Friday, September 30, 2005

How Not to Conduct Yourself in a Politics Tutorial

If you have an interest in maintaining a respectable reputation, in appearing pleasant towards the opposite sex, being remembered for your intellectual contributions to a group and not potentially black-balling yourself from many social situations you should probably not follow the example I set today in my politics tutorial. It was the first one of the year and it’s for a course I dislike, but neither point excuses my behaviour, although it may help to explain it.

Before I begin, it sometimes seems like I need a delay between my brain and my mouth. I don’t have the worst case of foot-in-mouth disease, but I’ve been known to say things that land me in hot water or otherwise strange situations. I wouldn’t want a delay, as that seems like a horrible way to live, but on certain occasions it seems like it’d be advisable. I think in this case I equalled some of my other more memorable Kingston moments. The most comparable is probably last year when I had a 20-second (or so) discussion with MP Peter Milliken about whether a video playing was of heterosexual foreplay or lesbian foreplay, and this was after pointing out the video to him, which I assume people had been avoiding as a topic of conversation for a reason.

Anyway, so it was our first tutorial and I was sitting beside a couple of friends. Our TA came in and introduced himself and gave us a few details about the course and his role. It was all very basic stuff, until it came to the icebreaker he proposed. While a few of my tutorials/small classes don’t have icebreakers, most do – although they tend to be of the “go round and introduce yourself to everyone” variety. However, he said we were playing “2 Truths and a Lie” which I hadn’t played in forever.

I could blame it on the fact I haven’t played in ages, or on the fact I was picked to go “early” – to be quite honest, about middle of the class – but, I think the most pressing reason is the fact I wanted to play the game well, and not cop out like people who said shit like, “I have 12 pairs of jeans,” “I am an only child,” “My favourite show is the O.C.” Those were all real lines used in my tutorial and they were all boring. (Actually, one of one girl’s truths was that she had 24 siblings. I found that pretty amazing. That’s a shitload of people to buy presents for on Christmas and birthdays, but I guess you get a lot back, too.)

The game was played and I tried to follow along, while also racking my brain for good ideas for my turn. I didn’t really succeed, so when my turn I began with a standard and then thought up two more on the fly.

  1. I have attended more than fifty-five Blue Jays games in a year…in person.

  1. Once, when we were little, my brother and I were playing “Cops and Robbers” and I phoned 9-1-1 and got a police cruiser to show up at our house.

  1. I’ve had two hernias.

So, the person across from me was supposed to guess which one was the lie. She guessed wrong, so I had to tell her that, “I never got a police car to show up at our house….my brother made the call.” That got a series of laughs, but they paled in terms of the reaction that came about half a minute earlier.

She guessed #3, so I had to tell her, “Incorrect…I’ve had two hernias.”

Now, I don’t know if everyone knows what a hernia is, or if there is a lot of confusion out there about it. In my defence, I’m going to claim that I saw a few confused looks on people’s faces. So I decided to utter the words for which I’ll always be remembered in that tutorial and to those people and to all their friends and associates and which will make me the subject of whispering in next week’s classes.

“Yep. Both testicles.”

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Of Metric in Kingston

I have no real use for Homecoming weekend, but it arrived this weekend, like it does every year, to massive hype and excitement amongst Queen’s students. To cut right to the chase, this year the student government at Queen’s booked a free concert on campus in an attempt to try and cut down, however slightly, the number of intoxicated students roaming the streets. I wasn’t planning to go, but when I heard the lineup of Stripper’s Union, Metric and Billy Talent I jumped at the chance and got my ticket.

Stripper’s Union is a solo project by Rob Baker of The Tragically Hip and I arrived about halfway through their set. What I heard didn’t seem to be bad, nor was it anything special. One or two songs were catchy and it was pleasant enough to listen to, but a few of the songs faded into background noise as I walked around trying to find a good place to stand to listen to Metric.

After twenty (I’m guessing twenty, it seemed like about forty) minutes between sets Metric came out to cheers, most of the polite-sort as Billy Talent fans had clearly begun to pack the parking lot. Metric began to play, starting off with a song from their new album. I haven’t downloaded it, so I can’t name most of the songs. After this song they jumped right into ”Succexy” and the show was off and rocking.

At this point the guy with the big head right in front of me turned to someone to my left and said, “You know, I only came for Stripper’s Union anyway.” Thankfully, he’d leave within a couple of songs, although some girls took his place, so I couldn’t move up. I’ve seen Metric once before, but this show occurred the day after their four straight sold-out shows in Toronto and Emily Haines lost her voice about halfway through the show, unfortunately. That show didn’t compare to this one, even if she crowd-surfed partway through and I got to touch her leg.

