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Rush Cover (in progress) 2 - Copy (2)Writing The Rush Chronology is a bit like archaeology. You go in with a good amount of information and end up discovering things you had no idea were hidden in the past. Geddy Lee, Alex Lifeson and Neil Peart have all been involved in other artists’ projects at different points in their careers and these are some of those extra-curricular appearances beyond the Mackenzie Bros.’ “Take Off” and Max Webster’s “Battle Scar.”

“Even Now” 6:44
Written by Matt Scannell & Neil Peart
Appears on: Burning The Days (2009)
Neil being good friends with Matt Scannell, it’s not surprising that he appears on three tracks on Vertical Horizon’s Burning The Days), “Save Me From Myself,” “Welcome To The Bottom” and this one.
You’ll immediately notice this song is wordier than the other tracks on this album, which is likely Neil’s contribution. It’s fascinating to hear someone else sing his words besides Geddy (or even going back to the JR Flood days). The drum work is heavy and intense, suiting the song, and demonstrating how this track is truly a collaboration, rather than simply a guest appearance.

“Hey Bop A-Rebop” 5:45
Written by Curley Hamney & Lionel Hampton
Appears on: Side Two (2003)
The Stickmen are behind this funk rock cover of the old jazz standard by Lionel Hampton and His Orchestra. The track is a lot of fun and Alex Lifeson gets into the groove with some panache. Recommended!

“Everybody’s Broken” 3:30
Written by John Kastner
Appears on: Have You Seen Lucky (2006)
This is an upbeat little modern rock number by John Kastner, with dependable guitar work from Alex (not flashy or getting in the way of the song).
Alex also appears on the track “Testify All Over Me” from the same album.

“The Road” 6:20
Written by Ken Ramm & Geddy Lee
Appears on: Euphoria (2000)
The piece starts with rambling guitar work (strangely, only in the left channel at first), before the music rolls in with an organic, trance-y flavour which really does evoke an unhurried journey down a country road, before picking up the pace a little bit. The acoustic guitar and rhythmic harmonicas decorate the light keyboards (by Geddy) that underscore the entire piece. Geddy’s bass is also noticeable throughout. This is really a wonderful piece with lots of subtle shades and upfront, colourful performances.

“Good For Sule” 5:35
Written by I Mother Earth (Jagori Tanna & Christian Tanna)
Appears on: Blue Green Orange (2000)
It’s interesting that both this and the Euphoria Geddy Lee guest appearances were released on the same day, because despite being otherwise unrelated tracks, both share certain spirit in their gently arranged reflection (or maybe it’s just me). This track is definitely an alt-rock acoustic number, moody, but not weighed down too much by its own introspection. This is also a bit different I Mother Earth from the days Alex recorded with them and with Edwin on Victor. By now, Edwin has been replaced by Brian Byrne and this album, the successor to Scenery And Fish, has been described as more mellow than the earlier album was. This is a good song and Geddy’s bass stands out nicely.

“Marabi” 5:34
Written by Julian “Cannonball” Adderley
Appears on: Champion (1985)
Jeff Berlin & Vox Humana deliver an excellent fusion rendition of the Cannonball Adderley number from his 1968 album Accent On Africa. Neil’s drum parts come in on the “chorus” sections, beefing up the Steve Smith’s drum parts and adding a lot of power. Highly recommended! Smith would also later participate in Peart’s Burning For Buddy tribute.

“Champion (Of The World)” 4:37
Written by Jeff Berlin
Appears on: Champion (1985)
A great jazz-fusion track here that really let’s Neil shine in a genre that he would later explore in more detail via Burning For Buddy. There are plenty of signature drum fills, but he doesn’t overdue it and lets the song stay airy and light. Also highly recommended!

“24 Star (No Apologies)” 3:00
Written by Katie B, Philip Caivano & Dave Olgilvie
Appears on: Born 4 (2003)
Jakalope’s music is an interesting mix of pop and industrial, which you’d expect from the production work of Dave “Rave” Olgivie and Trent Reznor. This song is a good example of their work. Alex’s guitar work is heavy and grinding, but not overly distinctive (which isn’t bad, as it works for the song, but unless you knew it was him, you may not be able to tell from the song alone).

The album Born 4 was released on October 3, 2003, the same day as Edwin’s album Better Days, featuring Alex on the tracks “Light Reflects” and “Eyes Of A Child,” and the same day as the Trailer Park Boys: The Movie soundtrack album. a good day for Rush-related song

“I Fought The Law” 3:51
Written by Sonny Curtis
Appears on: Trailer Park Boys: The Movie Soundtrack
This is Alex and Geddy as members of the Big Dirty Band and their cover of “I Fought The Law” This version starts with a quiet refrain of the title chorus before exploding into a modern hard rock cover of the classic song. The outro guitar is vintage Alex. Definitely seek this one out! The video was directed by long-time Rush photographer Andrew MacNaughtan and features the Trailer Park Boys, Geddy, Alex and the rest of The Big Dirty Band.
Alex also appears on Bubble’s track “Liquor & Whores.”

