Everybody Has a Top Ten Today

(I consider this an addendum to my thoughts on the death of the “old” late night television and the departure from late night of my favourite host Craig Ferguson, which I made in December. So read that if you want a full preamble.

For a briefer preamble: In it, I wrote “Yes, historically speaking, David Letterman’s retirement next year is probably more important (than Ferguson’s last show) since he probably is more responsible for the 12:35am aesthetic than he’s comfortable admitting as a man who wanted to desperately be (Johnny) Carson’s spiritual successor instead.” That’s a big part of why David Letterman is important.)

We live in an age where we have a list for everything. However, David Letterman was doing Top Tens before Top Tens became a well-worn cliché. So we (the “we” in this case is “the Internet”) can be forgiven for all blithely throwing up a Top Ten list to commemorate David Letterman’s 4,263rd episode of Late Show, 6,082nd late night program overall (minus guest hosting duties) and final late night gig of all.

So here’s my Top Ten Favourite David Letterman moments. They’re arguably not the best and it’s nowhere near comprehensive because I cut my late night fandom teeth on his Late Night successor. Nonetheless, here they are:

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AN HONOURABLE MENTION: You’ll note that none of Dave’s more infamously confrontational interviews are included; my humour scale tends not to respond to the embarrasment factor. But it’s worth mentioning that their value was at their highest when Dave either thought the guest took themselves too seriously or he had little respect for the guest’s “accomplishments.” It’s a peek into Letterman’s insight when Paris Hilton told him she didn’t want to talk about her time in jail and how he responded. People (rightly) pilloring Letterman for his faults could produce just as much humour.

10 – “Did You Bring Any Mace?,” May 14, 2015, The Late Show
In the interest of acknowledging there’s a recency bias, I’ll put this on the list but leave it at ten. Late night TV works great when you have some sort of motley combination of folks: having gravelly-voiced Tom Waits as guest with an American mainstream sweetheart, George Clooney, standing by works for this reason, while it also serves the purposes of watching three entertainment vets have a chuckle. Clooney handcuffed himself to Dave in an earlier segment in a gag designed to express his disappointment with Letterman’s retirement (“You’re not going anywhere!”). To their credit, they saw the gag through to the episode’s end. Watching Clooney’s delayed reaction to Waits’ tire business joke tickles my pun-loving funny bone.

9 – “It Seems to Me Like You’re Changing Your Style a Bit…,” , Late Night, October 2, 1986
The first of three ’86 moments on this list, this features one of Letterman’s most celebrated featured players from his NBC days impersonating Dave’s most frequent NBC guest in a bit that demonstrates Dave’s most frequently celebrated quality: the “anti talk show” approach. Chris Elliott pokes fun at all of Jay Leno’s predictable delivery points but Dave is quick to immediately deconstruct the bit on the spot and somehow only adds to its humour. Elliott would return two weeks later with Leno himself to deliver a great callback punchline to the routine.

8 – “My Favourite Band Playing My Favourite Song…,” February 21, 2000, Late Show
It’s a strange entry for me to put a musical performance on here because a) it’s not Dave doing anything and b) I could really take or leave the Foo Fighters after their first couple of albums (and this was recorded right as their plunge into mediocrity was already in tilt). But anyone that was in high school/college in the late-90s remembers the power-pop-rock perfection that was The Colour and The Shape, and obviously Letterman loved the signature single.

Letterman was #2 (or 3) in the ratings from 1995 on, but there was a gravitas to Dave that made his coming back from heart surgery in 2000 a much bigger deal than if it had been anyone else. What makes this stand out is that the band didn’t just fly back from South America to play it…they played the hell out of it. For all of the times Letterman was (and is) a jerk where his rivals weren’t, those that did feel warm feelings about him were 100% sincere about it and it came through in their performances. I still kind of get a little goosebump when the synth kicks in and Grohl says, like a giddy eight-year old, “Paul Schaffer!”

7 – “You Need a Ride to the Airport?,” September 24, 2008, The Late Show
Right-wingers say Dave went downhill when “he got political” and believe it or not, I actually agree. Not because of any leanings on my behalf, but because I don’t think Dave did partisan humour well (especially given what his successor was doing in the same timeslot on cable). But what Dave did do well, when he was on, was make fun of the general absurdity of the power politics of everyday life (also see #4). Which is why his takedown of John McCain was a return to form.

We’ve probably all been stood up for a false reason at some point in our life (many of us are also probably guilty of same). What’s interesting about this clip is that Dave really gets across over the course of the show how much his initial admiration of McCain informs his disappointment when John bails on him that way. The fact that noted left-wing pundit Keith Olbermann just so happens to be Dave’s substitute for McCain as the Couric interview is unfolding is like an extra layer of delicious wickedness.

6 – “As You Can Tell, Andy Kaufman’s is Here, Sorta…,” July 29, 1982, Late Night
This is a “my favourite” list, not “best,” and since I’m a wrestling fan, I’m biased and this makes the list. Jerry Lawler and Kaufman decided to go “off page,” as it were, in one of the most important moments in pro wrestling history and shockingly enough, a formative moment in Letterman’s career. I think it would have been memorable TV regardless of the host but Dave handled it with a coolhanded flippancy that surpasses how any of his contemporaries would have. Also, his little quip at 14:55 (that doesn’t even draw a huge laugh in and of itself) is maybe my favourite Dave one-liner, giving you a clever reference to late night history to that point…

5 – “How Did You Get This Job, By the Way…?,” February 28, 1994, Late Night
I wish the whole appearance was on the webs right now but it isn’t. But I’m a big Conan O’Brien fan and anyone born before 1985 probably remembers the reaction to him getting the job to succeed Letterman on NBC’s Late Night: “Who the hell is this guy, why’s he so nervous and when is he going to get funny?” But a lot of our generation thought there was potential, and getting Dave’s blessing was an enormous step forward. Given that Letterman’s production company was already planning a rival program, he didn’t have to do that, but typically Dave wasn’t good at hiding things that he hated– or things he liked. (A lesser remembered appearance is here— with another quick Dave’esque zinger at 0:49 and an oddly prescient statement about Conan’s future).

4 – “This is Gonna Be Fun to Work with These People, Isn’t It?…,” April 8, 1986, Late Night
If you want to know why Dave “jumped the shark” in the late 90s or early 2000s, it was most notably because he stopped doing remotes. And this one was hands down the most intentionally and unintentionally genius one that he ever did. When he delivered a fruit basket to the headquarters of new NBC owner General Electric, he all at once poked fun at the general hassles of bureaucracy, at how conglomeration created bosses and owners isolated from their employees, and at his own “bite the hand” mentality that would ultimately cost him The Tonight Show. Not like it was the last time he’d do this. And certainly not the first…

3 – “…and I’m Not Wearing Pants,” August 19, 1985, Late Night/Today Show
#2 is Dave at his “elder statesmen” best. This is Dave at his “voice of the young comic generation” best. (He was my age at the time, so I may be trying to overinterpret 38 as young– wishful thinking?). Anyone that made a point to stay up to watch the “hip” Letterman probably also considered The Today Show as overhyped anathema and Dave capitalized on it all too well. It’s probably also no coincidence in Dave’s mind that just as NBC would repeat itself in his universe with seemingly absurd TV-think, they would be equally redundant handling their morning flagship.

