Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Random Thoughts: Coming Attractions

I recently checked out some coming attractions on the Quicktime movie webpage and found a lot to get excited about - enough to start a new entry in my blog.

Two different takes on vengeance
The story lines are very similar: protagonist loses a loved one to random thug violence. The system fails to right wrongs and the protagonist is left to turn to vigilante justice to regain power. However, Death Sentence stars Kevin Bacon and is directed by the guy who did Saw. The Brave One stars Jodie foster and is directed by the guy behind The Crying Game. Can you guess which one approaches the topic of revenge like an raging orgy of violence and which one focuses on the uneasy transition from victim to vigilante?
Clue: In the trailer, Kevin Bacon changes from mild-mannered suit into a crazed skinhead. Jodie Foster sports hair reminiscent of her character in The Accused. Think about it.

Another very special little boy
Being the cash cow that it was, The Lord of the Rings movies have spawned a lot of crappy clones: Eragon, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (protest all you want but the best thing about that movie was Tilda Swinton as the Witch), and now, The Seeker: The Dark is Rising. Once again, we have a seemingly ordinary boy who turns out to be the saviour of the world. This one, played by Alexander Ludwig, appears to have the charisma of particle board.
Do we really need another story about a special little boy? At least with the upcoming release of The Golden Compass, I can look forward to the story of a very special little girl. That's different!

Miscellaneous crap

The trailer for The Kingdom appears very 'us vs them' about the Middle East, which I found very strange in this day and age. That kind of black and white cinematic depiction was harmless fun back in the 80s but it hits too close to home in the post 9/11 world. Of course, a promotional behind-the-scenes feature about the movie shows the gung-ho Americans (Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner) cooperating with a helpful Arab cop. However, the overwhelming story arc in the trailer is of an "elite FBI team" entering "a hostile country" to investigate the bombing of a wholesome game of softball (!) in an American compound in Saudi Arabia. Then one of their team members is taken hostage and this throws everyone into a tizzy. If the only way this movie feels that it can compel its audience to care is to put American characters in danger then I know that The Kingdom is as bad as any boneheaded anti-Arab action movie of the past.

Things We Lost in the Fire - Harlequin romance in the guise of a deep drama. Woman loses husband unexpectedly, husband's no good friend moves into the house to "help", woman ends up becoming attracted to friend, everyone gets angsty and guilty. My favourite scene from the trailer: Halle Berry convinces Benicio Del Toro, the no good friend of her husband, to climb into bed with her so that she can hold onto some male flesh and thereby, overcome her insomnia. Second favourite scene: Halle Berry frolicking in a bikini. Berry muses, "I don't know if I'll ever feel happy again" but is there ever any doubt when Benicio is lurking in the background?

Into the Wild - you suspect that this movie is pretentious because it lists 10 actors' names before the title even shows up. Then you know it will fart in your general direction because it is written and directed by Sean Penn. The movie is about a well-to-do hippie kid who decides to literally burn his money and become an adventurer headed for Alaska. This is the kind of movie that is supposed to make you regret scratching your ass while sitting in the movie theatre. Yet, I find myself wishing Sean Penn had filmed himself burning his millions in a bonfire then treking through the wilderness of America without any hair pomade. Not going to happen.

A glimmer of hope
Not everything is crap. 2 Days in Paris looks hilarious. Who knew that Julie Delpy, the director, writer and lead for the movie, was such a brain in addition to being a looker? Julie Delpy and Adam Goldberg play a New York couple on hoiday in Paris during which they encounter Julie's stereotypically French parents and numerous overly friendly ex-boyfriends. The film features the winning line spouted by Delpy's real-life mom: "Sex fun! Everyone with everyone." to which Adam Goldberg mutters, "The mother's a slut, too."

Friday, July 13, 2007

London Called - The End

This London trip story is really dragging on for too long. I'm starting to forget details. Here are the last two days of our trip in point form.

Day 5 - Greenwich
  • took first Thames ferry to Greenwich, avoided the crowds, straddled the Prime Meridian, took photos
  • did not see the historic ship, the Cutty Sark, because it was under restoration - a week later, vandals had burned most it down -this is in keeping with the disastrous effect I have on the cities I visit (ditto for New York and New Orleans)
  • met up with Aunt Irene who drove us in her Renault to Bluewater Shopping Centre
  • Bluewater was relatively empty due to the football finals being played out that afternoon; everyone was in the pubs or at home
  • returned to Aunt Irene's house in East London - very exciting to see a real London house and suburb
  • watched the overtime period then the shootout of the football final
  • got a whirlwind tour of East London and the new financial district at night
  • took the Tube back to hotel exhausted

Day 6 - Leftovers

  • went bright and early to Spitalfield's Market - at 10am, walked cautiously around drunken Londoners coming out of clubs and punching each other in the face
  • bought lots of great stuff at Spitalfield's - much better than Bluewater!
  • went to the Victoria & Albert Museum - unfortunately, British Galleries were closed - no repression and hooped skirts for us
  • walked over to Hyde Park (busy and large) and spent some time watching rollerbladers play a game of street hockey (at least 2 Russians and one Maple Leaf fan) - felt like eating Timbits and drinking maple syrup
  • walked past Kensington Palace too late to visit plus it cost money
  • ate final dinner in London at East Indian Restaurant again - curry lamb one more time

Day 7 - Flight home

  • took an Air Canada plane that was just put into service in 2007
  • had many choices of movies and chose to watch: Music & Lyrics (lame), Prête-moi ta main (Charlotte Gainsbourg's wardrobe was amazing), another movie I can't remember, and the first half hour of The Painted Veil (looked promising)
  • my parents surprised us at the airport and drove us home - so nice!
  • ate some takeout then loaded our photos onto the internet

I did not love London like I always believed I would. All those years of dreaming of the BBC, Sherlock Holmes and Depeche Mode did not match up to the reality: an impersonal and fast city with vestiges of a colonial attitude and an affinity for Big Brother cameras everywhere. Joe and I don't bar a return to London but it won't be at the top of our vacation list.

The End (finally).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A non-commercial break

My blog seems to have been taken over by my never-ending anecdotes about my trip to London. So, I'll talk briefly about my happiness over the withdrawal of "Freestyle" from the CBC Radio One afternoon schedule in Toronto. It was replaced about a month ago by "Q", an arts show hosted by Jian Ghomeshi, whom I loved during the run of "The National Playlist" and his stint hosting "Sounds like Canada" last summer. Needless to say, I am thrilled.

I never had a chance to rant about "Freestyle" when it was still on the air in Toronto and now that it is off, it feels a little late. Yet, I'm going it off my chest and hope that CBC mines the internet for criticism about their past mistakes.

