September 29, 2006

Conversations With Greatness XCVIII



Ah, AYB references. My web comic is truly complete.

September 25, 2006

Yay, Hi

I have successfully moved to London. Yay!

My apartment is a kick-ass awesome Ikea Palace the Second of a converted church. Yay!

My broadband doesn't get hooked up until October 31st. Boooooooo!

So, if I'm quiet for the next little while, you know why. If you've emailed me and are waiting anxiously (or not) for a reply, bear with me: I am slowly getting through them all in stolen lunch-break minutes at work, and once they issue me with a proper building pass, I will also be able to use the internet there more extensively. (Incidentally, do you know how I log on to my computer at work? I press my finger to a fingerprint scanner! How freakin' cool is that?)

Also, the phones at work have the same ring as the phones at CTU in 24, so as you can imagine I'm pretty thrilled. Yay!

September 22, 2006

Conversations With Greatness XCVII



Tomorrow I move to London, which means posting will likely be a little spotty for a few weeks, as:

1. I'll be on dial-up for a while until my broadband gets connected.

2. I start an office job on Monday so will have a lot less spare time.

3. Come on, people! I'll be living in London! Do you really expect me to spend all my time blogging?

4. Don't answer that.

September 21, 2006

Department of Keeping Things In Perspective

From Newsvine: Coup Interrupts Filming of Cage Movie
HONG KONG — Thailand's military coup this week interrupted filming of Nicolas Cage's new movie, a gangster thriller being shot in Bangkok, a news report said Thursday.
I believe it also had some implications for Thailand.

Syntax Be Damned!

From Newsvine: Panda Bites Man, Man Bites Panda at Beijing Zoo
Zhang Xinyan, from the central province of Henan, drank four jugs of beer at a restaurant near the zoo before visiting Gu Gu the panda on Tuesday, the Beijing Morning Post said.
Four jugs of beer?! Why stop there? Why not four amphorae? Four barrels?
"He felt a sudden urge to touch the panda with his hand," and jumped into the enclosure, the newspaper said.

The panda, who was asleep, was startled and bit Zhang, 35, on the right leg, it said. Zhang got angry and kicked the panda, who then bit his other leg. A tussle ensued . . .

"No one ever said they would bite people," Zhang said. "I just wanted to touch it. I was so dizzy from the beer. I don't remember much."
Talk about a hangover from hell.

Zhang's Roommate: [Whistles] Hoooo-boy, you look like you had a good night last night!
Zhang: [Groans]
Roommate: Man, what did you do, anyway?
Zhang: I... I'm not sure.
Roommate: You might say you're feeling a bit... bamboo-zled!
Zhang: I think I'm going to be sick.
Roommate: Hey, wait a minute... are those bite marks on your leg? Whooo-eeeee! [Does the Ali G finger flicking move]
Zhang: Oh God.
Roommate: And is that... Do you have short black hairs stuck between your teeth? You Casanova!
Zhang: I do have a funny taste in my mouth. It tastes like... It tastes like something endangered.
Roommate: Well, it was a girl, and we are in China.
Zhang: I think I'm going to go Google something.

Seriously, go read the entire news article. Pretty much every paragraph made me laugh out loud.

September 19, 2006

Well Red

I had a mildly unsettling experience yesterday.

I'm anticipating a slight cashflow squeeze when I first get to London, so I went to the bank to see about increasing my overdraft.

"Of course, what sort of amount were you thinking?" asked the woman, swiping my card.

"Erm, I don't know... Maybe an extra £500?" I said.

She then tapped a few keys on her keyboard, handed my card back, and said, "Okay, there you go."

That was it. No, 'Are you employed?", no 'Is there a particular reason you need the extra money?', no 'When do you think you might pay it back?'. I didn't even have to sign anything, or show any ID, or enter a PIN code. Nothing. Just, tap-tap, ta-da!, have half a grand. I should have asked for more!

Tomorrow I'm going to try the same thing at the record store.

