Friday, February 26, 2010

A Proud Canadian

In more Olympic hockey-related news, apparently the International Olympic Committee is upset with the behavior of the Canadian women's hockey team after they won the gold medal (mouse over the link for a chuckle: "hockey women drinking"--sounds like a Canadian version of Girls of Spring Break or something). According to the article,
Several Canadian players returned to the ice surface at Canada Hockey Place roughly 30 minutes after their 2-0 win over the U.S. on Thursday night. The players drank cans of beer and bottles of champagne, and smoked cigars with their gold medals draped around their necks.

Erotica Canadiana: until now, spoken of only in whispered tones.

This story made me break out into a grin so wide that the top of my fucking head nearly fell off. Check this out:
In a statement released late Thursday, Hockey Canada apologized for the on-ice party.

"The members of Team Canada apologize if their on-ice celebrations, after fans had left the building, have offended anyone," the statement read.
Canadian through and through.

Thank you Team Canada. Thank you Hockey Canada. Thank you CBC.

Random Foliage (3)



The Man Comes Around

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Winnipeg (1)

I used to live in an apartment on the top floor of the building pictured below.


I can scarcely believe it, but I lived there for three years beginning sometime in 1964, over 45 years ago. I remember the landlord and his wife were an elderly German couple. I think they hated kids. They didn't seem to like me and my sisters much, at any rate. They had a very large, very mean German shepherd. He didn't like kids much either. I remember my father having a harsh exchange of words one day with the landlord after the dog had bitten me quite hard, just missing my privates. The old woman was always yelling at us to keep quiet whenever we came into or went out of the building. We'd just moved back to Canada from Germany. I remember my kindergarten teacher there seemed to have a negative view of kids, too. Thinking about it now, it's possible that it was just me these Germans didn't like. My own parents used to get pretty mad at me sometimes. Or maybe they were tired of being German, who knows. From my bedroom I could climb out a small window onto the flat roof at the rear of the building. I'd sometimes sit out there at night when it was hot. There were a couple of easy-going, fun-loving bachelors living in one of the apartments below us. To this day I'm not certain, because it's the kind of thing you only piece together in your mind after many years have gone by--a muffled scream in the night, urgent conversations that you, a little kid, can't quite make out, the bachelors suddenly disappearing, that sort of thing--but I think the bachelors may have raped the Germans' daughter.

Here's a picture of the school I attended in those days:


It was just down the street from the above-pictured apartment building. I went there for three years, grades one though three. I have two very vivid memories of this place. The first is of Miss Zernickel, my third grade teacher. She wore her hair short. She wore skirts and turtlenecks and suede boots and looked like a movie star to me. I was the best speller in Miss Zernickel's class. My spelling is still pretty good today. Thank you, Miss Zernickel. The other thing I remember is the school's janitor. He was a friendly, somewhat overweight, middle-aged guy with gray hair and a mustache. As far as I can recall there was nothing wrong with this guy, but once a week, for about a year, I dreamed about him. I had nightmares about him. In my dreams he was The Devil. It's never made any sense to me. But what about your childhood does?

Garden

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Flower

I have no idea what kind...

Another Parked Bicycle

I guess someone told him breast implants wouldn't be covered...

From purveyor of crappy tunes and recent Fox News political strategist, Kid Rock, comes probably the stupidest thing ever uttered by a human being in the entire history of anything:
“I have nightmares sometimes you know. I’m gonna wake up and everyone’s gonna be driving Priuses…living in a condo…we’re all getting health insurance,” musician Kid Rock lamented during an interview with Fox News.
[Damn, just as I was about to vent some bile, I had to put my daughter to bed--she's up late tonight because Mommy is out and Dad's... well, Dad is just being Dad. There ain't no school tomorrow! Where was I?]

Right. So Kid Rock, who's probably a millionaire, has nightmares about people driving expensive Japanese cars, living in what are essentially expensive apartments, and not having to pay for health care. A regular American dystopia. I suppose there is a certain romanticism in those bygone days when people lived in plague-infested shit holes and had to walk 50 miles so the local witch doctor could look at their festering sores and cast spells to get rid of whatever demons might be causing today's shits and coughs...

Speaking of shits and coughs, I'm strangely reminded of an MTV tribute to Aerosmith I once saw on TV. Kid Rock was there, and he did a really shitty version of some Aerosmith tune the name of which I forget. It sucked so bad, in fact, that Pink's version of a different Aerosmith tune sounded positively metal by comparison. In the end, of course, Aerosmith (an actual rock band) came out and played The Yardbirds' "The train Kept-A-Rollin'" and I completely forgot about Kid Rock until tonight.

