Thursday, January 31, 2008

Raiding The Archive.

The past couple of days I've been digging out CDs I haven't listened to in a while. Good thing too, as they deserve to be played.

Shoukichi Kina, Bloodline-1980 album by Kina and his group Champloose, featuring Ry Cooder on several tracks. Kina was a pioneer in fusing the traditional music of his native Okinawa with rock music and instruments. The album features the original version of the song "Hana," which is considered somewhat of a classic in the Far East, and was even recorded by Madagascarian musicians on David Lindley and Henry Kaiser's classic first volume of their A World Out of Time Madagascar music series. Bloodline also features contributions from Japanese guitarist/producer Makoto Kubota, who is sort of Japan's equivalent of Ry Cooder in working with "roots" musicians from all over the place. The album would prove highly influential in exposing musicians in Japan and elsewhere to the interesting rhythms and sounds of Okinawa.

Kawachiya Kikusuimaru, Happy- 1991 album by the traditionally trained singer of Kawachi ondo, festival music from what is currently the southern part of Osaka prefecture. Kikusuimaru has combined Kawachi ondo with various modern styles, and this album has sort of an early '90s electronic reggae sound, although the album concludes with a long traditional style cut. It includes his big hit "Kakin Ondo," which brought him national attention in Japan when it was used in a TV commercial for a job recruitment service. Also includes a cover of "Hana" which in my opinion is rather weak.

Shang Shang Typhoon, 3- (Bet you're seeing a theme here.) The third album by one of the mainland groups that owes a debt to Kina, although they're hardly imitators. Shang Shang Typhoon throw in influences from all over the place, and the songs on this one range from the multilingual pun of "Sanma Song," a samba about sanma(Asian mackeral pike fish), to the electric guitar driven tip of the hat to the Beatles "Revolution Ondo." The primary vocals are from the female duo of Emi and Satoko, one of whom has a rather amazing high voice.

Shadowy Men On A Shadowy Planet, Sport Fishin'-Third and final album from Canadian instrumental rockers, perhaps best known for the use of their "Having An Average Weekend" as the title theme for The Kids in the Hall TV series. A great album if you like twangy guitar, and a lot of folks will appreciate any album that includes a tune called "Off Our Back Conrad Black." I'm not sure how many times I saw them at Amigos here in Saskatoon in the late '80s, but it was several. Their bassist Reid Diamond was just a short guy, maybe 5'6" at most, yet he played a big ole Gibson Thunderbird bass. Diamond unfortunately passed away of cancer in 2001.


Going about my business today I heard Rupert Holmes' 1979(just barely) hit "Escape," aka "Escape(The Pina Colada Song)," playing over the PA in a shopping mall. Thinking about the song I mused that it's a surprise someone hasn't done a new version and had a hit with it. There have been at least a couple of covers of the tune but they weren't done by artists who would be given any sort of radio push. Plenty of other old songs have been covered and generated contemporary interest. Perhaps it's seen as too '70s-ish for contemporary audiences. Interestingly his song "You Got It All" was recorded by Britney Spears for her Oops!...I Did It Again album, having been a hit for the R&B group the Jets in the late '80s.

Although Holmes is best known for "Escape" he had an extensive career as a song writer, session musician, and recording artist, with "Escape" coming from his fifth album Partners In Crime. He has gone on to write Broadway musicals, the television series Remember WENN, and two novels. But as he reportedly once joked his tombstone will probably be a pineapple because of that song. And he doesn't even like pina coladas.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

End Of January Load.

