Thursday, October 28, 2004

once upon a time i was falling in love, now i'm only falling apart . . .

Several weeks ago Vanessa asked me to explain the American electoral system while we were on the train. I did a questionable job. This is a lot clearer and, uh, less full of it.

Sean Astin whines for 300+ pages about Peter Jackson's refusal to take his story advice, having his scenes cut, not being nominated for an Oscar, the one time that Tim Robbins didn't return his phone call, and the fact that no one saw Rudy.

Tony Hawk = famous skateboarder and entrepreneur, video game star, recently sponsored by McDonald's
Tony Hawks = British comedian and author
Hundreds of people = unable to grasp the difference
As Tony Hawks answers Tony Hawk's e-mails, hilarity ensues. A sample:

hi tony!
cool u pleaze provide me with a crack 4 ur game?
yourule man!!!
you really rule a lot!!
gracias amigo!

I would happily supply you with some crack if I could get hold of any.
PS. I don't rule that much. Only in Ecuador and a small island off Denmark. (I like to think of myself as a benevolent dictator)

Tony Hawk's McDonald's sponsorship brings to mind this KFC bag, which my housemate and I have cherished since its delivery to our apartment:

FRIED CHICKEN = X-TREME!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111111111

Tonight Gentleman Reg, Controller.Controller, and The Organ play The Grad Club, which I will flee partway through to see the The Scrappy Bitch Tour.

This is frighteningly disjointed because
a) I haven't so much been with the sleeping lately (eg. since Monday), and
b) I have been very much with the "massive quantities of sugar and caffeine" lately

*Bonnie Tyler, "Total Eclipse of the Heart"

Monday, October 25, 2004

i took the road less travelled by, and figured out there was a reason no one else used it

As is probably true of most people, I don't necessarily make the most brilliant interpersonal decisions ever. I'm not just referring to being awkward, or hitting on people who turn out to not be so attractive outside of a drunken haze (which is luckily immaterial when they aren't interested anyway) — I mean making inaccurate judgements about who should and shouldn't be in your life, and where investing your time and energy in certain relationships will get you.

Some time ago, I had a ridiculous crush on a person who I basically assumed would never be interested in me, as a friend or otherwise. I thought I had ample justification for this back then, although it doesn't hold up very well now. The assumption of disinterest didn't change how I felt about him, because I was being really dense, so I just continued to stare at the guy in a somewhat creepy fashion while making no attempt to get to know him better. In fact, I put a lot of effort into ignoring him whenever I was directly confronted (to the point that I was pretending to have no peripheral vision). This led to a lot of complaining to my friends about a situation I was making absolutely no effort to change, so, uh, sorry if you were involved there.

The next time I was interested in someone, I adopted a completely different strategy (although with a roughly equal amount of complaining). I assumed that we could at least be friends and spent months actively trying to make it happen, putting in (what was for me, at least) an exhausting amount of work and overanalysis and social skills while trying to build some kind of relationship. It's pretty much been an abject failure. Despite all my effort, it still feels like trying to avoid being hit by a car while walking across a freeway with traffic laws I don't understand and drivers who don't even swear at me in my own language. So when I recently ran into the person I'd never made a real effort to get to know and had a much easier time talking to him, discovering that we get along much better and somehow had ended up with a better basis for a friendship, I kind of wanted to put my head through a sheet of plywood.

What would have happened if I'd put as much effort into the first situation as I did into the second? What made one look so much more promising than the other when it really, really wasn't? And, even more revolutionary, what if I'd taken all the time and energy I used up by being a dumb emo kid in both cases and put it towards something productive, like school or writing or music? The mind boggles — or, would boggle, if it were not already busy obsessively moping.

Something about the phrase "Convertible Catholics" is really funny . . .
There's an interesting article at Beliefnet regarding the twelve religious tribes of American politics. It comes to the conclusion that "the Religious Right and the Religious Left are almost exactly the same size, [but] the former has had a much greater impact for the past 25 years largely because of superior organization and drive." Also for those interested in the US election, there is Electoral-Vote.Com, which tracks the electoral vote state-by-state and updates whenever new polling information is available. Following this site too closely may lead to heart problems. Bizarre fact: currently, the highest percentage of Nader supporters can be found in Alaska (5%). ARE YOU PEOPLE FROZEN STUPID?

