Thursday, November 23, 2017

The Disaster Artist

Something that I've been grappling with the entire year is the progression of "The Project", which is the name I gave to my goals that I set out for the 12-month period from December 1st, 2016 and December 1st 2017. The goals are as follows:

  • 5 original short stories
  • 5 songs, with lyrics and guitar and bass parts written
  • My planned I, Musical Genius zine finished.
It feels shitty to admit it, but this is not and will not be finished. I realized about halfway through the year that this project was not going to get finished, but I held out hope that I would have a burst of creative energy near the deadline and get everything done. Being at the end of November now, I can say with absolute certainty that this goal is not possible, but that's okay. 

Let's take stock of what I have accomplished:
  • 5 short stories begun. 1 finished. 1 half-done. 3 planned out, but unwritten.
  • 5 guitar and bass parts written. Two sets of lyrics finished. Others in various states of disarray.
  • I, Musical Genius zine untouched.
This is not as bad as it looks though. I do wish I had done more work on the short stories, but I also put a lot posts up on here that I'm proud of and certainly drew upon the same thoughts and energy that a short story does. Guess what? Writing fiction is much harder than you think. So much harder.

I found writing the guitar parts easy, but I fiddle with my acoustic so much. I actually ended up spitting out the initial versions of more than 8 songs. Bass is easy for me because I played bass in bands already. The lyrics have been very slow coming and I find it hard to say what I want to say.

In both cases, I know that the way to navigate the issues I'm having is to just write more and work through them that way. I just need to force myself to do that. 

The zine, I am not so worried about, because I ditched my original idea of assembling my "best" piece of writing on here and instead shifted to the idea of making a zine of my favourite baseball things I'm written. Keep an eye out for that.

It was hard to write this year because it felt like every time that I built myself up to do something, work got in the way. I was incredibly busy from the beginning of September to end of October and that was definitely the nail in my writing coffin. I would get home from work really tired and burnt out and it felt like even watching TV took too much energy and free time.

At this moment though, I'm back in the University of Guelph's library for the first time in ages, I have a week off of work and have time to actually do things I like. We'll see how much I can finish by next Tuesday and I will do my damnedest to make something that matters.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

For Roy

The following night never actually happened, but also happened many times.

At 3:30 PM, I finished high school for the day. I left my classroom and walked down to my locker to change for track practice. I went to an all-boys school, so we all just changed in the hallways instead of the changeroom. I was much smaller and skinnier than the other boys my age and felt awkward about how different my body looked. I knew there was a 50% chance that someone would make fun of the way I looked. On this day, luckily, nobody did.

After track practice, I returned to my locker and changed back into my uniform to go home. The subway ride from my high school to my parents’ house in Scarborough was a little more than an hour. The ride was always taken by myself because nobody else at my high school lived in Scarborough. I listened to whatever CD I had chosen for the day in my Walkman two or three times, depending on the length of the trip. On this day, the CD was Three Cheers for Disappointment by the Arrogant Sons of Bitches. I was lonely and pensive on the subway.

I got home just as my mom and sister were preparing to leave the house. I was tired and felt a little defeated, which was common at the end of every day in high school. My sister was a high-level competitive diver and to maintain her fitness and skill, went to practice on the other side of the city every weeknight. Being an athlete of that caliber requires significant contributions from those around you in addition to your own efforts, so my mom was the one to drive my sister to practice each day. As a result, my dad and I were left together at the house for almost every weeknight during my time in high school.

On this night, my dad and I were going to see the Blue Jays play a night game against the New York Yankees. My family had split Season Tickets for the Blue Jays for close to two decades at this point. While in the past the games had been divvied up somewhat evenly between the members of the family (In our youth, my sister and I each got to stay up and go to one night game per season. It was our most coveted and exotic night of the summer.), my dad and I were now left with the lion’s share of the tickets. The Blue Jays were awful at this point, so going to games was not a high-demand night out. What had once seemed like a rare treat was now an almost bi-weekly affair for my dad and me.

