Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Interstitial music.

The Tigers are in a rain delay — torrential downpours bombard southeast Michigan — and the radio broadcast (via Internet) switched to the local station, they put on the song "Let It Rain" by Eric Clapton, which is a bitchin'-awesome tune.

I chuckled as it crashed-and-flashed here in Toronto, too.

And it just dropped about five degrees.

So I am happy.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

This is stupid.

Twenty-nine damn degrees at 11 pm?!?

You have got to be kidding me.

Meanwhile, in a third-floor apartment in which there is no air conditioner, J sits in front of the fan, with minimal clothing, attempting to do as little as possible.

(Hey, I'm trying to stay as cool as possible. Ergo, sloth ceases to be a bad thing.)

. . .

Holy god damn, I hate the heat.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Night After Boozing.

'Twas the night after boozing
Two nights, truth be told
Mister Jason feels tired
Mister Jason feels old.

Let me tell you his story.

He came home Friday aft
From working all day
All he wanted was dinner
And then, hit the hay.

No sooner did he rest
After a meal sans ├ęgale
Than his phone started ringing
'Twas Dave, his old pal.

"On whiskey, on lager,
On ale, and Bacardi
We'll smoke filthy Colts
And hit a house-party!"

"But Dave," he replied
Quite meekly, he reckons
"I've laundry to do
And my pillow, it beckons."

Dave heard none of it
Even though J protested
All he wanted was silence
And to be quite well-rested.

"'Til 10 you can stay
But you'll want to think twice
The party's got ladies
I think you'll find nice."

J acquiesced then
Too tired to fight
He'd check out the scene
And call it a night.

However...

Champagne and chicken wings
Picnic table for five
Foxy women on Bloor
The boys felt alive.

Booze, conversation,
Then off to the party
A ten-minute walk
Through a neighbourhood darkly.

A motley, fun crowd
Greeted their arrival
Beats, bass and drums
Formed a right funk revival.

Laughter and liquor
Innuendo and winking
Thanks, no small part,
Due to all of that drinking.

Finally...

On the way home
The "Latin Sensation"
Spied these two lovely ladies
Deep in conversation.

Luis, you should know,
Is a man from Brazil
He came here for English
He stayed for... hmm... well, we're not quite sure why he stayed. But he's here anyway, and a fun, weird guy, who claims he hasn't had much luck with the ladies lately.

He said, "Guys, go on
I'll chat up those women
Wish me luck." Off he went
In pursuit of attention.

The pair shook their heads
"He's got balls," they agreed
Two-on-one, power play
Noble effort, indeed.

They carried on slowly
Wishing Luis best of luck
Who knows? Strange things happen
When a guy wants to... ahem. "You-know."

Not far down the street
The Brazilian returned
He left seeking romance
Came back, a man spurned.

None worse for wear
Luis walked, resigned
To a May without lovin'
Of any recognizable kind.

So thus ended Friday
Saturday, J to Kingston
For Queen's revelry
And slightly more drinkin'.

J's liver's so tired
His brain cells despise him
His kidneys pretend
To not recognize him.

Here he sits typing
On a warm Sunday night
His laundry's still waiting
His thesis, locked up tight.

For procrastination
He's really no match
"I know, write a poem!"
(Ladies, ain't he a catch?)



Wow. That was excessive, even by my standards.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Just around the corner.

Clerks II.

It's almost here. Trailer on Youtube here. Watch. Funny.

If you know me, you'll darn well know that Clerks is one of my favourite movies of all time. Kevin Smith has made several "Jersey Trilogy" movies since (Mallrats, Chasing Amy, Dogma, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), which have all been significantly higher-budget than Clerks was.

(Alright, so your average Russell Oliver Jewelry commercial has a budget bigger than Clerks had, but that's not the point.)

Clerks had something fresh, original and underdog-ish about it: a simple story, told hilariously yet crudely, with witty dialogue aplenty. While Smith's films after Clerks were definitely good-to-great, none of them managed to recapture the essence of the first film. [But really, do you think a big Hollywood studio would OK a movie that had references to old men dying as they masturbate, the perils of being a jizz-mopper at a nudie-booth, or an innocent man being pelted with cigarettes? ("Hey, at least they weren't lit.") I'm guessing no.]

As such, I have expressed great concern over the past several months about the state of Clerks II. "There's no way it could ever get anywhere close to the original," I'd say to friends, strangers, or that guy at Yonge and Bloor who sings about Jesus. "You just can't do that in a movie backed by a big corporation."

