Thursday, March 23, 2017

Why Writers Write

Oftentimes when I'm temping as a proof-writer or copy-writer, I'll be asked why I choose such an unstable job instead of a career where I can be guaranteed hours and a wage, such as the times I've spent as a market research analyst / marketing consultant (2006-2011, and 2016, give or take), and I guess the best answer is the last line in this piece by The late Show with Stephen Colbert:

I basically live to write words that resonate, even when they're obvious like here. And I am far from alone.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Video Of The Week: Ice Cube

It's a laid-back Sunday morning, drinking an orange-flavoured Rockstar Recovery drink along with my breakfast - a slit bagel with cretons (pork spread) and mustard on each side - on a relatively warm winter day.

Things are looking up, as I'm chilling and writing on a comfortable leather couch. Life's good.

Which brings me back to Ice Cube's 1994 chilling classic You Know How We Do It, from the seminal album Lethal Injection (my favourite of his until 2008's Raw Footage came out). All in all, the record is more "gangsta rap" than "political commentary", but this song, despite some trademark Cube boasting, is so laid-back in its essence that when I'm not listening to it, I actually remember it as slower than it actually is, more like Evelyne "Champagne" King's The Show Is Over, which it samples.

The video, directed by Marcus Raboy (director of Friday After Next as well as Naughty By Nature's O.P.P., Mary J. Blige's Real Love, Reminisce, and Deep Inside, Rancid's Time Bomb, Luscious Jackson's Naked Eye, Santana's Maria Maria and Put Your Lights On, Wyclef Jean and Mary J. Blige's 911, Sean Kingston's Beautiful Girls, Shakira's Waka Waka (This Time For Africa) and Avril Lavigne's What The Hell, among others), shows Ice Cube riding shotgun on the old Las Vegas strip and gambling, because having him smoke weed on a beach might not have been as entertaining and camera-friendly:

Friday, March 10, 2017

Video Of The Week: Toto


E.T. and Das Boot.

The year I turned 4.

Toto. Goddamn motherfucking Toto.

To this day, Toto are still one of the biggest bands to draw in France; they're basically to France what The Offspring is to Québec or what U2 is to the U.S., without the negative press.

You can barely get a sporting event or family gathering or sugar shack outing without hearing 1978's Hold The Line, but these guys have also brought you Rosanna and Africa...

I mean, sure, it's cheesy, but it also gets stuck in your head line nothing else. Africa and Rosanna are the brain cancer of prog rock...

This video was directed by Steve Barron, who was at the helm of many popular films and TV miniseries (1984's Electric Dreams, 1990's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, 1993's Coneheads, 1998's Merlin) and many groundbreaking music videos, and a few cheesy ones as well: Michael Jackson's Billie Jean, A-Ha's Take On Me, Dire Straits' Money For Nothing and Calling Elvis, Bryan Adams' Cuts Like A Knife, Run To You and Summer Of '69, Eddie Grant's Electric Avenue, the Natalie Cole and Nat "King" Cole duet Unforgettable, Dolly Parton's Potential New Boyfriend, The Human League's two hits (Keep Feeling) Fascination and Don't You Want Me, The Jam's Strangetown, Sheena Easton's For Your Eyes Only and Telephone, Def Leppard's awful Let's Get Rocked, Madonna's Burning Up and a slew of others by the likes of Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark, Paul McCartney and Tears For Fears.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Video Of The Week: Rage Against The Machine

It may have been too long since I last featured Rage Against The Machine, so I thought I could show them from yet another single from their 1999 masterpiece The Battle Of Los Angeles, this time with Guerilla Radio, directed by Honey (the husband-and-wife directing duo of Laura Kelly and Nicholas Brooks:

It's a parody of the early-to-mid 1990s Gap ads directed by Pedro Romhanyi where people would dance around in the brand's clothing in a white backdrop while the "hip" music of the day (among which punk band Rancid) ran in the background. Instead, RATM use the video to criticize the garment industry.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Tales Of Minor-League Hockey Quaintness

The ECHL is North America's Tier 3 echelon of pro hockey, after the NHL and its development league, the AHL. Minor-league pro hockey is often seen as quaint and folkloric, with a hint of tackiness and a long list of failures to exude professionalism.

