Thursday, June 30, 2005

It’s All Gone Pete Tong

I know I said I was never going to another movie again. Okay, I lied. I went to see this movie tonight because I couldn’t wait for it to come out on DVD.

Most of the reviews described it as "Spinal Tap for the rave set." I don’t think that really does it justice. Yes, it’s hilarious and completely ridiculous. But it’s also very dark and even kind of touching. It wasn’t really what I expected.

It was written and directed by Michael Dowse, the same guy who put the Alberta hoser genre on the map with Fubar. So I figured Pete Tong, a fake biopic about a superstar DJ who goes deaf, would be similar. It’s not. It's better.

It was worth seeing it in the theatre. Although it took a lot of drinks at dinner to convince my friend Jenny to come with me to the 10:15 p.m. show. That’s the best thing about alcohol. You can trick people into doing things they wouldn’t normally do if they were sober.

I just hope I don’t regret it when I have to wake up for work in about five hours.

Monday, June 27, 2005

How to lose friends and alienate people

Has Stephen Harper been huffing lighter fluid on the barbecue circuit? The man is losing brain cells by the second.

This is what he actually said about the same-sex marriage bill today: "Because it's being passed with the support of the Bloc, I think it will lack legitimacy with most Canadians."

Way to light a raging fire under your own ass, Steve. Not only is this statement stupid, it’s hypocritical. Barely a month ago, Harper was working with the Bloc to defeat the Liberal budget. Now all of a sudden, the Bloc is illegitimate?

The only thing that lacks legitimacy with most Canadians is Harper himself.

Speaking of crazy people . . .

Did anyone see the bizarre ad that ran on page A13 in Saturday’s Globe and Mail? In case you missed it, I cut it out and scanned it in. Poking holes in this guy’s logic would be like shooting fish in a barrel.

Um…someone needs to tell Hugh J Maccagno that anal sex isn’t just for gay people and that lesbians want to get married too.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A public apology to Loverboy and the citizens of New Brunswick

The first, and last, music review I ever wrote

I was going through my old newspaper clippings the other day, trying to find something decent enough to convince an editor to hire me for some freelance work, when I came across an article that made me cringe with embarrassment.

I had forgotten about it until I saw Mike Reno’s face staring up at me from the first, and last, CD review I ever wrote. Re-reading it almost 10 years later made me hang my head in shame. It’s quite possibly the worst music review ever written.

But what really makes me want to crawl into a dark corner is that, at the time, I actually thought it was pretty good. What was I thinking?

It’s so bad I’m tempted to send it to journalism professors so they can use it as an example of how not to write a CD review. For instance:

1. Don’t spend the first 11 paragraphs writing about yourself. People don’t care about you. They’re interested in music. That’s why it’s called a "music review" not a "my life story review."

2. When you finally get around to actually writing about the CD, general statements like "it’s not good" or "the lyrics are cheese" show you know absolutely nothing about music. Which probably explains why you spent the first 11 paragraphs writing about yourself.

I need to right this wrong with a couple of long-overdue apologies.

To Loverboy: I listened to the album again and I still don’t like it. But you deserved a review that said more than, "I hated it." You deserved to have had your CD reviewed by someone smarter, more insightful and more experienced than me.

To the citizens of New Brunswick: I’m sorry you spent your hard-earned money to read this drivel. Oh, and I’m also sorry about the time the entire front page of the newspaper was taken up with a picture of me and a story about how a couple of birds flew down my chimney and crapped all over my apartment. It was a slow news day.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

One of these things is not like the others . . .

Philadelphia, London, Paris, Rome, Berlin, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Barrie.

I’m not even going to get into how embarrassingly lame the Canadian Live 8 lineup is because Ben Rayner does it best. It’s like he took the thoughts right out of my head and dropped them word for word into his column.

It’s a win-win situation. You get to read something good and I get to slack off.

Monday, June 20, 2005

We heart George

Last week, my sisters went to CBC headquarters to watch George Stroumboulopoulos tape his show in front of a live studio audience.

I asked (okay, begged) my sister Jane to write about the experience. She finally got around to it last night. Here’s what she had to say:

"It was really great being live in the audience of The Hour. I didn't know half of what George was talking about, and I sort of wish that I did. I felt pretty uneducated, but then I came back to the U.S., watched a little TV and read the newspaper, and the news here is pretty one-sided.

