July 28, 2006

Conversations With Greatness XC

July 27, 2006

Life Is Always Sweeter In Bullet Form

•My iMac arrived from its transatlantic odyssey this morning— safe, sound, and, I can only assume, severely jetlagged. Hooray!

•It turns out that when my boss was telling me my co-supervisor's name the other day, he wasn't saying "Tom R. Jones", but rather "Tom Arr-Jones". So all my carefully planned gags were for naught. Boo!

•My professor got in touch to ask where to send the money. Hooray!

•He has since failed to respond to further emails. Boo!

•I love my job! Hooray!

•I'm hungry. Boo!

•I did a cup-o-tea-buying run for the other box office staff today, and my boss (who delights in making hilariously inappropriate innuendoes) walked in just as I was asking one of the girls if she wanted the teabag in or out. Ha!

July 26, 2006

Milestones In Blogging, #45541

From Newsvine: Lance Bass of 'NSync Reveals He's Gay

'Yeah,' you might well be thinking. 'So what? Why should I care?'

In fact, this story is a momentous one, though not for the celebrity tattle contained in the above headline; rather, said headline caused a ripple effect throughout the blogosphere, pushing sarcasm levels to an unprecedented one hundred percent. The sentiment expressed on hipster4227.blogspot.com was typical, with the site's author saying:

"So Lance Bass is gay, huh? What startling revelation will come next? Michael Jackson likes kids?"

The blogging team over at www.the-sarchasm.net, meanwhile, collaborated to produce a crude, interactive Flash game entitled the "Tell-Us-Something-We-Don't-Know-otron"; and several MySpace blogs were updated with entries along the lines of "LOL wot a surprize!"

As the story spread, sarcasm levels continued to rise, as illustrated below, in Figure A:



At hour zero, sarcasm levels are at a healthy (and fairly normal for a midweek morning) forty percent. These levels inch up slowly as the story is picked up by a few initial sites, and then begin to climb rapidly following coverage by several influential blogs. They level out around ninety-eight percent for a few hours, briefly reaching total blogosphere sarcasm saturation. However, at these levels the sarcasm:sincerity ratio approaches infinity, and it is no longer possible to actually be any more sarcastic— the universe self-corrects and levels begin to fall again.

Levels of meta-sarcasm in the blogosphere also spiked by a comparable amount, but obviously cannot be shown in the same graph.

Interestingly, if we look at the curve of Figure A in a broader context, we can see it reflects the internet's cynicism in more ways than one:



Wa-wa.

July 24, 2006

Want A Raisin? How About An Update?

I have now been "living" (snicker) in Britain for two-and-a-half days. Mostly I've spent it in a boozy, jetlagged daze, and doing much the same things that I always do when I'm home: Fopp (my default music store), Assembly (my default bar), and running into people from high school without any effort whatsoever.

I've also upgraded my mobile phone to a contract, thus bagging myself a free Razr, and found out more about my Fringe job: I'll be working at the venue's main box office (a huge relief, as I was afraid I would be stuck out at one of the quieter, satellite box offices), and my co-assistant manger will be named...

Tom R. Jones!

Tom Jones! Now, you might think that's a bit of a coincidence, but, in fact, it's not unusual.

He is going to hate me by the end of the month. I have already planned out a good week's worth of Tom Jones gags (instead of "good morning": "What's new, pussycat"?; instead of "Gosh, it's busy today": "My, my, my... De-line-up!"; I'm also considering investing in some women's underwear to throw at him when he walks through the door).

I start tomorrow morning, and am going to spend the week assembling, cleaning, and painting the venue (until Sunday, when my underlings arrive and I will get them to do it all for me).

On Saturday, my mum's throwing me a welcome back party, which she has very poshly decided to get catered by the neighbourhood's Thai restaurant. She even sent out actual invitations to people, which rather embarrassingly say something like:

"Please join us in celebrating the return of Andrew Ladd (B.A., McGill)."

Embarrassing, because, um, hello? I have a B.A. Hons. Jeez.

