Friday, September 29, 2006

This guy used to be good.

This is Bob Seger. He has a new album out these days, and it's been described everywhere with epithets such as "Heartland Americana" or somesuch. I've heard a couple of tracks from it, and they basically sound like a 2006ified version of his early-'90s ballads, such as the ubiquitous "Hard As A Rock" song, snippets of which could be heard on Chevy Trucks commercials for years.

The photo above, of course, is not from 2006. It's from the inner sleeve of his 1970 album, Mongrel. I didn't know much "Seger in the '70s" history, other than the fact that he must've had quite a few albums under his belt by the time he'd recorded the solid Nine Tonight live album, which I've had since I was in high school and have liked quite a bit (although it tends to be packed with radio-friendly schmaltz such as "You'll Accomp'ny Me" and "Main Street", although its version of "Rock & Roll Never Forgets" is very credible). I read that his cover of "River Deep, Mountain High" on the aforementioned Mongrel was really something to hear, so I, ahem, acquired the album.

(Incidentally, when I first saw the picture above, I immediately shouted out, "Holy fuck, that's Tiger Stadium!" I'd know that grand old lady's view-obstructing poles, upper-deck overhang and sloping ramps connecting it to the lower deck anyday.)

I am absolutely blown away by this album. The current track is the sixth one, "Lucifer," which is a gritty, organ-accented taste of bluesy boogie-rock, with the kind of attitude you see cropping up around the same time in other Detroit bands such as Mitch Ryder and the inimitable MC5. And it's not even the best track on this album so far.

I've always wondered what turns artists irrelevant. Sloan is a good example: Smeared was sloppy, but Twice Removed and One Chord To Another are two of my absolute favourite albums of all time. But have you heard anything they've done since 2000? It's idiotic, simplistic drivel, and when a friend of mine told me, "Hey, you like Sloan, did you hear they're coming out with a new album?" — news that would've sent me into orgasmic ecstasy ten years ago — I replied, "You know, I don't even care anymore. I'll keep one ear open for their first single, but other than that, I will make no effort to hear anything they do anymore."

And now I'm confronted with this fact: Bob Seger used to make amazing music. But now he doesn't. Why is this?

Aside: I'm seeing The Who tomorrow night in London, Ontario. I'm curious to hear the new tracks they've put together. I'm also packing earplugs.

Aside #2: Did you know that The Mars Volta has a new album, Amputecture? I didn't, but now a copy of it is on its way towards my very house, apartment or domicile.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

You listen here, boy.

Thom Yorke should "go back to writing pop songs," observed Brandon Flowers of the Killers. "He should be grateful that he has the gift to write pop songs, which he needs to write again."

Yes, folks.

Brandon Flowers. Of the Killers.

The Killers.

Here's what that particular flavour-of-the-week looks like:

Yup. The one in the red shirt with the sad look and the makeup. The one who's the frontman of a shitty band that makes shitty music, and has done so for a very short period of time. Somebody told me you had a hit single in 2004, only because corporate radio stations were stupid enough to play that repetitive, mindless drivel over. And over. And over. And over again!

So now you, the definition of Johnny-Come-Lately, decide that it's up to you to tell — ahem — Thom Fucking Yorke what to do? Let me refresh your memory as to what Mr. Yorke looks like.

That's Thom, with the rest of Radiohead, two guitar techs, four roadies, and a guy they have around just to make sure the only colour of M&M's served to the band backstage at shows are robin's-egg blue, which have to be specially-made. But they get made BECAUSE THEY'RE FUCKING RADIOHEAD AND NOT YOU, "BRANDON FLOWERS" OF "THE KILLERS."

Say all you like about AFI, or Fall Out Boy, or any of your other shitty colleagues that overrun the airwaves with your woe-is-me lame-ass guitars. Radiohead are not your brethren. Thom Yorke is brilliant, and you are a mere shitstain.

In conclusion, Thom Yorke will write whatever the fuck music he wants, because he's Thom Yorke.

Now you just go back to playing your little songs, and pouting your little pouts, and making 12-year-old girls' hearts swoon becuase they don't realize your music is wholly inconsequential. And shut the hell up.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Thesis? I don't have a thesis.

