Saturday, June 30, 2012

John Butler says...

'And most of us, we stand and watch while the lady gets her handbag stolen, it's time to chase, chase these criminals, I see the devil and the devil is running.'

- John Butler ('Devil Running', Grand National, John Butler Trio, 2007) chained... (3)

On the third day, Rodnee asked me a more personal question. The man chained to a tree looked fragile, weaker, and closer to the end of his protest, though he might’ve looked exactly the same and my imagination had deteriorated him, I couldn’t tell.  Other than the man, there wasn’t any other character worth mentioning, even when Rodnee showed up in a Doors shirt, wearing the same patched jeans, lip ring and barefoot, hair in three braids, earphones rocking and rolling her. This time, the treat she brought was rolled and tucked behind her ear, and I didn’t have to answer a question for her to pass it over once she lit up. “You won’t get fired will you?” The thought hadn’t even occurred to me. I felt no fear of consequence, and told her, “I’m not sure anyone even knows my name there.” We sat silently, toking on her joint and watching the man, who was now lightly shifting from foot to foot but otherwise, appeared the same as he had been.  Then, the question came, “Is there anything in this whole stupid world that you care about like that?” waving her hand towards the man. I felt comfortable enough to assume, “You’d chain yourself to a tree for music, wouldn’t you?”  She laughed and coughed, smoke blowing out her mouth and nose as her face turned a dark red. She shook her head a little. “Yeah, the right kind of music, for sure.  Answer me.” I inhaled deeply on the joint and watched the smoke float up through the park, into the tree and out into the sky. An old lady shook her head at us and I wondered if she even noticed the chained man. “What do you think he cares about enough to be there?  It’s not a woman, is it? There are no reports of this park being closed down and he doesn’t look like an environmentalist. Is he against crime? Starvation and homelessness? Who isn’t? Is he protesting a disease, a religion, abortion? War? Is he even protesting at all?  Maybe he just wants to test himself. There’s so much to care about, isn’t there?  I’d rather not choose at all than have to choose just one or two issues to support. I think he’s there because there really isn’t anything else for him. That’s why I’m on this bench, at least. The question probably isn’t what he cares enough about to be there, I’m pretty sure it’s: why do we care about him enough to sit here every day?” I took a breath and looked over at her, feeling her thigh press hard into mine. She was staring at her toes and didn’t notice that I was trying to pass her the joint. I could feel the heat of the cherry reaching my fingertips.

The next day, the fourth day of the week and the sixth day of the man being chained to a tree, Rodnee once again had a gift, but it wasn’t for me. Cradled in her hands was a styrofoam cup full of what I assumed was soup.  She stood in front of me, blocking the man and the sun, creating a blasting glow around her silhouette and making her appear more beautiful than she truly was. “What do you think?” she asked, her eyes electric, like she just found out her favourite band was coming to town. Today, it was The Steve Miller Band displayed on her body, and the same patched jeans, barefoot, with earphones forever blasting a lost rock tune into her head. Four braids, lip ring, scar on her forehead. This was Rodnee as I will always remember her.  I eyed the soup and said, “I don’t usually eat liquids”, not realizing how dumb that might’ve sounded even if I had understood her question in the first place. “No, for the man. I’m sure he’s really into this whole chain thing and the suffering probably feels great for him, but I can tell he’s hungry, can’t you? Who would say no to free soup? It’s broccoli and cheddar!”  She turned to look at him and I stretched my neck to see around her, glancing at the Deep Purple patch opposite from the Cream one on her left ass cheek. The man didn’t look hungry to me, but he was leaning against the tree with his head hanging down, so I couldn’t tell if he was still mumbling, but I imagined he was. He wasn’t shifting weight anymore, he just seemed to be waiting for the end. Approaching him with soup seemed like a terrible idea for someone like me to do, but I felt confident that Rodnee could somehow charm this man chained to a tree.

(End of Part 3)

This is original writing and copyright and all that fine print kind of stuff. Please credit this to Chessterr Hollowberry. Thanks!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Bob Marley says...

'Cause I remember when we used to sit, in a government yard in Trenchtown, observing the hypocrites mingle with the good people we meet, good friends we have, oh, good friends we have lost along the way, in this great future, you can't forget your past, so dry your tears I say, no woman no cry, no woman no cry.'

- Bob Marley ('No Woman No Cry', Natty Dread, Bob Marley, 1974) chained... (2)

I thought about the man chained to a tree for the rest of the day and all next morning. I had questions that only he could answer, but how approachable is a man who has chosen to spend his life, or the small portion of it that I witnessed, chained to a tree? I’d ask them anyways, to Rodnee, to myself, but not to anyone else. The most pressing question I had in my head was one that I can tell you now has never been answered for me, and that’s: what is this man’s cause? More importantly, if it’s a cause that is worth living your life with a chain around your waist standing in one spot, why is he the only believer? The man chained to a tree seemed to be beyond any ethnic background, he seemed to be of all races, which made a religious cause hard to determine. His clothes weren’t a fashion statement in any way, just a requirement for law and, on a survival level, warmth, though it was unclear to me exactly what his survival meant to him. He didn’t sit or lean, just stood beside the tree, his black hair dangling over his face, eyes closed, silently mouthing what could be a prayer or just the mad ramblings of a street bum. What else amazed me about this man was how little anyone else seemed to notice him. In a more metaphysical mood, I might have even asked the question: Could only Rodnee and I see him? On the fourth day, this question was answered. On the second day, Rodnee was waiting with two chocolate ice cream cones.

She wore the same patched jeans, barefoot, with two braids on either side of her head. Lip ring, scar on her forehead, earphones always blasting some lost rock tune into her head. That day, she wore a Grateful Dead shirt. The man’s clothes hadn’t changed and I assumed he hadn’t left that spot at all, still mumbling, eyes shut. I reached for one of the cones but Rodnee pulled it away. “No, no. Answer my question first.” She smiled, and I felt like I’d never seen a smile before, and when I smiled back it felt like I had never smiled before. “You’re stuck on an island, you know the story, stranded and probably going to die pretty quick, you get one musician there with you. Who is it?” Her eyes brightened as if this was the only thing she’d ever need to know about me. Some part of my nature wanted to say what I thought she’d want to hear, because when we ask these sorts of questions we always have an answer in our heads, there are always expectations. I decided, based on the pot leaf patch on her left thigh, the one pressed against mine, that she’d want to hear my honest answer. “Bob…” She held the cone out, her lip twitched. “..Dylan.” Her face collapsed and she dropped the cone on the ground, our eyes following as it collided with the pavement and splattered her feet with chocolate and cone. I imagined that’s what a broken heart looks like. “Wrong.” She took a huge lick of her cone and held her tongue out at me before swallowing. “There’s a wrong answer to a preference question?” I looked over at the man and wondered when he had ice cream last, then immediately felt foolish. “For a moment there I thought you’d say Bob Marley, you almost scored huge. Instead, you chose a wild rambler poet wannabe, way over-rated. Yuck.” Her disgust towards me didn’t make me like her any less and with my eyes fixed on the tree, the chain, and the man, I didn’t worry if she liked me back at all. She kept her thigh next to mine but turned her Discman up and ignored me while she finished her cone and wiped her hands on my pants. I split my vision between the man chained to the tree and the chocolate puddle around our feet. I didn’t wonder if the man would still be there the next day, I suspected he’d be there as long as the tree was.

(End of Part 2)

This is original writing and copyright and all that fine print kind of stuff. Please credit this to Chessterr Hollowberry. Thanks!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

The Narrator of '(500) Days of Summer' says...

'This is a story of boy meets girl. The boy, Tom Hansen of Margate, New Jersey, grew up believing that he'd never truly be happy until the day he met The One. This belief stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total mis-reading of the movie 'The Graduate'. The girl, Summer Finn, of Shinnecock, Michigan, did not share this belief. Since the disintegration of her parent's marriage, she'd only love two things. The first was her long dark hair. The second was how easily she could cut it off and not feel a thing. Tom meets Summer on January 8th. He knows almost immediately she is who he has been searching for. This is a story of boy meets girl, but you should know up front, this is NOT a love story.'

