Friday, October 19, 2007

Hallowe'en Movies

10 movies that you should see on Hallowe'en, that are scary. I'm choosing movies that I hope are not obvious, since I assume everyone thinks about renting Hallowe'en or The Exorcist or Texas Chainsaw. So here goes:

1. The Phantom of the Opera (1925). Yes it's a silent movie. Yes it is black and white and old. And yes, it is scary. Perhaps the most accessible silent movie, the scene where Lon Chaney is unmasked as the Phantom can still give you the creeps. The Seventeen Voyces choir are hosting a performance of this film at St. Matthew's church on Friday the 26th and Saturday the 27th of October - 7:30 start time. The choir will be singing their own soundtrack along with the film, which should create a really cool effect. And not that lousy Andrew Lloyd Webber Phantom of the Opera pile of trash, but real, powerful, death-and-destruction type choral music. (Honourable mention to Nosferatu, the second-best silent horror film. Which still means it is in my top five all-time.)

2. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975). Still a movie you have to actually attend to enjoy. Thursday night, October 25th, Bytowne theatre on Rideau street - proceeds go to Operation Go Home, and I dress up as Frankenfurter. Does it get any scarier?

3. The Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956). One of the original social commentary-as-horror films, and still one of the best. Others prefer the 1978 Donald Sutherland version, and it really is a toss-up, but I'll take the black and white any day.

4. Cat People (1942). This is on Rogers On Demand right now, and is a must-watch. One of the best B-movies ever made, the creepiness comes from suspense in a Hitchcock-sort-of brilliant buildup. And the payoff is still excellent, 65 years later.

5. The Descent (2006). The best horror movie of recent years, the Descent is genuinely scary. My girlfriend watched this with her 13-year-old, and at first he said "hey, those things are cute like Gollum". Then he put his hands over his eyes. Then he didn't sleep for days. Terrific horror flick.

6. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935). The best Frankenstein movie ever. Boris Karloff is so good as the monster, and the whole box set of the first few Frankenstein movies is available at stores everywhere for about 30 bucks for six films. But if you're going to watch only one, watch this one. (Honorable mention to the original Frankenstein (1931) and Son of Frankenstein (1939) which are also in this set and are nearly as good.)

7. The Host (2007). Hilarious, frightening, bizarre and action-packed, this is a Korean film that really really works. Watch it with subtitles - the English dubbed dialogue is bad enough to be very off-putting and ruin your enjoyment. Fantastic new monster movie.

8. Ringu (1998). A lot of people have seen The Ring, and I really liked that movie - but the Japanese version is so much more inspired. I had a Japanese roommate for a while, and she refused to watch this movie, since she had seen it back home, and even looking at the cover of the DVD gave her the creeps.

9. Audition (1999). Also Japanese, director Takashi Miike has courted controversy his whole career. You know that Masters of Horror series that is made for TV? He is the director who made an installment so creepy it was banned from television (you can pick up Imprint, the name of that episode, for about 15 bucks at stores). Audition is a movie that changed horror movies, some would say for the worse. Movies like Saw and Hostel owe a lot to this one, but Audition is still far better than either of those torture-porn flicks.

10. Scream 2 (1997). Even slightly better than the first, and both deserve to be considered serious horror classics. The scares in the second film are slightly better, and the characters are already familiar to us, so we can get right to the slashing. Terrific stuff!

Honourable mention to Horror Rises From the Tomb, Dracula (1931 version), The Thing (1982 version), The Innocents (1961), and the entire Masters of Horror series, especially Cigarette Burns (John Carpenter), Incident On and Off a Mountain Road (Don Coscarelli) and Jenifer (Dario Argento).

Thursday, October 18, 2007

A book worth reading.

I was taking the bus home on Tuesday, and I needed a book to read, so I grabbed the only book in our promo closet I had not yet read, and by the time I got home three hours later, I had read the whole thing. And it is worth mentioning. It's by a guy named Chad Kultgen, and it's called The Average American Male. I had never read it before, because the cover threw me a little. It looked kind of irritating, frankly. But, as they say, you can never judge a book until you read it or something like that. And now that I read it, I highly recommend it. This is the book that every guy thinks to himself - that's me! I could totally have written that! But of course, you didn't, this Chad guy did, and now he's making money off you buying it.

