Sunday, November 28, 2010

T.V. or not T.V.? - Part I - My Poor Defenseless Brain


Y'know, looking back I've watched a godawful amount of television as a kid.

Even before Star Wars had it's Armageddon-like impact on my childhood I was still drawn to imaginative T.V. shows.  As such I lived on a steady diet of programs like...

Sesame Street (1969-now)

I've been watching this show for so long I remember when Oscar the Grouch was orange, Hooper's store was staffed by it's namesake, Bert and Ernie weren't dodging Brokeback Mountain rumors and certainly waaaaaay before Luis and Maria started knockin' boots.

Hey, who doesn't love Oscar's bitchiness, Super Grover's can-do attitude, and the Count's clear level of job satisfaction?  

The Six Million Dollar Man (1974-1978)

Just as Farrah Fawcett represented the pinnacle of late 70's female beauty, her husband at the time Lee Majors embodied the template of male perfection.  Square-jawed, cock-eyed and cut like a bag of milk, Majors also cultivated a veritable black forest of chest hair which was displayed as often as the scripts would allow.

How could a kid not like a show about a wise-ass bionic dude with super-strength who was constantly getting into slow-motion Pier Six brawls with Sasquatch?  Money...

Space: 1999 (1975-1977)

In the mind-bogglingly distant future of 1999, Moon Base Alpha gets blown out of Earth's orbit and goes spinning into space where the crew encounters all sorts of far-out threats Star Trek style.  Notwithstanding the wonky science, this show had impeccable special effects, amazing sets and stellar model work that, in some ways, trumped Star Wars which followed two years later.

I remember some of the stories being kinda scary for a five year old kid, what with all the weird aliens, people transforming into bizarre creatures, or the base getting swamped with killer foam (presumably after someone put too much Space Woolite in a Space Washing Machine and left the Space Lid up, I guess).

When watched today, however, a lot of the episodes alternately cheesy and/or pretty pedestrian.  Plus the cast wouldn't forfeit the WORST POLYESTER UNIFORMS IN A SCI-FI PROJECT AWARD until five years later when Star Trek: The Motion Picture's "Starfleet Jammies" came down the pike.

Here's an interesting tidbit to ponder, though.  When the show started in 1975, the series three leads (Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, and Barry Morse) were 47, 44, and 57 respectively.  Can you imagine a sci-fi series starting on T.V. nowadays with a similar cast age demographic?   Not bloody likely...

The Muppet Show (1976-1981) 

As a Sesame Street alumni I was certainly predisposed to this, certainly one of the high-water marks of Jim Henson's amazing career.

If not for The Muppet Show my generation would be completely devoid of culture.  To drive this point home, here's an alphabetical list of the show's guest stars, most of whom we would never have been exposed to if they hadn't tripped the light fantastic on Kermit the Frog's stage: 

C'mon, do you really think that people of my generation would have had a chance to hear Ethel Merman sing "There's No Business Like Show Business", see Rudolf Nureyev dance "Swine Lake" (?), and witness Señor Wences perform his classic characters Johnny and Pedro if Jim Henson didn't think it was important for us to see this?

The man was a friggin' genius and I was pretty beat up for about a week after he died prematurely at age 53.  

The Man From Atlantis (1977-1978)

A.K.A. "Bobby Ewing Sure Do Swim Funny".   Like Space: 1999, this was also kind of intense for a little kid to watch at times.  There was one really hairy episode I remember when the MFA was kept out of water for too long and started to get all pink and wrinkly like an overdue baby with a jerry curl.  

Battlestar Galactica (1978-1980)

As a kid I really didn't care if this was a thinly-veiled Star Wars knock off.  I loved the ships, sets, costumes, Ovions and Cylons.  Oh, and Maren Jensen made me feel funny in my pants, like when I used to climb the rope in gym class. 

Aaaaaand, the less said about the dialogue and stories when viewed though adult eyes, the better.   

The Amazing Spider-Man (1978-1979)

Ahhh, the Seventies.  We didn't need CGI back then!  If someone wanted to make a superhero show, we just put some poor bastard in a Halloween rental costume and dragged him up the face of the Empire State Building on a rope.

Speaking of shows where the cast skews old, Peter Parker here is supposed to be a university student but he looks old enough to be getting regular prostate exams.

This thing was pretty shabby.  It didn't have much of a budget, so instead of Spidey battling his usual Rogues Gallery of villains like Sandman, Electro and the Green Goblin he'd often be seen tangling with new age hypnotists (?), ghosts (??), and the Chinese Government (???).  

Sam Raimi probably sat his cast and crew down before filming the first Spider-Man feature and said "Okay, this is what we won't be doing. Wellllll, at least not until the third film."

Buck Rogers in the 25'th Century (1979-1981)

Remake of the Golden Age sci-fi pulp action hero from the producers of Battlestar Galactica.

Gil Gerrard plays Captain William "Buck" Rogers, an astronaut from 1987 who, after being propelled five-hundred years into the future, battles evil Draconians, confounds his co-stars with anachronistic dialogue and turns every female within a fifty foot radius into an unspayed cat.

Buck was pimp, yo.  
Let me tell ya, folks, you haven't lived until you've watched Gil Gerrard share a scene with the robotic Dr. Theopolis, who looks like a cross between a Martha Stewart Living © clock, a Lite-Brite set and a pie plate.

Young male viewers numbed by the inane plots, recycled special effects, forced sci-fi trappings and cringe-inducing dialogue could at least find solace every time Erin Gray's Wilma Deering was on screen.  Erin still ranks towards the top of the Hottest Sci-Fi Goddesses of All Time list.

Ahhh, those were the days when women on television had bodies like women and not twelve year old boys.

And I'll never forget the super-obscure Cliffhangers! (1979), which only lasted ten episodes.

It attempted to revitalize the cliffhanger serials which I'm sure most television producers at the time were probably weaned on as kids.  It featured three separate twenty-minute segments.  The first was usually "Stop Susan Williams" featuring hottie-of-the moment Susan Anton as the title character.  She played an investigative journalist trying to unravel the mystery of her brother's murder while dark forces attempted an afterlife family reunion every week in a myriad of creative and sadistic ways.

The second segment was called "The Secret Empire".  It was kind of an update of  "The Phantom Empire", the old Gene Autry serial where cowboys discover an ancient alien civilization dwelling underneath the earth (as cowboys are want to do, I guess, between all the fightin', fuedin' and moseyin').

But my favorite part of the show by far was called "The Curse of Dracula", a modern retelling of the vampire yarn which saw the good Count posing as an Eastern European History professor (?), clashing with a relative of Van Helsing and attempting to enthrall the beautiful Mary.  It was one of my earliest exposures to the horror genre and sort of kicked-started my interest in being periodically scared shitless.

Of course, each segment would result in the main characters in terrible jeopardy, forcing audiences to tune in next week to see what happened.  Although it didn't catch on with the mainstream, my half-baked brain lapped it up.  And, let me tell ya, folks, back then a week felt like a friggin' eternity!

Here's a bit more info on it:

Then there's this cultural nadir that could only have been cooked up in the fevered brains of coked-out 70's television execs: a live action, prime-time DC superhero television variety show called Legends of the Superheroes (1979).  This shit has to be seen to be believed:

Hey, who needs the new Ryan Reynold's Green Lantern movie when you can just have some masked dude in spandex being roasted by a character called Ghettoman?  Don't believe me, then look henceforth into this mouth of madness... 

