Tuesday, January 12, 2010

How Does That Taste Tour of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

A trip to Cleveland is truly a visit to the worst goddamn place in the world. Founded by Dutch explorer Johann Clevelander in 1647 as a trading post for clogs, tulips and vowels, present day Cleveland is known for its lakeside promenades and beauty. All that is better then the truth which is that the only reason the town exists is to make residents of Buffalo or Gary, Indiana feel better about their lot in life. The lake actually caught on fire and people continue to live there.

A visit to Cleveland is not without its charms. The uniformly ugly and misshapen citizens of the town will make anyone feel better about themselves after a plastic surgery mishap or massive weight gain. Apparently the suburbs have some nice homes and shopping areas. Then there is LeBron James and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the two icons of the city and the only reasons to visit. So if you’re in town early for a 7 PM tip off and you can’t find any airplane glue and your crystal meth dealer is not available a visit to the Hall is a necessity.

Did I tell you that area around the Arena and the ballpark is a wasteland? Can’t you build a Quiznos or a Hot Dog Cart, Mayor McCheese?

Needing some sort of tourist attraction, the city used the excuse that the radio deejay who coined the term “Rock and Roll”, Alan Freed worked in Cleveland. Mr. Freed or “Moondog” moved to New York and eventually died a broken man after a payola scandal. This did not prevent the founders of the Hall from ignoring all common sense and building the hall in what was then know as “The Sadness Capital of North America” and “The Gateway To Erie, Pennsylvania.” A truckload of cash from the City must have convinced them as well.

Did I mention that the Drew Carey Show was set in Cleveland? That’s something.

The Hall of Fame is prominently featured on highway signs entering the city and is incredibly easy to find as it is only building built in the past 45 years that is not a stadium. We managed to find parking on the street right at the hall for a quarter an hour. One of the best things about downtowns in the rust belt is the ample and cheap parking available at the main attractions.

The building housing the hall was designed by I.M Pei. Along with being a Bart Simpson prank call to Moe on an early episode of “The Simpsons, Pei is best known for the pyramid addition to the Louvre. The Hall looks like a copy of the Louvre and the statement that Pei was trying to get across is how his vision can be destroyed by budget cuts. It is also surrounded by a football stadium and a skateboard park in Craptown USA instead of a palace in the most beautiful city in the world. As you enter the building it feels like the student centre of a third rate university or the food court of a small airport terminal. The only inkling that this might be a museum for Rock and Roll is the hanging Trabants from the ceiling. These were the East German cars U2 made famous during the Zoo TV tour. The entrance was also the only area pictures were allowed in the building.

Did I mention that I can take a picture of a billion dollar Van Gogh at the Met but Mick Jagger’s shoes from the Steel Wheels tour is off limits? Please don’t even think about taking a picture of Jim Morrison’s grade six report card.

After paying the $22 admission fee you are transported to a world where all music was produced between the years 1955 and 1977 from the Sun Studios in Memphis, to a punk club in London England. The Hall of Fame is meant to honour all music created for the youth culture after the mid 50’s. Unfortunately the exhibit for hip hop, the prevailing youth music for the past 20 years is basically a case for the adidas worn by Run DMC. It is allocated less exhibit space then the Allman Brothers Band. The only black artists celebrated the ones who were screwed by their white managers in the pre Rock and Roll era or anyone named Jimi Hendrix.

The main exhibit era is in the basement. Display cases are filled with artifacts from different eras including the early 60’s British Invasion and the San Francisco folk rock era. One room is filled with outfits from artists as diverse as David Bowie and U2. Some artists are famous enough to warrant their own display like the Elvis, the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Group dispalys featuring gruesome drug deaths and plane crashes have not yet been created. Any American musician with at least one hit who died in a plane crash gets instantly inducted to the Hall.

