Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Food, family, friends, and the end of an era?

It's been an exceedingly excellent late-December festive period thus far.

In years past, I've blown it when it comes to Christmas dinner. You know the story: you see those pies on the counter beforehand and you're all, "I'm going to pace myself this year and save room for delicious desserts," but you end up stuffing yourself with stuffing and slurping down more green Jell-O than you ever thought possible, and you end up cramming one measly little slice into you as the button on your pants begs for mercy?

Well, this year, after many, many attempts, I saved room for dessert: a giant slice of grandma's awesome apple pie, topped off with vanilla ice cream, and a ton of cookies. I did it! And yes, it tasted stupendous.

On Christmas night, my cousin and his two kids (aged 10 and 5, I think) stopped by for a visit. The older one has had some troubles with (we think) social anxiety disorder, which is kind of like "x-treme shyness" (to a debilitating degree). But, using my shiny new iBook as a lever, I managed to have my first conversation with her in, like, ever. She's a really bright kid, and it must be incredibly frustrating to not be able to communicate your ideas with the rest of the world. It looks like she's turned a corner, though, which is fantastic.

There have also been gatherings of the UW Physics variety this festive season, as old pals Sascha and his girlfriend Jess were in from San Francisco to grace the Great White North with their presence. I was party to the lighting of a Menorah for the first time ever, which was kinda neat. In exchange, I took them to the Great West Steak House which, if you're ever in London, Ontario and you're looking for the sweetes salad-bar-and-steak-combo this side of heaven, head on down to the corner of Horton and Waterloo. (Mad props to anyone who caught the Guy Lombardo reference in the preceding sentence.) There was also a Physics gathering in Paris the next night, with myself, Sascha+Jess, the inimitable Hubes, Howie+Connie, and Molten-Hot Magma inundating the Arlington Hotel with E&M problems and punctuating the smoky air with peals of laughter. Good times.

In an unrelated story, though, things may change next year for Christmas. My brother and his wife have an honest-to-goodness family now, which would suggest that they spend Christmas morning in their very own home. They were here (at my parents') this year, but we're thinking of moving the whole rigamarole down to Woodstock (where they live) for '06. This means I've likely spent my last Christmas morning at my folks' place with my brother. I guess it had to end sometime, and I'm really happy my brother has a wife and kid these days, so... well, it looks like it'll be a happy ending after all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

This is what procrastination looks like.

Those bastards'll be lucky if they get their papers back by Arbor Day.

At any rate, I happened upon this little point-form dealie, and I thought you might like to do a little comparison along with me. Click here if you're a fellow time-waster.

Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism
Seen a few stars-and-stripes lapel pins, phone book covers, and everything else lately? Of course you have.

Disdain for the importance of human rights
"C'mon, now, let us keep torturing people."

Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause
"We'll fight them over there so we don't have to fight them over here."

The supremacy of the military/avid militarism
Well, this one's a no-brainer. He even donned a flight-suit to declare "Mission Accomplished."

Rampant sexism
Condi's a token. A sexy token, but a token nonetheless. It's a boys'-club.

A controlled mass media
And how! (Fortunately, this seems to be crumbling of late.)

Obsession with national security
Dear lordy, yes.

Religion and ruling elite tied together
Can anyone say Ashcroft-and-the-boob, Intelligent Design, fundamentalist Christianity?

Power of corporations protected
Halliburton, Bechtel, Lockheed Martin, the Carlyle Group...

Power of labour suppressed or eliminated
Has labour ever had less power since the 1930s?

Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts
Oh, that liberal elite, sitting in their universities like Yale and Harvard.

Obsession with crime and punishment
Draconian zero-tolerance drug laws and Mexico-fences, ahoy!

Rampant cronyism and corruption
"Brownie, you're doin' a heck of a job."

Fraudulent elections
Florida '00, Ohio '04, Iraq '05.

If you haven't already guessed, the descriptions are of the George W. Bush administration. What you might like to know, though, is that the stuff in bold is essentially a checklist for the presence of good, old-fashioned, Hitler-and-Mussolini-style Fascism.


It's a Festivus miracle!

Actually... it's just Yahoo! TV listings.

But still, if you've never seen the Festivus episode of Seinfeld, or if (like me) you can't wait to get your fix of Aluminum Pole, watch TBS on Wednesday, December 22 at 9:00 pm.


Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Easy on the bow-ties, Tucker.

Anybody with any ambition at all, or intelligence, has left Canada and is now living in New York.
. . .
Canada is a sweet country. It is like your retarded cousin you see at Thanksgiving and sort of pat him on the head. You know, he's nice but you don't take him seriously. That's Canada.
. . .
[Canada's criticism of the US] only eggs them on. Canada is essentially a stalker, stalking the United States, right? Canada has little pictures of us in its bedroom, right?
. . .
It's unrequited love between Canada and the United States. We, meanwhile, don't even know Canada's name. We pay no attention at all.
— Tucker Carlson

Americans are so cute.

Holy fuzzbusters!

I've completely forgotten about it... until now.



Bust out the aluminum poles and air your grievances!

Fun fact (modified from an op-ed piece that recently appeared in the Globe and Mail:

In 2004, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, tax collections by all levels of government absorbed one-third of our GDP. That ranked us twenty-first out of thirty industrialized nations, and fifth among the seven largest.

Tax cuts indeed, Mr. Harper.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

A programming note.

This fall, I've been co-hosting the Tuesday Indie Wake-Up Call on CFRC (101.9 on your FM dial, or streaming on I'll continue to do this, of course, because playing bone-jarring rock from 8-10 in the morning is kind of a fun thing to do. (I'll be doing the show alone on Dec 20, as my lovely co-host will be heading back to Sudbury that day.)

However, if you're either (a.) too lazy to get up at such an ungodly hour to listen to admittedly awesome music, or (b.) already on your way to, or (c.) already at your place of employment, you have a rare chance to hear yours truly: this Monday, December 19, from 10 pm until midnight. Since we normally play short, upbeat tunes in the morning, this will give me a chance to stretch my wings a bit, and play more extended pieces that take up as much time as perhaps three of our normal selections. Also, expect a lot of vinyl. Sneak preview song: the title track from Television's amazing Marquee Moon album, with which I'm obsessed lately.

Wow. Talk about yet another shameless plug for something I'm doing on the radio. Oh well... it's a noncommercial station — ya gotta get the word out somehow!

Aside: Someone else found my blog recently with the search keyword "phoenix prostitutes". Who the hell out there thinks I know anything about whores in Arizona?

Aside #2: Who the hell is doing internet searches for prostitutes in Phoenix, anyway?!? Someone using AOL, according to my StatCounter tracker.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Know your party stances.

Head on over to the Vote By Issue Quiz to see where your true political affiliations lie. Click here to see how I turned out.

Jack Layton
Agreed on 10 issues, Disagreed on 2 issues

Paul Martin
Agreed on 5 issues, Disagreed on 7 issues

Stephen Harper
Agreed on 3 issues, Disagreed on 9 issues

Friday, December 16, 2005

Sore throats, Montreal, and holiday gatherings.

If I can haul my lazy ass out of this cozy, reasonably warm apartment and into my car, I'll hit a Shopper's and buy me some of those throat lozenges that have the anaesthetic in 'em. Good god, I need some numbin'. Eating spicy Pakistani food tonight? Not a good idea. (Tasty as hell, though. I can totally recommend Rahim's Cuisine on Princess.)

It didn't help my sore-throatedness to be roaming the streets of Montreal all day yesterday. I helped a friend celebrate her birthday by hitting several giant, interconnected malls, watching Harry Potter on an IMAX screen (Hagrid at eight stories high is a truly frightful sight), and sampling some of Rue St-Catherine's finest establishments. You can let your imagination run wild on that one.

This Christmas holiday will feature a gathering of a bunch of old Physics doofuses in assorted locations. (Let's call the holiday for what it is: Christmas. Because if there ain't no manger, it doesn't matter if you're Christian, Sikh or Sun-worshipper, you ain't gettin' no time off in late December.) Native-Londoner-turned-San-Franciscan and puffy-eyeball-wielder extraordinaire Sascha and I, along with the lovely Jess, will be pelting Boxing Day shoppers with snowballs from strategic locations near mall entrances. And, if you can believe it, the one and only Mr. Matt Hubert will be up to the land of ice and snow from his Brazilian retreat to partake in extreme geekiness amongst our former haunts, along with Howie, the man I consider to be the most accurate earthly representation of an alien.

Good times will be had by all.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

I picked the wrong school... again!

