June 30, 2006

Conversations With Greatness LXXXVI



NOOOOOOOOO! Argentina just effing scored!

BLOODY RIGHT! Football is the best sport in the world!

June 29, 2006

Andrew Versus The Car

The day after the Oregon coast, I explored Redwood National Park-- and I'll post about that in due course, but for now I'm going to talk about what happened today, instead. Namely:

I drove all the way down to San Francisco Bay, navigated my way through a tangled web of confusing interstate signage, cruised suavely into Berkeley (where I'm staying tonight), and then, just as I was getting off the freeway (they actually call it 'the freeway' in California, it's very quaint), I thought to myself: "Hmm, that's a strange noise."

At first I tried to tell myself it was just an uneven road surface, but even after turning on to a different street altogether, the noise persisted-- so I pulled off the main road to take a look.

Well, it turns out, the strange noise was the sound of my hubcap scraping against the ground, over the lip of my comically flat tire.

Now, at this point, I might add, I was already running late for dinner with my hosts, so when the helpful lady at the Alamo roadside assistance hotline told me it would take an hour to send anyone out, I did what any red-blooded male would do: I rolled up my linen shirtsleeves, turned off my Imogen Heap CD, and pulled the spare out of the back. (And if you find it funny to picture me changing a tire, I kindly invite you to go cuddle yourself.)

I was back on the road again after half an hour, but the end result is that I have to take two hours out of my only day in San Francisco tomorrow to drive to the airport and swap out my car for one with all four tires intact (it's either that or make the 400 mile drive to LA at 50mph on Friday). Speaking of which, I should get to bed so I can get started early...

June 28, 2006

Too Soon?



You might quite rightly wonder why I'm updating my blog so often, despite being on vacation. Well, shame on you for judging me. The fact of the matter is, the last three nights I have been staying in relatively small towns where there's not much to do. But, this being the West Coast, there is, naturally, free Wi-Fi everywhere. And I ask you: if you had the choice between creepy roadside bar and blogging, what would you do?

Monday I cut across from Portland to the coast, and picked up US Highway 101, the 'Pacific Scenic Byway'. And, jeez geewillickers, holy cow, is "scenic" an understatement— the sun was out, the water was a velvety blue, and the highway lined with evergreen hills. It was spectacular.



I stopped a lot along the way to appreciate views and beaches, most notably at Cape Foulweather, which was where Captain Cook first set foot on the west coast. According to the handy plaque placed at the site, it's called Cape Foulweather because Cook was less than impressed with the climate when he arrived— so perhaps 'Cape Foulmood' would be more appropriate.

Incidentally, I find Oregonians' method for discouraging sex shops quite entertaining: local busybodies buy up advertising billboards next door to the sex shop, and get a giant slogan printed on it along the lines of: "Porn harms our children", or "Porn eats babies", or "Porn votes Democrat". They literally shame the stores out of business! (Actually, I made those last two up, but I did actually drive by a strip club called "Jiggles", which I think is even funnier.)

I think that's enough for today.

June 27, 2006

Land O' Ports

I spent Sunday night in Portland, Oregon. I don’t know anybody there, but I needed to sleep somewhere, and in planning my trip I had much favoured a hotel in an actual city over a sleazy motel in a Deliverance-like Oregon backwater.

After checking in and taking a shower to wash off all the cave slime, I ventured out with the plan of exploring a little before hitting up the Comedy Sportz Portland theatre for an improv show at 7pm. Sadly, downtown Portland is a sleepy ghost town on a Sunday evening— everything was shut (even the public library!), and the four or five other people I saw were clearly delirious street people or fellow confused tourists.

I don’t mean to dump on street people, and goodness knows I would have been delirious in their position (Portland and, indeed, much of the northwest, was having a freakish heatwave over the weekend, and it was into the high 90s and even 100s for most of Sunday)— but, gosh!, there are a buttload of crazy street people in Portland, especially in comparison to its size. I got hit up for change six times in the course of an hour or two, and also passed two men enthusiastically using a wide variety of expletives to add colour to their conversations with bushes and mailboxes.

