Wednesday, December 28, 2005

12-27, another pretty good show...

Life During Wartime, Tuesdays 3-5pm on CJSR...

Devo -- Swelling Itching Brain
Little Richard -- Rip It Up
T-Model Ford -- Sugar Farm
Gibson Bros. -- The Sperm Count
Fun100 -- Computer
Twin Fangs -- Vinland Map
Modernettes -- Teen City
The Young Canadians -- Beg, Borrow and Steal
Ween -- I Fell In Love Today
Malibu Kens -- Party's Over
Albatross Note -- In the Evening
White Hassle -- Please Don't Make a Sound
Ramsay Midwood -- Fisherman's Friend
Jayhawks -- Sixteen Down
Wilco -- Jesus, etc. (live)
Gordon Lightfoot -- Sundown
Neil Young -- T-Bone (this was the 4:20 track)
The Hidden Cameras -- In the Union of Wine
Jens Lekman -- Black Cab
The Girls -- Chico's Girl
Tangiers -- That Russian Bastard
Giant Sand -- Catapult
Royal City -- Daisies
Mekons -- Wild & Blue

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Infinite Lives: Ebert on games pt. 1

Have I mentioned that I saw the Doom movie? It's weird; I keep forgetting I've seen it. Every time I remind myself I did indeed sit in a theatre and watch it, some other, higher-priority memory -- a funny thing my cat did; the price of canned organic navy beans at Save-On; the name of my cousin's dog -- moves in and nudges Doom out my ear and into the gutter. The process started about ten seconds after the end credits; walking out into the lobby, the film was already indistinct... something about a martian super-race and the "soul chromosome", zombies trapped in walls, the Rock turning into a crazy mutant... something something something... I dunno; it's almost all gone. The worst was two days after the screening, when I turned to my buddy Steve and said, brightly, "Hey! We should go see Doom!" He just stared at me with this look of crushed despair. It was a real Flowers For Algernon kind of scene.

It's axiomatic that movies based on game franchises suck ass, hard. The only good game movie -- I'm taking back my self-hypnosis-induced enthusiasm for Resident Evil; sorry, everybody -- was (maybe) Mortal Kombat, and that only because of that one song about Sub Zero (Whooooa / Chinese ninja warrior / with your heart so cold...). Game movies are so terrible that even people who like terrible things -- and judging from sales figures and box-office receipts, that's most gamers and moviegoers -- can't stand them. They're so terrible they make games themselves seem worse than they are. That must be part of what happened in the mind of Hollywood Tastemaker Roger Ebert. Check it out; it started with his review of Doom, when he thumbed that piece of shit down so hard a tiny little smidgen of feces flew off across the boundaries between media: "The movie," Ebert wrote, "has been 'inspired by' the famous video game. No, I haven't played it, and I never will, but I know how it feels not to play it, because I've seen the movie. Doom is like some kid came over and is using your computer and won't let you play."

"I haven't played it, and I never will" is a pretty standard critical pooh-pooh phrase: it's no doubt factual, and it's not really malicious, but it's hard to read it without hearing an accent of snobbishness and condescension. That hint of snobbery is enough to punch the buttons of gamers who, like every variety of nerd, are touchy little princesses. Defensive emails began to flow into his mailbox, and in his "Answer man" column, Ebert clarified his position on videogames:

"I believe books and films are better mediums, and better uses of my time. But how can I say that when I admit I am unfamiliar with video games? Because I have recently seen classic films by Fassbinder, Ozu, Herzog, Scorsese and Kurosawa, and have recently read novels by Dickens, Cormac McCarthy, Bellow, Nabokov and Hugo, and if there were video games in the same league, someone somewhere who was familiar with the best work in all three mediums would have made a
convincing argument in their defense."

Now, that's some weak shit... games are inferior to books and movies because he doesn't know of any great games. How could a "convincing argument" for the greatness of a game be framed in such a way as to be persuasive to him? Great movies argue themselves when you watch them, great books argue themselves when you read them... how could a great game argue itself to Ebert, who will not play it -- probably cannot play it, since full participation in all but the simplest of games requires a more elaborate set of basic physical and mental skills than does viewing a movie, a skill set Ebert (stereotypically, for one of his generation) lacks and does not care to gain?

Arrgh... anyway, Ebert's statement was less an argument than a challenge, a challenge the gamer community took up with enthusiasm in message boards and blog postings, throwing up names like Shigeru Miyamoto and Will Wright as counterparts to Nabokov and Scorsese, titles like "Full Throttle" and "Final Fantasy" as analogues of "Ran" and "Little Dorrit". Wankjob listmaking, a nerd specialty; also, it was firmly established that Roger Ebert was in fact stupid, fat, old and probably a fag. If you know how gamers write, you can imagine the subliterate screeds Ebert's email drones had to wade through to find something printable to respond to. And in that response, Ebert took the fight to the level he should have taken it to from the beginning:

"Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control.

"I am prepared to believe that video games can be elegant, subtle, sophisticated, challenging and visually wonderful. But I believe the nature of the medium prevents it from moving beyond craftsmanship to the stature of art."

Ah. Now Ebert's tossed a few good sticks of dry birch onto the smouldering debate over whether or not video games can be considered art. The answer, to a flexible-minded person, is an obvious "yes"; Ebert's reasoning here shows where he's hung up. The problem is a fixation on narrative; Ebert can't see games as art because he can't get his head around the idea that a work having a different ending, a different middle, and quite possibly a different beginning for each participant can be coherent to the degree a novel can. He can't understand that authorial control in games extends beyond "telling a story" and into the art of creating play experiences -- a very young art form, and one he and many others cannot fully appreciate, but valid.

That said, most video games -- like most movies and most books -- stink on ice. The games industry, like the movie industry and the publishing industry, relies on safe formulae and lowest-common-denominator pandering to keep the black ink flowing. And it's all getting worse, not better, and... and we're outta time. Let's pick this up in two weeks, kids.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Life During Wartime, Dec 20

After two weeks off air with a shitty cough/cold/flu thing -- right after "winning" CJSR's AWOL Volunteer award, no less -- I came back with a pretty good show this week. I mean, I think. I have MP3s if anyone's interested.

