You are currently browsing the monthly archive for August 2009.

Jonas BrothersI’ve been taking a lot of ribbing and been the target of many snickers lately, all because of my appreciation for the Jonas Brothers, and I can’t understand why.  They’re really talented, and make some great pop music, so why should I be embarrassed to like them?  Is it because I’m a guy?  Who says boys can’t love the Jonas Brothers? It’s just wrong to say that only girls can be into the Jonas Brothers.  That’s sexist.  The Jonas Brothers make music that can touch both girls and boys equally.  Who cares if I’m 38 years old?  And straight?  There were similar reactions when I admitted to listening to Vanessa Hudgens… that’s just close-minded.  Next people will be telling me that I should stop watching The Wizards of Waverly Place!  Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go write in my diary.

Who knew that atlases were so obscene?

1. Fucking, Austria

2. Come-by-Chance, Newfoundland

3. Conception Bay

4. Intercourse, Pennsylvania

5. Bangkok, Thailand

6. Pacific Rim

7. Dong-A University, Korea

8. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia

9. Little Beaver State Park, West Virginia

10. Grand Teton, Wyoming

Lady GagaI freely admit that my exposure to Lady Gaga is almost wholly limited to three videos: “Just Dance”, “Poker Face” and “Paparazzi”, but based on that small exposure I have to ask, is Lady Gaga a robot?  Her dance moves are mechanical and almost inhuman.  Her eyes stare blankly and coldly out from beneath her precisely-manicured bangs.  Her poker face betrays no emotions and no, I can’t read it.  Her costumes are so reminiscent of mid-1980s Heavy Metal magazine covers of half-human/half-robot women that she must be paying Kevin Eastman royalties. Are the metal bustiers a costume over her flesh or is her flesh a costume she puts on over her metal skin?  Perhaps she’s a sophisticated sex robot sent from the future to pleasure us.  Maybe she’s a Terminator (T-800 model, I’d wager).  I just hope that she isn’t programmed to one day destroy us all–unless the method of destruction is danceable synth-pop.  It’s the way I’ve always wanted to go.

Whether at the movie theatre, a live performance, or a sporting event, there are certain things that will always provoke extreme reactions in the audience, whether covering their eyes, plugging their ears, or curling into a fetal position. Here are the top five ways to ensure that your audience will squirm:

#1 Trauma to the groin.  This classic can run the gamut from America’s Funniest Home Videos baseball-to-the-crotch gags to Bill Pullman having his testicles punctured in The Serpent and the Rainbow, but rest assured that the audience (especially but not limited to the men) will be shifting in their seats.

#2 Injury to fingernails.  A personal phobia of mine, examples include Jeff Goldblum’s nails falling off in The Fly and the more subtle shot of the pit in Silence of the Lambs, where detached fingernails in its walls reveal not only the cruelty of Buffalo Bill but the futility of escaping his clutches.

#3 Teeth falling out.  Not being punched out or chipped, which is bad enough but manageable.  No, this is when someone gets a confused look on their face, feels around inside their mouth, and comes out with a tooth, root and all.  I happened to have seen two movies on consecutive nights which both included this very scenario: District 9 and Moon.  The fact that the tooth is naturally bloody doesn’t help.

#4 Hyperextension of joints.  This is most often seen in sports, in particular football.  A player is tackled, but his foot remains firmly planted on the ground, and the knee is pushed back in a direction it was never meant to go.  I was unlucky enough to see a rather brutal example of this at a Pirates game on Independence Day 1999, when Jason Kendall’s season was brought to an end after trying to beat out a throw to first.  It still haunts me.

#5 Sharp objects anywhere around the face.  It’s hard to narrow this down, because we’re all justifiably sensitive about our faces, and there are so many examples in cinema that are iconic: the razor blade to the eyeball in Un chien Andalou, the knife that Roman Polanski uses to cut Jack Nicholson’s nose in Chinatown, the razor (again) that exacts such fitting revenge against the Fascist commander in Pan’s Labyrinth.  If you’ve seen any of these movies, there’s a good chance that you closed your eyes and missed these scenes, and yet have a clear visceral image of them nonetheless.

Dustin Hoffman: He asked me where he could find Scrabble dictionaries, and I told him

Renee Zellweger: We talked about Charles Bukowski

Eric Clapton: I held his credit card in my hand

Molly Shannon: She needed me to recommend a business book

David Rasche (TV’s Sledge Hammer!): He walked into the little, out-of-the-way bookstore where I worked, and I immediately knew who he was, but couldn’t remember his name until after he left

Margaret Atwood: While passing her a mound of books to sign one-by-one, I attempted small talk by repeating a story I’d been told about her meeting Rafael Nadal in Spain

David Suzuki: He pressured me to give a free copy of one of his books to Adam Van Koeverden (which I wouldn’t do)

John Ralston Saul: He wanted to know why we didn’t have copies of his book for him to sign

lock of hairI saw something after getting off the streetcar tonight that was oddly disturbing: a lock of human hair sitting by itself on the sidewalk.  Part of what bothered me was its size: five or six inches long. It was alone, not in a pile with other hair or garbage. It was an immaculate tableau: a perfect twist of hair. What path did it take to arrive there?  It joins the other strange objects found around my neighbourhood, like the pants and shirts found draped across fences in a startlingly regular fashion. As odd things go, it’s not at the level of the human ear that Kyle MacLachlan finds in a field in Blue Velvet or the weird little stick figures which haunted the crew of The Blair Witch Project–it’s much more banal–but perhaps that’s what makes it all the more strange.

Robert James Bell…

… has been there, but he’s never done that.  It looked fun, but kind of dangerous.

… enjoys eating.  His favourite obscure super-hero is Matter-Eater Lad.

… ‘s lifelong goal is to create a workable phonetic alphabet for English.  Despite brilliant flashes of inspiration, the work remains unfinished.

… can’t believe he ate the whole thing.  Twice.

… doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up.  He recently grew up.

… enjoys picking out Toronto landmarks in bad Hollywood movies.  He’s seen many.

… , like Alan Moore, knows the score.  He just doesn’t know which game is being played.

Michael CeraIn the tradition of recent celebrity meltdowns such as Christian Bale’s lambasting of a member of the Terminator: Salvation crew and Alec Baldwin’s leaked phone call to his daughter, word is spreading that Michael Cera, the Arrested Development and SuperBad star, lost his cool on the set of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, filming in Toronto.  But whereas the tapes of Bale and Baldwin became fodder for late-night comedians as well as the mainstream media for months, Cera’s outburst has been universally described as “not a big deal” and “adorable”.  The targets of Cera’s rant included the crew (who he labeled as “f**king incompetents”), the director (a “no-talent pustule”), and even craft services (they “couldn’t poach an egg if their lives depended on it”).  In the tape, which goes on for over 20 minutes, Cera gets more and more agitated, and his bile even extends to the people of Toronto (who “have no idea of how lucky they are to have a star, which I am, in their shithole city”).  Meanwhile, the tape reveals that, rather than defending themselves, the film crew are laughing at the clearly-incensed actor.  “We all thought he was doing a bit,” reported one crew member, while others nodded in agreement.  “He’s just so cute and awkward… it never occurred to us that he was actually upset.”  Director Edgar Wright says “I thought it was something that he’d set up with the crew for the blooper roll on the DVD.  It was classic Cera and I, along with everyone else, thought it was hilarious!  Honestly, none of us thought he was even capable of getting angry.”  The incident that sparked the tirade isn’t clear, but is rumoured to be the state of the bathrooms at Lee’s Palace, a popular concert venue where part of the movie was filmed.

The first single I ever bought was Taco’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” b/w “Living in My Dream World”.  I listened to it incessantly and it was wonderful every time.  Did the footsteps echoing away come at the beginning or the end of the song?  I can’t remember anymore, but all I know is that was probably my first exposure to the concept of “radio edit”, because as big as that song was, I never heard the footsteps on the radio.
I think the record cost $1.49, twice as much as a comic book, so a significant investment.  I bought it at Woolco, at Tecumseh Mall in Windsor, Ontario, memorable as well for Whoppers, corn dogs, and the store where Todd Troy was caught trying to steal a Playboy.
I digress.  Taco.

TacoThe first single I ever bought was Taco’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” b/w “Living in My Dream World” (despite the image here, back then most 45s came in rather bland paper sleeves with holes cut out of the centre so the label could be read).  I listened to it incessantly and it was perfect every time. The footsteps echoing away at the end of the song are on the single, and definitely in the video (which I saw recently as part of VH1’s countdown of the greatest one-hit wonders of the 80s), but I don’t remember hearing them on the radio–this was probably my first exposure to the concept of “radio edits”.

I think the record cost $1.49, twice as much as a comic book, so a significant investment and tough decision to make.  I bought it at Tecumseh Mall’s Woolco in Windsor, Ontario, memorable as well for Whoppers (the chocolate-coated candy balls, not the hamburger), corn dogs, and the store where Todd Troy was caught trying to steal a Playboy.

I digress.  Taco.  The early 80s was a great time for synth-pop music that seemed to originate in another dimension: I probably wasn’t familiar with Kraftwerk then, but their offspring, like Gary Numan (my sister had a 45 of his “Cars” and that was another favourite of mine), Thomas Dolby and A Flock of Seagulls were all well-represented on the charts, even if they didn’t have much staying power.  Taco, however, was more novelty than musician ahead of his time.  This description from is succint: “Born Taco Ockerse in Jakarta, Indonesia on July 21, 1955, he recorded ‘Ritz’ in Germany in 1981; a year later, the song (originally popularized by Fred Astaire) hit the upper reaches of the U.S. pop charts, accompanied by a video depicting the singer decked out in a bow-tie-and-tails ensemble emblematic of the Depression-era movie musicals his image strived to emulate.”  And while I have subsequently purchased other albums by Gary Numan and Thomas Dolby (whose album Aliens Ate My Buick is, I believe, one of the overlooked classics of the late 80s) I’ve never once listened to one other note of Taco’s oeuvre, although I wish him well, as someone whose music has given me a lot of joy over the years; even now, when I hear “Puttin’ on the Ritz”, I can’t help but smile, and yes, dance just a little bit.

Juicy FruitIn a case reminiscent of Dan White’s infamous “twinky defense“, area man Ron Terwilliger is claiming that the taste of Juicy Fruit gum drove him to kill a family of four.  “He grabbed a stick, pulled it out, and the taste moved him when he popped it in his mouth–moved him to go on a violent rampage which led to the tragic deaths of Gary and Melinda Braun, as well as their children Dylan, 8, and Sabrina, 5,” according to Terwilliger’s attorney, Lise Boudreau.  Terwilliger was unavailable for comment, as he has been confined pre-trial to a mental institution, where unofficial sources say he does nothing but rock back and forth on the floor, mumbling “it’s got a taste that gets right through ya” over and over again. Terwilliger, 49, a former TV commercial jingle writer, may have been haunted by his unsuccessful efforts for “the one-of-a-kind flavor that satisfies your cravings for something sweet” in the 80s, the notorious “Juicy Fruit is a Hoot!” campaign.  Wrigley, the manufacturer of Juicy Fruit, has so far refused to comment.

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