Friday, 20 August 2010

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Footie Love Footie Love

There are many World Cup commercials. Just this evening I saw Cristiano Ronaldo shilling for Castrol. I prefer this one, for Puma. It totally schools that one from Nike. I just can't stop watching it.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Rome-ing, part 3 and probably the last part

Some points that fall halfway between full-on columns and copout bullet points:

  • Clay's Rule of Travel #4: Always give yourself a reason to come back. You'll never see everything you've planned to, no matter how carefully you plan. And making a list of the things you want to go back to next time makes a place more your own.
  • Thoughts on Landsdowne upon seeing the Coliseum: If you're opposed to the project because you're not into sports, then you're missing the point. The Coliseum was a meeting point and focus for all of Roman life, not just the bloodsports. Ottawa needs this focal point. Or, more precisely, Ottawa needs this focal point if it wants to be about something more than being "nice" or "at least not Toronto." It's also important to focus on the "all" part. Meaning ALL of Ottawa. Other parts of the city must step up to make this project work. OC Transpo. the NCC. Ottawa residents themselves must all extend their perspectives beyond the boundaries of their nieghbourhoods. Yes, the processes that got us here was probably flawed. But that debate is over now. Landsdowne is a chance for Ottawa to step up as a city and assert a new identity. Then again, if all we're worried about is parking, then perhaps we'll get the Landsdowne we deserve. And we'll continue to play out the string as Toronto's country cousin.
  • Why did I respond this way? I've seen big buildings before, but these struck me like no others. I think I know why - simple forms - rows and columns - repeated. There's no fussiness to distract. No gilding of lillies. The simplicity and repetition draw you in. 
  • Once you can express a preference for a specific thing over another, similar thing - either of which things some people work their entire lives for but never see, then you know how truly lucky you are. Example: "I really like Roman ruins. But the ones in Arles don't even compare to the ones in Rome."
  • Clay's rule of travel #1: You are not special. Specifically, to the multitudes of tour guides, ticket sellers and bored security guards, you are not special. You are in line at the Louvre, shuffling through the Prado and gawking at St. Peter's for exactly the same reasons as everyone else. To the less-scrupulous tour operators and pickpockets, moreover, you're simply an easy mark.  However, that doesn't mean your own experiences will not be special. Or unique. Or incredibly powerful for you. We all want to travel to see and to learn. That's the first step and we all have to start somewhere. What we get out of travel depends in large part on what we bring to it. Start with an open mind. It will lead you to the truly wonderful places.
  • Ah yes, the romantic allure of the European sidewalk cafe, where the actual coffee will cost you $4.50 and the experience of drinking it will last all of 38 seconds. You want another? $4.50, please.
  • In Canada, the things you need to be open are usually open when you need them to be open. In Europe, some of the things you need to be open are open only on some days, some of the time, depending.
  • North America is obsessed with perfect and complete. In Europe, imperfect and unfinished is a way of life. Notre Dame took a century to build. Folks here have learned to be patient.
  • They were French, and they were having The Argument. You know, The Argument Every French Couple in the Movies Has to Show How Uptight we North Americans all are. 
  • Now she's sitting down. He's standing. Looks like a standoff. Why is she with this dork?
  • 10 PRINT "Hey look, a church!" 20 GOTO 10. RUN.
  • 10 PRINT "Stand right, walk left." 20 GOTO 10. RUN
  • In Rome I saw more Corvettes than Ferraris. Explain.
  • Ok. It's the same distance to the Metro as to the cab stand. Cabs: expensive, possible nausea. Metro: Cheap, possible nausea. Plus chance to walk past new Ferrari. Ok, Metro wins.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Rome-ing, part 2

In which our host keeps a running tab of his thoughts during this year's Champions League Final:

