture your last five minutes on earth - try to be where you want to be, and with whom you want to be. Nothing else matters. Ever.

EODM's sound technician and merchandise salesman were killed in the Paris attacks, as well as over 100 spectators and Bataclan patrons; they died in terror, many probably weren't watching their favourite band ever, but they had gathered there, congregated to this event, to feel good. I hope that as long as they could, before the unthinkable happened, they did.

The survivors will forever be changed.

I hope they still keep some love in their hearts, and I hope they have it in themselves to plow on.

That is all there is to life for most of us who won't impact the world on a larger scale, to impact it on a smaller one. We're here for 10, 25, 40, 100 years at the most; we were born from goo and will turn to dust - in the middle, there are thoughts and feelings, pain and pleasure. We won't get along with everyone, but it won't matter when we're gone.

All that matters is now - every now, every moment we have, and to make the best of it.

Wealth, privilege, health, education, work - they only matter when factored in groups in terms of living conditions - and as a group we need to do our best to level the playing field, for the greater good; at the end of the day, though, individually, by doing our best and trying to remain in the types of surroundings where we can at worse be well and at best thrive, should be the lone objective.

I would name everyone I love, right now, but the list is too long - longer than my readership thus far. But they generally know how I feel; to reiterate, I'm still throwing it out there, in the ethers: I love you.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Speech Of The Day: Chris Christie

The cynic in me wants to say that Conservatives only get involved in social issues when it affects them personally, when the issue hits home. And, well, I guess I just went out and said it.

Still, a lot of these politicians - in part through training sessions and in part because their former jobs as lawyers demanded it - have the speech aspect of being a leader down. And hate him or love him, I believe one thing that can be said about New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is that he isn't the type of schizophrenic liar Ben Carson can be - when Christie lies, it's because telling the truth will hurt him, but he doesn't make facts up, let alone two-thirds of his own autobiography.

Here he is delivering a moving speech about addiction:

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Video Of The Week: Rush

When I shared Chops playing over Rush's Tom Sawyer earlier this week, I kind of made my bed as to what band I'd be featuring later, though I opted for the title track from their 1991 album Roll The Bones, the first song of theirs that I was truly acquainted with:

It has a lot of what made the 1990s cheesy, from the fast rock intro-slow chorus mix to the ''rap'' near the end, but done early enough in the decade that it still comes off as genuine and experimental. Kind of.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Today's Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer: either a Mark Twain character, or a Rush song.

Both are difficult to digest in this day and age, the character because of the way he acts and talks about people of other races (''Indians'' and Nigger Jim in particular), the latter because the keyboard-heavy prog rock song doesn't lend itself well to the ears of people who are used to the empty lyrics and one-hook choruses of today's pop and rap songs.

One way to make Tom Sawyer more palatable is by having a puppet play along to Neil Peart's ever-masterful drumming - and thus, RicKy Syers' creation ''Chops'' (or ''Chopsy'') becomes an internet star (it gets really fucking impressive between the 2- and 3-minute marks):

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Video Of The Week: The Secret Storm

The Secret Storm is Lauren Hoffman's latest musical identity, which reflects the fact that she now tours with additional musicians (Hoffman only singing and no longer playing guitar, Cathy Monnes on cello and electric violin, Tony Lechmanski on guitar, Jeff Diehm on bass, Jordan Marchini on drums, and Ethan Lipscomb on keyboard), and her songs are more universal and somehow more personal now that we can separate the artist from the person, as they no longer share the same name (though I still think Broken, which I have covered live and as a fan club single a decade ago with the gender/storyline reversed, remains her best work).

In her own words:
I’ve never felt good about recording under my own name. The ‘Lauren Hoffman’ that shows up on the credit card receipt at the grocery store and the ‘Lauren Hoffman’ who shows up on Spotify just felt like two very different things. I’ve also never really identified with ‘singer/songwriter’ as a genre, even though I am technically a singer and a songwriter. There is this folky connotation that never quite sat right with me. But the main reason for the change is that working under the name The Secret Storm creates this a psychological distinction between me as a person and the work itself. It’s liberating.
In addition to being a long-time fan of her work, there are a few career path similarities between she and I: she was signed to Virgin Records in 1997 and I signed with them in November 1998; she asked out of her contract in 1999, and I was terminated from mine (along with pretty much everyone else not named Lenny Kravitz or Smashing Pumpkins from the Virgin/EMI stable), and since then we've been honing our respective crafts to the best of our abilities - and hers far outrank mine, obviously.

Earlier this summer, The Secret Storm released the In The Sun EP, of which this is the title track, in a video directed by Thomas Smith:

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Video Of The Week: The Strokes

I couldn't think of a better way to sum the week up than saying it's Hard To Explain, as The Strokes so aptly put it in on their seminal 2001 album Is This It? (also their first ever single).

NME, Rolling Stone and Spin were among the band-wagoners who named this either in their top 10s of the year of top 40 of the decade, leading average music listeners to think the band never put out anything else worthy of attention later when, in fact, Juicebox stands as their best track - and one that can favourably be compared to almost any other song put out this millennia.

Still, the video, directed by Roman Coppola, Johannes Gamble and singer Julian Casablancas using mostly found footage was a nice calling card that kept just enough mystery to grab the attention and ask for more, which I guess to some extent, the early-2000s rock scene really did.

I'm of the school of thought that claims The Strokes, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Jack White saved us from even more Nickleback being thrown at us, and possibly longer reigns for bands like Limp Bizkit. We dodged a bullet, folks, and it started with this:

Monday, October 19, 2015

Canadian Elections 2015: The Fix Is In

In years past, I would have followed the 78-day campaign on an almost daily basis, commented on it, shared my ideas, work towards change. Good change. Decent change. So many ''progressive'' website clamoring for change, working towards ousting Stephen Harper from his position as Prime Minister, and The Man obviously seeing His opportunity to take the power back... and leave the common man out in the cold again.

This is what LeadNow had to show people where the main five parties stood on key issues:
Even through this simplistic graph, you can tell the so-called Liberals are still the closest to the Conservatives on what they stand and promises they're making- and that's pre-election, when their motto is usually ''run on the left, govern on the right''.