This show was awesome. They played about half new stuff and half old, including “Combat Baby”, “The List”, “Dead Disco” and “Hustle Rose.” The new stuff they played was quite good and I’m looking forward to hearing it in its entirety. Apparently, this was the premiere performance for one of their songs – I believe it was “Poster of a Girl.” Haines deemed it, “Okay.” Josh Winstead took about four pictures during the show, some of Haines, some of the audience.

The band really rocked and put on a great show, in my opinion. Like always, Josh and James Shaw played their instruments full of emotion (it was really tough to see Joules on the drums from where I stood) and they both held your attention in their own right. However, as always, the star of the show was Emily. Her stage presence is mesmerising. Whether she’s gyrating her legs to the music, head-banging or just dancing around on stage, it’s almost impossible to look away from her. To use the obvious pun, it’s simply “succexy.” The only other musicians I’ve seen live that are comparable are Steven Page, and to a lesser degree Ed Robertson, of the Barenaked Ladies.

So, I was disheartened when Metric left, but since I was pretty close to the stage I decided to wait around for Billy Talent. Forty minutes later, they came on stage, at which point I was pushed in the back by about half-a-dozen drunken frat boys who were barging their way to the front. I guess I shouldn’t have expected anything else, but still, I figured since I was near the sides I could avoid the worst of it. Fifteen minutes later I had taken an elbow in the head, been forced to mosh against my will and had begun to realise that I don’t even like Billy Talent.

I knew I wouldn’t, but I figured it’d be worth sticking around now that I’m there. It wasn’t.

So I wandered around the outskirts of the parking lot, preparing to go home, but slowly taking a tour around before I left, hoping I’d run into someone I know or come up with a good idea of what to do besides go home. As I was walking around, I passed by the merchandising table and did a double-take. There, standing by the table, was Emily Haines talking to another member of Metric. I’m pretty sure it was Joules, but at the time I wasn’t sure if it was him, James (I had doubt as to whether I had the names right) or some random person.

I stood around, nervously debating what to do for about ten minutes. I wanted to approach them, but I didn’t know what to say and I wasn’t sure if they would prefer to be left in peace. During that ten minutes I saw that two girls approached them, but that was it. Not many people were nearby and those that were had no idea who they were standing amongst. Afraid they would leave, I finally bit the bullet and walked over, still unsure of what I was going to say.

I stood patiently near them as Emily finished saying something and looked over. I said nervously, “Sorry to interrupt, but I just wanted to say that you played a great set. I’m really looking forward to the next album.”

She replied, “Thanks,” but didn’t say much else.

I wasn’t sure whether that was a cue to leave or not, so I continued, “I saw you guys last time you played were here – at the Elixir…”

I was about to say, “When you lost your voice,” but Emily smiled and motioned to her throat, saying the same thing. She said something to the effect of that she was going to thank all the fans who put up with her that night and who came back to see them again, but then she decided against it.

I wished I could have come up with something charming or funny to say – I’d have even settled for articulate. Instead, I soon said, “Well, it was understandable after those four shows in Toronto. Don’t worry, this more than made up for it. It was fantastic.”

She smiled and was about to say something, but then some girls appeared and thrust out objects for her to sign. She kind-of smiled sideways at me and began to sign her autograph. I had nothing for Emily to sign and these girls were talking to her, so I was unsure of what to do. Should I stay and try to resume a conversation after they left? Should I hang around and play it by ear? Or was this my cue to leave?

I assume the third, as I didn’t want to appear stalkery and I assumed Emily didn’t want to have mindless conversations with ardent fans all night long. So I left, happy that I met her but sad that I wasn’t able to say something real or intelligent in our brief 30-second conversation.

So, for those of you keeping track, Metric have played Kingston twice while I’ve been her. The first time I touched Emily on the leg and the second time I spoke to her. As this seems to be a pattern, I will conclude these are certainly not two random occurrences. Apparently, Metric are coming to Kingston in January. How can this incident be topped? I’m not sure, but I’m already looking forward to it.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Analysing Marmaduke

One day when I’ve not got much to do I’ll write a nice piece fully explaining the genius that was Calvin and Hobbes. With all due respect to Far Side, Get Fuzzy, Dilbert and Sherman’s Lagoon none of them can touch Calvin and Hobbes as the best comic ever created. I own basically every book Mr. Watterson has published, and you can reread Calvin and Hobbes and still find it funny, years after you first discovered it. In fact, I get a lot more jokes in the strip seven years down the road. I seriously doubt I’ll ever read a strip as good as Calvin again.

