Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Busy these days.

I haven't been writing much lately.

Ask for a god damn refund on your money, then!

...oh? What's that? You don't pay to read this? Then I would suggest you GET BENT.

Moving on.

Not including this week, there are six weeks left until my Freedom Sweet Freedom. (Precisely speaking, there's six weeks until the kiddies are in exams, but that's a breeze. For the next week or so I go in and clean-n'-prepare for September, but after that it's two solid months of "Spaghetti-O's and daytime TV," to quote Otto the Bus Driver.)

But, as is always the case, MayJune will be an extremely busy time, as the baseball team I co-coach will be playing at least one game per week, and I'm taking my Physics class to Canada's Wonderland to do experiments on the rides. Also, my niece turns 3, and my own slo-pitch team is starting its season (a bit early, perhaps).

Plus, I'm going to make more of an effort to get out-and-about in this here town, in the months to follow. Being a hermit is fun, to be sure, but there comes a point where you have to hit the town, have some beers, see some shows and meet some people.

I'm re-watching the very excellent High Fidelity at the moment, and like (I imagine) thousands of men who have also seen this flick, I can identify very strongly with John Cusack's character, Rob Gordon:
  1. We're both music nerds
  2. We're both hard-done-by on the romance side of life
  3. We think about things way too much
  4. We have nice apartments
  5. We make lists of five items
Mind you, I'm not quite as emotional or neurotic as Rob; then again, I'm not a fictional character in a movie. Either way, when you see a character in a film with whom you can identify, it's always at least a little bit satisfying to know you're not alone in your troubles/neuroses/afflictions/foibles.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Expert Iraq analysis.

I just had to share this.

Last night on the Daily Show, ex-US Marine, ex-Saturday Night Live Featured Performer and current DS correspondent Rob Riggle summarized the report from the US Government Accountability Office entitled "Combatting Terrorism: The United States Lacks Comprehensive Plan to Destroy the Terrorist Threat and Close the Safe Haven in Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas". (Apparently the GAO doesn't like brief titles.) Riggle summed up the report thusly:

Lemme just give you the Cliff Notes, okay? In 2001, there was a memo: Bin Laden Determined to Attack the United States from a Safe Haven in Afghanistan. And now, 700 billion dollars later, we get a new memo: Bin Laden Determined to Attack United States from a Safe Haven Around Afghanistan. We're right back where we started! We could've gotten here by doing nothing!

I knew it! I knew this motherfucker didn't know where he was going. I mean, all of us were in the back seat. America was just in the back seat, y'know, acting like, "Uh, I don't think this is the way to defeat al Qaeda." And he's like [flipping into a Dubya impersonation], "I know what I'm doin', heh-heh! I know a shortcut through I-raq! Everybody, c'mon now, just trust me, heh-heh!"

We're all like, "I don't know, maybe we should ask for directions, y'know. I'm pretty sure al Qaeda's the other way." And he's like, "Shut up! Shut up! What the hell! I'll dump your ass, goddammit! You're just like your mother! Get your hand off the radio dial!"

Bingo.

Things that occupy my thoughts.

I'd say the majority of what I think about, in order of overall time spent thinking (with a tie for second), goes like this:

1. Women
Mysterious, frustrating and maddening... yet they look great and smell even better.

2a. Music
Lisa Simpson talks to a violinist after her set at the Jazz Hole:
Lisa: "Great set!"
Violinist: "Oh, thanks! But the crowd kept looking at me like I was using too many augmented 9ths."
Lisa: "Ah, they just came for the buffalo wings."
I would have come for the augmented 9ths.

2b. Baseball
I play it, I watch it, I listen to it, and this year I even coach it; I hit pop-flies yesterday morning at 8:00 on a dewy soccer field to a dozen teenagers, and my legs still hurt like hell. Yet, I dig it.

4. Geeky Things
Unlike Riz, I try to keep this fairly well hidden.

5. Politics
Matt Taibbi and Hunter Thompson are my Dan Brown and... uh... whoever the hell else puts out novels. Does Harry Potter still write books? I don't keep track of these sorts of things.

