Thursday, January 31, 2008

It worries me too

Leave it to parents to undermine a child's inalienable right to irony.

Ms. Dale said she ordered the cards from a flyer that her daughter, Emily,
brought home from school and had no idea they would contain such dark
"I just assumed that anything she could order in that book order was
all right. I didn't know I had to look for PG- or R-rated."

Oh, please. When I was in Fourth Grade, we didn't even bother with Valentine's cards. We just punched each other in the nose and then bled heart-shapes in the snow. And we liked it.

mp3: "I Feel Like the Mother of the World" by Smog

All the (Blog) Critics Love U in New York

Don't mean to brag, but they read me in NYC. Yeah, I'm a big shot. I'm awesome. I know. And I'm going to see Jim Gaffigan on Saturday night. Jealous? I don't blame you. And y'know what's weird? I almost never get to watch Conan O'Brien anymore, but I did on Monday night. And y'know who was on? Jim Gaffigan. And you know where Conan is filmed? New York. It's a fact. I don't even have to make this up because it was already true before you even read it.

In the Bad-News-For-Formerly-Balding-Guys Dept., Guy Lafleur plans on turning himself in to authorities on Friday morning.

In the Shit-You-Might-Already-Know Dept., the Moutain Goats are going to be playing at Richard's on Richards on Feb. 22. That's in Vancouver, yo. You can check out the video (speaking of questionable haircuts) for "Sax Rohmer #1" (from the MGs forthcoming album Heretic Pride) RIGHT ABOUT HERE.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

I like new music: Hilotrons

Courtesy Kelp Records, it's a band called Hilotrons (no the?), and like the rest of the Kelp roster (greats like Andrew Vincent & the Pirates, Jim Bryson, Andy Swan, Detective Kalita and many, many more) they're an Ottawa-based outfit with questionable haircuts. The song clocks in at barely over a minute-and-a-half, and it doesn't start off so hot, but a lot happens after the first little bit that promises fun things from their upcoming long-player Happymatic, due April 1 of this year.

mp3: "Dominika" by Hilotrons

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I never wanted 2 be your weekend blogger...


It's not that I have nothing to say lately, it's just that I've been saying it in other ways. Been reading and writing. In the last week or so I've read three full novels, worked on my masterpiece(meal) and started a short story that I'm really excited about. Believe it or not, but it was inspired (sorta) by my weekend viewing of Balls of Fury. Not really, more like inspired by the credits. I also saw Persepolis, which I liked about million times more (Nicole says she liked it even more than she liked Juno, and she liked Juno a lot), but didn't inspire me, except in the way that all things I like inspire me to try to be really good at something.

So I'm in between novels right now. I just finished The Bookmakers by Zev Chafets, an excellent caper-ish (if writing a novel can be a caper) farce very much in the spirit of Carl Hiaasen. Before that, I whizzed through It's Superman! by Tom De Haven. Before that, I reread the absolutely fantastic The Prisoner of Guantanamo by the excellent Dan Fesperman (who has a new book coming out soon--it's already out in the UK!).

I'm sitting on Pest Control, by Bill Fitzhugh (from the library) and Jonathan Lethem's Gun With Occasional Music (from co-worker Timmy). I'm not sure if I'll actually read either one, but I should at least make an effort. Pest Control, at least, looks fun. The Lethem book, howev, I dunno. I tried and failed to get through Fortress of Solitude, and I read and mostly enjoyed Men & Cartoons, but I don't know.

Here's some songs that I have been enjoying lately. The Parkas track is really old, like nearly four years come and gone, but I put on their first album the other day, and dammit, it's excellent. The other two are by the Rural Alberta Advantage, who are apparently from Toronto and will be playing all over Eastern Canada over the next two months. I don't even remember where I heard of them, probably CBC Radio 3, but it doesn't really matter anymore, cuz I hear them all the time when I close my eyes now.

mp3: "Giants in My Field" by the Parkas

mp3: "Don't Haunt this Place" by the Rural Alberta Advantage

mp3: "Sleep All Day" by the Rural Alberta Advantage

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Things To Do With A Million Dollars in Saskatchewan

A Wheatland librarian made off with $1 million in a fake book scheme. Just think of what he could have done with all that loot!

I'm gonna put on my Ron Petrie hat (which would be a non-ironic--well maybe ironic, but more sarcastic-ironic than hipster-ironic--farmer hat with a patch from an Ituna bait & tackle shop) and list all the things you could in Saskatchewan with an ill-gotten million dollars.

