Sunday, December 18, 2016

Just talk to people.

There's this ad, this holiday season, for Amazon which shows a Catholic priest and a Muslim imam, sharing a cup of tea at the priest's place, then both getting up and grimacing at their painful knees. Then, after the imam leaves, they both get the idea of ordering some sort of knee brace/pad combo for the other (off Amazon, of course), and the commercial ends showing them both putting on the things and then kneeling down at their respective places of worship.

It's a lovely commercial, and it shows that, hey, maybe despite some outward differences, we all get creaky joints when we get older.

That's probably the biggest thing I've learned from my job. Goodness knows we get kids from every imaginable background -- that's Scarborough for ya -- and it's always interesting to learn about their lives, where they come from, and what their families do. But the thing that always strikes me is about how similar we all are.

Parents want the best for their kids. Kids want to be happy and pursue their interests. Kids and parents butt heads occasionally. Teenagers are funny, weird creatures, discovering themselves (and, hey, each other from time to time). Kids sure as hell mix-and-match amongst themselves, culturally speaking, more than their parents probably know about (or want). Consequently, a lot of teenagers behave one way with their family, and another way amongst their friends.

White kids have it the easiest, of course. I occasionally say to brown kids, "You should really try having white parents sometime. It's way easier. They'd say, 'Oh, you want to be a garbageman? Well, honey, just be the best garbageman you can be.'" They inevitably laugh, roll their eyes, and say, "Yeah, that would never happen with us."

In the end, I often wonder what sort of attitude I'd have towards non-white people if I'd have stayed in rural southwestern Ontario. Would I be as open-minded? I'm not sure. I doubt it, to be honest. Kinda stings to say that, but hey, I think that's just the reality of the situation.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Well, that happened.

The 45th President of the United States is Donald Trump.




This is a disturbing result, without a doubt. He's a lunatic.

But, I'll say this: the guy told a big chunk of Americans exactly what they wanted to hear. He knows how to play to a crowd. Mind you, a good deal of what he said was outright lies -- but, apparently the US is in a "post-fact" phase of its life right now, and it doesn't matter.

There are a lot of Americans for whom life has gotten tougher over the past few decades. My parents retired about fifteen years ago from a company with whom they both spent 35-40 years, with good pensions. They were never let go, their job was never shipped off to Mexico or China, and they earned decent money with high school diplomas. They both grew up relatively poor, and elevated themselves squarely into the middle class: two vehicles, owned their home, vacations in Florida, raised two kids and sent them off to uni/college and out into the world.

And a lot of people these days couldn't ever dream of that luxury. Precarious employment at best, dodging downsizing all the time, in debt up to their eyeballs and beyond, and a general lack of hope for a better future. Things haven't gotten better, they've gotten worse (unless you're in the 1%, of course) -- and it's even tougher if you've just come out of uni, $40k in the hole, and can't even find your first job.

Alright, then... who's to blame for this lousy situation? Is it a series of government policies that quietly but steadily dismantled safeguards in the banking system so that the foxes ran the henhouse and allowed things like subprime loans to get out of hand? Is it a climate of corporate greed that let businesses shut down factories with good jobs in the US and reopen them in foreign countries, where workers get paid a pittance and you can just flush everything down the drain? Is it a general unwillingness to let the government build programs that actually help people in meaningful ways, thereby lifting up all boats (so the saying goes), because of baked-in hatred for all things governmental?

Nope. It's not. It's those damn Mexicans, coming in illegally and stealing all our jobs. It's those damn Muslims, not assimilating into White Christian English America and installing Sharia law. It's the blacks and the gays, getting all uppity and asking to be respected and, y'know, not killed by cops. It's the tree-huggers, because it's cold outside today and therefore climate change is a hoax made up by China and Al Gore.

All of these explanations are wrong, of course, and the data clearly back me up on this. But it feels right, doesn't it? It meets the Colbertian definition of "truthiness" -- go with your gut, not your brain. And the actual explanations as to how we all got to this point take too long to explain, not to mention implicate the general public in its own downfall by allowing it to happen.

Enter Trump. He tells you what you want to hear, and he tells it loudly and repeatedly. George W. Bush did the same thing with Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction; by the end, you had people looking to kick Saddam's ass because NINE-ELEVEN, NEVER FORGET, THESE COLORS DON'T RUN.

Thirteen years ago, the US was fed a never-ending stream of lies about Iraq and its supposed weapons of mass destruction. This election, the US was fed a never-ending stream of lies about how Hillary Clinton was the devil incarnate. Both times, a good chunk of the American public fell for it. (And, just think, back in 2003 there wasn't even Twitter.)

