Friday, January 28, 2005

Feenstra Funnies!

I've linked to this site intermittently, but as far as I can recall, never actually plugged it. But I just plugged it in the comments section of a recent post at Jay's blog -- or at least, I tried to. Jay's comments service finds the URL objectionable, for some reason. So I'm going to plug it over here too, because it deserves plugging.

I'm referring to our friend Scott Feenstra's comics, Corwyn and Funnyland. They defy description, really, but it's fair to say that those who get them really get them, while those who don't will find themselves scratching their heads at best, and flying into a blind rage at worst. (I've seen both happen.) Check them out here.

Mouse traps

Well, after Toula proved that she has no idea how to work a mousetrap, it shouldn't be surprising that we still have a problem. She set one little trap baited with stale peanut butter and expected it to solve the problem. It hasn't been touched, but when I got home tonight, I noticed several mousedropping around the microwave. I haven't seen her yet, but I'll be bringing this up to her when I do.

What I won't tell her is that I took advantage of her absence to pick up one dropping with a piece of toilet paper and put it in a box of her chocolate-chip cookies. If she somehow manages to miss eating it, she's sure to get a taste of the other one I put in her coffee the next time she brews up a pot.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Miss Tran disappoints again

I thought I was annoyed with Mississauga Transit on Tuesday, when my bus driver did that all-too-frequent and infuriating thing where he shows up so early that even if you get to the stop five minutes in advance of the scheduled stop, you've still missed it and therefore have to wait not only the five minutes until the scheduled stop, but also the twenty-five minutes until the next scheduled stop and however many minutes after that until it takes for that inevitably late bus to show up, all in ball-achingly cold weather. When I called to complain the last time this happened, I learned that although the driver had definitely screwed up and I was correct to be annoyed, company policy is that the bus is permitted to be as many as five minutes early or late. Five minutes late, I can understand. Traffic, accidents, poor weather, whatever -- shit happens. But five minutes early? Inexplicable and inexcusable. If you're a bus driver and find you're way ahead of schedule, you can just slow down or even pull over and stop for a minute or two. It's worse when the bus is early than when it's late, because you end up waiting far longer until the next one.

Anyway, I thought I was annoyed on Mississauga Transit on Tuesday. But today, they invented a whole new way to irritate me.

I got on the bus tonight and dozed off to the sound of my MP3 player for my usual 20-minute nap. After a while, I realized that the ride seemed longer than usual, and opened my eyes. My thoughts were as follows:

What? This isn't my usual route.

Maybe there was an accident on the 427 and we had to take a detour on the East Mall.

Hold on -- this isn't the East Mall. Where are we?

Are we at the airport? Am I on the wrong bus? I couldn't possibly be!

I had no idea where we were, and as it turned out, neither did the bus driver. A Mississauga Transit car eventually came from alongside to pull in front of the bus, and then both pulled over to the side of the road. The driver's supervisor came to the window and said a few terse words. Then he got back in his car, and the bus followed him back to the station. The driver had gotten lost.

How does a city bus driver just get lost? And why hadn't any of the passengers said anything as he took us on a 45-minute joyride? I'd been napping, but what about them?

By all rights, I should have murdered the driver and taken the wheel myself, regardless of the inevitable carnage that would ensue as the city's unlucky drivers learned the hard way that I have absolutely no idea how to drive a bus. I should have done this, but I didn't, because as outraged as I was, I had to admit the situation was kind of funny in a ridiculous way. Equal parts white-hot fury and cool amusement resulted in a lukewarm state of placid, Zen-like nonemotion. I didn't even end up smashing open the fare box and helping myself to a refund of my fare plus punitive damages, which would have been completely fair, considering the three-quarter hour detour.

But still, I was very dissatisfied with that bus ride.

