Monday, March 31, 2003

Plug Pluggy Plug Plug

Hey you! Heard of the Oscars? Sure you have! But who's to say that only movies should earn shiny, ostentatious awards shaped like naked men? In response, Jay Pinkerton's The Trailer Trash recently hosted the 1st Annual Trailer Awards for the best and worst in movie trailer acheivement for the past year! Click here to find out who brought home the Trashy and who brought home a healthy dose of cripling shame and a stomach full of pretzels.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Record Labels: 1, Artists: 0

Yesterday, I finally got a laptop upgrade. Now, it's not quite as big an upgrade as I was hoping. It's still a Pentium III (not a Pentium 4, like I had hoped), but I now have a machine with over triple the amount of RAM I used to have and a much larger LCD screen. Plus, it works! Nothing's broken! It's a whole new world, ladies and gentlemen...

Anyway, now that I have a new laptop that's properly configured, I can do many of the things that I've been unable to do since the last crash...including using my external CD burner again. So off to Kazaa I go!

Well, since I've been gone, it looks like things have changed a bit (or it had changed before and I was oblivious to it). This may be old news to some of you, but there's this new technique out there called "spoofing", where a record company hires agents to take an artist's material, make a flawed digital copy of the song, and then flood the online community with copy upon copy of these altered digital files, or "spoofs". Spoofs can come in many different forms, all of which are annoying. Sometimes it's a pulse, spaced every twenty seconds apart, which disrupts the song just long enough for you to want to tear your hair out. Sometimes it's a loop of the chorus, repeated over and over again for three minutes. Sometimes it's the first twenty seconds of the song and another four minutes of silence. Sometimes it's some voice coming on saying, "If you like this song, maybe you should buy the record, jackass!"

After a frustrating day of downloading close to 50 of these spoofs in one sitting (all to get one lousy clean version of a song...yes, I'm probably more patient than I should be), I'm feeling pretty manipulated. I only want the one song. I know it's out there, but the only versions I can find have been messed with. I'm angry and faced with a question: am I angry enough to go and buy the CD?

Which makes me ask another question: How can they expect to sell a product through making someone so angry and frustrated that they either surrender and buy it or they give up on it entirely? Sure, annoying the customer has been done before (grating jingles, obnoxious sales people) with varying success, but is using methods like that in the interests of making art? Of course not. But in this day and age, music is a business as well as an art form.

My answer's no.

I won't surrender. I can live without that song. There are plenty of other cool songs out there. In time, I'll probably forget hearing about the band from a friend or on the radio. And as a result, that artist may have lost the chance to expose me to the rest of their music. A potential fan, who may have bought CDs, concert tickets, and T-shirts, and merchandise. And that's a real shame, for both the artist and me.

So has the record company won? No, they're not getting my money. Now, no one associated with that particular song is getting my money. Will there be enough people out there who'll be pressured into buying the disk to earn the labels the same kind of profits they were seeing three years ago? I doubt it. Besides, many of the more advanced peer-to-peer (P2P) applications already have anti-spoof strategies in place, and soon, spoofing will be obsolete, anyway.

The labels have won a battle, but they're losing the war. My only question is, what will they try next?

Much Semi-Nakedness

On a blog that I've been checking into every once in a while over the past few days, I discovered this little tidbit. It seems that ex-Much Music hottie Rachel Perry is going to be in Maxim. Nice.

Monday, March 24, 2003

You Can Catch More Flies with Sugar than with Vinegar

In my own annual tradition (started, more or less, by my friend, Mike, who hosted a party every year at his place), I watched the Academy Awards last night, in their entirety. And once again, I was amazed by how much filler there was, even though they went to great lengths to ensure that the show would be three and a half hours long exactly. The meet-and-greet past Oscar winners dragged on and on, like it always does, in a glammed-up mockery of a public-school class picture, with risers and all. There were tiresome, teeth-grinding "comedy" monologues by Steve Martin, looking even more desperate for a cheap laugh than he ever has (I felt sorry for the guy when he went to the lengths of suggesting that he had done the dirty with Ernest Borgnine. Funny, but man, where's your self-respect?). And, as always, I disagreed with a few of the calls on who got the little naked gold guy. C'est la vie.

For me, the highpoint was comparing Michael Moore and Adrien Brody. Essentially, they had the same message (war is bad), but their approach was different and they elicited a vastly different response. Michael Moore took the angry, confrontational, "Shame on you, Mr. Bush!" approach while Adrien Brody took the sensitive, moderate, "whoever you believe in, if it's God or Allah, may he watch over you and let's pray for a peaceful and swift resolution" approach. Essentially, they said the same thing, but one of them got booed and one of them got a standing ovation.

Of course, delivering Moore's message took a lot more balls, that's for certain. "Anybody who's got both the Pope and the Dixie Chicks against them is not long for the White House!" he shouted, as a long cane hooked him off the stage. Brilliant line, and kudos to you, Mr. Moore, for taking a stand.

