Consumer Expenditure Survey vs. Jerry Marotta

Consumer Expenditure Survey

This survey, unfortunately, does not tell you how many people would eat beans with George Wendt.

Remember that episode of Animaniacs where the Warners are at the mall and they keep getting harassed by these two women demanding to know if they like to take a survey and then bombarding them with bizarre questions about beans and George Wendt? No? Well, it was hilarious, and if Warner Brothers weren’t total jerks, I’d be able to link you up to it on YouTube, but NO, it’s disappeared, so you’ll just have to make do with Yakko’s Universe instead.

Anyway, if it weren’t for consumer surveys like the Consumer Expenditure Survey, that amazing Animaniacs sketch wouldn’t exist, and my sisters and I wouldn’t have cracked each other up for hours on long car rides by asking our parents “Wouldja like to take a survey? Do you eat beans? Do you like George Wendt? Would you eat beans with George Wendt?” Little comic geniuses, that’s what we were.

Anyway, surveys. If it weren’t for this big consumer survey how would we know, for example, that in 2008, people spent more on food and less on clothing than in the previous year? And sure, taking a survey can be a bit annoying, but doesn’t it also make you feel a little bit important, like your habits and opinions matter, and you are contributing to important data that will lead to a greater understanding of our society? No? Well, would you eat beans with George Wendt?


Jerry Marotta

If you play in a band, you know that finding a reliable drummer is one of the toughest feats you’ll face (um, unless you are that drummer. In which case, learn your parts and stop changing them at the last minute!). That’s something you don’t have to tell Jerry Marotta. Dude has played with just about everybody. And by everybody, I’m talking about Paul McCartney, Orleans, Peter Gabriel, Hall & Oates, Indigo Girls, Tony Levin and Stevie Nicks and Mike Campbell. (And dude put down drums for Tears for Fears’ The Working Hour! Awesome! … Although that sax part hasn’t aged so well. Jesus!) Maybe one of the reasons Marotta is such a good drummer is that he’s also a singer and producer. In other words, he can use his ears. Of course, he can also tear it up. And he seems like a pretty nice guy to boot. And according to his website, he offers great rates on recording and session work. Hmmm. Just might give him a shout someday.

Published in: on March 24, 2010 at 9:08 am  Leave a Comment  

Blót: Sacrifice in Sweden vs. Bold Ruritana

Blót: Sacrifice in Sweden

It pains me to argue against a racehorse, but here we go. You know, being on MySpace really puts a dent in your satanic neo-fascist cred, Michael Moynihan. What’s next, an appearance on Goth Talk?

Whatever. We’re talking about your crazy experimental industrial folk band Blood Axis and your live album Blót, which, according to Wikipedia, incorporates the music of J. S. Bach, Prokofiev, the poetry of Longfellow, the philosophy of Nietzsche, the voice of Mussolini, and…wolves. And Sweden. That’s excellent. I have no frame of reference for what you’re doing, and if I had to listen to it I’d probably rip my ears off, but from an intellectual, performance art-loving standpoint, Blót: Sacrifice in Sweden sounds balls out awesome.

I now I have to get my decidedly non-neo-Fascist job.


Bold Ruritana

For the purposes of this tournament, it’s Canada vs. Sweden, not racehorses (what’s with all the random racehorse entries?) vs. European industrial music. Put your love of music aside and vote accordingly. Sure, most of you probably know as little about racehorses as I do. And Blod Ruritana’s pedigree and partial racing stats looks more like the periodic table. But that doesn’t matter, Bold Ruritana is a Canadian Thoroughbred Champion Filly racehorse. I don’t know what that means either but she’s Canadian! We just spent two weeks cheering for Canadians in sports that we don’t give a shit about but then pretend that it means the world every four years! Well, why should this be any different? Let’s keep dominating that podium! Bold Ruritana rules! Go Canada!

Still not completely recovered from the weekend yet.

Published in: on March 23, 2010 at 10:22 am  Leave a Comment  

Gerbillus muriculus vs. Salesbury

Gerbillus muriculus

I hate Mondays!

The “Barfur gerbil”, as the gerbillus muriculus is commonly known, is generally found in Sudan. Now that I’ve gotten the boring facts out of the way, here is some info more suited to this sleepy Monday morning: GERBILS! ARE! SO! FREAKING! ADORABLE!

