Friday, April 25, 2003

Who Likes Comic Books?

I do! Whether you're interested in checking out how much comics have changed since you were a kid (or if you're still a kid and just like free stuff) or a dyed-in-the-wool fan alike, make your way to your local comic book shop on May 3rd and score some free loot on Free Comic Book Day! C'mon people! Comic books for the low, low price of FREE!

Read all about it and get an idea of what titles will be available here.

A Movie All About ME!

My friend Sara Wisking made a movie for me and it made me laugh so hard I squirted Diet Coke out of my nose. And I wasn't even drinking Diet Coke at the time!


Follow the link and make movies for all your friends!

The Inside Track

Mike Chaiton's blog, Artichoke Hearts, has returned to running status. And if you haven't checked it out already, take a look. Mike, an Epidemiology graduate student at the University of Toronto, has some very interesting information about SARS and its misconceptions that I'm sure you'd like to know. Hopefully he'll keep the info coming.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Back from an Illness and a Busy, Busy, Holiday

I'm spending the day today putting everything back in order, including the blog. There is a longer blog entry in the works, but for now, I'm going to have to write just a short one to whet your appetite.

For those of you that haven't seen it yet (and many, many have), there's a web site that has collected all of the public statements made by the Iraqi Information Minister, Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf, over the course of the war, and it's definitely worth a look. Check it out here.

And let me extend a belated, loud exclamation of joy over the Senators' victory in Round 1. It was shaky for a while, but they pulled it together in the end. Next up: the Leaflers! Or is that the Flyeafs? Go Sens Go!

And also: Hoping that everything's still healthy with my friend Mike Chaiton, who works in a hospital in Toronto and thus is at risk of contracting SARS. I sure wish he would update his blog more often. Might be interesting to read his thoughts on the matter (Mike: hint, hint).

And other than that, I hope everyone had a happy and safe Passover/Easter this past weekend!

Monday, April 14, 2003

Poor Timing, Poor Taste

In my daily web surfing, I came across this unfortunate little gem. Poor Hong Kong.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Sleeping With The Enemy

I was just reading up on some NHL sites about the upcoming Game 2 between Ottawa and the NY Islanders, and I have to say: Chris Botta, one of the people responsible for the Isles' web content, has a lot of class. He seems totally complimentary of Ottawa and the Sens organization, and that reflects well on the NY team. If you're interested, see what I'm talking about here.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

On Why Some Canadian Musicians Should Get Over Themselves

This past weekend, Ottawa hosted the 2003 Juno Awards. For those of you in other countries, The Junos are our own Canadian version of the Grammies, rewarding artists and production teams from different genres of music and proclaiming an "Artist of the Year", a totally contentious label when you consider the fact that they usually compare country artists to rockers, hip-hop to jazz, and pop to soul, making them about as comparable as apples and orangutans. But whatever, that's not my beef.

Ottawa's not usually considered a "hip" town. We do have a music scene, but it's small and flabby-armed compared to the diverse offerings in our two biggest neighbours, Toronto and Montreal. So when something like the Junos happens, it's a huge deal. All of a sudden, my sleepy little town became a virtual Mecca of the best that Canadian music had to offer, with concerts happening in every club and a weekend line-up of bands that's longer than what we usually see in a whole season. And when that happened, it temporarily turned Ottawa's small (but savvy) music-appreciating public into a bloodthirsty, signature-hunting mob.

I was surprised to hear that people actually planned to scour the city this past weekend for any signs of recognizable celebrities. Parties of people strategizing where their favourite stars would be most likely to grab a burger, bar-hopping from show-to-show in the vain hopes of bumping into Shania Twain or Raine Maida while waiting for a beer, overwhelming and wrestling to the ground anyone wearing a hoody and a pair of Vans just in case he was one of the guys from Gob. I have to admit than even I, an adamant believer in musicians and actors being people rather than Gods, craned my neck just a bit whenever I saw a limousine or a Hummer H2.

