Monday, October 27, 2008

Anatomy of an Op Drop III: School Daze

This is the last of three posts taking us through the process of last Thursday's Op Drop, from beginning to end. In the first post of the series, I talked about the Design phase--specifically, in the case of this drop, the design of several promotional stickers I've started putting up in my travels, in addition to dropping disques. In the second post, I wrote about the Build phase, and how I'm oddly entertained by the process of burning, labelling and packaging disques in preparation for an Op Drop.

Now onto the third and final phase...

Phase III: Drop

The drop phase of any operation is naturally the most exciting, especially when I’m operating in a new venue like I was last Thursday. Disque dropping isn’t just a matter of laying an Alizée DVD down on every available surface, all willy-nilly. There’s a very subtle science to it…at least the way I do it, anyway.

I’ve talked a little bit before about the ‘rules’ I’ve set for myself where a successful drop is concerned:

I should probably explain that—I mean, who cares if a half-dozen of my fellow comic geeks notice me dropping it, right? One of them might even be motivated to pick it up out of curiousity. The only explanation I can give is that it violates my personal “rules” of disque dropping as I’ve come to think of it. Discovering one in a random public place is meant to be kind of magical and mysterious…like coming down the stairs on Christmas morning and finding presents in the empty stocking you put up the night before. Getting caught in the act of a drop…I always feel like it robs it of its mystique, somehow…like Batman fighting crime in broad daylight, or something. There’s also the fact that I’m painfully shy around strangers—particularly cosplaying cuties in extremely abbreviated outfits—which makes having to explain a bungled drop somewhat akin to slow torture, but that’s neither here nor there.
It’s not just enough not to be noticed, though. While it’d be easy to pick an out-of-the-way spot away from crowds where I could drop a disque without being seen, the chances of that disque actually being picked up in the near future are slim to none. The trick is to balance the desire to perform an inconspicuous drop against the need to drop the disque where it will be noticed. It can be a tricky business, especially when running ops in very public places like the Eaton Centre or the ACC…or in the brand-new venue that I chose today.

After my random encounter with a Alizée-curious college student two weekends ago, it struck me that I’d overlooked possibly the best potential drop sites that the city had to offer—its colleges and universities, all of them full to bursting with young people with ostensibly open minds eager for new experiences, and all of them keen to get in on the ground floor of the ‘next big thing’ before their friends do. With this in mind, I did my best to disguise myself as a college student, packed up my disques and stickers, and trekked out to my first target of opportunity…my alma mater, York University.

It was weird being back on campus after so long away, to say the least. I’d chosen York first reasoning that, as the school with which I was most familiar, it’d be the one I’d be most comfortable in. Boy, was I wrong. A lot’s changed at York since I left there (mumblemumble) years ago…and I’d forgotten what a pain it was to find my way around even when I was a student there.

Fortunately, my main targets—the Student Centre, the libraries, and the main lecture halls—were all still where I’d left them, more or less, and were just as crowded as I remembered. Unfortunately, they were also a lot smaller than I’d remembered…which, if I were a better writer, I’d be able to parlay into some kind of deep and insightful metaphor for growth or life experience, or something.

It took me less than two hours to distribute just over half my payload. As drop opportunities (or “dropportunities”, as I’ve taken to calling them...clever, no?) went, though, I’d more or less saturated the main buildings, and not enough time had passed for many disques to be picked up yet. (I’ve learned from experience that it can sometimes take up to three or four hours, even in a very crowded venue, for somebody to take the bait.) I’d either have be outright blatant about it, self-imposed rules be damned—dropping disques in plain sight on occupied desks and tables in the library and cafeteria, which seemed a little gauche—or try my luck at some of the outlying buildings.

I opted for the latter, reminding myself in the process one of the things I’d hated most about going to York—much of the campus seems to act like a wind tunnel, making walking from one remote building to another in the fall and winter an absolute bitch—but didn’t perform more than a couple more drops, given how empty these buildings seemed by comparison. I retraced my steps back to the main buildings, shivering all the way, replaced the few disques that had been picked up in the interim, then headed out with about fifteen disques left in my bag.

Eager to lose the rest of them—as well as the stickers, which I’d completely forgotten about while I was at York—I zipped down to the Eaton Centre, which as become my go-to target of choice, lately. Being a Thursday afternoon, the mall was only moderately busy compared to the weekend, so it took a few circuits…but by five o’clock, my bag was empty of disques, and every bank of payphones in the mall had at least one of the new Alizée stickers adorning them. I headed back home, leaving a trail of stickers in my wake on the city’s transit system, until I finally slapped up the last one on the inside of the bus shelter on the corner of my street.