Blood for the Sun

When a new guy starts at the office, it's a good idea to subtly hint that, contrary to what he might have been told, his predecessor didn't quit, but rather, was selected by lottery to be ceremonially sacrified to your company's god. Not only is it a fun way to screw with the new guy's head, but it could help keep him in line if he believes that if he doesn't fit in with the corporate culture, a coworker might carve out his heart with a flint knife.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Heap big liars

I could have sworn I'd posted about this one before, but apparently not. However, it's a long-standing pet peeve that flared up once again recently when I actually met an offender personally. So here it is:

Why is it that anytime a model or actress wants to claim American Indian* heritage, she always claims to be Cherokee?

I'm looking at you, Cher, Cameron Diaz, Carmen Electra, Demi Moore, Hunter Tylo, Kim Basinger, Ava Gardner, Traci Bingham, Tori Amos, Tina Turner, and even you, Della Reese. Are you part Indian? Maybe. But I'm willing to bet you're not all Cherokee. I'm willing to bet you're just a bunch of liars. (Well, maybe I'll let Ava Gardner off the hook. She's with the Great Spirit now, after all.)

Look at the Mainstream Celebrity page of (Note: You'll find tribal affiliation a little more spread out among the celebrities on the other pages, which is where the real Indians are. However, the Mainstream Celebrity page is home to the stars claiming Indian ancestry to seem more glamourous or interesting or to explain away their less-than-Aryan looks. Also note that men aren't immune to this temptation, although they succumb less often than women do.) Out of the 67 people listed, 38 claim Cherokee ancestry. Out of all the hundreds of tribes in the Americas, the Cherokee purportedly have produced more than half of these stars. Granted, it may be the largest of the tribes, but this still bends credibility. And these are just the mainstream celebrities. It's been a while since I picked up a copy of Maxim, but as I recall, anytime a model claims Indian heritage, it's Cherokee.

Why Cherokee? I'm guessing that it's simply because it sounds the most exotic and romantic. And it's euphonious. As my housemate Shanel says, nobody wants to say they're Squamish. It just doesn't sound nice. (Shanel is a member of the Blood tribe, by the way. That's a cool name if there ever was one.) On the other hand, this site has other theories, citing (among other things) the popularity of the Jeep Cherokee as a possible influence.

Were I Cherokee, all this co-opting of my heritage would get on my nerves. Look at the message it sends out: Yes, the fact that all these models and actresses claim descent does make it sound like the Cherokee tribe's gene pool is just swimming in sexiness. But on the other hand, it makes it sound like the Cherokee are a bunch of sluts -- that their genes have spread so far and wide because they'll sleep with just anyone.

*Yes, I said "Indian". That's what Shanel says, and if people from India have a problem with her and other American Indians co-opting their heritage, they are cordially invited to come try and make something of it. Seriously, if they wanted to, they could make us say "Native American" -- there's over a billion of them. So the fact that they haven't means that they just don't care. It's mostly white people on college campuses who care about that kind of thing. These people care about Dave Matthews too. So screw 'em.

So tired.

I'm exhausted. For some reason, a friend of mine decided it would be a good idea to phone for a chat at 6:30 a.m. She's just lucky I was still up.

Fun with willful ignorance

Shanel: "Have you seen Million Dollar Baby?"

Me: "No. I don't like movies with child actors."

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

More bathroom talk

Today's lesson, learned halfway through my commute home when I had to pee so bad I thought I'd burst, is on what to say to restaurateurs who get snippy when you enter their establishment, use the facilities, and then leave without ordering anything:

"I never eat at a restaurant without checking out the cleanliness of its washroom first. And judging by what I saw in there, you couldn't pay me to court death eating in this fetid hellhole."

Cue horrified looks from patrons. Exeunt.

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Batman Returns

Better late than never. Here's the second part of the Batman cartoon that Jay and I did. By which I mean that Jay did all the heavy lifting with the Photoshop and all that, and I sat back and tossed in a few lines here and there.

Click here for part one.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

An apology on behalf of Canada

Sorry, I left my oranges and chocolate in the forest.

"You'll fucking die!"