Though I wouldn’t say that I was bored of going to see baseball, by this point it had become a sort of routine for me. The current team did not seem as exciting as the one I had grown up watching. I used to get a thrill out of Shawn Green walking up to the plate just because it was happening and I was there. Now I kept wondering why the team was always so close to mattering, but still far enough away to remove any doubt of that happening. This was a new experience in sports. It wasn’t the bewilderment and exhilaration that overtook me when I was child. It was anxiety and anger and annoyance, with brief flashes of pure love, that was in many ways a lot like my adolescent life.

After a hastily eaten meal, the two of us drove downtown via Kingston Road and the Gardiner. We pulled into an alley near Front and Simcoe and were greeted by the same parking attendant we had seen each time here for more than a decade. He’s an thin elderly man in a worn out 2000’s-era Blue Jays cap. My dad hands him a 10-dollar bill. He knows us and tells us to enjoy the night.

On this night, Roy Halladay was pitching for the Blue Jays and that was exciting. Even though he had already won the American League’s Cy Young award and been an all-star multiple times, he felt like he was Toronto’s secret baseball treat. He was so good and somehow didn’t receive much attention in the American sports media. He quietly went about his dominance and Canadians liked that. My dad and I both mentioned multiple times how special we think Roy Halladay is.

In the 1st inning, Roy retired the side, striking out two. He only threw nine pitches. My dad ordered a draught of Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale, as he always did. I did not get to drink beer because I was still underage. In the bottom half of the inning, the Blue Jays loaded the bases with two out. There was a couple behind us talking loudly and one of them asked if it would be “6 points” if the Blue Jays were to hit a home run. My dad and I chuckled to each other.

The SkyDome was mostly empty that night and my dad and I estimated how many people are in attendance. Maybe 5 or 6000? I told my dad about an article I read in Sports Illustrated that week. He told me a story about going to see the Yankees in New York in the 70’s. I was captivated.

In the 4th inning, Doc Halladay faced his toughest challenge of the night. Having thrown only 45 pitches, he gave up an opposite field single to Derek Jeter. The next batter, an overpaid free agent power hitter, who I resented for being rich and playing for the Yankees, hit the only mistake pitch that Roy threw all night into the right field 100-level seats. The Yankees now led the game 2-0. While the player rounded the bases, my gaze was fixed on Roy Halladay, who gestured to the catcher for a new ball and re-took his place on the mound. Stone-faced, he got the next batter to roll over on a cutter to end the inning. After the first basemen received the throw, my dad did a small fist pump in combination with a nod that he did any time a player does something “right”. Roy Halladay seemed to do things “right” almost always.

On that night, the roof of the SkyDome was open, so a cold breeze was coming in off Lake Ontario. Once the sun went down, I started to shiver because I had only worn a t-shirt. My dad gave me his sweater to wear, which I felt awkward putting on because it was much too big for me. Now being warm again, I was free to once again focus on Roy Halladay, who after one hiccup, had continued his dominance for the rest of the game. While the Blue Jays leave much to be desired while they hit, Roy Halladay demands my attention while he is on the mound. He occupied all my focus while he is pitching, and I didn’t pay much attention to how sad I felt earlier in the day.

In the top of the 9th inning, Roy came out once more, having thrown 96 pitches for the night. The Yankees hitters are still helplessly swinging at his masterfully placed corner sinkers and they are retired in order. Even though the Yankees were winning this game, I still felt like it was all about Roy Halladay. He had thrown yet another complete game, which was becoming more and more rare as a feat, but seemed like an everyday accomplishment for him. My dad and I both make comments about how “nobody does that anymore” and note that Halladay’s ability to completely take over baseball games is yet another symbol of him being a special player and the best pitcher in the game.

