random rant/tirade

Radio killed the video star.

The music video as an art form is far from dead. There are plenty of people out there creating compelling things full of imagery that encourages thought and stirs the emotions. But these are sad days for television as a medium for the transmission of music videos.

MTV was where it all began, and they stopped showing videos eons ago. MTV2 followed suit not long after. That was a real shame, because they made a habit of dusting off some cool things you wouldn’t get to see anywhere else. BET doesn’t show music videos anymore unless you pay to subscribe to some of their sister channels. Otherwise their programming now consists of 80% Tyler Perry shows, 5% late night televangelist mind control, and 15% censored movies.

MuchMoreMusic phased out a lot of their more interesting programming — spotlight programs that played half-hour blocks of music videos broken up with interview snippets, semi-obscure videos popping up in the wee hours, a weekly show that took a look at artists from other countries who weren’t always well represented in north america — before dissolving into nothing a year ago and being replaced by a cooking channel. Even Bravo used to show some interesting music videos sometimes. Now their programming seems to be made up of Hallmark movies and crime procedurals that are little more than CSI retreads, and nothing else.

There are a handful of specialty channels you can pay for if you want access to music videos on your TV. So that’s a thing. But if you’ve got any kind of sane or semi-affordable cable package, chances are all you have left now is Much (or, as we used to call it, MuchMusic). And if you’re not a fan of mainstream top forty music and the creatively bankrupt music videos made to accompany most of the sounds living in that world, about all Much has to recommend itself to you now is an afternoon block of videos from the ’80s and ’90s called Much Retro Lunch.

Even here, music programming is falling by the wayside. A few weeks ago Much Retro Lunch was running for three hours every weekday. Now it’s only a one-hour segment. In place of all the music videos they used to air in the early evenings we’ve got Anger Management and TMZ. A one-hour-a-week “alternative” block that resembled the decaying corpse of what The Wedge used to be has gone the way of the dinosaur and Elton John’s falsetto. I imagine somewhere in the not-too-distant future Much will stop showing music videos altogether, just like the rest of the pack.

CMT is dead too. Oh, it’s still calling itself by the same name. It still lives in the same place on your digital cable box. But the only thing left on the schedule that has anything at all to do with what was once “Country Music Television” is Reba McEentire’s mid-2000s sitcom Reba.

When the CRTC licensed a series of new Canadian specialty television channels in 1994, one of those channels was The Country Network. This was the beginning of CMT as we knew it in Canada. In the US it had been around in one form or another for ten years by then. The Canadian version got its official launch in 1995 as NCN (New Country Network) and was relaunched in 1996 as CMT.

Almost all of CMT’s programming — 90% of it — was made up of country music videos. That was part of the deal with the CRTC. It dropped to 70% in 2001, and then to 50% in 2006, with Nashville, live music programs, and the occasional sitcom making up the balance.

Last year the CRTC decided CMT were no longer obligated to play any music videos at all, as long as they invested 11% of their annual profits into the funding of Canadian music videos (they didn’t have to be country music videos). Even then, there were still blocks of music videos aired in the early mornings and afternoons, along with the long-running weekly Chevy Top 20 Countdown.

A week ago, all music video broadcasting on the channel ceased, and a major platform for country music artists went up in smoke. Their official website and Facebook page both neglect to tell you anything about this total overhaul, but CMT’s programming now consists of nothing but moronic reality shows and sitcoms that run the gamut from “good” to “ugh”. Fridays and Saturdays are twenty-four-hour Everybody Loves Raymond marathons.

For some of us, this is what hell looks like.

Maybe it’s a little strange that I would mourn the loss of this channel when I’ve never been all that into country music.

Well, that’s not quite right. The truer thing to say would be that I didn’t think i was into country music until I heard some of the artists who helped define what country music is, and some others who made a habit of colouring outside the lines — folks like Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Emmylou Harris, Gram Parsons, Glen Campbell, Patsy Cline, Waylon Jennings, Hank Williams, the Louvin Brothers, Rodney Crowell, and too many more to mention.

In some ways CMT was the road that got me there, beyond the homogeneity of most modern mainstream country music, which at this point is just pop music with pedal steel guitar as far as I’m concerned.

I can’t claim I started watching with pure intentions. The long and short of it is this: I was going through puberty, and I thought a fair few country singers were nice to look at. Leann Rimes, Faith Hill, Patty Loveless, and Beverley Mahood were especially pretty to my thirteen-year-old eyes.

But here’s the thing. In the mid and late 1990s, whoever was responsible for programming the videos would sometimes slip in some interesting songs that didn’t always fit under the country umbrella.

Bruce Cockburn’s “Night Train” showed up more than a few mornings when I was waking up my brain before heading off to school. Once in a while I’d catch Springsteen’s “I’m on Fire” and Lennie Gallant’s “Meet Me at the Oasis” (a sweet, atmospheric ballad that deserved more love than it got).Aand every so often I’d run into someone who was a country artist on the surface but much more complex and compelling than they seemed at first blush.

Matraca Berg was one of those. Her songs were huge hits for Trisha Yearwood and Deana Carter. Her solo work only saw moderate commercial success, with no single she released ever cracking the top thirty. She had the looks, and the voice, and real depth as a writer. How she never became a huge star in her own right is a bit of a mystery.

My best guess is it’s another example of the catch-22 Harry Nilsson and Laura Nyro got stuck in before her, where in someone else’s hands your songs become palatable enough to appeal to the masses, but your own superior and more emotionally three-dimensional readings of the same material are a little too idiosyncratic and real for the people who want wallpaper instead of art.

I will argue until my voice gives out that Matraca’s “Back When We Were Beautiful” is one of the most beautiful songs anyone’s ever written. I almost can’t get through it, and there are only a few songs that have ever had that kind of emotional impact on me. It was released as the second single from her 1997 album Sunday Morning to Saturday Night. It didn’t even chart.

One of the biggest country singles that year was “How Do I Live”, sung by both Trisha Yearwood and Leann Rimes. Trisha’s version sold three million copies and netted a Grammy nomination. Next to “Back When We Were Beautiful” it sounds like a bunch of half-baked manipulative treacle.

But don’t take my word for it. Have a listen.

We live in a world where Taylor Swift is a celebrated crossover artist who’s considered a great songwriter and a feminist icon when (a) she doesn’t even write her own songs anymore, or at least not without a whole lot of help (these days it isn’t uncommon to see half a dozen different writers credited for any given song on one of her albums), (b) her whole career is now seemingly built around a two-pronged attack of getting involved in short-lived romantic relationships that are little more than PR stunts so she can turn around and shame the other party in her music once the relationship ends without ever taking any responsibility for her own failings, and getting involved in short-lived platonic friendships with women that are little more than PR stunts so she can turn around and shame most of those women through her music when they dare to criticize her in any way or expose some of her blatant hypocrisies, bending one narrative after another to suit her own purposes, manufacturing feuds to sell more albums, almost always making sure to paint herself as the victim rising from the ashes, (c) her lyrics have grown so juvenile and devoid of anything resembling insight or real human feeling, it’s kind of hilarious, (d) she thinks nothing of stealing other people’s work and profiting off of it without giving any credit to the originator of the material, and (e) she once made a music video in which she played a silver guitar with so much glitter applied to it, the universe itself was made to squint and cry out in pain.

So maybe, when you get right down to it, it’s no big surprise that someone like Matraca Berg never became a household name. I just think it’s sad, the way we go on rewarding artifice and empty double-dealing while ignoring a lot of the people who actually have something to say.

The same applies to song interpreters. Nothing against Reba and Trisha and Faith, but Dawn Sears blew them all away. There was a mixture of power and emotional purity in her voice that was startling. She could take a mediocre song and make it sound like a classic.