First Half:
  • In Rome there are sports and there are bars. Yet there are no sports bars. 
  • I've yet to see a Bayern kit that doesn't look dorky.
  • More people here now. This is good. This is perfect.
  • I can just sit back and enjoy the game, safe in the knowledge that Chelsea won the domestic double and ManU won SFA.
  • K. Kickoff. Inter looks composed. Bayern looks jittery.
  • Wow. We really, really overparent back home. To my now-conditioned eyes, EU parents look almost criminally negligent. Where's the bag? Where's all the stuff? You can't go out with a kid without stuff, can you?
  • How nice not to hear Don Cherry.
  • 14:16 - ok, both sides settling down now.
  • Lots. Of. Diving. jeez loueez.
  • Europe still runs on people.
  • Well, I always do get kinda sick when I travel. Perhaps a week of 16-hour days has something to do with it?
  • Why is the announcer calling them "Bayern Monaco?"
  • Arjen Robben has explosive quickness.
  • Robben vs. Sneijder is a key matchup, methinks. Just better be sure they don't injure each other before the World Cup.
  • Wow. Bayern sure are an ugly bunch.
  • I think I'm going to start writing in all caps and serif fonts. I'm starting to like it.
  • Bayern is dominating possession by 2/3 but not doing much with the ball. "keep away! keep away!"
  • Poor dogs. Wonder if they ever get to walk on grass in this town.
  • Lots of shots for Bayern, none of them tough.
  • Replay: perfect first touch from the goal kick. Perfect angle on the pass. Perfect finish. No chance for Butt.
  • Inter wants more now. You can feel it.
  • Odd that people see this as a "Germany vs Italy" thing. I mean, the "German" team is coached by a Dutchman and their star player is French. The "Italian" team is coached by a Portuguese who's on record as hating the Italian soccer establishment, and their star striker is from Cameroon.
  • Inter is moving it well. They've got the angles down. Mourinho really has them in a groove. Bayern by comparison is boring. They've gotta come up with something soon or it's all gonna be over. They really, really miss Ribery.
  • How about that. Christophe Lambert makes wine.
  • A lot has changed in Europe in the last 20 years. Not the music, though. That still sucks.
  • Hmmm...there are no direct routes back to the hotel. Or to anywhere else, for that matter.
  • Funny ad for a GPS: A very old, very tired stork flying around with a very old man. 
Second Half
  • Wow. The runway at the Madrid stadium has granite filigreed walls. These are the new cathedrals, people. Logos the new iconography.
  • Chance for Bayern. Well, ok, that was something. But they still look unsure. Lots of "i got it, you take it" going on.
  • So, if Inter does take it, do we have to add an asterisk? *Yah, but without Ribery it was easy...
  • Do peanuts count as dinner?
  • Where's my autographed copy of Fabrizio's Return? I think I lent it out and it never came back.
  • Another easy one for Julio Cesar. Well, at least Bayern are trying.
  • Ok. Now that was close.
  • These are really crappy napkins.
  • Getting sleepy. 
  • GOAAAALLLLL! Milito di nuovo!
  • Made them look very foolish.
  • Some American teens behind me are trying to figure out their Euros. Guys, it's simple: the bigger the bill, the more beer it will buy.
  • Nearly 4 days in Rome and I haven't seen one backpack. Bless.
  • 76th minute: Robben still playing like he cares, but I think his supporting cast has checked out.
  • Olic coming out. There's the white flag right there.
  • Quit complaining, van Brommel. You know your cleats were up.
  • Inter playing with purpose. Bayern is just passing it around.
  • 86th minute. Bayern gets it into the 18-yard box, Inter calmly removes it.
  • Possession time: Bayern - 69 percent. Astounding. Yet nothing to show for it. Paging Monsieur Ribery....
  • 91st minute: Enter Materazzi. You could say i have mixed feelings about seeing him win.
  • final whistle. The Special One is now ever more Special. Now. Where can I find a cab?


I used this particular Moleskine and a smaller, softcover variant on the trip to Rome. It was the same one I used in London a while back and the same one I used at last year's TIFF festival. I travel with a Moleskine mainly because they're indestructible and fast and only partly because they're cool. They're also efficient: little elastic-y bit keeps loose bits of paper tucked neatly in there, and the sewn-in bookmark brings me instantly to where I need to be.

I used them a lot both during the conferences I was there to cover and to keep track of various thoughts. It was pen and paper, text only. Blazingly fast. I can't even imagine trying to do what I did over there with an iPhone. All that shuttling between applications? Typing with one finger?

No thanks.

Moleskine, baby.


So, herewith are some of those scribbles thus rendered into the not not nearly as elegant HTML. I can't call them "random," as they're all to do with Rome and my experiences there, but I'm not going to force them into a narrative. Make of that what you will. 

Here goes:

  • Nuns on the subway! Nuns on the subway! DA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA NA Nuns on the subway!
  • Raphael - sad eyes looking straight at you through the centuries.
  • Writing human stories in the skies. Try to understand it all.
  • Even cappucino in a plastic cup tastes better after a trip to the Sistine Chapel.
  • Anyone who thought "Inferno" was a work of ficition has never had to travel in Rome by subway.
  • I like Coke cans in Italy. They're tall and skinny. Just like me!
  • A4. Fucking hell. How can paper be sexy? Well, it is based on the Golden Section, so there.
  • It's not that these clothes are "nicer" than what we can buy in Canada. It's like they're woven from some alternate, parallel strand of fashion DNA. 
  • I've finally found a way to wear this shirt that doesn't make me regret buying it.
  • Europeans have mastered the art of "fall out of bed" sexy. In Canada we just look sloppy.
  • Oh, cool - there's one of those spring water fountains. Fuck. Why did I throw out my water bottle?
  • Dr. Myerson, I presume?
  • Projecting the appearance of competence will take you nearly as far as the real thing. 
  • This is my gift to you. Soon I will be gone. Too soon, they will write. What will you leave for them to remember you by?
  • I miss ambient coffee.
  • In Europe, work never seems the most important thing. Especially at work.
  • Why is he playing "El Condor Pasa?"
  • Ok. Now I'm hungry.
  • Rome is a great locale to help you understand the new world of business. It's noisy, it's crowded, everybody's moving in every direction at once, you're getting bumped from all sides and nothing makes any sense.
  • I think i've consumed enough carbs to last the rest of this and at least two subsequent decades.
  • Why yes, I'll have the tiramisu.
  • Oh Fiat, Oh Peugeot, when are you coming to visit our streets?
More coming, but this was a start.

