Monday, April 30, 2007

Music, then and now.

I listen to music in a variety of ways; the major ones are (a.) in my car, (b.) in the background while reading or doing something else, (c.) while laying in bed and (d.) while travelling somewhere, on my MP3 player. The first two situations don't really lend themselves too well to serious listening, as my attention is diverted by the dusting, the dishes or trying not to drive into oncoming traffic. (I think it's for the good of society that I keep my focus on the road and not on guitar solos.)

It seems like every time I listen to a song in a different place/medium, I hear different things in the music. I'll be used to how an album sounds in my car after listening to it a half-dozen times there, and then when I pop in some headphones, ooooh!, there's a little something hidden back there like the subtle vibraphone in the verses of Steely Dan's "Home At Last."*

My brother was down recently, and we ripped a bunch of late Beatles albums (Sgt. Pepper and beyond) to my hard drive. I threw them on my MP3 player a few days ago, and was on the bus when "A Day In The Life" came on. I'd never heard it that way before, and just the way everything came together — perhaps the street sounds leaking into my ears added a new dimension to the lyrics — I couldn't help but be in awe of the Fab Four all over again.

Who the hell makes music that adventuresome, that ambitious, that truly innovative these days? As much as I enjoy and admire bands like Arcade Fire, Kings of Leon,** Gogol Bordello and a variety of others, it's exceedingly difficult to make music that could be considered "pop"*** but also sound entirely different from everything that came before it, even from the same artist. Sloan in the mid-90s came close (and comes to mind presently), but not too many others in straight-ahead pop thrill me in the same way.

So, in conclusion, the Beatles are still ridiculously awesome.

* I'm still a little obsessed with the Dan, but it's at a manageable level these days.
** I picked up the latest Kings album, Because of the Times, last week and have listened to it once through. I found it a bit schizophrenic; the first half had the band trying to fashion an "attitude," and I thought that was a bit forced and, at times, abrasive. In the closing few tracks, though, they relaxed and made some tunes that they wanted to make, which were more reminiscent of Aha Shake Heartbreak, and are really quite excellent. So, if you pick up the album, have some patience through the heavy guitars and the screaming and yelping... they'll get to the good stuff. Eventually.
*** "Pop" these days, to me, is stuff like Justin Timberlake. It's created for the masses — to be popular — and while people say his latest album is good... meh, it doesn't really do much for me. Not my thing. Nobody else in that neighbourhood does, either. Bah, humbug.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

I originally wasn't going to write this.

But, I think it needs to be said.

Campus-radio DJs tend to talk too much.

It's perfectly natural to want to talk at length on the air. I had a show with my friend Matt, and we had a ten-minute conversation about all manner of idiotic topics (probably including the NHL, how to shotgun a beer, and how awesome Rush is). It's fun to air out your opinion, fly your flag, say your piece — and have an audience.

Because a lot of campus-radio DJs are total music nerds, myself included, we want to talk about this subject we love so dearly. And it's fascinating... to us, and a select few who (a.) are listening and (b.) have very similar musical tastes.

If, however, all you want to hear is a little music which is a bit different than the shit they play on commerical stations... you do not want to hear someone prattle on in a kitten-soft voice for seven minutes about why this particular song by Sally and the Obscure-ettes means so much to them.* Keep the anecdotes and observations brief.

As I mentioned above, I've been guilty of being a bit long-winded on the air now and again. But I've been lucky enough to have a co-host in all of my campus-radio endeavours (so far), and each of the partnerships has made it a priority to (a.) keep an eye on the clock while talking and (b.) talk about a wide variety of subjects, both musical and not... so I think it all turned out well. People tuned into the Tuesday Indie Wake-up Call last year to hear Lindsay and I play indie-rock (quite excellent indie-rock, at that; recordings of our old shows are like awesome mix-CDs), not to hear us prattle on through soliloquies.

