Sunday, December 27, 2009

A few choice snippets.

The whole article is here, but this could give you a bit of an idea about why I couldn't get out of Toronto today, to Boston, en route to Iceland:

"It's absolute bedlam in here. And in true Canadian fashion, no one is coming and telling you what's going on, whose doing what, what your expectations are. We're going to go home and drive. We'll take our chances that way."

. . .

"It's not a good scene here. We've moved forward eight feet in 45 minutes. The line is winding around - it's almost the length of the terminal."

. . .

"U.S. customs should take a more reasonable approach to security."

. . .

It seems to be a great deal of overkill, Allan Bowditch said, adding he hasn't seen anything like it in 40 years of flying. "I think everybody appreciates there needs to be extra security, but not to the point where you grind the whole system to paralysis."

. . .

Trish Kale, a spokesperson for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority said Sunday that there were significant delays, mostly for passengers flying to the U.S.

"It would help if passengers were familiar with the new regulations," she said, referring to passengers who are allowed to bring only one carry-on baggage instead of the previous two bags. "We have some delays because passengers come to the airport and they don't know that so then they're shuffling things around."
[I really doubt "shuffling things around" trumps "everyone gets searched twice," "everyone's carry-ons get hand-searched," and "everyone gets frisked." Those seem to be a little more onerous and bedlam-inducing than "shuffling." —jtl]

. . .

Kale said the GTAA was not responsible for flight cancellations, and would not say if the cancellations were due to the newly enforced security measures.
[Of course she wouldn't say. Why would she? Someone or something is clearly to blame here; maybe she thought it was so clear, she wouldn't bother to state the obvious. —jtl]

. . .

Tyler, who was waiting in the customs line at the airport said Air Canada officials announced that 20 flights had been cancelled, although no reason had been given. Flights leaving for Houston, Pittsburg, Newark, New York, Washington, Chicago, Boston and Nashville amongst others has been cancelled.

She said officials told passengers from the cancelled flights to go home and rebook their flights online. [This is correct; we were given 1-800 numbers to call, and I can now rhyme-off American Airlines' number like my own.]

Air Canada could not be reached for comment.

. . .

So, there you have it: an unprecedented travel clusterfuck at Pearson cock-blocks my trip to the land of Björk and putrefied shark meat.


You're gonna love this.

"Hey J," you ask, "It's almost 6 pm on the 27th. Shouldn't you be on your way to Reykjavik?"

Yes, I should.

But, I'm not. And here's why.

On the day of the birth of Our Lord and Saviour, some asshole over Detroit tried to turn himself into a Roman Candle. This means tons of flights into the US in the subsequent days — including mine into Boston, which went on to Reykjavik — got delayed because of the extra pat-downs, frisking, and what I can only imagine (hope?) are incredibly invasive cavity-searches.

I got to Pearson Airport here in Our Home on Native Land, and the first thing to greet me (other than gigantic lineups) was a sign saying my flight to Boston was cancelled.

I waited in a line for an hour, only to be told that I was in the wrong line.

I waited in another line for over an hour, only to be told that the next available flight out of Toronto to Boston would be TUESDAY. That means I would get to Reykjavik on WEDNESDAY, so I could leave on Friday and return Saturday.

Brilliant Idea Alert: I'll man-up, drive to Boston myself, and fly out of there tomorrow to Reykjavik. All I have to do is call up Icelandair and see if it's possible to flip to tomorrow's flight.

Brilliant Idea Possibly Shot Down: Icelandair's North American phone hours are, get this, 9-5 on Monday-Friday, and on Sundays you can only call from 9 to 11 in the morning.


If you run an airline that only has flights on, say, Tuesdays, I can see how you could have such hours. Or, maybe if you only carry passengers named Matilda, or Rutger, or perchance Aftab. But hey, jerkwads, you run those things every day, all over the world, and we all pay a pretty penny for them, too. The least you thumbdicks could do is put Old Aunt Hagrid on the phones on a Sunday afternoon — when all hell is breaking loose on our side of the pond, too — to make sure people can get where THEY PAID TOP DOLLAR TO GO.

So, now I'm not sure what to do. I called up Expedia, and they said to call the airlines. I called American, who cancelled my first flight to commence the clusterfuck, and the person on the other end was so awful, I actually wrote "TITS ON A BULL" under the "American Airlines" section of my game-plan for today. I called up Icelandair, and you know how that turned out.

There is actually a significant chance that I will not be able to get to Reykjavik.

Rage level... rising.

ECB, want to have an extra New Year's guest in Chicago?

* * * * * * * * * * *

UPDATE: As far as I can tell, my trip is completely kaput. I'm going to try to get refunds from Expedia and/or the airlines involved.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Airport security.

Let's recap, shall we?

9/11: All hell breaks loose, of course.
Result: All planes are grounded for a few days, and a generalized assault on civil liberties begins.

Later that year: Some nutjob named Richard Reid attempts to light his shoes on fire.
Result: Now you have to take your shoes off and put them through the scanner when you try to get on a flying machine.

August '06: Someone was going to blow up a plane using liquid smuggled on-board.
Result: No carry-on liquids or gels over 100 mL, and even those you have to put in a separate Ziploc bag. This blogger suspects a conspiracy hatched by the US government, the Ziploc Corporation of America and, of course, the Illuminati.

Yesterday: Allegedly, some moron from Nigeria tried to light a powder on fire as his plane was getting readly to land in Detroit.
Result: Nobody's really sure how this one is going to turn out but, in the meantime, anyone boarding any flight going from Canada to the US is going to be searched. Twice. Reports today suggest that flights to the US could be delayed up to 2 hours while all this extra screening is going on, which is really handy if you're flying to (or through) the US, which I am, tomorrow, on what is already the busiest travel day of Pearson Airport's year. Reports also suggest that nobody will be allowed to leave their seat when the plane is less than one hour away from landing, lest they want to pull this sort of chicainery as the plane is landing (as if that's any better than any other part of a flight).

Part of the problem is that, aside from the whole liquids/gels thing, all of this stuff is reactionary rather than, well, "actionary." Do you honestly think that, today, someone is going to try to hijack a plane with a box cutter, smuggle something in their shoes, or haul a two-litre bottle of liquid explosives in their carry-on? (The last and latest one is too vague to nail to the wall, which is why there's just a generalized increase in confusion about what to do.)

Three things strike me as particularly vexing.

1. Only Israel, a country whose enemies routinely talk about wiping off the map, has the level of airport security that we have. Also, Israel is pretty crazy (and possibly not-entirely-in-the-right itself when it comes to international relations, I'm just sayin', is all).

2. Enough, al Qaeda. You don't like us. We get it. Let us live our heathen lives and burn for an eternity in hell while you nail virgin poontang forever in heaven, or something like that. (Personally, I like a woman with a little experience in the sack.)

3. Why does this shit have to happen the day before I get on one of these pressurized flying tubes, anyway? Seriously, asshole, it's the holidays — chill out now and bomb something in February or April or maybe November Sweeps, if you're feeling plucky. In the meantime, pass the Yule Log, go get some Boxing Day deals, and stop trying to ruin my impending vacation.

Monday, December 21, 2009

A few Christmas-shopping observations.

That's right, bitchayz — I'm done like dinnah. All that's left is the wrapping (and the rapping).

Here are some handy pointers I have gleaned from this year's Mad Season:
  • Bayview Village is a good place to shop if you're a rich old lady who likes buying expensive clothes and purses.
  • Bayview Village is a bad place to shop if you require the services of a parking space.
  • Bayview Village is a bad place to shop if you like to actually exit the parking lot.
  • Bayview Village is a bad place to shop.
  • There are some good deals on at Mark's Work Wearhouse, especially if you have a dad that wears a lot of flannel.
  • Hey, did you know that a few of the kids are wearing flannel again? It feels like Seattle, 1989 around here.
  • Ikea in North York is full of Asians.
  • . . .
  • I'm not racist, really I'm not. I'm just observing.
  • . . .
  • C'mon now, don't say that. That's ridiculous.
  • . . .
  • Oh yeah? Well, you can just go fly a kite, you racist sack of...
  • . . .
  • I did not say that about Michelle Obama!
Anyway, the moral of the story is that Christmastime is the most magical time of the year, or some shit like that. I saw Clark W. Griswold rant last night on the CBC, thus my holiday season is complete; the rest is just icing on the cake, as far as I'm concerned.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

A steaming, barren rock in the North Atlantic.

Q: What better place is there to spend New Year's than Reykjavík?

A: Just about everywhere.

But hey, I've never been there before, and you only live once, right? Shit, a few years ago I spent New Year's in Thunder Bay, and that's a hell of a lot colder than either Toronto or Reykjavík.

When the calendar flips over to 2010, I'll be sippin' the Brennivín with such notable Icelanders as:

Renowned musician/actor/weirdo Björk!

Hazy-post-rock superstars Sigur Rós!

Ultra-strongman Magnús Ver Magnússon!

Olympic bronze medal-winning pole-vaulter Vala Flosadóttir!