Chances are you’ve never heard of Dawn Sears even if you’re a country music fan. I rest my case.

But I digress. Sort of. Maybe.

In recent years, CMT’s programming skewed more toward the mainstream than ever before. But you’d still get the occasional moment of stop-you-in-your-tracks beauty like this, even if most of those moments were limited to the more freeform Wide Open Country program.

There at least, for an hour a day, you could hear the likes of Corb Lund, Lindi Ortega, Brandi Carlile, Jerry Leger, and Serena Pryne — people who are making music that nods to country but refuses to be governed by genre. Bruce still made the odd appearance too, whether it was with “I’m on Fire” or something more recent like “Devils and Dust”.

There’s also this: without CMT, at least one of the songs I’ve written wouldn’t exist. It just happens to be the closest thing to a “hit” I’ve ever had, though quantifying that sort of thing is a little difficult when you don’t release singles.

When I played “A Well-Thought-Out Escape” live for the first time and told the audience it was inspired by Ashley Kranz (an on-air host at CMT for about a year), everyone thought I was joking. I wasn’t.

For years now I’ve been writing a lot of songs on stringed instruments in bed. Sometimes the TV’s on when ideas are born. Here’s some video of the genesis of what became “A Well-Thought-Out Escape”, right at its inception, with a little bit of what would later become “Everything He Asked You” mixed in.

I came up with this little cyclical chord progression I liked and kept playing it over and over again, trying to work out a vocal melody and some words. The words weren’t in any hurry to show up, so I sang random gibberish for the most part. I had CMT on in the background while I was playing the six-string banjo. Ashley Kranz showed up to introduce a video while I was trying to form this new idea into something tangible, so I sang her name to fill up some space.

Later on the words would arrive, beginning with the idea of someone selling their love at a yard sale for so little money they might as well be giving it away (don’t ask me where these ideas come from…I have no idea). And still, Ashley stuck around. It would have felt wrong to get rid of her. She was there from the start, after all. Instead of an incidental detail, her name became the climax of the whole song, a half-shouted mantra that broke the whole thing open.

A Well-Thought-Out Escape

(Side note: I always thought it was a shame they didn’t keep Ashley around longer. She had a fun personality. “Endearing” is the word that comes to mind.)

I don’t know if the bits of country music I heard in my channel-surfing travels had anything to do with the rootsy sound of CHICKEN ANGEL WOMAN. It’s possible some of those sensibilities snuck into my brain when I wasn’t paying attention. It’s also possible the album only came out sounding the way it did because of the instruments I lucked into finding at the right time and the qualities they possessed — the twang of the dirt cheap Teisco that was the only electric guitar I used for the whole album, the earthiness of the Regal parlour guitar, and the…uh…banjo-ness of the six-string banjo.

I do know without Ashley Kranz on my television screen “A Well-Thought-Out Escape” probably never would have progressed beyond a half-formed sketch. I’ve always been tempted to send the song her way as a strange little thank-you, but I think it’s the sort of thing that has the potential to weird a person out. Maybe it’s best to leave it be.

Fare thee well, CMT. I’ll never watch you again, knowing what you’ve become, but I’ll always have the memories of what you once were.

No creativity among thieves.

Every once in a while it’s fun to type one of your own album or song titles into a search engine to see what pops up. Sometimes you find out someone played one of your songs on their college radio show six years ago without you ever knowing. Or maybe someone wrote about your music on their blog.

You find other things as well.

As I’ve mentioned a couple times now, I’ve been slowly picking away at remastering a whole slew of albums. At the moment I’m working on LOVE SONGS FOR NIHILISTS.

For years I’ve been meaning to tweak the packaging for this one. On the tray insert, beneath the place where the CD sits, there are several links to internet places that no longer exist, like my now-long-dead Myspace and CBC Radio 3 pages. The formatting of the booklet also came out a little wonky the first time around (that was my doing), and I wouldn’t mind fixing it now that I know a bit more about the whole graphic design thing.

I was just finishing up one last read-through of the redesigned booklet to try and catch any lingering typos before bringing the art files to Minuteman Press when I thought I’d punch the album title into Google for no real reason. I don’t know what I thought I’d find, but I know I wasn’t expecting this.

The best way I can figure it, a few years ago this dude did an internet search to see if there were any albums out there with the name he wanted to give his EP. He must have ended up here, must have seen I’d already made an album with the same name, and then he must have decided not only was he going to keep the name, but he was going to steal my cover art while he was at it, to save himself the trouble of making his own.

Either that, or he found his way here some other way, didn’t have that album title in his head to begin with, and decided he liked the name and the cover image enough to appropriate both of them.

Here’s what the cover of my album looks like.

I’m the first one to admit it’s not some of my more creative work in the design department. I had the title kicking around for years but could never come up with an idea for an image that made sense with it. I was writing and recording the songs that make up this record in the middle of a pretty strange emotional time in my life, and when it came down to it, simple white text on a black background felt about right.

Now here’s his album cover art.

I don’t claim ownership of any phrases in the English language. There are tons of albums and songs out there that share names, themes, chord progressions, lyrics…you name it. So if someone puts out an album or song that happens to have the same name as one of mine, even if it isn’t a straight coincidence, that doesn’t bother me. It’s bound to happen sooner or later.

This is another thing altogether. To rip off my existing cover art and then just tack your own name on it in a font that doesn’t begin to make sense with the one I used, with no credit given and no permission asked…that’s pretty lame. Why the hell would anyone do that? It’s not even an interesting album cover to steal! It’s just text.

If you really feel a need to have cover art that looks similar to mine, at least use your own font and make something yourself that’s inspired by what i did. It would take you all of fifteen seconds. Invest a minute or two of your life and you could probably come up with something better than what I did back in 2010.

I’m sure there are some people in the world who would find a way to interpret something like this as a warped compliment. I’m not one of them. I don’t like it when someone steals my shit. It’s not like he stole my songs, so I’m not livid about it. But I have to say the whole thing is a little weird to me. I don’t understand why anyone would go to the trouble of doing a thing like this. You steal an image that has nothing for the eyes to get lost in, you can’t even be bothered to copy it at a reasonable resolution, and then you type your name beneath the title and pretend it’s yours? Really?

If I’d included my name on the cover along with the title of the album, I imagine he would have crossed it out and penciled his in above it, thinking no one would notice.

It’s a whole lot more rewarding to put a little thought and effort into creating a visual component to your music that’s yours, or even asking a talented friend to make you some art, than it is to steal something someone else has already done. Believe me.

Try coming up with your own stuff. The rest of us do.

All the things she said.

Remember this song?

It was a monster hit a little over a decade ago. You couldn’t escape it. Every time you turned on the radio or the television, it was bound to show up within about six minutes. Even if you found it annoying, it had a way of affixing itself to your brain. I can still sing you the chorus from memory, and I haven’t even heard it since probably 2003.

Yulia Volkova, the dark-haired half of the group, was recently on a Ukranian TV show. She said if she had a son and she found out he was gay, she would disown him. A man has “no right to be a fag”, she said. According to her, men were created by God to procreate, and to deny that and sleep with other men is a terrible sin. A homosexual man isn’t a “real” man. The audience, apparently in agreement with her, applauded.

She did say it would be okay if she had a gay daughter, because “aesthetically lesbians look much nicer than two men holding their hands or kissing”.

I didn’t realize selective homophobia was a thing, or that what you like to look at determines what is and isn’t acceptable for other people to do.

