Friday, February 29, 2008

Soundtrack of My Life


Song: Babylon
Artist: David Grey
Album: White Ladder

My friends Bucky and Beast get the kudos here for introducing me to David Grey. Yes, sometimes, other people find really great music before me. These things happen from time to time. This is one of those cases.

I don't know where or how they discovered him, but I'm guessing it had something to do with The Dave Matthews Band, as Grey is signed to ATO Records, Matthews' label. Perhaps Bucky will clarify in the comments for us later...

As we've covered time and again during this segment, I'm a big fan of songs and albums that resonate both musically (you know... melodically) and lyrically and once again, this song boasts both.

Musically, this song is awesome. Simplistic acoustic guitar layered over an echoing backbeat that has enough movement to it that it makes you sway with hints of piano added for flavour. It's a pretty plain concept on paper, but it works really well. It's kind of like how, despite how utterly crappy Bruce Hornsby was, his songs always stuck in your head because the music of them was really, really well crafted.

Then we come to the lyrics. I was won over in the first verse:

Well looking back through time
You know it's clear that I've been blind
I've been a fool
To ever open up my heart
To all that jealousy, that bitterness, that ridicule


Been there. Felt that. Got the t-shirt in a drawer somewhere. Been in verse two too:

Saturday I'm running wild
And all the lights are changing red to green
Moving through the crowd I'm pushing
Chemicals all rushing through my bloodstream
Only wish that you were here
You know I'm seeing it so clear
I've been afraid
To tell you how I really feel
Admit to some of those bad mistakes I've made


Honestly, there is an easy formula to become a favourite song of mine: well-crafted melodies and music, lyrics about missing your woman and apologizing for being a bit of a dick in the past. Most guys should be able to identify with these things. Lord knows I do.

The capper for this song is that it became a staple of my karaoke rotation while I was doing my thing at Sha-na-na's. Now, that may not be a good thing and some people may definitely hate this song for the rest of their lives because of my rendition, but whatever. It couldn't have been worse than the time I tried to belt out "Sugar, We're Going Down..."

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

It's Reached a New Plateau

Those of you who have been around from the starting point know how I feel about all the little thug-wannabe bastards that exist in the world. You know about the anger, the frustration, the madness they cause me. Well, that has all changed.

No longer am I angry. No longer am I mad. No longer do I want to grab them by their baggy pants, straighten their hat and shake them until they agree to stop finishing every sentence with yo, youknowhatimsayin' or dawg. Actually, that last part isn't true; I still want to do that bit.

But after I shake the shit out of them, I want to educate them. Why? What has prompted this change? One quote, delivered by a would-be thug returning a movie:

Calvin: American Gangster, that was pretty good.
Thuggy McThuggenstein: Yeah, it was a'ight. There wasn't enough gangsterdom. Coulda been more killin' and shit.


Gangsterdom? We're in trouble.

Here is my solution:

Remember in school when they used to bring in the motivational speakers every year and it was always a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, someone who could warn you about the ills of society? That never worked because it was always the same dude every year. The first time you heard him, fine, you listened. Then the next year when you went to the same assembly, it did nothing for you.

Instead of bringing the speaker to the people, we need to bring the people to the speakers. Forget having school assemblies when some guest comes in to the auditorium and no one pays attention for a hour and a half, we need to reverse things. I say we load up for a class trip and let the wanna-be thugs meet some real thugs and hear their stories.

How long do you think some tough-talking shoplifter from St. Johns would last in Compton?
What about Harlem? Or better yet, how tough and dangerous would these kids be sitting in a penitentiary visitors room talking with convicts, getting some real knowledge about the end results of the life they think is oh so glamourous?

This is one of those things that some talk show needs to do. Oprah needs to make this happen. Instead of handing out free shit to people and having Dr. Oz come on and talk about colon cleansing again, hook this up. Oprah has that kind of sway, doesn't she? Collect up some would be gangsters and drop'em off at The Pen and pick'em up in an hour or two, see what happens? Sadly, you know one or two morons would think prison life is the bomb yo!

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Rundown: Dream Jobs

My favourite movie ever is High Fidelity.

I know it's not a masterpiece or a classic or a poignant period piece or anything like that, but it speaks to me and that is all that matters. It was through this flick that I discovered one of my favourite authors, Nick Hornby, rekindled my love of John Cusack and realized that there is nothing wrong with being the guy on the verge of 30 with an encyclopedic knowledge of random junk who is never satisfied with his station in life. In essence, I am Rob Gordon.

Why am I telling you all this today? Glad you asked...

There is a scene in the movie where Rob comes home and Laura, his ex, has returned to their apartment to collect some of her things and started to read a list he made up that is sitting on the kitchen table.

She reads aloud Rob's Top Five Dream Jobs and, aside from "architect" which requires seven years schooling and an ability to draw and design structures, none of them are too far fetched. I mean, sure, some of them are referenced to years gone based on what cool people he would have met, but it's not like he's written down President of the United States or All-Star Shortstop for the Yankees or anything. They're all jobs that he could actually obtain. Which brings us to today.

I'm currently job hunting. There is about five weeks or so before I pack up my gear and head back to Ontario. Waiting for me in London is a position at the Blockbuster around the corner from where we'll be living with Sarah's dad. While the security is nice, the thought of having to explain the difference between a late fee and a restocking fee for another summer has me checking the job boards like a poor man checking his lottery numbers.

With that in mind, there really isn't a better time to pull out today's High Fidelity inspired Rundown:

All-Time Top Five Dream Jobs

5. Freelance Writer
Yes, I know I already am a freelance writer. This actually is one of my dream jobs. I'd like it to be a little more lucrative and there be a few more outlets for my work on my plate, but all in all, I can't complain. There are a lot of days when I get to sit at home in the woobs (my adopted from Kevin Smith name for comfy, lounging clothes) and write about the things that I love like sports and movies and nonsense. Plus, Rob Gordon's #5 is Record Store Owner...

4. Pub Owner / Bartender
This one may seem a little weird, but here is the breakdown for you: I've always liked having a place to go that I feel 100% comfortable and would love to create that place for my friends and family. I could still do a ton of writing, further my love of cooking by dabbling in the kitchen and let's be honest, when all I need to do is open bottles and pour pints, I'm a pretty solid bartender.

3. Movie Critic
I don't want to be Ebert or Roeper or even Joel Siegel, but the notion of someone paying me to go watch movies and then voice my opinions on them is very appealing. I mean, we all tend to do that anyway right? We go see something, our friends and colleagues ask us how it was and we give them our critique. It's a natural occurrence. Getting paid for something I am going to do anyways is always appealing to me. Plus, I love popcorn.

2. Television Sports Anchor / Host
I have an insane amount of sports-based knowledge tucked away in this over-sized head of mine. Additionally, I'm not horrible looking and am mildly amusing. Combine those three and what do you have? A successful television sports anchor / reporter. Nothing is worse to me than the guys who try too hard to be funny. There are only so many times that "Evgeny is playing his Nabokov" is funny. D'you hear me Tim Micallef? I'm coming for your job!

1. Screenwriter

This one has been lingering for some time now and I think that is because I (a) watch a lot of movies, (b) often know even the non-cliched dialogue that is coming in advance and (c) seem to think I could do better than some of the drivel that is out there. As well everything thus far, I'm not looking to be an Oscar winner or anything like that; writing a couple good flicks that reach people is all I'm after. Additionally, there is a lot of downtime in a job like this and really, getting to lay around the house in the woobs, playing with the dogs and the brats (once they come) is what I'm looking forward to most.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Honestly...

How hard is it to do the job right, the first time?

An accountant can't take a stab at doing your taxes, screw it up and then blame his poor effort on the shoddy job that the accountant in the cubicle next to him does.

Surgeons can't wing it when they enter an OR and cut you open.

Hell, the mailman can't even get away with dropping your mail at the house next door.

So why is it that when people are given simple, basic tasks and afforded an entire day to do them, they still can't manage to do it right? It's not like you're being asked to split the bloody atom now is it?

