Sunday, December 30, 2007

Simon On The Silver Screen?

Well its by no sure a done deal, but there is a possibility. I reviewed a couple of books by an Irish author earlier this year, actually he is a London Times bestseller list author, he just hasn't broken into the North American market yet.

One of the books was optioned for a movie a while ago. And it looks like it is going to move into production pretty soon.

The author contacted me, and has offered me a 'walk on' on the movie! Now the chances of this happening are about zero, but I am flattered. Jan is already out shopping for her Oscar dress!

Friday, December 28, 2007

Brussel Sprout Update

The good news is that Christmas Day came and went. We had our 'way too big' turkey, hell there are only two of us, and by my calculation this monster meant that Jan and I had about 10lbs of turkey each!

My treat though was Brussel Sprouts. On Christmas eve I got off work early and headed straight to Safeway (my local Megamart) in search of these little delicacies. On a previous foray I had noted there exact location in the freezer department. You can imagine my shock and horror when I discovered that someone had bought every last package or them! My first thought was that Jan was responsible, she had snuck in and bought them all!

To say I was disappointed does not cover it, I was devastated. I had set my heart on Brussel Sprouts!

All was not lost though. I checked out the fresh produce, and whoopie, they has the wonderful little critters! And lets face it, fresh is better than frozen everytime.

They were delicious!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Man From Earth

I couldn't resist getting a review copy of this movie. I don't generally go for sci-fi but the story behind this indy movie was too good not to get involved. Man From Earth went straight to DVD, as indeed a lot of indy movies do. What sets this one apart from the rest is what happened a week before release. Some enterprising pirate got hold of a prerelease copy and stuck it on bittorrent.

Overnight it became the #6 sci-fi hit on iMDB. Not bad when you conside it was something like #2500 a couple of days earlier. The film maker then did something that no major studio would do, he didn't sue the pirates, or even ask them to take the movie down. Instead he posted a 'thank you' on his web site. His rational was that if people were watching the rather poor quality bootleg, they may be driven to buy the real thing!

In my opinion this was a great choice, and one that more film makers should consider.

As it happens, Man From Earth is a dynamite movie, so I suspect that this story is going to have a very happy ending.

Reviewing - You Never Know What Will Happen Next

One of the great things about reviewing is the unpredictability, you just never know what is going to happen next! A good example was yesterday. I recently reviewed an interesting and very funny indy documentary The Gods Of Times Square. Film maker Richard Sandler took a fairly irreverent look at the street preachers and kooks that use New Yorks Times Square as their pulpit to preach whatever nonsense they are into.

Yesterday I received an email from Richard Sandler, he had found my review on google and dropped me a line to say thank you. So of course this has led to an interview with him. Never a dull moment!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Multi Million Dollar Court Case Avoided

Dateline Calgary - In a last minute move the Brussel sprout controversy has been resolved. Moments before the court appearance to get a restraining order against Simon Barrett preventing him from polluting the atmosphere with the smell of brussel sprouts, a compromise was worked out. Simon has agreed to eating Corn Bread Dressing, and in return Jan says it is ok for him to have brussel sprouts!

Another Merry Christmas!

Changing Routers, 9 Gazzilion Reasons Not To

As I wrote earlier, my damn router finaly gave up the battle and decided to go into meltdown mode. My daughter came to the rescue with a $5 one she found at a yard sale.

My elation over getting our primary computers back online unfortunately was short lived. The BeerBox was screwed. And that meant no Web Server. Changing the bloody router had resulted in a new local area network IP addressing scheme. And of course my ISP decided to assign a new IP at the same time.

This was a double whammy! The hurdles in fixing this problem were huge. I had to use trial and error to even log on to the damn Linux box, then an hour wandering aimlessly around the cavernous file system to even find the Web Server.

The good news it that after much fiddling and use of the 'F' word it is mostly back in action. The infamous Bartender bot though is still AWOL. I'll tackle him later!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Great (Fire) Wall Of China

Being in the media biz I shouldn't be surprised. Every large media outlet has run a story or twenty five about China employing a huge firewall on Internet traffic to prevent the Chinese people from access to controversial political sites. Bloggers have been thrown in jail for criticism of the ruling regime, and in what seems to be a day to day situation sites like CNN are blocked.

Well, it turns out that BNN is amongst the sites that the Chinese government has taken umbrage at. Now exactly what we have done to the Chinese I am not sure, but apparently we are banned!

Well screw em I say, I am going to boycott Chinese stuff as a result. No more take-aways, no fortune cookies, in fact I am not even going to use my Wok! I'll teach the little bastards!

If a recipe calls for Soy sauce, I'll use BBQ sauce instead!

This is war!

Router Hell

The Barrett data center took another hit yesterday. I knew it had to be something serious when Jan called me at work, as soon as I heard her voice on the phone a million things flashed through my mind. Had someone died, was the house on fire? Jan never calls! No-one had died, but, something equally catastrophic had happened, she could not get on the internet! This is trouble indeed.

Some quick technical support later, it seemed like the router had finally given up the ghost, no lights on it! No problem, and after much cable reagangement we had Jan's puter hooked directly to the modem. Alas it was still a no go. A quick call to the ISP had the problem resolved, damn mac addy!

So, I got home last night, and no sooner had I walked through the door than my daughter came to visit. I explained the network meltdown and she said 'well if you need a router I have a spare'. I said, nah, I have a spare. Well of course my spare, was a router that I have never tested, and guess what, it was dead on arrival!

So a quick call to Laura and she was over again with her spare router. Of course there was a catch, she hands it to me and says "Oh, I have no clue if it works, I bought it at a garage sale for $5". Eek me thinks.

Anyway, it did power up! That was a good start. A little (actually a lot) of fiddling with Mac addresses, DNS's, gateways, and IP's later it is 10:30pm and the data center is restored to its pristine glory!

Ya just got to love computers! Jan of course has a theory about the router going bad, we had worn it out! All those articles on BNN had finally taken their toll!

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Battle Of The Brussel Sprout - 2007

Apart from Politics, Economics, Religion, Gun Laws, Abortion, and Velveeta Cheese, Jan and I pretty much agree on everything.

Well everything except the lowly brussel sprout. Jan has some pretty fixed ideas when it comes to vegetables, and when I stray from the Straight and Narrow vegetable road she lets me know.

I am a big fan of brussel sprouts, teeny weeny little cabbage like critters. Boiled, drained, then served with lashings of 'real' butter (no stinking margarine for this kid), this is one of natures gifts at Christmas time. I have resisted the urge to have these fabulous vegetable nuggets for almost 2 years. The last time, I bought a small bag of frozen ones. My theory was that while Jan might not like them, I could on occasion dip into this secret stash. It was a small bag, and it took up almost no room in the freezer!

I got to sample them exactly once, Christmas 2005, it was a banner day, Turkey, roast potatoes, sage and onion stuffing, gravy, and those oh so good brussel sprouts! I guess it was my lucky day, Jan allowed me to use one of her pots, and even the stove in the kitchen! I had been half expecting that she would make me go out and buy a pan just for the event, oh and a butane camping stove so that it could all be done outside in the snow!

I had not heard the end of the brussel sprout saga. I still had a few left, they were minding their own business in a dark corner of the freezer, but not hidden from Jan's gaze. Every time we returned from a grocery shopping trip she would groan about having no space in the freezer, and point an accusing finger at my harmless brussel sprouts! This went on for over a year, twice a month I would have to deal with the Brussel Sprout problem.

Eventually I caved in, I let her throw them out, it was a sad day indeed!

Anyway, Christmas is two weeks away, and I think its time! So I am going to sneak a small bag of them into the frezzer for Christmas day!

Monday, December 10, 2007

A Post For Outer Mongolian Mark!

Well today I got something wonderful in the mail. A review copy of a new book. Now that in itself is hardly a surprising occurrence. Jan who fields most of the deliveries is on first name terms with all of the drivers from Fed-Ex, UPS, Purolater, Canada Post, etc.

But today we scored a great find, when I first read the press release I knew I had to have it, if only to make Outer Mongolian Mark green with envy, 'The Book Of Spam'! Yes folks some one has written a book all about that delectable canned meat product. Better yet, no expense has been spared in this books production, on heavy weigh glossy paper, each page (200) contains pictures and interesting facts about Spam.

