Saturday, December 27, 2008

Nobody reads blogs during the holidays.

You're all too busy eating, or driving, or shopping, or maybe all of the aforementioned, to park your ass in front of a computer and read some moron's incessant ramblings.

...then again, you're reading this now, aren't you? Shouldn't you be out somewhere being merry?

At any rate, it's been a solid Christmas season. White Cowbell Oklahoma got it off to a porny-good start on the day of Snowmageddon, as I mentioned already. I spent a day at the ROM with a friend and saw some bitchin'-huge dinosaur skeletons and neat-o artifacts from around the world; I'd never been there before, so I'll have to check that off my list of Toronto touristy things to do. Next up: the Hockey Hall of Fame (which us teachers can get into for free, by the way).

A snowy drive to my parents' place wasn't terribly fun the next day, but on Christmas Eve we got the whole clan together, which is always fun. We continued a bit of a family tradition and got the entire meal catered — dad and I made a quick run up to Sarnia to pick up the food, we brought it back, busted open the styrofoam cooler, and dug in. Add in the paper plates and you've got yourself one easy-ass Christmas dinner — hell, we even had enough leftovers to feed a family of six the next day, with food still left over.

On Boxing Day, I hit the highway to visit ECB and to partake in a bit of the shopping madness, in which I scored a 32" LCD TV for $479, which ain't bad at all. Rogers wants extra money for an HD cable box, of course — but I'll show ol' Uncle Ted's ghost that I don't need one, by using a cheapie antenna to pull in a few local stations that already broadcast in HD (e.g. CBC, City-TV, Global, CFMT). Take that, cable hegemony!

All of this is the "calm before the storm," though — the one and only (thank goodness) Matt and I are headed up to Ottawa tomorrow to partake in the World Junior tournament. We're seeing four games in person, and plan on taking in a couple more at assorted Ottawa watering-holes, so it should be a great time.

See you in the new year, jerks!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It's done.

That long-ass stretch between Labour Day and Christmas, when we get one day off? Done like dinnah, and not a moment too soon.

Yesterday's blizzard meant my brother, who was coming into town for White Cowbell Oklahoma's annual Christmas debaucheryfest at Lee's Palace, had to make the trip a day early — so we watched Caddyshack and he later ate all my leftovers. (The guy weighs 130 pounds soaking wet, but he'll eat anyone under the table.) Cowbell didn't disappoint, even though they were two bandmates short of a full complement due to the inclement weather; their burlesque dancers were a little more outrageous this year (and one kept falling out of her boustier).

The main plot of this year's Cowbell Christmas was that, due to the tough financial times, Santa had to sell the rights to Christmas to, you guessed it, the Devil. The Dark Lord, naturally, has different ideas about what the holiday is about; Santa said it was about "family and sharing," but Satan viewed it as being all about "marketing and selling shit," and later opined that Christmas was "all about fucking." True to form, Santa whipped out his giant prosthetic phallus and began spraying the crowd; one of the burlesque dancers attempted to give him a handjob, but the beast was just too big. Good clean fun, really.

Mind you, it would have been more fun if I hadn't been hacking up a lung, which I've been doing since about Wednesday and continue to do until this very *cough! gasp! wheeze!* second. I don't get colds too often, but when they hit me, they hit me like a freight train. I aim to be better by the time the immortal Matt and I head up to Ottawa to take in some World Juniors hockey action, because if Matt's going to dress up as Borat for those Kazakhstan games, I want to be in top form (but not as Azamat Bagatov, and no, I won't be chasing him naked through an insurance brokers' convention).

Monday, December 15, 2008

A sudden realization.

It occurred to me, not long after (fairly quietly) singing the portion of the Righteous Brothers' "Unchained Melody" which contains the song's highest note while putting a couple of chicken breasts in the oven to bake, and discovering that those top notes are just a tad out of my vocal range, and that it probably would be better, should I ever be called upon to sing this song, to drop down an octave in order to be able to clear the aforementioned top notes, that it's not surprising, and also very likely a good thing, that I live alone.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Chances are if you appreciate this, you have a penis.

And if you don't, I want to make you my bride.*

Here is a version of Rush's "In The Mood", live from 1976. The original was on their debut album, featuring the late John Rutsey on drums (and the original "hey baby"-filled lyrics were written by Geddy Lee, as opposed to most of the band's later lyrics which were written by the always-kooky Neil Peart).

On this version, Peart goes absolutely ballistic on drums. He absolutely did not want any part of Rutsey's simple four-on-the-floor pounding — he's Neil Peart, after all — so he went to the other extreme on this. In a serious way.

I dig it.
________________
* post-op trannies excepted

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Staring down the barrel of the Christmas season.

I'm fairly politically-correct and consider myself sensitive to the diverse cultures we find in this motley city of ours... and yet, I can't stoop to saying "happy holidays" to someone. We all know why there's a gargantuan consumerist orgy going on all month, and it ain't because of the Feast of Saint Lucy of Syracuse, that's for sure.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I listened to this week's CBC Radio 3 R3-30 podcast and heard host Craig Norris ask Vancouver punk legend Joey Keithly (of D.O.A.) the question I sent in! I'll leave it to you to listen to the question on the podcast (#119, the "Survival Guide to the Holiday Season," if you're scoring at home) but, needless to say, it was hilarious. I hope they'll send me some sweet CBC swag. I doubt they will.

At any rate, the one-and-only Matt is back on Canadian soil, which means there has already been an evening of wings, beer and trivia. The week between Chrismas and New Year's will largely be spent in Ottawa, watching some World Juniors action (thanks to the second-hand tickets which will soon be acquired from a guy on my baseball team this past summer), getting shitcanned on cheap beer, and hopefully watching Canada kick the crap out of the US in a random bar on a big screen on New Year's Eve. It's gonna be an adventure, as times with Matt always are.

If you happen to be in the GTA on the night of Friday, December 19, the legendary White Cowbell Oklahoma will be playing their legendary Christmas show at the somewhat-legendary Lee's Palace. Tickets are $15 (plus all the Ticketbastard charges), which is a bargain for all the debauchery and crassness you're guaranteed to get at a Cowbell show. Stop by if you're in the neighbourhood.

And if you happen to be reading this really soon after I write this, I'll be guest-DJing a standard 20-minute set tonight at Disgraceland (Bloor just west of Ossington). I plan on putting Steely Dan in the same set as King Khan and the Shrines. You have been warned.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

An intimate portrait of Steve.

I remember hearing somewhere that, back in the '90s, when Preston Manning was running the Reform Party (and Steve Harper was just a lowly MP and economic critic), Steve took a nice long time to craft some sort of economic policy document for the party, off by himself somewhere. He presented it to Preston, and when the Leader of the Opposition suggested he make a few changes to the document, Steve shot back like a petulant 3-year-old, "No! This is it! It's done! You can't change ANYTHING!!!" (Or something to that effect.)

I hadn't thought about that anecdote much lately until I read this article today in the Star. Turns out Steve is much more of a loner crybaby than even I dreamt possible.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Good ol' Zell.

The Senate runoff race in Georgia is already decided, and Saxby Chambliss beat out Jim Martin... but I just can't get this damn SNL clip out of my head.


Since it's either this or mark Science quizzes, I tried to transcribe and compile all the names that "Zell Miller" came up with. I imagine the spellings aren't quite right, but they're fun nonetheless.
  • Saxby Chambliss
  • Zachamore Hooberry
  • Ghoulsby Scroggins
  • Mortimer Fapp
  • Derbil Mackinaw
  • Ebenezer Yackbaine
  • Jasper Quazelpoot
  • Peabody Tiddlecutt
  • Bernhardt Barnthistle
  • Templeton Thappletrapp
  • Fitzner Bloundt
  • Beezleton Kernwinkle
  • Tepp Joggletogg
  • Clementine Dimplethippy
  • Foster Macadoodle Doodydoo
Thanks to Eve for the heads-up.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Weird times in parliamentary democracy.

I'm sitting in my living room, not quite believing what I'm seeing: Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton and Gilles Duceppe are sitting beside each other, talking about how they're all going to play nice, get along, and form a coalition government, which is nearly unprecedented in Canadian history.

The details:
  • the Liberals and NDP have agreed to form a coalition until June 30, 2011
  • the Cabinet will be reduced to 24 members: 18 Liberals, 6 NDPers
  • the Bloc Québecois will support this coalition until June 30, 2010, at which point they can re-up their support if they like
  • even though (Liberals + NDP) < (Conservatives), the BQ's promise to not vote against the coalition on Motions of Confidence puts them over the top
Since I'm something of a Parliament-wonk — I was recently somewhat obsessed with the King-Byng Affair (which is a lot less dirty than it sounds) — I dig this kind of thing, from a purely theoretical point of view. I mean, sure, the markets hate instability in government... but you have to admit, this is kinda cool.

