Sunday, August 26, 2007

RIP Tony Wilson, A Slight Return

Video in Play: "Joe" by Inspiral Carpets

It didn't occur to me at the time, but I could have posted this as a tribute to the man himself. Inspiral Carpets were one of the bands from the "Madchester" scene. "Joe" was probably my favourite song to come out of Manchester.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Viral Marketing

CD in Play: Beastie Boys, Paul's Boutique

If you were unfortunate enough, like me, to have seen Transformers then you also saw the teaser for the heavily obfuscated J.J. Abrams picture currently known as as Cloverfield. It looks to be a Godzilla type monster movie and one of the rumours states that there be three monsters in the film: Bohemoth, Leviathan and Ziz of Jewish lore. That is just one of the rumours, (although its largely Jewish cast makes me fairly open to the Monsters of Jewish lore rumour. Besides, it would be very cool) others state it is a remake of Voltron, others state that it was a remake of Godzilla and yet another said it was about an alien parasite. Those particular rumours have all been squashed. (except the three Jewish monsters one)
Paramount is using a viral marketing, or word-of-mouth, campaign to stimulate buzz. I have chosen to participate in the campaign by posting this item on my blog, thus getting others to possibly discuss the film as well and spread the word. Peter Chattaway also participated in the viral campaign by posting up about the Jewish monsters rumour.
The teaser tells us nothing about the film, not even its title. Paramount is keeping Mum and there have been no real reliable leaks from on set. I like the poster and I like the Jewish monsters idea, hopefully the film does not suck.
Speaking of Viruses...
I am sitting it the SFU library in Surrey and am surrounded by the cast and crew of the made for TV remake of The Andromeda Strain. Based on the book by Michael Crichton, it was first filmed in 1971. The remake starts Ricky Schroder, Christa Miller and the main guy from Will and Grace. The library is full of medical equipment and one crew member casting me suspicious glances as I sit here and type.
Will it be good? No idea, it is for A&E. (but I did stand behind the director for a bit and watched the dailys - privilege of position, or Mikael Salomon is just a nice guy) However, the cast and crew have been great and pretty unobtrusive for the most part. Have a good weekend.

The Invasion

CD in Play: The Revolutionaries, Channel One Revisited Dub

On Wednesday night I saw the newest remake of the 1956 classic, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, one of a long line of remakes released this summer. Simply entitled The Invasion, this is the third version of the story originally conceived by Jack Finney for Colliers magazine in 1954.
Initially helmed by Oliver Hirschbiegel, the director of the acclaimed Downfall (Der Untergang), the studio was unhappy with the film he had made and commissioned a rewrite by the Wachowski Brothers (The Matrix) and re-shoots by James McTeigue - often considered to be the Brothers' protégé. Not always a good sign, but the studio also stepped in and commissioned a new beginning and ending for the original film and the results were fine.
The Invasion fails on a very simple level. The performances are fine (though the outstanding Jeffrey Wright is given yet another unsatisfactory role) and the film looks good, but there is no dramatic tension. There is no doubt at any point in the film as to what the outcome will be. Unlike the 1956 original or the 1978 remake starring Donald Sutherland and Leonard Nimoy, (I have never seen the 1993 film Body Snatchers by Abel Ferrara) you never really get that paranoid hunted feeling that makes these sorts of films work so well. That lack of uncertainty just makes for a rather lacklustre experience.
Like zombie pictures, the thing that is truly horrific about the concept of the body snatchers and becoming one of the "pod people" (see the 56 or 78 films) is that our individuality is lost. There is no love, no feeling of any kind, just existence. Everything that makes us us is lost and can never come back. A form that looks like you exists, but it is devoid of the things that make you human. This film and the 1993 remake do delve into the idea of what makes humans human, but attempt to do so from a different angle. From what I have been told, the `93 remake succeeds, but this version clearly fails simply by it lack of true jeopardy. The invaders aren't radically redesigning people into something alien, at worst their aim seems to be to create a sort of worldwide Prozac Nation, but without the drugs.
Honestly, I felt more dramatic tension and uncertainty of the outcome of British zombie comedy, Shaun of the Dead, than I did watching The Invaders. I would be interested in seeing Hirschbiegel version of the film to see what he had intended to do with the story. As I said, the acting is fine and it really does look good, but there is no tension, no sense of jeopardy so there is really no reason to spend your time watching this version of the story when it has been far better at least two to three times before.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

If you are going to dump illegally...

...then do it and make a point at the same time. Vancouver is in the middle of a strike affecting garabage collection. Many people are inclined to blame CUPE and the workers, but I think it has been amply shown that the city of Vancouver and its mayor, Sam Sullivan, wanted to push the workers into a strike. A strike allows the city to save money and to create a scapegoat for targets they may not be able to achieve for the 2010 Winter Olypmpics. Blame the workers, blame the unions - it has worked so often before.
I say Sullivan and his crew are idiots and they have inconvenienced the people of Vancouver simply to further their own agenda. If I were still in Vancouver and not living in Delta, I would be inclined to dump my garbage off at City Hall or to His Worship's personal residence. In fact, I might have also been inclined garbage in East Van parks, on the beaches or in the alley ways of Chinatown and the Downtown Eastside - they should dump it in well-to-do neighbourhoods like Shaunessey, Kerisdale and Marpole. But I live in Delta now, so it would be pointless for me to anything of the sort.

