Sunday, November 23, 2003

The pride of Shermer, Illinois

My friend Neil recently invited me to be part of a holiday mixed CD/tape swap, the idea being that everyone makes up a themed mix and then gives a copy to everyone else. I arrived on my theme quickly, mainly since it's a CD I was planning on making up anyway. (The theme is supposed to be a secret, so if you're Neil, don't read any further. Just hit the "back" button on your browser. Or go here. It's a good read.)

Okay, the theme is "The Best of John Hughes", and it'll use the best songs from the soundtracks of the movies from his classic teen-movie period (1984-1987): Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Some Kind of Wonderful. The soundtracks to these films contained quite a bit of good new-wave music, much of which was "alternative" before there was such a thing as "alternative music" and much of which hasn't been beaten to death on '80s retro night playlists. Some of it's well-known, but that's just because it's good and I'm certainly not going to leave it off just because it's well-known.

I'm trying to include at least two songs per movie, which is tough with a couple of them. Ferris Bueller, for example, doesn't have as much much music as, say, Pretty in Pink, and what it does have doesn't always fit the mood (e.g., "Twist and Shout" or the Star Wars main title theme). I'm also limiting it to one song per artist, although I'm including two versions of one song, just because it's a really good one and I can't imagine leaving either version off. Here's the tentative playlist. I may juggle some of this around a bit, but this is probably what I'm going to go with:

1. Simple Minds - "Don't You (Forget About Me)" (The Breakfast Club soundtrack)
2. Psychedelic Furs - "Pretty in Pink" (Pretty in Pink soundtrack)
3. Billy Idol - "Rebel Yell" (from Sixteen Candles)
4. Echo and the Bunnymen - "Bring on the Dancing Horses" (Pretty in Pink soundtrack)
5. The Dream Academy - "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" (from Ferris Bueller's Day Off)
6. Spandau Ballet - "True" (from Sixteen Candles)
7. Thompson Twins - "If You Were Here" (Sixteen Candles soundtrack)
8. New Order - "Shellshock" (Pretty in Pink soundtrack)
9. Killing Joke - "Eighties" (Weird Science soundtrack)
10. Wang Chung - "Fire in the Twilight" (The Breakfast Club soundtrack)
11. The Vapors - "Turning Japanese" (from Sixteen Candles)
12. The Specials - "Little Bitch" (from Sixteen Candles)
13. The March Violets - "Miss Amanda Jones" (Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack)
14. The Jesus and Mary Chain - "The Hardest Walk" (Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack)
15. Altered Images - "Happy Birthday" (from Sixteen Candles)
16. General Public - "Tenderness" (from Weird Science)
17. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark - "If You Leave" (Pretty in Pink soundtrack)
18. Lick The Tins - "Can't Help Falling in Love" (Some Kind of Wonderful soundtrack)
19. The Smiths - "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" (Pretty in Pink soundtrack)
(ten seconds of silence)
20. Yello - "Oh Yeah" (from Ferris Bueller's Day Off)

Thursday, November 20, 2003

The Ultimate Blog Post

I have long been a fan of the Ultimate Warrior, first for his skill at utterly destroying his opponents in the squared circle, later for his skill at utterly destroying the English language on his website. Whether he's expounding his vaguely Nietzsche-like philosophy of "destrucity" or explaining why he, like all true warriors, uses the made-up word "foke" instead of "focus," one thing is clear: This man has crossed over into uncharted but exciting territories of utter lunacy.

The point where he crossed the line was probably when he, the former Jim Hellwig, actually legally changed his name to "Warrior", a decision that makes rational sense because it meant he'd always be able to use that moniker professionally without getting sued over trademark infringement from his former employers in the WWE, but also a decision that is completely insane because he legally changed his name to "Warrior." By the time he was running Warrior University out of a cave in the Arizona desert, he'd surely descended into Colonel Kurtz-like realms of madness. Nowadays, he's given up wrestling, and spends most of his time misusing words, working as a politically conservative guest speaker, and explaining why he's the messiah of Generation Warrior.

As endlessly entertaining as his personal website is, I'm happy to say I've found another one online that provides transcripts of some of the Warrior's classic wrestling promos. Even then, he made no sense at all, but he made up for it with utter conviction in whatever gibberish he was spouting. But oddly enough, he often seemed to be quite complimentary to his opponent, addressing him as a fellow superhuman rather than a worthless, hapless victim (or, worse yet, a "normal"). To make the experience more complete, I recommend that you read the promos aloud, first quietly but intensely muttering while staring down at your hands, then suddenly shouting a random burst of words at the top of your lungs, before going back to muttering at your hands again.

