Friday, March 20, 2009

Some old fogeys just don't get the Guitar Hero.

Frankly, young fogeys like me don't entirely get it either. I'll play with the kids, occasionally, but I would never pick up this, or any other, video game on my own. The fact is, Guitar Hero is cool because it introduces kids to really, really good music. And some bad stuff too. Nothing's perfect. Not only that, but it's easy. Unless you're Doc. This is the screen he got after thirty seconds of missing every note on the game:

Then he threw down the controller in disgust and said this game was stupid. If I can't get it right away, it must not be worth getting...soon Randall and Woody will give it a try. Perhaps they will be less easily frustrated. Or maybe they too will dismiss Guitar Hero as a waste of time. The fact of the matter is, it IS a waste of time. But a glorious and surprisingly constructive one. This weekend is Guitar Hero weekend on CHEZ, which means songs from the game and Guitar God songs as well. And we're giving away a Wii, like the one I brought in today, and the Guitar Hero game with the Slash track pack. If you win, just give it more than 30 seconds before you give up!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Some things that are bugging

I just typed out a review for the movie Protege, coming out Tuesday on DVD, on my Word Processing...thing...that processes I guess? Great film by the way - Hong Kong undercover cop movies are good! Anyway, every time I wrote the word "protege", the word processing thing automatically added the little "accent aigues" over the two "e"s. It did it for me, which I thought was nice. However, every time I typed the word, and it corrected the word for me, there was still a red line under it indicating that I had misspelled it. I don't know why this irritated me so much.

Also irritating me is the new Ford commercial I have been seeing. The one that says that Ford is now all about quality. As if, in the past, Ford had really been all about shiny paint. But that's not really what irritates me. What bothers me is that Ford goes through the commercial, mentioning their new-found "quality" over and over again. With this bizarrely cryptical benchmark of "quality" that is never really quantified or explained. But here's the crazy bit - at the end of the commercial, they say that Ford has NOW, (and I guess we are to assume only now), reached the level of quality of Toyota and Honda! Is this really the way to promote your company? We are finally as good, or at least almost as good, or somwhere close to as good, as those foreign car makers! Buy American! You've created an arbitrary benchmark with the word "quality", which means nothing on it's own, and you're still not willing to say that your "quality" is better than the other guys?

Maybe I pay too much attention to commercials. The other one that irritates me specifically is that one for that hair product, whatever it is, where the chick who looks vaguely like Cameron Diaz throws her hair about and her hair is all poofy off her head and big and stuff, and the commercial tells you that the product gives you 5X more volume! Five times? Really? Upon what empirical data are we relying to believe that this makes sense? First, how do you measure "volume" of hair, and second, even if you can, somehow, measure "hair volume", how can you possibly say that something creates a five-fold increase in that volume? Just like "quality", this is an utterly pointless and cryptic measuring stick that actually means nothing. I think I might never watch TV again unless it's on the PVR.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Two strange issues

I'm reading today about our science minister, Gary Goodyear, who has been rather coy when it comes to stating his beliefs surrounding such scientific issues as evolution and creationism. A Christian, Goodyear basically ignored a question posed to him about whether or not he believed in creationism. Later, I suppose under pressure from the party, he came out and said that he did, indeed, believe in evolution - like, that we are all evolving right now. Which really, if you think about it, is in no way rejecting the claim that he believes in creationism. However, I say who cares? If Goodyear is a creationist, big deal. So what that he doesn't believe in certain scientific discoveries?

As the minister of science, he is not required to believe in anything specific. He could even be a Global Warming denier and still merit the job. As long as his personal beliefs don't affect the way he does his job. I think we need to trust the people in these positions to separate religious beliefs from their actual duties. Now, of course, if Goodyear decides to deny funding to certain scientists based on his religious affiliation, then we have a problem. But so far I haven't seen him do that. Instead, the Conservatives are just denying funding to all scientists across the board. It's equal opportunity, and anyone could do that. Goodyear isn't the problem, and for now I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt and saying he can separate his religion from his politics.

