Thursday, September 11, 2008

My crappy hours are good for something.

I may well get up at 2 in the morning for work. And I might well have to go to bed shortly after all my friends get off work. But these hours are good for something. You see, I drive in to work at 3:30. And over the last few months, I have been driving in at exactly 90 km/h, the entire trip. And until Monday, when I picked up my new car, I was keeping track of my gas mileage. And here's what I found. When I drove in at a regular speed, (which, at 3:30 in the morning with no cars on the road, I admit was often around 120), I was filling up my tank about once every four days. Now that I have been making absolutely certain that I drive at 90, it adds about seven minutes to my drive. And I have been filling up my car, on average, every five days. If it costs me (and of course it does) at least 50 bucks every time I fill up my tank, over the course of the year I will save about 900 bucks by going slow. Now of course, I have the luxury of taking a long Queensway route when there is no traffic at all.

Now that I have a new car, though, I've decided to take it one step further. I have decided, now, to stop braking. My last car, it was the brakes that cost me the most (next to the gas). You see, my brakes weren't calibrated properly (a design flaw in the car itself), such that they wear down incredibly fast if you apply those brakes while going more than 80 km/h. So now, I have made it a point never to do so with my new car. And since there is no one on the roads when I drive in, I can coast for blocks when I see a red light ahead of me, timing it right so that it's green when I get there. I'm still getting around at the exact same speed, but I'm using less gas and less brakes. I tried this for the first time this morning. There are three stop signs, and one red light where I have to turn right on my way into work. So, this morning, I applied my brakes four times, only when I had to come to a full and complete stop. I am now monitoring the difference this makes overall. I will present my findings in a few weeks.

I wouldn't recommend doing this during rush hour. Although everyone would still get where they were going at the same time they otherwise would, they would not understand this, they would not understand you, and someone might try to hit you with a tire iron. As I said, I have a certain luxury in that I drive with no other cars on the road. Except Doc. And if I ever get ahead of him, I'll be taking my foot off the accelerator and coasting the length of St. Laurent until we get to work. Not that I specifically have it in for Doc. It's just that I find he does his best shows when he arrives at work furious.

Wait...Tyra Banks has an Emmy? Is that like O'Reilly's Peabody? (And by that I mean fictitious?)

They just give those things to anyone, don't they? I know that Tyra Banks has an Emmy because on her show, the debut show of the new season of Tyra Banks, the trophy had it's own seat in the middle of the stage. There it was, all polished and gleaming, a shining beacon to the greatness that is Tyra Banks. The only thing in the world that is more of a beacon to the greatness that is Tyra Banks is Tyra Banks. How can you win an Emmy when you do the easiest show in the entire world? And make no mistake about it, Tyra Banks not only has the easiest show in the entire world, she also has the easiest job in the entire world. She shows up at work, talks about herself for forty-five minutes, and goes home. Easy! The first episode of this brand new season, she promised her studio audience that today they were going to talk about something that she was going to be talking about a subject she knew everyone was dying to hear about...Tyra Banks! Today, my girlfriend went into work late. So I had to watch a small portion of the show. Again. She was interviewing, from what I could tell, a panel of women who were on the show because they think Tyra Banks is super! Easiest job in the world.

Bill O'Reilly, on the other hand, has one of the most difficult jobs in the world. Spouting right-wing, Republican talking points without making the bias obvious to the people of lesser intelligence who watch him. That must be tough! Although he makes it look easy - all he has to do is say words like "fair and balanced", and attack other networks that aren't FOX as being liberal-biased media. Which means that everything even slightly to the left of FOX is biased media, leaving FOX as the only network that is truly Fair And Balanced. It's genius, but it must be tough to pull off day after day.

