Archive for February, 2009


Capt. Kirk Disassembled

February 28, 2009

So, we went to the public library’s warehouse book clearout this afternoon. Not a bad haul, either. Everything was a quarter, so we picked up 39 books … and one Star Trek jigsaw puzzle.

The books are a pretty diverse lot; my 10-year-old son grabbed a pile of books on space, war, early man and other things involving weaponry. My 7-year-old daughter managed to find every book on ponies and puppies, and my 5-year-old stuck to his plan going in: A Batman book. Which he found. Unfortunately, it’s the picture-book story of Batman Returns, which features Danny DeVito’s Penguin in his long underwear. This sparked a lot of 5-year-old potty talk around the coffee table afterward.

The puzzle was for me. Check it out. I remember this; I think I might have had it back when it came out, late 70s or so. Not that I was a big puzzle kid, despite many attempts to stimulate my mental growth via strategic educational gift-giving. I wanted the Micronauts, I got the Micronauts jigsaw puzzle.

Now, though, I think this might be fun for me and the kids to tinker with. It’s only 200 pieces, or so it says … on the side of the box, it says “Over 200 pieces,” which doesn’t inspire my confidence. And the odds are against all the pieces actually being there.

My one question, though, is this: what is this image showing? My daughter asked why there were cupcakes on Star Trek. Look, and you’ll see the cupcake, along with the weird neon cauliflower tree. And what happened to their insignia? And why is Captain Kirk so … dainty? Actually, he looks less like William Shatner and more like a young George W. Bush, which is kind of creepy.

I’ll let you know how this turns out. Meanwhile, here’s another pile of used books; if you live in the UK, you might want to check this out.


I Have No Use For U2

February 27, 2009

Twenty-five years after I first heard their whining, derivative, over-jangled stupid music, I continue to think of U2 as the ultimate over-hyped modern rock band. I mean, when Larry Mullen Jr. was named Best Drummer by Rolling Stone readers in 1987, I had to cry “crap” as loudly as I could.

Good to see I’m not alone. Twitter is abuzz tonight with I Hate U2 comments, and I’m seeing more and more of it out there.

So here’s what I propose: a special edition of the Big Bad Hair podcast, with various points of view woven in. Whether you want to defend U2’s musical legacy or join me in laughing at Bono’s stupid sunglasses, I want to hear from you. Send me an audio clip if you’re able, or just an email; I’ll read them on the show. And if anyone wants to co-host the episode, I’m always happy to have a friend on board.

You can email the show at, or contact me via this site.


Twenty Things I Have Been Paid To Do

February 26, 2009
Someday, all this will be yours.

Someday, all this will be yours.

Two months into unemployment, and it’s becoming clear to me that the job market has changed since the last time I looked for work. Back then, I had my pick of places to work. Now, not so much. But this has helped me remember some of the things I have done for money in the past. I’ve updated it a day later, because I remembered some other stuff I’ve done.

  1. Cook. I have worked at McDonalds, Burger King, two pizza places and Red Lobster. It wasn’t for me. I was fired from the golden arches, and had to be removed from Red Lobster by ambulance because, hey, I’m allergic to shellfish, who knew? BK was a lot of fun, though, and I still maintain friends from those days. But there was a lot of polyester.
  2. Tend bar. I’ve never worked in an actual bar for more than a fill-in shift here and there, but I did weddings for a year and that was kind of fun. No cocktails, no mixing, no cash … just take tickets, open one of three kinds of beer, and pour shots into little plastic glasses. And when people got too drunk, there was always an embarassed relative there to help them home.
  3. Type. I worked a summer typing classified ads for a weekly newspaper, back in the linotype days. I liked it, but I wondered for a long time why there were so many cottages available on “Lake Frontage.”
  4. Write. I was paid $20 to review a Red Rider concert for the local daily, and that was the beginning of it all. This was the first time I was paid to do something I liked, and I kept doing it for decades afterward. I’m still doing it, just not being paid.
  5. Teach. I’ve picked up the odd buck as a temporary instructor, but it wasn’t for me. Well, the high school kids were the issue. Teaching college-level journalism, though, was fun and interesting, especially the mornings after cheap beer night.
  6. Sell. I have sold advertising space, men’s clothing, work boots, jeans, Rolex and Gucci watches, diamond engagement rings, china and $300 pens. You haven’t lived ’til you’ve spent a weekend at a seminar aimed at the different kinds of soles used in work boots.
  7. Wait tables. You’ve done it, too. It’s the most honest work on the planet. But I don’t want to do it again.
  8. Learn. I was paid to go through gemology school. You can’t argue with that. Now I know about gold and jewels and other shiny stuff.
  9. Telemarketing. This coupon-book business operated out of a hotel room, and the guy skipped without paying us. I should have known something was up when I noticed he had a clip-on ponytail.
  10. Critique. Music was my primary focus, but I’ve been paid to sound like I know something about TV, movies and theatre, too.
  11. Draw. I did illustrations for a magazine, pen and ink stuff, very simple drawings, but fun.
  12. Make music. I don’t know why anyone thought I qualified as a musician, but I have actually, on stupid occasions, been paid to create sounds that could be called music. Actually, it was called other things.
  13. Manage. I’ve been a manager and supervisor in retail stores and newspapers, and it’s really rewarding. I enjoy leading, and learning from, people with different experiences than my own. Also, I got to wear a tie.
  14. Record Librarian. This was a weird job that involved sitting in a room filled with LP records, doling them out to radio producers who wanted “that album with the guy who sang that song, you know the one, it has that part in it …” Meanwhile, I was making mixed tapes. It was the 80s. It’s what we did.
  15. Design. I have created advertisements, newspaper pages, posters, church newsletters, business cards and more. Not saying it was all that good. But it bought at least three Arby’s combos.
  16. Talk. I’ve mentioned my brief, failed exploration of radio broadcasting before. Things have gotten better since I dumped the scripts and had sinus surgery.
  17. Babysit. Probably my first job, looking back. This involved sitting on people’s sofas and watching television while children I never actually saw slept upstairs. I probably made five bucks a night, which was a lot of comics three decades ago.
  18. Make comics. This is probably the most fun I ever had. I wrote and storyboarded a series called Unknown Forces, which was published nationally and read by about six people in the early 1990s. Another artist did the pencils, and I tweaked the end result. It was about a secret network of telepaths, and, ultimately, not very good.
  19. Drive limousine. Don’t ask about this one. I try to forget it, especially after the incident with the newlyweds, the broken sunroof and the rainstorm.
  20. Edit. I’ve edited books, short stories, newspaper stories, audio files … ultimately, editing is cool because you get to have the final say on something. Like right now.

