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Archive for February, 2004

Sunday, February 29th, 2004

The Original Leap Year

I’ve always thought that leap years would be much more impressive if there was some cosmic confluence that went along with them, some event that only happened every four years. Like meteor showers, or solar flares, or magical doorways in my closet leading to the land of Narnia. But no, all we get is the coldest, drabbest, dullest month one day longer. Whose idea was this, anyway?

I picked up a Grandaddy DVD-video single gratis this weekend, which features the two videos from Sumday. I’d seen the vid for “Now It’s On” from the enchanced component of the CD, but the clip for “El Caminoes In The West” was new to me and a lot of fun, not least of all because it was mostly shot in Toronto – this is what they were doing at the Rivoli last Spring and after seeing it you’ll understand why while they were shooting live footage for the vid, the band was not there. They had these things for free at the front counter of Rotate This – get em while you can.

Curiously, one of the first things people ask me when they see my CD collection is, “Is this alphabetized?”, as though there were any other logical way to do it. I mean, I’ve got over 1000 items – anything besides alphabetical (by artist, and then by title, if you’re wondering) just doesn’t make any sense – it’d take forever to find anything. Well maybe I should reconsider that line of reasoning – Radishbeet has some other suggestions on how to organize one’s music collection. I think the next time I get really bored, things are going Socratic. Link from Jinners.

Those mash-up remixes have been around for a while, but I’ve never seen one done in video form before. Check out this Missy Elliott vs Joy Division one – pretty impressive editing. A bunch more audio ones available here. Link from Largehearted Boy.

Ryan Adams’ double-EP set Love Is Hell will be getting a re-release as a single album on May 3. Once again, the record companies show they business acumen, tapping into that rich demographic of people who held off on buying two discount-priced EPs so that they could pay more for a single disc half a year later. Savvy savvy!

np – Old 97s / Fight Songs

Saturday, February 28th, 2004

Elvis Is Everywhere, Elvis Is Everything, Elvis Is Everybody, Elvis Is Still The King

A great to-do at the Toronto premiere of Bubba Ho-Tep last night. I showed up three hours early to get tickets, and it’s a good thing because twenty minutes before showtime there was a line down the block of people hoping to get in. Besides the packed house, the Royal rolled out raffles, a Hawaiian Elvis impersonator, a 6-year old Elvis impersonator who brought down the house with his karaoke “Suspicious Minds” and an ultra-cool opening set by Atomic 7. A movie with an opening band! How can you not love it?

The film itself had quite a task to live up to both the anticipation of the crowd and the promise of its high-minded concept, and I don’t think it disappointed. It would have been all too easy for the producers to think that the very plot of a geriatric Elvis and John F Kennedy battling a soul-sucking mummy in an East Texas nursing home would be enough to bring them in in droves and to skimp on the finished product. Thankfully, this is a b-movie of the highest calibre. King of Kings Bruce Campbell is excellent as the King of Rock’N’Roll who walked away from fame and fortune to trade places with an Elvis impersonator and Ossie Davis is a fine foil as a President Kennedy convinced that Lyndon B Johnson had him shot, replaced his brain with a bag of sand and dyed his skin black. The plotline is pretty standard comedy/horror fare, but the jokes are clever enough and the expertise and deadpan humour of the cast keeps it a damned entertaining 90 minutes. Bruce Campbell for president.

Exclaim! has a nice long chat with Sarah Harmer about Weeping Tile, life as a solo artist and All Of Our Names. She even graces the cover. Yes, that was just a gratuitous excuse to link a picture of Ms Harmer. What of it? Couple more related links – Silver Road is a fine fan site and www.sarahharmer.net is a minisite erected by her American label.

First it was Batman: Intimidation Game, then just Batman: Intimidation. The new (final?) title for the Christian Bale vs Ken Watanabe film is Batman Begins. Mmm, doesn’t do so much for me but it’ll suffice.

Exclaim! also runs a piece on Dave Sim and Cerebus to commemorate his twenty-five year run on the longest-running independent comic ever, and the final issue 300 due out next month. Under normal circumstances, this would be something to celebrate as it’s a hell of an achievement for someone from my hometown. I certainly thought it would be eleven years ago when I started reading Cerebus. Unfortunately, not long after that, Dave Sim apparently went quite, quite mad. Not only did he become a mysgoginist of the highest order, he used the comic as a soapbox to work out his frustrations against women. While this is odious enough, he also gave up on sort of real narrative in the book. He abandoned the story and everyone’s favorite barbarian aardvark became our guide through Sim’s personal hell – Not a fun trip and certainly not worth the price of admission every month. It’s a damn shame, too, because I loved the character and the earlier storylines of “High Society” and “Church & State” were simply genius works of comedy and satire. It’s unfortunate that Sim had to unravel to thoroughly and spectacularly in public. So, on the occasion of the end of Cerebus, I say to Dave Sim – “Congratulations… and get some help”.

np – Neko Case / Blacklisted

Friday, February 27th, 2004

Ten Second News

Jay Farrar will be releasing a live record, Stone, Steel and Bright Lights which culls material taken from Farrar’s tour in Fall 2003 and will also feature a couple new songs. It’s out on June 8, the same day former bandmate Jeff Tweedy releases Wilco’s A Ghost Is Born – hmmm. You could buy them both, put them on shuffle, and pretend it’s a new Uncle Tupelo record! Farrar also has a live show from Seattle available to download (you gotta buy, no freebies) on his website.

New Order will be putting out a new BBC sessions disc on April 12 in the UK. It will feature five songs from a 1998 session, four from a 2001 session and a live video of “Rock The Shack” from 2002. There’s still supposed to be a new studio album from the now Gillian Gilbert-less band sometime this Summer, but no specifics yet.

