Monday, December 28, 2009

strapped on my backpack, got in to a van (T&S Series #10)

I do believe I'm long overdue for a new 8 tracks mix.

I've been taking the last few days pretty easy. And by that I mean I wake up at noon and eat cookies all day while still in my pyjamas. It's a healthy vacation lifestyle. Sadly, it cannot last. Some peppy up and at 'em music is definitely needed to shake the holiday stupor.

Here's a mix of my favourite remixes. They are, for the most part, peppy. I think remixes are a fresh take. I like fresh.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

I said well, well, well?

I can't really say I'm much of a Modest Mouse fan. I'll give them a listen every once and awhile, and I much prefer their older stuff. I listened to King Rat for the first time today and it was... interesting. I feel like when writing this song, they started off high, and the got really drunk, and then got really mad. At least thats how it sounds...

The video is a whole other issue. Frankly, it scares me. I am very concerned about the fact that this came out of Heath Ledger's head. I will always think of him as the charming rebel from 10 Things I Hate About You. Sadly, this video kind of shatters that pre-teen nostalgia.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

You're Going Hey Hey Hey Hey Hey Hey

Today is a list kind of a day.

1) That last post was kinda long. Woah. Also, very dorky. I comment on political speeches for kicks? What is my life coming to?
2) I am super into Phoenix right now. Take a listen. I think my room mate might hate them. They've been on repeat since Tuesday.
3) I think the Twitter "over capacity" whale is charming.
4) I took a political thought final exam today and couldn't help but think of ridiculous connections between ancient political philosophers and theorists and pop culture today. Expect a super intensely geeky post soon. (as a teaser i'll just say... Socrates = K'Naan)
5) I have discovered Google Reader. It has made my obsessive blog following so much more organized. Get it (and then add my blog).
6) (parenthesis are fun) SO ARE CAPS.
7) This post makes me sound drunk. Or high. I am, in fact, merely very exhausted. Scratch that. I'm pooped.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

drive the dark of doubt away

*** WARNING: this is a very looooong post, i suggest taking it in smaller bites. It may be easier to digest that way.

Obama accepting his Nobel Peace Prize with a speech defending the US's foreign policy on the legitimate use of force internationally is... an interesting choice to say the least.

Let's dissect his speech, shall we?

He says: In part, this is because I am at the beginning, and not the end, of my labors on the world stage. Compared to some of the giants of history who have received this prize - Schweitzer and King; Marshall and Mandela - my accomplishments are slight. 

Good on him for acknowledging that. I guess its my primary beef with the whole prize. Not even Ghandi recieved it. Not to mention the various NGO's, humanitarian volunteers, and relief workers. How can you give an award to someone is anticipation of what they are going to do? 

Then he says:  I am responsible for the deployment of thousands of young Americans to battle in a distant land. Some will kill. Some will be killed. And so I come here with an acute sense of the cost of armed conflict - filled with difficult questions about the relationship between war and peace, and our effort to replace one with the other.

Again, good on him for discussing this. Big ups to his speech writers. But simply addressing an issue doesn't make it all better. He goes on to say that war has been a huge part of history, but he specifies that it is unjust war. So now Afghanistan is a just war? He makes reference to genocide, talks about the Cold War, and reminds us all of World War I and II. 

But then we get to the juicy argument stuff: The world may no longer shudder at the prospect of war between two nuclear superpowers, but proliferation may increase the risk of catastrophe. Terrorism has long been a tactic, but modern technology allows a few small men with outsized rage to murder innocents on a horrific scale.

Ah yes, American's and their terrorism. What kind of speech would it be if an American president didnt mention terrorism? (I should say that I recognize terrorism is a very real and dangerous threat for many people across the world, but, somehow I get the feeling Obama is referencing the very limited American experience and perception of it, as opposed to acknowledging that terrorism is a definition given to groups who perform acts of violence against others and those acts are widely considered illegitimate. Legitimacy are very much so in the eyes of the beholder in this case.)

And yet, he goes on: We must begin by acknowledging the hard truth that we will not eradicate violent conflict in our lifetimes. There will be times when nations - acting individually or in concert - will find the use of force not only necessary but morally justified.

First, wow, way to stay positive. Heaven forbid you dare to dream or aim high. Second, I think we can all agree that when an Nation or group goes to war, someone is going to die as a direct result of that war. Even if it is one person, killing someone through violent conflict will never be acceptable to me. Never. He goes on to quote Martin Luther King Jr. who says that war can never completely solve a problem, and I most definitely agree with that. As a head of state Obama is in the unique opportunity to promote positive change. I understand the United States as always fundamentally been against finding the most rational and peaceful solution (Let's all take a moment to remember their "Revolution" against the British, and then many years later, their reaction to Communism during the Cold War. Neither speak of their capacity for rationality). However, he says that it is his job to protect the way of life of the American people, and protect them from threat. He argues that force and conflict can be a necessity, and that others will not listen to peaceful reason. Ok, fair enough point, but he's defending a way of life that is a threat to so many other people. 

