Monday, May 31, 2010

The 905 Effect

Here in Toronto, there's a constant struggle for neighbourhoods to remain "cool" without becoming too "popular."

It's a difficult balancing act businesses in trendy neighbourhoods have to pull in order to keep the area "authentic."

An area that is up-and-coming inevitably starts to get more and more "cool;" independent businesses move into the area - funky bars, good cafes, etc -; and the area starts to become a local hangout (i.e. the hipsters flock to it).

But then, seeing that the area is now "cool," along come the inevitable douchey non-locals who only want to party in the neighbourhood on the weekends (this is what's commonly called the 905er effect). And, once this club-going sect moves in, bringing with it the trappings of "entertainment district-ish" venues, of course, the area becomes uncool.

It sounds ridiculous, but it's a very real phenomenon.

The chart below outlines the 905er effect. It is from a recent case study known as "The Little Italy Incident."

The red line represents the general coolness of local establishments and the blue line represents the actual popularity of these establishments in terms of the amount of people that frequent them.

You'll notice that by the time a bar or neighbourhood eatery begins to get very popular, it has long since peaked in terms of it's coolness.

Instead, you'll note that "coolness" peaks when just a relative few people are frequenting an establishment.

Just before the word spreads about a cool neighbourhood and just before the neighbourhood reaches real commercial success and mass appeal, it experiences what is known as "Hipster Prime Time."  During this time you'll notice a lot of people wearing plaid, rolled up tight jeans, tattoos, and thick black-framed glasses.  These people will say extremely enthusiastic things about the neighbourhood like, "This place is pretty cool, I guess."

Once the amount of "mainstream" people frequenting a neighbourhood gets too high, though, the coolness and, accordingly, the amount of hipsters around, begins to decline. During this time you'll notice that hipsters will say things about the neighbourhood like, "This place is past its prime," and "This neighbourhood used to be so cool."

This is a dangerous time for a trendy neighbourhood. As the hipsters' numbers fall and the 905ers' numbers rise, there is often a palpable, douchey tension in the air (See "Ossington").

During this time, you may hear a hipster, bitter at the loss of of his favourite watering hole, shout things like, "Go back to Woodbridge!" or "I've been coming here for years, man!"

Similarly, 905ers, with confidence bolstered by their growing numbers, might be overheard to say things like "Look at that fag's jeans!" "I love this jam!" or even "Jägerbombs?"

(This is also a period one might be able to spot the elusive Super-Douche, a weird hybrid hipster/gino found only in these neighbourhoods still struggling with their identity).

The next stage in a hot neighbourhood's life is called the "Ed Hardy Days." This when the 905ers takeover. The word about the neighbourhood's coolness has spread through the GTA and, like a pebble dropped in the pond of cultural relevance, the ripples have now reached the extreme edges - Newmarket, Brampton, Oshawa, et al. 905ers flock to the neighbourhood's nightspots, fueled by vodka-redbulls and generous helpings of cologne. It's a time when you'll notice a lot of popped collars, striped dress shirts, and orange women.

Of course, like all nightlife hot spots, the life of a cool neighbourhood is cyclical. Much as the hipsters will undoubtedly move on to new, darker, dirtier basement bars with ridiculous cover charges to see shitty pretentious bands, so too will the 905ers follow them; bringing with them their natural hipster-repellent hair gel, top 40 music and domestic beer.

And in the end, most bars and cafes wind up being just about as trendy and popular as they were in the beginning. This period, a newly created hipster and 905er vacuum, is, of course the ideal time to go check out these neighbourhoods.

DISCLAIMER: Please keep in mind, these results aren't standard. Some bars/scenes may actually retain a higher level of coolness than before they were considered hot. Some bars may feature extended periods of coolness or extended periods of popularity.

Likewise, some neighbourhoods might be immune to this phenomenon entirely. Some remain hipster havens for many years (see "Queen West") whilst some start as and remain 905er strongholds (see "The Entertainment District").

Friday, May 28, 2010

Rocking out to Phil Collins is Totally Involuntary

Read the following lines out loud:

How could I ever forget it's the first time, the last time, we ever met? But I know the reason why you keep your silence up. No you don't fool me. The hurt doesn't show, the pain still grows. It's no stranger to you and me.

Did you find that at the end of this passage your hands were up in front of your face making spastic and awkward rhythmic movements?

If so, then you are not alone.

