Thursday, 21 November 2013

The SUN Sets On Rob Ford, King Of All Media

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford (along with his equally lunkheaded City Councillor brother Doug) is literally the most famous Mayor in the world. The Council session that began the process of stripping the Mayor of most of his powers was actually broadcast live to the entire world on CNN, which has to be the first time a city council session anywhere received that kind of coverage. Can New York, Chicago or London say that? We're number one!! So there, take that all you cities with reasonably competent governance. Even San Diego's incredibly disgusting serial sexual predator Mayor Bob Filner didn't get this much press. So after getting a chance to see and hear Ford's bizarre and wildly incoherent ranting talking points first hand the question that most non-Torontonians ask is; "How the Hell did nice polite Toronto elect such an obvious jackass?"

Well, glad you asked. Actually that's kind of a complicated question, not to mention an incredibly frustrating one for those of us who predicted that the Ford Brothers were the barbarians at the gates. I could point out the simple fact that since Toronto was forcibly amalgamated with four suburban cities (plus East York which was not really a suburb) the suburban vote has outnumbered the downtown and East York vote, and Ford's core message of snarling resentment at the "Late' Sipping, Granola Eating, Bike Riding, Corrupt, Socialist, Tax & Spend, Probably Gay, Downtown Elites" plus free subways in the suburbs was a powerful, if sleazy, vote getter. The Fords are the rampaging id of the suburbs come to power. It's a cult of personality not a coherent ideology.

The Fords claim to be fiscal conservatives but the numbers and outrageous and hyperbolic claims they make are almost all easily debunk-able lies. To-wit;

"Rob Ford single-handedly saved Toronto from bankruptcy." ~ False; Toronto was never bankrupt and our bond rating was an excellent A++

"Rob Ford is the first Mayor to balance the budget." ~ False; All Mayors in Ontario must balance the budget by law and they always have.

"Before Ford Toronto had the highest taxes in North America now we have the lowest." ~ False and false. Toronto actually had the lowest property taxes in the region. Former Tory Ontario Premier Mike Harris used to make the same bullshit claim BTW.

"Rob Ford has cut spending more than any other Mayor in history." ~ False, spending is actually slightly up, and this was before his absurd billion dollar subway boondoggle.

"There is a billion dollars in taxpayer waste and I will root it out and stop the gravy train" ~ False; Ford even hired corporate accounting firm KPMG to search for this mythical billion dollars. They didn't find much and instead ended up calling for calling for cutting such waste as libraries, zoo's, museums, housing, and my favorite, the Christmas Fund for disadvantaged kids.

"If we don't get a billion dollars in cuts we will have to raise taxes 30%" ~ They didn't get most of their cuts and taxes did not go up 30% or even 3%

"The plastic bag recycling fee costs families a thousand dollars a month" ~ For a five cent fee? That's about 20,000 shopping bags a month! Just how much frickin' shopping does that guy do? Talk about the munchies.

"I saved taxpayers a billion dollars" ~ Ford's never been able to quantify this claim and it has been debunked in great detail a number of times.

"I won the biggest mandate in Canadian history" ~ Not even the biggest mandate in Toronto history, the two previous mayors, David Miller and Mel Lastman won more than Ford's 47% in their re-elections.

"I promised subways, subways, subways and I delivered" ~ Actually he promised that those subways were going to be free, paid for by private investors that he swore were "lined up" outside his office just waiting for the green light to start digging. Turns out they don't exist so now we are on the hook for a subway vanity project that will cost more than double the previous transit plan, cover half the distance and take twice as long to build and which will only serve areas in the suburbs with population density too low to actually break even. Because you know; "Respect for Taxpayers".

"LRT's are streetcars (or even "trolleys")" ~ No they aren't damn it! They are LIGHT RAIL TRAINS. Just like subways except they are above ground for much (although not all) of their route. Do you hear me? NOT STREETCARS!! They are no more affected by the snow than the those parts of the existing subway network that are above ground, like the entire route from Victoria Park and Warden Woods (where I grew up BTW), and how often are they shut down for snow? Almost ever; that's how often. Unless the power cuts out, and that can, and has, happened even with the those nice shiny subways. Oh and by the way you know those street car-like things you see in San Francisco? Those are trolleys. Are we clear on this?

"But subways last for a hundred years" ~ This is both simplistic and irrelevant. The tunnels last for a hundred years (assuming they are maintained, which isn't free BTW) but the tracks and rolling stock still need to be replace every twenty years or so, which also isn't free. Incidentally if we are going to get hung up on this hundred year mark you may want to recall that most of the above ground rail lines that run through the city are actually more than a hundred years old.

"I'm he best Mayor Toronto's ever had" ~ Good Lord.

So the Fords have always been hucksters who pretend to preach fiscal responsibility when they actually market petty suburban resentment. We have a Mayor who openly sneers that subways will only be build in the suburbs, regardless of population density because the downtown core "has too much". We have a Mayor who complains that the downtown core has too many museums, theatres and zoos. We have a Mayor who vowed to rip up the bike lanes and streetcar tracks downtown to make room for more cars. We have a Mayor who, along with his idiotic brother actually complained (and I swear I'm not making this up) that Toronto has more libraries than doughnut shops. Needless to say this absurd claim is laughably untrue, or at least it should go without saying. None of this nonsense can in any way be considered "fiscally conservative" or even responsible. It is however the sort of boiler-plate petty jealousy you hear from ignorant douchebags in Etobicoke. Like the Fords.

The eminent political scientist Dr. Stephen Colbert coined the term "Truthiness" for "facts" that feel as if they should be true even if they aren't and Rob Ford is the master of suburban truthiness. For some reason suburbanites are particularly eager to believe that there is a vast mountain of cash hidden somewhere in the budget that those "downtown elites" have been wasting and if only Rob Ford can find it he can balance the budget, cut taxes and build free subways. It's utter simplistic bullshit of course but that message still sells. At least from the Fords, provincial Tory leader Tim Hudak has been slavishly pedaling the same talking points and slogans with fiendish single-mindedness with notable lack of success.

So Ford was always a big fat fucking liar even before we knew he he was lying about his rampant drug and alcohol abuse. So how did he get away with this? Well one factor is the media support from right wing cheerleaders like The Toronto Sun, SUN News TV and talk radio where Ford has always been a regular guest. Once he became Mayor radio station Newstalk 1010 even gave the Fords their own radio show after cancelling the previous municipal affairs show hosted by centrist Councillor Josh Matlow who had committed the cardinal sin of being far too staid, sober and even-handed. What an amateur. That's not how you do News. The Fords sure didn't make that mistake. Their weekly show became a byword for shameless pandering, lying, bragging, name calling, childish insults, threats of retaliation against political foes, simplistic talking points, bizzare digressions, inarticulate attempts at humour, and lots of football talk. Seasoned with occasional call-ins from Ford's legions of pre-screened worshipful dittoheads who sometimes actually made Ford sound somewhat reasonable by comparison. No matter what a laughing stock the show was for many people, Ford Nation (trademark no doubt pending) ate it up and the show got decent ratings.

It also gave the Ford's a platform from which to campaign for re-election (even though the 2014 campaign doesn't officially start until the end of January) that his potential opponents don't have. Ford wasn't shy about using it of course. When Scarbourgh Councillor Paul Ainsley, a former Ford ally, decided he could not support Ford's Scarbough subway boondoggle and voted against it Ford wasted little time attacking him on air. Ford also fired off a series of insulting robo-calls to Ainsley's riding. These sort of nasty attacks may be fairly common in America but they are still a little shocking in Canada, especially since the election is a full year away. It just isn't done.

Incidental aside I couldn't figure out where else to put; The producer for the Ford's radio playhouse was one Dan Jacobs whose previous job was as manager of a company that produces bedbug spray. Not sure why I pointed that out but he is now the Mayor's Chief of Staff. That's the third one since he took office. Chief of Staffs I mean, not bug spray makers. As far as I know anyway. Back to our rant already in progress.

