Friday, April 28, 2006

Life During Wartime, April 25

A fun show with a summertime feel (I hope). LDWt's still Tuesdays 3-5pm MST, on CJSR.

Big Brother & the Holding Company -- Summertime
Gordon Lightfoot -- Too Many Clues In This Room
Gnarls Barkley -- Crazy
Masterdon Committee -- Funk Box Party
Cadence Weapon -- Fathom
Howlin' Wolf -- Built For Comfort
Black Angels -- Bloodhound on my Trail
The Great Outdoors -- The Lido
Richard Buckner -- Jewelbomb
Neil Young -- See the Sky About to Rain
Flaming Lips -- It Overtakes Me
Siouxie & the Banshees -- The Passenger
Television -- Marquee Moon
Fatboy Slim -- Sunset (Bird of Prey) (4:20)
Yoko Solo -- Covered in Feces...
Bob Log III -- Log Bomb
The Cramps -- Can Get Into Your Pants?
Robocop Kraus -- Life Amazes Us...
Gary Wilson -- Gary's in the Park
Albatross Note -- Lotus Eater
Joy Division -- She's Lost Control
Spoon -- My Mathematical Mind

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Silent Hill (also, go Oilers)

It’s about one o’clock or so in the morning, with screams and howls fighting their way past glass, grime and IKEA cotton to find me in my bed. It’s not the moaning din of lost and tormented souls that comes out of the night, but a jubilation of demons, a wordless animal rejoicing – the Oilers have taken game three at the Coliseum (retro nomenclature; playoff superstition) and the pent-up energy of four-and-a-half periods of knuckle-chewing, penalty-killing and pop-eyed screaming has burst the barrooms and poured from the parking lots in a wave of copper, blue and pasty white. Whoo! Honk-honk! I’d love to be out there, but LimeWire says it’s only five minutes and… no, wait; twelve minutes and thirty… no, a minute twent… no, three days, two hours and… no, five minutes, seriously, until my illegal download of Silent Hill is complete.

Not to beat the same drum three weeks in a row, but please feel me on this, kids: it’s hell keeping one’s Nerd Focus when skies are blue, bikes are rolling, and the budding beginnings of the city’s Yavinesque blanket of green are kicking out that sweet valley fragrance. The games themselves are one thing, but how do you convince one of your buddies – how do you convince yourself -- to leave a copiously drink-ticketed patio party filled with pretty people in favor of a boring-ass busride to WEM and a screening of a game-based movie? You don’t; you just sort of throw the idea down on the table and watch it drain through the cracks with the pools of spilled Grasshoper, you absorb the disgusted stares of strangers, you nervously shrug and stammer through the silence (“I mean, it’s… it’s supposed to be not that bad…”), and you tell yourself you’ll see it on the weekend. On the bright weekend of bocce and barbecue.

I’m a fan of the Silent Hill series, I guess, in the cheap and diluted current sense of “fan”… it’s not like I have SH posters up in my room (that’d be creepy) or a Red Pyramid tattoo on my arm (that’d be creepy, but actually pretty cool on somebody else). They’re the most genuinely horrifying games in a genre that relies largely on gore and BOO! for its thrills, nauseating journeys into metaphysical madness that leave mile-wide marks on one’s psyche. Claustrophobic, disorienting, cold-sweat-inducing… man, it’s worth picking up a pawnshop PSOne just to get in on this. Every aspect of Silent Hill – the pacing, the music, the art direction, the nightmare design – is, with expected quality fluctuations across the series, perfectly pitched to fuck you up forever. It didn’t need to have a movie spun off it – what game does? – but an adaptor couldn’t pick richer source material.

That said, reviews have been mixed. Meaning, mainstream (and even sidestream) film critics have universally shit all over it (“Stupefyingly incoherent” -- New York Post; “Shoddy dialogue and incoherent story constantly irritate” – Globe and Mail; “[negative quote TBA]” – Vue Weekly; etc.) while forum fanboys, shellshocked by Teutonic hack Uwe Boll’s stream of anti-hits and desperate to lay the love on any game movie that doesn’t outright kick the beloved source material in the nuts, have made the film a bit of a rallying point against those toffee-nosed pricks who just don’t get it, who refuse to get it (jerks), and who should probably stick to jacking off to gay cowboys or whatever OMG LOL fagz. This critical conversation failed to arouse any of my friends’ curiosities, and to be honest barely prodded at mine… bottom line, we couldn’t tear ourselves away from sprummertime fun in order to sit in a freezing-cold unlit cavern for two-and-a-half hours with a film that is either a) one of the all-time shitburgers or b) a work of art appreciated only by semiliterate nerds who beak off in online forums.

