Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Celebrity Turing Test: John McClane Goes Undercover

I meant to post this a couple weeks ago on the heels of Bruce Willis's surprise visit to the Ain't-It-Cool News talkback section. If you missed it, a breakdown of what went down is over here. Basically, in response to a long rant about the PG-13ing of Die Hard 4, the mysterious Walter B appeared to alleviate everyone's fears about a castrated John McClane. At first hinting that he "worked on the movie", it quickly became apparent that Walter B was in fact Bruce Willis himself or an imposter (note: his full name is Walter Bruce Willis). Well, it turns out it was the real Bruce. But in the days before this fact was finally confirmed, the talkback was full of rampant speculation and numerous "tests" to prove that Walter B was who he claimed to be. If you've got a lot of time on your hands, the talkback a fairly entertaining read particularly because Bruce Willis hangs around to talk about the movie and other random things in spite of vehement doubters and surly commenters. The funniest part is that Bruce actually fails a lot of the so-called tests to prove his identity, though really how could internet fanboys undeniably prove that they're chatting with Bruce? The answer is iChat, though it took quite a few days for them to figure this out and even though Bruce was openly asking people to join him on iChat, apparently no one on the talkback had a Mac (Bruce is a Mac guy). There was also a fear that they'd come face-to-face with an internet pervert... which is justifiable, I guess.

Some tests that Walter B failed (my interpretation):


The REAL Bruce Willis would know how to spell John McClane and use grammar.
Walter B: Fool, the Real Bruce Willis don't proofread. Proofreading's for suckas!

At the 50th anniversary of the Cannes film festival, what hotel were you in and what could you see outside the window?
Walter B: Hell if I know!

The real Bruce Willis could not possibly forget the premiere of The 5th Element.
Walter B: Who are you to decide what Bruce Willis remembers and doesn't remember?


I was reminded of a great piece by Maciej Ceglowski called Celebrity Turing Test from his site Idle Words, in which he discusses Pixies' frontman Frank Black's visit to his own forums. The article charts a parallel chain of events with Frank Black faced with the same sort of reactions that Bruce Willis would face almost 4 years later... even things such as the moderators stepping in to flatly deny the imposter's claim and then the belated confirmation followed by pages of adulation.

Yet another similar incident occurred with Ben Folds when he visited his fan forums.

Of the top of my head, those are the other incidents that come to mind, but I'm sure there are several other instances of a celebrity dropping in unexpectedly on a fan site and being subjected to random identity tests.

Bruce Willis - I'll Go Crazy [originally by James Brown]
Bruce Willis - Under the Boardwalk [originally by the Drifters]

Pixies - Ain't That Pretty at All [originally by Warren Zevon]
Reel Big Fish - Gigantic [originally by the Pixies]

Ben Folds Five - She Don't Use Jelly (Complete Sessions at West 54th) [originally by The Flaming Lips]

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Some Housekeeping

Time to attend to some housekeeping issues. I've got about 6+ blog posts on the go that I haven't been able to finish yet. Those will just have to wait for a bit. There are some recent developments that have been tying up most of my spare time in addition to my 2 jobs...

Quiet talk of a move to Vancouver
I lived in Vancouver for a couple months in the summer of 2005, taking some part-time courses in 2D animation. Actually, it was while I was living there that this blog got its lowly start. I've always been meaning to head back there (before 2010) and there's been some recent discussion with friends about that move happening at the end of this summer. I've even bought a ticket to an Andrew Bird show on September 1st in Vancouver... a sort of confirmation of intent, I suppose.

White Stripes Maritime Extravanganza
I alluded to it in earlier posts, but a couple friends and I are headed to the Maritimes on an epic roadtrip to stalk The White Stripes as they head through:

Moncton, NB -- Charlottetown, PEI -- Halifax, NS -- Glace Bay, NS

The hardest part would have been getting tickets, but we managed to get pre-sales for all of them including the elusive 10th Anniversary show in Glace Bay. They're playing at the Savoy Theatre, which only has a capacity of 761, so with a little luck we scored 3 tickets to that. Recently someone bought 4 tickets for this show on eBay for practically $900 CDN... yikes! That's coming up in July (in addition to the Edmonton show at the end of June), so expect to hear me talking about that non-stop in a month or so.

