Monday, March 31, 2008

Big City Livin pt. II

So late Friday I mentioned that my commute home was diverted due to a shooting on the Spadina line.

Since then: I've learned a boy was stabbed multiple times just outside my work [that explains the cops and ambulances when I left work].

Stopped short of pummeling some pile of toothless crazy who made strangling motions at Lady Trail on the subway.

Saw whole dead pigs hanging in a cooler at St. Lawrence Market [Lady Trail was not amused].

Stumbled upon a massive protest at Yonge and Dundas, with about 250 Free Tibet types on one side of the street, and three times as many Chinese nationals on the other.

Got challenged to a back alley fight by a homeless guy who didn't believe I only had subway tokens [a note to the homeless: at the very least, write a funny sign. Sitting with your hat out does not encourage me to give you money. This is a free market system, entertain me, please.]

Gorged myself at the Bloor St. Diner's brunch buffet, complete with jazz trio and chocolate fountain.

And do you think I had my camera on me for any of it? Of course not, what do you think I am, prepared?

So Wrestlemania has come and gone, and while I didn't shell out the dough this year, I've already gotten up to speed and was pleasantly surprised by some of the results, notably CM Punk winning Money in the Bank, Randy Orton retaining against John Cena and HHH, and Undertaker getting a do-over for his scheduled long title run from last year.

But the real story of the night was the last match of the greatest of all time, Ric Flair. If I ever had any reason to buy the show, if would have been to see that match, as it happened. From what I've seen, Flair and Shawn Michaels told a hell of a story, and drew the curtain on Flair's career in the only way it could, with the Nature Boy asking no quarter and HBK giving none.

Even though no one ever really retires in wrestling, it would be a fitting end to Flair's in-ring career if he never laced them up again. So let me join the chorus of thanks for the greatest to ever step in the ring: the game will never be the same without the dirtiest player in it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Big City Living

Typically when I work the night shift I take the subway the whole way, since there's presently no eastbound streetcar service from St. Clair West station. To take it, you have to go streetside and walk a block east to Tweedsmuir Ave, and catch it there.

Since I prefer not to stand out by myself at 11.30 at night, I usually just hop a couple trains and ride them all the way to my neighbourhood subway stop.

Tonight I didn't have a choice, as an announcement informed myself and the other passengers that due to an 'major security incident' at Spadina station, no trains were going further south than St. Clair West. No issues there, I could take the streetcar, even though it meant shelling out an extra fare. It beat dealing with shuttle buses in the like. But it begged the question of what happened at Spadina?

Well, a girl got shot on the train, that's what happened. About two hours and change before I took it.

No, this does not mean I'm going all crazy about living in the big city, people get shot in Windsor, too. Reports suggest the girl was shot in the leg, and not fatally. But still, in that small a space, all it takes is one bullet fired for any idea of social norms and civilized behaviour go out the window. Thankfully the situation didn't break down any worse than it did.

Weird, weird, weird.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Everyone's a Rat

I had a lot of dishes.

You know, there are other things happening in the world, but at the end of the day, you don't come to me for that, Windsor. More than likely, you come here because you want to see things like the latest and final GTA4 trailer. Which I am providing for you.

Honestly, if you haven't been to the website yet, it's quickly starting to fill up with content proving what a mindbogglingly immersive experience Rockstar's putting together. The commercial for Whiz Mobile had me almost on the floor. Looks like I'll preordering soon, and trading in while I'm at it.

The Selected Correspondence of Rogers and The Trail

Following up yesterday's meandering thoughts on writing, I wanted to thank the folks who emailed with encouragement and kind words, and Rogers for his public affirmation of me.

While I wasn't fishing for compliments despite how it might have appeared, I thank you for them anyway.

With the benefit of a day, I think what I was trying to get at was this notion of what criteria would have to be met in order to tell people I'm a writer. The statement itself reeks of pretense, and begs the obvious follow up, 'What have you written?' And what the hell am I supposed to say then? I'd have more backup if I said I was a drummer, at least there's some tangible material I could produce, not half finished scraps.

I don't know, Ryan, when people ask you what you do, how often do you say 'writer'? I always used to say editor. Even now I say I 'do a blog'. It's such a loaded designation, IMO.

But I'm coming to terms with it, and with the notion that getting the work done, while fun, is incredibly time consuming and filled with rejections. I've never been the sort to try something when failure was a given. So to carry on, knowing full well I will fail, repeatedly, before achieving a modicum of success, is a rather large attitude shift for me. And the snowballing support I've been getting in my private life for this twiddling has only strengthened my resolve.

The last book on writing I read, while entirely far too new-agey [writing is my lover? What the hell are you talking about, woman?] made the valid point that in order to enter the writing life, you have to change your current one. I happen to like my current life, and I don't know how often I'll be able to tell friends/family/The Lady/Guitar Hero 'no, I can't do that, I'm writing right now.'

At any rate, I'll knock off the navel gazing. I just felt a need to get out all the junk that's been bottling up as I read more and more about what it is to write creatively, rather than editorialize or report.

Back after the dishes are done.

The Trail

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I Can Has Internets?

No, you can't. Because it belongs to Bell Canada. At least that's what they say.

There's enormous shenanigans currently going on over Bell's recent habit of 'throttling' Canadian reseller ISPs.

Reseller ISPs: Indie internet service providers who provide innovative features the big boys don't, ie Wireless Nomad, a company that encourages you to whore out your wireless connection for the greater good. However, such companies need to borrow the actual line from behemoths like Bell, which means they don't own or control it, which allows Bell to...

Throttle: a means of limiting the amount of data a user downloads and uploads over the internet; essentially controlling how much you can do, and setting the stage for things like faster access at a premium price, and blocking your access to Peer-to-Peer services like BitTorrent and LimeWire.

