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Wednesday, August 31, 2005

There Will Be No Points For Prescience
The most significant news contained in this story is not that two Ottawa radio stations have decided to pull New Orleans Is Sinking from their respective playlists, but that 16 years after it was released, the song is still being played two or three times a week.

Of course while radio station programmers are ever so sensitive to the larger issues in our society and quick to act in the best interests of the greater good, the actual people on the ground have no problem referencing the Hip classic as their city washes away (scroll down to 13th graph).

Update.We're not going to regularly link to music-related Katrina coverage (99% of it being completely irrelevant), but, further to the ongoing discussion here, it's worth noting that in the apparent absence of leadership, Harry Connick Jr. has taken charge. Read that last part again.

Also: Celine Dion is donating a million bucks to the relief effort.

And this seems a rather necessary read.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Several Things That Have Nothing To Do With Major League Baseball. At Least So Far As We Know.
In no particular order.

Shawn Desman's video for Red Hair. Though we generally give the music industry very little credit, it boggles the mind that such an unironic, profoundly awful bit of promotion is even possible. From conception to production to delivery there had to have been at least a dozen people who had the power to say stop. To question the director's vision. To ask whether the shot where Shawn looks into the camera and expresses befuddlement was a bit much. To wonder whether it was necessary to have Shawn do that at least twice. And yet, there it is. Arguably the worst music video of the decade. It isn't even good bad. Or sexy bad. Just bad. Which is too bad. Because we're all going to end up regretting it in 20 years.
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The least relevant Hurricance Katrina story.
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Suge Knight's nearly insurmountable lead in the race to win the first annual PopWherry Gangsta of the Year award. If you look closely at the photo in that story you will see that Suge has, while being loaded into a waiting ambulance, pulled out his cellphone to make a quick call. Dude has business to take care of and he ain't going to let a little shooting disrupt his schedule. In fact, he was probably calling the shooter to arrange a time for the payback. (Suge almost has to have a reality show by fall 2006 now, no? Probably an Apprentice spin-off.)
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Optimus Crime finds Suge's shooter.
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FeFe Dobson, in her new bio, discusses a meeting with Courtney Love: "I had this really great moment where she invited me over to her rehearsal space, and she was like, 'Fefe, what we need is women to stand up and not take any fucking shit,' and at first I was like, 'Okayyy,' but then I was listening to her, and I was like, 'Hell yeah, I should celebrate that I have tits and that guys bow down to us because we’re powerful.' I really took that and ran with it."

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Class, If You Will Turn To Page 206 In Your Anthology Of Early 21st Century Canadian Literature, We Will Now Consider The First Stanza Of This Piece, Entitled Photograph, Published In The Summer Of 2005 By Popular Populist Poet Chad Kroeger
Ahem.

Look at this photograph
Every time I do it makes me laugh
How did our eyes get so red?
And what the hell is on Joey's head?


Indeed what the "hell" is on Joey's head? Why is it there? How did it get there? Is it the cause of the speaker's red eyes? Is he laughing out of glee? Shame? Or perhaps spite? And why has the writer chosen to speak so specifically of a picture no one but he can see?

Ultimately what the reader is forced to ask himself or herself is this: Who is Joey? Why has the writer chosen to bestow such significance upon him? And is it suggested here that there's a little Joey inside each of us?

For homework, please consider all of these questions in relation to the time of Photograph's publication - making sure to consider the greater paranoia wrought by international terrorism, his native country's never-ending search for identity, the slow erosion of small communities in an increasingly urban global village and the ubiquitous of digital photographic technology?
99 Problems
While it must be noted that the woman behind the complaint is all-too-well-versed in these matters, Bell Mobility's ill-fated attempt to pimp its ride is a brilliant study in the endearing goofiness of capitalism, pop culture, serious journalism and, of course, pimps ("Mack is slang for pimp or, in verb form, means to seduce or have sex with.").

Also: the possibility of the Ontario Human Rights Commission putting, essentially, all of hip-hop on trial is at least somewhat interesting.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Transformationed
After much consideration this sorta reminds us of interviewing candidates for student council president in university who when asked to identify their biggest weakness would explain that sometimes they "just cared too much."

Anyway.