It may sound like I'm putting down campus-radio DJs, but that couldn't be farther from the truth. If it wasn't for revolutionary and independent radio, I'd likely be another idiot listening to Mix 99.9, nodding my head along to Christina Aguilera's latest shriekings and eagerly waiting
the latest Matchbox 20 release. But these DJs have to realize that, while campus radio is not commercial, it does need to atrract and retain listeners in order for it to stay alive.

* The eighth song off their second-last album reminds me of the summer I spent in Krakow learning how to make carvings of famous Russian tsars out of blocks of raw Manchurian marble. It means so much to me, that song. Yeah. It really does. Mmm-hmm... yeah. [Et cetera.]

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

It's just that time of the... year.

Q: What fills in the gap between Easter and Victoria Day?

A: The Mid-Spring Blahs.

Yes, it's back — that part in the middle of Semester 2 of the school year wherein summer is still far away, yet you've gotta haul your ass to work for a series of 5-day weeks when the kids are going absolutely bat-shit insane (moreso). I'd forgotten that this time of year existed... but it exists, and it's here.

People say that baseball is a lot less physically taxing than other major sports, and perhaps it is. But what it lacks in constant running/jumping/water-treading/bull-dodging, it makes up for that by virtue of the season having twice as many games as hockey or basketball. Teaching is somewhat similar; sure, you could go in there and hang out (or hang on for dear life) in three classes, and come through fairly unscathed.

But day after day, week after week, month after month, it really grinds you down. Planning lessons and units and courses, fixing equipment, marking marking marking, dealing with new computers, dealing with old computers, calling parents, supervising activities, psychoanalyzing your students, dealing with fellow staff members, organizing field trips, listening to teenage girls scream inane conversations at each other from three feet away... after eight months you're going to be a bit worn-out. And that's where I am right now.

I think I was probably worse last week than this week, with the spectre of report cards looming large. (I stayed up until almost 2:30 on Sunday night finishing those damn things.) But hey, we're almost in May these days, and that means the month after that is the last one.

Hooray.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

ohmygodihatemarking

makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop makeitstop

they need to pay me more

goddamnit when does june get here

Meet the Neighbours, Part 2.

A little while ago, I gave brief summaries of some people in my building. I swear this place is a ghost town; you never see anyone in the halls, in the foyer, anywhere... and you sure as hell don't hear anyone, which is why I'm reluctant to play my 20 Great Japanese-Gong Hits of the '70s at full volume.

(Really, the only way to listen to someone bashing one of those things is at an ear-splittingly-loud level. You really don't get the full effect any other way, and if I was to listen to it on headphones, the cords would get in the way of my manic arm-flailing; I play a pretty mean "air-gong." I'm sure you know what I mean.)

Well, Crazy Cat Lady and I seemed to have buried the hatchet (and by that I don't mean I literally buried a hatchet in the back of her skull). I saw her in the stairwell the other day — she was chatting with her next-door neighbour, The Guy From Melville's — and she commended me on my quietness. I told her I'd put down a hunk of carpet and little felt thingies on the feet of my dining-table chairs, and she said that made a huge difference. So, we're cool.

What isn't cool is the number of screamy, bratty yuppie-spawn in my neighbourhood. I spent yesterday afternoon enjoying the sunshine, sitting on the patio at my local bagel place, enjoying some of their finest and sipping a coffee while marking physics labs. Time after time, these yuppies and their fucking demonic hellspawn threw tantrums, sreamed, whimpered and annoyed the holy living piss out of me, even as I cranked up the CBC Radio 3 podcast to which I was listening.

But, on the bright side, the bagel was delicious, I got that set of labs marked (seriously, they take, like, eight times longer than tests or quizzes to polish off), it was a gorgeous day, and CBCR3 did not disappoint with the tunery.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Wolfowitz, Carnage in Iraq, and "Outdoorsy."

Paul Wolfowitz, the guy who, more than anyone, pushed for and planned the US-led invasion of Iraq, is now running the World Bank (which was vile enough before he came along to lead it). Totally not coincidentally, he appointed his longtime girlfriend to a sweet, well-paying gig at the WB, and lied about it for a long, long time. Which is totally against the rules.

