Friday, April 25, 2008

Ba-ba-ba-ba-bananas!

Somehow, Doc and Woody decided it would be a good idea to see if I could peel a banana using only my butt cheeks. When you have a disposable thong lying around, you better use it, right? And what better use of a disposable thong that using your ass to peel a banana? Thank goodness my buttocks had been freshly sugared, which added a certain classiness to the proceedings. OK, I'm reaching a bit here, aren't I? At first, I was very skeptical. Why would ANYONE want to do this? Who would come up with such an idea? The boys insisted that it had something to do with my ass paintings, and the talent they felt was inherent in my bum. Even so, why would this be a measure of that talent? Ah, whatever. By the time I got halfway through, however, I really started to feel like I needed to do this, that somehow I would feel better about myself if I managed to accomplish this task, if I actually was able to pop that banana out. And I did! Here is the video (caution: this is a very revealing video of a gross fat guy with a shaved ass peeling a banana with said ass):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YuZCFryIUaE

We have a new promo co-ordinator, Esther. This was her first day. There have been several promo co-ordinators during my time at CHEZ. Jon left after I dressed up in a diaper (as Cupid) and read poems to bricklayers on Valentine's Day. Nada left after I appeared in lingerie at the Doc and Woody golf tournament. Jason left after attneding my live butt-painting event at the Parkdale Gallery. And Tiffany left following a particularly disturbing episode with a dominatrix. Of all these things, however, I think this was likely one of the most offensive of all, in terms of being in the room and actually looking at it. So Esther got what could be termed a "baptism by fire", and acquitted herself admirably. She didn't once retch, just discreetly turned her head at tha more accidentally heinous moments. Good stuff, Esther! She might stay for more than a month!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ten acts to see at Bluesfest.

Of course, everyone knows all about the big acts at this year's Bluesfest - Steely Dan, The Black Crowes, The Tragically Hip, and so forth. And the non-classic-rock-related big ones as well. Feist, Fergie, Akon, Wyclef. These are acts no one needs explained. I'm even going to go ahead and assume that everyone is already aware of, if not familiar with, Johnny Winter, Dr. John, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Taj Mahal, Keb Mo, and Boz Scaggs. But I have found ten, lesser-known acts that are essential to see for anyone who has a wristband to the full event. (Possibly thanks to a win in today's CHEZ nation blowout.)

10. Brian Wilson. OK, he's not exactly a lesser-known name. But since he has come back from his...exile due to insanity...he has been an awfully cool performer to see. There are a couple of great DVDs are out there with Wilson performing Smile, among other works. And Smile, now that it has been released after seventy-one years, really is almost everything it was cracked up to be - a work of tortured genius, amazingly catchy for something so...good. Look at it this way - Chinese Democracy is going to be released...eventually..but does anyone expect it to be good? Not really. No one expects it to be Axl Rose's magnum opus. Yet they DID expect that with Smile, and Brian Wilson delivered.

Song to listen to in order to prepare yourself for the awesomeness that will be Brian Wilson: Roll Plymouth Rock (from Smile)

9. Zappa Plays Zappa. Frank Zappa's son Dweezil plays his father's music, with Frank's old band. Frank himself appears at the show on the big screen, and it's as close to Zappa himself that you're gonna get now that he's, you know, dead. The band is incredibly skilled and tight. They played bluesfest in a different incarnation a few years ago as The Grandemothers, with Napoleon Murphy Brock and several other members of Zappa's former band. It was a brilliant show (although it was on at the same time as Dickey Betts of the Allman Brothers band, and I had to run back and forth between the two). By all accounts, this is a great time for hardcore Zappa fans.

Song to listen to in order to prepare yourself for the awesomeness that is Zappa Plays Zappa: Montana (from Over-Nite Sensation)

8. Dave Bidini Band. I just read Dave Bidini's book. It sucked and was pretentious. He is the kind of artist that can be pretentious and cool when he performs, but put that same approach to paper and it will drive people nuts. However, Bluesfest is not performed on paper. Therefore, this is a show worth checking out. Bidini was the driving force behind the Most Canadian Band Ever, the Rheostatics. The Rheostatics actually - just to tie things together - did the soundtrack to the movie Whale Music, a Canadian movie starring Maury Chaykin as...basically...Brian Wilson.

