The Five Most Ridiculous Canadian Coins

I am Canadian. But I’m an American, too. Having dual citizenship is a pretty great thing, if for no other reason than having the honor to criticize both nations equally. And the most recent reason I have to criticize Canada is the government’s decision to approve a special coin for pressing by the Royal Canadian Mint. But it’s not just any coin, it’s a unique “CH” coin which celebrates the Montreal Canadiens’ centennial season. Certainly hockey is one of the most important staples ingrained in Canadian culture, and without question the Montreal Canadiens stand as somewhat of a patriarch within the sport, but there are simply far too many things wrong with this equation to begin to make sense of it. But alas, that this isn’t the first questionable pressing in the history of the Royal Canadian Mint. Ever the innovators when it comes to currency design, Canada has seen some really, really odd coins in its time. Going into a gas station in the wrong neighborhood with an American two dollar bill is likely to get you shot, but that’s pretty much par for the course as far as unique currencies go in the Great White North. Here are five of the most ridiculous Canadian coins ever to see production:

Denomination: $1
Year of Issue: 1987
Level of Reasonability: Irritatingly Suspicious

The loonie in and of itself isn’t too crazy…it’s just a dollar coin with a bird on it…that has taken on the name of the bird in referencing the coin itself. Well, a little odd maybe, but not crazy. The crazy thing is how the loonie may be the direct link between Canada’s currency and its favorite sport. At the 2002 Winter Olympics a loonie was buried under center ice, and coincidentally it was the Canadian men’s and women’s hockey teams which won gold that year. The next year, at the World Hockey Championships, the men’s team won again - assisted by the luck of the loonie, which was placed beneath the padding the of opposing team’s crossbar. Here’s where this really becomes an issue: at the 2006 Winter Olympics the ice attendants rejected the idea of placing a loonie within the ice sheet. The outcome? Not only did the men’s hockey team fail to win gold, they failed to place within the medal standings altogether. Likewise, prior to game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals, the Carolina Hurricanes removed a loonie which had been placed in the ice by the opposing Edmonton Oilers. Outcome? A Canadian team was denied the cup for the second season in a row. The loonie isn’t crazy, but the idea that the Royal Canadian Mint will now be pressing “Lucky Loonies” every Olympic year is.

Denomination: ¢5
Year of Issue: 1964
Level of Reasonability: It is the world’s largest coin…so…it’s a tad unreasonable

Listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the world’s largest coin, the Big Nickel measures about 30 feet across and literally brings the idea of a wooden nickel to life as it is constructed of plywood (covered in a sheet of stainless steel). Rather than a product of the Royal Canadian Mint the nickel was created by a local Sudbury, Ontario businessman, but my friends - does that make a nickel that is just as long as an American end zone (or half a Canadian end zone) any less demented? Either way, the thing is ridiculously big and entirely unnecessary.

Denomination: ¢10
Year of Issue: 1967
Level of ReasonabilitySon of the Mask

The idea of having an animal on a coin is far from new, so when the Mint took to celebrating the country’s centennial by introducing a series of coins featuring a variety of animals it made a bit of sense: a dove, a rabbit, a mackerel, a cougar, a wolf and a goose. But hold up for a moment here; somewhere along the way this idea went terribly wrong. A wolf? Majestic, I love it. A cougar? Daring, a symbol of fierce power. A goose? Sure, Canadian geese are everywhere - why not? A dove? Canada = peace. A rabbit? Well, I guess… But a mackerel? No sir, that’s where I draw the line. This coin represents a fisherman’s wet dream just as much as it does a starving seagull’s. A slimy scrap in the foodchain that somehow made its way onto the list by what I can only imagine what a drunken prank on the nation. And who’s to blame? I’m looking at you Molson Canadian…

Denomination: $1
Year of Issue: 2009
Level of Reasonability: Highly Unsound

The biggest issue I have with the coin is that the Montreal Canadiens are a privately held business, owned by an elderly American billionaire. Even if we’re considering the impact that sport has on culture, the idea is still insane. It would be equally questionable for the American government to approve a coin to press featuring any number of baseball teams - a subject of what is, and forever may be, America’s national pastime. How pissed off would you be if Mark Cuban bought the Cubs and rallied for the US government to celebrate the team’s legacy with a specially minted dime? If you’re answer to that question isn’t “furious,” you’ve lost your mind.