July 23, 2006

Laglustre

I'm officially renaming my blog in August, but in the meantime this new title graphic seemed appropriate. Thank you to everyone who turned up to see me off on Thursday night— you did a swell job finishing off all my booze before I left— and extra special thank yous to Chris, Dan, Maryam and Ken for their collaborative efforts to get me to the airport on Friday.

Um... That is all. I'm off to investigate reports that a Starbucks has opened round the corner from my flat.

July 21, 2006

Conversations With Greatness LXXXIX

July 20, 2006

Making A Mochrie Of Summer Employment

I rented a car today to facilitate the running of many dull and (almost literally) back-breaking errands today. And as I was casually driving past the intersection of de Maisonneuve and University, who did I see waiting to cross? Colin effing Mochrie! It was watching him on British Whose Line all those years ago that made me want to do improv myself, so as you can imagine I would tear off my own arm for the chance to meet him and make a starstruck ass out of myself. But obviously, since I was driving by him at 30km/h in the middle of afternoon traffic, I couldn't exactly stop and say hi. It figures that the one day I'm getting around Montreal by car instead of by foot, is the one day when I see a celebrity I would like to meet on the street.

Oh well. What's he really done lately that's worth talking about, anyway?

On a completely different topic, the professor who I've been working for this summer has conveniently stopped answering my (repeated) emails in the last two weeks. Funny how the mention of my needing to be paid seems to have instantly cured him of his compulsive, twenty-times-a-day email checking.

I would like to give him the benefit of the doubt, so I am hoping he will get in touch with me tomorrow. But if not, this is my plan:

If I don't hear from him within one week: I will copy all of our correspondence, including a scanned copy of the letter of employment he gave me so I could get a Social Insurance number, to the Sociology Department Chair.

If I don't hear from him within a further two weeks: a massive Google-bombing campaign to ensure that Googling him brings up a page, created by me, detailing his unethical research practices.

If I don't hear from him within one week of the start of the academic year: Suffice to say, I will be really furious if he ignores me for this long. So he'll get one last email, in which I implore him to pay me, or else I will send formal letters of complaint to the Sociology Department, the Dean of Students, and the Principal. I will also tell him of my intent to write letters to American Sociological Review and the American Journal of Sociology, in which I will suggest that, perhaps, someone who treats his research assistants so poorly does not deserve to have his research published (I doubt this will have much real effect, but it will make me feel better). He will have one more week to reply, otherwise, KABLAMMO, those letters get sent.

Hell hath no fury like a vindictive blogger scorned.

But, I mean, seriously, this is bullshit, right? I know he's in town, because I talked to his wife on Monday. And he is so computer-obsessed that there is no way he would have gone two weeks without checking his e-mail. So really, there is no other explanation except that he is purposefully ignoring me. GRR!

July 19, 2006

Rub-A-Dub-Dub

From The San Francisco Chronicle: Cowboy george Bush's unexpected squeeze of the German chancellor has the Internet howling

Ha-ha, *LOL*, and three times :-D. I believe that is the appropriate reaction to this story, described (rather inappropriately, I feel, coming from a California newspaper) as having "hit the internet like a summer wildfire".

During a G8 meeting yesterday, President Bush cavalierly walked up behind (the only female member of the G8) Angela Merkel, and administered what can only be described as a "drive-by rubbing" (video hosted—where else?—on YouTube). Merkel responds with the body language equivalent of a ten-year-old girl squealing "Ewww, boys!", and Bush walks off again as if nothing had happened. It's quite priceless.

I mean, obviously, from a gender equality viewpoint it's not priceless at all, but goodness knows I would never go off on a rant about that sort of thing. And, frankly, It would be pretty querulous of me to start complaining about the first thing Bush has done to make himself more like Clinton. (Oh, fudge, that gag's been done already.)

"Fox News political analyst Karen Hanretty said the outraged reaction shows how 'President Bush just can't win.'

'Aren't these the same women who have been angry about cowboy diplomacy?' she asked. 'Do they want a kinder, more sensitive Bush -- or a cowboy? Once again, there's no pleasing women,' she said. 'Give them the cowboy and they want Alan Alda'."


