‘I’m Weird’ by Jakintza Ilustración

I’m weird.

I’m in bed legitimately holding back tears because record, book, and video stores aren’t a thing anymore. Not because of weird nostalgia… not entirely. It’s because I miss the idea that a person could love an art form and open a business just sharing what they liked with the world.

Now everyone is a video store guy or music freak on social media, but you’re just sharing it with friends, not finding new ones through the experience of sharing your interests AND EARNING A LIVING AT IT. You say concerts… well, I say Po-dunk Alabama.

Lots of people live where acts don’t tour and if they do a lot of kids can’t afford tickets. I’ve never met one fucking friend hanging out in my iTunes app. You used to be able to play a tour of crappie clubs and do signings at the record store the day before and after and leave a stack of tapes and CDs behind.

If you were cool to the clerk they’d even hang your unknown self’s poster in the window and put your music right next to the register… “have you heard of…” that’s how you sell music and videos.

I don’t care if 347 other people who bought what I bought also bought this other thing. I want to know WHY they liked it and talk about it. I’m so frustrated. God damn it. I’m sorry for the old man rant and thankfully we still have a few places in business here in LA, but we’re LA and it’s all kind of jaded in its own way about it. I’m not into buying comics, but God damn do I buy something every time I’m in melt down because comic stores are kind of the last hold out of the way that everyone used to buy their entertainment. I’m damn proud that comic book shops have held their ground against the digital content retail monopoly system. They’re better for it and we should all be ashamed that we let it happen.

The average person can’t make their life’s work out of selling the art they’re passionate about and that means indie artists lose a huge resource in discoverability. It’s a lose / lose that’s strangling artists who work outside of the mainstream. To further that point we broke the value of media. We broke it and cant fix it. Because there are makers and sellers in the world we screwed up.

By removing the ability for a fan to participate in media strickly as a seller we’ve devalued our product. Now they just see Apple or Amazon, not the indie artists who upload their work to them.

They don’t feel like they’re screwing us with torrenting, they feel like they’re screwing the man and the man screwed artists by telling us to screw our biggest fans by just uploading our content to reach “everyone”.

It was a lie.

The audience doesnt exist at scale without huge marketing spends or having built that grass roots community. Without that network of engaged fans benefitting from our success as our “silent partners” local retailers they have no incentive to advocate for us by convincing people to buy our stuff. It’s a real mess.

End of gripe.

Fear and Loathing at Stephen’s House – Part 6: The TPP & The CBC

Our National Public Broadcaster – The CBC – is threatened by the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP).

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation may cost more than a billion dollars a year in taxpayer money; but so what?

Documents revealed by WikiLeaks detail a proposed plan to require state-owned enterprises (or SOEs) to operate for profit. Canadian SOEs include the CBC and Canada Post. You may ask,

“What’s the problem with profit?”

That’s a valid question.

Why would we invest in an organization that can’t draw a profit?

The answer is that it is necessary for a country to have at least one unbiased voice that represents them over the airwaves that will guarantee objectivity and quality in reporting – free of commercial and political influence.

As a public enterprise – CBC should not be bought and sold and used as a medium to smear logo feces all over everything they broadcast (See CTV purchased by BELL Media).

Many of our writers are in Atlantic Canada. The writer writing this piece watches CTV’s “Breakfast Television” every morning while he crunches his bacon. He watches CTV2 because it’s one of only 3 channels he gets through the coax cable plugged into his television set. Why does he only get 3 channels? He studied marketing. After that first year of business school; he cut the cord halfway through his program.

No more cable TV.

Now it’s Netflix, YouTube, Crackle, and CBC Radio.

Ninety a month to the cable company for a solid internet connection. Get it upgraded to a faster package.

No need for TV. Media’s changed.

He couldn’t watch any media on any platform without having his eyes and ears overwhelmed with product placement and advertising.

Now when he watches CTV’s “Breakfast Television” – all he can see are the McCafe cups not-so-subtly facing the camera.

Our CBC should not be for sale!

If one wants to increase viewership at the CBC – provide every Canadian access to all things CBC and fund the shit out of it.

Who remembers Street Cents? Maybe this Wikipedia article will jog your memory.

Viewership will go up. I promise.

What else does the leaked document reveal?

It implies that any private corporation that can prove that the CBC or Canada Post (through subsidization by the Canadian Government) caused them any loss of revenue – can sue the Canadian Government!

By existing; they are guilty.

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As a young man, long before I was a cord-cutter, I would sit in our cabin on the Atlantic shoreline and listen to CBC radio while I had beers with my friends. No cable. No inter-web. Just Randy’s Vinyl Tap and Saturday Night Blues.