This is sort of a written version of Knocked Up. A story about girlfriends and romance and so forth, told entirely from the male perspective. Tons of sex, graphic and lewd, lots of video games, spanking, and thinking about more sex. The protagonist is truly, the average American male. His thoughts are our thoughts, and his actions are, for the most part, our actions. Only, at certain points, his actions are exactly what we wish our actions could be. This is the story of a guy who's just like us, except our own crises of conscience and so forth prevent us from doing exactly what he does in this book.

I would caution, however, that if you DO grab the book, don't let your wife or girlfriend or significant other read it. This will produce an hours-long discussion that you don't want to have. When I was a kid I was allowed to watch one TV show - Degrassi. When the half-hour program was over, I would be forced into a one-hour discussion with my mom about the subject matter in that week's episode. It really made it not worthwhile for me to watch the show any more. The same goes for this book. You can read it in three hours. But you might have a six hour discussion with the wife about "do guys really think like that? Is that how you see me?" and so forth. And, having just read the book, you might all of a sudden have confidence in telling the truth, and you will say "yes I do", and that possibly could ruin your life. The Average American Male is a dangerous book. Once you've read it, either pass it on to a buddy or burn it.

Five greatest instrumental songs.

Later this morning we will be running through listeners' lists of the best instrumental tunes of all time. This all started with a Roling Stone magazine on-line poll which listed five great tuens - Jimi's Star Spangled Banner, Dick Dale's Miserlou, Van Halen's Eruption, Pink Floyd's One of These Days and number one - Booker T and the MG's Green Onion. We opened up the lines and got so much response that we decided to run through listener suggestions during the show today. Now, lots of the response was from one guy who disguised his voice a few times in order to get us to play Rush's YYZ, I suppose the idea was that we would think "eight votes! Let's get some Rush going".

Now, if we're going to play Rush, I would suggest that an instrumental track IS the way to go. But before we even get to the show later on, I would like to make my own list, simply to see how many of these songs make it onto the show later today. I am not going to choose Moby Dick, since we played that one yesterday. I am not going to choose Frankenstein for the same reason. So here goes:

#5: Frank Zappa - Peaches En Regalia. Zappa has done some terrific instrumental stuff - his "Guitar" albums are wonderful - Return of the Son of Shut Up and Play Your Guitar is the best of the bunch - but this song is his most accessible and best-known instrumental, and therefore there is a good chance it could be voted onto today's show.

#4: Allman Brothers - In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. The only problem with this song is that there are so many amazing versions to choose from. The album version is shorter than the Fillmore East version, but not quite as incredible. I think it is too long to play in the morning. So I mention it here. Duane Allman, by the way, might be the second-greatest guitar player to ever live.

#3: Surfaris - Wipeout. Although Miserlou gets more recognition these days because of it's involvement with Pulp Fiction, the original and best surf instrumental is still Wipeout. I associate Wipout with some skateboarding video game I once played when I was a small child. It was not as memorable as Pulp Fiction, apparently.

#2: Funkadelic - Maggot Brain. This one is likely not to be played this morning, since it is likely not in our system at all. The greatest funk instrumental of them all, George Clinton made his name through his weird lyrics and cool vocals, but his bands could play some seriously cool grooves.

#1: Allman Brothers - Jessica. I know, I've put the Allmans in here twice, but they were THAT good. This is the best rock insturmental ever written or played.

Of course, we are ignoring classical music, jazz music, and so forth. So no Symphonie Fantastique, no Take Five. But honorable mentions in rock and pop music go to the following: Metallica's Orion, Link Wray's Rumble, Jefferson Airplane's Embryonic Journey, Booker T's Hang 'Em High, King Crimson's Lark's Tongue in Aspic, The Who's Sparks, and Alice in Blunderland by Captain Beefheart. I expect none of these to be included on today's program, but they are definitely worth checking out.

