and the sign says

Seat belts save lives! Motorcycles need space! Signal for lane changes, you! And while you’re at it, secure that baby seat!

You may have noticed such helpful reminders looming over the Queensway in recent months. Spanning the width of the highway’s east- and westbound lanes, the conciliatory messages loom over three or four lanes of traffic. During rush hour, one has plenty of time to study and digest the information provided, which can range from the humourous (Next time, take the bus!) to the cryptic (“Speed enforced!” reads one — perhaps a reminder that it can be dangerous to drive too slowly on the Queensway.)

They are insistent. They are massive. They are bilingual. And they now come equipped with graphics.

What they are not, however, is particularly useful to the rush-hour motorist wondering why traffic is not moving. (Hint: It’s rush hour.) Continue reading

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the long game

Our long downtown parking nightmare is over. For another year.

I did not make it out to the Megamusicfest’s final day, for two reasons: The Tea Party; and, Weird Al. True, there were enough stages to enable one to successfully avoid either show. But why take that chance?

Instead, I bade farewell to the grounds of old Le Breton Saturday, via Deep Purple’s mainstage spectacular. And much as I love the Purple, I cannot see it as going out on a high note. Indeed, the high notes were very much lacking — not a good thing, when you’re Deep Purple.

At least, that’s how it seemed to me. I as a rule do not read concert reviews (if I care that much about a concert, I tend to attend), but chose to make an exception — if only to see whether the quintet had succeeded in generating the first-ever less than enthusiastic review of a Bluesfest show in our local papers. Continue reading

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the Kanye kontroversy

It’s Friday evening and a local TV news poll has revealed that 84 per cent of respondents said no way to the following question: Does Kanye West belong at Bluesfest?

Only 16 per cent said way.

That’s a hefty majority of naysayers. And given the festival’s eclectic nature, it’s difficult to imagine how they even determined what should and should not be at Bluesfest.

Racism? Could be. It’s not a stretch to suggest it played a role in the decision-making process.

Of course, the 84 per cent would argue that it’s a blues festival and hip hop is not real music anyway, or some similar, weak argument. And in fairness to the anti-Kanye camp, it’s entirely likely Skrillex would have fared no better on the same question. (Though opponents are unlikely to demand the removal of the equally ‘inappropriate’ young-country acts from the bill. And that’s where they could have made themselves useful.)
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commercial breaks

Commercials. They’re not about jingles anymore.

Okay, local ads are still about jingles. And are all the better for it.

But in the big-money world of national advertising, it seems never again will we hear stubbornly catchy tunes like this:

Today, advertisers prefer licensing a known quantity over nurturing a new one. After all, it’s easier to throw money at a favourite song than to commission a snappy song about Apple’s latest product.And artists, publishers and labels are only too happy to play along. Hence, decades after Lust for Life disappeared from the public consciousness, Iggy Pop was able to count it as a hit, thanks to licensing deals for films as well as a TV commercial. Did it matter that a song about heroin and debauchery was being used to encourage people to go on a pleasure cruise?

Maybe. Maybe that was the idea. I’ve never been on one of those cruises. Continue reading

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on the bus (July 1 edition)

Not only did Slow, the greatest rock and roll band of all time, somehow fail to top CBC’s list of the “best Canadian bands ever,” it did not even make the Top 100. Must be a typo. Also criminally overlooked: Ian and Sylvia. Not a band, you say? Tell that to CBC’s music people, who consider Kate and Anna McGarrigle to have been a band. (In which case, come to think of it, they should have topped the list.)

And speaking of Canada, I’d like to extend my annual shout-out to the late Jesse Winchester, for providing us with the most Canadian album title ever: Third Down, 110 to Go. Continue reading

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