But as I say, musicians are people. People with talents, yes, people who are in the public eye, also yes -- but still plain old people. We place celebrities on pedestals and see them as the embodiments of a lifestyle that many people aspire to, including fame, wealth, power, and non-stop, 24-hour-a-day parties. The truth of the matter is that for most of these artists, especially the ones that are just starting to make a name for themselves, the glitz and glamour is a facade and their lives aren't nearly as luxurious as we are lead to believe. This is even more true in Canada, where making a living as any kind of artist is a huge accomplishment.

I've had lots of friends who have tried to make it in the industry. I've actually talked to respected artists (Sarah Slean and Ivana Santilli in particular) who have had a certain amount of success, and they still told me the same thing: making it in the music business is tough. Now, for the most part, musicians (who I have met or been friends with) tend to be reserved about their music and very grateful to everyone who comes out to their shows and sees them play. And then there are others, a minority, who let the whole thing go to their head.

On Friday night, we decided to catch one of the "Juno-Fest 2003" shows at a little club called the Cafe Dekcuf (seems like a strange name for a club until you read the last part backwards). There were shows all around the city, but we picked this one in particular for two reasons: my girlfriend, Stacey, knows the musicians from one of the bands (in fact, at one point, she was going to play piano for them) and I had seen them years before and it was one of the most memorable concerts I've ever been to. The band is called Sully.

Now, Sully's an incredibly talented band. Vocalist Becke Gainworth has one of the most hauntingly beautiful voices that I've ever heard, working well at any level of intensity, whether whispering or shouting, making her songs a layered and textured experience of sound and emotion. Sully's lyrics and instrumental music complement each other so well that despite years of hardships as a hungry band, they've managed to stay together and build their careers on their own terms. They create music that can be described as a dreamscape, sometimes soft, wandering, melodic, melancholy and poetic, and at other times hard, direct, edgy, and slightly chaotic and yet always intelligent and fresh, held together with Becke's exceptional vocals.

I remember seeing them for the first time while I was in high school at a tiny little club that doesn't even exist anymore. It's been years since then, and yet I still remember it clearly. Becke seemed too shy to be on stage. In fact, she had her back to the audience through most of the show and seemed embarrassed when people clapped. And yet when she sang, her voice was clear, and strong and full of so much heart and power that you couldn't help but be affected by it. I went with a group of five or six of my friends and every one of us was so impressed that we were practically speechless at the end of the show.

Anyway, as you might have guessed, we had some pretty high expectations. But they also had the benefit of making a pretty immaculate first impression on me.

The show started off so well. With the first song, Sully had pulled me back under their spell. Becke's style had changed. She was facing the audience and challenged us with icy eyes and a worried brow. But as Sully moved into their second song, it became increasingly obvious that something was wrong. Becke didn't look like she wanted to be there.

In between songs, Becke turned to the guitarist, Scott Strachan, and told him to fix his amp, saying something was wrong with it. She teased him for his fondness of "cool old shit" that doesn't work to her obviously high expectations. In the next song, I strained my ears to detect whatever distortion or disturbance she was hearing. It sounded clean enough, considering it was a live show in a small club. I asked Stacey if she could hear it, since she has a better-trained ear than mine, and she said she could hear something but she couldn't really put her finger on it.

Even though the audience didn't know what she was talking about, Becke became more agitated. At the end of one song, she actually started yelling at Scott for whatever she was hearing. She kept apologizing to the baffled audience and tried to hide her unnecessary embarrassment. In the end, she unilaterally decided to cut the set short, stalking off as soon as they were done to go hide in the corner and leaving her confused and slightly disgusted-looking bandmates up on the stage to clear the gear. I couldn't help but flashback to one of my favourite Canadian movies of all time. It felt like I'd just experienced a Hard Core Logo moment.

The moral of the story: Becke, I love your voice and I love your music, but as someone who's been looking forward to this show, I feel ripped off. If things aren't completely up to your standards, that's fine, play through it, don't fall apart. It's part of being a struggling musician. Until you're playing arenas and have an army of roadies to respond to your whims (which I don't suspect you ever want for your career anyway), try to be more of a professional and not such a melodramatic drama queen. We paid to see you play music that night, not to see you have a temper tantrum.

Then, this morning, I heard about the Matthew Good concert that my sister went to yesterday. Now, granted, my sister wasn't a huge fan and she hadn't heard the new album, but she likes his music and didn't hesitate to go. Anyway, I wasn't there, but this is what my sister had to say about the show:

“Matt Good came on and played about 4 songs that no one recognized. Then, because people were throwing stuff up on stage, he FREAKED RIGHT OUT. He started screaming at us and swearing and calling us all "sons of bitches" and threatened to go back to his hotel like a little baby. I can't even repeat what he was screaming at the crowd. Then he said that if anything else was thrown at the stage, he was leaving, so calm the f@#$ down (at which point I was whispering furiously to [my buddy] to throw something on the stage). I've never been so offended in that kind of a situation. I can't begin to describe what was coming out of his mouth. I was so shocked.

“But he finally relaxed and started to play again (more songs no one had heard) and after just an hour of playing, he put his hat on and marched off stage. The band played for another five minutes or so and then left too. No encore. Obviously.

“And, seriously, I would understand if the crowd was in ANY way rowdy, but they weren't. They were waving lighters and generally being normal. He also has a habit of spewing political opinions and stopping the music so that everyone will go and give money to amnesty international and about how Ontarians support the war on Iraq, and ‘do you want to be Ontarians or Canadians? Choose! One or two!’ Then he went on this whole thing about how the Junos only celebrate artists that do well in the states and the real musicians are ignored. Which is CRAP, if you ask me.”

Now, I should say that I in no way condone throwing stuff on stage at musicians (except for maybe the odd box of KD at the Barenaked Ladies -- ten points for taking out Ed's knees). And as I said, I wasn't there, and maybe he got beaned in the head when my sister wasn't looking or something. But my God! Way to alienate an entire arena of your fans, Matt! The moral of the story: we like artists with opinions and important things to say, but that shouldn't involve accusing us all of supporting something we may or may not be supporting (i.e. the war in Iraq, based only on geography and an assumption), calling your paying audience vicious names, and interrupting your own music with soapbox antics. And if you keep it up, we're not going to keep paying to see you. You're an entertainer, for God's sake. Does my sister sound like she was entertained?

Anyway, all in all, with those two concerts, Shania Twain and her ill-conceived, sequin-y, hockey jersey get-ups (she actually got booed louder and more fiercely than Michael Moore was at the Oscars when she came into the House of the Sens wearing a Maple Leaf) and that obnoxious little turd, Avril Lavigne (who, when seeing her first video playing on the screen, said , "Ohmigod, we were so YOUNG back then!" and strutted around like she owned the place), my opinion of the prima donnas of the Canadian music scene is probably at an all-time low.

But I love music. And I especially love Canadian music. And I'm sure I'll be back at a show within a week or two.

Oh, and while I'm writing, GO SENS GO!

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

For Fans of The Sopranos and Ugly Men

I just found out that Steve Buscemi will be joining the permanent cast of The Sopranos for at least the next season, and possibly longer, should the show be extended for sixth season. Which is fantastic, because Steve Buscemi is one of my favourite actors (although I couldn't even begin to tell you why) and the show really needed some new blood after (spoilers for people who haven't seen the Fourth Season) Joe Pantoliano's character, Ralphy, got whacked. He was really the quintessential character who everyone loved to hate. (end spoiler)

It's hard to say at this point what kind of character Steve is going to play, but I'd be really surprised if he's part of the mob. I mean, I can see James Gandofini and Tony Sirico as violent gangster types, but not Buscemi. He's more of the creepy loner type who patiently bides his time until he can exact his revenge. So maybe he'll be the quintessential character that everyone loves to be creeped out by.