Nowadays one could generously describe the comic pages as mediocre. Some appear to be just ongoing soap operas, others consit of middle-aged wives complaining about their suburban lives and there are always a couple Biazzaro-type comics, but they aren’t really funny, either. The only things really worth reading are Get Fuzzy, Sherman’s Lagoon and Zits, but none of them are consistently funny (or gut-wrenchingly) enough to be daily fixtures. Also, it’s rarely worth wading through the rest of the crap to get to those strips. As I’m not a 50-year old single Christian woman I’ve not found Family Circus to ever be funny and I never will.

However, one strip has always puzzled me, and that’s Marmaduke. With the strip’s main character being a dog and since the joke has to be told in a single captioned frame, I’ve always wondered how much potential for jokes existed.

So, this past week, I decided to investigate. Here are links to the comics from the past five days:

Monday, September 19th

Tuesday, September 20th

Wednesday, September 21th

Thursday, September 22nd

Friday, September 23rd

If you’ve read all the comics, you can clearly see they all contain the same joke, even if the punchline is different. The joke of every Marmaduke comic is that Marmaduke is trying to act like a human, when clearly he’s a canine.

For example, look at Wednesday’s cartoon. The car has clearly stalled and the man has to push it to get it going again, so who has assumed the wheel to steer the car once it starts? It’s crazy old Marmaduke. He’s trying to drive a car, when clearly, as a dog, he doesn’t have a driver’s licence, the knowledge about how to drive and probably even the necessary physical coordination. There may be a second joke in this strip about the fact Marmaduke can’t escape his canine nature as he sticks his head out the window, even when driving. However, the main joke is definitely Marmaduke acting like a human.

Thursday’s comic is much the same. The lady Marmaduke lives with, I don’t know her name, apologies for having interrupted a “board meeting” of the dogs round the backyard table. Silly Marmaduke doesn’t realise that dogs don’t have important issues to discuss, nor can they talk, so a board meeting is unnecessary. Marmaduke is trying to emulate humans again, much to the amusement of the reader.

I began to wonder if every Marmaduke comic had this one joke, or if there were a small series of jokes, of which this one is just the dominate one. I looked at last weekend’s comics:

Saturday, September 17th

Sunday, September 18th

To begin with Saturday’s strip, the problem here is that we don’t know precisely how Marmaduke injured his tail at the retirement home. I’m not even sure who he was supposed to have been visiting at the home. I can think of two possibilities concerning Marmaduke’s injuries. One, he was at the retirement home and tried to copy the elderly people there and sat on a rocking chair, only to injure his tail in the course of his rocking. The alternate is that he was hanging around some individuals in a rocking chair, one of whom rocked back and crushed his tail.

I would dismiss the first scenario off the bat, except for the fact that Marmaduke has clearly accomplished many things dogs aren’t usually capable of, including moving a refrigerator, driving a car and arranging a board meeting of dogs. The second scenario just doesn’t seem that funny. An old person injuring a dog, inadvertently or not, isn’t something particularly amusing. That doesn’t seem to the base for a very good joke. Perhaps it’s a commentary on the failure of the elderly to examine their surroundings and notice a nearby dog before they began rocking – but that joke seems to be based, again, on someone’s lack of respect for animals, which is hardly something Marmaduke’s creator would endorse. Therefore, I have to conclude Marmaduke sat on a rocking chair, accidentally injured his own tail and we have a sixth case of Marmaduke trying to act like a human.

Sunday’s strip is particularly interesting. Marmaduke is bugged by kittens and retreats to his doghouse, only to notice the master of the house is walking by, obviously on his way to perform some chore. Marmaduke gets up, carries the kittens to the doghouse and gets them out of the way before the man begins to mow the lawn.

The joke here appears to be based on Marmaduke’s parental nature, as despite the fact that he grown tired of the kittens and has tried to escape their presence, he returns to rescue them from possible danger, just like any parent would do. The man seems to unaware the kittens are about before he begins mowing the lawn, as he never checks the yard, and thus the potential danger is high. Marmaduke saves the situation by acting responsibly, like a human. Despite the fact he is in a subordinate role in the house Marmaduke acts responsibily and aids those who run the house, who are unaware of the situation they narrowly avoided.

