Friday, March 16, 2007

Meatloaf is still fat.

Meatloaf is still fat. I know this, because I just saw a movie called Pelts, which is the latest in a series called The Masters of Horror.

It's a series done by a bunch of classic horror directors - John Carpenter, Mick Garris, Stuart Gordon, Don Coscarelli and so forth. Some of them are very good, especially Carpenter's "Cigarette Burns". And some are awful. Pelts falls somewhere in between. It's done by Dario Argento, an Italian director best known for a very good horror movie called "Suspiria".

OK, that's not really why he's well-known. He's mostly known for being the father of Asia Argento, the hot little number who appeared opposite Vin Diesel in the truly horrible XXX. And for casting his daughter in a number of sexually explicit NC-17 rated Italian films. So...creepy in movies AND real life.

Pelts is not great, but it's OK. Meatloaf stars as a fur trader, who is obsessed with a stripper. She won't sleep with him, in fact he will never have a chance, because in her own way, she is also a fur-trader. But he discovers some furs, they are enchanted or something, he makes them into a coat, and because the coat is so fantastic, she sleeps with Meatloaf. Hooray!

But of course the curse on the furs kills people and makes them do crazy things like sew their own face closed. I know Meatloaf is still fat because he appears with his shirt off in the movie. Which is super. What's even more super, however, is when he then skins himself alive with a kitchen knife. Which I'm certain he won't do at the show tonight.

For everyone going to Scotiabank tonight, enjoy the Meatloaf!

A week best left forgotten. Well, for me.

First I have a giant art extravaganza on Monday, where my paintings are sold, and I'm on top of the world. CHEO wins, I win, CHEZ wins, the Parkdale Gallery wins, the Carleton Tavern wins, we all win!

Then the next day, I am crushed. Hammered into the ground by torture tactics that might make Milosevic cringe. An hour and a half of non-stop Rush. My "artist" title is stripped from me.

Then yesterday, the boss comes by and says "cynical cinema isn't doing well. We've put it on our survey to see if we should faze it out". There is a survey in the Platinum Nation - with OTHER questions, I might add - that is there for the sole purpose of deciding whether to keep letting me review movies.

This morning, Doc and Woody are both suggesting that they too dislike cynical cinema, simply because of the abundance of multi-syllabic words. I'm sorry, that's just how I roll. They even compared me to Conrad Black! (For the use of big words, not for the whole criminal trial thing.)

Then they made fun of me for using obscure references again. Since when are Peter Worthington and Alan Fotheringham obscure references? The guys are talking about who's hotter - Barbara Amiel (Black's wife) or his daughter. (By the way, even at 60+, it's Amiel, hands down.) And I mention two well-known journalists who are covering the trial, and I get laughed at for the obscurity of the names I chose.

Good thing, by the way, that no one is reporting on the actual trial itself. If we had to read in the paper about all this big-business stuff that I don't think any one of us have a hope of understanding, we would no longer care. I do NOT envy that jury. Maybe someday there will be a documentary such as Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room to explain it to us.

In the meantime, we can learn all about what Barbara Amiel is wearing to court today, and at whom Black's daughter smiles during the proceedings. It's not news, but I'm sure it's fascinating for eight or nine of us. But I digress.

Then, just before we get off the air, we talk about the Canadian Idol try-outs this weekend at St. Laurent, and Woody plays a clip of my "Sweet Caroline" from years ago. Not too embarrassing, really. But then a guy calls up, and asks if that's my real voice. Because to him, it sounds like something crawled down my throat and died. And he's not talking about the singing. He's talking about my regular, everyday speaking voice.

God, I'm glad this week is over. I feel I will be vindicated through the survey, and that people will say that cynical cinema is decent enough to keep running. And I get to drink my sorrows away on St. Patrick's Day, with two big Comfortably Numb shows at the Museum of Civilization tomorrow. Or, maybe I'll have a beer or two afterward. I don't think they sell beer at the museum. This week sucks!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

It may, in fact be possible to sing someone to death. Here's how. And why.

I see in the paper today that Canadian Idol tryouts are coming to the St. Laurent Centre once again. A year ago, they were held at the same place, and I was forced to try out. Thank god we've been there and done that.