186.5. This must come down.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Luck Of The Irish?

I'd been thinking of putting up this panel for a bit just because I like her expression. Bridget Clancy has previously appeared on this blog, but given my Oracle post this week I decided to do a post specifically dealing with Clancy.
Clancy(she prefers to be refered to by her last name) first appeared way back in the fall of 1996 in issue two of DC Comics' Nightwing. Nightwing is the current superhero identity of Dick Grayson, the original Robin. If you haven't read comics since the 1970s or are only familiar with Batman from the 1960s TV series, cartoons or the feature films you may not have realised he isn't Robin anymore. He took up the Nightwing identity way back in 1984, deciding it was time to move on from being Robin. This was chronicled during "The Judas Contract" storyline of The New Teen Titans comic series, which you can read in the trade paperback of the same name.
(There have been three Robins since:
-Dick's original replacement Jason Todd, who proved unpopular enough that a 1988 phone in poll of fans saw them vote for his demise by a narrow margin, and he was subsequently killed by the Joker. He has recently been brought back from the dead, to some derision.
-Tim Drake, the current Robin, who got the role in part because he figured out that Dick was the original Robin, and through that revelation deterimined that Bruce Wayne was Batman.
-Stephanie Brown, who briefly replaced Drake, although she had already been active as a superhero under the name Spoiler. The presentation of her brief tenure as Robin, role in starting a disastrous gang war in Gotham, and torture at the hands of the villain Black Mask, causing her death, has been considered by some to be an obvious example of the "Women in Refrigerators" problem. )
Nightwing starts with Dick being sent to Bludhaven, a city located a bit downriver from Gotham, by Batman to investigate the murder of 21 gang members found in Gotham harbour. He decides to set up shop in Bludhaven and finds an apartment in a building managed by Clancy. In her first few appearances he, and the readers, don't see her face, but he finds her Irish accent attractive. It's only in the sixth issue that we finally see her face. We soon learn that she was born in Hong Kong and adopted by an Irish couple as a baby.
An attraction soon develops between them and they casually date. Or rather, try to. As is often the case with superheros Dick's secret life gets in the way. For example in the sequence that the panel above is taken from(seen in issue thirty) Dick and Clancy are headed out to a movie when a phonecall from Oracle leads to Dick having to run off to rescue a street kid turned vigilante who is about to be murdered because he calls himself Nite-Wing and hence has been mistaken for Nightwing. Clancy of course knows none of this and is rather annoyed, especially since this isn't the first time Dick has run off without warning.
Unfortunately for Clancy her interest in Dick proves to be stronger than her interest in him. He redevelops a romantic interest in Oracle, who he had dated back when Barbara Gordon was Batgirl. With the demise of their romance Clancy pretty much disappears from Nightwing, making only a couple of brief appearances afterward. In issue 55 Chuck Dixon, original writer on the series and creator of Clancy, effectively wrote her out of the story when she's taken to hospital after an accidental electrocution. Whether he intended to use her again or not Dixon was soon replaced by writer Devon Grayson, who would go on to disassemble much of what Dixon had created, to much controversy.
People talk of the luck of the Irish, and perhaps Clancy caught some of that luck. Being written out of the story saved her life, as Blockbuster, the would be kingpin of crime in Bludhaven who has been repeatedly foiled by Dick, eventually figures out Nightwing's secret identity and blows up his apartment in revenge, killing most of the residents. Fortunately for Clancy she is no longer manager of the apartment, having gone off to medical school after receiving a scholarship from the Wayne Foundation, allowing her to fulfill her childhood dream of becoming a doctor.
Clancy probably also got lucky that her romance with Dick didn't go very far. His long term romantic relationships haven't worked out too well. His wedding to Princess Koriand'r of Tamaran, better known to the people of Earth as the superheroine Starfire, was literally stopped at the altar due to a crisis involving their fellow Titan Raven, and their relationship subsequently dissolved. In more recent years he and Barbara Gordon became engaged, only for Oracle to decide they weren't ready to be married. And of course there's the general problem that the romantic interests of male superheros tend to be the victims of the attentions of their enemies. Not to mention the aversion some comic book professionals seem to have towards permanent relationships, as seen with Marvel's recent magic dissolution of Peter Parker's marriage to Mary Jane in the "One More Day" storyline.
After the events of DC's controversial 2005 crossover event (aren't they all these days?) Infinite Crisis Nightwing, after a year travelling the world with Batman and Robin, settles down in New York. There he encounters Clancy, who has a psychiatric residency at New York's Bellevue Hospital. Readers end up having to engage in a good bit of suspension of disbelief when Nightwing first saves Clancy from being choked by one of her patients, then asks her for possible insight into why the resurrected Jason Todd is trying to blacken his name by killing criminals while pretending to be Nightwing. Strangely Clancy shows no signs of recognising that Nightwing and Dick Grayson, who she shared a building with and dated for an extended period, are the same person. One would think the small mask he wears and whatever efforts he goes to in disguising his voice wouldn't be enough with someone who knows him well.
Compare this with what happened with Mia Dearden. A teenage runaway who became a prostitute to survive Mia's life takes a turn for the better after encountering Green Arrow. He tells her to seek out Oliver Queen, in reality his secret identity, for help in getting off the street. She does so, and when they meet it takes her mere seconds to recognise they're the same person, despite meeting Green Arrow only briefly under stressful circumstances. You'd think Clancy would do so equally as quickly.
Of all the artists I've seen draw Clancy I favour the original, Scott McDaniel. His take on her looks most like an actual, specific person, while some other artists strike me, if I may be sarcastic, as more "generic attractive young Asian woman #2." One interesting thing about the character is that her eye colour has varied. When we first see her, and in many subsequent appearances, her eyes are green. In others they're brown. Lazy colouring, or are we supposed to think she wears green contacts?
And to end, if anyone is wondering despite some of the pictures I've posted on here no, I don't have a fetish for Asian women with short hair. No more than I have one for Asian women with long hair.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

