RIP Gord Downie

Gord Downie passed away today, which, while not unexpected, is still incredibly sad and heartbreaking. The Tragically Hip are very much Canada’s band and Gord Downie very much emblematic of Canadian music, and, heck, of Canada itself.

Two weeks ago we went to see the documentary Long Time Running, about the Tragically Hip’s last tour. It’s a lovely doc and you should see it. It was the same day Tom Petty died so, you know, pretty emotional day, musically. I can’t imagine how emotional it’d be to watch it now.

Last summer in advance of the last show of that tour, I shared a few Tragically Hip memories on Facebook; I’m gonna share them again here. Copying content is a content marketing sin, but, there’s a decent chance I’ll deactivate that Facebook account in the near future, so I’d rather house that content here.

Here’s what I had to say on August 20, 2016:

  1. In my 12th grade media arts class, we studied the video for “Locked in the Trunk of my Car”. Something to do with visual metaphor on film or something, I don’t remember… we also studied the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” in that same class, so, you know… It was pretty great.
  2. Every time I hear “Ahead by a Century,” I’m immediately transported back to summer 1996 – the summer after I graduated high school. It instantly evokes memories of pool parties, games of Hearts, long goodbyes, my first serious relationship (hey Sheila). And I think “no dress rehearsal, this is our life” was a scary line to think about before heading to college.
  3. Circa 1999, my college buddy Grant posted an ad looking for a roommate. It said, “Looking for a place to happen? Making stops along the way?” (Eventually I became one of those roommates).
  4. In 2001, at the bar we (me, Grant and roommate #2, Joe) frequented, there was a cover band that often played on Friday nights. And often, Bull, the bartender, would get behind the mic for “New Orleans is Sinking” – and riff for ages in the middle of it, on God knows what. The drunker you were, the more entertaining it was… Which was probably the point.
  5. In 2008 the Hip headlined a festival in Belleville, ON. The tickets were my ex’s birthday present – she was the bigger fan than I – but I was excited to finally see them in concert and discover for myself if everyone who ever said, “yeah, the Hip are great but they’re even better live!” was on the mark. They were. Given what’s now happened I’m more glad than ever that I got to see that show.

That same day on Twitter, #7favehipsongs was trending. Here’s what I had to say about that:

  1. Scared
  2. World Container
  3. Wheat Kings
  4. Bobcaygeon
  5. Ahead by a Century
  6. Fiddlers Green
  7. 38 Years Old

Having given it more thought—and honestly, having listened to a lot more Hip in the year since—I’d probably move “Fiddlers Green” or “38 Years Old” out for “Escape is at Hand for the Traveling Man” or “Last of the Unplucked Gems”. But who knows.

Anyway. That’s what I have to say about the Hip. I recommend Long Time Running, it’s a really nice film that captures a nice moment in time when the country came to celebrate a great band and a great Canadian.

Now get out there and listen to some Hip, man.

Why I’m not watching football right now

This past Sunday, my wife asked me, “does football season start this weekend?” Her only barometer for when the season starts is when I start watching; since she hadn’t seen me watching she didn’t know the season was already a month old.

It’s true: Week 5 just ended and I haven’t watched a single down of the 2017 NFL season.

Naturally my wife asked me why I wasn’t watching. I struggled to put it into words, because there are a number of reasons; it isn’t a simple answer.

I used to be a diehard NFL fan, watching football for about 12 hours every Sunday and three more on Mondays. The number started to decrease three years ago when we cancelled our cable subscription, mainly because I didn’t have easy access to the games (only getting two per week over the air, and the NFL steaming package was ridiculously expensive1). But truthfully I was OK with that decrease because—and this will sound familiar if you read my post on Facebook—watching the NFL has made me increasingly uncomfortable. And I think over the summer I just hit the breaking point… and certainly nothing that’s happened this season has made me regret it.

(Sure, I’m missed some great moments—like the Packers’ comeback against the Cowboys yesterday—but I’m happy reading about it on Deadspin for now.)

