Day of Reckoning

So today I:

Stood in line for a foodie documentary, but didn’t get in.

Undeterred, I chose to placate said nutri-instincts and went for Thai food in the Annex.

Then, I went with the wife to go buy an overpriced purse (for her, not me [not that there’s anything wrong with that]).

Following this, we walked to Kensington Market and sought out a small, independent latin grocery store, a bodega of sorts, in search of kind-of-cool-sorta-indie, underground chili peppers that you’ve probably never heard of.

Mission accomplished, we celebrated our victory with some locally-made, sustainable fruit-filled pie. Raspberry Peach.

After leaving the left-wing, eco-friendly sector, we went to Urban Outfitters, but found nothing to spend our trust-fund monies on. Your finances remain intact for another day, papa.

Then, I had a Starbucks. Yes, I consumed a corporation, not just a drink.

To cap things off, I went to another documentary which was the story of a group of Brooklynites trying to fight big business and city hall to save their block(s) from demolition and unjust corporate appropriation. Snide remarks aside, it was really fucking good.

I feel like over this 24 hr period, I’ve lived the early-twenties, just-out-of-university-with-no-job lifestyle, just a few years removed from being age-appropriate. Funnily enough, it wasn’t until I arrived home and contemplated my day that I started to hate myself. For the most part, today was still a good day.

Thank you Toronto. Thank you for turning me into the people I hate, and yearn to ignore on the street.

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Tonight, I’m playing my 1002nd Solo Show…

So, Frank Turner’s 1002nd show has come and gone, and it couldn’t have been better.

To a packed El Mocambo crowd, Frank Turner played all the songs you’d want to hear, plus the gem above. As a second-to-last song, it came out of left field (I was expecting to hear Propagandhi’s the State Lottery as the obligatory can-con cover) and was a stellar way to close out the night. Of course, he finished with Ballad of Me and My Friends, but his cover of the Weakerthans’ Aside was far and away the best tune of the night. Colour me glad, that was a real hum-dinger of a good time. He did throw in a great deal of songs you’d expect (Photosynthesis, Long Live the Queen, Love, Ire, and Song, The Road, Jet Lag, I Still Believe), but it’s far too late to dive into anything more than a glancing touch on the setlist. The Weakerthans cover made my night, without a doubt.

Beyond words, if you weren’t there, suffice to say it was a perfect sing-along night with perfect company.

Tonight, I’m playing my 1001st Solo Show…

Just got back from what turned out to be Frank Turner’s 1001st show.

It was a small gig with low-attendance but big fun.

The opening band that I was able to catch, the Box Tiger, did an admirable job warming up the few in attendance, bringing a touch of driving indie rock to the night.

Following them, Frank came out and gave a relatively short, slow paced, “b-side” filled set. That’s not to say that it was poor, it’s just the crowd was not singing along at every turn as is a common sight at any FT show. Jet lag could be to blame for the more timid pacing of the set, and the song selection was largely based on the fact that he’s got a headlining gig booked for Tuesday night, but that doesn’t mean it was all obscure tracks and new numbers. Crowd favourites like The Ballad of Me and My Friends and The Road made appearances, as well as Try This At Home and Substitute.

Overall, it was a small, intimate, stripped-down treat, nearly devoid of his usual stage banter, but still delivered with a fiery passion that many have come to expect from what would just be another Frank Turner show. I have incredibly high expectations for Tuesday, and simply cannot wait for doors.

Harper, Keep Your Hands Free From That Subsidy.

Stephen Harper is this election’s Rob Ford. He’s way ahead in the polls, widely despised by those who see themselves as “logical” or “practitioners of common sense”, and he’s promising a healthy mix of boneheaded reforms and handouts to the citizenry. The most sensational of which, has been the recent promise of an adult physical activity credit. While this is interesting in itself, the more important promise that seems to have been quickly overlooked is one which concerns all parties and all voters. I’m talking about his promise to eliminate per-vote subsidies (if the Conservative Government wins a majority of Parliamentary seats).

The main issue with this is, quite obviously, that the elimination of this subsidy means less funding for all political parties. This may not necessarily have a significant impact on parties with strong and well-developed fundraising infrastructures like that of the Liberals or Tories, but it would most certainly take a significant toll on smaller parties, especially those who do not have seats in parliament, (as if Elizabeth May didn’t have enough problems at the moment). Those who vote NDP or Green (or other parties which gathered 2%+ of the popular vote) often take comfort in the fact that even though their candidate may not have won, their vote still helped to fund/support the party. Under Harper’s proposal, these losing votes would essentially mean nothing, have no impact, and be little more than a statistic in Elections Canada’s reports.

