Nice post of niceness

OK, I’m officially on an upswing this week. Found a pair of slinky jeans that fit perfectly and everything. Down two sizes from last year’s purchase, too. Turning thirty-eight? Hah! I laugh at turning thirty-eight!

Well, alright, I don’t really. But the jeans definitely helped. So did the cute sneakers – do they still call them sneakers? I just realised I may with one word have completely undone all the jeans’ good work. Excuse it please. They’re New Balance, and according to the endearingly typical salesdude @ Athletic World they’re ‘very ergonomic fit, good for the high-intensity urban environment’. Translation: I’m all kitted out for the summer’s hiking. Which is nice.

So is the response I just got from my very nice former PopMatters editor re: my most recent feature submission: he definitely remembers me, and will be pleased to take a look at my essay ASAP. This, of course, being the flat print version of “OMIGOSH HE REMEMBERED ME! I TOTALLY DID NOT EXPECT THAT! DO THEY REALLY DO THAT?!”
…aaaaaand the sophistication level slips another notch. I don’t care. Frankly at this point I am not even really worried about the article getting in or not – although it would be huge if it did, don’t get me wrong – I am just so pleased to be remembered. Makes me feel all…professional, and stuff.

Meaanwhile, the plotting ideas for finishing the sci-fi novel keep on keepin’ on, popping into my head apace. Apparently, my subconscious really wants to revisit this thing, so I guess the Grand Sweeping Epic of Everything will have to wait a bit. Sorry, anybody who was waiting breathless.

Last but definitely not least, it came time for my bimonthly flash of renewed interest in Kalan Porter, ex-Idol moppet and current…baby-faced blond dude with big china-blue eyes and some stubble. There’s a ways to go yet, is all I am saying, deliberately ironic blogging or no. Still, they did pose him with a glass in his hand for the scanned article I read, and there doesn’t seem to have been any angsting in the fandom about a possible drink problem as a result, which I think qualifies as serious progress.

(I, on the other hand, have regressed dreadfully. Because I now cannot get out of my head the impulse to pop in and start some angsting, just for giggles. I think my next rant post will have to deal with how fandom rots your brain.)

Anyway, in the article Kalan describes his new music as ‘kind of synth-pop…fun…very uptempo’. Now, as has been chronicled elsewhere, I adore synth-pop. Have done for years. Always assuming Kalan is talking Thompson Twins and not Aqua – the emphasis on ‘fun’ is especially worrisome – but that’s a risk I am prepared to take. Go ye forth into the world and tweak those keyboards, KP. I may yet realise my dream of hearing the Weird Scathing Angst factor performed deliberately, rather than frantically wishing it there myself in an effort to salvage coolness points.

Now, to bed…perchance to dream of the Niceness Wave spilling over Finance. “Why, yes, you can have this new vendor record # processed overnight! Urgent purchase orders approved without budget dollars available? No problem, our pleasure!”

Post of Canadian Idol-ness

It’s been a long time since I’ve done one of these, isn’t it? And now, not liable to again. I was feeling rather wistful about the whole situation – the way you do, when you hear the fate of a friend long past – until I happened to catch judge Zack Werner’s reaction. Something about howbitterly ironic it was that the show was being canned as too expensive, when it’s in just this sort of economy that kids need dreams to hold onto.
Er, yeah, Zack. Not to worry; they can always still aspire to be contestants on Don’t Forget the Hits! And there, they’ve a chance to be paid real money.

Anyway, I dragged out my old home-made ‘Best of CI2’ CD as part of the total music overhaul, inspired by Brian Melo’s version of Karma Police from CI5. It’s worth a download, mostly; Melo’s rock voice sounds authentic, and I was heartened to learn that he and the bubblegum factory have since parted ways.

As for CI2…oy. Remember I said I wasn’t particularly embarrassed by my past musical choices? Well, I lied. Shorn of the excitement of the moment, Teh Greatest CI Season Evah comes off, largely, as…how do I put this? Like you thought you were watching American TV, and it turns out it was Canadian all along.

Mind, this does have the effect of throwing the glimmers of real professionalism into high relief:

Top 32:

What I preserved
– Kalan (Lady), Theresa (Summertime), Kaleb (Water Runs Dry)
What I’d keep now – None of the above. These are three canny kids showing off their vocal tricks for the voters; that’s all. Kaleb probably gives the closest thing to an actual performance.