Sunday, 25 April 2010


Kudos to the Mayfair Theatre for hosting the spring edition of the Ottawa International Writers Festival - the more reasons people have to head down there, the more likely they'll be to keep their doors open once the megaplex arrives in the refashioned Landsowne park.

On this evening I headed down there with N, the Ottawa Sports Guy and @Hopeangrcourage to hear Terry O'Reilly and Mike Tennant elude on their most excellent CBC Radio Series, The Age of Persuasion. The evening was hosted by Lawrence Wall of CBC Radio One (91.5 FM 'round these parts).

There was standing room only. Which was odd, considering - as Lawrence Wall pointed out - we're all supposed to "hate" advertising.

Nevertheless, a very good, very lively discussion ensued. What I like most about these guys and their work is their continued emphasis on writing, language and thinking. Writing ads is difficult. Writing good ads even moreso. Continually winning awards with your ads over a 30-year career is nearly unheard of. Yet these guys have a combined portfolio to make you weep.

Over an hour Terry and Mike (who were friendly and approachable enough as to imply we're on a first-name basis) explored the core ideas of a few of the book chapters. In particular, they talked about need for effective advertising to honor The Contract.

The Contract states that advertisers must give something back to you in exchange for your attention - a laugh, for example. Or a valuable piece of information about the product in question. Advertisers who ignore The Contract - telemarketers being among the biggest culprits here - face only the wrath of the people they're trying to sell to and thus, make their jobs more difficult by continually building a wall of resistance.

There are exceptions, though. Remember the first time you saw an ad in a movie theatre? The howls of protest? The lament for the disappearance of the national anthem? The fact that the price of a ticket didn't go down one bit in exchange for your attention being sold to advertisers? Old news. Now we simply accept them.

Will the same thing happen with Telemarketers? Perhaps, but I can't see it.

O'Reilly and Tennant also spent a good deal of time discussing the recent Tiger Woods ad, with the former recalling how he called it the first in the long process that will be the reconstruction of the golfer's brand (if not his marriage) and how his column generated more heat than any other observation. O'Reilly also had kind words for Sleep Country Canada president Christine Magee for spending so much on radio ads; but lamented her hard-sell, low-rent retail approach to said ads.

There was more said and there's probably more to say, but I'll leave it at that. And the less said about the dude with the rambling, confused screed against ads in schools, the better. Get over yourself, dude. I hate Lost too.

Hell, don't we all?

Monday, 22 March 2010

"My god, it's full of stars..."

How long before this gets remixed a thousand ways?

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Disappointed in Apple's "Magic"

So Apple calls its iPad is a "magical" new device.


How disappointing.

What I really liked about Apple was that they seemed to work harder on their products - they thought harder about the user experience, they made more of an effort to integrate hardware and software. All of those intangibles added up to products that were easier and more fun to use. Their entire ad campaign for a long time was based on the word "think." And from what I've read, Steve Jobs is an absolute demon to work for.

So what happened with the iPad? Did Jobs and his engineers just sprinkle pixie dust on some iPhones and call it a day?

I doubt it. But I also know that no company pays more attention to its branding than Apple. The use of "magic" was not an accident. So what gives?

I admit I'm puzzled.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Five more more more movies (for you know who)

Character Studies: Sexy Beast. I'm not sure I want to be any of these people, but they sure do lead some interesting lives.

Great Places to Visit: After Hours. "Different rules apply when it's this late."

Funny as Hell: Dr. Strangelove. "You can't fight in here, this is the War Room!"

Awesome Ultra-Violence: Eastern Promises. Now I'm going to cut off his fingers...You may want to leave room."

Movies to Listen to: Gosford Park. "It must be so disappointing...when something you know, just flops like that."

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Five more more movies

A few more ideas. Hope you're checking back.

Character Studies: Raging Bull. This could go anywhere, esp. in the Ultra-violence category. But not the Funny as Hell category.

Great Places to Visit: Diner. Also a contender for Funny as Hell. It's here for the vibe.

Funny as Hell: Tin Men. "You bolted outta nowhere!" (I should note that Tin Men was effectively a sequel to Diner.)

Awesome Ultra-violence: A History of Violence. There's not a lot of violence in this per se, but the way Cronenberg treats it makes it last for a long, long time.

Movies to Listen ToManhattan.  "Between the two of us I was not the immoral, psychotic promiscuous one. I hope I didn't leave out anything."

Dinner for the ages

Dinner for the ages

Recipe for the main here.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

States of American States

Tony had the vernissage for his American States show at Exposure Gallery tonight.


Man, I love that word.


Anyway, seeing as Tony's written that his work down in various American States is as much about his state of mind as what's on the license plates, thought I'd write this post in kind:
  • Lonely: The people in these shots are often on their own. Even when they're not, they suggest no connection to the people around them. His shots of empty spaces - places where people used to live, work and play but no longer do - are even lonelier.
  • Surreal: The people in these shots are often dwarfed by signs, trucks, guns, and other objects. They wait for a resolution that will never come, like characters in a Samuel Beckett play who aren't in on the joke.
  • Happy: They served beer at this event.
  • Thankful: A portion of the proceeds from the sales of these pictures will go to the Ottawa Mission.
  • Impressed: Exposure Gallery is on the 2nd floor of Thyme and Again and is available for small corporate gatherings and receptions. They cater. 
  • Excited: Westboro's galleries have started a monthly art walk. They call it "First Thursday." Every month from 5 to 9 PM they open their doors. Take a stroll, be amazed.
  • Inspired: On the way back to the car I took this picture of the world's loneliest lamp.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Conflicted about Charlotte

So I picked up the latest by sexy chanteuse Charlotte Gainsbourg and so far I'm liking it a lot. She plays mix and match with genres, textures, tempos and languages and pretty much holds your attention throughout the entire disc.