Forty stickers and forty disques dropped, all told. Added to the sixty disques I'd dropped the previous weekend, I've met my self-imposed quota of a hundred disques dropped for the month. Not bad for a lone Alizée evangelist! And from what I can tell from the few stickers I've been able to check on since, the majority of them seem to be holding up pretty well. It'll be interesting to see what kind of impact they have on the blog's stats in the days and weeks to come.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Anatomy of an Op Drop II: A Different Definition of 'Fun'

This is the second of three posts taking us through the process of last Thursday's Op Drop, from beginning to end. In the first post of the series, I talked about the Design phase--specifically, in the case of this drop, the design of several promotional stickers I've started putting up in my travels, in addition to dropping disques.

Phase II: Build

Building up a stockpile of disques prior to a drop is probably the most tedious part of the process, but I still find it strangely enjoyable, in the same way I really dug the crafting professions when I played EverQuest or World of Warcraft. It’s oddly satisfying for me to take a pile of components or raw materials, process them so they’re usable, and then assemble them into a stack of finished products that are more than the sum of their parts. It’s not quite the same high I get from the design phase, and it doesn’t carry the visceral thrill of a successful drop, but I still dig it enough to keep me from getting bored, at least so far.

I’ve streamlined the process quite a bit over the past few months, which has thankfully cut down on the time and effort I have to put into the build phase. (The message on the first ten Mark I disques I dropped, for example, was printed by hand on each and every one of the sleeves…which, you can imagine, took awhile.) It’s pretty well a one-man assembly line, with me running from one station to another as required. The PC I have set up in my living room handles burning the DVDs, while the one I have set up in the bedroom prints the labels and stickers. The coffee table between them serves as the assembly area, where—in between running from one computer to the other as they finish their tasks—I’ll slap the labels onto the DVDs and clamshell cases, and stack the completed disques. Assuming that both PCs cooperate (and I remember to set a fresh disc burning once I’ve removed a completed one, which I don’t always do), I’m usually good for about ten to twelve disques an hour…which means that a drop like Thursday’s can take upwards of three or four hours’ worth of preparation to pull off.

I usually have something playing in the background to keep my mind occupied while I’m in build phase. To get me in the mood, I generally either start out listening to one of Alizée’s albums, or I’ll put on one of the Lili DVDs in my collection—En Concert, my own copy of the Op Drop disque (yes, I kept one for myself!), or another disc I’ve put together of interviews and television appearances, like Fun TV or Stars à Domicile. If these can’t inspire you to do your damnedest for Alizée, you’re either clinically dead, or may in fact be an android and/or cyborg that’s incapable of feeling human emotion.

Between me and my kid brother—who I coerced into helping when he dropped by my place unexpectedly on Wednesday night, when I was deep into Build mode—we managed to get forty disques and forty promo stickers made up before he'd finally had enough, and we called it a night. Though he's decidedly not an Alizée fan, and has actually kind of frowned on the amount of time, money and effort I've sunk into Op Drop so far, even he was impressed by the pile of completed disques we'd amassed on my coffee table.

"All that work, and tomorrow you're just going to leave them all in random places for strangers to pick up," he said, pulling on his jacket as he prepared to head out.

"That's the plan, yeah."

He shook his head at me. "There has to be a better way to do what you're trying to do."

"There probably is," I admitted, "but until I figure out what that is, this is manageable for one person. At least I'm doing something. And besides, it's fun."

He cocked an eyebrow at me as he opened the door to my apartment.

"Dude, your definintion of fun," he said as he stepped out into the hall, "is way different from mine."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dramatic Interlude: Two evangelists meet on a train...

For your consideration, a dramatic re-enactment of an incident that took place during my morning commute today, with apologies to Jehovah's Witnesses everywhere:

A pair of smartly-if conservatively-dressed JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES step onto a subway train, each holding a stack of pamphlets. As the doors close behind them and the train begins to move, they split from each other, each heading for a different end of the car. The younger of the two, an attractive young lady, approaches DISQUE, a twenty-something male on his way to work. Disque glances up as she approaches, and removes his headphones. A pair of TEENAGERS sitting across the aisle from Disque watch their exchange with interest.

