canada

#683: I (Don’t) Wanna Be Elected

GETTING MORE TALE #683: I (Don’t) Wanna Be Elected

It’s election season again!  The climate today is nastier than ever, even here in Ontario, Canada.  We don’t have Trump, but we do have something called Doug Ford.  The last name should be familiar to you.  He’s the brother of the late crackhead Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Remember that guy?

The important thing is getting out to the polls and having your say.  If you do not vote, then I don’t want to hear a peep outta you later on.  Not a peep.

Voting is paramount, but unlike Alice Cooper, I do not want to be elected.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to put your name out there, only to have the media dig for all your old skeletons.  We’re seeing candidates apologizing for things they said and did a decade ago.  At least the media wouldn’t have to dig far for my dirt.  One look at Record Store Tales Part 7: A Shitty Story, and they’d hang me out to dry with the laundry.

No thanks!

Some rock stars have thrown their hats in this brutal ring.  Kid Rock has recently floated the idea.  We’ll see if he ever puts his money where his mouth is.  Not all who tried can rely on their fame for an easy win.

Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic gave elections a shot in 2009.  He didn’t win, but he did run for Wahkiakum County Clerk to make a point.  The state of Washington’s laws allow you to run for office for any political party — even fictional ones.  Krist made one up and ran.  We hope being in Nirvana was good enough for the bassist.

Wyclef Jean wanted to run for President of Haiti in 2010, but wasn’t taken seriously because he doesn’t live there or speak the local languages well enough.  He put in the paperwork, but did not qualify.  A former American Idol, Clay Aiken, got a little further.  Aiken ran for congress in North Carolina.  He won the Democratic primary by a hair with 40% of the vote, but did not win the seat.  Can’t fault the guy for trying.  It takes guts!

Yet, there are a handful of success stories.

In 2005, Martha Reeves (of the Vandellas) ran for and won a seat on Detroit’s city council. Jon Fishman of Phish got himself elected to city council of Lincolnville, Maine, making him perhaps the only rock drummer ever to win an election.

The most successful musician turned politician in history would have to be Sonny Bono, hands down.  He was elected mayor of Palm Springs in 1988, and was even mentioned as the mayor in a Beavis and Butt-head music video with Cher!  (“We need a chick that used to be married to some dork, and now she’s all wild and stuff.”)  After this, he served in the US House of Representatives, from 1994 until his death in 1998.

Unfortunately, Alice Cooper has never run for political office.  That’s a shame.

There are more, but politics are not for everybody.  At least we all get to vote.

But how?  Where do you toss your one vote?  Some feel the best way to stop “Ford Nation” from turning Ontario into a mini-Trumpistan is to vote for the New Democrats (or NDP) party.  Others feel Doug Ford is the only choice for an economically troubled province, laid to waste by 15 years of Liberal mismanagement, handouts and scandals.

Choose wisely.

When I turned 18, my first election was provincial.  I had been working my first retail job at a grocery store, and the issue that I chose to cast my vote on was Sunday shopping.  Working at the store, Sundays were the only guaranteed day off and I wasn’t eager to start working them.  The NDP party led by Bob Rae promised they would not allow Sunday shopping in Ontario.  I voted NDP for the first and so far only time.  Rae won, and almost immediately, made Sunday shopping legal.

Fool me once…shame on you?

We have some excellent candidates in my riding, including Amy Fee (wife of Craig) on the Progressive Conservative side, and former boxer Fitz Vanderpool for the NDP.  But the truth is, I can’t wait to cast my vote and get it over with.  Do you know how many political calls we had last night?  Had to be at least 10.

I’m sick of elections.  Wanna be elected?  No friggin’ way.

 

 

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REVIEW: Sword – The Best Of (2009)

SWORD – The Best Of (2009 Unidisc reissue)

There are two versions of this CD:  a 2006 release on Aquarius, and a 2009 reissue on Unidisc.  Don’t waste your time on the 2006 CD, which is made up of previously released material.  Go for the 2009 disc, with three unreleased bonus tracks!

Sword (not The Sword) are a Canadian band from Quebec who released an impressive heavy metal debut album in 1986.  They gained the attention of Motorhead who took them out on tour.  They followed it in ’88 with Sweet Dreams, just as good as the first, but commercial success eluded the band.   They toiled away on a third album, but eventually the band dissolved leaving only singer Rick Hughes.   He returned in 1992 with Saints & Sinners, and a new hard rock sound, but that was fated to sell poorly too.  It was inevitable after grunge hit.

Rick Hughes remained active as a singer in Quebec and in 2016, he released a Sword live album, Live Hammersmith, recorded in ’87 on the Motorhead tour.   Then, unexpectedly in 2018, the original lineup reunited!  They have already played live gigs and are recording a new Sword album.  If you plan on catching up (and you should!) then check out the 2009 Best of Sword disc.  Besides the three unreleased demos, you’ll get a dozen rockers and thrashers that will melt skin.

