Friday, December 30, 2011

All the best and worst to you and yours from '11

Best stuff I found under my house (below)

Best TV show
Game of Thrones or Downton Abbey, depending on whether I feel like sword-fighting or knitting.

Most welcome return to the small screen
Beavis and Butthead

Best TV show on which to play catch-up on DVD/download
Modern Family

Best news app
Zite - the magazine that gets smarter each time you read it.

Best design-fetish app

Most-promising new app
Jildy - organizes Facebook the way Facebook can't do it itself.

Best photo app
Instagram (sorry, Liz Hover)

Best social add-on to traditional media app

Most promising game app/trend
Shadow Cities - Adding a virtual game atop your reality

Best "What have I done with my life?" moment
Summly app is created by a 16-year-old

Best book
The Idea Writers by Teresa Iezzi - the present and future of advertising.

Best new friend (below)
The sunshine that shines on my throw rug and creates a concerned face that sometimes gives me advice.

Best movie
Bill Cunningham New York

Best superhero movie
X-Men: First Class

Funniest superhero

Best first-half of a superhero movie
Captain America - better as a wimp than a hero.

Best album
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake

Best song
Anna Calvi - Desire

Best sign (below)
Best restaurant

Best bar 
The Grove

Best menu item at a bar
The Yellow Dog's steak sandwich

Best beer

Best wine

Worst new local-TV trend 
Morning show traffic coverage, starting at 6 a.m. In Winnipeg? 

Worst ongoing local-TV trend 
Awkward banter 

Second-best sign (below)

Scariest robot (below)
Going the way of the newspaper
The physical classroom

Best way to reboot education
General Assembly
Stanford free classes 

Best class debate
Do ghosts exist?

Best student

Worst service
Pharma Plus, Corydon

Best service
Friendly and helpful Starbucks drive-through window staff at the Taylor location. 

Friendliest robot (below) The giveaway: the pet cat.

Best nemeses
The Man
Anonymous commenters
Parking-meter readers

Endangered species

Best job trend
Starting your own business instead of workin' for the man.

Worst job trend (below)
Confidential company seeks anonymous employee for unstated salary.

Best PR
Obama kills Osama

Worst PR
Netflix changes its business model

Worst journalism
Rupert Murdoch

Best console game
Portal 2 for Xbox

Best podcast
Joe Rogan
Best Halloween costume - student (below)

Most worthwhile learning curve
Facebook Pages/ads

Scariest social media to lawyers and other people who know nothing about it

Best sign that someone knows nothing about Twitter
"I don't care what Ashton had for breakfast."

Social-media trend that needs to go
QR codes

Best social-media meets national-TV moment
My Facebook comment gets a shout-on on NBC Nightly News as part of its Steve Jobs TV coverage.

Best Halloween costume - teacher dresses as casket to show the students where there education and careers will eventually lead them.

Best new Christmas tradition - A snifter of balls at the Style Council.

Best live stand-up - Marc Maron at the Chicago Mayne Stage

Best Twitter buzz
The day I tweeted that I found this at The Forks:
Greatest return - Dancing Gabe and whatever that team he cheers for is called.

Best toy trend (below) - Disrespect meets obscenity

Worst logo
The Winnipeg Jets, 2011

Best logo
The Winnipeg Jets, 1973 to 1990

Best TV ad

Best print ad

Worst urinal ad
Government of Canada's use of the color yellow and the word "tool" to sell its apprenticeship grants. He said, "Tool." Huh-huh, huh-huh.

Best imitation of myself

Thursday, December 29, 2011

My 10 fave films of 2011 are all documentaries

The best film of the year: Bill Cunningham New York.

Given the choice between Transformers 3 and reality, I choose reality.

That, and better access to more kinds of films than ever (thank you, Apple TV!), means that each and every one of my top 10 films this year is a documentary.

As well, a number of these movies showed up on TV, but are among the most riveting films of year. I'm not going to punish them for committing the crime of not appearing on a large screen in front of texters, sexters, talkers, and troubled teens.

1. Bill Cunningham New York
A touching portrait of the veteran New York Times' street-fashion photographer, the film has a great subject, timely hook, and its own Rosebud when Cunningham breaks down under a particular line of questioning. The documentary about the man is so much better than the oft-mentioned (though self-congratulatory and delusional) documentary about the institution, Page One.

2. There's Something Wrong With Aunt Diane (HBO)
What made Diane Schuler drive almost two miles on the wrong side of the highway, killing herself and seven other people? This documentary methodically answers the question, and what starts out as being seemingly complicated ends up being something that might be very simple (though no less sad). 