Random smokin'-hot pale-eyed and pale-haired Nordic beauties! And,

The statue of Leif Ericson!

Yeah, it's gonna be a great time. And yeah, it took me forever to figure out how to put all the squiggly and dotty bits on all those letters. Fuck I hate Iceland.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

This is really, really stupid.

But, it's really really funny.

It'll make you dumber, but I guess that's kind-of the point. Start at the start for maximum stupidity.

(Tip o' the hat: Eve)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bands That Suck #1.

Whilst driving home from my late-ass union meeting today, CBC had on an interview which wasn't particularly interesting and Q107 was playing a song by Boston (sorry, ECB, all their songs sounded pretty much the same), so I flipped over to CFNY/The Edge, and was inspired to create a feature on this here blog-o-ma-thing over here.

Bands That Suck #1:

AFI (which stands for "A Fire Inside," proving that while they do indeed suck, they are at least efficient) has been around since 1991, proving that you can indeed teach an old dog new ways to suck. Witness this early track from 1996 when they were cheeky and punky:

Frankly, I was stunned when I heard this song — it's not a song I would necessarily choose to listen to, but, holy crap is it different from what they do today.

The song I heard tonight, "Medicate," is pretty representative of what's wrong with mainstream alt-rock these days. Listen at your own risk.

This isn't the official video for the song, but you get the point. Consider this lyric-snippet:

Can you describe what it's like?
I feel nothing
Can you feel this?
Does it sting?
I feel nothing at all
I feel nothing at all
I feel nothing at all
(Can you tell me how it feels?)
I feel nothing at all
(As we pretend this is real)
I feel nothing

Who wrote this crap? A 15-year-old girl who wears black nailpolish, listens to the Smiths, and occasionally cuts herself? It's not like these guys are woe-is-me angsty teens — their lead singer is 34!

In conclusion, we're all doomed, and only Rik Emmett's impossibly tight pants can save us.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

See if this makes any sense to you.

Ah, plane ticket prices: you make no sense. Check this shizz out.

I might be going to Iceland over the Xmas holidays — not the sunniest of destinations to be sure, but I've heard Reykjavik is a pretty cool place (and I'll be meeting up with the inimitable Matt, who's in Moscow these days). Now, there are no direct flights from Toronto to Reykjavik these days; you have to go through Boston, which isn't too crazy (it's not like you have to connect through, say, Miami or anything).

Going out is no big deal — sure, there's a red-eye on the way there, but you get that day back — but coming back, the flight comes into Boston at about 6pm and, oddly, there aren't any more flights back to Toronto that day. I can think of worse places to spend a night than Boston (Flint, Michigan being one of them; I may be doing that in March).

And now, the prices.

Toronto-Boston-Reykjavik out,
Reykjavik-Boston-Toronto back: $1388

Toronto-Boston-Reykjavik out,
Reykjavik-Boston back: $1726

One less flight, $338 more. What the hell is going on here? Could someone please explain this to me? Is Salvador Dali in charge of this or something?

Generalized malaise.


I'm falling into a shitty pattern lately.

I get up and go to work. I get there shortly after eight in the morning. A nine-hour-long tornado hits me, I come to my senses around 5:30, and I schlep myself home. Sometimes I have a meeting or other assorted work-based engagement, so it could be later. I groggily make dinner, waste a few hours, then go to bed. Lather, rinse, repeat five times a week, for 40-ish weeks.

There's not a whole lot I can do about my workday — it's my job, I love it, and I'm not looking to change it — but outside that, I can't help but feel a little dazed and lost. I live in the Centre Of The Universe, so there's a lot of stuff to do, bands to see, booze to drink, and good times to be had. But, as long as your plans don't include showing up at a random bar and getting sloshed solo (which is a little sad if you're most people, me included), you need a runnin'-crew.

Current status of the J-man's Runnin'-Crew (names have been changed to minor Seinfeld characters to protect the lame):
  • Bob Sacamano: quasi-married, with 2-year-old
  • Franklin Delano Romanowski: gone to Chicago for the next little while
  • Lomez: a good kid, but in Ottawa every other weekend
  • Art Vandelay: out in the sticks, with no car
  • H.E. Pennypacker: out in the further-out sticks, but with a crappy car
Add to this the fact that I'm getting semi-dicked-around by a broad (and not in a good way), and presto, there's your malaise.

Should I start doing coke or something? I'm scared to death of it, but it seems to make people pretty jubilant. Maybe I'll dissolve it in battery acid and inject it straight into my naughty-bits, just for fun. Just an idea.

Ok, so, bye for now.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Kirk Cameron gets his ass kicked.

Verbally, I mean — and not to his face or anything, but still sweet enough.

Tip o' the hat: confirmed Theist, possible quasi-Christian, newly-minted-Muscovite, Matt Hubert.

Also: one of my all-time favourite local indie rock artists, Mandy Mintz, and her new-ish collaboration, Mandeverest, are going to be playing a show at the Silver Dollar (Spadina just north of College) on Saturday night. I'll be there, and I hope you'll be there too, whoever you may be, unless you're that sentient blob that haunts my dreams, in which case you can just go to that dickish Richmond Street club called Circa, whoops, I think the owners are going bankrupt, oh shucks, I guess d-bags have to find somewhere else to slip roofies into drinks.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

For a funky good time, press play.

Nevermind they're as white as I am (mostly) — these cats can lay it down.

"Breakin' The Chains Of Love" by Fitz and the Tantrums. Expect to hear this at midnight at the next Everyone's a DJ, on December 12 (the second anniversary show).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Get your ass to Lee's Palace.

Friday, December 18
Lee's Palace


Santa on Viagra!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Oh, that's bad.

Flipping around the radio dial on my way home tonight, I happened upon HTZ-FM (97.7, from St. Catharines; they're alright sometimes). Seems as if they like playing songs from the new Our Lady Peace album.

I did not know Our Lady Peace had a new album.

Turns out, they do.

In case you haven't heard it yet — or, heard the first single from it, cringe-inducingly-titled* "All You Did Was Save My Life" — imagine this:
  • Raine Maida's, ahem, "unique" voice
  • even-more-emo lyrics
  • suburban-emo-pop vocal harmonies and guitar "licks"
It truly is a marriage made in hell, this fusing of Raine's voice and the sort of music you get from bands like Fall Out Boy. Can you imagine that? Raine Maida fronting Fall Out Boy? If you can't, get Our Lady Peace's new album. It's ear-stabblingly good.
* My old CFRC co-host and I used to look at new CDs we'd never heard before and, solely based on the band's name, the album's name and the track names, we'd guess what the music sounded like. Nine times out of ten, we were bang-on.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A word of advice.

I shared this with frequent blog-commentor ECB, but I think it warrants repeating.

I bought a bag of rice chips from Dollarama, labelled "salt and vinegar." They taste pretty much like you'd expect salt-and-vinegar rice chips to taste like... but they actually smell quite strongly of something ressembling latex paint.

So, take my advice: unless it's a chocolate bar or a soft drink, don't eat things you buy at Dollarama.

* * * * * * *

Special Bonus Thing: The Chinese government is a bunch of cocks.

* * * * * * *

Another Special Bonus Thing: George Strombolopoulos, host of The Hour, wearer of black clothing and all-around cool guy, used to have a syndicated show on the Corus Radio Network on Sundays from maybe 5-ish to 7-ish pm. But, seeing as how Corus (the owner of CFNY and others) didn't give two shits when his friend Martin Streek tragically took his own life earlier this year, Strombo ditched Corus, and he has a new show on CBC Radio 2 on Sunday evenings from 8 to midnight! Unfortunately the last two hours conflicts with Little Steven's Underground Garage here in Toronto on Q107 (which is as awesome as a radio show could be); looks like I'll listen to George live and stream Steven later in the week. Deets here.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Fun with rental-car companies.

The fourth annual "JTL Florida March Break Baseballfest Bonanza" needs a sweet set of wheels to hopscotch around the Sunshine State, so I decided to call up a rental car company which shall remain nameless (but I will tell you that their colours are the same as a bumblebee's).

Me: "Yeah, so, I was wondering if there's an extra charge to drop off a car at a different airport than I pick it up at."

Agent: "Well, there is no charge for an inter-city rental, but there is a charge for a one-way rental."

Me: (don't really catch the gist the true idiocy of what she said and proceed to give details about the days and cities I require for said rental)

Agent: (quotes me an astronomically-high price)

Me: "Whoa, that's really high. I thought there was no extra charge for an inter-city rental."

Agent: "That's correct, sir. But there is a charge for a one-way rental."

Me: "But, aren't inter-city rentals, by definition, one-way rentals?"

Agent: "That is correct, sir."

Me: (struck speechless by the stupidity on the other end of the phone)

In conclusion, the show "Community" is really, really funny.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

One-Sentence Random Thought #11.

I wonder how flammable my marking-pile is.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Berlin Wall follies.

Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall was danced-upon by East and West Berliners. (And yes, I remember that night.)

(You see, kids, there used to be this thing called "communism." Barack Obama is trying to bring it back, though. Godspeed, Comrade Obama!)

