Friday, June 27, 2003

A Genuine $25 Word

For reasons best left unexplained, I went to look up odiferous at the other day and received this message:

1 entry found for odiferous.


( P ) odiferous: log in for this definition of odiferous and other entries in Webster's Millennium™ Dictionary of English, available only to Premium members.

Another sign that the dot-com, information-wants-to-be-free era is nearing final philosophical collapse. My first reaction, and this will sound daft or elitist or conspiracy-theory-riffic, was that only the really fancy, New Yorker style words were considered Premium, and that simpler words would remain free. So I typed in stinky and malodorous, and both had free definitions! In fact, I went on to enter a half-dozen more words -- desultory, lachrymose, sybarite, pulchritude and sobriquet -- and they all had free definitions too.

I’m not sure what it all means, but (wait for it) something doesn’t smell right here. Maybe it’s time to finally buy myself a real-time dictionary.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Pride Goeth Before Shame

Two years ago I quipped to my friend Rob that there should be a counter-festival during Pride called Shame. Not that there’s anything wrong with being gay, some of my best friends, etc. The point I’m trying to make is that eventually a counter-culture celebration, if it occurs often enough, becomes codified into an institution, with the usual compromises regarding corporate sponsorship, accusations of organizers rounding the rough edges and making the event "safe" and so on and so on. Vancouver used to have something called Music Waste, a somewhat antagonistic counter-festival held during Music West (now called New Music West). Toronto has a traditional of disgruntled folk creating events in their own image – the Cut and Paste zine fair was created in response to another zine fair (the Small Press Fair I think) which was formed in response to some other zine fair. You get the idea.

Anyway, I was pleased, very, very, very pleased to see posters last year for Shame at Vazaleen -- a monthly queer-positive event held at Lee’s Palace (and before that, the El Mo, I believe), founded by DJ, impresario and underwear artist Will Munro. And this year, it’s happening again. Here are the details, taken from the instantcoffee mailing list:

VAZALEEN -- Shame -- Fri 27 June @ Lee's Palace
Vazaleen Shame Friday June 27th @ Lee's Palace 531 Bloor St. West with legendary special guest performing live Jayne County and the Electric Chairs – a transsexual punk pioneer not to be missed!

Event hosted by Plastick Patrick (0ne-976)
two floors of shameful goodness
video mixing by Mix Motion
special event price 10$

Sunday, June 22, 2003

Colour My World

The April issue of National Post Business Magazine features a Microsoft ad for their Business Intelligence solutions. (I have no doubt this ad ran in many other magazines in North America). Three-quarters of the full page plea is a photo of a couple posing outside a Drive Up Wedding Chapel ("Wedding Window: A Special Memory.") The man and woman are meant to represent a complete mismatch, and the caption underneath the photo reads "Unfortunately, we can only help you make better business decisions." The main text of the ad points out that, "After all, even if you have data, without insights, what may seem like a good decision in the heat of the moment, can – in the morning light – turn out to be one you regret."

So what’s the problem, I hear you ask? Well, the woman is black, and her new husband is white. The assumption underpinning this advertisement, as far as I can tell, is that mixed-marriages are so common in North America that the last thing anyone looking at this advertisement is going to think is: "The marriage is a bad idea because the dude is black and the chick is white."

This ad seems to be informing us that we live in a society where racism has been eradicated, and that everyone has an equal opportunity in this glorious meritocracy we call North America. It’s a place where no one would ever dare make the obvious, crude, reductive observation that stiff, uptight honkies and brash black gals might not mix.

But if this marriage cannot be saved for reasons other than race, we are forced to examine the ad pretty damn carefully to discover why not. Donning my Roland Barthes x-ray specs, I notice the following signifiers:

* The drive-thru wedding connotes haste and impulse.

* The woman is wearing a huge pink disco wig and has a tongue piercing.

* The woman also has very colourful and eclectic clothing, whereas the guy has a white dress shirt and red tie and black pants and short hair. She is wild, he is buttoned down and tucked in.

* The woman appears younger than the man, but the age contrast isn’t particularly sharp.

If the woman were white, and everything else remained identical, it would not be immediately obvious why the wedding was so very wrong. The fright wig by itself, perhaps indicates that not all is right with the couple -- maybe she’s supposed to be a hooker and I’m overthinking the whole ad. But I want more than the fake pink hair, because the white guy, while definitely looking like "a suit" isn’t exactly the ultimate square. (He’d undoubtedly be considered one of the more hip customers at a TGI Friday’s). The woman, meanwhile has a thrift-store vibe to her ensemble, but isn’t so unlike the guy that we couldn’t imagine them getting married, assuming they were both Caucasian.

