Friday, July 30, 2010

Over here in the Motherland.

...or is it?

I'm writing from an Internet cafe here in Dublin. This is my second day here, and I've done a hell of a lot of walking. I spent a day in Glasgow before coming here, and before Glasgow, four days in Reykjavik with the one-and-only Matt.

I'll do a bit more of a recap later, but here are some highlights:
  • the women in Reykjavik are stunning
  • the women in Glasgow are not
  • the women in Dublin are... meh
  • geysers are cool
  • Iceland loves to drink until the morning
  • there are a lot of great bands in Scotland
  • it's easier to understand someone from Dublin than it is someone from Glasgow, by far
  • the Book of Kells is pretty neat
  • stopping over in Copenhagen airport on the way from Reykjavik to Glasgow, I have concluded that Danish is the most ridiculous language ever invented
That's about it. Pictures will be posted when I get back, somewhere. You'll find 'em, I'm sure.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

I'm off for a bit.

I figure in about a half-hour I should probably catch a bus to the subway to the bus to the airport.

If I don't write for a while, it's because I'm on one of two rocks in the North Atlantic which feature very pale people. My kind of people.

And the thermometer hardly ever touches 20°C. My kind of temperatures.

Don't worry, I'll take lots of pictures.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Here is my rant against cell phones.

If you know me, and you probably do, I hate these things. I've also been promising (threatening?) to put together a coherent diatribe summarizing my thoughts on this subject.

So, here it is.

1. A lot of people are annoying when they use them.

The subway, the grocery store, walking down the street, standing in line at the VD clinic — people use these things everywhere. I suppose that's what they're for, really... but if you're talking, we can all hear you. Most of the time, it goes like this:

OKAY, YOU WANT THE SHREDDED CHEESE? ... THE SHRED— ... SHREDDED CHEESE. YOU WANT THE SHREDDED CHEESE? ... YEAH, ALRIGHT. HOW MUCH? ... HOW MUCH OF THE SHREDDED— ... YEAH, HOW MUCH? ... I DON'T KNOW, THE TWO HUNDRED GRAM BAG? ... THINK THAT'S ENOUGH? ... IS THAT ENOUGH? ... I DON'T KNOW, IS THAT ENOUGH?

...and so on. Studies have now shown that we find these half-conversations so annoying because our brains are apparently wired-up to pay special attention to stuff like that. Or something. I don't know, I was talking and texting and sipping a Starbucks pretentioccino or some shit when I was driving and listening to the CBC when this story came on.

As for texting, I always find it funny (terrible?) when two people are out to dinner with each other at a nice restaurant, and both people are looking down, typety-typing away on their little doohickeys. Do you seriously need to send that text message right now?

2. Do you seriously need to text/talk right now?

You probably don't.

Really.

You don't.

Seriously, that shit can wait.

There are exceptions, of course, and this is the argument I always hear:

What if you're driving down the 401 and it's the middle of nowhere and your car breaks down and a rapist is following you?

I've driven more miles on the 401 than any sane person should ever be subjected to. Fortunately, my cars have been mostly reliable (exception: The Deathcar towards the end of its stay with me), so this hasn't been a problem. But, I'll play tiddly-winks with your straw-man.

For years, people have had cars break down on the 401. And for years, people managed to (mostly) not get raped by the side of the road, or while walking to the next exit to get some sort of help. Why are things so much different today?

If I'm a long-haul trucker, I'll get one.

That's a promise.

3. It'll turn you into a douche.

Well, it might. Here's what I mean.

Once upon a time, before supposed continual contact between people, you told a person, "Hey, I'll meet you at the corner of Jarvis and Wellesley at 10" — and, because neither of you lived near the corner in Toronto where one would mostly likely acquire the services of a prostitute, it'd take a little time to get there.

So, let's say you were to meet at 10. If it takes half an hour to get there, that means you leave at 9:30, and after then you can't be reached. You're supposed to be at Jarvis and Wellesley at 10, and if you're late, that means the punctual one is going to have to make small-talk with the hookers for however long your ass is late.

But, here's how things appear to have gone.

Since people can call each other anytime, that has given quite a few of you carte-blanche to be late. Really, why would you bother being on time? Everyone has a cell phone, so if you're late, you call the other person because you can, and then hey, everyone's fine-and-dandy and you get your hookers and you go have your fun.

However, I've seen what effect this has on teenagers, and it's not good. Not good at all.

They have cell phones, because overprotective mommy and daddy want to make sure their little Billy/Susie/Parminder isn't getting strangled in some alley, which likely won't happen. But, of course, they use them for everything (including texting in class — you know how much I must love that, eh?), and they get in the habit of being late for each other.

...which means they get in the habit for being late for class. It's amazing, how many exchanges I have along these lines:

Me: You're late.
Kid: No I'm not.
Me: What time is it?
Kid: 10:28.
Me: Class started at 10:25.
Kid: That's only three minutes.
Me: Were you here when the bell rang?
Kid: C'mon, I'm not really late.

This "I'm late, but I'm not late" paradigm has only really popped up in about the last three years, when kids really started getting into cell phones. Is this a coincidence? Maybe it is, maybe it isn't — but I think you know what side of the argument I fall on.

That's enough of a rant for now, I think. There are likely other reasons, but none of them come to mind presently. That being said, I give it about three years and I'll probably crack and get one.

And I blame you.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Census time.

Well, it's not time for the census now, but it will be next year.

I've heard rumblings about Steve and the Cons wanting to change parts of the census, and I thought, "Big whoop, who cares?"

Turns out that (a.) I was a moron to think it didn't matter, and (b.) the proposed change is a great deal bigger than Steve would have you believe.

Read for yourself...
  1. Haroon Siddiqui's article in the Star — he and I don't normally see eye-to-eye on stuff, but on this one he's right on target
  2. Matt Blair's summary and views of his own — he puts it pretty well, so why waste space on the Internet duplicating it?
Jesus, I hate the Conservatives. Can we PLEASE have a Lib-NDP coalition to unseat these fucks?

And now, for something completely different.

Like whom do you write?

I wanted the title of this post to be Who do you write like?, but given this post's emphasis on writing style, I felt that dangling a participle in the title would have been a cardinal sin.

At any rate, there's a site called I Write Like, and it will analyze a sample of your writing and compare it to some famous authors' work. (Tip of the hat: Peter Lynn.) So, naturally, I got curious.

A couple of posts ago, I wrote about Detroit. That was a fairly typical passage, I thought, so I plugged it into I Write Like and it compared that to the work of HP Lovecraft. I'd heard the name before, but didn't know much about him; I don't usually read fiction. But, his Wikipedia entry suggests something bizarre:

Lovecraft's guiding literary principle was what he termed "cosmicism" or "cosmic horror", the idea that life is incomprehensible to human minds and that the universe is fundamentally alien. Those who genuinely reason, like his protagonists, gamble with sanity.

So, you reason and you go crazy — or get close. Fantastic.

I dialed the clock back to 2006, and this post about all the free time I had over the Christmas holidays. IWL said I wrote like Raymond Chandler on this one; again, turning to Wikipedia suggests another kooky fellow:

Critics and writers from W. H. Auden to Evelyn Waugh to Ian Fleming, greatly admired Chandler's prose. In a radio discussion with Chandler, Fleming said that the former offered “some of the finest dialogue written in any prose today.” Although his swift-moving, hardboiled style was inspired mostly by Dashiell Hammett, his sharp and lyrical similes are original: "The muzzle of the Luger looked like the mouth of the Second Street tunnel;" "He had a heart as big as one of Mae West's hips;" "Dead men are heavier than broken hearts;" "I went back to the seasteps and moved down them as cautiously as a cat on a wet floor."

Finally, my first post ever, in those crazy days of 2004 was analyzed to be akin to something that Stephen King would write. That's pretty flattering, but a little creepy at the same time.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Drivin', drivin', drivin'.

So much for relaxing a lot on the summer holidays.

Canada Day, chill with a few beers. The next day, head down to Sarnia-ish for a day with the fam, then the next three in Detroit/Toledo for four baseball games. Come back to Toronto, melt for a day, then mom/dad/bro/niece come up for a thorough exploration of the Science Centre. Melt for another day, then sing "Go All The Way" by Raspberries for karaoke (only in honour of a birthday; I gotta keep these pipes a secret!). Next day, drive back down to Detroit for another game, hang with the fam this morning and afternoon, come back almost all the way to Toronto, play two baseball games, then come back the rest of the way, then fire up my computer so I can tell you all about it.

At said karaoke — which I never usually attend, but hey, it was for a birthday — I had a strange experience by meeting someone who has apparently been reading this thing for the past year and half. I mean, it's very flattering to have someone think your writing is interesting (really?) enough to follow it for any length of time, it really is. The strange part, though, is meeting someone for the first time who already knows things about you — physics teacher, fan of the Tigers, superb in the sack, all that jazz — but you don't really know anything about them in return (other than they're a friend of your friend).

Has this ever happened to you? Lemme tell ya, it's weeeeeeird at first. But hey, you get over it. (Hi, Claire!)

(I think that was your name.)

(I'm so terrible at remembering things like names.)

At any rate, I'm hoping this week is going to be a hell of a lot lazier. Sloth, I welcome thee.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Summer, I hate you.

Today at the baseball game the temperature got up to 92°F which is over 33°C not even factoring in the humidity and it was sunny but luckily I was in the shade most of the game but it was still so goddamn hot and sticky and jesus aitch christ the game was so long I mean I love baseball but seriously almost four god damn hours what is this Yankees-Red Sox and it just hasn't let up and now it's past midnight and in Toronto it's still 28°C but with the humidity it's thirty eight effing degrees and my poor little window air conditioner can only do so much and STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT GOD DAMN IT.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Some observations about Detroit.

I'm in Detroit in the middle of a 3-day, 4-game baseball binge (which is different from BInge, a.k.a. Brandon Inge, oh god, I'm loopy from all the hot dogs and Star Spangled Banner renditions). A bunch of folks that post on Bless You Boys (a.k.a. BYB) have met up for a game or two (or four, depending on how much time we have), hence the get-together and the baseball-overdose.

I've never actually stayed in Detroit — a couple of us from BYB are staying at a hotel right downtown, about a 10-minute walk from Comerica Park — because a baseball game is only about a 90-minute drive away from my parents' place, so why stay the night? This means that I haven't really seen a lot of how Detroit works in the evening, what nightlife is like, and so on. So, here's what I have so far.

Downtown Detroit is not scary.

The place gets a bad rap; somewhat deservedly so, I suppose. And I will admit, there are some places outside the downtown that I really don't care to see, much less walk around after dark. But, after having walked around downtown last night and tonight, and seeing a good part of it (Greektown, Bricktown, the stretch of Woodward from Campus Martius up to the Fox Theatre), not once did I feel unsafe. I'd do it again, for sure.

Detroit is not that confusing to get around.

Granted, a few streets do a loopy thing around a couple of parks (Grand Circus is one of them), but, by-and-large, with a few exceptions, everything's on a pretty regular grid pattern. I can remember my dad saying when I was little, "You really don't want to get lost in downtown Detroit," but I think that was probably just a bit of naive, latent, small-town-infused racism which is pretty common (but is far from malicious, trust me).

Americans sure love their fireworks.

Three of us made the trip from Detroit to Toledo to catch the Mud Hens play an evening game. On the way back north after watching Toledo shit the bed* and lose 6-0 to Columbus, we were driving north on I-75 between about 10pm and 11pm, and HOLY CRAP FIREWORKS EVERYWHERE. At one point we counted seven different, separate displays of fireworks that we could see at the same time. I don't get it.
* This is my new favourite turn-of-phrase.

Downtown Detroit needs people and businesses.

The architecture is fantastic. The storefronts are ready, waiting, and look great. The sidewalks are wide and well-kept. Parking is ample and relatively cheap. Apparently there's going to be an LRT going straight down Woodward, with constuction set to begin in 2013. All this place needs are businesses and people... but you won't put a business where there's no people, and people won't come if there aren't any businesses.

This morning in the hotel's elevator a lady asked me, "So, where do people go to shop downtown? Where's the shopping district?" I thought for a second and said, "Um, I guess you could go to Greektown, I suppose" — because there really isn't a "shopping district," per se. If someone asked me about Toronto, I'd tell them to go to the Eaton Centre, Yorkville, Queen West, Leslieville, Bloor West, Leaside, Corso Italia... then again, I'm not entirely familiar with this place, so maybe I shat the bed on this one.

Detroit is full of Black people.

This one is a little more involved, and requires a longer reflection.