By the way, Rush fans - although I prefer instrumental Rush to vocal Rush, that is not to say I enjoy instrumental Rush either. You can tell how pretentious a band is by observing the titles of their instrumental tracks. Here are some examples - Malignant Narcissism. a title that still makes me chuckle. Of course, there is no way one could write a song ABOUT Malignant Narcissism, but making that your title sure makes you sound smart, eh? And doesn't that make Rush guilty of...Malignant Narcissism? By-Tor and the Snow Dog - Of The Battle. OK, I still laugh out loud at this one. By-Tor. Lol. 2112 Overture. Genius! And the inclusion of that passage from Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, just to hammer the point home? Not pretentious at all. La Villa Strangiato. This could have been just another instrumental piece had they called it "strange city". But the fact that they translated it into Italian or Spanish or a bastardization of both indicates class.

There are moments in other music that are equally pretentious. Like Embyonic Journey. But at least that means something, or at least conveys an image of sorts.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

NFL picks once more.

I have received complaints about missing last week's NFL picks. Pat, specifically, I am sorry - I know you need my brilliant insight to play Pro Line, and I hope that I can be of assistance once more.

Tennessee - Houston: Houston may be at home, but as the season goes on there are more questions than answers with this team. The Titans seem to be able to win whether it's Vince Young or Kerry Collins at QB, and unfortunately came up just short against Tampa with their mid-game injuries. Take the Titans.

Dallas-Minnesota: Although Adrian Peterson has been nothing short of spectacular this year, he can't beat the Cowboys alone. And although Dallas looked very weak against Buffalo, and then lost to New England, they will not take the Vikings lightly. Dallas to win big.

Baltimore-Buffalo: The Bills have looked better the last few weeks, but so have the Ravens. Baltimore looked positively formidable last week, and it looks like they are finally hitting their stride - Baltimore will win this one.

San Francisco - NY Giants: The Giants are now on a serious winning streak, and the Niners are on a losing streak. Both should continue. In their division, the Giants have a chance only at the wild card, as Dallas should win the division handily. But the Giants have a very good chance at that wild card, and beating San Fran should happen easily.

New England - Miami: The league's best vs. the league's worst. Normally, these games should be games you're cautious about. These are the ones the good teams ignore and the bad teams focus on. But not these Patriots, not this year. New England can look six weeks ahead, ignore the Dolphins completely, and still win by 20. This game could be very close at half time, it will not end that way.

Tampa Bay - Detroit: The Lions are a much better team than they were last year, but so are the Buccaneers. Detroit is slightly favoured here, but that is simply because they are playing at home. Tampa Bay should be able to continue their momentum of the past week and edge out the Lions.

Arizona - Washington: A few weeks ago I would have picked the Cardinals in an upset. They looked really good, and somehow that two-QB thing was working for them. But with the injury to Kurt Warner, who knows how that will turn out? The Skins looked pretty bad in the second half last week, losing to the Packers, but they get my pick by default here. I think Arizona is in too much dissaray to pick them.

Atlanta - New Orleans: Both teams are showing signs of life. New Orleans shows more. The Saints finally got on the beard with a win, and finally looked like the Saints of last year. Reggie Bush will have a huge game against that Falcons defence, and New Orleans could really start a roll here.

NY Jets - Cincinnatti: Both teams on the way down. Both lousy, both finding ways to lose. The Jets got inside the 13 of the Eagles four times last week, and ended the game with nine points and no touchdowns. Cincinnatti is at home, and they are a better team on paper. This is a weak argument to take the Bengals, but I can't think of a better one for taking the Jets. So take Cincy.

Kansas City - Oakland: The Chiefs are all of a sudden looking good. Their division was the worst in football over the first five games, and with a 3-3 record they are actually leading. The Chargers are coming on as well, so KC needs to win to stay on top here. They will. the other teams in their division are bad. Denver could conceivably lose every game the rest of the year, and Oakland will lose this one.

St. Louis - Seattle: The Seahawks are not as good as we thought early in the year. The Rams are not as bad as their 0-6 record suggests. Marc Bulger will be back this week, so will Isaac Bruce. Stephen Jackson has an outside chance of returning. Even with all these pieces back, however, the Rams will need to prove they can win a game before I pick them. Seattle in a close one.

Chicago - Philadelphia: The Bears are hit-and-miss this year, mostly miss. Their victory over the Packers was more luck than ability, and their loss last week to the Vikings was also more luck than ability. The Eagles gutted out a win over the Jets last week, and this is really anyone's game. I think it's the toughest one to pick this week, but I'll take the Eagles since they are at home and I think the Bears might have a serious let down after that heartbreaking loss to Minnesota.