That's the problem.

See, most of the songs were written by Beck and he plays on a lot of the tracks. I used to like Beck a lot. I found tracks like Milk & Honey and The New Pollution to be instantly compelling in an "of the moment" way.

That's the problem.

See, none of Beck's songs have any staying power. I remember reading a review that said his music was all based on mediated experience (drawn from TV and such), not actual experience. He picks up the detritus of our media-soaked age and recycles it into catchy tunes.

That's the problem.

The AV Club called her stuff "easy listening for the cool kids" and I can see where they're coming from. Heaven can Wait has a jangle-pop bounce that would do Feist proud. Voyage has that kind of non-threateningly exotic fair-trade coffee vibe to it that reminds me I'm a good person for caring about cheetas and global warming and stuff without actually having to do anything about either. Both she and Beck pick textures and tempos like they were offerings at a buffet.

Am I going to like this disc in a month? A week? Will I love it intensely or consign it to the "Oh yeah, I forgot I owned that" pile?

Only time will tell.

And that's the problem.

 In the meantime, here are some pictures of Charlotte. I know there's one aspect of the matter I'm not conflicted about at all.

How would you describe it?

Such thundrous butterscotch?
Butterscotch thunder?

take yer pick.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

Hey Dubya

I know you're a sports guy, so if you're watching the olympic hockey, this is what "Mission Accomplished" really looks like.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Overheard in my head, somewhere en route to Bathurst

The new Midlake album will be most appreciated by those among you who find The Teddy Bears' Picnic to be a truly disturbing song. For with The Courage of Others, the band also ventures into the woods and and is frightened by what they see.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Five more movies

In a series....most of these could be in many categories.

Character Studies: Raging Bull. This could go anywhere, esp. in the Ultra-violence category. But not the Funny as Hell category.

Great Places to Visit: Diner. Also a contender for Funny as Hell. It's here for the vibe.

Funny as Hell: Tin Men. "You bolted outta nowhere!" (I should note that Tin Men was effectively a sequel to Diner.)

Awesome Ultra-violence: A History of Violence. There's not a lot of violence in this per se, but the way Cronenberg treats it makes it last for a long, long time.

Movies to Listen ToManhattan.  "Between the two of us I was not the immoral, psychotic promiscuous one. I hope I didn't leave out anything."

Also overheard in my head

"There I was, grooving to the overwhelming whitey-ness that is U2..."

This says something

The poop bags are biodegradable.

And vanilla-scented.

I dunno about you, but I think that when the aliens come, we're gonna have a hard time explaining ourselves.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Five movies

(With more to come.) A few posts ago I promised a List of Movies to See Before You Die. I also promised to break them out into categories. Well, here are the categories, and first of five films therein: 

Character studies: Naked. The ugly side (was there any other?) of Thatcherite Britain.

Great Places to Visit: Brotherhood of the Wolf.  Pre-Revolutionary France looks like fun, as long as you're on the right side.

Funny as Hell: Duck Soup. Either you find this funny or you don't have a pulse.

Awesome Ultra-Violence: 13 Tzameti. Not for the faint of heart. Seriously.

Movies to Listen To: The Insider. Are you a business man or are you a news man?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Veni vidi vici

Too funny. I like this Ancelotti guy:

"Caesar's phrase comes to mind when I think of what has happened this season. I have come to England, seen what it is like and, before I leave, I want to conquer the FA Cup, the Premier League and the Champions League.
"I have not lost my sense of humour since coming here. In England it rains every day but still people sometimes tell me it is a beautiful day. That's when I tell them about Julius Caesar, who spent so much time in Britain yet, in the end, opted to move back to Italy."

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Half-baked thought after our first medal

Did Jenn Heil "win" silver or "lose" gold?

Yes, this matters. Because this is being touted as "our year." We're investing millions to "Own the Podium" and quite possibly, gloat over the results. The voice-over to the opening ceremonies was full of ominous "us vs. them." foreboding: "They come here not to celebrate us, but to defeat us."

But even a casual scan of the reader comments on most coverage this morning shows that not all Canadians have bought into this notion. A lot of comments expressed anger at reporters for asking Heil if she was "disappointed" that she had "lost gold."

Remember, though, for these Games we've chosen to play by a different set of rules. Officially, we've chosen to compete with the best, to prove ourselves the best.

But what I don't think we've grasped yet is that the multi-million dollar investment Canada has made to "Own the Podium" is just table stakes now. The competition out there is still fierce. Those dollars help us compete with the best. They don't guarantee results. On any given day, with the margins for error so slim, a gold medal is never a sure thing.

