Friday, October 30, 2009

My vacation has begun. Now the work starts.

I'm on vacation the next two weeks. Which means I will likely not be checking email, or answering my phone. But I will be working. As follows...

Tomorrow night it's the Humane Society benefit concert at the Ukranian Centre on Byron. Les Emmerson and the Hitmen are playing, only 25 bucks to get in. Call Sharon at 613-792-3481 for tickets.

Tomorrow from 11-3, then again on Thursday 2-6, and once more next Saturday from 11-3, I'll be selling leather at the big leather sale at the Embassy West hotel. I have officially run out of things to say about leather after three years, so I am taking suggestions on location for new takes.

November 14th, Saturday, from 8:00-noon I'm doing a live commercial at Home Depot. I don't yet know which Home Depot. Or what I will be selling.

November 14th in the evening, I'm hosting the Operation Come Home 60s themed gala event at the NAC. Tickets are still available at www.operationcomehome.ca, and Gamut will be our band for the evening. (They are also doing their Alice Cooper tribute show the previous evening, Friday November 13th, at Greenfields on Greenbank.)

November 15th is the next NFL event at Tail Gators. The first time I played in the WPT event there, I finished 7th. Last time I finished 5th. There are two more events, I plan to beat the brains out of the poker nerds and finish 3rd and 1st. And make no mistake - there are poker nerds there. Once again, free pool for all CHEZ nation members all day long at Tail Gators, a free poker tournament with excellent prizes, and I will be bringing a bunch of great prizes for halftime myself. It all gets under way around 3:30.

After the Tail Gators event, I will relax for half an hour and go to bed. Then it's back to work.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Interview with director Pepita Ferrari

Pepita Ferrari is a Canadian documentary director who recently released Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary on DVD. It's a really fascinating...documentary...about documentaries. And the people who make them. I know, it sounds really nerdy. And, to an extent, it is. But it's also a good film, and I hope that people who aren't documentary nerds will watch it. To hear the interview I just did with Pepita Ferrari, click here. To check out the website (where you can watch pretty much the whole film), click here. I think you'll be glad you did.

Trailer for new John Lennon movie "Nowhere Boy"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Humane Society event coming up Saturday

This Saturday - Hallowe'en night - a fundraiser at the Ukranian Hall (1000 Byron) for the Ottawa Humane Society. Les Emerson and the Hitmen are the featured entertainment, and there will also be a bunch of prizes for costumes (animal and non-animal alike). I'm hosting. Space is limited, so you have to reserve your tickets ahead of time. Do so by calling this number:

Sharon - 613-792-3481
Here is a picture of a dog to tug at your heartstrings and convince you to go:


Some videos, if anyone is interested

'Cause I'm not, really. Here's Slash with the Black Eyed Peas last night at the Rose Bowl in L.A.



And here's Van Halen lip-synching "Unchained" on some French TV show in 1981:



And Gov't Mule (Warren Haynes of the Allman Brothers) with Joe Bonamassa from Sunday:



Okay. That's it. New videos are everywhere.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Mark McGwire isn't so bad. He's only rock & roll.

I looked carefully while I toured the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, but I saw no asterisks. I assumed that there would be little asterisks beside the names of the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain and The Doors and the Jefferson Airplane and Janis Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company and Bob Dylan and Crosby Stills and Nash and the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin and Aerosmith and Guns N Roses and the Grateful Dead and Pink Floyd and the Velvet Underground and Blue Cheer and Gram Parsons and the Byrds and the 13th Floor Elevators and Shadows of Knight and Johnny Cash and the Faces and the Small Faces and the Yardbirds and Eric Clapton and Cream and Traffic and Deep Purple and Iron Butterfly and Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne. And others.

After all, weren't those artists aided by performance-enhancing drugs? Didn't they take LSD and heroin and quaint '60s drugs like qualudes, whatever those were? It should at least be acknowledged that their musical superiority was not a result of their hard work and natural talent, but rather a chemically-induced excellence that was more smoke and mirrors than it was blood sweat and tears? Pardon the awful pun...