It's, essentially, the small-town charm of Big Dreams mixed with the reality of very low budgets.

That being said, there is no excuse for botching a jersey number retirement ceremony the way the Fort Wayne Komets did for Colin Chaulk, by acknowledging the banner was put upside down, yet still going away with raising it to the rafters:
Hopefully, everyone has learned from this experience and will have incorporated having a checklist when they are tasked with doing something important... in their next job. Most people involved should not put this event on their resumes...

Friday, February 17, 2017

Video Of The Week: Dead Messenger

There's this erroneous idea that tense, rigid and far-right-leaning political times makes for better arts in general - and music and film in particular. People point to the presidencies of Richard Nixon (1969-1974) and Ronald Reagan (1981-1989) as proof of this, and I want to make a counter-point.

It's harder for the Nixon years because the utter crap that existed back then didn't make it all the way until my time, but I vividly recall the 1980s, and such bands as Squeeze, Hall & Oates, Flock Of Seagulls, Depeche Mode, Simple Minds, and so forth - thousands of acts that saw Miami Vice as a way of life.

For every U2 there were dozens of Duran Duran; for every R.E.M., there were a hundred boy bands like Color Me Badd; for every Guns N' Roses, there were thousands of Poison, Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Great White and W.A.S.P.-like shitty hair metal bands. And Bon Jovi existed pre- and post-New Jersey, which seems more and more like an accident every time they release anything, including Greatest Hits packages.

Which is to say that, yeah, Rage Against The Machine and Public Enemy are great vessels of thoughts of equality. But Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen would exist under any administration. And sure, some already-recognized acts are spurting out some nice art in opposition to what is happening right now in the U.S., but that art would likely have been great even without the added political message.

Take Dead Messenger, for instance. I've been telling the whole world that they're Montréal's best live band for years (nearly a decade, actually), and they likely still are even though the competition is stiffening. Their new single absolutely rocks, and it's the best, most condensed riff they've put out in perhaps five years, but they likely still would have come up with it without the election of Donald Trump and, let's face it, the U.S. has done enough damage internationally that the track may still very well have been called Hyper USA with a similar video directed by lead singer Roger White, shock-full of news footage of rights being trampled, flags and stock footage of go-go dancing, and 1950s fun times:

My point being that chaos does not just breed talent. Talent exists, and sometimes chaos focuses it for a bit, but it always surfaces by itself. Keep in mind all three of RATM's albums came out during the Bill Clinton era, as did Radiohead's OK Computer - a British piece, sure, but one nonetheless marked by a general feeling of unease, with a song called Electioneering smack-dab in the middle of it.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Video Of The Week: The Smashing Pumpkins

The Smashing Pumpkins' 1998 release, Adore, was the band's ode to dark New Wave music, where electronic beats (and Joey Waronker) took over for departed drummer Jimmy Chamberlin; it was also the last to feature any member of the classic line-up save for leader Billy Corgan, as guitarist James Iha left for A Perfect Circle and bassist D'Arcy Wretzky had just had enough (of everything, Corgan in particular).

A lot of people loved the song Perfect - I didn't, feeling that it was an easier-to-listen-to rehash of 1979 - and almost no one understood the The Cure reference of 17; Ava Adore, however, was liked by almost all fans, in the same vein as Eye from the Lost Highway soundtrack, but more radio-friendly and with its own themes and structure. Its video, directed by Dom & Nic (a.k.a. Nic Goffey and Dominic Hawley), was heavy on the "heroin chic" visual theme, one the Pumpkins had been flirting with since 1995 (Bullet With Butterfly Wings, Zero) but hadn't fully embraced yet:

With Adore considered a flop, Corgan followed it with the extremely hard rocking two-part release Machina: The Machines Of God and Machina II: The Friends And Enemies Of Modern Music, thought at the time to be the band's curtain call.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Video Of The Week: Paul Cargnello