The improv show I went to was a so-called “farm team” show, meaning the performers were all players-in-training from CSz’s Improv 101 class, and it showed: they were having a lot of listening problems, most of their scenes didn’t really have a good conflict/resolution arc, and they often set their goals higher than they could reliably manage (there was one ‘What If?’ scene in particular, where the gag was ‘What if each of the characters had a different foreign accent?’— only none of them could really do the accents they chose, so it just ended up being basically the exact same scene all over again).

That said, the show was almost an hour and a half long, and it managed to hold my interest for most of the time. A few of the players had some really great energy and presence, and the format had some quirky gimmicks that made it a lot more interesting to watch (as another improviser, anyway). The whole show is set up as a competition between two teams, and they really push the sporting event theme: there’s a ref (complete with whistle and black-and-white striped shirt), there are ‘fouls’, and there’s even (this is completely true, I swear) an audience rendition of the national anthem, sung hand-over-heart and while facing an American flag, before the show starts (that got a little hairy, because I only know the first and last lines of the national anthem, and also have leftist, wannabe-Canadian scales all over my body. I think I caught them from Adrienne).

I could gladly talk at length about some of the finer points of the improv, but I fear it would be of interest to only a handful of my readers— so if you want to know more, ask me about it in person. In the meantime, I’m going to rest up for day two of my epic coastal drive.

June 26, 2006

Margaritaville

Seattle has been and gone, in a blur of mainly margaritas. In amongst all that time spent in bars, though, I distinctly remember ordering a glass of water and being asked for ID. US liquor laws are so sensible.

I also went on a boat ride on Lake Washington, visited the original Starbucks, and saw the actual model of the alien queen from Aliens at the Sci-Fi Museum. I did not go up the Space Needle.

Today I went to Mount St Helens. The volcano itself is pretty spectacular, but far more exciting was the hike I took into an old, underground lava tube. 'Ape Cave' was discovered just sixty years ago by a local logger (which I can only assume was some kind of Forties slang term for a highly entertaining, self-published writer), and yet inexplicably the origins of its non sequiturish name have already been lost in the mists of time (the park brochure speculates that it might have something to do with Bigfoot).



The cave was pretty much impossible to photograph because it was completely pitch black from beginning to end; rather than spoil the atmosphere by stringing in light sources, the park staff simply rent you propane lamps for you to carry in with you, and that provides your only light source. Beyond about ten or fifteen feet, you can see nothing but a flat, black plane, so a lot of the time you're not even entirely sure how big the tunnel is around you. Every now and then, though, the black suddenly shimmers to life, like a nighttime thundercloud in the distance, and a fellow tourist will appear from behind a bend. Add to that the cold (the cave is a steady six degrees Celsius, all year), the water dripping from the ceiling, and the muffled sound of far-off voices, emerging from under the hiss of your gas lamp, and you have an experience that is, on the whole, pretty eerie.

I also enjoyed this from the park brochure:

"Do not touch the walls. A bacteria with fungus-like characteristics, called 'cave slime,' lives on the cave walls."

I think using the words 'bacteria', 'fungus', and 'slime', all in the same sentence, is an excellent strategy to discourage people from touching something.

Tomorrow: the Oregon coast!

June 23, 2006

Conversations With Greatness LXXXV

June 22, 2006

WA WA

Fresh off the bus from Seattle airport, I was met by my friend Lena. She took me to an indie hipster coffee house-- walls lined with floor-to-ceilling wooden bookshelves, filled with sets of pristine encyclopaedias-- where we sat on the patio, drinking really ridiculously good coffee, and admiring the direct, uncluttered view of (oh, yes) the Space Needle. I feel like I have wandered into a movie about Seattle. Or at least, an episode of Frasier.

June 20, 2006

{Insert 'Hard Drive' Pun Here}

From WebMD: Virtual Sex: Threat to Real Intimacy?