1. Original hosts Cameron Phillips and Kelly Ryan sounded like they disliked eachother. To be more accurate, Kelly sounded like she thought Cameron was a moron. Typical Cameron and Kelly banter went like this (made up at the top of my head):
Cameron: I enjoy drinking a slushee really fast so that I get a
brain freeze. What about you, Kelly? Do you do that much?
Kelly: No, I can't say I do.
Cameron: What about when you were a kid? You used to do
that, right?
Kelly: No, I knew better, Cameron.
(Uncomfortable chuckling from Cameron)
Kelly: Speaking of brain freeze, here's the latest Avril Lavigne
song.
Maybe Kelly's news background made her feel that she was above light, afternoon banter. In the end, she left "Freestyle" to return to news and was replaced by Marsha Lederman who is clearly more willing to join in on Cameron's silliness.
2. More than half of "Freestyle" consisted of easy listening radio. Exactly why CBC would feel a need to wade into the same waters as commercial radio is beyond me. I listen to CBC radio to avoid commercial radio.
I still remember the day CBC management came on "Ontario Today", then hosted by Alan Neal, to announce that "Ontario Today" would end broadcast in Toronto an hour early to make way for their new show, "Freestyle". As the suit droned on and on about markets and surveys, it was hard to ignore Alan's contempt, even in his brief questions.
Alan moved on to "Fuse," a music show, a bit later and I miss him. His mild voice usually led politicians and other guests he interviewed into a false sense of security. Then he would whip out a nasty question and not let up until the interviewee was clearly sweating through the phone. Hilarious!
Jian is back. Now, if only they would get Alan Neal his own show: a mash up of pleasant current events and public humiliation for the deserving.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

London Called - Part 4

Day 4 - The South Bank
Looking back on our itinerary, we realize now that maybe we stuffed too much into each day. At the time, we were puzzled as to why were so tired and cranky. Yet, we understood enough to slow down on Day 4.
We started with a leisurely speed walk to the Tate Modern. I had dreamed of going to the Tate Modern, having seen photographs of an amazing installation by Louise Bourgeois in the Turbine Hall back in 2000 (seen above).
Unfortunately, our timing was terrible. The Gilbert & George exhibition has just closed, leaving the Turbine Hall completely empty and partially inaccessible. In the smaller galleries, the collection consisted of mostly paintings from the early to mid 20th century. In retrospect, it makes sense that the Tate Modern should feature 'Modern Art'; I had confused 'modern' with 'contemporary'.
One of the only things that brought my spirits up at the Tate Modern was a piece by one of my favourite artists, Maurizio Cattelan . Ave Maria (seen below), a piece commissioned by the Tate Modern, was on display side by side with some mid-20th century paintings. Photographs were not allowed but I had regretted not taking photos during our visit to St. Paul's and now decided to thumb my nose at the rules.
The other thing that made the trip to the Tate Modern worthwhile was the restaurant. After eating on the cheap for the duration of our stay so far, we decided to splurge on lunch. No matter how many photographs and movies I took, nothing could capture the view of the city from the floor to ceiling windows. I had the lamb and Joe had the fish, then we had some dessert. The bill came out to ₤50, which we were happy to pay because we had reassured ourselves that we would eat fast food for dinner and that we were celebrating my birthday, to come in a couple of months.
We left content with food but ready to piss on the Tate name as both the Tate Britain and the Tate Modern had disappointed us.
We walked on along the Thames and came across the London Eye, the gigantic ferris wheel. Londoners had been tricked into believing the tourist trap would be temporary but it has become the #1 attraction in London and hence, it is staying put. We decided to skip the London Eye due to the massive lineup and the price. Also, we had gotten a great view of the city from the stop of St. Paul's Cathedral, and with less congestion.
We made our way past Cleopatra's Needle and marveled at the shrapnel marks that still remain from World War I bombing that just missed the 3000+ years old obelisk. We then decided to make a run for The National Gallery, even though closing time was a mere hour and a half away.
It turned out that the National Gallery was kind of boring with the usual array of grandiose and pretty paintings that people usually consider "real art". Trafalgar Square outside the National Gallery was packed with tourists and pigeons but I enjoyed Marc Quinn's Alison Lapper Pregnant (seen on the right), which is supposed to be a temporary exhibition but has been on site since 2005.
We sped through the Gallery in record time then rushed out to the sides streets of Oxford Circus to do some windowshopping. We particularly enjoyed a Japanese store that featured simple and stylish objects for travel and everday living. When the shops closed at 7pm, we returned to our hotel, relatively sore-free.
End of Day 4.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

London Called - Part 3

Day 3 - The City

We were supposed to get up early enough to arrive at St. Paul's Cathedral at 8:30am but our exhaustion convinced us to show pity on ourselves. We ended up arriving at the Cathedral at 10am, which was still early enough to avoid the majority of the crowds.
In contrast to Westminster Abbey, St. Paul's Cathedral was light and spacious, as intended by architect, Sir Christopher Wren. The domes, the highly placed, clear windows and even the white stone used to build the structure created a majestic yet airy effect. Wren had also chosen the forgo the usual heavy church ornamentation of the time but his vision was ignored by the Victorians who covered parts of the white ceiling with colourful mosaics.
As seems to be the custom of British churches, St. Paul's Cathedral contained a number of monuments to war heroes and other men of importance. However, the majority of the tombs were placed in the crypt, which is neater than the rummage sale layout of Westminster Abbey.
When Joe and I had finished with the main floor of the Cathedral, we decided to attempt the 259 step climb to the Whispering Gallery, located in the great Dome. There was no elevator, only a narrow stone spiral staircase. By the main entrance into the stairwell, there was a health warning and for good reason: the stairs up to the Whispering Gallery did not have any landings to rest on and narrowed to shoulder width at times. This latest example of how hardcore London is weeded out the weak and wide amongst the tourists, leaving Joe and me thankful for our good health.
The Whispering Gallery boasts an acoustic phenomenon where if one person whispers into the wall on one side, it will be heard clearly on the other side. Joe and I assumed it was a gimmick and maturely enjoyed the vertigo-inducing view of the cathedral floor. However, after the security guard used the Gallery's effect to warn people not to take photographs, I was sent running to the other side of the Gallery and chatted enthusiastically to the wall.
Another 119 steps took us to Stone Gallery, an outdoor viewing area on top of the Dome. It was quite spacious but the views were marred by a thick and tall stone guard rail. So, the obvious solution was to climb another 152 steps to the Golden Gallery. The barrier for many tourists who had bravely made the trek to the Stone Gallery were the cast iron stairs, which were see-thru and therefore, scarier than solid stone. The key was not to look down.
Located 280 feet from ground level, the Golden Gallery was small and windy but offered unobstructed views of London. London building restrictions had prevented skyscarpers from being built anywhere close to the Cathedral, something I wish Toronto enacted at times. Joe and I carefully manuvered around four other tourists to take photographs of the city skyline. The photo to the left is of the front of the Cathedral. The photo to the right is of East London.
My only regret in regards to St. Paul's Cathedral is that I did not break the rules more and take photographs of the Whispering Gallery. I had a fist full of money that I was ready to throw at the Gift Shop but I found no photographs of the Whispering Gallery for purchase.
However, I did manage to take one forbidden photograph of the Cathedral's interior during my descent from the Galleries, seen on the left.
After St. Paul's Cathedral, we walked across the Millenium Bridge to the South Bank and then walked along the Thames with the goal of reaching the Tower Bridge. We passed a recreation of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the London Dungeon (looked tacky) and the Clink Prison. The walk was filled with tourists and a few locals jogging.
Due to an inability to find Tower Bridge, we decided to visit the Tower of London first. We had been warned in guidebooks to avoid going to the Tower of London in the morning due to the loads of tour buses that invade the place at that time. Yet, the crowds of tourists that swarmed the area when we arrived scared me into seriously considering skipping the whole thing.
It turned out to be better than expected as the Tower of London is large enough to accomodate many a tourist and, according to the guide, it was not actually too busy that day. Our timing was also fortuitous in that we managed to join a tour, led by a Yeoman Warder, just as we entered. He told us amusing tales of imprisonment and beheadings in the style of Monty Python but we chose to look politely away when passing the tipping bucket.
There was also no wait for all the other Tower attractions: the Crown Jewels (passed on conveyor belts), the White Tower, the Bloody Tower, and all the other towers. I had hoped for a historic recreation of the rooms where Anne Boleyn and others were incarcerated but many of the rooms were made up with large, sometimes interactive, information boards, creating a touristy, rather than historical feel to the whole place. Still, the Tower of London was entertaining for the three hours we were there.
After the Tower of London came Tower Bridge. We had taken numerous photos of the bridge as we got closer and closer to it, and yet, on closer inspection, it really was not very exciting. We walked across Tower Bridge, explored London City Hall and some other South Bank attractions before recrossing the Thames on London Bridge.
Walking back west to our hotel, we decided to take a small detour into the financial district even though we were quite tired because it was convenient. We came across the unexpectedly impressive sight of the Monument. Rising 202 feet, the world's tallest isolated stone column commemorated the Great Fire of 1666. When I found out that a 311 step spiral staircase layed inside, I was eager to attempt the climb but it was closing time for the Monument. The photo of the Monument on the left does not do it justice.
We walked on to find the Lloyds of London Building, which scared the crap out of Joe, and the much friendlier Swiss Re Tower, aka The Gherkin. The Lloyds of London Building, seen on the right, resembled a Giger abbatoir with its exposed piping and windowless facade. The Swiss Re Tower, seen here, looked just like a gherkin (pickle).
It felt like a full and productive day so after appreciating The Gherkin and the Giger abbatoir, Joe and I headed back to our hotel.
End of Day 3


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

London Called - Part 2

Day 2 - Museums and Shopping
The first day of our London itinerary so thoroughly destroyed us that we decided to scale back slightly and scheduled two museums plus some retail therapy for Day 2.