Then there are the inexplicable choices like the Doors, another group which the hall deems more important then an entire genre of music. This group was relevant for barely five years is primarily remembered for Jim Morrison. Nicknamed the “Lizard King” for his lithe moves but a bloated blob of alcohol by the time of his death, Morrison became a free speech icon by displaying his dick onstage. A shitty rock version of a circus band fronted by a hippie Las Vegas lounge lizard, The Doors were a joke by 1970 but have remained in the public consciousness due to famous fanboys Francis Ford Coppola and Oliver Stone.

Did I mention the fact that the Doors blow and have more display space then hip hop or Motown?

The basement features the bulk of permanent exhibition while the other 6 floors feature attractions such as a recording studio, the member’s plaques, Rolling Stone magazine covers, a restaurant and the obligatory terrible gift shop. A small display features the history of Cleveland rock, which basically revolves around the song “Cleveland Rocks” The top 2 floors feature a rotating exhibit which at the time of our visit was filled with Bruce Springsteen memorabilia.

If you go into the Hall expecting an overpriced crapfest then you can’t be disappointed when that is what you get. I was actually expecting worse and was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t worse. If you are in Cleveland, have $20 and a couple of hours to spare there is absolutely nothing better to do in town. It’s like the Sbarro at the airport.

No review of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can be complete without noting that the annual induction ceremony takes place in New York City. The greatest indictment of the importance of the induction and the horror of the city is that you cannot convince the inductees to take a 45 minute plane ride to the city that houses the museum. Even the 25th anniversary was held at Madison Square Garden. There is talk that some ceremonies will be held in Cleveland but I’m not holding my breath.

I did enough of that in Stinktown, USA.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Are You A Coffee Snob? The 5 Stages of Coffee Snobbery

Coffee snobbery is a fairly recent phenomenon. Starbucks has enabled a culture of coffee douchebags to populate the world and spread words like "fair trade" and "organic". Even so it surprised me to hear a statistic recently from the USDA that coffee consumption peaked in 1946. In those day people had the time to savour a cup of joe at breakfast, after dinner or with friends at home, diner or at a restaurant. Soldiers returning home from Italy had been fooled into thinking an Americano was an actual coffee and not a joke played on them. In today’s drive thru world we cart around our java in environmentally friendly paper cups to keep us awake and have the time to care if the coffee is fair trade. We may drink coffee but do we even enjoy it?

Like Maslow and self actualization, HDTT has created a hierarchy of coffee snobbery The progression on the hierarchy is gradual and at every step of the way you think you are better then everybody else on either side.

Stage 1 – Coffee is an afterthought. You will drink anything from instant to whatever brand is on sale at Walmart or a discount supermarket. Your coffeemaker was a gift, on sale or was left over by the previous tenant.

Stage 2 – You are a Tim Hortons loyalist. The thought of getting a double double anywhere else makes you cringe. You would never vote for a politician who would buy coffee from anywhere else because it would make an elitist. Try not to laugh when a former Harvard professor from London, England proves his down to earthiness by ordering a double double. Your coffeemaker brews Tim at home or another mid range national brand.

Stage 3 – You enjoy buying your coffee from a premium national or international chain of coffee shops. You prove your individuality by knowing the difference between sizes (a venti is a large) and being able to order espresso based drinks with inflated prices due to the addition of 5 cent flavour shots or 10 cent chocolate flakes. You think the average donut store coffee drinker has no taste or teeth. You did some research before buying a coffee maker, use a grinder sometimes and have a number of premium blends you purchase.