Then theres more:  not just treaties and declarations - that brought stability to a post-World War II world. Whatever mistakes we have made, the plain fact is this: the United States of America has helped underwrite global security for more than six decades with the blood of our citizens and the strength of our arms. The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest - because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.

Great. Should we all stand up and applaud you now with thanks? What he doesn't mention are the results of those actions. How successful does he think elections in Iraq were? And remind me how implementing your own unique brand of democracy in another country is not imposing your beliefs? I will concede that sometimes intervention is necessary. But there is such a thing as peaceful intervention, which is what international bodies like the United Nations work with, and what all international policy is based on. As a member of the UN the US has responsibility to remember and respect that. Intervention should come only when a country asks for it, or else you run the very terrible risk of infringing on a state's sovereignty. 

He says a few more somewhat encouraging things, like: America cannot insist that others follow the rules of the road if we refuse to follow them ourselves. 

But then goes on to make me a hate him a little with: I believe that the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength. That is why I prohibited torture. That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed. And that is why I have reaffirmed America's commitment to abide by the Geneva Conventions.

Yes, the US certainly has been a standard of excellence in terms of waging war. Note though that while he is promoting positive changes, and the revolutionary idea of following international rules, he does not once condemn previous policy. He doesn't say that what was happening before was wrong. That may be a problem in the future... 

He does talk about ways to promote peace, and they are somewhat encouraging. (It would be more so encouraging if he hadn't just spent the past 5 minutes justifying war, but hey, what can you do) I agree that a more unified and direct approach should be taken when addressing atrocities in nations. The promotion of Human Rights should most definitely be a priority, and once achieved internationally I believe it will create long lasting peace. Not to mention the whole freedom from fear and freedom from want bit. Most definitely a key thing in finding peace in a nation, and sadly, often overlooked. How can a country be successful when the population doesn't have the opportunity to maintain and sustain themselves economically? I'm glad he recognized the different forms peace takes. 

Though he says towards the end: As the world grows smaller, you might think it would be easier for human beings to recognize how similar we are; to understand that we all basically want the same things; that we all hope for the chance to live out our lives with some measure of happiness and fulfillment for ourselves and our families. And yet, given the dizzying pace of globalization, and the cultural leveling of modernity, it should come as no surprise that people fear the loss of what they cherish about their particular identities - their race, their tribe, and perhaps most powerfully their religion.

This is good stuff! This is what international relations should be based on! There are so many questions to be asked and answered with these statements - where to begin? I would have liked him to put forth a prescription for how to address that concern instead of wasting all of our time with the whole right to war nonsense. How do you preserve someones unique identity in an increasingly global world? Can we truly unite while maintaining individuality? Does the US see itself making concessions to accommodate other cultures on the international stage? Do concessions even need to be made? Like I said... so many questions! That paragraph of his speech alone is enough for another speech. It's enough for a masters dissertation even. 

I do believe what comes next is a little contradictory: For if we lose that faith - if we dismiss it as silly or na├»ve; if we divorce it from the decisions that we make on issues of war and peace - then we lose what is best about humanity.

Didn't he say a while back that the world should realize that we wont eradicate violence in this lifetime? and that peace and war are not mutually exclusive in that one cannot exist without the other? What about his faith in the possibility of peace? Call me an idealist Obama, but I have faith that peace is possible without the use of force or violence, and that damn well better be possible in my lifetime. 

He then closes with: We can understand that there will be war, and still strive for peace. We can do that - for that is the story of human progress; that is the hope of all the world; and at this moment of challenge, that must be our work here on Earth.

Spoken like a true God. Yes there will still be war, but that doesn't mean there HAS to be. There are choices,  and just because things have been done a certain way to date, does not mean they have to continue that way. Don't limit yourself and the world, Obama. Yes to hope and work towards that hope encourages progress, and I agree that we have to work toward that challenge, but that doesn't mean that hope cannot become a reality and accepted part of everyday life. 

Overall, he's saying that peace comes at a price, but I would much rather see that price in the number of treaties signed than in bodies counted. 

(You can read the whole speech for yourself here).

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oh no no no I'm a rocket man (T&S Series #9)

To even out the gendered mix playing field, these are some of my favourite male vocalists...

