Thursday, December 08, 2011

Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros

It's been a while, but heard this again on 93XRT a few days ago—a fine chunk of hipsterana. If you simply can't get enough of Jade Castrinos, this Tumblr just might get you though the day.

Twitterversion:: [video +link] Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros doing "Home"-KCRW & FuckYeahJadeCastrinos Tumblr. @Prof_K

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Friday Night Video on Saturday Morning:: Andrew Bird

Last night, I saw Andrew Bird at the Tarrytown Music Hall. He mentioned he was there 3 years ago and found the above video of "Self Torture." I'm really busy in the next few days, but I'll try to post a review. He has a song, "Hospital" available for download on his site, from the film, Norman. The trailer::

Twitterversion:: [video] #FridayNightVideo on Saturday Morning:: Andrew Bird @Prof_K

Friday, October 14, 2011

Friday Night Video/Music & the Ad:: M. Ward's "Here Comes the Sun Again"

Above is M. Ward performing "Here Comes the Sun Again" last month at the End of the Road Festival, Dorset UK, Sept. 3, 2011. I was reminded of him when I saw the song in the Subaru "Honeymoon" spot from last year during last night's airing of The Office on NBC.

The hipster honeymoon commercial uses M. Ward's song well. Known for being half of She & Him, the M. Ward song speaks to the hipster psychographic. The spot serves as a touchstone for aging hipsters that are turning in their Metrocards and taking over red county towns with kids, quinoa, and Converse—and need a vehicle now.

Twitterversion:: [videos] #FridayNightVideos M. Ward {of She & Him} at End of the Road festival & Subaru's 2010 'Hipster Honeymoon' spot @Prof_K

Thoughts on Beavis & Butthead Redux

The Twittersphere was buzzing with talk of Mike Judge's Beavis and Butthead 2011 redux. I always thought the brilliance of the show was in the commentary on the music videos, which, unfortunately weren't included in the tapes. It appears that reality TV is the new comedic fodder. New episodes are slated for 27 October on MTV.

Personally, I'd like to see Mike Judge and the boys get more political. Sure, there's low hanging fruit like Julian ASSange, but Occupy Wall Street, Obama, the Tea Partiers, etc., could be hilarious and subversive in the hands of deft writers. The format is perfect for sharp cultural critique and its intertextuality can go further than other animated shows that hold up a societal mirror, such as Family Guy and South Park, as well as the character satire of Stephen Colbert. Airing on MTV may preclude an overly political bent, but it would be interesting to see the show land some blows in a way that's more subtle than the all-too-common shock and awe approach to comedy. Seeing the world through the lens of "idiots" offers more subtle humor than characters that derive comedy from pushing the envelope like so much Sarah Silverman.

Twitterversion:: [blog+video] Thoughts on the Beavis and Butthead redux set for 27 Oct. 

Friday, October 07, 2011

The Joy Formidable on Letterman

It's nice to see bands I've blogged about begin to break out. The Joy Formidable was featured on newmusicmonday #32. The Welsh band was in good form with "Whirring".

Twitterversion:: [video] The Joy Formidable on Letterman {6 October show} @Prof_K

Friday, September 30, 2011

Friday Night Video:: Jill Sobule-"Cinnamon Park"

I was coming back to the States after crossing at Pt. Vincent, NY, a seasonal entry point, on 24 August. I thought it would be pretty chill and would surely beat a major crossing with long wait times. Wrong. The experience was like a colonoscopy, which is fodder for another blog post. Driving through the southern edge of the Catskills past Binghampton en route to Tarrytown/NYC, WJFF-Radio Catskill came in. After hearing about Hurricane Irene taking aim at NY and Steve Jobs' resignation as CEO of Apple, this Jill Sobule song seemed to make a dreary day not so bad. I think part of why this song made such an impact was it reminded me of a very friendly, vibrantly red carpet at the CNE. Only 10 people will know what I'm talking about and that's about right.

