Thursday, September 21, 2017

I Don't Care What You're About

*Tim aggressively air drums and bobs head*

*Co-workers all look at him from across the room, confused*

"Tim's listening to his worker's rights music again."

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Whole Lot of Walking To Do

A few important lessons that I learned while watching Ted Leo & the Pharmacists play a set at Lee's Palace last night:

  • As much as people have been preaching that rock music is dead for the last ten years, Ted Leo, with his new album The Hanged Man, is here to prove that the rumours of its demise have been greatly exaggerated. I firmly believe that any time a critic emerges to once again harp of rock falling out of the record chart, Ted Leo will pop and piss in that person's face. As part of my year-long "5 Songs and 5 Stories" plan, I've been thinking about if me writing guitar-based punks songs is really urgent at all. Ted Leo grabbed me by the shoulders, slapped my face and said "Write some friggin' riffs you jamoke."
  • With how many terrible things are happening the world-over and how stupid mainstream media discourse about those things has gotten, I sometimes feel isolated because I think most people I meet don't feel the same way as me. It seems like most people aren't critical of what they read at all and mindless regurgitation of Facebook has now taken the place of being informed. Ted Leo, that beautiful leftist power-pop messenger, reminded me that I'm not alone out here.
  • Life can be shitty sometimes. More often than not, it's work that gets me down because I feel like I'm too burnt out to do that the things that I enjoy and find fulfilling. Surprise, surprise, after I spend two weeks seeing bands that I love and doing things that I like, I find it easier to write and I feel more inspired. Enjoying your life isn't about blindly ignoring bad things to keep a positive attitude. It's crucial to remember all the shitty fucking things in the world to get the full picture. But we also have to appreciate the perfect things we get to experience, like Ted Leo playing for an hour and forty five minutes, and revel in them because they make it worth it to bear all the terrible things.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

No Doubt About It

It is no small secret that I deeply love the seminal classic rock band Thin Lizzy. While they, like many of their contemporaries, have had their careers mostly diluted to one or two singles, they also have a run of great albums in the 70's that still hold up today. Recently, my jam has been "For Those Who Love to Live" off of their wonderful album Fighting, for reasons I will explain below.

Thin Lizzy wrote this song about George Best, who was a popular Northern Irish soccer player for Manchester United in the 1970's. Best was extremely skilled, but also fit into the playboy athlete archetype who coupled his innate athletic ability with a thirst for partying and womanizing. These types of figures are always charismatic and can so easily capture the hearts of the sports fan who watch them play, because they show you that sports is part of life as whole and doesn't just exist in a self-contained stadium. Thin Lizzy does a great job of conveying that feeling in the song.

I've been thinking about this song a lot as an accompaniment to Jose Bautista's swan song as a Toronto Blue Jay. I've loved Jose's time as a Jay, loved his many accomplishments, and loved the style he played the game with, but I think that I'll save a true farewell to him until his goodbye actually happens. Instead, I'll give you this song as a hearty salute to Jose's time with the team and the cult of personality that surrounds him.

Jose Bautista is certainly not the man-about-town that George Best was, but I think that his magnetic personality still drew people in in the same way. He was the best power hitter in the game for a few years and the best Right Fielder of this decade. Jose many, many revenge home runs were the type of thing you fantasized about doing while playing Little League. He made other teams stomping mad and then would hit towering home runs to rub it in afterwards. As much attention as he got for "The Batflip", a lot of people didn't realize that he had been doing that for his entire time in Toronto.

Quoting myself verbatim, I've said a lot of times that "Nothing lights me up like Jose home runs." I know that it's a corny thing to say, but there is a jump in my chest every time that Jose pulls one down the right field line because it's something I've seen so many times before. It's familiar and it feels like home and it only feels like home for Toronto Blue Jays fans. It's our thing that we get to have. Everybody got a little bit of a glimpse into during the 2015 playoffs, but they'll never know the joy that we all got to have from 2008-2017.

So no, "You've got to have a little love for those who love to live" doesn't mean that Jose succeeded on the field in spite of his vices, it means that while he played baseball, he managed the squeeze the most fun and drama and excitement out of the sport that he could.

Next weekend will most likely be Jose's last home games as a Blue Jay. I will be there on Sunday and I look forward to getting up on my feet near the end of the game to give him the true hero's farewell that he deserves.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Hey, I Remember That Day

Today, September 15th, 2017, is the first day of this year's edition of Riot Fest, which has now firmly unseated The Fest as North America's most popular punk music festival. This year's edition of the festival has been notable because it is being headlined by the incredible and influential 90's emo/punk band Jawbreaker. While my non-punk friends will yawn at this, this is the biggest deal to punk fans because for the last twenty years, since breaking up shortly after their 1995 album Dear You was released, a Jawbreaker reunion has been labelled as one of those things "that will just never happen".

