Do I F**king Amuse You?

I do love me some mashup and so when I went looking for something new to the collection I didn’t know what a gem I would find in this reimagining of Sesame Street as envisioned by Martin Scorsese. It starts a little slow, but when Grover starts cursing with Joe Pesci’s foul mouth I couldn’t stop laughing. So wrong but so right.

Murder By Numbers

One of the most disturbing serial killer cases in Canadian history is currently unfolding in Vancouver. Robert Pickton is on trial for the murder of six women, with another trial for the murder of 20 other women set to follow. The facts of the case, which started to be revealed last week, are gruesome – beheadings, sex toys attached to weapons and many other graphic details. It can be difficult to read or watch on TV, but the facts are the facts.

Meanwhile, on last week’s episode of CSI, a woman was bludgeoned to death and then injected with drugs. On CSI: Miami, a man was shredded by a landmine; on CSI: New York, a corpse was found stuffed in a salt truck. On the last episode of Bones, a man was shot dead on the rooftop of a hotel. The shooter, in a hood, straps the victim to a cross, guts him, and then lights him on fire. All watched by millions of Canadians.

The difference between these two events is one has people complaining about the sensationalizing of human tragedy and the other has them sitting in front of the tube with snacks. CTV's Lloyd Robertson and Global National's Kevin Newman have stated that because the facts may be too upsetting for viewers, they have decided to withhold certain aspects of the day's proceedings. Many newspapers and radio stations are doing the same. Nobody is complaining about the fictionalized version.

I don’t want to see the trial sensationalized – don’t put the gore in the headlines, don’t lead with the brutal details – but I don’t want to see them hidden either. I find it odd that people can be entertained by blood and guts but don’t want it aired when it’s the truth. We can watch Saving Private Ryan, but don’t show us the experience of real soldiers in Afghanistan or Iraq. In this weekend’s Globe and Mail there was an article about how Canadians are turning away from the grisly details of the accused serial killer’s trial. Six pages later there is an ad for a stage production of Sweeny Todd, about a 19th century serial killer.

“You can watch CSI and it's completely divorced from the real experience. If CSI had an episode featuring human body parts, people would simply say ‘gross,’” says Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture. “When a news anchor reports it, you'd want the kids to leave the room. I don't think CSI has made us shrug our shoulders at the real story of people being beheaded. We make these distinctions.”

People aren’t shrugging their shoulders, they are averting their eyes unless the deaths come wrapped in quick edits and cool music. TV violence hasn’t inured people to real violence, it’s made them only want to see it when it’s entertaining.

Schadenfreude Linking

It’s time for a little stroll through my blogroll, something I haven’t had much chance to do for a while. Here are some gems I found in the Schadenfreude section.

As always, Gallery of the Absurd never fails to cut to the heart of the celebrity condition. Meet Britocchio is an animated wooden puppet who longs to be a real girl.

While yammering on last week about the reason that talent-free hacks try out for American Idol, I suggested it was for the obvious reason that it works. Being extremely bad is a quicker way to fame and fortune than being moderately good. Tabloid Baby has followed the trajectory of Kenneth Briggs and Jonathan Jayne, otherwise known as Bush Baby and his fat friend. Watch out William Hung, they are after your crown.

The Gilded Moose introduces me to a new word for the week: cooteninja, which is defined in part as:
1. to be confronted with woman parts accidentally.
Used in a sentance : "Oh, damn, I was looking for hotel options in Paris, but I was cooteninja'ed instead."
Anyone who’s been reading celebrity gossip blogs lately has been cooteninja’ed.

I knew the Pandora’s box that was holding heirhead Paris Hilton’s most treasured possessions was opened this week, revealing far more than was ever found in Al Capone’s vault. With that in mind I decided not to look, just in case my eyes melted, Indiana Jones style. Oh how I wish I had kept that promise to myself. I Don’t Like You in That Way reveals the horrible contents: herpes meds, evidence she may have miscarried and loads and loads of nekid pictures. Shudder.

Cityrag was a little treasure trove, introducing me to Pretty on the Outside and one of the most disturbing pictures I’ve ever seen, even with the blurring: Kelly Osbourne in Playboy. Again with the eyes melting. Go to the site for much, much more.

Jossip translates a “serious media” story on Katies Holmes and shows why papers should stay far, far away from gossip.

