Friday, January 2, 2009

BRN today...first of the new year.

Jade Jagger is going to make some music. I suppose when you are the scion of a famous and rich individual such as Mick, you can pretty much do as you will. Which is fine. But it makes me laugh when I read about her "production company". The main idea behind Jezebel is a "lifestyle concept" actually called Jezebel (Jade's middle name...JJJ, get it?) that "fuses music, clothing, and lifestyle through original recordings, remixes, unplugged sessions, and fashion." So...she's basically a life coach. Like, wear these clothes, listen to this remix of Owner Of A Lonely Heart, put on this perfume, and you will be happy. It worked for me! Why anyone would follow this kind of advice from someone like Jade Jagger is beyond me. I'm sure she's a very warm, nice, terrific person. But of course it worked for you! You have never had to do anything. Ever. There is nothing in the world, except perhaps (and only perhaps) murder that wouldn't work for you! Can't wait to hear the "some tracks" she's gonna lay down.

The BBC has yanked an interview they did with Paul McCartney, because they are frightened to broadcast the remarks he made about Michael Jackson. It's no secret that McCartney hasn't exactly been friendly with the King Of Pop since Jackson spent 48 million bucks buying the Beatles' entire catalogue, and McCartney had to pay him money every time he performed "Let It Be" or "Get Back". Or any other song, for that matter. The story says, however, that the main reason the BBC pulled the interview was that McCartney's impression of Jackson was "trans-racial". What does that mean? Isn't Jackson himself "trans-racial"? And in that case, this impression must have been bang-on...unless I drastically misunderstand what "trans-racial" means.

Rolling Stone has come up with a month-by-month list of the biggest rock-news stories of the year. Of course, most involve Britney Spears in some way. My personal favourite remains the Roger Waters incident, where he lost his giant inflatable pig, and it flew across the state before coming to rest in pieces in several different driveways. It went on the lam! OK...that's enough.

The Hard Rock Park in Myrtle Beach, Florida declared bankruptcy in September, and although it is valued at about $400 million, it has found no takers at an auction for it's minimum-bid asking price of $35 million. If they don't find a buyer, they will not open in 2009. There is nothing funny about this story.

There is a lot that is funny about this one, though. A couple of days ago, a spokesperson for Guns N Roses commented in an online forum that Lars Ulrich of Metallica was the reason the newest video for the song "Better" was being held up. Now, a couple of days later, he is denying that story entirely, saying he was "just joking". Thereby denying the rumour that he himself started. In other Guns N Roses news, Richard Fortus, their current guitarist, is denying the rumours that...he himself started. Interviewed a couple of days ago, he said that a GNR tour behind Chinese Democracy would begin in March and last two years. Now he says he was misquoted, and that people were hearing only what they wanted to hear. Which is fine, except that this was exactly what he said.

What this means, as far as I can tell, is that there is a top-down philospohy in the Guns N Roses organization, which I imagine begins with Axl himself, that says nobody talks about the band. Like a Fight Club sort of scenario. The first rule of Guns N Roses is that there IS no Guns N Roses. And if you go off the reservation with your comments, if you acknowledge the existence of the band or speak about them in any way, they will come down hard on you and force you to retract your statements. With this kind of organizational paranoia and hush-hush secrecy, is it any wonder Chinese Democracy has been selling poorly? Are we, the public, even supposed to know that it's been released? Was that a big secret too? Does Dr. Pepper even exist? All I know for sure is that I was right to be skeptical about that story a couple of days ago!

What's with all the Cloris Leachman?

I recently came across one of those year-end lists asking the question "who are the top ten most over-exposed celebrities". And Oprah was big on the list, Tyra Banks...but yesterday I realized that Cloris Leachman, the 80-some-years-old Oscar-winning actress (The Last Picture Show) was my pick. There is a remarkable amount of Cloris Leachman on TV these days. First, she spent the whole year competing in one of those Dancing With The Stars type shows, which may have actually been Dancing With The Stars, I can't remember. Then she appeared on all the talk shows that interview people who appear on that reality show, whichever one it was. Then I see her in all kinds of other bizarre things, like the Comedy Central Roast Of Bob Saget, which I recently had to review.