Stage 4 – As a hipster douchebag you only drink coffee from a local independent coffee shop. This shows you’re a free thinking liberal even though every shop of this type is exactly the same.
  • It’s located in a gentrifying neighbourhood because the rents are still cheap but the really scary minorities have moved out.
  • The table and chairs are from a used furniture store. It adds a touch of retro coolness while making loiterers uncomfortable after 20 minutes
  • A white barista with a liberal arts degree who wont serve you an espresso in a paper cup as it ruins the taste. Meanwhile the Italian café in business for 50 years serves it up in a Styrofoam cup
  • Inconvenient hours since the owner knows that leaving the barista alone is his shop will lead to financial ruin as he will steal or give his unemployed friends free coffee. Plus the neighbourhoods scary minorities come out at night
  • Wi Fi for free loaders even though theres only one table
  • Horrible baked goods from the local gluten free bakery
  • A soundtrack powered by an Ipod filled with local indie bands, ironic pop, 30 year old new wave and a Tribe Called Quest. Every white hipster likes Tribe.
  • Terrible Art on the walls from local residents
  • The menu is written on a chalkboard. There are five items and the only thing that changes is the feature coffee. This week it's from Costa Freakin' Rica. Starbucks stole this to inform us that Barista Kelly loves a soy latte.
  • A flyer for yoga
  • Wardrobe by American Apparel
Stage 5 – The mysterious snob is rarely seen. He (and it is always a he as only a man could get this obsessed) is well to do and surrounds himself with the finest thing including a coffee maker which is not a machine but a work of art. A great bean that has been sacrificed to lesser brands makes him cry.

The coffee may be a lot better then it was in 1946, but something tell me that they enjoyed it a helluva lot more then we do now. Plus that hipster who wouldn't make me an espresso in a paper cup would have been killed at the hands of his own men.

Social Networking Boobery

At some point in the future I expect to receive a message in my facebook inbox asking me if I wear boxers or briefs. Unfortunately it won't be from a long lost friend or a porn bot but from the company itself and the will be for testicular cancer awareness.

There was a recent flurry of female friends switching their status to colours. It was obviously some sort of viral campaign and I quickly discovered that it was for breast cancer awareness. The colours represented the colour of the bras women across the world were wearing. Some questions I never asked were finally answered.

Raising awareness is fantastic for an apathetic world. By being aware of something you can feel like someone who has actually done something concrete about the problem. I have not donated any time, money or interest to an issue but I know it exists. I am aware therefore I am a good person.

Do something by doing absolutely nothing!

The only thing I became aware of is your bad fashion sense and how easy it is for facebook to start a viral campaign.

It doesnt help if every person in the world is aware of the issue that is being raised. Is it possible that there is a single person who uses a computer and has been able to sign up for a social networking site who doesnt know about both breasts, cancer and how they interact. I know that my awareness of breasts has been raised since I first logged on the net and that staring at a computer for such a long time has raised my chances of cancer.

What is likely is that this little gem of an idea was raised in some marketing meeting and that the stats will be used to show companies the power of facebook. So when I get the testicular cancer awareness message it will be sponsored by Fruit of the Loom.

Oh and it's boxers.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Going to See the Late Show With David Letterman Part 4

Stop right now chico if you havent read Part 1, Part 2 or Part 3.

The world was a simpler place for David Letterman on May 14, 2009 or at least it seemed so to me from the front row of the Ed Sullivan Theatre. Letterman was still in second place as Jay Leno had a couple of weeks left on the Tonight Show. Sarah Palin was the Governor of Alaska and had not yet gone to Yankee Stadium with her daughter. Most importantly Letterman was months away from becoming tabloid news as the centre of the worst blackmail plot in history.

On a cold, rainy Thursday in May of 2009 Letterman was in the midst of sweeps week and welcomed Kid Scientists, Teri Hatcher and rapper Rick Ross to the Ed Sullivan Theatre stage. Prior to creepy intern sex, Dave was known for the gap in his teeth, the curly hair and a cold studio. I had prepared by properly layering myself for a ski trip and was disappointed when it wasn’t that cold.

If you were watching at home there was nothing particularly memorable about that show. The monologue featured a number of Dick Cheney jokes. As “The Da Vinci Code” was coming to theatres the show featured a pre taped bit with Tom Hanks and a Top ten presented by Ron Howard. Dave had fun with the Kid Scientists and seemed bored with Teri Hatcher. The song “Yacht Club” performed by Rick Ross thankfully never became a hit.

There are a number of memories and observations that have stayed with me as an audience member that night that include:

1. The stage was exactly the way it seems on TV, only smaller and foggier
2. How much the crew enjoyed watching Dave interact with the Kid Scientists
3. Hearing a crew member saying “Well I guess the show is over” after the kids left the stage. 4. There was still two segments with Teri Hatcher and a song by Rick Ross to go
4. How right the crew member was!
5. How thin Teri Hatcher was.
6. She might be ridiculously thin but she was a looker in a little black dress. Her segments though were incredibly boring. Something about the Desperate Housewives finale
7. Commercial breaks were not a uniform length. While it took 5 minutes to set up the orchestra for Rick Ross, Teri and Dave had to uncomfortably talk through about 30 seconds
8. The band plays through every commercial
9. While leaving I tried to take a prohibited picture and got a couple of blurry pictures as a result. The interns were watching us like hawks

After leaving we visited the neighbouring CBS Boutique and purchased a classic grey Late Show T-Shirt and blue Late Show mug. The mug at $8 and shirt at $18 were actually reasonably priced for a tourist trap.

After being a fan for most of my life it was a real treat to spend 3 hours of my trip to see the show. Ironically even after the applications and the trivia questions there was still extra tickets available. It is worth the trip if you are in New York with some free time and he doesn’t get fired.

Food! The True Story of an Edible Murderer

There was a time in the not too distant past when people didn’t give a damn about what they ate. Well they wanted a good tasty meal but they didn’t care if it was organically grown, or pesticide free. Actually they sought out foods that were chemically enhanced. It was a time when Tang was the drink of the future and not the last name of your dentist. As a person with a strong gut I’m usually not worried about what I eat. Heck the three second rule depends on the floor and the food that fell.

There has been a recent spate of books written about the evils of food. After having bought “Fast Food Nation” my Amazon recommendations were filled with titles such as "Bitter Chocolate", "Citrus" and "Banana" amongst countless others. They have become as formulaic as a romantic comedy starring Matthew McConaughey or Jennifer Aniston. Just like a wise cracking fat friend or a rainy kiss you can count on the following plot points in any “Food is Bad!” book.

1. What the crop was used for before the colonial powers took over the land
2. How the colonial power raped the crop and the native people
3. The Evil American company that replaced the colonial power and continues to destroy the land and underpay the natives
4. How the evil American company has found chemical additives to replace or enhance the original crop
5. How the chemical additive gives you cancer
6. The terrible conditions in the factories that produce the food
7. The lackadaisical government response to the evil corporations
8. An uplifting story of a small business which is doing things the right way. Keywords include fair trade, organic, locally grown and Vermont

After awhile it becomes a haze if it was Archer Daniels Midland that underpays cocoa growers in the Congo or slaughterhouse workers in Illinois.

Then I read a story about a girl who ate a burger and ended up paralyzed. Apparently the all beef Angus Burger made by Cargill included pieces from 3 or 4 sources. If the slack jawed employees in Omaha or Uruguay who may be high on meth aren’t careful feces will end up on the beef and you won’t be able to walk. Ironically the ingredients on the container read simply “beef” and do not include the words “slaughterhouse trimmings”, “fatty trimmings treated with ammonia”, or “E. coli”. It’s not only frozen burgers that come from a variety of sources but much of the ground beef purchased in your local supermarket.