Yes, you are hearing a sample of Chicago's "Saturday in the Park", which is more evident in this partial music video::

Me and Betty Shelly were at Cinnamon Park
Waiting for the battle of the bands
Betty's older brother had a bad reputation
And a waterbed in his van
He said hey Jilly Sue I've got something for you
Something that will blow your mind
We hopped into his van
And he opened his hand
And said it's only mother nature
Cinnamon park in a cinnamon daze
We were so freaked out
But in a really good way
In a really good way
Yeah those were the days
I wish I could go back again
Billy had a talk box and a Peavey bass
Started feeling funny when they hit the stage
Betty was getting so shitfaced
And I could not stop laughing
As I spun all around and I laid on the ground
I was amazed at how the clouds just kept moving
And they played the same song
And they played the chords wrong
But I never heard it better
Betty's now in counseling
And she's using again
Her brother's unemployed but with a brand new van
Billy came in second in the battle of the bands
Wish we could go back again

Twitterversion:: [video] #FridayNightVideo Jill Sobule's Cinnamon Park

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Occupy Wall Street LiveStream

Watch live streaming video from globalrevolution at

{h/t:: Chuck Raymond} I think these protests will be interesting to watch. My interest is on the social media angle, particularly as it pertains to ongoing social movements. An overview can be read here in The Observer, which refers to this wearethe99percent Tumblr that is serving as an outlet to crowdsourced rage. Keen observers will note that this is a protest borne of the middle class and rather than scoff at the use of Macbooks and the vegetarian chili consumed by some, it just might be time to re-examine The Battle of Algiers and May 1968 in France for insights.

—Chicago/Waukegan, IL US

Twitterversion:: [blog+link] Occupy Wall Street LiveStream feed. Seeds of a middle-class fueled class war? @Prof_K

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Few Words on Jack Layton

It seems fitting that I have to leave Canada for a spell. This will mark the end of an era for mea chapter bookended by Dion's green shift and this very sad moment of Layton's passing. Over the past few years since I started visiting Canada regularly, I grew fond of Jack Layton. Covering the 2011 federal election I witnessed the rise of Jack Layton's NDP and the energy he brought to the political scene. Its infectiousness was palpable in Canada as the pundits and pollsters tried to figure out why his star was on its meteoric rise. Perhaps it was the hope for a new Canada that could forge a new path in this globalized era. Maybe it was his way of resonating with a wide array of constituencies, from Surrey North to northern Ontario to urban and rural Québec.

I was in Québec two weeks after the federal election. There were still plenty of NPD signs up like this one I spotted in Jeanne—Le Ber.

My colleague in Estrie {Missisquoi—Brome}, Louis McComber, said Jack had the ability to speak colloquial French in a way that connected to the people.

I wish I had a Jack Layton story like Impolitical, but such is life. I was planning on doing an art project with the stencil above. I never even gotten around to contacting skek for permission. This serves as a reminder of how time is finite.

:: A few words about @JackLayton. @Prof_K

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Anne Hathaway Rap-p-p-p-p

Surprisingly, it's not that cringeworthy.

Twitterversion:: Anne Hathaway paparazzi rap from Conan @Prof_K

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Friday Night Videos:: Craig Ferguson, Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside, & Typhoon

Craig Ferguson camping it up with his cast doing Plastic Bertrand's "Ça Plane Pour Moi".

This is Portland's Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside with their network TV début on Letterman {3 August}::

Here's the music video for "I Swear"::

Finally, another Portland band, Typhoon, with their network TV début on Letterman {4 August}::

The song is "The Honest Truth"::

Twitterversion:: [videos] #FridayNightVideos Craig Ferguson-'Ça Plane Pour Moi' & 2 #PDX bands on Letterman: Sallie Ford...& Typhoon @Prof_K

Friday, August 05, 2011

Music & the Ad:: Ingrid Michaelson, Ritz Crackers, & Travelers Insurance

Ingrid Michaelson's "Be OK" has been making the rounds in advertising. The latest is a Ritz spot featuring her catchy "Be OK" {2008}. The ad is a clever execution featuring a woman blissed out and feeling "at home" on a public bus while having a Ritz Cracker snack. 

The Travelers ad doesn't resonate as much. First, I'm annoyed by most insurance ads, as I'm annoyed with the industry. That said, the use of the song doesn't quite fit in my opinion, but there are worse stretches, for sure.

In our postmodern mashup world, it's natural that the ads don't feature the chorus::
"Open me up and you will see
I'm a gallery of broken hearts
I'm beyond repair, let me be
And give me back my broken parts"
Here's the Stand Up to Cancer version of the 'Be OK" video::

and the "photage" version::

Ingrid is very social media savvy and I started following her tweets early on, circa "Winter Song" {2008} w/Sara Bareilles, on an earlier account. Here's a good one::

Twitterversion:: [blog+videos] #MusicAndTheAd feat. Ingrid Michaelson's "Be OK" @Prof_K

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Politicians' Medical Records:: Jack Layton's Cancer & the Limits of Transparency

Vidcap of Jack Layton's "#hashtag fail" statement during the 2011 Anglophone debate
Last week, Canada's New Democrat leader, Jack Layton, announced that he was taking a medical leave until September 19th. to undergo treatment for cancer. Last February, Layton announced he had prostate cancer and he announced his current bout is unrelated. The big "news" was his appearance during his recent announcement, which some described as "frail" and "gaunt". This set the speculative wheels in motion, scrutinizing his recent public appearances and some commenters linking his hip surgery to a possible metastasis of his prostate cancer.