Song to listen to in order to prepare yourself for the awesomeness that is Dave Bidini: Claire (from the Whale Music soundtrack)

My review of Whale Music:

http://blog.rogersradiointernet.com/cynicalcinema/movies-to-watch-before-you-die/

7. Canned Heat. The most bluesy of psychedelic bands, or perhaps the most psychedelic of blues bands. Canned Heat have fallen off the radar since their heyday in the 60s, but they were a high-energy, all-encompassing musical entity in their time. They never seemed to really make it really big, although they had some amazing tunes. Founded in the 60s by blues historians, they might be the most bluesy act at all of Bluesfest, depending on which set they choose to play. They did much of their best work in the early 70s with John Lee Hooker.

Song to listen to in order to prepare yourself for the awesomeness that is Canned Heat: Boogie Chillin' No. 2 (from Hooker 'N Heat, 1971)

6. Robert Randolph and the Family Band. This will just be a downright cool party show. Randolph plays high-energy, boogie, jam-band blues-rock. Not only is the band tight and excellent, but there is enough pop sense in the music that it can be instantly catchy even for people who have never heard his stuff before.

Song to listen to in order to prepare yourself for the awesomeness that is Robert Randolph: Run For Your Life (from Unclassified)

5. Shelby Lynne. Yes, she is country. But country music doesn't like her. By some sort of circular logic, that means that the rest of us DO like her, thanks in part to our disdain for country music. She is almost impossible to categorize - country-rock, western swing revival...there aren't really music buzz-words that can be used to describe her style. Just take my word for it. She's awesome. Go see her.

Song to listen to in order to prepare yourself for the awesomeness that is Shelby Lynne: Willie and Laura Mae Jones (from Just A Little Lovin', 2008)

4. Adrian Belew. For music obsessives especially. Adrian Belew has been everywhere, and seemingly done everything. He has played with Frank Zappa, Joe Cocker and David Bowie, he was a driving force with The Talking Heads, and he was a major influence on three of the best King Crimson albums of all time. (ConstruKtion of Light, Cirkus, and Discipline.) There are few people in the world who have been around as long as Belew and who have done as much as he has. A must-see for those of us who are obsessive about the history of rock and roll.

Song to listen to in order to prepare yourself for the awesomeness that is Adrian Belew: Larks Tongue In Aspic, Part III (from Three of a Perfect Pair by King Crimson)

3. The Wailers. Of course, Bob Marley is dead of cancer. Peter Tosh is also dead, murdered. But the Wailers carry on, playing Marley tunes with a band that can be described only as "sensational". Anchored by Aston "Family Man" Barrett, one of the towering figures in the history of Jamaican music. Lead guitarist Al Anderson and lead singer Elan keep the Marley vibe alive, and put on, by all accounts, a hell of a show.

Song to listen to in order to prepare yourself for the awesomeness that is The Wailers: Concrete Jungle (from Catch A Fire)

2. Ray Davies. One of the true musical geniuses in the world, the driving force behind the Kinks. Also, he is still putting out excellent work, like 2007's Workingman's Cafe. A must-see for anyone interested in the history of rock music. His time slot and date are not yet confirmed, as he was added to the bill late, but when it is announced, it is a must-see.

Song to listen to in order to prepare yourself for the awesomeness that is Ray Davies: Vietnam Cowboys (from Workingman's Cafe) and also the entire Village Green Preservation Society album.

1. Lucinda Williams. I am putting her first, because this is the show I am most excited about. For those of you who are familiar with Ottawa singer-songwriter Kathleen Edwards, Lucinda Williams has a similar sound, only with more whiskey in the voice and a harder edge in the lyrics. No disrespect to Kathleen Edwards, who is amazing also, but Lucinda Williams is the ultimate expression of that style. The singer-songwriter, gritty, folk-rock-country-roots powerful female vocal sound. I know, poor description, but this is one amazing artist who will put on one amazing show.

Song to listen to in order to prepare yourself for the awesomeness that is Lucinda Williams: Learning How To Live (from West, 2007) and also - the whole Car Wheels On A Gravel Road album.