B52s -- Song for a Future Generation


Seu Jorge -- Five Years
The Albatross Note -- In the Morning
Country Church v. Crotch Rockets -- Sneaky Roach


Yoko Solo -- These Are the Beeps
Breakestra -- See Sawng
Jimmy Castor Bunch -- Future Time


Shanghai 5 -- Just What I Needed
10 Foot Ganja Plant -- Suits & Ski Masks
City Streets -- The Queen (something something... didn't write it down)


The Hugh Dillon Redemption Choir -- What It Takes
Man... or Astro-Man? -- A Reversal of Polarity
Death From Above 1979 -- Little Girl


The Maynards -- 781.66092
Pere Ubu -- Raygun Suitcase
The Hated Uncles -- Name on a Gravestone


Morphine -- Down Love's Tributaries (this was the 4:20 track)


The Black Keys -- The Lengths
Geraldine Fibbers -- A Song About Walls


Richard Buckner -- Emily Sparks
Okkervil River -- Last Love Song For Now
Townes van Zandt -- You Are Not Needed Now


Neil Diamond w/ Brian Wilson -- Delirious Love

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

AEON... oh god i guess it's mandadtory... SUX

Waiting for my moviegoing companion, leaning against the dented and tarnished brass rail of the City Centre atrium well, two chiefs grabbing cash from the third-party ripoff ATM:

GUY 1 -- What movie are we seeing?

GUY 2 -- Aeon Flux, dude.

GUY 1 -- [wincing, drawn-back, just-whiffed-shit grimace]

GUY 2 -- Dude, there's nothing else.

And that's how it works in movies, just like it works in auto racing: the distributors see their hole, find their line, and WHAM -- number two at the box office. "Nothing else" is a little harsh, though; dudely dudes seeking action and adventure could always take their cheap-night dollars to... uh... Harry Potter? Yeah. I guess what I'm saying is, if you're gonna get a downbudget sexy acrobatic catsuit-lady kung-fu machine-gun science-fantasy anime adaptation into the world, there's only a couple of windows you can toss it through.

I'd only seen Peter Chung's original Aeon Flux animated shorts -- a series of highly stylized six-minute dystopian sci-fi espionage sex fantasies -- a couple times, but I knew three things about title character Aeon: she's sexy, she's silent, and she dies a lot. Purists beware! In deadpanning a string of thudding action-movie lines (few memorable) and steadfastly refusing to be killed by any of the challenges in her feature-length obstacle course, Charlize Theron only manages to hit one of the cardinal numbers. And even her sexiness is a bit iffy, wonderfully limber and self-stunting as she may be, just another Serious Actress sliding her impossibly lean and personally-trained body into a slinky battlestocking. Maybe that's your thing; she's got Halle Berry's ludicrous Catwoman beat, anyway.

The plot she moves through is standard, servicable sci-fi bullshit solidly in the Heavy Metalvein, which I don't entirely mind. There's a battle for the human race, a creepy succession of sibling clone overlords, conspiracy, murder, betrayal. Lots of futuristic henchgoons in black armor. It all makes about as much realistic sense as holstering a pistol between your shoulder blades -- ie., none -- but it works for what it is. The only problem with this Heavy Metal stuff is that it takes itself so damn seriously; Aeon Flux is as serious a movie as ever there was. There's barely a hint of humor (you'll know it when/if you see it), and not the slightest twitch of a wink -- another thing lost from the original shorts. Too bad; there's a lot to have fun with here, and I would rather have been laughing *with* the film, at least once or twice, than laughing at it. It's the bad kind of campy.

At least director Karyn Kusama (Girlfight) and her art people didn't go for a "dark and gritty" futuropolis, managed to stay off that tired, rusting, waterlogged path, with all its eerie crepuscular light shining from behind slowly rotating ventilation fans. Aeon Flux's enclave city of Bregna, last refuge of the remnant of humanity, is a bright wonderland on the surface, a utopia of plazas, gardens, and organform architecture populated by healthy, happy multiethnic future people who take their fashion cues from Star Trek: The Next Generation. The action and intrigue takes place in the shadows -- not deep, spooky shadows; regular shadows -- of this sunny sci-fi city, the nasty side of Paradise. It doesn't really make the hack backflipping, necksnapping and machine-gunning any better, but it keeps it from getting worse.

My flu started running me a temperature about halfway the movie, and even the beginnings of a looping fever dementia couldn't spice up this stilted action pantomime. Low point: an utterly tedious "climactic battle" that looked like a high-school "action movie" video project and sounded like an Xbox with the trigger taped down. High point: Pete Postlethwaite as a tired, sick old man... or hologram. Or whatever.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

11-13-05 -- Pot lucky

Hey, look... winter! Comes fast, the change; one minute you're playing front-porch word games in the golden glow of a post-happy-hour sunset and the next you're like "Man, I'd better get to bed soon" in 4pm darkness. My poor plants are actively flinching away from the chillwaves wubbing out from the R-0.5-rated single-glazed windows. I have some of that plastic sheeting you're supposed to put up to keep your place cozy and your heating bills down (well, less up), but I don't have a hair dryer, and I'm sort of shy about asking the Hiltons next door for use of theirs; am I the only one who thinks of hair dryers as very personal items?

Now, I've got nothing against winter or anything winter brings; I mean, how long do we all have to live in this dim, dry latitude before we get over it? Winter's actually kind of sexy... exotic, even; there's a kind of National Geographic Islam vibe going on when all you can see of a girl is two beautiful eyes lasering out from between toque and scarf. And when you consider the odds these days are good she knit that neckwear herself, well... knock me over with a feather.

Less exotic is the resurgence of the winter potluck. The cozy compulsions that drive us to winter woodshedding and slipper shopping, combined with imperative race-memories (or actual copies) of Good Housekeeping Holiday Entertaining guides, culminate in a desire to carry towel-wrapped casserole dishes into houses whose windows are frosted from kitchen steam, shuck overcoats while grinning hugs and greetings, and have big bowl-glasses of two-fisted Cabernet put into our hands. There's no time like winter for a potluck party, and the best part is that everybody's craving comfort and assumes (rightly) that everyone else is, too, so the buffet gets beefed up with the heartiest, fillingest, rib-stickingest comfort food kitchens can create. Summertime potlucks get my not-so-famous carrot-ginger slaw; wintertime potlucks get this:


Boil frozen perogies, in clear soup stock for extra mystery flavor. Saute two big organic onions with lots of butter until golden. Put perogies in a buttered casserole, mixed in with a couple tablespoons of the best kraut you can get, a dollop of sour cream and a goodly amount of old white cheddar and maybe some more butter. Top with onions, and bake at 375 for a half hour or so. Pair with red wine, as a precaution against heart attack.

Even the crammiest hoser (well, maybe not the crammiest; true crammers have neither casseroles nor working ovens) can cobble that baby up -- I mean, I made it up on the spot based on what was left of last month's groceries -- and it's such tasty, filling, wholesome Grandma food it might even be able to convince a few people that your life's not gone completely off the rails.

So, winter. Cozy parties, cuddly sweaters, exhaust vapor, hours and hours of Night Society and everything set to the shing-shing-shing-shing of synthesized sleighbells, and... oh, fuck! We're getting an election, aren't we? I don't know how I feel about this. On the one hand it'll give us all something to talk about at the aforementioned parties (maybe, depending on the crowd), but on the other hand it'll mean pathetic canvassers stumping around the country in the freezing cold, and that has the potential to sorely test my sense of wintertime hospitality. Do I offer a warm cup of coffee to a guy who's trying to sell me on the merits of a minority nuthouse "led" by Stephen Harper? Maybe I would, if the coffee had been cooking down amd blackening up on the warmer for a few hours; a little Brake Shop Espresso, that's the wintertime drink of the true conservative.


