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Music Hipster confession time

A post from indielass about seeing the first Lollapalooza made me chip in on the fact it was a near miss, and I'll expand a little bit about it here.

I was in Toronto that same weekend and wanted to go for Living Colour, Siouxsie & The Banshees and Jane's Addiction (at the time not knowing NIN, Rollins Band and Butthole Surfers were also on the bill), but since we were only there for a couple of days, I couldn't go. Nonetheless, there's a photo of me standing in front of Lee's Palace that day pointing at a sign saying that night the guests were Primus with Tad opening...

(that was a really annoying summer for that. I was visiting my mother in Brockville which was in the midst of its summer festival. When she picked me up at airport, my mother was raving about the band she saw play the festival the night before: The Tragically Hip, right around the "Up To Here/Road Apples" era which is when I really liked them. My mother assured me that I'd be sure to see another good band at the Festival that night. Instead, I got to see Frozen Ghost.)

In Winnipeg the only real regrets  I have in terms of missed gigs is I missed out on the Monster Voodoo Machjne/Malhavoc all-ages show at the Zoo circa 1994, I also missed  Autechre when they played here in the 90s, and on the heavier side of things I missed out on Neurosis and most recently the reunited Celtic Frost. I'm sure there are other ones too but those are the ones that immediately leap to mind in terms of regret.

So I ask those who read this, what are the musical gigs you wanted to go to locally that you never did catch, or even worse the ones you didn't even know they played until after the fact and you never had a chance to see them again?

Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg

The trailer is up for Guy Maddin's My Winnipeg. Obviously one of the films I'm most excited to see this year. The trailer is playing up Maddin's own tendency for tongue-in-cheek Freudian melodrama (with his mother being played former B-movie starlet Ann Savage, who was the femme fatale in the ultra-low-budget 1946 film noir Detour), but I'm more curious about the vignettes of true history Maddin interweaves into the film (I was stunned to find out the most fanciful image, where a fire at a racetrack caused eleven horses to flee into the river which froze up to their necks,  killing them but leaving their heads free for people to discover the next day "like eleven knights on a vast white chessboard" is apparently true)

There's other stuff here I'd like to see that I also know is true (seances held at the Manitoba Legislature, with its Masonic symbolism embedded in its architecture;  the University of Manitoba has an apparently QUITE large archive of spiritualist  photography form our city which fell for spiritual mediums in a big way in the 1920s), the re-enactment of "If Day" where in World War 2 Winnipeggers actually staged in downtown Winnipeg a full Nazi rally in uniform to show others what would happen if we lose.

Of course those incidents are juxtaposed with somewhat more questionable claims like Winnipeg having the most sleepwalkers per capita, and that Winnipeg once had an amusement park named Happyland (true) that was destroyed in a bison stampede (not so true)., so anyone unfamiliar with Winnipeg should keep this in mind when they watch this film.

Maddin also takes a look at more recent history and rails against the destruction of the Eaton's department store building that was the centrepiece of downtown for decades,  as well as the destruction of the Winnipeg Arena, and while he does have a point, I do think this film is a significant turning point for this particular school  of Winnipeg-centric nostalgia. In the past twenty (and especially the last ten years) the population of Winnipeg has significantly changed that I just don't the current generations looking quite the same way at the local cultural debris the same way as my generation does. TV is no longer the focal medium for the new generations, so there are no kids being exposed to the horrors of those Clifford's department store ads where heavily made up women in fur coats and with glassy-eyed smiles wander past fuzzily blue-screened still photographs of Winnipeg while the Carpenters' "Yesterday Once More" played, or the wonders of public access television that gave us Math With Marty and the septuagenarian old ladies who rocked out as The Cosmopolitans, but it might be for the best. While nostalgia can give warmth and a need to reinvent one's past as something better than it really was, it can also serve as the perfect point for one to avoid dealing with the present, and the need to shape our future to be as good as we would prefer to remember the past.

No idea when My Winnipeg will open locally though.