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Canada: Soft on GMOs

CD in Play: The Beatles, Rubber Soul

I received this article from my the other day. Given my tendency to fume and get angry while watching the evening news, I have stopped watching it altogether. I still read newspapers when I have the chance, but this bit of news about Greenpeace carving out a sort of crop circle on an Abbotsford farm seems to have eluded my eye until now.
CBC reported that Greenpeace craved out a question mark in a circle on an Abbotsford farm that grows a genetically modified form of corn, which Monsanto refers to as NK603 corn. (Greenpeace is apparently prepared to compensate the farmer for his spot of lost crop) According to Greenpeace's spokesman, Josh Brandon, they had previously shown a report to BC provincial health minister, George Abbott, about the harmful effects of genetically modified crops. Brandon stated:
""These data were from a rat feeding study," he said. "They showed that the rats that were fed with [genetically engineered] corn NK603 showed statistically significant differences compared to the rats that were fed the non-[genetically engineered] corn." The corn proved toxic to the rats' liver and kidneys, and impaired their growth, he said."
Personally, I take the view that if a rat can't stomach it, neither can a human. Canada does require genetically modified food to be labelled as GMO as long as it is proven to safe and nutrious. However, crops such as NK603 are feed to livestock. What enters our food chain enters us, a lesson most of us learned in elementary school. We are eating harmful GMOs be default and the Federal Government requires no labelling as such. Read the issues and decide for yourself, but ask yourself: is the Federal Government's protection of corporate welfare really more important that your own?

Sunday, August 12, 2007

R.I.P. Tony Wilson

Film in play: 24 Hour Party People.

Tony Wilson died yesterday at the age of 57. Wilson had been a television show host in the city of Manchester, England. Wilson was responsible for starting up the "Madchester" scene that had been kick started by bands like Joy Division and New Order and gave rise to bands like Inspiral Carpets, the Happy Mondays, etc. "Madchester" didn't really have much of an impact on bands here in Vancouver, (if in Canada or the USA at all) but it was quite the scene in the UK in the late 80's and early 90's and was one of the major contributors to rave and dance culture.
24 Hour Party People is playing on Showcase at the moment as part of a promotion for the IFC channel. 24HPP is a semi-fictionalised film about Wilson and the rise "Madchester". Worth watching even if you can't stand the music that came out of the Manchester scene. Whatever your opinion of Wilson as a man, producer, promoter, etc is: you have to give him his due for his monumental efforts to try and get things going and to make things work in his favourite city.
Read The Guardian's Obituary.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Hip 2 B²

CD in Play: Charles Mingus, Black Saint and the Sinner Lady

This weekend was a confounding one for me. Never mind hanging out on the Drive listening to people wishing one another "Happy Pride", never mind my overhearing the confused conversations and seeing the posted propaganda of the zealots of the Cult of Cannabis, what still confounds me is the obsession with all things 1980's.
I have written about this before, but I am absolutely amazed by the idealization of the 1980's by the people born in or just prior to the 1980's. It isn't that the decade was all bad, not at all, but the stuff that people cling to are the things that should have been locked away in the steamer trunk of shame. Skinny ties, leg warmers, head bands, wrist bands, wide stripes, and flipped up collars have all had their day. To quote from Blade Runner (a gem of the 80's) "Time to die". ABC, Culture Club, Human Leauge, Animotion, Falco, ad nauseum should have been laid to rest and denied a shot at ressurection.
What is it abot the crap that people find so appealling? Why reveal in, at best, mediocrity? Take a long hard look at the 1980's, it isn't a decade worth reliving. I was pretty sick of the 1960's obsession after a while, but at least their was more meat on those bones to pick. At least the 60's had something that made them worthwhile, even if it is simply debating the merits of the counter-cultural movement of the time.
Some acts from the 80's mainstream were worthwhile like Elvis Costello, The Police, U2 after 1985, ect. However, what made the 80's interesting is the stuff that was the stuff that was just under or completely off the mainstream's radar like U2 before 1985, Metallica, REM, Dinosaur Jr., Fishbone, Sonic Youth and Daniel Amos. (who the furthest off the radar being Christians) I like Fast Times at Ridgemount High too, but I wouldn't want to relive that world for a second.
Soon there will be a 90's revival and, despite what some people may believe, I am not looking forward to that either. What I would like to see is for us get out of theis cultural rut, get out of reverse gear and start moving forward. Good drivers always check their side and rear view mirrors, but they do so while moving forward. Culturally speaking, we need to keep an eye on what came before us but we need to always be pressing ahead.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007


CD in Play: Public Enemy, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back

The Worst President: The Other W.