In the bottom of the inning, the Blue Jays put two runners on, but ultimately come up with nothing. They lose the game, despite Roy Halladay pitching all nine innings. We are used to defeat, so we weren’t so upset about the outcome. We walked out onto the bridge and down Front Street to where we parked the truck.

On the drive home, we listened to JaysTalk on the Fan590 radio station. Many callers phoned in to give their advice about how to improve the team, like trading for Adam Dunn. Nobody mentioned Roy Halladay, because everyone was used to him being the very best.

When we got home, I went to bed. I had to wake up at 6:30 AM the next day to get ready for another day of school, but instead of thinking about that, or how I was lonely, or how I felt isolated from my actual friends at school, or how mad I was at myself for being stupid and awkward, I just thought about Roy Halladay.

Thanks for everything Doc, you were one in a million,

Timmy

Author’s note: This was written while wearing a faded, black Roy Halladay t-shirt.

Sorry, That Was Out of the Blue

Sometimes, I find that a low-effort post is the first step towards more output. Working lots of overtime and being preoccupied with writing PhD grants for next year has neutered my drive to write, so I offer this post as a step towards something with a little more substance.

As part of The Project, I've been working on a couple of songs throughout the year, with the hope that they will eventually turn into a demo. This part has actually going reasonably well, as I've found that writing guitar parts takes much less mental labour than writing short stories and lyrics. Here is a collection of songs that I think define the type of sound that I am going for with these songs:

Algernon Cadwallader "Spit Fountain"



Big Star "In the Street"



Dead to Me "Ran That Scam"



Van Halen "Dance the Night Away"



Oso Oso "Out of the Blue"

Thursday, October 12, 2017

My Friends Carry Me Home

In a recent post, I said "Celebrate the things your friends care about and champion the things they make", so I figured that I should make good on my promise. I have many talented friends who are all pursuing the things they are passionate about and excelling, so I'd like to highlight a few of them below. It's so great to take a moment to think about how many wonderful things you're friends are doing and what they're capable of doing.

THE OFFICIAL I, MUSICAL GENIUS "BACKED HARD" LIST

I've never been shy about my disdain for the boom in craft brewing. To me, it reeks of pretension and consumerism and I find that almost everything the industry produces is terrible. Give me a 50 or a Miller Lite instead. That being said, one of my oldest and very best friends Pat brews for a local company in Toronto called Blood Brothers. I've been drinking Pat's beers since he started brewing in our shitty rented university house and it's been great watching him get better and better. His mindset in the industry is refreshing and down-to-earth and I like knowing that there some non-jabronis out there. And hey, even a guy who spent 10 years drinking PBR almost exclusively likes their beer to boot. You should visit their home base to try some stuff and listen to classic rock. Pat is very good at brewing beer.

While I was in university, another one of my best friends dropped out of his English degree to start cooking at a local Indian restaurant. Matt then enrolled in George Brown's cooking school and has been on a steady trajectory upwards since then. He's already cooked in a variety of Toronto's upper-echelon restaurants, but settled into Actinolite this past year, which he's described to me as his dream job. Just like Pat, I find Matt's approach to cooking very unpretentious and level-headed, which seems rare to me in food. You should eat there if you can.

Duff, another one of my best friends, who I played in Beat Noir with for five years, currently plays in two wonderful bands. One is Wayfarer, who are absolutely on the shortlist of "Best Ever Ontario Bands", and the other is School Shooter, a super fast/super heavy D-Beat project. Both are absolutely worth your time.

I am fortunate that a lot of my friends play in great bands. Nick, yet another of one of my best friends, plays in the band Dog Cops. I saw some clips of them recording this past weekend, so make sure to give that release a listen when it drops.

While I was doing my Master's at Guelph, my PIC Vanja and I had offices connected to each other and both commuted from Kitchener, which basically meant that we spent most of our time awake together. A quick thing we bonded over was a love of good coffee, though knew way more about it than I from being a barista on the side. After we finished our degrees, Vanja kept pursuing coffee and eventually got into the roasting game, leading to his current gig at Propeller Coffee in Toronto. They make fabulous coffee and I recommend grabbing a bag. My favourite coffee I've had in the last little while!

