Friday, August 3, 2007

The proof that I sucked.

This is my new CD. For playing in the car. My favourite songs in the world, from the time I was small until now.

1. We Didn't Start The Fire - Billy Joel. I was quite young when this was all over the radio, and I heard it about once an hour on the old "hits" station in Ottawa, Energy 1200, which in retrospect was a very lousy station. And this was a very lousy song. I think just about anyone could have grabbed four hundred pop culture references and crammed them into a song with no real tune. I liked it because it was fast. Billy Joel is good, this song is not.

2. Straight Up - Paula Abdul. The first tape I ever purchased was a Paula Abdul tape. And this song was my absolute favourite song in the world. It was fast also, you see. And she was hot and danced really great with her 80s hair, and one of her videos was part cartoon!

3. Kokomo - The Beach Boys. I now realize that this was, and still is, by far the worst song the Beach Boys ever recorded. But all the girls in my class at the time were absolutely nuts about the soundtrack to the movie Cocktail, and I figured that if the girls after whom I lusted enjoyed a song, it must be good. Thank God I have discovered that this is not the case, or I would be listening to Bon Jovi now and watching Patrick Swayze movies. I believe that even at the tender age of eight or nine when I was listening to this, I knew that "Bahama" was not a country.

4. The Measure of a Man - Elton John. I somehow picked up a cassette tape of the soundtrack to Rocky V in my travels as a youngster, and I was instantly captivated by it. Not only did it contain seven songs by MC Hammer, but it was also my window to Elton John, who I heard for the first time with this song. I thought it was so inspirational that I put it on every time I lifted weights in my basement. But it was a horrible song. I might as well have been listening to Candle in the Wind. Elton John said yesterday he hates bloggers. So screw Elton John.

5. I Think I Can Beat Mike Tyson - DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince. I thought this song was SO funny. You see, the Fresh Prince figured he could beat Mike Tyson, so after a quick phone call to Don King, they met on Pay-Per-View. And Mike Tyson hit him so hard - he pooed himself! Lol! OK, I still think this song is kinda funny.

6. Break 'Em Off Some - Cypress Hill. The first song I've mentioned that I can still listen to today without cringing. But for the life of me I can't remember why I loved it so much.

7. American Pie - Don McLean. I LOVED this song. It was on a tape I had, and it was the first song of this compilation, so I would rewind after every play and listen to it again and again. I'm not even sure what the other songs were on the tape. I may never have listened to them at all. Then it wore out and I tossed it. Now I hate this song. This is either because I am so sick of it, or because it's actually no good. I've heard it so often I really can't tell.

8. House of the Rising Sun - The Animals. My parents, in an effort to seem to us kids like they were cool, rented a white convertible when we visited Winnipeg one summer. Of course, a convertible wouldn't seem cool without some cool tunes, and this was the first one that came on the radio. I would have been about eleven at the time, which means Doc was working in Winnipeg. For all I know, he may have introduced the song. This is the first "favourite" song I had that I am proud of liking.

9. Janet Jackson - Rhythm Nation. My bad taste had not been killed yet. I somehow managed to miss this song on the first go-round, but discovering the tape (I still have the tape single of this song) was like gold to me. You mean this has been around for year,s and I'm just hearing it NOW?

10. The KLF - Justified and Ancient. Just as I entered high school, this was the music in the air. I still have the tape single of this one as well.

11. Metallica - Nothing Else Matters. I was starting to like better music, but through no effort of my own. My good friend Mark Jarvis had this really neat tape-to-tape dubbing machine that could record a tape onto a blank cassette at FOUR times the speed of just playing the tape. I was so excited at the idea that I made him tape something for me, and I sat and watched the tapes go. He chose Metallica's Black album, and a wise choice it was. I am a Metallica fan to this day.

12. The Stone Roses - She Bangs the Drums. My neighbours, Loik and Cedric, had come to Canada from Berlin, and they had some really weird music. They decided to upgrade their music to CD, and gave me all their old tapes. Most of them were obnoxious, but when I heard this album, my head almost exploded. Music can be THIS good? I thought. Ever since, I have actively searched for good music.