Here is Cloris Leachman roasting Bob Saget: She was actually one of the funnier performers at this dismal event.

And now, I see her as the Grand Marshal at the Rose Bowl parade, and then doing the official coin toss. Cloris Leachman, you are the most over-exposed celebrity on television this year. Here is another clip of her over-exposure:

The Lone Ranger and the Radio.

I recently reviewed the Lone Ranger 75th Anniversary edition massive box set for Cynical Cinema. Now Doc sends me a link to David Letterman interviewing Jay Thomas, about his early days in radio, and...the Lone Ranger. This is one of the funniest stories I have ever heard, and one of the great radio stories I've ever seen. Check this out:

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Oh, thank God! Global warming must be over!

Every year at this time, there are dozens of lists. The Five Best Movies Of 2008. The Thirty Worst Politicians Of 2008. The Two Most Interesting New Species Of Spider Discovered In 2008. And so forth. And every year, Environment Canada gets in on the act. Last year, their Number One Weather Story Of The Year was the record-level disappearance of the arctic ice up north. Which made good sense. That's kind of important. This year, the continuing record disappearance of the arctic ice slipped a notch, to #2. It's not as big a story now, you see. (We've all been warned about Global Warming already, we've all heard about it in the news, so now we can all ignore it again. Besides, we get so tired of hearing that we have to do something. Let's talk about gas prices.)

This year, the record-level melting of our ice simply could not compete, as the #1 weather story in Canada, with the...duh duh duh...damp and humid summer! It was a soggy, wet summer for Eastern Canada! What a story! It rained - more than usual! There were few summer days in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, and less important cities, where there was no precipitation. The Maritimes felt it too! There were days where people didn't even go to the beach! Yes. Fifty years from now, that is what we will remember. The humidity in the summer.

I can't wait. 50 years from now, when global warming has created environmental refugees all over the world, and I am boarding several evacuated families from Bangladesh and Thailand and Indonesia in my basement, I can regale them with tales of the humid summer of 2008! I will, by that time, be a rather old man, and people will expect me to tell long winded stories about nothing. I will sit little Sajith, the Sri Lankan refugee living in my attic, down on my knee, and I will say "oh boy, Sajith! Thank your lucky stars you live here in Canada now! You should have seen the summer of '08! You wouldn't believe it Sajith. It was so humid! There were only about nine days where we could comfortably picnic. Oh, Sajith! You are so lucky to be here now!"

Here's what it would look like if he were hit with a pair of thrown shoes from the crowd...

For the first time in my life, I stayed home on New Years Eve to watch crappy TV and ball-dropping and so forth. And the kids wanted to put the TV on FOX, because there was going to be a big motorcycle stunt right after the clock struck midnight. After flipping around, so I could suffer through Miley Cyrus, Kathy Griffin, Carson Daly, Ryan Seacrest, and that weird yelling guy on FOX all at the same time, I finally flipped over to FOX so I could see this Big Bike Stunt. I've seen the old Evel Knievel motorcycle jumps, and there was something terribly exciting about them. I think it was the fact that he looked like he was riding a real motorcycle. The kind a real biker might drive. So you had this sense that he might be driving down the street and leap over a parked school bus at any time. Also, he got hurt so much, and crashed often enough, that there was real drama there.

Now it's his son, Robbie Knievel, who is a daredevil on a par with his father, who does these Big Event Jumps. But he does it on a souped-up dirt bike, which makes him look like a kid with a special BMX trick bike. There is something far less impressive-looking about these equally-impressive jumps. And I assume he has crashed less than his old man, which leads to far less drama in the leaps. In this case, he was going to jump over a big fake Vegas volcano, landing on a ramp on the other side as the pyro guys made the volcano erupt.

