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Mar. 9th, 2012


The four kings of EMI are sitting stately on the floor.

I've been listening to a lot of the Monkees over the past week or so. Also watched a few clips from the TV show.

The Monkees were my gateway into the great music of the 1960s and '70s, back when I was twelve and they had their big twentieth-anniversary revival. I was already a little familiar with the Beatles' early stuff, but the Monkees hooked me big-time -- it was so much better than almost everything else coming out in 1986 and made me eager to explore more music of the period. The irony is that they were the first manufactured band, thrown together by TV executives only to cash in on the trends of the time as a fake American version of the Beatles -- and yet twenty years later, their best music held up far better than most mid-'80s hits do now. (In my opinion, anyway. I still can't fathom why so many people would rather hear A-ha's frigid, tinny, godawful "Take on Me" than "I'm a Believer".) Sure, the band itself had little to do with the quality of the music -- it helped to have the likes of Neil Diamond and Carole King as songwriters. But it's surprising to come back to the music after not having heard it in a while and rediscovering how good some of it was.

The TV show was stupid. I'll grant that. It was pretending to be Help!, but with the exception of the innovative, pre-MTV music videos, it really wasn't much different than all the other silly, cartoonish mid-'60s sitcoms like Gilligan's Island, Beverly Hillbillies, The Munsters, etc. But you have to admit that the Monkees themselves sold it well. They were full of unpretentious charm and spontaneity, and it's not surprising that they briefly became teen idols rivaling the Beatles themselves. And not untalented, either. Mike Nesmith wrote a number of their better songs, and Peter Tork was reportedly a good guitarist.

Anyway, let the music speak for itself. In addition to "Daydream Believer", here are four other valid arguments that the Monkees were (and are) seriously underrated.

Feb. 29th, 2012


(no subject)

Say what you want about them not being a "real" band, about being manufactured and whatnot, but they did do a number of damn good songs. Here's Davy's finest moment.

Feb. 21st, 2012



A one-hour Second City revue full of manly, manly (and some not-so-manly) comedy sketches.

Yitzi Gal, Lara Johnson, Chris Leveille, Matt Nadeau, Chris Wakelin and Carolyn Williamson.

Facebook event page

Feb. 18th, 2012


Had a dream. It was war. And they couldn't tell me what it was for.

Since I hadn't posted for nearly three months until yesterday, you've been missing out on all of my rambly, semi-coherent reviews and commentary on all the movies I've been seeing, especially as it's Oscar season. Well, too bad for you.

Of course, I'm on Facebook and Twitter far more than I'm on LJ these days (though I do try to check in on friends' entries when I can). And even that, not so much as before, because FB and all e-mail sites are now electronically blocked at the day job. You go to FB, Hotmail or anything like that, it zaps directly to the company web page. If some 9/11-type event happened on a weekday at 10:00 in the morning, or if a good friend passed away at that time, I'd have almost no way of finding out about it until after 6 p.m.

But back to movies and stuff.
I just joined Netflix. Which I think I'm going to enjoy, if I can find the time to actually watch stuff on it. Finally, I get to discover what all the fuss is about regarding this Arrested Development show.

And I watched Die Hard this week, on a DVD from the library.
I saw Die Hard on TV a few years after it came out, and I just thought it was a typical dumb action movie and Bruce Willis was just a smirky idiot. I couldn't understand what the big deal was. But it's twenty-ish years later, and Die Hard is supposedly a "classic" now. And at Xmas, you always find an article somewhere, often half-serious and half-ironic, saying that Die Hard is really our generation's classic holiday film. So I decided to give it another chance.

And you know what? It's still just a dumb action movie. But at least it's a well-made dumb action movie, with a very memorable villain and some clever plot elements. I still think Bruce Willis is just a smirky idiot, though. And McLane really should see a psychiatrist about this whole talking-to-himself thing.

Here's a more interesting blast from the 1980s -- "Had a Dream" by Supertramp's Roger Hodgson:

I haven't heard this song or seen this video since I was eleven (i.e. when it first came out). Seriously, I think the last time I heard this, it was with a nine-year-old friend, and we were giggling at lyrics like "To be naked in the eye of the storm" ("Hee hee, he's naked!) and "Give a damn about anything" ("Hee hee, he said the D-word!"). And for several weeks, I actually thought the song was called "Head a Dream", thanks to a typo on the Chum Chart.
Unlike most times when I re-experience a song I haven't heard in twenty-seven years, this was actually worth the wait. The video may be bizarre and creepy, but the song kicks ass.

Feb. 17th, 2012


I believe the robots are our future.

Hey kids. I'm back.

Did you miss me?
(Does anybody read this anymore? Hello, friends? Spammers? Trolls?)

I suppose I must summarize whatever I've been up to since November, in case there's a reader...

1) I did not get fired from the day job. In fact, they decided to confuse me even more by giving me a raise. Will go into more detail in a filtered entry. Still looking for another job in the meantime, but no luck. Not a single interview. Not even a response.