High Fidelity for the High Chair Set

Twenty-twenty-twenty four hours to go I wanna be sedated
Nothin' to do and nowhere to go-o-oh I wanna be sedated
It could be the mantra for any new parent after hours of trying to calm down a cranky, crying baby who is too tired to fall asleep. So what do we turn to? Kids songs and sweetly soothing lullabies – which get a little hard to take after awhile. Raffi can be fun, but I have two much younger sisters, so this sounds like Round Four of Robin in the Rain for me and some days it’s a bit much.

So what’s a hipster to do? Tristan gets his fill of my music in the car, but am I really going to lull him to sleep with The Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated or let him drift off to Nirvana’s Heart-Shaped Box? The answer appears to be yes. Baby Rock Records has released over a dozen lullaby tributes to bands such as Radiohead, The Cure, Nirvana, The Ramones, Metallica, Coldplay and more. The songs are recorded using glockenspiels, vibraphones, harps and other tinkly-sounding instruments, turning teen angst into baby-friendly melodies.

From Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Nirvana: “You know it. With the lights out, it’s less dangerous. These lullaby renditions of Nirvana’s best-loved songs turn the volume way down, while turning up the dreaminess of their pop hooks. In many ways, this album echoes the simple pleasures and innocence of infancy and childhood. Childish tra-la-la’s tempered the distortion of Nirvana’s own songs. Chimes, glockenspiels and other gentle instruments temper Nirvana’s wild spirit for your little one. “Smells Like Teen Spirit?” Smells like nap time."

I never knew I’d be soothing my son to sleep to the sounds of Radiohead, but maybe that’s what they had in mind all along…
Please could you stop the noise, I'm trying get some rest
From all the unborn chicken voices in my head
What's that...? (I may be paranoid, but not an android)
What's that...? (I may be paranoid, but not an android)

And the winner is… the Oscars!

Amid the talk of multiple nominations, snubs and triumphs one thing becomes clear. The big winner is the Academy Awards themselves, judging by the multiple thousands of articles I see on Google, which will soon be followed by thousands more: in-depth profiles of the nominees, photo galleries, retrospectives, quizzes, contests, office pools, printable ballots, party planning and the like. It’s a marketers dream – the product is part of mass culture and yet the Academy retains control. Everyone writes Oscar with a capital, don’t they?

Once the nominations are announced the frenzy truly begins, with the anointed making the media and party rounds, schmoozing for votes. At this point, it’s business – because an Oscar win can add millions at the box office and in DVD sales. A quick look at Toronto showtimes and I see listings for Babel, Letters from Iwo Jima, The Queen, The Pursuit of Happyness, Dreamgirls, Pan's Labyrinth, Blood Diamond, Notes on a Scandal, Children of Men, Happy Feet, The Good Shepherd, Apocalypto and even Borat. For the best of 2006, there sure are a lot of them still around in 2007. It’s like they knew somehow. As for the other major nominees, Little Miss Sunshine and The Devil Wears Prada are already out on DVD and The Departed and Borat arrive next month, before the red carpet is rolled out.

If you’re unconvinced it’s all about the bottom line, consider this fact from Variety: “Over the past five years, the winners of the top two Globe kudos -- drama and comedy/musical -- have made $91 million between Globes night and Oscar night.” And that’s just the Golden Globe winners. Imagine what that little golden man can do for your movie. Watch for jumps for most of the nominees this weekend as people head to theatres to see what all the fuss is about, or to fill in their gaps before filling out their Oscar pool sheets. But I’m not complaining. I know I’m being sold to and I’m on board with it – it beats memorizing sports stats.

As for the nominees themselves, I have no opinion as I have only seen three of the films listed, my worst showing in years. I would feel worse about this except for the fact the vast majority were released just before or soon after the birth of my son, and while he’s ok to tote around to parties, screenings are not as welcoming. But I contend this will not stop my from winning my Oscar pool and defeating my arch-rival (she knows who she is!) Having seen most of the films can often be a detriment, as you tend to make artistic judgments and that always hurts you.

To win your pool, all you need to do is the following three things:
  1. Read Entertainment Weekly’s Oscar issue a couple of days before the ceremony.
  2. Read Film Experience daily – Nathaniel is an unfailing good predictor and fount of Oscar knowledge. (participants in my Oscar pool are not to click on this link)
  3. Remember, it’s show BUSINESS.

It's Craptacular!

