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Monday, September 19, 2005


I’ve been in Newfoundland for the past few weeks, staying in a cozy house on a hill by the bay. Needless to say, I’ve had little exposure to the world of pop-culture. I have a radio and a TV, but since CBC (the only station I get on either box) is in its sixth week of a debilitating strike, I’m far removed from the world of music videos, pop stars and other such forms of adulteen pleasures.

There are bits of knowledge, however, that I have gained through my exile in CBC Lockoutland. I am fully in the loop over who is the latest pretty face to slut it up on Coronation Street, and my Sheilagh Rogers impression is near perfection. I saw the Gulf Coast benefit concert, and now know that in times of chaos and uncertainty, CCR can put all my anxieties to rest (watching the Foo Fighters cover “Born on the Bayou” was an explosive delight).

I’ve also heard through the ever-present grapevine about this Sexy Rexy guy, Newfoundland’s hero du jour who came runner up in the Canadian Idol sweepstakes, but all in all, this information keeps me a far cry’s away from being plugged into my media desk back in Toronto 24-7, where I can download every Lohan mascara-smudged upskirt nipple slip coke binge photo within seconds of it being posted online. Instead, I’ve taken to enjoying more provincial pleasures, like moose hunting, rowing dory boats by hand, and eating illegally fished cod smuggled from the depths of the ocean. And you know what? I love it, every minute of it.

Last week’s trip to the small urban hub of St. John’s reminded me of why my exile is warranted, in fact necessary to the re-emergence of my brain power. Don’t get me wrong, St. John’s was an excellent place that had its share of crazy times on some of the oldest streets in North America. It was in the hostel, however, where I went through those moments of culture shock, not in response to my “newfound” experience of this culture at the edge of the continent, but to the one with which I was familiar in what now seems like the foreign country of the past: the world of the Much More Music weekly Top Ten.

Three videos in succession brought forth feelings of severe dissatisfaction and disdain to my merry state of seaside hypnosis.

With their latest video, it appears that The Backstreet Boys are attempting a run towards relevancy by adopting the camp satire of 80’s hair metal buffoonery. Granted, the video is humorous, but sadly for us and the BB crew, seeing them don the requisite spandex and mullet wigs reminds of us just how unoriginal and irrelevant they are as posters boys for the shittiest music alive. They’re jumping on a rusty bandwagon that’s had more rides than a yellow taxi. Perhaps the Backstreet Boys were practicing their harmonies when Blink 182 and American Hi-Fi glued on their dime store moustaches in suspiciously similar videos two or three years ago…or maybe they saw FUBAR one night and decided to just “Giv’r!”

The next video, Bon Jovi’s “Have a Nice Day”, tries to make some pretense of a statement about guerilla semiotics, but instead falls short by trying to convince us that Bon Jovi is a beacon of spontaneous outbursts of revolutionary street art. The premise: a young, hip kid runs into the Jovester after a concert and has him sign an autograph. An unguarded Bon Jovi haphazardly scrawls a non-descript happy face on a piece of paper. The kid takes a photo of it with his cell phone, emails it to his friends who make prints and stencils of it, and almost instantly, the grinning anti-logo starts to pop up everywhere. No mailbox, poster-board or unsuspecting human backside is safe from this sneaky image for the remainder of the video, which culminates in a Bon Jovi concertattended by a young, fist-pumping audience.

Two problems with this video: first off, a Bon Jovi concert is more likely to be a cougar convention than a rebel rocker revelry. Second, any world in which Bon Jovi’s doodles inspire the masses to create their own culture is a doomed one at best.

The last video I could stomach was the week’s Number One, the latest Green Day opus. Now, I must give the band some due credit before critique. American Idiot is a fine album conceptually, composed of statements about contemporary life that are miles ahead of Bon Jovi’s and the Backstreet Boys’ with respect to sincerity.

“Wake Me Up When September Ends” is a conventional but beautiful song about loss and change. The video takes it up a notch by setting a teenage love-story to the backdrop of the Iraq War. It has a purpose, intending nothing more than to compel the mall-punk teenies to ponder their proximity to war and global catastrophe. Good one Green Day and the video’s director, but I’ll have to stop short on giving the video the two-thumbs up because I was hit with so much emotional shrapnel while watching that I had to amputate one of them. This video could easily be a Spielberg / Bruckheimer nightmare sequel to Garden State. The scenes depicting the two lovers together radiate with Sirk-like melodramatic intensity, while the battle scenes bear all the familiar scars of the hyper-realistic war dramas defined by Saving Private Ryan and Black Hawk Down.

Not since September 11th has fifteen minutes of television worn me out so much.

Apologies for the lack of fun pictures and links on this post, but I’m on a public library connection with sloth-like dial-up service. I’ll be back in Toronto on the 28th, so expect this blog to return to its more regular pattern of updates.


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