Friday, November 3, 2017

Friday Night Video: Grande Amore

I can't sleep on planes. Or at least, I seem to be unable to - the first time I ever took a flight that might justify sleeping, I decided to leave at 10 PM for a trans-Atlantic flight in hopes of making sure I could sleep. No dice. (Wandering one of the great cities of the world for the first time when you've been awake for close to 30 hours is not the way I'd want to do things if I was going to do it all over again, I must say)

Thing about planes is that you're sort of limited in entertainment. The in-flight movies are often not great, your phone has limited battery, and I think I finished one book and got bored of the other. So I started listening to the music selections. And boy, was it ever a mixed bag. But in the process, I did discover one band that's rather interesting - not quite my normal style, but it hit the spot somehow. Good thing about foreign carriers, they're a good way to discover foreign-language music.


Friday, October 27, 2017

Friday Night Video: Mr. Crowley

Halloween is a weird little holiday. Kids dress up as an excuse to get candy, university students dress up as an excuse to get drunk, and adults dress up their houses as an excuse to show off. For all that it's ostensibly spooky, it's really quite a silly endeavour in many ways.

Still, the silliest ones are probably the ones who take the spooky a bit too seriously. Occult stuff is an amusing thematic element at the end of October, but the rest of the year it's really easy to jump over the line from thematic and atmospheric straight into sad and cheesy. One of the musicians below seems to mostly dress up in occulty stuff for shock value(and biting the head off a bat on-stage was just an unfortunate accident), while the other seems to take it very seriously, but both seem to like referencing occultists, and both make decent music(at varying levels of weird) while doing so.

(And I know that in past, I've tried to make catch-up Friday Night Videos be multiple songs with the same title. Let's just say that, while I may not be into the occult, there's forms of weirdness I do enjoy, like making in-jokes for my own amusement.)



Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Night Video: Fully Completely

It's depressing how many of my videos are posted because some musician I'm fond of died. Some are shocking, some are sadly unsurprising, but they're all depressing.

Unlike most, we knew this one was coming. Cancer is a bitch like that. But despite that, it's sad to know that one of our nation's greatest musicians isn't with us any more. Gord Downie, you will be missed.

(That said, do you know how confusing it is when the person breaking the news to you calls him Robert Downey by mistake?)


Friday, September 22, 2017

Friday Night Video: Link

Back in the olden days, when we used to get our music delivered by brontosaurus, I heard this wacky little song about Zelda games and thought it was pretty catchy. The weird part was that it was attributed to System of a Down, of all people. I can sort of see why, but hearing that this insanely heavy band(at least by the standards of what I'd ever heard back then) was doing wacky gaming songs kind of blew my mind. There's no way that nerdy stuff like gaming would be so popular as to make it to music by popular bands, is there. (Again, how little I knew...)

Sadly, this is not a System of a Down song. It's by this group of nobodies, which got passed around on false under a false name...and yet, probably drove 100x as much traffic to The Rabbit Joint as anything else they ever did, when people went to SoaD sites to figure out where it was from and got corrected. The old saying about how "there's no such thing as bad publicity" apparently even applies sometimes when you're not the one getting the publicity.

But hey, it's a cute little track, and someone on Youtube made a cute little video to go along with it. Why not have some fun?


Friday, September 15, 2017

Friday Night Video: And We Run

I have a soft spot for weird genre-bending music - it's not necessarily better than a well-done song of a more traditional sort, but it's usually way more interesting.

This one...yeah, it's a bit different. A lot of genres have picked up rap influences since the 90s, but this is an approach I don't recall seeing before. I must say, it works pretty well though.


Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Pox On Both Their Houses

I.
Like most people who watch politics, I've been paying a lot of attention to the recent chaos surrounding street protests. Death, riots, mayhem, and a lot of ugly debate over whether one group is "really" Nazis, or the other is "really" Communists, or a hundred other issues.

Honestly, I'm almost past caring whether one group or another is acolytes of one long-discredited totalitarian murder cult or another. What I see is two bunches of people who are both, in their own ways, undermining the free and democratic society that we live in. Neither means to - both groups think they're defending freedom. But I don't care what they think, I care what they do. And right now what they're doing is brawling in the streets, trying to prevent anyone who disagrees with them from being allowed to speak, and killing people. 

