Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Closing up Shop

So that's it, then. Two years. Nine hundred entries. But that's all she wrote. My thanks to the editors I've had over the years, and everyone who faced my ire.

Most importantly, thanks to the people who cared enough to read the damn thing or write comments, especially if you're not people I already knew.

My next endeavour is coming together as we speak, keep up with me on Twitter until then.

Oh, and in my hands is a replica eggplant from a dollar store. Which I won at Hip Hop Karaoke last week. For switching a faulty microphone on the fly without stopping. It looked like this:

And yeah, I still go by The Trail there.

Pure truth, Windsor. Be well. Do Good.

Jordan Ferguson
08.10.06 - 01.21.09

Two to Go: On Windsor

I'm writing this in a beaten-up Moleskine cahier I bought shortly after I got my job. I was initially disappointed that instead of the hardbound, banded journal Moleskine is known for, I ended up with a set of three softcover notebooks. No place ribbon, no expandable pocket, just pages wrapped in cardstock. Yet even though I've since purchased the attractive and expensive model I originally wanted, I still find myself turning to the fragile and unattractive mistake I originally bought. The cover is wearing away in spots, the wrinkles, divots and dents form a cartography of the abuse I've put it through. I've only recently passed the halfway mark, the black stitches sealing the previous year behind its threaded seam.

I've been putting this one off for as long as I can. Up to this point, I could still pretend I had some tenuous connection to the city I loved, the city where I found myself, the city where I discovered what I didn't want out of my life, and gave me what I did want [which, as it turned out, was a way out].

But with the end of this blog concludes the last "contribution" I will make to our city for the foreseeable future. And surprisingly, I am perfectly fine with that. Because while I will always love you, Windsor, and I will rep you until the day I die, if my life works out in a way I would like it to, I will never live there again.

This is not an easy reality for me to acknowledge, and though I probably suspected it for months, I was able to ignore it on the basis that I was never home long enough to know I was right. But this past Christmas was the first time in maybe a year I was home long enough to get reacquainted with the flow of day-to-day life was like.

And it was slow. And boring. And small. And for the first time since I left I realized there was no denying that I had become the person I always hated: the guy who leaves Windsor and finds himself a little ashamed when he comes back. And I was okay with it.

The thing I realized tooling around with my man Hollywood on Boxing Day was that while I feel like my average speed has moved up, Windsor's has stayed the same. There's no way to say that without feeling like an arrogant prat, but it's the truth. Even in the most mundane activities here, you see more, experience more, live more than you do back home. Example: when I lived in Amherstburg, it would take anywhere between 25 - 35 minutes to drive to Windsor. Lady Trail and I drive for longer than that finding a Taco Bell across town, and it's not as soul crushingly boring as that commute up Howard Ave. used to be. Because there's something to look at other than fucking cornfields and a driving range.

So it is with a lighter heart than I was expecting that I bid you goodbye, Windsor. If not to you than to what you represent. I think I never fully let go of you, and that was a mistake, but it was the only way I knew how to leave. You were all I knew, and I had to take you with me when I left. You were never really what I wanted, but I made you work, like this beat up Moleskine. But if I now have what I want, why am I still holding onto you? Why am I fighting against who I am now, reluctant to appreciate everything I love about Toronto? Because I'm afraid of betraying you? Unlikely, you washed your hands of me the second I left. I've been in your shoes, I've done the same thing. So be it.

These are the dark days for you, Windsor. The auto economy is tanking, the Greenlink plan is bleeding money for nothing, tuition is going up and up and up. And it's gonna hit bottom before it bounces upward. But I have faith in you. I know there are enough of you who don't adhere to what the Star or Gord Henderson tell you [one last time: Gord? You're an imbecile], who don't want to feel like the victims the city's narrative is trying to construct for you. And I hope you find the strength and support to get up and bring the change the city so desperately needs.

But it will be without me.