Top 10:

What I preserved– Kalan (Born to Be Wild), Theresa (Good Mother), Elena (Mary Jane)
What I’d keep now  – Theresa. No idea how I put up with Elena’s shouting for even this long, anymore. Meanwhile, Kalan’s developed a serious case of Johnson novelty syndrome: it’s not so much that he’s performing well, as that he’s performing it at all.

Top 9:

What I preserved– Jacob (Space Oddity), Kalan (House of the Rising Sun)
What I’d keep now  – Both, unreservedly. They are collectively the reason us Canucks were all "Our Idol is better than yours, nyahhh!" at AI all season. (Although I do wish Kalan would just record the damn song already so I can get a version clear of all the SCREEM!s.)

Top 7-Finale under the cut…

Have you seen the world’s been falling down?/I know you’ve got the time to care…

So I ran the semi-something Google checkup on Kalan Porter this afternoon – why yes, it is kinda boring waiting around for the new processes to kick in gear after the office reorg, however could you tell?

At any rate, there’s still no news of fresh music-making; kinda disappointing. Especially in light of the award SOCAN handed him…well, today, actually. Looky that, for a brief (and somehow vaguely disturbing) moment I’m current with the Porterverse once again. In this nostalgic mood, I rejoice to discover that an award is ‘really nice because it kind of keeps you going’; way to chat up the leading lights of your industry, there, boyo. What were you planning on doing if this honour didn’t pan out, pre-law? Lawn & garden maintenance?

Yeah. Because I was idly fiddling with my iPod just after this discovery – why, yes, the new commute does double as an hourlong Great Industrial Wastelands of Southern Ontario Tour 2008, why do you ask? – anyway, as it turns out Wake Up Living, the CD from whence this honour springs, is still on there, and I was in a heard-everything-else sort of mood, so gave it a relisten. You know, interesting to see what’s emerged from the mists of obscuring adoration and all that.

OK, bad idea. Most of it is patently dreadful, of course, in exactly the manner suggested by the quotes in the article – a beautiful voice repeatedly banging up against banal cliches. I am thinking now that they didn’t provide the lyrics on the CD liner because they were hoping to cadge a few more months’ sales off discreet fudging on lines like ‘Before I let this sinking ship go down/And I watch you swim away’.
Mind, with our boy here it doesn’t even have to be all that discreet. In fact, it’s to his real credit that the thing contains lyrics at all, beyond “Hi there, potential CD purchaser! I’m Kalan, and you really kind of keep me going. Unless you happen to be male of course…I mean, not that there’s anything wrong with that idea, it’s just that…”

Yeah. I did say ‘most’. There is Hurray. There is Try, the still-passable Beatles pastiche, and there is the fragile elegance of Out of My Head, which is based off real emotion and thus always to be respected. Also, over in a different part of reality, there is the amusing Run Run Run, in which our Earnest Young Musician takes a random unexpected holiday from trying so damn hard. Just mucks around in his own earnest young psyche for awhile: ‘Do you ever stop to think about lines that run, run, run?/And fall past each other on the edge…’

The thing is, that song is in its way most intelligent thing on the CD – even more so than Hurray – because here the wit is somehow incorporated right into the standard Lite-FM drivel, transmuting the whole into…well, assuming you’ve listened to one too many Bob & Ray routines and do a nice line in wishful thinking to boot, it sounds an awful lot like subtle satire.

There’s still promise there, somewhere. I said once that I’d love to see Kalan follow in the manner of Franz Ferdinand, and got some awfully funny looks – but to me this is where the boy’s real talent has always lain, in riding that same razor-fine line between loving homage and sly parody (the snappy-suit thing is a nice bonus).  Awareness without anger…or even much awareness, I suspect. How exactly do you convince somebody to be snarky for their own good?


I know I ought to be updating more often lately, but honestly, even for the (inexplicably) dedicated readers this blog has, there’s not much percentage in it that I can see. Life is just sort of puttering along – rather like the weather – here @ Shoe Central. Partly interesting, with a 40% chance of amusing overnight.