* * * * *

First question from a reporter: "You know, Stephen Harper pointed out that 70% of Canadian voters didn't vote for you, Mr. Dion, for Prime Minister. What do you say to that?"

Dion: "Well, 64% of Canadians didn't vote for Mr. Harper."

* * * * *

A thought struck me just now, while watching Jack Layton talk... right now, at this point in history, since the NDP are going to receive six federal Cabinet positions, this is the high-point of power for the NDP, ever, in their entire history. (I'd say this is more important than the 40-some seats Ed Broadbent brought them in the late '80s under Brian Mulroney.) Layton knows it, too; he's trying to look as stoic as possible. (Well, as stoic as one can look with a moustache.)

* * * * *

Oooooooh, a reporter asked about appointing Elizabeth May to the Senate. Dion answers diplomatically, but side-steps the question. An extremely interesting idea, though.

* * * * *

A CanWest reporter, fixated on the idea that people hated the notion of a carbon tax during the election, asks a dick-ish question. Dion: "Ah, thank you for reminding me of that." Laughter from the entire press corps.

* * * * *

This turned into a bit of a live-blog during the press conference, but I don't care. If you didn't like today's installment of the Spillings, please keep your receipt and ask for a refund.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I just don't know what to make of this.

Funny? I think so.

Sad? A bit, yeah.

American? You bet your ass. (Emphasis mine.)

* * * * * * * *

First kiss saved for wedding

CHICAGO — Won't kiss on the first date? How about waiting until marriage?

Chicagoans Melody LaLuz and Claudaniel Fabien shared their first kiss yesterday at the altar.

The two teach abstinence at the city's public schools and practised what they preach to their teenage students.

The Chicago Tribune reports the couple had never kissed and had never been alone together in a house.

A friend of LaLuz says wedding guests cheered and stomped during the two-minute smooch between the 28-year-old bride and 30-year-old groom.

LaLuz and Fabien say they have no worries about how they will spend their honeymoon in the Bahamas.

* * * * * * * *

Insert jokes and witty one-liners here.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Last day of thirty-ness.

"You know, J, you're just hitting your prime. Guys from their late-20s to their late-30s, they're just finding themselves. They're confident, they've established careers, they're mature but not old."
— random friend, trying to console a weeping JTL

I kid, I kid.

I'm fine, really.

The phrase "youth is wasted on the young" comes to mind quite frequently these days, and I think there's a lot of merit to it. Does the average 15-year-old realize the genuine lack of responsibilities they have — show up at this building every weekday at 9, do what you're told, and it'll all turn out relatively fine — ?

(Grammatically awkward, yes, but it conveys what I want it to. Take that, Merriam and Webster.)

I'd like to think, and I'm pretty sure of myself here, that my spot in life is pretty good right now. I know I've written about it before — recently, even — but things are rolling along fairly well. I'm in good health, relatively OK wealth, and I'd like to think I'm a little bit wise... I mean, sure, I'm not friggin' David Suzuki over here, but I'm pretty sure I've picked up some tips and pointers along the way somewhere.

So, yeah, there we go. Come on, thirty-one, let's see what you have to offer.

Monday, November 24, 2008

TD Canada Trust? More like TD Don't Trust Us Because We Suck At Security.

Three months ago, right around the time I took my glitzy/glamorous trip to the Canadian prairies, I got a little phone call from TD Canada Trust, who was nice enough to give me a little plastic card to which I can charge stuff, and pay for it later, I promise!.

"Sir, it appears as if your credit card's security has been compromised. Come on in and we'll mail you a new one."

Not knowing if I'd receive the new card in time for my western sojourn, I nervously waited until the thing arrived in the mail, not two days before I was about to take off for a week and a half. (I had my Mastercard at the ready.)

Tonight, I got another call from TDCT — "Sir, it appears as if your debit card's security has been compromised. Come on in and we'll give you a new one on-site, because we'll be a little less douche-y this time, we promise."

So, after the guy on the other end of the phone managed to tell me that the closest TD branch that was open at the godforsaken hour of 7:25 pm (are there people still up then? Golly!) was at "990 PAH-pay Avenue" (i.e., Pape), I headed off in pursuit of plastic. Luckily, the teller was cute.

The thing that gets me about both of these situations is, they can't really tell you what sorts of shenanigans went into the compromising of your security information; specifically, they couldn't tell me tonight where someone first tried to use my card number. This would be extremely useful information for the people that actually use the things... How/where did this happen? What should I do differently? Should I stop scribbling my card's PIN and my Social Insurance Number on bathroom walls in dive-bars across our fair city or something? Little help over here!

Anyway, while I'm pleased that TDCT (goddamn it, get a shorter name... how about "Dominion Trust"? After all, every Dominion store I know of in the GTA has changed its sign to "Metro", so that frees up that name, sort-of) called me up promptly both times, I'm miffed that there appears to be very little follow-up in terms of finding out how to prevent this stuff in the future.

(Should I just stop using my cards to send money to Nigerian princes? Seriously, people should know if His Most Excellent And Holy Highness Atu-N!dongo is on the up-and-up or not.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A heated argument.

David Rees, cartoonist in charge of Get Your War On, has been making animated shorts of his GYWO characters for the past little while... and they're absolutely dynamite.

Go here for the latest clip. "I'm like Seymour Hirsh on this shit!" Priceless.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The frailty of life.

So, my grandma had a stroke over the weekend. The prognosis is not good; at the very least, it appears as if she's comfortable. Now we wait, and that's the hardest part.

At times like this, you can't help but be a little reflective in terms of life, death, and parts in-between. You wonder, Am I making the most out of today?, or Do the people I love know I love them?, or What kind of legacy will I leave when I'm not around anymore? Tough questions, often with tough answers, if you answer them honestly.

Our family has never really been big on hugs; maybe it's the WASP in us (which is pretty strong). However, in the past few years, there have been more and more popping up at family gatherings, both big and small... most notably including my grandparents, and especially my grandma. The last time I paid them a visit this past summer, we had a good long chat about anything and everything under the sun, including this exchange which I don't think I'll ever forget:

Grandpa: So, is there any chance you might pack up and get a job back this way?

Me: Ah, well, you know, down there in Toronto, I've got a pretty good thing going, I think.

Grandma: Really? What's her name?

She never usually zinged one-liners off of people, but I must say she got me that day.

I've been extremely lucky with bereavements in my family; the last person close to me to pass away was when I was in Grade 9, which is a while ago. Hopefully I'll be able to deal with The Call when it comes.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

This could change your life.

This is, very probably, the greatest thing that has ever been created on the Internet.

Go. Do it. You know you want to.

ADDENDUM: Make sure your sound is on.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A possible PhD program.

You know how, back in 2006-ish, people whose names were thrown-about as US presidential candidates would play all coy with reporters asking if they were going to make a run? "Well, I can't really answer that, although I'm in consultations with some potential people to begin pre-preliminary talks about thinking to maybe form an exploratory committee to possibly look at considering a stab at running. But the first thing I do, after I ask the Little Lord Baby Jesus for guidance, is sit down and talk with my family."

Well, in terms of me doing a PhD in education at OISE, I'm about at that stage (minus the family thing, unless you count my scores of illegitimate children in places like Haiti). I'm nosing-around their programs — apparently they have a "flexible-time" PhD program which can let you arrange stuff around your current job — but I'd have to make sure that (a.) it fits my schedule, (b.) I can get adequate funding, so (c.) I don't have to live like a shit-broke student, which would (d.) suck.

As for a topic of research, I think it would be interesting to be able to figure out how to measure, in an overall kind of way, how well a given set of curricula is meeting the needs of the students in a given educational jurisdiction, and how to persuade governments into spending the time and money into more, and more-frequent, in-depth analysis of how well things are going. A lot of places in the world do this — but the catch is that these are places that look at shitty metrics such as standardized test scores, which have a list of their own problems the length of Michael Phelps' so-called "wingspan." (I hear it's seven feet!)

Anyway, I hope I can do this from more of a classroom teacher's perspective, rather than that from an education professor who's spent the past several decades locked up in the Crystal Palace (to borrow a Queen's-ism). You gotta "keep it real," except when keeping it real goes wrong.


Didn't like people playin' on her phone
Kept it real
Other inmates "kept it realer"

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The World Series ended two weeks ago.

If anyone needs me between March 16 and 19 inclusive, I'll be watching baseball in Florida.

Yep, just bought the plane tickets. Supercheap, too. Everyone in Toronto flies out of Buffalo; because of my southwest Ontario connection, I can stay at my parents' overnight and fly out of Flint, which is a ridiculously small and charming airport (yet has a surprisingly large number of destinations).

So, if it's mid-March and you have a hankerin' for baseball and palm trees, you're more than welcome to tag-along.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

No, Junior, you can't.