6. Physics
Misinterpret quantum physics and I'll knock you the fuck out.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Doing things unconventionally.

A friend once said to me, "You're so frustrating. You just try to be different every chance you get." I think they may be on to something, and I'm not sure if it's necessarily good or bad. Let me explain.

Pretty much as far back as I can remember, I've always felt like I've seen the world a little differently than most other people. I could figure out the patterns, sort through the tricks, and determine the underlying logic behind things like arithmetic drills in math class, why I wasn't popular in Grade 1, and how to throw a baseball with my non-dominant hand without "throwing like a girl." Moreover, I couldn't figure out why other people (a.) couldn't, and (b.) wouldn't want to try to do the same thing... I mean, what else do people fill their brains' down-time with?

(That being said, I can go a good long time staring blankly off into space thinking about absolutely nothing, with the wind whistling in one ear and out the other.)

I remember trying to find new ways to do things in things like assignments at school, but end up with the same result that a more conventional approach — the moral would be, I suppose, that I'd have a better understanding for how something worked if I could arrive at the right conclusion by doing things in a weird way which made sense to me (if no one else) instead of the easier and more orthodox approach, and that would be satisfying.

The more I think about it, the more this applies to my life in general. A small sample:
  • I primarily run Linux and OS X instead of Windows XP/Vista/whatever they've got out now.
  • I live in a 60-year-old apartment building instead of a newfangled condo, which I could probably afford.
  • I don't own a cell phone.
  • I use perfect-pitch to tune my guitar (which I just assumed everyone had until I was well into my 20s) instead of a tuner.
  • I prefer popping popcorn on the stove in a pot rather than nuking a package in the microwave.
  • I was in an obscure program in university which allowed me to do my physics and education degrees at the same time.
  • I did a physics degree, for chrissakes.
  • I listen to independent and hard-to-find bands and artists instead of commercial radio.
  • I fix things instead of throwing them out and getting new replacements; I've had the same clock-radio since high school and it was held together for years on the inside with Scotch tape and rolled-up bits of paper (I'm not making this up).
...the list goes on.

Most of the time this works pretty well, and while it sometimes takes me a minute to explain what I've done and why, I think I do alright. Sometimes I think I must have extremely-low-grade Asperger Syndrome, to help explain the generalized quirkiness.

On occasion, these quirks can come back to bite me in the posterior; these tend to be at times where I try to find my own way around an obstacle, but in order to succeed I really do have to "play it straight" and follow the crowd, which I'm generally not accustomed to doing. As a result, it's really frustrating to know that you can do a lot of stuff, but just not this, because you can't do it your way, and you gotta fall in line.

That's kinda what I feel like these days. I feel like I have most of my shit together, things are clicking along just fine for the majority of my day... and then, when I'm alone with my thoughts, all that invades the crevices of my brain are the failures, driving me crazy.

Don't worry about me, though. I'll be fine. My troubles are trivial, in the grand scheme of things; compared with things like Darfur and the rising worldwide prices of grain crops and the Conservatives shuffling election money around like a bunch of mobsters, I'm a whiny little bitch.

An eventful day at the ol' ballyard.

I attended the Tigers/Jays game at SkyDome today (I was also at Friday's game), and it actually turned out to be quite a unique and eventful day. The highlights:

1. Catching a foul ball

Alright, so I didn't bare-hand a screaming line drive in spectacular fashion. But hey, when someone during batting practice clanks one off the seat in front of you, even though you weren't paying attention, and it gently lofts itself up and waits for you to pluck it out of the air, it still counts. (I ended up giving it to a kid.)

2. Chatting with Chuck

Because it's interim report card time down at the ol' schoolhouse, and since the J-man leaves his marking to the last minute, I brought a set of Grade 9 Science unit tests to the park. I was marking them as Tiger pitching coach Chuck Hernandez was strolling by on his way out to the Tiger bullpen before the game, and since I was in the front row down there in the corner, he could see that I was writing something, and he came over and asked what I was up to.