- The Narrator (500 Days of Summer, written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, 2009) chained... (1)

The first time Rodnee and I met, we weren’t looking at each other. She was sitting in my spot on the park bench that I visit on my lunch break during the week. I wasn’t bothered by the intrusion, our thighs were pressed together and she smelled nice enough. Our eyes were on someone far more interesting than either of us, a man chained to a tree across the park. I only knew her name from glancing at the ‘Hello, My Name Is’ sticker pressed to her Jimi Hendrix shirt, over her left breast, over her heart. Bold isn’t a word that has ever been used to describe my style, especially concerning my approach to women, but something about the setting and the look on the man’s face inspired me to ask, “Where were you that your name needed to be displayed?” Our eyes met momentarily before returning to our suffering subject. It took her a moment to understand exactly what I was asking. “Oh, this. Nowhere. I just wear it, you know, I figure guys are gonna look at my chest anyways, right? Might as well learn something about me.” I had never met anyone with that name and it’s in my nature to be cynical, so with all the confidence a guy on a park bench could find, I asked her, “What’s your real name?” I couldn’t see her, but I felt her temperature rise for a second, “What?  It’s…” but I cut in, “No, it’s not. We’ve lied and been lied to enough, haven’t we?” This might have been taken as rude, had Rodnee been more sensitive and had she not noticed my smile. “Well, my real name is Boring.” Her thigh broke away from mine and she sighed, “This is his third day here, I’ve been watching him since Saturday, he hasn’t moved.” There’s a description of this man, we’d all have a way of painting his picture, but he’d be there for a while and in this moment I’d rather describe my bench partner, although this story really has nothing to do with her.  

Most would describe me as a whole, definitive being beginning with a ball of light in the center and working outwards in a male form, adding elements like clothing and a hairstyle to give you and I the illusion of individuality. Rodnee, however, was a compilation of details, tiny fragments of style and personality woven together into a female’s form. If you asked me, I’d say Rodnee was borne from musical chords, not two people slamming their parts together. There was some sort of ancient understanding between us on that bench that seemed beyond us on our own but made perfect sense when sitting this close to one another. She wore patched jeans, barefoot, with a thick braid for her hair. Lip ring, scar on her forehead, earphones blasting some lost rock tune into her head. I see all of these details out of the corner of my eye, because she really wasn’t the most interesting character on that day. The moment I was going to attempt to press my thigh back to hers, she slid off the bench and with her back to me, staring at the man. She asked “You’ll be here tomorrow?” and I realized that I really had nowhere else to go. No way was I going to spend lunch break under a roof with my co-workers when this stubborn man was here in this park. “Yeah, I will. This bench, every day, Monday through Friday.”  She glanced at me over her shoulder, but I was looking at the Cream patch on her ass, though I assumed she was pointing at the man when she said “That tree, every day, Saturday through to the rest of his life. See you tomorrow, I’ll bring you an ice cream cone.  Chocolate?” Before I could reply she flicked the volume up on her Discman and left my line of sight, which landed on the man chained to the tree. She didn’t ask my name, which I actually appreciated.

(End of Part 1)

This is original writing and copyright and all that fine print kind of stuff. Please credit this to Chessterr Hollowberry. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Donald Glover says...

'I gotta be honest, I'm sorry, I'd much rather have AIDs than a baby. Sorry, AIDs beats baby by this much. Seriously, people get all upset when they hear that, but I say think about it: they're not that different you guys, they're not that different at all. They're both expensive, you have them for the rest of your life, they're constant reminders of the mistakes you've made, and once you have them, you can pretty much only date other people who have them. What's the difference? What's the difference? The only difference is that you can't go to jail for accidentally dropping AIDs. So AIDs wins, by this much.'

- Donald Glover (Weirdo, Donald Glover, 2012)

Donald Glover's 'Weirdo' (visual montage)

Ever since I discovered Donald Glover on Community, I’ve been a fan of his comedic style. A few months ago, I saw Donald’s comedy special Weirdo, which is one of the most entertaining hours of comedy I’ve ever experienced. His topics range from pop culture to childhood stories to fun subjects like ‘the n word’, rape, and poop. Adding to the hilarious material is Glover’s ability to emote, mimic, dance, and do vocal impressions. His facial expressions are my favourite aspects.

Inspired by how visually entertaining Glover is during Weirdo, and intrigued by the idea of making a ‘fan-video’, I made this visual montage, which features just about every mood and funny action Glover does during his stand-up routine. There’s no audio from the performance, instead I added ‘Soul Clap 69’ by Booker T and the MGs, and ‘Get There From Here’ by Ben Harper. I highly recommend checking out the full-length Weirdo, but I hope that this video is entertaining whether you’ve seen the show or not.

I’ll write a more in-depth post about Community some day soon, today it’s all about Donald Glover. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bob Dylan says...

‘I would not want t be bach, mozart, Tolstoy, joe hill, gertrude stein or james dean/they are all dead. the Great books’ve been written, the Great sayings have been said/i am about t sketch You a picture of what goes on around here sometimes. tho i don’t understand too well myself what’s really happening. i do know that we’re all gonna die someday an that no death has ever stopped the world. my poems are written in a rhythm of unpoetic distortion/divided by pierced ears, false eyelashes/subtracted by people constantly torturing eachother. with a melodic purring line of descriptive hollowness – seen at times through dark sunglasses an other forms of psychic explosion. a song is anything that can walk by itself/i am called a songwriter, a poem is a naked person…some people say that i am a poet…………an so i answer my recording engineer “yes. well i could use some help in getting this wall in the plane”’

– Bob Dylan (excerpt from a poem in the album notes, Bringing it All Back Home, Bob Dylan, 1965)

Note: This excerpt is copied exctly how it appears in the the album notes, spelling errors and all.

An Excerpt: Parts of Noah (no explanation)

I had a therapist once, but he killed himself. I’ve exhausted myself coming up with theories for what led to his end, how he decided to use a noose, what song he might’ve listened to during his final moments. I’ve come up with a hundred thoughts that could have been his last. I had only met him for three sessions before he offed himself, and I never once noticed a fading in his eyes or a weakness in his heart. I went in for the fourth session, his secretary in her sing-song sunshiney voice told me that his maid found him swinging from the stair-rail, all of his client’s files burned in the fireplace. It bothered me only for a moment that this man had never learned one true fact about me, but only for a moment. Those soul-less men in charge re-assigned me to another therapist, a smug clown lady that was probably a demon, and I spent five sessions in a row just entirely silent, staring at her throat. She gave up on me as everyone does. Why was I there? There’s no point in lying now, so I might as well tell you that I threatened to kill my mom. Your gut will tell you how to feel about that, I’m sure. Anyone would be pushed to my edge if they knew how she had laughed and laughed and laughed.

It began with a book, it began in the morning. Could’ve been any day of the year. She was sitting in the kitchen reading a thin book with its front covered in leather that looked like dried skin. When I passed her on my way outside, she was at the table reading, her lips following the words and her eyes seeing a world I’ll never know. My other creator was nowhere to be seen but wasn’t effective enough at anything to prevent something like this. By day’s end, she was still reading that book and I swear she hadn’t turned a page. Her face held the same expression as when I had eyed her last, but her soul seemed to have changed. In the middle of the night, I made patterns of landscapes out of the flashing colors before my eyes and the shadows in the dark, not sleeping for fear of dreams, not moving for fear of alerting the creatures of the night, the predators. Then the giggling began. I could hear her through the wall and what started out soft exploded into laugher, an outrageous kind of howling that’d haunt even the purest being. I waited for the outburst to pass, but it didn’t and hasn’t yet. My father has become catatonic with silent, boiling rage and tolerated her laughter all night long, every night since. I haven’t seen the book again since that first day, but I’m convinced it broke her somehow. Or cured her. This mystery giggle has plagued her life entirely, stealing her job and her sleep and killing any bond she might’ve had with my father, though I don’t believe it was ever very strong to begin with.

One night, I was lying on the roof above my bedroom, attempting with body and mind to float up to the stars and find quiet in space. But all I could hear on that rare, peaceful night was my mother’s unrelenting laughter. So, I kicked her bedroom door off the hinges and told her I’d bite her throat out if she didn’t stop, one of the dozen or so things I’ve ever said to her. She kept laughing and laughing, and my father just growled and rolled over. After that, I was reduced to a punching bag for my father, who avoided my mother and threatened to send her away. Instead, he sent me to a therapist, figuring if he could fix something in me, then maybe it would fix her. The man was never said to be brilliant. I went along with it, figuring I could at least leave a lasting impression on anyone could dared to let me share my wicked thoughts, and I have no idea if his suicide had anything to do with me. After the clown lady gave up on me I only went home once more, to rip the house apart in a mad search for my mother’s book, with no success. Now I wait for the day my dad snaps and I see my mother’s ghost walking the streets, and I wonder if even in death she’d still be laughing and laughing and laughing.