Paul Ainsley, never thought of as a high profile Councillor, didn't take this lying down though. He fired off a complaint to the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council (CSBC) making an argument that others had been pondering but not acting on. Namely that Ford and Newstalk 1010 were acting improperly and in violation of the Broadcast Standards Act barring political candidates from hosting their own shows while campaigning, since this gives them an unfair advantage. Since Ford had repeatedly boasted he was "absolutely" going to be on the ballot in 2014 and was clearly using his show to campaign, Ainsley claimed that Ford was therefore required to take a leave of absence until after the election as previous Conservative candidates Peter Kent and Karleen Nation had done in the past. (An aside here, if the media is so liberal why do so many of them become Tory candidates? The names Mike Duffy and Pamela Wallin come to mind as well)

Ainsley's complaint to the CBSC was not a serious threat to Newstalk 1010 since the CBSC is a toothless body that does not have the power to actually cancel a show. They can only issue a ruling to require the offending station to issue an apology and air the final ruling. However it was an embarrassment to Newstalk since they still pretend to be a legitimate news body. It would have been a bigger embarrassment if the CBSC had actually ruled in favour of the complaint, which there was no guarantee of since the election campaign doesn't officially start until next January. A copy of Ainsley's well written complaint is below;


Ainslie Cbsc Letter

It turns out the complaint will be moot since after the Ford Circus Geekshow became too much of an embarrassment for Newstalk 1010, good ratings or not. After a week in which Ford admitted to smoking crack, being a heavy binge drinker (to say the least) and drunk driving, after lying about this on air for months and calling the media "maggots" for bugging him about it. And after brother Doug Ford issued a blustery demand that the Police Chief and a Police Board Member step down or be investigated for unspecified improper acts. And after both Fords made veiled threats to out other Councillors and media for their alleged drug use. Newstalk finally decided enough was enough and cancelled the show. Of course they didn't say it that way, instead they issued a press release which blandly stated that Newstalk and the Fords had "mutually agreed" to abruptly end the show with less than a week's warning. Sort of like how Charlie Sheen and Chuck Lorre mutually decided that Sheen would rather hangout with skanks than be on Lorre's hit TV show.

So Newstalk decided, however belatedly, that having the bloviating buffoon show that is The Ford Follies was not up to their journalistic standards. But it turns out that there is somebody with much, much lower standards than even talk radio. Cue SUN News.

SUN News (aka FOX North), shameless in it's role as Pravda for the Conservative Party and a stubborn cheerleader/enabler for Ford, wasn't going to let this opportunity slide, no siree. Less than a week after Newstalk pulled the plug on Ford's radio show Sun News announced that they would be giving the Fords their own TV show to be called, wait for it, "Ford Nation". This did not come as a total surprise of course.

SUN News has become increasingly desperate in it's attempt to secure itself as Canada's version of the powerful FOX News in America. Since going on the air during the last federal election the station has been a ratings disaster, averaging a pathetic 20,000 viewers at peak times, and less than half that at off peak times, and those figures are actually nationwide. That is literally less than a local community radio station. They lost their over-the-air free TV signal soon after starting up when it was discovered that they hadn't waited to get permission from the CRTC before rushing to air (they are apparently applying again for that signal). A flailing SUN News ended up crawling back to the CRTC and demanding "mandatory cable carriage", a system that would have forced all cable subscribers to pay for the channel whether they wanted to or not.

Of course SUN News had spent the previous years viciously attacking artists and musicians who get art grants and waging a jihad against the CBC for it's taxpayer subsidy so more than a few people were more than a little outraged at the blatant hypocrisy of SUN News' attempt to mooch off their cable bills. Thousands of them wrote to the CRTC to tell them so and SUN News had their application shot down.

SUN News originally swore they would be forced out of business without mandatory carriage but months later they are still around, not that anybody watches of course, and desperate for a right wing media hero, so lo and behold The Worlds Most Famous Mayor is suddenly available. Newstalk 1010 may have discovered a few journalistic scruples but the deep thinkers at SUN News know that scruples and integrity are for for pussies. So this last Monday the Fords took their traveling freak-show to it's new home in the SUN.

So how'd it go? For two hours the Fords, along with smug and smarmy SUN News host Ezra Levant brought their greatest hits;

The media are persecuting him, again. Especially the Toronto Star who are worse than the paparazzi who killed Princess Di.

Ford has saved a billion dollars and "the left" are out to get him for it because, just cuz.

He's quit drinking so there, back off.

Rob Ford brags he spends two hours in the gym every day, which seems a little unlikely unless Jim is the name of his crack dealer.

Jack Layton hung around with hookers and Justin Trudeau is a pothead. So there. Doug Ford calls for mandatory drug tests for all government officials. Because you know, "smaller government". Rob Ford offers to take one anytime. I'm picturing a TV set with a giant monitor showing the results after a drumroll. We could have a pool, like the Lotto.

Ford is the only honest politician in Canada. I bet his Tory friends Harper and Hudak love hearing that BTW.

Ford brags that he has never missed a day in council which is of course not true.

Ford whines that he lost his football coaching job (that he regularly skipped out of meetings for) because of "politics", because everybody knows that alcoholic, rage choked, crack heads make the best coaches.

Ford brags that he's saved more taxpayer money than "any Mayor in history" but as usual he of course can't explain how. Probably because it's total bullshit.

Ford claims that those dastardly leftists of council are spending $500,000 on studying bike-lanes which is another lie but who's counting? Certainly not the Fords, or anyone else at SUN News, which is supposed to be in theory a NEWS organization.

Ford boasts that he has "built subways" even though a single shovel hasn't been in the ground yet. He doesn't point out that he promised numerous times that these subways would be built for free. They are actually going to be at least a billion dollars more than the previous mixed use plan and will cover half the distance and will take twice as long to build. Granted I am no accountant but I am pretty sure that a "billion dollars" is a tad more expensive than "free".

The Fords complain that the Police wasted tax dollars investigating the Mayor of Toronto for petty things like; smoking crack, buying crack, driving drunk, hanging out with drug dealing scumbags, paying the utilities on a crack-house, using said crack-house to make campaign phone-calls, using his tax payer funded staff to run the simplest of house-hold errands, loitering about in gas stations and school parking lots where he exchanged brown envelopes with a known drug dealer, employing said known drug dealer as a driver, apparently employing said known drug dealer to obtain that crack video (this is sometimes known as "extortion" and "obstruction of justice"), assaulting other staff members, urinating in a school parking lot and a bunch of other activities that normally belong on "Cops". Because you know; "Respect for Taxpayers"! Remember when Conservatives used to be all about "Law and Order" and "Personal Responsibility"? Me neither.

It's nothing we haven't heard a thousand times before. And as always delivered with that grating, hesitant monotone and the vague glassy eyed stare that shows that Rob Ford ain't no elitist like those commie fags Trudeau and Miller. Appalling as it was, it was also of course a huge ratings success, getting a reported five times larger audience than SUN News ever gets for any other show. "Ford Nation" was the “biggest night ever for Sun News, by a country mile,” according to SUN News president Kory Teneycke. The show's ratings attracted "155,000 viewers for its first airing, 45,000 more during a Western Canadian repeat and was downloaded an additional 65,000 times from the network’s website", he said. These are by far the biggest SUN News has ever gotten. So naturally SUN News announced the two days later that they were cancelling the show.

Wait; What, You ask? Did SUN News suddenly discover that allowing an admitted crack smoking, drunk driver and liar to use the airways to lie and hurl insults while running for Mayor might be considered unethical, not to mention undignified? Ha Ha; You're funny.

This is SUN News after all, the proud home of "Freedom Fighter" (seriously, they actually bill him that way) Ezra Levant and his race-baiting smear campaigns against Roma and Aboriginals. The equally proud home of the Holy Taxpayer jihads against the CRTC, the CBC and arts groups. Notwithstanding their own history or getting millions of dollars every year from the same sacred Taxpayers in the form of government subsidies. Not so proud that they actually want you to see any of this of course, if you try to search Youtube for back episodes of Levant's jawdropping racist attacks on the Roma. The Police actually investigated that one for Hate Speech and SUN News had to belatedly put out a half assed apology, months later, as they were going in front of the CTRC. Or try and search for Krista Ericson's insane ambush of award winning dancer Margie Gillis in which she demanded, on behalf of the Sacred Taxpayers and The Troops, that Gillis return Arts Grant money she had gotten. That one generated the highest number of CBSC complaints in history. Or Ezra Levant's previous ambush of some indie band who also got a grant which resulted in the shell-shocked band's grovelling apology and actually returning the few thousand dollars, just in time for SUN News, through their parent company QMI, to get their annual multi-million dollar taxpayer subsidy. You can try and find these clips but you won't since whenever anyone tries to post them on Youtube SUN News, a "crusading" media organization dedicated to accountability for Unions, Native Councils Arts Groups and non-Tory governments, has their lawyers file bullshit copyright complaints to have them pulled. When the CBC reported on the millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies the anti-subsidy SUN News gets each year, SUN News threatened to sue for libel, but then didn't actually file any suit. (The Fords have done the same thing several times BTW). So while they are not quite proud enough to have their sleazy "reporting" scrutinized, they were certainly proud enough to air it in the first place. Especially if it gets ratings, which the Fords clearly got. The network’s previous record was 100,000 viewers, achieved when the network had the exclusive rights to the charity boxing match between future Liberal leader Justin Trudeau and soon-to-be-disgraced Conservative Senator Patrick Brazeau in which Trudeau pounded the living snot out of the arrogant Brazeau much to the horror of the assembled Tories.