Brilliant little piece from The Onion earlier this week:

Bush: 'Can I Stop Being President Now?'

WASHINGTON — In a press conference held this morning on the White House lawn, President Bush formally asked the assembled press corps and members of his own administration if, in light of today's election, he could stop being the president now. "So it's over, right? Can I stop being president now?" Bush said after striding to the podium in a Texas Rangers cap and flannel shirt, carrying a fully packed suitcase. "Let's just say I'm done as of now. Presidency over." When informed by Washington Post reporter David Broder that his presidency would continue through early January, Bush stared at him quizzically, sighed, and shuffled silently back into the White House.

Sorry, Georgie, you're gonna have to play with the new kid for a couple of months before you can go back to Crawford to clear out all that brush.

Looking down the barrel of a gun.

It's more than just a stupendous song by the Beastie Boys off Paul's Boutique; it's what I do every year as November, and my birthday, rolls around.

November is a Perfect Storm of Shittiness, for myriad reasons:

1. The weather is lousy.
It might snow, it might not. It gets increasingly chilly, but it's not that January-cold which can be dry and pleasant. It rains a lot and it's greygreygrey. November is the absolute crappiest month for weather, and I challenge you to name a month which is worse.

2. Zero holidays.
July has Canada Day, August has the Civic Holiday, September has Labour Day, October has Thanksgiving, December has Christmas, January has New Year's (and a little break so the kiddies can write exams), they cooked up Family Day for February, March has March Break, April has Easter, May has Victoria Day, and June is just generally jubilant. Notice something missing? I do.

3. It's my birthday.
Last year was good because (a.) I turned a major milestone which suggested copious drinking, and (b.) it was also my Champagne Birthday, which also suggested drinking. This year has neither of those charms, so it's merely an opportunity for the odometer to click by, louder than more ominously than it ever has before. Another 12 months closer to death! Hooray!

(Actually, I should take back my dark outlook on aging. The whole thing about "youth being wasted on the young" is completely true; sure, you're young and full of piss-and-vinegar, but you wouldn't know what to do with the freedom your youth brings you if you had two hands, a flashlight, a map and a case of Red Bull at your disposal. I think I'm in a pretty good spot right now, being reasonably responsibility-free, aside from my job, but old and hopefully wise enough to realize that I've got a relatively sweet thing going.)

* * * * * * * * *

Any ideas what I should get my parents for Christmas? I've resolved to be done the bulk of my present-shopping by the end of this month, mostly because I hate malls during December.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

What the wacko-Right are saying.

There's a blog I check occasionally, called Woman Honor Thyself. Don't let the overwhelming pinkness fool you; there's some pretty sinister sentiment going on. She makes Bill O'Reilly look like Gandhi, without a word of a lie.

(Also, don't read it for too long in one stretch. It's exhausting, and it'll just get you really, really mad.)

Anyway, I decided to pop over there today to see what she had to say about Obama winning the US election last night. Incidentally, of late she's been referring to him as "B. Hussein Obama" or just "Hussein Obama," and if she has to write out the word "Muslim," she'll intentionally misspell it (maybe so Google doesn't return a hit on her site for that word, I'd wager to say). Y'know, just to give you a little heads-up about what to expect. Today's post started off like this (multiple fonts and sizes and boldedness removed for clarity):

November 4th, 2008: A Day of Infamy.

Not since September 11, 2001, have I sensed such utter sadness and disbelief.

And yet I see Conservatives “congratulating” this man.

For the first time in my life, I am ashamed of my fellow Americans.

They have blindly but knowingly elected a baby-killer, terrorist sympathizing, enemy of the United States Constitution and of Israel….to the White House.

Barak Hussein Obama is not the legitimate President of America.

Without Acorn voter fraud, voter intimidation, financing and support by the likes of Soros, radical Izlamic terrorist groups, and the Media in his pocket, this day would not be unfolding as the Nightmare it is.

Barry Hussein Obama is, and was all along, nothing short of a political fraud.

He misled and misinformed anyone gullible enough to overlook all his terrorist associations, about who and what he truly is.

Ah yes..Hope, Change!….and a breath of fresh air from a campaign wreaking of duplicity and treachery.

What Barry Hussein Obama is..is a radical, committed Socialist who is chomping at the bit to impose his version of a Marxist dictatorship upon these United States of America.

All the while... advancing the interests of his secret love: Izlam.

Sharia financing is right around the next bend.
Wait and see.
Free speech for anyone criticizing Islam will be squelched via abuse of the “Fairness doctrine.”

Whoops! She left a non-misspelled "Islam" showing! I bet she'll fix that, though.

Anyway, the moral of the story is that people like this no longer have Their Man in charge anymore. And it feels pretty damn good.

The verdict.


Yes he did.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Vote results.

Three classes' worth of students (one Gr. 12, two Gr. 10), and it went like this:

   Obama/Biden (Democrat)  . . . . . . 52

McCain/Palin (Republican) . . . . . 5

Don't know/don't care enough. . . . 11

Paris Hilton (write-in) . . . . . . 1

Spoiled . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

Well, there you go. The kids have spoken!

Monday, November 03, 2008

I love Canadian politics.

Yeah, the US gets a lot of attention.

But would the leader of a major US political party play an old game from the '60s called "Hip Flip" with an interviewer wearing a plaid tam? One of ours would; namely, Jack Layton. Hell, the same interviewer even once nailed the late, great, Pierre Elliot Trudeau on the question of rock and roll at 24 Sussex.

Also, I just want to go on the record to say I love Nardwuar the Human Serviette. I just watched him interview Whitby metalcore band Protest the Hero on The New Music, and while I'm not a fan of theirs in any way, shape or form, I have to admire how they handled Nardwuar's accusation (dug up through meticulous research) that their lead singer had never heard a song by the Pointer Sisters.

(Folks, it's either type random shit here on my blog, or mark physics tests. I think you can see which one has won, for now.)

A mock US election.

Tomorrow in my three classes, I'm going to hold a secret-ballot election, with the following choices:
  • Obama/Biden (Democrat)
  • McCain/Palin (Republican)
  • I don't know enough about the US election to fairly cast a vote
I'll let you know the results tomorrow evening. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Quebeckers prank Palin.

Read, and listen.

Productivity, and an observation.

This extra hour totally rules. It's ten minutes to noon on a Sunday morning, and thus far I have:
  • cooked myself a kickass breakfast
  • watched "Meet the Press" and a bit of "This Week with George Stephanopoulos"
  • done a sinkful of dishes
  • finished reading this week's Sports Illustrated
  • planned how I'm going to repartition my computer's hard drive
The verdict: move the clocks back an hour every weekend!

* * * * * * * * * *

There are a lot of interesting things that have happened in this US presidential election: the nomination of a terrorist latté-sipping elitist secret-Muslim candidate, the Palin fiasco, the incredible amounts of money raised and spent, the aimless wandering of John McCain in front of Brokaw's teleprompter during a debate, and so on. But the recent financial clusterfuck has prompted some extremely unique insights into a possible sea-change in American economic/political dialogue.

First move: Obama. Tax plan says rich should pay more, little guys get tax cuts.* Plays well.

Response: McCain/Palin. "This is no time to be experimentin' with socialism." "I don't want to redistribute the wealth. I want to make it so everyone can be successful!" Et cetera.

Lots of American people: "My life kinda sucks right now, so yeah, let's have those rich bastards pay a little more. I'm dyin' out here."

For my money, though, the best lines have come from a couple of rich white guys who have said stuff like, "Well, you know, I've done pretty well, I can afford to pay more in taxes." (John Kerry comes to mind.)

I've been a political junkie for the past decade or so, and I have never heard anything like that be uttered from the lips of any prominent American (the likes of Noam Chomsky excluded). We've grown so accustomed to The Powers That Be being such devotees of unfettered, unregulated capitalism (on both sides of the border), this kind of statement could be viewed — and rightly so — as a giant bolt from the blue.

So, will this banking/stock market meltdown result in a vastly different set of American paradigms when it comes to how they view their own social contract? "From each according to his wealth, to each according to his needs," to quote Marx? If the American economy remains in the crapper for a good long while, don't be surprised if it comes out the other side a vastly changed animal.
___________________________________
* I've often thought that, if all you have in terms of fiscal policy is whether you raise or lower taxes, you're not thinking hard enough. Keynes would be very disappointed in you.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

This just ain't right.

The classic rock station here in Toronto, Q107 — which I believe has been trying to set a record for "Most times playing 'Takin' Care Of Business' by BTO" for the last decade — has started playing "Smells Like Teen Spirit" from Nirvana. Today I heard it for the second time; the first time I assumed I must have unknowingly flipped the dial to the Edge, but this could be no mistake.