Let me back up a bit. My first big stunt for CHEZ was attempting to get on the blooper reel of Canadian Idol. And boy, did I! I made the commercials, the website, and the show itself with my delightful rendition of Sweet Caroline in bright pink pants and an ill-fitting pink T-Shirt. Why Value Village had bright pink pants in my size, I'll never know.

It's a bizarre scenario when you're in it for the blooper reel. The judges and producers quickly figured out why I was there, and they hung out with me, telling me a few of the behind-the-scenes secrets. You see, there are three levels of audition. You sing for some producer, who either likes you or doesn't. That producer shuffles you through to the next round if you are decent, and then if you pass that test, you are on to the TV and the judges.

The thing is, how do you tell someone "you're so bad that it will be funny on TV. Carry on." You don't. You tell them they have something interesting and unique, and send them through. That means that every person you see on the "I Really Suck" shows at the beginning of the season has gone through three auditions already. At each of these auditions they are told that they are good enough to continue. So when they get to the judges, they have begun to believe it. And when the judges say mean things, they flip out. Of course they're fantastic singers! They made it this far, didn't they? How could a producer think I'm awesome but these three half-assed, has-been representatives of the music industry tell me otherwise? Ridiculous!

I didn't pay much attention to the process, I just hung around with two hot chicks for the whole day, neither of us took it very seriously, and I made it through and earned my 100 bucks from Doc. Mission accomplished.

So two years later, I was to audition again. Only this time, for real, to see if I could do it. I really wanted to get in front of the judges this time, because I was going to say "I'd like to suck up to Sass Jordan by singing one of her songs". And then sing "Black Velvet" by Alannah Myles. And when she said it wasn't her, I was going to insist that it was. "I saw you sing it at that grocery store grand opening - you were drunk off your ass, remember? I know it's your song!"

I went to the St. Laurent shopping centre, and this time I was determined to meet as many people as I could, and take in the whole Idol experience. The mall is crammed full of mostly girls, between the ages of 16 and 28, and most of them were babes. The ones who weren't actually hot managed to dress themselves up sluttily enough that at least they looked really dirty, which I guess is good enough for TV. But trust me. Unless you're a creepy old man with a video camera attached to your shoes, it sounds a lot better than it actually is.

I strike up a conversation with a gorgeous young woman wearing a skirt so tight that I'm sure if I poked a hole in it, I might be able to see her colon. The V-neck shirt she is poured into is so low-cut and tight that for a moment I forget she has a face, but she is too distracted to care. In fact, she sees me staring at her cleavage, and begins to worry that it is because I'm critiquing her attire.

"Is this too low-cut, do you think?" Of course it IS, but for the moment, I think that's awesome, so I say no, of course not. Now she turns around and bends over, lifting the back of her shirt. "Can you see the top of my underwear?" I can't, and I tell her so. I can, however, see the top of her butt crack, but that wasn't the question. So now I'm an authority on all things wardrobe-related and otherwise. "I can't decide which song to sing - tell me which one you like better".
She launches into two songs I've never heard before, because at all costs, I have managed to spend my whole life avoiding this type of crappy music.

Have you ever stood beside someone in a crowd as that person sang at the top of their lungs? And I'm not alone. All around the mall, guys are shuffling their feet and looking around nervously as their girlfriends get their last-minute practice in on the latest Keshia Chante tune. Some, however, are sticking to the TRUE classics. Whitney Houston, Celine Dion and Mariah Carey songs fill the air as I resist the urge to dive behind the counter of the Manchu Wok and hurl meatballs at anyone who even looks like they're about to open their mouths to sing.

Moments ago, I may have been willing to drink this girl's bath water. Now, I'd rather lick spilled mustard off Mike Duffy's bunions than spend another minute within thirty feet of her. I make some excuse and move on. I say I like the second song better. She appreciates my candid advice. I appreciate her boobs. But I hate her nonetheless.

After several other encounters of a similar nature, I go drinking at East Side Marios, and share a bottle of vodka with some karaoke experts from Dog and Pony Sound, who have come to test that expertise in Canada's biggest karaoke contest. Then, it's on to my audition. I'm in with a woman named Miss Kitty or some such thing from the karaoke troop. I choose Johnny Cash. I sing Folsom Prison. I change octaves three times in the middle of the song. Now, send me through to round two!

But it was not to be. I was not good enough to pass the first round, and not bad enough to be skewered on TV. Too bad, I was really looking forward to another day of avoiding otherwise-interesting hot girls.

I ran into an old friend of mine yesterday, his name is Chris. He used to work at the Subway on St. Laurent, and he would give me a great discount on subs while I was working at CD Warehouse. As I recall, he once played his song for me. The owner of that Subway had loaned Chris a substantial amount of money to get his pop music career off the ground, and Chris had busted his ass. He had recruited producers, booked studio time, written his song, and recorded it. One day he played it for me. Not my thing, pop-dance kind of stuff, but it sounded just like the other pop-dance kinda stuff I heard elsewhere, and I thought Chris had a pretty good shot.

He never did. He worked at it. He tried. He never stopped. But he got nowhere. Then last year, he made the top 32 on Canadian Idol. I think he was booted off fairly fast, I don't think he was in the top 20, so he had very little screen time. Now, I meet him on his way in to our sister station, KISS. They've picked up his song, and they're playing it. He has a producer now, and a studio. A contract! I'm excited for him, and he tells me Canadian Idol changed everything for him.

Now he's a guy that some people, somewhere in Canada, might recognize. He was on TV that one time! The same people who wanted nothing to do with him three months earlier, were calling HIM. ANd they can use the Canadian Idol brand to sell stuff! It's ideal, and radio stations will buy into the same hype. So the song will get played.

Now, I'm happy for Chris. He really is one of those guys who worked their butt off to get to where he wanted to be. But his story is also what's wrong with Canadian Idol. Just the idea that showing up there can translate to a music career is idiotic for 99.99999999% of the people who go, and it creates oh-so-many morons who show up to the St Laurent Shopping Centre for a get-famous-quick scheme. Wearing a tight mini skirt, a V-neck cleavage shirt, and singing Faith Hill songs at full volume. These are the people who can sing you to death.

Singing someone to death is impossible.

As I sit here watching West Side Story, I am irritated. It's not that they sing and dance, that's fine. Hey - Clint Eastwood and Lee Marvin made a musical western. So why couldn't a musical gang-war movie work? Oh right. Paint Your Wagon didn't really work, did it? I get it, West Side Story is Romeo and Juliet, with violence for guys and dancing for girls, and it becomes a classic because of the songs, which actually ARE great.

But here's my problem. Although it is difficult to look tough while singing, guys like Johnny Cash prove that it IS possible. However, it is definitely impossible to look tough while you're dancing. If you sit at home worrying about getting your butt kicked by Balki from Perfect Strangers or Niles from Frasier, then West Side Story may speak to you differently than it does me.

It's better than Grease, I'll give it that. I will even suspend my disbelief when it comes to the song-and-dance numbers, with the understanding that those are to entertain the people who don't like violent gang wars in movies. The biggest problem that is irking me now is that those gang wars look like they're being fought by kindergarten students detined to grow up as the next Richard Simmons backup dancers.

The fights are choreographed, like dances. Perhaps I'm spoiled by the likes of Scorcese and Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez, but I expect fights to look like fights, not a series of slaps and ballet kicks set to music. This is what makes West Side Story a relic of Hollywood, worth watching once, but not twice. Dated does not begin to describe this movie. And I find myself thinking, there really is no good way to dance someone to death. You could work out to Sweatin' to The Oldies for eleven hours, and you would just be a little sore and annoyed, not dead.

But after being subjected to Rush for an hour and a half straight the other day, I believe that there may in fact be a way to sing someone to death. But I will save that for the next post.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The show when I'm docile.

I guess the guys are enjoying their respite from my verbose artistic rantings. They seemed to be in a far better mood as the Doc and Woody show returned to normal this morning.

Not much of import was done this morning, and nothing earth-shattering was said. But it was good nonetheless. I hate to admit it, but it's likely a better show when I'm not sounding off and orating ad nauseum.

We determined a few things - Randall sits at Chapters reading books and drinking Starbucks coffee, giving illiterate people the world over hope that someday, they too might be able to read a novel. What surprised me about this is that I never pegged Randall for a Starbucks drinker. I would expect him to be the kind of guy who in good conscience can't order anything called a "mocchacino espressimo latte" or whatever they serve.

We also learned that Doc feels purged when he yells "I'm a Dork" on the air. Or in the studio off the air. Or perhaps in his car. It seemed cathartic for him, and as soon as the show was done this morning, off he went to complete the purging process with a bran muffin and a good long cry.

Randall commented on the rotten people who beat up the war hero in Morrisburg. Everyone who called agreed that they were rotten people. Doc forgot what he was doing seven times. We played Led Zeppelin, and I drank four cokes and ate a Mars bar.

Everything's back to normal, and splendid.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Portrait of the artist as a defeated man.

Asspirations of an Intern was a success! I started the day having a great time, shopping for a suitably irritating artist-type costume at Value Village. Best 25 bucks I ever spent. I went with a pink shirt, a green sweater-vest and a green ascot, which was actually some scarf-like thing I found in the bathroom section.

I managed to get to the Parkdale Gallery by about 1:00, and the Carleton by 1:30. After two quarts and two smoked meat sandwiches, we headed back to the station so we could get the new canvas, and so I could record some movie reviews before the event began. Then on to pick up the Spectrum Sound and Vision guys who were going to film the whole thing.

We went back to the Carleton first, for two more smoked meat sandwiches and another quart. Sam, the owner, sent me out a second quart, but I couldn't possibly cram that one in before I went to do my show. To some degree, I needed my wits about me.

I snuck in the back, having planted my two gorgeous "assistants" in the audience, and waited. Doc and Woody began the show, and announced me right away. I began to say a few words, but after a few unceremonious interruptions courtesy of Woody, I relinquished the stage and began the performance.

A screen was drawn across the stage, and lights were set up behind the curtain so that the crowd could see the silhouette as I disrobed, hiked up my lacy black underwear, and bent over a table. My assistants grabbed the equipment, and Chelsea sprayed paint onto my backside as Jessica spanked me with the canvas. Jason, caught up in the spirit of the moment, grabbed the canvas from Jessica at one point and began to take out all his frustrations on my behind. I could hear his thoughts "this is for the time you hit on me in the first class section of the VIA rail train while dressed as a hooker!" "this is for the time you made me photograph you nude during the polar bear dip!"

The downside was that due to the vehemence with which Jason was swinging for the fences, the paint actually splattered above my head, over my body, and onto the wall where the existing butt works were still hanging. Very few drops of pink made it onto those canvasses, but a few of the bidders got a tiny bit extra with their purchases later on.

The final masterpiece was completed quickly, and the auction began. Although the bidding started at 5 bucks, which is what I assumed the guys would do, it quickly reached more than 100 dollars for each painting. The last one was "Sanjuro Smear", the prize of the collection and the one that was best received of all, and it fetched a princely sum of 200 bucks. All in all, we raised $1,100.00 for the Doc and Woody fund for the operating rooms at CHEO.

We were pleased that our listeners had dug so deep for the kids, and went to the Carleton to celebrate. I had two smoked meat sandwiches. The waitress brought out the quart I had begun earlier. They had kept it in the fridge since I left for the show. Then Sam sent over a pitcher, another quart and a pile of wings. Then a few listeners sent over quarts and jugs. The Spectrum guys had a few, as did Woody, but they all left fairly quickly, and I was left at the table with James from the Parkdale, a few of his friends, and a rapidly-souring promo guy who just wanted to go home to play World of Warcraft or some such thing.

I left a table covered in beer we couldn't possibly drink, and headed home. Thanks to some wing-induced heartburn, I remained awake until 11:00, then up at 3 for work.

When I got to work, Doc was already sick of my artistic posturings from the previous week, and his threshold for my pretentious affectations was diminished to the point where it almost didn't exist at all any more. It was less than two hours into the show when he finally decided to do something about it.