You'd think Mikhail Gorbachev would be an interesting person to ask about the Berlin Wall, and you'd be right. The CBC just had an interview with him, which contained this tasty (if paraphrased) nugget of insight into late-1980s geopolitics:

Interviewer: "In 1987, US president Ronald Reagan said, 'Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.' What was your reaction to that at the time?"

Gorbachev: "It didn't mean anything to us, really. It was nothing new. And, after all, he had been an actor."

Take that, Ghost of Ronald Reagan! You didn't do shit! (Plus, your movies were terrible.)

Stop the "Stop the TV Tax" commercials.

First off, it's not a tax.

Secondly, don't you want to slap that little d-bag who accosted those "random passers-by" on the street?

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, I hate cable companies, because they screw people over for fun and profit. I'll give you an example.

For years, I subscribed to the "basic cable plus a few extra channels" package — you know the deal, I get Discovery and Comedy and the rest, but not the fancy-pants movie networks — and didn't mind paying a few extra bucks. But, I started to think about how little TV I watch, and how most of what I watch can either be found on a free over-the-air channel (e.g. Stewart/Colbert on CTV instead of Comedy) or on basic cable (CBC Newsworld, CP24 and its assorted sexy personalities (seriously, CityTV must be reading my mind these days), and of course CPAC), and... well, it didn't make much sense anymore to pay for all those extra channels when, at most, I'd watch two or three.

And now, the kicker. A friend of my parents, who lives out in the suburbs of Calgary, told me that their cable provider lets them subscribe, if they want, to the other out-of-area Rogers Sportsnet channels for $5 a month. (I live in the Ontario region; there are also East, West and Pacific channels as well.) This confirms something I'd suspected all along: cable companies can let you have single channels, but they would rather make you pay for shit you would never watch, call it a "package," and rake in the bucks.

Meanwhile, of course, local TV stations in Brandon, Red Deer, Wingham and (almost) Windsor have shut down because they don't have enough revenue coming in. Now, as uneventful and uninteresting as a small-city TV news broadcast might seem to some of you city-slickers, this sort of thing is important if you're in Brandon and all you can now get is news from Winnipeg; same goes for Red Deer and either Edmonton or Calgary.

What the annoying d-bag in the commercials doesn't talk about is how smaller cities can easily get overlooked if they don't have a local voice telling the stories that matter to them. As much as I always thought the local-yokel Sarnia radio station news was boring... well, maybe there was a reason my parents would always listen to it. Mind you, we also watched the evening news from Detroit (where single-murders rarely got a mention; triple-murders on the east side of town seemed to really get top billing), so we got a mix. But, if you live in a more remote community, and you don't have a local TV or radio station, how are you going to hear about stuff happening around you? You won't.

Oh, and we didn't have cable growing up — not because my parents were cheap or anything, but we were in such a small town that cable just wasn't available. If it wasn't for the TV stations in London and Kitchener, we would've only had Detroit and Toronto.

Anyway, the point of all this is that local TV does matter. You may not realize it if you've always lived in a big city, but if you don't, it does. Stop the Stop the TV "Tax" people, and fuck Ted Rogers.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

I wish I had more to tell you.

I think the title of this post pretty much says it all.

The lack of any sort of day off in the stretch between Thanksgiving and the Christmas holidays has really been playing tricks on my mind lately. The reason this all seems ridiculous to me is because, well, I'm usually pretty resilient when it comes to my mood.

Hours of daylight getting shorter? Who cares!
Clouds aplenty instead of sun? Big deal!
H1N1 killing tens of millions worldwide? No sweat!*
* except the sweat from the fever that eventually turns you into a useless, wasted bowl of jelly

I realize that nine straight 5-day weeks in a row with nothing in the middle to break it up is pretty routine in a lot of jobs; people work some pretty crappy gigs, to be sure, and the fact that I really love my job puts me squarely in the minority — as a straight white male of pseudo-quasi-Christian-ish-y background, hey, there's a first time for everything. But what my job has that others lack is an absolute, down-to-the-second rigidity in terms of time and schedule. It just isn't flexible at all, and there's no getting around that; part of the gig, though.

A friend of mine was regaling a few of us around the dinner table last week about a recent company outing to the U2 concert at the SkyDome a few weeks ago... limos to the show, booze everywhere, kickass corporate tickets, and the next day everyone rolled in around noon. As a member of the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan, and hence part of the group who is the majority owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs (unfortunately), I think it's high time we got a similar kickback:
  • every year, all the teachers in one school get shipped to a Leafs game
  • we get rinkside seats and free booze
  • we get drunk as skunks, get boorish, and maybe get ourselves thrown out of the joint
  • we go out for more drinks afterwards to really get the ol' team-building thing down pat
  • we fall into bed nice and late
  • classes start at 1 the next day!
Ooooooh, I think I'm on to something here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good riddance.

Well, apparently the National Post is one day away from going tits-up. It's lost money from day one, and since CanWest is on shaky financial ground already, it's time for Izzy Asper's Dream Paper to go the way of the dodo.

Back when I was an undergraduate at UW and the Post was new, they would dump off stacks and stacks of these papers for us to read — and, presumably, once we graduated and got real jobs with real money, we'd subscribe to this newspaper we all got hooked on reading.

The first thing that jumped out at me, though, was the stupefyingly large number of spelling and grammatical mistakes; I figured that if I, a lowly physics student, could pick out grammatical mistakes in an ostensibly professional publication, what kind of quality could the thing be? Mind you, this was before I got interested in politics and the like, and didn't realize that the Post had a rightward slant that would make Ayn Rand blush.

So, in summary, the Post is (was?) a shitty right-wing rag, and I'm not the least bit sad to see it go. Guess you'll have to find a new mouthpiece, Fraser Institute!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Selling out.

I don't use the above epithet too often when describing an artist; after all, if you're a professional artist, isn't it better to sell your work (paintings, music, poetry, sculpture) than to not sell it?

However, when an artist clearly alters what they do for the specific purpose of selling more of their work, that is a clear example of selling out. Consider Nathan Followill, drummer from Kings of Leon, in response to their song "Use Somebody," from their latest (and most commercially-successful) album, Only by the Night, hitting Number One on pop radio:

Some people say we sold out, some people say we're taking the easy road. We don't get caught up in that. We're more interested in gaining new fans.

What an interesting quote: Followill doesn't deny actively changing the band's sound (as opposed to letting it evolve naturally). But hey, when your first album (Youth and Young Manhood) is somewhat critically-acknowledged, and your second album (Aha Shake Heartbreak) gave those same critics boners and sold just enough to give you a little taste of the good life (women, booze, fame)... it's hard not to want to shift into a different gear — now that the critics know who you are and are salivating in anticipation of your next release, you're going to get a lot of press — so why not rake in a lot more bucks by appealing to the masses?

Problem is, they did so by actively changing the type of music they play. Aha was a fantasic record precisely because it didn't buy into all those mainstream verse-chorus-verse conventions; whenever I listen to it, I can't help but be reminded of Songs from Big Pink, which is as offbeat an album as you'd ever get from a group which was within spitting-distance of mainstream success. Their next album, Because of the Times, sounded very different and received an extremely mixed critical reaction: some called it mature, some called it misogynist, and others plain-ol' didn't know what to think. At any rate, it sold a lot of copies, topped three overseas charts, and got them a lot of press for their next album, the aforementioned Only by the Night.

Now, it would be easy to paint me as one of those, "Oh, you only like stuff if it's obscure" music-snobs... and yeah, that's somewhat true, insofar as I like a lot of bands that are a bit, well, out-there. But my CD collection is well-stocked with tons of Beatles, Hendrix, Zeppelin, every David Lee Roth-era Van Halen album, and even a Tragically Hip album (Trouble at the Henhouse), so I hope that shoots a hole in that caricaturization.

But, like Sloan and Treble Charger and doubtless countless others before (and after) them, Kings of Leon changed their art to sell more albums. I liked them before the change, and I don't like them after.

They have sold out, and they are probably never coming back.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

An open letter to my gendermates.


I write to you on behalf of a friend of mine — a chick, a broad, a dame — who has recently been jerked-around by one of us.

Listen up, guys. Let's say you get set-up with a girl, on a surprise double-date of sorts. You chat, you flirt, you touch her arm to show her you're interested — they love that shit, as you know — and, when the first bar you're at closes down, you ask her to accompany you to a second. Then, when you drop her off at the end of the night, ask for her phone number, obtain it, enter it into your d-bag cell phone...


You see, all the stuff I mentioned above gives women the impression you like them romantically. If you actually don't like them romantically, either (a.) don't do all that stuff in the first place or, assuming you don't like them romantically but you kinda like hanging out with them all the same, (b.) man-up, call them fairly soon, get together again, but don't do all the douchey flirty stuff; you may also wish to come out and say, "Hey, I really like hanging out with you, but in a 'pants-on' kind of way." Make a joke out of it, you poor-man's Don Rickles you.