So, I figured, why not pirate the fucker, watch it in casual front-porch laptop comfort? Why not, indeed; here I am, already past deadline, alone in my room, waiting on my third attempted download since Sunday afternoon. The first file I grabbed, a ten-hour download, was ninety minutes of blank black – pirate-confounding movie-industry spam. The second was the Silent Hill trailer, forty times back-to-back – more spam. But I’ve got a good feeling about this one after twenty-six long hours of downloading, Oiler confidence radiating from Whyte. Two minutes… three… ten… one… five… twenty seconds… fifty… fourteen… two hours… two seconds… verifiying file contents… aaaaand… BINGO! There it is! We’ve got sound, good… distributor logo, awesome… studio logo… hey. Hey! What the fuck? This is Saw! I’m so screwed!

(Moral: Film piracy destroys careers; don’t do it!)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

04-14-2006 -- the bowlin' green

The game started out desperately running east – chasing sun, fleeing shadow – but after a quick, gimmicky short-drop round the grim wall of the ancient brick schoolhouse has forced us to head back up the turf. We didn’t do it by half-measures, either; Team Blue’s tossed the jack – the pin, the target, the little white ball that probably has a cool Italian name – way deep, past centre field. Team Red’s sitting quasi-comfortably at one, but my Team Yellow partner’s opening throw crouches close by. The promise of picking up two for the win shines out of the shadow…

Bocce, man! The greatest slack-ass outdoor pastime this side of makin’ out by the creek. Accessible to all but the most tragically disabled or hilariously wasted of humans, demanding nothing more from your cardiovascular system than the routine pumping of oxygenated blood to the brain. The easy pace and low attention requirements enable an element of girl-watching frisbee or hacky-sack can’t match. Conducive to gentle conversation -- even the trash-talking makes use of our “inside voices” – bocce also has the virtue of being playable with one hand, making it the ideal sport for drinkers and smokers… just don’t bogart that spliff while you size up your shot, Tiger!

Yeah, I think I’ve found my sport… at least, my sport as a player; for spectation purposes, nothing beats that good ol’ hockey game – and if something (rugby, for instance; come on, Ulster!) did beat it, I’d sure keep my mouth shut and my opinions to myself. Poor-mouthing hockey is a great way to turn every Mike, Dave and Chris in the bar against you. The nerds and poet-jocks will harangue you about the beauty of the game’s flow, the swirling hypnotic mandala best appreciated from the nosebleeds; the meatheads will call you a fag. Luckily, I do in fact think hockey is totally rad; good thing this isn’t a baseball town…

So… Oilers in six? Hey? Hey? Discounting for now the doom-and-gloom contingent who are certain the Four Horsemen of the Oilpocalypse – iffy goaltending, sloppy giveaways, inability to SHOOOOOOOOOT! and… uh… Pestilence? – will show up in turn, one for each ass-kicking Detroit is to hand them, “Oilers in six” seems (from what I pick up from the background rhubarb) to be the standard cautiously hopeful fan wisdom. But as much as I’d like to see the Oilers playing into late May or even June – if only because I love the absurdity of sweating, sunburned Canadians in shorts and tank-tops getting excited about a game played on a sheet of soild ice – I’m a little worried. You see, I live near Whyte Avenue.

Can you feel it, children? That scene’s going to go positively apeshit this year. We’re not even three weeks into Asshole Season and already Whyte after dark is unendurable. Raw violence and hate in a sick spiral with orgiastic lust, everywhere; jealousy, pettiness, punchiness, hair-trigger personal-space territoriality… goddamn animals, howling, covered in blood. The boulevard trees haven’t even leafed out yet, and already the place is ready to blow its top; what happens when the sportosterone released by home-team playoff wins is added to the mix? Down Calgary way, the cops are already “cracking down” on the Red Mile, itching for a riot… what’ll happen up here, when our hometown louts demand a toxic tit-show of their own?

