In which I enter my mid-30s

Well that was a pretty good 34th birthday, considering it was in the middle of the week and I was at work for most of it. Nellie surprised me with two presents in the morning (Wii Sports Resort, which I can tell is going to be hours of swordfighting & wakeboarding fun, and a fancy new Hugo Boss jacket). At the office some folks took T-Bone and I out for lunch, and other co-workers had a cake in the afternoon. I got some good news at work (which I shall keep to myself) then came home and played the Wii for a while while Nellie cooked us up a ginormous Cumbrae’s steak. We paired it with the bottle of Eclipse we got at L’Acadie earlier this month and ate while we caught up on Durham County. After some happy birthdays phone calls (how quaint) we had a quick video chat with my brothers and sisters-in-law since they’re all in one place right now.

Back to work tomorrow morning, which sucks, but that’s the price I pay for using up all my vacation on France and Nova Scotia. Happy non-birthday, rest of world!

"At least I won't be looking like a old leather purse when I'm 40."

Earlier today I saw this story (via @ecila) on the CBC site: Tanning beds cause cancer: WHO.

Tanning beds and ultraviolet radiation cause cancer and have been moved up to the highest risk category by international cancer experts.

The new classification means tanning beds and UV definitely cause cancer in humans, just as tobacco smoke, the hepatitis B virus and mustard gas do.

Ha ha ha ha…mustard gas!

OK, OK, I’m sorry, I know this isn’t really something I should make fun of, but come on…what did these people expect? Tanning beds involve folding yourself into a glowing goddamn photon torpedo tube and dosing yourself with ultraviolet-A radiation. Either you just didn’t think very hard about what you were doing when you got in, or you did and were vain enough to do it anyway. Now all those people who actually believe the base tan myth aren’t just silly, sunburned and out of pocket…they’re more likely to develop health problems too.

I wonder how long it’ll take life insurance companies to start asking whether or not you use a tanning bed?

Maybe it's something to do with being an asshat

In today’s instalment of “What’s the most ridiculous and offensive thing said today by someone who should be educated enough to know better?” we have art critic Brian Sewell, as quoted in The Independent. Emphasis is mine:

“The art market is not sexist,” Mr Sewell said. “The likes of Bridget Riley and Louise Bourgeois are of the second and third rank. There has never been a first-rank woman artist.

Only men are capable of aesthetic greatness. Women make up 50 per cent or more of classes at art school. Yet they fade away in their late 20s or 30s. Maybe it’s something to do with bearing children.”

Bravo, Mr. Sewell. I think you take today’s prize. I won’t even go after you about the “never been a first-rank woman artist” as an art critic would surely have a better sense of the historical ranking among artists than I, and I don’t know what you consider first-rank, so you could at least point out some kind of evidence to support your argument. How good that evidence is I can’t say since, as I said, I know next to nothing about art.

However, to state that “only men are capable of aesthetic greatness” is patently absurd. I’m pretty open to any argument if it can be backed up with some evidence or logic, but this one’s indefensible.

Also, I’m pretty sure, assuming you’re straight, that you’ll never ever get laid again. Cheers.


Interesting chart in the Economist today:

Interesting, too, this line from the Economist’s blurb accompanying the picture:

“[A] shortage of jobs for the young means that political instablity, in many Arabic countries, is likely to persist.”

Here’s why this is worrying: remember that among the biggest enablers of the ascent of fascism in Europe in the 1930s was economic disarray due to astronomical inflation and then worldwide recession. It usually takes a confluence of economic factors to cause societal distress, one or more of which isn’t a typical part of economic cycles — in Weimar Germany it was the cost of the war and war reparation payments, followed by the Great Depression — and this chart points to the makings of another potential confluence in Arab countries.

By contrast, in the US or Europe today you have an economic downturn, which looks awful and feels awful and is treated on the news and in opinion columns as if it’s different from all the other downturns. It’s not, of course, except perhaps in magnitude. But economies will recover. It’s a natural part of the cycle — we flew too high, now it’s time to bend and scrape. Again, the differentiating factor in Germany’s case was the additional repayment due the Allies combined with the monstrous debt of the four-year war itself which drove hyperinflation, all later piled on top of a worldwide economic crisis. That disrupted the cycle and caused a kind of slow-burn chain reaction, leading to economic turmoil, which led to social unrest. The added political kindling of the threat of Bolshevism (a dictatorship, dressed as a left-wing movement) opened the door for Fascism (equally dictatorial, but perceived as the right-wing enemy of a left-wing enemy and therefore a friend) to take root.