Denomination: $1,000,000
Year of Issue: 2007
Level of Reasonability: Hopelessly Ludicrous

First of all, the coin weighs 100kg (or for my American friends, that’s roughly two Paris Hiltons) and bears the highest denomination of any coin in the world. While the “pizza sized” coin is crazy by its own merit, the fact that the coins were each pressed using approximately $2,000,000 dollars worth of pure bullion makes this the most ridiculous Canadian coin of all time. It’s simple math Canada - for every dollar that this coin represents, you spent 2 making it…

A Journey Into Declutterization: Part One

“Other people’s stuff is shit, but your shit is stuff.” -George Carlin
The past few months have been, to say the least, interesting for me. I gained some of that “life-experience” stuff I’ve heard so much about, and accompanying it has been a perspective leading me towards a stronger sense of what is honestly important to me. But as the saying goes, “When people see some things as good, other things become bad.” When I started to examine what’s now important in my life, the stuff that was becoming unimportant began to reveal itself at an alarming rate. And not to say that I’ve given up on having physical stuff, but spending a month and a half away from much of civilization (and the internet) gave me the distance I needed to see that in reality, as George Carlin might have said, my stuff was shit. Furthermore, the majority of that stuff was beginning to mean shit-all to me. It was time to do a bit of spring late-summer cleaning.

My return to the internet was welcomed by a number of articles and suggestions that focused on the topic of decluttering one’s life. Time detailed Dave Bruno’s extreme course of action against the unnecessary which he labeled the “100 Thing Challenge.” Bruno’s goal being to, fittingly, narrow the scope of what he owned down to 100 things. Then Lifehacker pointed out a Get Rich Slowly article entitled “Simplify Your Life with a Stuff Replacement Fund.” The focus of this article being to sell your unused stuff so that when you want to get more stuff you’ll have a bit of extra cash ready and able to help you make the purchase. Additionally, Zen HabitsInternet Duct Tape and many other resources all offered great decluttering tips. It was Cindy Loughridge’s recollection that really nailed the point home for me however. In her article Loughridge explains her three month trip to India and the experience of being removed from her stuff, all of which lead her to question exactly how much stuff she really needed. It was around the time that I read this article that I knew my Quebec Nordiques banner, which I had been holding onto for all these years - waiting for the right moment to break it out, was no longer valuable to me. And the flag was not alone.

After referencing a number of online how-to resources I started to identify the best way to go about my declutterization. I found a lot of great examples, tips and processes used, including reducing one zone of your stuff at a time, using lists to identify which stuff is no longer valuable, creating piles for stuff that you want to get rid of in designated areas of your home, reducing stuff by eliminating things you have multiples of…and the list goes on. But defining my goals before getting too deep into the process seemed like a good place to begin, and paring down to as close a fresh start as possible seems like something I’d like to work towards at this stage in my life. That may sound overly ambitious, and it might be, but for too long I’ve been dissatisfied with the way I’ve been living - continually trying to find my happiness in external stuff. It’s a strange feeling to be happy, genuinely happy, without having to look for that feeling in something (or someone) else - and through this process I hope to upgrade my life by downsizing and simplifying much of all the stuff in it.

As I’ve branded this “Part One” of my experimentation with declutterizing, my goal is still far off in the distance - something I’m working towards…but the fact remains that I am working towards it. After roughly two weeks of assessing everything I’ve been left with feelings of hope and happiness - but occasionally sadness as well. As my personal cleansing commenced it became evident that it’s a tough realization to find out that the things I once placed so much emphasis in no longer reflect what I want in life. And while the online examples of decluttering one’s life are all helpful when the goal is to eliminate physical stuff - typically things you own - my goal is as much to mentally declutter as it is physically declutter. While the effect of eliminating gross levels of unnecessary possessions will hopefully give me, as Loughridge said, “peace of mind, clarity and liberty,” I’m focusing on ridding myself of destructive mental stuff to help me increase my quality of life. And as saddening as it is to realize that most everything around me, the things afforded by “slaving the wage,” held little to no personal value - it’s inversely uplifting to realize that things can change. And they are changing.