The nominations are out and Sharon Stone, Shawn and Marlon Wayans, Hilary and Haylie Duff, Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Simpson, Rob Schneider Carmen Electra and Tim Allen have all received nods in major categories. While it may seem like an Oscar fever dream, it’s the annual Razzie Awards for the worst in film.

Seems a criminal pretending to be a tiny baby in order to hide from the cops (and ripping off Bugs Bunny in the process) is just the kind of cinematic brilliance that will get you a shot at a gold spray-painted golf-ball-size berry sitting atop a mangled reel of film. With nominations for worst picture, actor, director and four other categories, it’s bound to go home an, um, winner.

Another natural shoe-in for Worst Picture of the year was Sharon Stone’s ill-conceived role in Basic Instinct 2. Much in the way that studios and actors make prestige movies to court Academy Awards, I can only assume that Stone was hoping to walk down the Golden Raspberry’s red carpet. There can’t be any other explanation for that film.

What I love about the Razzies is you can become a voting member, which makes it more interesting than the People’s Choice Awards and with over 700 members, more legitimate than the Golden Globes. The final ballots aren’t being mailed out until next Tuesday, so there’s still time to get in on the action. My cheque is in the Paypal.

It's a Cruel, Cruel World

Simon Cowell is cruel. He’s heartless and cantankerous. And this, it appears, is news to a lot of people. The American Idol judge and his partners in crime Paula Abdul and Randy Jackson are under fire this year for being big, big meanies to all of the terrible, terrible singers hoping to win a Golden Ticket to the chocolate factory, umm, Hollywood.

The karaoke competition writ large thundered back last week, pillorying hopeful but hopeless singers and sending them fleeing in tears. Cowell has been in fine form, calling one bug-eyed kid a “bush baby,” and dryly responding to another woman, who hoped that a drink of water would help her performance, "you could lie in a bath with your mouth open and you couldn't sing." But my favourite moment was when he told another that she could move on with her life now that she knew she would never be a singer – and he meant it as a good thing. Even Randy Jackson got in on the act, single-handily destroying the career of a vocal coach, stating that nobody should ever pay for lessons from him. Look for a lawsuit in the near future.

Are they really crueler this year? Not surprisingly, Cowell is having none of it. “If you don’t want to hear that, don’t show up,” he told TV critics at a news conference on Saturday. “I think they’re aware that they’re not very good and they’re going to have a bad time.” Personally, I do think they are being a bit nastier this season, but let’s face it, that’s what the first half of the show is about. As Daily Show commentator John Hodgman so succinctly stated, “the ritual humiliation of these outsiders does make me feel more normal.”

I think everyone is a little bit complicit in these tone-deaf, melody-butchering non-singers making it before the judges. First off, it makes for some entertaining TV before the voting begins. Secondly, I pretty sure some of these people are either deliberately trying to terrible or they know that they are and are trying to make a buck of their two minutes of fame. “Do you think that William Hung is mad that he came on the show?” asks Cowell. Exactly.

Will Lost Be Found?

Will the producers of Lost end the show before we discover they are actually on Gilligan’s Island and the Others are the descendants of a tryst between the Skipper and Ginger? Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip... The answer, thankfully, may be yes.

Executive producer Carlton Cuse and his fellow writers and producers appear to understand that too much of a good thing can hurt a previously great show – using the very apt analogy of The X-Files. "That was a great show that probably ran two seasons too long," Cuse said earlier this week. "That is a cautionary tale for us." The X-Files did go on too long, dragging out the conspiracies until even Fox Mulder left the show and I started watching Alias instead – another show that overstayed its welcome.

When shows are created they are centered around a concept and a few characters and they might have a few story arcs planned out, but they don’t look too far into the future as they don’t know how long they will be on the air. If a show is lucky enough to strike a chord with an audience, the dynamic changes and the show is kept around for as long as possible. As The Simpson’s Troy McClure eloquently sums up: "Who knows what adventures they'll have between now and when the show becomes unprofitable?"

Which is exactly the point. The adventures and mysteries on Lost have become so open-ended as to appear unsolvable. I loved how the first season introduced more questions than it answered and got behind it again in season two. But now as the second half of season three approaches, I want some answers. It doesn’t need to be laid out in a neat little package, but it’s time for a little payback. Why and how are they there? How did they survive the crash? Where is there? Without knowing when the show may end, there is a disincentive for the writers to even begin to answer these questions, lest they have to extend the stay of the castaways about a few more seasons. With an end date in mind, the stories can be resolved in a satisfying manner and go out on top. How many shows have you watched that limped to the end and were cancelled before everything was wrapped up?