I don't know much about what goes on other than stuff that involves the U.S., and these days that pretty much revolves around Iraq. [Jane moved to the U.S. last year to do a Master's degree -- Editor]

Anyhow, I really enjoyed it, so thanks! It was fun sharing a uniquely Canadian experience before I headed off on another U.S. adventure. George was great! He has a great sense of humor that I didn't know about and he was really sweet and friendly and took the time to talk and take pictures with everyone who waited to meet him after the show."

* Editor’s note: My sisters did not send me any of the afore mentioned pictures. So I drew one instead . . .

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Art sort of imitates life on Robson Street

I almost choked on a pretzel when I saw a commercial for the newest Canadian TV show the other day.

"Oh my god," I sputtered. "They’ve taken my life and turned it into the world’s most boring TV show."

Robson Arms is a new half-hour series that takes viewers inside a fictional low-rise apartment building in Vancouver’s West End. The show follows the lives of the tenants, all of whom are stuck at a crossroads in their lives.

As someone who actually lives in a low-rise apartment building in Vancouver’s West End, I felt obligated to watch the premiere on Friday. I was curious to see how my real Robson Street apartment stacked up against its fictional counterpart.

The two buildings share a few things in common -- both have crappy appliances, low water pressure and old wood floors. But that’s where the similarities end.

The residents of Robson Arms get into all kinds of wacky hijinks. Like the 10-year-old kid who ambushed the upstairs neighbour to pimp for his single mom. Or the married woman who went on a drunken sexcapade with the maintenance man.

Compared to Robson Arms, my building is so boring you can practically hear the crickets chirping. (My family and friends refer to it as the "senior’s home" since everyone who lives here is over the age of 70.)

Nothing exciting ever happens here. Well, except for the time the pipes burst. Or the time Joan got stuck in the elevator. Or the time I got into a vicious battle over the washer and dryer.

But since when has any TV show had any basis in reality? I mean, I’ve ridden the GO Train and it’s nothing like the good times portrayed on Train 48. Maybe there are apartment buildings out there like Robson Arms. I’ve just never lived in one.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Extreme Makeover: Stephen Harper Edition

It’s going to take a lot more than flipping a few burgers on the barbecue circuit and going on the South Beach Diet to solve Stephen Harper’s image problem.

For starters, he might want to reconsider his stand on the whole gay marriage thing. That alone would move Mr. Knuckle Dragger a few rungs up the evolutionary ladder.

He might also want to practice smiling in front of a mirror until he nails a more natural looking grin. Anger management lessons would help control his tendency to snarl and snap in scrums. A few dance classes might make him less stiff and wooden.

If he thinks standing around in khakis and a golf shirt with the top button unbuttoned ("I’m just a regular bland guy like you") while flipping a token burger, grinning maniacally at the popping flashbulbs will somehow make us warm up to him, he seriously underestimates our intelligence.

I’m no political analyst. But I’m Canadian. I vote. And I care about this country. So I figure that entitles me to an opinion. My opinion is this: The best way Stephen Harper can boost his popularity is by changing his policies, not his image.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

That George Stroumboulopoulos is such a nice young man

George Stroumboulopoulos is taping his show in front of a live studio audience in Toronto this week. I mentioned this to my younger sisters when I phoned home on the weekend.

Jane freaked out the most. “Oh my god! George Stroumboulopoulos has his own show? When’s it on? How do we get tickets? Hook us up!”

Since it never hurts to ask, I emailed George yesterday to see if there were any tickets left. I got a reply almost immediately. But it wasn’t some random producer writing back. Nope. George himself phoned me at work to tell me he would put my sisters on the list.

Could he be any nicer? (Could I be a better big sister?)

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Vaseline and toilet seats don’t mix

I know how I am going to die. I am going to slip off a Vaseline-coated toilet seat, crack my head open and bleed to death.

I know this is how I am going to die because it’s already happened to me. Twice. Not the cracking my head open and bleeding to death part but the slipping off a Vaseline-coated toilet seat part.

There’s this woman who is always at the Vancouver Aquatic Centre. We call her "Vaseline Lady" because she coats herself in the stuff before she goes for a swim.

Her routine in the women's change room is fascinating to watch. First, she sets down a gigantic tub of Vaseline on the ledge in front of the mirror. Then she takes off all her clothes and scoops out baseball-sized gobs of Vaseline, which she smears on every inch of her body. (I overheard her telling someone she does this to protect her skin from the chlorine.)

Once she is coated in enough layers of grease to withstand a nuclear fallout, she puts on her swimsuit and heads out to the pool, leaving a trail of slime in her wake. I have twice slipped off toilet seats she sat on. I have cracked my hand against the wall after it skidded off the soap dispenser she touched. I have slid on the pool deck she walked on.

I’m not the only one who has grumbled to the lifeguards about Vaseline Lady. Apparently, so many people complained that the lifeguards banned her from using Vaseline. But it’s an impossible crime to police so she keeps bringing her contraband gunk to the pool.

The woman is a walking safety hazard; not to mention a walking lawsuit should someone (me) actually crack their head open and bleed to death. If her skin really is that sensitive to chlorine, why swim at all? But perhaps that’s too logical a question for someone so illogical.

[I’m not even going to get into the fact that I have also seen her eating sandwiches in the shower. Eating in the shower is weird enough but eating things in the shower that are going to get soggy is mind boggling.]

Anyway, since there seems to be nothing I can do, please use this post as "evidence" when they find my cold body on the bathroom floor at the Aquatic Centre.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Battle of the “bar” bands

Man, lawyers sure know how to party. Who knew? I thought they were supposed to be serious and boring.

I just got back from a wild night out with a bunch of lawyers. (I’m writing this from inside the haze of a few too many cocktails so I apologize if the story lurches incoherently across the screen.)

My friend Kathryn invited me to go to the Battle of the Bar Bands, an annual fundraiser put on by the Canadian Bar Association. The twist is that all of the bands are made up of lawyers (get it? bar bands?). And the judges are actual judges (from the B.C. Supreme Court, no less).

I was a little skeptical at first. I’ve always thought cover bands are to music what paint-by-numbers is to art. Cover bands are bad enough. But cover bands made up of lawyers? I didn’t have high expectations.

But you know what? They were all really, really good. Rock stars, every one of them. They obviously put as much effort into practicing music as they do practicing law. My new favourite band is The Retainers, the group from Kathryn’s law firm.

Plus no one played the kinds of songs I was expecting them to, like "I fought the law." It was an eclectic mix -- from Metallica to Paul Simon to U2. The dance floor was packed.

Anyway, the ringing in my ears has quieted now so I think I’ll go to bed. [It’s kind of an abrupt way to end this post but I’m tired.]

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Tag, you’re it!

I'm crashing this nerdy little party sweeping across the blogosphere right now. Everyone is playing this game where you post the answers to four questions about books and then ask five other people to do the same.

Number of books you own
I don't know. Hundreds? I've never counted how many books I own.

Last book you bought
A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole. (I started reading this when I was in Toronto last month. I was snooping through my sister's room looking for something to read. A Confederacy of Dunces was the only book she owned that I hadn't already read. But my sister refused to let me take it back to Vancouver. So I went out and bought my own copy.)

Last book you read
The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini. (I blew through this one in about two days. It was an easy read. Although I appreciate cleverness, originality and creativity, sometimes it's nice to read a book that's stripped of fancy literary techniques. When a book is filled with gratuitous hyperbole and meaningless metaphors, it can get annoying. The Kite Runner just tells a good story without showing off.)

Five books you really like
1. Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler because it's funny.
2. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen because it's bold.
3. A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry because it's heartbreaking.
4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky because it's thrilling.
5. Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer because it's spellbinding.

Your turn! Leave your answers in the comments section (I'm always looking for book recommendations). I'd love to see what you guys think!

Monday, June 06, 2005

My mom in the news

It started with a front-page story in the Toronto Star. Then, like a row of falling dominoes, came an appearance on CBC, a profile in Time Magazine and an interview with the National Post. Now, my mom is in the weekend Globe and Mail talking about bathroom walls smeared with excrement.

You can read the whole Globe story here. It’s an excellent article. Partly because it’s written by Peter Cheney, who is one of the best feature writers in the country. But mostly because it’s all about my mom, who is one very cool lady.

Friday, June 03, 2005

What the hell?

So I’m going to my friend Norm’s wedding tomorrow. Which is great and everything. I like Norm and his bride-to-be. They’re good people who deserve to be deliriously happy. It’s just that all these weddings (six in the past five years) are giving me a complex.

How are all these people hooking up, shacking up, getting married and having babies while I can’t even get a freakin’ date? Seriously. I haven’t been on a date since I broke up with my last boyfriend, which was (hang on, let me go check the calendar) oh my god, a year and a half ago.