D: Hi, can I help you?
JW: Hello there. Have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal lord and savior?
D: No. Have you accepted Alizée Jacotey as yours?
JW: I’m…sorry, who?
D: Alizée Jacotey. She’s a singer from France. Here, this is her.
(D pulls a sticker out of his pocket and hands it to JW.)
JW: (smiles) She’s very pretty.
D: She has an incredible voice, too. Would you like to hear one of her songs?
JW: No, that’s OK, I—
D: You really don’t know what you’re missing. Here, let me play ‘Ella Elle L’a’ for you. It’s practically gospel, you’ll dig it.
JW: I don’t think…listen, have you ever given any thought to your soul—
D: You want soul? I’ve got a blues remix of one of her songs on here, too.
JW: No, listen…
(JW tries to hand back the sticker, along with one of her pamphlets)
D: Oh no, you keep that. I’ve got plenty. You see the URL on there? I’ve got a blog, you oughta check it out.
JW: O…kay.
(Uncomfortable beat as JW draws the pamphlet back to her.)
JW: Would…you be interested in learning more about Jesus?
D: Would you be interested in learning more about Alizée? I have a free DVD I could give you, here—
(Disque pulls his backpack into his lap, unzips it, and begins digging through it.)
JW: Ah…no, that’s OK. I, uh, think this is our stop…
(The train exits the tunnel into a subway station. JW signals her companion, and turns towards the door.)
D: Nono, here!
(D jumps up and thrusts a DVD at JW, who looks at it like it’s carrying the bubonic plague.)
D: You should play this at your next meeting or revival, or whatever! Your friends will really get into it. It might seem a little suggestive at points, but overall—
JW: I’m sorry, I have to go.
(JW hurries over to her companion, and hustles him out the door onto the subway platform. D calls after her as the doors close behind them.)
(D shrugs, and sits back down as the train begins to start back down the tunnel, watching as JW and her companion have a very animated discussion on the platform. One of the teenagers leans forward, laughing.)
T: Dude, that was awesome!
D: Thanks. Either of you want a free DVD?

And scene...

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Anatomy of an Op Drop, Part I

My kid brother surprised me by dropping by Casa Disque Drop last night while I was right in the middle of building up my stockpile in preparation for today’s Op Drop at an undisclosed location. Though he’s been hip to the whole Op Drop thing for awhile, having discovered a previous cache of disques a couple months ago whilst rooting around for something to eat, he’s always dismissed it as ‘that part-time job you pay to do, for that French chick who isn’t even aware you’re doing it’…which, to be honest, is a pretty fair assessment.

Surprisingly, though, as he watched me carry out the one-man assembly line of burning, labeling and assembling disques, he showed a genuine interest—almost fascination—with the amount of time and effort that goes into an Op Drop, even before I actually drop the first disque. I managed to corral him into helping—and, by extension, into watching En Concert, which was playing while we worked—and as he labeled one disque after another, it occurred to me that I haven’t really said much about the preparation phases of a successful drop, and often gloss over it in favor of talking about the event of the drop itself. As my kid brother learned last night, though, that’s really only a third of the story.

So here’s the first of three posts, taking us through today’s drop from start to finish. He seemed to find the behind-the-scenes stuff interesting, so maybe you will too. And even if you don’t…enh, at least I got a couple of days’ content out of it.

Phase I: Design

I haven’t fiddled with the design much since the Mark IV DVDs debuted, either in terms of content or the look of the disque and it’s packaging. In the earliest days of Op Drop, though, the disques were constantly evolving. It’s partly due to me never being truly satisfied—even the Mark IV’s, which are vastly superior to earlier iterations of the disque, could stand to be improved on—but mostly because it’s the part of the process I think I enjoy most. I like using my brain (and my rudimentary PhotoShop skills) to figure things out, overcome obstacles and learn new ways to do things in order to improve the end result. It’s easily the most time-consuming part—which is why I haven’t gotten around to designing a Mark V yet—and it usually involved a great deal of trial and error (along with a fair amount of creative use of naughty words), but the hours honestly fly by when I’m in design mode. If not for my poor grasp of mathematics and complete ignorance of physics, I think I probably would have been happiest being an engineer of some sort. Ah well…in another life, maybe.

Eager to get back to the drawing board, but lacking the necessary time and energy to commit to building a Mark V from the ground up, for this drop I decided instead to design a series of stickers I could slap up on public telephones, bus shelters and subway stations in my travels to and from the drop location. I had tons of raw materials on hand: the sticker sheet I use to print the round labels for the disc face and the back of the case also include cut-outs for two 1 ¾ ” x 4 ¾” stickers, and I’ve been stockpiling them for just such an occasion. I whipped up about ten different designs, but the two I settled on for the purposes of this drop were these:

Pretty spiffy, huh?

The URL type on the vertical sticker is a little small, granted, but as I was mainly sticking these next to windows on subways and busses (extremely close to the rider’s face) and on bus shelters (which allows for the reader to get reeeeeal close), I figured I could get away with it. Any larger, and I would have had to shrink the image to accommodate it…but it’s such a striking, iconic visual that I wanted to keep it as large as I could. After all, as aw will tell you, people looooooove that Tinkerbell tattoo

Though it’s simpler in design, and not quite as iconic, I think the horizontal sticker might actually be more effective in its own way. The type’s bigger for one thing, and the image (while smaller) features Alizée at her most fetching, doing that thing she does—I think it drives home the point pretty clearly that she’s a singer, and a pretty fabulous-looking one at that. These were mainly used on public phones, paper towel dispensers in restrooms, and on signage at subway stations.

The stickers have proven to be the perfect size for my purpose. The only problem is that the adhesive on them isn’t really meant for what I’m doing—the stickers are relatively easy to peel off with a minimal amount of effort. Still, even if they only stay up for a day or two, they’ll have done their thing. It’ll be interesting to see how many remain when I swing back to check on them.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mélodie du Vent...