On the other hand, we have Doug Cryer, recently appointed to the Immigration and Refugee Board on behalf of the Conservative government. Cryer is an outspoken opponent of homosexuality based on his religious convictions. He has defended the right of the church to say that homosexuality is "sinful". He has gone out of his way to fight against gay marriage. In short, he has mixed his religious beliefs with his politics. And to put him in a situation where he has a say over who can and can not come into this country, in some cases where those decisions are life-and-death for those people applying, a position where he could, conceivably and easily, deny someone entry into Canada because of his anti-gay views.

This is a whole different ball of wax. This is someone who does, in fact, confuse his ideology with his politics. The fact that homosexuality and gay marriage is even a political issue at all is asinine, of course, but at some point don't we have to start treating homophobia the same way we treat racism? If someone had a highly-publicized anti-semitic or white-supremacist stance, would we appoint them to any office, anywhere, ever? Especially one where they had the power over immigration? I'm going to say no. We would not. This Cryer appointment is disgraceful, and the Goodyear controversy is ludicrous.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A must-read article.

A few weeks ago...or is it months now? Time flies when you are contemplating the glorious idiocy that is a Vanilla Ice-MC Hammer show...anyway, I posted the story on the blog here when the two One-Year-Wonders announced they would be playing a show - in Utah. I suggested they ought to find a larger venue...this show was going to be, I wagered, bigger than anyone could have imagined. And so it was. I read this article over the weekend in Newsweek magazine, and I immediately gave it to my girlfriend to read - it sums up, absoultely perfectly, the aura this concert has for those of us who grew up in the age of "U Can't Tuoch This" and "Play That Funky Music" and "2 Legit 2 Quit". Now I found it online. Read this if you have even a moderate, passing interest in a show this ridiculous.

Normally I read Newsweek for Fareed Zakaria...but I'm really liking this Joshua Alston dude.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Allman Brothers at the Beacon

The Allman Brothers are playing a 15-show residency at New York's Beacon Theater this month. They have already done several shows, and all kinds of artists are showing up to play with them. Boz Scaggs, Buddy Guy, Taj Mahal, Levon Helm, and members of Phish and Los Lobos have already stopped by, paying tribute to Duane Allman, the guitar player who died in his prime many years ago. The series of concerts is celebrating the band's 40th anniversary, and it looks amazing. Eric Clapton has been confirmed as the next guest, March 19th and 20th, and there are rumours about Sheryl Crow, Billy Gibbons, Kid Rock, and members of the Grateful Dead showing up as well. The concert series is being streamed live online, and if I had a credit card I would purchase it here:

Clapton is expected to pay tribute to Duane Allman as well, Allman being responsible for, among other things, that unreal guitar riff to open Derek & the Dominoes "Layla".

New Neil Young video

Exclusively at Rolling Stone, the newest Neil Young video...I have tried putting links up to this stuff before, but by the time people click on it, it's usually gone. So if it isn't there, I'm sorry. But it was when I watched it, and it's cool.

Oh yeah. The song's called "Light A Candle". It's cool too. How, you might ask, can Neil Young continue to release a new video every six days? Well, they appear to all be shot in his backyard on handheld camcorders by his friends. If the song lasts four minutes, it probably takes him six minutes to make the video. And yet...they are all strangely compelling, and I like them.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Evil Dead: The Musical!

Normally, I would post this only on the Cynical Cinema website. But because that website is currently undergoing some kind of switchover that I don't really understand, I am posting it here. The link on this blog to Cynical Cinema works, but not the link on the CHEZ page. The new CC website has been updated, but not everything is there yet. Right now only the reviews up to January 29th of this year are available. It should be back to normal within a week, at which point there will be a huge amount of new content, since I have been saving reviews for a week already. But not knowing whether it will be up and running by the time the next series of shows for Evil Dead: The Musical are happening, I thought I would post this here.