“Anesthesize” 17:43
Written by Steven Wilson
Appears on: Fear Of A Blank Planet (2007)
Porcupine Tree’s album Fear Of A Blank Planet is composed in the vein of ‘70s prog-rock concept albums and takes its inspiration from the Bret Easton Ellis book Lunar Park and deals with themes of alienation, social disconnection and the modern world. At nearly 18 minutes, this track changes styles fluidly, drifting between Pink Floyd-like ethereal soundscapes, nigh-Industrial distorted guitars and various other moods. Its easy to see why Alex was drawn to the band’s works and while his contribution to this track is short (his solo comes in around the 4 minute mark), it adds to the over texture of the piece.

“Instamatic” 4:46
Written by Matt Scannell (2013)
Appears on: Echoes From The Underground
Neil’s drums are hard hitting and punctuate this mid-tempo alt-rocker, his forth with Vertical Horizon. He also appears on the song “Instamatic” on this album.

“Sacred & Mundane” 5:26
Written by Tiles
Appears on: Fly Paper (2008)
A solid rocker by the band Tile, with some different textures and movements, this song has some great guitar work by Alex.

“Shift” 4:20
Written by The Wilderness Of Manitoba
Appears on: Between Colours (2011)
Canadian indie folk rock at it’s finest (emphasis on rock on this one), this is Wilderness’s fourth album. The track pounds along and doesn’t let up for a moment and Alex’s guitar solo soars through it. Get this one!

“When I Close My Eyes” 4:49
Written by The Black Sea Station
Appears on: Transylvania Avenue (2011)
Klezmer is basically Eastern European Jewish folk music, with all the rich cultural flavour you’d expect. Geddy previously dabbled in klezmer by way of his Finjan collaboration (From Ship To Shore, also done through Ben Mink). This Black Sea Station instrumental is haunting, beautiful and evocative of a small country village and its inhabitants. Geddy’s bass work keeps the lower end nice and solid.

“Guns” 1:50
Written by Dave Clark, arr. by Neil Peart
Appears on: Whale Music (1992)
Rheostatics were among the wave of quirky alternative bands coming out in the ‘90s, along side such artists as Barenaked Ladies (who also appear on the album). We close out the discussion with this spoken word piece, done over Neil’s drumming, which rips into a great solo at the end. Short, but sweet!

The Rush Chronology book details the recording and release history of the band, as well as their live career, solo project and guest appearances. You can pick up your copy here:

Betsy Palmer, Polaroid taken during a day of pick-ups after principal photography (copyright Bill Klayer, 1979)

Betsy Palmer, Polaroid taken during a day of pick-ups after principal photography (copyright Bill Klayer, 1979)

When the actor or actress who played the protagonist passes away, it’s easy for fans to celebrate their life and work. Likewise, the performer in the role of the lovable sidekick or the famous character actor who seemed to appear in everything. We tend to forget that a story is only is good as its villain and as such, we don’t often see praise heaped on the name of person who play the bad guy (or girl).

Betsy Palmer was a working actress known to my parents’ generation for roles on TV and film in the ’50s and ’60s of the girl-next-door variety and for her work on game shows in the ’70s, but it was one single role in a low-budget horror film in 1980 that she is best known to fans of the genre in my generation. Casual fans will remember her character even if they don’t remember Betsy’s name and honestly, isn’t that perhaps one of the best compliments and a testament to the quality of the performance? I think so, at least on one respectable level. The role I’m referring to is of Mrs. Pamela Voorhees in the original Friday The 13th.

Friday The 13th is one of the first teen slasher films. Roger Ebert called them “dead teenager” movies. There had been other such movies before, like The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, Black Christmas and Halloween, but Friday The 13th, for better or worse, never aspired to be more than it was: a Halloween clone exploiting the horror convention established in the likes of those earlier dead teenager films. It stood at the precipice of the era of the ’80s slasher flick. Halloween and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre received a certain degree of praise, recognition of the artful approach to the gruesome subject matter. Friday The 13th was lambasted by the critics and despite being a box office success, reviews were scathing. It soon launched a franchise and signalled to other studios to mine the depths of the slasher horror genre. And mine they did. The ’80s were a golden age for this sub-genre of horror. Friday The 13th had 7 sequels in the ’80s, Wes Craven’s A Nightmare On Elm Street saved New Line Cinema (who these days put out more “respectable” titles like The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit), Halloween pumped out a number of sequels and hundreds of clones, copies and variations sprung up, sometimes dozens a year. Some were clever, most were at least fun and a bit over the top, but all of them can arguably thank Friday The 13th for helping truly open that door.