We don't praise democracy because it's a perfect system. It's clearly not. But those of us who know our history know what the alternatives look like. We praise democracy because any other alternative - feudal monarchs, theocracies, totalitarian socialism, you name it - is invariably horrifying. We stopped fighting religious wars because Europe got torn apart for three decades fighting over doctrine. After a death toll rivaling World War One, they decided it wasn't worth it and that they should let others live with the religion they wanted. After centuries of succession wars, we started setting up systems to transfer power peacefully, and after millennia of revolts we let people participate in their own governance. It's not perfect, but it stops a lot of wars when people know they have a chance to get what they want without war. 

This system only works with certain ground rules in place, however. In order for someone who lost an election to eschew violence and work within the system, they need to believe that they have a fair chance in future - that elections are honest, that they have a chance to persuade voters, and that they can organize and work towards their preferred future without being unduly harmed for it(whether by laws banning them, workplaces firing them, or people on the other side of a protest punching them). 

Almost as important as those ground rules, however, is an understanding on the part of society as a whole that this system is legitimate, fair, functional, and important. Democracy requires placing trust in the great mass of humanity. I may worry about a Nazi in a car running me over, but I don't worry about ten million Canadians going to the polls and marking their ballots with a swastika. It's just not going to happen in any plausible future. Because I trust my countrymen, I don't worry about these evils taking over our society. 

I think a lot of people lack this trust, and because of it they see this as an imminent threat requiring all possible efforts to stop. And it results in the same reaction as every other crisis situation provokes in people: "There's no time to worry about all those abstract rules of democracy - I see Nazis, and I'm going to punch me some Nazis!". If they were actually on the verge of taking over, I'd agree with them - WW2 was a virtuous fight, despite the fact that it involved a lot worse than fists. But if Nazis are a sad little cult who couldn't fill the stands at a highschool basketball game, never mind Parliament, then this is a gross overreaction. And this overreaction has costs.

The ground rules underpinning democracy are more fragile than many people think. Democracies have fallen before, and they will again - when people stop believing in the system and stop working within it, the centre cannot hold. Democracy isn't words on parchment in the national archives, democracy lives within the minds of the citizens. When we stop respecting the rules, the rules stop protecting us. When we stop allowing people to disagree with us peacefully, they'll disagree violently as soon as they feel like they can. This is incredibly dangerous

II.
Thing is, it's easy to talk. And talk matters, but there's a lot of other things that matter too, and it's time to start acting on some of them. So, the next time one of these street rallies is in my neck of the woods, I'm going. And because I frankly don't trust any of the existing protest groups to be something I could support with head held high, I'm going to be starting my own. 

The manifesto for this group is simple:
  1. We favour democracy, freedom, and individual rights for all. 
  2. Everybody has the right to express their views through speech. Even people we hate.
  3. We do not initiate violence over speech. Ever. 
  4. Anyone who doesn't follow the above rules is our opponent. We deal with opponents the same way a good democrat should - by discussion, argument, organization, and protest. 
We let them speak, we let them march, and we let them organize. And we let them do all these things secure in the knowledge that we're better at it. Our arguments are far better, our supporters are vastly more numerous, and we're the ones promoting the principles that built the modern world. 

I'm not going to make a big difference alone. Even if this group succeeds beyond my wildest dreams, we're not going to fundamentally change the world. Idiots on all sides will still exist, and people may still be talking about how silly those Nazis are after we're all dead. But I'll be helping, and everyone who joins me will be helping too. That's all anyone can really ask of us, in the end. So I'm asking. Because when this issue is put on the back burner, whether that's in a month or a year or a decade, I want to make sure I was working with all of these guys: 


And not any of these guys:

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Friday Night Video - It's My Life

So I've been terrible about posting videos lately. Only one since the beginning of July, for a series that's supposed to be weekly. I have a bunch of half-written drafts, but none that have really caught my attention. Still, that's no excuse(the wedding is, to be fair, but that was weeks ago now).

I've occasionally used the trick of repeating song titles for filling in gaps, but this is an interesting one. It's not just a coincidence of titles here - all three of these are based on the same seed of an idea(asserting one's independence), but they're done through the lens of three different genres, which gives them three different takes.

- The 60s one is a dreamer's tale, where he's lamenting the state of the world but promising to make things better. And of course, it's all to impress a girl(as, to be fair, is true of at least half of all songs ever made).



- The 80s one is rather mopey, and is sort of a pre-breakup song. He thinks the girl is interested in moving on, and so he seems to sort of be steeling himself for a breakup and throwing his independence in her face(which looks like a lie, to my reading, but then I've never been great at lyrical analysis).



- The 00s one is the only one of them that's triumphant instead of defensive. Hell, the first line is "This ain't a song for the broken-hearted" - take that, previous songs by the same name! Of course, it helps that the band already had a long and successful career, but it's the only one that's actually about enjoying independence instead of merely using it as a shield.