I'll see you again, Windsor, and there's no denying the part you have played in my life. But I'm really not interested in having you part of my future.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Three to Go: On Music

I believe I've well established that one of the things I love about becoming an old man is the correlating decrease in how much I give a shit about things like the trendiness of things like my musical tastes. Sometime in 2006 I realized I had wasted a lot of time forcing myself to listen to music and read books and watch movies I didn't actually like, but because it was demanded of the image I was attempting to project. As a result, my iPod's been living in 1998 ever since.

So while I still try to keep up on the world's crappy pop songs [Ne-Yo is a beast of a songwriter, people. Just admit it, you'll feel better], I don't really keep up on the musical trends the Pitchfork crowd think I should. Is Pitchfork still the zeitgeist barometer? Shows how far I've fallen.

So when everybody cranked out their best of lists for the albums of '08, I didn't pay much attention, but curiosity always gets the better of me, and despite the mind-boggling presence of the Lil' Wayne album on numerous #1 spots, I noticed something encouraging.

I'd previously mentioned an interest in the latest album by Girl Talk, Feed the Animals [pictured above]. After seeing it pop up repeatedly on lists of 2008's best records, including Blender's list and even Time magazine [topped in both instances by Weezy], I finally took the plunge and hunted it down.

And it is mindblowing. Nevermind that it has the best album cover I've seen since The Streets' Original Pirate Material. Suburban house with lawn on fire immediately suggests the sort of party to be avoided, and this is the album that would be playing when the cops come.

To put it briefly, it's a mashup album, but it's unlike any other mashup album I've ever encountered. Other similar projects, from Danger Mouse's Grey Album to Mick Boogie and Terry Urban's Viva La Hova all have...themes. Two disparate elements smashed together to make something new, but they all have an established framework. Even geniuses like DJ Earworm [who dropped the sublime Radiohead/Kanye banger 'Reckoner Lockdown' easier this year] make songs in a traditional sense. Verses and choruses and whatnot.

Girl Talk [who goes by the legal name Gregg Gillis and is a medical engineer in a former life], makes no such promises. Each song packs at least 20 samples into each of its 3-4 minute runtimes, and the selections are completely random and [this is the important part] well known.

I've talked about my love for The Avalanches' one and only album Since I Left You, the closest thing I can compare Feed the Animals to in the sense that it's made of hundreds of samples, but different in that those samples aren't recognizable. You listen to the Girl Talk album and find yourself being drawn into the ridiculous combinations Gillis pulls out of his hat. Metallica and Lil' Mama? Why not? Weezy and the Chili Peppers? That'll work. Part of the thrill and excitement of the album is hearing those songs you've known your whole life in a completely different way. Put it on at a party and every person in the room will at least one cock their head in puzzlement, asking if what they heard really happened.

This is all ignoring the album's other major contribution: the fact that the album, legally, cannot exist. All the music on the album is copyrighted, there is no way Gillis or the album's distributor, Illegal Art, can release it. But they have, in a giant flip off to the recording industry as a whole, offering it in a fashion to Radiohead's In Rainbows experiment of 2007: let the buyer decide how much they want to pay for it. Those looking to access the album can decide for themselves how much they think it's worth. If they choose nothing, they have to explain themselves from a selection of options from 'I don't believe in paying for music' to 'I can't afford it'. No judgment, you'll still get the album no matter what, but you should at least tell them why.

Anyway, this has gone on far enough, the point remains: Gillis has made something extraordinary, and while it's not something you would probably listen to everyday, and certainly is not something that can be incorporated into your shuffle playlist, but if you put it on at your next party, the block will be hot enough to singe your grass.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Four to Go: Salve in the Wounds

At least Jon Lajoie thinks we're cool.

EDIT: Behold the actual footage the earlier video promised, courtesy of my man Mike Evans.

Five to Go: Here Come the Bile

This will ramble. Don't expect cohesion. Or coherence. As always these opinions are my own, and do not represent the editorial board of The Lance or any of its volunteers.