This followed on the story I heard about the freshness of orange juice. As detailed in the book “Juiced”, your carton of Tropicana is about as fresh as using a romantic comedy plotline to ridicule an overused cliché. Tropicana has an iconic logo of an orange being skewered by a straw. This would make you believe that the juice is freshly squeezed as would the words “Freshly Squeezed” on the carton. Unfortunately a more realistic image would have to include a straw skewering a vat of pasteurized orange liquid while a scientist adds a chemically enhanced flavour pack. This is not a process which is not a recent innovation but part of Tropicana since the fifties. Maybe I was naïve to think that a product with a 90 day shelf life was fresh. Well a price tag double that of Juice from concentrate and a logo with ingredients that simply say “Orange Juice” aren’t exactly a giveaway to a product that is really as natural as Orange Crush. Guess I’ll have to get my fingers dirty and peel my own damn oranges.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Canadian Icon: Toronto Maple Leafs

Image courtesy of the Toronto Maple Leafs

In honour of the opening of a new hockey season we repost our article celebrating the greatness of the greatest team playing the greatest game.

A first in a series that takes a look at iconic people, places and things in Canadian History. Today we take a look at the most popular team in the most popular sport in the land....The Toronto Maple Leafs.

The National Hockey League was founded in 1917 with Toronto as a founding member. In 1927, the then St. Patricks were taken over by Conn Smythe. Smythe a hockey genius and hater of all things Irish, quickly changed the team name to the Maple Leafs. Out went the green sweaters and team mascot Lucky the Drunken Mick and in came the blue and white and glory. Smythe also had a poor grasp of grammer which is why the team wasn't named the Maple Leaves.

The NHL was a very different league before 1967. A highly competitive 6 team league where the 4 American teams were controlled by one family with close ties to the mob. 11 Stanley Cups were won in this period. Toronto's main rival for supremacy in the league was the hated Montreal Canadiens and in a 6 team league they played each other like 30 times a year. The Habs played with skill and were mostly French, 2 things that are hated in Toronto up to the present day. Each game was filled to capacity at the team owned Maple Leaf Gardens, a building built during the depression using labour at slave wages and lovely yellow brick.

Things would change in the late 60's. The NHL began to expand, a rival league was formed and the team was taken over by Smythe's idiot son Stafford and his skirt chasing buddy Harold Ballard. What didn't change was the continued success of the team at the turnstile, even with a host of mediocre players. As salaries rose the Leafs refused to get involved and players would leave in a revolving door of greatness. The names would fill the roster of any 2nd tier Hall of Fame Team. Keon, McDonald, Daoust, Leeman, Gill, Salming would all play for the blue and white then leave. The Leafs, led by Captain Darryl Sittler and his teammate Bill the Chimp would make a run in the 70's ending in the semifinals.

Heroically in the 1970's the team covered up a pedophile scandal so it wouldn't disturb the fervor of what would become Leaf Nation.

Ballard's death and the line of owners since him haven't changed the storied Maple Leaf way of doing things. Hockey fans in Toronto will line up and pay big bucks to fill the building and watch a mediocre product struggle through each successive season. As teams in hockey hotbeds like Anaheim, Tampa, Dallas & Carolina have lifted the storied cup named after a British Lord who never watched a game of hockey in his life, the Leafs refused to use their financial windfall to their advantage to unfairly succeed in the league.. This commitment continues, even though no one south of the Great Lakes gives a shit about the sport.

Recently the Leafs hired hockey genius Brian Burke to lead the team into the second decade of the millennium. Burke, an American who failed in Hartford, Vancouver and TV before taking over a championship team in Anaheim has spurred a new enthusiasm in Leaf Nation. Meanwhile the Leafs business team has been fighting and winning it's most challenging battle of all. The fight to keep a competing team out of neighbouring Hamilton. This successful battle has so far kept the monopoly which has managed to make the Leafs the most successful financial operation in the league while producing a terrible product.

What does the future hold for the Buds? Only time and the Teacher's Pension Fund will be able to tell. What we can be sure of is that the lemmings of Leaf Nation will continue to ensure sellouts at the Air Canada Centre.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Greek Idol : A Massachusetts Pizza Shop Owner

Today we learn that you never try and steal from a Greek. A would be robber near Boston found that out the hard way. When attempting to rob a pizza shop he was beat down with some moves that needed slo mo. I think this is what was called Pankration in Ancient Greece. Of course in Sparta they said "Molon Lave" (come and get it), while today it's "don't a try to get money from a Greek cause he dont a give you a penny".

