Archive for January, 2009

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What Happened To Billy Idol?

January 30, 2009

So my kid has his hair bleached blonde and spiky this week. He looks very cool, sort of like a miniature Billy Duffy … or Billy Idol. Remember those guys, with their sharp-edged 80s chainsaw pompadours?

My boy is sitting here beside me right now, discovering Billy Idol on my iPod. Meanwhile, I am Google-imaging photos of the two Billies, to show him the origins of his hair. And this is what I found:

What the — ? This is the same guy who came back from a life-threatening motorcycle accident, still sneering. This is the guy I once watched disappear into the nether regions of a 200-foot inflatable woman on the Charmed Life tour, then listened to as he slagged off every other rock star in the world over bacon and eggs in a greasy spoon at 4 in the morning.

It’s a sad day when Rick Astley is cooler than Billy Idol. A sad day indeed. At this rate, I can predict we’ll be seeing Glenn Danzig in a Burger King commercial or something.

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10 Things You Should Never Say On The First Internet Date

January 29, 2009

If you’ve taken the plunge and signed up for online dating, the odds are good that you’ll have to meet one of your “matches” at some point. You know, go for coffee or something, just to size each other up and see if that physical heartspark is there. A lot of people mesh well online and via email, but the chemistry turns out to be all wrong.

I have some thoughts on this for all you guys out there who are about to head down to Starbucks to meet PrettyMiss84519 for a triple latte. I’m hopeless at this kind of thing, though, so rather than tell you what you should say, I will advise you on what you shouldn’t.

  1. “I’m wearing my costume under my clothes just in case Doc Ock throws a car through the window.”
  2. “Weren’t you in my mom’s class in high school?”
  3. “A lot of the stuff I told you in my email was really just for dramatic effect.”
  4. “Are you okay? You look like you just puked or something.”
  5. “I was digging around in the couch to find enough change for this coffee, and I found a Star Trek action figure I lost a year ago.”
  6. “Wow, you have the same colour eyes as my dog.”
  7. “Remind me I have to pick up condoms after this, okay?”
  8. “I hope you’re not one of those people who’s hung up on stupid stuff, like brushing your teeth every day.”
  9. “The last time I tried this the girl expected me to pay.”
  10. “You remind me a lot of my ex-wife, only not as thin.”

Please don’t ask me how I know about this stuff. Good luck!

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Censored Bill Hicks Performance To Finally Air

January 29, 2009

You may not have heard of Bill Hicks, and that’s understandable. The standup comedian never reached the levels of fame his talent deserved, and he died young. But his legend has grown in the years since his death in 1993, which came a few months after he appeared on David Letterman and delivered a routine so scandalous it was censored and never shown.

The routine included references to shooting Billy Ray Cyrus with a shotgun, jokes about Jesus not liking people wearing crosses (“Nice sentiment, but do you think that when Jesus comes back, he’s really going to want to look at a cross? Ow. Maybe that’s why he hasn’t shown up yet …”) and digs at pro-life protesters. It’s pretty tame by today’s standards, but at the time, the network didn’t want it aired, even late at night. So Hicks never got his big break.

That’s about to change. Hicks’s mother is going to be on Letterman Friday night, and the show will finally air that censored routine. It’s another sign that the comedian’s posthumous star is on the rise; a biopic is in the works, and more fans are discovering his work. I recommend his Arizona Bay CD, which is one of my favourites.

Hicks was never a “polite” comedian, and that’s part of his appeal. He was a very, very angry person, and his comedy is dark. It’s probably not for all tastes. But we live in a world where Dane Cook sells millions of comedy albums without any actual ability, so it’s nice to know there’s a smarter alternative out there.

(Of course, if you’ve ever heard a Denis Leary standup routine, you’ve heard a dumbed-down version of Bill Hicks. Leary blatantly lifted a lot of Hicks’s stuff, particularly his bit on smoking and jogging guru Jim Fix.)

I’ll be watching Friday night. I hope you do, too.

(Note: That isn’t the Letterman performance in that video clip, by the way.)

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Britney’s Bum

January 28, 2009

Britney Spears posted some photos on her website yesterday, showing off her newly re-toned figure as she rehearses with a dance troupe. She’s looking pretty good, I’d have to say.

But my favourite photo is this one:

Hmmmm …. see the guy on the left? I wonder what’s going through his head. Given the low-rise nature of Brit’s little tights, the angle and the look on the guy’s face, I would suggest “Wow, Britney may have beaten her pill habit, but she totally has a crack problem.”

Britney’s just the latest victim of low-rise trousers. It’s a widespread phenomenon, and I tend to feel bad when I see exposed crackery or, worse, that thing with the exposed thong underwear. It just isn’t sexy, especially when it’s a hairy guy ahead of you in line at the grocery. I didn’t make that up, sadly.