Understandably, people are pretty pissed off about such an important person being able to be so deceitful about this corruption for so long, including many who work at the World Bank themselves. So, if you like The Office (yes, the TV show), and you despise Paul Wolfowitz as much as I do, check this out, sign the petition, and pass it on.

* * * * * * *

Because this is the one Friday night a month I reserve for chilling out at home (the others are, of course, spent snorting pure Peruvian cocaine off the breasts of supermodels and dining on California Condor-egg omelettes), I decided I'd catch up on my Daily Show/Colbert Report episodes that I'd taped (yes, I still own and use a VCR; remember those things, kids?).

On Wednesday night, Stewart had Ali Allawi on, who is an advisor to the current Iraqi government. (Clips are here.) At the end of this very intricate interview — which is far more in-depth than you could ever expect from most mainstream media sources — Stewart brought things down to the personal level, asking Allawi to comment on how his country deals with the death and carnage his country faces every day, after Americans have had to deal with the Virginia Tech shootings earlier this week. He said it was hard, and you eventually get numb to it, but now there are almost 2 million Iraqi ex-pats nowadays because many just can't take it anymore, and decide to leave the country.

(Those are the "best and brightest," too... and we talk about a brain-drain in Canada.)

But, that got me thinking... 32 people died senselessly in that shooting, through no fault of their own; they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Yet, if 32 people die in Iraq due to random violence in a day — again, through absolutely no fault of their own, other than bad timing — that is one fuck of a slow day in Iraq. You see the headlines every day: "More than 120 die in suicide-bombing," "Scores dead in Baghdad after attack," and so on. Every day.

Imagine having to deal with two or three (or six) Virginia Tech massacres seven times a week. I can't.

* * * * * * *

On a far, far lighter note... a friend of mine said yesterday, "It's going to be nice this weekend, so let's do something outdoorsy." Is it sad that neither of us found it disconcerting that we came to the conclusion that "having a drink at an outdoor patio on Sunday afternoon" fell under our definition of "outdoorsy?"

Thursday, April 19, 2007

You have won second prize in a beauty pageant; collect $10.

Yesterday I got a piece of official-looking mail from the Government of Canada, which I didn't bother opening. Today I received a very similar-looking envelope from the Government of Ontario.

I thought to myself, "Either I'm in a whole lot of trouble, or I've just been appointed to the Senate."

Envelope #1 (federal): "Since your ass was so poor last year from being a student for a nice chunk of it, here's a GST rebate cheque for almost seventy bucks." Fantastic, but I'm working full-time these days, and can support myself quite nicely. Still, $67.80 is enough to buy that Best of "When Caged Animals Go Bonkers" 3-DVD box set that I've had my eye on.

Envelope #2 (provincial): "Electricity's very costly these days, and since your poor ass didn't make much in the calendar year 2005 [aren't they a year late on this?], here's a one-time cheque for sixty dollars to help you out." Did I ever mention that at the last two places at which I've lived, electricity's included in the rent?

Tell ya what... the next time you, Dear Reader, and I go out drinking, the strawberry daiquiris are on me.

Monday, April 16, 2007

It's very, very close.

It's Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters.

It's coming soon.

Information here.

As Carl Brutananadilewski would say, "Sweeeeeeeeeet nectar."

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Number four.


I did it. I attended all four games of a 4-game series. Today's game, however, was shit.

Nate Robertson can't get any love. Ever. When he pitches, the Tigers' bats appear to be made from Silly-Putty. So, as his teammates made Josh Towers look like Christy Mathewson, Robertson calmly went out and allowed two measly runs in seven innings, the last of which could've been easily prevented if Sean Casey hadn't had a mental freeze-out while taking a throw from right field.

So, the Tigers split the series with the Jays. It would've been better for them to have won 3 out of 4, but each of their two losses this weekend were by one run, so they were technically "in" every game.

Now I have to face reality again and start hacking into this giant pile of marking that's built up. June, I await thee.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

What a game.

This was going to be a long afternoon. I could feel it.