Scary shit… but I have to put it out of my mind as much as I can, for now. This is the make-or-break throw. Bowling takeout weight at sixty feet is risky… a slight miscalculation, a twitch of the wrist, a distracting cough and that baby’s gonna lie down under the SUV across the street. Breathe. Watch. Focus. A swig and a drag for luck. Compensate for slope. Adjust for that patch of dirt. Backswing and… go go go go go GO GO GO YES! The Red ball is dislodged! TEAM YELLOW WINS IT ALL!

[cue Intellivision crowd noise]

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Andrea E. Lefebvre -- "April 7"

If you haven’t been prepped by the explicitness of the exhibition’s full title, it takes a split-second after walking into the room where Andrea Lefebvre’s April 7 hangs before your mind clicks to what it’s seeing. These vivid panels of swirling dayglo color and line, cribbed and coded dense with wordlike forms, kaleidoscoping into a postmodern infinity beyond time and space, artbabbling some artbabble… they can’t be daytimer pages, can they? Like, real ones? From a real person?

Some are, some aren’t. A series of mounted blowups from Lefebvre’s own planner hang alongside painted canvases which echo and amplify their forms and conventions. It’s the kind of thing you can look at for hours, with the hours spent admiring the energy and quality of Lefebvre’s marks in both pen and paint coming right after the hours (disclosure: I didn’t actually spend hours looking at these pictures) spent in pure voyeuristic bliss, spinning a narrative out of a burning chaos barely constrained by the feeble rules laid down by the manufactured pages themselves.

Disorder-taming at its best, the fundamental act of taking the swirling requirements of the titular “very busy” life and making it a machine for living… and a cheeky bit of killing two birds with one stone. “I realized I was getting married and everything had to click,” says Lefebvre, “so I had to give ‘er.” The project that became April 7 was thus both process and product, art imitating life… and life becoming art. With every date, errand, highlight, arrow, doodle (there aren’t many), address and exclamation point destined to become a meaningful mark, getting her day-to-day shit together became not just a hassling necessity but an extended act of artmaking, the heart of which is now and always will be simple discipline.

“It’s me teaching myself to be productive,” Lefebvre says. “I worked really hard to comb some chaos out. I’ve learned to freak out in two weeks [before a deadline] the way I used to freak out the day before.”

And that’s just the daytimer stuff. The canvasses -- “I started doing the big calendars just to get my ass into the studio and painting” – involve a whole other level of commentary, the first statement of which is a reclaiming of the right to use words and other explicitly coded marks (eg. quadruple underlines, savage circles, girly bubble letters) within serious pieces without shame.

“I learned early not to do that,” the artist recalls, “because it looks…” Precious? “No…” Over-earnest? “No…” Lazy? “No…” Eventually it’s decided that, most of the time, wordy paintings are just plain lame, a lameness Lefebvre sidesteps by approaching the creation of her calendar pieces with a full painterly arsenal. Far from a deadline-beating undergrad dodge, Lefebvre’s calendars evolved through layer after layer in session after session; while the lexical content carries weight and enables the viewer to create a narrative, the real fascination of these pieces lies in their depth of color and tone, the surprising twists of composition that lurk around and within every name and date. Gold glitterpen in the service of High Art.

The next step, Lefebvre says, is taking the show on the road, where she’ll be able to get reactions without the voyeuristic/narcissistic noise created by roomsful of friends, family, and acquaintances seeking familiar names, refracting their own lives through the artist’s schedule. In the coming year, she’s only planning on doing four more works – one for each season -- in this style before moving on.