My dilemma today, however, as I watch my PVR'd O'Reilly to escape from the Tyra Banks show, is trying to figure out which of them is more self-involved. Some reporter from a tiny newspaper in a tiny town somewhere in Middle America makes the point that O'Reilly is saying that Sarah Palin's pregnant daughter in no way reflects on Palin herself, whereas a year ago he went off on Jamie-Lynn Spears' mother, blaming her specifically for her teenage daughter's pregnancy and calling her a "pinhead". And O'Reilly sends one of his slavering minions over to that reporter's house to harass and harangue her. Today, he is running the final installment of his interview with Barack Obama. And the poll on his website is "how did I do in my interview with Obama? Grade ME from A to F". In the middle of the biggest election race in American history, you interview the most historic candidate for the presidency in American history, and your poll question is about YOU? Ah, Bill O'Reilly, you make me laugh. And Tyra Banks makes me cry. And both of them create such a horrible reaction in me that I can't get them out of my head, like a terribly irritating and catchy Journey song. And I end up writing about them in this blog. And that, most of all, is why I dislike them both so much.

Heather Mills. Oh dear.

When Heather Mills and Paul McCartney first began to fight in public at the time of their divorce...or rather, Heather Mills began to fight in public and McCartney just shut his mouth...I was inclined to defend her. Not that I necessarily believed everything she was saying, but I felt that people were just way too eager to defend McCartney and judge Mills harshly, simply because they love McCartney. And he was a Beatle. And so forth. But as time has gone on, and more and more stories have emerged about Mills, I have given up. She was going to donate "a large portion" of her 48 million dollar divorce settlement to a land mine charity. And then she didn't. She was supposed to have a video of McCartney being abusive, that she was shopping around to TV networks for a million dollars. It turned out to be some fairly innocuous and sweet home videos, and a clip of Hillary Clinton. I was still trying, in my mind, to give her the benefit of the doubt. But then, I see this. And all is lost. I won't even try to describe my reaction to this. By "this" I mean excerpts from the new "fiction" book she is writing. I can't describe the idiocy here. You'll just have to check out the link yourself:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1054109/Poor-Little-Me-How-Heather-Millss-novel-model-rock-star-husband-make-Mills--Boon-weep.html

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Brass balls and brass polls. Coming in five weeks, brass tacks.

Yesterday, a Conservative candidate was booted from her Halifax riding because she was found to have a criminal record. She had two criminal convictions. Apparently she was convicted of "uttering threats" once, and another time she was fined $50 bucks when she was convicted of "breaching an undertaking". Whatever that means. Really, this isn't a big story. It's not even terribly interesting. Perhaps a bigger story was Gilles Duceppe taking on the Conservatives over their links to Opus Dei. The Conservative candidate in a Montreal riding is a member of Opus Dei - an extreme Catholic group that opposes abortion, contraception, and homosexuality. You might remember Opus Dei as the shadowy and freaky sect with the murderous albino monks from the decent book and rotten movie The Da Vinci Code. Again, this isn't a very big story. So there are some wingnut maniacs in the Conservative party. That barely qualifies as news. We already know this. But certainly both these stories must be bigger than puffins and fruits.

Puffins and fruits. That's what we hear about this morning. Do a google news search for "Conservative Opus Dei" and you get 32 hits. Do a search for "Conservative puffin" and you get 227. "Conservative fruit" gets you 528 hits. The cover of the Ottawa Sun this morning was some guy from the Tragically Hip endorsing Stephane Dion. I know I just blogged about this three posts ago, but I thought we were a little better than this. Stephen Harper gets asked what kind of vegetable he would be, were he a vegetable. Which was the natural question to ask, since at the time he was standing beside boxes of carrots. It wasn't his answer that was telling. (Although the fact that he elected to choose "fruit" was pretty hilarious, given his views.) No, what was telling about this event was this: This question ranks somewhere in the top 200 on the alarmingly long list of the "dumbest questions ever asked a politician". But he made time for it. In fact, he paused. And really thought about the correct answer to this asinine question. And then - he gave an evasive answer. To a question that was staggeringly stupid to begin with. He could have said "peas". And been done with it. Moved on. But instead he paused, stopped, and found a way to evade this question. THIS question. The election is on, folks!

But the biggest story was more than fruits! It was puffins! The cute little birds that reside in nests on Newfoundland cliffs. You see, there was this ad put up on a website that attacked Stephane Dion with a cute little video of a puffin pooping on his shoulder. And this was the election story of the day. The ad was posted on a website called www.notaleader.ca. A website that is run by the Conservative party. On this website, there is absolutely nothing about Conservative policies. In fact, there is nothing about Conservatives at all. It's just an attack website on Stephane Dion, personally. It may as well be called www.wethinkstephanedionsucksandwewouldliketopunchhisneck.com. Go ahead and click on that link. It doesn't exist. But it may as well. I was curious, and I went to this website. You can send people cards that make fun of Dion's English speaking ability. You can check out his "inaction figure". And you can read an inane blog where the Conservatives pretend to be Stephane Dion's dog, and ridicule him from that point of view.

I stopped reading the website because I was feeling a bit nauseous, but I'm certain that had I had more time to delve deeper before my gag reflex kicked in, I could have played the game where you kick Dion in the nuts and take his lunch money, or the one where he's buried up to his neck on the beach and you come by with your Harper face on and kick sand in his face. So...here's where we are. Harper approves of this Conservative-run, shameless and vulgar website, but not of the puffin bit? That crossed the line. Are you kidding me? Now, the Liberals have a website of their own, www.scandalpedia.ca, which is a website designed to attack the Conservatives and Harper. But I was able to spend time on this website. Although, like the Conservative site, it doesn't feature any Liberal policies at all, at the very least it contains facts. So, you can peruse the details of the in-and-out scheme. Or the Chuck Cadman affair. There are no flash videos or cute games to play, and as such it is far less entertaining than the sleazy Conservative site. But at least it's less...cheap.

So, you've now read four paragraphs of this blog posting. And what have you learned about the Conservative position on the environment? Or the Liberal Green Shift plan? Oh, nothing. Right. It's Day Three, and already this election is about nothing. But then, as I stated a few posts ago, that's how it should be. As soon as elections become bogged down with things like issues, truth and policy, that's when you lose people. I'm sure that they will, however, get down to brass tacks in the four days leading up to the election. Which means you can wait until October 10th to start paying attention. Sweet, huh? Sweet like a fruit.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

I wrote this yesterday.

I'm writing this post on Tuesday, with the expectation that Randall will be ranting about this very subject tomorrow on One Minute Moore. So I am planning on holding off on publishing it until I let him go on tomorrow. It's rare that Randall rants about the same thing more than once in a short time, but recently he voiced his anger over the fact that anyone was even thinking about excluding Elizabeth May from the Canadian leadership debates. And now, she has in fact been excluded. And I assume he's likely even more furious about the subject today. And so am I. This is a very stark reminder of Stephen Harper's need for control, and yet another example of the reasons Canada has to vote him out come October. Stephen Harper says that if Elizabeth May is allowed to participate in the debate, he himself will not show up. He is so adamant about it that he convinces CTV to exclude her, as though it's totally a network decision and not a political one at all. And you have to ask yourself why. Why is Stephen Harper so worried about the presence of a woman whose party has but one seat in the House of Commons?

And then, this morning (yesterday morning if you're reading this) I read a quote from Elizabeth May saying that the whole debate was an old-boys club. Four male party leaders debating on a network run by all men, and that she was excluded for being a woman. And I thought to myself "jesus, no." No, Elizabeth May! Don't say stuff like that! You are NOT helping yourself out! Playing the "I'm excluded because I'm a woman" card is so...lame. And so wrong. I think her exclusion has nothing whatsoever to do with her being a woman. Rather, it has to do with her being...competent. Stephen Harper knows that he can whip Stephane Dion in an English-language debate. Whether Dion makes more sense than Harper does is immaterial. People can't get past Dion's command of English. Gilles Duceppe, in many ways, is irrelevant, and so too is Jack Layton. (Layton's resistance to May, one would assume, is simply because he thinks that any votes she gets will be taken from the NDP.)