So when a focused, poised Heil puts in a near-perfect run that on any other night would win gold, yet loses out by less than half a point to her American rival, how should we respond? How should we feel?

I was disappointed as all hell for Heil at the result. It takes years of training, focus and commitment to get where she is, not to mention the wear and tear on your body (one of the TV commentators mentioned she had taken time off to have her hip bones realigned). So see her finish less than half a point shy of the country's first Olympic gold on home soil and her second in her event in as many Olympics was heartbreaking. 

And if you compared her obvious jubilation in Turin (captured so perfectly in the official "I Believe" theme song video) to her more muted expression once Kearney's results came up, it was obvious - at least for that instant - that she was heartbroken, too.

I think many are expecting reporters and by extension, other Canadians to simply celebrate our athletes' efforts and sportsmanship. To applaud the way they carry themselves, regardless of the outcome. 

That's fine. But I think if Canada continues down this path, then comments like "let's just celebrate our efforts GO CANADA" won't have the same comforting tone they did before. Thing is, for those who buy into this approach, you can't have it either way. Once you choose to be more aggressive, to be more brash - to be "more American," then you need to expect these kinds of questions.

Officially, we want to beat the world, not just hang out with it for a while. And it's exciting to see our athletes compete with the world's best and be "the ones to beat" in so many events.

But if Canada wants to continue down this path, we're going to have to redefine - at least where sports are concerned - what it means when we say we're "proud to be Canadian." And we're going to have to be ready to hear more reporters asking our athletes if they're "disappointed" to "lose gold."

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Cat out the window

Been watching enough freestyle/moguls to get the lingo down. Next up, getting the skiing part down.

Awesome writing example

From Tom Fordyce's recap of todays' France-Ireland rugby match in the Six Nations cup. If Ireland can take any comfort - however cold  - in losing to France again, at least this time Les Bleus did it legally:

Ireland had begun with fire and fury, pinching line-outs with light-fingered larceny and rumbling into rucks with relish. Before France had found their feet, Gordon D'Arcy nearly stole the lead, producing a wonderful snapping break and kick ahead, a green streak slicing through the thin blue line [...] Had the ball bounced kindly enough for him to touch down, it might have been a different match. Instead, France took control as Irish errors and indiscipline left them listing and laboured.

Wow. All I can say is Wow.

You call that sexy?

If you know me, you know I like to argue. I like lists. And, I love music. So thank you, Billboard Magazine, for your investigation into and subsequent listing of the "Ten Sexiest Songs" released between 1958 and 2010.

Here's the list:
  1. Physical, Olivia Newton-John.
  2. Tonight's The Night, Rod Stewart.
  3. I'll Make Love To You, Boyz II Men.
  4. Too Close, Next.
  5. Let's Get It On, Marvin Gaye.
  6. Hot Stuff, Donna Summer.
  7. Do That To Me One More Time, Captain and Tennille.
  8. Like A Virgin, Madonna.
  9. Kiss You All Over, Exile.
  10. Do Ya Think I'm Sexy, Rod Stewart.
See, the problem with these songs is that apart from Marvin Gaye, they're far too obvious. Not their selection, but their lyrics. But rather than argue the merits of each song and its worthiness in such an august group, I'd rather provide my own list. I don't have the brain power right now to rank them relative to each other, and I could probably do a list by genre, but for now I'm just going to pick 10 from a cursory scan of my iTunes library and one "oh yeah" bonus. Feel free to argue about these as well:
  1. Teeth, Lady Gaga
  2. Brass in Pocket, The Pretenders (bonus points for its use in Lost in Translation)
  3. This is Love, PJ Harvey 
  4. Here I Am, Al Green
  5. Nothing Can Change This Love, Sam Cooke
  6. Baby I Love You, Aretha Franklin
  7. Upgrade U, Beyonce
  8. Girls and Boys, Blur
  9. Misguided Angel, Cowboy Junkies
  10. Nothing, Dwight Yoakam
  11. Sexy Results, Death From Above 1979
Also? This? This is sexy, too:

Friday, 12 February 2010

It was 20 years ago today (or yesterday)

Nelson Mandela became a free man. And Buster Douglas KO'ed Mike Tyson. Talk about a reversal of fortune for two unstoppable forces.

Learning about Mandela was a formative event in my political education, primarily through the Specials' song, which was played a lot on CFNY back in the day. It's still a great song, but I'm glad the lyrics are so out-of-date. That he has gone from prisoner to president is one of the most powerful stories I can think of and, in my weaker moments, proof that people can still prove themselves capable of doing good things.

As if the world needed a counterpoint, this same week 20 years ago saw an equally large (and for some, an equally polarizing) figure begin an equally momentous decline in exactly the opposite direction. That "Iron" Mike Tyson was indestructible was as much a seeming certainty at the time as Mandela's life sentence. He dispatched opponents not in minutes but in seconds, making tickets to his fights - on a per-second basis, at least - the most expensive in sports. Yet there they were, interrupting the evening's sportscast: fuzzy images from the fight in Tokyo - Mike Tyson had been beaten. Not lost a decision. Not even a TKO. But Knocked Out.

As Richard O'Brien writes this week, the signs of Tyson's defeat were there if you chose to look hard enough. He calls the defeat the dividing line in Tyson's career.