Needless to say, all other reviews are on hold while I 'devour' this one. With a bit of luck the review will be up tomorrow.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Week In Review(s)

Well, it has been a pretty interesting week. There is a very curious movie hitting theaters on December 14, Look is well worth a look! It tells 5 separate but intersecting stories, all seen through the eyes of surveillance cameras. It is very unique indeed. I had the opportunity to talk to filmmaker Adam Rifkin about Look, it is an interesting interview.

I recently reviewed a book by Alan Rolnick 'Landmark Status', very funny stuff indeed, and I had the opportunity to chat with him. It turned out that he is multifaceted, and is also a movie producer. He was kind enough to send me a very early copy of 'Canvas' which will be hitting the stores in late January. I can't tell you much about the movie till closer to the release date, but I will say this, look out for it in Blockbuster, it is must see!

On the book front I am putting an interview together with the Goldman family about the OJ Simpson book 'If I Did It'. I have Fred Goldman's input, and I think it would be fair to say that he hates OJ! Venomous is the word that springs to mind!

Stolen Boy by Michael Mehas also passed by my eyeballs this week. Based on the true and disturbing Jessie James Hollywood story, it explores the underbelly of the LA drug world. I'm too damn lazy to find the link, but if you go to Google News and do a search on Michael Mehas, my review should be #1

In the music world I scored a copy of the CD/DVD combo Memory Almost Full by Paul McCartney. This is a must have addition to any-ones collection. Of course I couldn't resist the dig that Paul McCartney was the only member of the Fab Four that had any talent, and true to form I received a couple of acerbic comments about my abilities to review music. Good Times!

On the software front I received a press release from the folks at linspire. That is the version of Linux that I run. About 6 weeks ago I threw stinking Windows out the door, and took the plunge with Linspire. I can honestly say that I have been pretty happy with the whole adventure. and I guess Linspire liked my reviews because they are featured on their site www.linspire.com

Their latest adventure is something called CNR, one of the big holes in the Linux world is the whole business of installing new software, you need a PHD in astrophysics to install even the simplest program. CNR fixes that, one click installs, I am so impressed.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Who The Hell Can Sleep With This?

It is 1:30am, even by my standards it is pretty damn early to be up and around. The problem is, how the hell are you supposed to sleep with this I-pod strapped to you?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Another Health Care Adventure!

The fun just goes on and on. This morning I had to turn up at the hospital for some mysterious heart monitoring. Of course no-one ever tells you what they are actually going to do beforehand. The best example of that was the Disney World MRI wild ride from a couple of weeks ago.

I had no clue what to expect this morning, but I was pretty certain that I wouldn't like it. it seems to me that every time I go near the damn hospital they end up sticking me with damn needles and I hate needles.

Well I was quite surprised today, no needles, and I was only in there for 10 mins. They wired me up with what I can only describe as an I-pod for my heart! It is about the size of an I-Pod and there the electrodes glued to my chest, but it didn't hurt, and all I have to do now is take the unit back tomorrow.

They did point out tho that this is the worlds most expensive MP3 player, and if I lose it I am on the nut for a $3,200 bill! Ouch, and it doesn't even play videos! Oh, and I can't go swimming while I have it on!

I wonder how much I can get for it on EBay?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Simon Buys Stuff!

Oh, say its not so! Yup, I finally broke down and went to WalMart. I am not one that needs the latest and greatest, so most of the electronics (and I have bunches) are pretty old. We have more stinking computers than the average sane person needs, they are everywhere in this house. I haven't checked the bathroom, but I'll bet there is one in there somewhere!

Anyway, my problem was the Home Theater, I have an aging digital projector that cost me exactly nothing, but the bulbs don't last forever, and I know that to replace it is going to be a $400 adventure. With the amount of DVD's that I review it is only a matter of time before the projector goes dark. The only TV we have is in the bedroom, and watching DVD's in there is out of the question, one of two things happen, I fall asleep cos i'm in bed, or Jan has her French Maid outfit on, and reviews go out the window!

For $149, I got a great little player with a whopping 9 inch screen. I was actually surprised at how good the unit works, there is just Jan and me, and the 9 inch screen worked fine for us.

This certainly is way more convenient than the projector. Of course, right on queue another Clint box arrived today! Oh good, more DVD's hahahahaha.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Even Jan Says It's Better With A Moog!

A while back I was on a Rick Wakeman and Keith Emerson kick. It seemed as if almost everyday there was some new, or not so new (Re-released) material by these guys. Being a fan of both of these great musicians I was in hog heaven.

I was so excited, I knew I just had to interview them! Even Jan got into the act, and managed to be rude to Keith Emerson on the phone, but thats another story.

After the reviews and interviews were done, I still had the urge for more, so I wrote a contemplative piece about how It's Better With A Moog. Nothing beats a Moog in my mind!

Jan of course had no idea what a Moog was, they don't use a lot of them at the Grand Ole Opry!

This morning as I was writing up a review about a new Johnny Cash DVD Jan was listening to her music, headphones on, but set loud enough to wake the dead, and I heard 'Lucky Man' start up. I waited till half way through the song and then tapped her on the shoulder. Before I could say anything she said "It's better with a Moog"! We got another convert!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Week In Review(s)

What an interesting week it has been. Yesterday Jan and I actually ventured out to a theatre to preview a movie. Well the price was right $zero. Free is always a good price. Redacted, opens wide next Friday, and is a very disturbing movie on many levels. Although a work of fiction it centers around some factual events in the current Iraq war. It is made in the style of a home made camcorder documentary, rather rough around the edges, nauseatingly fast pans, ad hoc dialog, and stark footage. I recommend that you watch this one only if you have a strong stomach. It contains some very disturbing themes. You would not want to take your kids to see this one. But from a critical point of view it is excellent. It will be interesting to see how this one fares at the box office.

Unfortunately you will have to wait till next Friday to read the review, damn movie people always want everything held till the day it releases!

Week 5 of Mars Rising premieres on the Science Channel next Tuesday, this episode has the title 'Six minutes of terror', and deals with the most perilous part of sending a manned craft to Mars, getting the thing down on the planet surface and not killing the crew in the process. This series from the Discovery people is well worth a look. You can find my review here.

In the music world I found an absolute gem. There is a new 3 DVD set out The McCartney Years, over six hours of music videos and live concerts by Paul McCartney. I was never a Beatles fan, in fact I can honestly say that I have never owned a Beatles album. I have and had, no use for them whatsoever, George Harrison and John Lennon were just pretentious little pricks, and Ringo was a ho hum drummer. Paul McCartney though was, and is a great performer. You can check out more info and even sample the trailers here.

Do you remember Donovan? Mellow Yellow, The Universal Soldier, and a string of other big hits from the 60's. Well he has a new DVD coming out in January. This is a great DVD, yes he is a little older, and his voice has lost a little of its range, but he is still a spectacular performer. This is a 'must have' DVD. Unfortunately I have to sit on it till mid December. But trust me, it is really damn fine! The PR company claims they have no access to Donovan for an interview, but that doesn't bother me. I'll find a way!

Books are fun right now. I have two hot ones, and promises of interviews. Target by Kathleen Willey deals with her time at the hands of the Clintons. Yes, she was one of the people involved with the impeachment, she was also a victim of Bill's 'wandering hand syndrome'. She has nothing good to say about Bill, but what she says about our potential next woman president Hillary is even worse! I think this will make for an interesting interview.

The other hot book is the OJ book, 'If I Did It'. This one the book that Fred and Kim Goldman went to court over and won the publishing rights. According to OJ Simpson this is a book of pure fiction, a fantasy about how he would have committed the murders, the Goldman family view it as something else, a vicarious admission of guilt, a confession if you will. By sheer luck it turns out that the owner of the small PR company that asked me to review the book knows the Goldmans, and I have been invited to do an interview with them. With OJ being in the spotlight again, over an armed robbery in Las Vegas, I can't wait to do this one.

I also have a pre-release copy of Legerdemain, alas this book does not hit the streets until mid January, so I have to sit on it. But it is a wonderful read, all about the Cold War, Atom Bombs, and Morocco, better still the author was actually there! You can find my teaser here. This book is being published by a small, but influential house History Publishing Company, I had a chance to talk to Don Bracken who is the owner of HPC, the interview was quite interesting.