The Winnipeg Free Press offered this editorial {see also Jordan Press Postmedia piecethat states Layton should have some privacy and the details of his health condition need not be divulged until of if it becomes relevant to his performance. Andre Picard in the Globe & Mail claims that the public has a right to know politicians' health status and accuses the NDP of not being forthcoming, while engaging in rampant speculation of what might be really happening. Reaching quite a bit, Picard uses this alleged health secrecy to undermine Layton's criticism of Stephen Harper's government::
"The NDP Leader has been an outspoken, eloquent critic of the culture of secrecy that has enveloped federal politics under Stephen Harper’s Conservatives, as exemplified by everything from the refusal to release records on Afghan detainees to the reluctance to disclose that the Prime Minister required emergency-room treatment for a flare-up of his asthma."
 Picard points to how things are different in the US::
"In the United States, full disclosure of politicians’ health records is now the norm. The days when presidents could hide something as inescapable as a crippling case of polio, as Franklin Roosevelt did, are long gone. The details of President Barack Obama’s annual check-up are made public; his HDL (good cholesterol) is 62, LDL (bad cholesterol) is 138 and his PSA is 0.7. John McCain, when he was running for president, released 1,200 pages of medical records to demonstrate he was fit for office."
but failed to disclose how this information is released, which I'll get to later.

Picard equating his speculation of a NDP "coverup" with Layton's concerns about a pattern of a lack of transparency with Stephen Harper is quite a stretch. I couldn't find evidence of Jack Layton criticizing Stephen Harper for his transparency on his asthma, which doesn't mean it didn't happen, but Harper's people initially stated he went to the ER for a cold and later it was determined as an asthma-related visit. I think the point for many regarding Harper is the strong need for control over public perceptions.

The real issue though is that US-style transparency isn't all that transparent. First off, it's voluntary and not under any force of law. Larry Altman, a MD who covers the beltway health beat, cleared the air a few years ago. It's good to keep in mind that it isn't a carte blanche situation with a searchable public database. The information is often released under tight control regarding who is invited to see the information, along with strict time limits and not allowing copies to be made. Releases can be vague and undated. So, access may be granted to over a thousand pages of records, which was the case with John McCain, but only three hours to review them. In the end, it's often a balance between PR and transparency, as opposed to full disclosure.

A general theme with Layton's current cancer is whether or not the "orange crush" in Québec in the May election would have occurred if Layton's health status had an ominous prognosis. My take is that calls for transparency in this area is misguided. Mandatory full health disclosure won't happen and shouldn't happen, unless there's a clear linkage to job performance. Layton isn't Prime Minister and there won't be an election for 4 years, so his health isn't a pressing issue, politically, but easy fodder for punditry and editorials on the fate of the NDP. Moreover, a big problem with medical records is that they are subject to interpretation. Diseases like cancer are complex and scenarios are often ambiguous, which would add to more speculation.

I think what much of this speaks to is the cult of leadership {often fostered by the media and MBA programmes}, raising the status of leaders to mythical levels, instilling beliefs such as "Steve Jobs = Apple Computers" and implying that without him, the firm is sunk. Jack Layton is a charismatic figure and the NDP has unprecedented popularity. The party has branded themselves in the cloak of their newfound status, "the official opposition". The problem I have with how many journalists are approaching the issue is framing Layton's illness as potential doom for the party or how this might create a political power vacuum with infighting around the corner. Speculation trumps real journalism. A more interesting and richer approach would be to examine the nuanced dynamics of the current NDP that's fact-driven, one that examines the NDP as an organization, its breadth, its depth, etc., in an attempt to determine its resilience. Nope, instead, the big debate is over how the interim NDP leader Nycole Turmel was a member of the "Canada-destroying" Bloc Québécois::

Twitterversion:: [blog] Politicians' Medical Records:: Jack Layton's Cancer & the Limits of Transparency @Prof_K

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Social Life of Trees

mycorrhizal networks in forests
Suzanne Simard at UBC is heading up research examining fungi networks in forests. The fungi have a symbiotic relationship with the trees, connecting their roots and facilitate the sharing of resources. The trees supply carbohydrates and the fungi supply water and nutrients from the soil. The networks enhance survival under stress, e.g., drought or climate change, growth, and resilience.