Friday, October 14, 2016

This whole election thing.

Listen. We've gotta have a talk about Donald.

The Republican party, for all its faults, has been good the past few decades for rallying around whoever's leading it. There may have been ideological chasms within the party, but gosh-darn-it, they kept them pretty quiet.

I think this is fairly common within most right-wing parties lately, frankly. Ol' Stevie Harper kept his ducks in a row in Canada for over a decade, but of course this was also due in part to his personal OCD tendencies. He forbade people to talk to the media: his cabinet, public servants of all stripes, his dog (probably).

Fast-forward to the past few months and the Republicans. A lot of the party's stalwarts are in open revolt against their candidate -- and, rightly so, because Trump is a total dick. But, you know, the primary process produced this result, and that's what those parties go with these days, and a lot of people voted for him, as opposed to Marco "The Golden Boy" Rubio, Ted "The Canadian" Cruz, and Ben "Living Proof Brain Surgeons Aren't Necessarily Smart" Carson.

So, people in the primaries voted for him. And a lot of people have bought into his message -- and, incredibly (to me), stuck by him despite all of the crazy things he's said (and all of the insane tapes that have come to light recently).

Two things jump out at me about this.

One, the True Trump Believers (TTBs) will stick with him, no matter what he says. And, because his schtick is "anti-establishment" and always has been, any ridiculous, offensive or incredible thing he says will only cement the TTBs' belief that their man is who he says he is: an outsider who says exactly what's on his mind (even if that includes, say, explaining to a reporter privately about his propensity for grabbing women by the pussy).

It's not unlike people who believe in a divine power, and are faced with a shitty situation. You go to church every week, read your bible, say your prayers, and your young daughter still dies from leukemia? Well, "the Lord works in mysterious ways." And "it's all in God's plan." He's "testing our faith." From my perspective, though: mysterious = dickish, this "plan" seems to cause one of the humans he "loves" an extreme amount of personal anguish, and if your God is omnipotent why would He want to "test" your faith in Him? To a sceptic, this makes no sense.

Two, this is indeed going to split the Republicans in two, at least for now. You'll have a small stump of Trump devotees, and you'll have a group which will follow the more-mainstream branch of the party (your Paul Ryans, your Mitch McConnells; questionable people, but hey, that's where a lot of 'em are at). It's hard to say which camp the Evangelicals will end up in; my money's on the conventional-Republican side of things.

I think that by the 2018 midterms, the Trumpites will have shriveled up into a small branch of the party; maybe they'll even take up the banner of a currently-much-smaller party (like the Libertarians, the Constitutionalists, the New Black Panthers (heh)). Then the mainstreamers will regain the Republican name, and things might go back to what passes for normal in that wacked-out country down there. Memories are short.

After the Democrats thrashed them in the 2012 election, there was legitimate soul-searching amongst the leadership of the Republican party. They produced a report which said, quite rightly, they need to learn how to appeal to non-white voters, women, and younger voters.

But this was the party's leadership talking, not the rank-and-file. So what did said rank-and-file do in 2016? They nominated Donald Fucking Trump as their guy to run for president. Thus, there's a huge disconnect between the average Republican voter -- the kind that would vote in a primary, anyway -- and the leadership of the party. Hell, this leadership wanted Jeb Bush as their dude, and we all know how that turned out.

Now, yes, of course, there was a massive split on the left as well: Clinton vs. Sanders. But let's not forget how Bernie, even after the dirty tricks pulled on him by the party's elite, both before and during the convention, still comes out stumping for Hillary. For once, the left-wing party (heh) is the united one! Their hands certainly aren't squeaky-clean, and yes, I'd have loved to have seen Sanders get the nomination, but that wasn't going to happen, let's face it.

All of this to say, I'm schadenfreude-ing pretty hard right now.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Night Court was a good time.

There's a channel I can pull in from Buffalo called Laff which shows reruns of Night Court.

I loved this show when I was 10. Loved it. And when our grade 6 class went on a field trip (through this program that taught us about drugs and whatnot) to the local courthouse, I was expecting a whole lotta similar wackiness!

(Turns out it was boring as hell. And, my mom, who was a chaperone on the trip, saw a person she grew up with appear before the judge. Turns out it was a "wrong place at the wrong time" kind of situation and she was ultimately cleared.)

And, watching it now... sure, it's a fairly one-dimensional 1980s sitcom. You know that Dan Fielding is going to make a licentious remark. You know that Christine Sullivan is going to be the morally-upstanding girl next door. You know that Roz is going to be sassy, Bull is going to be dumb, and Harry is going to be wacky.

