Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Ontario PC Party is in fine shape.

Since John "Charles Foster Kane" Tory had his ass handed to him in a by-election last month in what could've been the safest PC riding in the province, the tension surrounding who is going to step up and become the party's leader has risen all the way to "passably tepid."

Let's look at the candidates so far... because we all need a laugh in these rough-and-tough* times.
* I was almost going to type "rub-and-tug times." Maybe I should have.

Tim Hudak (Niagara West-Glanbrook)
You've seen John Baird before, right? Well, start with Baird, subtract a bit of chin, turn the overt aggression into dickish passive-aggression, and turn up the "smarmy bitch" factor by about 55%. Looks a little like a skinny mid-'80s Michael Keaton, if he fell asleep in a tanning bed.
Odds: 5-2; would've been lower, except he was part of the Woolco-to-Wal-Mart transition team back in the early '90s, and when I was little, I fucking loved the Woolco in the Lambton Mall in Sarnia.

Christine Elliott (Whitby-Oshawa)
This is Jim "Criminalize The Poor" Flaherty's wife, so you have to think a bit of his arrogant, whiskey-soaked Irish temper had to have rubbed off on her after decades of sharing a bed with him... actually, if there was one couple I'd expect to have Cleavers-esque twin beds, it'd be them.
Odds: 7-1; Mike Harris' name is still mud around here (as it should be), so anyone who bore his one-time Attorney General's children is guilty by association.

Frank Klees (Newmarket-Aurora)
Klees has been a big proponent of "school choice" over the years. Folks, if you hear that phrase, and it isn't immediately followed by the words "is a crock of shit cooked up by nutjobs with Milton Friedman shrines," run the other way. Fast.
Odds: 30-1; he's a boring guy from a boring part of the province. Then again, maybe that's not such a bad thing these days. In addition, the PCs haven't done too well lately on the subject of "major changes to education" (see "Private schools, Plan to give public funds to" from their '06 platform).

Randy Hillier (Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox and Addington)
A Libertarian in a PC's clothing, I think all you need to know about him can be summed up in this quote: "Our party cannot be a Liberal look-a-like holding a different shovel while digging the same hole and expect people to choose us, not them. We must demonstrate to everyone that Conservatives don't dig holes, but dig mountains of prosperity." Digging a mountain? Sounds about as ridiculous as appointing a high school dropout as Minister of Education.**
** which the PCs did in 1995 (see "Snobelen, John")
Odds: 100-1; if he was any farther right, he'd be Ron Paul. Even for the PCs, this guy's nuttier than a field of pecan trees. His campaign manager once ran federally for the Family Coalition Party which, as you might imagine, really, really doesn't want the fags to marry. Ever.

In conclusion, expect Dalton McGuinty to get a third term.

Monday, March 30, 2009

The Junos.

How to make sure your awards show is worthless:

INTERNATIONAL ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Viva La Vida, Coldplay

NEW GROUP OF THE YEAR
The Stills*

ALTERNATIVE ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Oceans Will Rise, The Stills

ALBUM OF THE YEAR
Dark Horse, Nickelback

GROUP OF THE YEAR
Nickelback

JUNO Fan Choice Award**
Nickelback

Caveats:

* It's not that The Stills are necessarily bad, but... they're not new. And, let's face it, they're not terribly exciting. Listen to any CBC Radio 3 podcast and you'll hear a dozen better Canadian artists.

** Their choices were Nickelback, Celine Dion (!!!), Feist (best days are behind her), Hedley (puh-leeze), and some outfit named The Lost Fingers, who remake '80s music in a Django Reinhardt-esque Gypsy Jazz style, who wouldn't have had a snowball's chance in hell, but you gotta admire their gumption.

In short, Matthew Good*** was right: these things are irrelevant.

*** I can't stand his music.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Strange kids.

I'm a little weird, but my students are weirder.

1. The Albanian Kid

For the first few years of my teaching career, I seemed to always have one kid per year who was born in Albania; no more, no less. They were always kinda kooky and a little bit off-kilter, but overall really likeable (and tended to do pretty well in my class).

There was a dearth of Albanians the past couple of years, but this semester I got another one, and he's kookier than all the others put together. He'll blurt out random outrageous claims:

Me, to the class, in response to a question: "Well, you know, the Amazon River's pretty long, and it's infested with pirhanas."
Him, unprompted, for all to hear: "Yeah, I swam that last summer. I didn't really mind the pirhanas; I just punched them all in the face."

Also, like many of the other Albanians I've taught, he has a randomly-placed (and oddly-pronounced) X in his name.

2. The Conservative

She's 15 and thinks she's a Tory. It'd be funny if they weren't all such fucking dicktree douchetools.

3. The Slacker Brainiac

I teach some pretty bright kids in one of my classes, but one of them is probably the brightest kid I've ever taught. The problem is, like a lot of 'em, he knows it. I have to say, though, most of the time he humours me and just goes along with the class; he's probably read up on all this stuff years ago, but maybe I fill in a detail here and there which completes the picture. (I've seen a look on his face before, when I've mentioned a random factoid, which seems to say, "Aha, so that's how that fits in there. I guess it was worth paying attention to, after all.")

He also wears fleece track pants every day, without exception. He's not slovenly or anything. I guess he just likes to be comfortable — if you spent six hours a day in a building that bored you silly, and 99% of what people told you, you already knew, you'd want to be comfortably chillin' out, too.

4. The Steely Dan Chronicles

I will occasionally drop references to my (and your) favourite nerdy jazz-pop duo in classes. The way I figure it, if I do this enough, some kid is going to be puttering-around on the Internet one day, and they'll think, "Hmm, I remember hearing the name 'Steely Dan' somewhere, and that they're a band. I wonder what they're about." They may love it (!!!) or hate it (...), but at least they'll have heard it, and that's about all I can ask.

Now, Steely Dan isn't for everyone. In fact, it's for very, very few people. You probably hate them, but that's OK: I hate pretty much everything that's played on mainstream radio stations, and I've come to terms with that. However, an exchange in class today proved that, perhaps, there's a glimmer of hope on that vapid teenage horizon:

Me, while kids were working on an assignment: [staring off into the distance with an empty look on my face]
Kid in the front: "Hey, are you awake?"
Me: "Yeah, I'm just sorta tired, and thinking of a Steely Dan song called 'Everyone's Gone To The Movies'. It sounds like tropical elevator music."
Kid in the back: "I know Steely Dan!"
Me: "Holy hell, why? How?"
Kid in the back: "Yeah, I realize most people don't know them, but I know 'Kid Charlemagne'* is referenced in a recent song by somebody else."**
Me: [staring at the kid in the back with a goofy grin on my face]

* one of their most technically-difficult songs, which introduced fret-tapping two years before Eddie Van Halen came on the scene, and is also one of the favourite songs of Toto guitarist Steve Lukather
** extensive research has revealed that the song in question is "Champion" by some young up-and-comer named Kanye West


In conclusion, my job is never, ever, ever boring.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Elegy for a broadcaster.

George Kell passed away recently.

He grew up in a little town in northeastern Arkansas in the '30s, became a heck of a third baseman, and had a Hall of Fame career (largely with the Detroit Tigers, but with a couple of other teams as well). Here's Kell in the middle of his tenure with the Tigers, which lasted from '46 to '53:


Look at that guy. If he isn't a ballplayer, then I don't know what is. Amazing statistic: he hit .343 in 1949 to lead the American League, and struck out thirteen times. All season. He played in 134 games that year, which meant he struck out roughly once every ten games. That absolutely blows my mind.

It was all well and good to have a superb .306 average for your career, start six All-Star games, and play stellar defence at third base (he once got hit by a Joe DiMaggio smash down the line which broke his jaw; he picked up the ball, gunned out Joltin' Joe at first, then passed out on the field). But I will remember him most here:


After he retired as a player, he was the play-by-play voice of the Tigers on television from 1959 through 1996. He's on the right above; the other guy is Al Kaline, another Hall of Famer who played his entire career in Detroit (1954-1974), who did the colour commentary alongside Kell for the last two decades Kell was on TV.

George Kell was the calm, cool, knowledgeable southern-American voice I listened to when my obsession with baseball, and the Tigers, began. It was he who called all those plays in all those games on Saturday afternoons at the corner of Michigan and Trumbull. Only later did I start listening to games on the radio, with the incomparable Ernie Harwell and Paul Carey doing the games on WJR; Kell and Kaline were the voices of Tiger baseball, as far as I was concerned, in my formative years.


L-R: Harwell, Kell, Kaline (at Tiger Stadium in 1999 —
all are members of the Baseball Hall of Fame)

It's sad when people you have considered important in your life are no longer around. But their passing is also an opportunity for reflection; you're afforded a good opportunity to look back and remember (hopefully fondly). I know for a fact that George Kell was a huge reason I ever started following the Tigers; his smooth yet clearly enthusiastic game-calls are something all the loud, shouty, showy play-by-play guys could really learn from.

Thanks for everything, George. I couldn't have asked for more.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fox fallout, state mottos, and possible Walken.

Seems as if several thousand angry YouTube comments, emails and rocks-through-windows-with-notes-attached managed to get through to the head morons at Fox "News" that their knuckleheaded host of Red Eye, Greg Gutfeld, and his list of panelists who made fun of Canada's military (as noted below), have induced that neanderthal excuse for a broadcasting company to issue a half-assed apology which yammered on about how Gutfeld was sorry his comments were "misinterpreted," when it's pretty obvious that there's no way to misinterpret any of the things anyone on that show said other than "I'm a moronic American that doesn't know shit about shit."

Hell, even hunky Minister of National Defence (and ex-Mr. Belinda Stronach) Peter MacKay waded into it today when prodded by Don Newman on Newsworld. He used the words "despicable" and "ignorant," which is about as pissed-off as a Canadian politician gets.

Anyway, now we have Fox "News" on the ropes, and all it took was a national outrage.

In other news, Anthony Clark is a funny guy. A full 53% of the comedy on this here blog is original JTL material, but I had to rip this off his stand-up routine. Enjoy.

The state motto of Oklahoma, I swear to God, they print it right on their license plates, is "Oklahoma is OK." You gotta wonder what their choices were to come up with this piece of shit...

"We got our five final choices for Oklahoma state license plate. Billy Bob, you wanna read 'em off?"

"We have:
A. Oklahoma is OK.
B. Oklahoma: the circus has been here twice.
C. Oklahoma: some people say we don't suck.
D. Oklahoma: trees are made of wood.
E. Oklahoma, Oklahoma: There, I said it twice."

Finally, this may or may not be Christopher Walken's Twitter thing. I don't do the Twitter thing; I don't have a cell phone, and even if I did have one, noboby needs to get up-to-the-second updates on my stupid life anyway. But this sure is funny.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Next year's March Break plans.

As far as I can tell, next year's March Break week of holidays will be March 15-19, inclusive. And I already know what I'm going to do:

0

That's zero. As in nothing, zip, nada, dick-all, fuck-all. Kicking back, screwing the pooch, spending quality time with my couch. No four-day union meetings (despite the free awesome food and booze and, next year, single room at a swank hotel), no jaunts to spring training baseball games (despite the sunshine and the chance to catch a home run during batting practice, which I did), no family stuff (despite my loving them to bits). So, if you want to find me next March, you'll know exactly where to look.

* * * * * * *

In a related aside, I talked yesterday with fellow blogger (and fellow Triumph-appreciator) ECB about always having stupid crap to do, and not being able to hang out with friends as much as I should. We have a mutual friend, C, to whom I've said, "Hey, let's grab some beers sometime," a billion times since about January — but we've never managed to get together. ECB suggested that I've become the "Hey, let's do lunch!" person who never actually follows through on sharing that meal together.

I really, really don't want to become that douche.

I can't believe I'm saying this, but I need to make my life less eventful.

* * * * * * *

The aforementioned ECB alerted me just now to a panel discussion which appeared on Fox "News" in which the "experts" belittle Canada's military endeavour in Afghanistan — notwithstanding the fact we've lost 116 soldiers after helping out with this conflict as an ally of the United States itself. If you want to feel honest-to-goodness rage, click here. (I'm normally pretty mild-mannered, but I only made it as far as "We in America have police. They have Mounties. Ours ride in cars. They're on horses!" Then I had to either stop, or throw up.) Absolutely disgusting.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

A quick update while I'm away.

Back in the Great White North after a few days in the Florida sun. Slightly burnt, but not too bad. Saw some baseball, caught a baseball. Had a high-quality, high-alcohol beer at the Tampa Bay Brewing Company. Hit some outlet stores and bought a sweet French-cuff shirt. Got my driver's-side rear view mirror smashed by a hunk of flying cardboard (after returning to Canada).

More to come later.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Baseball, rallies and catchy electronic psychedelia.

1. Baseball
To borrow a common epithet from the world of baseball, the way Canada played in their WBC game against Italy was TOTALLY HORSESHIT. They lost pathetically against a team who got their asses handed to them twice by Venezuela (including tonight). I see two major reasons for their awful performance:
  1. Pitching
    Canada's pitchers couldn't throw strikes and couldn't put guys away... except for Jesse Crain, the guy who they brought in with two outs in the eighth inning, with the game already practically salted-away for Italy, who struck out every fucking batter he faced. Completely overpowered everyone. Blew them away. Where the hell was he in, oh, I don't know, the second inning, when Canada's starter couldn't hit the broad side of a barn? Ernie Whitt, what were you thinking?!

  2. Left-handed hitters
    It seemed like the entire Italian pitching staff is left-handed. Yet, Canada had six out of seven consecutive batters in their lineup be left-handed (Votto, Morneau, Stairs, Teahen, Weglarz and Orr, with righty Jason Bay in between Morneau and Stairs). You want to kill any semblance of a rally? Have six lefty-lefty matchups out of seven hitters. Sparky Anderson knew how to platoon players based on who was pitching; it's not rocket-science. By the time the Italians got around to throwing ex-Tiger (and continual Major League Douche) Jason Grilli out there, the Canadians were in such a funk that George Clinton was asking them for advice.
At any rate, Venezuela's fans were hilarious. I was at both their games against Italy (Saturday night and earlier this evening), and they're always singing, yelling and chanting things in some strange language... Venezuelese? Venusian? Venetian Blinds? I'll figure it out. Tonight's game brought a particularly vocal Cuban fan, who verbally sparred with the Venezuelans until the eighth, when he was escored out by the fuzz (but posed for pictures with people on the way out).

Also, I found out that Magglio Ordóñez, who plays for the Detroit Tigers and is also playing for Venezuela here at the WBC, is a fan of controversial Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez. It is for this reason that a lot of Venezuelan fans booed Magglio when he came to the plate... but my reasoning is, if you're Venezuelan and you came all this way for baseball, you're probably rich. And if you're a rich Venezuelan, you probably really dislike Chávez, because he puts the poor first (because there's a hell of a lot of them). In addition, Venezuelan centerfielder Endy Chávez (no relation) received chants of, "¡Endy, si! ¡Chávez, no!" every time he came to bat.

Lots of politics involved in Venezuelan baseball, for sure.

2. Rallies
Because our employer doesn't exactly like to do the whole "fair and transparent collective bargaining" thing, our union is having a rally at the Board office tomorrow in advance of their big Trustee meeting. We're gonna show 'em they can't treat us like chumps and blackmail us with money that isn't even theirs to begin with.

3. Catchy Electronic Psychedelia
I know I'm a little late to this party, but MGMT's Oracular Spectacular album is stupidly good. If you don't have it, go to Deezer and listen to it.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Busy times, indeed.

Having recently been thrown a clearly-booze-soaked complaint of, "Write more often! I'm bored at work!", well, here I am. (Christ, what am I, your little amusement-monkey?!)

Here's why I haven't been updating this thing too much lately:

Tuesday & Wednesday: Spent all day each day out in Burlington at a Minstry of Education workshop that could've been done in one hour, if it was done right, which it wasn't.

Thursday: Parents' night, with an extra after-work meeting squeezed in there for good measure. Completely full slate of interviews; even did a couple of two-at-oncers.

Friday: Picked up Eve, headed down to K-town for GW Science Fair. Got quite drunk, and got the aforementioned complaint.

Saturday: Viciously hung over, drove back to Toronto (ducking-out to a 401 exit ramp for a 20-minute powernap) in time to watch the exciting Canada-USA game at the World Baseball Classic at 2pm. Stuck around for Venezuela-Italy; quite the carnival atmosphere for that, even if the Dome wasn't as packed as it was in the afternoon.

Today: lost an hour, looked at my messy apartment and thought, "Holy hell, how did it get this bad?!", and... well, alright, heading back down to the Dome later for tonight's game, USA-Venezuela. Might squeeze in a little marking here and there, too, for good measure.

So, that's the long and short of it. Next week brings more WBC games, then on the weekend there's the annual provincial union meeting, out of which I'm escaping early so I can hop on a plane to go to Florida to watch more baseball (outdoors, with nicer weather and more palm trees). Nutty times, I tells ya.

Monday, March 02, 2009

I can't figure it out.

Nickelback sucks.

Oh god, how they suck. They make jet-engines look mild in comparison, in terms of sucking power. Their music is a mix of mediocre thrashing, rawk-poses, and Chad Kroeger's odd, growly excuse for "singing."

Two seconds' worth of their music are two seconds too many. I seriously cannot stand more than one millisecond of their shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty, shitty music. I would rather extract my eardrums with a butter knife that I have hammered, using a pair of large, flat stones, into a long, somewhat pointy jabbing implement which could reach down through my ear canal as to better reach said thin membranes, than be subjected to any one of their "hits."

And yet, they sell records. Lots of them. Top of the charts in many countries.

. . .

But, I will say this: Chad Kroeger is an exceedingly ugly man. I, on the other hand, am mildly presentable (given the proper, poor lighting conditions). So we're even.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

I think I'm tired, but I'm not sure.

Yesterday, over a hundred kiddies at the school participated in the 30-Hour Famine to raise money for a charity whose name escapes me. This meant they started fasting at 12:01am on Friday, and went until 6:01am on Saturday... so they stayed overnight at the school on Friday night.

Because I'm ever-so-popular, my Friday night plans were to have originally included:
  1. Coming home
  2. Eating dinner
  3. Going to bed by 10:30
  4. Sleeping the Sleep Of Ages until noon on Saturday
However, one of my colleagues who was helping to organize the thing came to me on Wednesday and said, "Please, J, the kids need more teachers to supervise them... could you do the midnight-to-8-am shift?" Said colleague is really good at doing puppy-dog eyes, so I relented under the condition that I could go home, have a nap, have some dinner, and come on back at midnight. Which I did.

The problem is, I'm not sure (as of now, 12:20 am on Sunday) if I'm actually tired, or I'm good for hours, or what the heck is going on. I got home at about 9 this morning, slept intermittently from about 10 until 2 (I think), and I guess I should technically go to bed now, right?

I'm reminded of a Seinfeld episode where Kramer decides that, instead of sleeping all throughout the night in one block, he'd be up for 6 hours, sleep for 2, be up for another six hours, sleep for another 2, and so on. I don't think it turned out well, so I think it'd be in my best interest to try and get some sleep.

I think.