The trailer, though, suggests a self-awareness about Clerks II that I'm relieved to see. Kevin Smith has already taken into account the concerns I mentioned above; the idea of rehashing old phrases in a vain way to relive the original film is used as comedic fodder in the trailer. It will be a fine line to walk, however, between "using the original's notoriety for effective comedic value but not overdoing it" and "rehashing all the same old jokes just to make all the original fans laugh but being essentially devoid of new ideas". I'm holding out hope, though, that it's going to be funny and fresh, but yet familiar enough so that it's clear how Dante and Randall have grown in the past 11 years.

I just wish they'd filmed it in black-and-white.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Irritating as hell.

So, the speakers attached to your computer are good 'n' loud because you've just finished listening to Chicago's "Where Do We Go From Here" for the eighth time today.

Then you go to a website that has one of those "Click here to download the next generation of IM smileys" ad banners (because lord knows we all need next-generation emoticons).

But then your mouse brushes overtop of one of them, and out of your speakers blasts one of these irritating little smiley characters shouting something ridiculously inane. And loud.

Then you jump off your chair a little because it scares the fuck out of you.

I hate advertising.

That's why I watch the CBC.

But I should really just remember to turn off my speakers.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Things are moving along nicely.

...everywhere but my thesis. Ugh. I think today's the day, though — the day when I actually buckle down and start hackin'. I mean, I already have my draft copy with handwritten edits sitting right the hell in front of me as I type this, so you'd think it'd be an easy move from "typing a blog post" to "typing to save the future of education in Ontario," wouldn't you? Yeah, you'd think that.

At any rate, yesternight saw two worlds collide yet again: friends from Queen's, and friends from Toronto, gathered at Sneaky Dee's for a Wavelength show featuring three musical acts. The first act was a solo guitar deal; you know, guy gets up there with guitar in hand and heart-wrenching lyrics in his head, and strums and wails. After the first ten seconds, because I'm not really paying attention and/or can't hear every single word over the din of a loud bar, it all just sorta runs together, and you spend the next 26 minutes praying it'll end. That was sorta how it was like, except my friend Dave and I spent those next 26 minutes trying to devise a way to chat up the cute girls behind us. (Nothing came to fruition, unfortch.)

The second band was trying its darndest to be Faith No More, minus some of the bombast. I thought they were decent, and Dave thought they were fantastic, but the other three in the posse apparently couldn't wait until they were off the stage. The cute girls had moved somewhere else (or left) by this point, so that dimension was also gone.

The third band, named 100% Wool, was a bass-and-drums duo. These seem to be hot these days (DFA1979, Kingston's own Tomate Potate), and Alison was pretty pumped to see them, but these guys were actually quite disappointing. Their stage presence was lackluster, the singer was purposelessly screamy, and the drums were electronic (a travesty!). Anyway, we ducked out of there and headed into the night, and I saw more of Markham than I'd seen in a whiiiiiile.

On a completely unrelated note, while I was in the shower yesterday, I recalled a dream I had a few months ago, where I was watching a Tigers playoff game on television. In it, the announcer said something like this as the camera panned the raucous fans and the shrubbery growing beyond the centerfield fence:

Welcome, everybody, to Comerica Park, on this beautiful sunny day in October, where the Detroit Tigers — who have surprised everybody in baseball this year — are in their first playoff game since 1987. The crowd here is electric, as Tigertown has watched their team go on a remarkable run this summer that few could have predicted.

I remember thinking the day after that dream occurred about how it might be a decade or more before that could ever come to fruition. But on this Victoria Day, when the Tigers find themselves with the best record in major league baseball, it remains a very real possibility that this could actually occur this year.

Amazing.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Summer is almost here.

The Victoria Day weekend is the unofficial beginning of summer, and it's a glorious twelve degrees outside. I do, in fact, mean that in all sincerity; if it never gets hotter than 23, I'll be a happy guy. I'm a winter person — the cold invigorates me — and I dread those stiflingly-hot, humid, smoggy, muggy days where all you can do is lay around and wish for a swift, painless death. However, so far May has shaped-up to be a cold, rainy anomaly... and I am pleased.

I've been a supply teacher for a full three weeks now (and worked every day but two), and have come to the conclusion that kids aren't necessarily assholes to supply teachers because they want to torment someone "off the bench," it's because supply teachers, by and large, have no idea how to handle a class. Sure, you'll get the odd jerk who'll have no respect for you... but really, you'll get that in every class, whether you're the regular guy or not.

