Tuesday, August 23, 2005

A Conspiracy of Two

The VERY DAY that Ms. Jean gets the royal nod, I knew it was coming - the flood of e-mails about how nowadays you have to be a leftist feminazi refugee journalista to be GG.

Okay, I admit - back to back appointments of two people with very similar backgrounds? Sure, it's going to raise a few eyebrows - AMONG PEOPLE WHO HAVE THE ATTENTION SPAN OF MAYONNAISE.

I mean, for the love of Jebus, people, YES, they are very similar on paper. But you know what? That's the story of our GGs. For fuck's sake, the first 17 of our friggin' Governors-General were Dukes or Marquesses or Lords or whatnot - not until good ol' Vincent Massey in 1952 does one of them actually have a real name (aside - you ever think how the British Aristocracy is totally the Diddy of the Industrial Age? All, "Now I want to be called Lord Smith-Bottoms." "No, now I'm to be called His Lordship, the Duke of Yabbersmythe." "Now I'm to be called His Princely Waistcoastness, Sir Viscount the Elder, Earl of Puddingshire. The Third!").

80 years of British nobles followed by several more decades of well-to-do white guys, and then, gasp! A woman! And it only took 117 years! I don't know if people thought that one every century or so would be good enough, but there was a certain amount of backlash when the second woman, first non-white GG was announced, even though, God knows, it was about freakin' time. [God: "Tell me about it..."]

Racism aside (wouldn't that be nice?) the gender issue alone bugs the living shit out of me. "Oh no, two women back to back! That must mean that they're planning to overthrow Canadian society as we know it! Soon there will be women participating in every segment of society and behaving like equal citizens under a democratic government AIEEEEE!!!"

So seriously? Shut up your face. Oh no, two women back to back, that makes...er...three women. Out of 27. So, at this rate, if every single appointee to come was female, we'd reach gender balance in...oh, 110 years. Oy, the revolution moves slowly! But one day our great-great-great-grandchildren will thank us for raising a big stink about a ceremonial appointment, instead of, say, combatting pollution so that they wouldn't be stuck living in rocky caves subsisting on a meager diet of bugs and dirt and longing for the day when the poisoned Earth heals herself and receives her horrifically mutated children back with loving arms.

Aw...kinda gives you a warm feeling inside, just thinking about it.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

A Tale of Two Concerts

This last week was musical one - I attended double the number of concerts in four days than I did in all of last year . . . that is to say, two. Don't get me wrong: I love music; real unabashed love, comparable to the love I feel for the cheese section in French supermarkets (as opposed to dirty, shameful love, like my love for reality television). For whatever reasons, (one of which rhymes with smothertruckin' wicketmaster pervice tees), I just hardly ever made it out to see live shows.

Cue last Wednesday - the first of the two concerts was a culmination of a musical oddyssey which began back in 2002 when some wonderfully demented soul unnaturally merged my pure love of music and my perverted love of reality TV and called it American Idol. A young brunette from Texas rocked her audition and then tripped and slid under the judges table and my never-ending girl crush on Kelly Clarkson began. So when I heard she was coming, and A-Mac was all, let's go!, I was all, yeaaaaah! and when the big night came I was so excited that the only thing that could dampen my enthusiasm was the absolutely ass-clownish incompetency of the Corel Centre management, which is a post all in itself but to give you the lowlights, involved us trying to spend our money to purchase services and being thwarted at every turn by their policy of, apparently, taking a succesful venue and running it into the ground through idiocy.

Idiocy of the "Let's close the kitchen right before the 30 minute intermission begins" kind. Idiocy of the "Let's scan people's tickets religiously during the opening act, including when the exit and enter the on-premises restaurant, but when Kelly’s about to start an earnest “Gee, I can’t seem to find my ticket” will suffice”.

Of course, this was almost totally redeemed by the awesomeness of a 50-something usher who openly mocked the Backstreet Boys by snarkily recapping their first performance as having an opening, closing and encore song, filling the rest of their hour with “We love you guys, we love you so much, we know you love us”.

And as asinine as that sounds – that’s really all that mattered to their pre-teen fans.

And, that’s, apparently, who Kelly Clarkson’s fans are too. Pre-Teen Girls (And The Fathers Who Love Them (Or At Least Couldn’t Stand One More Minute of “Dad, Can I Go to Kelly Clarkson? Canicanicanicani?”). These girls bought glow sticks and glow lanyards and glow-faux-backstage passes and wielded them with pride. They wore $40 concert tees and shouted “We love you Kelly!” in their loudest pre-pubescent voices, and knew all the words to her songs and sat patiently during her heartfelt performance of Annie Lennox’s “Why” which caused their parents to, for one brief fleeting moment, actually identify with the music while their daughters mostly waved their glow sticks and chatted with each other and wondered when she would get on to “Breakaway” already. They danced and sang and cursed the adolescent relationship they might one day have that would undoubtedly end in their being mistreated, but all the stronger for it (see “Low”), (oh, and “Since U Been Gone”) (oh, and “Behind These Hazel Eyes”) (oh, Kelly, you work that niche, girl!).