(End of Excerpt)
Note: I'm pretty well versed in copyright laws, so I'd appreciate it if nobody tried to steal this story. I have definitive proof that I wrote it. If you share or re-post it, please give credit to Chessterr Hollowberry. Thanks!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Oscar Wilde says...

'Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty.'

- Oscar Wilde ('Preface', The Picture of Dorian Gray, Oscar Wilde, 1891)


The art of photography is among my favourite creative hobbies. Although I'm not technically trained in the photography field and know very little about various makes and models of cameras, I have an eye for what makes an image worth capturing. Unlike the more complicated art forms, such as writing or painting, photography is much more accessible to the general population. Just about anyone can pick up a camera and snap a picture. Of course, not everyone is talented and there are some true genius photographers out there, but for the most part it's an easy enough craft to understand: aim and shoot. I'll always be intrigued and fascinated by the fact that we have this living breathing everchanging world around us, and we have invented the technology so that a 'passing moment' can be made immortal. I try to find these moments.

I wasn't very serious or passionate about photography until my sister and my brother-in-law bought me a digital camera for Christmas a couple years ago. Since then, my camera comes with me just about everywhere. Though I'm not one of those people that are constantly filming and getting in everyone's space and snapping thousands of pointless pictures, I do like to have my camera closeby for when I see an image that needs to be captured. I've always been much more comfortable behind the camera than in front of it. Some of my friends, Merv Quantas I'm looking at you, were born to perform for an audience. I was born to be the audience, the observer, the director.

As far as inspiration goes, I find myself drawn to nature landscapes, musical symbols, found objects (the more random the better), delicious food shots, live music, the antics of friends, any and every part of my girl ChinaCat Sunflower, and real moments where nobody knows I'm about to take a picture. This last one isn't as creepy as it sounds, what I mean is that I hate the 'say cheese' mentality where the subject is trying to make the picture happen. I'd rather my subjects just act natural and I'll find the moment to press the button, those are usually my favourite pictures.

Below, I've included 13 favourite photographs from my personal collection. I took all of these myself, and I'd like to think there's something interesting about each of them. As you'll see, my photographic tastes are quite simple, and you'll be able to get a better idea of what makes me happy in 'real life'. Enjoy!

This is the first picture ever taken with my camera

Guy Dudeman's family dog: Stevie Ray

Is that sign really necessary?

Corlin Rosewater: the Tool eye tattoo

What do you see in that cloud?

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Ben Harper says...

'Mistake number one, I've made it three times today, we best talk over how there's nothing left to say, I feel like an underpaid concubine, who's over-stayed her welcome.'

- Ben Harper ('Lay There and Hate Me', White Lies for Dark Times, Relentless 7, 2009)

A Loveburst: Ben Harper

Today I'll conclude my 3-day Ben Harper lovefest by writing about the man himself and how his words and music have influenced my life. For a full bio, head on over to his Wiki page, this is all about my experiences with Ben.

I have a muscial best buddy and his name is Ben Harper. Considering all the fans he's gained in the past two decades, I'm sure I share him as a musical best friend with many, many others. I'm willing to accept that, but I still believe that nobody loves Ben quite like I do. I've been listening to and loving music for my entire life and I'm always building on and shaping my musical knowledge and preferences. I pay close attention to what I like about a certain artist or band, because the more I know about my musical tastes, the easier I'll be able to keep finding awesome tunes.

When it comes to deciding my commitment to a musician or group, there are two very important factors: First, I have to truly feel like they'd be making music whether or not they make money for it, and whether or not anyone else is listening. The bands and artists that rank highest in my favourites all have one thing is common, they feel genuine. I cannot stand shallow music. I don't mind fun, light-hearted, party music, but I still have to feel like it's coming from honest intent, not just the will to be famous and get paid. Second, there has to be range within a musician's song catalogue. When I'm collecting music for my itunes and choosing which artists go on my daily ipod playlist, I always take my varying moods into consideration. If a band only offers up one style or vibe, chances are I will not dig them as much as a musician who has a song for every and any way that I'm feeling. Of course, the third factor is pure talent, which is much harder to describe, I know it when I hear it.

Having range, being genuine, and possessing raw talent are three attributes that describe Ben Harper, which makes it easy for me to be a proud fan and listen to his music every day. I was introduced to Ben's music over ten years ago, with the same song that most casual fans know him for, 'Steal My Kisses'. This is a bit backwards, considering who discovered who, but I actually found Ben Harper through learning about Jack Johnson. At the time that I made myself a mix of Johnson and Harper, I actually preferred Jack's music over Ben's. This is no longer the case, I haven't willingly listened to a Jack Johnson song in years. I haven't nothing against him in particular, there's just something about his music that doesn't have the staying power that Harper's does. After going back and catching up with Ben's albums, Both Sides of the Gun came out in 2006, his first new album since I became a fan. He did not disappoint. Both Sides is a double-disc, with one side containing slow, soft, melancholy songs, and the other side featuring more upbeat, rock and roll, protest-style music. Currently, this album is still one of my favourites, as you can see from how many songs off of Both Sides I included in my 'Ben Harper-isms' post.

Unfortunately, as well-loved by his fan base as he may be, Ben Harper is not a common celebrity name. He has a few recognizable songs for the casual fan, like 'Brown Eyed Blues' and 'Burn One Down', but most of the time I find myself having to explain to people who the man is and what he's known for. This has always been confusing to me, because on top of raw musical talent, Ben sends a positive message in his music, I'm surprised he's not more popular as a pop culture role model. Over the years he's evolved from a protest-rocker to an alternative-rocker to a soul-singer to a funky jam-rocker, but the positive messages in his music have remained the same, no matter which genre he chooses. Which brings me to his range. On a typical Ben Harper album, you can expect to hear pop rock, rock and roll, hard rock, reggae, r&b/soul, acoustic, ballads, and of course, good old blues. So chances are, no matter what style of music you prefer, Ben has a song that'll appeal to you.

Another admirable quality that Ben possesses is his working-man's approach to musical creation. He is a musician that likes to keep busy, and he seems to enjoy working with a wide range of bands and other musicians. Other than releasing albums as plain old Ben Harper, he's also released albums with The Innocent Criminals, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Fistful of Mercy, and Relentless 7. The boys in R7 are currently touring as Ben's back-up band for his solo stuff, and personally they are my favourite musicians to see and hear play with Ben. Also, Ben's own music taste shines through in the range of covers that he's recorded and performed. While hearing Ben sing his own songs is magical enough in itself, hearing him sing classic tracks such as:  'Ain't too Proud to Beg' (The Temptations), 'Breakdown' (Tom Petty) 'Could You be Loved' (Bob Marley),  'Dazed and Confused' (Led Zeppelin), 'Gimme Shelter' (Rolling Stones), 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine' (Marvin Gaye), and 'Strawberry Fields Forever' (The Beatles) is always a treat.

I've had the pleasure of seeing Ben Harper play live four times, each at a different venue. The first time I saw him, he was touring with Relentless 7 for the album White Lies for Dark Times. The concert was a part of a festival being held at the amazing Gorge Ampitheatre in George, Washington, USA. This was the third (and most recent) time that I've been to the Gorge, the first two were to see Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. Even from what felt like a million miles away from the stage, I loved watching Ben and his band-mates perform. Hearing 'Serve Your Soul' bounce around in the wind during the encore was a special concert moment for me. The second time I saw Ben and R7 perform was at Deer Lake Park in Burnaby, B.C. This is another outdoor venue, but this time I was much closer to the stage.  Ben and his band were much more comfortable playing together than the first time I had seen them, and this was a very fun show to experience. The third time, Ben and R7 opening for Pearl Jam at G.M. Place in Vancouver, B.C., is probably my least favourite time. Since they were the openers, the setlist was cut short and they had to mostly stick to the popular songs that the huge audience would generally recognize. Still a great show, but I felt a little too disconnected.

