During the holidays, my face hurts. It hurts from wearing a fake permasmile around family and friends so much that it takes about a week or so to get even the slightest facial sensation back. My face hardens to the point that by Boxing Day I look like a community theatre version of The Joker from Batman. I can make one-word grunting noises but I can barely chew food.
We all become two-bit actors around Christmas time. Feigning delight as we tear open the crap gifts loved ones give that only serve to remind how little they know us. How many "oohs, aahhs and wows" must I utter before it becomes painfully obvious that this gift, symbolizing your fondness for me, has now become a reminder that you think I'm either out of shape, stupid or lazy?
I'm just as indifferent to them. Nodding my head mindlessly through get-togethers, agreeing with whatever asinine theory or political stance they have leaves my neck sore by the end of it. These days, thank god for smartphones. I take refuge by checking my email, Twitter feed and texting with other people caught in the same familial vortex across town.
The only way to offset such torture is my annual shopping spree on me. Christmas is a great excuse to shower myself with the gifts I really wanted.
Here's what I got two years ago.
Here's what I got last year.
Here's what I got this year:
Valient Himself "Big Trouble In Little China" Illustration
I hate bare white walls. They make me feel like I live in an insane asylum. I need those walls provocatively dressed, be it with framed photographs, live show posters or illustrations. Now, alongside my Gary Taxali, Juan Montoya and Balint Zsako originals hangs my Valient Himself illustration.
Who doesn't love Jack Burton and his zany supporting cast of China Town misfits? Who doesn't love Valient Thorr, the Rock & Roll juggernaut band from Chapel Hill, North Carolina? Well, when you put them both together, like some freaky Reese's Pieces, you get Valient Himself's rendering of James Hong as the villainous Lo Pan from "Big Trouble In Little China."
"You were not brought upon this world to get it...there are many mysteries, many unanswered questions."
The Mants - Destroyed By Fuzz 7" (Manglor Records)
The Mants are one of my favourite bands from Canada. Originally from Calgary but relocated to Victoria, British Columbia, The Mants are exactly what you suspect them to be - Half Men, Half Ants and all Garage Rock. Mainly their fuzz is what I'm attracted to but it's also the fact that these mutant ants have the fashion sense to perform in stylish suits. Getting care packages from Andy Mant has become my most favourite bi-annual holiday event. They're also the antidote to any Perry Como Christmas Carol.
DVDASA Podcast T-shirt
I love listening to podcasts. It's eaten up a lot of my time that should've been spent listening to music. I too have my own podcast called "The Official Danko Jones Podcast" but my favourite podcast is DVDASA -- hosted by artist, David Choe, and adult film star, Asa Akira. Wade McNeil of Gallows/Alexisonfire turned me on to it.
The show's supporting cast are almost as infamous as its hosts. People like Critter, Bobby Trivia, Steve Lee, Bill Poon and Valentin are names that can elicit an equal amount of fanboy response from me as much as names like Artie, Jackie, Robin and Howard.
In order to declare my zeal, a T-shirt must be bought and worn and that's exactly what I did. Choosing from almost 20 pages of podcast merchandise, I settled on their signature lime-green shirt and I'm wearing it as I write this.
Film auteur, Bruce LaBruce, is synonymous with raised eyebrows. His latest film, "Gerontophilia," about an 18-year-old boy and his attraction to senior citizens, definitely raised some. What seemed to shock most was how tender and sweet LaBruce handled the provocative subject matter. It didn't surprise me because Bruce is a national treasure. Hopefully "Gerontophilia" will make more people see it. And see this, please.
Hateful Snake T-shirt
In 1983 Hateful Snake made a video for an original song of theirs called "Are You Ready." It got played on video shows like City Limits, Much Music and Toronto Rocks (John Majors RIP). Scenes shot on Yonge St. and The Princess Gates make this video a treasured Toronto relic. And just like that, they disappeared.
While recording our new album, Fire Music, we started hatching the idea to re-record this classic and get our friends to help us out but what would be great would be to get Hateful Snake singer, Brian Simpson, to sing on it as well. We tracked him down and he did it. The rest is soon to be history.
In the studio, Brian presented me with a Hateful Snake t-shirt that just about left me speechless (which is a hard thing to do). It's more than a t-shirt, it represents Toronto to me, more than the CN Tower or crackhead mayors.
Odd Records - Pac Man Fever, The Astrology Album
#NextLevelRecordCollecting is a hashtag I came up with to describe the kind of records that one buys when new releases, limited editions, exclusive versions and bonus tracks of music fail to excite and tantalize. What does one do when the desire to buy vinyl still exists? Luckily, they didn't just make records to satisfy the needs of Urban Outfitter customers whose recently acquired vinyl fetishes don't extend past Mumford & Sons. Luckily, all the crazy records were already made before the industry decided to stop making vinyl in the early '90s.
For people like me, who already have the same Neil Young releases on cd, record and mp3, vinyl-collecting becomes a giant easter egg hunt of trying to find the most outrageous releases. Over the years, I've managed to amass quite a collection. Whether it's records on palm reading, training your dog or Guy Lafleur, the more outrageous, the more I have to have it.
This season yielded the very coveted Pac Man Fever album from 1982 and The Astrology Album from 1967 featuring David Crosby, found at Good Music in Toronto. What's odd to you is next-level vinyl gold to me.