Friday, April 30, 2010

15 classic rockers who sold their souls for Coca-Cola

1. The Bee Gees

2. Gladys Knight and the Pips

3. Ray Charles

4. The Who

5. Aretha Franklin

6. Roy Orbison

7. Diana Ross

8. The Shirelles

9. The Troggs

10. The Box Tops

11. The Everly Brothers

12. Lesley Gore

13. Jan and Dean

14. The Moody Blues

15. Vanilla Fudge

How to get ready for a trip: Norman Petty's advice to Buddy Holly

Don't forget to pack yer reckits!

Trippy. Or is that trippish?

I recently picked up the Complete Buddy Holly Story, a vinyl album box set from 1973. Now all I need is a turntable. Wah, wah, wah.

The great thing is that it still has the liner booklet that features producer Norman Petty's advice to Buddy Holly and the Crickets as they embark upon their first tour of the U.S. (circa 1957).

Really, it's all great advice to anyone about to embark upon a trip, even today. Well, except maybe for that part about reading your Bible...ha!

The advice:

1. Be at the air terminal by at least 6:30 a.m. to check your baggage.

2. Take enough cash to pay for excess weight and meals between flights ($30 to $40).

3. Take all available identification for the group.

4. Sign only engagement contracts, and nothing more.

5. Take extra guitars, strings, drum sticks, etc.

6. Take out insurance for the group. Put everyone's name on it. Make it payable to your parents.

7. Pack records with your clothes.

8. Take all available clean underwear.

9. When you arrive, take a cab directly to the hotel.

10. Get two dozen Dramamine tablets. Take one before the flight takes off.

11. Take at least 25 feet of extension cord.

12. Bring a shoe-shine kit.

13. Bring toiletry articles "of your choice."

14. Get a telephone credit card and carry it around with you.

15. Take a Bible with you. And READ it.

16. Get hotel credit cards, or at least apply for them.

17. Keep all of your receipts.

18. Send money back for deposit into your bank account.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Anger is an energy: 11 great hate songs

John Lydon (nee Rotten) is right: anger is an energy.

So, while it may be true that revenge is a dish best served cold, it may also be a dish best served with music and lyrics, so people can sing along with you and your agony, and you can feel better when you realize that everybody needs somebody (to hate) sometimes.

Hey, it beats kicking a hole in the wall, lying in your bed, and listening to the sound of your tears hitting the pillow, right? Right!

If you're lucky, your song might strike a chord, and people might even wonder, "Why, who is that angry song about?"

That's your cue to make a career of refusing to reveal the mystery, hanging it over the head of the person who it's about forever and ever - just like Carly Simon! And the dirty scumbags - they're so vain, they'll probably just think that your song is about them.

That said, here are 11 great hate songs to inspire you the next time someone lame does you wrong or looks at you funny (a special shout out to Elvis Costello's "How to be Dumb," which is miraculously not online, and K. McCarty's kick-ass version of Daniel Johnston's "Hate Song," below):

1. Martha Wainwright - You Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole

Key line: "I'm cracking up, and you have no idea."

2. Lucinda Williams - Changed the Locks

Key line: "I changed the name of this town, so you can't track me down."

3. Bob Dylan - Positively 4th Street

Key line: "You gotta lotta nerve to say you are my friend."

4. Queen - Death on Two Legs

Key line: "Kill joy. Bad guy. Big talking. Small fry."

5. Carly Simon - You're So Vain

Key line: "You probably think this song is about you."

6. English Beat - Best Friend

Key line: "Talk about yourself again - always you you you!"

7. Billy Bragg - Accident Waiting to Happen

Key line: "Your life has lost its dignity, its beauty, and its passion."

8. Mudhoney - Into Your Shtik

Key line: "Why don't you blow your brains out too?"

9. Eels - Fucker

Key line: "I hate you."

10. Ben Folds - Song for the Dumped

Key line: "Give me my money back, you bitch!"

11. Daniel Johnston - Hate Song

Key line: "No one will be there to find you dead."

Ahhhh - I feel better already!

Chicago, Hudson Bay...what are they?

Chicago...whatever that was. Courtesy of Newsweek.

Hudson Bay? That's where we buy our Olympic mitts, right?

Newsweek has a pretty great photo feature online and in print called, 100 places to remember before they disappear.