The secondary issue is that it would mean that there is a significant financial hurdle for any small or grassroots party looking to compete in the “big leagues”. Without these subsidies, it becomes extremely difficult for any developing party to mount consecutive election campaigns. Certainly, it doesn’t make it impossible, but it does suggest that should this subsidy abolition ever pass, the face of Canadian politics would change dramatically. We would essentially become a three party system, with nearly no hope for expansion or growth. Parties will have to turn to new sources of capital, which may mean that wealthy individuals or corporations may find themselves increasingly involved in Canada’s political process. I think Layton said it best when he asked, “do we want to go back to the days where money, and those who can finance campaigns, determine the nature of our democracy?”

With all this worry and serious concern, why is it, you may ask, that Harper thinks this is a good idea? Simply put, he thinks this is an easy way to cut down on the number of elections that are called. The theory is that because of these subsidies, the “main” parties always have a war chest of funding “ready to go”, and as a result, could theoretically run a campaign at any time. There are periods of fundraising, sure, but financial accounts are always being replenished by these subsidies, making an election always a lurking possibility. For those who think that Harper’s been doing a good job, this may seem like sensible thinking. For those of us who think before we speak, we quickly point out that there are a great many reasons why elections are called, and this reasoning generally does not appear amongst them.

It’s obvious that Harper is planning for the future. Quite a few of his promises thus far are contingent on things like the Conservatives winning a majority of parliamentary seats, or the promises not being honoured until several years have passed. He is doing his best to create a platform that, if successful, will gut the financial infrastructure of his opponents, and he is doing this by promising things to voters that he will not have to make good on until the end of his term (should he and his party win). It is my hope that voters see past this smoke and mirrors approach to politics, and instead see the sticks that are being obscured by carrots of fitness credits and cool new fighter jets.

In the meantime, I urge you to try and stay aware of what’s going on with this election. With new promises and controversies emerging every day, it’s easy for the subsidy-axing to get lost in the shuffle. Don’t worry about your immediate personal gains, and focus on the issues and promises that have far-reaching long-term impacts for the country as a whole. Just don’t lose sight of the fact that you’re voting locally. You’re voting for the party leader, sure, but it’s indirectly that you cast your vote for them. At the end of the day, you’re voting for the candidate best represents your riding in Parliament. The party leaders matter, but it’s your local MP that ensures you voice is heard. Ignatieff may not have come back for you, but he’s got a whole mess of party members that did (as do all the other parties).

Oh, and read this: The Canadian Nixon. It’s a silly title, but the content itself is likely to open some eyes. On that Alex Jones-esque point, I bid you good night, and good reading.

Are Canadian Universities The Problem, Or Is There More To It?

There’s a reason people place a high value on getting a university degree, and that seems to elude the Globe and Mail’s Margaret Wente. In her latest column, she blasts Canadian universities for having weak admission thresholds, for being uninteresting to students, and for inadvertently watering down the significance of earning a degree. In lieu of treating university like a right of passage, Wente argues that instead we should advocate for a wider acceptance and enrollment in vocational or college-level programs, teaching real-world skillsets and which, according to Wente, have a greater chance of resisting outsourcing and have a better prospect of employment after graduation. I’m not so sure it’s quite as simple as Wente makes it out to be.

Where is the accountability for governmental policies which resulted in the “dumbing down” of programs to allow for increasing levels of graduates to meet an employment demand they knew very well did not exist?

Where is the consideration for families who push their children into particular academic/career paths regardless of the individual student’s desire or motivation?

Where in the article does she address the fact that vocational and college-level education is widely discriminated against as being of a lesser quality or standard than university level programs?

There is a great deal more to this issue than the tired and predictable comment of “having a bachelor’s degree is no longer enough.” Yes, globalization inadvertently pits all graduate students against each other in a global perspective, but again, this a relatively simplistic view to hold.

The fact is, as time goes on, and more and more people obtain the credentials that employers look for, eventually the job market will become saturated, those credentials will become compulsory, and students will need something new to set themselves apart. We are nearly at that point with Bachelor degrees, meaning students need work experience or more education to differentiate themselves from the rest of those in the job market. In fact, recently Minister of Finance Dwight Duncan stated that approximately 70% of future jobs will require some form of post-secondary education, which only seems to support the theory behind the undergraduate degree’s diminishing glamour.

Despite Wente’s missing much of the issue at hand and poorly veiled elitist Arts-bashing (I’ll have you know that I know plenty of folk with sociology degrees who have found work a hell of a lot faster than most other people I know), she does manage to get an interesting debate started. I don’t agree that the university system is fundamentally broken and that those looking for “guaranteed outsource-proof jobs” should go into hair colouring or become “decent plumbers”, but there is something to be said for vocational training and consideration of academic options outside of the university system. Perhaps we need only look toward our friendly distant cousins in Finland, to see that there is a place for vocational training between secondary school and post-secondary school. Actually, we should just copy Finland’s educational system in its entirety. If there’s interest, I’ll go into it later, but it works. Really, really well, and it would silence Wente’s criticisms, and I’d likely know more 2 or 3 languages at this point. One thing’s for sure, I believe that as long as students are pursuing education after high school, no matter what capacity or level, we all win.

