Friday, September 30, 2005

To Anonymous who said: "you watch way too much television"

1) For about ten years in my life, I had no TV
2) Someone once said something like: "you seem to live in a pop culture vacuum."

So, I am trying to make up for the second point. The truth is, I watch very little TV, usually no more than one program per evening, but that is variable.

So, just to prove it how many shows I have missed, I offer a brief list of shows I have never seen. Believe it or not.

Degrassi - I have never seen a single episode of Next Generation, first generation, my generation, primary junior, senior, frosh, or kindergarten. I know it's some sort of Canadian cultural phenomenon, but I missed it, and now it's too late, and frankly, the ads creep me out.

Alf - This was based on ET, right? If I remember, he was afraid of cats. I saw maybe five minutes.

Moonlighting - I have a serious beef with the casting director of this silly show (again, which I have never seen, but I did see the advertisements). Anyway, I blame the casting personnel for inflicting the pugnacious face or Bruce Willis on the innocent of the world. What did I ever do to deserve that? I can only think of one other lug with an uglier face, and that would be Sylvester Stallone. Is Cybill Sheppard famous only because she dated Elvis. I know it is sacrilegious, but I never loved Elvis.

Bosom Buddies - Yikes!

I just realized that I could be here all day if I keep on going, so, off the top of my head, some shows that aired in my lifetime that I have never seen. OK, so I had to look some up to jog my memory:

Charles in Charge, Joni Loves Chachi, B.J. and the Bear, MacGyver, Baywatch, Melrose Place (I'll take a lie detector test), Beverly Hills 90210, The Fall Guy, Vegas, Falcon's Crest, Dynasty, St. Elsewhere, Hill Street Blues, Everybody Loves Raymond, Spencer: For Hire, Quantum Leap, Married With Children, Matlock, Sue Thomas F.B. Eye, L.A. Law, Ally McBeal, Lou Grant, Cagney & Lacey, Little House on the Prairie, Greatest American Hero, Littlest Hobo, Hawaii Five-O, Geraldo, Gloria, Fraggle Rock, Muppet Show (I may have seen a few minutes of one episode), Chicago Hope, Empty Nest, Doogie Howser M.D., Hunter, Sledge Hammer, 21 Jump Street, Full House, Saved by the Bell, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, T.J. Hooker, Private Benjamin, House Calls, The Two of Us, Too Close for Comfort, Kate and Allie, The Bachelor, Extreme Makeover, Desperate Housewives, Boston Legal, Grey's Anatomy, Supernanny, Cold Case, Two and a Half Men, Inconceivable, Six Feet Under, The West Wing, American Idol, Bones, Stacked, The OC, Corner Gas, Third Watch, 8 Simple Rules, Space: Above and Beyond, Roseanne, A Different World, Designing Women, Coach, Fame, Major dad, In the Heat of the Night, The Practice, Touched by an Angel, Judging Amy, Spin City, Just Shoot Me, Stark Raving Mad, Daddio, Veronica's Closet, JAG, Providence, Suddenly Susan, Naked Truth, Fired Up, The Single Guy, Boston Common, The Nanny, Walker Texas Ranger, Hope and Gloria, Dave's World, Grace Under Fire, Northern Exposure, Wings...

...I could go on and on, but I won't 'cause I'm tired.

So there!

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Thursday, September 29, 2005

ZF's Capsule Reviews of some of the Fall TV Season

Two Fins Up:

Threshold: so far so good. Interesting plot and what seems like good casting.

Invasion: I thought there might be some Partridge Family references, but that hasn't happened yet. I am sticking with this one for a while.

Alias: I know the new season hasn't yet started. It's a must see, if you ask me.

Arrested Development: I should watch this more often, but I never seem to know when it's on.

Two Fins Down:

Supernatural: super boring. It's like an X-Files episode dragged out to extreme lengths.

