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.