Ben Folds cruise
A week or so ago, they announced the official details on next year's Ben Folds Experience. Positively epic. I'm there!

The Killers & Hot Hot Heat
I'll be going to this show tonight at Rexall Place. I haven't really given Sam's Town a fair listen, but the one song I know, "Why Do I Keep Counting?", is a winner. Hot Hot Heat should be a blast.

Now here's a time-killer. An unreasonable amount of time has been spent on this recently. I've been on for less than 48 hours, but I've been busily setting up my profile, uploading photos, and re-connecting with some old acquaintances. Come check out my photos of some memorable gigs (membership not required) with more to come!
Aimee Mann at the Commodore Ballroom, Vancouver BC August 5, 2005
The White Stripes at the Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver BC August 7, 2005
The White Stripes at the Orpheum Theatre, Vancouver BC August 8, 2005
The Dresden Dolls at the Bloor Cinema, Toronto ON July 15, 2006
The Living End at the Mod Club, Toronto ON August 1, 2006
This Facebook is scarily addictive...

Here's some random covers I've been meaning to post that don't really fall under any particular theme.
Wizo - Poupée de cire, poupée de son [originally performed by France Gall]
The Arcade Fire - Poupée de cire, poupée de son (live) [originally performed by France Gall]
The Wizo cover randomly came up on my iPod and I was hooked. Turns out it was the 1965 Eurovision winning entry for Luxembourg, written by Serge Gainsbourg. I later found out The Arcade Fire have been playing this at the live shows for their 2007 tour. I don't know what it is, but I just can't get into The Arcade Fire. I do like their version of Brazil though.

David J - Being Boring [originally by Pet Shop Boys]
The Pet Shop Boys Discography album is a must-own.

Transformer di Roboter - Stranger in Moscow [originally by Michael Jackson]
Unexpectedly found this cover when I first got my Mac and was trying to figure out how to turn off the boot up "Mac sound," which was used throughout this song. This is one of those curious instances of me listening to a cover and not seeking out the original. For no particular reason, I've never actually heard Michael Jackson sing this.

Baba Yaga - Back in the USSR [originally by the Beatles]
I love the opening vocals of this cover.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Danny Michel live at Convocation Hall

Last night, Danny Michel put on a helluva show at Convocation Hall. Man, I forgot how impressive he is live. Freely jumping at between his guitar and the grand piano parked at stage right, he can dazzle with whatever instrument he's playing. And using looping pedals, he can craft a full-sounding tune all by his lonesome. One highlight was when he called up opening act Ayla Brook of AA Sound System to join him on White Lightning, the two of them playfully trading guitar solos. Danny's a natural performer, often talking with the crowd, sharing stories, and even taking a couple requests. This tour's in support of his new independently produced DVD/CD set recorded live in Toronto. In addition, he figured he might as well go all out and make it a vinyl record ("All my life I've been waiting to do this...") which comes in a snazzy red or white. He's even got a colouring contest (ha ha) at his website to win "something".

[EDIT: 5/24/07 Links removed... (I think Danny's on to me!)]
Danny Michel - Running [originally by No Doubt]
Danny Michel - Hartley

Danny Michel - Life is Good (live from last night!) [originally by Los Lobos]

If you happen to be in Ontario, there's still lots of opportunities to catch him live
May 23 London, ON, London Music House
May 25 Toronto, ON, Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre
May 30 Guelph, ON, The Bookshelf/Ebar
May 31 Wakefield QC, The Blacksheep in (ONE NIGHT ONLY)
June 01 Kingston, The Grad House
June 13 Kitchener ON, Centre in the Square
June 14 Kitchener ON, Centre in the Square
June 15 Halifax, NS, Gingers
July 14-15 Ottawa, ON, Blues Festival

This upcoming Monday the 21st, be sure to tune into CBC Radio 1 between 12-1pm (probaly EST) to catch Danny & Emm Gryner's new radio show on covers! In fact, I'd call it mandatory listening.

