Monday, November 30, 2009
Yesterday was the Grey Cup, the Canadian Football League championship game, wherein the Montreal Alouettes defeated the Saskatchewan Roughriders 28-27 on a field goal with zero time left on the clock. A thriller for some, a crushing disappointment for others, but for the CFL, another great showcase for the funnest football league on the planet. Here are some thoughs about what I saw before, during and after the game.
1-I hate to say this, but the game looked kind of "cheap" to me. I'm not talking about the game itself or the play of the teams, I'm talking about the way the game was presented. The player introductions are usually done with a lot of hooplah; fireworks, smoke, coloured lights, explosions, screaming cheerleaders and fans, and possibly stampeding moose. This year there seems to be 12 guys waving flags at the players as they ran into the field. The flags weren't even in the team colours. The half-time show, featuring a song or two by Blue Rodeo, had the puniest crowd of "fans" I've ever seen. It looked they asked the grounds crew and some passing lumberjacks to pause briefly in front of the stage and occasionally shake their arms in random directions. The presentation of the Grey Cup itself took forever. By the time the mounties carried the trophy onto the field, all the sober fans were gone, leaving a few dazed Stampeder fans who were still wondering where their team was, and are the playoffs about to begin? I know we live in a PC universe, but couldn't they actually get a pair of mounties the same size to carry the d*** Cup?? One looked like Marcia Wallace in a mountie costume, and the other seems to have a two-by-four up the yin yang. Other than that, it was a fine game.
2-I really love the fact that we have ONE Grey Cup, not newly minted trophies to collect and trade, as the Super Bowl does. Would anyone care how many times a Super Bowl trophy was broken by the players that won it? Would a Super Bowl trophy be left behind in a strip club? Has a Super Bowl trophy ever been held for ransom? I rest my case.
3-Every CFL season, there are a number of loud-mouthed, obnoxious "fans" in Canada who can't seem to tolerate the fact that large numbers of Canadians still like to watch CFL football. They usually surface at Grey Cup time, and can't wait to tell anyone who's listening that CFL fans must be the dumbest of brush-apes to even consider watching the CFL, a league, they say, is full of undersized NFL cast-offs and poorly trained Canadians. They mock the "small salaries" and "small stadiums", and generally try to puff themselves up as being somehow mentally superior to favor the NFL product. Well folks, you can watch whatever you want. The NFL IS a good product for people who like that brand of football, and their players are amazing atheletes. But let's be real here for a minute-we're talking about professional football.....grown men playing a game for our entertainment!!! I personally take satisfaction in the fact that a single CFL players' average salary is in-line with their medium-to-well paid fans, not the operating budget for an entire teaching staff of a middle-sized school, or the development budget for several 3rd world villages. I like the fact that we used to (and hopefully will again soon) had two teams named "Rough Riders". And I love the fact that's it's ours. If you can't at least respect something you've inherited from your fathers and grandfathers, you're probably the type of person who boos their own kids at a hockey game. Get a life and shut up.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
I admit it....I love a bargain. Growing up in a city like Winnipeg, which is frequently used as a "test market" due to the conservative nature of it's shoppers, makes it inevitable that I prefer shopping in bargain palaces like "The Bargain Store", "Giant Tiger" and "Value Village". A pack of twenty pencils where the lead is off centre? Sold! Weird foods from naufacturers that don't exist in this hemisphere? Why not? Light bulbs that make a room darker rather than brighter? Well, if they're cheap, I'll just light some candles! It doesn't matter if it's a bargain!!!
Of these, I think the greatest is a cool store called "United Unlimited". It's a warehouse bargain store, located under a bridge right next to the CPR rail yards. Shoppers at "United Unlimited" are a joyful lot, who temporarily ignore the toxins that are most likely floating in the air to nab the greatest bargains a "bargain" city could imagine! Looking for that velvet cowboy hat, "Gwen Stephani" doll or air rifle? Go to "United Unlimited"! Missing that mink blanket, car wax or computer keyboard? Just haunt "United Unlimited". Can find the right fit for that Roman helmet or Viking Battle Axe? You guessed it! "U.U." has it all!
Perhaps the BEST thing about "U.U." is the flyer that comes to your door. I've tried to scan and post a couple of pictures from the latest one which, among other products, bragged about selling "fake" security cameras for 10 dollars, pints of stain for 1 dollar and my favorie, the "extend your reach by 3 feet tool" (only 8 dollars!!). Among the sale items are the GREATEST entries in any flyer. One picture shows "cool shades" for 2 dollars. I wasn't quite able to make out what I was looking at, until I noticed the "cool shades" were placed on the stubby tail of a large brown Boxer. The other scan shows "my new kitten", in the floor-level pants of it's owner, who is apparently squatting on a toilet with a newspaper in front of him.
A.G.F and I are saving these flyers, and to our bestest buds in Pile O' Bones and further points north, you can expect your own copy of the flyer soon.
But you have to come the the 'Peg to actally shop there!! See you in the bobble-head aisle!!
Thursday, August 20, 2009
I've just decided. I must work with Sims.
As most people know by now, "The Sims" is a very popular computer game franchise that allows the player to create and control any number of little simulated people. The player can select how they look and dress from a variety of heads and bodies, buy and furnish houses for them, get them jobs, dates, pets, children, and basically live out an entire "Sim" life based on the player's whims.
I've decided I must be working with Sims for the following reasons:
1-my boss has Betty Brant's hair. If anyone remembers the old Spiderman cartoon from decades ago (yes the one with the coolest theme ever, the one that assures us that Spidey can indeed, "do whatever a spider can". Welcome? Fame? Nope....he is, naturally, ignored, his only reward being "action".....and plenty of it). Anyway, that was a pretty long aside, The point is, Betty Brant, the secretary of the distrurbingly Hitler-esque J. Jonah Jamieson, had a strange helmet of a hair-do with evenly-spaced bangs in the front, and a little flippy lip around the shoulders. My boss, a youngish male, has the very same hair-do. Betty Brant hair on a young male body. Would anyone else other than a Sim combine these attributes on purpose??
2-outrageous conversation. In The Sims, the characters "converse" in a strange set of heiroglyphics that seem to indicate they are talking about cars, planes, desks buildings with columns and other assorted images. The conversations never seem to make much sense, other than the fact that some Sims appear to enjoy talking about cars, the sun, etc., and others register their displeasure by repeating the glyph with a little red X through it. Our Sim conversation this week came from one of our Big bosses, who gave us a "state of the company" address, which was so laden with unknown acronyms he could have been talking in some sort of lost mutant groundhog tongue. All I know is that some charts showed red lines going up, and others showed them going down. Sims communicating in their own Sim language??
3-the ultimate proof: irrational behavior. In The Sims, the characters can be occasionally confused if, say, their access throug a doorway is blocked by something; a Sim cat, Sim person or a Sim garbage can. Sims usually react by pointing at the offending object, shrugging their Sim shoulders and shaking their heads as if to say "Wha?". The Sims can get so perplexed by their little problem that it's possible for a character to "starve to death" just standing around waiting for the blockage to resolve itself. Today one of the bosses was told that a worker's telephone didn't work; it was emitting a loud buzzing sound making it impossible to converse with anyone (whish was the employee's job). The boss advised that a replacement phone be installed, and was informed that it was tried with no success-there must be something wrong with the telephone line. The bosses decision: well there's no place else for them to sit, so the employee will just have to sit there and try to do their job on a phone that didn't work!!!.
Keep an eye out for Sims in YOUR workplace. It's fun and educational-and they're easy to lock in closets!!
Saturday, August 8, 2009
We (being AGF and I) have just returned from our favorite second-hand store with armloads of goodies, including, for myself, entire Visible Man and Visible Woman model kits, with instructions....all for only $7.99!!! (they came in the lid of a Visible Man box-maybe not collector-worthy, but still cool to me!).
For those who don't remember, the "Visible Man" and "Visible Woman" were educational plastic model kits put out by a company called "Renwal" of Mineola, New York in the 1960's and early 70's. They were 1/5th scale representations of the human body, showing skeletal structure, organs and representations of the nervous system, and they looked like the creepy models you always stared at in your doctor's office as a kid (either that or you stared at those weird calendars portraying industrious little bug/human hybrid communities involved in a variety of smurf-like activities....anyone remember what those things were called??). The Visible Man and Woman were really detailed kits, allowing the builder to assemble a human torso from bones on up. The body was clear plastic, and there was a large chest cavity allowing the builder to poke around and explore the arrangement of organs, or pretend to build a Frankenstein monster, whatever floated your boat.
The Visible Woman, though an intriguing concept to pre-pubescent males of the time, actually including a perfectly-scaled fetus and infant, which would have made a terrific educational tool for parents giving their kids the "birds and bees" talk. The kits could be built as-is or painted in realistic colours, which were suggested in the instructions (apparently the upper surface of the Transverse Colon is "greenish-pink" while the Rectum is "brownish-pink". Try to find THOSE colours from Testors!!)
