Monday, July 31, 2017

Skate and Destroy

From the I, Musical Genius Draft Files,

On Things Changing

I thought of the nugget at the centre of this post a few weeks ago and have been kicking it around since. Bear with me as I try to dig through my brain to find the idea that spurred this by writing through it, as is my custom.

I find that one of the most frustrating things in life is when things change and you have no control over it. Something that was once ~important~ and then, through no effort on your behalf, it becomes the opposite. Human beings are kind of obsessed with controlling things and classifying things. People get terrified and irate when something happens to them and there's nothing they can do about it. They get equally mad when something is easy to pin down as "this, this, and this". Saves the Day has to be "emo" and "pop-punk" and you have to mention that they were sort of a hardcore before discussing any of their current music which doesn't resemble any of those things.

This desire to classify things is a weird quirk of humanity and I think about it a lot. I'm fully aware of it and I still try to stick things into their proper place more than almost everyone else. Maybe it's due to how we're educated in public school systems? That is a meandering thought for another time.

Back to writing about the amorphous topic of "things changing".

The thing that spurred me to write about is the current fad of young teenagers wearing Thrasher Magazine merchandise. You may scoff at this being what inspired this, but I really do think it's an excellent example of it.

I've been very familiar with Thrasher for most of my life because skateboarding and punk are basically the first two things I got into while I was shaping my identity in the crucial pre-teen, pre-high school years. The tie between those two subcultures is almost as old as either of them are and makes perfect sense. Skateboarders have been into punk forever and nothing exemplifies this relationship better than Thrasher Magazine. I was drawn to Thrasher magazine because the style of skating they featured in the mag was punk. Even if it wasn't a punk guy skating, the ethos was there. It was anti-corporate and praised just skating over everything else. As simple as that sounds, it's fucking huge.

This is why I was so proud to wear my Thrasher shirt and hoodie while I was out and, especially, while I was skating.

Over the last year or so, Thrasher shirts (especially the "Flame Logo") have BLOWN up as popular clothing choices for hip teens, which was, to me, very surprising. It's to the point now where most people think of Thrasher as a streetwear brand like Supreme or Crooks and Castles, which kind of sucks. Are the shirts not made to express your endorsement of the mag and its ethos?

There was one day I was coming home from work and there was a group of freshmen university students on the streetcar near me. All of them were very excited because their OSAP student loans had all just gone through and they had just spent the surplus on some new Thrasher shirts, despite non of them being skateboarders. It was sad to see. That is pretty silly to say, but IMU only exists for me to be frank, so I'm not going pretend I wasn't bummed out by this to save face.

I've thought about whether it's dumb and shitty for Thrasher gear to have gotten so popular a lot for the last little while and I think I've mostly settled on what I think about.

A big part of this was listening to an episode of the excellent skateboarding podcast The Bunt on which Thrasher Editor-in-Cheif Jake Phelps was a guest. The hosts asked Phelps about the phenomenon and how he felt about Thrasher shirts somehow becoming a fashion trend. Phelps, who is well-known in skateboarding as its foremost cantankerous gatekeeper, said that he didn't care at all about celebrities like Bieber and Rihanna wearing the brand because all it did was drive up sales and give the magazine more money, which in turn allowed them to send even more skaters on more skate trips and put out even more videos. I thought that was a great way to look at this trend.

I still think it's pretty silly to buy and wear a shirt that says "Thrasher Magazine" when you don't read or care about the mag though.

I know that this is going to be a short-lived thing and I'm sure that those damn teens will have moved on to something else clothes-wise next year, but part of me is still a little sour that something that I really love got picked up to be a trend so divorced from what it means. There was one day where I skateboarded to work in my Thrasher hoodie and when my co-workers (who are all insular studio art kids) saw me they said "Oh aren't you just the broiest bro!" because they clearly understood Thrasher as "Thing That "Hip Teens" Wear" and not "Skateboarding Magazine".

I think my obsessive on this is mostly due to the fact that now when I wear my Thrasher t-shirt, people will think "that is a popular brand" and not "he loves to skateboard". I liked it better when a Thrasher shirt was a signifier for somebody who fucking loves to skate. I love skateboarding and I hate brands. I hate that this small thing that was important to me changed drastically and there was nothing I could do about it. I also hate that I care so much about what people think about t-shirts.