That’s about all the argument I can muster this morning. I drove to upstate New York yesterday with some friends for some cross-border shopping and American-sized dinner portions (I’ll be eating my steak and mashed potatoes for a week). There was a two-hour wait coming back across the Canadian border, and between that and consuming enough calories to last me a month, I’ll need a couple more coffees before I can tackle anything more complex that linking to cute pictures of rodents, ok?



Where Monday mornings are a more pleasant affair.

Happy Monday everyone. If you’re like me, you’re feeling the effects of not getting enough sleep over the weekend and don’t know if you’re going to be able to stomach the 45-minute commute to work. The news that the average house price in your city has risen to about $500,000 doesn’t help things much either. It’s one of those (many) days that you idealize the simple life. A place that’s quiet and everyone is friendly. A place like Salesbury. A “completely rural parish,” Salesbury is located on the outskirts of Blackburn in England, which is in turn a large town in Lancashire.

So really, you have the best of both worlds. The ideal rural home life and you can always just hit up Blackburn for your culture and vinyl records and what have you. Yep, that sounds about right. I’ll get myself a job at the Salesbury School (the biggest employer in the village) and get myself a three-bedroom (only £289,950! OK, so when you convert that you get pretty close to half a million Canadian dollars. But shit, you get a bungalow with this!). Yep, a Salesbury life is the life for me. .. Either that or the United States just got a whole lot more appealing. Way to go on passing the health care reform bill. Fuckin’ A!

Published in: on March 22, 2010 at 9:13 am  Leave a Comment  

Dave Henzerling vs. Paris inch

Dave Henzerling

R 'n f'n R!

Did you know that Justin interviewed Slash last week? True story. I, on the other hand, don’t know very much at all about heavy metal music (you must be shocked, I know). Sure I’m vaguely aware that bands called things like Big Cock exist, but I don’t listen to them, or think about them very much, beyond wondering how all those crazy dudes maintain such impressive manes. But Dave Henzerling seems to be kind of a big deal (despite only having 408 Twitter followers), with a number of bands under his belt. And even though I’m not crazy about his music (I’m afraid to link to any of his YouTube videos because they all have pornographic key words and I am a sissy little prude. Think of the children!), I appreciate that he rocks some people’s worlds. And even I can admire that shiny golden shag on his head.

And seriously, the Paris inch? Don’t be ridiculous. An inch should be an inch. Standardized measurements are important in this globalized world of yours – think how annoyed you get that you need to think about plug adaptors for your computer when you go to another continent. What kind of bullshit is that? How can an inch be different from city to city? That completely defeats the purpose of having inches! Sheesh. I’m just gonna start measuring things using my thumbs. That’s my own standardized measurement and you’ll just have to guess how long four thumbs actually is! Paris inch. Come on.


Paris inch

This baby can do 0 to 2,216,000 pouce in no time.

Wow, give someone an inch and they’ll take a mile. Or give someone another choice after they get “Comparison of file archivers” and you get the Paris inch (or “pouce,” which should make this one a sure winner). The fine folks at describe a Paris inch originating “in France prior to adoption of the metric system, and in Haiti, Mauritius, and the Seychelles, 20th century, a unit of length, approximately 2.707 centimeters (about 1.066 inches).” It was introduced in France between 1812 – 1839, as part of the Système Usuel that was “a system of weights and measures introduced to satisfy public resistance to the adoption of the metric system.” You have to love the French.

According to Wikipedia, “the Paris inch could be subdivided into 12 ligne (Paris line), and 12 Paris inches made a Paris foot. The Paris inch and Paris foot could be abbreviated with ‘ and ” like some other inch/foot units. It was larger than the English inch and the Vienna inch, although the Vienna inch was subdivided with a decimal, not 12 lines.” Kinda neat, huh? And if you think this is ultimately fluffy useless stuff, I’ll have you know it was essential to Joseph von Fraunhofer’s completion of the first Great Refractor. Or, consider this assessment by Adolf Zander in The Ophthalmoscope: “The Paris inch is commonly employed as the unit by which to express the focal length of lenses, and it cannot, therefore, be dispensed with.” That’s right, CANNOT be dispensed with. Of course, he said that in 1864 but still, I’m going to say it’s still relevant today.