But, shoot, not everything has to be at the level of sophistication of, say, Arrested Development. You don't have to have callbacks and hidden meanings and hip references. Comedy can be straightforward, unapologetically so. Just relax, turn your brain off, and watch Dan's briefcase open up as his blow-up doll accidentally inflates herself.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Aeroplan and Pearson Airport can lick my nutsack.

School's been back for two weeks so, naturally, what am I doing on a Friday night?

Planning my March Break vacation, naturally!

Namely, I'm trying to figure out the added twist of buying a flight using my Aeroplan miles, which I've been accumulating for the past year and a half or so.

This would be my tenth annual trip, having started this little tradition in 2007. Every year I do the research and try to figure out where it'd be best to fly from, and to. My basic options are this:

From: Toronto, Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Flint, Detroit
To: Tampa, Orlando, St. Pete

Niagara Falls and St. Pete have small airports, and the only noteworthy airline that flies into or out of both is, coincidentally, Allegiant Air. I'll check to make sure I'm not missing anything, but it's never worked out (and their prices aren't that great anyway). Similarly, Buffalo has never really worked out; they don't really have direct flights anywhere, and while there are flights every day, the timing just hasn't been that good.

I don't mind a drive to southwest Ontario and a bit beyond, which puts Flint and Detroit in play. It's been a while since I've flown into or out of Detroit, but they do have a decent selection of flights. Flint has been very good to me: it's small, so security takes very little time; parking is cheap and there's a shuttle van that takes you right to the terminal; and whatever airline is flying (first AirTran, then it was bought by Southwest) has managed to even occasionally have direct flights to Florida.

Not to mention, of course, the HUGE price difference in flying out of a US airport, in comparison with Toronto. Holy shit is Pearson expensive. Absolutely bonkers.

About Pearson... it's gigantic, you go through customs before even getting on the plane (which means you have to get there extra-extra early), and I mentioned the price. The pros, of course: it's close, I can take public transit there, and the flights to/from Florida are at juuuuuust the right time for me. I mean, it's really, really tempting to just to say "fuck it, YYZ it is."

Now, the added twist of Aeroplan. I switched to an Aeroplan-miles credit card -- complete with a $125 annual fee -- because TD's Drivers Rewards Visa card was an increasingly shitty deal. This card comes with TD travel insurance, which is better than what I get through work (where you pay out-of-pocket then get reimbursed; TD's takes care of it all up-front, and you don't pay a dime). Plus, you get these nifty Aeroplan miles, and look at all the fun flights you can take!

...except that there are two levels of flights you can spend your miles on: the cheap seats (which are very, very few on each flight) and the expensive seats (which are on any flight, but cost about twice as many miles). You can also use your miles to pay for the extra shitty fees on a flight, but it's steep. I did the math on a one-way flight from Toronto to Tampa:

Flight cost, from $177
Cost of this flight, in miles: 12,500
Number of miles it costs to buy $1.00 worth of a flight: 70.6

Total of fees, from $122
Cost of these fees, in miles: 14,375
Number of miles it costs to buy $1.00 worth of the fees: 117.8

I'm still undecided on whether to just spend the miles on the fees (as it's a shittier deal), or save my miles for something else in the future. By my math, at the same mi/$ cost of the flight, the fees should only be 8613 miles, a difference of 5762 miles (or 46% of a one-way flight). Then again, fees make up 40% of this flight's total cost -- you can't get around the fees, after all -- so, maybe I should just suck it up.

Add to this, of course, that the flight from Tampa back up to Toronto -- the one I can't get a cheap-points flight for -- costs $367. I can't help but notice...

Total cost of flights from/to Pearson: $489 + 12,500 mi / $367 + 26,875 mi
Total cost of flights from/to Detroit: approx. $350 (US$268), 0 mi used

But, I mean, why not use the miles? That's what they're there for. Plus, Pearson is, like, right over there [points northwesterly from his couch]. From/to Detroit, I have to use about 1.5 tanks of gas, plus pay for parking. But if I take the UP Express in addition to TTC from/to Pearson (which I'll probably do, given the timing of the flights in the early morning and late evening), that'd offset the charge of the parking at Detroit or Flint a bit.

And, if I go to Michigan, I'll stay the nights before and after at my parents' place. So that's a couple of free meals. And, I can pick up some cheap beer at a store on the drive back to the border.


Friday, August 5, 2016

Sometimes it all comes together.

