Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label politics. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

video review: 'black america again' by common

Believe it or not, I cut a good two minutes of politics out of this review. They may come again, friendly warning, depending on what I cover over the next few years, but politics are a part of culture, and if punk and hip-hop react the way I think they will, we're going to hear something we haven't heard in a long time.

In the mean time, Tinashe and Czarface, so stay tuned!

album review: 'black america again' by common

It's easy for people like me to speak messages of encouragement and hope, given what has just happened in the United States. Hell, I'm in Canada, I'm further insulated from all of it. And what can I do with my platform and audience - who is primarily in the United States - that will make a difference, especially considering what is to come? Odds are over twenty million of people are going to lose their health insurance overnight, and providing Obama doesn't pull a fast one and somehow fill that Supreme Court vacancy, abortion and gay marriage rights will probably be going away too - look at that VP and tell me otherwise. The balance has once again shifted back to protect those who discriminate rather than those who are discriminated, punching down instead of punching up, and while I could blame the Democrats for a sloppily run campaign and third parties for asinine voter deflection and the FBI for violating the Hatch Act in the eleventh hour and Republicans for disseminating blatant lies and active voter suppression and the media for feeding into all of it, normalizing lunacy and abandoning any civic responsibility to the public... at the end of the day, America, particularly white America, brought this on herself. They bought into a con, and if there's any proof that 'greatest country in the world' label has been sorely tested indeed and will face even greater challenges in the years ahead, it's here. And given that the president-elect's policy challenges include revising trade deals that affect my home country and non-existent or outright fraudulent environmental policies that impact the planet, you can bet I'm can feel the urge to say or do something, in even the smallest way.

So of course I'm reviewing Common, what else could I do? Common, the conscious rapper who may not always have the most consistent discography but in modern years has seen a creative reawakening in some of the most political material he's ever created. His 2014 album Nobody's Smiling, while not at the level of his best material, was easily the best record he had made in a decade, and in this polarized, burned out shell of a year in 2016, you can bet I was looking to Black America Again to connect, to say something. It dropped before the election, so it was inevitable it wouldn't have the titanic revolutionary fury an album like Run The Jewels 3 was bound to have, but it would have to have something, right?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

an open letter to prime minister stephen harper

To Prime Minister Stephen Harper,

My name is Mark Grondin. I am twenty-three years old, a Canadian citizen living in Toronto, and at one point in my life, I was a member of The Conservative Party of Canada. I have voted for you, Mr. Prime Minister. And though we disagree on many points, I have respected you for your intelligence, your stances on certain policy, and your shrewd politics.

Which is why, today, I am calling upon you to boycott the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, and call for a relocation of the Olympic Games to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

I am sure at this point, you are aware of the gross human rights abuses currently exploding across Russia targeting the LGBT community. You have likely heard of Stephen Fry's plea to his Prime Minister David Cameron to take a stance against Vladimir Putin and his autocratic, wholly corrupt reign that allows grotesque atrocities to take place within his nation. I do not care that said atrocities may have popular support within Russia, and that such prejudice and homophobia may be condoned by both the Kremlin and the Russian majority. The world community has grown large and will continue to grow, and if Russia wants to be included in that community and hold a place of respect in that community by hosting the Olympic Games, they must shed the backwards-looking bigotry that serves no purpose other than rancorous hatred.

I will not attempt to appeal to your emotions, Mr. Prime Minister. At this point, I'm sure those appeals have been made and discarded. Instead, I will put forward the following reasoned points that will show not only will this will be the right choice, but will benefit you, the Conservative Party, and Canadians as a whole. You have protected the rights of the LGBT community within Canada by blocking bills from your own party to restrict them, and even if the intent is only to secure your reelection, it is still the right choice to make. 

To begin, you have always made your position clear regarding your support for our men and women in uniform. The athletes that Team Canada is sending to Russia this year wear our uniform, and will put their bodies through grueling challenges in the greatest test of their lives. They have trained for years for this opportunity, and now some may have justly founded fears that they may be targeted for their sexuality before they have a chance to take to the slopes or the ice. Furthermore, there are Canadian citizens travelling to Sochi to watch and support our athletes, non-combatants who may be walking into territory that may be hostile to them. Should they have to cower or conceal who they are because of thuggish brutes who might kidnap, rape, torture, or kill them, all under the negligent eye of an autocrat? You know the answer to that, Mr. Prime Minister - you took an oath of office to stand for the safety and protection of all Canadians, including those abroad, including those who wear our flag and represent us on the world stage.