A recent study conducted at the University of Omaha has discovered that rocking out to Phil Collins' In The Air Tonight is a wholly involuntary human reaction.

Dr. Jason Pendegrass, Associate Professor of Rock Phenomenology and Dean of Women's Studies, conducted the study over the course of several weeks and included 325 people from a random sampling of the American population.

"The human body can't help but respond to this song," he says. "Regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, [country of] origin...all humans respond to the brief drum solo at the 3:41 mark of In The Air Tonight in the same way: a shitty air drum solo."

Asked to provide further evidence, Pendegrass cited hours of video evidence compiled over years of research. The video, some shot at parties, some taken from surveillance cameras, all supported his theory.  Awkward middle managers at office parties, single mothers driving in the car, hipsters wearing ipods on the subway, drunk frat boys - all had the same reaction: a slightly off, rolling air drum solo, finishing with an enthusiastic two hits on the final drum crash.

"I think it's a big breakthrough. I think it will go a long way to support the theory that all life evolved from a single organism - probably one that liked to rock out."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

I'll Be Brief

So I've written on here before about my hatred of ultra-tight hipster jeans and I've explained before my affinity for what some might call "step-dad jeans;" but I'll admit it: I have a couple pairs of jeans that are a little tight. 

They're not crazy, hipster, how-do-you-put-those-on tight, but they're snug. 

Every guy's got one or two pairs of tightish jeans, right? Hey they look kind of bad-ass, don't they?

Well, that's what I always thought anyway. 

Until one day I realized there's a fundamental problem with wearing tight jeans, especially if you wear boxers. It's a problem I became aware of one Friday, when I had just put on a pair of seldom worn jeans to go to work. My fiancée said, "You can't wear those to work."

"Why not?" I said.

"Because I can see your dick," she said.

And therein lies the inherent problem with wearing snugger jeans. 

I hadn't really noticed it before, but I looked in the mirror and, hey, there's my junk. 

And I'm willing to bet it's not just me that has this problem. I don't know for sure because I don't spend a lot of time looking at dude's crotches, but I gotta bet I'm not alone. I mean, I don't even wear very tight pants. What do those guys with those crazy-tight nut-huggers do?

Anyway, because I wasn't willing to part with these jeans (as I noted, they're kind of bad ass), I thought it might be a problem I could solve with the proper support. Accordingly, I impulsively decided to buy some briefs. 

I haven't worn briefs since probably grade four, but I was waiting outside the fitting room of an American Apparel with that perfect combination of boredom/impatience/anger this weekend and happened to spot the blazing blue tighty-whities featured in the picture above (tighty blueys?).  Before I knew what was happening, I was outside the store with a pair of newly-purchased briefs. 

So I decided to give them a whirl.

And I gotta tell you, I'm not feeling it. I've been a boxers guy forever, so I just don't understand briefs. 

It definitely was a success in that, when I put on the offending jeans, I certainly was no longer as "out there" as before, but the main problem I have is, where exactly is your gear supposed to go?

Ladies, if you're still reading this, kudos. I apologize for the graphic turn this post is about to take, but I actually want to know the answer to this question: Gentlemen, when you wear a pair of briefs, where the hell is your wang supposed to go? 

Do you mash everything down? 
Do you separate the meat from the potatoes? 
Do you a pick a side? 
Seriously. What the fuck? 

Why would anyone want to wear briefs? To borrow a term I heard on Modern Family last week, wearing briefs is like wearing a crotch tourniquet. 

I was looking forward to the moment I could these things off all day. 

And when I did, it was like, "Why? Why did I ever do that? Run free again, gentlemen. Breath!"

I honestly think having the real Johnson out there for the world to see is better than the discomfort of mashing him into a fruity little pair of underwear more appropriate to a six year old

Do you wear briefs?
If so, why? 
Ladies, what do you think? I can't imagine there's too many dudes out there that actually look good in briefs. Wouldn't you just laugh if a guy took off his pants and had briefs on?

Friday, May 21, 2010

Banksy Was Here

If you've ever heard the name of any graffiti artist, it's likely that guy is Banksy. And if you've spent any time perusing the blogosphere (kill me for using that word please) in the past couple of weeks, you've almost certainly heard of him. If you haven't...well, read on, jackass.

Famous for his "anti-establishment" stencil work and cheeky sense of humour, Banksy, among other accomplishments, has created art on the West Bank Barrier, brought his art to the derelict buildings of New Orleans for the third anniversary of Katrina, and even walked into the Louvre to hang up his own smiley-faced version of the Mona Lisa.