Among the magazine's places that "could disappear or be radically changed if climatologists are right in their predictions of global warming:"
  • Chicago
  • Charlevoix Region, Quebec
  • Western Hudson Bay
  • Nunavut
  • Pauline Cove, Herschel Island, Canada
  • Siberia
  • Panama Canal
  • Paris, France
  • Amman, Jordan
  • Antarctic Peninsula
  • Great Barrier Reef
  • Perth, Australia
  • Venice
  • Copenhagen
  • Rotterdam
  • Bangkok
  • Borneo
  • Beijing
  • Thames, London, UK
  • The Battery, New York City

No Battery? What will horny sailors sing about?

On the plus side, we're safe as kittens here in Winnipeg. Nips on the 'House!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You'll Flip over this handheld HD camcorder

The Flip Video UltraHD camera. Cue Journey's "Open Arms."

The next time I see media-production majors carrying giant cameras, tripods, craft services tables, human torsos, bazookas, and whatever else is in their monster-sized duffel bags, I will record it for posterity on my new Flip video UltraHD camera.

The Flip is a low-cost ($220), handheld HD camcorder that lets you shoot and save glorious HD video and instantly watch it on your HD TV (there's an HDMI output jack), YouTube (it uploads to the site automatically), or the device itself (eight gigs!).

The Flip comes by its name honestly; it's got a USB connector that literally flips out of the side of the camera, and which you can connect into a USB port in your laptop.

An inappropriate display of public affection?

Software onboard

When you plug in the camera, your computer automatically launches FlipShare software. You don't have to install the software or download it: it's right onboard the camera and ready to do your bidding. Nifty.

The software lets you upload your video directly to YouTube and MySpace, save it to your computer, email it as a greeting card, burn DVDs, take snapshots out of the footage, or edit together a movie by dragging and dropping your clips, slapping music into the background and adjusting the volume.

FlipShare powers activate!


The camera controls are pretty simple and intuitive - perfect for a sensitive, dumb guy like me: you push the big, red button to record and stop recording, the plus button to zoom in, the minus button to zoom out, the play button to play, and the garbage-can button to delete.

The two buttons on the side of the big, red button help you skip between videos when you're playing them back.

Homer is ready for his closeup.

When you're shooting, the two-inch LCD screen gives a pretty great indication of what you're looking at, and it seems to work well in sunshine and shade.

It does, however, really look like a camera, which means my days of shooting boneheads talking loudly on their cell phones on the bus may soon be over. Or maybe just my days of shooting boneheads talking loudly on their cell phones on the bus without getting a punch in the nose may soon be over.


The camera can hold up to two hours of HD video, and the onscreen display tells you how much time you have left.

What you don't have anywhere, however, is a battery life indicator. So, when your camera is plugged in, it's charging. When is it full? Who knows! The manual says, "about six hours," but also says that constantly charging it could hurt its life. Boo.

The camera comes with rechargeable batteries, but it apparently also takes regular AA batteries.


I shot the video, below, earlier today, and you can see how colorful and sharp the picture looks, though moving objects - objects that move faster than the camera's "720p video at 30 frames a second?" - look a little jittery.

The sound quality is really good - the camera picks up pretty much everything that's going on around you, including behind the camera, and it does a good job of highlighting the voices closest to the camera over background noise.

In-camera playback is equally great. When you press the play button, the camera plays the last clip you shot: the sound and video are crystal clear, you can pause it wherever you like, or skip to the previous videos using the navigation buttons.

I'll be giving this thing the true test next week in Chicago, but having used it for but one day, I can honestly say this: it beats the hell out of carrying around a duffel bag full of bazookas for a living.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Happy end of exams - thanks for the memories. And comments. And artwork.

School's out for Alice.

One of the greatest things about marking tests - sorry, the only good thing about marking tests - is that you get all kinds of great notes back from students about how they're enjoying the test, or not.

I started saving these notes (and sketches and artwork) years ago, so I can eventually publish them in a coffee table book for my IPP. Just kidding: I'd rather just post my favorites from this year here, students permitting.

I've protected names to shield the wild, the innocent and the E-Street Shuffle (except in one case, but I know she'd want it this way. Right Shelley C? Right!). The intent is to celebrate the end of exams, not to embarrass anyone. Besides, no one has anything to be embarrassed about: you guys did a great job!

I posted a couple of these on Twitter the other day, and I was happy to see that students were quick to take credit for - and have pride in - their work, which is how it should be. Keep on keeping on!