But it turns out that The Fords are truly incompetent at being media pundits. I don't mean because they are shameless liars, that's not an impediment to be a pundit of course, especially on SUN News. No it turns out that even after a few years of radio experience they are so inept that according to Kory Teneycke "taping the two-hour show took five hours, and it required another eight hours to edit". That's less time than it takes to do the "Tonight Show". So if you were wondering just how much editing it takes to make Rob Ford sound like somewhat less like a drunken, babbling idiot now you know. According to Tenyecke 'The Fords are “great TV but not necessarily great TV hosts”. Well he's certainly right about the second part anyway. Even some at SUN News couldn't resist taking shots at The Ford's wooden and glassy eyed performance with Sun News anchor Sneha Kulkarni writing in a Monday night Tweet, “Rob Ford really needs to stop looking at the table…”

Unfortunately spending an entire day on a single show means that SUN News, already a huge money loser, would end up losing even more money on the show no matter what the ratings were. This problem was exacerbated by the reluctance of some advertisers to associate with "Ford Nation". Canadian Tire for one publically insisted that their ads be pulled and the Ford Motor Company, Iceberg Vodka and even his beloved Toronto Argonauts has been particularly vocal about not wanting to have anything to do with "Ford Nation". Even actor Harrison Ford took pains to clarify that he is not in fact related to Ford Nation.

Keeping up a brave face Kory Tenyecke blithely denied that skittish advertisers had anything to do with the show's cancellation and even seemed to deny that the show was actually cancelled at all saying; "I’ve been clear both with them and the media, our commitment was for one show and then we’d see how it’d all come together.” If he means by being "clear" that he never publicly said anything like this beforehand, then yes that was perfectly clear. He also said that the Fords would definately be back as occasional pundity commentators.

Losing their radio and TV shows now denies the Fords the ability to go over the heads of the "Liberal Media" which is a real problem for their political futures. They have been all over the American media lately but they will inevitably get bored with our freak-show and move on to one of their own.

This triumphant one episode run has been lauded by some as the "shortest TV series ever" which is not technically true. For the record that honour is actually held by a late 1960's comedy show called "Turn On" which was so odd, scatter-shot and offensive to some that in some markets it was actually cancelled in mid show. Just thought you'd like to know.


After this was originally written Rob Ford went on a TV on the cable access Vision TV Chanel show hosted by former Media Baron and convicted fraudster Conrad Black for a fawning interview. Vision TV incidentally was also recently turned down for the same "mandatory carriage" package that SUN NEWS got shot down for, and has a not unrelated need for ratings. Anyway during the mutual right-wing persecution makeout session Ford snickeringly implied that Toronto Star reporter Daniel Dale was a pedophile. Dale quickly threatened a lawsuit for libel and the Fords just as quickly doubled down and insisted that Mayor MacCheese would "stand by everything he said. Since Ford has regularly threatened critics, especially The Star, with lawsuits and then backed down he probably thought Dale was bluffing. Bad move. Dale has since filed a libel suit against Ford and Vision TV (but not Black). Ford would later offer a half assed apology in which he blamed others for misleading him, blamed the media for "taking my remarks out of context" and denied implying what he clearly implied. Dale refused to accept this non-apology apology and is continuing the suit. The usually not controversial Vision has wisely kept quiet but not our intrepid "Freedom Fighters" at SUN NEWS. Naturally the Toronto SUN immediately published an editorial by Fordista Joe Warmington in which he expressed his opinion that Ford had nothing to apologize for and blamed Dale and The Star for "Piling on". He ended on a triumphant note stating that since Ford was the real victim he could play this for sympathy and get re-elected. Stay classy SUN News. Stay classy.

Two days later Ford (who had always insisted he would "stand by every word") made a more explicit apology and retraction to Dale who then immediately accepted it and announced he would drop the lawsuit against Ford. However the lawsuit remains in place against Vision TV.

Yes I realize that the Youtube clips of the Ford Show no longer work. That's because once again SUN News (supposedly a media organization with a "fierce commitment to free speech" filed yet another one of their bullshit copyright claims and had them pulled. As they do with any embarrassing footage, of which there is no shortage. I know I could simply delete the now blank screens but I figured I would leave them there as a memorial to, you know, Free Speech.

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground (1942 - 2013)

Everyone knows the quote about the Velvet Underground; "They didn't sell a lot of records but everyone who bought one started a band." That's not entirely true of course. A lot of those fans became writers and college radio DJ's instead. And therein lies part of the enduring appeal of the Velvets. They attracted the kind of fans who could and would become promoters, Hell proselytizers, for the Underground church. And so it remains.


It's easy to forget in these post punk years that back when the Velvet Underground's first album came out in 1967 there was no real underground as we know it. Bands were either successful or they were not, if they were not they did not get played on the radio, let alone TV, and they got very few gigs. Touring was out of the question. The nation wide network of small alternative clubs and promoters simply did not exist. These are all the unruly spawn of the punk and post-punk revolution of the late 1970's as it urged a thousand flowers to bloom Mao-like across North America, Europe and Australia. As are the cadre of fly-by-night zines and more co-incidentally the network of ground breaking college radio stations which sprang up in the same era. This ad-hoc network would make it possible for a willfully uncommercial band like the Velvets to actually thrive in spite of getting absolutely no attention from the mainstream music press. There are no shortage of such bands today in a variety of genres to choose from. But back in 1967 such a musical world was not even a dream. Bands like the Velvet Underground, The MC5, The Stooges, Shaggs, Silver Apples, Runaways, Red Krayola, Love, Brinsley Schwartz, Holy Modal Rounders, Gram Parsons, Hasil Adkins, Syd Barrett, Nick Drake, Van Dyke Parks, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart, Albert Ayler and The Flaming Groovies, slaved away, sometimes for years, with only small devoted cults of lonely followers and a few stubborn music writers to keep them warm. Even combined they all probably sold fewer records than Monkees. Now they are recognized as icons of the late sixties underground counter-culture. And the Velvets are their godfathers, even for those who sound nothing like them.


They didn't plan it that way, nobody did in those days. Lou Reed, the son of a conservative accountant, started off with a thoroughly conventional background scuffing around in teenage garage bands and later as a staff songwriter for a bargain-basement Tin Pan Alley song mill when he stumbled on the far more Bohemian art students John Cale and Angus MacLise and along with fellow garage band guitarist Sterling Morrison, decided to form a band. Cale was a classically trained cellist, pianist and bassist who had been an active part of New York's avant garde music seen with the likes of John Cage and Lamonte Young. As for their first drummer Angus Maclise, he was part of the beatnik art and poetry scene. He named the band before quitting to be replaced by rock's first female drummer Maureen Tucker. Reed had studied modern literature with his rock & roll and like Bob Dylan saw no reason not to blend them. Unlike Dylan he and Cale also brought the avant garde to their music as well.


The first album had the legend "produced" by Andy Warhol boldly emblazoned on it's cover but other than helping them get a record deal and designing a cover he had nothing to do with the recording. There was his one and only musical brainstorm of course, forcing the band to adopt Nico, an icy glowering Germanic chanteuse, to the mix. The resulting album was a disorienting mix of reasonably straight forward, even beautiful, if off centre ballads like "Sunday Morning", "Femme Fatale", "I'll Be Your Mirror" with jaw-dropping wall of sound epics like "Venus In Furs", "Heroin", "European Son", "Waiting For My Man", "Run Run Run" and "All Tomorrow's Parties" which pushed the boundaries of what was considered rock & roll farther than anyone had ever considered, as well as wallowing in the dark side of the Summer of Love. People were not amused. The second album went even father, discarding the bitter sweet ballads for the full-on feedback overdrive of "Sister Ray", "I Heard Her Call My Name" and the Edgar Allen Poe mini rock opera "The Gift". People were even less amused. The first album limped onto the very bottom of Billboard's top 200 for a week an then crept away, as if embarrassed. The second album sank without a trace.

While everybody else was saying "All You Need Is Love" the Velvets said that the whole happy peace and love facade was not only a mask but a scab over a festering sore of sex and rugs. They turned out have a valid point about much of that of course but nobody likes a spoilsport, especially if he might be right. In their one journey out of New York and down to the centre of the action at the time, California, the Velvets were shunned as disturbing interlopers into the laid back hippy scene. While every other band was singing tributes to pot, acid and LSD, usually in cryptic or playful ways, the Velvets were wallowing in tales of heroin and speed in coldly matter- of-fact tones. They didn't even look the part, while everybody else was in a riot of flowing colours the Velvets dressed in severe black, dark shades and dour glares. Now their look is essential to any band with artsy rebel pretensions, but at the time they were an affront to all that was utopian about the sixties. After the failure of the first two albums Cale left and Reed carried on for two more albums that tried to forge a somewhat more conventional sound, sort of like a New York version of the Byrds. Both still had some classic (and surprisingly upbeat) songs in "Sweet Jane", "Rock And Roll" "We're Gonna Have A Real Good Time", and "What Goes On" but they were no more successful than the first two and Reed gave up in frustration as the band fell apart.