And for his latest endeavour, Banksy has produced a movie, called Exit Through The Gift Shop.

In the past couple of weeks, as part of a fairly brilliant marketing scheme, the artist's work has been springing up in cities as his movie debuts there. Toronto was among those cities where both the movie debuted and Banksy's street art popped up (As was New York, Boston, and Detroit - am I missing any? Holler at me if you know of more)

As the Torontoist article I've linked to above outlines, some of the pieces are still hanging around - the one on the side of Fionn MacCools is now protected by plastic after the owner was alerted to the possible value of the piece - and some were quickly painted over by business owners.

As you'll likely note if you click on any of the articles above and peruse their respective comment sections, the jury is really still out on whether or not this is "art" when it comes to popular opinion.

Given that these are the comments sections of pretty hipsterish blogs, you have to assume that, if there's people that don't like Banksy's work commenting on here, there's probably a lot of people that feel like perennial Torontoist comment troll "davedave" and others like him who essentially associate this type of stuff with common vandalism.

I'm not sure where I fall in this debate. I think if someone unfamous scrawled something on the wall of my house, regardless of how witty and thought-provoking it was, I'd be pissed off.

However, I'd of course welcome Banksy to put a piece of art that could auction for hundreds of thousands of dollars on the side of my house...

And, compared to the majority of the brainless tags and shitty spray paint that currently covers most surfaces downtown, the type of stuff Banksy does is certianly a welcome change. I mean if all graffiti was as well executed, wry, and political as Banksy's stuff, our city would look pretty fucking amazing, in my opinion.

But the other weird thing about graffiti art is the whole turf/ownership/battle thing.

Case in point, this Banksy piece that popped up in an alley off Dundas street West.

Not long after it was discovered, photographed, blogged about, and hotly debated in the comments section of blogs, another "street artist" named MANR rather unsanctimoniously threw up his name over it.

Bloggers blogged, commenters commented, but then, Banksy, or someone acting on his behalf, issued a rebuttal.

Predictably, MANR came back.

Then, team Banksy responded, in what seems to be pretty humourous call for peace.

While this has been entertaining, this "argument" on the wall is the kind of shit that makes me hate graffiti. I can appreciate a well executed piece of graffiti, but isn't there something a little low brow about responding to someone muscling in on your turf than just writing your name massively over their work? He then came back, made another interesting to look at piece, and you wrote your name massively over it. Yawn.

Maybe there's some etiquette or graffiti tag bullshit I don't know about, but I think I'd rather look at some cool stencil with a slogan that makes you think or laugh than look at some big tag.

What do you guys think about all this?
Is graffiti art?
Does MANR have the right to defend his turf?

Or do you agree with whomever it was that seems to have the last laugh (thus far); the person that realized people kept taking pictures of this alley and decided to make their own statement on the turf war?

By taking a dump there.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Book

So I started a novel.

That is, about 5 years ago, during a period of unemployment, I started writing a novel.

I've always remembered that I had it, sort of in the back of my mind, but I haven't really had time/motivation to return to it and was never really sure if it was any good. On top of that, I'm fairly certain that any and all creativity I still have at the end of the work day usually gets used up to post something on this blog, so I haven't really needed an outlet for creative energy.

Or, maybe, haven't had any to spare.

Anyway, I just found it again on a flash drive that usually sits in the ceramic bowl where my keys are. So, I figured, why not post the first chapter on here for no reason at all. Keep in mind I wrote this a while ago (though it's actually possible I was smarter at the time I wrote it). Give it a read if you're bored and let me know what you think.

Should I pick it up again? Should I delete the file "TheBook.doc?"

It's probably hard to get any sense of where it's going but, who knows, if reviews are positive, more chapters might follow.