And kudos to Adrien Brody for backing him up with a more PC, Moore-lite message. Oh, and also for playing tonsil hockey with the supa-yummy Halle Berry in front of what the network was calling "a billion" viewers. My new hero.

On a personal note, I was very, very happy that Adrien Brody and Roman Polanski won (in what was called an upset by some critics, on both counts) for their work on The Pianist, which, in many respects was my pick for Best Picture -- even though I would've hit the ROOF in joy if The Two Towers had taken home the gold. I was also really pleased that Chris Cooper and Nicole Kidman were recognized.

But MAN, do I ever feel bad for Julianne Moore. Two nominations for the night and a pile of past nominations, and still nothing to put on her mantelpiece. And what was up with Michael Caine? I mean, I understand if he's pretty upset he didn't win, but he's an ACTOR! He really shouldn't have made his displeasure so obvious. Every time the camera flashed to him, he looked like somebody had just finished strangling his puppy. And how about those technical awards recipients where the first person would take 30 seconds, then next takes 15, and the third can only get an "ababba-jibbaaa!" into the microphone before it was whisked away from them? I half-expected reports of fistfights backstage.

The Lord of the Rings took home two Oscars. Here's to Return of the King getting Peter Jackson his Best Picture Oscar to go with all the rest!

Thursday, March 20, 2003

"Target of Opportunity" and "Decapitation Attack"

Just two new phrases which suddenly joined our lexicon last night. It's amazing how quickly these newly-coined terms have caught on. Of course, it sure helps when you're watching CNN and they repeat each word in tandem every 20 seconds.

Who knows? Maybe this whole Iraq mess will be over in one attack. I'm not holding my breath, though.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Here lies Modern Diplomacy, b. 1945 d. 2003

I've been meaning to find the time to write all day today. In the end, I decided to drop what I was doing to take a few moments to reflect.

First, my friends Mike and Tara have spent some time today collecting their thoughts on the imminent Gulf War II and I encourage you all to read what they have to say. They're both very talented, thoughtful writers and I expect they will have a great deal more to say about this issue in the upcoming weeks and months.

As for me, I'm unsure how to put into words the exact feelings that I'm experiencing right now. In the past, as recently as during armed conflicts in Afghanistan and the former Yugoslavia, I have followed warfare with fascination rather than fear. I spent hours glued to my television or hitting the refresh button on my browser to make sure that I had as much up-to-date information as possible. I wanted to know what kind of aircraft were involved and what kind of ordnance was being dropped. I wanted to know the players involved and tracked successes and defeats. I watched press conferences and listened to reports from senior Defense officials. But through it all, I had the luxury of detachment. They were all places that were far away and the chances were very small that these conflicts would affect me personally.

This time around, something feels different.

I study news releases less with fascination and more with an impending sense of dread. I think, more than anything else, that for the first time in my life I have realized that, politically, something is going terribly wrong in the world. And it surprises me because I know that it shouldn't have taken this long to realize it. I am aware of many recent atrocities: Rwanda, Chechnya, Israel and Palestine, East Timor. They have all suffered in the name of political will and paid in blood. But even as terrible as events were or continue to be in these places and many many others around the world, I don't know very much about them. They don't affect me as much as they should because I don't have a large personal stake in them.

Does that make me a bad person? I'm not sure. Am I at fault or is it the mainstream media, which filters what we hear and talk about by presenting its biased and self-serving interpretation of world events? But even if the media were to blame, the information is still available if you spend some time looking for it. As a thinking, compassionate human being and, in many respects, a pacifist, shouldn't I be more aware? The answer, of course, is yes. I should be. And yet, I only tend to take notice when the United States is marching off to war again.

Is this war justified? As many people have already said, it's too late to debate justification. It's going to happen. Yet feelings are still strong on both sides of the issue. Over the past few weeks, it has become increasingly clear to me how emotionally-charged it really is. Many of my friends have asked me not to discuss it with them because they are so tired of people arguing about it, and worse, getting angry at them if they had a differing point of view. I can relate. The other day, someone started screaming at me in their living room because I made an argument about the potential war that he refused to recognize. Even more perplexing, another heated argument started the day before when someone else suggested that it was okay for innocent men to die (as opposed to innocent women and children) because "it was men who started the war."

It amazes me how public opinion can be so divided and polarized on this issue. How is the upcoming war so different from other recent military actions? And worse, how are our opinions becoming skewed towards blindly fighting for one side or the other of a very loaded debate to the point that we would say such terrible things to one another?

In just over 24 hours, bombs will start to drop on Iraq. Innocent people are going to die. In a matter of weeks or months, the United States will most likely prevail, and a new, American-sponsored "democratic" Iraq will emerge. Time will tell what will happen after that. What role will the United Nations play in the future? Will it reclaim some of its former authority once the dust has settled? Will Iraq be managed, rebuilt, or supported? Will Iraq become a shadow state like Afghanistan is today? What will the legacy of the war be? Will it be another minor event in world history or will it lead to much greater, and potentially, much more deadly events?