(me, Danny, and my new LP)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

If he stays there will be trouble, if he stays it will be double

A quick post; big one later.

Now that Tony Blair's made it official, we get the answer to the question "he" posed over a month ago...

rx - Should I Stay or Should I Go [originally by the Clash]
Using snippets of Tony Blair speeches, rx expertly crafted another political/mash-up/cover dance number. Not only is it technically impressive, but the choice of song is perfect. Similarly, you may remember from a couple years ago rx was responsible for George Bush's covers of Sunday Bloody Sunday and Imagine/Walk on the Wild Side. Even after the initial novelty of hearing these world leaders "sing", the covers themselves are quite listenable (unless that's just me). Sunday Bloody Sunday, in particular, is brilliant.

rx - White Lines [originally by Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel]
This is another one by George Bush. I love this because of the whole "rang-dang-diggety-dang-de-dang" part.

Check out the website thepartyparty.com for music videos of these songs and with some diggin' there are more mp3s to be had.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Retro MP3-Photo Travelogue: London

First off, Happy Mother's Day to all the moms out there. I hope everyone's going out of their way to do something special for their mums. My mom likes to say I was her Mother's Day gift since I was born the day before Mother's Day, though that doesn't get me off the hook. We've got a big fancy brunch lined up this morning and a big family dinner later too.

Anyway, I figured it was time to dust off one of my irregularly updated features (see: Cover Riddles, Canadian Cover Content, MP3 Photo travelogue). Around this time last year, my blog died a slow death as I was off gallavanting in Europe. Here's some of my pics from London with MP3 commentary.

[EDIT: 05/13/2007 4:39pm Once again, Mediafire is acting up so I've uploaded a ZIP of all the songs at the bottom of the post]

Coldplay & Buena Vista Social Club - Clocks


Jimmy Swift Band - Hockey Night in Canada jam [originally by Dolores Claman]

Around this same time last year, our Edmonton Oilers were in the middle of their storybook run to the Stanley Cup finals (ultimately falling just short in game 7). Amazingly there was a Canadian pub called the Maple Leaf near Covent Garden where they were showing playoff games (albeit a day late). The cool thing was there it was actually fairly packed with Canadians and Oiler fans alike as we watched a thrilling Oilers victory. Very surreal to see Ron Maclean & Don Cherry surrounded by English flags!


The Magnetic Fields - Absolutely Cuckoo

I got a cheap day-of ticket to this show, front row centre (cheap because the stage is so high you can't see the back of the stage). It was interesting to see Christian Slater, often said to resemble a "young Jack Nicholson", play a role Jack Nicholson made famous in the film version. I'm always tense at plays, particularly when sitting so close, since I get the feeling the whole thing could go belly-up at any moment. And in this case, I was so close you could see Christian Slater's spit flying! All in all, a pretty entertaining adaptation.


Adam Sandler - Werewolves of London [originally by Warren Zevon]

David Lindley & El Rayo X - Werewolves of London [originally by Warren Zevon]

"I saw a werewolf with a Chinese menu in his hand
Walking through the streets of Soho in the rain.
He was looking for a place called Lee Ho Fook's
Going to get himself a big dish of beef chow mein.

Tempting, but I didn't actually go in for a dish of beef chow mein. I know I've posted this Adam Sandler cover before, but it's actually a very good cover.


Ben Folds - Careless Whisper (live) [originally by Wham!]

Blacklight Posterboys - Jet [originally by Paul McCartney & Wings]

I saw this Roy Lichtenstein painting at the Tate Modern and it's bigger than you might think. London's museums (all free, might I add) are full of major works I actually recognized. I usually scoff when I see ignorant tourists blatantly snapping photos of famous art... Turns out I'm a hypocrite, but it's fine as long as you're not using a flash, right? This Jet cover by the Blacklight Posterboys is fairly straightforward with a slight edge, yet I find it very addictive (moreso than other Jet covers).


The Holmes Brothers - Beast of Burden [originally by the Rolling Stones]

Foo Fighters - Baker Street [originally by Gerry Rafferty]

What sort of parents would name their sons Sherlock and Mycroft?


