Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mike Judge is pretty cool

I was flipping through channels the other night and stumbled across a revenant from the mid 90's.

Yes, Hank Hill may be gone, but Beavis and Butthead are back!

(Mr. Anderson is back too, so Hank Hill never really went anywhere).

I may actually watch a music video again.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Black Friday

I had a busy day on Friday.

It wasn't just any Friday. It was Black Friday, a truth that was only to be revealed later on that day, in all its gory majesty. It is a day, I learned the hard way, when otherwise rational and restrained human beings succumb to the most primordial of their acquisitive natures and engorge themselves in a communal orgy of commercial exchange and borderless cupidity.

It began just like any day, although it was a Friday. The week long tedium of Work was coming to a close. I must have suffered a nasty and febrile dream Thursday night, as I woke up with the melody of a KISS song reverberating in my head. As I ground my coffee beans, I caught myself mouthing the lyrics to "2000 Man". I don't like KISS, and never did (but hearing Gene Simmons imitate Geddy Lee's vocal stylings was a happy event for me earlier this year). As a nine year old kid, however, I did buy the "Dynasty" album. I had seen too many kids wearing their older brothers KISS Army t-shirts to school, and I wanted to find out what all the fuss was about. I was very disappointed. But I still played the shit out of that album on the family stereo unit because, as bad as KISS seemed to me, it was still better than my older sisters' Supertramp and Meat Loaf albums.

On Friday morning, as I drank my morning coffee, I performed the usual routines. I checked out my fantasy sports results from the previous night. My hockey team (defending champion hockey team, I might add) was still resting all too comfortably in fifth place. Nor did my football team harvest much on American Thanksgiving Day -- Dez Bryant and Jermichael Finley combined for a heady 6 points. At least my Harbaugh had prevailed in the epic Battle of the Harbaugh brothers.

After cramming a day's worth of work into a morning, I had to get on with other things. My poor mother has been waiting for a laptop computer for a long time. First it was her birthday gift. In 2010. Then it was a Christmas gift. Then a Mother's Day gift. Then it was a birthday gift again. Then, as the days drifted unrelentingly towards the end of another year, it was a Christmas gift yet again.

I had bought everything on Tuesday, when the waters were much calmer. I even snagged myself some sweet headphones, the obscene price of which was salved by a store credit that had been hard won and well deserved from an incident a couple of years ago. But I was picking up the laptop and its accessories on Friday. Little did I know what was, quite literally, in store for me.

I rounded up everything I needed for a weekend in the Glen, including my own laptop and its accessories, and embarked on my way down to the suburban entrepot. "2000 Man" was still playing clumsily inside my head in a rather anti-virtuosic manner, despite my frantic search for a radio diversion. I had to remember to pick up a "chill pad" for the laptop, as I had forgot to add that to the package on Tuesday.

The traffic was heavy, even for an early Friday afternoon in a government town. And everyone seemed to be driving in the same direction as me. Except, unlike me, most of them appeared to be frothing at the mouth in anticipation of some kind of bacchanalian ritual that would whip them into a rabid frenzy of an unhealthy sort.

I was getting worried. "2000 Man" was still in my head, but it wasn't reassuring me. Rather, it was considerably distressing me. I needed a chill pad of my own. I wanted to get down there, pick up the goods, and get the fuck out of town before rush hour. I knew I still had to do a bit more work once I got to the Glen, and then I had to setup the laptop, the printer, and all of the other stuff.

When I finally got into the store, I knew something was very wrong. People, old and young, were everywhere. A sea of wretched humanity. Gnashing their teeth. Clutching and grabbing for every shiny bauble that danced before their deadened eyes. Disturbing moans and groans gathered into a crescendo above the bubblegum pop soundtrack of the store as many of these unfortunate creatures were told that the treasure they coveted was no longer in stock, while others shrieked in paroxysms of delight as they fled towards the cacaphonic symphony of the cash registers. It appeared to me as hellish as a detail from the right panel of The Garden of Earthly Delights.

Fuck the chill pad, I thought to myself. I'll get it another day. I just gotta find that cute little Filipino salesgirl, get my stuff and get out of here alive. Then I dutifully got in line, completed my business, and loaded up the New Idler. Earlier that morning, over my first cup of coffee, I had hatched an elaborate scheme to pick up some other badly needed things during this rare foray into the commercial abyss. But waiting in line had sent me into the rush hour. After aborting the original plan, I sped out of the city in a Bournean/To Live and Die in L.A. flourish and set out for the bucolic sureties of the Country Home, bearing the long awaited laptop and all the accessories.

But then don't you know, I'm a 2000 Man.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Downtown walk in an autumnal Arcadia
Weekday faces fade away
Almost makes you feel
The past is not here today

It is time.
It has always been time.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

There and Beck Again

Cousin and I have a relationship analogous to the one between Tony Soprano and Tony Blundetto. Brotherly throughout our early lives and into our mid-twenties, then we each went our separate ways. I cut my teeth on life out on the West Coast, and Cousin has been doing time down in Huronia.

But Cousin has a hall pass this weekend, and is heading north to the old hood.

Almost exactly 22 years ago, when I was a pimply teenager at the concrete bunker in the northern hinterlands of Toronto known as York University, Cousin drove down to Toronto in his diesel Datsun, filled to the brim with empty Little Caesar's pizza boxes. We navigated the Byzantine labyrinth of the TTC, and got ourselves down to the feet of another concrete bunker, the newly opened eighth wonder of the North American world. SkyDome.

The roof was closed, and inside was the latest stop on the "Guitar Heroes" tour: Jeff Healey, Jeff Beck, and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Vaughn had just released "In Step" that summer, and was the de facto headliner of the tour. I had bought that album a few months earlier, and had recently snagged Jeff Beck's "Guitar Shop", his first album since "Flash", an ill advised experiment that was intended to vault Jeff Beck into commercial viability, and not just universal respect and veneration amongst his peers. How could he miss with Donny Osmond as a guest vocalist? Not a bad album, just Ambitious.

I had been caught in the Crossfire all summer, and was just beginning to revel in the virtuosity of "Guitar Shop". With the great Terry Bozzio on the kit.

Cousin and I found our seats in the nosebleeds (undergrads and pizza deliverymen didn't rake in huge dollars back then). We decided it was time for a pint. I walked the concourse a few times, and all I saw was McDonald's. There were more McDonald's than bathrooms. There were more McDonald's than people. Dumbfounded, we proceeded to our blue plastic seats with milkshakes in hand.

The late Jeff Healey went on first. Nice set. He had just released "Hell to Pay", and was riding a wave of celebrity, at least in Canada and with George Harrison.

