Tuesday, March 28, 2006

VJ Search Update: Now With Bonus MTV Makes Me Wanna Smoke Crack Commentary
MuchMusic is advertising the opportunity to be part of the live audience for Episode 10. Will you all think less of me if I attempt to attend? More importantly, will I think less of myself if I attempt to attend, touching off a downward spiral that culminates in my showing up alongside Paula Abdul in someone's backyard?

Until then, onward...

1. Kardinal wasn't present for this week's episode. They said this had to do with a concert in England. I take this to mean he disappeared about a week ago and did not leave a forwarding address.

2. Much is so desperate to plug its various sponsors that there were actually two separate shots this week of contestants applying deodorant. My only hope is that next year the VJ Search is sponsored exclusively by Trojan, Red Bull and Pepto Bismol.

3. During the segment with the judges, there was discussion about how if they hired Sean, Much would be once again breaking down barriers. Not once during this did I hear anyone say the word "gay" or "homosexual" (and I watched this part twice). I believe Sean was described only as "flamboyant." Thus, I can only assume that the barrier in question has to do with Much's distinct lack to date of a male VJ with platinum blonde hair.

4. This week's challenge involved making a music video for the VJ Search theme song (which just so happens to be written by former Much VJ Christopher Ward and performed by some girl you'll never need to know about). Apparently, this is what Much VJs do in their spare time. Which, at the very least, explains every Shawn Desman video you've ever seen.

5. As predicted, this week was all about affirming the brilliance of each candidate. The judges were tripping over themselves. Suddenly, after weeks of struggling to pick just one person to get rid of, gosh darn it, they couldn't find a single contestant they disliked in the least. Everybody was just so great. In fact, they'd all make great VJs, so let's just keep them all.

6. Yes, that's right - instead of going into next week's episode with two finalists, we will have four. Erik, Nikki, Sean and a loser of the audience's choice. I have no idea what happens then. I doubt Much does either.

7. When they brought back the losers, they announced that Larissa was not able to continue. I take this to mean she disappeared about a week ago and did not leave a forwarding address.

8. Was Casey-Jo wearing a wig?

9. I'd lost track, but Much is promoting the next episode as number 10. Now, according to the show's handy slogan - "10 roommates. 10 episodes. 1 VJ." - this should be the finale. But, so far as I can tell, this is impossible. Next week, they will introduce whoever the viewers have voted back, there will be a challenge (probably involving a contest to see who can find the most flattering adjective to describe Hedley's new single) and, one imagines, the judges will turf one or two of the remaining contestants. Finally THEN the viewers will get to pick the winner (it's been my understanding from the start that the viewers get final say, someone correct me if I'm wrong). That would seem to require another episode. That makes sense, right? In other words, defying all logic and good taste, Much has actually managed to extend the life of this show. I feel used.*

10. Is anybody else watching the new Canadian version of MTV? I'm hopelessly addicted. Best I can explain: it's like a technologically advanced race of aliens has invaded my television. I know eventually, when they enslave me and the rest of our species for instance, I will come to regret this. But for now I am endlessly fascinated and must learn more about them. Laguna Beach, 8th & Ocean, The Gauntlet, I find them all mesmerizing. Don't even get me started on Kristin Cavallari. I'll even watch the show where MTV's VJs review the preceding episode of Laguna Beach, replaying and breaking down certain scenes on the telestrator like Howie Meeker. The VJs (are they still VJs if there are no actual videos to jockey?) are completely empty inside and I fear Daryn Jones may have reached the limits of his comedy, but every so often they use MTV Live, their flagship show, to put together a rather interesting discussion of an important issue. Like, the other day, they were discussing the dangers of MySpace. Maybe you had to be there. And perhaps you have to put these things in perspective (ie. it's useless to judge MTV on the same criteria you would use to grade, say, CNN, PBS or even Spike for that matter). But I dare say MTV is threatening to overtake MuchMusic in my life. If only MTV could promise the sort of social boundary breaking for which I've come to steadfastly rely upon Much...

*Note: In an old press release I dug up (cripes, now I'm doing research for this), there is mention of nine episodes and then a two-part finale. Whatever. I still feel used.
Spare Thoughts While Watching American Idol
1. How long before Paula Abdul turns up in someone's backyard talking about her magical pixie friends and asking for directions to the mothership? A week?

2. I can't wait to be driving through Tennessee (or some other stereotypical Southern state) a couple years from now, stop at a gas station and have the honour of getting $20 worth of unleaded from Bucky.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Next On Fox: When Analogies Go Wrong
I blame Paul Martin for this. When he pretended to value Bono's opinion, he told the rest of the world's aging pop stars that they were welcome, if not encouraged, to pontificate on Canadian affairs. So we got the McCartneys. And now we get Morrissey.

Or rather, we do not.

"I fully realise that the absence of any Morrissey concerts in Canada is unlikely to bring the Canadian economy to its knees, but it is our small protest against this horrific slaughter - which is the largest slaughter of marine animal species found anywhere on the planet."

In case you didn't think Morrissey was serious, he then goes nuclear.

"The Canadian Prime Minister also states that the slaughter is necessary because it provides jobs for local communities, but this is an ignorant reason for allowing such barbaric and cruel slaughter of beings that are denied life simply because somebody somewhere might want to wear their skin.

"Construction of German gas chambers also provided work for someone - this is not a moral or sound reason for allowing suffering."

With this, Morrissey authors one of those rare comments that actually manages to offend everyone who reads it. I've got to imagine even Nazis find this disrespectful.

Anyway. On with the big finish...

"If you can, please boycott Canadian goods. It WILL make a difference. As things stand, Canada has placed itself alongside China as the cruelest and most self-serving nation."

Unbelievable. Just like that, Canada jumps several spots to tie China atop the influential Morrissey Cruel And Self-Serving Nations ranking. This really is a landmark moment for our young nation. A coming of age, if you will.

(For the record, I don't really have a political position on the seal hunt, though my record will show that I have consistently and passionately spoken out in favour of small, cute and cuddly animals. I suppose if I had my way we'd be exclusively clubbing larger, uglier, more obviously cranky animals.)

(Think about it. North Korea? Iran? Saudi Arabia? Syria? Turkmenistan? Even the United States? We are now more gangster than them all. Suffice it to say, after we get done with our seals, we're coming after yours.)

(Some are holding out hope that this is a hoax. I, on the other hand, am holding out hope that this is entirely legit.)

(See also: Douglas Coupland sneaks in a conversation with Morrissey just ahead of the ban.)

Friday, March 24, 2006

VJ Search Update: Now With Bonus Women's Television Network Commentary
I'm not sure what's more shocking: that the judges decided to toss two contestants this week or that the judges refrained from tossing all five. Onward...

1. Amazingly, I came away from this week's episode with a great appreciation for Molly Sims. I didn't think that was possible. Granted, this was all about free publicity, but Sims offered her time up to these hopeless kids and then went out of her way to actually help some of them through their interviews. She's a pro that Molly Sims. I actually believed she actually liked hanging around with a bunch of anonymous kids trying to get a job with a music network she's probably never heard of from a country she probably couldn't find on a map. That's sort of impressive.

2. I still can't figure out whether I find Sean endearing, necessary, objectionable or some combination thereof.

3. This week's episode started off with the contestants in the penthouse hot tub. I sort of wonder if this show would've been better served to have been conducted entirely in a hot tub.

4. The other contestants' nickname for Erik: Generic. It speaks to how low my expectations have sunk that I actually found this hilarious.

5. The SHOCKING TWIST at the end of this week's episode was that viewers will now have the opportunity to vote one of the losers back on to the show. Presumably so the loser can lose again, crushing whatever desire to go on living remained.

6. They say you can easily predict the outcome of the Super Bowl by watching the two teams in the week before the game - whichever team seems just happy to be there is almost certainly doomed to fail. The problem with applying this to the VJ Search is that all of the contestants seem endlessly thrilled with the opportunity to participate. Sean actually said this week that he considered his experience with the show to be among the greatest things to ever happen to him. I can only assume that this means Sean previously spent most of his life in suburban Baghdad.

7. How does Nikki not win this show?

8. Robin Black and Traci Melchor suggested at separate points that perhaps the reason the other contestants hate on Erik so much is because they secretly perceive him as their greatest threat - ie. hate equals quality. I would love to see this theory applied to other matters. Like, the reason I hate this show is because it's so good. Or the reason George W. Bush wanted Saddam Hussein eliminated is because Dubya envied Saddam's style of leadership. Hey, wait a second...

9. Hey, Gilmore Girls is on. Solid show that Gilmore Girls. Oh, don't look at me like that.

10. Casey Jo and Tim ended up being the two turfed. To be honest, Casey Jo never recovered from the haircut the show gave her. Tim was just too damn adorable. Pleading for his job he actually argued that there weren't enough nice people in the world. Beautiful.

11. Favourite moment: During Erik's impassioned plea to stay on the show, they cut to Steve Anthony who produced arguably his finest "Confused Steve Anthony" look of the year.

12. Second-favourite moment: During Erik's impassioned plea to stay on the show, he actually admitted that while some kids grew up dreaming of being doctors, he looked up to Rick the Temp. I actually wept.

P.S. Almost forgot to mention (thanks loyal reader Craig)... I caught a little bit of MuchMusic does Spring Break with VJ Leah. Phenomenal television. Just a couple drinks short of a Girls Gone Wild episode. I can't wait for Much's inevitable decision to start showing upper frontal nudity. It's going to happen.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Speaking Of American Idol...
Pointed discussion of the VJ Search to come shortly, but first, how potentially world-changing is the fact that a bunch of disgruntled Clay Aiken fans are threatening to sue his record label for, uh, mispromoting him? The potential ramifications of this are mind-blowing. And hilarious.

See also: Clay Aiken fans invoke greater war on truthiness, while incorrectly spelling the names of both Jayson Blair and Ashlee Simpson.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Base On Balls
I have not, to the best of my recollection, ever seen Cleveland Indians outfielder Grady Sizemore play baseball in person. Nor have I heard Hawksley Workman's new record. I am equally convinced that both of them should be great successes in their chosen field. But I am entirely sure that only one of them will amount to as much.

Let me explain.

I'm thrilled to have Grady Sizemore on my fantasy baseball team (even though I paid 29 imaginary dollars for him and that left me with so little money that I was forced to select Bob Wickman to anchor my bullpen, a man with the approximate shape of a grapefruit). By the numbers, Sizemore is almost perfect. Last season he hit 22 homers, stole 22 bases and drove in 81 runs. His on base percentage was .348 and his slugging percentage was .484. And he will not turn 24 until August, meaning he has not yet reached the peak of his abilities (baseball players are thought to top out at 27). The scouting report on him in The Sporting News fantasy baseball preview informs that Sizemore "has the gifts for greatness."

That is, coincidentally, exactly how I would describe Hawksley Workman to someone considering whether or not to invest imaginary money in his short-term well-being.

To date Workman has released two critically approved records (For Him and the Girls and The Delicious Wolves), one album that proved he could turn a decent pop song (Lover/Fighter), one decent Christmas record (Almost a Full Moon) and a book of poetry (Hawksley Burns For Isadora). He has produced albums for several above average artists, is quite popular in France and has a rather interesting and completely fictitious name. He is said to specialize in both "glam rock" and "cabaret pop" and he's vaguely from the Greater Toronto Area, which seems to count for a fair bit these days. Plus, at 31, he still has plenty of productive years ahead of him. A write-up in The Georgia Straight recently described Workman as "a musician of incredible velocity, [who] has evolved from the slight, pin-striped oddball with the acclaimed diamond voice, to the panoramic, guitar-punishing superstar with no performance limits."

By the math, Hawksley Workman should be huge. Massive even. Or at least Arcade Fire-level famous. But he is not. Not even close actually.

He is not internationally famous like Nickelback or Shania Twain or Avril Lavigne. Nor is he nationally famous like Our Lady Peace or Hedley or Rita McNeil. At the same time, he is not "cool" like Broken Social Scene or Metric or Stars. Nor is he just weird enough to be revered like Final Fantasy or all those other bands you read about on other blogs. He is a little like all of these things and therefore like none of them.

At first, the realization of this made me mad. Angry even. I was going to write one of those long posts that makes the desperate case for an under-appreciated artist and inspires the 12 or so of you who read this blog to run out and buy his new record, quietly starting a global movement that turns Hawksley Workman into a universally adored star on par with Madonna, or at least Joss Stone. But then I realized that would be wrong. Or at least misguided. Because popular music is not like fantasy baseball.

This, on its own, is not a particularly noteworthy revelation. But it is important to note to what great degree popular music is not like fantasy baseball. (To be honest, the fantasy baseball part is really just an excuse to brag about Grady Sizemore.)

Approximately 85% of all serious discussion about popular music is drawn from two companion ideas. First, that a given artist is far less popular than they otherwise deserve to be. Second, that a given artist is far more popular than they otherwise deserve to be. In those two statements you'll find the basis for almost everything you read about Death Cab for Cutie or Britney Spears or Tom Petty. In fact, at least one genre, indie rock, is based entirely on these two arguments.

Unfortunately, this means the vast majority of discussion about popular music is crap. Because popular music is nothing like fantasy baseball. (Correction. Perhaps that whole Grady Sizemore tangent had a point.) In fact, it is the exact opposite of fantasy baseball - a statistical sport based on only the aspects of a given sport that can be measured and defined.

Popularity in pop music, on the other hand, is almost completely coincidental. In most cases, it is based on matters completely outside the realm of one's control.

I'll give you a few examples.

If Gwen Stefani were a red head, she would not be Gwen Stefani, a vaguely robotic pop heroine. She would be Gwen Stefani, manager of several locally popular ska-punk bands in and around Venice Beach. Conversely, if the Cardigans were from California, Nina Persson would be Gwen Stefani, the vaguely robotic pop heroine.

John Mayer would be 98% less popular if he was 65 pounds heavier. Same with James Blunt. Or at least, in the case of Blunt, another 65 pounds prevents the video where he takes his shirt off.

If Kid Rock were actually from Tennessee, he never would have gotten to sleep with Pam Anderson. If you can't figure out why your favourite band isn't bigger, it's probably because they have too many syllables in their name. If Nickelback had formed in Seattle around 1991, they would have been signed to a record deal after their first show but then dropped before they could release their first record. Chad Kroeger would go on to become the manager of a particularly successful Pottery Barn.

You could play this game all day. Change the inherent circumstances of a given artist and everything changes. What would have happened to Coldplay if Chris Martin had long hair? What if Johnny Cash went by Johnny Stevens? What if Michael Jackson had started out white and ended up black?

Consider American Idol. Essentially, AI eliminates a great deal of the uncertainty associated with attempting to gain popularity. In fact, it manufactures its winner and even runner-up a base amount of popularity. The contestants are then put at the mercy of uncertainty and coincidence. Of course, in hindsight, it's easy to see why Justin Guarini never quite revolutionized the music business, but in the immediate aftermath of each season the finalists almost always look like sure things. And yet, only one, Kelly Clarkson, has so far amounted to much more than pop music's equivalent of a first baseman with warning track power.

Why has Clarkson succeeded where everyone else has so far failed? Perhaps because she is not overbearingly attractive. Or because she just so happened to be the first winner. Or because she found a producer with a couple Interpol records. Who knows? In any event, there's no way she's any more obviously interesting than, say, Fantasia, a black single mother with a unique voice and what amounts to a personality.

By the math, Fantasia is Grady Sizemore. And Kelly Clarkson is, I don't know, let's say, Lyle Overbay.

So what does this all mean? Well, I'm not sure. I suppose it means several things.

1. That gambling on pop music is probably not wise.

2. That a good name for a band would probably be Dude. Or perhaps Woah.

3. That Hawksley Workman is worth approximately 29 imaginary dollars.

4. And that actually listening to records is either entirely relevant or completely necessary.

Vaguely related: Indie bands soundtrack baseball video game.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Best Timeline In The Timely History Of Timelines
Inspiring thought for the day: At this moment, Ashley MacIsaac is the most compelling candidate for leader of the federal Liberal Party.

Friday, March 17, 2006

VJ Search Update: With Bonus Hasidic Reggae Commentary
Frank finally got tossed this week. Probably should have been dispatched a couple episodes ago, but the producers had to keep him around for the easy conflict. Dude drank on the job, nearly got into a fistfight with one contestant and then falsely accused that contestant of dropping the n-bomb. Only when he openly declared that his entire purpose on the show now was to cause trouble did they figure they could no longer justify his continued existence.

1. This week's challenge involved designing a t-shirt for Theory of a Deadman and then selling it at one of their concerts. I know what you're thinking: What on earth does this have to do with being a VJ? Well, I have no idea. Best I can figure this was an attempt to prepare the runners-up for their post-VJ Search careers.

2. It's sort of brilliant watching the producers paint themselves further into a corner every week. At this point, there isn't a single remaining contestant who hasn't been shown to be some kind of incompetent tool. And it's increasingly hard to imagine how Much is going to be able to present the 'winner' with a straight face - 'Boys and girls, your new MuchMusic VJ, the lesser of ten idiots!' Expect this to start to turn next week. The producers will identify a couple options and start spinning - glossing over the faults of the preferred VJs and tearing into the other contestants.

3. The show's biggest problem: Simon Cowell Syndrome. At this point, American Idol is probably the most successful reality show on television. And a lot of people assume this is because of its dominant personality - Cowell, the smarmy Brit who savages contestants each week. AI fuels this perception by dedicating its first 37 episodes to humiliating the dozens of lonely, no-talent 20-somethings who show up for the open casting calls. But that's not why somewhere in the neighbourhood of 750 million people watch AI each week. People watch AI because it lends itself to rooting for a favourite wannabe. Cowell's there for a reality check, but everything else about the show is dedicated to making the contestants into heroes - smalltown kids from Anytown, U.S.A., the sons and daughters of toothless sharecroppers, boys and girls who are just so gosh darn happy to be there because they can't believe little old them would ever be here being called 'dog' by Randy Jackson. The crowd cheers them on, the producers hit you with soft focus montage after soft focus montage and whenever someone gets voted off they're treated to an encore performance and feted like recently deceased American film stars. The minds behind VJ Search don't seem to understand this. Their only goal seems to be conflict and what they're left with is a bitchy, rather pointless program. The judges are all trying to out-Cowell each other and the contestants seem altogether clueless as to what they're supposed to be doing. In a word, this show is angry. Again, chances are the producers will start trying to reverse course next week. Or the show will proceed into an unprecedented trainwreck. To be honest, I'm kind of pulling for the latter.

4. From the press release previewing next week's episode: "All five remaining finalists fly to Los Angeles to interview CoverGirl model and actress Molly Sims. Just before their one-on-ones, the hopefuls meet former MuchMusic VJ and Sons & Daughters star Amanda Walsh for a pep talk. Then it's off to meet up with Sims. With only 20 minutes allotted for their assignment and instructions to incorporate CoverGirl into the interview, tension runs high." (emphasis mine, obviously) I know this isn't surprising in the least. I know you're terribly naive if you think a generous share of entertainment journalism functions much differently. I just want this noted in history as the moment Much finally surrendered whatever claim it ever held to be anything more than an expensive infomercial. And, with this noted, I want to be able to nod knowingly next time I flip on Much and they're airing another of those media literacy ads that asks viewers to think critically about what they're watching. That's all.

5. On a somewhat related note, can someone explain to me the motivation for a network like Much to air a series like Video on Trial (in which a rotating group of unemployed comedians humourlessly dissect various music videos, inevitably reaching the conclusion that each video sucks)? This seems completely counter-intuitive - a network that principally peddles music videos spending considerable time and effort telling its viewers that said music videos are poorly produced, generally unintelligent and ultimately not worth watching. Can you imagine Ford advertising how ridiculously unsafe its vehicles were? Microsoft touting the inability of its computers to fight viruses? This would almost never happen. Yet, between Ed the Sock (whose basic message seems to be: everything sucks), Video on Trial and, wait for it, Stars on Trial, Much seems to be building at least a good portion of its franchise around mocking the rest of its programming. I suppose this could be read as an attempt to counteract its CoverGirl cow-towing. But I have to believe that sooner or later the youth of Canada are going to ask themselves some pretty obvious question, such as: 'Why am I watching this crap? And is Much calling me an idiot for liking Usher?' Maybe Video on Trial speaks to a more worldly generation, able to laugh at itself and its interests. Maybe this has something to do with this whole 'irony' thing that seems to be catching on. Or maybe this has something to do with a new phenomenon called anti-programming that Malcolm Gladwell will soon explain to me in a best-selling book. Whatever the case, I am, as usual, completely confused.

6. On a completely unrelated note, if Matisyahu is troublesome, does that make the Milk ads borderline obscene?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Scott Weiland As Marissa Cooper
So Axl said that Slash said that Scott was a fraud. The full text of Scott's response:


Get in the rinGo to the gym motherfucker, or if you prefer, get a new wig motherfucker. I think I'll resist the urge to 'stoop' to your level. Oh shit, here it comes, you fat, botox faced, wig wearin' fuck! O.K. I feel better now. Don't think for a second we don't know where those words came from. Your unoriginal, uncreative little mind, the same mind that had to rely on its bandmates to write melodies and lyrics. Who's the fraud now bitch? Damn, I couldn't imagine people writing for me. How many albums have you put out man and how long did it take the current configuration of this so-called 'band' to make this album? How long? And without the only guys that validated the name. How dare you! Shame on you! How dare you call our bass player 'spineless'. We toured our album over a year and a half. How many shows have you played over the last ten years? Oh, that's right - you bailed out on your long awaited comeback tour, leaving your remaining fans feeling shall we say a trifle miffed?! I won't even list what I've accomplished because I don't need to. What we're talking about here is a frightened little man who once thought he was king, but unfortunately this king without his court is nothing but a memory of the asshole he once was.

Yours truly,

Scott Weiland

Remember that time I said the Charlatans were the most inconsequential band of all time? Well, Scott Weiland is twice as inconsequential as the Charlatans ever were. Or weren't, as it is. At best, he stands somewhere between a poor man's Kurt Cobain and a poor man's Axl Rose. Heck, you could probably even argue he's a poor man's Shannon Hoon.

If you decided to waste an afternoon ranking the noteworthy lead singers of the last 15 years, you'd have to put Weiland behind pretty much all of the following: Cobain, Rose, Bono, Michael Stipe, Eddie Vedder, Billy Corgan, Perry Farrell, Courtney Love, Anthony Kiedis, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Shirley Manson, Gwen Stefani, Liam Gallagher, Damon Albarn, Thom Yorke, Richard Ashcroft, Gavin Rossdale, Chris Martin, Jarvis Cocker, Trent Reznor, James Hetfield, Zach de la Rocha, Chris Cornell, Wayne Coyne, Jeff Tweedy, Billy Joe Armstrong, Josh Homme, Rivers Cuomo, Fred Durst, Karen O, the guy from Korn, Hootie and probably even Scott Stapp.

He likely ranks ahead of Rob Thomas, Dave Matthews, Adam Duritz, the guy from Goo Goo Dolls, the guy from Offspring and the guy from Soul Asylum, but you could hold a weekend academic conference debating Scott Weiland v. Chad Kroeger. And if it weren't for the heroin, I have no doubt that Scott Weiland, and not Mark McGrath, would be co-hosting Extra!.