Chad Durbin, who was called up from Triple-A at the end of spring training to take Kenny Rogers' spot in the rotation (Kenny's doing fine; he had the blood clot in his shoulder removed but is out until July) started, and Durbin's first outing was none too smooth. The Jays sent out fireballer A.J. Burnett, who owned the Tigers early in the game.

Durbin? Not so lucky. He got his ass handed to him, giving up a whole pile of runs in four crappy innings of work.

"This is going to be a long afternoon," I remarked to my friend Jon, who accompanied me to the game. Jon also happens to be a Jays fan. He did not seem quite as concerned as I did.

But then... a funny thing happened. The Tigers chipped away at the 4-run deficit, and started to make a game of it. Then the Jays got some more runs. Then the Tigers got some more.

By the time the bottom of the 9th rolled around, it was 7-6 for Toronto. Their closer, B.J. Ryan, was on the mound, and was looking to sew things up (as he usually does).

But then... another funny thing happened, as Ryan walked the bases full. A couple of solid singles and a fielding error later, the Tigers had gone up 10-7. All the Tiger fans in the place — and there were a surprisingly large number of us — were going crazy. Todd Jones came on for the save, and disaster was averted.

Three down, one to go. I should do some sort of calculation to figure out what percentage of my non-working waking hours have been spent at baseball games in the past three days. I'm betting it's above 55%. Somewhere.

(PS: A certain "ECB" is looking over my shoulder as I type this. Literally. She just leaned in for a second to lend literal meaning to the phrase. Too bad she got her ass handed to her earlier tonight in Trivial Pursuit... to which she responded as I typed, "I hate you." It's okay. I'll just put my full green pie-piece beside me on my pillow as I sleep to remind me, yet again, about how awesome I am.)

(PPS: Like I need that.)

Two down, two to go.

The Detroit Tigers are in town this weekend for a 4-game series. I vowed that I would go to each and every game, and as of now I'm halfway there. So, a brief recap of the two games I've seen so far is in order.

Thursday: Tigers 5, Jays 4

Tomo Okha, despite having four shirtless guys in left field with "TOMO" written across their chests and chanting "TOW-mow-OHH-kaaa!" as he warmed up before the game, stunk up the place with mediocre pitching and a horrible play on a throw to second. I, being a Tiger fan, quite enjoyed it. Jose Mesa made things interesting in the 8th; that is, he allowed the first two Jays to get on base (and Joel Zumaya eventually let them score), but the Zoomer came through with some key strikeouts to preserve the win for Mike Maroth.

I bought tickets up in the 500 level, and my M.O. for SkyDome is usually to get cheap tickets and then move down into the 100's in the middle of the game. Not anymore! You can't get to the lower levels from the 500's... there are signs everywhere saying the ramps only exit out onto the street. In reality, you can get down there, but there are people standing guard making sure one of the 500-Level Proletariat doesn't get down into the 100-Level Bourgeois seats. Fortunately, my wits allowed me to outsmart the octogenarian manning the exit: I made like I was going for the cash machine on my way out the door, dawdled at the ATM until he was distracted, then briskly made my way into the 100-level concourse.

(Hey, they ain't giving graduate degrees away to dunces, y'know.)

Friday: Jays 2, Tigers 1 (10 innings)

Bonderman vs. Halladay promised to be a hell of a matchup, and it was. Roy Halladay did something I've never seen in person before, and something that only happens once every couple of years at most these days: he went all ten innings, and got the win. In truth, both the starters pitched extremely well... but I must say, Jim Leyland's fascination with Fernando Rodney and his nonexistent pitching abilities must end soon. (Rodney can throw, don't get me wrong... he just can't pitch.) Take a peek at the pitching lines, and see if you can spot the source of my dismay:
  DETROIT           IP   H  R  ER  BB  SO  HR  PC-ST  ERA
Bonderman 9.0 6 1 1 0 4 1 96-68 2.57
Rodney (L, 1-2) 0.1 3 1 1 0 0 0 11-7 9.00

TORONTO IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
Halladay (W, 2-0) 10.0 6 1 1 0 2 1 107-70 2.35
Yeah, sticks out like a sore thumb, doesn't it? Eleven pitches, three hits (including two bunt singles on which the brain-frozen infielders, including Rodney himself, didn't know where to throw) ruined Bonderman's masterpiece. That homer Bondo allowed? First pitch of the game, to Alex Rios. Take that away and it's a 1-0 Tiger victory (kind-of).

