Tuesday, June 20, 2006

John's Top Ten Non-Favourite Musical Phenomenons

1) G-Unit. This entire mumbling group of overrated and seriously-misguided bathroom stall-level lyricists represent, in my mind, all of the decadence and grade-school braggadacio that makes hip hop one of the most misunderstood genres of music. With the exception of Mobb Deep (why, oh why?) the entire gangsta-fied posse is the lyrical equivalent of Chad Kroeger farting. On a side note, if 50 Cent was a real gangsta he would have capped the guy who shot him.

2) The Black Eyed Peas. Okay, a slightly credible band added a singer to their group and rocketed to success. You would think, however, that they could have added a singer who did not need the aid of voice modulation technology to make her screeching sound half-way decent. You would also think that it was impossible for musicians to have less lyrical skill than Shaquille O'Neal freestyling. Well, it is possible, and the Black Eyed Pease have done it and done it with the worst, most vacuously stupid, single ever released in the history of music "My Humps."

3) Good Charlotte. Some people complained that Blink 182 preppified punk music, but Good Charlotte has done something much much worse. They have fused Blink 182 with a unique brand of suck that has left a vacuum so strong that the universe is in danger of collapsing on itself. Wearing tattoos does not make you edgy any more than riding an elevator makes you a risk-taker; especially if these tattoos as poorly-conceived as Benji's and whathisname's. Eyeshadow was controversial when David Bowie wore it, now it's just a desperate cry of a confused individual whose voice sounds like, well, mine. And I don't sing, because I really sound bad.

4) Masari. There simply must be better people to fill the obligatory Canadian Content requirements on our airwaves. His singing is the mucus-soaked phlegmatic nerve-grating auditory sensation that should be expected from someone who sings from his throat and through his nose. His name means "money" in Arabic, which is a pretty good summary of exactly why this music was made. It has absolutely no artistic merit and is merely a sadly successful attempt to part young fools from their "masari."

5) Daddy Yankee. I like reggae and I like a lot of latin music so why do I hate it so much when they're fused into reggaeton? Is it because half of the beats are snippets of recycled dancehall reggae beats from the nineties, because it is misogynist and derogatory, because the beats are exceptionally mundane, or because every single song sounds exactly the same? Certainly, and additionally, I cannot support a style of music that claims to be original but is basically just a parasitic tapeworm feeding off of the half-digested entrails of all of dancehall reggae's worst ideas.

6) Ashlee Simpson. If you can be caught lip-syncing on Saturday Night Live, survive an almost world record booing at the Orange Bowl after a performance reminiscent of the early stages of American Idol, and still be popular you must have preteen girls as your fanbase. If your fanbase is almost entirely preteen girls then it is reasonable to assume that you have an artistic credibility equivalent to the number of WMDs in Iraq.

7) Diddy, or P.Diddy, or Puff Daddy. Sean "Puffy" Combs announced a while back that he no longer wanted to be referred to as P. Diddy but just as plain ol' Diddy. "The P was getting in the way of me and my fans," he claimed. Never mind that this should have been a quotation from R. Kelly, but Diddy's remixing and relentless sampling and covering is the only thing that he should be claiming as getting in the way of him and his fans, that and his enormous capacity to suck. Oh, and his shameless exploitation of Notorious B.I.G.'s legacy is, well, shameless.

8) Red Rat. If you have never heard Red Rat sing, you have been blessed. Imagine Mickey Mouse's cousin singing in Jamaican patois and saying "oh noooo" a lot. Now imagine that Mickey Mouse's cousin has a slight potty-mouth, horrible lyrics, and a cartoonishly high-pitched voice. Now take what you imagined and discard it entirely because it is much much worse than you can possibly imagine.

9) Gwen Stefani. My resentment towards her music started while she was with No Doubt and tried to pay Bounty Killer a ridiculously low amount for his contribution to her song "Hey Baby." First of all, the only redeeming part of that song was Bounty Killer's verse, and, secondly, even that was weak. This can be forgotten, mostly because Bounty Killer is a badman and he got his money. Then, however, Gwen went solo and ripped off Fiddler on the Roof with her horrendous "If I Was a Rich Girl." Not only is this song teeth-grindingly annoying, but millionaires really shouldn't be allowed to express such sentiments. After ransacking broadway and reggae, Gwen set her sights on Japan. She claimed that she had been inspired by the fashion of the Harajuku girls and she released an album based on this shallow concept. Then she literally dressed up some Japanese and Japanese-American girls and paid them to vogue in the background at interviews and to dance all over her music videos. OK. Then she gave them names and forbade them to speak to the press. You name dogs, you name your guitar, you name your automobile - this is what shows your ownership of them. People already have names, and you only name people if you're their parents. Is Gwen the mother of these Harajuka girls? I don't think so. She may be old enough, but there are certain differences in their phenotype which make it highly unlikely.

