Friday, July 29, 2005

This und That.

Saw the Golden Dogs last night at the Elixir. Man, those guys put on a serious show. For the encore, a cover of Neil Young's "Helpless", the lead singer beckoned the crowd to come on stage and sing, so about a dozen of us in the front did. Those boys-and-a-girl rocked out something fierce; my hearing should return to normal by, oh, I hope NEXT WEEK. (The band is full of Beatles freaks, which is awesome; they did a cover of "Because", off my favourite Fab Four album of all time, Abbey Road. Solidly, I might add.)

Handed in the ol' ethics review package in quadruplicate (if that's a word). Scheduled the colloquium for August 12. Will bake cookies for attendants. Will speak in full sentences.

I'm really not sure how I'm going to kill the next two weeks or so. I have one job to do — put together a 15-minute presentation for the colloquium — but other than that, I'm here in K-town with not a lot of money and time to burn. You know, they say that idle hands are the devil's plaything.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Death by paper-cut.

I appreciate the fine work done by the Queen's General Research Ethics Board (aka GREB), I really do. They make sure that research conducted on people won't hurt them, deceive them (too much), or permanently scar them.

As such, they make you submit a mountain of paperwork to get your study off the ground. Not only is it one mountain, but they make you give them four copies of your mountain. I swear, there aren't going to be any trees left after I'm done printing out all this stuff I have to print out.

But alas, it is done. The i's have been dotted (as have the j's), the t's have been crossed (as have the f's), and everything appears to be in the right order. I'll hand my four copies in tomorrow afternoon, and the world will have to just get itself ready to have me go and research the hell out of it.

Monday, July 25, 2005

The Anti-Phoenix.

You know the legend of the Phoenix, right? Rising from its ashes in a state of rebirth? Well, I think returning to Queen's has, in a small way, caused me to do the exact opposite.

Once upon a time, I was a student, moving constantly and living in sketchy places and flat broke. Then, I graduated, got a full-time job, a nice apartment with spiffy hardwood flooring, a car, and hey, a little disposable income. These days, I write dick-jokes eight months a year, I'm flat broke, and my ceillings measure about 6'5" (although I do have lovely wall-to-wall carpeting).

And the capper: For the first time since 1997, my dinner consisted of Kraft Dinner. (Mind you, it was gourmet-style with chopped-up hot dogs and barbecue sauce... but KD is KD, and I ate it all.) My god, it feels like I swallowed an armadillo whole.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

The Aristocrats.

Do a Google search for a joke called "The Aristocrats." But don't do this at work or in front of your grandparents, unless your boss or grandparents have an incredibly vile sense of humour. (A version done by the South Park guys appears here in Quicktime format. Again... not for work or grandparents.)

Just the idea that a stock joke exists purely for the teller to be able to invent the most horrifically offensive scenarios imaginable, in their own particular idiom, both disturbs me and gives me an odd sense of hope, paradoxically, at the same time.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

A comment about writing.

Kurt Vonnegut is one of the few fiction writers whose stuff I read. (I normally opt for geeky non-fiction about, judging from my bookcase: politics, baseball, the Beatles, physics, and astronomy. But I digress.) He's whimsical, observant, and a little bit satirical; he's sometimes called "the Mark Twain of the 20th Century."

Anyway, I'm reading his quasi-autobiographical collage Palm Sunday, and in the chapter in which he interviews himself — that sounds blatantly narcissistic, but it's really not — he explains why he keeps love stories out of his books:

I try to keep deep love out of my stories because, once that particular subject comes up, it is almost impossible to talk about anything else. Readers don't want to hear about anything else. They go gaga about love. If a lover in a story wins his true love, that's the end of the tale, even if World War III is about to begin, and the sky is black with flying saucers.

A few years ago, my friend Mike and I were talking about music (which we often do; we were in a band way-back-when, although given his affinity for jazz-fusion and classical music, I'm surprised he volunteered to be in a group where all three other members owned Van Halen albums). He said he disliked music with lyrics; I couldn't fathom that idea back then.

Well, fast-forward to the present, and I find myself groping for rock instrumentals, which barely even exist. (If someone has a favourite, please pass its title on to me. Thank you in advance.) I think it's because most lyrics are about love, and with Vonnegut's astute observation above, everything gets bogged down. Bands can write mediocre melodies but spruce it up with a bunch of "hey baby" this and "ooooh I love you" that, and it's a top ten hit.