The first salvo of “Stoned Again” and “F.T.W.” are a pair of killers.  They were the singles from the first album, well loved by Canadian fans of the Pepsi Power Hour.  “F.T.W.” is a smokeshow, with a blistering gallop and brain-burning chorus.  On the other hand, groove is all about “Stoned Again”, a surprisingly catchy number that is hard to forget.  Strangely, their final single “The Trouble Is” (from Sweet Dreams) isn’t on here.  “Life on the Sharp Edge” is also missing.

Omissions aside, The Best of Sword showcases the sound of the band with a lot of their best material.  More serious and topical songs like “Land of the Brave” will appeal to the thinking metal head.  Meanwhile “State of Shock” will rip skulls right off — be careful you don’t play it too loud!

The first of the bonus tracks, a song called “Get It While You Can”, might be a demo from the third album, before they transitioned into Saints & Sinners.  It’s the most “hard rock” Sword song of all of them.  It definitely sounds like a stepping stone to what would become the Saints & Sinners album.  The other two tracks are demos of “Runaway” and “Stuck in Rock” from the first LP, with different lyrics.

Because the first two albums are out of print, The Best of Sword is an easy way to sample their tunes before that third album comes.  Go for it — but only the full 15 track version.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – Season 12 (2018)


TRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 12 
(2018 Netflix)

Like any franchise with an extended lifespan, Trailer Park Boys has fans both devoted and hyper-critical.  Many are just glad the series is still continuing and still funny.  Others whine that the style has changed and many original cast members (Jonathan Torrens, Lucy Decoutere, Mike Jackson, Barrie Dunn) have left.  The death of John Dunsworth (Mr. Lahey) late last year put things into perspective.  Just be glad we have Trailer Park Boys at all.  John finished season 12, which was lovingly dedicated to him.

What’s the Boys’ deal this time?  After much pressuring from Bubbles, Ricky and Julian agree to go “legit”.  Bubbles is already running a successful brewing company.  Green Bastard beer is a hit.  Julian gets a job working for Gary in security at the mall.  And Ricky?  Odd jobs around the park.  The first is an unmitigated and hilarious disaster.  Things go way off the rails from there.

Lahey and Randy are back, with Bo-bandy trying to keep Jim from causing trouble.  But they need help supervising the park, and hire old nemesis George Green.  Barb Lahey’s still in charge, and a thorn in everyone’s side.  Sarah, Trinity, Jacob and Corey still reside in Sunnyvale.  And wait until you see what Ricky has done to the Shitmobile.  (Turned it into a two storey home with two TVs and both upstairs and downstairs bathrooms.)

One of the reasons you don’t miss Lucy this season is because she’s been replaced by Susan (Susan Kent of This Hour Has 22 Minutes).  She’s batshit crazy and mad for Ricky.  Their on-off-on-off relationship is a source of many of Ricky’s problems.  All he really needs is a break.  Maybe he’ll catch one from some “Angel Shit Sent Down From Jesus God”.

You’ll see.

Julian might even have a shot at love.  An old girlfriend, from all the way back in season one, reappears in his life….

The season ties into the real world release of the official Trailer Park Boys beer called Freedom 35.  It’s a fictional take on how that beer got to the store shelves.  Bubbles, who now drives his own green truck, has a secret recipe and it’s caught the notice of the Halifax Beer company.  They want to pay Bubbles to sell his brew!  Can Bubbles ramp up his production, or will Ricky fuck it all up?

Without spoiling too much of the fun, the best episode this season is called “Happy Birthday Bubbles”.  If you liked the old episode when the Boys played “space” and fired a rocket, you’ll love this one.  I hope Steve Rogers makes a full recovery though his helicopter sure is fucked.  Best of all, this season we return to the arena where Ricky shines like no other:  the courtroom.  Judge Ticklebury presiding.

Knowing that Jim Lahey has taken his last drinky-poo gives the season a bittersweet flavour.  How does the show continue now?  We don’t know, so just enjoy season 12 for what it is.

4.5/5 stars

 

#665: Rant Random II: A Canadian Complaint

A sequel to Getting More Tale #509:  Rant Random

 

 

GETTING MORE TALE#665: Rant Random II: A Canadian Complaint

Saturday, March 3 2018 was a gorgeous afternoon.  Because I had been on the radio from 12:30 to 2:30 am, I didn’t get out that morning.  I usually like to run my errands before noon on the weekends if possible, when things are less busy.  I needed my beauty sleep that day.  That’s how I keep my youthful looks after all.

