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Sunday, December 13, 2009

100 Best Rock Songs of the 00's

It's the end of the decade, which means lists aplenty, and why wouldn't I join the incessant babble? I may not be a critic, or anybody remotely important, but I know what I like. I should point out right at the start that I obviously have not heard and evaluated every single song that has been released this decade. I'm a huge fan of music in general, and I'll listen to anything, but there are only so many hours in the day, and I work for a living. So I apologize for any glaring omissions, but chances are, if I missed a particular song or artist, it's probably because I haven't heard them yet. Unless we're talking about Nickelback, in which case, I have heard Nickelback, and can I just say, fuck Nickelback.

Okay, here's the list, and forget the suspense, because I'm starting from the top. I should also point out that once you get past the top 20 or so, the rest of the list is pretty much equal in value. The 100th best song is pretty much as good as the 26th best song. It's silly enough trying to rank artistic expression in the first place (not that I'm letting that stop me), but I spent most of my time getting happy with the top 20, so yeah, those songs are probably better than the others. Or not.

1. Matthew Good - Weapon
2. Silversun Pickups - Lazy Eye
3. Franz Ferdinand - Take Me Out
4. Chevelle - The Red
5. Evanescence - Bring Me To Life
6. The Darkness - I Believe In A Thing Called Love
7. A Perfect Circle - Weak and Powerless (Tilling My Grave Remix)
8. Matthew Good - Champions of Nothing
9. Wilco - Spiders Kidsmoke
10. Switchfoot - Stars
11. Wolfmother - Joker & The Thief
12. Jay Z & Linkin Park - Points of Authority/99 Problems/One Step Closer Remix
13. Coldplay - Fix You
14. Snow Patrol - Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking
15. Queens of the Stone Age - Long Slow Goodbye
16. Vertical Horizon - Shackled
17. Audioslave - Like A Stone
18. Danko Jones - Lovercall
19. Jet - Black Hearts (On Fire)
20. Matthew Good - Blue Skies Over Bad Lands
21. Rammstein - Moskau
22. Sum 41 - In Too Deep
23. White Stripes - Fell In Love With A Girl
24. Kings of Leon - Closer
25. Linkin Park - The Little Things Give You Away
26. Nine Inch Nails - Right Where It Belongs
27. Our Lady Peace - Angels Losing Sleep
28. A Perfect Circle - Judith
29. Radiohead - Everything In Its Right Place
30. Switchfoot - This Is Your Life
31. The Tragically Hip - The Lonely End Of The Rink
32. Train - It's About You
33. Hoobastank - The Reason
34. Band of Horses - I Go To The Barn Because I Like The
35. Death Cab For Cutie - Grapevine Fires
36. Matthew Good - Man Of Action
37. Snow Patrol - Run
38. SR-71 - Last Man On The Moon
39. Fall Out Boy - I Don't Care
40. 3 Doors Down - Kryptonite
41. KT Tunstall - Hold On
42. Stroke 9 - Kick Some Ass
43. Barenaked Ladies - Wind It Up
44. Jet - Are You Gonna Be My Girl
45. Live - Sweet Release
46. Sum 41 - Open Your Eyes
47. The Raconteurs - Steady As She Goes
48. Vertical Horizon - Miracle
49. Matthew Good - Born Losers
50. Metric - Gimme Sympathy
51. Sarah McLachlan - River
52. Wilco - Impossible Germany
53. Delerium - Daylight
54. Franz Ferdinand - No You Girls
55. Carolina Liar - Last Night
56. Jars Of Clay - Trouble Is
57. Jimmy Eat World - The Middle
58. The Fray - How To Save A Life
59. Linkin Park - In The End
60. Alter Bridge - Open Your Eyes
61. Bif Naked - Twitch
62. MGMT - Time To Pretend
63. Pearl Jam - Inside Job
64. Snow Patrol - If There's A Rocket Tie Me To It
65. Fear Factory - Linchpin
66. Airbourne - What's Eatin' You
67. Chevelle - Send The Pain Below
68. P.O.D. - Sleeping Awake
69. Scratching Post - Fade Away
70. The Darkness - One Way Ticket
71. Black Stone Cherry - Long Sleeves
72. Audioslave - Be Yourself
73. Puddle Of Mudd - Blurry
74. Matthew Good - Last Parade
75. A Perfect Circle - Three Libras
76. Coldplay - Speed of Sound
77. Shiny Toy Guns - Frozen Oceans
78. Switchfoot - Dare You To Move
79. The Tragically Hip - Are We Family
80. The Editors - Put Your Head Towards The Air
81. Train - Cab
82. Barenaked Ladies - Pinch Me
83. Fountains of Wayne - Hey Julie
84. Biffy Clyro - Who's Got A Match
85. Jet - Walk
86. Kasabian - Cutt Off
87. Mike Doughty - Looking At The World From The Bottom Of A Well
88. Kings of Leon - Knocked Up
89. Queens of the Stone Age - No One Knows
90. Rammstein - Amerika
91. Tenacious D - Wonderboy
92. The Last Goodnight - One Trust
93. The Strokes - Red Light
94. The Tea Party - Stargazer
95. Band of Horses - Is There A Ghost
96. Metric - Glass Ceiling
97. SR-71 - Tomorrow
98. Sum 41 - There's No Solution
99. Beck - Lost Cause
100. A Perfect Circle - Fiddle and the Drum