I have no idea how many things I have reviewed this year, but I do know the book count alone is over 80, so when you figure in the music and video side, it has to be several hundred. Most people are pretty happy with what I have to say, in fact last week the author of Landmark Status Alan Rolnick sent me a signed copy of his book in appreciation of my review.

I knew it was only a matter of time though before someone took umbrage at a review, and that happened this week. I watched a particularly insipid piece of pro Muslim and anti Christian junk 'Farewell Israel', this was garbage of the first order, and said that in my review.

The US based publicity company didn't like my review, and so sent a nasty e-mail to the editor of Blogger News Network requesting the Mr Barrett's review be taken down. Oops, I am the editor! Needless to say my response was to tell em to go pound sand! If you can't stand the heat, don't go in the kitchen!

Other than the bad Disneyland ride in the MRI, it has been a great week!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Medical Device Review: MRI


Normally I publish my reviews on www.bloggernews.net but when I checked the categories I did not find one for MRI's. And I was too lazy to go set one up. I had the chance to review one of these $1,000,000 machines today. I had to pull in a lot of favors to do this. The current waiting list for a trip in this Disney inspired ride is 18 months here in Alberta!

The nice folks at Foothills Hospital were sympathetic when I explained that I was a reviewer and managed to squeeze me in within a couple of weeks. Of course I had to fool the medical system to achieve this, I feigned having a numb arm, and through amazing Uri Geller techniques managed to fool several blood pressure monitors so that it appeared the I was 240/129, the hardest part tho was the CAT scan, I had to appear as if I had had a stroke!

Well I managed all of these things without a problem, well other than the fact that my right hand is still messed up! But this is a cheap price to pay for a review of a million dollar machine.

My lovely wife Jan decided to accompany me on the adventure, as a result we actually made it there first, my preference was to go to the bar first and have a couple beers. I filled in a questionnaire explaining that I was neither pregnant nor breast feeding.

Then the fun began, the told me to change, but, all they wanted me to do was take off my pants! I suspect that the entire operation is run by some very odd people. Shoes and Socks were ok, golf shirt was fine, but the pants had to go! Of course I was about to explain that it was the 'other head' that they were supposed to be looking at, but, who can argue with a Doctor?

Next step was to lay on this rather narrow and not terribly comfy bed with my head in a funky cradle thing. Then they sprung the needle surprise! The bastards always to that! Apparently red wasn't a good color for my blood, and they needed to add a dye! Or some other equally bull shit reason, I think they just like sticking people!

"Oh, and stick these ear plugs in. it gets pretty noisy in there", was the sage advice. OK, so stuck like a pig, ear plugs in it was off to the world of wild adventure. As the machine inserted me into what seemed like a rather large Cuban cigar tube my first thought was that if these machines cost a million dollars each they could do something with the interior design. A white tube with a gray stripe is pretty damn boring! I right about then also thought the ear plugs were overkill, the cigar tube was making a rather peaceful 'woop woop' sound. Not quite Moog synthesizer, and a little repetitive for my taste, but quite harmless.

Then the world changed, the gentle 'woop woop' was replaced by what I can only describe as really bad 'heavy metal' interspersed with Keith Emerson playing a mean Moog. The climax tho had to be the 3 minutes relived from the movie 'Earthquake'. If you saw 'Earthquake' you probaby remember the rather strange bass speakers that the theatres used. So low that your clothes rattled. Well an MRI can do that, it was like being on the Disney ride from hell! Your whole head is vibrating and planning on exploding anytime soon!

When they removed me from the cigar tube, I was out of that hospital like greased lightning! I needed a beer!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Privacy and the Internet

These are two concepts that really do not compliment each other. As an experiment I spent a few minutes Googling myself. I am not hard to find! There are traces of me on many sites, in fact there are thousands of mentions, from Nola.com, to Boston.com, there are links, either directly or indirectly to me. Now as it happens I don't mind. I am a reviewer and publicity is good for business.

Not all online publicity is good though, and a fine example is the coverage that Megan Meier's suicide has created. She is the teen that hung herself following some uncalled for comments left on her Myspace page. It transpires that the comments were made by the mother of a girl who had recently fallen out with Megan. A deplorable act, by someone old enough to know much better.

Over on Bloggernews we have a number of articles running about the sad story, and they have received great readership. The problem that Jan and I were faced with was the comments that were being left by some readers. I don't like to act as censor, but sometimes you just to. For example any comment that uses profanity is going to end up in the 'bit bucket', not because I am a prude, but because not all of our readers want to read bad language.

The comments left on the Megan Meier's stories though had a different kind of problem, and one I find very disturbing. The mainstream media has gone out of their way to not reveal the name of the woman responsible for the death. Likewise, we decided to tag along. There are many facets to the story that have not been revealed, and to subject someone to even more misery seems reasonable. We had people not only naming the lady, but her street address, home and cell phone number, the company that she runs, who her clients are, etc, etc,

There is no way I am going to publish this information. But i'll bet some sleazy websites will. Although I am deplored by this woman's actions, to be tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion with no chance to respond seems unfair.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Did OJ Do It?

Pretty much if you have an IQ larger than your hat size you would say yes. Now I have never met OJ but I was stuck in LA traffic when his white Ford Bronco decided to go on the worlds slowest car chase. In fact I was on the damn 405, which at the best of times is miserable, but that white Bronco stopped the 405 in it's tracks. Even first gear was too fast!

We all know the outcome, Johnny Cochran explained 'If the glove doesn't fit you must acquit', and indeed walk he did. One of the people that has relentlessly persued OJ is Fred Goldman, losing justice in the criminal court, the Goldmans won in the Civil Court. OJ was ordered to give the Goldmans more money than I can even conceive of. Here we are, more than 10 years later, and the amount of cash OJ has shelled out is exactly $zero.

OJ has been hunted down by the Goldman family, while OJ has played almost every Golf Course in North America, no doubt looking for that illusive one armed golf caddy that actually did it, the Goldmans have been equally active preventing OJ from profiting from his endeavors. The OJ sponsors dropped him quicker than Dog Chapman got dumped from A&E.

His attempt at publishing a book, "If I did it", was quickly closed down by the Goldman family, preferring to take the product and publish it themselves.

In a million to one chance, the publicists that I work with know the Goldman's, I get the book, and an interview with Fred Goldman.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Laura Saves The Day

Well the hunt for a VHS tape player was mercifully short. Jan tracked one down at the local thrift store for $20, however on a long shot I called my daughter Laura. She has never thrown anything out in her entire life, and sure enough she had a VCR that I could use. Better still she even delivered it.

Life is good, I can now do the reviews.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

The VHS Is Dead, Long Live The VHS

It has been a number of years since I owned a VHS tape player. In fact I know I have not had one since I moved back to Canada, and that was 2002. VHS has gone the way of the Dodo, and the 8-track, right?

Well that is not quite so! I am doing some work for the Discovery channel, and was getting worried that some screeners had not arrived. Generally TV wants their stuff reviewed a couple of days before it airs. So I fired off an email explaining that I really needed these screeners becuse the show airs next Tuesday, and next Monday is a holiday in Canada, so no deliveries.

Within minutes I got the response 'The will be there today'! Sure enough UPS delivered the items this afternoon, four VHS tapes! hahahahaha

Now the monkey is on my back! I have to find a VCR in the next 48 hours! The good news is... I have several plans.....

The Week In Review(s)

It has been a pretty interesting week. And I had a truly unique thing happen with an interview. Allthough I have not heard any recent material from the prog rock group Hawkwind I thought it might be fun to interview the one remaining original member Dave Brock. This band has been around for almost forty years, playing their very spacey synthesizer oriented style of music. I got hold of the bands manager and she readily agreed to get Dave to participate in a quick email interview. his is a really simple format, I send a list of questions and he sends back his answers, it could not be easier.

So, a couple of weeks ago I shipped off my list of 10 questions and sat back and waited. Yesterday I received the reply from the manager, 'I have attached Daves answers'. I have to admit that I was surprised to see that the attachment was a PDF. I hate PDF's because you can not copy/paste the damn text. Oh well, guess I'll have to do some typing was what I was thinking. I opened up the file, and what I found had me rolling on the floor laughing!

They had obviously printed my email, Dave then hand wrote his answers, they then scanned the document and emailed it back! Now that's a creative use of technology! You can read the interview here.