With the windows down, I hit “play” on Rush’s Clockwork Angels and headed out.  The sound of “The Wreckers” filled my speakers.  Stop #1 was McDonalds.  The parking lot was pretty full so I knew they’d be busy, but what I saw upon entry really pissed me off.

You know those kiosk terminals you can order from now?  My McDonalds has four.  And all four were being taken up by a single family.  A mom, a dad, and two young children were all ordering separately…and slowly.

“Mommy!  Mommy!  What do I push now?” said the young girl, as her mom was ordering for herself.  “Here sweety,” she said as she paused her own order to help the child.  On the other side, dad was doing the same for the son, who couldn’t figure out how to order.  Then, they all passed around a debit card so they could each pay.  I stood there at the front of a loose “line”, watching this unfold in agonisingly slow detail.

As soon as the little girl finished on her terminal, I jumped on, to emphasise my pissed-off-ness.

Parents:  It’s really nice that you used a Saturday at lunch hour rush to teach your children (separately) how to order from a McDonalds terminal, but don’t you think there are better lessons to learn?  Such as how to take turns and share something?

Back to the car with the food, and back to Clockwork Angels with windows down.  Next up:  first single, “Headlong Flight”.  I drove over to Tim Horton’s to get Jennifer a coffee.  Yes, they serve coffee at McDonalds (and some would say better coffee) but I had to make a special stop because Mrs. LeBrain does not drink anything but Horton’s.  And it was a nice day, and a great album to hear with the windows down.

My second complaint of the day, and a frequent one:  if you’re in the drive-through at Tim Horton’s, and it’s busy, don’t leave an entire car length between you and the car in front of you.  There’s nothing more frustrating than being next in line, but not being able to get close enough to the speaker to order.  If the guy in front had just moved ahead a few feet (he had plenty of room) this wouldn’t be an issue.

So I rolled down the windows a little further and let the parking lot hear some “Wish You Well” from Clockwork Angels.  That’s Geddy Lee and he’s a national treasure, people.

Coffee in hand, I headed back home with Geddy, Neil and Alex.  Not a bad album to go out on, by the way.  If you have to retire it’s nice to be able to go out on a high note like Rush did.  It felt like a very Canadian afternoon — out celebrating a warm day in March; always a joy when it happens.  It’s great to be Canadian, where the biggest complaint you have is about the line at Tim Horton’s.  Keeping our minor peeves in perspective, let’s be glad to be Canadian.

#655: Guns, Guns, Guns

Some of you may wonder why I’ve been quiet about the school shooting in Florida last week. Controversial rocker Ted Nugent has had plenty to say, but I try to keep politics to a minimum here.  The truth is I have said nothing because I’ve been too upset – a toxic mixture of sadness and furious anger.

I’m not a parent, but I cry for all the children whose lives have been cut short simply because they went to school that day to get an education. I cry for the kids who will never, ever get over the trauma of seeing their friends cut down.  And what about the kids of the future, who may never know what a normal, happy, unarmed classroom is like?

I’m not American, but I weep for the country that continues to bury dead children, one tragedy after another, while doing absolutely nothing about it.

I’m not anti-gun, but I shake my head the most ridiculous defences for potential killers to easily buy AR-15 rifles. Don’t pretend they’re “tools” and you’re GI Joe.

I love a good conspiracy theory, but I boil in pure frustration that Ted Nugent and others are calling these children “crisis actors” who are a part of an anti-gun conspiracy.

Student Emma Gonzalez has become the voice of the victims

In short, it’s taken me a while to stop being upset, and get clear enough in the head to write something.

I grew up around guns. My dad taught me how to shoot safely before I was even allowed to ride my bike out of the neighborhood. I was such a good shot that he nicknamed me “Deadeye Dick”. He encouraged me to get my Firearms Acquisition Certificate, and I did. I used to love going to hunting shops with my dad to look at weapons. Lake Huron Rod & Gun in Underwood, Ontario was our stop. My mom and aunt would look for knick-knacks at a store called The Chapel while we looked at guns.

I don’t know what the solution is to America’s gun problem. And yes America, you do have a gun problem. It’s obvious to everyone except you, because you can no longer see the forest for the trees.

You don’t have to worry about fighting off the Red Coats with your muzzle-loaded muskets anymore.

Nobody needs to worry about Obama taking over the country, he’s enjoying his retirement.

And let’s not forget, Hillary lost the election. She’s no longer the scary anti-freedom monster under the bed.  She’s an old lady and she can only write books now about “what happened”.  She never wanted to repeal the Second Amendment in the first place.  That was just Russian propaganda that many people fell for and still believe.