Saturday morning fare was also consumed voraciously. Like the infinitely superior NON-animated Superfriends (1973-1977):

Please note that I'm endorsing the pre-Wonder Twins iteration of the program.  Too bad there wasn't a version without that sea-horse-riding, cow-licked, useless tit/fifth wheel Aquaman.

"Hey, Aquaman!  Some dude just jumped out of that twelve story building!  Maybe you should put down that hot dog and rescue them!"

"Well, um, I mostly just talk to fish n' stuff." 
And here's my first (and subsequently very regrettable exposure) to Asian culture via Hong Kong Phooey (1974-1976)

Eeeeeee-yow, I'm sorry but that's just bad.  

Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends (1981-1986)

Despite shoehorning two castoff X-Men in with the traditionally lone-wolf Spider-Man and never bothering to explain how Peter Parker could possibly afford to have a secret transforming science lab installed in his apartment on his meager freelance photographer salary, this was a fun show that really improved on it's predecessors.   

Star Blazers (1979):

OMG, I loved this show!  Why?  Three words, sparky: WAVE MOTION GUN.  Man, I wish I had one of those suckers strapped to the front of my Corolla sometimes... 

Land of the Lost (1974-1977):

Despite how rubbery the dinosaur puppets looked and how friggin' annoying Holly could be, this gave me nightmares because of the god-damned Sleestaks.

If you don't know what a Sleestak is, here you go:

Here's a hint, the sleestak is the thing on the left.

Here's the corn-pone intro complete with it's pickin' and/or grinnin' theme song:

Godzilla: (1978-1981) 

I had a huge Godzilla fetish as a kid and since I couldn't see any of his movies, this cartoon had to suffice.  In this one, the crew of the exploration ship Calico use a signaling device to call the "Big G" to their defense whenever threatened by monsters during their scientific travels. 

Stupid, f#@$%^' Godzooky.  Jesus, he's like the Scrappy-Doo of the giant monster set...

Speaking of, here's Scooby-Doo: (1969-1984)

I just love how subversive the old shows were.  You just know that Shag and Scoob were constantly duckin' just off-screen to spark up a big fatty as soon as Fred, Wilma and Daphne's collective backs were turned.  What else would explain the duo's methadone-style craving for Scooby snacks if they weren't high as f$#@% and had the munchies all the time?  

The Bugs Bunny/Road Runner Show (1962-1973, 1975-2000)

Wow, talk about subversive, just have a look a this: cross-dressing, a blurring of gender roles, backhanded racism and Tarantino-esque bursts of extreme violence.  Politically incorrect?  Probably.  Funny as all get out?  Definitely.      

Battle of the Planets (1978-1985):

A team of superpowered teenagers fly all around the galaxy in a cool vehicle that breaks up into a bunch of smaller cool vehicles.  Ripped off shamelessly by a myriad of lesser shows years later.

"Hey, Voltron, can you burst into flames, become invulnerable and gain the power to destroy just about anything like the Fiery Phoenix?  No?  Okay, then you suck..."

The Smurfs (1981-1990):

I loved this show, but always hated how the one Smurf with glasses was such an insufferable dick.  Sometimes I'd catch myself as a kid screaming at the T.V.: "Brainy, what the eff, dawg?  Why you gotta be frontin' like dat?  You makin' all us bespectacled mother-f$#@%^& look like bitches, yo!"

Okay, I didn't say it exactly like that, but the mental picture it conjures up is pretty funny, huh?

You gotta like any show which allowed a generation of stand-up comedians to say things like "Last night I smurfed her until she told me to smurf all over her smurfing smurfs" and audience members my age know just how dirty that was.

The original Spider-Man cartoon (1967-1970):

Besides the groovy theme song, the first season of this show was bright and well-animated with some solid voice talent  But when the original animation studio went belly-up, the show was produced with the Skid Row sensibilities of Ralph "Sure I Can Do That For Forty Cents" Bakshi, who's adaptation of Lord of the Rings was also a turgid and joyless affair.   The show became increasingly grim, dark and inexplicably psychedelic, often recycling footage from the equally murky-looking Rocket Robin Hood.   

Some of the episodes produced in this era (like "Revolt in the Fifth Dimension", "Swing City" and "Phantom From The Depths of Time") seem barely appropriate for kids since they're obviously the product of massive chemical consumption.  Viewed now they look like Spider-Man cartoons produced in some former Eastern Bloc nation that doesn't exist anymore.  Seek them out if you want a wall-crawlin' walk on the wild side, just stay away from the brown acid before you start watching or you might try and claw your own face off.

Here's the famous theme song intro: 

Dungeons & Dragons (1983)

I was heavily into the game at the time and thought this show was the shiznit for depicting some of the monster's I'd fought in the game and incorporating the character classes featured in "new" Unearthed Arcana manual (like the barbarian, acrobat and cavalier).  Some of the stories were also pretty good, especially "The Dragon's Graveyard", "Dungeon at the Heart of Dawn" and "City on the Edge of Midnight".  Often we'd, borrow, elements from the shows to incorporate in our own in-game adventures.

There were some demerits that made the show a bit silly.  The Reagan-era hysteria that permeated all cartoons at the time dictated that characters could never strike one another with fists or weapons so there was a lot of "indirect damage", with bad guys falling into pits when one of the good guys breaks the wooden bridge they're walking across or burying the villain under some falling rocks or some other slap-happy shit.  It wasn't until 1992 when the watershed Batman animated series (the greatest television cartoon of all time, IMHO) came along and mercifully blew that taboo out of the water.   

Could you imagine a Batman cartoon where Batman couldn't actually beat ass?  It would have sucked like a Dyson...

And, naturally, all shows of that era seemed to have some annoying marketable character that existed just to hit some sort of imaginary demographic hot button.  Enter Uni, an orphaned baby unicorn who's incessant bleating drove viewers into fits of homicidal mania.  Coupled with young Bobby's tireless whinging, there were some real moments of irritation here.

Still, this is one of my all-time favs and the beautifully produced DVD boxed from a few years back is one of the crown jewels of my collection. 

Robotech: (1985)

Finally producers realized that North American kids will follow an animated show with a consistent storyline, especially if it's a good one.  The Macross Saga pulled Rick Hunter, Lisa Hayes and Max Sterling through the wringer as members of the Robotech Defense Force as they sought to defend earth from invasion at the hands of the evil alien Zendraedi Empire.

The second series (The Robotech Masters) featuring Dana Sterling wasn't quite as good but the storyline  was still more advanced then Transformers, which I'd kind of outgrown by then.  Regrettably, the third series was never broadcast to completion because, by that time, crap like He-Man had created a new economic model for animation: television cartoons now had to be driven by toy sales. 

Yeah, and we all know what great bedfellows commerce and art are, huh?      

But, I have to admit, as great as some of this stuff was, a lot of it was total dreck.  Look, I know the human brain is capable of tremendous recuperative powers, especially at a young age, but there's no way you can recover from some of this stuff.

It's a wonder all my shoes aren't tied with velcro.  