TheHipCola - Walk Like an Egyptian [originally by The Bangles]

I don't label my photos properly, but I think this Cleopatra's mummy at the British Museum (though not THE Cleopatra).


Deodato - Also Sprach Zarathustra [originally by Richard Strauss]

This creepy baby from the British Natural History Museum reminded me of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. Better known as the Theme from 2001, I first heard this particularly funky rendition of Also Sprach Zarathustra after seeing Being There with Peter Sellers, whom also starred in Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove. Nifty, eh?


Blue Man Group featuring Esthero - White Rabbit [originally by Jefferson Airplane]

Me and a Blue Man. I even got an "autograph" when he put his hand on the back of his head and planted a print on my program guide. Man, I had to carry that thing around in a big ziplock bag and haul around Europe for another month! I still don't think it's dry.


Erasure - Solsbury Hill [originally by Peter Gabriel]

I also spent a week in Bath with some friends. Unbeknownst to me, Solsbury Hill (yes, THAT Solsbury Hill) was a 20 minute walk from where we were staying. Naturally, we set off one afternoon to go "climbing up on Solsbury Hill" where I triumphantly mounted my iPod atop a cement pillar.


In light of recent mediafire issues, a full ZIP of all the songs is available on sendSpace (future songs will likely be hosted there too) MP3-Photo Travelogue: London


On a completely unrelated note, new tour dates are up for the semi-reunited Squirrel Nut Zippers! Check it out on their myspace page.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Look Ma, I'm on IMDb!

On Friday my spidey sense was tingling and no, it had nothing to do with the release of Spider-Man 3 or its impending record-breaking $148 Million weekend (I guess my $150 Million prediction was a tad optimistic). Ironically on a spectacular Spider-Man weekend, it was my Star Wars post that struck a collective nerve with fans everywhere. Last Thursday, there was a 600% increase in traffic to this site, which I attribute to a friendly shout-out on Idolator. Then Friday stats started going through the roof and most everyone could be traced back to IMDb.com, everyone's friendly neighbourhood movie database. What the deuce? IMDb doesn't have links on their front page, especially not to random mp3 blogs. But some hearty investigation worthy of Dr. House revealed that down below the daily poll, the latest on Paris Hilton's recent escapades, and the featured unknown actor is something called the IMDb Hit List. And goshdarn, there was a link to my site sandwiched between a link to an article from Forbes.com and the LATimes.com, with the curious caption of "Create Your Own Star Wars Day Soundtrack". Create your own soundtrack? Why, that's one step away condoning piracy and someone may be forced to bring Manny Perry back to the big screen to talk some sense into our wayward youth! And irony of ironies, check out the link directly below mine.

Very amusing. Anyhoo, it was a very exciting weekend for this site. Just like Spider-Man was busting the box office, Friday's site visits trounced the previous all-time record over the past couple years by about 3500%. And even as traffic tapered off, visits are still 200x the average readership. I've been a user and fan of IMDb for years, and it's surreal to find my way on there in a completely unexpected manner.

Here's a new game: Create Your Own Hitchcock Movie Soundtrack
As we all know, it's the Year of the Pig. I'm a pig, Mr. Hitchcock's a pig, and you could be a big pig too, hooey! Here's a starter kit with songs connected (however tenuously) to the Hitchcock canon:

Alfred Hitchcock Presents
Duran Duran - Notorious
Steve Reynolds - Stage Fright [originally by The Band]
Marion - Psycho Killer [originally by Talking Heads]
The Bates - Billie Jean [originally by Michael Jackson]
Fiona Apple - Window
Ben Folds Five - Birds
Lemar - Vertigo [originally by U2]
Harvey Danger - Carlotta Valdez
Cake - Strangers in the Night [originally made famous by Frank Sinatra]
Harry Nilsson - Think About Your Troubles

All zipped up here:
The Hitchcock Soundtrack Starter Kit
mirror #1 (just in case)

Friday, May 04, 2007

Listen bud, he's got radioactive blood...