I did get my Bob & Ray CDs, but would imagine by now that even the most dedicated readers – say, the top one or two – don’t want to sit through another ramble on that subject. Let us just say that I’m having a wonderful time, especially with the ep in which the guys take off on ‘modern radio sales techniques’ that sound rather alarmingly like, well, modern sales techniques.  (“Hello Dave! My, your hair looks so natural and un-patent-leathery!”).

Also, I really must praise the Old Time Radio Archives generally. Barring a mild contretemps with their PayPal page – near as I can figure out, it kept resetting cookies, until I was ready to sob with the sheer frustration of trying to give somebody money for a random set of CDs – their conduct was prompt, professional and polite throughout.
They even tossed in a free Milton Berle CD, which was nice of them. I have no idea what I’m going to do with it, mind you (offer it as a premium to my last remaining reader?) but the thought was there. The problem is, my concept of Berle comes largely from one evening when Shoemom threw one of her periodic nostalgia fits and made us kids sit through some TV variety retrospective or another. Yeah, apparently Ed Sullivan’s ubiquitousness extended all the way out to rural Niagara Falls.So anyway, there I was, chuckling dutifully, when all of a sudden this…uh…look, it had a dress on, that was rumpled in all the wrong places – very, very wrong – and its eyes were bugged way out. That’s all I remember. That’s all my brain could process, before Shoemom explained it was ‘good ol’Unca Miltie! Never missed his show!’. And parents wonder how their children come to view their genetic material with deep suspicion. We won’t even get into the whole ‘Howdy-Doody fan and proud of it!’ speech. More

Summer breeze/makes me feel fine…

Google News is a wonderful thing. Sometimes, when I happen to think of it, I type in the names of a few old media crushes and see what’s going on. Not that I’m nostalgic for the crush, exactly; but it is reassuring to find out that they haven’t yet been reduced to dog food commercials, or anything. Tom Everett Scott for instance, he’s had a pleasant run. I must try and catch that Law & Order finale.

Thus I also learned this evening that one Richard Kalan Porter was up for nomination as Alberta’s Greatest Citizen. I like that. In a world that seems entirely made up of pressing concerns these days, It’s great to know that one small corner of Canada is still drunk on money and having a good time running pointless civic contests.

Otherwise, there doesn’t seem to be much going on in re: the bishonen Idol moppet. No mention of a new album in process, or any new music at all come to that. Then again, no mention of any of his family members coming down with life-threatening illnesses, either. So I’m guessing he’s pretty content with his 2008 thus far.

Me, I’m having a great time in the first real summery weather Toronto’s had in a month – yes, I know it’s still technically spring. You want me to come over there and start carping about the Winter From Hell again?

Anyway, Shoemom is down East at a family funeral this weekend – that would not be the great part – but yours truly has just completed a five-hour urban hiking circuit and is in decidedly mellow mood this evening, contemplating the result.
It all started with a mad desire for more saltwater taffy from this little candy shop I know on the Danforth…and about halfway down Yonge abruptly mutated into a panicked quest to stop by the Bay and make sure I remembered to hand off the non-ad signage (long week, even longer story).

Once that was polished off (phew!) I betook me across the valley. Several random ‘hey, that little side street looks shady…’ decisions later, I ended up on photo safari through the gardens of Rosedale, my own private fairyland, lying as sweet and calm as if it had never even heard of concern, over work or anything else. Nothing can ever be pressing anyhow, in a summer twilight.

Then I emerged and sat for awhile, near Yonge again, in the shade of some maidenhair trees and watched a little Scottie dog play in a reflecting pool, barking ecstatically whenever the moderne fountain design dumped the water over his head….and so home at last, tired and hungry, to a warm bubble bath and a big plate of butter chicken. Oh, and saltwater taffy for dessert.

It was a really lovely day.

From somewhere back in my long ago

In the interval between soaking up the goodness from my last writing project and deciding what to tackle next – as I understand it, a common problem among your neophyte literary geniuses –  I suddenly got all nostalgic for my first writing project again.

Or, more specifically, I got really really bored at work the other day, decided to check in on Brian Melo, the latest Canadian Idol, then immediately wished I hadn’t. Suffice it to say, boyo’s sales to even date, here @ Hbc at least, are just over Kalan Porter’s ditto in one week. Pre-Christmas week, but still. And I really don’t have any particular reason to believe they’re more impressive elsewhere.