And so that appears to be the real reason. Sure, Harper is crying foul, like the Liberals and Green party have some kind of deal cooked up where they will gang up against him. And two against one is unfair! Wait, isn't he supposed to be the hard-nosed, tough guy leader? The one Canadians say best exemplifies leadership characteristics in poll after poll? (By default, I can only assume.) So can't he take on two opponents at once? Aren't all the candidates going to go after him? So what is it? And I say it's the environment. Because this is the single biggest area where the Green party and the Liberals can most gang up on the Conservatives. Because Stephen Harper, for all intents and purposes, has absolutely no environmental policy. Dion can beat Harper when it comes to a discussion on the environment. But then there's that language barrier. So the single person most likely to make Harper look foolish at this debate is Elizabeth May. And so Harper has gone out of his way to exclude her from the debate for that very reason. And CTV has been complicit.

I'll be publishing this after Randall's commentary, just to see how much the two of us agree. I imagine we agree a fair amount.

OK, I have now heard his comment. And he mentioned this only briefly, except to say that Jack Layton proved himself to be just another politician by wanting to exclude May from the debates. And to make the point that this "ganging up" business is BS - witness the Reform Party and the Conservatives taking on Chretien as a team years ago. Anyway, Elizabeth May is fighting this in court, and lord I hope she wins. Go for it! Just quit saying it's because you're a woman when you know it's beacause you're good at your job.

Oasis fight!

Noel Gallagher was involved in an altercation last night at the Oasis show in Toronto. And, for once, it wasn't even with his own brother! I can safely assume that this unidentified 47-year-old man who rushed the stage and attacked the guitar player is demented. And this is just conjecture - I think he is a demented Liam Gallagher fan. Watch the bizarre attack here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QWT9v-kEGHc&NR=1

At least he waited until one of the weaker songs. Noel Gallagher came back to finish the show, but was then taken to hospital. Yough to see him being shoved in that one, so here's another look at it:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CX5JBsKih0c

This is fun.

The top six rock and roll stories in the world right now are as follows (as the Breaking Rock News guy, I have to go through all this):

#1 - Noel Gallagher gets attacked by a fan onstage in Toronto.

#2 - The Allman Brothers are teaming up with the Grateful Dead to do a fundraiser for Barack Obama

#3 - Jon Bon Jovi and his wife threw an exclusive, super-expensive fundraiser for Barack Obama.

#4 - Boy George releases a song in support of Barack Obama

#5 - Ann and Nancy Wilson issue a cease and desist letter to John McCain for using their song "Barracuda"

#6 - Brian Wilson endorses John McCain


For more details, visit: http://www.chez106.com/news/brn/


So...aside from the Oasis story, which is insane, there are a bunch of presidential race campaign stories. Which are insane. Speaking of insane, the Republicans now have two musicians on their side. Ted Nugent and Brian Wilson. Kinda. And the Democrats have...everyone else. And this got me thinking this morning. How come this makes the news all over the place, and yet has no discernible effect on the actual presidential race? And it occured to me that this is the biggest problem with America. Here it is:

Americans (and, to a lesser extent, Canadians) are a celebrity-obsessed culture. They love their US Weekly and their other tabloids. They love tmz.com and perezhilton.com. When Angelina Jolie is spotted picking up a baby stroller at Bouncin Babies Buggy Boutique on Hollywood Boulevard, and the picture makes it into People magazine, online orders of that very same stroller shoot up 900 percent. Jessica Simpson gets a new hairdo? Millions of young girls show up at school with that same hairdo the next day. E.T. follows a trail of Reeses Pieces? They become the hottest selling item in the world. And no one personifies this more than Oprah. If your product gets a slot on the Oprah's Things I Like show, you have hit the jackpot. After three months of selling your particular Oprah fridge, you can retire to the Carribean and never worry about Jessica Simpson again. If Oprah puts you in her book-of-the-month club, your sales skyrocket and you may never have to sit down at that cumbersome typewriter again. If Oprah contracted scurvy, you would see millions of women figuring out a way to cut Vitamin C completely out of their diets so they could be just like her.

And yet - Oprah endorses Barack Obama, and - nothing. There seems to be no noticeable blip, no definite advantage in the polls. And I'm wondering why. If Americans are so eager to do whatever celebrities say, why are they so reticent to follow the lead of their idols when it comes to politics? And granted, the celebrities who endorse a particular candidate are, for the most part, blowing steam and don't really know what they're talking about. But then there are the ones who do. Like Oprah. Or Bruce Springsteen. Heck, even Bob Dylan has weighed in here for the first time in his life. And that, believe it or not, is kind of a big deal. Pretty much every celebrity in the world is endorsing Obama. (With the exception of Chuck Norris, who is so saddened at the defeat of Mike Huckabee in the Republican primaries that he is sitting at home crying into his beard. And as we all know, his tears cure cancer. So even this helps the world.)

So what gives? How is Obama not putting together an insurmountable lead in the polls? Well, it seems to be because the American people believe that celebrities may well know the best handbags to own, or the best fridges to purchase, but they refuse to listen when it comes to politics. On some level, the people believe that politics is more important than Reeses' Pieces, so they ought to listen to someone who knows more about the subject than Chuck Norris. So they watch Bill O'Reilly. Who may well understand the world less than Chuck Norris. Bill O'Reilly's tears cure meat.

But isn't this an amazing load of hypocrisy? To ignore the opinions of your favourite celebrities, simply because they are celebrities and this issue is too important to be left in their hands? When you will flock out and buy a mynah bird simply because Jennifer Aniston's mother's neighbour owns one, and yet you won't listen to Jennifer Aniston's political endorsement, you are a hypocrite. The reason for this is you, the purchaser of this mynah bird, are already a glazed-eye observer of pop culture, and therefore you are extremely pliable. You are merely choosing who you will allow to ply you. And therefore you are a member of the vast majority for whom style and flash counts over substance and message. Perhaps you hear from Sean Hannity that Obama is a secret Muslim. And you hear from Pat Robertson that you should hate all Muslims, secret or otherwise. So your mind is made up. Or you hear that Sarah Palin's seventeen-year-old daughter is pregnant. And you remember Bill O'Reilly saying, a few months ago, that when Jamie Lynne Spears got pregnant, her mother was to blame. Well, you can put two and two together, and you won't be voting for her ticket.

You see, it's one and the same. Unless you're willing to delve deep into the issues, read Newsweek and Time and your local newspapers and books and internet columns (not this one - it isn't very informative), and watch CNN and MSNBC and even FOX "news" and come up with a real opinion, one that you hold and not one that is created for you by pundits and critics and campaign groups and internet smear campaigns, you may as well just ask your favourite celebrity. Find out who Bo Bice is planning to vote for, and just follow along. Frankly, it would be hypocritical not to.

Singin'.

Over the weekend, my buddy John had his bachelor party. I arrived halfway through, because I was home with the kids while the guys went go-karting. But when I arrived, we began to drink. We drank at John's brother's house, and then headed downtown to some bar called the Whiskey. While there, we met up with some bachelorette parties doing a similar thing and we drank some more. On our way to the strip club, John fell down, and picked a fight with some passing pitbulls. So we never made it to the peelers and we took him home. His girlfriend seemed rather shocked to see us all at midnight, but not as shocked as mine was to see me at 12:30. In the end, that was better though, because the next morning I had to sing. You see, John is a friend of mine from high school days who was in many of the same activities I was - waterpolo, school stuff - and choir. We were in the Ottawa Regional Youth Choir when we were thirteen and fourteen and fifteen. Until I was kicked out for bad behaviour. And bad singing.

