December 08, 2010

Dear John

Who's bigger now?

November 28, 2010

Leslie Nielsen (1926-2010)

Canadian comedic actor Leslie Nielsen died today after a bout with pneumonia. He was 84.

Today, Nielsen is probably best known for his deadpan comedic roles, especially in Airplane! and the Naked Gun movies. But he spent the first part of his career as a serious dramatic actor on both film and television. It was his second film role that made him famous: starring in 1956's Forbidden Planet as John J. Adams, a James Kirk-type spaceship commander. (Forbidden Planet - one of my favourite science-fiction films - was one of the main inspirations for Star Trek, which just goes to show that Canadians make the best starship captains. Oh, and Firefly too.)

A little-known fact outside of Canada is that Nielson's older brother Erik was a longtime Member of Parliament for Yukon and a Cabinet minister during the Conservative governments of the 1980s. This relationship was named in the (in)famous mockumentary The Canadian Conspiracy as the connection to a Canadian government conspiracy to subvert American media.

Rest in peace, Lt. Drebin.

November 27, 2010

And now . . . this - Nov. 27/10

Don't cross her, she might turn it off

After billions of years the Sun finally has an owner - a woman from Spain's soggy region of Galicia said Friday she had registered the star at a local notary public as being her property.

Angeles Duran, 49, told the online edition of daily El Mundo she took the step in September after reading about an American man who had registered himself as the owner of the moon and most planets in our solar system.

Hm. To quote Ben Kenobi, "Who's the bigger fool, the fool or the fool who follows him?

But wait, there's more.

Duran, who lives in the town of Salvaterra do Mino, said she now wants to slap a fee on everyone who uses the sun and give half of the proceeds to the Spanish government and 20 percent to the nation's pension fund.

[Full Story]

Sounds like a luractive deal, at least until the waves of skin-cancer lawsuits start rolling in.

November 19, 2010

And now . . . this - Nov. 19/10

Welcome to sunny Floriduh

A man who bought a foreclosed Florida home may have found the former owner's body when he discovered a corpse in the garage.

Mortgage lender Wells Fargo sold the home Wednesday. Neighbors told authorities that the woman had "disappeared" some time ago.

[Full Story]

Which just raises the question: Does anyone ever bother to check foreclosed houses before selling them? Or do they all come with a complimentary corpse?

Meanwhile, on the stupid side of the continent . . .

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's . . .

Vigilante justice has come to Seattle, and the caped crusaders drive a Kia.

Seattle police say a group of self-described superheroes have been patrolling the streets at night trying to save people from crime. They call themselves the Rain City Superhero Movement and say they're part of a nationwide movement of real-life crime fighters. . . .

Investigators identified nine people dressed in costume going around Seattle after dark. A police source said the characters go by Thorn, Buster Doe, Green Reaper, Gemini, No Name, Catastrophe, Thunder 88, Penelope and Phoenix Jones the Guardian of Seattle.

But don't listen to Captain Ozone or Knight Owl, police were told. They're apparently not part of the group.

[Full Story - and you really want to read the whole thing]

It's all fun and games until the crooks form the Rain City Supervillain Movement and level the city with an atomic death ray.

The student brownshirt infection spreads to yet another school

As a Waterloo alumnus, I remember the good old days when UW was a bastion of political apathy. Sure, we didn't give a crap, but at least we didn't have to occupy stages to tell everyone. It seems that in the 13 years since I graduated, K-W has become a bastion of radical nuttery.

After cancelling her appearance due to vocal protests, the University of Waterloo has apologized to an author and the audience that had gathered to hear her speak in the Humanities Theatre last Friday.

Journalist and columnist Christie Blatchford cancelled her scheduled appearance on Friday night, where she had planned to discuss her new book Helpless: Caledonia's Nightmare of Fear and Anarchy and How the Law Failed All of Us by vocal protests. She had been invited to speak on campus by the university bookstore.

Blatchford's book chronicles government action during 2006 protests in Caledonia, Ontario. First Nation protesters had demonstrated against efforts by a corporate land developer to build on land that the protestors claimed they are entitled to due to rights laid out in treaties with government. Members of KW Anti-Racist Action (ARA) took the stage following a teach-in that was held regarding the topics surrounding the book.

[Full Story]

So the WatCops couldn't handle three ignorant waifs? Please. These people thought it made sense to cry "racist" to protest an author presenting a thesis that the government has failed to treat all its citizens equally. I'm sure a couple of security guards with grade 12 educations could have thrown them into utter confusion.

And while we're at it, let's also weep for the state of graduate education:

[Protestor Dan] Kellar said he took a role in protesting against Blatchford's appearance in the academic setting of UW, as he feels she is a non-academic figure. "This is an academic setting and she has no place coming here to talk in an un-academic fashion," he said.

As opposed to the eminently "academic" action of occupying a stage in protest to stifle the free exchange of ideas, that is. Oh, brother.

November 18, 2010

Last Chance U.'s student goobermint does it again

Well, you can say one thing for CUSA: at least they're being consistent. Whether they're voting to decertify any campus club that disagrees with official pro-choice dogma, calling pro-life advocates Holocaust deniers, or cancelling charity events that raise funds to find cures for diseases that don't kill enough minorities or women, you can usually count on the Carleton University Student Association to hop on the hot-air balloon of stupidity and drift up into Cloud Cuckoo Land.

On Monday, CUSA voted again to decertify Carleton Lifeline, the campus pro-life club, as the National Post reports:

Carleton University’s official student association has banned the Ottawa institution’s anti-abortion club, offering it just one way to get back into good graces: support abortion rights.

On Monday, the Carleton University Student Association (CUSA), decertified Carleton Lifeline for its anti-abortion views. It told the club that being against abortion violated CUSA’s anti-discrimination policy, but that it could get recertified in a day or two.

"We invite you to amend your constitution to create one that respects our anti-discrimination policy as laid out above," wrote Khaldoon Bushnaq, CUSA’s vice-president of internal affairs. "If you are able to resubmit a constitution that meets our criteria by Thursday, November 18th we will be able to certify your club for this semester."

[Full Story]

Translation: "By all means the pro-life group can have its status back, just as soon as it stops being pro-life." Nice club. Shame if something happened to it.

As club president Ruth Lobo points out in the article, Lifeline hasn't had an issue with CUSA since 2007. If they havent changed their constitution, then obviously CUSA's complaint about it not meeting policy is bogus. The last time Lifeline was decertified, it was a knee-jerk reaction to a debate held on campus a month earlier on whether elective abortion should be legal. This time, decertification comes a month after some Lifeline members were arrested for "trespassing" (on their own campus) for displaying the graphic Genocide Awareness Project. It looks to me that the CUSA's accusation of "discrimination" by Lifeline is a fig leaf meant to cover up CUSA's own discrimination against students who refuse to toe the line of official orthodoxy. (If GAP showed bloody images of dismembered Palestinians instead of dismembered fetuses, would we even be reading about this?)

A blog I read earlier today (and unfortunately can't find now, to give proper credit) put it well: CUSA discriminates against opinions contrary to its own policies, then through compulsory fees, compels pro-life students to discriminate against themselves. I guess we'll see in the next few days whether the usual public pressure at CUSA's idiocy makes them blink. Again.