I guess that from now on, I'll just have to make sure to be skateboarding whenever I wear my hoodie to remove all doubt and that's not the worst thing in the world because any excuse to get outside and skate is a good one.

Friday, July 28, 2017

A Lot Like a Loser Who's No Good at Losing at All

I am no stranger to waxing poetic about ethereal connection between the game of baseball and those who watch it. There's a lot of different ways that one person trying to hit a ball thrown by another person into spots where eight other people aren't standing manages to seize hold of my emotions every year and there's an equal mix of emotions that come along with that.

The one emotion that is absolutely crucial to baseball and that fans must never forget about, no matter how "out of it" things may seem is hope. Even when you're at your most sour and can only think about having to return to yet another season of sub-.500 baseball, baseball will pick you up by the hips and toss you in the air to remind exactly how fun all of this is. The greatest quote in all of sports, former Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver, summed it up better than I ever could:

"You can't sit on a lead and run a few plays into the line and just kill the clock. You've got to throw the ball over the damn plate and give the other man his chance. That's why baseball is the greatest game of them all."

With this all being said, I would like to proffer a piece by Stacey May Fowles, who is a phenomenal author from Toronto. She does the whole "my emotional state is dictated by baseball" thing much better than I do and is way better at explaining the weird emotional bond you make with men you don't know while they play baseball in Toronto than I as well.

Give this read and remember why it's much more fun to cheer the good parts than complain about the bad parts.

Stay in the fight, boys.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Maybe I'd Rather Leave That Rotten Apple Where it Ought to Be

I spent a decent chunk of the spring of 2016 listen to Oliver Houston's EP The Dork Ages. I discovered the band through hearing their name on a podcast I liked and then found them to be one of the better "Emo Revival" bands I had heard in a while.

Once bands like The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die and Into It. Over It. started to gain a little bit of mainstream musical traction, the label "Emo Revival" got thrown around a lot and it seemed like a new band with a pedal board a meter wide formed every day. Suddenly American Football was the inspiration for every band? I'm not complaining, but I found it pretty surprising. With that rise in emo bands though, I felt like some of the minor things that made the genre cool got a little lost in translation, which is bound to happen when that many similar bands form.

That being said, I think that Oliver Houston is a cut above almost every other "twinkly" emo band right now, especially with You Blew It!'s last album being pretty boring. There's a load of cool rhythms and grooves on the album and I really appreciate that the guitar work is built around riffs instead of excessive open-tuning shredding, which is pretty common place now. Not everyone can be Algernon.

I somehow missed that Oliver Houston put out a full-length in 2017 until yesterday. It's excellent and, with The Dork Ages, makes for a very impressive start to a discography.

Great stuff!


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Jacky Boy

It’s extremely strange when a day you knew would occur in the future finally arrives. Sometimes it’s an odd mix of anxiety and disbelief, like when you’re a young child and your birthday finally comes. Sometimes it’s open-faced awe because it arrives unexpectedly.

Today, June 22nd, 2017, is the day that Jack Chandler the Border Collie died. I knew that Jack would die when we picked him up, but I didn’t think about it because I was too filled with love to consider it. I didn’t have to consider it for a long time, because he was so active and healthy late into his life.

The countdown to Jack’s death began in earnest when some tumours on his leg ruptured and he hemorrhaged blood while laying on the kitchen floor. He had surgery and recovered, but now he had a clock on his life, ticking down his remaining hours. He was no longer just “Jack”; he was now “Jack, the old, sick dog.” Every time I spoke about Jack, I now had to mention how he was doing.

Now, I don’t get to talk about how he’s doing anymore.

Death brings out a complex and surprising mix of feelings. It’s kind of nice in a way, because it makes it easier to understand what those around you are going through. It’s suddenly enough to just give someone a hug to empathize with them. That’s so rare.

It makes me so angry too. I don’t know what I’m angry about. I want someone to make fun of me for crying in public so that I can hit them with my skateboard. I want to relieve the tension I feel in my chest and I want to do it in a dumb way.

I just want the anger to go somewhere because I don’t know why it exists.
While waiting for the train to my parents’ house, I saw a high school student wearing a shirt that just said “Courage,” and it immediately struck me how stupid it was to mass-produce a product like that. I hate the world.

I called my mom at work. That was when I found out. I had a meeting with my department after. They complained about the usual things. It felt silly and stupid to listen to them. Not a single thing was said that mattered. I had a thousand-mile stare at the bookcase.

When I got home, my mom came to hug my brother and I and then I saw Jack’s dead body on the couch.

He was so dead.

We had periods of on and off sadness throughout the whole day. 20 minutes of extreme sadness followed by 40 of jovial conversation.

My dad was hit the hardest. At one point when I was the only other person home, he faced Jack’s body and said, “Wake up Jack.”

It killed me.

It makes me wonder about whether I’ll divide my life into “Before Jack” and “After Jack”. Maybe I’ll only think that way today.

Walking through my home and I pick out all the small places that I used to know.

Gave my Dad a hug to comfort him. It didn’t do shit for either of us. Jack’s still dead on the couch.

Kathleen took a bus back from Ottawa right away. She immediately broke down when she got through the door. We all gathered around him to have a final moment with his body. We laid him on the patio table and wrapped him in the blanket from the couch in our kitchen. When my dad picked Jack up, his tail hung out of the side of the wrapping. It really made him look like a dead animal and I didn’t like that.

Everyone else was a lot more outward in their emotions. I got mad at myself because I didn’t feel like I was crying enough. Got mad at myself for thinking about that in the first place. Wish I could act the way everyone expects you to. Don’t be so fucking cold to the people you love, asshole.

Jack’s in the ground now, under a big groundstone in our backyard. In the afternoon, my brother, dad, and I dug a small hole for Jack to go in. We waited for my sister to arrive. We put him there.
All of us cried. Trixie wondered what was going on. She circled the hole with Jack at the bottom a few times. My dad and I covered him with dirt. I will never think of the word “buried” in the same way again.

It started raining during dinner. I mostly thought about the rain seeping down through the dirt and making Jack wet.

My dad said that when he used to leave for work in the morning with Jack, he would turn to his dog and say, “You and me against the world.”

I will only have Jack once and that’s done now.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Em, D, and C

At first, I thought that the dumbest I would see on the trip was the teenager on the boat tour who lifted up her fidget spinner in front of the Eiffel Tower for a picture. It was quite stupid, but it pales in comparison to meeting one the biggest blowhards in the world at our hostel the next night.

His greeting, "Hey, you guys speak English?... Great. Finally some nice people." should have been a dead giveaway. At first, I was ready to engage him on an informal level, but that dissipated quickly. He was obviously very stupid, evidenced by him asking us about, in order, Drake, Justin Bieber, and cold weather. He must developed an ulcer holding in questions about maple syrup.

He said that he liked the city, but found the people rude.

"You have to ask for the cheque four times."

He revealed his final douchebag form when he asked if we minded if he played some guitar. He pulled an acoustic guitar out from under a bed, told his friend that he had "written another verse" that day, and performed some "Dave"-esque bro-folk nonsense that didn't seem to be about anything in particular. He asked Rebecca and I what our favourite songs are so that he could play them, but we didn't give him an answer.

"Do you like The Strokes?"
"Do you like The Shins?"
"Do you like Vampire Weekend?"

"No"

"Oh, you don't haven't heard of them?"

(For the record, I like The Strokes)

He tried to play another song, but did a really bad job.

"I apologize, I'm a little drunk."

He was hoping that we would say "No, you're great." We didn't.

He complemented Rebecca's leg tattoo and he had one of his own.

"It's the word 'five', but we won't get into that now."

No, we won't.

His friend thought him having a tattoo was really cool. We figured that he only got it because he was 20 years old and away from his parents.

His friend could also play the song that was too hard for him to play.

"Do you like the Toronto Raptors?"

I said I did, but that I'm more of a Blue Jays fan. He said he liked hockey and it was a big part of his family.