But it is not just the safety of our people, Mr. Prime Minister, but of athletes across the world from many nations who might feel in danger setting foot in Sochi - which is why I have put forward the option of Vancouver. We already have the facilities in place, and it would not require work to get them in top condition. We are one of the few nations that have that ability. And while it would be expensive, you and I both know that the economic stimulus thanks to tourism, business investment, and tax revenue to the Canadian economy through hosting this event would be a great boon to us. According to the Olympic Games Impact report conducted by the University of British Columbia, a conservatively estimated fifty million dollars was collected in tax revenue alone! Once again, we could increase Canada's economic stature on the world stage, something in which you have a vested interest. We can show the world yet again that Canada is a place of solace and safety and freedom, regardless of your race, gender, or sexuality.

And this boon is not just confined to Canada as a whole, Mr. Prime Minister. If you choose to lead your party towards this option, you will gain political capital across Canada and the world. You will show that not only will we refuse to stand along side those who advocate abhorrent and repugnant policy, but that we are offering a better alternative on our shores. You will be a leader not just of our country, but of the world, one willing to take that first, lonely step forward in favour of truth, justice, and the protection of human rights. This would be an opportunity for the Canadian government to take a stand and affirm our commitments to the protection of our citizens abroad and the preservation of higher principles we hold sacrosanct.

We will pay a diplomatic cost for this. The Russian government will not look favourably upon this. We will likely pay something of an economic cost for this as well. And there may even be a political cost for this at home, from within your own party or by those who will make the timid assertion that we should not take international action like this without the unilateral support of our allies, or that we should focus on issues within our borders before bothering to look out. You know all this, Mr. Prime Minister, and that is why as of this recording you have made statements disapproving of the Russian policy, but nothing more. President Obama has made similar statements, but he can do little at this time - the United States' international political capital is running dry in Russia. If you choose to take this step, for a moment, you may stand alone.

But that is the role of the leader. That is his purpose. The position of a man strong in his convictions and courage, his eyes clear and his gaze unwavering. Such a man knows that there is a time for words, but when words prove ineffective, action is required - and this is the time for action. We are one of the few nations on this planet that can take this action, Mr. Prime Minister, and rest assured, there will be others that will follow if you choose to lead. I know you hold respect towards the annals of history, and the great men who have led us, and you may have questioned how you might be remembered as time marches onward.

This is one such way history is made, Mr. Prime Minister, by those willing to put money and action where their mouths are and show courage to stand against those who have betrayed their oaths of office and willfully endangered the lives of their own populace. I have never doubted your courage of convictions, Mr. Prime Minister, and I know you have integrity. Now is your chance to prove it to not just to me, or to your party, or to your electorate, but the world.

To quote Theodore Roosevelt: "The credit belongs to those people who are actually in the arena... who know the great enthusiasms, the great devotions to a worthy cause; who at best, know the triumph of high achievement; and who, at worst, fail while daring greatly, so that their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."

Step into the arena, Mr. Prime Minister. Stand against tyranny and persecution so that lives might be saved. Make history.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

album review: 'uno!' by green day

I was afraid of this happening.

I mean, when I heard that Green Day was planning on putting out a trilogy of albums - and planning on doing so all within about six months of each other, my immediate reaction was disbelief. They would have that much material that was ready for prime-time? They would be able to construct three whole albums based upon material recorded over about five months? They would have enough things to say to last three entire albums?

And then I realized, with a feeling of crushing dread filling up my stomach, that they wouldn't - they couldn't. As much as I like Green Day - and I do, let's make no mistake about that (favourite album is Kerplunk, followed by 21st Century Breakdown and Dookie) - I knew instinctively that unless they were trying to write to a specific concept, they weren't going to be able to keep everything good. They couldn't stretch it out that far. Even though they divided each of the trilogy into musical themes (the first being power pop/punk, the second being garage rock, the third being stadium rock), I knew that they couldn't have enough great, unique material to span three albums. 

And I'm disappointed to say that my original suspicions were correct. Even worse, I don't think I went far enough - as of right now, Uno! is Green Day's worst album. 