September 18, 2006

I'm Having Nun Of It

Yahoo! News reports on an Italian nun killed in Somalia:
Sister Leonella, 65, was shot in the back four times by pistol-wielding attackers as she left the Austrian-run S.O.S. hospital at lunch time after finishing nursing school for trainee medics. Her bodyguard was also slain.
The article notes that
Several witnesses to Sunday's shooting speculated it was tied to the furor over Benedict's discussion last week, which included quoting a 14th century text that called some of Prophet Muhammad's teachings as "evil and inhuman."
Now, the timing of the attack is certainly suggestive, but we are also told that,
Like many foreigners, Sister Leonella traveled with a bodyguard in this Horn of Africa nation, which slid into chaos after warlords overthrew Somalia's longtime dictator in 1991. A Swedish journalist, Martin Adler, was shot dead in June during a demonstration in Mogadishu.
So, I mean, Somalia: clearly not the safest place to spend one's vacation (who knew?!). Foreigners get shot there all the time — there's really no evidence at this point to show that the nun was shot specifically in response to the Pope's remarks, other than some coincidental timing (and as we all know, correlation doesn't prove causation, yada yada yada).

Still, let's see how this gets picked up by the right wing bloggers:
A nun who had spent most of her life helping sick people was murdered today by Muslims retalliating for Pope Benedict’s remarks about the violent nature of Islam.
D'oh!

But, come on, let's be fair here, the author is an open-minded guy, certainly not the type who would misuse suggestive language to make racist and inflammatory blanket statements:
I’m sure there are plenty of Muslims around the world who welcome [a Socratic] dialogue [on Islamic doctrine]. Indeed, they probably constitute a majority of educated Muslims. The problem, though, is that most Muslims are kept ignorant by their societies.
So what you're saying is: most Muslims are violent because they're stupid, but even among the not stupid ones, some are still violent anyway. Tell me, are you one of the educated Christians or one of the Christians kept ignorant by his society?

Okay, now finish us off with a real zinger:
Patrick Frey joins me in noting the irony of protesting the suggestion that Islam is violent by rioting and murdering.
Hey-oh! Supah snap on Islam! Man, I bet they don't even know what irony means!

So, in summary: assuming motive due to coincidental timing = bad; ignoramuses making sweeping generalisations about heterogeneous cultural groups = worse; health workers (nuns or otherwise) getting shot = worst.

September 17, 2006

Keep Your Wits About You

I think everyone is pretty shaken up about the Dawson shootings, which is precisely why I've avoided mentioning it— I seem to have a knack for being insensitive when I talk about things in my blog (viz. Patrick Deuel; viz. William Shady Elhami). Obviously I think the whole thing is/was a horrible tragedy and it's been quite moving reading about it over the last few days— not least of all because of the huge outpouring of community caring and support in the aftermath.

In the spirit of which, I would like to propose a chicken-soup-for-the-soul style Battle of Wits. In this article about the shootings, the BBC makes the following statement:
The city of Montreal [is] known in Canada for its cafe culture and fun atmosphere.
...Which — and I think anyone who has lived in Canada and/or Montreal will agree with me on this point — pretty hilariously misses the boat. More accurate would be:
The city of Montreal is known in Canada for its splenetic hockey fans and anything-goes strip joints.
I therefore invite you to come up with your own two point description of the things Montreal is known for— some Exposition, if you will.

If there are any takers, just leave a comment on this post. The winner receives a McGill Improv t-shirt*.

--

*Void where prohibited by McGill Improv.

September 16, 2006

Wasn't She A Character From Hamlet?

From Newsvine: Charges Dropped in Wis. Necrophilia Case
LANCASTER, WIS. — A judge on Friday dismissed charges of attempted sexual assault against three men accused of trying to dig up a woman's body to have sex with the corpse, noting that Wisconsin has no law against necrophilia.
"Besides," said the judge, "She was totally asking for it — lying flat on her back, didn't say 'stop', all dressed up in nice clothes. God."

Joking aside (blaming the victim is WRONG, kids, I'm serious), I have to say, this really is one of the most appalling stories I've read in a while:
Twins Nicholas and Alexander Grunke, 20, and Dustin Radke, 20, were arrested after an alleged attempt to dig up the body of a 20-year-old woman who was killed Aug. 27 in a motorcycle crash. . .