Star Trek: Titanic

February 26, 2009

There are no words to describe this.

This guy’s YouTube channel is TitanicWHV. I landed there while looking for clips from Raise the Titanic, because that earlier Cussler post got me thinking about that megasuck movie, and this is what I found. Now I don’t know what to do with myself.


The Devil & Miss Mindy

February 25, 2009

Two of my American podcasting amigos have launched a fun new show: The Devil and Miss Mindy. You’ve heard their voices before. Both have guested on Starbase 66, and Mark, aka El Diablito, turned up on a Big Bad Hair a while ago. They’re fun people, really interesting and knowledgeable, and one of them has horns.

Movie podcasts are, of course, pretty common. But this one is different, largely because of the excellent dynamic between Mark and Mindy. They’re four shows in now, and have explored Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Orphanage and Tombstone, along with a Valentine’s Day special. How’s that for a diverse range?

Click the link here to listen and subscribe.


The Problem With TV in Canada

February 25, 2009

Tonight’s episode of Lost looks like a doozy. Entitled The Life and Times of Jeremy Bentham, it promises to be a look at recent events in the life of the mysterious John Locke. I hope some questions are answered, but hey, so far this season, answers are flying faster than Frank Lapidus in a stalling helicopter.

Something else is encouraging: Apparently, five minutes have been added to this week’s episode. That’s unusual, but welcome. Five extra minutes of Lost? No problem.

My one big concern, though, is this: I might not get to see them. See, when US shows air in Canada, we don’t see the same thing Americans do. Canadian networks — there are three major ones, CBC, CTV and Global — buy the rights to American shows and air them, usually at the same time. But Canadian telecommunications law requires that those version be superimposed over any US network feed. So, if Lost airs on ABC in the US but on CTV here, and I’m watching ABC, when Lost comes on, the CTV feed is popped onto the ABC slot.

What invariably happens is someone messes it up. Every Canadian knows how frustrating it is to tune in to, say, the new ER only to see the first seven minutes of some Canadian program on the wrong feed. Eventually, someone at the cable company figures out the mistake. But it happens again.

So I suspect that tonight at 10 p.m., when Lost is nearing its conclusion, everything will go south and I’ll get the first five minutes of something stupid, some Canadian show like Little Mosque on the Prairie. Yeah, we have a show called Little Mosque on the Prairie.

See, there’s another thing about homegrown TV. We actually have laws dictating how much Canadian content, or CanCon, has to be broadcast, both on the radio and on television. Hearings are underway right now to explore how to apply those regulations to the Internet, too, which is kind of scary.

And on top of that, public funds are channeled to producers in order to create Canadian television programming, which tends toward a level of suckness you can’t quite imagine if you don’t live here. For whatever reason, whenever someone makes a Canadian TV show, they seem to think “Well, it’s Canadian, so let’s have lots of mountains and lakes and outdoorsy stuff.” In the rare occasions when producers try something new, the shows tend to fail quickly.