This is bad. And dangerous. And could set a dangerous precedent. It could be, in the words of BoingBoing's Cory Doctorow, 'the end of the Internet':

If the world's telcos are in charge of what you're allowed to do on the Internet, the innovation stops here. From here on in, every new feature you want to add to the Internet depends on your capacity to send guys in suits to meetings with all the world's telcos and convince them that your idea won't hurt them. These are the companies that charge extra for caller ID -- according to that logic, you should have to pay extra to see the "From:" line on your inbound emails, too.

Needless to say, people are furious at Bell's flagrant arrogance and greed, as the TelComm argues its their way of ensuring no one takes up too much bandwidth on any given connection, but ultimately just prioritizes who gets information when. Rogers [my ISP, not my coworker] has done this since 2005, something I experience with its cheaper, 'Lite Internet' option, though I've never had speed issues enough to be bothersome.

At any rate, if you like the Internet the way it is, and don't want to wake up one day to find out access to Google now costs an extra $15 a month, you need to be aware of what's going on in this dreadfully boring area.

Links on the story:
Ars Technica
The Globe and Mail
DSL Reports
Michael Geist

Taking a Personal Day: Some Disconnected Thoughts on Writing

Still coming down from the business heavy posts yesterday? Don't worry, we'll take it lighter today.

The sad truth is that most people who read blogs want to write them, and the people who write them want to do it better. I know for a fact there are a number of aspiring writers who hang out here a bit, and would probably be interested in some discussion of the matter.

For the last year I've been redabbling with the idea of fiction writing, and like most dabblers, I have nothing to show for it, save for one short story, a failed project for National Novel Writing Month and two unformed drafts/outlines for other projects I haven't gotten around to fleshing out yet.

To balance such woeful inactivity, I read stacks of books on how to be a more productive writer [list below], which are really just 400 ways to say the same thing, which is:

1. The most important thing is sitting in the chair.
2. Write everyday, even if it's for twenty minutes.
3. You are a writer if you write.

Point three is the one I find most amusing, since anyone who tinkers in this sort of endeavour knows how impossible it can be wrestling with that title, with all its weight, horror and romance. Sure, we write, but we're not writers. Ian McEwan is a writer. Doris Lessing is a writer. We're amateurs. I've been paid to put words on a page off and on for four years, and I still wouldn't dare classify myself as such.

And that's why none of us can get on with it: we're too scared to just embrace what we want to be because we don't want to look like every other pretentious arse wandering around with thick rimmed glasses and a corduroy jacket. So we postpone the actual writing, batting around the ideas in our heads until we think they'll explode onto the page fully formed. And when they don't, we retreat again.

Unacceptable, friends. I have two quotes on a whiteboard in our study/office:
  • Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us get up and do the work.

  • Writing is like driving at night. You can only see a little ways ahead, but that's enough to carry you the whole journey.
So I'm going to quit griping that I can only write between 1.00 and 5.00 p.m. secluded in a corner at cafes with a window view and a lukewarm beverage at the upper right corner of the table. I'm going to stop editing as I go along, remembering just getting the story out is the important part, there's time to edit afterwards. And I will always remember that this is a years long process I'm dabbling with. May we all learn to embrace our failure.

Recommended Reading:
The Believer Book ofWriters Talking to Writers: You're already a romantic concerning the writerly life, so read these and back-and-forths with Jonathan Lethem/Paul Auster, Zadie Smith/Ian McEwan, Dave Eggers/Joan Didion and about 20 others. Definite perspective to be found there.

The Glimmer Train Guide to Writing Fiction vols. 1 and 2: Not so much how-tos as much as a series of themed soundbites from the multitude of authors Glimmer Train has interviewed over the years. Volume 1 discusses the mechanics of writing, while the second volume looks at inspiration and discipline.

Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose: A wonderful book to retune your mind to pay closer attention to what you're reading, and how to learn the most from it. Spoiler alert: read lots of Chekhov.

Getting the Words Right by Theodore A. Rees Cheney: Of all the 'practical how-to' books I've flipped through at work, this one is the one I'll likely end up buying at some point. It examines 39 ways to improve your writing, from word selection, to how to trim and tone your drafts. A definite keeper when it comes time to read things over. Just remember to take a few weeks away from them before you do.

Hope those help, for those who're interested. For those who aren't, apologies and thank you for enduring.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Opinion: Where My Peeps At?

These suckers are headed for the microwave in about three minutes.

Allow me to use this forum to editorialize for a moment, if you will.

From my distant vantage point, it appears as though numerous parties are livid at the current conduct of the UWSA and its latest batch of ambitious hangers on. From the allegations of gross misconduct, to the resignation of the Electoral Monitoring Committee en masse, to that poorly explained referendum question concerning the control of this newspaper, to candidates getting disqualified, this year's election has been more of a disaster than I'd have thought. And I've been keeping an eye on student government for four years, Windsor. Nothing much surprises me anymore, so the Ma year is one for the record books.

Well, my longstanding comrade-in-arms [and let's be honest, the main reason why people get a mad on for The Lance] D'Arcy Bresson has taken pen to paper to remind you, the student body, that hey, them fools work for you! And you actually have something you can do about it!

Bresson's editorial in the latest issue of the Lance [which may hit stands tomorrow], reminds you of this sobering fact, concerning the UWSA Annual General Meeting [originally scheduled on March 27 in violation of the constitution, now hastily rescheduled to April 10. Can they do anything right over there?]:

"So long as quorum is met (a mere 2 per cent), each student in attendance will have a vote, giving them the power to change the organization that claims to enhance student life through 'advocacy, representation and service.'"

OMG, you actually, for reals, have a say!

The reason I'm pointing this out is because I'm making an appeal. In the two years I have maintained this forum I'm confident I've never promoted much of an agenda above 'I love Grand Theft Auto' and 'Watch more Takashi Miike movies' but I'm plugging one now.

