Monday, May 22, 2006

Godspeed thee, Grandaddy

Despite having just released a new album, Just Like The Fambly Cat, Grandaddy are no more. The band decided to disband earlier this year, after more than a decade of trying to stay independent of big label record companies and becoming poor as a result.

Grandaddy did not lose weight and get a stylist nor did they sing about their girlfriends. Having experienced similar financial frustration from making unsaleable work, I understand.

Low marketability aside, there is so much to love about Grandaddy. Their 2000 album, The Sophtware Slump, is one of my all-time favourites. The tunes are catchy as hell but the key to loving them is the lyrics. Grandaddy sings about alienated astronauts, lonely water treatment plant workers, neglected robots, and other equally sad and silly phenomena.

Here's a sample of songs from The Sophtware Slump:

Sit on the toaster like a rock
No need to worry about a shock
All of the microwaves are dead
Just like the salamander said
The refrigerators house the frogs
The conduit is the hollow log
Broken household appliance national Forest
Air conditioners in the woods
Broken household appliance national Forest
Mud and metal mixing good
-"Broken Household Appliance National Forest"

You said I'd wake up dead drunk
Alone in the park
I called you a liar
But how right you were
-"Jeddy's other poem (Beautiful

I found your house and I saw your car
But I've no idea where you are, from the Dial-a-view
Tire scraps on the federal roads
Look like crash landed crows, from the Dial-a-view
Hello welcome to dial-a-view. To locate the area in which you wish to observe
You must program in the longitude and the latitude
For a closer more detailed picture use either the zoom or the micro-zoom
Good luck
-"Miner at the Dial-a-view"

Genius! Grandaddy will be missed.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Scrambling back on the bandwagon

I saw Depeche Mode last night at the Air Canada Centre and it was awesome.

I've been a Depeche Mode fan since their 1987 release, "Music for the Masses," but it wasn't until 1993's "Songs of Faith and Devotion" that I became rabid, collecting and enjoying every one of their albums. I finally saw them in concert in late 1998, but the venue was so oversized that it was like watching a flea circus. Plus, lead singer Dave Gahan had just gotten off heroin and had chunked up as a result. I left the Sky Dome disappointed and forgot about Depeche Mode for a while. The following album, "Exciter" (2001), made it easy.

Then, last December, Depeche Mode came to town. The post-concert reviews made me gnash my teeth and tear at my hair at the lost opportunity. I vowed that, if given another chance, I would give Depeche Mode my money.

Then in March, it was announced that Depeche Mode would be returning to Toronto. Without a second thought, my friends and I started strategizing how to obtain pre-sale tickets. Cost be damned! 7 minutes and $100 later, I was satiated.

After the purchase, I didn't give the concert much thought, right up to the day of the event. "The concert is tonight? You must be excited!" a co-worker exclaimed. I shrugged and grunted.

At the Air Canada Centre, I was more interested in the audience than the Depeche Mode merchandise: an equal distribution of men and women, mostly people in the their late twenties and their thirties, and not an unattractive crowd. I also noticed that beer was now served in plastic cups with lids, not unlike children's sippy cups. Interesting.

Then the concert started, and I went rabid all over again. As the band went through selections from their extensive catalog, I surprised myself with still being able to sing along verbatim. Dave Gahan got down to business early on, shedding his jacket and vest to go topless. And no back fat to be seen! (Dreamy!)

Jodi Goulart of ChartAttack describes it better than I can:
"The overall mood at Depeche Mode's second arena show in the past six months in Toronto was dark, gloomy and sexually taut, and the audience fucking loved it.
"[B]y the third song, "Suffer Well," Gahan's signature stage twirls and sashays didn't seem scripted, and his bravado was palpable.
"Not only did the fans savour every guitar chord, keyboard bleep and raspy lyric, they screamed at every hip swivel, slithery strut and butt shake the frontman made. If Gahan were any more sexy, he'd explode."
One of my concert companions, who had attended the Sky Dome flea circus act with me, wholeheartedly agreed that this was a superior performance. "Not even David Bowie got the crowd going like that," he stated (anonymously, for protection against Bowie fans).

With the concert still ringing in my ears, I went home, dusted off my CD collection and listened to more Depeche Mode. It was good to taste the froth on my lips again.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Donnie Darko turd up for grabs

The theatrical release for Donnie Darko occurred back in 2001 but its cult film status helped bring about the recent release of a Director's Cut DVD. The buzz that has surrounded this film, along with a '2 for $30' sale at HMV, prompted me to purchase the DVD on faith alone. Now that I have seen the film, I feel like hunting down every Donnie Darko fan and beating them until they, too, see the future.

Donnie Darko is an angst-ridden build-up to nothing. It pretends to be a challenging psychological sci-fi film but it is superficial, riddled with clichés, and worst of all, boring.

The title character is a teenage middle child in a liberal, upper-middle class household. Donnie's difficulties stem from a possible case of schizophrenia, which causes him to do things like sleepbike into dreamy mountain locales. To treat his mental illness, he talks with a psychiatrist while lying on a couch and takes pills - taking the pills, in particular, seems to make him bitter towards his mother. How dare the "bitch", as Donnie calls her, encourage him to deal with his mental illness?

One night, Donnie is lured from his bed by the melodious voice of a creepy 6ft rabbit. Donnie's sleepwalk that night turns out to be a blessing when a jet engine crashes into his bedroom. This is the beginning of Donnie's weird and antagonistic relationship with Frank the bunny, who predicts the world will end on October 31, 1988.

In the 28 days leading up to Halloween, Donnie is prompted to commits acts of vandalism by Frank and learns that he may have the power to time travel. He gets all his information from a book, written by the local crazy old woman, called The Philosophy of Time Travel. Along the way, Donnie gets a girlfriend named Gretchen with whom he has stilted conversation, uses his 'powers' to find his parents' hidden gun, and exposes a new age guru and secret pedophile played by Patrick Swayze. Meanwhile, his younger sister wins a spot on "Star Search" and flies to LA with Mrs. Darko.

On the eve of the supposed end of the world, Donnie and Gretchen end up at the crazy old woman's house. An altercation with some local bullies throws Gretchen onto the road, into the path of a speeding car. After running over Gretchen, the driver of the car emerges in the familiar bunny suit and, as it turns out, his name is Frank. Donnie shoots Frank in the head with his parents' gun, in exactly the same spot that he had forseen. Meanwhile, his younger sister and mother are on a plane flying back from LA, into the path of the temporal wormhole that will end their lives, and possibly the world.

Donnie goes back in time to the moment when the jet engine crashed into his bedroom and stays in bed. By dying, Donnie saves Gretchen, his sister, his mom, Frank, and the world! However, Patrick Swayze remains a secret pedophile.

If it all sounds convoluted, that's because it is. The DVD contains a documentary about Donnie Darko's cult following in Britain, in which the fans wax on and on about what this meant and what that symbolized. All the while, they pat themselves on the back for 'getting' the movie whereas North American audiences stayed away in droves. It's fandom at its most embarrassing because the object of their adulation is so contrived and shallow.

What could be more clichéd than an attractive teen who feels alienated from everyone yet manages to have an understanding and attractive girlfriend? Then when the teen rebels, his underwhelming nemesis are a ridiculous new age guru/secret pedophile and a religious, high strung gym teacher. And who knew that treating schizophrenia was as easy as sitting around and discussing your thoughts with a concerned psychiatrist while popping placebos? Donnie Darko is essentially juvenile wish fulfillment since every teen wishes there was a clear reason for why they feel like a misfit and that they could prove themselves by saving their family or even the world.

Donnie Darko has some arresting scenes featuring amazing cinematography and a great soundtrack. But the short of it is: I want the Donnie Darko DVD out of my house.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Children are the future

My recent fixation with babies, especially celebrity spawn, has matured. My gaze now turns to prepubescent children 8 to 11 years old.

When I was looking after children at a summer camp, this was my favourite age group. They are old enough to be interesting to talk to ("If you fell three stories onto that cement floor, your head would definitely smash in." "No way! I'd just break my legs!") but young enough to enjoying playing games (they were addicted to 'Museum Statue' - a game that required them to stay still lest the 'museum guard' caught them moving).

But enough with fun and games. It is time to put lazy North American children to work. Haircuts by Children is a performance piece put on by Grade 5-6 children. The kids wield scissors and offer free haircuts to any brave adult.

The whole idea behind Haircuts by Children is placing trust in the younger generation and playfully targeting the disenfranchisement of children. An unusual degree of trust is placed in the young stylists and in their creative skills and competency.

Thinking back to my young summer camp charges, I think this is a great idea. Most 10 and 11 year olds will take their responsibility over a person's appearance seriously. Having stated my support, I must admit that I won't be going for a haircut. My vanity fears the future.

Call 416.703.5491 to book your appointment today, or drop by to watch.

Saturday, May 13, 2006, Noon - 4pm
Wisdom's Barber & Beauty Salon, 1754 Eglinton Avenue West (East of Dufferin)

Saturday, May 20, 2006 Noon - 4pm
Camille Unisex Beauty Lounge, 1524 Queen Street West (West of Lansdowne)

Saturday, May 27 and Sunday, May 28, 2006, Noon - 4pm
Queen's Quay Hair Design and Esthetic, 208 Queens Quay West, Unit #8 (across from Harbourfront Centre) as part of the Milk International Children's Festival of the Arts

Friday, May 05, 2006

It's a whopper!

My aforementioned pregnant cousin just gave birth and it's a big one! 9 lbs of sugar and spice named Tiffany. Her giddy husband sent digital images that have gone awol but to give some context, the bass pictured above is as heavy as Tiffany.

When I was told that my new niece's name was 'Tiffany', I couldn't help but be a little disappointed because I thought instantly of the American pop singer. Afterall, my cousin and I were both children of the 80s. The much classier Tiffany jewelery firm and expensive Tiffany stained glass only came to mind later.

Still, I would like to propose alternate names for my niece. While her parents and everyone else may choose to call her 'Tiffany', I can call her something more to my taste:

  • Barbara - when was the last time you met a winsome young girl named 'Barbara' as opposed to a battleaxe working in the claims department? Little Barbara would singlehandedly revive a lost name.
  • Rusty 2 - my cat is already named Rusty but it would be nice to transfer over the warm feelings I have for my psychotic cat over to the baby. That way, whether Rusty 2 pees under my dining table, scratches my wall paper or attacks my ankles, nothing will shock me.
  • Microsoft/WalMart/Nike - if the name sticks, and she grows up to look like Anna Kournikova, she can become a corporate spokesmodel. This is not necessarily a good thing, in my mind, but I'm sure her parents would be happy with the financial security I helped bestow on her.

Feel free to add your suggestions for little Tiffany.