Picture this: I'm riding a darkened bus home tonight after work, slumped in a seat, half-asleep as usual. The MP3 player is on shuffle, and the Beach Boys' "I'm Waiting for the Day" is playing. The track comes softly to a close, and then I suddenly hear someone bellow, "You'll fucking die!"

Danger! Apparently a fight has broken out behind me, and someone's about to get a knife shoved into his guts in the latest of Toronto's sudden outbreak of stabbings. I have an instant, visceral fight-or-flight response: My eyes shoot wide open. Adrenaline floods my body. My testicles retract up into my belly.

Then I hear the would-be-murderer keep talking and realize he's coming through my headphones. It's Frank Black. The MP3 player has randomly called up that short track from the Pixies' Surfer Rosa where he shouts a violent threat and then has to spend about a minute convincing someone that he was only kidding around. False alarm.

I spend the next fifteen minutes feeling the epinephrine turn sour in my belly, feeling stupid, and thinking that if the unneeded adrenaline rush isn't the quintessential example of being all dressed up with nowhere to go, I don't know what is. Except for actually being all dressed up with nowhere to go, of course.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Why I should keep rat poison around the house

If you're an attentive reader or if you've subjected yourself to a visit to my house, you'll know that I have a brain-damaged housemate, Toula. She's in fine form this weekend.

First, I have a nice young lady over on Saturday, and she's brought a little alcoholic beverage for us to drink. We're sitting in the living room, and Toula shows up to hang around for some awkward conversation.

"Watching TV?" she asks, as we are obviously doing so.


"Have you seen this before?"

"No. She brought it over on tape to show me."

"Is it a good show?"

"Yes. That's why we're watching it."

"Just what Pete needs," Toula chortles. "More TV to watch!"

I stare balefully at her, attempting to murder her with a psychic attack of raw, naked hatred.

Then she blurts a demand: "Well, aren't you going to offer me a drink?!"

"Would you like a drink, Toula," I sigh, even though it's not really mine to offer.

"Well, I think I deserve one!" she exclaims. I'm not sure why she deserves one. Maybe as reward for showing my guest such a good time, or maybe because she's providing me a very good reason to move things away from her into the bedroom, or maybe because she just needs one to cope with being so pathologically dim. But I get her a drink, wishing that I had some rat poison to stir into it.

And as it happens, I have a real, justifiable need for rat poison later in the weekend. Today, she has her boyfriend over. (He also has something wrong with him. I'm not sure what it is. I think they met in some kind of group for people with brain problems, although I think he may just have mental problems rather than damage.) I make a point of not interrupting them, less because I don't want to spoil their good time by talking to them and more because I don't want to spoil my own good time.

However, I eventually hear him call me from the kitchen, "Pete? I think you have a mouse."

Why tell me and not Toula, who also lives in the house, and who as the landlord's daughter should be the one hearing about this? Because they want me to be the one to deal with it. I'm not biting.

"Oh yeah?" I answer, not taking my eyes off the TV.

"Yeah, I just saw it in the kitchen."

"Yeah, that's where mice like to be, all right."

"Do you have any traps?"

"You know, I think we probably do. I think Toula might know where they are."

Eventually, they decide to take things into their own hands. Snap! "Eek!" I hear from the kitchen. And again, Snap! "Ouch!" Once more, Snap! "Agh!" And finally: "Hey, Pete, where do you put the peanut butter on this? On or under this plastic thing?"

I walk out into the kitchen to see that they're setting the trap and then attempting to bait it by buttering some peanut butter onto the trigger with a knife, which of course sets off the trap each time and scares them witless. (Or more witless, I should say.) I resist the urge to suggest that they might have more luck if they used the light touch of their fingers to apply the peanut butter to the loaded trap, and instead point out that they might want to bait it then set it. "Oh!" Toula says, real wonder in her voice. "That's really smart!"

But it's not really smart. It's just not completely fucking idiotic.