If you care at all about the state of your student newspaper, if you'd like to actually have a say and know what you're voting on, go to the AGM and request the referendum be put to students again at the fall by-election. Spencer Hills, coordinator for the 'yes' side has already admitted in print that he'd have no problem making such a move, provided enough students feel such a move is necessary to , I don't know, have an informed debate on the issue?

I am well aware it looks as though I am protecting my own interests here, Windsor, and why shouldn't I, really? But no, if you need proof the cause is just, look no further than the opinion page of this week's issue.

[Former] UWSA Law rep and my favourite person in the world Ken Birchall took a moment from martyring himself for justice and leaving juvenile Facebook messages to pen an editorial that was surely cut down from 47,000 words.

After taking his obligatory potshot at me and the entire staff as a whole, he admits that despite his ambivalence towards The Lance, not even he was happy with how the referendum was conducted. Not that he wouldn't like the same result, but that the way it was conducted was a total shitshow.

Windsor, do you know what this means? Ken Birchall and Jordan Ferguson agree on something. The King of the D-Bags and the Pug-Faced Hack have found a sliver of common ground. What further proof do you need?

But let's not lose sight here, the primary issue is this: if you're disgusted with the joke that your student council has become, if you're tired of feeling like nothing you do or say makes a difference to the people sitting in Upper CAW, get your ass to the Ambassador Auditorium, April 10 at 4.00 p.m. Never has the cliche been more true: if you don't make your voice heard, you forfeit the right to complain.

And watch out for Coffin. He's a slippery one.

Edit: Kudos to Senator Viva Dadwal for the most mature, restrained, intelligent editorial I've seen from anyone in student government in a long time. Mark your calendars, Windsor. March 24, 2008: a member of the UWSA admitted their past mistakes, and owned up to them, treating herself and her constituents like adults.

A Bit o' Bisuness

Just a quick reminder that submissions for the Spring Arts Edition are now open. So all you aspiring poets, fiction/creative nonfiction writers, artists, photographers, whatever are encouraged to submit to

Monday, March 24, 2008


It's Monday, wrasslin's on in an hour, and the woman wants me to take things to the basement. So quick like bunnies we go!

The State of the World

It was a long, hard winter Windsor, but I don't know about you, the fact that the sun stays out past 6.00 pm makes a world of difference to this glass of water.

The Star's got a piece on the growing issue of mental health on campuses, specifically the discrepancy between the need for mental health services and the available staff to meet those needs.

Despite massive security precautions, a pair of protesters disrupted the torch lighting ceremony for the Beijing Olympics in old Olympia, Greece. The duo, a pair of free press advocates, disrupted a speech by Olympic Committee President Liu Qi before being apprehended by police.

Across the river, Kwame's hit the big time with no less esteemed a source than the British Broadcasting Corporation reporting the Detroit mayor has been charged with perjury, obstruction of justice and office misconduct stemming from his recent texting woes.

For Rogers: a [sparsely attended] college basketball game gets Rickroll'd. The New York Times is there.

There's gonna be jet flyin and limousine ridin in Columbia South Carolina tonight, as the Nature Boy Ric Flair gets the key to the city.

Advertising Age offers suggestion on how NY Governor Spitzer's prostitute could have milked her notoriety, and didn't.

Only in Florida does the Easter Parade dole out business cards for strip clubs and lighters advertising bail bondsmen. For the children.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Support the Troops

I cannot even imagine what it's like over there, Windsor. An ocean from home, missing loved ones, only the men and women in your unit to keep you sane in the face of mortal danger each and every day. So you know what? If the soldiers want to blow of a little steam by Ghost Riding a military vehicle, who am I to judge?

The State of the World

Proving that I don't always think Gord should chase exhaust pipes, he has a downright subdued column today on the Shearns, a couple new to Windsor who wrote the Star last week to remind the city it has more to be thankful for than it knows.

Fed up with the current political climate down south, the Shearns decided to leave their home in a Baltimore suburb. They looked at new locales as far as Australia and Toronto before deciding Windsor could keep them close to loved ones.

So what's the one thing that Windsor has that sets it apart? According to the Shearns, the simple politeness: "The thing they don't realize here is how nice people are. You guys are so used to it that you take it for granted. It's very striking coming from the states," said Peggy Shearn.

Noted, Peggy. And thanks for the reminder.

Just in time for my return to Canada, the loonie fell three cents, taking it down to a paltry 98.42 US, it's largest single day drop since 1962. Experts cite a small surge by the US dollar as well as a small decrease in the price of crude oil as the main culprits.

In politics, the Tories maintain security is just A-OK in Ottawa after an area couple discovered blueprints for a Canadian counter-terrorism unit in a garbage pile. Officials say the blueprints were rejected bids, but the matter is still a serious one.

The world's most famous symbol of protest turns 50 years old today.

Destroying your productivity: South Park studios puts all 12 seasons of the show online, available for streaming, absolutely free.

Cow shot dead following police chase. Can you give me one reason not to click that link?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Thank You Lord, For Sending Me the F Train

Lady Trail and the man she's been chasing for over two years, Mr. Mike Doughty.

As I reach a certain age, I find I've grown more selective in the types of situations I put myself in, especially when it comes to concerts. I'm 30 years old now, I don't need to push my way to the front row of the stage. If I can find a stool in a cormer with a clear line of sight, fine by me.

Despite this, standing around was exactly what I was doing on Sunday night at the Blind Pig in Ann Arbor, waiting for Mike Doughty and his band to take the stage. It could be no other way.

Lady Trail has a passion for Doughty that borders on the religious: watching her ready herself in a nearby parking garage was certainly a ceremonial procedure. She'd waited over two years to see him perform again, bringing her career total to four. Her devotion is total, her dedication monastic: when a drunk girl tried to drag her six-foot-plus paramour to the front of the stage in a move that would have blocked the view of not only the Lady but at least ten others...let's say the drunk girl never stood a chance.

Continue reading this entry, and see videos from the show.