E-Ring: This show is a load of crap. And, what's the deal with these movies stars coming to TV? Everyone wants to be Martin Sheen, I guess. Dennis Hopper seems to have forgotten how to act, and Benjamin Bratt clearly never knew how. This show is an advertisement for the American military and the USA as defenders of the free world. It is nauseating and if I have to hear another USA is great speech, I will puke. I bailed half way through episode two, 'cause it was far too painful to watch.

Commander in Chief: Geena Davis wants to be Martin Sheen too. So does Donald Sutherland.

House: Maybe I've just seen too many hospital dramas. Maybe it's because I used to work in a hospital. Maybe it's that I think nothing can tops Scrubs, although I never see it for some reason. Anyway, House is sub-par.

Lost: There are so many things wrong with this show, it's difficult to know where to begin.

Amazing Race: I have seen only two seasons. This, after only one episode, may well be the worst.

Ghost Whisperer: Regrettably, I saw a few minutes of this failure of a show. My question is, why would anyone rip off another mediocre show? As if Medium wasn't bad enough, we now have a clone.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

New Template

I couldn't resist, so I changed it. I like it better, I think.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Template Advice

Should I change my template? Does this one suck?

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A CD Review

Artist: Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La Band
Title: Horses in the Sky
Label: Constellation

Godspeed You Black Emperor!, Montreal’s grandfathers of post-rock, have spawned a number of spin offs. Silver Mt. Zion may well be the oddest of the bunch in that this group employs vocals in an almost unmusical manner over lush orchestral instrumentation and drones reminiscent of the Velvet Underground. To this they add a slightly anarchistic and anti-war political stance. The album feels like post-rock punk rock, or rock and roll without guitar solos and power chords, built around chamber instruments, a drum kit, and a most unusual singing voice.

God Bless Our Dead Marines, the opening track on Horses in the Sky, Silver Mt. Zion’s 4th release, is a sprawling 11 minute descent into despair about human suffering. Commencing with the chant “we put angels in the electric chair/ the electric chair/ the electric chair,” it moves into themes of addiction, urban desolation, drowning, social dysfunction, “the hungry and the hanged,” and other decaying landscapes. The feeling is one of overwhelming sadness and misery, made even more so by Efrim Menuck's klezmer vocals over a gypsy-like folk dance. The title track, a solo acoustic guitar piece, offers one of the few quiet moments on the album. However, the feeling of beauty and harmony is subverted by observations about our schools, prisons, and malls. Although Horses in the Sky might be a difficult introduction to Montreal’s avant garde scene, it’s a must have for those already in the know.

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Monday, September 26, 2005

Return of the Self-Portrait

Self Portrait #4 (self-portrait #3)

Taken with a Veo Photo traveler on Palm Pilot and manipulated in Macromedia Fireworks.

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Friday, September 23, 2005

Confession #2

I have watched all three seasons of Canadian Idol. Why, you may ask? I am not sure. Let me just say that I have never seen American Idol or the original Pop Idol. I can think of many reasons not to watch Canadian Idol. These include: Ben Mulroney (and his terrible wardrobe), Jon Dore (and his awful facial hair and unfunny comedy routines), bad singing, bad song choices, bad music in general, the ubiquitous cheese factor, and Sass Jordan (I mean, if she could sing, she'd still be singing, right?).

The waiter who won the first season can't sing. In fact, many of the finalists are appalling singers. It drives me nuts that many of these people will get record contracts, when many can't play an instrument or write a song. It's mostly lame music.

I know what you are thinking. You are wondering why I watch it. Let's not forget that, aside from the snoopisms, the search term Canadian Idol sucks brings many people to this blog. I watch it because the cross-country search for "talent" is hilarious. It's amazing to me that so many people would volunteer to make fools of themselves on national television. I also watch it because I need to break out of my pop culture vacuum. The real reason I watch is that I don't have cable and there are very few choices on Tuesday nights.

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Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Happy 71st Birthday Mr. Leonard Cohen

Dear Leonard,

Happy Birthday and good luck with all of your money and legal problems. I really hope you get a satisfactory arrangement. I'm so sorry that you have to keep working, rather than retiring. The truth is that I am quite happy that you have to keep on working. I am looking forward to the new album and the book too. Oh, and I promise to buy a ticket for your upcoming tour.