13. A Tribe Called Quest - Scenario. The first CD I ever bought myself was Tribe's remix album. I played this tune to death, but I still like it.

14. The Who - The Kids are Alright. I grabbed a CD of the Who from Canadian Tire because I knew the song "I Can See For Miles" and I really enjoyed it. After listening to Meaty Beaty Big and Bouncy, I realized I knew most of the other tunes as well. Except for this one, "Boris the Spider" and "I'm a Boy". Still my favourite Who CD.

15. The Allman Brothers - Whipping Post. I read the Allman's biography, Midnight Riders, and was very impressed. I had to buy a CD of theirs, and got the Millenium Collection just so I could listen while I read. I read the entire thing with Whipping Post on repeat and never noticed. Since then, I have acquired every album they have.

16. The Jefferson Airplane - White Rabbit. No, I didn't get into mind-bending drugs. But I did read a book on psychedelia by some guy named Belmo, that book made me want to grab Grace Slick's autobiography, I then read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and here we are.

17. The Harder They Come - Jimmy Cliff. I picked up the soundtrack, because it had some seriously great Toots and the Maytals tunes I loved. This song stuck out, but only when I watched Jimmy Cliff's movie of the same name did it really hit me in the chest. Still the greatest reggae song of all time.

18. We Are the Ones - The Coup. The perfect political rap song. It is perfect.

19. Frank Zappa - Who Needs the Peace Corps. I got into Zappa through that book by Belmo. I read it, picked up Captain Beefheart's Trout Mask Replica, and that led me to Bongo Fury, which led me to Zappa. Kind of back-door music loving, no?

20. The Who - Blue Red and Grey. This is from by far my favourite Who studio album, The Who By Numbers. It is my favourite song right now because it is just the most amazing thing to come out of the Who. It's quiet! And it's beautiful. And they play it on a ukelele or somthing.

Well, I can listen only to the last half of my CD. Disappointing, but I'm sure glad I found the Stone Roses and the Who, or I'd still be mired in the world of Janet Jackson and Paula Abdul. I might even be one of those guys who votes for American Idols.

There was a time when I really sucked.

Well. I still suck, but in a whole new way. I was talking this morning about my CD collection. Marilyn Manson buys a human skeleton to shock his house guests, Michael Jackson uses the Elephant MAn's bones, and I have my Savage Garden. There was a time when I had a movie poster up on my wall of the Olsen twins movie, The Challenge. They were about 17 at the time, and the movie had been made a few years earlier. I made it clear that it was in my hallway simply as a fantasy. I fantasized about the Olsen twins, and here was my Mecca to which I prayed each morning. This stressed some people out quite a lot. And, frankly, when they turned 18 and got skinny and began looking alien and went into rehab, the poster even creeped me out and I took it down.

So now I rely on CDs to freak out house guests. I have kept all the old, crappy CDs I used to own, and those I have somehow accumulated simply by working in radio. I do not sell them, rather I put them in a prominent place, such that any time someone wants to peruse my music collection, the first things they come across are Vanilla Ice (the heavy metal album, not even the rap one), Insane Clown Posse, Sarah Brightman, Christina Aguilera, Paula Abdul, Kenny G and Savage Garden. Invariably, people look at me like they are all of a sudden disappointed, that I don't live up to their expectations, and that they may not want to be friends with me any more. This makes me smile.

In a sort of masochistic excercise, I went through many of these CDs when I got home today, as well as my old tapes from when I was a young child. I then put all the songs that at one time or another were my "favourites", and I burned a couple of CDs. Next post: A list of the tracks on CD number one, which really does indicate that at one point, I did indeed suck.

Her face and arms began to swell...and Whitey's on the moon.