Chapter One: Rude Awakening

I’m unsure whether it was the blinding one o’clock sunlight streaming through my bedroom window or the sound of head pounding drilling shaking the walls of my apartment that woke me first. The best bet is that the two had joined forces with whatever had died in my mouth the previous evening in order to tell me that I had slept long enough.
            The day itself would most likely have been described, by those who tend to do such things, as a nice one. I, on the other hand, opening my floor to ceiling Venetian blinds to reveal a sweating, hairy ass crack at face level, was inclined to find the day somewhat less than gorgeous. The crack, as it turned out, belonged to one of two mason workers on scaffolding just outside my sixth story apartment.
            The drilling, which I had heretofore believed to be a symptom of the world’s worst hangover, was actually the sound of the Ass Crack’s associate jack hammering brick away from the frame of my window. They both turned to look at me, Ass Crack rising from mixing some sort of cement and his friend scratching what at first glance appeared to be a scrap of dark brown rug but upon closer inspection turned out to be chest hair. And then I remembered that I had actually requested this wake-up call in the form of a complaint about my leaking window.
            I would not be getting any writing done today.
            Watching a fine powder of mortar drift down from the end of Chest Rug’s drill to become a perfect coat of white dust on top my 1988 Dodge Aries sixty-feet below, I let both men see me scratch my balls through my underwear to show my appreciation of the great work they were doing. This was definitely a Tim Horton’s kind of morning.
            My apartment on the upper east side of London, while by no means lavish, was certainly exclusive enough to attract the type of tenants to whom proper decorum and manners were important. The heightened security, immaculate lobby and halls and distance from the student housing downtown made it an ideal location for a lot of older and more wealthy clientele. Thus, when Eleanor Denunzio from apartment 411 got on the elevator to find me scraping what can only be described as yellow schmutz off my teeth with my fingernails, her distaste was obvious. Indeed, I was still somewhat of an oddity to the people in Kingsgate Estates. Being that this was a city where young people aspired to
wealth as a means of leaving town, those who could afford to, and chose to, remain in the wealthy areas of what was known as the Forest City were largely what is referred to as old money. I, as it turns out, seemed to be the kind of person whom such elite condos were constructed to keep out. This, along with a desire to elicit envy from those who had routinely kicked my ass in high school and an extreme distaste for big cities, was among my reasons to remain in my home town after my first novel, Dirt Nap, had become a surprise success two years ago.
            A surprise I had not counted on this morning however, was finding that my car was not only covered in dust, but also in the middle of a twenty square foot area of parking lot which had been fenced off with heavy orange plastic.
            “Hey! I can’t get my car out,” I yelled up to Ass Crack and Chest Rug who were watching me from the side of the building and lighting cigarettes.
            “I can see that,” answered Chest Rug, who evidently was hilarious. Then after seeing that I was not amused, continued “No, we had to close off the lot so shit wouldn’t fall on people’s cars.”
            Apparently the irony of telling this to someone who was standing beside his shit-covered car was lost on Chest Rug.
            “Well, how are we supposed to get to work this morning?” I yelled, growing impatient.
            “Well, first of all, it’s almost two o’clock in the afternoon. Second of all, everyone did leave for work this morning because they read the notice that’s been up in your
lobby for two weeks and didn’t park there.”  Chesty replied, much to the delight of Ass Crack. I noticed that my car was, indeed, the only one remaining in that section of the lot.
            “Can’t you just come move the fence so I can get my car out?” I asked looking at my watch as if I actually had somewhere to be.
            “Yeah. We’ll be right down, your majesty” Chesty said sitting down heavily. I shouted “Assholes!” and stood staring dumbfounded until I realized that I could in fact almost see the coffee shop which was my destination and decided the argument need not progress any further.
            The walk, it turned out, might have been a good idea after all. I realized as I laboured up an extremely gradual hill that the advent of the drive-through coffee shop had taken a serious toll on my personal health. Looking back on the four months that had passed since I had bought a pack of cigarettes, I was actually having a tough time recalling the last time I left my apartment for any reason other than to buy something that
could be acquired through the window of my car.
            The streets of London were relatively quiet at this time of day. Generally the streets of London are always pretty quiet, but today, at two o’clock on a late summer weekday, before University kids had come back to town, things seemed eerily quiet. Especially to a person who is accustomed to seeing these same streets from inside a car with a loud radio.
            By the time I got to the coffee shop a few blocks from my apartment I was noticeably, and embarrassingly, winded. Was I really this out of shape? A quick glance at the line of sweat forming in the fat wrinkle of my stomach as I stood in line for coffee told me that, yes, I was definitely that out of shape.
