Thursday, December 27, 2007

I'm a self-promotional bastard.

Want to do something on Friday night that in no way involves Christmas? I know I do.

That's why I'll be guest-DJing for twenty (20) minutes at the Tiger Bar, which is at 414 College Street, just east of Bathurst, in a weird spot. According to Now Magazine,

It's not the easiest place to find, but that's probably the point. It's underneath the College Street Diner, and the main entrance is in the back, through the gate to the patio and down the stairs. It's run by the same people as the diner, so you can always ask them if you get lost.

Truth be told, I've never been there myself; when I'm in that neighbourhood, I usually am on my way to Sneaky Dee's. At any rate, because I've never DJ'd for real live people before, I asked Matt for an early time-slot... so, if you want to come and make me nervous as hell, be there not too long after 9 pm.

This I promise, though: There will be horns.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A spot of advice.

If you know me — not necessarily in the "biblical sense," but that could work too — you know that I hate malls. I try to stay away from them as much as possible. So, imagine my dismay when, yesterday, I realized I forgot my credit card at a store in a mall the day before, which meant I had to battle the crowds in order to go back and retrieve it.

The mall itself wasn't that crowded. But, it's in an upscale part of town, so I guess everyone who goes there somehow drives all 3 of their SUVs there, at the same time; that's the only explanation I can concoct for how a half-full mall makes for an impossibly-full parking lot.

And you know the type of people who are poking around here: SUVs, clueless yuppie assholes, probably with Fufu the Schnauser yipping his cuuuuuute wittle head off in the back seat. Something else they all had in common was one particular accessory — seriously, a third of them had one while driving — and so, to you, my quasineighbours, I will offer you this piece of advice (suitably-coloured for the season):

GET
OFF
THE
GOD
DAMN
PHONE
WHEN
YOU
DRIVE

YOU
DRIVE
LIKE
SHIT
WHEN
YOU
TALK

AGAIN,
GET
OFF
THE
FUCKING
PHONE,
ASSHOLE


That is all. Have a merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Crazy Cat Lady 2: The Re-Crazying.

Frequent site-contributor ECB called me in a panic.

"J! I'm at my boss' house where I'm staying tonight, and she's not here, and I set off the alarm! I don't know what to do! Look up XYZ Security System on Google for their emergency number!"

So I did. Unfortunately, I couldn't find one. Fortunately, I don't live too far away, and I have a futon for just such an emergency (that is, being able to offer a spare bed to someone who wouldn't be able to sleep due to an ear-splittingly loud alarm going off).

(I've set one of those off before, in the school. Jesus christ they're loud. But I guess that's the point.)

A-futon-setting-up I did go... dutifully removing and unfolding the mattress, placing it aside, and carefully sliding the wooden frame open to convert it from couch to bed.

— WHAM! —

Incidentally, I don't mean the pop band from the '80s; instead I mean the sound a wooden futon makes as it crashes a foot or so to the wooden floor as it slips from your grip.

You may recall a couple of times in the past when I've mentioned my downstairs neighbour, Crazy Cat Lady. She waits for me to make any noise at all, then freaks out. Well, Crazy Cat Lady didn't hold back — she got her broomstick and started wailing away on her ceiling (my floor).

Yeah, lady. As if I didn't know that was loud as hell. So I went downstairs and gave her a piece of my mind.

She thinks I sit around up here and dream up new ways to make noise. Yeah, I dropped a futon frame tonight... and yeah, last night I knocked a remote off a table onto the hardwood floor. Aside from that, I've been quiet as a mouse for months... but she thinks the horrendous screeching noise of my neighbour's closet door is mine — and yet, apparently I'm the one who's supposed to go tell him to get a can of WD-40?! In addition, I'd been sitting pretty much motionless in front of the computer — mostly trying to help out ECB to find that phone number on the 'net — but apparently "for the past straight hour" I'd been "crashing around." I told her I hadn't moved at all.

So I called her "crazy."

Ooooooooh, she did not like that. Cat-like, the fangs came out. I reiterated my main points, capped it off with an exasperated "holy shit!", and walked away.

I'm a model goddamn neighbour, and yet I'm convinced she has a voodoo doll-likeness of me that she's ready to ram up the ass with a pickaxe.

But I don't really fucking care. I'm gonna complain to the super. Maybe we can pitch her and her cats out of here.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Why WCO is the best.

I think this picture sums up my Friday night with White Cowbell Oklahoma pretty well. (Click the photo for a larger view; the link to WCO's website isn't safe for work.)


From left to right:

Hollis (guitar, sometimes double-necked), unknown burlesque dancer, muttonchopped fellow with top-hat and cape and whip, Clem (guitar), Sgt. Rock (vocals), Chainsaw Charlie (chainsaw, grinder), Bubba Lee Phett (bass), Colonel Sanders, The Cousin Who Hath No Name (guitar).

Onstage, but unseen in this view: Jesse (keyboards), Dingo von Devereaux (drums).

Offstage at the moment: Sheriff R.F. Horton (menacing looks), some fat guy wearing only tighty-whities and a mask, two other burlesque dancers, and Santa Claus with his gigantic unit flappin' in the breeze.

Offstage, appreciating all this and getting rocked-the-fuck-out: me, frequent site-contributor ECB, Eve, and Doppelgänger Eric.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Three random things.

Number One

This city smells truly awful sometimes.

Number Two

This is funny, although I haven't (yet) found it to be true.

Number Three

What should I buy my dad for Christmas? I'm sure he never reads this blog, so it's okay if you just give me gift ideas in the Comments section.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Welcome to my musical world.

Warning: it may drive you crazy and/or cause you to hate me (more).

From time to time, I get obsessed with songs. While I won't listen to a song, say, a dozen times back-to-back — I like to limit things to maybe 3 or 4 times a day, at the height of an obsession — it will firmly implant itself into my brain nonetheless, and stay there for a few days.

Luckily, YouTube makes it easy to access pretty much any song you like (which has a video), pretty much anywhere you are, pretty much anytime. Can you remember the Bad Old Days when you actually had to wait to get home so you could play a CD, tape or LP so you could hear the song rattling around in your head? Or maybe roll the dice with the radio and hope a DJ had your song in mind? Me neither!

At any rate, without further ado, let me share what's been bouncing around for the last little while. You'll probably hate it, but hey, this isn't your blog, so fuck you and the horse you rode in on.

Triumph — Lay It On The Line
Possibly one of my longest-lasting continuing obsessions. Rik Emmett is a force to be reckoned-with: flowing mane of blond locks, double-necked guitar, red jumpsuit and a voice like a screaming banshee. Also, videos from the late '70s are pretty universally crappy. Deal with it.

Steely Dan — My Old School
It always seems so cheesy when bands, back a few decades, would get on a TV show and lip-sync the lyrics. I suppose Britney Spears still does this on stage and gets away with calling it a "concert," but that's a whole other kettle of fish. Also, Don Fagen is a freaky-looking guy.

Feist — One Evening
I want to take Leslie Feist into a dark alley and (consentually) do some very dirty things to her, and now you will know why. Women who play Gibsons while wearing heels cause all sorts of funny rumblings south of the ol' equator.

Steely Dan — Reelin' In The Years
Yeah, I dig the Dan. But c'mon... two guitarists with the chops of Skunk Baxter and Denny Dias? You could put five bands together and not come up with half the talent of one of these guys. These bastards are tighter than a cheap clock.

Pretty much anything by Picnicface
They're a comedy troupe out of Halifax, and they're hilarious. If you watch one thing by them, let it be their ad for a fictitious energy drink called Powerthirst. If you watch two things, let that other one be for Super Bingo. But please, watch more than two.

Alright, so that last one wasn't music. Get off my ass, fascist!
___________________________________
Correction: Rik Emmett's outfit is more of a unitard than a jumpsuit.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

It's time to buy some stuff.

I'm becoming, in the parlance of our times, a Real Person™. I have a job, a sweet apartment all to myself, salt and pepper shakers, a car, and no (visible) piercings. As such, I think it's high time I bought some decent furntiure.

I have a couch-and-loveseat combination in my living room. It's decent, but they're hand-me-downs from one of my mom's past redecorating blitzes. They also don't match; not a big deal, but hey, come on.

As such, I've been perusing the Leon's flyer today ('tis the season for "Ho Ho Hold the Payments;" I'll pay for my furniture all at once, thanks), and they have some nice deals. Someone recently told me that February-ish is a good time to buy furniture, and because I don't know jack-squat about buying furniture, I'm inclined to believe them.

Do you know anything about buying* furniture? I'm not a student anymore. I earn a decent enough living, my debts are manageable, and this is what Real People™ do, anyway, right? If you have a tip, please leave a comment. All tip-givers will be entered into a draw, and the winner will be invited over to my apartment, after I purchase the furniture, to look at and — if you play your cards right — sit on the new acquisitions!**

So, let's get those tips flowing! Daddy's got some money to spend!
____________________________

* This means an actual purchase, for money, in a store. Dumpster-diving does not count.
** Written proof of recent, negative HPV test result required.

Friday, December 07, 2007

And now... this.

The title of this post is also the title of a chapter in Neil Postman's exceedingly-excellent Amusing Ourselves to Death. It's a critique of public discourse in the age of television; he wrote it in the mid-1980s, but his observation is as valid — perhaps even moreso — in this Age of the Internet.