I’m also somewhat bothered by these athletic pants with slogans written across the ass. This presents a quandary: Are you supposed to stop and read it? I saw a woman at the YMCA the other day who had “You Wish” on her butt, and I read it before I could avert my eyes, and then I felt awful on so many levels.

There’s this photo of Britney knockoff Jessica Simpson floating around right now, and a lot of people are making fun of it because of the old-school 80s jeans she’s wearing. I say, right on, Jessica. Keep that business under denim where it belongs, and keep smiling.

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Music Review: The Urbane Decay

January 26, 2009

Once in a while, someone enters your orbit who makes you wish you’d worked harder at making music, writing, painting and taking photos. And when I say “you,” I mean “me.”

This is because of this guy Jakob, whose new album, One True Soul, has just come out. It would be bearable if all he did was make great music at a prodigious rate, like a Canadian version of Prince (but with glasses). It might even be bearable if he also excelled at one other thing, like writing, or photography. But no, the Toronto-based Jakob really is Canada’s King of All Media. If you don’t know who I’m talking about, you should.

Enough of my petty jealousy issues …

I was really surprised by One True Soul. I was expecting some kind of buzzy lo-fi shoegazathon. But Jakob, who appeared with me on the Big Bad Hair show a couple of weeks back, has crafted a remarkable recording that manages to pump out some serious energy without ever being big, loud or fast. And I like that. I like music that makes you stop what you’re doing so you can just soak it up, take in its subtle energy.

There are some elements of 80s gloom-pop roaming around these songs. I hear Smiths, I hear Cure. But it isn’t blatant, and those elements weave their way in and out of the songs gently and effectively. There is some trace of “shoegazing” here — it’s a word I actually don’t like, now that I’ve used it again — but if you’re expecting a depressorama, this isn’t it. The songs — Chinese Astrology, I Just Don’t Feel It and Done With Crazy are among my favourites — are short, smart and solid.

Jakob’s Urbane Decay made this record at the same time he was producing brilliant books, gorgeous art, frosty photos, two funky podcasts and maybe even a day job. The man is a media machine … he can come up with brilliant concepts in the course of a three-station subway ride, and I admire that to no end. That kind of balancing act can lead to mediocre output if an artist is stretched too thin, but that’s not an issue here. I have come to the conclusion that he just does not sleep.

There are thousands of CDs in my home. This one, this week, is at the top of the heap, and has been playing steadily.

Jakob’s world can be found here.

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Starbase 66: The Latest Epic

January 26, 2009

The galaxy’s newest Star Trek and science fiction podcast is back. This week Rick, Karen and I look at the life and legacy of Ricardo Montalban and one of Star Trek’s most memorable characters, Khan Noonien Singh. And also Mr. Roarke.

A new segment, Pando Ro’s Boxes, offers a look at Karen’s very cool collection of memorabilia, and we go through listener mail.

At the Admiral’s Table, there’s an exclusive interview with leading podcaster and Star Trek fan Richard Smith. There is also mention of Buck Rogers and I probably made some bad jokes.

In other news, there are a few place to find us online.

We’re loving all the feedback — keep it coming, and we’ll read it on the air.

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Why Your Phone Rang During Dinner

January 26, 2009

I got two phone calls today, one on my mobile, one on my landline. And both were recordings that sounded like this: “This is your final warning. Your automotive warranty is close to expiry. Do not risk driving without a warranty. Press 1 for …” I pressed “hang up” instead.

This is the latest phone scam making the rounds here in Canada. It’s wonderfully stupid, but still, a lot of people fall for it. After all, who doesn’t worry about the warranty on their car?

A few months back, Canada introduced a national Do Not Call registry. It’s fairly simple. If you don’t want these dinner-time calls from telemarketers, you register your name and number on the list. If a telemarketer calls you, they can be subjected to a $15,000 fine.

Sounds great, right? But it isn’t. It has gone terribly wrong, and here’s how it happened.

  • The government introduced the Do Not Call registry
  • People were urged to sign up, via phone or Internet.
  • Phone numbers are listed on a DNC master registry.
  • Telemarketing firms are required, by law, to purchase this list and refer to it before making any calls.
  • Telemarketers calling a number on the list are subject to a fine.

While all that looks good on paper, and is actually how the program was sold to voters, it instead has turned into an aural mess. Here’s what happened at the telemarketers’ end:

  • Telemarketing firms paid their money and received their lists of numbers they can’t call.
  • Telemarketing firms realized they have just bought millions of active phone numbers.
  • Telemarketing firms realized they tend to be based offshore and overseas, so it will be tough for the Canadian government to ever get around to issuing fines or even knowing who they are.
  • Telemarketing firms hired new employees and began bombarding Canadian homes with calls … because they have your number now, and they don’t care if you complain.

Here’s an actual newspaper article about it.