Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Condemned

  "I was fishing in this guy's truck. I didn't even have to jimmy the lock or anything because the idiot left the passenger-side door open. I thought I might catch a few bucks to score. All there was in the glove compartment was a silver dollar and a birthday card, which I didn't read. I started checking under the seats and found an open toolbox, and that's when the dude grabbed my leg.

  I hit him in the head with a steel wrench. He staggered back a few steps then fell down like a stubborn bowling pin. And he died. And here I am."


  "God, I remember everything so vividly and I replay it in my nightmares. We were playing street hockey. It was November 2nd, my grandmother's birthday. We were supposed to go in for a big dinner, but the score was tied. To us kids, this game, Overton Ave. vs. Regent Crescent, was as intense as the Stanley Cup Finals. It was 3-3, and we decided that the next goal would win. I had a chance, the shot looked good, but Jodie Kearns elbowed me in the ribs, and I fell down. Next thing I know, he's back the other way and he scores to win the game.

  'Now you can run home, pussy,' he said. 'I bet that birthday cake will taste like losing.'

  I picked up my stick and swung it at his head from behind. It caught him in the right eye. Forty minutes later, I was in a police station, Jodie Kearns was dead, and I don't know what happened to my grandmother's birthday cake."


  "A guy raped my little sister. I went over to the house he was staying at, and I beat him to death with my fists. I'm not sorry. I think I did the right thing, and I'm not sorry at all."


  "Magnets aren't like people. Magnets don't get scared. Magnets are attracted by nature, and they connect. It's the simplest explanation, yet I'm the one who's confused? This is a bitter farce. A jaguar eats a deer, and that's acceptable. I eat a human being, and I'm a monster. I am not! I am everything you weaklings will never become. Your blood will run down from the jowls of us beasts. We will eat you."


  "Ah...I had a good walk around the yard today. There wasn't a single cloud in the sky. Do you realize how rare that is? It was beautiful. Like looking into infinity. I could die on a day like today and be happy."

  How do you feel about dying? Your appeal has been overturned.

  "It's all the same. You come out one door, and you exit another. There's nothing poetic I can say except that we're all going along on a tightrope, trying not to fall off, and desperately reaching for that rope when we do.

There was a milkman in my neighborhood. He smoked four packs of cigarettes a day. One day, he came up to my house for his delivery, but he was tired and sat down on the steps...He started crying, holding his head in his hands sobbing like a dummy.

  I don't know where I'm going with this. Hell, maybe. Anyway, nice to talk to you."

  I'd like to hear more about the milkman and what he meant to you.

"I'd like to hear more about everything. But I don't have enough time. Nice talking to you."

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Long Time Ago

Nostalgia is a narcotic. In small doses, it can enhance an experience. When I was eighteen years old, my best friend, my brother, and I took a trip to Ottawa one Saturday night on a whim, and on the way there, on another whim, we drove to the house I grew up in in Nepean until we moved when I was six. That was pretty cool. I get the same nostalgic feeling whenever I return to my hometown and drive around, passing my high school, or when I stay with my parents and sleep in the house in which I lived from six to twenty-two, the age I was when I moved to Korea.

I don't want to live my life again, however. I like to see photographs of the past and recall fond memories (and even the bad ones have a better coat of paint on them with the passing of years), but I don't want to experience everything over again in the same way that I didn't want to break into my childhood home and sleep in my old bedroom, or walk through the halls of my high school with gray hair. It's fine to look back, but not at the expense of looking forward.

For decades, Hollywood has been the hoary old coal miner of properties people my age grew up with, trying to find a gold vein but usually mining shit. While trying to appeal to the worst aspect of nostalgia -- remember when you liked this as a dumb kid? We're going to try to make you like it as a stupid adult -- movie producers also have continually thought that making children's properties into darker versions of their source materials will work.

The thing is, it does for some people. Earlier this year, director Joseph Kahn released a satirically gritty short film based on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It was meant as a fuck-you to the manchildren who actually want that kind of shit. Ironically, a vocal portion of the Internet took it seriously and ardently pleaded that a feature film be made.

I'm not entirely innocent when it comes to revisiting the nostalgic idiocy of 80s kids. I saw the first Transformers movie and liked it well enough (the sequels are for brain donors); I saw G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra twice in a movie theater*; I have a bunch of T-shirts with comic book and video game characters on them, which, as a soon-to-be thirty-seven-year-old man, I have no business wearing**.

My ability to discern between right and wrong, just and unjust, is pretty strong, I think. When it comes to entertainment, art, I'm better than I once was, but my subjective integrity can sometimes be compromised by what I think I've seen over what I saw (I gave Terminator: Salvation a 4/4 review on this very blog almost six years ago).