We had heard great things about the Natural History Museum so we decided to add it to our list. The collection of stuffed animals and dinosaur bones were impressively displayed. Unfortunately, the most popular sections were overrun by children. They screamed at the animatronic Tyrannosaurus Rex, they took over every interactive display, and the teenagers were sprawled with sketch pads in front of anything that was pretty and colourful. Joe and I found ourselves seeking solace in the empty Geology section.

In the end, I found the the Natural History Museum kind of disappointing. Much of their collection looked like they originated with the founding of the Museum more than a century ago. The newer displays featured a lot of flash with little substance; for instance, the entrance to the Earth Galleries featured an escalator ascending into a gigantic metal globe structure. Once inside the structure, rhetorical questions about the Earth were projected onto the inside of the globe. It wasted a lot of space to little effect.
(Photograph of Earth Gallery taken by Michael Reeve, 7 June 2002)

Feeling a little cheated after our experience at Tate Britain and now, the Natural History Museum, we were tempted to skip the British Musum and go straight to Oxford Street for some mindless shopping. The small and dark entrance to the Museum with a gallery of ancient ceramics to the immediate left only confirmed our worst fears.

However, hunger was slowly turning us into mindless killing machines and it was obvious that there were no restaurants in the vicinity. We decided to look for the Museum cafeteria and angrily eat their overpriced food.

Imagine our amazement when we entered the Great Court. Completed in 2000, the Great Court features a dome of glass blooming from the Reading Room in the center. Suddenly, eating overpriced sandwiches didn't seem so bad (especially since they were gourmet sandwiches and quite tasty).

Refreshed with food and caffeine, we proceeded to explore the British Museum and came to appreciate the practice of colonial plundering. The Brits had gotten their hands on numerous priceless antiquities in the 19th century and never bothered to return them: the Rosetta Stone, a huge bust of Ramses II, numerous Egyptian mummies, much of the Parthenon frieze and pediment, the best preserved column of the The Caryatid Porch, and much more. All these items were displayed beautifully with great lighting and enough space to allow the large number of visitors to view them easily. We stayed until we were kicked out.
Overloaded with culture, we decided to visit Oxford Street and Picadilly Circus for some shopping. One of our favourite shops was a chain of shoe stores called Office, which featured chic yet well priced footwear. We ended up visiting at least four different locations because the variety of shoes differed enough to keep us excited.
I was also interested in seeing the H&M of the UK: TopShop. The current featured collection was designed by Kate Moss. While I am a fan of Kate Moss's style, I decided not to get any of her clothes because they were overpriced and because I did not want to support her taste in men.
To our dismay, almost all the stores closed at 7:00 pm. We took the Tube back to our hotel, carrying our new Office shoes on our aching backs.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

London Called - Part 1

After years of dreaming of Depeche Mode, Sherlock Holmes and football hooliganism, I proposed a trip to London and Joe agreed. It was our first foray into Europe and the best place to start since my French would probably get us beaten.

The trip proved to be exciting from the start as we departed from the new Terminal One at Pearson International. It has the spacious, generic look of any number of other international airports around the world. Exciting duty free shopping prevented us getting bored. In fact, we were so caught up in the shops that it wasn't until the PA system called a reasonable facsimile of our names ("Joe...Sinbad") that we realized that boarding for our flight was already complete. We ran to our gate and boarded the plane without any line-ups or delay. The whole experience was so exciting that I have learned nothing from it and will continue to board last minute in the future.

We arrived on time in London and took the Tube to our hotel. Right away, we were amazed by a number of things: how small the Tube train was and that escalators and elevators are not always an option. "Small" and "hardcore" became recurring themes of our trip.

Day 1 - Westminster & Royal London

We started our tour of London with a bang. Coming out of the Tube station, I looked to my right and saw Big Ben. It was shocking to finally see in person something that was so familiar to me. Equally shocking was how small the clock tower was. I had expected it to be twice the size it actually was.

Next was another well known London landmark: Westminster Abbey. After paying £10 each, we were duly humbled by the size of the place and the history it contained. After about an hour of wandering amongst all the random and ancient memorials to the valour of rich men and the piety of rich women, we became blasé. Like Honest Ed's, Westminster Abbey was filled with slightly creepy knick knacks. One highlight was the funeral effigies on display in the museum; life-like dummies shown to the peasants to remind them who the corpse on parade used to be. Thereafter, we referred to Westminster Abbey as "God's garage sale".

After Westminster Abbey, we rushed over to Buckingham Palace to see the Changing of the Guard at 11:20am. In spite of the rain, the streets were crowded with tourists. We decided to leave when it became obvious that the ceremony had become solely an auditory experience because the mob was not transparent. We consoled ourselves with a lunch of fish and chips served by real Cockneys.

Our next stop of the day was Tate Britain. Perhaps we were suffering from jet lag or perhaps it was because our feet and backs were killing us, but we did not enjoy the gallery. The majority of the collection were the usual respectable paintings. One of the few contemporary sculptures on display was When Humans Walked the Earth by Jake & Dinos Chapman. The Chapman brothers' previous works included mannequins of children with genitalia in place of facial features. Unfortunately, their latest work was a lot less fun, simply consisting of found object assemblages.

However, Joe enjoyed the vivid colours of two John Millais paintings enough (Ophelia and Mariana) to buy the corresponding postcards. Joe then held the postcards up to the originals and said optimistically, "These postcards will remind me of what the original paintings actually look like." Just like Tiny Tim, that Joe.

In a daze of confusion and pain, Joe and I marched on to two landmark department stores: Harvey Nichols and Harrods. We passed through Harvey Nichols very quickly when it soon became apparent that we could afford nothing on display. Harrods kept our attention longer with oddities like the Dodi and Diana memorial ("Innocent Victims"), wedged between the escalators. The claustrophobic Egyptian escalators also had to be seen to be believed.

We wandered blindly back to our hotel afterwards and decided to have some of the highly touted Indian food. We ate without complaint before we resumed griping about our feet and backs.

End of Day One.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Watch me sleep

It is only my third week of work and already, I'm getting lackadaisical. Instead of getting a full night's sleep during the past week so that I look peppy and smart, I have been staying up late, reading the classic graphic novel, The Watchmen. My friend, Stephen lent it to me last Sunday and, reading it every night, I finally finished it on Thursday. Part of the reason it took so long was because I refused to forgo my steady diet of terrible prime time television. As a result, I read late at night until dialogue ceased making sense.

The other reason why it took so long to finish The Watchmen is because it's thick like gravy. When creator, Alan Moore claimed that he was aiming for "a superhero Moby Dick; something that had that sort of weight, that sort of density," he wasn't kidding. The complex storyline and characters forced my reading to a snail's pace in order to absorb every nasty, ruthless detail.

I was also impressed that a 20 year old comic book has aged so well. There is an absence of embarrassing 80s fashions and cringe-inducing slang. I did initially complain about the drawing style, which is less easy on the eyes than those of contemporary comic books, but it fits the nature of the story.

The short of it is that I really enjoyed The Watchmen and highly recommend it. Now, a full weekend to recover on sleep and enjoy some free and live violence: UFC 70 Nations Collide.

Eye Get Out:
On the right is evidence that I have a secret need to play slots. I was amazed that three models of Volkswagens pulled up at the lights in a neat lineup: a Golf, a Jetta and a Beetle. What are the odds? I took a photo and the woman standing beside me at the TTC stop looked perplexed and a little concerned.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Random points of interest

Two weeks into my new job and I have not been fired. In fact, I have been enjoying myself - especially when I signed up for the "Rolls Royce of pension plans". I have not been coherent enough for a long form entry but here are some random thoughts.

What you see above is the line up for Toonie Tuesday at KFC, when you can get two pieces of greasy chicken with some greasy fries for $2.49. The line up crossed the width of the food court. Previously, I had thought that the media were preaching to the converted in their repeat focus on Canadian obesity. I was wrong. Price trumps nutrition any day. Bring on the fried Grade F tripe!

This sake brand is obviously not even trying to market itself beyond the lonely housewife demographic. Can you imagine the average Japanese salaryman ordering the "lovely pink bottle" while out with the boys?



Here is a trio of little ladies: Tiffany in the pink, Bowie in the yellow and Suhaila being doted on. Whereas other people see "cute", I see a variation on Y: The Last Man.

I saw a CBC documentary recently that explored an Aboriginal Reservation located near a toxic dump. Since being tranplanted there, the community has experienced an unprecedented number of girls being born versus boys. The predominance of female babies has caused concern amongst researchers who point to the toxic dump as the probable cause for this phenomenon.

As I look at all the little girls I know: Tiffany, Bowie, Suhaila, Rachel, and Ava, I can't help but think that I know too many of them. What has happened to the little boys? Will supply and demand drive our little girls to lesbianism or the nunnery.

Luckily, China's one child policy and preference for boys will save the world population. All our excess Canadian girls will oneday be able to marry a bunch of Chinese boys 20 years their senior who, nonetheless, will still be playing the video games their parents lovingly bought "their little emperor".

Finally, I would like to express my excitement at finding some new music that I enjoy. Admittedly, most of my selections have a retro feel to them, but nothing is more pathetic than a person who complains that music isn't as good as it used to be. That's like one foot in the retirement home.

Please check out:
Amy Winehouse - Back to Black

Tracey Thorn - Out of the Woods

Justin Timberlake - FutureSex/LoveSounds (Okay, Justin is a guilty pleasure that would be much more pleasant if Justin wore a paper bag over his head. But "My Love" makes me shake my junk!)

Friday, March 30, 2007

Chit chat fodder by the water cooler

As I get ready to join the respectable workforce on Monday, my former customs broker has sent me another round of handy chit chat fodder. Nothing makes a better first impression than random socio-economic facts (Co-workers nod to reams of chit chat fodder while thinking, "What a nerd. Not a contender to replace me at all. A keeper.") I hope I don't get fired.

HAL will be a cell phone
Mobile phones are becoming an increasingly popular way to make all sorts of payments. In the U.S., fans of the Atlanta Hawks have been testing specially adapted phones linked to their Visa cards to enter the local stadium and to buy refreshments. In Japan, thousands of transactions, from buying railway tickets to picking up groceries, take place every day using mobile phones. It is estimated that worldwide payments using mobile phones will climb from just US$3.2-billion in 2003 to more than $37-billion by 2008.

HAL as a car
The Health Ministry in Japan has found that almost two per cent of the population are alcoholics and drunk driving is a serious problem. Toyota will introduce a new car next year that will shut down the engine if its driver is drunk, using sensors on the steering wheel to measure the alcohol level in the driver's sweat. If the driver is wearing gloves, a camera on the dashboard will check for dilated pupils and the car will detect erratic steering. Nissan is experimenting with a breathalyser-like device into which the driver must blow before starting the car.

Incandescent down under
The Australian government has announced plans to phase out incandescent light bulbs and replace them with more energy efficient compact fluorescent bulbs across the country. The legislation to gradually restrict the sale of the old-style bulbs could reduce Australia's greenhouse gas emissions by four million tonnes by 2012 and cut household power bills by up to 66 per cent.

Corn-fed with a silver spoon
Farmland from Iowa to Argentina is rising faster in price than apartments in Manhattan and London for the first time in 30 years. Demand for corn used in ethanol increased the value of cropland 16 per cent in Indiana and 35 per cent in Idaho in 2006. The price of a New York loft appreciated only 12 per cent and an apartment in London, England, by 11 per cent. Farmland prices are expected to take a quantum leap over the next 18 months after corn prices surged to a ten-year high earlier this year.

Men and women are filthy
A University of Arizona team has found that the average office desktop harbours 400 times more bacteria than the average office toilet seat. They also found that on average women have three to four times the amount of germs in, on and around their work area. Women are more likely to keep snacks in their drawers and make-up and lotions help to transfer bacteria. However, men's wallets provide the most fertile bug breeding ground of all. The Arizona team took samples from 100 offices at the university and in offices in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oregon and Washington.

Shrubbery over sex
U.S. circulation figures continue to decline among many magazines. Reader's Digest sales tumbled 12 per cent in the second half of last year to 10.1 million. Woman's Day was off by 20 per cent to 4 million, Redbook down 28.6 per cent to 2.4 million and Vogue was off six per cent to 1.3 million. Cosmopolitan has fallen below the two million mark in newsstand sales for the first time in years, dropping 5.9 per cent to 1.9 million. Time and Newsweek are also down. Going against the trend, Better Homes and Gardens rose 6.8 per cent, BusinessWeek was up 25 per cent and CondeNast rose 19.9 per cent.

Uter goes to Britain
German families are increasingly looking to Britain's best public schools to provide the well-rounded disciplined education they fear is being eroded in their own country. Census figures reveal significant numbers of German students are enrolled in British boarding schools where fees average $40,000 a year. Last year, 1,097 pupils from Germany obtained places at British schools compared with 868 in 2005, an increase of 20 per cent. Agencies which help German parents find places have reported record numbers of enquiries this year.

Long before there was a border to run for
Inhabitants of the New World had chili peppers and the making of taco chips over 6,000 years ago according to new research that examined the bowl-scrapings of people throughout Central America and the Amazon basin. This makes the chili pepper the oldest spice used in the Americas, and one of the oldest in the world. Within decades of European contact, the New World plant was carried across Europe and into Africa and Asia. In all seven New World sites where chili peppers residue was found, the researchers also detected remnants of corn.

Visual stimulant
A Japanese company has developed glasses that prevent the wearer from falling asleep. If the head drops below certain level, a little motor kicks in to vibrate a earpiece until the head returns to an upright position.

Smells like money
Some electronic manufacturers, airlines and banks are commissioning unique fragrances for use in their stores and on their products. This marketing ploy has emerged from an Oxford University study which shows that it is possible to train people to associate smells with particular experiences or objects. British Airways releases a faint smell of freshly cut grass into its lounges to create a pleasant atmosphere. Sony has run trials of a unique combination of vanilla and orange in some US stores.

American without benefits
A new Harvard study reveals that the U.S. lags behind virtually all wealthy countries with regard to family-oriented workplace policies such as maternity leave, paid sick days and support for breast feeding. The U.S. is one of only five countries out of 173 in the survey that does not guarantee some form of paid maternity leave, the others are Lesotho, Liberia, Swaziland and Papua New Guinea. At least 145 countries provide paid sick days.

Land of a thousand bids
The British Treasury is to lose over US$50 million in taxes as a result of Ebay moving its tax base from Britain to Luxembourg. The company is taking advantage of a loophole in the EU tax regime that allows online retailers to shop around for the lowest tax rates. British Ebay users will now pay tax on their selling price to the Luxembourg government rather than to the UK Treasury. Other EU countries such as Germany will also lose tax revenue and Luxembourg will benefit from the windfall of $200 million a year, more than $400 for every man, woman and child in its 450,000 population.

Farmer rejigs his good ole Jag
A farmer in England has converted his Jaguar to run on rotting apple fumes. He packs two underground tanks full of apples and collects the methane gas produced as they rot. He claims his XJ6 gains 10 per cent in power by running on compressed methane and still returns about 28 miles per gallon.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Blame the women

A lot has been happening to me lately and almost all of it good. I no longer work for my evil boss and I have been enjoying an unexpected two week vacation when my letter of resignation did not go over well with my former boss. I'll be working for another institution of higher learning next week and, this time, I hope to stay for a while because one of the perks will be a free education. That's right: I can get as many Bachelor Degrees as I want. Maybe even a useless one like English. Frivolousness is a luxury.

What has shaken me out of my happy stupor is an assessment of American Idol's audience by various TV columnists, brought together in one article by Metro News columnist Rick McGinnis.

It has been speculated that American Idol is increasingly being embraced by an older audience - in particular, women of a certain age - while the young flee the TV room in droves. One critic uses as supporting evidence an episode of The New Adventures of Old Christine in which Julia Louis-Dreyfus and her friends obsess over American Idol. The critic disparagingly calls the sitcom "TV's ultimate mommy show" as if "mommy" could be equated with something unsavory like "retard" or "pedophile".

Following this demographic change prediction, it goes to reason that the enduring popularity of craptacular contestant Sanjaya Malakar can be blamed on the young girls who have always loved American Idol and the recent older women converts because Sanjaya is a cute and non-threatening male.

I find the assumption that women naturally support mediocrity as long as it's cute and neutered insulting. The widespread acceptance of this theory says more about the misogynistic attitudes of TV critics than the American Idol demographics.

In addition to using a fictional character played by Julia Louis-Dreyfus as evidence, the TV critic cites recent Idol guests Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits and Lulu as further proof of the aging Idol demographics. The critic is cutting a rather wide swath since Louis-Dreyfus was born in 1961 and Herman's Hermits and Lulu had their heyday with the swinging youth in the 1960s. This would mean that women between the ages of 40 to 60 are all to blame for Sanjaya Malakar. This sort of statistical prediction is more buckshot than scientific analysis.

Rick McGinnis goes on to blame Taylor Hicks's win last year on "older women" then wonders when Idol producers will bow to this increasing demographic. This reasoning goes against the Sanjaya Malakar theory since Taylor Hicks is neither cute nor safe for petting.

If we are to assume that "older women" are indeed to blame for Taylor Hicks, I doubt Idol will cater to them any time soon since they did not actually open their wallets and buy Taylor Hicks's album. Album sales for last year's Idol winner have not met expectations or the sales of runner-ups like Chris Daughtry. Perhaps older women are just little stinkers at heart.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Grab bag of suspense

When I was a kid, the local convenience store offered grab bags for a dollar. Inside small white paper bags, stapled shut so you couldn't peek, would be a random toy and some candy. I don't quite remember the toys beyond the fact that they were colourful and plastic, but I do remember the feeling of repeat disappointment. I expected something amazing and instead, I got something that clearly left a huge profit margin for the storeowner.

It seems that the mystery purchase is making a comeback and I took the bait. On a recent visit to Made in China, an "Asian fusion" restaurant at 371 Yonge Street, we were titillated by the Tasting Menu. It was the meal equivalent of a grab bag for $9.99 and it made no promises. A list of questions and answer in the menu included helpful tidbits like:
Q: What is in there to eat exactly?
A: How the heck do I know? Don't ask me - our cooks are crazy and incontrollable
Despite the threat of insanity, the appetizer, soup and main course turned out to be quite ordinary. No fried bees nor chicken feet for us, which was disappointing. In the very least, it makes for a boring anecdote.
The latest mystery purchase to come to my attention is from Speck, maker of device cases. They are having a Mystery Case of the Week feature where you pay $9.99 plus shipping and Speck sends you a random case. It sounds all wonderfully chaotic but it turns out that you can specify which device you would like the case for, like the iPod, etc. Again, kind of boring, and since I don't have any of the devices they accessorize, I probably will not purchase a mystery case.
I do remember one good payout from a capsule machine. While at the local Dominions, I managed to beg 25 cents off my grandmother to try my luck at a capsule machine offering gaudy gold tone jewellery. The centrepiece prize on display was a jade horn pendant, which most kids never win. Personally, I was aiming for the gold link bracelet. Then, to my astonishment, I actually got the jade horn pendant. The kid standing beside me stared in disbelief and promptly ran over to try his luck at the same machine. Sadly, he got the equivalent of the gold link bracelet. I think I might have laughed at him from a safe distance. My ugly jade horn pendant and the accompanying experience has ensured that anytime anyone waves a mystery bag in my face, I am sorely tempted to reach for my wallet.

Chit chat fodder with lucky charms

The last installment of chit chat fodder was pretty recent but whatever. Random socio-economic facts are about as dependable to bring along to any social gathering as wine.

Sea wind now bracing and useful
A licence to build the world's largest offshore windfarm in the Thames estuary has been granted by the U.K government. Sited 12 miles off Kent and Essex, it should eventually consist of 341 turbines and occupy an area of 90 square miles and generate enough power for a third of London's homes. It is claimed that the windfarm will produce an amount of energy that, if generated by conventional means, would result in 1.9-million tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions every year.

Big pimping in cardboard cars
Rolling off the production lines in India this year will be a budget car for around US$2200 which will be within the reach of tens of millions of Indians who until now could only afford a motor scooter. This is alarming environmentalists who argue that the last thing India's choked roads and notoriously polluted cities need is yet more cars. The vehicle will be available in four or five-seat versions with an engine of just 30 horsepower.

40 billion Jareds
Americans' fondness for sandwiches resulted in a market worth more than US$121-billion last year. It is predicted that the market for prepared sandwiches will keep growing exponentially, attributable in part to the popularity of sandwich chains such as Quizno's and Subway.

Imagination void costs money
It is estimated that over US$80-billion was spent in the U.S. on gift cards last year, an increase of 20 per cent over 2005. However, over $8-billion will go unredeemed, a windfall to retailers, due to expiration, or loss of cards. This is more than twice the amount of loss to credit or debit card loss in the U.S. in 2006.

Around the campfire with money to burn
A three-day "camp" for the offspring of families that have a fortune of over US$50-million or more was held last month. The agenda, for rich kids between 25 and 35 included sessions on the psychology of money, building an investment portfolio and issues surrounding inheritance.

Emoticon free communication
Amateur radio enthusiasts are fighting to save Morse Code. The language of dots and dashes has always been popular with the amateur radio community who have provided a communications lifeline in emergencies and disasters. But now the U.S. government will no longer require Morse Code proficiency as a condition for an amateur licence. There are about 660,000 licensed "ham" radio operators in the U.S.

Breeding like rabbits
Four countries in Europe have more cellphones than people: Luxembourg (120 phones per 100 people), Sweden (108), Italy (107) and the Czech Republic (103).

Industrial revolution for the new millenium
The great coal rush underway in China is on a scale not seen anywhere since the 19th century. The Chinese plan to build no fewer than 500 new coal-fired power stations, adding to some 2,000 of them, most of them unmodernised, that spew smoke, carbon dioxide and sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere. The consequences have been detected half a world away in toxic clouds so big they can be seen from space drifting across the Pacific to California laden with microscopic particles of chemicals that cause cancer and lung and heart diseases.

The future is damp
Honda is expecting to sell hydrogen fuel-cell cars to the general public by 2018. Fuel-cell cars produce electricity through a chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen. Since the fuel-cells leave only harmless water vapour as a byproduct, they are considered a cleaner alternative to internal combustion than using fossil fuels. Finding an effective method of storing the hydrogen is one of the current challenges in fuel-cell design.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Hot man on man action this Friday!

I have expressed reservations about seeing 300, which is being released this Friday. But now that I've read Nathan Lee's review in The Village Voice, I will definitely go!

Here are some excerpts from Lee's "Man on Man Action":

Tolerate the lobotomized dialogue and some half-assed political intrigues and you'll find a good 10 minutes of 300 worth posting on YouTube. You can never go wrong with rampaging battle elephants. Throw in a war-rhino, some silver-masked ninja magicians, and an 8-foot-tall godking who looks like RuPaul beyond the Thunderdome (Rodrigo Santoro as Xerxes) and 300 is not without its treats.

Delicacies of dismemberment aside, 300 is notable for its outrageous sexual confusion. Here stands the Spartan king Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his 299 buddies in nothing but leather man-panties and oiled torsos, clutching a variety of phalluses they seek to thrust in the bodies of their foes by trapping them in a small, rectum-like mountain passage called the "gates of hell(o!)" Yonder rises the Persian menace, led by the slinky, mascara'd Xerxes. When he's not flaring his nostrils at Leonidas and demanding he kneel down before his, uh, majesty, this flamboyantly pierced crypto-transsexual lounges on chinchilla throw pillows amidst a rump-shaking orgy of disfigured lesbians.

On first glance, the terms couldn't be clearer: macho white guys vs. effeminate Orientals. Yet aside from the fact that Spartans come across as pinched, pinheaded gym bunnies, it's their flesh the movie worships. Not since Beau Travail has a phalanx of meatheads received such insistent ogling. As for the threat to peace, freedom, and democracy, that filthy Persian orgy looks way more fun than sitting around watching Spartans mope while their angry children slap each other around. At once homophobic and homoerotic, 300 is finally, and hilariously, just hysterical.
Filthy Persian orgies? Butt plug action? Yesssss!

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Up Yours, Dove! Part 2

In a previous blog, "Join the cult, buy Dove", I argued that Dove had failed to fully saturate the 'sharing and caring' market. I now eat my words because Dove cares enough to help poor, dark Indian women become white and successful.

Unilever, the caring corporation behind the Dove brand, also produces a line sold in India called Fair & Lovely. It is a skin whitening cream. The commercial for the line tells the story of an Indian girl who tries to get a job at a "modern beauty company" but is rejected because of her tan. Her father promptly whips up an ancient concoction that turns his daughter into a pale beauty. The girl is a sucker for punishment, returning to the company that rejected her but her moon face dazzles some male executive and soon, she's flying in a plane and getting snapped by paparazzi.

Fair & Lovely is not marketed in Canada because it does not fit easily into Dove's 'real beauty' campaign.

By the way, if Dove wants to promote real beauty, I wish they would stop featuring older women with extraordinary bodies in their Pro-Age advertising campaign. I would be a more realistic though less appealing model for while I am almost half the age of some of the models, my big, cellulite-filled ass could use some of that amazing Dove cream.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Radio fun on a Saturday morning

Joe and I dragged ourselves out of bed at 7:30 on a Saturday morning and walked in the freezing cold down to the CBC Building to be part of the live studio audience of GO!, one of my favourite radio shows. When I wake up early on a Saturday morning (9am), I like to listen in on Brent Bambury and his nerdy cool brand of fun.

After being seated in a studio about 20 minutes before going to air, we were warmed up by Brent Bambury with trivia and prizes. Other audience members won books and Canada Reads bags by answering questions like 'Who was the first host of Canada Reads?' and 'Which panelist failed to show up in support of his book?". I won a GO! do-rag by correctly identifying Cher's song, "Believe". I don't think I was the only person in the audience who recognized Cher's hit song. Rather, I was the only audience member desperate enough for a prize to acknowledge it.

The audience seemed mostly made up of the 20 to 30 something University-educated demographic. Joe and I got great seats that were somewhat hampered by our proximity to a pair of insolent artsy teenagers. It was somewhat laughable to overhear their clumsy attempt to coerce Brent Bambury into having their band on GO! They were obviously fans of the house band that day, Spiral Beach, whose members, being between the ages of 17 and 20, also displayed an impertinent precocity of their own. The band's three male members were vitually clones with their identical mop tops and artfully frayed white t-shirts and jeans, and their music seemed like a New Wave regurgitation. You know you've become old and cynical when the know-it-all bravado of youth grates on your nerves and you are comforted by the fact that they will soon be humbled by the realization that it has all been done before.

We were not given advance notice on who the guests would be this week but I knew we had come to the right show when I spotted Scott Thompson, formerly of The Kids in the Hall, one of CBC's best programming decisions.

It turns out that Scott had been asked along with theatre actor Jean Yoon, MP Olivia Chow and a GO! resident contributor, whose name escapes me, to participate in "Canada Skims...Magazines!" Scott hilariously defended the celebrity tabloid, OK! Canada, because "Canadians need more low culture in their lives." Olivia Chow touted Gardening Life and the GO! guy presented LouLou. In the end, Jean Yoon was victorious with Shameless, a feminist indie mag; a predictable result on a CBC show.

Before leaving, I couldn't resist approaching Scott Thompson and expressing my love for him, which Scott took very well. Then I asked Joe to take a photo of us. In retrospect, I wish I could have proven to Scott how much I loved him and The Kids in the Hall by using obscure punchlines like:
  • Andrew Dice Clay is not the new Lenny Bruce. You are!
  • I had the pear dream again.
  • Godspeed thee through Texas, faggot!

That last one might have gotten me in trouble, though, if Scott had a bad memory. The moral of the story is: always have catch phrases ready for rapid fire recitation, or if you are a comic book enthusiast, issue numbers and obscure plot details.

The whole GO! experience was fun and totally worth the free ticket, obnoxious teenagers notwithstanding.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Chit chat fodder...gone wild!

I no longer experience the heady thrills of Reading Week, which is taking place right now at the educational institute that I work for. Instead, I provide random bits of information from my former customs broker that will make anyone look interesting and "in the know" at foam parties down in Florida.

Cactus with chicken, cactus with beef
A global network of agricultural research centres is warning that famines lie ahead unless new crop strains adapted to a warmer future are developed. New forecasts say warming will shrink South Asia's wheat area by half and there are now plans to accelerate efforts aimed at developing new strains of staple crops including maize, wheat, rice and sorghum. The most significant impact of climate change on agriculture is changes in rainfall. Increasing temperatures can also affect crops. Photosynthesis slows down as the thermometer rises, which also slows the plants' growth and capacity to reproduce.

Public Edutainment
A new British science textbook for schools claims that polar bears eat penguins, even though they live in separate hemispheres.

Private Edutainment
It is estimated that last Christmas, parents spent a small fortune on high-technology toys that claim to lift the intelligence of their young. The world-wide market for "edutainment" toys reached US$1.7-billion in 2005 and could total $5.5-billion by 2010. Other studies say that more than 50-per cent of all money lavished on toys during the holiday season was spent on preschool products that purport to enhance specific motor skills.

Motion sickness is the new cachet
In another first for the Gulf emirate of Dubai where the world's tallest skyscraper is now being built, plans have been unveiled to construct a 30-floor building that moves with the power of the sun to become the only rotating residential structure on the planet. Solar energy will be stored and used to drive the rotation mechanism to provide 360-degree views to every resident moving 52-degrees in 24 hours. A Dubai developer has also announced plans to build a new Russian city on 17,800 hectares near Moscow at a cost of US$11-billion.

Porn pipe fulfils all needs
A third of British Internet users watch less television once they have broadband, while 27-per cent read fewer national newspapers and almost a fifth switch off their radios according to new research. The picture is similar across France, Germany, Italy, Japan and the U.S., highlighting the threat posed by the web to traditional media. This same survey shows that Britons pay less for mobile phone, TV and internet services than their counterparts in Europe and the U.S.

Magnets for trouble
Experts are now warning that newer types of fridge magnets could be a killer of those with weak hearts. A stronger type of magnet used in many new commercial products can interfere with pacemakers and implanted heart devices with deadly consequences. The culprits are very strong magnets made from neodymium-boron which have only recently become available and are being used in computer hard drives, headphones and hi-fi speakers, as well as toys and jewellery.

Global warming provides seafood buffet
Russian trawlers are being built to exploit the Arctic seas opened up as the sea ice shrinks as a result of global warming. Industrial trawlers are already mopping up new fisheries stimulated by the lack of summer ice. Inuit communities on the east side of Greenland have banned all outside fishing for shrimp stocks that are growing in the absence of summer ice and have decided to exploit them themselves.

Watering eyes on the rise
With 42-inch flat-panel TVs flying off US retailers' shelves now that prices have dropped below US$1,000, experts predict that the 72-inch TV will be the norm by 2009 at a cost of around $3,000. An old 34-inch tube TV used to weigh around 90 kilograms: a 57-inch flat-panel LCD TV weighs only 55 kilograms.

Screw the electric car
The world's oil supply won't begin to run out for at least another 24 years, contrary to some theories that suggest production has already peaked and supply is now in a terminal decline. The Cambridge Energy Research Associates estimates remaining global supply at 3.74-trillion barrels compared with 1.2-trillion estimates by other theorists.

68% of workers chillax on the job
In a recent survey, 32-per cent of U.S. workers polled admitted to calling in sick when they felt well at least once a year and 10 per cent said they do it three or more times a year. The most popular motivator for missing work was the need to relax cited by 48-per cent of workers. For another 24-per cent it was a chance to catch up on sleep.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

All you need is love

Lock the door, light some candles and turn your speakers on.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Wal-Mart greeter punched in face

The headline intrigued me so I read the rest of the Toronto Star article (excerpts below):
A Wal-Mart greeter in Vaughan was punched in the face after she tried to stop a shoplifter with a cart full of baby formula, York Region police say.

"The greeter grabbed the cart and pushed it back. He failed to respond to her and then punched her in the face," said Det. Bruce Rowlandson. The man then fled the store.

The greeter was taken to hospital with minor facial injuries.
The injured Wal-Mart greeter will probably get nothing for her trouble except maybe a letter of thanks from the CEO or a $10 gift certificate. And if she takes a few days off to tend to her sore face, she probably won't get paid.

In fact, if that Wal-Mart greeter had been given a chance to think about her lacklustre wages, the absence of health benefits, and how easily she could be replaced by a robot right before her encounter with the shoplifter, she probably would have been charged with manslaughter.

PS Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 09, 2007

Take this job and...

It is such a cliché to hate your job. I have spent my adult life trying to avoid saying things like "Mondays, eh?" and "Thank God It's Friday" and yet, I still have my fair share of stupid boss stories.

My current boss is reminiscent of The Devil Wears Prada, or so I'm told by friends I relay my anecdotes to. One of her chief characteristics is the need to micromanage then complain that she shouldn't be bothered about every little detail. Inconsistencies in her priorities is also a source of stress; use of the office printer requires her approval but withdrawing $12 from her account does not. Needless to say, I'm on the lookout for better prospects.

In the meantime, a trip down memory lane:
  • In one of my previous jobs in which I laid out a publication using QuarkXPress, I liked listening to the radio to pass the time. The quality of my work was not affected by my listening to CBC Radio One - a work friendly radio station. My co-workers were not affected either. Yet, my boss stopped by one day and stated, "I don't listen to the radio when I'm working and I don't think anyone who works for me should either." This is the same man who decided to take a golf vacation instead of training me during my first week of employment then complained when I was not familiar with office procedure.
  • While working as a counsellor for a day camp, I contracted bronchitis and was pretty much bed ridden for a week. While I experienced severe headaches, fever, and non-stop coughing, my boss called me to beg me to come in on the Friday to work for "a few hours". I refused on the basis that my commute via public transit took four hours and that I was still sick and contagious. My boss demonstrated her spite on Monday when she failed to ask about my health and proceeded to place me in a camp with six year olds. For three weeks, I tried not to spew disease into their adorable little faces.
  • This same boss did not have the balls to stop some of my fellow counsellors from ending their contracts early to go on holiday before school started. Instead, she held a meeting where she put the decision in the hands of the remaining counsellors, such as myself, who would be stuck with clean up duty. Faced with my pleading co-workers, who had already booked vacations with their families, was I supposed to heartlessly hand them mops then work side by side with their simmering resentment towards me? Never before had I felt more like Cinderella in those last weeks as my vindictive boss found an endless list of things to do before she would let us enjoy the last few days of August.
  • During my first week at my current position, my boss threw a major funding application, which was due in about a month, in my lap. Never having dealt with this sort of project, or claimed to have any knowledge of it, I struggled along. A highlight of this hopeless endeavor was the following exchange:

Me: How do I tell the difference between a refereed and non-refereed contribution? All your Presentations (Peer-reviewed) and Invited Lectures are listed together.

Boss: Just use common sense. Obviously an Invited lecture is not peer-reviewed.

Eventually, a PhD student was hired to take the project out of my shaking hands.

I am pretty sure my work experiences are easily trumped by many out there. While watching the Office Space scenes where the employees are forced to argue why they should not be laid off, I laughed heartily because it was quite amusing. My mother, however, cackled in a way that I had never heard before then said bitterly, "That's exactly what is happening in my workplace." She survived 25 years+ in an environment that I would have quitted from in the first week.

Feel free to share some of your delightful anecdotes! TGIF!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Flame on!

A refugee board has determined that Alvaro Antonio Orozco has no basis for his refugee claim because he is "not gay enough". Orozco ran away from an alcoholic and abusive father at the age of 12 then made his way from his native Nicaragua to Texas where he lived in a Christian group home. Orozco made the move to Toronto in January 2005 after hearing that Canada supported gay rights.

As Orozco faces possible deportation next Tuesday, he may find little to smile about. Yet, I can't help but laugh at the ridiculousness of this case. The judge bases her decision on the fact that Orozco did not have any same sex relationships during his six year in the US. But who in their right mind is going to have sex with another man while living in a Christian group home in Texas? Has this judge seen the ending of Brokeback Mountain?

I am not sure what Orozco could have done to prove his homosexuality to the refugee judge. Perhaps he should have:
  • participated in some homemade gay porn (though many straight men do gay porn for the money)
  • exhibited better fashion sense
  • shown a limper wrist
  • stated that he preferred tacos to sausages

Whether he is truly gay or not, the fact is that Orozco is at risk of getting assaulted or even killed if he returns to Nicaruaga now, a country where sodomy is illegal. His case has made the headlines and, in all probability, his own father is watching the news and sharpening his knife. Unlike the judge, homophobes looking to have some fun will readily accept that Orozco is speaking the truth. On the basis of Orozco's future appointment with violence back in Nicaruaga, we should probably let him stay in Canada.

Less pressing but just as ridiculous: the story of Susan Lawrence, the Ontario woman who was about to be evicted from her own house because an imposter had obtained a mortgage on her home without her knowledge. The criminals who did this are obviously despicable but much more unsettling were the facts that:

  • Maple Trust decided to punish an innocent woman for the money they lost
  • the Ontario Courts sat back and shrugged their shoulders before Lawrence appealed

I applaud Lawrence for not dousing her house in gasoline, setting it on fire and cackling, "If I can't have it, no one can!"

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The ugly side of globalization

Here's an Indian version of "Thriller". Joe likes how frantic it is compared to the original. I like that the girl being chased by the zombies looks concerned and walks rapidly, like she's being harassed by a street vendor, as opposed to looking deathly afraid of having her brains eaten to a funky beat.

Monday, January 29, 2007

The Doppleganger Dinner

In a previous blog entry, I revealed an on-going fascination I have with a woman who possesses the exact same name as me but whom I have never met. Her existence became known to me thanks to the magic of Google. Through the tidbits of information gleaned from random webpages, I became convinced that I knew enough about her to give updates about her life to her own acquaintances.

I was reminded of 'mein doppleganger' at a recent dinner. The hostess had invited people using Evite and hence, guests were able to see who was attending and who was not. Upon arrival, there was some surprise when the person that some guests had expected to catch up with was really a stranger with the exact same first and last name. Being adults, everyone swallowed their disappointment about this fraud with tight throats and a wonderful time was had by all!

The experience got me thinking about creating opportunities for people to meet with their dopplegangers; a Doppleganger Dinner if you will. After agreeing on a safe, public place to meet, guests would troll the internet for people possessing the same name as them then try inviting them to the dinner. Even in failure, the stories of confusion and restraining orders should provide chuckles all around.

Please tell me if you are interested and I will finally have an excuse to contact a stranger who will, without a doubt, regard me with horror and distrust.

Or just try using Google to find out about the lives of people with the same name as you and leave your findings in Comments. I'll settle for that, too.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The latest sexy corporate commingle

This afternoon, Scotiabank and Cineplex Entertainment assumed the 69 position on each other in the middle of the clubbing district. At the Paramount, soon to be renamed the 'Scotiabank Theatre', the two companies announced a rewards program that would allow bank customers to earn points towards free movie passes and concessions.

Corporate types love this sort of 'mixing of the bodily fluids' so their enthusiasm about the program is predictable. What I found laughable were the assessments of Ashwin Joshi, professor of marketing at York University, who was quoted in The Toronto Star.
"It's a very good idea because it will be attractive to young customers. A 25-year-old is asking, `Do I want air miles? Travel's not high on my agenda or do I want movie passes? Movies are high on my agenda,'" Joshi said.
Joshi assumes that 25 year olds are incapable of planning for the future then he proceeds to act out the thought process of that 25 year old. While it is impossible to prove in a newspaper article, Joshi was probably wielding a sock puppet to represent said 25 year old.

"(Young people) is a good segment to go after because if you can catch them early and keep them for life, you'll do well."
Whereas I think Joshi did not give 25 year olds enough credit with his previous statement, I think he gives them too much credit with this one. My generation are a bunch of johnny-come-latelys whether it be towards employers, social causes, or products. 'Easy come, easy go' is our motto.

Joshi does come to his senses in his disapproval of the changing of the Paramount's name to Scotiabank Theatre. However, I won't bother quoting him there since a 15 year old moviegoer quoted in the article says it so much better:

"I don't like it. It's a little irritating. It's like the SkyDome becoming the Rogers Centre"
True enough. I have my own list of new names for the Paramount Theatre:
  • "The Videodrome"
  • "The Bank and Tank"
  • "Pay bank fees to withdraw your money so that you can give it to the entertainment corporation that we are sleeping with - har har har"

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Everyone do the Algorithim March!

It started with a Japanese children's program, "Pitagora Suicchi" in which the Algorithim March was an exercise break for the audience to prevent them from becoming like little North Americans.



This was obviously silly enough to appeal to European university students so they did it, too.



And apparently, what works for children will also work for hardened criminals in the Philippines.



I want to perform the Algorithim March. Please tell me if you would like to join me.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

For sale now

When I'm not writing in my blog, I like to go out and take photographs for my blog. Voila! Life beyond my keyboard.

Just when I think every little girl is going to be in a thong by the age of seven thanks to pop culture, along comes evidence of sanity. "Barbie Bling", an obvious rip-off of Bratz, is not selling well despite her sparkly napkin and denim belt. Whatever the reason for the poor sales, I am relieved. Combine this with the fact that Britney is becoming an obvious mess and maybe girls will start emulating Janet Reno. Only in my wildest dreams.

As I turned away from "Barbie Bling" with a sigh of relief, "G-taste" jumped out and stopped my heart. After being defibrillated, I was able to gaze at these dolls and think, "What the hell is wrong with the Japanese?" and then, "What is wrong with boys these days?" Well, at least half of the future is in safe hands.

One last thought: why is it that a scantily clad female is used to entertain both sexes? This applies for both dolls and magazine images. Personally, I find scantily clad anything acceptable - just see Harvey Keitel in The Piano and tell me you're not entertained.

This is available at Chapters right now. You might as well save your money; get a piece of string, connect it to a piece of cardboard then write "Rob me now" in big letter. Hang it around your neck as you "travel with ease!"

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Arrested development continues

I have been obsessed with a new video game but I have an excuse for this obvious regression into immaturity: I have been sick. I have been suffering from exhaustion and a cold due to 'grown-up' wedding MC duties in early Janary.

In the days leading up to the wedding, I had trouble sleeping and suffered from performance anxiety. But in the end, I fell back on shouting and my trusty stock of sexual innuendoes, which made for an entertaining and 'klassy' evening for all.

The cost for this excellent evening was illness, which I quickly embraced: no exercising, and lots of eating and sleeping. I even got sympathy from Joe, who felt the need to treat me by buying a PS2 game called Psychonauts. Now, my cold is virtually gone and I am still pounding away at the PS2 controls.

Creator, Tim Shafer, was also the genius behind Grim Fandango and the Monkey Island games. Unlike Tim's previous outings, Psychonauts is not an adventure game, but it still retains the humour, extraneous yet interesting details, and puzzles that require creativity.

Shown above is one of my favourite levels, "The Milkman Conspiracy". I get to explore a creepily psychotic suburban neighbourhood while breaking into people's houses and their possessions to gain points. I could do this all day!

Adventure games may be dying a slow death but I can continue to game thanks to games like Psychonauts. So, thank you Tim Shafer, for prolonging my adolescence.

By the way, I must applaud Gears of War as a worthy contributor to the death of adventure games. It made the purchase of the XBox 360 totally worthwhile.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

2007: Last hurrah for Peter Pan

It's 2007 and sadly, I think I'm growing up. Some construction workers visited my apartment a few weeks ago and it shamed me to realize that, between the foam swords and "Guitar Hero", we looked like adolescents. As I discussed possible improvements with the contractor, I plotted how quickly I could hide the action figures, not to mention my blankie.

I think my extended adolescence is symptomatic of my generation and my culture. Now that cartoons, video games and toys are no longer the sole domain of children, I need never leave my comfort zone. And we celebrate the juvenile alongside the clever; the Simpsons and Jon Stewart just don't appeal to our parents' generation because the former's cartoon format and the latter's smarty pants attitude are just not mature.

For a long time, I have enjoyed my arrested development but meeting those construction men made me realize that if I came face-to-face with a preadolescent from any developing country taking care of younger siblings, I would cover my head with a sac, which would promptly catch fire from my burning face.

This is not to say that I will throw away my toys and complain about 'kids these days', but it is probably time I became a contributor rather than a consumer in society.

However, no one becomes a man or dame overnight so for the rest of 2007, it will be an uneasy combination of this and this.

PS I hate the fact that Blogger has finally forced me to switch to the Google format. Now, the police will have an easier time finding me. (kidding!)