Been a while since my formerly-UI-focused blog had any UI.
So here’s some.
Looks like Udoka Okafor took down the “McMaster Engineering Songbook.” I’m glad, although the damage has been done.
I have other problems with the McMaster administration’s method of dealing with it, but the part that really made me sad was the shortsightedness of the solution. If you read through the book, the inscription says it was started in ~2005 and last edited in ~2010. The book’s creators (again, in 2005) said they started it because they wanted to write down songs they remembered singing and didn’t hear anymore. This was capturing a dying art form (for some definition of “art,” of course, which you’ll know when you see), and last edited in 2010. Waterloo Engineers spend (minimum) five years in school, but McMaster Engineers spend a minimum of four - that means that an entire generation of students had completely passed through the school since this was last touched. I asked friends at McMaster (both Redsuits) if they’d seen the songbook before and they said no, although they’d heard some of the songs before. These songs are dying out, they’re part of an older kind of humour that some people still appreciate, but definitely not in public anymore. You have to be careful who you make jokes to these days, which sucks a bit but reminds everyone that there are people who might be really uncomfortable around them, and good neighbours try to make the fewest people uncomfortable.
I’m not going to deny that I’ve heard “Chicago” or “Yogi Bear” (although I’ve only ever heard them sung on the bus to/from DUSTED), but I know for a fact that fewer people join in when they’re sung every year. Similarly, the drinking culture gets more removed from the official school functions (POETS is licensed less often, and *OT parties are dry more often than not, now) every semester. Similarly, Women in Engineering gets stronger every year, mentorship programs get more popular, the ambassador program is huge. I hear similar stuff coming from all over, and I know McMaster Engineers are doing the same thing; Redsuits are involved in so much good work (and have always been), and it’s great seeing them get better every year.
They took a long, hard look at themselves a few years ago, and this could have been an opportunity to keep that progress going and really air out problems that happen. Instead, they were shut down, and all you’ll hear is silence. Where there could have been progress, there’s nothing.
For that one Facebook survey. 12 albums that impacted you. I recommend everything on my listening history.
- Ojos de Brujo - Techarí. Every song on it is great, the rhythms are complex, the guitar work is spectacular, and Marina’s lyrics are machine-gun fire. One of the best albums, although Barí is the more awesome hip-hop one. This one’s just epic in scale and fun.
- Miles Davis - The Birth of The Cool. Melodic jazz that has an amazing sense of song and what makes a memorable tune. Just amazing Miles jazz and the whammy of Darn That Dream at the end of it just takes my breath away every time. Bitches’ Brew is a close second, I love Milestones (and any of the Verbin’ series that he did just to get out of a contract), and Doo-Bop is insane, but nothing comes close to this.
- The Roots - Things Fall apart. Their breakout album, got a little bit of everything I love about them. Rahzel on the beatboxing, ?uesto on the drums, Black Thought on the mic, some of their biggest singles, and the finishing touch of the punch-in-the-gut poem by Ursula Rucker on the end.
- Refused - The Shape of Punk to Come. I love every track on this album, it’s a screaming explosion of an album where every track is arcing with electricity. It’s insanely-listenable for an album that’s predominantly screaming, and is a manifesto for punk’s next generation written on burning paper, stuffed in a bottle of kerosene and hurled into the side of a building.
- Tool - Lateralus. If we’re going between albums I listened to more, it’s a toss-up between AEnima and Lateralus. But Lateralus kicks AEnima’s ass in terms of focus and calm; AEnima has the self-righteous-anger-backed-by-serious-intelligence that I love, and it has fantastic songs on it but Lateralus just goes off into space with the mind-blowing shit. Fez introduced me to Tool in the 10th grade and I probably can’t thank him enough for it.
- Jamiroquai - Travelling Without Moving, although Return of the Space Cowboy is a seriously-close second. Between the two, Travelling Without Moving is better album of the two in terms of really honed, fantastic, songs; Return of the Space Cowboy is more pure funk, but you just can’t be Travelling Without Moving’s intense track listing. It’s also got Didjital Vibrations, one of my favourite Jamiroquai jams, and Drifting Along, one of my least-favourite because it’s shitty white-guy reggae.
- Immortal Technique - Revolutionary, Volume 1. You want to talk punches in the face, Tech can do no wrong on this album. A Hispanic guy getting away with saying “nigger” all he wants, a song that’s literally just an intellectual discussion/speech over a good beat, the story of a gang-rape initiation gone wrong that makes me want to puke every time, a song entirely about being drunk and fucking bitches, complaining about self-righteous vegetarian friends on his ass. Everything on this album combines intelligence, supreme confidence, an honest approach to huge problems, and an insane flow.
- Ted Leo + The Pharmacists - Shake the Sheets. I love Ted Leo and I could easily have put The Brutalist Bricks or Living with the Living here, but this is him at his best, it’s the classic Ted Leo that everybody got into. I remember my sisters and I found out about Ted Leo somewhere and went on the Matador Records page and downloaded every MP3 we could, and Me and Mia and Bleeding Powers were on there, and I just took it all in at the time. It was like five years before I finally downloaded the whole album and I loved every single song on it, his songwriting is absolutely perfect and fits me like nothing else, the amazing combination of punk ideals written from someone who feels like he studied classics so well that it sounds like someone who’s used to writing folk songs. He sings about modern shit and it sounds like it’s always been that way.
- Justin Timberlake - Futuresex/Lovesounds. I love Justin Timberlake and I think he’s one of the best pop musicians out there, period. The 20/20 Experience is actually the better album, and it’s like the absolute pinnacle of his output, it’s Justin at his complete best. But I’ve listened to Futuresex/Lovesounds a zillion times, and it defined the second-half of my high school experience. SexyBack, LoveStoned/I Think She Knows, What Goes Around/Comes Around, the production is crazy daring and the style is solid. There are some shit tracks on this album, totally, but you look at JT in Justified and on this album, and it’s a completely different guy. The 20/20 Experience will replace this album eventually on this list, but I’ll give credit where it’s due - and, to be honest, Futuresex/Lovesounds was the insane-creative one, 20/20 Experience feels like it’s been aged and smoothed a touch too much; I was definitely singing What Goes Around with Ben and Kai in 1B, and I’m not sure if I would have been singing Pusher Love Girl.
- Drake - Nothing Was the Same. I know it’s biased because it just came out, but I’ve been listening to this album since it came out and that was almost six months ago. It’s still my go-to album if I don’t know what to listen to; I’m just now starting to think that I should try maybe listening to other music sometime. It’s such a perfect release from Drake who went from having talent and this crazy new sound, but being all over the place (half his songs were whiny-bitch songs about exes, the other half was this like weird bathrobe luxurious lover shit he had going on, the rest was him remembering her was on Cash Money Records and oh yeah he’d better put out some ignant shit) on the mixtapes and Thank Me Later, which didn’t even start until like the fourth song. Then Take Care came out and he started to figure his shit out, he learned how to write more solid songs and hooked up with The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar, then finally Nothing Was the Same comes out and it’s like he’s figured everything out and smoothed it out in the process, just locked everything in. His sound’s never been more focused, he’s kicking the singles out of the park, and even the non-singles are rock-solid. It also ends with Big Sean going “little bitches” after the beat ends, which is hilarious.
- Janelle Monáe - The ArchAndroid. Janelle Monáe’s got a crazy sound I haven’t heard anything like since, she came out of nowhere with a complete world formed with a style and several movies worth of backstory to it all, all as a giant metaphor for race relations and sexuality in North America that somehow doesn’t feel heavy-handed at all. I didn’t get into every song, but like you look at her perform and she’s going completely nuts, she’s more punk than half the rock albums on my playlist. The Electric Lady is probably the better album (are we noticing a theme?) but The ArchAndroid (as well as the Metropolis EP) laid it all out.