We all know the repsective histories of both men since that fateful week. Mandela is one of the most respected and admired men on the planet. In a few months the country he led will play host to the world in the FIFA World Cup. Mike Tyson, to many, is a monster and a disgrace.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A new project

I've been asked by my biggest fan to create a list of 50 Films You Should See Before You Die. And I've taken to this with relish. Given it a bit o'thought, really. Thought I could do five movies at a time. Then I went a bit further and thought I should break it down into categories - essentially the reasons why I love movies and why I re-watch them. So, here are the categories:
  1. Character Studies: Celluloid portrayals of characters amusing, horrifying and so on. Often defined by an excellent performance by a sometimes unheralded actor.
  2. Great Places to Visit: Movies that create an alternate, not necessarily parallel, world that's fun to be in for a while. Often defined by great cinematography.
  3. Funny as Hell, for whatever reason: There's a through line in my comedy tastes from Groucho Marx to the Coen Brothers, when they decide to do comedy. These will be the ones I watch to be amused.
  4. Awesome Ultra-Violence: Bring on the red mist and a bit of old Ludwig van.
  5. Movies to Listen to: These are the ones with great scripts. I put these back in the DVD player just to listen to the dialogue.
Naturally, there's gonna be overlap. Like, No Country for Old Men, say, could belong to almost all of these categories. But I think I could easily find 10 in each to get started.

Stay tuned.

Game Day = Valentine's day = footie = love

Tuesday, 9 February 2010


Hmmm...New Gil Scott-Heron vid has people w/spooky skeleton makeup. new Jay-Z video has dude w/almost exact same spooky skeleton makeup. coinkeydink?

Dunh dunh dunnnnnnnnnnnnnnnh.

Happy Happy Happy

Gil Scott-Heron has a new disc out. I'm so excited about this I can't even type.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Here they come now...

See them run now
Here they come now
Chelsea girls


Does anyone else think Facebook's "Doppleganger Week" was a cynical publicists' plot to boost the visibility of a bunch of has-been celebrities, or is that just me? See, if google searches are the new proxy for popularity, and popularity means leverage, then would sudden spike in searches for "Bob Denver" or, say "Anson Williams" mean they're hoping to make a comeback?

I know we all gotta serve somebody, but wouldn't it be great if that somebody was you?

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

And then there was Avatar

The Oscar nominations came out today and I can already feel myself thinking about what might have been. With Avatar steamrolling over the other nominees like the film’s own private army blasting away at HomeTree, what could have been a contest between a strong group of smaller-scale films is now a race to seee who gets the scraps.

Not that winning an Oscar in any category is second-rate, but with Avatar now in the mix, I think everyone connected to the other nominated films have had to seriously readjust their expectations and bookmakers their odds.

But if there’s an upside to all this bigness, suddenly the smaller awards just got a lot more interesting. Each entry in this year’s expanded field of nominees boasts something special. Now, suddenly, the sound editor’s choices in scene 45 will no doubt come under much more scrutiny. Did it evoke the right mood, or could it have attempted more? Was that the right word to use?

So. Given that Avatar is a lock for best picture (more on that below), here are my predictions for the other big categories. Keep in mind, I haven’t seen all of the films, so take these with as much salt you deem necessary, though not so much as to make you feel queasy.

Best Actor: Any claims that an Oscar is for a specific performance as opposed to a career should talk to Jeremy Irons, whose win for Reversal of Fortune was pretty much a proxy for his dual role in the challenging and unspeakably icky Dead Ringers. Hell, he even thanked David Cronenberg in his acceptance speech. So my vote is for Jeff Bridges, who’s been excellent in a string of lousy films and hasn’t won yet.

I suspect Morgan Freeman brought the right amount of dignity and gravitas to playing Nelson Mandela, the very embodiment of dignity and gravitas. But I suspect it was more impersonation than interpretation. Jeremy Renner was excellent in The Hurt Locker, too, but the real stars of that fim were the cinematography and the editing, and I don’t think the role has a broad enough appeal to win big. Then again, Adrian Brody won for the Pianist, so I could be wrong.

Best Actress: All signs point to Sandra Bullock taking this one in a landslide. I’m not going to argue, even though I’m not really a fan. Instead, I will restate my standing perpetual vote for Helen Mirren in anything, so I don’t have to see The Last Station to hope she wins.

Above: Go ahead. Tell me thinking isn't sexy. 

Supporting Actor: Maaaaaaaaaaaaaat Damon!

Ha. But no. So much about Invictus seemed to me the cinematic equivalent of a paint by numbers, with Clint comfortable to stay well within the lines. No, not Stanley Tucci, whose bug-eyed frenzy annoys the hell out of me in everything he does and no, not Woody Harrleson. Not because I don’t thnk he was good, but I’m still buzzing about what he did in Zombieland. I haven’t cried that much since Titanic. I haven’t laughed that hard since The Big Lebowski.

Seriously - does this look like best supporting actor material to you?

No. Basterds' Christolph Waltz wrapped this up in the first 20 minutes. Here are 45 seconds of those 20 minutes. The rest are hiding under a Frenchman's floorboards.

Supporting Actress: I dunno. But as soon as I saw Maggie Gyllenhaal’s name up there I couldn’t help thinking about that Family Guy scene with Maggie and her brother Jake arguing about who was more unappealing. Here it is in Spanish:

Best Director: I’ve been a Kathryn Bigelow fan since Near Dark and I’m sure there are some out there who’d love to see her win over her ex-husband, who’s dissed her on more than one occasion. But I can’t see her taking this. The Hurt Locker lost a lot of energy in the “home front” scenes and not only because we had gone from Baghdad to Vancouver standing in for somewhere in Oregon. Avatar would be an unwieldy mess – think Heaven’s Gate for a new generation - were it not for Cameron’s reputed on-set iron-hand approach to filmmaking. For that alone I think he’ll get the nod. Forget king of the world. James Cameron is now master of the universe, the fanboy dictator reigns supreme in all three dimensions. Of course, everyone expected Saving Private Ryan to win Best Picture and it lost to Shakespeare in Love, so these kinds of disconnects do happen.

Best Foreign Language Film: The White Ribbon. It’s not playing here yet, but if director Michael Haneke brings only a fraction of that Hitchcock cool and control to this film as he did to Caché (Hidden) and Funny Games he’ll be a lock. If you’ve seen Caché you know how a single motion can suck the air right out of the room.

Adapted Screenplay: I'm never sure if Nick Hornby is a serious writer who makes lightweight sound easy, or a lightweight who’s happy with his limitations. And I can’t remember a single line from District 9. So as good as An Education reputedly is, my pick is “In The Loop,” a movie based entirely on the uses and abuses of langauge. Fuckity-bye, Fetus Boy.

Best Original Screenplay: The Hurt Locker could win here, but I’m going to give it to Tarantino, whose line “I am the face of Jewish vengeance” stayed with me weeks longer than the hour-long showdown in the German pub. That it was spoken by Melanie Laurent is of no particular importance here whatsoever.

Above: Don't piss her off. She has flammable celluloid and knows how to use it.

Best Animated Feature Film: Finally, Pixar gets some serious competition. Coraline left me cold and yes, you could say all of Wes Anderson’s live-action flims are animated, the way he moves his characters around the screen like tiny figurines. But even if Up in the Air comes crashing down to earth George Clooney can still come away with another golden dude. Watch for Mr. Fox to take this one.

Best Art Direction: I’m going to vote for The Young Victoria, because having Emily Blunt on screen is all the art decoration you need.

Above: Disagree at your own risk, Fetus Boys.

Best Cinematography: Basterds might be the sentimental favorite, what with its unhinged baroqueness (is that a word?) but I think if The Hurt Locker gets on a roll it should win this one.

Best Sound Mixing/Sound Editing: Can someone please explain the difference? Not that it matters, though. The same films are nominated for each apart from one, so let’s say Basterds wins this one, just for shits & giggles.

Best Film Editing: Now, if The Hurt Locker doesn’t win this one I’ll eat my hat. Hands down. A master class on how to portray three-dimensional space on a two-dimensional screen and never lose track of where anyone is in relation to each other. And when the film you’re editing derives its energy and tension by showing soldiers at risk of being picked off by sinpers at any given time and who need to know where everyone is, you gotta get this shit right.

Now, about that Avatar thing. In any other year I think the Best Picture would come down to a thumb war between The Hurt Locker and An Education, with Up in the Air sneaking up the middle. That was before. Yes, Avatar’s dialogue was clunky and the performances adequate. None of that matters. Avatar was simply too big, to obvious, too unambiguous a phenomenon to be denied.. Avatar points to too many profitable new directions for hollywood and awarding it the big prizes will be an incentive for more films like it.

Then again, Braveheart won as well, so I could be wrong.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010


This is so unbelievably disturbing I can't imagine. Yet it did get me to look at the ad.

iSlate of the Union

Some big announcements today in tech and politics. Some related thoughts about the intersection of both:

Anil Dash on the folly of Apple tablet frenzy:

"Our current President is listening to what your requests are, and wants to hear them. Steve Jobs doesn't give a fuck about you. I promise. I'm typing this on an Apple keyboard hooked up to a MacBook, and I don't use Windows anymore, but I guarantee you that Steve Jobs is not going to get those last Marines out of Iraq [...] Apple will invest a lot more in saving any given book publisher than they ever will in saving civic society, in protecting individuals' rights, or in engaging in diplomacy to neutralize the threat of violent extremists."

And, I've been skeptical until now, but maybe joining a Facebook group does mean something after all. Check out Matthew Ingram talking to Steve Paikin about "slacktivism."

Justin Kownacki wrote a great post explaining that "you are what you choose to care about." I'd take take that one further - that perhaps now, you are what you choose to be seen to care about. Which would be unfortunate, because I think it leads to a lot of uninformed judgements about what people are really about. Most of the people I know who are excited about the iTabSlateBookWhathaveyou are equally passionate about "bigger" causes but don't always make the same amount of public noise about their views on them or the activities they engage in to promote them. It may not seem like it at times, but not everyone shares everything about their lives to everyone all the time. It takes more than a Facebook feed to know what a person is really about. For example: not everyone who donated to the Haiti relief efforts tweeted that fact, or even has a Twitter account. True, efforts like these can be amplified if more people know about them, but some things still happen behind the scenes, and the results don't count for any less because they're not being broadcast for all to see.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Snuffalupagus and Social Media

So. I see you're trying a new format tonight. 