I grew up in a little town in rural southwestern Ontario. And, I spent a lot of time at the baseball diamond in said town; I played for years, then in high school one of my summer jobs was cutting the grass at the park. My dad helped to build the 30-foot-high backstop in the late '80s with a bunch of other local guys; there's a picture in our family photo album, on one of those days they were building the backstop, of my brother and I helping to paint the wooden stands (which are still there).

Every August, the town's volunteer fire department holds a men's two-pitch softball tournament at that park. As a kid, I used to watch some of the games; when my brother and I were a little older, we kept score and did the announcing thing on a little microphone/PA thing (we said the score, who was up, and who was on deck). I even played in it briefly a few years ago, because a guy my dad knows who had a team needed a player, and I was free, so why not?

Tonight, my dad and I went over to the tournament, which is on this weekend. We went to the beer tent and had a beer, then went over and watched one of the games, leaning up against the fence along the first-base line. I can remember, playing there as a kid, some of the local older guys (perhaps a generation older than my dad's), standing along the same fence, watching us kids play. And there I was, with my dad, at the fence.

As we were watching the game and shooting the bull, the sun had just set in the west (the direction we were facing); a sliver of a crescent moon was partway up the western sky, tinted a faint orange. There's not a tall building in sight, of course, so the sky goes all the way down to the distant trees, ensuring maximum sunset enjoyment for all. A change in the breeze had signified the coming of the promised cold front, and it did feel quite a bit cooler.

The kids announcing the batter and on-deck guy tonight... well, that was me and my brother, twenty years ago. I was tempted to go over to them and say, "I did that when I was a teenager, too." But, reflecting on it now, I'm glad I held off. I hope they get the same silent satisfaction I had tonight, twenty years from now, when I'm one of the older generation, standing along the fence, taking in the action. Who knows, maybe I'll have my kid beside me.*

* Relax, I didn't knock anyone up.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Wow, just wow.

Part 1: The buildup.

Messages are exchanged. Plans are made to meet for the first time. Cell phone numbers are traded, to let the other know that you're there, and what table you're at, and what you're wearing so they can pick you out of the crowd.

Part 2: The encounter.

Drinks are ordered, and consumed. Conversation flows freely, progresses snappily, opinions are shared, ideas are coloured-in. "Hey, this is going pretty great. I think she's into me." Two hours pass, then three. "Whoa, it's getting late, it's a work night, we'd better get going, eh?"

Part 3: The parting.

"You're going this way? Well, I'm going that way."
"That was really fun, wasn't it?"
"Yeah, it was! Would you like to do this again?"
"Definitely! Hey, have yourself a good night."
"You too!"

"That was it, man. Couldn't have gone better. Ah, I feel good about that one."

Part 4: The fade.

A couple of messages are traded back and forth. Plans are perhaps even made for a second date. Eventually, reply times get longer, then... nothing. Just fade-to-black. No explanation given, no rationale outlined, not even the standard, "Sorry, I just wasn't feeling it" -- which, true or not, you can't argue with. Who is anyone to tell anyone else what they're feeling?

Humans are pattern-seekers. We try to connect dots -- sometimes when there isn't even any connection to be made -- to try to explain the mysteries of life, to make order out of apparent disorder. But when there's literally no information to go on, and disorder is everywhere, that drives me up the fucking wall.

We socialize girls to be demure and quiet and not to voice their opinions -- and, when they do, they're too assertive, they're bossy, they're a bitch. But, by avoiding confrontation (and, telling a guy you're actually not interested in him, that's a confrontation), well, this is the sort of shit you get in return, boys.


Monday, June 6, 2016

Romance is fucking gay.

I hope you know that I'm not the kind of person who would use that word as a put-down. But on the drive home tonight, this was the phrase that kept rolling around my head, and I think it fits, and who cares if it's not politically correct?

You see, there's this girl.

(Woman, not girl. Jeez. Let me make that very clear. Not into the 'girls.' I keep it legal.)

I've carried a torch for her for a long, long time, hoping that maybe she'd come to her senses and see that we'd be great together. In the meantime, we hang out, enjoy each other's company, have a lot in common, have a lot not-in-common (which I like; who wants a carbon-copy of themselves?), and have eaten, by our rough estimate, north of 200 meals together over the years.

Naturally, this absolutely kills a little piece of me. I can't help but picture what it'd be like, being with her, and let's just say it looks pretty damn good. We joke a lot about what our future kids would look like. And occasionally I bring it up that, jeez, y'know, wouldn't it work? She deflects, says she doesn't want to ruin the friendship.