For this event, it was FOX who needed to add the drama themselves. He could really be hurt. He could die. And here's how...they had computer simulations of what could happen that would result in his death. Every computer-generated scenario involved the pyro guys accidentally setting off the volcano too early. So...Knievel is flying through the air, and the volcano erupts early, and he flies through a wall of fire, and catches fire, and crashes his bike. Now, let's look at it as he catches fire, but doesn't quite have enough speed, and catches the edge of the landing ramp. And now here's the one where he really doesn't have enough speed, and he lands face-first into the wall of the landing ramp. And now, here's the one where his motorcycle gets a flat tire at the last second and he lands directly IN the volcano, which would result in his quick and incredibly painful death...

This was all very exciting to me. What was coming next? I wanted to see the simulation where a low-flying flock of seagulls disrupted his takeoff, making him land with one leg in the volcano and the rest of his body hanging off the side, and the descending fake lava consumed him from the waist up...or perhaps a dramatization of another possible scenario where a condor swoops down and, mistaking Knievel's helmet for it's egg, it...anyway. While I was imagining these terrific possible-simulation scenarios in my head, he went down the ramp and jumped. He made it. Oh. Is all New Years Eve programming usually this boring?

Playoff picks. Because I also have a playoff pool.

After finishing the regular season with a very disappointing record, I felt like giving up entirely (although I did finish a respectable 77th overall in the CHEZ pool despite missing my picks one week). However, like any real gambler, I am convinced I can regain the money I lost during the regular season with a successful performance during the playoffs. Oh, I can taste that ten bucks now!

Indianapolis - San Diego: Too bad this game has to come so early. Frankly, I think either of these teams could beat, on any given day, any of the other teams in the playoffs. Especially right now, with the Chargers heating up. But I really think the Colts are too strong right now for the Chargers to win. They will keep it close, especially with the home game, but the Colts will cover the 1 1/2 point spread on the road. The Colts have won nine in a row. Nine. Look for that streak to hit 12 by the time they are in the Super Bowl. Indy is the best team in the AFC, again, right now.

Chargers, 23-17. It sure was close. But the Colts, amazingly, self-destructed with several late penalties, (some of which I found rather questionable), and that was all she wrote. I would assume that had the Colts won the OT coin toss, they would have won this game. But way to go Chargers, they have heated up at the right time and managed to knock out the team I thought was the best in the AFC, without LT. If I'm right about the Ravens (and I have no idea now - I was wrong about both Saturday games), the Chargers will play in Pittsburgh with a real chance of winning the game, as long as Darren Sproles can keep playing like he's the best football player in the world.

Atlanta - Arizona: Again, I have to go with the road team, who is once again favoured in this one. A lot of people talk about games like this one as a reason to change the playoff system because it's a team with a worse record hosting a team with a better record, and so forth. A bigger travesty would be the 8-8 Chargers making the playoffs over the 11-5 Patriots. But I'm not with them. I like the playoff format the way it is, and this creates some seriously interesting wild card rounds and games. And this is one of them. I think the Falcons have had a magical season, but I don't know if they can keep it going in the playoffs. At the same time, the Cardinals have basically backed into the playoffs, and have not played well the past five weeks. So I'm going with the Falcons to edge Arizona by about three, which covers the 2-point spread.

Cardinals, 30-24. At the last second, I thought about changing this pick. It started to eat away at me some. Rookie quarterback vs. veteran quarterback, terrible pass defense vs. fantastic pass offense and great WRs, first home playoff game in 61 years. But I didn't, because I really thought Arizona's half-assed finish to the season was cause to write them off. Apparently not. When Matt Ryan heated up, and Atlanta came back to take the lead after the first half, I wrote off the Cardinals again. But then he started the second half the way he did the first - terribly - and the wheels fell off. The Falcons made it close toward the end, but giving up that monster third-and-long at the two-minute warning was inexcusable, and allowed the Cards to take a knee and run out the clock. I don't think this team is terribly dangerous, and I don't think they can beat the Giants or the Panthers (especially the Panthers). But this was a remarkable achievement nonetheless. Way to go Arizona!