It occured to me, however, that we have a pretty big double standard when it comes to drugs and celebrities. We mock Lindsay Lohan because she's 25 and looks like Keith Richards, but we do so only because she has never released an album like American Beauty. When Sylvester Stallone gets busted with steroids, who cares? If Hugh Jackman took steroids to look ridiculously huge for Wolverine, who would care? It can't be any less healthy than Christian Bale losing 210 pounds for The Machinist or Robert DeNiro putting on 210 pounds for Raging Bull. All of this is just performance enhancement. But if you take steroids and then hit 50 home runs, we care. We care deeply. And we wring our hands and tear our hair out because the integrity of the game is at stake!

This supposes, of course, one of two things. Either music and movies and Hollywood in general don't have anywhere near the integrity of Major League Baseball, and we hold them to a lower standard. But I don't think that's likely. After all, Lawrence Taylor is still one of the most revered figures in sports. Doc Gooden and Darryl Strawberry are still remembered with fondness. Dock Ellis threw a no-hitter on acid! And losers like me remember the feat fondly in blog posts. But if we ever met Manny Ramirez, we would kick him square in the balls for sullying the image of the game we love so much. What's the difference here? Steroids make people bigger. Heroin doesn't. That hot chick at the bar would probably pick me over a guy on heroin. But she would probably pick the guy on steroids over me. And I'm jealous. I could take up heroin, but I would look less and less attractive, and I would never release Nevermind. Or, I could take steroids and look more attractive. I would never hit 30 homers, but I might go home with that redhead.

Now Mark McGwire is the St. Louis Cardinals' new hitting coach. And from what I am hearing, this means the end of Sports Integrity and possibly the end of American Civilization. This is true. The four horsemen are, indeed, nigh. Jimi Hendrix is now teaching guitar to your kids. And he's wearing that acid-dispensing headband. And isn't it time we took that Oscar away from DeNiro?

New Cynical Cinema reviews

The Tournament - One of those movies where assassins compete for tons of money by killing each other off. I am embarassed to say I enjoyed it. But I did.


Tales From the Darkside Season Two - Still campy and fun after all these years. Lots of aliens!


The Fugitive Season Three Volume One - I hate TV DVDs that are split into volumes. But I like The Fugitive. It was good.


Mannix Season Three - There was never, in all of history, a good private investigator TV series. Mannix might have been the best of the crap.


The Guardian Season One - A weird early-200s show about a lawyer doing good deeds. Or something. It was all over the place.


Where the Wild Things Are - Beautiful, but boring. Like Jennifer Aniston. And paintings of fruit.


Land of the Lost - This movie is lost. And by that I mean it sucks.


Year One - This movie also sucks. Michael Cera and Jack Black notwithstanding. Or withstanding. Whatever.

Oh, the Cleveland Browns.

It was kind of sad to see the Browns fans filing into their stadium on Sunday. Downcast already at the prospect of yet another humiliating loss, having already given the game up as a foregone conclusion. The stands were at maybe 3/4 capacity at kickoff, a little less after the first quarter, and down to about 50% by halftime. More people left during the third quarter than left at the end of the game, and by the time my Packers wrapped up their 31-3 dismantling of one of the NFL's worst teams, few Browns fans remained to lament the loss.


Part of this was, of course, due to drunkenness. The people we befriended during the tailgate party before the game were long gone, having been hauled away during the first or second quarter by security and police and other official folks who were not inclined to let fans sleep under their seats or vomit on children. Of course, we commisserated with those new friends after the game, agreeing that of course the security people are Nazis. Sure, we said. The least they could have done was to allow you to finish urinating before leading you away from the hot dog vendor's garbage can.

The people in Cleveland were uniformly friendly, whether sober or drunk. We felt that with our Packers jerseys on, we would be the target of some unfriendly stares, or at the very least some good natured ribbing. But this was not the case. Instead, we were met with vacuous stares and brief acknowledgements that our presence in the city was at least a little helpful to their economy. The beer part of it anyway. With many of the locals we talked football. Although they seemed to have entirely blocked the subject out of their collective minds.