"I mean, seriously," she added. "Are we women irrational fuckwits incapable of expressing a coherent opinion, or what? Oh, wait."

And, I'm sorry, but giving unsolicited back rubs does not make somebody "kinder and more sensitive"; if anything, this only further shows what a tactless cowboy Bush really is. Besides, it's not like there's no middle ground, here: somebody can be a sharp-shooting diplomat and still have a sensitive side. Contrasting the two is ludicrous, especially in light of Brokeback Mountain.

Two and a half days left in Montreal. Eek.

July 18, 2006

Speaking of Celebrity Weddings...

From Newsvine: Pamela Anderson, Kid Rock to Tie the Knot

"New York — Next week, Pamela Anderson will make an honest man out of Kid Rock."

Is that really even possible?

I just hope their marriage doesn't descend into domestic violence, like this couple, also seen on Newsvine: Man Accused of Blinding Wife With Carrot

"MONROE, CONN. — A 46-year-old man is accused of assaulting his wife with a carrot, causing her to lose sight in one eye. Roderick Vecsey is charged with second-degree assault and disorderly conduct.

Pamela Vecsey, 46, underwent six hours of surgery after being hit in the left eye with the vegetable Saturday night, but doctors were not able to restore her vision."


I mean, you feel bad for laughing, but a carrot? I thought those were supposed to be good for your eyesight!

I'm going straight to hell.

July 17, 2006

eBay.com Says: BRING IT ON!

Seen on Technorati:



--

If you're keeping track, this is my 600th post in this blog.

Is There Also A Mauvais Curve?

So, I just got back from doing the GREs, and they were quite GREuelling. Heh.

Actually, mostly they just served to further solidify my innate suspicions about the ability of standardised testing to meaningfully measure anything with any degree of reliability. See, throughout my week or so of GRE studying (including four full length practice exams), I was consistently scoring around 700 on the verbal section (percentile: ~97) and majorly wigging out on the quantitative section (typically scoring about 600 or a little under; percentile ~37 to ~72).

(The curve for quantitative is skewed heavily to the left because, roughly speaking, all engineers go to grad school, and all engineers get perfect scores on the quantitative section; that's why my percentile rank varies so much, even with relatively little variation in scaled score.)

But, today, when I actually sat down and did the real GRE test (and perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I just used the phrase "majorly wigging out"), my verbal score dropped to 650 (percentile ~91)— which I know is still very good, but it's annoying that my lowest score is the one being sent to all the English programs I'm applying to. Quantitative, on the other hand, I bizarrely aced, getting a whopping 790 (percentile ~90)— an increase, I might add, of about 1.3 standard deviations. Now, I ask you, what is the utility of a test that can vary so wildly from sitting to sitting? Admissions committees may as well invite you into their office for a rousing game of Pin the Tail on the Donkey.

So, in conclusion, standardised testing is a giant crock, and, obviously, I have a 3.95 GPA.

July 16, 2006

I Wonder Who Wears The Tie In Their Relationship?

From Newsvine: Report: Lavigne Weds Whibley of Sum 41

"Canadian actress-musician Avril Lavigne . . . married Deryck Whibley, the guitarist and front man for the band Sum 41, on July 15, 2006, according to reports."

Oh, come on! She does the voice for one animated character and all of a sudden that makes her an actress-musician?!

(And, come on! Deryck Whibley wears a guitar around his neck in a couple of videos and all of a sudden that makes him a guitarist?!)

"The young rockers had a mostly traditional ceremony . . . The usually shabby Lavigne wore a Vera Wang gown, carried white roses and was walked down the aisle by her father as Mendelssohn's 'Wedding March' played."

During the vows, Whibley tastelessly remarked that it was funny seeing Avril in a Wang, because usually it was the other way round.

Incensed, Lavigne slapped Whibley across the face, screamed, "See you l8r, boi!" and stormed off.

Thankfully, after some impromptu mediation by fellow Canadian rocker Chad Kroeger (sometimes referred to as the "Kurt Cobain of the 21st Century"), the young couple agreed that being left at the altar would be 'way too mainstream' and tied the knot after all.

And, yes, that was another Chad reference.

--

Dear God.

July 14, 2006

Conversations With Greatness LXXXVIII

July 13, 2006

The New Netscape: Just As Silly

Netscape.com recently gave its front page a massive overhaul, switching from a MSN-style portal page to a Digg-style page where users pick and comment on what gets put on the front page.

Thankfully, the results are just as amusing. Viz.:

From Netscape.com: Isreal fires on Lebanese airport

"(via today.reuters.com)— Two or three Isreali warplanes have fired on the Beirut airport, and now the airport is closed."

Yeah, that's probably a good call.

July 12, 2006

Shack Attack

I had the most bewildering experience at RadioShack today.

I'm backing up my computer before I ship it home, so I went to RadioShack this morning to buy three extra DVD-Rs. The first one worked fine, but the second and third couldn't be read by my DVD drive and got spat out immediately. So I went back to RadioShack...

Me: Hi. I bought these this morning and, uh, they don't work.
Him: Well, you've opened them so I can't refund them. [Then, as if I might not understand such an abstract concept:] They're like batteries.
Me: Oh. Well, can I just buy two new ones, then?
Him: It's probably an issue with your DVD drive.
Me: [In an friendly and completely unconfrontational manner:] No, I don't think so, because I got one of them to work, and I also burned another two discs that were a different brand after these two wouldn't work.
Him: Well, if you want I can test these two on one of the computers in the store and see if they work here.
Me: Uh, sure, okay.
Him: But if I do that, these discs are yours, you know that, right?
Me: Yeah.

[He diddles around with a computer for a minute or two]

Him: Well, it seems to be working fine. It must be your DVD drive.
Me: Huh. It is weird that I got other ones to work, but... [shrug] Anyway, can I buy another two?
Him: [getting annoyed] Look, in 99% of cases it's the burner that's the problem, not the disc. You probably have the settings wrong. I mean, if you had your computer here I could look at it, and see if the settings are right, but I can't do anything about it now.
Me: [Internal monologue:] Whoooooa! Easy there! [To clerk:] Uh, okay, well, it doesn't matter. Can I just buy another two, maybe of a different brand?
Him: This computer will be done burning in a few minutes, don't you want to wait and see if it worked? That way you'll know if it's a problem with your burner.
Me: No, that's okay, can I just buy another two?
Him: [bitterly] Fine.

Can somebody explain to me if I committed some horrendous RadioShack faux pas? Or was this guy just having a really bad day?

Olive Or Stone?

From FOXNews.com: First Look at Oliver Stone's 'World Trade Center'

"The three best-known actors are [Nicholas] Cage, Maria Bello as McLoughlin's wife and Maggie Gyllenhaal as Jimeno's wife. From then, on, however, the casting of this film is really terrific."

Ha! But those three are terrible?

"And don't think that because we know the end of the story there aren't some surprises. In particular, there is one moment underneath the collapsed skyscrapers between the trapped policemen that will leave you shaken — it's so unexpected."

I'm guessing (especially coming from a Fox News writer) that this means they make out.

The author also seems to be having a competition with himself to see how many ways he can write more-or-less the same sentence:

"Stone had made an excellent movie about the Sept. 11 tragedies . . .

Stone has made an elegant, powerful, moving and genuinely personal document about the horrors that happened inside and outside of the World Trade Center . . .

What Stone has done is base his movie on the stories of two Port Authority policemen who went into Tower 2 of the World Trade Center . . .

Stone has done an excellent job . . .

What Stone has done, though, is make a real war movie with the World Trade Center as a battlefield . . .

But mostly Oliver Stone has made a wrenching, accurate account of a terrible tragedy."


It's kind of like reading a children's book, you know? "Look what Stone has done! Stone has made a movie. What has Stone down now? Stone has made cinematic ipecac."

--

Since you have all rather pusillanimously decided against voting for a new name for the blog, I can only assume that you (like many Americans, evidently) are happy to sit back and let the democratic process descend into a de facto dictatorship. I have therefore disregarded all your suggestions and come up with a new name entirely my own-- which you may not like, but, hey, tough chads.

