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.