Happy Star Wars Day, for real this time. Astute readers may have noticed that I posted my Star Wars-themed post a little early. So now on actual Star Wars Day we turn to another film trilogy with the massive release of Spider-Man 3. Honestly how much is this thing going to make this weekend? $150 million? More? I just took a look at Box Office Mojo and Spider-Man 2 made substantially less in its opening weekend than the first one, which surprised me (since it was better). In any event, I think I'll hold off this weekend and avoid the mad mob. There was a mad mob for 300, so this'll be worse PLUS kids in the mix.

Spider-Man Theme Song (60s version)
Ah, the classic 60s Spider-Man theme. Written by Bob Harris with lyrics by Oscar-winning (!?) Paul Francis Webster. I'm still baffled when I hear the opening strains of the theme. Are those strings? Horns? Woodwinds? Honestly, I listen to it again and again but cannot pick out any specific instrument there.

Spider-Man Theme Song (90s animated series)
Not quite a classic, but memorable in its own right as the theme to my generation's animated Spider-Man. This mid-90s incarnation of Spider-Man was an essential part of a balanced TV watching diet. For some reason, I remember one particular episode with the Insidious Six (or were they Sinister?) where they hook up Rhino to a metal cable from a helicopter and swing him into the side of a building as he smoothly detaches himself and rolls into the vault... Ha ha, what a cool and brilliant scheme, I thought at the time. A bit of trivia, the 90s theme was performed by Joe Perry of Aerosmith.

And of course, we've got some Spidey covers for you. We'll start off with some Canadian content. I may be biased, but these are the best of the Spider-Man covers as well.
Moxy Früvous
Michael Bublé
Michael Bublé (Junkie XL mix)
Tim Tamashiro

Apollo 440
Candy Band
The Distillers
The Mr T Experience

EDIT (05/05/2007 7:45pm): If you're having download issues with mediafire, I've uploaded a zip file of all the above songs to sendspace: Spidey themes & covers

Nothing but Star Wars

As you may or may not realize, today is May the 4th, otherwise known as Star Wars Day. Get it? May the 4th be with you, ho ho ho. But today is not just any Star Wars Day, this year is the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, which blew into theatres May 25th, 1977. So technically I'm celebrating a little early, but here are some Star Wars covers for ya.

No Doubt - The Imperial March (live)
From their Live at the Tragic Kingdom DVD.

Montefiori Cocktail - Theme From Star Wars (Spaghetti Western Version)
Um, ok...

Lounge Brigade - Star Wars
With lyrics originally by Nick Winters.

Anchorhead - Shredisode IV
An epic 13-minute death metal medley of the first film. Quite brilliant, really.

Buckethead - Star Wars
Now if we could just get Star Wars covers by Motörhead, Radiohead, The Futureheads, The Lemonheads, and Propellerheads we'd be set.

Ash - Cantina Band (live at ILM)
The cool thing about this cover is that it was performed live at Industrial Light and Magic studios, the legendary visual effects company started by George Lucas. Given that they even have an album titled 1977, you can imagine the band members are big Star Wars fans. The sound quality is also fantastic, straight from the soundboards. If you're an Ash fan, take a gander at The Ash Files, a comprehensive resource of live recordings with many recordings (such as this one) provided by the band themselves. And if you're particularly vigilant, there are several covers to be had there such as Daydream Believer (The Monkees), Only in Dreams (Weezer), I Only Want to Be With You (Dusty Springfield), and more...

Evil Genius Orchestra - The Asteroid Field
Meco - The Asteroid Field/Finale
Here are lounge and disco covers of The Asteroid Field, probably one of my favourite pieces of soundtrack music. I don't particularly remember hearing it when I saw The Empire Strikes Back the first time. Though I do remember first noticing it while at a friend's house playing Shadows of the Empire on the N64 and thinking "Isn't this the theme from Batman?" during the sweeping climax of the song (honestly, there are some vague similarities!). A couple years later I was at a relative's house in Toronto and they had a remastered CD of the Empire soundtrack. For some reason I just latched onto The Asteroid Field and listened to it repeatedly that summer through giant earmuff headphones while lying on their floor.