Then again, this is someone whose entire career was built on the controversy of two teenage girls kissing in a music video and onstage, with her and Lena Katina effectively playing “lesbian dress-up” to sell records. You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and tell it it’s got halitosis.

I guess what she said at the height of her fame about supporting the LGBT community was just PR spin. And I suppose next she’ll claim God appeared to her in a vision and said, “Behold! The gay man shall burn in hell, but the gay woman shall sit at my table forever, for it is mighty fun to watch women kiss! Spread my gospel!”

Seriously. How can there still be people out there who believe this shit? People are attracted to who and what they’re attracted to, for reasons they do or don’t understand. To deny that, or to be made to deny it by others, is the real sin. God, Goddess, Vishnu, Urkel, Giant Running Shoe, Disembodied Generic Head…whatever is or isn’t up there supposedly watching over us has got nothing to do with it.

Your body. Your libido. Your heart. Your business. As long as you’re not hurting anyone, no one has the right to tell you what to do with any of it.

If there really is a heaven and a hell, you know who’s going to that place of burning and pain down below? Hate-spreading homophobes. That’s who.

Competition and malnutrition.

the mystical thong fish.

This is a fish made out of thongs.

To that end, I used to have a CBC Radio 3 page. I had a bunch of songs up there, along with some pictures and video content. I ended up getting a little bit of unexpected airplay through that, though it didn’t lead anywhere meaningful, and when I sent an email to the guy who gave me some short-lived attention thanking him and offering to send him more music, he didn’t respond, and never bothered acknowledging that I existed again after that. As you do.

A year or two ago, I tried to delete the page. The site wouldn’t let me. So I gutted it of all its content and left it as an empty shell. A digital husk.

Part of the reasoning behind this was realizing I’d lost any interest I might have once had in playing any part of the “game” when it comes to music and networking, and I’d grown tired of making myself so easy to find while some people persisted in painting me as being inaccessible. I figured if I was going to be called a recluse all the time, I might as well start acting like one — you know, give the people what they want.

If I’m completely honest, another one of the reasons I wanted to obliterate my CBC Radio 3 page was because of contests and competitions like the one that’s going on right now. In this case, it’s The Search for Canada’s Best New Artist, or some such thing.

Let’s talk about that for a second.

This contest isn’t even what it claims to be. If it really was a search for the best new artist, most of the bands and artists who’ve entered would be disqualified by default. Because they’re not new. Many of them have been bands for quite a few years now. Hell, I’m nowhere near being new myself. I’ve been creating and recording music since 1994. So I couldn’t enter this contest and honestly call myself a new artist.

But that’s kind of beside the point. And what is the point? I don’t like competition in art. At least not this kind. I don’t like contests. I think they’re kind of stupid, and often altogether pointless. And I think a real artist is someone who’s too busy creating art to care much about getting involved in these kinds of things.

Let me be clear here: I support local artists, and anyone who’s trying to make a living through their art. I’ve done a lot of things to help a lot of different people over the years in an effort to facilitate that. That I usually ended up getting stabbed in the back for my trouble and/or tossed aside once I fulfilled my purpose doesn’t diminish that my motives were good, and I at least did what I said I was going to do, unlike most of the people I went out of my way to help.

I’ve given a lot of money, time, effort, thought, and whatever skills I have — not because I thought I might look good doing it or get a reach-around when it was all over, but because I wanted to, and because it felt like the right thing to do. Even after all the bad experiences I’ve had, that impulse is still there, at least most days. When it comes to music, I’ll help a friend if i can. I’ll help someone I don’t even really know if I can, as long as they seem like a decent person who isn’t going to force-feed me liver and onions at knife-point.

I just can’t stomach that stuff.

I’ve been a voter in these kinds of contests before. Once I even played a small role in someone winning. At least I thought I did. I felt like I’d been part of something incredible, and it proved to me that a small community banding together really can make a difference and carry an underdog to improbable success. It kind of restored my faith in people a little bit.

Those good feelings were short-lived. I learned the real reason for the victory was a whole lot of cheating, lying, and some clever exploiting of loopholes. This was encouraged by the victor, tacitly if not directly, and then bragged about after the fact. I voted the legitimate way, playing by the rules, thinking I was making a difference, while all around me people were creating countless fake profiles and using different email addresses to stack the deck in their favour.

When I found out about that, I felt dirty. I felt like I’d been robbed of something that was never really mine to begin with. And then I got to watch the person who’d stolen it manufacture a tale of how they came to possess this thing they didn’t really deserve, while an audience assembled and gave truth to the lie of how it came to be theirs so they too could claim to be a part of the story.

It didn’t matter to them that none of it was based on anything real. A good story tells itself, after all. They were little more than peripheral characters who got to write their own dialogue.

Some people will make — and have made — the argument that the ends justify the means. That if the “right” person wins, it doesn’t matter how they won. And if one individual or entity in a community wins, everyone wins. So who cares?

Those people are entitled to make those arguments. Doesn’t mean I’m going to see any validity to them, just as they’re not going to agree with what I have to say. And if they want to respond to my rant by using my name in a pun designed to denigrate me, they’re entitled to do that too. I feel what I feel, and they feel what they feel, and never the twain shall meet.

(I would make sure I knew what a word like “pragmatism” meant before using it to try and jab a stick in someone’s eye. I would also make sure I wasn’t just holding a mirror up to my own hypocrisy by making such a public show of taking a simple difference of opinion and turning it into an excuse to stoop to the level of ad hominem attacks because I was trying to win this very contest and didn’t like some of the sketchy tactics I was using being criticized. I wouldn’t engage in a bizarre two-tiered attempt at publicly shaming the person I disagreed with and drumming up some attention for myself by bringing our disagreement to the attention of the CBC themselves. And I wouldn’t then take the coward’s way out and make my entire blog private so no one could read my side of the argument after it didn’t really play out in my favour. But hey, that’s just me.)

Back to the contest. Really, the whole thing has nothing to do with talent or the artistic merit of the submissions. Whoever wins will be the artist or band capable of getting the most people to vote for them, through whatever means necessary. It’s a popularity contest. Nothing more. The prize is $20,000 worth of musical equipment from Yamaha and a professionally recorded radio session to help give the winner some exposure. Chances are whoever wins this thing won’t need the equipment, and they’ll already have a pretty large built-in audience.

The whole thing is a mirage designed to give assistance to those who don’t need it, while ignoring those who might benefit from it.

Here’s an idea. Instead of having a competition that rewards popularity, how about pooling your resources and finding a few artists who are making amazing music in their basements, who don’t have any real audience, who don’t have much money or equipment but love what they do and have talent that transcends their technical limitations? How about giving them some of this equipment you’re able to obtain for free or next-to-nothing thanks to the deals you have with manufacturers, and giving them the opportunity to record a song or two in a professional environment, and giving them a little bit of exposure if they want it, because you think what they do deserves to be heard by a few more people?

But wait! That would require some research and dedication, and the only real reward would be doing something great for someone who’s deserving but might not ever get the chance to show many people what they can do for one reason or another. You couldn’t just set up an automated online system to tabulate votes and let the whole thing take care of itself, knowing you would end up with a nice-looking, inoffensive, creatively bankrupt musical entity to promote at the end of it all. You’d have to do some actual work and use your brain and heart in order to make something happen.

It’s a nice idea, anyway.

I guess this is all just my long-winded way of saying I think this facet of competition as a general thing is pretty silly, and it’s not something I’m interested in being any part of anymore. I don’t even want to watch from the sidelines.