[Kid Rock, right]

Anyway, if I could afford a Prius, I'd probably get one. I live in a condo, and consider myself pretty lucky, especially when I think about some of the other places I've spent the night. I've had health insurance almost since the time I was born (and in two different countries). It was/is national health insurance. I work. I prefer this to making a shitload of money from crappy music and then trying to convince other people that there's something wrong with looking after their own interests (oh, wait...).

Kid Rock is an asshole.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Left/Right

From the New York Times:
According to sales figures from [hockey] stick manufacturers, a majority of Canadian hockey players shoot left-handed, and a majority of American players shoot right-handed. No reason is known for this disparity, which cuts across all age groups and has persisted for decades.

Most Canadians, like most Americans, are naturally right-handed, so the discrepancy has nothing to do with national brain-wiring. And how you hold a pencil, say, has little or no bearing on how you hold a stick. A left-handed shooter puts his right hand on top; a right-hander puts the left hand there.

This difference extends to golfers too, by the way, for reasons that might be obvious only to a Canadian: the swings are somewhat similar, and most of us have held a hockey stick long before we've ever heard about golf.

The article, thankfully, makes no attempt to politicize this fact. Neither will I. It's just a quirky thing that I, as a one-time hockey player, find somewhat interesting. I myself shoot right, so I guess that puts me in the minority among my countrymen.

The article puts forward some possible explanations for this phenomenon, but the best one is not really an "explanation" at all. From the staff at a hockey shop in Vancouver, on how to decide if a kid will be a left or right-handed shot: "We give the kid a stick and see what they do."

I envision a world in which this basic hockey principle is extended into all areas of pedagogy, ushering in an era of worldwide brotherhood and equality. Well, you'd still get 5 minutes for fighting.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Liars

I meant to comment on this last week, but I've been huddled in the cold the whole time, standing in a line of five thousand people in the middle of a forest on the side of a mountain, eating worms and whatever else I can find for sustenance as the crowd jostles and jockeys for position in line for the last three tablets of aspirin in Japan.

My headache is killing me, but in Japan this is the reality of the health care system. Every once in a while somebody in the line flips out because they can't take it any more. Like clockwork a soldier emerges from the trees and shoots the complainer on the spot. This is good news for the patient ones nearby. For a couple of days they stop grubbing for worms.

I don't complain, and not just because I don't want to be shot. I come from Canada. There's a hellhole if there ever was one. I fucking escaped Canada, dig? In Canada there is no aspirin. I'd never even heard of that shit until I came to Japan. A pill for a headache? Get the fuck outta here! Hell, Canada doesn't even have running water, never mind high-tech shit like toilets.

Shit, I've gotta go. The chubby American who said he'd loan me his iPhone for ten minutes if he could talk to my little girl is coming back. I don't see my daughter, though...

Rock and Reflection

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Under the Wires

Stupid Stats

Just after midnight last night I happened to be checking out my Sitemeter stats when I noticed the graphic below:


It appears that the crew over at Sitemeter are more on the ball than I've been giving them credit for. I mean, "visits" broken down into 1/10th units? Wow. Since I'm not even sure what 1/10th of a visit might actually be, I can only speculate about what this graph might possibly mean...

Maybe 1/10th of a visit is like, I don't know, somebody saw a link to this blog at another site.

2/10ths of a visit could be when somebody sees a link to this blog and briefly considers clicking it.

Maybe at 3/10ths somebody actually mouses over the link but then changes his/her mind.

Perhaps 4/10ths of a visit is when the person intends to click a link to this blog, but they miss and accidentally go to a third site (which turns out to be interesting, so the person forgets about coming here).

5/10ths, half a visit. Things are almost happening now! Possibly half a visit occurs when somebody incorrectly types the URL while attempting to come to this blog.

At 6/10ths of a visit a person is over half way here. He/she's clicked the link or correctly typed the URL, but Blogger is momentarily down! The person gets tired of waiting for the page to load and ends up visiting some other site. Damn!

Maybe 7/10ths of a visit happens when, just as a person has done everything necessary to visit this blog, just when the connection between his/her computer and this blog is taking place, a power failure strikes! What crappy luck!

Now I wonder what would constitute 8/10ths of a visit? Of course! As this blog is about to load on the viewer's computer, evil hackers hijack the computer and begin sending out billions of spam messages for Viagara and whatnot. Don't forget to update your firewall and anti-virus software! There are a lot of bad people out there who have made it their mission to prevent you from visiting this blog!

Now that we're at 9/10ths of a visit, perhaps we should pause and reflect for a moment. For this is surely the saddest category of partial visits to a website. You've probably already guessed that 9/10ths of a visit to a website can mean only one thing. Yes, that's right. At 9/10ths of a visit to a website there are no problems with missed clicks, mis-typed URLs, internet or power outages, or evil hackers. At 9/10ths of a visit everything that needs to happen has happened perfectly, but just as the page is loading the user dies. It could be from a sudden heart attack. It could be that criminals have entered the house and shot him/her just as he would have viewed my blog. Whatever the case, the person is dead, and he/she has died without viewing my blog.