Do you really think it’s appropriate to take this iconic Canadian institution for granted and inundate it with commercial poppycock?

They may take some pauses between segments; but they take breaks to promote other CBC shows. They most certainly do not showcase the latest sale at whichever fast food restaurant is sponsoring this segment.

Nor should they. That’s the point.

What about Spark or The Next Chapter? What about The Current? What about As It Happens?

What about The National and the Fifth Estate?

For God’s sake; what about The Debaters!?

What about my weekly, unbiased listen to what’s up in Canadian Francophone music on A Prospos every Saturday from 6-7PM on CBC Radio One in Halifax.

French-Canadian rock music kicks ass. Rock music written in the French language kicks ass. One of our contributors, The Reverend, is a French-Canadian musician.

These shows are part of our country.

Would the following Fifth Estate documentary ever get produced if corporations were dictating programming? What about worrying about being sued by a company that produces candy? Assuming the secret documents released by WikiLeaks are accurate; could the CBC survive in court with Nestlé or HERSHEY’S if either entity felt they lost revenue as a result of the following documentary?

We don’t live in the United States. Let’s stop making up reasons to sue one another.

Long live the CBC and Canada Post.

Vive la révolution.

VOTE!

Click here make sure you are allowed to VOTE!

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PART 7
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Fear and Loathing at Stephen’s House – Part 5: Why not Justin?

Justin Trudeau brings the same disconnected leadership that Stephen Harper embodied.

He may look like us. He may appear to be one of us. He is not one of us.

Justin Trudeau was born a millionaire.

How can someone who has always known luxury and convenience speak for the average Canadian?

Sure – he says he’ll legalize pot. Pot legalization is really a non-issue this election. Every party except the Conservative party support some form of ending prohibition.

In Part 4, I talked about what we need in a leader. We need not a leader that manufactures sound-bites on the issues we care about; but a leader that understands the positions on which he stands.

We need a leader who believes what they say and says what they believe. We need a leader that can defend their positions with vigor and truth.

We certainly do not need a leader that only knows how to say that which was scripted for them by their public relations specialists.

Trudeau has not proven that he has a plan to address issues that affect the majority of Canadians; he’s proven that he’s been able to spit out the Liberal Party’s key phrases when discussing an issue.

The same bastards that ran the country twenty years ago fill the ranks of the Conservative and Liberal parties; entitled bureaucrats with sexy pensions. It’s not only time to break the cycle. It’s time to obliterate the cycle and completely re-write the rules to the game.

There are only two candidates that can speak eloquently and honestly about the issues that affect Canadians. Those candidates are Elizabeth May and Thomas Mulcair.

That’s it.

A vote for Trudeau is a vote for Harper.

May and Mulcair can both defend their party platforms with facts and experience. They both represent things not seen in Canadian politics for a very long time.

They both represent change.

They both represent opposition to the way the Liberals and Conservatives have done things for decades.

They both represent an opportunity to inject new ideas into the Canadian political landscape.

The only way those opportunities can be realized is if you vote.

Equally important is to vote strategically.

The only way to appropriately vote strategically and achieve a measurable shift in the status-quo is to elect a strong stable majority NDP government.

What we’ve been doing for the past few decades is not working.

Period.

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PART 6

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Fear and Loathing at Stephen’s House – Part 4: Selling Out Our Natural Resources

Who owns our natural resources?

Does our country own them?

Do the individual provinces own them?

Do our citizens own them?

Do the corporations who buy or lease the land on which they are found own them?

If you’re not sure of the answer – which scenario seems to be most appropriate?

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Lets use oil as our first example.

Canada produces 3.6 Million barrels of oil per day (or 1.314 billion barrels per year). This equates to about 37 barrels of oil per year per Canadian citizen.

By contrast, the United States produces around 9.4 Million barrels of oil per day (or 3.431 billion barrels per year). We did the math, and in the United States, this comes to around 11 barrels of oil per year per American citizen.

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Why do these numbers matter? They matter, because I believe that our country (and all that it contains) belong to all of us.

Why does American gasoline cost less than gasoline purchased in Canada?

Sure… ‘world markets’.

In what world is selling out our country in the form of pissing away our natural resources a good idea? By allowing multinational oil companies to enjoy the profits while Canadian citizens endure the high-cost of heating oil, gasoline, and diesel – we’re allowing our economy and Harper’s oligarchy to prolong our dependence on fossil fuels and curb any advancement toward the greener technologies that we all need.