Predictions are for those in need of in desperate need of the public's attention, namely psychics and sportswriters. But here goes. By spring there will be a prime-time, soft-focus television interview in which Eminem will discuss his quote-unquote struggle with insomnia, his quote-unquote inability to cope with sudden fame and, of course, his quote-unquote daughter. While never apologizing for or admitting to past indiscretions, he will make some concession of previous tomfoolery and general nuisance. When presented with a list of his alleged offences (homophobia, misogyny, violence, repeatedly wearing white after Labour Day, taking hand puppets far too seriously), he will say something like: "I don't regret anything. I don't believe regret accomplishes anything. It only holds you back. But there are certainly some things I wouldn't do now. Like in any way enabling the various careers of D12. My bad." He might not mean any of it.

Soon thereafter he will release a new record, probably titled something like Marshall Mathers Unplugged. Or The Comeback. Or maybe Keepin' It Real. While hardly mature, it will be hailed as showcasing a "more introspective" and "sensitive" Eminem. He will "have something to say and now know how to say it." It will express outrage at the Supreme Court confirmation of John Roberts. And, more succinctly than any critic had previously managed, skewer Ashton Kutcher (years on, this will be conveniently cited as the beginning of the end for Kutcher, subsequently leading to a divorce from Demi, a back alley pummeling from Bruce Willis and ultimately arrest as what police term 'The Beverly Hills Perv' for a series of peeping tom incidents involving aging Hollywood starlets).

Critics, especially those who hate hip-hop, will love it. And it will probably be the first hip-hop record white adults between the ages of 35-50 will admit to listening to unironically. Mariah Carey will sing the hook on at least one track. John Mayer will produce a secret hidden song - an acoustic track in which Em apologizes to all of the fathers whose celebrity daughters he has expressed a desire to hump. He will probably not mean any of it.

(Even if all that doesn't happen, we're reasonably sure that Eminem will soon pass Madonna for fifth-place on the all-time list of the biggest names in the history of popular music. The other four being, in order: 1. Elvis Presley. 2. Bob Dylan. 3. The Beatles. 4. Michael Jackson.)

(Seventh place, by the way, belongs to Mandy Moore. Obviously.)

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Bigger. Bolder. Easier To Read.
Driving through the mountains of southern Alaska the other day, we came to two conclusions about British rock band The Charlatans.

One, the first four tracks of Wonderland comprise arguably the most unintentionally-insane insane stretches of rock music recorded in the last 15 years.

And two, the Charlatans are arguably the most inconsequential band of any consequence (defined here as "having released three or more albums of some note") that we can think of right now.

This is not to say we don't like the Charlatans. We don't love them. But we have been known to pass some time with the two of their records we own (though this should also indicate that we cannot claim an intimate knowledge of their history and accomplishment). In fact there was probably a time in university when we listened to them quite often.

We just can't think of anything that ever came of them. What exactly did the Charlatans do? Who did they inspire? What matter of importance did they ever represent? What moment in time did they ever crystallize?

Yes, sure, they were rather popular in Britain and were variously part of several scenes and movements over there. But without even trying you could probably name 15 other bands from the same period who were obviously more "important." If it came right down to it, we'd even say that Bush meant more. Because at least they had Gavin. And he was pretty. And would go on to become the only man to our knowledge to have both won Gwen Stefani's hand in marriage and worked with the Blue Man Group.

The Charlatans certainly existed as more than nothing, but what did they matter? Maybe it's the altitude or the distinct lack of cable television, but we can think of no band in recent memory who were around long enough but mattered less.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

In The Absence Of Television I Find Myself Staring Out The Window Waiting For Something To Happen
(We were going to bring this up before we left, but never got around to it. There are several iPod-assisted revelations from the road to pass along, but would be remiss if we didn't get this out of the way first. This probably isn't a fully formed thought. And has been performed without the use of spellcheck.)

This is not a spirited defence of Celine Dion. We don't particularly enjoy Celine Dion. We are not trying to be contrarian. We will not suggest here that her work be reconsidered. She is not under-appreciated. Or misunderstood. She's just not evil.

It is probably an indisputable fact that many, many people hate Celine Dion. By "people," we mean "those who consider themselves to have so-called 'taste' in music." And by "hate," we mean "the emotion normally reserved for profoundly awful things that do offend us or hurt us in some great way. (like, say, for instance, the continued success of the guy from American Pie who's now in the Dukes of Hazzard movie)."

An informal survey of pop music shows it to be a world full of former drug dealers, alleged murderers, misogynists, racists, sexists, accused child molesters and several people who have probably used various methods to escape federal tax laws. Some probably don't tip very well in restaurants. A couple have probably been mean to a small dog or two. But none of these people inspire the univeral disdain which generally greets the mention of Celine Dion.

As best we can figure, this is because it is a lot easier to hate Celine Dion. Hating Celine Dion can be done without having to think about drug dealers or misogyny or the complicated theories behind the taxation of society's wealthiest five per cent. It can be done, really, without actually thinking about anything. Hating Celine Dion is the equivalent of not wanting anchovies on your pizza. When was the last time you were in the presence of anyone who ordered anchovies on a pizza? Seemingly everyone is in agreement that anchovies are no good on pizza. There need not be any discussion of this fact. Indeed, most pizza places probably don't even offer it as an option anymore. It is the default position. Anchovies are to unliked pizza toppings as Celine Dion is to crap music.

The hole in this theory is System of a Down. We would wager that System of a Down is immeasurably worse to listen to than Celine Dion. And yet, not nearly so despised.

Ask yourself this: If you had to listen to either Celine Dion or System of a Down, constantly, at a high volume, for a full 24 hours, which would you choose? No one would pick System of a Down. If they say they would, they're lying. Because they think it impresses their friends. Or because they think System of a Down have something to say. And are therefore "important."

If that doesn't convince you, adjust the question slightly: which would most likely be used by your government to torture its enemies? On the hundredth listen My Heart Will Go On might be rather annoying, but it ain't going to break the insurgency in Iraq, kids.

The difference, of course, is that people actually listen to Celine Dion. Not anyone here of course. But other people. People who lack taste. People who don't know any better.

Essentially, no one could ever hate System of a Down the way they hate Celine Dion because not enough people love System of a Down the way so many people love Celine Dion. That popularity requires an equally fervent hate (like, perhaps, Wal-Mart). Something that's all the easier when hating Celine Dion requires very little consideration of genuine awfulness.

All of which possibly begs the question: Are the people who hate Celine Dion actually putting less thought into the matter than those who love Celine Dion (the lovers generally assumed, by the haters, to be of lesser taste, if not intellect)?

(The only other complaint that can be made, especially in Canada, is that Celine Dion is, well, Canadian. This is also basically the root cause of any anger directed at the Tragically Hip. Which is probably ironic. At least when one considers all the people at Live 8, many of whom were probably there to see said Hip, who booed Celine Dion's pseudo-appearance.)
Payola Works.
Stopping in Cache Creek, British Columbia (several hours northeast of Vancouver) for gas a couple days ago, we found the station attendant listening to Franz Ferdinand's Burn This City on the radio. So there.

(We're currently touring Canada's left coast on vacation. If it wasn't dark outside we'd tell you we could see mountains from where we sit right now. Nonetheless, this should explain a) why we haven't been around here much lately and b) why we found ourselves in Cache Creek. Anyway. Remind us to tell you about the motel in Lac La Hache that had an autographed picture of Lisa Brokop behind the counter and the roadside store that advertised prominently both icey drinks and Brooks & Dunn t-shirts. For those keeping score at home, we are currently here. We will spend most of the next two days here.)

Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Willie Nelson, The World's Premier (If Only) Redneck Hippie
This exchange, in sequence, appears in the current issue of Spin:

Spin: Tell us one of the jokes that's not going to make it into the movie.
Nelson: I was riding in a car with Johnny Knoxville who was driving real fast while we were being chased by policemen, and I had a big case of Molotov cocktails made of moonshine. I'd light a fuse, and once it started burning good, I'd throw it out the window at the police guys. So I lit one - are you sure you want to hear this?

Spin: Out with it, Willie.
Nelson: I said to Johnny, "You know how a blonde is like a tornado?" He said no. And I said, "At first there's all this blowing and sucking, and then you lose your house."

Spin: Do you have any good jokes you can tell us about your new fuel, Willie Nelson's Biodiesel?
Nelson: Well, seriously, biodiesel is an opportunity to completely relieve us of our dependence on foreign energy, and there's a lot of different things farmers can grow for fuel. The original diesel engine was designed to run on peanut oil. I once drove in a hempmobile with [the Reform Party's] Gatewood Galbraith, who was running for governor. We put hemp oil in the gas tank of a Cadillac and drove it across Kentucky.

(And scene.)

(Come to think of it, the only real difference between Willie Nelson and Bill Clinton is that Willie inhaled. Deeply. And repeatedly. Every day. Over a number of years.)

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