Saturday, December 20, 2003

Accurate to Within Two Provinces

Anyone who managed to puzzle their way through the first three confused paragraphs of Noah Richler's year in review of CanLit in the Saturday, December 20th Post eventually found their way to this:

The Saskatoon short story writer Lee Henderson proved the year's best literary critic, and we are far enough away from disputatious times, now that Porcupine's Quill editor and novelist John Metcalf, who published his memoir, An Aesthetic Underground, was this year safely absorbed as CanLit's Crank Emeritus, sadly obnoxious to no one anymore

Lee Henderson lives in Vancouver, unless he very, very, very recently relocated. If he did indeed move, then my apologies to Mr. Noah. What exactly Henderson did to earn this distinction is unclear, and gosh, it would have been nice of Noah to explain the criteria.

By the way, Noah has a tendency to get confused. His column last year about Trampline Hall said the next lecture would be held at the Crocodile Club or the Alligator Club (I forget which) instead of the Cadillac Lounge. I seem to remember reading that Noah has a stipulation in his contract that he can't be edited. Rare is the writer who deserves such a thing. Getting things totally wrong completely undermines his credibility, so I for one encourage him to continue to be hoisted by his own petard.

Monday, December 15, 2003

I Guess a Big Penis Requires a Big Word

Near the end of the year is when the Oscar contenders hit theatres, the theory being that the judges will be more predisposed to movies they’ve seen recently and can thus remember. Perhaps working from a similar theory, Lynn Crosbie waited until Saturday past to offer us her most egregious use of a $1,000 word in 2003. Here is the passage in question:

"Fully aware that if Pamela's body was not exactly news, Tommy's acromegalic penis was, the couple eventually publicized the tape, brokered a distribution deal, ultimately playing chicken with other amateur porn stars, and stopping smartly at the cliff's edge."

Over at Merriam-Webster, I learned the following:

Main Entry: ac·ro·meg·a·ly
Pronunciation: "a-krO-'me-g&-lE
Function: noun
Etymology: International Scientific Vocabulary
Date: 1889
: chronic hyperpituitarism marked by progressive enlargement of hands, feet, and face
- ac·ro·me·gal·ic /-m&-'ga-lik/ adjective or noun

Orwell, in his essay "Politics and the English Language," gave us six rules to avoid bad writing:

1) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.
2) Never use a long word where a short one will do.
3) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
4) Never use the passive where you can use the active.
5) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.
6) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous

Crosbie has decided to invert Rule Number Two at every opportunity in her Globe column, and yet I am not criticizing her, merely pointing out that she is surely losing a few people each week with her especial word choice.

Main Entry: es·pe·cial
Pronunciation: is-'pe-sh&l
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French
Date: 14th century
: being distinctive: as a : directed toward a particular individual, group, or end (sent especial greetings to his son) (took especial care to speak clearly) b : of special note or importance : unusually great or significant (a decision of especial relevance) c : highly distinctive or personal : PECULIAR (had an especial dislike for music) d : CLOSE, INTIMATE (his especial crony) e : SPECIFIC, PARTICULAR (had no especial destination in mind)

Friday, December 12, 2003

Pre-Vacation Info Timbits

I’m off to Vancouver for two weeks on Monday, and I probably won’t be blogging much, despite my best intentions. Here are some snack-sized chunks for everyone…

* This is a weird iPod story. While I’m on the topic, I noticed a recent bus shelter poster advertising that the iPod holds 10,000 songs (that’s the 40 GB version). I used to use 360K floppy disks on my IBM clone XT, 8MHZ. That was 1989 or so, but still, the advances in storage are difficult for me to fathom sometimes. The kids today, they take these things for granted, when I was their age, etc. All I want to say is that losing an iPod is the modern equivalent of the fire that destroyed at least 400,000 scrolls comprising the Library of Alexandria.

* As my roommate commented recently, "You know you’re getting old when one of your favourite bands releases a Best-Of album." Thankfully he was not referring to REM, but Dayton, Ohio’s Guided By Voices. I’ve seen the band almost 10 times live and I used to belong to the Postal Blowfish newsgroup digest, sometime between (and I’m really guessing here) 1995 and 1997. I think back to the obsessive postings and general geek-a-tude of that list (one guy went to Robert Pollard’s house unannounced, knocked on his door, and hung out with the man himself) and shake my head. At one point, someone posted a brilliant letter, written by Matador’s Gerald Cosloy, directed at the group, explaining why the label could only release so much GBV product per year. I wish I would have saved it – truly a brilliant, William-Shatner-on-SNL-turning-on-the-Trekkies moment.

* Slate has a pretty good article about Carl Stalling. The Carl Stalling Project, a CD full of his music is one of my top five favourite albums of all time. The extensive liner notes are worth the purchase alone. (Avoid the sequel -- Volume Two -- which sucks). Also grab the Raymond Scott album Restless Nights and Turkish Twilights. I don’t recommend buying his Soothing Sounds for Baby box set, but if someone you know owns it, borrow it immediately.

* Is Russell Smith single again? It seems like he’s writing about pornography almost every Thursday in his column.

* This, from the Scratch Records mailing list:

BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE-Cause=Time 7î (Arts & Crafts) $7.99. Extremely Limited Edition and Numbered single from the U.K. features an exclusive b-side track "Da Da Dada." Did anyone else notice the over-abundance of "rock" poses that were dished out when they last played Vancouver? Maybe it was our pot, but I’m guessing all of that shit was on display to cater towards all of the "cool" people who couldn’t shut their yappy mouths during the set and instead decided to be twit-shits with voices.