Chicks tend to take this stuff all personal. I know, us guys, we get rejected by a woman, we'll feel kinda crappy about it for little while, but then we'll fire up the goat-porn, crank one out to clear our heads, and go make ourselves a sandwich. Women, though... women are different. Get this through your thick skulls, fellas.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rocking-out with his fiscally- and socially-conservative cock out.

More disturbing than you ever thought possible:

It was bad enough that he butchered a Beatles song... now this?!

Oh, Peter Criss, where are you, now that we need you?

Monday, October 12, 2009

I really thought I'd have my shit together by now.

Occasionally, I have a major crisis in confidence, and today finds me in one of them. I've definitely had them before, so this is nothing new. And, as the comments to that post will attest, I'm not alone — which helps mitigate the overall shittiness/uneasiness I'm feeling at the moment.

On the surface, the major parameters of "someone who's got their shit together" are all in place:
  • Steady job from which it's nearly impossible to get fired: Check.
  • Apartment in a quasi-swanky, yet fairly-boring, part of town: Check.
  • Car which has newly-smuggled-into-the-country tires: Check.
  • No bastard-children floating around, to my knowledge: Check.
  • Financial advisor who owns a sailboat and wears suspenders: Check.
  • Houseplant named Sparky who is between 7 and 8 years old: Check.
When I think about all this, I'm tempted to say to myself, "J, you whiny little bitch, you have the cushiest life in the god damn world. Shut the hell up and grow a pair; you might need them someday, if you can ever figure out how to eventually lure a woman into your lair."

Which is true. (Sadly.)

But, let's face it... I'm not getting any younger, and my general feelings of indecision really aren't going away. What am I going to do with my life? Am I going to be a classroom teacher forever, or move onto something else education-related? Will I ever club a woman and drag her back to my cave to have my babies as I protect her from the sabre-toothed tigers? Hell, is my cave going to remain in the 416, or will I move somewhere else, eventually? And, why does my apartment smell vaguely of cigarette smoke? Has Crazy Cat Lady downstairs just torn into a new carton of Marlboros? And, if so, how the hell is the smoke getting in here?

Ferris Bueller was right. Life does move pretty fast.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

I'm a bigger music-nerd than you ever thought possible.

I couldn't persuade anyone I know to come with me, so I'm seeing Steely Dan at Massey Hall solo.

Come to think of it, that might be for the best. Because the Dan is so resolutely unpopular with my friends — some people even show an open and vigorous hatred for Becker and Fagen — I won't have to "drag" someone against their will. It'll just be me and my fellow nerds, nerding-out to the finest nerd-jazz-rock ever made.

A few samples are below. Now, before you go all crazy and say, "Dude, these guys sound like elevator music," I KNOW it sounds like elevator music, at first. I am fully aware of this. But, take a minute and take this music seriously. After the initial shock wears off, you'll realize these guys are absolute geniuses in terms of melody, the way they arrange their various instruments, and even the lyrics are worth a listen because they're not the typical "ooh ooh baby love love love" claptrap that pervades popular music. So, enjoy.

Hey Nineteen
Home At Last
My Old School
Do It Again (excellent live version here)
Razor Boy

And yes, the live version of Do It Again features Jeff "Skunk" Baxter, one of the best guitarists of the late 20th century, on bongos.

Friday, October 09, 2009

I wish this was a joke.

But, it's not a goofy mock-up. It's real.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

This could be the greatest work of art ever created by mankind.

It sure beats the hell out of The Last Supper.

Seriously, go here.

I love the dancing during the solo. Perfect!

Another shameless plug.

Have 20 minutes to spare on Saturday night? Want to hear some kooky/fun/odd music? C'mon out to Everyone's a DJ at Disgraceland (Bloor, just west of Ossington), won't you? I'll be on from midnight to 12:20 am, and will likely be drinking both before and after that. The focus this time will be "fun music," and I can't guarantee that I won't play "Tits On The Radio" by Scissor Sisters, because that song is friggin' awesome.

Also, Matt (the guy who runs EaDJ) has suggested to me that I'm capable of DJing an entire night at a bar somewhere here in this fair burgh. He says it's about four hours, top to bottom... which, at this point in my DJing life, having played only little 20-minute sets in front of people (alright, once I had to do 30 minutes), that seems a little daunting. It'd probably end up going really quickly, though, right?

Anyway, stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

The tiebreaker.

In the end, they just weren't good enough.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Dual Detroit Tigers plotlines!

Boy-howdy, it's a busy day for the Detroit Tigers. Consider:

Plotline #1
Tomorrow, owing to the fact that they're tied with the Minnesota Twins atop the American League Central division standings after 162 games — leading by a wide margin with only a month to go, to boot — the Tigers and Twins will play a one-game, winner-gets-into-the-playoffs game. You, Dear and Loyal Reader, know this already, as you doubtless have any new blog posts telegrammed and/or telegraphed to you the very minute they come out, and I broke this breaking story to you yesternight. However, there's another big big story to deal with for the Tabbies.

Plotline #2
This past Friday night, the Tigers and Chicago White Sox played a night game which ended around 10 pm. After this spirited contest, in which the Chicagoans the prevailed, one Mr. Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers' leading hitter, the Tigers' most expensive contract this season, said this to Michael Rosenberg of the Detroit Free Press: "Right now, I’m focused on the next game. I’m going to my house right now and go relax."

Only, he didn't. He went out and hoisted more-than-a-few with some buddies of his at a hotel in suburban Detroit. Big deal, right? Mickey Mantle was a notorious boozer; David Wells pitched a perfect game with a vicious hangover; Dock Ellis once dropped acid and proceeded to throw a no-hitter.

Consider the following:
  • Cabrera went to the bar at the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham. (I checked the rates here; 300 bones a night.)
  • Who was staying at that hotel? His buddies. On the Chicago White Sox.
Now, while we'd all like to think this was the Good Olde Days and baseball players would cross the street so they wouldn't be forced to look a player on opposing team in the eye, competitors know each other and hang out occasionally.

However, in light of the fact that, at 7 pm on Saturday night, the Tigers were about to play the most important game that season to date, these details seem to make the case for Cabrera not exactly being the shiniest apple in your grocer's produce section:
  • He drank.
  • A lot.
  • Until 5 in the morning.
  • He took a cab home (that responsible guy), and was loud enough coming home that he woke up his 4-year-old kid.
  • His wife, Rosangel, was none too pleased with this, so she started a fight with him.
  • Blows were exchanged; Miguel was seen at Saturday night's game with a vicious cut on his cheek, and Rosangel apparently had a cut on her lower lip. (Charges were not filed by either party, and the police say they were both "aggressors.")
  • Because Rosangel wanted Miguel away for a while, the police were obliged to take him down to the station.
  • At 7 am, he blew a .26 on a Breathalyzer; a .35 at a cop-shop means an instant trip to the hospital, to be on the safe side.
  • This is presumably several hours after he stopped drinking.
  • The morning before the biggest game of the season.
  • And the Tigers' General Manager, Dave Dombrowski, had to pick him up at the police station.
Can you imagine doing that? Let's say it's the morning before your big presentation — if it goes well, just think, you'll finally be able to seal the deal on that lucrative Henderson account — and your boss has to pick you up from the slammer because you got drunk and fought your wife. Hell, you might even still be drunk during the presentation.

All that being said...

Go Tigers.
Beat those Twins.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Bands, baseball and boo for marking.

There are several bands that, given my music nerddom and taste for indie-rock, I feel like I should like, but really don't. A few:
  • Metric (their melodies are empty, and Emily Haines' voice gets on my nerves)
  • Modest Mouse (I've tried with their pre-"Roll On" stuff, but it just doesn't click for me)
  • The Flaming Lips (although this may change; I liked the song they did on the Colbert Report)
  • The Doors (mostly because the same dozen songs are exceedingly overplayed everywhere)
  • U2 (good early work, god-awful for the last 15 years; also, they're corporate whores)
I'm sure there are others, but these come to mind presently. Anyone else have any pet-peeve band they'd like to share? Make a comment.

* * * * * * * *

The Tigers managed to hold on to a 5-3 win today against Chicago, and of course the Twins swept the Royals easily... which means there'll be a one-game playoff for the AL Central title on Tuesday afternoon. I don't get TBS on my cable anymore, which means either (a.) I'll head up the street to the local bar and beg them to put the game on, (b.) I'll listen to the radio broadcast of it over the Internet, or (c.) I'll break into someone's house who I think should have a decent cable package and hope I don't get caught, and possibly help myself to snacks.

* * * * * * * *

It's begun again: my extreme distaste for marking has resulted in a small backlog of stuff for my red pen to attack. Some of this was baseball-related; these days I can't listen to a Tiger game anymore without following along nervously with my fellow fans at Bless You Boys. However, most of it still stems from the fact that it's easily the most tedious part of my job, bar none. I'd rather spend hours mixing up 0.3-molar solutions of hydrochloric acid, attend week-long lab safety workshops at the Board offices, or be trapped on a plane beside Del Griffith when he takes off his socks so he can relax.