People have been asking me, "So, are you almost done your thesis?" My reply has been, "I'm in revisions right now." However, to tell the truth, I haven't done one bit of work on the thing in three weeks... and if I want to defend by the end of June, I'm going to have to hustle. I should just put a big pot of coffee on today, sit down, and bang the thing out; I've done most of my revisions in point-form already anyway. At any rate, this article on the Onion, sent to me by someone who knows the value of insightful and incisive comedy, describes a situation which very well could happen to me as I try to finish up my thesis.

If you're looking to waste some time, take this quiz about me. If you do well, go ahead and take the advanced-level quiz. Enjoy! (But just enter a nonsense email address, or your go-to junk-mail address, as I imagine that information will be passed around like a crack pipe at a crack-smokers' convention.)

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

The daily grind.

I'm not back to being a full-time teacher, not by a long shot: I'm not mixing chemicals, preparing lesson plans, fixing equipment, marking... you know, all that great stuff that everyone just magically assumes gets done by fairies. Because, hey, we get to work at 9, take off at 3:15, and get weekends and summers off, right?

........rrrrrrrrrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiight.

Anyway.

Even just being in and around kids all day — and only for two and a half weeks so far — has given me a taste of what the Daily Grind was like (and will be like again). Don't get me wrong, teaching is fun — kids are wonderful, flawed, hilarious creatures — but it certainly does wear on a person.

At the end of my fourth year of teaching (just before going back to Queen's), I was feeling pretty severely burnt-out. Part of that was my fault; I had a ton of stuff on the go, and I was adding commitments that I probably shouldn't have been adding. That being said, though... if you reach the end of June and you don't feel as if you've been run over by a truck, there's something you haven't been doing right. You should be exhausted. Summer is for recovery.

I invest a lot of myself in my kids; they need it, and they deserve it. Most of my colleagues do, too, even though you may not know it. Sure, there are a scant few who only keep doing it for the paycheque, but (a.) those are the ones who'll stick out in your mind as being lousy, (b.) they'll be the ones who'll come to mind first when someone says the phrase "lazy teacher," and (c.) what profession doesn't have a few who aren't just there for the cash? People joke about doctors going golfing all the time, yet nobody calls them "lazy."

Anyway, the point is...

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Of course you don't, Laura.


I don't really believe those polls. I travel around the country. I see people, I see their responses to my husband. I see their response to me... As I travel around the United States, I see a lot of appreciation for him. A lot of people come up to me and say, "Stay the course."
— Laura Bush, discussing how she "doesn't believe" the polls showing people really really REALLY don't like the job Dubya is doing these days

Of course nobody you meet ever disagrees with you. Your handlers never let you meet those people.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Boy Wonder talks to the judge.


Mister Rove

Well, it seems as if Karl Rove — the Boy Wonder, the Boy Genius, the Wizard, the Mastermind — is going to be indicted in the "You know Valerie Plame is Joe Wilson's husband, right? Wink-wink?" case after all.

...like we didn't see that coming. He's made more trips to the courtroom in this case than Bull on Night Court, and this time he'll be trying to save his own flabby ass, instead of someone else's.

Matt Taibbi, who may be stepping into the role of "slightly profane, incredibly incisive and ridiculously entertaining political columnist" vacated by the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson at Rolling Stone, wrote a lovely little piece a few months ago about how the media absolutely adored doing biographies of Rove. An excerpt from the article:

[Rove] is a pig, and the only thing that distinguishes him is the degree of his brazenness and cruelty. It doesn't take a genius to send out fliers calling your opponent the "fag candidate." It doesn't take a genius to insinuate that your opponent's wife is a drug addict. There's nothing cunning or clever about saying your opponent came home from a war too fucked in the head to govern (particularly when your own candidate was too much of a coward to fight in the same war), or about whispering that that same candidate may have an illegitimate black child. And there's nothing clever about calling the followers of the opposition party traitorous and un-American, and claiming that they all want to coddle and appease the murderers of our brothers, sisters, sons and daughters.

Taibbi wrote a book based on his experiences in 2004 called Spanking the Donkey: On the Campaign Trail with the Democrats. I read a chapter of it in Indigo a few months ago... maybe I'll get around to either (a.) reading the rest for free in Indigo, or (b.) winning the lottery, paying my bills, and eventually buying this thing.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

I'm a bit torn.

I have a conundrum.

Being back in the classroom, albeit as a lowly supply teacher, is great fodder for writing. Teenagers do some stupid/crazy/awful/hilarious stuff, and I'd like to be able to share my experiences on the front lines of public education. There's some really interesting (to me, anyway) stuff floating around my brain, and I'd like to get it out of there. Maybe you'd even like to read it now and again.