Also of note: Local acts like Roxanne Potvin, Kathleen Edwards, Tony D, Trevor Finlay, The Cooper Brothers, Becky Abbott, J-W Jones, Jeff Rogers, Steve Marriner (formerly known as Southside Steve), Eric Eggleston and the Blues In The Schools performance.

And...also...

Cassandra Wilson
Jim Bryson
Harry Manx and Kevin Breit
Sonny Landreth
Bryan Lee
Joan Armatrading
Tom Wilson
Bernard Allison
Tokyo Police Club
Angelique Kidjo

Steer clear of these:

Dave Bidini book reading
Theory of a Deadman
Three Days Grace
Jakob Dylan

Best days to go:

Saturday July 5th - Adrian Belew, Zappa Plays Zappa (7:15 and 8:30 on the Roots stage) Angelique Kidjo and Steely Dan (7:00 and 9:30 on the Bank of America stage) and Lucinda Williams (8:00 on Rogers stage)

Tuesday July 8th - Becky Abbott and Boz Scaggs (6:00 and 8:00 on the Rogers stage) Dr. John (9:30 on the Roots stage) and Tokyo Police Club (9:30 on the Black Sheep stage)

Wednesday July 9th - JW Jones and Brian Wilson (7:00 and 9:30 on the Bank of America stage) Eric Eggleston and Kathleen Edwards (6:00 and 8:00 on the Rogers stage) Bernard Allison (9:15 on the River stage)

Sunday July 6th - The Wailers (9:00 on the Roots stage) Bryan Lee and Johnny Winter (7:15 and 9:00 on the River stage) Steve Marriner (7:30 at the Barney Danson theatre)

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Golf sucks.

Doc and I hit up the Canadian yesterday for my first round of golf this year. Every year, by the end of golf season, I feel that I have developed some bad habits. Poor swing, poor stance, poor form. So when I quit golf for the year, I do nothing. I don't practice, I don't think about it, and I certainly don't swing before I hit the links again. I feel that this way I have a chance to lose all those bad habits, and I start at square one again to build up new ones each year. This plan works for the first shot, every year. The first swing I take is always the best drive of the entire season. Then it all falls apart. This is not the way to go about doing things. And in the end, despite one birdie, three pars and a few great shots, I shot a 103 and lost to Doc. Thanks to several 8s and 9s. I run hot and cold. Sometimes within the same hole.

Some Earth Day ideas. That have nothing to do with buying a new furnace or checking for leaks.

I saw an interview in the Ottawa Sun with John Baird yesterday. I expect John Baird to respond to Sun questions with total platitudes, empty rhetoric, and evasive reasoning. And that was all there:

Q: Is Canada as a country green enough from an industrial perspective?
A: We are taking significant action to move the ball forward. Every day we make moves to push it forward. I think the environment has a different priority (among the public) than it did even a few years ago. That's a huge help for me to push forward my agenda.

Ummm...was that an answer to the question? Or was it, instead...NOTHING? Then they ask him what he does at home to "green" up his own life. He has something called Bullfrog power, which uses...biomass...and stuff. Also, he uses phosphate-free dishwasher detergent and has a programmable thermostat and keeps his air conditioning off most of the time. So...the same things almost everyone does. Perhaps someone should remind this man that he is the environment minister. What do we know about John Baird? That he is responsible for crushing light rail in Ottawa. And that he runs radio ads here in town to tell us that he is tough and committed and hard-nosed and basically a good guy. What, however, are his policies on the environment? Phosphate-free dishwasher detergent? Or...NOTHING? This is a big reason we're screwed. The guy with what is clearly the most important portfolio in the entire government is busy affecting municipal elections and making sure that the environmental initiatives in Ottawa are not viable.