The more I reread Wente’s article, the more I realize that she raises some valid criticisms of our university system. I can’t help but think that this is at its core, less something she feels passionately about, and more an attack on Ignatieff’s proposed tuition assistance program. Perhaps people like myself would better receive this article if it was published after May 2.

What do you think? Is the system broken? Who is at fault? Can it be salvaged, or should the unemployed graduates all just revert to working with their hands, since that may just be what they’ve always secretly wanted to do?

Bring Green on the Scene: Let May Into the Debates!

With the Federal election now in full swing, we as voters are being bombarded each day with a multitude of issues, promises, and new attack ads. By far the biggest, and most nonsensical issue of whether the Green Party should be allowed to participate in the upcoming debate between the major party leaders. On the surface, the issue seems like it resolves itself. In 2008’s Federal election, Green Party leader Elizabeth May faced an uphill, yet successful, campaign to be allowed to participate in the very same debate. While logic would dictate that she should be allowed to participate again, this does not seem to be the case. This raises two basic questions: why not, and what’s the worst that could happen?

Their initial justification is that because the Green Party has no seats in Parliament, they (along with all other parties with no seats) would not be permitted to participate in the debates. It sounds reasonable, but as they were allowed to participate in the debates in 2008, what has changed? Maybe it’s because they just don’t get many votes in the first place?

Wrong. According to Elections Canada, in the last Federal election, the Green Party garnered 937,613 votes. This means that they received the fifth most votes out of all participating parties in 2008. To give you an idea of where their numbers lie in terms of the parties directly above and below them in the rankings, the Bloc Quebecois occupied fourth place with 1,379,991 votes, and “Independent” candidates took sixth place with 89,387 votes. That’s right. The Bloc managed to amass only 400,000 more votes than the Greens (which is very few, considering how many seats they won, compared to the Green Party’s zero seats), while the Green Party managed to best their nest closest ranked “party” more than ten-fold. Granted, ours is not a system based upon proportional representation, so these factors wouldn’t make a difference in terms of parliamentary seat distribution, but as debates are far from an official extension of our democracy, surely we can use these numbers to determine who should and shouldn’t participate in the party leader debate.

What do these numbers tell us? Considering Elections Canada reports the number of votes actually cast in the last election was 13.9 million, it means that just under 1 in 14 voters in the last election felt their views and beliefs were best represented by Elizabeth May and their local Green Party-affiliated candidates. Granted, the voter turnout of last election failed to reach even 59%, but this still does not excuse the fact that a great deal of Canadians voted Green, and their omission from the leader debates conveys the notion that the political views and beliefs of almost 1 million Canadians (who actively participate in the democratic process of their country) do not deserve to have their party’s voice heard in high-profile political debates.

Now, I’m not suggesting that we should open the debates to each and every party who fields at least one candidate in the election, because if 2008’s party turnout is any indicator, we’d have over 20 parties represented in the debates. However, I do feel that we should try as often as possible to expand the number of parties represented at these debates, on a case-by-case basis, to reflect changing voting trends, party growth or decline, and just to better represent who the “major” parties are at a given point in time. It is in this vein and on the strength of the previously mentioned voting figures that I suggest the Green Party should be granted full participant status in any and all election debates. As a party, they have made great strides in terms of growth and gaining voter confidence, and they should be treated with the same distinction as any of the “seat-securing” parties. Yes, they haven’t won any seats in Parliament just yet, but surely “close” counts for something!

NOTE – If I can make one more PR-related comment, it’s this: if we were on a PR system, they’d have seats in parliament, and we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Think about that before you attempt to write-off the Greens. They may not have seats, but if the previous reform referendum had passed, they’d have several.

In the interest of transparency, I’ve never once even considered voting Green. I don’t see eye-to-eye with them on a lot of issues, but that doesn’t mean they are in any way illegitimate or deserving of being barred from the televised debates. Who decides who can and cannot be in the debates? Let the voters decide through their ballots, not through their ridings. Debates do not decide seats, they are merely a means of letting opposing parties battle it out intellectually, helping to inform viewers of the differences and similarities between the parties vying for their votes. Instead, these debates should be representative of how Canadians vote, not who wins. The debate helps to shape who wins, and should be representative of those vying for seats in Parliament, not necessarily those who are already there.

What do you think of the debate about debate participants? Is it a legitimate cause for discussion? Is it just a means of diverting attention from more important issues? Should we just flat-out refuse the Green Party taking part and uphold the regulations that barred them from participating in the first place? Surely this won’t be the last time we see a debate of this sort, and I’d like to hear your thoughts on expanding the debates to include rising/growing political parties, Green or otherwise.