But John wanted all of his choir friends to get together to do some singing at his wedding, coming up this weekend. And I agreed to be a part of what I figured would be a makeshift, half-assed choir to belt out Ave Maria (John's choice) at the wedding. I thought this would be rather fun, getting a bunch of people together who haven't sung in fifteen years. We could destroy a piece of music or two, and provide some much-needed levity to what I'm certain will be a very long, very Anglican wedding. (Judging by his brother Mark's wedding last year - same church, same costumes, pretty much the same crowd.) But when I showed up to that church on Sunday morning to participate in my first choir rehearsal in at least 15 years, I realized this was not the case. These people were not former choir boys and girls like myself. They were all current choir boys and girls. These people had never stopped. Now, as 29-and-30-year-olds, and some older, they were in choirS. S. My old friend Martha, who I haven't seen in years, told me she's singing in four choirs.

Which meant two things - first, I was the only member of this choir who had been at John's bachelor party the previous night. Which meant I was the only person in the room singing hungover. And secondly, I was the only one in the room who doesn't sing every day. Sometimes three or four times a day. And as such I was BY FAR the weakest link. I was the one who held everyone back. The choir director (yes, John even found a choir director) would say something like "I think we're all familiar with the chanting style", or "who here hasn't performed the Saint-Saens", or "does anyone need to go over the Messiah". And each time I would be the lonely one in the back slowly raising my hand. Ummm...not me. I sat beside another guy who sings "second bass" - that's me. I joined choir in the eighth grade so I could get to second base, and I'm finally there. This guy, whose name I forget, helped me out as best he could, but then he would put his finger in the ear nearest to me so that he wouldn't have to hear my singing, which would obviously throw him off his game.

I'm looking forward to John's ultra-formal, choir-filled wedding on Saturday. I get to wear a robe, because I'm part of the choir, so I don't even need to bring a suit! So that's nice. And I will be standing there, with the rest of the choir, people who managed to learn the twelve songs we'll be singing during the one hour rehearsal we had a week ago. And I will either be the one who is noticeably not singing the right notes, or the one who is holding back the entire ensemble, or the one who breaks into Every Rose Has It's Thorn during the reading of the vows, or the one who mouths the words to every song. I haven't decided which one of these things I will do, I guess it all depends on how early I get to St. Matthews church on Saturday, and by extension how much time I spend at the Royal Oak before the wedding starts.

I'm an idiot.

I bought a new car yesterday - traded in the old Kia for a new Hyundai. Which is pretty much the same car, just a little bigger. (More leg room for the kids, you see.) I had all my ducks in a row. My ownership papers, my insurance information, all that stuff one needs for car-buying. I got to Bank Street Hyundai and emptied the contents of my glove compartment and ashtray into a plastic bag to transfer it to the new car. I cleaned out the giant pile of change in the side of the door. And then I went inside, where I realized I had forgotten the one most important thing I was to bring - the void cheque. I had to get it to the dealership before it closed or I couldn't make the purchase. By now, I was exhausted, it was past my bedtime, but I got home, wrote out a void cheque, and started to look for a place that would fax it for me. I went to the library. No dice. I went to the local "resource centre". They were closed. Finally, I went to the post office in the back of the Pharma Plus in my area. (In case anyone is ever in a similar situation, Pharma Plus will send a fax for you for one dollar.) When I got home, way late and long past my bedtime, I was completely exhausted. And my girlfriend, upon going through the bag of stuff I removed from the glove compartment - at the dealership, mind you - finds one of my cheque books.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Here comes a lot of this.



We sure need another election. I am very excited that the government has decided that the status quo is not working at all, that the government can't do their jobs, and so they need to dissolve parliament and force another election with the express goal of forming another of the exact same governments, who presumably would then be able to do their jobs and get things done and everything will totally run smoothly. Even though everything is exactly the same as it is now. When it is running so badly that we need an election. What excites me most, however, is that now we will get to see almost-daily pictures of the World's Most Unphotogenic Man right up until October 14th.