The theory, as I understand it, of the Conservative government, is twofold. First of all, the environment and the economy are equally important and must be balanced. This makes sense to middle-aged guys like Doc, who would like to see the world saved, but they want to make sure they don't lose any income over it. But this is, in many ways, insane. For one thing, there are many ways to completely overhaul our oil-dependant lifestyles while still making a profit, and in fact creating more jobs and more business. And secondly, even if that were not the case, let's compare. The economy crumbles completely, what happens? We've seen it before, maybe not in our lifetimes, but we know about the stock market crash in 1929 and the subsequent Great Depression. Times were hard. People couldn't find work. They were depressed and some died and others turned to crime. OK, that's bad. Now, what happens when the environment crumbles completely? I don't think the two can possibly be compared. It's the difference between a car bomb and a nuclear bomb.

The second theory of the Conservatives is that so long as China continues to emit at the level they are, the rest of the world is screwed anyway, so why should we bother until we can get them to stop? OK. Here is what's wrong with that plan. And it's the best argument I have for "greening" up your own house. I think everyone should lobbly the government to do more about the environment. But if you green up your own house, then you will feel better about lobbying the government - I've done my part. There is nothing more I can do here. Now, it's your turn. I have the right lightbulbs. I have the new furnace. I keep my heat low and my A/C off. I have double windows and I don't accept plastic bags and I recycle all my cardboard and my metal and my plastic. I have my programmable thermostat, my phosphate-free dishwasher liquid and my compost pile and I buy local and organic foods. I walk when I can and bike when I have to and drive when I have no other choice. Now it's up to you, government. Insitute a carbon tax. Impose harsher regulations. Make a real effort to invest in alternative technologies. And the same idea can then be presented to China. Look China, we've done our part. Our people take mass transit and don't use plastic bags. And our government has cracked down on the offenders and created a green country. Now it's your turn.

Of course, no one mentions the U.S., which is just as big a problem as China. But they are even scarier than China, so we keep our mouths shut.

And this is what Earth Day should be about. Not doom-and-gloom and rhetoric, not those people sending me emails about how hybrid cars are actually worse for the environment than Hummers, not complaints and apathy and the throwing up of hands. It should be about awareness and involvement. Involvement in the process and efforts that can be made to be a part of the solution. That's it.

Earth Day! So...we've got this chain...

I remember as a young child, when I was eight years old, thinking that the environment was the number one issue in the world, and trying to organize get-rich-quick schemes in my Winnipeg neighbourhood so we could donate the money to the World Wildlife Fund. In fact, I remember the biggest clash I ever had as a child was whether the money we raised with our little Corey Hart cover band would go to help pandas or Peregrine falcons. I wanted to help the falcons, because they were in our own area and they were more endangered, but a girl from down the street felt that people would donate more money to help pandas because they were cuter. Of course, she understood the situation far better than I did at the time. Cute is easier to sell. But the point here is that at the age of eight, the kids in my neighbourhood knew the environment was the most important thing we could protect. We knew that DDT was a horrible thing and that greenhouse gases were causing global warming. This was 1986.


Since then, twenty-two years have gone by. It is now 2008, and as the reverend Wright would say, our "chickens are coming home to roost". The people who had the power when I was eight years old are the same people who have it now. And we have done nothing to slow down what we all knew, half a century ago, was coming. Doc is a member of that generation, and he seemed to embody the problem yesterday. The bonus code, for Earth Day, was "doomed". So...we've already used everything up, we've already caused irreparable damage, why stop now? We're already screwed, let's stop trying to fix things and just wait. Keep on driving our SUVs and wasting water and leaving all our lights on until we inhabit a foodless desert. I mean, who really cares? We'll be long dead by the time the world resembles The Road Warrior, and if we teach our kids martial arts and weapons and how to build a bunker right now, perhaps they can end up, at the very least, playing the Mel Gibson role. So our kids are provided for. No worries!


And because Doc embodies this oh-so-selfish generation that has ruined things for the rest of us without nipping it in the bud when that was possible, the same generation who now run our government in the time of crisis. More on that in another post. For the time being, I will just show the level to which the environment matters to people such as Doc and his resource-sapping cronies. OK. Now that I'm looking for it, I realize that although there were pictures taken yesterday, they are not on the internet anywhere yet. So I have no picture of myself, chained to a tiny little tree, and then doused with a big bucket of water. Get it? Chained to a tree like an environmental activist? Like a tree hugger? And then, while I'm there and can't move, dousing me with water! Happy Earth Day! See how that all ties in? Yeah, neither do I. With ideas like this, Doc may be right. We are doomed.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The simplest things amuse me.