And they can thank Betsy Palmer for setting a standard by which all slasher villians would be judged, even her character’s own son, the infamous hockey-masked killer Jason Voorhees. Halloween had that faceless, voiceless Michael Myers, while The Texas Chain Saw Massacre had the gibbering Leatherface flanked by a family of nuts (whom I’m sure few of you truly remember in any real detail, unles you’re a horror film buff) and Black Christmas, well…I wont say any more because I know a lot of you haven’t seen it and I don’t want to ruin anything. Mrs. Voorhees as the villain in Friday The 13th gave us a real, emotionally and psychologically believable antagonist in a slasher film we could connect with. We cheered for Adrienne King’s character Alice, but Mrs Voorhees was in many ways more terrifying than Michael Myers or Leatherface because she was human. Her madness was just under the surface and so commanding on screen was Betsy Palmer in the role that we could not look away as she explained herself.

Gene Siskel, the other half of the famed Siskel & Ebert critic duo, famously took such and exception to the film that he choose to spoil plot points (including the ending) in his print review for the Chicago Tribune and was offended that Palmer was a part of this film, so much so that he encouraged his readers to not only complain about the film to Paramount Picture’s parent company, but to write directly to Palmer herself, even going so far as to print where she lived. I generally respect the late Gene Siskel as a film critic, but that act in that review crossed a line and he lost all the moral high ground in his case against Friday The 13th. Judge for yourself, I’ve linked his original review above.

Betsy Palmer herself didn’t think much of the film and assumed few people would see it. She reportedly only to the role for the 10 days work it offered and the pay cheque that would buy her a new car. She returned for a cameo in the sequel, Friday The 13th – Part 2, and went on about her career. The franchise grew into a horror juggernaut and a Jason and his hockey mask became pop culture icons. Mrs Voorhees being in Part 1 became one of the tests of how much of a horror fan you were. Everyone knows Jason, but did you know about Pamela? Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson made that bit of trivia famous in Scream, but it was point of pride for horror fans long before that.

Then came the conventions. Horror movies, science fictions and everything in between, all celebrated different weekends around North America and the rest of the world. The featured guests were the stars of these movies, cheerfully meeting the fans. Among the actors was Betsy Palmer, happy to meet the fans who appreciated her work. Friday The 13th wasn’t Citizen Kane or Casablanca, but it had a large, loyal fanbase and Betsy would tell them the stories of her time on set. She was a fan favourite, respected for her performance and loved for her warmth to those who came out to meet her, Her co-star Adrienne King, the ingénue in Friday the 13th, would also attend and the two were good friends 35 years after filming and a generation apart in age. Read Ms King’s thoughts on Betsy on her Facebook page here.

I never got to meet Betsy Palmer and though I’m aware of her other work, I haven’t seen much of it. I’m a horror fan, as well as being a fan of many other genres, and grew up in the ’80s during those golden years of slasher/dead teenager horror flicks. The only role I truly connect Betsy Palmer with is Mrs Voorhees. I think Friday The 13h is a better movie than it gets credit for, between a few really good performances, a beautiful location that reminds me of summer camps I’ve known in my youth, some simple and elegant sequences and a superb, truly memorable score by Harry Manfredini. It may not be high art, but it deserves some respect. Betsy’s turn in the movie is no small part of that, an excellent performance among a really good overall cast  (including Adrienne King, Harry Crosby [son of Bing], Kevin Bacon [yes, *that* Kevin Bacon] and the late Laurie Bartram and Walt Gorney).

The movie is and will remain a favourite of mine. Betsy Palmer’s performance helps in a big way to make it so as the antagonist, the villain (the bad “girl,” if you will) and I watch the outpouring of social media comments on her passing, I know the genre’s fanbase has lost a favourite, just as the world has lost a really wonderful person, a beautiful soul who will be remembered for playing a troubled mother.

Rest in peace, Betsy Palmer, and thank you.

The most fitting piece of music I can think of to share in tribute is the End Theme to Friday The 13th, the hauntingly beautiful, gentle piece that closed the film.

mad-max-fury-road-teaser-poster-what-a-lovely-day1 (1)
Thirty years after we left Max Rockatansky alone in the desert, we at last get Mad Max: Fury Road, the fourth chapter of George Miller’s post-apocolyptic vision.

I enjoyed Fury Road, yet it felt like a step backwards in one important way, that of Max’s personal journey. Looking at the previous three films, there was a definite arc to the character. In the original Mad Max, we find ourselves in the not-to-distant future, where society, though harsh, still retains a familiar infrastructure (there are police, lawyers, judges, hospitals, shops, houses and farms). Max (Mel Gibson) is a Main Force Patrol officer, working the highways and back roads, arresting biker gang members and other vagabonds. His life is relatively normal and we see no evidence of the nuclear devastation of the next three movies. When the bikers kill his wife and infant son, he goes on a revenge-filled ride in his new V8 Interceptor and kills those responsible. Max’s final act with a man responsible for destroying his life is to cuff him to the vehicle and set it to explode, handing the gang member a hacksaw and telling him he can try to cut the cuffs or his own wrist to escape. Max drives off to leave him to his decision and we are left to assume the cruel ultimatum killed the biker, because who among us could cut off his own hand, even in the face of certain death? Max is a shell of a man now, thoroughly broken.

