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?

Saturday, June 16, 2007

One ends, another begins.

It is official. ArtScene is out on the stands, the articles are being read and causing stir everywhere. The one thing about controversy is that you know it is being noticed. "there is no such thing as bad press as long as they spell your name right."
But enough about that.

It is a great feeling to have the physical paper in the hands (trust me, if you don't believe me go out and get one, it will make you happy and full of energy and vigor). It is good to see the job well done, to be able to sit and think for a little bit, to take a mini break from the everyday and regroup. So that was done. Regrouping. And you know what was realized? We need a theme for next month!

You got it. That is the other side of a job well done in this sort of business. There is another one right at it's heels. Now I know how Feodor Vassilyev's wife felt. (look it up, it will make sense)
I am looking forward to this coming month's issue. Not that I haven't been thus far, but this one promises to have fun research. I am not going to tell you what the theme is yet, I am going to give you a chance to actually pick up this months issue first. But just to let you know, we are thinking about your entertainment next month already, and it should be a bucket of fun.

I am off to relax for my last day of peace and quiet before the race starts again. Make sure to write in to us and let us know how we are doing so far.


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Issue #2 is in your hands (and if not, why not?)

ArtScene #2 went to press Monday night and should be on the streets as of today. Go find a copy. It's awesome beyond words.

I swear, on Tuesday night, after the Quesnel paper and the Williams Lake paper went to press, I actually felt the stress physically lift from my body. It was a really strange experience, and was immediately followed with an almost overwhelming exhaustion. Which led to much good sleeping last night, and vague sense of contentment today, for those interested.

Just dropping in a quick update for what you'll be finding on the blog here in the next few days. We're going to be doing some interviews with the musicians who'll be playing at the Merritt Mountain Music Festival, and we'll be looking for suggestions for things to ask them. As well, look for a review of Hostel 2 (which will likely turn into a rant about the "torture porn" label that some critics have been slapping on movies late), a discussion of the finale of the Sopranos, and a story that didn't make the cut for the print edition of ArtScene #2. And, of course, other miscellaneous silliness.

Friday, June 8, 2007

The Looming

So the deadline is looming now, as deadlines are likely to do. ArtScene #2 is officially hitting the press on Monday, and officially out on the streets on Wednesday. The layout is trucking along at a good pace, thanks for asking, with only about four pages left to rough out before I have to settle into the nit-picky stuff. Like, for example, what's going on the cover.

Which, yes, should probably be done by now. But isn't. I just can't seem to find an image that grabs me properly, and I'm beginning to think I may have to go with a different front page feature story. I'm against going theatre on the front, as it was our big feature last month, which really only leaves the festival tour guide story. And unfortunately a lot of that is promoing a lot of out-of-town goings-on. Not sure I want to make that a big feature either.

No need to stress. There's still some time.

Locked in the DVD review pages last night. For those curious, the films reviewed this issue are:

The Fountain
Deliver Us From Evil
Pan's Labyrinth
Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus
Death of a President
Bubba Ho-Tep (the arguable classic for this issue).

What did we think of the films? Well, obviously, you're going to have to wait until ArtScene #2 hits the streets to find out. But I will tell you this: There was some considerable debate over the quality of The Fountain.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

It does have it's perks

As we are getting ready to put out the next ArtScene, with all the chaos and deadline hairiness, it is good to note that the paper does have it's perks. A couple of us were treated, last night, to a fantastic dinner at and tour of a nearby resort. Which one? Not going to tell you, but you can read about it in the next ArtScene. The food was lovely, the scenery divine. I know where my next get-away is going to be. God knows I need one.
It is good to remember sometimes that every now and then it is good to rejuvenate, refresh, renew, refuel and all the other re's that make a person feel good. There is far too much stress and pressure on us in our daily lives that taking a break should be a necessity as opposed to an idea. Be it a mini vacation, a day holed up in the house with nothing but bubble bath and a book, or a 3 month trek across the Andes, it is good to get away sometimes.
But, until then, I still have to run amok and make sure I have earned the retreat! So off I go mumbling obscenities about deadlines and ad space...

Sunday, June 3, 2007


Pictured: See? It's not just me who knows the true beauty of cheese -- this apparently random scribbling was found on the wall in the backstage area of the Prince George Theatre during festival. Cheese IS yummy!

Due to circumstances well within our control, we are delaying the publication of the next issue of ArtScene by one week. You could try to say that it's because we're a bunch of lazy drunkards who didn't get their work done on time, but we prefer to think of it as taking the necessary time to ensure that ArtScene #2 is the best gosh-darn publication we're able to put together. This is how much we care about you -- our loyal fans -- and how badly we want to ensure that our product doesn't disappoint.

On top of that, there's a whole lot of other stuff going to press this week at the Cariboo Advisor office, and we're a little short-staffed for the next few days, so playing the waiting game seemed like the best idea.

Friday, June 1, 2007

The crunch gets crunchier...

Majority of the layout work on ArtScene #2 will be taking place over this next weekend (the work being occasionally broken up by bursts of playing my recently acquired Guitar Hero 2 for the Xbox 360 -- I think I'm a confirmed addict at this point). Most of the stories are now done, though I'm still trying to track down a few details for the Stampede story, and have yet to actually take any steps towards getting the Station House Gallery piece done. Perhaps tomorrow. Perhaps I can just give up on sleeping.

No idea what's going on the cover yet, otherwise I might post a shot of it, just to whet some appetites (the appetites of the one or two people who stop by here, assuming even those many do. They may not. Who knows.)

We'll actually have a letters page this month two, even though it took some begging and pleading to actually get the letters. Apparently playing on people's sympathies isn't as effective as I thought it would be. That, or people don't care if the wife and children of a letters page starve to death when the main bread-winner of the letters page family loses its job.