Thursday, October 21, 2004

if mary dropped my baby girl tonight, i would name her rock and roll

"Apparently it's time to 'mature' and make your Pet Sounds, so I would start the heavy drug abuse now."
I spent last night at the QEA Battle of the Bands at Clark. "What QEA Battle of the Bands?" EXACTLY. Nice publicity campaign, QEA! I only knew about the event because The Radical Dudez told me the previous week. Also, nice job scheduling it during midterms! The AMS obviously does eat babies, along with GPA points. It was so badly organized that a couple of the bands scheduled to play decided to withdraw, leaving Affirmative Action and The Radical Dudez in this round with Khaki Snack as a last-minute addition. My housemate was supposed to accompany me, but since she was sick, I went by myself and ended up hanging out with the folks I knew at the CFRC judges table, where I tried to persuade them to write "PULL UP YOUR PANTS!" as a criticism on the comment sheets. Luckily, I failed.

Affirmative Action are a campus band that has been a de facto part of my experience at Queen's since first year. I used to see them play at The Scherzo open mic night all the time in first year, and then Common Ground open mic last year. However, last night was the first time I've seen them play since March. I honestly thought the CFRC types would eviscerate them, but it was one of the tightest sets I've ever seen them play, and they've really improved since I saw them last. The addition of drums made a huge difference, although I still wish they had a second guitar player (as they did back in the day). Also, they left me almost an entire pitcher of beer. Well done, gentlemen!

I'll probably hit Radical Dudez show #20 sometime this term, so I've kind of run out of things to say about them, except that they have a fancy new website. What it has lost in its former looks-like-it-was-designed-by-a-fourteen-year-old-in-1998 charm, it has gained in an aesthetically pleasing sense of whimsy.

Khaki Snack usually irritate me to no end, but last night I found them really entertaining. This may or may not have been related to all the beer I inherited. Perhaps my own sham of a "band" will one day play the Battle of the Bands, at which point we will get our own free beer! ("Aim low. Aim so low that no one cares whether or not you succeed.")

one nation, out from under God
I got into a very civilized argument on Ye Olde LJ by (more or less) agreeing with the following, posted by a young American woman named Alli (I can't link to it because it's friends-only):
God granted us free will, correct? It means so much more when a person chooses to love you, rather than when you force them. So think about this . . . If God did not take our free will, leaving us [the] opportunity to choose to do things against him and sin, why should a government authority take away that will? If we make laws with the reasoning that we want this to be a "Godly" and "Christian" country, who's to say that the laws will make that occur? [. . .] We want people to turn from their ways because the Bible says it's wrong. The first problem with that being, they don't believe in the Bible. Do we not understand that the way to reach unbelievers is by not giving them our set of "rules" from the Bible? It's by forming relationships. It's by being such an example of God's love that they want to know what gives us purpose and heart.
I don't think that it is the purpose of the government to legislate morality; I believe that the role of government is to help maintain a functional society. (You could argue that we are not in a functional society, and that it's a result of our failure to legislate Biblical morality, but that doesn't wash for me.) For instance, yes, "thou shalt not kill" is a Biblical commandment that is also a principle of Canadian law, but operationally, letting people kill each other is not conducive to a stable political community. I admit that it's more or less impossible to separate your political views from your morals, and your morals from your spiritual values, and I don't claim to have fully-developed (or even all that coherent) ideas about the appropriate role of public policy.

However, I do believe without reservation that attempting to "Christianize" the people within a political community by enacting theocratic laws is misguided and simply another form of legalism. Compliance with Biblically-based leglislation isn't meaningful if it doesn't come from a heart for Christ, and I think it's unfair to expect other people to accept the restrictions of a covenant you are under when they have not even accepted the covenant itself. In my eyes, there is a difference between standing up for the truth of God's word and coercing those who don't believe in it to follow it. People come to God because they are seeking community with one another and communion with something divine. They don't do it because they're given seemingly arbitrary lists of acceptable and unacceptable behaviours.

In terms of abortion, which was brought up in the discussion, while I am personally anti-abortion, I strongly support a woman's legal right to choose. This doesn't mean I go around throwing aborted fetus parties, but I don't see any simple and satisfactory ways to resolve the problem. "Outlawing" abortion is a really tricky issue because it won't eliminate of the need for abortions, nor necessarily the means to get them, but would probably increase the number of unsafe and potentially life-threatening abortion procedures. Some people believe that the baby's life should take precedence over the mother's life, and while they may be correct, I think it's a much more complex issue than that. It's probably more productive to create positive pro-life incentives rather than disincentives, such as more widespread non-abstinence-only sexual education and a better "safety net" for the socioeconomically disadvantaged (which usually includes young, single mothers).

the H is O!
Happy birthday to Mike Backs, also responsible for the quote of the week:
"Did you just try to choose a seminary based on one of the seven deadly sins?"
(The answer: "Uh . . . yeah.")