Some good Canadian TV shows:

  • The Beachcombers: Cheesier than you can imagine, but fun family fare, an outdoor adventure series with a great cast and a great soundtrack. Every Canadian can whistle it.
  • The Littlest Hobo: Various incarnations of this series about a roaming genius dog still air on Canadian TV.
  • Night Heat: This was a gritty cop show in the 1980s, ahead of its time and very well-crafted.
  • Kenny vs. Spenny: This is not for the faint of art. But it’s deadly funny, and still airing.
  • ENG: Another 80s creation, this was a mature show about TV news.
  • Corner Gas: The current kingpin of Canadian television, this is the smartest sitcom on television today, in any country.
  • Trailer Park Boys: Not for everyone, but it has its own kind of brilliance.
  • The Kids in the Hall: If you have never experienced this classic sketch comedy show, seek it out. You’ll never be able to watch SNL again.
  • The King of Kensington: This was really right-on in its first season, but slipped quickly. It still airs here and I watch it when I can.
  • The Newsroom: This satire of television news looks like a take on The Office, but it aired ten years earlier.

I could go on and on, really, because there’ve been a lot of Canadian TV shows. But those are the ones that spring to mind as things I’d watch again. As for crap, well … Danger Bay. Neon Rider. Material World. Rene Simard … That’s all I’m going to say. I don’t have the hard drive space or bandwidth to list all the bad Canadian shows.


Clive Cussler Gets One More Chance

February 25, 2009

I like Clive Cussler. Part of me wants to be Clive Cussler, or at least his son. This is a guy who turned his back on a successful career in advertising to follow his passions and became one of the world’s most successful novelists — and that success allowed him to hunt for shipwrecks and have all kinds of spectacular adventures.

And the books that made him famous — what fun. I devoured Cussler’s Dirk Pitt novels all through my teens and into my 20s. Action, adventure, ancient mysteries, conspiracies, comic-book villains, humour … it was like a more far-fetched version of James Bond, only with archaeology. Dirk Pitt works for NUMA, the National Underwater and Marine Agency, sort of like a wetter version of NASA. I ate it up.

But by the time my 30s rolled around, and Dirk Pitt found Atlantis, I finally realized something: Clive Cussler is a pretty terrible writer.

Not that it really matters. Nobody reads these books because they’re great literature; we want to read about a smirking hero blowing things up and getting the girl. And I guess I always knew Cussler was no Steinbeck. For one thing, he has a tendency to lean on expository dialogue, like (and I’m just inventing a Cusslerish passage here): “Would you like a drink? Perhaps a glass of red wine, like the one you had the day I met you in the genetics research lab at Stanford, where you joined my team to help develop new mind-control techniques for a secret branch of the U.S. Navy.” Yes, you can groan, and yes, there are lines like that in these books.

And Cussler has this tendency to forget his own continuity, which I find a tad annoying. For example, in one book, Night Probe (one of my favourite, actually), he has Canada join the United States as one super-nation. This, though, is ignored in every subsequent book.

I’d say the series jumped the shark when Dirk Pitt’s grown twin children, Dirk Pitt Jr. (seriously) and Summer Pitt, suddenly popped up. I admire Cussler’s admission that his main character was getting too old to be an action hero (Pitt’s service in Vietnam dates him), but the explanation for where these children came from defied logic. I won’t spoil it here … wait, I will. They were the children Pitt fathered with a woman he didn’t have time to sleep with, because they were on an underwater island and her crazy father was trying to kill him, and she died instead. Seriously.

Anyway. I haven’t read the last half-dozen Dirk Pitt novels. I tried one, and it was loaded with over-the-top bad stereotypes about the Chinese. Cussler — actually, the books are now written by his son, Dirk Cussler, seriously, who gets his name in smaller print on the covers — wrote the dialogue in a weird version of pidgin Chinese-English. Stupid.

I should note that Cussler has two spinoff series, written by other authors: The NUMA Files, by Paul Kemprecos, which are actually pretty good, if not very bright, and The Oregon Files, by Jack DuBrul (and originally by Craig Dirgo), which are also pretty good. And Cussler wrote a non-Pitt novel last year, The Chase, which I found to be a fun romp. He has written children’s books and co-authored two fascinating books about searching for shipwrecks.

But back to the Pitt books. I was at the library today, and found the latest one: Arctic Drift. And I signed it out. I’m going to read it, only because it has to do with the Franklin Expedition, one of my favourite subjects. Of course, in true Cussler style, John Franklin had some rare mineral aboard the Erebus, and the search is on for the shipwreck … this was also the plot of Cussler’s breakthrough novel, Raise the Titanic, in which Dirk Pitt raises the Titanic and sails it into New York harbour. I am not making this up.

I’ll let you know if this book gets finished. If it doesn’t, I’ll probably watch the Dirk Pitt movie, Sahara, again. Yes, I’m the guy who really liked Sahara.

The Books

NUMA Files

The Oregon Files