Dropped yet another 20 Alizée DVDs today, most of them in and around the main entrance of the Air Canada Centre a few hours prior to Madonna's second sold-old concert there. If, by chance, you happen to be one of Madge's fans who discovered a disc and followed it here, I'd love to hear what you thought, either in the comments below or in the ShoutMix box to the left. I'd be especially interested to hear a hardcore Madonna fan's impression of Alizée's covers of La Isla Bonita and Hung Up--I tend to think they're fairly awesome, but I'm a little biased, after all...

Overall, that makes sixty disques total for the weekend, with a career total that's approaching almost 400. Given that I started in July--and didn't really get serious about it until about mid-August--that works out to around 100 discs a month. Not bad for one guy working alone on a shoestring budget, huh? I'm also seriously considering following LTNY's lead and branching out into other promotional materials, as well--mainly stickers that I could slap up on subways, lampposts, telephone booths and construction sites (of which there are several in downtown T-dot, what with condominums going up like weeds down there).

I also have another drop planned for this Thursday, inspired by my encounter with a Lili-curious college student on his way back to school last Thanksgiving weekend. This could prove to be the most daring Op Drop to date, so stay tuned for a tale of action, intrigue and suspense!

In the meantime, speaking of LTNY, check out this awesome YouTube clip posted by Jordy of Alizée Forum, in tribute to Ben and his crew of hard-workin' New York City boys, which incorporates footage from their glorious two-day assault on the Lili-heathens in Times Square:

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Alizée, Zack & Cody, Madonna, and me

It turns out that the bus ride from Montreal to Toronto I took earlier this week as I returned from my Alizée-cation may have been a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it allowed for a random encounter with (and apparent conversion of) a Lili-curious college kid on the bus helped me to rediscover my sense of purpose…but on the other, it also exposed me to the kind of high-quality germs and contagions that only eight hours trapped in a big metal tube with over a hundred strangers can provide.

I got back on Monday evening, and went to bed with a little tickle in the back of my throat. By the time I got up for work seven hours later, it felt like my entire respiratory system had been buffed with heavy-grit sandpaper, with all the shavings left to sit in my lungs. Like an idiot, not wanting to be “that guy” who calls in sick the first day back from a long weekend, I decided to tough it out and go into work, regardless. Fortunately, someone far wiser than me had the good sense to send my sick ass home by two, before I infected the entire floor with whatever brand of typhoid I’d brought back from Montreal with me.

I wound up being out until Friday, on doctor’s orders, turning what was already a four-day work-week into a day-and-a-half work-week. Ostensibly, I was supposed to spend my sick days recuperating, pointedly avoiding the operation of heavy machinery and/or other activities that require intense concentration or a high degree of mental alertness, at least according to the labels on the horse-tranquilizer pills my doctor prescribed. But daytime TV, quite frankly, blows…and even the most dedicated of Lili-fans can only watch Stars à Domicile and 1H avec Alizée so many times in a couple of days before he begins to get antsy.

…which is how I suddenly wound up with a stockpile of about 40 Mark IV DVDs by Saturday morning (where previously I’d had none) accompanied by a pretty intense sensation of cabin fever. Though I’d originally planned the next Op Drop to occur on a weekday (for reasons that will become evident when I reveal where it takes place), and I wasn’t yet in 100% top disque-dropping form, I nevertheless threw the whole lot in a bag, and hopped the subway bound for the Eaton Center. After all, what is illness to the body of a knight errant? What matter wounds? For each time he falls, he shall rise again, and woe to the wicked!

*cough* Sorry, Man of La Mancha moment. Won’t happen again.

It went well, if a little more slowly than my previous expeditions to TEC. Some dude from The Suite Life of Zack & Cody was holding court on the main floor for most of the day, signing autographs for what looked to be a bajillion starry-eyed tween-aged girls, who were lined up from here to Terra Haute, messing with traffic patterns and forcing me to detour around them several times. Security was naturally also a lot more prevalent than normal as a result, and by the time I made my third circuit around the floor, I was quite plainly on their radar, eliciting more than a few raised eyebrows and pointed stares from security guards and concerned parents alike. Though I’d only managed to successfully drop about half my payload, I reckoned it best to cut my losses and get the hell out of Dodge, lest I inadvertently wind up on To Catch A Predator, or something.

Instead, I hopped back on the subway, intending to go a little farther south, and hit up some of the more heavily trafficked stations downtown—both the Argos and the Toronto FC were playing the last home games of their respective seasons today, so I knew the stations closest to the Rogers Centre and BMO Field would get pretty busy once the games let out. On a whim, I also decided to check out what was going on at the Air Canada Center, seeing as how it’s virtually right next door to Union Station…if the Leafs were playing tonight, it might be worthwhile dropping a few disques in and around the ACC as well.