(Yes, that was my second chad reference this week. If you think that's bad, just wait until you see my expose on Central African politics tomorrow!)

July 11, 2006

They're GREeat!

I'm doing the GREs next Monday (boooo!). Some sections I'm pretty confident about, mainly, in fact, because of how regularly I blog. I can whip out a short, self-contained essay in forty-five minutes, no problem— and thanks to all the practise I get writing and tweaking sentences, I all but aced the sample sentence completions in my test prep book.

However, my vocabulary just isn't up to the ridiculously abstruse words they throw at you in the antonym and analogy sections (I can't tell you how much I despise verbal analogies)— and since the best way to learn new words is to use them in sentences, please now enjoy this small exercise in GRE revision:

At first, my plan had been to impetuously walk into the exam without much preparation, relying on my stalwart native wit to carry me through— I am, after all, a scion of a well-PhDed family. But after looking at a test prep book, I began to feel quite bilious. None of the words I was reading were at all limpid, and made me feel like quite the tyro. Now, far be it from me to gainsay the GREs (the last thing I want is to be accused of calumny), but the whole exercise puts me in high dudgeon and, if you ask me, warrants a certain amount of excoriation. I mean, who the fuck ever uses one of these words in their everyday lives? (Apart from, perhaps, a vocabulary martinet.) This may seem like something of a cavil, but I feel my aspersions are well-placed: the very fact that students can speak of 'GRE words' should sound the knell for such recondite and arcane practices as the verbal analogy section.

Isn't it weird how that last paragraph sounded kind of like a Madlib?

Sigh.

July 10, 2006

A Head Of The Game

Zidane's World Cup headbutt is the buzz of the blogosphere right now, so I thought I'd abuse Technorati to try and snag some new readers.*



There's been no official line on why Baldy McRagerson decided to treat the world to his stag-in-mating-season impression, but the speculation is that Materazzi either called him a terrorist or gave him a good ol'-fashioned nipple gripple (or perhaps both). Either way, the internet is alight with talk and pictures of the incident, including some fairly hilarious recreations by Flickr users.

--

*Note to new readers: I make pithy jokes about things I see and read, to which the most common responses are:

(a) amused chuckles followed by bookmarking this page
(b) overblown offence followed by leaving irate and slightly terrifying comments
(c) complete indifference followed by forgetting that I ever existed

Please proceed as applicable.

July 07, 2006

Conversations With Greatness LXXXVII



Weeks since last 'your mom' joke: twenty-six.

July 06, 2006

Happy Birthday, Mr President

George W Bush turned sixty today. He will celebrate by holding a press conference with Stephen Harper, then clubbing a pro-choicer with a copy of the Bible and drinking a quart of crude oil.

In this Newsvine article, Cornell University's Karl Pillemer discusses the significance of growing old for Bush's generation: "Turning 60 is a fairly significant shock . . . The generation that believed it would be young forever, clearly will not . . . The boomers are having a hard time with the existential reality of life not being one open-ended opportunity after another."

Oh, yeah, I'm sure the President of the United States feels completely shackled by the constraints on his life. Plus, I mean, apart from change the course of national and world history on a number of occasions, what has he really done to be remembered by?

Still, if this means he's going to have a Clinton-esque midlife crisis, I am all for it.

July 05, 2006

Democracy At Work

Gil reminded me today that I need to pick a new name for my blog. So I present to you the contenders; please leave a comment with your vote for which one you like best.

[] exMontrealer
[] Haeland Laddie
[] I'm Really Excited To Be Here
[] Still. Going.
[] Desirable Employee

Please, no hanging chads.

July 04, 2006

LA-De-Da



In many ways, L.A. was pretty much exactly what I thought it would be. There was disgusting decadence, of which I joyfully partook in the form of an all-you-can-drink champagne brunch (have you ever been hungover at 3pm before?), and a trip to Diddy Riese, where they’ll make you a sandwich out of a scoop of ice cream and two soft-bake cookies; there were palm trees and heat and lots of ridiculously tanned, attractive people; there was a pretty good comedy scene (I saw the Groundlings, and laughed so hard I spat a little on the person in front of me); and everywhere you went, there was something to do with the movies.