Lou Reed's post Velvet's career would have many ground breaking moments like "Berlin", "Transformer" (which scored a fluke hit in "Walk On The Wild Side" which probably surprised even him) and "Metal Machine Music" which unsurprisingly scored no hits. In between were attempts at the mainstream like "Rock And Roll Animal", "Busload Of Faith" and the surprisingly upbeat "I Love You Suzanne" which had an even more surprising video in which Lou Reed proved that he could not only smile but dance. Plenty of smart people swear by these later songs and I won't quarrel but I've always been a Velvets fan first and foremost.


Someone once said that most people who bragged about listening to the Velvets (or The MC5, or The Stooges) were full of shit. Most reasonably hip people who grew up in the eighties listened to The Smiths, Cure, Clash, Siouxsie, Sex Pistols, Simple Minds, and Psychedelic Furs at best. Maybe Teenage Head if you lived in Canada. But I was actually the only person in my high school who could honestly say I really did listen to the Velvets. In 1985 it so happened that the Velvet Underground's long out of print albums were re-released along with the "VU" album of out-takes and demos. Coincidentally the very same month a different record label (Rhino of course) also re-released the classic Nuggets collection of sixties Garage Punk. This allowed music mags like Spin to run full page articles saying in essence "Hey Punk. Yeah You. You think you're so cool? Well here's were all this Punk and New Wave started. So buy these records". Naturally I ran out and did so. Keep in mind that this was before the internet so you couldn't just go on Youtube and check out a band you didn't know, you had to actually go downtown and spend you money and take your chances. Of course the fact that you went out and searched for off-the-beaten track music in small dusty record stores and had to do some reading and research helped form an unshakable bond with band like this for the few who ventured out to the outlying districts of music. That is an era that that will never quite return in the internet age. I'm not sure that instant gratification and convenience is a fair trade.


When Lou Reed died this past month he was a much revered and still active elder statesman whose cool, monosyllabic persona was as beloved as a crusty uncle. He leaves John Cale as the only surviving member of the Velvet Underground since Maureen Tucker wasn't the original drummer. Sterling Morrison died in 1995 of cancer aged 53 and Angus MacLise of complications from tuberculosis, malnutrition and dehydration in Kathmandu in 1979 aged 41. Nico died after having a heart attack while riding her bike in Ibiza and striking her head in 1988, she was 49. Cale's replacement Doug Yule is still around, as is Mo Tucker.


One of the indicators of a band's importance is the number and variety of cover songs they inspire and the Velvets have a progeny that ranks with The Beatles. A few faves are;

Cabaret Voltaire; One of the founders of Industrial Music named the Velvets as one of the few bands they would admit to as an influence, their droning, feedback drenched version of "Here She Come's Now" brought the Velvet's nascent noise-rock experiments to perfect fruition.


The Cowboy Junkies; At the other end of the spectrum it took the Cowboy Junkies to realize the gentle beauty that was the flipside to the Velvet's menace. Lou Reed himself said that it was even better than the original.


Eater; This band from the first wave of 1976 London punk bands was known mostly for their extreme youth (average age of 15) and their barely competent but energetic three chord thrash. Their version of "Waiting For My Man" is too slap-dash to approach the original's hypnotic drone of course, and it totally misses the monotony of heroin by romping through the song like it's a drunken rave-up, but damned if it isn't still catchy. Their ham-fisted version of "Sweet Jane" is pushing it too far though.


Joy Division on the other hand were perfect for the Velvet's brooding dark side and this was their only cover song, as a live track on the "Still" album. Done with a very English droll wit, especially the closing brush-off; "You should hear our version of "Louie Louie", Whoa..."

The Runaways; The Runaways were the same age as Eater but they were more musically savvy and their changing of "Rock & Roll" to a stadium rocker manages to outdo Reed's attempts to do the same thing on his bombastic "Rock & Roll Animal" album. Check out how Joan Jett brings the boogie to the original guitar riff. Oh, and Sandy West brings the cowbell. Natch.


The Scenics; This artsy first wave punk band from Toronto were obvious Velvets fanatics and they proved it by releasing an entire album of Velvet's covers including a suitably cacophonous trek through "Waiting For My Man".


R.E.M.; Known in their early years for their variety of covers including a soulful version of "Pale Blue Eyes"


Simple Minds; It's actually from Lou's solo album "Berlin" rather than a Velvet's track but the Scottish artsy New Wavers did a lovely version of "Street Hassle" on their "Sparkle In The Rain" album. Much later they did a more perfunctory version of "All Tomorrow's Parties".



Tuesday, 8 October 2013

September Songs and Tory Tax Grabs;

This past September the Conservative federal government, when it wasn't busy trying to explain it's way out of various ethical scandals, shilling for oil companies, throwing a hissy fit over Justin Trudeau's smoking pot a few times, throwing tax dollars at Rob Ford or strutting about like General Patton braying for war against Syria; quietly announced something that music fans might actually give a damn about.

They announced a new tax on international acts performing at small venues in Canada. Henceforth all acts would have to pay a fee of $275 per member, this would include not only each member of a band but also each member of their crew including drivers, merch girls, sound guys, road crew, road managers etc. Wait there's more; this tax would not be a one time entry fee that could be spread across a few promoters at a number of gigs in a multi city tour. No, this tax would be FOR EACH GIG! And one more thing, the tax would be non-refundable so that if any gigs were cancelled the promoters would still be on the hook for the tax regardless.

street musician2

So let's do the math here. Take a band, like say The Replacements, Black Flag, or Social Distortion, (who were all here in the summer) were to have four members, plus a sound guy, a merch guy, a driver and a road manager, which would not be an unreasonable crew size, the tax would be $2,200 PER GIG. If you add to this the band's guarantee which would certainly be no less than four or five grand per show you're looking at a least eight to ten grand per gig. This does not of course include the venue's own costs for staff etc. There is just no way it would be economically feasible to bring international acts to Canada anymore except for the biggest stars with a guaranteed draw who can fill large venues, which by the way are exempt from this new tax.

Oh wait; did I not mention that earlier? Yep, in their wisdom the Tories offered an exemption for the very venues that could actually afford to pay for this lunk-headed tax grab, namely large concert halls as well as symphonies, operas, ballets and theatres. This tax would therefore explicitly target the smaller clubs where most serious music fans actually see touring bands. For example I can actually count on both hands the number of large venue shows I have seen over the past twenty years. Every other of the thousands of gigs I've seen was at a small venue or club. Many of these were of international acts and it's a safe bet that most of these bands would have never came to town under this regime. Over the years I have also put on dozens of shows myself at various clubs.

It's worth noting that while this tax mostly targets music venues it would also affect small touring theatre groups as well as comedy and magic clubs and spoken word readings, although these would be affected less since those artists usually tour solo.


So what possible reason would the Tories, who can usually be counted on to self-righteously proclaim their self-proclaimed role as earnest "Tax Fighters" at any possible platform, give for dumping this shamelessly unfair and onerous tax grab on the "small businesses" they claim to represent?

Quite a few other people have had the same question and from the defensive and not terribly coherent answers we've gotten back it seems that the Tories have gotten it into their thick heads that international touring bands are "foreign workers" who are taking jobs away from good hard working Canadians. That's right according to our leaders if you are not allowed to see The Replacements, Black Flag, or Social Distortion you will have no choice but to go see some local band. Because as we all know Canadian bands are not good enough to compete with foreigners with their crafty Gibsons, Les Paul's, Marshall's and stuff.

An irony here is that Conservatives are free traders who have always ridiculed the 30% Cancon rules on radio by making the exact same argument that I just made. Now apparently they've decided we need protecting from those big bad American bands.

So what's behind the big change? As you might expect it's a combination of appalling ignorance about the music sector and crass political grandstanding, along with a typically Tory arrogant refusal to admit they came up with this half-assed policy without getting their facts straight.

First the grandstanding; Since Tories are always loud free traders who have absolutely no problem with jobs being outsourced to some low-wage, non-union, no environmental regulation place in the third world, they occasionally feel a need to prove their love for the working man by picking on an easy target close to home; the dastardly foreign worker taking away your job. In the last Provincial election in Ontario the Tory leader Tim Hudak attacked a Liberal plan to allow a fairly small group of landed immigrants with skilled labour to upgrade those skills to Ontario standards as a plan for "Foreign Workers" to take your jobs. That was a blatant lie but the right-wing media naturally ran with it using all the usual faux outrage.

More recently the banks were caught using actual foreign workers which the Tories were fine with, until the there was a less than amused public reaction which led to an empty Tory promise to get tough on the "foreign worker" scourge. Which brings to this farce.


The Tory position, ludicrous as it seems to anyone who knows anything at all about how the live music scene works, is that anytime Black Flag comes to town for example, they are taking jobs away from some Canadian band who would otherwise be headlining, cuz that's how we decide what to see. If there's nothing playing we actually want we'll settle for the local bar band. Perhaps they'll even play some Black Flag songs. That will be even better than the real thing.