Long time, no post. Guess I've been too busy delving into secrets no man was meant to know, getting drunk under the Interstate, playing weird videogames on airplanes, talking to artists and getting to know Johnny Cash. Shit; I have been busy.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

10-13-2005 -- The Cemetery

I've had all day to think about it, and I still can't believe that I can't believe the Art Heroes over at the EAG picked Randall Stout's design. I mean, I joked about it two weeks ago and everything -- "stainless steel skateboard ramp" etc. -- but I didn't think anyone would go along with that clodgy mess of bullshit "organic" forms and useless, pandering decoration. Once again, I underestimate the abilty of the tasteless, braying drone-elite of Edmonn...

...nnnaaaah, fuckit. What do I care? The thing'll never get built, anyway; we're only a few years away (at best) from a worldwide economic disaster. Prosperity Cheques or no, we're heading for a point where oil -- and thus, everything else -- is going to be so dear, and life so cheap, even a joke building like Stout's will seem like the Fabled Towers of Atlantis compared to the post-industrial ruins we'll be squatting in. Nothing a body can do about it now except learn how to famr and shoot straight -- pressed for time, the latter alone will suffice -- so I might as well go "la la la la la" for another couple winters and keep drawing my pay. Like, you know what I'm really into these days? Airwolf.

They just released that action on DVD a little while ago, and if you haven't seen the legendary superchopper action-adventure series since it was broadcast, you owe it to yourself to pick it up (it's only worth a rental; put the purchase price toward fuel, bullets and seed) and experience the thrill of helicopter-based international Reaganism all over again. What a revelation! Remember the Cold War? The Libyans? Airwolf brings that flavor on back to you, somthered in a creamy sauce of Vietnam that I was too unsophisticated to really appreciate back then -- then, it was all about the helicopter.

The Airwolf itself is still as awesome as ever it was when I would model it with legos; what really surprised me is how little the chopper actually features in the series, and how much of its screentime is stiched together from poorly matched military stock footage and clips from what seems to be a single afternoon each of stunt flying and interiors -- in addition to having an awesome name (and playing the 'cello for eagles) pilot Stringfellow Hawke (Jan-Michael Vincent), is so highly trained and precise, he squints and pulls the trigger in exactly the same way every time. The best part (among an embarassment of best parts, including Ernest Borgnine) is how it always gets personal; after squibbing away the Libyan (or whoever) defences with rockets, Airwolf always settles down to hover at about five feet in the middle of the bad-guy base and just pivots around, methodically machinegunning dudes. Since Airwolf is bulletproof -- and by the way, also needs no fuel, maintenance, ammo stores or support infrastructure -- you'll usually get a shot of the bad guy just pumping useless bullets into the copter's nose before stock-footage Stringfellow squints and unloads. Rad!

But, like I said, it's not all invincibility and blowing things away; Stringfellow, along with everybody else he encounters, including Russians and Libyans, has a lingering Vietnam problem. I mean, these cats are really messed. I didn't really "get it" when I was ten, but watching Airwolf now really makes me realize how bad a prolonged, bloody, disastrous war can fuck people up. When Stringfellow flew back to Vietnam to rescue a kidnapped boy he might have fathered, the producers made the towheaded little scamp look "half-breed" by daubing slanty eyeliner on him so he looked more like a Glam Scout. Will escapist action-adventure TV shows ten years after the Iraq war ends feature blond brats in brownface?

Ha! Listen to me... "After the Iraq war ends!" As another 80s icon would say, I kill me; at least, I hope I do before somebody else does. Wal-Marts, automobiles, convenience food, civil society and even television itself will end before the Oil Wars will. Good luck out there, friends. May you be buried in individual graves.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

We Still [heart] Katamari...

... and I'm properly gratful for that gift of love in A Gamer's Thanksgiving Prayer over at Vue.

And what else? My ancient ThinkPad is having that problem where purty much any application (Firefox, etc.) hangs itself (but not the system) on startup -- I'm surfin' the Web by typing URLs into the address lines of blank folders. I'd call this computer a "piece of shit", but really it's doing well for a six-year-old machine that was bottom-of-the-line to start with.

On the Mac side of things, the elderly iMac I inherited from Griwkowsky's mom is doing just fine, for a machine with 64MB of memory and a mid-90s OS. Between my two sorta-working computers, I kinda have one OK computer. Like, if I write something on the ThinkPad, I have to use WordPad because it doesn't hang. But my real word processor (Lotus) does hang, so if I want to spell check or count words, I have to go online and email the doc to myself so I can open it on my Mac and do those things. This involves physically unplugging the ethernet cable from the little USB conversion box -- my TP's ethernet port crapped out 2 years into its life -- and slapping it into the iMac, 'cause I keep forgetting to buy a cheapo hub when I have money.

Wasn't that an exciting story? Wait! There's more! I also took a picture of a Dalek!

PS: I forgot to mention (because I actually forgot, myself) how my window-browsing technique means a total system hang whenever a site tries to open a new window. That's pretty often.

PPS: Finally, LiverQuest beats out this liver-health questionaire on Google!

Monday, October 03, 2005

We [Heart] Katamari

This week, over Vue Weekly way, I spuzzed about the second Katamari game. I'd post it in its entirety, but I'm blogging off my old iMac and the ActiveX-free browser makes it impossible for me to lazily style in all the italics needed to emphasise just how much it rules. It rules enough that I'll actually manually enter the html tag here: It fucking rules

Thursday, September 22, 2005

365 photos

Howdy, friends. I just noticed that my moblog has reached the annual number of 365 posts. Check it out for all your unfocused, lo-res, poorly-exposed needs.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

9-21-2005 -- Lookin' out my front door

He can go crazy or stay sane, if he can do it on six feet of chain -- Lee Hazlewood, "Six Feet of Chain"

Guess it's that time again, time for the "seasonal column"... a free pass to just sort of meander and talk about the weather, four times a year -- even more, if we get faked out by a false spring, fake summer, ersatz autumn or sham winter. This, though is pretty much real fall, right on schedule. Yep. You want to know why -- I mean know, in you soul, why -- the green-and-gold livery of the Eskies and the U of A teams should bring tears of joy and pride to your Edmontonian eyes? Go have a beer in RATT in the Students' Union Building. Crammy shitty-logo sports-bar transformation or no, that's still the best damn drinkin' view in town, and the carpet of seasonal interface foliage rolling east under the sun all the way to WEM's ad-bearing beige rollercoaster shed has just enough beauty to fuel your soul through the dreary months of Browntown.