2) Spent the Xmas holidays visiting my sister and her wife and doggies in rural Saskatchewan. Very low-key and relaxing. Played board games, watched movies, did a bit of sightseeing in Regina and Moose Jaw.

3) For the past several months, I've been co-writing a one-hour Second City revue (to be performed on the Mainstage itself) with my writing class, under Bruce Pirrie. Each of us will have at least a couple of sketches in the show (plus we're also briefly appearing in the opening scene, playing ourselves). If you're interested, it's next Sunday the 26th, 3:00 p.m., 51 Mercer Street, PWYC. If you want to go but can't make that day, there's also a short "work in progress" preview show this coming Sunday (the 19th), same venue, same time.

4) I'm also featuring at Storytelling at Caplansky's once again, also this coming Sunday, 8:00 p.m., 356 College Street, free. I'm memorizing my infamous Dickens parody for it, by request.

5) Am looking forward to the silly Oscars, even though I'd much rather see somebody edgier than Billy Crystal hosting. Liked several of the nominated movies -- Hugo, The Artist, Midnight in Paris -- but none of them really stands out as a great film for me. I'd most like to see Tree of Life win, although I think I need to see it again to fully get it.

6) If the finances hold up this year, I hope to do a metric crapload of travelling. Am finally getting around to going back to Italy, for the first week of April. (I'll have an Eat Pray Love experience, but without the praying or loving.) Then, back to NYC in May (poetry gig, plus seeing The Book of Mormon, and I ain't telling you what I paid for the ticket); then, Canada Day weekend in Washington DC (thank you, Aeroplan); and hopefully back to the U.K. sometime in the fall.

7) Still repelling the female gender like flies from cloves. (At least the sober ones, and the non-British ones.) I know I probably shouldn't care, because there's so much more to life than that and I can't change who I am. But some of the time, I get so fed up not only with being alone but with the way people get their kicks from making me feel as if I deserve to be alone.

8) I assume that I'm in better physical shape than I was nine months ago, because I can now swim two lengths across my building's pool without being completely winded. Also doing the gym thing a few times a week, but I'm not convinced it shows.

Nov. 20th, 2011


What a scoop, see. Give it to me straight, scrivener.

I probably haven't mentioned yet that I've written a few news stories for Digital Journal over the past several months.

Nothing particularly creative or ground-breaking -- just rewriting stories from other sources -- since I haven't had time for anything more than that. If I had a lot more time, I'd do a lot more for the site and even get paid a few pennies. Maybe in the future.

Today, I posted this:
Netflix to revive cult sitcom Arrested Development in 2013

And here are the others I've done:
Shakespeare's Tempest meant to be a musical, researcher says
Sherlock Holmes creator’s "elementary" first book to be published
Daily Show, South Park, others win at the first Comedy Awards

Nov. 13th, 2011


Gather the kids, the dog, Grandma... and lock them in another room.

I've been waiting twenty-six years to see this again:

Specifically -- Orson Welles' introduction to this "experimental" episode of Moonlighting, which was taped just a few days before his death and aired shortly afterward.
I did see it when it first aired, but I was only eleven at the time and didn't know much about Welles or appreciate him for who he was. I couldn't even find it on YouTube for several years.

Another gem I found: Welles' last interview -- taped, literally, only a couple of hours before his death. He talks mostly about Rita Hayworth and how lucky he was in his youth:

Another reason, by the way, for me to dislike the 1980s: a number of great people died during that decade. Welles, John Lennon, Alfred Hitchcock...

Sep. 20th, 2011


Author Signings at Word on the Street

Queen's Park Circle, Toronto, this Sunday: WORD ON THE STREET. Reasons to be there and seek out the Burning Effigy booth (located at FB18, on Queen's Park Crescent East halfway between Wellesley St. and St. Joseph's St.): we're launching three new books at the show - Ian Rogers' BLACK-EYED KIDS, Michael Louis Calvillo's 7 BRAINS and Jeff Cottrill's GROUCH ON A COUCH. We also have some great show specials planned (any 3 chapbooks for $20 or the complete Felix Renn collection $20) and a full day's worth of author signings scheduled. So stop by, say hi, and satiate your craving for some fine dark literature.

Word on the Street -- Toronto
Sunday September 25th, 2011
Burning Effigy Signing Schedule

11:00 am to 12:00 pm -- Jeff Cottrill (launching Grouch on a Couch)
12:00 pm to 1:00 pm -- Ian Rogers (launching Black-Eyed Kids)
1:00 pm to 2:00 pm -- Tobin Elliott (Vanishing Hope)
2:00 pm to 3:00 pm -- Tim Carter (Section K)
3:00 pm to 4:00 pm -- Mike Bryant (Operation Dickhead)
4:00 pm to 5:00 pm -- Dale Percy (Everyone's Everyman)

Jun. 23rd, 2011


I am the intruder.


It's been a month and a week since I posted. What have I been up to in all that time?