But recently she added that she's of the opinion if, if romance doesn't fly immediately, then it probably never will, and she shouldn't pursue it. I mean, I guess I can see where that's coming from... but, well, how far has that gotten her to this point, if she's still single? Isn't it worth taking a chance, just to see?


Well, on said drive home, this whole scenario was bouncing around my brain -- which is weird, I thought I'd already essentially dealt with this -- and I just got really, really bummed. (It didn't help that Bob Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue" was playing, too; how wondeful and insightful those lyrics are, in an apparently helpless situation.)

And so, here I am. Romance sucks. All I want is to be done with this fucking merry-go-round. Honestly, I can totally see why people settle. People have settled for thousands of years, and somehow society has managed to carry on just fine. How bad can it be?

Jesus fucking christ.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Summer is close. So close.

And yet, so far.

May is always a month where my patience, skills and, frankly, sanity is always tested. Things seem to all come to a climax at work in this month, and this year was no exception: I was out of the building four straight afternoons, coaching baseball, while my grade 9's did everything except set the classroom on fire.

But, alas, it's the long weekend. Baseball season is over. The field trip I tried for two years to get back on the rails is officially dead. Life is good again.

...or it would be, if I didn't have this fucking cold. I go all winter not getting one, and yet I get dick-punched in May with the sore throat, the coughing, the mucus, oh the mucus?! Hell.

It's really put a cramp in my dating life, this thing. (I'm not kidding; had to postpone two get-togethers because of it. Yeah, I'm pretty much the man.)

So, this weekend will be full of lounging-around, drinking lots of orange juice, tissues, and maybe even getting on top of some marking, who knows? Supposed to be nice outside, but I'm not sure I'll be going for any walks in the woods.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The mid-'90s had some kooky tunes, man.

My hypothesis:

Record companies had no idea that anyone like Nirvana was even out there, but there they were. Then they got Nirvana, and promoted the hell out of 'em, and made a lot of money, and then Kurt Cobain liked heroin a little too much.


By the time the mid-'90s rolled around, record companies really had no idea what was going to be the next big thing, so they supported a lot of mildly-out-there bands who might fall under the big tent of "alternative."


We had a lot of unusual bands in the era roughly from 1995 through 1998 that may have only had one hit, but it was a hell of a big hit, and that's more that most bands ever have in their careers.

I'll try to list as many as I can, in alphabetical order, along with their iconic, but mildly unusual, song that comes to mind. This list is by no means exhaustive.

Beck -- "Loser"
Bloodhound Gang -- "Fire Water Burn"
Blues Traveler -- "Runaround"
Tracy Bonham -- "Mother Mother"
Butthole Surfers -- "Pepper"
Cake -- "The Distance"
Cherry Poppin' Daddies -- "Zoot Suit Riot"
Chumbawumba -- "Tubthumping"
Daft Punk -- "Da Funk"
Eels -- "Novocaine For The Soul"
Folk Implosion -- "Natural One"
PJ Harvey -- "Down By The Water"
Harvey Danger -- "Flagpole Sitta"
Marcy Playground -- "Sex And Candy"
Mighty Mighty Bosstones -- "The Impression I Get"
Nada Surf -- "Popular"
The Presidents of the United States of America -- "Lump"
Primitive Radio Gods -- "Standing Outside A Broken Phone Booth With Money In My Hand"
Rage Against the Machine -- "Bulls On Parade"
Spacehog -- "In The Meantime"
Sneaker Pimps -- "Six Underground"
White Town -- "Your Woman"

Again, not going to be a complete list. I know I forgot a lot. Some of these artists had just the one hit, others went on to big careers. But I've always meant to put together a list like this, and it looks like a decent start.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

A Florida recap.

This is the tenth consecutive year I've gone to Florida to take in some Spring Training baseball games. Mostly I go solo, but this year my brother, C, managed to get the week off work, so he came with me (he came with me a few years ago, too).

I've always flown down, because time has been tight; about every other year I've gone to our union's annual meeting which takes up the first weekend of March Break, through Monday afternoon. But I wasn't going to go to the meeting this year, and I'd always wanted to drive isntead of fly, so I asked C if he was up for it, and he was.

We stayed at our parents' place on Saturday night, which effectively gave us a headstart on the Sunday morning (doubly important on the day the clocks went ahead an hour). Made it to Knoxville, Tennessee on the first day, then rolled into central Florida around dinnertime the next evening. A generally uneventful drive; managed to get through Atlanta just before noon on Monday, which meant the traffic wasn't bad at all.