The Junos: Better Than The Grammys, But That’s Not Saying Much

This past Sunday, the night came and went with the 40th annual presentation of the Junos. For those outside Canadian borders, they’re like the Grammys, but industry people care about them less and they’re generally awarded to artists you’ve never heard of. That is, until this year.

This year marked not only the fortieth iteration of the only true gala for Canadian musical accolades, but it also represented a true attempt at making the annual awards more relevant and appealing to younger demographics. After all, Justin Bieber was given a few awards, the Arcade Fire was on tap to win everything they were nominated for, Neil Young took everything else, and worldwide hiphop phenomenon Drake was playing host for the evening. Many in and around the music and entertainment industries were quick to label this year’s awards as “one for the record books”, drawing far too much significance from the fact that hip-hop took center stage with Drake taking the reins for the night.

One could make the argument that hip-hop, while certainly being recognized as popular and relevant to today, still has not enjoyed the acceptance and critical recognition it sorely deserves. While Drake’s hosting is somewhat significant in it being a “first”, it seemed less like a seized opportunity for hip-hop to be a feature of the junos, and more of a vessel for a (relatively tired and unfunny) rapping granny skit. Drake’s celebrity seemed to have been merely used as a tool to bring in viewers, and his unfunny hosting debut reflected this. As an aside, those of you who actually did watch the Junos, did it not seem like Drake had next to no airtime as “host”? It seemed to me that the unseen announcer had more words in the scripting than the “host”. It may be my mistake, but it sure seemed odd. On top of this, the Junos showed that their grasp of music which falls outside of the “non-white, non-old man, non-commercial” category is tenuous at best. The rap-related Junos were demoted to second-tier, unbroadcasted status, as were those for rock , jazz, world, and instrumental music, just to name a few. (Alan Cross does an excellent job summarizing and commenting on this gross miscalculation here) The only awards which fell outside of this category were those which covered a broad range of artists (artist/album of the year), and even then, Neil Young seemed to win the awards that the Arcade Fire didn’t.

That’s not to say it was all bad. Far from it. After all, any program which brings me stellar performances from the Arcade Fire, Broken Social Scene, an appearance by the Sadies, a could-be-better-but-was-still-pretty-good performance by Tokyo Police Club, and gives out a humanitarian award is okay in my books. As well, being true to our stereotypes, the program is much more reserved, classy, and generally more polite than it’s larger American cousin the Grammys. Aside from the elderly sketch, there were no oddball performances, no retina-burning costumes, and no incomprehensible usages of youth-slang. It was as much a patriotic reflection as it was a celebration of music, and it was done well. It was respectful in all the right places, emotional where appropriate (Shania’s acceptance), and again, had more than enough knockout performances to satisfy the most sneering of critics.

Yes, it was far better than the Grammys, but the awards still aren’t necessarily great. At 90 minutes, they’re a bit short for an awards show. They leave out major award categories from the primary telecast, and pander to the lowest common denominator to (hopefully) yield high levels of viewership. Whether they’re successful or not, they do so at a loss of their integrity. If they truly wanted to have these Junos mark a transition from “stuffy awards show” to “youth-centric musical celebration”, they would have had made more use of their star host, and most importantly, aired the awards for the music “the kids” listen to.

Will I watch again next year? Probably not. Unless of course they have another solid lineup of performances, since I only watched this year because of the Tokyo Police Club / Arcade Fire / Broken Social Scene trifecta.

What are your thoughts on the Junos? Do you care? Do they need to be retooled to bring in a younger or “cooler” audience, or is the entire concept of a Canadian Music Awards show too out of date to be salvaged?

Take A Hike, Bozo

The big news of today is the proposed increase in TTC fees. Well, not the full fares themselves, just the cost of purchasing tokens or tickets, which, under this proposal, would increase ten cents from $2.50 to a whopping $2.60. It may not seem like much, but despite the low monetary change, it’s a slap in the face of all who use public transit, and will serve as what I consider to be the first true test of Mayor Ford’s term.

Sure, the cash fare remains unchanged at $3.00, but this dime raise still has major repercussions for anyone who uses public transit, though perhaps not necessarily those who commute to work. Why the qualification? It’s simple. Anyone who uses transit to get to and from work five times a week, and who does SOMETHING involving transit on the weekend will likely always have transit passes, and not have to rely on (or worry about the cost of) tokens, tickets, or cash fares. For the rest of us poor souls who do not enjoy the benefits of unbridled transportation, we are now being shafted, plain and simple. By taking an extra dime, it means for every 25 rides we take under the proposed new system, we could have taken 26 under the current rate plan. Will this make people use the TTC less? Probably not. Will I start saving up for a car or bike and really stick it to Transit City? Definitely not. I do think though, that by closing the gap between the token and cash fares, people may start saying “screw it” more often, and just ponying up coins rather than going through the trouble of acquiring tokens and then finding them when necessary at the bottom of their purse or pockets. Think about it – $3.00 is a lot easier to count up when you’re in a rush than feeding multiples of $2.60 into the token machine. Maybe this’ll also help push people to purchase more transit passes, since it now would take fewer trips to justify the purchase compared to just using tokens or tickets. Perhaps it’s all just a big scam calculated to turn people against Ford. Maybe, but I’m not really one for conspiracy theories.