2 – “Don’t Blame Conan,” January 19, 2010, Late Show
Mix Letterman’s blessing of O’Brien as his successor in #5, his proclivity for poking fun at invisible network bosses in #4/#3 and his sourness at losing his dream job to the comedian cited in #9 and…voila! If you can forgive the excessive Paul Schaffer interventions in this desk bit, you’ll recognize it as a pivotal moment in Dave’s status as late night’s elder statesman.

It’s impossible to mention Letterman’s careers without also referencing Jay Leno’s. By all accounts, more people watched Leno and we should like Leno better: a faithful husband with gentle comedy and a kind exterior. Still, there was always something…off…about Jay to those that considered themselves more seasoned comedy fans. You felt like for better or worse, you knew Dave, but you didn’t really know Jay.

Dave works that to his advantage here and again does what he does best: deconstruction. The furor over NBC trying to elbow Jay Leno back into 11:35pm, and Leno’s apparent overwillingness to surrender to the corporate structure that drove Dave crazy, kicked off a glorious (if not also redundant) week of high-level Letterman bitching about Jay and NBC. What makes the bit brillant is that Dave doesn’t focus on Jay’s alleged selfishness, he instead focuses on a seemingly innocuous statement (“don’t blame Conan”), dissects its absurdity and divulges what he sees as the personality flaw that informs that statement. Dave would be the cranky old man before and after this, but this was one of the times he was a particularly astute cranky old man.

1 – “The Arbitration,” June 27, 1986, The Tonight Show
Yes, I’m being ironic by making the number one entry something from the show that got away from Dave…but most times when people praise Letterman, it’s for his anti-humour-humour, his diffusing of normal celebrity sycophantism, general curmudgeonry and his widespread influence.

But this is just straight-up clever and funny Dave: bantering with his late-night idol and delivering a hilarious comedy premise that works on YouTube today, worked on television in the 80s and would have easily worked on radio in the 30s (or the stage in any era). Tonight’s Late Show may mark the end of a run for a TV host that was of his time, but there was certainly a spark there that carried beyond his years.

I’m sure he’ll enjoy his retirement like anyone of his vintage should: with a big, big bottle of alka seltzer.

It’s a Bittersweet Day in America, Everybody

Preface
It’s hard to imagine how unbelievably worked up America got almost five years ago when NBC attempted to rearrange its late night television universe and Conan O’Brien stiffly rebuked its suits. Especially when you consider one of O’Brien’s public rationales for doing it.

Conan didn’t technically get kicked off of The Tonight Show (though it’s often remembered that way). Instead, he walked away because he essentially didn’t feel like hosting a show any time other than 11:30(ish) PM was the gig he signed up for. In other words, he still really valued the concept of The Tonight Show.

It was almost enough to make entertainers in the minority opinion (at least at the time) want to shake Conan and say what Jerry Seinfeld said not too long after: “‘There is no tradition! (After 16 years), you should get it: there are no shows! It’s all made up!.'” Seinfeld’s sentiment was echoed by David Letterman’s former producer Peter Lassally in the early 1990s. Lassally is quoted in the legendary 1990s book The Late Shift as having to verbally browbeat into David Letterman’s head that Johnny Carson’s ubitquious Tonight Show didn’t exist anymore.

Even transferable titles like The Tonight Show, The Late Show and so on seem arbitrary and a pandering attempt to create a simulacra of transferrable tradition where no transferability exists. Yet they are oddly enforced in our consciousness: Seth Meyers is presented as “the fourth host of NBC’s Late Night” despite no retention of bits between the show’s four hosts. Seinfeld would later say he didn’t see himself (as a guest) doing these shows but just “doing Jimmy’s show, Jay’s show” and so on and so on. And moreover, isn’t the TV audience of the future timeshifting everything anyway?.**

**Full disclosure: I consider myself a Conan O’Brien fan. Still, I don’t feel like his show is a “late night thing” to me. It can be if I so choose to be. However, there’s nothing about watching Clueless Gamer (which is outright hysterical, by the way) that evokes a sense of time, even if it entertains me. Funnily enough, Conan’s early earnest, though often fumbling attempts on NBC did evoke the late night feeling much more, at least for me.

Yet people have fought about, written about, and argued about the legacy of late night network television as though it was something important. As Louis Menand wrote for The New Yorker in 2010 (referring to Carter’s Late Shift followup), reading about the “late night wars” “can sometimes feel we are reading about the Battle of Stalingrad.”

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Hey everybody, remember Greg Kinnear?

This isn’t important either, but it’s just an aesthetic opinion: I feel like the last true network “late night” show airs tonight. Not at the coveted 11:35p slot but at 12:35a.

Why It’s a Bittersweet Day in America (If You Like Late Night Talk Shows, That Is)
Tonight, the last episode of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson (with Lassally serving as Executive Producer since 2009 and with Leno as Craig’s final guest) airs. And yes, that marks the death of late-night television for me. Or that is to say, the death of late night as I knew it.

Let me first clarify that this is not meant as a disparaging comment towards any current crop of late night hosts, be they major network or otherwise. Each has their own talents. Yet, as stated above about O’Brien, their shows seems like the same time-shiftable material any variety program would offer. Craig Ferguson, in all of his glorious, semi-improvised Scottish splendour, was the last to feel like his show was genuinely meant to be late night. His was a show you were supposed to stumble into after a late-night of trivia at the bar (or an early night at the bar for anything else, I suppose).

I came upon Ferguson’s version of The Late Late Show several years after its inauspicious start. By complete happenstance, as I laid my head down on the pillow at 12:35AM (roughly), I flipped to CBS and saw this. It was, suffice to say, quite random and quite absurd.

It was….well, it was almost 1 in the morning and it felt that way.

Thus the great irony in the tagline that Craig Ferguson would regularly drop in his monologues on The Late Late Show: “It’s a great day in America, everybody!” (emphasis all mine). The irony being this: If any late-night talk show host still lives up to being a late night talk show host in terms of aesthetic (if nothing else), Craig Ferguson is it. “It’s a great late night in America” would have been a more fitting salutation, even if every late night talk show is filmed in the day (something that Craig didn’t mind reminding you about…a lot). We’ve come through an age where viewers upped their time-shifting massively. Only now, they’re gradually being swayed back to being more time-intensive viewers by fear of being spoiled by social media.** But talk shows (not celebrated as a “high social” form of viewing anymore) may just be immune to the tidal shift back because there’s not too much to spoil, unless a talk show host has an incredibly au courant level of social confession to make.

*Flying back to Canada on Wednesday night, this Survivor watcher needed to avoid Twitter for awhile until he could get caught up on the Season 9 finale

Full disclosure #2: Yes, I’m being a fanboy with this blog entry because some stuff will be written about Ferguson’s exit, but not nearly as much as the usual 11:35pm dramas. Yes, historically speaking, David Letterman’s retirement next year is probably more important since he probably is more responsible for the 12:35am aesthetic than he’s comfortable admitting as a man who wanted to desperately be Carson’s spiritual successor instead. And yes, last night’s overly-celeb-stuffed exit by Stephen Colbert before he succeeds Letterman probably underscores the grandiosity of that timeslot. But folks, Craig Ferguson is, and soon-to-be-was, a helluva late night talk show host.