Sometimes it pays to keep an eye on an artist for a while. I wrote a semi-mean/brutally honest post on Paul Cargnello a year and a half ago and with the political unrest that culminated in Donald Trump's election and inauguration, he may have written his best song yet:

The video was directed by Blue Hour Endeavours, who are mostly known for their parodies and twisting of celebrities' words using real audio. They're also behind the video for Cargnello's rehash and revisiting of the Rock Et Belles Oreilles classic Bonjour La Police, taking a satirical track and rendering it menacingly real with the help of Charlie Foxtrot and Webster.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Let's Talk (About Mental Illness)

In the mid-to-end 1990s, following the telecom boom and as the World Wide Web was just beginning to be used as a means for self-promotion, companies were trying to present a more humane side by publicly showcasing the benefits their employees could take advantage of, such as an in-house daycare services (Patagonia, SAS) and gyms, multiple team-building retreats per year (Philip Morris, Distributech), State of the Union-type gatherings in exotic locations where spouses were welcome (Industrial Alliance, Toyota), etc.

For many of these companies (Google, Apple, Microsoft, Sony, Industrial Light & Magic), the ethical treatment of their employees translated into additional sales; for others, however, additional expenses meant nearing the brink of bankruptcy.

And, thus, because every major action brings forth an equal reaction, the 00s brought with them budget tightening, with organizations looking mainly to reduce what they saw as expenditures: wages, customer service, free coffee, lowering their standards from “excellence” to “satisfying” or “good enough”, extending their client base’s patience to its limit. Some cut on the big expenditures such as rent, travel or daycare. Others, such as American Apparel, saw their managers take on a more hands-on approach that was not appreciated by their employees.

What we are left with in the wake of a noble idea like #BellLetsTalk is to bring attention to such things as employee comfort and peace of mind, as work-related exhaustion and depression now accounts for 90% of mental illness in North America, among other overwhelming statistics such as:
19 Frightening Workplace Mental Health Statistics(This infographic was crafted by Officevibe. )
So when Patagonia (and Goldman Sachs, for what it’s worth) claims it has a 25% lower turnover rate, that 100% of moms return to work after maternity leave and that morale is always high, when, in Canada, a dozen of the Top 100 Employers (according to the Globe & Mail) offer family-related perks and benefits, when ten of the Top 100 Employers (according to Fortune Magazine) in the U.S. offer daycare - including five insurance companies (Aflac, Atlantic Health, Meridian Health, Baptist Health South Florida and Bright Horizons Family Solutions) - it may be time for some employers to think about certain expenses, particularly those related to employee morale, as investments in current and future productivity instead of just money thrown away.

Which brings me back to #BellLetsTalk, a smart initiative and tool in de-stigmatizing mental illness in Canada, in getting people to talk about it and trying to find solutions to the problem. Marketing-wise, it’s also pure genius, as social media was saturated with Bell’s brand name for an entire day in support of a great cause.

If only they didn’t have a couple of public-relations disasters on their hands involving their firing of medium-profile employees over their asking for help in dealing with… mental illness.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Video Of The Week: Cage The Elephant

The difference between imitation and inspiration is that imitation always pales in comparison.

Inspiration doesn't guarantee quality either; not all ideas are good, and not all good ideas turn out great in practice. But once in a while, things pan out for the best.

In Cold Cold Cold, Cage The Elephant hit such a moment; in and of itself, there is nothing wrong with listening to The Animals and The Rolling Stones a lot - and there is no way to listen to too much of them either. And when listening to Eric Burdon, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards enough leads to the best 60s song to come out of the 2010s, something has gone right.

Singer Matt Shultz directed the video, which harkens back to Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange in theme and Eyes Wide Shut in visual style:

The video comes on the heels of a memorable performance on The Late Show With Stephen Colbert and a Grammy nomination for best album, for 2015's Tell Me I'm Pretty, produced by The Black Keys' Dan Auerbach.