Again, the ten-cent increase in token fare isn’t really the issue. The way I see it, the proposed twenty-cent increase (assuming I want to return from where I hypothetically travelled to), is insignificant. Hell, I probably spend more than that each day on just throwing pennies at pigeons. The fact of the matter is that while this is an annoyance, the fact that the city is stealing every 25th ride from me isn’t really a problem. The problem lies more in the justification for this rate increase. Has there been an increase in efficiency or quality of service with the TTC over the past year that would justify their request for more funding (which was denied by City Hall under the watchful eye of Mayor Ford)? OF COURSE NOT! In fact, I would like to offer a reward for the first person to contact me praising the TTC, who could also pass a polygraph. There’s $20 and a Clark Bar in it for you!

Speaking from my own experience on New Year’s Eve this year, it’s clear there are serious infrastructure issues with the TTC which must be addressed before they can justify asking their riders to pony up more cash for what is, at best, the same service they’ve “enjoyed” for the previous 365 days. The feather in the city’s cap on NYE was the fact that for the first time in several years, the city was footing the bill for those within the city to use the TTC for free between midnight and some ungodly hour in the late evening/early morning. Myself, Steph, and several friends even planned in advance to use this as our primary means of returning home from a night of revelry and merriment. Knowing that subway service had been extended to almost 4am (last trains leaving Union and Finch/Downsview about 330am), we felt that leaving about 245 and arriving at Sheppard station about 30 minutes later would be more than sufficient to catch the one of the last few trains. How wrong we would prove to be. It’s not that we missed all the subways, it’s that they weren’t doing their job. Having spent over 40 minutes in Sheppard station, we bore witness to no fewer than 5 subways passing through the station, all of which were “Out of Service”. There were maybe 15-20 others who were in the same predicament as us, so it wasn’t just our tardiness that damned us to a night of transit terror. This was problem one. Problem two came when we were able to track down a member of the TTC to find out just what was going on with the supposed subway service. All this fellow could muster up was a shoulder shrug, an “I dunno”, and a helpful “all the subways have finished now. There is still surface service available with the night buses.” No explanation as to why so many “Out of Service” trains were running in lieu of functional ones, and no apology for poor service / failed promises was given. Where is the accountability? Problem three came shortly after when we finally caught a bus, which the driver promptly decided had too many people, and then wanted to go “Out of Service” herself. This is less an infrastructure / accountability issue, and more an issue of one insufferable crank not wanting to perform the task they are financially compensated to do, and as such, will be left out of this discussion. Cranky coachman aside, the TTC clearly showed that the new year would not be one where effectiveness, efficiency, and overall rider satisfaction are priorities.

Looking at this example, I can’t help but ask again – where is the added value that could potentially justify this rate hike?

If the TTC began offering a cleaner, greener, less-meaner level of service, I would think that people would have no issues with a 4% increase in token cost, especially when that cost is still less than the full adult cash fare. They’d be more receptive to giving additional funds to a service that seems to be improving, innovating, or just making good use of their monies. After all, isn’t this what characterized Mayor Ford’s rise to power? The end of wasteful spending and the halting of the gravy train? Let me tell you – so far, he’s been rather sparse with his statements, but this could be a defining moment that sets the tone for the coming months and years.

After all, the reason the TTC is passing the cost to the consumer is that the city itself has refused to increase funding from the previous year’s level. I agree with their stance, citing my general dissatisfaction with the TTC on NYE/ on maybe 40% of the rides I take. I think the hike itself is a bold and dickish move on the part of the TTC. Rather than find a way around their funding deficit, they are seemingly trying to force Ford’s hand by targeting the very persons he vowed to look out for: the citizens of Toronto. It certainly won’t be an easy fix, and even if this rate hike doesn’t go through, I’m not sure the statement outlining the hike’s defeat will be able to undo the damage already done by the TTC and their proposal. After all, as many have already pointed out, Ford’s big hurrah so far has been his abolition of the Vehicle Registration Tax, which was swiftly followed by the current topic-du-jour. Sure, he axed one tax, but here comes another tax (of sorts)! Not to mention he’s gutted a lot of useful social programmes in the name of saving money, so I’m sure this won’t be the last we hear of people taking offense to Ford’s budget. It’s hard to believe that it’s been such a rollercoaster of a Mayoral term already, and he hasn’t even been in office for two months!