Winnipeg's Pock-Marked Frankenstein

Last year I bought True Crime True North: The Golden Age of Canadian Pulp Magazines, about how newspaper reporters made extra bucks on the side by spicing up some of their local cases into something more lurid. I find it oh-so-telling that the closest Canadians came to doing the pulp thrills that our neighbours in the United States trafficked in was still essentially non-fiction. Caelum Vatnsdal, in his book They Came From Within: A History of Canadian Horror Cinema, has some great tongue in cheek fun with the stereotypical Canadian attitude that crafting works of fiction is somewhat suspect, and to craft tales of fiction that are actually lurid?!... well you best off moving down south to be closer to your kind, mister!

This schism between how Canadians did pulp and Americans did is no more obvious than comparing these magazines: While Canadian pulps were still essentially true crime, US pulp writers were taking that most Canadian icon, the Mountie, and mining a successful subgenre of two-fisted action where our brave Mounties fought assorted criminals and outlaws throughout the Canadian wilderness, and  discovering the occasional underground city of advanced super-science above the Arctic Circle.

I will say the cover art for this particular magazine is at least somewhat in keeping with the covers of the American pulps, which is that girl-on-girl S&M sells. Seriously, if you go by the paintings Margaret Brundage did for Weird Tales magazine, you'd think Conan the Barbarian was a lesbian dominatrix.

Who ever did this though, clearly used Canadian models. You can tell by their look of polite resignation...

Cat's Eye/Troll 2

I was reminded of Troll 2 when I saw the Stephen King anthology Cat's Eye a couple of days ago on TV. While the first two stories are adaptations of blackly comic crime stories from King's Night Shift collection. I missed the first one "Quitters Inc.", featuring James Woods who finds out the hard way that the new anti-smoking program he joined resorts to Mafioso-style punishments if he has a smoke. My one regret about missing it is missing the scene where a nicotine-deprived Woods hallucinates all the people at the party he's at are in fact giant cigarettes milling around to a cover of the Police's "Every Breath You Take".

No instead I came in with "The Ledge" where Robert Hays plays a tennis player with the bad sense to cuckold a gangster. The man wagers that all will be forgiven if Hays can walk completely around the 5 inch ledge that completely encircles the gangster's penthouse...forty feet up. It's okay, though needlessly stretched out with pigeons attacking, Hays dangling from electric signs etc.  The final and strangest choice to wrap up the anthology is "The General" where the cat that's been lurking around the corners of the last two tales takes center stage as a pet defending Drew Barrymore from a breath-stealing goblin that lives inside the walls of her home.

It's genuinely inexplicable why King who wrote the screenplay decided that the best way to put together an anthology featuring two of his crime stories to finish with a an idiotic retread of Gremlins. The troll itself is a unscary if technically impressive bit of special effects by Carlo Rambaldi, but I burst out laughing when the troll began making noises, as they're provided by voice actor Frank Welker, a man whose career resides on making animal noises (and also being the voice of Fred on Scooby Doo, and Megatron on Transformers). That in itself is not funny, but the fact the sounds are very recognizably the same Frank Welker uses as Nibbler on Futurama is. Whether Matt Groening and co. specified he used those sounds as an obscure in-joke, or Welker just used those particular sounds because it's not like anyone really bothers to watch Cat's Eye anyways,  either way it's amusing.

Though for the record, the cat that's the nominal star is the best thing in the film, though that should be no surprise.

Anyways, as bad as Cat's Eye is, it's still much better than the notorious Troll 2. Originally filmed on a micro-budget as Goblins by an Italian movie crew who shot in America with untrained actors and told them to say the dialogue verbatim. It's considered one of the worst yet unintentionally funniest movies ever made, and it's quite a feat that something this bad has been produced in the last 20 years, where even the worst film tries throwing in some self-mocking irony thereby ruining the sort of unintentional hilarity that can arise from the overly earnest.

Anyways, someone edited together a highlight reel of Troll 2. It's all here: Midgets in immobile rubber masks; An evil seductress using corn-on-the-cob to seduce the husband; dialog like "He's not a little shit, he's sensitive!"; a nerd giving the least enthused line reading over the realization he's about to die; a kid deciding to save his family from eating poisoned food by pissing on the food(!);  and much, much, more...

I dare you to watch the entire ten minutes.


Yes, I'm sure you've all been to I Can Has Cheezburger. However there's a recent few I really REALLY liked. Liked enough to at least repost here. Think of this as my personal quality control,  OK?

For those of you not inclined towards the last entry, I give you this: Simply one of the best movie trailers I've ever seen, the trailer for John Boorman's sequel to William Friedkin's The Exorcist.  I have yet to see the film, but know it is notorious as being considered one of the biggest box office bombs with much unintentional humour due to its very serious attempts at elaborating on the themes of good and evil through the use of evil Linda Blair in red dress and high heels  vs. good Linda Blair in a plain white dress,  as  well as other missteps.. However over the years it's picked up a motley crew of defenders who argue that there are for more interesting ideas about the supernatural present than the first movie, comparing it most specifically to the occult fiction of Dennis Wheatleyl;  The movie does have a killer theme by Ennio Morricone, and Boorman always had an eye for visuals.

Boil the film down to two minutes of Morricone's music and said visuals and critical reputation be damned, I want to see this movie NOW.

EDIT: OK, the Trailers From Hell version only allows one to watch it with Eli Roth commentary on. So here's the Youtube version...

In a mood for a cheap laugh?

Some Context From Wikipedia:

In 1993, [Fred] Ottman would find himself the victim of one of the most embarrassing moments in wrestling history. WCW had recently signed Ottman from the WWF, and he was to make his debut in a match alongside Sting, Dustin Rhodes, and Davey Boy Smith. He would be their mystery partner in the upcoming eight-man tag match.

When Sting and Smith were about to unveil their mystery partner, they did so during a live interview (on A Flair for the Gold, hosted by Ric Flair) in front of the WCW audience together with Sid Vicious and Harlem Heat. Sting would say, "All I have to say is... our partner is going to shock... The Shockmaster!" The camera zoomed in on a particular section of the set where two torches set off a small pyrotechnics explosion in front of a sheetrock wall. The Shockmaster was supposed to make his entrance by crashing through that wall in his new attire, consisting of a Star Wars Stormtrooper helmet painted silver and covered in glitter, a pair of jeans, and a long black vest.

As the camera was in for a close up, the upper part of his body broke through the wall, but the rest of his body did not, causing Ottman to fall through the rest of the wall. He slid across the floor, and his helmet rolled off long enough for audiences to see who it was while he scrambled to put it back on. Even the announcers were speechless. However, Flair was heard to say "Oh, God![You can hear this at 3'42'' into the clip -- ed.]at what happened, and shortly afterwards Davey Boy Smith was heard to say "He fell flat on his arse! Fell flat on his fucking arse!" [You can hear this at 3'48'' into the clip -- ed.]

Despite this, The Shockmaster resumed his entrance as if nothing had happened, and he continued walking up to Sid and Harlem Heat. The interview is generally considered one of the most laughable in wrestling history.

A Journey To The End of Taste

Just finished reading Let's Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste by Carl Wilson for the 33 3rd series of books where writers discuss their favourite albums, though here Canadian music critic for the Globe and Mail Carl Wilson does something different and more fascinating. He takes a look at the eternally loathed singer Celine Dion, and takes a hard look at why he has had no interest in her and even a dislike for her music that he initially can't put into words. Or rather, in a way that he can logically argue. From there then, the book chronicles his personal attempts to analyze his own musical tastes, why they are defined in counterpart to others (specifically, why is his taste towards the obscure and experimental) and why we even have musical tastes and why Dion's music is so derided by people yet somehow remains so immensely popular. (Celine Dion has sold millions of records, how many people you know own an album of hers?)

This book is essential reading for the fact it really does force one to analyze not just one's own musical taste, but the very concept of us having a personal taste, period. Why we decorate our house a certain way, why we define ourselves by what we like, but also why what we dislike. Along the way he analyzes certain aspects of Celine Dion and aspects of the cultural phenomenon that never gets analyzed in the North American press, like how the globalization of the music business does not just mean that Celine Dion's music gradually squeezes out the local music of other nations, but instead of how Celine Dion has to actually make attempts to customize her music for different countries. Whether learning how to sing in Spanish to appeal to the Latin American market, to a much more in-depth attempt at wooing the Japanese market by engaging in soap opera tie-ins over there. Wilson argues that globalization, is not the gradual one-way transformation of the world into some American utopia championed by the likes of Thomas L. Friedman, but instead show how it is really is a process that works two ways, and that North American culture is not some monolithic steam roller, but something that will be dynamically altered in different ways depending on the culture it's trying to assimilate itslef into.