It's good to see that the quality of the Fox News brand extends to local news in the States.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Where does a Weave Come From?

Questions raised by this ad:

  1. Is it funny because it's offensive?
  2. It is funny because it's racist?
  3. Is it offensive because they are acting like a stereotype?
  4. Is it racist because it's really badly acted?
  5. Should Russians who were terrorized by the KGB be offended because a cell phone service has borrowed the name of the secret service
  6. Is yak really what they use in weave hair?

Friday, June 26, 2009

The End of Jack 92.5

The hits recently returned to 92.5 in Toronto. After a number of years as Jack, the station that no one asked for or listened to Kiss FM has returned to the city. Finally there is a place I can hear "Boom Boom Pow" once an hour, because Virgin, Chum, Flow, Z103 and Kiss in Buffalo only play it like every couple of hours. Phew way to fill a market niche Rogers.

There are a few people who are missing Jack. Like the kid above. The kid is ready to cry apparently unaware that "Wock Music" can be heard on about 15 stations in the city. This thing called the internet has a rock station. There's also a Jack FM in Buffalo and about 100 other cities if Jack is his only friend.

Years ago a kid like this would write in his diary or top a pen pal and hang out at the comic book store. He would only get mocked at school, now he gets mocked on the internet. Too bad I can't give him a virtual wedgie. If I was this kids parents I would get him a speech therapist and a job at Burger King. Heck maybe some steroids and Lasok. He needs to get out of his house.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

How To Make Money In Buffalo Real Estate: Sell to the Canadian Government

A lot of people think that Buffalo is a shithole. The images most Canadians receive from television signals out of Western New York are of fires in Tonawonda, Bills losses, shyster lawyers and crime. It is the provider of jokes, cheap shopping, cheap flights, cheap NHL games and wings.

If you dig under the surface Buffalo has many hidden gems. In the early 20th century Buffalo was one of the richest cities in America and it still has many of the benefits. It has a park system by the designer of New York’s Central Park. There are homes designed by Frank Lloyd Wright and other great American architects. One of the best art galleries in the world is located in what many people think is the armpit of America. While businesses and people fled south there are many grand homes and boulevards left standing.

Well if you are selling real estate in Buffalo you are lucky that the Canadian Government shares my positive view of Buffalo. Along with the consulate offices in Downtown Buffalo, the Canadian Government, in the name of “Her Majesty the Queen In Right of Canada”, own 5 homes totaling $1.6 million US. At current exchange rates that’s about 1.8 million in canuck bucks.

The Consul General of Canada in Buffalo still needed a home befitting such a coveted role. The government has obliged with the purchase of a $1.39 million dollar home in Buffalo’s Mansion Row. This 5038 Square foot home at 196 Soldiers Place, with six bedrooms and 4.5 bathrooms is located 6 minutes from the Peace Bridge and Canadian soil, where homes in Fort Erie range in price from $1 to $50000.

This is a great bargain considering that during the last time the home was sold was in 2004 during the housing bubble for $540,000. It is assessed by the city of Buffalo at $625,000. Incredibly the house has increased $850,000 in five years during the midst of a recession caused by the crash in the value of homes. Homes in the area range from $200000 to a million while homes in the rest of the city continue to get demolished to avoid becoming crack dens.

It must be a hard gig being Buffalo Consul General for Stephen Brereton. His colleagues in other parts of the world deal with refugees or Canadian tried by dictatorships. The concerns in Buffalo range from drunken Canadians at Bills games, Wing related food poisoning and giving directions to the Peace Bridge. He has been a godsend for the dormant Buffalo real estate market and the previous owner of the home who could not be reached for comment. He was too busy laughing all the way to the bank.
Image taken from the Buffalo News