Friday, February 16, 2007

Leukemia benefit

Much as I hate Rush (and I do), they have provided me with one of the most memorable expericences I have had with CHEZ. I was forced to take a busload of people down to Montreal for a rush concert a couple of years ago, and one of our winners was a young man named Allan Miskell. He was a drummer, a huge Rush fan, and Neal Peart was his idol. He was also battling leukemia.

We managed to work out a meeting between Allan and the guys in Rush, and he got to meet Geddy Lee and his drumming hero. His girlfriend Caitlin accompanied him on the trip, and in a show of support, she had shaved her head so she would look just like he did. A wonderful young man and a terrific young couple.

A year later, Allan died. When I attended his wake, there were pictures up everywhere of his life, most of them shots of his band, and his time at the University of Ottawa. And a giant section was from the trip to Montreal to see Rush. It had obviously been a highlight in his all-too-short life.

Since then, Caitlin and the Miskell family have been very active in raising money for leukemia research, and they have put on several events around Ottawa.

The next one starts tonight and goes until tomorrow. 6:00 this evening, at the University of Ottawa, 24 Hours of Notes kicks off. It will end Saturday evening at 6, and all donations at the door go to leukemia research. Some of the best classical musicians in Ottawa will be there, and the music will go for one full day. I highly reccommend stoping by just for the music, but the cause is wonderful as well.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Fixing a car is never as fast as eating at McDonalds.

I just waited five hours for my car to be fixed. Not that I'm sour about it. I fully knew it would take that long, and it was easier to wait. The good people at Bank Street KIA offered me another car so I could drive around, but I was happy to just wait and read my book.

But I've found that you meet some very interesting people in automobile service department waiting rooms. (Last time I discovered that, however, I waited NINE hours at Canadian Tire to have my tires replaced!) This was much better.

This time, I met a really great guy who had just come back from Kandahar, where he was stationed with our Canadian troops, until he was shot and sent home. I wish I could remember his name, but I was already pretty out of it by the time I talked to him. I did ask, but forgot at some point over the next four hours of waiting.

He says that his regiment over there listens to CHEZ, and specifically to Doc and Woody, on their connection over there. (He also said they like me more than Doc and Woody. Ha! Take that, you blog-haters.)

But what I found fascinating was his take on the "wear red Fridays". I always thought that if I was a soldier I would not feel terribly encouraged by such a show of "support" so far from where I was. And in talking to this man, he said exactly what I'd been thinking. It really is an empty gesture by people who don't understand what it is to be a soldier over there.

Of course we have to support our troops, even though we don't necessarily support the war. I, for one, certainly don't support the fact that we're over there, but in no way does that reflect on my opinion of the soldiers caught in the unfortunate conflict. But wearing red on Fridays, is, quite literally, the least you can do. This soldier wasn't upset that people were doing it, he definitely didn't resent those that did, but he certainly wasn't applauding it either.

It's like the bracelets people wear. The yellow ones that say "I support ending cancer", or the white ones that say "I don't want people to have Lupus any more", or the green ones that say "I'm against genocide" or whatever they are. Well, no kidding. You really would like cancer to be cured? You're a great samaritan. The one good thing about these bracelets is that you have to make a donation to get one. So they are doing SOMETHING to help.

But saying you wear red because you don't want Canadian soldiers to die? Of course you don't. Show me someone who DOES. (Who isn't out there fighting us already.) So what's the point? If you want the soldiers to have it easier, send a letter. Much as I find it fairly ridiculous, even Max Keeping actually went OVER there.

This man was done his tour of duty, and, now with a bum leg and an $800.00/month cheque from the government, it was back to work as a welder. He says it doesn't hurt as much as you think to get shot. It feels like getting a tattoo. But he wouldn't reccommend it. For him, it just means he no longer has to be there, now he is allowed to be here, with his family. He seemed to be glad.

We talked about Meher Arar. This man believed that there is no amount of compensation that our government could have given him to make up for what he went through. If we will give money to a guy who was wrongfully imprisoned for twenty years in Canada, then we should do this for Arar as well. I agree with him. If Arar was tortured, of course he needs to be compensated. If this was all made up, and he wasn't tortured, of course he still needs restitution. If I had the choice, I think I would choose 20 years in Canadian prison over two years in a Syrian prison, torture or no torture.

When he left, I shook his hand amd said it was great to meet him. It really was great to meet him. But I didn't say thank you for what you've done, I didn't say I appreciated his efforts. I think he would have been irritated if I had. If I had said that stuff, I may as well have been wearing a red scarf and a yellow arm band.