Twitterversion:: [blog+graphic] The Social Life of Trees @Prof_K

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Redistricting California Style

CA-9, held by Barbara Lee [D], has only minor changes in its boundaries

The California Citizens Redistricting Commission has released its final draft of the Congressional district map [type in address & select map at top]. I found the address finder on the map to be intermittently buggy, so it might be better to click on a location. The shapefiles and databases are located here. According to the LATimes the Commission is charged with::
"It is charged with keeping together neighborhoods, ethnic groups, socioeconomic groups and other 'communities of interest' without regard to their party registration or any risk to current officeholders."
The last round of maps was roundly criticized. The commission is the result of 2010's referendum, Prop 20, which sought to depoliticize the drawing of boundaries for the state senate, state assembly, board of equalization, and federal congressional districts. There was a "poison pill" opponent, Prop 27, that lost. The NY Times had an article on the man behind the initiative, Charles Munger, Jr.

The more gerrymandered congressional districts appear to have lost their appendages and tails when compared to the current lines. Three of California's congressional districts {11th., 18th., & 38th.} made it on Slate's top 20 list in 2009.

Twitterversion:: [blog+link] Final draughts of California citizen-driven redistricting maps & shapefiles published. Whither gerrymandering? @Prof_K

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Separated at Birth:: Assy McGee & Canadian Mr. Mini-Wheats

Mini-Wheats "Walking" vidcap

Assy McGee vidcap

I saw the recent Kellogg's Mini-Wheats ad for Canada, "Walking", featuring a rewrite of the disco anthem, "In the Navy", by The Village People.

MINI-WHEATS Walking from Pascal Blais Animation Studio on Vimeo.

The Mr. Mini Wheats character with its disembodied hands and feet reminded me of Assy McGee, a 2006 12 minute animated show that aired on [adult swim] and had difficulty getting sponsors, initially. More on Assy and Clambake Animation on this link. Upon closer inspection, Assy has legs and feet, but doesn't have visible hands. Nevertheless, he can shoot a gun and drink hard liquor as if he did.

The Canadian spots are done by the Pascal Blais Studio in Montréal and I noticed with the 2009  blueberry muffin spot [Fr] that there was a Disney vibe going on, which is pretty far removed from Assy McGee. Assy does/did have an action figure {left} and I'm not sure if Mr. Mini-Wheats does, but he should in this era of brand communities. It appears that the Mini-Wheat character dates back to at least 1988, evident in this Canadian ad for the Québec market.

The trend with these Mini-Wheat ads is to adapt existing songs, which I think can be hard to do and still be "on code" symbolically and seamless executionally. The blueberry muffin spot used "Galop Infernal". The jingle in the first ad I saw for Vanilla Mini Wheats has an earworm quality, based on Black Lace's "Agadoo"::

MINI-WHEATS Vanilla from Pascal Blais Animation Studio on Vimeo.

Monday, July 04, 2011

newmusicmonday #100:: Louise Burns

Louise Burns from her Lillix days,

Genre indie pop
Members Louise Burns    
Base Vancouver
Label Light Organ Records; Recent Release:: 5 April 'Mellow Drama' [CD], iTunes Canada
Tour DatesJul 05 The Fez Saskatoon
Jul 07 The Club Regina
Jul 08 The Rock Bar Winnipeg
Jul 15       The Waldorf  Vancouver


The Polaris always vexed me, as I never understood the logic of giving established bands cash prizes. I'm not sure how much of a shot Louise has, but she's on the long list and I'm hoping she at least makes the short list due out on 6 July. Louise was the bassist in the ill-fated teen pop group Lillix, which was fodder for the music industry machinery after being signed by Madonna's Maverick Records. The Globe & Mail provides a history lesson of Louise's earlier days, but listening to her recent material {she has a recent release 'Mellow Drama'} it's clear that her pop sensibilities, retro 50s-60s leanings, and time spent in the Vancouver rock and punk scene are gelling. The songs from 'Mellow Drama' {streamed on Soundcloud & avail for purchase on link above} are based on the Maverick days and her CBC Radio 3 bio explained what that experience did to her::
“Basically we were trained to write for radio, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it can really fuck with your ideals and what you think is good and what you think you should be writing. That tremendous pressure just ruins it for you. I hated music for so long after that, and I hated the idea of writing. But at the same time I’m really grateful for the perseverance that I developed. Now I have a really high standard, before I even show anybody a song. I am grateful for that part of it.” 
There a hint of darkness in the vein of Mazzy Star {as opposed to Fiona Apple dark, which has more of a quirky factor}, but her music remains accessible in the best of ways. Her cover of Cohen's "Gypsy's Wife" is a good example of this::