Beauty's everywhere you care to cast your eyes these days, actually; you don't need to ride an elevator to see it. Like, out here on my front porch, Lee Hazlewood's Trouble is a Lonesome Town strumming out through the screen door, a cup of my roommate's good coffee in my hand, the smell of frying onions just barely making it up from the kitchen to mingle with that first breath of honest leaf-decay... damn. Even the long, long line of parking lots stretching all the way out to the hospital, the vehicle-storage alley that allows my west-facing front window the most suntime anyone can expect in the dark months, looks kinda majestic in this clear September light. Lots of fun party times out here on these steps this summer, shooting the shit and filling the unplanted planter with beercans and butts, watching the pretty people go by... as it gets colder that action subsides until it's only smokers briefly huddling there in the Christmas-light glow with whoever's joined them out of sympathy or desire for private words -- but that scene's got its own magic, too.

The best part about fall is the return of fall fashion. Basically, I'd be happy to live in a place where the temperature never went above eighteen and never went below, say, ten. I might have to journey to another planet to find such a climate. Or perhaps my descendants, having gone through generations aboard their gargantuan starship over the decades-long journey across the wastes of space, would be the ones to step out onto this alien world. Either way, humanity would have founded a paradise free from the grotesque excesses of summertime clothing, free from the pinched-off midriff rolls, the exposed fields of man-thatch with their concealed treasure-medallions, the peeking thongs in unnatural synthetic hues and the scuzzy wifebeaters, the boob tubes and the socks-with-sandals. A paradise, I tell you! Cuddly sweaters and well-cut jeans, casual slacks and tweed jackets, cool hoodies and warm flannel, suede sneakers and conservative Docs, this shall be the uniform of the Star People! And woe betide she who sullies the harmony of our extraplanetary streets with the sight of sweat-pants with words stamped across the ass, or he who dares sport the pseudo-urbane travesty of a sleek black "fashion leather" coat! Banished shall they be, to the wilds where the pod-tigers and vampire moss lurk, while we in our earthtoned comfy-casual apparel turn the thermostats of our living-domes down to energy-conserving levels and snuggle up with the Mr. Show DVDs we've carried with us from Mother Earth.

Ah, dreams. This is the beauty a change in the seasons brings. Not just the beauty of watching the world move in its cycles, ancient as the universe yet novel each year, but the beauty of watching your mind and the minds of your friends (and enemies) move into the new idea-spaces created by shifting times and temperatures. For me, it's a dream of voyaging through outer space to a planet where all the girls wear wholesome knit sweaters and curve-hugging Levis and all the boys dress like psychology TAs from the '60s... what's your dream, Edmontonian?

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Life During Wartime, 9/20/05

Life During Wartime was a fairly last-minute choice for a show name, but there it is and here's today's playlist. An OK show, not super-rocking but pretty fun. Tuesdays, 3-5pm MST, CJSR 88.5 FM in Edmonton.

Lee Hazlewood --Six Feet of Chain
Lowell Fulson -- Tramp
God Made Me Funky -- God Made Me Funky
David McCallum -- House of Mirrors
Serge Gainsbourg -- L'hotel particuleur
Carla Bozulich -- Time of the Preacher/Blue Rock Montana/Red Headed Stranger (medley)
Okkervil River -- For the Enemy (live)
Maybellines -- I've Got the Truth
Mayday -- Running Away
Scout Niblett -- Lullaby for Scout in 10 Years
Lil Johnson with Tampa Red -- House Rent Scuffle
The Deadly Snakes -- Debt Collection
The Make Up -- Save Yourself
Booker T & Priscilla -- Maggie's Farm
B52s -- Planet Claire
Clinic -- The Second Line
Old Time Relijun -- Your Mama Used to Dance
Vailhalen -- Girls Fight!
Ray Condo & His Hardrock Goners -- High Voltage
Giant Sand -- Yer Ropes
Agnostic Mountain Gospel Choir -- Not So Bad
Space Mtn -- Hovercraft
The Owls -- Do Ya?
Cagnee & Lacee -- Six Feet of Chain
Meat Puppets -- Coming Down

Monday, September 19, 2005

Mystical Chang

"Chang is a mystical warrior. Chang is somebody who believes in conservative principles, believes in entrepreneurial capitalism, believes in moral values that underpin a free society. ... Chang, this mystical warrior, has never let me down." -- Fla. Governor Jeb Bush. LINK

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Ten Stupidest Utopias

Over at Strange Horizons, Jeremy Adam Smith gives ten Utopian visions a synopsis and a skewering. Fun stuff.
The Republic lives on in the rhetoric of contemporary political movements of both right and left—every elitist and technocratic fantasy of our time has grown from the seed of The Republic. Plato would not have understood the term "dehumanization" as we understand it—he'd never, of course, seen a factory floor or a gas chamber—but when his ideas have been enacted in places like the Soviet Union, Mussolini's Italy, or modern state-capitalist China, they have proven brutally dehumanizing, his apparat of "guardians" thoroughly corrupted by power.
(See also Smith's Ten Sexiest Dystopias)

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Yeehaw. S'up, mutha-fukkas?

I just got back from an overnight camping trip to Yubari. Yubari is a shit-speck town not too far from Chitose. I went with Bill, my American friend. We panned for gold and drank a fuck-load of sweet sake. Needless to say, I was retarded. I love Japan. Seriously, I want to stay here for life. I swam naked in the river near our campsite and drifted with the current until I found myself in Yubari. Not near, but smack-fucking-dab-in-the-middle of town. The locals, who probably never see gaijin, were quite suddenly startled to see a drunk, naked Canadian standing, confused, in the middle of thier quaint farming town. Haha. So, I had to 'portage' my bare ass back to camp.
Now, I am home and going to eat some miso ramen. Yum.
Later, fuckers.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

How they do party

"Took her to Cook County and then Ezzies where we made her do tons of fun stuff as well as drink lots of alchohol!!"

A day in the life of a Mexican and Canadian

Angry Steve

Stephen Notley continues to play the blame game.

The man who cut short his vacation and usurped state authority to extend Terry Schiavo's living corpse for political advantage couldn't bring himself to do either when thousands of American lives were on the line. Classic Bush.

We should all encourage him to do this more often.

Friday, September 09, 2005

09-05-2005 -- A planet overrun by the goddamn Celts

Tips for teens: If you're planning to blow off a whole day playing Civilization, and you're a chronic idiot about saving your game, don't connect your computer to the juice with a bargain-basement Army & Navy extension cord. You'll end up with a double shot of misery, an afternoon of "I'll just expand my front against the Zulus, then I'll quit... I'll just take out the Celtic coastal defenses, then I'll quit... oh, but I've almost got Mobile Warfare! I'll kick out some tanks just so I have them ready next time I play... Shit! The fuckin' Celts stole Mobile Warfare! I'd better build the Manhattan Project before I quit..." leading up to a quick flash to monitor black. The sudden absence of cooling-fan noise is the roar of stupidity.