October 03, 2010

Science Fiction Free September Wrap-Up

Well, my yearly moratorium on reading SF has come to an end. Once again, my batting average is about .500: with three books on the roster for the month, I finished one and got about halfway through the second. Of course I'm aware of the irony that my goal was to finish books I never finished in school . . .

If you ever need proof that it pays to enrich your word power, read Jane Eyre. I think my vocabulary is probably somewhat larger than most people's, but this book was one that challenged it more than anything I've read since my teens - including Chaucer and Shakespeare! Examples:

I felt how - if I were his wife, this good man, pure as the deep sunless source, could soon kill me, without drawing from my veins a single drop of blood, or receiving on his own crystal conscience the faintest stain of crime. Especially I felt this when I made any attempt to propitiate him. No ruth met my ruth.

ruth: pity or compassion. Ha! I've always wondered who Ruth was, that want of her would make a man lack mercy. Little did I know that the word actually existed in the English language, even though it's directly related to the meaning of the biblical name (which is Hebrew for "compassion"). "To rue" is the verb form, which is still in (somewhat) common use, at least in pretentious villain-speak: "You'll rue the day you ever faced me!"

And speaking of girls' names, Rochester frequently calls Jane Eyre "Janet," which, I learned, is a diminutive of Jane or Joan. Jane is a female form of John: like Ruth, a Biblical name, which means "God is merciful." Considering that mercy, forgiveness, and restoraion are major themes in Jane Eyre, it wouldn't surprise me that this was a deliberate name choice by Brontë for her title character.

"Oh, dear papa, how quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look, with their hair combed behind their ears, and their long pinafores, and those little holland pockets outside their frocks - they are almost like poor people’s children!"

holland: linen treated with oil and starch to make it opaque, used in such things as curtains or tags. And, apparently, orphans' clothing.

Half reclined on a couch appeared Mr. Rochester, his footsupported by the cushion; he was looking at Adele and the dog: the fire shone full on his face. I knew my traveller with his broad and jetty eyebrows; his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair. I recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than beauty; his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and jaw - yes, all three were very grim, and no mistake. His shape, now divested of cloak, I perceived harmonised in squareness with his physiognomy: I suppose it was a good figure in the athletic sense of the term - broad chested and thin flanked, though neither tall nor graceful.

physiognomy: the art of determining character from the features of the body or face. Brontë apparently had some measure of belief in this, judging by the number of times she appeals to it in her descriptions of characters' appearance. There was no shortage of odd superstitions in the 19th century.

"I thought you would be revolted, Jane, when you saw my arm, and my cicatrised visage."

cicatrix: scar tissue. Rochester lost his sight and his right hand, and his face was burned, while rescuing his servants from the fire that destroyed Thornfield Manor. Hence his concern that Jane might find his disfigured face repulsive. Of course, as she points out, he was never that good-looking to begin with . . .

"Is she original? Is she piquant? I would not exchange this one little English girl for the Grand Turk’s whole seraglio, gazelle-eyes, houri forms, and all!"

seraglio: a harem. At this stage in his life, Rochester had already pretty much had the whole seraglio. And just a little farther on:

"I’ll be preparing myself to go out as a missionary to preach liberty to them that are enslaved - your harem inmates amongst the rest. I’ll get admitted there, and I’ll stir up mutiny; and you, three-tailed bashaw as you are, sir, shall in a trice find yourself fettered amongst our hands: nor will I, for one, consent to cut your bonds till you have signed a charter, the most liberal that despot ever yet conferred."


bashaw: a self-important person. I really have to start using "three-tailed bashaw" in regular conversation.

Jane Eyre was Charlotte Brontë's first published novel. She published in 1847 under the pseudonym Currer Bell, because of a taboo against female writers. There was no small discussion amongst critics of the day whether the novel had been written by a man or woman: as I recall from my classes, the prevailing opinion was that "Bell" was, indeed, a man. It is hard to believe, reading Brontë's genteel prose, that Jane Eyre was considered quite coarse at the time. Nonetheless, it was a runaway bestseller, and it wasn't long before Brontë was free to publish under her own name. The novel is semi-autobiographical: while not an orphan, Charlotte Brontë was the daughter of a clergyman, went to a harsh boarding school, and worked as a schoolteacher and a governess. Unlike Jane, however, she married the clergyman instead of the rich libertine, and he didn't have a madwoman locked in his attic.

After Jane Eyre, I started to fight against the Philistines with Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy. In this classic series of essays, originally published in periodicals before being collected into a single volume in 1869, Arnold is arguing for the pursuit of perfection through culture, which he famously defines as achievable via "sweetness and light" (i.e. beauty and thought). I'm currenty about midway through it, and even though the month is formally over, I intend to at least finish. It's heavy going: full of allusions to "Philistines," "Jacobins," and others. I understand the allusions, but (at least in the case of the Jacobins) lack the historical context to grasp the significance for Arnold's purposes.

However, reading through Arnold reminds me of how little I enjoyed reading the Victorian essayists. Apart from Jane Eyre, I had no problem finishing the novels in my Victorian prose course: Oliver Twist, Tom Brown's School Days, and Phantastes - a batting average of about .850. With the essayists, on the other hand, I finished John Henry Newman's "Tamworth Reading Room" and John Ruskin's Unto This Last, dropped Thomas Carlyle mid-way, and never started Arnold - thus batting about .650.

Anyhow, another year is over, and as always it was fun and enlightening. But I'm in the mood for some good, escapist reading again.

September 20, 2010

And now . . . this - Sept. 20/10

Police in New Zealand burning off seized cannabis were left red-faced when a change in the wind sent smoke billowing over a primary school, it was reported Tuesday. . . .

It said St Joseph's School principal Peter Knowles noticed the smoke on Friday morning and complained to police, who immediately extinguished the fire.

[Full Story]

In the meantime, however, the school's music and art programs enjoyed a temporary surge in popularity.

September 16, 2010

SFFS Update: Week 1.5

Little short reading for the first half of this week: only chapters 21-24. But they were longer than the average thus far: the entirety of Jane's visit to her hated dying aunt takes up Chapter 20, for instance. Granted, it was 13 years ago, but I'm beginning to think I failed to read more of Jane Eyre than I recall.

In subsequent chapters, we learn that Mr. Rochester is to be married to the snotty Miss Ingram in four weeks. This leads to an altercation in the garden when Jane returns to Thornfield Hall, of the Slap Slap Kiss variety (sort of), and they each finally profess their Undying Love for each other. The engagement to the stuck-up Miss Ingram was all a ruse to make Jane jealous.

Then, a chapter follows of this sort of thing:

"What do you anticipate of me?"

"For a little while you will perhaps be as you are now, - a very little while; and then you will turn cool; and then you will be capricious; and then you will be stern, and I shall have much ado to please you: but when you get well used to me, you will perhaps like me again, - like me, I say, not love me. I suppose your love will effervesce in six months, or less. I have observed in books written by men, that period assigned as the farthest to which a husband's ardour extends. Yet, after all, as a friend and companion, I hope never to become quite distasteful to my dear master."

In the immortal words of Pepe le Pew: Flirt.

So four weeks' hence, Rochester and Jane are set to be married. I can't possibly see what could go wrong!

September 11, 2010

SFFS Update: Week 1

After one week of science fiction-free reading: 20 chapters of Jane Eyre down, 18 to go; roughly halfway through by page count. I'm not as far behind as I thought, as the beginning of the week was slow reading, and I've picked up the pace considerably in the last couple of days.