I get it: the song's from 1991, and that's 17 years ago. Most of the students I teach weren't alive when the thing came out. If you want to define this song "classic" status in terms of sheer age, then fine — I mean, when I first started listening to classic rock in about 1992 (namely, to Detroit's WCSX, which I could pull in from my parents' house), 17 years before that was 1975, and I know for a fact that station played stuff from that year and newer.

But Nirvana is different. You can trace it back through various roots and influences to band such as The Melvins, The Replacements, Hüsker Dü, and farther back to bands like The Sex Pistols, The Ramones and The Clash. Very few of these bands (with the puzzling exception of The Clash) ever see the light of day on classic rock stations, so it stands to reason that Nirvana shouldn't, either.

I'm not sure why this whole situation makes me feel so violated, but it does. Nirvana is just too important in music history to relegate it to the same station as The Cars, Steve Miller and Fleetwood Mac — popular bands to be sure, but fairly inconsequential.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Channel surfing.

Yep. It's come to this: a trip around the dial.

MuchMoreMusic. Coldplay's music is actually pretty crappy. I watched part of the video for "Viva La Vida," and I am thorougly unimpressed. Now I'm watching a video for the latest song by Tegan and Sarah. They actually come up with some pretty decent songs, to be honest — not normally my cup of tea, but I don't mind them at all. When I lived in Calgary for a summer in the late '90s, they were just starting out, and I'd see posters for them all the time. My officemate and I used to joke that "oh, those two dudes are playing another show this weekend."

BBC World News. I think if I watched this more often, I'd be a better person. I used to think this about CBC Radio, too; now I listen to it most mornings. Maybe it's just a matter of time.

CMT. I pay for this?

Slice. It used to be called "Life." I didn't watch it then, either. How desperate does a channel have to be to air a re-run of ET Canada? (I still can't believe Rick the Temp stooped to this.)

Discovery. I saw Jay Ingram speak at a PD session for science teachers in Toronto last year, and he was extremely well-informed about the stuff we're facing in the schools. Good guy.

Comedy. Just for Laughs is featuring my least-favourite musical comedy duo of all time, Bowser and Blue. Their schlock-factor is off the charts. At least the always-entertaining Harland Williams got to interview them just offstage.

Teletoon. I currently teach a kid that totally looks like Shaggy from Scooby-Doo. Otherwise, this cartoon fucking sucks. Why did people like this?

HGTV. If it ain't Holmes on Homes, I flip right past this bastard.

BET. I've been watching this show for about two minutes, and I have no idea what it is. I think they're doing a behind-the-scenes thing on the set of some R&B singer's video, but because I know exactly zero R&B singers these days, this is completely lost on me. The little graphic in the bottom-right corner, though, tells me that a new season of American Gangster starts tonight at 10, so I'll have to put that on my Google Calendar, now, won't I?

I think this little excursion around the offerings of Uncle Ted nicely validates the reason I (a.) don't watch a lot of TV, and therefore (b.) refuse to upgrade to a fancy new LCD model in the near future. Do I really need to see all these shitty shows in high-definition? They'll look even worse there, I imagine.

Friday, October 24, 2008

The real S-word.

An extremely interesting phenomenon is happening in the wake of the Global Economic Catastrofuck, and is being mirrorred in the US presidential election. But, in order to fully appreciate what's going on, a bit of history is in order.

The year is 1994. Republicans, led by the likes of Newt Gingrich, take control of the US House of Representatives (and name Gingrich its Speaker). The "Contract with America" is proclaimed, which gives American politics a swift rightward kick in the junk. Bill Clinton had nailed Gennifer Flowers, but not Monica Lewinsky (yet). Pie is still tasty, and remains so, to the present day.

It's easy to whip-up anti-Left sentiment when you control both Houses of Congress; it's even easier when you control the Executive Branch, which the Republicans have since 2001. (Remember George W. Bush? That guy is actually still president. Who knew?) The brand of Republican conservatism seen in the past few decades has been especially ugly; outwardly anti-intellectual — yet Bush, Cheney and Rove have more than enough degrees between them — nasty, brutish and, well, just plain mean.

In their wake, they managed to dredge up the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and the ever-skeletal Ann Coulter. These knuckle-dragging pundits have thrown the word "liberal" around like an insult since '94, and usually have had a nice amount of success with it. Hell, the last thing any American politician wanted to be called, for a good long while, was a liberal.

But that's when, quite frankly, pundits such as the above didn't have a whole lot of meaningful things to talk about. I mean, yes, 9/11 and Iraqistan and the like were important to the average American, but let's be honest here: unless you were in the shadows of the World Trade Center that day, or you (or someone you know closely) has been sent to one of them infidel countries to fight a war, all of that international political stuff is probably a pretty abstract topic, and doesn't affect your day-to-day wheelings-and-dealings too much.

Nowadays, though, when people are losing their jobs and houses and cars... well, now we have something to talk about: the economy, and how it's melting down before our very eyes, and how it's probably affecting you or someone close to you (as it is for me, or someone close to me). Suddenly the talking-heads on CNN are yammering-on about something which actually affects a lot of people directly.

Enter the US presidential race, and a certain half-Kenyan-half-Kansan that is talking about re-jigging the tax rates so that the rich pay more and the poor pay less.

Nope! Can't do that!

"Why should people have to give up their hard-earned money?"

"That sounds like income redistribution."

"This is no time for America to be experimentin' with...

SOCIALISM!!!"

(If you can't tell by the "g" cut off of "experimenting," that last one is a direct quote from Sarah Palin.)

Baaahhhh!!! Barack HUSSEIN Obama isn't only an elite latté-sipping America-denigrating secret-Muslim terrorist-associator who has a laughable track-record of being a "community organizer" (whatever the hell that is — try being a small-town mayor!) and a US Senator for only two years... the guy is a SOCIALIST! He wants to FUCK WITH SHIT SO RICH PEOPLE (who can pay more) PAY MORE! That is so anti-American! Don't Tread On Me (and my Scrooge McDuck-like vault full of swimmable cash)!

So now "socialist" is being bandied-about as an insult, the same way Coulter & Co. have tossed-around "liberal" for the past decade.

Here's the difference, though. Since Obama is talking about things that a lot of Americans (a.) have personal experience with, and they (b.) kinda like what he's saying, and (c.) look like they're going to elect him president in a couple of weeks, throwing the "socialist" label at him — when a lot of people actually are in favour of getting a few more bucks out of rich bastards so they can pay their bills — gets you absolutely nowhere. Hell, they could even call him a sheepfucker on national television, and because his shit doesn't have the stink of George W. Bush all over it like McCain's does, Obama still takes the election.

In conclusion: Ann Coulter's days are numbered. Oh, and eat a fucking burrito already, Skeletor!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Greenspan reconsiders.

The US economy is pretty much in the crapper these days for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to):
  • increasing wealth going into corporate profits rather than wages since the '70s
  • banks and lenders being reckless when giving people mortgages and loans
  • rampant deregulation letting The Market somehow fuck itself in its own ass
I'm not sure how the last point would be accomplished in any kind of way that wouldn't result in some kind of personal injury, but I think we're all pretty sure The Market has been able to do it. Hell, even Alan Greenspan himself expressed his surprise at a Congressional hearing today at how badly The Market regulated itself, calling the current financial clusterfuck "a once-in-a-century economic tsunami."

(Too soon?)

Anyway, some other Greenspan nuggets (from this original article):

I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms.

I have found a flaw [in his free-market ideology]. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by that fact.
Reply by Rep. Al Waxman: "In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was not right, it was not working."
Absolutely, precisely. You know, that’s precisely the reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well.

The problem here is something that looked to be a very solid edifice did break down. And I think that, as I said, shocked me. I still do not fully understand why it happened.

The emphasis is mine on that last little bit, for a reason: If Alan Greenspan, noted economist, long-time Chair of the US Federal Reserve — that is to say, someone who knows a fucking hell of a lot about economics — doesn't fully understand what the shit happened... well, to quote Col. Mandrake in Dr. Strangelove, "Well, I would say, sir, that there were something dreadfully wrong somewhere."

Monday, October 20, 2008

Um.

So, yeah.

Stuff? Stuff's good, I guess. Work is going well, but busy. I sure as hell don't skate in there at 8:55 and out by 3:20, that's for sure.

Gonna see The Who on Wednesday night down in Hamilton. Yeah, I wish they were coming to Toronto too, but I guess the ACC was too busy holding a Celine Dion concert or a Billy Graham Revival or a séance or some shit like that.

Crazy Cat Lady hissed at me (i.e., bashed on her ceiling with something hard) a couple of weeks ago, but I think she's settled down. Perhaps the local LC is out of her favourite rye.

I think I need to buy some new socks.

Does my flashlight need new batteries? Let me check.

Nope, we're good.

JTL out.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Election recap.

Whadda ya know, another Conservative minority. A few seats changed hands. Big friggin' deal. A party-by-party run-down follows.

Conservatives
You're gonna get people like my grandparents who, come hell or high water, will vote Conservative until they can no longer mark an X. But I honestly think that the reason they won is because the average Canadian can't hold a thought for much longer than the average American, which really isn't saying much; in short, they heard Harper yelping "Liberals have a Carbon Tax" and all they listened to was "Liberals... tax", and in this day and age, CUT TAXES CUT TAXES CUT TAXES CUT TAXES. Because people are goddamn dumb. I mean, look at how much people will pay for shitty coffee at Starbucks. Come on. Got any brain cells up there?

Liberals
Dion's a nice enough guy, but this guy isn't going to inspire anyone to do anything but stay the fuck home, which a record number of people did for this election. It pains me to ask this, but... where's your pizzazz? Where's your catchy catch-phrases? You need witty comebacks and a certain amount of media-savviness these days, even if you have the greatest policy document in the world. How long until Justin Trudeau can take this thing over, anyway?

Bloc Québecois
The nicest thing I can say about a party whose sole intention is to break up my homeland, I guess, is to thank them for taking enough seats in Quebec so that the Conservatives didn't get a majority. Also, I think I have a bit of a man-crush on Gilles Duceppe. But that don't make me a queer or nothin'. I'll prove I ain't — hell, let's go shoot some wolves from a helicopter.

NDP
Modest gains from the last election, but Peggy Nash lost to Gerard Kennedy in Parkdale—High Park, which was probably the best thing to happen all night for the Liberals. No gigantic surprises, although they did manage to pick up a couple of seats in the north. Wish they'd have taken a few more in BC, though.

Greens
I really wanted to see them pick up a seat. And I kind of admire Elizabeth May for wanting to run in Central Nova, where she lives... but, at this point in the game for the Greens, you gotta pick a riding that isn't a Conservative lock. Granted, she did (32.2%) give Peter MacKay (46.6%) a run for his money in a riding that his dad once handily owned. But if you put May in Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, where a no-name Green (Dick Hibma) came in an extremely healthy second (47.6%—27.2%) against a former mayor in the riding (Larry Miller, a Conservative), you'd sew it up like a tailor. Maybe next time.

In conclusion, this election was a giant waste of money. I just hope the Libs don't completely abdicate their responsibility as Opposition like they've done for the past two years, sitting there like a silent bunch of dopes, too nervous to call out the Cons lest they be forced into another costly election.

It don't look good, folks.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Stop the presses.

Hold the phone. Take a memo. Boil some water. Jesus H. Christ, listen up!

THERE IS A
NEW MITCH HEDBERG ALBUM
IT IS CALLED
DO YOU BELIEVE IN GOSH?

GET IT

The finer points of theology.

It doesn't matter whether or not I believe in God, because if God is omniscient, God will know why I don't believe in It.

(For the record, I don't really care if there's one or if there isn't. I'll just be nice to people, and if Something is keeping score 24/7... seriously, isn't there something better You could be spending your time doing? Quit watching me take a leak already! Christ.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

These people get to vote.

But the question is, will they be able to stop fucking their cousins long enough to mark an X?


Have a good election, America.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Colbert explains the Market Meltdown.

Lifted from The Colbert Report, and surprisingly informative.

You see, a terrible credit disease has infected the market. It's like... business syphilis. It started with a few slutty lenders who jumped into bed with some really sub-prime mortgages. The next thing you knew, you had a credit orgy. People were swappin' derivatives, AIG was all up in Fannie Mae, Wachovia took on Golden West, then turned around and got it on with A.G. Edwards, then Citi Group took 'em all on at once. It was a steaming pile of hot, slapping assets. No one knew who was bundling who, but it felt good and everybody was doing it. And in the end, let's just say the market blew its liquidity.

Hot.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Nuit Blanche Recap.

There was a lot of stuff out there, and I probably missed a lot of great things. But, the top three things I saw were probably...

1. I Promise It Will Always Be This Way, Jon Sasaki
He got about a dozen of his buddies to dress up in ridiculous mascot costumes at Lamport Stadium to try and whip up the crowd... (a.) with typical stadium music, (b.) for 12 hours, and (c.) with no actual sporting event on the field. Some of the mascots waved pom-poms, slept on the field (much to the dismay of the crowd chanting "Bum-ble-bee! Bum-ble-bee!"), wrestled each other, chilled out with their heads off, or haphazardly danced to the music by themselves off to the side. It was so absurd and random, yet brilliant... my sides hurt from laughing. (Update!!! Video here.)


2.
SMASH! Droppin' Stuff, The Custodians of Destruction
Get a SkyJack scissor-lift, load it up with TVs and computers and kids' toys and chairs, and throw 'em down from 25 feet up. Think about your trash, people!


3. Stereoscope, Project Blinkenlights
Take both halves of City Hall, put lamps in all the windows, and have an entire building act like a pixelboard video display, for a very cool effect. (Tough to take a picture of, because of the darkness and the motion of the picture.)


In conclusion... art!!!
(photos courtesy of SA, used without permission)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Stephen Harper: Serial Plagiarizer.

You've heard about the time one of Harper's main speechwriters cribbed a pro-Iraq speech from the Australian PM a few years ago. But, did you know he also stole from his fellow right-wing fuck, Mike Harris?

Check this shit out.

Harris, December '02:
Thinking about things from a new and different perspective is never easy. It takes courage, conviction and the strength to know that in taking a new and innovative course, you are making change for the better. ... Genuine leaders are the ones who do the right thing.

Harper, February '03:
Thinking about things from a new and different perspective is not about reading the polls and having focus group tests. It is never easy because it takes courage, conviction and the strength to know that taking a new and innovative course is going to make change for the better. Genuine leaders are the ones who do the right thing.

I wouldn't trust Steve Harper farther than I could throw him with one hand.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

I'm watching the Debate.

You know, I thought I'd be watching the Biden-Palin debate tonight. I really did. But, at the moment, I'm watching the Canadian debate on CBC — and I don't feel like flipping back to the Americans.

Palin and Biden are throwing around vagaries, trying to amuse us with charming anecdotes, and making a huge fake-fest out of the whole thing.

The Canadian debate, on the other hand, is:
  • extremely specific
  • chock-full of policy
  • an example of people "gettin' in each other's grills"
  • vicious at times — but not the stupid-vicious stuff you see in the States
Goddamn it... I'm actually really liking this debate we're having up here. To suggest that Canadian politics (and politicians) are somehow boring or pointless or petty means you haven't been paying attention. You would never, ever get a conversation this honest, this specific, this direct in the US, ever.

My impressions of the leaders, in alphabetical order:

Dion. Sure, he mangles the language, but the fellow actually makes some good points. I just wish people would, y'know, get past the fact he mangles the language. Hell, Chrétien barely spoke either of our languages, and he ran the place for a decade. Did this guy really win the Liberal leadership? Whatever they were smoking at the convention, I want a truckload of it.

Duceppe. Nothing to lose in the English debate, for sure, so he takes off the gloves and calls Harper out like the little bitch he is. I'd like the cut of his jib, if only his jib didn't advocate cleaving my homeland in twain.

Harper. The most American of all the debaters. Coincidence? Not at all. The hot air this guy's spewing could melt the polar ice caps. Also, I get the impression that, oddly, he doesn't really care too much for Canadians. Finally, watching Harper talk about the environment is like watching Don Rickles talk about mutual funds; you get the impression he really doesn't know much.

Layton. "Where's your platform? Under your sweater?" Holy shit. Great line. Name-dropped Tommy Douglas, too. Fiery and fiesty, and looks out for the workin'-man. Uses specific examples of manufacturing jobs that have recently vapourized (John Deere, that place in Goderich). I get the impression he actually, y'know, likes Canadians.

May. Name-dropped her friend Bill Clinton. I think this is the first time a lot of us have heard her for more than ten seconds. Oooooh, just name-dropped Sweden and Germany — both are places I've visited, and both are places I like. She knows her stuff, especially in terms of the tango that taxes and pollution can do with each other.

In conclusion, if Steve Harper says "tax cuts" again, I'm going to throw a shoe at the TV.

Monday, September 29, 2008

You are actually not going to believe this.

I was rooting around in a drawer tonight, and happened to come upon a gasoline receipt dated January 23, 2007.

I want you to try and guess how much a litre of gasoline cost.

Go ahead, guess.

Click here to reveal the answer.

At 10:12 pm on January 23, 2007, the price of gas at a GTA gasoline station was 69.9 cents per litre.

Absolutely insane.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Yet another reason to love Matt Taibbi.