Yeah, worse than Warning. I went there.

Monday, September 17, 2012

album review: 'tempest' by bob dylan

It's really hard to review Bob Dylan.

I mean, where do you start? What frame of reference should you use? Bob Dylan isn't just one of the best artists of all time, he's also one of the most prolific, with a huge share of great music and a fair share of the awful as well. He's one of the best, most impacting songwriters of the past generation, and any bearded indie rocker owes at least something to the man, now fully in the autumn of his life.

And speaking as someone who isn't completely familiar with every album and every live cut and every one of the hundreds of bootlegs that Dylan produced, I feel more than a little overwhelmed by the sheer weight of history behind the man, even more so because he's a fantastic writer and poet and musician one that I admire tremendously. For god's sake, I can look ninety degrees to my right from my kitchen table and see a framed poster of the man!

So I guess it can't hurt to provide a little context to where I'm coming from when I write this review, at least when it comes to my 'Dylan' experience. Well, here it is: it's painfully limited. I'm familiar with his hits - everyone should be - and I can thank my uncle for getting me to listen to Infidels, which Dylan's first legitimately great album of the 80s. From there, it's Blonde on Blonde, Blood on the Tracks, Highway 61 Revisited, and really not much else. To say I feel out of my depth stepping into a review of his most recent album, particularly when I'm not even all that familiar with his material this decade, isn't hard to believe.

But then again, Bob Dylan, of all the albums and artists I've ever reviewed, has always been a poet first (musician second, singer third). And I have a literary background, which does provide some applicable skills to assess and analyse the man's work. And of all of the artists I've examined so far, I feel the least compunctions in branding this man's work 'art'. And art earns some of its worth and meaning due to the experience and interpretation of the viewer - and since we're all different, no one person's view (with the exception of the artist, because the whole 'death of the artist' theory is a load of horseshit) is sacrosanct.

So yes, while I will admit that not being familiar with Dylan's entire discography or indeed the majority of it adds something of an asterisk to my review and criticism, I do know good music. I know good poetry. And I can recognize good art when I see it. 

And without further ado, let's examine Bob Dylan's newest album, Tempest.

Monday, August 27, 2012

tv review: 'the newsroom' - season one commentary

So yeah, I haven't posted much here. Mostly this is because I've been working on other projects, and that'll mean updates here will be somewhat sporadic. That being said, I am going to write posts here when there are things that I want to talk about.

And today, I want to talk about The Newsroom, a show that should be so much better than it is, one that I will watch next summer in the hopes of improvement, but one I don't expect to get any better.

Monday, July 16, 2012

tv review: 'the newsroom' S01:E01-04

Let me begin with a disclaimer that I'm sure many will use as ample reason to completely disqualify this review: before watching The Newsroom, I have watched very little by Aaron Sorkin. I've never seen The West Wing or Sports Night(they're on my list of things to watch, but so is Mad Men, Game of Thrones, and Breaking Bad). I've never seen Studio 60. I really liked Moneyball, but I found The Social Network frustratingly flawed in ways that I have difficulty articulating. It's a good movie, but it's not quite a great one.

In other words, when people talk about 'good Sorkin' and 'bad Sorkin', I don't have a lot of context to step in and pass judgement one way or another. It's frustrating because I feel it separates me somewhat from the discourse, but on the other hand, it also provides me a unique opportunity. It's not often I get a chance to go into something relatively blind, experience something from a fresh point of view outside of the history of the man behind the pen. Sure, I had heard a lot about Aaron Sorkin and his work (anybody who spends any time on the AV Club is familiar with the man), but I lacked a certain amount of context. All I knew before going into The Newsroom was that it was written by Aaron Sorkin and it had Sam Waterston (quasi-legendary for playing Jack McCoy for years on Law & Order, although I remember him more fondly from The Great Gatsby, if I'm being completely honest). It was enough to get me into the door, and I was planning on relying on the show to hook and keep me there.

So in the tradition of these reviews, I'm going to attempt to provide some analysis into why The Newsroom both does and doesn't entirely work in its present incarnation. Now, granted, a show can evolve a lot from the first four episodes onwards - Community and Glee are both shows that started evolving in the first four episodes and never quite stopped, for better and for worse - but I'm starting to feel like I have something of an idea of what The Newsroom wants to be and how it's going to get there.