1. I can't wait for summer!

2. This is a call.

3. The battle of wits.

4. The glass is half full!

5. The glass is half empty!

6. The best example ever.

7. The semi-realist.

8. The art critic.

9. The hungry.

10. Shelley C's nickname for me is Scarecrow?!

Have a great summer, everyone.

Scarecrow out!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lost: My 100 desert island albums

Forget John Locke.

If I'm ever stranded on a desert island, these are the 100 albums I want to have with me.

There are indisputable classics (the Velvet Underground and Nico!), guilty pleasures (Men Without Hats!), overrated (U2!), and underrated (the Clean!) alike.

There's "happy" (Shout Out Louds! Rentals!) and "sad" (Secret Machines! Pink Floyd!) and both (Ben Folds!), because you never know what might wash up on the real and figurative shore when you're on an island.

Some artists are represented twice. Sorry, but I need Billy Bragg's Taxman and Worker's Playtime, in case I want to start a commune and my girl breaks up with me, respectively; I need Midnight Oil's 10, 9, 8... for subtlety and Diesel and Dust for bombast.

I also need some greatest hits, which isn't a cop-out, but necessities for artists like the Lightning Seeds, Squeeze, and Kirsty MacColl. No one of their albums will do the trick - they're singles artists, and the sum of their singles is worth far more than the parts.

It is a cop-out, however, that I've included a number of "two albums on one CD," read: Big Star, They Might Be Giants, and Ramones.

This list also proves that I like the Who better than the Beatles and the Stones and that I like the music of the 70s, 80s, and 90s more than the 50s and 60s. Well, of course, I am a child of the 80s, so what are ya gonna do?

There are weird gaps - there really should be a comedy album here (Bill Hicks, probably), though I do include the Rutles, whose Beatles' parodies come close to expanding upon and even eclipsing some of the Beatles' songs of which they're supposedly satirizing. Heresy alert: I'd take the Rutles' "Another Day" over the Beatles' "Martha My Dear" any day.

And don't even think about mocking me for including Schoolhouse Rock.

The 100 Desert Island Albums:

1. ABC – The Lexicon of Love (1982)

2. The Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band (1967)

3. The Beatles – Abbey Road (1969)

4. The Beatles – Revolver (1966)

5. Big Star – #1 Record/Radio City (1972, 1974)

6. Frank Black – Teenager of the Year (1994)

7. The Boomtown Rats – The Fine Art of Surfacing (1979)

8. David Bowie – Hunky Dory (1971)

9. Billy Bragg – Talking with the Taxman About Poetry (1986)

10. Billy Bragg – Worker’s Playtime (1988)

11. Kate Bush – The Sensual World (1989)

12. The Buzzcocks – Singles Going Steady (1979)

13. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Murder Ballads (1996)

14. The Church – Heyday (1985)

15. The Clash – London Calling – 2-CD Anniversary Edition (1979; 2004)

16. The Clean – Anthology (2 CDs) (2003)

17. Leonard Cohen – The Future (1992)

18. Elvis Costello – Imperial Bedroom (2-Disk edition) (1982, 2002)

19. Elvis Costello – King of America (1986)

20. The Cure – Disintegration (1989)

21. Neil Diamond – Classics, the Early Years (1983)

22. The Divine Comedy – Casanova (1996)

23. Thomas Dolby – The Golden Age of Wireless (1981)

24. Thomas Dolby – The Flat Earth (1984)

25. Bob Dylan – Highway 61 Revisited (1965)

26. The Flatlanders – More a Legend Than a Band (1990)

27. Ben Folds – Rockin’ the Suburbs (2001)

28. The Futureheads (2004)

29. Generation X (1978)

30. The Hidden Cameras – Mississauga Goddam (2004)

31. Husker Du – New Day Rising (1985)

32. The Jesus and Mary Chain – Psychocandy (1985)

33. David Johansen – In Style (1979)

34. Daniel Johnston – Yip/Jump Music (1983)

35. The Kinks – Are the Village Green Preservation Society (1968)

36. Kraftwerk – Autobahn (1974)

37. Lightning Seeds – Like You Do (Best Of) (1997)

38. Kirsty MacColl – Galore (1995)

39. Magnetic Fields – 69 Love Songs (3 CDs) (1999)

40. Paul McCartney – Band on the Run (1973)

41. K. McCarty – Dead Dog’s Eyeball (1994)

42. Men Without Hats – Rhythm of Youth/Folk of the 80s Part III (1997)

43. Mercury Rev – Deserter’s Songs (1998)

44. Midnight Oil – 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 (1983)

45. Midnight Oil – Diesel and Dust (1988)

46. The Modern Lovers (1976)

47. Morphine – Cure for Pain (1993)

48. New York Dolls (1973)

49. Pet Shop Boys – Very (1993)

50. Liz Phair – Exile in Guyville (1993)

51. Pink Floyd – The Final Cut (1983, 2004)

52. Prince – Purple Rain (1984)

53. Proclaimers – Sunshine on Leith (1988)

54. Queen – A Night at the Opera (1975)

55. Radiohead – The Bends (1995)

56. Ramones – All the Stuff and More Vol. I (1990) (first two albums)

57. Ramones – All the Stuff and More Vol. II (1990) (albums three and four)

58. The Raveonettes – Chain Gang of Love (2003)

59. Lou Reed – Transformer (1972)

60. Rentals – Return of the Rentals (1995)

61. Replacements – Pleased to Meet Me (1987)

62. Roches (1979)

63. Rolling Stones – Let it Bleed (1969)

64. Rolling Stones – Exile on Main St. (1972)

65. The Rutles (1978)

66. Schoolhouse Rock (4 CDs) (1996)

67. Screaming Blue Messiahs – Bikini Red (1987)

68. Secret Machines – Ten Silver Drops (2006)

69. Shout Out Louds – Howl Howl Gaff Gaff (2005)

70. Sigur Ros – Agaetis byrjun (2000)

71. Frank Sinatra – Wee Small Hours (1955)

72. The Smiths – The Queen is Dead (1986)

73. The Smiths – Louder than Bombs (1987

74. Sparks – Angst in my Pants (1982)

75. Regina Spektor – Soviet Kitsch (2004)

76. Squeeze – Singles: 45’s and Under (1982)

77. The Streets – Original Pirate Material (2002)

78. The Strokes – Is This it (2001)

79. Sugar – Copper Blue (1992)

80. Tegan and Sara – The Con (2007)

81. 10,000 Maniacs – The Wishing Chair (1985)

82. They Might Be Giants – Then (first two albums) (1998)

83. Richard and Linda Thompson – I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight (1974)

84. Pete Townshend – All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes (1982)

85. The Undertones – The Very Best of the Undertones (1994)

86. U2 – Achtung Baby (1991)

87. Velvet Underground and Nico (1967)

88. The Who – Sell Out (1967)

89. The Who – Tommy (1969)

90. The Who – Meaty, Beaty, Big and Bouncy (1971)

91. The Who – Quadrophenia Vol. I and II (2 CDs) (1973)

92. Wire – Pink Flag (1978)

93. Andrew W.K. – I Get Wet (2001)

94. X – Los Angeles/Wild Gift (US Import) (1980, 1981)

95. X – More Fun in the New World (1983)

96. XTC – Skylarking (1986)

97. Yo La Tengo – Painful (1993)

98. Neil Young – Tonight’s the Night (1975)

99. Neil Young – Sleeps With Angels (1994)

100. Frank Zappa – We’re Only in it For the Money (1968)

Monday, April 19, 2010

What have I done to deserve this? Alterna-duets to depress and delight

I was going through my music collection recently and noticed the sheer number of albums I own that feature all manner of strange duets, depressing, ill-advised, and just plain curious.

Of course, it's all in the ear of the beholder: one man's "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart" is another man's "I Got You, Babe" is another man's "Paradise by the Dashboard Light" is another man's "You're the One That I Want."

I will admit to owning none of these songs. OK, I do own "Paradise," but only for Phil Rizzuto's play-by-play, which he famously did without understanding so much as one double entendre. Then again, sometimes a guy swinging a bat is just a guy swinging a bat.

No, I've noticed that the duets in my collection that are most on the line between "great" and "sucks" are of the alternative persuasion, probably because "the duet" is such a showbiz cliche, the hipsters either end up going over-the-top happy, ironic, or depressed in hopes of having a hit while maybe retaining some of that hard-earned indie cred.

1. I have to admit to liking (indeed, loving) most of these songs - but definitely not the horrendous Bono/Sinatra duet, which they famously recorded without ever setting foot in the same room.