Well, it turned out the Leafs weren’t playing at the ACC tonight…but Madonna was.

Holy. Crap. Only if Tinkerbell herself had suddenly appeared before me to whack me upside the head with her magic wand would I have considered it more of a good omen. I’ve written here before about the Alizée-Madonna connection, and how much of an inspiration Madge has been and continues to be to Lili. So how cool would it be to turn a few Madonna fans onto Alizée? (Answer: it would be hawsome.)

It was still a few hours before the concert, but already it was pretty busy…and the dudes who were looking out for the Zack & Cody dude had nothin’ on the security guys at the ACC. Still, I managed to unload all the disques I had left—sadly, only eight—in some fairly prime locations in and around the entrance of the ACC (which was as far as I could go without a ticket). Though it was less than ten disques total, I still came away feeling like it was biggest drop I’d done to date.

And the best news? Madonna’s there again tomorrow night, for a second sold-out show. And Op Drop is definitely going back, this time armed with more disques.

Stay tuned…

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

An Alizée Thanksgiving Miracle (or: How Op Drop Got Its Groove Back)

I think she'd look cute in Claymation, actually

(Blogger's Note: I honestly feel like I ought to be starting this post out like a letter to Penthouse Forum--Dear Op Drop, I never would have believed something like this could really happen, until it happened to me--because the story I'm about to relate just seems a little too sacchrine and conveniently-timed to be true, like something out of one of those old Rankin-Bass holiday specials. All it needs is a little blonde elf who longs to be a dentist. If I was reading it myself instead of writing it, I'd be tempted to doubt its authenticity...and I honestly wouldn't blame you if you did...but I promise you it really did happen this way, more or less. Sometimes, life just imitates art made with stop-motion puppets, I guess...)

So, on the spur of the moment, I decided to go visit my sister in Montreal for the Thanksgiving long weekend. The reasons for this were threefold:
a) She moved to Montreal from Toronto almost a year ago, and I was the only one of her close family and friends who hadn’t been out to see her, as yet.

b) I hadn’t been to Montreal since I was about 13 years old, and even then it was only for a few hours, en route to Quebec City.

c) She doesn’t have an internet connection at home, and seriously bummed and confused by the events of last week, I needed a serious break from all the Alizée drama of last week. An Alizée-cation, if you will.
All-in-all, it was actually a pretty cool weekend. I got to see the sights, practice mon francais a little (leveling it up from Feeble to Awful in the process), eat too much, dance too much, and drink juuuuust enough. Not a bad way to spend three days.

Though I’d intended for it to be a completely Alizée-free weekend—even going so far as to create an Lili-free playlist on my iPod for the bus ride over—naturally this didn’t work out as planned. Being in a predominantly francophone city made it awfully difficult not to think about everybody’s favorite Corsican, especially when my sister asked how on Earth my French had gotten so good, all of the sudden, when I’d shown almost no interest in it in school. (“Good” being a relative term here, of course—I still can’t conjugate irregular verbs worth a damn, and verb tenses are completely beyond me.) By the end of my first afternoon there, I was surreptitiously checking out every music store we went into on Rue St. Catherine (the main shopping drag downtown) to see if I could find some of Lili’s albums, and maybe “position” them a little better for greater visibility.

It turned out to be for naught—I’ve had better luck finding Lili’s albums in the wild in Toronto, sad as that is to say—but all the same, so much for the Alizée-cation. By the time we got ready to go out that night, I was all excited to request a song or two from Psychédélices (even going so far as to bring my iPod along in case the DJ didn’t have the album handy), only to discover that none of the clubs we went to were actively playing francophone music. I begin to see why she doesn’t have any fans in Montreal—all they apparently play out there is American Top 40. Arrgh.

As we headed back to my sister’s place, I began inwardly cursing the fact that I hadn’t brought any disques with me to slip the DJs and show them what they were missing…and the thought made me give my head a shake. I’d decided to be done with all that, at least for awhile…hadn’t I?

As it turned out, I actually had brought a few disques with me, albeit unintentionally: repacking my bag for the trip home this morning, I discovered three ‘undropped’ disques hiding in the bottom…probably ‘reclaimed’ disques from the Fan Expo op that I’d tucked into the wrong compartment. As I got into the taxi, I idly wondered if I should try dropping them at the bus terminal, but came to my senses and remembered that would be a pretty good way to get myself arrested on suspected terrorism charges in this day and age. (I did leave one hidden in my sister’s DVD collection, though more because I think it’ll freak her out than out of any genuine belief that it’ll convert her into a Lili-fan.)

Completely giving up on whole Lili-embargo thing, I listened to En Concert and Psychédélices on repeat on the bus ride home as I played Iron Man on my PSP, until my iPod’s battery finally gave up somewhere around Guelph. Tiring of the game (which is sadly only so-so) and needing some tunage to get me through the last four hours of the trip, I checked out what I had loaded on the PSP’s memory card, and was pleasantly surprised to find the rip of the En Concert DVD still there from my very first op drop back in July. I settled back into my seat to watch that, instead…only to notice, about an hour in, that the kid in the seat behind me—dressed in skater-punk-chic—was occasionally leaning forward to watch over my shoulder.