How do some things even make the paper, let alone the front page? The front page of the Sun today was one of the dumbest things I've seen in a long time. Are we now American news reporters? Is the Sun now aping the US "news" agencies with some fantastic scare-mongering? "New Cold War?" says the headline. This is either some ridiculous scare tactic, or it is a really dumb play on words. (It IS the Sun - they seem to really love the double-entendre headline - I will give them the benefit of the doubt and suggest that "Cold War" merely refers to the North Pole being cold. They are still stupid.)

I'm not sure I have ever heard so much ado about nothing. In case you have missed the sensational headlines and the doom and gloom news reports, here is the story in a nutshell: Some Russian scientists led an expedition where two submarines explored the ocean floor at the North Pole for the first time. Since it was a momentous occasion in the history of science, they felt that some national pride was in order, so they planted a Russian flag on the sea bed to commemorate the occasion. Canada found out and got worried. Very worried. A Russian flag? In the ocean floor at the North Pole? Are they suggesting that they own a portion of the North Pole? Are they using this "scientific expedition" as a pretext to sneak their flag in there and claim a section of the Eurasian continental shelf? Stephen Harper has vowed "strong action" to defend Canada's turf!

So that's it. First of all, I ask, what turf? Suppose that planting a flag somewhere really did mean you owned that land. so suppose Russia now does actually own a six-square kilometre section of the ocean floor at the north pole. The ocean floor? What the hell could we possibly want with that? We obviously haven't been down there, ever. That's why it was a momentous occasion for the Russians, which is why they planted their flag. Perhaps we MEANT to go there, some day. And if some sort of very-delicious, super-rare, ice-water oysters are discovered in that exact area, now the Russians will have domain over them, and we will be forced to IMPORT them if we want to share in the tasty bounty! Whatever will we do?

Now let's suppose that merely planting your flag somewhere gives you domain over that area. Terrorists could stop doing that whole "blowing stuff up" thing. Instead, they could just sneak an agent onto George Bush's ranch, another one into the Lincoln bedroom, one at 24 Sussex and another at Buckhingham Palace. Then they could plant their Saudi Arabia flags and take over the world in mere minutes. I can just imagine the White House tour, where the guide takes the tour group into the bedroom, and a man springs from behind the velvet rops to plant his flag right there in the floor! Bam! Now, you all clear out! This is MY house now, and I want to sleep!

I think I will take advantage of this myself. I will create some kind of Eric flag. I will claim as my own everything in the immediate area of that flag, whenever it is planted. While Woody is away on the East Coast, I will sneak into his backyard, dive into his pool, and plant my flag right there in the deep end. He won't even know I have annexed his pool until he tries to dive in! I would also really like to live in Doc's house. He has a fantastic TV room. I might even let him keep the rest of the house, but I'm definitely planting my Eric flag right there in his couch. Oh, and on his pool table as well.

I come back to Whitey on the Moon. Was that the real reason the US was so excited to reach the moon first? They beat the Russians, therefore they planted their flag first, therefore they own the moon? And now, if some super-delicious, extremely rare, oxygen-deprived oysters are found on the lunar surface, we will have to purchase them from the Americans? Or was it just pride in a job well done, in an historic achievement, and they wanted to commemorate it? I am going to assume the latter. This is why I planted my Eric flag in the ground at Mooney's Bay beach after I spent the night there with those sisters. Was I claiming the beach as my own? No. But I was celebrating a job well done, an historic event.

But our government has promised swift and decisive action. Which is tremendous. Let us create enemies out of nothing, fabricate threats to our resource-rich seal-filled ice caps, and make sure people know we are capable of diplomatic retaliation. Let's go one step further and ready our military...oooh, good reason to back out of the Afghanistan debacle. We need our soldiers home in case the Russians decide to continue their secret and subtle invasion by planting their flag above various Beavertail stands and Dicke dee's ice cream vendors in the market. Which would make great fodder for further Ottawa Sun headlines..."Beavertails Can't Bear It" "Red Army High-Tails It" "Hammer and PopSicle"...geez, I sure hope it happens.