2. I must curse the Internet for somehow missing out on Hefner's "Don't Flake Out On Me," the proper version of the Velvet Underground (Lou Reed and Moe Tucker)'s "I'm Sticking With You," and Moe Tucker and Daniel Johnston's awesomely off-key "Do it Right."

Great or awful? You decide!

1. Nick Cave and Shane MacGowan - What a Wonderful World

Key moment: 1:46 "(heroin addled) friends shaking hands!"

I think to myself: what a terrible world.

2. Jesus and Mary Chain and Hope Sandoval - Sometimes Always

Key moment: :49 while Hope sings of despair, our good brothers attempt to order drinks.

I always knew you'd take me back. Cheque please.

3. NOFX and Kim Shattuck - Lori Meyers

Key moment: 1:30 "You think I sell my body, I merely sell my time."

I wish I was a Lori, forget it.

4. R.E.M. and Kate Pierson - Shiny Happy People

Key moment: 2:44 a bizarrely happy Stipe: "Here we go!"

Everybody sucks. Sometimes.

5. Sparks and Jimmy Somerville - Number One Song in Heaven

Key moment: 2:11 the falsetto competition gets out of hand.

Maybe you're closer to here than you'd like to be.

6. Shane MacGowan and Sinead O'Connor - Haunted

Key moment: :50 Shane's voice shatters our illusion of integrity. Yeah.

All the girls ask, "What's he like," I say, "He's kind of drunk."

7. Iggy Pop and Debbie Harry - Well, Did You Evah?

Key moment: 1:28 the witty banter commences.

Uh, no, I haven't. Evah.

8. Bono and Frank Sinatra - I've Got You Under My Skin

Key moment: 1:47 the boys can't end on "skin" at the same time.

Sinatra literally phoning it in to Bono.

9. Loretta Lynn & Jack White - Portland, Oregon

Key moment: 1:39 when we realize that the country music veteran is the one who looks like the youngest raptor in Jurassic Park.

Maybe we'll keep driving to Seattle.

10. Pet Shop Boys and Dusty Springfield - What Have I Done to Deserve This?

Key moment: 1:37 hey, this song might actually be good!

Dusty, yes, but I like her too.

Chicago pre-trip #8: Da Chicago slanguage

Talk about the Windy City.

Like Winnipeg, the Chicago of the North, Chicago, the Winnipeg of the South, has a vocabulary all its own.

There are similarities. In Chicago, like Winnipeg, they drink "pop" and "brewskis," say "bogus," and have two seasons, one is often told: "winter and construction."

Have you yet wiped the tears of delight from your eyes? Good - here are some of the other terms you'll need to know when visiting the Windy City:
  • The Loop: the Chicago central business district, surrounded by the rapid-transit "L" train. Winnipeg equivalent: "Downtown."
  • The Magnificent Mile: Michigan Ave, the heart of the Chicago shopping district, one block from our hotel.
  • The Lake: That would be...Michigan! Winnipeg equivalent: any lake.
  • Chicagoland: The all-encompassing name for the Chicago Metropolitan area.
  • Downtown: anywhere south of Lincoln Park Zoo and north of Soldier Field.
  • Gold Coast: ritzy Chicago neighborhood and a great place to go for a walk.
  • Da: The. Da Bears. Da Bullz. Da Sox. Etc.
  • Jewels: The name of the Chicago grocery-store chain, Jewel-Osco. Winnipeg equivalent: "Safeways."
  • Field's: Macy's replaced the Marshall Field department store ages ago, but Chicagoans still sometimes call it "Field's." Winnipeg equivalent: calling MTS Centre "Eatons."
  • Brat/Sassage/Beef/Polish/Char-dog/Sammich: bratwurst, sausage, Italian beef sandwich, Polish sausage, grilled-wiener dog, and sandwich, respectively. Mix and match and place your order by saying, "Gimme a ____."
  • Goes: "So then, I goes, Margie, I goes." Winnipeg equivalent, "So then, I says, Margie, I says."
  • Over by dere: Roger Ebert suggests this one from his own list of Chicago slanguage. It means, "Over there."
  • Jaggoff: Ya cut me off, ya jaggoff!
  • Da Ryan/Kennedy/Stevenson/Ike/Edens: the expressways around the city.
  • Youse: "Hey youse guys, where youse goin'?"
  • Kankakee: Another Ebert entry. The state mental health facility. Winnipeg equivalent: "Are you from Selkirk or something?"
See youse dere, youse jaggoffs!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Chicago pre-trip #7: five great novels about Chicago

And you thought the songs about Chicago were depressing.