Clearly embarrassed that I’d caught him, he stammered out an excuse that he hadn’t known PSPs could play movies, and was now thinking of getting one for his regular trips back and forth between home and school. We struck up a converstation as I showed him some of the features and explained how you could rip DVDs and FLV files to the PSP to watch on the go, as well as mp3s. He asked if he could test-drive it, so I let him borrow it for the rest of the trip home. He fooled around with the game for maybe ten minutes or so at most (like I said…only so-so), and asked if I had Madden or NBA Street (which I do not) before finally switching over to En Concert.

“Hey!” he said, about two minues in. “She’s singing in French?”

“Yeah…” I said somewhat hesitantly. “She’s done some stuff in English—a few of the mp3s on there are English versions, but’s it’s mainly French, yeah.”

He blinked, then shrugged. “Cool.”

And with that, he sat back and watched the whole thing, with his eyes glued to the screen from beginning to end. And although I made a point of trying not to study him like a tagged water buffalo in the wild on Animal Planet, I did manage to catch him bobbing his head in time to the music, and even snickering at points. Once En Concert was done, he leaned forward to nudge my shoulder.

“You got any more videos?” he asked.

“Not on the PSP, no.”

“Oh,” he said disappointedly as he handed it back over. “Thanks, man.”

“No problem,” I said. “Here, have this.”

“What’s this?”

“It’s a DVD I made,” I explained, as I handed him one of the Mark IV disques I had left over. “More videos. Like, an hour’s worth.”

“Oh, cool,” he said as he took it from me, then flipped it over to read the label on the back, and frowned. “You hand these out? Do you work for her, or something?”

“Kind of,” I shrugged. “Not really. It’s just a thing I do…that some of her fans are doing to make her more well-known over here…grow the fanbase a bit, y’know?”

“Oh, so she’s not Canadian? I thought she was from Quebec or something…with you coming from Montreal and everything…”

“Nono, French…like, from France. Well, Corsica actu—”

“Oh, that sucks,” he cut me off with a sigh, and I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe he was hoping I could set them up, or something. “Well, I can show it to some friends…”

“That’d be awesome. Do any of them play WoW?”

He frowned again. “Yeah, I think so. Why?”

“Show them the fourth one first. It’ll blow their minds, if they haven’t seen it already.”

“Cool,” he said again, then tucked the disque into his backpack. “Thanks.”

We pulled into the bus terminal in Toronto about fifteen minutes later, so we really didn’t get a chance to talk again except to nod our good-byes. Stupidly, I never thought to ask his name, or give him mine, and I completely neglected to point out the website address…but it’s all over the labels and the title screens of the DVD, so hopefully he’ll drop by at some point, and let me know what he and his friends thought.

And that’s the story about how, thanks to a random encounter on a bus on Thanksgiving Day, Op Drop managed to get its groove back.

All it needs is a snowman voiced by Burl Ives, and I think it'll be ready for prime time.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Where do we go from here?

I had a long and fairly verbose post worked up about the continuing fallout of yesterday’s announcement, and how the last twenty-four hours have affected Alizée’s international community of fans. Halfway through, I realized I was just regurgitating things that had already been better-said by others elsewhere, and trying to frame them with a completely unnecessary rundown of the events that led us here…which, if you’re an Alizée fan reading this, you’re probably already well aware of.

To sum up in as few words as possible, then: things are, unsurprisingly, pretty much a mess. Fans are turning on Alizée. Fans are turning on each other. Baseless speculation over the true reason behind the postponement is running rampant. Whatever small amount of momentum we may have built up here in North America appears to have been dashed, at least for now, as a number of previously-stalwart fans have been left questioning why they’re investing so much, when they’re getting so little in return. Cooler heads are attempting to prevail here and there, counseling calm and patience until we receive some kind of explanation from Alizée herself…but twenty-four hours later, she remains silent on the subject, while posts even remotely critical of the decision continue to disappear from her official MySpace…which is only serving to feed the cycle of anger and recrimination.

In short, it ain’t pretty.

In light of all this, I’ve spent a good portion of the day wondering about the future of Operation: Disque Drop. I’ve been going back and forth all day on whether or not I ought to hang it up, or at least suspend it for the time being. Not out of malice or anger towards Alizée, mind you…far from it…but just because now is clearly not the right time to be trying to lure new North American fans into fold, not with the community in the state it’s in at the moment. Though the quixotic in me is howling that, now more than ever, it’s important to stand up and be counted…that times like these are what make ordinary men into heroes, just because they staunchly refuse to give up in the face of adversity and find a way to persevere …I can’t deny the fact that the problems we’re facing aren’t going to be solved by throwing more fans at them.

