28 June 2007

useless technology update

no matter how much skill you may think the human brain possesses, most of the time, it is only going to be used to invent crap.

latest case in point is canadian, unfortunately... a camera that tracks eyeball movement from passersby in the vicinity of billboard, so that advertisers can test their efficacy and, one assumes, take steps to make their billboards more attractive (in the sense that they will attract more eyeballs, not in the sense that they look any better).

i'm going to state a fact that i would have believed to be obvious, but which has apparently escaped the brain trust at queen's university: most people passing billboards are driving CARS. we don't need to design better billboards to take their eyes off the road, because most of them are not that safe behind the wheel to begin with. i have to deal with this crowd, who are apparently convinced that they can talk on their cell phones and drink their starbucks while the car drives itself and, trust me, it's bad enough already.

i forgive some stupid technological advances because they have legitimate and helpful uses. but the eye-cam seems to have no redeeming value whatsoever. it's sole purpose is to deliver information to advertisers, so that they can make more calculated decisions on how to distract us with their wares. bravo.

26 June 2007

meow

if this video, from 1944, entitled "private life of a cat", doesn't move you, you aren't even human.

22 June 2007

what colour is the blood on your hands?

should make for some interesting reading.

unfortunately, this all comes a little late for the people who were harmed by these activities. it must be nice to be able to release a catalogue of yur own criminal record and still get away with no consequences.

19 June 2007

showtime

this is in response to pelao's question (see comments section from the review of 'racket' below) about which shows i've really enjoyed. here's a rough 'top 3':

#3- legendary pink dots, montreal, foufounes electriques, october 1995- first show i went to see that i really, really wanted to (where i didn't know the band personally). one of the most thrilling moments for me was at the very beginning, actually hearing edward kaspel's wonderfully cartoonish voice coming out of a human being.

#2- merzbow, toronto, the kathedral, september 2002- i was a little concerned this one would be a disappointment, but far from it. almost two solid hours of gut-shaking, teeth-rattling noise. perhaps the most memorable part was that it was beyond hot in the crowded room ad the combination of heat and sound caused a couple of people to pass out.

#1- current 93- toronto, the music gallery, june 2004- awe-inspiring chiefly because it did justice both to the power and the fragility of their music. they played almost every single thing i would have had them play, including a breathtaking version of 'they return to their earth', which was the high point of the performance for me. their music has always had a great emotional impact on me and more than once, i teared up during the night.

i suck at small talk

this is one of these revelations that's been forced on me recently. i was having an engrossing chat with one of my expanding circle of imaginary friends (those people you talk to all the time but have never actually met face to face) when it dawned on me. somehow, and i was never very good at it, i've completely lost the ability to speak to people i don't know in a casual way. (i say people i don't know, because after a certain amount of time, i'm no longer compelled to spend most of my time figuring out how they think.)

it's not that i'm anti-social, i think of myself as a fairly friendly person. but having the conversation about how your week is going, or what kind of job you have is quickly sliding from awkward to painful on my scale of human activity. i'll ask such questions out of politeness, and out of a hope that i can use the information as a conduit to a somewhat more interesting subject. i'll answer the questions myself, usually as briefly as possible, because i feel obliged to, but i always wonder why people would be interested in things about me that don't interest me very much.

in a world that is increasingly reliant on glib exchanges, i'm becoming a sort of leper. perhaps i need to start a support group?

hung up

addiction used to refer only a a physical dependence on some substance, often caused by morbid overindulgence in a type of vice (often tolerated in limited measure, but held in suspicion), legal or illegal. in my lifetime, the definition has expanded to include various other sorts of behaviour compulsions, often with no physical link- gambling, shopping and even sex all have their addicts.

the most widely accepted method of treating these disorders has become so-called "step" programs, which guide the addict through a series of milestones until they are deemed to have regained sufficient control of their life. (although it's not strictly related, i'd like to add that i've always been skeptical about these sorts of programs, predicated as they are on convincing the addict that he or she has lost fundamental control of their life on a permanent basis, and must adhere to a set of restrictions in order to survive- essentially replacing one type of powerlessness with another.)

this subject came to mind because of an article i was reading yesterday on internet/ email addiction. i'm sure that the statistics in canada- long among the largest users of new technology- and the united states would be roughly the same. while i'm not sure that the article's reliance on personal testimony as to whether or not respondents for email "necessary" to their lives constitutes a scientific basis for the poll (i consider my refrigerator necessary, but i don't believe i'm addicted to it), but i'm willing to say for the moment that it does constitute one more activity that people engage in compulsively. doubtless some of us will be going into group therapy in the near future to share the trauma of our tendonitis from too much typing, receiving group hugs as congratulations for going a week without facebook or my space (don't ask... my record is not good.)

but with virtually everything that can bring even a small amount of pleasure seemingly susceptible to the forming of addiction, i'm forced wonder whether or not the problem is really with the addictions. after all, one of the hallmarks of any addiction is that it represents an advanced sort of escapism. the one thing that they all have in common is that they allow the addict a portal from their everyday life. curing or containing addiction is a laudable enough goal, but at some point, shouldn't we start asking why such a larger number- a majority, it would seem- are so eager to escape?

14 June 2007

apparently, sex isn't the only thing that sells

with the assistance of some friends, i have dreamed up some pretty bizarre advertising campaign ideas in my time, the kind of thing that no one in their right mind would use to advertise anything. however, as i get older, i'm beginning to think that these ideas were just well ahead of their time.

this afternoon, taking the subway home, i happened upon a new campaign from the workers safety insurance board of ontario. i can only assume that the imagery is meant to target teenagers, but the ads are a peculiar mix of gory imagery (severed ears with ear phones still inserted, young man trying to use a playstation with the bloody stump of a severed arm) and singularly unfunny prose. of course, it's just possible that the advertising world has run out of ideas and finally started to take advice from people like me, who would rather get a reaction than sell anything. (if you know what i do for a living, you can feel free to giggle at that.)

so it seems that i may have a brilliant future in advertising after all. would you like to hear about the tums antacid campaign that features an aztec heart-eating ritual?

09 June 2007


review :: whitehouse :: racket :: susan lawly

flat out, a lot of long time fans were put off by asceticists, the last whitehouse album. fans who had been with the group a long time were shocked to hear the new direction that the band had taken, even incorporating (!) drumming, a thing most people thought they would never hear. i'm not one of those fans. i personally thought that asceticists was one of the best albums of 2006, i think that whitehouse defy the odds and continue not only to maintain their quality standards after more than a quarter century (how many artists can say that?). and i happen to think that the new direction, incorporating african instrumentation and percussion, along with the expected washes of power electronics, actually makes a fine extension, both thematically and sonically, of the traditional wh sound.

as with most whitehouse albums, 'racket' is focused and concise. every track is concentrated and warrants repeated listens just to unravel the layers of sound and words. whitehouse albums are never long in their running time, but they fit more into a release than some bands do into an entire catalogue. unlike a lot of power electronics bands (does it make sense to even use a label like that on a band who basically invented the genre?), they do not rely on blunt force trauma to make their point. we all know that they can overwhelm with sound, but much of 'racket' is more atmospheric, less aggressive and, ultimately, more demanding of the listener.

the use of african elements, for me, ties into a primeval root in both the sound and the words. lyrically, bennett and best have never been stronger (making this sort of music isn't just about trying to be scary), peeling back layers of conscious thought and acquired mannerisms to get at the live nerves underneath. the album is a call to peel back the layers of so-called civility and confront the demons that lie underneath. (william bennett's photo in the accompanying booklet looks like nothing so much as an african fertility totem. you can almost picture a mass of writhing bodies going into a trance around him.)

i won't get into dissecting the release track by track, since i think that it is something that should be experienced as a whole, but i will say that dyad and, in particular, mouthy battery beast were high points for me. in fact, i would still likely be writing this review if the disc had been nothing but mouthy battery beast all on its own.

stefan danielsson's dream-world cover art completes the package perfectly, making this truly impossible to resist.

ORGASMICALLY FUCKING GLORIOUS.

08 June 2007

lose your head at the theatre


review :: evil dead- the musical

when i was younger, and other people were able to set rules about what i could and could not watch on the television, i used to dream of having free reign on the movie channels, so that i could watch stuff that would scare me to death. we seek out our fears, conquer them and find new ones on a a regular basis throughout our lives and there is nothing so appealing, especially at a young age, as a fear that we are prevented from confronting.

of course, when i finally was able to confront those things that held the promise of so much fear, i found that almost none of them were truly scary. they were either bland, or they were comedic. yet somehow, the comedic ones became dear to my heart in a way that i could not have predicted. thus went my introduction to camp.

"camp" in this day and age has been so overdone that it is almost impossible to appreciate in the same way. what can you say when the most commercially successful endeavour of the kind of camp cinema, john waters, has found life as a mainstream success on the stage and is now being remade as a big-budget film billed as an adaptation of the broadway hit? parody parodying parody. somehow, although in theory it never had one, camp has lost its soul.

with that in mind, evil dead : the musical, based on the sam raimi cult film, could be a cynical exercise that fails on any number of levels. except that it isn't. somehow, despite the potential pitfalls, it works.

while never taking itself seriously (a patent impossibility), it has decent production values. the actors give it their all (although some sound issues meant that the voices were way too quiet at times). the writing is remarkably clever, allowing anyone to enjoy, but offering special insights to those people (about 95% of the patrons, if i had to guess) who have seen the original movie.

musicals often fall flat for me at the part where the music starts (bring me the head of andrew llyod webber), but, in this sort of a setting, the inherent silliness of almost all musical numbers is, of course, part of the fun. the songs are short, punchy, catchy and well-delivered. there are, perhaps, a few too many of them as the play loses just a little bit of steam towards the end, but the quality level is generally excellent. i will single out "what the f#&*k was that!?!" as a particular high point in the show. (you can see it on the web site, linked above.)

if you choose to attend, this sort of spectacle really does require some level of audience participation to be fully appreciated. to that end, i would recommend getting tickets in the less comfortable but more vulnerable first row, also known as the "splatter zone". if you can't figure out why it's called that, you probably shouldn't be going to this show to begin with.

and speaking of camp, check out evil dead (the film) star bruce campbell in a couple of virulently weird old spice commercials.
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