Friday, May 27, 2005

And they leave the door open for a sequel

I have no regrets about enrolling at a law school on the West coast. From what visiting lawyers came and told us at school, the environment out East is a lot more stressful, somehow more competitive and quite pernicious. One Vancouver lawyer even told us that he could tell where a lawyer was from just from a few words on the telephone. Obviously he could divine a stress level from the timbre of a voice - either that or he heard foghorns in the background and took a wild guess.

Anyway, it wasn't until I found out this news that I felt a tinge of regret. The Rolling Stones and Beck. "Torn and Frayed" and "Nicotine and Gravy" in one concert. It's like someone kidnapped Santa, pumped him for information about what I wanted, and then ransomed it out in Ontario. I'd at least hope Santa puts up more of a fight than Jack Bauer's assault team member did during his torture in the season finale of 24:

"Give us a na-"
"Jack Bauer!"

More lighthearted musical news: Louis XIV seem more like Spinal Tap each time I turn and look. Recall this classic conversation from the film:

Derek: You know, we've grown musically. I mean, listen to some of the rubbish we did early on, it was stupid...
Marty: Yeah.
Derek: Now, I mean a song like "Sex Farm," we're taking a sophisticated view of the idea of sex, you know...
Marty: ...and putting it on a farm?
Derek: Yeah.

Now read how Jason Hill, frontman for Louis, explains that songs like "Paper Doll" from an album with this cover, are actually love letters in adoration of women. Ten bucks says this band has a tough time at airport security screeners. That said, I still love their music.

From the same site, a good interview with Eels frontman on how to achieve "twinkliness" on an album. (Still no Rolling Stone review for the album - an injustice. And I mean that in the full legal sense. Punishable by up to life in prison. Which puts Pitchfork at about ten dozen concurrent life sentences.)

Finally finished the mammoth tome that is Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. Any book that goes on for 800 pages runs a risk of failing to deliver an ending that is sufficiently satisfying. Clarke thankfully escapes that fate. How does it end? Naturally, Strange catches Norrell at the airport at the last minute before his plane departs, declares his love, and they kiss as the screen fades to black.

So, after Safran-Foer, Gladwell, Diamond and Doyle, I'm aiming for Elmore Leonard's new book. Damn, he stole the title for my autobiography.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Maybe he'll drive the Dylanmobile

A little brush with royalty today. The Queen – who is forever in my dogpound – and her husband Prince Pip came through downtown Calgary in their motorcade. I managed to catch a quick glance of the stately couple as they rode in their town car, a vehicle disappointingly unmodified in any Bat- or Pope-mobile fashion. Would putting just a few royal racing stripes hurt?

Sub-question: Prince Philip, Argus Filch from the H.Po movies: same person?

It’s a shame that Calgary, a city renowned for its hospitality and annoying habit of rerouting traffic on a whim - couldn’t have found a nicer stretch of pavement for her in this city. Dusty parking lots and a derelict post office don’t exactly make for the most picturesque parade route. Maybe that would explain why she drove at the pace she did:

"Floor it." "Yes, my liege."

As an example of all this Queen Fever, Alberta has also impulsively renamed the stretch of highway between Calgary and Edmonton, (viz. Cowtown and the Chuck). It’s now the Queen Elizabeth II Highway. I wish decisions like this were taken a little more carefully. If we had waited a few years, we might have been able to name it the Camilla Parker Bowles Expressway. Who doesn’t like the sound of that?

“To get to Edmonton, take a left, hop on the Camilla, and you'll be there in three hours."

Speaking of visiting dignitaries, (and testing the limits of my musical segways) I also found out two very exciting concert dates for Calgary. Jeff Tweedy, Wilco frontman and chronic band-member-firer, is playing solo at the Calgary Folkfest in July. The same plaudits I hand to Joel Plaskett apply to Tweedy as well: he’s a master of funny stage banter, great on the guitar, and (here’s hoping), not frightened by camera-wielding fans. Practice your smile Jeff: I’m a-comin’!

The second visitor is none other than the man himself, Bob Dylan. I spent the second semester at school reading through the first of his Chronicles, (notably lacking a lion, a witch, a wardrobe, or any Narnian citizenry) and really getting into his ’97 album Time Out of Mind. (“Dirt Road Blues” instantly got on the future soundtrack of any movie I would ever dream to make.) Some friends and I caught him play in Toronto four years ago during our “24 Hours of Dylan” trip from Kingston, and I was really blown away at how good on the guitar he is.