Just think about it, the next time you want to brag about how sweet your ride is to impress someone, throw in the pouce for extra good measure (see what I just did there?) “Yeah, babe, this guy can go 0 to 2,216,000 pouce in 15 seconds!” Or, “I can run the 3,694 pouce dash in 12 seconds!” From now on, I’m using the pouce for everything. This handy converter page will show you how it all shakes down (with a convenient link if you’re looking to get ripped!)

Published in: on March 18, 2010 at 10:09 am  Leave a Comment  

Locust Grove vs. Saskia van Hintum

Locust Grove

.-.. --- -.-. ..- ... - / --. .-. --- ...- .

Here are some things that everyone loves, don’t deny it:
– houses where famous people lived
– secret codes?
– the miracle of telecommunication

LOCUST GROVE HAS ALL THOSE THINGS! Locust Grove, also known as Samuel Morse House, is where the inventor of the telegraph and Morse code lived from 1847 (three years after he hit the big time with a little thing called the telegraph) until his death in 1872. The house has been preserved as a historic site, so if you find yourself in Poughkeepsie you should drop in and visit this gorgeous Italianate villa (designed by Alexander Jackson David, who designed a whole bunch of nifty buildings ripped off from Italian styles). You can even get married there!

Frankly, today is no contest – the lovely old home of the man who first brought us wireless communication, or some volleyball player? I’m sure she’s lovely, but come on.


Saskia van Hintum

Hup Holland! As if Saskia van Hintum isn’t the best thing ever. As I happen to be Dutch, I might be a bit biased on this one. But really, a house in Poughkeepsie is no match for this former Olympic volleyball player. Yes, her 1996 team only managed to finish fifth, but I’m sure it was still a triumphant performance. I remember watching the Dutch men’s volleyball team blow everyone’s mind back at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona by advancing all the way to the final. They ended up with silver but you’ve never seen a country so taken with volleyball.

Of course, now that I’m older and cynical, I realize how pathetic that all kind of is. But there’s something endearing about Dutch supporters at these events. Win or lose, they’re on the booze. They tend to be pretty good sports about the whole thing. Sure, all that orange paraphernalia is stupid but it’s not doing anyone any harm … so anyway, van Hintum is a trainer now (you’ll just have to trust me that that is what the article is about) and continuing the glory of Dutch pride for people like me to completely lose their mind over. Speaking of losing minds, happy St. Patrick’s Day people. Do the Irish proud and pace yourself on those pints. Don’t be a novice drunk, it’s embarrassing.

Published in: on March 17, 2010 at 10:15 am  Comments (1)  

Sobolev inequality vs. Scarlet Rivera

Sobolev inequality

Oh good. Math. Well, you know I love math, even when I don’t understand it. My dad is a mathematician, and he liked to explain complex mathematical theorems to his young daughters in the hope that we would turn out to be prodigies. We didn’t, I’m afraid, so I can’t explain to you how Sobolev inequalities (or Sobolev spaces, for that matter) work, except that they are very important in differentiation, which is important because…it’s just important.

But here’s Sergei Sobolev, who came up with them. According to his Wikipedia page, his theorems now form the fundamentals of several areas of maths, like functional analysis. (I have a vague memory of functions from grade 12 calculus, which I was quite good at at the time. It helped that I had a stellar teacher. Hi Mr. Aliferis!) Unfortunately, Sobolev’s biography also states that he worked on the A-Bomb project in the USSR, which is definitely bad. Despite some of the great art that was inspired by the Cold War (Dr. Strangelove, for example), the threat of nuclear annihilation is definitely NOT a contender in the Tournament of Everything.

I’m giving myself a headache. Fine, just vote for the cheesy new age violinist. We’ll try this again tomorrow.


Scarlet Rivera

All right, it’s music vs. math. Even if you’re not the biggest Bob Dylan fan, I think it’s fair to say he’s one of the more influential musicians out there. So when he picks you to be his violin player on his album Desire and as a part of his memorable touring band Rolling Thunder Revue, you’ve gotta respect his taste. Scarlet Rivera filled that role. OK, so she might be into New Age music, but playing with the Duke Ellington Orchestra kinda cancels that out. The main thing here is that I can tell you very simply that Scarlet Rivera is a talented individual and you will grasp what I am saying. Whereas with Sobolev mathematics – “We study Sobolev embeddings in the Sobolev space $W^{1,p(\cdot)}(\Omega)$ with variable exponent satisfying $1\leqslant p(x) \leqslant n$” – nobody has a fucking clue what you’re talking about.