Games 3 and 4 of the series are tomorrow and Sunday at 1 down at the Dome. I'd better get to bed soon; a diet of street-meat (or "streetcock," if you prefer that term), heavily salted peanuts and bucketfuls of Diet Coke can't be too good for you. I figure a bit of sleep might pay back my body a bit for abusing it in the name of baseball.

Go Tigers!

Thursday, April 12, 2007

And so it goes.

We here at "The Spillings" would be remiss if we didn't mention the passing of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. of Indianapolis.


I hardly ever read fiction; it all seems like stupid, pointless wanderings... except for Vonnegut. His style of placing "everyman" characters into bizarre situations shows us the depth of human behaviour, for both bad and good (but usually good). Goodbye, Blue Monday.

Slipping in under the Brain-spillings radar, however, was Calvert DeForest, otherwise known to Late Night with David Letterman fans as "Larry 'Bud' Melman." He passed away on March 19th.


I'll never forget the night Letterman commemorated the 40th anniversary of The Beatles making their Ed Sullivan Theatre debut to a screaming audience by introducing a surprise guest: The Beatles themselves! (However, in place of the Fab Four, Mr. DeForest came out and crooned an exceedingly off-key version of "Love Me Do".)

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

I'll be a goddamn motherfucker if this happens again, which it won't, so you can all just fuck off.

Last year, when the Tigers came to Toronto to play a three-game set, I got sicker than sick.

Guess who's coming to town Thursday for a four-game series?

And guess who's coming down with a cold?

Fortunately, it's not shaping up to be the all-consuming flu that stymied my efforts last year. But even if it is, I'm going to schlep my ass down there, buy a $9 ticket for each game, haul my virus-ridden body up to the fifth deck, and eat the salted-in-the-shell peanuts I bought today on the way home at Food Basics and I will be GOD DAMNED if I don't just drop the spent shells down on the concrete because if you pay admission to sit on your ass and watch something happen in front of you then someone should have to clean up your mess.

Oh, and I'll try to infect the rest of the paltry crowd at SkyDome by individually coughing on each person I pass in the corridor, because if I'm getting sick, I'm taking some of you assholes down with me.

More Khaki Snack in Toronto.

Put this in your day-planner and smoke it:

Khaki Snack
O'Grady's Tap and Grill
171 College Street
Friday, April 27th, 2007 in the Year of our Lord
Festivities begin at 9:00 pm

Let's hope there are more new songs about racism in Nebraska!

Monday, April 09, 2007

Typical tax-time frustrations.

This is a bit cliché in the middle of April, but I'll do it anyway.

Revenue Canada can lick my balls.

Have you ever tried to change your address on their website? If not, I'll give you a brief summary of the process.
  1. Sign up for a Government of Canada "ePass". Sounds nifty, doesn't it? Doing this, that and the other menial task in the comfort of your pyjamas and your home office, coffee in hand, sun streaming in the window? Yeah, well, if that was the case, this numbered list would stop at 1. But it doesn't.
  2. Forget your username and password because really, how often do you change your address? Far less often than you log in to www.hothotgrannysex.com, which is why you have that password memorized but not this one.
  3. Get frozen out of the website for 24 hours because you attempted to log in 5 times with 5 different combinations of common usernames and passwords you use on other sites, hoping against hope that you'll hit the jackpot.
  4. Wait 24 hours.
  5. Find the scrap of paper upon which you wrote your username and password for this stupid website and successfully log in. Ignore the error message that says "You are not using Mozilla Firefox 1.0.6, continue?" because you're using a version much, much greater than 1.0.6, and Revenue Canada needs to be welcomed into 2004.
  6. Do not, repeat, do not find an easily-clickable link that says Change your address here. Be led down blind alleys, and along the way discover how to count your Japanese fighting fish (who you named "Lazarus" because he once appeared quite dead) as a dependent.
  7. Stumble ass-backwards onto the page upon which you can start Step 1 of 14 to change your address.
  8. Read the little box that says, "For security purposes, we need what you entered in on Line 150 of your 2005 tax return"... as if your SIN, DOB and current Postal Code aren't enough to identify who you are.
  9. Call your parents, because you don't have your 2005 tax return handy. Get them to dig through all the shit you have in the basement and read the number out to you.
  10. Type the number in the box on the screen.
  11. Get an error message saying, "Call our 1-800 number instead."
  12. Look everywhere for a 1-800 number, and eventually find one.
  13. See a bright yellow box that brightens your mood because it says, "Hooray, Revenue Canada is open this holiday long weekend!"
  14. Celebrate a little.
  15. Call the 1-800 number.
  16. Get a recording telling you to call a different 1-800 number for address changes.
  17. Call that 1-800 number.
  18. Get a recording telling you that, in fact, you can't change your address today, because it's Easter Monday (despite what the bright yellow box told you about being able to do stuff today).
  19. Throw things around a little.
  20. Write a blog post describing your experience.
See? That's how to change your address (or find out you can't) in just 20 easy steps.

Almost makes me look forward to tax time next year.

At least I'm likely getting a sweet-ass return, though.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Comics and Jesus.

This is funny. The author used to live in Toronto but is now over in Japan doing something-or-other. He's a hilarious guy.

I've never understood the whole "Jesus dying on a cross absolved the people in the world of sin" thing. Okay, so Him dying obliterated all the sins that the people had committed... but what about the first person to steal a penny-candy after they rolled the stone in front of the cave? Does it start over again? Do we need to crucify someone every couple of days to keep wiping the slate clean? And why did God have this deal with His Son, anyway? Seems like a pretty lousy thing for a thirtysomething carpenter, who's probably making some decent coin working for all sorts of Jerusalem-area contractors, to have to do. Oh well.... at least everyone got a long weekend the next year.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Respect.

It isn't just an Aretha Franklin song... it's what the Detroit Tigers, last year's American League champions, have earned. Witness this specially-crafted graphic on espn.com's front page leading to a lovely story by Jayson Stark:


See that, bitches? "[W]in it all." ALL, muthaaa-fuckaaaaaaaazz.

Jayson Stark, along with the rest of the national baseball media, usually uses this time of the year to place his mouth on the assorted phalluses of the New York Yankees or Boston Red Sox. It's fashionable to say one or the other of those teams will win the World Series, and it's an easy pick as they usually spend enough money to be fairly successful. It's a safe bet.

But safe bets often don't turn out to be good bets.

I was stuck in traffic on St. Clair Avenue this past October, on my way to a meeting at the union office. It was Game 2 of the AL Division Series, Tigers at Yankees, the New Yorkers up 1-0 in games. But, I'll be goddamned if the Tigers didn't sew up the second contest as I sat there in the gridlock... and then go on to win Games 3 and 4 before sweeping Oakland in the ALCS.

Tigers defeat Yankees. David beats Goliath. Kucinich wins the Democratic nomination.

(Alright, so only the first one of those things really happened. The second one is probably a lovely myth crafted by a few Jews a few thousand years ago, and the third one will only happen if it's Backwards Day.)

Most of you aren't baseball fans, and have stopped reading by now. For those of you who have ploughed on this far and aren't a baseball fan, let me distill my message into one short paragraph:

I'm a huge baseball fan. My team since I was 7, the Detroit Tigers, has been terrible since 1994. Last year they did really, really well when nobody expected them to. And now it looks like they'll do well again. And I am very happy about that.

There, that about covers it, I think.

And for those of you who are baseball fans, and who will happen to be in Toronto on April 12th-14th: I plan on attending as many Tigers-Jays games down at SkyDome as humanly possible. I'm getting some $9 500-level walk-up tickets for each game, and you're more than welcome to come with me. (N.B. I may or may not force you to wear a Tiger hat.)