(Or maybe…are they? If low ticket sales are truly the culprit behind the sudden rescheduling…maybe? I dunno…there’s so much that’s not clear, right now.)

I still want to help Alizée to succeed in some way, very much so. I’m just not convinced that putting CDs or DVDs into the hands of random strangers is the best way to do it, right now…and I’m at a complete loss as to what else I can do.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I heard the news today, oh boy...

'Nuff Said...

So yesterday’s post was kicked off with an allusion to the old Chinese proverb ‘May you live in interesting times’. More of an actual curse than a blessing, it’s essentially ancient wisdom’s equivalent to the more contemporary ‘Go to hell!’, with the clear implication being that ‘uninteresting times’ are bound to be far more peaceful and life-enriching.

Continuing in that vein, it’s certainly an interesting time to be an Alizée fan…and probably even more interesting to be Alizée, herself. I haven’t been around very long, myself, but from what I’ve seen of the dizzying highs and disparaging lows of the last year, it must make the four years of near-total radio silence that preceded it seem positively tranquil by comparison.

Hell, just the last month alone has been an emotional roller coaster, as we:
  • launched ourselves into a dizzying spin of voting and promotion for her nomination at Los Premios MTV 2008
  • threw our arms in the air with abandon (and a little trepidation) as information began to surface about Alizée’s work on her forthcoming jazz album…wait, jazz album?
  • were plummeted back to earth as the story about the jazz album proved to be false, or at least incorrect, inasmuch as it referred to an altogether different—and quite male, thank you—Alizé, entirely
  • began to pick up steam again as more award nominations were announced, and the date for her highly-anticipated concert at Le Grand Rex on October 23rd—Alizée’s first concert in France in almost five years—grew ever closer
  • trembled a little as apparent glitches on Le Grand Rex's website gave way to rumors that the aforementioned concert was actually in danger of being canceled or postponed until the spring due to low ticket sales
  • soldiered on in the face of uncertainty, operating on the assumption that no official word on the subject could only be good news, and busied ourselves making plans, whether we were going or not
  • were dropped into free-fall as word began to trickle out little by little that tickets were no longer up for sale, and that the concert was actually being postponed due to a scheduling conflict with an appearance with an upcoming awards show in Mexico
  • left our stomachs behind as the news was confirmed, with retailers offering ticket refunds to those who wouldn’t be able to attend the rescheduled date of March 28…a mere three weeks before the initial scheduled date of October 23rd; and
  • finally hit the ground with a resounding thud, as the date for the upcoming show was changed—quietly, and without fanfare or explanation—on Alizée’s official MySpace page.

In short, Space Mountain ain’t got nothin’ on being an Alizée fan right now.

I’m not one of those directly affected by the decision to postpone—though I might have been, if a lengthy and unexpected bout of unemployment in July and August hadn’t precluded it, and might still be if the stars align for me between now and the end of March—so I don’t really feel like I have the right to sit in judgement of it, or the logic behind it, either way. Instead, I’ve watched quietly from the sidelines as word got around, and other fans began to react.

Some have reacted with disgust, anger and bitter disappointment, claiming that Lili and her minders have gone too far this time in their disregard for her fans—particularly those still on the hook for international flights and expensive accommodation arrangements—with a few going so far as claiming to have washed their hands of her for good. Others, though equally disappointed, have responded mainly with worry and concern, both for the well being of Alizée herself and that of her career, and are vowing to hang tough with her and remain true fans through the hard times. And at least one fan, whose opinion I’ve come to respect, has effectively shrugged and written the whole thing off as ‘Alizée being Alizée’

Two points everyone seems to agree on, though: first, that an awards ceremony seems like a pretty flimsy excuse to hang the postponement on, leading to speculation of another, possibly more sinister reason behind it; and second, that they’d really, really like to hear something by way of an explanation from Lili herself.

Perfectly valid and understandable reactions, all. Can’t come down against any of them, really, especially when I kind of tend to agree with all of them at the same time…but then, I said I wasn’t going to pass judgement.

Two things about today really did bum me out, though, more than anything else...

The first was reading a heartfelt post from Jenny (aka HR087) on Alizée’s MySpace expressing her heartbreak and confusion over the decision, yet reaffirming her undying support for Lili no matter what…and then coming back a few hours later for an update, and seeing that poor Jenny’s post had been deleted, along with several similar posts from other fans expressing their frustration. Now, I don’t know Jenny personally, but from the posts she’s made on MySpace and Alizée-Forum, it’s clear to me that she’s a) the sweetest, most enthusiastic Alizée fan that German engineering has to offer, and b) has been eagerly anticipating the concert for the past several months. (Her MySpace avatar is a picture of her gleefully displaying her tickets, for crimminy’s sake!) Seeing her post deleted like it never happened, in what I can only assume was an attempt at damage control…ugh. Just ugh. So very disdainful of her feelings—and the feelings of the other fans whose posts were expunged, of course, but hers in particular—that it breaks the heart.