Yet I was no dragged along escort on this show, Windsor. I consider myself a fan of the man on the marquee as well, centered on his time fronting tripped out alt-jazz-rock quartet Soul Coughing, best remembered for their mid-sized hit 'Circles'. In the years following the band's sudden 2000 breakup, Doughty kicked a heroin addiction, and took to the road on solo tours and recording EPs of stripped down acoustic music; combining Mary J. Blige covers with new songs that abandoned the random, found-poetry scat of Soul Coughing in favour of a more focused, yet no more traditional lyrical approach.

In 2005 Doughty shocked his fans again by signing to Dave Matthews' ATO Records and releasing Haughty Melodic, a slickly produced album filled with folky, beat driven songs backed by a full band, a mode he continued in with 2008's Golden Delicious.

Given the multiple twists Doughty's career has taken, it's never for certain what path he'll go down during a performance. With a band of musicians he's played with for years, one gets the impression the setlist could be switched on the fly and the audience would be none the wiser. Unfortunately, such skill leads some audience members to treat the show like request hour, shouting out the songs they want to hear at every pause in the performance.

Doughty bantered with these types, but was obviously not interested in playing busker, dismissing one request for an early Soul Coughing song with a curt, 'Oh, fuck "Screenwriter's Blues".'

Not that he was out to ignore his past: the set contained more old songs that I was expecting, including 'Circles' and fan faves 'Janine' and 'St. Louise is Listening'. The Lady mused post-show if Doughty played the songs out of obligation to his audience. I'll agree he looked more excited when playing newer songs [which fared much better in a live setting than on a heavily produced album] but he never gave me the impression he felt duty bound to play his older work. He looked like a man who's come to terms with the weighty legacy of his old band and plays the songs like 'Soft Serve' because dammit, it's a good song [see video].

Doughty comes off very laid back on stage, just a guy playing a rock show. Things like a broken string, which could be disastrous in such a setting, were no big deal for him, chatting with his band and the crowd as he replaced and tuned the fresh string. He knew we weren't going anywhere, so he took the time needed to ensure a quality show.

Despite my preference for his older material, I found the show's highlights to be a pair from his latest effort. 'More Bacon than the Pan can Handle' found Doughty trading his guitar for a sample deck, mixing live over a tight drum groove [see video]. 'Fort Hood', named for the US military base that's lost the most soldiers in the Iraq War, brought the show to an early transcendent peak, with the full band and everyone in the crowd singing out the song's 'Hair'-inspired chorus of 'Let the sun shine in.' Including me. Other songs might have been more fan-favourite, but in that moment I looked at all the band members and the people around me, and was reminded how something as simple as a song can affect people in such beautiful ways.

Any show that can remind me of that was easily worth the 15 bucks.


Performing a medley of Soul Coughing's 'Sleepless' and 'Soft Serve'.

Performing 'More Bacon than the Pan can Handle'.

The Fallout

Well, the shouting's over for another year, and from where I'm sitting, it looks like not a lot got solved.

Yes folks, the 2008 UWSA election is in the history books, and for longtime council watchers like myself it would appear more questions than answers are left dangling. Let's take em one by one.

President: While the home team is calling Tiffany Gooch's win over current VPUA Zach Cranny a surprise, are we really that surprised, Windsor? Cranny'd lose to a tire iron if it got its name on the ballot.

VP Finance: A total clusterfuck as elected winner Tosin Bello gets disqualified for accruing too many demerit points, a result of a new system that the old Electoral Monitoring Committee hated, and one of the reasons they walked out en masse a couple weeks ago. Bello contends the complaints brought against him were from his opponent, Avneil Yashpal, 'with malicious intent.'

The referendum no one knew about: So Spencer Hills, a perennial UWSA hanger-on decided this year that The Lance needed an overseeing body above and beyond the already established editorial board. He decided this, as far as I know, without ever setting foot in the offices before he informed the staff of his intentions. So he went out and got some signatures and got a referendum question put on the ballot asking if students felt The Lance needed "An oversight board for the Lance which would be responsible for financial, operational, and all other matters excluding the editorial content of the paper."

Ignoring the vagueness of the question for now [What financial matters? Doing the accounting or selling the adverts?] the disgusting reality is simply the fact that students knew next to nothing about the issue, a fact admitted by Hills: "I think that more students should have been informed that they had to make a choice on this matter before it was presented to them."

Said one student, "I know why it passed, no one read it."

To his credit, Hills said he is willing to put the question to students again in the fall by-elections, should sufficient students feel the issue was unclear.

I mean my God, is it any wonder that student Kirsten Francescone has the sort of growing cynicism she documents in her editorial of this week?

How will history judge the presidency of William Ma? No one can say. No one can remember what happened last week, let alone first semester, and finals are fast approaching.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Intermission Continues

Back on the regular schedule, I'm too tired to type out my big long Doughty entry [it's coming, I swear] so enjoy the home team's latest effort, profiling the fine folks behind the best local show on comics going right now, Comic Book Syndicate.

PS: The New Frontier is one of the best comic superhero stories ever done. Just saying.

The State of the World

Budget cuts are on the mind around the U of W, with faculties being asked to trim their budgets by 4 to 6 per cent to balance the budget and recoup that $4.5 million deficit that piled up last year.

English head Karl Jirgens argued to Senate that it's nigh impossible for his taxed program to get it done without doing substantial damage. The faculty has 14 faculty members, down from 23, with only 10 of those doing research. The program is maxed out at 500 students and can't take any more. He was rejected.

"We can't do less research because then (professors) can't get tenure or promotion," said Jirgens. "What's going to give is health. People are going to start getting stressed out and ill from overwork. We already see symptoms of that in the department."

So when all this money is getting spent on new buildings, maybe a thought on the condition of the people expected to teach in them?

In an ongoing story I only caught glimpses of on the covers of papers at rest stops yesterday, for those curious on how the Chinese government would deal with the escalating protests in Tibet as the Olympics draw ever closer, which have left 16 dead thus far, here's your answer: you did it to yourselves.