The next chapter, The Road Warrior (Mad Mad 2 in its native Australia), finds Max in the wasteland deserts of Australia. We’re told now there was a world war and in the jumble of a remembered history told long after, we get Max’s backstory as well in the opening narration. Max now as the titular road warrior cares only for his own survival and while not vicious and inhuman as the other road warrior gangs he encounters, he cares little for others and simply wants to exist and survive. Through circumstance, with little other choices (his Interceptor destroyed and his dog dead), he chooses to help a small band of refinery workers escape with their reserves of precious fuel and battles the forces of The Humongous. In this story we see flashes of humanity and kindness, mostly directed toward the Feral Boy, whom we learn at the end grew to be Narrator, telling us of this whole encounter with Max. However broken Max was at the end of the first film, there are still shreds of humanity in him.

The third chapter, Mad Mad Beyond Thunderdome, finds Max still wandering the desert in a covered wagon made from the remains of a V8 Interceptor (his original car? A different one? We’re never told, but I like to think that after the events of The Road Warrior, he attempted to rebuild it). The wagon is stolen and Max finds it at Bartertown, a community run by Auntie Entity (famously played by Tina Turner). She makes a deal with Max involving a duel to death in the Thunderdome (a gladiatorial cage), but Max’s humanity resurfaces again long enough to stop him killing his target, who is essentially innocent among the barbarity of the town. Max is arrested and sentenced back out to the quicksand filled wastes to die, but is rescued by a group of children living in an isolated oasis, survivors of a jet liner crash that occurred during the war. His arrival splits the group and some of the children leave, ignorant of the dangers beyond their little piece of paradise. Max, unwilling to let the children die, goes after them and helps them and a prisoner of Bartertown who was the real brains of the operation escape. Doing so leaves Max alone again in the desert, but less broken. Helping these people has given him part of his soul back.

And now we reach Fury Road…

[Spoilers Warning]

Max (now played by Tom Hardy) has an Interceptor again and is chased and captured by the War Boys of Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), a despot ruling his small corner of the Australian wastes. He doles out water to his subjects, but only just enough to keep them wanting more. His War Boys worship him and fight for him for a chance to enter Valhalla in the afterlife. I won’t breakdown the entire story, but suffice to say, Max finds himself eventually siding with one of Joe’s Imperators named Furiosa (Charlize Theron) in her attempt to escape Joe’s tyranny and a massive chase begins. It is this chase which makes up most of the film. It is harrowing, visually spectacular and thunderous. It harkens back to the big rig chase at the end of The Road Warrior and the train chase at the end of Beyond Thunderdome, but is so much more vast in scale and scope, so dazzling in its visuals, in a way undreamed of 30 years ago.

And it’s here that I pause to wonder about what for me was the real story: Max’s quest to regain his humanity. I’m not sure if George Miller intends Fury Road to be a reset button on the franchise or a direct sequel to Beyond Thunderdome, but I know he’s been trying to make the movie for years. “Development Hell” is a real thing in the movie industry and many films are condemned there despite the best efforts of people to save them. Fury Road escaped and does so as if to smash the gates open with its own War Rig. Believe me, I’m ecstatic that this movie was made and that Miller has said there could be more. However, if we’re to take this as a direct sequel, it seems we missed an important chapter. Max is suffering PTSD from the loss of a daughter whom we see in brief, hallucinatory flashes. He lost a wife and son in the first film, so who is this daughter? Is she his daughter at all? Are his memories and emotions all warped and distorted by now that this girl is simply someone he cared about whom he failed to save at some point since we last saw him? Maybe, but we’re not given much to go on (though maybe a second or third viewing will clarify things). It’s not the PTSD that gives me pause, it’s that I feel we’ve been here with Max and got at least somewhat passed it at the end of Beyond Thunderdome.

Some may argue that it’s not meant to be a deep examination of the human psyche, to just enjoy the rollercoaster action. I would happily do only that, except that Beyond Thunderdome was such a concious advancement of Max’s character that seeing him return to the cold road warrior without any real explanation leaves *me* a bit cold.

Another concern with the movie is once we get past the spectacle, this is a movie we already saw. It is wall-to-wall stunning visuals and effects, absolutely, but it seems assembled from (admittedly some of the best action) bits of the previous two. A dictator ruling over the masses: Immortan Joe is like a mix of Auntie Entity and The Humongous. Innocents who need rescuing: The Wives are like the lost children in Beyond Thunderdome. And as I noted before, the chase itself is a larger version of the chases from the previous two films. Where each of the previous films was unique and offered a large swath each of new story elements, Fury Road repeats a lot of what came before without much new.