"Six bucks and my right nut says we're not landing in Chicago."

Friday, October 02, 2009

Radicals vs. Eccentric Lunatics.

Ron Paul was on the Daily Show earlier this week.

While I vigorously disagree with pretty much Paul says — the Gold Standard seems like a pretty good way to freeze up the markets tighter than Mariah Carey's painted-on jeans — I really do like the guy.

Paul earnestly believes in what he says. Now, while über-douche ex-Premier Mike Harris also believed in what he said, and I disagreed with 99.99% of what he said as well, Paul earns my respect because he'll tell you exactly what's on his mind, and why. Harris, on the other hand, was sneaky; he'd piss on your leg and tell you it's TAX CUTS TAX CUTS TAX CUTS.

Not Ron Paul, though. "We need to lower taxes, because the government can't tell anyone what to do." Crazy? Sure, but at least his crazy runs clear. Harris, late 1990s: "We need to lower taxes, because relative to the other provinces, and the future of Ontario depends on having a business environment which blah blah blah privatize everything, blah blah."

(Actually, he never would've said "privatize everything." He'd piss on your leg and tell you it didn't make sense for someone as pushy as the Government of Ontario to, oh, I dunno, oversee the testing of the municipal water supply in Walkerton in 2000. That didn't turn out well, by the way.)

For the record, this Ron Paul Lovefest was inspired by a quote I read on, posted by one "rexslamman," which was on a link I followed from this brilliantly satirical website:

Eccentric lunatics aren't radicals. Radicals use compelling, rational arguments combined with force to push extremist political dogma. Ron Paul is like Tori Amos, but replace rape with taxes and terrible music with libertarianism. Cynthia McKinney, on the other hand, was probably dropped on her head as an infant.

He's blunt, but he's got a point. (Sorry, kellylo, I've never been able to get into Amos' music either.)

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

From the Adorable File.

My niece started junior kindergarten last week. Here she is with her neighbour, who is in senior kindergarten and goes to the same school (and yeah, the little one is older):

Cute as a button! Loves school, too.

Some of her observations:
  • There are rules at school, but not everyone follows them.
  • One of the rules is, no running. (We all think she'll have a problem with that one... her Tigger-like bounciness might get in the way. But, she can also spend hours on the Etch-a-Sketch.)
  • Not all the kids want to learn.
  • She wonders what she'll be like when she gets big.
  • She wants to be a teacher like Uncle JTL.
Just think, ladies*... hook up with a feller like me, and you have a not-so-terrible shot at having one of these darling little creatures of your very own!
* no fat chicks

Monday, September 28, 2009

I am a night owl.

It happens every Sunday night from September through June: I can't get to sleep.

Some people are morning people. I hate these people, because by the time you see them arrive at work — rather, they've been there for an hour and a half and you're just hauling your ass in — they've already jogged three miles, had a full breakfast with orange juice they hand-squeezed themselves, planned out their wardrobe for the week, given themselves an audit (just in case the taxman doesn't believe their outrageous tuition bill), and re-alphatized their CD collection.

Meanwhile, I likely spent 15 minutes in the shower trying in vain to rouse myself from a coma, grabbed a pre-squished granola bar on my way out the door, wondered who the hell in their right mind would get up so fucking early of their own volition, and generally cursing my own upright existence.

Unfortunately, you can only get your revenge on these people on Saturday night... you can't even see them because they're probably at home, unfolding their perfectly-made bedspread precisely at 9pm because they're all tuckered-out, while you're over at a friend's place shotgunning the first tallboy of the evening in preparation of "gettin' all tore-up" over the next several hours, eventually falling into that mess of sheets you call a bed somewhere around 5.

Which would you rather be?

The problem with being a creature of the night — which I fully realized in all its glory as a second-year Master's student with an extremely flexible schedule, being ridiculously productive between midnight and 4am and eventually waking up around 10:30 — is that most of the world doesn't run on that schedule. Obviously, I wish it did... not just for myself, but to stick it to all those perky morning people who I've not-so-secretly hated all my life.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Czars, interchangeable terminology, and overwhelming stupidity.

You may have heard that there was a big right-wing gathering in Washington, DC recently. Here's the ugly proof.

I tell ya, left-wing protests are always so much more fun. Hotter chicks (read: chicks under 60), far fewer stupid-sounding southern accents, fewer annoying "U-S-A! U-S-A!" chants, and people who actually know things.

Hat-tip: The Airing of Grievances

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Generalized goings-on, and such.

People — friends, enemies, sycophants and other hangers-on — have been asking me how the school year has been going lately.

Every year (so far) has been pretty much the same in its rhythm...
  • classes start out really, really quiet
  • like, uncomfortably quiet
  • then they all get to know each other
  • then you get to know them
  • eventually, it all sorta flows
There are factors that affect how soon "flow" is achieved. Larger classes tend to get it first, but that's just because the interpersonal chemistry part is a little easier, owing to the fact that more people probably know more other people in the room. You have to be careful with big classes, though: you have to make sure to corral that energy and direct it towards the material, rather than let it spiral outwards into pure socialization.

I'm teaching college-prep physics for the first time in a couple of years; lately it seems like all I've been doing is the university-prep courses, in terms of senior physics. When I first taught the course, I made the huge mistake of treating the kids in the college stream like those in the university stream; after all, forces and energy were the same in both courses, right? Wrong. You have to be a bit of a gear-head in the college course... these kids aren't going to be engineers — they're going to be HVAC repair-people, car mechanics, and the like. In short, these kids don't give a shit how an equation is derived, even though I (and the kids in the university stream) might.

One of the courses I'm teaching this year is this wacky Earth and Space Science course. Obviously, I enjoy the material... but (a.) there's no textbook for the course, (b.) half of it is more like physical geography, and (c.) there are nine kids in the class. That means I have to do most of the talking — classroom discussion is pretty sparse, save for a couple of students — which means that, by the end of it, my voice is completely shot. In the end, I'm working my ass off (probably 60% of the prep work I've done so far is for this one course), and there are nine kids in the room... which makes me feel like all this effort is being chucked down a well, sometimes.

On the bright side, a few of us teachers are trying to start up a weekly tradition of having a drink at the local pub every Friday. I've suggested that, Queen's-like, we call this thing "Ritual." We'll see how that goes.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

One-Sentence Random Thought #10.

It's starting to become apparent to me that, despite the fact that it's painfully obvious, people from the upper-midwest in the US (e.g. Buffalo, Detroit, Chicago, Wisconsin, etc.) don't actually realize that they sound all annoying and nasally and ridiculous.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Stevie Speaks.

At a private (so he thought) gathering of Conservative Party faithful, Stephen Harper was caught on tape saying this:

"If we do not win a majority, there will be a Liberal government, propped up by the socialists and the separatists."

Is that a promise, Steve? If it isn't, can it be? Because there's no way in hell you're going to win a majority, if Iggy brings you down this fall. Too many people just flat-out hate you and your d-bag ways, and I'm one of them. In fact, when I dream about the kind of government Steve described, and then when I wake up, it looks like I peed in my bed a bit, but it doesn't look like pee, and it smells a little like bleach.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

We're back.

Not only am I back with a brand-new blog post, I'm back with the kiddies in the classroom. Hooray!

It usually takes a few days before a class starts to come together in any sort of meaningful way. For the first little while, people don't really know each other too well — both between the students themselves, and between me and them — and classroom discussions can fall flat if you don't have one or two kids who are pretty naturally outgoing and gregarious. Fortunately, most classes have at least a few of these, so you probably aren't going to hear crickets in the background until the class naturally picks itself up and becomes more interesting.

This year, we have two more people in our department than we've ever had before. This is good, obviously; we don't want our numbers to dwindle, and more kids means more sections of classes, which means more classes and more teachers that have a job. The problem is we're running out of space in our office — we don't have space for any more teacher desks, and when everyone's in there it's pretty loud and raucous. But, compare this to a school (and there are a lot of them) where teachers scatter like cockroaches to their individual prep-rooms, hardly interact with each other during the day, don't share any resources, and hoard equipment in obscure hiding places... I'll take a communal-yet-slightly-chaotic department anytime.

One down, only 193 to go. I can practically taste the freedom already.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

One-Sentence Random Thought #9.

When Bo Diddley suggested, "Don't let your mouth write a cheque that your tail can't cash," he was really on to something, because this is about the most important advice that anyone could ever receive, ever.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

It's here.

The calendar still says August, but everything everywhere is screaming "Autumn!". I dig it, though... a friendly, jacket-inducing chill in the air, baseball pennant races making fans follow scoreboards with renewed intent, and the knowledge that a new season of Big Bang Theory is just around the corner!*

* * * * * * *

A friend and I checked out Buskerfest last night, down on Front Street between Yonge and Jarvis-ish. I can honestly say that, when I got up yesterday morning, I did not have the following thought: "Today I will watch a man pass his body through a tennis racket, a toilet seat, and a squash racket." There's not much in this life about which I'm certain, but that's gotta be right up there on the list.