"As convenient as the drive-up window at your favorite fast-food restaurant, online sex requires little effort short of booting up and logging on. With its easy access comes an increasing number of people who are banging away at their computers for some electronic satisfaction."

Gross, literally?

"A survey of Canadian college students found that 87% of more than 2,500 respondents 'fessed up to technology-assisted sex via tools like instant message, webcams, and text message."

Wow, 87%, that's a lot. That would be pretty impressive if the sample wasn't grossly self-selecting: the survey was posted on a dating website and filled in voluntarily by users of that website! I think that might bias the results just A LITTLE, don't you?

Nevertheless, "study leader" Noah Gurza weighs in on the highly significant results:

"Eighty-seven percent having had virtual sex was astonishing to us, but upon reflection it is very much a testament to the demographic we are dealing with."

Yes, it certainly is a shocker that the using-the-internet-to-find-relationships demographic also uses the internet for sex. I bet some of them even have compumatators. I mean, Jesus, are these people brain-damaged? This whole thing is completely ungeneralisable.

But that didn't stop WebMD from bothering two therapists for their opinions on the 'findings', including Louanne Cole Weston, PhD and certified sex therapist, who explains the appeal of online sex:

"[It] provides a good option to people who are not as sexually desirable because of their physical appearance . . . Now, people who were disenfranchised by virtue of their appearance have an outlet to be sexually active in a nondiscriminating marketplace."

Weston continued: "Do you hear me, ugmos? I don't want to see any of you hanging around my local singles bar anymore. Go bang your computers."

Jenn Berman, PhD, on the other hand, is less enthusiastic about online sex, which she says can quickly create intimacy issues in peoples' lives:

"Anytime you prefer to have online sex to actual human company -- a friend calls you up and asks you to dinner and you choose not to go because you'd rather engage in online sex -- that's when you're headed for trouble."

Seriously, I mean, everybody needs to eat. You should go out for dinner and then engage in online sex.

Sigh. Why is sexology a thing?

June 18, 2006

UGH.

"Published Posthumorously" (Jan 22, 2006)

On the whole, I've been enjoying the Italian lit class I'm taking this semester, so far. But today I started our third book, a collection of short 'stories' called All the Errors, by Giorgio Manganelli. But 'stories' is really over-stating the case since not one of the seven seems to have anything resembling a plot (or even characters, most of them)— they're more like metaphysics treatises disguised as fiction, lo-ong literary flourishes that have no point except to demonstrate what a swell intellectual the author imagines himself to be. It is postmodern drivel to a degree that Don DeLillo only aspires to. Here is an excerpt from Manganelli's 'System':

"But the Vagina! Ah, how it steeps itself in languor, how it simulates turbid and sullen fervours, how it meditates on angers and affections, gallows and hearths! Neither would nor could we say more, there being no other way to speak of it, truly nothing more to say."

I wonder, when I read works in translation that seem particularly awful, if the translator wasn't just having a bit of a laugh at the expense of the author.

[Editor's Note: This short invective against postmodernism, Italians, translations, and, of course, Don DeLillo, was discovered in the 'Drafts' section of Ladd's blog several months after his tragic death at the hands of a Scrabble tile. Although it is unclear why Ladd decided not to publish the post when he wrote it, critics speculate that it has something to do with a second uncovered manuscript in Ladd's fiction file; untitled, the short story's main character was a brooding vagina called George who restored fireplaces for a living. The manuscript breaks off halfway through, with a note in Ladd's cryptic shorthand: "!!! I plgrsed ()thg! *&$%! Manganelli! Bk t drn bd. Kw ws 2 :-) 2 be tr."

The original title of the post ('UGH.') has been preserved; however, in accordance with the term's of Ladd's will, the second title ('Published Posthumorously') was added for the piece's inclusion here.]

June 16, 2006

Conversations With Greatness LXXXIV

June 14, 2006

Eau De Humanity!