            “Large double double and an apple fritter,” I ordered as I wondered how long those two guys would be outside my window. I had actually seriously intended to get down to work today. While I had always prided myself on my ability to get things done at the last minute, the pressure to have some tangible work to show to my editor was growing; especially since his calls in hopes of seeing a few sample chapters from my sophomore novel had become an almost weekly occurrence.  The problem was that, in the
two years following Dirt Nap, I had written a total of twelve pages. Most of which, I might add, was incoherent shit. Dirt Nap had actually been more of a side project than an effort to write a good novel. During breaks in studying or writing essays for my last two years of university I had written a page here and a chapter there. Little did I know that by writing a novel about a lawyer who encounters zombies I had inadvertently tapped into the two most lucrative genres in popular fiction. Accordingly I had made more money than a very recent college grad should rightly have.
            I suddenly realized that the coffee girl had spoken. “I’m sorry?” I said.
            “I said ‘You’re welcome’” she said before turning her eyes to the line behind me and dismissing me with “Can I help who’s next?”
            I realized that I had, in fact, not said thank you at all. I also realized that this was the same girl who sold me my double double and apple fritter through the drive through window nearly every day and I could not remember if I had ever said thank you.
            As I pondered the possibility of my utter disregard for the proletariat in the parking lot, I was snapped back to reality by what must have been the largest car door in the world swinging open in front of me and nailing me square in the balls. From my fetal position on the asphalt I became aware of two things: hot coffee on my chest and stomach and a man in a hideous brown suit crouching over me apologizing profusely.
            “Oh jeez, oh jeez. I’m...I’m..awful, awful sorry. Are you alright?,” the suit was stammering.
            “Motherfucker!” I assured him. Grasping what I confirmed to be the largest, whitest driver side door in the history of the automotive industry, I managed to lurch to me feet.
            “Really, really sorry. I’m an idiot,” the man was saying, wiping sweat from his brow. As I bent over with one hand in my pants, half expecting to cough up a testicle, the man thrust a business card in my face.
            Daryl Clifton, Broker
            Forrester Insurance
            “You want to sell me insurance?” I coughed, squinting against the sun behind Darryl. I noted that the green ink on his business card matched his faux silk tie and his thin, fading socks.
            “Oh, no, no no no no,” he was saying as he bent down into his impossibly big Lincoln, bumping his head in the process and emerging with a wad of crumpled yellow Wendy’s napkins. This was a man who seemed as if he would be flustered at the best of
times. Wiping coffee off my shirt and apologizing profusely, he seemed positively disheveled. His flaming red hair, which somehow seemed to be thinning and yet impossibly thick at the same time, appeared to be holding on to his balding head for dear life. No two hairs seemed to be going in the same direction and what I imagine had started as a comb-over had digressed into seven or eight lonely strands of hair flailing wildly about in the wind.
            “I heard, uh, that you came here all the time and I uh...” Darryl tried. He seemed as distracted by his wildly gesticulating hands and lip-licking as I was. However, I had heard enough.
            “Oh, I get it. You’re a fan,” I said, cutting him off. I reached in to my breast pocket for a pen and scribbled a quick autograph on the back of his card. “Have a good one buddy,” I said, slapping the card on his chest and dismissing him.
            I had walked maybe five steps when he said, “No, no, you don’t get it, wait.”
            He rushed up behind me and grabbed my arm and I started to get pissed off.
            “Listen asshole. I don’t give a shit how much you liked my book.  All I wanted to do today was to have my coffee and not be bugged by some asshole in a diarrhea-coloured suit, but you already fucked that up. So if you could kindly get back in your car and leave me the fuck alone, it would be much appreciated,” I spit the words at him like venom. Roughly taking his arm off mine and spinning on my heels I walked quickly away before he could recover.
            I know I may have sounded like an asshole, but, believe it or not, this kind of thing happens to me a lot. For God’s sake, I wrote a body-snatching, legal thriller two years ago and still I had to deal with pricks who thought I was James Joyce or something. Absolute rudeness, I had found, was the only way to get them to leave you alone.
            I had planned to sit down in front of my computer and force myself to bang out at least a few pages so that I had something to show my editor, but, after I changed my shirt, the dirty laundry was practically full and I had to clean it all. By the time I had finished cleaning, drying and sorting all my clothes according to colour, it was almost nine o’clock and I decided that, rather than force what would inevitably not be my best prose, it was better that I meet my friends at my local bar for a quick night cap and get an early start tomorrow.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Can I Get Some F*@%ing Service?!