Since returning home I’ve stepped away from my job, realizing that the work environment would be wholly detrimental to me had I gone back to it. I’m calling it a day with the vehicle I’ve owned for the better part of a decade and the condo I moved into earlier this year as they both represent a goal with which I can no longer identify. I’m trying to let damaging relationships go, and build new ones on honest terms. Most of all - I’m trying to free myself from so many things in my life that are simply unnecessary… hopefully “Part Two” will detail some positive results from this journey through declutterization.

TV on the Radio "Dear Science" Review

It seemed that whenever I was talking to a fan of TV on the Radio about Return to Cookie Mountain, they would always revert to “I liked (either) Young Liars (or) Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes better.” I, on the other hand, felt that the album was amazing — truly one of the year’s best – and certainly representative of some of the band’s strongest material. But my reality wasn’t influenced by countless listening sessions of the band’s older material as were my friends’, and as such I was comfortable with accepting the band at face value. With Dear Science however I find myself in the position of listening and basking in the memory of the band TV on the Radio once was – a bit disappointed because I was now playing the role of someone who liked their older music better. But Dear Science is a transition brought on by change – something that should be embraced rather than chastised. Since RTCM, David Sitek has worked on producing Scarlett Johannsen’s Anywhere I Lay My Head and Tunde Adebimpe has further pursued his acting aspirations – the band is certainly different, and the music should reflect the people they are now. How fickle would it be for me to then criticize such a thing when, even as with something as simple as being a listener, I’ve changed too? In accepting that it becomes far easier to move away from a “they were better when…” statement and closer towards once again accepting the music by its own merit.

How funny is it then, that after accepting Dear Science for being its own album, that we are still prone to scratch for comparisons in order to place the music into some sort of imaginary context. Some have alluded to how Dear Science is to RTCM as Wish You Were Here is to Dark Side of the Moon, while others have gone further with the comparisons. In attempting to place the album in a dramatic historical context, Will Hermes wrote for Rolling Stone, “But the group is still determined to stage a revolution worth dancing to, a throwback to the days when New York artists like Patti Smith, Television and the Ramones set out to do the same.” But TV on the Radio isn’t Patti Smith just like TV on the Radio certainly isn’t Pink Floyd. With Dear Science the band isn’t looking to replicate anything, most certainly not themselves, and while comparisons are generally inevitable – such dramatics are a tad unnecessary. Even making comparisons on an individual song-to-song basis proves something difficult, ultimately failing to portray the music appropriately as well. To say that Dear Science doesn’t have its “Wolf Like Me” moment would be partially true, but “Halfway Home” does incorporate a wild fuzzed over riff that might remind some of RTCM‘s lead single. All the same the songs have little in common and the comparison is weak at best. So what exactly does Dear Science sound like then?

The balance of the album has shifted away from avant rock towards a funkier pop sound – and while each style is equally represented throughout, the combination further suggests that TV on the Radio might not be a rock band at all. Horns, Barry Gibb-like vocals, and a small string section, all of which appear at some point throughout the album, all suggest TV on the Radio to be something drastically different than what indie rock has shifted towards (see: Kings of Leon). “Golden Age” lends a soulful grace to uptempo shifts, “Crying” reflects an updated lounge act – its keyboards and muted guitar working together to simply set a mood — and the hushed melody of “Love Dog” hints at acid-jazz while being something entirely different. What I’m trying to say is that if you break these songs down they don’t exactly fit the rock standard.