Ah, but "there goes Gloria Mundy," as they say; the instantaneous and unceremonious elimination, without warning, of the fruits of millenia of empire building... you gotta laugh. And then you gotta stop laughing and go get an extension cord that reliably conducts electricity. First, though, you gotta save your column; editors can only hear equipment-fuckup excuses so many times before they get suspicious. You can extend your window somewhat if you allow your editor to actually see and feel the cracked, wheezing, outdated gear you type your shit on, but eventually that backfires, too, because then the question comes: "Man, why don't you get yourself a new computer?" For a freelance writer that's pretty much the end of the conversation, 'cause the honest answer -- "Because I'm getting paid a rate that would have been low twenty years ago" -- isn't something anybody wants to hear. I mean, poor baby.

Unless you grind like a motherfucker -- which, to my mind, defeats the purpose of choosing a writer's life in the first place -- or pull a straight RIGHT-RIGHT-RIGHT on the place/time/talent slot machine, there's no soul-satisfying way to make this gig pay out attractively... though there are plenty of soul-crushing avenues available to the tasteless, the shameless, and the desperate. So we keep pulling the one-armed bandit, and let me tell you it's just like trancing in front of the VLTs -- it pays out just enough, just often enough, to keep our hopes up, but slowly and surely we're sliding on down, down, down. The fact we're drinking the whole time doesn't help.

"Get out," people say; "you've bought into a sucker's game!" But where's out? A desk, an office, a retail shop, a call centre, a warehouse? Eight years of selling my product rather than renting out my life an hour at a time have ruined me for straight work. There's still enough of the dreamer left in me -- the "realistic" dreamer as opposed to the "what if I could turn invisible and fly" dreamer, who's never once weakened -- that I still believe I can make it work if only I diversify. So here I am, broke and burning out at thirty, picking up a guitar and a paintbrush.

Stupid! I know! I'm trying to hit the trifecta of the three most broke-ass, desperate vocations. But, you know, t'hell with it; I've come this far -- I mean, fuck; half my money comes from playing video games -- why not go the rest of the ridiculous way and see if a writer-painter-musician can belly it across the battlefield where a plain old hack froze up? Anybody worth anything is doing it; the wonderful "arts-city" atmosphere the sponsor-papers like to coo about was built by an army of dilletantes, a legion of something-slash-somethings stretching back in time. There has to be a way to make it work.

Step one in making it work: working. So I guess I owe a big thank-you to Army & Navy for selling me such a shit-ass extension cord; without the gut-dropping shock of seeing the mighty Drunken Empire (capital city: Bowen Island) obliterated in a millisecond of interrupted power I might never have woken from my click-coma to write my way out of depression as I just have. Yeah! And thanks to you, reader, for lending an eye. You know this is all for you, right?

Gaming in the Park

(The following ran as an "Infinite Lives" column in Vue Weekly)

"There were people in the park, playing games in the dark" -- Lionel Richie

Damn, for a videogame column this thing's sure been unplugged lately; maybe I oughtta replace that joystick graphic with a picture of, I dunno, a bowl of chips or something. Between the sin-simple pleasures of Carcassonne, the board-game-based-on-a-video-game-based-on-a-board-game intricacies of Civilization and the majestic return of Dungeons & Dragons to my life, there hasn't been much call to fire up the consoles... though I did spend a big chunk of time with Nintendogs before I had a moment of clarity and sent that spooky pup simulator to live on a farm where it can be happy and have lots of space to run.

Part of the problem: summer sucks for games. It's part of the Christmas-centred marketing tides of this sick industry and there's no way of getting around it. Yeah, there's always something to get into if you must, even if you have to force yourself to pretend you like a third-tear nothing like Fullmetal Alchemist 2 (for example), but why go out of your way? Like, I got a package the other day, the first in weeks since the summer promotional stream is a dry creekbed, and in it, courtesy of Disney, was a stack of Kim Possible, Lizzie Maguire and That's So Raven GBA carts. I mean, fuck it; let's go out to the park and play board games.

I've always been a fan of gaming in public, bringing the hobby out from the basements and into the bars, you know? Some of my best gaming times have been in crowded campus drinkeries. Like this one time, my friend Thor and I were playing Monopoly in RATT when these two first-year grils from Lister came up and... and that's a story for another day. Today, we're talking about a hot, heavy afternoon, clear as a bell and made more precious by its proximity to the chill of autumn. On a day like this, what is there for a bunch of game-crazy kids to do but drag a sofa and a coffee table out into the playground next door, pour a bunch of Lucky Lager into an iced-tea pitcher, and settle down to a whipcrack game of ZOMBIES!!!

A trifle like ZOMBIES!!! is perfect for this kind of gaming. Importantly, it's damned simple... but it looks complicated; once you've built up the map a bit -- it's an emergent board, players adding new map tiles on each turn -- you'll have this very impressive city laid out, covered with dozens of little plastic zombie figures. Through this swarm of PVC undead your little dudes -- the Shotgun Guys -- must fight their way to the escape helicopter. Cards are played, dice are rolled, opposing players are fucked over... a decent afternoon of shouting "fuck you!" to be had. It's no masterpiece of game design -- the event cards are shockingly unbalanced and the endgame can become a tired slog -- but it does the job.

As we play ZOMBIES!!!, our little outdoor livingroom becomes quite the party centre-- we have a big ol' dawg with us, a chocolate Lab, and that never hurts. People walking by give us the thumbs-up, dudes wander past and share their hash with us, pretty girls perch on the arm of the sofa and laugh like angels, two couples decide to break out the bocce balls... and down the street, the cops watch carefully. They don't know what to make of us, with our comfy couch and our huge coffeetable under the tree by the soccer net... is there a law against what we're doing? Watching them circle the block you can feel them wanting to move us along simply 'cause what we're doing is different and weird.

In the end, they decide not to hassle us -- whether because the fuckin' Fringe gave them better things to do or because they figured nobody sitting on such a ridiculous heatscore as a Harvest Gold chesterfield in the middle of a soccer pitch would dare to break open-container and pot-possession laws, I guess I'll never know -- but their attention illustrates the downside of public gaming. It's unusual, and unusual things puzzle people, and puzzled people get angry. Spread out a boardgame of a coffeeshop table, and unless it's an accepted parlor game like cribbage you're gonna get nasty looks, folks are going to demand to know what you're doing. They may insult you; before I got totally, heterosexually laid as a direct result of that RATT Monopoly game, I think I was called "fag" thrice by the chiefs at the next table.