Jawbreaker along with Operation Ivy, the Dead Kennedys, the MisfitsHüsker Dü (A hearty RIP to Grant Hart, who passed away this week, for contributing to one of punk's all-time greats), and The Replacements were seen as perfect bands whose role in important punk scenes and influence on later bands reached legendary status after their dissolution. Each band's break-up was also fraught with interpersonal tension (except Operation Ivy), which meant that any chance of the bands getting back together for later fans to see them would be unlikely. Speaking from my own perspective, this only made them even more appealing to me when I was discovering them much later. I discovered Jawbreaker through hearing other bands cite them as an integral influence on their own music, and the fact that I was living my Jawbreaker experience through somebody else's seem exciting and important.

I also thought it was really cool that there were bands out there who were "too punk too reunite". I still enjoyed it when The Ergs and Descendents came back to give me a chance to experience them again, but the fact that some bands valued their own convictions more than the pay they would receive further cemented my own values. It feels good to know that there are other true believers out there.

A brief aside: I also experience this type of feeling when the golden god Roy Halladay signed a one-day contract with the Toronto Blue Jays to retire at the age of 36, saying that he would rather retire then than continue to play later into life when he wouldn't be able to pitch as well and not live up to his own expectations in competition. Roy Halladay: More punk than Jawbreaker?

The "never-reuniting" myth was pretty much personified by Jawbreaker, as there were rumours that the band had turned down a $2,000,000 offer to get back together, and when asked about it, frontman Blake Schwarzenbach consistently said "No Way." There was even a band tongue-in-cheekly named "Jawbreaker Reunion" for fuck sakes.

A few years ago, Riot Fest started making "Holy Shit!" bands reunions their gimmick. This happened first when The Replacements played their first show in 22 years at the 2013 editions of the festival and then when they somehow got the friggin' Misfits to play a set at the 2016 version of the fest. The Misfits reunion was especially a significant moment, as nobody thought that Gelnn Danzig could possibly hold his chill for long enough to perform with the band.

This was all just an appetiser for this year's announcement of the Jawbreaker reunion, which was so significant that all of my punk friends immediately contacted each other about it. Takes were abound. It seemed like I could feel Riot Fest's self-satisfied "Yeah, we just did this" grin from through my computer screen. It was something I really believed I would never see.

I guess I wrote this whole thing to a prelude to my own thoughts on the reunion, but they're hard to state because I'm still not sure exactly where I stand on everything.

One hand, I hate big festivals, as I find them impersonal and overcrowded, they always have bad sound, and always end up underwhelming. Riot Fest, in particular, was a pretty shitty time the last time I went. I definitely don't like the idea of a payday being the main reason of a band ending a lengthy hiatus. I can't shake the "I don't agree with this" feeling that I get when thinking about big reunions and the more I think about it, the harder it is for me to define.

On the other hand, why should a band not get theirs when they can? I mean, one of the main reasons a band tours , aside from the joy of playing and having fun with your friends and showing people your art (all more important in my book), is to make money. As much as I would like to divorce finance from art, it's impossible. I think there's also something to be said for being in attendance for the reunion and getting to take in a significant punk moment. Much like I felt when first discovering the band, I'm sure that seeing everyone react when Jawbreaker walks out onstage on Sunday will feel important.

I guess I'll close by saying that a lot people are losing it about this, in both ways. Some people are ecstatic that they are finally seeing their favourite band and some people are very mad (I wouldn't characterize myself as "mad" but I suppose that I fall into this category rather than the other). People weren't as polarized when the Misfits reunited last year, but now any uproar about it happening seems so distant in the past. Realistically, I think that in a year or so, the Jawbreaker reunion will be a thing that happened and nobody will really think about it. This reunion doesn't do anything to the quality of their records, which is what really matters.

And when that day comes, I suppose that I can go back to holding up Jesse Michaels and Jello Biafra for sticking to their values, even though I try to have no heroes.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Also, in case you haven't noticed, I now have a new banner image. My old one stopped showing up and that makes me sad.

Heart Problems

An integral part of being a baseball fan is recognizing that you're in for a long journey. The season is longer than any of the other major North American professional sports and for the most part, players' careers are longer too. If you're along for the ride, this can be so rewarding, like when you get to watch Roy Halladay develop into one of the game's premier pitchers over the course of a decade. When you've been there for the entire process, it makes the benefits that much more special when they happen and it feels like you've played a role in what happened. It can also be frustrating, like watching a player who once dazzled you struggle to compete with other major league players.