Everybody in L.A. either works in movies or knows someone who works in movies (or they are Ryan Seacrest, which I think is easily the worst option of the three). And there’s also this strange, self-adulatory reverence about the film industry that seems to affect almost the entire city. Sunday afternoon I went to a pre-July 4th cookout, and found a roomful of people raptly watching an HBO documentary that was literally nothing more than movie industry people talking about the movie industry. That was the point. There was no greater issue at stake. It was really just talking about movies for the sake of it, and everybody was fascinated (except me, needless to say— but I kept myself entertained by reading Joss Whedon’s script for the upcoming Wonder Woman, which had been cavalierly left lying on the coffee table). The whole afternoon was completely surreal.

Having said all that, L.A. was also, in many ways, pretty much exactly not what I thought it would be. For instance, I was expecting a smoggy, concrete hellhole where everybody drives everywhere and the landscape was a hideous mass of commercial pap. In fact, although everybody does drive pretty much everywhere, the place was still oddly picturesque and quite pedestrian-friendly, in parts, and really quite nice— I even found myself reneging on my earlier vow that I would never even consider living there (I seem to be doing that a lot, lately).

Also, I was expecting to see some celebrities, but the closest I got was a guy dressed as Hellraiser on the Walk of Fame— and he was on his break so he was just sitting there with his mask next to him, drinking a bottle of mineral water and chatting with Michael Myers from Halloween.

Thus ended my travels, seven thousand miles of flying/driving later. Full and copious pictoral documentation can be found through the following links:

Seattle & Mt St Helens
The Oregon Coast
Redwoods (and more coast)
Wine Country
San Francisco

July 03, 2006

It's Like Road Rage, But Not As Intense



The drive to San Francisco on Wednesday (flat tire excluded) was another pretty one. It started off winding through more redwood forests, which, to be honest, was getting a little old by that point— but I did get to drive through a tree (one of the few goals I had set myself at the beginning of the trip) so I was happy.

The amazing thing about the California landscape is that just when you’re beginning to feel like you’ve seen it all, it changes into something completely different and equally stunning. As I moved further south, the redwoods dropped away into puckered hillsides, the most brilliant shades of golden white and yellow, cris-crossed with Morse code lines of dark green trees. This, my friends, was wine country.

(South of San Francisco, on the way to L.A., the landscape changed again, trees being replaced at first by windfarms, and then by, well, nothing. The wild grasses lining the hills grew even finer and more golden, transforming them into giant dunes flapping like towels across the view; then the hills settled and disappeared giving way to giant plains of flat emptiness. Locals had described the drive as boring and lifeless, but for me there was a beautiful thrill in seeing just how much sunny nothing could stretch out in every direction.)

Once in San Francisco I did a whirlwind driving tour of some of the major landmarks: the Golden Gate Bridge, Fisherman’s Wharf, Chinatown, etc. Then I ditched the car at my hotel and took off on a stroll around North Beach and the surrounding area, ending up back at Fisherman’s Wharf in the evening to catch my ferry to Alactraz.

Though the old prison was just as crammed with tourists and obnoxious money-spinning as I had expected (Have Your Picture Taken On the Dock! Last Chance For Food and Drink! Visit The Bookstore! Visit the Gift Shop! PAY MY RENT!), the audio tour that was included in the price of the ferry ticket was actually really excellent— well-produced, entertaining, and consistently interesting. And the island itself was an atmospheric delight, once you could break off from the sticky hordes of people. I was there for the hour and a half surrounding sunset, and the evening light made the place seem all the more desolate and creepy.

Unfortunately, by the time I got back to the city, I had missed the seatings for the comedy stylings of both Kevin Pollak and (even more disappointing) Dustin Diamond, so I contented myself with a slow stroll home along Columbus, some pizza, and immature giggling at this button in my hotel’s elevator:



For the love of God, don't press it!!