At the risk of stating the obvious to these idiots; ALL BANDS ARE NOT INTERCHANGEABLE! People want to see the originals regardless of where they came from. And I guarantee you that this includes every single musician I have ever met, which is more than the entire Tory caucus. Musicians have a myriad of influences and they feed those influences by being able to see their heroes in the flesh. Something your cynical, asinine tax is designed to stop. Good musicians do not simply listen to their friend's bands, which is all this narrow-mined plan allows. Plus all Canadian bands got their start building their audiences by sharing a bill with a better known international band, thus reaching a larger following then they could have built by staying insular and isolated. In this huge country even bands which have a local buzz may be completely unknown elsewhere and unable to get a gig on their own. In a country as hard to tour as Canada this is a major issue. This is something this tax grab actively discourages. The very club scene which allows Canadian bands to tour outside their town is subsidized by having a variety of bands constantly playing both Canadian and international. This tax is a direct attack on this foundation. Furthermore Canadian bands make international contacts by playing with those bands here which can lead to tours together in the USA or Europe, how exactly do the Tories think this whole system works anyway?


Incidentally you might ask why, if it's so important to support Canadian artists they gave an exemption for symphonies, and operas? Is it because the Tories think Canadian classical music is so robust that it doesn't need any help? Or is it that this is the type of music that Tories might actually listen to and therefore worth giving a favour to?

It's entirely possible that the Tories came up with this idiotic monstrosity without thinking it through, but now we have the next problem; getting this government known for being arrogant, cynical, overly partisan control freaks, to admit they fucked up and back down. So far they've shown no willingness to do so and are instead wrapping themselves in the flag, which has been called the last refuge of the scoundrel, except when it's the first.


Thankfully the opposition has a better idea of how stupid and destructive this tax grab is, in particular NDP Multicultural critic Andrew Cash who used to be an actual musician back in the 1980's along with fellow NDP MP Chuck Angus in their respected post punk band Le'Tranger. Therefore we can assume they know first hand how the music business actually works.


On the other hand the Tories' International Trade Minister. Ed Fast, was actually a musician as well. That's right; he had a Christian Pop group with his daughters called, appropriately if unimaginatively, "Father's Daughter", who toured and recorded professionally so he should know better. So what's his excuse for going along with this nonsense? As Trade Minister he must have been consulted on this so he has no excuse for not speaking up.


This past week I did an interview with NDP MP and Multi-Cultural Affairs Critic Andrew Cash who has been sounding the alarm to those in the arts sector over this issue. Stating that;
“This extra fee is the difference between local promoters making a profit and closing up shop,” said NDP Multiculturalism critic Andrew Cash (Davenport). “This is really an attack on small businesses, and will impact not only the local live music scene but our multicultural communities who often bring international touring acts to Canada as well.”

He reiterated the basic belief that the Tories put forward this policy too quickly without considering the effects it would have on the arts sector which he points out could be easily fixed without junking the entire law as it affects the economy as a whole by simply adding in an exemption for the arts as a whole. Especially since, as has been pointed out, they already gave such an exemption to the big ticket stadium shows and "High Art" shows like symphonies, ballets and operas. In other words; those who could actually afford to pay it.

However that might mean having to admit that they made an eensy weensy mistake and we know that Stephen Harper doesn't make mistakes. So this response from Multi-Culturalism Minister Jason Kenny's office was predictable; “The vast majority of Canadians don't like the idea of foreign workers being subsidized.”

Nice to see he's really on top of things. Personally I don't much care for the millions of tax-payer subsidies that professional sports teams have always been able to extort. And then there's the millions in tax dollars that go quietly every year to QMI; the parent company that owns Sun News, the propaganda arm of the Conservative Parties, but I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for the Tories to stop that one.

At any rate in what universe are the sacred tax-payers "subsidizing" touring musicians and artists? They already have to pay an entrance and filing fees. And if this is such a burden then why an exemption for the very stadium acts and symphonies that are best able to pay?

According to a report in the Calgary Herald;

"Spencer Brown, the longtime booker for downtown venue The Palomino — which hosts a mix of local, national and out-of-country acts — was surprised by the changes, saying there was “no consultation, no warning, nothing of the sort,” and only learned of them when an agency he works with “called him in a panic” at the beginning of the month in regards to an upcoming show.
He calls the new regulations, which Minister of Employment, Social Development & Multiculturalism Jason Kenney announced on Aug. 7, “anti arts and culture” and “anti small business.”
“If I have a one four-member American band at the Palomino, I’m looking at $1,700 Canadian just to get them on the bill — and that’s on top of paying out a sound tech, paying for posters, gear rental, paying the other bands, staffing,” Brown says, explaining there have been tweaks to the LMO in the past, but nothing this drastic or, in his eyes, damaging.
“Concert promotion at this level is, in itself, a high-risk occupation. So this has just put it through the roof. There’s no way to start already $1,700 in the hole and break even. It’s impossible.”
“I don’t know if they think small venues are raking in the cash putting on bands that not a lot of people have heard of or they’re trying to keep small-time foreign bands out of the country for whatever reason,” he says, disregarding Citizenship and Immigration’s assertions that the new rules were designed, in part, “to ensure that owners and managers of those types of establishments look to hire Canadians first before hiring temporary foreign workers.”
“Me bringing in (American act) Redd Kross (Aug. 31) is not going to devastate Calgary’s garage rock scene. It’s not going to put anyone out of work. It’s going to inspire people to pick up a guitar and put out an album. The same thing when we bring in Orange Goblin from the U.K. in October, it’s not going to destroy the city’s stoner metal scene.”
In fact, argues Leanne Harrison, owner of locally based artist management and booking company SIN Agency, the opposite just might be true. As she sees it, the previous, more liberal LMO was actually a benefit to the indie artists of the country, providing them opportunities for greater exposure by performing as an opening act for mid-range international bands.
“It’s going to impact us in a lot of different ways,” says Harrison, who found out about the changes from another popular Calgary venue that will be adversely affected, Dickens Pub.
“Bigger agencies are now going to stack their tours even more with their own artists and there will be less and less opportunities for young up-and-coming bands to get what we call resume builder gigs. . . . It’s an opportunity to say, ‘We shared the stage with.’ They get in front of a bigger crowd, they can build new fans that way, they get their name out there that way.”
She also notes that if other nations follow Canada’s lead, this country’s music scene would suffer even further.
“I have bands that tour the U.S all the time,” she says. “If the U.S. started doing that to us, they’d never cross the border.”
Which, ultimately, may not only harm the artist but also those who support and appreciate live music, no matter the origin of the performer.
Harrison says that because of the new fees and regulations, she’s already seen the brakes put on one proposed western Canadian tour, that by veteran Las Vegas hard rock band Hemlock, due to the fact that some of those fall dates were in non-exempt venues. It’s hoped that it will be rescheduled for the New Year, but that would be, presumably, using only exempt rooms, if they can be found and booked at a price that makes sense to the venue, agent, artist and fan.
“There’s only so many Canadian artists, you can only tour your country so often,” she says. “If you’re limiting the international artists that we can bring in, well, to me, music is global. It shouldn’t have those kinds of doors on them.”

Remember when the Tories were the party of strident free trade? No big government barriers or interference? Me neither.

At this time their is a petition which Andrew Cash will be presenting to Parliament when ever the Tories get spare moment from ducking questions about whatever the latest scandals might be taking up all the attention. It's at;

And/Or you could fire off a letter of your own to Jason Kenny such as the one longtime Toronto promoter Richard Flohill did;

Re: New fees on foreign musicians performing in Canada
Dear Minister Kenney,
Briefly, sir, what WERE you thinking?
These unreasonable, punitive, excessive fees, instituted without any consultation with the music industry, rob Canadian audiences of the opportunity to hear, meet, and be influenced by creative musicians from neighbouring countries.
The following questions — which your aide said would be answered, but I have grave doubts that this will be the case — arise:
1) Why were these fees instituted in the first place?
2) Did you, in fact, consult anyone in the music industry before making the decision to impose these fees?
3) If you did, just which individuals and/or organizations did you consult with?
4) Do you seriously think more Canadian musicians will be employed as a result of effectively banishing low- and middle-range American artists from performing in Canada?
5) Was there consultation with Heritage Canada, and did you consider that the American authorities (who already think Canadian musicians are terrorists!) would match these fees, and thus end any reasonable cultural exchange possibilities in the popular music field? And, of course, ending the possibility that low- and mid-level Canadian artists can take their music into the United States.
6) Can these new fees be re-examined and rescinded? If not, why not?
I await your response, Minister, with bated breath. I am not, however, optimistic that a reasoned response to these questions is likely.
Richard Flohil

Personally I wouldn't wait up.