* * * * * * *

People say Bob Dylan isn't much of a singer. While that fact is certainly true, in the end it doesn't really matter. Also, I stand by the fact that, if all he'd ever written in his career were "Mr. Tambourine Man" and "Like A Rolling Stone," he'd still be considered one of the greatest songwriters in history. I mean, people know who Don McLean is, and he really only had one song that anyone knows.

* * * * * * *

I'm going to have the 11:40-midnight slot at the September edition of everyone's favourite rotating-DJs night in Toronto, Everyone's a DJ, on Saturday the 12th at Disgraceland (on Bloor just west of Ossington). I've already figured out the first song I'm going to play, and I can guarantee that, if you know it, you'll wonder if I'm sane or not. Come on out and see what it is, why dontcha?

* * * * * * *

The ancient Greeks thought that, for someone to truly be your soulmate, they had to be the same gender as you... which explains all the homosexual quasi-pederasty. As weirdly as that turned out in practice, there might be something to it: I mean, think about how differently men and women think and act and behave. When I get together with my guy-friends and talk about women, they know exactly what I think and why. That doesn't happen when I talk to female friends. Ever.

* * * * * * *

That being said, I still can't get enough of that kooky gender. To quote Homer Simpson, "They look great, and they smell even better."

* This show is friggin' terrible. As someone (a.) who has studied Physics a great deal, and (b.) who has eyes and ears and can watch/hear this show, it's just offensively bad on every imaginable level.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stuff other people wrote.

First off, Blogger tells me this is my 910th post, which means I really don't have a life, I suppose. Anyway, to quote The Beatles, this post is "the one after 909."

(It's not my favourite Beatles song — these days it's "You Never Give Me Your Money" off Abbey Road — but ever since I learned the version on Let It Be was recorded at the rooftop concert, I have a new appreciation for it. And, I don't mind that the bass is a little out of tune.)

( much.)

* * * * * * * * *

Krusty: "You're the best thing to happen to this business since—"
Lisa: "Mitzi Gaynor?"
Krusty: "I was gonna say cheap Korean animation, but sure."

* * * * * * * * *

I haven't thought too much about Elvis Presley's "Jailhouse Rock" lately, until it struck me that there's a really peculiar line in it:

Number forty-seven said to number three,
"You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see.
I sure would be delighted with your company,
Come on and do the jailhouse rock with me."

I'm not entirely sure what incarceration was like back in the late 1950s, but I'm pretty sure the jails were then as they are now: single-gender.

* * * * * * * * *

Torn from the headlines:

SPCA exec's dog dies after being left in hot car
The 16-year-old dog dies of kidney failure after being left for four hours

RICHMOND, Virginia — An executive for an anti-animal cruelty group says her 16-year-old blind and deaf dog died after she accidentally left him in her hot car for four hours.

Robin Starr, the CEO of the Richmond Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, says she didn't realize "Louie" was in the car until noon. Starr's husband, Ed, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch he put the dog in her car as she got ready for work Aug. 19. She often took the dog to work with her.

Whoops. But, I'm reminded of the Scottish band, Dogs Die in Hot Cars, and their song "I Love You 'Cause I Have To," which is a pretty good tune.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

It's (almost) all over now.

People have been asking me lately, "So, are you ready to go back to work?"

My first instinct is to cringe a little bit and say, "C'mon, it's still August, don't bring me down!" But, you know, I do get paid to do a job, so I might as well go on back in and do it. Besides, while some of the kids (and a few of my colleagues) drive me a little bit crazy now and again, I actually do genuinely enjoy my job. It's a very social job in some ways (I spend all day interacting with people), but a very lonely one in others (I'm the only one in the room who was alive before the Berlin Wall fell)... but, as I've said before and I'll say again, dull moments are a rarity.

I popped into the ol' schoolhouse yesterday to pick up a few things and see who was around. It turns out that one of our vice principals got a principal gig somewhere, which is strange because he was only a VP for maybe two or three years. This may not seem like a big deal, but let me tell you, after having been in situations where the principal/VPs weren't terribly supportive/proactive/useful, administrators can make a huge difference in how a school feels and behaves. They have the ability to set the tone, for better or worse.

This year is going to be insanely busy. I'm teaching a course I've never taught before, for which there's no textbook — I'm taking this afternoon to try to begin to wrap my head around it — and two more that I haven't taught in a couple of years. Add my co-department-head duties on top of that, and union-representative stuff, and I might be able to come up for air sometime in November.

But hey, I've never been one to shy away from a challenge. Grad studies in education? Bring it on. Position of responsibility in a medium-to-large-sized high school in the largest city in the country? Sure, no problem. Eating a 96-ounce ribeye steak called "The Ol' 96er," bones and all, so my family's dinner was free? Give me a fork.*

It's been an eventful summer, in a lot of ways. And while I'm certainly not looking forward to 6:30 mornings and mountains of marking, this ol' roller-coaster is about to leave the station, and I'm all buckled-in for another trip. Let's go.

* This may or may not have only been in the Dan Aykroyd/John Candy film, "The Great Outdoors."

Saturday, August 22, 2009

One-Sentence Random Thought #8.

David Frum is a smarmy traitor douche.

Also, here's a list of random thoughts, all of which are (a.) better than the above, and (b.) entirely true.

Monday, August 17, 2009

One-Sentence Random Thought #7.

So I finally said, "The environment can just eat a big back of dicks for all I care," and mounted the air conditioner in the living room window.

Friday, August 14, 2009

The rumour mill.

Curious about how rumours like "Death Panels" come about? The likes of Sarah Palin and Charles Grassley don't just come out of nowhere, you know... here's a bit of background on how these kinds of things get started.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Right-wing protestors are terrible.

Man, this right-wing health-reform protest thing just won't go away. Mind you, they shouted down Arlen Specter's town-hall meeting, but people in New Hampshire at Barack Obama's dealie were as well-behaved as a group of hand-picked Republicans at a Bush-Cheney '04 rally.

Stephen Colbert and his Formidable Opponent (who was also Stephen Colbert) debated the merits of this kind of protest on the Report last night, with predictably hilarious results. He showed how, at these rallies, protestors often just shout what they want to shout, and don't bother listening to the other side; they'll get up and, in unison, start shouting the Pledge of Allegiance (which has always sounded an awful lot like the Lord's Prayer to me, in terms of feeling and cadence).

This isn't democracy; it's a mob which has no interest in debate (or democracy, for that matter). They concoct stories about Death Panels and governments selecting your doctor and asking you how you want to die... I'll quote Sarah Palin's gobbledeygook resignation speech: "In honour of the American Soldier, would ya quit makin' stuff up?"

In the spirit of (un)informed debate, let me present a couple of photos snapped at right-wing rallies, infiltrated by some communist socialist atheist traitors to God and Country. At an anti-health-care-reform rally:*

Look closer, though, at stripey-shirt guy in the middle:

I can't say if it is or it isn't, but doesn't this guy's sign make you want to find out, just a little bit?

But, on the not-quite-so-funny side of all this, right-wing protestors are using death threats against their representatives in Congress, and sipping the same Kool-Aid as violent anti-abortion groups and Tim McVeigh (the guy who blew up that building in Oklahoma in the '90s). See the clip here.

* Yes, that guy second from the left is wearing a stars-and-bars Confederate Flag shirt. You can't see it at that resolution, but it's actually a Lynyrd Skynyrd t-shirt, whose song "Sweet Home Alabama" not only slams Neil Young, but asks, "Now, Watergate does not bother me, does your conscience bother you?" Yeah, actually, it kinda does. Then again, nobody ever really proclaimed Alabama as being terribly progressive, except when it comes to matters of seceding from the United States, which they tried once. I don't think that turned out terribly well, though.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Obamacare in Canada.

As you probably know, there's a debate in the US about the future of their health care system, dubbed "Obamacare" by pundits on the right: a partial slide towards a Canadian-like single-payer government-supported universal system.

Now, you may think that the few crazed yahoos that show up to these "town hall" meetings — all full of Glenn Beck-isms and instructions from FreedomWorks (a right-wing activism group which has ties to the pharmaceutical industry, among others) about how to turn a democratic debate into a one-sided screaming match which is perfect for TV news which deals chiefly in sound-bites and rage, giving the viewing public the false impression that there's actually a sizeable chunk of Americans that want to retain the current system which has left 49 million people without health insurance — are out to lunch. But, let me tell you what happened to me yesterday, under our Red Soviet Canuckistan Proletariat Health Care Plan.

I went to my local Forced Death Clinic (FDC; Mondays are reserved for people whose surnames are A-L; Tuesdays are M-Z, and for the rest of the week it's all euthanasia, all the time), and was told that the doctor that the government chose for me was out for the day. Now, because I can't go to any other FDC other than the one I'm allowed to go to — your FDC is originally chosen for you at your birth by the Ministry of Love (MiniLove), so you can't really move away from it, although some people (like myself) apply for a Special Geographic Transfer (SGT) because I agreed to teach the False Theory of Evolution (FTE) in a government-monopoly public school — I had to wait around for an Emergency Appointment Permit (EAP).

So, because my EAP came through for a FDC all the way up in North Bay, and MiniLove scheduled it for 3:45 in the morning, I had to drive all the way up to North Bay. I asked MiniLove for permission to get a hotel room so I could get some sleep; I was denied, because my EAP wasn't filed under a Extra-Special SGT (ESSGT). Fortunately, the last time I taught FTE, I let a Gay-Married Couple (GMC) perform an abortion in my classroom while urinating on a picture of Jesus Christ (JC) and praising the name of Charles Darwin, so a guy at MiniLove let me get a room at the Howard Johnson at the last minute.

I showed up to the North Bay FDC at the appointed time, and a cold, recorded voice told me to go into the second waiting room, strip buck-naked, and wait for Government-Appointed Dr. Jellyfingers to do his thing. After having to answer "no" in a high-pitched voice to the question, "If you do not want to be executed by the government tonight, clearly say the word 'no' in a high-pitched voice" (it's just standard practice), Dr. Jellyfingers proceeded to give me a full physical including, puzzlingly, a Pap test. (I'm still not quite sure how they pulled that one off.)

Just think... all this fuss for a scratchy throat! Gee, I wished I lived in the States.

Monday, August 10, 2009

One-Sentence Random Thought #6.

I learned over the weekend that a childhood friend of my mom's, who spent some time growing up in England (the friend, not my mom), used to go to school with Ringo Starr's first wife, which means that I am four degrees of separation from The Beatles.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

An open letter to the Toronto Transit Commission.

Dear Mr. TTC,

I had the misfortune of being a person in Toronto last night who was attempting to get home to their apartment in a different part of Toronto, because that's where I live. The idea of paying $25 for a taxi did not appeal to me, and as a bit of a lefty bleeding-heart post-capitalist utopianist, I surmised that public transportation would be the most socially-responsible and environmentally-friendly way of schlepping my drunk ass home.

In case you are unaware of the laws of this province, bars stop serving alcohol at 2:00 am. Now, since the stated objective of a bar is to serve alcohol, most patrons will in fact leave the bar at said time (also known as "last call"), as their night out is probably drawing to a close. In this city, that often means a trip on some sort of TTC vehicle.

Also, in case you have never been south of Davisville in your life, the downtown area has many, many establishments that stop serving alcohol at the aforementioned time. This means there are many, many people wanting to use your service, beginning at approximately 2:00 am and ending some hours later. Most of these people live outside of downtown, owing to the lower rent, fewer vermin infestations, and a marked decrease in the number of batshit-insane people roaming the streets asking if you're the Second Coming of Charles Nelson Reilly, found therein.

I realize that, in the early 1990s, last call at bars was 1:00 am; having the last subways leaving Bloor/Yonge at 1:50 am made sense. However, since the Rae adminstration, the subways end at the same time, but people are out later. Subways can carry a much greater number of people, in comparison to buses, even if they are run at 10-minute intervals.

So, when I try unsuccessfully to board a Bathurst bus headed north because it was packed, and then decide to go up to Bloor to catch a bus that (I hoped) would come by more frequently, only to have to wait in front of Honest Ed's for half an hour to eventually be able to squeeze into one of your wheeled vehicles in the middle of the night, and then to have a fight break out between two drunk, angry, crowded riders three feet in front of me, which caused the bus to be delayed for several minutes (neither rider shown the door for their transgression, which leads me to believe that Elton John was right, and that Saturday night is indeed "right for fighting," especially on a bus) — not to mention the unexplained ten-minute stoppage at Jarvis for no apparent reason other than "I'm the bus driver, and I like to sit here and watch the pretty lights change colour, wheeee!!!" — and then have to wait twenty minutes to transfer onto the Pape bus northbound so I could get within an eight-dollar cab ride back to my apartment because Bayview apparently isn't a major-enough street to get anything close to reasonable bus service at night, I'm gonna be pissed off that it took me two hours to get from Bathurst/Dundas to Bayview/Davisville.

I could have walked it faster. I probably could have crab-walked it faster, as well.

I'm just glad I used a free day-pass that a friend gave me, so it didn't cost me anything (save for the cab ride at the end).

You suck,


PS: Do you know anyone who might be able to hook me up with some cheap slugs that I could use to fool subway turnstiles? That would rule. Thanks in advance.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Breaking Gubernatorial News.

I know nobody reads blogs during the summer — less so on a long holiday weekend — but maybe you're at the cottage and you have one of your iSmartPhoneBerrys or something strapped to your hip at all times because you're a gigantic d-bag like most people are these days, suckling at the electronic teat 24 hours a day, unable to put the goddamn thing away for a simple meal at a restaurant on the Danforth while I read my George Plimpton book and wait for my scrambled eggs.

But, Sarah and Todd Palin might just be getting a divorce.

In conversation with ECB (who initially told me about this story), we concluded that this can't be the only reason Palin resigned the governorship. There's this, of course, and the multi-million book deal, and the fact that David Letterman made a joke about one of her daughters that she took the wrong way... but that can't be it. There has to be something more, something really juicy — ECB suggested that maybe she'd had an affair with an intern (the National Enquirer suggests both Sarah and Todd each had affairs).

Oooooooh, I got it! Maybe one of her kids (Tripp, or Trigg, or Stick, or Splork or something) is actually not Todd's! Maybe that's the scandal a-brewin'. Stay tuned.

Friday, July 31, 2009

One-Sentence Random Thought #5.

Triumph is about a thousand times more talented than most mainstream rock bands today.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

This has gotta stop.

We have brains. We can make sense of things.

We can evaluate a situation, figure out a solution to it, and act upon it properly. Can't we?

Mom of dead girl: Sickness was test of faith
11-year-old died of undiagnosed diabetes as the family prayed for her

WAUSAU, Wisc. — The mother of an 11-year-old girl who died of undiagnosed diabetes as the family prayed for her to get better testified Tuesday that she believes sickness is caused by sin and can be cured by God.

Leilani Neumann told the jury in her husband's trial that she thought her daughter's March 2008 illness was a test of her religious faith and she didn't take the girl to a doctor because that would have been "complete disobedience to what we believe."

Dale Neumann, 47, is charged with second-degree reckless homicide in the 2008 death of his daughter Madeline Neumann, called Kara by her parents. His wife was convicted of the same charge this spring and faces up to 25 years in prison when sentenced Oct. 6.
Full story here.

Alright, folks. If you know me — and if you're reading this thing, you probably do, right? — I'm no fan of religion. But hey, you want to believe in transsubstantiation? You think that a guy in Saudi Arabia a dozen centuries ago was inspired by a divine being to write a book? You want to have a statue of a round-bellied Chinese guy that you rub for good luck? Think that maybe there's just a ghost in the sky who made everything and has your back? Knock yourself out.

This kid, Madeline "Kara" Neumann, had no choice but to believe the stories that her parents told her to believe. Do you know an 11-year-old that can make a sound decision about accepting or rejecting a ready-made set of morals and tales and characters, which sounds pretty complete to a large number of adults, let alone a pre-teen? I don't, and I doubt you do, either.

If she was born in Israel, she would've had a different set of stories which made sense. Different again if she was born in Côte d'Ivoire, Turkmenistan, North Korea or the jungles of Papua New Guinea. And yet, all those places seem to (a.) have a culturally-dominant set of stories which (b.) all claim to be true, yet because they're all different, (c.) all but one (or maybe zero) have to be right.

If she'd been born in some other place, or even just had parents in Wausau who had themselves believed in a different set of stories, Madeleine Neumann would still be alive today.

And that's fucked up.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

I'm still here, bitches.

It's been a busy time around here since I got back from my Great Western Road Trip... but, unfortunately (for you (and probably me)), it hasn't been interesting in a "hey, that'd be great to write about and let everyone know!" kind of way.

For example, I have not done any of the following things in the past nine days:
  • eat a really magnificent steak
  • get arrested for speeding in my Ferrari on the DVP
  • become the Fifth Beatle
  • hold a memorial event in honour of the passing of Walter Cronkite
  • golf
  • place an intercontinental long-distance phone call
  • discover an asteroid on a collision course with Earth, or any other known planet
  • sing "Baby I Got Your Money" by Ol' Dirty Bastard in karaoke
  • paint a new "dogs playing poker" painting
  • drink tea, either hot or iced
  • attempt a coup-d'état in a Central American country
  • moonwalk
The list is, theoretically, endless. But I did play in a baseball tournament in Brantford while standing in a giant puddle at third base, kick Matt and Rik's ass in trivia, become mildly obsessed with this song, goof around with my cuter-than-cute niece, rip some carpet out of a friend's basement, get my car's oil changed, eat a few bagels, and discover a mysterious bruise for which I can not account.

You ever get those?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

One-Sentence Random Thought #4.

I haven't seen Ann Coulter in a while; I hope she's lying face-down in a ditch somewhere.

Friday, July 17, 2009

I reached my limit.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the open road... but four straight long-ass days of mile after mile after mile on the plains and prairies really wears on a guy. Sleeping in my own bed (and sleeping-in) was a gigantic treat.

If you know me, and you probably do, I'll post the more relevant pictures on everyone's favourite social networking site. But for now, I have to address the fact that my fridge is currently stocked with about 3 beers, a jar of mustard, and something in Tupperware which may or may not have evolved into a fully sentient being by now.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Driving, driving and more driving.

I'm currently in Minot, North Dakota, after 14 hours of driving.

Yeah, fourteen.

The last hour was spent driving westward from the Geographical Centre of North America (in a town called Rugby), with tornado warnings on the radio and some of the most ridiculous-looking lightning I've ever seen blasting across the sky. What you may not know about me is that, ever since childhood, I have been absolutely terrified of tornados... so, after thirteen hours' worth of blacktop today, I didn't need the last one to be spent hurtling across the prairie at eighty-five miles per hour, watching the miles to Minot tick down to zero and hoping I'd get there before the storms did. (I did.)

Yesterday in Milwaukee was actually pretty cool — as was my extended stay in Chicago. One thing I can say without reservation is that Americans, while they may be easily misled by a nefarious government, and while they may be crazily religious on average, and while they have a dangerously skewed view of the rest of the world (which they have been repeatedly told is inferior and doesn't matter anyway)... they sure are friendly folks.

Also, if you ever find yourself going to a Brewers game, bring a charcoal grill, sausages, your lawn chairs and a cooler with you to the parking lot: they tailgate before games, up to three hours before the first pitch. If you don't, you'll look dangerously out of place.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The male mind.

If you're a guy, you probably already know this, so just go here instead. I see the Leafs signed their first-round, non-Tavares draft pick.

If you're not, let me give you a little perspective into how the male mind works, through a situation in which I found myself about an hour and a half ago.

I'm in Chicago, visiting frequent site-commentor (and birthday-celebrator) ECB — I'm leaving tomorrow to head on to Milwaukee and points far, far westward shortly thereafter. I don't have a key for her place, so I've had to arrive back at the apartment after she gets back from wherever she is (today it was school) so I can be let in. As such, I spent an hour or so at a pub a short walk from her place, which served up delicious $3 pints of Rolling Rock, killing time whilst reading another excellent book by Bill Bryson, who is as prolific as he is talented.

There were three other guys in the bar; middle-aged, talking about sports and work and such, and a bartender who they all seemed to know quite well. I was just minding my own business, reading and sipping, when in walked this stunningly gorgeous late-twentysomething woman (who seemed to be a regular at the place as well, as she knew all the guys and the bartender as well).

As soon as I saw her, my brain did an immediate 180-degree turn. Suddenly, I was no longer just a dude, sitting at a bar and reading a book — I couldn't focus on anything but this woman. This makes no sense, for several reasons:
  1. I'm leaving town tomorrow morning.
  2. I overheard her say she's going out with some guy tonight.
  3. I can absolutely, in no way, ever get to know her better.
  4. And so on.
Yet, there was not one molecule in my brain-meat which didn't pay 1000% of its attention to this woman.

I pride myself on being a pretty logical person — I did a degree in physics, I've carefully thought-through my agnosticism, I'm a fan of the greatest sport and team that God has ever given mankind — but all that goes out the window pretty quickly when a set-o'-legs walks through that door. It makes no sense, but it happens.

Does it ever.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Ankles and food.

Day 3 here in Chicago... just paying ECB back for three months of squatting a couple of years ago. I think the score is evening up fast.

On my way back from the Cubs game on Friday — the Cubbies won on the always-exciting tenth-inning bases-loaded walk — I did something to my left ankle. I have no idea what I did to it... I didn't awkwardly step on a homeless dude, I didn't kick a dog, I didn't shove my foot into a shoe-polisher. All I know is that it hurts like hell, and when I ventured out yesterday to conquer a Chicago-style hot dog for the first time, I got half a block and had to turn around and hobble back. This blows.

However, I will not be denied this hot dog. I've heard good things about the tube-steaks in this town, and come hell or high water, I'm gonna get one; to quote the signs that Cub fans put in their windows, "It's Gonna Happen". There will also be some deep dish pizza, obviously, but apparently at a place other than Giordano's. Then, on to Milwaukee and some Secret Stadium Sauce, and of course Calgary.

Be kind to your ankles, folks. You need 'em for stuff.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Breaking electoral news.

Matt Blair scooped me, but this news deserves to be spread far and wide:


Yup, seems as if the Minnesota Supreme Court decided that Franken did, in fact, have more votes cast for him than Norm Coleman, the somewhat slimy incumbent Republican.

I fully expect Julia Sweeney to declare she's running for Congress in 2010.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Freedom. Sweet, horrible freedom.

Today was the day to which I've been looking forward for ten months.

It's Monday, I woke up at 9:39, and I wasn't late for work.

It hasn't fully sunk-in that I have my life back for two whole months — it takes about two or three weeks to reach my Full Relaxation Potential (FRP). However, once FRP is achieved, the following things start to happen:
  • days of the week will no longer matter
  • time will be a mere suggestion (except when meeting up with other people, paying bills, and so on)
  • my handwriting will deteriorate from lack of use to roughly match that of a six-year-old's
  • bedtimes get later
  • wake-up times get much later
  • I can stand to look at a red pen again (albeit from a distance)
As Will-Ferrel-as-Robert-Goulet once suggested, "You get the idea." Mind you, because not everybody gets this nice chunk of time off, it's not as fun and exciting as it could be; after all, most of my friends have jobs which require working during July and August (imagine that!).

Now, I know what you might be thinking:

Those friggin' slackers... they get two months off in the summer! [begin snarky, sarcastic tone] I wish I had two months off in the summer.

To this, I have a few stock responses:
  1. If you do your job right, and I think I do, you'll be well burnt-out by the end of ten months of going hard every day.
  2. We pack twelve months' worth of work into ten, so what are we going to do with the rest of the time?
  3. Most people don't have to pre-schedule their bathroom breaks during their workday.
And, of course, my favourite:
  1. You're more than welcome to join us.
That last one is usually met with something like, "Ah, well, I could never do that job, I don't have the patience to work with those little hellraisers." Some of us do, though, and we like a little bit of time away from them, thanks.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bountiful baseball, dopey dances and hooray for holidays.

1. Baseball

Our baseball (read: "co-ed recreational slo-pitch") team played in a tournament this weekend, spanning Saturday and Sunday, in addition to our regular Sunday-night doubleheader. So, in conclusion, between 10:30am Saturday and 8:30pm today — a 34-hour span — we played seven games.

What did I do on Saturday night after playing four games that day, you ask? I watched most of a baseball game on TV.

Maybe I need help.

2. Dances

In the early '60s, there seemed to be an explosion of pop songs encouraging listeners to "Do The x", where x represents some sort of animal (e.g. monkey), common human action (e.g. twist), or inexplicably inanimate object (e.g. mashed potatoes).

These songs are all stupid. Every last one.

I was listening to Little Steven's Underground Garage tonight, and an exceptionally dumb one came on a few minutes ago. It was done by none other than The King himself, and it was called "Do The Clam". It was from one of his cheesy movies in the '60s, which were absolutely terrible but somehow made money... thank you very much, Colonel Tom Parker.

(If you want to hear the true birth of what we now call rock and roll, and Elvis at his most raw but very best, go here and have a listen; this version is from the '68 Comeback Special and may be even better. His style fused together white rockabilly with black R&B — so scandalous at the time, that right after he recorded this song in Memphis, the bass player remarked, "Damn, get that on the radio and they'll run us out of town." Oh, how times have changed.)

3. Holidays

Five more days of cleaning up, organizing and preparing for September, and then it's off to Wimbledon!

(Sorry, that was Krusty the Klown's line. I'll just be off to Chicago and then Calgary.)

Friday, June 19, 2009

This is bigger than I thought.

I'm still sorting through the logistics of driving solo to Calgary, and... wow.

That's a long way.

Ten years ago, I lived in Calgary and took four fairly-long days to drive out there, and took three ridiculously-long ones to come back. I had a travelling companion each time (on the way out, a random fellow student who needed a ride; on the way back, a childhood friend of my dad's who wanted to visit family and friends in Ontario).

I'm no fan of doing the straight-through, drive-in-shifts thing — I did that on a trip to Florida once, for a wedding a few years ago, but only because time was tight. Besides, I'm going out solo and bringing back the one-and-only (thank goodness) Hubert, and if I spent that many consecutive hours in a car with him, only one of us is coming back alive, and it sure as hell is going to be me.

Two straight 13-hour solo driving days... can it be done? I've done 14 hours in one day before (Chattanooga to Toronto), but that was (a.) with two awesomely-fun other people, one of whom was frequent site-contributor and full-time blogger ECB, and broken up by (b.) an impromptu wine-tasting in Kentucky, (c.) a giant-Jesus sighting just north of Cincinnati, and (d.) one of the absolute craziest thunderstorms I've ever seen, let alone tried to drive through, just south of Toledo.

Does anyone out there have stories of marathon drives? Comment and share, and maybe I'll consider flying instead.