(Think "Polkaroo".)

First time through, I went to Waterloo. Strong academics, but zero fun.

Then I worked for a while. Having money was alright, but I thought to myself, "You know, the abject poverty associated with being a graduate student sounds too good to pass up."

So, second time through, I'm here at Queen's. Definitely more fun, and I'm enjoying my program.

But alas, it appears that I should have gone to Western.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Read this.

This is an essay-length excerpt from Kurt Vonnegut's latest book, A Man Without a Country.

Just do it, alright? Sheesh.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Partisan journalists.

Today I caught a debate between the candidates in the riding of St. Paul's on Don Newman's show on Newsworld: the incumbent Liberal MP Carolyn Bennett (Minister of Public Health), the (paradoxically) economist/banker NDP candidate Paul Summerville, and former Global TV news anchor Peter Kent, pictured below. It's a peculiar riding, as it encompasses both Forest Hill (possibly the richest part of Toronto) and the Bathurst/St. Clair/Eglinton area (which contains a lot of new immigrants); it's where the difference between mean income and median income becomes crucial. (Bust out the stats books, kids.)

It seemed odd to me, as I watched the debate, that someone who puported to be a neutral, nonpartisan face of television news for many years could've been a closet Conservative all this time. Granted, journalists are people, too — they're allowed to have political beliefs, just like the rest of us. Still, it struck me as strange, watching someone who one might think would have been merely a conduit for current events, extolling the virtues of Stephen Harper's "$1200 of free money for every kid" day care plan (which is full of shit, in my opinion).

Then again... it was Global we're talking about here. Global = CanWest = National Post = Fraser Institute. I guess it's not so surprising that Mike Harris is backing Peter Kent after all.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Ooooh, you crazy corporations.

Inherited economic power is as inconsistent with the ideals of this generation as inherited political power was inconsistent with the ideals of the generation which established our government.
  — Franklin D. Roosevelt

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I don't remember my dreams.

If you were to ask me what I dreamt about last night, even if it was two minutes after I woke up, I wouldn't be able to tell you. However, sometimes I'll see something during the day, and it'll jab at the soft, grey underbelly of my brain, and say, "Hey, you dreamt about this last night!"

Well, about five minutes ago when I was reading Sports Illustrated (yeah, I should really be marking papers, but... meh), I had one of these moments. What was it?, you ask?

Dave Coulier, whose most famous acting role was the beloved Joseph "Uncle Joey" Gladstone on Full House, appeared in a dream last night and an article I read today. (He was apparently in a Fox TV series filmed recently and to air soon called Skating with Celebrities, which will also feature the oft-incarcerated Todd "Who the fuck's got the Blow?" Bridges and former teen pop sensation Debbie-cum-Deborah "I really like Tiffany, honest" Gibson, and skaters Scott "The One-Ball Man" Hamilton, Nancy "Ow, my knee!" Kerrigan, and Dorothy "No relation to Mark" Hamill. Oh, Fox... ultra-conservative news and pointless programming. You do it all!) For the record, Mr. Coulier's appearance in my dream was a bit-part, as far as I can recall, as himself, sitting behind a white counter of some sort, with a set of white shelves behind him. I believe I chatted him up about hockey, and specifically the Detroit Red Wings; his character on FH used to wear a Wings jersey now and again, and the actor himself hails from southeast Michigan.

It's funny how the human brain works. There's so much flotsam and jetsam up there, lying dormant until it's awoken by something random and pointless. God knows how much other ridiculousness is up there, collecting dust.

Aside: I now have Paula Abdul's song "Forever Your Girl" stuck in my head, as I had to think about late-1980s dance-pop music as I wrote about Ms. Gibson. Time for a Zeppelin-based cleansing!

Another extremely random aside, which actually made me shout, "Holy fuck!": I was reading up on Mr. Coulier on his IMDB page, which contains the following exceedingly random and interesting facts. My comments follow each one.
  • Introduced Candace Cameron Bure, then his co-star on "Full House" (1987/I), to hockey player, and her future husband, Valeri Bure at a charity hockey game.
    "Alright, that makes sense; DC likes hockey, and his co-star Candace Cameron (Kirk's little sister) could very well have accompanied him. This is plausible."
  • He has said he is the person Alanis Morissette is singing about in her song "You Oughtta Know".
    "He's WHAT?!? Yeah, I'm sure, buddy. You and Alanis. Riiiiight."
  • First lover of Alanis Morissette — they met at a celebrity hockey game.
    "Ouch. I think my head just exploded."