Finally, my most recent Ben Harper show was at Malkin Bowl in Stanley Park, in Vancouver. This show was part of Ben's Give Till it's Gone solo tour, but he hung on to his bandmates from R7 for the tour. This show was the most intimate of the times I've seen him. Not only were we about ten feet from the stage, but Ben was much more open and personable this time around, in past performances he just said his 'thank-you's and stuck to playing the music. At the Malkin Bowl, Ben was joking around, telling stories, encouraging tons of crowd participation, and genuinely enjoying himself more than I have ever seen. This performance also featured a 15-minute long version of 'Lay There and Hate Me', which included a drum solo, followed by a bass solo, followed by a hilarious monologue by Ben about the criticism he gets for his 'never trust a woman who loves the blues' line. Some musicians I've seen just play their songs, say their 'fuck you's or 'thank you's (depending on the type of band), and leave. Ben makes you feel like he wouldn't rather be anywhere else than on stage entertaining his fans.

For people who are already Ben Harper fans, this post may seem redundant, 'tell me something I don't know', and 'yeah, I love Ben too'. Let's just celebrate his music and leave it at that. For those who aren't aware of Ben, I hope my writing about him intrigues you enough to check him out and decide for yourself. And for those who aren't fans of Ben Harper, and I'm sure you are out there, I doubt this Ben Harper loveburst will change your minds. With some of the bands I like, I can usually see how others wouldn't be a fan. When it comes to Ben Harper though, I just don't see how you couldn't like him. His musical ability is outstanding, his voice is full of range and soul, and his lyrics are universal. If you aren't a fan of that, then what do you like?

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Ben Harper says...

'Life is short, and if you're looking for extension, with your time you had best do well, cause there's good deeds and there is good intention, they're as far apart as Heaven and Hell.'

- Ben Harper ('Ground on Down', Fight For Your Mind, Ben Harper, 1995)

More Words of Wisdom: Another 20 Ben Harper-isms

'So long as someone else controls your history, the truth shall remain just a mystery, for you can lead a horse to the water, but you cannot make him drink, you can put a man through school, but you cannot make him think' ('People Lead', Fight for Your Mind, 1995)

'Fire makes it burn and water makes it turn, we must still be here living on earth, they keep telling me Jesus walked on water, he shoulda surfed' ('Get it Like You Like it', Both Sides of the Gun, 2006)

'People don't take advice, they only give it, and the only way you're ever gonna learn, is to live it' ('Why Must You Always Dress in Black', White Lies for Dark Times, 2009)

'Don't go making promises you know you won't keep, weddings turn to funerals, both with songs that make you weep' ('So High So Low', Diamonds on the Inside, 2003)

'It's not what we do, it's what we do with what we feel, takes all you have to stare him down, and whisper devil no deal' ('Don't Give Up on Me Now', Give Till it's Gone, 2011)

'The very thing that drives you can drive you insane' ('Number with No Name', White Lies for Dark Times, 2009)

'Politics, it's a drag, they put one foot in the grave, and the other on the flag' ('Both Sides of the Gun', Both Sides of the Gun, 2006)

'Silence is the loudest parting word you never say' ('Amen Omen', Diamonds on the Inside, 2003)

'When I was a baby, I was not prejudiced, hey, how about you, this was something that I learned in school, something they taught us to do' (How Many Miles Must We March', Welcome to the Cruel World, 1994)

'There's no freedom to be found lying face up in the ground' ('Gather Round the Stone', Both Sides of the Gun, 2006)

'Never under-estimate how complicated a simple life can be' ('Keep it Together (So I Can Fall Apart)', White Lies for Dark Times, 2009)

'Good lovers make great enemies' ('Please Bleed', Burn to Shine, 1999)

'There's no rules to lust, only passion, and it can be so unjust' ('The Way You Found Me', Both Sides of the Gun, 2006)

'Tell me why the first to ask is the last to give every time, what you say and do not mean follows you close behind' ('Diamonds on the Inside', Diamonds on the Inside, 2003)

'There's so much to be said for letting go, so much tomorrow only knows' ('Spilling Faith', Give Till it's Gone, 2006)

'You may kill the revolutionary, but the revolution you can never bury' ('Black Rain', Both Sides of the Gun, 2006)

 'When out on the edge, there's just two directions, and somebody has to lose, I should know better than to use words like never and hate, love is lonely room' ('The Word Suicide', White Lies for Dark Times, 2009)

'There's so many sides to the truth, but only one side to a fact, what will we do with what we can't take back' ('Waiting on a Sign', Give Till it's Gone, 2011)

'Battles over which direction to kneel, people reaching out to touch, but forgetting to feel, daily breath shouldn't be a daily penance, is that what you believe, or just a life sentence' ('Serve Your Soul', Both Sides of the Gun, 2006)

'They say time will make all this go away, but it's time that has taken my tomorrows, and turned them into yesterdays' ('Walk Away', Welcome to the Cruel World, 1994)

Friday, June 22, 2012

Ben Harper says...

'My choice is what I choose to do, and if I'm causing no harm, it shouldn't bother you, your choice is who you choose to be, and if you're causing no harm, then you're alright with me.'

- Ben Harper ('Burn One Down', Fight For Your Mind, Ben Harper, 1995)

Words of Wisdom: 20 Ben Harper-isms

'Today it all became so clear, looked out my window not in my mirror, make the book that is your life worth reading' ('Spilling Faith', Give Till it's Gone, 2011)

'A candle throws its light into the darkness, in a nasty world so shines a good deed, make sure the fortune that you seek, is the fortune that you need' ('Diamonds on the Inside', Diamonds on the Inside, 2003)

'Fools will be fools, and wise will be wise, but I will look this world straight in the eyes, cause I believe in a better way' ('Better Way', Both Sides of the Gun, 2006)

'I would rather take a punch than not give you a shot, I'd rather find out who you are, then who you're not, shoulda known better, than to mistake business for love, shoulda known better than to mistake a fist for a glove' ('Fight Outta You', Lifeline, 2007) 

'Half a man walks with no shadow, of life he utters his distaste, no apology is expected, love carved sorry in his face' ('Woman in You', Burn to Shine, 1999)

'Old friends become old strangers between the darkness and the dawn' ('Amen Omen', Diamonds on the Inside, 2003)

'They all want you to serve them, but the only one you got to serve is your soul' ('Serve Your Soul', Both Sides of the Gun, 2006)

'If you're gonna build a house, make it a home, if you're gonna pull some weight, pull your own, if you're gonna help, reach out your hand, if you're getting up, then take a stand' ('Fight for Your Mind', Fight for Your Mind, 1995)

'You can't say just I love you, you have to live I love you' ('Heart of Matters', Lifeline, 2007)

'When you're trapped you got no voice, where you're born you got no choice, other than to go and take you some' ('Both Sides of the Gun', Both Sides of the Gun, 2006)

'When the people lead, the leaders they will have to follow, and all their lies and their alibies, they will have to swallow, and it's you that has the authority, for the one who is right is the majority' ('People Lead', Fight for Your Mind, 1995)

'They say time will kill the pain, I say pain is gonna kill my time, lord won't you save me, or leave me alone' ('When it's Good', Diamonds on the Inside, 2003)

'A mother's only happy as her saddest child, to learn to live without can take a while, and it's long way back to anywhere, and it's not too late but it's getting there' ('Waiting on a Sign', Give Till it's Gone, 2011)

'Throw your hands up to the sky and scream I'm not alone, is it irony or fate, don't become what you hate, we've all got stardust in our bones' ('Get it Like You Like it', Both Sides of the Gun, 2006)

'Just cause you go down in history, doesn't mean you're really all that smart' ('Why Must You Always Dress in Black', White Lies for Dark Times, 2009)

'So you can move your court case way across town, you can move it across the whole wide globe, but it ain't gonna help your court case up in the sky, when you go to put on your white robe' ('Don't Take that Attitude to Your Grave', Welcome to the Cruel World, 1994)

'Listen to the wind, it won't lie to you, if you love it, let it go, and watch it fly to you, every setting sun gently weeps, you can always hear it, cause trust never sleeps' ('Serve Your Soul', Both Sides of the Gun, 2006)

'I believe in a few things, God, the Devil, and love, cause I've looked up from the bottom, and I've stared down from above' ('Ground on Down', Fight For Your Mind, 1995)

'Never trust a woman who loves the blues' ('Lay There and Hate Me', White Lies for Dark Times, 2009)

'Folks don't change, they just reveal' ('The Way You Found Me', Both Sides of the Gun, 2006)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Narrator of Blindness says...