Like I said, maybe this whole TTC business will be a strong indicator of how Ford will conduct the remainder of his time in office. Will he stand up to the TTC and take them down a notch, or will he stand idly by while this rate hike is put in place, for the sole reason that at least those tax-paying, car-driving voters won’t be footing the bill for the TTC’s shortcomings?

The Grouch Potato On… Door-tiquette

All right, ya poofs.

I want to talk about something that’s been bothering me for far too long. People don’t know how to properly use doors anymore.

I know, I know, “how can you forget to use a door”, you say. “It’s just like riding a bike”, you say. Well you know what? No. People honestly don’t seem to know how to use a door, or at the very least, the decorum that accompanies proper door operation. It goes beyond politeness, it goes beyond chivalry, and it shows that people don’t know how to live amongst other people these days. Maybe it’s that new fad de-evolution I keep hearing about, all I know is that I don’t like it.

Is it so hard to hold open a door for someone? Maybe. Sometimes you may be running late and don’t have a minute or two to spare. I can understand that. Does that mean you should open the door just enough to slip through and not even toss a glance over your shoulder to see if anyone may be following close behind you who would benefit from your giving the door a final shove or push to stay open a millisecond longer? Of course not. It’s our not doing that which separates us from the beasts. You might say I’m a curmudgeon, and I may have lost a foot to gout and another to diabetes, but that doesn’t mean I’ve lost my sense of decency. I may not like you, but I’ll sure as hell hold the door for you. What’s your excuse?

And what about those folk who feel they are carrying so great a load that they cannot open a door themselves, resorting to pressing the handi-button? Does that button even have a name? I don’t think so, and I don’t think people who are juggling a latte and the day’s Metro have an excuse for their actions. Does the hectic pace of daily life tax one so greatly that they simply do not have the strength to open a door? Of course not. You’re just a lazy pile, and the baby Jesus cries each and every single time you do this. Sure, there can be exceptions to this, but I’m pretty sure the last legitimate usage of said assistance button I saw was in 1988. Perhaps the icon on the button should be changed to a man in a suit with a ponytail. It’ll be rebranded as the lazy-yuppie-who-is-above-grasping-door-handles-button. Patent Pending. To me, it’s just a sign that humanity as a whole is getting lazy. I mean, proper automatic doors are fine for grocery stores and places where employees may also be needing to bring pallets of goods in and out of the building, but when it’s meant to aid those who legitimately would have difficulty with conventional entryways, there’s no reason to me that can justify one who is without similar difficulties using the assist. Just open the goddamn door. Plus, those motors are usually quite slow, so opening would get your fast-paced, jet-setting life back on track sooner.

The last thing that really pisses me off is people’s migratory behaviour. Have you ever noticed that when a building or entry way has 7 or 8 doors, if one is open, a large majority of people vying for entry into said structure will likely attempt to all enter through the open door, despite there being 6 or 7 additional available entry points? I have. And it makes me sick. I’m not much of one for whimsy. I watched the Three Stooges once, and I didn’t like it. This kind of thing strikes me as being more of the same. Why do people do that? Is it coincidence? Is it some sort of inherent human behavioural trait, or are people just too goddamn lazy to open their own door, they surge toward whatever opening will allow them to exert the minimum force in exchange for the maximum amount of entry? I’m not a psychologist, I think that’s a pseudo-science anyway, but I think there’s something to these questions.

People, it’s like this – it’s a door. It’s a brutally simple machine, it’s not difficult to operate, and I think we need to have a talk about you and your fundoormentals. If you open it for people, they will open it for you. You’ll feel like a better person, you’ll look like a gallant squire, and it goes without saying, I’ll be happier. If I can do it, then so can you.

The ‘Tapped-Out “Some Lists Go To Eleven” Musical Best Of 2010

In the first of two entries which make up my look back at the year that was, I focus on my musical favourites: the albums, EPs, and concerts, which made my first year in Toronto both magical and memorable. With that saccharine sentiment gone, I can focus on outlining my likes of 2010. I considered throwing in some dislikes, but aside from not liking the new Bad Religion album and not understanding Vampire Weekend, I didn’t really have much else to say.

 

ALBUMS

Tokyo Police Club – Champ
I have to thank Steph for this one. If it weren’t for her listening to it constantly for the six months following its release, I’d have likely overlooked it completely. I’m glad I didn’t, because it’s full of fun, poppy tunes, which are just pleasant. Pleasantness is an attribute that is widely overlooked in music, so it’s nice to come across a band that gets it. There’s obviously much more to the album, but I can’t seem to get past how it’s just an honest-to-goodness solid listen. I hate to be blunt, but… it’s good, so listen to it. Off the album, I like Wait Up (Boots of Danger) and Favourite Colour, but you’d probably like different ones (and the same ones).

Devo – Something for Everybody
The top eleven of ’10 list couldn’t be complete with the year’s great comeback – the return of Devo! Sufficiently weird and still just as fun as ever, Something for Everybody shows that Devo never really went away, they just left us wanting more for an extended period. This album finds Devo moving away from their punk rock roots and moving to a more danceable alternative, while still keeping their irreverent, socially aware lyrical styles. My favourites are So Fresh, Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man), and Please Baby Please.

The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs
Initially, I was unsure about adding The Suburbs to this list because I don’t really like it that much. It’s an album made up of songs that are phenomenal live, but didn’t really grab me when taken to a studio environment. I like the album, but only because listening to it makes me nostalgic for what was one of the best concerts of the year. If you’ve liked everything the Arcade Fire has done to date, you’ll likely enjoy this. If you need a little more convincing, the Suburbs, Ready to Start, or Rococo should be enough to help you make an informed decision.

Gogol Bordello – Trans-continental Hustle
Gogol Bordello is a highly divisive group. Everyone who knows them either loves or hates them. I find myself staunchly in the camp of the former, considering this to be their best effort yet. Chock-full of incredibly catchy gypsy punk anthems, Trans-continental Hustle would make the ideal soundtrack for a house party, backyard cookout, or garage sale. Lend an ear to Immigraniada (We’re Comin’ Rougher), Pala Tute, and Rebellious Love, but don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

Black Keys – Brothers
The first of two entries in my list from a band hailing from Akron, Ohio, Brothers seems to be the Black Keys’ big moment. Tighten Up was a contender for song of the summer, and it seems that the rubber town duo is now something of a household name. Personally, I still like Thickfreakness better, but it’s hard to argue with Tighten Up and it’s brilliant companion video.

Murder by Death – Good Morning, Magpie
It’s not that this album surprised me so much as Murder by Death did. I knew them by name, but knew nothing of their sound prior to seeing them live earlier this year. Their mixing of alt-country and punk rock was a refreshing change of pace from my usual milieu, and a combination that I hope to find much more of in 2011. Give a listen to As Long As There Is Whiskey In The World, On The Dark Streets Below, and You Don’t Miss Twice (When You’re Shavin’ With a Knife). If you’ve any sense, you’ll like this.

The Bouncing Souls – Ghosts on the Boardwalk
Technically, this is a 2009 album, as all the songs were released through a monthly single, but the total package came out in January, so this makes the cut. This is another album that took a few listens to get used to, but once you get to that point, it’s great. Singer Greg Atonnito’s voice only gets better with age, and the rest is what you’d expect from a Bouncing Souls album: some quirky songs, some heartfelt songs, some catchy songs, and some that come out of left field. In short, it’s classic ‘Souls – a solid good-time romp. My favourites are Ghosts on the Boardwalk, We All Sing Along, and Badass.

OFF! – The First Four EPs
This was something of a wildcard for 2010. At first, I didn’t want to give OFF! any attention, considering Keith Morris to be bit too much for me. Reluctantly, I checked them out, likely on a rainy day, and haven’t looked back since. This “album” is brilliant. It is just as the title suggests, their first four EPs in one convenient package. 17 minutes long, 16 songs in total, the songs pass by at warp speed, leaving behind them nothing but a trail of blown amps and burst eardrums. It’s not a throwback, it’s not even a modern interpretation, it’s just 80s hardcore that happened to have been released 30 years outside of its relevancy period. Keith Morris is clearly at the top of his game, which is something of a pleasant change, since I always thought the modern Circle Jerks was just him going through the motions. Even if you don’t like hardcore, it’s a very small commitment time-wise, so you might as well just give them a try. Three songs I’d suggest are I Don’t Belong, Panic Attack, and the opening track, Black Thoughts. Just find them on YouTube; you’ve got three minutes to spare.

3 – Ted Leo & the Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks
Come on, it’s Ted Leo. Why wouldn’t he make the top ten? Funnily enough, I wouldn’t have said this before this particular album came out, but I’ve since become another in a long line of Ted Leo converts. This album is a lot of fun on the first listen, and each subsequent time you give it a spin, the politically charged lyrics make themselves more and more apparent. There are not too many socially conscious albums that you could listen to with your parents, but this is one of them. Also, “brutalist” seems not be a word, and considering our embracement of “boringest”, we appreciate Ted Leo taking liberties with the English language. Notable songs here are Bottled in Cork, The Mighty Sparrow, and The Stick, because nobody is above gratuitous stick clicks.

2 – Gaslight Anthem – American Slang
When I first heard this album, I hated it. Though unsatisfying and inadequate, it wasn’t a bad album, it just wasn’t what I was expecting from Gaslight. This did not deter me from continuing to listen, and after 6 months or so, I now love pretty much every song on this. I don’t like updating or rewriting posts, so I’ll update my thoughts here: this is a brilliant album, and I’m just a a grump. Boxer is probably the best song on the album, but I think The Diamond Street Church Choir should be considered my song of the year.