We talked for a couple of minutes, and he's actually a pretty funny, laid-back guy. Because this is the closest brush I've ever had with a member of an organization that I've followed since John Turner was Prime Minister, I jotted down a couple of conversation-snippets. And so, Dear Reader, a couple of snippets of My Conversation with a Tiger Pitching Coach.

JTL: So, was the basic idea with the bullpen [with the injuries to Joel Zumaya and Fernando Rodney] just to go with the guys you've got, and batten down the hatches until Joel and Fernando come back?
CH: That's pretty much it, exactly. You oughtta be the General Manager or something.

[as Tiger starting pitcher Nate Robertson plays catch near us with the height-challenged bullpen catcher]
JTL: Nate's making me a little nervous, throwing so close over here. But I guess he's a professional and can hit a target alright.
CH: Yeah, but the other guy's pretty short, so you never really know.
[not 30 seconds later, an errant throw bashes into some empty seats two rows up and a few seats over from me]

I didn't bother asking Chuck for his autograph, because I think autographs are stupid.* "Here, sign your name here so I can prove that I met you." What's the point? I'd much rather have a quick conversation with a person rather than getting an unintelligible scribble down on a piece of paper or a ball.

3. Sun + Open Dome + JTL - Sunscreen = Ouch

I think this is pretty self-explanatory.

So yeah, there's my day. I also got a ton of marking done (although I stopped during the game at the 4th inning), filled out most of my report-card stuff, and experimented with rosemary turkey-thighs (which I unfortunately overcooked a tad). Add that to my successful 20-minute DJ set last night, composed almost entirely of obscure soul and funk music from the late '60s/early '70s, and I think I can justifiably call this weekend "productive."

___________________________
* I also think encores by rock bands are stupid. Just play your goddamn music and get off the stage. Lay off the ego-stroking ovation for once, you friggin' attention-whores.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

A piece of advice.

You may think buying a box of chocolate-chip granola bars for $1.00 at Dollarama is a good deal, but they'll probably taste like shit, so don't bother.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

That's more like it.

See? I hold the fate of a Major League Baseball team in my two own pasty hands.

DATELINE: SUNDAY

Tigers lose miserably, 11-0. JTL rants about their ineptitude. (Tiger manager Jim Leyland may have also called out their generalized pussitude thus far this season; reports are sketchy.)

DATELINE: MONDAY'S GAME, 5TH INNING

JTL takes a break from being tag-teamed by Brazilian bikini-supermodels to check the score of the Tiger game.

JTL: "Hold on, ladies... gimme a sec."
[clickity-click-click]
JTL: "Goddammit! They're losing again! Looks like we're going to need the extra set of rubber sheets, ladies — whadda ya think?"
Esperanza: "Não conte com os ovos antes de a galinha botar."
Esmeralda: "Curta que a vida é curta."
JTL: "Wow. I actually don't know any Portuguese."

DATELINE: MONDAY'S GAME, 9TH INNING

JTL cringes as he checks the score... to see the Tigers have come back to take the lead (and eventually win). JTL takes all the credit. Esperanza and Esmeralda continue to prepare the Sex Hammock.

DATELINE: TUESDAY EVENING

Sensing a change in the breeze, JTL actually believes the Tigers can win. What happens? THE TIGERS MOTHERFUCKIN' WIN. AGAIN.

DATELINE: WEDNESDAY, 12:45 PM

Now irritatingly cocky, JTL tells his third-period Physics class that, like Archduke Ferdinand, no man can stop the Detroit Tigers. One eager student points out that the Archduke was actually assassinated, triggering World War I. JTL points out that he alone determines the student's mark.

DATELINE: WEDNESDAY, 12:46 PM

Student retracts statement regarding Archduke Ferdinand; suggests his "history-learnin' probly wasn't none too good."

DATELINE: WEDNESDAY'S GAME, 5TH INNING

Tigers are in the midst of clobbering Cleveland, 9-1 (after a grand slam by Edgar Renteria), and a comedic enterprise turns tired and laborious.