The cliches and stereotypes this kind of advertisement generally favours include the rich septuganarian marrying the 19-year-old Vegas showgirl or the nerdy accountant with pocket protector shacking up with the dreadlocked female bass player. Or really, any pairing that connotes a very sharp delineation between mindsets, outlooks, professions, worldviews, etc., semiotically speaking. What I can’t get over is how cavalier this advertisement is regarding race relations. We can joke about the hasty wedding, it suggests, because the bad old days are over – the present and the future are simply that fantastically egalitarian.

(And by the way, yes, if I had a scanner – which I promise to get one day soon – and the proper blogging software, I would have posted a jpeg of the advertisement).

Postscript: June 18, 2003 | SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Abercrombie & Fitch, the clothing retailer that promotes a "casual classic American lifestyle," has been hit with an employment discrimination lawsuit accusing it of cultivating an overwhelmingly white sales force. Abercrombie has been accused of racial insensitivity in the past. Last spring, following complains from Asian American groups, it removed from stores a line of T-shirts that showed two slant-eyed men in conical hats and the slogan "Wong Brothers Laundry Service -- Two Wongs Can Make it White."

Wednesday, June 18, 2003

Which of These Authors Are Not Like the Others?

In the April 24-30, 2003 edition of Now weekly is an advertisement from the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association. (See also: the Summer 2003 issue of Toronto art mag Lola). The text of the ad is as follows:

Atwood. Coupland. Davies. Heti. Ondaatje. Quarrington.

We have our own library.
We have our own magazines.

Look for this icon.

OK, did you notice something strange in that list of authors? Nope, it isn’t that four of the six are men, whereas equal opportunism would dictate a 50/50 split between male and female writers. Is it that Coupland is a Vancouver-based writer, while the others are all Ontario-based? Nope, that ain’t it either.

Here, perhaps this chart will help elucidate.

Author          Number of Citations in the Toronto Public Library Catalogue

Atwood:                  310
Coupland:                 32
Davies:                   159
Heti:                         1
Ondaatje:                114
Quarrington:              34

Understand what I’m talking about now? Sheila Heti has done some amazing things in her short time on earth. I can’t name another 26-year-old in Toronto with a book published by McSweeney’s, a successful monthly lecture series (that earned a brief mention in the New Yorker when she took it on the road) and fiction published in Toronto Life, among other places. I understand she’s currently working on a musical of sorts, along with a novel. In short, a very talented individual.

But something isn’t right here, and it’s worth mentioning. Is Sheila Heti such a monster talent that the reading public -- after only one book of short stories -- recognize her by her last name, as we might a Hollywood actor or a famous musician or athlete? I severely doubt it. The Middle Stories wasn’t a best-seller (although it is now on the syllabus of some university English classes). Still, it did very well, and earned a tugboatload of publicity when it was published in the Spring of 2001, but there are at least 30 other authors who could have been inserted in her place.

I would love to know how the names for this campaign were chosen. Perhaps they were chosen at random, and these are the six names that were drawn from a hat. Realistically, some behind-the-scenes machinations led to her name being inserted. What that is, we may never know. Perhaps her literary agent pulled some strings. Perhaps she is friends with someone at the Canadian Magazine Publishers Association. Perhaps Martha Sharpe at House of Anansi knows people who know people. Insert your own conspiracy theory here.

What we do know is that a certain injustice is occurring here – I can think of a few Toronto authors who must have ground their teeth when they spotted that ad, especially those who have published, say, more than one book.

As for me, I’m less concerned about the wacko process that led to her name being sandwiched between Robertson Davies and Michael Ondaatje, and more interested in the pressure and expectations this sort of thing generates. The next youngest author in that list, Coupland, is either 40 or 41. What if -- and this is only an if -- Heti doesn’t deliver on her early promise? I doubt that will be the case, but this sort of juxtaposition, at the very least, means we the literary public are allowed to demand a hell of a lot from her next book(s). Or at least, that’s the conclusion I reach when I see such a list.