"There is ample fact — and we also have plenty of evidence — proving that this incident was organized, premeditated, masterminded and incited by the Dalai clique," said Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Down South, the dream boat gave a major speech today, rebuking his church pastor's recent controversial comments, and responds directly to the challenges of race relations in America in 2008.

Aww. Makes me sad to be home.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Off the Road

So, I am in the process of giving you a substantial review of last night's Mike Doughty show in Ann Arbor [composed in a Tim Horton's in Leamington whilst waiting for The Lady to get her hair done], complete with video, which may or may not be too big for Blogger to host onsite. I don't know, it's been uploading all night long, which suggests to me it's too big. If I wake up in the morning and it's the same story, I'll have to come up with something else.

Anyway, that's why the entries have been lacking. Travel back uninspiring. Picked up Guitar Hero 3 for Ps2 in Michigan, since it's impossible to find a bundle over here for that system, plus it's like $30 cheaper over there. Two player GH is pretty awesome, and playing bass for songs gives them whole new meaning.

Don't talk to me about Rock Band, I don't have that many friends, and we're not starting Moore Park's virtual version of The White Stripes over here.

Still uploading. Sigh. One way or another this will work, Windsor. Just not the way I wanted it to tonight. It happens.

Back to regular programming in the morning. Thank you for enduring my boring vacation slides.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Stuffs from Around The Way

Oh right, the world keeps moving when I'm on vacation.

Slate examines, in light of the Spitzer scandal, why it's perfectly legal to pay to watch people have sex on camera, but illegal to actually have sex with them.

Happy Pi Day to you and yours.

Five years later is a good time for the Pentagon to finally admit Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda weren't connected.

USA Today tells us Democrats down here are getting worried Clinton's continued attacks on Obama will divide the party and hand McCain the White House. Gee, you think?

Ireland's funniest joke for 2006. Don't ask me why it's making the rounds now.

Canada's first 'Top Model' winner discovers the ugly side of the fashion industry, and walks away from it all.

PS: If you like quality, buy this. Picked it up at the local Best Buy today for a lousy $40. The whole series for fifty bucks or less? Hells yeah.

If You Think I'm Cute, You Should See My Yiayia!


Today we made our way out to scenic Tarpon Springs, about 35 minutes out of Port Richey where we're staying. They have a sponge museum! Actually, they have multiple sponge museums, since spongery is about the only thing moving in Tarpon Springs. According to the local advertising, Greek immigrants arrived in the area about 100 years ago and took to the sponge farming business. So to the eye, the town is a visual feast of severed alligator heads and sponges of varying sizes and durability. But for the ears, ooooh, that you need to hear for yourself. Thanks to Lady Trail for her ace cinematography.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

It's Just that Easy

From a Christian T display at Books-A-Million, New Pt. Richey, Florida.

With a Sore Back and an Upset Stomach, The State of the World

Apologies for the lack of update yesterday, Windsor, but on the way back from Tampa yesterday [we'd gone to see the musical Jersey Boys] I got deathly ill at dinner. We're talking fever/chills, puking, the works. We can chalk it up to either too much casual drinking of Keystone Lights, or the fact that the mean age of the audience at the show was 63, and I caught some strange 24 hour elderly virus.

Plus, the bed I'm sleeping on this week is guaranteeing I'll need to visit the chiropractor when I get back. Do me a favour: if you see me on the street, step on my back for me.

The mothership has the full story on the resignation of the Electoral Monitoring Committee and what it means to the upcoming election, though I'm sure the cocverage still pisses somebody off. Long story short: online voting was advertised as a method of voting, yet was never approved by council. A new EMC was promptly formed, including ol' standy [and former UWSA Prez] Jeff LaPorte as one of its members. I don't know about you, but I always feel more at ease with a LaPorte working with council.

But the story I'm more interested in is the one about the increased security for Sports Weekend, as different bar owners and representatives try to argue it isn't a black thing.

And that's unfortunately about all I have in me at this time. I need to go stretch my back out and spend some time on the toilet. Not as long as this woman, but close.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Six Shades of Awesome

Somewhat hard to see, but the full caption is, 'IF YOU AIN'T SHRIMPIN' YOU AIN'T PIMPIN'.

Oh, Florida.

A Casual State of the World

Clearly, it's not the biggest news of the day, but I'm beyond heartbroken that WWE wrestler Jeff Hardy violated the comapny's Drug Testing and Wellness Policy, netting him a 60-day suspension, his second.

Hardy was scheduled to be in the Money In The Bank match at this year's Wrestlemania, and was heavily favoured to win it, and the title shortly thereafter. So much for that idea.

It just really irritates me because Jeff's been around for over a decade, and was finally getting his chance at a top push: title shots, clean pins over Shawn Michaels and HHH, the works. Now he'll be sitting at home on the biggest show of the year. What a bitch.

Interesting: BMW shifting production to South Carolina plants in an effort to lower costs.

New trend in parenting: Handcuffs!

Priest so incensed at soccer match he strips down, chucks shirt at ref.

Obama finally addresses the question that has plagued us all: in what world does a second place candidate ask the frontrunner to be her running mate?

I went on vacation, and all I got were my medical records sold to a surplus house in Utah.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Thoughts on the South

Thoughts on Florida:

1. They LOVE Jesus. I've seen more emo wear for Christian kids down here than I ever have in one place in my life.

2. Given how cheap everything is down here, The Lady and I can sort of live like royalty. Bearing in mind, if we did the jobs we did here, we'd collectively make about $25,000.

3. The graphic design is a little lacking. To be fair, this seems to be more of an American phenomenon, but it's like typography in American store signage is limited to the proprietor's name and the items they sell. So we get red block letters of MAC'S DELI LIQUOR HOT PIZZA or JENNA'S COUNTRY BUFFET. As a design geek, it's interesting, yet heartbreaking.