So, in conclusion, there are at least two distinct Marmaduke jokes. The most common is Marmaduke trying to act like a human, but there are also strips where the joke is that Marmaduke is acting like a human and aiding the people he lives with. At some point later I aim to examine more Marmaduke and see what other jokes I can discover in this strip.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


A quote in this article on the K.C. Royals on Rob Neyer’s website, got a bunch of baseball fans into an interesting discussion. Rob writes,

Because Lubanski, like most Royals “prospects,” doesn’t know the strike zone from his anal sphincter. In 126 games, Lubanski drew 38 walks and struck out 131 times. Last year in the Midwest League, he struck out 106 times in 128 games . . . and that was without the power he’s shown this season. The draft pick used on Lubanski was wasted, nearly as badly as the one used on Colt Griffin.

So that got a few people asking whether the phrase “anal sphincter” was really necessary, or would it simply be enough to say “sphincter” by itself? Does someone have other sphincters?

The answer is yes, we do. People could think of at least five other non-anal sphincters in the human body. Humans have a sphincter between their esophagus and stomach (cardial sphincter), a urethral sphincter, a sphincter in the iris of the eye (sphincter pupillae), a sphincter between their stomach and the duodenum (the first part of the small intestine; called the pyloric sphincter) and one from the common bile duct into the duodenum (Sphincter of Oddi).

So, when referencing sphincters in conversation, be sure to say “anal sphincter” to avoid it be confused with someone’s pyloric sphincter or the Sphincter of Oddi.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Faster By Five Days to St. Bernard

This bit of news from New Orleans seemed worth passing on. Everyone knows the response to the hurricane has been slow, by all levels of government, but to be beaten to a New Orleans suburb by five days is more than a bit ridiculous. And props to the Canadian team for knowing a suitable parish to operate in, rather than flying to an area of New Orleans that FEMA and the U.S. army was focusing on.

A Canadian search-and-rescue team reached a flooded New Orleans suburb to help save trapped residents five days before the U.S. military, a Louisiana state senator said on Wednesday.

The Canadians beat both the Army and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the U.S. disaster response department, to St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans, where flood waters are still 8 feet (2.4 metres) deep in places, Sen. Walter Boasso said.

"Fabulous, fabulous guys," Boasso said. "They started rolling with us and got in boats to save people."

"We've got Canadian flags flying everywhere."

The stricken parish of 68,000 people was largely ignored by U.S. authorities who scrambled to get aid to New Orleans, a few miles (km) away. Boasso said residents of the outlying parishes had to mount their own rescue and relief efforts when Hurricane Katrina roared ashore on Aug. 29.

The U.S. government response to the disaster has been widely criticized. Politicians and editorial writers have called for the resignation of top Bush administration officials.

Boasso said U.S. authorities began airdropping relief supplies to St. Bernard last Wednesday, the same day the Canadian rescue team of about 50 members arrived from Vancouver, nearly 2,200 miles (3,540 km) away.

"They chartered a plane and flew down," he said.

Two FEMA officials reached the parish on Sunday and the U.S. Army arrived on Monday, he said.

"Why does it take them seven days to get the Army in?" Boasso asked.

He speculated that the smaller parishes suffered because the focus was on New Orleans, the famous home of jazz and Mardi Gras.

As for the Canadians, Boasso gave thanks for their quick work.

"They were so glad to be here," he said. "They're still here. They are actually going door-to-door looking in the attics" for people to rescue, he said.

Brown Demoted

Yesterday Michael Brown was relieved of his command of onsite relief efforts yesterday and it’s about time. Anyone without an ideological bias could see that he was had done an incredibly poor job both before and after the hurricane and Bush’s quote, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job” might become more infamous than many of his Bushisms in the years to come.

I'm not saying the fault lies entirely with federal officials, because the local and state handling of the relief efforts have also had some problems from what I can tell. However, the federal response has been quite poor, from diverting funds to New Orleans in 2004 to help fund the Iraq war to their inability to grasp how disasterous this hurricane was going to be, and Brown's performance is one of the most glaring examples. Brown is one of the incompetent government officials I’ve seen in recent years and Brendan Loy has a fine post about Brown’s incompetence, which is well worth the read.

A couple highlights:

In response to this quote,

"Saturday and Sunday, we thought it was a typical hurricane situation -- not to say it wasn't going to be bad, but that the water would drain away fairly quickly," Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Mike Brown said today. "Then the levees broke and (we had) this lawlessness. That almost stopped our efforts." ...

"Katrina was much larger than we expected," he said.

Loy writes,

No one -- NO ONE -- who knows anything about New Orleans's geography and topography and levee system would ever have thought for a single moment on Saturday and Sunday that Katrina, if it followed the predicted path, was going to be a "typical hurricane situation." Jesus Christ!! For how many years now has this article been out there?!? And this one? And many more like them? Did Michael Brown never read them? Was he not familiar with the science? Was FEMA's director unaware of what has been acknowledged for many years as the #1 most serious natural disaster threat in all of America?!? (Or, more immediately, did he not read the National Weather Service's statement on Sunday morning which predicted that Katrina would cause "human suffering incredible by modern standards"?)