I'll just have to remind him that when he rides into town to slow the hell down.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Darth Stronach actually does sound evil

I finally saw footage of last Thursday's parliamentary confidence vote. You know, the one where the awkward looking dude calls the guy with the flabby skin corrupt, and then takes him to task? Damn those light sabres are cool.

I recall thinking that the previous two Star Wars films had way too much politics, and not enough action, in the same way that The Matrix: Revolutions had far too much religion and too little of the fighty-fighty. Well Lucas certainly had something up his flannel sleeve, and it paid off handsomely. My personal favorite moment from the film dealt with the aforeblogged Yoda fight scene. The giant senate chamber, a setting which gave the previous two prequels so much of a C-SPAN vibe, was actually put to good use: a force-filled battle royale.

The rest of the film wasn't so bad either. Indeed, there is some cringe-worthy dialogue, but Lucas wins points for some inspired plotting, even if you he rips off Godfather a little in the process.

I caught the film during a rain-soaked, but fun-drenched weekend in Vancouver, a city I miss more than I realized. Another minor bonus from the long weekend was discovering that Vancouver radio ain't so bad. Perhaps part of my dislike of Calgary radio is due to the fact that CANCON requirements often skew local. This means that DJs in Cowtown will choose Nickelback, while those in Vancouver will opt for Hot Hot Heat, a markedly more creative band.

Speaking of music, (and really, when don't I?), I'm making my way through this new White Stripes album. It's a bit more nimble than Elephant, a tad more acoustic, and the piano is turned up to 11. So far I really like this "Take, Take, Take" tune, relating an encounter with Rita Hayworth, as hilariously told from a stalker who's in denial. And then there's "Little Ghost," obviously recorded during the 2 minutes before Anthony Minghella yelled cut on the set of Cold Mountain.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The butler was a ghost the entire time

I'm off to Vancouver for the weekend, so I thought I'd tie up some loose blogs.

Figured I might as well go for the trifecta of 24 posts: a shiny penny to whoever can tell me what this commercial is about.

Love this new White Stripes album cover. Sure, it's not much different than the last one, but now Jack's traded sequins for Bob Dylan's facial hair and Meg White looks even more like my former roommate. (Deny all you want C___, it's there.) Get Behind Me Satan is released on the same day as this juggernaut, which contains a decidedly crappier album cover.

With my recent purchase of Johnathan Safran-Foer's Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close (the hype is real, five pages in and you know you're listening to a classic narrator) I now have three books on the go. This is definitely unwise, but the books naturally found their own demarcation: Safran-Foer in the mornings while I wait for my carpool, Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point over lunch (a book I can gladly say I did not judge by its cover but rather by the album it inspired) and the last few chapters of Strange & Norrell at night.

Oh, anyone know anything about Eco's latest book? Umberto's Island of the Day Before ranks as one of my favorite books, so I'm always interested to see what the Italian writer is up to. That book had everything: shipwrecks, incurable diseases, imaginary brothers, unrequited love and perhaps one of the most satisfying endings to a novel I've ever read.

I recall once reading an interview with R.E.M.'s Peter Buck where he said he always has about four books on the go at any time. I suppose the notion becomes more palatable when you consider we regularly keep the storylines of several television shows sorted out. (Although maybe that's unfair. A novelization of The Apprentice wouldn't likely stir a great literary debate: "Trump's 'firing' obviously signals a shifting paradigm, a frightening resurgence of the oppression of the proletariat and the glorification of the bourgeousie." Nah.)

Of course, it's readily apparent what the most ill-conceived novel of all time is: voila.

Post O.C. Script: That murderous rampage to cap off a season? That's so first year criminal law. Defence of necessity anyone? But kudos for the Ryan Adams inclusion, and perhaps the only song subtly and eponymously lamenting the death of TV's Friends. (Adams is a self-proclaimed die-hard fan.)

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

He has a billable (or kill-able!) hours quota

I've been following the recent news releases from television networks which discuss all the new shows premiering this fall. I was looking, rather fearfully, to see if any are similar to the one I've been working on. Thankfully, none are, but less thankfully - or rather, unfortunately - the new shows are crap.

There are no less than two shows about alien life appearing in the Atlantic ocean and humanity's response to it. My response? Click. Another drama - or is it unintentional comedy? - has Jennifer Love Hewitt talking to ghosts. (Pilot episode: a seance with a dead career, perhaps?) And then there are countless new crime scene shows, no doubt exploring new ways to zoom into any number of uninteresting objects. I have a feeling that when networks come up with a crappy idea, they send a memo to other networks in the hope that, when it inevitably gets cloned, the original looks less crappy by comparison.