Sure, I'm still paying a bit of tuition. But hey, at least it's part-time, and I'm earning a salary these days, so I can hack it.

Sure, it's been strewn all over my desk, basically untouched, for the past two weeks. But hey, it's a pretty even work-surface; I don't even notice it anymore.

Sure, people ask me about it all the time: "So, how's the thesis?" But hey, I can usually explain it away by saying I'm back teaching, and that keeps me pretty busy.

Which it does.

A colleague of mine, who did her M.Ed. part-time a few years ago, had to explain to her supervisor, "Listen, this thing is going to get worked-on during Christmas, March Break and summers." That's a pretty good attitude to take, I think.


When I'm in the classroom, or doing stuff related to it, I'm actually helping kids right now. I make a difference in their lives (usually for the better, I hope) and that's worth a lot to me.

When I'm working on my thesis, I'm chipping away at something which will probably never be read by anyone after my defence, possibly not even me. And since it takes forever to get any word back on how I'm doing — and it's usually bad when I do get it — let's just say I'm not terribly motivated to work on it these days. Negative (or no) reinforcement, thank you very much.

In conclusion, my new car is sexolicious.

Next time, we'll look at the choices today's youth face: paper or plastic? University or college? Crack or PCP? The options are endless, the possibilities boundless.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

There's joy in Tigertown.

That's Brandon Inge pouring champagne on Magglio Ordonez, with a goateed Joel Zumaya in the background cheering them on. Zumaya's barely old enough to legally drink that champagne, by the way.

For the first time since I was about 9.8 years old, the Detroit Tigers will be playing in a postseason game.

That's right, folks, they clinched a playoff berth (i.e., at least the Wild Card) today with a 11-4 spanking of the Royals today. It'd be nice if they won the division over the Twins, too, so they could get home-field advantage in the ALDS. But hey, they're in, and I'm happy.

I'm in the midst of reading Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, and am yet again blown away by his writing. He really cranked up the Weirdness dial for this one; I'm glad Kilgore Trout has a central role in the story. I've liked him ever since I read my first Vonnegut novel, Timequake, in which he was the only person who knew what to do with Free Will when it came back after a 10-year-long timequake. Anyway, long story short, read some KV.

Picking up the new car tomorrow. Said car is still nameless. Let's change that! Seriously, I need to name this car, and the sooner the better.

That's all for now. Next time, we'll talk about 20 quick ham-hock recipes that will leaving your family saying, "I can't believe this is the hoof of a pig!"

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Let's name this bastard.

If all goes to plan, I'll have a new Pontiac G5 Pursuit (2-door, black) in my garage by Monday night. This will be sweet.

In the past few days, a co-worker and I have managed to come up with the name "Deathcar" for my current ride, owing to its penchant for belching possibly-carcinogenic fumes as small amounts of engine coolant drop and sizzle and smoke on a hot part of the exhaust manifold. Fitting, I think.

...which got me to thinking about naming my future set of wheels. Caling it "Son of Deathcar" would be too cheap, and calling it "Wendy" just wouldn't make any sense. So, are there any ideas from the peanut-gallery out there?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Deathcar, we hardly knew ye.

Nearly one hundred and fifty thousand kilometres; all but about 500 of which I spent in the driver's seat.

Trips to the muggy coast of Florida, a dustbowl in south-central Tennessee, a wicked-awesome weekend in Baaaahstin ("Baaah Haaaabaah!"), the manic streets of Montreal and a frigid New Year's in Thunder Bay, and more of the 401 than any human should be subjected to.

One headgasket and water pump. Two new sets of tires, two new sets of breaks, one tail light. Twenty-nine-ish oil changes. One passenger-side window-raising mechanism, from the time in the winter of 2000-01 that some idiot broke into my car by stripping the gears inside said mechanism (but miraculously not breaking the glass). One engine coolant hose, still leaking a bit, hopefully fixed by Wednesday.

