Friday, August 28, 2009

Ways To Make It Rain (in Peru)

As some of the dotcomrades have learned by now, I've spent a little bit of time recently in Lima, Peru. And by a little bit of time, of course, I mean more time than you coulp probably ever imagine. So needless to say, I... ummm... have some pretty interesting stories.

But those particular stories are not the reason for this particular post. The idea behind this entry is to reach out to all of those venture capitalists who are looking for can't-miss investment opportunities in developing Latin-American countries, in the hopes that the strategic influx of capital might enhance my personal ejoyment during future stays in that great country.

So without further ado, here are the Top-3 Investment Opportunities currently available in Lima, Peru.

1 - An All-Sports Television Station showing sports that are NOT Soccer.

There are 4 all-sports television stations available for viewing in Lima: 3 of those stations show soccer 24-hours a day; the fourth shows soccer 22-hours a day.

I really wish I was kidding.

I can't tell you how many times I've been laying in bed, looking for some kind of relief from Los Simpson en espanol, hoping to catch five minutes of ANY baseball, basketball, or football game, and come across nothing but an endless barrage of futbol highlights... on EVERY station. It's almost enough to make you long for the sweet sounds of the Swirsk.

Needless to say, with nothing but soccer flooding the airwaves, there is plenty of room to bring in a station that focuses on other means of athletic competition.

Exhibit A is the fact that the last time I was in Peru, there was some kind of a women's volleyball tournament going on. The fact that this event could be found on television at all was surprising to me, but to actually supplant soccer as the most rivetting sports related plot-line for a period of two weeks was beyond anything I could have ever fathomed. Honestly, if you'd given me a thousand opportunities to guess which sport would surpass soccer in popularity (even if only for a matter of days), I would have never guessed women's volleyball... And I mean, literally: I would have never guessed women's volleyball. I'm telling you, it seemed as though every single person in Lima was tuned in to these matches. You'd walk past a store selling illegally bootlegged DVDs at 9:30 at night, and the entire storefront would be crammed with middle-aged men cheering wildly for every spike and set. It was one of the strangest things I'd ever witnessed, because, again: we're talking about women's volleyball.

So basically what I'm saying is that if a country can get behind a women's volleyball tournament with the kind of passion and fervour customarily reserved for political revolutions and The Wolrd Cup, isn't it a pretty safe bet that they'd be able to get behind other sports? You know, like sports that are actually interesting to watch? Baseball, basketball, American football, and hockey... I'm looking at you.

And to take this idea a step further, if struggling leagues are looking for somewhere to expand, how about looking south of the equator? I'm telling you, put a couple of NHL franchises (or, judging by the success of women's volleyball: WNBA franchises!) in Lima (a city with a population of more than 8 million), and I can pretty well guarantee a sellout for every home date.

In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the problem with Gary Betman's expansion strategy was not that he went too far south; it's that he didn't go far enough. I'm telling you, the Miraflores Moose and the El Centro Incas would be model franchises in the NHL if given the chance. The NHL won't let Jim Balsillie go to Hamilton? Let's see them try to keep him out of Lima.

2 - A World Class Amusement Park

So, it was a Sunday night in Lima, and we were looking for something to do. Someone mentioned that Lima's version of the CNE might be a good place to check out (the park is only open for a month or so per year). Despite my skepticism regarding the safety regulations on Limean carnival rides, I decided that it would be interesting to check it out.

So, we piled into a cab and took the 15 minute ride to the park. From outside the gates, the park looked decemt enough. No real roller coasters, but an assortment of Zipper-like rides, a variety of spinning rides that would probably make you puke, bumper cars, merry-go-rounds, cotton candy, games of skill and chance, big-ass prizes... It was essentially your everyday, small-town carnival fare.

But when we enterred the park, I realized all at once that this wasn't just your everyday, small-town carnival; at least not to the people of Peru.

Without exaggeration, the lines for these rides ranged anywhere from 2.5 hours long to the type of wait that would invariably cause me to commit a random and senseless capital offense. I'd never seen anything like it.