The songs do meet TV on the Radio standard, however…

The songs are different, but the flavor lingers – Dear Science is like nothing heard before by the band, yet it’s like everything heard before by the band. The band is like an old friend who you had become comfortable with, only to meet them years later as a changed person – you can still see their core as something familiar, but the differences are vast. Wish You Were Here wasn’t Dark Side of the Moon. Each album portrayed the band in a different way, but were both somehow characteristic of the Pink Floyd that many of us have come to know and love. Likewise, I’d like to think that TV on the Radio will never sound the same, never attempting to put out material to simply match their last recordings. But years from now we’ll get to look back at the continual shift made from what the band used to be toward what the band evolved into and suggest such a change to be more characteristic of brilliance than any album or song in particular. Dear Science reflects such a brilliance.

Hipsterdom: It Affects Us All…But Not Really

On Saturday Jay Smooth laid down his latest in a long string of increasingly thoughtful commentaries via his video blog, Ill Doctrine. This time around he reviewed the subject of “Hipster Rap,” citing acts such as The Cool Kids, The Kidz in the Hall and Kid Sister as few examples of the burgeoning sub-genre. One of the issues he mentions, apart from the unnecessarily tight pants, is the insincerity often associated with hipsters due to their tendency for sarcastically adopting culture, sporting it as some sort of ironic decoration. But this isn’t exclusively a problem amongst the hip hop or African American communities, my friends…it affects whites too…

Jay’s thoughts have an upbeat, welcoming feel that isn’t generally associated with hipsters in certain circles. In contrast is the article Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization in which Douglas Haddow furiously detracts from any and everything associated with the ambiguous term. “An artificial appropriation of different styles from different eras, the hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture lost in the superficiality of its past and unable to create any new meaning. Not only is it unsustainable, it is suicidal. While previous youth movements have challenged the dysfunction and decadence of their elders, today we have the ‘hipster’ – a youth subculture that mirrors the doomed shallowness of mainstream society.” Clearly he doesn’t think that they’re “just like us”…whoever we are.

Haddow, no matter how harsh, is correct in the connection he identifies between the hipster and mainstream (pop) culture. But typically, ideas surrounding fashion, style and trends have been given birth by an acute few only to be later adopted on a mass scale. As such I think that he’s really putting too much emphasis on this wave of hipsters and their ability to crush our already degenerative culture. In all fairness this generation’s hipsters have no more long term control over the market and culture than the nü metal-heads of my generation. Both subcultures were started as something unique and honorable without a concrete classification - and both were manipulated into something that could be sold to a mass audience. No matter how much it might pain anyone to even remotely consider this: Crystal Castles, while at an entirely opposite end of the musically spectrum, isn’t too different than a band like P.O.D. or Limp Bizkit in this scenario; same goes for The Cool Kids.

Haddow continues, “Hipsterdom is the first ‘counter-culture’ to be born under the advertising industry’s microscope, leaving it open to constant manipulation but also forcing its participants to continually shift their interests and affiliations. Less a subculture, the hipster is a consumer group – using their capital to purchase empty authenticity and rebellion.” Well…yes and no. Other counter cultures have thrived within our modern advertising landscape, some also sporting rebellion at affordable prices, but he is right in saying that hipsterdom is the first to be under continual manipulation; but that has a lot to do with the term itself constantly shifting. Certainly it could be argued, as Haddow does, that this change is provoked by the mass marketing machine behind the trend, but couldn’t it also be instigated by the “non-culture” itself? Probably not, because then hipsters would have to be given credit for evolving on their own, even if it is a transformation into something offering an even shallower tribute to past counter-cultures, but all the same - it would still reflect something close to organic growth. Right? The hipsters might just outgrow themselves in time, like every other generation has, so I’m thinking that it’s probably a little overdramatic for Haddow to conclude that “The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.” Like Jay says, they’re just a culture who likes what they wear and listen to, just like everyone else…it just so happens that at this point in time hipsters are both adored and criticized for being this season’s “it.”