Then it was Hello Jeff time. The reason Cousin and I were there, slurping our milkshakes. Jeff didn't tour much back then. He preferred to stay in his castle and work on his collection of custom cars. The rest of the crowd liked him, even if they were there for Stevie Ray. Jeff appreciated it.

Then Stevie Ray rolled out, and the real rock n' rollers around us began to cry out for some real rock n' roll. We stayed for a bit of Stevie Ray's set, then we finished our milkshakes and headed out for Yonge Street. There was drinking to be done.

Tragically, it turned out to be one of Stevie Ray's last tours, as he died in a helicopter crash in August of 1990.

Jeff is a survivor, literally and figuratively. He has traversed the decades and the genres: late 60s/early 70s hard rock, jazz fusion, session man for Billy Cobham and Stanley Clarke, the ambient turn, alt-country. If you can find it in the history of contemporary music, Jeff's done it. Or worked with those who did. After hearing "Guitar Shop", Roger Waters had to recruit him for his "Amused to Death" album. His work on the opening track "The Ballad of Bill Hubbard" haunts me still.

Tomorrow night, almost exactly 22 years ago, Jeff Beck will be performing at the National Arts Centre. After not releasing a single album between 1989's "Guitar Shop" and 1999's "Who Else?", he has released three albums in the 11 years since. Cousin and I will be there, as will Snakey, who was supposed to be there in 1989.

Its been a long, strange trip, there and back again.

We're gonna Head for Backstage Pass.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cinematic Soundings

For me, great films are great primarily due to their extraordinary images. Narrative, characterization and dialogue run close behind. But an inspired soundtrack also has its place, and can often lift a film out of mere goodness and propel it into greatness.

Not all of the films I'd like to talk about are great in my estimation. Some absolutely are. Others are films with soundtracks that lift them out of mediocrity and into memorability.

By "soundtrack" I'm not only referring to film scores composed for the occasion, selections from which perforate the entirety of the movie.

I'm also including a director's use of recordings, both popular and esoteric, that he/she chooses to be a part of the soundtrack to their film, even if only of a fragmentary nature.

Film scores that belong in the former category, it seems to me, are within the generally normalized tradition of international film production. Within the past 15 years or so, however, I have been impressed by a number of complete film scores contributed by musicians outside the traditional film scoring guild. Notable examples are original compositions for a couple of P. T. Anderson films, Jonny Greenwood's for There Will Be Blood, and Aimee Mann's for Magnolia.

In his earlier films, P.T. Anderson (and other contemporary American filmmakers such as Quentin Tarantino, whose films have varied wildly in terms of quality, but that's a blog for another day) are surely influenced by the use of contemporary music in the films of Martin Scorsese.

There are also many of my favourite filmmakers who consistently work(ed) with one film score composer. Ennio Morricone with Sergio Leone. Howard Shore with David Cronenberg. Carter Burwell with the Coen Bros. Angelo Badalamenti with David Lynch. Michael Nyman with Peter Greenaway (although that association seems to have ended as Greenaway slips further away from narrative coherence and into increasingly esoteric experimentation).

It is surely no coincidence that many of my favourite films feature judicious choices of music while having no general and consistent film score. Lars von Trier's chapter cards in Breaking the Waves include period pieces, played at nearly full length, from Jethro Tull, Roxy Music, Mott the Hoople et al. Kubrick, of course, sprinkled Strauss, Beethoven and Ligeti throughout his movies from 2001 through A Clockwork Orange to The Shining. These choices can even lift an otherwise pedestrian genre film into a memorable one. Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later includes a significant chunk of Godspeed You! Black Emperor's epic "East Hastings" that arrives at a crucial point during the opening scenes and does not overstay its welcome.

28 Days Later also includes a brilliant piece from Brian Eno, who after leaving Roxy Music in the mid-70s went on to create the ambient genre (not to mention working with David Bowie on his two best albums and producing, with Daniel Lanois, some of the best albums of the 1980s and 1990s, including U2's "Achtung Baby").

Jack Bruce wrote a "Theme for an Imaginary Western" a few years before Eno's ambient turn, but it was Eno who created a genre of interesting, cinematic soundscapes for films that didn't exist.

"An Ending (Ascent)" didn't seem to fit the visuals at the end of Boyle's homage to the zombie film (a good movie that should have put an end to the zombie genre but unfortunately did not until, regrettably, the vampire film secured its succession).

However, it perfectly fit the ending of Steven Soderbergh's Traffic, and that final scene transformed that movie, in my opinion, from an interesting to a great film, even if Soderbergh ripped it off from a British television series.

I wish more selections from Eno's soundtracks for imaginary films (Music for Films volumes 1-3, Music for Airports, among others) found their way into actual films. No doubt they have.

Another filmmaker who, usually, makes very good choices is Michael Mann. None better, perhaps, than the decision to replace his original (and very conventional) choice of end music for Heat with Moby's magisterial "God Moving Over the Face of the Water". As if it needed any further reason to be remembered as one of the finest American films of the 1990s.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The cheapest trick of all

I was going to go to this show.

I changed my mind on Sunday morning, largely because of the heat wave that has been scorching the earth around these parts since the beginning of July.

I was going to go to this show because Cheap Trick was once an important band to me. Perhaps the most important one.

When I was eight and nine years old, our family stereo unit held a secret cache of LP's and 45's. My Dad had his collection, mostly consisting of Charlie Pride and Tanya Tucker. My mother had her Olivia Newton-John and Nana Mouskouri albums. And my much older sisters (at least they seemed much older at the time), they had their records.

On most occasions when the family stereo unit was in heavy rotation, I had to endure a rather unhealthy dose of Supertramp (Breakfast in America was indelibly branded upon my brain before I turned ten years old; a cruel and unusual punishment if you ask me), Meat Loaf's Bat Out of Hell (the album cover looked cool as hell, I thought, but it sure didn't sound cool as hell), or K-Tel compilations subjecting me to the truly hellish excesses of late Disco, the Bay City Rollers, K.C. and the Sunshine Band et al.

But to their credit, my older sisters record collection also introduced me to some glories of late 70s rock, particularly Queen's News of the World (now there was an album cover that looked cool as hell and so did the music) and Cheap Trick's Live at Budokan. Like much of the material that generates the playlists of putative "Classic Rock" radio stations, I don't know that Cheap Trick's music (let alone its band members) has aged very well, but at one time they were the biggest and baddest band in the world, at least within my eight-year-old world. When I saw them on TV Variety Shows/Specials, that peculiar late 70s/early 80s species of mass entertainment, I would marvel at Rick Nielson's five-neck guitar and Bun E. Carlos toiling away on the drum kit while the ubiquitous cigarette dangled from his mouth. When I started to buy my own albums a year or so later, one of my initial acquisitions was Heaven Tonight, advertised on Live at Budokan with "Surrender", probably the most enduring song they've ever released.

