Soundcheck Sunday: The 1975


I took a flyer (by accident — don’t buy stuff on your iPhone with clumsy fingers, kids) on this album based entirely on this track, and I have to say I wasn’t disappointed. This is one of the most interesting, unique-sounding records I’ve heard in a very long time — it reminds me a lot of the first time I heard Youth Lagoon, in that it’s great stuff that sounds weirdly familiar but you can’t figure out why. As influences, The 1975 cite artists as diverse as Michael Jackson and Sigur Ros, so… yeah. It sounds a lot like that.

Soundcheck Sunday: Gary Numan

“My Breathing”

Everyone once in a while I run across people surprised that Gary not only isn’t dead, but is also still releasing new albums and touring. I’ve only seen him once, in a terrible shithole of a venue in Vancouver (that isn’t there anymore) with an idiot at the mixer board, but it was still a pretty cool show — the fact I went with more or less the biggest Numan fan in the universe and we ended up standing in the back alley drinking while chatting with Gary probably made it more interesting.

Getting to yes

One of the most provocative pieces of writing I have come across in the last few years is Twisty Faster’s zany consent scheme. This is the sort of post where you start out thinking, “What?! No.” and then end up realizing that no only does it make perfect sense but also that you should probably try working towards creating a world where it is the norm. Twisty’s argument, basically, is that the current framework around consent and sex is backwards — sex is consensual until someone says “no.” In her opening paragraph, she points out the problem with this:

Although this condition does not obtain with regard to any other crime you can think of, when it comes to rape, women are currently considered to exist in a state of perpetual “yes!”. This is because “yes!” is consistent with global accords governing fair use of women. Victims of robbery or attempted murder don’t have to prove that they said no to being robbed or murdered; the presumption is that not even women would consent to being killed. But because penetration by males is what women are for, if we are raped we have to prove not just that we didn’t say yes, which is impossible to prove, but that we specifically and emphatically said no, which is also impossible to prove.

Her “wacky” solution is to spin this around:

According to my scheme, women would abide in a persistent legal condition of not having given consent to sex. Conversely, men, who after all are constantly declaiming that their lack of impulse control is a product of evolution and there’s not a thing they can do about it, would abide in a persistent legal state of pre-rape. Women can still have all the hetero-sex they want; if they adjudge that their dude hasn’t raped them, all they have to do is not call the cops.

This is the point where you can usually hear all the men screaming about how unfair it is they might end up getting tagged as a rapist after the fact. To which my reply is, “Then maybe you shouldn’t engage in dodgy sex with women who might have some reason to feel they didn’t consent to it.” Hey now — it turns out the way to not be a rapist is to not rape women, and the way to ensure you never get accused of being a rapist is to never put yourself in the position of maybe kinda sorta possibly being one. The murk that exists out there on this point is not an unavoidable consequence of human interaction; it’s there because a certain kind of guy wants his actions to be obscured (or at least deniable). Twisty says that her scheme would force men to align their boinking habits appropriately, and I suspect she’s probably right.

The logic here is undeniable. After you think about this for a while, it actually becomes infuriating that the world doesn’t already work this way. So it was really exciting to see that California has enacted a law that does exactly this. “The new law seeks both to improve how universities handle rape and sexual assault accusations and to clarify the standards, requiring an “affirmative consent” and stating that consent can’t be given if someone is asleep or incapacitated by drugs or alcohol. “Lack of protest or resistance does not mean consent,” the law states, “nor does silence mean consent. Affirmative consent must be ongoing throughout a sexual activity and can be revoked at any time.”” Well hey! How about that? OK, it applies to educational institutions in California, but it’s a start.

The usual suspects — and by that, I mean the brigades of men who need to comment on these kinds of stories — are making a huge fuss about how this is the death of romance and it’s deeply unsexy and it requires all kinds of notarized depositions about cons– you know what, shut up. Free advice: If you’re having sex with someone and there’s any inclination that the other person isn’t into it, STOP AND ASK QUESTIONS. That’s all there is to it. Be a person, have a soul, treat the other person as a person and not as a masturbatory aide, and you won’t be accused of being a rapist under these guidelines. It’s real simple.