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Ferguson has all the redundancies of catchphrases and repetitive “oh my show is so cheap” self-depreciation, but buried within that was more distinct and original comedy than anyone else. Most late night talk show hosts essentially recycle the same monologue for 4-5 nights in a row, just changing the wording about each item they plan to joke about. Craig Ferguson delivers a completely different monologue on a completely different subject each night he hosts. He reads emails and Tweets from his viewers every night: the same “sketch” but because the viewers are different, he can change his riffs as he pleases. So there’s just general talent on display.

But there’s also an undeniable feeling that his show belongs in your queue as the last stop before you sleep. I’ve always been fascinated by late night talk show hosts, but not so much late night talk show guests: especially when it was obvious they’d rehearsed “bits” masquerading as interviews or were simply plugging the usual project. Craig Ferguson had the raw audacity to just…chat…with his guests. So charming was he at just disarming his guests to forget about plugging and just talk, that to look up “Craig Ferguson flirts”, which seemed to result from nothing more than Ferguson actually displaying some level of interest in the person rather than the actress/etc., yields a plethora of YouTube compilations.**

**Lest you think this informality only lent itself to the frivolous…who’da thunk a late night talk show host would pull this Peabody winning performance off.

Late night talk shows always struck me as the metaphorical greasy spoon diners of television: if it’s too fancy, you’re doing it wrong. When I first saw Craig’s show, I thought “this man is interviewing big celebs and is probably paid millions, but this doesn’t seem too fancy. This is what I want right now.”

To be fair, Ferguson (or perhaps more accurately, his producers) always flirted with the dangers of success in a way that threatened to deprive his show of its diner’esque charm. I used to use his show as an example to my GSTV students of how you can accomplish a lot in a small studio space…then his studio got bigger. His was the last late night show to go HD…it was long overdue but could have felt like a betrayal of the “oh, this late at night we can’t be fancy. He decided to counteract this with the best possible cold open for a “this ain’t Letterman’s budget even though Letterman’s company pays me” show. When his robotic sidekick Geoff began to develop more than a ten-word vocabulary, it seemed to counter what his invention was meant to deconstruct (how the role of late-night sidekick could theoretically be reduced to monosyllabic metaphorical bootlicking that “even a robot” could do)…instead, it ended up reaffirming the character as a sidekick that was, in fact, genuinely hilarious.

Even his theme song seemed like it should stay primitive rather than epic…but I never stopped singing along even when its recording got shinier.

He also brought a pathos to his show that seemed oddly fitting for his timeslot also. Again, emotional confessions and sober second thoughts are hardly the private reserve of the night hours, but something about when Ferguson got serious evoked that late-night diner chat you had with an old friend that was “getting real with you for a second” over that last cup of coffee you shouldn’t have ordered. Rather than take the day off or take a moment and move on regarding his parents’ passings, he memorably eulogized each of them. You felt like you were the last one Craig was speaking to after all of the funeral services.

In many ways, I feel sad to have missed out on the first airing of arguably the absolute highlight on the serious side of the ledger: a memorable explanation of why he wouldn’t joke about Britney Spears’ public troubles in 2007. He managed to come across self-effacing, life-affirming and completely non-judgmental in his “getting real” moment about struggling with addiction. But it did prompt me to immediately turn to him for the sober second thought (even as his audience was laughing) about Charlie Sheen in 2011.

So in synopsis:
– When Craig Ferguson talked to his guests (and his audience), it didn’t feel canned. It felt like a postbar chat with his chums.
– His actual brand of comedy, particularly to open the show, had an upscale cable access aesthetic simultaneously contradicting his stature yet fitting his timeslot.
– He managed to capture this aesthetic while being the host most blatantly lampshading when his episodes are actually recorded.
– He was using puppets, costumed characters, a “lesbian row”, and for gosh sake’s, he gave his timeslot “rival” kittens as a Christmas present
– His show enders…the best ‘last call’ concept for a TV show you could want (no offense to Carson Daly), even their odd anticlimaticism befit the genre.

That’s why it’s a bittersweet day in America, everybody. There are many talented comedians whose shows happen to air late at night, but really it’s all a DVR webfest for me.** The old late night is dead. Dave, turn the lights off when you leave the room, K?

**The irony of commemorating Ferguson’s timestamp value by linking online footage…not even remotely lost on me. They’re entertaining any time of day but best enjoyed between the hours of 12:35a-3:35am…just one man’s opinion.

We Failed Domestic Violence Victims- Preemptive Strategies and Losing (or Finding) Jian Ghomeshi

(***TRIGGER WARNING***: Several links here and throughout this post refer to descriptions of violence that may be triggering for survivors.  My previous entry, prior to the revelations of additional claims and Lucy DeCoutere and Reva Seth’s coming forward, is here).

(UPDATE #2 (10/31): The digital age is ripe to be exploited for misinformation, but this case now appears to provide a compelling case for how one ripple in the digital world can lead to the disclosure we wish for but do not often volunteer. A detailed story published by the Toronto Star indicates that Ghomeshi may have inadvertently sped up the investigation on himself by reacting in paranoia to the Twitter account, Big Ears Teddy, which only posted tweets from April 9-11. An official investigation is finally underway).

(UPDATE #1 (10/31): Apologies that I missed this item before submitting this, but Navigator has dropped Jian Ghomeshi as a client).

If you only click on and read one link in this entire post, make it this one. This summarizes the tremendous frustration about the terrible events that make the story right now.

On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning (while packing and preparing for #collegemedia14), I did something of which I’m not sure I’m horribly ashamed, but of which I certainly know I’m anything but proud.

I went on a Jian Ghomeshi listening/watching binge (and no, I’m not linking any of it).

I listened to the podcast of his last Q episode from start-to-finish. I listened to several interviews of him from his book tour of 2012. I listened to bunch of his “audio essays.” I listened to some of his best & in some cases (Howie Mandel) poignant interviews as a radio host. And I listened, in a state of surreal shock, to his Gamergate interviews—in which women detailed to him the horrors of cyberstalking and death threats they were experiencing—which were conducted only ten days ago.

I think, somehow, I knew— as Robyn Urback wrote today— the dam was about to break. And I theorized in conversations that there was any number of reasons why I found myself compelled to go on my listening binge before it did. Those reasons including:

— The natural temptation to see if there was any clues in the public persona that had been staring us in the face all along. Oh sure, he was smarmy…but how many smarmy media personalities are there out there? Are they all this horrible?
— Similarly listening for the clues in his book tour interviews: the descriptions of a life as an outsider due to Persian background and the seemingly strong connection to his recently deceased father. How could someone who claimed to work so hard to make his dad proud be something so much different?
— The surreal feeling of listening to a person’s last known photograph. Somehow the public Jian Ghomeshi feels…not so much like he was never real. But like he was killed by the private Jian Ghomeshi. And that man took his time doing it. And he physically abused and emotionally scarred possibly countless women- real, very real, very non-fictitious people- along the way.
— The cruel fate that his last two episodes would encompass Gamergate conversations, the Ottawa shootings and the subjects of depression and suicide with Clint Malarchuk. (Malarchuk, not knowing what was to unfold, tweeted this afterwards).