For the record I have always supported Radio Cancon and I would say that this is totally different because;
a) The airwaves in Canada are supposed to be public and since we grant licenses to radio stations for free to operate for profit it is not unreasonable to ask for something in return, like showing support for the communities whose airwaves are being used.
b) There is a limit to the number of radio frequencies in a given town and if you factor out those news/talk and sports stations there are even fewer to go around so setting some aside for a few 100% Canadian stations isn't really feasible.
c) Canadian record labels would not have survived without some radio support.
d) When radio stations were asked nicely back in the 1960's to play more Canadian artists they scornfully refused so fuck'em.

None of this applies in any way to the live music scene in Canada, as anyone with even a nodding acquaintance with music would know.

In the last few weeks I saw Pere Ubu, Big Country, Rayburn Anthony and had Robyn Hitchcock down to record at CIUT. I had no idea I was undermining Canadian music, sorry about that. But that gives me an idea for a couple of questions for our Dear Leaders.

First of all to Prime Minster Harper who famously enjoyed a high profile fundraiser where he played piano with Yo Yo Ma, and another where he warbled an off key version of a Beatles song;


Mr. Prime Minister why were you sharing a stage with a "foreign Worker"? Why couldn't you find a good hard working Canadian artist to feature? Like Ashley MacIssac say? And why are you always playing songs written by "foreign workers"? Aren't Canadian songs good enough for you? What's wrong with "American Woman".


As for you Minister Fast; those years when you were touring in the USA with your group, The Fast Family, did you consider yourself a "foreign worker" taking jobs away from good hard working Americans? Hmmmmm?



Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Some Classic Rockers From The Golden Age Pass On

Joe Kelly; Guitarist for The Shadows Of Knight, Chicago's greatest 1960's Garage Band. They only had one real hit, a cover of Them's "Gloria", and a couple of excellent but little heard followups on their two albums. Then they basically broke up although a reformed version finally had another hit with "Shake". Some version of the band also played as a studio backing band on various classic Bubblegum Hits of the late 60's and 70's such as "Yummy Yummy Yummy", "Sugar Sugar" and "1,2,3, Redlight" and others although exactly which ones is a matter of some debate.




Dickie Dodd ~ Singer and drummer with 1960's Garage Band The Standells w/ classic songs "Dirty Water", "Good Guys Don't Wear White" and "Why Pick On Me", later played in Surf Bands The Belaires ("Mr. Moto") and Eddie & The Showmen ~ 68




Jackie Lomax; Bassist and Vocalist for 1960's Liverpool band The Undertakers, known for their all black with drape-jackets and top hats stage outfits as well as a wild live show. They did have a couple of hits such as a version of "Mashed Potatoes" before an ill-advised attempt to break into the US market by moving there.


Mac Curtis, 1950's Rockabilly singer with a couple of minor hits. Later became a well known part of the rockabilly revival in the 1970's and 80's recording with Rollin' Rock Records.



Marvin Rainwater, 1950's Rockabilly singer from Kansas with a couple of minor hits. Known for accenting his part Cherokee heritage in his stage show. Later became a country singer.


Roland Janes ~ 1950's Rockabilly guitarist for Sun Records, played with Jerry Lee Lewis, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Rich, Sonny Burgess, Rayburn Anthony, Harold Dorman, later played with Mudhoney




Ray Price ~ 1950's and 60's Honky Tonk singer and pioneer of The Nashville Sound with a slew of hits including "Release Me", "Crazy Arms", "Heartaches by the Number", "For the Good Times" ~ 87



Gia Maione ~ Wife and singer for Louis Prima and his Orch ~ 72


Johnny Laboriel ~ Mexican rock 'n' roll singer known for doing Spanish languiage versions of American hits in the 1960's ~ 71


Butch Warren ~ BeBop Jazz bassist w/ Miles Davis, Hank Mobley, Donald Byrd, Sonny Clark, Dexter Gordon, Herbie Hancock, Joe Henderson, Jackie McLean, and Stanley Turrentine and Thelonious Monk ~ 74



Tuesday, 27 August 2013

CRTC Sez; Stick It Where The SUN Don't Shine

This past month the CRTC ruled on the application by SUN TV, among others, for mandatory carriage. This would have required all cable companies to add SUN TV to their mandatory cable packages meaning not only would everybody get access to the channel (no problem there) but that every cable customer would also have to pay for the privilege whether they wanted to watch the right wing channel or not (big, big problem). To say the least some people were a little unamused by this prospect. To say the most, they were outraged and wrote to the CRTC to say so in their thousands.

warning angry mob ahead

The problem was not only SUN TV's short history of outrageously offensive, not to mention blatantly racist, behaviour but also the utterly shameless hypocrisy of a "news" organization known for it's strident, even vitriolic, attacks on other networks (especially the CBC) who are subsidized, along with nasty personal attacks on artists who get relatively piddly arts grants. Even conservative columnists gagged on the spectacle of SUN TV's demanding that their laughably low rated Tory Pravda be subsidized. At least those who weren't actually working for SUN NEWS (AKA FOX North) of course. Those who were so employed mounted an unprecedented publicity campaign to convince Canadian's of the awesome awesomeness of SUN NEWS and the dire risk of our "freedoms" and "liberty" not to mention the very existence of free enterprise itself and our very "way of life" if the millions of Canadians who refuse to watch SUN NEWS weren't forced to at least pay for the service. Apparently that was the only news story of the past several months, at least that's what I gather from watching SUN NEWS, and they ought to know. They eventually claimed that "over 50,000 Canadians wrote in to the CRTC in support of SUN's Mandatory carriage application". A hilarious statement which would set new standards of dishonest self-puffery if it were made by anybody other than SUN NEWS. In fact most other media reports said that about 15,000 Canadians wrote to the CRTC, and that covered ALL the twenty two applicants, it also included those who were writing in opposition to the applications. Of which there were a few thousand according to my own perusal. Oh; And I wrote one too.


Even Mike Duffy, Canada's current favorite cartoon villain, got into the act by getting caught lobbying the CRTC on SUN's behalf. The usefulness of this was somewhat compromised when everybody found out what a corrupt lying sleazebag Duffy The Hutt is. You may have even caught some mention of this on by watching SUN NEWS, in between the never-ending, panting plugs for SUN NEWS.


The CRTC in their ruling noted that SUN TV “did not clearly demonstrate how its service would make an exceptional contribution to the objectives of the (Broadcasting) Act or show that it would go beyond what other national news services spend on Canadian programming.”

By contrast their were several other channels who were also asking for mandatory carriage, some whom were accepted including;

AMI TV in French, a service that offers audiovisual content specifically adapted to the needs of people who are blind or partially sighted, was given mandatory carriage along with Nouveau TV5, a service offering programming devoted to diversity within the Canadian francophone community and official language minority communities.
The CRTC also gave mandatory carriage to a service operated by the Legislative Assemblies of Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, which will be added to the basic service of satellite television subscribers in those two territories.
As a result, "Canadians living with a visual impairment, francophones and citizens of the North will be better served," the CRTC said.
The CRTC also renewed for another five years the mandatory distribution of AMI-TV in English, AMI Audio, Canal M, the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN), and the Cable Public Affairs Channel (CPAC).
The regulator granted ARTV a "must-offer" designation to ensure that it is carried by all distributors while giving Canadians the choice to subscribe to it or not. ARTV is a CBC/Radio-Canada channel that offers arts news in French.

Amongst the dozen applications that were rejected were;

* Accents.
• All Points.
• Bulletin Canadian.
• Punjabi Network.
• Described Video Guide.
• Dolobox TV.
• EqualiTV.
• Fusion.
• Maximum Television Canada.
• Starlight: The Canadian Movie Channel.
• Sun News Network.
• La télévision des ressources naturelles.
• Vision TV.
Also the CRTC ruled that the mandatory carriage granted to Avis de recherche in French-language markets will expire in two years.

As can be seen in the contrasting above lists and as I wrote about earlier, the CRTC sets pretty high standards for mandatory carriage. There must be a real demonstrated need for such a service, a need that supersedes the profit motive. They should also be serving an audience that is otherwise under-represented. There is no way, outside of the paranoid rhetoric of the right wing media hothouse, that SUN NEWS could ever be considered in such terms. As the CRTC put it; “Given its exceptional nature, the CRTC has set the bar very high for obtaining a mandatory distribution order”.

It's also worth pointing out that while not an actual requirement, all the accepted applications (except APTN) are non-profits, which SUN NEWS clearly is not.

Another high profile applicant that got rejected for mandatory carriage was Starlight: The Canadian Movie Channel, which had the backing of luminaries like David Cronenberg, Denys Arcand and Atom Agoyan, which should certainly have had a better shot than SUN NEWS, as would Vison TV. No word yet on whether or not Starlight will go anyway without mandatory carriage.