  • Bedazzler two blocks of 12th Ave. in Regina and rename it Bedazzlergina.
  • Put a down payment on a Yaletown loft.
  • Hire one-twelfth of the Rolling Stones to play 2-nights at the Vibank curling rink and civic centre.
  • Secure the naming rights for Moose Jaw's WHL team. New name: the Moose Jaw Cuddlers
That's all I got.

mp3: "Mail Fraud" by the Minor Thirds

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Subtext in Supertown

Three things have got me thinking rambly about stuff (stuff that I spent way too much time thinking w/o any stimuli anyway): 1) Wade's comment on my post about the JLA movie, 2) another Douglas Wolk article, this time about two books looking at Jewish themes in superhero comics, and 3) Roger Ebert's late review of Spider-Man 3.
Wolk says in his second paragraph "superheroes are loaded with subtext—that’s sort of the point of them" and basically nails what I've been narrowly missing in most of my comics thinking over the last four years. I had more or less replaced subtext with metaphor--a subtle distinction, but a key one nonetheless. Over the last year and a half, I've been stealing ideas from David J. Skal's The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror and jamming them into comics stuff. Specifically, I've been thinking about how superhero comics reflect the culture they're produced in, the way that Skal says early horror films processed the traumas of the First World War.
It's the kind of thing that's most transparent in the Golden Age comics, when Superman was still a fresh idea, warm and malleable desipite skin impervious to a bursting shell. As Wolk notes in his piece (which sorta dovetails with my thoughts on Chris Knowles's book Our Gods Wear Spandex), Superman reflected the immigrant experience of the early 20th Century. But he was also tied up in Rooseveltian ideals (both Teddy's Strenous Life manliness and Franklin's New Deal sense of fairplay and optimism). Tom De Haven's curiously good 2005 novel It's Superman exploits this aspect of Superman's secret origin by sending young Clark Kent on a coming-of-age adventure against the backdrop of the Great Depression.

Over the last couple of years, in tandem with their Showcase Presents line of black & white, mostly Silver Age, reprints, DC Comics has been publishing a Chronicles line of full-colour reprints of Batman and Superman comics in chronological order, starting with their first appearances in the late 1930s. I picked up the first three volumes of each Chronicles series, expecting to be mostly impressed by the Batman stuff and mildly curious to see if Superman was as much of a creampuff in the 30s and 40s as he was in the 50s (and pretty much through to the present day) (though Superman himself is something of a douchebag in the Silver Age stories reprinted in the Showcase Presents line, the scenarios are wonderful). Lo and behold, it was Batman, that weird avenger of the night, who came across as the sort of benignly bland, square-jawed authority figure that Superman is so often accused of being. Superman, meanwhile, in his earliest adventures, was a total badass. Smashing slumlords, forcing fat cat tycoons to visit the unsafe mines they profit from, and fixing a college football game. Okay, I'm not exactly sure how rigging college sports fits in with the rest of his social activism, but the point is that for a brief period, Superman was more interesting than Batman (Batman was actually an even bigger douchebag than Superman in the 50s and 60s--without the benefit of Curt Swan, Al Plastino and Wayne Boring art! Sure the Infantino stuff is pretty good, but for the most part, the Showcase Presents Batman volumes are kinda dreadful).

I'm not sure when Superman stories started being lame, but I suspect it was around the time Batman stories stopped--the late 60s when Neal Adams started drawing the strip. During that period (which, coincidentally, also featured lots of Neal Adams covers, if not interior art) Clark Kent left the Daily Planet to become a TV anchorman for WGBS. The thing was, during the late 60s and early 70s, you could still read excellent Superman-related stories in Superman's Girlfriend Lois Lane and Superman's Pal Jimmy Olsen (whose title character was the Scott Pilgrim of his day).

--I like how I'm writing here as if I was reading comics in the 50s, 60s, and 70s--