Authorities said the three were not acquainted with the woman but had seen an obituary with her photo.
So, essentially, what happened was: these three kids were ogling pictures of girls in the obits section, and suddenly thought to themselves, "Saaaaay, here's an idea..."

I mean, how horny do you have to be to come up with something like that? For God's sake, if you're that desperate to get laid, there are less extreme solutions than necrophilia. Even incest would be a better idea.

*Shudder*

--

It's a Saturday night, and my exciting plans involve watching TV with my cat. I mean, granted, she's a hot teen who sits docilely on my lap and doesn't open her mouth except to lick my face, which I guess is a dream girl for some guys — but as a feminist I don't really approve of that sort of thing.

September 15, 2006

Conversations With Greatness XCVI



If you care about these things: I've started publishing as GIFs rather than JPEGs, as this allows for clearer rendering of text without significantly increasing the file size. I had wanted to do this from the beginning, but at the time Photoshop's GIF engine flattened out the sprites (example), which I thought looked even worse than slightly fuzzy text.

Anyway, long story short, you probably won't even notice much of a difference. I just thought I'd GIF you a heads up. Ha!

September 12, 2006

Everybody Hates Rays, Man

From Newsvine: 10 Stingrays Killed Since Irwin's Death
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA — At least 10 stingrays have been killed since 'Crocodile Hunter' Steve Irwin was fatally injured by one of the fish, an official said Tuesday, prompting a spokesman for the late TV star's animal charity to urge people not take revenge on the animals . . .

Michael Hornby, the executive director of Irwin's Wildlife Warriors conservation group, said he was concerned the rays were being hunted and killed in retaliation for Irwin's death.
How much of a Steve Irwin fan would you have to be to actively hunt down a stingray in retaliation for his death? I'm picturing a Ricardo-Montalban-as-Khan style reaction to the news of his demise.

In any case, how much of an idiot would you have to be to retaliate for Steve Irwin's death by going after stingrays? Yeesh. Go after Gerry Anderson, instead.

Swish! Three different pop culture references in one post! I am the king of bloggers!

September 11, 2006

Very Definitely Spanish

I've been spending a lot of time digging through my accumulated junk over the last few days, and, as is usually the case when digging through junk, I've found some fairly humorous things that I feel like blogging about.

For example, yesterday I came across a teach yourself Spanish book called Colloquial Spanish. It was originally printed in 1919, but I have the fourth, more 'modern' edition from 1963. Now, obviously this raises a whole host of questions, most obviously: why do I have a teach yourself Spanish book from 1963, when I have never attempted to learn Spanish and, furthermore, much prefer the Seventies?

But what I really want to share with you is the sort of thing a British audience was imagined to want to say in Spanish, circa 1963. Now, I should preface this with the author's claim that he doesn't intend to provide a complete guide to "the Spanish tongue"; rather, he aims to teach only "such idiomatic expressions as may be encountered in daily speech."

You know, everyday phrases like
Hay hombres que saben ocultar en su interior todos los apuros que les agobian y por fuera siempre parecen alegres y hasta chistosos,
Which is translated as, "There are men who know how to hide in their interior all the griefs that oppress them and outwardly appear happy and even humorous."

Much of the so-called 'Conversational matter' provided by the book is similarly bombastic:
Hace algunas días di mi retrato a mi amiga pero no le gústo. (A few days ago I gave my portrait to my lady friend, but she didn't like it.)

¿Quién era el médico del rey? (Who was the King's physician?)

Hablemos ahora de la guerra. (Let us speak now of the war.)
And, I think my favourite, the touchingly lachrymose:
El invierno es la estación más fría y más triste del año (Winter is the coldest and saddest season of the year.)
On the other hand, some of the phrases veer towards the delightfully surreal, such as:
Estoy hablando ruso. (I am speaking Russian.)
Ceci n'est pas un pipe.

The best parts, though, are the little dialogues that the book provides, as much for their outrageous racism as for their stiffness, eg.:
A: What does this man want?
B: I believe he wants money.
A: Why does he want money?
B: Because he is a very poor man.
A: Why is he poor?
B: Because he doesn't work.
A: Why doesn't he work?
B: Because he is lazy.
A: Why is he lazy?
B: Because he doesn't want to work.
A: Is his father also lazy?
B: Yes, he is lazy.
A: Is his mother also lazy?
B: Yes, but not so lazy as his father.
I love the way it just keeps on going, even when you begin to think that it has to end soon.