If I were twenty five when Korn was all the rage (who’s to say they aren’t still?) I would have thought the entire generation of youth buying the albums of like-sounding bands, wearing far too much black and piercing far too many body parts to be a bunch of culture-crushing, soulless marketing-slaves. But having lived through those years as apart of that generation I’m fairly content with knowing that my tastes changed, and so too did my sense of fashion and curiosity surrounding body accessories (though I kind of miss my nipple rings). As such, I’m not quite ready to start throwing stones at those skinny pant wearing, PBR drinking, fixed-gear bike driving hipsters because they’ll probably move on too. I’m under the belief that whatever comes along next will transition us away from the current state of trend just as hipsterdom did to emo and garage rock-chic. But while we’re here, I see no problem with cranking up some MGMT and watching the hipster parade march on by.

Reengaging Facebook

Back in April I decided that I was going to attempt to reduce my “online presence” by dismantling my MySpace, Facebook and Twitter accounts with one fell swoop. The reasoning behind doing so seemed simple enough at the time, but since I’ve come to understand a deeper significance to these sites, one which I hadn’t really emphasized when making my decision. At about the same time that I closed up shop A.L. decribed the process of making Facebook a more effective service and I felt it appropriate to leave him a comment, relating the direction I was taking.

“Well, call it an experiment… 
I initially opened my MySpace account with its only purpose being to serve as an auxiliary site to my blog. For many people it has become a great way to interact with friends, but for me the realization was that it was simply an outlet for me to collect band-spam…1000+ friends who I don’t know, y’know? 
Despite my initial attempts to follow even the most compact group of friends on Twitter I failed at adding any worthwhile commentary to the day’s events…how many people really care that “I’m Tired”? It’s a great tool to follow your friends lives but when it comes down to it, if I’d like to take you out to dinner or see what Loomer is up to…chances are, I’m just going to call or drop an instant message. 
But Facebook was, and for the past three years has been, an exception to my views on social networking. It’s allowed me to gain new real life friends, catch up with people I once knew way back when, and stay active with friends who are in different cities, states and countries. I started Facebook as an individual and have attempted (though occasionally failed) to maintain it as a branch of my personal life rather than an extension of my blog-persona, whatever that may be. 
But now Facebook too had become something less fulfilling. With both your and Ed [Kohler]’s commentary in mind I went and looked at what it was Facebook was evolving into for me. In the past year I had begun to receive and (much of the time) accept “friend” invitations from people who had begun to follow my blog despite not know them as individuals. I was still able to use the service to interact with “friends,” roughly 80-90 % of which I actually knew, but in an entirely superficial manner - it was becoming a source of division between real life friends and myself rather than a means of bringing me closer to my friends. 
So I quit. 
I closed my Twitter account, my MySpace account and asked the kind folks at Facebook to delete any and all of my personal information from their database (which they did in a timely manner). 
Again, call it an experiment…”
In the following months however it began to dawn on me just how shallow my approach to all this. All I really had to do was take a moment to think about the impact that online social networking has had on me, and my relationships, in order to realize the significance that these sites have had on my life. A good share of my real life relationships began, in one way or another, as online contacts and a lot of my real life interactions (event planning, networking, etc.) were at some point in time mediated by Facebook. Nonetheless I can still justify the concerns that I had at the time, the similarities to MySpace’s friend-spam and the detachment increasingly associated with the site were both individually enough to warrant my retreat. Additionally I wasn’t sure how to honestly accept a stranger as a “friend” when I considered the medium to be a personal experience. My troubles with semantics only escalated because, rather than being MySpace band accounts or people posing under some sort of pseudonym, these requests came from real people and I really didn’t want to offend them by rejecting their offer to virtually befriend me. So, with all my complaints and discomforts with the site in mind I figured it wise to make my purpose and reasoning behind rejoining the site clear before I jumped back in.