Three full days, three games (two at home in Lakeland, one just down the road in Kissimmee), three Tiger wins, and pretty tenacious heat every day. On the upside, it was mostly sunny; on the downside, 32C is pretty oppressive when you've spent a winter in Canada.

On the way back we needed to hit the road pretty early in the day so that we'd miss Friday afternoon Atlanta rush hour... which we largely did, save for a bit of I-75 on the north side of the city, but honestly, it wasn't any worse than, say, Mississauga on the 401. We did hit ridiculous traffic in Chattanooga, after running into a road closure in the south of Georgia (and a subsequent detour) but made it back to Knoxville and had dinner. The next morning we needed to take a detour around a rockslide which had the northbound lanes of the highway closed, and we drove some little twisty roads before coming back to the interstate.

Some observations:

Country music these days is just really, really awful. It all sounds pretty much the same: you've got a guy singing in a southern twang, a pasteurized band behind him essentially playing rock, lyrics about drinking and partying and pickup trucks and women, and even (incredibly) electronic beats which veer into hip-hop territory. And it's unavoidable down there.

There are places in the south where camouflage clothing isn't worn ironically, nor to actually camouflage oneself in a forest. It's just worn to lunch.

Quite a few people really, really hate Hillary Clinton. I was talking with a waitress in a barbecue restaurant who'd never heard of Bernie Sanders but would "give him a look," and would only refer to Clinton as "that woman who I won't name." Similarly, a guy at a game who identified as a Republican couldn't get over the whole Whitewater thing -- "all the witnesses either died or disappeared!" -- but at the same time felt generally uneasy about Trump.

I was called "sweetie," "slick" and "hun" by waitresses.

Yuengling is a decent cheap beer. I wish we had it here.

A woman at one of the games in Lakeland got hit in the nose by a foul ball. But it wasn't a screaming liner into the stands; it was a high pop-fly behind the plate. Why you wouldn't be trying to get out of the way -- especially since you have several seconds to do so -- is beyond me. I watched the ball come up and over the screen, and it landed in the section to our right and made quite the thump; I didn't know at the time that was the sound of the ball hitting a woman's face. Eventually the paramedics took her away; noses bleed a lot. The moral of the story: HOLY SHIT, PAY ATTENTION.

On the way back we stopped just south of the Georgia border to buy pecans. The guy standing by the front who was helping to run the place -- his role in the management of the establishment wasn't clearly defined, and neither was the number of teeth in his mouth -- was talking to C and I about music (I forget how it came up), and the guy said that a buddy of his has a sweet recording studio in his basement, and the drummer from Creed was once there, recording stuff! As we got in the car, C asked me, "Should we have told him that Creed sucks?" But hey, the way I figure it, that probably makes for a pretty good story for that guy, so let's let him keep it.

Before the St. Patrick's Day game in Lakeland, we bought peanuts from a vendor outside the stadium, assured we could take them in with us (which we did). She said the proceeds from the sales "were going to charity," and I asked what charities. She said there were two: one to help out disadvantaged kids, and the other "provides options for pregnant women." That second one... yiiiikes. I really wanted to ask her what "options" she was talking about, and given that this was in a church parking lot, I'm pretty damn sure those options didn't include abortions (Florida is rife with billboards with babies on them that say, "18 Days from Conception to Heartbeat!"). But hey, I wasn't about to get into a huge, deep discussion on the heaviest of topics; besides, there was baseball to go see.

After buying the peanuts, C and I went to watch the Tigers take batting practice on a back field. It's actually way better to go out there, if you're looking for souvenirs; instead of fighting 50 people for balls, there were 5 of us, chatting casually the whole time. C had one skip past him, and the guy who got it said he has three grandkids and already had three balls, so he gave it to C (whose daughter asked us to get one for her).

As we walked out there past the chain-link outfield fence, C sneezed and Tigers prospect Kyle Ryan, who was in the outfield shagging fly balls, said with a southern accent, "Bless you." C sneezed again; another "Bless you." How polite! I told him, "Hey, you looked good in Tuesday's game," which elicited a, "Well, thankya" in response. Nice kid. Looked him up, and he's from Auburndale, Florida, right close to Lakeland. Local kid does well.

While standing out beyond right-center and chatting with the fellow souvenir-hunters, one of them saw Tiger prospect Michael Fulmer grab a fly ball. He said, "Hey Michael, we're the guys your dad knows from the hotel!" Fullmer replied, "Oh, really? He's told me a lot about you." Laughter ensued, and the guy asked, "Is that so? What did he say?" Fulmer shot back, "Ah, y'know, I really shouldn't tell ya."