And I also hope it costs our government a ton of money to investigate the Russian threat - to send our own subs down to examine their flag, to get CSIS geared up to infiltrate the Kremlin...does the Kremlin still exist? That is because if we don't spend our money on things like this, we would WASTE it on things like health care and education. I can't pay my doctor bills, but Igor's on the ocean floor...

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Honk on this.

Something occurred to me as I was driving today. I will admit, I was at fault, as I followed a giant dumptruck into an intersection without realizing that the left turn arrow was no longer green. And yes, I did hold up the oncoming traffic by two, maybe three seconds. I was indeed in the wrong. And initially, I felt sheepish at my driving misdeed. But that sheepishness turned to annoyance fairly quickly, as one of the motorists I had inconvenienced let me in on his displeasure with a long, loud and liberal application of his car horn. So I flipped him off. I wasn't sure what the correct response was to a loud and unnecessary honking. When I took driver's ed, I may have missed a class. Either that or there was nothing in my "rules of the road" text book that illustrated the correct response. I felt that an upraised middle finger was as good as any.

Come to think of it, I don't recall reading in any of the text books what the proper procedure is for those who want to communicate their displeasure toward other motorists. That section may not even have BEEN in the text book. That is either a staggering oversight on the part of the text-book-writers, or it is because it is fairly stupid to want to communicate your displeasure with other motorists. If I am angry with someone for say, cutting me off, what do I gain from leaning on my horn? Am I now more satisfied? That showed HIM! For a moment there, he could barely hear his Enya CD over the sound of my car horn! That'll teach him to drive wrong! Zing! I win this battle.

Horns exist for one reason and one reason only. To warn people of danger. If someone is drifting into your lane, and you don't think they see you, then you honk. If someone is backing up in a parking lot, and they don't see you, you honk. When there is a kid on a skateboard criss-crossing the street in front of you without looking, you apply the horn. Or the gas pedal. You decide. Honking your horn to voice your displeasure is as counter-productive as setting off your smoke alarm when you are angry at your wife. Sure, it's loud. But when there is no emergency, it's fairly pointless and just plain irritating. Not only that, but it creates a situation where that sound is no longer reserved for emergency situations, but rather for situations where your blood is up. I'm angry! NOISE.

The people who honk AT others, rather than honking for their benefit, are the same people who berate the poor scared girl at the counter at Subway for not having mushrooms available as a topping. Their rage knows no limits, and it must be taken out NOW, regardless of the target or the relevance of their complaint. If I yell at the Subway girl, and three days later there are mushrooms at all Subways, I have succeeded. (I actually saw this happen a few months ago.) But somehow I don't see that happening.

I remember working at a CD store, where there was a customer who lost it on me because Alice Cooper's Greatest Hits CD didn't include Poison. I explained to him that Classicks DID include Poison. Then he was furious that Classicks didn't include the ALBUM version of No More Mr. Nice Guy. It was LIVE. What are we trying to peddle here? You are a jerk, Eric at the CD store! This guy was out of touch a little. I told him that we at the CD store appreciated his concerns, and that I would include his comments in the report that I send at the end of each day to Alice Cooper and his management, and that I was sure that within three or four days, the track listing on the back of these CDs would be changed to reflect his personal taste for Cooper tunes. Alice Cooper is an understanding guy, I explained, and I'm sure he'd be more than willing to print a whole new batch of CDs. I then suggested that if he would like to write down the track listing of the Greatest Hits that would make him happiest, I would make absolutely sure that the message was passed on, and that future pressings of the CD would be different. In fact, if he had a preference for the cover art, I said, I am sure that I could get Vince (I call him Vince) to adjust the graphics on the album accordingly.

The guy never complained to the management, but I sure don't work at that place any more...

An amendment.

As I sit here, trying not to lean back in my chair for fear that I might stick to it and become permanently affixed there, something occurred to me. I am watching The King Of Marvin Gardens for the eighth or possibly ninth time. And I realized I was both right AND wrong in an earlier post. Deaths DO come in threes, but I had the wrong three guys. Bill Walsh and Tom Snyder - big names, sure, and they were in the news along with Ingmar Bergman - so it seemed the law of three-at-a-time continued.