From BBC NEWS | Entertainment: Perrier ends Edinburgh comedy tie

For non-Edinbuggers: for the last twenty-five years, the comedy awards that run during and in conjunction with the Fringe have been sponsored by Perrier, the over-priced French soda water. It worked out well for me last summer, because the Underbelly hosted the final awards show, so every day the nice Perrier man turned up with a few crates of Perrier that we could drink for free while on the job.

But this summer, no! Perrier has sodded off and now The Perriers are to be sponsored by Intelligent Finance, a Scottish bank. Although the awards have been officially renamed (continuing to call them the Perriers would be a little confusing, I guess), I think that Perrier are gambling on the fact that after twenty-five years people are going to stubbornly refuse to call them anything else.

The more I think about it, though, the more I think the new sponsorship is a good thing: I mean, if Perrier gave us free Perrier, what is a bank going to give us? Free money! And with free money, I can buy many Perriers! Sweet!

June 13, 2006

Anti-Semitism Plumbs New Depths— Literally!

A large part of my summer job is locating schools on a map (thrilling, eh?). Because the address data I have for some of the schools are incomplete, I often have to do a little web research to track down exactly where they are, and the website Schooltree.org has been very handy in so doing.

Tonight I was looking up Ezra Academy in Forest Hills, NY— and, probably because I had been doing mindless gruntwork for an hour already, I found myself laughing out loud at some of the information on the school's page.

For instance, someone was really going to town with the sarcastic quotation marks:

"Ezra Academy is of a 'Jewish' affiliation . . . Ezra Academy is located in a 'Large City'."

I also enjoyed the breakdown of enrolment by ethnicity; out of the 233 students at Ezra, there is one African American. One! They literally have a token black guy!

But, by far my favourite part was what Google Maps showed me when I clicked on the 'Map Location' link:



I sure hope they teach swimming.

June 12, 2006

Nominations

Today I booked my flight back to Edinburgh for the end of July. This means that, taking into account my trip out west, I only have twenty-one more days in Montreal.

So, first of all, if you live in Montreal, now is the time to enjoy my company.

Second of all, as Mariana pointed out a few months ago, the name exBostonian is now pretty much completely uninformative-- so I'm going to ditch it and choose something new.

I therefore invite suggestions for future blog appellations. Please leave ideas in the comments section, and after a while I'll put my favourite ones to a vote. If you make a suggestion and I use it, you will win my eternal gratitude, a hearty kick in the pants, and possibly something that is actually somewhat desirable.

Also, if you're going to make a suggestion, bear in mind this NY Times article about how companies Google job candidates and won't consider you for a position if your blog/MySpace profile/etc. makes you look undesirable. Obviously this is an invasive, narrow-minded and, frankly, idiotic policy (it's not like students— even straight A, honour roll students— never got drunk/high/sexually compromised before Facebook was invented, so why arbitrarily pick on people who want to share pictures with friends? Besides, it's actually pretty discriminatory to not hire someone because you don't approve of what they do in their spare time).

Nevertheless, I would like to be at least somewhat employable now and in the foreseeable future, so I won't consider ideas along the lines of:

•Andrew's Drunken Sexual Debacles: The Definitive Guide
•I Am An Irresponsible Alcoholic So Please Don't Read My Resume
•Super Happy Cock Pussy Fun Page
•The Adventures of Budman
•etc.

Change is hard.

Seriously, I have, like, three kilos of loonies in my pocket, what the hell am I supposed to do with them all?

June 11, 2006

Don't Fall For It

Okay, before I get started— and I'm sorry if this joke has been made already, but I heard it on the radio today and only then caught on— I would just like to say: you know that song, "Walking on Sunshine"? Do you know who that's by? Katrina and The Waves. Isn't that just grotesquely ironic?

Anyway, on to the main event.



Thus begins the photographic story of my day in Ithaca.