(Remember, back in the '90s when people were first exploring the Web, how some idiots coined the term "The Information Superhighway" to describe the Internet?)

(I do.)

In the chapter I've referenced, Postman discusses how the evening news is essentially a meaningless, disconnected jumble of random facts which don't impact your life at all. He argues that, because they shift gears every 45 seconds or so, there isn't enough time to say anything of substance.

Perhaps most imporant for the state of public discourse is the utter disconnectedness of each piece with the next. For example, a newscaster could say:

...the fire has been blamed for the deaths of 83 orphans so far, with that number most certainly rising as dental records confirm more and more identities. A real tragedy.

(ever-so-slight pause)

And now... this: Stay tuned after the break for some great recipes for banana bread! You're watching Action News at 6.

Because we're so used to these random minutiae being thrown at us, our ability to follow a carefully-reasoned argument has waned. We get our "information" in sound-bites, newscasters seemingly have to stand and walk around a warehouse-like room with clipboards in order to keep our attention, and Noam Chomsky has a snowball's chance in hell of ever getting any airtime on a TV show.

Think these would fly today? No, neither do I.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Big, big, big news.

My jaw actually dropped open.

To the Marlins:
  • rookie pitching sensation Andrew Miller (he'll get his head screwed back on right, I'm sure)
  • five-tool outfielder Cameron Maybin (maybe a season away from the bigs, but oh what a season he'll have)
  • triple-digit-fastball-pitching Eulogio de la Cruz (came up briefly with the Tigers last year and looked great)
  • solid young catcher Mike Rabelo (really came on strong with the stick after getting settled as Pudge's backup)
To the Tigers:
  • workhorse left-handed pitcher Dontrelle Willis (I've liked this guy for years; good with the stick, too)
  • sluggin' third baseman Miguel Cabrera (can you say no to 34 HR, 119 RBI from a 24-year-old? I can't)
It's a shocker, to be sure. I distinctly remember Dave Dombrowski saying he didn't see himself making any big deals during the Winter Meetings... and yet, here we are, two established stars from the Fish going to the Bengals, in exchange for at least three can't-miss prospects.

Wow. Serious trade for the Tigers.

Wow.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Reunions.

This year we've already seen the original Van Halen get together, along with the living members of Led Zeppelin.

But this one blows my mind:

My Bloody Valentine

If you've never had the pleasure of listening to Loveless, their masterpiece from 1991 — possibly the best album put out that year, and yes, I know Nevermind and Bandwagonesque came out that year too — you really should seek out a copy. It's ethereal and spooky and creepy and awesome. You'll want to play it really loud, which is apparently how MBV played in concert... and will play sometime in the new year. And, perhaps most shockingly, a new MBV album will be out by the end of 2007, so the rumour goes.

Wow. My Bloody Valentine is back together.

Wow.

Reporters reporting.

Isn't that a novel idea? This article nicely distinguishes between real reporting and, as Stephen Colbert once called it, "typing things down that people say, and printing it as news." Imagine journalists being more than just parrots... wow, what a novel concept.

Last night's birthday festivities were a complete success. It was pretty much just the way I'd ever want it to be:
  • in a bar
  • in a bar which is in no way fancy
  • an abundance of salted peanuts
  • whose shells went on the floor, baseball-park-style
  • pitchers were flowing freely
  • a couple of rounds of oddly-coloured shots
  • including what I believe was a Prairie Fire, especially for me, because Jon secretly wants steam to shoot out of my ears
  • excellent music was played, including a song from the first Blood, Sweat and Tears album (when Al Kooper fronted the band)
We had a great time at this place, for the simple reason that the venue didn't interfere in any way with our conversation, or try to make us feel out of place, or expect us to look a certain way. It occasionally enhanced our experience (e.g., for me, the BS&T song), but at no point did the bar get in the way of our good time. And it was a good time.

The best part, of course, is that when it's your birthday, everyone else pitches in and picks up your part of the tab. Thanks, boozers. Thoozers.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Odometer's rollin' over.

Whenever the essentially-random day of the year rolls around which happens to be the day on which the doctor slapped your ass and told your mom what gender you are, reflection is invited — nay, expected — so I'll indulge in some, if you don't mind. Random thoughts follow.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

We have a preservice teacher in our department for the next couple of weeks. She went through high school in the first group of kids in the four-year curriculum; that is, she was the younger half of the "double cohort." My first year of teaching was '00-'01, and in that year, the first 4-year kids were in Grade 10. I taught Grade 10 Science that year, and I vividly remember several kids in that class, including one who had ADHD and drove me crazy nearly every day; he is the reason I will never name a child of mine Tyler.

Well, that and the fact that Tyler is a ridiculous name.

Anyway, this means that the preservice teacher we have at the moment is the same age as Tyler. And that freaks me out a bit.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

On the other hand, aging isn't so bad. As I've mentioned before, our culture has this "let's worship youth and try to stay young as long as possible" thing going on, which is ridiculous. Have you talked to young people lately? They're a pretty dumb lot, on the whole. (It's not their faulty, though. They're just young. They get smarter.)

* * * * * * * * * * * *

You know how people are all, "Holy cow, I'm x years old. It seems like just yesterday I was in high school/university/college/terrorist training camp." I don't feel this way. I think back ten years, to when I was turning 20 and in my third year of university — I was a young, naive child. I didn't know shit about shit. And when I think about all the people I've met, places I've gone, important things I've learned and the myriad ways I've grown both personally and professionally, 20 seems like eons ago.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I talked to my folks on the phone tonight — maybe they knew I planned on being thoroughly incapacitated tomorrow night — and my mom reiterated something I've heard her say before: "Your 30s will be better than your 20s. Your 40s will be better than your 30s. And your 50s will be better than your 40s." I have a feeling she's right; moms usually are about these sorts of things.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

They say you're only as old as you feel. I feel like I'm still a kid at times, but can act very grown-up should the situation call for it. I find Jackass hilarious, but own cuff-links. I goof around with my students, but have well-thought-out pedadogical reasons why that's a really important thing to do. I love AC/DC, but can get lost in Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain.

So, if I was to try and put a number to how I feel... I'd say I feel about 22.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

My niece the bassist.

Geddy Lee she ain't. But c'mon, she's only two and a half.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Media conglomeration.

I'm watching the City-TV news, and one of the sports guys did a segment on how people thought the Leafs are doing lately (in a word: crappy). They showed him popping into a radio announcer's booth; this fellow was a popular host on Fan 590, a sports-talk AM station.

City-TV (and all its affiliates across the country, including all the "A-Channel" stations) and Fan 590 are owned by Rogers Communications, which also owns 680 News (an all-news radio station). Rogers also owns Rogers Sportsnet, which shows Blue Jays games; Rogers also owns the team, and the building they play in. (He was nice enough to rename it "Rogers Centre" from "SkyDome," which was a name that some kid submitted in a contest back in the late '80s to name the stadium.) Rogers also supplies cable-TV service to everyone in Toronto who has it, not to mention the community-access channel that occupies Channel 10.

So, conceivably, you could have this situation:
  • you go to the Rogers Centre to watch the Rogers Blue Jays
  • your mom watches the same game at home on Rogers Sportsnet
  • on the JumboTron at the end of the game, they show you the Rogers 680 News traffic report
  • on the drive home, you listen to the Rogers Fan 590 postgame call-in show
  • once home, you turn on your TV which is connected to Rogers Cable
  • you watch highlights of the game on Rogers City-TV
  • Ted Rogers personally tucks you in bed
Alright, maybe that last one isn't quite plausible (unless you're Mrs. Rogers). You have to ask yourself, though: is this alright? Should one company be able to own all these media outlets? Obviously, when it comes to something as frivolous* as sports, it doesn't really matter.

But let's say you have an important matter of public interest, and one company owns a whole whack of media outlets, all masquerading as separate entities. ("Wow, I heard that Stephen Harper is a great PM from 680 News, Fan 590, and City-TV! He must be doing a great job.") As a result, one editorial board's set of opinions get spread all over the place, and other voices don't get heard as a result.

This phenomenon began in the US in the '90s, with the relaxation of ownership rules for different media outlets in the same market. Nowadays, the CRTC doesn't give a rat's ass how much stuff one company owns, so long as the CanCon rules are followed.** I say, we should all give a rat's ass.
________________________________

* Yeah, I realize I'm a huge baseball fan. But Noam Chomsky's point is well-taken here: "Sports are pushed as to distract us from asking questions about the real issues."
** I pulled out of my driveway this morning and was flipping around the dial... when who should I hear but Triumph. Fuck yeah!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Dubya lets his fingers do the walkin'.

Here's President "Curious" George Bush, kickin' back in his sweet pad on Fakesgiving (i.e., American Thanksgiving), calling some US soldiers who are marooned in Iraq. Man, does he look relaxed.


He should be relaxed; he's not getting his ass shot-at by dozens of people, angry about some assholes inviting themselves into their country and making it a shithole.

It's "the least I can do," said Boy George.

...well, it's good to know he's doing the least he could do.