10) Chris Brown. Usher. Eminem. Britney Spears. Backstreet Boys. tATu. Mario. N*sync. Madonna. New Kids on the Block. Chinggy. Shawn Desman. The Pussycat Dolls. Kelis. Lil' Jon. Shaggy. The Yin Yang Twins. et cetera et cetera ad nauseum.

Friday, June 16, 2006

On Multiculturalism and Self-Identity

My friend Jake Belder recently posted on nationalism and his problems with Canadian multiculturalism. I agree with him on many points. There is a danger of becoming lost if a nation becomes so tolerant that its own culture is diluted into a thin, unpalatable soup. Its hard to stand up for anything when you don't stand anywhere at all.
I disagree with him in a few other areas, however. He claims that he gets a little upset with people who live here in Canada and who hold onto the Dutch culture. Furthermore, he argues that Dutch-Canadians are holding onto a culture frozen in time and that if we truly want to reflect the motherland we should, "condone euthanasia, sell vast amounts of hard drugs, and hold an incredibly vicious prejudice against all people of Middle Eastern descent." By painting a stereotypical picture of Dutch-Canadian culture and contrasting it with a stereotypical picture of modern Dutch culture, Jake has successfully shown very little. Imagining my dear Oma selling heroin on a street corner in Port Perry was a little surreal, and I am sure she would be surprised to learn that she, like many other staunch Dutch Reformed women, is living in a mirage. The Netherlands is not the Red Light District of Amsterdam any more than Canada is a poverty-stricken reservation. Of course, I am certain that Jake had his tongue firmly in his cheek, but I am, without question, opposed to his view that me and my ilk are "preserving an illusionary culture."
I would argue that Dutch people have done quite a good job of integrating into Canadian society. At the same time, I believe that people of Dutch descent in Canada have managed to hold onto pieces of their culture that make them unique and set them apart on the beautiful tapestry of Canadian life. Some of these cultural quirks and traditions might seem a little trite, but I, for one, will never call a boiling plate of stamppot "ineptly named." Delicious is probably a better description. My Dutch heritage does not define me, but it certainly enriches my life.
I was reminded of Canada's strengths when I witnessed responses of many Americans to the display of the Mexican flag by members of the Mexican-American community. They were outraged, as if flying the Mexican flag next to the American flag was tantamount to treason. I have always loved seeing international flags being displayed in Canada and I am glad that most Canadians understand that this is normal and even inspiring. The World Cup, I believe, brings out the best in Canada. Strangers laugh along with celebrating fans in the streets and neighbours become friends as they enjoy the rich international game and share their cultures.
I have read many of Jake's complaints about the lack of a real Canadian culture, but one cannot expect a country so young to have as deep a culture as, say, Egypt or China. Nevertheless, I believe the depth of Canadian artists, writers, athletes, dancers, statesmen, musicians, and intellectuals is a testament to a remarkable developing culture. I do not think it is very helpful to search for some kind of mono-cultural norm for what it means to be Canadian. We will never be a nation of touque-wearing, beer-guzzling, maple syrup sucking, snowmobile-riding, hockey-watching donut fanatics, and thank God for that! The richest cultures are the ones that are fed by a multitude of influences. Cultural dilution is only a danger when decadence and apathy get in the way of justice and equality. When a nation turns inwards it is like a dog feasting on its own stifling regurgitation. It is better to find sustenance from the cuisine of the world.
Some of the most enthusiastic Canadians I have met would put Don Cherry to shame. They love Canada's freedom, safety, community, and tolerance --- and they go to the mosque on Friday. Don't be surprised in the next ten years as names like Muhammed, Kim, and Amuneke start gracing the backs of Canadian hockey sweaters.
I am married to a Burundian-Canadian. My children will be Canadian with Burundian and Dutch genes. I am not going to tell my children that they must cheer for the Dutch soccer team and eat peppermints in order to be considered my children, but I am certainly going to share that part of their ancestry with them. I don't expect them to be defined by this part of their culture but it certainly will enrich their lives.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

