I don’t believe that a nation’s culture has a lot to do with art galleries, museums or music festivals, all the things that are typically called “cultural institutions”; these are testaments to and celebrations of the best that the culture has to offer, monuments to great achievements of a culture’s past, yes, but in same way that the Oscars tend to ignore Pauly Shore, they’re not what you’d call a representative sample.
If you were to look at the Ottawa radio spectrum, listen for a bit, from that simple logic would flow one inescapable conclusion: my country’s capital, my hometown of Ottawa, Canada, is a backwater shithole populated largely by doughy, retarded, juvenile fuckheads.
Last week I stumbled out of bed to the tune of Denise Williams’s mall-culture standard, “Let’s Hear It For The Boy”. This song, and believe me I hope you don’t give the tiniest sliver of a damn about this, was released in 1984. This song is one of the worst examples of manufactured bubblegum mall-pop ever overproduced, it should have been strangled in the crib with a bicycle chain, and yet here it is: old enough to vote and still getting air time.
I don’t know how my national capital got turned into a cultural glue factory. Maybe it was when the two-laughing-assholes-in-the-morning “wacky fun” radio became the de-facto standard, or maybe it was when living in soulless cookie-cutter hellholes like Kanata or Nepean suddenly became a good idea. Maybe it was when the CRTC mandated that thirty percent of broadcast radio content be <scare-quotes>Canadian</scare-quotes>, to protect our precious, milquetoast culture, and then broadcasters decided to meet that quota playing Bryan Adams, Celine Dion and Alanis a third of the time.
Jesus Christ, if you’re growing up in Ottawa listening to this stuff you could easily have no idea at all that there’s anything in the world that isn’t top-40 lite-rock. Our only vaguely tolerable alt-rock station caved and turned into a new-country station a few years ago, and now you’ve got virtually no options. CBC, for news and lighter (but not, mercifully, “lite”) jazz, CKCU for, well, whatever the hell whoever is on feels like playing (quality varies from “That’s a brilliant song I’ve never heard before” to “We’ve got a guy here who says he can play the ‘bag’”) and that’s pretty much it. Spin that dial and see if I’m lying; there’s only so many times you need to hear “Takin’ Care Of Business” in one day, Christ.
I have “KissFM” as my alarm clock radio, because the awful, gibbering stupidity of the empty talking heads on the morning show makes me so disgusted at the state of the world that staying in bed is not an option, and my radio is on the other side of the room. As soon as my feet can cover the distance, that audiorrhea is switched off and the home computer puts my music collection on shuffle. “Forty-five minutes of commercial-free music”, you say? I’ve almost six hundred solid hours of music on my hard drive, without a commercial in sight. I win. You see a “no repeat workday”, as in “we will not play the same song twice between 8:30 and 5:30″, as a selling point. I see a coal mine full of dead birds. You lose again.
You may disagree. If you don’t find manufactured pop and laugh tracks as demoralizing, dehumanizing and just generally as soul-destroying as I do, I’m glad for you, because you’re probably a bit happier with the world than I am, but I can feel it rotting my insides. And if you’re one of the people actually purveying it, believe me, if I could distill the hate I feel for what you’ve done into a bottle and pour it into your eyes I’d smile and do it, and I’d have plenty of it left over. Enough for you to swim in.