Doc and I had a bit of a bet going. I said that Evil Dead: The Musical would be of more interest to more people than Spamalot. He thought that was ludicrous. The reason I said this was that more people know Monty Python than Evil Dead, certainly. But Monty Python fans are not ALL going to care about Spamalot. In fact, many casual Monty Python fans will not even make the connection between the few movies they know and the musical. However, there are no casual Evil Dead fans. If you know the movies, and love the movies, then you are in all the way. And you will (like me) rent My Name Is Bruce, the new movie starring Bruce Campbell as himself, and you will buy Bubba Ho-Tep, and you will read If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor, Campbell's autobiography. (Which, by the way, is absolutely hilarious, and kicks off with a brilliant forward that was supposed to be written by Sam and Ivan Raimi, and that in itself is worth the price of the book.)

At any rate, the bet was going to be paycheques. Doc's paycheque versus mine, on whether Spamalot or Evil Dead would be bigger. In the end I chickened out and didn't take the bet, because if I lost one of my paycheques I would lose my house. Never bet more than you can afford to lose, right? Well, I'm kicking myself now. I took my girlfriend and my sister to the showing of Evil Dead: The Musical at Carleton University's Kailash Mital Theatre on Saturday night. I called a few hours ahead, hoping to reserve tickets for the show. I was informed that for the first three nights of the procuction, there were no more reserve seats to be had. They had all been reserved. So we would have to take our chances at the door.

We figured we had better go early. Like, really early. If all the reserved seats were taken, the tickets available at the door were likely to be snapped up fast. So we got there at 7:00 for the 8:00 show. Judging by the pile of tickets on the table, there were about nine left at that time. And then we were directed to go downstairs, where the line began. And we followed the line of people through the lobby, and then down the stairs, and then around the corner, and then down the length of a very long hall to the outside door, and then back along the wall in the other direction, almost back to where we began. And this is an hour before show time. Everyone who had a ticket for this show had lined up an hour before show time. They all wanted to sit in the first few rows, where there WILL be some splashback. Of course, we ended up at the back of the theatre. It isn't a huge theatre, so that isn't a problem, but I would have liked to be in the splatter zone. And I wish I had taken that bet.

The show itself is just about what I expected. Terrifically campy, silly, and fun. Some of the funniest moments were the ones where the cast called attention to the low-budget nature of the production. The premise is great, the satire of horror movies and Evil Dead in general is funny, and the songs are absolutely terrific. The highlights are "Housewares Employee", with Ash and Linda, "It Won't Let Us Leave", with Cheryl, and "All The Men In My Life Keep Getting Killed By Candarian Demons", with Annie, Ash and Jake. Jake is the funniest character in the musical, perhaps because he reminds my of my buddy Trevor. And Cheryl gets most of the best lines - the cheesy, ludicrous and often terrifically stupid horror-movie puns that make movies like Evil Dead such campy fun.

There are some very funny references as well - for example, when Cheryl sits down to read a book, it's If Chins Could Kill. That made me laugh. The only problem I have with the musical is that it is catered almost entirely to fans of the movie. I guess that should have been obvious to me, but it really stood out that most of the big laugh lines were those taken directly from the movies - "this is my boom-stick", "well hello Mr. Fancy Pants", "gimme some sugar baby", and so forth. Just saying those things doesn't make me laugh. I get it, fine, but at least the guy playing Ash could have infused it with a little bit of Bruce Campbell's sardonic stone-faced humour. Instead, every time he delivered one of those lines, I felt like I was watching one of my not-funny friends who think they're being hilarious when they quote, at length, a funny passage from a movie. I tell those friends it was funny when it happened in that film, but not when it's coming out of their mouth. That's how I felt often.

An unfortunate aspect of Saturday's show was when Ash's microphone started cutting out, and we missed just about all of his final song. The chorus carried on loudly, and the song was still funny, but we didn't get half of it. But it certainly is a good time, it's campy and fun, and you can tell the actors really enjoy doing this show. There are three more dates for Evil Dead: The Musical at the Kailash Mital Theatre, at Carleton University - March 19th, 20th, and 21st. I recommend it to fans of the movies. And only to fans of the movies. But then, I know they are going anyway. Here's how to get there: