Sunday, December 31, 2006

Michael Jackson Comeback Watch
It's a Christmas miracle! James Brown, speaking from beyond the grave though Al Sharpton, endorses the return of Michael Jackson!

"I love Michael... Tell him don't worry about coming home. They always scandalize those that have the talent. But tell him we need to clean up the music and I want Michael and all of them that imitated me to come back and lift the music back."

Wait. "All of them that imitated me?" That can mean only one (other) thing...

MC Hammer.

Michael Jackson and MC Hammer are coming back next year? I love 2007 already.

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Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Annotated Wherry
(There are two possible explanations for this. First, I'm a total egomaniac who can't resist celebrating myself and my questionable taste in music. Second, I'm quite lazy and can't summon the ambition to update my blog with original content. Take your pick. In either case, here's a review of a Sarah Slean concert from the latest issue of Now, written, apparently, by my half-brother Andy. Who is a total dick, by the way.)

Near the end of her friday-night set at Harbourfront Centre Theatre, Sarah Slean turned to her audience and said, "However weird I get, you always come and watch me. I can buy groceries because of you."

Now, try to picture what it must be like when Sarah Slean goes grocery shopping. I wager she buys a lot of radicchio (easily the most eccentric of vegetables)(1). Or only purchases cartons of milk expected to expire on Tuesdays. Or exclusively eats citrus fruit grown in countries ruled by monarchies. Maraschino cherries(2) are probably a frequent purchase, too.

Not that her grocer likely minds. For one thing, somebody has to buy the maraschino cherries. For another, the grocer undoubtedly finds her eccentric eating habits nothing less than endearing.

Because this is Sarah Slean, this is how she operates. This is what works for her. She is a charming lunatic.

Onstage, in a little black dress, she bounces around barefoot(3). She speaks in accents of unknown origin or just trills her between-song banter. At various points, she mimes. Or appears to be channelling Judy Garland.

You or I would be unable to do any of this and still maintain friendships or steady jobs(4). We'd be shunned, if not committed. But with these quirks, Slean has fostered a devoted group of charmed followers as the winsome young couples at Harbourfront would attest(5).

Her lunacy is tolerated nay, encouraged because Slean is an artiste. A painter-slash-actor-slash-musician, to be exact. The sort who takes off for France and posts poetry on her blog ("There are chemicals of me-ness/ alive in foreign neurons, / indivisible tadpoles of a matterless she.")(6).

But what carries her cartoonish antics is what happens when she's left to a piano and her own devices namely, her voice. There alone or with a string quartet in between discussing Blink 182, sensible footwear and French culture, is where she justifies the weirdness.

For the most part, she succeeds. Slean is unquestionably talented, able to flit effortlessly from one personality to another. From ecstatic (Sweet Ones) to shattered (Last Year's War) to completely unhinged (Lucky You, performed barefoot with the aforementioned miming) (7).

While the vaudeville show is cute, she's still best sitting at the piano. There, her eccentricities are focused.

At various points, she would let the final note of a song linger, threatening to strike another, running her fingers just millimetres above the white keys before opting to let it go. It was strangely enthralling stuff(8).

Was she, in those moments, attempting to communicate telepathically with her instrument? Or simply selling the drama? Is she a certifiable loon or does she just play one onstage?

Maybe only her grocer(9) knows for sure.

(1) This is indisputable. The rest of the top ten most eccentric vegetables is as follows:
1. Radicchio. 2. Cayenne Pepper. 3. Snake Gourd. 4. Winter Melon. 5. Pea. 6. Greater Burdock. 7. Dabberlocks. 8. Cress. 9. Fava Bean. 10. Tomato. (Technically a tomato is a fruit, but then that's what makes it so eccentric a vegetable.)
(2) A confession: I love Maraschino cherries. If Sarah Slean and I ever become friends and we buy each other Christmas gifts, each year we will exchange jars of Maraschino cherries. I'm entirely sure of this.
(3) She also appears very small. I would estimate her height at no more than three feet, seven inches.
(4) This should help you understand why I am no longer employed here. And why I have so few friends.
(5) I didn't want to say so in the piece... and don't get me wrong, I love gay people, what few friends I have are almost exclusively homosexual... but I dare say Sarah Slean has a lot of gay fans. Has anyone ever written anything insightful about the phenomenon of the straight gay icon (Kylie Minogue, Mike Piazza, etc.)? I find it very interesting.
(6) I will soon be posting here almost exclusively in haiku form.
(7) This should be "Lucky Me." Obviously.
(8) And almost impossible to describe to someone without sounding like an overly earnest, pretentious twit.
(9) Next week in Now: I interview Sarah Slean's grocer(10).
(10) Not really.

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Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Mama Wanted Something Real
So the other day at the office, mail arrived with a Sackville, Nova Scotia postmark and my name and work address handwritten on the envelope. Generally speaking, a handwritten address on an envelope received in a work setting is an automatic sign of trouble. If found, just walk away. You have probably just received anthrax. Or a dead animal.

Nonetheless I decided to open it. And thank god I did.

Inside I found only a copy of the first thing I ever wrote for Maclean's - an 80-word endorsement of Lupe Fiasco's record - neatly clipped from the magazine. The sender had taken obvious care to delicately remove the review from that week's issue, but there was nothing else with it. The only message was carefully and altogether rather artfully inscribed at the very bottom of the clipping:

"Fuck you!"

Now, generally speaking, it is a bad idea to write about or otherwise celebrate one's hate mail. If you're particularly proud of the fact that people think you're an asshole, chances are you are, in fact, an asshole. That said, this dispatch from Sackville raised a number of existential questions I have pondered ever since opening it.

For instance: What or who has offended this person? Is he objecting to me? Lupe? Rap? Or maybe what I have said about Lupe and rap music? Does he have some issue with Jay-Z or Kanye West, two artists who were also mentioned in the review? Does he have some issue with the fact that I hold such artists in high regard? Is he a hip-hop fan who questions my knowledge or a Rita McNeil fan who questions my taste?

Do I know this person? Have I wronged him in the past? If so, is he upset that I am now threatening to spoil his Maclean's subscription? Or was he simply reading this issue in the doctor's office during an egregiously long wait to have a boil attended to and needed to take his anger out on the nearest available person who would not be able to immediately retaliate?

If we assume that this last scenario is true - and really, it seems entirely plausible - then that means this person read the review, found himself irritated while reading it, had his boil taken care of, put his pants back on, left the doctor's office, went home, carefully clipped the review from the magazine, looked up the Maclean's office address, found an envelope, scrawled his short message at the bottom of the clip, put it inside the envelope, sealed it, wrote the address on the front, stamped it with his home address, affixed a stamp, got in his car, drove to the post office and, finally, mailed it. In that order. More or less.

All that to say, "Fuck you!" A phone call would have taken less time. An e-mail, less effort. But this man opted for old fashioned, inter-provincial mail service.

I suspect you assume this person is probably somewhat imbalanced. But, assuming you assume this, I beg to differ. This person strikes me as an impressively passionate soul. One who engages life and the world with a vigor rarely seen in Western society - most of us driven to apathy by comfort and excess.

May we all be so vigorous in the New Year. So willing and ready to gaze upon life's rich tapestry and proudly proclaim to one all, from largest beast to smallest child, "Fuck you!"


You want to hear a truly crazy idea? That someone might give me a forum to encourage the careers of pop idols and drug addicts. No good can possibly come from that.

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