4. It becomes very easy to determine how obesity became an epidemic in this country. I know it's an epidemic in many developed countries, but when you look at the menus of most roadhouse/greasy spoons around here and see not only what they offer and how cheap it is, of course the pounds are going to pile on. Fruit salad for $5 or two eggs and bacon for $2.50? What would you choose?

Though as a fatty myself, it makes finding clothes in my size easier than it's ever been.

In other news, we've had the pleasure of enjoying SIRIUS satellite radio whenever we have the Trail-in-Laws car. Channel 43 is a little number called Backspin, commercial free hip hop all day everyday. It's awesomeness knows no bounds. It's enough to make me pick up a receiver.

But Trail, you have an iPod.

This is true, Windsor. But what makes radio so awesome is the fact that you never know what's coming next, the surprise factor. With an iPod, no matter how many songs you have on it, you'll never forget you have a song on there, so shuffle's nice, but never a total surprise. But today, listening to 'The World is Yours' by Nas and losing my mind when 'The Magnificent' by DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince came on afterwards was something that regular corporate radio can't do anymore.

In other news, it was sunny and mild today. I almost broke a sweat.

With Palm Trees Swaying, The State of the World

It may not be the biggest story going today, but I have to mention that your area neighbours out in Kingsville made the top five in the CBC's Hockeyville contest, beating out Huntsville for the Ontario slot.

Voting begins again on March 29, and I'm sure Lady Trail will make me remind you again at that point.

To celebrate International Women's Day the Women's Studies program is holding a series of three 'Feminist Mondays' lectures, starting today at 4 p.m. in room 203 of the Toldo building. Sports journalist Laura Robinson will give a lecture entitled "Still Ain't Satisfied: Why are Women Athletes Still Invisible?" I'll keep you posted on the other two as they happen.

For absolutely no reason: how Super Mario Bros. looks to the title character.

The Globe has an interesting plan for how Clinton can take the Democratic nomination fair and square: retake Michigan and Florida [who lost their delegates for holding primaries before the official start date] and offer Obama the vice-presidency.

Church of England publishes good sex guide for its parishoners.

Car surfing in a shopping cart claims the life of another idiot.

Oh, and there's some major ruckus going down at the UWSA concerning the Electoral Monitoring Committee. I'll let my colleagues in the print business break that one for you, but it's certainly going to add another element of interest to the general election.

It's 78 degrees outside, why am I talking to you?

Friday, March 07, 2008

Guest Shot

A couple of weeks ago my friend Melissa [pictured right in her usual state] got back from a six-month stint in Alberta. She'd gone out there to make some quick cash and advance her career, and we'd had numerous conversations on the state of Windsor: specifically, that the people who lived there didn't seem to see how bad things had become; could we only see it because we were now on the outside looking in? When she got back to the Rose City, I asked her what she thought now that was back on the inside. This is what she told me.

Of all the cliche’s in all the world, do I live in one of the worst?

June 2007, I found myself walking across a stage, sweating beneath a black polyester smock and praying to not fall on my ass. I finally got that $20,000 piece of paper. Now what?

What led to my decision is my ambition to move forward through the Golden Arches. That’s right folks, I work for McDonald’s and I’m lovin’ it. So much so, that after eight years of dedicated work, a college diploma, a university degree and countless hours of volunteer experience, I decided to move west.

The idea of moving to Alberta was one that I mocked and felt I was too good for. In my opinion, the kind of people that moved west were those lost in their lives. I had countless conversations with friends and family, discussing the transient culture that moved west. Whether it was to work in the Oil Sands or one of the Rocky Mountain’s over hyped hotels. It seemed that anyone that went west had always wanted to leave Windsor. It didn’t matter where they went, they simply wanted to disappear from this place and all it stood for. Or so I thought.

Then, Ed Stelmach and Ronald McDonald came knocking at my door. What they had to say was that if I wanted to pay off debt, advance my career and have a little fun while I’m at it, I need to leave Windsor. So I packed my bags and got on the most unlikely flight of my life.

Cue Edmonton – Calgary – Banff – Canmore – Lake Louise – Jasper and everywhere in between.

Time spent in Edmonton was filled with great bar nights, fantastic shopping trips, weekend getaways to the mountains and the most challenging work experience of my life. What no one tells anyone, is that working anywhere in Western Canada, blows. The work shortage is unexplainable. When they say they need people, they mean it. Needless to say, it took some time to adjust.

Despite the staffing issues, I understand where the draw is. In the six months that I lived in Alberta, I managed to pay off half of my tuition loans, my credit cards and still party like a rock star. I was prosperous and felt like I stood on top of the world (quite literally in some cases). It was the experience of a lifetime. However, it was merely an experience and not a life. When I finally realized this, I moved back.

What I knew of Windsor while I was in Edmonton, was that it had experience lay offs and job losses for the entire six months I left. Truly, I didn’t comprehend the impact until I arrived home. Everywhere I went, there were boarded up buildings, For Lease signs plastered across windows and far too many of my friends fighting for their jobs. The first week back was one of the happiest, yet bleakest of my life. There seemed to be an overwhelming sense of despair throughout the population. The once vibrant streets of downtown, where shadowed in anxiety and frustration. It seemed that every which way I turned, development had rendered and regression reigned supreme.

When I migrated west, there was promising talks about the Casino expansion bringing new life to downtown. There were brilliant debates over potential film studios, arenas, medical schools and arts development. Windsor had hope when I moved west. Where did it go? Perhaps I’m naive in believing Windsor is more than just the Motor City of Canada. This claim to fame is amazing, don’t misunderstand me, but when did it become all we know? Have we really gotten to a point in our city where ONE industry masters our puppet strings?

Perhaps it’s the bleeding heart liberal in me, but is hope now a cliché? For my entire academia, I believed in the idea that hard work, dedication, pride and a bucket full of hope could get me what I needed and wanted in life. These beliefs came from being raised in a city that epitomized all of those ideals. I can’t help but feel discouraged when I see so many people giving up on this town.