1 – Dreadnoughts – Polka’s Not Dead
I’ve already said this here, but this is by far the best album I’ve come across this year. It’s got catchy moments, driving rockers, and beautiful instrumental sections, and wraps it up in a cider-soaked package. I’m almost certainly the only person calling this the album of the year, but if you ask me, I’m the only one with any sense. This album will come out of left field for most, but the vast majority of those will emerge from their first listen a fan of Van-City’s best. Choice cuts of this album would be Cider Road, Black Sea Gale, and Za Smierc Przyjaciela.

Hon. Mention – The Thermals – Personal Life
I almost forgot about the Thermals this year. When I realized the fantastic Personal Life came out in 2010, I was gutted that I couldn’t find a spot in the top 11 to slot it into. Much less heavy than their previous effort, Personal Life finds the Thermals contemplating more emotional, personal topics. It’s still their trademark style of distorted power pop, it’s just a little more reflective, as the title suggests. Their lead single of the album, I Don’t Believe You, is a must-listen, but Power Lies and Your Love is So Strong are also wonderful. Combine this album with Ted Leo’s Brutalist Bricks, and you’ve got a real hum-dinger of a good time.

 

ALBUMS I MISSED

I think it’s important to look at the albums I missed this year, a sort of atonement for my year’s musical misdeeds. Primarily, this list is for my own reference, a musical to-do list for January. Part information, part shame, this is what I missed in 2010, but thought it likely would have been great.

Grinderman – Grinderman II
I know, I know, I missed a Nick Cave album. I’m glad tar and feathering is out of style these days.

 

 

 

The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever
The Hold Steady are brilliant, and this particular oversight was more a result of my getting obsessed over other albums this year, and the ‘Steady’s and my schedules not lining up. I’ll settle this debt soon.

 
 

Bomb The music Industry – ADULTS!!!: SMART!!! SHITHAMMERED!!! AND EXCITED BY NOTHING!!!!!!!
I had no idea this album was even coming out. I think it’s an EP? Everything else they’ve done to date is fantastic, so I expect more of the same. You should check them out too. Let’s meet up in two weeks and discuss this album.

 

Fake Problems – Real Ghosts Caught on Tape
Many cool friends recommended this album to me, so I take no pride in missing this album. I just hope they don’t take this oversight to be a slight against them. Let this be a lesson – Fake Problems is good, and disappointing cool friends will make you feel bad / have a stomachache.

 

Broken Social Scene – Forgiveness Rock Record
I’ve never actually listened to a full album by BSS, so my thought that I missed something good stems solely from my perception of what I should think of them, rather than direct experience. It’s fifty-fifty that I’ll resolve this oversight.

 

 

EPs

I don’t listen to too many EPs, partly because I don’t have a means for playing vinyl (in the case of 7” releases), and partly because they just don’t make too many of them anymore, it would seem. I’m probably wrong about that last point, but here’s a ranking of my favourites from the past year, linked to when I previously wrote about them.

 

LIVE SHOWS

Looking back at my rankings of what I consider to be the best shows I attended over the past 365 days, I come to a few conclusions. First, I really need to get out of town more. It doesn’t happen often, but the couple times I did venture outside the GTA, it was generally a swell time. Second, I seem to only like three venues in Toronto. I know it’s wrong, but the rankings don’t lie. Third, there are a lot of solid performances I’ve left off of this list, which distresses me because I know I’ve seen a lot of really good sets this year, but I feel like if I make this post any longer, the site will buckle from ramblings. Below you’ll find my top ten for 2010, with only two appearances by Frank Turner, which shows considerable restraint on my part.

10-8 – Osheaga Festival, w/ The Arcade Fire, Devo, Frank Turner, Pavement, Owen Pallett, Gaslight Anthem, Stars, Weezer, John Spencer Blues Explosion @ Parc Jean Drapeau (Mtl.)
7 – Against Me / Dead to Me / Moneybrother @ the Town Ballroom (Buf.)
6 – The Weakerthans @ the Horseshoe Tavern (Tor.)
5 – Bad Religion / the Bouncing Souls @ the Kool Haus (Tor.)
4 – The Thermals @ Lee’s Palace (Tor.)
3 – Ted Leo & the Pharmacists / Screaming Females @ Lee’s Palace (Tor.)
2 – Social Distortion / Lucero / Frank Turner @ the Kool Haus (Tor.)
1 – Murder by Death / the Schomberg Fair @ the Horseshoe Tavern (Tor.)

 

 

So that’s about it. That’s the best of what I liked in 2010, as far as music is concerned. Thanks for reading, leave comments, buy American.

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