Pittsburgh - Denver: I think Denver, right now, is one of the three worst teams in football. I also think Pitssburgh is one of the five best. This is a no-brainer, Pittsburgh will hammer the Broncos.

Indianapolis - Jacksonville: Monday night marquee! This game will be awesome to watch. Last time they played, Jacksonville absolutely hammered the Colts. It will not happen again, but this is no easy 6-0 game for Indy. The Jaguars look very impressive, and they will be well prepared and jacked up for this game. I'm still going to go with Indianapolis, because I will pick them until they lose. Also because I really want to see that matchup between the Colts and Patriots in a few weeks when they are both unbeaten. Colts will win, but it will be very close.

There you go everyone. Especially Pat. I hope you don't lose rent or a car payment. Stay away from Chicago-Philly!

Update

Some final details concerning the poker afternoon at Lincoln Fields - in the end, we managed to raise $1,700.00 for after-school programs in the Lincoln Heights area, which is a terrific total for a tournament that cost nothing to enter. The long-haired guy who made it to the final table lost, the short-haired guy won - I will have to find their names somehow, but I'll get to that soon I hope. The tournament started at noon, and was done at around 4:00, so a nice, quick and efficient day. Great tournament.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Why am I writing so many blogs today?

Why indeed...well, the main reason is that I am hiding in my basement, where my computer is. That is because there are two tiny little poodles in my house. My girlfriend thought it would be a fun idea to set Muffin, my toy poodle, up on a play date with another poodle. I have grown used to Muffin. Over the year she has lived in my house, I have come to terms with the lack of a masculine canine presence, and then I began to tolerate her, even care for her. I no longer look at Muffin as though she is some irritating little rat-sized animal, and I find her cute. But that is due to familiarity. Jen's friend Ashley has a poodle named Cody, and I am unfamiliar with him. So I find him ridiculous looking. It's not his fault he's a poodle, but come on. People, stop grooming your poodles like they're going into some biggest-sissy competition. Just cut their hair, let it grow back, cut it again. (Well, get professionals to do it - that is the best advice you could ever have from me.)

So now there are poodles having a cute little play date in my house, and I am in hiding. Muffin is by far the more aggressive one, but her bark is much worse than her bite, since her mouth is not big enough to actually bite the other poodle. So she runs at the other dog, barking, the other dog looks at her, Muffin says "geez, he's a lot bigger than me" and runs off, yelling "just kidding" and hiding under my feet. I always thought she'd be a little tougher than that. She'll barka t anything or chase anything that comes into the yard. But no. I sit down here, disillusioned, because Muffin may be a puppy, but she's also a pussy.

Springsteen!

At 5:30 last night, my girlfriend decided that she was too hung over to attend Springsteen. So I called her son at his dad's place, and gave him half an hour to get ready, then away we went. It was Andrew's first ever concert. He recently turned 13, and I had pondered taking him to Genesis as a birthday present, then thought better of it. Genesis is not necessarily a band that everyone will enjoy first time out. Springsteen is. Andrew had never heard of the Boss. On the way over, I played CHEZ, the concert before the concert, in the hopes that he recognized one of the songs. But he didn't, not even Born to Run. I put on the CD I had with me, to see if he knew Born in the USA. He didn't. I became a little apprehensive, expecting him to get bored very fast. He asked if he could bring his Nintendo game into Scotiabank Place. I said no, and threatened him with my fist.

But once the show started, I quickly discovered that my fears were unfounded. Not only did Andrew enjoy himself, he absolutely LOVED the concert. Kicking off with Radio Nowhere, launching into a ton of album cuts, Andrew wouldn't have known any of the songs anyway, but he was definitely impressed. The energy was incredible, the show was fantastic, and Bruce Springsteen is one of those artists who is impressive even when you don't know the tunes. He played a few from his latest album, and one of the real highlights of the show for me was Livin' In the Future, a song he launched into after a short but sweet diatribe against the current political climate in the United States. Another major highlight for me was The Rising, a song I have always felt doesn't get enough credit, but which was one of the most powerful moments in the show.