Baltimore - Miami: And, we have another road favourite. And again, I will go with the road team. The Ravens not only know how to win in these situations more than do the Dolphins, the magic of the incredible Miami season will come to an end here. But 3 1/2 points is too much, because the Dolphins have proved this year that you simply can't count them out. They will keep this one very, very close and I wouldn't be surprised if they won. At this point, the Ravens are expected to win, while the Fish have nothing to lose. We're talking a team that was 1-15 last season. Baltimore to win, Miami to cover.

Ravens, 27-9. Well, I was wrong about the spread, for the third game in a row. The Ravens are better than I thought. Also, who would have thought that Chad Pennington, the ultimate game manager, would have thrown four such bad interceptions? A team that turned the ball over thirteen times the entire regular season coughs it up this much, they will lose. Kudos to the Dolphins, however, for an incredible season. Imagine the Lions going 10-6 next year and winning their division! is a pretty weak division...and I include the Vikings in that. As I type this, the Vikings are down by 2 at half time. I think now that they will lose by fifteen. I shouldn't make predictions any more though, even half-way through the game. As I have proved all season long, I'm not good at it.

Philadelphia - Minnesota: Once again, as in all other wild card games, the road team is favoured. And once again, I have to go with the road team. But in this one, I think the final result will be a blowout. Philly will cover the 3 points by a ton. That final regular-season game against the Cowboys showed me a lot, and the Eagles weren't letting up at all on a team that is better than the Vikings. Minnesota got lucky by being in a weak division this year - remember, they got to play the Lions twice. While the Eagles played the Giants, the Cowboys and the Redskins twice each. And even with that discrepancy, the Eagles finished with a better record. They are firing on all cylinders, and will decimate the Vikings in this one.

Eagles, 26-14. Philadelphia is good. Scary good. They weren't playing terribly well in the first half, yet managed to have a 2-point lead at half time. Then they turned it on, defensively, in the second half. That defense, when it plays at the top of its game, might be the very best in the NFL. If only they could do that for 60 minutes. And of course, you can't keep Michael Westbrook down for the entire game. He might have been held to 30 total yards for three quarters, then bam! 71 yards to paydirt. And the fact is, he is only their second most potent offensive weapon. Donovan McNabb is magnificent. And I think they have a really, really good shot at dethroning the Giants next week.

And an early Super Bowl prediction: A Manning-vs.-Manning final. With Manning the winner.

And that...was decidedly wrong. Forget that Manning prediction business...let's go with Kerry Collins - Jake Delhomme. Ah, forget it. I'll take 'em as they come. I was only 2-2 straight up and 1-3 ATS this week, so I really ought to stop making predictions.

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Today's BRN. New Years Eve Edition.

“When I was 10, I fell in love with the Who. I saw Tommy and was deeply moved. I wasn’t deaf, dumb or blind, but I wanted to be felt, seen, heard and healed. Seriously, I’m not going for laughs here … When I first heard them in 1979, it hit me like a torpedo in my third eye. It was a collection of ass-kicking songs the likes of which we will never see again. And it’s about time they get some sweet-ass recognish.” Best intro ever? That was Jack Black kicking off the Kennedy Center tribute to The Who on TV last night (the show was taped months ago). I wonder how Morgan Freeman's tribute was introduced?

Larry Mullen Jr. (U2's drummer) says this in an interview with Q magazine: he believes Tony Blair "should be tried as a war criminal". He then went on to say "and then I see Bono and him as pals, and I'm going 'I don't like that.'" And this made the news. I got this story from about four or five reputable news sources. I'm sure that they have talked about this themselves, and that they already know how each of them feels about the situation. Far be it from me to decide what makes the news and what doesn't (which is why I posted it on BRN - I will let people decide for themselves if they care or not...I assume they won't). But if I were to say here, on my blog, that whenever I hear Woody say something nice about John Baird, that I disagree, I don't think that would make news. I am pretty sure I already know he likes John Baird and that he knows I find the man objectionable. No need for anyone else to care either way, I imagine.

The concert industry appears to be one of the few businesses going strong in the world today. They posted a 13 percent increase in profits last year, setting a record with $4 billion dollars at the box office - ticket sales went up six percent, and box office revenue went up 18 percent. Which means, more than anything else, that ticket prices went up disproportionately. I wonder how long that trend will be able to continue?

