COOL, COOL JOHNNY C

Greetings,

Normally I don’t spend time online waxing philosophical about the glories of my superiors. After all, I wouldn’t want to be accused of brown-nosing. But just this once.

My pal John, whom I’ve now worked with for three years (has it been that long?) has potentially the coolest job in online publishing. He basically spends his days editing material online. Then he uploads it onto a site. Pretty cool (yes, this job is far more involved than that, I’m just doing this for simplicity’s sake).

Because of him and his generous nature, I get to interview a whack load of people that, well, bring smiles to my face. He’s a great guy and endlessly supportive (and kicks my ass when I need ass-kicking, which happens quite often).

So cheers to you John: you’re a great guy, friend and editor.

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COMPUTER CHANGES, GAMING, LIFE PROGRESS

Greetings,

Alright! So after a long time, I finally decided last week this weekend would feature the great transformation of my Windows computer. You see, I got this unit in 2002. It’s been four years (an eternity in computer years) since and my CPU, motherboard, graphics card, pretty much everything except the CD-ROM/DVD-ROM/DVD-R drives plus the hard disk is woefully out of date. I even had trouble running Google Earth on this machine, it was that slow. Up to this point, I decided to let it go. But, of course, I went at it like mad this weekend.

First, the trip to the computer parts store. I got an Intel CPU and motherboard (of course), a new RAM chip (512 MB, which is pretty decent, but not amazing) and graphics card. Installed those yesterday, performing open surgery on my computer. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get the damn thing to work. Here’s photographic evidence of the old parts, doomed to spend the rest of their days in a landfill or to be recycled:

Oooh… microchippy.

From there, I had to go to some fellow geeks to check the cooling system. Fortunately, it was done and this computer is now 2004-ish in terms of power and speed. It’s not taking ages for the machine to start. Here are the guts of my new, beautiful machine:

– Power… so much more power…

GAMING: So in my quest for infinite relaxation, what with my insane life schedule, I’ve decided to play Quake 4 and the new 24 game for the PS2 over the week. Good times.

LIFE PROGRESS: Good news – I’m really starting to chip away at paying back for last year’s adventure in Halifax. Feels pretty good.

APPLE TAKES ON XP, SPORTSNET, DEL.ICIO.US AND BUILD

Whoa, this is getting weird.
Greetings,

This isn’t really new news, but it’s definitely causing some buzz in the tech world: Apple’s release of Boot Camp – the version of XP that can run on Intel-powered Macs – is causing a significant stir online. Boot Camp, originally scheduled to be part of Leopard, the new Mac OS, is really creating an impact. This is a very bold move on Apple’s part and the most obvious attempt yet by the company to take away Windows users to Macs.

Good on Apple’s part – I’d love to have seen Steve Ballmer’s temper tantrum after he found out about this little dity. Check out these Flickr pics on the installation process.

SPORTSNET: Why was a Raptors game on last night instead of a Blue Jays game (in spite of the fact the Jays got smoked last night). If it is broadcast commitments, no worries, but these pointless Raptor games – sorry, they’re out of the playoffs, most people aren’t really into it now – are already declining in ratings. Wouldn’t it make more sense to go with a team that’s fresh and hot again like the Jays?

DEL.ICIO.US: I’ve finally decided to sign up with these folks. Another great app for the Web 2.0 era. Hopefully sometime soon I’ll be able to embed more tags into this blog via del.icio.us.

BUILD: I’m building a computer from parts-to-finish. I’m realizing more and more that I’m actually okay with the guts of computers, so I’m going to start a project to build a computer from the parts-and-labour startup. The goal will be an ideal gaming machine with far superior RAM than my current Windows unit. I may just use that computer as a server or make it a household computer, see what demand is like.