Andrew came out of the concert, his ears ringing, and asked if we could listen to the Springsteen CD all the way back home in the car - not only was his first ever concert an amazing one, a show by an all-time rock legend, but he came away an honest-to-god Bruce Springsteen fan. That seems like a successful evening to me!

Housewarming!

I had a small party for the warming of my house, my capitulation to the pull of suburbia, on Saturday night. A few people brought housewarming gifts, and I must say, I was pleased. I had not wanted any housewarming gifts, because already my place is crammed as full of crap as I thought was possible, and I had nowhere else to put anything. But Mark brought a cookbook. I actually needed that! Well, my girlfriend did. I don't plan to make much use of the wisdom of Jamie Oliver, but Mark obviously does, and he is such a good cook, that I expect food to be tremendous from now on, every time Jen gets the urge to make dinner. My sister got us a big ol' George Foreman grill-type thing, which cooks a half a pound of bacon at a time. This is good for ME. Her husband John, a potato farmer by family, brought us a sack of potatoes, Nannette brought us a fire extinguisher, and many others brought booze of all kinds. I am now missing only vodka to complete my liquor cabinet, and I finally have use for that silly wine rack thing in my closet.

The party ended at about 7:00 a.m., as my sister and my girlfriend stayed up chatting and drinking until then. This will clearly give the neighbours an excellent impression of me and my lifestyle. Kanata residents love parties that last until 7 a.m. They love loud reggae music until three. They enjoyed, on Saturday night, the drunken vocal stylings of my sister MifAnne and my girlfriend Jen as they drunkely discovered the karaoke feature on Rogers On Demand. And they certainly love the sight of a big shirtless fat guy, early the next morning, hauling bag after bag of garbage and party residue out to the garage, stopping occasionally to rest against the wall for fear of collapsing. This was my real first day in Kanata. I brought my own welcome wagon.

Poker!

This Saturday, we held a poker tournament at Lincoln Fields. It appears the appetite for poker in the Platinum Nation is enormous. Without a single mention on the air, without any fanfare or advertising, places in the tournament went up for grabs in the club, and within four hours, all 100 spots were gone. Normally when 100 people grab something with their points, less than 80 actually show up to get that thing. This time, 96 of the 100 people showed up, ready to play, at Lincoln Fields. We grabbed four interested bystanders to fill out the tables, and we were ready to go. Not only did everyone have an awesome time, about forty people stuck around right to the very end to watch the final table!

There was a draw for a trip to Vegas, and the grand prize was a barbecue from the Fireplace Centre and Patio Store. The top ten finalists each got a CHEZ 106 prize package, and there was a plaque awarded as a bounty on me. You see, I got everyone riled up before the tournament began, by suggesting I was there to beat everyone, and they were all pretty much playing for second place, since that barbecue was mine. Whoever knocked me out would get a poker-themed plaque from Sub Zero hot tubs, and I would sign it with whatever message they liked. This led to people at my table trying really quickly right off the bat to knock me off. Which led to many of them being knocked out really early, including one clever gentleman on the very first hand. A nice fellow named Warren won the plaque, knocking me out when there were two tables left. Two out of ten, I felt I did fairly well. He was kind, and got me to write "thanks for the beating", or something of that nature.

The event raised money for an after-school program, and their goal was $2,000.00. I think they managed to exceed that goal, but I don't as yet have a final tally. The idea is that it becomes very difficult legally to take money for a poker tournament, even if there are no cash prizes. So it was free to enter, it just took platinum points, and the donations were merely out of the goodness of peoples' hearts. I think there were many generous people there that day, and I can't wait for the total to be announced. I also couldn't wait around to see who won, there were still two men, battling head-to-head when I had to leave, but I hope to get the winner's name soon.

It looks as though the appetite is such that our sales department might attempt to do this more often, possibly even as much as once per month, at various malls around the city. I think it's a great idea - The mall plays CHEZ for a full day, we get tons of exposure as people walk by, it's terrific for us, promotionally. And the mall gets 100 people in who would ordinarily not be there, and most of them stick around to the end, shopping at places like Legend Records until the final table is done. And, 100 CHEZ listeners have a really excellent time. I certainly hope we do more of this, and I plan to be there if we do. Only, next time, I plan to win!