Oh, yes, this is late Victorian literature, all right: it's hip-deep in orphans. Not to mention wicked foster families, abusive schoolmasters, gruel, and innocent waifs dying of consumption. I would be rolling my eyes at the piles of clichés, if I didn't know that books like Jane Eyre were the ones that started the clichés.

To this point, Jane has been sent to a charity school for orphaned girls. After finishing school she becomes employed by wealthy bachelor Mr. Rochester, serving as governess to his young ward Adele.

There's a sort of love triangle, and a mystery: someone in the house tried to set fire to Rochester's bed, and attacked one of his house-guests. Oh my. I hope there's not a mad woman in the attic!

Step right up to the three-ring media circus

We have been held gripped in suspense as a saga unfolds in Gainesville, Florida. The story of Terry Jones, pastor of the Dove World Outreach Center, has enthralled the media for the last several days, as he declared today, September 11, "International Burn a Koran Day" and threatened to do just that. Clergy, military commanders, diplomats, and heads of state have weighed in. I, personally, have been glued to the cable news networks as this international crisis unfolds.

Well, that last part is a lie. Actually, all I've done is read the periodic updates to the news story on the CBC Web site as the nefarious conflagration went back and forth like a ping-pong ball.

At first, it was on. Then it was off, because Jones had received assurances from the Ground Zero mosque imam that the location would be changed.

Then it was on again, because Jones decided the imam "clearly, clearly lied to us." (No, really. Taqiyya, anyone?) He issued a two-hour ultimatum to the New York imam to contact him and set up a meeting to find a "peaceful solution" to this issue. Yes, that's right: Jones demanded a meeting to negotiate a solution to a crisis he personally precipitated and could unilaterally call off.

Now, it's off again, and apparently Jones took a night flight to New York to try and meet with the imam, Presumably, he is still seeking his "peaceful solution."

Whatever. Jones has accomplished nothing of value. He has attracted attention to himself and his church, of course, although that hasn't exactly been positive: their now-offline Web site affirmed support for hatemongering Westboro "Baptist" "Church" in Topeka, and (The Smoking Gun snagged a copy of their in-house school's handbook, which is bizarre, to say the least. Jones' stated intent gave the perpetually outraged "Arab Street" yet another excuse to seethe against the West and came within a hair's breadth of causing an international incident. And, frankly, who told him that burning books would leave a positive impression with his audience?

Terry Jones has derelicted his duty as a minister of the Gospel. First, he has taken the name of God in vain. Each successive step in the last week's flip-flop has supposedly been undertaken after prayer or hearing the voice of God. Sorry, but God is not that fickle. The Bible says that God has "no variation or shadow due to change" (James 1:18); on the other hand, the same author does have something to say about double-minded and unstable men (1:8).

Second, Jones has given needless offense. Paul became "all things to all people" (1 Cor. 9:22) because he did not want to cause unnecessary offense to those whom he wished to reach with the Gospel. He respected their taboos; the Gospel itself was offense enough (1 Cor. 1:23). Iconoclasm in the Bible is neither used as a form of political protest, nor as a means of presenting the Gospel. When Paul visited Athens, though he was upset by the many idols in the city, he did not smash them. Rather, he used an idol dedicated to an unknown god as an object lesson, preaching to the Athenians about the true God whom they did not know.

Pastor Jones has squandered an opportunity to preach Jesus to Muslims. Instead of the decent man who treats them respectfully and answers their questions about his hope in the Prophet Jesus with confidence, now he will be the crazy old kook who tried to hold a mosque hostage by threatening to desecrate a book they deem holy. Worse, this has ramifications that go well beyond the city limits of Gainesville: world-wide protests have already happened by Muslims who don't distinguish between the acts of a lone kook and those of the entire "Christian" West. Jones has probably made life much harder for Christian missionaries everywhere. For this act of supreme boneheadednes, I hereby award him the DIM BULB du jour.

A special 40-watt honour has to go to the media, who kept this circus running, until finally realizing yesterday that it was a non-story.

I like James White's idea when this story first broke: instead of "Burn a Quran Day," have "Read a Quran Day" - and having carefully read it, know better how to proclaim the Gospel of salvation to its followers who so desperately need to hear it. Let the only scandal be the scandal of the cross.

September 06, 2010

Margaret Atwood, censor

Political thick-headedness from someone who ought to know better:

Margaret Atwood is criticizing Stephen Harper over what she sees as his dictatorial approach to regulating the airwaves.

The literary icon has signed an online petition aimed at keeping a “Fox News North” channel off the air in Canada. But it’s not the idea of a right-wing television station she’s objecting to. Rather, the prolific and celebrated writer doesn’t like the Prime Minister’s style of governing.

“Of course Fox & Co. can set up a channel or whatever they want to do, if it's legal etc.,” she told The Globe and Mail in an email. “But it shouldn't happen this way. It's like the head-of-census affair – gov't direct meddling in affairs that are supposed to be arm's length – so do what they say or they fire you.

“It's part of the ‘I make the rules around here,’ Harper-is-a-king thing,” she wrote.

[Full Story]

On August 31, Atwood tweeted that she had signed a petition to the CRTC to disallow Sun Media a license for a new news channel: "Yikes! Canadians wld be forced to pay for this? Not!" As the Globe article indicates, her real motivation is ostensibly because she doesn't like the process by which this channel is being imposed.

Fair enough. But the Web page the petition is on betrays a considerably different motivation: "Stop Fox News North," it says. It calls Sun's news station - which has yet to broadcast a single second of news - "American-style hate media," "hate-filled propaganda," and a "nightmare." (Ironically this petition, circulated under the auspices of, which was co-founded by, the hard-left advocacy group that funds Democratic candidates in the United States, encourages the CRTC to "stand up for Canadian democratic traditions.")

It appears that whatever Atwoods own motives may be for signing this petition, the motives of the petitioners themselves are quite different: censorship of opposing viewpoints. Atwood herself has been the target of censorship attempts: her fine novel The Handmaid's Tale is one of the most frequently challenged books in American libraries. So why is she lending her good name to the efforts of Internet activists to censor opinions they don't like? Worse, she's a writer. Is a signature on an inflammatory Internet petition the most persuasive argument for her position that Atwood is capable of?

Fortunately, this is an Internet petition, so no one who matters will take notice.

By the way, to be consistent, Atwood must also support the privatization of the CBC, which all Canadians must pay for whether they want it or not. Correct?

Even prominent public intellectuals are not incapable of the occasional brain fart, so this particular controversy seemed like a good occasion to resurrect the DIM BULB du jour, awarded to those who are able to grab the public spotlight, then abuse the privilege by saying or doing something stupid.

Tell you what, Mags: I'm going to petition our public library to remove your books from the shelves. But it's not the idea of feminist CanLit I'm objecting to. Rather, I don't like your style of protesting.

September 04, 2010


I've squandered that 3-day head start. Jane Eyre is playing hard to get.

Happy 7th blogiversary

The Crusty Curmudgeon went officially online September 4, 2003. Thus, this is its 7th anniversary - meaning that while I may no longer be the most active blogger around, I can at least take some comfort in being one of the older and more longer-lived ones.

While I have no intention of giving up, obviously my attention is elsewhere much of the time these days. I'd like to think that this is just because there is so much more social media to pay attention to that wasn't around in 2003: podcasting, Twitter, and Facebook, just to name three. More stuff means less individual time for each - and like many bloggers I've found myself spending more time on Twitter than Blogger, just because it seems conducive to throwaway comments and quick links.