The problem Windsor, I think, is that deep down, you don't really want a student newspaper.

I took an office at the Lance in 2004, and am making my exit here four years later, and in that time, I've never found anyone who didn't already work for the paper who had anything good to say about us.

You think this is our own fault. You think we bring it upon ourselves with the advertising, the choice of advertisers, wire copy, lazy reportage, sensationalism or any other of the myriad claims made against this newspaper in the past four years. But I am constantly amazed by the venom this publication generates among some people on campus.

When the pub got closed, it wasn't long before the targets turned to The Lance. "Why do we give money to a paper we never read? Take that money for the Pub we don't go to." Why not take it from the radio station you never listen to and takes twice as much of your tuition? Nope, never.
I can only assume this is because something like CJAM falls into a sort of 'out of sight, out of mind' category. Buried in a far away corner of the CAW Centre, few outside of the station's dedicated staff and volunteers even remember it's there. Whereas The Lance gets plastered all over campus, making it an easy target. People see the stacks of papers littering the cafeteria and assume people are using them as napkins. It's not my fault you people can't use a recycling bin.

As far as the other criticisms, allow me to retort.

The number of ads: I'll assume something I was told in '04 holds as true today if not moreso: If the paper operated on student fees alone, it would come out once a month. Sad reality: ads are required to keep the paper coming out once a week, in colour. Don't tell to the editors to cut their salaries, they make f**king peanuts as it is, and deserve their meagre sums for the level of work they put into it.

The types of ads: At the first national newspaper conference I ever attended, ad policies were the topic of the day. Some felt they were ethically necessary, and refused ads from the military, or tobacco or alcohol or companies with questionable environmental practices. Those were the idealistic students who ran college papers.

Others felt they were the most ludicrous ideas they had ever heard, and laughed them off as naive. These were people like Lewis Lapham of Harper's, and Ken Alexander of The Walrus, both of whom were quick to point out that they would take ad money from whoever wanted to hand it over, if it meant getting another issue out. Because these men understood that in the world of print, survival is the highest priority, and gave their readers enough credit to tell the difference between running an ad and making an endorsement.

Survival is even more precarious in the world of student publications. The Lance makes ad money from national and local customers. Nationally, ad sales are down across the board on account of the recession [also a reason I'm making my exit]. So we turn to local to hopefully pick up the slack. So if a strip club wants to pay us a grand for a full page ad, if it's the difference between the black and the red, hell yes we'll take it. If it were up to me, there'd be classifieds stuffed with escort ads in the back. But I'm without scruples.

Wire copy: I've fought tooth and nail for this, always. You do not live in a bubble. No one thinks they're more globally connected than a university student, yet none of them seem to care about what might be happening at schools across the country. Shut your damn face. One or two wire stories in an eight page news section does not suggest a dearth of local content.

Now, when the Opinion section was running wire copy a few weeks ago....THAT suggests a dearth of local content, and serves to strengthen my original thesis: you don't really want this paper.

Not that some criticisms are not valid. I can't lie, I've rubbed the bridge of my nose on more than one occasion over the current news section. Local produce? Flu shots? Is this the Amherstburg Echo? I know it's the end of the semester, but damn.

And yet I know from experience, if the news editor had run stories more city than school based, there would be a pile of angry emails criticizing the lack of campus-centric content.

You do not want this newspaper. Don't even get me started on the oversight committee, some lame-brained misguided endeavour by a crew of legacy grabbing instigators conducted in a fashion even the most peabrained of observers found fault with, and managed to last about half a year before losing its chair. You people care so little about this paper you won't affect change even after you've fought for the right to do so. And the editors are to take you seriously??

"Well why the eff do you care, Trail? Your ass is out the door anyway."