And finally, listening to a historical archive of a man being a voice of reason for the nation…and slowly realizing something dark and sinister. And something that, quite frankly as someone who advises student journalists and radio hosts for a living, is downright haunting:

If Jian Ghomeshi the radio host was a different person than Jian Ghomeshi today, he’d be the first person most of Canada would have turned to for commentary on this story.

Not any of the women. Not any of the women who knew the women. Not any of the friends that tried to provide shelter to the women. You can very easily surmise the first voice on the matter on a Monday morning would have been Jian’s, ever so calmly starting with his signature “Hi there,” ostensibly presenting his “word of radio god.”

And even just that one realization tells you right there: we failed. We failed the women of Canada, the women of the world. We keep failing, and I’m right there with all of us.

———-

One of my students wrote a powerful story for The Signal earlier this semester on why sexual assaults go underreported and that story doesn’t lead all that differently from this one that I linked above, the most important story of all. My students’ story was accompanied by a staff editorial, which was well-intentioned and, quite frankly, strongly reasoned.

But still, more often than not, we do not report. Oftentimes, it’s up to the good journalists, it’s up to the Toronto Star muckrakers we’ve seen in action, to wrangle up as much as earthly possible in a story to uncover the truth. Why? As “Melissa” from Nothing From Winnipeg wrote: “Do you know about Jian?” That’s why.

Those horrible feelings that something is not right, with enough people feeling the same thing all around you, with enough people whispering terrible things but somehow no one ever really being able to point to the person that can corroborate it in a way that everyone can know… even though…they know. I don’t have any close friends near the situation, but many have moved to various places across Canada and have heard from those who know about Jian. Some of them bit their lip because they felt it might not be ever possible to prove.

When the dam bursts, it becomes impossible to deny. Oh sure, we still have not an ounce more of physical evidence than we had on Monday when many of us tried to hold our feelings on the matter at bay. But now we have people putting names to their accusations. Now we have people offering vivid descriptions. Now we have a conspiracy theory of Ghoeshi’s (lawyers’) imagination so vast that moon landing conspiracy theorists would state “I’m sorry, that’s a stretch.”

But why do we have to let the dam reach the breaking point? Why do so many assaults go unreported (or underreported)? Why did it take not one assault by Ghomeshi to merit a journalistic investigation but a virtual plethora of them? Much of it stems from how we take our the principle of the presumption of innocence to a rather twisted end.

—–

I described Ghomeshi’s approach in his Facebook statement as a “a multi-pronged reduction of offensiveness approach: bolstering (reminding everyone of his work as a ‘good (CBC) solider’), minimization (‘we’re not talking about assault, we’re talking about consensual BDSM’) and attacking the accuser (insinuating this is the “campaign” of ‘jilted ex-lover’).

But others were much more to the point and accurate: his team was trying to pull a David Letterman. Furthermore, It was only logical that this was the only aim because winning the accompanying lawsuit was swiftly judged as pragmatically impossible.

We’ve logically come to a very quick conclusion about the Letterman strategy: it failed. There are two reasons for this.

The minimization effect worked for Letterman because the blackmail attempt was a much easier story to believe. The most Ghomeshi could hope for was that the accusations towards him would remain as vague as they did on Monday so that his conspiracy theory could hold water. That didn’t even remain a reality for 24 hours. By Wednesday morning, the accusations were so varied, descriptive, and from differing social circles with no real compelling interest to defame Ghomeshi seeming obvious. On the other hand, Letterman’s story was easy to believe right away and thus his infidelities were immediately minimized against what was perceived as a greater crime, that of trying to blackmail him.

Second, Letterman’s story stopped unfolding. He didn’t just get ahead of it. He stopped it. There was no danger of Letterman being arrested. His infidelity may have been reprehensible but it posed no danger of arrest nor did any suggestions it would lead to assault take hold. Letterman was deemed by some to be “merely” reprehensible, Ghomeshi is now understood to be dangerous.

And that second difference is why we’re all kicking ourselves now. The law indicates Ghomeshi is “innocent until proven guilty” and we carry that so far so as to not even begin or demand a police investigation now after this many allegations. In the police’s case, possibly out of respect of victims’ fears of vengeance of a perpetrator before a sentence can be laid out. In the public’s case, because of a false equivalency between a rush to investigate and a rush to judgement.

I write all of this not to pin blame on a specific person other than Jian Ghomeshi. Any assaults committed by him, however many they be, are his responsibility and his to be punished for. But that doesn’t mean that we as a collective haven’t failed. Because Ghomeshi’s story hasn’t stopped, more come forward. Yet still we do not do enough. We try to walk the delicate line of respecting victims, respecting the justice system but yearning to take assault allegations seriously, despite the overwhelming evidence we collectively don’t.

And after everything I’ve written, I have few solutions. Here’s two starting points, though:

– You don’t have to believe every single rape or assault allegation you hear. But you should never disbelieve it until it can be soundly disproven. The mythological “pot of gold” that a false rape accuser gets still eludes us all- the sensible ones of all, that is. Hateful, sexist dialog towards accusers of people you want to stick up for is inexcusable, no matter how good of a friend, ally or figure that might be. The consequences of stigmatizing an accuser, no matter how frivulous a charge may seem, is far greater than the consequences of giving an accusation a chance to be investigated.

– Here are some resources. Get familiar:

http://www.cwhn.ca/
http://www.canadianwomen.org/facts-about-violence
http://www.nrcdv.org/
http://www.dvrc-or.org/
http://www.thehotline.org/
http://www.ncadv.org/

——

One last thought,

Jian Ghomeshi said something in one of those many “Q essays” (again, not linking it) and it seems like he was oblivious to it. “Journalism is not a crime.” We tell our students, “you the student are subject to the same journalism that you practice on the students you write about.” Perhaps there are people who think they are media figures think they get immunity. They don’t.

After all of this, it remains as true, and in as dark of terms as possible, as when I first wrote it: something very sad has happened. Not just at CBC, but across Canada.

Something Very Sad Has Happened at CBC

Resources for victims of domestic violence can be found here.

(UPDATE #3 (10/29/14): **TRIGGER WARNINGS**, This following links contains either written or audio descriptions of violence which may be triggering to survivors. An anonymous woman claims abuse at the hands of Ghomeshi, citing the incidents as just over a decade ago, on the CBC radio program As It Happens. And the first woman to come forward publicly did so shortly thereafter, actress Lucy DeCoutere, to the Toronto Star).

(UPDATE #2 (10/28/14) Even more relevant to my world is this reflection on the furor and what it says about the power of radio from Paula Simons at the Edmonton Journal).

(UPDATE (10/28/14): Since I posted this, there have been a couple of excellent stories on the various angles of this situation. Brenda Cossman offers an excellent legal analysis for The Globe and Mail. Soraya Nadia McDonald writes for The Washington Post about the suspicions from many in the kink community of Ghomeshi’s public statement).

It’s no secret that due to my job description, history with the station and genuine affinity for it and its content, I usually find myself listening to Album 88 during my morning commute. But there are sometimes exceptions to the rule. Being a big sports fan, I may occasionally check out the local sports stations for my favorite teams. Or I’ll check in with college radio stations from my past.

And I’ll sometimes check in on my hometown and nation by accessing the Sydney feed of CBC radio. Which means that I occasionally find myself listening to the national radio show Q.

By any reasonable standard, Q is an excellent public radio program featuring a wide range of guests on a wide range of subjects and some of that credit, at least, must go to its now-former host, Jian Ghomeshi. You might love his smooth delivery, ability to make interviewees feel at ease (well, most interviewees…) and ask questions beyond the usual drivel of “tell me about your latest album/movie and is it the greatest thing you’ve ever done?” On the other hand, you might find him to be a “typical public radio host,” in the perjorative sense of the word, who’s too much in love with the sound of his voice. This is something that was rather expertly parodied several times on This Hour Has 22 Minutes (the 50 Shades references hit closer to home now, don’t they?). It’s fitting that his last Q “essay” introduction came on the heels of the tragic events on Parliament Hill in Ottawa last week. If you like Ghomeshi, it serves as a great parable for a gravitas well-earned. If you hate him, it serves a great parable for self-appointed pomposity.

It’s hard to recap what led to Jian’s departure/dismissal from the show this weekend, and no one web source provides a tidy timeline. But this is CBC’s version of events, this is Jian’s version of events and this is the version of events from the one publication that claims to have been investigating sexual abuse allegations against Ghomeshi for a long while.

The public relations war has already begun (when we’re dealing with a $55 million lawsuit, how can a PR war not happen?). Ghomeshi has hired a high profile firm to defend him. He (and they) are employing a multi-pronged reduction of offensiveness approach: bolstering (reminding everyone of his work as a “good (CBC) solider”), minimization (“we’re not talking about assault, we’re talking about consensual BDSM”) and attacking the accuser (insinuating this is the “campaign” of “jilted ex-lover”).

Of course, the Twitterverse is weighing in along with all other forms of social media (especially the multiple comments sections). And I find myself incredibly saddened by the situation, which provides no sunny interpretation, and the public response so far.

On the one hand, I feel as though there is a lot of presumption of guilt from critics who don’t have a lot of the facts of the case in front of them. Going back to last year, when a xojane contributor made thinly veiled allegations presumed to be about Ghomeshi, there has been a rush from some to immediately castigate the radio host for something only whispered about and not proven beyond the faintest of “he said, she said” terms. It is entirely possible that Ghomeshi, as he is suggesting, simply has a right to a private sex life, that includes kinks and fetishes the public may dislike, without it affecting his job. It’s not an inconceivable blackmail scenario and many who get riled by the telling of a story without first evaluating its truth value are likely to be riled up.

But on the other hand,

The rhetoric of those rushing to have the host reinstated also rings painfully hollow with me. It seems that his defenders have taken his statement of “I was fired because CBC was embarrassed by what this blackmail attempt will reveal about me” at face value. It’s interesting that his defenders talk of being innocent until proven guilty: Ghomeshi isn’t the defendant in the lawsuit, CBC is. Until proven otherwise, the trite principle actually suggests we must assume CBC had a perfectly good reason for letting Ghomeshi go.

There is a level of star-crossed worship at play here. In one of the many facets of “adult life mimics high school life,” I’ve often found that those inclined to find themselves in the arts community will deride celebrity-worship, particularly of athletes. This is very au courant because mounting testimonials and evidence suggests that if you’re watching the NFL (which I freely admit I do), you’re likely watching a lot of wife-beaters in action– which is a horrible reality to contemplate.

Being someone who was as likely to be found at the game as he was at the local indy show was always something of an awkward situation for me…and still is.  The suggestion of many “anti-jock” types was that the popular kids and meathead jocks were the sexist bastards of the universe, unjustly glorified for “just being able to put a ______ in a _____ on a (insert playing surface),” elevated to the status of gods and thus far more susceptible to perpetuating rape culture.

However, there’s an observable discomfort when people we assume to be intellectually, culturally or socially “refined” or “superior” in some way face similar allegations. It’s why cultural critics (moderate, right-wing or otherwise) often call out the (perceived, at least) left for too hastily defending auteurs like Woody Allen and Roman Polanski despite their crimes. Huffington Post contributor Justin Beach hits to the heart of this in a fine op-ed piece: many people are rushing to Ghomeshi’s defense simply because he seems too good a cultural archetype to be guilty of this sort of behavior.

But this doesn’t hold up to any reasonable scrutiny. Gamergate and alt-lit disputes, for example, demonstrate that any culture that leads to adulation can foster rape culture and that adulation need not be on a mass scale. Furthermore, the castigation of accusers before details can be gathered can have a chilling effect. If it comes out that CBC fired or dismissed Jian not because they thought he was guilty of a crime, but because they found having a morning radio host that was into BDSM distasteful? That’s on CBC, not anyone who’s accused Ghomeshi of assault, harrassment or sexual misconduct.

Any statements or public reaction that discourage victims of sexual assault from coming forward are beyond the pale of disheartening, they’re sinister- whether unconsciously or otherwise. If Ghomeshi is the victim of a disaffected ex, that’s a terrible thing for him. But let’s not kid ourselves, victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse suffer slings and arrows that $55 million lawsuits cannot deflect.

So, it might be best not to conclusively rule on anything other than to say that we’re definitely faced with a coin flip that is terrible either way.

On the more trivial side, either a public figure many of us admired was much less than we thought he was or we were deprived of an excellent radio host for no tangibly good reason. On the less trivial side, either the state (the CBC in this case) has placed itself in the bedrooms of the nation or Jian Ghomeshi got away with deplorable things due in no small part to a culture that turned the other way from his behaviour. And least trivial of all, either a select number of people have suffered battery and/or abuse or they have diminished these very serious types of crimes with false allegations.

Either way, something very sad has happened at the CBC.

Gobblefest: Give Thanks

Preface: Five years ago this past June, I completed my doctoral dissertation on the music scene in my hometown and the corresponding website CBLocals. On p. 15, I wrote…

CBLocals provides a more quotidian example of locality in music scenes not often found in current literature. Many recollections of music scenes from both scholars and the masses center on large urban centers…music communities stemming from or near Athens, Minneapolis, Boston and Washington are given prominence in music scene narrative due to the prolific number of nationally recognized bands that emerged from them (Azerrad, 2001).

Yet for every Athens, Georgia, there are hundreds of small communities such as industrial Cape Breton. Today, hundreds upon hundreds of bands play to small local audiences and will never be heard by a mass audience, Internet exposure notwithstanding. (This is actually as true of urban areas as well although these bands at least possess greater proximity to national media). These examples bear further analysis as there is much to learn from how people develop music scenes without the amenities granted by urban locations. This is especially important in how participants of music scenes articulate a sense of, alternately, pride and disappointment in the music scenes that they feel helps to define them.

…..

Where I was 20 years ago today is either fitting, ironic or a little bit of both when you consider where I was a couple of Saturdays ago.

I attended the second of three massively attended Outkast shows at Olympic Park here in Atlanta. For someone who moved here in August 2003, nothing could be more emblematic of re-living a zeitgeist. Because it wasn’t but for a few weeks after I moved here that The Love Below/Speakerboxx completely took over the earth (or at least it seemed that way). “Hey Ya!” was everywhere you could look and after a decade of hustling and five full length releases, Andre 3000 & Big Boi had officially staked their claim as the city’s newest “most famous sons.”

Normally, events like #ATLast are eschewed by the “I knew them back when they were next-to-nothing” crowd but quite frankly, the Outkast shows attracted everyone from the most casual to hardcore fan and with absolutely everyone loving it. For many of the over 60,000 people that attended one or more of the shows, the Outkast reunion represented nothing less than the ultimate homecoming. I noted that the song that produced the biggest reaction of the night was not anything from the aforementioned album, but rather Big Boi’s 2005 cut “Kryptonite” in which he triumphantly declares that on any given night, you can “find him in the A.” One fan told a newsreporter on Friday that the events was like a home game for the Braves, Hawks or Falcons. I would argue that would be selling it short: Atlanta’s known to be pretty transplant-friendly for road teams in sports. Outkast is as unanimous a home team as it gets for the ATL.

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The Triumphant Return

In sum, there’s fewer things can make you feel more of Atlanta than seeing Outkast, all these years later, in Atlanta.

So where was I 20 years ago today, (I made) you ask? Over 3050km north of what wasn’t quite yet Olympic Park and certainly not among tens of thousands of people of multiple races, ages and creeds in an open air venue. Instead I was among maybe 250ish mostly teenagers (and mostly white teenagers at that) at what was then known as Steelworkers Hall for a Thanksgiving Sunday event called “Gobblefest.” And I’m pretty it sure it was mostly teenagers because I was one of them.

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Were we ever so cute?

Some of that year’s Gobblefest strikes me as embarrasingly hokey in hindsight. There were still not a lot of original local bands to make up a 23-band show so some cover bands had to make up the space. I remember some band covering John Mellencamp’s “Wild Night” and me being one of three people in the room for it. Yet the room was packed when Saucy Jack covered Lenny Kravitz and had us all moshing (this is my secret shame).

But the 1994 Gobblefest was the first time I remember paying money to watch bands that were a) from my hometown and b) no more than a few years older than me and in a few cases, as old as me. The highlight for me was Smiling Uniks because two of the members of the band were high school seniors I’d been in the same classes with since Grade 7.

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Only minimal damage to the case after all this time…

I’m treading into long-retold “wow, anyone can do it” punk rock clichés, I know. But here were actual honest-to-goodness teenagers writing their own stuff and playing it. Oh sure, I’m sure if an unsentimental distant spectator listened to it, s/he’d write a lot of it off as grunge posturing. But some of the music stuck with me– Try listening to a song in which the lyrics consist solely of “Bubblegum, bubblegum, I like bubblegum,” then try to get it out of your head. Come to think of it, it seems more subversive and clever at age 37 than it did then…

Gobblefest didn’t turn me into a musician (although I kept writing lousy poetry for a couple more years). But it did have a transformative effect on me. I knew now that there was something going on in my hometown that was fun, energetic, creative to which I could relate. And for the non-quotidian indie rock places, that’s pretty important. I have nothing against the fiddle music of Cape Breton, but at the time, none of it made me feel happy to be of Sydney like being at Gobblefest did.

SIDEBAR: I’m acutely aware that’s really silly given how amorphous indie rock is vs. Cape Breton fiddling. No need to point it out. 🙂

I stayed home for college and my sister cajoled me into going to the student org fair because college wasn’t going to be more high school: I had to get involved in something. So I made a beeline to the “college radio” table even though the “college radio station” had no frequency (literally) and 19 years later, it still doesn’t. But oh the work they do

Gobblefest became a three-day event that year and it was the first of six that I’d volunteer for (a couple of which I co-organized). You can openly laugh at me finding that a profound weekend of my life because I didn’t utilize a single creative skill at the second Gobblefest. At least that I can remember.

I didn’t go on any poster runs, trusty staple-gun in hand, but I remember mixing cola and coffee together at the merch table on a dare. I didn’t design any posters or write any press releases, but I remember selling a shirt for a band (as in…the lead singer literally hen-scratched the band’s name on one single shirt and one single person bought it for…$10?). I didn’t network with anyone to make any band come to the show, but I remember talking to the members of Plumtree and harboring a typical college crush on them (gosh, they were so nice). I wasn’t in on the budget planning for the show, but I remember being told at the end of the night to “keep all the juice bags” (if you have to ask…).

There was always lugging stuff. That I remember. That and seeing a lot of cool bands.

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…and everyone had a good time

I’m reveling in recalling minutiae because that was my first volunteer gig and before you knew it, I’d be finding bands for shows, plastering posters all over town(s) and lugging gear in my mom’s Cavalier because my cheap sorry college self still couldn’t afford a car. (Sorry Mom! I like to think the 37-point turns out of the back of MusicStop carrying amps the car wasn’t built for didn’t harm the car’s transmission, but it probably did).

I still find everything I did then cropping up in my work life: This will be the third year in a row I will do a panel at CMA/ACP on review writing. I have to write up press releases before and after events all the time. Organizing MMC requires a lot of the same networking skills. I talk about things running on “rock time” all the time (hint: a lot of things in my life run on “rock time”). Watching students get to the verge of disavowing each other for life on time-intensive assignments (I’m looking at you, newspapers…) and having to be the “voice of reason” when the project still needs to complete itself inside 48 hours.

I once attended a leadership retreat for GSU and when the last session concluded in what was essentially cafeteria space, I told the students in my group to clean up everything and pack it out because “you need to leave the venue better than you found it.” The co-owner of the location- a fairly religious individual- was impressed at my mantra.

“Yup. Y’know where I learned that? Indie rock shows.”

She seemed a bit surprised…I think she figured I’d learned it from my parents (not that they didn’t try…). But in Cape Breton, you often had to rely on church halls to supply the venue. They weren’t listening to your loud, raucous music…you sure as hell were going to leave the place much more spic-and-span than you found it.

So why’d I bother mentioning Outkast in the first place? Well, see, when the first Gobblefests were happening, over 1900 miles away in Atlanta, a college radio station with a 100,000 watt frequency was playing Outkast on the weekends. And as a grad student, I found myself repeating my “let’s go try out for the college radio station” ways for that outfit and witnessing the whole process of people finding their place repeat itself anew.

The truth is, none of the bands you’ll see at Gobblefest may ever “rule the earth” like Outkast did (and one could argue that in this age, no band will ever “rule the earth” period but that’s a whole other story). So I might see it as a tad pointless to go to see a band when they’re “just this small band.” Still, it might end up being a neat fringe bonus point and I like to think that somewhere in the crowd at Centennial a few weeks ago were the GSU students who were convinced they were the only ones on campus who knew who Andre & Big Boi were then. I hoped it made them smile.

So if getting to say “I saw X Band when they were just playing at New Dawn” ten years down the line is appropriate incentive for any Cape Breton kids to check out this year’s Gobblefest this weekend, then by all means, seize it. It can happen in Sydney too, maybe not as easily but just the same, heartwarming homecomings are fun when you get older.

But really, more importantly, Gobblefest for me was the beginning of making friendships with fellow organizers and volunteers. It was also getting a chance to watch current and future friends be rock stars at least for a few days. One of my friends got a whole crowd of teenagers to sing his song in an arena concourse. Another rose out of a coffin to start his band’s set. Another one did his show with his arm in a cast because he’d broken it during a show in his resident province…and he had shirts that told the tale of his injury and how he actually returned to the club on the same night to see his favourite rock band.