I understand that your Second Amendment guarantees you the “right to bear arms” (muskets?) to protect your country and family. I think that’s just fine and I support you. What I am asking you to do is look really hard at the world around you, and ask who you are really afraid of. Right now, it looks as if you’re afraid of a bunch of 17 year old kids who are sick of being shot at and pushed aside afterwards.

If the Founding Fathers could see what the Second Amendment has wrought, I can all but guarantee you that they would go back in time and word it a little differently.

It’s different here in Canada.  We still have lots of violent movies, rap music, and video games. We have guns, but we do not have mass shootings every two weeks. We do not have or want a lobby organisation like the NRA to tell us what to think. Our country was not founded upon revolution like yours. We didn’t worry about the British coming back to take over. We didn’t worry about someone declaring themselves King. In fact the only invaders we worried about were Americans. (Look up “Manifest Destiny” and you’ll understand why.) Yet we didn’t give in to fear and arm everyone in the neighborhood.

The point is, America took the Second Amendment and went a little far with it. Canadians managed to make it this far without worrying too much about deep states or elites taking over, and we’re doing OK. We’re not perfect. We are not likely to forget the École Polytechnique massacre in 1989. But we don’t do it every other week.

What’s the difference? I think it’s our very different history. You had a revolution to escape from monarchy, and have been worried about tyrants taking over ever since. We had a couple rebellions and slowly gained sovereignty, like a teenager eager to move out of their parents’ basement.

What’s the solution? At this point…I no longer even think there is one. After speaking to many Americans, I think the divide is simply too wide to breach. It’s far too easy to say “it’s a mental health problem”. We have mental health problems here, too. That lazy answer isn’t it. Token restrictions on guns or bump stocks won’t help either because you’re too far down the rabbit hole now. Something else has to change. Something evil and elusive has infected the country and it’s not going away.

I think it’s fear and hate. Too many Americans now distrust and hate other Americans. The media and political instigators stoke the fires of hate, and now it’s too late. If there is a solution, it has eluded me. Empathy needs to return to the United States.  It’s your only hope.

America, you are my neighbor and you are my friend. But you’re becoming that scary friend that I don’t want to be alone with anymore. And I’m telling you this as a friend – you have enough guns. More won’t help. Open carry won’t make this go away. A lot of these shooters put the gun in their mouths when they’re done. They don’t care if they die – they often want to go down like Harris and Klebold did. And the “good guy with a gun” fallacy won’t work because you can’t identify who the good or bad guys are until it’s too late.  “Good guys with guns” have made very little difference because this isn’t a Hollywood movie.

While I have no answers, Ted Nugent’s certainly not helping. I’m not surprised, seeing as this is a guy who once called for the nuking of Iraq. Shame on you, Ted, and shame on all those attacking the victims.

Maybe empathy really is the answer.  How to get there?  That is a whole other problem.

#651: Death From…Right Above?

GETTING MORE TALE #651: Death From…Right Above?

Canada’s Death From Above (formerly:  Death From Above 1979) have some pretty awesome tunage.  This bass/drum duo of Jesse F. Keeler and Sebastien Grainger have been creating edgy rock and roll (off and on) since 2001.  Their music is great.  “Trainwreck 1979” is an incredible steamroller rock song.  But Death From Above have a history that might contain some unsavoury characters, such as Vice media co-founder Gavin McInnes.

Have you ever heard of the Proud Boys?  It’s OK if you haven’t.

The Proud Boys are a “western chauvinist” group founded by McInnes.  As westerners, they “refuse to apologize for creating the modern world” (a fallacy in itself as any historian can tell you). Only men are permitted.  Women can become a “Proud Boy’s Girl”.  They even have a uniform (black polo shirts with yellow trim) and coded words that identify them with each other, but not with the general public.  They claim it’s just a fraternity, and that anyone who identifies as “alt-right” will be banned permanently from the group.  McInnes also claimed that Jesse F. Keeler of Death From Above was a member, which Keeler denies.

After my first encounter with a Proud Boy, a quick glance at his Facebook photos revealed a swastika and other Nazi paraphernalia, misogyny and a boatload of bigotry.  That was my very first encounter.  I don’t accept their claim that all “alt-right” folks are unwelcome.  I believe that they prefer their alt-right members to keep any Nazi and white supremacist symbolism in the closet.  I strongly doubt that the Proud Boys have zero white supremacists in their numbers.  That’s how it looks to me, and I’m not interested in debating with Proud Boys.

Proud Boys really hate being “mischaracterized” as a white nationalist movement, but they have become a safe space for such folks.  There certainly have been plenty of violent Proud Boy bad apples in the news, whom the organization distances itself from.  But for whatever reason, the Proud Boys attract these assholes like flies are attracted to shit.