If you got this far, thanks for reading, and feel free to tell me all about what I missed and how that makes me a complete idiot.

Monday, May 25, 2009

What Would Happen if Marijuana Were Decriminalized? A Freakonomics Quorum

I believe that we are rapidly approaching a tipping point in Western society where marijuana will finally be allowed to come out of the closet. So many people from all walks of life smoke it on a regular basis despite the laws, and it permeates pop culture - hell, there's a show called 'Weeds'!

Full disclosure: I've never smoked weed. I've been in the room when others have been lighting up, but if there was a contact high from that, I can tell you that it was pretty weak. I have no interest in smoking weed, much like I have little interest in smoking cigarettes or drinking beer or bungee jumping or playing Yahtzee. My interest in this issue is practical: we are wasting billions of taxpayer dollars on the prosecution and jailing of pot law violators. I'm also the guy who thinks we should be legalizing prostitution for the same reason. People are going to do these things whether we want them to or not, much like they are going to smoke and drink and bungee jump and play Yahtzee.

If you legalize it, you can control it. As long as it is illegal, then it is the criminal that controls it. The War on Drugs is not only a waste of time, it's a waste of money and a waste of lives. Change the focus from prosecution to treatment and regulation. I mean, how is it a positive thing to be jailing 800,000 Americans a year for smoking pot? That's 800,000 Americans who are not only costing the taxpayer billions to arrest, charge, and jail them, but they're also not working, contributing to the economy, or paying taxes. I'm thinking the justice system has better things to do than nail some housewife for carrying a dime bag in her purse.

Monday, April 06, 2009

It's not how you play the game, it's whether you win or lose

In my limited experience, I know of no country more obsessed with sports than the United States. From high school to college to professional sports, more time, money, and attention is paid to sports in America than anything else. In Canada, my nation is all about hockey, with a little curling, figure skating, and football thrown in. In America, there's football, basketball, baseball, golf, hockey, soccer, auto racing, horse racing, and the Olympics. A small town in mid-state Indiana goes batshit nuts because a local high school baseball team made the state championships. A larger town in North Carolina goes batshit nuts because a local college basketball team made the Final Four. A city in Pennsylvania goes batshit nuts because a local pro football franchise won the Superbowl. This is more than just the "I wear my team's ballcap" level of fandom. This is the "I live and die with my boys" level. This is the "I am this close to starting a riot" level, and while we certainly do see riots happening with soccer fans around the world, the difference here is that sports fans in America span all age groups, and their passion does not wane.

This helps to explain why, in American politics, the focus is always about winners and losers. When you have a two-party system, it becomes natural to think of the other party as the other 'team', the enemy that must be defeated at all costs. Republicans are focused on beating the Democrats. The Democrats - when they are able to focus - are focused on beating the Republicans. You don't often hear about what's good for the country, what's good for the people. If one side proposes something, the other side will find a dozen things wrong with it, but their motivation is not altruistic. Their motivation - always, always, always - is to beat the other guy. Doesn't matter how, doesn't matter what you have to do, because the win is everything. Since war is also easily defined as having a winner and a loser, war's terminology and ideology is co-opted in the desire to win, win, win.