Oh, this is good – Nerve gets sex advice from Liz Phair. It’s like they say – write about what you know.

DiS talks to Fountains of Wayne. About 2/3 of the way through, they stop using line breaks and the thing gets really tough to read – be warned. From Hold My Life.

I walked by Massey Hall last night while people were waiting for the start of a Deep Purple (yes, Deep Purple) show and I swear I got high from the amount of weed being smoked on the sidewalk. OUTSIDE. The whole street was like a big hotbox.

Just saying.

np – Luna / Close Cover Before Striking

Thursday, February 26th, 2004

Westing (By Musket And Sextant)

Since it debuted five years ago, The West Wing has been pretty much my favorite current television shows – certainly one of my favorites ever. Intelligent, funny and ambitious, I didn’t expect it to last more than half a season, so imagine my surprise when it actually found an audience and not only survived, but thrived. For four seasons, it was an example of how network television can sometimes screw up and put something worthwhile on the air, and it offered a sort of respite from the utter nonsense coming from the real-life White House. So with that kind of admiration for the show, it’s understandable why I’m finding season five to be so awful.

Alarm bells started going off midway through last season when Rob Lowe left the show (how’d that Lyon’s Den work out for you, Rob?) and a full panic set in when creator Aaron Sorkin and director Tommy Schlamme left the show a couple months later, leaving executive producer John Wells (ER) fully in charge. I gave Wells the benefit of the doubt – after all, he had been with the show since the beginning and was hardly a television neophyte, and surely the show had enough momentum of its own to survive the departure of it’s creator and top director?

Not so much. Obviously without Sorkin, the trademark rat-a-tat-tat dialogue was going to suffer. It was his hallmark and not easy to reproduce. What I didn’t expect was the abrupt decline in well-constructed plots and the exponential ratcheting up of treacley schmaltz. It must be painful for the cast to have to deal with the material they’re being given now, they seem like shadows of their former selves. There’s no energy, just this sort of dazed walking dead-ness. Worse is the addition of not one, but TWO smart-mouth sidekicks (Toby’s assistant and Josh’s intern). They are the dramatic equivalent of precocious children in sit-coms… DEATH. It’s also disconcerting how everyone has gotten haircuts. They’re so perfectly coiffed, it’s like they’re getting ready for their funerals. Which probably isn’t inaccurate. It still has its moments and if looked at objectively, is probably still one of the better shows on television, it now just seems like a soap opera whereas before, it felt like more. The sub-par quality of the current season is only made more glaring by the fact that I’ve been downloading and watching the first four seasons for the last few months. Talk about contrasts.

I don’t know how the ratings this year have responded, but part of me wants them to just pull the plug – a mercy killing. The other part of me wants desperately for them to make it through the last couple years of the Bartlet administration – it deserves to go out on its own terms and on a high note. Someone at NBC had better find Aaron Sorkin and make some mea cuplas to get him back. And bring him a fresh supply of ‘shrooms.

Oh yeah, season two is out on DVD on May 18. No idea is Sorkin will be doing commentaries. The press has also been musing on the current season of The West Wing – articles here, here and here. They’re more generous than I am.

And while on the topic of quality filmmaking… Bubba Ho-Tep opens at the Royal tomorrow night!!! Who’s going?

np – Versus / Secret Swingers

Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

The Golden Age

I’m a little disappointed that none of the geek news sources I frequent thought fit to mention that the long-running Neil Gaiman vs Todd McFarlane legal battle is over, with Gaiman stomping on Todd in every way possible. The best bit of news to come out of this is “it’s still full steam ahead now for the Miracleman plans”. Hot diggity dog – does that mean that after a decade, the last couple issues of “The Silver Age” will finally be coming out? I will have to do some digging to find out what these Miracleman plans ensue. Hopefully it will entail putting all the trade paperbacks back in print, at the least. While this will surely take the bottom out of the back issue market, it will allow a greater number of people to discover what for my money is one of the best comic book series ever written. And let this be a counter-argument to those who would like to do away with intellectual property law altogether – copyright laws exist for a reason. Yay for the good guys. Update: Gaiman has posted a current state of affairs in the aftermath of the McFarlane fiasco. Confusing doesn’t begin to describe it.

And for those with no idea what I’m talking about, The Continuity Pages has a good summation of both the series and its legal wranglings, as does the Alan Moore Fansite.

Black Rebel Motorcycle Club amd The Rapture bring what I am calling the “Mope’n’Disco” (say it like “Mop’N’Glow”) tour to the Kool Haus on April 7. Black clothing and shaggy hair mandatory, and don’t you dare look like you’re having fun.

Tiger Style Records has gone on hiatus. Whether this means that none of the bands on their roster were planning to release anything in the next while so they’re taking advantage of the lull or that they’re leaving their bands in the lurch is unclear. Though to be honest, AmAnSet were the only band on the label that I cared about, and since they put out a record last year, they’re probably not due another one for a while. Still, though. Strange happenings. From Delusions Of Adequacy.

24: Sigh. You just knew that as soon as they said they had an Asian guy ‘on the inside’ that he was dead. Asians: The Star Trek red-shirted security guys of the 21st century. And it’s really not worth asking why Michelle thought it was a good idea to go after the suspect in the maintenance room on her own. It’s not as though she didn’t have a whole platoon of CTU agents loafing around in the lobby. I thought for sure that Gaell was going to get his hand chopped off by the fan – I was wrong, but he’s having a bad day nonetheless. Bet he wishes he was still wherever he’d been hiding for the last four or five hours.

np – Television / Adventure