This Is Scary?

As children we all had different things we were scared of, like the dark, big dogs, and bugs. But imagine my surprise when I found out some people were scared of, hard as it is to believe, TV company logo clips. The one in the clip above is for Screen Gems, which some folks refer to as "the S from Hell." It was commonly seen at the end of various programs from the mid '60s to the mid '70s, including such widely seen favourites as The Partridge Family and Bewitched. Many people say it scared them as kids. Personally I like that music, and think that being scared of that five second logo animation was a very odd thing to be scared of.


In 1988 DC Comics published The Killing Joke, a oneshot comic story written by Alan Moore and illustrated by Brian Bolland. In it Batman's arch enemy the Joker, as part of his plan to try and drive Gotham Police Commissioner Jim Gordon insane, shoots Gordon's daughter Barbara. Barbara Gordon had been Batgirl since the character's debut in 1966, but was pretty much retired when she was shot by the Joker. She survived, but ended up as a parapelegic.

Surprisingly she was not cured by one of the expected comic book methods, like high tech intervention or magic. Rather she has remained in her chair since. However the character didn't fade away due to the work of writer Kim Yale and her husband writer John Ostrander. Unhappy with the way Barbara was treated Yale and Ostrander decided to have her continue to aid the fight against crime despite her disabilities. Building on her backstory as having a doctorate in library sciences and having been Chief Librarian in Gotham they developed a new role for her as Oracle, expert hacker and information source to various DC characters and groups such as Batman and the Justice League. This role was further amplified in Birds of Prey, a comic series based around the idea of Oracle as the brains behinds the field activities of superheroine Black Canary, joined by various other characters. Although some people feel that in a world like DC's she should have been healed by now the character has proven very popular, perhaps even more popular than when she was Batgirl.

The timing of Barbara Gordon's transformation, and the concept Yale and Ostrander came up with, makes me wonder if they weren't inspired by another fictional character. In 1987 the television series Wiseguy first hit the air. The series starred Ken Wahl as Vinnie Terranova, an undercover operative for the fictional Organized Crime Bureau of the US Justice Department. Along with his boss Frank McPike Vinnie had support from Lifeguard, played by Vancouver actor Jim Byrnes. The character, like Byrnes, was a double amputee, and normally seen working in a secure location while sitting in a wheelchair. His role was providing information and emergency aid to Vinnie, making his role very similar to that of Oracle. Given the timing it's not hard to suspect that Yale and Ostrander were influenced by the TV series.

His Wiseguy role certainly helped Byrnes' acting career, leading to his long running role as Joe Dawson on the successful TV spinoff of the Highlander films.

I should also note a bit more of a long shot for the inspiration of Oracle, the character Aaron Kurtzman from the long running The Executioner "post modern pulp" book series and it's spinoffs. Chief of computers for the ultrasecret Stony Man antiterrorist group Kurtzman ended up confined to a wheelchair after being shot during a KGB backed attack on Stony Man Farm, the unit's base. The events that put Kurtzman in the chair predate The Killing Joke and Barbara Gordon's transformation by several years, but Wiseguy as a source for the idea seems more likely.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Don Whitman, RIP.

One of the distinctive voices of Canadian televison has been silenced. Don Whitman has died of cancer in Winnipeg at age 71. Born in Herbert, Saskatchewan Whitman worked on radio in Saskatoon and North Battleford before joing the CBC in 1961. Whitman went on to be a fixture of the CBC's sports broadcasts, and his long career included being on hand to report on the terrorist attack on the Israeli residence at the 1972 Summer Olympics and doing play by play when the Saskatchewan Roughriders won the 1989 Grey Cup in the dying moments of the game. His death comes only a month after his former CBC Sports colleague Don Chevrier passed away.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Hey, Anderson Cooper!

In the future don't bother talking with Scientology anti-psychiatry cranks. It's just a waste of time. Especially if you're not going to ask the obvious question "Hey, Mister Scientology Kook. You do realise you're a brainwashed tool, right?"

Monday, January 14, 2008

Notes From The Fringe.

In the past I've mentioned the Church of the Ecumenical Redemption on this blog in regards to the case of Karen Ponto, who was involved in a local child custody case. Today's issue of the Saskatoon Star Phoenix has a long article on tax dodgers in Saskatchewan, which includes the Church of the Ecumenical Redemption. Their arguments are elaborate, but tend to make little sense to anyone, including I suspect some of those who cite them. They also try and use such arguments to avoid other government fees besides income tax, such as Church of the Ecumenical Redemption members who tried to claim they had no legal need for vehicle licenses and registration while fulfilling "ministerial" duties, which seems to essentially be anything they might be doing. Ultimately these folks are wasting the time of the legal system and putting themselves into even deeper trouble than they already are in. More importantly it can be argued they are hypocrites, taking advantage of the services provided through taxes, such as road and sewer construction, without wanting to actually pay for them. No one would legitimately suggest that you could take advantage of commercial services without actually paying for them, yet once it's government doing something suddenly you find people who think non-payment is perfectly all right.

I've often wondered what it must be like to be the mail screener for something like a TV station given that you likely get all sorts of weird stuff coming in, such as complaints from people like the above who are upset you don't present their oddball theory on your newscasts. The same thing also applies to websites, as Canwest News Service found in access to information documents regarding the Government of Canada website. The "Contact Us" link on the website not only generates the expected bouquets and brickbats about the site itself, but submissions from people with all sorts of interesting ideas. For example one writer claimed that JFK is alive and well and about to reveal himself as the Antichrist. Another claimed the Canadian Security Intelligence Service is showering him or her with infrasonic beams 24 hours a day that are making them ill. On the other hand some correspondance was just naive, such as requests for jobs as doctors or with the Cirque du Soleil. Unfortunately the folks at that link can't help you get those jobs. On the other hand they might be able to get you a job as an e-mail screener for the Canadian Government website.

The rise of e-mail has made it easier for those with odd beliefs to reach the government and media. Whereas before you had to be able to scrape together the money for writing paper, an envelope, and a stamp now you can contact them for free if you have access to a free public Internet terminal as are found in many libraries. And you can send your conspiracy theory or rant about how licensing cats will bring back the bubonic plague out a lot more frequently.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Name That Station!

I picked up a new toy today. It's a Sony SRF-59 FM/AM Walkman, an itsy bitsy radio that has been getting some attention of late from radio hobbyists. I've been having fun with this little dear tonight, even though there's a lot of electrical noise in the house at the moment. Specifically I spent a good while on 1600 khz, for mixing with KEPN, ESPN's radio outlet in Denver, I've been hearing something Asian sounding. To my ears it sounded like some Southeast Asian language like Thai or Laotian. KEPN has been dominating, reaching almost local station signal strength at times before fading down to near nothing. But I haven't heard anything recognisable as an ID from the mystery station. Now I can hear what sounds like Cantonese pop music on the frequency, and it's a reasonable guess it's the same station. So, any guesses, AM DXers? A bit of initial research made me suspect it was WUNR, but it doesn't have any sort of Asian music scheduled for this time, if it even carries any at all. There are actual Chinese stations on 1602 khz, but Saskatoon is hardly the best location for catching their signals without the aid of elaborate antennas, making it exceedingly unlikely it's one of them. (If I lived on the West Coast it would be another matter entirely.) So, if you have any guesses feel free to leave a comment.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


British author Andrew Morton, best known for his 1992 biography of Princess Diana, is about to release a biography on Tom Cruise. It should come as no surprise that the book is full of all sorts of strange and bizarre stuff, such as the claim that Cruise is number 2 in the Church of Scientology hierarchy, and that poor Suri Cruise is actually the product of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard's frozen sperm. Cruise's lawyer Ben Fields told the British newspaper the Daily Mail, which published details from the book over the weekend, that "It's a pack of lies." Scientology general counsel Elliot Abelson has threatened legal action and asked US publisher St. Martin's Press not to release the book, but they have refused. But the irony is that many people are likely to assume that the details in the book are just the tip of the iceberg, and that Cruise's life contains much weirder and lurid things yet to be revealed.

Good luck to St. Martin's and Morton. Scientology is well known for the lengths it will go to against people who it considers a threat. But at least they're adults who can defend themselves. It's Suri Cruise who is stuck in this mess with no way of getting out and who deserves better.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Get Them Young.

Building brand loyalty is the goal of any large consumer goods manufacturer or retailer. Many firms try to appeal to as many market niches as possible, including children. But some firms are now going farther than just offering kids lines. They've begun to offer outlets specifically aimed at children. For example the Gap has a series of Gap Kids stores, while Canadian lingerie retailer La Senza has its La Senza Girl outlets for the pre-puberty set.

Although some folks might find the idea of such stores manipulative it's not as if kids need any encouragement to buy into the consumerist bent of our culture. A store specifically aimed at young girls like La Senza Girl isn't likely to make them any more consumerist than the media and the behaviour of their parents already are. How effective they are in getting today's children consumers to remain loyal to the brand when they're ready for adult clothing is another question. The stores are a relatively new concept so chances are they're still seeing how the concept is working. The fact that there are 80 La Senza Girl stores would seem to indicate that at the very least the stores themselves are making money, whatever impact they're making on creating a future clientele for La Senza Lingerie.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


Via Stupid Evil Bastard here's The BEAST's list of the 50 Most Loathsome People in America, 2007. Guess who number one if it's all that hard. But in a way putting him at number one is shooting fish in a barrel. And if you've ever wondered who the jerk behind those stupid Girls Gone Wild vids is, it's Joe Francis, who comes in at 34 on the list.

(Yeah, I know I'm going to get hits from a bunch of brainless wankers due to the mention of that moronic series. But hey, maybe they'll activate a few brain cells actually having to read something non-porny.)

Effortless Win.

Sometimes you don't even have to be awake to win in poker. I was playing a PokerStars freeroll for their Weekly Round 2 tournament last night and stayed up way too late. It was getting on to 3 AM when I decided I really needed to go to bed and sat out when the tournament went on break. But even without me being there I still managed to break the top 100 and win a ticket for the Weekly Round 2. Of course there is the little fact that I had a stack of something like 113 thousand chips at the time, still a bit above the average stack. So even without me physically playing I was still technically active in the game and this apparently proved more than enough chips for me to make it.

People have actually done this kind of thing in the real world. The late Stuey Ungar collapsed in his hotel room during the 1990 World Series of Poker Main Event as the result of his cocaine habit and was unable to return to the table. But his chip stack was so big that he still managed to come in 9th and win more than 20 grand before being blinded and anted out.

Addenda: I finally got around to checking the e-mail that PokerStars sent me for placing in the tournament this afternoon. I came in 76th out of 12 thousand. Perhaps if I'd stayed up to keep playing I would have come in higher. But it's just as likely I would blown it and not picked up a ticket at all.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Welcome to 2008.

Nice to have you along, unless you're evil of course. Hopefully this wil be a terrific year for all of us.