Two thoughts immediately enterred my mind. The first was that I needed to get the hell out of there before being talked into waiting in one of those obscene lines. And the second was that, if I ever had money to invest, a world class Amusement Park in the heart of Lima would undoubtedly be the way to go. Because if Limeans were willing to wait in those kinds of lines for those kinds of rides, how ridiculously popular would a theme park be that offered something like this:

Lima clearly needs it's own version of Canada's Wonderland. Call it Peruvian Wonderland, or The Incan Adventure, but just open it soon, and be prepared to start counting your Soles.

3 - A Radio Station that plays Quality Rock and Roll Music

This one might just be the kiss of death, which probably makes it my most likely foray into the world of dubious South American investment opportunities.

Here's the thing: the things I enjoy the most in this world invariably seem to go out of business, get taken over by multi-national corporations, or just plain fall off the face of the earth. Whether it be great Italian hole-in-the-wall restaurants, back alley BYOB jazz clubs, ultra-hip-fair-trade-shade-grown cafes, or yes, fantastically ecclectic independent radio stations; all of the things which I hold in the highest regard tend to disappear. I chalk it up in part to the fact that most of what makes those particular things great is that nobody else seems to know about them (great for the coolness effect; not so much for the bottom line), and in part due to the truth found in the lines of The Band's Ophelia, which rhetorically asks: "Why do the best things always disappear?"
But it cannot be denied that the radio stations in Peru that advertise tu musica en ingles! are nothing if not Gawd-awful. They basically have a 10-song rotation that includes The Ting Tings That's Not My Name, Lady GaGa's Poker Face, Green Day's Know Your Enemy (remember when Green Day used to be a good rock band? That seems like another lifetime ago), Rihana's Don't Stop The Music, anything released by the Killers in the past 3 years (how is it possible for a band to suck this much?), The All American Rejects Gives You Hell, Akon's Right Now, and Colbie Caillat's Realize...

As you might well imagine, this selection on a constant repeat is enough to drive an indie rock lover with multiple man-crushes on the great songwriters of our age absolutely batty.

So this is what I propose: take your money, do whatever it takes to land yourself a radio station in Lima with a decent enough bandwidth, and... are you ready for the million dollar idea? Play decent music. Honestly, it doesn't even have to be good music or hip music or cutting edge or avant garde or anything. It just needs to be decent. (By the way, this idea would also work in the Toronto market, if anyone is interested)

There are enough people in Lima with sufficiently decent taste that they would be able to appreciate things beyond the scope of the absurdly awful, industry fed Top-40. I'm telling you, take this playlist; mix it with this playlist; and add in a little bit of this playlist... Put it on the air in Lima, and at the very least, you will have the kind of radio station that people won't contemplate killing themselves for having listened to it for more than an hour.

There has to be some kind of value in that, doesn't there?


Despite the fact that some of the Limean entertainment could use some upgrading, there are a few key areas where they absolutely dominate North American society; areas in which any investor would have to be a fool to try to compete.

So again, as a public service announcement to the good venture capitalist dotcomrades out there, here are the Top-3 Worst Investment Opportunities currently available in Lima, Peru.

1 - Video Rental Establishment

I hate Blockbuster Video. There's a long-standing feud between that particular conglomerate and myself, going back to a misguided time in my life where I once rented Moulin Rouge and allowed my dad watch it after I went back to University at the end of the weekend. He mistakenly returned it to the other Blockbuster Video in my hometown, and it wasn't until 17 days later that either one of the establishments thought to inform us about this understandable error. They boldly proclaimed that I owed them $97.75 ($5.75 x 17) for that particular rental, stating in no uncertain terms that they would be unwilling to budge on this figure. This of course led to a rather heated discussion between me and the manager that eventually resulted in my cutting up my membership card at the counter and throwing the shards of plastic in his face, vowing to never step foot in one of those un-Godly establishments ever again.

So it is with great pleasure that I walk the streets of Lima and am able to purchase; not rent; every conceivable movie that any cinephile could ever dream of, for approximately $1.00.

I'm telling you, every single storefront seems to have a wall of titles listing every movie currently screening in theatres. And I'm not talking about the kind of Chinatown bootlegging quality DVDs you customarily get here where you're watching the movie someone else has filmed from inside the theatre, and kids are throwing shit at the screen; I'm talking about the same DVD you would buy at Future Shop, complete with all of the language and subtitle options, outtakes, and deleted scenes... For $1.00! (3 Soles is basically $1 USD.)

They even have a gigantic marketplace where you can buy knockoff...everything... in which there is an entire floor dedicated to bootleg movies. I spent an entire afternoon there loading up on titles for my parents: Que Paso Ayer (The Hangover); Te Amo, Brother (I Love You, Man); Marley y Yo (Marley and Me); the entire Back To the Future trilogy... It was one of the proudest days of my life.

So word to the wise: stay away from the movie renting business in Lima. You don't stand a chance.

2 - Drive a Taxi

In Toronto, when you jump into a cab, they start the meter at $4.00. They then clock you in at $1.60 per km. This fee can add up in a hurry, as evidenced by my taxi ride from one wedding to another three weeks ago (the trip from Oakville to Toronto cost me $87.00). Unless you land a cabbie who is thoroughly unsatisfied with his employer and you can convince him to turn off the meter and pay him the way Randy Moss pays the NFL, these rates are non-negotiable. And they are incredibly steep.

Things are a little different in Lima. You basically flag down a cab at any given time of the day (every second car in Lima is a Taxi, official or otherwise), and negotiate a rate. With Gringos like me, the cabbies usually have a field day. They will probably charge you triple what they might charge a local, but it still costs far less than what you might expect to pay at home for the same ride. But if you're lucky enough to have a beautiful Limean girl to show you the ropes, the amount it can cost to take a taxi anywhere in Lima is almost laughable.

For example, last month I took a taxi to the airport. It was a 45 minute ride, and basically took me halfway across one of the most sprawling cities in the world. The ride cost me 25 Soles... Which is less than $9.00.


3 - Open a Beer Store

I remember I once had a buddy from New Jersey up for a night. He was playing a gig in town and needed somewhere to crash. Before the show, we decided to grab some liquid provisions, so I suggested we take a walk over to The Beer Store. "Good call", he said. When we arrived at the establishment, his reaction was basically: "Holy Shit... This is actually called The Beer Store! I thought that was just what you called the place where you buy your beer!"

Alas, if you grew up in the Province of Ontario, for the duration of your alcohol drinking life (in all likelihood, since the age of 14), you have been subjected to the confounding reality that all alcohol must be purchased at a Government-run establishment. Of course, The Beer Store does have some advantages. There are literally hundreds of different beers available, and the sauce is always ice cold. But these glorious establishments are few and far between, and the product is almost always offensively overpriced.

The way it works in Peru (and in most of the rest of the world, for that matter) is that every single little tienda and bodega sells beer and hard liquor, and they sell it dirt cheap.

Where I stay in Lima, there are literally 5 places within a 45 second walk, where you can buy 4 650ml bottles of Brahma for 12 Soles. When you convert the size of the beers and do the exchange on the dollar, that works out to approximately $0.50 per beer... For Brahma! That's basically 1/4 the price of what it costs to buy lo mismo cantidad de cerveza here in Ontario.

As is the case with most things Peruvian, the beer is best enjoyed exactly the way it is now.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Friday Diversion

Well, the summer in Toronto lasted approximately 2 weeks. Here's a little something to keep you from smashing your face against your desk at work all day long. As always, this is some of the best stuff I've come across over the past few weeks.

Laugh, Kookaburra
By David Sedaris

David Sedaris looks back at his visit to the Australian bush.

Weinsteins Struggle to Regain Their Touch
By David Segal

With the highly anticipated release of Inglorious Bastards, Segal takes look back at the history of Bob and Harvey Weinstein (the list of movies they have produced is ridiculous), how they have fallen on "relatively" hard times, and why the future of the Weinstein Company is potentially precarious.

Thanks to Browner for the link.

Sporting Emotions at the Highest Pitch
By Bill Simmons

The sports guy checks out the USA-Mexico World Cup qualifier at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City. This is the finest piece Simmons has written in quite some time (the correlation to the recent lacklustre columns and his decision to join Twitter cannot be overstated). It is the best thing I have read about Futbol since Chuck Klosterman famously said that to love soccer is to give up hope for the capacity of the human spirit.

I tend to side more with Klosterman, but that doesn't mean that I'd turn down the chance to catch a game at the Azteca.

The BS Report with Steve Nash

A fantastic interview with the greatest athlete not-named-"Wayne" that Canada has ever produced.

The YouTube Clips of the week could not be on more opposite ends of the spectrum. One comes courtesy of Ronnie and could not possibly be more NSFW. The other comes courtesy of Dinner, and will probably give you goosebumps.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Larry Williams: The Dickeman

If these aren't the best directions ever given, then I clearly have no idea what I'm talking about.

Call me old fashioned, but I'll take Larry over a dashboard GPS any day of the week and twice on Sundays. I mean, sure, your GPS can tell you where the nearest Starbucks is located, but can it track down pussy and weed and deliver it to your room at the Motel 6? I think not.

"I got a good dick. I got a dick made of gold. I got a good dick. I got a lovely dick. I got a beautiful dick. I got a lovely dick... 'Cause I am the God damn Dick Man: D.I.C.K.E.M.A.N."

Thanks to Browner for the clip.

Monday, August 17, 2009

You may take this with however many grains of salt as you wish...

The Woodstock Music & Art Fair took place 40 years ago today (and yesterday and tomorrow). And to celebrate, as is the custom, my dad called me up and warned me to stay away from the brown acid.


Contrary to popular belief, I actually was NOT conceived at Woodstock, but my dad does own a pair of pink corduroy bell-bottoms, and there is a striking resemblance in the air-guitaring styles of myself and Joe Cocker, so it's easy to see how the story regarding the true nature of my origins could have taken on a life of it's own over the years.

Bonus material: The Who finishing their 4 am set as the sun rises in the background...

Friday, August 14, 2009

Marijuana Makes You Smarter

My buddy Gizzie has the perfect storm of debauchery brewing this weekend: His bachelor party is the night of his 30th birthday, both of which will be taking place in Niagara Falls, ON.

It would not be unreasonable to expect scenes similar to these:

In any event, with such a deparvity-filled 24-hours looming, I thought I'd put the minds of the participants at ease with the following passage from Chuck Klosterman's Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs:

Last year I had to go to one of those "adult" parties. I think you know the kind of party I mean: People brought their screaming children and someone inexplicably served fresh cornbread, and half the house stood around and watched the local news affiliate when it came on at 11:00 pm. I spent the whole evening in the kitchen with the two guys I came with; we tried to have an exclusionary conversation despite the fact that we consciously drove to this party in order to be social. Most of the guests began to exit at around midnight, which is the same time some odd fellow I'd never seen before suddenly appeared next to the refrigerator and pulled out a Zippo lighter and a little wooden box.

The gathering took a decidedly different turn.

Ten minutes later, I found it necessary to mention that Journey was rock's version of the TV show Dynasty. This promted a spirited debate we dubbed "Monkees = Monkees." The goal is to figure out which television show is the closest philosophical analogy to a specific rock 'n' roll band, and the criteria is mind-blowingly complex: It's a combination of longevity, era, critical acclaim, commercial success, and - most important -the aesthetic soul of each artistic entity. For example, the Rolling Stones are Gunsmoke. The Strokes are Kiefer Sutherland's 24. Jimi Hendrix was The Twilight Zone. Devo was Fernwood 2-Night. Lynyrd Skynyrd was The Beverly Hillbillies, which makes Molly Hatchet Petticoat Junction. The Black Crowes are That '70s Show. Hall & Oates were Bosom Buddies. U2 is M*A*S*H* (both got preachy at the end). Dokken was Jason Bateman's short-lived sitcom It's Your Move. Eurythmics were Mork & Mindy. We even deduced comparisons for solo projects, which can only be made to series that were spawned as spin-offs. The four Beatles are as follows: John = Maude, Paul = Frasier, George = The Jeffersons, and Ringo = Flo. David Lee Roth's solo period was Knots Landing.