Sesame Street: Old School, Vol. 1 (1969-1974)Space: 1999: The Complete Season One [Blu-ray]The Muppet Show - Season One (Special Edition)Battlestar Galactica - The Complete Epic SeriesBuck Rogers In the 25th Century: The Complete Epic Series

Super Friends!: Season One, Vol. OneHong Kong Phooey - The Complete SeriesStar Blazers - The Quest for Iscandar - Series 1, Part I (Episodes 1-5)Land of the Lost: The Complete SeriesScooby-Doo, Where Are You!: The Complete First and Second SeasonsLooney Tunes - Golden CollectionThe Smurfs - Season One, Vol. OneSpider-Man - The '67 Collection (6 Volume Animated Set)Dungeons & Dragons: The Complete Animated SeriesRobotech - Protoculture Collection

FAIL:  To prove my point, see if you can get through this 32 second clip with all of your brain cells intact:

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I just hope I don't end up like Hiromu Naruse...

Hilsener, mine venner!

Well, on November 17'th I began the slow and arduous process of jettisoning my dreams.

A local community college here in Halifax offers a "Test Drive" option whereby potential candidates can go into the school, get paired up with a student, and attend classes for the day to try and get a feel for a specific program.  I guess some colleges offer this to cut down on the number of graduates who might realize, all too late, that perhaps "Parapsychology" might not have been the most practical degree to pursue after all.   

Actually I don't want to sound churlish here since I think it's a brilliant idea.  I wish the hell I had this option offered to me before I walked off the same precipice many High School graduates face every year.

As the day of my Test Drive arrived, I faced it with a mixture of dread and apprehension.  The last thing I wanted was to get handcuffed to some nineteen year old twinkie devoid of sage advice and with whom the only common ground I might hope to share is our mutual love of One Tree Hill. should probably ignore that last part.   

Regardless of my trepidations, I went into the Information Technology campus last Wednesday, filled out enough paperwork to apply to CSIS and then waited to see who I'd get partnered up with.

Two potential mentors materialized at the appointed hour, the first of which I'll call Trevor.  Trevor seemed bitter, laconic world-weary and refreshingly candid, so naturally I hoped and prayed that he would be my guide that day.

The other option was an intense dude I'll name Marvin.  He kinda looked like the sorta gent who probably camped out for tickets to Attack of the Clones despite the ever-present risk of being tormented by  Triumph the Insult Comic Dog.   During the entire time I was filling out my paperwork he kept sighing dramatically, breathing through his nose and lamenting that his last test drive candidate that was assigned to him vanished mysteriously last week after they said they were going home for lunch and then never returned. 

Hmmm, I wonder why?

By some random draw of good fortune Trevor was assigned as my overseer.  En route to the computer lab his insider knowledge proved valuable:

"It's kinda strange that they sent you here in the middle of the week in November.  We won't be doing a lot of typically IT stuff today.  In the first class we'll just be talking about some case studies for our Business Ethics class and doing some presentations later."

As we entered the classroom I just assumed that we'd have to sit up front where Marvin and his own academic Padawan were already ensconced.

"Naw, dude, follow me," Trevor said.  "This is usually where we all sit."

'Thank God', I thought to myself.  I used to curse mature students during my days at Saint Mary's.  It always annoyed me that they'd always sit up front, ask questions every forty seconds and indulge in flagrant ass-suckery.

"Good point," I enthused.  "We can definitely cause more trouble back here."
Trevor seemed bemused by my comment and soon I'd learn why.  After he helped me get logged in, he introduced me to his peeps before the class began in earnest.

They were some of the nicest people I've ever met.

I guess my biggest fear going into this was just being the only dude over thirty.  Mercifully, this 800 pound, over-the-demographically-target-aged gorilla was dispensed with right away.  Just as I proceeded to explain why I was there to the group, a guy likely ten years my junior said:

"Trust me, I'm an old dude like you.  You don't need to explain why you're here."

Fortunately, despite their relative youth, a lot of these guys had still been through their own share of "the shit" and knew exactly where I was coming from.  The only difference between me and them is that these guys had obviously come to their senses a lot quicker than I did. 

It didn't take me long to relate to every single one of them.  Like me, they'd all made well-intentioned miss-steps in a post-secondary world.  One guy who followed his heart and took a prior Culinary Arts program loved the course, but was then aghast to discover that his work term would be the equivalent of indentured servitude.   Even working in high-end restaurants the most he ever made was $12 an hour, working eighty-hour work weeks (!) in the environmental equivalent of a flash-fryer. 

"The attitude was that, eventually, maybe, after paying your dues for God knows how long you might build up enough of a reputation to open your own place or become head chef somewhere, but how long was that gonna take?  Three years?  Five years?  Ten?!?  F@#$% that!"

Another gent had invested a mint in tuition at a major Canadian University for a degree in Biology.  When he came back to the Maritimes he was horrified to discover that government cutbacks had gutted employment opportunities in the the science sector.  In fact, he talked about one scenario where two-hundred and forty people were in competition for the same job.

"The successful candidate had twelve years of practical experience," he went on to say.  "He actually wrote  studies on the exact same task he was hired to do."

Wowzers.  How the hell can you compete with something like that when you're fresh out of university, have no on-the-job experience and you're burdened with enough debt to sink Johnny Depp's yacht? 

One other guy just wanted to be a teacher.  Simple and noble enough, right?  Well, after paying his dues teaching overseas and working in close confines for paranoid bosses, he actually looked at the prospect for teachers in Nova Scotia.  It wasn't pretty.

"Oh, c'mon!"  I protested.  "It's gotta be good!  What about all the Baby Boomers retiring?"

"Yeah, you'd think that, right?  But then again, so did every other other person on the planet with a liberal arts degree who thought: 'Yeah, I'll pick something practical to fall back on, like a teaching degree!'  Well, due to cutbacks, the amount of in-demand teachers dropped, the competition went through the roof and most schools just retained their substitutes."

Amazing.  Although these guys were all extremely clever, well-spoken, well-written, and industrious (at least at face value), they'd also been burned by the worst lie adults can propagate on kids: "You can be anything you want to be."  Frankly, that's a load of Bantha shit.  I think everyone needs that sober voice of reason to come along at some point in time and say: "Look, I know you have a passion for what you want to do, but just know that your future career prospects for this are Jack and Squat, and Jack just left town."  

Now I know that sounds cold, but it was something I needed to be told about twenty years ago.  Please, parents, don't create unrealistic expectations.  I also don't think you should completely discourage creative types either, just let them know that there's no reason to pursue it unless they're completely passionate and have no interest whatsoever in doing it for the money.

So, in essence, what I'm saying is that we all need to find an in-demand job we can tolerate, which allows us to develop biddable skills that will serve as valuable commodities in the business world.  You wanna do something creative?  Well, that's fine, but you may just want to treat it like a hobby for the foreseeable future.  Don't abandon it, but it can sometime take years of diligent but part-time effort to establish a career in the arts.

I'll also tell you this right now: things sure have changed in a classroom since I've been in one.  Or maybe it's just the Community College atmosphere, I don't know.

When the instructor first showed up he spent some time talking about the timetable for the next few weeks, his expectations for the students and upcoming assignments that were due.  At first he spoke like a typical educator trying to wrangle control of his class as superfluous conversations broke out all around the room.  Then he said something that struck me as rather odd:

"I don't want to bother having to talk over people so if you need to talk that's what whispering is for."