I've posted scans of the first pages of the instructions, and I'd be happy to make and send details scans if any collectors wanted copies for their own use. Just respond here with an e-mail addres you'd like it sent to. No viruses included, promise!!
Anyway, finding these old model kits at a bargain proce was Better Than Awesome, especially when one of the ladies said they have collectors price their vintage items, then price them lower than suggested retail!!!! AGF was able to pick of some coolio doll dresses and shoes, as well as a couple of books. Bargain stores..always BETTER THAN AWESOME!!!
Friday, July 3, 2009
I just returned from Monster Bash, the classic horror and science fiction movie convention held each year in Butler Pennsylvania (or was it Butler, Transylvania? The puns were pretty hot and heavy!)
Just like the last two years, Monster Bash was better than awesome. This year the theme was "Frankenstein" (yeah kind of like a Rose Bowl theme being "happiness" or "the world of friendship", there's SO much you can do with it!). We had endless Frankie movies, Frankie impersonators walking (or maybe stalking) around, and actors with various ties to theme of "Frankenstein" (e.g. Gary Conway, who played the "Teenage Frankenstein" in the movie of the same name was there!).
On amore serious note, Lou Ferrigno, who played the Hulk on TV was also a guest. On the first day of the convention the world learned that Michael Jackson had died. Lou was working as a trainer for Michael, which meant the Bash was probably pretty stressful for him. Despite that, and some reporters who were spotted lurking in the hallways (hey, who are the REAL ghouls here??)Lou stayed the whole weekend to greet his fans. As far as I know, the monster kids all respected his privacy and didn't ask him about Michael Jackson. Bash looks after Bash.
Most monster fans love the A & C movie "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein", so they showed that (drive -in movie style, outside in the parking lot), as well as having a pair of the greatest Abbott and Costello impersonators I've ever seen, AND Lou Costello's daughter, Chris Costello, with some of her family's old home movies. Toss in celeb's like Ricou Browning, the original Creaure from the Black Lagoon (underwater version-the land Creature was played by Ben Chapman, who just passed away last year), a great dealer's room, and hundreds of Bash-hungry monster kids and you have this man's version of heaven-on-Earth.
Some personal highlights: I met more fellow Bashers this year than in my previous two Bashes. One was a gent named Bill who I met at the Drive-in A & C night. He's an older gentleman who was sitting on a walker, waiting for the show. I had a rent-a-car, and was alone, so I invited him to take a seat in the car. To make a long story short, we became best buds. he asked me all about Canada's health-care system, and what he was hearing on his local news (much of it bad). He turned out to be a CFL fan, so we talked Canadian Football long past the point I thought he would get bored. On Sunday night, after the Bash was over for the year, we sat in the hotel pub and yakked 'till they kicked us out. Here's to Bill-see you next year bud!
Here's also to Ken & Michelle-they're a couple who needed a ride to the Pittsburgh airport, or were facing a $100.00+ cab fare! I was able to give them a ride and we laughed and talked the hour away. Needless to say, I hope to see you guys there again next year as well.
Monster Bash celebrates the classic monster movies we loved so much as kids. Moreso, however, it celebrates the fact that, as adults, we love the fact that we're able to get together with other "monster kids" to share our passion for these classic old films and characters. It may be advertised as a movie convention, but it's really a giant-sized green-skinned love-in with bolts in it's neck! Better Than Awesome.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
This weekend AGF's parent's were in town to celebrate AGF's birthday. which was on Friday (happy birthday baby!!). We had the chance to get together, eat multiple high-calorie meals, and most of all, cruise yard sales in their time here. AGF was able to snag a nice set of glasses (drinking, not viewing) and a piece of fabric which now serves as a curtain in her bedroom. AGF's mom was able to get some fabric and a blue-and-white Delft saucer for only .50 cents. AGF's dad viewed the enterprise with his traditional wit and the occasional "hah".
Now to give a bit of background, I have been keeping an eye out for a really good second-hand bicycle for a while now, in an attempt to increase my level of physical fitness and stay alive as long as possible to hang out with AGF. I've occasionally haunted the local Value Village and Sally Ann stores, but never quite found something I would feel good about buying. This weekend, however, we found the garage sale of my dreams!
I was ablt to pick up, for what seemed to be the good proce of $50.00, an almost-new 12-speed bike. It has the brand name "McInley", for whatever that means. All I know is I finally have a bike after a gap of at least 30 years!.