Well, they ain't got nothing on the novels about Chicago, which are generally even more grim and gritty, chronicling the greed, guts, and ever-elusive glory of growing up in Chicago's mean streets.

Whether it's "the pit" or "the jungle," methinks we'll be lucky to escape Chicago with our lives and bottles of Carson's signature BBQ sauce.

1. The Jungle by Upton Sinclair

A precursor to Fast Food Nation. If you've ever wanted to work in a Chicago slaughterhouse in the early 1900s, this book will change your mind. All good vegetarians start reading here:

2. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow

Depression-era Chicago sure was depressing. But this novel sure isn't - Time magazine included it in its list of "100 best novels" in 2007, and is number 81 on Modern Library's list of the best 20th-Century novels.

Read it and weep!

3. The Pit by Frank Norris

I'm just speculating, but speculating - as practiced by the Chicago Board of Trade - in the early 1900s was a mean, greedy business, as outlined in this great book about a rich guy who corners the market on wheat on the backs of the poor, who can't afford a loaf of bread.

This was supposed to be the second part of a wheat trilogy, but Norris died before he could write the third book. Please, sir, I want some more:

4. Native Son by Richard Wright

I first read this book in American Lit class at university and was blown away by its exploration of the racial divide in Chicago and America; to this day, it remains a cultural touchstone about living in the ghetto and facing the sad inevitability of what it means to be defined by others from the day you're born.

5.The Cliff-Dwellers by Henry Blake Fuller

What goes on in those skyscrapers, high above the mean streets of Chicago? Let's just say that grime begets grime.

The Cliff-Dwellers is one of the first books to chronicle what the industrialization of America means to its citizens, in terms of productivity, morality, and good, old-fashioned materialism.

Chicago pre-trip #6: Songs about Chicago

There are more songs about Chicago than there are, say, broken hearts for every light on Broadway.

Many of them are blues. Many of them are depressing. A surprising number involve getting a gun and killing someone - your friend, enemy, family member, etc.

Why, you can see a whole list of them on Wikipedia, right here. You can also put them on your iPod for, if not the soundtrack of your life, the soundtrack of the trip of your life.

My favorites:

1. Jim Croce - Bad, Bad Leroy Brown

Meaner than Oprah?

2. David Sanborn - Chicago Song

The windy city blows!

3. Elvis Presley - In the Ghetto

Couldn't you trade in that white suit to help the helpless the ghetto?

4. Frank Sinatra - My Kind of Town

Witty banter, anyone?

5. Sufjan Stevens - Chicago

I made a lot of mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes. Keep making them. Repeat mantra.

6. Common/Kanye West - Southside

It's like I have a twin.

7. Count Basie - Going to Chicago Blues

One depressing song about Chicago. Ha, ha, ha! Two depressing songs about Chicago. Ha, ha, ha, ha! Etc.

8. Rolling Stones - Hitch Hike

The last time Jagger hitchhiked was when he wrote this song.

9. Robert Johnson - Sweet Home Chicago

The guy sells his soul to the devil, and all he gets is a stupid T-shirt.

10. Paul Butterfield - Born in Chicago

"Son, you'd better get a gun." Good parenting, dad.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

RIP Malcolm McLaren - publicist, impressario, entertainer, anarchist

I was bummed out to hear that Malcolm McLaren died of cancer this week.

He was, of course, best known as the manager of pivotal punk band the Sex Pistols, which - in classic PR style - he formed in anticipation of Queen Elizabeth II's silver jubilee. He also invented punk and fetish fashion and was one of the first European entertainers to embrace American hip hop (and jump rope!).

McLaren makes a cameo in his own video at the two-minute mark:

"When they do the double dutch, that's them dancing!"

He's also possibly the only musician - well, other than maybe Pete Townshend and Roger Waters - to convincingly meld opera with pop:

"Rub your tummy, guv'nor?"