Do you remember the 60's TV show The Man From UNCLE? Well Time Life are releasing the entire 4 season set on DVD. 41 DVD's containing all 104 episodes, plus the pilot that was never aired! It comes in a snazzy aluminum case! This is a must have for any Man From UNCLE fan. You can find my review here.

I don't have it in my hot little hands yet, but I am on the list for a review Chumby! What the hell is a Chumby I here you ask. Well it looks more fun than a barrel of monkeys. It is the size of a small clock/radio and it connects to the internet, you can play music, watch video clips, access web sites, etc. At just under $200 this is the gizmo for the geek, check it out.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Happy Birthday To Me!

Well folks, I am officially now as old as Jan! Combined we have 104 years of experience. Of course Jan does not brag about her age, but a simple calculation can figure it out! 104/2 or 52 to help the math challenged!

The good news is that I will only be as old as Jan for 6 months, then I can go back to referring to her as 'The older woman'!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Thanks Duane

Duane "Dog" Chapman is probably feeling pretty bad right about now, lets face it, it is not everyday that the National Enquirer 'outs' you for using the infamous N-word. But it sure does wonders for the ratings! over on blogger news we had at least 4 articles about Dog, and they all scored big in the ratings. Nothing makes news like bad news! Way to go Dog!

There is also a hot rumor that Duane has taken to misspelling son Tucker's name, inadvertently replacing the letter T with an F.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Charlie Daniels

You remember this guy, he is the fiddle player that released that great song 'The Devil Came Down To Georgia', well he is back! I got my hands on his latest CD Deuces yesterday. Now strictly speaking he should have gone to the bottom of the review pile, which at this point would have been something like position 51! The scary part is that I am not really behind, it's just the amount that keep arriving! Anyway, Janny is a big country music fan, and loves Charlie Daniels, so it had to go to the top of the pile.

In fact not only did it go to the top of the pile, it got put in the player.

Well this is some great album, Charlie decided to make it from duets, now his idea of a duet does not quite meet the dictionary definition, his idea is to play with some solo artists, but also some complete bands. The end result is outstanding!

I try and write my reviews as I listen, that way everything is fresh in my mind. So I rattled of a review, and stuck it on the web, you can read it here.

Well, today I heard from the promoters, they are happier than Cowboys with the new truck that has a custom gun rack. They are so happy they are setting me up with an interview with Charlie Daniels.

This should be fun.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Good Times hahaha

Occasionaly it gets quiet over at Blogger News, and one of my favorite things to do is write some controversial article that will upset some whacked out sector of society. I am not a political animal, I basically hold the opinion that all politics smells worse than an abattoir, and politicians as a whole are a species lower than a maggot.

So when I stumbled accross a story concerning right wing extremist CNN presenter Lou Dobbs and his public oopsy of calling New York Governer Spitzer "An Idiot" during an interview I could not resist a little fun and games.

The result has been outstanding! I have every right wing extremist whacko on my case. One particularly amusing commenter wants me "Fired from the internet".

I love it when a plan comes together! Good times!

Musical News

A while back I interviewed the wild man of the Moog Synth, Keith Emerson, of Emerson Lake And Palmer fame. I was amazed when he told me he is still using his 1970 vintage, full size modular Moog. Mind you, with an original price tag of $50,000 I'd want to get my monies worth out of it as well.

I noticed today that his official homepage is linking to the interview! I know the web guy that runs the site and dropped him a line to say thanks, his reply was 'Keith must have liked it, he is the one that selects whats goes on the page'.

I also discovered that late next month Keith Emerson and Rick Wakeman are going to do a concert together. Now that should be some show, the two undisputed kings of the Moog playing together. I do hope there will be a DVD coming out of the event.

Several months ago I was poking around online and discovered that the 70's prog rock group Hawkwind are still going strong. As an adolescent hippie these guys were my favorite band. Spacey prog rock combined with what was at the time the best light show in the business these guys were awesome! Recently I decided it might be fun to play again in the Hawkwind world, and I im in the midst of doing an interview with the only remaining original band member Dave Brock. In what is becoming an increasingly small musical world another Hawkwind connection has popped out of the blue.

MVD sent me a box of CD's to review, one of the bands was Bedouin, while the name did not mean much, when I discovered the band members I was truly surprised. Alan Davey is the head of this band, and was Hawkwinds drummer during the 80's and for several years recently. Alan has agreed to an interview, which should be fun!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Spam In Literature

My good friend Outer Mongolian Mark has peaked my interest in Spam. For example, has it ever been mentioned in a book, well other than a book by the Monty Python folks.

I was reflecting on this question this morning as I bussed it to work. Actually the daily bus ride is where I do a good deal of my reading. And there it was.... A spam quote...

She pulled down a couple of cans of beef stew, a package of cornbread mix, and a tin of Spam
Now, I am sure that there are many other literary mentions of this delightful product, and I plan on tracking them down!

Oh, I am sure you Spam fans want to know the name of the book I am reading. Well as soon as the review goes up I'll make sure I add a link.

Spam Update From Mongolia

The worlds most travelled can of Spam seems to be having a great time in Outer Mongolia. I received a quick update from Mark, who seems determined to show it a good time before actually consuming it!

Spam Watching The Red Sox During Game 7

Spam on a London Taxi Cab Somewhere In Mongolia

Sunday, October 14, 2007

More Reviewing Nonsense

It has been a pretty interesting week. I finished Terry Turchie's excellent book Hunting The American Terrorist which explores the 'lone wolf' phenomenon. Terry was in charge of the Unabomber investigation, and also ran the hunt for Eric Rudolf (Olympic games bomber). The publisher has been hounding me to do an interview, and I think it will be quite interesting.

The Discovery Channel has an excellent new series 'Mars Rising' which looks at the problems we face trying to complete a manned mission to the Red Planet. This is definitely my kind of program so I got hold of Discovery andtold em that if they can get me screeners , I'll be happy to put up reviews a couple of days before air date. This pretty much is the industry standard. Super they said, and the very next day there was a Fed-Ex package. Then I noticed the problem, they had sent me the shows that had already aired! This is no good, it's too late! Of course I can't get hold of anyone at Discovery and episode 3 airs today! Oh well thats life.

I did an interesting interview last Thursday, it was with filmmaker Aaron Wolf whose latest movie premiered in New York last Friday. King Corn is a unique look at the growing, use, and abuse of this highly government subsidized crop. Well worth a look if you have the chance.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Pure Insanity!

I have spent most of the week in Microsoft hell. I managed to attract some nasty little virus whose mission in life seemed to be to disable most of my control panel. For the longest time I have been mumbling that if I had to reload this computer one more time I would stick bloody Linux on it.

Well, thursday I was reading some press releases, and came across one from a company called Linspire. These guys hit the news two years ago when the released Lindows, a linux based knockoff of Windows. There were a lot of harsh words traded between Redmond and San Diego.

Anyway Lindows has become Linspire, and in it's own way is also creating some waves. It is a commecial offering ($49.99), and what is annoying Linux purists is the fact that they have liscensed some technology from Microsoft. Linspire can play Windows Media files.

Fifty bucks sounded like a bargain, if it lived up to its claims, but it was approximately $49.99 more than I was willing to spend! So putting on my best reviewer hat I fired off an email to Linspire. Within minutes (10) I had press credentials and access to their download site, I was pretty damn impressed.

I downloaded the ISO yesterday morning, and burned an install CD.

Now this is where it gets really interesting. Including a hard drive format the total elapsed time for the install was under 15 minutes! I was amazed. Oh and that included Open Office, and a full compliment of internet tools. During the install it asked me one question, and that was what my name was! Outstanding is what I call this. Microsoft could learn a thing or five from this small company. If you want the whole story you can read it here.

The other excitement yesterday was an interview I did with an AMD exec. Charlie Boswell is an energetic guy, I missed his exact job title, but its something like Vice President of being enthusiastic! 45 minutes on the phone with Charlie and I was ready for a nap!

What I did find curious about the whole thing was that while Charlie may be AMD's chief Evangelist, he is not allowed out without a handler! And the handler was there to make sure Charlie did not stray into areas not approved of. Very entertaining stuff.

I also noticed that the interview took less than a couple of hours to land on one of the AMD sponsored web sites, so I guess the big cheeses liked it. You can read it here.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Five down, forty to go!