A current example of the former is Jose Bautista's 2017 season. Jose was the most exciting Blue Jay for a long time, starting with hitting 10 home runs in September 2009 and culminating in "The Bat Flip". Jose signed a one-year contract with options to play for the Blue Jays in 2017 and most of the fanbase, including me, lauded the deal and were eagerly "Angry Jose"'s exploits, but instead Jose started to swing through fastballs he used to put in the second deck and his return quickly turned into what feels a lot like a retirement tour. I will always love Jose Bautista and him strapping the Jays to his back and carrying them towards contention was amazing, but now I have to think about how weird it will be to see somebody else play Right Field next season and find myself muttering "I still love you Jose" every time he bats. It's like I'm already nostalgic for Jose's time on the team before it's even ended.

The same goes for another struggling Jay, Kevin Pillar. After two seasons of struggling, Kevin Pillar had an amazing 2015 season, followed by another productive one in 2016. I was all-in on Pillar being an integral part of the perennial playoff-bound Jays, to the extent that I wrote a long piece about loving Pillar and then wrote another post that was just a link to the first one.

I like Pillar's game a lot and found myself thinking "Oh, that's getting caught" every time a ball went near him. But then he started missing a lot of swings and I started to get ulcers watching his back foot come forward out of the box as he swung at terrible pitches. He seemed to be turning his batting approach around, but then got into a well-publicized spat with the Atlanta Braves. It was already a stupid argument to get into, but Pillar did himself no favours by calling the pitcher in question a homophobic slur. As a lifer Jays fan, I will go to bat for our players in almost any situation, but there is a breaking point and this was it for Pillar. In what could be considered poetic justice (I would always argue anything bad happening to the Boys is NOT POETIC), Pillar's season then started to fall apart. He's looked completely lost at the plate and hasn't been getting to nearly as many fly balls as he used to. In 2015, Pillar was the second-most valuable player on the team, but now it looks like he could be easily usurped at the team's starting centrefielder if the right player comes along.

And hey, that sucks. I like the guy and pulled for him; part of me still pulls for him, but it seems like his time in the Toronto sports limelight is probably done.

That's the way baseball works. It's a long journey as a fan and though it might be easy to pack the team's history into neat little "periods" in hindsight, the reality is that every story starts before the one it follows ends and then bleeds into the next one. The next "Kevin Pillar" might be on the team right now, just like how Pillar was kicking around while Colby Rasmus ended his time here. Sometimes a fan just needs to sit back and let the narrative unfold, but that's easier said than done, because all you want to do is rush over and unfold it yourself.

That ain't the way it works though; not in baseball and not in art history and not in music and not in love.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Product Is You

Not much to say except that when I am sitting at work and am so angry that I want to punch a hole in my monitor and scream at people until the stupidity leaks out of their ears, Incendiary's excellent 2017 full-length Thousand Mile Stare is my preferred soundtrack.

Gotta say, beatdown hardcore with socially conscious lyrics is right up my alley. I could use a lot more of this.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

A Step-by-Step Guide in Creating a Forced I, Musical Genius Post

  1. Become so anxious about not having written something that you begin to think about it periodically throughout the day. The fear of underachievement must get to a point where it affects you daily before acting.
  2. Begin to brainstorm ideas for a post even though you are uninspired because of a lengthy period of artistic inactivity. Grasp at straws while trying to think of ideas that made sense and seemed interesting at one time.
  3. Start a draft of a post about one of your old ideas.
  4. Start and stop working on the draft several times and get distracted by things that are less important. 
  5. Become overwhelmed by the effort of balancing work and personal pursuits. Allow this to further affect your ability to write.
  6. Set aside a brief period of time on your day off to write. Do not allow yourself away from your computer during this time.
  7. Struggle to remember the original idea which inspired the post you are working on.
  8. Force out an opening paragraph. Re-write the opening sentence at least three times. Think of a big word to say and use semi-colons to make sure people think you’re smart!
  9. Start writing a second paragraph which barely connects to the first ideologically. Follow this second idea as the main idea of your post.
  10. Remember to mention that this is a post that you are “working through” for the sake of “getting back on the horse”.
  11. Try to make jokes.
  12. Remember that your conclusion should relate to the way you began the post. Write a Hail Mary sentence that does a bad job of connecting all the things you talked about.
  13. Avow that you will write another thing this week or at least work on a short story.
  14. Wait at least three weeks before starting the process again.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Let Me Show You What the Heart Looks Like When It's Hot

I'm in a weird spot where I need to write something, but also feel like I have nothing to say. My stomach is tied up in knots and I feel uneasy; it feels like an intense pressure building under my diaphragm or a blister that needs to be popped. From my own experience, the best way to relieve this pressure is put pen to page or fingertips to keys and work something out, but my mind is all over the place and I'm not sure where to start or what I even want to say.