My timing belt cost me 400 bucks.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Boy, do I ever love Valentine's Day

It's not just that Valentine's Day is a Hallmark holiday, created by flower shops and Laura Secord (the store, not the woman). Truly, just about every holiday is a fabricated holiday, even Christmas. The idea of buying copious amounts of presents for everyone you know probably didn't come from Jesus. It more likely came from Macy's. So I don't really have a problem with Valentine's Day being another one of those made-for-the-economy holidays.

And it's not that the purported purpose of the day is different from the way it is actually celebrated. I know, some couples do things for each other, and it's all give and take, and so forth. But in 90 percent of cases, it's no longer a day where couples celebrate their love, or the fact they're still together, or that they have found someone to tide them over until someone better comes along. Now it's a day where men do stuff for women. That's it. You're a guy, it's Valentine's Day, it's your job to do stuff. Is there a day for us? Nope. Talk to a woman, she can tell you exactly what was given to her the past twelve Valentines, where she went, what she did. A man can barely tell you the date.

The big problem I have is that it's a day to force you to do something romantic with your significant other. Is forced romance really romantic? Or just irritating? There is a reason Valentine's Day is the number one day of the year when people break up. When the expectations are that you must do something sweet and tender with your partner, and you just can't muster up the fortitude to sit through it, breaking up is easiest. I suppose it's a good thing, ending relationships that weren't meant to be.

I always maintained there was a terrific stretch of the year where getting together and breaking up were no-brainers. You break up before Christmas, so there's none of that awkward gift-giving and receiving scenario with someone you're not sure about. That gives you Christmas off, and you have a week. New Years comes soon, and you're guaranteed to hook up again with someone on New Years Eve. You date that person for a month, and break up just before Valentine's Day, avoiding that whole minefield. And then, you go out on the 14th, and bang! Yet another day where you're guaranteed to find someone else.

There are five days in the year where you're guaranteed to get some when you go out. Hallowe'en is easy, because you just pick out the girls in the dirtiest costumes (look for the red devil). St. Patty's Day, everyone is celebrating their Irish heritage, be it fake or real, and a great mood means a great night. Canada Day follows the same pattern, but the addition of patriotic fever makes it that much easier. Best day of the year. And then New Years Eve and Valentine's Day. New Years Eve because there the built-in tool of finding someone to kiss at midnight, and Valentine's because all single girls wish, if only for one night, that they weren't single.

So my anti-Valentine's Day (when you're a couple) sentiments have been tempered with pro-Valentine's Day (when I'm single) sentiments. But this year I was stunned. I actually received a gift from my girlfriend! And it was well though out, and something I wanted! She got me Grand Hotel and The Thin Man. I know, un-romanitc, eh? Exactly. Not romantic, not scented candles or embroidered pillows, just something I actually wanted but was too lazy to go and get for myself. This is what a day like this should be about, if that day has to exist at all.

She also got me the worst Valentines card ever, with a stupidly cute cat on the front that said "Truly, Sweetly, You complete me". Which would have made me furious if she did not also acknowledge the fact that it was the worst card in the world. She appealed to my sense of irony AND my sense of laziness, all in one day. And it was the day BEFORE Valentines. Another point for her. Good stuff.

So to repay her, I will spend actual Valentine's Day working, doing a live commercial at Powersports (Hunt Club and Prince of Wales) for the Ottawa Hospital Lottery's early bird draw. Then I will return home to give her a gift. I just hope she likes her shop-vac.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

They don't make 'em like they used to...

Since I've been doing cynical cinema, I have had a great supply of the old, classic movies I like. Zip.ca was was sponsoring the feature, and they are an internet company that mails you a DVD, then you mail it back and order online. So I like the classics. They were able to ship me all of those, but I didn't have terrific access to new releases, since they must have had huge demand for the new stuff and only a few copies.

Now Zip has cancelled their sponsorship, so I no longer have a membership. I thought this would be fine, since I could go to the local video store and rent what I wanted, although it would cost me a fair amount. At least I'd get the new movies to review.

But I went to that local video store yesterday, and I was enormously disappointed. Of course the new releases were there. But that's it! I was looking for six classics - the Marx Brothers' A Night At the Opera, Hitchcock's Notorious (with Ingrid Bergman) and Rebecca (with Laurence Olivier), From Here To Eternity (with Montgomery Clift) and two Katherine Hepburn films - Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and The Philadelphia Story.

I bet you can't guess how many they had...that's right, zero. And it's not just that they had no copies for rent because they were all out, it's that they no longer carry those movies in any capacity! Apparently video rental stores have discontinued virtually all classic films, and they sold off all their old stock in the process!