My friend Tyler builds acoustic guitars with robots at Taylor. Consider buying an acoustic from Taylor because Tyler is so so great!

Two of my former colleagues at the gallery, Maddie and Katie, have a new show on at Y+ Contemporary in Scarborough. Good on them for this show! It even has a partner exhibition in friggin' Iceland! Go see this show to support good artists from Toronto. If you read this before the 14th, you can even go to the opening.

One of the best parts of my year for the last two years has been working at the Toronto Comic Arts Festival as a Head Volunteer. The team is super dedicated and hard-working and bring in such awesome programming for the weekend that I feel a little embarrassed by what I do in my job. Great stuff. Great welcoming atmosphere. A wide variety of perspectives and backgrounds represented. A vital queer voice in a realm that can be dominated by lame-os with a rolled up Image issue up their ass. The festival is friggin' free every year! Support it!

My other PIC from my Master's, Coni, is currently doing her PhD at Cornell in Post-Human Art History. She's a fucking research machine and clear and concise writer, but don't let her complicated and difficult theories distract you from the fact that she's a hilarious and warm person as well. She mops the floor with me in pretty much every facet of being an academic. I'm happy to see her do well!

My friends are sick. Love yours too.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Let's Leave and Be Runaways Tonight

I decided to take a break from social media this week, mostly Twitter, because I felt like I was spending too much time on it and it was adversely affecting my mood (did my last post give you a hint?). A great side effect of this is that small thoughts I would have maybe turned into a tweet are now turning into a slightly bigger IMU post. This makes me think that social media breaks are an extremely good thing that I should do more, because it makes me write more and that's way better than wasting time reading things that I don't even find interesting.

I can't believe that humanity spends most of its time doing that now! It's actually really Mest up when you think about it!


I put on an old favourite, the album Good For Me by The Swellers, and it immediately took me back to the place I was at in my life while I was super into it in 2011. The album came at exactly the right time and hit me in exactly the right spot and I listened to it constantly in the summer of 2011. I even put it on my End of Year List that year. I had kind written the band off after not enjoying their previous effort, but then they blind-sided me with this mother fucker and I was in love all over again. It somehow walks the tightrope of mixing skate punk, pop-punk, and alt rock and then sticks the landing masterfully. The songs all go to exactly right place songwriting-wise and then all of a sudden you're on the last song before you even realize it. The band should be really proud of creating a super tight and interesting album.

Even though music is always the first place I turn, it's important to remember that when you feel crummy, revisiting an old friend like this can be comforting and exactly what you need.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Hard to Believe

I have a day off of work today, which feels great after two long weeks of overtime at the gallery. Days off in the middle of the week always feel so much nicer and more relaxing than a regular weekend. It feels like you're conning the world because almost everyone else is stuck at work and running through their regular routine while you get to stay home and lay on the couch with the dog and watch and bunch of skateboarding videos on your TV.

Whenever I have a day off like this, I usually try to make it productive because work has turned free time into a precious commodity in my life and I find that I need to make the most of it or else I feel like shit and the apartment gets really dirty and I feel unfulfilled because I have written anything or played guitar and all of a sudden it's 5 PM and there's been a dull ringing in the back of my head telling me I'm disgusting and lazy.

I say this because this feeling is creeping up on me now after I somehow managed to lose my passport in my own apartment and can't do what I planned today, which was go to the office to renew it. It's a small defeat, but definitely the type of situation that eats away at you and turns into "a thing" while you're trying to deal with it. On top of that, any problem is always intensified when Service Canada has to get thrown into the mix, as they are gold medalists in making you wait in line and fill out forms that seem useless.