I would mention the flu epidemic sweeping the Browns' locker room, and be met with the same vacuous stare.
"How about the Braylon Edwards saga?"
"He's that guy who punched LeBron's midget friend? I think I remember him. I might even be wearing his jersey, I'm not sure."
"Isn't it time to put Brady Quinn back in for Derek Anderson?"
"Quinn...Quinn...does he still live here? I thought he was selling his house."
"No, he's still here. He plays backup quarterback for the Browns."
"Maybe he should punch one of LeBron's friends. At least he'd get to leave this stupid team."

I couldn't tell whether the beer was meant to numb the pain that was sure to be incurred watching the Browns play, or whether they were intending to steel themselves for the beating their team was sure to suffer in a few hours. Either way, by halftime I realized that the game was irrelevant anyway. They would be gone after a quarter of "football" anyway. It wasn't just the Browns fans though. The friendly Packers fans from Long Island who were beside us in the parking lot had been ejected within six minutes. I could have seen that coming, I suppose. After all, by the time the game started they had taken more shots than Pacino did in Scarface.

They missed most of what proved to be a pretty uninteresting game. It was over by the time they were tossed out, six minutes in. The Browns operation is a pretty bare-bones excercise. No cheerleaders, nothing going on in the commercial breaks, no halftime show of note, just fans and beer and terrible football. And I love it. We sat near enough to the Dawg Pound to watch some of the more interesting conflicts and displays that arose during the game, which was better than any cheerleaders or halftime show could have been. It appears that at least forty Cleveland Browns fans will support their team through thick and thin. Things are pretty thin right now. So don't talk about Braylon Edwards or Derek Anderson. Soon LeBron James will be playing basketball. And then the whole city can forget that football even exists until next season begins.

NFL picks week 8.

Seattle at Dallas (9.5): Which Tony Romo will show up? The one who torched the Falcons last week, or the one who played the other five games for the Cowboys this season? I don't think it matters. The Seahawks are weak and just getting weaker. But they aren't 10 points weaker than Dallas. Cowboys, 27-20. Verdict (Cowboys, 38-17): I didn't think the 'Boys would stomp Seattle this badly, but all those injuries on the Seahawks are taking their toll in a big way. This will be a pretty bad team from here on in.

St. Louis at Detroit (no line): Well, this is the game everyone will be recording on their PVR, isn't it? Or not...the Lions have a chance to win two games, which is better than most thought they could do. This might also be the best chance the Rams have for a victory all season. My bet is that they won't get it. Lions, 21-20. Verdict (Rams, 17-10): Barnburner! Now Tampa Bay is the only winless team. And the only one with a chance to match last year's Lions!

Miami at New York Jets (4): The Jets looked incredible while thumping the Raiders last week, but then it was the Raiders. Miami looked incredible (for the first half) against the Saints. I'll take one half of terrific football against New Orleans over ten games of terrific football against Oakland. Miami wins this one as long as they can hang on in the 4th quarter. Dolphins, 33-30. Verdict (Dolphins 30-25): Pretty darn close. The Dolphins' wildcat didn't look terribly effective against a tough Jets defense, but Ted Ginn is worth something after all! He sure can't catch, but if he does that every week, keep the man around! Even if he does it once a year, keep him around!

San Francisco at Indianapolis (11): Poor Niners. They had a chance for a big comeback win over the Texans, but fell just short. Now they have to go to Indy, where they will be running into the Peyton Manning buzzsaw offense and a pretty darn good defense. The Niners will need to throw the ball well to stay in this game - but they haven't thrown for more than 200 yards all season. It won't happen this week. Colts, 37-24. Verdict (Colts, 18-14): Those Niners made it pretty dang tough. I like San Fran still, and I think they will have a reasonably successful season, but the Colts proved at the end that the Niners are still not in Indy's league, even when they have an off day.