I'll keep at it though; this is a fight we can win, public gamers! We're where breastfeeding was, like, ten years ago; as long as we keep rolling dice and laying down cards, making ourselves known in public spaces, we'll be the norm rather than the exception, and we'll never have to hide in the basement again.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Dispatch 8-22-2005 -- Strathcona Hotel

“Where’s my wife and family? What if I die here?” -- Paul Simon

Monday night at the Strathcona, temperature dropping outside and the place is empty -- the crowds out there in the floodlights and vendor-glow of the Fringe Compound aren’t like gas molecules; they’re not Brownian Moving their way into this low-pressure area. Well, most of them aren’t; a screech from the direction of the north entrance calls our attention to the arrival of a pussy posse of slumming glittertrash:

“What did you say, bitch?!” It’s the unmistakable ear-pierce of the affronted Young Woman of Today; not even three steps in the door and a girl acting on behalf of the punkrock pool party in back had already cracked wise over the sequined tops and shimmery handbag trim making the scene. The scene escalates, people are rising from their chairs, the duly deputized representatives of barroom order show up... and the slummers get bounced right back out into the night.

“Are we seriously getting kicked out of the Strat?!”

Believe it, sugarpop; lines are being drawn all over this neighbourhood, and even the most arbitrary of boundaries’ll turn your average human animal into a territorial beast. Check out how the Fringe Fortress got fenced off like a fucking refugee camp, eh? This side/that side is a sign of the times, and some hoody-wearing rockin’ girls decided a line needed to be drawn right at the doorway to this ancient tavern, the ol’ Maginot of snobs-vs-slobs. Sorry your buzz had to be killed for the sake of homeland security.

That grass is always greener, isn’t it? I’m feeling it now... talk about demarcation lines, it’s like there’s an invisible forcefield in here keeping the bustle and bubble of the back from spilling into the dead n’ empty Old Man Bar where we sit, staring hopelessly into that Promised Land of pretty young things, draining draught as if it’s not going to give us the shits. A freelance photographer who’s paying for his drinks out of a Ziploc of loose change he scavenged from his dying grandmother’s house, a legacy rocker who’d be looping down some deep dub all over town if only drummers would return his phonecalls, and... me. Look out, ladies!

Jesus, is this how it’s gonna be? Is this it? I just came up from a weekend down in southern Alberta with my mom, my dad, my cop brother, his beautiful bride and their new baby... two middle-class mainstream married couples and myself. After a disastrous stab at having an actual discussion -- ever try to engage in the old give-and-take with a police officer who knows he’s correct? -- I just kept quiet ran the clock out with reading while babyshit and shopping and the weather and real-estate prices mingled with the gabble of the everpresent television. And damn me for a hypocrite, but I was jealous.

Not jealous of the giant mom-mobile or the faux-wholesome Pier One decor or any of the things... jealous of home. Jealousy’s a terrible enough emotion when you just unconsciously go with it, but when you stop and reflect and look into the heart of it, when you see that sick system of doubt and regret and shame and fear and embarassment that keeps the green slime flowing... And jammed in there like shrapnel, jagged chunks of every sweet chance I blew to fucking pieces.

It’s cold, and I’m drunk, and this place stinks like someone ate a urinal cake, shit it out, then ate that shit and threw up. I don’t want a home to go to; I want a home I never wanted to leave.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Drunkards & Drag-ins

(The following appeared as an Infinite Lives column in Vue Weekly)

The grizzled old rogue, obviously uncomfortable here in the sumptuous heart of the gypsy-elf chieftain's impossible crystal tent/palace, tries not to finger the hilt of his trusty cutlass as he speaks the timeworn lines of his profession's fundamental ritual: "So, how much am I getting paid?"

Hakan, the chieftain, looks up from his nest of pillows and slavegirls and squints through the haze of hookah-smoke he's just finished generating. He seems confused, as if he never considered that this elementary detail of business would be considered. He snaps his fingers for more wine, fire-brigaded to him by the mass of nubile beauties that fill his tent-within-a-tent, and takes a long draught of the potent nectar to buy time.

"Payment, yeah..." he drawls. "Well, I got a deal for you, see. See her?" He directs the veteran fighting man's gaze toward one of the other two supplicants kneeling in the hazy chamber, a haughty young elf-maiden in the darkly ornamented robes of hill-clan royalty, her eyes like a hunting cat's. "She's honourable, right? She's loyal.

"And this, uh... this guy?" The chieftain waves an indifferent hand in the general direction of a lean young half-elven man dressed in heavy travelling leathers, his chest crossed by two bandoliers weighed down with a dozen gleaming throwing knives, his hands and his attention occupied in tuning a two-string banjo that lays across his lap. "He's been reporting to me for, like, five years. So... so... um. What... what was my point, here?"

"The money? Some kind of deal?" the rogue prompts; his apprehension is quickly fading into boredom.

"Oh, yeah! The deal! OK." The increasingly wasted bigwig attempts to bring a gravity befitting his station into his voice. "Ahem. Human, I offer you the sum of like, 650 golds..." -- "That's a lot; I haven't really figured out the currency," he stage-whispers --"... in the currency of your people. Or, you can help yourself to whatever shit you find in the ruins of the Abbey. My point was, these guys will be watching you to make sure you don't, you know, do both." He punctuates his oration with a little shrug and self-consciously gulps another cupful of the Gallo Clan's potent vintage.

"That's... that's kind of a weird deal."

"Well, yeah, I mean... I just um thought it would be kind of funny, you know?"

"OK. Can I have fifty gold for expenses?"

A sigh from the elf-maiden interrupts this virtuoso display of the art of the deal. "I'm going for a smoke," she announces with regal finality. Her eyes take on a glazed and faraway look, as if she can neither see nor hear what's going on around her. Almost immediately she returns to consciousness, for just long enough to address the bartering rogue -- "You coming?" -- before her mind drifts once more into another plane.

"Yeah, just a sec," the man mutters before returning to the business at hand. "So," he says, pulling out a note pad, getting ready to take down the particulars of yet another dangerous mission, "where is this... Abbey? Abbey. Where is it?"

Hakan gets a panicked look in his eyes. His gaze flicks around to his coterie of slavegirls, all of whom make lovely little 'I dunno' faces. With the instincts of a life spent steeped in both the criminal underworld and the intrigues of clan politics, he deftly passes the buck: "Where is it? Shit, I don't know; ask Hamit, here." He points an elegant finger -- a finger charged with the power of life and death in this, his hard-won sanctum -- at the leather-clad halfbreed with the banjo. "He's the guy I pay to know this stuff. He sent me the memo about the Icon of Mercy. Hamit, tell him where it is."

The half-elven musician looks up from his instrument. When he was summoned to this audience, not an hour earlier, he'd been "working in his garden" and the redness rimming his half-open eyes displays the fact for the world to see. He makes a nervous clicking sound with his tongue before grinning, "It's in the Abbey of the Sun, right?"

"Yeah, we know that. It's in the Abbey. But where's the Abbey? Go ahead, man... just tell me. Roll with me here! We need to collaborate on this. Make something up!"

The knife-wielding bard's grin widens, and he gives a coy little stoner nod. Turning to the exasperated swordsman, he takes on a patronizing tone. "I know where it is, man. Dooooon't worry. I know where it is. I know where it is."

The grey-bearded fighter spreads his hands wide and makes frustrated circular motions of encouragement. "OK. Where is it? North? South? What?"

Another bleary know-it-all nod: "I know where it is. Don't worry."

The road-hardened rogue scrubs at his face with his hands. "Fine. I'll let you guys figure this out. I'm gonna go have a smoke." With that, his eyes take on the same unseeing not-there look that earlier overcame the gypsy-elf girl. The banjo player and the chieftain are left alone with the slave girls, the hookah, and the cask of Gallo. They look at each other in silence, each one in his own way empathizing with the other's drunkenness, stonededness and overall fatigue. The dark-haired musician breaks the silence:

"So... I've got sixteen throwing knives, right? Sixteen?"

"Fuck, dude, you've got as many knives as you want. Sixteen's fine. Something tells me you're not going to get the chance to use them tonight."

"OK, 'cause you said 'a dozen' a little while ago."

The chieftain makes an interesting attempt at drinking wine while still holding his head in his hands and massaging his temples; he looks like one of those Drinking Birds that once took pride of place on the bar of every man of status. "I was just (slurp) talking about the (slleppp) bandoliers. I thought maybe you've got four... I dunno; taped to the back of your banjo, or something."

"OK, cool." The bard's half-lidded eyes turn inward for a second, taking stock of his condition. "Fuck, I'm wasted. We should start earlier next time."

Karhan... no, wait; Hakan sighs heavily and reaches for a fresh goblet. "What you mean is, I should have been better prepared. I'm basically just making this shit up as we go along. Four hours and you're not even on the road, yet. Damn, I suck."

"No, no! It's good, man, it's good. It's just been a while; you just gotta remember everything you learned back in the day. Everyone's having fun." The banjo-picking thief, one of the indispensable undercover agents who act as the eyes, ears and hands of his people in the cities of humanity, leans back and considers the universe. Suddenly he starts forward, an urgent thought coming to his lightning-quick mind.

"I've got a nice yard, right? I've got a nice yard? I'm the type of guy who'd have a nice yard."

"Dude," replies the fatigued chieftain, his head lolling back into the lap of a voluptuous dwarven co-ed, a cavern-next-door undermountain girl working as a concubine to pay her way through blacksmith school, "you can have anything you want. This is collaborative storytelling."

At that moment, both men notice a flicker of sentience returning to the face of the tough old mercenary who'd "gone for a smoke". Before the man can come fully to consciousness, the hookah-smoking chieftain barks out a sharp command with the voice of one used to being obeyed:

"Wait! Don't sit down! Go flip the record; I want to hear 'Don't Let It Bring You Down'. Fuckin' Neil Young, man... that guy's singing into eternity."

Sunday, August 14, 2005


It's a blog rule: gotta post cat pictures. Meet Kitten (nee Aurora).

Thursday, August 11, 2005


Man, I've always thought the praying mantis style of kung fu looked pretty cool, and it usually kicks a lot of ass in the movies, I guess unless some novelty villain comes at our hero all spazz style. That's what I'm calling it from now on when a minor heavy in a kung fu film comes on all exaggerated and dramatic with a novelty style: Spazz Fist. They always get their showy ass handed to them. Sometimes they writhe on the ground after they're beaten, still "in character"... this mostly happens with monkey dudes.

Anyway, now I know what Wong Long saw in the praying mantis when he came up with the idea for Mantis Fist. Holee shit. I caught that link off BoingBoing, so if it's crammed, that's why. (SPOILER ALERT: it's a praying mantis impaling a hummingbird on the wing and having a snack.)

Related: Mantis! MANTIS!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

The Remans strike!

Space war! Romulus is in flames!

Dispatch 08-08-2005 -- His Nightmare

(A version of his column appears in Vue Weekly)

It's one of those group indentifiers that's been repeated so often and become so cliche that even though it's true it sounds like the parroting of received knowledge: "Canadians are so polite!" Well, maybe not all Canadians -- maybe it's just the special segment of Canadians whose lives are so connected to academia and its attendant institutions that they're still drinking in a campus bar during the wholly deserted height of summer. How else to explain the fact a waitress at the Powerplant, of all places, was shocked to learn their beer was flat and gross?

It's not really the 'Plant's fault; they just don't move enough draft during the summer months to keep their lines lively... oughta just shut all but the two top taps, and pick a new house brand. The thing is, I don't think they know. When I switched to bottles and commented on the draft-beer quality, this pleasant young woman was nearly floored; when my tablemates chimed in in agreement, she near to had a fit. The pisswater properties of off-season on-campus pints are axiomatic among collegiate drinkers (my order was a distracted lapse) but it was clear from her reaction she had no clue. She'd never (or rarely) had a pint sent back; people just swallowed and smiled, exerting no popular pressure. Polite.

It was while nursing one of these geriatric lagers -- literally nursing, medicating it with pinches of salt and squeezes of citrus to make its last moments more comfortable (for me) -- that I was given a piece of information that rocked my world. That night at midnight, according to the Radio Industry Insider across from me, the venerable K-Rock was going to change formats. There were no details, nothing but a half-hopeful haze of guesswork, but the fact was 97.3 went off the air at noon, to resume broadcast at the Witching Hour. Given the recent upheavals on Edmonton's dial, what could they be planning?

A real, honest-to-Satan hard music channel, taking the crustiest edge of Krock's current (very limited) playlist and expanding out into the thrashosphere? That'd be cool, but we couldn't see how the market could support it. Actually, we couldn't see how the market could support anything but the weak-ass hoser hit parade format Krock'd already staked out and developed into Edmonton's powerhouse at-work radio experience... without Krock, what would the boys in the back shop rock out to while the secretaries flitted about reception with Cool 880 cranked up to knob level 2? It didn't make sense.

I raced home to fire up my near-vintage Kenwood KT-47 tuner, kicking it way past its comfort zone -- I don't normally take that baby up past the high eighties. At 97.3 the fiery red twins TUNED and STEREO lit up, and there was Alice Cooper singing "no more... mister nice guy!" Not the awesome song "No More Mister Nice Guy", just a clip of that one phrase looping over and over and over. Every so often, that old-guy-trying-to-sound-tough voiceover Krock likes to use would come in and say things like "Call us schizophrenic... we've been called worse", "a new dawn is coming... at midnight", and even that old marketing shithead mantra "Change... is good". What could it all mean? At last, as my wine and patience dwindled -- though that looping clip actually had a strange lulling effect -- the Voice began to count down: "One minute until... the Change".