People who have been to Spain: correct me if I'm wrong, here. Perhaps Spaniards really talk like this and I am being an ignorant ass.

September 10, 2006

Muthafuckin' Snakes, Etc., Etc.

I went to see Snakes On A Plane today. Afterwards, I went to my dad's house for dinner, where, quite by coincidence, there was a Susan Sontag reader lying out in the living room (that's the kind of place my dad's house is). So after watching Snakes On A Plane, I re-read Notes on Camp — and, I have to say, the combination significantly enhanced my enjoyment of both.

I think maybe I could be on to a winning special feature for the DVD.

September 09, 2006

Jolie Good Show

From The Bryan-College Station Eagle: Brad Pitt: I'll Marry When Everyone Can
NEW YORK (AP) — Brad Pitt, ever the social activist, says he won't be marrying Angelina Jolie until the restrictions on who can marry whom are dropped. "Angie and I will consider tying the knot when everyone else in the country who wants to be married is legally able," the 42-year-old actor reveals in Esquire magazine's October issue.
Um, sorry, but I'm going to call bullshit on this one. Here's what I think happened:

Angelina Jolie: Braaaaadddddd...?
Brad Pitt: Yes, Angie?
AJ: Braddy-poo, I've been thinking... Why don't we get married?
BP [spitting out his fair trade soy latte all over his left wing newspaper]: I, uh— what?
AJ: Why don't we get married?
BP: Well, I, uh— sure, Angie, that's a great idea, it's just that, uh...
AJ: It's just that what?
BP: Well... Oh, it's just that [nervous chuckle]... I mean, what sort of message does it send if we get married, while thousands of Americans are just, uh... languishing in unmarriable homosexualhood? Yes, that's right.
AJ: What do you mean?
BP: Well, I just think it would be fairer to everyone if we refused to get married until gay marriage is legalised.
AJ: Oh, Brad! You're so romantic! I'm going to go give another third world child a stupid name, to celebrate!
BP: Okay, honey, you do that.
AJ: And then I'm going to start planning our wedding, straight away, just in case the conservative president and Republican-controlled senate legalise gay marriage anytime soon! [AJ exits]
BP: Heh-heh-heh. Pitt, you sly dog. You've still got it!

[Fin.]

September 08, 2006

September 07, 2006

Oh Yes, It's That Time Again...

The Worrying Search Referrals Show!

What search term yields this blog as hit number twenty-three?



My favourite part is that it's not picking up any particular page with those words in it, like all the other sites — it just lists my URL in general as, you know, the place to go for cock and pussy.

Sigh.

Associated Philistines

From Newsvine: Toronto Fest a Venue for Transformations
TORONTO — Celebrities always are looking to show new sides of themselves, and the Toronto International Film Festival is one of the best showcases for their transformations . . .

Transformations highlighting this year's festival, which opens Thursday and runs through Sept. 16, include Sean Penn as a Southern demagogue, Forest Whitaker as an African dictator, Russell Crowe as a romantic lead, former James Bond Pierce Brosnan as a Civil War fugitive, new James Bond Daniel Craig as a cold-blooded murderer and Will Ferrell as a serious actor.
Whoa, ouch!

Also, you know how I hate to be a stickler about these sorts of things, but going on the structure of the other clauses, that technically means that Will Ferrell will be playing a serious actor, in his characteristically oddball style. Either that or Pierce Brosnan has somehow managed to travel back in time to the 1800s.

Ugh, my God, that is such an amateur mistake. I mean, like, Strunk-and-White-level. How is it that such boors can get jobs writing for the AP, while I am stuck diddling around in the blogosphere?

Speaking of bizarrely worded AP articles: Ky. Plane Crash Survivor Asks 'Why?'
LEXINGTON, KY. — The sole survivor of a plane crash that killed 49 people near the Lexington airport last week told family members from his hospital bed, "Why did God do this to me?" but he hasn't mentioned the crash, a close family friend said Wednesday.
The "Why did God do this to me?" comment was actually referring to one of those get well soon cards that plays a tinny electronic version of 'When The Saints Go Marching In' every time it's opened.

