Thursday, August 23, 2007

Climbing off the couch

It is getting close to that time again. The time when we start frantically reviewing movies for your pleasure, remembering that we need to write all the articles we had weeks to finish but were too busy drinking and playing GH2 to really think about, time to get everything together, pull up the proverbial socks and put out the next ArtScene paper.

This month we are focusing on music. Local music, music festivals, musicians who have gone on to do bigger things and even a music movie. (Forgive me Todd, I still think it is a classic.) You will be able to check out our play by play on the Merritt Mountain Music Festival. (Contrary to popular belief, Reba was not touching herself.)

You may have noticed the wait has been longer this time around for your dose of ArtScene. We are toying with some timing options. Don't worry, we are still committed to bringing you all the fun and excitement that we can muster. And just wait till you see what's in store for October. But I don't want to spoil anything, so for now keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming September issue of ArtScene!

Friday, July 13, 2007

On the Road Again

Well my bags are packed, I 'm ready to go...
Alright, it is the afternoon of the day of the Merritt Mountain Music Festival trip and I am counting down the moments till we are on the road. It is easy to see I am the more excited one of the bunch, but come on, it's Merritt!

This will be my first time at the big festival, and going as press still feels like I am ripping someone off somewhere. The idea of a press pit is a little daunting, really, here in Williams lake the press pits consist of three people who know each other taking turns asking questions. I think this may be a little different.

So off we go in the Grand Caravan, for those of you who may care. All the seats are torn out but the front ones and the futon is tossed in the back. Oh ya, that's right, we are going in style. There are three coolers in the back, that's right, three. One for beer, one for food, and a little one for whatever doesn't fit, or even for dragging around. You never know. All the windows are plastered with the ArtScene newspapers. I would love to say it was a big promotional tool, but really it was the result of all the cheap double sided tape-on velcro attached curtains falling down, but we will stick to the promotional idea. I like it better. Oh ya, and my big bucket of SPF 70 sunscreen. I am pretty fair and I have two colors to my skin - insanely white (and I mean the moon beams reflect off the whiteness of my ass kinda white) and beet red. That's it, no variants. So it will be interesting to see if I can still move after the weekend.

So off we go into the wild blue yonder. Keep an eye out for postings, we will be sure to take plenty of pictures, and for all of you who have asked me to kiss Reba for you - I will do my best, but please when I am arrested, pitch in for bail.

We're back!

Okay, so it's pretty easy to tell when we're hard at work on a new edition of ArtScene, because this blog goes almost completely dead. It's not that we don't love this little spot, and we'd certainly never say that the printed ArtScene magazine was our favourite of the two, but the fact it is, the printed version has a deadline. And if we don't meet that deadline, bad things happen.

So, we met that deadline, and ArtScene #3 went to press last Tuesday. It should be out among you now, in the traditional locations, so go pick it up if you want to read about holistic health (or not-so-holistic health) and all sorts of other goodies.

Issue #4 looks like to have a pretty major focus on music, with some stories on the Merritt Mountain Music Fest, the Bella Coola Music Fest, and more. On top of that, there will be some coverage of the upcoming theatre production of "Dinner and Drinks" which is on stage at the Limelight on August 10, 11, 17, and 18. I wrote and directed this particular show, so I'll probably be sitting down to interview myself over a few drinks, to get at the heart of the most pressing questions around the production. It might sound like an easy interview, but I can be terribly evasive, even when talking to myself.

We're off to Merritt this weekend. Look for some quick recaps when we get back (or, perhaps, some moblogging if my cell phone still works out there, and if I can get it set up before we leave.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Denial and procrastination go hand in hand

The week before ArtScene is to be out on the shelves and right on cue it feels like my brain is going to blow up. All the writing that I have procrastinated about is biting at my heels, and there isn't enough coffee in the world to keep my eyes in a steady focus.

Thankfully I have to start my day tomorrow looking into the healing properties of massage. Poor me. I think I am ready to get a full on rub down and I am positive I will have glowing reports on that one. If I don't fall asleep. I better write my questions down before I get there. I may be a little goo-like when I leave.

Aside from all my mumbling I am really looking forward to this issue. Look for Todd's journal on the wonders of canned goodies. I won't tell you much, but I had tears in my eyes this morning and a coworker almost needed CPR.

One week till Merritt. I know it is a bit of a stretch calling going away for the weekend to hang out with musicians and drink beer work but... What are you gonna do?

So off I go to put my mind to some things that will make you, the reader, happy and smiley. Well, maybe a little Animal Crossings first, after all ... I have days.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Heading for the Hills

Well the realization that the next paper has to be prepped in just over a week to be on the shelves in 2 is being balanced with the other realization that it means that it is only 2 and a half weeks until the Merritt Mountain Music Festival.

Now, for someone who is not that enthusiastic about country music, I am ridiculously excited about this event. It could be the waiting press passes at the door. It could be the chance to interview big-wig Reba McEntire. It could even be the excitement of such a huge iconic concert atmosphere. Or it could be the 2 acres of beer gardens and the notion of checking out the illustrious "Campsite C". I think it is a combination of all of the above.

It is refreshing to have the big dilemmas be things like "What do I wear?" "What do I bring?" "Can I find a cooler big enough for all the beer and BBQ that need to come along?" "How fast can I learn the words to the new Carrie Underwood song?" "What is the new Carrie Underwood song?" "Can I still fit into my old beer t-shirts?"

By the time the trip comes along the 3rd installment of ArtScene should be on the shelves, it will be time to unwind, and to start prepping for the fourth. What better way to do that than to get stinking drunk with thousands of people on a river bank while listening to a cowboy hat wearing guy in jeans sing about his sad tale of love and loss.

Be sure to stay tuned for the whole sordid account. It should be one heck of a journal.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Hostel 2 and Torture Porn

Horror films have been sort of...odd...for the last few years. I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but at a certain point, the traditional Hollywood horror film kind of died out (if I had to guess, I'd probably place it not long after the release of films like "Jason X" or "Freddy's Dead" -- the arguable death-knells for those two franchises). Suddenly, 90% of the horror films released in North America were either remakes of Japanese horror films -- like "The Ring" and "The Grudge" -- or remakes of classic American horror films -- like "Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "The Amityville Horror."

There was nothing new, and while some of the Japanese remakes were good, some of them stunk, and most of the American remakes weren't even worth the cost of a rental.

Then along came the Saw franchise and Hostel -- now with a part one and a part tw0 -- to sort of reinvigorate things. And, at least for horror fans, they were interesting films.

But there's a whole lot of hatred around these films too. One particularly label that's been tossed around is "Torture Porn" and, to be quite honest, it's not a label I'm fond of.

I watched the original "Hostel" on DVD a few weeks ago, in preparation for the second, with that phrase in mind. And when I hit the theatre to see "Hostel Part 2" I had the phrase in my mind as well. But I just don't see it. I don't see how either of these films -- or the films in the Saw franchise -- are really any worse than the slasher films of the 1980s. And, to be perfectly blunt, I find the whole "Torture Porn" debate rather stupid.

Horror films are a bit like rock and roll. Every generation, the music gets louder, angrier, more dangerous. Each generation needs to up the ante over the previous generation. They have to be certain that this is not their father's rock and and roll.

Horror films work much the same way. "The Exorcist" and "Rosemary's Baby" in the 1970s upped the ante over films like "Psycho" from the 60s, and the slasher genre that was born in the 1980s with films like "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th" were upping the ante over the horror films that had come before them.

And that's all we're seeing with the current generation of horror films.

"Hostel" and "Hostel Part 2" are actually interesting to watch with this perspective in mind, because, structurally, they're very, very, very similar to "Friday The 13th" except without a summer camp and an unstoppable killing machine in a hockey mask. But you do get 20-somethings acting irresponsibly, taking drugs, and having casual sex. And in horror movies, those are pretty big no-nos.

The biggest difference between the "Saws" and the "Hostels" of today is that, instead of faceless, unstoppable monsters, the monsters are average ordinary people. People like you or me. Which, I think, is part of what ups the ante. The scares of slasher films are quick to disappear because their stories are so drenched in fantasy. Freddy Krueger isn't really going to visit your dreams, and Jason Voorhees isn't going to survive thousands of bullet, knife, and axe wounds, to show up at the last minute and kill you.

Even though you could argue the believability of the concept behind "Hostile," you have to at least concede that it could happen. And that does make it considerably more chilling than its thematic ancestors.

As for the "Torture Porn" debate, my feelings are simple. Words are chosen and used for specific reasons, and the phrase "Torture Porn" has been chosen and used because of the implications associated with it. It's being used to make the films seem ugly and degrading and inhuman, which, really, they're not. They may not be films of the caliber of "The Godfather" or "Citizen Kane" but they're still perfectly entertaining films for fans of the horror genre.

The people who use the term "Torture Porn" are simply people who didn't enjoy the movie, but who realize that writing "I didn't like it," doesn't really have enough bite.

But calling a movie you don't like "Torture Porn" is a bit like calling a person you don't like "a filthy pedophile." Not only is it cruel and unnecessary, it's also deceitful.

As for Hostel 2...meh. Kinda better than the first, also kinda not. Worth catching on video if you liked the original, but not really anything to rave about.

Monday, June 18, 2007

What Street Party could learn from Mardis Gras

When we're brainstorming an issue of ArtScene, we tend to just yank any idea out of the air and run with it as far as we can go. Sometimes that gets us to some interesting places, sometimes that gets us to some entertaining places, and sometimes that just gets us to some odd places.

The "What Street Party could learn from Mardis Gras" piece was intended to be a tongue-in-cheek look at decadence of the New Orleans festival, and how we could take some inspiration from that decadence.

We yanked the story from print mostly because there wasn't room for it, but also because -- of the stories we had to choose from for the yanking -- this one seemed like it had the most potential to offend. It wasn't our intention at all to offend the Street Party -- in fact, we're quite fond of them -- but sometimes the best of intentions pave the road to hell. And sometimes they just piss people off.

I'm running this story here with the disclaimer that we do not hate the street party, we do not think there's anything wrong with the street party, and do not think the street party need to do anything to improve. Though, you know, I wouldn't complain about the whole "beads for breasts" thing.

At first glance, there seems to be little in common between the Williams Lake Street Party, and the Mardis Gras festivities that occur annually in New Orleans. Yes, they are both street festivals of some degree, but the similarities pretty much end there.

But should they? Thousands of people from around the world descend on New Orleans every year in January to participate in the weeks-long party, and then spend the next several months recuperating from the experience. It's obviously a massive boost to their tourism revenue, and perhaps other regions -- ours included -- could learn a few tips from the event. Here's a few thoughts on ideas that could be borrowed from Mardis Gras and adapted into our own Street Party.

#1. Everyone Loves A Parade.
Yes, the Williams Lake Stampede is opened each year with its own parade, but that's just one. Mardis Gras has a parade every single day of the festival. I'll say that again -- they have a parade every single day. Now, granted, its conceivable that many of the floats are recycled day after day, but it's not like anyone will notice, what with the whole being drunk thing.

#2. Costumes aren't just for Halloween
One of the best things about roaming the streets of New Orleans during Mardis Gras is having the opportunity to see a wide variety of complicated and creative costumed, worn by the wilder of the revelers. And because the whole Mardis Gras thing is pretty darn decadent to begin with, many of the costumes are designed to show maximum skin. And there's nothing wrong with bumping into that sort of thing on a stroll through downtown.

#3. Beads, beads, beads.
Strings of beads have been handed out to participants of Mardis Gras since at least the late 19-century, but it's the more recent tradition of women baring the breasts in exchange for them that is the Mardis Gras tradition worth borrowing. They're already tipsy, they're already scantily clad, why not flash a little bit more skin in exchange for a worthless gift being handed over by a sweaty male who's smiling just a little bit too widely? To fit a bit better with the timing of Street Party during stampede season, we could exchange beads for bolo ties.

#4. "My Parents Went To Street Party And All I Got Was This Stupid T-Shirt"
Mardis Gras is a marketing dream, helped considerably by the fact that, as a holiday, no one company can claim exclusive rights to selling Mardis Gras products. And, of course, everyone wants to bring a souvenir of their trip back home, whether as a keepsake for themselves, or something to give to the relatives who couldn't make the festivities in the first place. After incorporating these other suggestions into the Williams Lake Street Party, we'll be sure to have enough tourists rubbing shoulders on our streets that the sort of money we could make from the sales of souvenirs would be literally astronomical. Which is good, because the clean-up job required after everything is said and done certainly won't be cheap.

Don't get me wrong, There's no problems with our current Street Party -- it's an enjoyable street festival, with an incredible amount of information to offer. But there's room for improvement in everything, and if you're going to look to improve, why not reach for the stars?