Tuesday, June 17, 2003


Further to my post of Sunday, June 15, here are two more bits of embedded SPAM doggerel:

From: "Lusty Threads"
Subject: Sexy Bikinis, Sensual Patriotism
X-Spam-Level: Spam-Level SSS

beaker reconfigurer hanson hamlin hilarious RzneXeovttrRzneXfsh.pnRzneX dissolve tomography errs tided westwards pajama familiarization doorways hedged shipyard unruly boggle indignities hobbies southerner


Date: 17 Jun 2003 08:32:09 -0000
From: "Rosalie Sjostrand"
Subject: RE: what? what?

steaks reconfiguring rummage veil ellie hosting bill outlawed pod ennobled axiomatically exceedingly allergy leigh church penetrates credibility tickers scoffer listerize robe heck momentously eagan stockholm an biota personal cloudless executes choctaw conclusions safety epistemological inheritor boar weeper chisels incurable reddest RzneXeovttrRzneXfsh.pnRzneX wholeness dunn flosses powerless conveyers darned urinated mayonnaise bernard gill

I’m curious to learn what "RzneXeovttrRzneXfsh.pnRzneX" is all about. Email me if you know…

Monday, June 16, 2003

Hail to the Thief / MP3s Are Killing Home Taping

Bought the new Radiohead last Tuesday and discovered it was Copy Controlled, meaning I couldn’t rip a copy for my girlfriend. This irritated me, especially since the Internet wasn’t rife with ways to circumvent this new anti-piracy measure that EMI has introduced (unlike me, she has high-speed Internet, but downloading an album is generally a hassle, and there’s something to be said for a first generation digital copy).

I was also pissed off because every time I put the album into my iMac, it claims to be unable to read the CD, and I have to click on a pop-up window and select Eject, even though this doesn’t make the CD Eject, but instead, it remains in the slot and works just fine. (Although the CD ejected once for no reason half-way through the album. Also, the first time I played the CD it didn’t really work for awhile). All of this is to say that a digital version of the album on my harddrive would be far more convenient, especially since I bought the album, nice and legal. (Please ignore my earlier mention of trying to make an illegal copy for my sweetie, since that weakens my argument somewhat).

Anyway, today – nearly a week later – I found this little tip at MacOS X Hints Website:

Tape and Marker trick
Authored by: thoughts on Tue, Feb 18 '03 at 11:22AM
I read about this a long time ago, tried it, and it works for me.

If you look at the bottom of your CD, you can see that about half a centimeter from the CD's outside edge, there is what appears to be "session separation line." Everything after that line is your normal audio CD, everything before that, up to the edge of the CD, is the "copy protection."

Solution? Take a bit of scotch tape, colour it black, and stick it so it reaches from the outside edge of the CD, right up to where the copy protection ends and the 'normal' part of the CD begins. It can and should only be a tiny piece - don't need to tape the *whole* copy protection area away ;p

Now, when you put your CD into your drive, it will automatically skip the copy protection, and mount properly.

For victory! :)

It actually works, if you delicately line up the tape right to the edge. It takes some fiddling, however, and to warn you, putting a bit of Scotch on the CD results in a long delay before your iMac recognizes the CD. At least, mine did, but it’s a 2000 blueberry, and I’m not running OS X, which might make some difference.

At first MusicMatch wouldn’t let me rip the CD, so I ended up downloading Audion3 and that seemed to work pretty OK (although three tracks wouldn’t rip – 2, 10, 13 – and the encoding interface is kind of lame and the free trial only lets you rip 20 tracks before you have to register). Then I took the tape off and discovered Audion3 will rip a Copy Controlled CD without the tape, but try as I might, 2, 10 and 13 wouldn’t encode.

Next I tried WinAmp for Mac, but that doesn’t let you rip anything. (As if to taunt me, on their download page there was a downloadable WinAmp skin of cover art from Hail to the Thief). Rumour has it iTunes can rip the album without problem but that requires OS X, and I’m running 9.0.3. The link to the marker trick features at least five or six other possible solutions and runarounds for the Copy Controlled technology.

I’m sure there’s some witty, ironic, luddic or post-modern comment to be made about how one can almost completely bypass an anti-piracy measure that no doubt cost thousands of dollars worth of R&D with .01 cents worth of tape and marker, but I’ll leave that to

Sunday, June 15, 2003


Received the usual dumptruck of SPAM this morning, with the following email sneaking past the filter:

From: "Kathleen Holstine"
Subject: RE: angela called..