And finally, in the blame-everyone-except-me trend that has been set by the management of Guns N Roses, Lars Ulrich, of Metallica, was blamed in an online forum for the delay of the video for G 'N R's debut Chinese Democracy single, "Better". Ulrich apparently appears in many of the backstage clips, as well as some of the onstage ones, during the video, and he needs to sign a release form in order to allow the video to be released. Or so said Fernando Lebeis, the son of Axl Rose's personal assistant in a post on an online forum. But then, of course, amid the furor this all caused, the post was removed, and the band released a statement saying “Lars isn’t holding anything up with our video. Our message board comments were meant casually, in fun and amongst friends. Unfortunately, someone with Blabbermouth may have taken things a bit out of context and made them into a bit more than they are in reality. Our apologies to anyone who may have been confused. We hope to have our video out shortly. Thank you.” Nice of them to say "thank you", eh?

What this means is one of two things. Either this guy was just "joking around" online, (and we all know it's tough to convey good-natured humour on message boards) and there really is no hold-up at all (except Axl wants to take the next nine years to get the video just right). Or, he was right, and just went off the reservation a little bit, talking out of turn, and the Big Corporate Machine that is Guns N Roses management stepped in to shut everything down immediately. I'm sure this guy is getting a dressing-down from the CEO of Axl Rose Entertainment as we speak. Or, he has been taken out to the desert, never to be heard from again. Oh - there's a third possibility. Perhaps this isn't actually a story at all, and nothing accurate went into the reporting of it, and nothing substantial will come of it. That too is possible.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gran Torino. Go see it.

I no longer put movie reviews up on my blog, because there is now a place for them on the Cynical Cinema webpage. I have diversified! But this is one I felt needed a posting everywhere I could find a place to post about it. Clint Eastwood's latest, Gran Torino, is one of the finest movies of his career, and one of the best of the year. Up there with The Dark Knight and In Bruges and a few others. Go see this movie. The full review is here:

Breaking Rock News today.

No one notices when an accountant dies. Which is why the death of John Byrne, at the age of 61, of liver and kidney failure, went unreported since December 15th. Only now did people realize that he was in fact the John Byrne who was the lead singer and song writer for the Count Five, one of the first psychedelic and garage-rock bands of the 1960s. When he heard the Yardbirds' "I'm A Man", Byrne thought he could do something like that, and penned the all-time psychedelic classic "Psychotic Reaction". The band dissolved in 1969 so the individual members could pursue their college degrees, and Byrne went on to become an accountant. He died on the 15th in San Jose.

The Black Crowes can't seem to stop working. They are constantly releasing albums and CDs and best-ofs and compilations and live stuff, even when some of it sucks. Which is good, because some of it doesn't suck. Hopefully this next CD will be one of the ones that doesn't suck. The band will be at Levon Helm's barn-recording-studio in Woodstock in February and March for four live shows, and they will be culling material from all four shows to put out on a CD. Then they will begin work on their next album, which will be out six weeks later, and the follow-up to that one will be out two weeks after that.

And...buried deep, deep in an interview on some important news, maybe, for Guns N Roses fans? Current guitarist Richard Fortus says that a tour will start in March to support Chinese Democracy, and will likely last two years! I say "current" guitarist, because by the time the tour begins, who knows where Axl Rose's proclivities will have led? And I use question marks when I say important news? Maybe? For the same reason.

Monday, December 29, 2008

And one more...

John Lennon has agreed to be in a laptop commercial! Well, not exactly. It's a charitable public service announcement. And he hasn't exactly "agreed". A campaign launched Thursday encourages Americans to support a campaign to deliver solar-powered laptops to the poor children of the world. The ad says: "Imagine every child no matter where in the world they were could access a universe of knowledge. They would have a chance to learn, to dream, to achieve anything they want. I tried to do it through my music, but now you can do it in a very different way. You can give a child a laptop and more than imagine, you can change the world." If they were going to put words in Lennon's mouth, I would hope they would be more creative than using the word "imagine" like that. But then, I am no ad exec.