This is true, and do not misconstrue this as sour grapes. The fact that I still love this newspaper and cherish my time there is why I find all of this so frustrating. Bitching about something and doing nothing to try and improve what you see as problems is a dick move. You complain about ads, but it's not like an increase in student fees would be met with applause [despite not increasing in six years]. You complain about content, but refuse to volunteer or write stories. And this song and dance never changes. It's the nature of campus publishing, known too well to any of us dumb enough to put more than two years into it. By the time you can reach a compromise with anyone, they graduate, and a new crop of rabid young world changers comes storming in and you start with them all over again.

You do not care about this newspaper. You do not want this newspaper. It could disappear tomorrow and you would not even notice, and you're too stupid to realize how tragic that would be.

Counting to 900

My terror of large natural bodies of water and the things that live beneath them has been well documented for years [in short: I hate large natural bodies of water and the things that live beneath them], and the subject of much mockery among people who know me.

"That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard, what are you so afraid of?"
"Whales, mostly."
"Whales? Sharks I could understand, but whales? That's just f**king stupid."
"I'm telling you, if I was swimming of the coast of Labrador and that big ass tail broke the water next to me, you would hear the snap in my brain. That's it. Batshit crazy."
"That would never happen."
"I just don't like things that could swallow me in one bite."
"That would never happen."

Oh wouldn't it, ne'er do wells? You know, I was almost ready to believe you. I was almost ready to admit my fear irrational. Then I saw this.


Yup. One day you're out kiteboarding peacefully, next thing you know the goddam whales are turning on you.

Who's insane now, you assholes?

Thursday, December 04, 2008


As much fun as it is tiffing with Kenny [A.L., I like that, abbreviated, like it's a selection from his collected correspondence. There will be endnotes!], and as much as I've argued in favour of the open dialogue blog commenting affords us over the past two years....well, screw it. I'm a petty man, Windsor, and I refuse to let him have the last word.

A small, petty man.

If you're desperate to chew me out, the blog email address is easily acquired. Take that, democracy!

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Canadian Government: Still Boring

How is it that even when the Canadian government is undergoing the most dramatic events in my lifetime, it's still boring as hell?

Now while I'm certainly not one to support what's going on right now [how Dion could ever believe he'd be welcomed with open arms as a placeholder PM is anybody's guess], I can't quite jump onto Gordo's foam-dripping train of wrath directed at the coalition parties, with no heat on the Tories [and seriously, Windsor Star? Can we thumbnail that picture of Henderson? Horrifying].

My own opinions tend to lead to the Globe's current editorial on the matter, suggesting that while a Dion-led coalition government is about the last thing this country needs, this is a mess of Harper's making. His plan to try and cut the subsidies to the other parties would have effectively neutered them politically, leaving them unable to financially compete in any future elections.

And the opposition are the ones taking a poop on democracy.

The sad fact is that none of our federal leaders give a good goddamn about democracy, only about power and keeping a tight hold on their fragile positions.

Sad, sad, sad.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Of Bangs and Whimpers

Not that is wasn't obvious lately, but as it is now December 1, I feel it's time to officially announce that the Lance Blog will be shutting its doors.

I got the call from Lane Editor-in-Chief Ryan Rogers a couple weeks ago, citing a need to trim operating costs in the wake of slowing ad sales at both a national and local level. No hard feelings there, and I can't say I blame him. I think the best part of that conversation was when the clearly tired and overstressed Rogers asked the following:

"Did you ever want to be Editor-in-Chief when you were News Editor?"
"Fuck, no. Too much stuff like what you're dealing with now."

Anyhoo, I'm not shuttering the doors quite yet. Blogger tells me I'm at 892 entries including this one, and I think I'd like to get it up to a nice even 900 before I lock the place up. And I'd like to make sure I have somewhere set up for all you loyal readers to follow me to. All three of you.

The next week may be a tad nostalgic, Windsor. But you'll forgive me the indulgence, as you've forgiven me so many other things before it. As we kick off the Paper Trails requiem, I've dug through the archives to give you five of the better moments of the past two years.