"I am not fit for this office and never should have been here." - Warren Gamaliel Harding, 29th President of the United States. (November 2, 1865 – August 2, 1923)

Ask someone who they think the worst President the United States ever had and you are likely hear George W. Bush or Bill Clinton. Other might chime in that the worst presidents were Regan, Carter, Nixon, Johnson or JFK. Some few might actually still cling to FDR as the worst president. Ideological bias has a tendency to lock people into their choices, just take a look at the Wikipedia page on Historical rankings of United States Presidents. Everyone has their favourite for this category, but few have ever heard of Warren G. Harding.
With the apparent exception of Libertarian scholars, who rank him among the best of US Presidents, Democrat and Republican scholars consistently agree that Harding was the worst President of the United States ever to have served. (or not to have served, depending on your point of view) Born Warren Gamaliel Bancroft Winnipeg Harding in the state of Ohio, Warren rose to prominence in the newspaper business, learning the basics from his father who owned a paper called The Argus. Harding moved to Marion, Ohio where he and two friends bought the Marion Daily Star for $300. Harding made the MDS one of the biggest papers in the county and then married his Nemesis' daughter, Florence (Flossie) Mabel Kling deWolfe Harding. A divorcée, Florence Harding took an active hand in the business of the Marion Daily Star and is seen as the prime mover in getting Warren Harding into politics.
Harding was known to be a bit of a womaniser, (having had a long running affair with one of his friend's wives) a social drinker in a time of prohibition and had a lack lustre record of attendance in the Ohio State Senate. Aside from serving (or not serving) in the Senate, Harding had previously been Ohio's lieutenant governor for four years. After lying to the Republican Party about whether he had anything in his past that would come to haunt him in a run at the presidency, Harding went on to defeat Democratic candidate James Cox and his running mate Franklin D. Roosevelt to become the President. (then Assistant Secretary of the Navy)
Harding and George W. Bush did share at least one thing in common: a tendency to make verbal gaffes. Harding had run on a campaign promising a "Return to Normalcy". Harding's gaffes were common and so unique that critic H.L. Mencken had called his pattern of speech, "Gamalielese". Upon Harding's death, poet E.E. Cummings wrote, "The only man, woman or child who wrote a simple declarative sentence with seven grammatical errors is dead." Fans of Harding neither men were. However, given my piss poor punctuation and lacklustre editing abilities - who am I to criticize? If his insistence on using "normalcy" isn't enough for you, then check out this quote: "I would like the government to do all it can to mitigate, then, in understanding, in mutuality of interest, in concern for the common good, our tasks will be solved."
Harding was popular with women: he was considered handsome and was a strong advocate of suffrage. He had been accused of being a white supremacist and being a member of the Ku Klux Klan, but he had also spoke out in Birmingham, Alabama against segregation stating that America could never know true prosperity until it answered the question of equality. From my perspective, it sounds as though he were adopting some of the rhetoric of socialist, labour activist and presidential candidate, Eugene V. Debs. (Debs ran from prison in 1920 taking 3% of the popular vote) In his run for the Oval Office, Harding enjoyed the support of such industrialists as Edison and Ford and Hollywood and Broadway stars like Al Jolson, Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford.
Harding's presidency was marred by scandals. The Teapot Dome scandal (click the link and read for yourself) was largest and most damaging scandal. Appropriately enough it was tied in to oil. Bribes and kickbacks were received, skimming was the order of the day, papers were destroyed and at least two people committed suicide as a result. One director was even tied into running booze and drugs. It is up in the air how involved or how much knowledge Harding himself had of these crimes, but he certainly seemed powerless to stop them. One quote has him saying, "My God, this is a hell of a job!" Harding said. "I have no trouble with my enemies, but my damn friends, my God-damned friends... they're the ones that keep me walking the floor nights!"
Eighty-four years ago tomorrow, 2 August, 1923, Harding passed away at the age of 57 in San Francisco. He had embarked on the "Voyage of Understanding", hoping to explain his policies across the country. He had only been sick one week and died suddenly, so some suspect foul play but that is not conclusive. There may have been more horrific men to have sat behind the desk at the Oval Office, but has there truly been anyone so utterly inept? Warren G. Harding, may your memory live on.

The above post is a summary of the Wikipedia entry on Harding


My job is driving me nuts. I have some rather thick co-workers to deal with, though I also have some outstanding people I work along side with too. One week seems much like a repeat of the previous week. Vandalism continues. Whining continues. The endless direction giving continues. The endless explanations. The vapid stares. People asking again and again because they are incapable of listening. In some ways, I miss working in the dangerous hell-hole I was working at in Burnaby. Problem there is that they pay less. Don't mind me, I just have a lot on my plate here and am not getting paid enough.