My girlfriend had been gardening for two hours. Not the satisfying kind of shovel - and - wheelbarrow type I've been doing, but rather the hands-and-knees and weeds-and-trowels type I have been avoiding. So she's been immersed totally in the dirt and the bugs of our backyard for almost two hours. And she sits down to relax with me by the table in the backyard. And she feels something crawling on her. And freaks out. I try to suggest that she's just been down in the dirt with all kinds of bugs, and this shouldn't bother her now. But she's brushed it off, and sits down again. And freaks out again. It's back! It won't go away! She's hitting her leg with her hand, sweeping all the imaginary bugs off, losing her mind like one of those crackheads that imagines bugs under their skin in the movies. It's only at the moment where she appears as though she might either cry or rip her pants off in terror that I point out what I've seen all along - that a string on her pants has come loose, and is hanging down her leg with a piece of lint on the end like a spider. Then she made some weird kind of Curly-vs-Moe noise, and jabbed me in the eye.

The nerdiest thing ever said.

There have been some nerdy things spoken in history. "There Can Be Only One". "One ring to rule them all". "Remember in episode 24601, when Picard did the mind-meld with that Vulcan Borg, and the..." you get it. But until yesterday, I would have been loathe to crown a champion for Nerdiest Phrase Of All Time. But I was a witness to it, and I feel that this was a monumental event, at least significant enough that I want to preserve the story in written form. You see, my step-son's friends were over yesterday, and I had to complete my yard work while dodging footballs, soccer balls and the remnants of Friday's snow. All good kids, they seemed to be having a good time, until I heard this exchange:

"This is fun, it's like a video game"
"Yeah, but with worse graphics."

That's not it yet. The nerdiest phrase of all time is yet to come. I looked over and saw my step-son (bless his sardonic heart) staring at his buddy with the same look I give my girlfriend when she insists that I would like America's Next Top Model if I would only give it a chance. He says:

"Ummm....you know it's real life, right?"
"Yeah, so the graphics are worse."
"Ummm....it's real life. There is nothing clearer."
"Yeah, I know. But there's no CGI."

That was it - the nerdiest thing of all time, right there in my backyard. Real life is neat as a sideshow, but it could certainly use some CGI to compete with video games. I told this friend that this was the nerdiest statement ever made by anyone ever. And I made sure he knew that I didn't mean in a good-nerdy "Election is the finest moment in Asian cinematic history" sort of way. I meant in the bad-nerdy, this-is-why-cartoon-jocks-on-TV beat up kids like that sort of way. Although I don't think there are any jocks in the world who would beat up a kid for saying things of this nature. They would have to get in line behind outdoor enthusiasts, scientists, philosophers, and the Village Green Preservation Society. I told him this, then I high-fived him and cooked him a hamburger. Had he been 19, I would have given him a beer. Here's hoping he knows what one is at that age.

The darndest things...

My girlfriend is usually good about leaving the kids home with me. She trusts that I will not feed them oven cleaner or play the catch-the-hammer-with-your-face game. For the most part. But somewhere, deep down, she suspects that I let them get away with too much while they are home alone with me. But this is not the case. They actually "get away" with less, because I make sure I keep them occupied, as best I can. You can't get into too much trouble if we're playing scrabble or soccer. So yesterday I was out ripping up the backyard, and I got her youngest, who is eight, to help me some. There wasn't much he could do, because he is very small, and all the tools we use are very big. But I found a little pitchfork which he could at least move around a little, gave him some busy work to keep him happy, and we did some outdoor work of a suburban nature. Then the phone rang, and he picks it up, and I can hear his mom's voice, clear across the yard, coming through the phone when he says "I'm great mommy. I just playing with a pitchfork."

And now I realize that I have written a Readers Digest blurb. Not even a very interesting one at that. I should submit it anyway, because I have completely lost it. I officially, right now, turn in my "cool guy" cred, if I ever had any. Not only am I gardening, but I am writing vaguely amusing anecdotes about it which will interest almost no one. That's it. I'm going to check to see if my table legs need varnish.