* I often click on the AP stories on Salon and elsewhere, and I’ve been noticing that the rigid Associated Press format is occasionally being jettisoned for certain stories. Check out the intro to a story entitled "Jackson takes strange ride around Vegas" by Angie Wagner:

Nov. 22, 2003 | LAS VEGAS (AP) -- The whole world seemed to be wondering where Michael Jackson was. Helicopters and reporters were swarming his ranch. Fans were waiting patiently for any glimpse of him.

He was wanted on a warrant accusing him of child molestation charges, but the King of Pop was on a sound stage, finishing up his music video.

The song? "One More Chance."

Isn’t that weird? The robotic tone mocked so well by The Onion is no where to be seen.

* Finally, check this out -- Lucas With the LidRock Off:

LidRock is a breakthrough entertainment distribution platform that enables CDs, CD-ROMs, DVDs and other entertainment assets to be delivered to consumers on fountain drink lids. LidRock's patented and FDA-approved packaging enables movies, music, video games and other multimedia content to be distributed to consumers anywhere fountain drinks are served. LidRock is a division of Atlanta-based The Convex Group, Inc.

Thursday, December 11, 2003


There used to be something called Deconstruct in National Post Business, a double-page spread that explained the history and economics underpinning said item. The book, the bra, even barbed wire was duly exposed.

I was working on the paper clip for the April 2003 issue (an office-themed issue) but, unfortunately, despite winning National Magazine Awards for the deconstruct concept, NPBIZ decided to discontinue the feature (or put it on permanent hiatus, whichever you prefer).

Luckily I got paid for my work, but it seems like such a shame to waste all that research, so I’ve put the article online here.

Monday, December 08, 2003

So Very Tired

If I could audioblog, I would offer a 15-second-long sigh of fatigue. Instead, I offer this nugget from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time:

I make this noise when there is too much information coming into my head from the outside world. It is like when you are upset and you hold the radio against your ear and you tune it halfway between two stations so that all you get is white noise and then you turn the volume right up so that this is all you can hear and then you know you are safe because you cannot hear anything else.

If you only read one book this year, don't bother. I mean, really. Go away. The rest of you should make sure to read Curious Incident.

Anyway, I hope to blog bigge time on Wednesday or Thursday.

Thursday, December 04, 2003

I See Paris

Dennis Cass has a sharp insight in Slate regarding the new Paris Hilton reality show:

Or perhaps I'm all wrong and the problem is not with the show, but with me. I have to confess to coming to The Simple Life with an inordinate amount of pop cultural baggage. Typically the scandal surrounding a reality show breaks during its run, not several weeks before, and if anything, the disgrace helps round out what are often tragically flat characters. The original Joe Millionaire was much improved by the revelation that Evan Marriott was as an aspiring professional wrestler and part-time underwear model and that co-star Sarah Kozer had had a brief career in bondage videos. But between Richie's heroin bust and Hilton's tabloid life, I am drowning in subtext before the opening credits have rolled. Furthermore, when it comes to television, Hilton has already been prominently featured in an E! True Hollywood Story; a VH1 Fabulous Life Of; an E! It's Good To Be; as well as a brief turn in VH1's All Access: Awesomely Bad Girls. The end result is The Simple Life has the dubious distinction of being the first new show that you feel is already in repeats.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

We May or May Not Regret the Following Errors

In Monday’s Globe, a review of the Simon & Garfunkel concert appeared, meaning the reviewer J.D. Considine had to write and file the review Sunday night, before 11pm or so. (There is a great scene in the documentary Don’t Look Back of a reporter in a phone booth dictating a Bob Dylan concert review to his editor, including punctuation.) Given that even in the best of situations, fact-checking at newspapers is lean, a late-night addition only increases the chances for error. Considine reported that:

In that sense, the best part of this reunion isn't hearing the two reanimate such hits as Bridge Over Troubled Water, Mrs. Robinson or The 57th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy)…

It is the 59th Street Bridge Song.

On the other hand, hearing the magic these two can conjure from just their voices and a single acoustic guitar — as on Kathy's Tune and an unexpected Leaves Turn to Brown…

Actually, the tune titles are Leaves that Are Green and Kathy's Song.

Despite the time pressures, Considine did get a number of things correct:

Mr. Garfunkel's tone may have been intact, but he had to fight for a few of those high notes, and Mr. Simon's vocals were sometimes overly stylized.

More annoying, the duo seemed uncomfortable with the general brevity of their back catalog, and padded out a number of tunes with slick, soft-jazz noodling (provided by the ace backing band, not S&G themselves, thankfully).

Considine also mentioned how great it was to hear "Mr. Garfunkel add his voice to a few tunes from Mr. Simon's solo career."

Considine also offered an incorrect opinion:

To the press, Simon and Garfunkel have been cagey about whether or not this reunion tour will be followed by a return to the studio. Given the razzle-dazzle clutter of some of the tour arrangements — a theremin solo in The Boxer? — it may be better if things ended here.

The theremin solo was cool. End of discussion.

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

My Gourmet Potatoe Includes An "E" for Extravagant Stupidity

The lowly potato is going upscale. In last week’s Dominion supermarket flyer, an entire page was given over to their Fresh Obsessions "Potato Boutique." Dominion (one of the few supermarkets located in downtown Toronto, and the best place to people watch in Little Italy) now has a dedicated in-store kiosk with bins of loose potatoes for Baking, Boiling, Mashing or Roasting. Because until now, you were too much of a lout to determine what kind of potato best suited your cooking needs. You can read the text through the above jpeg link, which is so stupid it saves me time mocking it, but be sure to pay special attention to the following phrase:

Specially designed, opaque paper bags maintain potato freshness.

As opposed to the ubiquitous translucent paper bag?

I showed the ad to my friend Rob, who immediately mentioned a Kids in the Hall sketch that deftly mashed a very similar concept.