My plan was to take the rental car and drive out to Watkins Glen, a small town about half an hour from Ithaca that is built around the eponymous state park. And this I did, on a pleasant, winding road through the countryside, past swaying grass and numerous barns that can only be described as dila-ha-pidated. Upstate New York puts Southern Quebec to shame in the dilapidated building department, and if you don't believe me then take a look at this house in Mecklenburg (none of this amateurish barn nonsense):



Watkins Glen itself was well worth the drive, and then some. The centrepiece of the park is an earthy, mossy canyon that snakes into the hillside, and towers over a river that bounds and drops through the air in a most awe-inspiring way (I actually heard other people gasping in awe a couple of times). At one point the path along the bottom of the canyon abruptly turns down a spiral staircase carved into a cave in the rockface, and emerges at the bottom literally in a waterfall. The whole river is tumbling over a shelf directly over your head, and a tiny path ducks just behind the wall of water and continues along the other side of the canyon. This is what you walk behind:



After hiking up and down the canyon for a few hours, I got back in the car and started back for Ithaca, stopping off briefly at Buttermilk Falls State Park— where a caterpillar gave me the opportunity to try out the macro lens on my new camera. I'm pretty pleased with the results:



Many more pictures of all the above landmarks (and more!) can be found here. And as for me? I'm going to savour the feel of my own, glorious bed, for the first time in eight days.

June 09, 2006

Conversations With Greatness LXXXIII

June 07, 2006

Iron and Whine

From Newsvine: Paper Clip Causes Traffic Signals Glitch

"ASHLAND, WIS. — Traffic signals that went haywire at the city's busiest intersection over Memorial Day weekend left technicians stymied as they hunted for the cause . . .

When city crews finally called in the state Department of Transportation for help, a DOT official spotted a paper clip that had fallen behind the control panel for the signals . . . When the clip was removed and the system was reset, the signals resumed normal operations . . .

In a bit of irony, the paper clip that fell had been used to hold a card with names and phone numbers of technicians who maintain the signals, he said."


In a further piece of irony, technicians could not reach the intersection for several days because their vans kept being diverted by malfunctioning traffic signals.

In yet another piece of irony, the DOT official who spotted the paper clip was MacGyver.

In one more added piece of irony, jokes about MacGyver and paper clips are no longer funny.

In a final piece of irony, the paper clip was actually made of iron, which you hardly ever see these days.

Um, I'm sorry, I'm really tired.

June 05, 2006

Travelling Bandwidth

Hello, my lovelies, and cheerful greetings from Ithaca, NY! I’m here with my dad for a few days (on our way to the greater Boston area later in the week), and today he’s off being an intonational celebrity at Cornell so I’m on my own to enjoy the town and its free downtown WiFi access.

Ithaca, if you didn’t know, very nearly became my home after high school. Cornell, all sprawling greens and plunging gorges, was actually the university that made me want to move to North America in the first place, and if Emerson hadn’t admitted me first (and with a hefty scholarship) I would have ended up here. And just imagine what such a world would have been like:

•This blog wouldn’t be called exBostonian.
•I never would have met Steven Pinker, Robin Williams, or the guys from Fubar.
•More significantly, Steven Pinker, Robin Williams, and the guys from Fubar never would have met me.
•Countless McGill Improv members would have had to pay for accommodation in Edinburgh!
•Adrienne would be morbidly obese from years of eating nothing but Kraft Dinner and pizza.
•I would be a hippie.

Being back here, now, I’m reminded of just why I liked it so much in the first place. It’s one of those man-stubbornly-triumphing-over-nature places— like, you wonder who the idiots were who decided to build a town in a place where you can’t walk half a mile without falling into a ravine. The main road connecting Cornell and surrounding Collegetown to downtown Ithaca and the Flats is so steep that my ears actually popped driving down it in the car last night. One of the people we’re staying with— who may be getting on a bit in years, but who nonetheless owns a mountain bike and goes for regular adventures on it— actually hesitated and looked kind of dubious when I told him I’d be walking up the hill later today.