The moral of the story is this: The Tigers are back, baby.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

It's bad.

It's real bad. Paper-bag-on-the-head-with-holes-cut-out-for-eyes bad.

Today, for instance, the White Sox thumped not one, but two grand slams against the Tigers on their way to kicking their asses, 11-0. But hey, don't just take one day's worth of evidence; take 12 games, of which the Tigers have lost 10:

Category  Tigers  AL Avg   AL Rank     11th-Place Team
---------------------------------------------------------
ERA 5.94 4.04 12th (last) Cleveland (4.74)
Avg .235 .254 12th (last) Oakland (.239)

Yup. It's just that awful.

The question is this: Why is this Tiger team so laden with stars, which looked to dominate the entire American League, so shitty?

I think I have the answer: Because so many of them have guaranteed contracts for fat fucking salaries. Think about it... you already know you're getting several million dollars for the next several years. Why bother putting in the extra effort? It's like when Steve Martin hosted SNL and observed that, because the scripts were on cue cards, memorizing lines was pointless.

Ugh.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

This is a wonderful example.

That is to say,

THIS IS A WONDERFUL EXAMPLE
OF HOW BADLY
MAINSTREAM "ROCK" MUSIC
SUCKS GIGANTIC
DONKEY COCK


Earlier this week, in one of the classrooms in which I teach, a kid in another class had publicly professed their love, in three-inch chalk letters on the side blackboard, for some band called "Tokio Hotel."

Today, whilst perusing the latest Rolling Stone and the music charts contained therein, a song by that band, called "Ready, Set, Go!" appeared at #1 of the MTV Top Five Videos chart.

Because MuchMusic plays music that blows (when they put their 23-hour-a-day O.C. marathon on hold), and MTV was the inspiration for MuchMusic, it logically follows that videos played on MTV are terrible as well, and thus, a video which is the current favourite of MTV must be firmly entrenched at the summit of Suck Mountain.

Listen for yourself.

This song is the Perfect Storm of what's wrong with what passes for "rock" music these days. Whiny vocals, guy-liner, auto-tuned harmonies, and barely a shred of competence on their instruments. But hey, they wear black clothing! They're full of suburban angst! OMG OMG COOL HAIR OMG WTF BBQ

In conclusion, I will be listening to my newly-acquired Replacements album, Let It Be. Try this little experiment: play a clip of that song by Tokio Hotel, and then play a clip from "Favorite Thing" by the Replacements, for contrast's sake. If you do, you'll never listen to 102.1 "The Edge" again in your life.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

This is why I love Canada.

The Toronto Blue Jays, in an attempt to draw more people to early-season games (which aren't usually too well-attended), made all their upper-deck tickets $2, in an promotion that everyone is calling "Toonie Tuesday."

Whoops! Guess what happened when a bunch of people got into a game they probably didn't care about, and had a little more jingle-in-the-pocket for beer:

Blue Jays may scrap $2 ticket promotion if unruly fans continue to fight

TORONTO — The Toronto Blue Jays may scrap their $2 Tuesdays ticket promotion after ugly brawls erupted in the stands during the discount night's season debut.

Team president Paul Godfrey watched the fights from his private box during Tuesday's 9-8 loss to Oakland and decided immediately that alcohol sales would be barred from the $2 sections for the three remaining promo dates this season: May 6 versus Tampa Bay, May 20 versus the Angels, and June 10 versus Seattle.

If trouble continues despite the ban, the program won't return in 2009.

"We're not going to tolerate that kind of behaviour," Godfrey said before Wednesday's contest. "You don't associate that with Toronto and you don't associate that with this ball park. It's not going to continue."

There were also several melees in the stands during Friday night's home opener against Boston, video of which has found its way on to YouTube. About 100 fans were ejected that night and another 100 fans were tossed Tuesday.

Both times the trouble was in the upper 500 level of the Rogers Centre and was "alcohol related" according to Godfrey.

"It's really unfortunate some fans feel like it's a night club here," he said. "The few can always ruin it for the majority."