1. Take the nearest book and look up page 18, line 4. What does it say?
"...encore, vagabondaient d'une mine á l'autre, mais avaient jugé profi-. . .,"
2. Reach out your arm as far as you can. What do you touch?
The end of my nose.
3. What is the latest thing you watched on TV?
A snippet of Frasier
4. Without looking, guess what time it is.
6:20. Actual time? 6:31..
5. Apart from the computer, what else do you hear?
My computer sounds like a dump truck idling, but I can hear traffic, a few French-Canadians chattering outside, and Bob Dylan singing "The Times They are a Changin'."
6. When were you last outside, and what did you do?
Walked from the car to the apartment.
7. What did you look at before you started answering these questions.
I scanned the BBC news website.
8. What are you wearing?
Black pants and a dark blue short-sleeved dress shirt with vertical stripes. I like vertical stripes because they have nice a slimming effect.
9. Did you dream last night, if you did, then what was the dream about?
I did, in fact, dream last night. I had one where I was at work watching the world cup. I don't remember anything else about it.
10. When was the last time you laughed?
Refer to number 3.
11. What is on the wall in the room you sit in right now?
A Jamaican flag overlapped by a rasta flag in turn overlapped by Bob Marley's gigantic head.
12. Have you seen anything strange lately?
I have this fingernail problem that's pretty strange looking.
13. What do you think of this challenge?
It's alright.
14. What movie have you watched most recently?
I finally watched Run Lola Run. It was quite good, but very short.
15. If you became a multi-millionaire, what would you buy?
A house. Maybe some ducks.
16. Tell something about yourself that others don't know.
I see the Parliament buildings at least twice a day.
17. If you could change ONE thing in the world, without consideration to politics and feelings of guilt, what would it be?
I would change politics and the feelings of guilt associated with them.
18. Do you like dancing?
Dancing is a beautiful art form. I suffer from a genetic predisposition to dance badly.
19. George Bush?
I don't know him personally, but he is among the worst presidents in the history of the United States.
20-21.What would you name your children, boy and girl respectively?
Johnson and Blueberry.
22. Could you consider living abroad?
I could and I do.
23. What would you like God to say to you when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
I'm sure I'll be happy as long as he doesn't yell at me.
24. Four people you would like to answer these questions?
Piet, Todd, Aaron, and Marcellin.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Envelope

They never told him why he had been selected. The crisp manila envelope arrived with rest of his mail. On it cover, the envelope bore his address and, printed neatly in the corner, a small government insignia. He had noticed it as he rifled through his mail and he immediately knew what it was. There was the usual mail: a telephone bill, a pizza flyer, a bank statement, and then there was the obtrusive envelope. He thrust the other mail aside; it wasn't important now. He let the envelope sit on the table while he hunched over it, hands folded, contemplating this momentous article of mail. There it sat, in all its brownish-gold glory, waiting for his shaking hands to brandish the letter opener and release the contents. He wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead. Why was he nervous? After all, hadn't he known what was written in that fateful package the moment he saw it? He finally decided that he was nervous because he had no idea why he had been selected. He was a gainfully employed, middle-aged, passive, healthy, law-abiding citizen. He had never broken the law, never disturbed the peace, and never ever done anything remotely controversial. In fact, he rarely spoke at all and, when he did, he chose his words with a mundane precision that ensured that he had few conversations and even fewer friends. He was a careful man and he had done all he could to ensure that his life would leave the world as undisturbed as possible. For every decision he made, he had cautiously made certain that no ripple would be felt by anyone. He muttered anxiously under his breath, and suddenly wondered if this habit were the cause of his fate. No, that didn't seem possible. But why? Why had he been chosen? It was not random. They used a method, a system, to choose recipients. He picked the envelope up in tremulous hands: it was surprisingly light for such a heavy notice. He clutched the letter opener, carefully, but unsteadily, guiding across the top of the envelope. Then, as if it were ancient parchment, he gingerly plucked the sheet from the envelope. Finally, he read the words he had already knew were written there: "YOU HAVE BEEN SELECTED FOR OUR POPULATION CONTAINMENT PROGRAM. PLEASE REPORT TO THE PREFECT." He sighed, glanced half-heartedly at the phone, wishing he had someone to call to answer his question: why had he been chosen?

Friday, June 09, 2006

The Enemy

They attack us because of our freedom. They want to kill us because of our way of life. The reason, my friends, that they hate us is our tolerance. They are all to be suspected. They are evil and want to destroy everything that is good. They are driven by nothing less than the desire to be anti-democratic. They are nailing babies to church doors. They are slaughtering puppies in the streets. They have committed crimes against humanity. They play Rolling Stones records backwards because they enjoy Satanic lyrics. We need to fear them all. They steal carrots from Mr. McGregor's garden. They don't assimilate. I knew one, and he didn't shower regularly. They occasionally spurn the use of utensils when they eat. They kill civilians. They spill gravy on the floor and refuse to clean it up. They commit atrocities. They don't finish their brussel sprouts. They're racist. They don't stand during the national anthem. They're different. They smack their lips excessively when they enjoy their food. They are all the same. I saw one shoplifting once. They need to be rounded up. They want our deaths. Some of them don't sing in tune. Demographically speaking, they are increasing at a greater rate than us. They are known jaywalkers. They leave hair in the sink. They won't become us. They are cockroaches. We need to watch them carefully. They litter. They go to church on the incorrect day. They can't be understood. They are homegrown, organic, and pesticide-free. They sometimes forget to say thank you. They have a strong dislike for things that look nice. They vote and pay their taxes, but they're sending secret messages to the enemy. They can lip-read. They purposely swerve to hit small rodents crossing the street. See how they band together when we confront them? They forget to put the cap on the toothpaste. They watch violent movies. They drink expired milk. They have library fines. All of them hate us. They put their cd's in the wrong cases. They leave peanut butter on the counter. They expectorate in public. They don't wear their seatbelts. They remove the batteries from their smoke alarm. They are known to make mistakes. There are dandelions on their lawns. The best way to control their radicalism is to follow the old adage: "Good wedges make good neighbours."

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

This, according to the wise and all-knowing internet, is my worldview:

You scored as Cultural Creative. Cultural Creatives are probably the newest group to enter this realm. You are a modern thinker who tends to shy away from organized religion but still feels as if there is something greater than ourselves. You are very spiritual, even if you are not religious. Life has a meaning outside of the rational.

Cultural Creative
















What is Your World View? (updated)
created with QuizFarm.com

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The Overwhelmingly Important E-mail

A couple of days ago I received an e-mail in my bulk folder titled "overwhelmingly important e-mail." I feel like a knave because instead of checking the contents of this e-mail, I deleted it without a second thought. I should know better, deleting an e-mail titled "overwhelmingly important" is tantamount to crossing a crosswalk when the red hand is flashing.
Lately I have been pondering what the contents of that e-mail could have been. Perhaps Yusuf had discovered some deep philosophical truth which would absolutely astonish me. A truth so profound that it would shake the foundations of Western Civilization. In other words, Yusuf may have read "The DaVinci Code" and, sleuth that he is, figured out how this historical fiction* would shatter the foundations of Western Society as we know it.
Or did Yusuf find a new code? Perhaps Yusuf had found a code cleverly hidden in the ingredients on a Cheerios box which revealed that P. Diddy did not, in fact, write all of his own lyrics. Maybe he had found a code hidden in the menu of an Indian restaurant which revealed that Siddhartha Gautama picked his nose and bit his fingernails even after reaching his supposed enlightenment. Or, quite possibly, he had learned that Van Gogh's "The Potato Eaters" was a symbolic representation of the fact that John Calvin liked to dance, drink excessively, and lie on the couch all day while contemplating his second and third baptisms.
Or, you never know, this could be the worst blog entry ever.

*historical fiction, when referring to the Da Vinci Coce, should be read as fictional history.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Another Place

There is a place not far from you
where the sky is the same shade of blue
where the sun rises from its eastern place
and where the moon shows the same pale face
where the grass is a similar green
and puddles provide the same dark sheen
where people awake sometime in the morning
and where gunshots are a constant warning
where corpses line every street
and fester and stink in the heat
where mothers cry for their dead
and orphans put themselves to bed
where widows cry themselves to sleep
and the bereaved are left alone to weep
where fathers bleed the soil red
on the same ground on which their sons have bled
where children gasp for some food
and peace is just an interlude
where is this place of such pain?
This horrible land of copper rain?
It is where the sky is the same shade of blue
in a place that is not far from you.

John den Boer, 2000.

Who deh?