Case in point: In 1999, I saw The Phantom Menace on my birthday. That movie is absolutely awful, but because it was the first Star Wars movie released in sixteen years, and because I grew up with Star Wars***, I talked myself into thinking it was good. Adulthood doesn't erase idiocy, nor the indelible impressions of childhood.

 Today, I have a new hope. The second teaser trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens is good. Really good. I've been a Star Wars apostate for longer than I was a true believer as a kid. My faith has been restored. For now.

Nostalgia is a drug.

* In that film's defense, it's just as stupidly silly and enjoyable as the original cartoon.

** In my own defense, I bought them while on vacation in Canada because I can't buy T-shirts here that would fit even an anorexic teenager.

*** I don't have a photographic memory, but I can recall almost every film I've ever seen inside a theater, who I was with, and where I sat. It's my mutant power. My mother took me to a double feature of A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. I was sitting to her left. Yoda scared the shit out of me. (This was perhaps 1981, during a second theatrical run. I have a good memory, but at two in 1980? I'd have to check with the matron.)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Five (Consistency Has to Count for Something)

As far as halls of fame go, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame has to be one of the most subjective, because it's impossible -- or at least pretty hard -- to qualify art. To quantify art is simpler, and in which case top-selling artists like Celine Dion and Justin Bieber are first ballot, but nobody wants that. So a happy medium occurs. If you can sell a bazillion records, you might be considered. Similarly, if you can be culturally significant or groundbreaking, with or without massive sales, you might get in (see: Zappa, Frank).

But I think consistency in music does need to be qualified (and, to a lesser extent, quantified; people can be pretty dumb, but if you like something for a number of years, there must be something inherently alluring there*), and so I've created this admittedly subjective -- but also based on general consensus! -- list of rock gods.

I call it the Pantheon. Shit, that's taken? When? Okay, let's call it

I Got 5 on It

The induction rules are simple: You have to have had five consecutive albums that are considered -- creatively and commercially -- as great.

First Ballot

The Beatles (Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, The White Album, Abbey Road)

Outkast (Southernplayalisticadillacmuzic, ATLiens, Aquemeni, Stankonia, Speakerboxxx/The Love Below

The Beastie Boys (License to Ill, Paul's Boutique, Check Your Head, Ill Communication, Hello Nasty)

Kanye West (The College Dropout, Late Registration, Graduation, 808s and Heartbreak**, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Yeezus)

On the Cusp

Arcade Fire (Funeral, Neon Bible, The Suburbs, Reflektor)

So Close, No Cigar

Radiohead (The Bends, OK Computer, Kid A...)

Radiohead is out because Amnesiac was a bit shaky, and Hail to the Thief started an avalanche. They rebuilt that mountain, but you need five straight to enter the joint.

Led Zeppelin (I, II...)

III killed the momentum. IV is outstanding, and Houses of the Holy and Physical Graffiti are similarly great, but rules.

* see: Of Nazareth, Jesus; Big Bang Theory, The; Twizzlers

** This is very arguable.

Sunday, April 05, 2015


Something smelled awful.

It must have followed me home. I changed from my work clothes and showered, but a pungent odor hung around over dinner. 

"Jesus, Andrew, I can't even eat. What is that?"

I pretended I didn't know. Maybe something crawled into my boot before I closed the door? Something inky and stinky.

"I'll go see."

"Dad, it smells like when Grampy eats too many boiled eggs."

"It smells like Denise's clothes!"

"Shut up, Mark! It smells like the dead salamander in your desk drawer!"

"Kids!" Liz shouts. "Eat your dinner!"

The front door is closed tightly, and my boots, while smelling worse than a seaman's underwear, contain no trace of contamination.

But something reeks.

I go out into the driveway and check the car. Clean. Then I race around to the backyard to make sure Kander is still tied up. He isn't.

He has bitten through his rope. It's not the first time. He's gotten too big; it's time for chains.

I hear a bellow. Kander walks toward me growling like a chainsaw low on gas.

"Now, now, friend," I say. "Boy have you gotten big."

I sit down on the grass.

"I have some steaks out in the car if you're interested. Red and juicy, just as you like them."

Kander paces toward the car.

"Andrew!" Liz screams from the bedroom window, "run, now!"

I give it my best shot, but my bones are old. Kander has already discovered that there are no steaks in the car. It was just a trick. Just a way to try to buy some time.

I'm outside on the grass. My head is in a bear's mouth.

It feels like a hug.

I embrace it.