Monday, May 31, 2010

Amusement parks, good and bad music, and religion.

Today we took a bunch of physics and calculus students to Canada's Wonderland to do some experiments on roller coasters, and to generally goof around.

Missions: accomplished.

The kids look forward to this all year — I get the feeling a few people in the past have taken the course solely so they could go on this trip — and everyone had a lot of fun (except the one kid who slept in and missed it; he's the guy who, if you'd have asked me yesterday, "Who do you think would sleep in and miss this trip?", his name would've been amongst the first three to spring to mind).

I don't know who's picking out the background music that's played on speakers located in discrete areas around the park, but I must say it's more obscure than I'd expected and, frankly, better than I'd have expected... such as:
  • The Raspberries — Go All The Way*
    Killer power-pop from the '70s, contemporaries of Big Star; remember the song "Hungry Eyes" from the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, by Eric Carmen? He fronted The Raspberries. True story.
    * not the canonical studio track, but this live-from-the-studio cut may even be superior
  • Steely Dan — Josie
    If you know me, and you probably do, you know I totally dig the Dan. So, to hear this played in an amusement park ostensibly aimed at people born in the mid-1990s and beyond, I was beyond tickled-pink (and not just because of the sunburn-in-progress).
  • Cheap Trick — Surrender
    I've never been a huge fan of Cheap Trick, although (a.) they do make some catchy tunes, (b.) they apparently put on a fantastic show, and (c.) they were one of the first bands, if not the first, to obtain the "Big in Japan" label.
(On the flip side, tonight I heard what could be the worst rock song made in the past decade or so. I could describe what I dislike about it, but I have work in the morning. Triumph only has three guys, and they kick fourteen times more ass than these clowns.)

As I was checking students off my list this morning before we departed, I came across a group of three girls clustered together; I recognized two of them, but the third had a bucket-cap pulled down low. She waved at me, and I completely mistook her for another person... because in the nearly-two years I've known her, this is the first time I've seen her without a hijab. She doesn't wear one of those ones where you only see their eyes (although I've taught a couple of girls who did) — but you sure can't see any hair sticking out of it. Shoot, some girls wear ones so loose they fall off now and again, and barely cover any hair even at the best of times.

I asked one of my Muslim friends** about this tonight, and the response was something along the lines of, "Well, she probably knew she wasn't going to see any family members at the park, so she left it off. You'll see it back on tomorrow at school."
** I'm not sure how many I have, but I think it's in the low-single-digits.

I've been thinking about this, and I'm not sure what to take away from it. All I have so far is that, given the choice, she wouldn't wear one, but only wears it because someone will rat her out to her parents if she doesn't — but I could very well be wrong. But, who knows? Maybe she did something over the weekend, in an act of rebellion, and from now on she won't wear anything on her head. We'll see tomorrow.

Monday, May 24, 2010

I got me a new ride.

This blog has been going on for so long, I'm on my third car during its... um... lifespan? Yeah, we'll go with "lifespan," even though it's technically not "alive."

Basically, my new car is exactly like my old car, with the following changes:
  • power windows and side-mirrors
  • power locks with the remote unlocker thingy
  • nicer wheels, with bigger rims (which are now aluminum)
  • a slightly fancier radio into which I can plug my iPod
  • about 89,000 fewer kilometres
  • two fewer annoying rattles (bringing the total down to zero)
What was weird, though, was that I felt guilty for leaving my old car. I sat in it one last time, gathering up the assorted stuff from the glovebox that I wanted to transfer into my new car, and we had what I guess could be called a "moment." It was a damn fine car, and I owned it less than four years... but hey, my brother's sweet-ass employee discount program is going to change this fall, and I wanted to get one of the last of the Pontiacs, so I guess this is how it goes.

And, like an idiot, I left a CD in the old car's player, which I retrieved the following day (Sonic Youth's Murray Street, which is a damn fine album, even if it doesn't contain this song in any way, shape or form).

All in all, though, I'm glad I got a new car. And, to the environment, I say this: Fuck you, I ain't givin' it up for nothin'.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Star has a potty-mouth.

Listen, I'm a huge fan of profanity. Huge.

I love the way it sounds, I love the way it feels, I love the way it works.

I'm just not so sure the Toronto Star needs to be in on it so much. Here's an excerpt from an article on MPs considering allowing the Auditor General to make their expenses public:

MPs can't defend the indefensible, Winnipeg Centre New Democrat Pat Martin says.

He said the public has every right to be outraged over the House of Commons' refusal to let Auditor General Sheila Fraser audit the tens of millions MPs spend every year.

"My next call is to our party office and find out how the hell we get out from under this, because we’re getting the shit kicked out of us all over the country," Martin told the Star in an interview from Winnipeg Wednesday.

So... I realize it's in a direct quote and all, and I'm all for journalists trying to stay true to the original quote; likewise, I'm all for keeping most of the profane language in movies shown on broadcast TV, assuming it's on after 9pm or so (maybe not the word "motherfucker" so much, but I'm willing to let most of the rest go).

However, there's such a thing as being professional. I don't drop f- and s-bombs in my classroom, because (a.) the kids say it enough without me throwing more on the pile, (b.) it's pretty unneccessary, and (c.) as a teacher, I have to be held to a higher standard than your average profession in regards to this sort of stuff. Sure, I might let one or two rip in a year — and it's probably not going to be the word "fuck" — but it's usually for comedic effect, and there are lots of classes I've taught where I know that sort of thing would just set them right off, so I don't do it.

Similarly, as a journalist, you have to have higher standards in your writing than, say, your average neighbourhood idiot with a blog, typing away in their underwear, eating a Costco-sized bag of pork rinds, scratching themselves in awkward places and listening to Triumph* (Hello, everyone! And ladies, I'm still single). Would it have been too awful for the quote to have said, "we're getting the [expletive] kicked out of us"? Anyone who read the article, and should know what the parenthetical word was, can probably figure it out.

I've noticed this in the Star a couple of times recently, in articles online. I'm curious to know if they appear in the print version, but our copy of the paper around the lunch table at work tends to disappear before I get there, so I probably won't find out. I hope it doesn't.
* Just kidding. I'm listening to April Wine.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Hot Blooded": A Lyrical Deconstruction.

I was doing my dishes earlier tonight whilst listening to the radio, and the song "Hot Blooded" by the band Foreigner, which had its heyday in the late 1970s through the early 1980s, came on.

You probably know the song's general melody and tone (standard guitar-bass-drums setup, lead singer with a moderately-high-pitched voice, short guitar solo in the bridge), so I'll skip the details and go straight into the lyrics, which I'd never really listened to in any sort of detail until tonight. Chances are you haven't either, although you likely know most of the chorus.

What comes next may well SHOCK you. (If you have young children who might read this, best just to gouge their eyes out now so they'll never be exposed to this sort of filth.)

Let's begin.

* * * * * * *

Well, I'm hot blooded, check it and see
I got a fever of a hundred and three
Clearly, Foreigner vocalist and frontman Lou Gramm has some sort of viral infection. His temperature is 103°F (39.4°C), which is far over normal body temperature of 98.6°F (37.0°C). Someone should probably escort him to an emergency room — but Mr. Gramm has other things in mind.

Come on baby, do you do more than dance?
I'm hot blooded, I'm hot blooded
In his feverish delirium, Gramm has noticed a woman dancing. Gramm, blessed with a curious mind, wonders what else this woman ("baby") does beside dancing. I have a feeling he's going to try to find out.

You don't have to read my mind, to know what I have in mind
Honey you oughtta know
Apparently the woman he has encountered has presented herself as some sort of psychic seer.

Now you move so fine, let me lay it on the line
I thought perhaps Gramm was quoting Triumph's "Lay It On The Line" — but no, Foreigner's Double Vision album (from which this song is taken) was released in 1978, and Triumph's Just a Game came out the following year, so that's not it. Instead, he merely wants to make a proposition to this dancer.

I wanna know what you're doin' after the show
Even though Gramm is highly feverish, he wants to make this dancer's acquaintance after the show in which he is currently playing, as a member of Foreigner. Talk about breaking the fourth wall!

Now it's up to you, we can make a secret rendezvous
Just me and you, I'll show you lovin' like you never knew
Not only is Gramm physically ill, he openly professes to be a type of sexual deviant, promising an encounter "like [she] never knew." Nevermind the mis-match in verb tense here; Lou Gramm is a pervert.

If it feels alright, maybe you can stay all night
Shall I leave you my key?
This quote clearly demonstrates that the song was written (by already-noted pervert Gramm and guitarist/producer Mick Jones, of unknown sexual deviousness) before the era of magnetic swipe-cards in hotels, rather than physical keys.

But you've got to give me a sign, come on girl, some kind of sign
Tell me, are you hot mama? You sure look that way to me
Gramm knows his viral infection is contagious, and he begins to see signs of it in others: namely, the dancer. Is the hotel room key an invitation for her to join him for some soothing herbal tea and perhaps some Vicks Vapo-Rub, in an attempt to relieve themselves of the symptoms of the disease? We may never know.

Are you old enough? Will you be ready when I call your bluff?
Yet another facet to Gramm's perversion: he is a pederast. His attraction to exceptionally young women should land him on some sort of police-maintained list, like "The Jesus" from The Big Lebowski.

Is my timing right? Did you save your love for me tonight?
This doesn't take a rocket scientist: Lou Gramm is a pervert who is obsessed with deflowering virgin women.

Now it's up to you, can we make a secret rendezvous?
Oh, before we do, you'll have to get away from you know who
No, I don't know who. Jonathan Taylor Thomas, maybe?

Hot blooded, every night
Hot blooded, you're looking so tight
Hot blooded, now you're driving me wild
Hot blooded, I'm so hot for you, child
"Tight"? "Child"? This sickens me.

Hot blooded, I'm a little bit high
Hot blooded, you're a little bit shy
Might as well throw "drug addict" in there on top of the pederasty, the sexual deviancy, and the viral infection.

Hot blooded, you're making me sing
Hot blooded, for your sweet sweet thing
I'm fucking disgusted.

* * * * * * *

So, in conclusion, keep Lou Gramm's feverish mitts well away from all barely-pubescent virginal teenage girls who attend Foreigner concerts.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

C'mon back, boys.

Apparently the NHL thinks the Phoenix Coyotes just might end up back where they came from, and they have a contingency plan which takes that into account.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

A fine accomplishment, if I do say so myself.

I found this out while perusing my StatCounter stats (because, hey, I'm a little stalker-ish when it comes to this site)... check out what happens when you type harper is a douche into

Y'know... sometimes when your blog goes a month without anyone leaving one stinkin' comment on it (hey jerks, the internet is INTERACTIVE! Catch the fever!), and you wonder if you're really making any sort of difference in this world, or am I, in the words of Reverend Johnson from Blazing Saddles, "just jerking off"... you see that some supercomputer somewhere thinks highly of you (rightly) hurling a disparaging epithet at the leader of your country, and it all makes it worth the time, effort and sanity I've put into this thing.

The original post is here, by the way. Take a little trip down memory lane, won't you?

Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Ernie Harwell, 1918-2010

We were spoiled all these years to have you all to ourselves... even if you were "just a tongue-tied kid from Georgia."

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Barack Obama, comedian.

At the Washington Correspondents Dinner last night, Obama was full of zingers, quips and one-liners. My favourite:

"I see that the Jonas Brothers are here. Sasha and Malia are huge fans. But boys, don't you go getting any ideas now. I've got two words for you: predator drones."

Another one of note:

"Jay Leno is here tonight. He'll be on later. I'm glad I'm going on before him, because we all know what happens to your ratings if you go on after Jay."

Finally, another one about approval ratings:

"We've had a lot of ups and downs in the past year, since I spoke to you last. My approval ratings, well, they've only gone down. But, rest assured, my rating is still very high in the country of my birth."

Ah! What a ham. If it turns out that the Birthers are right and he has to leave office, he should try his hand on the stand-up circuit. (Then again, if he has to leave office, the thought of President Biden gives me the heebie-jeebies.)

(But not as much as the idea of President Palin does.)

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Saturday strangeness.

I've been in a weird mood most of the afternoon and evening, and I'm not quite sure why. Chuck Klosterman might be a part of it, though.

Whenever I read something by Klosterman — I picked up Killing Yourself to Live tonight and love it so far, after "reading" Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs in audiobook form a couple of years ago — I start to think in Klostermanesque monologues. As far as I can tell, his brain works pretty much the same way mine does: fairly randomly, well-intentioned, and peppered with random references to rock music in various forms.

I bought the aforementioned book at the Indigo at Yonge and Eglinton.

That area intimidates me.

I live in the south part of the former town of Leaside, about a 35-minute walk from Yonge & Eg, but a vastly different demographic. If you live in Leaside, chances are you're either (a.) a rich retiree who bought their house in the '50s and now it's worth over a million, (b.) a yuppie in your 40s whose job pays entirely too much, and you and your wife have a baby or a dog, and probably a $90k SUV, or (c.) me. Y&E is filled with (often extremely-) good-looking people, somewhere around my age; I feel like I have to be "on" all the time there.

At the Indigo, I went up to pay for my books; I picked up a book by a former minor league baseball pitcher which is apparently very good, and Lonely Planet Ireland in anticipation of this summer's trip, in addition to the Klosterman. The woman who rang me up noticed the Ireland book remarked that a friend of hers is out on a date tonight with a "fresh off the boat" Irish guy, and then she remarked, quite out-of-the-blue, that there aren't too many good guys left in Toronto.

I didn't really know quite what to say in response; I wasn't really expecting my brief, routine financial transaction to quickly turn into a conversation about the transgressions of the gender opposite oneself's (assuming you're straight). Eventually I came up with, "Well, you people aren't exactly model citizens yourselves," which is certainly true.

Her: "Guys can be so mean, though."

Me: "Yeah, well, women are pretty mean, too. And guys let them get away with it, because they're after exactly one thing."

...which is true.

After I left the store, I wondered if I should've asked her for her number. I don't normally go for women with prominent nose rings, but... given my recent exceptionally-dry spell with the ladies (women who play games and send extremely mixed messages and know exactly who they are, missy, excepted), what did I have to lose? I didn't really feel sparks, no, but is a 90-second conversation enough to go on?

(Answer: You bet it is.)

(Also: I have never directly asked a woman for her phone number. I am a sad, sad excuse for a man.)

At any rate, back to Klosterman. He's hilarious, knows a crapload about music, is incredibly down-to-earth, and is older than me yet doesn't know what to do in terms of settling down with a woman. Granted, he has had more romance/sex in his life than I do — who hasn't? — but the fact that he's pretty clueless about how his own life will turn out makes me feel a little better about my own.

If I could write like one person on this planet, it would be Klosterman. Sure, Matt Taibbi's great, but without gratuitous profanity he's a hell of a lot less entertaining.