Part of the Proud Boy initiation is getting in a fight with an “Antifa” member.  Antifa, a controversial leftist group, stands for “anti-fascist”.  So in order to be a Proud Boy, you have to commit the crime of assault.  That’s not to say Antifa have never initiated violence themselves; they have.  But to be a Proud Boy, you actually have to beat somebody up?  They call it all “freedom of expression” and “family values”.  I’m sure you’ve heard those phrases before from the far-right, just as you will also hear the word “patriot”.  They refer to their group as “fun, respectful and fair”.  Until you mention such words as “Islam”, “transgender”, “immigrant” or “liberal”.  These dirty words are sure to earn the opposite of a fun, respectful or fair response.  If you want to “trigger” a sensitive Proud Boy, try one of those words.  (Assault must be one of their “fun” activities.)

There’s nothing wrong with being proud of your heritage or your country.  I love Canada, even though our history has its dark corners.  We have not treated our native population well, and that is an understatement times 1000.  On his solo album The Secret Path, Gord Downie (RIP) of the Tragically Hip tried to educate Canadians on our shameful history with residential schools.  Yes, there are many things in our history to take pride in, such our military role as peace keepers (thank you Lester B. Pearson).  Take pride in being Canadian, but don’t distort history to do so.  Distorting history will only lead to repeated mistakes.  Pride is one thing; hate is something else altogether.  In my view, the Proud Boys are a safe haven for some very angry individuals.

Some of Death From Above’s lyrics have been characterised as misogynistic:

“So tired of sluts coming up to us in the clubs with their cocaine,
We’re looking for wives.”  (“Dead Womb”)

One of the Proud Boys’ values is “venerate the housewife”.  Death From Above’s Sebastian Grainger says “It wasn’t meant to be a hateful song…I just liked saying outrageous things.”

Death From Above’s Jesse Keeler has appeared The Gavin McInnes Podcast, viewed by some as a Proud Boy recruitment tool.  Keeler has acknowledged a past friendship with McInnes but says he’s never been a Proud Boy.  As the Canadian son of an Indian immigrant, he doesn’t identify with white nationalism.  He says that as he got to know McInnes better, he realised that he had some extreme views that he didn’t agree with.

McInnes’ views are pretty simple.  Here’s one:  “We need to close the borders now and let everyone assimilate to a Western, English-speaking way of life.”

Canada has two official languages by the way:  English and French.  They are equal under law.  But the original Canadians spoke neither; they had myriad tongues including the Algonquian and Iroquoian languages.

This western chauvinist attitude of McInnes and his group goes against everything I studied earning my History BA.  It also clashes with the values that rock and roll music have taught me.

The Beatles proved that music can transcend all barriers.  They went to India and came back with the White Album.  Led Zeppelin went to North Africa and wrote “Kashmir”.  Could there be anything more boring than a plain western, English-speaking way of life?  The music in such a place would certainly be a lot duller.  Like trying to create art in a vacuum, out of nothing.  Another exception to the Proud Boy way of thinking is the long list of incredible women of rock and roll.  They didn’t just settle for being “housewives”.  Where would music be today without Janis Joplin, Aretha Frankin, Chrissy Hynde and Debbie Harry?  A hell of a lot less interesting.  I can’t even imagine a world without them.

The best art benefits from a diverse palette.  The more colours you have to choose from, the more vibrant and alive your art can be.  White western people didn’t invent rock and roll.  They stole it.  Rock and roll has a long history, and if you go back far enough you can trace it all the way to Africa.  It came to America on slave ships, mixed and matched with music from Europe, and became R&B.  R&B used to be called “race music”.  Rock and roll evolved from this stew of cultures and influences.  Elvis Presley did not invent rock and roll.  Elvis Presley didn’t even write songs.

The Proud Boy value system is one of insular uniformity.  Rock and roll is about everything but conforming to a clean and neat Western life.  It is about rebelling, and exploring all the way to the edge.  From the very beginning of rock to today, music has only benefited from cultural diversity.  Everything on the radio today is a product of cross-pollination.  If rock and roll did not embrace music from different cultures worldwide, it would be a stifled, sad thing.  There would be no Beatles, no Stones, no Queen, or any of the bands influenced by them.  From Prince to the Prophets of Rage, most of rock and roll would simply not exist.

Want to be proud of your heritage?  That’s great, but don’t pretend.  The west is responsible for great innovation, built on the shoulders of previous old-world giants.  (Ptolemy, anyone?)  The west is also responsible for the worst atrocities in history.  No amount of revisionism can change the past.  Ignorance cannot erase it.  And here’s the key point that everybody seems to miss.  You can condemn the bad stuff, like residential schools, as it deserves to be condemned.  But then you can be proud of the good, such as the bravery of our troops from World War II to the present.  You can do both, it’s allowed!

I like to think of Frank Zappa.