Getting accustomed to the new apartment. Holding a housewarming shindig in said pad. Discovering a hidden bird's nest on the balcony of said pad. Going to my sister's wedding in Saskatchewan. Writing a couple of news stories for Digital Journal. Skyping with the lady in London. Working too much.
There are a thousand things I ought to be doing right now, instead of updating an LJ that I don't use much these days. But when I work late at the day job job (as I frequently have lately), I come home too tired and grouchy to do anything constructive. All I have the energy left to do is watch TV or surf the net, stealing away the free time I rarely seem to have these days.

This week, I've seen three shows in a span of five days. (No wonder I can't seem to save any money.) Two of them were Soulpepper plays, and both were excellent: Our Town last Saturday and Billy Bishop Goes to War on Monday. I hear they're doing The Glass Menagerie, one of my favourite plays of all time, next month. Must make a plan.

Last night, I went to the Peter Gabriel concert at Ontario Place -- the tour he's doing with the New Blood Orchestra (no guitars, no drums). It was wonderful. Pete's gotten old -- he's nearly bald, with a very visible paunch and a white goatee that made him remind me a little of the Burl Ives snowman from Rudolph -- but his voice is still in great shape. It was a little disorienting, finally seeing in person a singer whose voice and music has been a soundtrack to so much of my life, only to see him as a silver-haired sixty-one-year-old. In many of his old videos, he's younger than I am now.
The show didn't have the wild, spectacular laser visuals of his older concerts (as I've seen on DVDs), but some of the orchestral arrangements were beautiful. "Wallflower" was amazing, "Digging in the Dirt" seemed surprisingly Wagnerian, "Biko" and a few others had everybody on their feet. And "Rhythm of the Heat" (usually not one of my favourite Gabriel tunes) played so well that I completely forgot that it was with an orchestra, until the end, when it whipped up into a stunning frenzy of noise and rhythm. Only "Intruder" (a song I love in its original rock version) seemed jarring and odd in a classical arrangement.

I would have liked to hear more of the earlier songs from the late '70s/early '80s, particularly from the "Melt" album. I would have loved to hear him do Genesis, but of course he's rarely done Genesis material since he left the band. But he mainly stuck with the 1980s hits and some newer stuff I didn't recognize but enjoyed. I'm very thankful he didn't do "Sledgehammer", or "Shock the Monkey".

It's not my last concert this year. Going to see Weird Al next month, and in December, it's The Musical Box again (recreating the Lamb Lies Down on Broadway tour) with a bunch of people. Good times.

One Gabriel song I've really come to admire a lot more is "Don't Give Up". I liked it before, but probably became turned off by the way it was so overplayed in the '80s. Now, distanced from that, I find it unexpectedly emotional, in its straight simplicity. And it makes me fantasize about hugging Kate Bush for six minutes straight, too.

May. 16th, 2011


(no subject)

I generally find it's not worth the time or energy to ask people why they've suddenly decided they dislike me, why they've unfriended me from Facebook or LiveJournal etc., or just act cold towards me without explanation, or never even gave me the time of day in the first place. To some extent, it's because I know I'm just going to get a long angry rant telling me off, pummeling me with all of my (perceived) character flaws in one big prepared list (like Glen Quagmire's to Brian above). I know because I've actually received rants and lectures like this on several occasions, and it never seems to accomplish anything, and any attempt to explain or defend yourself is looked upon as weak or arrogant or egotistical.
But it's also because I really don't have time to give a shit about it anymore. I hate getting sucked into other people's drama and insecurities. At this point, I have enough genuine, long-term friends that I needn't feel insecure about those others who think little of me, much less have time for it. I don't want to know the whys and wherefores.

In the last few months I've been slowly doing something that I'd almost never even thought to do before: cutting people from my FB list. I've done a small cull. Up until recently, I'd just accepted almost anybody who'd added me, and unfriended nobody except a few who'd really pissed me off in some way. Now I don't have the patience for that. I looked at the pic of one loud, obnoxious poet in the slam scene and said, "You know -- I don't have the slightest respect for you anymore. G'bye." A few others were people I've never even met, but who kept sending me invites to stupid clubby dance events I had no intention of going to. A few others had never done anything specific to offend me, but I found them pompous or annoying enough to delete. People who think they're my friends more than they really are.
And I feel no guilt about it, as I've been unfriended by several people I've known for years and been far closer to. At least one has puzzled me profoundly. But it's none of my business what they think of me. What puzzles me far more is people who seem to think I'm their best buddy, when I barely know them and have given them no encouragement to believe that we have any connection. They'll write lame responses to my wacky status updates, presuming there's some kind of in-joke rapport going on between us. Perhaps it was a mistake to accept their requests in the first place...

I was relatively late to join FB (Nov. 2007 or so), but it's amazing how the thing takes over your life. It affects your interaction with other people, how you organize events, how you communicate and plan in general. Who knows how this will affect human evolution in the future. (If the world doesn't end Saturday)

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