'Everyone in the ward thought that it was nothing more than an act of charity that the girl with the dark glasses should have offered herself to the old man with the black eyepatch, but there were men there, sensitive and dreamers, who having already enjoyed her favours, began to allow their thoughts to wander, to think there could be no greater prize in this world than for a man to find himself stretched out on his bed, all alone, thinking the impossible, only to realize that a woman is gently lifting the covers and slipping under them, slowly rubbing her body against his body, and then lying still, waiting for the heat of their blood to calm the sudden tremor of their startled skin. And all this for no good reason, just because she wanted to.'

-The Narrator (Blindness, Jose Saramago, 1995. Translated from Portuguese to English by Giovanni Pontiero, 1997)

A Film and Novel Review: 360 trailer/Blindness

Being the passionate film fanatic that I am, part of my daily routine is to habitually check IMDB for new trailers. Most of the time, to be honest, I don't find anything that interests me at all. Anyone that's been following this blog can probably tell that I'm not a big-budget Hollywood popcorn-flick kind of guy. As I mentioned in my Prometheus post, I don't just watch movies, I study them for writing, acting, and cinematography. However, every once in a while, my attention is grabbed by a promising trailer. I'm not tied down to any genre in particular, I could be just as excited for a slick crime thriller as I would be for a quiet comedy-drama, but when a movie trailer speaks to my style, my gut knows it.

Recently, a trailer for a film titled 360 piqued my interest. The film is directed by Fernando Meirelles, screenplay written by Peter Morgan, and stars Anthony Hopkins, Rachel Weisz, Jude Law, and Ben Foster. The plot of 360 fits into the character-study category, exploring the lives of a group of people who, at first, don't seem to be connected, but then as the film carries on we see all the ways their lives relate and intersect. That storyline alone is enough to make my creative-mouth drool. 360 seems to be a mix of genres, ranging from drama, romance, mystery, and thriller. From the trailer, it's difficult to predict how the movie will turn out, but with an interesting director and a talented cast, I'm sure it'll be worth watching. Whether it's music, novels, films, or pictures, give me an array of interesting characters to study, and I'm usually satisfied.

Out of the main cast, Jude Law and Ben Foster are the ones I'm most excited to watch. Anthony Hopkins is a legend, I don't doubt that he'll pull off yet another amazing performance. And Rachel Weisz, while I haven't seen a lot of her films, seems to be more than competant as a leading female. As for Jude Law, I've seen about a dozen of his films. He may not rank in my top 10, or even top 20 actors, but any time I see his name on a cast-list, I'm confident that he'll do well in his role. His range of roles alone speaks volumes for his talent. My favourite role of his is a tie between I Heart Huckabees and Closer.

Then there's Ben Foster, who I have been following since his very early acting days on the teen family channel show Flash Forward. Back in those days, he was a nerdy, awkward, sarcastic teenager. Nobody could have guessed from his performance on that show that he'd end up playing the roles he takes as an adult. I love watching Foster because he's the guy that plays the villainous, disgusting, morally wrecked scumbags that other up-and-coming actors would avoid. He isn't a common name, most of the time when I bring him up, I have to point out the main roles he's been in, and even then most people don't know who I'm talking about. To name a few roles, he's played the bad-boy in:  Hostage, Alpha Dog, 3:10 to Yuma, 30 Days of Night, and The Mechanic. Of course, not all of his roles are in the asshole category, but those parts seem to ones Foster embraces the most. In 360, he plays a sex predator, so it looks like he isn't cleaning up his act anytime soon. If you want to see his theatrical talent completely watered down and wasted, he played Angel in X-Men 3: The Last Stand. I guess even the most talented actors have to just pick up a pay-cheque every once in a while.

Regarding the director of 360, Fernando Meirelles, Blindness is the only other film of his that I've seen. I'm aware of his other critically acclaimed work, such as City of God and The Constant Gardener, I just haven't had the chance to watch them yet. As a fan of depressing dystopias, such as Children of Men and V for Vendetta, I was intrigued by Blindness as soon as I became aware of it. Adapted from novel to screenplay by Canadian comedic actor Don McKellar, Blindness is about an epidemic of 'white blindness' that randomly sweeps an unidentified nation. The lead female, played by Julianne Moore (who I am not usually a fan of), is the only one of the characters that isn't effected by this disease and still has her sight, becoming the heroine while also carrying the burden of being able to see the atrocities around her. The government soon steps in, which in a dystopia is rarely a good thing, and the blind population is quarantined into various hospitals and mental asylums. From there, we witness exactly how disgusting and desperate people can become when left to their own survival. The film also features: Mark Ruffalo, Danny Glover, Alice Braga, and Gael Garcia Bernal (be prepared to HATE him in this role).

After watching and enjoying the film, I picked up the novel by Jose Saramago, written in 1995 and translated from Portuguese to English by Giovanni Pontiero in 1997. This is one of the most challenging novels I've ever read. Not just because of the subject matter, but also the style in which it's written. This is the only novel by Saramago that I've read, so I can't speak to his overall style, but in this particular novel, he has a passionate love affair with a little piece of punctuation known as The Comma. The novel includes some of the longest, most engaging, poetic sentences I've ever had the pleasure (or displeasure, because of the material) of reading. While the story is written in third person, The Narrator is a character himself, candidly sharing his opinions of the characters and imparting various points of wisdom throughout the prose. For any fans of dystopia-style fiction, who have thick-skin and are willing to look at fellow humans in a very pessimistic light, this novel is both a chore and a treat, give it a read. Don't blame me for any nightmares though.

Like the novel, the Blindness film does not hold back, which I very much respect. It is much easier to get away with offensive material in a novel than it is in a film, but McKellar and Meirelles did the source material justice by not softening it up for the mainstream movie-goers. A warning to the optimists out there, this is a very bleak portrayal of humanity, and while there are honestly decent characters here, the evil bastards reign for most of the book and film. Let me make this very clear: This is NOT a movie to watch on a date, it will ruin the mood. Nor is it a movie to watch casually with friends. And it DEFINITELY isn't a movie to watch with your parents. It is quite disturbing and violent at times, including a twisted rape scene that'll haunt you for days or weeks.

That all being said, the redeeming qualities of such a horrific film are the gut-wrenching performances, the brilliant cinematography, and the fact that as depressing as it is, this is still a Thinker's film. Meirelles' ability to convey the effect of the 'white blindness' through various camera techniques is both impressive and visually stunning. His work on this film makes me very excited to see how he handles 360, which is also centered around an ensemble cast, but isn't set in a dystopia, just our own depressing world.

View the 360 trailer below:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Boaz says...

'I don't know what's going on...and I'm probably not smart enough to understand if somebody was to explain it to me. All I know is we're being tested somehow, by somebody or some thing a whole lot smarter than us, and all I can do is be friendly and keep calm and try and have a nice time till it's over.'

- Boaz (The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut, 1959)

'My Kurt Vonnegut Experiment'

The solution for my problem – which I clearly cannot resolve within my own skill set – is a professional man that could shine a flashlight in the eyes of Truth and make it swear to things it’s never done. A man that could take a Lie out for a cocktail and convince it to come clean. Luckily, there is a man of this exact sort of nature in the city: defense lawyer Barthes ‘Joker’ Barracks.  To call him ‘Joker’ is a joke in itself. It’s one of those ironic names we give a man. Like calling a giant man ‘Tiny’ or a slim man ‘Fatso’. Though there are records upon records of Joker’s cases, his triumphs and his one failure, many photographs of him at snooty social gatherings - a celebrity in the beady eyes of such a nowhere city - not one witness could ever testify to seeing Joker smile. His lifestyle is not about humour. It’s about erasing Truth and molding a sort of truth, not a bad living for a man with no feelings.   