Cleveland at Chicago (13.5): Just the tonic the Bears need to wash the taste of last week's beating out of their mouth. The Bengals crushed Chicago about as thoroughly as one team can beat another. As did the Packers, to the Browns. The Bears are a better team. Much, much better than the Browns, who are putrid. Bears, 20-6. Verdict (Bears, 30-6): Close, again. The Browns are indeed putrid.

Denver at Baltimore (3.5): The Ravens have lost three in a row, thanks to questionable officiating in the first two (against very good teams) and a last-second missed field goal against the then-undefeated Vikings. What this means is that the Ravens are not as good as we thought they were three games in. But they are awfully close. And coming off the bye, they are going to turn things around. It starts with Denver at home, and another undefeated team comes back down to earth. But the Broncos will cover. Ravens, 17-14. Verdict (Ravens, 30-7): Well, I picked the Broncos to cover. And they sure didn't. I think it's back down to earth time for Denver, and the Ravens are headed back to the top of the league. Finally.

New York Giants at Philadelphia (3): A lot depends on the health of Brian Westbrook, who suffered a concussion on Monday night against the Redskins. And who would have thought the Giants would lose two in a row after starting 5-0? Who would think they could lose three in a row? Well, me. If Westbrook is healthy, the Eagles win this game. I'm betting he will be. Eagles, 36-31. Verdict (Eagles, 40-17): Even without Westbrook, the Eagles hammered the Giants. After that Saints game, it looks like every team knows just how to exploit the Giants defense, which has been hurt by some injuries. Things aren't looking up in NY.

Houston (3.5) at Buffalo: The Texans sure are Jeckyll and Hyde. I'm thinking, however, that the Bad Texans showed up in the second half against the 49ers, and therefore it's out of their system for this game against the weak Bills. Despite some surprising wins against better teams, the Bills are still terrible. Texans, 24-17. Verdict (Texans, 31-10): Houston is, again, Jekyll and Hyde. This time, Hyde showed up in the first half, while Jekyll pulled out a destructive attack in the second. If this team could put a full game together, they'd be formidable.

4:00 -- Jacksonville at Tennessee (3): The Titans are, without a doubt, the biggest disappointment of the season. They have looked absolutely dreadful in just about every single game, since taking the Steelers to overtime in Week One. Both these teams are coming off a bye, so there is no edge there. But the Titans are coming off a bye and a 59-point drubbing at the hands of the Patriots. If nothing else, they have had two weeks to find a way to restore their pride. I'm betting they have done so. Titans, 21-17. Verdict (Titans, 30-13): The Jaguars are awful. Simply awful. A little bit (a very small amount) of pride is back in Tennessee.

Oakland at San Diego (16.5): The Raiders are back where they should be - getting hammered by teams like the Jets. And the Chargers are back where they should be - destroying teams like the Chiefs. Kansas City and Oakland are similar teams. So this game should end with a similar result. Chargers, 33-13. Verdict (Chargers, 24-16): You just can't trust those Chargers to cover a spread, ever. And you also can't count on the Raiders to lie down and take it when they ought to. Big win, however, for San Diego.

Minnesota at Green Bay (3): I'm holding my breath here. I am picking against the Vikings for the second straight week. I have yet to be wrong on a Vikings game all season, and they looked pretty darn good even in losing to the Steelers last week. The Packers looked fantastic against the Browns, but then that's a poor indicator of their actual level. I thought Minnesota would win in Minnesota, and I thought the Pack would win in Green Bay. I still think that. Packers, 23-21. Verdict (Vikings, 38-26): It looked like a blowout for a while, but Aaron Rogers and the Pack are a tough bunch. I loved the way Rodgers played in this game, but Favre always seems to rise to the occasion, doesn't he?

Sunday night -- Carolina at Arizona (9): The Cardinals are coming on, in a big way. The Panthers are falling farther and farther every week. But I think they still have some pride left and will make it fairly close. Cardinals 29-22. Verdict (Panthers, 34-21): Maybe it was moving the game to make room for the World Series. Or maybe it was just the Cardinals having a really, really off day. Either way, this one seems to be more of an anomaly than anything else. Delhomme outplays Warner, by a lot. On what planet?