The Liberals also usually have the press on their side, because half of their campaign money comes from the media, from Power Corporation (La Presse) to the big Ontario papers to the CBC. Their leader, Justin Trudeau, voted with Harper (despite his and his party's votes not actually counting because, as a majority, the Cons could get all their projects in anyway) a stunning 73% of the time. Which means they agree on 73% of issues at heart, and not for the least:
- C51 is a law that allows the government to spy on its people without warrants (and makes the Patriot Act look tame in comparison)
- the TPP stands to make us lose potentially all our jobs to overseas markets while sending all our (dirty) oil away, while ending regulations in many sectors of industry and farming
- they want to continue to push Canada away from peace-keeping military missions and instead send soldiers to actual war
- they give their friends cozy jobs and pensions and cut down on legislation in the sectors they tell them not to have any
Essentially, it's ''meet the new guy, same as the last guy''.

The other party thought to have a ghost of a chance at the beginning of the process was the New Democratic Party, who had formed the official opposition these past four years. Well, the NDP as a whole didn't do much at all. Ruth Ellen Brosseau took every opportunity to stand up and voice her opinion at the Chamber, despite it being for naught, and leader Thomas Mulcair tried to act as the voice of reason, every day, on TV, taking light stabs at both Harper and Trudeau. Hélène Laverdière did a nice job in the streets of downtown Montréal, but her impact in Ottawa was even more limited than Brosseau's. None of their other MPs had been ready to take on their job, and they all crashed and burned early in the campaign. They were a disaster waiting to happen, and it did.

While we're on the topic of ''same as the old guy'', I'd like to point out Mulcair's previous political record. On the provincial scene, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, he'd been the lawyer for activist group Alliance Québec, nutjobs who compared the francophone provincial government to the Nazi regime on an almost daily basis.

Later, he became the environmental minister in Jean Charest's Liberal government (yep, he's of that school as well, and Charest was a former Conservative party leader at the federal level...), and while he can be praised for stepping down from his position in protest when the government tried to sell a protected mountain to condo entrepreneurs, he also oversaw the dumping of raw sewage by the city of Longueuil into the St. Lawrence river, an issue that came reflected in this election with Montreal having to do the same for a week while it underwent emergency repairs to its infrastructures.

Among the rest, two stand out the most. The Bloc Québécois once had an impact, and formed the official opposition a lifetime ago, in the 1990s. Unfortunately, they used to be the party that was most to the left and have now become a coalition of all sorts for people hoping for Québec to secede from Canada at pretty much all costs, including the one that comes with abandoning your social-democratic roots and moving towards the right on the wrong issues.

Look at that graph again, you'll notice they're still on the right side of most issues; but the xenophobic element that is a small minority of what they need to get their message across has become too loud a voice to ignore (à la Tea Party for the Republicans in the U.S. circa 2008), not realizing they need to include people of all creeds and origins and walks of life to make their dream of starting anew on a land where all are equal a reality. So, honestly, at this point, fuck them.

The Green Party may seem like the party who has Canadians' interests most at heart, but they'll be lucky to get five people elected. Why? Because although their leader, Elizabeth May, is absolutely delightful with her Maritime charm and honest-to-goodness good values that would make her the best grandma in the world, they don't have a platform, just pipe dreams.

GREEN! TREES! NO FOSSIL FUELS! PEACE AND HARMONY! - it's all fine and dandy, but no plans on foreign policy. No plans on defense - not even abolishing it. No plans on getting the economy back on its feet after Harper took a tar sands-sized shit all over it and deregulated the banks.

Which leaves us with a grand total of zero good candidates.

The lesser evil would still be Mulcair, because he's such a careerist that he'd have to listen to the will of the people when they protested his bullshit.

But no. The fix is in. The media have been on it since the very first week, shoving our ''choice'' down our throat: it's Baby Justin, or Evil Harper. Even though they're the exact same fucking right-wing sell-out puppet 73% of the time (that's not entirely true: Harper actually believes he's doing the right thing; Trudeau gets to that conclusion by thinking it's the ''lesser evil'').

They told us on TV, they told us on their front pages. They bought ads online and on billboards.

They gave us a face we didn't mind looking at, they gave us a name that still rings in English-speaking Canada. They even gave us Brian Mulroney's - a former Conservative Prime Minister - fucking endorsement.

And Canadians ate it up, all that chocolate-flavoured soft-serve bullshit dripping on their fucking chins.

And now I know why I've never felt entirely at home in that stupid, insane fucking country. Why I supported independence when it made sense. Why I moved to NYC. Why I always feel so damn alone.

The fix is in. It'll be a landslide. And it'll fuck us good.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Video Of The Week: Pearl Jam

As I'm nearing the end of a streak of sadness, I decided to cap it off with Pearl Jam's ''official video'' for Just Breathe from their 2009 record Backspacer, which is actually taken from a TV broadcast of their appearance on the 2009 Austin City Limits show. It's fitting, though, as the band has always preferred either live videos or not appearing in them at all - they have a bit of an issue with any type of middle ground or compromise when it comes to their art and public appearances, and become intense when both get combined.

If it sounds reminiscent of Eddie Vedder's 2007 soundtrack for Into The Wild, it's because it it: there was a chord in the song Tuolumne that he decided to play with and expand on two years later, which became Just Breathe, which is one of the many PJ songs dealing with death and cycles ending. Many people deem it the best at conveying that message, while I'm partial to Man Of The Hour from the Tim Burton film Big Fish.

Still, Just Breathe has now replaced Yellow Ledbetter as the sad Pearl Jam song playing in movies and TV shows that want to end on a teary note.

It was covered by Willie Nelson on his 2012 album Heroes.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Making Her Mark Marking Her Territory

There's no question we're in the age of trolling, from people voting with potato sacks on their heads to a basketball player's fiancée texting all of his ''side chicks''... all 200 of them.

Now, I don't know anything about basketball except that there's a guy named LeBron James, there used to be a guy named Carmelo Anthony, and that Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, ''Magic'' Johnson and Wilt Chamberlain used to play the sport, when they weren't busy scoring off the field.