I don't mean to sound like a douche, but I understand the plight of the working man.

That is, I speak the language of the common-folk.

I empathize with the proletariat.

You see I didn't always take home less-than-I'm-worth money for pushing a monotonous and unending mountain of paper across a desk in a grey-cubicled prison.

No, no, there was a time when I took home far-less-than-I'm-worth money for carrying heavy shit around in the hot sun; a time when I made far-too-fucking-little money for bringing assholes martinis and ribs; a time when I made what-the-fuck-am-I-doing-with-my-life money pouring beers for truck drivers and hookers; and even a time when I made am-I-even-breaking-even? money schlepping mattresses around an old warehouse.

So you see, I am down with the working man, man.

But I got to tell you, lately, it seems like the working man is a bit of an asshole.

Perhaps I'm a tad fussy now that I'm getting a little older. Actually, maybe "fussy" isn't the right word. "Grumpy" would probably be better. And actually maybe "perhaps" isn't the right word either. Maybe "definitely" is more appropriate. Yes, let's revise that and say 'm definitely getting grumpier now that I'm getting older.

But fuck you, I didn't get a nap today.

But seriously, grump or not, it seems to me like virtually no one I encounter these days who works in customer-service related positions understands the two fundamental concepts of customer service. They are, naturally, the customer and the fucking service.

I'm not talking about a server that's in the weeds. I've been there. I've had off days and I've been stressed and overwhelmed at work - both then and now. I'm not going to fault someone for being busy.

No, my problem is with people who just make no effort to provide good service. And to me, it seems like there's an increasing number of them. I don't know if the standards have dropped, or if people are bitter that customers are spending less in this economy, but lately I've found people in customer service jobs simply suck at being personable and professional. Maybe I sound like a cranky old fuck, but I'm sorry, if your job is to deal with people, here's a tip: be polite and courteous to those people.

Last week, for example, I walked into a bike shop. There was a narrow door to the shop and, when I walked in, I saw the only person working there standing immediately in the entrance blocking the path to the store with a bike, talking to a customer who was standing in the middle of the shop.

Because of where the employee and bike were, I had about two feet in which to stand with my back to the front door. I literally could not enter the store until the employee decided to move. As I walked in, this employee simply looked up at me (we were probably just over three feet away from each other since she was holding the bike), and resumed talking to the other customer.

She didn't smile. She didn't say hello. And she didn't move.

This isn't a case of person in a service position being too busy to acknowledge a customer, it's a case of a person entrusted to do a customer service job being a complete moron. I was actually going in there to buy a bike. But after standing there like an idiot, being blocked from the store, I lost my patience and just left. If this person isn't willing to even get out of my way so I can come in to the fucking store, let alone greet me, I'm not giving my money to that store. That employee literally cost that business money that day.

But I don't feel like it's that people are assholes. Nor do I think it's "Toronto rudeness," that elusive and innate crankiness that out-of-towners and 905ers often tout as the reason they left/don't like the city.

I don't really know what it is.

I don't know if people are just fucking stupid and don't know any better, or if employers are cutting corners when it comes to customer service training in light of the economic downturn.

The kid I saw outside of Loblaws the other day, for example, didn't seem to have any ill intentions. He smiled at me as I walked by, so I know that his eating a snack and having a cigarette while wearing his meat counter apron directly outside the Loblaws wasn't an act of rebellion, he was simply oblivious to how gross that might seem to someone about to go buy some Hungarian salami. And maybe you think I'm being picky, but that is gross. If I owned that Loblaws I'd beat that kid until my arm was sore. It's just unprofessional.

At least take your apron off, dude. Or smoke under the parking ramp.

And again, maybe I'm just over-reacting. I mean, there's a reason my fiancée sometimes likes to call me Grandpa Johnson, and its not just my physique. I simply can't stand this kind of shit.

Hey, rude bartender that acts like he's doing me a massive favour when I fight for the opportunity to give them $9.75 for a beer; optometrist that calls 30 minutes before an appointment to cancel; chiropractor that keeps me waiting for 15 minutes passed the appointment time; Thai food delivery order-taker that acts annoyed when I said the name of the menu item incorrectly:

Do you want my fucking money? Here's an idea: Be fucking nice to me.

Am I alone here?

I actually need to know, because I'm not sure if you can tell, but I feel like I'm going to do increasingly rage-y things to shitty service employees until it culminates in some sort of Michael-Douglas-in-Falling-Down McDonald's incident.

And no one wants that.

Two weeks ago, for example, I was at a gas station. When I got to the counter to pay, the dude working there was on the phone. It was clearly a personal call.