While Cheap Trick has not survived as a sonic companion of mine since those years (frankly, I couldn't believe that they are still touring), I was nevertheless considering checking out their gig at Bluesfest, if only for nostalgic reasons.

Might have been a hoot, had the stage not collapsed.

Luckily, nobody was seriously injured.

Yup, they're all alright -- they just seem a little weird.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

North by Northwest

I've always been drawn to the Pacific Northwest.

Especially the state of Washington and the city of Seattle.

As a eight year old kid, I was fascinated by books on cryptozoology. I used to pour through accounts of Bigfoot encounters and wistfully imagine that one day I would go hiking among those rain forest conifers and come across a North American Great Ape. Then I watched an episode of The Six Million Dollar Man that revealed that Bigfoot was really a robot from outer space, and I lost interest. I didn't care much for space when I was a kid.

As I got older, I started to read some science fiction, and Frank Herbert quickly became my favourite. I burned through many of those Berkley Books paperback editions of his novels, and not just the Dune series. I learned that Frank Herbert was from the Seattle area, and that the sand dunes on the nearby Oregon coast were, reputedly, the inspiration for the series. But I enjoyed his other novels as well, and a few of them had a Northwest setting.

I knew it rained a lot in the Pacific Northwest, and that was fine by me. Unlike most other people, I soon realized, I liked the rain. I still do, even after living for the better part of nine years in Vancouver. It matches the melancholia that I inherited from my Outer Hebridean ancestors. I seem to think better when its raining, and a sublimity sets in that elevates my mood.

One of the first Sports Illustrated magazines that was given to me featured Paul Westphal, who just left the Phoenix Suns to play for the SuperSonics. I knew and cared little about the NBA then, and that hasn't changed over the years, but at the time I knew that the SuperSonics had won back to back NBA titles not long ago.

In the other three sports that I truly cared about at the time, Seattle had made little impact. They didn't have an NHL team then, and its not likely that they ever will. The Seahawks and Mariners were expansion teams in the later 1970s and therefore were simply awful. For some reason I still found myself following them. Before my dear old Dad unknowingly torched them all in a fit of pyromania, I had football cards of Jim Zorn, Dave Kreig, Steve Largent, Curt Warner et al. I don't remember being interested in the Mariners until the late 1980s when Mark Langston was the best lefthander in baseball. The Expos then traded Randy Johnson to the Mariners for half a season of Langston before he moved on to the Angels in free agency. The rest of that sad story doesn't need to be told.

I also knew that Jimi Hendrix was born and raised in Seattle, and that seemed pretty cool to me.

My initial visit to Seattle was in the fall of 1997. Five of us crammed into the Old Idler and embarked from Vancouver on a pilgrimmage to Powell's, a legendary used bookstore in Portland Oregon (this was before ordering books online became a part of my ordinary life). Crossing the border was a bit of an adventure, as the Idler was full of international students, including one from Mexico. The border guard refused to believe that we were entering the US just to visit a bookstore. Needless to say, there was a considerable delay. We stayed overnight at a friend's apartment near the University of Washington. The Huskies were hosting Ryan Leaf and the rival Washington State Cougars, so it was a bit nutty.

I returned to Seattle and Portland the following spring. While the atmosphere inside the Old Idler was vitriolic, as my ex-girlfriend and I were at each others' throats the entire time, the drive back up the Pacific Coast Highway from the San Francisco Bay area was unforgettable. I finally saw the white beaches of the Oregon coast as well as the sand dunes that had inspired Frank Herbert so many years ago.

Over the course of my remaining years on the West Coast, I took the opportunity to return to Seattle, if not Portland, many more times. Unlike Vancouver, Seattle is a port city that makes good use of its downtown shoreline, which I remember as dotted with bars and cafes.

Recently, it seems that I'm more familiar than ever with the daily events of Seattle. While I work each day, I listen to KEXP, a local radio station that allows its disc jockey's to program their own music sets. (Thanks to the Cravat in Van City for that tip).

Oh yeah, and the music that broke out of that town in the late 80s and early 90s was really fucking good.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Songs from the Road

A happy July 14 to all my fellow sans-culottes. May you storm the Bastille of your chosen oppressor, real or imagined.

And a very happy birthday from Little Brother to Big Sister.

I recently returned from my first post-Interruptnal road trip.

It started with a little night music in Confederation Park. Robert Plant and his new band played a set that included many satisfying reworkings of some of my favourite Led Zeppelin songs, including Black Country Woman. And Chick Corea, Stanley Clarke and Jean-Luc Ponty trading sonic soliloquies under a setting sun.

The next morning I packed up (I no longer travel lightly), loaded up the New Idler, and took off on the two-lane blacktop for parts known and unknown. Ahead of me on the temporal horizon, almost two weeks of liberation from the tedium of Work and the prerequisites of Policy and Protocol.

The New Idler's CD player never stopped Whirring as I floated down the 401 on a River of Pride. That old white line was sure a friend of mine, and it was good time I was making.

After a sleepover at Big Sister's house on the outer rings of the gas giant that is the GTA, I GOTrained it downtown. Its been a long time since I lived in the megalopolis, so not surprisingly I took a wrong turn out the worst possible exit from the thoracic mass of transportation options that is Union Station. It was rush hour, of course, and on this particular late June day it made Penn Station look like a rural route that requires you to lay across the tracks to force the train to stop and pick you up.

When I emerged into the sunlight, I seemed to be trapped in a canyon of industrial wasteland tucked somewhere within a diabolical pentagram triangulated by the CN Tower, the Gardiner Expressway, and the concrete monstrosity formerly known as Skydome. Despite this post-apocalyptic environment, there was a senseless number of commuters going to and fro, walking at me, not with or around me.

Finally I found a dozing cabbie who appeared to be convalescing from the mind melting heat, and we were off for the Annex, where I spent two wonderful days with my dear old friend Curry and his charming family. On another one of the hottest days of the summer so far, I made a puzzling decision to walk east on Bloor from Bathurst to Yonge, only to then turn south down Yonge to Dundas, then all the way west back to Spadina. When I returned to the Annex, blood was seeping through one of my socked feet a la Curt Schilling in the 2004 World Series. I didn't feel like a "gladiator", as Mr. Schilling was preposterously anointed, but it was grotesquely visible enough for the twins to inquire about over dinner that night.