Many fast-food meals, countless cups of Tim Hortons coffee, and a six-foot hoagie that went bad and made me so sick I couldn't go to Duff Gardens.*

About a dozen parking tickets, exactly one speeding ticket, and the time in my first year in Toronto when I bent my licence plate slightly on the rear bumper of a Grand Am on Eglinton just west of Kennedy.

Four different places I've called home.

And on Saturday, if all goes to plan, it will no longer be mine.

* This may or may not have been Homer Simpson.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Beer is the solution.

I'm my own worst enemy, I swear. I think myself into corners, not unlike Winnie the Pooh painting himself into a corner in that delightful children's story.

(How did he get out? If memory serves, it somehow involved him gnawing off his right foot, but I can't remember why, or how that could ever help.)

All too often, I just sit and think and ponder and stew, and lose all perspective on my problems. Occasionally I hit up friends for advice, but... I dunno, it's just not the same without grilled meat, abundant testosterone, and of course beer.

Enter last night.

A picnic table on a patio, delicious kabobs on the barbecue, excellent rock and roll music in the background, and a steadily-growing forest of empty brown bottles... let me tell you, we solved a lot of the world's problems last night on a noisy corner in the Annex.

These days, it's almost as if being a Guy is frowned-upon. Men are supposed to be sensitive, politically-correct, logical, in touch with their emotions... and hey, I'm all for that. I'm that way most of the time. But sometimes it's great to just let it all hang out and bitch about the world with your brothers-in-arms, light up some foul Nicaraguan mini-cigars, and get ripped.

(Sorry, liver — looks like you lost out this time. Hey, at least I didn't take you to Homecoming.)

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Maybe this explains things.

I am nerdier than 65% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

Perhaps I'm too nerdy. Or not nerdy enough. I don't know. All I know is that Eve scored a 97, which makes her a "Nerd God[dess]".

Anyway, things are in this weird holding-pattern:

1. Either my thesis advisor got hit by a truck and can no longer communicate, or is purposefully not commenting on the two heavily-revised chapters of my thesis that I sent away two weeks ago and was promised "yes, don't worry, your thesis is my top priority." Mmm-hmm.

2. I didn't realize a love-life could go downwards from "completely nonexistent," but alas, I've found a way. I should really write this up for a research journal or something... but, oh yeah, apparently academic writing and I don't get along too well, as my thesis clusterfuck nicely proves.

3. My grandma is now in the hospital, and is going to be there for the next few days. She's going to be alright, so my mom tells me, but still... I dunno. Just another reminder that, in our lives, chances are we're going to have to attend quite a few funerals. (That's a happy thought, isn't it?)

4. I'm now officially the union rep at the school at which I teach. As I put it to a colleague today, "I am now open for bribery." In all seriousness, though, I hope things go pretty smoothly; as a staff we're pretty harmonious, with each other and with the school's administration. We don't have too many issues, thankfully.

So, in conclusion, I'm really damn tired, and I am strongly considering hitting the sack before eleven, which I probably haven't done since I was in high school (my experience with mono notwithstanding). Teaching is fun, but I physically hurt at the end of the day. Why is this?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Five years.

It's not just the title of an excellent song by David Bowie; it's the length of time since, well, you-know-what.

CNN will surely have wall-to-wall "coverage" of the anniversary of the attacks on New York City and Washington, and you won't be able to flip around your TV dial without running into some conservative blowhard who will insist the US "stay the course"... uh... in Iraq, I guess?

A jewel-of-a-video-clip made its way around a couple of weeks ago, with Dubya saying flat-out, in response to someone's question at a press conference asking if Iraq and 9/11 have any connection, "No, they have nothing to do with each other." (I do believe it found its way onto the Daily Show.) Meanwhile, you had Colin "The Patsy" Powell up in front of the UN in '03, and he and everyone else in the White House knew damn well there was nothing going on.

Here's what I think happened five years ago.

Dick Cheney: "You know, a plane just slammed into the World Trade Centre."

Richard Clarke: "We told Dubya this in August, you know."

Condoleeza Rice: "I think we should nuke the Soviet Union."

Cheney: "Dammit, Condi! You're still stuck in the '80s. I'm surprised you're not still wearing jelly-bracelets."

Rice: (holds right wrist behind back and tries to look nonchalant as she slips out of the room)

Clarke: "It's al-Qaeda, Dick. We told you this might happen, but you and your buddies were too busy having wet dreams about all that oil underneath Iraq to bother to listen to us."

Cheney: "Find me targets in Iraq."

Clarke: "...thefuck?!"

Cheney: "You heard me right, young whipper-snapper. Iraq. There ain't shit to bomb in Afghanistan, but Baghdad's looking as pretty as your mom on pay-day,* and because the American people are going to give us a free pass on whatever we say in the next little while, let's just 'suggest' that Osama and Saddam are the best of buddies. It'll be a slam-dunk! Mission Accomplished! Then they can just get back to watching chicks in bikinis eat cockroaches. Oh, that reminds me, I should send Joe Rogan a thank-you card."

Clarke: "That's it. I'm outta here. Time to write a book**!"

* I've spent the past few days hanging around my friend Matt, and the mom-jokes have been fast-and-furious around here. You can't just shut 'em off all at once.

** Seriously, this is one ridiculously amazing book.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

They didn't get in a near-fistfight today.

They did yesterday, though: two knuckleheaded kids in the Grade 10 class I was teaching, four minutes in, decided it'd be a good idea (after one called the other a name) to leap up from their desks and grab each other's shirt as to suggest that, given a little more time, they'd get to throwing punches. (You know how when hockey players get into a little, as the commentator might call it, "a little pushing-and-shoving around the crease"? It was a little like that.)

All in all, though, it's been a fairly uneventful start to the school year. Things are progressing, best as I can tell... but you really can't gauge how a class is going to go until at least the second or third week. Right now everyone's a little tentative, seeing how things might go, seeing what everyone else is about, and trying to figure out who I am. Standard stuff.

In conclusion, to quote The Who, "the kids are alright."

Monday, September 04, 2006

Sharpen your pencils.

...unless you have one of those clicky-pencils. They don't sharpen well. I prefer the "side-clickers," myself — comfy rubberized grip, and you don't have to go all the way up top to advance the lead. What a brilliant leap in mechanical pencil technology!

So, yeah, school comes back tomorrow. It'll be me staring into three separate seas of new, blank, stupid faces. Kids these days are so dumb! It's a good thing that's mildly endearing, or else I'd slap them all back into last week the first chance I'd get.

But seriously, I don't think it's quite sunk in yet that I'm going back to being a real teacher. Summer school was a miserable facsimile of the real thing (all work, no play, hardly any colleagues), and supply teaching in May and June was a breeze (no prep, no marking; just keep the kids from ripping the paint off the walls). I guess those were warm-ups for what begins tomorrow: ten months of The Grind, with little reprieves here and there.

I've heard it dozens of times: "Oh, that's a sweet gig... summers off, no weekends, done at 3:30." I think the best response I've heard to that came from my department head who said, "If anyone gives you that line, just tell them, 'Well, if it's so easy, why don't you do it?'" That usually shuts them up, when I've had the chance to bust that nugget of wisdom out on them.

I always get a little nervous the day before school starts. You never know what a new semester or year is going to bring, and this year is obviously a little different for me, having been off the previous two. But I have a feeling it's going to be interesting. Verrrrrrrry interesting.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

They hate our way of life, you know.

You've heard it for the past few years from neoconservative hawks in the US: "If we question why we're in Iraq, that just emboldens the enemy." Now we're hearing it in Canada, regarding our involvement in Afghanistan.

Jim Davis, father of Cpl. Paul Davis, a 28-year old Canadian soldier who was killed in Kandahar in March, ripped into Jack Layton after he'd questioned why we're over there.

Layton: "This is not the right mission for Canada. There is no balance. In particular, it lacks a comprehensive rebuilding plan and commensurate development assistance."

Davis: "That's ridiculous, and I can't believe he would do that, endanger the lives of our soldiers by saying such a thing."