Sun sticks it to Sticker Lady!

Chalk up another scoop for the Toronto Sun! Repeating their success in exposing the fraudulent panhandler known as the Shaky Lady three years ago, they've now busted the story of the Sticker Lady wide open. Whether or not you think this is investigative journalism worthy of the front page, you'll probably agree that this public outing has ruined one woman's racket. Like the Shaky Lady, who's taken her act on the road and was recently seen in Montréal, the Sticker Lady is probably done in this town.

(I feel dirty. Not only did I link to the Sun in that paragraph, but I also linked to the Free Republic.)

If you've ever walked on the streets near the Eaton Centre, chances are you've run into Catherine Hebert. She's very friendly and very sweet, and her modus operandi is to flatter your good looks as she gives you a tiny sticker and then hits you up for a charitable donation. Only according to the Sun, that money isn't going to charity at all, but into her own pockets and then back down the QEW to her $330,000 home in Hamilton. Why believe the Sun over the Sticker Lady? Well, for starters, she says in their exposé that she's never deceived anyone into believing that she represents a charity, but in my personal experience, she does just that. She hit me up for five bucks when I first moved to Toronto about five years ago, telling me it was for a children's charity. She likes to get you for at least a fiver "for the kids," and she seemed disappointed when I gave her only a buck last fall when I was on my way to Massey Hall to catch Brian Wilson. This is why I think the Sun is at least being a little less mean this time than they were with the Shaky Lady, who only pretended to be unwell whereas the Sticker Lady fraudulently claims to represent a charity.

Of course, I'm not surprised to learn that she's not on the level. It'd be naïve to expect that anyone asking you for money on the street was being completely on the level. (Or as Jay puts it, the Sun might as well run headlines saying, "EXTRA! EXTRA! NOT EVERYONE ON PLANET HONEST! MANY STRANGERS GIVE FRAUDULENT CLAIMS!" or even "EXCLUSIVE TORONTO SUN STORY! PEOPLE LIE! YOUR PET NEVER WENT TO LIVE ON FARM WHEN YOU WERE YOUNG!") What I do find surprising is that she's 51 years old. For someone who spends so much time on the street -- even if she does sleep in a nice home -- she looks pretty good for a woman in her fifties.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Dick Seed

From the Testy Copy Editors board:
In a NY Times story about attempts in Truro, Mass., to obtain genetic material from all the men in town in order to see if any of them are the man who left semen on a woman who was later found dead, we get this quote:

I think it's outrageous," said Dick Seed, 44, a Truro sign painter who called the American Civil Liberties Union to complain.
Such an obvious hoax, right? And yet, it turns out it's completely on the level. That's the guy's name -- Dick Seed. But with a handle like that, he really ought to steer clear of talking about semen. Unless he opens an artificial insemination clinic or something, I guess.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Catch a Wave

The tsunami tragedy just got slightly more personal to me: According to Brian Wilson's website, Markus Sandlund, one of the gaggle of adorable Swedish backup musicians whom I recently saw accompany him on his Smile tour, was swept away by the wave and is among the missing.

What's ironic is that before the tour finished and Sandlund went on holiday to Thailand, he'd spent night after night backing Brian up on the song "Surf's Up", which peaks dramatically with the lyric "Surf's up ... aboard a tidal wave". Considering that lyric was the work of Brian's collaborator Van Dyke Parks, who put some of his most notoriously inscrutable lyrics into that very song, things suddenly got very literal.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

It's time to banish the Banished Word List

In the past, I've been a fan of Lake Superior State University's Banished Word List, which singles out the most misused, overused, and generally useless words in the language. No one hates the overuse of the word "diva" or the very existence of the word "fashionista" as much as I do, for instance, and in fact, I successfully got "killer app" on the list in 2002 (with one of my more clunky, cringe-inducing sentences, I must confess).