BRN. Monday.

It's cool when a lesser-known musician is honoured upon his death, and such was the case today with Delaney Bramlett, best known for his years with Delaney & Bonnie, an under-rated two-named duo that was unfairly relegated to the bin of history with Captain & Tenille and Hall & Oates. He is more recognized now as the guy who taught George Harrison the beauty of gospel music (and the slide guitar), leading to one of the great songs ever written, "My Sweet Lord". Bramlett also collaborated often with Eric Clapton (who was a session player with Delaney & Bonnie quite often), producing Clapton's first album. He was 69 years old.

A smashed-up Fender guitar once owned (and smashed) by Kurt Cobain has sold at auction for $100,000. Which is the second-highest Cobain guitar price. Another one sold two years ago for $131,000, but that one you could still play. There is a long story to accompany this guitar, a story involving another musician named Sluggo and the Experience Music Project in Seattle. But I won't bore you with it.

For people looking to see some cool rock & roll this New Years Eve, Elton John will be on NBC - with Carson Daly! at 10:00, performing "Don't Let Your Son Go Down On Me". Then, at 11:00, Lynyrd Skynyrd will be playing the FOX new years special. Take a shot for every mullet you spot in the audience.

And the best story of the day - remember last week, when the Scottish parliament tabled a motion called "AC/DC we salute you", where they decided to officially honour AC/DC, since most of the members of the band were born in Scotland? And no one knew exactly what they were going to do to honour them? Open every session of parliament by playing "Big Balls"? Anyway, that's all done, so the Scottish folk will do what they're going to do, and the rest of us will forget all about it. All of us, that is, except for Dave Evans, who appears to have taken exception at the Scots trying to claim AC/DC for themselves. Evans, the original lead singer of the band (yes, there was one before Bon Scott), has started campaigning to have Sydney, Australia declared the "official birthplace" of AC/DC. He wants them to put plaques up in a bunch of AC/DC landmark places - like the place Bon Scott once punched that guy, or the place where Angus Young was inspired to find a schoolboy outfit...I certainly hope this all leads to some kind of Scotland - vs. - Australia international incident.

Go Canada! Rah rah meh!

I remember a story a little while ago, about the new Monopoly board. The World Edition was to include a number of cities from around the world, cities that could be voted upon by people the world over. I guess there was a major movement to elect certain Canadian cities to the board. I paid little attention, because I didn't care whether Toronto was on the Monopoly board or not. I figured there were better ways to be patriotic. But the kids got this World Monopoly game for Christmas, and I remembered the story once more.

On the new World Monopoly board, there are three Chinese cities. Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing. (There is also a Tapiei.) All the other countries are represented with but one city, including the United States, who get New York and nothing else. But then, there's Canada. We have three cities on this Monopoly board. Toronto, Vancouver, and Montreal. Not only that, but Montreal is apparently the #1 city in the world, filling the spot on the board ordinarily occupied by Boardwalk! And I thought...what? This is the problem, I realized, with allowing people to vote for things. Because much as I love Canada, we are not as internationally important as China. And we certainly don't have three more internationally important cities than the Americans. Had I thought of it at the time, I would have attempted to organize a massive voting campaign to get Kamloops, Red Deer, Timmins, Brockville and Moosonee included on this board.

That being said, the game is pretty cool. No more of that stupid paper Monopoly money that gets lost in all the couch cushions and re-discovered dozens of years later when the fridge finally gets replaced. It's all electronic now. Same goes for the new game of Life, which the kids received as well. That bothers me though - Life now operates not with cash, but with credit cards. You accumulate debt immediately, and pay interest during the entire game. What are we teaching our kids? That being in debt is just a regular part of everyone's life? Garbage. I will be trying to play the game without ever using a credit card, the way I do in real life. And I will lose in two turns, I imagine.

Anyway, back to Monopoly. Congratulations, rah-rah Canadians who voted for this business. Instead of a Monopoly board that is truly representative of the world's great cities, we now have a board that is representative of the ability of Canadians to pull together to achieve something nonsensical. We're on the board! Well done, patriots!