He looked right at me and continued talking on the phone. I stared at him for probably a full minute before I pointed at my own face and said loudly, "Customer."

Thus far, the consequences of these types of incidents aren't much more than me embarrassing whomever I'm with, but I'm worried they'll escalate.

There's only so much more of this shitty service I can take.

What do you guys think? Am I over-reacting? Shall I continue to rage at shitty service providers?
Is customer service a thing of the past?
Do you have any examples of shitty/great service you've received lately?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Every Thing You Need to Know About Astrology

The position that the stars and moon were in on the day you were born didn't have any effect on your frigging personality.

If the closest star at the time of your birth dictated your disposition and future, we'd all be "sign of the Sun" and we'd all be exactly the same.

Astrology is absolute crap. Stop wasting your time.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

You Suck: An Open Letter To The Rogers Centre

Dear Rogers Centre,

I realized something important about you last Saturday afternoon and I think it's important that I tell you: 

I hate everything about you. 

Some of the things I hate about are obvious, sure. 

For example, I doubt anyone would disagree with me when I say that your retractable dome roof and garishly 1980s, concrete design are an insult to the word "ball park."

I mean you are ugly, let's face facts.

And you'd be hard pressed to find anyone, short of a lazy groundskeeper, that thought your Astroturf was anything less than a slap in the face to all that any true baseball fan holds sacred. 

Baseball was meant to be played outside, on grass. But you? Hell, you're not much more than a over-sized mall that happens to have a diamond in the middle of it. 

But again, everyone has these beefs with you, no? 

Even the most die-hard of Jays fans would likely be hard pressed to find a phrase to describe you that wasn't akin to to something along the lines of "abomination." You're an eyesore. A monstrous monument to boring and mediocre late-century design, from a time when people used terms like "streamlined" but still thought everything should be big and audacious. 

You're gross. 

And yet, fans of baseball, fans of the Jays, and even Torontonians who only go to the odd game don't really hold all that against you anymore. Like most of the fans that drunkenly fill your 500 level seats these days, you're a child of the late 80s; so we're willing to excuse your style short-comings. Shit, who doesn't have a regrettable fashion decision from 1989? 

In fact, you're practically "retro." OK, retro implies some element of cool I think; so maybe you're more "kitsch." 

Hmm, even that doesn't seem right. Let's just say we've all come to tolerate your existence. Sort of like the musical career of John Tesh, the movies of Tyler Perry, or the existence of salad. Sure, it's awful, but at a certain point, somethings have just been around so long that nobody really gives enough of a shit to be offended anymore.

Here's the thing though. Sure we tolerate your disgusting appearance, but something seems to have slipped under everyone's radar in the past couple of years: everything else about you is terrible, too. 

That is, while we were sort of willing to deal with the fact that you were an ugly shit-monster of a building simply because, hey, there was baseball being played here, we all seem to have overlooked the fact that everything about this place - from the ghetto, out of order ATMs to the concession stands to the very baseball being played on the field - is absolutely and completely awful.

Don't get me wrong, I like watching the Jays. But, really, we're kidding ourselves if we use a word other than "suck" to describe what it is they do out there on the field most nights. 

But I'm not here to slag the Jays.

I like watching Jays baseball. Right now they're even kind of worth watching. They're 18-13! Woohoo! 

Sure they'll probably blow it, but even shitty baseball is great to watch live. Permitted, of course, that the conditions are right. 

But you, Rogers Centre, have fucked those conditions up too.

Cheap beer? Obviously not.
Being outside? Sometimes. 
Raucous crowds? Not unless the Red Sox or Yankees are in town, and then those are the wrong fans. 

And man, you even had the balls to up ticket prices this year. I guess you figured, hey, the Jays finished 20 games back of the wildcard last year, people will totally want to pay more to come watch them play. Good call!

I mean, the least you could do is lighten up a bit when I try to sneak down to better seats.

I mean come on. We had the decency to wait until the third inning; optimistically thinking that on a Saturday afternoon you might actually fill some more seats. But no. Those seats clearly weren't in use. 

I took this picture in the seventh inning. These are the same damn seats we tried to take in the third, that you subsequently kicked us out of. 

Do you realize how shitty all these empty seats look on TV? We're doing you a favour! And you have the gall to actually have a security guard follow us back to the ramp to the 500 levels?


Fuck you Rogers Centre.