Today I took my first bike ride down a residential street that is closed to vehicle traffic on Sundays. I have to say, my first ride alone was worth the $50.00 I spent on the bike! This has been a late spring, so the lilac bushes are still in full bloom. Racing down the street (well, pedalling slowly, but to me it was racing), smelling newly cut grass and lilacs, and feeling the sun on my back, made me a kid again. Notice, I didn't say I felt like a kid...I honestly thought to myself, "I am a kid again!"
To anyone who has considered getting a bike and starting to pedal around again, I say, don't wait a minute longer! As I write this it is just after 10:30 at night. The sun has just gone down a short while ago, and I'm feeling muscles in my thighs I forgot were there. Also, the area of my physicality colloquially known as my "ass" appears to be protesting each time I pass by the seat of the bicycle, which is currently resting in my first-floor hallway (the bicycle, not my "bum"). Nevertheless, I don't regret a minute of it. My "ass", scientifically known as my gluteals, has a week before the next Sunday ride; plenty of time to forget what I put it through today. Besides, I've spent years watching out for it, covering it, avoiding kickers, kissers and breakers. The least it can do is make peace with Mr. Saddle. Perhaps a long soak will help....
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Weekends with AGF (awesome girl friend) are often gloriously spent hanging out on the sofa, watching movies, reading books or playing The Sims. As a treat, we occasionally leave the house and make an expedition to either an uber-cool second hand store at the top of my street (the "Helping Hand", where I recently purchased an awesome crock pot for $8.00!!) or to a craft store so AGF can resupply her hobby/obsession....beading.
I never knew much about the beading universe before AGF started her hobby, but now I think I am at least passingly conversant. Mention "swarofski" or "jump rings", and I no longer have an expression like a confused dachshund pondering a rubber pork chop. I have to admit, while I am impressed by the variety of shapes, colours and sizes of beads available in these stores, watching AGF coo over the latest bead discovery has become one of the greatest joys in my life, and is a major motivator to join her on these expeditions.
One store we frequent here in town is an out-of-the-way store located in a somewhat industrial area on the edge of downtown. The store is a one-storey brick affair, with no discernable windows and just a small square sign indicating it's actually a business. Now while many stores try to be either "craft" or "hobby" stores, this place is seriously about beads, and all things beading. It seems to service the traditional aboriginal market, as they sell items like tinkling cones, feathers, leather, etc. common to native ceremonial costumes. Needless to say, their bead selection is dizzying, and it's proprietors are frighteningly knowledgable about beading.
To add to the fun, each trip ends up becoming a mind-warping experience, thanks to the fanciful ruminations of one of it's owners. There's a man and a woman who work at and seem to own the store. Inevitabley, while the woman serves AGF in her shopping, the man seems to have decided I am some sort of kindred spirit, and starts talking at me about the strangest things. Topics he has soliliquized on include: coal mining in Manitoba; toxic spills in a river near Detroit (it melted a bridge!!), mysterious buried railroad tracks in Saskatchewan (up to 15 feet deep!), windshield washer fluid that melts windshields, the appalling lack of Chili in Regina after 6pm, and the challenges of driving trucks across rock and muskeg north of the tree line.
Bead guy also seems to take some perverse pleasure in trapping us in the snare of his conversation just as we're leaving the store. The last three times we were there, AGF and I would be literally 1 foot away from the door, when he would start another obtuse ramble about mysterious goings-on in the past, present or possibly the future. Often he wouldn't even be looking at us as he waxed poetic about the cost of heating his building or the odd disappearance of wealthy families from the city, he'd just gaze off into the distance.
Of course, while all this is going on, the woman (his spouse? partner? sister? doctor? we have no idea) take the opportunity to earn what is probably a well-deserved breather, and surf the net for more vital bead updates.
Actually, we're starting to look forward to these trips. it seems bead guy never runs out of mysteries to ponder, and so far we never run out of energy trying to understand what he is talking about.
I just noticed. The word "beading" becomes "beheading" when you add "He". Maybe I'll ask bead guy about this the next time we're in the store.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
When I was a kid (admittedly a pretty dorky one), the ultimate Saturday night was building a plastic model kit then watching the Chiller Thriller movie on Channel 12, KCND TV (all the way from North Dakota via our cutting edge roof-top antenna!!).
There were lots of plastic model makers, but in my mind and heart the greatest was a company called Aurora. Like other model makers, they had popular lines like cars, airplanes, tanks, etc., but Aurora, I felt, had two huge advantages over other model makers. First of all, they made models of all my favorite movie monsters, in both regular and "glow in the dark" versions, cleverly getting me to buy the same model two, three or even four times, depending on how many times I knocked them off the top of my dresser, or my parents threw them away out of concern for my young psyche.(The most notorious was the "guillotine" kit, which actually worked and chopped the little guy's head off. Bliss!)
For the most part, these kits were high quality, the pieces always fitting together properly, with lots of "hand candy" to add to the monster tableau you were building (for example, the Mummy had a cool plastic cobra, the Creature had a weird-looking lizard, etc.) The kits pictures were prices from $1.00 to $1.49, not too bad on a .50cent per week allowance. It wasn't just building the model of course, it was painting them! Choosing the tiny little glass bottles of Testor's model paint was as "artistic" as young boy minds got in those days. For some reason, I remember how cool it felt to clutch those little indestructive bottles, and try to predict what shade of red would most simulate the "spurting blood" effect, requisite for any self-respecting monster.
The other advantage was the fantastic box art, shown here! These are scans from our old Aurora model catalogue, more treasured than any Christmas catalogue. These beautiful covers sometimes showed exactly what the kit might look like, but occasionally taught us the meaning of the term "artistic license" (the Wolfman never looked like that box cover, but what the heck, he was the Wolfman, and I believe he had some plastic rats on his diorama!). You can't quite make out the text in this scan, but you, the model builder, are encouraged to be the "man behind the monster", painting the models with "goulish green", "gruesome gray" and "bloody reds". How could a self-respecting mondter kid refuse??
Aurora also came out with some humorous takes on the moster craze, mixing them with the "hot rod" craze of designers like the immortal Big Daddy Ed Roth. What kid wouldn't want to build the "Frankenstein Fliver" or "King Kong's Thronester"? My personal favorite, which I never had, was "Godzilla's Go Cart". MAN he looked serious!!
I don't know if you can see the goofy Vampire and Frog kits displayed at the bottom of the monster dragster page, but the captions are as follows: the lady vampire with the ironically "crossed" eyes came with a sign that said "I like to go out at night...WAY OUT", while the frog had a sign that said "Kiss me and you'll live forever". The back of the sign said "You'll be a frog, but you'll live forever!".
What kid could want anything more?? Thanks Aurora, for being...BETTER THAN AWESOME!!
BTW-of anyone wants to see other scans from my old catalogue, just respond to this, I'd love to post some more!!
Sunday, April 19, 2009
First of all, to the friends from outside Manitoba who read this blog, yes the flood situation here is serious, and no, it's not as critical as the media makes it sound!
I've been watching the local and national news, and watching the Red River, as it's only a couple of hundred feet from my house. Based on what I've been seeing on TV, I should be sandbagging myself into a frenzy, as intense news personalities wax poetically about the devastation they are witness to. The "Red Sea", as the wags like to call the flooded Red River, is inundating the province, and we are all canoeing to work. The fact of the matter is, the flood has been devastating to some communities south and north of the city of Winnipeg, and yes, some people living in diked communities actually have to boat or canoe from their homes to higher, dryer land. Within the city there have been a couple of neighborhoods on alert and busy sandbagging (including a street right by me), but for the most part most larger towns south of the city and the city itself have been protected, either by a system of dikes, or by the floodway, which diverts most of the flood water away from the city.
Of course, a news story that says "most communities safe, flood preparations have worked quite successfully" won't sell papers or have TV viewers on the edge of their seats. So instead of "majority of communities safe" we have stories like the one AGF and I saw this morning, where a talking head spoke gravely to a bloke who stayed home to man the sump pumps and canoe to work, while his family moved to the city.
While we appreciate the empathy that the news-types have shown for our little province, we couldn't help but come up with our own version of a Manitoba flood story, so here goes:
FLOOD WOLVES RAVAGE CITY
Talking head: "Breaking news from Winnipeg, Manitoba, somewhere in the western territories: brave but misguided plains-people struggle mightily against packs of dripping Flood Wolves!! Over to you Jerry!!"
Jerry: "That's right talking head!! The simple-minded but brave folk who foolishly decided to put their "city" in the middle of a flood plain are struggling naively against the barracuda of the prairies, the "Flood Wolf"! Every other year or so, as the Red River overflows it's banks in an attempt to innundate the simple, accordion-loving sod-busters of the plains, dormant Flood-Wolves awaken to quench their unending hunger for canoe paddles!"
"As the inconsequential westerners continue their never-ending struggle against "mother nature", who hates them by the way, their daily canoe-trips into the "city" of "Winnipeg" are beseiged by packs of ravenous and artistic Flood Wolves. Hungering after their canoe-paddles, the Flood-Wolves perform Esther-Williamsesque water ballets intended to confuse and arouse these hapless dimwits. Just yesterday, a "farmer" (that's someone who sticks seeds in the ground and waits for it to grow, instead of going to a store for their food like a civilized human being, talking head) was hypnotized by a pack of Flood Wolves performing a "floating star" pattern, while their comrades seized the poor "farmer's" paddles and made off with his only mode of locomotion. This "grower", as the primitive locals like to call them, drifted for days and was only rescued when his canoe drifted into the network catering truck, parked in the edge of the "dike", or pile of mud."
Talking Head: "Shocking news Jerry. I hope you didn't get too "dirty" walking to the catering truck."
As I've said, I don't want to minimize the effect that the flood has has on us. Hundreds if not thousands of hectares of farm land are under water, and a couple of thousand people have had to evacuate their homes. I just don't want us to forget the plus side: thanks to a heck of a lot of preparartion since the last major flood in 1997, we didn't have to ask for the help from the military, and most people and their property have been safe. With further work, we should be able to make most communities safe for the next time.
Except for those darn Flood Wolves.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Well, I wrote about the top ten songs I felt were always going to be considered "cool", no matter what your musical tastes are. Now I'm starting the list of songs so thoroughly uncool they will never be considered cool, even if Jimi Hendrix rises from the grave to perform it. There's only five right now because, well, the thought of these songs kind of drives me up the wall. Here goes:
Number 5-Que Sera Sera; Doris Day. Now I really don't have a problem with much of what Doris Day used to sing. She had a fantastic voice, and she certainly earned her spurs during years of singing with big bands, as a solo artist, and in trying to turn on Rock Hudson in assorted movies. This song, however, is one of those grating little earwigs of a song that slowly burrows into your head without you knowing it's happening. I think it turns from a mildly charming tune into a cloying mess when the tinkley chimes accompany Doris as she sings "now I have children of my own...". Apparently Doris herself didn't like this song, and was eternally disppointed that it became her "theme song". Sorry Doris...Que Sera Sera!
Number 4-Hot Diggity (Dog Diggity); Perry Como. Heres' another artist I have no general disagreement with. Perry had a nice, laid back voice, and wore some pretty "cool" (in an uncool way) sweaters, His song "Catch a Falling Star" is a pleasant, singable anthem that offends pretty much no-one. However, with "Hot diggity" Perry produced a "love song" that invokes images more closely related to an unsuccessful beer hall putsch than to feelings of tender affection. Throw in lyrics like "Never dreamed anybody could kiss thattaway, Bring me bliss thattaway, what a kiss thattaway" kind of makes me wonder what way Perry's talking about. Add the fact that it was used so successfully in an old Oscar Meyer hot dog commercial, and you have the ultimate "weenie" of a song.
Number 3-It's a Small World; Disney Wow. Here's a tune that expresses a kind and wonderful universal truth in a way that, rather than inspiring international brotherhood, just makes you want to hit your neighbor with a stick. It's a small world and a pretty small song, featuring that punchy chorus "its a small world after all its a small world after all its a small world after all its a small, small world" This is, of course, the theme to the one Disneyland/world/Euro ride that NOBODY actually wants to go on. Tickets please!!
Number 2- Sunshine Lollipops and Rainbows; Lesley Gore. Lesley Gore probably deserves her own wing of any uncool song museum. In addition to the ultimate pity party "It's My Party", and the bloody revenge song "It's Judy's turn to cry", Lesley brought us the song that is so perky and sugary it needs a warning label for diabetics. Of course, the lyrics continually remind the listener that "my life is sunshine, lollipops and rainbows...thats how this refrain goes". Yes Lesley, we KNOW! Believe it or not, Lesley sang this little ditty on one of those teenage romance movies of the sixties (sorry I forget the title), but instead of groovin' at the beach, the teenagers (including Tommy Kirk!) were on a bus to a ski resort. Lesley got up wand warbled this sone to bring rockin' good times to the rest of the bus! As Lesley said: "So come on. Join In. Everybody". Resistance is futile.