On the other hand, my near-moribund reading habit is experiencing a revival, so maybe there's hope for my semi-conscious blogging habit as well.

Either way, I'm not going away in a hurry. To my handful of remaining Faithful Readers: Thanks for hanging in there.

It's been my habit to revamp the look of the blog on this day. However, when I switched over to Blogger 2 last year, I discovered that it was no longer as simple as preparing a new HTML template, and there's precious little useful documentation on the current skin format. Hopefully I'll have a new skin by the end of the year - one that looks good across platforms (sorry to all you IE users . . .).

September 01, 2010

Science Fiction-Free September VI, VII - oh, I've lost count

Every September for the last several years, I've self-imposed a moratorium on reading science fiction, my preferred genre for reading. This was originally a way to devote a month to reading literature that is somewhat different from my standard fare.

In recent years, it seems that I've gotten most of my content from podcasts rather than dead-tree books, so in a sense every month has effectively been science fiction-free, in the sense that it's been entirely reading-free. I'm glad that since the beginning of this year that has begun to change: I've been intensely reading Isaac Asimov and Victor Hugo, for example. And I'm about due for my triannual rereading of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings - so if there's ever a good time to revive SFFS, this is it.

Since I usually like to decide on a theme for the month, this year I've decided to go with "Unfinished Works" - that is, to concentrate on books that were required reading in some class, but which I never finished (and thus had to bluster my way through tests - usually successfully, if I may say so myself). The most famous required reading book that I never finished reading was The Catcher in the Rye. It is not on the list. I wouldn't touch it with a ten-foot pole and a hazmat suit. J. D. Salinger died in January, and as far as I'm concerned his Rousseauean hippie swill can die with him. So for starters, my list will look like this:

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. In my last term of university, I took a course in late Victorian prose, specifically because I wanted to sit under Professor John North for one course before I graduated. Unfortunately, he fell ill a week into the course, which was then completed by anohter lecturer. Jane Eyre was the only book he lectured on that term. Not expecting to move on to the next work so quickly, I left the last hundred pages or so unread, and never got around to finishing. Despite Dr. North's absence, I enjoyed the remainder of the course just fine, but the pace was a little faster than I was able to keep up with, so I left a lot of stuff half-read, for instance:
  2. Culture and Anarchy by Matthew Arnold. Finish it? Heck, I never even started it! All I know is that this work was responsible for popularizing the phrases "sweetness and light" and "Philistines." 13 years later, it's high time I got started.
  3. Unto This Last by John Ruskin. Like Jane Eyre, I read most of it but ran out of time to finish before the term ended. But I loved reading Ruskin's prose, and I actually look forward to rereading this one.

My aim is to keep up a pace of one book per week, Sunday to Saturday (plus the three-day head start I have now). If there's time left in the month after these three works, then I'll see what I can add to the list. Between courses in modern literary criticism, contemporary rhetorical theory, and philosophy, there's no shortage of abandoned literature. T. S. Eliot? Rolande Barthes? Karl Marx? The possibilities are endless.

Happy reading, all.

July 08, 2010

Score another point for the old alma mater

First UW got Stephen Hawking, now we get this:

David Johnston, announced as Canada's next governor general on Thursday, is pledging to be a "stalwart defender" of Canada's heritage, institutions and people.

After weeks of speculation, the Prime Minister's Office said the Canadian legal scholar and president of the University of Waterloo, Ont., has been approved by the Queen and will take over on Oct. 1 after Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean's term ends.

In a statement to reporters from the Senate foyer in Ottawa, Johnston called the appointment a "mark of confidence that touches me profoundly." He also noted his predecessors, from Samuel de Champlain to Jean, have set a "fine example" for him to follow.

[Full Story]

I never had the opportunity to meet Dr. Johnston, as I graduated two years before he arrived at Waterloo. But I've heard nothing but good things about him. He succeeds Michaëlle Jean in September - and has some big shoes to fill. All the best.

July 02, 2010

That's entertainment

The dominance of synthesizers in Rush's music ended with the release of their 1989 album Presto. With a change of label and producer, the band desired to return to their musical roots. While the synth isn't absent, it's no longer dominating the guitar and bass as it had been since Signals.

While not their most remarkable album, I have fond memories of Presto simply because it was the first one of Rush's that I heard on compact disc (which was, as you would expect, much more dynamic than the LP that I had bought on release day).

Of the three singles from this album, "Superconductor" is my favourite. While technically released as a single in 1990, it was of course recorded and sold in 1989, so I'm claiming a technicality here.

July 01, 2010

It's a beauty way to go

It is, once again, Canada Day: Canada's 143rd birthday. As I write this, I can hear the sound of fireworks at Parliament Hill - which, supposedly, I would be able to see if not for the block of townhouses adjacent to the back yard. As always, downtown Ottawa is closed to traffic and becomes the location of a massive street party. This year is particularly special, as the Queen arrived in Halifax on Tuesday, and was present in Ottawa for the day's festivities.

It has been my tradition every year to post a short history about some Canadian patriotic song. I hope no one minds if I'm a little tongue-in-cheek this year, but while posting a week of Rush hits, I couldn't resist this opportunity.

In 1980, the CBC network asked the producers of the sketch comedy program SCTV to include two minutes of specifically Canadian content. In response, cast members Dave Thomas and Rick Moranis created "The Great White North," a mock talk show in which two dimwitted brothers wore toques, drank beer, ate back bacon, spoke in Canadian slang, and basically parodied every Canadian stereotype there was. Amazingly, the segment became the most popular part of SCTV, and Bob and Doug McKenzie became not merely caricatures, but genuine Canadian cultural icons.

Since the characters became inexplicably popular in the United States, Bob and Doug became cultural ambassadors of a sort, and are probably as responsible as anyhing else for the notion that we Canadians say "Eh?" and "Take off" and "Beauty!" a lot. In addition to SCTV, the Bob and Doug phenomenon spawned a hit comedy record, a cult movie, a set of ads for Pizza Hut, an animated TV series, and, of course, a hit comedy album. The Great White North was like an audio-only version of the TV show, discussing such topics as Doug's ability to make sound effects with his mouth or why donut shops never have enough parking spaces. It even included a hit single: "Take Off," which even broke the top 20 in the U.S. It features Rush's Geddy Lee singing the chorus - because, as he says on the album, "Ten bucks is ten bucks." (Moranis and Lee actually attended public school together as children.)

Here it is. Enjoy. (And happy birthday, Canada.)

Previous Canada Day songs:

It's a cinderella story on a tumble of the dice

Rush's synthesizer sound hit its zenith (or its nadir, depending on how you feel about that sort of thing) with their 1985 album Power Windows. While older Rush albums used the synthesizer primarily as a padding instrument, on the lead track "The Big Money" it takes the lead with heavy, bright stabs and sequenced riffs.

"The Big Money"'s video is notable for two things. One, believe it or not, these computer graphics were state of the art (it had only been a few months since Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing" broke new ground for digital animation). Two, Geddy's mullet makes him look like a cross between Pippi Longstocking and a poodle. Aren't you glad the 80s are over?