I don't even know what my point is anymore. I've been writing this since last Friday and I've just learned of the death of Heath Ledger, who plays the Joker in the upcoming Batman film The Dark Knight. Filming has wrapped on TDK, so this grim news shouldn't affect the eventual movie we'll all see in the theatre the weekend it comes out, but it will probably affect the marketing of the film.
Regardless, it's a shame and a waste. Even though the cause of death isn't yet known, there's no good reason not to say this: Don't do drugs. And if you can't not do drugs, don't do them alone. Most overdoses don't need to be fatal. Immediate medical treatment, simple first aid even, will save lives. If you're going to do drugs, have 9-11 on speed dial. Stay alive. Stay alive long enough to figure out a way to get off drugs. Like Smog says, "No matter how far wrong you've gone, you can always turn around."
I've gone so far off track here, I might as well close this post. I'll try to come back to some of the ideas I wanted to put out here (talking points: Green Arrow as successful Batman proxy; Shazam! as failed Superman proxy; the untapped filmic potential of DC Comics' second and third tier characters; the importance of supporting casts; Clark Kent vs. Peter Parker; etc.) in future posts.
In the meantime, the Black Mountain album, In the Future, came out today. It's awesome, and also makes me kinda sad. It's awesome because it's a brave and bold epic of chug-o-mystic rock. It's sad because it means I probably won't be seeing drummer Josh Wells around for a while as the band tours the world. I like Josh, he's got a great sense of humour. So here's a track from the new alb, which just happens to have previously appeared on the Spider-Man 3 soundtrack.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

WOW: An acronym that doesn't stand for anything

My good friend and chronic Bulldozer-reader Pat Fiacco announced earlier today that the City of Regina is going to spend a whopping $1 million to make downtown Regina less of a gaping blight amidst the outlying big box retailers that have needlessly sucked most of the economy out of the city's centre.
Maybe I've been in Vancouver too long, but $1M doesn't seem like that much money for such a lofty goal. I mean, this is a city paying tens of thousands of dollars a year just to have 24-hr security on a clock.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The Justice League of America has finally met its match

Variety reports that the JLA has been brought down by the WGA (at least in part). The live-action flick was reportedly going to begin filming this spring with a rumoured cast of teenaged no-name TV actors, and rapper Common in the role of Green Lantern (which GL is anyone's guess).
The script, by a former scribe of Touched by an Angel and Nash Bridges, was apparently deemed unfit by the Warner execs, and with no writers available (some sort of strike, I guess), the project is dead in the water.
Which is good news for both comics fans and movies fans, because the movie looked like it was going to be shit-tay.
I've become increasingly hostile to the idea of superhero movies-qua-superhero movies. Superman Returns was such a frivolous movie (though not as frivolous as the Richard Donner cut of Superman II) which I felt really had nothing to say and no reason for existing other than Warner felt they had to something with their property. This was made all the more unsatisfying by the fact that the film was made by the same person who had kickstarted the superhero movie renaissance with two potent X-Men flicks.
Batman Begins, on the other hand, was pretty much the antithesis of Superman Returns. It had a purpose, it had a vision, it had Gary Oldman. It wasn't just a superhero movie (a meaningless descriptor if there was one, which nonetheless applies perfectly to Superman Returns). It was more of a 70s cop/vigilante movie, really, closer in theme to The French Connection or Taxi Driver than Super Friends. And this summer's The Dark Knight looks like it can only be more awesome.
The point? I dunno. But there's also going to be an Iron Man movie this year, directed by Jon Favreau and starring Robert Downey Jr. Like Christopher Nolan's Batman movies, Iron Man has the chance to be something more than a story of a man and his cape (Iron Man doesn't even wear a cape). I'm kinda excited to see it. Here's the trailer.

Friday, January 11, 2008

2007: Comic books I have dug

I just chanced upon master comics critic Douglas Wolk's list of great graphic novels from 2007 over on Salon, and I thought maybe I would try to come up with my own list. Maybe. Let's see if I can think of ten comics I genuinely enjoyed. I think I'll have to include reprints. And even then I don't think I've got ten comics I really feel comfortable stumping for.

5. Jack Kirby's Fourth World Omnibus - if you look up "hot shit 70s psych-fi" in the dictionary--you'll be disappointed, but in a perfect world, etc
4. Showcase Presents Aquaman - more reprints, featuring an alarming amount of pathos from the King of the Seven Seas and his finny friends, especially the episode where they open an underwater hospital.
3. All Star Superman - doesn't come out nearly as often as it should, but it's always a little bit magical
2. Scott Pilgrim - so cool it hurts
1. Kyle Baker's Special Forces - crude and nasty war satire
MOST BEST COMIC I EVER READ WHICH TRANSCENDS STUPID NUMBERING. The Salon - One kickass comic by Nick Bertozzi (who also drew a very fine comic about Houdini that came out in 2007). Bertozzi's also got a wicked web-comic about Ernest Shackleton on his website that you will enjoy. That is not a recommendation, it's a command.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Life Is A Salad Worth Eating

This is a great, easy salad that looks as nice as it tastes. It takes about 3 minutes to make, and livens up whatever other easy crap you decided to make for supper, like a frozen pizza or microwave burrito. I stole the idea from a pay-by-the-pound vegetarian restaurant in Montreal. It's a particularly good winter salad, since it's part canned, part fresh.