During the election, Barack Obama talked about bi-partisanship. To the other side, 'bi-partisanship' is another word for 'surrender', and there is little doubt that Obama was aware of this, so it was just another thing he could use to help himself win. After the election, Obama reached out to the Republican party to try and get them involved, and of course his attempts were furiously rebuffed. Again, I'm sure Obama knew this would happen, but his aim was to make the Republicans look like dicks - which it did - thus increasing his own popularity. At the same time, the Republicans are doing everything within their power to undermine the President and the Democrats.

Now I ask you: is that really good for the country? Is that really the best that democracy has to offer? Two sides at each other's throats without end? No attempt to reconcile, to find common ground, to work together to find the best path forward? Of course not. But the system as it stands now is set up for nothing else. There must be a winner and a loser. There can be no ties. If you are the winner, you must continue to crush the loser without mercy. If you are the loser, you must be the sorest loser in the history of man. What turned the tide for Obama last year was the vague impression that he might actually be above all this petty bullshit, that he might stand for something greater. The jury is still out on that, but I want to hope. I need to hope. Because in this system, there are no true winners except those who already have power and wealth, and they virtually never lose.

It doesn't matter how you play the game if the game is rigged.

Friday, March 27, 2009

What Matt Taibbi said on the Rachel Maddow show last night was absolutely right - if a corporation is too big to fail, then it's too big. Banks should have stayed as banks, instead of allowing them to branch out into insurance and investments and god knows what else. The banks in my country, Canada, are no exception, but the reason they're not in trouble is that they are far more conservative about the risks they take. No 50 year, 'zero money down' mortgages, no gambling on the successes and failures of other banks. Canada's housing market bubble was a lot smaller than America's bubble, too, in large part because people with a $40000 income weren't able to buy houses worth a half million.

Obama's not helping the situation, though, by surrounding himself with the same fuckwits that got us into this mess in the first place. The difference between an economist and 'you and me' is the economist has fancy lingo to explain why he doesn't know anything. Economists are like psychiatrists, politicians, and pundits - they all completely fail to justify the expectations we place on them. There have been economists for decades, and yet we still have recessions. There have been psychiatrists for decades, and yet we seem to have more mental problems than ever (and more pills to 'solve' these problems). There have been politicians... well, you see where I'm going with this. That's not to say that all economists are idiots; the valuable ones are those that have dropped the veil of arrogance to pursue their curiosities.

Look, wealth is hoarded by the wealthy. The rest of us get the kitchen table scraps. It has been so for centuries, and it ain't changing anytime soon. What we have to do is continue fighting for the things that matter, and hope that the majority of us aren't too distracted by the things that don't.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fox News mocks Canadian military

As Canadians mourn the loss of four more fallen soldiers in Afghanistan, a videotaped segment of an American TV talk show where panelists mock Canadian soldiers as slackers is making the rounds on the Internet.

The five-minute segment, which aired recently on Fox News late-night program Red Eye with Greg Gutfeld and later posted on, features American panelists suggesting Canadian soldiers need time off for "manicures and pedicures."

Because to Fox News, 'Support the Troops' means Support American Troops, while everyone else's troops can go fuck themselves. I know it makes me glad to think of all the Canadians that fought and died in Afghanistan so that their efforts can be mocked by right-wing assholes who sit safely in comfortable chairs half a world away. You know what, America? Fuck you. It's time we left anyway. If this is how you treat your friends, well, how many friends do you have left?

I don't want Obama or anyone else demanding an apology from Fox News because, quite frankly, a forced apology is as meaningless as a conservative's compassion. And besides, given how America tends to get all caught up in herself, I doubt she even notices our outrage. So, again, fuck you, America. Oh, and you suck at baseball too. Ha!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Problem With 'Heroes'

Well, there's no one single problem with the show, obviously; I'm just adding to the chorus of complaints, but I think there is something specific that could easily be changed which would turn things around.