Which is admittedly what Victor Cruz seems to be doing as well. Good on Elaina Watley to mark her territory, though. I guess.

Here they are in, presumably, happier days:
Here's the group text she sent:
Touché. Literally.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Game On!

Two years ago, at the draft table of my Hockey Keeper pool (which I win every other year), I made the bold prediction that within ten years, a woman would play in a regular-season NHL game. My reasoning behind this was that with today's defensive systems being so advanced, elite players have seen their points production drop 20 points (the league leaders no longer factor into the high 100s but hover around the mid-80s instead), while goal scoring in general hasn't actually gone down, meaning the very good players' production (i.e. ''the middle-six forwards'' and ''3-4 defensemen'') have instead stabilized their production and are now closer in range to the best of the best.

And the very best women aren't very far from the very good men skill-wise. And they can also play the system that will maximize their potential, like their male counterparts, and keep up; the only knock is their size (at times 20% smaller), meaning their endurance in a grueling 82-game schedule would test their bodies - but that's the case with the smallish men and many rookies as well.

Also, factoring in the salary cap (currently at $71.3M per 23-man team) and the fact that superstars are now getting paid in the $10M range (Patrick Kane earning that with his point-per-game production while Jonathan Toews gets his 60 points while shutting down the opposition), players with ''low'' salaries are prized by general managers throughout the league.

The NHL's minimum wage currently stands at just under $600,000.

There is a Canadian Women's Hockey League (CWHL), and while many of its teams are supported by their NHL counterpart (particularly the Montréal Stars with the Montréal Canadiens and Calgary Inferno with the Calgary Flames), most of those deals just help compensate the teams' financial losses and pertain to using the NHL's teams' facilities and marketing tools and personnel. The players themselves do not yet get a salary.

Enter the National Women's Hockey League (NWHL), which I referenced last June, based in the U.S. and who will pay their players starting this year, with an average salary of $15,000. Of note that many of these athletes played College hockey and have degrees and can have ''day jobs'', ranging from teachers to engineers. But that still relegates the sport as something of a hobby rather than a job or a career, despite the Olympic medals they likely all have.

There's a world of difference between $15K and $600K. There isn't one between a 25-year-old Olympian woman and an average NHLer, be it of the veteran (a 35-year-old slowing down) kind or rookie type (so young that a year or two in the minors might be beneficial), let alone for the few who have tons of heart but little offensive or defensive skills.

It's a question of math, on both sides: if you can get 80% of the production at 60% of the cost, or even the same production at the same cost, general managers will have to one day decide that women are worth what they can bring. And on the players' part, earning 30 times your salary might be a good reason to put that teaching career on hold for a couple of years.

But first things first, the NWHL played their first games last night. Manon Rhéaume, who played an exhibition game for the Tampa Bay Lightning 25 years ago, proceeded to do the ceremonial puck drop:

Game on!

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Video Of The Week: Miranda Lambert

I used to think of Miranda Lambert as a boring, new-country singer who may have been a puppet not just from her managers but also the industry; she was married to a rather beige performer (Blake Shelton) who is so into prefabricated crap that he is a judge on The Voice, and I thought it reverberated on her as well.

That was until I heard this week's featured song, Mama's Broken Heart. The 2013 single from her 2011 album Four The Record didn't sound as generic to me as many of her other stuff; in fact, it reminded me of what Nikki Lane does, it had a real sense of danger that was fueled by pain and anger, but also a lust for life.

The song would also work as a ballad, but with its upbeat tempo really is reminiscent of Nikki Lane, especially with the overblown pseudo-rock chorus. It also works really well in light of Lambert's alleged extra-conjugal affairs... (beige never keeps the girl).

The beautiful, light-coloured video was directed by Trey Fanjoy, a regular nominee at country music award shows who has also directed videos for Tim McGraw, Taylor Swift, Alan Jackson, Lee Ann Womack, Keith Urban, George Strait, Lonestar, and Reba McEntire, as well as pop act Atomic Kitten, singer-songwriters Jewel and Sheryl Crow, renegade Steve Earle and whatever Aerosmith's Steven Tyler does now that he's a solo artist.

Friday, October 2, 2015

R.I.P. Angie

The smallest and youngest of my two cats, Angie, left this realm today, at the ripe old age of 8. She had cardiac issues and a blood clot had formed near her aorta, and it paralyzed her hind legs. This is her, earlier tonight, in that picture.

I spent the day crying alongside her, whether it's when we lay on my kitchen floor in between going to veterinarians' (three times), or at the last animal hospital where they, too, told us it was time to let her go. I use the ''us'' pronoun because at that last place, I called her former human, my ex-girlfriend (i.e. Former Lady Of The House) to join us. It was she who held Angie as the doctors gave her the anesthetic and performed euthanasia. She was hers at first, so it felt like a circle had been closed. It made sense.

And that's where my brain reacted in ways I wasn't used to. We're conditioned to want to avoid death, to see it as ''wrong '', and euthanasia on humans is illegal in many places but tolerated on animals and pets. And I know it would have been selfish to keep her with me for another day because of the inhumane level of pain she felt, even though she only expressed it when she wasn't in my arms or sleeping next to me.

Then I wrestled with my memories of her being louder than usual when she would talk to me these last few months, and wondering if there was anything I could have done differently for her to have a better quality of life; the doctors say her condition couldn't be cured, and even if it had been controlled by medicine, in cases like hers, the inevitable eventually happens anyway. I might not have even bought her more time.

But there's always that ''what if'' in the back of a human's mind. And although your mind knows right from wrong, truth from fiction - it still tries to play you.

Mine was telling me I was her protector, and that I had failed; but not only is death the only inevitability in Life, disease is the one thing no bodyguard can prevent, even the best ones.

I chose to cry to let my sadness out, and I chose to do it in front of her. With her. Towards her.

And I choose now to remember the love I gave her and the love I felt back. The good times we shared, and the bonds and closeness we had.

It'll be a while before I fall asleep easily without her sleeping either on top of me or with her back to mine, exchanging heat. And my other cat - who isn't the healthiest beast out there, I fear - will probably go nuts.

But she remains with me in thought. I treated her like a daughter, she treated me like a husband. I miss her like a sister.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Aliens Of The Sea

I read this article about a month ago, and it made me think. Essentially, they're taking one bit of actual scientific news (octopi have a unique and entirely different genetic DNA composition) and went wild with it (so they're aliens).

But... what if?
The first whole cephalopod genome sequence shows a striking level of complexity with 33,000 protein-coding genes identified – more than in a human.
Not only that, the octopus DNA is highly rearranged – like cards shuffled and reshuffled in a pack – containing numerous so-called “jumping genes” that can leap around the genome.
It changes from most modern movies where aliens are depicted as close relatives to insects, instead being far more complicated creatures.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Video Of The Week: Gulfer

Back to the underground with emo/math rock/indie band Gulfer, with their track from the split vinyl "F'Real For Real" (b/w Bob Abate) which also includes Del Paxton's  Paline and Bad Batch.

Gulfer's my type of indie band, having released stuff for a handful of different labels, being constantly on tour despite none of their members having a driver's license, and playing an honest, open type of soft-emo rock that is so much from the heart that it would only have been fashionable 10 years ago.

Guillaume Lebel shot the video in an apartment - a setting in which the band has often performed - and each band member brought their own dog to the shoot, which hits a soft spot for me.

Let me open myself up a bit and go full-confession: oftentimes, when I see a (local or mid-level American touring indie) band live and like them, I think to myself that one of their band members (usually a drummer, sometimes a bassist or singer, rarely a guitarist) would be amazing... in my group, playing my songs. (Not instead of their usual bands, but in addition to). Not these cats. They sound like this is the ideal setting for them, they sound like a unit. And there's nothing I could bring to the table to make any of them feel like this isn't the lone place where they can shine on their own.


Saturday, September 5, 2015

Video Of The Week: The Dead Weather

At long last, The Dead Weather (Alison Mosshart of The Kills on vocals, Jack Lawrence of The Raconteurs and The Greenhornes on ass, Dean Fertita of Queens Of The Stone Age on guitar and a guy named Jack White on drums and vocals) are set to release their third record, Dodge And Burn, at the end of the month.

As with most things Jack White, it happened with one phone call and a couple of days to record two songs in late 2013, the same for two more mid-2014, and 8 more songs this Spring. Crash, bang, boom - 12 songs, one record.

I won't pretend that I Feel Love (Every Million Miles) is the most original track each of these four artists have ever created, but it certainly fits in all of their respective cannons as a groovy, listenable song, etched in blues and hard rock, with just the right amount of lyrics for the right amount of time it lasts.

And the Ian & Copper-directed video has just the right amount of budget to be considered serious and professional while not being over-the-top nor overshadowing Mosshart or the music. You can hear White's voice at times, particularly near the end, but it's all Mosshart walking up a street against a wind machine.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Video Of The Week: N.W.A.

A couple of weeks ago, I went and saw Straight Outta Compton, the biopic telling the tale of rap group N.W.A., and figured I'd feature the song that inspired the title. But time passed, and I went a week without doing so.

Now is that time.

I recommend seeing the movie; as far as biopics go, I put it in the same category as Ray and Walk The Line, as good movies that tell a tale while taking a bit of liberties with history to make the story fit a two-hour time frame narrative. But if you're curious to find out about how Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, and MC Ren got started (and got in trouble), how their relationships were torn apart, how hip hop feuds can get violent, the arrivals of Snoop Doggy Dogg, Suge Knight, Da Lench Mob and The D.O.C. to the mix and just the ambiance of early-1990s West Coast rap in general.

However, I'd already featured Straight Outta Compton at the time of the album's 20th anniversary, so instead I opted to show Express Yourself this week, featuring a lead rap by Dr. Dre and samples from the eponymous classic by Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band and a sweet cameo from Tone Loc:

Monday, August 17, 2015

Open Letter To Men

Guys. Dicks, obviously.

Those who act like dicks, anyway. We're fed up with your shit. And by we, sure, I can easily mean the 85% of the population that isn't you. But I mean ''we'' more specifically as well, as in ''those of us men who aren't fucking assholes''.

I'm not an idiot. I know places like 4chan are just a haven for dumb bullying, bravado, and one-upping one another on the ''hardest'' shit one can come up with, and most of it is posturing and done in ''trolling good fun''.

Most people do.


What the fuck, man?

Do you really need to cross the line every fucking time? You do realize that by doing that, while you're masturbating in your parents' basements about making girls cry or whatever it is that turns you on in that shit, you're lumping the rest of us in your stupidity?

When the story about a girl getting into a fight with a guy who was too drunk and horny and didn't take ''no'' for an answer at my favourite bar (Casa Del Popolo) broke last week, I tried telling people to take a deep breath, assess the situation, not lump all their shit together into one, too easy issue, especially when some of them were making associations with Roosh V being in town recently and linking them, as if a drunk person needed inspiration to be rowdy and out of bounds and/or antagonizers needed inspiration for their bullshit.

The girl's speech was bordering too much on the ''all guys are assholes'' terrain, reminiscent of shitty after-school specials where a guy would typically become a racist and hate all black people because of one asshole who probably deservedly stole his girlfriend. Or whatever - you know the cliché.

But you fucking fuckers.

You motherfucking cock-brained idiots had to go and add fuel to the fucking fire.

And now you've got her pissed off, blind with rage and disappointment in mankind, and she has a fucking platform and people's attention to say things like:
''We do need to look at the comments. They are representative of the darkest corners of humanity that exist beyond the internet. People need to know this is real. These are real people walking around in our daily lives; the guy sitting next to you on the metro, the person you call for your internet tech support, the branch manager at your bank. It could be that cute boy you have a crush on in your class, or that self-proclaimed “nice guy” you just started dating. These are real people typing these things on their keyboards and they represent our real-life problems regarding violence against women.''
And it doesn't come from a bad place. She's wrong to lump all of us with you assholes, and hopefully she will see that in time - but you brought it on us. And in the meantime, that's a message that's getting attention. That's going to fuck the world we all (men, women, boys, girls, whatever lies in between and encompasses both) live in for a little while, because you fuckers couldn't stop yourselves from piling it on ON A FUCKING KID.

