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I like movies…I mean, I used to…

Teeny bit of swearing…

 

 

I like movies. Actually, I love ‘em. However, with the exception of one flick in 2006, I have not been to a movie theatre in about 20 years.

Let me explain.

When I was younger, I used to go to the movies quite a bit. In fact, a buddy of mine and I spent the summer of ’84 trying to see every movie in town. I think we did do it too. If I recall, that was the year we saw “This Is Spinal Tap” at the Vanier Cineplex on a two dollar Tuesday (whatever happened to those?)

I remember jumping out of my seat in “Jaws,” cheering when the Death Star blew up in “Star Wars,” grinning for days after Paul Newman and Robert Redford royally screwed Robert Shaw out of all his money in “The Sting” and coming out of “American Graffiti,” utterly convinced that I had just seen my favourite movie of all time (it still is, by the way.)

Man, there were a lot of good movies…

Maybe if they were still making ‘em like that I’d still be going to the theatre.

After all, it’s all about the “movie going experience,” right?

Now as the Grandpa Simpson gene kicks in, I do recall that the movie experience was waaaay better when I was a kid. After you picked up your ridiculously huge popcorn bag, garbage can size coke and, for me, frozen French fry bag size of Goodies, you usually got to watch a couple of trailers for coming attractions (maybe even the odd cartoon once in a blue moon) and then the main feature. Recently someone was telling me that now you have to sit through about 15 minutes of ads before the movie starts.

Are you shitting me?

Is that true? If it is, then that’s horseshit. Why would any clear thinking adult agree to do that?? There is no movie in the world that would make me pay money to see 15 seconds of ads, let alone 15 minutes. If I’m at home and the commercials come on, I go for a piss.

Man, I can’t piss for 15 minutes. Are you kidding me?

Screw that noise.

I was also told that I was missing out on some great movies. You know, I don’t think I am. They’re usually out on DVD a few months later anyway. Or on Rogers on Demand. Or Netflix.  I picked up “The King’s Speech” and “The Artist” for $4.99 a piece at Giant Tiger about 6 months ago.

Why would I go to a theatre for 15 minutes of ads, cramped seats, sticky floors, expensive treats and self important douchebags on their cell phones? It’s ludicrous.

And for what? For every “King’s Speech” there’s endless super hero flicks (how many times can you keep rebooting Batman???), mindless teen comedies, or special effects laden blockbusters.

Pass, friend. Not interested.

What happened to stories? Actual stories? What happened to plot and characterization?  If you think I’m going to pay (how much is it now to go to a movie anyway?) to watch zombies lumbering across a parking lot and people running from them, or cars turning into robots, or whatever the fuck it is, then forget it.

Not happening.

They say they don’t make ‘em like they used to. Yeah, they don’t.

I recently re-watched “The Godfather” the other day. You know why it’s often picked by critics as the best movie of all time? Because it is. The directing, the acting, the absolutely beautiful way it was shot…it’s a friggin’ masterpiece.

And the best part? The writing. The plotting and the characterization are mesmerizing. Is there any good reason why this kind of movie magic doesn’t happen anymore?

When I was a kid, the Britannia 6 (long gone now) was, I believe, the first multi-plex theatre in Ottawa. There were six screens and at one time, one of them was reserved exclusively for retrospectives. Humphrey Bogart was first on the list. My dad and I went and it was the first time I ever saw “The Maltese Falcon,” “Casablanca,” “Key Largo,” and “Angels With Dirty Faces” (technically a James Cagney movie, but Bogie was in it.)

Now, imagine that. The first time I got to see “Casablanca” was as a pristine print on the big screen – with an audience. Big difference when there’s an audience too. It’s so easy to get caught up in the vortex of an incredible story when you have 20 or 30 other others sucked in with you. It was brilliant – both the movie and the experience. Is it any wonder why it’s screenplay is often picked as one of the best ever?

Not to me…to this day, “Casablanca” rests comfortably in the top five of my all time favourite flick list.

No, the movie theatre experience for me has disappeared, like the dodo, rotary dial telephone and great driving skills here in Ottawa.

I’m looking up at my DVD collection right now. “The Bridge on the River Kwai” is calling out to me. Time to reacquaint myself with the hubris of Colonel Nicholson.

 

 

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So I’m not a Mac guy (there, I said it…let the bashing begin)

Some swearing…

I’m a video editor and I’ve used a Mac for close to nine years. In fact I’ve used four Mac based edit systems over that period.

Over those years, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am not a “Mac guy.” To tell the truth, I really, really don’t like them.

Now before the Apple army begins sharpening the bayonets, let me explain.

I’m not saying they are crap. I’m not saying that they are useless. I’m not saying that they should be used as doorstops.

It’s just that I can’t stand them.

What’s wrong with ‘em? Don’t they work?

Sure they work…but only when they want to.

Self aware bastards…

Maybe it’s me. I’ve heard from the cult of Mac many times ad nauseam, how they are amazing, so intuitive, elegant, blah dee blah. I get it. You love them and they work for you. That’s great.

All I know is, every single Mac system I’ve ever had to work with…well, sucks.

It’s not like I haven’t given it the old college try. I have. It’s just that none of those overpriced silver cubes are worth the incredibly inordinate amount of green shelled out for them.

Here’s an example. Years ago, when I was a video news editor at a local tv station, I had to make the move to a Mac. Although I was none too thrilled to learn a whole new operating system and edit program, I sucked it up and dove in.

It’s a Mac – they’re great…right?

I began. I attempted an edit. I moved my video to the timeline – so far, so good.

Now for a simple, ordinary, every day, garden variety dissolve (a dissolve is a transition where one scene blends into another – it’s probably the oldest transition ever devised.)

WTF?

A little multicoloured pinwheel popped up and the mouse quit faster than David Carusoe on NYPD Blue.

Is this a joke?

Purple, blue, greenish blue, green, light green some kind of weird yellow, actual yellow, red and purply red. Yep…I have the colours memorized now.

What’s the first thing they tell you about a Mac? Oh yeah, they never crash.

Really?

Here’s a couple more good ones – I’m a scratch golfer and I’m a porn star on weekends.

You’re goddamn right they crash. They crash as often as an Evel Knievel cycle stunt.

After about the 11th time I saw that friggin’ beach ball, I went to our technician.

“My Mac keeps crashing,” I said.

He didn’t even look up from the work table. “Macs don’t crash – what are you doing to it?” was the reply.

Don’t you hate that? I’m telling him that there is a problem and he is saying that there isn’t

a problem, even though he hasn’t even looked at it.

It’s a Mac…they don’t crash…what am I doing to it?

And that’s it in a nutshell – whenever there is a problem with a PC, it’s “oh well, it’s a PC – what are you gonna do? They’re crap.” But if there is an issue with a Mac it’s “it must be something you’re doing.”

What I wanted to tell him was that I hacked into SETI and was close to finding life on Jupiter and not doing a simple dissolve.

After much coercion, I finally got him into the suite.

“Go ahead,” I said. “Do a dissolve”.

He sat down and attempted to do the video transition.

Hello pinwheel!

“Huh…that’s not right,” he mumbled.

Really? You mean it’s not supposed to interrupt my workflow every time I do an edit?

Quelle surprise!

Turns out it was something I did after all. I had my email open and I was copying a video file to another drive at the same time.

I was multitasking – what a computer is supposed to be able to do.

How frickin’ ridiculous.

I have a Vista (Vista!) PC I bought about 6 years ago for about 750 bucks. Not only can I check my email and copy a file from one drive to another on it, I can also run an audio program with about 8 tracks of audio, watch a YouTube video and fire elastic bands at it before it even starts to slow down.

Now, I’m not saying my PC is better than a Mac, although even with my extremely faulty economic knowledge, I’d like to point out that a $6,000 machine loaded with about 20 G’s worth of software should be able to more than one thing at a time.

Now, I know many, many happy Mac users who assure me that they have no issues with their shiny silver laptops with the cool Apple logo. That’s probably true. I guess if you’re using it to check your email, watch a video or two or make a grocery list, they work just fine.

Just don’t do any of those things at the same time.

At least the logo is slick, right?

So before those who worship at the altar of all things Apple send me nasty emails saying I’m a plebe, or Luddite or an out and out arsehole, I just want to point out that I already know this and these are purely my experiences. I have had little success and many of the same issues on subsequent Macs so can you blame me for not being as enamoured with the sparkly boxes as everyone else is?

By the way, I’ve started a new contract. I began yesterday and I’m using a Mac.

It crashed on me 4 times.

And so it continues…

Music…what happened to you? You used to be so cool

Warning – a couple of swears…

 

I love music. I’ve loved it ever since I can remember and eventually I learned to play it and also to write it. I couldn’t ever imagine going through the rest of my life without music.

That being said, I admit that I haven’t a clue as to what is happening in music today and sadly, I don’t care.

The reason? It’s because I find much of it…well, boring.

Don’t get mad – I didn’t say crappy – I said boring. I find it boring, like listening to Ben Stein give a lecture on macro economics or watching “America’s Got Talent.”

Now, that’s just me. I mean, I’ve tried to give it a chance. I’ve listened. I just don’t find any of it particularly interesting.

Well, you say, that’s because you haven’t listened to enough it. You can’t make an informed decision.

Fair enough. You’re right. Maybe I haven’t listened to enough of it. That’s because I find it as boring as a Latin church sermon and I begin to nod off after a few bars.

I know – I’m an old dinosaur who just doesn’t get it but you have to remember that when I was growing up, I was shaped and influenced by a decade of some of the most ground-breaking music ever created. The seventies was when I was first really made aware of how awesome music could be. It was quite simply a decade of inventiveness, musical ability and an insane amount of God given talent.

Think about it for a minute.

First, forget about disco and AM gold, okay? Every decade has its share of drivel. Take a good look at what was really happening. At the beginning of the decade you had the tail end of the Beatles who were quite possibly (no, definitely) the most influential and innovative band of all time. What they accomplished in the studio set the template for what was to follow. In the seventies there was good old rock and roll, art and progressive rock, heavy metal, folk rock, glam rock, reggae, punk, new wave – so many genres, too many to list. And the thing is, you really had to know your stuff. You had to know how to play. No computers back then, no drum loops, no samples.

And if you couldn’t play, then tough shit. Get lost. Put the guitar down and slowly back away from the rack. Even the punk rockers had to know how to put together rudimentary chords and progressions. I remember the first time I ever heard Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody.” Once I got over that initial “what in the name of God is this?” moment, I was floored by its incredible originality. Led Zeppelin took the blues by the balls and created a whole new genre of rock and roll. Bands like Supertramp, Genesis, Pink Floyd and Yes were creating mini masterpieces that exploded with clever chord and melodic progressions which would quite often make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. To this day when the haunting piano chords come in at the end of “Crime of the Century,” I still get shivers. What prog nut doesn’t play air organ during “Carry On Wayward Son” or “Roundabout” or shred along to Eddie Van Halen during “Eruption?” I’d love to hear someone try to program a drum machine to sound like Neil Peart of Rush. If the drum machine was self aware, it would say “Fuck this shit” and unplug itself.

What happened to all the exciting songs? What happened to all the talented musicians? Why is everything boring now?

Last year, some researchers in Spain, who I assume were really friggin’ bored, decided to break down a ton of songs from the last fifty years into lyrical and musical data that could be run through a series of complex algorithms so they could analyze it.

What they found was that over that last fifty years, while music has consistently gotten louder, the chord structures and melodies have become less diverse and more homogenous.

Less diverse and more homogenous…that means “the same” and that equals boring.

How mind-numbing must this music be for scientists, who are generally acknowledged as some of the most yawn inducing stiffs on the planet, to find it dull and uninteresting.

Wow. Good job pop music – way to suck hard at being interesting and cool.

I refuse to lose hope, however. One can only hope that one day soon, the three or four individuals, who I am convinced are responsible for writing just about all this drek, will either move on or maybe just bore themselves to death.

Perhaps a musical messiah, one who can actually play an instrument and has listened to a Beatles song or two, will come forward to lead us all back into a bygone era of great, catchy songs – a sonic landscape of verses, choruses, middle eights and guitar solos, a vista of dynamics, lyrical integrity, and melodies – yes, actual melodies that have more than eight notes, six of which are the same.

It could happen…couldn’t it?

Ah screw it, where’s my Neil Finn CD?

And don’t get me started on autotune…

Playing keyboards is cool…right?

Warning – some strong language…

I play in a band. I’ve been playing in bands for about 30 years now and I’d love to say that the reason why I got in a band in the first place is because I love music and I just wanted to play songs with a great bunch of guys.

Well, that’s a load of crap.

I got in a band to meet girls.

That’s right. Just about every guy who plays in a band get into that band because he wants to get laid. If you ever hear anyone tell you that they they wanted to bring the joy of music to a melody starved world, tell ‘em to pound sand.

Guys play music to get laid. Period.

Now, when I decided upon this course of female attracting action, I figured that just playing an instrument would be enough. Looks don’t really matter all that much as long as you’re rockin’ out, right? You’re tearing it up on stage playing rock and roll – it’s enough make any woman quiver in anticipation.

Right…unless you are the keyboard player.

In my band we have two guitar players, a bassist, a drummer …and me.

I am the keyboard player.

Guitarists shred, bassists slap, drummers pound.

I tinkle the ivories…

Jeeezus…

The keyboard player (or keyboardist – not that that particular term is any better) is singularly the uncoolest stiff in the band. People make jokes about the guitarists or the drummer all the time (Question: What do you throw a drowning bass player? Answer: his amp) I searched the ‘Net to find any keyboard jokes but I couldn’t find one. No one even gives a rat’s ass to make fun of us.

Honest to god, the keyboard player is just one sorry step away from a church organist.

When I was growing up, if you were a guitar player, there was no shortage of guitar idols – Eric Clapton, Eddie Van Halen, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour – the list is endless.

How many kids do you remember saying “You know who I want to be when I grow up? Patrick Moraz!” (sigh…look him up…)

Guitarists and bassists look cool because their instruments are cool. They hang off the shoulder like musical phalli. The left hand strokes the neck of the instrument, ripping through chromatic runs that often end in an ecstasy of string bends and vibratos. They pose on stage, often with one foot planted forward and eyes closed lost in the moment in a display of orgasmic bravado. Drummers thwack their instrument with a percussive rhythm, keeping a sensual beat in a musical mimicry of coitus until the song reaches its inevitable climax, leaving the listener spent and satisfied.

And then there’s the keyboard player – slumped over the keys looking like a hapless nine year old at a piano recital hoping to get through “Indian Feather Dance” without wetting his pants.

The thing is, there is nothing you can do to make the instrument cool, though some have tried. Costumes? Oh sure. Anyone remember Elton John dressed up as Donald Duck in ’80? Rick Wakeman of Yes used to wear a cape like an ersatz superhero and Keith Emerson of ELP would manhandle his Hammond B3 across the stage, thrusting daggers into the keys as if to slay the foul beast. Phenomenal players, yeah but not exactly the coolest dudes on the stage.

Anyone out there remember the keytar – rock and roll’s abominable attempt to put the synth guy out front with the axemen? Hilarious. It was a hybrid guitar and keyboard that rendered anyone holding it one step away from a wedgie. I saw Peter Gabriel using one in 1986 during the “So” tour. Gabriel is one of the most charismatic and mercurial performers ever and even I wanted to give him a swirlie for swinging that thing around.

I imagine that if Bart Simpson had a band, Bart would be the guitar player, Nelson would be the drummer and Milhouse would be the keyboard player, sashaying across the stage with a keytar.

Yeah, keyboard players are cool…

My First Post

Okay…here we go.  After repeated requests from my good friend and copy editor Selena Robins, I’ve finally taken the plunge and started a blog.

Why? ‘Cause I’ve written a couple of books and supposedly all writers are supposed to have a blog.  So I have a blog…

What have I got to say? Lots…and nothing.  Depends what you’re interested in (and what I’m interested in as well)

I’m sure there will be lots of rants (as I’m prone to them – especially about the godawful drivers here in Ottawa…more on that in a later post.)  I’ll try not to promote the books too much (which, by the way are “The Judas Apocalypse” and “Can’t By Me Love”. They’re awesome…) However, I’ll try to be interesting.

Who knows?  I may like doing this…and you might like it too.

 

Oh yeah, the name of the blog? My favourite flick of all time is “American Graffiti” – and I’m Canadian, so…