"The Change"? Was Krock going to an all-menopause format? Ha ha, no... turns out this was all just a stunt to introduce their newest late-night DJ, ALICE COOPER! Yep, the whole 12 hours of dead air leavened with vaguely threatening promises had been in the service of promoting the arrival of a nightly syndicated mainstream radio program, with yet another boring host puking up the same singles and cramming them back into the belly of mass culture, making Edmonton's airwaves just that little bit more identical to those in every other C-level market in North America. Yay!

"Wait a minute," you say; "Boring? This is Alice fuckin' Copper, here!" Buddy, I know where you're coming from, but there's Alice Cooper, the character, and Vincent "Alice Cooper" Furnier, the mellow, slightly dorky recovering alcoholic whose shock-rockin' legacy lives on only as gimmickry and royalty cheques. Despite what Rocking Old Man Voice would have us believe ("The show for people like our host, who can't function with the [sarcasm] 'normal world') Nights With Alice Cooper isn't hosted by Stage Alice but by Golf Alice. Golf Alice kicks his show off with the Stones' Start Me Up, moves on to overplayed singles from Bowie and The Nuge, and wraps it all up with the Beatles' Come Together before reading his email: "Dear Alice, your show is amazing... you have the same opinions as I do!" Sounds like the "normal world" suits the guy just fine.

Now, boys, don't get me wrong... I dig Alice. See that image illustrating this column? That's from the cover of Alice's Lace and Whiskey, scanned off the sleeve of my own beloved LP. And Golf Alice isn't a bad radio host, either; he's chatty and informal, meanders a bit and talks about his past and present life -- "I haven't been drinking for twenty years, but Seagram's V.O. was what I was into." Also, he sometimes seems to be talking to someone in the background, but whoever it is isn't picking up the cues or participating at all and it makes Alice sound like a nerd trying to get a party game going and being ignored by everyone. It's endearing... but the difference between how the show promos and bumpers try to build him up and the on-air reality is so jarring the whole thing's a joke.

And as for "Edmonton radio never being the same" and "The Change," well... that was all bullshit; Krock's unchanged, still cribbing their playlist from the same old mix-tapes they find under the seats of shitbox dudemobiles, pumping out the same blaring ads for blind aspirational culture ("Men: every woman is at risk for... Shrinking Diamond Syndrome."), giving jobs to the whitest, boringest broadcast-school gabblers they can find. Welcome (back) to my nightmare; all's right with the world.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Dukes of Hazzard

(This review runs in Vue Weekly)

Man, talk about your critical drubbings. Who pissed in the cornflakes of criticism, that everyone’s gotta hate on The Dukes of Hazzard like this? “There is no wrong time to flush this turd” (Rolling Stone); “A lame-brained, outdated wheeze” (Roger Ebert), etc. Doesn’t anybody like to have fun anymore? Even poor old Ben Jones, TV's original Cooter, has returned to momentary fame by damning the remake’s shameful straying from the show’s “family values”. Cooter, my man! It was a show about outlaw booze-running smuggler cousins blowing up the vehicles of duly appointed peace officers with dynamite arrows while their sexpot cousin corrupted the principles of due process by hypnotizing a learning-disabled deputy with the power of her denimed ass and gingham-restrained tits. Wake the fuck up!

I’m here to report that as a hoser who loves the antics of other hosers and who values nothing in a film more than a sense of joy and fun, I had a damn fine time with the new Dukes. I went in thinking I’d be bored – I went alone, and movies like this are best shared with friends – but I was laughing and grinning the whole way through, from that first classic midjump freeze-frame before the titles to the final shot where Wille Nelson tokes up in the smokehouse with Joe Don Baker. There’s a fine line between clever and stupid, as the man once said, and director Jay Chandrasekhar takes that two-sided aphorism into a third dimension by making one great realization: in the making of a Dukes film, getting too clever is stupid. So when we get jokes born from the cliches and conventions of the show, he’s not taking the piss or rolling his eyes or mocking… he’s having fun with the toolkit of iconic elements provided by an old show beloved by millions.

The engine driving this machine is the chemistry between Bo and Luke Duke, Seann William Scott and Jackass’s Johnny Knoxville. That chemistry isn’t deep, but it’s volatile as the moonshine molotovs Wille tosses; they are two good old boys, thrill junkies, hometown heroes, hair-trigger fistfighters with more guts than brains. “Cousins closer than brothers,” as Texas guitar legend Junior Brown narrates, Luke’s the “sensible one” only in comparison to his near-feral cousin – Scott’s got real danger in his eyes. Yeah, they’re crazy-brave, but it’s not because they’re stupid – it’s because they’re winners. They’re afraid of nothing because they never lose; they don’t even know what it is to lose. The Duke Boys live in an ‘80s action-adventure universe where everything always works out in the end.

There are slack moments, places where you’re going to get impatient for more action, more hootin’ and hollerin’, but they’re tolerable. Worse is any scene featuring Jessica Simpson. If anything comes close to wrecking this movie it’s that vapid, pneumatic, mannish nobody. I’m no Dukes purist – I mean, why would I care? – so the whole “Daisy’s gotta be brunette” thing doesn’t enter into this. It’s not about Daisy needing to have brown hair, it’s about a performer in a film needing to be able to speak and move like something other than a confused fuckdroid prototype whose voice module was programmed by an ESL student in a Houston primary school. Her distract-the-cops-with-ass routine is old the first time, let alone the fourth; I almost felt like cheering when her silicone siren’s song finally failed her.

With great chase photography that lovingly rebuilds the legend of the second-greatest fictional ride of all time (face it, KITT’s “super pursuit mode” is gonna leave any stock iron in a swirl of late-summer Georgia leaves ), and a cast that’s clearly having an infectiously fun time, The Dukes of Hazzard makes for an above-average action comedy that leaves you weanting a sequel or three. Just make sure you run out of the theatre as soon as the outtakes end, because Simpson’s rendition of “These Boots Were Made For Walking” is so bad it can cause irreversible genetic damage.

Monday, August 08, 2005

No More Mister Nice Guy

While enjoying a pint of flat beer at the Power Plant I learned that K-Rock, known to me in my youth as K-97 (If I recall correctly), was changing formats at midnight tonight and it was all a big secret what their new format would be. Right now, they're playing a clip of Alice Cooper singing "no more mister nice guy!" over and over again -- not he whole song, just that phrase. Now and then, an announcer voice breaks in to say shit like "Call us shizophrenic; we've been called worse... at midnight Edmonton radio changes forever." Since I'm not gonna see Dukes of Hazzard tonight (watching movies solo sucks), I guess my evening involes sitting home and ringing in the new 97.3. Something to write about, anyway...

Shit. Just realized I haven't changed the station , and "no more... mister nice guy!" has been looping over and over and I didn't really notice or care. We're pretty desensitized to our sonic environment, huh?


Eventually, this post will be the final prize for those who dig all the way down through the stack. Party on, contest winners!