When new technologies reach the consuming public – the cost of those goods goes down as they are more widely adopted. Personal computers are a prime example – as they became more widely available, the tech improved and the cost went down. The same thing will happen with green technology. We could operate on micro-grids. We could all run self-sustaining households. But large corporations (with the aid of oligarchies around the world) prevent that from happening.

Stephen Harper sold out our country. Supported by the omnipresent public-service oligarchy operating in the shadows; the good things that the Harper administration has done for this country will never outweigh the bad things that his arrogant system of governance has done to destroy our nation.

Our nation; and in essence our world; needs leaders that tell the truth. We need leaders that answer questions; instead of dodging them. We need leaders that are more concerned with engineering a blueprint for the next century than continuing to play partisan politics in the arena of public opinion to cement a legacy of manufactured sound-bites for future generations to suckle on.

RESOURCES

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PART 5

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Fear and Loathing at Stephen’s House – Part 3: Bill C-51

This law is unnecessary.

Statistically, it’s unlikely one’s physical safety would ever be directly affected by terrorism within this beautiful country.  We are a good, ethical nation that has grown to be one of the most peaceful and respectable nations in the world.  We gained our independence rather peacefully; aside for a few transgressions; and we carried that aura of correct behavior into today.

We are an honorable nation that only responds with military force when it is our moral obligation to do so.

We’re not the United States, post 9-11.  We’re a great nation that has preserved Canadian values throughout a rather valueless and dark time experienced by much of the rest of the world.

That peaceful ride was truly thanks to the Conservative Party of Canada’s excellent governing during a time when everyone was scared. This is most especially true in regard to the appropriate development and deployments of our military; involved in operations we had a moral responsibility to be a part of.

We’re not a scared nation anymore, though. We have a significant percentage of our generation trained to defend our country; and a hell of a lot more of us ready and willing should the situation ever present itself.

Canada has built one of the greatest modern military in the world.

Our team is among the best.

We don’t need this bill to protect our country.  We’re orders of magnitude safer than we were before.

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Sure.. a few bad guys may occasionally slip into our bubble; influenced by one of the terrorism countries.

It may seem scary.

But it’s statistically unlikely.

The one irrefutable fact that this administration cannot fathom acknowledging is the following thing:

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The bill is too vague.  

Period.

Full Stop.

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Our generation grew up with Jon Stewart.

We’re not accepting any of this nouveau-homage to the Patriot Act nonsense.

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NOTE:  Blues and Reds (both) supported Bill C-51

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PART 4
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Oblivious in Sosua: Pre-Departure

6:44 AM – Halifax International Airport

After hugging my father goodbye, I’d headed for the bar; little did I know he’d waited and watched.

The bar is closed; the bar is fucking closed!

A grander travesty and injustice, at this very instant, I cannot fathom.

I turned around as he laughed, “You can’t be doing that shit while you’re flying.”

“How else would one fly?” I thought.

In reality – I’m escaping the monotony of familiar human interaction; the mundane, day-to-day grind of a former risk-taker and current technical support person for a small technology company. I want to be temporarily invisible; lacking schedules and responsibilities.  It’s really the first international non-work-related trip I’ve taken as an adult.

Well deserved, I dare say.

The truth of my destination; the reality of it; is one of debauchery and manufactured privilege.

Middle-class debutants travelling to all-inclusive Caribbean resorts in search of bottomless bar tabs; cheap women; or tans. Some for one; some for two; a few for all three.

What about me?

None of the above.

I’m seeking only anonymity.  The rare gift of walking as a ghost is priceless and timeless.  To be a peaceful shadow weaving oneself into the personal legend of another soul is the work of the Universe.

Many of the people that travel to these resorts appear to me as uneducated and uncultured; no comprehension or care for the cultural depth that lies beyond the walls of their all inclusive Arcadian fortresses.

To the sun with these swine; the whole lot of them.

Bastards.

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Oblivious in Sosua:  Part 1
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Oblivious in Dubai: Part 13

Five days later…

I board in Halifax; connect in Toronto; and land after sunset in Dubai.

I work my way through the fantastical arrivals process at the Dubai International Airport. Deplane; head down the escalator; stand on conveyor belt after conveyor belt as old ladies pass by in electric golf carts chaperoned by portly airport employees. Fleeting eye-based interactions with those passing me on the parallel track heading in the opposite direction.

Ads… ads… so many ads.

Posters and billboards and signs, oh my. Miles of rubber track; broken into hundred meter sections; separated by ceramic tile-work. Step off of one belt – click, click, click, click, click – step on to the next. The wheels of my carry-on bag strike the grout between the tiles in an almost musical fashion. The soothing pattern I notice may only be soothing as a result of my exhaustion and jet-lag.

The beer included on the trans-Atlantic flight probably contributed to my acknowledgement of this beautiful, rhythmic pattern.

Ascend an escalator to customs; passport stamped; proceed to baggage.

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Waiting for our bags to hit the pick-up conveyor; I browse the duty-free liquor store. So much sauce; so much bank; so much confiscation if I tried to take it on base.

Not that I had any desire to; I wanted to take it back to Canada with me – but I was heading in the opposite direction.

Make a mental note to stop here on my next flight home.

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Grab my bags then work my way through the hoards of people leaving the airport. We funnel into an underground taxi-queue; shuffling past the booths of car-rental companies.

While standing in line, I see a dwarf who appears to be from India or Bangladesh. A few feet away are a young child of three or four and his father. The boy is sitting in the basket of the luggage cart while laughing hysterically and pointing at the vertically challenged man who did him no harm.

The father laughs along with the child; making no effort to stop the unwarranted abuse.

The lack of politically correct behavior disturbed me.

I get into my cab; hand the driver the business card from the hotel I was at only a week before; and we depart. He calls his dispatcher for directions.

We arrive and I greet the doorman. Salazar comes outside and raises both arms. “Salazar!” I yell.

Salazar smiles and waves me over as he approaches me. We shake hands; each asking how the other is; and he shows me to my room.

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Enter Oblivious in Dubai Part One or move on to Oblivious In Dubai Part Fourteen

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Oblivious in Dubai: Part 12

Sitting at the gate; evening sun shining through the glass window overlooking the tarmac; awaiting my final flight home.

Overpriced shops abound. I noticed some pashmina scarves hanging on a display rack; $18 a piece. Just a few short days ago I bought ten of these very same scarves from an Afghan man at the Bazaar for twenty American dollars; a few hundred miles from the goats that the fibre was sourced from. I chuckle and shake my head at international commerce.

Sitting in my seat; awaiting the call to board; I meet two white American couples. One couple with two adopted Chinese daughters around three years old.

The two wives and one of the husbands amuse the children. I ask the second man if he wants to see some pictures.

I start off with photos that I’d taken of my life on the base; my tent, my room, my friends.

Then I show him a video, filmed from a Humvee, of an IED exploding between two vehicles in a convoy.

He gasps; visibly shaken.

That’s what we ask our guys to walk into.” I say.

I show him another video; filmed by terrorists. This video is of a masked man firing a mortar while shouting the takbir. He drops a dud into the mortar tube and blows himself up by accident.

I laugh and tell the man, “It’s funny to watch those bastards fuck up.”
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We board; take off; and make our way home in the middle of the night.

A kind friend; whom I’ve known for many years; picks me up at the airport and takes me back to her house so that I can surprise my family the next day.

We smoke some grass and I start going through my bags. I give her and her room mate first grab at the pashminas.

They retire to bed; I crash on the couch without much hesitation.
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I wake up the next morning and it’s a beautiful day. Both my friends are at work; so I take a long shower then step outside for a cigarette. Barefoot I sit on the stoop; passionately puffing my Marlboro and letting the fresh grass work it’s way between my toes and under my feet.

I never knew one could miss grass so much.

I’m amazed at the cars racing past. They’re not going all that fast; but I was used to a 15 km/h speed limit. Speed is relative.

Later that day, my friend picks me up and we head into the community to pick up her room mate from the eye doctors office she worked at. As I wait in the car; I get a hankering for caffeine, so I head to the Tim Hortons on the other side of the parking lot.

Much to my synergistic amazement, surprise and joy; a friend I’d grown up with worked at the coffee shop. A friend that I had no idea lived in the area (two hours from where we grew up) and whom I had no idea worked at any coffee shop, let alone this one.

We were both visibly startled but it was the good kind of startled. The kind of startled that one experiences when one of the first people they encounter upon return from a war is an old childhood friend.

I order my sandwich, bagel and coffee; and she takes her break so we can sit out back of the coffee shop and talk.

Very full circle.

Meanwhile; my two other friends were searching the parking lot for me. The plan was to drive me two hours to our home town to surprise my family. I happened upon another old friend and got caught up in old times.

It’s chance encounters like this that make me believe in some sort of divine invisible hand directing some of what we experience. How was it that this old friend happened to work in the same shopping plaza as a completely unrelated old friend; in a city lying two hours from our home town? How was it that she happened to have the morning shift that day? How was it that I chose to go to that coffee shop instead of the many we’d passed on the way to where we were; or the many we’d pass on our journey home? Too many coincidences to be anything but divinely inspired.

If it was coincidence; how many times do we casually enter the radius of someone we once knew and have no idea? 

Part Thirteen