At the end of the film, Max choses to depart amid the festivities, a move that echoes his choice at the end of the first film, though his motives are slightly different. He’s not the hollow, vengeful soul who cruelly left a man to die in that movie. He’s a lone wolf by nature now, but in The Road Warrior and Beyond Thunderdome, it was the specific events of the story that left him alone. The Road Warrior ends with Max learning he was a distraction while the refinery workers snuck away with the real treasure of fuel, outsmarting everyone. It’s implied Max may have been able to go with them and chose not to, but it’s left ambiguous. This keeps with the tone that the film sets up with the opening narration, that this is a distant, powerful memory of the Feral Boy, where “the man they called Max” is a now-mythic figure. At the end of Beyond Thunderdome, Max sacrifices himself to save the children and Master and in doing so is left alone in the wastes again as they fly off. Fury Road, by showing us his choice to leave, takes away from the idea that Max is a man destined to be alone and replaces it with the fact that he now *chooses* to be alone.

Everyone is raving right now about Mad Max: Fury Road and despite everything I just said, there is a LOT to praise about the film. In many ways, it would not have been possible to make this movie thirty years ago and Heaven knows Miller tried. The Road Warrior is an action masterpiece and Beyond Thunderdome is a powerful character-driven journey. Roger Ebert said Beyond Thunderdome was not only the best film in the then-trilogy, but one of the best films of 1985. As brilliant as those films were, they could only go so far in terms of effects and stunts. CGI was still a primitive tool and digital editing practically non-existent. Miller nonetheless pushed the technology as far as he could in the most creative ways and the results are stunning.

Fury Road does what it sets out to do and does so in with such raging, noisy, blistering power that even with character and continuity taking a back seat to sheer action, this movie is a masterpiece.

Numerical values are subjective, relative and limiting, but if I had to give Mad Max: Fury Road an “out of 10” rating, of course it would be 10/10.

There may be more Mad Max films on the way and all I ask is that Miller take those opportunities to include both more of (and an advancement of, that’s the key) Max Rockatansky’s internal war in amongst all the crazy, nightmarish, psychotic brilliance of this desolate auto-punk world.

The War on Science

Evolutionary Tree original

© John Joyce at


B.C. Conservative MP James Lunney tweets against evolution

Every few years Creationism takes some swings at Evolution and what I can only describe as utter silliness breaks out. The last big flare up came a year, culminating in debate between Ken Ham (a Creationist) and Bill Nye The Science Guy. I’ll link their debate below, but after that debate was watched by the world, streamed live on YouTube, things calmed a bit. Yeah, there was this woman at the Field Museum in Chicago, but the weakness of her arguments meant she wasn’t in too much danger of being taken seriously. (Note: I’ve been to the Field Museum, you can actually see the scientists at work there and I’m sure they’d have happily addressed her concerns if she’d asked them.)
Then I read the headline above and have to shake my head in disgust (again).

It drives me nuts that people use syntax semantics to attack legitimate knowledge. A scientific theory is an entirely different thing from just a regular theory. Many words have multiple definitions and meanings, and theory is one such word.

theory (science): a coherent group of tested general propositions,commonly regarded as correct, that can be used as principles of explanation and prediction for a class of phenomena. (The Theory of Evolution, Theory of Relativity…)

theory (general): a proposed explanation whose status is still conjectural and subject to experimentation, in contrast to well-established propositions that are regarded as reporting matters of actual fact. (“I have a theory about who committed the crime”)



The Theory of Evolution is not a guess or science’s best shot in the dark because they don’t have much to go on, it’s the result of studying our world, building a foundation of knowledge in multiple fields (biology, physics, mathematics, aercheology etc.) and continually challenging what we know with new evidence in order to refine it. It is based on direct evidence, observation and empirical data. More importantly, science has no agenda except verifiable facts and expanding its knowledge. It wants to be tested. It needs to be tested. And science can be tested, by anyone, at any time.

The Ham/Nye Debate:


Maxine (Elysia White), Haphead Production Still, photo by Brandon Adam-Zwelling. Copyright 2015, Postopian Pictures

In 1982, a little film called Blade Runner had a such a strong visual design concept, by Syd Mead, that it’s been difficult for science fiction to shake the dark, dreary aesthetic look for the future. No, not every sci-fi movie or TV series copied it, but its influence is still felt in what the genre considers dystopia of the not-too-distant future. It’s difficult to shake such a defined look and attempts to do so result in varying degree of success. Back To The Future – Part II (picking up the original story from 1985) went in the other direction and gave us a bright-looking, pop culture-saturated, colourful then-future of 2015. As I write this, it’s January of 2015 and there are no flying cars, self-lacing Nikes or commercially available hoverboards. Blade Runner is set in the still-future 2019 and thankfully it looks like Mead’s vision won’t come to fruition either.

And that brings us to Haphead, a new science fiction webseries set in 2025. The series comes from creator and writer Jim Munroe, who launched a Kickstarter campaign to crowd fund the production. You can find out more about the production history here, but it’s important to note that the budget was a mere $4,000.

And it shows…

In the best possible way! A massive budget or blistering special effects do not a great work make. This is proven time and again, and not just in science fiction, though sci-fi may fall victim to it more because visual effects are a staple of the genre. What Haphead shows us is a world not far removed from our own. The skyline of Toronto is enhanced, but is still recognizable. It’s also worth noting that this is a proudly Canadian production, where the action takes place in both Toronto and Hamilton and both are noted as such in dialogue. An Ontario government sign appears prominently in an establishing shot of the gaming factory in the first episode. Being Canadian and living in Toronto, it’s refreshing to see my city as my city, not doubling as New York, Chicago or just a generic metropolis.

The visual effects support the story, which is always the best approach (and often where the aforementioned failures come from, the mistake of putting spectacle above all else). The story is of Maxine and her father, both living and working in this different kind of dystopian future. Times are hard, but not so bleak as to feel hopeless. The sun shines, kids skateboard and chat in lush green parks. The economic rift has grown between the upper and lower class. There are Special Economic Zones where employees work for below minimum wage. Maxine takes a job in one of these Zones at the gaming factory of Aster*sk, who develop the software and hardware of totally immersive video games. The players plug in via the back of the neck and experience what the avatar experiences, moving as they do and fighting as they must. The players are the titular Hapheads and Maxine cannot resist this new approach to gaming, which is still in the beta testing stage as she starts her factory job. A side effect of this gaming is that Hapheads retain the muscle memory of the combat skills acquired in the game, which means they can learn hand-to-hand combat and use it outside the game world.

I was fortunate to see the entire series start to finish, with the episodes edited together, at the January 22nd premier at The Royal in Toronto. During the introduction to the viewing, a phrase was said of the production company’s motto, “blurring the line between dystopia and utopia,” which partly sums up the world we see in Haphead. Then as now, it’s not a perfect world, but it’s not all bad. We see real people, ones we can relate to and identify with, living their lives and doing what most of us do day in, day out, like argue about money and hang out with friends. It’s the characters that drive the story, which kicks in when Maxine is forced to grow up in a hurry in the face of her new-found gaming skills and the harsh realities of her father’s job.

The relationship between Maxine and her father is the core of the story, both their motivations stem from this, and the story grows from it organically. The series avoids painting their relationship in simple terms or stereotypes. The performances of Elysia White (Maxine) and David Straus (her father, Simon) are spot on in all their scenes together and gives the series the essential emotional anchor, so we care about what they’re doing and why.

The series delivers what it promises, a dynamic, engaging story with believable characters, is well-produced and beautifully acted.

You can watch the trailer here.

Copyright 2014, Art Katalyst

Copyright 2014, Art Katalyst

I write a piece on Queen’s recent release of their collection Queen Forever, a set which featured three newly released tracks from the band along with a mix of classic hits and deep cut album tracks.

Pick up your issue today to read the whole thing!


Copyright 2013, Patrick Lemieux & Adam Unger

Copyright 2013, Patrick Lemieux & Adam Unger

BNL cover art (with text)

Copyright 2014, Patrick Lemieux


Strangely, I find myself defending my dislike for being active on Twitter to an inordinate number of my friends. Here’s the best explanation I can give:

I don’t feel I belong there.

I was slow to join Twitter, but when I finally did, I did so enthusiastically. I followed a bunch of people, everyone from internet cult celebrities to big-time famous people and a lot of folks in between. I engaged with some and replied to friends and strangers alike.

Several things happened in a short period of time to change how I felt. The interactivity turned sour and negative. I’d heartily agree with things I agreed with and debated points I felt needed debating. These would sometimes turn into full-blown arguments and hurt feelings with friends. Or if it was with a stranger, both sides simply defaulted to the “what an asshole!” view of the other and if we were lucky, we both walked away from the argument. Occasionally, neither side was lucky.

The 140 character limit is just that, limiting. It doesn’t allow for nuance, subtly or irony. Nor does it allow for proper expression of ideas, which didn’t help (and sometimes caused) many of those arguments.

I also found myself unfollowing people for a host of reasons, from the aforementioned arguments, to TV series spoilers, to simply not being able to relate to their Tweets.

I also discovered that the creativity I was spending on Twitter left less for my actual creative endeavours. Time was part of it, but it was the need to direct that energy to creating, to writing, to painting, that forced me to look at how I spent that energy. Artists and Writers are not bottomless wells of creativity, or at least most aren’t this side of Leonardo. We must focus the creativity judiciously and then work our asses off to turn that idea into an actual, tangible thing.

For me, Twitter was an enemy of that, a draining, distracting force.

So, there was that, and there was the death of Roger Ebert (a Twitter force for good if ever there was one), getting into an specific argument with a good friend, and getting into an argument with an internet celebrity. In a short span, I lost all desire and motivation to be a part of Twitter.

I create for a living and my family and friends seem not to grasp that the Twitter they view as the bastion of freely exchanged ideas and information is not the Twitter I experience. Is it me? Is it Twitter? I don’t know. It’s a social media relationship that fell apart painfully. I’m still active on Facebook and I dabble a little in Instagram (the jury is out on whether I’ll remain on that one), but I’m told over and over, “Twitter! It’s such a powerful thing! Millions of people…” and so on.

All true.

I still don’t feel welcome there, nor do I want to be more involved than I am.

I’ve written books and as each launched, I tried to do my best to blitz social media. I Tweeted and Tweeted. There were reTweets! New followers! Fantastic! But they don’t last. I would Tweet about the book, I’d Tweet about non-book things, I’d share interesting online posts by others. The reTweets lessened to nothing, followers fell away to pre-book levels. That was it. I was told it takes work and dedication to build a following, it takes time! Well, sure, okay, but when exactly do I write the books or paint the pieces I’m supposed to be promoting? No one has an answer to that, tellingly.

Another thing bothered me about Twitter? Its focus on the immediate, on what is happening right this second. TV show plots, social injustice, news-worthy events, all vital or relatively vital information flooding Twitter up to the second, literally. My new book comes out, great, people Tweet about it, some people buy it, then the next big thing comes along and I’m left Tweeting either “Here’s my new book!” or about non-book things. And we’re back to square one.

It’s not all Twitter’s fault either, I accept some of the responsibility for this break up. I’m not capable of being interesting in 140 characters or fewer, it would seem. The things I want to share aren’t those things people on the receiving end care enough about, it would seem.

My main literary works are based on Queen, Mike Oldfield and Barenaked Ladies, and I find other ways to engage those fanbases. I write articles and guest blogs. I have Facebook pages for each book. I meet fans there. Twitter, for me anyway, was not the magical button I press to receive instant fame and recognition, nor was it an invest in time and energy I was willing to make. Others have and if they can make it work, so be it.

I’m not that guy.

Please stop trying to convince me.

I’m not going to forget about Twitter and when my next book comes out, I’ll try it again, so you are all absolved of the responsibility of extolling upon me the virtues you see in Tweeting and what it can do for my career. I appreciate the advice, but please stop.


Here are my books, by the way:

I may be forced to go to some dark places in my art due to things I’ve experienced very recently. I’m not sure what to expect, because I don’t normally draw on these feelings for my art. I have nothing against doing so and have in the past when the mood or inspiration takes me.

However, this time it’s different in a way difficult to explain, except maybe through my art.

The Patchwork Girl (300 dpi - Patrick Lemieux)

Becoming The Patchwork Girl. Copyright 2014, Patrick Lemieux

Think of this piece as a demo of what may be to come, though it started out as something altogether different.

We’ll see there this leads.

Spoiler Alert: He's Leia's father, too. Copyright 1980, Lucasfilm

Spoiler Alert: He’s Leia’s father, too.
Copyright 1980, Lucasfilm

I was going to title this piece “Spoiler Alert: Am I The Only Sane Man?”

It’s probably a battle I’m going to lose to the excited, the enthusiastic, the ignorant and the selfish, but I’m going keep fighting as long as I can.

I’m probably going to be accused of being a cantankerous fogie who needs to just get with the times and embrace what social media is or just stop using it (as if those at the only choices. Also, I’m only 38).

It’s already been suggested that I lighten up, they’re only TV shows, so who cares?

I do. I also have greater priorities in my life, but the desire to simply not have TV series I like spoiled from week to week should not be too much to ask.

I feel like one of the people in the line up to see “The Empire Strikes Back” as Homer Simpson walks out ahead of them saying, “I had no idea Darth Vader was Luke Skywalker’s father.” Of course, every time I suggest to my Facebook Friends that they refrain from spoiling an episode of a show before I see it in the days after it airs, several invariably joke that Vader was Luke’s father. Yeah.

A good friend says by internet consensus 24 hours is the grace period. After that, apparently spoilers are allowed to roam to free. I couldn’t be bothered looking this “rule” up, because even if I find 20 other sites disagreeing, that single citation of an arbitrary, made-up rule is enough for some people.

I don’t get it. I honestly, truly don’t. We gave up one of the basic, most fundamental pop culture courtesies, that of not spoiling the latest show, for what? So we can prove we’re on top latest thing? Because we’re just so damned excited we can’t keep to mentioning that awesome line that character said? I guess there’s the argument that social media is, well, social, and that people do discuss these things in real life. Yeah, they do, but in real life I’m not standing in a room full of people presenting me with a stream of information on their interests. In real life, we ask, “Did you see the new Walking Dead?” If I answer no, my friends refrain from spoiling it. Yet, the same people, the very same people on Facebook or Twitter joyfully post teaser images, quotes and spoiler-filled posts without checking if everyone about to receive that information is as up-to-date as they are. In person, I can put my hand up and say, “I haven’t seen it! Stop right there!” I can’t do that to an image you decided to show all your Friends.

So, why don’t I just unFriend them or stop following them or get off Facebook or Twitter? As I noted above, why are those the only choices? Why can’t people control themselves and show a bit of discretion? For Facebook, I want to know of other aspects of your life and interests, that’s why we’re here, just show some mercy with these kinds of posts is all I ask. Better yet, don’t discuss anything plot or character related on Facebook. I don’t. It’s easier than you think. As for Twitter, I’ve un-followed people for spoilers. I stopped following one of the producers of The Walking Dead because she revealed several seasons ago that an actor was returning to their role in the upcoming episodes. That was all it took.