Nathan Petrelli has the ability to fly. And he is one morose motherfucker. Now, honestly, would those two facts really go together? If you could fly, wouldn't you be skipping through the air like a giddy schoolgirl? Instead he treats his power like a disease, a crippled limb that he will use if he has to, but prefers to otherwise ignore it. I call bullshit on that. None of the good guys seem to like having their powers. Well, Hiro did, but they took away his power, didn't they? Meanwhile, all the bad guys seem to love having powers. So it seems like the writers are using this character shorthand where if you have fun with your power, you must be bad. I think they're misinterpreting the moral of Spiderman - with great power comes great responsibility. The show seems to feel this means the good guys have to be serious all the time. Uh, no. You can enjoy a power without being reckless or irresponsible.

Because we don't have the sense that the good guys like having their powers, that makes it rather hard to root for them, because we can't identify with that attitude. It would be awesome to read minds or fly or have super strength or run fast or whatever. Where's the wonder? Where's the joy? The first season had plenty of that. The first season also happened to be the best season so far. Coincidence?

Here's what I think the show needs to do to get back on track and fulfill the promise of that first season.

- Resolve this boring 'hunt the heroes' plotline quickly - I mean, the show is 'Heroes', not '24'.

- Get back to basics - who are these people, and what does having these powers mean to them and to those around them? Until the heroes understand who they are and what their places in the world are, they're going to continue running around aimlessly from one crisis to the next.

- Organize the heroes in a meaningful way - the first two seasons revolved around the company and collecting 'heroes' in order to contain them. What needs to happen now is for the heroes to get organized. There's a reason why the Avengers and the Justice League were formed, why the X-Men were a team - so you wouldn't be a freak alone. Mr. Bennet can be the leader and public face of the organization - oh, and that leads me to the next point...

- Out these heroes already. Give 'em secret identities of course, but it's past time that the world knew there were heroes. It's stretching the bounds of credulity to think that the world doesn't already know about it.

- Along with organizing the heroes comes the idea of training them so they won't be helpless in certain situations where their powers aren't helpful. Claire can heal herself, so why hasn't she been trained in weapons and martial arts yet? Her character is begging for a bad-ass makeover, and the best defense is a good offense, so why wait? Same goes for the rest of them - Parkman in particular could stand to lose a few pounds anyway...

The show can be saved - I think the writers just need to acknowledge that they're essentially doing The X-Men for television, and take the best aspects of the comics for the show. Oh, and while superhero costumes may be necessary, don't forget the lesson of the Incredibles - no capes.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Every year there are the same complaints about the Oscars and how out of touch they are with, well, reality. I haven't seen any of the five Best Picture nominees, and to be honest, I don't really want to see them. I do want to see The Wrestler, because I'm a Mickey Rourke fan. But it's hard to say with any authority that one work of art is better than another, although obviously Pineapple Express is far superior to the Love Guru. If I were voting, these would have been my five Best Picture nominees, with the winner in bold:

The Dark Knight
In Bruges
Iron Man
Pineapple Express

I mean, I don't know how you pick the best movie or whatever, but I go with whichever movie had the biggest impact on me, and that was WALL-E. Also, the best Robert Downey Jr. performance of 2008 was the lead role in Iron Man. Honestly, without him, the movie doesn't work nearly as well. And I was not impressed by his work in Tropic Thunder. See, if he was really playing an Australian playing a black guy, you know what? He'd be more believable as a black guy. Instead, he plays it like an Australian who's never met a black guy, which makes no sense if his character is so 'method'. The best performance of Tropic Thunder was Jay Baruchel, who was terrific as the 'redshirt' who not only survives, but is the catalyst for getting the other actors out of the crisis alive.

Pineapple Express was funnier, anyway.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lose, Leafs, Lose

This is what the Leafs need to do - suck mightily in the hopes that Tampa Bay, Ottawa, and Atlanta find their collective sacks and pass them in the standings. (I'm assuming the Islanders are a lost cause) I mean, sure, it would be hilarious if Toronto somehow managed to finish higher than the Senators - I can't think of a bigger insult - but realistically, they need a chance at either Tavares or Hedman, so I'd rather see them lose now. If the prospect of finishing out the season with a string of defeats is too tough to bear for these guys, well, as the great Marsellus Wallace once said, 'That's pride fucking with you. Fuck pride. Pride only hurts, it never helps."