I expected her to rock the house, and she did - no surprise, as she has already proven herself as a live performer with a killer voice – but what she really needed was to take a page out of the Backstreet Boys’ book (How to Success in Pop Music for Ugly Dummies With No Talent) (sorry, boys, but the 11th grade love-affair is over - button up those shirts already) and engage in a little bold-faced currying of favour – even a “Hello Ottawa!” would have sufficed, but it was not to be. Girl can sing the hell out of arguably-catchy-yet-hardly-original pop, but for the love Pete, Kelly, learn how to banter. It’s not hard – you love us, we love you. “Hello Ottawa! I was driving down route 417…” “Hey, that’s right by my house!”

But she’s young, and she’ll get there, and I look forward to seeing her again as long as she abandons the totally unappealing washed-out blond look (pay attention Avril Lavigne/Lindsay Lohan/Brad Pitt) and returns to her former glorious hair colour.

If on Wednesday the dutiful dads and moms of Ottawa trucked out to the Corel Centre with their tweens, then Saturday was their chance to call up the sitter, dust off their concert shirts, double-fist the $6 cups of beer and mold their hand permanently into the devil horn’s/rock-on sign while one of this rockingest bands ever performed.

Oh yeah – we’re talking Def Leppard, baby.

Now as part of my complete immersion in classic rock growing up, I was pretty familiar with Def Leppard – their back to back 10-million plus selling albums, the drummer with one arm, the union jack shirts – but I certainly underestimated their ability to make grown men and women go completely apeshit with one riff. I saw grown women who probably wear baggy shirts and shorts at the beach shake of their awesome curves with pride in vintage AC/DC tops. I witnessed grown men who wouldn’t normally do more than shake hands engage in full body bear hugs repeatedly. I watched hardware engineers, accountants, managers, teachers, and god only knows who else engage some of the most passionate air guitar performances I have ever seen.

As for the band - well, they may have been old, they may have engaged in stereotypical classic rock grandstanding, and at least two of them were apparently, and unfortunately, allergic to their shirts – but goddamn, they knew how to rock. And by they end, when10,000 middle-aged suburbanites were screaming out the words to “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, you knew that every that everyone was back in their glory days before kids and mortgages, and that that feeling would last all the way until the next morning, when their $150 hangovers kicked in.

But boy, would it ever be worth it.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Why You Do Me So Wrong, Oliver Stone?

I like bad movies.

I don't mean exclusively - I also like good movies too. But I've always had this strange reluctance to invest time in certain movies, no matter how critically acclaimed or publicly-loved, when something with a zombie or a rocket launcher is an option. Or a zombie with a rocket launcher...yeeeeeeah. It happens at home in front of the TV, or in the video store, or at the theatre. And it's almost always "This is supposed to be really good" vs. "This is supposed to have ninjas". It's usually not even close.

But every once in a while I sit my ass down to a Citizen Kane, or a Sideways, or a Midnight Cowboy, or some other film which has things like "engrossing plot" or "character development" and whatnot, and truly enjoy myself, and think "I should really rent good movies more often". And yet somehow I wind up actually paying real money to see crap like "Bloodthirst: Legend of the Chupacabras", which turns out to have been shot by some guy in his backyard with less production value than my 11th Grade video on Sir Isaac Newton's Three Laws of Physics, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger (aside – OMG, the Word dictionary actually contains the correct spelling of Schwarzenegger).

So what’s the point? Well, I’m trying to justify as to how, in a store field with literally thousands of choices, DD and I wound up taking home the three hour suckfest that is Alexander.

Look, I’ll put it right out in the open. I loved Gladiator. I even enjoyed Troy, although I watched it in a theatre full of drunken Germans which I highly recommend. I'm a master at supsension of disbelief, enough so to watch Big Trouble in Little China - repeatedly. And I enjoy big productions enough to cut them some slack on nitpicky little things like glaring historical inaccuracies - (cough)King Arthur(cough). If there’s lots of fighting, maybe some hot consensual sex, with plenty of suspense and a bit of humour, well, I’m entertained. I’m here for the epic battles, and if you want to throw in some pretentious and ego-stroking scenes here and there, just make sure Brad Pitt has a nice tan.

But, damn you, Oliver Stone – you expect too much!

I can handle Colin Farrell’s Irish brogue on a Macedonian conqueror, thrown in with a mishmash of British, American and the Angelina Jolie Random Foreigner #7 (Boris and Natasha Model) accents. I can handle the ancient, desert-dwelling peoples dressed in whites so bright it’s like a commercial for Tide With Bleach. I can handle the now-popular “Guys Who Wear Dark Eye-Liner Are Evil (and Effeminate)" motif, popularized in the Lord of the Rings movies. I can even handle the fact that you directed Jolie and Farrell in a scene where he’s supposed to be 18 and she’s supposed to be his mother, yet it’s painfully obvious that they are THE SAME AGE and Farrell really just wants to make out with her.