The final test of inconsequence is what we will from now on call the Back To The Future Corollary. Or maybe the Marty McFly Rule. Essentially, how much would the world change if you could go back in time and prevent the existence of said rock star or band? In Scott Weiland's case, the world would almost surely be exactly as it is. We probably wouldn't have Interstate Love Song. Or the Big Bang Baby video where the two people in gorilla masks bash each other over the head with glass bottles. But, otherwise... the world is probably no better, no worse. Guns n Roses are still broken up. Dick Cheney is still shooting people in the face. And Velvet Revolver, though fronted instead by Snoop Dogg, still stinks.

(If you think about it, Marissa Cooper and Scott Weiland are almost uncomfortably similar. Both are boring, whiny, melodramatic, dangerously underweight, fundamentally self-obsessed, variously fond of narcotics, generally bereft of emotional range and, ultimately, cliched parodies of hackneyed iconography. I would like to see this explored in a future episode of the O.C. Or, at the very least, I would like to see Weiland show up in the cliff-hanger season finale as a deranged gunman who takes the kids hostage during senior prom. Then Seth could diffuse the situation with a well-timed comment that is both witty and self-deprecating.)

Friday, March 10, 2006

Finally An Answer To The Question: How Would Richard Marx Fare On American Idol?
He's obviously not going to win, but how can you not be pulling for the 48-year-old Idol contestant? With the exception of Dick Cheney, Sam Waterston and Golden Girls reruns, old people aren't really allowed on TV anymore. So congrats to Fox for attempting to break down a few barriers. Very progressive.
If Asked...
I think I could have predicted 35 of the 36 items on John Mayer's rider. He would've had me on the Gold Bond Extra Strength Medicated Powder.
God Bless
One last note from the road... At one point during my drive to Cleveland, possibly in Pennsylvania, I went by a store offering both fireworks and "karate supplies." When I inevitably hire my own personal ninja force, I'm now definitely arming them exclusively with bottle rockets.

As you were.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

VJ Search Update: Now With Bonus Cleveland Commentary
I'll be honest, it's getting pretty hard to watch this show. But I soldier on. For you.

1. The most enthralling subplot at this point is this show's thinly veiled self-loathing. The judges hate the contestants. The contestants hate each other. And I'm not entirely sure anyone is all that interested in going through with the rest of the episodes. This week they went to Edmonton. To interview Shawn Desman. And Massari. In the process, I'm pretty sure the three remaining female contestants were called "trash" by some two-bit arena security guard.

2. And now a note from the producers:

Special Producers' Note: Erik Did NOT Use A Racial Epithet
In Episode 5 of VJ Search: The Series, VJ Search finalist Erik was accused by fellow finalist Frank of using a racial epithet during a heated discussion between the two in the VJ Search Penthouse.
We have carefully reviewed the tapes of the incident and for the record Erik did NOT use a racial epithet of any kind.
- VJ Search: The Series Producers

Glad we cleared that up.

3. Next week: Allegations of homophobia.

4. The saddest part: I'm pretty sure we're watching the slow demise of the Kardinal Era. CRTC regulations limit this country's recording industry to one Canadian rapper at a time and, with k-os in between records and Kish still unaccounted for, this was supposed to be Kardinal's time. But I don't know how he ever recovers from this show. I don't know how he ever washes away the stench of mediocrity. This is his BALCO. He's going to go down as the guy who had a mild hit with a remake of an Arrested Development song. That's it. It's kind of heart-breaking.

5. Steve Anthony, on the other hand... I sense a renaissance coming on. Seriously. First thing the new MTV Canada has to do is hire this guy to anchor some sort of wacky weekly game show.

6. Anyway. I'm in Cleveland right now (Cavaliers 106, Raptors 99). Can't really speak to whether or not this city does, in fact, "rock" but I did make it to a Ted Leo show tonight. First time in a long time that I've been to a show with honest-to-goodness fist pumping. Rock needs more fist pumping (more on this later).