 11 Gypsy's Wife by Louise Burns

She has a knack for interesting arrangements and her often sultry vocals are a draw and she doesn't fall prey to overproduction. "Ocean Grey" is a slower track that draws the listener in with catchy hooks::

 12 Ocean Grey by Louise Burns

I'll leave you with the single "What Do You Want to Do?" that's a catchy homage to pop eras gone by::

 04 What Do You Wanna Do by Louise Burns

Twitterversion:: [blog] #newmusicmonday {Nº 100} feat. folksy/bluesy indie pop of Louise Burns ex of Lillix @Prof_K

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Truth or Fail:: Internet Vigilanteism

Two recent social media episodes erupted in users taking to their keyboards to mete out some justice or lash out at perceived wrongs. Last week's Vancouver Canucks riot prompted a social media backlash, with users posting photos, vidcaps, and videos of those caught in flagrante delicto. Although, according to CBC, some fingers were pointed at the innocent, allegedly as a result of setups and 'Shopped images. While this is nothing new, there is concern that the use of social media to target those subject to moral or other outrage is getting out of hand and needs to be addressed. 

So, is social media now the release valve for outrage or a possible flashpoint for lawless activity? The use of the Internet as an {albeit imperfect} surveillance tool double underscores how there is no privacy in the era of social media. There are at least two problem issues with mob surveillance when people are seeking justice::
  1. Mistaken identity
  2. Vigilanteism
I think the issue with both is how far do people take it. Calling someone a douche and contacting law enforcement with misinformation is where the vast majority of online vigilanteism is going to lie. The real issue is where are the boundaries and how are they to be determined. So, on the other end of the spectrum is an Internet lynch mob seeking brutal street justice or disinformation being spread about someone who is innocent with a call to action, but what about all the grey area in-between where most behaviour is going to be?

I think in the US and Canada it would be very difficult to craft good policy that would balance free speech and vigilanteism in this era of social media. While it might seem like a good idea to prosecute those overstepping their bounds in the public shaming of alleged rioters or those spreading disinformation, what should the yardstick be in terms of true individual or societal harm?

Two Tribes
This week, Roger Ebert flippantly tweeted what I feel was an unfortunate response to the early reports of the death of Ryan Dunn::
"Friends don't let jackasses drink and drive"
I say unfortunate, as I don't see a big anti-drunk driving payoff offsetting the haterade he unleashed. While some may think less of Ebert, I doubt if it will have any lingering impact on his brand, limiting his personal #fail. Nevertheless, his wag of the finger take on Dunn's death elicited the ire of Jackass fans, as well as Dunn's friend and fellow Jackass cast member, Bam Margera::
"I just lost my best friend, I have been crying hysterical for a full day and piece of shit roger ebert has the gall to put in his 2 cents"
"About a jackass drunk driving and his is one, fuck you! Millions of people are crying right now, shut your fat fucking mouth!"
What was curious was how people on social media took sides hurling insults at one another. The pro-Ebert crowd supporting the film critic for keeping it real, dawg and telling the "truth". Jackass fans embraced the call of the vigilante for their fallen hero and called a red card on Ebert for his insensitive remark, often in a {mean} spirited manner evocative of Anonymous on 4chan's /b/. I'm sure it shocked the sensibilities of many who aren't accustomed to such bald wishes of ill-will and illness {cancer}, as well as vague threats. Earlier today, on Ebert's Facebook wall, Jackass fans and Ebert fans were going back and forth and at one point Ebert fans were finding their personal information being posted online as retaliation to tangling with a particular Jackass fan, claiming to work for an Internet security firm and had the results to back it up. I question the logic of arguing with a Jackass fan over Ryan Dunn's death on several levels, but it highlights even more how privacy is nonexistent. More interesting is how social interactions between the two factions easily degenerates into an all-out battle for winning.

