Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Q&A with Dr. May

Media Moment: Uncut magazine (April 2011)
Queen-related: Features Q&A with Brian, Queen re-releases review

As I mentioned a few posts ago, I was called for a third time as a potential match for a bone marrow recipient somewhere in the world. To determine whether I am enough of a match to go ahead with a stem cell donation, a comprehensive blood test is required that tests for specific DNA markers between my blood and the blood of the recipient so I was scheduled for this procedure last Tuesday morning.

I’ve been to this blood donor clinic many times and know the routine very well. This time, however, I needed to go to a different floor for testing, instead of the donation area on the second level. The security guard at the front desk told me to have a seat on the couch while he notified the nursing associate that handles these tests.

In front of the couch I was sitting on was a table with a selection of magazines. Hey, there’s a music magazine with Paul Simon on the cover. That’s cool. I pick it up and immediately notice that Brian’s name appears on the upper right corner. Once again, what are the chances that I’d stumble across a Queen sighting in a most unusual location. And if that particular issue of Uncut wasn’t on the table at the time I glanced around, I would have picked up the People or Glamour magazine instead.

I asked the security guard if I could do a trade for the magazine . . . I’d run home after the blood test and bring a different magazine back to replace this issue. He was amenable to the idea, so I made a note to myself to snag it on my way back to the car in about half an hour.

The questions levelled at Brian were an eclectic mix. Most were from the general public, from all over the world, and not specific to music, either (i.e., astronomy and vegetarianism). There’s even a question or two from fans that are celebrity musicians themselves.

The good doctor’s answers provide an interesting insight into Brian May, the person, rather than the guitarist from Queen who happened to work with Freddie Mercury for a few years.

A few pages later, there is a review of the recent Queen re-releases . . . the same album collection that the Classic Rock magazine had reviewed. And based on these reviews, I’m not entirely sold on whether I should buy the re-releases or not. I’ve got the originals on vinyl, cassette, and CD, so how much different is the song going to sound on my laptop (which is my portable stereo these days).

I think that instead of tinkering with the music on the albums to introduce something new to the Queen catalogue, why not tinker with the album cover art instead? Personally, I’d rather purchase re-releases with new cover art . . . particularly if they were vinyl re-releases with pull-out posters and finely-crafted inner sleeve art. What about alternate paper or other packaging options? We saw a bit of this marketing with the shiny The Game cover that’s become a bit of a collector’s item.

At the end of the day, Queen’s contribution to pop culture is more than just the music, it’s also the visual design and aesthetics of their album art that has helped bring the music to life.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Freddie and Eddie

Media Moment: Classic Rock magazine
Queen-related: Features article on Queen and Queen tidbits throughout

Eddie in a suit and given an Obama political poster treatment. This issue of Classic Rock magazine caught my eye at the drug store the other day. Hey! There’s Queen on the polybag — the front has them mentioned at the top of the boxed list, and on the back there’s a description of the inside article and the recording of their Sheer Heart Attack album from 1974.

I had to wait until I got home to carefully open the polybag and extricate the magazine as gently as I could. Once I got it out, I went through it page-by-page. Once of the table of contents pages prominently features a Queen shot (see above), so we’re off to a great start with this issue.

In the album review section near the end of the publication, there is another Queen-dominant layout in which the recent re-release of NOTW is the main story, even though this sidebar is surrounding by other big-name releases like Moving Pictures by Rush.

The main Queen story is definitely one of the lead stories for this issue. It features several double-page spreads with large, lead-in photos and interesting pull-quotes.

The editors must have begged Mick Rock for all of the shots from his SHA album cover photo shoot because this story features outtakes from that session that I’ve never seen before. (I’m sure some of them appear in Rock’s recently published book on Queen, but, sadly, I haven’t seen it.)

Later on in the magazine, there’s a great little cartoon section whereby famous movie plots are parodied with rock star personas, juxtaposing the movie’s message with a misbehaving rock star’s antics. Freddie makes an appearance in the E.T. panel. It looks like the cartoonist spent a few hours watching that Jazz release party footage from The Magic Years, as the background activity in this panel would attest to.