What’s making me uncomfortable? Here’s a sampling:

Concussions. This is the big one: The league’s stance on the impact of repeated head trauma and concussions, and the long-term consequences… the way the dragged their feet on admitting the dangers, refused to pay for health care, continued to promote “big hits”, refused to make changes to make the game safer… I could go on. Read more here and here.

The way the league arbitrarily disciplines its players. From Ray Rice to the Saints to Tom Brady to Ezekiel Elliot, there are sooo many problems with the way the league handles this I don’t even know where to begin. Except to say this: In no universe does it make sense for someone with no background in either football or law to serve as the sole judge and jury in these cases. Except that’s what the league has done in inexplicably appointing its commissioner as its arbiter of justice. And he (unsurprisingly) always gets it wrong. And yet the league is fine with this continuing as-is. Read more here and here.

The “domestic violence problem”. First of all, I think it’s important to point out that the league doesn’t actually have a domestic violence problem; hand-wringing columnists will tell you it does, but statistics show that NFL players are no more or less likely to commit crimes than any other group (and are far below the national average for their gender and age group). It’s just that they’re famous, so they’re in the news. (And that they’re almost always black, and those hand-wringing columnists are almost always white. Isn’t that curious?) Which makes it a PR problem for the league. Their response? The league decides it needs to become “a leader in the domestic violence space” (their words). Of course, since issuing that asinine statement, the NFL has managed only to issue one tone-deaf and inadequate response after another while making scapegoats of shitty players and excuses a’plenty for those that can still play. And I can only shake my head in dismay. More here, and for the love of God, watch Katie Nolan:

Their joke of a “breast cancer awareness” program. Read about it here; it’s nothing more than pandering to an audience (women) that they want to make more money from. Not convinced? Read this one. And then go back and think about the “domestic violence space”, and tell me if you think that’s really about making a difference in the community or teaching players to value and respect women, or if it’s just another part of the “pander to women and turn them into paying customers” playbook.

Colin Kaepernick and the “anthem protests”. I could write 10,000 words on this, but I don’t think I need to say anything here, do I? That the NFL has not unequivocally taken a stance behind its players and supported their first-amendment-protected rights is disgraceful enough. That they then tried to turn the whole thing into an ad campaign about “unity,” thus completely missing the point? I mean, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised but… come on.

I guess the other thing that really got me going about all this is just how many fans don’t support the players. People booed! Their own team! How can you boo players who simply don’t want to see any more innocent people get killed? Who have taken a peaceful, silent protest to draw attention to this issue? That they are 100 percent within their rights to do? If that’s really how ignorant football fans are, well then… it makes me uncomfortable to be associated with them.

Oh, and this past weekend’s publicity stunt by Vice-President Pence was the icing on the cake.

Those are five huge issues and I’m sure there are more I’m forgetting. It’s all just had a cumulative effect of, “I’m tired of this, it isn’t worth it, I don’t want to engage with it any more.”

At least right now. I’m not saying this is how I’ll feel forever. My mind might change. I might start to miss it. Maybe the league will change! Anything is possible. But for right now, I just can’t support it the same way. I’ll be satisfied checking the scores and reading the updates online.

1I can’t find the exact numbers but I believe it was USD$280 in 2014; That’s for 256 games, and they’re only on three days a week. (In comparison, the NBA is USD$160, for 1256 games, on almost every day.) Curiously, this year, the NFL has a new streaming partner in Canada, DAZN, which promises every NFL game for $20/month. For five months you’re looking at only $100 – Canadian – so that’s a great deal! It’s almost a shame I don’t wanna watch any more… but the fact that the service has been terrible and unwatchable doesn’t make me feel too bad.

The Straw that Broke the Social Media Camel’s Fake Back, or something

“Why’d you start this blog” is always a good blog post to write.

The easy answer is, “I’m a writer, I love to write and I have lots to say.” And that’s true, but there’s a little more to it, and it mainly has to do with Facebook, and social media.

Although I “celebrated” 10 years on Facebook earlier this year, I’ve never been a huge user of the platform. I have a small group of friends and family and check in regularly to see what they post; I don’t follow many “third parties” on there, other sites or personalities or what-have-you. This means my news feed is—other than ads—almost exclusively posts and shares from people I actually know.