Matt Berninger is a vocal god. Listen to that control, that deep quiet power. To me, he raises the bar for all other male vocalists to meet today.

Leonard Cohen isn't a great singer in terms of his technical application of vocals. His voice is gravelly, and can be harsh at times, BUT, what he lacks in technicality is more than made up for in sincerity. I think that more than anything thats what counts. You can tell as a singer/songwriter he means every word he says in those songs, and Cohen is dedicated to his art. (As opposed to generated, auto-tuned, studio written pop songs)

The Beach Boys are revolutionaries. They made it ok for guys to sing loud, proud, and high. So very, very, high. Without them we wouldnt have such a positive reception to Mika, or Bon Iver. And lets face it, what world the do without any of those guys?

Elton John has another fairly feminine voice. But his voice is so smooth, and has such an amazingly controlled range. He's a classic.

Tom Waits is just the opposite. The man has abused his vocal chords to no end. In his case, drinking and smoking have an awesome side effect - a completely unique voice. (I mean have you listened to his album Closing Time?!)

Elvis Costello is another unique character. His eccentric presentation, and swinging/crooning (can you have both at the same time?) voice makes him a category of his own.

John Legend is all cool, smooth, jazzy vocals. He is pure R&B manliness.

Then theres Ewan McGregor. Not just a one dimensional actor. He's actually classically trained vocally, and the Moulin Rouge version of "Your Song" is the perfect platform to show it off. I'm not sure of what other musical work hes done... but he is phenomenal on the soundtrack for the movie, but phenomenal because he can actually sing. (Unlike a certain ex-James Bond when making his musical debut...)

Listen up.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

I'm out of time.

This is my baby. My brain child. The thing that has taken up the bulk of my time for the past month. And I am very proud to present to the world this video, and it's message:


We care about climate change, we care about COP15, and we most definitely care about effective long-term policy commitments on the part of the Canadian government to a resolution that comes out of COP15.

But most of of all, this video reminded me that MANY DIFFERENT kinds of people care about this. It's a universal concern, let alone a Canadian one. I talked to tourists on Parliament Hill, I've e-mailed people about this across the country, and across the world, I talk about this non-stop to the people I know in Ottawa, and post it online. It's a positive message that so many can agree with. 

And I couldn't have made this message available to all those people if it weren't for Oxfam Canada, ecoSanity, a very patient and talented friend in Toronto, and so many wonderful people in Ottawa.

Watch, talk about it, and send it on. Let the world know; Yes, you care too.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

no amount of coffe, no amount of crying, no amount of whiskey, no amount of wine (T&S Series #8)

I'm listening to a lot of female vocals lately, so heres a mix of eight of my favourites.

Kristin Chenowith and Idina Menzel were part of the original cast of Wicked on Broadway. They are phenomenal. Defying Gravity is phenomenal. There is no other singer I can think of who puts as much power behind a song as Idina Menzel (and I'm sorry, but the Glee version can never measure up).

I met Dala at Summerfolk a couple of years ago, and immediately loved them. This song, Marilyn Monroe, is one of my favourites (the other having appeared on another mix).

Tegan and Sara. Where to start. I cannot say enough good things about them. I doubt I could say anything bad. Not only are they some of my favourite female vocalists, but some of my favourite vocalists in general. They are definitely in my top 10. I chose My Number because I think it shows off their vocal ranges well, and kind of encompasses all of the things they do in their music. Their new album is amazing, you should most definitely listen to it, but its good to remember the old stuff. This is off their second album, and oldie but goodie.

k.d. lang is just a good 'ol Canadian classic. Plus its nice to hear a female voice that isn't soprano every once and a while.

The Weepies' singer Deb Talan has a charming voice. Very soothing, very controlled, very nice.

I felt like all kinds of female vocals should be included, so voila, Judy Garland it is! Irving Berlin is such a talented composer and lyricist, and with Garland, they represent an era of music that was all quality.

Regina Spektor has a piercingly beautiful voice. Her music is simply composed with piano for accompaniment shows it off well. In Samson you get to hear almost her full range (based on other songs I suspect she can go lower, but this is as high as it gets).

The Song of Purple Summer is the final scene in Spring Awakening. Lauren Pritched is the vocalist featured. What amazes me about this show is that almost all of the kids who originated the roles in it were hand picked. Duncan Sheik knew exactly what sound he wanted to produce in this show, and so each person was picked to contribute to that sound. Lauren Pritchard as Ilse plays something of a haunting role to me, and her voice conveys that very very well.

These women are eclectic, yes, but unbelievably talented in my opinion. Just listen to what they can do with their voices.