Okay, now to the rest of us who aren't worse than cancer and AIDS put together:

I've said it before and I'll say it again: at this point, I'm not certain our society can be repaired and sort itself out the way it is. If tomorrow, everyone had the same rights, same wages for the same jobs, same advantages, no more race or gender or anything, it wouldn't be enough because many feel they've been wronged for too long that equality isn't enough. And I don't blame them, though that'll be the subject of another - probably much longer - post. But the solution lies with starting anew. New or no borders, new or no systems, new or no laws. Simplification, not more loopholes: don't mess with others or their shit.

In the grand scheme of things, many have been wronged and most Peoples are a victim of something, of someone, at least in their narrative. Except probably the British and their direct descendants.

In the girl's fight last week, she witnessed a guy hitting on too many women, then herself, and concluded he was a ''pick-up artist'' and decided he deserved to have a drink poured on him to make him stop. She still feels this was fair punishment, while I tend to want to use the same weapons for attack as defense, that's fine, it didn't harm anyone physically and got her point across.

He then allegedly choked her, after which she broke a pint of beer (glass) over his head, making him bleed profusely.

I feel this escalated way too quickly, for one, and the dude did, indeed go way overboard by initiating physical contact, and she slit his head open, which is deserved retaliation at this point.

This was a fight.

I wasn't there, but from those details, which are from her exact deposition and account of the event, that's all it was. A disagreement that turned physical, because a guy went overboard and a girl reacted.

Grand scheme of things? Misogyny? I don't see it. I see a system that isn't working for women, that isn't equal though it's written to be, I see more men with loud voices getting their message(s) across than women and some of them do not treat women with respect (though I see - slow - progress in pop culture diversification though much of it seems contrived and doesn't necessarily always fit the proper narrative); we're in a ''freedom of speech'' society where, if it's done within certain boundaries and not inciting to behaviour, this is acceptable - BOTH WAYS. Person A can be an ass, Person B can call them out for it. Person A is allowed to think a certain way, Person B is allowed to fully disagree.

We do need to grow the fuck up as a species. Not just be civilized, that's a given - and shit, when some people are, it's so rare nowadays that it makes the fucking news -  but also, get rid of our persecution complex.

We're in 2015. You are bigger than your skin colour, your race, your sexual orientation, your gender, your preferences, your tastes. YOU HAVE AN IDENTITY. YOU ARE ONE. You do not need to represent anyone other than yourself, we're aware of most of what's out there, we're fine with it, count your vote as your own.

I may love you for who you are; why can't I hate you for who you are?

Do you know WHY 4chan fuckers say the things they say? Because they know words can destroy you, when, really, they shouldn't. LOOK IN THE MIRROR AND ASK YOURSELF WHO YOU ARE. When in doubt, ask folks around you. What defines you?

If something that can come out of someone with Tourette's mouth can ruin your day, you're fucked.

You're allowed to have off days, days where the slightest thing will break you down, yes; but you can't be like that every day. You need to rise and stand up so we can rise with you. Life isn't an individual sport, it's a team fucking effort, and in it, we're allowed to have as many teammates as we want or need. You don't have to choose to reject everyone for a few fuckers, and you shouldn't live your life with the fear or impression that they lurk underneath the skin of everyone you meet; you'll only be hurting yourself and stopping yourself from fucking feeling things, and if you can't feel a thing, what's the point in being alive?

You defended yourself when he was choking you, didn't you? Ergo, you had a will to live, and a will to fight for what seemed right. Come back on the team, or let us join yours.

Trust me, there are bigger canyons to cross ahead - like the one where even really good people make really bad fucking mistakes once in a while. Not every murderer is a criminal, and not every criminal is a ''bad'' person. And few of the most clean-cut are as perfect as they seem. Again, regardless of gender, race, religion or tolerance to lactose.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Say What?

You've heard about growing ears on rats' backs, right?

How about on human forearms? How about on human forearms for no one's actual benefit but as an arts/science experiment to eventually hook the thing online and have everyone on the planet hear what's going on in his life?

Well, that's what a Perth, Australia artist has in mind for the one growing on his fucking arm.

You don't like it? Grow your own and do whatever you want with yours.

Yep, the miracles of modern science.

Video Of The Week: Paul Cargnello

Let's get it out of the way: I'm not a huge fan of Paul Cargnello's. His teenage politically-leaning and cliché-filled lyrics when he was in ska band The Vendettas killed it for me for the long run in the late 1990s, and I find a lot of his French-language songs to be cheesy as well.

But people like him, and his music. And that's fine. Not everyone is infallible; there's the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and myself. And I accept the lot of you just the way you are, with all your shortcomings. So keep being yourselves.

That being said, this video for the song Appeal To Me, from his 2014 album The Hardest Part Is You May Never Know, has a great fine blues-rock rock riff, nicely accentuated by a harmonica in the back. Unfortunately, his attempt at writing a sexy song falls way short, particularly with a video featuring nothing but his face and a few awkward spots of missed-emotion lip-synching. But if I blank out the words, the songs definitely falls into the ''2000 Best Imitations of Jack White This Month'' category, and that's something.

So, uh, Keep on Rockin' In The Free World, folks.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Video Of The Week: Rage Against The Machine

I was walking and talking with a friend who's younger than me this week, and for some reason the conversation came to Rage Against The Machine. I was certain that their impact had been so huge, so grandiose, that everyone under the age of 40 would instantly know who they were, from Wake Up playing at the end of The Matrix to the perfect-for-high-schooolers end of Killing In The Name with its ending of more than twenty repetitions of the phrase ''Fuck you, I won't do what you tell me''.

Alas, no. Even folks who claim to have ''listened to subversive music'' in their teens can live their lives Rage-free.

And so, as a favor for all those lost souls, I decided to feature them once more, and while I did juggle with the idea of featuring Killing In The Name, in the end, I opted for the Michael Moore-directed Sleep Now In The Fire, chronicling the day where RATM closed the New York Stock Exchange ten minutes early and in which, during a parody of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, they display facts about wealth and income inequality.

It gets both Rage's and Moore's main messages across, but it also gives Moore the chance to go outside his now-inevitable documentary film-making and go back to just plain storytelling, and the cheesy green screen effects in front of which the band pretends to croon act like his follow-up to Canadian Bacon.

There are a variety of tones use in the less-than-four-minute video, and it's rich in meaning and Truth.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Video Of The Week: Kwabs

I didn't have my mind set up on a specific track to feature this week, but when I fell on British R&B singer Kwabs' Walk recently after months of not hearing it, it just made sense to me. It reflects parts of my current life, parts of my recent past, and parts of life in general where you've got to keep your chin up, and move on to bigger and greater things.

In a ''very post-millennial music world'' turn of events, I just realized today that while the song was released in September 2014, the album it will be on is only set for release in September... 2015. Singles: the way of the 1950s, and the way of the present.

I'm sure it must have cost a shitload of money, but the special effects used in the video are both subtle and impressive, and they blend with the beat and picture seamlessly - a fine piece of direction and editing by David Mould, I really like how they increase in intensity all the way through:

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Video Of The Week: Soundgarden

Soundgarden had good songs from start to finish. Well, they're still going at it after a decade-long hiatus, but they've still got decent tracks - just not as many as average ones.

But the one I listen to the most (and cover the most live) has to be Outshined, from their seminal 1991 album Badmotorfinger, so I figured I'd feature the video this week, directed by Matt Mahurin (which the band despised, assessing he had phoned it in while concentrating on the simultaneous editing of Metallica's The Unforgiven):

The ladies used to love singer Chris Cornell's long curly hair and often-bare chest, very heavy metal-like. Then again, Soundgarden were the Seattle grunge scene's heaviest act, in that they were the most obviously influenced by actual metal, whereas Alice In Chains were inspired by hair metal first and foremost, Pearl Jam by classic rock, and Nirvana by punk and The Pixies.

I've been listening to Soundgarden a lot lately. Not enough to forget about my encounter with them in 1994, and not enough to forget Cornell's solo output, but enough to remember I really liked them.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Independence Day

Not every people gets to experience their Independence Day. Not every country gets to tell its parents/owners/conquerors they want to try to make it on their own.

'Murrrrca, you're not perfect. You're probably still the most racist country on earth, and your insistence on owning weapons you will never know how to use will always exacerbate the difference of opinions your Founding Fathers cherished and thought would be the basis of your democracy.

The 2000s have divided you to extremes no one ever could imagine. Your once-promising culture resides no longer in the quality of your art and museums but to which dumb asshole you will put on a Reality TV show next.

But in the 1770s, you - with a shitload of help from the French and in particular Gilbert du Motier (a.k.a. Marquis de Lafayette) - told England to fuck off with their tea, and snobbery, and monarchy, and Old World colonial ways.

You were too selfish to help the French and Aboriginals fight back the English in Québec (New France/Lower Canada) in return, but at least you got your nice little country out of it. And you built it on the promise of Equality, which is nice.

It took a while to get there, sure, and the argument can be made that you still haven't (racial bias in the economic and legal systems, wage disparity, marriage equality), but the idea is there. If not for you, then perhaps for some future country/society with the will and openness to apply your theories.

So, Happy Independence Day, United States of America. 239 years in your experiment, you're either halfway there or on the brink of collapse. My thoughts are with you; let's hope for the best.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Video Of The Week: Dead Messenger

Well, it's Canada Day, or Dollard Day, or Moving Day - whatever your allegiance and/or political affiliation. Mine lies with rock and roll, and summer - thus, Dead Messenger's newest video, directed by Big James Arsenian, Cold Summer:

You may remember them from my constant reminders about how they're the best live band in Montréal, how Jonathan Cummins calls them ''the ideal power pop band'' or just by how fucking amazing they are. Just like Ben Affleck in Phantoms, they're the bomb.

I remember them as good people, terrific musicians, and crafty songwriters. And, well, it's fitting, this song, considering the weather so far.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Happy St-Jean Baptiste Day!

It was going to be a paid Holiday like most others: spending three hours finishing the work I hadn't done last night, taking it slow, alone, in my shitty apartment, then heading out to see friends in a band performing, this time Orchestre Afrobeat Jeunesse Cosmique outdoors, at Parc Hibernia, in Pointe St-Charles.

But it rained, so all we got were the openers, Le Trio Poitras, for 75 minutes, then the rest of the festivities were cancelled.

But the Jeunesse Cosmique folks decided to turn the botched outdoors Québec National Holiday into a house party of sorts, and invited me over since I had friends in the band and was already there.

By the middle of the first song, i was the third percussionist, and by 10 PM we had recorded a live album. And I'm pretty proud of my playing on two tracks, particularly the last one.

And when I got home, I made myself the second-most Quebecest meal (because I wasn't going to make myself a maple syrup poutine this late at night), a bowl of spaghetti covered in Schwartz' smoked meat:

It was one of my best days in a very long time.

Video Of The Week: Aut'Chose

A lot of times, when I feature Montréal acts, or Québec acts for St-Jean Baptiste, I feature the best. Or at least my favourites. I provide my readership with the illusion that my peoples are talented, original, great.

I usually always feature English-language songs on this English-language blog.

Not today.

We're a cultivated, open, religion-free (mostly) democratic (presumably) people, sure, but we're also trashy beyond what Americans may know. There's White Trash residue in many of us, myself included.

For 400 years we have kind of refused to join the British Empire (and for 150, we're iffy about Canada as well, which belongs to the Queen anyway), and because of that, Americans falsely identify us with the French, from France.

Let me clear this up right now: we are nothing like them, apart from the smoking and over-the-top sex. They let us rot and abandoned us 400 years ago, so we did what every stepchild does and rebelled, and carved our own path. They're snobs who drink wine and eat snails, so we went with beer and fucking fried potatoes with gravy and cheese curds on top. They like buttoned down shirts, so we went with t-shirts. They covet everyone else's wife, so we... well, so do we.