1 can beets, sliced or rosebud - I typically use rosebud beets, sliced in half
1 apple - it doesn't really matter what kind of apple, but I like to use something local and semi-exotic. What's an exotic apple? Anything whose name you don't recognize. For the salad pictured, I used a BC-grown Pink Lady apple, which is a cross between a Golden Delicious and a Lady Williams.
2 pinches of dill
1 handful of walnuts, chopped or crumbled (optional)
1 bit of cheese, diced (optional) - I like to use a light havarti, because it's a little bit creamy, which contrasts nicely with the crunchy walnuts and crisp apple. Generally, if you add anything extra to the salad like walnuts or cheese, you want to be thinking about building texture rather than complicating the flavour. So no feta or blue.

Open up the can of beets, drain the juice and then pour the beets into a medium bowl. Cut the apple into chunks, discard the core (I shouldn't have to say this, but, come on, you're taking my advice on smart can you be?). Add to beets. Add walnuts and/or cheese if you want. Sprinkle dill. Toss that salad. Eat.

mp3: "The World's Greatest" by Bonnie "Prince" Billy

High Prices Going Up

Ten days in, 2008 is looking to be the most expensive year ever. Here in Vancouver, going to work and coming home has gone up by at least 50 cents a day. If you want to go to Surrey--or more likely, if you want to leave Surrey, it'll cost you a whopping five dollars. Unless you wait until dark--and who wants to be in Surrey after dark?--then you can escape for a mere $2.50.
Even the pizza on Hastings has gone up in the New Year. What once simultaneously filled and rotted your gut for nothing more than a loonie now flies out the door for a $1.25 per slice. Ranch dressing is still free, though, so drench that streetza.
The one-point cut to the GST has so far yielded zilch. Most retailers seem to have merely bumped their prices up so that what was a two-dollar coffee in 2007 remains a two-dollar coffee in 2008, keeping the extra two cents for themselves. So, hurrah for business, small and large, I guess. But for consumers, so what? The GST cut isn't bringing me any closer to my 150" TV or my $28 million condo.

mp3: "Pride of Egypt" by Andre Ethier

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Vancouver Stuff Worth Doing...

...or at least thinking about doing.

First up, our old pals the Neins Circa will be playing at Cinderpop's CD release at the Railway Club on January 11. Also on the bill is Winnipeg's Paper Moon, a band I quite like.

mp3: "String of Blinking Lights" by Paper Moon

Next, on February 2, comedian Jim Gaffigan will be at the Centre for the Performing Arts. Gaffigan is pretty awesome. Here he is on Dr. Katz, Therapist:

Then, on Valentine's Day no less, Dean & Britta will be performing at Richard's on Richards. Dean Wareham's memoirs are going to be published in March in a volume called Black Postcards. Might be cool.

mp3: "You Turned My Head Around" by Dean & Britta

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

2007: The Year That Was

Here's looking at you, dear reader. Even though I didn't start tracking visitor statistics until mid-July, I'm going to pretend that the following data represents all of 2007. Just cuz I can. And because I just rode the bus with Tegan and/or Sara. Of the semi-popular musical group. That's right. Celebrities on public transit.

  • Most popular day: Dec. 24th
  • Most popular search terms not affiliated with my name: shammes, howling hex, pat fiacco, dome land development, I'm not man or machine I'm just something in between
  • My favourite search terms: 2007 are moustaches fashionable, famously nearsighted people, high class in borrowed shoes, how do I act surprised for my party, list of movies about bulldozers
  • Favourite search term that was probably just me goofing off: Superman rock & roll hair
  • Times I feel like the stats tracker is just a big waste of time: all of them

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Whiskey Robber Speaks!

If you haven't yet read Julian Rubinstein's excellent Ballad of the Whiskey Robber, you should. If you have, you will enjoy the video below. If you're on the MySpace, you can even befriend Attila Armbrus.

Let's Not Worry When We're Thirty

Things to do in 2008:
  • eat more
  • sleep better
  • run further
  • write better
  • smoke less (or not at all, even better)
  • bring more joy to the universe
  • cook more adventurously
  • go to the beach whenever the sun shines
  • be kinder to my family
  • be kinder to myself
  • lose less hair

mp3: "Resolution (Resolution)" by White Hassle