But that don't fool me none.

Friday, July 22, 2005

July is the time for vacations.

It's summertime, and nobody's around.

I normally co-replacement-host Ladyflash on CFRC with one Miss Lang, but she's in Guelph at a music festival. No problem, I can handle the buttons and sliders and CDs by myself (and thus get complete control over airwaves for a full ninety minutes, which provided ample opportunities for Mr. Burns-like finger-tenting and evil-grinning). The show normally ends at 4, but for the second straight week, the girl who hosts the show after us was away.

Last week, they rebroadcast her show from the week before... but to do that for two weeks in a row, that'd be a little kooky — three weeks in a row of the same songs? What are we, Q107? Puh-leeeeze. So, being the generous person I am, I stayed an extra hour to fill the airwaves with stuff I hadn't had time for before... the first "song" from the latest Mars Volta album (thirteen minutes and four movements), a live cut of Rush's "YYZ" (including a four-minute drum solo), and a little bit of the Pixies.

But at the end of the extrasuperbonus hour... the host of the next show was gone, too. I'm generous, but not that generous, so I cut outta there.

And then at the softball game tonight, despite our team list of 16 or so players, we could only get eight out for our game.

This town looks like it's full of people, but I think it's just a bunch of well-crafted, life-sized, highly-realistic-looking cardboard cutouts of people on a complex set of ropes and pulleys.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Health care costs.

A few years ago, I was in Paris at a hostel, talking with a bright young guy who was a student at the University of Georgia-Athens. As is often the case on such sojourns, we started talking about the differences between our countries, and the subject got around to health care.

Having never paid a hospital bill in my life — and not wanting to start, despite all the latest rumblings out of Alberta (I think it's two-tiered, but I digress) — I couldn't think of a reason why the richest and most powerful country in the world didn't provide government-funded health care for its citizens. All the other major industrialized nations do; heck, even Cuba's hospitals are free. (But that's another debate.)

The young Georgian hit me with something right between the eyes: he counted with, "Well, I doubt the American people would even want that level of government involvement in their affairs." In a country where rebellion, individuality and independence are held in almost cult-like esteem — think James Dean, John Wayne, the Starland Vocal Band — it'd never occurred to me that single-payer health care could be seen as an intrusion by Big Brother. And, all mid-1990s efforts by Hillary Clinton aside, there doesn't seem to be any big push to develop that kind of a system.

Enter General Motors. Sure, they may be a wounded company, but with all those workers and all those billions spent on their health care plan, their costs are getting headlines these days. The UAW is (rightfully) concerned that GM wants to take away health care coverage for their members; indeed, Ontario just passed Michigan in auto production, and don't think that the new Toyota plant being located near Woodstock doesn't have to do a little bit with the automaker not having to pay those billions for workers' health care.

Everyone knows Big Business holds a lot of political clout. So, imagine if GM and other auto-industry lobbyists start nudging U.S. legislators, saying, "Come on, guys, help us out. It would look awfully bad if one of us were to go bankrupt, and health care costs look like a pretty juicy scapegoat, so how's about making our system a little more Canadian?" I'm not really holding my breath on that, as it's the longest of long-shots.

I'm just sayin', is all.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

If you can't beat 'em... least pick 'em up and body-slam 'em into the ground.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Lambton County in da house!

I was perusing the ol' StatCounter page, and it turns out that one of the sometime readers of this fair blog is representin' the land of soybeans and flatness and petrochemical plants. If you're reading this, kind Lambtonian, drop me a line!

Friday, July 15, 2005

Cover the kids' ears.

So the story goes, ABC was broadcasting the Live 8 concerts, when they switched to the one in London. The Who was on stage, and they were playing their classic tune "Who Are You," which contains an instance of the f-word.

In comes the Parents Television Council (oooh, you gotta love a name like that), and asks the FCC to issue a fine to ABC for not censoring out the word on their east coast broadcast. (The west had theirs edited just in time, thereby protecting the purity of places like Las Vegas and San Francisco).

I'd like to see the Parents Television Council watch an airing of Ed The Sock. I bet their heads would turn inside-out.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Fair and Balanced.

As quoted on the Get Your War On site:

My first thought when I heard — just on a personal basis, when I heard there had been this attack [in London] and I saw the futures [markets] this morning, which were really in the tank, I thought, "Hmm, time to buy."
— Brit Hume, Fox News (July 7, 2005)


Goddamn it! What the hell is with the mosquitos this year? Are they taking all the steroids the baseball players aren't? I've had more ridiculously large mosquito bites this year than I ever have before.