Published in: on March 16, 2010 at 9:07 am  Leave a Comment  

WorkCover Authority of New South Wales vs. Garry Howatt

WorkCover Authority of New South Wales

Someone's got a bad case of the Mondays.

Happy Monday! I know – Monday blows. Garfield hates Mondays, rainy days and Mondays always get Karen Carpenter down, Ziggy has a case of the Mondays, only for the Mammas and the Pappas was Monday morning all they hoped it could be, and even then Monday Monday left and didn’t take them, whatever the hell that means. But why is Monday so fraught? Well, for most of us, it’s the start of the work week, where we have to shake off our magical weekends of nifty experimental theatre workshops and silent films and homemade french onion soup (or whatever the hell you did with your weekends) and face reality.

Fortunately, in Australia at least, your nightmarish job is considerably safer than it could otherwise be thanks to the WorkCover Authority of New South Wales. Their entire job is to keep you safe at your job so that you don’t end up like the people in their disturbing ad campaign. Compare that to an old hockey player, who probably spent the majority of his career making people look like those ads. Fucking NHL.


Garry Howatt

Don't mess with the Toy Tiger.

Ah, our national pastime. Again. At the Tournament of Everything, Alison and I have no business discussing the virtues of “Our Game” as, frankly, we both care very little for it. And in many ways, Garry Howatt should epitomize that dislike.

Known as a “tough guy,” (or his nickname, “Toy Tiger” … what?) Howatt was best known for his fighting despite the fact he was 5’9″ and 175 lbs. This won the hearts of New York Islanders fans, where Howatt had his greatest years (including two Stanley Cups). What then, is it that makes Howatt worthy of your vote when he seems to go completely against workplace safety? (Well, that’s not entirely true. While he did plenty of time in the penalty box he briefly held a record for most penalty minutes without a misconduct. This seems to suggest he played the tough game in a clean way. Whatever that means.)

More importantly, Howatt suffered from epilepsy. But he was undeterred and went after his dream becoming an inspiration to others. And that’s really what a role model is supposed to be. Not some stupid hot shit player whoring himself out for commercials involving them sweating Gatorade. Howatt did it against the odds and had the kind of career that isn’t shaped by flashiness or product endorsement. Game on.

Published in: on March 15, 2010 at 8:55 am  Leave a Comment  

MeteorCity vs. Prime Minister of Crimea


Considering that right now I am listening to a Pet Shop Boys live album and bopping around in my seat (when are we going to get Pandemonium into the tournament? This song wins so hard!), I’m probably not the greatest person to defend a record label that is primarily responsible for launching stoner rock. It was a lot easier that time I got Abba.

But just because I don’t listen to stoner rock, doesn’t mean it’s not good. And to the people who love stoner rock, Meteor City is probably the best thing ever (it says right there on their website: The Best Rock…Ever! Who am I to argue with that?). Meteor City is the record label responsible for launching stoner rock in the first place. (Plus right now they are offering free worldwide shipping on everything they sell, which is just so solid – last month I tried to buy a birthday present for my sister from the Pee Wee Herman store and shipping to Canada cost almost twice as much as the t-shirt I wanted to order. Take a lesson from Meteor City, Pee Wee!)

Anyway, without Meteor City, who would distribute albums by bands like Egypt, Freedom Hawk, or Village of Dead Roads? Not the President of Crimea.


Prime Minister of Crimea

Ah, Crimea. A place I know next to nothing about. So I offer you Wikipedia’s entry on it, this travel site and finally this cool-looking site that seems to be somewhere between the two.

Over its history, Crimea has constantly been controlled by someone else. From the Greeks to the Russians (and that whole Crimean War thing) that has to get kinda annoying. So when in 1991, “Crimea [became] a parliamentary republic which is governed by the Constitution of Crimea in accordance with the laws of Ukraine,” that had to be a nice change. The Prime Minister “is proposed by the Verkhovna Rada of Crimea with the approval of the President of Ukraine, presides over the Council of Ministers of Crimea.” From my count, there have been 14 prime ministers since then with the current one, Viktor Plakida, in office since June 2, 2006. So, um, I guess things are going pretty well? Job well done? There really isn’t too much info about it that I can find so please do excuse the ignorance of this post. But I still put more effort into this than a stoner rocker.