Looking down at her power-sized black book, covered with the treble-meaning scrawl and swirl of an ongoing art endeavor, an ongoing life, she sighs: “These things have to get functional again…”

April 7: A collection of paintings made from the daytimer of a very busy lady
Andrea E. Lefebvre
until May 13
Latitude 53, Edmonton

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The parable of the cave

More seasonal gripes! Look, I love vitamin D as much as the next guy – I really plan on enjoying a few months free from the bio-emotional chemistry of a frustrated, undernourished, under-laid cave goblin – but I need stability. Gamers, back me up on this, that this is basically your nightmare scenario:

It’s a cold, dark, rainy early spring day. You don’t have anywhere to be or any clock to punch, no work that needs doing that you can’t rightly or wrongly blow off for a few more days. You have responsibilities – a sick pet, say – that require you to stay home and keep the Leon’s No Money Miracle warm. You have an Xbox 360 and a copy of Oblivion you’ve barely played – sure, the clock says 120 hours, but a lot of that was from falling unconscious without turning the ‘Box off. You grab the sticks and settle in, all temporal and heavenly signs pointing to an auspicious day of killin’ and stealin’, your mind forming that special Zone that allows a master such as yourself to suspend, fakir-like, most physical and cognitive functions so as better get “in the game”…

…and then, around 2 p.m. the fucking sun comes out and it’s suddenly the nicest day ever, and your friends want to throw the Frisbee around. And all you can do is stare at them glassy eyed, shrug, and continue cursing our beloved hydrogen-fusion reactor for making it impossible to see what’s going on in the goddamn evil temple. Where’d that ghost go? Shit! Turn up the brightness! Close the curtains! Shit!

Man, I love swearing; it makes me feel like a real big man. Anyway, that’s what happened the other day, and aside from one buddy who is honestly happy just to sit there and watch me go through the RPG motions, endless inventory-fiddling and all – seriously; it’s weird – my entire legion of concerned wellwishers subjected me to Jr. High levels of teasing until I finally consented to power that shit down and drag my unshaven, unshowered carcass out into the ultraviolet to drink beer (real beer) and check out girl’s bums (real girls; real bums) out on the sundowning porch. Though I didn’t really adjust in time to properly enjoy the afternoon – after eight-odd hours of Oblivion conversation you can’t really deal with people who aren’t wearing dialogue options on a sign around their necks – I did get enough sun (and enough beer n’ bum) that some clarity returned and I was able, for a moment, to allow myself for the first time to think negative thoughts about the greatest, most beautiful, most immersive videogame ever created. To wit:

  • The leveling system licks Gary Gygax’s balls. Scaling all enemies to player level is supposed to maintain a hot challenege level throughout the game. What actually ends up happening is that characters who don’t level with math-nerd precision get eaten alive. It kills what little “role playing” Oblivion offers: my sweet-talking seductress poisoner had to spend three days out of every nine working the heavy bag and repairing breastplates to level her endurance high enough so she wouldn’t be skeletonized by the first rat that came along.
  • The touted “radiant AI” makes NPCs just smart enough to be the dumbest game dudes ever: “You are the only hope for the Empire, hero!” [hero accidentally tries to ride guy’s horse] “Die, thief! Die!” Everybody in Cyrodil is a knee-jerk robot moron.
  • The gorgeous visuals can only temporarily gloss the fact the setting is tired and boring. Oblivion’s predecessor, Morrowind, offered a world of organic architecture, crazy flora and fauna, alien hierarchies. Oblivion offers the cover of an airport-newsstannd fantasy novel, occasionally relieved by death-metal album art.
  • You can only move and place in-game objects (as when trying to decorate your home base) with a telekinesis spell, and even then it’s like you’re a Special Ed student at Jedi school.
So, yeah. New word on the street: Oblivion sucks and I barely (like 3-4h a day, tops) play it anymore. I’m reading the Bible instead! Did you know God didn’t snuff Onan ‘cause he (Onan) was jerking off? It’s true! God destroyed Onan because Onan refused to bust his (Onan’s) nut inside his (Onan’s) dead brother’s widow. True story!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Life During Wartime, April 4 '06

The relentless Tetris stack of posts keeps building... it seems like just yesterday I was welcoming Ralph Klein back to the booze brotherhood. Welp, time makes fools of us all. This week on LDWt (Tuesdays, 3-5pm MST on CJSR), a special 12-minute blues treat for the stoners, plus MAIDEN.

