Saturday, June 30, 2007

Wow.

Everyone seemed to get out of town really quickly.

So...

...anyone in Toronto want to get some beers tonight?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Real journalists still do exist.

Most TV "journalists" have rolled over and dutifully parroted the inanity of the Paris Hilton "story."

Mika Brzezinski, however, stole her co-anchor's lighter. Watch and enjoy.



Interesting piece of trivia about Mika: her dad is Zbigniew Brzezinski, former National Security Advisor to Jimmy Carter. One of his big pushes when he was NSA was to help train and fund a crew of Islamic freedom-fighters in Afghanistan to help counter the Soviet invasion of that country in 1979... and you all know who they turned into. Fortunately, Zbigniew's Wikipedia page has a phonetic pronounciation of his name ("ZBEEG-nyeff bjeh-ZEEN-skee"). Oh, you crazy Poles and your love of the letter Z!

(Heads-up on the video courtesy of Eve. Thanks, Eve. Theeve.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Life is sweet.

I'm sitting on my couch. It's Thursday afternoon, just past 4:00. I have just cracked a beer. I'm watching a re-run of an old Mercer Report on the Comedy Network. And...

...school is done for the year.

Hell yeah.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Psychedelia.

I'm not entirely sure why, but once again I'm mildly obsessed with '60s cover group Vanilla Fudge. You see, The Fudge would take songs that were recently popular, slow them down, funk them up, triple the volume, and put a completely different spin on it (not unlike Joe Cocker's version of "With A Little Help From My Friends," as compared with the Beatles' original).

Anyway, here's a live version of Vanilla Fudge doing a song first popularized by The Supremes, "You Keep Me Hanging On". The drummer punishes his kit like it just slept with his wife, the ascot on the keyboardist/singer is at its optimum poofiness, the guitarist looks like diminutive Argentinian soccer hero Diego Maradona, and I think the bassist had several seizures throughout the song. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Mike, we hardly knew ye.

Kenny Rogers came back into the Tigers' rotation in a big way last night, stifling the Braves with two hits over six innings. Welcome back, Gambler! Good to see the shoulder's working fine.

However, this presented a problem for the Detroiters: six starters + five rotation spots = someone has to get bounced. Instead of sending Chad Durbin down to Toledo — he's been pitching his tail off since mid-April, but with Nate Robertson's return he's going to the 'pen — it appeared as if a trade would be in order.

The odd man out? Mike Maroth.

He's been a solid pitcher and a great guy ever since the Tigers drafted him in '99. He was forced to endure the worst ineptitude in the team's history, and took the brunt of it in '03 when he became the first pitcher in over twenty years to lose 20 games (he finished 9-21 on the season). Last year, when he was solidly kicking ass over the first couple of months of the season, he got injured and only came back for a cup of coffee in September. This year he's 5-2; his ERA isn't spectacular, but he seems to be able to win games.

...which he'll be doing for St. Louis, hopefully (unless there's a World Series rematch, in which case you know for whom I'll be rooting).

Good luck, Mike. I've always been proud to have you as a Tiger, and I wish you the success you deserve.

Fun with American airport security, redux.

Location: Albuquerque Airport
More specific location: Security Cattle-Call

The protagonist, J (J), has dutifully placed all gels, aerosols and liquids in a sealed, see-through, zip-top plastic bag. This sealed, see-through, zip-top plastic bag has been dutifully placed in a box to be scanned in the carry-on baggage scanner.

The antagonist, Security Tool (ST), is currently on a power-trip.

The sealed, see-through, zip-top plastic bag contains the following items:
  • 77 mL tube of toothpaste ($0.59)
  • 85 mL can of shaving gel ($1.49)
  • 40 mL bottle of Garnier Fructis 2-in-1 shampoo ($1.49)
  • 35 mL spray-can of Axe spray ($0.00: I think I got it free somewhere)
The reader will note that the limit for each container of gels, aerosols or liquids is 100 mL, and that all the contents of the sealed, see-through, zip-top plastic bag come in well under that.

The reader will also note that the bag and its contents successfully made it into the USA via a flight several days before.

* * * * *

ST: What is this, sir?

J: It's my liquids and stuff, like you asked them to be packed.

ST: I can't let you in with this.

J: Why not? I did exactly as you said to do.

ST: This bag is way too big, sir.

J: What size of bag do I need?

ST: A quart-size bag.

J: I'm Canadian. What the hell is a quart?

ST: Much smaller than that bag, sir.

J: But I have, like, four things in that bag. It's nowhere near full. And whatever a quart is, I bet that could fit in it.

ST: Those are the regulations, sir.

J: But I got into the US with this just fine a few days ago!

ST: Those are the regulations, sir.

J: This is ridiculous!

ST: You could either go to the back of the line, or we have to confiscate the bag.

[N.B. the line is huge.]

J: Jesus Christ, just take the damn bag.

ST: [confiscates bag]

J: [storms off, swearing under his breath]

* * * * *

God bless America.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Last night in New Mexico.

The sight was a little bit surreal.

There were about thirty teachers who were from all around North America, the Caribbean and Mexico, plus a few of the kids who'd just graduated from the school here and hence were from pretty much everywhere else, filling the dance patio (for lack of a better term) while a New Mexican band played an extended version of "Oye Como Va". It was a strange mish-mash of cultures, to be sure.

Earlier in the evening, three students from the school — one from Nepal, one from Peru and I believe the other was from Ghana — did a choreographed dance to some Indian music.

What does it all mean?

Does it mean nothing?

Or does it mean anything? Does it mean that it's possible for everyone to get along, given the right circumstances?

Maybe I'm just being overly analytical.

The main point is this:

These differences we like to create for ourselves — woman/man, white/other, rich/poor, short/tall, liberal/conservative, religious/athiest — they don't amount to a hill of beans. Deep down, we all do the same things, feel the same feelings, appreciate the same 3-part harmonies.

People are people.

I wish more people would realize that, though.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Firsts.

Here's a random list of things I have done in the past few days which are completely new to me.
  • seen a cactus in something other than a flowerpot
  • experienced a humidex reading which is less than the actual air temperature
  • stuck my foot in a hot spring
  • drank a margarita (really, I'm a beer person)
  • learned a lot about Georgia O'Keeffe
  • bought some Georgia O'Keeffe prints for my walls
  • drank Coors
  • experienced an altitude-related shortness of breath (as opposed to a shortness-of-breath caused by, for example, several consecutive hours of "pulling the goalie" in a vigorous manner)
  • met a Texas Rangers fan
Screw this whole "Land of Enchantment" slogan. They oughtta call it "Land of Firsts for Pasty Canadian Visitors."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Greetings from the American southwest.

I'm in New Mexico until Friday, doing this training workshop for teachers who eventually want to teach in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program.

The landscape of this state, the... hmm...

...what is New Mexico's "The XYZ State" motto, anyway? You know, New Jersey is "The Garden State," Michigan is "The Great Lakes State," and so on. From my observations so far, New Mexico could be "The Rolling Hills and Mountains and Scrub-Brush and Hot Days But Cool Nights" state.

. . .

According to Wikipedia, its official nickname is "The Land of Enchantment." I guess that's pretty apt, given that a good percentage of the 2-hour trip from Albuquerque to here yesterday looked like this:


(picture nicked from Wikipedia's New Mexico entry)

The workshops begin today, although there was a reception and an open bar last night. I didn't indulge too much, because I had to get up at 5 in the friggin' morning to catch my plane out of Toronto. But hey, we're in the Mountain time zone now, so 6:30 am here doesn't really feel too bad.

So, in conclusion, I saw the insides of some planes yesterday, and the indoctrination begins today.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Dance, monkey, dance.

Monkeys.

Guess what?

You're one of them, too.

(courtesy of eunoia)

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Being a guy.

Being a guy isn't exactly a cake-walk.

In wheelings-and-dealings with women, we're expected to be the aggressor, the initiator, the person who gets the ball rolling. (There are obvious exceptions, but in the majority of cases it's the guy who has to make the first move.)

Do you know how goddamn nerve-wracking that is?! Let me use this evening as an example.

My buddy Sascha is in town this weekend; he's visiting from New York. A bunch of us went out to The Keg tonight to have a nice dinner, and we had this waitress named Brandy who... well, let's just say I was bringing my A-game. Jokes, quips, wit — I had it all.

Now, I realize a waitress' job is to be nice to people. But it came up in conversation with other people at the table that she lived in London (Ontario) for a few years, and had just come to Toronto recently. She confessed that she actually wasn't from London, she was from Sarnia. I told her, "Holy crap, my parents live in Small Town X near there," and she explained that she wasn't actually from Sarnia, but grew up in Corunna and Bright's Grove (two small towns maybe 20 minutes away).

All teed-up and ready to slip her my number at a discreet time, right? You'd think so, but... well, how does this situation play out? Me, Sascha and his friend had an impromptu conference to try and determine the best course of action. The thoughts below came from random people in said conference; I can't remember who said what.
  • "Waitresses hate it when customers do that."
  • "You should only really do that when you really, really hit it off."
  • "I dunno... carpe diem, right?"
  • "It's a tough one, for sure. How does this even work?"
  • "Does the number go on the table? Or is a personal delivery better?"
  • "Well, there has to be a certain amount of chatting-up first."
Meanwhile, while us three are standing around, holding our dicks and pontificating a few feet from the table out on the patio, she clears the table and leaves. Game over, opportunity missed.

Yeah, I guess I'm just too much of a pussy to try a ballsy move like that. Still, I had my number written on a napkin, all ready to give to her. I haven't felt my heart pound that hard in a long, long time.

This city is full of beautiful women. Absolutely packed to the gills. And yet...

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Justin Verlander.

No-hitter for the Tigers vs. Milwaukee. Twelve strikeouts, 102 miles per hour in the ninth inning.

First no-no since 1984 for Detroit.

Wow.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Summer's so close, I can taste it.

...and it tastes like grilled meat.

I don't get a chance to hit up the meat counter at the local high-end grocery store too often, but Saturday was the day. The charming fellow with the Nunzio's hat and the white apron helped me select a lovely steak, which soon found its way onto a borrowed barbecue alongside some other choice meats (some marinated pork chops, a quartet of chicken kebabs, and a pair of faux-filet-mignons).

In a word... magnificent. (And I don't just say that because it was my supreme grilling skills which made my steak, and every other morsel of meat on that barbecue, the most delicious fucking food on the planet.)

* * * * *

A couple of years ago, when I was still at Queen's full-time, I popped into the school to drop off a form to one of the secretaries (probably something about extending my leave). The head secretary said, "Wow, you look so relaxed!" I told her, "Ah, well, y'know, I think I'm pretty much always like this."

Looking back on that, though... I think she was on to something.

In the past ten months, I've grown more easily frustrated, more short-tempered, more intolerant of teenagers, much more tired, and a tad more cynical. I don't sleep as well, I don't eat as well, and I feel like I'm gradually sliding out of myself. I hope it doesn't show up in the classroom... but I'm afraid it's starting to, especially in one of my classes (the one which needs me to be most on top of my game).

Five more days, though... to freedom, to letting my mind take a rest, but most importantly, to me being me again.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Celebrity.

I hate the idea of "celebrity."

Why should people care what Brad Pitt eats for lunch? What brand of makeup does Alicia Keys use? And does George W. Bush prefer half-Windsor or a four-in-hand knot?

These are interesting people (for better or worse), and at times, they do interesting things. If you're a fan of fine films, you might want to know a bit about Mr. Pitt... if you enjoy R&B, some interesting tidbits about Ms. Keys may shed light on her craft... and if you want to strangle Dubya, knowing how he ties his tie might make the job easier.*

However, learning trivial things about these people is a waste of time. This is why the ongoing popularity of "entertainment 'news'" TV shows (e.g. Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood, and their ilk) both befuddles and saddens me. I don't care who Brad Pitt is banging; just keep banging out quality movies!

These trivialities about people who may be somewhat interesting are one level of awful. But to kick things up a notch, learning trivial things about trivial people is the ultimate affront to human consciousness.

Enter Paris Hilton.

We all know her story, and today she got thrown back in the slammer because she was apparently released to house-arrest without the consent of the judge. I normally try to avoid stories about her, because her life has nothing to do with mine. But I couldn't resist the Yahoo! News story headline, "Screaming Paris Hilton sent back to jail" — it just called out to me. And what should I see on this Internets Website Page but this priceless photo:


Some choice quotes from the story are in order, too.

LOS ANGELES — Screaming and crying, Paris Hilton was escorted from a courtroom and sent back to jail Friday after a judge ruled that she must serve out her entire 45-day sentence behind bars rather than in her Hollywood Hills home.

"It's not right!" shouted Hilton, who violated her parole in a reckless driving case. "Mom!" she called out to her mother in the audience.

. . .

She cried throughout the hearing, dabbing her eyes, and her body shook constantly. Several times she turned to her parents, seated behind her in the courtroom, and mouthed, "I love you."

The Germans have a word, Schadenfreude, which is defined as "pleasure taken from someone else's misfortune." I'm not sure if this applies or not in this case, but one thing I know for certain is that I smiled a little smile when I heard about ol' Paris getting a return ticket to the Greybar Hotel.

...and I know you did, too.

* I do not advocate the strangling of the President of the United States.*
* Okay, maybe a little.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Lucky seven.

It's the number of school days left before we pack it in for the summer. And I, for one, am thrilled as fuck.

In years past, I remember the feeling that dawned on me roundabout the second week of July, when I fully realized that I was on holidays. It was the sense of, "Wow, I have my life back. I can actually do what I want, and not have to think about the kiddies all the time."

See, that's the thing about this teaching gig: sure, we get almost two months off in the summer (I always go back in for the last week of August to get stuff ready), but for ten months our lives are entangled with those of several dozen teenagers. You wake up on Saturday morning (or afternoon, if Friday night was decent) and you think about so-and-so who missed doing a lab on Thursday and has to come in early on Monday... you wonder how you're going to ever-so-delicately tell what's-his-face's mom that he's driving you and everyone else in the room up the wall... and you think to yourself, "Holy crap, I can't believe those two kids got fuckin' married so her family couldn't ship her back home to lock her into an arranged marriage to someone she never met, and doesn't want to marry, because she loves that weird kid who sits beside her in the second row, who her father disapproves of."*

After ten months and approximately 190 school days, it kinda wears on you... there comes a point where all you want to do is sleep late, eat three big bowls of Master Choice Fruit Whirls in front of the TV wearing a pair of shorts and a decade-old T-shirt, and read all those books you've accumulated since last September.

* True story.