However, what I didn't realize until yesterday was that there were actually three major FILM figures who died in the last week. The other two, however, didn't merit much media attention. This is either because they are not as well-known as Bergman, or because most newscasters can't pronounce their names and are afraid to make an attempt for fear of seeming foolish. This is the reason Randall Moore will never have a story about a Volvo on his news. He can't say Volvo, he says vulva. Invariaby. Then we make fun of him. So he avoids the word at all costs.

I'm watching The King of Marvin Gardens, and I am thinking about the cinematographer, Laszlo Kovacs, who was partially responsible for a major revolution in movies and who died last week. King of Marvin Gardens is not the best film he ever shot, but he certainly had a large hand in the career of Jack Nicholson. Kovacs started out as a cinematographer for motorcycle B-movies, most of which were very impressively shot. The most notable early one is Hells Angels on Wheels, a movie starring Jack Nicholson that is notable partly because it actually stars Sonny Barger, but mostly for Kovacs and his camera. Kovacs' big break came with Easy Rider, which was obviously the greatest motorcycle movie of them all, and he had a big hand in filming The Last Waltz with Martin Scorcese. He shot Nicholson again in Five Easy Pieces, and arguably his best work was in Close Encounters Of The Third Kind. His last movie was Two Weeks Notice, but I can't hold that against him. Laszlo Kovacs - one of the true greats of film. Cinematographers get no love.

The other major figure was Michelangelo Antonioni, an Italian director who redefined what "narrative" was to movies - a man who created many of the finest Italian movies in history, most notably Aventurra and Red Desert. But it was his film Blow-Up that is considered by many film historians to be one of the top five movies ever created. Citizen Kane, Seven Samurai, Casablanca, Weekend, Battleship Potemkin, 2001, The Godfather, The Bicycle Thief and Blow-Up are usually at the top of any major critic's list. Anyone who has seen Francis Ford Coppola's fantastic movie The Conversation, starring Gene Hackman, has seen the direct influence of Blow-Up and Antonioni's style in general. (I imagine very few people HAVE seen The Conversation - Coppola managed to make it and release it in 1973, right between The Godfather and Godfather Part II, ensuring that it would be largely forgotten by moviegoers.)

And then there's Ingmar Bergman. So really, that means that there were three FILM icons who died this past week, and two OTHER entertainment icons. So...there's one more death on the way. I do have Britney Spears in the pool...

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Scarlett Johanssen vs. Jessica Simpson

The rumours have been all over the internet - Jessica Simpson was offered a starring role in a porno for a ton of money, and turned it down! Well, this is partially true, I guess. The idea was that she was offered the role of Jenna Jameson in a biopic of that adult film luminary, based on her book, "How To Make Love Like a Pron Star". It was suggested to her that the role could lead to an Oscar nomination. This is the funniest part of the story - Jessica Simpson porn star? That's sensible. Jessica Simpson, Oscar nominee? Ridiculous. Simpson's dad, of course, stepped in and said no - I guess he's OK with his daughter looking slutty and acting stupid, but not with her being naked while doing it. Stands to reason.

So the part was then offered to Scarlett Johanssen, which I think was quite clever. Scarlett Johanssen is quite willing to do nudity, and she is a tremendous actress. (Coming soon - a review on Cynical Cinema of the movie Black Dahlia - where the movie is useless, and the review becomes a debate over Scarlett Johanssen vs. Hilary Swank - who's hotter and who's better?) As Robin Harper and I continue to fill in on the Doc and Woody show, I have learned that Robin is much like Doc, in that the choice to play Jenna Jameson comes down to "who would I most like to see naked?" Whereas I would hope for a movie that was actually good, and I would rather see a real actress than eye candy. Is Scarlett Johanssen really not hot ENOUGH? I find her much hotter than Jessica Simpson, actually, simply because I respect her work. Give me Lost In Translation or Ghost World over The Dukes of Hazzard or Employee of the Month any day.