I was a huge fan of Arrested Development, but in a way, I’m glad it went out when it did, all guns blazing. It was fast and fierce and will now be fondly recalled for years to come. Ask Jerry Seinfeld about going out on top. I am also a huge Simpsons fan, but there is a part of me that wishes they’d hug up their pens a few years ago instead of limping along with half the laughs they used to get. It’s now just a good show whereas it used to be great.

The folks at Lost are heading in the right direction. Here’s hoping they are given the artistic freedom to follow through – and that the execs at Prison Break are listening.

The Simpsonzu

Ever wondered what The Simpsons would look like drawn as anime characters? Me either, but after seeing The Simpsonzu by *spacecoyote, I'm all turned around on the issue. The style's more realistic (well, more realistic than The Simpsons) form brings many of the character traits to the fore: Otto looks more terrifying than harmless; Mr. Burns looks decrepit; Krusty is the stuff of children's nightmares and Marge actually comes out looking like a babe.

I was sent this by a friend and usually we would look at, say cool, and move on. But so many people have been passing this around and linking to it, that it found its way in to the Springfield universe and *spacecoyote has been hired by Matt Groening's Bongo Comics to work on a manga version of The Simpsons and 20th Century Fox is talking to her about working on the Futurama revival. How cool is that? Oh yes, and she's also Canadian. Check out her gallery for some more of fabulous work.

Shriveled Golden Globes

I’m not a huge fan of awards shows, but for a number of years it was part of my job to watch ‘em (ya, I know, boo hoo). Anyway, it’s given me some perspective on them and they really aren’t the same without all the lead up. Take, for example, tonight’s Golden Globes. You’d think that having no host, no lengthy montage and no celebs strolling the red carpet being asked vapid questions about wardrobe would be a good thing, but it also means there is no sense of grandeur. If the producers think that people are tuning in for the speeches, they are sorely mistaken. Of course nobody’s watching, seeing as they scheduled the Globes show against 24 for some reason. So, I’m watching it for you.

8:00 – The logo runs, they flash to the stage and George Clooney stroll to the mic and reads off the nominees for Best Actress in a Comedy and Musical – and Jennifer Hudson wins for Dreamgirls, further cementing American Idol’s hold on popular culture. Hudson then stumbles out of the already seated glitterati and yammers on about something or other.

They quickly move on to the horrible songs award. Prince wins (oh great, he’s the new Phil Colins) but isn’t there. Presenter Justin Timberlake accepts on his behalf by pulling out a Dorf on Golf joke and pretending to be a foot or two shorter. Prince would have kicked his ass. By 8:07 they’ve presented two awards and are out to commercial. Yeesh, what’s the rush?

8:15ish – Jack Nicholson is looking more crazed than ever – fly-away hair and crazed eyes behind his ever-present dark glasses. They are looking more like seniors blueblockers than badass, but he’s still the star the other stars pay their respects to.

8:20? – Everyone who was nominated in the TV or mini-series category must have been so excited until they saw Jeremy Irons nominated. I mean really, how unfair is that?

Sometime that I didn’t look at the clock – Rene Zellwegger comes out and leads the salute to the Hollywood Foreign Press. Seeing as it is their show and the membership could fit in my house, it seems altogether too self-congratulatory. Who knew Rene needed the work?

8:30ish – “The excitement keeps coming,” says talking dress Maria Menounos – she must be watching another show as exciting doesn’t come into this one.

8:45 – Jack gets some more screen-time as the go-to reaction shot.

8:46 – Meryl Streep cements her lock on the Oscar Best Actress award with her Globe win for The Devil Wears Prada. She has a speech prepared – how did she know?

8:48 – Streep’s shout-out to all the losers makes for a wonderful montage of them all trying to look happy. Funny.

9:01 – Eddie Murphy wins for his Dreamgirls roll – this ought to make for a funny speech.

9:02 – Nope, he’s not funny anymore, just like his movies.

9:08 – Jack sighting. Again.

9:15 – Announcer says the party is just getting warmed up, which means the stars are getting loaded. I hope so, this show has been event and comedy free.