Published in: on March 11, 2010 at 10:04 am  Leave a Comment  

Vajolet Towers vs. Closing Time

Vajolet Towers

Mountains never close.

Mountains trump everything. A few years ago, stricken with a bout of status anxiety and trying to rid myself of residual bad feelings about some terrible dude, I took a train across Canada and hung out in the Rocky Mountains for awhile. Staring up at mountains is a great way to realize your own insignificance, which may sound depressing, but it’s not: it’s liberating. It totally takes the pressure off. The mountains don’t give a shit if you’re famous or successful or important. Because one day you will be gone. And the mountains will still be there. So don’t worry so much.

I’ve never been to the Dolomites, to see the Vajolet Towers (that trio of peaks above) but I imagine the experience would be similar (I mean, look).

I realize Justin has a lot of strong arguments to make – he’s playing songs from the Tom Waits album right now, and yes, it’s beautiful. The song Martha is so good that it inspires the same sort of spiritual reaction that I get from staring up at mountains. But the thing about mountains is that they make you realize that everything man-made is ephemeral and tiny compared to this massive hunk of immovable rock. You can’t fight a mountain. And isn’t “Closing Time” just one letter away from “Losing Time”?


Closing Time

Closing time, helping prevent us from making even more of a disgrace of ourselves than we already have.

Feeling the effects of a rather decadent Tuesday night, it’s appropriate that I got closing time. As much as it might hurt to have to stop when you’ve got your drink on, you know the morning after would hurt so much more if there wasn’t a time limit at the bar for last call.

Let’s be fair, closing time is pretty generous as it is. In Toronto, we’ve got till 2 a.m. to order and about 2:45 a.m. to drink up. In Montreal, add an extra hour to that. And in England, well, they’ve got till 11 p.m. so they just get started earlier. I think they’ve even allowed for extended alcohol licensing hours there but people don’t necessarily want it. They like the fact that leaving by 11 p.m. gives them a slim chance of not feeling like absolute garbage the next day. So thank you, closing time. Had you not existed, I may’ve only gotten home just now, completely broke and totally shitfaced. Instead, I’m still able to write a post.

Also, we have Tom Waits’ excellent Closing Time album to help nurse the hangover should it be there. (Not to mention reducing you to nostalgic tears. That song Martha slays me every time.) Leonard Cohen’s Closing Time ain’t bad either. And even Hole’s stab at it sounds decent (I think this was during the Live Through This era, really not a bad album at all). And if that doesn’t satiate the mucus on your brain, you can zone out and watch Beavis and Butt-Head. Yes, thank you closing time. … I think I could go for a drink right now.

Published in: on March 10, 2010 at 10:38 am  Leave a Comment  

Relicina vs. John Wiedeman


Nothing like the thought of fungus to kick off a sunny Tuesday morning. Actually, relicina is the very pretty name for a type of lichen, and lichen is no ordinary fungus. Lichen is like a super algae: It can indicate environmental dangers like air pollution and metal contamination, and some lichens are used to make dyes, perfumes, and medicine.

To be perfectly honest, the idea of stuff growing on other stuff is kind of icky. But my best friend’s mom, who is a very cool lady, is really into lichen, and, frankly, that’s good enough for me. And seriously, a complex symbiote (that means lichen is necessary for the existence of a bunch of other organisms) vs. some annoying sportscaster? Are you kidding me?


John Wiedeman

It’s very unCanadian of me to not really give a rat’s ass about hockey these days. But it wasn’t always this way. I used to follow every game and when I did, let me tell you, the commentator can make all the difference. Take, for example, the difference between CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada telecasts and your during the week Sportsnet or TSN coverage. Now, I know that Bob Cole is getting more and more confused with age, but he still has the voice. Compared to Jim Hughson? Oh man, that guy made that hockey video game unplayable. Stop trying so hard!

But John Wiedeman plays it cool. Um, maybe a bit too cool, but I hate that forced enthusiasm in commentators’ voices these days. It’s like they almost get too excited on an embarrassing level and while you’re in mid-celebration you just think, “Geez, guy, calm down.” Anyways, Wiedeman previously covered games for the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers so he knows his stuff and, oh yeah, his pay check isn’t funded by our tax dollars. Thanks, CBC!

Published in: on March 9, 2010 at 10:06 am  Leave a Comment