So, back to the Arab countries. For years they’ve had little economic cycle to disrupt, as rich Western countries and corrupt political leaders have kept the wealth (primarily from oil) for themselves. Put another way, the average person hasn’t that much to lose. Still, that inequity in itself is a basis for simmering discontent, if not periodic crisis, and so it lies in wait for an accelerant. When you add in this impending economic crisis of unemployment driven by an incredibly high birth date in Arab countries, you have all the makings of a bomb waiting to go off: persistent economic imbalance and hordes of disenfranchised youth in a region rife with religious fundamentalism and armed conflict. All it needs is one last spark to push it over the edge.

So what happens if that final factor occurs, if the match is lit? In Germany, under such circumstances, desperation led the people to vote themselves a tyrant, and their manufacturing capacity made them a war machine again.  Presumably the reaction in Arab countries would be different. It’s unlikely they would elect a party who would mobilize for widespread war, though that must be precisely the scenario Israel dreads. I’m far from informed on the topic, but my feeling is that there would be a dramatic surge in terrorism, as well as targeted attacks against western workers and corporations in Arab countries, compounding the economic problem and creating a downward spiral.

The Nazis were the result of multiple compounding factors, some controllable, or at least foreseeable, like economic depression and war reparations, and some not, like hyperinflation and Bolshevism. Back to the present day: the economic draining of Arab countries is easy to spot…it’s been going on for decades, so that’s factor #1.  The Economist has made this demographic shift  (which will inexorably lead to mass unemployment) plain to see…and there’s #2. So what’s the unforeseeable event going to be? What unpredictable economic catastrophe would be big enough to light the fuse?

Peak oil, anybody?

Sometimes good news. Sometimes bad news.

I got my hair cut yesterday, as I do about once a month. Any longer between visits to the barber and two things happen: my hair starts to drive me nuts, and my barber gives me grief for leaving so much hair on his floor.

Actually, I have two barbers. Ralph and Nick have been cutting my hair for seven years, from the time I moved to Yonge & Bloor and even since I moved out of that neighbourhood. I’m not fussy which one of them cuts it, I just sit down at whichever chair is free. Ralph’s English isn’t as good, but he’s probably (as I’ve said before) the most cheerful guy I’ve ever met. Nick’s chattier, and always asks me whether I’ve been back to Nova Scotia recently. He likes his seafood, and marvels at the fact that someone who grew up on the east coast doesn’t like fish. I bring him maple syrup once in a while.

Yesterday I went in, this year’s maple syrup in hand and ready to recount my latest trip to NS. Nick wasn’t there so I sat down in Ralph’s chair and asked where Nick was. Ralph told me quietly that “Well, my friend, sometimes we get good news and sometimes we get bad news. For Nicky,” Ralph said, “it was bad news. He died.”

Dammit. Dammit dammit. Poor Ralphie, he’d probably been telling people all month. I must be one of the last to know; the last time I got my hair cut was just before Nick died. I was sorry I made Ralph explain it again, but sorry most of all because I didn’t get to say goodbye to Nick.

You were a gentleman and an awfully nice guy, Mr. Tunzi. I’ll miss you.

Nick and Ralph. Photo from BlogTO.
Nick and Ralph

"Remember it was me who dragged you up to the sweaty floor"

Last year Frightened Rabbit (myspace) kind of appeared on my radar from out of nowhere with The Midnight Organ Fight, an album I loved instantly and which landed in my top ten of the year. When I heard they were coming to town I thought I’d better get on it, Ticketmaster service charges be damned.

And so it was that last night Joe, Sheila, Nellie and I went to see them at the Horseshoe, stopping first for dinner at the Adelaide St. Pub…which isn’t quite a pub, but whatever. It’s a decent spot that serves decent beer in the decidedly indecent entertainment district, and such things are not to be taken for granted, especially when they have a decent patio.