So come on, you inglorious bastards. Don't be afraid to suck for just a little bit longer.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

On Steroids and such

There was probably a time, long ago, when politicians told the truth, kept the promises they made, and acted with integrity. Then, one day, a politician lied, broke a promise, took a bribe. Politics is a difficult, demanding career, but once lies and corruption were discovered, suddenly it wasn't so difficult, so demanding. And the rewards were far greater than what came before. So with very little fanfare or protest, politicians became untrustworthy, corrupt, accomplished liars. Once it became commonplace, it was accepted as an unavoidable aspect of politics. Is this politician a liar? Is that one? Who can tell? Better to assume that they all are, to keep lowering our expectations instead of demanding more from those who would lead us.

We are at the stage now where it is impossible to say if a given player had used steroids or not, so a whole generation of players are being tagged as 'steroid-era'. I was a fan of Fred McGriff, and while he didn't seem like the type to use steroids, who can say? Once the use of performance-enhancing drugs becomes commonplace, it will be accepted as an unavoidable aspect of sports, and once that happens, then like politics, we will never be able to return to the days of old.

But then, maybe politicians have always been untrustworthy, corrupt liars, and maybe athletes have always used whatever would give them a competitive advantage. Maybe nothing ever changes but the names and the background scenery. If that's the case, is ignorance not bliss?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Bank Rescue

If the banks want rescuing by the federal government, then they should have to agree to a couple of conditions:

1) Make it harder for people to get credit. I'm not talking about people with regular jobs and a steady income. I'm talking about giving credit cards to high school students who aren't even working. I'm talking about giving a $300,000 mortgage to someone who makes $28,000 a year. I'm talking about bringing back some rationality to this mess.

2) Force the banks and credit card companies to cap interest rates at 10% above prime as a maximum. No more Best Buy credit cards at 28% interest. No more Visa cards with 18% interest. If these corporations can't survive on 10% juice, then they shouldn't be in business in the first place. Certainly if they followed my first suggestion, they wouldn't be making as many bad risk deals, so their defaults and bankruptcies should decrease (which is their usual excuse for charging so much).

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It sure is a great time to be a Toronto-area sports fan. The Leafs suck, the Raptors suck, and the Jays are very likely to suck. The rest of the country could care less, of course, because for most Canadians, Toronto is apparently the enemy, or at least a symbol of all the things that are wrong with the world. Toronto commands so much media attention in Canada that it's hardly surprising that most people outside Ontario uses the city's name as a curse word.

To their credit, some media outlets like The Score try hard to focus on other Canadian cities, which is easy when the Flames and Canadiens and Oilers and Canucks don't suck. (Sorry, Ottawa) But, really, Toronto gets a bad rap, and part of it has to do with the fans. You see, Toronto fans have a reputation for being sullen, uninterested, and devoted bandwagon-hoppers. If a team is winning, hey, it's a party, everybody! If a team is sucking, hey, what else is on TV? It's puzzling to me how this has happened. I hear stories from older fans about how great and excited fans used to be, even for the CFL. I suspect it has something to do with the cost of going to a sporting event these days, which is probably a little more expensive than attending a game in Calgary or Edmonton. The real fans, the ones who live and die for their team, also tend to come from less-affluent backgrounds. Rooting for a sports team is one way to dodge the depressive nature of their financial situation, but they're also prevented from attending games in person, which is really the only way to truly enjoy sports. I love the HD TV, but it's not as good as actually being there.

I've been a Leafs fan for twenty years, but I've only actually attended one game (at the old Gardens, too, which was cool). I've followed the Raptors since they came into existence, and I've only attended one game (in the nosebleeds with a partially blocked view). I've been to a lot of Jays games because baseball is my favorite sport, but I've never had 200 level seats, or decent seats behind the dugouts or home plate. I simply can't afford what it would cost to see a Leafs game, or a Raptors game, or a Jays game where I'm close to the action. I see a lot of empty seats at these games, though, prime seats that true fans would kill to occupy. I know the Leafs could care less - they make money without even trying. But maybe the Raptors and Jays might someday consider making it a little easier for the true fans to afford a great pair of seats, if only once a season. Hey, guys, we're in a recession. Help us out, would ya?