This struck me as strange for two reasons (1) That people were actually bold enough to talk openly while the instructor was trying to speak (2) That he seemed cool with it as long as they weren't being too loud.

Any educator that I've ever had experience with in the past has been a strict disciplinarian who demanded undivided attention.  They would call your unruly ass out in front of everyone if you kept up with the jibber-jabber.  

After addressing all of us, the instructor spent the first half of the class talking to and addressing questions from my fellow Driver.  When he came down to the back of the class to see me I felt like shouting a head's up to all the people gathered around that were on Facebook, playing Flash games or checking out trailers for Green Lantern.

But then I realized: this guy doesn't give a shit what his students are doing, as well he shouldn't.  After all, they were all there on their own dimes so why should he care how they spent it?

This philosophy of treating people like adults extended to the methods of instruction as well.  Only the first few classes consist of straight-up lecturing.  After the instructors give their students the raw materials to do problem solving they then proceeded to test them systematically by throwing out scenarios for them to overcome.  The instructors still remain close by for assistance, but mainly they just let the students puzzle things out for themselves, nicely mirroring a real work environment.  Brilliant.

If you've read any of my previous posts about my university days (You can follow the Yellow Brick Road right here:
Signed, The Ministry of Half-Assed Organization) then you know just how pissed off I was by professors who apparently wanted you to employ psychic powers to determine exactly what they wanted from you in exams, essays and presentations.  Even worse was the complete and total lack of continuity between profs when it came to things like content and format.

But not with these guys.  Every Case Study included a rubric which showed, in no uncertain terms, what mark you will receive based on real work environment expectations and just how close you came to fulfilling them.   In other words, if you're willing to follow instructions and work hard enough to demonstrate what's being asked of you, then you effectively have complete control over the mark you'll receive.

Anyway, we all had a good yarn about the the state of the labor market, the frustrating but very real presence of nepotism in Halifax, how expensive and impractical some of the pother schools can be and specifically what the college could do to prepare me for a career in the field of IT.  Not once did my bullshit detector go off.   
But, as you might expect, everything has a downside.  While the guys were finalizing their Ethical Case Study submission I asked if there was anything I might be able to do since I was kinda feeling like a fifth wheel.  After proofing two of their submissions (Great work, by the way, guys!), one of them suggested  that I try out a tutorial for a fairly approachable, general purpose programming language called Ruby.  Not having anything better to do I agreed to check it out.

And is was perhaps the most boring thing I've ever read in my life.

Now, don't get me wrong, I didn't get hung up on anything or fail to progress through the material.  It was just that half-way through the second page, my brain went into Test Pattern mode and I just wasn't retaining a single thing.

Listen, I love the creative applications that computers can provide, but that still doesn't mean I wanna assemble hardware or design a program that will make these machines sentient.  Maybe I've seen so many bad sci-fi movies that unconsciously I just can't go down that slippery slope. 

True to Trevor's word, the next class just consisted of guys just doing presentations.  They were all highly entertaining.  In quick succession I learned about such brazenly non-IT related things such as why we sleep and dream, how important a catalytic converter is to my car's exhaust system and how a piano-playing cat fits into the pantheon of internet memes.

These guys did a fantastic job, considering just how nervous they must have been.  I've been pretty upfront before in this blog about how terrified I was the first time I was asked to do a presentation in front of a group of people.  A lot of these guys were around the same age I was the first time I forced to confront this, one of the worst fears we're asked to face in our lifetime.

Although a lot of the presentations went over time and merely consisted of guys reading off a Powerpoint presentation screen, a lot of them incorporated humor, whether intentional or not.  The highlight for me came when one dude, who was doing a presentation on how microwaves work, kept insisting how important  the Megatron (not the magnetron) was in the proper generation of coherent microwaves.

Perhaps the most memorable thing, however, was the instructor.  I almost fell out of my seat when he reminded the class that cover letters and updated resumes were due next week.  Friggin' resumes and cover letters!   

I could only imagine how awesome it might have been when, in my last year of university, one of the profs asked us to submit similar material to them which they would then forward on to potential employers who were hiring in our field of study.  It was mind boggling.

"Listen, this is important," he said.  "I never know when my contact at say, Rim might send me an email asking me how many resumes I might have at any given time.  Sometimes I'll tell 'em I've got like...eight or twelve on hand and he might write back and say 'Okay, send 'em all over'."

Wow.  The instructor might have been completely oblivious as to why some of the students started to giggle when he observed 'how frequent the request for Rim jobs were becoming', but I was just as convinced that this guy knew the industry and tons of relevant contacts.

And that's what amazed me the most.  The students and faculty all seemed genuinely adept and interested in working with computers in some capacity but not one of them had lost sight of the fact that, ultimately, they were all there to try and eke out a stable career instead of some kind of crappy McJob.     

When the day was done I was asked to fill out a survey asking: "Did this test drive allow you to decide conclusively if you will or will not apply for this program?".  The only answer I could give, in all honesty, was still:


I still have many more avenues to explore.  Despite the fact I was encouraged by the welcoming students, the well-connected instructors, the evolved programmed learning techniques, the emphasis on independence and the laser-focus on career prospects, I still can't help but wonder if I'll have the aptitude and the passion required to see something like this through.

But at least I can say that I'm still on the track and I haven't wrapped my analogous car around a telephone pole yet...

EPIC:  I've never really been a huge fan of Green Lantern, but then again, I used to say the same thing about Iron Man.  The value of this flick really gonna be dependent on the charisma of Ryan Reynolds, which I think he has in spades...

EPIC II: Attack of the Clowns:  It's mutants like this that give Star Wars fandom a bad name.  I'm glad someone sicced Triumph on these losers...

Triumph The Insult Comic Dog - Star Wars
Uploaded by ZaraV. - See more comedy videos.

FAIL:  Speed kills, folks...


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cop Out

Hey, Party People.

When I first started this blog back in the first week of April it began with the lofty goal of doing five entries (and one original comic) per week.  This was fine at first since I had a bunch of material already written and it was just a matter of transcribing it.

In order to keep doing the comic I eventually felt compelled to scale my entries back to three a week.  Then I dropped the comic, which really killed me since I loved doing it so much.  My inability to produce just one original strip every week and present it in a way I was happy with was pretty depressing, but since it would often take me the better part of a day to do it, keeping it up just wasn't feasible.  

But even the time required to compose what amounts to three original essays a week is starting to prevent me from doing other things.