Note: Those being asked to split the atom have a free pass on this one... keep up the good work boys and girls!

If you don't know, ask somebody. If you need assistance, seek it out. If you're pissed that someone else isn't pulling their weight, don't fall to their level, because then someone else just has to come in and clean up the messes left behind by two people instead of one and that's even worse now, isn't it? Handle your business and let karma do her thing...

"Do or do not. There is no try."

Right on Yoda!

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Monday, February 25, 2008

Great Night for The Coen Brothers


The 80th Annual Academy Awards became The Coen Brothers show by the end of the evening, as Joel and Ethan Coen and their picture No Country for Old Men were the big winners of the night.

The men who brought us The Big Lebowski and Fargo collected golden statuettes for Best Adapted Screenplay (got that one right), Best Director (got that one wrong) and Best Picture (wrong again), while Javier Bardem took home the Best Supporting Actor award (bingo!) for his portrayal of criminally coiffed Anton Chigurh in The Coens' flick.

Before diving into the rest of the awards recap, a quick round of applause for Jon Stewart. This could become a standing gig for him, along the same lines as Billy Crystal's extended run in the 80's. He's quick and witty without overpowering the show like some people have tried and failed at... * cough* David Letterman *cough*...

Beyond that though, I don't know if it was his idea or what, but bringing the Czech musician from Once back on stage after she wasn't given a chance to say anything after winning for Best Original Song was brilliant. I actually started clapping here in the apartment as if anyone besides Sarah could hear me.

Anywho, the winners.

I ended up batting .500 from the predictions I laid out Saturday - .666 if you count my naming Ratatouille Best Animated Feature.

I know she's all different and free and indie and blah blah blah blah blah, but couldn't someone have told Diablo Cody that she looked awful? What the fuck was she wearing. It looked like a leopard print mumu with a giant rip up the front of it. For chrissakes woman it's the Oscars and you're getting an award. Just once can't you be a little normal?

Marion Cotillard took home Best Actress in one of the non-surprising surprises of the night. Not that she wasn't surprised, but you could see her winning.

On the other hand, there is Best Supporting Actress winner Tilda Swinton. Loved her speech, poking fun at George Clooney and all, but this one stumped me. She was good in Michael Clayton, playing the nervous chief litigator from the big bad company really well. It's just, well, she isn't around for very long. She's got maybe twenty minutes of screen time. She has a crucial scene at the end with Clooney, but other than that you see her rehearsing her speech while getting dressed, standing on the street talking to a couple dudes once or twice and that's about it. Watch the flick, tell me if you agree.

As for the grand prizes of the night - Directing and Picture - the two, as per usual, went hand in hand and I can't really say I have any beef with this. One because I haven't yet seen No Country, but also because I'm a huge Coen Brothers fan and think they have been deserving for some time.

We'll close on a curious note:

How come there was no "farewell" to Brad Renfro during the "People Who Died This Year" montage? Just thought that was kind of shitty...

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

10 Things I Learned This Week

1. There Is Some Good to Working at Blockbuster
Okay, that's not fair. There is a lot of good that comes from working at Blockbuster. The money is good, all things considered, and who is going to complain about free movies? Oh and the people are best kind too! Beyond all of that, working there in the midst of all kinds of movies has made me even more interested in the Oscars than normal and that too is a good thing.

2. I Really Am A Dork
At least when it comes to Fantasy Baseball. I dedicated most of my day off Thursday (and a couple hours at the tail end of Wednesday when I got home from work) to prepping for my initial draft of the Fantasy season. One was supposed to go today but it got postponed, which rocks because now I can make sure that I'm around for it. I have two more tomorrow, plus the B&C Live Draft later this month. See, I'm a dork.

3. I'm A Dork Who Is Really Good at Fantasy Baseball
We all know I like to pat my own back from time to time and this is one of those times. I don't care that I'm a Fantasy Baseball dork because my dorkdom brings championships. Now, I understand that being excited and proud of winning fantasy baseball leagues on the regular may make me an even bigger dork to some of you, but whatever. I named a team "Betcha I Win This" last year... they won. This year, they've been re-named "I'll Win This Again"... I'll keep you posted.

4. Sarah Being Smart Increases My Book Collection
The soon-to-be nurse ordered one of her textbooks online from Chapters earlier in the term. Expectedly, it got here the day after her exam. Turns out she didn't need it, as the textbook-free 82 she nabbed was solid enough to make her return the book. In it's place, a gigantic textbook-like writing guide for your favourite blogger.

5. People Tend To Stare At You When You Have a Mohawk
Not that this should come as a surprise to me, but the gawking is getting way too obvious. The casual glances and occasional dirty looks just for the sake of giving me a dirty look I was cool with, but doing the old double take when I walk through the mall, into The Guv or stand behind the counter at work is a little ridiculous. It's not like it's dyed pink or anything...

6. A Month Before I Leave and I've Finally Found My Pub
Not that I was looking that hard to begin, having retired from the competitive drinking circuit years ago, but having a quiet place with quality food and the dark on tap is always a must. Sadly, I only ventured into The Guv for the first time like three weeks ago. Went back Friday night and it was just as good, if not better, thereby making it my pub of choice. That being said, I leave in five weeks... who knows how much drinking I'll be doing between now and then.

7. Penguins Are Really Weird Little Creatures
This is my grand revelation after watching March of the Penguins last night. Cute little bastards waddling back and forth every couple of months, beating the crap out of each other during mate selection, sliding along on their bellies when they're too lazy to walk any more. If you haven't seen it, I suggest you do. Very entertaining.

8. Morgan Freeman is the New James Earl Jones
"This is CNN" aside, Freeman could narrate anything and I would find it captivating, much like the voice of Darth Vader back in the day. He just has a tone to his voice where I'm always interested in what he is saying, even when he's just talking shit on Actors Studio. The guy is just awesome.

9. The Apocalypse Is At Hand
It must be, because there is no other way to explain how I managed to go an entire week at work without someone flying off the handle at me. Seriously - not one cursing customer the whole week. There really is a first time for everything.

10. LeBron James is Leaving Cleveland Come 2010
I know he put on a happy face following the recent trades GM Danny Ferry made to "improve" the team. But you can't tell me that Bron Bron - arguably the best player in the NBA (along with The Black Jack Bauer) - is going to stick around to play with Wally Szczerbiak, Delonte West and Boobie Gibson when he can go somewhere else and play with real talents. If Danny Ferry called LeBron that day, I bet it really went down something like this.
(Yes, this was a long-winded lead in to linking to my latest Epic Carnival post... shameless, I know!)

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Saturday, February 23, 2008

And The Oscar Goes To...

We'll find out tomorrow night who the Academy selected, but as promised, today is a look at my picks to collect a shiny little statue to stand on their mantle.

Instead of listing all the nominees in all the categories, we'll take the shorter route and give you the category, who I think will win and, if they're different, who I think should win. And so as to not exclude the other worthy nominees, a quick word on each of them too.

Sound good? Let's go...

Actor in a Leading Role
Winner: Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will Be Blood)
Should Win: Viggo Mortensen (Eastern Promises)

Day-Lewis is an Academy favourite, having taken home this same statuette before (My Left Foot) and is an extraordinary actor. He's that guy who never comes up in the "Best Actor of his Time" conversations because he doesn't make a lot of films, but every time he takes on a role, he puts on an incredible performance and reminds you that he is phenomenal.

That being said, Mortensen's performance in David Cronenberg's Russian Mafia in England tale was very much Oscar worthy. He captivates you from the minute you first see him on screen. He just has a presence in this film, even when he isn't saying anything. Mortensen has come a long way from being G.I. Jane's Master Chief and playing in the sand with Hidalgo.

Johnny Depp is always great, but if he hasn't won for any of his other roles, do you really see the Academy giving him the award as the Demon Barber of Fleet Street? Me neither.

Tommy Lee Jones was terrific in Paul Haggis' In The Valley of Elah and it's a different Tommy Lee Jones than we've seen before. Unfortunately, he up against some real heavy hitters this year.

George Clooney is climbing up my favourites rankings and Michael Clayton has a lot to do with it. Similar to Jones, his performance is outstanding, though that part is expected, but the competition is just too great.

Actor in a Supporting Role
Winner: Javier Bardem (No Country For Old Men)

There is no secondary "Should Win" here, because if Bardem's portrayal of Anton Chigurh doesn't net him an Oscar, there could be another Chigurh killing spree. OK, not really, but when you're constantly being mentioned as one of the best movie bad guys ever, you have to think there is a statue to go along with it.

Casey Affleck came into his own this past year, leading the way in Gone Baby Gone and with this turn as The Coward Robert Ford opposite Brad Pitt's Jesse James. Much like the Lead Actor category, this is a case of too many strong performances for Affleck to take home any hardware.

Philip Seymour Hoffman is a genius, so his nomination is no surprise. I could actually see him winning, as he too is an Academy darling and rightfully so.

Hal Holbrook becomes the oldest nominee every at 82 and reminds me of my grandfather. That's all I got...

Tom Wilkenson topped my list of That Guy Actors in this week's Rundown and his performance in Michael Clayton solidified his placement. Any other year, he runs away with this award. Not this year though.

Actress in a Leading Role
Winner: Julie Christie (Away From Her)
Should Win: Any One of These Women

Honestly, this too me is the most wide open race of the year, because every one of these women has the chops and performance worthy of collecting the little golden mantle ornament.

Christie was terrific in the Sarah Polley flick and her selection is based solely on her garnering the same award at the SAG Awards earlier in the season.

Would it make sense to anyone if Cate Blanchett won this year portraying Elizabeth when she didn't win the last time she was nominated for portraying Elizabeth? Besides, she'll get her statue later...

Marion Cotillard probably won't win because she's the star of a foreign film. Other than Roberto Benigni's win for Life is Beautiful, I can't think of another time a foreign film star took home a major award.

Laura Linney is one of those actresses who is pretty much great in everything she does. But to me, she's always going to be the women from Love Actually. If she won I'd almost expect her mobile to ring with her hospitalized brother on the other end.

You all know I have a soft spot in my heart for Juno and I think Ellen Page is one of the Next Big Things in Hollywood. Of course I would love to see her take home this award.

Actress in a Supporting Role
Winner: Cate Blanchett (I'm Not There)

No "Should Win" here either as Blanchett is as sure a thing here as Secretariat was in the Belmont in '73.

Ruby Dee being nominated is a joke to me. Nothing against her, but how can you get nominated for an award when you're only on camera for seven minutes?

Same goes for Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton. She had a little more screen time, but not enough to garner Oscar consideration in my opinion. Weren't there other performances that could have taken these two spots? There had to be. I'm going to look into that.

The girl from Atonement was apparently great, but since I (a) haven't seen the flick and (b) can't even remotely pronounce her name, I'm taking a pass on her too.

Amy Ryan was wicked good in Gone Baby Gone as a drug using, drug smuggling, neglectful mother and might have taken home the award if Cate Blanchett didn't turn in such a great Bob Dylan.

Directing
Winner: Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood)

No "Should Win" here, but it's along the same lines as the Lead Actress category. Having only seen a couple of the flicks (Michael Clayton and Juno) and not knowing enough about one of the nominees (Julian Schnabel, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) makes this one a tough call for me.

I give the nod to PTA in part because Daniel Day-Lewis' strong performance in the lead role and because while he has always garnered critical praise for his writing, PTA has yet to get his due as a director and this is the Academy's chance to right that wrong.

Michael Clayton was superbly done and Tony Gilroy deserves this nomination. I just think he is outmatched.

For all the love I have for Juno, I give more of the credit for it's brilliance to Ellen Page and the dynamite script penned by Diablo Cody. Not to take anything away from Jason Reitman who has directed two of my All-Time Top Ten Favs (Juno and Thank You For Smoking) and is building a great resume.

The Coen Brothers are my 1A pick in this race, as I think they too are very deserving and have never gotten the credit they deserve. Sure the won for writing Fargo, but they too have been snubbed in the directing category for too long.

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)
Winner: Ethan and Joel Coen (No Country For Old Men)

PTA loosely based There Will Be Blood on Upton Sinclair's novel Oil! but I think this award goes to The Coens for sticking to the source material as closely as they are said to have instead of taking artistic license and inspiration.

The same goes for Away From Her, an adaptation of the Alice Munro story "The Bear Came Over The Mountain."

Again, I know nothing of Julian Schnabel's The Diving Bell and the Butterfly which could make me mis-qualified to make picks like this, but whatever. It's my blog.

Atonement comes from Ian McEwan's classic of the same name is could be a sleeper in this category. It has all the elements of a winner - great source material, excellent performances of the work on screen and enough buzz about the film itself as one of the year's best to possibly garner an award or two come the end of the night.

Writing (Original Screenplay)
Winner: Must You Ask? Diablo Cody (Juno)

Listen - call me biased or whatever the hell you want, but this should be a no-brainer. Yes the Ryan Gosling starrer Lars and the Real Girl is also wholly original, but sometimes, cultural impact comes into play in these things and this is the case with Juno. Bigger impact = award winner. Simple as that.

Ratatouille was also a great, original idea, but there is no chance an animated film will take home an award like this. That is what the Best Animated Feature category is for. That is were Remy & Co. will earn their award.

Michael Clayton was awesome, but not that original a concept if you ask me. Uncovering the dirty deeds of the big bad company has been done before. This was Erin Brockovich without Julia Roberts' tits pushed up to her chin. Granted, the corporate espionage thing has been done as well as it is done in Michael Clayton, but it has been done and will be done again.

The same goes for The Savages, Tamara Jenkins' tale of family dysfunction relocated from Arizona to Buffalo.

Best Picture
Winner: There Will Be Blood
Should Win: Beats Me...

This one really comes down to who wins the other awards. There is usually a bit of a pattern to things in terms of the other nominees from the chosen films.

If DDL and PTA do in fact take home the awards they're respectively up for, then There Will Be Blood ends up as Best Picture. But there are a whole slew of "What If..." questions that come into play here.

What if Ellen Page takes home Best Actress and Diablo Cody wins for Best Original Screenplay?

What if The Coen's take home Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay, alongside of Javier Bardem's Best Supporting Actor?

What if the Academy loved Michael Clayton even more than I did and Tom Wilkenson, George Clooney and Tony Gilroy all take home statues before we get to this point?

This is why I switched shifts on Sunday. I can't miss The Oscars...

We'll recap'em Monday and see how I did. Drop your picks in the comments so we can compare notes later...

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Soundtrack of My Life

Song: US Placers
Artist: CRS (Child Rebel Soldier)
Album: Single - Can't Tell Me Nothing Mixtape

Who are your favourite musicians?

Imagine if those people decided to get together and put out a single. That would be sweet, wouldn't it?

This has to be what all those former baby boomers felt when Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young joined forces and delivered their albums and tours. "Crosby, Stills & Nash are great and now they're adding Neil Young!" Awesome..."

Well CRS is the equivalent of that feeling for me in the present day. Comprised of three of my favourite MCs in the business -Lupe Fiasco (Child), Kanye West (Rebel) and Pharrell Williams (Soldier) - I was addicted to this single the minute I heard it. As if this trio wasn't enough to make me an insta-fan, Radiohead's Thom Yorke sings the hook. Gwen Stefani was wrong. This shit is bananas. B-AN-AN-AS!

It's not just who drops verses that has me completely hooked though. And I am completely hooked. This is one of maybe five songs in rotation on my phone during the walk to and from work. The others? The Seed 2.0, Stop Me, DJ Khaled's We Takin' Over and the Red Hot Chilly Willy's Snow (Hey Oh)...

Anyway, where was I? Right, awesomeness. I'm not a big fan of overproduced beats. Simple is better, the thinking being that if you need some glossy, flossy beat to catch your listener, it must be because your rhymes aren't that tight and your skills are kinda shaky. This track has a real basic, echoing piano plinking beat over which each of the three delivers an intelligent, poignant verse.

I've always liked all three of these cats because they can spin real smart, ingenious rhymes, giving you stuff that no one else comes up with. This song is no different, as each deliver a couple bon mots that'll catch you off guard if you're not paying attention.:


Lifestyles of the rich and famous
Bought a big house and a whole lot of rangers
A fresh new couch and a whole lot of trainers
A closet full of clothes and some brand new dangers
And
Some Mexican floral arrangers
A great big TV that'll entertain us
Some colorful commissions for some high paid painters
Someone to take the wrap so that I stay stainless
-Lupe (Verse 1)

Lifestyles of the broke and famous
Let you know how crazy this game is
Look at all the new beautiful faces
At home supermodel, myspaces
Long for their shot on the TV screens
American Idol never seen these dreams
Just last week they want to see ID
Now they got you in VIP, huh?
-Kanye (Verse 2)

I bring a burning sensation to the urban eye
Like an eye-drop of Turpentine

Perfect paradigm
Wrong place wrong time
Should have been Phizer, GlaxoSmithKline
Number one chemist
Look at him no blemish
Egg shell off white like a DuPont finish
-Pharrell (Verse 3)

I know not everyone has the same passion for lyrics that I do, but pulling off "Should have been Phize, GlaxoSmithKline" in a rhyme and making it work 100%... bonkers!

So far we've only gotten this one single, but the word is that an entire CRS album could be coming sometime in the summer.

Let me suggest you start rocking this track now and talking it up. Then come summer, when everyone is loving CRS, they'll remember who hipped them to it in the first place.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Game

I work every Monday night, which means I'm always putting out the New Release DVDs that come out Tuesday morning. Every week, without fail, there are a handful of Direct to DVD pieces of trash that star either washed up has-beens or fresh-faced never-will-bes. This invariably leads to "The Game."

"The Game" is Calvin - the taller, weed-infused, quieter version of me - and I spending the last two hours of the night trying to figure out just what it takes for someone to go from solid working Hollywood actor to Direct to DVD poster child. Then we forecast who's next to make that transition.

Some guys get automatic passes from the scrutiny of two Lackluster Video employees who fancy themselves aficionados when it comes to what is and isn't a good career choice. Guys like Seagal and Van Damme who were clearly passed their prime sometime around the middle of their prime get to skate. They're too easy. The guys who ride shotgun for them are fair game though...

The crazy thing is how quickly it can turn. Take Wesley Snipes.

Nino Brown was a certified, bankable actor throughout the 90's and not just as an action guy either. Snipes did it all from White Men Can't Jump and Waiting to Exhale to US Marshals and The Fan. Then... poof!

Wesley Snipes has had three decent films in the last ten years. They all involved the word Blade. You have to believe he's lobbying hard for someone to make Blade 4: Still More Vampires. But that's it. Everything else has been total crap. How the hell do you go from sharing top billing with Robert effin' DeNiro to The King of Direct to DVD?

And almost anyone is one or two bad movies away from ending up in a Direct to DVD dumpbin at Lackluster.

Man Crush #7 Benjamin Geza Affleck headlined the flaming pile of turd Gigli, had a couple other duds and then BLAM! Straight to the shelves with Man About Town. Not even ten years before kid was snagging an Oscar and starring in space rock movies with John McLain! (I stole that from Kevin Smith...)

And for those who might say, "Yeah, Affleck won an Oscar but it was for writing. He's never been much of an actor," I'll acquiesce and counter with Cuba Gooding Jr.

Remember in Jerry Maguire how the only commercials Rod Tidwell could get were for some local car dealership sitting on top of a camel? That's what Cuba's career is like now. All he gets are those camel commercials. It's either kid-friendly family fun (Snow Dogs, Rat Race) or total crap that you've never even heard of. Shadowboxer? Dirty? In The Shadows?

Which brings us to our favourite forecastee of late, Jason Statham.

I used to love Jason Statham. Past tense. Loved.

Jason Statham in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. Jason Statham as Monk in Mean Machine. Jason Statham as Turkish, underground boxing promoter aligned with Mickey the Pikey in Snatch. Hell, even Handsome Rob was fun.

Then came The Transporter. Fair enough. At some point, I'm guessing most guys have a "I wanna do a flick with a car chase, explosions and a fucking kung-fu sequence" moment. Unfortunately, Jason Statham has been having too many of those moments and is walking a tenuous line right now.

Quality turns in decent dramas like London have slipped through the crack. All everyone remembers is Crank and The Transporter 2. Or the super-hyped super-flop War alongside one-time Asian Sensation Jet Li, who fell victim to another pitfall of the movie business - starring in too many movies alongside rappers or former wrestlers.

His latest stop at the box office in In The Name of the King came and went out of theatres faster than you can say "Two tickets please..."

Reprising his role as Handsome Rob in the upcoming vagina waxing tribute The Brazilian Job (I'm not making this up... that is what it's called...) is a smart move as Marky Mark equals box office bucks, but it could be too late.

Death Race, Crank 2 and The Bank Job might seal his fate before we even get there.

Or maybe this week has already done it.

Filmed in 2005, Direct to DVD in 2008.

Chaos starring Wesley Snipes... and Jason Statham.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

The Rundown: You Know... That Guy!

Everybody knows the superstars by name - big ticket movie stars who make millions per flick.

You see their pictures everywhere. They headline the movie posters and magazines, getting name dropped on all the talk shows. Kids in Sri Lanka could tell you who Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are without fail.

But what about those character actors who steal the picture more times than not, with their always impressive, albeit less hyped performances? What about those actors, usually asked about through questions like "Where do I know him from?" or "What was that guy in?"

Today, we pay tribute to That Guy.

Top Five "That Guy" Actors*
(* actors meaning persons who act, not strictly males...)

5. David Morse
Probably the most recognizable of the list, Morse has made a living playing the creepy serial killer next door (Disturbia), the crooked cop (16 Blocks) or the guy who is a little left of center and steals most scenes he's in, like in The Green Mile. David Morse is the new Tom Sizemore, without the drug addiction and prostitutes.

4. Elizabeth Banks
Remember the sexually-charged book store girl from The 40-Year-Old Virgin who ends up in her bathtub taking care of things herself? That's Elizabeth Banks and she is one of the funniest woman in Hollywood. So far, she's been a supporting cast kind of girl, either in Virgin or the new Ryan Reynolds movie Definitely, Maybe, but she's also got the lead in the next Kevin Smith flick along side of Seth Rogan, Zack & Miri Make a Porno. Yes, that's what it's called. She's going to be huge... trust me.

3. JK Simmons
I know what you're thinking: Who? And that's precisely the point. Fans of the Spiderman franchise know him as J. Jonah Jameson, while Juno watchers would recognize him as Juno's old man Mac McGruff. I first came to be a Simmons fan during his long tour of duty on the insanely good prison series Oz and as Aaron Eckhart's boss BR in Thank You For Smoking. Everyone remembers him, no one knows his name... but now you do.

2. Diane Wiest
D'you know who Brad Pitt's favourite actress is? Yep, it's Diane Wiest, but you don't know who she is or do you? She's currently District Attorney Nora Lewin on Law & Order: SVU and is also a two-time Academy Award winner for her roles in Bullets Over Broadway and Hannah and Her Sisters. Both are Supporting Actress statuettes of course. She gets mega bonus points from me for being in two recent films I loved (Dedication and A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints) and one old school pic that is cheese on celluloid... Footloose!

1. Tom Wilkinson
I don't know why I am continually amazed by Wilkinson's performances whenever I catch him in something new. He's been outstanding for as long as I can remember. Even before I knew who he was, I remember him being great. Flipping through his IMDB page and remembering him as Hugh Fennymen in Shakespeare in Love or as the mob boss Carmine Falcone in Batman Begins, the characters spring to life in my mind. Where Wilkinson stands out for me though is in his Oscar nominated role along side George Clooney in Michael Clayton. Guess who I'm picking to take home the Best Supporting Actor trophy Sunday night?

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Worth The Wait

A week has passed since the rest of Canada could scoop up Passion Magazine which means it has finally landed on the shores of dear, old Newfoundland. As you would expect, hitting Chapters was the lone objective of the day.

Thirty minutes after I dragged my lazy hindquarters out of bed, I was standing in Chapters, sucking back a Venti Cinnamon Dolce Latte, leafing through the January / February 2008 Issue of Passion Magazine.

I gotta say - it was worth the wait.

My piece is one of the five mentioned on the cover, adjacent to Natasha Bedingfield's hair-covered forehead and the Sarah Cole Studios photo me inside looks pretty solid, considering I was sporting a pair of basketball shorts on the lower half and the black backdrop is actually a blanket on our futon affectionately known as "The Stinky"...

Piece looks great - like the layout of the "Ready for a Rebound" section and the pictures Chris & Hammer secured are perfect.

Even more surprising is that I already one piece for the next ish written and ready for review - a profile on my man Jeff Woodrow and his incredible business venture The Joy T-Shirt Project. Check it out now and read about it in two months time...

Coincidentally, I put in my notice at The Block on The Rock yesterday, as I'll be heading into London a little early to set up shop and get established and am looking to this latest article as a jump-off point for turning my writing from a hobby that makes a little change on the side to the full-time job that makes a little change on the side.

Irons are in the fire and you're all in the loop. When something happens, you'll know about it.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

27 Years of Useless


I can't believe I forgot about this in 10 Things yesterday...

On February 17, 1981, Paris Whitney Hilton was welcomed into the world by parents Rick and Kathy Hilton.

On February 18, 1981, she started to become famous for doing absolutely nothing.

Actually, that isn't true. Paris is famous for a lot of things:

  • One Night in Paris
  • The Simple Life
  • Really Bad Acting
  • Even Worse Albums
  • Trying to trademark the phrase "That's Hot"
  • Showing off her vagina to anyone standing around while she exits a car
  • Horrible Driving
  • Once being engaged to a guy named Paris
  • Popularizing carrying around little dogs as accessories

She's the former BFF of such noteworthy pseudo-talents as fellow crotch shot enthusiasts Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, as well as Simple Life co-star Nicole Richie and fellow "famous for absolutely nothing" Reality TV star Kim Kardashian.

Her list of former flames include male models (Jason Shaw), Avril's husband (Deryck Whibly of Sum 41), a Backstreet Boy (Nick Carter), The Sleaziest Man on Earth (Rick Soloman) and the Greek male version of herself (Stavros Niarchos).

Oh yeah, she is also the inspiration for Perez Hilton of course, which I sure as hell couldn't live without...

Happy Birthday Paris... here's to another year of doing absolutely nothing useful!

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

10 Things I Learned This Week

It's been a busy and annoying week this week, lemme tell ya. Actually, that's sort of what I do here each week isn't it?

1. "Dance movies are kind of like porn huh?"
That was Sarah's assertion following our Valentine's night at the movies watching Step Up 2: The Streets. "You know, they have plots and everything but it's really just an excuse for the dancing." You have to admit, the woman kind of has a point, no?

2. Revenge of the No Returning Stars Sequel
A few weeks back I opined about this phenomenon and Step Up 2 is proof on celluloid. Yes, Channing Tatum reprises his role as Tyler Gage, but it's only for ten minutes to give you a clue as to who the new lead is. One dance off, one character introduction and he's out. The rest is all newbies and a below average flick. All that being said, I am a dance movie guy, so I still liked it, but it could have been waaaaaaaaay better.

3. Speaking of Movies That Could Have Been Better...
Valentine's Day turned into a Double Feature as we took in Jumper apres Step Up 2 and a brief intermission. You know those movies that aren't bad and you enjoy them but as soon as the credits roll you're thinking about how they could have change two or three things and made an even better movie? That was Jumper. Hopefully they'll do a better job on Jumper 2, which I say will hit the big screen in, let's say March 2010.

4. Triumphant Return Update
In talking things over a little in the last couple days, it's looking like I might make a triumphant return to Ontario earlier than originally planned. The original ETA was May when Sarah was done her placement in cold-ass Labrador, but that would leave me flying solo here in St. John's and really, what the hell would I do that for? So I think I'll be jumping on a plane sometime in early April to land in London for the summer. Status: Updated.

5. Is It Tuesday Yet?
Sitting here all week knowing that I wasn't going to get the latest issue of Passion in my hands until this coming Tuesday at the earliest has been killing me. I really am an impatient bastard some times. I think it's having seen the Natasha Bedingfield cover and knowing that my article is mentioned on said cover that has me even more antsy than normal. The fact that I'm picking it up at Chapters might have something to do with it too... since Chapters = Starbucks.

6. No One Likes a Quitter
More importantly, I don't like quitters, so why would I honestly want to be one? With that in mind, I'm taken up smoking again and lemme tell you how much I love it. Why I cleaned my lungs of all those delicious carcinogens and sweet, sweet nicotine in the first place is beyond me. Plus, I'm actually a much less angry person when I'm smoking. I get that from my mom...

7. Position Players Haven't Even Reported Yet
And I have three fantasy teams lined up - at three different sites - and draft preparation has begun. Draft #1 is Thursday for the Public Yahoo League I plan on winning. Draft #2 is an MLB.com league with my friend Beast; I plan on winning that too. Draft #3 is the most important one though, as it's the ultra-competitive, bragging rights battle of the Bugs & Cranks Crew at CBS Sportsline. I update you as the season progresses.

8. Some People Really Are Stupid
Like the ones who come in to request another movie because they didn't like the one they rented and then get mad at you when you tell them that is not possible. Seriously, this happens.

Customer: Hi, could I get another movie? This one is just really no good.

Spencer: Sorry, uh, we can't really do that. I mean, we'd be broke by next Tuesday if we did that.

Customer: Oh, no, I understand it's just that this one is really bad. I mean, we had to turn it off it was so bad.

Spencer: Oh I get it. It's Mr. Bean's Holiday. Of course it's bad. 30% of the movies we have in this store are awful. Have you seen Ice Spiders? Still, that doesn't mean we're going to give you a free movie because you have crappy taste.*

* Of course, I don't say this... I just think it and continue to be as diplomatic as possible until the customer invariably tells me I'm an asshole and that they're never renting from our store again.

9. Morons = Inspiration
As I've said before, it really is amazing where one draws their inspiration from. I draw mine from the common sense challenged customers of the world. Inspiration for what you ask? One of those illusions I harbour in my over-sized head...

10. Sarah Really, Really Wants a Dog
You know your girlfriend really wants a dog when she sits up at 11:00 at night watching the Westminster Dog and Kennel Show until you come home just so she can see all the cute little dogs. At least she's on board with naming the thing Balls whenever we get one...

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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Honest to Blog: Why All The Juno Bashing?

Ever since the little movie that could got a truckload of Oscar nominations, there has been a growing rumbling about the validity of said noms. It seems that some people don't like the film and like the idea of Juno making off with a couple of stupid statues even less.

What gives?

I get that not everyone loves this movie. That's cool. We don't all have to like the same things. In fact, that has been my review of this flick since the day after I saw it:
I loved it! It's an instant classic in my books, but I can see it being a totally polarizing movie. Some people will absolutely hate it and I get that. Kinda like some people hate Little Miss Sunshine.

My beef isn't with those who dislike this little picture about a smart-mouthed sixteen year old who gets knocked up by her track-nerd pseudo-boyfriend. Actually, I do have a small beef with them because they show incredibly poor taste in films, but that's not the beef I have in the context of this blog. We can discuss that beef at another time.

What does chap my ass is the groundswell of Juno-bashing that has taken place since the Oscar nominations were announced. I just don't get it.

For once the Academy is passing out nominations to a film that has garnered widespread success amongst a demographic that, let's be honest, probably didn't pay the price of admission to anything that received a nomination last year. Or the year before. Or whenever they figured out how to download and burn movies of the Internet, so, sometime around 1999.

I'm not an idiot (disputable, I know) and don't expect - nor do I want - the Academy to hand out nominations to the Top Box Office films of the year, because no one wants to see Jack standing behind a podium handing out Best Picture to one of Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, Spiderman 3, Shrek the Third or Transformers.

But acknowledging excellence in a flick that more than just the Academy, film critics and arm-chair film critics saw isn't a bad thing, especially when the acknowledgments are very much deserved. Maybe Jason Reitman didn't deserve a nod for Best Director, but you can't really argue with the remaining three nominations. Can you?

Ellen Page acted her ass off in this flick. I watch a lot of movies and I can't think of another lead female performance that deserves a nomination more so than the five women who'll be all dolled up next Sunday night.

The Best Original Screenplay nod for Diablo Cody is a no-brainer isn't it? I mean, you have to admit that this is a wholly original and unique idea, unlike the three hundred retread movies that get made every year, not including flat-out remakes of old, forgotten films.

And finally, the Best Picture nomination. Of the three aside from JR's directing nod, this is the one that I can see people debating the most. But it's also the one I would defend to the death. Just like Little Miss Sunshine before it, you can dislike the movie all you want, but there is no denying that this was one of the five best films of the year. Tell me what should replace it if you don't think it belongs?

* * * * * * * *

Oscar Picks coming next Saturday...

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Soundtrack of My Life

Song: Get By
Artist: Talib Kweli
Album: Quality (2002, Rawkus Records)

Whenever I hear some bullshit hip hop song polluting the airwaves and giving the music I love a bad name, I have a small collection of artists and songs that make me feel better and remind me how powerful and incredible hip hop can be. Kweli is one of those artists and this is one of those songs.

The thing I has always loved about Talib Kweli, since he first entered my eardrums alongside Mos Def as Black Star with the song "Respiration," is that it's never been about anything besides the music and real life. There are no songs about rims or e'rbody in the club gettin' tipsy or what the temperature is in a certain location. It's about the things he sees in his life and in his neighborhood and his reactions to them.

Now, with this song specifically, there is a lot to love.

I love the Nina Simone piano sample.
I love the hand-claps at the tail end of the song when Kweli breaks it down one last time.
I love the chorus that, once I hear it, is stuck in my head for hours on end.

Most of all, I love exactly what has always Kweli done best - deliver intelligent, incredible rhymes:

We go through "Epidodes II," like "Attack of the Clones"

I paint a picture with the pen like Norman Mailer

We do or die like Bed-Stuy through the red sky
with the window of the red eye
Let the lead fly, some G. Rap shit, "Livin' to Let Die"

The TV got us reachin for stars
Not the ones between Venus and Mars, the ones that be readin for parts
Some people get breast enhancements and penis enlargers
Saturday sinners Sunday morning at the feet of the Father
They need somethin to rely on, we get high on all types of drug
When, all you really need is love


Personally, I like that the airwaves are littered with one hit wonders and flashes in the pan; it lets me keep cats like Kweli as my own, not that there haven't been chances for the masses to catch on.

Jay-Z famously name checked Kweli on "Moment of Clarity" off The Black Album, dropping the lyric "If skills sold / truth be told / I'd probably be / lyrically Talib Kweli" but still not a lot of people have caught on, probably because the song wasn't one of the singles off the album and never made heavy rotation on the radio...

For anyone out there who is a fan of hip hop - the real hip hop, not the junk you hear in heavy rotation - this song and this MC are a must. Equally as incredible as this track is the remix featuring Mos, Jay-Z and Kanye. Go pick'em both up and enjoy.

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Choreographer Thursday: Shane Sparks

Psych! Not happening, as much as Chalk and Smash would love to see it.

I am going to see Step Up 2: The Streets tonight with Sarah for Valentine's Day. I'll give you a review on Sunday in 10 Things...

* * * * * * * *
Today is a day off from The Block which means there is a lot of work to do here at "The Office." In addition to this little musing, I have to get down to business on my next Passion assignment, put together a little something to post over at Bugs and put in some time on a couple little side projects that I've got on the go.

As per usual though, I've started the day by procrastinating like mad. After getting up bright and early with Sarah with the greatest of intentions, the first hour and a half of my day were spent on the couch watching The Score, catching up on the sports news of the day.

Two major questions from yesterday in sports:
1. Who else is sick of hearing about steroids, HGH, Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee?
2. How does Devean George have the power to block a trade?

And no, Dallas isn't the immediate favourite in the West with the acquisition of Jason Kidd. San Antonio are still the champs and as Ric Flair says, "To be the man, you've got to beat the man. Woooooooo!"

* * * * * * * * * *
DVD Commentary tracks are my latest addiction. Even after wasting 90 minutes watching the same 30 minute sports loop three times, I still didn't feel like getting down to work, so I threw in the Dogma DVD and watched the flick with the commentary on. I did the same thing last Thursday with Gone Baby Gone.

I'm convinced that if I watch enough commentary track that I'll pick up a bunch of knowledge that'll improve my writing because I, like many, harbour illusions of being a screenwriter one day. Plus, listening to Kevin Smith and Ben Affleck make fun of each other for two hours is way better than actually doing anything productive...

* * * * * * * *
Happy Valentine's Day everybody!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Rundown: Diamond Diaper Dandies

There is a lot of stuff inspiring this edition of The Rundown.

First, pitchers and catchers reported to Florida and Arizona today, marking the start of Spring Training for the 2008 Major League Baseball season.

Secondly, the shenanigans that took place in Congress this afternoon featuring Roger Clemens and Brian McNamee have left such a foul taste in my mouth and cast a shadow on the last, I dunno, at least ten years of baseball that I wanted to think about something good in the game.

Third, my boy Adam Facebook'd me today needing some insight for a Dynasty Baseball Draft he's got coming up and I've had baseball prospects on the brain since I read the message this AM.

And finally, Dick Vitale - Dicky V Baby - made his triumphant return to broadcasting last week and I didn't give him any love. Dude is a legend, whether you like him or not, so today, we're busting out the following...

Top Five Baseball Youngsters to Watch this Season

Now, before launching into the My Five, some ground rules, so I don't get people (Chalk) chirping me about the picks:

  • Anyone who watches baseball knows the names Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, so they're out.
  • I don't pick 30-year-old Japanese "rookies" for this thing either. Fukudome? Fukudo-you!
  • There are some guys I like more long term than these five (Jay Bruce, Travis Snider and a handful of pitchers) but these cats will have an impact this season.
On with the show.

5. Joey Votto - First Base, Cincinnati Reds
Kick it off with a fellow Canuck! "Junior Varsity" should start from Day One this season for the Reds. He won't because new bench boss Dusty Baker has a predilection for playing veterans that don't deserve to play over kids oozing with talent, but I can't control that. He looked real good in his September call-up last season and with a surprising number of quality bats around him, Votto should slip into the seventh spot in the order and get every opportunity to excel.

4. Homer Bailey - Pitcher, Cincinnati Reds
Yes, you're seeing a trend here with Cincinnati Reds. They have some talent coming up through the ranks for the first time in 20 years and Bailey is tops amongst their pitchers. He would rate higher if I wasn't a little scared by his shaky debut last season. That being said, he was 20 years old at time and dominated upon returning to the minors. He should nab 10 wins easy this season and if Cincy surprises (like I think they might) look for a couple extra dubyas.

3. Gio Gonzalez - Pitcher, Oakland A's
The key acquisition in the trade that sent "The Man of 1,000 Handshakes" Nick Swisher to Chicago, Gonzalez has now been dealt three times in three years and it's not because no one wants him. Homeboy is a strikeout machine, leading the minors last season and since Oakland has some holes to fill in the rotation, Gonzalez will get ample opportunity.

2. Evan Longoria - Third Base, Tampa Bay (No Longer Devil) Rays
No I didn't just suggest the Desperate Housewives star as a pick for your fantasy baseball team. And no, they're not brother and sister. I'm not sure if they're related, but it doesn't really matter. Plain and simple, Longoria can hit. Third base is his NQA and he could end up being this season's Ryan Braun. You know, the same Ryan Braun I pegged at the start of last season as a Breakout Star.

1. Justin Upton - Outfield, Arizona Diamondbacks
Let the "Whose the better Upton?" debate begin as younger brother Justin gets ready to take on older brother B.J. for family bragging rights. Big brother will be an All-Star this season (you like that Chalk?) and little bro won't be too far behind. National League Rookie of the Year. You heard it here.

Play Ball!

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ch'Ch'Ch'Ch'Ch'Ch'Check It Out

Title homage to the Beastie Boys aside, welcome to a little something that is probably long overdue around these parts.

I'm a movies / music / books kind of guy and since I'm seriously underemployed at a certain blue and yellow uniformed, giant ticket as a logo, multi-national video rental chain store, wouldn't it make sense for me to use Tuesdays as an opportunity to hip you to what's new on the shelves this week? I think so...

Music

The list of albums being released today is ginormous, so I figured I'd peg a handful that I have something to say about and go from there. No disrespect meant to Paramore or Against Me!, two good bands releasing new albums today, but I just don't have much to say about either of you.

Thriller 25th Anniversary Edition
- Michael Jackson
I know there are some of you who frequent this site who weren't even a glimmer in your parents' eyes when Thriller first hit Record Stores, but that doesn't change the fact that it was - and still is - one of the most influential and outstanding albums of all-time. Yes, Michael is a total sideshow freak now, but back then, he was The King of Pop and this was his crowning achievement.

Feedback - Janet Jackson
Interestingly, Michael's little sister has an album hitting store today as well. Just like her big brother, Janet used to be relevant. Her second album, Control, established her as a player in the music biz and Rhythm Nation was a monster. Somehow, she managed to top Rhythm Nation with her next album, janet, you know, the one with her then-husband Rene holding her boobs. After that though, things got a little less interesting with each passing record. Some people loved The Velvet Rope, though I wasn't one of them, and everything since has been one, maybe two singles and that's about it. We'll see what this one has to offer...

Bring Me Your Love - City & Colour
The follow-up to the outstanding Sometimes, Alexisonfire's Dallas Clark returns for another round of acoustic guitars and heartfelt lyrics on his new City & Colour disc. Sometimes, which featured one of my favourite tracks of 2006 ("Coming Home"), was a huge departure from the loud, fast, wickedness of Alexisonfire but I have to say, it worked and worked well. Dallas is an outstanding musician and this is one album and artist that you really need to take my word on, even if you think I'm a member of the Musical Moron Society.

Criminal Minded Deluxe Edition - Boogie Down Productions
Honestly, KRS-One doesn't get enough respect as one of the greatest emcees in this world and the tragic murder of DJ Scott La Rock on August 27, 1987 just months after this album was originally released stole brilliance from the Hip Hop Community for years to come. Go get your hands on "The Bridge Is Over" and tell me it isn't one of the best hip hop joints of all time.

Movies
There are always like 20 titles that come out on a given Tuesday, 75% of which are crap and you don't need to see and I don't need to review. I'm sure you can figure out what She Likes Girls 2 is all about on your own. Yes, it's a real title and it's not porn.

I figure, instead of wasting my time with everything that has come out, I'd give you two a week - a big name, big budget movie that is worth watching and a little, lesser known title deserves your attention as well. With that in mind, here we go...

Gone Baby Gone
Not to take nothing away from the Marky Mark / Joaquin Phoenix We Own The Night which also comes out today, but for me, this is the pick. Does the fact that I have a man-crush on writer/director Ben Affleck and think his little brother Casey is blossoming into one of the best actors of his time? Of course it does, but this is also a great movie outside of those factors. I want everyone to watch it and then come back here and tell me what you would do. I know that doesn't make sense now, but go watch the movie. You'll understand...

Dedication
I like movies about writers, especially when they're writers who are a little left of center, like me. Billy Crudup is so far left of center as the star of this movie it's unreal. And I love it! Directed by Justin Theroux - the Evil DJ from Zoolander - this is far from your typical love story and is a good laugh. So long as your sense of humour is a little skewed. Otherwise, you might just think it's totally retarded and I have horrible taste in movies. P.S. I'm starting to warm to Mandy Moore as an actress...

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Monday, February 11, 2008

And The Winner Is...

Who cares!

Music's version of the Academy Awards were handed out last night at the 50th Grammy Awards Ceremony and scrolling through the list of winners this morning, the same thought that strikes me every year slammed into the front of my brain.

All these shows are pointless. They don't reward the actual best of the past year; they hand out little statues to a combination of old standard winners and the odd complete upset. Only when there is absolutely no way to avoid giving the award to the logical and deserving choice, like the year OutKast won for Record of the Year, do we see the rightful winners walk up the steps to make an acceptance speech.

Yes, this is my Kanye Moment, in part because, as per usual, Kanye didn't get his moment last night.

The Record of the Year category has me a little torn, because on one hand, my man Mark Ronson produced Amy Winehouse's winning track "Rehab," but on the other, I really don't think it was Record of the Year. It was a great track, but how does anything besides Rihanna's ridiculously infectious, played every 47 seconds, Summer Jam of the last Seven Summers "Umbrella" take home this award?

Remember a few years back, right after Ray Charles passed, he won like 300 Grammy's? Yeah, they have a way of paying tribute to people once they've died or, as was the case this year, whenever someone puts together a tribute album to them.

Herbie Hancock's River: The Joni Letters, a tribute to Canadian folkie Joni Mitchell snagged Album of the Year. Can anyone between ages 16-35 name two Joni Mitchell songs? Did this album even chart this year? I know it's not about popularity and sales figures, but seriously. This album was better than The Foo Fighters latest disc, Winehouse's Back in Black and Kanye's Graduation? Please...

To prove I'm not a complete homer who only thinks his faves got robbed, there is no way on Earth that Man Crush #6 Justin Timberlake deserved to take home the award for Best Dance Recording. Is "LoveStoned/I Think That She Knows" a great record? Of course it is, but it doesn't hold a flame to any of the other actual dance recordings nominated in the category. "D.A.N.C.E." by Justice deserved this award easily.

Old standby Bruce Springsteen netted a handful of awards last night too, including Best Rock Song for "Radio Nowhere" in a category where he beat out "Icky Thump" by The White Stripes, "It's Not Over" by Daughtry and "The Pretender" by The Foos. I'm not saying Bruce doesn't deliver good music, but really, Best Rock Song? Is it even rock in the first place?

All in all, the song remains the same with the Grammy's. They have become utterly pointless to pay attention to and even less useful to watch, as the telecast consists of 287 performances by 281 artists you have never heard of and three trophies being handed out to undeserving recipients. Hopefully, the Oscars don't let me down come the end of the month.

Oh yeah, one more thing...

"Only playa that was robbed and kept all his jewelry"
Kanye West, "Diamonds From Sierra Leone" from the album Late Registration

It done happened again Kanye... it done happened again...

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

10 Things I Learned This Week

1. Apparently the Weekend is for Feeling like Crap
All week I felt like a million bucks and that was with getting up insanely early Monday and Tuesday. Went to work, did some writing, hung out with Sarah, all without so much as a sniffle or upset stomach. The weekend rolls around and WHAM! I feel like ass. Second day in a row I've had some gastrointestinal issues to deal with, which is confusing because it's not like I'm eating any worse.

2. Not Only Will I Be in the Next Issue of Passion...
But I got a raise too! The piece that is set to hit news stands on Tuesday marks my biggest professional payday to date and has given me a jolt of renewed confidence and energy in pursuing my writing career. Like my brother Pete said yesterday, "You've got to do what you're passionate about, but it's awful nice when someone wants to pay you for it too!"

3. Spencer's Fantasy
Fantasy Baseball that is. Sick bastards, thinking I was going to get into the sordid details of what goes through my dirty little mind... Anywho, the B&C Crew have put together a fantasy league over at CBS SportLine and I'm one of the twelve taking part. For the first time in my Fantasy career, there is money on the line. Winner nets $140. Having bragging rights for an entire off season is going to be great, but having a $140 bucks in my pocket to go with it is going to be even better.

4. I Need to be Back in Ontario
If for no other reason than to be able to be at the birthday celebrations of little Emily Grace. My brother's daughter really is the cutest kid in the world and the pictures from her birthday party are adorable. They also make me miss home a lot. I miss you Gracie Lou!

5. For the Record, I'll Be Back in May Sometime
It's seem that either (a) I just think I've told people about our triumphant return or (b) they've all forgotten about me telling them about our triumphant return, so here we go, one more time: Sarah and I are heading back to Ontario sometime in May. We're setting up HQ in London until September and then from there, who knows? The only definite is that we're both taking September 100% off to go to Vancouver and have a relax before Sarah joins the workforce full-time. There, now you know.

6. Everyone Has an Excuse
D'you know what's amazing? How everyone who sets foot into Blockbuster and has any charges on their account has some kind of story as to why they shouldn't have to pay the charges. Here's a novel idea, you don't want to pay any charges, bring back the goddamn movies! It doesn't matter if you work odd hours, rented the movie to show to disadvantaged youth or left the movie in your car that sat in the pound following an accident. You had it for a longer time than can be reasonably expected and now you owe us some money. Cough it up. I don't want to hear your sob stories anymore.

7. The Irony of the Above
It's $2.00. Actually, since January 1st, it's $1.98. It's less than a cup of coffee at Starbucks. How can you come in and want to fight tooth and nail about two goddamn dollars? Jesus...

8. Professional Developments
So, on top of catching my first feature in Passion, they've also stuck a pic and bio of me in the Contributors page, but I told you that last week. On top of that, I've also been encouraged by my recent conversations with Rotowire.com, a fantasy site in search for fantasy geeks with writing abilities and we all know I fit the bill. Thanks to my man Herija Green for the advice. There is also a little talk of building a personal website, but that too is only in the discussion stages. As with everything, I'll keep you posted.

9. Baseball Season is Approaching Fast
And I couldn't be more excited. Pitchers and catchers report later this week, which means baseball will be in full swing in no time, horrible pun very much intended. I've started breaking down the Jays position by position over at Bugs and will end it off with an overall prediction about the Jays chances this year. We'll also break out a couple staff prediction pieces I'm sure, so make sure you check it out on the regular from here on out.

10. I Don't Hate Boston Nearly as Much
Earlier in the year, I dropped a bomb on Boston and their success in the sports world. Now, KG is on the shelf for the Celtics and the Pats took their first lost of the season on the greatest stage of them all. The Red Sox are still the champs, but hey, at least it's the start of a new season and everyone has the same record... for now.

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Saturday, February 9, 2008

Today Sucks!

D'you know how annoyed I have to be to get out of bed before 7:30 in the morning even on a good day?

D'you know that the chances of me getting out of bed before 7:30 in the morning when I'm feeling like death warmed over on a Saturday are close to the chances of me being elected Prime Minister of Indonesia?

D'you know that I was up knocking on the door of the lovely people who live above us this morning at roughly 7:30 this morning because that is when the banging started?

Seriously... today sucks.

As the door cracked open, I know that she knew it was me. Who else could be lightly knocking on her door at this hour? Before I even said a word she had started to apologize, despite the fact that her apology doesn't do anything about helping me get back to sleep, a mere four hours after I shut down for the night.

What has made today even more awesome is that I didn't fall back asleep, chiefly because, well, how can I put this? I know - I'm been stuck in the shitter all day. Lord knows what it was, but something I ate last night sure doesn't like me today.

Wait, it gets better yet!

Since about two this afternoon, there has been wrestling practice upstairs. Not literally, as that would actually make all the thunderous bangs that echo through my apartment tolerable. This has been unsanctioned, backyard wrestling, forced inside by the cold temperatures outdoors and involves a child repeated running, jumping, crashing and banging into everything imaginable. For an added bonus, every so often he slams into something unintentionally and let's out a banshee's wail for a solid five minutes. Oh, their friends just came over too. Nothing like a night of mud butt and gut rot with a herd of elephants trampling around above you...

The only way this could get worse is if I threw up a little. Not like a full out puke, then I would feel better, but a nice little throw up in my mouth a little so the taste and smell lingers, making me even sicker. That would be the cherry on the top of this shitty Saturday sundae.

Thankfully I've got a stack of movies and my Wings pounding the Leafs to keep me from going and leaving a flaming bag of poop on their doorstep upstairs. That and Sarah would leave me instantly, regardless of how funny I thought it was.

If tomorrow starts off like today, I'm not even getting out of bed. Just thought I'd tell you now in case you swing by tomorrow and don't see a 10 Things post.

I gotta go though - My ass is ready to explode... again!

(You're Welcome...)

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Friday, February 8, 2008

Soundtrack of My Life


Song: Not Ready To Make Nice
Artist: Dixie Chicks
Album: Taking The Long Way

I love this goddamn song!

Quick back story: I grew up around a bunch of cowboys. Actually, they're horsemen, but it's nearly the same thing. Both groups listen to non-stop country music, so needless to say, I heard a whole lot of The Chicks on the odd day that I showed up to a barn to do an honest days work. I liked'em - nice harmonies, played their own instruments which won points with me and the lead singer seemed kinda spunky. I liked that.

By now, I'm assuming everyone knows about the whole backlash thing that happened with the Dixie Chicks at the start of the "War" in Iraq. That spunky lead singer - Natalie Maines - was standing on stage at Shepard's Bush Empire in London and said she was ashamed George Bush was from Texas, their home state. Some folks didn't like that very much and boycotted the Dixie Chicks. And by some people, I mean a large portion of the people who helped make them who they were and country radio throughout the States. You can get the whole story - from beginning to end, both of which took place at Shepard's Bush Empire - on the terrific DVD Shut Up and Sing.

So basically, the girls took a bunch of time off following the backlash, eventually got back in the studio (with super producer Rick Rubin of all people) and made Taking The Long Way, a terrific album from top to bottom, though no other song comes near this one.

I like people who stick to their convictions.
I like people who are willing to look their detractors in the eye and give them the middle finger.
I like when people set that middle finger to music and express themselves lyrically.
Dammit I like this song!

Chances are you know the chorus to this song, since Canada never really turned their collective backs on the Dixie Chicks following the whole Bush thing and radio here played the hell outta this song - for good reason. The lyric that I have always loved the most though is this one:

I made my bed, and I sleep like a baby,
With no regrets and I don't mind saying,
It's a sad sad story
That a mother will teach her daughter
that she ought to hate a perfect stranger.
And how in the world
Can the words that I said
Send somebody so over the edge
That they'd write me a letter
Saying that I better shut up and sing
Or my life will be over


There is so much truth in those words that I don't know where to start. First - there is no remorse with Maines, the chief lyricist for the group. It's strictly "I said what I said and I still stand by it." Then comes the sad, sad truth. This isn't hyperbole either; they really did receive death threats simply because they didn't agree with what George Bush was doing and voiced that opinion. This is why I get so fired up over things like the Kelly Tilghman situation from earlier this year... People can put way too much stock into one simple word.

Anyway - this song resonated with me from the first time I heard it and it still sends chills up my spine when it gets to the building crescendo noted lyrically above. It picks up and picks up and picks up and.... (strings erupt)

This is what music should be - messages, opinions, stances. Not this bubble gum bullshit "Piece of Me" crap that saturates the airwaves.

Oh yeah: it could also be that this is exactly how I feel whenever some family member I have barely spoken to in the last eight years tells me it's time for me to make up with my father. That might have a little to do with it too...

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