10/10ths of a visit: Welcome!

Parking Spot

Thursday, February 04, 2010

We're (Not Really) an American Band...

Umm, right. OK, so it's The Dead Flowers minus a guitar player/vocalist. And viewers should be warned it should be said that there's some debate about who'd had more to drink at the time this was recorded, the band or the friend of the band who made the video. You'll see what I mean if you watch it.



There's a great scene in The Ninth Gate where Frank Langella pours gas over himself and then sets himself on fire. A few seconds before dying a horrible, agonizing death by fire he says something like, "Yes, I feel the power! The flames can't harm me at all! Hahahahaha!!!" I've had a lot of days like that...

Trees and Buildings

The Horror

For some strange reason I was just now idly recalling a couple of horror-inducing situations that I found myself in during the first couple of weeks after I arrived in Japan...

On the second day after moving into my first apartment here in Miyazaki, it was a Saturday morning, my doorbell rang. "Who the hell could that be?" I remember thinking to myself. I went to the door and opened it. There was a small middle-aged Japanese man standing there. He seemed at first a bit surprised to see a foreigner standing in the doorway. But then, with a big, toothy smile, he spoke to me. In perfect English he said, "Hello, I'm a Japanese Jehovah's Witness." My head started to spin, and I swear I heard the shower scene music from Psycho...

About a week later I was in a bar with a couple of other Canadians. One was a fellow Nova Scotian, and the other was a Francophone Quebecker. We were having a good time drinking and talking about living in Japan and other stuff when the other two guys started talking about the issue of Quebec separation. Soon they were arguing. I started hearing the Psycho music again...

I haven't heard that music in my head for a long time now. Have I escaped?

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Rooftop Reflection

Rink of Dreams

This is... beautiful...



The Winter Olympics are coming soon.  While I generally don't have much nice to say about the Olympics, I must say this: the level of hockey at the last few Winter Olympics has been the highest ever. Unlike other "world championship"-type events, we have the best players in the world actually playing their best. I like soccer/football, but the World Cup is nothing but dull games with predictable winners, made even worse by a level of officiating more appropriate to pro-wrestling. Football's league games are a lot more entertaining and competitive than anything I've ever seen during a World Cup tournament. When Canada, The U.S., Sweden, Russia, Finland, and the Czech Republic (along with several up and coming hockey powers) send out their best hockey players, it's neither dull nor predictable. Nor is it decided by the referee.

I'm psyched. Go Canada!

A Passing Boat

When Non-fiction Breaks Down

I read a rather odd article from The Telegraph the other day, When fiction breaks down. The author, John Lanchester, seems to argue that things like the recent financial meltdown or an explanation of the difference between driving on the left or right hand side of the road couldn't be written about in a work of fiction, at least not one that anyone would want to read. Fiction, he seems to argue, cannot contain such things because they are too "interesting" and too "unlikely."

But that's not all...
The novel is the worldliest of the great artistic forms: you can ignore the world in a painting, or a symphony, or a ballet, or a sculpture, but you can’t in a novel — not one that would be worth reading. But the worldliness of the novel is qualified, and there are things it doesn’t do, or doesn’t do well. Unlikeliness is one of them, and another, I’ve noticed, is work. The world of work, especially of modern work, is significantly under-represented in fiction.

[...]most of the great books that describe work were written in the 19th century: Zola’s novels, or Dickens’s, or Moby-Dick (which among other things is a great novel about the job of whaling).

[...]
The modern world of work, however, is much less well-represented in fiction; startlingly so, given how many people define themselves through work and how central work is to so many people’s self-description. In modern literary fiction, in particular, a job tends to be as much a marginal detail of a character’s life as her hair colour.
Ahh, now I see where he's going! "In modern literary fiction"...
[...]
Contemporary genre fiction does better with work, but only with more ostensibly glamorous jobs; the central appeal of the police procedural genre...
"Contemporary genre fiction"... Lanchester gives several examples to support his "argument."

But what is his argument? It seems he wants to maintain some sort of false distinction between "literary" fiction and "genre" fiction. I say it's false because it either is fiction or it ain't. (I'd be happy to concede that there is "good" and "bad" fiction.) Certainly it's useful put things into categories (or genres) in order to describe them to somebody. But in that case, what work of fiction doesn't fall into some genre or another?

To be fair, Lanchester doesn't come right out and say that he thinks literary fiction is superior to genre fiction. And I suppose it's just as well, because if genre fiction can do something that literary fiction can't (represent "work," explain stuff, etc.), then it must actually be superior. In fact, so-called "genre fiction" has no limits. None.

Excuse me, I've got this Neal Stephenson novel to finish...