The other aspect he analyzes that I find most fascinating is Celine Dion in the larger context of being from Quebec. He talks about as an Anglophone living in Quebec at the time, watching the strange netherworld of Quebec celebrity known as vedette. Where Quebecois newscasters, actors and singers were treated with the breathless reverence that even Hollywood does not really treat its own yet never ever breaking out of the francophone society. He talks about how its an outgrowth  of the earlier Quiet Revolution era of the 1960s, where a variety of French-Canadians were finally entering into the English Canadian political, business and cultural fields. As a result there is an ongoing class-fueled discrepancy between these newer wealthy cosmopolitan Quebecois and their more traditional poor, devoutly Catholic rural Francophones that were marginalized for so long. Wilson talks a little bit of about Dion's own childhood as part of the latter community, derisively called ketain by some (the Quebecois equivalent of poor white trash).

That actually is a bit of a personal eye-opener for me. I knew my mother came from a similar background as Celine, and in Wilson's chronicles of Celine's nouveau riche behaviour and class consciousness, leading her to do things middle-class America does not expect like her appearance on Larry King where she unexpectedly championing the black looters during the Katrina flood in New Orleans. Class consciousness is certainly something my mother possessed as well (and possessed by her son as well, but that's another story) , feeling deeply ambivalent about the wealthier Francophone establishment in the St. Boniface area that we lived in, and looking back with this new knowledge I now know why she felt that way. This definitely sparked my interest in getting to know a bit more about the Quebecois culture that my mother sprang fun. I don't want to sound like I'm going to do the French-Canadian equivalent of wearing Dashiki shirts and start announcing that my real name should be pronounced  "Kay-vann"  instead of "Kevin", but it's certainly something I'll be investigating in the future, as Mom never talked too much about Quebec.

One final Quebec-related note: He doesn't talk about the Youtube clip that's around of Celine Dion in Las Vegas performing AC/DC's "You Shook Me All Night Long" but again there's a Quebec-specific detail here that often gets ignored by people when they see the cover. Most people dismiss it as just a lame attempt at trying to rock, not realizing that AC/DC is HUGE in Quebec. Always have been, with the only real rival in popularity in the time I lived there being late 80s sensation Samantha Fox (!). So I see the cover as perversely being an attempt by Celine to keep to her roots in a strange way, It's still a bad cover, but it's more due to her vocal qualities being completely unsuited for the song, than a misguided attempt at seeming edgy.

Weirdly enough, Carl Wilson shows a great affection for Celine Dion the person, and I think above and beyond the sense of shame over her being a fellow Canadian, its because her inherent sweetness and unpretentiousness that I think made her his personal candidate to analyze, as opposed to say, Whitney Houston. There's a great anecdote about Elliott Smith, who performed on the 1998 Oscars but lost out to yes, Dion's "My Heart Will Go On", where he expected a complete bitch when he met her backstage and instead she gushed about his song, and when he confessed to being nervous, she gave him a hug and told him that nervousness is good because it gets the adrenaline flowing for a better performance. Elliott Smith ended up defending her when encountering people who tried to get on his good side by trashtalking her.

Certainly by the end of the book, Wilson does a great job of not rehabilitating Celine Dion to make her respectable to music critics, so much as arguing that too much current criticism is bent on negating the qualities that make Dion a success, her sentimentality that makes her so popular runs contrary to the alleged cold and neutral position that critics assume. By the end Wilson calls for music criticism to start being more about the critic's own personal passions and less about if a certain piece of music measures up to the criteria that the critic personally uses.

In short I suggest you get your hands on this book ASAP.

Blame Carignane for reminding me of this

For a while nothing started off my Saturday mornings like catching up on all the Law & Order:SVU I missed over the years due to not having anything resembling broadcast TV in my home (then I caught up enough to start seeing the sucky episodes, so I just started sleeping in). It was there that I discovered Tony, spokesman for Craftmatic beds. Maybe it's his poor man's Soprano impression, the 1980s romantic keyboard music, or the fact Tony is trying to act sexy while doing a poor man's Soprano impression, but this is one of the all-time great  bits of Commercial cheese, and it's 100% Canadian!