The problem is, though, the whole thing about "writing publicly about your workplace" — people have been fired for doing such things. Rest assured I'd never name names of kids, or colleagues, or my school, or the board in which I teach, or even if I actually work with aliens from Neptune. (That last one's an exaggeration, of course... but sometimes it doesn't feel too far from the truth.) That, and maybe, somehow, in some convoluted fashion, someone I teach might catch wind of my writing, and figure out who it is (remember, no names or anything identifying), and... well, suffice it to say, there'd very likely be sugar in my gas tank the next day.

I think I've come to a possible solution, but it requires (I think) LiveJournal: a private, friends-only type of blog-dealie. But that's a pain, and requires you to get a (free) LiveJournal member name, and really, I'm not out to inconvenience you. Still, there are great stories to be told, and I want to tell 'em.

Leave me a comment if you're in favour of this, or against this, or just really really really like lemon merangue pie just like my uncle Garry does. Man, does he love lemon merangue pie!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Ikea is good in moderation.

The problem with Ikea is the problem with Jesus: people worship them both like gods.

(Kidding, kidding.)

I'd always been a bit leery of Ikea — something didn't quite sit right with me. All these devot├ęs counting down the days until the new catalogue came out... sure, I keep a similar countdown for when pitchers and catchers arrive at Spring Training, but that's all in good fun, and seriously, that is information people need to know. Ikeapeople take a warehouselike store waaaaaaay too seriously.

Then, in the summer of 2001 — I remember this because it was at my buddy's apartment in Sweden — I saw Fight Club, and things snapped into focus. Sure, Edward Norton's character was pretty unglued in general and his fascination with matching Ikea-everything was a manifestation of that craziness... still, it managed to click inside my head that Ikea was something to be avoided.

However...

...some of their stuff is reasonably-priced, simple, and sensible, which is exactly what I'm looking for in home furnishings. Not everything, mind you — there are chairs there made of three pipes and a piece of canvas that'll run you two hundred bones — but if you want simple things to cover your windows, it may just be the place to go.

Make sure you do all your measurements in metric, though.

In other news, this is just too much fun.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Firefox problem.

I'm a big fan of the awesome browser, and tabbed browsing in general (I'm a late convert), but it's doing something recently which is a little bit annoying.

I have a bunch of blogs loaded up into one subfolder on my Bookmarks menu, and I usually hit up the "load 'em all in tabs" thing, and they all come up in their own separate tab within my Firefox window. However, lately, a lot of blogs on Blogspot don't load right, or give me a blank page that only (puzzlingly, esoterially) says "ok". Others load up fine, and others give me weird errors (and one even today loaded up photobucket.com instead of a blog).

Is this because Firefox is trying to load stuff from, like, a dozen different websites all at once? It's not a problem that used to happen often, but it's happening more and more these days. Perhaps one of these "updates" that Firefox automatically downloads for itself is buggering itself up in this way, I don't know.

I am also too lazy to look this up for myself, as you can see.

Aside: I now have seating for six in my living room! Feel free to drop by with four of your friends. We can all sit down and have coffee, and nobody will be relegated to the floor. Hurrah!

Friday, May 05, 2006

Back in the saddle.

I've been back supply-teaching for five days — four of them at my previous-and-future school — and I have a few observations.

1. Handling teenagers is an art.

I'm not saying I'm king-shit at dealing with sometimes-ridiculous teens, but let me describe today's first period for you here. I came in halfway through a Grade 9 class, taking over for another guy who was frustrated that they weren't doing the work they'd been assigned; he was in a foul mood, and so were the kids. I sensed that they weren't buying into his way of doing things, so I cracked a couple of jokes after he left, and they were eating out of the palm of my hand the rest of the period. Sure, they may not have been the most productive kids I'd ever seen, but many of them voluntarily whipped out their textbooks and started working together on their assigned questions, and even said "hi" to me in the halls later that day when I crossed paths with a few of them. "You can attract more teenagers with honey than you can with vinegar," to borrow from the saying.

2. Teaching is like riding a bicycle.

I've been a drunken, lecherous asshole university student for the past two years, but five days back in a school and it feels like I haven't skipped a beat. It feels right... walking down the halls and seeing kids do ridiculous things, helping teenagers muddle their way through some of the most ridiculous years of their lives, and shooting the bull with fellow educators. Granted, a year from now, when nine months of The Daily Grind will have thoroughly worn me out, I'll be singing a different tune. However, I think the sports analogy holds true: "If you've left anything on the field, you haven't played the game right." You should feel like you've been beaten by a rioting Brazilian soccer mob by the time June exams roll around.