That’s just fun.

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Back Pocket Material at Gobblefest, circa 2011

All of which is a long way of saying, I mostly linked this on my social networks for people I know who either have kids, or know people who do, in Sydney. Tell ’em there’s an all-ages Gobblefest on Sunday and tell them they should go. And tell them that they are going to see talented and creative people and they’re not from another planet and they’re not from “big town, Canada/USA,” they’re either your parents’ friends– and yes, those people can be cool too– but more importantly, they and the audience are just the friends in town they haven’t made yet.

During one of the Gobblefests (I’ve long forgotten which one), one of the logo designs simply reused the same expression we’re all told during Thanksgiving (Canadian or American): Give Thanks. Even though I’d heard the expression in a hundred different places and times, it never resonated with me as much as it did on a Gobblefest poster.

So I give you thanks, Gobblefest. Go break your turkey leg this weekend.

Public Property Filming and Public Building Funds

Well, I’m off to Peru!

That’s also my way of announcing not to expect any blog/Twitter activity in the next few weeks. For all of my attempts to fake “worldliness,” I’m not worldly at all– this trip will mark my first excursion outside of North American soil. Kind of nerve-wracking and exhilarating.

Between Machu Picchu and the Amazon, I’m going to learn all about backpacks, Camel Baks and water “potability” (it’s often tinted and not all that great-tasting). And that’s before we even get to the experiences distinct to Peru. If Anthony Bourdain has taught me anything, my tastebuds might need to do some serious acclimating.

Still, pretty exciting, hopefully the blogosphere won’t be too entertaining in my absence.


Not Dr. McNeil’s typical dinner…
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Filming the police is always a hot button subject. A couple of differing cases this week on that.

In Augusta, Matthew Haley was arrested while filming from a public sidewalk, then interrogated again while being interviewed by local news on the subject. A much more violent case occurred in Hawthorne, California where police arrested Leon Rosby as he was filming a crime scene. They then repeatedly shot his dog upon his escape from Rosby’s vehicle during his arrest.

Every case like this has its own individual considerations. The Augusta police argued that Haley was “drawing suspicion” by filming and not providing ID. The Hawthorne police argued that filming wasn’t the offense of which Rosby was guilty, but of obstructing police work with unnecessarily loud music blaring from his car. The shooting of the dog, they argued, was for the safety of the police as he was out to protect his owner.

I try not to revert to being instinctively unsympathetic to the police in cases such as these. Typically the first reports come from the aggrieved. As such, it’s easy to slant the story away from any legitimate concerns police may have (for e.g., if I was working on a crime scene with loud music blaring nearby, I would want that quieted as well). That said, it’s becoming alarming how often the official responses to situations such as these often begin with “the police found this annoying or suspicious” and then end with “once this person wouldn’t respond to the cops, it was therefore OK for them to arrest this person.”

I worry about cases like these when I think about my students and any time they’re out to cover a rally, arrest or any other public event. I was asked in court about whether my students are trained to obey police commands at all times. I found the question worrisome in its phrasing and replied that students are always trained to comply with the law, which led to a trying back-and-forth, to say the least.

This has become an exceedingly tricky issue in the past ten years as now just about everyone has a device with which they can film something. The right of the citizen is the most important thing in play– no one should be arrested for filming something in a public place. However, there’s also an important subconsideration: how realistic is it for police forces to approach to public filming in this manner in an era such as this?


This has been the new reality for awhile…but can law enforcement adjust?

It’s conceivable that if an arrest were happen on main street on AnyMajorCity, USA, dozens– nay, hundreds– will probably whip out their phones. Unless a person is standing directly in the way or path of a criminal or an officer, isn’t preoccupation with all of this incredibly unpragmatic? The sergeant in the Haley case argues that one safety consideration is planning out “escapes” for future crimes such as the Boston Marathon bombing. Yet every public place will probably eventually be well-known through filming in this era, it may just be that law enforcement have to get used to the assumption that most everyone knows the layout of most everything.

(Apropos of almost nothing, it reminds me of the infamous exchange between Tim Rafe and Pierre Trudeau during 1970’s October Crisis, in which Rafe argued Trudeau’s rationale for martial law was ultimately impractical even if morally justifiable. Oh to think of the cellphone footage Trudeaumania would have produced…)

The teachable moment for student press is: have your ID with you at all times. The sad part is: even if the law doesn’t necessitate you having it, trouble might still occur regardless. That is very, very worrisome indeed.

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If I asked you to guess where one of the most watched municipal governments in North America was…would you guess “Glendale, Arizona?” If you’re not a hockey fan, probably not. Yet it’s been the case in recent years due to the Phoenix Coyotes saga.

The Coyotes are “Exhibit A” in the “MADNESS” file of public-private relations in sports. It would take an entire month of blog entries to properly recap the team’s story but a nutshell version goes something like this (and I can’t emphasize enough how much this nutshell version leaves out):


More riveting than it looks, I assure you

The NHL team moved from Winnipeg to downtown Phoenix in 1996. Northern hockey fans greeted the market with suspicion and the arena was not built for hockey. The team was losing money every year so the owners sought a new arena and got one in the neighbouring city of Glendale (on the public dime, of course) as part of the consumerist experiment known as Westgate City Center. However, the team lost even more money there leaving the team owner to declare bankruptcy and throw the keys to the NHL. The NHL didn’t like that the owner tried to sell the team to a man that wanted to move it and ever since then, the city of Glendale has been forking over dollars to the NHL to “run the arena” (i.e. keep the Coyotes in town at a severe loss and to the detriment of Glendale’s bond rating).

The latest chapter came on late Tuesday night/early Wednesday morning as Glendale approved a deal that might take several business degrees to understand, in which the IceArizona investment group will receive a) a loan from the NHL, b) a loan from investment banks, and c) a “management fee” from Glendale…all to be the owners of the Phoenix Coyotes. Hockey fans watched anxiously to see if the council might go in the other direction, especially as a rejection would have certainly meant relocation.

A highly recommended website to learn about just how far city and state governments will go to appease pro sports teams is Field of Schemes, from the authors of book-of-same-name. It details the continuing saga of concessions– (mostly) financial and otherwise– that teams usually receive from cities and states fearful of losing status, businesses and/or revenue if their teams jump town.

Yet it’s debatable how much prestige, revenue or business the Phoenix Coyotes bring the city of Glendale. The only publicity the Coyotes seem to draw is negative, even in years where they’re winning, they bleed money and arguably every business supported by the Coyotes presence could realistically exist with a minor league team (which is not cheap but is certainly much cheaper to run). In a hilariously sublime moment, one of the first citizens to plead with the council Tuesday night to agree to the deal was a Phoenix sports store owner…whose businesses aren’t in Glendale. The city has attracted scorn for laying off public employees (no, not these brave folks, but the optics remain terrible regardless) and drowning itself in red ink to pursue the Coyotes project…all for fear that it’s all or nothing because abandoning it will lead to a white elephant.

The case is fraught with nationalistic tensions as well, creating an interesting fissure in the Canadian vision of American capitalism. The majority of northern hockey fans, but especially many Canadian hockey fans, have been calling for the relocation of the Yotes for a long while now. Quebec City, Markham, Hamilton and even Saskatoon all have businesspeople harbouring serious NHL aspirations and many fans are bitter that they haven’t been realized.