Star Light FBCover1 1 1 1

In it's application, as well in their hysterically strident p.r. campaign, SUN NEWS insisted that if they did not get the mandatory subsidy they would be forced to shut down. In the CRTC hearings SUN NEWS President Kory Keneycke actually called it a "death sentence" (wait, isn't SUN NEWS in favour of the death penalty?) admitting they lost $17 million last year — a situation parent company Quebecor (TSX:QBR.B) calls “clearly unsustainable.” The CRTC hears this kind of argument all the time whenever an applicant wants a favour. And they know it's usually bullshit, they also don't care. For example in the recent fight for the vacant 88.1fm frequency in Toronto various applicants, including PROUD FM, CARN and Moses Znaimer's ZOOMER RADIO swore they would go out of business if they were not allowed to move to the new signal. The CRTC said no and granted the signal instead to INDIE 88. So far none of them have followed up on their threat to take their ball and sulk off home. Then there's SUN NEWS itself which already lost the over-the-air analog signal they were using last year without permission after the CRTC told them to knock it off. (They are apparently trying to get it back, which I actually have no real problem with).

As for SUN NEWS the CRTC said Sun News Network knew what it was getting into when it decided to go ahead without mandatory-carriage status, noting that it would not have even been able to consider launching if the CRTC had not opened up the category of national news to competition five years ago.

“Sun News opted to launch its service as a competitive Category C service without carriage rights. As such, the Commission is of the view that the applicant accepted the potential business risk associated with choosing to launch an unprotected and unsubsidized service whose genre had only recently been opened to competition,” the CRTC wrote in its decision.

 photo pincejohn_zps36b7ac28.jpg

OK; I paraphrased that last part. Still it's a pretty strong rebuke, and tough to argue with. Unless you work for SUN NEWS of course, like former Reform Party and Conservative MP Monte Solberg who wrote in a column helpfully printed by The Sun newspaper chain; "There is something bizarre about bureaucrats and a body dedicated to regulations, rules and red tape deciding the fate of a network dedicated to freedom, small government and restricting the role of bodies like the CRTC. But there you have it".

Oddly enough Monte Solberg didn't think there was anything "bizarre" about such a network demanding such a subsidy in the first place, or the parent company, QMI, getting millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies every year while campaigning relentlessly against any such subsidies for anyone else. He also didn't think there was anything "bizarre" about such a network getting a corrupt unelected senator to lobby behind closed doors for his crony capitalists. Strangely neither did any of the other "freedom fighters" at the Sun. But there you have it.

Instead Solberg gave us the usual Conservative paranoid persecution complex about how they are being silenced by the usual "liberal elites"; "Make no mistake, there's a lot at stake. The very fact that other journalists and media personalities were taking their shots on Twitter tells you as much as you need to know about why we need Sun News. Clearly some people just don't like the idea that other points of view should be heard, especially if they are conservative. Good, better to have that out in the open"

Actually Monte; it's better to have out in the open the fact that some of the most stinging rebukes of SUN TV's cash grab came from other conservatives who aren't employed by SUN NEWS such as Andrew Coyne from National Post; or Jonathan Kay from the National Post, or the Post's Scott Stinson, or there's this gem from the conservative Globe & Mail

Angry Mob victorian

Whata Buncha Commies. Anyhow; to get back to SUN NEWS and their threat to go out of business if they CRTC ruled against them; it turns out they managed to find an ever so slim silver lining amidst the CRTC's beatdown.

“We are disappointed that the CRTC did not rule in favour of our application for a mandatory distribution order,” Sun News executive Kory Teneycke said in a statement. “However, we are encouraged they have found merit in the main arguments laid out by Sun News on price, channel placement and distribution, and have provided a mechanism to address these issues.” The application by Sun News “acted as a catalyst for this broader review of the framework for national news services announced today,” he added.

What he is talking about here is the decision by the CRTC to hold another round of hearings to discuss how news channels are placed in cable packages as well as how they are priced.


CRTC proposes a new approach to national news services

OTTAWA-GATINEAU, August 8, 2013 — Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) invited Canadians to participate in a review of its policy on the licensing of Canadian national news television services. It also invited comments on the distribution conditions for these services and for foreign news services.
“The diversity of voices is an essential component of our society, particularly as they relate to news and information in the Canadian broadcasting system” said Jean-Pierre Blais, Chairman of the CRTC. “Television news channels provide an important public service by ensuring that Canadians are exposed to different opinions and perspectives on matters that concern all citizens. We are concerned that, under the existing rules, Canadian news services are not being given a pride of place in our broadcasting system.”
During the CRTC’s public hearing that began on April 23, 2013, Canadians presented evidence suggesting that the policy on specialty Canadian national news services should be reviewed. The CRTC will focus specifically on the challenges that face new players in this sector, particularly in terms of their distribution. These challenges are not unique to any given service, but rather an indication of a wider and more systemic issue regarding the distribution of Canadian national news services under equitable and commercially reasonable conditions.
The CRTC invites Canadians to comment on a proposed regulatory framework that includes the following:
- distributors must offer all Canadian national news services (not necessarily on basic service)
- distributors must place Canadian news services in close proximity in their channel lineup
- national news services must be available in a package and on a stand-alone basis
- national news services should be offered in the most appropriate packages according to their content.
Those who wish to participate in the CRTC’s proceeding are invited to submit their comments by September 9, 2013. Comments may be submitted by completing the online form, by writing to the Secretary General, CRTC, Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0N2, or by fax at 819-994-0218.
About Canadian television news services;
Despite the significant technological changes currently underway, Canadians still overwhelmingly access news affecting their country and their community through the Canadian broadcasting system. Nearly 12 million households subscribe to a cable or satellite television service. Canadians collectively watched more than 138 million hours of news programming in 2011-2012, 45% of which was on specialty news services.
Currently, non-Canadian news services are, for the most part, distributed in popular packages and have significant access to Canadian viewers. On average, non-Canadian news services receive wholesale fees from cable and satellite companies of $0.73 per subscriber per month, while Canadian news services receive monthly wholesale fees of $0.36 per subscriber, which are half the fees paid to non-Canadian services.



So apparently The SUN will not be setting after all. At least not yet. "We intend to participate fully in those proceedings, and will continue to operate pending an outcome,” Teneycke wrote. Oh SUN NEWS; how can we miss you when you won't go away? So there; you can break out the champagne right wingers, or whatever non-French thing you guys drink, you're in the clear after all. Or not. Note what the CRTC is actually talking about is really just limited to clarifying what will be included in the news packages that cable companies bundle together (a so-called "must-offer") for those who want them, NOT mandatory carriage services that all cable subscriber have to pay for like-it-or-not. You may recall that in the CRTC May hearings the same Kory Teneycke swore that merely giving SUN TV "must-offer" without the subsidy was a "death sentence". Adding " "Let us be very clear: a 'must-offer' license would not have a meaningful impact on the current trajectory of Sun News and would inevitably lead to the closure of the station."

So was Keneycke's threat to commit Hari Kari a bluff? Or has it just been postponed? Because either way I don't see the CRTC readdressing the larger issue of mandatory carriage fees itself given the rather narrow parameters listed above. Incidentally; even if the CRTC were to reopen that issue the SUN would face even more opposition than the thousands of lowly citizens who wrote in to give the CRTC their two cents worth. Namely the cable companies who have argued that forcing more channels into basic packages, could cause a spike in TV bills of about $6 a month if they were all approved, and might be enough to push many customers out of the system. And if you recall the hyperbolic campaign they ran back in 2009 over the issue of their having to pay any fees to television networks for their content, then you will know that they don't mess around. That P.R. blitz included the notorious TV and print ads that claimed that the CRTC was about to levy "a tax on us all", which was a blatant lie since the CRTC has no power to levy taxes and wasn't asking for that. I'm pretty sure the SUN will have met it's match and master in any such pissing match.

I actually have no problem with the reforms proposed by the CRTC. Grouping all the news channels together seems more efficient and logical enough. Making any and all Canadian channels available to those who want them seems perfectly fair. And I see no reason why foreign news channels should be getting paid twice what Canadian channels get. If you want to watch SUN NEWS, APTN or VISION you should be able to do so. You just shouldn't be forced to pay for a for-profit business you don't want. Surely the "freedom fighting" free enterprisers would agree, no?

Bottom line here is that SUN NEWS didn't get the subsidy they were demanding. The one they swore they couldn't live without. And even after the next set of hearings they still won't. A better placement in the channel packages won't help much if nobody wants to buy their crappy product, and thus far few people do. Their ratings are consistently pathetic. A raise in the subscriber fees as mentioned in the final paragraph of the CRTC notice couldn't hurt of course but SUN still face the insurmountable problem that most people find their channel cheesy, annoying and unwatchable at best and deeply offensive and down-right racist at worst. And that's not going to change. In fact after the recent horrible train explosion in Lac Magantic SUN NEWS and their flagship "Freedom Fighter" Ezra Levant (seriously, they actually bill him that way) were the first to go on the air with the important and completely made up news scoop that the disaster was the work of "Native or Environmental Terrorists".


Stay classy SUN NEWS.