The Tigers are wearing these ridiculous navy jerseys this spring. They've never had a special Spring Training jersey before, but I imagine MLB put the squeeze on 'em to wear these so they could bump up their licenced-gear sales. I always enjoyed the fact that they wore their regular-season uniforms in ST; it seems way classier to me. Also, there were two straight games in which two teams in navy jerseys played each other; the only way to tell them apart were the colours of their caps and pants. Awful.

We sat in the shade for all three games. At the first game I thought, "Well, we're in the shade, hats make my head hot, so I'll just take mine off." I hadn't put sunscreen on my forehead... which got burnt. In the shade. From reflected light. Holy shit, I'm pale.

I'm pretty excited to not have to drive 12-ish hours today, that's for sure.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

There's something I've been putting off doing for about a month now.

And here it is.

A few weeks ago I got my issue of Rolling Stone in the mail, and this was on the cover:

Apparently "The World's Hottest Band" is a group of four naked white boys called 5 Seconds of Summer. Now, I think I've heard a snippet of this band before, and if memory serves, they fucking suck.

But, I told myself that I should just give them a fair shake. And in doing so, I endeavoured to do this: I would go to YouTube, type in the band's name, and listen to the song that has the most views, in its entirety, and then comment on it.

* * * * *

The song that filled this bill, with over 168 million views as of right now, is called "She Looks So Perfect." Here's the song in question:

*deep breath*

*slow, pained exhale*

0:09 -- Right off the bat, guaranteed gold: the wordless concert-ready sing-along. "Hey-eyyyy-ey-eyyyy!" Goddamn, what is with bands and this shit these days? I blame you, Mumford and Sons. Only, you use banjos. But, same deal.

0:28 -- Oh, isn't that cute, the singer has a lip ring. And you sound like you've been autotune'd out the wazoo. But, it also sounds like you're auditioning for American Idol.

0:42 -- The quiet pre-chorus. Oooooh, anticipation! The chorus is just gonna, like, explode, and stuff!

0:45 -- ...which it does.

0:53 -- Wait, did I just hear the word "underwear?" Lemme back this up.

0:50 -- "You look so perfect standing there, in my American Apparel underwear." Hold on. Did I get that right? I unfortunately need to hear this a third time.

0:50 (again) -- Oh jeezus, I did get that right. This is just so cheap. Did they get money (or, at the very least, free gitsch) from AA for this blatant product placement? And, obviously, he's describing her wearing his undies, and we all know what THAT means. FORNICATION HAS OCCURRED.

1:15 -- Is this what passes for a guitar solo? One, you can barely hear it, it's drowned in more "hey-eyyy-ey-eyyy"s; two, I suck at guitar and I could play this; three, he's really sellin' it on the video, isn't he? Oh, he drops to his knees and somehow plays a solo less interesting than that found in "The Chemicals Between Us" by Bush.

This is painful. Oh lordy, this is painful. But, I must soldier-on.

1:25 -- You sons of bitches. That's kids sitting there, bored, in a PHYSICS CLASS. Joke's on you, assholes! There are no girls in physics. Your video is factually inaccurate.

1:40 -- This whole verse is just very confusing in terms of the imagery in the video. (Musically, it's just as boring as the rest of the song. Why does the drummer play 16th notes on the floor tom the whole time during the verses, instead of using the hats like a normal person would? What mood is he trying to create here?) There are two fat, lonely people in a diner, one booth from each other. Clearly they're meant for each other, because surprise, they're the only fat people in the whole video! And, jeezie creezie, girl in physics class, put your fucking shirt back on.

1:47 -- And now the fat guy ripped off his pants, GOB Bluth-style, and is dancing. What the hell is going on here?

1:51 -- The fat woman is down to her bra and panties. Oh, look, we're inclusive of all body types... for 2.2 seconds in total, and then, now, back to the hot people you want to see strip off their clothes for some reason.

1:57 -- please be over 18, please be over 18, please be over 18, girl who ripped off skirt... I mean it's "Physics 101" on the board, that means a university class, right? pleasepleaseplease.

2:13 -- So the point of this video, I think, is that this song is so good, everyone will take off their clothes and dance around. Well, friend, no song is that good. (Except one.)

2:22 -- The quiet interlude. Damn, I thought this went out with '90s alt-rock. Then again, I don't listen to much new stuff, especially mainstream music like this pop-punk BS. Hey, I mistakenly typed "poop" instead of "pop" just there before backspacing. Freud, have at it.