3. Woody Allen: A Documentary (PBS)
Three hours and 15 minutes of pure bliss, including all kinds of things we didn't know about the reclusive filmmaker: he has always used - and still uses - his favorite typewriter, hates his film Manhattan, and doesn't care about shooting multiple takes, because he'd rather be at home watching the Knicks.

4. Cave of Forgotten Dreams
I do a pretty mean Werner Herzog impression, but I stopped doing it about 10 minutes into this fascinating documentary that takes us into the Chauvet Cave of France, where Herzog was one of the very few who got to chronicle the perfectly preserved cave and earliest-known human paintings. What were these people like? What are the origins of the ancient bones? And what does it say about us?

5. Beats, Rhymes, and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest
Julius Caesar himself would marvel at the inner workings of an influential but troubled rap group. It boils down to Q-Tip versus Phife Dawg, who notes that "Q-Tip wanted the group to be Q-Tip and A Tribe Called Quest, like Diana Ross and the Supremes. I'm Florence Ballard? Get the f- outta here."

6. Project Nim
Why it's not a good idea to treat a chimp like it's a human and then abandon him.

7. The Elephant in the Living Room
Why it's not a good idea to treat lions and snakes like they're humans and then abandon them. Small beef: the movie should be called "the Lions in the Living Room," as (disclaimer) no elephants appear in the film.

8. Klitschko
I have virtually no interest in boxing, but this movie grabbed me by my boxers and pounded me in the face - great interviews with the Russian boxing brothers, Vitali and Wladimir, their parents, opponents and hidden camera footage of Don King trying (and failing) to sign the brothers by pretending to play Mozart on the piano.

9. Bobby Fischer Against the World
Was chess master Bobby Fischer a genius, madman, or crazy like a fox? Fascinating exploration of one of the world's most celebrated and mysterious characters.

10. Urbanized
Third in the Helvetica/Objectified design trilogy, Urbanized looks at the best way to design a city. It's not too late for Winnipeg, especially if we can replace Katz with the Mayor of Copenhagen.

Honorable mentions:
  • Tabloid- Why real life is stranger than anything a tabloid could make up.  
  • Senna - Another great profile of a man and sport I thought I cared nothing about.
  • The Black Power Mixtape - The Swedes visit the U.S. Black Power Movement in 1965.
  • Umbrella Man - Errol Morris' six-minute documentary on the mysterious man at the JFK shooting is shown here in its entirety.
  • Transcendent Man - In the near future, we'll all be part machine and immortal.
  • The Greatest Movie Ever Sold - The clever Morgan Spurlock doc about how product placements work.
  • Bad Writing - A fun DIY doc about how one becomes a bad writer.
  • How to Die in Oregon (HBO) - The lives of the terminally ill who, in Oregon, can choose to legally decide when it's time to go.
  • The Suicide Tourist (PBS) - Ostensibly an episode of Frontline, but really one of the richest and most-moving documentaries of the year. A terminally ill American goes to Switzerland for his scheduled suicide.

My five fave albums of 2011 (and more!)

1. PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
Everyone else's favorite album is also mine. Tuneful, political, and timely: a bloody masterwork in every sense. And I'll be damned if I can't hear a little Surfin' Bird in the single, the Words that Maketh Murder:

2. The Streets - Computers and Blues
After a couple of weaker albums, Mike Skinner returns to winning form in his last outing as the Streets. The most fun and funniest album of the year. Out without a blink:

3. Patrick Wolf - Lupercalia
Baroque meets disco meets showtunes meets pop meets - a saxophone! - in a glorious burst of 80s-style English romanticism with a vaguely political subtext: love for all and all for love!

4. Thomas Dolby - A Map of the Floating City
A shock comeback from Mr. She Blinded Me With Science himself. A strong, organic, and considered work of subtlety and intelligence with nary a hint of nostalgia. As Spice Train proves, even smart people like to get down sometimes:

5. Limousines - Get Sharp
An over-the-top dance-party gross-out from the album cover (close-ups of our heroes' mouths with bubbles coming out) to the insight that Men Without Hats had a decade earlier ("Internet Killed the Video Star") to the line (in Very Busy People, below) involving "masturbat(ing) to these pixelated videos of strangers f-ing themselves." Goofy and dumb fun:

And the rest:

Best album title
Bob Geldof - How to Compose Popular Songs that Will Sell

Best album cover
Battles - Gloss Drop

Worst album cover
Limousines - Get Sharp

Best grammar
The Sounds - No No Song: "Excuses is all I ever get from you!"

Best pronunciation
Anna Calvi's pronunciation of "sky" as "skoy" on Desire.

Worst cash-in
Kate Bush - Director's Cut - bad re-recordings of old songs and supposed "remasters" of other CDs, which sound exactly the same as the originals.

Best question
British Sea Power - Who's in Control?