But this year's list just strikes me as an exercise in captious bitching. Most of the complaints just don't seem valid, which makes the submitters look simply whiny. Some lowlights of this year's unwarranted caviling:
BLUE STATES/RED STATES – Who’s who, anyway? “I remember when I was a kid and Georgia was purple,” says Peter Pietrangelo, Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. “A good map has more than two colors.”
Colour me unimpressed with this submission. It's an oversimplification that doesn't take county-by-county breakdowns into consideration, but surely its been beaten into everyone by now that red states are Republican and blue states are Democratic. And yes, they still make maps in more than two colours, but that's a different kind of map. This particular map is meant to sort out how the country chose between the two major parties. If it had more than two colours, it would be confusing, and therefore a bad map. This guy is just being willfully ignorant.
BATTLEGROUND STATE – “During an election, every state is a battleground.” -- Austin White, West Hartford, Conn.
This is a common style of complaint in the Banished Word List: arguing that the term is somehow redundant. However, it's just not true in this case. During an election, every state is not a battleground. California, for instance, had absolutely no chance of going to the Republicans, and they pretty much conceded it without a fight. It wasn't a battleground. Ohio, on the other hand, could have gone either way, and the GOP and Dems battled until the bitter end. It was a battleground state.
CARBS – low carbs, high carbs, no carbs, carb-friendly… Meant ‘carburetor’ in a previous life. Needs to be purged from our system. “You’re not fat because you eat bread; you’re fat because you eat too much!” – Emily Price, Norfolk, Va.
Something tells me this lady isn't a dietician. It's just not true that overconsumption of carbs has no role in making you fat. And yeah, the Atkins fad got a little out of control, but there's nothing particularly wrong with the word "carb". It may have been tossed around a lot, but it's hardly annoying and it's a useful contraction for the much-longer "carbohydrate". And is it a crime to be a homograph? (Maybe in George W. Bush's America.) The apparent confusion caused by "carb" meaning both "carbohydrate" and "carburetor" isn't likely to cause anyone harm. If you're too stupid to tell the difference, why not cut auto parts right out of your diet too, just to be on the safe side?
ALL NEW – referring to television shows… “Of course it’s all new. Why can’t they just say ‘new’? There are no partially-new episodes, no repeat of last Tuesday’s episode with a slightly reworked Act 2.” – Greg Ellis, Bellevue, Wash.
Oh no? What about clip shows? They mostly consist of old material, certainly, but this is almost always linked together by some new material that establishes a theme and ties all the old clips together. Take, for example, the episode description for Simpsons episode 9F17, "So It's Come to This: A Simpsons Clip Show": "Bart's April Fool prank sends Homer to the hospital, where incidents from his past explain his present physical state, and prompt family reminiscences after he goes into a coma." Sure, there were a lot of old clips of Homer bumping his head, but the bit where Bart used a paint mixer to shake up a can of Duff so that it would explode catastrophically when Homer opened it was a new bit. This episode wasn't all-new when it first aired, but it wasn't all-old either.
BLOG – and its variations, including blogger, blogged, blogging, blogosphere. Many who nominated it were unsure of the meaning. Sounds like something your mother would slap you for saying.
“Sounds like a Viking’s drink that’s better than grog, or a technique to kill a frog.” Teri Vaughn, Anaheim, Calif.
“Maybe it’s something that would be stuck in my toilet.” – Adrian Whittaker, Dundalk, Ontario.
“I think the words ‘journal’ and ‘diary’ need to come back.” – T. J. Allen, Shreveport, La.

I can't believe this one. It may not be the prettiest word, but it draws a useful distinction between online diaries and the traditional kind. When was the last time you found someone's blog under their pillow? Moreover, not all blogs serve as personal journals. Some serve as news sites or even online communities. But what's appalling is that many of the submitters nominated the word on the basis of their own ignorance. Because you don't know what it means, it should be banished? That's just not a valid reason.

Have we really run out of annoying aspects of the English language to complain about? (I'm not counting ending sentences with prepositions. I know I just did that, and I'll defend my right to do so.) Of course not, and I could certainly live without ever hearing some of the words on the 2005 Banished Words List ever again -- "wardrobe malfunction", "flip-flop", and "-izzle" speak come to mind. But nothing really warrants the banishing of most of the rest of the words and terms on this year's list, and the people who nominated them just come off as a bunch of petulant, oft-ignorant fussbudgets.

Johnny K-9 wins handicap match!

Police in Hamilton, Ontario arrested former Smoky Mountain Wrestling regular and WWF enhancement talent Johnny Croitoru today on a charge of double murder. Known in recent years as Bruiser Bedlam, Croitoru is best remembered by longtime WWF fans as perennial curtain-jerker Johnny K-9.

According to his entry in the SLAM! Wrestling Canadian Hall of Fame, Croitoru was known to police as an associate of the Satan's Choice motorcycle gang and was often mentioned in connection with them:
"I know a few guys, that's why [his name is often mentioned]," said Croituro. "I never was a biker. That's alleged bulls---."
"Alleged bullshit". Is he saying that it's unconfirmed that it's bullshit and it's indeed probably not bullshit? That's close enough to a confession for me. Take him away, boys!

Finest Worksong

Too many people (×3)
Too many people are trying to change me
Too many people are looking to rearrange me

But the last thing that I’ll ever do
To prove that I’m a man like you
Is work from nine to five so I can keep myself alive
And have to listen every day to everybody’s jive
And concentrate my time on simply trying to make a dime
And agitate my mind or try to make my values right

Too many things (×3)
Too many things that I’ve got to do
Too many bags that I’ve gotta run through

And the last thing that I’ll ever do
To prove that I’m a man like you
Is turn away the girls even though I wanna whirl
And worry just because that’s what everybody else does
And change myself around so that I’m a phony clown
And wear a suit and tie when I’d rather sit and die

Too many people (×6)

The Leaves – “Too Many People”

This song rules.

"I must be a creature of the night ..."

Holy ripoff! Jay Pinkerton and I did a Batman comic! Well, Bob Kane did the comic. Jay and I just stole it and mostly put in new dialogue. But you can check out our version of the Batman origin story over at Jay's blog.

Or you could, you know, read it right here!

Tune in next week for Part 2! Same bat time, same bat channel! Except that this is on the internet, not TV. And who knows? We might put it up earlier than this time next week. Or later. Probably later.

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Creator of The Spirit now becomes one

Comic book giant* Will Eisner, creator of The Spirit, died yesterday of complications from heart surgery.

Eisner's influence on the medium of comics is incalculable. It is as a tribute to his innovations in the form and content of comics that the comic book industry's equivalent of the Oscar is called the Eisner.

Among his innovations are the splash page, silent panels, and educational comics. He helped launch the careers of Bob Kane, Jules Feiffer, Wally Wood, and Jack Kirby (no slouches themselves). Until the release of Scott McCloud's book Understanding Comics, Eisner's own Comics and Sequential Art stood as the definitive work on, well, understanding comics. Eisner also helped pioneer comics as literature, introducing the graphic novel to American audiences with his A Contract With God. Now, after 87 years, Eisner's own contract with God has reached the end of its term.

* Not to be confused with Henry Pym, aka Giantman.

Sunday, January 02, 2005


So I'm walking to work just a few days ago and as usual I glance over at a row of newspaper boxes to see what today's headlines are. One of the papers I see, The Province, has the front page that I've helpfully provided a photo of right within this very post. It features a very anguished looking woman and the headline 100,000 obviously referring to the increasing death toll of the tsunami that we've all been hearing about lately. Well not obviously enough for me. My first thought at viewing the page was "Good Lord! That woman has jabbed herself in the eye 100,000 times!"

Saturday, January 01, 2005

"We have a code brown."

Speaking of the severely retarded, I'm currently enjoying, a blog written by a special-education teacher. You'll never guess what a "code brown" is.

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