McLaren's essential PR advice

NME published some of McLaren's essential advice - PR and otherwise - this week, which includes these timeless chestnuts:
  • "Punk's authenticity stands out against the karaoke ersatz culture of today, where everything and everyone is for sale."
  • "Be childish. Be irresponsible. Be disrespectful. Be everything society hates."
  • "We're the con men...and that's what makes it exciting."
  • "Rock n' roll doesn't necessarily mean a band. It's that question of trying to be immortal."
  • "My intention was to fail in business, but to fail as brilliantly as possible."
  • Punk rock was popular because "it made ugliness beautiful."
  • "I was looking to turn art into action."
  • "I try to make ideas happen. Ideas that could change life."
  • "I think that all great artists are separated from ordinary artists by one thing: they are magicians."
  • "Stealing things is a glorious occupation, especially in the art world."
  • "Our culture has become a notion of boredom that is bought and sold, where nothing will happen except that people will become more and more terrified of tomorrow."
Snyder vs. Rotten

McLaren's death happened to coincide with the subject of "media relations" in our PR class this week, so we watched this classic hostile interview between Tom Snyder and John (Rotten) Lydon, McLaren's protege and lifelong adversary.

They don't make impressarios like McLaren or interviews like this anymore:

Update, Saturday, May 1:

As luck would have it, I found Dave Marsh and Kevin Stein's "The Book of Rock Lists" today.

Included in the book: "Malcolm McLaren's 10 Lessons of Rock Success:"
  1. Manufacture your group.
  2. Establish the name.
  3. Sell the swindle.
  4. Do not play. Do not give the game away.
  5. Steal as much money as possible from the record company of your choice.
  6. Become the world's greatest tourist attraction.
  7. Cultivate hatred. It is your greatest asset.
  8. Diversify business.
  9. Take civilization to the barbarians.
  10. Who killed Bambi?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Chicago pre-trip #5 - Great Chicago musicians

Everything you need to know about a city you can find out from its musicians.

Which is why, in Winnipeg, we look to Burton Cummings, the Crash Test Dummies, Neil Young, Randy Bachman, and - er - Chantal Kreviazuk to come to us during times of trouble, like so many Mother Marys.

In Chicago, they have a whole waft of musicians to choose from, but here's a good cross section to show what we're dealing with (the exhaustive list on Wikipedia):

1. Liz Phair

Phair sings of her beloved homeland.

2. Smashing Pumpkins

Smashing Pumpkins - Tonight, Tonight

When will the bald man finally get a fair shake?

3. Buddy Guy

Guy can play. Taught him everything he knows.

4. Steve Miller

Abracadabra rhymes with "grab ya," I'm told.

5. Urge Overkill

Folks like me have to go it alone. Cos, baby, I'm a rollin' stone. Cheque please.

6. Sam Cooke

What a wonderful world it would be if ifs and buts were candies and nuts.

7. Warren Zevon

Lawyers. Check. Guns. Check. Money. D'oh!

8. The Byrds

The best Dylan cover band ever.

9. Felix da Housecat

Run, Ronnie, Run!

10. Muddy Waters

My two favorite ways to spend the holidays.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bye bye mon laptop

Are they talking about the iPad or me?

Bad bit of stand-up I used to do in the old days:
"The other day, out of the blue, my grandmother asked me, "What's the Internet?" And I said, "The Internet is a wonderful learning tool, grandma."

"She said, "Yeah, what has it taught you?" I said, "Well...mostly how to type with one hand."
Cue the tumbleweeds.

Take a tablet, and call me in the morning

Little did I know that a lame sex joke would foresee why the era of the tablet and mobile computing is upon us: because you can use it with one hand and take it to bed with you.

Joke all you like, grandma, or even make the standard maxiPad joke, but this is the reason why Apple's iPad will be the first in a long line of tablet-computing devices that will make the laptop a thing of the past, sooner rather than later.

Kindle, meet iPhone

I've been using the Amazon Kindle for the past six months or so, and it's changed the way I consume the news and books, get them delivered, and even think about them. I now look at chumps on the bus fighting with the Globe and Mail and giant Stephen King novels and think, "Suckas."

I've been using my iPhone for the past year, and - as anyone who reads this blog regularly knows: I think that it's crazy great. Damn the phone part, it's mobile computing, Internet, newspaper, magazine, email, music, TV, video game system, and (I'm pretty sure) straight razor. And, I ask you, what woman doesn't like her man to have a clean, close shave?

I got a crack in my iPhone last week; "Better than an iPhone in my crack," I said to the unblinking and self-professed hungry clerk. I had to be without my love for two hours. "The dingo took the baby!" I shouted until a new iPhone was returned to my hand.