Of course, from all this comes unbelievably good news, that the best/funniest/most original television show around, Arrested Development, is coming back next season. The show is great for constantly breaking the rules of a half-hour sitcom (such as having everything return to normal after 22 minutes) and doesn't need to tell viewers when to laugh. If my show, by some twist of fate, ever got somewhere, it would owe a huge deal to this show.

Oh, and Jack Bauer officially replaces John McClane as the most imperiled American: after four seasons of finger-breaking and co-worker killing, Kiefer Sutherland of 24 is back for two more. That'll make six days in total: will he go for the full week, or does Jack witness the Sabbath?

(And yes, I'm aware, this is two 24-related headlines back to back. The show is that good people.)

Monday, May 16, 2005

No one would dare fire Jack!

I wish I could attribute the relative infrequency of my summer blog posts to an explosion of creativity on the screenwriting front, or at the very least some harrowing tale of my capture by exotic rebels of some variety and subsequent escape, but those who know me also know that I would hardly let rebels of any variety capture me. So yeah, no good excuses there.

Instead, my after-hours time has been split between reacquainting myself with my electric guitar, (see Ruby, I wasn't gone long), attending to the PS2, which was gathering dust during the study madness, and lastly, I've been at the mercy of some of the most drawn-out reality TV finales.

Seriously, the best real-estate deal that Donald Trump ever sealed was taking away my Thursday nights. That's some prime property. And just when you think it's over, the producers manage to eke out yet another hour. At least we can say with certainty which person did get fired: the damn editor!

What I will tolerate, however, are these final hours of the Jack Bauer Power Hour. I'll happily watch anything which delivers golden lines like these:

"It's funny, earlier today Jack and Audrey were planning their future, now Jack is responsible for her husband's death and he may have to torture her brother."

I guess when you're on the clock there's no sugar-coating things. Interesting sidenote: the brother in question is played by our very own Tre, of O.C. fame. Is it me or does that guy just love getting manhandled by police? And for those who've just seen tonight's episode, I don't use the term manhandled lightly...

Hmm, so I've been a bit lack on the musical front. Alright, some quick picks: this new Weezer album is mighty fine, Pitchfork massacre notwithstanding. Check out "This is Such a Pity" for Weezer's take on the whole 80's revival scene (if I had known my first decade was this cool I would have stayed around longer) and "Freak Me Out" for just plain coolness.

Oh yeah, as for law marks, not so bad. Looks like I can continue this whole "lawblog" motif for at least another year. "Unemployedblog" never had the same ring to it.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Limericks constitute a mistrial

To quote Malcolm, the balding worrywart from The Office, I’ve got bad news and irrelevant news. First, the irrelevant stuff: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, a fave band of mine despite their negative impact on my guitars, is releasing a new album in August. This is good, because last time the band made headlines the drummer was fired and the two remaining members were straining the very definition of a “club.” Well, apparently Jago’s back and he's been reading Ginsberg in the meantime, as Howl is ready to nullify your eardrums in late summer. (If you need a crash course in B.R.M.C-ology, download “Spread Your Love,” “And I’m Aching” and “Six-Barrel Shotgun.” Plus, a new song is streaming at their web site.)

I’m particularly geeky about this album, because after a lengthy run of solid releases, the rest of the summer is looking pretty weak for good music. Sure there’s new Coldplay a-comin’, but that’s several weeks away and this incredibly underwhelming Dave Matthews album certainly hasn’t made the wait easier. (Seriously Dave, where are my polyrhythms? If I wanted 4/4 time I would replace the batteries in my metronome.)

Moving on. First year law marks get released tonight. I call this bad news because I would have enjoyed a few more weeks of not knowing my chances of fall job applications. Sure, I came out of each exam feeling somewhat contented, but with one hundred percent finals and nothing by which to gauge your progress, the fact that I didn’t spontaneously combust was enough to make me happy.

I’ve said my piece about such a marking scheme before, but for a profession built upon accumulated argumentation, it’s a little unsettling that so much can rest on one afternoon. Imagine if judges only decided cases on the strength of a closing argument. We’d probably get a lot more Johnnie Cochran-inspired rhyming couplets in the courtroom.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

"Say hello to my knitted friend!"

Ryan: law student, blogger, official member of Team Zissou. Only one of those qualifications provides an awesome red toque, (I’m giving you a hint here, UBC Law…) That’s right, in their continuing efforts to atone for the Bright Eyes debacle, a certain Forward-thinking Shop offered Team Zissou toques to anyone who bought my favorite film of last year, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

What’s funnier (or nerdier, depending on how well you know me), is that I’ve now become an accidental movie-toque collector. I once attended a premiere of some throwaway De Niro movie, 15 Minutes, and won a toque emblazoned with the movie title. I wonder how far this collection can go. Any chance Tony Montana wore a toque?