Nothing unusual, right? But check out this batch of words included in the body of the email, right after the PGP signature:

loeb initialed syndicated remedial filament magnetism jewels freudianisms cheaply alternated rock ponds assembles plexiglas irregularly adduced static worshiper heaters rotary wallet inverts dive asynchronous hastened superhumanly prohibition equilibrium longest abandons autonavigator shafts trucker convoys adkins ballers interior reciprocating weathering congregated RzneXeovttrRzneXfsh.pnRzneX fatherly spitfire serviced laotians sparseness hammered wastefully enslaving sullenness tompkins

Obviously I have no idea what "RzneXeovttrRzneXfsh.pnRzneX" means, but overlook that non-word and you’re left with a strange kind of poetry, automatic writing produced by an automaton of some sort. I find this eminently preferable to the human variety.

Friday, June 13, 2003

The Target Shoots First

Yesterday (June 12) I made $50 cash money for doing the focus group gab for 90 minutes. Not bad money really, and I haven’t had a big red in my wallet for awhile. Quite awhile ago – late November of 2000, as it turns out – I started work on an article about focus groups for National Post Business Magazine. The idea was to go on both sides of the mirror and report about what happens.

Unfortunately most companies are hesitant to let a reporter watch a focus group because of the proprietary research being conducted. I was close to getting access to a non-profit research session for a doctors group, but that fell through. Long story short, I didn’t manage to convince anyone to let me sit with the client and the story died. Eventually, Matthew McKinnon wrote a rather sharp article about the topic for NPBM called "Focus Pocus," that was published in August of 2002. It was even nominated for a National Magazine Award, but it didn’t end up winning. (He didn’t figure out a way to get behind the mirror either).

I mention this in part because I have a small file of research I collected for the stillborn article I was working on, which I will now share with you.

I did a preliminary interview with a woman named Marion Plunkett, who runs Plunkett Communications here in Toronto. She discussed and showed me some of the tools and exercises she uses in focus groups, including collages that had been constructed by participants to elicit feelings about brands. To hear Plunkett describe it, these techniques made some sense, but in the wrong hands you get into airy-fairy land pretty quickly.

Back in November of 2000, Eric Felten, in the Wall Street Journal, wrote that "Focus groups promise us a window on the public's true thoughts. What we get instead is a picture of how people behave when thrust into an unnatural environment. And it isn't pretty." He continues:

Focus groups were never meant for discovering people's opinions. The idea -- born of group therapy -- was that "focused-group" interviews could tell the researcher why people hold the opinions they do.

For example, by doing traditional "quantitative" surveys, the pollster finds that left-handed auto workers of Albanian descent prefer Schlitz Malt Liquor. So the pollster convenes a group of left-handed auto workers of Albanian descent to get them talking in the hope of finding out why this particular subgroup so relishes a cold, frosty Schlitz.

As originally conceived, the homogeneity of the group is essential for creating an atmosphere in which people will be open and honest. Old focus-group hands thus warn: Don't mix women and men; don't mix young and old; don't mix black and white. Why, then, have political pollsters been using groups in which each of the dozen panelists is drawn from a different walk of life, with nothing in common to knit them together as a focused group?

Because it gives the impression that the opinions reflect those of the whole nation. But using a focus group to impersonate a national sample defeats the purpose of the exercise, says longtime market researcher Jana O'Brien, executive vice president of Starcom MediaVest Group. "It's very hard to put supporters of the top two brands in the same group, whether the product is rental cars, fast food or presidential candidates," she says. "The loyalists of the number two brand always attack the number one brand."

Here is Bruce Philp writing in the January 29, 2001 Financial Post:

Planning's most treasured tool, and the source of all its authority, is something called consumer insight, and these insights are very often acquired at an altar known as the focus group - the crack cocaine of all research, thanks to its low cost, infinite mutability and convenient speed. It's here that agencies seek inspiration, or perhaps more often than that, permission from consumers to sell to them. Here, comfortably seated behind two-way mirrors, thoughtfully sipping Evian, we observe the mice being asked to help us design the trap.

Lesley Daw, writing in the May 18, 1998 issue of Marketing Magazine:

[The teen girls] were pretty media savvy and a little skeptical about advertising and the motives of advertisers.