The negotiation of the Free Trade agreement coincided with the infamous Wayne Gretzky departure to Los Angeles and provided Canadians with a prism of which they felt business would operate– sentiment and tradition wouldn’t matter if dollars and cents dictated going south. Yet dollars and cents, Canadians argue, would support multiple NHL franchises in Canadian locations where there currently aren’t any. Former impediments such as a lack of revenue sharing or a low Canadian dollar are no longer present. Essentially, the grievance goes something like “we were told it was just business when it was a bunch of teams moving to the south…why can’t it be just business now?

Which, of course, then comes right back around to proposals for public money for private stadiums. The league’s return to Winnipeg has those aggrieved cities sensing a change in the wind, although ironically enough, the rumoured top contender in this year’s “move the Yotes” sweepstakes was an American northwest city planning to fund its stadium with *gasp* private money– Seattle.

The Coyotes saga hit closer to residence for me in 2011 when the Glendale Council injected $25 million at the last minute to keep the Yotes skating on Arizona ice. That expedited the relocation of the Atlanta Thrashers to Winnipeg in lieu of the former Winnipeg Jets. Atlanta’s city government said and did very little in that instance but that hasn’t been the case with the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. And thus creates a whole new potentially cautionary tale…


One conception of the ambitious Atlanta Falcons stadium project

It’s one thing to assess these investments from a civic perspective by gauging how many dollars and cents are gained back by having major sports teams. It’s another to assess it by how many years you get out of the investment. And by the standards of North American pro sports towns, Atlanta has a bad track record. The Omni stood for less than three decades and if a new Falcons stadium is constructed, the Georgia Dome will meet a similar fate. It’s not out of line for churches and citizens to be a little bit taken aback at this venture because business owners will tell us that this building will stand for a long time but history tells a different story. It’s also dubious as to whether or not the proposed $200 million of public money will stay at $200 million and come solely from a proposed hotel tax and not somewhere else. (Bless their cotton-woolen socks, the poor ol’ NFL has graciously loaned the Falcons an equivalent amount to help out).

It’s worth noting is that this project directly affects Georgia State, as it would constitute demolishing the Dome and taking the Panthers football team down the street with the Falcons

All of which raises the question: how necessary is it to have these palaces in your neighbourhood to be a thriving metropolis? Most cities with a population over 100,000 manage to have a major sporting facility to accommodate their growth, but the level of return on the investment without pro sports is difficult to assess. One can look to the Sprint Center in Kansas City for an example of a thriving arena without a team, but then, that arena too funnels most of its direct profits to the arena operator, not the city that built it.

Which makes me wonder if Coyotes fans have it right– you’re gonna pay and someone else will collect regardless, so maybe it doesn’t matter how much you spend to keep it busy. The Falcons already keep a building busy so it will take a lot to economically justify ripping it down and putting up a new one.

I Turn 36 Today

It’s not a long blog entry today because it’s my birthday.

Normally the most notable birthdays and anniversaries are the ones meeting five-year increments. In the university world, I think 36 is an exception.

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University students used to make jumpdrive mixes for each other in this form

I turned 18 on Father’s Day of 1995. It was notable in Nova Scotia because the G7 Summit had wrapped up the day before in Halifax– the event even had a website! Jean Chretien was wrestling with Quebec sovereignty issues while Bill Clinton was wrestling a Republican Congress over budget issues. An absolutely horrible song topped the charts on both sides of the border and Batman Forever was crushing it in its opening box office weekend.

Nine days later, I walked the aisle of CBC Recreation Center to receive my Riverview high school diploma, which is why I think that my 36th birthday is somewhat notable. Everyone born on my 18th birthday is receiving their high school diplomas now. Meaning they are the freshman students I will encounter in the fall.

Our nostalgia for the present is such that 1995 seems like yesterday and not just for late 30-somethings like me who like to pretend that it really was just yesterday. “18 years ago” in 1995 was 1977 and you didn’t have a mass amount of 1977 movies, news and (oh, to laugh) websites at your disposal back then. I can far more readily access TV news reports about Elvis Presley’s death now than I could when I was a teenager. In some ways, the year of birth feels closer to me now because of it. Of course, 1977 felt like forever ago then.

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I can also look up Elvis death hoax conspiracies. And laugh at Geraldo’s haircut

The landscape that my college freshman self and the freshmen I’ll end up advising bear a lot of differences and similarities.

I didn’t live in an Internet-capable household when I graduated high school. No word of lie, the first time I experienced this wacky “Internet” was in a UCCB lab. In America, the number of Internet users was pegged between 20-30 million at the time. Much of my college classroom experience
was spent discussing how we were going to refashion our way of life around it. Now the use of the Internet in the classroom itself is perhaps not ubiquitous, but darn close (then again, if cyberslacking counts, then yes, it is ubiquitous).

Optimistic outlooks back then cast a digital divide that would be much smaller, but really that’s not the case. 1995 Bryce probably thought that the Internet would allow his small town and other small towns to grow as they utilized the digital tools to reach out into the world. 2013 Bryce lives in Atlanta: a city with a metro population over a million people more than it was ten years ago. I was told that one day I’d have to move to the big city as a college student. Here at GSU, I advise people that already took up that advice coming out of high school.

Tuition is always a problem. We bailed on classes in my senior year at RHS to attend information sessions with federal government representatives to address the rising costs of postsecondary education. We were nervous about how much it would cost us, but today’s student will tell me I got a bargain. It goes up and up back home, but stateside doesn’t tell a better story. Even accounting for inflation, my 1995 tuition dollars wouldn’t go as far. Whatever we told those representatives didn’t work, I guess.

I attended a small university slash college but there was a persistent desire to present a more consolidated vision. It would take years and years before the University College of Cape Breton became Cape Breton University but it was a march to the inevitable. The idea behind such a name change– besides optics– was (and is) to foster a belief (and develop programs towards that belief) discouraging students from using CBU as a “stopping point” before transferring to a bigger university. I met several students like that when I set foot on UCCB campus. I wasn’t one of them…no one else in Atlantic Canada offered a B.A. in Communication.

I was at the tailend of Generation X and we were being told as we headed to college that it was gonna be rough. Rick Mercer was an emerging Canadian comedian and he was wondering when the baby boom job clog was ever going to clear up. 18 years later, we’re still wondering. Today, I’m telling my media students that there’s a job market out there, but you best be careful because it’s constantly reinventing itself in the name of mobility.

Bryceis36
Mercer had to get older to pull his snark out of a black & white haze

The university professional living in Georgia, USA, 2013 is witnessing this manifest in the seeming death of the two-year school. I get transfers volunteering for GSTV and The Signal all the time but many smaller Georgia schools are consolidating under institutional umbrellas to develop four year programs. Witness the new University of North Georgia (an amalgamation of two North Georgia College State and two Gainesville State College campuses) of and Middle Georgia State College soon-to-be “Middle Georgia University” (a merger of Macon State College and Middle Georgia College). Perhaps the middle Georgian freshmen born in 1995 will elude me and stick to their roots?

Pontifications and questions that will have to wait for another day. For now, I’ll enjoy my birthday mix and wish good luck to the Class of ’17. After you get your tassle, you’re invited to my 40th birthday party.