I was going to go on to run comparisons to Hedley’s latest, but decided that the karma police have been thorough enough in re: those Juno ads without me contributing to my own torture. Memo to Canadian music industry: Reveling in your success is one thing; rubbing a fair chunk of your market’s nose in it is something else again. Possibly a source of legal action, if I can prove that’s the reason the cats race from the room every time Jacob starts yowling…

…where were we? Oh yes, nostalgia. Naturally this whole thing sparked off a series of ‘Whither CI?’ reflections – don’t laugh, there was a time when music lovers of general goodwill really believed they were onto something cool, here. Didn’t help that there was no decisive crushing blow administered to those hopes…although it could be argued that hanging on after the aforementioned Porter’s CD debut represented a clear triumph of affection over good sense.

That was the really cruel bit; people with no clear notion of how the music industry works came flocking to the banners, convinced TPTB couldn’t do otherwise than recognize the specialness of the adored winner, and then…well, then they did. A sort of relentless drip-drip-drip of corporate philosophy, eating the idealism away. Or reinforcing the lack, in the minds of those already disposed to be cynical; or even creating stubborn denial in the minds of those who refused to believe in anything but destiny. Because, y’know, that’s what music industry types do…no, not fulfil destinies.

So does the overwhelming yawn of non-support for the latest Canadian Idol mean the majority have finally figured it out, and are turning away in disillusionment? I dunno. Certainly counting on that factor, in re: reality-TV audiences, is historically a dangerous gamble, given that the genre still thrives. It’s lost some significant chutzpah, to be sure, but the basic assumption that if you film Tori Spelling long enough, people will watch, hasn’t yet been questioned.

People don’t, as a general rule, mind being played for intellectual suckers, so long as they don’t have to actually pay for it. Sure, the Idol ratings may drop a little as the lack of real quality becomes obvious; but can you think of a better concept to fill CTV’s summer weeknights? This is how AI’s survived several mediocre seasons, and CI will probably limp along in its wake for awhile yet. Hey, I may even tune in, if only to see how long the judges can keep trotting out the ‘relevant’ speeches with a straight face.

No one ever gets there/But you can try…

So I got far enough in my grand scheme of revenge – you remember, the one where I flit back onto the Kalan Porter fan forums just long enough to post a link to the PopMatters article and “Who’s unreadable now, hey?! Hah-hah-hah-hahhhhhhh!” – to try and sign back up. But the confirmation email hasn’t come thru after two days, so I guess I’ve been fairly thwarted.
Probably this is a good thing, as choosing the username ‘shoebox2’ indicates I’m not exactly cut out as a master criminal anyway. I feel a little bad, thinking of all the people whose nominations I’ve now permanently scotched just because they might think some variant of ‘shoe’ would make a cool username. Sorry, guys.

As penance I will just mention that I did finally check out the most recent video on [info]shing_ ‘s blog – the one that offered Single, tambourines and Michael Jackson all in one go – and boy it did not disappoint. In fact I submit this to be the most original piece of film ever captured of an ex-Idol anywhere, unless somebody can finally unearth that long-promised footage of Clay Aiken kicking puppies.

Frankly it has the potential to revive my Porter fanhood in something very very close to its former glory… assuming he fulfils my fantasies of performing it just once more, this time without lyrics at all, just the tambourine and that half-interested smirk. After which he becomes a practitioner of Kabbalah, also a vegetarian, and upon returning from retreat – having made headlines by dragging with him a girlfriend whose name he has tattooed on his bicep, and who was trying to sneek controlled substances through Customs – records a CD consisting of  the most whacked-out pretentious electronica ever, the kind where the videos involve ironic homages to classic children’s stories, and I will promptly march right out and buy fifteen copies I do solemnly swear.


Meanwhile. It’s been quite a week here @ Shoe Central. Thus far I’ve been concentrating on the good bits, which have been mindblowingly good no question…but there comes a time at which you have to put aside pleasant daydreams and start focussing on the stuff that matters. Either that, of course, or you have to find better daydreams. In an odd way, the current job situation promises quite a bit of both, over the next while. More

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