- Black Star - Black Star. Ugh there’s too many albums that got pushed out by the tiniest bit, I could have easily tossed in Voodoo, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Down With Webster, Blunted On Reality, The Score, The Low End Theory, Tarantism, Watch The Throne, Whoa Nelly!, It Won’t Be Soon Before Long, or the Cowboy Bebop soundtrack. That being said, I’ve memorized like every song on Black Star and I think it edges the rest out by a bit, I listened to it for like four months solid when I first heard it, it was just so easy to get into and it got me into Mos Def and Talib Kweli (as well as Common, John Legend, D’Angelo, The Roots and a whole bunch of people in the style). I don’t remember who showed it to me first, but like, I’ve spend way too much of my life listening to this album on my Zune and I wouldn’t take it back.
Bonus: Compilation albums
- Big Shiny Tunes 2. The first album I ever owned and one I can never stop listening to. Every song on it, even ones I didn’t like as a kid, is perfect.
- Much Dance 2000. Describes all the music I grew up with as like a 10-year-old. There’s a lot that’s not on here, but you want a good sample of the shit I’ll never forget, take a listen.
- The album Mr. Armstrong gave us to make up Little Trip to Heaven. God damn I haven’t gotten over Tom Waits yet and spent probably two years listening to him almost every day.
- The Need for Speed Underground 2 soundtrack. A video game soundtrack? Yes, one of the best out there - the perfect pumped-up songs for racing to, and it became the basis of my get-shit-done playlist which I’ve been using for probably something like six or seven years.
The Sons of Mary seldom bother, for they have inherited that good part;
But the Sons of Martha favour their Mother of the careful soul and troubled heart.
And because she lost her temper once, and because she was rude to the Lord her Guest,
Her Sons must wait upon Mary’s Sons, world without end, reprieve, or rest.
It is their care in all the ages to take the buffet and cushion the shock.
It is their care that the gear engages; it is their care that the switches lock.
It is their care that the wheels run truly; it is their care to embark and entrain,
Tally, transport, and deliver duly the Sons of Mary by land and main.
They say to mountains, ‘Be ye removed’. They say to the lesser floods, ‘Be dry’.
Under their rods are the rocks reproved - they are not afraid of that which is high.
Then do the hill-tops shake to the summit - then is the bed of the deep laid bare,
That the Sons of Mary may overcome it, pleasantly sleeping and unaware.
They finger death at their gloves’ end where they piece and repiece the living wires.
He rears against the gates they tend: they feed him hungry behind their fires.
Early at dawn, ere men see clear, they stumble into his terrible stall,
And hale him forth like a haltered steer, and goad and turn him till evenfall.
To these from birth is Belief forbidden; from these till death is Relief afar.
They are concerned with matter hidden - under the earthline their altars are;
The secret fountains to follow up, waters withdrawn to restore to the mouth,
And gather the floods as in a cup, and pour them again at a city drouth.
They do not preach that their God will rouse them a little before the nuts work loose.
They do not teach that His Pity allows them to leave their work when they damn-well choose.
As in the thronged and the lighted ways, so in the dark and the desert they stand.
Wary and watchful all their days that their brethren’s days may be long in the land.
Raise ye the stone or cleave the wood to make a path more fair or flat:
Lo, it is black already with blood some Son of Martha spilled for that:
Not as a ladder from earth to Heaven, not as a witness to any creed,
But simple service simply given to his own kind in their common need.
And the Sons of Mary smile and are blessed - they know the angels are on their side.
They know in them is the Grace confessed, and for them are the Mercies multiplied.
They sit at the Feet - they hear the Word - they see how truly the Promise Runs:
They have cast their burden upon the Lord, and - the Lord He lays it on Martha’s Sons.
Been thinking a lot about cults and secret societies since going through my Iron Ring Ceremony, and the interesting things that happen when and your friends go through it. A bunch of my life recently has involved a specific pattern where things you love and have created and nurtured suddenly become negative things, despite your best efforts. It’s an interesting process and I’m trying to pay attention to it, because I love two things: the friends around me and them being as comfortable and happy as possible, and the cultural things I dedicate my time to and try to keep going.
OK that’s vague as shit. Stuff like “Hey let’s make a group of frosh week leaders who dress up all crazy and intimidating to give it a fun edge, sort of a parody of the old-school hazing, act as a ‘challenge’ for the incoming frosh to ‘overcome.’ ” (oh man, do I have a theme here or what). Or, “Hey, our school’s Engineering Society doesn’t have a mascot, what if we had something big and crazy to hold up?” - or, more pertinent, “we should also get a secret group of masked, hooded figures to protect it, being all ominous and creepy as shit for intimidation and a bit of ‘wow’ factor?” What if the people who ran the food for our event dressed up in a little nudge towards EDCOM and talked like the Swedish chef? What if, every time we moved offices, we all wore suits and took a big group photo cause we’re all “growing up”? Sometimes it’s completely unintentional - “so, I guess, now our department has an unofficial, ridiculous drink that we get to celebrate?” What if, the day after a wedding, since we have all this family here, we had a big family get-together to celebrate the new, bigger family, and had a little mock-wedding to poke fun?
It goes like this:
I keep hearing about the need for a “campus identity” at Waterloo. That Waterloo’s missing one all-encompassing ideology that everyone is subscribed to, so that we may be united under One True Brand. It feels a bit like the school has low self-esteem or a self-image problem, never quite sure if we’re cool enough to get invited to all the Big 6 parties we think we’re supposed to go to. It’s a lot like living in Toronto, who can’t go a week without trying to determine if it’s a “world-class” city. Are we cool yet? Do you think UofT is going to ask us to prom? Omigawd what if Ryerson asks us? Will we be able to handle the shame? Especially after that having scandal…ugh we’d die.
Anyways. I can talk about how much I find branding annoying forever, what I thought was hilarious is that this whole thing is even being talked about. Guys, we have a brand. We have several, you just have to spend a few semesters not worrying if you’re endowment is big enough.
Warriors, guys. It’s not just a name, we’ve been all gladiator’d out since the 60s, there’s ancient Greek and Roman motifs everywhere. Our frosh leaders used to be called Archons, our paper was the Coryaphaeus, EngSoc “B” had a paper called the Heliograph. Our men’s teams have always been the Warriors, our women’s teams used to be the Athenas, there’s a Roman helmet in the guys’ changerooms for years, complete with a big speech about how shared bloodshed makes brothers. How did we forget about this? Why did we think “hmmmm, what’s the most memorable thing to be a mascot for a group of idealized Spartans” and come up with a fucking lion in shades called “King Warrior”?
Even better - it suits UW. This whole school is set up like combat. You don’t get leisure time to ponder philosophy, or dabble in creative interests; you do creative things because otherwise you’d go crazy with the pace that Waterloo demands. You’re tossed in the arena and hope you live.
Here’s a freebie: your campus identity is Warriors. Frosh Week (sorry, “Waterloo Orientation”) is the Olympics. We kick ass because we’re tough and we help each other out in the spirit of brotherhood. Queen’s is the rich socialites, UofT is stuck-up statesmen concerned about hierarchies, Laurier is the fluffy liberal-arts school up the street, York is the lame suburban-dwellers who have to leave early because it’s a long bus ride home, McGill is the Ivy League party animals, Waterloo is the Warriors thrown into the pit with the lions.
Now go turn that into a brand.
Addendum: Found this draft last night, thought I’d posted it last fall. Sigh. They actually started doing it a little bit, giving out those foam Spartan helmets at games. Rad.
Part of an extended discussion of things I like, but sympathize with people who don’t:
"The old boys club bullshit of it? The weird "do you people actually secretly wanna be in a cult" bit of it? The circlejerking? The part where you’re not sure how many people actually enjoy worshipping a false idol and how many just kind of get swept up into it? The part where the super-secret club of monks who "guard" it (which is actually *two* super-secret clubs but you’re not supposed to know that until later) are chosen according to a bullshit procedure which seems like fun until you bump up against one of the rules at which point it becomes decidedly *un*-fun? The part where the monks defend their process by saying it’s actually a huge burden, being one of the members super-secret club? And close friends get real testy about it when nudged about it, even gently, but don’t quite come around to getting to why might be nudging them? The blatant weirdness of a group of perfectly-rational people requiring a goddamned mascot, let alone a physical manifestation of that mascot?"
So many decorative bars at the top of so many layers of app.
And that’s why no means no.