Excerpts from the latest rant from Taibbi, about Sarah Palin, in this week's Rolling Stone:

Here's the thing about Americans. You can send their kids off by the thousands to get their balls blown off in foreign lands for no reason at all, saddle them with billions in debt year after congressional year while they spend their winters cheerfully watching game shows and football, pull the rug out from under their mortgages, and leave them living off their credit cards and their Wal-Mart salaries while you move their jobs to China and Bangalore.
   And none of it matters, so long as you remember a few months before Election Day to offer them a two-bit caricature culled from some cutting-room-floor episode of Roseanne as part of your presidential ticket.
. . .
Sarah Palin is a symbol of everything that is wrong with the modern United States. As a representative of our political system, she's a new low in reptilian villainry, the ultimate cynical masterwork of puppeteers like Karl Rove. But more than that, she is a horrifying symbol of how little we ask for in return for the total surrender of our political power. Not only is Sarah Palin a fraud, she's the tawdriest, most half-assed fraud imaginable, 20 floors below the lowest common denominator, a character too dumb even for daytime TV — and this country is going to eat her up, cheering her every step of the way. All because Americans no longer have the energy to do anything but lie back and allow ourselves to be jacked off by the calculating thieves who run this grasping consumer paradise we call a nation.
. . .
The great insight of the Palin VP choice is that huge chunks of American voters no longer even demand that their candidates actually have policy positions; they simply consume them as media entertainment, rooting for or against them according to the reflexibe prejudices of their demographic, as they would for reality-show contestants or sitcom characters. Hicks root for hicks, moms for moms, born-agains for born-agains. Sure, there was politics in the Palin speech [at the convention], but it was all either silly lies or merely incidental fluffery buttressing the theatrical performance.
. . .
She's a puffed-up dimwit with primitive religious beliefs who had to be educated as to the fact that the Constitution did not exactly envision government executives firing librarians. Judging from the importance progressive critics seem to attach to these revelations, you'd think that these were actually negatives in modern American politics. But Americans like politicians who hate books and see the face of Jesus in every tree stump. They like them stupid and mean and ignorant of the rules. Which is why Palin has only seemed to grow in popularity as more and more of these revelations have come out.

This article was probably written a week or so ago, and I think the tide has turned against Palin (especially since clips like this and this have taken YouTube by storm). But hey, you still can't explain why anyone with enough (apparent) political smarts like John McCain would ever want to roll the dice on her in the first place.

Comparing countries.

Really interesting piece on Newsworld (goddamn I love that channel) on the differences between the Canadian and the American elections. In talking about the bombast and rhetoric used by candidates on both sides of the 49th, an election expert opined that "In the US you have 'I Have A Dream', but in Canada the message is more pragmatic and more concrete, like, 'I have a dream that the road to the Tim Hortons will be paved well'."

I think that pretty nicely shows the difference between the two of us.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The circus is in town.

It's not often that I agree with quasi-right-wing morning radio host John Derringer on anything — he leads the crew on Q107 — but his recent analysis of Canadian electoral politics was pretty much spot-on:

"Clowns. The whole bunch of 'em. Every last party leader."

He then waxed nostalgic about the '70s, when you had Trudeau and Stanfield duking it out; Robert Stanfield was often called "the best Prime Minister that Canada never had," which isn't exactly something one could say about Gilles Duceppe, is it?

So, let's take these Bozos, one by one, and figure out what can be done.

Harper: Smarmy, robotic, charisma-free, blisteringly devoid of what anyone might mistake for human emotion. Ultra-radical right-wing agenda tucked neatly under navy sweater-vest. Said in 2007, "Kyoto is essentially a socialist scheme to suck money out of wealth-producing nations." Combs devil-horns seamlessly into Legoland-man haircut.

Dion: Speaks English half as well as Chrétien and with about 14% of the passion. Good head on his shoulders, but can't seem to get ideas out of it. Might be a good leader. Might not be. Who knows? At least he knows stuff about the environment, which really should be taking more headlines in this election than it currently is.

Layton: Make all the pornstache jokes you like; I sure have over the years. Has about as much chance to get elected as I have fathering Ellen Page's child (and I routinely expose my gonads to x-rays for shits-and-giggles). Would form a good opposition... oh, wait a minute, did I just think what I just thought? Liberal-NDP coalition government! Worked in Ontario in the '80s; why not now? I am a genius.

Duceppe: Communicates ideas more effectively than Dion. Irony duly noted.

May: I like the cut of her jib. Taking a train across the country; walks the talk by riding the rails. I hope Blair Wilson gets re-upped; we need Greens in the House. Bad.

If my riding wasn't so damn close — if one riding in the 416 goes blue, it'll be mine — I'd probably go Green or NDP. Hell, why not Communist? They have a candidate in DVW, someone named Catherine Holliday. At least they stand for something, right?

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Hamfisted.

I'm listening to The Ongoing History of New Music, and Alan Cross is playing a live version of the song "Elevation" by U2.

I'm going to go on the record here to say that, by and large, I don't enjoy the vast majority of U2's music. I like their early stuff, and there are a couple of tracks from Achtung Baby that I enjoy, but most of their stuff from then and beyond is completely overplayed. For the past decade and a half, though, it seems like they're more interested in bludgeoning three power-chords to death while Bono screams.

The same affliction has followed Sloan since about 1999 (Navy Blues and beyond). Their latest song, "Believe In Me", is a little better... but do you remember "People of the Sky", "Penpals", "The Lines You Amend", or anything One Chord To Another and before? They were quieter, smarter and nimbler; they weren't so obviously trying to be ultra-cool rawkstars, spending more time posing with hair artfully tousled than writing interesting-sounding music.

Perhaps the most obvious example of this hamfistedness — dull, simple, loud, stupid music — is the likes of Nickelback, who have mercifully faded from their perplexingly chart-topping ways. To be honest, I don't know what kind of rock is being prominently played on radio stations like The Edge these days; every time I flip my radio to that, there are tight-harmonizing, minor-keyed, woe-is-me wailings from some gelled-up fops from a nondescript city like Columbus, Ohio complaining about how much their life has sucked. Am I to believe the likes of Fall Out Boy and My Chemical Romance dominate "rock" in 2008? Please tell me this isn't true.

In the meantime, I'll just keep listening to Dylan.

Monday, September 15, 2008

An open letter to Barack Obama.

September 15, 2008
B. Obama
Washington, DC

Senator,

I couldn't help but notice you're running for President of the United States. This is fantastic news! I had no idea, as I have been tied to a Catherine Wheel for the past 19 months in a dungeon in northern Greenland. It really is good to get back to a place where those filthy Danes — they run Greenland, you know — are nowhere to be found. I swear, I will never ever touch Lego again, so long as I live.

Now, I also noticed that the stock market has been in quite the foul mood in the past few months, and that houses are getting repossessed like crazy. The US economy has gone røv-up with Republicans at the switch, to be sure.

I'm no fede bondeknold, but I'm sure-as-shootin' sure that you can kick John McCain's behind all over the field on this issue. I mean, McCain and the Republicans have greased the wheels of deregulation of all sorts of financial industries for the past decade; when huge, important sectors are left to their own devices — "Let the markets do their work! They'll fix everything! Just be-lieeeeeeeve!!!" — you get gigantic firms like Enron, Lehman Brothers, Worldcom, Merrill Lynch and Bear Stearns acting like a bunch of skideriks.

There's an old Danish saying: Jeg lægger dig ned og lægger en lort på maven af dig. I wasn't able to grasp all the nuances of the language over the past 19 months, but I think I got the gist of this expression, and it's that you'd better make political hay while the sun shines.

You don't think Karl Rove & Co. wouldn't have raked someone over the coals for this sort of skulduggery? Be a populist for once! Have the stones to slam the Republicans to the wall on this one and æd lort, you andeknepper! People know the economy has tanked, and people know Bush was in charge. McCain is a lot like Bush; remind them of that fact, and you'll be puleing with Michelle in the Lincoln Bedroom before you know it.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to sut djævlepik i helvede. If I wake up on November 5 and you haven't won this election by at least eleventy billion points, I'm gonna go down there and kick your bunkepul.

Hold kæft,

JTL

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Celebrity and the Executive Branch.

I hate the idea of "celebrity" — fame for fame's sake. Why should I care what Brangelina names their kid? Does it affect my life if Avril Lavigne divorces that dude she married? When — oh, when?! — will Oprah recommend another Mitch Albom book to get all weepy about?

Unfortunately, the Elephant Neighbour to the South is obsessed with the idea of celebrity, to a fatal degree. Two examples of celebrity in the highest levels of American government come to mind presently.

1. Ronald Reagan

I've never seen a Ronald Reagan movie, but they must've been terrible: one of my favourite all-time movies, Airplane!, mocked the actor's work in two separate instances. I'd bet his cinematic abilities were fairly equivalent to those of Pauly Shore; fast-forward his career 60 years and I bet The Gipper would've been on Celebrity Rehab.

The problem is, of course, people knew him already as a B-movie actor when he started to dabble in politics, becoming the governor of California (more on this below, obviously), and later a two-term president. It didn't hurt that he was a grandfatherly type of figure, with a kind exterior that soothed your fears about those damn dirty Red Commies and actually made trickle-down economics seem like a good idea.

Problem was, I bet people bought the empty slogans and vague ideas that were shopped to them, based on his persona — not on any sort of sound reasoning. He won because of his image; the backing of the hardcore Christian Right didn't hurt either. (Remember, he once opined that the current generation might very well live to see the end of the world. And this is the guy who had his finger on The Button.)

2. Arnold Schwarzenegger

Following in Reagan's footsteps, an actor (albeit an infinitely more successful one) becomes governor of California. The circumstances were weird to begin with: some wack-job Republicans from San Diego stirred up sentiment to hold a recall-election to oust Gray Davis, a Democrat, who apparently couldn't figure out how to keep the lights on in all parts of the state, all the time. (Nevermind the fact that Enron, close buddies with Republicans for decades, had their buddies in Congress rig the rules to set up an electricity monopoly in California, which they obviously couldn't handle. Oh, and Enron was crooked, too.)

The election was a spectacle — dozens of candidates, including Larry Flynt, adult film actress Mary "Mary Carey" Cook, Arianna Huffington and Gary Coleman — and the thing just got more and more absurd as the campaign began to snowball (something Ms. Cook probably has some experience with). Cruz Bustamante, Davis' lieutenant-governor, probably should've won the thing, but in the end The Terminator won, despite having zero experience in any sort of government, anywhere.

Shockingly, Ah-nuld hasn't been that bad a governor... which goes to show you, I guess, that being governor of the most populous state in the US, with a GDP that, if California was an independent country, would rank 9th in the world, isn't a job that requires "experience" with the workings of "government." Hell, I should run in the next gubernatorial election.

Which brings us to...

3. Sarah Palin

You know her story: hockey-mom, former beauty queen, sometime book-banner, Creationist, financially-reckless mayor of Wasilia, scandal-infused term as governor of Alaska, surprise Veep candidate. Not so great at school: in order to get a 3-year diploma, she went through six different colleges, none of which had any sort of "entrance requirements" — just show up, pay your money, and you're in.

Her inclusion on the Republican ticket is absolutely absurd, but those dumb fucks in the US appear to actually be falling for this vapid trick. However, there may actually be some sane folks in Alaska that see through the ridiculousness, as the Toronto Star reported from an anti-Palin rally in Anchorage:

Most of all, the anti-Palin crowd, many of them professional women, wanted the world to know that they, too, know how to field dress a moose, haul a caribou carcass out of the Alaskan bush or catch wild salmon. That's what women do in Alaska, they say.

"I know how to catch and freeze 30 salmon a year and can them," said Karla Huntington, an Anchorage lawyer and mediator.

"That doesn't qualify me to sit down and talk to (Russian President) Vladimir Putin."

Sarah Hobart, a 35-year-old development director from Kasilof, Alaska, described her most recent caribou encounter in the bush.

"A lot of us love to eat caribou," she said. "We know how to field dress a moose. But this is about the future of our country, not the way you handle a moose."

Caroline Bolar said she raised two children while working on the pipeline, sleeping four hours a night.

"This is not unusual here," she said. "For me the issue is I don't want a fundamentalist finger on the button."

When will the Palin Bubble burst? Not soon enough for me.

(I noticed an interesting thing just now... all three of these picks have been Republicans. Gee, for the party of "down-home values" and "traditional America," you'd have thought that they'd see through things like celebrity in their leaders. Then again, you'd also think that, if a Senator was caught in an airport bathroom trolling for anonymous gay sex, they'd be a sodomite Democrat... whoops! Guess not.)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A new low.

White people have been responsible for a lot of bad stuff throughout the years:
  • the African slave trade
  • colonialism
  • turning Australia into a 19th century version of Escape from New York
  • wooden shoes
  • Vanilla Ice
  • Starbucks
  • the Crusades
  • smallpox-infested blankets
However, I think this one might just top them all.


First brought to my attention by the good people at The Airing of Grievances. If you can get through this, you either (a.) have a stronger stomach than I do, or (b.) you've vomited several times already.

Now, to perhaps take some of the bad taste of that horrendous concoction of atonal fundamentalist Christians out of your mouth, I offer this incredibly catchy, incredibly cheesy, incredibly '80s pop nugget from the late Dan Hartman:


I am hopelessly addicted to this song. Frequent site-contributor ECB and I heard it somewhere in southeast Michigan whilst flipping through the dial a few weeks ago, and it slumbered in a far corner of my brain... until yesterday. You're welcome!

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

You can't keep a good man like me down.

Thought I got trapped under something heavy, didn't ya? Maybe that, a few days into the new school year, the rugrats were running roughshod over me? Or perhaps you thought I went on a three-week whiskey bender, got myself married to a woman named Candii who dots those i's with hearts, and ditched this one-moose town for good.

Nope! I've just been (paradoxically) both busy and lazy for the past week.

The school year's starting off well. I genuinely like all my kids in all my classes, which is always a good sign. Mind you, the school's administration couldn't timetable themselves out of a wet paper bag, so one of my classes has 23 and the other 33; meanwhile, kids have to wait forever for a guidance counsellor appointment (of course, all but one counsellor is out of the building by 3:45). But hey, whadda ya gonna do... be competent or something?

All that work last week meant I deserved to do something fun, so my buddy and I hopped in the car and headed up to Ottawa for a bachelor party. While we missed the afternoon of paintball, we still managed to get in on the (a.) greasy Chinese food, (b.) booze and (c.) burlesque. In the end, it was a fantastic way to send JP off into the bold new frontier of married life; I just hope his wife doesn't discover his "JP's Last Stand" t-shirt covered in the Sharpie-based well-wishes of about a dozen strippers from Hull. (Or, if she does, I hope she's cool.)

Oh, and there's a federal election. My basic premise is this:

ANYONE WHO VOTES CONSERVATIVE
CAN EAT A BAG OF DICKS

In other news, I bought a record player! Yup, I took a bold new step into the 20th century. No more Edison wax cylinders for this guy.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Police Thugs at the RNC.

I wasn't aware that the police were doing a nice little job at the Democratic National Convention in Denver last week, hassling protestors — and by "nice" I mean "probably totally bat-shit illegal."

This is something you'd expect at the Republican convention... which is exactly what we're seeing. Riot cops are busting into places where alt-media people have been converging before the RNC, arresting people on trumped-up charges of "conspiracy to commit riot" (which a lawyer who was interviewed said is about the flimsiest charge you can think of; similar charges were used in the 1968 DNC in Chicago in order to chuck protestors behind bars).

But perhaps the most egregious and surprising development is the unlawful arrest of Amy Goodman of Democracy Now (including video). To use an analogy: Goodman is to alt-media as, say, Tom Brokaw is to the mainstream media. I'd say they're about as equally mild-mannered, too.

This shit is crazy.

Labour Day.

A truly astonishing fact came out today, in electronic conversations with three friends, regarding the Labour Day Parade in Toronto, of which I was a part this morning.

"Friend" #1:
  • holds a politically left-of-centre perspective
  • no idea that a parade was a tradition
  • had no idea what Labour Day was for
"Friend" #2:
  • holds a politically left-of-centre perspective
  • knew a parade existed, in theory ("Is it a British thing?")
  • no idea that Toronto had one
"Friend" #3:
  • don't know where he comes from politically, but recently graduated from an MBA program, so make your own conclusions
  • no idea that a parade was a tradition
  • had no idea what Labour Day was for ("I thought Labour Day was just a 'fuck off and do nothing' for everyone/everything")
So, all you pricks, put on your Learnin' Caps and prepare to get Learned.

Labour Day celebrates the stuff that organized labour (e.g. unions) has fought for over the years, on behalf of average, everyday working schmucks like you and me. These things include:
  • 40-hour work weeks
  • weekends
  • benefits
  • safety in the workplace
  • collective bargaining
  • the right to be treated fairly by your boss
The list goes on. Anyway, to commemorate this yearly event (it's May 1 in a lot of countries, but you and I in North America know it as the first Monday of September), there's a parade in which a whole bunch of unions all come out and show people who they are, I guess. You have your standard groups: the Steelworkers, United Food and Commercial Workers, CUPE/OPSEU, assorted teacher unions, and so on. You've got your contingents from the NDP and such; hell, I even shook Mayor Miller's hand this morning. But then you get some really obscure unions, and you realize there are a lot of jobs out there you had no idea could've existed, but are really important nonetheless.

Toronto even has a special place in Labour Day history. From Wikipedia:

The origins of Labour Day in Canada can be traced back to April 14, 1872 when a parade was staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union's strike for a 58-hour work-week. The Toronto Trades Assembly (TTA) called its 27 unions to demonstrate in support of the Typographical Union who had been on strike since March 25. George Brown, Canadian politician and editor of the Toronto Globe hit back at his striking employees, pressing police to charge the Typographical Union with "conspiracy." Although the laws criminalizing union activity were outdated and had already been abolished in Great Britain, they were still on books in Canada and police arrested 24 leaders of the Typographical Union. Labour leaders decided to call another similar demonstration on September 3 to protest the arrests. Seven unions marched in Ottawa, prompting a promise by Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald to repeal the "barbarous" anti-union laws. Parliament passed the Trade Union Act on June 14 the following year, and soon all unions were demanding a 54-hour work-week.

So, there you go, bitches — the Labour Day Parade, and why we have it.

You're welcome.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Summer, we hardly knew ye.

Did you know that "ye" was actually pronounced "thee," but the letter Y was just a short-form that printers used? I didn't, until I started reading my second Bill Bryson book on language, Made in America: An informal history of the English language in the United States. But I'm a nerd about things like that.

So, here we are. Three more days of slovenly slacking, and then it's back to the ol' 9-to-3:15-and-not-a-second-longer drag of teaching. Boy, I love how my work day always ends crisply at 3:15 in the afternoon. Makes me feel like a slacker sometimes! Hoo-boy, I should get me an evening job, so I don't feel all guilty and stuff.

I'm making sure my last few days of freedom are well-spent, though. For instance, for the better part of an hour, I've been going through the archives at Big Fat Whale, which is a treasure-trove of funny delights. He even makes fun of Canada! Oh, that nutty Brian McFadden.

I also took in Morgan Spurlock's second feature-length documentary, Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?. I enjoyed it, and learned some stuff about the World's Most Wanted Man in the process. But, I think the most interesting facet of this film was that he talked to average, everyday folks in a bunch of countries which only seem to get their craziest/most fanatical/prayingest people on the evening news. For instance, have you ever heard three random Saudi Arabian women talking about how they don't view their country's policies as oppressive? Agree with them or not, it's definitely not something you'd see routinely on ABNBCBSCNN. Another highlight was an exchange (through a translator) between Spurlock and some random old guy in a random city in Afghanistan:

SPURLOCK: "Do you know where Osama bin Laden is?"
OLD GUY: "Who's that?"
SPURLOCK: "He's the guy who flew the planes into the buildings in America."
OLD GUY: "Oh yeah. Fuck him, and fuck America."

Finally, I feel like I have to comment on Month 16 of the 2008 US Election Extravaganza Clusterfuckfest. Two things come to mind:
  1. Do you realize that, ensconsced entirely within just the twilight of the American election process, Canada could both (a.) start and (b.) finish their own federal election? It looks like Harper's gonna bring down Parliament next week and call for an October 14 election.* We'll vote, count, and still have about four weeks to spare before some random "battleground state" fucks up their hanging chads or their ritualistic disenfranchisement of poor black people or whatever they dream up this time.
  2. By announcing Sarah Palin, the hot, inexperienced yet scandal-ridden hockey-mom governor of Alaska, as his runningmate, John McCain very successfully stole the News Cycle away from Barack Obama's excellent speech which closed out the Democratic convention. Friday's news should have been all, "Hey, so, that Obama guy looks like he'd a make a pretty good president, eh?" — but instead it was all, "Holy hell, a broad for a runningmate? A Republican broad? Let's get the pundits on that!"
In conclusion, Libya is a land of contrasts. The end.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Piracy justified.

Tonight I bought a song on iTunes for the first time, and I hope it will be my last.

I came across this pretty cool song — Rentacrowd by a British trio called the Len Price 3 — and decided I'd buy it on iTunes. (Believe me, I looked for it in some not-so-legal places, but it's suitably obscure to not turn up on either the file-sharing network of your choice, the torrents, or my new favourite music source, Deezer.) Besides, what's 99 cents? Nothin', that's what.

Well.

Turns out the song that I paid for was delivered to me in a mysterious new (to me) format: a .m4p file. It also turns out that this is the dreaded "protected" music format, with the much-hated DRM anti-piracy encryption, which can only be played in iTunes, which I rarely, if ever, use. If I want digitized audio, I want an MP3, and that's final.

But alas, Apple, the company from which I bought this music, which I paid for with my own hard-earned money, decided to treat me like a criminal before I heard one single note of the song — again, which I paid for. With money. In a business transaction. Faciliated by my credit card.

* * * * * * * * *

Let's say I went to Moore's and bought myself a nifty shirt. I could do a lot with this shirt, now that I own it. I could lend this shirt to a shirtless friend, if they were (a.) in need of a shirt, and (b.) my size. Hell, I could even carefully slice open the seams, figure out the pattern, go buy my own fabric, and sew myself up some identical shirts. The point is, I paid for the shirt, and now it's mine.

I don't like my wrists covered up by shirt cuffs; it's one of my pet peeves. As such, I will usually roll up the ends of my sleeves, as I prefer my sleeves that way. Since I own the shirt, I can do whatever I wa—

WE SOLD YOU A LONG-SLEEVED SHIRT.
ROLLING UP THE SLEEVES VIOLATES
THE TERMS OF SERVICE OF THE SHIRT.

Dude... I paid for it. It's mine. I can have it any way—

IF YOU WANT SHORT SLEEVES,
BUY A SHORT-SLEEVED SHIRT.

Um, fuck off? I like this shirt, I paid for it, and I own it.

YOU WILL NEVER OWN IT.
WE ARE JUST NICE ENOUGH TO LET YOU
GIVE US MONEY FOR IT.
BUT YOU WILL WEAR IT THE WAY WE TELL YOU TO.

* * * * * * * * *

I think I've made my point with this little vignette. And, don't you worry, I managed to find a way around this stupid .m4p/DRM/copy-protected bullshit (there are always loopholes; if you can hear a sound on a computer, you can always re-record it the way you want). The moral of the story is, iTunes can eat a bag of dicks.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back to the grind (almost).

I've gone into the school for the past couple of days, getting stuff together for next Tuesday.

(Alright — I confess, the thing I've spent the most time on, in the past two days, is the wiring-up of my classroom for these bitchin' speakers we had sitting around in a back room, just collecting dust. These bastards are heavy, and when I tested them out today... hooo-boy, when I show those kids National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation as I do every year on the last day before the Christmas holidays, Clark W. Griswold's mad rant is gonna come through crystal-clear. "Hall-lay-lou-yah... holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?!")

When I walked down the hall towards my department's office yesterday morning, it felt like I'd been gone for about a long-weekend, even though I haven't set foot in that place in almost nine weeks. I get that feeling just about every year, actually... it always seems like I've never left.

A couple of people have asked me if I'm excited for the new school year starting up, and I honestly don't know how to answer them. I'm really not the type to get "excited" about too much stuff — as some will attest, I'm even-keeled, almost to a fault — but the thing I do look forward to, every year, is the chance to do my job well.

I get a lot of satisfaction out of teaching if I do it right, and with the classes I have lined up this year (one Grade 12 Physics and two Grade 10 Academic Science in the first semester; something similar for the second), I think there's a good chance that'll happen. I have some ideas about stuff I can do differently with the kiddies; I'm always a little nervous to try out a new activity, but if it works well, it's another little trick you can add to your bag of 'em.

And so it begins again: the annual rhythm of pennant races, the CNE, and loss-leader-priced lined paper at Canadian Tire. It's time to go back to school, so sharpen up those pencils.

(Unless you have the clicky kind.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A transcript.

Here's the conversation between the dog who belongs to my across-the-hall neighbour and the imaginary boogeyman he thinks he sees:

BOOGEYMAN: "Hi, dog."
DOG: "bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark!"
BOOGEYMAN: "Wow."
DOG: "bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark! bark!"
BOOGEYMAN: "Fuck this. I'm outta here. I feel sorry for the guy who lives across the hall from you."

I've been home from Chiago for about 70 minutes, and he's barked for no less than 55 of them.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Cubbies.

I took today to meander in and around Wrigleyville, the part of Chicago around Wrigley Field (where the Cubs play).

I wasn't wearing anything with the word "Cubs" on it, or a red "C" on a blue background, or something to that effect.

To say I looked out-of-place was an understatement.

I've never seen anything this rabid, this fervent in sports, ever. Everyone on the north side of Chicago appears to love the Cubbies with all their heart. Toronto might come close with the Leafs, but I think TO's overall cultural mix makes for a lot of people in the city that have never seen, played or know anything about hockey, other than the local team is called the Maple Leafs, and that it's played on ice.

This all just makes me that much more stoked to see the Cubs play on Thursday and Friday. (I even bought a hat so I would blend in a little better.)