Oh, they have books, we have movies. They have poets who become singer-songwriters, and apart from Leonard Cohen, we have dirty fucking rock songs that you either cannot decipher what the singer's talking about (Malajube), or speaks a street dialect (''joual'') that would make a Frenchie shit his pants if he encountered us in an alleyway (Offenbach).

Our top-earning star male musicians look like they stink, not because they don't shower like the croissant-eaters, but because they've just played a three-hour show, fucked three girls and maybe a guy, then played another show in another town (Jean Leloup), or are playing shows in-between week-long cocaine binges and use beer both as meal-replacements and perfume (Éric Lapointe).

We're a cross between New York City (all of Manhattan and Brooklyn) and Texas, minus the racism - for a while anyway. It's starting to seep in, but historically, it wasn't there. And it's still mostly based on language (the English-speaking crowd still owns half of buildings and commerces some 75 years after French speakers were allowed to start being masters of their own domains).

But we have dirt, is what I'm saying, and we're proud of it. I like having an edge, but I do get embarrassed at how low we can go. I mean, shit, sometimes I think Kid Rock might be one of my relatives.

And this is how low we go: Aut'Chose. Originally a band in the 1970s, fronted by ''poet'' Lucien Francoeur, they incorporated spoken-word into blues-rock, which in itself doesn't sound so bad. But they copied American bands' riffs without adding anything new, and the ''words'' were, uh, observational ''bar scene'' types of situations. Things that wouldn't be put to record nowadays because they can be said more eloquently by five-year-olds.

What's messed up is they went largely forgotten for most of the 1980s and 1990s, but for some reason there was a demand for a revival in the 2000s, and because a lot of the band wasn't available, was dead, or just didn't want to join in on the fun, only Francoeur and Jacques Racine remain as original members, and the rest of the musicians are an all-star line-up of the best Montréal indie (mostly francophone) scene: Vincent Peake (Groovy Aardvark, GrimSkunk, Floating Widget) on bass, Michel ''Away'' Langevin (drums) and Denis ''Piggy'' D'Amour (guitar) from Voïvod, Joe Evil (from GrimSkunk) on keyboards and guitar, and Alex Crow (Tricky Woo, Kosmos, Caféine) on guitar - the kind of line-up you could record anything from Beethoven pieces to technical metal to hard punk with.

But no, they re-did this ''classic'' instead, which I share because it makes as much/little sense in English as it does in French... They won't let me embed it, but please, click on this link and watch it. It features such ''stars'' as Rick Hughes (of 80s band Sword), Denis ''Snake'' Bélanger of Voïvod, Martin Deschamps, and two female guest stars, Francoeur's daughter and Racine's girlfriend. It's unclear which one Francoeur's hitting on in the video, by the way, as both kind of look alike to me - and no one finds that creepy in the least. Who the fuck knows what a Bar-B-Q Lady is, but I sure as fuck hope ''Bubblegum Baby'' isn't some euphemism for incest.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

National Women's Hockey League

I envision a clash in the next two to five years between the newly-formed National Women's Hockey League (with the Original Four being New York RivetersBoston Pride, Buffalo Beauts and Connecticut Whale) and the already-existing Canadian Women's Hockey League (consisting of the Montréal Stars, Brampton Thunder, Calgary Inferno, Toronto Furies and perhaps still the Boston Blades), which already owns the Clarkson Cup, emblem of team supremacy.

Most Olympians already played in the CWHL, but I'm guessing members of Team USA will prefer playing closer to home while the ladies who play for Team Canada will mostly choose to remain in the CWHL. There are exceptions, mostly coming from one's life partner working in another country.

Hopefully they end up merging into one eight-team league, and they can start earning actual salaries (which is not yet the case).

In any event, the NWHL had its inaugural draft this weekend, and released a tear-inducing introductory video:

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Donald Trump

Jesus Christ, Donald (notice the comma, Donald)...

Donald Trump opened his mouth again, once more to announce a run for President. Of the United States of America. And words came out of there. Words like these:
They built a hotel. When I build a hotel, I have to pay interest. They don’t have to pay interest because they took the oil when we left Iraq, I said we should have taken. So now ISIS has the oil.
Now I've tested pretty strong in IQ tests and SATs and am well educated and all, but even I wasn't smart enough to figure out what the hell The Donald was talking about with this one, but that's ok.

That quote and nine others were compiled by The Daily Banter in a single page that will make you want to knock your head against a brick wall, until you realize he's only just beginning and we may actually have another year of him spewing this shit all over the media. Which will make the brick wall attack you to destroy itself.

I love me a good role reversal, but not enough to want to witness President Trump - unless we're talking Ivanka, in which case I'm more open to the idea.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Hockey Doesn't Work In Glendale, Arizona - Take 6005

So, uh, hockey in the desert. A bad idea unless you're in Las Vegas, right? A worse idea in a suburb that doesn't care about it, right?

You'd think.

First things first, here's a recap of the story so far:

The Winnipeg Jets left Canada in 1996 to become the Phoenix Coyotes. It didn't work out so great because the arena the team shared with the NBA's Phoenix Suns wasn't adapted to hockey, so they looked at other options, including another downtown Phoenix location, and some suburbs, including Scottsdale, which has more expats from the East and North who are familiar with hockey.

Through backroom deals and the pipe dream of building ''another Las Vegas'' in the desert complete with facilities for all four major team sports, golf courses, upscale malls and hyper-expensive condo towers, the owners decided to settle on Glendale, a not-so-rich suburb full of college football fans. It didn't exactly pan out, and the neighbourhood-building never really occurred.

The team went through tough times on the ice, people stopped coming to games, one ownership group declared bankruptcy, many people tried to buy the team but were rejected by the league (including Canadian billionaire Jim Balsillie who wanted to move it to Hamilton, Ontario), and the team was operated and self-owned by the NHL for a few years, until four guys came in (Anthony Leblanc being the most vocal) a couple of years ago and bought it for $150M. Last summer, they sold 51% of their share of the team to Andrew Barroway for... $150M, meaning the original bunch kept half the team without paying a penny for it. There are now talks of Barroway selling some of his shares.