Look out for a Team Awkward appearance at Homecoming Karaoke at the Common Ground between 8 and 11 PM Friday . . .

*The Roots, "The Seed (2.0)"

Monday, October 18, 2004

please turn down the level of discourse, i'm trying to drink myself to sleep

Jon Stewart on CNN's Crossfire (link from, like, everywhere on the Internet). Transcript also available here. Prior to this clip, I have asked myself, "Could I love Jon Stewart more?" and the answer, clearly, was yes. Outrage: so hot right now! However, owning up to my personal political responsibility: so tepid right now.

The other day I was talking to a friend of mine who is originally from Alberta, where her left-leaning views put her in the political minority and forced her to have to defend her positions on a regular basis. She said she actually missed that environment because it challenged her and motivated her to be better-educated and informed than a more liberal environment, like our university, has. I was also more politically engaged and informed when I was in highschool than I am now. I read the newspaper, I researched issues I was interested in, and I had political dialogue with other people on a regular basis. Since coming to university, it's been really easy for me to immerse myself in the Queen's bubble and pay only cursory attention to the "real world." I still have an adequate grasp of American politics, but I'm not an American citizen — and in the last couple of years, I have paid so little attention to domestic politics, such as issues in the late Chretien administration, the Martin administration, and even the election, that it's sickening. (In the last year or so, it's often been hard for me to pay attention to anything beyond getting myself out of bed, but that doesn't excuse the entire trend.)

Appropriately, I am blogging instead of studying for my Canadian politics midterm tomorrow. Yes, that thing I'm paying to get a degree in that I often actively choose to ignore.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

"good luck exploring the infinite abyss": thoughts on garden state

(Contains spoilers. Welcome to the Internet!)

Now that it's come to The Screening Room, I finally got to go see Garden State last night. Obviously, it's generated a lot of buzz since its initial release, and most of my friends who saw it before I did and have similar taste in art enjoyed the film. So, I went to the theatre with a warm glow of affection ready to lavish on Zach Braff and his little movie that could.

I think I hated it.

In the film, Braff plays Andrew Largeman, a somewhat successful actor who returns to his home in New Jersey for the first time in nine years to attend his disabled mother's funeral. (Largeman is "responsible" for the freak accident that caused her disability, and her disability may have led her to finally commit suicide.) At the same time, he goes off the legion number of psychiatric drugs he's been on for the better part of his life. Within four days, Largeman regains his ability to feel, falls in love, repairs his estranged relationships with friends and family, and everything more or less ends Happily Ever After.

I am not going to accuse Garden State of being a badly-intentioned film or having its heart in the wrong place. I don't think either of those things are the issue — on the contrary, Garden State means extraordinarily well. It just doesn't know enough to make its intentions reality. There were certainly things I enjoyed while watching it, particularly its visual style and the incredible use of light in some of the scenes. While much of the script made me cringe (when the long-anticipated first kiss between the lead characters happens, I should not be whacking myself in the head with frustration at one of the most contrived and stupid moments I've ever seen on screen), much of its remainder was very funny and very clever. But the movie as a whole pretends to have access to a pain much deeper than it can authentically represent, and adds too much self-conscious artifice to what it could otherwise genuinely express. It is so facile that I was personally offended by it, and in fact, my issues with the movie are probably largely personal ones. My father unexpectedly passed away just under a year ago. We had a very strained relationship that we were not able to resolve before his death. It was not my fault that he had heart disease, but I am still dealing with the guilt of having drunkenly told a friend that I was sure my father would go to hell the day before they found his body and three days after he actually died (I was never even informed that he was missing). I do not mention this to throw myself a pity party (BYOB!), but to demonstrate the profound unreality of Largeman resolving all the major issues facing him in four days. And yes, I do understand the concept of "suspension of disbelief," but this was beyond ridiculous. In fact, Largeman doesn't really even deal with most of what's facing him, replacing his medication with another band-aid solution in the form of a romantic relationship. I don't know what Braff's inspiration for the film was. However, the movie came off as a well-meaning but shallow attempt to understand what a real-life, difficult situation is like in order to use its trappings to create a "meaningful" piece of art.

"I know it hurts. But it's life, and it's real. And sometimes it f***ing hurts, but it's life, and it's pretty much all we got." Oh, REALLY? Wow! This film has opened up entirely new worlds of meaning in my life! Like, life hurts, but it's still, like, worth it and stuff? Oh man!

This is the part when someone says "Well, I'd like to see YOUR movie!" and I direct them to the video I made for my Grade 11 biology presentation on impotence: Austin Powers: The Spy Who Was Mysteriously Unable To Shag Me.