9:17 – A dark-haired Cameron Diaz presents something or other and the camera doesn’t pan to a reaction shot of her very-recent ex, Justin Timberlake. Nor did they when he was on stage. What’s with the restraint, Globes? Where’s the live gossip?

9:22 – The toughest category of the night is Best Actor in a TV Comedy: Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Zach Braff (Scrubs), Steve Carell (The Office) and Jason Lee (My Name Is Earl). The much-deserving Baldwin takes it, but turns out not to be off-the-cuff funny. Tina Fey, please write him an acceptance speech next time.

9:31 – Ugly Betty wins and the whole table erupts, freaks out and a party breaks out on stage. It’s nice to see some real excitement about winning at least.

9:38 – Mel Gibson and Clint Eastwood are nominated for best Foreign Language film. I don’t think that was the idea of the category when it was started. Whatever, Clint wins. Is there anything he can’t do?

9:40 – There is one thing Clint can’t do – wear a bow tie. He looks like Orville Redenbacher.

9:46 – A man who knows from mistakes, Hugh Grant apologizes for Justin Timberlake’s short about Prince. His Purpleness was apparently stuck in traffic and missed his award in the first seven minutes the show. Is this the beginning of a feud and the end of Timberlake’s career as a black man?

9:50 – America Ferrara wins for Ugly Betty. That’s gonna be one helluva an after-party.

9:53 – Menounos sucks all the life out of Ferrara’s win by pointing out she wasn’t the first choice to play Betty.

9:58 – The show crawls to a halt – more so – as the honourary award and Warren Beatty are wheeled out.

10:07 – Tom Hanks, trying to save a bad Beatty/sex joke, claims to have slept with the legendary lothario. Here’s hoping someone reports this as truth in Wikipedia.

10:11 – Even Beatty bows down before Jack.

10:15 – Still talking, Beatty makes a Borat joke. It bombs.

10: 17 – Beatty finally shuts up and the longest part of the show is sucked up by an award we already knew the winner of. Now they’ll have to speed through the rest.

10:24 – Martin Scorsese wins Best Director for The Departed either making him the Oscar-fave or setting him up for an even further fall.

10:26 – Guess who! It’s Jack!

10:28 - Sacha Baron Cohen wins for Borat: Cultural Learnings Of America For Make Benefit Glorious Nation Of Kazakhstan and, in a surprisingly out-of-character speech, talks about anuses and testicles, referring them to as shriveled Golden Globes. Finally, this is what this show is supposed to be about. Despite that, they play him off. Beatty used up everyone else’s spare time.

10:37 – Dreamgirls wins for Best Musical or Comedy, making it the big winner of the night.

10:43 – You can now check off Helen Mirren for Best Actress in your Oscar pool. Consider her the freebie that everyone gets.

10:53 – Forest Whitaker’s win for The Last King of Scotland means the key to winning your Oscar pool is getting the tech categories correct.

11:00 – Alec Baldwin rolls his eyes as Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger crutches his way to the mic to present the last award. Babel wins, keeping its Oscar hopes alive because, let’s face it, that’s what this show is really all about.

11:02 – “I swear I have my papers, Governor,” says Babel director Alejandro Iñárritu.

11:04 – The winners are hurried off stage and it’s on to the predictable Oscars. How dull.

Clean and Sober

You want to do drugs? Pro baseball is out, but there’s a bright future in rock ‘n’ roll for you. This week was a great example of double standard around drugs in our culture. The hulking Mark McGwire was shut out of the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown because some of his 583 home runs likely came from a steroids-powered batting arm. This, apparently, is a bad thing, so a bunch of pure-as-the-driven-snow sports journalists have decided to bar him from the games, ahem, highest, honour. Awards are for athletes who are natural genetic freaks, not for those whose skills come from pills.

Meanwhile, a world away in Cleveland, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was inducting the latest nominees. While this year’s group isn’t the most drug-addled bunch ever, the Hall itself contains such a litany of famous overdoses, cokeheads, pot advocates and hallucinogenic lyricists that you’d assume a pharmacology degree was one of the nomination requirements. Take a look at Eddie Van Halen, one of this year’s nominees, and tell me his homeless-junkie look come from years of clean living.

So it’s not that our culture has a problem with a copious intake of drugs, you just have to pick the appropriate time and place. Let that be a lesson to all you kids out there. But this rant was really just an excuse to post my favourite viral video of the moment, Spiders on Drugs. In the 1950s a researcher drugged spiders and observed the effects on their webs. This clip updates it do this decade with a Hinterland Who’s Who twist. Great stuff.

Everybody Loves Ramadan

The frenzy around Little Mosque on the Prairie (of which I have indulged) has been fascinating to watch. Even before the first episode made it to air it faced criticism for poking too much fun at Muslims, for not poking enough fun at Muslims, for not being edgy and for trying to push social mores on a gullible public. Talk about not pleasing all the people all the time.

For those who haven’t heard about this tempest in a sitcom, the show is about a group of Muslims in small-town Saskatchewan and the reaction of the locals when they start up a mosque with a new imam from Toronto. Hilarity ensues.

Canadian Press reports that Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress, had "reservations about the depiction of Muslims as essentially a people whose lives revolve around a mosque. This is patently untrue," he said, adding that he fears the show will only serve to "pigeonhole Muslims as not more than a group that prays and preaches."

Meanwhile the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente, who says Prairie “painfully correct,” calls it part of the CBC’s mandate to instruct and uplift, complaining that no sacred cows get gored. She then goes on to detail the hyper-realistic depiction of Muslims in Canada that she’d like to watch – which read remarkably like a newscast.

What I find amazing is that there is so much weight on Little Mosque’s shoulders – and all over a sitcom. "To me, this is not a political show, this is not about the Iraq war, it's not about 9/11," say the show's creator, Zarqa Nawaz. "First and foremost, it's entertainment.” And that’s where Little Mosque succeeds. Sure, it’s not breaking any new ground – the fish-out-of-water is a comedy standard – and some of the characters are caricatures, but it was the premiere of a sitcom and should almost be expected. It had some good laughs and has some time to grow and I hope it makes it. Maybe next time there is a comedy about Muslims the only thing people will ask is: is it funny?

Update: I knew somebody was bound to post the first episode on YouTube and here it is, in four parts, for anyone who wants to check it out. Seems that more than two million Canadians did just that, making it the highest rated show of the night.

For Thou Art Celebrity

May the blessings of Our Lady of Celebrity Worship, Angelina Jolie, be upon you. Celebs are modern day, secular religious icons – if the Renaissance masters were alive today their subject matter would be the same as People, Entertainment Tonight and Perez Hilton.

Artist Kate Kretz’s "Blessed Art Thou" features the holy Ms. Jolie floating in the clouds above a Wal-Mart, holding her newborn daughter Shiloh, with Maddox and Zahara at her legs. I used to think of it as a cult of celebrity, but it really has become spiritual for some people.

This isn’t the first religious depiction of celebs I’ve come across – it is a favourite topic of Gallery of the Absurd. See Saint Tom of Oprah’s Couch, Madonna and Child and the Brangelina Shrine. Kretz’s painting also reminds me of Chris Woods iconographic McDonald’s paintings, bur I suppose Wal-Mart is a better example of consumer culture. I hope we see more from her.

Addendum: OK, it may have been a bit over the top comparing, even indirectly, the painting to the work of Renaissance painters. That'll learn me to post while I'm tired. In reading more about the work it seems the main criticism is that the statement is too obvious, that it's not subtle enough. But nobody is disputing what it depicts.

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble!

Donald Trump is a genius. I’ve been rolling my eyes ever since Rosie O’Donnell and The Donald started verbally clawing each other’s eyes out over which one of them was more of a loser. It’s a toss up, of course. Rosie used to be called “The Queen of Nice” when she was hosting her own show and running her own magazine and now she’s about as cuddly as a cactus. The Donald has made, lost and made hundreds of millions and is the most relentless self-promoters since P.T. Barnum.

Which made me realize what he was up to. The feud was nominally about Miss USA not losing her crown over some hard-partying. Rosie called him a “snake-oil salesman,” said he’s gone bankrupt and continued on with one of her charming impressions. The Donald fired back, calling her a “loser” and a “bully” among other things. The upshot of this pointless bickering was ratings for The View have spiked and every article chronicling the he said/she said comb-over pulling has referenced the new season of The Apprentice. And there it was – a healthy helping of free publicity.

Entertainment feuds have a long history – from Ernest Hemingway vs. Gertrude Stein, to Jon Stewart vs. Tucker Carlson to Notorious B.I.G. vs Tupac Shakur. This one isn’t quite as entertaining (or violent for that matter) but at least there is one upside – you can lay a beating on one of them as either Rosie or the Donald. Use his “killer comb-over” move or Rosie’s patented tongue lashing. I played as Trump and had my ass handed to me.