The only other man as well-known and respected in all the city happens to be Joker’s older brother: criminal prosecutor Barley Barracks. He’s known by no other name. In whispers you’ll hear that one man tried to issue a nickname to Mr. Barracks and he’s now sentenced to a life of walking with a slight limp. Mr. Barracks is the sort of man that would have you thrown in jail for cutting him off in traffic and if there was no law against it, he’d pull all the strings available to create one. He has three devilishly lovely daughters - triplets – named Isa, B, and Ella. You see, Barley Barracks’ heart can carry only enough love for one daughter and he only loves one name. When the former Mrs. Isabella Barracks revealed that his heart would have to triple in size, he simply would not budge. Mr. Barracks carries a red notebook in his left pocket and makes a point to note anyone who’s wronged him in even the slightest way. Rumor has it that his life’s goal is to have every name avenged somehow and some even hint that there are no limits to his revenge. Last I heard, there were still a few open names. 

Of course, the Barracks brothers have faced each other in court, only once however.  Such dirty games are played when family mixes with law and neither of these undefeated Barracks brothers would ever accept a blemish on their record.  In whispers, some gossipers will tell you that the night before the first day of the murder trial – while Joker was neck high in case proposals at work - Mr. Barracks made a visit to his brother’s wife. He had no trouble seducing her in the very bed Joker drools in. In those delirious post-orgasm moments, when a man is at his worst and a woman sees the best, she divulged any little piece of information her husband’s brother inquired. She included all of the Joker’s courtroom tricks: his arguments, his evidence, the Truths he’d dressed as Lies and Lies he’d stripped down to Truths. It so happens that Joker did lose his trial - the only black mark on his shining professional record - but it wasn’t due to his brother’s dirty tricks. It was due to the fact that, in this particular case, there was absolutely no hiding the fact that the accused was guilty. The accused was sleeping with the very axe he used to kill his wife when apprehended by the police, the whispers say. 

However, if the murder trial came down to trickery alone, many believe that Joker would have won. What you’ll hear anonymous whispers say, but you’ll never hear Joker brag about, is that he knew firsthand how easily seduced his dear idiot wife was. That he never married her for her wonderful secret keeping abilities, but just simply for the fact that she had managed to make him laugh, once. Joker knew that at any moment a rival lawyer could enter his home and enter his wife and he would never allow for such a breach in professionalism. So Joker cooked up a whole bunch of Lies that smelled like Truths, that tasted like arguments and evidence. Fed her falsities that she would inevitably share with these rivals. Joker knew that if any man’s key should enter his wife’s lock, it was only fool’s gold they’d find. And it worked. 

The case is known now as Mr. Barracks’ most embarrassing moment. He had focused so much on the entirely bogus information his brother’s wife gave him he forgot stick to his own strengths and present solid arguments. He did win though. The whispers say the accused took pictures of his decapitated wife and was sleeping with those, too. The reason why I’m interested in the younger, defeated Barracks is simply due to the fact that I’m on his side of the law. I’m on the side that needs defending. The side that needs Lies barfed up like Truths and Truths stuffed down the throat of Lies. I need a man coming off his first loss in the courtroom and who in turn needs a sure bet. I chose Barthes ‘Joker’ Barracks because no one else could ever prove that I am actually innocent.


Note: I'm pretty well versed in copyright laws, so I'd appreciate it if nobody tried to steal this story. I have definitive proof that I wrote it. If you share or re-post it, please give credit to Chessterr Hollowberry. Thanks!

'My Kurt Vonnegut Experiment': An Explanation

Every once in a while, when the creative well is running dry and the voices in my head are quiet, I like to give myself writing exercises. Many established writers will tell you that writing is a muscle, and if you don't work it out, it turns to useless fat. Today, I'm posting a creative writing exercise that I wrote a couple of years ago. The working title is simply 'My Kurt Vonnegut Experiment', and is meant to be a stand-alone piece, though I may build it into a full-on story in the future.

Having taken several creative writing workshops throughout my college and university education, I have many exercises to pull out of my back pocket if I'm looking for inspiration. Sometimes I like to just start with a specific opening line and go from there. Sometimes I'll think of an object and write a paragraph or two surrounding that object. Sometimes it just starts with a character quirk. The toughest part is always getting started. I find that as soon as I have the first few lines written, the rest comes naturally.

Another exercise I like to use is I'll choose a writer that I admire, and attempt to channel their spirit and write in their style. My intent is never to copy their prose, plagiarize, or become known for a voice that isn't mine. I just figure that if I can write like the writers that I love, even just a paragraph or two, then I'm one step closer to establishing my own voice as a writer. Eventually, my hope is that readers will be able to tell where my inspiration comes from, while also instantly recognizing my writing as my own.

In the case of 'My Kurt Vonnegut Experiment', I had been reading his classic novel Cat's Cradle, so his voice was clear in my head at the time. I've read a total of six Vonnegut novels (Slaughterhouse-Five, Cat's Cradle, The Sirens of Titan, Hocus Pocus, A Man Without a Country, and Look at the Birdie), and one of the main qualities that all of his novels seem to have is absolutely exceptional characterization. I'm in awe of the man's ability to describe everything you need to know about a character within two or three descriptive lines. Vonnegut had many impressive talents as a writer, but the aspect of his writing that I always look forward to when I crack open one of his books are the anecdotes and character descriptions. This is a man who spent his whole life studying and satirizing the human race. Where some writers would just say: 'He has brown hair and a tan', Vonnegut would cook up a hilarious reason for why he has a tan.

So, regarding 'My Kurt Vonnegut Experiment', my focus is not on the narrator at all. His character is meant to remain a mystery, but I want the reader to feel like they know quite a bit about the characters that the narrator is describing. This was very fun to write, and hopefully just as fun to read. If I ever develop this into more than a short-short, I'll be sure to share what I come up with. Don't think of it as a rip-off, think of it as an homage. Enjoy!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

George Carlin says...

'I call this piece: advertising. Quality, value, style, service, selection, convenience, economy, savings performance, experience, hospitality, low rates, friendly service, name brands, easy terms, affordable prices, money back guarantee, free installation, free admission, free appraisal, free alterations, free delivery, free estimates, free home trial, and free parking. No cash? No problem. No kidding, no fuss, no muss, no risk, no obligation, no red tape, no hidden charges, no down payment, no entry fee, no purchase necessary, no one will call on you, no payments or interest til December, and no parking. Limited time only though, so act now, order today, send no money, offer good while supplies last, two to a customer, each item sold separately, batteries not included, mileage may vary, all sales are final, allow 6 weeks for delivery, some items not available, some assembly required, some restrictions may apply. Shop by mail, order by phone, try it in your home, get one for your car, all entries become our property, employees not eligible, entry fees not refundable, local restrictions apply, void where prohibited, except in Indiana. So come on in, come on in for a free demonstration,  and a free consultation with our friendly professional staff. Our courteous and knowledgeable sales representatives will help you make a selection that's just right for you, and just right for your budget. Say, don't forget to pick up your free gift. A classic, deluxe, custom designer, luxury, prestige, high quality, premium, select, gourmet pocket flashlight. And, and if you act now, we'll include an extra, added, free, complimentary,  bonus gift: a classic deluxe custom designer, luxury, prestige, high quality, premium, select, gourmet leather-style wallet, with detachable keychain, and a pencil holder. It's our way of saying thank you. And, if you're not completely satisfied, you pay nothing, simply return the un-used portion for a full refund,  no questions asked, it's our way of saying thank you, keep your free gift. Actually, it's our way of saying: Bend over just a little further, and let us stick this big dick into your ass a little bit deeper.'

- George Carlin (40 Years of Comedy, 1997)

Note: He said all of this without missing a beat. This man is a legend and I'm still sad about his passing. And yes, I listened and typed all of this out. So worth it for that punchline.

Those Damn Miracle Whip Commercials

If you're a television watcher who doesn't have the privelege of being able to skip the commercials, then you know about all the ways in which your life could be better. With the right deodarant, you could be more masculine. With the right nail polish, you could find Mr. Right. With a better car, a better phone, and better clothes, well, you could be a better person. Right now, you're only halfway there. With the right product, there's no stopping you. I'm pretty old school when it comes to keeping up with fashion, technology, and all the fads. The coolest possession I have is the laptop that I'm writing this on, and I didn't hear about it from a commercial. It was good old word of mouth and product research.