I bet those soldiers appreciate the least.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Incidentally, it's not as if he sat by the phone and called up, like, every fourth soldier stuck in that godforsaken quagmire. He called:
  • 3 people in the Army
  • 2 people in the Marines
  • 3 people in the Air Force
  • 2 people in the Coast Guard
  • 2 people in the Navy
So, to help out US troops in Iraq, in this war-without-end, a miserable debacle which has caused nearly 4000 American deaths (and likely several hundred thousand Iraqi civilian deaths), something 4 of 5 Americans disapprove of...

George made
twelve phone calls.

Shit. Frequent site-contributor ECB made more calls than that trying to find an apartment in Chicago, and she didn't even send hundreds of thousands of people to fight an illegal war.

Happy Fakesgiving, by the way.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hey you.

Yeah, you.

Wanna come drinkin'?

I turn 30 on Friday, November 30th. This means it's my "champagne birthday." It also means I must get stupendously drunk and forget that I'm a year closer to my death. Drink up, assholes!

I'm guessing this get-together will be somewhere on Bayview, south of Eglinton — that is, within stumbling-distance of my apartment. You are invited if you:
  • drink
  • don't drink, but enjoy watching people drink and/or paying for other peoples' drinks
  • can read this
  • can't read this, but are smart/wily enough to trick someone into reading this to you
  • have a pulse
  • don't have a pulse, but are confident that paramedics can "zap your ticker" after you finish your beer
  • ...okay, fine, the beer after that one
  • know me
  • don't know me, but are
    1. a supermodel
    2. who wants to experience my renowned "nineteen seconds of drunk screwin' and then J passing out" routine
    3. and won't mind if I call you "Doris" during our vigorous lovemaking, regardless of your actual name
So, all in all, it should be a magical evening. If this sounds like a worthwhile way to spend a Friday night, you know how to contact me.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On aging.

I'm getting close to 30. As such, I'm thinking about age a lot these days.

Two things come to mind.

The first is something that my Grade 3 teacher, Mrs. Johnson, said many years ago. She was talking about getting older, and mentioned her "laugh lines" around her eyes. Specifically, she said, "People say laugh lines are a bad thing. But, you know, that just proves you've laughed a lot in your life, and I think that's a pretty good thing." Wise words.

The second is our culture's maddening obsession with youth.

There are places in this world where age and wisdom are revered, even celebrated. Some cultures actually look up to their more senior citizens, because they have experiences that may just be useful from which to learn. You know, there are these things called "learning stuff" and "figuring shit out," not to mention "useful things that other people should know." Heard of that?

Meanwhile, we're trying to look younger, act younger, screw younger, and have parts of us replaced so they actually are younger. Also, there's much more pressure on women to conform to this standard than there is on men... which I suppose works well for me, but not so much for the ladies. And that kinda sucks.

In conclusion, young = dumb. Why would we want to be dumber than we already are?

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Taxes.

Recently, Little Stevie Harper and Close-Set-Eyes Dalton McGuinty sat down and had a chat. It went a little like this:

McGuinty: "Hey man, we couldn't help but notice that you're running a giant surplus. We get a lot of our money from you guys, and we fund cities, and their bridges are crumbling, so... care to share the wealth a bit?"

Harper: "Suck my cock, Dalt."

I dunno, maybe Stevie used slightly different language... but that's what the sentiment was.

* * * * * * * * * *

I forget exactly where I heard it recently — it very well could have been from David Miller, the mayor of Toronto — but I've been looking at taxes a little differently lately. If memory serves (as it seldom does), Miller phrased this thoughts along the lines of, "By getting more revenue through taxes, we can really unlock the potential of this city, to do things to make our residents' lives better" (emphasis mine).

Think about it. Let your mind wander.

If we (a.) had all kinds of money, and (b.) a government that was willing to spend it on programs for their citizens — instead of being preoccupied with shouting "TAX CUTS, BITCHES! TAX CUTS!" every chance they got — just think about all the stuff we could do. Here's what jumps to my mind:
  • building oodles of affordable and/or sliding-scale and/or free housing, taking people off the streets
  • supplementing low-wage-earners' salaries to make sure they had enough to have a decent life
  • helping businesses become more environmentally responsible through new technologies
  • pumping tons of cash into schools to make them more useful and relevant for the kiddies*
  • revamping the health care system so that its disparate parts actually work with each other
  • building high-capacity public transit systems (e.g. LRT lines in most major cities), and making fares so cheap (and service so ubiquitous) that you'd be a fool not to ride them
...and so on.

Am I crazy here?
_________________
* I'll take care of this one, thanks.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Dubya talks to soldiers.

"Y'see, Lance Cpl. Bradford? Ah'm pushin' ya 'round in yer new wheelchair. Naw, don't say yer guvernment never did nuthin' fer the troops! 'Course, now yer a double ammm-puh-tee and yer blind. But hey, ah'm the President! Ain't that cool?"

"Ah'd shake yer hand, Spec. Yarosh, but ah'm a straight-shooter, so I'll just tell ya that your fake arm and your burned-up skull kinda freak me out."

"Green exercise balls, Sgt. Downs. That's the key to winnin' this War on Turrurr. These green balls're gunna smoke them turrrurrrisssts outta their holes. Oh, and sorry 'bout them legs."

What a fucking tool. See the whole ridiculous set of pictures here.

I feel sorry for American soldiers, I really do.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

A quandary.

A few times in our lives, we're faced with a choice which affects the way we look at the world, how we go about our day-to-day business; in short, a so-called "paradigm shift." The question is this:

CD or (legal) download?

You see, the Sadies have a new album. I like the Sadies; they're always a great time. They're not a huge band, so I'm more inclined to pay for their good work than to steal it. (Seriously, do the Rolling Stones need any more cash?)

Anyway, on the Yep Roc Records website, I can download the thing for $10... or I can buy the CD for $15, plus $5 shipping. I know what you're thinking: "Dude, c'mon. Download and burn it." But, it's not that easy.

I really, really enjoy having a CD in my hands. I like inspecting the artwork, perusing the lyrics, combing through the thank-you's to see if they snuck someone in there like Don Knotts. But is it worth the extra dough — in this case, ten dollars, plus tax? Tough to say.

Your input would be greatly appreciated.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

You got ears.

So, let me get in there and wiggle around once a week.

You see, I have a radio show again.

When I was back at Queen's, I co-hosted a weekly radio show. That was a lot of fun. A few years before then, I co-hosted a show with a friend on a tiny station at the Glendon College campus of York University, which is just up the street from me.

Because it's in the neighbourhood, and because they have giant gaps in their schedule, getting a decent time slot on the Glendon station is a piece of cake. So, I asked, and I got a show on Wednesday evenings.

I did my first show on the Glendon station before the Queen's thing. As such, I didn't realize how lousy Glendon's equipment and music library actually were; in fact, its entire music library is now off-limits to me, as it's being re-catalogued (at least I think that's the story the station manager gave). But now that I've had a taste of the Good Life, it's tough to go back to squalor.

However, I attempt to make a silk purse out of this sow's-ear once a week, from 11pm to midnight on Wednesdays. All the tunes I play are out of my own musical collection... which is alright for now, I guess.

You can listen to the show by going to the station's website and following the "Listen Live" link.

See you on Wednesday.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Oh, hey, nevermind.

I found my sunglasses.

I forgot them at Dave's.

I have them now.

Thanks for looking, though.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

C'mon, Joel.

Joel Zumaya is an interesting fellow.

He's a relief pitcher for my Detroit Tigers. He's 23. He throws hundred-mile-per-hour fastballs which dive and dart into impossible-to-hit locations. And he has a propensity for injuring himself in extremely strange ways.

During his rookie season, 2006, he was sidelined for a month or so because he strained his wrist playing by playing Guitar Hero. Now, I've played Guitar Hero — and briefly considered buying some sort of video game system so I could play it at home, it's that addictive — but when your job involves taking very good care of everything below your shoulder, you may want to limit yourself to a couple of hours a night.

Early in the 2007 season, he was warming up in the bullpen before coming into a game, when he ruptured a tendon in his hand. He didn't do anything; he just threw the ball weirdly and something ripped inside his hand. So, there he appeared on TV, walking from the bullpen down into the depths of a baseball stadium, clutching his right hand with his left, having hurt himself without appearing in the game. That knocked him out for a good two months, and the Tigers struggled without him.

In the past few days, with the fires raging in southern California, Joel was at his offseason home with his parents. His father currently has a broken leg, so he was getting some stuff out of the attic when a heavy box fell directly on his right shoulder. Joel is right-handed, so this is a big deal. He will be out until the middle of next season.

We have to ask ourselves this: Is Joel Zumaya a danger to himself? Should we lock him in a padded room between games, and for the entire offseason? This humble blogger says yes.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The passing of a legend.

Here at Brain-spillings, we always endeavour to bring you up to date on the latest news regarding celebrity deaths. This is partially because some of you reading this are in the 2007 Celebrity Death Pool. But this is mostly because I'm one sick motherfucker.

The latest: Robert Goulet.


Oh, wait. That's Will Ferrell's imitation of him. ("I don't care if he is Mister Notorious Big. Can he croon?") The real deal:


Croon on, Bobby.

PS: Do yourself a big favour and search YouTube for "ferrell goulet". Gold.

I'm back, bitches.