And "larger than expected"?!? Katrina WEAKENED at the last minute, its western eyewall virtually collapsed, and it turned AWAY from New Orleans, moving 40 miles east of the city instead of moving directly overhead! It was substantially smaller, weaker and less bad than expected!!!

And on FEMA’s incompetence, he has something to say, including this:

[T]he warnings about New Orleans's vulnerability to post-hurricane flooding repeatedly circulated at the upper levels of the new [Homeland Security] bureaucracy, which had absorbed the old lead agency for disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, among its two dozen fiefdoms. "Beyond terrorism, this was the one event I was most concerned with always," said Joe M. Allbaugh, the former Bush campaign manager who served as his first FEMA head.

But several current and former senior officials charged that those worries were never accorded top priority -- either by FEMA's management or their superiors in DHS. Even when officials held a practice run, as they did in an exercise dubbed "Hurricane Pam" last year, they did not test for the worst-case scenario, rehearsing only what they would do if a Category 3 storm hit New Orleans, not the Category 4 power of Katrina. And after Pam, the planned follow-up study was never completed, according to a FEMA official involved.

Also, apparently Cheney visited a relief center in Austin, Texas today, so he’s not completely AWOL. However, this is the first I’ve heard or seen of him since the hurricane, which is still a long time for him to have vanished.

I Don’t Want to Go to Tom DeLay’s Birthday Party and Other Thoughts on New Orleans

1. I Don’t Want to Go to Tom DeLay’s Birthday Party

If this is his idea of fun, I’d hate to see what activities he plans for his birthday party.

U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay's visit to Reliant Park this morning offered him a glimpse of what it's like to be living in shelter.

While on the tour with top administration officials from Washington, including U.S. Secretary of Labor Elaine L. Chao and U.S. Treasury Secretary John W. Snow, DeLay stopped to chat with three young boys resting on cots.

The congressman likened their stay to being at camp and asked, "Now tell me the truth boys, is this kind of fun?"

They nodded yes, but looked perplexed.

Yes, I understand maybe he is trying to put a positive spin on it for some youngsters, but that comment in that situation seems pretty inappropriate to me, especially from a representative from a government that has been widely criticised for an inadequate response to Katrina.

I can’t imagine being in that situation and losing my house, my entire life’s possessions, the city I live in and basically almost everything I have on earth but my family and friends. However, I think in such a situation I’d want sympathy, rather than some phony and inadequate effort to cheer me up. How about a pledge to help the survivors rebuild their life? Or to help the city of New Orleans rebuild itself? That seems like something that would be much more appropriate.

2. What’s on Bush’s Mind at This Time is Highly Questionable

However, the former residents of New Orleans need not fear. Bush will rebuild their city, or at least one house in it.

Or was it that odd moment when he promised to rebuild Mississippi Senator Trent Lott's house--a gesture that must have sounded astonishingly tone-deaf to the homeless black citizens still trapped in the postapocalyptic water world of New Orleans. "Out of the rubbles of Trent Lott's house--he's lost his entire house," cracked Bush, "there's going to be a fantastic house. And I'm looking forward to sitting on the porch."

3. Some Katrina Photos Are Worth Looking At

This photo is haunting.

4. Where the Hell is Dick Cheney?

Shouldn’t the Vice-President be involved in the recovery efforts for one of the worst natural disasters to hit a country in its entire history? Apparently not as his website doesn’t even mention Hurricane Katrina.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Rehnquist Dead

Breaking news: Chief Justice William Rehnquist has died. Rehnquist had been ill with thyroid cancer and apparently his health declined dramatically in the last few days. He died earlier this evening at his home, ending a 33-year career on the Supreme Court, where he had been Chief Justice since 1986. Rehnquist’s career on the Supreme Court lasted so long he actually voted on Roe v. Wade, which he opposed. Rehnquist was one of the court’s conservatives, voting against a recount in Bush v. Gore, acting as the court’s sole dissenter in Bob Jones University v. the United States, voting with the majority opinion in Bowers v. Hardwick and joining his usual pals, Scalia and Thomas, in dissenting in Lawrence v. Texas.

My prediction, partially because I like to be right (even if it takes a while) is that J. Michael Luttig becomes the second new potential Supreme Court justice of the year, but that Clarence Thomas becomes the USA’s first African-American Chief Justice.