Well, I get these ideas, see? But when I start to write them down, they just sound flat. And then I lose interest in writing them, because if I'm not really jazzed about writing them, who's going to be interested in reading them? So I thought that having an imaginary friend to bounce these ideas off of would liven things up a bit. You know, make things more interesting. Plus, 70s pop-culture references play well these days. Disney just bought the marketing rights to the Muppets, you know.


Yes. Is that your response, or are you seeking clarification?

Not sure.

Plus, I always wondered if I could actually write dialogue. It seemed like hard work in my mind.

Many things do.


Also, sometimes, like in live conversations, I need those helper words to keep the flow going. There are people who pay money to learn how to do this. I'm trying to teach myself, to save money.

So I'm not getting paid, then. 

No, you're a figment

Says you. So what were you going to call this post? 

Originally, something along the lines of "What Jacques Ellul can teach us about social marketing." But then I balked, because I thought I'd never get any traffic because I doubt Jacques Ellul is a popular search term.

You're probably right. Google analytics could tell you. 

No doubt.

So, title, aside, what was your point? 

Well, I've been seeing and reading a lot of research lately about web behavior and user behavior and how these to interact and influence each other. I really think that if you want to understand how to succeed with any particular medium, you need to understand the building blocks of that medium - how it's composed. Basic McLuhan stuff. The medium never stopped being the message.

Go on...

See, "electronic communications" in McLuhan's day referred to TV and Radio. These were analog technologies. They were biological at their root. What we're dealing with now, with what I'll call "digital communications," is something else entirely.

How so?

Look at the technology that's driving it all - it's binary. Code. Trillions of transistors saying "yes" and "no" but never anything in between. I think you can make the argument that this kind of dynamic reflects the kinds of attitudes we see now in our media  and public discourse - increasing polarization; an inability to "come together," if you will. That's where the Jacques Ellul thing comes in - that the character of the technology determines how it will be transmitted and received.It seems that every question facing the public now very quickly degenerates into polar opposites shouting at each other. It's either/or, not "and."

No "and"

Right. No "and." Another working title for this entry was going to be "Whither 'And'" or "Where does 'and' live?." But c'mon, I'd like people to read this.

I'm reading it. 

You don't have a choice.

But, look at the studies that have come out about the younger folks - they're online and connected every waking hour. And they have no problem connecting on bigger issues and mobilizing large numbers of people.

True. But you also see a lot of instant, unthinking judgements as well. I'm not saying that in this new way of thinking you can't have meaningful dialogue or accomplish things. But I think you need to understand that you'll need to come at it in a different way. And looking for the middle ground - the compromise - may not be the right way anymore. Electronic communications are instant and unthinking. It's biological, too, but more like an amoeba responding to a poke.

That's what I feel we've lost as our culture has moved from analog to digitial culture. Analog is hard work. It has a tangible, physical element that doesn't exist in our world anymore. It implies compromise. The end result may be the same in the digital realm, but you learn differently. You respect the end product more, I believe, when you've rolled up your sleeves and gotten your hands dirty or marked up tape with a china marker.

Now you sound like an old fogey.

I know. But I do see encouraging signs. So many user interfaces now blend the efficiency of the digital with the elegance of analog controls. there's probably still a long way to go.

Question: Weren't we talking about social media? 

Yes, yes we were. But my mind tends to wander. Well, not wander. It takes a lot of tangents. The stops along the way are related. There is a thread, but not everyone sees it.

Ok. I hope i get better at this. 

You will. See, work stuff bleeds into home stuff. And it's natural for me to think about how I'm doing my work and how my brain works while I'm working. There's the work, and the meta work. And now you get to read about it all.

Oh, lucky me.

Altered Reality...

Blows. At least as deployed in the December 2009 issue of Esquire. Pictures below reveal this blog author in various stages of frustration trying to make the G-D thing work. If you're up for similar frustration, or more talented than I at turning things, check it out here.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

I need a shower

So I gave up a thrashing on the soccer field for a thrashing of another kind - an hour-long discussion by photographer Edward Burtynsky. Tony Fouhse blogs about the show and the work more effectively here. Burtynsky's large-scale photos of large-scale industrial installations - dams, mines, manufacturing plants and such are beautiful and terrifying and beautiful - a  body of work he describes as a "long visual lament" of the effect of our human activity on the planet. To wit, in China:

  • The government plans an urban-rural population split of 70/30 percent. This means a wave of humanity as large as the combined populations of Canada, the U.S. and Mexico.
  • At any one time, there are as many chickens as there are humans on the planet.
  • The largest factories can feed 7,000 people in 20 minutes.
At the heart of Burtynsky's work is the dilemma - a polite understatement, given the implications of the sites he's been shooting - we all face. Our existence on this planet inevitably involves using its resources. Yet our quest for comfort - and other countries' pursuit of our own comfortable lifestyle - may render it uninhabitable.