Friday, July 6, 2007

Bluesfest...Dylan

I lost 20 bucks yesterday, almost immediately. I bet my buddy John that Bob Dylan would NOT play Rainy Day Women, but it was his very first song. And man, was he great! He was really cooking, and so was his band, and he mumbled far less than he normally does. Which was all terrific for the casual Dylan fan, as well as the die-hards like myself. I just wish I could have seen it and heard it at the same time. Everybody must get stoned, indeed. Only, the people who were trying to get stoned could not. Which made me laugh. For 200 yards beyond the stage, the people were so packed in that they could not lift their arms to light a joint. More than once I saw people getting burned by the guy behind them, as he desperately tried to smoke his joint. Imagine being one of those contortionists who are able to fold themselves up in such a way that they can shut themselves in a cardboard box. Then imagine trying to light a smoke while you're in there. It might be a great hotbox, but it also might not be worth the effort...and the cardboard would catch on fire...

I don't think I like the new Bluesfest set-up. The old Bluesfest was too small, true, but it also provided an actual view of the stage and loud enough music throughout the venue. Now, there is not much with which to work unless you plan several hours in advance. The 200 yards leading up to the stage were absolutely jammed with people, to the point that once you were in there there was no chance of moving whatsoever. I managed to get about 50 yards away, and I thought that would be good enough for me to see Dylan when he came out. However, the sea of people in front of me still made it impossible to see. The stage is just not elevated enough to pick anything out unless you're in the first five rows. I moved back 100 yards or so, and I had a little more elbow room, but then the sound mixer tent was directly in the way and there was no chance of seeing any of the stage. There are two screens, which you can see from a few vantage points in the crowd, but even then you are watching the screensonly occasionally, as the rest of the time you are trying not to step on anyone, knock people down, or burn them with your joint. Or smoke.

If you want beer or food, or you have to go to the bathroom, forget it. You will never make it back to your area. May as well pee in a cup and go hungry until it's over. Otherwise, you will want to hang out at the back where the beer tents and food are located. The problem here is, that the screens are too far away to see what's going on, and the music coming through the speakers is too quiet for you to hear the show properly. I could tell what songs Dylan was singing, but I had no idea if he was doing them well. This is a big problem with Bluesfest this year. If someone was seriously injured (which is entirely possible in a crowd like that), there is absolutely no way that person could get out of the crowd. They would have to wait there, heart attack or broken leg and everything, and wait until the show ended, just like everyone else. I left for the back after four songs, and it took me forty minutes to get where I could actually grab a beer and move around.

So...you either can't see and you're crushed, or you can't hear and you can walk around, or you get there four hours early and set up so you can both see AND hear. This is what I recommend. Show up EARLY, sit on the grass - lawn chairs are irrelevant and they will only get in the way. So many people were standing in front of their still-open chairs, which just added to the crush and consternation. At the very least, when you stand up for the headliner, fold up your chair and hold it or carry it! It'll help at least a bit.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

The benefits of two alarms are somtimes outweighed by the stupidity of one individual.

I have two alarms. Three, in fact. It is necessary. If I stay out until, say, midnight watching, say, a Bob Dylan show, for example, tonight - then it becomes very difficult for me to wake up at my usual time of 2 a.m. I normally get up at 2:00 so I can get my work done at home before I come in to the station, and I email it to myself. Then I leave at 4:00 or thereabouts. So on these rare occasions where I stay up late for rock and roll, I will re-set my alarm clock for 4:00 instead, to give me a little extra time. Then I get up, eat quick and take off for work. Since I live in Kanata, it takes me about half an hour at a regular driving speed to get there - after all, there is virtually no traffic on the road at this time of the morning, be it 4:00 or 4:30.