But now it appears as though Scarlett is pulling out...no pun intended...of the Jameson biopic as well. So they will likely go with some lousy C-movie actress with fake boobs - maybe a Shannon Tweed type for the new generation. Look up Jennifer Hill. She is my best guess as to the actress who will play Jenna Jameson. And another thing - we've all been irritated by the tabloids who want to lump famous couples together - TomKat and Brangelina and Bennifer and Feliciam H. Muffman...now it seems they are not content with just couples, they are doing it with individuals as well. Scarlett Johanssen is now ScarJo. Scarjo! Doesn't that sound like some kind of horror movie character? Like...eat your vegetables at dinner, or ScarJo will eat you in your sleep? Prepare the battlements! Scarjo approaches! Not only is this bizarre and unnecessary, it is infinitely more irritating than the practice of late where the tabloids refer to celebrities in the first person in their photo captions. Like "Angie goes shopping", or "Lindsay takes a huff".

That's enough sounding off for now. Until next time, this has been Ertern, (or, ETI for short). My girlfriend's name is Jen - I keep telling her we should get really famous some day, so that the tabloids can refer to us as Generic.

Robin might be stalking me.

While Doc and Woody enjoy their well-earned vacation...or, at least, their contractually obligated vacation, Robin Harper and myself are running the Doc and Woody show. I have spent very little time with Robin before, save for a few nights following concerts where we ended up back at some girl's house and I sat in the hot tub while he passed out face-down on a lawn chair. (This has happened fewer than six times, I believe.) We are friends, but have never worked specifically with one another before. So this is a fairly new experience, and I discovered a few things about Robin that I never knew before. First of all, he hates Rush also. I don't know if he has ever ranted against them on the air as I have, but I'm letting the cat out of the bag right here - we will play Rush, but we do not like it.

Secondly, Robin is out to get me. I was not aware of this before. Robin's blog is now up on the CHEZ website. Mine is under the "Doc and Woody" section, his is under the "Fun Stuff" section. IS this Robin's dig at me? That MY blog is not fun, but his is? No, I think I'm being paranoid. I am a part of the Doc and Woody show, and it stands to reason that the cynical cinema and Eric's blog links are in that area. But I think Robin is getting a little competitive with this blogging. I think that he is out to get more hits than I do, and outpace my blog in traffic. How do I know? He is giving away bonus codes on HIS blog. This is something I have resisted for some time. I like to think people actually care about what I say, and are not going to this site simply because it gets them one step closer to a free car detailing. No, I say! I will not succumb to such blatant birbery to drive traffic! I will rise above such tawdry methods, and continue to bring traffic to MY blog my own way! That being, blathering on for several paragraphs, in an unnecessarily wordy way, about subjects that may or may not be irrelevant to those who read it.

Hmm. That's one thing I can say about Robin's blog. At least he has mastered the elusive art of brevity.

The worst Canadian.

I wish I could vote for a giant group of people. Just ONE worst Canadian? I would like to vote for everyone who complains about things. The people who want movies banned without ever seeing them. The people who become furious at the mention of Michael Moore's name without having read one of his books or seen one of huis movies. The people who miss the point entirely and write me emails about Celine Dion. You all, as a group, are the worst Canadians. Canadians are renowned for their compassion and their understanding of social issues. So how do some of us miss the point so entirely? And why is the first instinct to complain about it? Complaints are great - the foundation of any good democracy is civil disobedience and the questioning of the status quo - but PC complaints do not qualify.

Betwee Robin and I, we received eight (8!) emails and phone calls complaining that we added Celin Dion to our list of the worst Canadians. The story was that Beaver magazine ran an online poll to counter that CBC Greatest Canadian thing - Tommy Douglas is our best and brightest, but who is our worst? Pierre Trudeau, it turns out. Worse than Paul Bernardo. Worse than Karla Homolka and Clifford Olsen. The true nature of this "online poll" becomes apparent when the guy in second place is the lead singer of the Winnipeg punk band Propaghandi. A guy named Chris no one outside the punk-fan world is even aware of. So...clearly some ballot-box stuffing going on there. I may as well have logged on two thousand times to vote for my friend John Lindsay. He needs the publicity, I think. John Lindsay is the WORST Candian! The whole thing is that statistically relevant.