On my way back to the downtown train, my affable cabbie and I almost drownded, as the Young Artist would say, in a wave of baseball fans (really? in Toronto?) rolling down the road, sweeping everything along in its wake. Must have had something to do with Roy Halladay starting for the Phillies. Hard to imagine that I was once a subscriber to Baseball America and knew the names of most middle and long relief pitchers in the league. That ended almost 20 years ago -- and that had something to do with 1994, I'm almost sure.

Once I picked up the New Idler back east of town, I got back on the two(six?)-lane blacktop and Highway Star-ed it west into the heart of Huronia. I hadn't visited Cousine in his backyard since the summer of 2001. It was surreal to have conversations with his near-teenage boy and girl. Cousine and I had our obligatory evening of obliteration - Darts, innit? - and it seemed to me that I had once again sailed across oceans of Mill Street and Sleeman. However, perspectives and horizons, not to mention youthful stamina, have inevitably diminished. We were both a Victim of Changes as we re-enacted the Days that Used to Be. And Yet, we talked and drank until the daylight began to break, the temporal and physical distance between us dissolving into the rosy-fingered dawn.

I spent four nights with Cousine and his family, and one more overnight visit with Big Sister, a Circean bacchanalia that sent me off in fine style the next morning. Then it was time to move on to the closing books of the epic road trip -- the voyage home.

Once again the New Idler's CD player was put to good use as I Noodlanded my way towards the End of Music and O-town.

Once I got home, and still had a few days of vacation remaining, I slept like a log. A Victim of Changes, indeed.

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I was up late last night.

I watched Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final. If only because I have not missed a Cup-clinching game since ... 1980, I would guess. The spring that witnessed the end of one NHL dynasty and the beginning of a new one. Back in an era when dynasties were still possible.

Even in the midst of a disastrous Greyhound bus trip across the country with a frigid female companion in the summer of 2000, I still managed to catch Jason Arnott's overtime goal behind the analog fuzz of a tiny TV atop the diner refrigerator in a charmless Calgary bus station.

But last night, after the entirely predictable (yet obviously unfathomable to Canuck "enthusiasts") Game 7 loss, I couldn't tear myself away from the CBC affiliate in Vancouver. Soon after their Cup hopes were efficiently extinguished by the Bruins, the civic humiliation escalated right under the paternalistic eye of the national broadcaster.

Not to exaggerate, but I was spellbound with a morbid fascination while witnessing, at a digital remove, the desecration of my familiar lieux de memoire in the downtown core. So little of that downtown has changed, it seems, since I spent the better part of a decade in that city. I probably know that downtown better than I do the downtown where I now live. The iconoclastic stripping of the altars around Georgia, Granville and all the other familiar streets had a surprising emotional impact on me. With the exception of the dear friends that I made while I was there, some of whom still reside in that beautiful city, Vancouverites always seemed, to me at least, unnaturally frozen under a patina of affected coolness and detachment which supposedly rendered them unencumbered by the societal stresses of the East, towards which they often wagged an empathetic or condescending finger.

But underneath there seemed to be a repressed sense of marginalia and neglect, leavened with a bizarre sense of superiority and entitlement.

When that reaches a boiling point, and the primordial sludge bubbles to the surface (it penetrates far beyond the parochial yet passionate milieu of NHL hockey), all it seems to take is a few combustibles and an igniting agent.

What bothered me most about watching things unfold last night was less about the fully loaded cretins who were burning and looting, but rather the non-participants who were obviously enjoying the spectacle of watching, and photographing/videotaping with their insipid 'smart' phones, the property and psychological damage being inflicted on both their home city and their international reputation. Smilin' and wavin' to the rest of the world as the flames flickered. The downtown, not to mention the social order, was momentarily turned upside down during a bizarre charivari of carnivalistic mob rule while the police watched from the sidelines. I have to believe that any global currency that the city and province might have accrued during the hosting of the 2010 Olympics (itself a problemmatic "event", but that's a debate for another day) went up in smoke bombs and tear gas last night.

Which begs the question. If Sid hadn't have squeezed that puck through Ryan Miller's short side, what might have happened in downtown Vancouver? Surely nothing of the sort that took place last night, as the 'international community' was there to chaperone. When left to their own devices and resources, its a different outcome, apparently.

Last night, I kept waiting for Hugh Dillon's elite reponse unit to show up and restore some order.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Y Cymry

As a diasporadic Scot, I feel a fellowship with other occupants of the Celtic fringe, including those from the Brythonic branch of the lingual tree.

The shiring of Wales by England may have taken place in the 1530s and 40s, but by then the Cymry had infiltrated what was arguably the most powerful institution of sixteenth-century England. The Tudor dynasty formally consecrated its Welsh lineage by including the Red Dragon in its royal arms. Earlier the future Henry VII raised the Red Dragon with its Tudor green and white background when he defeated Richard III and his supporters at Bosworth Field in 1485.

A little more recently, and right on the heels of their fellow Celts in Scotland, the Welsh regained their own parliament. It remains to be seen what Devolution will ultimately deliver to both, but it is interesting to watch.

In between, the Cymry have made their own disproportionate contributions to not only “Britain” and “Britishness”, but to the wider world. But fear not, I have no intention of assembling a list that irrefutably demonstrates how the Welsh invented the “modern world”. No doubt you can find something of that sort in a bargain bin at your local book bizarre of choice. Such claims have become what Trojan founding myths were to nascent European nation-states.

I do need to mention, however, a few Welshman that have meant something to me, if not the modern world, which, surely, is a more important cause than I am. Although I am open to contributions, as always.

Bertrand Russell never meant anything to me. Mathematicians never make good philosophers.

Richard D. James may not mean something to a lot of people. But Aphex Twin might, but not really that much to me.

It means more to me that Roger Glover is a Welshman. But not all Welshmen are Highway Stars.

It means much more to me that Peter Greenaway is Welsh. But not many Welshmen have made films as wonderful as The Cook, the Thief, his Wife, and her Lover.

And while it might not be traditional Welsh music, a power trio originally from North Wales has recently captured my ear.

Hwyl am rwan ... (switch to 1080p)

Monday, May 23, 2011


Another reason to marvel in May is over.

Another good field ran in the 64th reeling of the festival de Cannes.

Malick, von Trier ... even Takashi Miike got a long overdue invite to compete for the Palme d'Or.

The jury, headed by Robert De Niro, gave the nod to Malick. Which doesn't mean much, of course. What makes the festival noteworthy are the films buried in the sidebar competitions and non-competitions that finally make it to wider distribution.

One of the best parts of all this was watching De Niro speak French. I guess his Italian didn't help him out very much. ("Best of du 64eme festival de Cannes" - at the 6:30 mark)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Country Fair

The Victoria Day long weekend is about to kick off!

Here in the city, the patios are packed. The hot dog vendors can't keep 'em coming fast enough to ease the long lineups.