Any time that I have a day off, I usually try to make putting a post up on here a priority as well. I was half-assedly thinking of topics to write about and settled on some sort of comparison between the reggae album Two Sevens Clash by Culture and something else, but didn't write that idea down and ended forgetting it right away. I guess all I can say on it is that I listened to this album while I was doing the dishes.




I certainly do love me some reggae. Right after that Culture album I put on some Steel Pulse, who I think are the apex of the genre. It's funny to me how many white people my age rip on the genre because all that they know of it is Bob Marley's Legend and Sublime's singles. Why judge a whole genre on the watered-down singles you hear on Q107? That's dumb.

(Marley is good, but to be honest I think that The Wailers' early output and his album deep-cuts lap his singles in quality.)

Me writing some things on reggae here did drum up thoughts I've been ruminating on for a while. I'm sure that you are familiar with the concept of "Throwback Thursday", a fun trend on social media. Among my punk friends, it's popular to post pictures of yourself playing in an old band to point out how trends in punk music and fashion have changed in the last decade or so. For most of my friends, this means posting a picture of you playing in an old hardcore band.

I was then thinking that if I were to post a "#TBT" picture, it would probably be me playing in The Pragmatics and how most of my friends would think that my band was lame because they all hate ska. Fuck that. I know that defending my interest in ska is kind of my signature scent, but Jesus, it's only that way because of how much ska gets brought up to me.

I think about the effect that growing up in Toronto's ska scene and then moving into punk from there had on me a lot. I also think about how my experience differs from my friends who grew up in hardcore scenes. As much as hardcore music is really great and the scenes can accomplish great things, there's also so many super shitty parts to it.

The biggest is that almost every hardcore fan I met has an inherent sense of elitism and give off a vibe of "If you don't listen to 'X' band or were at 'X' show" then you suck, whether they mean to do that or not. There's a wild amount of posturing. On the flip side, I always felt welcomed at ska shows and found it to be an extremely inclusive community, not to mention that I saw far more bands featuring women and people of colour at ska shows, as opposed to hardcore shows which are white guy city.

I've grown really tired of elitism recently and really wish it a swift death. If you don't like something, just don't like and don't care about it and leave it. I'm sick of social media being a constant parade of people giving their hot takes and unpopular opinions just for the sake of stirring people' anger. Let's not build up pedestals by shitting on everyone else. Let's ignore the people who are focused what shirt to wear to the show instead of playing it. Celebrate the things your friends care about and champion the things they make.

With that said, I offer two throwbacks on a Tuesday:

The first is from a Pragmatics show at Sneaky Dee's. I had a lot of fun playing in this band and thought it was cool, challenging, and fulfilling to play bass in a mostly instrumental ska band. The show this photo was taken at was 19+, but they had to let me in as a 17-year-old because I was in the band. That felt cool.


The second is from when I saw the Suicide Machines play at Pouzza Fest in 2012. That's me in the Hawaiian shirt. When I was younger, a lot of people told me that "Everyone goes through a ska phase in high school." and that my interest in it would fade with age. I grew to love a lot of different music, to be sure, and definitely broadened my horizons, but my undying love for the music that first inspired when I was an impressionable teenager never died. The joke is on everyone else for doubting my convictions and I still love that band to this day.


Monday, October 2, 2017

Leave The Air Stuck with This Waiting to Be Born

This past weekend, my work co-produced a huge conference about the intersection of art and social justice. I worked on the project for more than a year, so it felt really good to see it finally come to life. It was also affirming (and a little harrowing) to see people from around the world come a give impassioned, left-wing talks about important issues that the world is facing.

Something I tried and ultimately failed to do was work some punk into the programming of the conference, which is something I almost always do when starting my planning. The day was divided into four sections; Land, Love, Labour, and Liberty; so when each section started I couldn't help but think about which four songs I would use to frame those four sections if I had my way. I'm sure you get where I'm going by now, so here you go:

Land



Love


Labour


Liberty

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.