I have been waking up to the dulcet tones of CBC Radio 2 for the past several weeks. Half the time they play good stuff have the time it is in french and the other half is Anne Murray. I like this mix because I have found it really hard to get out of bed when there is nothing but good songs (you just want to hear one more song) and it just ruins my morning when I hear awful songs. It seems to work out that I am awoken by a decent song and then forced from bed by either annoying chatter or even worse...Anne Murray. So I wake up on the right side then am out of bed fairly quickly. In the past two weeks they have been yammering on about the "Barack Obama Playlist". We the listeners are going to select the top 49 songs that define Canada and send it to Obama so that he might have a deeper and richer understanding of the people inhabiting the top bunk of North America. As if this might somehow change his mind about NAFTA or that maybe Canada might get a shout out in a future speech. Far be it from me to pass judgement on online polls. My mother always says "if you can't say anything nice don't say anything at all"...wait a minute I have a BLOG. Its my responsibility to get on this soap box and preach to the fringes. I wasn't given this outlet by the good people at the internet so I could keep my opinions to myself!
Now I love playlists and I think they are an excellent way for someone with no discernible artistic talent to be artistic and use other peoples art to send a message. I fancy myself a bit of an expert at this particular faux-art but the more faux-artists that are involved in making a playlist the harder it is to see/hear the message. This CBC playlist (Warning: I am making all of these arguments based on the top 100 list. The final 49 might not include some or all of the songs I am about to complain about) will inevitably have songs from bands that I hate and am kind of embarrassed about their Canadian citizenship (BTO, The Rankin Family, Trooper, The Guess Who...If I could vote Bauchman off the Island I would). It will also have songs that should never be used to represent our country or any country for that matter (Crabukit (sp?), Let Your Back Bone Slide, 7 Day Fool...not to be 'hating' on the hip hop crowd but there are probably better songs from each of those artists that could go). Do you think if America was making a playlist for us (a laughable concept) they would include "MotownPhilly" by Boys II Men or "I Was Made For Loving You" by KISS (only if they were trying to get us on the dance floor at their wicked awesome Retro dance party)? There will also be a few strange songs, for example "Hallelujah" by KD Lang...the song was written and performed by Leonard Cohen...why not just put the original on there? I'm sure it is better and I'm sure Obama is a huge Leonard Cohen fan. Also, "One Great City" by The Weakerthans is a great song but it is kinda about how Winnipeg sucks (I know someone from Manitoba and he told me so). And there is gonna be a bunch of french songs. Thats like getting one of those tattoos in Chinese letters and having the artist assure me it means "Strength and Wisdom" and not "Stupid Tattoo". Also I don't think Obama speaks french so he'll probably skip them (I'm getting an image of Obama sitting down in the White House after a tough first week with his iPod on and a warm cup of Hot Chocolate or a herbal tea and just diving right into the playlist. Thinking about each song, taking notes. "Apparently, if Canada had a million dollars they would buy me a fur coat...but not a real fur coat that is cruel...they sound like they need the cash" and "You know what...Superman never made any money...I never thought of it like that...cancel that cheque for 1 million dollars").
Listening to the DJ on Radio 2 gush about the diversity of the talent that Canada produces is beginning to sound like that I AM CANADIAN beer commercial or that Toronto commercial they used to play at Blue Jay games. Its kinda like when the CFL season starts and TSN is hyping this season as the one when everyone will start recognizing that the Canadain Football League is one of the premier leagues in the world. You can proclaim yourself the greatest country in the history of civilization for only so long until it sounds like some sort of a government sponsored ego boost meant to compensate for some sort of an inferiority complex. America pats itself on the back a lot but they have been legitimately labeled a super power for about a half century...they can back up the claim. I'm not saying that Canada doesn't have some really good qualities or that our music scene sucks (There is A LOT of great canadian music and most of it sponsored by the government...unless you have an explitive in your name) What I am saying is that I really don't like it when patriotism gets all up in your face (unless it is shortly after Team Canada wins a gold medal in some sort of a hockey tournament and especially if they just beat the hatable Americans). You should be able to come to the conclusion that Canada rocks on your own. I try to listen to only good music and I am astonished by how much of it is Canadian. If I listened to only Canadian music (specifically the CBC/Obama playlist) and the only thing I need to know about a song was that it was Canadian, I would probably come to the conclusion that Canadian music is not all that great.
Sometimes you start with a great idea...like a playlist for Obama (ha ha...its still a funny idea to me) and it ends up getting watered down (by other peoples suggestions) and the message gets murkier and murkier until its lost all meaning. This Blog post is an incredible example of that (medium=message? Canada = #1!).
I just saw a Canadian Independent Film that, in my mind, did patriotism the right way! The movie is called One Week. It tells the story of a failed author now english teacher (played by Pacey from Dawson's Creek (Played by Charlie from The Mighty Ducks Quadrilogy (Canada's Joshua Jackson))) who is diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer and is given a slim chance of survival. In search of one final adventure before he becomes a "patient" he buys a motorcycle and leaves his family and fiance and heads west from Toronto (he also had some time to kill because he was put on waiting list for a hospital bed). All along the way he stops at every "Worlds Biggest" that he can find. Considering the subject matter, the movie was fairly light hearted until the end when they really start pulling on the heart strings. Canada was not the subject of the movie but it was a superb back drop. The scenic shots, the soundtrack and the cameos were all great and distinctively Canadian. I would entice you with the names of the cameos but the surprise was half the fun. I will say that they were all playing characters and it was not like "Wow, David Suzuki! What are you doing here at the worlds largest hockey stick? Would you like a double-double?". The whole Canada thing was on the verge of subtle until some German tourists tell the main character, while surfing in Victoria, that Canada is the most beautiful country in the world. Why don't they come here to Charlottetown in January and say the same thing when the wind chill is running around -35?!?! That was the only part that didn't quite sit right with me. It felt tacked on. Like the government said we'll only give you the funding but you have to get someone to say that Canada is great. I was convinced...I didn't need some jerk German telling me that. They didn't need anyone to come in at the end and say: "Road trips on motorcycles are awesome!". I was planning on going on to tell you whether I am pro or con when it comes to motorcycles but I should stop here with this. I thought the movie was pretty good and made Canada look pretty fantastic (everything west of Toronto at least) and it did it in such a way that I didn't feel like I was watching a propaganda video or a tourism commercial.
After searching for more info I discovered that it does not get released across Canada until March 6th. I guess Charlottetown is one of those "select cities" I keep hearing so much about.
Next week I will explain why watching Sports Centre's beautifully metric Top Ten plays (decaplay?) every morning makes me a better Canadian and a helps me fully appreciate the virtue of socialized health care