When I haven't written a story, blog post, or song in a while, I get uneasy and anxious. For better or for worse, I think that the concern of "not writing enough" is constant in the back of my mind. On good days it inspires me to work through something; on bad days it makes me uncomfortable and nervous. Writing something, let alone something good, is much harder in the second scenario, so you get something misguided and full of semi-colons like this.

I also feel very uneasy because of how disappointed in the world I am, which has been a consistent downward spiral over the last five or so years. Like clockwork, something happens every three weeks that reminds how stupid and fucked up almost all of the world is. So stupid and fucked up that I'm very sceptical about how fixable any of it is.

The events in Charlottesville were awful and I don't really know how to broach the topic. When things like this happen, the absolute last thing that anybody needs to hear is another thinkpiece by a cis-white male. Any opinion I would give wouldn't be anywhere nearly as important as those given by people of colour, the left involved in protests, or those who live in the community. So even though I'm livid and frustrated and my anger doesn't seem to have a place to go, I believe that it's better for me to limit my takes, because all they would really do is pile more dirt onto more important opinions. For the sake of brevity, I will leave it to this:
  • If you think that violence against the far right will only provoke them further, I am interested as to what you think further than marching with torches, running over people with cars, and gang-beatings is.
  • If you even try to play devil's advocate on this issue at all, you are incredibly stupid. As much as political issues can be painted gray by the media, this one is cut and dry. One side is wrong, stupid and bad.
  • While I don't go out of my way to discuss my politics, I also don't make any big effort to hide them. Regardless, this still does leave my thoughts up in the air sometimes, as I'm aware that I can be pretty quiet. Just to put it out in the open, as socialist as you think I may be, I assure you that it's even further in actuality.
Being depressed about the state of the world and anxious about my much more minor personal feelings was a weird negative combination and it was making get really angry at almost everything. As much as it isn't mentally healthy to be in a constant state of ire, I think it's also important to really sit in your anger sometimes and work through what's pissing you off. You can't just shove anger away when very bad things are happening. Fascism and disgusting bigotry doesn't get solved by looking on the bright side.

In the eye of this anger storm, I was reminded of a few things I love: Rebecca, Pierre and Florence, my friends, pro wrestling (yes), and socially-conscious punk music. Jesse Michaels has been a constant source of inspiration and strength to me through my life and I was very pleased to find that his second band Common Rider put out an EP I didn't know about that was even better than all of their other stellar output. On top of that, the lyrics hit me in the exact right spot after the events last week.

While reading a (albeit very positive) review of the lyrics, someone described the lyrics as "overly ideal" and I thought that was so stupid. If advocating for resiliency in the face of oppression is stupid to you, you never really got what punk was about in the first place pal.

Always grow and learn, but never forget what made you mad to begin with. Stay pissed because the second you give up that, they'll fucking march all over you.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Mary Devoured By Horses

Something unique to my generation, the first that grew up with the internet, is that we are the first to experience all of life's "milestones" in their open, digital form. It's strange to be the first generation of people that has its entire existence documented in a form that is more or less permanent.

One way that I am often reminded of this is when someone who I've completely lost touch with pops up on my Facebook feed. I guess the fact that we are still friends on Facebook sort of implies that we haven't completely lost touch. The world is weird. Whereas before you would maybe have some pictures of an old flame or roommate kicking around and would actually need to phone them or something to contact them, now you can just sort of creepily keep tabs on people and stay somewhat up-to-date on their life even though you never speak.

The person (really two people, they're a couple) who came up was someone who I went to art school with. I hung out with them pretty regularly during the last year of my undergrad and we got along pretty well, though we didn't have tonnes in common.

The last time that I saw this person was a chance encounter at a bar in Guelph while I was there with other friends. We were both happy to see each other and made the cursory small talk about our lives. She was there with her boyfriend, who she had started dating during our last year of school. She then told me that a house show the two of them had attended at my place had been their first date, which I didn't know. That made me happy. I thought that the show had been amazing to begin with, but was happy to realize that other people had important memories tied to the evening as well. And important enough that it was one of the things she told me within 5 minutes of speaking to me.

"That's what I was really trying to do. It's not about the music, it's about the love." I joked.

As I said, the couple came up in my Facebook feed today and they mentioned that they are only a few months out from getting married. It's crazy to think that I, who neither have spoken to in a few years now, played a role in their partnership, albeit a very, very small one.

It's also crazy to think about how many other times this has happened and we don't even know about.

It feels dumb to end this post with such an open-ended and vague statement, so I'll say that I saw Big Nothing at D-Beatstro this week and loved their set. I urge you to support both the band and the space they played at.