7. Another observation: No one in Cleveland looks like what your father would consider "normal." (Granted, my survey size is small and generally restricted to a Ted Leo concert, where, it might be suggested, abnormal-looking people are more likely to congregate. But still. It was uncanny tonight. Even the seemingly "normal" were, upon further review, sporting peculiar haircuts. Or wearing shirts with eagles on them. Or standing little more than four feet tall. One guy was bleeding quite seriously from the forehead. Strange group altogether. And this leads me to believe that Cleveland is probably way more interesting than most other places.)

8. Anyway. Perhaps I should come back in a couple weeks to investigate further. Apparently the bar I was at tonight will be hosting Broken Social Scene's Jason Colette. Must be a new member.

9. Just in case we need reminding, here's why we have to continue watching MuchMusic's VJ Search: The eventual winner instantly becomes one of the 15 most visible and, arguably, influential, television personalities in this country. Scary, but true. Think about it. So far as TV personalities go there's Peter Mansbridge, Lloyd Robertson, the cast of eTalk Daily, Rick Mercer, Don Cherry, Bob McKenzie and the MuchMusic VJs. And let's just say the kids aren't taking their cues from Lloyd. Actually, I'd wager that if Statistics Canada wanted to blow a couple million they could probably do a nationwide survey of Canadian teenagers and learn that at least 20% of them see more of VJ Leah in an average week than they do their parents. That's messed up. But that's why we must watch. For the children.

At least that's the story I'm going with.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Nuke Paul McCartney
The crusading McCartneys went head to head with Newfoundland premier Danny Williams last night on Larry King Live. Needless to say it was a calm, measured and intelligent discussion with plenty of healthy debate and nuanced, probing questions from the host.

Otherwise, Heather Mills officially surpassed Yoko as the most objectionable Beatle-associated significant other. It was amazing. I didn't think it could be done. I haven't the faintest idea which side of the seal hunt debate is more right, but I'm pretty sure I could never get behind anything supported by Mrs. McCartney.

The best exchange of the night went something like this (the transcript is here, but I'll paraphrase):

Williams: "Paul and Heather, I invite you to come to Newfoundland so we can discuss this issue and I can educate you about what's really going on here."

Paul: "Well, we're in Newfoundland right now.

Williams: "No, actually, you're in PEI."

Thrilling television.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

Nuke The Seals
Oh, go ahead, laugh. But you have to know that if John Lennon hadn't been shot, he'd be doing something twice as daft. Probably requiring him to be naked.

The best bits:

Jeremy Watson, 18, of Charlottetown was perplexed when asked about the former Beatle. "McCartney? It does sound familiar," he said uncertainly...

Rebecca Aldworth, spokeswoman for the Humane Society of the United States, said the group was trying to figure out what to do if the weather or the ice conditions are poor.

Earlier, the society's Andrew Plumbley said portions of ice off P.E.I.'s northern coast seemed to be thickening up after a recent cold snap.

"We are keeping our fingers crossed," Plumbley said from Charlottetown, where the couple is expected to be based in an undisclosed location. "We're checking the ice just to make sure because obviously we don't want Paul McCartney ending up in the water"...

McCartney will have to keep his hands to himself and avoid getting too close to the sometimes cantankerous creatures because federal regulations prohibit people from disturbing marine mammals "unless authorized to do so under a valid licence."

"That means people shouldn't be touching them," said Frank Ring, a spokesman for the federal Fisheries Department, adding that violations can lead to charges.

Plumbley said McCartney, the latest in a long list of celebrities to take up the cause of those opposed to the hunt, is expected to get fairly close to the seals, depending on how the animals responded to him.

"I imagine Paul will want to stroke one and if the seal's comfortable with that, well then he will do that," said Plumbley...

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Rebellion's Just Another Word For Nothing Else To Do
If you asked Brent Bozell, founder of the Parents Television Council, for his general opinion on Britney Spears and the generation of pop tarts that have followed her, I imagine he would tell you that they represented a greedy, frivolous, over-sexed culture that degrades public discourse, corrupts our children and generally distracts us from what is right and important in the world.

And Pink would wholeheartedly agree.

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