I asked if he liked the Los Angeles Kings and he didn't know how they were. He thought the Jays were a hockey team. "They're baseball", his friend corrected him. The Maple Leafs are our hockey team, I said.

"Oh, The Maples..."

His friend asked if I liked Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

"I love that movie."

"What a random question to ask."

"It's set in Toronto."

"Oh. I need to see that one again."

He started to talk at his friend about their band, Five Points. They were going to "take the next step" with it.

"What's your favourite Five Points song?"

"I don't know. It's hard to choose."

"Just pick your top three."

His friend to noodle while finger-picking. He told his friend that it would be good for a verse maybe.

"You always gotta put in a hook. I always put in a hook."
"I'm going to top the Billboard 100 one day."

We said that we were going to bed.

"No problem. We'll be up another 10, 20 minutes."
"I'm pretty blitzed. Just enough to sleep."

Becks and I got into one of the bunks and tried to make two people fitting into a single be work.

He started telling his friend about "his plan", about how they were about to take the next step with their band.

They were going to move to Los Angles to make it with their band. Them and Van. If they followed his plan, they would have no problem.

He knew they were bros for life. They would be the best man at each other's wedding . That's why he got his words tatted on his chest.

He had to know if his friend wanted to be the face of the band.

"Are you going to be the face or the songwriter?"

In the long run, he knew that he would be the face and would carry them to success.

With Five Points, he wanted to start a movement. They would headline festivals and people would know them.

"Can you imagine us walking out to a crowd of 10000 people?"

He started razzing his friend about his fashion sense, asking if, when they got famous, he would walk the red carpet in a baseball hat and hoodie.

"Like Odd Future and Tyler the Creator, say what you want, but they had a look."

I don't think that he knew that Odd Future all wore baseball caps and hoodies.

He wanted to give the band a logo and symbols, so that at festivals everyone would know them already.

They were both breaking up with their girlfriends to move to Los Angeles. It sounded like his friend did not want to break up with his, but was letting his friend force him to.

He kept bringing up that he would always speak his mind to his friend, even if he didn't like it. He wanted him to know that he still loved, but he would be honest about their music. He mostly meant that he would shit on his friend's ideas.

"You always have to have a plan. Like when we made a plan, we went on a wine tour and saw Notre Dame. When we didn't, we did nothing."

In their conversation, it came out that had not yet jammed together as a band. I found it funny that they were moving to one of the most expensive cities in the world with no jobs to make it as a band, not to mention the tattoo.

He spoke at his friend for about an hour after we went to bed. Eventually, his friend got up and said he was going to bed, but he actually just went next store and we could hear him on the next balcony talking to his roommates.

Icemeister

For the last three years or so, I've carried around a small notebook that I use to journal and jot down stray thoughts. About month ago, I wrote, in the journal, that I thought it would be a good idea to start journaling on I, Musical Genius as a way to spur myself into a better spell of writing. It's been a long time since I've tried any sort of daily journaling, so I thought that this would be a cool new exercise for me to try out.

My plan was to force an entry out of myself every day, while also not worrying about forming a full post. If I started with short entries that were mostly a few thoughts connected by string, pieces that were more filled-out would surely follow. Coincidentally, I also got this idea about a month before the date that Becks and I will be leaving for a two-week trip to Europe, which could make for an interesting theme to the posts. I didn't want to make it a sort of "travel blog", which I've seen pop a lot among friends on social media, because I find those pretty tired and cliche. Instead, I hope that our upcoming trip, my first real international trip, would inform the subject matter indirectly and make it interesting. But a few days slipping by turned into a week and that turned into another week and I think it would be silly to start that sort of exercise just a week before I leave.

Even worse was when my laziness and writer's block took hold and this post, which was started on June 17th, was only re-visited today, on July 12th.

Bad. Very bad.

I didn't even end writing very much in Europe. Only a few things here and there. A short, choppy story, a daily journal, and a few ideas for other stories.

Things have been percolating long enough now. I've finished one story, have parts of two others, and have plans for a few more. Planning is over and I think the only thing left to do is nail my hands to the keyboard and actually make something.

I need to remember that I have the skills to do this and convince myself that "this guy fucks".