Last week, while at work, I had a young man place a massive order for the ‘shop’ he worked in. While waiting, we started talking about the state of Windsor as compared to Alberta. As per usual, I put up a defence expecting another hopeless wanderer, looking for their reason to saddle up and head out. Instead of insulting Windsor and claiming the west is the only way, he told me he had just moved home from Calgary. Merrily he claimed that he was proud to live and work in WIndsor and that (gasp!) things are looking up.

Now I see Windsor in a sunnier light. I can clearly remember why I came back. From the drive down Riverside to jogging on the trail, Dancing at the Loop to playing pool at Johnny Shots, Singing along with Jamie at Twigs or filming Eddie et al at City Council. Windsor isn’t an industry. We are not cars. We are people and places and moments past, present and future. We are not a cliché.

Want to tell your story about living in Windsor? Email me.

Cut Out to FL

We're heading into sporadic time again, my loves. We'll be heading down to your welcoming embrace for a scant 12 hours or so before catching a plane down to meet the Trail-in-Laws on the Gulf Coast, where we will spend the subsequent nine week, before coming back on the 16th, catching Mike Doughty at the Blind Pig and heading back to Toronto on the 17.

Needless to say, I will do my best, but it's hard to guarantee without knowing what my i-webs access will be like. At the very least, the Twitbox on the sidebar should get a few updates via txt.

That said, man, I cannot leave this fricking weather behind quick enough. I'm not typically one for sun and heat, Windsor, and come July I'll be cursing my lot in life as much if not more than I do now, but I have really had enough of snow. I want to find a quiet table in an establishment that will serve me daiquiris and write short stories that may or may not be fit to publish one day. Will you indulge me, Sunshine State?

In the meantime, stay warm, childrens. I'll be in touch.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

To the Rescue

Thankfully, I can always depend on our Multimedia Man Mr. Mike Evans to hook me up with something when I'm on empty.

Today, he introduces us to some women you've no doubt seen once in the past two years, the 'Women in Black' who protest the current wars in the Middle East, and violence in general, every Wednesday on Wyandotte, facing the Ambassador Bridge offramp.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Under the Wire, An Excessively Lengthy Post

Before going on, I would be remiss if I did not mention that the fine folks at Engineers Without Borders are hosting a Fair Trade Frenzy on campus tomorrow [Thursday] from 10 til 4.

To celebrate the seventh anniversary of his blog, noted and respected fantasy author Neil Gaiman convinced his publisher HarperCollins to publish one of his novels online for free, allowing his readers to decide which one via online poll. The results came in and the winner was his breakthrough novel American Gods, which is also his heftiest work to date, probably not coincidentally.

This experiment has caused people to start examining the free model of business again, with outspoken voices coming out both for and against. Those against argue Gaiman is hurting bookstore owners who might barely be getting by as is, given the fact that so few people read for pleasure. Gaiman replies that's exactly why he initiated the experiment:
If readers find (for free -- in a library, or on-line, or by borrowing from a friend, or on a window-sill) an author they really like, and that author has a nice spanking new hardback coming out, they are quite likely to come in to your shop and buy the nice spanking new hardback. You want that to happen....

Remember: one in four adults read no books last year... Which means you need to find ways to get young readers to read books. And means that if someone likes American Gods and goes out and buys my entire backlist from you, that's more books than most Americans read in a year.
This is the new model that the web is delivering: instead of giving you something free that requires you buy something to use it [free phone with paid contract, free email with paid storage space], we now have free, period. Using the email example, Yahoo recently announced unlimited storage space for its web based Yahoo!Mail. For free. You may not enjoy the banner ads at the top of the page, but you'll endure them if it means the project stays gratis.

Look at this blog. We could keep this blog free, sign up for AdSense [which we won't] and make five bucks a month if we're lucky. Or we could put the content behind a pay wall and charge fifteen bucks a month for it, which no one would ever pay. This crap isn't worth fifteen bucks to anyone, but people will come if it's free. And we care more about building a readership. If one day this readership spikes to say, 25 000 hits a day, then we'll look at AdSense.

This is what people like Gaiman, and Trent Reznor, and Radiohead, and Jonathan Lethem, and Cory Doctorow understand, and the large entertainment industries don't. Last year Doug Morris, CEO of the Universal Music Group blamed file sharing for the crash of the music industry with the following analogy: "If you had Coca-Cola coming through the faucet in your kitchen, how much would you be willing to pay for Coca-Cola? There you go. That's what happened to the record business."

Bloggers across the web were quick to point out that what actually comes out of your kitchen faucet is water, the same sort of thing Dasani and Aquafina have been selling for years, and they seem to be doing all right. Clearly, if the entertainment industry can't make a profit in an economy where people can sell water for two dollars a bottle, they aren't trying hard enough.

As an aside, Gaiman's response quoted above also mentions his experiences with his local bookstore, a dusty, disorganized disaster of a business run by a surly old man more concerned with playing online chess than helping a customer find the book they were looking for in the endless piles. I know the experience [small, boutique type store on Ouellette, conjures images of desert sanctuaries, that one?] and you likely do as well.

Honest to God, I went into a popular indie bookstore on Queen Street, which to be fair does a lot of awesome community events and has many books on hand that I'd have to order in anywhere else, but most times when I go in the guy at the desk is wearing a monocle. A fucking monocle. And perhaps it's just me, but I am unfamiliar with any way to don a monocle and not appear like a self important prat looking down his nose at anyone foolish enough to speak to him, let alone ask for Eckhart Tolle.

Which reminds me, once again, of that great treatise The Rebel Sell, which argues that the reasons large, soulless corporations can so effectively smite the mom and pop stores, is that a lot of the time they unfortunately do a better job overall. And I mean, Indigo might be a giant soulless corporation, and you might think Heather Reisman is a shedevil, but the stores are well lit, and most of the time the employees are easily located, and are happy enough to help you find products, because our lowly retail wage demands it of us.

