Sunday, January 30, 2011

herbiberous from cairo

I'm sure we've all been following what's been happening in Egypt this past week or so with great interest. It's encouraging to see such an organic and natural movement gain steam against a complacent and seemingly corrupt government. Even more so, it's amazing to hear that the army is not taking a side at this point and is allowing the protests to continue so long as they stay non-violent.

I won't pretend to have an extensive understanding of Egypt's political history and I definitely won't feign insight into the situation, but having said that, I visited Cairo about three years ago and, although I was only there for about a week, I did get a sense of some of the unease and frustration that Cairans had with their lot in life. The many people I met were tired, over-worked and resigned to poverty. The pace of life was manic for Cairans and, from the stories I heard, the fruits of their labour barely fed and kept families from the streets. The seeds of this anger were visible then, in January 2008, even to the untrained eye of a despairing and lost tourist.

I kept a journal while I was over there and, fortunately, I kept it with me. With Egypt unraveling, I had a little read of what I'd jotted down and, alongside the rantings and cravings of a lonely, wannabe writer, I found some passages interesting and others even urgent. Not urgent in an important and critical meaning, but more an immediate sense, like my eyes were opening to a world where life was improvised, where things always felt real and where people lived on the fly.

Since I didn't have a blog at that time, I figured I might as well share some of the more relevant parts here. Like I said, there is nothing revelatory here, but just some observations I made during my eight or nine days in Egypt about the lives of some of the Cairans I met and what everyday life was like through my eyes. Maybe reading this after looking at what's happening in Egypt will help someone gain a particle of a smidgen of an idea of how life was before the uprising, although that's coming from someone who definitely had an outsider's perspective.

A quick note: I took the trip on a whim. I was working for an airline and was dealing with a break-up, so I got as far away from home as I could for as long as possible (A WHOLE TEN DAYS!!!) without making any plans. (I got into Cairo at 4 a.m. without a Visa or a hostel booked. I really was at Cairo's mercy.) I only pass this little tidbit along so that, if I sound like a sad sap and - even more sadly - a little like a solipsist, you'll know why. It was just me and a notebook.

January 11, 2008:

Cairo, man! What a place! What an entirely different world! We, in the West, have sacrificed culture for civility. Where do I start? I'm smoking a sheesha on a side street. I go into the cafe to get it and put my sandwich down on a table outside. When I return, the sandwich is gone. I see a cat running away with it. I've got a mad head rush now from this stuff; it's much harsher than what I'm used to smoking back home.

I wish I could speak Arabic. I feel very ignorant walking around without ANYTHING, but everyone so far has been helpful, even if I'm somewhat weary of the help. I do feel very safe in downtown Cairo, even if I'm the only white face. I've never felt like this: I'm not an intruder, but just an observer, and it makes me very self-conscious.

No one walks empty-handed. Kids are pita couriers; men rush past with long rubber tubes, hoses, bathtubs; they weld without glasses on street corners; they peddle fruit on donkeys. If they're not walking, they're chatting on corners, smoking sheehsa.

If you walked the city, you would think Cairo is comprised entirely of men. No women to be seen. Crowds of men talking at 3 or 4 a.m., wandering the streets with purpose, like there is nothing unusual about doing so at such an hour.

Prayers over speakers at 5:23 a.m. A harmony of hums from various spots, ringing over the city, a holy morning, praising sunrise. Where am I? I wonder in bed, heart-beating out of step with how I want to feel.

I'm an observer. I speak no tongue here. Thank you is all I have. I have already spoken this many times.

I wandered the streets of Cairo with no destination. I found many. And I found my way back. A homing pigeon almost, walking in long lines, getting away and then turning back, down another road, circling and spiraling back among the humanity, and magically, I was back at the hostel, like I knew I'd get there.

The sheesha made my head spin. I stood up and stumbled, walked for ten minutes like I was on wooden limbs, teetering and tripping on cobblestone.

Baskets dangle down on strings from windows, looking for money. Others contain money, which is exchanged for products from stores. Does this explain the lack of women? Are they at the ends of these strings?