So there's your proof: Marijuana makes you smarter.

Friday Diversion

If you're stuck inside on the first summer-like Friday of the summer, here's a little something in lieu of a patio and a bucket of ice cold beer. As always, this is some of the best stuff I've come across over the course of the past little while.

The Courthouse Ring
By Malcolm Gladwell

As we approach the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill A Mockingbird, Gladwell gives us an updated look into the realities of southern liberalism.

I have to say, having learned a few things about life and literature in the 15 years since I last read TKM (in the 10th grade), I'd say that I'm about due for another crack at Harper Lee's masterpiece.

A Guide to Summer Sun Protection
By Zev Borow

For all of the fair-skinned descendents of the Irish out there, this one's for you.

SPF 175—Ever wanted to have unprotected sex with a prostitute in Haiti? Don’t answer. Doesn’t matter. The point is with SPF 175 that’s now an option.

Bitter Brew
By Michael Idov

A hilarious piece about the apparently ubiquitous dream of opening one's own cozy little cafe. I have to say, I have, upon occassion, harboured the same little fantasy of hanging out in my own little coffee shop all day long, spinning great tunes, and generally soaking in the kind of bohemian slacker vibe that my establishment would undoubtedly emit.

Thankfully, this little essay has come along and put an end to that ridiculous notion. I think the subtitle summarizes it best:

I opened a charming neighborhood coffee shop. Then it destroyed my life.

At The National Sports Collectors Convention - Photo Gallery
By Bill Simmons

This photo essay is a must for any sports fan, pop culture fan, or for anyone who has spent any time at any kind of a collector's convention... I'm looking at YOU, dad.

When It Comes to Bad Contracts, Jays Ricciardi is Hard to Beat
By Joe Posnanski

I have been of the opinion that J.P. Ricciardi is one of the worst GMs in baseball for approximately 5 years. He is deserving of a spot amongst the truly great "Bad GMs in Toronto Sports History", joining his contemporaries (Rob Babcock and John Ferguson Jr.), as well as some legends (Gord Stellick and basically anyone associated with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 80s).

And it gives me great pleasure to announce that I'm no longer alone in this sentiment. As Posnanski points out (referring to Vernon Wells' contract):

This deal, to be honest, is not the sort of thing that leads to a general manager getting fired. It's the sort of thing that leads to entire villages getting pillaged. And that's what I mean about Ricciardi. I mean, this contract alone should be enough to put him in the Bad Contract Hall of Fame. But when you look over the whole body of work ... he IS the Bad Contract Hall of Fame.

In fact, really, we should just start referring to bad baseball contracts as "Ricciardis."

Thanks to Flats for the link.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Possible Reasons Why 102.1 The Edge Currently Sucks...

There was a time when 102.1 The Edge was the greatest radio station in... well, this city at least. Because there was a time when, if you wanted to hear new music in Toronto, 102.1 was the only place you had your dial tuned (in fact, there was a time where the station was actually called "The Spirit of Radio"!). CFNY had such a loyal following that when we were growing up, my buddy DVZ used to claim that listening to 102.1 alone could cure cancer.

The same can no longer be said today.

For awhile there, I thought it was simply because of my advancing age, the result of which meant that I was no longer in tune with what the kids were listening to these days. I felt like I was going through some kind of a mid-life crisis whereby I was being forced to question my current musical tastes. But as it turns out, maybe it wasn't me who was going through the crisis.

There was a time when Barry Taylor was the most entertaining DJ on Toronto's airwaves (exhibit A - This November 2008 piece). The Barry Funny Joke was an endless source of entertainment. The Barry Interesting Survey was a basehead's delight. And Megaphone man was the kind of gig that only The Edge could get away with airing. Everything he did was unconventional, which was why he was so wildly popular.

But a few months ago, BT was unceremoniously dismissed from 102.1. At first, I chalked it up to the fact that his bosses simply got sick of his endless soliloquies and one-sided discussions regarding all things Zeitgeist that invariably ruined my weekly Wednesday night drive to hockey (if you haven't seen it yet, you can catch it here: Zeitgeist, The Movie, and Zeitgeist: Addendum).

But as it turns out, there was more to it than simply the fact that BT: The Conspiracy Theorist just wasn't cutting it. And it's too bad, because even a decidedly un-funny Barry Taylor was infinitely better than anything else on the air (with the exception of the always affable Dave Bookman, of course).

And sure, this is probably a pretty one-sided take on how it all went down, but Barry Taylor's version of the events which led to his eventual dismissal go a long way in explaining why 102.1 The Edge currently sucks...

Taken from his MySpace Blog, here is BT's:

Saturday, August 8, 2009

My Adolescent Love Life (summarized in 5 seconds)

Yep. That slow-motion instant replay is probably the perfect metaphor for my high school dating career.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Willy DeVille: 1953-2009

AFP - PARIS — US singer songwriter Willy DeVille, who headed the 1970s New York punk group Mink DeVille before going solo and taking new directions, has died at the age of 55, his French tour organiser said Friday.

"Willy DeVille this night joined Edith Piaf, Jack Nitzsche and Johnny Thunders", said Caramba Spectacles, referring respectively to the French star who inspired him, to his producer, and to a fellow-70s punk guitarist.

His wife had announced in June that DeVille had pancreatic cancer.

DeVille in the late 70s played in New York's mythical CBGB club alongside the likes of Blondie or the Ramones with his first album Cabretta produced by Nitzsche, former arranger for Phil Spector...

On more than a few occassions, I have had people ask me who I believe to be the most underrated band of all-time. Without hesitation, I always tell them: Mink DeVille.

Maybe it's because my dad used to bring a lunch box full of cassette tapes camping with us every summer, and we'd usually wind up listening to this fantastic live show they recorded at the El Mocambo while sitting around the campgfire deep into the night. Maybe it was the songs about life in New York's lower east side that drew me in, or the way Willy could sprinkle his arrangements with a kind of Spanish-strolling American soulful bluesiness that I hadn't heard before or since. Whatever the reason, there was always something about that Loisaida sound of Willy Deville's voice that made me feel like Mink DeVille should have been the biggest band in the world.

To say that they fell short of the acclain they deserved is a ridiculous understatement.

Cabretta is easily one of my top-20 all-time favourite albums. Venus of Avenue D is the best song ever written about latin love in Alphabet City, and Can't Do Without It might be the most truthful song ever written about love, period.

And it's love that gets you so excited
And it's love that brings you home at night
And it's love... You can't do without it
It's love... love, what makes you treat me so bad?

1978's Return To Magenta is one of the 9 albums I have framed and hanging on the wall in my living room. And Miracle, DeVille's first solo effort, is one of those timeless records that I could literally listen to any day of the week (Could You Would You? and Heart and Soul will break your heart if you've never heard them before).

And there were few people who could cover a song and make it their own the way Willy DeVille could. The aforementioned Could You Would You is a thing of beauty (trumping Van Morrison?). His mariachi inspired version of Hey Joe is surreal (click HERE for fantastic video). And the version of Stand By Me from Montreux is sublime.

The life of Willy DeVille is one of countless sad-luck tales about an artist who never received the type of recognition that they rightfully deserved in their lifetime. Here's hoping he receives some of that long-overdue appreciation in his passing.

His is a voice that will be sorely missed.