Best old album I discovered in 2011
Bob Dylan - Desire

Best little concert
Men Without Hats - Casino Regina

Best big concert
Prince - MTS Centre

Best wake-up call to the music press
Rolling Stone puts Canadian band Sheepdogs on its cover, and the band gets a lousy 2,000 "likes" on Facebook.

Best comedy music performance
Colbert, Fallon, and Hicks sing Friday on Late Night

Surprisingly good comebacks
Thomas Dolby
Lindsey Buckingham

Surprisingly bad collaborations
Jay-Z and Kanye West
Lou Reed and Metallica

Best book about music
Retromania: Pop Culture's Addiction to its Past by Simon Reynolds

Good song/ap combo
Polyphonic Spree's Bullseye

Bad song/ap combo
Bjork's Biophilia

Best music app
Band of the Day

Best music mag in print form
Q Magazine

Worst way to enjoy music videos
With preroll ads on YouTube

Best way to enjoy music videos
Downloaded from iTunes on your iPad

Most disappointing album
TV on the Radio - Nine Types of Light

Most mature album from a kid
Laura Marling - A Creature I Don't Know

Best new artist
Anna Calvi

What are they smoking in England?
Oasis brothers
Lana Del Rey
Military Wives Choir

The video that YouTube should feel stupid for censoring
Battles - Ice Cream

Best video
Deer Tick - Main Street

Most-depressing song
The Unthanks - Last

Funniest song
Art Brut - Clever Clever Jazz

Upbeat song with downbeat message
Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks

Haven't I heard that song before?
Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks versus Peter, Bjorn, and John - Young Folks
Lady Gaga's Born This Way versus Madonna's Express Yourself

Best Compilation/Tribute
Rave On - Buddy Holly

Best TV Theme Song
John Boutte - Treme

No need for a greatest hits

Need for a greatest hits

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

My five fave songs of 2011

1. Anna Calvi - Desire
Calvi meets the Devil, God, and Roy Orbison in a heavenly fire. Swaggery, confident and the biggest and best key change of the year at 2:32.

2. The Streets - Soldiers
A killer chorus and nod to Dame Judi "rhymes with fence" Dench. Result!

3. Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Idyllic summertime folk rock, rife with images of working yourself sore in an orchard and waiting tables. Features my least-favorite word "unique" and the best harmonies of the year at :46. How about dem apples?

4. New York Dolls - Fool For You Baby
Like he did as Buster Poindexter in Oh Me Oh My (don't click on the link, I beg you), David Johansen salutes idiots in love. Like all true-idiot love, the song fades out too soon.

5. Mates of State - Palomino
Lord help me, but I love a good round song. As long as Mates of States keeps writing them, I'll keep singin' along in the shower, Palomino.


The Sounds - Something to Die For
Battles - Ice Cream
Art Brut - Clever Clever Jazz
Blancmange - The Western
Book of Mormon Cast - I Believe
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - Same Mistake
The Go! Team - Buy Nothing Day
PJ Harvey - Written on the Forehead
The Unthanks - My Laddie Sits Ower Late Up (Not online? Huh?!)
Limousines - Internet Killed the Video Star
Patti Smith - Words of Love
Patrick Wolf - The City
Foster the People - Pumped Up Kicks
The Strokes - Under Cover of Darkness
British Sea Power - Who's in Control?
Raveonettes - Forget That You're Young
Buffalo Tom - Guilty Girls
Steve Martin/Paul McCartney - Best Love
Grouplove - Colours
Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Heart in Your Heartbreak
Deer Tick - Main Street
Jim Jones Revue - High Horse
Funeral Party - Finale
Manchester Orchestra - Virgin
Thomas Dolby - Spice Train
Lindsey Buckingham - That's the Way That Love Goes

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Polar Express takes a Hutter-right

 Thou art making a grave mistake.

If you live in Winnipeg, at some point someone will encourage you to take a train to B.C.

It's good advice. Take it.

In addition to the great scenery, you get to speak, eat, and sleep with a variety of people with whom you'd never otherwise get the chance.

For instance: I got to sit next to an Amish family from Pennsylvania, who spoke virtually no English. Though I couldn't tell what they were saying, the guy in charge was an elderly, stern grandfather-type, think: the grandfather in Witness.

Around hour 30, I stopped caring about the scenery and started contemplating using my pillow to smother everyone around me for emitting sounds, odors, and other unspeakable crimes against my senses.

Just then, a little girl came walking down the aisle by herself, just like Betty Lou Who. She saw the grandfather, her eyes widened, and she gasped. 


Everyone in the car cracked up. Even Santa himself was powerless to resist a smile.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

How to give yourself the gift of humiliation this Christmas

 I want my MTV!