In his article, “Facebook Suicide,” Micah White disparagingly explains a number of personal security issues that tend to arise with Facebook, relating them to his own experience surrounding unauthorized inclusion. After considering the article, and others like it, in addition to my own thoughts, I came up with a few simple guidelines to help make Facebook a better experience for myself:
  • Only “friend request” people that I’ve met in person or have engaged in actual discourse with online (and with that being said…)
  • Accept any reasonable incoming “friend requests” with the goal being to expand a personal network
  • Limit the amount of personal information I associate with my account (contact info, personal pictures, pictures tagged by others, etc.)
  • Generally refrain from being too personal with individual matters (essentially becoming less revealing with things like “wall” posts and “status” updates)
The list is compromised of only a few simple parameters but in being honest with my purpose I hope to better maintain and expand my personal network without oversharing, being disingenuous or risking the security of too much personal information. Not to say that I won’t use Facebook to build and expand friendships, I will, it’s just that I won’t look to Facebook as the primary way of staying connected to friends. And keeping in mind that by posting this article I’m being embarrassingly self-important I still thought that it would be a good idea to publish some helpful guidelines to help ensure that my new Facebook experience is a far more rewarding one; even if only to help keep me in check.

Scoundral! Norm MacDonald on The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget

I can’t say that Bob Saget would ever make it to my short list of favorite comedians, nor does his name cross my mind when I think of actors I admire (though his brief cameo in Half Baked still brings a smile to my face), but when the producers of Comedy Central’s ongoing celebrity roast series found themselves burdened by the cross of having to top last year’s special, featuring the ever-dashing Flavor Flav, I can’t disagree with their decision. After all, by selecting Saget, they did in fact outclass Flavor Flav. Albeit barely.

From what I remember of the first in the channel’s annual series, The Comedy Central Roast of Denis Leary, I remember it to be pretty funny. I’ve always enjoyed Leary’s brand of humor and have never been one to shy away from vulgar, crass jokes typical of roasters; so what’s not to like? Following that came the roasts of comedian Jeff Foxworthy, animal activist Pamela Anderson, celebrity pitchman William Shatner and the aforementioned renaissance man himself, Flavor Flav. But as time passed by so too did the show’s flare for originality, its sense of one-upmanship and the depth and quality of its celebrity roasters. Again don’t get me wrong, I love the dirty jokes, but at some point in time hearing Lisa Lampanelli talk about Andy Dick’s vagina for a few minutes, before concluding with a brief gesture towards the roastee just stopped doing it for me. With all that in mind, sometime a little over a week ago I found myself sleepless and flipping the channels, eventually tuning into The Comedy Central Roast of Bob Saget.

Even after only a few minutes though the show already seemed a bit flat, the only highlights really coming when the camera panned to Saget’s one time Full House cast mate Lori Loughlin (who is looking fantastic at forty four, in case you’re wondering). Despite the show’s lack of entertainment value I continued to watch because the teasers relentlessly plugged the upcoming roasters; including Norm MacDonald…a comedian whose dry delivery and wit have earned him a place on that shortlist of my favorites (for whatever that’s worth).
“Suzy Essman, of course, is famous for being a vegetarian. Hey, she may be a vegetarian, but she’s still full of bologna in my book.” -Norm MacDonald
And here, after far too many words, is the reason behind recalling any of this: MacDonald’s performance was delivered with such brilliant timing and contrast to the rest of the roasters that he stole the show (or so I am to assume…I opted to turn on a movie after he left the stage). His first few jokes, which poked at roast master John Stamos, left the crowd apprehensively laughing seemingly uncertain as to where MacDonald was going. But as he moved on with his segment, adapting it to include long pauses for emphasis, the crowd slowly began to buy in.

It wasn’t just that MacDonald delivered a set of kitschy, clean jokes (which he did) - it was that he was unique and charming in the process. He could have taken the stage and delivered a set of debasing jokes belittling each of the other B, C and D-list celebrities on stage, but he didn’t. He went up and decided to surprise everyone by being imaginative and not following precedent…now I’m not saying he had a Lenny Bruce moment or anything, but in today’s Dane Cook-saturated market of in your face comedy, MacDonald’s roast wasn’t just a simple change of pace - it was a genuinely hilarious change of pace.

Concluding backstage with a brief wrap-up interview MacDonald mentioned of the other roasters, “I think it got over the line a little bit, if I’m not mistaken I heard some people cussing.” To the end, his performance was brilliant; it’s just too bad that pretty much everything else the series has offered the past five years hasn’t been.