I post maybe once a month or so myself; it was definitely more frequent 8-9 years ago.

On the other hand, I am was a fairly heavy Instagram user. I take a lot of photos on my phone and I like to share them. I recently started a second account to share some of the cool comics and geek stuff I have in my library, and that’s been a fun exercise (and the fact that I’ve been able to do it consistently is part of the reason I thought I might be able to make the blogging thing work this time). Both of those accounts are public.

But I haven’t posted on Facebook or either of my Instagram accounts in over three weeks. The ongoing string of “no, Facebook is actually kinda awful” stories seems to have broken me.

I don’t meant to single Facebook out; YouTube is taking crap right now for promoting fake news stories about Las Vegas as well, and I’m sure Snapchat and Twitter and LinkedIn and all the rest are equally awful. People in my age group and above have complained about social media for years and my response has always been, “hey, you’ll only get out of it what you put into it,” meaning if you don’t want to post about what you had for breakfast or read about the latest Kardashian dating crisis, you don’t have to. If you just wanted to connect with a few friends, like I was doing, it could be used for that.

But when these channels start influencing elections and terrorism and put peoples lives at risk, that’s something different. You can’t ignore that, or at least I can’t.

So I’m not sure how much I want to be present on those platforms anymore. I have 30+ photos and about half-dozen a posts written for the geek sanctuary account, just waiting to be posted, but I seem have lost the motivation to do so.

Meanwhile, as a content marketer, I know I can do all of this stuff myself, on a channel I own, without the help of Facebook. Sure, if I really want eyeballs, I should use those channels to promote my content. And of course, it’s a one-way communication channel. I lose the “social aspect” of it.

But then there’s the real question—what am I really losing? Am I really actively engaging with friends and family on social media, or is it just habit, activity for the sake of activity?

I don’t know. I just know it makes me uncomfortable these days.

So I’m gonna try this out for a while, and maybe wean myself off those other channels where I can, and see where I end up.

Thanks for reading.

Into the Great Wide Open

Tom Petty died this week, so just a few personal thoughts:

  1. Shortly after the movie version of High Fidelity came out, I started dating someone, and one of our earliest conversations turned to top five records. I put Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Greatest Hits on my list. Being young and dumb I didn’t think about the fact that there’s a more that goes into a record than just putting a bunch of popular songs on it that span an artist’s or band’s career, which is all a greatest hits record is; I wouldn’t put a greatest hits record on that list today. And yet… tell me that this isn’t, simply, a great fucking album:
    1. American Girl
    2. Breakdown
    3. Listen to Her Heart
    4. I Need to Know
    5. Refugee
    6. Don’t Do Me Like That
    7. Even the Losers
    8. Here Comes My Girl
    9. The Waiting
    10. You Got Lucky
    11. Don’t Come Around Here No More
    12. I Won’t Back Down
    13. Runnin’ Down a Dream
    14. Free Fallin’
    15. Learning to Fly
    16. Into the Great Wide Open
    17. Mary Jane’s Last Dance
    18. Something in the Air

There’s not one skippable song on there, and the order is perfect. Most greatest hits records have one or two songs on them that the band likes but no one else does, and most you can just throw on shuffle and enjoy… this one is just perfect as-is.

  1. This is a great driving album, with “Runnin’ Down a Dream” being the highlight. I remember my friend Grant and I singing along to this on the way up north to his parents’ trailer circa 2001.
  2. I know it’s easy to goof on Tom Cruise, and it’s actually pretty easy to goof on Cameron Crowe now too, but Cruise singing “Free Fallin’” in Jerry Maguire is a pretty perfect match of music and movie.
  3. Speaking of Free Fallin’ (and guys that it’s easy to goof on), John Mayer’s cover of “Free Fallin'” from his Live in L.A. record is pretty superb.

Anyway, those are my thoughts. RIP Tom Petty.


Starting over

And here we are (again). I’ve tried a few different blogs and writing projects over the years, but haven’t been able to stick with them… we’ll see if this one pans out. What to expect? Random thoughts. Geek stuff. Work stuff. Pics. Some personal stuff, too, maybe.

Let’s travel down the road and see where it takes us.