Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mounties get their fan

Although this dude from Edson, Alberta lost out to fellow Canadian Marc Martel in the Queen Extravaganza audition, maybe he’ll be the surprise Roger is promising when the show hits the road.

You know, I was waiting with baited breath for this guy to slip in some random profanity while doing his best Freddie impression. My four-year-old was beside me while I watched the video in its entirety. Thankfully, he was the typical polite Canadian and held it together for the camera.

Postscript – March 31/12: I flipped through the Calgary Sun newspaper today and noticed that Mr. Wilkinson got some traditional media coverage . . .

Hmm, I wonder what QMI is an abbreviation for — Queen Media International, perhaps? Maybe I’m reading too much into it.


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Queen Extravaganza coming to Calgary

Well, I guess I know what I’m doing on July 2, 2012.

If you’re in the Calgary area, are you interested in meeting up for this show?

It should be an interesting performance in and of itself given the audition process and preliminary hype that’s emerged courtesy of Roger’s efforts.  I’ll be curious to see what he has been promising for surprises. Maybe it’ll be a guest appearance by Roger Taylor and Brian May? 

Or maybe Paul Rodgers will get up on stage for those shows in British Columbia and the Pacific Northwest since he is now a Canadian citizen and lives in BC these days.

The Edmonton show might be interesting, too, since it’s the last stop on the tour.

POSTSCRIPT – March 31/12: Just bought tickets for the Calgary show . . .


Thursday, March 22, 2012

Queen rocks Tag Galaxy

I was introduced to a cool Flickr search tool tonight — Tag Galaxy. It searches the metatags of photos posted on Flickr and displays the results in a planetary analogy for an interesting visual index of relevant images. Just for fun, I typed in “Brian May” to see what would happen.

As you can see here, the largest (centre) planet represents all Flickr photos that have “Brian May” as a metatag and the smaller planets are photos with metatags related to “Brian May” in some fashion.

If I click on the BRIANMAY planet, the screen zooms in and the planet is transformed into a cubist-like sphere that pulls images from the Flickr site and posts them on the awaiting sphere planes.

Soon, the entire orb is covered in Brian May-related photos that reside on the Flickr site. At this point, you can click on the globe with the cursor and spin it around at whatever angle you like and see what the full range of photos are for that visual index. You can also click on the next set of results arrow and the orb will be wrapped in a new set of results photos.

I wonder what I’d get if I typed in some Queen-related metatags? Let’s find out . . . 

Unfortunately, a search for “John Deacon” didn’t return results with related metatags . . . just images tagged with “John Deacon,” so it automatically morphed into the photo orb and bypassed the galaxy stage . . .

From the looks of some of the images, though, it’s pulling photos of some Queen cover bands.

What about a tag search for “Queen”? It didn’t produce anything related to the band. This is particularly surprising given the extent of Queen (the band) images found through other search engines.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Freddie quickly becoming greatest musical icon

NME is holding an online poll to find the ultimate musical icon from the past 60 years. Queen on-line was urging fans to go and vote for Freddie since he made the shortlist along with these famous and no-so-famous names:

Alex Turner, Amy Winehouse, Beth Ditto, Bob Dylan, Björk, Bob Marley, Bobby Gillespie, Chuck D, Courtney Love, Damon Albarn, Dave Grohl, David Bowie, Debbie Harry, Dizzee Rascal, Elvis Presley, Eminem, Ian Brown, Ian Curtis, Jay-Z, Iggy Pop, Jack White, Jarvis Cocker, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Jimmy Page, Joe Strummer, Joey Ramone, John Lennon, John Lydon, Johnny Cash, Johnny Marr, Julian Casablancas, Karen O, Kate Bush, Keith Richards, Kurt Cobain, Liam Gallagher, Lily Allen, Lou Reed, Madonna, Marc Bolan, Michael Jackson, Morrissey, Matt Bellamy, Noel Gallagher, Patti Smith, Paul McCartney, Paul Weller, Pete Doherty, PJ Harvey, Prince, Richey Edwards, Robert Smith, Roger Daltrey, Shaun Ryder, Sid Vicious, Siouxsie Sioux, Syd Barrett, and Thom Yorke.

There are definitely some choice names missing from this list and some would question how a few got on the list (who decides on the shortlist, anyway, the janitor at the NME office?). I understand that NME is in the game of attracting viewers/readers and there’s nothing quite like pitting one zealous fan against another in a grudge match of loyalty.

But come on . . . Courtney Love on par with Bob Dylan?

There are names here that I’ve never even heard of. Perhaps that’s more a reflection of my isolated existence in northern North America with NME being a British organization with a particular bias towards their own artists, but how can you even consider someone who’s not able to garner global brand franchise. Doesn’t an “icon” by definition need a significant fan base or at least universal awareness?

Wait a minute, isn’t this the same demographic that posted on Twitter and Facebook after the Grammys that they didn’t know who the old guy (i.e., Paul McCartney) was? Is this a sign of the times? The old is conceding to the new at a rate much faster than in previous years?

Whatever the case, the NME site isn’t posting the real-time results of the poll but a quick glance through the comments below leads one to believe that Freddie is the runaway favourite . . . so far. Here are the stats that I collected from the 138 comments (at the time) from those that explicitly stated who they voted for:

Freddie Mercury — 74
Madonna — 6
Johnny Cash — 4
David Bowie — 3
Michael Jackson — 3
Jimi Hendrix — 3
Paul McCartney — 3
Bob Dylan — 2
Jimmy Page — 2
John Lennon — 2
Joe Strummer — 1
Keith Richards — 1
Morrissey — 1
Ian Curtis — 1
Noel Gallagher — 1
Dave Grohl — 1
Iggy Pop — 1
Ringo Starr — 1

Wow. There is no contest according to these numbers. Maybe the fact that Freddie kicks ass in three obvious categories: singing, songwriting, and showmanship. I don’t see any of the remaining 59 artists being able to compete at all levels.

Interestingly, the video on the NME site shows interviews with established artists and their opinions on who would qualify as the best qualified icon. Most said The Beatles (one said Beyonce!) or any of the earlier generation of artists that laid the groundwork for the stars to come. But according to the general consensus amongst the lay readership who provided commentary, it seems that the old guard is not worthy of any such distinction . . . with the exception of Freddie.

In addition to the more blatantly overlooked artists — Joni Mitchell, Pete Townsend, Bruce Springsteen — what about songwriters like Diane Warren or producers like Mutt Lange. What about other genres like opera, classical, jazz, or country?

Oh yeah, it’s a “pop” music poll meant to draw in readers to the NME operation.


Monday, March 19, 2012

In honour of The Walking Dead finale last night…

And I found this on Pinterest the other day . . . the ultimate zombie band: 

Hilfiger rocks Idol

Media Moment: American Idol
Queen-related: Freddie mentioned

Hey, wasn’t that Calvin Klein on Idol the other night? Wait, it’s Hugo Boss. No . . . it’s that other designer guy, Mr. Blackwell. Oh yeah, it was Tommy Hilfiger. What in the world is Tommy Hilfiger doing on American Idol

I guess he’s been brought in to provide a fashionista perspective on the “look” of Idol contestants. He mentioned that the top rock stars of their respective eras had a strong sense of image and fashion, and photos of three rock icons flashed across the screen — Hendrix, Bowie, and . . .

If one tuned in late to Idol and caught Hilfiger’s comments half-way through, one might have assumed he was talking about his influence on these musical personalities.

Throwing around pictures of him attempting to be a rock star (like this one) makes you wonder if he feels at least a distant connection to them through fashion and music in general. I’m sure Zandra Rhodes, however, would take exception to Hilfiger’s insinuation of establishing Freddie’s stage image if indeed that is what he was doing on Idol the other day.

He did explicitly say that he brought bell-bottom pants to the masses back in the early ’70s, and sure enough, they found an old photo of Steven Tyler in bell-bottoms.

Hilfiger mentioned that when he first started out as a fashion designer, he sold his clothing through his own retail store, which reminded me of Roger and Freddie selling used clothing at their kiosk in Kensington Market back in the day.

The other loose connection between Queen and Hilfiger is Axl Rose, an individual who has crossed paths with both of them — although under vastly different circumstances. Rose is on record stating his admiration for Freddie and Queen and even appeared at the Tribute Concert in 1992. As for Hilfiger and Rose, the two of them got into an argument at a nightclub in Manhattan with the fashion designer eventually smoking Rose in the jaw. Hilfiger was promptly escorted out by his own security people.

That probably explains why Tommy didn’t feature a shot of Axl Rose in his gallery of noteworthy musicians on Idol


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Three Degrees of Separation

I became an armchair astronomer last week when I joined the local chapter of the Calgary Astronomy Meetup Group in the hopes of attending a talk called Building Aliens by renowned blogger, scientist, and humanist, Dr. PZ Myers.

In silent tribute to Brian May, I wore my News of the World (i.e., giant killer robot) t-shirt that night and felt at least a momentary kinship with Brian. 

But then I realized that Dr. Myers represents three degrees of separation between me and Dr. May. 

Myers routinely shares a stage with Richard Dawkins — the world’s most famous atheist — as their secular views and pursuit of rational thought have united them in similar causes over the years.

Dawkins and Brian May crossed paths in late June 2011 at the Starmus Festival in Tenerife, Spain. Both were on a panel discussing topics in which they are considered experts. As a biologist, Dawkins looked inward; as an astrophysicist, Brian looked outward.

In his interview with Sophie Shevardnadze at Tenerife during that festival, Brian offered insights into his opinion of the existence of God and religion in general (blog entry here) and how he disagreed with Richard Dawkins on the absolute absence of a higher being. Perhaps that explains why there are no photos of May and Dawkins together at the Starmus Festival! 

So who does one tend to believe in cases like this? Depending on the audience, there are good arguments either way. Brian, who’s own scholarly background gives him an awful lot of credibility in these otherworldly matters as Dawkins, obviously doesn’t share Dawkins’ absolute denial of an all-powerful god. Is the “dreamer” in Brian leaving that door open? Perhaps.

One thing that Myers and May have in common that Dawkins does not is that Brian and PZ each have an asteroid named after them:

153298 Paulmyers is an asteroid discovered on March 29, 2001 by David Healy at Junk Bond Observatory. It is named after biologist and prominent blogger PZ Myers. [1]  
Asteroid 52665 Brianmay was named in his honour on 18 June 2008 on the suggestion of Sir Patrick Moore (probably influenced by the asteroid's provisional designation of 1998 BM30). [2] .



Thursday, March 15, 2012

Killer robot monster saves Family Guy

Media Moment: Family Guy
Queen-related: Episode subplot features News of the World

Queen fans are now benefiting from Seth MacFarlane’s childhood nightmares. Apparently, he was so traumatized in his youth by the murderous robot on the cover of NOTW — the metal goliath that [accidentally?] killed Freddie, Brian, John, and Roger —that he believed he was going to be next. 

At least that’s the backstory to the subplot from the latest Family Guy episode the other night. Brian May even brought this up on his Soapbox in February when he learned of MacFarlane’s history with the album and the intention to use it as the basis of an upcoming Family Guy episode. (You can read about it here.)

The episode, called Killer Queen, is about a mass murderer that’s on the lam and Patric, the brother-in-law, is fingered as the culprit because he just escaped from the institution he was being held in.

In the end, however, it wasn’t Patric committing the murders but a cleverly disguised hot dog eating champion named Charles Yamamoto from Japan.

We first learn of Stewie’s fear of the NOTW robot when that album is rediscovered amongst attic junk and Brian the dog naively shows Stewie the cover at which point he screams out: “What the hell is that? A killer robot monster?”

Stewie’s paranoia about getting killed by the robot is so strong that he recoils in horror whenever he sees the album cover, which is a lot in this episode. Even buying a simple scratch-and-win lottery ticket after his panic in the attic brings another robot scare.

At this point, Brian the dog recognizes Stewie’s neurosis and takes it upon himself to help him overcome his fear of the robot.

Brian’s preferred treatment calls for Stewie to face his fears — that is, to see the album for what it is, just a painting and not a real robot — so Brian leaves the album cover in Stewie’s bed so it’s the first thing he sees when he wakes up.

Then he puts the entire album cover on the bedroom wall so it’s super sized for an extreme reaction. (At this point in the episode, I thought the producers were getting a lot of mileage out of that album cover merely by modifying its size and perspective. Personally, I’d love a wall-sized enlargement of the NOTW cover art. That would be sweet.)

Brian finally corners Stewie and convinces him that the robot isn’t real and that it’s just a record sleeve. He’s not going to die a horrible death like he’s been imagining.

At this point in the episode, a clever exchange of dialogue happens between Brian and Stewie:

Stewie: “It’s that robot! He’s killed Queen and now he’s going to kill me!”
Brian: “He didn’t kill Queen . . . they’re all fine . . . most of them are fine.”

Stewie quickly overcomes his paranoia and begins to see the robot as his friend rather than his enemy. That’s not to say the robot fails to instill fear in others because Stewie ends up wielding the album cover as a weapon against Yamamoto, the strangler, near the end of the episode.

When confronted with the image of the murderous robot, the superstitious villain cries out: “Why does robot hold dead people? Is that future or past?”

The NOTW subplot ends when Yamamoto is literally scared to death of the robot. The giant robot lifts the roof of the house up — not unlike the depiction of the robot on the inside artwork of the NOTW gatefold cover — and gives Stewie the “thumbs up” in agreeing that everything is going to be okay.

Killer Queen is played over the end credits, which is a nice tie-in to the music and theme of the episode. It would have been nicer if MacFarlane could have worked some NOTW music into this episode . . . perhaps a snippet of We Are the Champions could have been played when we’re first introduced to Yamamoto at the start of the hot dog eating contest. He was, after all, the world champion hot dog eater, so the song would have been appropriate.

In my mind, this episode brings up a bigger debate about the marketing of music today and how the fan experience with cover art is generally lost in today’s digitally downloaded and distributed music. Like Seth, I too was transfixed at the cover art for the Queen albums, not to mention Bat Out of Hell, The Wall, or any of the Asia sleeves.

Listening to the music was just one aspect of the experience. Imagining how the world depicted on the front cover correlated to the music added an entirely new dimension to the experience. Now, album cover art seems to be an afterthought . . . a thumbnail image to put on iTunes to help market the album in some small way so it’s not just a line of text on a screen to identify it.



Saturday, March 10, 2012

The irony of monetizing

When I monetized my blog a few months ago, I didn’t really expect to make any money. So far, I’m on track to making that prophecy come true . . . I’ve made a whopping $2.19 based on the click-through traffic my blog has generated.

Seeing the ads that Google places on my site has been a fairly benign experience so far since most are national ads that are targeting the demographics of my followers (of which I have three!).

What I didn’t expect was a Christian singles ad being randomly placed above my Tenacious D post, like this:

Does anyone else see the irony here? I guess if Freddie can sing about Jesus and Beelzebub within a couple of albums of each other, why not have “Jesus” and “Beelzeboss” co-mingle on the same blog page?

Maybe my prophecy of having a Church of Satan singles ad placed above a post of All God’s People might actually be in the cards.

Postscript — I spoke too soon. Another Christian display ad shows up while I’m previewing my blog post: 

What is going on with the online singles Christian community? It looks like Satan is taking a beating on the match-up front.


Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hello Freddie

Media Moment: American Idol
Queen-related: Randy’s pin?

Is it just me or was Randy Jackson wearing a pin on American Idol the other night that bore more than a passing resemblance to Freddie?

Every time the camera passed by Jackson I tried to get a better look at it but apart from the blue thing in the hair, it strikes me as a cross between ’70s Freddie hair and ’80s Freddie moustache . . . all crossed with Hello Kitty in some bizarre parallel universe. 

There’s actually a video clip of Ryan Seacrest asking Randy about the pin at a point during the show that the regular cameras were not rolling. Seacrest seems to keep a bunch of outtakes from Idol for his own web needs.

Unfortunately, Randy’s answer wasn’t very helpful in understanding who the likeness is supposed to be of. All we are told is that a friend of Jackson’s in New York makes them.

With the lack of Queen content in this year’s Idol season, maybe this is the closest we’ll get to seeing Freddie being part of the show.