But it certainly sparked debate. The idea that Trudeau was worse than a Clifford Olsen was what we found ridiculous. So we created a poll on line with a list of others, who might in fact qualify as Worst Candian. We included Celine Dion and Chad Kroeger, who have both done their part to show the rest of the world that Canadians have actively pursued the absolute worst types of music imaginable. And just because Celine Dion is a "gazillionnaire", and she is extremely popular and rich, that does not make her artistically relevant. McDonalds is a very rich restaurant, and more people eat there than at, say, Baton Rouge, but would you ever suggest that a Big Mac is better food than Baton Rouge ribs?

But the complaints flooded in. How does a classic rock listener masquerade as a closet Celine fan? I decided a tongue-in-cheek apology was the way to go, and against Robin's wishes I attempted to play a Celine Dion song on this morning's show. I couldn't handle it much myself, and we quickly put an end to it. But there was more outrage over that than there was over our inital comments! Go figure. Of course, we knew that would happen. But it certainly shows that the squeaky wheel can't always get the grease. Otherwise, NO ONE is happy. So please. This is what I ask. Make your complaints constructve, Canada. Complain about wait times in hospitals. Complain that gay marriage is an actual election issue. Sound off on our involvement in Afghanistan. Pro or con, at least it's constructive. PC complaints and criticism serve no purpose other than dumbing down the world. If you don't like a Christmas tree being in your office, don't decorate it. But don't complain.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Deaths always come in threes.

It seems like when famous people die, they do it three at a time. This is a phenomenon Doc has pointed out to me on several occasions - John Ritter and Johnny Cash died within days of each other, and there was a third I can't remember - Robert Palmer? Maybe. Now it seems to have happened again. Bill Walsh, Ingmar Bergman and Tom Snyder are all dead. I am not familiar with Tom Snyder. He may have been a little before my time, the late late show obviously coming on well after my bedtime, which was considerably earlier than even the Late show. I was not allowed to watch much TV as a child, and as such my knowledge of TV shows begins in about 1996. Anything earlier, and I am lost. I'm not even sure if Johnny Carson was still doing the late night show while I was alive. I assume he was.

But I do know Bill Walsh and Ingmar Bergman. The more I heard about both, the more I thought they were in fact very similar. Almost parallel lives, really. You know...football and films. Very similar. Ingmar Bergman, a Swedish director, was one of the great innovators in the history of film. He was almost single-handedly responsible for direct existentialism in the movies. Not overly stylized, like some of his contemporaries in world cinema (Godard, Fellini) but a far more direct approach that made his films actually watchable for the majority of the world audience. Bill Walsh was single-handedly responsible for the West Coast offence in football, with a very direct approach that made the short pass the most dangerous play in football.

Bergman is famous for three movies, more than any others. Wild Strawberries, The Seventh Seal, and Fanny and Alexander. Walsh is famous for three teams. The Super Bowl winning 49ers of 1981, 1984 and 1988. Bergman influenced hundreds of directors, most notably Woody Allen, Akira Kurosawa and Robert Altman, each of whom have many disciples of their own. Bill Walsh created dozens of NFL coaches out of those who worked under him, most notably Mike Holmgren, George Siefert and Dennis Green, each of whom have many disciples of their own. Bergman created wonderful careers for the likes of Max Von Sydow (last seen as the Brewmeister in Strange Brew), Bibi Andersson, and Liv Ullmann. Bill Walsh drafted Jerry Rice, Ronnie Lott and Joe Montana. Bergman has three Oscars, Walsh three Super Bowls.

So...they're basically the same person. Obviously. If I knew more about Tom Snyder, I could include him in here. This threes thing worries me though. The week that Max Keeping and Wayne Rostad croak, I will be looking over my shoulder. I could be that third, less-important guy!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

An evening in prison.