Charm will certainly always have its place, and those people who want charm will endure some inconvenience to support it. But sometimes, goddamn man, you just want to find what you want and get out.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

A Dream Deferred

It gets late quicker and quicker around here, Windsor, and once again the post I was so psyched to make on literature and copyright fizzled out of my head like a fart in the wind. They say it happens in the autumn years.

Preview: Currently devouring work by Jonathan Lethem, David Mitchell and Paul Auster; Oprah Winfrey does as much damage to the publishing industry as good; manga fans are still blights on the universe; free books make total sense, more than free music ever could, and are one more example why free is the future.

With that in mind, if any of you pirates can score me a complete text of Auster's "Portrait of an Invisible Man" that would really be aces.

Oh, and since I'm bored and tired, I've decided to play with Twitter, the microblogging site that allows people to post tiny, 140 character messages to the interwebs. It's essentially a way for me to indulge my vanity, since I rarely use this forum to discuss my life, the Twitfeed should prove an effective means to fertilize my ever growing cult of personality. We'll see if I like it.

Now, to Mr. Stewart.

The State of the World

Not like you needed the reminder, but StatsCan's released the 2006 census numbers, none of which spell awesome for the Rose City. In fact, Canada had the fastest job growth of all G7 countries, but Windsor's unemployment rate continued to climb from 2001 to 2006, so sayeth the report.

God help me, Zach Cranny is running for UWSA President. Let me put this in perspective, Windsor: you know that sense of hope and progress and possibility that Barack Obama gives to people? Zach Cranny instills the opposites: pessimism, fatalism and inertia. While I haven't seen a full list of candidates yet [and Lord knows the UWSA website will never provide one], I'm sure Cranny's appearance is the first of many repeat offenders [whither Buck? Hills? Helbert?] looking to cling to a position, any position, and ensuring the University of Windsor Student Alliance continues its downward spiral into a rotating inbred clusterfuck. We'll see how Zach can do with an actual human being running against him this time.

Also, can someone tell me why nobody at this paper can take photographs anymore? Lord amighty, that clip art membership is getting worked the hell out this year.

Gary Gygax, the creator of Dungeons and Dragons, passed away this morning. I may have never rolled a 20-sided dice in my life, but I've played countless console RPGs, which are just as much his legacy. Penny Arcade pays tribute.

For a unique spin on American politics [coming to a head yet again tonight, watch CNN], the Tories are denying one of their own leaked a memo detailing a meeting between an economic advisor for Obama and a Canadian diplomat suggesting Obama's stated position attacking free trade is, "more reflective of political manoeuvring than policy," which has the Clinton camp calling shenanigans on Obama's rep as the poster boy for integrity, and the Harper government accused of doing whatever they can to give the rub to Republicans.

The latest in our continuing series on why my vacation next week will be amazing.

Somewhere, This is Funny. But Maybe Not Here

Very soon we'll be having another discussion on digital rights and ownership and the future of internet commerce [brought on by Neil Gaiman's decision to put his best known and loved novel online for free as an experiment]. But for now, we watch Dr. Steve Brule.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The State of the World

Quick likes, but you expected that.

In the interest of celebrating the good in the city, it's worth noting that Windsor's first RV and boat show is being hailed as a success by the organizers. Attendance numbers aren't available, but organizers and vendors were both happy.

You should also know that Media City will be kicking off its 2008 edition tomorrow night at the Detroit Film Centre, but Windsor will have numerous events of its own to check out. See the whole schedule here.

Ever wonder what happens to clothes printed for championship sporting events featuring the losing time? They go to good use.

Because the man never sleeps, new Nine Inch Nails instrumental music available in a variety of formats, including the first nine songs via DRM-free download, yours for nothing.

In case you were wondering, things are bad in Afghanistan.

I am convincing Lady Trail to take me here while we're on vacation next week as you read this.

Dinner. News. Back later.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

This and That From Here and There

Probably most notable of the bits and bytes floating around is the word that local designer/blogger/man about town Scotty LaFramboise is sick and tired of all the bellyaching regarding Windsor and would prefer to celebrate what's good in the city, starting up the new blog Good News Windsor.

And for the record, when I piss and moan about the paradigm shift that needs to happen, and the embrace of the creative class, Scotty's efforts are the sort of things I'm referring to. No, you can't sell it, and you can't make a buck off of it, but the more men and women like him make the effort, the more vibrant the community becomes, which makes its citizens want to get out there and interact with each other, which might be the sort of place corporations want to invest in. So kudos to him. Eddies' always complaining that the people of Windsor don't get out there and tell their story, blogs like that are one way to do it. Give the man some traffic.

Related, to a certain extent, the inexhaustible Jamie Greer [of the Windsor Scene] has recruited some help to battle the void in the local music scene left by the closure of the Avalon Front [RIP]. Every Thursday you can now catch some of the finest live music in the city at Scene at The Room [255 Ouellette above Chanoso's]. SHows start at 9.00 pm, are 19+ and have a $4 cover.

Things get officially started this week, March 6, with Windsor hip hop dons the MicLordz & Sauce Funky and piano metal players Sledgehammer.

Strangely enough, Greer posts a piece on the group message board by creative class champion Richard Florida why music scenes are essential to local communities. It's enough to make me optimistic, Windsor.

What also gives me optimism is the way that the throwaway bonus track from Erykah Badu's first album in eight years kills 80 per cent of the pop/R&B crap that gets spewed out by the industry. The Trail's summer jam '08 is picked, and it's only March.

I love the fact that I knew over half of the albums depicted in the video, and that the dude in the George position on the Let it Be album has the same expression I had the first time I heard the song. The one that says, 'Oh my GAWD this is some funky mess.'

Back to basics come Monday, y'all. Hope your break was relaxing.