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

T Model Ford & Some Other Rock, Jazz, & Blues Figure Pass On

T Model Ford ~ Blues singer/guitarist. Born some time in the early 1920's (he wasn't sure when) but he didn't become a professional recording artist until he was discovered in 1995 and signed to Fat Possum Records, the label that had resurrected RL Burnside. Ford had spent most of his life in rural Mississippi doing manual labour, supervising a saw mill and truck driving. He was also sentenced to prison for ten years for murder, although he only served about two. When he was released and his wife left him and he began playing guitar, learning from records by Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Son House and Jimmy Reed. He did not record but spent his career locally playing juke joints and opening for Buddy Guy until he was discovered by Matt Johnson of Fat Possum for who he recorded five well regarded albums. He also toured widely, in fact I remember working at a club in Toronto back in the late 1990's when we tried to bring in Ford only to find he couldn't get over the border because of his old murder conviction.



Billy Bowers ~ American gospel vocalist Blind Boys of Alabama ~ 71



Lewis Lymon ~ 1950's Doo Wop singer, brother of Frankie Lymon and replaced him in the Teenagers after he quit to go solo ~ 69


Texas Johnny Brown ~ Blues singer/guitarist, played with Joe Hinton, Amos Milburn, Ruth Brown, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Lavelle White, Buddy Ace and Junior Parker ~ 85

Curly Lewis ~ Fiddler for Bob Wills' Western Swing Band ~ 88

Bengt Hallberg ~ Swedish Jazz pianist and accordionist, played with Clifford Brown, Stan Getz and Quincy Jones ~ 80


Bernard Vitet ~ French Jazz trumpet player w/ Serge Gainsbourg, Yves Montand,Brigitte Bardot, Marianne Faithfull, Lester Young, Archie Shepp, Anthony Braxton, Don Cherry, Chet Baker, Gato Barbieri, Jean-Luc Ponty, Django Reinhardt, Eric Dolphy, Albert Ayler and The Art Emsemble Of Chicago. He also worked on film scores. ~ 77


Tuesday, 2 July 2013

NXNE 2013

NXNE 2113 Reviews;


The Normals ~ Cherry Cola's Lounge;
The Normals were part of the tiny Montreal punk scene back in the late 1970's and early 1980's but like most bands of that era they were short lived, little recorded and less traveled. So this was their Toronto debut after getting back together two years ago, although drummer Chris Howe did play with New-Wave dance band Rational Youth in the mid-to-late 1980's. The Normals were firmly in the Ramones/Buzzcocks/Undertones school of short, fast pop-punk and they haven't lost a step since then, closing with a Buzzcocks cover. They have a new cd of material written back in their heyday but recorded now. They also have another new dc coming out of live tapes from 1978 so they would seem to be more busy than they were the first time around. Nothing like striking while the iron is hot. At any rate they will most likely return, perhaps in the fall so stay tuned.

The Standstills ~ Cherry Cola's Lounge;
Yet another two piece guitar/drums male/female duo playing riff heavy blooze rawk. They're OK and if you like this sort of thing you'll like them. After a few songs or so my mind starts to wander though.


Social Distortion ~ Dundas Square;
NXNE always have at least one classic punk band at Dundas Square; Iggy, X, Descendents, Devo. Social D are different in that they have been to town a few times so it's not as much of an event, which may explain why it wasn't nearly as crowded as past years. After suffering through the jam packed and sweaty Stooges show I'm not likey to complain about this. Still Social D are always a solid live band and Dundas Square has better live sound than you might expect. Over the years the sight-lines have been cluttered up by obnoxious corporate ads and booths shilling for cell-phone plans just like punk never happened. Watching Mike Ness run through his rote "I was a punk before you were" stand-up routine makes me wonder if it did.

Public Animal ~ Lee's Palace;
This is Ian Blurton's new band, it's not that different from his last band, C'Mon. All 1970's riff heavy grunge-boogie although this time he has added some keyboards and more varied dynamics for his strongest band since Change Of Heart.

White Cowbell Oklahoma ~ Lee's Palace;
I'm always a little surprised that this one-joke novelty band is still around after a decade or so. True, they've cut way down on the shtick and I'm convinced they can really play but I'm not convinced they have more than a couple of actual songs. I can't help but notice that their best songs date back to their first album which is never a good sign.

The Supersuckers ~ Lee's Palace;
The OTHER self-proclaimed "World's Greatest Rock & Roll Band" really have turned into The Rolling Stones, or at least The Faces. Even more than Social D, a band they resemble. Both are somewhat rootsy Rock & Roll bands that started out as straight forward punk bands, both have experimented with more traditional country rock with some success but where Social D seem like they're following a script Ness wrote years ago the Supersuckers still seem more heartfelt in their boogie, if noticeably less successful and iconic. Rather like The Faces.



The Downbelows ~ The Opera House;
The Downbelows were one of the Queen Street old school punk scene of the 1990's along with The Sinisters, Son Of Bronto, Dear Departed, Cheerleader, Throbbing Hoods and Plasmablast, and like all of those bands they recorded one fine record before their inevitable disintegration. Why do shitty bands live forever? At any rate they got back together a little while back and have been in the studio but there's nothing like an invite to open for Black Flag to motivate a band to get busy. They were rock solid and they were able to make the cavernous Opera House reasonably club-like which is no easy task. I'm having them down to the CIUT studios in the summer to do a recording session.

Genetic Control ~ The Opera House;
A 1980's Montreal Hardcore band who last played here at the long, lost Larry's Hideaway which shut down circa 1987 so it's been awhile. I'm not to familiar with their material but they seem like a basic pre-thrash hardcore band of the era. They were tight enough but I thought their songs lacked the dynamics of the best of their ilk. Including The Downbelows for that matter.

Organ Thieves ~ The Opera House;
I've never heard of this local band and I don't know how they scored the choice spot opening for (Black) Flag. Their post-hardcore/reggae/funk was well done enough and they are certainly good musicians but they are rather sleep inducing and really didn't belong on this bill, especially since The 222's were playing the same night for a crappy opening spot at Lee's Palace. Why do these music fests always have these kind of booking fuck-ups?

Flag ~ The Opera House;
That would be Black Flag to you. At least Black Flag minus Greg Ginn (who is not on speaking terms with anybody by this point) and Henry Rollins, who'se not an original Flag anyway. I am always a little surprised how many people don't know that but I swear it's true. In fact the original Black Flag singer was Keith Morris who had some sort of falling out with Greg Ginn (who hasn't) after one ep and left then later went on to from The Circle Jerks. He was replaced by Dez Cadena for the next few albums. This line-up contained both Morris and Cadena along with original bassist Chuck Dumbowski and drummer Bill Stevenson who played in Black Flag for awhile in between stints with the Descendents and All, along with a guitarist borrowed from All. I figure that's an authentic enough line up to run through the entire pre-Rollins cataloge otherwise known as "all their best stuff before Greg Ginn decided he was some sort of fusion guy". It's always good to remind the younguns what hardcore used to sound like before thrash-metal crossover and all those various grind-crust bastard children with their widdly-widdly guitar solos and cookie monster vocals. The band was as tight and polished a machine as you expect from these old pros and while some complained that Morris was mostly stationary he sounded in good voice as was Cadena. And it's not exactly resonable to expect a guy in his fifties (seriously) to be stage diving anymore anyhow. It was a typical Opera House gig; great sightlines (assuming you were in the balcony) and crappy sound. The high ceiling doesn't make anybody any acoustic favours but the view looks like the back cover of the first Cramps album with a full panoramic view of all the attendent carnage at stage front.



White Lung ~ The Horseshoe;
Another new neo-garage buzzband. White Lung have plenty of energy and even some charisma but they play every song at such a warp speed that none really standout, and singer Mish Way's high pitched yelp doesn't help. Needs more seasoning. I should have stuck around for Danish band Iceage but the Shoe was so packed (I assume for headliners Fucked Up) that I left to get some air then couldn't get back in, but since I was planning on heading down to Cherry Cola to catch 222's later that night anyway I strolled that way.

Waxy ~ Cherry Cola's Lounge;
Billed as "Psychedelic", which can mean any number of things, not all of them good. In this case it apparently means "hippy-grunge-jams that could never have shared a stage with the 222's back in the day". At one point the singer announced they were going to play some "blues". At that point the ghost of Howling Wolf marched in, smacked them upside their heads then grabbed their beer tickets and stomped off muttering something about "Stupid White People". And I missed Iceage for this shit? That these guys actually drove up all the way from Palm Springs, California shows just how clueless they were.

The 222's ~ Cherry Cola's Lounge
The 222's were the other first wave 1970's Montreal punk scene at NXNE so of course they were scheduled on different days since putting them on the same bill would make too much sense. The 222's had a slightly longer and more successful run than the Normals and had a more charismatic singer and slightly more poppy sensibility but other than that they are both firmly in the Buzzcocks/Undertones school and have managed to age well. They have also been in the studio and have a new cd comming out.