I'm not in Ebert's head, but he clearly feels strongly about alcohol use and abuse and during the maelstrom he cited his own struggles with his own alcoholism. Anecdotally, I've seen online that people in recovery can be extremely vocal about their judgments regarding substances and substance abuse. What I saw unfold with the Ryan Dunn tweet aftermath was Ebert setting up a dividing line along  defined by the immorality of drunk driving and setting the tone that Dunn's death should be marked by shame in the name of "truth", i.e., an opinion and/or agenda. It may be easy for many to see the "Jackass guy" as a reckless arrested adolescent putting the lives of himself and others at risk, which would explain why many, including Ebert, gave themselves an internal green light to say "I told you so" in the name of telling the "truth". This is speculation on my part, but I've also caught a whiff of cultural elitism with respect to Ebert's take on the Jackass neo-Vaudevillean antics, which would make it easy for him to target and marginalize Dunn in his own mind. Ebert has chosen not to review any of the Jackass movies, despite the fact that they say quite a bit about the current state of pop culture and film, and freely admitted to not getting the whole Jackass thing, in discussing "Reel Paradise" {2005}::
"If I had seen 'Jackass' in John Pierson's theater with those 300 uproariously happy kids, I might have liked it. I certainly would have understood it better."
When Ebert made his tweet, there was only speculation on Dunn being under the influence of alcohol. So, yesterday, Ebert made a non-apology apology::
"I don't know what happened in this case, and I was probably too quick to tweet. That was unseemly. I do know that nobody has any business driving on a public highway at 110 mph, as some estimated -- or fast enough, anyway, to leave a highway and fly through 40 yards of trees before crashing. That is especially true if the driver has had three shots and three beers. Two people were killed. What if the car had crashed into another car?"
and was a bit overzealous in justifying his actions in social media::
"Perez Hilton's readers agree with me and not with Perez about my tweet on Ryan Dunn. He drank, he drove, 2 people died."
Given today's police report of Dunn's BAL, I'd imagine Ebert feels even more vindicated for his original tweet.

I don't find the content of what Ebert said or the backlash to be particularly interesting. Clearly, Dunn's death touched a nerve and it's a thing for him. What is interesting is how the divisiveness channelled so much sentiment and emotion. While social media can of course foster dialogue, it can also fuel the instantaneous adoption of causes and/or the taking up of sides. I think this is an emerging part of everyday online social life and it's probably far too early to think of it as problematic, but rather where we are today with the current technology and social order.

Twitterversion:: [blog] Internet vigilanteism in social media: New part of everyday social life? #vancouverriots & Ebert v. Margera @Prof_K

Monday, June 20, 2011

Newmusicmonday #99:: Cloud Nothings

Band Cloud Nothings
Genre indie pop
Members Dylan Baldi, TJ Duke, Jayson Gerycz, Joe Boyer
Base Cleveland, OH
Label Carpark
Tour DatesN/A


If you need a review of the Cleveland band, look here. It's youthful low-fi indie pop ranging from the hyperkinetic "Understand at All" rife with catchy pop hooks to the more melancholy "Turning On" from last years EP compilation of the same name.

Twitterversion:: [blog+videos] #newmusicmonday featuring Cloud Nothings. @Prof_K

You Just Haven't Earned It Yet, Baby:: Canadian Foreign Affairs Under Harper

Stephen Harper makes an unsuccessful plea for Canada to be on the UN Security Council
Lysiane Gagnon had a piece in the Globe & Mail on Stephen Harper's lack of cosmopolitanism and how it affects Canada's foreign policy {h/t LinnyQat}. A big black eye was received last fall when Canada lost its bid to be on the UN Security Council to Germany and Portugal. Gagnon 
"Canada’s defeat was mostly due to the massive support of European countries and Latin America for Portugal, and to the Harper government’s enduring lack of sophistication in international affairs. 
If Mr. Harper had developed a wider network of allies abroad, and if he had encouraged Canadian diplomats to do so at their own level, perhaps Canada would have gained more votes at the UN. At least, it could have tried to turn the tide that favoured Portugal."
Gagnon brings up Harper's affinity for military deployments and questions them, but back in 2009, Nicholas Hirst has an interesting quote of Joe Clark's take on Harper in the foreign arena::
"The Harper government has increased military spending, but reduced spending on foreign affairs and aid. 'Why the double standard?' asked former Progressive Conservative prime minister Joe Clark. 'Why are we prepared to accept more of our share of the military burden than we are of the diplomatic and development burdens?'"
Save for Arctic sovereignty and Afghanistan, there is a perception that Canada has turned increasingly inwards and environmentalists are quick to point out the lack of leadership Canada has taken regarding Kyoto.

Why is this so? Politics. While it would be in Canada's best long-term interests to have more of a positive presence in world affairs and better ties with other nations, the political payoffs of better diplomacy are often unclear. In the logical calculus of elections in Canada, Harper knows he needs to speak to a specific 40-45% of the population that isn't necessarily going to see better diplomacy {versus military} as a win.

What's interesting is how the Republican hopefuls are moving away from military action, much to the ire of Senator John McCain, who is accusing them of isolationism. Again, I think this is more politics on the part of presidential candidates. They are differentiating themselves from Obama by ceding foreign policy to him. Currently, Barack is hard to undermine on the diplomacy, terrorism, or military fronts.

