Fairport Convention: I Heard It Through The Grapevine. The Norman Whitfield-Barrett Strong classic gets a surprisingly gritty treatment on this live recording, featuring Richard Thompson. A long ways from the dulcimer-n-fiddle sound I might have expected.
The Police: The Bed's Too Big Without You. What makes an album a classic? Well, after almost three decades, I still love listening to Reggatta De Blanc, and almost every track.
Hot Chip: Made in the Dark: The title track from the electronica band that resists the electronica label. Which makes sense, as they don't sound much like other outfits with synths and drum machines.
The Flaming Lips: The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song. I don't think I'll be able to listen to this song again without thinking of a shrieking Brent Bambury. Before last week's show from St. John's, Bambury used an edited loop from this song - basically, with the lyrics chopped out, except for the "yeah yeah yeah" bits - to get the audience on the go, as it were. It worked: a couple of hundred people trying to harmonize, if that's the word, with Wayne Coyne's scales.
Lorraine Bowen: Julie Christie. This showed up this week in the KCRW Top Tune podcast; it apparently has been kicking around since 1997, and showed up almost a decade ago on the soundtrack of Anne Wheeler's Better than Chocolate. It's playful and kitschy; with lyrics like, "Julie Christie / She makes me go misty," how could it not? KCRW picked it from a new collection called Far Out: Swinging Bachelor Pad Music. Who said lounge was dead?
[Surf's Up, as publishedin the St. John's Telegram on Thursday, April 10, 2008. Click here to read more columns.]
It's not often that a site launches with the buzz that Hulu had last month. Then again, not many sites have as much to offer, particularly with such a quality edge.
Or so we're told. The problem is this: in Canada, we can't see what the hoopla is all about.
Hulu launched just four weeks ago, with a hefty promise: watch high-quality, full-length TV episodes and even movies. Forgot the off-air quality seen on YouTube. Hulu has made deals with the players, and rolls its stuff from masters.
Saturday Night Live, Battlestar Galactica, The Simpsons, The Office … the range of new material goes on and on, but what seems striking to me is the backroom of the library, and the possibility of catching up on age-old favourites, particularly ones that are hard to come across. (The first season of WKRP caught my eye. So did Kojak, but that's another story.)
There's no cost, although you have to sit through some brief advertising. Reviews posted in the wake of the launch seemed to agree that this was a decent compromise.
The problem is that Hulu, a joint venture involving NBC and News Corp., does not have rights to stream its material outside the U.S. That may fly in the face of the borderless illusion that the internet can create, but it’s very much an issue in entertainment and media.
I learned this the hard way when I first tried to view a piece, and got an error alert. This week, while checking out the site again, I was instantly greeted with a note that held some promise.
"Given the international background of the Hulu team, we have both a professional and personal interest in bringing Hulu to a global audience," the message said.
We'll see what success they have.
Elsewhere this week
Horrible People Speaking of watching TV online … here's a show that comes in nugget-sized servings, and makes fun of TV at the same time. Making parodies of soap operas must surely date back to the first shows that featured overheated lovers and dialogue to match. For a genre that pretty much lives on the bubble of self-satire, soaps are way, way too easy to mock. Horrible People is made-for-the-web faux soap that appears every Monday on My Damn Channel. It features real actors with genuine production values, and chestnut lines like, "I don't love him less than I don't love you." A caution: the usual soap restrictions on dialogue and content are thrown right out the window here.
Steam Download games, safely and easily. The major drawing point of pirated downloads – they may be sinful, but they’re free of charge – is not a factor here, but at least you can pick what you want, and actually get it, too.
Napkin Folding Guide Myself, I feel happy if I can fold a napkin into a tidy little rectangle, with creased corners and such. I would be stumped to turn a napkin into anything fancy … until I came across the step-by-step instructions that made it look all so easy. And, it probably is, although I have to confess that I was still stymied trying to pull off a couple of tricks.
Who's Alive and Who's Dead Perhaps you have at some point engaged in a morbid type of after-dinner conversation: a debate about whether so-and-so from such-and-such TV show is alive or dead. I suspect it’s a common type of conversation. Who’s Alive and Who’s Dead is updated regularly, and aims to determine whether celebrities from days gone by have passed or are still with us, but just out of sight.