Am I Grandpa Simpson yelling at a cloud? I don’t think so, but I’ve had that joke made, too.

I do feel like I’m the only sane man here, yet to be consumed by the here-and-now mentality of popular culture that drives so many posts.

Everyone’s doing it, so it must be okay, right?


The Script On Silk Sheets

The Script Lying On Silk Sheets © 2014, Patrick Lemieux

The Script Lying On Silk Sheets
© 2014, Patrick Lemieux

I saw the call for submissions by the 1313 Gallery here in Toronto and knew that if I wanted to submit something, I’d have to challenge myself. There are few subjects that carry as much baggage as Sex. Obviously, that was point of the call, to gather from many different artists their views on all things related to the S word.
So, what did I have to say?
What could I say?
What hasn’t been said already, or what approach to the familiar ideas could I take?
Well, I had no shortage of thoughts and that was the problem. I mulled the call over for a few weeks as I dealt with more immediate deadlines for other projects. I’d let the thoughts and feelings float around, knowing some would fall away and some would remain. That’s what I expected to happen, anyway. It didn’t quite work that way. I’d come back and, rather appropriately given the topic, the ideas had multiplied. One set of thoughts led to others, just as strong. Imagery and attitudes and historical contexts were all making themselves heard. I started to apply my own specific thoughts and feelings, hoping to push through this crowd and organize it a bit.
I needed a few boundaries, so the best way to start was deciding what I didn’t want to say.
To start with, I didn’t want to be literal, since we all know what sex is. It’s easy to just create an image of something beautiful and/or explicit and say, “Yeah, here, this is sex. This is erotic.”
I also didn’t want this to be autobiographical. I’m not shy, but we’re all different. I wanted to say something, but it didn’t have to be about me. That would be too narrow and too predictable.
Okay, that narrowed the field a bit, but I was still looking at pages of sketches with no cohesive idea or set of ideas. What did I want to say?
Christmas came and went, New Year’s was approaching and I was actually starting to get a pissed off at myself over this. I joked with myself that it was performance anxiety. I sat on the bed, perhaps hoping to trigger some subconscious inspiration, and sketched some more, determined to solve this puzzle. I had images I wanted to use and a few clever ideas I thought might be handy from earlier sketches, but I couldn’t find the through-line, the “theme,” something to hold it all together. I discarded pages and moved onto the next. After a while, around 2 AM, I was reduced to just moving the pencil around, creating non-specific shapes and line. I’d thought about layers earlier, like posters on a wall, some torn, covering up what was underneath, the brick and mortar of the wall. I thought about walls, barriers we put up and knock down. I was getting away from the central theme of the call: Sex. I looked up the gallery website and re-read the description. What were they asking for? Definitions. Individual. Cultural. That sort of thing.
I was back to square one. There are too many such definitions. Maybe I should forget it, stick with creating works less loaded with with seemed like the sum total of human history?
Posters on the wall seemed too bleak, too defensive. Sex is fun! Yeah, there’s mental and emotional baggage, but the act itself is thoroughly enjoyable. Still, I liked the idea of layering images. Maybe they told a story? I did not want it to be my story, though obviously I’d have to draw from my own impressions and ideas. I scribbled and sketched and doodled of scattered pages and pictures. Still, not enough cohesion. It was lazy, too simple.
What if the images were collected, like a scrapbook?
I started thinking about how we collect memories, like in photo albums. I thought about my sketchbooks, filled with artistic ideas and experiments, some realized, some not. Some drawings were just practice.
Amidst these thoughts, an obscure memory floated to the surface, of the Dean of my old faculty at university talking about a theatre director he once knew. This director would apparently draw out his ideas all through his scripts. The Dean said the scripts themselves became miniature works of art.
I thought about scripts. I was sitting in bed, thinking about what people do in bed. No, actually, that’s not right. I was thinking about how, not in the mechanical sense, but about what goes through your mind. We all have reservations, hang-ups, expectations, all those things I was that were overwhelming my creative process before.
Did I just I call what do a “creative process”?
I did. Sorry, I didn’t mean to sound pretentious.
So, now I’m thinking about how we bring all this stuff with us to bed. There’s what we want, what we’ve done before, the good, the bad, everything. We’re following that script, because what else is there? Instinct, maybe, but that tends to only get you as far as fumbling around in the dark. What we see movies, what we’re told, what we remember from Sex Ed., all of that we draw on in the moment.
We follow a script we make into miniature works of art. Sometimes we write new scenes. Sometimes we tear out old ones that no longer work onstage, taking the best bits and tossing the rest.
At 3 AM I had a coherent idea. The rest was refining, picking and choosing what worked and what didn’t. I’m not going to explain every image. I will say, this not my script you see. It’s not autobiographical. There are reasons for everything in the piece, however.
Now that it’s done and I stuff the loose papers of sketches into my sketchbook, it’s not lost on my the passing resemblance between the overflowing script I painted and the real-life sketchbook itself.
You’d think I’d planned it that way.