Without strong diplomatic relations {I think particularly with respect to BRIC}, Harper has few cards to play in the global arena, but probably more to the point is what does he really hope to accomplish, given the steep domestic challenges. Gagnon cites he's ill at ease playing the diplomacy game and I'm not sure Baird is up to the challenge as Minister of Foreign Affairs, given he has some growing up to do. I don't expect much movement towards diplomacy because of the political payoffs angle—even with respect to increased trade liberalization. An increasingly cosmopolitan Conservative Party would serve to undermine the NDP and appeal to the newly Conservative suburban ridings {districts} in the 905, but the thorny question and limiting factor is regional support for isolationism. In the would cosmopolitanism play in the West?

Twitterversion:: [blog] Will Stephen Harper & #CPC foreign policy embrace cosmopolitanism & more diplomacy over the military? #cdnpoli  @Prof_K

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What Canadian Housing Bubble? Oh, That One...

Jim Flaherty-Canadian Finance Minister, MP Oshawa—Whitby
Last November, Jim Flaherty told the House of Commons there was no housing bubble, only to reverse himself this week by tabling a budget implementation bill::
"Finance Minister Jim Flaherty tabled a budget implementation bill Tuesday he says will formalize his powers to intervene in Canada's hot housing market to restrain borrowing."
It doesn't give me a great deal of confidence in Flaherty and the Conservative government's ability to manage the economy, given that the statistics have shown a very different story that's been emerging over time::

Household debt, including mortgages, are taking up an increasing percentage of Canadian GDP. Canadian debt as a percentage of disposable income is outstripping the US::

but the kicker is how housing prices have been increasing at a rate far greater than incomes::

These statistics are particularly telling, i.e., the housing price to median income ratio::

So, generally speaking, in Toronto with a median family income of $66,560 {2007}, the average {unadjusted for inflation} housing price was 5.7 times the median, i.e., $379K in 2007 and over $457K in 2011 {using 2008 incomes} [these numbers reinforce this analysis]. This forces homebuyers to commit more disposable income to housing and a rise in interest rates can be disastrous to  those with adjustable rates, if the historically rock bottom rates go up. Beware of those fibbing with the numbers by comparing percentage increases of the ratios. In Toronto, the ratio went from 5.7 to 6.7 for a seemingly modest 18% jump between 2007 and 2011.  The reality is an extra $78K+ pricetag that increases the amount being financed, the monthly mortgage cost, and the interest payments to Bay Street. Just looking at the Vancouver ratio of 11.2 makes my head hurt.

I don't know if Flaherty is a liar or not too bright, or a combination of both, but in light of these numbers and his previous statements, as I've said already, I don't have much confidence in his ability to manage the economy. Plus, this week he went to the US to admonish lawmakers to address the deficit, which in my opinion is more deficit feedback loop that's more politics than economics. 

I understand why Flaherty would try to downplay a housing bubble. Housing has been driving GDP, accounting for 20% of it and employment has been bolstered by consumption in construction. While Flaherty's bill seeks to give him authority to cool off the now-acknowledged bubble by tightening lending requirements, the government took an active hand is building this bubble by creating tax incentives and has a history of economic liberalizing and retreating when the "bad idea" handwriting is on the wall.

Analysts expect business investment to pick up and growth to follow, which the Conservatives are praying for. The problem as I see it is that the economic environment is too uncertain {the strong dollar is throwing a monkey wrench into exports} and I wouldn't bet on Canadian businesses expanding, particularly if the housing bubble starts to deflate causing ripples in the economy. I also think that the blind faith in deficit reduction in this era of ultra cheap capital and low interest rates is odd and makes little sense. The Conservatives appear to be cherrypicking their definition of small government, almost as if they're using the deficit to re-engineer government that cuts spending in some areas, while holding on to rather hungry sacred cows like defense spending.

Twitterversion:: [blog] "What Canadian Housing Bubble? Oh, That One..." Jim Flaherty's most recent flip-flop. #cdnpoli @Prof_K

Vancouver Canucks Riots:: Critical Mass & Social Contagion in "No-Fun City"