My old school friend Robert Janes directed me to this latest instance of legal fighting over geographically specific food naming (it's sparkling wine everywhere but in France, where you can call it Champagne, merci). This incident involves Glen Breton, which tastes like "scotch" but can't call itself that, since it's made in Cape Breton, not Scotland.
Entertainment Weekly's Popwatch blog took in a Josh Ritter show at famed New Jersey pitstop the Stone Pony, and connected the dots to Bruce Springsteen pretty quickly. We saw Ritter play a solo set supporting Sarah Harmer a few years ago in St. John's, and he stole the show. It's been cool watching his career roll right along since then.
Modfather alert: A curious run of numbers about Paul Weller's next album. It's coming out June 24. It's called 22 Dreams. It has, um, 21 songs. My calendar is marked.
Fraud alert: I'm planning to see the new Artistic Fraud show in St. John's, Fear of Flight. Check out the Chris Brookes-narrated promo spot on YouTube right here. (I'd embed it, but that's been disabled, for some reason.)
Turn that :( upside down ... or better yet, just spell it out. Wow: kids who use emoticons, texting, etc., have problems turning it off for formal writing assighnments. Not ROTFL!!!
Dolly has the Gift: A mashup - how 2004! Here's a combination, though, that's finger-tappin' fun: a mash of Dolly Parton's cover of She Drives Me Crazy, with the Fine Young Cannibals original. It's Driver Me Crazier, from Apollo Zero. Follow the links for the free download.
Oryx & grate: David Pogue of the NYT thumbs back to Margaret Atwood's Oryx & Crate, in light of PETA's grow-your-own-meat appeal this week.
My headline of the day: Ctrl-Alt-Ouch ... which was used to hook interest in a how-to article on Wired, on resetting a dislocated shoulder, but not on the piece itself. Pity.
Here's a choice Wikipedia essay to chew on: the Heavy metal umlaut, the linguistically pointless but aesthetically potent use of the umlaut in the names of heavy metal bands. (Including, notably, Spinal Tap, who avoided the obvious choice of a vowel, opting instead for the more sensible N.)
On April 23, 1897, Lester B. Pearson was born, outside of Toronto. Pearson grew up to become Canada's prime minister, serving between 1963 and 1968. Pearson - called "Mike," even those with whom he was not familiar - is among a small number of politicians who earned their stripes first in diplomacy. Pearson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for his part in dealing with the Suez Crisis. Pearson was elected leader of the Liberals the following year. He died in 1972, which means my generations doesn't have much of a memory of him at all. For younger people, I would imagine they know his name through the Toronto airport.
You meet the most interesting people in Disney World. On vacation there last month, a few parents (yours truly included) were chatting on one of the shuttles between our hotel and one of the parks. Two of the couples were from the same part of Minnesota. One was a volunteer firefighter, and I was struck by how busy he said things were getting. The key ingredient for change: foreclosures. This article in the Los Angeles Times from earlier this week jumped out at me.
On Saturday morning, I went to the live broadcast of CBC Radio's Go! from the LSPU Hall in downtown St. John's. Yep, I work at the Corpse, but I went as a fan ... when they announced the show, I logged on like anyone to sign up for tickets. I was curious to see how a staple of my Saturday morning routine gets made. (I was also a fan of host Brent Bambury going back a couple of decades, when I listened to Brave New Waves during more than a few allnighters when I was working in Ottawa.)
The show sure was fun.
Highlights of Brent Bambury's visit to St. John's are online, on the audio page. In fact, almost all of it is. You can stream the lot of it, as well as a hilarious bit by Dave Sullivan, about redubbing familiar movies with Newfoundland voices. His examples: the "Luke, I am your father" scene from The Empire Strikes Back and the "we'll always have Paris" scene from Casablanca. (Buchans gets the nod in the latter.)
You can also download several bits: two cracking songs by Chris Kirby and the Marquee, whose upcoming album will evidently be legend, and comic ballads about Danny Williams by singers Sean Panting and Neil Conway. (A third was performed, by Dana Parsons, and I suspect it's not there for download because of copyright reasons: it used the Pat Benatar song Heartbreaker for its melody.)
Geoff Meeker, meanwhile, has his thoughts on the show in this post, including an interview with my former and hopefully future desk buddy Erin Noel, who is now working on the show.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.