Making fun of plane crash victims: wrong?

September 06, 2006

Some Training Required

I think it’s a testament to Bill Bryson’s writing that I frequently go through life feeling like I’m in a Bill Bryson book.

I had originally booked my ticket back from London for Thursday afternoon, supposing that I would need that much time to find a flat. But after happening upon somewhere on Tuesday, I thought I might as well go back to Edinburgh a day early rather than aimlessly bum around in London (plenty of time for that come October, I say).

So I phoned the customer service number on my receipt and asked if it would be possible to change the ticket. I was informed that, in fact, my ticket was such that I could travel on any day this month, as long as I didn’t choose a service that left between the peak hours of 3:15pm and 6:15pm.

I should explain, at this point, that the British rail system is one of the most oblique and bewildering ways of organising a national transit network that you are ever likely to come across. Just before leaving for London, my stepmother had clipped me an article from the Guardian about how to get cheaper train fares on long journeys; it seems that, because of the way certain trips are classified as peak or not-peak — central or peripheral, literal or figurative, pink or blue — one can often save a great deal of money by manipulating the fare structure on the route on which you’re travelling.

For instance, rather than buying a ticket from Edinburgh to London, you could buy a series of tickets from Edinburgh to York, York to Peterburgh, and then Peterburgh to London. You will be on exactly the same train, for exactly the same amount of time that you would be if you bought the single Edinburgh-London ticket, but you’ll pay less, and it’s perfectly legit. Even more ludicrous, if you buy a ticket from London to Glasgow and then get off a few hours early at Carlisle, you’ll pay less than if you had bought a ticket from London to Carlisle on the same train (except that is totally illegal, obviously).

Suffice it to say, I thought I had better double-check before blithely turning up at the train station today, so I went to Kings Cross a few hours early and talked to a nice old lady in the ticket office.

“Oh, yes, that’s fine, you can use this today, as long as it’s not during peak hours,” she said.

“And peak hours are 3:15pm to 6:15pm?”

“Yes... Er, no, for this ticket, the latest you can use it today is 2:30pm.”

“Oh.”

“That’s only for GNER services, though. If you get on a Virgin train it doesn’t matter what time you travel.”

“I see.”

“But Virgin only departs from Euston station, so you’ll have to go there.”

So I went to Euston Station.

“Oh, no, you don’t want to be doing that,” said the man there. “Get on a Virgin train and you’ll have to go to Glasgow first. Your best bet is to get a GNER train direct from Kings Cross. But you can’t travel during peak hours.”

“And what are those?” I asked, with some trepidation.

“Ooooh, good question, let me check,” he said, before pulling a phonebook-sized tome from under his desk. After flipping through it for a few seconds, consulting with one of his colleagues (who in turn got out his own phonebook), and tapping a few keys on his computer, he proudly announced: “2:59pm until 6:59pm.”

“2:59pm until 6:59pm?”

“Yes. Er, no. What did I say? Yeah, 2:59pm.”

I decided that it was probably best to get one last confirmation on this, so I went back to Kings Cross and tried a slightly different tack with a new man, there. “What time is the latest train I could take to Edinburgh today?”

“Well,” he said, with the sort of tone that suggested the answer was something he could savour, like a fine brandy, for several hours. “Peak hours start at 2:30pm, so the last train to Edinburgh you can get on is the 2pm.”

“Okay, thank you,” I said.

“But,” he continued, as if I hadn’t said a word, “You could also get on the 2:30pm to Newcastle, and switch at York to the Virgin cross country service. That’ll get you into Edinburgh around the same time.”

“Alright.”

“Hang on a second, though, today is the second Wednesday of the month — that means peak hours are only applicable on routes through Fotheringham-Upon-Potts. So if you take the 2:45pm to Leeds and then change to a ScotRail service to Aberdeen, a rift in the space-time continuum will appear, and you’ll get in to Edinburgh sometime last Friday. Of course, that’s if they’re not doing signal work at High Bottomsbury. Then it would get a bit complicated.”

The upshot was that I got on the 2:30pm to Newcastle, with strict instructions to change at York to the Virgin cross country service. Only, when I got to York, the Virgin cross country service appeared not to exist — instead, the staff member on the platform told me, in an exasperated sort of way, to get on the GNER service to Glasgow, which stops in Edinburgh on the way. He then added, as if to highlight my stupidity:

“But really you should have just taken the direct service from Kings Cross to Edinburgh at 3pm.”

...

I believe the ultimate goal of all this is to make train journeys so confusing and unpleasant that nobody will ever want to travel by train — and then the government can just quietly close up the rail networks altogheter.

Sorry, that was a bit of a long one, wasn’t it? See what I mean about blog incontinence?

September 05, 2006

Touched By An Angel

And lo!, The Great Flat Hunt comes to an end. My feet are calloused and sore from two and a half days of solid walking; my shoulders bruised and tender from two and a half days of lugging around my laptop; my soul somewhat crushed by the experience (as many warned it would be). But this afternoon I put down a deposit on a nice little place in a converted church, just a few minutes walk from Islington's Angel station— widely regarded as one of the trendiest places in the universe. After the stress and desperation of finding next to nothing over the past few days, a great weight lifted from me as I signed the necessary forms in the estate agent's office.

The weight remained lifted for about three minutes. Then I started worrying about how I would ever pay for the damn thing.

Still, I love the neighbourhood, filled as it is with quirky bars, back street boutiques, and coffeeshops spreading out as far as the eye can see. There's even a supermarket about fifty metres up the street, which will make a nice change from the Sisyphean schlep to Provigo that I had to endure in Montreal. And my building is great, too— I mean, a converted church! Oh, how I will cackle with cynical, hipster irony as I drink, fornicate, and generally carouse under God's roof! All those wannabe mocking-religion-for-kicks jerks who walk around in "Jesus Is My Homeboy" t-shirts will be positively green with envy.

Coming up next week: The Great Job Hunt!

September 02, 2006

Department of Piss Poor Policy Practices (Formerly the Department of Alliteration)

Okay, first of all, I know I said I would be flat-hunting in London and therefore not posting much this week. However, I decided that, given how hard I've been working this month, it would be better to take a few days to build up a little more energy before taking on the London housing market. Also, two of my favourite ladies have made triumphant returns (following long absences) to the blogosphere today, so I felt the need to contribute some serious internet love.

That said, I do not love much of what I read on the internet these days.

Item: Some Co-Eds Evicted for Suicide Attempts
NEW YORK — A depressed Hunter College student who swallowed handfuls of Tylenol, then saved her own life by calling 911, was in for a surprise when she returned to her dorm room after the ordeal. The lock had been changed on the door.

She was being expelled from the residence, the school informed her, because she violated her housing contract by attempting suicide.
Seriously, I mean, talk about a roommate from hell. What an inconsiderate bitch.

A spokesperson for the college explained: "Our institution simply does not tolerate attempted suicide. Our hope is that this kick-em-while-they're-down policy will provide the incentive to finish the job properly."

Item: Blair to tackle 'menace' children
Tomorrow's potential troublemakers can be identified even before they are born, Tony Blair has suggested.

Mr Blair said it was possible to spot the families whose circumstances made it likely their children would grow up to be a "menace to society" . . . He said the government had to intervene much earlier to prevent problems developing when children were older . . .

There had to be intervention "pre-birth even", he said . . .

He admitted many people might be uneasy with the idea of intervening in people's family life but said there was no point "pussy-footing".
You know what, Tony? You are absolutely right: there's no point in pussy-footing. So why stop at problem families? Why not arrest teenagers who are having sex to stop them having children in the first place? Why not shoot alcoholics before they can become parents? In fact, I tell you what: why don't we just give you carte blanche to socially engineer the crap out of the country and we'll all send you some roses when everything is perfect in ten years?

I mean, Christ, have I just been exposed to American individualistic liberalism for too long, or is this the most retarded thing you've ever heard? He's talking about penalising people for things they may or may not do in the future, based on probabilistic social trends that aren't even fully understood! Boo, Tony, for making me side with the Tories on something.

Um... Internet love.