I was locked in a room just outside the studio, with a ghettoblaster and the new Rush song. The ghettoblaster was cranked up to eleven, and the song was played on repeat. I guess Doc learned a thing or two from the Manuel Noriega catastrophe. Although as I recall, the army played Twisted Sister to force him out of his house.

In this case, I believed I could withstand a couple of hours. I mean, the show was over at 9, anyone can take something unpleasant for two hours. But I hadn't counted on the ability of Geddy Lee to get under my skin. That voice pierces my brain. And, once it's inside my brain, it wreaks havoc on my synapses to the point where I quickly lose the ability to speak, and I am unable to function in a normal way for some time. In the words of Hunter S Thompson, the mind recoils in horror, unable to communicate with the spinal column. He was talking about ether. A drug almost as dangerous as Rush.

I caved. My resistance was broken down, my pride deflated and crushed, and my ears were dripping a small amount of blood. I won't go into great detail about the other physical infirmities with which I became suddenly afflicted, but I can certainly say I prefer having my ass covered in paint to any of them.

So it's over. In order to stop the assault on my senses and my sensibilities, I was forced to concede defeat. I will no longer put on airs and carry myself as though I have something to offer the art world. I will no longer speak in a condescending way about my troglodyte co-workers, and their lack of refinement when it comes to artistic achievement. And I will go back to being a subservient, obedient intern who fetches coffee, empties the recycling bin, and occasionally pumaces Doc's feet. For the time being.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Preparations are under way...for a significant event!

Depsite Doc and Woody's attempts to rain on my parade this morning by continuing to bring up the fact that Rush will likely be playing Ottawa, and that I will likely be forced to go, and that they have a new single, which is going to be on a new CD, which is coming out soon, and they had to keep playing that single, I'm OK.

The reason I'm OK is that right now, as I wait for Jason to pick me up at my house, I am filled with breathless anticipation for what will almost certainly be one of the most important events of my life. I know what you're saying..."geez, poor guy must have had a pretty rotten life." But that is not the case!

It is just that I believe strongly in showcasing anything of significance to Ottawa's cultural fabric, and the fact that I am now a part of that fabric myself, I feel is cause for celebration.

I have done my shopping, and I'm ready. My paints are in a bag by the door. My last canvas is in a protective sleeve by the door. My "artist" clothes are in another bag by the door. What am I forgetting? Dunno. I think I have everything I need.

I am wearing silky, lacy women's underwear right now. I think I have had more reasons to wear panties over the course of my life than have most men. And not only have I grown accustomed to it, I have also, in a certain small way, grown to like it. I'm wearing them now, because I have no idea what's in store for me later today, and I don't know if I'll have a good place to change when the time comes. Plus I kinda like 'em.

I think Doc and Woody have gone about this whole thing wrong. First of all, it's not the fact that there are bonus points to be had that is important. The CHEO angle? Nice, great sidebar to the main event, but not the main event. The art is the main thing, it is the essential thing, and IT is what will be remembered twenty years from now.

But I don't expect a couple of knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, troglodyte neanderthals to understand haute couture. Of course not. The big issue I have is that they seem to be leaning toward starting the bidding on these works at 5 bucks. I insist that the bidding should start at $1,000. Why? Because arts people are a strange lot. They will believe a painting is worth what you tell them it is worth.

Have you ever noticed that a musical done by a small theatre company, where tickets start at 15 bucks, struggles to get 20 people in the audience? Whereas a production like Cats, where tickets are 150 bucks apiece, sells out nightly? I think we all know that Cats is terrible, and the small production is likely better, but these are the Art Snobs. They must go to Cats BECAUSE it's expensive, not because it's good. They really have no idea what is and isn't good. They need us to tell them what's good through ticket prices.

If the paintings were to be auctioned off for 2 grand apiece, they would actually be WORTH 2 grand apiece. If they are auctioned off for 12 bucks apiece, they will be WORTH 12 bucks apiece. That is to say, basically worthless. I hope I get a chance to speak my mind later on, when the auction begins. Maybe if they're going to start at 5 bucks, and they end up getting 30 bucks a painting, we can say it's a discounted price for the CHEZ faithful, and that this is only a fraction, say 1%, of the open market value. Or something.

Jason's here. I'm off to be irritating some more!