This morning it took me sixteen minutes, construction and all. You see, every now and then my bizarre hours catch up with me, and my body does not respond in it's usual way to the alarm. I missed Van Morrison last night, and fell fast asleep at about 6:30. My alarms all went off at 2:00, I turned them all off, and rolled over to get out of bed. Somehow, I never made it, and I awoke again at 5:20. It's not a huge deal if I'm not in the station before 5:00. It just means Randall's 5:00 news does not run on time, and Doc has to do slightly more work to prepare for the show. But it is quite unusual, and the guys began calling my various numbers. Unfortunately, I have moved about seven times since I started working at the show, and they woke up seven different people who had no idea who they were talking about. It turns out no one there had my current phone number. But I made it! In a highly illegal manner, in a way I would not recommend anyone approach the queensway, I got there just in time for the Nasty Joke, and all was well. Of course, there was no point in me being there today - everyone talking about the Van Morrison concert I missed, and me just sitting there, quietly stewing over missing such a huge event.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Assessing my environmental impact...

Now that I am about to become a permanent resident of Kanata, and therefore for the foreseeable future I will be driving 60 clicks to and from work every day. This depresses me, as I think about the effect I am having on our increasingly imperiled climate. I would much rather have moved within walking distance of the station, or something like that. However, I am stuck out here for a while, and I try to do my part in other ways. I wear the same clothes for six or seven days at a time, in rotation so no one notices, to cut down on the use of water for laundry. I drink pop out of cans, since plastic bottles are made using oil. And cans are easier to recycle. I have stopped watching adult films, to cut down on the use of paper towels. I shower only twice a week, and I turn the lights off when I'm not in the room. I have stopped writing letters to my family members, even at Christmas. The three of them with email receive an email, and the others are still wondering where I've gone. I use the same plate three meals in a row, and I don't wash the dishes until we're out of spoons.

With my new house, I am planning to install energy-efficient light bulbs, just like I have in my current house. I will purchase one of those energy efficient fridges, and if I can save up enough money by this time in 2012, I will buy one of those Smart Cars to use as my personal long-distance vehicle. All of these things make sense, since they will save me a ton of money in the long run, but they cost a lot up front. The one big cost I can't figure out, however, is solar panels. I want to install solar panels on my new roof, but I can't figure out who sells them, who would install them, or how much it would cost. I want off the grid! This I'm sure would pay for itself economically in about four years, and environmentally it's impact would be felt immediately. Anyone know where to get some solar panels?

Buying a house is freaky.

I have bought a house. I now have a committed girlfriend, a house, for all intents and purposes I have two kids, and it's freaky. The house is really great, it's in immaculate condition, it's got central air, a big backyard, and a finished basement. Those were my three requests. All I really cared about, I suppose. But there are tons of things I didn't know about buying a house. Things like lawyers and inspectors and so on and so forth. I have conducted most of my negotiations after golf tournaments and the like, so exhausted I can't see straight, fighting through a giant heat rash, and not caring about the process at all. They want me to pay eleven thousand more than I'm offering? Whatever, who cares. If I pay it, can I go to sleep?

There is one thing that is bothering me about the new house. It's on a corner, which is fine. It has a chain link fence around the backyard, which is fine. But it's in Kanata. That means I have officially moved to suburbia. And around a backyard patio, it has a white picket fence. I live in suburbia with a common-law wife and two kids and a white picket fence. All of this would be OK if it was not for the white picket fence. And the big problem I have is that I like the fence. It is necessary for the patio to function the way it does. So I have recently hit on a compromise, one which I won't inform the girlfriend about until I have done it. The very first thing I do when I move in in September is remove the pickets. The fence will stay. It is fine where it is. But I will take a chainsaw, or an axe, or whatever it is, and remove the picket portion off the top of each post. Somehow, this makes be believe that I have retained a small amount of independance from the culture of middle America.

I am also afraid that once I move in, I will begin to, without any input of my own, be forced to host parties where people play Pictionary and Cranium and Mad Gab and the like. I suspect that these events will creep up on me and will occur against my will, but I may well be powerless to stop them. I am further afraid that I will begin to enjoy Cranium, and after a few years of this, the parties will begin to be MY idea. I might then be inspired to put pickets back on my fence, put hardwood floors throughout my house, install a bidet and listen to Yanni. In an effort to stave off the pratfalls of suburbia, I plan to steal a bunch of car parts and scatter them in my front yard. I plan to put my small beer fridge in the backyard, and fill it with Labatt 50. I will do my best to get a picnic table in my front yard, and on hot summer days, I will sit shirtless on this picnic table, my feet dipped in a kiddie pool full of lukewarm water, and eat pop tarts, reading Guns and Ammo. Look out Kanata, here I come!

My dog is a weirdo.

My dog sucks. She is a toy poodle, her name is Muffin, and she barks at everything and everybody. That being said, I really enjoy her, and she's cute as hell. She has grown on me wuite a bit. Which is too bad, because she will likely die in the next couple of years. She is very old, you see. Her hearing is going, and her vision seems to be faltering as well. Much like the dead pigeons and starlings outside my office, she seems to have difficulty with windows and their clarity. Twice today she has banged her head directly into the sliding door trying to walk outside. So I put up the screen, and she climbed it trying to get at a squirrel.

She's tiny and has white curly hair, and in human years she's an octagenarian. So it's like living with your little, old, demented grandma. A grandma who chases squirrels. A grandma who, instead of owning cats, chases them. And I'm always saying "Grandma, those squirrels are bigger than you are. They will eat YOU if you catch them." And she realizes I am right. Then forgets ten minutes later and goes off again. In fact, it is just like living with Grandma. Only she licks me more.

Canada Day

My buddies are complaining that I didn't mention them in my blog after Canada Day, and I feel that in a small way I have indeed been remiss. First of all, I would like to state, for the record, that Canada Day is indeed the greatest day in Ottawa. Mostly great for the single guy, but for the rest of us as well. For the single guy, Canada Day is a bonanza. I have long maintained there are five days in the year where you are guaranteed to get laid, barring some severe personality disorder...here is where I mention my buddies...Mark and James...

5. St. Patrick's Day: It's such a celebratory mood, and everyone is very drunk and enjoying themselves, and nothing caps off a celebration quite like a roll in the hay. Or the pine needles under a big tree at the Algonquin College OC Transpo bus station...I'm told.

4. Your birthday: Because you are going out with friends, and it is your birthday, you will be the centre of attention. This positions you as the alpha male of your group, if only for one day. If all your friends are attractive, you will likely meet a group of attractive girls (and one homely one). If your friends are unattractive, you will likely meet a group of unattractive girls (and one hot one). As the alpha male of your group, even if it for that day only, you get dibs on the hot one. The only thing that works better than your birthday is the "my friends are throwing me a party because I just got out of prison" lie. I'm told.

3. Valentines' Day: If you go out on Valentines' Day, and you run into a woman who is by herself, there is a good chance she is single. There is also a good chance that she is irritated by her friends, all of whom have boyfriends, who are out doing some romantic thing like watching Ultimate Fighting at the pub on the corner. And she wants that too! And you're RIGHT THERE! It's good. If she is not single, that means her boyfriend has left her in the lurch that evening, and she is very angry at him. Angry enough to teach him a lesson. And while I don't condone acting upon this particular impulse, there are times you don't know until it's too late, and then you feel like a total jerk, but then you forget about it and just thank God you don't have to call her the next day even if she DID buy you breakfast...I'm told.

2. Hallowe'en: A fantastic day, where it gives girls who would otherwise not do so a reason to dress up as slutty as possible. And something happens when they put on slutty clothes that makes them want to actually BE slutty, if only for a night. Of course, as a guy, you feel like being slutty all the time, so it works out. Stay away from the "sexy cat" girl. Look for the naughty nurse, the witch in fishnets, and especially the red devil. I once explained this theory to one of my good friends and roommates. We went out that night, and the red devil theory...paid off, shall we say. We all got home, and I was constantly interrupted by shouts from the next room. He was talking on the phone to his girlfriend in Nova Scotia, and she was telling him that she had just found the best halowe'en costume...this cute little red devil number...for some reason he flipped out. and blamed me. Eric told me...and then it was true...and now you...aaaahhh! Hilarious. I didn't need someone to tell me this. It is a gospel truth.

1. Canada Day: There is no need to look for women who are alone and lonely looking. There is no need to find someone dressed as a witch or a devil. You just have to show up. The celebratory mood, the free-flowing beer, and the summer heat that tends to make clothing sparse on July 1st are all terrific reasons that Canada Day is, in fact, and certainly for Ottawa residents, Christmas in July.

If you need more tips, here's one - bar-hop on Elgin on Friday and Saturday nights. Don't stick around in one bar. If you are on the street, between bars, you have more opportunities to meet up with a bachelorette party. These events are terrific, because first of all, they're all women, and secondly, the ones not getting married are either REALLY looking for a man (avoid these ones) or looking to celebrate the continuation of their own single status by hooking up with a random guy to flaunt their ability to do so in the face of the girl who is about to be confined for the rest of her life. Ideal. When you're single. Which I no longer am.

But it's still good, and I thoroughly enjoyed my Canada Day. I was at the James Street Pub, which until recently was the James Street Feed company, and that place was a bit of a dive. Which I always liked. I love the dives. When you walked in the door, you became certain fairly quickly that in some back room at the Feed Company, there was a man with a canoe paddle, stirring a batch of moonshine in an antique bathtub. You half expected the drinks to be served in jugs with the marking "XXX". And it smelled. But now it is a joint to which you could actually take your family. And although I miss the dank just a little, the new renovations made for a very pleasant and beer-fueled Canada Day. Great food, lots of beer, terrific people. I even met Kurt, the man who burned me a copy of Notorious for my collection and so I had something more to review for Cynical Cinema. Hey Kurt! You have The African Queen or The Killers lying around somewhere?

I left with my buddies Mark and James, and we went to an apartment party, with a few junior members of the Conservative Party. Canada Day is so wonderful and tremendous a day that I didn't even get into a fight over politics. In fact, we all agreed we'd like to kick Pierre Polievre in the head, and left it at that. Conservatives can be cool too! Then to the rooftop, for a partially-obstructed view of the fireworks, then to more bars, then I painted the sidewalk, and James was kind enough to drive my drunk ass home all the way out to Kanata. Thanks James! And Kurt! And Canada!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Landmarks! Go Ottawa!

OK, I was being a little blithe when I mentioned the Rideau Canal in my previous posting. I DO know who decided the Canal was a landmark. It was the United Nations. And I DO know what that designation is - a World Heritage Site. But I must confess, I still am not sure why. And I certainly don't see how it will increase terr-I mean-tourism in Ottawa by 40 percent. Does the UN send out a big book of World Heritage Sites to travel agents every year? And do people plan their vacations around these locations? I mean, how many people will this attract that were not already seduced by the possibility that they could come to Ottawa and see dozens upon dozens of tulips? No, I think that market is already saturated.

And what, exactly, are the criteria by which the UN chooses it's World Heritage Sites? A short list of the others which are shining lights of tourism, attracting foreigners by the thousands to Canada (there are fourteen - here are just a few); L'Anse Aux Meadows National Historic Site in Newfoundland. Possibly chosen because of it's involvement with the vikings, who were damn cool, or maybe simply because the name cannot decide whether it is French or English, and poses the sort of conundrum tourists enjoy so much. Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, Alberta. I've been there. It's really cool. And not just because of the smashed skulls of bison from years past, but because they celebrate the tradition by serving delicious bison burgers. Which could be one reason it was chose, or, possibly, it was the name that intrigued them once again. Old Towne Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. Again, I have been there. In fact, I spent almost a month there when I worked with the Bluenose II Preservation Trust. Aside from a proud tradition of ship-building and rum-running, what makes "Old Town Lunenberg" historically significant? It's shipyards, sure. It's harbour, sure. It's dilapidated buildings and charming pubs? You can get that just about anywhere. (By the way, if you're ever there - go to the Grand Banker or the Rum Runner - two fine establishments with incredible seafood and a bunch of local drunks who were fishermen sixty years ago, and now hang out in the bars and tell the coolest stories about being out at sea.)

OK, Lunenberg belongs. Just for the old men and their salty tales of the briny deep. And I assume that SGaang GWaay in BC has some sort of historic significance as well. The problem is, that I have no damn idea what the other things on this list are! Kluane/Wrangell-St. Elias/ Glacier Bay/Tatshenshini-Alsek, Yukon/Alaska? What the hell does that mean? And what makes it interesting? Other things on the list include the pyramids and the Taj Mahal. That's good. I've heard of those.

I checked out UNESCO's website, and there were in fact 22 cultural sites that were added to the list at the same time as the Rideau Canal, (including the canal) and one removed. The following is copied directly from UNESCO's site; Twyfelfontein or /Ui-//aes (Namibia) was inscribed as a cultural site for its large concentration of rock carvings. South China Karst (China) was inscribed as a natural property, unrivalled in terms of the diversity of its karst features and landscapes. Mehmed Paša Sokolović Bridge of Višegrad (Bosnia and Herzegovina) was listed as a cultural site for characterizing the apogee of Ottoman monumental architecture and civil engineering. AND...In a decision unprecedented in the history of UNESCO's Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, the Committee deleted one property, the Arabian Oryx Sanctuary, from the List because of Oman's failure to preserve the outstanding universal value of the Sanctuary.

This is verbatim from their website. But wait, something doesn't add up here. Oman? Failure to preserve the universal value of the Sanctuary? Hmm. This, it turns out upon a little bit of further research, is a sacutary that was set up to protect the endangered Oryx, a type of Arabian antelope. So, it's not like buildings crumbled due to neglect, and the site just wasn't as pretty as it was when it was designated a World Heritage Site. No. Here's what happened, it would seem. Sites designated as World Heritage Sites are untouchable. There are rainforests in South America and jungles in Africa that can never be destroyed by human hands as long as they are designated as such by the UN. But apparently, the onus is on that country to keep it up? Maintain the grass on the fields in Newfoundland where the Vikings once had a picnic? And the Omani government was required only to make sure that the Oryx did not become exctinct, from what I can tell.

No, what UNESCO's website, http://whc.unesco.org/ does not say, is that there was a campaign being waged BY Oman to have the site de-listed. You see, they believe that beneath these protected grounds, there may be oil. And what, truly, is more important? One little species of one little antelope, or tons of money? Well, it looks like they chose money. But they could not go it alone. They had to put pressure on the UN to de-list their fertile antelope fields in order to hasten their excinction and drive out them pesky deer, and of course, they found that help in the US. So, a joint lobby of Oman and the States put enough pressure on the UN that finally they caved, and said "fine, you jerks. Dig for oil, kill the oryx, just stop talking at me!"

They may lose 40 percent (what an arbitrary number!) of their tourism as a result, but how many people take a summer vacation to Oman? Even a winter one? They can afford to lose eleven, twelve, or even thirteen tourist dollars if it means they can find oil! So they are de-listed. And we here in Ottawa, happy as clams, proclaim the selection of our canal as a landmark achievement, no pun intended, for Colonel By and his crew of oft-killed journeymen carpenters and the like. And it will bring US the eleven, twelve or thirteen tourist dollars lost by Oman! Way to go Canada! We'll be reaping the benefits of this for years to come! Unless we discover oil beneath the canal.

A postscript.

After ranting for some time on this ridiculous fear-mongering study that was reported in this morning's papers, and venting my spleen to some extent on the asinine nature of the reporting in today's media, I was still fairly angry. Screw you, Ottawa Sun, for making this your front page story. This is not news. This is idiocy. On page eleven, somewhere in the middle of the page, there is a brief news bulletin about the people who are getting killed in Iraq, and right below it, a tiny mention of our efforts in Afghanistan. But what hits the front page? Terrorists are out to get us! US! Canadians! We are not exempt! Our policy of non-participation in the overthrow of regimes around the world, democratic and otherwise, to serve the interests of multi-billion dollar companies will not save us! We are a part of the Axis Of America, and the evildoers could strike here as well!

I don't know if this is an indication of our media's desire in some way to conform to the American style of media, the fear-mongering, if-it's-scary-it's-news ball of crap. I don't know if this is Canada's little-brother complex rearing it's stupid head once again, and screaming to the world Look! We're good enough to be attacked by terrorists also! We're just as important, and people hate us just as much! We're cool too, let us play tetherball with the big kids in the schoolyard! It could be either. But in this I am absolutely certain: "Terrorist attacks, if they were to happen in the following locations, would frighten us" is not news. It is not even interesting. The only thing I found interesting were the possible "targets" of terrorist activity that our good Canadian anti-terror experts were watching. The CN Tower? OK...take that landmark. The bridge between Windsor and Detroit? OK...take that, commuters. The tunnel in Montreal? Um...what tunnel? There's a tunnel in Montreal? The Parliament buildings might make sense. Sure. People at least know what the hell they are. But while we're at it, it might be a good idea to watch the R.H. Coats building (it's big) and the Art Gallery (it's famous) and the Museum of Civilization (it's pretty).

Oh God, no! It just occured to me (and this will be the subject of a future blog post as well, I now think) that the Rideau Canal has recently been declared one of the Things To See In The World by Some Organization Or Other...the papers tell me that this means Ottawa could see a 40 percent increase in tourism. Doesn't that indicate that we might also see a 40 percent increase in...terrorism? 40 percent more terrorist attacks on Canadian soil? Let's see...that means in the next few years, with an increase of 40 percent...we could have ZERO terrorist attacks! Scary stuff.

I'm off topic here though. I wrote this post not to go on about the idiocy of our landmarks and "terror targets", but to decry the Sun for their sensationalism and fear-mongering, and to give a printed-word pat on the back to Randall Moore, our NEWSman, who chose not to mention this story in his news. After writing this morning's blog, I was bracing myself to get irritated every time Randall read his report. But not once did I flinch or cringe (except at the pornographic pizza story), because Randall chose not to report this insanity. He must have realized, also, that in no way could this be considered news. Kudos, Randall, for deciding the story about pizzas being served with pornographic pictures in their boxes was more newsworthy than this drivel!

I am announcing my availability as a "terrorism expert"

I have no credentials as a terrorism expert. Nor do I claim to know as much as those people who have spent their lives assessing the risks North Americans face when it comes to dealing with terrorism. However, I have become absolutely convinced that I would make an excellent TV talking head on the subject. I am reading a new studay that has been conducted where the effects of the detonation of "dirty bombs" has been examined in various Canadian target areas. This study says that were a "dirty bomb", whatever the hell that is, to be detonated in the Parliament buildings here in Ottawa, there would be "a major loss of life, combined with panic on the part of Canadian citizens". This study went on to say that should a "dirty bomb" be detonated in downtown Toronto, there would be mass confusion and fear in the immediate vicinity of that detonation.

Wow! I must be a savant when it comes to the matter of international terrorism! I would have thought the exact same thing! If the TV people had come to me, or the newspaper reporters, and asked me about this study, I would have said "it would cause panic and fear". And, it turns out, I would have been right! If the government came to me and asked me to conduct this study, I would gladly have taken their 400,000 dollars. I would have bought myself a house from which to conduct my surveys. I would have hired four friends at $30,000 apiece to work the phone lines for me. I would have purchased a car (a Smart Car, of course, to save on gas and emissions) to travel to the various locations terrorists might attack. The cattle castle. The CN Tower. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Bluesfest. I would have spared no expense visiting and experiencing every facet of these landmarks, and taking photographs so that in my final report I could accurately identify the buildings.

In short, I would have spent every penny of that 400 grand in an effort to be as thorough and precise as I could with my findings. I would give the people manning my phones a very specific list of questions to ask those they survey. Questions like "if a bomb went off in your neighbourhood, would you be scared? And if so, can you rate that fear on a scale of one to ten, ten being terrified to the point of soiling yourself, one being mildly frightened that your microwave clock may have to be reset". Or, "if you received a blank envelope with white powder in the mail, would you...(A) Use it to bake cookies...(B) See if it killed the weeds on your lawn, or...(C) Alert the authorites, the news media, the government and the CIA?"

I could make myself very useful. I would appear on CNN, get quoted in the Sun, perhaps even get a photo op with Stephen Harper. Now, I don't want to suggest my expertise could extend to anything beyond this. I am NOT qualified to figure out IF a "dirty bomb" would ever be detonated at the Parliament buildings or the CN Tower. I have no means of collecting information to determine how "real" this "threat" may in fact be. I have no ins with terror organizations, and I don't even have a chemistry degree, although I took a few classes. Then again, the guy who can figure out the answers to all these questions is not needed. That guy might actually QUELL fears when he says "it seems pretty clear no terrorists are planning to attack the giant statue of Big Joe Mufferaw in Mattawa". No, that does not further the efforts of any fear-mongers and is therefore unnecessary. What we want is people to stir up fear however they can, and I can DO that! For lots of money!