Some of the teenage boys, on the other hand, were downright cynical, one referring to advertising people as "shysters." They said they thought there were laws that advertisers couldn't lie outright, but they did "twist the truth" by using small print and other "misleading" tactics. And they sounded like they knew what they were talking about, speaking in terms of "target markets" and "image advertising."

Finally, back in February of 1997, the Simpsons spoofed focus groups in Episode 4F12 (The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show). Bart, Lisa and a couple of other classmates find themselves discussing cartoons. Here are my favourite moments:

Man: We want you to tell us what you think. And, be honest, because no one from the show is here spying on you. [chuckles]

[a sneezing sound comes from a huge mirror set along a wall of the room; the mirror shakes.]

Lisa: Why is that mirror sneezing?

Man: Ah, look, it's just an old, creaky mirror, y'know, sometimes it sounds a little like it's sneezing, or coughing, or talking softly.


Man: How many of you kids would like Itchy & Scratchy to deal with real-life problems, like the ones you face every day?

Kids: [clamoring] Oh, yeah! I would! Great idea! Yeah, that's it!

Man: And who would like to see them do just the opposite – getting into far-out situations involving robots and magic powers?

Kids: [clamoring] Me! Yeah! Oh, cool! Yeah, that's what I want!

Man: So, you want a realistic, down-to-earth show... that's completely off-the-wall and swarming with magic robots?

Kids: [all agreeing, quieter this time] That's right. Oh yeah, good.

Milhouse: And also, you should win things by watching.

As for my recent experience, our moderator, unlike McKinnon’s – "Ed, with his pleated pants, open-necked dress shirt and go-go-go, wet-toothed lust for life. Ed bounces around the room like a pocket tornado…" – was calm to the point of coma. He was a grey-haired fellow in his 40s, with a bemused tone and at times distant manner. He was pretty relaxed in guiding the discussion, and at times gave the impression of merely going through the motions. At one point, he got a little testy with one of us for critiquing a slogan, asking the guy beside me, "are you a copywriter?"

The main thrust of McKinnon’s article was how unscientific and crude this particular research method actually is, quoting SFU business dean Lindsay Meredith, who compares the focus group to a chainsaw: "There’s no question, the chainsaw is one of the most useful tools I own. It’s also the one that will take your leg off the quickest if you get stupid with it."

The secondary push of the article is how often people lie to get into focus groups in the first place. It is amazing how easy it is to say what someone wants to hear. I told the recruiter I quaff 15 bottles of beer a week. Try six in a good week. Also, I was told I’d have to produce ID, to prove my age. This did not happen. Nor did I have to sign a non-disclosure form. I did have to consent to having myself videotaped, however.

What is interesting to me is that no matter how maligned they are, and despite attempts to devise other methods, companies keep deferring to them.

(See also: Italians do it better and the inner doughboy).

Monday, June 09, 2003

Ten More Years of These Six Albums

The re-issue of Pavement’s seminal Slanted & Enchanted (including fancy liner notes and a bonus disc of rarities and B-sides) to coincide with the album’s ten year anniversary has been a critical and financial success. Other indie-rock mile markers are fast approaching their tenth birthday, and their respective labels have announced plans to follow the S&E route. Here are six to keep your ears open for.

* Palace, There is No-One What Will Take Care of You (June, 1993, Drag City)
Re-mastering mid-fi indie-rock songs is futile at best, but this no-fi album sounds like it was recorded on a .4 track. Instead, Drag City offers a new 20-page booklet including special artwork and a typically cryptic but exclusive interview with singer Will Oldham – "It was the sinful, drunken dust vole who let loose the barbasol tears of my imagination" – that will make you fall in love with this album all over again.

* Liz Phair, Exile in Guyville (June, 1993, Matador)
Same songs, same order, same liner notes and absolutely no bonus material. However, the re-issue will feature a remix of "Flower" that makes it much easier to hear Phair sing "I want to be your blowjob queen." Advance orders for the album have already topped 100,000 copies.

* Breeders, Last Splash (August, 1993, 4AD)
Purists will insist this is alt-rock, not indie-rock, an argument that centers around the fact that it sold more than 28 copies. Still, the reissue will help fans forget all about "Title TK," the recent follow-up album that took nine years to complete – and really wasn’t worth the wait. Liner notes include a formal apology from Kim and Kelley Deal for wasting everybody’s time.