June 30, 2010

I must help my mother stand up straight

Rush's 1984 album, Grace Under Pressure, continues in the evolution of their sound away from traditional hard rock toward a more synthetic style. For whatever reason, this album has always sounded different to me from other Rush offerings: whether it's because it presents a heavier "wall" of sound, or because its musical influences are a little more diverse, I can't say. It just strikes me as being somewhat outside of the natural evolution of Rush's trademark style.

The recurring theme in many of the tracks on this album is (as the title suggests) how we respond to various types of pressure. Neil Peart's lyrics to "Red Sector A" evoke impressions of an apocalyptic, futuristic wasteland. In fact they were inspired, in part, by Geddy Lee's mother's memories of her internment in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp during WWII, and how she believed civilization must have been done in, even as the Allied liberators came for them.

This video is a live version, taken from the Grace Under Pressure tour in 1984.

"Red Sector A" is one of those songs that grew on me over the years. Back in 1984, this was my first impression of Rush, and at the time it really didn't do anything for me. I'm glad I gave it (and them) a fair shake.

June 29, 2010

Be cool or be cast out

Rush's next studio album after Moving Pictures was 1982's Signals. This album went even farther in the synthetic, electronic sound that would define the band's music for the next several years: synth-dominant songs, heavily processed guitar solos, and recurring themes of technology and progress.

The lead track, "Subdivisions," is typical: Alex Lifeson's guitar playing, while indispensable, plays second fiddle to Geddy Lee's synth chording. And, of course, parts of the video were shot in a video arcade at the height of the video game craze.

June 28, 2010

Catch the spirit, catch the spit

With Canada Day only three days away, it's time to turn the Summer of Nostalgia (as I always do, for at least one week) over to 100%, government-approved, Canadian Content.

This time, I thought, I would do something different. Who says "100%, government-approved, CanCon" better than - you guessed it - Rush? Seriously, these guys are so Canadian that they dropped a reference to Willowdale into a Tolkienesque fantasy epic, and were declared Canada's "ambassadors of music" in 1979. Rush couldn't be any more Canadian unless you painted them red and white, dipped them in maple syrup, then had Ricky, Julian, and Bubbles drag them behind their horses in the RCMP Musical Ride. (Come to think of it, Ricky tied Alex Lifeson up in duct tape and abducted him, so they're already part of the way there.) On top of that, they're just darn fine musicians and fun to listen to because they refuse to take themselves seriously. (Name another band who will balance the wall of amps on one side of the stage with random props, like coin-operated dryers or chicken rotisseries, on the other.)

And what better way to start a week of Rush than with their most identifiable song - Tom Sawyer? (Once again, embedding disabled. Sorry!)

The 1981 album Moving Pictures was a transitional album for Rush, marking a move away from album-side-length science-fiction or fantasy epics to shorter, more radio-friendly songs. The synthesizer also began to take a more prominent role - the first note you hear on Moving Pictures is "Tom Sawyer"'s distinctive snarl - and would dominate their music throughout the 80s.

June 27, 2010

I've travelled so far to change this lonely life

Wrapping up this (belated) week of a theme-that's-not-a-theme, it's only fitting on Sunday to end with a song that features the Montreal Jubilation Choir. Have fun.

Next week (well, tomorrow really): It's Canada Day on Thursday, and so it's Certified Canadian Content week. What will I choose? The world waits with bated breath . . .

June 26, 2010

I wander around in the Twilight Zone

It was inevitable that a band with a name like "Screaming Blue Messiahs" would show up on these pages sooner or later. How couldn't it?

June 25, 2010

Gotta find me a future, move outta my way

Continuing with this week's theme-that-isn't-a-theme: Queen, "I Want It All". "Embedding disabled by request." You can't have it all.

June 24, 2010

One that won't make my face break out

Another entry in the "should be self-evident soon" theme. Embedding is disabled (again) but "I Want a New Drug" by Huey Lewis and the News is viewable from YouTube directly. Enjoy.

June 23, 2010

Riding on the chuckwagon, following my man

Oops. It actually took me 3 days to realize I forgot to move this week's 80s crap out of drafts and schedule it as usual. OK, one quick fox later, and Week 3 of the Summer of Nostalgia just runs from Wednesday to Sunday for a change.

This week's theme is . . . well, you figure it out. Bonus points for suggesting further songs in the set in advance.

I'm still trying to figure out how this one got airplay. So suffer.

Why I love Ottawa (or, Shaken, not stirred)

Amongst the best reasons to live in Ottawa:

  • Beautiful, historic buildings, like the neo-Gothic edifices on Parliament Hill.
  • It's the only place in Canada where national news and local news are almost always the same thing.
  • Occasional sightings of various heads of state (Hu Jintao is in fact arriving in Ottawa today).
  • Lots of beautiful parkland.
  • A massive street party every July 1.
  • Regular earthquakes for your comfort and entertainment.

After today, I join the elite few who have stood within a stone's throw of a 5.0-magnitude eathquake's epicentre and lived to tell the tale. No damage - just a glass that fell off my desk and didn't break. Plenty of excitement.

June 20, 2010

And now . . . this - June 20/10

I'm neither English nor a soccer fan, but if you're both, then here's a real moral dilemma for you.

On the one hand:

More than 1,200 workers have been banned from flying England flags on their own cars by managers - over fears they could deemed as racist.

Employees at the housing association were sent a group e-mail warning that decking out their personal vehicles with the St George's flags could "discriminate" against those who don't support England during the World Cup.

Managers at Bolton At Home in Greater Manchester, which manages 18,200 council houses in Bolton, insist cars owned by their workforce must remain "neutral" in order to treat all its "customers with respect and without discrimination."

[Full Story]

OK, so soccer is a race now. Who knew?

But on the other hand, just up the road in Scotland:

High street retailer HMV has withdrawn "Anyone But England" World Cup posters and T-shirts from its Scottish stores following complaints they were racist. . . .

The Campaign for an English Parliament (CEP) contacted police about the "insensitive and provocative" items which, their website claimed were "criminally irresponsible."

The CEP said: "We understand HMV have agreed to withdraw their insensitive and provocative 'Anyone but England' window displays and T-shirts from their Scottish stores following complaints from members of the public and a complaint by the CEP to Fife Police for incitement to racial hatred."

[Full Story]

So, in a nutshell:

  • If you support England in the World Cup, you're a racist.
  • If you oppose England in the World Cup, you're a racist.

I guess the only racially sensitive thing to do is to declare, "A pox on both your houses."

But when soccer fans become the moral equivalent of an identifiable ethnic group, political correctness has gone to seed. I don't think this sort of thing would ever fly in Canada during hockey season. But shhh - don't give the HRCs any ideas.

June 18, 2010

The moon . . . beautiful

And you knew this one was coming.

June 17, 2010

And now . . . this - June 17/10

Now here's a sentence you're not going to read every day:

A young man in Bavaria who reportedly forgot to take his medication taunted a group of Hells Angels at their clubhouse over the weekend by dropping his pants, throwing a puppy at the bikers, and then making his getaway in a stolen front loader.

[Full Story]

I am speechless at how simply awesome that sentence is. In fact, it's so fantastic that I am going to repeat it:

A young man in Bavaria who reportedly forgot to take his medication taunted a group of Hells Angels at their clubhouse over the weekend by dropping his pants, throwing a puppy at the bikers, and then making his getaway in a stolen front loader.

That is all.


It's fitting that Miami Vice, a TV show that is said to have begun its life as a memo at NBC reading simply "MTV cops," would not only be influenced by, but influence, 1980s pop/New Wave culture. The producers spent huge wads of cash on the rights to use original recordings of hits on the show: the program's soundtrack was a veritable Who's Who of 80s performers. Miami Vice was also scored by legendary keyboardist Jan Hammer, and when his theme song was released as a single in 1985, it went straight to the top of the Billboard Hot 100. To this day it remains the last instrumental #1.

Once again, YouTube doesn't allow embedding. Watch it anyway.

June 16, 2010

The Chameleon goes to Cantaloupe Isle and beats da drum

Herbie Hancock is my favourite jazz artists: one of the few (along with Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald) of whose work I've tried to collect as much as possible, instead of just a broad and representative sample.

In 1983 Hancock had a decidedly non-jazzy hit in the dancy single "Rockit," which was also one of the first songs to prominently feature scratch and turntablism. (Despite his jazz roots, Hancock was a seminal synthesizer artist, and famously appeared with Thomas Dolby, Howard Jones, and Stevie Wonder at the 1985 Grammy Awards to perform a synthesizer medley.)

YouTube has blocked embedding of this video, but you can always watch it over there.

June 15, 2010

Brothers and sisters!

I don't remember hearing British band M|A|R|R|S' 1987 number "Pump Up the Volume" on the radio, but it certainly got a lot of play over mall PA systams in the late 80s.

"Pump Up the Volume" is an early house music number (one of the singles that helped house go mainstream). As such, its four-on-the-floor beat, synthetic bass line and repetitive structure contrast considerably with the more traditional song structure of, say, "Close (To the Edit)." But, as they used to say, it's still got a nice beat and you can dance to it.

June 14, 2010

To be in England in the summertime with my love

Whoops, just realized I scheduled this post for 7 pm rather than am.

For the next few weeks in June and early July, the Crusty Curmudgeon is celebrating, as I often do, the Summer of Nostalgia: reliving my fleeting youth with the music I listened to in high school and thereabouts. For this week's theme, I decided to go with instrumental dance or electronic singles. With synthesizers, samplers, sequencers, and MIDI becoming commonplace, there were a fair number of such tracks, as you can well understand.

Since I closed off last week with a Prince cover by The Art of Noise, it seemed fitting to kick off this week with their second single and the one that brought them to prominence: "Close (To the Edit)." The name is apparently a pun on the Yes album Close to the Edge, and the track itself samples the drum sounds of a later Yes single, "Leave It" (not coincidentally, both the Art of Noise and Yes singles were produced by Trevor Horn).

This video was one of the weirdest things I had ever seen when I first saw it aired on TV (anyone in Canada remember Video Hits with Samantha Taylor? She loved it). Needless to say I loved it, and it's still my favorite music video. It was not without controversy: it was banned in New Zealand for supposedly promoting violence against children, a clearly false accusation as the little girl in punk clothing is clearly encouraging the destruction of the musical instruments.

June 12, 2010

Announcing a new blog

If you've been reading this blog for the last couple of years, you know that there are months at a time with nothing to read. *rim shot*

But in between those, occasionally I've talked about my groaning, nearly-7-year-old PC, and specifically, my occasional adventures with Linux, with which I've extended my computer's life because its computing power demands are usually considerably less than the current Windows. (Also, I'm cheap).

Rather than turn this into a nerd blog, I've elected to offload most Linux-talk to The Perpetual Newbie. Why perpetual? Because I find myself constantly playing catchup trying to learn how to make things work and never getting to he level of "expert" or "power user." I'm a live Xeno's paradox.

Posts will hopefully be about weekly, and a facelift will get into the to-do list with all the other blog facelifts. Meantime, keep your safety shoes on and enjoy.

June 11, 2010

Dana Key (1953-2010)

Dana Key, contemporary Christian music pioneer, died this past Sunday at the age of 56, of complications following a blood clot.

Key was the former lead singer of the Christian rock duo Degarmo & Key, formed in 1978 with his lifelong friend Eddie DeGarmo. After D&K disbanded in the mid-90s, Key continued for a while in the music industry and became the senior pastor of a church in Tennessee.

D&K had the distinction of being the first Christian band with a video in rotation at MTVL, for their single "Six, Six, Six." Because of its apocalyptic imagery, it was soon pulled from rotation for being too violent, until the producers realized they had removed a Christian video by mistake (the band was invited to resubmit it). Granted, the "cheese factor" in some of their music was pretty high: not only did the Swirling Eddies parody two of their songs on their Sacred Cows album, but Steve Taylor also inserted a snarky rap into the Newsboys' cover of "Boycott Hell" as a commentary on the quality of the words. But even if their lyrical quality was sometimes wanting, their earnestness for sharing the Gospel never was. And as an older teen, the album The Pledge struck just the right note with me at the right time.

You finished your race well, Dana. Now, rest.

Think I better dance now

To close off this first week, how about an 80s cover done in the 80s?

"Kiss" was released in 1986 and became Prince's third #1 hit. A scant two-and-a-half years later, the seminal synth-pop group The Art of Noise released their own version of the song, featuring British pop legend Tom Jones on vocals. Thus "Kiss" became the Noise's biggest hit to date (it outperformed Prince's original in the UK), and also revived Jones' career.

Unlike Prince's straight funk, this cover is done in the Art of Noise's typical style: it's sampler heaven. The arrangement also includes numerous musical shout-outs to their previous singles, including "Legs," "Paranoimia," "Peter Gunn," "Dragnet," and "Close (To the Edit)."

June 10, 2010

Choicers roasting on an open fire

Oh, brother:

A newly revealed poster picturing the ultrasound of an unborn Jesus with a halo is adding fuel to the abortion ad uproar in the United Kingdom.

ChurchAds.Net’s “Baby-Scan Jesus” poster, which will be used for a 2010 Christmas campaign, has already started stirring debate months before the holiday season. Although the poster’s creators say it is meant to spark conversation about the meaning of Christmas, critics of the poster say it is too political and see it as a counterattack on the recent first-ever TV ad for abortion services.

[Full Story]

According to the poster creators:

the poster idea came from the 21st-century convention that proud parents-to-be show the ultrasound of their baby to family and friends.

“Our new Baby-scan Jesus poster uses this convention to place the birth of Christ in an ultra-contemporary context,” the group explained. “It is highly impactful. It has a sense of immediacy. It creates anticipation. And theologically it speaks of both the humanity and divinity of Jesus Christ.”

But some British (presumably pro-choice) secularists believe otherwise: “The image is too specifically associated with pro-lifers to be seen in a benign context," says Terry Sanderson of the National Secular Society.

Poor pro-choice secularists. Someone ought to tell these fossils that their rhetoric is well outdated. Sonograms have been commonplace for years; it's practically a given that an expectant mother will have some taken during her pregnancy. As the ChurchAds.Net folks point out, moms-to-be like to show them off. I've been to homes where they were hanging on the fridge. As Albert Mohler has pointed out, ultrasound has had an enormous impact on the current generation of young voters and their perception of the abortion issues: these older teens are "the first to grow up with ultrasound images taped to the refrigerator door. . . . This generation understands the issue in terms of infant human life. They do not see a mere fetus. They recognize a baby." Indeed, sometimes these kids take for granted that the ultrasound on the fridge is just another, earlier kind of baby picture.

But the post-menopausal remnant of militant pro-choice "secularists" misses the point. Instead of the familiar image of an anticipated new life, they see the abortion that never was. Instead of the anticipated hope of life eternal, they continue their quixotic struggle against the death of their dusty rhetoric. Well, good riddance.

(H/T: Big Blue Wave.)

National Gratuitous Drink Promotion Day

So I heard through the grapevine that June 10 is National Iced Tea Day. While I strongly suspect that this is a conspiracy concocted by the Lipton, Redpath, and Realemon companies, I do have to admit that iced tea is my one weakness. So hey, why not celebrate?

And, in any case, I don't believe I've ever had occasion to post my favourite recipe for iced tea, so this is as good an excuse as any.

You will need:

  • 2 L boiling water
  • 4 bags of Rooibos tea, or equivalent loose, or to taste
  • 1/4 C sugar
  • 1 can Five Alive concentrate, i.e. the original five-citrus-fruit flavour
  • Ice (or some other way of cooling hot tea)


  1. Normally, I would start a recipe by inviting you to pour a beer. However, this recipe is so good that it will make your favourite beer taste like rancid hippo urine by comparison, so don't waste your time.
  2. In an appropriately-sized pitcher, brew the tea to the desired strength. (Remember that ice will obviously dilute the tea considerably, so plan accordingly.) Remove the teabags.
  3. Stir in the sugar to dissolve it.
  4. Stir in enough ice cubes to bring the tea down to room temperature (or cooler, if you like).
  5. Add half of the Five Alive concentrate and mix it thoroughly. Save the other half for the next batch.

Chill the pitcher in the fridge before serving. Better yet, why wait? For instant gratification, pour the tea into a glass over lots of ice and drink it now.

Warning: This is very very very addictive. Handle with care. Fortunately, Rooibos tea is caffeine-free. Also, unlike black tea, it actually tastes better the longer you steep it. Enjoy.

Doin' it from pole to pole

In 2007, a Volkswagen advert aired on TV that featured a punk cover of Men Without Hats' classic "The Safety Dance." It hadn't occurred to me that MWH had a bit of a punk vibe to them, but there was definitely something to say for it.

Naturally, I wanted to find out who had made the recording. Turned out it was a West Coast, all-female glam group called The Donnas. Enjoy.

June 09, 2010

I find it kind of funny, I find it kind of sad

In 1983 (an all-round good year for music; I'll have to do an entire theme week around it sometime) the British band Tears for Fears had its first chart hit, "Mad World," from their album The Hurting.

"Mad World" was an ironic song about teenage angst, with morbid lyrics set to a peppy dance beat. But in 2001, film score composer Michael Andrews and vocalist Gary Jules played the teen-angsty lyrics straight on their minimalist cover for the teen-angsty cult flick Donnie Darko. Instead of the lush synth arrangement of Tears, Andrews and Jules' cover is minimalist, featuring only piano, cello, and voice.

The 2001 version accomplished what Tears for Fears had not: a #1 hit that became ubiquitous: notably it was featured in an ad for the video game Gears of War, but was also used in dozens of TV programs, including CSI and Smallville.

June 08, 2010

You've got to work to succeed

In 1983, the progressive rock band Yes (which happened to bear a passing resemblance to the original lineup of Yes) released a surprisingly radio-friendly album titled 90125. Its lead track and first single, "Owner of a Lonely Heart," was Yes' first and only #1 hit.

Montreal-based deejay Max Graham released his own popular rendition of "Owner" in 2005. This is more remix than cover, but it's a notable improvement over the original song in one key area: its video has women dancing in bikinis.

June 07, 2010

You look like you're lots of fun

It's time once again for the Summer of Nostalgia. Since the music of the 1980s is officially retro now, what better way to celebrate the beginning of the summer season, the month leading up to Canada Day, and the beginning of my half-year slide to 40, than by feebly attempting to recapture my lost youth?

As in the past, each week I have organized my selections into themes. Last summer, I spent a week posting 80s covers of older tunes; this year, I figured I'd turn that around: these are covers of 80s tunes, done later.

So let's start with one of the most recognizable hits of the 80s: "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)." This dance number by Dead or Alive hit #1 in the UK and Canada in 1985. Not surprisingly, it has been covered numerous times - including several re-releases by Dead or Alive themselves, most notably in 1995 and 2003 (which recordings typify the worst and best qualities of dance music in their respective decades). A cover of "You Spin Me Round" in 2000, used in the soundtrack to the movie American Psycho, put the industrial band Dope on the map, although it is frequently misattributed to Marilyn Manson:

I can't think of a much sharper contrast than the original, Stock-Aiken-Waterman pop number and Dope's dark, gothic rendition. But they both work.

June 03, 2010

And now . . . this - Jun. 3/10

Protecting kids from excellence, part 6.022x1023

Oh, brother:

In yet another nod to the protection of fledgling self-esteem, an Ottawa children’s soccer league has introduced a rule that says any team that wins a game by more than five points will lose by default.

The Gloucester Dragons Recreational Soccer league’s newly implemented edict is intended to dissuade a runaway game in favour of sportsmanship. The rule replaces its five-point mercy regulation, whereby any points scored beyond a five-point differential would not be registered.

[Full Story]

I predict that this rule's life will be short. Even a six-year-old can figure out that if you're down by five points, an own goal is an instant win, without even trying.

Just-a good ol' boys, never meanin' no harm

This pretty much speaks for itself.

May 28, 2010

Gary Coleman (1968-2010)

Child actor Gary Coleman, obviously best known as the legendary Arnold "Whatchoo talkin' 'bout Willis?" Jackson on the sitcom Diff'rent Strokes, died today, apparently of a head injury due to a fall in his home. He was 42.

As a child and early teen, I'll admit that Diff'rent Strokes was a guilty pleasure, and Arnold was my favourite character. His scriptwriters knew how to write good lines, and he knew just the right way for the character to deliver the wit. And, of course, that catchphrase was pure gold.

The junior cast of Strokes seems to have been a byword for the stereotypical problems of child actors. All three of the original children - Todd Bridges, Dana Plato, and Coleman - had problems with the law. Coleman himself also had money problems and chronic health problems (a kidney disorder that stunted his growth and kept him on dialysis).

Ironically, 87-year-old Conrad Bain, who played Philip Drummond, Coleman's adoptive father, has now outlived two of his three fictional children. Plato died in 1999, and apparently only Bridges has been able to overcome his past problems and bring some sense of stability to his life.

And of course I'm not that much younger than Coleman was, either. Life is fleeting and can be gone in a second, all for a tap on the head. Rest in peace, Arnold.

April 11, 2010

Extraordinary popular dilutions

This is World Homeopathy Awareness Week, "created to promote homeopathic awareness all around the world."

In honour of the occasion, I exercised my awareness of homeopathy for one second this evening. By my calculation, 1/604,800th of a week contains all the essence of homeopathic awareness that I require.

(And it's about two seconds more awareness than this superstitious codswallop deserves.)

April 01, 2010

So it's come to this

Last year at Eastertime, Newspring church in South Carolina, and their pastor Perry Noble, made waves in the evangelical world when they made the controversial decision to play the AC/DC hit "Highway to Hell" during their Easter service.

Since then, pastors all over America have been asking: "How in the world can we top that?" But Pastor Robert Frist, of Relevant Baptist Church in Chicago, has come up with the solution: this Sunday, Relevant's worship band will be performing the 1994 hit "Closer" by the industrial band Nine Inch Nails, as a lead-in to the pastor's Easter sermon.

In a blog post announcing his church's Easter plans, Pastor Frist says of "Closer": "It's a poignant song describing the human condition. Amidst the distorted bass line and driving electronic beat, [NIN frontman Trent] Reznor laments, 'I broke apart my insides.' But the chorus expresses hope: 'Help me get away from myself,' and, 'You get me closer to God.'

"Isn't this the Christian message?" he adds. "We're all broken apart. Our whole existence is flawed, and we need to get away from ourselves. But through Christ, we can get closer to God. 'Closer' starts out bleak, but ultimately it ends on a positive, uplifting note. So when we sing 'Closer' this Easter, we're singing it to Jesus."

The Crusty Curmudgeon contacted Relevant via email to ask about the relationship of lyrics such as "You let me violate you" and "I want to ---- you like an animal" to Jesus. As yet, we have received no response.

Relevant Baptist will be departing from the gritty style of Reznor's arrangement. Pastor Frist and elders of the church felt that the industrial genre was unsuitable for a worship song, and so their worship team will be performing "Closer" in a more traditional hard-rock style - led by the pastor's wife, April, the church's principal worship leader.

March 17, 2010

And now . . . this - Mar. 17/10

Friedrich Schiller, one of Germany's favourite poets and playwrights, has received reminders to pay his television licence - despite having been dead since 1805.

Two notices were delivered by GEZ, a licence-collecting agency, which threatened to mount legal action against the literary hero, who is best known for his poem Ode to Joy, which was put to music by Beethoven, unless he quickly settled his monthly €17 (£14) bill.

They were sent to a primary school bearing Schiller's name in Weigsdorf-Köblitz, a town in the eastern state of Saxony.

[Full Story]

Gee. You'd think that a middle name like "Publikenschüler" would have tipped off the bureaucrats.

In other news, they're also still hounding Johann Wolfgang von Goethe for that overdue copy of Marlowe's Dr. Faustus he borrowed from the library in 1805.

March 13, 2010

How about a nice slice of Pi?

At the sound of the tone, the time will be March 14 at 4 pm; that is, 3.1416.


Safety glasses and shoes to be worn at all times

I've finally taken a few hours to customize the look and feel of the blog. Blogger 2 templates may be incomprehensible, but at least CSS remains the same.

Pardon the dust over the next little while as I buff out some of the uglies that I couldn't see on my test platform. Masks and earplugs are available at the first-aid station.

March 10, 2010

Curiouser and curiouser

For the past few days, I've been listening to Blackstone Audio's recording of Alice in Wonderland. Blackstone is offering it as a free download until March 16, obviously in honour of Tim Burton's latest film.

Oxford mathematician Charles Dodgson, known better by his pen name Lewis Carroll, took a rowing trip up the Thames with the Rev. Robinson Duckworth and Lorena, Alice and Edith Liddell, the three daughters of Henry Liddell, the vice-chancellor of Oxford University. To pass the time, he invented a story about a young girl named Alice who had some odd adventures down a rabbit hole.

The story is so famous it hardly needs description: basically, it is a work of literary nonsense, parodying mathematics and logic, children's school lessons, and familiar personalities around the Oxford community. Pubished for the first time in 1865, it was a smash hit, and counted even Queen Victoria amongst its fans. (According to one apocryphal story, Victoria contacted the publisher to request another book by the same author. They sent her his work on algebraic determinants.)

Alice is narrated by English actor Michael York (like Carroll, also an Oxford man). His mellow, but slightly manic, voice is perfect for this material: it's one of the best audiobooks I've heard, possibly second only to the classic reading of The Screwtape Letters by John Cleese. If you like classic children's literature, audiobooks, and Michael York, you won't want to miss this. Get it while it's hot.

March 07, 2010

And now . . . this - Mar. 6/10

The Swiss slide steadily into silliness

As far as non-human rights go, Switzerland reached the tipping point of cultural insanity ages ago. Remember how it's now considered cruel to cuddle your guinea pig excessively or mistreat your pet rhinoceros? A little too much, and you might be seeing Fluffy in court.

A nationwide referendum is taking place in Switzerland on a proposal to give animals the constitutional right to be represented in court.

Animal rights groups say appointing state-funded animal lawyers would ensure animal welfare laws are upheld, and help prevent cases of cruelty.

[Full Story]

At this rate, the broccoli will be demanding the right to represent itself by about 2015. Suffice it to say this is not improving Switzerland's image as an over-regulated culture.

(H/T: Anglican Samizdat.)

Will that be paper or plastic?

They say money doesn't grow on trees. Well, the federal government has taken that adage to heart — it announced earlier this week that Canada's paper-cotton banknotes would be replaced by newly designed plastic ones next year.

Cool. Maybe the new design will be one of the ones with the little windows in 'em.

It's part of a plan to modernize and protect Canadian currency against counterfeiting.

The new plastic bills, made from a polymer material, are harder to fake, recyclable, and two to three times more resistant to tearing, the Bank of Canada said.

[Full Story]

Yeah, but how much do you want to bet the stores still won't accept fifties or hundreds?

March 04, 2010

And now, presenting what may very well be the stupidest question ever...

Just tweeted this evening by a self-described "prochoice Christian":

If chastity and abstinence works [sic], where did Jesus come from?

No, seriously.

You need a license to drive and own a gun, but anyone with a computer can use the Internet. Explain that.

February 27, 2010

Sigh . . . this is so generic

Little problems never stay little, they always cascade into bigger problems.

Last year, Haloscan announced the discontinuation of their free commenting platform, which I have been using on the Crusty Curmudgeon almost since its inception.

No problem, I thought, I'll just switch to another one. Blogger has its own system which is probably adequate, right? Problem is, turning on comments didn't turn on comments.

No problem, I thought, there's aways Intense Debate. Just toss in some custom code and we're off to the races. Problem is, they don't support my old-style template.

Blogger Classic used a slightly modified HTML, which I can practically code in my sleep. I can't even begin to understand the markup language used by New Blogger to create their templates. So it looks like my hand's been forced: in order to get the features I want, I have to lose my own layout.

Ugh. This looks so generic. Well, if I can't understand the code, I'll have to get cracking on hacking the style sheet. The orange was getting a little old anyway.

What if the Hokey Pokey really was what it's all about?

I guess it would look something like this.

I'd love to think this was some kind of joke. I really would.

I don't normally expect better from Rick Joyner and Morningstar Ministries. They've been a locus of goofy Christianity, "faith healing" and false prophecy for many years. After all, these are the same people who endorsed Todd Bentley - at least, until his marital infidelity singlehandedly killed the Lakeland "Revival" in Florida. (They continue to oversee his supposed "restoration.")

So somehow, the "Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey" is right up their alley. But check out the incongruity between the earnest vocal stylings, and the subject matter. Never has such nonsensical blasphemy been sung with such absolute conviction. It's "worshipful," even.

Even more absurd are the "healing" testimonies that came about as the result of this garbage. My favourite was the woman at the end, who complained of back problems, until she, too, did the Holy Ghost Hokey Pokey:

Y'all said put yourself in and put yourself out, and I put myself in and my back is completely healed. . . . I put myself in and I put myself out and it is healed. My spine is healed. He is real he is real he is real.

Who is real, she doesn't say. I can only assume it isn't Jesus. I don't think he's got anything to do with this crap.