The one thing, however, that makes the iPhone a chore and not a pleasure is surfing the net on such a tiny screen. I totally get where the iPad came from: "Let's give 'em a big iPhone!" The iPad is being heavily criticized for being just that, but that's like criticizing a cow for mooing when you get milk every day.

Did that metaphor work? No? Let's move on.

We'll always have paper. Cough.

Here's the thing: the iPad will let us do what the Kindle and iPhone do, but better, allowing us a larger canvas and window on the world with which to do it; this isn't just a little laptop, it's a new way for communicators to tell stories that grip readers by the throat and take them on a journey that they and we haven't even begun to imagine.

If some of the traditional media doesn't get it yet, it will. As "Fake Steve Jobs" points out in the current issue of Wired ("Rise of the Machines: How Tablets Will Change the World"):
"Frankly, I don't read magazines or newspapers, and if every last one of you were all erased from the planet tomorrow, I would not notice and I would not care. Having said that, I wish you all the best in whatever future careers you choose. Gardening, I've heard is very peaceful."
Ouch. I don't have the heart to quote the last part of the insult, which involves manure.

I have an ongoing debate with a friend, and here's how it goes:
Friend: There will always be paper.
Me: No there won't.
Him: Yes there will.
Me: No there won't.
Him: Yes there will.
Lights go out. Gun shot.
I really believe I'm right. So does he. However, I don't have the heart to bring up the iPad in our debate. Just seems cruel.

But it's gotta be hard out there for a paper advocate when technology pioneer Kevin Kelly describes the future of tablets in Wired as such:
"You'll be able to see into movies, pictures, rooms, Web pages, places, and books seamlessly. It will have a built-in camera and idiot-proof video-editing tools, and it will also serve as a portable movie screen, eventually enabled for 3D. It will remake book publishing and Hollywood, because it creates a transmedia that conflates books and video. You get TV you read, books you watch, movies you touch."
Technology, meet school

So, I have to admit to feeling a little depressed when I heard that Creative Communications - the program in which I teach - is surveying students about becoming a laptop program in September 2011.

At this rate, we'll become an iPad program in 2021, at which point I will be, like, 1,000 years old. "In my day we used to wear thongs...on our feet!" Not pretty, eh?

Laptop program aside, I recently formed a technology committee with some of my fellow Creative Arts instructors in DMT, CreComm, and Graphic Design, and submitted a proposal to introduce mobile media to Creative Arts at Red River College.

The proposal, of course, is dependent on getting a grant, which we hope to do. Here's to hoping.

No, we're not going to get iPads for our students anytime soon, though that could happen if they become cheap and ubiquitous (the iPads, not the students). But we can get our students to engage with mobile media in the classroom and build something that you can download onto an iPad or iPhone.

The plan

So, we're proposing a partnership between programs to build a visually dynamic, interactive, digital magazine created for mobile online media and presented in the form of a standalone Creative Arts mobile app.

For students currently enrolled in the program: imagine the magazine project that you download on the iPhone or iPad that moves around, talks to you, and "listens" to your touch commands.

The app would function as a marketing tool for Creative Arts, the college, and our students - usable as a mobile portfolio piece and be available to download by the communications industry and future employers at large.

We've already got a potential community partner interested in being involved in the production, though I don't want to get too heavy into the details at this point, since so much of it is "if" and "TBA."

In this plan, the CreComm students are the mobile content providers, the graphic design students handle the online magazine's design and structure, and the DMT students program the motion graphics and app.

The idea for this project was hatched after I attended a meeting with the CreComm advisory committee, made up of industry leaders in the broadcast, ad, PR, and journalism fields. The members stressed the importance of our students learning about audience engagement, mobility, new media, and attracting a profitable target audience.

Before I start getting too self-congratulatory, I must point out that what we're proposing is already a mainstay in some academic environments: the U of Saskatchewan has an iPhone app - iUSask - for students to find their classes, get library books, and check their grades, and the University of Missouri makes the iPhone or iPod Touch mandatory for its communication students.

And with the iPad just days old in the U.S., we've already seen our first iPad school.

It's my hope that this project would bring at least part of this innovation and communication revolution to CreComm. It would make our grads more valuable in the marketplace, position them for future success, and predict (I'll bet) RRC's eventual adoption of the mobile format.

And if I'm wrong, I'll be the guy teaching "The History of the iPad" class in W215 starting in 2021.