2:38 -- THIS IS THE PART OF THE CONCERT WHERE YOU CLAP ALONG, TEENYBOPPERS (before your mom comes back to pick you up)

3:01 -- Suburban mom with stripper moves. Noice.

3:16 -- Midget!

3:20 -- Oooooh, boys, are you gonna strip down now? *fingers crossed*

3:25 -- NOOOOOOOO!!!!

* * * * *

The verdict:

This song was exactly what I expected it to be. It's perfectly engineered to sound catchy to a 12-year-old, who will buy the album, the poster, the t-shirt, and the concert ticket. Plus, it includes a lot of the modern tropes: wordless sing-along part, mastered to be as uniformly loud as possible, and nary a shred of musical talent to be found. Congratulations, 5SOS: you lived down to my every expectation.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I picked up a King Crimson album recently and haven't sat down to listen to it yet.

An old coot.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

My mom says I'm a catch.

...and I'm not just quoting Nada Surf's biggest hit here.

Actually, my mom has never said that. We don't talk about my romantic life, or lack thereof. Frankly, I don't know if she thinks I'm bangin' everyone here, or because I never talk about anything, bangin' nobody here. Also, thinking about my mom thinking about this makes me uncomfortable, as does typing all this.

My friend Alison, who I think is pretty cool, has actually described me as a "catch." Her opinion holds a lot of weight with me. So, I've got that going for me. Which is nice.

I've had female friends and more-than-friends ask me, "How the hell are you still single?" (Not humble-bragging here, I swear.) I realize it's meant as a compliment, but honestly, it makes me feel even shittier about my romance skills.

Why am I still single?

What's wrong with me?

Am I going to die alone?

If I'm such a fucking great score, why am I doing such a shitty job advertising that?

Shouldn't that advertise itself anyway?

I've been relatively successful at most of the things I've tried to accomplish in my life: school, job, living arrangements, travelling experiences, attempts at masonry. But, these are solo pursuits -- and my Great White Whale remains romance.

Valentine's Day is coming up, too.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Rumblin' along quite nicely, thanks.

Some items of note.

1. Over the break I visited a record store in Woodstock, Record Works. Great stuff there, solid selection, good prices, and most of all, it smells like a used record store. You know that smell -- slightly dusty, like the album cover of your parents' copy of Eagles Greatest Hits 1971-75 (you know, the one with the blue cover). Definitely going back there whenever I'm passing through. Finally got around to playing Double Fantasy by Lennon/Ono... meh. Not terribly thrilling. At least Yoko's songs weren't that bad.

2. Can anyone stop thes Carolina Panthers? Good gravy, they're terrifying. Currently laying waste to the Seahawks; not yet four minutes into the first quarter and they're up 13-0 (extra point to come) after picking off Russell Wilson, after being pressured by their O-line into rushing a pass. And the extra point is good.

3. I've lived a 3-minute walk from a Pizza Hut takeout location for almost ten years. This past week I got food from them for the second time. I mean, it was alright, and the same greasy pizza you've known all your life, but yeah, you can't beat the convenience.

4. I do most of my grocery shopping at Food Basics at East York Town Centre (in the middle of the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhod, amongst a sea of high-rises and a lot of very new Canadians). Normally I'm in there on my way home from work, and I'm usually the only white guy in the place (so it feels like I'm still at work, hey-oo)... but I was in there this morning (Sunday) at about 10:30, and it was about 3/4 white people! It was freaky. I think I saw maybe two hijabs in the whole place. Imagine going to your neighbourhood pub at a slightly different time and having it packed full of, I dunno, nuns.

5. I'm really glad I made (and paid for) hotel reservations for our March Break roadtrip to Florida back when the Canadian dollar was slightly less terrible. YIKES. Actually, an idea just popped into my head just now: wouldn't it be fun to make up "Florida Spring Training Roadtrip 2016" t-shirts for the bro and I? Answer: yes, it would. Hmmmmm. Will look into this.

6. Six more days' worth of classes with my curent kiddies, before exams. It's been a good semester, all in all; two gr12 physics have been fun, and we've actually managed to get right to the end of the modern physics unit for the second time ever in my career. My gr9 science class, well... it's sad that I have about four kids who are nowhere near getting the credit, but when you (a.) show up to school once every two weeks, and/or (b.) are so weak academically you should never have been in this class to begin with, what am I supposed to do? The saving grace is that I have several kids who are repeating the course who will get the credit this time around (some easily, some just barely).

See? It's been ever-so-exciting.