So, until further notice, I'll only be doing one update a week from here on in.  Cataloged here in no particular order are my various lame excuses as to why:
  • Right now I'm in the process of doing a final edit on my first full-length novel.  I've decided what direction I want to take it in, at least for the time being.  Getting this hammered into shape to share with people as soon as possible is officially my new number-one priority.
  • I have tons of travel video footage I need to edit.  Once this is complete I want to try my hand at making some docs about my love of board games and a few simple, fictional movies.  Y'know, just for kicks. 
  • I don't want these posts to become obligatory.  I want them to be inspired by my legitimate desire to share something versus: "Oh shit, it's time for me to do an entry.  I've gotta talk about something, but what?  Hmmmm.  Wait, I've got it!  Today's blog entry will be all about the ravages of mailbox rust!"  Having said that, people who really know me will attest to the fact that I haven't come anywhere close to that point yet.  In fact, I've yet to tell some of my best tales and hopefully one day I'll get a chance to do just that.   
  • When I first started this racket back in April I was painfully aware that someday the time would come when I'd have to start thinking practically and figure out what I'm willing to force myself to do professionally for the rest of my life.  From here on in I really need to dedicate most of my time to puzzling out just how I'm going to accomplish this.  Frankly I'd still like a career involving writing somehow but I honestly don't know if I have the chops to make a go of it.  Right now, even after more than one-hundred entries, all I have for motivation is a burgeoning hit count and some precious scraps of feedback from a handful of charitable souls who were kind enough to take the time out of their busy day to send an encouraging note (for which I'm eternally grateful).  It's sad for me to type this but my career reboot/job search must soon take precedence over all else.    
  • I was really disappointed by the lack of advice I received for this entry:  What can I say, I'm petty.  Ultimately the whole point of doing this blog was to get some immediate feedback from people.  I really don't want to monologue, watch the hit counter creep up and, in the process, never hear from anyone who might be reading.  I was hoping to engage people so much that they'd feel compelled to get involved when I asked them to.  Besides, I was serious when I said I needed help.  Only now do I feel like I'm getting some semblance of guidance, even if it is twenty years overdue.  Frankly, I'm addicted to the unique perspectives that only people far wiser than I can provide.        
Hey, don't mind my bellyachin'.  Fall always gets me down.  I guess the change of seasons is always  irrefutable proof that time keeps marching on.  

As soon as the final edit of my book is complete I'll try and go back to doing three entries a week and maintain it for as long as I can.  Who knows, I might have this work completed by the end of the month and things will get right back to normal.  Or it could be a permanent thing.  I guess it'll just depend on my mood.  We'll see...

Bottom line is, I want to be proud of every post I put up.  I want each one to tell a story and have as much resonance with readers as possible.  I don't want to start phoning these suckers in.

Well, except maybe for this one of course....Heh, Heh! 

Keep watching this space, Kind Visitor, and thanks for reading thus far!

EPIC:  Now these dudes knows how to stick to a schedule!  Here's some consistently funny webcomic goodness courtesy of Ryan Sohmer and Lar deSouza's "Least I Could Do".  Be warned...adultish content be here. 


"If you yell 'PLAY FREEBIRD!' one more time, I'm gonna punch you in the neck!" - Part V I

Hidey-Ho, Neighborino!

I just saw Wintersleep and two other stellar up-and-coming bands (Rah Rah and Besnard Lakes last week and I came to realize that I never did complete my live music series.  So, here's a brief summary of some of the more memorable shows that followed in the wake of Pearl Jam's stellar gig:

The Dixie Chicks August 8th 2006. I was an instant fan of the Chicks after seeing their Shut Up And Sing doc from earlier that same year. These gals exhibited amazing musicianship during a very lively performances and kept me more than amused with plenty of now-vindicated Bush-bashing. Not to mention the fact that the crowd that night was, by far, the nicest smelling bunch of people I've ever had the pleasure of being surrounded by at the Metro Center.

This vid quality is pretty crappy here but it's still a fine example of the band's amazing live sound (not to mention the sing-along proclivities of their rabid fans!).  Enjoy:

The White Stripes July 13, 2007. I never thought in a million years that indie darlings The White Stripes would ever play in Halifax. Mercifully, thanks to Jack White's ties to the region, we were a shoe-in for a stop during the Under Great White Northern Lights tour of our fair country.

Leading up to the gig, it was fun trying to anticipate where their legendary "secret show" might take place.  It turned out to be the understated Locas Pool Hall. Here's a peek:

Well equipped with earplugs this time, I survived their formal auditory assault one night later. It was a real privilege to witness first-hand the borderline eerie, near symbiotic on-stage relationship between Jack and Meg as they picked up each other's cues and delivered the goods. The show was unpredictable, punishing, raw, exhilarating and certainly towards the top of my list of all-time favorite concert experiences.

54-40, Aerosmith, Cheap Trick July 24th, 2007 Although the venue (a former horse racing track outside of Charlottetown, PEI) and the logistics kinda sucked, the sound was great and that was all I cared about.

First off, 54-40 have had a tremendous career and they've produced an amazing catalog of awesome songs and albums. I would love to see a stand alone show featuring these guys and I'm always quick to rip on some idiot for thinking "I Go Blind" was written by Hootie and the Blowfish.

I've loved Cheap Trick since the dawn of time. I think their unique combination of a heavy sound, satiric lyrics (satirics?), and power-punk melody influenced a slew of my own musical heroes like Kurt Cobain, whether deliberate or not. It was a real kick watching several generations of music fans go nuts when the boys rolled out "Surrender". The older crowd knew the song since 1978 and the younger crowd likely had played it about a billion times over the past year in Guitar Hero II. Pure Gold!

Seeing Aerosmith represented a "circle is now complete" moment. My better half has been an eternal Aerosmith nut so it had been a real privilege of mine to get tickets for her to see her rock heroes live in Saint John, New Brunswick on Dec 29, 1993. Unfortunately a winter storm prevented her chauffeur from delivering her to the gig so the ticket and the opportunity went to waste. AAAARRRRGGGHHH!!!!

So, needless to say, the date in PEI was pretty friggin' important. A pre-internal-strife Aerosmith phoned it in like pros. It was a real thrill to finally see my honey groovin' to classics like "Love in an Elevator", "Same Old Song", "Cryin'", "Jaded", "Last Child", "Dream On" and "Walk This Way". No "Rag Doll" tho, so a bit of a BOOOO! from me, I'm afraid.

Here a snippet from that show:

Ozzy Osbourne January 26, 2008 Nicely completing my Metal Heroes Live trifecta (begun years before  with Iron Maiden and Motley Crue), I was first in line for tickets when the Ozzman eventually decided to cometh.   Amidst the epically haunting strains of "Carmina Burana"  Ozzy hit the stage with the force of a low-level nuclear weapon.  Though a bit wobbly on his feet and his well-toured voice wavered slightly, the sixty year old godfather of modern metal thrilled with a time-honored stage show which featured:
  • Charming homilies to the audience like: "“Go f#$@%^& crazy!  It feeds my f#@$%^& soul!
  • Blistering musicianship from expert shredder Zakk Wylde, hyperactive bassist Rob "Blasko" Nicholson, flamboyant keyboardist Adam Wakemen, and a real thrill for me, the punishing percussion of ex-Faith No More drummer Mike Bordin.    
  •  Ozzy blasting the audience with a foam-launching fire hose all the while assuring us: "Don’t worry, it’s not cocaine and it won’t keep you up all night!”
  • After spazzing out to "Bark at the Moon" Ozzy kindly treats us to a Moon from the Loon.   Let me tell ya, you'd be scarred for life too if you saw that cottage-cheese like ass up on a jumbotron.
  • Sharon joins Ozzy onstage and the fans thank her for doing her part in keeping the star attraction alive this long. 
  • Mike Borden rushes to the defense of a fan who mistakenly tumbles into "no man's zone" after catching one of his drumsticks.  When security moves to turf the acrobatic audience member,  Borden leaps to his defense and has him spared.
  • Zakk Wylde's 17 minute guitar solo leaves no eardrum unpunctured and no drunken slutty chick's shirt unlifted.
  • I can die somewhat fulfilled after hearing "Crazy Train", "Suicide Solution", "Mr. Crowley", "I Don't Know" and (for the love of everything unholy) "Paranoid" live!         
 Here's a little sampler:

Queens of the Stone Age   May 13, 2008  Mere days before I'm scheduled to head off to Ireland and Scotland, I have the pleasure of taking in Queens of the Stone Age, one of my favorite alternative/hard rock acts.  Standing amidst a bizarrely decorated stage, lead singer/guitarist/contrarian/goliath Josh Homme chain smoked and drank his way through a punishing and perverse set of blistering nu-metal.  Despite the copious amounts of alcohol consumed on stage, everything was note-perfect and their flawless presentation was in the same league as those other musical machines of God: the Smashing Pumpkins.  Truly amazing.