If you need a place to stay while in Toronto, just let me know. I am sure I can find a place for you to sleep. In the meantime, I plan to perfect the mixing of a Red Needle -- a drink you invented in Needles, California (tequila and cranberry, lemon and ice. The full measure). It was thirty years ago, "as I approached my forty-first birthday," you wrote.

Best wishes and see you in Toronto.


a fan

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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Back to School, sort of

One of the perks of working at a University is free tuition! Yeah. I have made good use of it in the past, having taken photography courses and several writing courses. These include workshops in poetry, the short story, and autobiographical writing. Last night, I was back in the class again, taking a workshop in review writing. The instructor is a semi-famous Toronto reviewer. I have already published 5 or 6 book reviews, largely on academic works. So, this ought to be different. We are to write reviews on books, music, film, and food, the latter of which I have zero interest in.

Thank god we are not writing wine reviews. I really like wine but I have to confess that I can rarely make heads or tails out of wine reviews. How useful is it to know that there are hints of tobacco with an apricot and leather finish? It may as well be asphalt with a suggestion of bum and cigarette butts. Just tell me if it is good or not.

I may post a review or two here, if they are any good.

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Friday, September 16, 2005

Friday Time Killers

If you are staring at your computer, but don't want to do any work, I have some suggestions.

1) Listen to Jeff's podcasts at Perspicacity.

2) Play some videos games at Neopets. You have to register. Destruct-O-Match has a slight Tetris feel.

3) Watch public domain movies at the Internet Archive. You can stream Reefer Madness among other interesting films.

4) Search for your ancestors at this Mormon Genealogy site.

5) Give me opinions on good laptops. I am in the market for a laptop but am overwhelmed with selection. I guess I am looking for a lighter model that is easily portable, but not too small and wimpy. Any suggestions?

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Portrait of my Other Brother as a Middle Aged Man

At last, a sort of sequel to Portrait of my Other Brother as a Young Man.

The second time someone aimed a gun at my brother, he was lucky. His girlfriend had terrible aim and took out a window instead. That incident always reminds me of the rumours about my grade 8 science teacher who, either in a drunken stupor or a fit of impotent rage, shot his piano with an elephant gun. A few years earlier, my brother had been shot in the leg by an American hunter he was guiding through a northern Ontario forest in search of game.

So, a gunshot wound was added to a list of injuries that included a broken syringe in the palm of his hand, a spine in ruins from years and years of heavy lifting for a rail company, and dozens of bruises from hockey and bar fights. By age 40, his body was scarred and tattooed, weakened from drug use, heavy drinking, and smoking. And yet, at age 40, he became a father for the second time.

Of all the things in my brother's colourful past, it was fatherhood at age 40 that most irritated my father, a man who had four children by the time he was 33. He just could not understand the idea of 'late' fatherhood. "Imagine having a kid at 40! He'll be 60 when the kid is 20. What was he thinking about?" I wondered if it made my brother think about the child he had as a teenager, but never really saw.

For my brother, fatherhood couldn't have come at a better time. He left his criminal past behind, but retained a strong interest in booze and cigarettes. And, although he continues to drive without a license, he has tried to pull his life together. No more jail, writing bad cheques, smashing cars into gas pumps, dropping acid or shooting up. Instead, against the odds, he has custody of his child, even though he looks like a most ill-suited father.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

You Wanna Date Your Cousin?

So, I was walking down some street in Toronto the other day. I am not sure which street, but that doesn't really matter. Wait, I think it was Bloor Street but it could have been Yonge Street. Anyway, my eye was drawn to an advertisement on the side of a garbage can or newspaper box or telephone pole or some other bit of urban clutter, and, there was a poster for a service called Kindred Connections. I'd never seen an advertisement for a genealogical service on the streets.