So rental stores have decided that movie watchers are just a bunch of mindless sheep, who will enjoy whatever crap Hollywood wants to spoon feed them on any given week. And Hollywood obviously believes the same thing, because they no longer put any real thought into their movies. How many movies can they put out in the mold of Miami Vice and Pirates of the Carribean and All The Kings Men before people wise up? Apparently hundreds.

If a movie is not a remake of an old classic (The Manchurian Candidate) then it's a remake of an old bomb (The Italian Job). If it's neither of those, it's a sequel to a big hit movie (Ice Age 2). Or it's an adaptation of a comic book (Aeon Flux) or old TV show (Starsky and Hutch). Where are all the GOOD movies?

Well, for the most part, they are indies. Or really old. If you're someone who rents a movie a week, you will quickly run through the good titles on the racks, and be left with the latest Steven Seagal direct-to-DVD film or some serial killer you've never heard of, and with good reason. But no one who watches movies wants to see anything good, learn anything, or expand their scope. If it's not made in the last two years, it's pointless garbage. People who care about movies be damned! They will have to buy them.

Well, disliking the new system as I may, I certainly hope that a video store, or a place that sells movies, or something like that picks up the sponsorship soon, because otherwise I will begin to go through the movies in my own personal collection, which will make Jeff Brown fairly upset, I think. He loves it when I review Brazilian prison movies from the '90s and Japanese samurai movies from the '50s and James Cagney gangster movies from the '30s.

Up next, silent film classics like Nosferatu and Metropolis, Ingmar Bergman Swedish black and white movies, and Jean-Luc Godard's weird and disjointed French films like Weekend. And I will compare them all to Def Leppard.

Celery is out to get me.

I have noticed, in my house, a massive amount of celery has somehow made its way into my fridge. Normally, food I don't like passes by me unnoticed. Like brussels sprouts or corn. But celery is a different vegetable.

Many years ago, I did a science fair project in high school to figure out what the most dangerous food was. Chocolate, McDonalds hamburgers, Cheeze Whiz? Nope. My good friend Marc Laliberte let me in on a little-known secret that both opened my eyes and helped me fail the science fair. Celery is the most dangerous food known to man.

The nutritional value of celery is so low that you actually burn off more calories just chewing it than you actually get from eating it. Which seems like the thing to do for the dieters of the world. But think about this. That means that if you were to eat nothing but McDonalds, like that Morgan Spurlock guy did in Super Size Me, you would get fat, gross, smelly and have serious health problems. But you would LIVE.

If you ate nothing at all, you would slowly die from lack of nutrition. You would starve to death. But if you ate nothing but celery, you would actually die FASTER than if you ate nothing at all. You would be burning precious calories just ingesting the stuff, and that would speed up the process of starving to death.

All this would be forgivable if celery was delicious. But it is not. In fact, celery is tasteless and bland, verging on unpleasant, and it has that stringy texture that makes it fun to bite into, but difficult to chew and obnoxious to swallow. Why does this vegetable even exist? It leads me to believe that human beings were never supposed to eat celery at all, and it is the most harmful food you can have in your fridge.

Save yourselves! Throw out your celery! You're better off smoking cigarettes and drinking Jack Daniels for nutrition.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Voting. Always voting.

So if you were to host an art exhibit, would you want to give it a title as well? Of course you would. You would want to protect the artistic integrity of the display, and you would want to make sure that the title of that display reflected the exact thrust of your artistic vision.

I am no exception. However, I exist in the stratosphere of the Platinum Nation, which is a democracy. A forced democracy, in that the democratic process has been forced on me. Several excellent suggestions were put forward for the title of my art exhibit, including a few of my own. I felt these suggestions embodied the notions of class, artistic endeavour, and were indicative of the nature of the exhibit, that being ass painting. I thought "Tushing the Envelope" was excellent.

But I was voted down, both without my consent and without my knowledge. Apparently Doc grabbed the 17-18 titles he liked most, and put them up in the Platinum Nation section of our website so people could vote on them. I am mortified. Can you imagine if other artists had to put up with this sort of forced democracy?

Remember when Michelangelo created that statue of "Willie With the Wang"? Or when Da Vinci painted "Lopsided Mona"? Who can forget Munsch's "Look How Wide I can Open My Mouth"?

This is to what I am now reduced. I must take my lumps and allow the public at large to name my exhibit, and I must bear with the choice, whatever it may be. And of course, the suggestions are mostly brutal. The ones that are leading right now are "Dark Side of the Moon" and "Bad Moon Rising". Either the members of Platinum Nation can't think past classic rock, or they are unnaturally obsessive about the word "moon". Or both. I don't see "Moon over My Hammy" on the list.

So...coming soon to the Parkdale Gallery (early March): A display of posterior art that will revolutionize the art community and creat a brand new scene of artistic vitality in our community. With a crappy title.