Back from a weekend in the mountains*, brushing up on union stuff, singing karaoke for the second time in my life, and eating applesauce on pork for the first time in my life. It was fun (and tasty), and the free booze was a nice touch; you ever wonder where your union dues go? Straight into my liver.

But seriously, we learned some useful information on how to better serve our fellow union members — and no, mother, I don't mean "how to better serve them kickass Cosmopolitans."

* Alright, it was the hills of the Oak Ridges Moraine, south of Barrie.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Life is about change. If it isn't, then you're not doing anything.

We should always be looking to better ourselves: physically, professionally, interpersonally, emotionally, the list goes on. If you're not, that means you want things to stay exactly the same... and if that's the case, it must mean (a.) your life is perfect, and (b.) nothing around you ever changes, either, as change naturally generates other changes.

As a consequence, your life, and the circumstances surrounding it, should eternally be in a constant state of flux. It's nice to have things you can count on — a steady paycheque is always a comforting thought, as is the eternal hotness of Halle Berry — but in the end, shit's gonna evolve. It's up to people to (c.) recognize this fact, (d.) embrace it as part of their core philosophies, and (e.) learn how to best manage this change. If you manage things right, you can actually have it working in your favour — new challenges, ideas and perspectives should always give you something to work on, and something towards which to strive.

I heard an interesting guy on the CBC this morning: he's a history teacher in Etobicoke who's being presented with a Governor General's Award for Teaching later this week. They had a snippet of dialogue in his class, and he asks his Grade 11 class this question: "What is 'success?' How will you know when you have 'succeeded?'" I've been thinking about that, off and on, for a good deal of today. What I've figured out is that, in order to be successful, you have to (f.) be happy, and (g.) feel as though you've made a difference in your own life or the lives of others.

Bigger than this, though, is the idea that success is very much a dynamic, rather than static, phenomenon. Sure, you may achieve something important today, but how will you view that tomorrow? Next week? Thirty years from now? You have to spend the rest of your life incorporating that success, and the lessons learned in achieving it, into how you see the world.

Success is merely the beginning.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Finally, it's not a disgrace.

It's an odd thing to pick out of a World Series, but there's something I've noticed so far which is actually a nice surprise.

The Star-Spangled Banner.

Yes, it's the anthem of our neighbours to the south. Yes, the melody is an old hymn/drinking song, and the lyrics glorify war. And yes, it's challenging to sing (so I'm told; I can always nail it pretty well). But, how many times have you been watching a major sports event, and they trot out some lame R&B singer who takes seven minutes to embellish every note past the point of ridiculousness, making everyone in the place, and at home, cringe while they wait it out? (Or, if you're like me, you flip the channel and end up forgetting about the game and missing the first two batters in the top of the first.)

Game 1, which ended up as a Red Sox blowout win, featured a novel arrangement by legendary film composer John Williams, played by the Boston Pops. I didn't really like the arrangement — it seemed needlessly goofy in places — but it was solidly played (and, most importantly, it was short). Tonight's Game 2 was a solo effort, with James Taylor and an acoustic guitar; again, the arrangement was a little unconventional, but he sure didn't butcher the thing like Mariah Carey very likely would have.

On a different note (har, har) — I've been watching Rogers Sportsnet instead of Fox, because Sportsnet is carrying an alternate feed, with different announcers. When I've flipped back to Fox, it's driven me crazy: the ridiculous amount of graphics cluttering up the works, the sound effects, the needless slo-mo replays, the schmaltzy special features... I could go on. Sportsnet is showing the feed from MLB International, an in-house production which pares down the graphics and has a much more straightforward broadcast team. Good choice, Uncle Ted.

Also, I'm baking cornbread tonight for the first time. It smells pretty good, and is currently cooling. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Little help.

Hey.

I misplaced my sunglasses.

If you see them, could you let me know?

Thanks.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Crossed more items off the to-do list for my life.

Over the past couple of days, I have...

1. Seen Van Halen live, with David Lee Roth as the lead singer.
I saw VH back in 1998, during their disastrous Gary Cherone experiment. This time, Diamond Dave and his high-kicks, top-hats and giant persona graced the stage. Great show, and Joe Louis Arena was jumpin'.

2. Ate at White Castle.
On the way back from the VH show in Detroit, my brother and I decided we'd indulge our curiosity and partake in the burgers whose virtues were oft-extolled on the Beastie Boys' debut album, Licensed to Ill. They're actually kinda... I dunno. How do I classify them? They tasted alright, but... well, I'm probably not going to seek them out, unlike Harold and Kumar.

3. Got lost in Port Huron, Michigan.
Man, don't take a wrong turn. Especially at 1:45 in the morning.

4. Acquired a crock-pot.
My mom never uses hers, so she gave it to me. (And yes, ladies, I'm entirely single.)

So, in conclusion, it was a weekend of firsts. Whatever could this week hold for me? I guess I'll tune in to find out!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Fighting the post-Thanksgiving, pre-Rememberance Day blahs.

There's a very fine line separating "healthy self-awareness" and "problematic self-obsession," and I honestly don't know on which side I am these days.

Things are going kinda "meh" these days: work is rolling along alright, there's nothing new on the romance side of things, and I think my 6-year-old houseplant is dying a slow death. Other that that, not a whole lot else is going on in the Life of J.

In times like these, my mind starts to wander; if idle hands do the Devil's handiwork, then what do idle brains do? The Devil's tax return? (Aside: I wonder if he donates to the Church of Satan, and if he does, does he deduct that from his taxes?)

(Now do you see the degree of idle-ness my brain is running on these days?)

Anyway, when I'm not contemplating the financial wheelings-and-dealings of certain disgraced angels, all I can think about these days is about how I'm in something of a "holding pattern" for a lot of things in my life. Holding for what? I'm not exactly sure.

It was easy a few years ago. I knew exactly for what I was holding; namely, going back to school. Last year, I spent quite a few months getting back into teaching, re-immersing myself in the Daily Grind. But, now what? What's coming down the pipe next?

(Meanwhile, by thinking/typing that, I've probably just doomed myself in some way. I have visions of an asteroid crashing through my roof, or my car getting stolen, or martial law suddenly being declared in Ontario.)

(At least that would liven things up a bit around here.)

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This is gonna kick ass.

When you see a baseball game in Toronto, the fans are always polite. Someone might say slightly untoward about a player, at a modest volume, that may be heard a few rows away. They cheer when the scoreboard tells them to cheer.

Not in Detroit, though. While not as bad as fans in, say, Philadelphia (who have notoriously hucked batteries at players they hate and once booed Santa), Motown isn't afraid to let loose with their true feelings.

That's why this Saturday's Van Halen concert at Joe Louis Arena is going to ROCK in a FIERCE manner, befitting the Motor City.

Both I, and my brother (who's also going), are pumped.

Friday, October 12, 2007

A quick, nonscientific survey.

Alright, time to fess up.

How many people out there sleep with a teddy bear?

This survey is completely anonymous. Just post a comment stating:
  1. your age
  2. your gender
  3. whether or not you sleep with a teddy bear
I'll kick things off. I haven't slept with a teddy bear since I was about five.

Please note:
  1. This survey is completely anonymous.
  2. I will not judge you in any way.
Honest.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Eat shit, John Tory.

So, you want to run against Kathleen Wynne in Don Valley West, eh?

Early returns say you're doing a faceplant. In the most affluent riding in the country.

Jesus, buddy... if you can't peddle your shitty conservative message in this neighbourhood, maybe you'd better just move along and out of electoral politics.

Tell ya what, Charles Foster Kane — why don't you go back to running the CFL? You were pretty good at that.

Oh, and you're not going to form a government. It's going to be a Liberal majority.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

It's Thanksgiving time.

...and, as one of the biggest-ever acts on the Adult Contemporary charts in the early '80s would put it, it's "a time for Jell-O".

But, on the second Monday in October, I usually* say a little prayer of thanks of my own. It goes a little like this:

Dear Little Lord Baby Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Messiah, the One True God (Earthly Incarnation Remix Version), Kickass Carpenter, Water-Walker Supreme, Fisher of Men (And Probably Women), and 1979 Super Bowl MVP:

Thank You for everything.

Thank You for making it so that I'm not drenched in sweat anymore, like I have been since the anniversary of Your crucifixion way back there in April (or March as the case may be).**

Thank You for mathematically eliminating the Leafs from the playoffs so early in the season. I guess You don't want to get all of Leaf Nation's hopes up, in the case that they end up ninth-or-lower in the Eastern Conference.

And thank You, by the way, for renaming the former Prince of Wales Conference the Eastern Conference a few years back. It's so delightfully devoid of history, and yet so geographically perfect.

Thank You for inventing S'mores. The combination of graham cracker, marshmallow and chocolate could only have been invented by Someone who's tight with The Big Man.

Thanks for putting all those American troops in Iraq for so long. I've really been making the rounds, banging their lonely wives and girlfriends since 2003. And thanks for all the V.D. that I've contracted in that time, and the assorted burning sensations I feel when I urinate.

And finally, thank You for fluffy kittens, anthrax (the deadly poison), and Anthrax (the hair-metal band that first came to prominence in the late '80s and once did a hilarious guest spot on Married... With Children oh so many years ago; my brother and I still laugh about that one). I know You created them all, but I must say I'm a little curious as to why You'd create such a deadly poison which shreds a person's nervous system in about an hour.