* Archers of Loaf, Icky Mettle (September, 1993, Alias)
Includes a Karaoke disc of the entire album so that you can sing along with all your favourite smash hit singles, including "Web in Front," "Wrong" and chart-topper "Plumb Line." Imagine the thrill of belting out classic sing-along lines like "Stuck a pin in your backbone / Spoke it down from there / All I ever wanted was to be your spine" or "She’s an indie rocker / and nothing’s gonna stop her / plumb line says she’s a bitch." Remember, with Icky Mettle Karaoke, you’re the star!

* Guided by Voices, Bee Thousand (June, 1994, Scat Records)
Using the same software algorithms that remove clicks and pops from old 78rpm blues records, the static and sonic imperfections of this four-track masterpiece have been removed in the re-mastering process. Also includes a bonus EP of 27 unreleased songs from the ever-prolific Robert Pollard, including a song about the making of Bee Thousand, a song about the song about the making of Bee Thousand, and you get the idea.

* Sebadoh, Bakesale (September, 1994, Sub Pop)
Includes a bonus DVD with every Sebadoh video ever made (three). The album itself includes "Happy Hug Kitten Rainbow," a song that was deleted from the original album because it contains no minor chords. The totally fucking stupid cover photo of a baby Lou Barlow peering into a toilet remains unaltered in the slightest.

Friday, June 06, 2003

The Kill Fee is My Favourite Kind of Fee

For those unfamiliar with freelance writing, a kill fee is the payment you receive from a publication when they decide not to run your article. It is usually a portion of what you would have been paid had it actually been inked, stamped and pressed. I pitched Saturday Night on a chart, and this is as far as we got into the process. Enjoy the following $200 worth of unpublished splendor.

In 1998, the Canadian Museum of Nature established the Nature Discovery Fund to finance the exploration of relatively undiscovered areas in Canada to uncover different species of insects. To help raise money, the NDF will name an insect species after anyone who donates at least $500. Unfortunately, the response has been a little underwhelming. Thus far, only 16 people have elected to get their own insect, and the only famous person of the bunch is the late Carl Atwood, father of Margaret. Strangely, his Metamasius atwoodi, a large red and black weevil, hasn’t been enough to spark much interest in the project. So Saturday Night has put together a chart of six Canadian celebrities we think would raise the profile (and thus, the bank account) of this worthwhile project.

The Celebrity: Arsinee Khanjian
Reason For Selection: Latin insect name and real name nearly identical, and both are impossible to spell correctly. Also, insect language and Arsinee Khanjian language are nearly identical.
Endorsement Opportunities: Hubby Egoyan will no doubt be amenable toward inserting insect cameo into his next film.

The Celebrity: David Suzuki
Reason For Selection: No true environmental spokesperson can feel complete without an insect to call their own.
Endorsement Opportunities: Nature of Things special devoted to new insect is a no-brainer.

The Celebrity: Rex Murphy
Reason For Selection: His close physical kinship with insect world.
Suggested Insect Counterpart: Something prickly, like the praying mantis
Endorsement Opportunities: Could provide the voice of insect for inevitable computer animated film, like Woody Allen in Antz. (Will hold distinction as only children’s film character that scares both kids and parents, albeit for different reasons).

The Celebrity: Diana Krall
Reason For Selection: Jazz and insect chirping share atonal similarities and affinity for crooning shared by both Krall and crickets.
Endorsement Opportunities: Given Krall’s ability to find car sponsorships, getting her to plug her insect will be a snap.

The Celebrity: Pamela Wallin
Reason For Selection: She would get mad at us if we left her out of this chart. Also, only honour left unbestowed upon Ms. Wallin.
Endorsement Opportunities: Will undoubtedly write book about her insect namesake, a la The Comfort Of Cats.

Other suggested spokespeople:

- Douglas Coupland (he’d also write a book about insects, or make art about it, so it would be him or Wallin).
- Rick Mercer (both Mercer and insects bite and get under your skin)
- Mike Bullard
- Sook Yin-Lee
- David Cronenburg
- Jann Arden

Chart Template:

- The Celebrity
- Reason For Selection
- Suggested Insect Counterpart
- Strange Human-Insect Synergy
- Endorsement Opportunities

Thursday, June 05, 2003

A Rivers Runs Through It

"I write maybe one song a week."
-- Rivers Cuomo in, January 22, 2002

"[Rivers] boots up an elaborate color-coded spreadsheet that catalogs all the songs he’s written in the past three and a half years. Scrolling down, he shows off the latest entry -- number 377."
-- Rolling Stone, June 20, 2002

If "Smile" made it onto the Green album, and "Burndt Jamb" made it onto Maladroit, the question begs: precisely how shitty are some of those 350 odd unrecorded tracks? For this world-exclusive blog posting, I interviewed Weezerjacks, did the Google thing, and sifted through Cuomo’s trash to find out. The result is an album comprised of nine putrid but (thankfully) unreleased tunes that represent the very best of the very worst of Weezer.