A Place for My Stuff

This past week I’ve tried numerous times to write, and re-write, a post of introduction for []. Each attempt aimed for a witty or informative explanation, but each attempt subsequently failed. As such this is my fourth or fifth try at coming up with something that is both appropriate and makes sense…leaving me with a bit of a mountain to climb, especially so considering that those are two things I haven’t historically been known for.

One version of the draft included a drawn out point/counterpoint between the meaninglessness of celebrating my twenty fifth birthday (today is my birthday) and celebrating the fact that I’ve somehow managed to not die in the past three hundred and sixty five days. Another draft related some of the first time experiences I’ve had this past year to the idea that twenty five is but a stepping stone in life rather than some sort of plateau or milestone. And yet another draft was driven towards defining the changes that have occurred in my personal life recently that have essentially granted me a second chance at…well…life. At least with that last draft I thought I would get to use a few really sharp quotes to help establish and emphasize my story (such as Henry Miller’s “Until we lose ourselves, there is no hope in finding ourselves”). But ultimately I couldn’t convince myself into believing that oversharing a choppy, skimmed over depiction of a dark period in my life would be a good thing; so that too was nixed. Each introduction I wrote failed to speak with an honest voice, furthermore each failed to really identify the purpose of adding yet another blog to the already oversaturated “market”…so I scrapped the whole thing.

All history and dramatic build-up aside, the point of this blog is to act as a home for the ideas I have that don’t really fit in anywhere else. If I write something music-related chances are that it will still land over at Culture Bully, or on some other sort of music bloggery-type site. But if it has to do with something else, be it a wacky “life experience,” a comment on something I’ve read, or just some general thoughts on the state of things - I thought it’d be nice to have a place for me to expand on some thoughts from time to time.

Why sftfcs? One of the things that consistently made its way into each of my failed introductions was a bloated explanation of the term “soft focus” and what it means to me. Simply put, soft focus, as I’ve come to understand it, is the idea of primarily concentrating on the moment without burying yourself in the overwhelming thoughts that come from our minds and environments. That’s not to say that being mindless is the goal, rather the goal is to simply give less significance to the static and appreciate what’s really going on in our lives. Hopefully this site will come to reflect such an appreciation.

But… while yet again attempting to bring closure to this I had also been needlessly trolling my RSS feed, stumbling onto something that influenced my now-yet-again-questionable introduction. In an entry written by 43Folders‘ Merlin Mann, the oft-mislabeled “productivity guru” describes the process of feeling forced into disengagement by, essentially, his own environment.

In the article Mann outlines the process of becoming disillusioned as a result of some of the increasingly common side effects of Web 2.0, “What worries me are the consequences of a diet comprised mostly of fake-connectedness, make believe insight, and unedited first drafts of everything. I think it’s making us small. I know that whenever I become aware of it, I realize how small it can make me. So, I’ve come to despise it. With this diet metaphor in mind, I want to, if you like, start eating better. But, I also want to start growing a tastier tomato — regardless of how easy it is to pick, package, ship, or vend. The tomato is the story, my friend.” Not to suggest that Mann is guilty of any of these suggested e-crimes, but historically his commentary has unintentionally spearheaded a pack that occasionally is; unfortunately I must include myself in such a pack. I’m guilty of having wasted countless hours wading through digg and not really reading a thing while spending days “reading” article online. And likewise, with the content I was creating, I had become less and less concerned with quality, honesty and originality - focusing more on simplicity and link bait (also, I can relate to the idea of “fake-connectedness,” but I’ll save that for another post). To move on in a similar fashion as Mann, with blog as with life, would only be logical; so hopefully this blog can fit somewhere into the context of feeling good about life, feeling good about what I put in, and feeling good about what I take out.