“Hey, you know something people?
I’m not black, but there’s a whole lotsa times
I wish I could say I’m not white.”  — “Trouble Every Day”, 1966

Death From Above have distanced themselves and disavowed McInnes and the Proud Boys.  I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt.  “I began noticing that Gavin was promoting violence and a form of radical politics that I absolutely do not agree with,” said Keeler.  I’ll continue to listen to Death From Above.  Everyone learns from their experiences.

No matter where you fall politically, if you don’t see that our “western culture” (including our music) has roots all over the entire world, then you have a lot of history to learn.  In genetics, the larger and more diverse the population, the better the chances of survival.  A small or homogeneous population without diversity will go extinct.  I think the same is true of culture.  Embrace the good and reject the bad.  That’s why the Proud Boys need to be rejected, and I’m glad Death From Above have done that.

 

 

 

Please keep comments civil.  Any personal attacks will be deleted and burned with a tiki torch.

#612: Remembering Their Sacrifices

At the the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, the Armistice was signed, ending the fighting in the Great War. At least, they called it the Great War, or “The War to End All Wars”. Today we just call it World War I, because even greater horrors followed.

My grandfather “Sam” (Crawford) fought in World War II, helping bring an end to the evil of Hitler and Nazi Germany. I think my grandfather would be disgusted today to see Nazis being referred to as “very fine people”. What did he fight for, if we are to casually welcome that evil back to the streets?

“Gar” and “Sam” Winter

We can never forget the sacrifices those soldiers made. My grandfather survived and came home to raise a family with my grandmother. His brother wasn’t so lucky. He lived, but was injured in the trenches and he never walked right again.

I tend to think of the veterans and the soldiers of the present year round. My wife goes out of her way to thank veterans any time she sees one in uniform.  I think of them every time I am free to write whatever I want to, in this great land of Canada. Had the Nazis won, there would be no freedom here. On November 11, at 11am, we have a moment of silence to honour all the soldiers from every war in which they fought and died for our freedom. That is an important tradition to keep. But I think we should think of them more often.

“Sam”

My grandfather rarely told war stories around the kids, but I do remember one night when he told my dad about looking up and seeing a Panzer tank coming. “I shit my pants,” he said and I think he was being truthful. Imagine those young guys — kids, really — in a country far from home, running from a tank. The bravery is awesome. I can’t even imagine.

My grandfather died (cancer) when I was too young to appreciate what he did. I knew he fought, and I got to watch him lay a wreath at the cenotaph every November 11. I didn’t understand the significance of what it means to be a soldier until I was older. If I were a little older, I would have tried to get him to tell me about it.

Bryan Adams’ 1987 album Into the Fire has the best song about Remembrance Day that I know.  This very special track was made into an emotional music video.   In 2014, The Trews came out with something almost as good:  a song called “Highway of Heroes”.  The Highway of Heroes is an actual highway (the 401), given this nickname for the stretch of road on which the bodies of fallen soldiers are brought home.  The Trews’ song is a touching tribute.

Check out these two songs and remember why you’re even able to listen to them.  Because of the Heroes.

 

 

 

#603: Canada Wants to Tax Your Staff Discount

GETTING MORE TALE #603:
Canada Wants to Tax Your Staff Discount

Record store employees! Have you heard? Now the Canada Revenue Agency wants a piece of your staff discount.

According to CTV, “when an employee receives a discount on merchandise because of their employment, the value of the discount is generally included in the employee’s income.”  They will calculate the tax by using the “equal to the fair market value of the merchandise purchased, less the amount paid by the employee.”   That is unless the discount is “available to the public or a segment of the public, at some point during the year.”  Those car deals where you “pay what the employees pay” wouldn’t count as a taxed staff discount, which is good for people who work at dealerships.  CD stores generally don’t have a “staff discount sale”.

Let’s say, just like when I was working in the Record Store, an $11.99 CD gets sold to you at the discount price of $7.99. The government now wants to tax you on the $4 discount that was the only perk of a crappy retail job.

I used to buy several CDs a week.  Let’s say for the sake of conservative estimates that I bought three CDs a week with my discount.  Let’s take the same $4 discount used in the example above, with Ontario’s 13% sales tax.  That’s $0.52 of tax now added.  $0.52 per CD on three CDs a week, multiplied by 52 weeks:  That’s $81.12 a year of brand new taxes, enough to buy several albums instead.

Conservatives are accusing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of exploiting Canadians who can least afford it. Lisa Raitt, Conservative Deputy Leader, said the government is “picking the pockets of minimum wage earners.” Finance critic Pierre Poilevre says the tax will “target those who can least afford to pay more”. Other commentators have noted that staff discounts will need to be rigorously tracked for taxation.