When I was a kid, my favorite Christmas present every year was a stack of records from my Aunt Peggy and Uncle Charlie in Toronto.

That whole side of the family worked for the music business, which was perfect: I love music and - even better - it was the one gift I was allowed to open early (with my parents' permission).

One year, my dad was at work, suing people and doing whatever lawyers do, when the parcel arrived at home. I couldn't wait to tear into it, so I gave him a call to get the green light.
"Hey, dad, the records are here. Can I open them?"

"Who is this?"

"Dad - come on: can I open them?"

"I'm sorry - who are you?"

"Dad - stop being such a jerk!"


"Come on you bonehead. I want to open these records. Mom! Dad's being a jerk!"
My mother came to the phone. 
"Hello? Oh sorry: Kenton thought you were his dad."
I walked to my bedroom, hid my head under the pillow and moaned, knowing that I'd probably just called the Minister of Justice a jerk and a bonehead.

I opened the records that night. I sat and listened to them, but I couldn't enjoy them; they all sounded like humiliation.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The only other Christmas albums anyone needs

Last year, my Christmas present to everyone that no one asked for was a list of "The only Christmas albums anyone needs."

That spurred countless comments, emails, and tweets (translation: 10 or 11) telling me that I missed a classic. So, I bought a pile more - as recommended - and I'm ready for the inevitable sequel: "The only other Christmas albums anyone needs."

I still maintain that there are more bad Christmas albums than good ones (and I include anything by Boney M or with the words "A Very Special..." in the title) and that good music is good every season, and bad music is bad every season.

With that in mind, here are the only other essential Christmas albums you'll ever need. Until next year's list.

1. The Supremes - Merry Christmas

The unheralded Christmas classic that sounds like Phil Spector produced it (he didn't) and notable for Diana Ross' awesome early career performance on "Little Bright Star" (top of blog post) and the worst version of "Silver Bells" ever recorded. Still: overall it's a keeper.

2. Stevie Wonder - Someday at Christmas

Nothing on the album was written by Wonder, but his vocals are in top form on the title track and - believe it or not - "Ave Maria." 

3. The Whispers - Happy Holidays to You

I don't know a lot about this band (that's what Wikipedia is for!), but "This Christmas" and the title track are solid gold. 

4. The Beach Boys - Christmas Album

I hate the Beach Boys, and anyone who says that they're better than the Beatles is insane. However, this collection has its fans - I get it, but I still find most of the songs pretty bland. It's here for "Christmas Day" and "Little Saint Nick" and the very real possibility that I just can't hear what everybody else does. 

5. Vince Guaraldi Trio - A Charlie Brown Christmas

No depressing Christmas is complete without the most-depressing music for the most-depressing kids' cartoon ever. Make sure you're not close to alcohol or sharp objects before you press play.

6. Willie Nelson - Pretty Paper

Equally depressing as Guaraldi, and probably for fans only, but the album's emotional wallop actually comes from Nelson being very, very bored, very, very high, or both. 

7. Emmylou Harris - Light of the Stable

Dolly Parton and Linda Rondstadt aren't particularly surprising cameos, but you have to sit up and take notice when they appear together - with Neil Young (on the title track). 

8. John Fahey - Christmas with John Fahey (Vol. I and II), The New Possibility

Lovely but very hard to find. The good news: he's got a glut of Christmas songs and albums, and they're all lovely.

Numbers nine and 10? Still looking. Your suggestions, please.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Eleven new words that all the hep kids are using

1. Aunty Christ - Your aunt, who upon being told that you have a fatal disease, says, "I'll pray for you."

2. Bumprov - What a cheerleader does when she can't remember the routine. 

3. Changent - A double agent.

4. Decembeard - Matt TenBruggencate's idea to replace "Movember" once and for all.

5. DisPinterest - Having no interest in new social-media apps.

 I'm unmoved. DisPinterested, if you will.

6. Fattering - Complimenting a person on his or her rotundness.

7. Fucanuck - A word uttered by one who blames Canada.

8. Manitles - Male privates. In the army. Ahem.

9. Protestexy - The glamorization of protesting. See: Time's Person of the Year.

10. Voluntold - "I was voluntold by my mother to take out the garbage."

11. Walmartians - The alien species found aimlessly wandering the aisles of multinational retailers.

Bumprov at :24.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

RRC student launches new Winnipeg podcast

Got a major jones for podcasts? Then watch a major podcast by Jones.

I give you CreComm student Tristan Field-Jones' first-ever On the 'Peg podcast:

Tristan is working on this podcast as part of his Independent Professional project, a year-long CreComm course in which students develop an original and meaningful project that they propose, complete, and market independently.

You can like On the 'Peg on Facebook; the next episode will be available in the New Year on iTunes.