Always Believe,

Monday, November 17, 2003

Passing jests passing into meaninglessness

This was in the Globe and Mail's Social Studies section today. I know it's an 80-year-old gag, but I don't understand it at all, and doubt I would even if I had another eight decades to think about it:

From The Globe's Passing Jest of Nov. 17, 1923: "He -- 'This cold weather chills me to the bone.' She -- 'You should get a heavier hat.' "

Has humor changed so substantially over the last eighty years as to render this meaningless to modern ears? Or was this a really lame gag to begin with? Or have I completely missed the joke? If someone can explain this jest to me, I'm all ears.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

As a public service to cartoonists

The artist behind Bob the Angry Flower, Stephen Notley, is undergoing a lot of (shall we say) scrutiny for his decision to go to a vertical orientation for his strips. His reasoning is partly that bookstores are friendlier to normal-sized books than wide ones, which will allow him to get his comic compilations into more stores and thus sell more copies. Yet, a horizontal orientation, like the one he had, is perfect for viewing on the web as it doesn't require any scrolling.

I have a solution to his problem that will allow him to continue to draw his strips and publish them on the web in a horizontal format, but publish them in book form in a vertical format. It's something I figured out through careful examination of Bill Watterson's "Calvin and Hobbes" Sunday strips.

It has to do with the way you divide the panels. Let's say we're talking about a horizontally oriented strip, drawn 10 inches wide. The height doesn't really matter, but you have to have three rows of panels with equal height. Let's say they're 2.5" high.

The top row must consist of two panels (though these can be subdivided any way you want), the first one taking up 3/4 of the width, or 7.5", and the second taking up 1/4 of the width, or 2.5". The middle row must also consist of two panels, each taking up half the width, or 5".The bottom row must look like the opposite of the top one: two panels, the first taking up 1/4 of the width, or 2.5", and the second taking up 3/4 of the width, or 7.5". What you should now have is a horizontally oriented comic that's 10" wide and 7.5", with three rows.

When it comes time to collect your strips in a book, rearrange the panels (I suggest working on a copy with an X-acto knife or doing it digitally), following this process: Leave panel #1 (the 7.5" one) on the first row. Move panel #2 (the 2.5" one) to be on the second row with panel #3 (the first 5" one). The third row will consist of panel #4 (the second 5" one) followed by panel #5 (the other 2.5" one). The fourth row consists of panel #6 (the other 7.5" one) on its own. What you now have is a vertically oriented comic that's 7.5" wide and 10" high, with four rows.

Again, these six basic panels can be subdivided any number of ways you want, so this format can give you a lot of flexibility. I notice that Watterson tended to use the top row of his three-row Sunday strips for a throwaway gag and a fancy display of the title, thus allowing himself to get his comic into more newspapers by allowing editors to discard this row and publish only the two essential rows of the comic.

Here's a link to one of my old comics for my university paper where I've applied this format.

Hope this comes in handy.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Organ donors wanted

Circus clowns, motorcyclists, and science fiction enthusiasts alike rejoice: Bombardier has just unveiled the unicycle of the future! It looks fun and dangerous as all hell.

It's always weird, however, when these futuristic technological advances come out of Quebec, of all places. You wouldn't normally think of la belle province as being a hotbed of weird science, but more of a quaint exporter of maple syrup, strippers, and wild-eyed nationalist rhetoric. And yet, they've inexplicably been at the forefront of advances in bionics and cloning as of late. It's almost as though they've changed their patron saint from St. Jean Baptiste to Jean-Luc Picard.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The Toula quote of the night

"Do you have a printer? Mine doesn't have any cartilage."

Sunday, November 09, 2003

More questionable marketing taglines than either of the first two Scary Movies combined

Here's the advertising tagline I keep hearing in commercials for Scary Movie 3: "More laughs per minute than the first two Scary Movies combined!"

However, this isn't really as impressive as they want you to think. Remember, you've got to account for the fact that, as many laughs as the first two movies provided, they're stretched out over a much longer time when you consider them together. Let's suppose that Scary Movie and Scary Movie 2 provided a hundred laughs each. That's 200 laughs. Divide that by the total running time of both movies combined -- 171 minutes (88 min. and 83 min. respectively) -- for the laughs-per-minute ratio: 1.17 laughs per minute. At 84 minutes, Scary Movie 3 needs only 99 laughs to exceed the laughs-per-minute ratio of the first two movies considered as one unit.

So it's possible that Scary Movie 3 actually delivers one fewer laugh than each of the previous two movies, and unless it's delivering at least 2.34 laughs per minute, it's certainly not giving you more total laughs than the first two movies did in total, which is what the slogan seems to imply. Indeed, this probably isn't the case, as evidenced by the failure of Miramax's advertising compliance department to give the go-ahead to go with the stronger and more explicit "more laughs per minute than the first two Scary Movies."

While Scary Movie 3 might not be twice as funny as either of the first two films in the series, it is, however, a good bet that it's significantly funnier than both, because none of the Wayans brothers are involved in this one. That's the angle I would have taken on the slogan: "Now 100% Wayans-free!"

Addendum: I've thought about this some more, and this slogan may be the filmmakers' way of saying that while this movie isn't as funny as the first Scary Movie, it is, at least, much funnier than Scary Movie 2. (Or vice versa.) Perhaps when you add the two previous movies together, one of them drags down the laughs-per-minute ratio of the combined films so far that Scary Movie 3, while not particularly funny, still exceeds it.

Roster update

Finally, EA has gotten around to releasing the NHL 2004 roster update, about a month after the season actually started. It's too bad it isn't as accurate as it could be. Some of the rookies are left out entirely, and Daniel Snyder is still on the roster for the Atlanta Thrashers, despite his horrific car accident with Dany Heatley. I understand leaving Heatley on the roster; he'll be back once he's healed up and his legal troubles are behind him. But did EA think there was a chance Snyder might actually come back to life?

They died to protect your freedom to completely miss the point

The Friday issue of Metro contained the following letter:

Wear poppies as a tribute to war veterans

Remembrance Day is quickly approaching and I am shocked at the number of people who still aren't wearing poppies. Going poppyless should be declared illegal.

I commute to downtown Toronto each morning and each trip frustrates me even more. I see men and women, young and old, pass by war veterans who are selling poppies in subway stations. People brisk by without even the slightest acknowledgement of what these veterans did for our country.

It's a daunting and upsetting thought.

These soldiers put their lives on hold to protect our way of life. Wearing a poppy is the least we can do to remember this fact.

Is it really too much to ask to spend a couple of bucks to buy a poppy?

These soldiers are the reason we live freely in this wonderful country today.

Lest we forget.

Chris Hogg, Scarborough

Aside from the fact that some of those people probably have bought poppies that promptly slipped out of their lapels and got lost (why can't these things be made with safety pins?), I can't disagree with this letter too much. Well, there's the sentence where he cites the soldiers as having "put their lives on hold" to fight the bloody, horrible, exceedingly inconvenient wars of the 20th century, but neglects to mention how some of them died too, which is the part I'd have tried to play up if I'd been writing the letter. But I'm more concerned about the one sentence that completely undermines the writer's entire point: "Going poppyless should be declared illegal."

I shouldn't have to point out the irony in making such a statement, considering how many of these brave soldiers fought and died during the Second World War to bring down a repressive regime that, among many other terrible abuses, made it a crime for some people to go about without certain little insignia on their lapels. You know, like yellow stars and pink triangles. So, enacting similar laws would hardly be an appropriate way to celebrate the freedom their sacrifice brought us.

Lest we forget.

I didn't mean you had to get a pine tree air conditioner. Fuzzy dice would have done.

One of the most distressing trends in the last year or two is people committing vehicular manslaughter and just driving away with the victim lodged in the windshield. It's happened in Texas, it's happened in Quebec (I was just complaining about this in August), and now it's happened again, this time in Washington state. I'm not sure what's the more discomfiting thing about this trend -- the apparent rise in the number of drunk drivers with a callous disregard for human life or the obvious decline in quality of auto glass.

I remember how the most unintentionally hilarious part of the movie No Holds Barred was when Hulk Hogan bodyslammed a guy right through a windshield, smashing it easily as though it were window glass, when in real life, the guy would have simply bounced off it, leaving behind a nasty star-shaped crunch pattern. That, the moment where I truly stopped believing in the Hulkster, was in 1989. Barely a decade later, it's apparently so easy for people to smash right through a windshield that we're reading about it in the paper all the time (and keep in mind we're only reading about a subset of such incidents in which the drivers cold-bloodedly drive away with the victims embedded in their windshields and leave them to die. We don't hear about the ones where they take them out on the spot or the ones where nobody dies and apologies and handshakes are exchanged all around).

I blame Speedy Auto Glass and other such companies for being so profit-driven that they''ve evidently started making windshields out of breakaway sugar glass like the stuff used in the movies. It makes me mad enough to break chairs over their backs.

Friday, November 07, 2003

For once, good mail gets sent to me

No Ruddy Ruddy content here. Sorry.

Finally, at long last, my "Bob's Quick Guide to the Apostrophe, You Idiots" poster has arrived. I've been meaning to pick one of these things up for a long while now, not only because I'm a Bob the Angry Flower fan from way back, but particularly because I work as an editor and confront apostrophe-related problems every day. In fact, I can probably write this off.

I actually ordered this weeks and weeks and weeks ago, and it's taken so long to arrive that I thought that the cartoonist, Steven Notley had forgotten about it completely. Fortunately, Canada Post has finally seen fit to deliver it. But ironically, according to Notley's site, he's on his way east from Edmonton to Toronto this very weekend to attend the Toronto Comicon so he might as well saved himself the postage and hand-delivered it to my house.

Actually, I have no real proof that he didn't do this. He might have just forged the postage to make it look like Canada Post took their sweet time; he's an artist and all, so he might be able to pull off a convincing facsimile at a fraction of the price it costs to send a mailing tube across the country. Who can blame him? Cartoonists, as a group, aren't rich.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Overheard at the bus stop

Overheard at the bus stop this morning: "How many apartments does your building have -- on average?"

The appropriate response I was waiting for, but didn't hear: "I don't know -- usually about fifty? Sometimes more, sometimes less."

Monday, November 03, 2003

Giving your gaydar a tuneup

Wikipedia is one of those incredibly useful sites that has a real shot at becoming something like a real-life version of the book-within-a-book Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. (Of course there already is one of those.) That is, an instantly assessable encyclopedia covering virtually everything, written and maintained by a small nucleus of organizers and a vast corps of volunteers.

One section that I stumbled across -- and try finding this in the Encyclopedia Britannica -- is a great dirt-dishing list of famous gay and lesbian people.

All the usual personages are there, along with a few I'd long suspected (Nathan Lane, Lily Tomlin) and a few outright revelations (Samantha Fox, Danny Pintauro.)

Here's the interesting one: It turns out Sir Alec Guinness was arrested in 1948 for the very same thing George Michael was later nabbed for, which is something the British refer to, quaintly, as cottaging, but which we Canadians refer to as "having anonymous sexual relations in a public washroom with a member of the same gender." (To my ears, the British term is easier to say, but far more likely to lead to confusion when vacationing in the Muskokas.) The reason you never heard about Sir Alec's bust was that he cunningly gave his name as "Herbert Pocket", the character he had recently played in the film version of Great Expectations. He was prosecuted and fined under that name, but avoided scandal because the police didn't figure it out until years later.

Now imagine if how it would have worked out if he'd been busted for cottaging 30 years later and given his name as Obi-Wan Kenobi.

Go west, young Ruddy Ruddy

The newest arrival to the Ruddy Ruddy mail depository is the most far-reaching piece of junk mail yet, and a contender or the biggest. Coming all the way from Phoenix, Arizona is a giant envelope stuffed full of brochures, pamphlets and road maps trying to get Ruddy Ruddy to vacation at Best Western. It's nice to know that once I'm inevitably forced to flee criminal charges of mail fraud, the good folks at Best Western have my route all planned out, and in style at that.

The package itself presents a storage problem: Normally, I've been taping stuff up on the wall, but this envelope is just too heavy. Moreover, it's badly ripped, and is held together mostly by an elastic band. Since there's no grovelling apology from the US Postal Service, I'm led to either of two conclusions:

1. The US Postal Service only apologizes when they damage your mail itself. They don't care about the envelope.

2. Canada Post did it.

I'm leaning toward the second. I like what I've seen out of the US Postal Service so far: a major government service that grovels for my approval. So, I'll leave it for Scott, a sometime Canada Post employee, to defend his home and native mailmen.

Another new development comes not by snail mail, but by e-mail. I mailed RealSimple to tell them to stop sending stuff to my house since we'd never heard of this "Ruddy Ruddy" character. I got this back:

From: | Add to Address Book,
Subject: RE: Other,Do not provide my e-mail address to third parties,Do not contact me with e-mail offers for Time Inc,
Date: Tue, 28 Oct 2003 17:17:30 GMT

Dear REAL SIMPLE Customer:

Thank you for contacting Real Simple Customer Service.

Your message was received at 12:17pm Eastern Standard Time on Tuesday,
Oct 28 2003 and was assigned
the incident number 2088200.

Your message will be forwarded to a representative as soon as possible
for review.

You may not be aware that we can accommodate many of your customer
service requests online-- instantly! Just go to:

Change your address, check your payment status, renew your
subscription, report missing issues, cancel your subscription, find the answers to
frequently asked questions-- and more!

We appreciate your interest in Real Simple and look forward to serving
you soon.

Real Simple Customer Service

If you do not wish to be contacted in the future with offers for Time
Inc. products and services, please visit our Customer Service site at, and send us an email. Please be sure
to include your name and mailing address as it appears on your magazine

And then I got this:

From: "Realsimple Subscriber Services"
Subject: Re: Other,Do not provide my e-mail address to third parties,Do not contact me with e-mail offers for Time Inc, <<#1128371-2088200#>>
Date: Wed, 29 Oct 2003 15:15:17 GMT


Thank you for contacting REAL SIMPLE Customer Service.

We canceled your subscription as requested. If you recently received a
billing notice, please disregard it.

Because our mailing labels are preprinted, you may receive one or two
more issues. Please discard them or share them with a friend. We are
sorry that you are canceling and hope that you will consider ordering
with us in the future.

Please be assured that we removed your personal information from our
promotional listings effective immediately. If your information was
already on our files, you may have been selected for a recent promotion. If
so, you will receive one more mailing. After that, you will not
receive future promotions. If you are just providing us with your contact
information, you will not be added to the promotional listings.


Real Simple Customer Service

I have a few observations:

1. Time Inc. is mixed up in this? I didn't realize they were the parent company of RealSimple. And now that I look at it, RealSimple was named Magazine of the Year in 2002 by Ad Age. Maybe I should just keep getting it.

2. I can't figure out whether to spell it RealSimple or Real Simple, and neither can they, it seems. It seems to be two words except when referring to their website or on the front of the magazine itself. If they're so confused about their branding, I can't see how they won any awards from Ad Age. Maybe I shouldn't get RealSimple -- or Ad Age, for that matter.

3. Why are they saying they took my personal information out of their promotional listings? They didn't have my personal information -- only Ruddy Ruddy's. Of course, now that I've e-mailed them, they have my personal information now. It looks like I'll probably be getting RealSimple and the rest of the Time Warner family from now on, whether I like it or not.

Atkins is everywhere

What do Jesus and Dr. Robert Atkins have in common? Well, aside from the fact that I've celebrated the demise of each on my birthday, each also burst onto the scene with a whole lot of rules that ran contrary to wisdom, condoning eating as much pork as you want. And after each died, his belief system has spread like wildfire, particularly among Americans.

Atkins, like God himself, is now everywhere, and everyone wants on the bandwagon. Take KFC, for instance, which is now -- incredibly -- portraying itself as a high-protein/low-carb alternative. But before you pull a Jared and start eating one particular kind of fast food every day, at every meal, remember this: Kentucky Fried Chicken is still dripping with saturated fat, and if you eat it at every meal, you're still going to be one greasy bastard. Until you have a heart attack and die, anyway.

Nerds, too, have jumped aboard the good ship Atkins. A recent article describing the phenomenon explains it as nerds seeing the Atkins diet as more than a mere diet, but as a "body reengineering hack."

It seems to me that this might just be the way to market to nerds. If going low-carb can be seen as hacking your body to lose fat, somebody like The Gap might profit by convincing nerds that buying stylish new clothes is like hacking your wardrobe to upgrade your date potential. Or Proctor & Gamble could say that using a Swiffer is like hacking your floor to be less dirty.

I suggest that advertisers everywhere hack their marketing campaigns to overclock their nerd-selling coefficent.

Argument resolved

I was just watching an episode of The Larry Sanders Show, and there was a scene where John Ritter was having an argument with Gene Siskel. I guess that one pretty much ended in a tie. (Also guest starring is Warren Zevon. The mortality rate for this episode is so high that I'm genuinely concerned for Garry Shandling.)

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