3. I'm not a kid anymore, but that's okay.

When I was the aforementioned asshole student, I think I was trying to fool myself into thinking I was actually 21 again. However, the past few days have shown me that it's alright not to be in that stage of my life anymore. One of the things I was trying to recapture over the past two years was a sense of fun and lightheartedness, and I think I did a good job at that. But you don't have to be getting liquored-up every Friday afternoon at Ritual to have that; you can achieve the same result by keeping your life in balance, trying not to take things too seriously, and stopping to smell the roses now and again. It's taken a long time to drive that fact through my thick skull, but I think I've got it now. I just hope I remember that in September.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

What the hell happened to the Tigers?

Here's how you're supposed to do things, boys:

You're supposed to lose the close games, give up the big innings, make baserunning blunders, have mental meltdowns, be in way over your heads, get intimidated by great opponents, swing at the first pitch, pop up to the catcher with two out and a runner on third, let the Texas-Leaguer drop in for a hit, throw the ball away, make the clubhouse acrimonious, walk in the winning run, and strike out way too often.

Instead, this is the sort of chicanery you pull:

You're winning pitchers' duels, having the starters go deep into games, getting the key hits, being patient at the plate, playing together as a team, making the tough throws, catching those long drives in the gap, not backing down for anyone, converting the save opportunities, bunting the runner over, throwing efficient innings, getting the ground-ball outs, and walking with a little swagger these days.

The Tigers are dead. Long live the Tigers.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Dryness, Stephen Colbert, and supply teaching.

Has anyone else noticed how freakin' dry the air is these days? Like, ChapStick-inducingly dry? It is seriously damn dry out there.

Stephen Colbert's address at the Washington Press Corps dinner — with Bush, Rove & Co. in the room — was nothing short of ballsy and brilliant. It's one thing to mock the Idiocy Of Dubya to a cheering audience on your own TV show, but it's a whole other level of cojones to do it while standing six feet from the most powerful man in the world. My adoration for Colbert went up from "willing to wash his car and buy him a beer" to "willing to bear his children even though it's not anatomically possible." YouTube has a copy; I'm sure you can find it.

For the last two days, I've been a supply teacher. It's definitely a change in my normal teaching routine, that's for sure — you can leave at 3:30, there's no marking, and you don't really know the subject material. (For instance, on Monday it was African History and a Sociology-ish class, and today it was a whole lotta Art.)

However, one of the things that crossed my mind recently was the fact that, if you're trying to improve as an educator — and I am — supply-teaching is no way to do it. You're starting over anew every day, which means you can't build on anything you did the previous day. If your teaching blows, nobody's going to tell you about it; you're in, you do your thing, you get out, and you'll likely never see those kids ever again.

Most importantly, though... because every time with a class is a one-shot deal, you can't bond with the students at all, and form that incredibly crucial teacher-learner relationship. Kids won't give you the time of day if they don't trust you as a person and as a professional, and this trust can only be built up over days, weeks and months.

This is exactly why classes treat supply teachers like crap: they don't see them as a person, they only see them as "that thing that comes in that we don't know who tries to make us do stuff." My challenge — and I think I've managed fairly well so far — is to show them very quickly that I know what the situation is (i.e., that I'm an intruder to their class), but hey, we've got some stuff to get through, so let's get through it, and we'll try to cause as little permanent physical damage as possible.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Big Smoke.

Well, here I am, back in Toronto.

Moving hurts. I hurt. Still. And it's been three days since we hauled the heavy stuff up from the truck (big, big thanks go to Jon in Kingston, and Dave & Geoff in Toronto; I totally owe you one (1) moving-assist). I wonder if there's a little boost in Tylenol sales at the end of April every year.

All in all, the new pad's pretty sweet. My neighbour across the hall is another young teacher (he's at an elementary school in Scarborough), and he seems like an alright guy. My downstairs neighbour is... interesting. We had a nice little chat the day after I moved in; apparently I walk really heavily, and the sound amplifies itself through my hardwood floor. She's cool, though.

There's an echo in here... echo in here... echo in here... that could be solved with the purchase of additional furniture. However, the purchase of furniture requires the possession of money (all "Leon's No Money Miracle" events aside). And money is a problem, at least until my tax return comes in.

In conclusion, TO is better-off for having me in it. They oughtta put my mug on the travel brochures... "Toronto: we got this guy!"