Somehow, on Friday, we got to talking about prison for some reason, and I was asked if I had ever spent a night in one. I figured the night in Windsor didn't count - when the guys sent me down to Windsor to try to get into the Super Bowl in Detroit, the local cops kindly let me sleep in the drunk tank, not because I was drunk, but because no one had planned ahead enough to get me a motel or a place to stay, and there was no room at the inn. I figured a voluntary night in prison wasn't the same as an involuntary one, so I told this story about my one involuntary night behind "bars":

I say "bars" in quotation marks because there really weren't any bars in this particular jail. I was working for the Bluenose II, doing a tour of Canada one summer, and one of the tour stops was in Port-Au-Basques, Newfoundland. A fine town, but it was deep, dark, Newfoundland, where the locals spoke a dialect that was all but indecipherable to me and the rest of the crew. We would ask them to slow down when they talked, but the words still made virtually no sense at all to us. Of course, they understood us, which was helpful when we went to the liquor store. It was the first time in Newfoundland for most of us. For me, it was the first time I had been to Newfoundland AND been old enough to drink. So we figured we needed some Screech. It's the Newfie tradition, after all. At the liquor store, the guy got all excited, because we were with the Bluenose, and he ran into the back room. He came out with a guy in a suit. This guy was the president of the Newfoundland Liquor Commission, or some such title, and just happened to be there doing an inspection. He asked what hotel we were staying at and wouldn't let us buy any screech. He said, just get everyone together in the hotel bar that night and they would bring some over in the true Newfie tradition.

The true Newfie tradition consisted of cases upon cases of screech, these two guys wearing fake beards, fake fat stomachs, suspenders, and playing the accordion. They sang a bunch of old Newfie drinking songs, gave us all some screech, and produced the giant frozen cod for the kissin'. Apparently, they actually DO kiss the cod out there, although I really suspect they were merely buying into our preconceptions, and I doubt that there's any ritual fish-kissing at the standard Newfie bar-mitzvah or whatever. Either way, this went on for a long time. And that screech is DEADLY stuff. I brought a bottle back with me, and I'm not sure about liquor laws and how they differ province-to-province, but I'm reasonably sure the stuff would be illegal in Ontario. 57 percent alcohol and the punch to knock you down after two shots. After twelve shots, you probably shouldn't go out in public.

But we did. We went to the one bar in the town, already in a bad way. After another couple of hours, we were in a REALLY bad way. As the bar was shutting down, and we were leaving for the night, There was a scarecrow-looking thing in the window with a tin head, that I think the band had been using as sort of a drum. I decided it looked like it wanted to dance with me, so I grabbed it and headed out into the street, where I danced with it for a while. It didn't make a very good dance partner - no rhythm, and too much straw. Before I knew it, I was being tossed into a cop car and taken away. I am assuming it was the only cop car in Port-Au-Basques. They took me to the "prison", which I believe was just a room with an iron door. They didn't even close the door. They just let me sleep, and woke me up really early.

The cops got me back to the hotel before 6, and snuck me in, past the desk clerks, into my room, so that no one would be the wiser. Great folks! But the next day, my co-workers played a nasty trick on me. They told me the owner of the bar was really mad. Like, furious. He was going to complain to the bosses, to the government, to the highest levels of...whatever. So I ran back to the bar the next day, to humbly apologize and avert some kind of national incident. The guy looked at me like I was crazy. He wasn't mad at all, he was barely even irritated. He said "I know what it's like being a sailor, going from town to town collecting souvenirs. Don't worry about it. Tell you what - bring your friends back tonight, you guys'll all drink free." And he kept his word. I didn't even tell the guys, but it WAS the only bar in town, and that night seventeen of us were back in there. And none of us payed. That poor guy must have lost two grand in beer and nacho sales that night, but he certainly did his part to improve Newfie-Canadian relations! And me? I LOVE Newfoundland.