And then there was this post on the Alizée America forums from Snatcher42, he of Operation: LTNY whom first inspired me to begin this mad crusade of mine, in emulation and support of his own:

Regardless it's a terrible excuse, none are right on the 23rd. I'm sure low ticket sales are the real reason. Can't say how sick it makes me feel. I'm speechless, and really don't feel like spending more energy on her. I'll always be around, but with news like this...

It's just not worth going out of one's way to promote or do Alizée things anymore when we get so little in return. I won't point fingers, it doesn't matter who's at fault, that's just how it is. I'm out $1500 on this trip, but worse still is the wasted time and effort.

Man…when words like this come from the keyboard of a fan as dedicated as Snatcher, it heralds interesting times, indeed. Let's hope that Alizée proves to be up to weathering them.

(OK, that went on a lot longer than I intended…but I guess I had a lot more to say on the subject than I thought. If you feel similarly moved to say a little bit yourself—especially if you’re one of those who’s been shut out from expressing yourself via Alizée’s MySpace—please feel free to comment below. All viewpoints are welcome here—angry, supportive, neutral, whatever—so please don’t hold back. Just try not to belittle somebody else’s, alright? Let's keep it friendly.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Alizée, Petula Clark, and the Impossible Dream

Well, that was certainly an interesting week…in the Chinese proverbial sense of the word…

My apologies for having been so suddenly absent, Op Drop fans, but real life caught up with me in a big way in the first week of October, leaving precious little time for blogging, disque-dropping, and even less vital activities such as sleeping and eating. Not only have things started to ramp up at the brand-new job, but my cousin’s wedding caused a truly impressive number of distant relations from abroad to descend on the city like good-natured locusts. Life since the wedding has been a non-stop whirlwind of busy workdays and even busier weeknights spent entertaining strange visitors from afar.

Finally, though, the last of them has been bundled off to the airport—and are probably somewhere over the prairies even as I write this—and life can finally get back to what passes for normal around Casa Disque Drop. A few days too late, sadly…the unexpected abundance of family gatherings completely put the kibosh on my plans for another massive Op Drop at this year’s Nuit Blanche citywide art festival, as I simply had no time to prepare. But on the bright side, playing tour guide for a week opened my eyes to a few more potential targets for future ops that I’d previously overlooked.

I also made the unexpected discovery that I’m actually carrying on a family tradition of sorts, as it came up in conversation that my oldest uncle headed up the Toronto chapter of the Petula Clark fan club in his late teens and early twenties. Though my mom and aunts brought it up at the wedding simply to embarrass him in front of his wife (who was naturally unawares), I cornered him at the bar a couple hours later, and began peppering him with questions about it. How had they operated? How many members did he have? What kind of promotion did they do? Did they actively try to convert non-fans, and if so, how did they overcome the cultural and language barriers?

“You do know that Petula Clark sang in English, right?” he asked.

“Uh, yeah…but, hypothetically speaking, how would you have overcome them?”

“You’re strangely interested in this,” he observed, bemused. “Are you a Petula Clark fan?”

“Nonono,” I stammered. I looked back over each of my shoulders, then leaned forward conspiratorially. “I’m, um…well, I’ve been doing this thing…”

And that was how I took him into my confidence, revealed my secret identity, and proceeded to spend the next twenty minutes telling my fifty-seven year-old uncle all about Alizée and Operation: Disque Drop. He was pretty obviously amused by the idea, but surprisingly impressed as well. And when I was done explaining myself, he said something that really struck me.

“What you’re doing is quite literally quixotic, in the truest sense of the word. You’re tilting at even bigger windmills than I did…at least Petula already had a hit single and a following, here.”

I must have had a strange look on my face, because he paused and frowned. “Sorry, do you not know what ‘quixotic’ means?”

Boy, did I. Don Quixote has always been a personal hero of mine, moreso even than Batman or Iron Man, who up until now have been the patron saints of Op Drop. Like them, Don Quixote was just an ordinary man—and an old man, at that—who nevertheless took it upon himself to don a suit of armor and begin a one-man crusade against an apathetic populace, like one of the chivalric knights of old. And in his case, it was all done in the name of an unattainable beauty, the Lady Dulcinea del Toboso.

I’d never drawn the comparison before, but you have to admit, it kinda fits.

My uncle made me promise to burn a disque for him before he left. I handed it to him right before he got on the plane, and he promised to watch it on his laptop on the flight back to Vancouver. Somewhere over the prairies, I suspect he’s being converted into a Lili-fan even as I write this…which would be cool, as he’s somebody who really “gets it”, y’know?

It’s not the hundred disques I was hoping to get dropped at Nuit Blanche, but I think I’ll chalk one up in the ‘win’ column all the same.

Take that, Petula Clark!