But what I can’t forgive is the writing. Oh, the terrible, terrible writing, that turned this man you obviously idolize into a moody, whining, self-aggrandizing prick. Remember the last season of Buffy, where she was all distant and removed and basically talked in dramatic speeches, which got really boring and irritating and anti-climactic after a while, and then eventually the writers clued in and made fun of how Buffy just gave dramatic speeches all the time, when, like, it was their fault anyway? Well, halfway through the film I started expecting – hoping, praying – that Cleitus would turn to Cassander in the middle of one Alexander’s big moments of blah blah glory, blah blah conquer your fear and you conquer death, blah blah we are what we do I’m rubber you’re glue, and do the “This is so painful I’m stabbing myself in the eye” motion, and then Cassander would follow up by pantomiming slitting his wrists, and then someone would like, fart, really really really loudly, and everyone would start snickering and gagging and run out of the room and then over some wine they’d bitch about how Alexander always has that bright light streaming through his golden mullet like, we get it, Oliver, he’s divine.

It was honestly painful – painful! – to watch Farrell as Alexander. Now, he’s not the greatest actor of our time, but he’s hardly the worst, and judging by his performance I can only imagine that his only direction from Mr. Stone was: “Okay, bug out your eyes. Raise your fists in the air. Buggier eyes! Now make your mouth twitch. Yell. Yell louder! Louder! Okay, you’re fighting back tears…fighting those tears…and now you’re crying. Make a constipated face. Scream. Cry more. More constipated! Okay, great.”

I’m not kidding – dude threw a tantrum in almost EVERY SINGLE SCENE, because almost every single scene involved someone insulting his mom or his dad, and Oliver Stone had already set up that complex situation by showing us that he hated his dad and loved his mom, and then having the narrator tell us that he hated his mom and loved his dad, and if I was as mixed up as that I’d probably throw hissyfits all the time, too.

Which brings me to the point of the narration. This is one of my finicky spots – I don’t generally like narrators, because they’re often used as a lazy way to provide exposition and reinforce key messages when the writers run out of ideas of how to subtly show us these things, and have to resort to banging us over the head with a mallet inscribed with “ALEXANDER WAS A GREAT AND MISUNDERSTAND MAN WHO WAS NOT AS BAD AS EVERYONE SAID, HE WAS JUST AHEAD OF HIS TIME” in the form of Anthony Hopkins as Ptolemy 40 years later, or as I like to call him, the Oliver Stone Propaganda Spout 3000 (Now With White-House Level Truth-Altering Capabilities!).

However – while I cringingly expect a narrator to provide historical context and character motivation - I was absolutely speechless when this one glossed over what should have been major and compelling parts of the plot in two sentences, as in (spoiler) how we watch a scene where Alexander’s father remarries, drunkenly banishes his old wife and son to exile, and all but gives power to his new family.

Cue the narrator – “Two years later, his father was murdered. Alexander became the king, conquered [a bunch of places I don’t remember, because he basically read a list instead of showing us], became pharaoh of Egypt, and now let’s cut to a scene where he’s in the middle of a desert chasing a king that hasn’t been introduced yet who maybe had something to do with his father’s murder but is anyway much more important than showing you his father’s murder or how he came back from exile, or what happened to his mother, or his first years as a general, because we ran out of money to film any of those things.” Or maybe I’m guessing about that last part.

Alright. I guess I’ve wasted enough of my life on this movie. But I could go on. Oh yes, I could. And if I did, I would start with Alexander’s war helmet, which is supposed to look all noble and intimidating, but really makes him look like Marvin the Martian grew feathery antennae. But I’m not going to, since I’ve learned my lesson, and I can only hope that you learned yours, Ollie.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to pre-order tickets for The Transporter 2.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The Culture of Life: We Will Rock You and Your Yet Unconceived Offspring

After the overwhelming success of The Culture of Life's first single "Organic Vegetable Medley #7 (Cucumbers)", I am pleased to release the follow-up tune. It's an ode to the rotating shifts of old guys who stand as close as possible to the abortion clinics downtown and wear sandwich boards with catchy sayings, of which the only one I know is "Why must the child die?" because the rest are in smaller font and I always walk on the other side of the road, lest I infect the poor man with my slut germs or whatever it is us trollops have nowadays.

Anyway, the song is entitled "...But I'm Off to Have Sex!"

Dude with the sign, yeah
Got a question on his mind, yeah
Kinda deep, I guess,
Pondering a social mess,
Wish I could help, I'd give my best
But I'm off to have sex!

If only I knew, yeah,
Just what I could do, yeah,
To keep pregnancy away,
They might invent someday,
A pill, a shot, I should check my RX,
But I'm off to have sex!

Didn't teach us in school, no,
Learning isn't cool, no,
It's for Godless Communists,
Who fill their brain with lists,
Of things called "facts", what's next?
Oh right, I'm off to have sex!

If only I were gay, yeah
I bet that'd make his day, yeah
No accidental kid,
For surgery to rid,
I should apologize for all hetero-sex
But I'm off to have...some of that.

Mmm, yeah, sex, yeah
I'm off to have some, mmm, yeah
(Repeat and fade)

There you go, Random Old Guy on Streetcorner with Sandwich Board. Not only have you inspired what is sure to be a timeless song by The Culture of Life, but you've also influenced the thinking of at least one impressionable young woman, who now wants a sandwich.