The logic of Davis' statement doesn't add up for me. I can't picture the leaders of the Taliban picking up the Globe and Mail, reading Jack Layton's statements (he's the leader of the third-most powerful political party in a backward, snow-covered, hockey-obsessed nation) and saying, "Holy shit, fellas, we've got these bastards on the ropes!"

Even if the Taliban does subscribe to Canada's National Newspaper — which I doubt they do — I'm more than willing to let Layton's comments stand. We live in a democracy, and in democracies there are always going to be differences of opinion. Meaningful debate shows that we're willing to consider alternatives and, more importantly, willing to change course if things aren't working.

(This has unfortunately been largely absent in the US south of the border since 9/11, since questioning things apparently means "you're with the turrr-urrr-issts" in the black-and-white world of Dubya.)

Besides, I gotta side with Jack on this one. Why the hell are we in Afghanistan, anyway? The sceptic in me says we got suckered into being there by the US so they could pour more resources into the sinkhole which Iraq has become. But I'm sceptical like that.

Two hours of Seán.

Seán Cullen is a funny, funny guy. I mean, look at him:

How could he not be hilarious, with that hat and that impish smirk? This summer he had a show for ten weeks on CBC Radio 1, for one all-too-short hour every Saturday morning, wherein he freestyled in his own inimitably-random way; today he talked about duotang famines, mused about how "Shadow of the Stampede" would be a great album title, and suggested that Andy Stochansky's last name might not be of Eastern European origin at all, but may in fact be the French word for corn-on-the-cob. Oh, he plays some great indie-rock, too, and mostly Canadian to boot.

Anyway, if you routinely missed him because, for you (like me), getting up at 10 on a Saturday morning is often too difficult, fear not! He will be on Radio 1 on Labour Day afternoon, from noon until 2 pm. Hooray! Two whole hours of Seán! Get your Giggling Shoes on, because you'll need 'em for a hundred and twenty minutes.

Friday, September 01, 2006

I can't believe I'm going to do this.

If you know me — and I'm guessing you might, because hey, who the hell reads this thing anyway other than the slobs I met at Queen's? — you know I do not dance. Like, pretty much ever. And I tend not to go to places where music is played for the express purpose of dancing because (a.) I usually don't like that kind of music, and (b.) as I mentioned before, I do not dance.

But, alas, within the next three days, I might have to make an exception to that rule, because my buddy Matt is coming to town, and he says he wants to hit a dance-type-club-thing; specifically, the one from which The Edge broadcasts their "live" Sunday night show. (I'm going to have to look that up.)

If you know Matt — and I'm guessing you don't, because hey, he's been out of the country for four of the last five years — he is about the farthest thing from a fan of any danceable type of music that one can imagine (aside from me, of course). This is a guy who routinely listens to Wesley Willis, Black Sabbath and Rammstein; we co-hosted a radio show a few years ago (the only year he lived in Canada after graduation), and I never thought he had this in him.

But he does, and I'm likely going to go with him, because hey, he lives in Brazil these days. Plus, nights out with him tend to be eventful: we once drove from Frankfurt to Bern and back in an evening for a hockey game, we constructed snow-penises in Montreal one New Year's, and I was a passenger in a nearly-brakes-less car he was driving on a bike path in Waterloo.

As I was typing the above paragraph, my phone rang, and guess who it was. No, go ahead, guess. I'll give you time.

. . .

That's right, Matt himself, live from São Paulo. I'm proud of him: he's actually calling to confirm plans. This is a big step for him, as he is easily the most disorganized person in the world (e.g. as I have noted here when he managed to strand himself in Paraguay). At any rate, he just wanted to check in with me before heading out with some co-workers tonight to a Brazilian strip bar; he promised a "full written report."

So, in conclusion, I will dance on Sunday night. Not much, but enough to fill my quota for the year (approximately 6 minutes).

P.S. #1: I cannot stop watching the UK version of The Office. Absolutely brilliant. I am going to start using the word "rubbish" a hell of a lot more.

P.S. #2: I am currently listening to Double Nickels on the Dime, a double album by the Minutemen. That's 43 tracks and 74 minutes of gold, folks.