And out beyond the city limits, the season of the country fair is about to unfurl in all its ferocious glory.

Its time.

Time for the 4-H clubs to make some hay.

Time to clean out the fryer, and wipe off the grill.

Stir the gravy. Chop the curd. Flip the burgers.

Take the tokens. Put up the beer tent.

Ride the rusty rollercoaster. Bum a smoke off the carny.

Drive the tractors over. Put your lemon in the demolition derby.

Creedence cover bands. Proof of age wrist bands.

Others can have their Pioneer Days. Nothing needs to be re-enacted at the Country Fair.

Its always been.

And others can have their Balloon Festivals. No Trooper. No April Wine. No Honeymoon Suite. No Loverboy. No unforgiving spandex. And no balloons. Sounds like a solid manifesto to me.

I'll take the country fair.

You'll find me and my Jumbo Dog under the shade of the John Deere green.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Going a Maying

Its May Day.

The Beltane fires are burning. Walpurga has walked.

A putative day off for proles around the world. And the intergalactic workers as well, Space Truckin' their way through the nebulae.

Too bad it falls on a Sunday.

Tho' even on this day of rest and recuperation, there's a bustle in my hedgerow -- the spring clean for the May queen continues.

A vain Projector for so long, my tempest-tost head is reeling with productive possibilities, while my passions are firmly in the grippe of a virulent yet vitalizing strain of biblophagia.

On this evening 228 years ago, Samuel Johnson remarked to James Boswell and a young Edmund Burke that "it is strange that there should be so little reading in the world, and so much writing. People in general do not willingly read, if they can have any thing else to amuse them. There must be an external impulse; emulation, or vanity, or avarice. The progress which the understanding makes through a book, has more pain than pleasure in it."

Its May, and we're all after something.

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may.

Maypole Song by

Friday, April 15, 2011

Happy Record Store Day!

Spring has sprung.

The fiscal year is finished. Finally.

The Highlanders hoisted the Dominion Cup. I see new headphones in my future.

The Stanley Cup Playoffs have begun. Great traditional rivalries renewed.

Habs v. Bruins (remember Kenny Dryden v. Gilles Gilbert and Patrick Roy v. Andy Moog?)

Canucks vs. Blackhawks (remember King Richard Brodeur v. Murray Bannerman?)

Predators vs. Ducks (remember ......... Pekka Rinne v. Dan Ellis?)

The downtown patios are opening.

And come morning, its Record Store Day.

New releases and re-releases from hundreds of bands. From Husker Du to Pearl Jam. ZZ Top to John Mayall's Bluesbreakers.

Ozzy Osbourne is this year's ambassador.

And while I haven't owned a turntable in years, I hope vinyl lovers turn out in droves on Saturday to buy records.

As for me, I'll be scorched earthing my apartment. All superfluous shit must go. Maybe I'll have a garage sale. That seems to be the thing to do this time of the year. Or, since I don't have a garage, and have to park my car halfway across the downtown, I'll dump everything behind the building next to the trash and recycling bins.

One man's trash is another man's treasure.

Did I mention that Ozzy is the ambassador of Record Store Day this year?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Country Home

A minivan drove into an apartment in my building this morning.

My "art deco" building, as the newspaper reported.

Thankfully, the pregnant driver nor her baby in the backseat appeared to be injured. But she will have to pay the bill, I suppose.

It just makes me all the more thankful for my Country Home.

Yeah, this city life has lots of style, but it wears me out. Its nice to jump in the car (i.e. walk the 7 city blocks to the parking lot) and skin out to the ancestral Glen.

Springtime in the Glen offers me the opportunity to experience the sublimity of Nature and its restorative powers. So seemingly peaceful and placid, yet underneath the surface teeming with microscopic agons of life and death. The signs of these struggles are scattered about, particularly when I walk among the ancient trees of the primeval forest. At least I used to pretend it was primeval, even if it was just a farmer's bush.

Nature red in tooth and claw, indeed.

In passing from the City to my Country Home, I always experience the ataraxia that comes along with that escape. The cessation of the incessant noise of my street during the spring: the jackhammers, the fire trucks. Or minivans plowing into the apartments below.

When in the Glen, I realize that another part of me rouses from its hibernation. Something comes alive. A different part of my brain is activated, and a special part of my soul begins to soar.

Et in Arcadia ego

Neil Young - Country Home 1976 by Yedi

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The ur-Session

Everybody remembers the first time they got drunk.

No, not the first sips out of the old man's Labatt 50 stubby. No, not the wedding where your sister's deadbeat date brought you back a drink every third time he went to the bar.

No, the first time you got really, really intoxicated. How good it felt to relinquish control and revel in the ecstasy of the out of body experience that ensued.

Cousine and I had his mother's house to ourselves for a weekend. He had a case of Labatt Blue that a farmer he worked for had paid him with. (Labatt Blue was not only the coin of the realm, but the Pilsener of choice back in the day. Yeah, I know).

Once the Blue was obliterated, we were well on the way to same. Then Cousine pulled out the Smirnoff, and my younger cousin, whom Cousine was 'watching', dug a few cans of frozen orange juice out of the fridge. And then the Event really took off. While we snuffed out the Screwdrivers, we soaked in the sonic swell of Sabbath's "Paranoid" and Judas Priest's "Sad Wings of Destiny". Still at the tender age when we could approach his octaves, we sang along with Rob Halford as he piped out 'Victim of Changes' and 'Dreamer Deceiver'.

Inevitably we went outside. I can remember spinning around in the front yard, vowing that I will never again not feel this way. The sky was blue, and stretched endlessly into the country horizon. Ecstatic in the Dionysian deluge, we saw more than one figure floating 'neath the willow tree. And you gotta believe me, fairies do wear boots. We went Space Truckin' into the ether, and left ourselves behind.

Everyone's got their story.

And while Cousine and I were far too young to sport facial hair, and I don't remember manifesting my inner dork by dressing up as a "Star Wars" character and dueling with a toy light sabre, this video from the mighty Mogwai captures the febrile nature of the first drunk.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Something Amis

Been snortin' cold water fish oil, and drinkin' whey protein powder. A slight variation on the Pat Travers regime.

And I also finished watching a five-hour movie. If watching socialist international terrorists chain smoke for five hours is your thing, then "Carlos" is a film for you.

I've also been assembling a rather ambitious reading (and rereading) list that should see me through to my sunset years.

A good chunk of the novels on that list include titles from the father and son tandem of Kingsley and Martin Amis.

Kingsley was a souse of legendary proportions, with much of that legend emanating from the man himself. And while the literary stock of the elder Amis appears to have risen over the last decade or so, Amis the Younger is no longer a fashionable read.