If I can, I'm going to go to the next one, just to see how much booze people can sneak in and how drunk they can get off it. Should be fantastic.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Thank god.

My co-workers have been ribbing me about it.

My students make fun of me for it.

Half of the baseball team I coach has reminded me about it.

Oh, those Detroit Tigers... huge payroll, big names, monumental expectations this season. Losers of seven in a row to start the season — the only remaining winless team in the Major Leagues.

...no more! Tigers 7, Red Sox 2. Todd Jones tried to make things interesting by loading the bases in the ninth, but ended up coaxing a short fly ball out of Kevin Youkilis to end the misery.

Now, if only they could've done this on Saturday when I paid good money to watch them in person.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

I'm still here, bitches.

You think April could honestly kill a guy like me?

Think again, shit-for-brains.

Things have been pretty busy around this here neck o' the woods, though. I spent this past weekend hangin' with the fam (and attending a Tiger game), the school's baseball team is starting up (of which I'm one of the coaches), and the domestication of the dog has continued (on more of a global scale, really, as I do not own a pet).

One thing that baseball practices have taught me is that I'm getting old. I mean, sure, I spent last Wednesday afternoon popping up and down from a catcher's squatting stance, which is normally pretty hard on the body, but HOLY HELL did I hurt for two days afterward. Today before school I threw about 70 pitches' worth of batting practice to a few kids; I expect my right arm to turn black and fall off by the morning.

* * * * * * * * *

As my brother and I — possibly the two whitest people on the planet — were on our way back from the Tiger game to our parents' house near Sarnia, we stopped off at a mall on the east side of Detroit to pick up a few things at my new favourite store.

I live in Toronto, which is extremely multicultural; if you walk around the Eaton Centre, you're bound to see people of every imaginable ethnocultural group, and I'm used to that. But in Eastland Center near 8 Mile (yes, that one) and I-94, every other person in the entire mall was Black.

I'm not saying I felt uncomfortable, because I honestly didn't. But it certainly was a weird experience, being the only one of, well, anything in a place. (Heck, even the mall in Sarnia has some ethnic diversity goin' on these days.) I recounted this tale to 50% of my "close Black friend" population, and she suggested that, well, the US is really a whole lot better at ghettoization than we are.

I think she's on to something. Take any part of the GTA — Leaside, Jane-Finch, Brampton — and you're going to have one fairly-dominant group in each of them, by-and-large. But by no means is Leaside exclusively white, or Jane-Finch exclusively Black, or Brampton exclusively Indian. I'd say each of these places was more stratified along socio-economic lines, with certain tendencies towards one group or another. From what I've seen of Detroit, and various other parts of the US, things are a little more black-and-white (pun intended?).

I'm not sure why that would be, but hey, I'm no sociologist.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Mother Nature: Cocktease.

I can't believe I used to stick up for Old Man Winter.

I must have been crazy.

Snow every two or three goddamn days from the MIDDLE OF JANUARY until APRIL FUCKING FOOL'S DAY.

Walked outside this morning. Twelve degrees, warm breeze blowing.

Spring? In the air.

Winter? In the ground. Cold and dead.

So, on the way home from yet another successful WingNite™, what did I spy with my little eye? And my face? And any other exposed skin?

Snow. Blown at 52 km/h, gusting to 71 km/h (according to Environment Canada).

In conclusion:

That's it, Winter. I've stuck up for you a lot of times the past few months, with lines like the following:
  • "Hey, c'mon, it's Canada and it's January. It's gonna be a little nippy."
  • "Hey, c'mon, it's Canada and it's February. What, you too much of a fag to shovel a little snow?"
  • "Hey, c'mon, it's Canada and it's March. Quit acting like you've never lost four fingertips to frostbite."
I have tickets for a baseball game in less than four days, in Detroit. The bastards on the radio say it's going to be 10°C on Saturday in Toronto (which is about "average," whatever the fuck that means anymore); add a few degrees for southeast Michigan.

I swear to Don Knotts, if it snows on Saturday, I'm gonna ram some airplanes into some large buildings.