The team was said to lose $25M per year and complained they weren't making enough money from arena revenue, so they forced the city of  Glendale, which technically owns the arena, to hand them a contract to ''manage'' the building, in exchange for $15M per year and basically a free lease; in return, they were to fill it on non-hockey nights with concerts, sporting events, trade shows and the like to ring in enough tax revenue for Glendale to recoup most of the money they gave the team.

Which they didn't. There were only 15 non-Coyotes events at the arena last year, raking in less than $6M in revenue (taxes and concession stands included). Ironically, that alone IS NOT grounds for termination of contract. Indeed, Glendale is instead insisting on one anti-corruption clause of the lease contract which forbids a City employee who worked on the deal to start working for the team. And one of them, an attorney who supported the deal, no less, was indeed getting paid on both sides of the fence at one moment in 2013.

This, of course, was to be expected. I could have booked that arena 100 times and would have done it for less than $5M myself, including cab expenses (I don't drive). Anything more is a scam and a sham - and not being able to achieve it in a year where  both Madonna and the Rolling Stones were touring, let alone circuses, mid-level rock acts and current-day chart toppers touring almost non-stop.

Then again, I could also probably manage the Coyotes to better than 29th place with a coach like Dave Tippett behind the bench. Don Maloney at least got some kind of return for the likes of Keith Yandle (Anthony Duclair!) and Antoine Vermette (a first-rounder and defensive prospect Klas Dahlbeck), but he got rid of his best goalie (Devan Dubnyk) because he was hindering starter Mike Smith's confidence, and has done nothing in any off-season to make players feel welcome, buying out veterans after throwing them under the bus (Mike Ribeiro) and letting his best players walk as free agents (Radim Vrbata).

But I digress.

I know fans are passionate, and that's cool. But the harsh economic reality is this: basing the reason to exist of an entire franchise which is below average in attendance and revenue and therefore receiving help from the richer franchises just to meet payroll over one local-boy-getting-drafted success story or even 20,000 season-ticket owning fans (which there aren’t) is not a good reason enough to keep a team in a place where it will cost the other owners some of their own profits to operate.

People need to look past their own passion and look at the raw numbers and facts, in their proper context. It sucked when the Québec Nordiques and Jets moved, and it was sad to see the Atlanta Thrashers get sold when you think that it involved a family of owners who lost a lot of money in trying to make it work. There are human dramas there. but the math didn’t work.

Even if the arena was filled every night, you'd still need more. You need millions of passionate fans to keep a franchise afloat, buying products (directly team-related or advertiser-related, and player-sponsor-related) and watching games and traveling with the team and creating a secondary market and building homes near the arena and attending concerts at one arena instead of another to support the ownership group.

The Florida Panthers have the excuse that their side ventures are doing great – among the best in hockey. There’s always something happening at their arena. The Coyotes are just sucking up public funds.

Or were.

The Glendale city council voted to terminate the team's lease last night, and the team threatened to sue for $200M. But first: an injunction (court order to temporarily put the termination on hold while awaiting further proceedings), of course.

At the council session, Mayor Jerry Weiers got blasted by season-ticket holder Ronda Pearson, which she - and the internet - seems to think she demolished, except as I pointed out below, sure, she's forking over $4K per season towards the team, but that's far from their $70M payroll and there aren't 20,000 folks like her. No matter how passionate she is, she is part of too small a minority for hockey to work in Glendale. Maybe Tempe, maybe Scottsdale, maybe Phoenix itself - but it just doesn't work in Glendale. Here's her passionate speech:

In a predictable-yet-odd turn of events, the mayor agreed to get tasered for charity just a few days later, and she was the one holding the gun. Notice her still-angry face:

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Video Of The Week: The White Stripes

I featured The White Stripes for the first time last month, and it's probably time to properly play catch-up. So here's one from their sixth (and final) studio album, Icky Thump. It's unclear if at this point, Jack White (vocals, guitars, keyboards) and Meg White (drums) had already had their falling out or if it was about to happen, but this video, directed by Emmett Malloy and shot in front of the historical Hudson's Bay Company (the first company in North America) buildings in Iqualuit, Nunavut (Canada) shows the former couple's usual possibly-fake-angry faces and complicit smiles that, in retrospect, seem to have been part of a romantic prolonged breakup.

Jack, of course, is often quoted as saying Meg won't return his calls when inquired about a White Stripes reunion, and it's probably a shame for music as a whole, because while Jack's solo band is the best collection of musicians he's ever played with by far (no offense to The Raconteurs and Dead Weather, which I both love) and gives him a broader range of styles to explore, the confines of a two-piece really seemed to stimulate his creative juices. The third WS album (White Blood Cells) was already one of the finest creative pieces in rock history, but his songwriting just kept improving every time.

I have written songs myself that could have used someone with her touch on the drums, her unique metronomic pounding. In the 00s, there were as many mean jokes about Meg's ''lack of talent'' on the drums as there'd been about Ringo Starr in decades previous - and perhaps that's part of the reason why she won't come back - but you could always tell it was her playing that beat. Some have tried to sound like her, but they just can't cut it. It's probably partly due to Jack's obsession with vintage gear both in the studio and to play with, but a Meg beat remains a Meg beat. There are no substitutes, and right now, her absence has created a void - in my musical life, at least.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Video Of The Week: Alabama Shakes

A month and a half since it was released, Alabama Shakes' second record, Sound & Color, is having a similar effect on me as last year's Transgendered Dysphoria Blues by Against Me! in the sense that I've been listening to it non--stop, on repeat, in order or randomly, ever since.

Leader Brittany Howard penned most of the tracks herself, and because I'm still waiting for official videos for some of the standout tracks, I decided to feature the title song this week, in a video directed by James Frost (Norah Jones' Come Away With Me, Radiohead's House Of Cards, OK Go's This Too Shall Pass), featuring a gripping performance by actor Kenneth Morgan:

I'm not the ideal target audience for anything that remotely seems like it could become 2001: A Space Odyssey, because I do not have another 3 hours of my life to waste on feeling 5 years older by the time I'm done with it, but this wasn't half bad.