We missed the first opener entirely (almost as if we planned it that way) and arrived just as The Antlers (myspace) took the stage. I was actually pretty impressed, enough so that I came home and downloaded their newest album from eMusic. I have to say, though, they’re a band that sounds very different live than they do in the studio. Watching them live I thought they were about 70% Walkmen, 20% Wolf Parade, 5% Jeff Buckley‘s voice and 5% bombast from This Will Destroy You or Explosions In The Sky…certainly a winning combination for yours truly. Listening to their music right now, though, it sounds nothing like that. It’s over-engineered, over produced. The singer’s voice loses all emotion and the drums might as well not even be there. It’s too bad…I really enjoyed their set, and was hoping it would translate off-stage. It’s not bad, mind you, just less impressive than I found them last night.

A few minutes later Frightened Rabbit was up to do their thing, and it was just what everyone wanted. They blasted through just about all the songs on Midnight Organ Fight (except “Floating In The Forth”, dammit) and a few from their debut (“Mu! Sic! Now!”), then came back out for an encore, which was pretty cool: first Scott Hutchinson led a singalong of “Poke” without a mic, and then did a blazing “Keep Yourself Warm” to end the night. They seemed to enjoy it, the crowd loved it. We loved it too. $16 well spent.

A few miscellaneous observations:

  • The bouncer dug my The Suburbs Are Killing Us tshirt.
  • My hearing is just now returning to normal. We were a little close to one of the speakers. They’re no Mogwai, but locations counts for a lot in a place like the ‘Shoe.
  • It seems wrong, somehow, that the Horseshoe would carry Mill Street Organic beer.

The only thing that I got's been botherin' me my whole life

Ugh. I sat down, all ready to write a nice long blog post about something frightfully interesting, but my brain is so foggy from this cold and all the DayQuil* I’m taking to deal with it that I can’t string together a coherent sentence. I’ll get back to you on…whatever it was I was going to write about and have already forgotten.

In the meantime, I can muster some thoughts about the two books I just finished: Pygmy by Chuck Palahniuk was one of his better ones, I thought. It took me some time to get used to the writing style, but once I did I flew through it. I actually wish it had gone on a little longer, a rare sensation for me with books. I then whipped through Deliver Me From Nowhere by Tennessee Jones, ten short stories written as companion pieces to each of the songs on Bruce Springsteen‘s excellent Nebraska album. Some were good, some were tedious, but only the first two felt like they added to the songs that inspired them. Still, a worthwhile (and quick) read for fans of the album.

* By the way, is it no longer possible to get DayQuil in liquid form? I stumbled out to a drugstore yesterday for provisions, and can find lots of liquid NyQuil, but DayQuil seems to only come in capsule form now. I have to take 2 or 3 just to feel anything, whereas a little gulp of the liquid stuff and I was giddily altered for a good four hours.

Wrapping up the trip

The fruits (ha ha) of our labours
The fruits (ha ha) of our labours

In the twenty-four hours since my last blog post we:

  • Watched Taken (imdb | rotten tomatoes) which was both highly entertaining and patently absurd;
  • Had dinner at Seven Wine Bar with many Halifax friends, followed by drinks at Durty Nelly’s and yet another stop at Pizza Corner;
  • Awoke, arose and had breakfast with T-Bone and The Sof (who had an earlier flight) and were joined briefly by Marney and Amy;
  • Got to the airport early so we could catch a bite, where our friends were still waiting (their incoming flight was diverted) and who eventually took off after us, despite being on a flight meant to leave three hours earlier;
  • Arrived home to find some happy, happy cats.

By the way, here’re the wineries we visited Thursday. I couldn’t be bothered to find all the sites before:

None of the samples really blew us away, but we found enough interesting ones to buy nine bottles. I think the one we’re looking forward to the most is the Alchemy from L’Acadie, which we couldn’t sample but has drawn some fanfare.

Back where it all began

I haven’t had an internet connection the past couple of days, and I have far too much to type to bother using this silly little keyboard, so I’ll keep the events bullet-point form for now:

  • Wednesday: drove to the Annapolis Valley, checked in to a nice little bed and breakfast, visited Nellie’s mom for dinner…massive, massive dinner
  • Thursday: visited five (!) local wineries, tasted a lot, bought nine (!!) bottles, had excellent dinner at the winery and a nice drink and dessert on their patio
  • Friday: drove to Halifax, saw some tall ships, watched KISS arrive at the Lord Nelson. In about an hour we’ll head out to dinner, our last of the trip.