But hey, You work in mysterious ways. And thanks for that, too.

Sincerely, Your buddy, JTL.

Amen.

PS: Bengals at Chiefs, this Sunday... who do you like? Yes, I realize it's Your day... but I've got a few burly fellows — no doubt sent by You — who sure would like to break my legs if I don't settle a few debts. Let's let Your omniscience work for us both this time.
_________
* I'm agnostic, so this would be a waste of time.
** Thirty damn degrees on Thanksgiving Monday? C'mon!

Monday, October 01, 2007

Titanic artifacts and Nuit Blanche.

I managed to cross a few things off my life's "to-do" list on Saturday. This included a bunch of stuff I never even knew was on there to begin with.
  • See authentic artifacts recovered from the Titanic, at the Ontario Science Centre.
  • Threw a baseball at 59 miles per hour in the radar gun a the OSC.
  • Vow to return to the Science Centre as often as I can, as I can get in there free. (This is a nice perk of being a teacher... that, and all the free red pens I could ever want.)
  • Discovered a delicious new dark beer called Hockley, which was recommended to me by the Chair of the Physics department at Ryerson. It has this gorgeous, slightly nutty, slightly caramel-y flavour, not unlike Waterloo Dark. I found it an an LCBO in Toronto, and I hope you can find it in your local outlet.
Then, at Nuit Blanche...
  • Walked on the field at the new Varsity Stadium, and marveled at the wonder of FieldTurf. Nice work, U of T! That's one easy-on-the-knees surface you have there.
  • Drew a chalk outline of frequent site-contributor ECB on Hoskin Street, complete with purse.
  • Sat down at a stranger's kitchen table, at the corner of Beverly and Cecil. Outdoors.
  • Got co-interviewed by a documentary filmmaker about what I thought about said kitchen table.
  • Saw a dumpster that got turned into a hotel room.
  • Watched a silent movie with piano accompaniment.
  • Made a "farewell AGO, come back in eight months when your renovations are done" card.
  • Inspected a replica of downtown Toronto where every building was made of little cushions.
  • Walked past a "life drawing" workshop where you could draw some naked dude.
  • Saw a naked dude.
  • Didn't draw a naked dude.
  • Walked around in the TTC's "ghost subway station," Lower Bay.
  • Took a subway at 4:30 in the morning.
Perhaps the most bizarre thing I saw all night was a set of "Scopitones."

Let me explain.

ECB, CH and I were walking around this art gallery on Richmond Street when we saw a giant screen set up in the courtyard, and what looked to be someone from the '60s on it. So, we ambled in and sat down to catch the action.

What we saw was something that looked like a music video from 40 years ago. "They didn't have music videos back then," we reasoned. "These have got to be some sort of performance-art pieces that they just made to look retro." We figured they couldn't possibly be real, because they were possibly the hokiest things we'd ever seen.

Ski-bunnies singing backup? Check.

Ridiculous numbers of costume changes? Check.

Snowball fights between a guy in a red sweater and women dancing in a forest? Check.

Wildly-gyrating hobos? Check.

So we laughed our asses off, thinking that whoever did these sure as hell did a convincing job. As ECB and I were heading off from Nuit Blanche, ECB said to me, "I think CH thinks those were actually from the '60s."

"There's no way they can be," I replied.

Well, it turns out that Scopitones are real. Go here for a bunch of them (look for "Good For Nothing Bill" for the dancing hobo); here's a whole whack of 'em on YouTube. For my money, nothing quite beats Bobby Vee's "Pretty Girls Everywhere" for sheer campy stupidity.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Flaky, like pastry.

Two different friends of mine are leaving the GTA for a long period of time, in the very near future. Both of them kept saying, "Yeah, J, we should get together and hang out sometime before I leave."

Phone calls and messages? Unreturned.

Emails? Un-replied-to.

Strip-o-grams? They didn't even tip the dancer.

I'm miffed at these folks, as you might be able to tell. And, I think I have a convenient scapegoat; it's a piece of technology that, I believe, actually rewards and enhances overall flakiness:

Cell phones.

Think about it... in the time before cell phones — you remember, when we used to fling our own shit at each other and grind wheat into flour using our bare hands — you used to have to (a.) make plans beforehand, and (b.) follow through on those plans. Because people were tougher to reach, you had to (c.) make solid plans, and (d.) try your ass off to get to wherever it was you had to be, whenever you had to be there.

But now that everybody can be reached anytime, I believe this is causing people to be much more lackadaisical in their attitude towards punctuality and reliability. Running behind because you spent too much time downloading goat-porn? "I'll just call and say I'll be a few minutes late." Feeling lazy and want to cancel? It's a snap.

Meanwhile, the person you're supposed to be meeting, or hanging out with, or fighting to the death, probably has other shit to do, and planned to be with you at that time, in that place. And because you're a flaky goddamn idiot bubblehead, you don't care anymore.

My grand conclusion is this:

Because people can talk to each other at any time, they run the risk of trivializing the importance of communication — and in a broader sense, human interaction in general.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Head in the clouds.

I was pretty sluggish all afternoon today at work. Luckily, all I had to teach was Grade 12 Physics; those folks pretty much take care of themselves. However, I was there until 6:00 fixing equipment for some demonstrations tomorrow; sure I stayed late, but that's gonna be one bitchin' fan-car zipping across the front desk.

On the drive home, though, my loopiness reached a new plateau. I was listening to As It Happens on CBC, and a defence lawyer for one of the "Brampton 18" — those guys who got arrested a year or so ago, who had plans to blow up things like the CBC Broadcast Centre — was describing things about one of his clients, a "Mr. Sheikh."

Only, every time he said "Mr. Sheikh," I couldn't help but think of "Master Shake," the ill-tempered character from the Aqua Teen Hunger Force:


I need to get more sleep.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Romance is hard.

Five observations:

1. A lot of the good ones are taken.
You know that really cool girl, the one you've had your eye on for some time? Sorry, pal, other guys see her, too. And one of them got to her before you did. It's shitty, but it happens. Often.

2. Meeting women can be difficult.
Big cities are cold and impersonal. I live in Canada's largest. I also happen to live in a part of it where the median age is likely in triple-digits. It actually surprises me when I pass an attractive woman within ten years of my age walking down my street.

3. People are their own worst critics.
You spend all your waking hours obsessing about this, that or the other little thing that's wrong with you. But, we all have our flaws. Nobody's perfect; hell, Tiger Woods may be the best golfer that's ever lived, but the guy's basically got OCD. So, relax.

4. Guys make the first move.
Women have periods and babies, and neither of those are fun. It's typically the guy's responsibility to initially break the ice. I'm honestly not sure who has the easier job here.

5. It feels awesome to have your ego stroked.
Even if it doesn't lead anywhere, it can make a guy feel like he's king of the world if he has an extended conversation with a woman he finds attractive.

That's all for now. I'm sure I'll come up with more, eventually.

* * * * * * *

Upon further reflection, I think #1 is probably the most significant, at least in my recent experience. Jesus, if I had a nickel for every time I talked to a really great girl and she slipped a "myboyfriend" reference in there, I could quit my job and buy a solid gold house. Why is that? Are attached women natually more open to conversation (especially with me)? Are they more at-ease, knowing they can whip out that ace-in-the-hole anytime they feel uncomfortable? I don't believe in things like curses and karma and such, but I swear this has happened to me much more than my fair share of times.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I wish I was fucking kidding.

Reporter at press conference:

People think there's a risk of a recession. How do you rate that?

George W. Bush, solid C-student, failed businessman, former owner of the Texas Rangers baseball club, currently the most powerful person on the planet:

Y'know, you need to talk to an economist. Uh... (pause) I think I got a "B" in ECON 101. (chuckle) I got an "A," however, in keeping taxes low.


HO.
LEE.
FUCK.
BALLS.


YOU'RE THE GODDAMN PRESIDENT OF THE MOST POWERFUL MOTHERFUCKING COUNTRY IN THE WHOLE GODDAMN WORLD. YOUR ECONOMY AFFECTS SIX AND A HALF BILLION PEOPLE, ASSFUCK. THE ENTIRE PLANET, YOU GODDAMN DOUCHE. AND YOU DON'T KNOW IF YOUR COUNTRY'S ECONOMY IS FUCKED? YOU LEAD THE COUNTRY! YOU'RE IN CHARGE, SHITFORBRAINS! SINCE YOU'RE IN CHARGE,

YOU
NEED
TO
KNOW,
ASSHOLE!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

I've never wanted to shoot anyone more than this.

For the record, I've never watched The View: four or five aging celebrities talking about vapid topics that appeal to people who, I suppose, watch a lot of daytime television. (Me, I'd rather get really baked and watch The Price Is Right.)

So, one of the hosts, Sherri Shepherd (who is apparently new to the show), is put on the spot by Whoopi Goldberg... apparently Shepherd doesn't believe in evolution. Goldberg decides to pry a little, perhaps ask a softball question to get Shepherd back on track:


I could barely believe this. But, at the same time, I could perfectly believe this.