SO VERY TIRED

Greetings,

I feel kind of like crap today, unfortunately. My course was great yesterday, but man was the trip long. Got off at Islington subway station, took a bus up to Rexdale (just to clarify for those who don’t know: Rexdale is this strange region of Toronto that behaves like the suburbs but is apparently part of Toronto. Don’t ask me. They say it’s part of Etobicoke, but I don’t know) in a long a meandering route that, eventually, got to Humber. After entering a Byzantine-like fortress of a campus, I eventually got to my class with ten minutes to spare.

It was a great class. The only trouble being it was an exceptionally long way, surprisingly so. Hopefully I’ll be able to figure out a different strategy on getting there next week.

JUNOS REVIEW, WAR ON CHRISTIANS AND COURSE STARTS

Greetings,

Well the Junos were a joke, once again. Shameful. Positively shameful. My worst fears were confirmed when Pam Anderson – who thought having her as host was a good idea, really? – decided to use her, um, assets as distractions for the shocking banality of the whole affair.

This being said, I’m not going to diss CTV for their presentation. It was actually a decent-looking and produced show. But again, CARAS, you guys are out to lunch. When Kardinal Offishall says he’s not returning to the Junos again due to the show’s amazingly short-sighted (with overtones of racism) approach to hip-hop, or when Broken Social Scene makes the very valid point of the Canadian music industry chucking Canadian Idols – all of whom went home empty-handed – to the wolves when their albums don’t do so hot (Paging Ryan Malcolm), something’s wrong.

While many people I know are generally unified on their largely negative opinion of CARAS and the methodology of selection of awards, one person defended them. Here’s the only defense:

“Album sales dictate awards. Albums are bought by people. The final arbiters of musical success in Canada should be the people first and foremost, not critics.”

Uh, no. First off, there’s a thing called the “Fan Choice Award” which is voted on by the people. Secondly, that logic is simplistic and unreasonable.

Look at the five Album of the Year nominees. In all five instances, the records have gotten insane publicity rackets, mostly through Canadian Idol (one long TV commercial with bits of genuine, heartfelt singing between a million ads for Coke and L’Oreal), non-stop TV commercials for Buble and Nickelback and Krall resting on her international superstardom.

None of this is new per se. But what’s new is how records are being promoted so aggressively on air and as “impulse buys” at stores like Indigo or Starbucks, i.e. non-traditional avenues of promotion such as music magazines like Chart (a mag that wouldn’t touch Buble with a ten-foot pole) or MuchMusic (since Much only does music videos now on the Countdown or MOD or on the graveyard shift show The Wedge).

In other words, the avenues in which consumers buy music have become far more niche-driven and much less about cross-demographic appeal. It’s easy to see who’s buying these records: wealthy folks who regularly go to Starbucks, Indigo and other upscale stores (and therefore rarely hear music that’s even remotely challenging or dangerous), Baby Boomers with disposable income (the only demographic that buys physical CDs en masse still) or folks with little to no musical taste.

And this comment – the Baby Boomer comment – is particularly apt. In the vast majority of cases on Juno night, the award winners (and nominees, cue Bryan Adams!) were largely Boomer-friendly. Buble is about as threatening as a Labrador Retriever puppy, Krall’s “smooth jazz” is offensive listening even on JAZZ-FM sometimes, and the Idol kids are like younger versions of Buble, only with creepy fan clubs full of middle-aged women. Nickelback is about as edgy as it gets here and their music is the kind of music Boomer dads can “get down” to with their sullen teenagers.

Put two and two together and there you have it: a largely-Boomer friendly music show that indulges in some small tokenism of edginess with awards to Bedouin Soundclash, BSS and K’Naan either not on the televised portion of the broadcast or put in marginal categories.

In this context, it’s easy to see why indie artists and hip-hop artists are pissed at the Junos. That music is “scary” and “difficult” and not easily digestible to the masses. It also speaks to a trend in Canadian music that’s becoming more unsettling as the years go on. Remember Live 8? The Barrie concert was, aside from a few decent moments, largely an exercise in delusional Boomer hoser-rock nostalgia. Deep Purple? Labatt 50-drinkin’-era Bryan Adams? Huh?