Don't believe me?  There's tons of video evidence out there from this gig and here just one clip of many:       

Wintersleep January 29, 2009
Wintersleep kicked off an unprecedented and amazing year for concerts that saw me taking in no less than six historic shows.  After a work acquaintance lent me Wintersleep's self-titled debut album from 2003, I spun that f#$@% so much I began to wear it out.  When the band came back to Halifax at the end of January, he practically dragged me to the Marquee to experience their live show.  It was amazing, as promised. 

After the also-impressive Plants & Animals ( were done with us, Wintersleep took to the stage and delivered a tight, atmospheric, slow-burn set that drove the already-rabid audience totally nuts.  As always, I was smack-dab right in the middle of the scrum and the coiled-spring energy of the band and the pogo mania of the revelers around me was contagious.  Even though I wasn't completely familiar with all of their material at the time (something I've long since remedied), the mood was set early and maintained throughout the entire show.

Wintersleep are masters of crescendo.  The centerpiece of this is a truly epic tune called "Nerves Normal, Breath Normal" from their second untitled album.  By itself, this song is incredibly engaging, but coming at the apex of an already amazing live show that's been building, slowly, inexorably towards this moment, it's almost unbearably hypnotic.  Here's the tune in question:

The drummer, Loel Campbell, really uses this as a centerpiece for a virtuoso marathon performance. Mop-haired double-threat Tim D'eon also tends to take this opportunity to climb atop a bar stool and lean into his keyboards like some sort of mad harpsichordist. Riveting stuff.

I've seen them two times since then.  The second show was much longer (it had an intermission!) and was more informal since they were test-driving some then-unfamiliar material from what proved to be an awesome fourth album.  The last show was plagued a bit by sound problems but in the last quarter, the driving relentlessness of the band kicked in and they were able to deliver in spades. 

See these guys whenever you can.  They are truly amazing.

KISS July 18, 2009   
A massive crowd packed (and subsequently nearly destroyed) a wet and muddy Halifax Commons to witness "the hottest band in the world: KISS!!!"  Well, not quite, but the boys can still put on a stellar show.  Wisely doing their best impression of the legendary "Destroyer" tour (and jettisoning material from forgettable recent albums like Psycho Circus), this set leaned heavily on vintage hits and all the anticipated stage trappings.  

Even with an ersatz Ace Frehley and  Peter Chriss, the band completed the illusion in full make up, stage regalia, risers, flame-spouting guitars, high-flying wire acts, blood, and an orgy of pyro and fireworks at the finale.  I was so close to the stage that when I made the mistake of looking up at the fireworks display at the end I got a chunk of shrapnel in the eye.     

I also have to note that it was one of the roughest crowds I'd ever been surrounded by.  There were tons of drunken meatheads or clowns who were there just because it was an event of some sort.  I've never seen so many fights break out in a crowd in my life.

Seriously people, just because you got dragged here and would just as soon as take the ticket out of your wallet and burnt it rather then go, it doesn't mean that those around you aren't interested in oh, I dunno, enjoying the show!   F#@$%^& ass goblins...

Regardless of all the chest-thumping and horn-locking going on around me, I still had a blast.  Especially 'cuz I got to hear my favorite KISS song right away.  Here's the show's stellar kick-off, featuring "Deuce":

Anvil, AC/DC Aug 6, 2009
I know how it feels when you want to see your favorite band live but you just can't get anyone to go with you.  My buddy Andrew, like an inexplicably disproportionate amount of people in their early to mid thirties, is still laboring under the misconception that AC/DC is the best band on the planet.

Frankly, when I was getting into metal in the early 80's AC/DC was kind of passe at the time.  It was widely regarded that their lackluster Flick of the Switch album likely signaled that the band's best days were behind them.  Compared to metal juggernauts like Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne, they just weren't on my radar.

But when I got out of metal around 1987, they were actually starting to experience a major resurgence.  By the time 1990's The Razor's Edge was released they'd completed a successful comeback just in time for a new generation of music fans to seize on to them as the flag-bearers of hard rock.

Slightly older folks like myself, however, had long since jettisoned AC/DC in lieu of the grunge movement.  Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains and Soundgarden seemed like more sophisticated metal that it was okay to like without looking like a meatheat.  Coupled with the fact that so many "classic" radio stations were now playing AC/DC incessantly, I was completely turned off by the band's interchangeable and one-note sound.  

But Andrew really wanted to see the ancient Aussie rockers (actually most of 'em are Scottish) and since I'm all about the wish fulfillment (and my better half's family kindly offered to let us crash at their place) I promised to take him to the show in Moncton.

I have to confess that going into it, I was actually much more keen to see one of the opening acts, who's self-titled documentary Anvil! The Story Of Anvil really snagged my sympathies (

Underestimating the time it took to trek to the concert grounds, we arrived a bit later than I'd hoped.  Naturally, Andrew wanted to get a t-shirt to commemorate the event but with the lion's share of 67,000 people already swarming the site like intoxicated locusts, the merch tent was nigh-inaccessible.  He went to wait in the massive lineup while I edged down the hill a bit to try and get a glimpse of Anvil as they took the stage.

Bless their hearts, they played their asses off and looked genuinely grateful to have scored such a peach opening gig.  Lead singer/ace axeman Steve "Lips" Kudrow, drummer Robb Reiner and bassist Glenn Five
blasted the audience with an unrelenting wall of sound.  It was a sonic symposium, a crunchy metallic battery of musical goodness.  I really don't know if I could ever bring myself to buy one of their albums, but damn, you can't deny their technical abilities.

They also did due diligence in priming the audience for the much-anticipated headliners.  During the lull, we had plenty of time to study the elaborate stage set up.  Even inert it looked impressive.  Next to the massive view screens stood a high-rise wall of speakers on either side, both crested by a pair of giant red, glowing Angus caps spiked with devil's horns.  The elaborate cog, gear and pinwheel frame was studded with enough lighting fixtures to successfully guide a Boeing 747 into a landing in the field behind us.

As the sun went down and the massive concert grounds were enveloped by darkness, the amorphous crowd started to light up with a sea of blinking red devil horns that thousands of fans had snatched up before the show.  Little wonder the merch tents had been so busy.  The mind reeled when you thought about how much money these simple but unique little keepsakes had generated alone for the band.   

When the band's high-octane introductory animated video began to roll, the decibel level from the crowd grew to deafening heights.  It was almost as if we were all suddenly strapped into an out-of-control roller-coaster ride bound for rock n' roll nirvana.  With the runaway train headed straight for the audience, the masterfully staged sequence culminated with a huge pyrotechnics explosion and an actual friggin' train crashing out onto the stage.  Jesus Christos!

The band appeared and then launched into "Rock n' Roll Train" from their Black Ice album.  The band was in fine form and well represented by one of the best sound systems I've ever heard for an outdoor concert.  Replete in his trademarked "schoolboy" uniform, Angus Young shucked and jived across the runway like a bratty kid.  Equally game was lead vocalist Brian Johnson who did his own patented sashay/strut around the stage.  Considering the "Gargling Broken Glass" peal of Brian's voice and the untold abuse he's likely put it though on this tour alone, he represented very well.  The band's accomplished percussion section (represented by bassist Cliff Williams and drummer Phil Rudd) laid down some relentless propulsion for Angus and fellow rhythm guitarist Malcolm Young.   

Highlights included a fantastic rendition of "Back In Black", a chant-worthy "Thunderstruck", and a clap-along "Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap".  The high water mark for the entire show, however, had to be Angus Young's milestone guitar solo during "Let There Be Rock".  Pausing only occasionally to grin devilishly and solicit enthusiastic "WOOO!"'s from the audience, the fifty-four year old guitar god displayed some  one-handed showmanship of hammer-on's, crawled around the stage on his hands and knees, was lifted above our heads by risers, played while lying flat on his back, and ran around like a kid one-thrird his age.

I'm tellin' ya, we all need to look at acquiring our own Rock n' Roll pacts with Satan as we grow older.  It seems to be the key to immortality. 

A blistering encore of "Highway To Hell" and "For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)" completed the experience for me.  Although I was loathe to admit it, I was converted.  I had a fantastic time and the band certainly went up several notches in my eyes. 

But I still don't own one of their albums.  Maybe now that we have a local modern rock radio station that put a ban on AC/DC I may be able to take the plunge one of these days.   

There's TONS of amazing video for this show.  Here's a choice clip:

Modest Mouse Aug 17 2009

This was the show of the year for me and about a hojillion people packed like lemmings into the Halifax Forum's Multi-Purpose Center to witness these alterna-legends.  By the end of the show, which happened to fall on one of the hottest nights of the year, I'd probably lost about five pounds in sweat.  

The band played an intense set, trotting out a fantastic spectrum of tunes which nicely represented their eclectic catalog.  Unfortunately the proliferation of ankle-biters gathered with their hands in their pockets obviously killing time while the band got around to playing "Float On" kinda got on my nerves.  Despite this minor bring-down I thrilled to hearing "Satin In A Coffin", "Gravity Rides Everything", "Dashboard", "Satellite Skin", "The World At Large", "Education", "The View" and much more played live n' loud.  

Alright, for all you crazy kids, here's "Float On", but just 'cuz the sound is so good:

Please come back, Modest Mouse. I lurves you.

Blondie  October 30 2009
Good Lord.  As if 2009 wasn't shaping up to the best year for concerts EVAR, punk/pop icons Blondie made two appearances at, of all places, the Halifax Sheraton Casino.  For my better half, this was going to be an important concert, since Debbie Harry and company represented one of her first musical loves as a kid.  She was initially put off by the steep ticket price, but knowing the importance of the show I bought two tickets for her birthday and we were off to meet our destiny.

Although the casino is truly my idea of hell on earth, we hoped that the intimate confines of the Schooner Room would overcome the staid nature of the venue.  But when we were ensconced in our assigned seats, next to a couple of bloodless mummies who'd apparently gotten their tickets free through Players Club points, we feared the worse.  

Sure enough, when the band came onstage none of the anal-retentive mannequins nearby made so much as a peep.  To make matters worse, they actually glowered at us as we clapped, hooted and sang along.  

Mercifully a bunch of kids familiar with the band's anarchic roots, rushed the stage.  Unable to remain in place with our oil-painting company we joined them and started to dance, sing and what you're supposed to do at a f%$#^* punk rock concert!  

A platoon of scrawny security drones tried to force us back to our seats, but that didn't last very long.  Turns out the band liked the club vibe and when we rushed up a second time, we were left to our devices.  

And thank God we were.  This turned what might have been a boring exhibition at an Arts and Culture Center into a rollicking punk rock show.  Bemused by our rebellion and energy, the band played with the same passion and abandon.   They genuinely looked like they were having a blast.  It was surely one of the most memorable times when the attitude of an audience clearly effected a performance.  The resulting symbiotic relationship resulted in one of the most memorable experiences of my concert-going life.

Plus, I never thought in all my days I'd ever find myself standing just a few feet away form Debbie Harry.  Meeeee-ooooow! 

I was hoping that someone might have recorded my favorite Blondie tune  "Atomic" that night, but I can't find it.  Oh, well, here's Debbie beating RUN-DMC to the punch with one of the earliest raps ever in "Rapture".  Mad skillz, recognize! 

Stone Temple Pilots Nov 24, 2009 

I had a chance to see Stone Temple Pilots at a small venue when I was in Montreal back in 1994 but I blew it.  When they broke up and the brothers DeLeo formed Talk Show and then Army of Everyone and Scott Weiland joined Velvet Revolver I thought those projects were still inferior to the flawed, yet amicable glory that was STP.  I didn't hold out much hope that I would ever see this band live.

Well, when the side projects fizzled out and both parties decided they were stronger together then apart, rumors of a re-union began to swirl.  Color me shocked when it was announced that a reconstituted STP would be blowing the roof off the Metro Center.

After an interesting set by Melissa Auf Der Mar's band, the boys ventured out onto a stripped-down stage and were all business.  They quickly clobbered the audience with no-nonsense renditions of "Silvergun Superman" and "Wicked Garden".  By the time they got to "Vasoline", the entire building was hooked and gleefully screaming along with the lyrics.  

Favorites like "Big Empty", "Plush", "Interstate Love Song", and "Trippin' On A Hole In A Paper Heart" insured that my voice would resembled that of Mercedes McCambridge in The Exorcist.  I love seeing a band live when you're so familiar with their songs that you can scream along.  Murder on the pipes, but damn, it's a good time.   

The band sounded fantastic and I'm happy to report that they all seemed to be in good spirits.  Their last album was a bit of a mixed bag for me but I sincerely hope they stick around and keep hammering at it.

Here's  a l'il sample:

Alexisonfire and Billy Talent April 15, 2010
Ever since I first heard the rage and unique sound of Billy Talent's "Try Honesty", I've always wanted to see them live.  I got a great opportunity when they came to town at the Cunard Center as a twofer with pals Alexisonfire.

Alexisonfire is certainly one of the better "screamo" acts.  How can you not love a band that describes their own sound as "two Catholic high-school girls in mid-knife-fight"?  Truly their music is a perfect fusion of beauty and horror.  Any given song can veer drunkenly from harmonious and melodic tones into bursts of  guttural rage. 

Their showing here really put them on the radar for me.  They displayed a superhuman level of intensity and despite their ferocity, their sound is super-polished.  They certainly made a fan out of me.

