Sunday, June 29, 2008

My Ryerson Review of Journalism Pieces

The highlight of my time at the Ryerson Review of Journalism were a couple of articles analyzing Vancouver's media.

The most substantial was a 4000 word behemoth on the Globe & Mail's attempts to establish themselves as a truly national newspaper (Canada isn't Ontario FYI) by looking at their somewhat futile efforts to woo Vancouver readers. It took months to research and write and, in the end, was largely inconclusive about whether it was a success or not. The real conclusion was that CanWest, with their monopolistic ways, will control the Vancouver market for many years to come. Patricia Graham, EIC of the sun, wrote a rather angry letter to the editor calling me a hack. Something about "standards free journalism." I'm quite proud actually.

My other RRJ favourite was an online feature, about the WestEnder's attempt to rebrand themselves as an alternative weekly and compete with the Georgia Straight. I'm pretty sure, mostly judging by their covers, that the WestEnder has gotten a lot worse since I wrote the piece. Interestingly enough, a piece in 2007's Langara Journalism Review throws a new lead on it, shortens it and ends up with a vaguer, sourceless and out of date version of my article. I'm not saying it's plagiarism, just lazy. Don't take this as a slur against the Langara J-School, a lot of good writers come out of it, in fact I'm anxiously waiting fo the 2008 LJR which has a story by Jackie Wong about the travails of alternative media types living in Vancouver. I'm apparently one of the main characters.

Sting and the Police Live in Vancouver

I originally wrote this review for Streethawk Magazine but since that's not really around for much longer I thought I'd preserve it perpetuity right here on my totally for profit blog. At the time, this was the first Police live review since the mid eighties.

The Police - Secret Fan Club Show

May 27 @ GM Place

If you're like me, born after the Police released their last album, Sting's solo career can get in the way of truly appreciating the band. Yes, there were some moments the other night when I heard new-age "Desert Rose" Sting, but for the most part, it felt like a genuine throwback.

Although he held back early on (the vocal delivery on “Don't Stand So Close to Me” sounded like recent jazzier stuff), by the later hits, Sting was in fine form, hitting all the high notes and sounding remarkably like Luke Jenner from The Rapture.

Stewart Copeland is a phenomenal drummer. On a few songs, he reverted to a percussion platform outfitted with timpanis, a massive gong, and strings of cymbals that, with help from hydraulics, rose above the stage. Summers' guitar playing, by comparison, was just okay. His status as a jazz musician shone through but sounded too messy at times, and some of the reworked songs fell flat, “Every Little Thing She Does is Magic” sounding particularly uninspired.

If there was any tension between the band, it came from Copeland's antics, which included throwing drum sticks mid-song at Summers and taking the time to run around the massive stage childlike, waving his arms, claiming "you don't know what it's like being stuck behind that drum set." Sting, like an embarrassed aunt at a picnic, kept his head down, pretending to fiddle with his bass.

There were a few glitches to work out, as the concert was essentially a dress rehearsal for Monday’s paying crowd, but the band managed to shrug it off:
Sting: "That was kind of dodgy, no?"
Summers: "Hey, did we make some mistakes?"
Crowd Roars
Sting: "Give me a break, it's been twenty five years."

The arena-sized crowd didn't care really – the audience consisted mostly of fan club members, many of whom had probably been waiting their entire lives for this moment. It was the kind of crowd that would have forced an encore, even if two hadn't already been planned.

They even tolerated the (unforgivable in my mind) extra long breakdown in the middle of Roxanne where the band churned out atmospheric mush while Sting fumbled for lyrics and the stadium suffocated under tacky red lighting. It meant, however, that when the one-drop beat came back in and the urgent white-boy reggae wailing started again, it was that much sweeter.

By the end of the night, as the three members embraced on stage, there was absolutely no question in anyone's minds as to why the Police are one of the most successful pop bands of their generation.

-- AL

Better Business Practices for Freelancers

The second article I wrote from the conference was about better business practices for freelancers. I'm pretty sure I'm hopeless as a freelancer. Doing my taxes is painful enough without having to figure out GST or saving receipts.

Photos From the Western Magazine Awards

Apparently I'm also a freelance photographer. See my photos from the Western Magazine Awards reception on the Masthead Magazine site.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Secrets to Search Engine Optimization

Here's my latest service piece for Masthead Magazine where I regurgitate some of the lessons I learned at Magazines West, the conference component of the Western Magazine Awards. I go step by step on how to attract more visitors to your site.