Monday night -- Atlanta at New Orleans (8.5): This will be something of a test for the Saints. But if they get through this game with a win (and I think they will), then they will be playing Carolina, Tampa and St. Louis in weeks 9 10 and 11. Which means we will see them go to 10-0. Saints, 38-28. Verdict (Saints, 35-27): Darn close. If only the Falcons had gone for the TD instead of the field goal at the end there, and missed...anyway. Now the Saints have won games every possible way this year, even those games (this one) where they tried to give it away. The Falcons could prove to be the toughest opponent the Saints face all season, as they steamroll through a pretty easy schedule from here on in.

I am 10-3 this week straight up (79-37 overall) and 7-6 against the spread this week (65-50-1 overall).

Cleveland Rocks. A little bit, anyway.

Or, rather, Cleveland rocked. But it's over now. Mike, Jeff, George and I took the 7-hour trip down to Cleveland on Saturday for the Browns-Packers game (which ended up being a rather boring rout). We left early in the morning Saturday, and got to Cleveland about 4:00. We were staying at a hotel about three blocks from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and we figured we would hit that before dinner. Which was fine, but when we arrived they told us they were about to close - they close at 5:30! Every day, even Saturdays! They told us that if we wanted to come that late in the day, we ought to come there on a Wednesday. Wednesdays they are open until 9:00. Wednesday being a gigantic tourist day, and all.

So we had to sprint through our tour in an hour and a half. Most of that was OK. I wouldn't spend a huge amount of time inspecting a U2 head cover or David Bowie's sequined outfit or John Lennon's glasses. I am comfortable passing quickly over photos of cops protesting Ice-T and some contract signed by Jay-Z and a bunch of Madonna stuff. I did stop to read Ian Curtis' handwritten lyrics to Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart", and some handwritten Lennon lyrics. But after reading all of these songs in their handwritten form, I realized that I already knew the words to those songs, and that I could read the lyrics online were I really curious. So I had stopped reading handwritten lyrics by the time I got to the two-floor Bruce Springsteen exhibit, the top floor of which consisted almost entirely of handwritten lyrics.

I must say, I did find the Hall of Fame to be disappointing. There were some cool things in there - cars owned by Elvis and Springsteen and stuff like that, and little things like a letter some kid wrote to the Rolling Stones in the late 60s about how much he (or she) and their classmates and every kid I know hates, hates, HATES the Stones and hope they stop making music. That was neat. I read that whole thing. And there were some really cool displays about Janis Joplin and the Who and so forth. But the most disappointing thing for me (other than the very rushed nature of our tour) was that there was no actual "Hall of Fame". Unless it was in that one section that was closed off because the museum was closing.

That's what I wanted to see. Maybe not plaques and stats like in Springfield or Cooperstown or Toronto. But at least a list, of some kind, of everyone who has been inducted into the hall of fame. I know, certainly, that KISS is not an inducted member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Because they are up for induction this year. But there was a bunch of KISS crap in there anyway. And I am certain that Metallica IS in the Hall of Fame, because they were inducted last year. Or the year before. But I don't remember seeing any Metallica-related items. Now, I was rushed. And I got a pretty poor tour of the whole place. And this actual Hall Of Fame might have been behind that one closed door. But that's what I was expecting, and I sure didn't see it.

Of course, the souvenir shop does not close at 5:30. That stays open, presumably forever. So I bought some souvenirs for the kids, and we went to dinner. The cabbie driving us seemed to be a little lost, and went around the same block about three times. Then he got a call on his phone, fiddled with his GPS, and said "oh, Cleveland OHIO" as though he had just discovered where he was. We got out and walked. The area with the restaurants in Cleveland reminded me a lot of Old Montreal, where you can walk down the street and check out a number of restaurants (although they are all pubs in Cleveland). We went into a place that brewed their own beers, and most other places offered the Cleveland beers as well. I recommend the Olde Leghumper to anyone who goes.

Then we went to the football game. And did other stuff. More on that later.