These days, with the rise of PVRs, DVRs, and internet streaming, commercials are becoming easier to for us to avoid. Does anyone really sit there and watch a full commercial break? Or is that time used to re-stock the snack bowl and go to the bathroom? Furthermore, does any really buy into the hype that most commercials are selling? Of course, there's the idea of subliminal advertising. I may be sitting there, rolling my eyes at the newest fast food commercial, but suddenly I find myself standing in line, craving their new promotion. Commercials can be a very useful way to learn about new movies, new albums, new restaurants, new technology, etc.  However, I have the feeling that I'd still buy soft toilet paper without those damn cartoon bears encouraging me to wipe my ass with theirs. The lengths that some companies go in order to sell me these new products can be a bit much. Or sometimes, way too much.

The inspiration for today's post comes from a now infamous commercial from the folks at Miracle Whip. I remember seeing this advertisement about a year ago, but back then  I didn't have a blog in which to vent my feelings about it. Recently, the commercial in question resurfaced, reigniting the rant that it inspires me to go on. Those who have seen this atrocious advertisement will likely know exactly what bothers me about it. And my problem has nothing to do with Miracle Whip itself. I'm a sandwich eater, but I'm in it for meat, cheese, and bread. Spread some mayo or Miracle Whip on it, I likely won't even notice. For those who have no idea what I'm rambling on about, take a look at this:

There you have it. Miracle Whip is not only the most hip addition ever created for a sandwich, but it can also make you cooler than everyone else. Actually, you don't even need to bring alcohol to the barbeque this weekend. Just bring a flat of Miracle Whip and you'll rock the block with it all night long. There's certain products where it makes sense for the advertisers to try and sell the lifestyle that comes with it. Vacations, furniture, cars, phones, all of that gets a pass by me because those objects really do have an affect on your self-image, I accept that. But don't think for a second that I'm going to believe I'm being rebellious because I chose Miracle Whip over mayonaise. You can show me attractive, fun-loving, radical young adults throwing a party around a sandwich spread, but I won't ever believe that these Whip parties actually happen. Maybe I'm not supposed to be taking the commercial so seriously, but the stench of desperation that comes off these advertisements tells me that I'm being manipulated into buying the magic of a sandwich spread. I'll stick to being un-cool and using butter, if it saves me from being fooled into thinking I'm better than anyone else for my food choices.

Of course, my feelings about this commercial aren't just my own, and judging from YouTube comments that date back to a year ago, I'm a little late coming to this Miracle Whip hate party. But the fact that this commercial is still airing tells me that there's still a problem, one that isn't going away, probably only getting worse. Even fake news pundit Stephen Colbert unleashed an attack on this commercial, prompting a tongue-in-cheek reply in the form of a re-edited Miracle Whip commercial. His response included a thank you for the ad revenue, which he spent on mayonaise. If this commercial is even getting the attention of a famous comedian, then you could say the ad has done it's job. Please don't allow this blog post to spark a craving for Miracle Whip, that is not my point. Many would say 'If you're talking about it, then the commercial worked'. I'd argue, if your commercial enrages me to the point that I'm spending my time ranting about your product rather than buying it, you've missed the mark. So kind readers, all three of you, please, just eat your sandwich with mayo, butter, margarine, or even dry. Don't let these hipster-wannabe Miracle Whip eaters trick you, you're cooler for not buying into it.

Commercials are integrated into our social culture. Some people watch the super bowl just to see the commercials. Unfortunately, it's only the annoying ones that really get any attention. I'd personally much rather a commercial where a man in a suit stands in front of a white background and tells me straight about a product over singing, dancing, theatrics, and bad comedy. It's just Windex, people. It's just shaving cream, man. It's as if advertising companies believe that if we aren't seeing and believing the commercials, every grocery and department store will go out of business because we won't know what to buy. If someone keeps making it, chances are I'll buy it. I just recently acquired a PVR, so chances are I'll be missing out on all the new advertising fads. But of course, there's always radio commercials, the ads that run before the trailers at the movie theatre, magazine and newspaper ads, the side of busses, billboards, and anything else those crafty ad executives can think of to infiltrate my life. I'll leave you with a parody of the Miracle Whip ad. This tells me that while half the world is buying into ridiculous hype, the other half is getting smarter every day.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Zia McCabe says...

'I like to think that a good artist can dabble in any medium--photography, graphic design, painting, sculpture, etc. I know that music doesn't totally fit into this, but all of us in the band feel that we relate more to the artist than the musician.'

- Zia McCabe (of The Dandy Warhols, interview with Rock Mama Films, 2007)

A Loveburst: The Dandy Warhols

Eighteen years ago, a magical band named The Dandy Warhols was born. A bastard lovechild of David Bowie and the Rolling Stones, the Dandys found the perfect blend of atmospheric pop and raunchy rock and roll. They played hard, did some drugs, toured the globe, and most importantly, had fun. Cut to now, add an abundance of technical skill, a world of experience, and years of personal growth, and you have one of the most entertaining bands to listen to and watch. For all the effort they seem to put into their music, the aura of cool that glows off of them seems so damn effortless.

My introduction to the Dandys is the same as most general fans, the pop rock track 'Bohemian Like You', first heard in high school. I was more into the hard rock scene back then, so the song didn't really catch on. Skip ahead to my college days, first girlfriend (that story is a whole other blog post), introduced me to The albums Thirteen Tales From Urban Bohemia and Welcome to the Monkey House. Again, I respected their style and found the music catchy, but didn't fall in band-love. Time machine style, I should hop back and smack that guy upside the head, I could've had two more years of Dandy love if I had just accepted them back then. I did start a collection of their music on my itunes, and made myself a mix album of some notable tracks, but I wouldn't have put them anywhere near my top 20. I blame this on taking music way too seriously back in those days.

Like many of my nerdy hobbies and artistic love affairs, it was ChinaCat Sunflower who inspired me to give The Dandys yet another try, with a new set of music appreciating ears. It all started with a text conversation between her friend and I, where I casually mentioned The Dandys among other bands that I was into. Her reply was, 'you know who else likes the Dandys??' And a relationship was born. With a girl and with a band. We listened to them together and I heard their songs all over again, but for the first time. I attribute my newfound love for them to many things, such as the range in their sound and a damn funky rhythm, but it really came down to a growth in music knowledge and a hunger for music that had more fun than the high-school style hard rock bands that were suffocating my music taste.

Four years later, and The Dandy Warhols have a permanent spot on my ipod, are consistently played in my daily rotation, and have a personal appointment with me anytime they come to town for a concert. Last Friday night was my fourth time experiencing a Dandys show. The first time, also at the Commodore Ballroom, is quite a blur. Total drunkfest. As laid back and hip as some of their songs can be, those four pop rockers can throw a party. The second time, at the now dead Richards on Richards, is also a blur, due to the influence of some party drugs. The third time, once again at the Commodore, was with a whole group of friends, and easily one of the best nights out I've ever had. While my emphasis here may not be the band themselves, they provided the soundtrack and the atmosphere for some extremely unforgettable nights, if only I could remember.

The difference between the most recent Dandys showing and the previous three is that this time, I was watching the band much more closely. Sure, I had fun with my friends, and watching the crowd, but this was less about the party and more about appreciating a band that I've listened to every day for the last four years. There's Zia, queen of the sound machine, dancing and partying as hard as anyone in the crowd, but also keeping such a close eye on her bandmates to ensure the show is the best they can make it. Then there's Fathead, drummer Brett DeBoer, who is a human drum machine. Pop a quarter in him every five minutes and he'll perfectly play any beat you ask for. Over on the far right, you can barely see him, but he's there, guitarist Pete Holmstrom. He's the ghost of the band, simply a top hat floating around in the smoke. He's the least obvious of the band members, but anyone listening would soon notice if he stopped playing. Finally, there's frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor. He's sung these songs so many times that it's like listening to an old friend tell a story that he knows from his soul, but it sounds brand new every listen. Put those four together and it's tough to find a band that's more confident, more talented, and more comfortable on stage.