Let’s be clear: this isn’t an international phenomenon. The U.S., U.K. and Europe routinely have award shows that celebrate the edgy qualities of music, namely the Brit Awards, still the best music award show on TV. While we go Boomer-All-The-Way, the Brits give awards to Kanye West, Arctic Monkeys and other youthful acts. Why is Canada acting as if the only music that matters is the one sold on a CD? Or worse, why is there such a profound generational disconnect here? I’m not saying Boomers have no right to enjoy music, but award shows aren’t there to commend artists who eclipse gold status in Canada. They’re there to celebrate the best in Canadian music. If they’re there just to publicly celebrate Buble’s “stunning” collection of hardware Sunday night, you might as well stop broadcasting the show and put it on CCTV at an industry function while record executives pat each other on the back.

For shame Junos. For shame CARAS. Next year, show some balls and change the award selection methodology. Otherwise, all the pontification John Brunton made, quite rightly, about us being internationally-minded isn’t worth a damn.

SALON: Want to read something creepy? Check this out at Salon (free pass required, watch an ad and get access). A conference in the U.S. called the War on Christians – a conference full of true believers that actually believe Christians are being vilified in American society – has members in it called Christian Reconstructionists. These folks believe in civil law being replaced by biblical law (read: theocracy) and executing homosexuals and women who copulate before marriage. The worst part? These folks, as the article says, used to be politically radioactive in America. Not anymore. Why do many American Christians play this victim card still? They practically control the Republican Party now.

COURSE STARTS: My certificate program starts tonight – quite excited. Wish me luck!

READY TO ROLL WITH MD, TSR, DIGITAL MUSIC AND JUNOS

Greetings,

Well I’m all set to go: I’ve finally finished gathering up all my equipment for my adventures in CBC Radio. I’m quite excited. I got the MD-to-XLR connection so now all I need is a female XLR coupler to bind the mic and MD together more easily.

TSR: RELOADED – My pal Neate from Queen’s and I are going to do a sports-themed podcast. It’s going to be called The Sports Revolution: Reloaded (note the cheesy Matrix reference). We’re going to do it once a week, probably only for 15 minutes or so. He’s in Ottawa and I’m here in Markham, so we’re going to do the podcast via Skype and then record the broadcast directly onto my hard drive. Then save it as an MP3 and upload onto my site. I’ll post a download link here on the blog once we’re ready to go.

DIGITAL MUSIC: Here’s a great article on the state of digital music in 2006. Pretty interesting stuff – legal downloading is surging but, of course, has to be taken in context to illegal downloads and CD sales (CD sales are really hitting the skids).

JUNOS: So it’s Pam Anderson hosting the annual Canadian music love-in tonight in Halifax. I guess we should be excited. I dunno. I’m not. When the Record of the Year features Diana Krall’s Christmas album and two Canadian Idols, all the philosophical waxing about how Canadian music is punching above its weight these days makes little difference – we look rather silly and still a cut below the Grammy Awards. Not to mention the Junos relegating internationally-renowned artists like BSS, Metric and other great acts to the amorphous “Alt Rock” scene (and really, putting Neil Young there and not putting his recent record in Album of the Year instead of Kalen Porter? For shame CARAS, Canadian Idols are here today, gone tomorrow), the concert’s more-than-passing tendency to avoid hip-hop and “rap” altogether as mainstream award choices (no, K-Os winning last year does not make up for years of neglect) smacks of something.

In addressing the criticism of having the Black Eyed Peas and Coldplay performing tonight, I think producer John Brunton is right – we need to show we can compete with the international artists and other award shows, namely the Brit Awards, feature out-of-town artists as well. But this being said, the Junos still aren’t ready to be seriously considered a competitor to those shows – we’re still going for the “populism-at-all-costs” approach and putting more challenging music to the sidelines in favour of mainstream pap. There’s a serious disconnect here between the methdology CARAS uses to select nominees and the real musical tastes of real people. Will someone at CARAS re-evaluate the methods in which Album of the Year is chosen?