The next day (today, I gather), Shepherd offered an "explanation," which basically amounts to, "Well, I'm just a mom, I don't need to know whether or not the world is flat":


I'm not sure which is worse, to be honest. Frequent site-contributor ECB has a theory: "She didn't know whether the Earth is flat or round. Someone from the show probably pulled her aside afterwards and said, 'Alright, we've gotta do damage-control. Tell them you were nervous.'" Sounds like a pretty good explanation.

Anyway, before the first clip ended, Goldberg was leading up to a question that I wish would've been captured on that clip. If she wasn't... well, I think the question needs to be asked anyway.

If you don't know the basic scientific fact that the Earth is round, how can you make a judgment on whether or not the theory of evolution is valid or not?*

ECB agreed with me, and added this idea:

If you go into a doctor's office, and you trust the science behind medicine, why should you trust the science behind evolution? It should be an all-or-nothing proposition: either you believe in science, or you can go off to your witch-doctors or pray to your god and hope you get better.

I'm not sure I agree with this entirely, but it's certainly a valid point. Anyway, the moral of the story is, I suppose, If you've got kids to feed, don't bother yourself with none o' that fancy-pants book-learnin'.

* This reminds me of the kid I taught a couple of summers ago in summer school, some cocky asshole who flippantly told me one day, "Oh, evolution is all false. None of it is true. Carbon-dating is a lie." This pissed me off, so the next day I brought in some university-level textbooks in physics, calculus, chemistry and astrophysics, dropped them down on his desk from a few feet up, one by one, in front of him and said, "Alright, if you're going to dismiss carbon-dating, you can just learn some basic nuclear physics — bang! — and then the calculus behind exponential functions — bang! — and don't forget some work on radioisotope ratios — bang! — and how these isotopes are manufactured in the first place — bang! — and then you can come and talk to me about how it's all make-believe." It's probably my greatest moment in teaching so far.

This is why I love Jon Stewart.

Last night, on the Daily Show:

Alan Greenspan: "...well, you know, forecasting the economy is no better or worse than it was fifty years ago. It's based on human nature — panic and euphoria. If I had a better way to figure out which one people feel, I don't need any of the other data. The trouble is, we can't figure that out. The reason is that human nature isn't change. We can't improve ourselves."

(long pause)

Jon Stewart: "You just bummed the shit out of me."

Greenspan, of course, was the head of the US Federal Reserve from 1987 to 2006. This means he was one of the most powerful people in the world for almost two decades.

Congrats on the Emmy, Jon. You deserve it.

Monday, September 17, 2007

In my job, I learn something new every day.

Today I learned that, if you place a room-temperature egg into boiling water, it will crack almost immediately, no matter how carefully you do so.

It took me three eggs to figure this out.

My physics class (who the eggs were not for) thought it was amusing. Then someone suggested I put the egg in the water before I heated it.

...what the hell do I know about boiling an egg, anyway? I didn't eat eggs on their own (i.e., not within French Toast or some other concoction) until I was 20, and to this day I only eat them scrambled. Frankly, the thought of digging into a hard-boiled egg pretty much disgusts me.

So yeah. That's what I learned.

Feel free to share what you learned on Monday, September 17th, 2007.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

The campaign trail, baseball, and the Bluths.

I'm not a member of any political party, and I don't ever envision myself as one; as such, I support individual candidates as I see fit. I've voted for, at my count, candidates from three different parties (I bet you can guess the first two, but you'll never guess the third, not in a million years... and no, it's not the Natural Law Party). Today I hit the streets in support of an NDP candidate in a riding in the GTA — stuffing mailboxes, talking to folks, having dogs bark at me — and, aside from a touch of sunburn, I'm none the worse for wear.

What was doing badly, however, was the Liberal sign on my building's front lawn, which kept getting planted in the bushes by some mysterious ne'er-do-well... who my super's brother, while chillin' on the front steps on Saturday morning, caught red-handed. Who was this political interferer? None other than ANNOYED QUEBECOISE, one of the few people in my building who I've actually met. Saturday evening, I saw her in the stairwell and, in my best "flustered" tone, gave her a piece of my mind.

Shit, I should get an even bigger sign.

Saw a commercial on TV just now... "John Tory: Leadership matters." What have you led, John? The CFL ("Go Ottawa Rough Riders! I mean... Go, Ottawa Renegades! I mean... gee, Ottawa, it's too bad you don't have a team anymore.")... Rogers Cable (remember "negative billing"?)... an unsuccessful campaign for the mayorship of Toronto... and now, a party that can't escape its misguided — not to mention highly unpopular — "public" education policy.

* * * * * * *

My Tigers swept the Twins today, and the Red Sox are up 1-0 against the Yankees at the moment. If Boston wins, the Tigers are going to be 1.5 games back of New York for the Wild Card, which would be nice. What's even more intriguing is that Detroit is 4.5 back of Cleveland... and the Tigers and Tribe are playing three games starting tomorrow. If Detroit sweeps Cleveland — and the Tigers' pitching is back on track these days — that would make it only a 1.5-game gap for the division lead. Fuck yeah.

* * * * * * *

I've watched 12 episodes of Arrested Development in the past two days.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

It's erection time.

Sorry... that should read "It's election time." Too bad I'm too lazy to go back and change it, eh?

Anyway, I digress.

Erection Update: September 12th
  • Liberals press hard with "keeping public schools public" message
  • Tory's Tories trying to divert attention away from contentious education issue
  • Rosario Marchese (NDP — Trinity-Spadina) wears sharp new glasses on local cable channel debate
  • Campaign sign on J's front lawn mysteriously re-planted farther from road
  • J re-re-planted sign closer to sidewalk
  • Sign re-re-re-planted far into bushes by shadowy anonymous cretin
  • J re-re-re-re-planted sign closer to sidewalk
  • Only person talking about Mixed Member Proportional referendum: hunky, single, mostly-STD-free blogger with "mad bedroom skills"
I was out the other day, going door-to-door for a particular candidate in my riding who may or may not be the current Minister of Education (and who may or may not have a high-quality handshake in which I may or may not have partaken at her campaign office), and it was interesting to hear, on more than one occasion, something along these lines:

"Well, y'know, I've been a Conservative all my life. But this thing with the school funding, that's just a mess, and I can't support it."

I had a hunch that some PC supporters would feel this way, and it was right. Bill Davis' decision to fully-fund Catholic schools in the mid-'80s, on his way out the door, remains extremely unpopular with a lot of people (including Conservatives and my parents*) to this day.

John Tory decided to roll the dice with a slightly-altered version of the private school tax credit the PCs implemented in '02-ish. It was unpopular enough then; it's easy, for example, to point to upper-class families, sending their boys to UCC and girls to Havergal, receiving tax breaks. But when you throw in religion... that generates way more zing! for the average Ontarian than the bourgeois ever could with their snooty private (secular) schools. It was a gamble, he lost the bet, and now he's trying to get Ontarians to look at the bright, shiny tax-break he's dangling in front of them.

Don't be fooled, folks. He may sound nicer than Harris; he may be less greasy than Eves. But he's still cut from the same neoconservative cloth as both of 'em.

* My parents aren't particularly Conservative. They've voted blue sometimes, red other times... in small towns and rural areas, people vote more for the individual MP/MPP than for the party. I'm pretty sure they've never "gone orange," though.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Four down, approximately 176 to go.

By my calculations, we've finished approximately 2.3% of the school year already.

Hooray.

My classes were fairly uneventful this week, but that's to be expected. You see, we're still in that sweet sweet grace-period at the beginning of the semester where everybody pretty much plays along with the program. Most kids show up on time, the first little assignments are handed in, and everyone gets along fairly well.

(Of course, with one crew last year, a fistfight broke out four minutes into the very first class. You can just imagine how that class turned out. Jesus, I oughtta send letters of apology to the kids who had to put up with all that bullshit every day for a whole semester.)

The key is to keep everyone humming along at this nice pace. When students start missing classes, I gotta get right on 'em, phoning home and such; I can't let things slip, or else they'll start to develop some really bad habits that'll be hard to break later.

I know what some of you might be thinking: "C'mon, J, they know what the deal is... if they don't hand shit in or they don't show up, don't chase them down. It's their responsibility, not yours." Believe me, it's tempting for me to take that attitude... but on the other hand, these are kids I want to succeed. I'm willing to invest the time and effort to ride their asses (metaphorically speaking), because sometimes that's all a kid needs. Most importantly, in order for them to buy into any system you want to create, they have to see you as a real person: enthusiasm for the subject, creativity and flexibility in terms of the classroom environment, and an ability to walk the fine line between "authority figure" and "reasonable person."

Mostly, though, you gotta show you care about them as people. Fortunately, I do.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

And sometimes, it backfires.

Good news on the Ontario election front...

Seems as if John Tory's latest "let's fund private schools with public money" is not going over well. I think Robert Fisher captured it pretty well in a teaser-preview for the CBC Radio 1 Toronto news on my drive home tonight: "The Conservatives are in damage-control today over John Tory's plan to give public money to private schools. 'There's more to our platform than just that issue,' he said."

This means:

1. People are talking about this issue. A lot. And when people talk about issues, politicians will lend an extra-sensitive ear to their discussions and fine-tune their message towards that public sentiment.