On to a show which should have commemorative toques, last night’s episode of the Jack Bauer Power Hour was a doozy. Marwan captured (due to the onset of daylight, no doubt), and a nuclear missile launches as the hour counts down. Best was the appearance of actor Tzi Ma, playing the head of security for the Chinese consulate. Ma was last seen delivering his only – but maybe the best – line in the hilarious film, The Ladykillers: “must float like leaf down river of life… and kill old lady.” (Just watch the movie.)

Ma’s arrival was great because he seems to be the only character on the show asking pertinent and valuable questions. He was able to see through the covert operation cover-up pretty fast, I just wish he didn’t stop there:

“And while I’m at it, how come you, you, and you don’t actually work here but seem to be running the entire operation? And Michelle, can’t you see that Tony still loves you? I can cut the sexual tension in here with a knife! And do any of you take a bathroom break around here?”

(Although, considering 24’s track record, the writers just usually kill off main characters before they have to use the bathroom - less messy that way.) Last night’s episode also added to the list of locations that are all within 5 minutes of CTU headquarters: now including several warehouses, downtown skyscrapers, residential communities and the desert. Obviously Los Angeles freeways have both a “carpool” and a “Jack Bauer” lane.

Friday, May 06, 2005

But I might just be... an Albie

I was happy to return to Cowtown for the oft-missed ubiquity of Tim Horton’s coffee, but no sooner did I rekindle my love affair with it than I found an even better (or at least cheaper) coffee. A market near where I work has this stuff called Highlander Grog, and damn if it isn’t amazing. Without doubt, I’m probably just attracted to the notion of drinking something called grog, a beverage term under-utilized in modern society. I was an equal part pirate and dinosaur nut when I was a kid, so I’m familiar with the appeal of grog. (For pirates that is, although for the latter it could offer a new extinction theory.)

What cannot be replaced, however, is quality sushi. You have a far better chance of eating any manner of buffalo in this city than the raw seafood delicacy. Plus, when you do actually find it, the stuff is so overpriced you’d think the fish got first class plane service over the Rockies internalized into the cost. My upcoming trip to Vancouver – and a certain sushi restaurant – cannot come soon enough. All you can eat? Or, all you can stuff into a suitcase?

Speaking of seafood, still no Eels (or in Japan, unagi) album review on RS, but I recommend checking out another double disc just released. It’s Ryan Adams’ Cold Roses, recorded with his new backing band the Cardinals – what they lack in creative nomenclature they more than make up for in awesome instrumentation. It’s straight up alt-country goodness, which really just means it’s too twangy for rock, but too non-crappy for country.

Though not a true concept album, almost all of the songs describe physical locations (“Cherry Lane,” “Magnolia Mountain,” and “Easy Plateau,” the best of the bunch), which gives it a great visual quality. It actually reminds me of the first chapter of Steinbeck’s East of Eden (best. Steinbeck. ever.) which describes the beauty of California’s Salinas Valley at length. That place may be full of evil whores and backstabbing brothers, but I still want to visit, and I’m not even an Okie.

Monday, May 02, 2005

Step aside, Oprah

I'm only writing this entry as a sort of warm-up for the "real" writing I intend to get to later tonight, my screenplay. I figure if the same principle applies to physical exercise, maybe it works with the brain too. (Sidenote: I have not started my physical exercise yet.)

Rolling Stone has yet to post their review of the new Eels album, but I am positive when they do it's a five star rating. The magazine rarely hands out such accolades, but when they do they are usually bang-on. (Save for that Mick Jagger solo album. If ever evidence is needed that monkeys can indeed formulate prose behind a typewriter, this is it.) Anyway, I picked this modern masterpiece up last week at the store which shall not be named, mostly because two discs for under 16 dollars is a deal by any calculation.

It's true, it's a heavy listen thematically, and should your iPod run out of batteries after only the first disc you may indeed wish to commit suicide, but stick around for the full show and you can see why it's the album of the year.

I also set up my nightstand with the pile of reading I intend to get through this summer. But before I could reach for those final pages of Johnathan Strange I found my half-finished copy of Michael Ondaatje's The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. I recalled I meant to bring this to Vancouver but it must have gotten lost in the packing blitz.

Naturally, I immediately rememebered how much I loved it. Ondaatje? Good. Poetry? Good. Western theme? Um, awesome? Reminds one of the other classic outlaw fiction written from the uneducated first person - go buy this book.

While you follow that link I'm going to silently bid adieu and get back to work. I expect a full book report next week. (And that doesn't just mean synopsis.)