As I routinely do with these types of music magazines, I skim through all of the stories to see if Queen’s name is mentioned during discussions of other bands or artists. More times than not, there’s at least a quote by a rock star or a band member that makes reference to either Queen the band or a Queen album.

This issue of Classic Rock was no different, although the Queen reference came from the author rather than the musician, as seen here with the latest Def Leppard album review:

The only thing left for me to do with this blog entry is to do an actual review of the article itself. The problem is, I haven’t read it yet. 

Another job bites the dust

I saw this musical card at Hallmark the other day which plays Queen’s version of Another One Bites the Dust when you crack it open. After reading the credits on the back, however, I have to wonder who’s proofreading these things before they go to print.

• Jim Deacon? This is a significant error.
• Why put “(s)” in the writer credit when it’s obviously a single composer?
• Oops, there’s an extra space between Deacon and the closing parenthesis.
• Performed by “Queen Hollywood Records, Inc. 1980” Who is that? I thought John belonged to “Queen.”

It’s Monday morning . . . just wanted to vent a bit.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Does movie warrant Queen cover?

Media Moment: Gladiator (1992)
Queen-related: Features Warrant’s version of WWRY

Hey, Gladiator is on television tonight. I could use some sword and bloodery to cheer me up. After PVRing it in the middle of night, I discover that it’s not Russell Crowe scheming to assassinate Caligula’s relatives, it’s the 1992 boxing drama with Cuba Gooding Jr.

That’s okay, I thought. This will be a good chance to find where Warrant’s version of We Will Rock You appears in the film. I have the cassingle of the song from years ago, and only a modicum of recollection about the movie itself, so why not watch it fresh and wait for the song to appear?

It’s not until the final act when buddies Lincoln (Gooding Jr.) and Riley (played by James Marshall) are pitted against each other in a spectacle of gladiatorship that a few seconds of the song is heard. The problem I had with it was that it doesn’t really add to the energy or mood of the moment and, quite honestly, we would rather hear a few seconds of Queen’s version, if any at all.

Being reminded that Warrant did indeed record and release WWRY as a single got me wondering about the origin of the cover. Curiously, the song doesn’t appear on any regular Warrant album prior to 1992. It seemed to make its public debut in this film, and it wasn’t until 1996 that it appeared on their greatest hits album, The Best of Warrant.

Wikipedia has this to say about the Queen cover:

“Also on the album are two bonus tracks: Thin Disguise which is a B-side from the Cherry Pie single (not included on any studio album) and We Will Rock You which is a cover of the Queen song of the same name and was released on the soundtrack to the 1992 film Gladiator starring Cuba Gooding Jr.. The Warrant version of We Will Rock You charted at number 83 on The Billboard Hot 100.”

So it reached number 83 in 1992. Pretty respectable, I suppose, other than the fact that it’s not their song. Unfortunately, this comparison prompted an entry on between the two bands over the song. (If you want to see how Queen is kicking their butts, head over here to check out the stats.) Some of the reader comments, however, leave something to be desired . . . everyone’s got an opinion, just like everyone’s got a bum.

I did get a chuckle out of one comment, though: “For a straight band, Warrant is way gayer than Queen.”

Friday, August 5, 2011

Defining Queen using Shahi

The librarian at the university I teach at sent me a link to a neat website called “Shahi” which combines the text definitions of words found in Wiktionary with images of that same word collected from Google Images, Flickr, or Yahoo! 

Okay, this might be handy if I’m in a hurry and don’t have time to do a search for a definition and find a corresponding image so I can see what the text definition is talking about. (Doesn’t Wikipedia already give you a sample image on its article pages?)

Out of curiosity, I typed in “queen” to see what came up. As you can see, the Wiktionary text definition gives eight different nouns that the term applies to. Nothing about the band Queen gets a mention.


Wait a minute, if I click on the Google tab, all I get are images of the band . . . nothing about:

1) A female monarch (that’s not true, there is one shot of QEII)
2) The wife of a king
3) Chess piece
4) Playing card
5) A powerful or forceful female person
6) An effeminate male homosexual
7) A reproductive female animal in a hive
8) An adult female cat

So what’s going on? Did the Wiktionary user community fail to edit the “queen” article so it includes a mention of a band with that name? Is there a Wiktionary editorial team that edited it out? There can’t be a policy against including proper nouns or names because Queen Elizabeth herself is mentioned in the first definition as a female monarch.