I have better things to do. I have music to make.

beyond bad.

i try to stay away from what i feel is bad music. most of the time, i succeed. but sometimes it finds me, and there’s nothing that can be done. once in a great while, this unwanted music that finds me is so bad, i have to pause for a moment and ponder the big, universal question: “if there is a god, why would he/she allow this stuff to exist? what purpose does it serve?”

you might tell me that’s two questions instead of one. i’ll tell you it’s a two-pronged single question. then we’ll fight over it, and olympic scoring will lead to a controversial result.

i digress. i was unlucky enough to hear k’naan’s new single “hurt me tomorrow” for the first time just now. when i say i heard the song, what i really mean to say is that i heard the first twenty seconds of it, vomited, turned off the television, and changed my clothes. instead of listening to the rest, i did an internet search to read the lyrics. i guess it’s been a while since i was confronted with a song that shook me to my very core with its awfulness, and i was due. this one definitely fits the bill.

k’naan spends most of the song trying to convince a girl not to break up with him by throwing out bad forced rhymes, most of which end with the names of famous people. i’ll just touch on one of those rhymes, and then we’ll examine the chorus, which is the real heart of the song. the famous-person-aping rhyme:

i need a button i can push so we can start again
’cause girl, you bring me to my knees…nancy kerrigan

think about this for a second. the guy is equating romantic longing with a figure skater being violently clubbed in the knee with a collapsible police baton.

first of all, nancy was not brought to her knees. her knee was the part of her body that was attacked. she didn’t then fall to her knees and aggravate the injury further. she sat on her ass and cried. you don’t get shot in the stomach and then poke around inside the wound with your finger to make it worse.

so right away, the comparison isn’t really on-point, because the details are wrong.

if what he’s trying to get at is that the object of his affection is causing him pain comparable to being hit in the knee with a police baton, well, i’m sure that’s going to work out well. telling someone they’re causing you physical pain without even touching you isn’t going to come off as desperate or self-pitying at all. in fact, being a drama queen is a great way to endear yourself to someone who is considering leaving you, and it doesn’t give them any indication that they might be moving in the right direction by kicking you out of their life. doing it in a way that isn’t the least bit poetic or interesting is another selling point. she’ll really appreciate that.

you know what else? nancy kerrigan was attacked in 1994. the girl who’s breaking up with you — how old was she when that happened? three? does she even know who the hell a 1994 olympic figure skater is? i’d select my pop culture references more carefully if i were you, man. ubiquitous as information is now, with the internet at everyone’s fingertips, maybe consider dropping a name she might know without having to look it up.

as soul-stirring as that little snippet of song is, the chorus tops it. to wit:

this ain’t a good time
but when is it ever?
i know the perfect time
and baby that’s never
so don’t you dare leave me now
throw my heart on the ground
’cause tonight ain’t the night for sorrow
but you can hurt me tomorrow

awful rhymes aside, note that he isn’t asking the girl not to break up with him. he’s telling her. “don’t you dare,” he says. that’s the kind of language you use to threaten someone. that’s the language of an abusive partner.

he says the perfect time is “never”. so, the time that it’s okay to break up with him doesn’t exist. and yet, a few lines later, he says tomorrow would be okay. just not tonight. it’s never a good time, you understand, but tomorrow would work for him.

maybe it’s a scheduling issue?

if the girl really did throw his heart on the ground, well, there would be no tomorrow. he’d be dead. the body cannot live without the heart, and the physical damage done would be catastrophic beyond the possibility of repair. so i can understand that he doesn’t want her to do that. but why even give her the idea? she just might get so fed up with your shitty song, she decides killing you is worth her while.

if you treat the language as being metaphoric, it’s hackneyed, sophomoric, and lame beyond belief. more than that, it’s an insult to the possibilities of the english language. if you take it at face value, it’s the talk of a person who’s insane, has no concept of time, and no understanding of the workings of the human body.

oh, pop music. you get dumber all the time.

play like you mean it.

i have this thing where, when someone is both a singer and a musician, i tend to feel a little less connected to the music when they make an album on which they don’t play an instrument. i also like it when they do their own vocal multi-tracking instead of relying on backup vocalists (unless the backup vocalists are really, really good). i don’t know why this is, really. it’s just the way my brain works.

i’ll give you an example. tim buckley played acoustic (and later electric) twelve-string guitar on every great album he made. even on greetings from L.A., his first somewhat “commercial” effort after the record company clipped his wings and demanded more conventional music they could sell, he’s still in there playing guitar on every song, buried as he is in the mix at times. it’s on those last two albums that you barely hear him playing at all — especially on look at the fool, which is kind of depressing to listen to, given how little fire there is there.

in dream brother, david browne’s joint biography of tim and jeff buckley, a friend of tim’s remembers visiting the studio during the recording sessions for look at the fool and being unsettled by the image of tim recording vocals with his guitar nowhere to be found. that instrument was a vital part of his artistry. when it was taken away altogether, you could tell something wasn’t quite right.

i don’t think it’s a coincidence that the few really great songs on those last two albums all feature the unmistakable sound of tim’s electric fender twelve-string. and to hear someone with his earth-shattering vocal range being forced to rely on female backup vocalists, knowing he could probably hit higher notes than even they were capable of reaching…no. that ain’t my tim buckley. that’s record company bullshit.

or here’s an example that’s much more current and pop culture-approved. there’s this reality TV show called the voice, which is little more than a slight twist on the old american idol karaoke singing contest thing. i watched a few episodes of it some months back, because i felt like it had been a while since i really got angry about anything related to shitty music, and it was about time i hurled profanity at my television again.

some of the performers were actually pretty good. and in some cases they were rewarded for having some amount of personality. so that was nice to see. it was a fun way to kill time here and there.

then something happened early in the game that made me angry enough to stop watching the show and promise myself never to watch it again out of silent protest.

for those of you who have never watched the show, there are four celebrity singers/songwriters who act as judges and mentors to the contestants. each judge gets to pick his or her own team, which they whittle down throughout the course of the show. the judges are also competing against one another, for the distinction of being the one who can say they discovered “the voice” when it’s all over. this wrinkle makes it all a little more interesting than it would be otherwise.

one of the judges/mentors is the frontman douche from the band maroon 5. i know his name, but i prefer to call him the douche. he’s probably the most arrogant and outspoken of all the judges.


operating under the apparent assumption that cruelty is the best method of developing talent, after each judge has their team in place, they have what are called “battle rounds”. the judges pair up singers on their teams in groups of two and have them perform the same song together onstage. then they decide who did a better job of singing the song. t

he winner gets to stay another week. the loser goes home and gets nothing. they don’t even get the chance to perform during the part of the show where people at home are able to vote for who they like best. i think this is even worse than being sent home because you didn’t get enough votes. the rejection is much more personal, and it’s coming from the same person who gave you the chance to be there — and the belief that you might make it all the way through — in the first place.

for one battle round, the douche paired up two female vocalists. one of them played piano, and she was pretty good. he chose a song for them both to sing. when they were running through it, he decided he didn’t want to see the one girl behind the piano anymore. he was going to push her to step out into the spotlight.

the problem was, the piano was a huge part of her musical identity. that was where she wrote songs, and she always played and sang at the same time. without the piano, she felt uncomfortable. like part of her had been stripped away. she said as much to the douche, who dismissed her fear and told her she needed to do this to really push herself to the next level. typical douche stupidity.

so they had their battle round. and you could tell she wasn’t in her element. she wasn’t herself. part of who she was had been taken away from her. neither singer really gave a performance that stole the show. there was no clear winner. even so, everyone chose the other girl over the one who used to play piano until the douche took the piano away.

one of the judges told her she didn’t seem to be breathing properly during the song. d’you think maybe you breathe a certain way when you’re seated at a piano, feeling connected to the instrument, when that’s the way you’re used to singing, and maybe you breathe a different way when you’re standing with a microphone in your hand, without the piano, having been given almost no time to acclimate yourself to a way of performing that is completely alien to you?

no. of course you don’t think that. not if you’re judging a singing contest when your own vocal talent is debatable at best.

the douche made it clear he wasn’t thrilled with either performance. he sent the piano-playing girl home. he never apologized for ripping her out of her comfort zone without giving her enough time to adapt. he didn’t comment on the hypocrisy of being unimpressed by her performance when he was the one who went out of his way to create the atmosphere that led to the performance being less than what it might have been, had he allowed her to just be herself.

do you see now why i call him the douche? do a little reading about him and his exploits with the opposite sex, and you’ll start to feel like you need a cold shower. writing horrible songs that will make you a dumber person just for listening to them is only the icing on the douche cake.

that incident on the voice was what really took me beyond simple contemptuous indifference, and into the realm of serious anger. it’s pathetic that people who are this artificial, little more than blobs of unjustified ego bouncing around and shitting on everything they come across, who say and do nothing, are given fame and celebrated as being important and worthwhile when they’re neither one of those things, just because they look like someone you could have sex with without feeling like you were slumming it. what he did to that girl made me want to projectile vomit in his face.

back to the point.

maybe the best demonstration of the phenomenon i first started talking about is the way i feel about chan marshall. i was, and still am, a big fan of the raw, angry, sometimes almost uncomfortably vulnerable early cat power albums. what would the community think? and moon pix are two of my favourite albums by anyone. you are free and the covers record aren’t far behind (her solo piano version of “i found a reason” is the best velvet underground cover recorded by anyone, anywhere, ever. it’s so beautiful i almost can’t listen to it). i like the first two albums too, and though i find them a little uneven in places, i like how it sounds in a lot of those songs like she’s making up all the words as she goes along.

when the greatest came out in 2006, it was hailed in some quarters as chan’s masterpiece. if i’m honest, it kind of left me cold for a while. the first time i listened to it, i almost fell asleep halfway through. aside from the title track  — the only non-big star song i’ve ever heard that feels like it captures the dilapidated beauty of some of the piano songs alex chilton wrote for third/sister lovers (whatever writer described the song as the sort of thing alex might have written if he’d been a beautiful woman was right on the money) — “love and communication”, and the slight-but-weirdly-effective hidden track, the album felt kind of flat to me.


it dawned on me after a while that part of the problem i had with the album was not being able to really hear chan playing on it. aside from two songs where i could tell it was her playing piano, and two or three others where it was clear it was her on electric guitar, she let the session musicians guide the music and stuck to singing.

i think she’s got one of the most unique and beautiful voices i’ve ever heard. i could listen to her sing the yellow pages. the session players she chose are fantastic musicians with great feel. and still, i really missed hearing her play guitar and piano. it felt like part of her personality had been amputated, and there was no getting away from that disappointment.

the kicker is — and she’s admitted this herself — chan isn’t anywhere near being a virtuosic musician. on the first few albums you kind of doubt she even knew how to tune her guitar. on the piano she tends to pick a few simple chords and stick with them, doubling them up with the left hand instead of playing octaves or fifths.

but it works. it makes her music her music. and without her being involved in the songs that way, i have a more difficult time getting involved myself.

i did warm up to the greatest after a while. i came to realize it makes for great driving music. i like it now, even if it doesn’t hit me in the stomach like some of her other albums do. i still can’t get into jukebox, though. and while i was glad to read about chan conquering her addictions and learning how to be happy for a change, it seemed to have that all-too-common effect of happiness snuffing out some of the spark that used to exist in the music when the artist was a little less sure of themselves.

today i read that she’s finished her first album of new material in six years, it’s going to be released in september, and she played every single instrument on every song herself, because she felt she needed to be completely connected to the songs again. she used the dissolution of a long-term relationship to fuel the songwriting.

if i knew how to do joyful back-flips (or any kind of backfield at all), i would have done one then. i’m not glad that a relationship she invested years of her life in didn’t end up working out, but all of those things are almost guaranteed to add up to the best album she’s made in close to a decade. it’ll be fascinating to hear how the maturity she’s gained in the intervening years plays off of the back-to-basics approach.

so that’s something to look forward to a few months from now. it has to at least be better than sharon van etten’s last album. man, did that thing let me down when i finally got around to giving it a good listen. there are two songs on the album that i think are fantastic, two others that are really good, and then the rest kind of settles into a samey soup that gets a little boring for me after a while.

whatever the critics say, epic is sharon’s crowning achievement, at least thus far. tramp doesn’t even come close. it just goes to show that a more professional production job provided by someone with more name recognition doesn’t necessarily translate into a better album. it’s also further proof, if we needed any, that the hype something receives is not always a guarantee that you’re gonna dig it.

but hey, that’s just my opinion. as always.

(edited to add: i had a similar experience here to what happened with “the greatest”. i put “tramp” away for a while. then dug it out again for another listen a year or two after writing this, and was knocked out by how much better it was than i thought. maybe i didn’t give it a fair shake at first. “epic” is still the album of sharon’s i connect with the most, and i know part of that is because of what was going on in my head and my heart when i first heard it. but “tramp” is a fine album, and there are some gorgeous songs there. “kevin’s”, “in line”, and “warsaw” are worth the price of admission alone. sharon, like chan, has one of those voices that just…does stuff to me.)

on a different note, remember how i posted that acidic thing a little while back about the muchmusic coca cola covers contest? i predicted that the person who won would be young, attractive, and completely inoffensive. they would be able to strum a few chords on a guitar and sing in-tune, but there would be no real personality or uniqueness there. they’d be a blank slate waiting to be shaped and marketed in whatever direction some creatively impotent producer decided to guide them.

they’re airing commercials on TV now as part of the run-up to the muchmusic video awards, acting as brief advertisements for the three finalists, one of whom will be crowned the winner. there are two girls and one guy. and wouldn’t you know, they’re all young, attractive, and completely inoffensive. all three of them are able to strum a few chords on a guitar, and they can sing in-tune, but there’s no real personality or uniqueness there. they’re blank slates waiting to be shaped and marketed in whatever direction some creatively impotent producer decides to guide them.

sometimes you just gotta laugh.

a bite’s as good as a kiss to a complacent cat.

ANGLE OF BEST DISTANCE update —

number of songs finished/mixed/mastered/album-ready: 55

number of songs only in need of some minor tweaking (like a slight remix or remastering): 34

number of songs that have been recorded but still need some significant work: 33

number of songs that have yet to be recorded: 76

those figures don’t take into consideration a large group of tracks i’ve decided are probably not going to make the cut, new songs i’m saving for something else, or songs/sketches meant for this album but now perhaps not worthy of inclusion.

what can you take away from all that? three things, i think.

(1) i’ve technically passed the halfway mark, even though the second disc hasn’t quite been finalized yet, because there’s no way i’ll be able to squeeze 100 songs onto the album, even spread out over four CD. and i’ve already got more than half that amount in the bank, as they say.

(2) there’s a ridiculous amount of material to work with, and now it really comes down to what feels the strongest and most worthy of getting on the album, especially when it comes to figuring out which of those unrecorded songs to take a stab at (recording all of them is out of the question, unless i want to obliterate my goal of having this thing finished by the summer).

(3) another misfits compilation might not be so far away.

about that hypothetical misfits collection — when i do sit down to put it together, it’s going to be a much tighter, more consistent affair than the first one. part of that comes down to drawing from a shorter period of time (volume one reached from 1999 to 2007; as it sits now, volume two would cover 2007 to 2012), but a larger part of it is the desire to be a little more selective. while i’m all for being exhaustive when it comes to these kinds of things, there’s a fair amount of stuff on the existing misfits collection that’s only there in the interest of being thorough, and not because it’s especially good or illuminating.

i think for the second go-round i’ll stick to the out-takes and cast-offs that feel most worthy of being heard, and only include sketches where they really add something interesting. and i think i’ll be going with the chronological approach to sequencing as well, if it flows alright. that would never, ever work with ANGLE, just because of how many songs there are, but when it comes to compilations, i do like the idea of setting it up so it’s easy to chart how things have progressed over time.

what else? i was lucky enough to see a new music video by some piece of shit pop band in which the lead singer would rather play video games than acknowledge his girlfriend, and he flirts with scores of other women at a party while posting pictures and videos online for the world to see. yet, somehow, she’s spun into being the villain when she finally snaps at him for being a pathetic piece of shit who won’t even wash his own clothes. she doesn’t even do anything that terrible. she just tries to make him jealous in an attempt at getting him to pay some small amount of attention to her, which the video would have us believe is just proof that she’s a psycho bitch and he’s super cool.

we’re looking for a word, and the word is…misogyny! how much do you want to bet the guys in this band don’t even know how to spell that word?

in my imaginary director’s cut of the video, the girl starts her own band and writes a song called “i dated a walking cliché with a microscopic dick”, humiliating her asshat of an ex-manchild to the point that he castrates himself in shame. now that’s what i call a happy ending.

sometimes it’s hard not to be sickened by the sweet science.

i was slow to become a boxing fan. when i was younger, i expected all fights to be like the ones i saw in the rocky movies and raging bull — bloody, visceral battles, with nothing resembling defensive strategy. yeah, rocky got smart in the third movie when apollo taught him how to be a technical boxer, moving and slipping punches…but when it came time for the next sequel, he forgot everything he ever learned about footwork and counter-punching and reverted to blocking punches with his face.

of course, if people really fought that way, few fights would go past the second or third round, and most fighters would die or suffer serious brain damage before they succeeded in building much of a career. in real life, rocky would have been decapitated by the force of ivan drago’s blows in rocky IV.

but try explaining that to a ten-year-old who just wants to watch two guys beat the shit out of each other.

though it took me a while, over the past few years i’ve grown to appreciate the way boxing at its best balances strategy and brutality. it’s a barbaric sport, but there’s something strangely compelling about watching two skilled athletes try to wear each another down — a kind of violent poetry. i’ve enjoyed fights as diametrically opposed as the gatti-ward trilogy (three exercises in “how the hell are they still standing after what just happened?”, where technique is thrown out the window for the most part in favour of a toe-to-toe slugfest) and the three fights between manny pacquiao and juan manuel marquez (veritable chess matches in which you can almost see the fighters thinking in real-time, each of them making adjustments to try and nullify what the other is doing and then reacting to the shifts in momentum created by those adjustments).

i used to find floyd mayweather’s fights boring beyond belief. at some point something clicked, and now i think there’s something fascinating about what a profound contradiction of a human being he is. outside of the ring, he’s an arrogant loudmouth who does deplorable things and gets away with them because of his celebrity status. it’s difficult to view him with anything but contempt. when he steps inside the ring, all of that goes away and he becomes someone else. it’s as if boxing is the one thing that purifies and focuses him.

mayweather is most interesting when he’s fighting someone who’s able to throw him off his game, because you get to see him think on his feet, figure out what he needs to change, and then rudely rip his opponent out of their comfort zone. he disrupts your rhythm and makes you beat yourself. then he spits vinegar in the wound and toys with you, defeating you twice in the same fight. as much as i’d like to see this fabled, doomed mayweather-pacquiao fight happen while they’ve both still got some gas left in the tank, i don’t think there’s any way floyd would lose unless he got old in the ring. he’s too smart, and too good.

the thing i’ve been wondering lately is this: is there a single honest fighter out there? someone who will tell the truth when a fight is over, even if it doesn’t flatter them? imagine manny pacquiao, after his third and maybe last fight with marquez, saying in the post-fight interview, “i didn’t win this fight. marquez out-boxed me almost every round and landed the cleaner, more effective punches. this is a gift decision handed to me in case hell freezes over and the mayweather fight happens. marquez got robbed.”

imagine how much respect he would have earned for having the audacity to confirm what almost everyone who watched that fight was thinking. instead, he said, “marquez is a great fighter, but i clearly won. just ignore the fact that my trainer was telling me i needed a knockout, and forget about how deflated and discouraged i looked once the fight was over, before the decision was announced.”

nobody tells the truth in the heat of the moment. i mean nobody. months or years later, maybe.

oscar de la hoya admitted shane mosley deserved to win their first fight (which he did) years after the fact. but i doubt shane would ever tell you he robbed oscar the second time they fought and had no business winning that one. shane got a boxing lesson that night, with oscar jabbing him into oblivion and picking him apart, but the judges were on another planet.

antonio margarito will probably never admit he might never have built up a reputation as a terrifying human wrecking-ball if he wasn’t fighting with loaded gloves. notice how he hasn’t won a meaningful fight since he was caught attempting to cheat before facing shane mosley, who anded margarito’s ass to him after chewing it up and spitting it out in six different pieces.

paul williams will never admit erislandy lara made him look washed up in their fight, and you’ll never hear him say he had no right getting that decision after having the pants beat off of him (literally — the ref had to pull paul’s shorts up in the final round because of how low they were hanging).

it would be refreshing to experience the absurdity of a post-fight interviews with a candid fighter who doesn’t even attempt self-flattery or excuse-making. aside from chris arreola, who deserves to achieve immortality just for having the balls to call don king a “racist fucking asshole” on live television, i can’t think of anyone active in boxing who fits the bill.

two fighters and the state of texas had a chance to surprise me last night. they all came up short.

james kirkland fought carlos molina on the undercard of the erik morales-danny garcia fight. it was an important night, and a pivotal fight, for both men.

kirkland got his career off to a promising start, racking up an impressive undefeated record with ann wolfe taking him to hell in training camp so whatever hell he faced in the ring would seem like a beautiful dream. then he ditched wolfe and got blown out in one round by nobuhiro ishida. that’s like mike tyson getting knocked out by big bird. no disrespect to ishida, who’s a fine fighter. that was just the kind of upset it was.

since then he’s realigned himself with wolfe and regained his momentum, but that surprise loss raised some questions about whether or not he’s capable of competing as an elite-level fighter.

molina, meanwhile, is a much better fighter than his spotty record suggests. he’s been robbed in close fights because he has a habit of making things ugly to take the other fighter out of their rhythm. for him, this was a chance to show what he was capable of with a decisive win.

both these guys are aggressive, they throw a lot of punches, and they come to win. on paper it threatened to upstage the main event.

as it turned out, it wasn’t an action-packed fight at all. to be honest, it was pretty boring to watch. molina fought a hideous, barely-legal fight. it proved to be a smart tactical decision, because it threw kirkland off something fierce. molina would nail him with combinations. then, as soon as kirkland would open up and try to get something going, molina would swarm him, tie him up, and fire off a few more shots.

kirkland couldn’t get his punches off. after a while he stopped trying. he looked tentative, spending too much time looking for one big shot that wasn’t there. molina just kept on switching it up between holding and using kirkland as a human heavy bag.

between rounds, ann wolfe was telling him to let his punches go, use his jab, and hammer molina when he came in, to discourage him from getting in close. solid advice. but kirkland couldn’t or wouldn’t adjust, and coming into the tenth round molina was running away with the fight. at worst, he’d lost one round of the first nine.

even wolfe said, “he’s fighting dirty, but he’s winning. you need to get more aggressive.”

in the tenth round, after she told him to “act like this motherfucker got your kid and you’re gonna kill him”, kirkland found his balls, turned it up, and caught molina with a punch that knocked him down right at the bell. molina was on his feet almost right away. he looked like he still had his legs. because the round was over, one of the guys in his corner started climbing into the ring as jon schorle was giving the eight count.

“are you fucking kidding me?” schorle muttered, and pushed the guy back out of the ring before he even got the lower half of his body through the ropes. he told both fighters to go to their corners. then he waved off the fight, disqualifying molina because a member of his team entered the ring before the round was through. even though the bell signifying the end of the round had already sounded. even though schorle pushed the over-eager corner man out of the ring before he properly set foot in it.

right.

the booing started right away. kirkland was coming on after looking lost all fight long. he might have gone on to get the knockout or a late stoppage. or maybe molina would have countered the aggression and continued to outwork him. the last two rounds could have been as exciting as the rest of the fight was supposed to be.

we’ll never know now. both fighters were robbed of a clean win by an incompetent referee who beat a hasty retreat before any questions could be asked of him.

when he was asked after the fight why he looked so unimpressive until the tenth round, kirkland said his game plan was to pace himself and wear his opponent down, and he more or less claimed he was executing that and winning the fight. when your trainer is telling you between rounds you’re blowing it, giving you good advice, and you keep going out there and not throwing punches, somehow i don’t think you’re following any game plan, real or imagined. you’re sure as hell not winning the fight.

two of the three texas judges still had molina up on points after the knockdown. he would have been leading even if he lost a point or two for excessive holding (which wouldn’t have been out of line). when the judges in texas are making good sense, well…that’s a little scary.

that would have been enough weirdness for one night of boxing. but there was more on the way. we still had the morales-garcia fight.

again, this looked like it could be an entertaining scrap, but it also carried the threat of turning into a one-sided beating. morales, as tough and determined as he is — he was the last fighter to officially beat a prime manny pacquiao — has had a pretty spotty record lately, and after countless wars in the ring (three transcendent, soul-destroying fights with marco antonio barrera among them). it isn’t clear how much he has left in him.

garcia is a cocky douche who rubs me the wrong way in a number of places. his father/trainer is even worse. but he’s young, fast, and undefeated. as much as i wanted to see morales put garcia on his ass and wipe the stupid smirk off his face, it looked like it would take a miracle for that to happen. more than anything, i really didn’t want to see the declining veteran get smacked around the ring the way de la hoya was when he fought pacquiao.

from the opening bell, this was a much more interesting fight. there was almost no holding at all. the boxing skill on display was in a different league from what kirkland and molina offered. garcia, who promised to come out fast and embarrass morales, found himself being timed and outsmarted by the older man. they both took some good shots, but morales was blocking, slipping punches, and working effectively behind his jab. while not as fast or explosive as he was in his prime, morales had a few brilliant moments where he let garcia get him on the ropes and seemed to be in trouble, only to duck and weave out of the way of garcia’s punches before smacking him in the face with jabs and uppercuts.

going into the ninth round, morales was winning the fight. anyone with working eyes and a fragment of functioning brain tissue resting inside their skull could see it. i say this with the caveat that, again, the fight was taking place in texas, where a whole lot of shady shit has gone down.

open scoring gave each corner access to the score cards after the fourth round, and then again after the eighth, when it became clear the judges had garcia winning by a mile. morales’ father yelled at him, called him a bastard, said he wasn’t his son, and told him he needed a knockout. ann wolfe would like this guy. morales responded by coming out and throwing more punches. the ninth round was close. it could have gone to garcia. i had morales winning the tenth round almost going away.

then morales just kind of went away. he stopped throwing so many punches. he abandoned his jab, which had been a great weapon and one of the best punches throughout the fight. people who write about boxing and consider themselves students of the sport will probably tell you garcia was too fast and he was hurting morales, but i didn’t see it. i won’t buy that no matter how you try to slice it or sell it to me.

morales, for being older, slower, and supposedly not carrying his power with him above his natural fighting weight, opened a nasty cut above garcia’s left eye and broke the younger man’s nose with that jab. by the end of the fight, the towel in garcia’s corner was almost soaked through with blood. morales barely even looked like he’d been hit.

but he did give those last few rounds away by not doing enough. garcia caught him with a left hook in the eleventh for a questionable knockdown. morales was off-balance, but he didn’t go down until garcia gave him a shove with his right hand. and i thought it was interesting how HBO cut off the slow-motion replay of the camera angle that would have shown the push right before the knockdown.

garcia didn’t go in for the kill or do much to capitalize on the damage he’d done. he didn’t knock morales down again. he wasn’t able to stop him. i figured morales just got tired after being pretty cagey and effective for the first three quarters of the fight, and he ran out of gas down the stretch. at most, he lost by two or three points. i didn’t see garcia winning too many rounds before the eighth. but as expected, the scores were wide in garcia’s favour.

he may have added another win to his record, but garcia didn’t look impressive against a man twelve years older than him — maybe more, in terms of punishment absorbed and dished out in the ring — and an opponent many expected him to dominate. he didn’t dominate. i think it speaks both to garcia’s lack of top-level quality and erik morales still being a smart, tough fighter, even with all the wear and tear he’s accumulated. he didn’t embarrass himself by any means, even in defeat.

later, i started thinking morales might have gone out of his way to give those last few rounds away. he knew he was too far behind on points to ever win a decision. he needed a knockout. he knew he didn’t have a knockout punch to take garcia out. for all his lack of anything spectacular, the guy seems to have a solid chin.

morales decided there was no point in laying it all on the line in the championship rounds and taking a potential beating for his trouble when he was never going to get the win no matter how well he fought. the judges saw the fight they wanted to see. so, in the final rounds, morales let them have the fight they were scoring all along, and he walked away more or less intact when it was over, still on his feet, still clear-headed.

i could be wrong, but that’s what i think happened here. he saw the futility of it all and chose to stop trying.

part of me respects that. there’s another part of me that wishes he’d gone out on his shield, knowing he couldn’t win, but extending his middle fingers through his gloves as he lost, just to show everyone one last time what he’s really made of.

now there’s a great expression i never even heard of before i got into boxing. going out on your shield. it derives from the latin e tan, e epi tan, which loosely translates to: “either bring this back, or be brought back dead upon it.”

this was said in roman times by a spartan mother to her son as she handed him his shield before he left for battle, or so the story goes. the sentiment is, if you return home alive but without your shield, it means you threw it away so you could run faster and save your own ass. it means you’re a coward. if you’re carried off the battlefield on your shield as a casualty of war, at least you fought and died like a man.

in boxing, it means fighting your heart out and going down hard even when you know you can’t win. and it might gnaw at morales a little, knowing he didn’t do that this time, even if what he did was the more intelligent way to end a fight he knew he was going to lose.

easy to say when you’re not the one eating punches.

garcia cried when the fight was over. sometimes that seems like a genuine expression of joy, surprise, and exhaustion. with buster douglas, who broke down after he knocked out mike tyson in one of the most stunning upsets in boxing history, it was something deeper and more meaningful.

this time, coming from a guy who mimed cutting his throat as a show of disrespect toward morales at the weigh-in, and whose father is a racist asshole who should be shot for some of the things he says about his son’s opponents, it rang hollow. he offered no real comment on the fight itself or his performance, only babbling some drivel about dreams coming true.

again, here was an opportunity to give his opponent his due and say, “morales was tougher than i expected. he made me really work hard to win.” there would be none of that.

there were two moments, one in each fight, that made watching the whole debacle worthwhile.

in the main event, before accepting he was never going to win the fight no matter how much he jabbed garcia’s face off while making him miss a lot of his big shots, morales did something kind of beautiful. a lot of garcia’s punches were sloppy, looping shots, not very accurate or powerful even when they did connect, in stark contrast to the precision punches he kept getting hit with from morales. after slipping a few of these loopers, morales stopped, stared at garcia, and did an exaggerated little impression of the punches that just missed him with a deadpan expression on his face, looking like he was trying to swat at a fly with broken arms.

i burst out laughing. it was a pretty good fight most of the way through, but that taunt really put it over the top for me. it felt like a nice little moment of moral victory for morales, and a welcome bit of unexpected levity.

the other moment came after the bullshit disqualification killed the first fight. carlos molina, to his credit, didn’t pull a zab judah. he didn’t throw a tantrum. he didn’t even seem to get angry. he just looked shocked, and disappointed.

ann wolfe hugged him and said, loud enough for everyone in the ring to hear, “you were winning the fight.”

the most honest person in boxing’s boys club just might be a woman. that seems fitting somehow.

the game is rigged. but you cannot lose if you do not play.

muchmusic has this contest going on right now called “coca cola covers”. you submit a video of yourself covering one of six predetermined songs, and whoever ends up being crowned the victor more or less gets a foot in door of the music business, with money for a music video and digital distribution for one of their original songs.

today i came within an eyelash of submitting my own video. if you know me at all, you’re probably wondering right about now if i suffered a traumatic head injury that destroyed two thirds of my brain.

allow me to explain.

a handful of people have, at one time or another, told me, “if you just got rid of some of the weirdness and unpredictability in your music, promoted yourself, and went through conventional channels, you could really go somewhere and make a career out of this.” my thinking was this: by submitting a cover in this contest only to have a whole lot of nothing come of it, i would be able to say to these people, “look. here’s solid evidence that you’re wrong. i’m not a bankable artist, even when i try to bend myself in that direction. it just isn’t going to happen. give it up.”

i didn’t expect there was any chance i would win. i didn’t expect there was any danger of me even making it to the semifinals. the whole idea was to use the contest as an excuse to make a small statement. and maybe, while i was at it, i could slip in some subversive ideas about music being more than just a product.

if you must know, it was a selena gomez song i was going to put my own spin on.

then i came to my senses and realized there was no point. the whole thing would be a complete waste of time, and here’s why. i can tell you right now who’s going to win this thing. it’s going to be a guy or girl, 18 or 19 years old, with more looks than talent.

sure, they’ll be able to strum a few chords on an acoustic guitar and sing more or less in tune, with a voice that has no real personality. they’ll also be completely devoid of any creative fire. they’ll be someone cute enough to sell a music video that’s made to look like a phone sex commercial, and meek enough to do whatever they’re told. the person who wins is going to be the most marketable, inoffensive, cookie cutter karaoke singer they can find. anyone who has anything approaching a unique voice or something interesting to say won’t even get a second look.

the more i ruminate on this, the clearer it becomes to me. the moment i start to think there’s any point in someone like me getting involved in this kind of farce, it’s time for me to sell all my gear and hang it up. my cynicism is not a shield. it’s a weapon. and i don’t feel i have anything left to prove to anyone. i need to cut that impulse off right at the knees anytime it shows up.

but let’s assume for a second that i did go through with submitting my video cover, whatever the motivation was. let’s pretend it caught someone’s attention, it picked up steam, and then the unthinkable happened. i won.

they would hit me in the ass with a giant boot before i even walked through the door, because i would reject the digital distribution deal (i’m not selling my music…we’ve established that before). and if i was given a platform to speak to a large group of mainstream music fans, this is what i would say to them:

“i don’t like popular music. i entered this contest as a bit of a joke, and i think me winning it is an even bigger joke. but since i’m here, let me give you some food for thought.

if you like the pop music that gets played on commercial radio, that’s great. enjoy it. don’t let me or any of the hipsters who smell their own flatulence make you feel guilty about it. by the same token, just because pitchfork tells you some indie band is brilliant because they have good taste in the artists they steal their ideas from, it doesn’t mean they’re any good, and it doesn’t mean you should buy their albums. everyone is entitled to be moved by whatever it is that moves them.

i suggest you unplug your television, get off the internet, and make an effort to seek out things you haven’t heard before. step outside of your comfort zone. figure out what it is that really hits you in the gut, divorced from any hype or marketing gimmicks. go see some live shows happening in your city. listen to your college or university radio station. pick up some music magazines you’ve never read before and buy CDs by artists who seem interesting to you, without knowing what the music actually sounds like beforehand.

take some chances. surprise yourself. don’t let the media determine for you what music has worth and what doesn’t. you have this thing between your ears called a brain. use it. decide for yourself what speaks to you.”

i would either hear a whole lot of crickets, or maybe it would stimulate some discussion. and fuck man, we don’t want that. what kind of world would it be if we weren’t all mindless consumers who ate whatever shit was put on a plate in front of us and announced it was the best meal we’d ever had because someone else told us it was delicious? what kind of horrific fucked up world would we be living in then?

let me be clear. i have nothing at all against anyone who enters this contest. i think it’s great if they get something positive out of it. i hope someone with some real talent and something to say wins, and i hope they get a chance to be heard. hell, i hope someone from windsor wins it.

is that going to happen? not on your life. but you know what george michael said, before he was entrapped by a cop at a urinal: “i want your sex.”

maybe that wasn’t the quote i was going for. but it’ll do for now.

this cat is not impressed.

it’s good to know the grammy awards are still all about hype and hypocrisy, instead of functioning as a forum that celebrates music that actually says or does something. just once, i’d like to see somebody get up on that platform and say what they really think, instead of chopping off their own balls, backtracking, and being contrite in the name of playing the game.

i was never a die-hard bon iver fan (i liked for emma, forever ago, which i didn’t end up hearing until some time after the initial hype had come and gone, while what i’ve heard of the most recent album doesn’t do a whole lot for me). but if i had been, i wouldn’t be anymore. justin vernon doesn’t have much credibility left with me at this point.

for those who have no idea what i’m talking about, the short version of the story goes something like this. in a recent interview, he talked about how the grammy awards are a bunch of bullshit. he said if he ever won one, he would tell everyone what a joke the whole thing is, and stress that none of them should be there celebrating artifice and mediocrity.

then he was nominated for two grammy awards and all of that was forgotten. he was grateful and excited. he licensed one of his songs for use in a whiskey commercial, after more or less denigrating other artists who do that sort of thing. he briefly reverted to something like his original attitude when he said he was rejecting the opportunity to perform on the show, because there was a stipulation that he collaborate with some other nominated artist, and he thought that would compromise his music (though he had no problem collaborating with kanye west in the studio). at the same time, he allowed his music to be used in a commercial for the grammy awards.

when he accepted his award(s), there was no talk of what a sham the whole thing is. just a brief mention of making music for the sake of making music, slipped in with the usual thanks, so quick it was easy to miss. no mention of how it’s a bit of a joke to win for “best new artist” in 2012, when your first proper album came out in 2007.

seems to me it’s a case of trying to have it both ways — claiming to be all about the music, only to turn around and embrace the very commercialism you rail against. then again, few people seem to have the integrity or the courage to stand up and run with what they believe (or what they claim to believe), or to speak the truth when presented with a big moment that involves a lot of people listening and watching. so it’s no real surprise at all. just disappointing.

on the bright side, i don’t even have the ability to watch TV at the moment, so i didn’t have the chance to catch the show as it happened.