Boy, was I wrong. There is a company called Kindred Konnections that is all about researching your ancestors. However, this one is Kindred Connections with a C. It's a dating service! How bizarre! I thought, who would want to date one's own kin?

This company clearly did not look up the word kindred in the dictionary. Or, maybe they really think that there are people who want to hook up with their cousins, sisters, brothers, aunts or uncles. I nominate this as the most ill-chosen company name in recent memory.

So, lets check the dictionary. From, we have:

kin·dred (kĭn'drĭd)
  1. A group of related persons, as a clan or tribe.
  2. (used with a pl. verb) A person's relatives; kinfolk.
  1. Of the same ancestry or family: kindred clans.
  2. Having a similar or related origin, nature, or character: kindred emotions.
And, from Mirriam Webster:

Main Entry: 1kin·dred
Pronunciation: 'kin-dr&d
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from kin + Old English r[AE]den condition, from r[AE]dan to advise, read
1 a : a group of related individuals b : one's relatives
2 : family relationship : KINSHIP

In other words, join Kindred Connections and date your cousin.

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Diet Coke is an Atrocity

With apologies to those of you who actually like this shi...stuff.

The first time I tasted Diet Coke, I really believed that I was being poisoned, or at least that this substance was about to induce vomiting. First, there was a gag reflex. And then I started clawing at my throat like someone being suffocated. I ran to find an appropriate place to spit it out. It tasted so bad, I asked the person I was with to taste it for me.

The conversation went something like:

me: "Taste this."

them: "Why."

me: "I want to make sure I am not being poisoned."

them: [sips; hands it back]: "Tastes just fine."

me: "You can't be serious. This is what I imagine carbonated embalming fluid tastes like."

I remember thinking that if I were blindfolded and forced to taste and identify this carbonated atrocity, I would have made the following guesses:

1) antifreeze
2) liquid aluminum
3) refrigerant
4) aftershave
5) WD-40
6) melted vinyl
7) my grandmother's urine
8) someone's IV drip
9) pond water
10) some sort of truth serum forced on people before interrogation or being sent to the gulag

It reminded me of my first cigarette. I felt like I might throw up or that my chest would explode - in other words, the universal sign that your body is trying to tell you that you are poisoning yourself.

Besides, it contains aspartame, a substance that is banned in children's products in Europe. And, just to show you how omniscient my comments were, I offer this:

"Aspartame is made of 3 components, 50% phenylalanine, 40% aspartic acid and 10% methanol (wood alcohol). In the body methanol breaks down into formaldehyde (embalming fluid) and formic acid." (source). By the way, formaldehyde is a neurotoxin and a carcinogen.

That made me thirsty.

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Friday, September 09, 2005

Do You Pee in the Shower?

Some time ago, I read that a large percentage of people admitted to urinating while in the shower. It never occurred to me that this was an option. So, my question is, do you pee in the shower? Be honest. I really want to know.

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

My Father & the Double Entendre

At the risk of making my family appear even weirder, I offer a few comments about my dad. In case you missed it, you can review some prior family posts, like Portrait of my Brother as a Young Man, Portrait of my Other Brother as a Young Man, 100 Words About my Mother, Fatherly Advice, or Lessons from my Sister.

Whenever my father put something in the oven, he said "whip it in, whip it out, wipe it off, and worry." As a young boy, I had absolutely no idea what he was talking about. Then, at around age ten, I figured it out. It was a eureka moment, much like the time my mother said, while chewing on a steak bone, "the closer the bone the sweeter the meat." My sister blushed and my brother cleared his throat, but my dad gave a hearty laugh. No one expected me to get it, but I did.

Somehow, my father managed to be the captain of the double entendre. He could turn the most innocuous statement into something sexual. At times, it was like having a 14 year old boy as a father. It didn't matter what the subject was: wallpaper, middle east politics, brain surgery, long division. Of course, there were numerous topics that lent themselves well to that manipulation, like anything to do with oiling or greasing or anything long and hard or anything with an opening.