So, the 60s rock and roller was kind of a loser but optimistic, the 80s new wave musician was a whiny liar, and the 00s washed up arena rock star was cocky and fond of in-jokes and references. I can't say I'm surprised, exactly, but it fits better than I'd have ever expected. What's in a name, indeed.

I still owe you guys another song, so tune in next week when I post another double.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Friday Night Video: My December

It's not a good time for the musicians of my youth. The "Dead at 27" club are all long gone, of course, but the second wave of deaths seem to be hitting now, where all the ones who haven't managed to live as clean a life as Bono or fully pickle themselves like Keith Richards start leaving us. Chester Bennington, who more than anyone else was the soundtrack of first year university for me, killed himself yesterday. (And to think, when he stepped in for Scott Weiland, we all thought STP had a stable lineup. Now they're both gone.)

As is always the case with these things, there's nothing particularly clever I can say here. It's not like I knew the guy - I saw him in concert once, 14 years ago. I never even particularly identified with the lyrics the way some of the more emo kids did. But Linkin Park was a big part of my introduction to the wider world of music, and I hate seeing stuff like this happen to people I like.


(PS: I know I missed the last two FNVs. Unlike past times I missed them, I don't think I'll be going back and filling in the gaps. My wedding is a good enough reason to not be thinking about it that I'm not going to beat myself up over it.)

Friday, June 30, 2017

Friday Night Video - The Maple Leaf Forever (with bonus blog post!)

(This is nominally a Friday Night Video, but it's also a full-sized blog post)

Canadian patriotism is an interesting creature. We have a reputation as a country for being quiet and polite, and it's fairly well-deserved as far as any stereotype of 35 million people can be "deserved". But we like the idea of being proud Canadians, so we'll often think of ourselves as nationalist, even if we're not always very good at it. 

And so, some very strange things turn into nationalist rallying cries. "We have free healthcare!", as if most of the developed world doesn't - even the Americans run about half of their medical spending through government programs. "Tim Horton's!", as if decent donuts and heavily sweetened coffee is what makes a nation. "That I Am Canadian ad from 17 years ago!", which was a good little rant, but seriously it's a beer ad that's itself almost old enough to drink. 

Quebec has always been the exception to this, because Quebec actually has an identity that's based on their own characteristics. For example, healthcare is merely public policy for them, because they don't need it to prop up their self-worth. I've always admired them for it. In my lifetime, English Canada has never felt the same way. We used to have an identity once, back in the days when "English" didn't merely refer to a language, but it faded away in the postwar years as straight-up English nationalism became seen as anachronistic. I know a few who still feel it as strongly as their great-grandfathers, but that's more because I hang out among Tories than because it's popular nationwide. 

I think we can do better. So in honour of Canada's 150th anniversary, I'll talk about a few things Canada has to be genuinely proud of. Things we do better than most of the rest of the world, not just the Americans, and the sort of things a real national identity can build itself on if we ever become willing to have one. 

1) We Do Immigration Really Well
Immigrants, in practice, tend to be divided into two categories by the general public in most countries - there's the first-worlders, who can come and go as they please without anyone caring very much, and there's the third-worlders, who are viewed with suspicion and need to be sharply limited. In some ways it's understandable - there's so many third-worlders that the numbers would be overwhelming if the walls ever came down - but immigration has huge benefits for both sides if it's allowed to happen, just like every other form of trade. 

Canada has one of the highest rates of immigration in the developed world, and yet it's generally not very controversial. There's a few cranks who complain about it, and there's occasional grumblings of "Can't they just learn the language?", but on the whole it's fairly popular. And the reason is fairly simple - we have pretty clear standards of who we want and how to get in, which means we get skilled and successful people. We take them from all over the world, so there's no single demographic group that ever builds up so many members that it triggers a backlash. And we have a fairly strong cultural expectation that immigrants can keep their food and hobbies and such, but they have to follow our laws and work within the democratic system we have here no matter what their homeland was like. (And more often than not, that's why they're here in the first place, so this isn't exactly something the immigrants tend to resist)

It sounds simple, but it's rare in practice. In the US, the stereotypical is a poor Mexican day labourer who's more likely to be illegal than legal. In Canada, the stereotypical immigrant is a small business owner from some random part of Asia. So while they elect Trump to keep the foreigners out, we take in higher numbers and the only politician to even semi-seriously try to rile people up against immigrants got absolutely crushed. It's a great system, and we should be proud of it. 