As for The Apprentice, the biggest change is that it is in L.A. this year, which doesn’t have the same sort of business go-go as New York. Too many shots of sun and surf instead of harried, stressed-out New Yorkers. I must admit, they get some powerhouse contestants. Is the lure of reality TV so strong that it draws such successful business people, lawyers and academics? Oh, right, silly question.

Allah in the Family

“Muslims around the world are known for their sense of humour.” This statement may come as a surprise to many as some Muslims have been a touch, um, sensitive to any portrayals of their faith: Salman Rushdie, Danish cartoons, German operas, to name a few. So, when the CBC announced it was going to air a new comedy called Little Mosque on the Prairie, a “halal-arious” comedy about being Muslim in a small Prairie town, I wasn’t the only one who thought this could be trouble.

But so far, no fatwa. Of course the show doesn’t air until this coming Tuesday, though not having seen the content has never stopped a death threat before. The premise has people buzzing – luminaries such as Associated Press and the New York Times have sat up and taken notice, and for you non-Canadians out there, people here rarely talk about our homegrown TV, let alone the international media. More importantly (at least as far as ratings are concerned) I’m interested in checking it out, as is Gill and even my father-in-law said he was intrigued. Did I mention people usually don’t talk or watch much Canadian TV?

The top-rated Canadian show, that isn’t hockey, is Corner Gas, a show about some genial Canuck hosers set in a small Prairie town. Hmm, seems familiar – I suppose success does breed imitators. It’s funny that we like to see ourselves reflected as living the quiet, rural life when the truth is more of us live in large cities, but so be it. With Little Mosque at least we’ll be seeing some of the increasingly multicultural nature of our nation as well.

Will it be controversial or will the edges been worn down so as not to offend anyone’s sensibilities? So far the promos, featuring a Muslim lawyer who is moving west to run a small-town mosque, have been good for a laugh. See for yourself:

Would You Like Fries With That?

My name is Jeremy and I am an addict. Hi Jeremy. I’ve been eating McDonald’s for as long as I can recall. As a kid it was an occasional treat and in high school I spent a couple of years behind the grill, flipping burgers and gorging on fries.

A few years ago I was eating at McDonald’s every week - basically it was cheap and I was lazy. Who am I kidding, I was lovin’ it – to use a phrase I picked up somewhere. Then I read Eric Schlosser’s brilliant expose, Fast Food Nation, and cut my consumption considerably. So when Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me hit theatres a few years later, a small part of me avoided it as I figured it could kill off the last vestiges of my desire for greasy, salty goodness.

As fate would have it, the CBC aired Super Size Me last night, likely as a way to spur on those who made New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. While I can’t say it has curtailed my taste for Mickey D’s any further, it did get me thinking about McDonald’s pop culture impact and to follow up my posting from last May. I may have cut down, but how I did I come to love it? Mostly the ubiquity, I figure. No matter where you travel, you can almost always find the Golden Arches. And make no mistake, they target the very young, something I am keenly aware of as a new father. Anyone recall the ad where the baby cries every time he can’t see the logo outside of the window? Or how about this ‘McDonalds is akin to breast milk’ print ad? Tristan doesn’t stand a chance.

Of course I’m far from the first to make this connection and many artists have created art and parodies to comment on McDonald’s empire’s impact on health, culture and our way of life. Canadian artist Chris Woods, whose work explores the effects of consumerism on society, was one of the first I ever saw back in the late ‘90s. I love how his paintings evoke religious awe and a disturbing amount of patriotism.

A more of-the-moment version of parody is the McVideogame, an online flash game that lets you run every part of the company, from the South American pastures to the feedlot, all the way to corporate HQ. I only made it a few months in when environmentalists were protesting over the bulldozing of rainforest and my cows were going mad from ground animal meal I was feeding them. I knew I should have bribed some more health officials!

Ron English is another culture jammer who uses McDonald’s imagery in his work. His work was featured in Super Size Me, but my favourite is his version of Van Gogh’s The Starry Night, with an original-style McDonald’s franchise replacing the village and the church with the arches replacing the cross.

For even more examples of McDonald’s parodies that I found while out trolling the web, including Grease from AdBusters, which has always been a fantastic source for anti-McDonald’s ads head over to my McDonald's Parodies Flickr set.