The setlist is the fifth band member, setting the pace and keeping everyone, no matter what Dandys sound they prefer, involved in the show. Old favourites like 'The Last High', 'We Used to Be Friends', 'Boys Better', 'Not If You Were the Last Junkie of Earth', and of course, 'Bohemian Like You' were enough to keep any fan satisfied. Throw in newer tracks like 'You Come in Burned', 'Holding Me Up', and 'And Then I Dreamt of Yes', and you see that the band isn't losing their touch, not even close. Wrap it all up with brand new songs 'Sad Vacation' and 'The Autumn Carnival', you can see a very bright future for the Dandys. Plus the special moments, like a solo singalong of 'Every Day Should Be a Holiday' with Courtney himself, the fact they finally played 'Godless' for me, and Zia's beautiful lullaby to end the night. What you have a more than just a party at a rock show, you have a musical memory. Half the crowd absolutely loved it, while the other half had no idea what the hell they were witnessing. (Credit to Guy Dudeman for that observation).

If what you just read comes off as total masturbation, as the obsessive ramblings of a fanboy, as two big lips sucking on the ass of the Dandys, then I've conveyed exactly what I set out to do. My love affair with the Dandys started off slow, as acquaintances, then friends, then casual sex, and now I'm proud to call them a lifelong partner. While I wasn't too impressed with their newest effort This Machine, that still won't stop me from checking out their next album and their next show. One day, I promise, I'll write a negative review of something, but it sure won't be today. If you love the Dandys, this will all make sense. If you don't, start with Thirteen Tales and you won't regret it. If you're relaxing, driving, partying, fucking, reflecting, reading, stoned, sleepy, bored, depressed, or just plain happy, The Dandy Warhols have the perfect song for you. Don't dig them, and they probably won't even notice.  Dig them, and they'll reward you kindly for years to come.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

ChinaCat Sunflower says...

'Hundreds of bodies swaying to the same beat. A giant orgy of sound, the drum dictates the speed of our movement. Everybody cheers when they should, and they pump their fists on time. Every wet mouth forms the same words as a chorus, chanting as a cult, worshiping the same manifesto. Every anthem is perfect, is righteous, is spot-on for this feeling. A hundred sweaty and grimy bodies against my arms, my back, my front. Accosted by the stench of every affordable brand of beer. Every unpleasant physical feeling balanced by the euphoria of song. Every tone drives the crowd forward, pushing to the flashing lights and pulsing vibrations of the stage. Every hand gropes toward an end, feet wrapped in stylish sneakers sneak inches toward their idols. And it never ends, not really. A wave crests over us, crashes around us, and this crescendo of sound rings around us long after we’ve each gone home. And it never ends, not really. Not with us each taking a new feeling home, a new taste in our mouths of saliva not our own, a drenched shirt one hadn’t come with, friends with mutual compatibilities, and this never ends, not with another track always waiting, patiently, never silently, to be played.'
- ChinaCat Sunflower ('Push',, 2012)

The Concert Experience

On Friday night, I attended my 64th concert. The reason I know this number is that a month ago, I was cleaning and organizing my bedroom and came across a stack of ticket stubs. Curiosity won and I decided to count them. I'm confident that this is an accurate count because every show I go to, I make a point to hang on to the ticket. Even if I never leave with a band t-shirt, or an album, or a poster, I make sure that my ticket is secure in my wallet. As years pass, my memory will likely begin to fail me, so having a tangible object to aide my nostalgia will be incredibly helpful. Even if my memories are a just blur of light, sweaty bodies, explosions of sound, and beer, I'll be transported back to a place where my music taste alone allowed me to belong. A ticket stub is much more than ink and paper, it's a symbol that tells me I was there, in the same room as my musical idols.

My first concert experience was about ten years ago. My musical preference was in a much different state back then, so I'll bravely and shamefully admit that it was a Nickelback show. They get enough hate from the world as it is, so I won't go there, but I will tell you that as a teenager who loved generic rock music, they put on a very entertaining show. I was with my older brother and his friends, and I honestly didn't know what to expect. I remember watching the crowd much more than I did the band on stage. Trying to get a feel for the etiquette, for common behaviour, any sign of how I should be acting. It took me many years to learn that it really doesn't matter how loud you sing or how awkwardly you dance, there is always somebody in the crowd who looks like more of a jackass than you. As soon as the early concert-goer realizes this, the whole process just becomes fun.

As far as social events are concerned, a live show is my most comfortable setting. Put me in a mall, at a dinner table, even a party with recorded music, and I'll likely fade into the background. However, in the middle of a concert crowd, at my favourite venue, with a band I love working their magic on stage, I come alive. For the record, I don't dance, I rock out. There's no other social setting that I could imagine feeling so self-assured with so many other people surrounding me. This comfort comes from the realization that it's not about me at all, it's about the music.

More and more I've been simply studying the musicians who are performing, but for quite a while I found the crowd to be just as entertaining. The band is only half the story, the audience can make or break a show as well. Look around any given rock concert, you'll always see the same characters: the die-hard fans who know every word to every song and don't take their eyes off stage, the dancers who'll grind up against any warm body, the calm observers who love the music but don't need to physically show it, the jerk-offs who are screaming at people around them and trying to be the center of attention, the over-protective boyfriends holding their girls a little too tight, the party animal trying to find people to launch him for a crowd surf, the texters and talkers who aren't there for the music at all, the timid short girls who are trying to find a decent line of sight to the stage, the double-fisting drinkers who are showering everyone around them, and the list goes on.

Everyone has their own concert style and that's the beauty of music. A thousand people can appreciate the same song in a different way.  Personally, I like to create my own safe-circle to rock out within. I don't go to concerts to make friends or get attention or find a party, I go to a concert to enjoy the band, to see a spectacle, to hear songs I love either executed perfectly or played in a way I've never imagined. I appreciate being surrounded by my friends, of course, but the moments I chase are the ones where it's just me and the band and I feel like I'm part of something special. Arena shows have their place, but I'll forever be partial to the smaller venues, where I can stand 10 feet away from a musician who graces my ipod playlist every day. 

The Commodore Ballroom (Vancouver, BC), where I saw The Dandy Warhols last Friday night, is by far my favourite place to see a show, and it's the venue that I've been to the most. The design is fan-friendly, the vibe is intimate, the bartenders are plenty, the sound is amazing, and there isn't a bad seat in the house. It may just be a side-effect of growing old, but I'm still feeling wiped out from that show. Not a hangover, either. My body just couldn't handle the amount of awesome I witnessed. For that reason, I broke my pattern and didn't write a full post yesterday. Since I'm still not fully recovered, I'll save my official Dandy Warhols review for tomorrow, so check back for that.

The message I'll leave you with is this: No matter what genre of music you dig, no matter the style of venue that you prefer, no matter where you live or how much money you make, whether it's a gigantic arena, a mid-sized bar or club, or a tiny little nowhere coffee shop, there's somebody out there willing to share their talent and play you song. I suggest finding the money, finding the time, finding the ride, and go find a memory or two with some live music. Even if it ends up sucking, you'll still have a story to tell.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Jerry Seinfeld says...

'I would say the concept behind the car phone, and the phone machine, the speaker phone, the airline phone, the portable phone, the pay phone, the cordless phone, the multi-line phone, the phone pager, the call waiting, call forwarding, call conferencing, speed dialing, direct dialing, and the re-dialing, is that we all have absolutely nothing to say, and we've got to talk to someone about it right now. It cannot wait another second! I mean, come on, you're at home and you're on the phone, you're in the car making calls, you get to work 'any messages for me?', you gotta give people a chance to miss you a little!'

- Jerry Seinfeld ('The Good Samaritan', written by Peter Mehlman, Seinfeld, created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, 1992)

Friday, June 15, 2012

Eddie Coffin says...

'I am working on the assumption that my lifelong sloth hasn’t been that, but a well-disguised storage of creative vim for the killer opus to leave known civilization gaping.  One book and out. I’m taking it all down. The trivialities. The ramblings. The drearies. The trites. I’m taking no chances. Rounding up all the usual suspects, and all the unusual ones, picking them off as they emerge one by one. This is in case I can’t spot a vein bearing line straight away. Not so much for the posterity as for satisfaction, though it would be nice for someone to read this in a few hundred years time. And not come to the conclusion that I reach with many musty, speckled works I chance upon in antiquarian bookshops: what a zero, what a waste of ink, what a regurgitator, what a ripple from someone else’s imaginative stone. Pages of blank masquerading as writing. Why did anyone bother writing for printing or selling or buying or keeping it? If anyone should be reading this…' 

- Eddie Coffin (The Thought Gang, Tibor Fischer, 1994)