This isn’t perfect. It applies only to California’s public universities, for one, and it relates to administrative proceedings, not criminal law. But what you’re seeing here is a wholesale change in rape culture — it’s the first step in recognizing that consent for sex, like consent for most things, is an affirmative process and acknowledges that the bodily autonomy for women is no longer negotiable (or subject to the whims of horny dudes). It’s a huge step in the right direction, and California should be applauded for it.

Public service announcement

CBC: WestJet charges $25 for checked bags in economy:

WestJet is now charging economy-fare customers $25 for their first checked bags on flights within Canada and to the U.S.

The fee applies to any new bookings starting Monday, for travel as of Oct. 29. The Calgary-based airline says it expects only about 20 per cent of its customers to be affected by the new fee.

This is your periodic reminder that the “low cost” part of “low cost carrier” refers to the carrier’s costs, not yours. Thank you for your attention in this matter.

Shorting yourself

Richard Aboulafia:

Executives who think we live in a Soviet economy draw bad conclusions. “We can’t seem to get any more $22,000 a year pilots to meet our needs! Our competitors are paying $26,000 per year, and they’re winning. There’s a pilot shortage!” Or, even stranger, “People aren’t willing to get an engineering degree to start a career in aerospace with the constant risk of being fired. There is an engineer shortage!” Or strangest of all, “We were paying $5 per pound for Material X. We’re now paying $6. There’s a shortage of Material X!”

Most of these executives aren’t idiots. Sure, by whining about a “shortage,” they’re being incredibly passive about their business, but most are just looking for a handout. They’ve done the math, and even though more experienced pilots, engineers, and machinists are more capable, it’s more profitable to employ lower paid new starts. Yet working conditions and wages often aren’t good enough to get these. That’s where government comes in. Training subsidies are a popular way for state and local politicians to support industry. Even at the national level, President Obama has proposed a government/industry scheme to train 10,000 new US engineers each year. As a 51-year old mid-career market analyst, I’m deeply grateful that nobody is thinking of a government program to train hundreds of new market analysts every year.

Remember this the next time someone whines about how hard it is to find good help.

Soundcheck Sunday: Rose Cousins, Ruth Moody, and Jann Arden

Sadly, they’re not together. Wouldn’t that be awesome? Who do I have to bribe to make that happen? Ahem.

There’s a new Rose Cousins album out! OK, it’s only an EP, and it’s only got two original tracks, but it’s an excellent little snack while we wait for a real new album. The real treats are the covers of Gordon Lightfoot’s “If You Could Read My Mind” and Tina Turner’s “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” Unfortunately there don’t seem to be any of the tracks up on YouTube yet, and I don’t have time to violate copyright on my own, so (1) go buy the EP and help support Canadian music, and (2) please enjoy this version of “By Way of Sorrow” (originally by Julie Miller) as performed by the Wailin’ Jennys:

It’s been a good few weeks for music. Back at the end of August I found out, on about three hours notice, that Ruth Moody was playing at the Butchart Gardens. Ruth’s come to Victoria at least twice since last fall and I’ve missed all the shows, so it was really cool to discover, with very little time to prepare, that she was playing and I could actually make it. I was happy we made the effort: it was my son’s first concert, he did really well despite only being nine months old, and listening to great music while sitting on the grass on a pleasant late summer’s evening — I’m hard pressed to think of what might have been a nicer way to spend a couple hours. (Well, strictly speaking I can think of a nicer way to spend an evening, but I don’t have a night rating.) Ruth and her band did a nice mix of tracks from “The Garden” and “These Wilder Things,” along with a couple of covers, and she was kind enough to give the stage over to her band to let them play some of their own stuff. It’s not often you find yourself wishing the band would play more than the frontman or -woman, but in this case I was really impressed with the talent they showed, and when I learned that some of them were coming back to play their own shows later in the week I was disappointed when my schedule didn’t allow me to see them.

Ruth Moody is, by the way, really nice — at least by meet-the-artist standards. We had a pleasant chat about how she likes playing in Victoria, and she signed a copy of “The Garden” for my son to commemorate his first trip to see live music. I doubt he’ll ever care — by the time he’s old enough to understand we likely won’t own any devices to play CDs — but I care, and it was a nice thing.

Thursday was the show I’d been waiting for since back in the spring: the inaugural performance of Jann Arden’s new tour. Now, I ran out and bought “Time For Mercy” was back in (OH MY FRICKING GOD) 1993, so you might be inclined to think I was excited because it was time for #janntour. Nope. I uncomplainingly shelled out $80/ticket so I could see Rose Cousins play as the opening act. It’s the third time since 2012 I’ve seen Rose play live, and the first time since the early 1990s that I went to a show specifically to see the opener. In that case, I bought Bruce Cockburn tickets even though I wasn’t, and am still not, a huge Bruce Cockburn fan; I wanted to see the woman who was opening for him, who was… Jann Arden. So there’s a nifty kind of symmetry that I didn’t even realize until just now.

It pleases me that Rose is playing in front of bigger and more diverse audiences; Jann’s fans are probably predisposed to like someone like Rose, even if they’ve never heard of her. The last couple of shows in Victoria might have had a combined audience of 60 people, so seeing her with a full house at the Royal was different. She’s an absurdly talented musician, who deserves every accolade and then some (seriously, Canada, get with the program here and go buy her records already), and her live shows are a glorious combination of sad music and stand up comedy. At the same time, I sort of wonder whether a full set at the Royal would be the same as the sets I’ve seen her play in the smaller venues: there’s something intimate and close and friendly about those tiny shows, and although I’d love to see her ascend to giddy heights of fame I’d be a bit sad if I had to see her with a couple hundred other people.

The intimacy of the other venues produces some interesting side effects. After being dragged to a couple of shows where I would skip out and head home afterwards, K. had had enough. “You’re at least going to say hello,” she told me, and so it was that I found myself at intermission standing by the merch table waiting for Rose to come out. Eventually, K. introduced herself and then me: “This is my husband. He’s… a bit star-struck.” Rose looked at us, and said, “I’ve met you guys before, right?” “No.” “Well, I’ve at least seen you at the other shows here, right?” Oh shit. I gushed a bit — at my age, it’s a bit unseemly to be a fanboy of anything, but as you can probably tell I’m a huge fanboy of her music, and I said so. It was a bit embarrassing, but she seemed genuinely touched and said that it was nice to hear. I also told her that I thought she should do a live album until an all-new album is ready, and that I would Kickstart the shit out of that project. Oh, who am I kidding? I’d Kickstart the shit out of any project she was involved with.

Jann Arden has taken on an outsized role in Canadian culture over the past few years, and she’s perfect for it. I remember the early concerts and it’s pretty remarkable to see how much more comfortable she’s been with this personality she’s crafted for herself. I have no idea how much of it is her, and how much of it is an act, but it looks fucking effortless and you should be impressed with that. Thursday was the third or fourth time I’d seen her play (I’ve lost count), and the shows keep getting better and sharper and noisier, all of which is good. Jann is a deeply funny performer, in a different way from Rose, but you can totally see why the two of them are touring together right now, and how much would you want to be on that bus? During the show she managed to single out a 12-something year-old girl, and every time references to drugs or smoking or dying came up, someone handed Bella $20 (she probably went home $80 richer) — maybe you had to be there, but it was hilarious at the time. It’s stupid for me to say this because the two of them are so frequently associated in public, but she’s like a singing version of Rick Mercer with better hair — she’s just this goofy, likeable person. It’s impossible to see her live and not come away smiling. The music was the music. You know what Jann Arden sounds like. You either like her stuff or you don’t, and about all I can really say about it anymore is that it’s getting louder and more interesting.

The live show is getting more interesting, too. As with Ruth Moody, Jann has surrounded herself with some truly remarkable performers. Krystin Osborn, her backing vocalist, I sort of knew about, but the real revelation Thursday was Allison Cornell, who played a whole bunch of instruments and sang harmony on a few tracks, and the first time that woman opened her mouth my jaw hit the floor. Holy crap. I spent the rest of the show waiting to see what she’d do next, and as part of the encore I watched her and Jann and the rest of the band cover Miley Cyrus’s “Wrecking Ball” with a banjo and turn it into a kind of bluegrass thing. What the fuck. Mindblowing is about all I can really say.

Soundcheck Sunday: Lesser known Canadian acts from the 1980s

So about a week ago I found myself humming a tune I hadn’t heard in years. It took me a day to place it — Kim Mitchell’s “America”:

You know Kim Mitchell, of course. Between “Go For Soda” and “Patio Laterns,” he’s been a staple of Canadian radio for — holy crap — almost three decades now. You also probably have a very specific image of him in your mind, and it’s likely this one:


Prepare to have your mind blown. Kim doesn’t look like that anymore.

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