I came to both rather late in the game, but the sheer audacity and linguistic showmanship of the Younger's writing from the early 1980s to the mid 1990s rekindled my interest in modern fiction. To be fair, I haven't yet read any of his novels after that point. It would be hard, however, for the Younger to match his dazzling trinity of Money (1984), London Fields (1989), and The Information (1995). You could open up to any page in these novels and find yourself confronted by some of the most exhilarating prose you've ever encountered. His style is unique and unapologetic, yet rarely reads as pretension or goes over the top.

Normally I don't like to see novels adapted to cinema. The former is a literary experience, and the latter is primarily a visual experience. And the imagined visuals that are manufactured as one reads should not be supplanted by another medium. But once I learned that David Cronenberg was attached to the project, I figured if anyone could adapt an "unfilmable" book, it was him. He did it, or at least heroically failed in the attempt, with both Ballard's Crash and Burroughs' Naked Lunch. Sadly, the London Fields project fell through, but is now attached to the extremely capable Michael Winterbottom, who could well have been my second choice.

Father and Son share a number of remarkable narrative abilities, including an extraordinary talent for representing first or third person experiential perspectives on being drunk and the concomitant hangover. Kingsley renders this most memorably in Lucky Jim (1954), the academic satire to end all academic satires. But he does it even better in The Green Man (1969). While Martin nearly matches him in Money, a satire of early 1980s materialism adorned by an ingenious plot, never his strong point, and in London Fields, where much of the narrative unfolds in dive bars such as the "Black Cross" and the "Golgotha". Both of them, of course, had plenty of experience in the field.

"Addictions do come in handy sometimes: at least you have to get out of bed for them."
-John Self

Sometimes, all you wanna do is have your mind erased.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Marking the Days

Its been an interesting seven days.

Still reeling from an apocalyptic revelation two months ago that removed the veil from behind which I interpreted the entirety of my life until that point, I now approach daily life as something to be savoured. I can revel in the mundane. Chill out with the quotidian.

Sometimes the hard sciences can tell us things that provide coherence and certainty. Or is medicine a hard science at all? Or just another soft human science, and all the richer for that? Part of an evidential paradigm that has never really ossified into the purities of the empirical sciences? And are not the empirical observations of science not interpreted and communicated as cultural artifacts? Whatever they are, they "work", and I owe my life to them.

But back to the last seven days.

Wednesday and Thursday were uneventful, run of the mill workdays. Except for Wednesday's fine Thai buffet at lunchtime with Bomber.

Friday night I noticed an improvement in my throwing mechanics while battling with Bomber. Darts, innit?

Then the Human Paradox and I drained a couple more pitchers and pondered how best to storm the cultural ramparts of the city. And why not the world?

Over the weekend I unspooled some interesting films. I was excited about "Enter the Void". Gaspar Noe may not churn out titles at the velocity of a Steven Soderbergh, but the other two feature lengths on his filmography certainly made a visceral impact on me, and its been a long time since 2002. His first film primarily in English, it had its moments with some memorable images, which sometimes is all I need. But I found myself lapsing out now and again against the endless onslaught of otherwise bravura imagery and symbolism. Its a film with a big idea, however awkwardly The Tibetan Book of the Dead is introduced. That being said, it needs to be seen to be believed, whatever that old chestnut really means.

I also checked out "A Prophet", a gritty film from a French director who rarely releases a dud. Probably could have used some further editing, but otherwise I enjoyed it. An anthropological look at tensions within the criminal underworlds of French, Arab and Corsican lowlifes as well as a glimpse into the survival modes of a French prison, it also features all the markings of an entertaining crime story.

On Monday morning I was confronted with an invitation to write a "Written Communication Proficiency Test" in order to advance in a job competition. Since I had already written this thing over four years ago, and would likely not better that result, I declined to replace it. Supplying the evidence of such an event, however, is probably more effort than rewriting the exam. But I'm not taking a big chunk out of a Saturday to take the same test over again, especially when I battered it into submission the first time.

Tuesday afternoon I had to hustle down to the General Hospital to get an MRI. I generally appreciate medical technicians and the work that they do, but sometimes they carry a shitload of attitude, especially those that see an MRI in the same light as winning a lottery. No, what it means is that its not just a broken toe. I'd gladly trade in all those MRI's for a scenario in which the Interruptnum, whose remnants are acquiring an unwelcome permanence, had never happened. All in all, however, I'd have to say that my pitched campaign to partly restore my mind and body is going well, if unevenly. The Interruptnum also yielded some unintended consequences of its own that are going to make the rest of my life a better prospect. Although perhaps I am destined to inherit the nefarious fog that has enveloped my father. Or greet the medulla blastoma yet again in some dark alleyway. All the more reason to make the most of the time and abilities that I still have.

Tuesday night I managed to have a listen to the new album from an Austin, Texas band that announce themselves as Explosions in the Sky. As usual, it will take some repeated listening to fully get around it, but I liked what I was hearing. As with any piece of art, or culture, to use a less disputed term, unless one is forced to work at the process of interpretation or understanding, then its probably ephemeral and not worth the time. I was listening to this band quite a lot just before the Interruptnum, and they had not released anything since then.

Today, I made my way down to get fingerprinted so that my application to a higher security status could proceed to the processing stage. Caught in the evidential paradigm again. When did the superstitious parlour games of palmistry and chiromancy become legitimate heuristics of identity? In all the complexity of the human body, is the mark of individuality really to be found on our fingertips? Are we really all unique snowflakes? Are the Sedin twins really two different people? Long before fingerprinting, Leibniz argued that we each possess a recognizable individuality, however imperceptible in its minutiae. Maybe I don't have a doppelganger out there, living a life I'm not. Who is "Winning", to borrow from the unhinged idiom of one Carlos Estevez.

Tonight? Maybe there's a good hockey game on TV. Or I can hang up a copy of my fingerprint file on the wall, right beside my MRI image.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Snap On, Snap Off

While I was working the other day, I took a break and checked out the happenings on the street below.

Looking down from my apartment window, I immediately took notice of the Snap-On Tools truck parked directly across the street.

For countless years that truck pulled into our shop and took orders for new and interesting hardware. All of our mechanics, of course, owned snazzy Snap-On tool storage boxes that were filled with, for the most part, Snap-on tools of all shapes and sizes, and all torques and tensions.

With the turning of each year, the Snap-On guy would leave behind another iconic relic: the annual Snap-on Tools Calendar.

By the Snap-On reckoning, each and every day was rendered remarkably attractive, playful and interesting. When motivation waned, one look at the Snap-On calendar and you re-embraced your work with a renewed vim and vigour. A bit of savvy social engineering by the Snap-On corporation.