2. If Tory's so worked-up about diverting people's attention away from this issue by trying to dazzle them with something else, that must mean people hate his idea pretty passionately.

And that's a good thing.

I cannot tell you how much I hate the idea of public funds for private schools.

But I imagine that, over the next few weeks, I'm sure as hell gonna try.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

John Tory, you can just piss off.

So, there's an election coming up in October in Ontario. (Be sure to vote, eh?)

And, John Tory — the accidentally-eponymous leader of the Ontario PC party — has decided to make education the leading issue so far. Namely, he wants to "bring faith-based schools into the public system." (He went on The Agenda on TVO tonight, going toe-to-toe with Steve Paikin.)

Riiiiiiiiiight.

Tory makes the argument that, since we've had Catholic schools for 150 years in Ontario, why shouldn't we fund students in schools based on other faiths... with public money?

He says, "We're trying to bring more students into the public system. We're trying to expand the system."

Does he think we don't have memories of the early 2000s? Lest we forget his predecessors, Mike Harris and Ernie Eves, who started writing cheques to parents whose kids went to private schools? Public funds, private schools.

You can dress it up any way you like, John. You can try to make the excuse of, "Well, since there are Catholic schools which are funded, we should fund, for example, Jewish schools."*

Paikin: "Do you believe a public education should be a secular education?"

Tory: "Well, we've gone 150 years down the road... the Catholic system is a success story, so that's a viable option. ... I'm going to build on that success."

I've read multiple times that the UN has publicly scolded Ontario for selectively funding Catholic schools, and not any other faith-based system. Now, there are two possible roads you can go down, if you want to rectify this situation:
  1. Fold the Catholic system into the public system.
    This seems like a pretty simple thing to do. My students learn that F=ma... it doesn't matter if they're Catholic, Zoroastrian or Ra-worshippers. You want to add a Jewish slant to it? Do it on Saturday.

  2. Fund every religion that comes down the pipe.
    Scientologists? Tory didn't dismiss the idea... which is just fuckin' crazy. Just like the Scientologists.
I was typing as Paikin and Tory were talking, but this captures an exchange they had pretty accurately:

Paikin: "If we want to teach that the ultimate authority is God, should we do that in the public schools?"

Tory: "I'm not troubled by that. We should spend more time in public education talking about what unites us. Including the Muslim faith. These are good people who are contributing to Ontario's society. There are maybe people in the Muslim faith that say things that they shouldn't say, that we don't like them to say. But we should be careful not to stereotype them, and we're saying, 'Be Canadians, live your life'..." I'm paraphrasing here, because I can't type as fast as someone talks. Also, John Tory likes to pander to Muslims.

Maybe he should just to back to being the commissioner of the CFL.

Hell, when you have a writer from the National Post, Robert Fulford, saying things like, "It's unfortunate that the Conservative Party has brought this into their platform," you know you've taken a wrong turn, policywise.

* There just happen to be a lot of Jewish voters in the so-called "905 area," ringing Toronto. There are lot of seats in the Ontario Legislature that are really close, vote-wise, between the Conservatives and the Liberals. I'm just sayin', is all.


* * * * *

Incidentally, I teach in an exceptionally ethnically-, culturally- and religiously-diverse public school in Toronto. Seriously, the thing looks like a Benetton ad. This morning, I had a classroom in which there were three Afghans and a kid born in Armenia, shooting the bull together. So, let's just create a Muslim school, and an Armenian Christian school instead, so they never have to interact with each other in an educationally-meaningful setting. Uh-huh.

Besides, isn't the cleaving of society into different sects based on where they get bored every week, like, soooooo 16-th Century?

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Republican senators, hot guitarists, and David Brent.

Why is it that all those sex scandals and stuff always happen to ultra-conservative, ultra-Republican red-staters and never, say, some openly gay Democratic congressperson from San Francisco? There really isn't any better comedy than what's going on with Sen. Larry Craig (R-Idaho)... the dude plays footsies with a cop in the next bathroom stall (apparently that's code for "hey, let's screw" in gay circles), pleads guilty to cops right after getting arrested for "disorderly conduct," and then comes back with a lame, "Um, I'm not gay, and I didn't do anything wrong" — after confessing that he did! Dude, just come out and say you're gay... or at least bi, as to potentially placate your wife, who has to be about the most embarassed person on the planet this weekend.

YouTube is a veritable font of music videos. I didn't have cable until I started university, and MuchMusic seemed to only want to show Our Lady Peace videos through the mid- and late-'90s, so there was a bunch of stuff I've never seen before, including the spunky "Ladykiller" by the band Lush. Holy shitballs their guitarist was/is hot... her name is Miki Berenyi, she's half-Hungarian and half-Japanese, and was raised in the UK. No wonder she was rated Hottest Female Guitarist Ever by Outsideleft, ahead of even Ruyter Suys of Nashville Pussy, who I once saw doff her top in the second song of their show to reveal a leopard-print bra, and then later make out with the statuesque babe of a bassist they had at the time. Hot.

If you've only ever seen the US version of The Office — very fine work, indeed — you owe it to yourself to watch the original UK version. It's only 12 half-hour episodes long, so it's easily doable in a day, but you can not skip the two Christmas specials. Ricky Gervais as David Brent produces more cringe-inducing moments per minute than you would ever wish on your worst enemy, and the characters are so kooky and rich that, after a while, you won't remember if you only saw them on TV or if, maybe, once upon a time, you worked with Gareth or Dawn.

Anyway, that's all. I'm going to enjoy the rest of my weekend by eating, sleeping and drinking, perhaps all at the same time, if that's even possible.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Well, this is it.

No, I don't mean I'm stopping this blog. Hell, with the attention it's garnered me since that unwitting day in November of 2004 I've had interviews in Newsweek, Rolling Stone and Juggs, signed an 8-figure movie development deal, and had a pretty-much-unbroken string of fellatio from assorted supermodels (mostly female).

What I mean is, it's the end of my summer holidays. Back to the grind.

And I am sad.

Don't think that my last day of freedom went without being appreciated, though. Here's an approximate chronology of this last glorious weekday to myself:

10:46 am
Since the sun was shining directly through the gap in my blinds onto my face, thereby rousing me from a delicious nearly-nine-hour slumber, I decided to haul my ass out of bed.

11:04 am
Settled in at the ol' computer-box to rip a CD (Chicago III, finally!), browse the accounts of yesterday's Tiger win vs. KC, news from away, and probably even more articles on Wikipedia about pre-Norman-conquest England. (Why does it always come back to that?)

12:51 pm
Decided that breakfast should be assembled, and eventually constructed a meal of pancakes, scrambled eggs and coffee. Borrowed some of my temporary-housemate's maple syrup, instead of the garbage store-brand table syrup in which I normally drown my pancakes (and sorrows).

1:28 pm
Moved to the couch, and finished this month's National Geographic. The article on Vesuvius was enthralling, yet a little frightening; I thanked my lucky stars I don't live in Naples.

2:58 pm
Decided a nap would be in order.

4:55 pm
Awoke from said nap.

5:08 pm
Started typing this.

I was talking with a teacher-friend last night, who's had a hell of a summer and hasn't had too much time to just chill out; hell, I doubt if he's left the city once since June. I told him that, this summer, when I haven't been out of town, I've made it a point to be as lazy as humanly possible... which I think I've managed to pull off quite nicely, actually.

But now it's time to sharpen the ol' pencils, shine up the ol' shoes, and polish up the ol' "Board of Education" that I keep in the corner for students who misbehave. I have one last stint of sloth to go (i.e., this weekend), and then my next weekday off will be December 24 (not counting Thanksgiving).

But hey, I had a good run.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

C'mon, summer, you had your turn.

I'm sitting here at half past midnight, sweating my balls off.

Seriously... give a guy a break over here!

Dying vestiges of August and it's thirty-four damn degrees out there.

Motherfucker.

* * * * * * * * *

I shop at Food Basics, partially for the prices ($1.99 for a box of Reese Puffs, perhaps the awesomest breakfast cereal known to mankind?!), but mostly for the bitchin' tunes over the PA. A few months ago, I heard "Peg" by Steely Dan on there, which rekindled my love affair with Becker & Fagan, but I think my experience yesterday nicely encapsulates the entire Food Basics musical experience.

I'm in the dairy section, hunting for the perfect carton of eggs (I found it, for the record), and over the speakers comes a song I haven't heard in probably a decade: "Cherish" by Kool and the Gang. If you've never heard it, suffice it to say it's probably one of the cheesiest-sounding ballads you're ever going to hear; couple that with the fact it came out in the early '80s, and you have yourself a Perfect Storm of sappy songs. It's familiar, though, and I remembered most of the words.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that I probably don't have a lot in common with your average African-Canadian woman who's pushing 40. We've probably grown up in different places, led drastically different lives, and had two fairly divergent experiences in life. However, as I walk past her on the way to the margarine... I hear her softly singing the lyrics to herself.

Cheesy '80s ballads: bridging cultural divides since... well, probably the '80s.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

I'm here, bitches.

...so quit yer whinin'.

I realize I've been hither-and-thither a lot recently. But, when your life is as tightly-regimented as mine is for ten months a year, you're gonna make the most of the remaining two by being as out-and-about as you possibly can.