No, wait. That’s not exactly true. I went out with this cute 25-year-old British tourist I met at the gym once last summer. He asked me to go kayaking with him. I was expecting a romantic sunset paddle but it turned out he had entered us in a kayaking race. After the gun went off, I didn’t see him again until the race was over. Then we spent the next two hours driving around Vancouver looking for a cheap restaurant he had eaten at once but had forgotten what it was called or where it was. At that point, I was so sunburned, dehydrated and tired I just wanted to go home. Alone.

The thing is, I don’t even really like dating. I’d rather stay home, watch the Trailer Park Boys on DVD, drink some tap water and call it a party. Why can’t boyfriends be like Jehovah’s Witnesses and come knocking at your door?

I do accept some responsibility for being perpetually single. I refuse to settle just so I have someone to go out with on Friday nights. That’s what friends are for.

My friend Norm, the one who’s getting married tomorrow, didn’t even have a girlfriend when we met last winter. And now look at him. I just don’t understand why it’s so easy for some people and so hard for others (okay, me) to meet decent guys in this city. I’m not whining. I’m just stating the facts. And looking for some answers.

On a somewhat related note, I’m trying out this new commenting software, which is supposed to be easier to use and manage. I’ve saved all the old comments but wasn’t able to export them to this program, unfortunately. Let me know what you think.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"I Want a Famous Face"

I meant to write about this while I was in Toronto but I kind of forgot. It was so horrifying I must have repressed it. But then I read a story about plastic surgery in the paper this morning and the horror of what I saw in Toronto came rushing back.

Here’s the thing. My parents have, like, 700 channels of digital cable. No, that’s not the horrifying part of the story. I’ll get there eventually but I need to provide some context first.

Here in Vancouver, I have basic cable. So whenever I visit my parents in Toronto, I like to watch stuff I don’t get at home, like MTV. It’s my secret guilty pleasure. Or it was secret until now. But I’m not ashamed to admit I enjoy watching half-naked, attractive people dance around and lip-synch (although I do find it strange that Usher makes millions of dollars and can’t afford to buy a shirt).

Anyhow, when I was in Toronto last week, my 18-year-old sister and I were sitting around trying to figure out what to do one afternoon.

“Let’s see what’s on MTV,” I said.

Here’s where the story takes a horrifying, disturbing turn. (Apologies that it took five paragraphs to get to the point but this blog does not come with an editor.) What was on MTV that afternoon was a show called I Want a Famous Face.

It was, by far, the most shocking, f**ked up thing I’ve seen in a long time. It’s a half-hour documentary series that follows young people as they undergo plastic surgery in order to look like their favourite celebrity.

MTV skirts around the show’s obvious ethical issues by posting this disclaimer on its website: “The subjects of this documentary series decided on their own to get plastic surgery. MTV then asked to document their journey. MTV did not pay for any surgery performed on these subjects.” Talk about shirking responsibility!

I generally don’t have a problem with plastic surgery. If someone’s self-esteem is so low that they think mutilating their body by surgically shoving a couple of sacks of silicone into their chest will somehow make them more attractive, well, that’s their choice. It’s a bad choice but it’s still their choice.

What I do have a problem with is the whole concept of I Want a Famous Face. The show we watched featured a pair of 20-year-old twin brothers who wanted to look like Brad Pitt because they felt it would help them become “famous” and therefore “happy.” Plus, one of the brothers thought this hot blonde chick he knew might actually like him if he looked less like himself. Which is so, so sad.

The show filmed the surgeries, which were so graphic and violent it made me scream and cover my eyes. According to my sister, who is much less squeamish than me, the boys had chin implants, cheek implants, nose jobs, teeth implants, skin peels and other stuff too.
After a long, painful recovery, the guys didn’t even end up looking like Brad Pitt at all. Here's a before and after photo:

Personally, I thought they were cute just the way they were. Now they just look boring. And the blonde girl? She wasn’t blown away either. “He’s hot now and I like him, but I don’t *like* him like him, like, you know?”

These kids needed counseling, not surgery. Someone needed to tell them that basing their self-worth on how others perceive them is lame. That in 15 years, they’ll no longer idolize Brad Pitt but they’ll be stuck staring regretfully at a sagging version of his face in the mirror every day.

I just hope the teenagers who watch this show watch it with a critical eye, like my sister. As for me, I think I’ll just stick to basic cable from now on.