Until, that is, the corporation decided to discontinue it in 1994. Snap-On Inc. issued a statement that the annual calendar was "not consistent with the image we want to portray for our company, our dealers, or our customers ... we have made a decision not to do anything that might reinforce these negative images."

With one fell swoop of econo-political correctness, the age of the Snap-On calendar was terminated. I started working at my Dad's shop in 1984 when I was a prepubescent punk -- for the next ten years the Snap-On calendar marked the days of my summer and after school drudgery. A quick web search reveals that there is a brisk online market for these relics. More than likely, many of them could have been found lying about with many other antiquated artifacts cached within the ancient nooks and crannies of our old shop.

Sadly, all the relics, along with all the memories, went up in smoke when the shop burned to the ground a couple of years ago. For me, and especially for my Dad, no price could ever be put on that.

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Bloody Valentine

Just got back from my 8 am date with the dentist.

Been spitting up blood all morning. Now I just have to make sure I don't bite my tongue off. The most brutal session yet. I've known for years that the Reckoning was nearly nigh, but nothing can prepare you for that.

Even the supposedly soothing soundtrack was annoying. I've been trying to get the saccharine strains of Tears for Fears and John Cougar Mellencamp out of my head for hours now, but the haunting hasn't yet relented.

As for the Salvador Dali-esque painting that adorned the ceiling, and that one is forced to stare at during the entire procedure? Well, it hardly moderated the fight or flight adrenalin that was naturally flowing through my veins. A baroque grotesquerie of gnashing teeth flailing freely in a surrealist soup, it only heightened the sense that a carnal confession was being wrested out of me. "You haven't been flossing, have you?" I imagined that a leather bound copy of the Malleus Maleficarum lay open upon the adjacent instrument tray.

Only half-way through the exercise did I remember that it was Valentine's Day, and that exactly three years ago this morning I was enduring, for the final time, the iron maidened massage of a radiation treatment. I became aware of a disturbing trend traceable to this dubious day of the Gregorian reckoning: devastating radiance, destructive drilling, debt inducing debits for the girlfriend, et al.

But the legacy of this day goes beyond the personal.

Captain Cook was clubbed and stabbed to death in the Hawaiian surf on this day in 1779.

Or Al Capone's massacre of a rival Chicago gang in 1929.

Or the release of "My Bloody Valentine" in 1981, the Canadian classic that chronicles the ghost of a coal miner as he pick axes his way through a host of Canuck actors all mired in mediocrity. Having watched that movie a few years ago on late night cable, I remember it most as a two hour advert for Moosehead lager. And since I like Moosehead, I kept on watching. It was remade in the U.S. a few years ago as an ephemeral pap-fest entitled "My Bloody Valentine 3-D"

But "ain't that America"? Sorry, I still can't get that John Cougar Mellencamp shit out of my head.

All that is left of Sancta Valentinus is a grinning skull in a Roman basilica. And as so many people hustle out to buy chocolate, flowers and greeting cards, or go to the dentist, he's laughing at all of them. And the Roman basilica is laughing too ... all the way to the bank.

Here's something else we can blame on "My Bloody Valentine":

Sunday, February 6, 2011


Its Super Bowl Sunday, but I can't really get into the mood.

Bomber and I took our expansion Fantasy Football team to the Bowl game earlier this year. We ending up losing, but received no money for finishing second, both in the regular season standings and in the playoffs. I still have a sour taste over that, and my NFL interest waxes and wanes on a three year cycle anyway. I don't know the personnel as good as I used to when I toyed around with the idea of writing a book about the entry draft in professional sports, particularly hockey and football. That project, like many others of that time, fell stillborn from my imagination. These days, however, I have a couple other projects gestating that I'm pretty convinced will see the light of day.

On the eve of Super Sunday, I decided to have one of those old fashioned, messy movie nights and live the Good Life. I loaded up on the artery encrusting munchies and picked up three as yet unspooled titles.

The Informant! had its moments. I didn't know what to think about Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans . Either it was the first work of genius from Werner Herzog since the 1970s, or it was truly execrable. Irregardless, it needs to be seen to be believed. And no, its not as good as Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant, although everyone involved denies that it is a remake.

But the highlight of the night was Tokyo Sonata. I've loved each and every film that I've seen by Kiyoshi Kurasawa (the "other Kurosawa"), and that did not change. I had previously seen it described as his first departure from, for lack of a better term, the "horror" genre, but this seemingly Ozu-esque domestic drama displayed all of the signs and markings of the very best Kiyoshi films.

In the course of watching it I was transported back to my last years in Vancouver.

My last years of sessional serfdom.

After spending many Calypsodic years in the bucolic beauty of the Land of the Lotuseaters that was Point Grey and Kitsilano, I served my last two years in the edgier and eastern part of town. House sitting at Broadway and Main showed me a new side of Vancouver, and I have to admit I spent a lot of time (and money) ekeing out a bohedonist living. But it was in the final year of my west coast adventure that I started to consume a lot of Asian films, especially Japanese ones.

I was the only white guy living in a Sikh neighbourhood. A neighbourhood where all the streets bore suitably Scottish names like "Waverley", "Dumfries", and "Argyle". The only other non-South Asian guy in the area was my Chinese landlord and his family.

It was during that year, in between the thrice-weekly commutes to the university college buried in the Fraser Valley, that I introduced myself to the often ragged and twisted glories of Japanese cinema. I discovered a place called "Happy Bats Cinema" on Main Street that seemed to specialize in well-known and obscure films from way Across the Sea. It was wonderful to see the traditional yakuza, samurai and melodramatic genres refracted by the new and different sensibilities of the new generation. Many Japanese people I know tell me that the majority of Japanese filmgoers prefer their mainstream manga and melodrama. Their J-Horror. Even eiga pink soft porn. But the film festival favourites always made me wonder what the hell had happened in postwar Japanese culture that made these films so unusual and taboo-shattering.

Watching these films in my east end garret helped to build my levee and salve the wounds of depression and self-sabotage. My Chinese landlord had relatives who, counter-intuitively, owned a Japanese restaurant, and about once per week he brought me a bag containing a week's worth of "unused" sushi. During those frequent lapses of reason when I didn't worry about the freshness of the otherwise quite good sushi, I would enjoy it while watching my Japanese films. By the time I moved out, I had a freezer full of uneaten sushi than had to be jettisoned.

With the passage of time, these have become fond remembrances that have added to a treasury of meritorius memory from that time and place.

Five years ago, I couldn't wait to get out of Vancouver. Now, every time I see the familiar scenes from that place, I feel the tug of nostalgia.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Counterfactual Cinema, vol II

First off, full disclosure.

Much of this information is apocryphal.