Vidcap of Saltspring Island teacher Kristi Kallip attempting to keep the crowds at bay,
sitting atop a police car being smashed while holding out peace signs.
I'm not sure why, but I just had a feeling the Canucks were going to lose Game 7 of the Stanley Cup. It may well be from my experience in the 2002 World Series when San Francisco went up 3-2, only to lose two straight and series. So, when I was flipping around in the wee hours of EDT to catch the score, the Canucks loss was overshadowed by the riots following the loss. The Province has an interesting article on how Vancouver hasn't progressed since 1994 [see 1994 footage of 40-50,000 rioters taking to the streets], when the Canucks experienced a heartbreaking game 7 Stanley Cup loss. A Vancouver constable summed things up::
“People complain that this is a ‘No Fun City,’” said Const. Colin Naismith, lifting up his riot-protection mask. “Well, they had their chance. This is what happens when you let the floodgates open.”  
Rioter wielding a hockey stick takes out some frustrations on a Bank of Montréal branch.
I think the Vancouver Police made the right call in how they handled things, given that there were estimates of 100,000 people watching the game on Georgia St. on bigscreens in downtown. The scale of people out on the streets was immense and giving the crowd a reason to escalate the violence would have been a bad move. Imagine the use of coralling with 100,000 people on the streets. In contrast, during last year's G20 protests in Toronto, there were only 10,000 protestors and allegedly a splinter group of 2,000 black bloc was responsible for damage caused through vandalism. While it may be disturbing to see vandalism and property damage, it's a delicate balance between ensuring public safety and not pouring gasoline on the fire, given the huge crowd, and ensuring civil liberties. Moreover, a heavy-handed approach, a characterization levied at the Toronto Police for their handling of G20, can result in a PR fail and a sense that free speech rights within the Canadian Charter of Freedoms are being undermined, in the name of public safety. The Vancouver riot had nothing to do with public safety, but with a brutish Hobbesean state fueled by social contagion—as rioters sense a lack of consequences for acting out given the sheer scale of the mob, it gave more people the courage to act out. The best thing for law enforcement to do would be to focus on stopping any assaults and getting out videocameras to add to the panopticon of visual surveillance in the city consisting of about 1,000 cameras. Let the rioting crowd simmer down and document the vandalism and sort it all out later—criminally and civilly. Imperfect? Sure. Some scofflaws might get away with their vandalism or worse, but as evident in this case of a Toronto officer accused of assaulting a bystander during G20, the panopticon can catch up with you long after the emotion of the moment and the criminal deeds were done.

Here's some video footage from The Province, showing vandals, along with some concerned citizens trying to stop the violence::

Well, it makes one wonder what would have happened if Canada lost the hockey gold last February in the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver {although the crowds on the street were in the tens of thousands, not 100,000} and also what would happen if election results were big screen televised public spectacles with large gatherings.

Finally, all of this reminds me of Paul Thomas Anderson's video for Fiona Apple's cover of "Across the Universe", on the soundtrack for Pleasantville {1998}::

Twitterversion:: [blog] #Vancouver Riots-Critical Mass & Contagion:powder keg w/ safety, property, civ liberties, & exacerbation at stake @Prof_K

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Music & the Ad:: Heineken & The Asteroids Galaxy Tour

The above is a 60" spot for Heineken that uses "The Golden Age" by The Asteroids Galaxy Tour, a Danish band that got their real start opening for Amy Winehouse. Here's a 90" version of "The Entrance" and a 3m5s music video version::

The song came out in 2009 and here's the original music video. The part with Mette Lindberg's head on a vinyl record made me think of Rob Wells {best known as Ricky, from the Trailer Park Boys} in Hobo with a Shotgun.

A little after "the Golden age" was released, the band's "Around the Bend" was used by Chiat Day in Apple's iPod Touch ad demoing its gaming capabilities that take advantage of the device's accelerometer::

Twitterversion:: [videos] #MusicAndTheAd Heineken & The Asteroids Galaxy Tour's "Golden Age" @Prof_K

Monday, June 13, 2011

newmusicmonday #98:: Mise en Scene

Band Mise en Scene
Genre indie pop
Members Stefanie Blondal Johnson - Writer, Vocals,Guitar
Jodi Dunlop - Drums
Kena Olson – Keyboard
Marco Fiore - Bass
Plus various guest musicians
Base Winnipeg/Gimli, MB
Label none
Tour DateNXNE, 15 June 2011 The Painted Lady, 9h


Part of a double shot of newmusicmonday {see #97-Careers in Science}, Mise en Scene serves up its brand of arty pop with folksy overtones. The band has a forthcoming show at NXNE this Wednesday and the band is known for its cinematic leanings with its use of projections during its sets. Their sound is evolving, going from a slower jazzy folk to a faster tempo pop/rock/folk. They recorded an EP, 'Late Night Triple Feature', and are recording a follow-up EP.

Twitterversion:: [blog+videos] #newmusicmonday feat. folksy pop of #Winnipeg's Mise en Scene. 15Jun #NXNE show at The Painted Lady 9pm @Prof_K