And my Number 1 uncoolest song ever: Let the Sun Shine In: Pebbles & Bamm Bamm.. The Flintstones is one of those iconic cartoons that pretty much everyone growing up in North America has been exposed to since it's inception back in the sixties. Most people know it started as a prime time TV series, long before The Simpsons and assorted clones make prime time animation a fact of life. Like any series, the first few seasons were the best. Even though the animation was limited, the stories and gags were hilarious and the show was loaded with veteran voice talent. THEN the rot started to creep in, in the form of Fred and Wilma's "adorable" child Pebbles. Pebbles looked like a large fat Tinkerbell, and her primary roll was to coo and gurgle at Fred, and occasionally ruin his bowling night. Pebbles was soon joined by Bamm Bamm, a super strong foundling baby cared for be the Flintstone's neighbors, the Rubbles. Pebbles and Bamm Bamm had mercifully short screen time, except for one incredibly painful episode where, in an extended dream sequence, Fred dreams they become singing stars. Of course the song is "Let the Sun Shine In". Not the cool 5th Dimension song, but a smarmy little epic that reminds us "smilers never lose and frowners never win" to an irritating little diaper rash of a melody. To make the matters worse, the song is performed at least three times, with Pebbles blowing kisses to her fans!! To this soiled diaper of a song I say "congratulations" on being the uncolest song ever!
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Ok, this is something that can be debated forever, and goodness knows I'm no music expert, but I wanted to put together a list of the top 10 songs that are so cool they transcend their genre. I was actually kind of suprised by the great artists I personally love that didn't make this list, but remember- a song doesn't just have to be great to make this list, it has to be great no matter what your tastes may lean towards. In reverse countdown order, here we go!
10-Jailhouse Rock-Elvis Presley. I'm not really an Elvis fan, but this one is so timeless it has to be here. Elvis in his prime, full of his sneering Memphis bravado that shocked a generation of parents and delighted their kids! The opening bars grab a hold of you and don't let go until you've danced with that wooden chair. Elvis rocks!
9-Mack the Knife-Bobby Darrin. Only the man who oozed more cocktail lounge charm than Sinatra could turn a song about a killer into into the swinginest anthem to murder ever crooned baby! A simple turn that builds to a magnificent crescendo-so good Bobby had to do it twice. Look out ol' Mackie's back!
8-These Boots Were Made for Walkin'-Nancy Sinatra. OK I know a lot of people will disagree with this one, especially due to the fact hat I didn't include any of her more talented dad's songs on this list! But look at it this way-here's a perfect boppin' little sixties sexual revolution anthem, dressed up in miniskirt and white latex boots, telling the guy who was "lyin' when he shoulda bin truthin" that he wasn't going to get away with it, and that's just fine by Nancy! Include a classic burn (what he knows you aint' had time to learn!!) and that's all she wrote. Ok boots...start walkin'
7- Like a Rollin' Stone-Bob Dylan. From one sixties revolution to another, but this time it's the terrible hangover after the party. Dylan wasn't much of a singer by most criteria, yet he created an anthem of disillusionment and regret that rocks, rather than whines and brings you down. How does it feel? Pretty good, Bob!
6- Crying-Roy Orbison. This is one of those songs that I thought was ridiculously corny when I was a kid, and can't get enough of now. Roy's voice is simply unmatched, and the rawness and honesty of his heartbreak just about knocks you off your feet. Nothing beats that climax at the end when his voice hits the stratosphere! (personal note, I thought the duet he did of Crying with k.d. lang could have been both his and her best work ever!)
5-A Hard Day's Night-The Beatles. From Lennon's first mysterious chord to Ringo's off the cuff slang of having a "Hard Day's Night", this one just drives-drives-drives then drives some more. If youthful exhuberance and sassiness can be distilled into a song, this would be the result. There's no way you can stand still with this one playing-put on your romeo boots and go!
4-Ring of Fire-Johnny Cash. Only the man in black and his incredible pipes makes what is esentially a love song into a trip to a Faustian underworld! The concept of "love is pain/pain is love" in an old one and usually handled with agonizing earnestness by lesser artists. Johnny not only pulls it off, but produces a toe-tapping great song that makes you believe this guy had been there and back again-and he had!
3-Midnight Hour-Wilson Pickett. Can one man define Soul in a single song? Maybe Wilson Pickett did with this power anthem to love and passion. Pickett's raspy promises of love that comes "tumblin' down" are backed by that incredible horn solo after the second verse. I defy anyone to not bop when that brass starts to testify!
2-Moondance-Van Morrison. Cool. Dreamy. Incredibly "sexy" in a way that overused word truly deserves. Moondance quite simply creates a mood and feel that is as much colour as it is sound. They say that some people have such heightened senses that they can literally "taste colour" or "smell sound". Moondace does that. Fantabulous!
And my number 1 trans-genre song:
Fever-Peggy Lee. What can you say about a song that is deceptively simple (just Peggy's smokey voice, a bass, a drum and lots of snapping fingers) and yet perfectly evokes the universal "fever" of desire that we have all felt. And this isn't just some tawdry plea to grunt and sweat in a broom closet somewhere (Brittany???), it's a sultry journey through a noble lineage of desire through the ages, culimating with the amazing Peggy Lee. Where Moondance is cool restful azure, Fever is boiling crimson and enjoys it. Peggy Lee. Fever. Just none better.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Yesterday AGF (Awesome Girl Friend) and I were driving back from a trip to one our favorite used book stores (Nerman's-check it out if you're ever in town) on a gorgeous early spring day. This city has a number of interesting individuals, some of them described in this blog (anyone remember "flying guy"? He was a man we saw running up and down the street with his arms back in a classic "delta wing" formation, zooming up and down the street and having the time of his life. Well today I'm adding "Mr. Guns"
As I said, we were driving home when a car passed us on the driver's side. There was a young guy (early 20's) in the back seat, wearing no shirt (or any discernable clothes of any kind), with his right arm filling the open window. Mr. Guns was happily flexing his arm for the general interest and amusement of anyone who cared to take a gander. Mr. Guns didn't appear to be in "bad" shape physically, but he could hardly be described as "muscle bound". Add to this, at the end of a long winter his complexion was white and pasty as the belly of a fish, you had a sight guaranteed to inspire and thrill the passer-by.
Mr. Guns- a true sign of spring.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
A couple of weeks ago the AGF and I were watching an interview piece with a Toronto area music critic. He has written a book called something like "Where is the Love" after he started to ponder the following topic. He and his music-critic buddies all universally reviled the music of Celine Dion, but this guy decided to sit down and try to figure out why exactly he felt this way. He listened to some of Ms. Dion's music, attended a concert, and basically enveloped himself in that special cosmos where Celine is the sun and her fans are merely orbiting bits of grateful space debris.
What this critic decided was that he hated Celine's music because it stood against everything he felt music should stand for. Real music, he felt, was topical, insightful, hard hitting, and most of all, rebelious! Real music set itself up against the "mainstream" and proudly spat in it's eye! Har Har!! Take that oppresive mainstream, what with your personal hygiene an all!
Then the author did something I didn't expect. He began to ponder what actually constitutes the "mainstream" nowadays. Is it Celine Dion? If so, why is she so universally reviled by "mainstream" music critics? Then the author voiced something I have suspected for a long time now. The rebels ARE the mainstream!
Musicians who consider themselves outsiders have always defined themselves as standing against the "conformist, strait-laced establishment". They have aquired a sort of mythology about how their music created, and continues to create, an "awakening" in society, freeing people from their "shackles". The problem is, all those societal constraints they railed against don't really exist any more as part of "mainstream" values and ethics. Musical rebels have always recited the creed "no-one tells me what to say, no-one tells me what to do, don't bug me about my hair". Well guess what rebels...those are the mainstream values and ethics. It's no longer socially acceptable to tell someone else that they shouldn't whack their privates with a 2x6 piece of spruce and call it "art", shouldn't tatoo a picture of an orangutan's keister on their face, shouldn't run around with their gitch (or, if you prefer, gotch, or in rare circumstances, "gonch") on their heads, because that would be "judging" someone, which would definitely harsh their buzz. That "conformist establishment" musicians like to fight against is a straw man. WE are living in rock n' roll paradise!
Of course the upside of this, is that Celine Dion and her fans are now REBELS! THEY'RE not going to be told not to dress conservatively, not to get regular haircuts or not to play their Yahtzee! They won't be forced into giving up their "meat" and "potatoes", their poly-rayon blends or their salad spinners. No, these brave outsiders are going to continue to flaunt the conventions of "the man", whether he likes it or not. Take THAT, Marilyn Manson!
So today, I'd like to salute these brave and inspirational outsiders. They have even convinced me to break from conformity, and avoid becoming yet another conformist! I won't shave my head, grow a goatee and get a barb wire tatoo on my arm! Sure, it'll make me stand out and be "different", but sometimes you just have to be a rebel.