Billy Talent also didn't disappoint.  If you could have harnessed the energy they expended that night for us in the name of entertainment you could power the entire eastern seaboard for a month.  Now, they weren't trying to overcompensate for any lack of technical ability.  They successfully replicated their material live with pitch-perfect precision but also weren't afraid to riff off in new and interesting directions from time to time.

This vid is great; it actually shows approximately where I was standing during this show and how boisterous and well-received it was by the audience.  Electrifying...

Rich Aucion, Classified, Hot Hot Heat, Weezer July 24, 2010

One of my "bucket list" bands came to Halifax this year.  After their now-classic Pinkerton album went over like a lead balloon back in 1996 it was rumored that Weezer might pack it in.  They came storming back in 2001 with their Green album and have been knocking out records consistently ever since.

And even though their more recent material hasn't reached the creative heights as their debut album, Pinkerton or Maladroit, I've always had them on my top five list of must-see bands.  Four days after my fortieth birthday, I finally got my wish.

Sort of. 

See, the boys got entangled in an ill-conceived outdoor music fest organized by a promoter who obviously didn't know his ass from a hole in a mini-putt course.   Instead of creating a festival with a consistent theme (like all pop, all metal or all alt-rock) these clowns thought they could suck the masses in my trying to appeal to everyone.

So we got this Frankenstinian patchwork of a concert featuring The Jimmy Swift Band and The Stanfields for local fare, Classified for the urban market, Rich Aucoin, Hot Hot Heat and Weezer for the alterna-crowd and - Sweet Baby Jesus - The Mother-F#@$%^ Black Eyed Peas for people dropped on their heads as children.

Then they decided, in their infinite wisdom, to charge over $100.00 for this entertainment-related abortion.  Seriously?  It's little wonder that Power Promotion, the geniuses behind the gig, went tits-up three months later (

Soooo, basically, I knew a slew of people that really wanted a full set from Hot Hot Heat and Weezer but refused to buy a ticket for fear it would go towards a free lunch for the f%$^&' Peas.  Plus I also witnessed a slew of simpletons standing around watching Rich Aucoin, Hot Hot Heat and Weezer trying to figure out what these bands were doing with all those odd accessories and accouterments.  By the way, they're called instruments, you tools.    

But, if it got me a chance to see one of my favorite bands of all time, I'd fiddle for the devil.
Well, on to the autopsy.  The Stanfields bored the piss out of me.  The Jimmy Swift Band was interesting and original at least.  Rich Aucoin gave a spirited performance and did what he could to engage the the limited (and confused) crowd.  His creative use of samples, overdubs, props, witty lyrics ("We are not dead, we are UNDEAD!") and crowd surfing (?) really won me over.

Classified's stocks, on the other hand, fell a couple of points in my eyes.  I loved the smart and patriotic rhymes I'd been made familiar with by osmosis with singles like "Oh...Canada" and "Anybody Listening" but his stage show kinda fell back into the stereotypical trappings of a typical rap act.  Considering how many kids were in attendance it seemed kinda in bad taste to me to constantly drop  f-bombs and blaze up a big fatty on stage.  Didn't bother me, but kinda seems stupid for such a clearly clever dude to be frontin', is all.   

Hot Hot Heat was fantastic, but were probably left wondering "What the hell are be doing here?"  Looking like Carrot Top's...well, like Carrot Top used to look before he hit the juice and the eyeliner, lead singer Steve Bays climbed the risers and stacks to try and engage the near-static audience.  Sorry, guys, but the two of us could only make so much noise for you...

Here they are trying vainly to spark some audience participation amongst the slack-jawed troglodytes standing around:

As a giant gold-lame curtain bearing the band's name was readied I suddenly became terrified for Weezer.  I knew there were a lot of people around me who were there to specifically to see them, but I feared that the majority of mouth-breathers standing around wouldn't have a clue how to react.  As it turned out, my fears were unfounded.

There was a time when frontman River Cuomo considered being the frontman of a rock band to be a bit of an albatross around his neck.  More recently, however, he's come to see the importance of his role.  By taking on touring drummer Josh Fresse, this frees up usual skinman Pat Wilson for guitar duties, thus allowing Rivers to launch into full audience engagement mode.

And engage he did.  Rivers attacked the stage like a hypoglycemic kid after horking down an entire box of Frosted Flakes.  At once he could be seen bounding off a trampoline, co-opting camcorders, tossing inflatable beach balls into the crowd, stealing headwear, destroying a guitar, running along the outer fringes of the audience, heaving rolls of toilet paper into the gathered, climbing a tech tower and usurping the camera, and was willingly groped by a pack of hoochies on the beer patio.  He seemed obsessed with getting close to people, engaging their attentions and making an impression.

His bandmates displayed some fantastic on-stage camaraderie.  Dynamic bassist Scott Shriner cut a mean grove while clad in an appropriately bitchin' kilt.  Guitarist Brian Bell rocked out and got a chance to quote some the Bard (he and Rivers had taken in Shakespeare By The Sea's performance of Twelfth Night the day before!).  Drummer Pat Wilson looked like he was having a blast.  Moving to the forefront on guitar really let his on-stage charisma come through.

They played the lion's share of their first album and a slew of their best-known singles.  It's was almost as if they would have taken great personal umbrage if every single person there wasn't watching them at all times.  To engage the kids who's interest in music obviously went back no further than three years, Rivers and company broke out a brilliant MGMT and Lady Gaga mash-up just to make sure they were all paying attention.

Some other notable spectators could be seen standing just off-stage.  At one point in time all the members of the Peas (, Fergie, Josh Duhamel, even the the Asian dude) were standing in the wings, looking suitably impressed.  It was almost like they were taking notes on how to entertain an audience and, in turn, shitting bricks that they had to follow such an engaging and well-received act.

Anyway, enough blabbering about the gig.  Here's one crazy clip amongst many:

My only gripe about the performance: it wasn't two hours long.  God, I hope they come back and ditch the baggage this time!  And I ain't talking about just Fergie... 

After they vacated the stage, we wormed our way out of the crowd towards the exit.  Most people were still standing around trying to figure out what they'd just witnessed.  Many of them looked like they'd just been clubbed in the head with a railroad tie.

Thank you Weezer, for showing these kids what a real outdoor rock show should be like.  They took a crowd of 20,000 people and made it feel as if we were seeing them in a small club.

As we left the concert ground before our sights and senses were assailed by the f$#%^&* Peas, security stopped us and said:

"Wait, you can't leave!"

"Why not?" I returned.

"Because if you leave you can't get back in!"

"Is that a promise?" my better half asked.

They stared at us as if we were nuts.  Why would someone pay a hundred bucks and not even bother to stay for the headliner?

Well, as far as I was concerned, we'd just seen the headliner. 

Weezer - Video Capture Device: Treasures from the Vault 1991-2002Future BreedsOld Crows / Young Cardinals (Dig)Billy Talent: 666 Live

Stone Temple PilotsBlondie LiveBuilding Nothing Out Of SomethingPast And Presence: Live In Concert

Live (Dlx)Alive!New Inheritors (W/Book)Over The Years And Through The Woods: Live (CD/DVD)

Live At BudokanClassics Live! CompleteCheap Trick At BudokanThe Essentials

Under Great White Northern LightsTop of the World Tour

FAIL: Thank God I've never witnessed anything close to these debacles: