Friday, September 19, 2014

Ninety-one lashes and six months in jail.

Quick: can you name the least offensive pop-culture phenomenon of the past, say, ten years?

If you guessed "people taping themselves lip-synching and dancing along to the song 'Happy' by Pharrell Williams," you're correct. Hell, I don't even like most popular music these days and try to stay away from it like it was infected with Ebola, but (a.) I heard this song when it was relatively new and (b.) actually kind of enjoyed it. How could you not?

Here's a group of young people from Tehran who made their own version a few months ago.

Well, because the government of Iran is a bunch of pricks, the people who made this video each received the punishment described in this post's title. It was vulgar, it was pornography, it had public dancing. The person who uploaded the thing to YouTube got an extra six months in jail, too.

This is not, of course, because of Islam. This is because of a bunch of pricks in the Iranian government who can't just relax and have a little fun. (What I've learned about Islam doesn't really make it sound like a whole lot of fun anyway, but you could easily say the same about Judeo-Christianity if you followed all the rules.)

Here's the deal, though. There are tons of young people in Iran; the population skews very heavily towards the younger end of the age spectrum. And kids are kids everywhere you go; I'm fortunate enough to meet a lot of kids who are originally from a lot of places, and they all want to (a.) look good, (b.) fit in, and (c.) be trendy. A girl wearing a hijab will likely be wearing makeup and colour-coordinate that hijab with the rest of her wardrobe; the boy from Nigeria who barely speaks English will want a pair of cool sneakers like everyone else is wearing.

You run a place like North Korea, you're gonna be able to tell the kids whatever you want and they'll believe you. But Iran has a history of being right in the middle of things -- be it the Silk Road hundreds of years ago, or relatively-westernized democracy before the revolution in '79 -- and they ain't givin' that up easily. Plus, Iran's government sorta wants to engage with some of the rest of the world... and that's where all those devilish outside influences can creep in. Tehran ain't Pyongyang, not by a longshot.

It's just a matter of time before Iran turns the corner, though. I give it a decade before the old crusty pricks are chucked-out and replaced by a group that's a whole hell of a lot more popular with the youth.

Monday, September 15, 2014

That's the dumbest fucking thing I've ever heard in my life.

Radio call-in shows are the worst.

OK, J, I give up. Why are radio call-in shows the worst?

Because people fucking call in to them.

I popped over to CBC Toronto's website to see what was happening in our fair town tonight -- not much, apparently -- and there was a tantalizing link to an audio clip from today's Ontario Today noon-time call-in show on Radio 1. It was tantalizing because the blurb suggested that some caller had her municipal-election vote earned by the Brothers Ford.

Naturally, I clicked on it.

* * * * *

Caller: I just didn't want anything to do with them [in the last election], and watching them survive the barrage that this town has thrown at them, for every little thing, y'know? I mean, some of those councillors could be drug-tested themselves, y'know? I don't think any one of them could be just singled-out. So I've watched them survive this, and I think, as a family, they represent something that all of us could take a little note from, there, y'know? They stick together. They never turn on each other, and a lot of people will turn on you if you're falling down. So I will vote for them this time, because... I think, if they were given a chance, and everybody just let them go, and do what they were attempting... got voted in on, I think that they would do a good job.

Host: So did you vote for Rob Ford in the last municipal election?

Caller: No, I didn't. I voted for, uh, Smitherman.

Host: And you're willing to give Doug Ford your vote?

Caller: That's right. Because of the way they've behaved as a family. Like, these guys stick together. If they would just give them, as a city, a chance to do what they initially set out to do, and stop picking at every little thing -- how petty can ya get, really? It's embarassing to see the way people have treated these people.

Host: Some people would argue that some of this is one's own making... cavorting with suspect people, opening yourself up to extortion, I don't want to repeat all that, but you've heard it. Is it piddly though, really?

Caller: Yeah, I think so. Because I think if you took everybody down that way, there isn't one person on that council that would come up with glowing colours. Not one.

* * * * *

There's just so much stupidity here. I can't even begin. I mean, I've got work in the morning.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Howard Stern is a good interviewer.

Say about him what you will, but the guy really knows how to get stuff out of people.

I've been downloading (through those YouTube-to-mp3 websites, which are real slick) a bunch of hour-ish-long Howard Stern interviews. A lot of his subjects are people in showbiz, as you might imagine, but he really does a good job at colouring-in a person that you thought might've been pretty blank.

Take Jerry Springer, for example. What do you know about from? Probably that he hosts the Jerry Springer Show, and with good reason; it's been on forever.
I also remember him in a small role in an episode of Married... with Children playing the host of a talk show called The Masculine Feminist, wherein he gleefully bashes men. Naturally, Al Bundy's men's club, "NO MA'AM" (an acronym for "the National Organization of Men Against Amazonian Masterhood") takes over a taping of the show and starts making ridiculous demands, and brings on guests such as a "Miss Bubbles Double-D," who was currently featured at their favourite gentlemen's club, The Jiggly Room. And yes, I recalled all this from memory, and no, I haven't seen that episode in twenty years. But, remembering my own current students' names? That's a tough one.

Here's a still from that episode; Springer's the one who's tied up.

Anyway, Springer's an interesting guy. He grew up in Queens, all of his grandparents were killed in the Holocaust, was briefly the mayor of Cincinnati, was a TV news anchor for a decade, then started the show for which he's most famous in the early '90s; it was outrageous and controversial then, and one could argue it's "merely controversial" now. But, he's a thoughtful, smart guy and, judging from the interview, doesn't feel terribly proud that he does the show named after him. ("I wouldn't watch it," he admits, "but then again I'm not really in the target demographic.")

He's also a pretty liberal guy, and he shed an interesting perspective on why liberal radio talk-shows don't do well.

* * * * *

Robin: Didn't you do a radio show for a while?

Jerry: I did, for two years, I had my own show. Air America [a defunct left-leaning radio network] picked it up; I didn't work for Air America, but Air America carried my show for two years. I loved it.

Howard: How come liberal talk shows never do well?

Jerry: Because the liberals won.

Howard: [pauses] Do you think, is that it?

Robin: Well, the conservatives were doing well under...

Jerry: Because they're on the outs.

Robin: They were doing well under the Bush administration, they didn't go away.

Jerry: But it doesn't matter who's president; in America, the liberals won. In all the protests in the 1960s, the protests were on the left because America was conservative. We have conservative politicians, we give conservative speeches, but on every major issue, the liberals have won. We are a liberal country. You can go into the most conservative neighbourhood in America, and you go into their home and talk to their kids, and their kids listen to the same music, talk the same way, dress the same way [as liberals]; culturally, we're liberals. I did a show, the first year of the Jerry Springer Show, in Cincinnati, we did a show on interracial marriage. And there were protesters outside the studio. Twenty years later we have a president who's the product of an interracial marriage. The liberals won, on every issue, on every issue. So therefore, the real energy of the protest movement -- think about it, whether it's the gun lobby, the right-to-life movement -- all the protests now, which is where talk radio gets its oomph from, is on the right.

Howard: So you're saying liberals won everything...

Jerry: We've won! And we don't know how to say, "Hey!"

Robin: So what's with this red-state, blue-state thing, then?

Jerry: We feel obliged often, even liberals do, or even Obama feels obliged, because somehow you seem more "adult" if you give a conservative speech. [in a low voice] "Well, we're gonna be..."

Howard: Maybe you're right, I never looked at it that way.

Jerry: We live liberally, all of us do.

* * * * *

He's right, you know. Even with conservatives in charge of the US for a while, and in Canada the past while (get out there and vote next year, you lazy lefty fucks!), think about all the crazy liberal shit we've gotten done.
  • same-sex marriage
  • pot legalization/decriminalization in places
  • sort-of health-care-for-everyone in the US
  • ended some long-ass wars
  • kept abortion legal (although in places it's not terribly accessible)
  • almost-kinda reformed prostitution laws in Canada
  • and probably a lot of other stuff I've forgotten
Granted, there's a lot of stuff that hasn't gone well...
  • corporations (especially financial institutions) run the US*
  • organized labour's power is being eroded, e.g. "right to work"
  • guns are still a pretty big deal, despite frequent mass shootings
  • the HarperCons are generally evil SOBs (vote in '15 to change this!)
But yeah, so much stuff that conservatives hate is either (a.) now totes cool, or (b.) still around, and it just totally pisses them off, and then they call up assholes like Rush Limbaugh and Ezra Levant** and do their little rant-y business, then they hang up and go rub one off to exceptionally-deviant pornography or whatever it is they do.

And I'm fine with that. I really am.
* and they're run by Jewwwws, obvy.
** the joke here is that nobody fucking watches Sun News, har har

Monday, September 1, 2014

Schoooool's back... for... the faaaalllll.

Well, it begins again.

I had to count 'em up a few days ago to figure out exactly how many times I've done this -- sit at home on the night before the first day of school -- and this marks a full baker's dozen.

As always, there are interesting challenges, both with colleagues and with kids. We lost some good people from the school, and we managed to get a few back that we thought were goners. We've even got a new principal for the first time since Jean Chretien was Prime Minister. (I had to look that up just to double-check. Wow.)

My schedule this semester... well, friend, it's pretty good. And I don't have it just because (a.) I make the schedule for the department and (b.) my second-semester Grade 9's from last year were god damn insane. No, friends, it's because (a.) I always do the Gr12 Earth and Space Science class, and (b.) having me do both Gr12 Physics made the most sense for the rest of the department, timetable-wise.


At any rate... it's going to be good to be back.

One thing I did give myself in the timetable, because it's the way I like things, is the lack of a home-form classroom. You see, on odd-numbered days of the calendar, it's a Day 1, and the class you have first that day is your "home form." So, if there's crap to give out to kids or collect from them, if there's an assembly that yanks your class inconveniently away, if there's stupid stuff you gotta do that is just a royal pain in the ass, it's gonna be with these people. We teach three out of four periods in the day, and if I have period 1 off, that really helps me.

(Plus, as one of the department heads, there's a 50% chance I'm going to be off in first period, and if there's stupid crap happening like a supply teacher not showing up, or a teacher who's away hasn't left their lesson plans anywhere we can find them (or indeed anywhere at all (and yes, that happens)), I feel like it's part of my job to solve problems like this. But I gotta say, if the shit's hitting the fan and it's a Day 2, I can pull the, "Whoops, can't help out here, gotta go to class!" card, and that's pretty fun.)

But... 6:20 am.