Catalog Number & Song Title: #48 (Season of the Sun)
Topic: Daylight savings time
In the style of: The Poppy Family / Terry Jacks
Sample lyric: "What to do with that extra hour? / Mow the lawn or tend the flowers? /
Write a song or kiss a girl? / Or find a better rhyme than world"

Catalog Number & Song Title: #102 (Song 102)
Topic: Tribute to Blur
In the style of: duh
Sample lyric: "Woo-hoo / when I feel heavy-metal / Woo-ee-oo / when I feel Damon Albarn / I don’t care what they say about us anyway / It’s not my problem"

Catalog Number & Song Title: #152 (Whoops)
Topic: Apology for Pinkerton
In the style of: Get Up Dashboard Eats Mouse World Promise Plan
Sample lyric: "I didn’t mean to jumpstart emo / Sorry for El Scorcho / If I could do it all again / I’d imitate Van Halen"

Catalog Number & Song Title: #160 (Purple Rhombus)
Topic: Falling in love with a geometry professor at Harvard
In the style of: Pink Triangle
Sample lyric: "She’s five sexy sides / to my bland four / I’m just a math rock student / lookin’ to score"

Catalog Number & Song Title: #183 (My Velouria)
Topic: Song about covering Velouria
In the style of: The Breeders
Sample lyric: "I sang a song / ahooh ahooh / I didn’t write / koo koo / I trampolined / ahooh ahooh / with all my might / koo koo / crash"

Catalog Number & Song Title: #198 (Hair Up)
Topic: Static cling
In the style of: The Shaggs
Sample lyric: "Rub me the wrong way / there will be sparks / I’m so happy when you use fabric softener / I’m so sad when you don’t but you’re still in my dreams and my pal foot foot said it’s Halloween"

Catalog Number & Song Title: #231 (Rubber Room)
Topic: Bouncing a Superball against a wall for a month
In the style of: Syd Barrett
Sample lyric: "I’ve got a ball / You can bounce it on a wall / I’ve got a cat / and he likes to pounce at rats"

Catalog Number & Song Title: #253.14159 (Grease of Mind)
Topic: George Foreman Grill
In the style of: AC/DC
Sample lyric: "It’s a fast machine / I keep the teflon clean / It’s the best damn griddle / I have ever seen"

Catalog Number & Song Title: #355 (Better Than Others)
Topic: How song #355 is better than song #354
In the style of: Song #258
Sample lyric: "Not as good as song 211 / but better than song 354 / song 355 / is Weezer heaven."

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Why I Write, Part 28

Toro (Japanese for tuna belly, as my girlfriend was quick to point out) is a Canadian men's magazine that launched in April of this year. It has a front-of-the-book squib entitled AWOL. "What ever happened to pubic hair?" asked AWOL in the inaugral issue. The second issue, which was published this week, already finds its AWOL section AWOL.

In early April, my editor at Toro asked me to pitch her a breezy, where-is-it-now item. ("We were hoping for an object, an article of clothing, etc. for AWOL that has a summer feel").

Mine included:

* Streaking. This used to be really popular in the 1970s. McLuhan even said it was an art form with political and activist overtones. Ray Stevens wrote that song about it in 1974, which came out a few days after some guy streaked at the Oscars.

* Roller Skates (you know, the old skool kind that were basically running shoes with wheels).

* The Kool-Aid pitcher. Didn't he used to bash through walls and surprise kids with refreshing liquid? Where is he now? I don't see him around much anymore.

* The Superball. Those really bouncy rubber balls.

* Pogosticks.

* Shark tooth necklaces (popular during the time of Jaws).

Two weeks later my editor emailed her thanks for my pitches. Unfortunately, none were suitable. At the risk of being a spoiler, future issues of Toro will ask, "What ever happened to the decent single guy?" and "What ever happened to the SkyDome?"

The SkyDome?