Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Things on TV that make me smile.

And I mean things other than that smug sense of self-satisfaction that creeps across Bill O'Reilly's face when he finds a way to use the word "perspicacity" in a sentence. His latest word from the back of Readers' Digest appears to be "bloviate". And once he uses it once, he craves the opportunity to sound smart and smug again. So he will use it several times in a sentence, in different contexts and with different suffixes. "Now, I'm not speaking out against bloviating. I'm the king of bloviation. But Obama is a bloviator who bloviates about other bloviators. And I'm against that." I paraphrase.

The new Conservative commercial about how Stephen Harper is just such a super guy. And they have all these people...bloviating? Ahh...I still don't know how to use it! I remain dumber than Bill O'Reilly! Whatever will I do? Anyway. The people who say things into the camera that are actually meaningless. "He's on the right track". "I like that he's a family man. Like, he has kids." "I'm going to vote for Stephen Harper". "He's in it for the right reasons". What does any of this mean? Even the people who say stuff that makes sense - "Finally we have someone who's tough on crime!" "I like that he supports the veterans." Again...what does that mean? How is he tough on crime, and why is that a good thing? Who, among all the people who are alive in the world today, does not "support" the veterans? What does that mean? But what makes me smile is the end of the commercial where he is sitting benignly on a couch, looking incredibly awkward, then obviously someone off camera says "look up and smile", and he does, and it looks a little like he's constipated and sad. Hilarious.

Sports highlight shows that are on a loop. Which means that after making an error in a sports show early in the morning, we are seeing that same error in every show until about 1:00. Like on Sportsnet this morning, where they announced that Alex Rodriguez had hit his 548th career home run. This apparently tied him with Frank Schmidt for 12th place on the all-time list. I had never heard of this man, the 12th all-time in home runs! How was that possible? I did a quick wikipedia search for Frank Schmidt, and discovered that he is a famed psychology professor well known for his work on the application of validity generalization methods. And although he has zero career major league home runs, I bet the Phillies wish they had signed HIM. He would have been interesting to have in the club house. I had the same highlight show on in the background this morning as I typed up some breaking rock news. And at 23 minutes after the next hour, I went back to wikipedia to look up Frank Schmidt again.

Oh, by the way - that Breaking Rock News story I was typing up? I'll reprint it here so you can tell how important it was. Yesterday, Breaking Rock News declined to report on a story that said that Guns N Roses once abused drugs and had sex with groupies. We felt that was not a story. But THIS...this was worth reporting. So here it is.

A waitress at the Cracker Barrel in Boise, Idaho received a 25 dollar tip. From the rock band Poison! Cheri White waited on members of Poison on Monday afternoon. "I didn't know who they were. I just walked up and took their order," White said. "Then one of them said, 'Hey, here's half your tip.' And he gave me this." The "this" she was referring to was a sticker. A Poison sticker. From the rock band Poison. The sticker, it is reported, could be worth up to 5 dollars on eBay. And that's the story.

And the last thing that makes me smile on TV - discovering a new show that I love. Tomorrow night is the season three premiere of Billable Hours on Showcase. I just got an advanced look at the show, and it's one of my new favourites. Yet another thing to PVR. I might have to make room for it by deleting the O'Reilly Factor. But I'm not sure which show is funnier.

Wakin' the neighbours: Volume One.

The first winner of the Doc and Woody wake the neighbours tour: Irene Stec, who didn't respond to my initial bullhorning, then came to the door at the exact wrong time, only to be yelled at through a megaphone inches from her face. My apologies Irene, I hope this didn't cause you any heart problems. A lovely lady with two lovely daughters, we will be at her home on September 12th for the first installment of the Wake the Neighbours tour, with Becky Abbott, a 42 inch TV and breakfast, all in her living room. A short video:

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Randall Moore book club. Latest book.

Rawi Hage's excellent book, DeNiro's Game, makes several mentions of the Albert Camus classic The Outsider. Or, L'Etranger, if you will. The central character, Bassam, reads the book while he is holed up in a hotel in France after escaping war-torn Beirut. And there are many similarities between the two. Where L'Etranger deals with a man who commits a murder, that murder is treated simply as a matter of course. And while it is the central event in the book, it's described in such a matter-of-fact way that we, the reader, don't really know how to feel about it. And the violence in DeNiro's Game is described in a similar fashion. Matter-of-fact, like the thousands of bombs falling all over Lebanon are merely a matter of course, that Bassam is so accustomed to this that it almost doesn't register with him any more. The violence in Camus' main character comes from his own character, but the violence in Bassam seems to come more from his surroundings, and from the apathy that is created by the killings around him.

In L'Etranger, the man who murders is brought up on trial, and part of the prosecution against him centres around the fact that he was emotionless at his own mother's funeral. So too is Bassam fairly emotionless when his mother is killed by a bomb. After all, it's Beirut, and these things happen. Hage has an incredible writing style, and he balances the matter-of-fact, Camus type descriptions of horrific things with poetic and flowery descriptions of emotions and scenery. It seems like an odd juxtaposition of style, but it really works. We get inside Bassam's head almost immediately, and while we can see the beauty of a girl crossing the street or a sunset in the hills, we too are inured to the violence surrounding these sights.

The story basically deals with Bassam and his childhood friend, nicknamed DeNiro. (We find out why later, but I hope people will read this book and I won't divulge the reason for his nickname.) As the war in Lebanon spirals out of control, and opportunists pop up on all sides - the Christians, the Muslims, the Somalians, the Israelis, the Palestinians - we start to wonder who is fighting whom. Bassam himself doesn't really seem to know, or care. All he knows is that there are gun battles and bombs, and who is dropping them and why are seconedary concerns. DeNiro becomes involved with a Christian militia group, led by a shadowy, violent and greedy man who appears to be more interested in financial gain than in a cause of any kind. There is a funny but poignant scene at the front lines, when Bassam's friend Joseph engages in a verbal battle with a Muslim fighter on the other side of the lines. They insult each others' mothers and sisters. They fire bullets at each other. But those bullets always miss. As Joseph says: "I can't kill him - we're going to have a beer after the war".

In the end, Bassam does manage to escape Beirut, and learns more about the war, about himself, and about his friend DeNiro and the extent to which he was really betrayed. The book ends with a rumination on what Camus wrote - there is but one true philosophical problem, and that is suicide. DeNiro's Game is a powerful first novel from Canadian import Rawi Hage, a man who lived through the events he describes so vividly and alternately so clinically. Well worth the read.