There is no mice problem (that I've noticed.) No pigeons either. It's cats. Cats everywhere. Some hungry, searching for food in trash cans. Some meagre, weak, cowering against buildings, dying.

No rules on the road, either. Transmissions, tires, turning signals are of no importance. Only the horn: the horn is master. Taxi driver pushing 80 mph, flickering lights, honking, pulling past cars a piece-of-paper's-width away, doubling back, backing up, people barely noticing that we almost squish them. This is the norm. Every second is important. Every movement is too. Cars parked with their bumpers touching. A North American mother would have a fit with her kids running around these streets, but kids do here and they're smart because every one of them is paying attention all the time. Life is immediate here.

I'm writing on the toilet now. I cannot throw the paper into it. It must go into a garbage bin. I've been on an airplane or in an airport for the past 48 hours and that takes its toll. I hope I won't be judged by what I'm dropping into that bin. I feel ashamed.

I spent three hours today with the people of Cairo on a Friday, their least chaotic day, their day of rest, and I am worn out.

* * *

The smells on the street... I can only say that each new step brings a new odour: spicy meat, shit, fruits, solvents, perfumes, piss. It's a buffet of smells and a lot of them I haven't smelled since working at the mill at Con. Solvents from paints, car work, welding, polishing. The sidewalks, cobbled stone, look like the wood planks in the [60-year-old] mill in some places, like they have been eternally coated with a pasty, chemical dust. A toxic cosmetic foundation.

The streets are smorgasbords too. You'll have a shop selling fruit beside a pharmacy and a clothes shop and then a guy fixing a car. He'll be pumping tires, working paint off with scrubbing solvents, welding steel right beside a cafe. People will sit drinking a NesCafe with all this heavy mechanic work going on next to them. It's surreal.

Everyone helps each other with directions, with work. It's a fraternal place. Lots of father/son activities, work-related. Lots of male relationships at play, like I said, because other than later in the days, there are really no women walking around.

Some kids sprayed my book bag with some stinky ass spray and followed me around for a while. Funny little dudes.

I don't want to say that the sidewalks are dirty, because that's lazy. Yellowknife's streets are dirty because people just toss shit like wrappers or bottles onto them. Here, the streets are different. They are alive: they are the public forum, the public space. Each day, they get dirty, crowded and crowned with the detritus of the day, then they're washed, scrapped and the day is carried away down the road in a mucky river. The layer of skin is shed and the streets are ready to be lived again. They are anew the next day.

January 12, 2008:

I've hired a driver to see the pyramids today.

Yesterday, I was very self-conscious with my camera and I didn't want to demean any of the authenticity around me by snapping pictures like a tourist. I stopped only when there were absences of people and so I think I only took about 10 pictures or so.

* * *

So if yesterday was unbridled enthusiasm, excitement, optimism and explosions of meningeal juices from the limitless hustle and bustle of Cairo life from the invisible - or we'll say ghostly pale or translucent - observer, then today was the sober real: I was the walking-wallet participant.

It got me down. It really did. It was everything that I was hoping it wouldn't be: Pushy, fake, insincere. I felt I was treated like a baby, being coaxed, bribed and sweet-talked for a piece of that sweet cheddar in my back pocket.

Hosam, the driver, was not a bad guy, but he just wouldn't listen. I didn't want to go to the tourist carpet place or the perfume shop. Seriously, I'm a single guy. Why would I want to go to a perfume shop? I got pressured into buying a piece of papyrus at this one shop.

Anyways. Here I am, I just saw the Giza Pyramids and the Sphinx and I'm ranting about the pushiness of the tour guides. But it just bugged me. I couldn't enjoy myself unless I was by myself. These guys had me thinking too much about the tip. Like that greasy camel guy that held me hostage in the desert asking for a tip then and there. What an asshole.

But the pyramids were unreal. We're driving through Giza, weaving, banking, dodging ubiquitous humanity, and behind half-crumbled buildings and garbage piles, you see these three mysterious, mathematically-precise beacons of the surreal. And we get there and I hop on a camel (which I thought would just keel over and die at any second) bribe a tourism guy who lets us through a barbed-wire fence and then the desert is our playground, on the inside looking out at all the bus tourists, while my black market guide leads me to the destination with no line. I went up and touched the middle pyramid, touched it with my hand, the same one clutching this pen. It didn't sink in until now, as, at that moment, some pushy fucker on a horse was bugging me for money. Some guy was climbing the third pyramid. How wild is that? They let him climb the fucking thing? What a country!

So Cairo and its suburbs are like 25 million people. Too many. People everywhere. Donkeys pulling people down freeways. Bombed-out-looking brick buildings for miles along the highway, buildings never to be completed so their owners can evade paying taxes. Kids playing in trash. People everywhere. We're heading back on the freeway, pushing 100 kpm and a truck comes up beside us. It carries bags of rice packed as high as the cabin, and then there is a guy sitting backwards on top of the rice, his coat over his head. If dude driving hits the brakes, this guy is a human projectile. It's absolute madness. It's Crazy Taxi. Grand Theft Auto. No rules. Might as well not paint the lanes.

Hosam almost died today. My guide had high-blood pressure. When he talks, his eye lids slowly fall as his eyeballs roll back into his head.

The awe, the shivers of reverence, never came today when I saw the pyramids. Awe is difficult to feel when you're busy whipping the shit (literally, nasty, burning-hot, wet poop) out of an old grunting camel that you're sure is going to crap out on you and send you flying ten feet down to the ground, as it hobbles up rocky inclines, while you make small talk with a overtly fake swindler who just wants to make you happy so you give him more money. The pyramids are getting pimped shamelessly.

I don't mind tipping But don't ask for it. Don't demand it. I worked in tourism. You don't do that. It's disrespectful. It's not honest. Why did I let it slide then? Fuck it, no more... I'm going to enjoy the rest of my time, not spend it spending worry and energy about how I'm spending my money.

You know, Mr. Mohammad, my sheesha smoking pal in the restaurant this morning was my favourite guy: he talked to me like a person. I felt like a person then, not a talking-ATM. Good man.

* * *
(written while "half in the bag")

So tonight... ooh boy. It started out well. A Nile cruse. I'm waiting for the guide, who shows up and walks me to the end of the street. "Sight." I point to my eyes, not knowing what's going on. He shakes his head. A cabbie jumps out and some random guy waves me toward his car. "Said." I still don't know what's going on..

We jump into the cab and madly - MADLY - take off. We serve through spaces you wouldn't dare attempt in North America at 80 kpm. Yikes. And we're supposed to be heading to a relaxing buffet cruise. I swear, I thought he'd roll the cab about ten times or smash into the back of another car or some pedestrian. We almost clipped like ten ladies in the shopping district and I'm sure we got one lady's handbag. She didn't even flinch. We didn't hit one person or get into a collision or anything. How?

In Cairo, you don't just rely on your own intuitive, prophetic, magician-like ability behind the wheel, horn, gas and brake. More importantly, you rely on the rest of the 25 million residents' driving talents and walking dexterity.

We get to the cruise and the cabbie smiles. I shake my head and I can honestly say I wasn't freaked out, but impressed. More in awe of his driving than I was from the pyramids.

The night was fun. I met up with the tour guide, Said. Starting to make sense. After working a 16-hour day, Said got called in to escort me to this cruise. How bad do I feel seeing how tired this guy is and hearing how his six-year-old son wanted him to stay home.

We had a good time and some laughs. The belly dancer jiggling and us giggling. A really goofy band played out their karaoke dreams. Then a traditional twirling dancer and a midget get up. (The whole schtick was that the midget was trying to dance like the stoic, twirling dancer and he kept messing up.) I didn't want to just up and laugh at the midget. Political correctness tells me not to. When in Cairo though. Said was cracking up, smacking the table.

I get back to the hostel and go out to smoke a sheesha before bed, and...

run into a pack of crazy Cairans, who become my friends immediately. It's not hard to make friends with the locals here.

They convince me to go to a club with them, and...

we walk six blocks, then through a parking lobby, into what looked like an abandoned marble building lobby. We go up some stairs, through some doors and...

A red-walled joint, streamers everywhere, lamps, colourful hanging ornaments, table with suited men and hookas, HAPPY NEW YEARS and MERRY CHRISTMAS signs still up, handshakes with smiling suits and mustachioed serious dudes, girls hanging around tables, band on stage, live music, make-up, tight dress girls, dancing, suited young man singing, keyboard player, drummer and two bongo players.

We get a table, two hookas and some beers.

The boys introduce me to these girls. Barely speak English. They say the same, same, SAME things over and hover. The girls kissing me, winking. Me refusing their company politely. No one seems to understand. I spend the next hour repeating this.

"She good..." one of my friends says.

"Yeah, she's pretty, but no thanks."

He nods. Talks to her. Whispers something. She looks at me coyly. He turns back.

"Her..." he points. "She good." Nods, content with his judgement.

"Uh... no thanks."

The room is so smokey. So bizarre. I'm dying. Too much smoke.

I give homeboy 50 Egyptian pounds to pay for the drinks. He goes on stage, makes a speech about how much he loves Canada. Pours money over one of the dancing girls. Everyone claps for me: All the girls, my friends, the staff, the suits. Great. Girl comes over and we walk onto the stage. She's actually very attractive. I second-guess my earlier stance. She drags me to the front of the stage. I don't dance well at all. Not sure what to do. Can I touch her? My friend Monkey comes up on stage and dances like a maniac and saves me.

We sit down and cheers. I want to leave now, though. Sick of refusing women over and over and over. I think I stuck around so long to see if maybe I'd say yes.

But no, I'm tired from the smoke. We bounce and we spend my money tipping the girls. Is this why I have made these friends? I don't know.

They walk me back, make plans for a sheesha tomorrow. I swear, I had to repeated things 1,000 times and still I don't think they understand me.

"I go to Giza tomorrow. A.M. No problem."

"I went already today."

"We party tomorrow."

"No, I'm going to Luxor."

Cool experience, but I'm glad I'm leaving tomorrow.

* * *

January 14, 2008:

Well, I missed getting anything in here yesterday, because people like Mr. Said Mohammad Ibrahim were too busy serenading me out of 25 pounds for some cigarettes, 20 more pounds for some eye medicine with flattery and cheap commissary. He even finagled the pen out of my hand. These guys are good. Very good. Being an expert in persuasion (I graduated with a BA in Comm Studies with a specialization in Persuasion and Rhetoric) I should be able to see these types of things coming form the "hello," but I don't, because I want to be friendly and return their insincere goodwill.

It starts off with a "Hello, Welcome to Egypt."

How do you ignore that? "Thank you."

"Where are you from?"


"Ah, Canada Dry. No woman, no cry. Good people. I know _________ from Montreal."

Small talk ensues. Canadians are great. Generous, they say. They invite you for tea, because you are such a great man.

You have tea. They flatter you and offer small gifts like an orange or some coins. They act way over the top with these gifts, like they are being supremely generous and putting themselves out. The flattery continues.

Then it is time to pay for the tea. You pull out your money and reciprocate. You feel indebted and almost like you have a duty to respond and validate their claims that Canadians are great, generous people. This flattery makes you do some silly things and they know this. This act is repeated. After a while, you realize that everyone in the street has an angle. It's a hustle.

I've learned. Today, I walk. I don't talk. Sure, people make you feel like an asshole for not acknowledging them, but it's all a hustle. You need to remember that they are the ones being assholes.

But those Cairans are clever: Clever as a Cairan, people should say. Life is a hustle. It's a struggle. They are amazing salesmen. They find something in anything. The mark of a good con is that they make it so the mark doesn't know if he's been hustled. Thinking back on this week, I don't know how many times I've been had.

A supposed Palestinian man came to me in tears claiming that his family had been killed and he needed to get back to see them. I didn't know. His accent was different. His story was elaborate. His tears seemed genuine. He was the most amazing actor if this was his game. And you know, if it wasn't a hustle, on the off chance, I feel alright knowing that I helped him out. How could I turn him down a few dollars as a human being, if it was true? Fuck him if it wasn't, but he put on a good and convincing show. Maybe I've spent too much time in small-town Canada and I need some hardening.

But in a place where 50 out of 100 people don't have a job, the people have to do something to live and the few that got a few pounds out of me these last three days have been very good at what they do.

* * *

Everyone works ridiculous hours. Said, the guy who came on the falluka cruise with me, works 16-hour days. He's sleep deprived. "Oh well, my God will take care of it," he says. People in Cairo work this much just to eat. Hosam was looking rough, like he was going to pass out the entire day we spent at the pyramids. He didn't sleep that night because he'd been working.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

So those were the most relevant and least pathetic passages from my journal. I don't know what purpose they serve at all, but in the spirit of this blog, I figured why the hell not?

Hopefully, for the Hosams, Saids and even the swindlers in Cairo, the events of this past week - and whatever happens in the near future - will help improve the quality of their lives and the lives of their families. I don't know if anyone even knows what to expect or what kinds of changes are being sought, but after spending a week in Cairo, wandering around lost, even I recognized that people were working hard and weren't happy with the little that earned them. I definitely stand in support of the demonstrators in Egypt.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

teach your kids to play the...


No, herbiberous has not been possessed by Bleeding Gums Murphy and I'm not holed up in my apartment in a haze, listening to Murphy's seminal album, 'Sax on the Beach,' on an endless loop...

but I remember reading an interview with Deerhunter's Bradford Cox after the release of Halcyon Digest and his gushing over how the saxophone was going to be the wave of the future:

The song "Coronado" from Halcyon Digest features saxophone sounds inspired by the Rolling Stones' album Exile On Main Street. Cox recalled, "I wanted that sax on there because I was listening to the Stones' Exile On Main Street reissue a lot...I began to see a pattern forming. Saxophones are becoming this thing. That's why we did it early. Next year everyone's gonna have a saxophone on their record because saxophones are just cool.

(pulled from wikipedia cause I'm too lazy to find the actual interview...)

Not really the most well-defined or reasoned argument, but he does say that there will be more sax and while I wasn't thrilled with the out-of-place solo on Coronoda, maybe I'm tempted to side with him after hearing 'Chinatown' by Destroyer for the first time, earlier tonight. (Yes, Jung. Byron Crawford is now an essential visit every day. Happy?)

Not too shabby, that old sax, eh? Maybe you'll want to talk to your kids about sax while they're young. It might do them some good as they get older.

When I sit and really reflect on whether saxophones are appropriate in modern song, an overwhelming genetic impulse compels me to say, "Yes, they are." And that impulse comes from the area in the brain that controls annoying, thoughtless, inane play-on-word production. Listen to it and listen closely... Can you hear it? It's saying... BRING ON THE SAX PUNS!


I'm likely a little late with these guys too, but I saw Little Dragon last night at Il Motore and there are definitely a good handful of you out there who I'm sure would enjoy them. The singer was really great. (It dawned on me that I'd seen her when the Gorillaz were here this fall.)

We couldn't figure out where they were from last night. I googled them and, wouldn't you know it's Sweden. (Is everyone from fucking Sweden?) The band had elements of Battles, bjork and Animal Collective, but the only thing that I found distracting was that some of the songs sounded sort of like Mariah Carey tracks on speed. (And their songs always ended awkwardly.)

At the coal mine where I slave and toil, we ask references these long sets of questions about a job candidate all day and usually, if the reference is in a rush, they'll say something like: "Look, I'm about to go in on a conference call (read: take a shit) and I've only got a minute, so I'll sum it up by saying that I'd rehire Mr. Whoever." That's what I'm saying with Little Dragon: "I'd go see them again. Like I said though, I've got to go take a shit (er... dammit)."

thought of the day

I have a feeling that when a future generation looks back at us in a few hundred years, names like Bush and Obama and bin Ladin will have long faded into history, along with the prolonged and pathetic conflicts that marked their lives, but the people in our future will see Carl Sagan as a prophet from our time.

Monday, January 17, 2011

how to make it in montreal

In this city, you get a chance to observe a strange person making money in a stranger way each day.

Hopefully this doesn't antagonize my Northern friends, but today was probably the first 'cold' day we've had in Montreal this winter. I had a 'shortage of coal to mine' mandatory day off from work and was planning on getting up early to get myself to a walk-in clinic by 7:30 a.m. so I could score some direly needed face drugs sometime before sun down, but the cold had infiltrated my shoddily-protected room and I couldn't get myself out of bed despite using every one of my tricks (10 more minutes, one more song, count down from 100 and... we'll stop there.)

Finally I felt brave enough to leave the cocoon four hours later and I thought the wall below my shitty, thin window felt a little colder than usual. I checked the Weather Channel site and it was -22C - and that's about ten degrees chillier than I remember it being here so far.

Anyways, I did some grocery shopping today and I was waiting for a light at Papineau and Rachel during the after-work, rush hour and this lanky, tall, bearded guy sort of pops up from beside a bus stop and walks towards me. He looks at me and tilts his head, while also appearing to stuff what look like three perfectly spherical tiny oranges into his jacket. I avert my eyes because I figured this dude was just typical Montreal crazy.

(You really do see something that makes you stop and scratch your head every single day here, whether it's someone stuffing a tree into a telephone booth, or a dude loudly claiming he's Malcolm X at at Metro stop or bizarre aerobic moms pushing their strollers through Parc Lafontaine while shooting an arm in the air and then a leg and then jogging on the spot, while a lady in a parka three sizes too big,runs up and down the line chanting encouragement. I got stuck in that line on my way to work last Friday and walked inside this throng of moms for about 10 minutes, sipping coffee from a travel cup and trying too hard to look comfortable.)

Where were we? Oh yeah, crazy bearded guy with the oranges. Anyways, the light changes and I start crossing the street. It's a piercing -22C (it really does feel colder than the dry Arctic -22 version. It's the humidity. For real.) and I see the guy out of the corner of my eye (using my peripherals) and it looks like he's running up to drop kick me in the back. Huh? I turn around to realize that, no, he's actually just running out into the intersection and jumping up comedically to greet his helpless, commuter customers (commustomers?) before going into a juggling routine.

I stop at the other end of the street to watch out of curiosity. Juggling? In this weather? Really? Is this how you make it in Montreal, bra?

I've always had a little rant about jugglers, about how expert and skilled they are at hurling these balls different ways and keeping them from hitting the ground and why they chose to spend all that time being so good at it. They unquestionably spent countless hours honing their talents, learning how to throw the objects behind their backs and how to incorporate different and dangerous instruments and elements. And that's fine. But when a juggler is out there asking for money, I always ask why this person didn't spend the time they used flipping around these balls to read a book or learn a craft like carpentry, that could eventually pay the bills. I get it, juggling is fun and they probably smoked a lot of weed, but no one sees me running around Montreal, challenging people to games of EA Sports NHL-series (except that was a gainful venture that one winter in Cow-Town... YEAH!!!) or to quoting the Simpsons for coins, even though these were the useless abilities I spent countless hours perfecting during my youth-adolescence-extended adolescence-this morning.

But to each his own, I suppose. This is, admittedly, a hard fucking place to find work and I guess if someone is willing to shell out a few cents to watch some poor schmuck juggle balls in the dead of winter while waiting for a red light, who am I to argue.


And here's a guy who made a shit-ton of money but walked away from a HOLY SHIT-ton of money because he would have had to sell out himself and his values in order to sign his name to the cheques.

He's been outspoken against the subtle - and not-so-subtle - ways that Hollywood and the powers that be tried to change him and his act and he's been called crazy and dismissed as a nut because of it, but we are - and certainly he is - better for what he did.

Here are some recently released bits from Chappelle's show that I stumbled upon last night. Glad to see that Dave Chappelle is still doing stand-up and is still funny as ever.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

addendum: palin is cannabitch

A quick post-script to the script of yesterday's post:

Whenever I hear Sarah Palin whine and pine and slam Obama, I always go back to this song and something Eminem says at 0:56. (If I knew how to embed videos that began at a specific time, I would.) I think it's apropos:

I'd like to say, by the way, that this should not be construed as a reflection of my feelings for Canibus.

A little Canibus love (even if there is no way that this is a freestyle):

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

oh, the sarah palin

I'll admit that it took me a few tries to first get into Team America: World Police. I'd psych myself up to watch the Matt Stone and Trey Parker flick, while visions of Basketballs danced in my head, but I'd wind up deflated just minutes in because I couldn't get past the wooden puppets. As absurd as the setting and characters and situations were, I took all the dialogue seriously for whatever reason and the humour was lost on me. I'd turn it off for good, just ten minutes in.

Thankfully, I got over my puppet hang-up and I have enjoyed the movie many times for what it is: an over-the-top, cliche-spoofing satire of American intervention in world affairs (with puppet porn!)

And I think the same thing is starting to happen to me with Sarah Palin.

When this broad first stepped into the national spotlight, I couldn't fathom how anyone could even entertain the notion of taking her seriously. Her stuttered and stunted speeches - and some of the electorate's rapturous reactions to them - made me turn away in disbelief and disgust and I've been doing the same ever since.

But now, after she released this video to show her disapproval with some in the news media who are arguing that vitriolic rhetoric (which does absolutely nothing good for anyone, in my opinion) may have played a part in that demented 22-year-old's killing rampage in Arizona, (not printing the dude's name because that's really all that those people want, isn't it?) I think I'm finally getting the joke. (Editor's Note: Now that's what I call a run-on sentence. Should start calling that a Gump.)

Palin is just an over-the-top, mothafuckin aw-shuckin, cliche-spouting satire of a 21st Century politician. (This isn't my original thought either. Thanks to Inflatable Elvis' twitter feed.) She survives through sound bites, she is hardly challenged on her beliefs - or her own thoughts - in public, her image has been crafted and mythologized with some very creative twisting and exaggeration of fact, and everything she says is scripted by someone else operating things behind the controls.

Man, she's actually quite a lot like one of those Team America puppets, right down to the vapid stare, terrible acting, puppet strings and blockish, chiseled face.

Monday, January 10, 2011

to the new strokes

I saw 'Incendies' this weekend. A few quick thoughts:

1) I'm super proud about having understood about 95 percent of the film considering it was in French or with French-subtitles. (It is kind of sad though that I'm still stagnant with my functional French and not even on the cusp of fluency yet.)

2) Man, is that one heavy flick. You don't even know what to say after you walk out of it. I won't give it away in case you check it out, but I'll just say that Freud was really one creepy guy. (And I'm still not sure about the character ages and how they all add up. I was doing the math for a couple hours afterwards and I still don't know if it's all possible...)

...and 3) During a preview for a new Sofia Coppola flick, I heard a melody sung by Julian Casablancas that I could have sworn I'd heard before. The chorus came: "sit me down/shut me up/I'll calm down and I'll get along with you..." and I recognized it from the First Impressions of Earth album, but I had to sing it over and over in my head about 30 times before I could build the song around it and realize it was the album opener, "I'll Try Anything Once." I couldn't focus on the first five or ten minutes of 'Incendies' because of this and the reason it took me so long to recall this track was that the song that appeared in the preview was a stripped-down, soft version with just Julian singing, accompanied by a fuzzy keyboard and not the layered version I was used to.

It's really damn good.

The Laser and I got to talking about the Strokes at a pub a week back after 'Is This It?' came on. We talked about how refreshing those Strokes were back in 2002 - 2004, when that album and Room on Fire were soundtracks to my life. Laser said the same, but added that he hadn't liked the second album as much and hadn't really heard any of the third. I admitted the third felt a little over-produced and that I'd only recently given Julian Casablancas' solo album a listen after my buddy Ska-Ped played me a few tracks this summer. (I have liked a lot of Albert Hammond Jr.'s stuff.)

The thing about the Strokes was that, although their albums do sound meticulously crafted, they didn't ever seem like they were trying hard, but with new each album - and expectations building and critics pleading with them to evolve and fans wanting them to stay the same - it seemed like they were pushing harder and harder to sound as much like themselves as possible. Unfortunately for all of us, they sort of lost what that was and what had made them so great: the effortlessness and the cool.

And so with a new Strokes album scheduled for release this year, here's hoping they sound more like this demo than their latest, glitzy incarnation.

But I'm just one guy, so who gives a fuck.

Friday, January 7, 2011

speak for me, youtube

Youtube is really starting to consume me. Well, maybe not consume, because it's more slo-mo, Spice Girls, 2 Become 1 shit. It's integrating into me.

Not only does it entertain me while I'm at home (example: two hours completely disappeared last night as I jumped from wrestling link to wrestling link to wrestling link) or liven up an evening when conversations get dull with friends, but this year - since I'm still working hard to string together some pennies - I actually sent some friends my favourite clips from 2010 as a Christmas gift. It's the thought that counts, right?

I know I'm definitely not alone in my appreciation for this site, but without realizing it until just now, I think I've started to take this love to a new level: youtube is speaking for me.

A little history (and don't worry, this will soon make sense): My old man is as renown for his clever gift card messages, as he is notorious for the amount of time it takes him to sign said card. He puts a lot of pressure on himself and he feels he has a reputation to uphold each and every time a loved one's birthday or wedding or new bambino comes around. It's a gift and a curse, in his mind. He sits down at the table and stares at the card, looking through the thing, searching and straining for the perfect combination of words. He'll then look skyward and scratch his head. Everyone knows not to talk to him during this time. He'll get up and go dry some dishes and then, suddenly, he'll start back to the card and sit back down with a pen and almost have something, before getting up again to burn off the nervous energy.

I feel somewhat stricken with this handicap: it's not that I am noted for having hilarious notes in cards, but I always strive to come up with something clever whenever the occasion arises. (Note: Look at that, I just backed my way into an excuse for the lack of recent blog posts. When you don't got it, you just don't got it, folks.)

So thank the Spaghetti Monster that my pops doesn't have facebook. You see, the constant barrage of wall posts and messages and photos creates an endless and insatiable demand for clever quips. I'm sure if my dad was ever presented with this possibility, it would drive him crazy(er?).

And that's where I've likely wound up. Call it laziness or craziness, but instead of racking my feeble brain for some funny, tight and succinct one-liners, I've leaned upon my burgeoning catalogue of youtube clips and allowed them to start talking for me. Someone posts a beautiful picture? I'll fire off a link with Keanu Reeves' saying 'WHOA!' The boys won a hockey tournament in Hay River? Well, why not paste in a clip of Canadian fans going apeshit after Crosby scored in Vancouver to show my appreciation?

You see how this works, right?

I can see how this might be viewed as lazy and I can see how some would say that this is further evidence that technology is becoming more embedded in our everyday and that, as it becomes more expressive and complex, we - the users - become less verbose and simpler. I can also see how this kind of linked response could get very tired, very quickly.

But for delusion's sake, I'd argue that I'm just demonstrating the fruits of all my youtube labour. I've put in hours and hours of work watching videos and now I'm just showing off my encyclopedic knowledge of banality. I think I've put in the effort, now I'm watching it pay off.

Do you think I'm full of ess-aich-eye-tee? Do you agree? Let me know... but do it using a youtube clip.

Monday, January 3, 2011

happy thought to start your year

As we start this new year, with new hope and new dreams, here's a little story that I read this morning that puts it all into perspective. The actual CEO wages aren't all that shocking actually, but the story's lead really makes my whole next year feel kind of pathetic:

Canada's top-paid chief executives only have to work until 2:30 p.m. Monday to make the same amount of money the average Canadian will earn for the entire year, a new study suggests.

Now I've been on the "Kill Bankers" tip for a while now - especially after seeing Inside Job - so reading this jives with my surly philosophy that all rich people are greedy and suck. (Although, I suppose they could just have easily replaced 'Canada's top-paid chief executives' with 'Many professional athletes' and I probably would have shrugged.)

The story really does have the ability to get you down, if you live check to check like I am right now. The disparity in wages between these chief swindlers and regular folks are getting out of hand, especially when I try to imagine how much 'real work' these people actually do.

I started to get down, actually, until one thought immediately picked me up. It's January 3, 2011 today. I don't have to work today. And while those CEOs are currently 56 minutes from having made the equivalent of my yearly income, at least I'm still in bed while those working stiffs are stuck at their desks.

Have fun, CEOs, ya big chumps ya. I think I might just have a coffee and Baileys right now... mmm...

Happy New Year