But it does make for something special. There are waterfalls, everywhere. Like, seriously, everywhere. There are so many waterfalls that some of them don’t even have names— settlers just saw them and thought ‘Jesus, another one.’ And the town itself is friendly and cozy and, thanks to all the students, still fun and hip despite its size. This morning I went into what I can only describe as Said The Gramophone: The Store. This tiny music store, barely bigger than my living room and stocking mainly vinyl, managed to cram into its two racks of CDs: Architecture in Helsinki, Devendra Banhart, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, Wolf Parade, Okkervil River, Joanna Newsom, etc., etc. etc. The only thing they didn’t have was The Arcade Fire.

Anyway, I’m off to start my hike back up the hill, visit some waterfalls, and further ponder what life as a Cornellian (Cornellite? Cornelligan? Cornello? Cornellephant?) might have been like. More in a day or two.

June 02, 2006

Conversations With Greatness LXXXII

June 01, 2006

Bush By The Barrel

Newsvine— Today, 04:53 PM: Bush Admin. to Continue Nuke Worker Plan

THAT'S how they're going to deal with illegal immigrants? By NUKING them? Yeesh. What are they on?

Newsvine— Today, 05:16 PM: Bush Admin. Wants to Cut Meth Use 15 Pct.

Ah, I see.

Reasons Jon Stewart Should Be My Friend #1,443,442

I was watching the Colbert Report this evening, and I was shocked, appalled, offended, etc., to see that they were doing jokes about SkyMall. SkyMall!!

(SkyMall, for those of you who don't know, is a mail order catalogue that is distributed exclusively on domestic flights within North America. It is full of some of the most ridiculous products and product pitches known to man.)

Now, why does this offend me? Because, I was doing SkyMall jokes seven damn years ago! And where's my TV show? Where are my fame, respect, and creepy fans? As proof of my ahead-of-the-gameness, I offer you this pre-blog rant, written when I was but a cherub-faced sixteen-year-old:

"There comes a time in every stand-up comedian's (or in this case writer's) life when they do a "bit" about mail order catalogues. I thought that I would do mine now and get it out of the way so that I can devote my professional life to things more worthwhile . . .

So anyway, on to the catalogue. I will be looking at SkyMall, which is distributed by Delta Air Lines on all of their flights.

The first thing that really caught my eye was the barbecue fork with built in 'doneness tester'. Put the fork into your meat, and "an LED will indicate: rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well, well, and pork/poultry." Blimey. You know you've cooked your steak too long when it turns into chicken! I can just imagine the poor witless yuppie standing there saying to himself: 'Wait a minute . . . this isn't steak at all! I've been duped!'.

The next gem was thus: A wind-up radio which is "Y2K Compliant". Hang on a sec. It's a wind-up radio. Just exactly what components does it contain that could potentially fall victim to the Millennium Bug? The last time I checked, Y2K couldn't snap plastic handles . . .

Moving swiftly on, we come to the Snuggle Ball. Basically a bean bag for your cat or dog, but I was amused by the blurb: "It's a perfect marriage of animal instinct and bedding design." My cat has always liked sitting on our beanbag . . . now I know why.

The next one is possibly my favourite. It's a back support vest designed specifically for women. Doesn't sound terribly interesting, but listen to this: "If some of your daily activities include driving, working at a desk, lifting groceries (or children), gardening, vacuuming or EVEN doing laundry (capitalisation mine), you need the Cincher." Bloody hell, woman; screw the vest, you need a maid! Especially if you have to do the laundry AS WELL as working at a desk.

Well, that's all. I hope my brief digression into the wild world of catalogue bashing has been entertaining and enlightening for you. Now, I have to go talk to a butcher about some supposed steak..."


Now, I know what you're all thinking: 'Gosh, Andrew hasn't changed a bit since he was sixteen!' So tell me, was I precocious then or am I just immature now?

--

PS. Sweet Georgia Jones. From my unofficial university transcript:

"Bachelor of Arts Granted: May 2006
Honours Sociology
Minor Concentration Ital Lang & Lit
*
First Class Honours in Sociology
Dean's Honour List
David N. Solomon Memorial Prize"


I am gradu-ma-goddamn-tated! Go me!