Revolting Cocks -- Caliente (Dark Entries)
The Robocop Kraus -- A Man is not a Bird
Stephen Malkmus -- No More Shoes
Islands -- If
Pink Martini -- Brazil
Calexico -- Nom de plume
Pat Brennan -- Death, Where is Thy Sting?
Devo -- Find out
Ursula 1000 -- Hello! Let's Go to a Disco (feat. Dougee Dimensional)
Desmond Dekker -- We Can and We Shall
Citay -- Shalom of Safed
Illuminati -- Down the Road
Guitar Wolf -- Jett Beer
The Jerry Lee Phantom -- What Time!!!
Booker T. & Priscilla -- Who Killed Cock Robin (4:20!)
Giant Sand -- Hard on Things
Son Volt -- Blind Hope
Drazy Hoops -- This Much I Know
The Creeps -- Ain't a Square
Skulls -- Trash Princess
Iron Maiden -- Flash of the Blade

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

04-03-2006 -- patio times

F-f-f-f-fuck it; no matter how cold it gets, I’m not going back downstairs into the warm womb of the Black Dog. Just a couple minutes ago, I was proudly glowing on about the marvelous spring-mania of Edmonites, how the minute the mercury (or coiled bi-metal, or red-tinted alcohol) gives double-digits a kiss on the cheek we squeeze our fishbelly winterflab into beachwear and pretend it’s summer, and I’m not going to swallow that pride just because the sun’s gone behind a few clouds... and the horizon. I’ve put in the screen door, I’ve washed my Cuban and Hawaiian (Tahitian, actually) shirts and I’ve switched seasonal beers (Lucky rather than Bowen Island; ‘cause the can’s lighter-colored, right?)… it’s summer, damnit, and if my core-body temperature can’t deal with it, that’s just too freezin’ bad.

See, this kind of guns-sticking is part of my new “What Would Ralph Do?” policy, a sort of personal alternative Klein Legacy. Since I haven’t yet filed my taxes for ’04 I haven’t been able to drink up the Legacy everyone else has been swilling, so I had to come up with a tribute that didn’t cost any money, and what could be a more fitting tribute to The King than becoming a stubborn conservative? You whining libs ought to try it sometime; it’s really easy, especially when you’ve got enough cash lying around to handle almost any problem – any problem that can’t be shot, shoveled and shut up about -- by cutting it a check and telling it to solve itself.

What were we talking about? Oh, yeah… seasonal weather. As a lazy columnist, this is one of a my favorite weeks in the year, the others being the first week I see a pretty girl in a cozy earth-toned wool sweater, the first week I freeze my ass off, and the first week I sleep naked in a hammock because my west-facing bedroom’s hot enough to braise lamb. I feel a little awkward about it this year, though, since Ralph’s victory lap was cut short. Walking through the river valley with my new pals Henry and Martha, I couldn’t admire the balmy browns of spring without reminding myself that the premier was sitting (fun factoid: in private, Ralph never stands) somewhere even balmier and browner considering, as they say, his options.

I’m not talking about his options vis-├á-vis leaving office; there were no options there, ever. His good lady wife and whoever else can shriek all they want about shadowy forces and betrayal and backstabbing, but not even Big Dinner has enough malevolent psychic mojo to mass-hypnotize a conventionload of conservatives into pulling out the knives against their will. The writing was on the wall, and we all know the premier can read... how else could he plagiarize? I just feel bad he got cashiered before he could fully fluff up his private-hospital featherbed.

No, the options I’m talking about are the ones familiar to anybody who truly enjoys the good things God’s Green can provide. That is to say, beer or wine… or perhaps the “third way”: hard liquor. Returning to severely normal Henryhood, out of the eye of the public and a gotcha-playing media that just loves to blow something like a limousine-driven drunken tirade against a couple of bums all out of proportion, Ralph will soon be free to enjoy as many glasses of wine with as many dinners for as many days in a row as he likes. The only time he’ll have to climb back on any kind of wagon is when he goes on Stampede hayrides, and even then nobody – nobody right-thinking -- will tut-tut when he pulls a mickey from under Colleen’s bonnet and has a little nip or twenty. I mean, when a man’s given so much to the people of this province, doesn’t he deserve a drink in his dotage? For Pete’s sake, people!

I’m raising an unopened can of Lucky I found under the couch, Ralph; I was a nervous virgin and a social drinker when you first brought your smile and style to The Office, and now I’m a confident drunk who’s been fucked for twelve years. Here’s to you, my liege!