If I was an alien from outer space and looked up Queen on Shahi, I’d have some choice words to describe the logic of humans.

Nonetheless, perhaps the disconnect is occurring at the search level. As mentioned, Wiktionary is great for text-based explanations of things and it’s easy to run a list of multiple meanings of that word on that same article page. But since Google doesn’t offer up images of adult female cats, playing cards, or chess pieces, one can only assume that images of the band are more popular than images of these other queen nouns.

Shahi is a web project by Abdullah Arif, a young fellow from Saudi Arabia. This would explain the Arabic logo in the top left corner of the webpage. What about the name, Shahi? Arif himself states on his About Page that “the word Shahi is Saudi Arabic for tea!”

Really? Wikipedia says it’s this: “Shahi (Persian: شاهی) is derived Shah (Persian: شاه) meaning royal.”

Wait a minute, it’s Persian for royal? All the more reason to have Freddie and the boys included in the text definitions, I say.

Donors needed

I’ve been a whole blood donor for more than 25 years and have close to 90 donations under my belt. During a donation about 10 years ago, I was encouraged to enter my name in Canada’s national bone marrow registry called OneMatch Stem Cell and Marrow Network — not unlike the British Bone Marrow Donor Appeal.

Like most collection databases from industrialized countries, these two registries are part of the larger Bone Marrow Donors Worldwide network that primarily supports unrelated bone marrow searches.

As we know, Brian was the patron of the BBMDA for 15 years or so . . . ever since he heard of a young leukaemia patient who raised money and awareness of the need for bone marrow donors in the UK. The BBMDA was folded recently after it was announced that the goal of having a certain number of donor names on the registry was finally met. 

I would argue, however, that there are never enough names on a bone marrow list because the odds of finding a match between patient and donor is like winning the lottery. Why not try to get as many names as possible to increase the chances of a stronger match between unrelated individuals?

Since being on the donor registry, I have been called twice in the past as a potential match for someone in need of a marrow transplant. Both times I went in for the preliminary blood work to determine if the DNA markers are similar enough between my blood and the recipients. Both times it wasn’t. 

Two days ago, I received a call from OneMatch stating that my name has come up again as a potential match. Third time lucky? Let’s see what the initial blood typing brings. I hope I’m a match since that’s why I signed up for the registry in the first place, but I know the odds are against it.

Asking citizens to participate on the OneMatch network is, in my opinion, a challenge because potential bone marrow donors need to be active blood donors first. There’s the problem. Only 3% of the eligible population in Canada actually donate blood at all. If you do the math, you quickly realize that blood is in short supply given the vast number of surgeries, transplants, and other medical procedures that occur daily. And the fact that our population is going up at a faster pace than new donors can be found.

What about offering an incentive to first-time blood donors which would, in turn, add names to the  unrelated bone marrow registry as well? Here in Canada, there seems to be this notion that donating blood should remain an altruistic activity, motivated merely through compassion. The main argument is that once you assign a dollar value to the process, it attracts people who typically have a high-risk lifestyle.

Is this monetary bottleneck in place as a symbolic gesture or is it simply more efficient to manage the system with an absence of high risk donors to begin with? What I don’t understand is that since ALL blood gets screened anyway, why not get the overall donor numbers up, then worry about eliminating the questionable units of blood once the tests come back? Chances are, we’d probably have more useable blood at the end of the day.

The BBMDA had a interesting Queen-related fundraiser when two buddies from France presented the history of the band as a comic book. The publication’s support of the BBMDA and the Mercury Phoenix Trust Fund no doubt is what convinced Brian to write a foreword to the comic. Although this was a noble effort on the part of the two buddies, I wonder if it brought in more donors.

Altruism be damned. I think Canada should adopt a similar tactic in attracting first-time blood donors. Not specifically Queen-related, but what about making the incentive substantial and not necessarily just a cash reward — something like all new donors in the month of November have a chance at winning a house. I don’t know about you, but that would certainly motivate me to drag my ass down to the clinic if I had never done it before.