While I occasionally can’t help myself from posting the occasional hilarious video, I’m hoping that sftfcs becomes a place where I can work towards figuring out what my voice is. It’s a place that I’d like to try to be honest with myself. It’s a place where I can point my friends to when I have something that I think is valuable enough for them to spend their time on. And it’s a place that I hope comes to validate the countless hours I continue to spend interneting. At least that’s what I’d like to see when I read the site’s content, and as the site’s only reader at this exact moment I figured that I have no choice but to cater to myself.

Metallica "Death Magnetic" Review

As Death Magnetic slowly begins, an interesting similarity arises between the introduction of “That Was Just Your Life” and that of Slayer’s “South of Heaven,” the first song from the second of the band’s albums produced by Rick Rubin. Both songs build slowly before commencing with an album’s worth of commercial thrash — a slower thrash in the case of South of Heaven and a seasoned thrash in the case of Death Magnetic. Additionally, both songs come from albums with which Rubin’s influence was clearly intact. He was there helping elevate Slayer with Reign in Blood, and 20 years after South of Heaven his imprint is again evident as Metallica releases their ninth studio album, its first under Warner’s imprint (though Warner now owns Elektra, Metallica’s prior label), and its first in 17 years without producer and fill-in bassist Bob Rock.

Funny then that one of the main criticisms of Death Magnetic has been that it is self-plagiarizing, a term that could equally apply to a band like Slayer. The term hasn't really been applied Slayer's case though, primarily because the band has pretty much stuck with the same formula from the get-go. Likewise, no one’s criticizing AC/DC for sounding too much like AC/DC with their new release, are they? So just what makes the criticism valid in Metallica’s case? For starters, the band’s return to speed comes after over a decade of “soul-searching” and “experimentation” (code: a string of easily dismissible albums spread out over far too many years). This might be why Pitchfork‘s Cosmo Lee suggested that Death Magnetic is the musical equivalent of a mid-life crisis. It is after all an attempt by an aging band to return to their glory days by recapturing the sound and attitude that made them famous (exception: bassist Robert Trujillo, who has continued to prove his diversity and prowess since first kicking it with Suicidal Tendencies back in the late-80s). Even aesthetically the band has returned to its classic logo, one scarcely used since The Black Album. Fact is, Death Magnetic is an attempt at recreating Metallica – at that, the band has succeeded.

Rolling Stone‘s Brian Hiatt attempted to define the vibrancy of the new sound in his recent review, “‘What don’t kill ya make ya more strong,’ Hetfield sings, with enough power to make the clichè feel fresh.” While partially true (and a tad amusing), the description fails to capture the blinding truth that no matter what Metallica does at this point in time, it is going to be a little clichè. Had Metallica released another album’s worth of Load-sounding filler, that would have been called clichè. Had the band gone further back into a grittier sound reflective of Kill ‘Em All, that would have still been called clichè. At this point in time it isn’t the music, but the band itself that is the clichè.

Even so, after St. Anger the odds of getting a solid album from Metallica were on level with the odds of drawing blood from a stone. But on the record James Hetfield sounds like the cocky frontman he was during the band’s heyday, and both he and Kirk Hammett exchange solid riffs without a hint of “The Memory Remains” to be found. Maybe “The Unforgiven III” is a bit unnecessary, but at least it’s no “Unforgiven II.” And maybe the ten tracks on the album push the limits of human patience, all landing somewhere between five and ten minutes long, but they all ring true to what Metallica should be about: They’re loud, they’re heavy, they’re full of capable riffs and solos, and for the most part they’re really good.

If the band had disappeared after 1993 only to reappear now with this release it would probably be openly received and accepted without the disdain that accompanies Death Magnetic given the group's history. Unfortunately we all know the details: Napster, Jason Newstead’s departure, rehab, psychiatry, and so on. But to continue the comparison, Slayer fans want to hear Slayer when the band sounds most like Slayer, and Metallica fans love hearing the band when it sounds most like Metallica. Death Magnetic sounds like Metallica. Death Magnetic also sounds like it was written and recorded by a band of aging celebrities in its forties who are trying to relive their Scarface. So what! In the end it's an album stronger than what most anyone expected, and for all the group's been through, far better sounding than it probably should be.