It is true. At the Record Store, a manager would simply ring in the staff sale with discount. Now, copies of receipts will have to be kept, filed and forwarded to Payroll, with the original price and discount.  This will cost businesses time, but they will have no choice but to comply with whatever law takes shape.  All paperwork would have to be kept in case of audit.

If this goes through on January 1, it will stink to high heaven.

Staff discounts on a CD, or a pair of shoes, or a meal are part of the perks of working a thankless job. It’s something people can look forward to. Celebrate passing your three month probationary period with a discounted purchase.

Who is going to pay this tax, the employee or the employer? It will hurt both regardless. Employees may have to stop taking advantage of discounts and just buy less from their places of work.  Some people only buy non-essential luxury items from work (like CDs), but what about those who get a staff discount on necessities?  That’s a part of their shrinking budget.

Canadians are tired of being nickel and dimed to death with taxes. It’s hard enough making ends meet, and this tax goes after something previously held sacred. It’s not good for Canadians and we certainly hope it does not come to pass.

UPDATE:  Feds are now denying this story and say there’s no such tax coming.   Hmmm.

 

REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – Season 10 (2016)

TRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 10 (2016 Netflix)

There is a reason we missed reviewing Season 10 of Trailer Park Boys when it came out last year.  A dark cloud hung over the season.  Mike Smith (Bubbles) was incorrectly arrested on domestic violence charges; charges that were swiftly dropped.  The damage was done, and this caused Lucy Decoutere to leave the show.  Even though Season 10 was quite great, we just couldn’t produce the gumption to write it up.  Better late than never.  With this long over and resolved, let’s take a fresh look at Season 10.

As usual, much has changed between seasons at Sunnyvale.  Julian now owns the park and is happy with his two girlfriends (Bambi and Dakota — shades of Charlie Sheen here), and his own casino/bar.  The house band:  Bubbles and the Shitrockers.  Ricky runs his Drugs Store, with all the weed and edibles you can imagine.  His daughter Trinity has been raising baby Mo with Jacob Collins, proud parents now ready to get married and make it official.  All this baby stuff has made Lucy itch for another one, so she’s been getting Ricky to bang her non-stop.  J-Roc is raising his son M.C. Flurry, and has brought back a new girlfriend from Mexico.  Randy’s supervising the park, and Lahey has left.  He’s living in a camper in a park next door, and “pacing” his drinking.  He’s using a breathalyzer to keep himself at a steady 0.120 blood alcohol level…but does he have the discipline to maintain that?

There’s a new three-headed nemesis in town.  Fresh out of jail is former park owner Barb Lahey, and she has backup.  Donna/Don (Leigh MacInness) has also been hardened by jail time.  And they’ve brought the tough-as-nails Candy (Candy Palmater), with her bright pink baseball bat to make sure they get their way.  They are determined to get the park back, and it looks like they have the legal means to do so.  So now the boys need lawyer money.

It’s illegal schemes again, one involving ripping off a former caveman, now “Denture King”.  This side-splitting sequence will leave you wondering how far they’re willing to go to save the park.  They need money bad.  Julian’s been letting everyone drink for free at his bar, and nobody’s paying the lot fees.  Finally Julian decides to turn Sunnyvale into a “all-inclusive” vacation resort.  Bubbles puts together an online ad, which goes viral and catches the attention of Jimmy Kimmel himself.

The first half of Season 10 is actually a little dull.  It’s a bit of the same old, same old.  Breaking the law, almost getting caught.  Bad luck and dumb fuck-ups.  Once the special guests arrive, the season takes on a whole new life.

 

A fleet of gangsta cars pulls into the park.  It’s Snoop Dogg, Doug Benson, and Tom fucking Arnold!  Snoop and Doug are there for the “all you can smoke” weed, but Tom has come for the superfan experience.  Turns out he’s a huge fan of the show (remember, Trailer Park Boys is a “documentary” on Julian!) and has a bucket list of things he wants to do at Sunnyvale:  driving the Shitmobile, sleeping in Bubbles’ shed, and banging Lucy!  “I can’t believe it!  We’re in Sunnyvale fucking Trailer Park!  I’ve seen every episode of your show, man!  It’s even shittier in real life!  I love it!”

As for Ricky, he’s happy just to “get high as fuck with Snoopy Doggy Dogg Dogg”!