2) We're Stable, Peaceful, and Free
It's almost cliche to refer to Canada as a young country, but a 150th anniversary is actually surprisingly old when you consider the history of states instead of the history of nations. In 1867, when Canada gained independence, Germany wasn't yet a state. In all of the Old World save Europe there's a grand total of eight nations that have had a continuous existence longer than Canada has. Their ruins are older than ours, but their states are newer. 

Stability is overrated by some, but when it comes to people running their day-to-day lives, nothing matters more. Not freedom, not prosperity, not pride or honor or history - give people the choice of any of those in a chaotic world or none with stability, and most will pick the stability pretty quickly. It's happened over and over through history. We have stability without giving up any of those other virtues, and that's something to be proud of. 

Few countries can endure a decades-long effort to destroy the state without resorting to violence, especially when the movement started out with flashy violence in its own right. Few nations have as long a history of avoiding the ravages of war as we do - the world wars, destroyer of whole continents, involved one lighthouse getting shelled briefly in Canada. 

Obviously, this is not uniquely Canadian. Even the exact form of government we have is obviously a British transplant, though we picked up a few ideas from the Americans in the process. Likewise, some of it is a function of our relatively isolated geography instead of our civic virtue. But that's no reason to begrudge it. We do well with what we have, and we should be proud. 

3) We're Damn Good Bankers
I confess that I might be a bit biased here, given I work for a big bank, but this is really an underappreciated Canadian virtue. It sounds a bit silly to pick on one sector like this, but bank failures are almost always the proximate causes of ugly financial crashes, and Canada just doesn't ever have any. So when Creditanstalt crashes and takes down the world financial system with it(plus, you know, that whole Hitler thing), the whole world economy falls apart, but the Canadian banks carried on without any trouble. 2008 ripped the American banking system in half and took down several titans, but the Canadian banking crisis was two losing quarters at CIBC - heck, they still made a profit on the year. 

Our regulatory system is a bit different than other nations, but not so much so that it should cause this gigantic a discrepancy. Likewise, we bailed out our banks a bit, but less than most other nations. The best explanation I've ever heard is a Canadian cultural bias against taking excess risk, and it seems to fit well enough. And boy, does it ever work in our favour here. In the wake of 2008 when a big part of the world was talking about a "Too Big To Fail Tax" on big banks, all Harper had to do to spike the idea was to point out that it was everyone else who had problems, and the Canadian banking system was fine as it was. Rather than see all their banks move to Toronto, the whole world backed down. It was magnificent - easily my favourite move Harper made as PM - bit it only worked because our banks are eerily stable. They're harder to destroy than a Hilux, for god's sake

As for pride in our banks...well, telling people to like bankers is an uphill battle, I'll admit. But we should at least be happy that ours screw up a lot less than anyone else's. 

4) We're Usually On The Right Side Of History
Most nations have a bit of a spotty record overall. They're the good guys sometimes, they're the bad guys sometimes, who knows. But Canada has, by and large, been on the right side of every conflict we've been in. The Boer War was rather questionable, I'll admit, but in both World Wars, most theatres of the Cold War, and the post-9/11 War on Terror we did our part quite effectively for our size. We invented peacekeeping(which we laud more than we ought, but it's genuinely done good work in a few places), and we're pretty decent at knowing which one to use when. Again, it's not unique, but it's rarer than we might like, and it's something to take pride in.

Honorable Mentions
The food: Poutine, nanaimo bars, butter tarts, and maple everything are all typical Canadian foods, but our immigration system is doing double duty here. I live in the most multicultural city on the planet, and I can eat like it any time I want. It's fantastic. 

It's really pretty: Every nation has scenic bits of nature, but the advantage of being so huge is that we have a whole lot more of it than most. 

It's home: At root, this is half the reason for nationalism in every nation. Even if it's not the best nation in an abstract sense, it's still mine, and I like it here. 

I say we have a lot to be proud of, and we can do better about expressing that pride than ragging on our best friends, or spending $120,000 on a rubber duck, or throwing around airy platitudes, bloated government agencies, and stale beer commercials. We're allowed to be proud of who we are, and I'd like to see us do it a bit more often. 



Friday, June 23, 2017

Friday Night Video - Let Love Rule

Sorry for the sparse posting lately - my real life is kind of nuts at the moment, what with the whole "I'm getting married in two weeks" thing. Comes mid-July, the longer posts should pick back up. But until then, some sappy romantic stuff.

This is one I actually got from the guy who originally posted a Friday Night Video series, the one I ripped off for this idea. He's a big 80s music nut - this was about the most modern his musical tastes got - but it's a pretty cool tune.




And, since I owe you guys one from last week: