Monday, August 24, 2015

We Will Never Listen to Your Rules

I am a huge fan of Andrew W.K. Not just his music, but his persona and his life philosophy. This probably doesn't come as a huge surprise to most, as I think that being an Andrew W.K. fan is one of the things that people associate with me most.

He is popularly known as the musician behind the early 2000's hit "Party Hard" and deservedly so, as that song and the album it comes from, 2001's I Get Wet, is a tight 35 minutes of gloriously hedonistic rock music. It is probably one of my ten favourite albums ever. When I saw him play it in full in 2011, it was one of my favourite ever experiences and was SO FUN.

But I think that a huge part of Andrew W.K. that gets glossed over a lot is how he's changed his persona since I Get Wet. His sophomore album The Wolf was a huge departure. While the album still opens with "Long Live the Party" after an intro track, gone are the loud, drop D hard rock songs about drinking and partying. Taking their place are longer, more intricate and piano driven songs that focus on self-improvement. On The Wolf he took "the party" to mean being positive in one's life and more of a concept than an event.

Case in point:


(Sidenote: God the video for "She is Beautiful" is fucking amazing.)

Most people were put off by this and the album was much less successful than its predecessor, as the populace wants dumb rock songs about partying, not feelings. But a significant thing that happened with this album was the community of AWK fans that embraced this new philosophy surrounding the artists. The party was now not about indulging, but about feeling good.

Andrew W.K. disappeared from North American media for a little bit after this because of contract disputes, but came back a few years later in much the same vein he had left. He started doing motivational speaking appearances and went all-in on his self-help guru persona. Recently, he began a advice column for the New York institution The Village Voice in which he answers questions sent to him and tries to give the reader guidance.

His most recent answer was what prompted me to write this blog.

I'm not ashamed to admit that I have completely bought-in on this and love most of what he says. There have been a multitude of times that I have been extremely stressed and anxious at school about what to do with work and my career and Andrew W.K.'s columns and The Wolf have been a beam of light that shines directly into my heart à-la episode of Digimon that I cannot find for the life of me right now.

He is the best and a wonderful person and it is okay to admit that you need help in thinking positively sometimes.

I mean, come on:

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

You Don't Have the Magic in You Kid, You Never Did. What? BEAT IT!

This past week, Jason Bateman did an interview on Marc Maron's podcast WTF. It's a good listen and I would definitely recommend it, as Bateman has had an interesting career path, going from child star to teen idol to a decade of semi-self-imposed obscurity to critic sitcom darling to comedy movie star. Check it out here. He says some hilarious things about Horrible Bosses 2!

If you know me, you know that Arrested Development is maybe my all-time favourite show. Right up there with The Wire. I know that those are basically the most obvious choices in terms of comedy and drama shows, but fuck it. Those are my favourites and this my blog and that's the way it is and if you don't like it you git out.

The Pet-Sounds-is-my-favourite-album-of-all-time-ness of my taste in television aside, Arrested Development really does mean a lot to me. In high school I noticed that Bomb the Music Industry! made a lot of references to the show, specifically on Goodbye Cool World (though my linked example is from Album Minus Band) which was a huge album for me at that time and really the soundtrack to the summer of 2006, so I figured I would check the show out. This was of course after the show had already ended, so the way I was introduced to show was through re-runs shown by the CBC back-to-back at 5 and 5:30 on weekdays. I still didn't really get what was so amazing about the show, but there was a lot about it that I didn't understand at that time and that really drew me in.

I gave the show another shot in first year university and promptly bought the series on DVD. That has really proved to be one of my best purchases as it gave me an avenue to watch the show before Netflix and everything being immediately available for streaming on the internet. I introduced a ton of people to the show and me getting to watch the slow process of them realizing just how smart and funny the show was something that I never got tired of. It's my most-watched TV show by a wide margin and has a high degree of re-watchability.

Sure were a lot of hyphens in that paragraph. I'll try to refrain for the rest of this post.

This podcast brought up a lot of feelings for me regarding Arrested Development and one in particular.

In second year university I went through my first break-up and it hit me pretty hard. I had been let down by people before that and I felt depressed before that but never like the way I experienced at that time. I had a lot of very strong emotions that I didn't know how to deal with and I had a very low sense of self-worth. I ascribed everything wrong in my life to myself and blamed myself for everything and I felt like everything was going badly and it was completely my fault and because of that I was a shitty and useless person.

Sidenote: Those feelings are what inspired me to start good ol' IMU here.

During this period of depression, I was re-watching Arrested Development for the first time. It was still just as funny as the first time and I was amazed that there were still loads of jokes that I had missed the first time around. It felt great because I could get out of my own head and laugh for 20 minutes at a time and not worry about the other things in my life. Arrested Development was so so helpful to me in coping with my terrible headspace at the time. I would think to myself at that time "It's just a TV show I like, it's not like I'm actually depending on it." trying to minimize the role that the show played in my life at the time because the fact that I was relying on a TV show that heavily made me insecure.

But you what? Fuck it. If you're going through a trying time in your life and something, anything, is helping you in a healthy way, there is no shame in admitting that. None whatsoever. Don't be ashamed of what you like and why you like. Anything can beautiful depending on how you look at it.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Grow Up, I Really Do

Nothing long form today, just wanted to stick the album I Wanna Grow Up by Colleen Green up here because I've jamming it pretty frequently this summer.

Songs by a cute girl in wayfarers about smoking weed and love? That checks out. Also, two of her releases have Descendents references in the title.

And this cover is also great:

That is all.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Reasons to Love the 2015 Blue Jays #3

Josh by-god Donaldson.

As much as it would have been neat for this entire series to have consisted of smaller, lesser-known parts of the 2015 Blue Jays (Maybs a cool idea? Let's bank it.), the reality is that the team's stars are also a huge part of why the team is so much fun to watch. That statement is more true now, with the team coming off of a 3-game sweep of the Yankees to move within 1.5 games of them for the AL East lead IN NEW YORK, than any point in this season. When I posted the first edition of this series on July 6th, I said that it would a good time for casuals to get on the bandwagon.

I love being right.

Unfortunately, the first subject of this series, Danny Valencia was designated for assignment by the team, ultimately ending up with the Oakland Athletics. I was both surprised and sad to see him go, as he was more or less my "guy" on the team, but him leaving also doesn't take away the things he added to the team this season or the forever-positive memories that I will associate with him. And hey, I was almost certain that he was going to get picked up by the Yankees, so having him play for Oakland, my AL West side-b's, ain't so bad.

He's been replaced by Mr. 80-grade smile, in-a-constant-state-of-bewilderment-at-the-offense-he-is-a-part-of, Ben Revere

As implied in that last run on hyphen thing, the 2015 Blue Jays offense is fucking out of control. So many hits. So many runs. SO MANY HOME RUNS. When it rains it pours and also it is raining all the time.

Since #2, the Blue Jays traded Jose Reyes for Josh-Donaldson-except-he's-a-shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki. Also they traded for David Price, who is fucking elite. Also, now the bullpen is also good? How did this all happen in the span of a week? How did the team address every need they had?

It's a crazy time to be Jays fan right now. Regular season home games that are selling out and it's not even because of giveaways. The starting rotation has been lights out. Troy Tulowitzki and David Price play for the team and that is so weird to say and type that I still barely believe it typing out this sentence.

But some things haven't changed at all this year and one of those is the level that Josh Donaldson has been producing all year.

The Jays got Donaldson from Oakland in what is looking more and more like the biggest steal in recent memory. The Jays gave up 4 players for Dosh, but I still think "Billy, how did you give us this player?" every time I watch him play. Even if those prospects work out well, it still doesn't make sense to me. Josh is the real deal. He is the best third baseman in the whole world and it's not even close. Never mind that, he is in close contention to be the best player in the world. There's a real possibility that he could overtake Mike Trout in Wins Above Replacement (WAR, my fav stat) by the end of the season. Mike Trout! In WAR! WAR is Mike Trout's thing! He's the high WAR guy!

WAR is a good place to start with Josh. The stat is more or less the closest thing to an objective calculation of a player's total value. It's like the player ratings they assign to guys in video games, except based on real math. They take every number they can about a guy's offense, defense and baserunning and throw it in a blender and out comes an evaluation of a player's total contribution to his team.

Josh Donaldson's current WAR is 6.2. That is not just good and not just very good, but is truly elite. Only two players in baseball, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, have a higher WAR than Josh and they are not leading him by much.

What I'm trying to say is that Josh is very good at the following things:

Hitting baseballs for average (getting lots of hits)
Hitting baseballs for power (hitting them far so that the team scores)
Taking walks (makes it easy for his teammates to hit him home!)
Catching baseballs (he gets to a lot of them)

Innings in which Josh doesn't contribute anything positive to the team are getting more and more scarce. It is fucking crazy to watch.

My dad and I talk about baseball a whole lot. It's one of the main things we talk about. The way that Josh has been playing this year reminds me of something my dad told me once. He said that in the 80's one of the most exciting things to watch in baseball was to watch Don Mattingly play for the New York Yankees. Even though the Yankees were uncharacteristically mediocre in that decade, Mattingly maintained a constant level of intensity and production that made him stand out from everyone in the league. In my dad's words: "You could tell, every play he was putting out this demeanor 'Hit it to me.'" He didn't just want to win, but he wanted to be the guy that made them win. I get that vibe from Josh. Recently, the Jays had come back from two 3-run deficits in a game against the Kansas City Royals (side note, fuck the Royals) and were tied with them in the 10th inning. Josh stepped in with Tulo on 1st and as soon as he looked out at Franklin Morales, I legitemately, not just for the sake of the narrative of this blog post, thought to myself "Josh is winning this game, right now." He hit a walk-off single.

Consider the following comparison:

It's not just that it's a walk-off home run, but that in each case the team is down by two runs, and they are still able to win the game for their teams.

Also, that was THE SECOND walk-off home run by Josh this year.

I could prate about Josh forever, but instead I'll just offer the following:

And, most importantly:

He even looks directly into the camera before doing it!

He is such a joy to watch. For every superstar that Jays have on the team this, and there are many, Josh's star shines the brightest. He is a supergiant that will not leave it's supernova phase (yeah, I took first year astronomy) and is by all abounts, the driving force of the Blue Jays spectacular offense. As much as I like to focus on the little things in baseball and make the role players or lesser-knowns my favourite, Josh is just the best.

He is hyper-competitive and backs up everything he says. The Blue Jays would be good, but not great without him. He elevates them to another level in pretty much everything he does.

Josh Donaldson is a Blue Jay.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Enlist the Cat in the Impending Class War

With all of the praise that Left and Leaving by The Weakerthans gets and how much I listen to Reconstruction Site, I often forget how good all of their records are and specifically how special their debut Fallow really is. It's a lot punkier than the efforts that followed it and has a sense of youthfulness that isn't really present on their later stuff.

I've been jamming it a lot lately and it feels like John K wrote an accompaniment to everything that's going in my life at the end of this summer.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

And Rage Against Machines.

I suppose that I should probably do some good ol' Blue Jays blogging, considering all the stuff that happened this week (Tulo and Price, oh my!), but I will save that for later because of what is on my mind right now.

I have been interested in examining popular culture in a not-quite-scholarly, but still critical sense for a while now. I owe this mostly to reading Chuck Klosterman when I was in high school. I know that now he's a well-known commodity and his writing is generally written off as male "special snowflake" kind of stuff, if that makes sense, but when I first read him it was brand new to me and it made think in new ways. For those unfamiliar, Klosterman books are mainly collections of smaller essays which examine popular culture in a variety of ways. He touches on a broad variety of artists, personalities and issues and while he doesn't really specialize in any one topic (save for the entirely hair metal-focused Fargo Rock City, which had a pretty big impact on me*), the breadth of his scope of knowledge is pretty great. Klosterman's books are also what inspired me to understand as much as I can about every type of culture. Even if I don't like a band or subculture and probably never will, I like to understand what draws people to it in the first place and understand its merit, even if it doesn't necessarily apply to me.

Anyways, Klosterman's books are really what introduced me to thinking critically about pop culture which is seriously one of my biggest passions now. It still interests me and I think there is a lot to learn and a lot to be said in criticizing and analyzing pop culture. Even in academia, I've noticed that the introduction of pop culture generally leads to a better response from your audience than more straight-ahead scholarship.

With all this in mind, I think that this article about "You Get What You Give" by the New Radicals is a great pop culture essay. Groups like this interest me because there is always more to them than it seems on the surface. They name Harvey Danger and Fountains of Wayne in this article as something similar and I think they are great comparisons. Obviously I knew them first as the bands behind "Flagpole Sitta" and "Stacey's Mom", respectively, but upon looking a little further into them became two of my most-listened to bands of the last few years.

As an accompaniment to the above article, here are the lyrics to "You Get What You Give". JUST DOING TO THE GOOGLE SEARCH FOR YOU.

Cool stuff!

Another great thing that examines pop culture, specifically punk, is Damien Abraham's podcast Turned Out a Punk. I've been listening to a bunch lately!

*One of my paternal uncles moved to British Columbia when I was around 9 or 10 years old. I've never been especially close to them, but for a while our families would still exchange gifts. They would always send me books, which I was of course fine with. I never recognized the books I got from them and would generally write them off, thinking "What is this? I'm never going to read this." But then I would inevitably get around to reading the book and it would be amazing. Every fucking time. Not just good books, but books that blew my mind and were incredibly enjoyable. It was uncanny. I didn't even talk to them, but they would somehow pick these perfect books for me. The first one was Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone right after it came out, well before it became a "thing". Death and the Penguin by Andrey Kurkov was another one. Fargo Rock City by Klosterman was one of these books as well. Uncle Bob, you are fucking sick.