5. Gollum Watch
Some of you might remember this blog started when I lived in Kingston, Ontario. You may not know that it started there because I had followed Lady Trail there while she attended Teacher's College, because I was fairly certain if I stayed in Windsor, I would have lost her, and I didn't really want to risk that. And she was cool with me going, so why not. You never knew this blog had such a romantic inception, did you.

Anyway, as much as we loved Kingston as a city [still do, want to get back for a visit badly], we didn't really feel much in common with the people there, and making friends was troublesome. So we kind of stuck to ourselves with another pair of Windsorites who had gone to Queen's.

Which brings us to March '06, and Lady Trail had to leave to do an alternative practicum for her course requirements, which basically entailed everyone scattering across the globe teaching in non-classroom settings. Lady Trail went back to Windsor for the month, and I stayed in Kingston. Gollum Watch was the tale of my descent into isolated madness, and was pretty funny, I though. I had visual aides and everything.

4. Mission Statement
This post is the first time I ever rolled up my sleeves and tried to break down for all of you the issues of net neutrality, internet culture and new vs. old media that would become sort of staples over the years. It's still a good read, I think. And well laid out, to boot.

3. The Trail vs. The Pussycat Dolls
Very dated by now, and certainly says nothing new, but never let it be said I was unwilling to make an ass of myself for your amusement, Windsor.

2. [tie] On Anonymous Commenting and My Nemesis
During the 2007 UWSA election we posted a series of debate videos from the candidates here on the blog. On one entry, someone [still don't know who] left a rude and suggestive comment about one of the candidates, which opened a debate on whether or not anonymous commenting should be allowed on this blog. This is the entry where I laid out why I was allowing them [the best weapon against mean speech is more speech] which was not met by a lot of support by the people who were angered. I was just happy people were interested.

The closest thing this arena ever came to out and out internet flamewars was the day I referred to former UWSA rep Ken Birchall as a 'Warrior of Virtue', fighting what he saw as injustice at every turn. This was apparently an insult of sorts, as Mr. Birchall took exception and left what what would become a typically impulsive rebuttal in the comments thread, as well as in emails to other Lance Editors and columns for the opinion section.

In the end, it was all too much for Kenny, and he resigned from council over the UWSA's failure to heed the recommendations of the Electoral Monitoring Committee during last year's general election.

I trust he's out there swinging his sword of light against injustice as we speak. God bless him. *gives one-finger salute*

1. How Great Thou Art
To this day, the one entry to receive the most traffic is my flimsy report on the Dominion Christian Centre in Hamilton after I had seen it featured on CTV's W-Five program. Essentially just a recap of what I had seen on the show, a somewhat disconcerting story of extreme religious fervor, families ripped apart and failed cult deprogramming, the post sparked a brief outburst of commenting after it first went up, but in the years since, I will still see hits going directly to that post two years later. People are still interested in this story; maybe they just find it hard to believe that something like this could be happening in their own backyards, among their neighbours.

If you want to watch the show in question, it's still on CTV's site here.

Also worth noting: for months after that post went up, an IP address in Hamilton spent a lot [and I mean a LOT] of time at the blog. If I didn't know better, I'd think I was being watched.

More nostalgia to come as we bring the curtain down, Windsor. And it won't all be sunshine and orange juice.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Unofficial: Popping My Cherry

This isn't part of the official countdown, Windsor [since I've put it on hold due to my illness this week], but I couldn't resist, for the first time, jumping in on the latest 'discussion' on the collapsing auto industry over at the Star's website, at an apparently frequent poster who's made a name for himself, not in the best regard:

"I usually refrain from getting directly involved in these discussions, but I'm really hoping that 'Guido' is a phantom. I need to believe that my car was built by someone who knows the difference between a 'concession' and a 'concussion.' Possibly he's suffered too many of the latter.

It's not even like I [completely] disagree with him, but man, you're not doing your cause any favours."

Oh blue collar Windsor, I suspect I'll miss you the most.