I decided to have a real go at cleaning up the CD's that needed reviews. Alas the title of this post sums it up quite well. I found a couple that I liked, but they were in the minority!

What the hell has happened to the music world? Where did we go wrong?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

The Week(s) In Review(s)

I have not done one of these in a while. Life has been scooting by in lightning flash!

I have no doubt that you have all probably come to the conclusion that I had got out of the reviewing business, not so! I am busier now than I have ever been. The damn stuff seems to come out of the woodwork.

On the movie front I tackled the mainstream Steven King 1408 DVD, actually it wasn't as bad as I had anticipated, and Jan offered to hold my hand if it got too scarey (and it did). I did like the DVD packaging, you get two movies for the price of one. The directors cut version has a very different ending to the theatrical one.

I also tried out a couple of Indy efforts, King Corn, which is a very disturbing look at the state of of our food chain, and I have been playing phone and email tag with the director for the past week. But I will get my interview!

The Calgary Film Festival was the backdrop to Downtown Dawgs, I had interest in this movie because I know some of the people involved. Unfortunately I missed the the actual premiere, I was having too much fun having a stroke, but I did get to interview the director.

Music wise, well where the hell do I start? For those of you that are old, in celebration of the 40th anniversary Pink Floyd's Piper At The Gates Of Dawn has been re released. The movie Saturday Night Fever is 30 years old this year, and to celebrate, a two CD special Bee Gees Greatest has been released, great fun!

Refugee may not be a name that many remember, but it was the band that came into being when The Nice collapsed. Patrick Moraz while not the frontman, was most certainly the glue, he was also one of the very few people in the world that could run a Moog Synth. When Rick Wakeman decided to leave Yes it was only a matter of time before he joined Yes.

Jon Anderson was the guy with the strange vocal talent behind Yes, Searching For The Songs is a delightful collection of demo tracks from 1986, Yes influenced, but unique to Jon.

Remember Iggy Pop? Maybe one of the most reviled names in music! Many people consider Iggy to be the father of Punk in North America. Did Iggy have style, or was he a fraud? Everyone has their own opinion.

Every once in a while you come across some real gems, and Willie Nile is one of them, I was most impressed (not that I count).

Oh crap, this is way too long... more later... I haven't even got onto books...

Monday, October 01, 2007

Technology Sometimes Sucks

Now I am sure some of you think that I am the king of tech, I have the Beerbox, and the Pizza Box tablet PC, but the truth is, I run away from the 'bleeding edge'. It it always overpriced and for me, over equipped.

I am proud to say that I am the proud owner of only one cell phone, and I have never switched it on, I have never tried to connect it to a cell network, and to be honest with you I have no clue where it lives inside the apartment. I was given the phone, and it looked like a fun project to convert it to something useful, like a coffee cup warmer (those Ni-Cad batteries run hot!). Plan B was to duct tape it to a Toilet Bowl Brush and create a vibrating sonic toilet cleaner. Neither plan has come to fruition!

Just because I don't use tech, does not mean that I do not follow it in the press. The tech story of the past week has to be the iPhone. This nerdy and incredibly overpriced device has been selling better than Viagra! When you combine the hugely inflated sale price, with the even more inflated AT&T contract, you end up with a device that is going to cost you over $1000 a year!

Some enterprising nerds decided to tinker, and found a way to unlock the phone from it's reliance on the AT&T network, in other words, you could brag to your nerdy friends that now your $600 phone was only costing you $800 a year! Harvard MBA's take note, that means in only 3 years you have paid for the stupid thing.

Apple didn't like this, it is rumoured that AT&T are giving Apple a monthly 'kick back' for every 2 year contract, so if all these nerds moved their service to Joes Cellular' the payola would be over. Usually this kind of monopolistic action is frowned upon, but Apple seems to have friends in high places, they have effectively played the same trick with iTunes.

In a move that only Apple could get away with, they have released a 'downgrade' to the iPhone, and if you are one of those nerds that played in the innards, you are in for a depressing discovery, your $600 nerd-mobile is now an ineffectual door stop! My recommendation is to duct tape it to a brick, that will improve the 'door stop' abilities.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Perils Of Reviewing

For the most part I really enjoy the reviewing game, whats not to love about free stuff, and getting to talk with the occasional famous person? In fact even if they are not famous it is usually fun. I can only think of one interview that went 'south' and that believe it or not was with a Professor of Communications from the University of Calgary, the guy could barely manage to mumble monosyllabic answers!

OK, now onto the downside. I do a lot of reviews, and seeing as to how I don't get paid for most of them I like to pick and choose what I tackle. Unfortunately once your name gets known, stuff just arrives. Often with absolutly no information about who sent it. The indy movie world are the worst offenders, with indy music being a close second.

Oh well, I guess it's just the way it works!

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dropping Stuff!

I have discovered the one really fun aspect of 'Not having a stroke'. You get to drop stuff, usually when you least expect it. Today I have managed to drop at least 3 beers, and god knows how many other items! I am so glad I bought cheap beers!

I suspect that Jan has hidden all the good breakable glass ware, and other stuff!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Four Days Not Having A Stroke!

You might have noticed that I have been a bit lacking in the post area for a few days. It was all due to NOT having a stroke! In what has to be the worlds oddest medical adventure, I spent an exciting day at the Foothills Hospital in Calgary.

Now I am not a medical expert, but I have heard tell that numbness in the hand and arm is not a good sign, it smacks of a stroke. So when I found myself with these symptoms, I was to say the least a little concerned. The lack of fine motor skills in the right hand has made for a bloody nightmare when trying to type or use the damn mouse.

After four days of this hell, I decided to try doctor hell! So we got to spend 8 hours at my local hospital. I have heard many bad things about Canadian health care, and the log waits for even the simplest of procedures. I found it quite the opposite, I walked up to the window, explained my plight, and within a few seconds the machine went into action! Blood pressure monitors, (I clocked in at a Guinness Book of Records 240/139, this elicited a comment of "WOW, those are some really big numbers" from the ER nurse), EKG, CT Scan, X-Rays, IV's, these guys n gals pulled out all the stops!

Then the Neuro guys turned up! A whole gaggle of them, and they looked disappointed! Oh Oh I thought, here comes some bad news! Apparently the neuro guys only get their jollies from new strokes, and the scan shows that I had not had one, but it showed that at some time in the past I have! Now I have no recollection of such an event.

So with the Neuro guys disappointed. it was at the whim of the ER doctors. Well, ER is only fun if you are dealing with near death, and they had fixed that earlier in the day. So, after giving me a Stern talking to about my lifestyle they let me escape!

Monday, September 17, 2007

The Smoke Detector From Hell!

This story started a few months ago. Jan and I were minding our own business when we noticed a bloody great fire truck stop right outside the house. This is not something that happens on a day to day basis, a quick check revealed that the house was not burning down, I could not imagine what these guys were up to.

My curiosity peaked when the door bell rang, well at least they didn't attack it with their axes, so that was a good thing. It turned out they were going door to door to ensure that everyone had a working smoke detector. Well I had to admit that we did not, the battery was dead (because the stinking thing kept going off!).

Two burly firemen came inside to 'fix the issue' whipping out a brand new 9 volt battery they had it fixed in seconds, and off they went to annoy the neighbors. It soon became apparent that the new battery and the old detector were getting along like Goths and Skinheads! About every 30 seconds we would be entertained by a short, but very loud squawk!

Luckily the fire truck had only moved a couple of houses up the street, so it was pretty easy to track em down. Back they came, they whipped out a cordless drill and before you could say 911 we had a brand new smoke detector! The $0 price tag was most acceptable.

Of course all is not well with this new one, you can't boil a pan of water without it going off! The good news tho is it has a quick release mechanism, a quick twist and you can take it off and bury it underneath a couple of cushions. This is way easier than the old one where you had to extract the battery!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A Strange Request

You just never know what bizzare thing is going to happen next. A while back I did a series of reviews about a weekly show on the Sundance Channel. Well TV show rewiews are not usually terribly exciting events, so I decided that one way to spice things up would be by including some short interviews with the people featured on the show.

It turned out to be a very successful format, and everyone involved seemed to be pretty happy. On Friday I got an email from the PR company, they are 'repping' a movie that is coming out shortly. I know nothing about it, I have not seen it, I have not even read the synopsis, but they want me to interview one of the stars!

This should be interesting!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Movies Close To Home

One of the amazing things about the reviewing world is that you never know what is going to happen next. As some of you know, in the real world I work with the homeless. Last week I received an Email about the upcoming Calgary Film Festival, and in particular one movie that is premiering at the festival 'Downtown Dawgs'.

Believe it or not there is a World Cup of soccer for homeless people, and in 2006 it was held in South Africa. This movie follows the fortunes and misfortunes of Team Canada, some members of which came from Calgary. I noticed that a couple of names on the 'coaching' side were people that I knew. I could not resist jumping in on this one.

So today I am going to be interviewing a couple of people, including the movie director. Alas I have not been able to view a screener yet, the movie is still in post production, and they need to hustle on that, it premiers in 8 days!

I have to admit that I like dealing with the Indy arts world, everyone is so much more approachable, they are always delighted to have a reviewer interested in their work. The MSM (MainStream Media) on the other hand could care less about any movie that didn't cost the national debt of a small third world country to make.

Oh, and before anyone gets their knickers in a knot, no tax payers money was involved in this project! There are lots of misnomers in the what people think of the homeless. They are not all panhandling, dirty bums who hang out on street corners, most are people that you would not glance at twice, they are just like you and me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Music Madness!

So what would you do with a dozen not just Metal, not even Heavy Metal, but Death Metal CD's?
I tried a couple. But this is not my style of music. I hate it! It is a wall of damn noise. It is aural warfare. It contravenes the SALT agreements!

I am pretty sure I could end the problems in Iraq by shipping this lot to Bin Laden, he would be begging for mercy after the first couple of tracks.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Under Seige!

I am scared, and I don't scare easy. Today is Friday, and Fridays are always an exciting day for deliveries of boxes of stuff.

I was just looking at the list of stuff en-route, and it looks pretty daunting. As best I can tell there are going to be at least two boxes of video stuff. And I am sure each box will have 20 DVD's in them. There are also at least 5 books somewhere in the system.

It is always good to have a plan, and my plan is to close the curtains, turn the lights off, and not answer the door! I still have at least 20 CD's and DVD's to deal with!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Alice's Adventures In Interview Land Part 2

A couple of weeks ago I was playing online. There should be no big surprise there, I do a lot of that. Anyway, I have been in a 70's prog rock music kick of late. I am not sure that I sought it out, it just kind of found me.

I was Googling around and discovered that one of my favorite prog rock bands of that era are still alive and well. Hawkwind may not be a name that is well known in North America, but it certainly is a name that is well known with European Prog Rock fans.

As a teenager, these guys were my favorite band. I would sit and listen to their albums for hours on my not quite stereo record player. This annoyed my mother no end! She could see no redeeming features in the band, and referred to them as 'Those Wind People". Her favorite was to bang on my bedroom door and scream "Turn those bloody wind people down". She had very little appreciation of music back then!

Anyway, yesterday I heard back from 'The Wind People' and they are happy to do an interview. I would love to tell my mother this good news, but she is in her eighties, and suffers from dementia, so I am not sure she will fully understand. Of course my problem is to find out what 'Those Wind People' have been doing for the past 30 years so I can ask some sensible questions.

Who said this reviewing gig was easy? They should be taken out at dawn and shot!

Alices Adventures In Interview Land

The one thing that you can guarantee in the world of reviewing and interviewing is that you have absolutely no idea what is going to happen next. Yesterday was a fine example, two unrelated but very interesting things happened.

For the first time, I was on the receiving end of a grilling! A while back I sent off for a review copy of an Indian influenced band. Indian as in sub-continent, not as in indigenous people. I also discovered that they were slated to play a gig here in Calgary, so I decided to go for press credentials and an interview. In for a penny, in for a pound, is my motto (that's an English saying by the way). This group has the worlds most complex PR setup, with different reps dealing with different parts of the world! Anyway, as a result of this complexity I am now the proud owner of two complementary CD's of their latest creation, and another CD that came from god knows where. I have an interview scheduled for 'after' the concert, and quite honestly this is all in my version of the 'Distant Future', it is at least 2 weeks from now!

You can imagine my surprise when last night I received a phone call from the local sponsor. I am still not exactly sure what he wanted, but we had a nice chat for the best part of an hour! I can only assume that he wanted to talk to the guy that he was giving two $50 tickets to. I think he was pretty happy though when I talked him through a couple of Google News searches and showed him my #1 articles! hahaha maybe free tix is not such a bad deal.

Monday, September 03, 2007

Life Is Not Always Easy

This reviewing business is over rated! Yup, you get free stuff, but boy it gets old. It is 8:15 am and I have punted out 4 or 5 five already. The done pile is almost to the ceiling, but the 'to do' pile is still measured in Boxes! I am scared to even look, I just know there are more boxes of stuff hiding.

My poor wife Jan has to suffer through all of this. We did a couple of Thrash bands this morning, Jan took the easy way out and disappeared into the shower. This woman has the look of a 'Deer in the headlights' when I tell her we are going to review stuff! I am sure that Judge Judy would give her a divorce based on the grounds of mental cruelty!

After a morning of Thrash, and I have plenty more, I put on some Al Stewart. The French use bread to clean the palate between wines, I use Al to clean the ears between CD's.

I guess everyone has their own 'palate' cleanser.

Anyone need a few Kilos of music? If you do, just let me know the weight that you want. I don't do genre, I just do pounds!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Oh Crap Part 2

Well, we tried all of the CD's in that damn box, and it is no wonder I had them buried. Every last one of them is Prog Metal from an outfit in Poland! Now don't get me wrong, I have nothing against Prog Metal, but I just don't need 20 of them!

I don't know enough Prog Metal words to come up with 20 reviews, hell I used em all up on the two I did review!

Oh Crap!

I had really good intentions this weekend. I knew I was a little behind on the CD and DVD reviews. So my plan was to listen and watch them all. I was doing really well, and I thought I had the beast under control, and then I found another box. It had been opened, and then the flaps closed back up, I assumed that this was a 'done' box. You can imagine my horror when I discovered that it contained another 20 items that I had not yet tackled!

I was damn glad that I had some beer left from last night!

It is going to be a busy time in the Barrett household.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Gothic Vampires From Hell

It was months ago that I reviewed The Gothic Vampires From Hell, it is basiclly a 'b' horror movie, but it sure has a popular following! There is little rhyme or reason as to what is a hit, and what is a miss. All I know for sure is that almost every day I get hits from search engines about it.

So for you 'Goth Vamp' fans I am going to get back in touch with Jeramiah, he was the screen writer, and see if he can help me track down the director for an interview.

So keep your 'Fangs crossed', there could be more Gothic Vampires From Hell news soon!

Wild Times In Review World

It certainly has been a strange couple of weeks. Although the truth is it's such a strange world that if you are involved in it, nothing should surprise you.

I have been angling for an interview with Greg Lake (ELP), but had pretty much thought that it was a lost cause, I had heard nothing from the Greg Lake people, not even a 'We got your email, email', and that usually signals bad times ahead! Mind you, I had a pretty similar time with Rick Wakeman's 'people', until through a circuitous route someone at the record label got involved, in a flash, we had an interview set up.

In what can only be classed as an amazing co-incidence this same record exec knows Greg Lake, and has greased the wheels, so we have a Greg Lake interview being set up! It sure is a question of who you know!

The other bizarre aspect of reviewing is the 'stuff' you get. You would think that with the cost of using delivery services someone would be in charge of making sure that you only send stuff once. This is not the case, I get double of stuff, I get double books, I get double CD's. Trust me, I really only need one copy!

I have a whole pile of stuff en route, and what arrives, another copy of a CD from a band that we are going to see in concert in a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Canned Mutton Problem!


Houston we have had a problem! I was messing around reading blogs and it looks like the big canned mutton/Spam swap has hit a snag! The Mongolian Customs do not allow it to be exported! I guess it is a national treasure, I know that Egypt frowns on people taking their national treasures out, so I can only assume it is the same situation.
I do believe that there is a plan b, smuggling it out through Saipan! We will wait and see. Meanwhile the Spam seems to be winging it's way with no problem.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Jan And The Rock Star!

We had a pretty hectic day yesterday, I have no clue how many CD's we went through for reviewing. Around 9:30 I had had enough, it was time for an 8 hour power nap! When I sleep, I sleep like the dead, so I was oblivious to the phone ringing.

The first thing I know is Jan has woken me up and she has a look of shock and disbelief on her face "Honey, get up, Keith Emerson is on the phone, and I think I was just rude to him"!

Apparently Jan had assumed it was her son calling, and had answered the phone with "What do you want?". Keith had spouted out something about Moog synthesizers, to which Jan had stopped him in mid sentence with a "Who the hell is this?" hahahahahaha

Keith is a real nice guy, and we chatted for almost an hour. What really amazed me was after he had answered all of my questions, he asked me about my kids, and invited Jan and I to lunch! he ended the call like we were old buddies, "Call me anytime".

You just never what to expect in the wild world of reviewing! You can check out the interview here.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

More About Pile-oligy!

The pile theory is a simple one. I started it with clothes, and if you think about it, clothes only exist in three states, clean, not so clean, and currently 'in use'. Using pile-oligy I created 2 piles, one was for stuff that was clean, and one for stuff that was not so clean, I found this method was very effective. You knew when it was time to do laundry, the dead give away was the piles, the not so clean pile being way larger than the clean pile. Occasionally you would find the clean pile empty! That was a sure sign that laundry duty was required!

Of course Pile technology went out the window when Jan arrived. She could not understand the underlying theory and insisted that dirty clothes go in the hamper, and clean clothes go in closets and draws.

I bowed down to her requests, and clothes are no longer in piles. I do try and keep a little pile at the end of the bed, but every couple of days she grabs it! Jan is just not a pile-oligist!

Pile technology is not limited to clothes, you can use the pile theory to almost anything. If I was going after a PHD I would pick piles as my subject. Pretty much you can analyse any situation and end up with between 2 and 4 piles. I run a 4 pile system for my reviews. The to do pile, the working on pile, the I like it pile, and the... argh pile.

The argh pile is without doubt the largest pile, actually we keep it in boxes. And these boxes contain stuff that contravene the latest SALT treaty. If you want to stop the war in Iraq, come visit me. A couple of my boxes dumped in Iraq and the war would be over. Osama would be begging for mercy! "Oh no, not more DVD's"!

I have been under the gun by Jan to get rid of some of the 'Stuff'. so I did, 7.5 lbs of stuff is now on its way to Saipan. You will notice I talk weight rather than content! It is a sad situation when I measure music and movies by the pound! But that is what it has become. I took 2.9 Kilograms of stuff to the post office today. That's about 7 pounds! Ha I thought, I am winning.

Boy was I wrong! Even tho it is Saturday, some idiot delivery company left a box outside my door, and the weight was 3kg! I lost. I am now 1lb more in the red than i was before.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Danger, Danger Will Robinson.....


You all remember Lost In Space? It was a silly TV show with the worlds strangest robot. His favorite saying was "Danger, Danger Will Robinson'!
Well I certainly could have used the robots help tonight.
Jan wad made some baked pork steaks and salad. I grabbed the plastic salad dressing bottle (Safeway Select Brand - Blue Cheese), took the cap off, inverted the bottle (as recommended) and gave a squeeze. Not much happened, a couple of little drops dribbled out. At that rate, I reasoned, it would take approximated 57.5 years to get enough dressing for the salad.
My problem was obviously that I was not applying enough squeeze to the bottle. So I gave it a quick shake a little more squeeze. The plastic top came bursting out like the bullet from a snipers rifle, closely followed by a explosion of blue cheese dressing, pork, salad, counter, knives and forks, dish cloth, etc, are all now absolutely covered in the stuff.
I looked at the disaster, and keeping a 'stiff upper lip' remarked to Jan "maybe I should have gone for the BBQ sauce instead". If we lived in Southern California I know that I would have a Million Dollar law suit on my hands, but here in Canada, the best I can do is to send a complaint to the company, and of course I will be including the URL to this article!

Busted By The Feds Again!

In what is becoming an all too frequent event, I got busted by Canada Customs again! I am getting really fed up with paying for stuff that is free! Today's adventure involved two CD's by Deva Premal, her and Mital are playing a concert here in Calgary next month, and I have agreed to review it. It's a new album, and so the PR folks sent me a copy of it, and also a copy of their last release.

Unfortunately for me, they put on the damn Fed-Ex shipping note that the contents were worth $58. So the Feds bust me with a $7 charge for opening the damn package, and then charge me tax on the $58. It's enough to make the Pope swear!

A couple of weeks ago Dumb as Hog Lard (DHL) played the same game.

Of course, maybe I am being a little harsh, for $10.91 I have 2 new CD's to add to my CD pile, I have $100 worth of concert tickets, an invite to a drinks and munchies session the evening before the concert, and an interview. When you view it that way, I guess I got a deal!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Simon Has Piles

NO not that sort of piles, I suffer no discomfort while sitting. I am talking about piles of stuff. Broadly speaking they break into three main categories, the to do, the something is kinda sorta happening with it, and the enormous done piles.

In keeping with my neat freak approach to life, these piles are everywhere! In fact they are threatening to take over from the computer bits piles, and the typewriter piles.

If we lived in a 4 bedroom house, life would be good, I'd just relocate the piles to a couple of the bedrooms. Alas we live in a small one bedroom apartment, there is not enough room to 'swing a cat', in fact there is not enough room to swing a hamster!

The good news is that I am going to be relocating part of one pile to a far flung place, Saipan! My buddy Bruce explained that they have no off air TV, and in a fit of rage he ripped out the cable TV, so their only entertainment are terrible DVD's from the local Video Rental store.

I am going to be sending a serious 'care package' on Friday!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

JFK The Ultimate Conspiracy?

There have been a gazillion books, movies, and documentaries made about what happened in Dealy Plaza on Nov/22 1963. Everyone from the Mafia, CIA, Castro, and probably bloody aliens have been accused of assassinating JFK. It is a subject that just will not go away. I am by no means a crusader of the cause, but I have read my fair share of books on the subject.

As a reviewer you do actually have to read the words, so very likely I do know quite a lot about the plots and subplots.

Without doubt the only real evidence is that grainy home movie that everyone has seen 10 thousand times. In the JFK fraternity it is called 'The Zapruder tape', it is an Super 8mm tape. This certainly is not IMAX quality. In fact it is pretty crappy.

Dan Robertson has just released a new book, it's slim at only 115 pages, but is rich in detail. A couple of years ago the Zapruder family allowed MPI Media Group access to the original 8mm film, this is footage that few people have ever seen. On the day of the event Zapruder went to Kodak and had them develop his film and make 3 copies, it is copies of the copies that we have seen on the TV. This process is not like copying a digital file, I can make as many copies as I like of an MP3, and everyone of them will be exactly the same. When you copy analog you lose definition with each copy.

The MPI guys went one stage further with the original, they used a medium format camera to click each frame (don't be fooled with the term medium format, it is a better camera than any sensible person could afford) and then took the frames and bolted it back together.

You end up with something that is better than the original! Yes I know that sounds bizarre, but it is true.

The DVD has little commentary, it just shows the fateful journey that JFK took.

Dan Robertson adds that missing commentary in his book.

I have always had an open mind to what happened that day. But I have to admit that this combo has got me thinking. I don't think any one that has an IQ bigger than their hat size believes that the Warren Commission did a good job. In fact it is my opinion that the Warren Commission are why we are still fascinated about the assassination 45 years later.

Try it out, my review has links to what you will need.

Monday, August 20, 2007

What A Day!

Well it certainly has been an entertaining day, I got the interview with Dave Cousins completed, and I think I have found a chink in the armour of the Rick Wakeman bastion of silence. I have been trying for months to get an interview with this guy. Today I actually got an email from a real person! With the record label involved, now maybe something will happen.

I also heard from Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer fame. It looks like we are on for an interview on Friday.

With this kind of good luck going for me I have sent out a request to Greg Lake (The L in ELP) for an interview as well, we shall see what happens with this one.

Everyone like a great conspiracy, and what better than the JFK assassination. Somehow I seem to have become part of the 'in crowd' of JFK stuff. In today's mail was a copy of Dan Robertson's new book Definitive Proof. From what I have gleaned, Dan has a new theory that is based on the infamous Zapruder home video of the event. This has to be one of the most watched pieces of home movie making ever. Well some rather talented folks have done a frame by frame digital clean up of it.

In a delightful find, he sent me a copy of the DVD as well! I can't wait to read this book, and watch the DVD. I'll keep you all posted!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

The Perils Of Reviewing

As the English saying goes "It never rains but it pours", and pour is what it did yesterday. When Jan and I got back from our Spam adventure yesterday the mail box was crammed with Christmas presents, there was a book, another Johnny Cash CD, and an Indie movie. The movie was unsolicited, it was from IndieFilms who for some reason think I like their work. Well I panned the last one they sent me Idol, and I suspect that this one will get a similar treatment.

A couple of hours later a Canada Post truck came ambling down the road, it had my name written all over it. Sure enough, a Box for Simon. I could tell by the size and shape it was from my good buddy Clint. I was right, I was now the proud owner of 9 more DVD's and 10 more CD's.

About 2 minutes later UPS made their drop, oh joy, a 4 DVD box set of all 29 episodes of the old Brit-com Two's Company. With a total running time of just over 12 hours!

There are people envious of me, all this free stuff. Well let me assure you it is not really that glamorous, I have to watch, listen or read all this stuff. In fact all of this 'stuff' is beginning to take over the whole damn apartment, there are CD's and DVD's everywhere, boxes of the damn things!

Friday, August 17, 2007

Spams In The Mail!

Yup, you heard it here first! Jan and I trekked off to the Post Office, and now that wonderful can full of pig bits (lips, jowls, naughty bits, etc) is on its long journey to the wilds of Outer Mongolia.

We had to fill out a customs declaration, and we simply wrote 'Spam'. I wonder what the Outer Mongolian customs guys will make of that?

Meat Swap Update

Well it's the big day, if all is going well Mark is on his way to the Post Office with a package of canned mutton for me, likewise momentarily I am heading out with a can of Spam.

I hit the local Mega Mart at 8am and picked up a can of this succulent stuff.

When I got home I examined the can, and found some really interesting information. You do not need to be in a rush to eat it. The sell by date is Feb 2010. This is good, because the combination of Canada Post's Dog Sleds and Mongolia's Yak delivery service Mark should get the Spam days before the product expires!

As Mario Batali from the Iron Chef America show would say....

Bon Appetite!!!!!!!!!!

Jason Kohn - Entertaining Guy

I had the great pleasure of interviewing Jason Kohn yesterday. Jason is the genius behind the Sundance award winning film Manda Bala. I can honestly say this man is as wild as his hair style.

It is not every 23 year old that sells everything he owns (car and saxophone) to fund the making of a film. Yet that is exactly what he did.

Five years later, and probably 25 years older Jason has brought this project to fruition. Manda Bala opens at the Angelika theater in New York today!

One of the things that really surprised me about Jason was how the interview started. I have no idea how many interviews he has given recently, but a quick google shows it is quite a few, yet he knew all about the review I had written.

"you are the guy that mentions his wife and gives me two frogs up" was his accusation! And I had to admit that I was guilty as charged.

I hope that Jason has a huge success with Manda Bala, and if you see this film playing in your local theater you will take the time to go and watch it.

Stackridge Stackheads!

Head for the hills the Stackheads are coming!

I was right in my initial review of this band. They do indeed have a very loyal following. They have even tracked me down to my humble blog. I am really impressed with the zealous nature of these folks.

I really like this band and would love to see them get more recognition in the North American market. I am a firm believer that the way to generate some buzz is to show people a sample. If I could find (a legal) streaming video of these guys I'd be happy to do a follow up news article on Bloggernews. So Stackheads, help me out here!

I am putting together an interview piece with Mike Tobin, and I hope to have that up and running over the weekend.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Manda Bala Update

I reviewed this 'just about to be released' movie a few days ago. It won big at Sundance, and has made it to a limited mainstream run in New York, and more cities soon. This is a super high class Indie production. Impressive all the way around.

Anyway, I get to interview Jason Kohn the director and force behind this movie tomorrow. It should be fun! I have some interesting questions for him. I have high hopes for this one.

If you see Manda Bala advertised in your city, go out and give it a try.

Stackridge News

You just have to love this reviewing business. I recently reviewed a DVD by a British band Stackridge. These guys are true entertainers, and I really enjoyed the DVD, I guess that was reflected in my review.

This morning I noticed that someone had left a comment on it, and had signed it Mike Tobin. Well on a whim I decided to 'google' Mr. Tobin, and I discover that a Mike Tobin was the first manager of this band back in the early 70's, co-incidence? Well I can never resist a mystery, and although his email is address is hidden from public view, I as an editor can dig it out, and that's exactly what I did.

The answer is yes, it is the same guy, and better still, he is back as their manager! So we have an interview in the making! ya got to love it.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Hold The Presses! Canned Mutton rules!

I was minding my own business, but of course Jan wanted to help mind it for me! "what have you been doing?" she asked, I of course said "nothing", well she beat it out of me. I put up as must resistance as I could, but Jan is a Pro! This woman would make a great torturer for the CIA!

It is not often that you get a #1 hit in Google but I seem to have one with the "canned mutton"!





This could well be Mutton Central!

I am looking into registering www.cannedmutton.com

This could be the next 'big one'. I can see the headlines already, "Simon flips Mutton.com for $50 million".

Even better would be the New York Times....

"Simon Barrett, businessman turns a fifty cent can of potted meat into a multi million dollar deal! Simon makes Spam look like, well Spam. Canned mutton is where we need to be"

Jamie Oliver was heard to say "Bloody hell! I have been been spending all my time playing with Italians and school dinner ladies. I had no idea that canned mutton existed"!

In between beating his chefs and chefettes for Hells Kitchen Gordon Ramsey remarked "What the F*** is this? I wouldn't serve this shit to my dog!" Gordon does have a cute way with words.

I might be in big trouble here, I am pretty certain that Jan reads this blog! OH SHIT!

Canned Mutton Recipes

I hate being blind sided, so I thought that in anticipation of the arrival of the canned mutton I would do some research on recipes. The Internet is such a great resource, you can find the most interesting stuff. I teach a class about the Internet, and one of the numbers I include is that the last time Google quoted hard facts, it claimed to have in excess of 8.5 billion web pages in its database. That was over 2 years ago, I am sure that number has tripled by now.

So I climbed onto Google and went searching! I started with a simple "canned mutton" search, and was blown away by the results!




I just assumed that Google loves me, and the problem was with my search terms. I was actually looking for recipes, so I did a search on 'Canned Mutton Recipe'. It got better....


I got to move up to # 3!



It was right about then that I realized that there are no recipes for canned mutton! In fact few people have even heard of this delicious offering. I am excited, if the 'mutton fairy' delivers I may have the only can in Canada.

One wonders why canned mutton is not already a big hit? Then I discovered what may provide the key to the problem.


I guess the stuff smells!

I am not daunted by this, in fact it excites me, I think the recipe potential is huge. From a simplistic canned mutton hash, to a version of the french classic Boeuf Bourguignon, the potential is almost endless. My plan is to try it in as many ways as possible, I can already see Japanese Pot stickers, Spanish Risotto, Chinese Sweet and Sour, and maybe even an Italian dish or two, some stuffed tortellinis, or even a lasagna.

I am also wondering how it would work in a Sushi application? I suspect that it would be a great filler for a 'Mongolian Roll'.

All in all, I am jazzed about this opportunity to take an unusual ingredient to new highs. I am expecting a call from the 'Food Channel' in the next couple of days.



Friday, August 10, 2007

The Ultimate Swap Meet Meat Swap


I am always eager to help my friends in far flung parts of the world. I was chatting with Outer Mongolian Mark recently and he is suffering from a distinct lack of Spam. I did try a Spam drive, but it seems like all of my efforts have fallen on stony ground. I can only assume that there is a Spam shortage everywhere but here in Canada.


In order to satiate his craving for Spam I am personally going to ship him a can next week. He was so happy that in a token of appreciation he is shipping me some canned mutton! I am excited, I have never tried canned mutton. I guess that a quick 'google' with turn up all sorts of neat recipes though.


The one 'wild card' in all of this is the various customs checks that these packages are going to have to go through. I am wondering if importing canned mutton is permitted here in Canada? Or for that matter what Outer Mongolia is going to make of Spam?
Oh and just for anyone that does not know Spam, I managed to dredge up the Monty Python skit.

I love an adventure!