The most irritating thing is that I am sure he felt that I missed all of the references, and so he kept it up (see, there's one right there). Laughing didn't dissuade him either, because I got the feeling that he really didn't believe that I understood the joke.

He's turning 73 this year, and I heard him say that he wasn't ready to hang up his saddle just yet. I didn't even know he had a horse.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2005

When Children are Dentists

In my dream last night, I was being fitted with new teeth, fashioned from either Play Doh or plasticine. And, while certainly not durable in any sort of way, they had the advantage of being multi-coloured. The dentist may have been a child, but I am not sure. The only thing I could see were extremely large plastic brightly coloured dental tools: orange clamps, pink needles, yellow mirrors, etc. Originally, I blamed this dream on Stephen Harper's new nauseating advertising campaign, but then I wondered if it had to do with the return of students to campus.

They are here in full force today. And, man, do they look young. The converse is that I am looking old to them. My dad used to say "you are only young once." Too bad it took me so long to figure out what he meant.

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Saturday, September 03, 2005

Guns, Guns, Everywhere: The Aftermath of Katrina

Finally, the Globe and Mail and other papers have begun to discuss the unequal way in which racial and class groups have been affected by Katrina. I am sure you have noticed that the refugees at the Superdome and the Convention Center were largely black and clearly poor. The wealthy and middle class got into their cars and drove or flew out of town. Many of those left behind could not afford gas or bus tickets, and no one offered them a lift out of the danger zone. Instead, thousands of dollars was spent airlifting people from rooftops.

But, I am still waiting for a discussion about guns and this disaster. There are obviously way too many guns in American urban centres and this was clearly illustrated by the gangs of armed looters and thugs roaming the streets after the hurricane. Even New Orleans Firefighters carry guns. One of the major targets of the looters was gun shops, resulting in even more guns pouring into the streets. We had snipers taking shots at police, helicopters and hospitals trying to evacuate patients. I know, "guns don't kill people, people kill people." What a load of crap.

I would suggest that New Orleans might not have descended into such extreme anarchic depths had there been fewer guns around. The police were diverted from search and rescue operations to deal with general lawlessness and yahoos with guns. I really hope the chaos in New Orleans will make people realize that too many guns around isn't a good thing. It's stupid. The right to bear arms is senseless in 21st century America.

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Friday, September 02, 2005

We Have a Winner

As K pointed out, I made the quiz far too easy.

And, the winner is: Chris Nolan, who answered all questions correctly, except the bonus. Good efforts by the rest, but let me just assert that peacock blue is not even close to my favourite colour. Vex got that one. K, there are no touches of flamboyance anywhere in my wardrobe. Mrs Mogul, I am sorry to say that you got the last two wrong. I still like your blog. Jay, it seems many readers assumed that I was a woman. Perhaps it's that Librarian stereotype. I am not Marian the Librarian, although I know some who fit that image.

As promised, here are a few nice words about the winner's blog. Chris Nolan's blog, unambiguously entitled, I Am Chris Nolan, promises discussions about, Toronto, comics, technology, movies (including his own, and his recent entry in the Toronto Film Challenge), and more. I have read and enjoyed many of his movie reviews. I don't comment as much as I should. You can check out his archives by category, which is interesting.

Do I have a favourite post? I am not sure, but this one makes me laugh, perhaps because I have my own list of misheard lyrics in my head. Check out his blog.

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

A Short Test (to see if you have been paying attention)

I can offer no prize, but I will say something nice about your blog if you get the most correct answers.

True or False:

1) I am a woman
2) I live in Toronto
3) My favourite singer is Mel Torme
4) I have a three children
5) I wrote some guest posts on Mister Anchovy's blog this summer
6) I love milk, cheese, and yogurt
7) I once worked as a bartender
8) IMHO, the worst song ever is Bohemian Rhapsody, by Queen
9) My favourite kid's books are Franklin the Turtle
10) The greatest invention of the 20th century was the leaf blower


My favourite colour is peacock blue

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