That's a lot of questions to ask all at once. And maybe that's part of why I feel so unsettled. The future, at this point, seems very unclear, and I'm nervous about some of the possibilities. I'm nervous about what's going to happen to innocent Iraqi civilians. I'm nervous about what's going to happen to other innocent civilians around the world in backlash attacks. I'm optimistic about removing a cruel dictator from power but I'm also nervous about the potential destabilization in world politics that it may cause. I'm nervous about any state acting recklessly and invading another state under the pretense that the enemy state may, at some future time, do the exact same thing that they are proposing as a preventative measure. I'm nervous about India and Pakistan, about the Middle East, and about North and South Korea. I'm tired of being nervous.

My heart goes out to everyone who may be directly affected by what's about to happen. Take care of yourselves, and don't forget, especially at times like these, to recognize what's really important in your life and to find joy in as many things as you can. Even the little things can make all the difference.

Monday, March 17, 2003

A Welcome Distraction

I found an interesting article on CNN (you know, in amongst all the mess about a war in Iraq, the impotence of the United Nations, and a new deadly, untreatable plague that's sweeping across the world) about a "Superman Curse." It's a silly notion, but it's very coincidental that so many actors have met such unfortunate fates after playing a Superman-related role. I'm just waiting for a freak Ripley's Believe it or Not accident to wipe out Dean Cain. I'm betting on something involving a two-headed camel, twelve busty women in bikinis, and that guy who can tie knots in rope using only the inside of his stomach. *shudder*

Friday, March 14, 2003

I Know it's a Heavy, Heart-Wrenching Movie, But...

The title of the movie The Pianist always makes me giggle. Especially when they pronounce it "Pee-AN-ist" on the trailer to avoid confusion with the other thing. Much like "Ur-AN-us" and "Hare-ESS-ment."

Hee hee hee.

A pianist on Uranus. Scandalous!

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Things to be Thankful For (to Help Me Forget that I'm Stressed Out)

It's March, and winter will be over soon. I don't think I need to reiterate the fact that this winter has hit me harder than any other winter that I can remember. And considering that it's been so bone-chillingly cold, I'm thankful for....

My health. I've gone most of the winter without a cold, which is unheard-of for me. I suspect that it's partially because....

I quit smoking. Still going strong, I've been a non-smoker since October 1st, 2002. It's now been over 5 months, but I couldn't have done it alone. I quit at the same time as....

My lovely girlfriend, Stacey. Who just turned 26 on Sunday! Happy Birthday, honey! We had a good (but busy) weekend clebrating with family and friends, including....

My buddy, Mike Paquet. Mike was recently returned to us from Scotland, and we missed him terribly. It still seems odd that we can call him up go out for a beer whenever we want, now. Still, it's a shame that we had to trade for....

My buddy Matt. Unfortunately, he's in Scotland now. I sure hope he's doing okay. It's funny, but Scotland seems to be a black hole lately, luring all of my friends in with promises of good beer, sea serpents and....

Red-haired lasses, like my friend Kendra. I haven't seen her since graduation from University, but I heard she's finally back in Canada now from the wonderful land of Oz. I miss her terribly....if anyone knows how to get in touch with her, let me know. Hey Kendra, we could go out for....

Chinese food. Last night, I had chinese food at one of my favourite restaurants in Ottawa, the Mekong. Freakin' great food. Check out the Szechuan Crispy Beef and the Lemongrass Chicken. Excellent, just like my....

New laptop. Ask and ye shall receive. It looks like I'm getting a brand new top-of-the-line laptop sometime real soon, which I'm really looking forward to. It's a Dell, but if I hear anyone else say "Dude! You're getting a Dell!" I'm probably going to have to go a bit medieval.

But I have to say one thing that I'm NOT thankful for:

If this SNOW doesn't end, I'm probably going to completely lose it. Right now, we have 9-ft. snowbanks on either side of our driveway. It's like some horrible, frozen, low-budget WWI trench-warfare movie.

Need Any More Evidence the Canada's Freaking Cold?

This is a new one for me: three of the Great Lakes have frozen over. Read about it here.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

The Frog - By Hilaire Belloc

Be kind and tender to the frog,
And do not call him names,
As 'Slimy skin' or 'Polly-wog',
Or likewise 'Ugly James',
Or 'Gap-a-grin', or 'Toad-gone-wrong',
Or 'Billy Bandy-knees':
The Frog is justly sensitive
To epithets like these.

No animal will more repay
A treatment kind and fair;
At least so lonely people say
Who keep a frog (and, by the way,
They are extremely rare).

- Reprinted from "Selected Cautionary Verses"