Friday, December 09, 2005

More Abe Vigoda content.

Abe Vigoda is sort of a weird-looking actor-kind-of-guy. He's been in tons of movies, he was Detective Fish in the '70s TV show Barney Miller, and he occasionally makes goofy cameo appearances on Conan O'Brien's show. But, back in 1982, People magazine had mistakenly reported that he was dead; he took it in stride, and later appeared in a picture holding the magazine, sitting up in a coffin.

The Internet is a holding-pen for ridiculous and useless ideas. So, why not make something completely superfluous regarding Mr. Vigoda's current status: is he alive or dead right this minute? This is a tiny little extension for Firefox which tucks itself down into an unused corner of your browser window.

Abe's alright, folks!

Now that's useless, folks. Well, unless you happen to be a close personal friend of the actor; then you'd sort of want to know if he's alright.

But, in conclusion, I'm all about the random humour. And this makes me giggle.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

The Waiting Game, part 2.

It's all well and good to get the go-ahead (at least verbally, anyway) from a school board office to do research in their schools. It's a completely different thing to actually work your way through a principal's to-do list — "Who's this jackass from god-knows-where, and why does he want to talk to a couple of my teachers? Into the round-file you go!" — and I'm currently not being very successful at it.

Granted, principals have it rough; I wouldn't want that job for all the money in the world. You're basically the lowest form of school board-based management, but you happen to be in a school; straddling the divide between drunk, cocky teenagers and elected officials. Vice-principals have it even worse, though — they get all the crap-jobs delegated to them, and it seems like they're always dealing with kids who get in trouble. Noooooooo thanks; I'd rather have two dozen pairs of glassy, glazed-over eyes watching me singe/scald/horribly disfigure myself in a demonstration.

It's a fine line between "firm but gentle pressure" and "being that nagging asshole who won't leave me the hell alone." I'd like to think I'm figuring out where that line is, but I may be way off.

In other news, if you have nothing else to do from December 10-17, you can get yourself an all-inclusive trip to Cuba, airfare and booze and food and everything, for as low as $486 through various travel websites. (Sorry, Americans. It really is quite a nice little country, and the beaches are spectacular.) I'd go, but I have a couple of prior commitments during this period of time; I didn't last year, so I went to Germany, which was fun.

Argh. Come September (really May, if all goes well), I'll have to say goodbye to having such a flexible schedule. It was nice while it lasted. Really nice.

I think I've pretty much decided that my LJ page is for memes. So, I'm posting another one over there. Enjoy!

Monday, December 05, 2005

Buddy. Pal. Come ON.

Most of you know what Facebook is all about. For those of you who don't, and/or aren't enrolled in a post-secondary institution, it's a website where you sign up, show everyone who else on the site you know, then see who else knows who, or is involved in what club, or who thinks (as I do) that Homer Simpson's question, "Don't you hate pants?", was probably his most brilliant line to date.

Damn, I need to get out more.

Anyway, I received an email recently saying an old high school buddy of mine, who went to Sir Wilfrid Laurier University (right down the street from UW), signed up and asked to be added to my list. I obliged, and took at peek at what he had up on his page on the site. To guarantee anonymity, I've blocked out his name (but conveniently left his picture; as if anyone who reads this would know him). Let's call him X.

I skipped Grade 2, which means that from then on, everyone in my grade was born in 1976 (whereas I was born in '77, the year The King died). X had a birthday in January, which means he was nearly two full years older than I was... that meant he got his licence two years before I did, turned 19 two years before I did, and could get out of class to donate blood two years before I could. (Hey, high school is boring, alright? Sheesh.)

(Except for the classes I teach, bitches.)

And now the guy wants to make like he's a few months younger than me?!? This very well may be the vainest thing I've ever seen him do. Hell, X was a "metrosexual" before anyone ever dreamt of the term.

So, in conclusion... I thought I was delusional about getting older, but it seems that some people are going way, way past me in that department.

Baked-good recommendation of the day.


Sunday, December 04, 2005

Wasabi ho!

Q: Who brings sushi (namely, California rolls) to a pot-luck, complete with soy sauce, chopsticks, wasabi and ginger (for palate-cleansing)?

A: My new best friend.

Best pot-luck ever.

"If I Had My Way" is probably the Big Sugar song which gets played most on radio. That usually means it was way overplayed when it was new, and now you're sick of it, and you never want to hear it anymore. But, I suggest you take another listen... that 12-string electric just kicks my ass every damn time.

Friday, December 02, 2005

And the campaign has begun.

I'm keeping surprisingly abreast of issues early in this campaign, which I didn't expect. Largely because we all pretty much know how this election, provided giant bombshells aren't dropped, is going to turn out.

Well, Stephen Harper tried to drop one yesterday by pledging that a Conservative government would lower the GST to 5%. This isn't some abstract thing, like paying "$300 less income tax for a family of four making x dollars per year," which is pretty far-removed from your or my everyday experience (unless you work at H&R Block). You deal with the GST every day when you buy a book, a t-shirt, or a book about t-shirts.

Something Mr. Harper said at his big press conference, replete with big blue-and-white circular logos with giant 5's in them, struck me as funny: "I believe that all taxes are bad. Better taxes are lower taxes."

...which is asinine in its simplicity as well as its message.

Taxes bad! Tax cuts good! Cut them all! No more taxes! Liberal corruption! I win vote! With us? With terrorists?

I swear, Stephen Harper is getting more and more like George W. Bush every day. And not just because he wants to kill all the queers.

To say that "all taxes are bad" is to discredit everything a government does for the citizenry that elected it. Even something as simple as fixing a pothole in a road (something which the city of Kingston feels is a "frill") is paid for by tax revenues. Besides, this is yet another "tax cut" which heavily favours the rich. Wealthy people spend more, and will hence save more, than poor people with a reduced GST; who would save more, someone buying a $90k Cadillac, or an $85 TTC Metropass? At any rate, it looks like the Conservatives are off to a roaring start in their 50-some-odd day sound-bite-a-thon.

A couple of former leaders have weighed in with their opinions. Kim Campbell — remember her? — expressed her dismay at her former (sort-of) party's wooden leader. "Their positions are too socially conservative, I think, to form a government in Canada. People may like their fiscal policies but they're frightened by their social conservatism." Very true.

Your buddy and mine, Ed Broadbent, was equally refreshing when talking about how, during the last election, the NDP was bilked out of quite a few seats (some say a baker's dozen) when the Libs used Frankenharper to scare the bejeezus out of those of us who bleed Orange but voted Red instead: "The Liberals came in with a pile of crap in the last week of the campaign and tried to frighten voters — and it worked in some places. But it's not going to happen again."

Not if I can help it.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Another tick on the odometer.

I turned 28 yesterday, and I managed to successfully conceal it from most of the world. (Damn you, Liz.) At any rate, I am now firmly planted in my late-20s — no more of this, "Well, I'm 27, I guess I still could technically be a mid-20s guy."

Nope. I'm staring down the barrel of 30. Let the countdown begin.




My little excursion back into the safe, warm cocoon of postsecondary education has been a bit of a Peter Pan trip. I've more or less been telling myself for the last year-plus that, yes, J, you can seamlessly blend into a roomful of undergrads. However, as the numbers click ever higher, that mirage becomes increasingly illusory, and the fog of delusion begins to lift — much to my chagrin.

But, you know, getting older isn't necessarily a bad thing. On my way out of the QP last night, it struck me just how much this culture (and, by dint of me being tangentially related to it, me) is obsessed with youth: movies and music are marketed towards teenagers, anti-wrinkle creams are worth billions, and Ponce de Leon seemed to have more than just a passing interest in it.

While armwrestling an entire ridiculous paradigm into submission is an eminently formidable undertaking — as is working in numerous unwieldy words into a single sentence — all I can really do is accept the onset of laugh-lines, track the losing of hair, and listen as my body vigorously tells me, "You really should've warmed up more before playing baseball last night." Otherwise, it's a losing battle from the outset... if you see it as a battle, that is.

So, come May, I'll be rejoining the "real world" in The Big Smoke. My 22-month break from reality will end, and I won't be surrounded by roving packs of firm, nubile 20-year old women anymore. You'd think I'd be 100% bummed-out about that... but, y'know, it might help me not feel like such an old-ass perv anymore.