Fear not, faithful members of the Loser Brigade who kill a couple of minutes every so often to pop by here; my life is once again returning to "horrifyingly predictable" come Monday morning (do you know exactly where you'll be at 1:33 pm on Monday, February 18, 2008? I do), so I'll be around more than you ever dreamt of. I'll run into the school to photocopy like a mofo for the next four days, whilst taking a morning out of my busy tree-slaughtering schedule to flip hamburgers for some incoming Grade 9s who are in this fancy-pants IB program we're offering up nowadays. So, that'll be... early. As in, early mornings. Oh, hell.

It's been an eventful summer, though. I spent stretches of time in New Mexico, Waterloo and Halifax; I saw two baseball games in Detroit and two in Toronto; my brother and I took my niece to the local county fair last night (she's cute as the dickens, natch); I ate some terrific corn on the cob. All in all, pretty eventful and satisfying... until I got my Visa bill last week.

Yoiks.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Something looks weird... wait, everything looks weird.

So, I'm reading a story on a sports website about how Michael Vick is going to plead guilty to dogfighting — another football player in trouble with the law, yadda yadda yadda. Anyway, for some bizarre reason, I had Flashblock turned off (perhaps the most useful thing you could ever add to Firefox), and a Viagra ad started playing on the side of the screen.

Now, I'm not saying I need Viagra or anything — hey, c'mon, I'm not even 30 yet — but something caught my eye. Because these ads need all the fine print attached to them, all the side effects start scrolling along, as they legally need to... when I saw this:


Because I run Linux, and because fonts are kind of a nightmare on this OS, I wasn't sure if I was seeing the screen properly... does that say "bluish vision," as in, "things appear blue"? So I went to the Viagra website (honestly, I don't have it bookmarked) to confirm this peculiar possibility. Sure enough, there it was.

The most common side effects of VIAGRA are headache, facial flushing, and upset stomach. Less commonly, bluish vision, blurred vision, or sensitivity to light may briefly occur.

...which is just downright bizarre. I mean, I don't suffer from erectile dysfunction or anything (ladies: I'm still single), but even if I did (which I don't), would I think it's such a bad thing to risk having the colour that I see everything thrown off towards the blue end of the electromagnetic spectrum?! That seems pretty serious.

Anyway, in conclusion, Viagra is some pretty weird shit. And, also in conclusion, I have the bedroom stamina of a high-altitude pack-mule.
_____________________
Thanks to frequent site-contributor ECB for the correct spellng of "side effect." It is apparently two separate, non-hyphenated words. Thelena.

Victory never tasted so sweet.

...especially when you've lost about 13 games in a row beforehand, save for one you won by default.

In a riveting game of co-ed slo-pitch this evening at York Hill park, our team, the Bar Monkeys, pulled away with a 10-5 victory over the Screaming Eagles. The highlight of the evening was a 7-run inning in the top of the 5th (our league has a maximum of 7 runs scored in an inning, lest the score inflate to something out of control; we've been on the other end of 7-run innings more than our fair share, as you can imagine). I'm proud to say I had a hand in it, as I singled and scored one of those runs.

Controversies were abundant, though — none more rousing than a diving catch our centrefielder made, presumably as the third out in the bottom of the fourth. He laid full-out to snag a dying liner; I saw him catch the ball a couple of inches off the ground and clearly hold up his glove. The ump didn't think so, and he stayed silent on the matter as we stood around, confused... not knowing that his silence meant, "He didn't catch it." (Normally, when there's a question as to what's going on, the ump would say something like, "No! It's a trap, he didn't catch it!" Then we'd know that, hey, we've gotta hustle to get the ball back in.) Two runs scored on the play.

Anyway, a few members of our team got pretty worked-up over it, including someone who was sitting off that inning who clearly voiced that she thought the call was "bullshit." I know the call was wrong, and that the ump should've made the situation more clear. But hey, it could've just as easily happened to the other team.

Which got me thinking... life's kinda like that, too. There's a lot more randomness in the world than we perhaps might otherwise think. Sometimes the calls go your way, sometimes they don't. Statistically speaking, it'll all even out... assuming a normalized, non-biased Gaussian distribution.

Which got me thinking... life's kinda like a normalized, non-biased Gaussian distribution sometimes. We all get exactly 1.000 lives, some people are more than 3σ away from the mean in some ways, and ANOVA tables are a pain to figure out by hand.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

An open letter.

To the people who roar past my building,

Hello, motorist and/or motorcyclist. How's your day been? Relaxing and peaceful, I hope.

I couldn't help but notice how you like to gun your vehicle as you make your way past my building. I realize that you've just driven up the Bayview Extension, across the Don River from the DVP, which affords many instances for you to "open 'er up" on a nice, gently curving, picturesque, 4-lane stretch of road. You've come up the hill and been forced to stop at the light by the Petro-Canada, but you see another nice, straight, presumably empty stretch of road with nary a traffic light.

But, there's a difference with this part of the street.

PEOPLE FUCKING LIVE HERE, ASSHOLE.

So, when it's a warm summer night and I have my windows open, and the neighbourhood is all quiet, it irritates the holy living piss out of me, and presumably the hundreds of others who live on this part of Bayview, when you gun your engine. We don't want to hear how powerful your bike's/mid-life-crisis-mobile's engine is — and presumably how big your cock is — because we'd rather not have our morning/afternoon/evening/middle-of-the-night disturbed by your childish whims. We're right down the street from Sunnybrook, so we get enough sirens to wake Rip Van Winkle; we don't need you to add on to it.

In conclusion, fuck off.

Sincerely,

J

PS: If you want to experience the thrill of rapid vehicular acceleration, I suggest you try one of the many broad, not-directly-populated avenues up in York Region instead of my residential street. While there, you can race your car/bike against some Iroc-Z's in Woodbridge and some Hello Kitty-adorned Japanese imports in Markham. It's truly a horsepower-lover's paradise up there, trust me.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Universal health care.

We have it in Canada, and we're just a frozen wasteland full of flannel-wearing, poutine-eating, hockey-playing hosers covered in maple syrup. Why doesn't the US?

This is a question I've always wondered about. It didn't make much sense to me that the richest, most powerful country in the world wouldn't have it, as every other industrialized country seems to. Fortunately, the Inter Nets stepped in and offered an answer.

On the CNBC website, there's a clip of a debate (right side of the page, "Universal health debated") with a guy from the Cato Institute (right-wingers, all) and an economics prof from MIT, who was one of the architects of Massachusetts' foray into universal health care. (Seems as if one state is taking things into its own hands this December 31.) I was interested to hear what the Cato fellow had to say, because I'd never heard a coherent argument against universal health care.

Here are some of the points:

"Regulation leads to rationing, which can lead to higher prices." (As the host introduced the debaters, he mentioned some critics of universal health care were citing this as a reason not to go that route.)
Well, the US is seeing crazy-high prices in the absence of regulation, as pharmaceutical companies continue to gouge consumers deeper and deeper. I'm not sure how it could get any worse, to tell the truth.

"We all want more people to have insurance, but you do that by bringing down the cost of insurance through deregulation, and giving consumers more money, more control, so they can shop around for insurance." (This is from the Cato guy.)
How much further does he want deregulation to go? There's already a big market for different types of insurance, — you can get health insurance from any number of providers — and that system still leaves tens of millions without it. And, if someone's earning $5.75 an hour, how much more can you "give the consumer" in terms of tax deductions? You can't get blood from a stone.

"We don't want the government running the health care system." (Cato guy again.)
I think this is one of the central purposes of government; I can't think of anything more fundamental a government could ever do in terms of caring for its constituents, aside from perhaps a military, and we all know how much the US loves to pump money into that. Besides, who do you want to run the health care system, a bunch of companies whose sole purpose is to create a profit? Corners will be cut, and people will die. 'Nuff said.

"When you look at the track record of the US government, when it comes to defence contracting, the cost escalations that went on there; the inefficiencies that go on with the tax code..." (Host guy, playing a bit of a devil's advocate for the MIT guy.)
This is a simplistic argument, which is easily swatted down. All it takes is a bold leader who says, "Enough with this horseshit, we're booting out the for-profits and we're taking this sucker over. We're nationalizing it." Other countries do it all the time; hell, the UK is re-nationalizing Railtrack, the blood-and-guts of British Rail that was previously turned over to the private sector, which they fucked up ridiculously badly, highlighted by a deadly crash in 2000. Turns out they contracted out the checking of the rails to some other company. (Whoops!) Anyway, the point is that it can be done.

"Two and a half to 3 percent of health care spending is for uncompensated care." (Cato guy.)
This is misleading; this number must be artificially low. Take all these "uncompensated" (i.e., uninsured) people, and give them the level of health care they actually need, rather than what they get (because it's too expensive); you can bet they'll get more pap smears, more colonoscopies, more routine checkups that can catch things before they get out of control. This (a.) saves lives, and (b.) would cost more than three percent of all health care costs. So, is this a number that you can really be proud of? "Our uninsured people are barely getting any health care." No, it doesn't sound too good, framed that way, does it?

Anyway, the moral of the story is that the US should be deeply embarassed that it's the only western country without universal health care. I found the stat in the CNBC clip interesting: the US is 23rd worldwide in infant mortality rates. Well done.