I tripped over its scatterings while scavenging across the Wild Wide Web. Like found fish wrap. Like a message in a bottle. Like pages of a lost manuscript unspooling from a toilet roll.

But that's the allure of the counterfactual. Without the fettering of empirical "facts", or whatever we reckon those elusive things to be, we are free to imagine. To compare. To be nostalgically wistful about. To say "what if?", gratefully or regretfully.

Imagine, if you will, "The Wrestler" without Mickey Rourke. Could a more appropriate "old broken down piece of meat" from the 1980s have been unearthed? After the late 80s, nothing is really recognizable within his filmography until 2008. I was pleasantly surprised with that film, even after I had written that director off after "The Fountain". However, while I suspect that it wasn't Aronofsky's idea, Randy the Ram was originally offered to the ever underwhelming Nicholas Cage. The same actor who named himself after a 1970s comic book hero, a character that he desperately wants to portray on film. Problem is, Nick Cage is black, and Nicholas Cage isn't. But that probably won't stop him. Original source material means little to the big studio machine, and probably even less to Nicholas Cage.

Perhaps I am partial to "The Wrestler" only because every time I visit my folks in the ancestral Glen, it is being shown on one of their satellite TV movie channels. I think I have watched at least portions of it four or five times. Usually there is not a second watchable film on offer across the Bell ExpressVu constellation of channels.

If Rourke hadn't made his comeback in that film, we would have been deprived of such stellar straight to video classics as "Killshot" and "The Informers". He seems to be gratefully backsliding into Pam Grier-type cult obscurity, failing to take advantage of the career resuscitation.

Speaking of revived careers, John Travolta almost never got his second chance to dilute the overall quality of American cinema. Daniel Day-Lewis wanted the role of Vincent Vega and apparently pushed hard to get it.

Could you imagine anybody else other than Robert DeNiro playing Jimmy Conway? Allegedly it was turned down by Al Pacino (who, I recall, had just made his return to the business around that time).

Cary Grant as Bond? He was the first choice.

Sean Connery as Gandalf? Maybe if he hadn't retired to advance the cause of Scottish secession.

Most shocking to me, Lee Marvin had to turn down the role of Pike Bishop in "The Wild Bunch" in order for it to fall to William Holden. I can't imagine anybody else but Holden (a legendary drinker whose career was in decline as he himself aged) in that role within a film about aging and the concomitant decline of masculinity.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kirkin' o' the Tartan

Just got back from the dentist.

I like my dentist, but today he irritated me.

Its heroic enough to endure everything else.

The prolonged prick of the needle. The anesthetic swallowings. The endodontic excavation. The Salival suctioning. The tortuous Tools of the trade.

But then, in the middle of the procedure, his eager young hygienist proceeded to query him about how to do root canals, a procedure that, mercifully, was not being performed at the time. Accordingly, while the dental drill droned and whined, I had to eavesdrop on a conversation concerning how much of the tooth needs to be "filed", how deep into the root the canal needs to be "cored", and other such baroque contributions to the sadistic soundtrack of the dental surgery.

Anyway, not much I can do now but wait for the freezing to subside, and reflect on the non-holiday that seemed to be observed in Stoic solitude yesterday.

Bomber and I met at an ambiguously Celtic pub last night to mark the event of Rabbie Burns Day, which is akin to a national holiday (minus the holiday) for the Scottish diaspora around the world. It turns out that I missed the piping in of the haggis, but otherwise there was no acknowledgment that anything was being marked. At least not that we could observe. Not even a Caledonian soundtrack, whether it be "Road to the Isles" or "Mogwai Fear Satan". Or some greasy jazz-blues from Jack Bruce. Hell, why not even the Bay City Rollers, via whom I had been K-telled into submission by my sadistic sisters when I was a little kid.

We did observe the rather fetching sartorial regime of the servers, and Bomber brought along his unannotated bargain bin edition of Burns to read aloud from. But otherwise our commemorative observance commenced up in Bomber's office, where a bottle of Glenfiddich was skillfully sequestered in a storage cabinet.

The single malt also shepherded a swap between Bomber and I. Phil Kessel and Patrick Marleau were the principals of the deal, and I think we both went home satisfied with the transaction.

Finally, for the boys out there, mind you pay heed to Robbie's poetic prescience:

If ye gie a woman a' her will,
Gude faith! she'll soon o'er-gang ye'

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Movie Night on Metcalfe St.

Its long overdue.

Too cold to do anything else but sequester myself in the domestic den and, finally, bask in the Blu-Ray of the 42 incher.

Still sporting a Cheshire Grin (as well as some mysterious scratches on my arm), I headed out into cryogenic Centretown to pick up the necessities of life, including a few groceries and some interesting cinema.

There weren't many Blu-Rays on hand, but after a while I made some decisions.

Christopher Nolan's Inception. Might as well get a movie that can take advantage of the Blu-Ray brilliance.

Machete. Though I generally dislike Robert Rodriguez movies, this was the best trailer for a movie that did not exist in an otherwise sub-stellar Grindhouse. And it features Danny Trejo in what has to be his first top-billing role. Danny Trejo, the actor who played a guy named Trejo in Michael Mann's generally unappreciated Heat. While doing time at San Quentin for armed robbery, Danny Trejo won lightweight and welterweight boxing titles, and has since made a career of playing Hispanic badasses. If Sam Peckinpah hadn't drank himself to death in the early 80s, and had continued to make movies into the 90s, Danny Trejo would have become his Robert De Niro.

And finally, A Serious Man, the only Coen Bros. film that I have yet to see (except for True Grit), either on video or on the big screen. Although it doesn't feature the old timey acting ensemble of classic Coeniana, it appears to be their version of a Philip Roth novel.

Coen films are events for me, which is why I need to get to the moviehouse real soon to see True Grit. I can still remember where and when I saw a Coen film on the big screen:

Raising Arizona (London, ON 1987)

Miller's Crossing (Ottawa 1990)

Barton Fink (Ottawa 1991)

Fargo (Ottawa 1996)

The Big Lebowski (Vancouver 1998)

O Brother Where Art Thou? (Washington DC 2001)

The Man Who Wasn't There (Vancouver 2001)

The Ladykillers (Vancouver 2004) (not a happy experience, though better than the Ealing original with Alec Guiness and Peter Sellers).

Blood Simple, The Hudsucker Proxy and No Country for Old Men, sadly, were not big screened.

I do not care to remember where and when I saw Intolerable Cruelty.

The very best Coen films are temporal and cartographic markers in my life. No matter how many times I watch them, they relocate me in a specific time and place, and with specific people and discussions.

I can only hope that John Turturro gets old enough for them to make Old Fink.