Is anyone else noticing this?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Subterranean squalor, yes; brutally boiling, no.

Most of the time, living in a basement apartment kinda blows. Your light is limited, your ceilings are low, and sometimes when you go to bed at night you have visions of the entire house collapsing down on top of you. (Maybe that last one is just me.)

But, let me tell ya, when it's 33 or 34 or some god damn awful temperature out there, it's not such a bad place to be.


Seven-plus weeks and doing great. She's starting to lift her head some, when placed on her tummy. I sang her some lyrics from Sloan's second (and best) album; she seems to be a fan of the song "Coax Me".

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Disjointed musings.

Richard thinks that supermarkets should know more about what you're buying. I think A&P should butt the hell out of my life. I'll tell you when I've had enough Quaker Oat Squares!*

We had a pretty damn decent radio show today. Alison and I came up with a new slogan: "Listen to Ladyflash, where people play strings and hit things." (Patent pending.) I also got to play spiffy new tunes from Joel Plaskett and The Bees, and spiffy old tunes from My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth.

My buddy Matt is just back from Germany, where he's been teaching for the past two years. He has convened the old NTN crew from days-gone-by, and there's gonna be a showdown in the Burlington area tomorrow night. Incidentally, if there's anyone in K-town who enjoys NTN, let me know and we'll have to head off to Shoeless Joe's one of these times.

Thesis work is progressing, slowly but surely. They want me to essentially have my interview script hammered-out by now, even though I won't be actually conducting the interviews until, oh, October-ish. It's a new game for me, though, so I'll play by the rules.

*My snacking-fetishes have always been breakfast cereal and crackers. Lately, I've been inhaling cases of Quaker Oat Squares cereal. Seriously, I think there's gotta be crack in 'em.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Chemistry 101?

I believe we'll be able to burn coal without emitting any greenhouse gases.
— George W. Bush, July 2005

Mister President, perhaps that's why you were a C-student at Yale.

hydrocarbons + oxygen -------> CO2 + H2O + heat

That's kind of the way it goes. And since carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, then by definition you can't burn coal without jacking up the world's thermostat.

Moving on...

There's an interesting movement afoot to create an international news network that's free from government or commercial funding: Independent World Television.

This looks really exciting; I'm already an alt-media fan (e.g. ZNet), and I think a movement like IWT could move this type of actual journalism more into the mainstream (currently largely occupied by fake journalism). Head on over to their site, watch their intro videos, and I dare you to tell me this isn't a good idea.

Monday, July 04, 2005

God bless America.

The Tigers are down 7-0 already in the fourth! Good christ, they're making Seth Elarton look like Christy Mathewson.

Dubya visits West Virginia:

Bush made a quick holiday visit to the West Virginia University campus and spoke outdoors at a grassy circle on a hot, humid day. The audience of a couple thousand people was restricted to ticket-holders who gave him an enthusiastic welcome. The shouts of several hundred protesters who were kept out of sight could be heard faintly during the address.

Well, at least they're starting to mention the protesters these days. It's as if the media can only do this if it's fashionable... not when protesters were trying their hardest (e.g. in the run-up to the Iraq invasion).

Sandra Day O'Connor retired, rather unexpectedly. (Everyone was expecting Rehnquist but, like Koufax, Sandy threw them a wicked curve.) So, good luck trying to ram anything through the Supreme Court which doesn't contain the word "Jesus" for the next few decades.

Deep Impact did the most American thing possible: ramming something into something else, just to see what would happen. (I admit, I've been to a few demolition derbies; I confess I find them pretty entertaining.) Apparently a Russian astrologer is suing NASA for $300 million, because the probe's impact altered the comet's trajectory (changing its speed by a fraction of millimetre per second), thereby throwing off the cosmos. Oh, overly-litigious astrologer... you're from the wrong country.

Hooray for America! Enjoy your SUVs while oil is less than $100 a barrel. That is, for the next few months.

Why are there not more instrumental songs done in rock? I quite enjoy Rush's "YYZ", "Sleepwalk" by Santo & Johnny, and even some of the gratuitous guitar-wankery of Steve Vai. I think it's because most rock musicians just don't have the chops, and rely on verse-chorus-verse to hide their power chords behind some screamy crooner. But if anyone has an instrumental rock song they like and they think I should hear, please let me know.