As you can imagine, the presence of Snoop and his posse leads to many hilarious scenes and encounters.  Will J-Roc lose his shit completely upon meeting his idol?  Will Ricky be able to say Snoop’s name right?  The one thing fans would have expected out of a Snoop Dogg guest shot is seeing him rap with J-Roc or Bubbles, and you won’t be disappointed.  Episode 8 “The Super Bling Cowboy” has the musical scene you’ve been hoping for.  In fact it’s safe to say that Season 10 changes completely upon meeting Snoop.  The arc of the season takes a back seat to the guest stars, and some of that big star millionaire money might resolve a few plots.  However, at the same time, there is some ambitious writing going on.  Early on, we learn that Jim Lahey has a secret that he’s been hiding all along, that only Barb knows about.  This secret provides Barb some blackmail leverage, but it’s also setting up a storyline that will run for at least three seasons including this one.  Jim’s secret was explored in Season 11, but not fully resolved, presumably leaving it to also impact Season 12, coming in 2018.  (Post your fan theories in the comments!)  This kind of multi-season story arc has never been attempted on Trailer Park Boys before.

Keeping a show like the highly formulaic Trailer Park Boys fresh can’t be easy after 10 years.  Snoop, Doug Benson and Tom Arnold helped distinguish Season 10 as one of the most fun.  You can always count on Ricky, Julian and Bubbles to put themselves in some pretty ridiculous situations, and usually drag everybody else into their web of shit.  The guest stars offer a temporary pause to that, and allow our characters to have a bit more fun than usual.  And when they have fun, so does the audience.  However the ending has a sad note, accompanied by a familiar melancholy song.  It’s a strangely emotional denouement.  “There’s a voice, that keeps on calling me.  Down the road, where I always seem to be.  Every stop I make, I see my old friend…”

Maybe tomorrow, they’ll want to settle down…in the end, it’s about the characters, who are just a big family we’ve now known for 10 seasons.  Randy said it best:

“I love you Ricky!  I love you like a brother. I don’t like you at all, but I love you!”

4/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Trailer Park Boys – Season 11 (2017)

TRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 11 (2017 Netflix)

Thank you Netflix for saving the Trailer Park Boys.  It hasn’t been smooth sailing, but ever since the Boys returned to Sunnyvale with the excellent Season 8 (remember Orangie?), the show has continued unhindered by cast defections.  Season 11 is the first without Lucy Decoutere (Lucy) and Jonathan Torrens (J-Roc).  After already losing such favourites as Trevor (Mike Jackson) and Ray (Barrie Dunn), I can understand why some fans may have said enough’s enough.  Every show has its peak.  For some that would be the first three seasons of Trailer Park Boys.  For others, we have rolled with the changes.  Not all fans were unanimous in the acceptance of newer characters such as Col. Dancer, Don/Donna, and Candy.  For this season, those characters have been dropped.  The core park residents are now Ricky, Julian and Bubbles accompanied by Randy, Lahey, Sarah, Cory, Jacob and Trinity.  Little baby Motel is around, as is Barb Lahey.

Continuing a storyline from Season 10, Julian has vanished.  Bubbles is doing well now, having gone legit selling his own brand of organic pizza sauce.  It’s a hit, and a restaurant owner is willing to pay wholesale.  He has the whole park working together growing vegetables, contributing to the well-being of Sunnyvale and its residents.  All is well, but Bubbles does miss Julian.  Jim Lahey is sober and supervising, having truly changed this time.  He and Randy are planning to get married, while Randy is vying to get on the police force.  The absence of Lucy and J-Roc is explained satisfactorily.

When Ricky and Bubbles (now mobile with his own little truck) discover that Julian is now a lobster fisherman (or is he?) living in a shipping container, they go to confront him.  Ultimately, Julian’s return brings what it always does:  crime back into the park.  Snoop Dogg calls and wants weed, and lots of it.  Julian decides to hijack Bubbles’ pizza sauce business and convert it to a grow op.  As usual, Bubbles is driven near to the breaking point as the stress builds.

In Season 10, there was a revelation that Lahey may in fact be Ricky’s real father.  This is fully addressed in Season 11, via a lightsaber dual (hockey sticks and brooms subbing in for laser swords) and dialogue taken directly from The Empire Strikes Back.  Director Bobby Farrelly (Bobby fucking Farrelly!) must be given credit for the perfect Star Wars homage in Episode 4, “Darth Lahey”, right down to the action beats.  Brilliant stuff — a highpoint episode for this show.

There are cameos by celebrities and past characters. Look for Susan Kent from 22 Minutes, and NHLer Nathan MacKinnon, first overall draft pick and rookie of the year.  A few old adversaries have returned as well, to cause problems for our three lovable idiots.  Speaking of idiots, Ricky and Julian manage to bring the stupidly to new levels, but simultaneously, Ricky has a Yoda-like ability to trick cops.    Meanwhile, they have also managed to keep up with modern technology.  Cell phones, cameras and GPS now figure into the plots.  There are references to the Walking Dead and changing times.  This manages to keep the series feeling fresh.

After 11 seasons, it is understood that a show rarely hits the highs it once did.  Season 11 is a worthy effort; not in the Top Five, but certainly good enough at this point.

4/5 stars