UPDATE: I really should have read this guide, Everything You Need To Know About Sneaking Into Jays Games, before the game. Seems the good folks over at caution against stealing better seats too early, but I actually think our downfall was sneaking down too late. Ah well. Live and learn.

Friday, May 7, 2010

The Real Johnson Caption Contest

Hey y'all.

Sorry it's taken me so long to post the results of the last Caption Contest. I've been extremely busy drinking and eating nachos.

However, if you paid attention to the poll results that I left up on the sidebar for two weeks, you already know we have a winner. New contestant katrocket was the clear winner with the following gut-busting caption:

"He's okay! Once again, Lance's plastic, poseable bottom half literally saves his own ass."

Hardy har indeed! Congratulations katrocket! As soon as I have your mailing address you'll be the proud owner of a snowman PEZ dispenser. 

RJ readers, if you're looking for more of the hilarious stylings of katrocket, why not check out her blog, fotosynthesis?

And, of course, I can't have a caption contest post without an actual caption contest, so Real Johnson fans, I've got two questions for you:

1. What do you think of the site's new banner?
2. What the heck is going on here?

Got a funny/witty/disturbing caption to explain this disturbing photo from my family album?

Post it as a comment to this post and you could win!

This week's prize is a mystery! Holy shit balls! 

As with the last few contests, the winner will be decided by poll so that the people will choose the winner.

Good luck.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Alien Invasion: Part 2

If you're a semi-regular reader of this blog and you're not just one of the over one-thousand people who ended up here this week because you Googled the phrase "Danielle Dilorenzo breasts," you're probably aware that I'm a bit of nerd.

I've written here about comic books, grammar, Jurassic Park, Reality TV shows - I think my nerd cred is solid. One thing I almost never get nerdy about though, is math. I really don't like math. I'm pretty sure I only got through grade 12 math because I copied off the girl next to me a lot (thanks Kyla).

There is one exception though. The Drake Equation:

This thing is awesome.

But not for math reasons really. No, the Drake Equation is cool because it's the equation SETI experts (Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence) use when determining the likelihood that intelligent life exists elsewhere in our galaxy.  The integers in the equation stand for the following variables:

R* = the average rate of star formation per year in our galaxy
fp = the fraction of those stars that have planets
ne = the average number of planets that can potentially support life per star that has planets
f = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop life at some point
fi = the fraction of the above that actually go on to develop intelligent life
fc = the fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that releases detectable signs of their existence into space
L = the length of time such civilizations release detectable signals into space

So, while "experts" disagree on some of these variables (e.g. the number of planets close enough to a star to support life is disputable, the fraction of planets that have life that evolves to be intelligent is pretty speculative, etc), they all pretty much agree on this equation.  That is, while some argue that the sheer size of the galaxy makes it indisputable that the occurrence of these variables exists in abundance, others think Earth's ability to support life is the result of an extreme "Goldilocks" scenario wherein the conditions are just right and the odds of them being so perfect elsewhere are virtually nil.

However, both sets agree with this equation. Cynics can manipulate it to show the likelihood of intelligent life is over a million-to-one, whereas some who are more liberal with the variables have used it show that the odds are as good as ten-to-one.

I haven't actually taken the time to figure out my own values for these variables and work the equation for myself (my nerdiness goes only so far), but I think I tend to fall a little closer on the side of ten-to-one as opposed to a million-to-one.

To me it just seems narrow-minded (and maybe even egotistical), when you consider the size and age of the universe, to think that Earth was the only planet lucky enough to develop intelligent life. And, hell, since Stephen Hawking recently came out and said pretty much the same thing, I'm in pretty good company.

I'm not saying you need to embrace a Mulder-esque certainty that the truth is out there, but it just feels close-minded to say there's no chance.

Personally I've always just assumed that there's life out there somewhere. In fact, I'll admit, a small part of me even always thought maybe, just maybe, these alien abduction people were telling the truth. The Fire in The Sky guy for example? That seemed pretty believable. Maybe not realistic but a little believable. There were just too many similar stories. How could all these people have had such similar experiences, you know?

But Stephen Hawking's opinion on what the aliens' intentions are seems to negate any chance of previous and/or frequent visits from other planets.  His theory seems to rule out prior visits and I'm going to go with him on this one. He seems pretty smart. I heard he's even written a book.

That is, while Hawking confirmed that there is a likelihood life exists on other planets, he also said that any contact humans have with intelligent life would likely be fairly "colonial" in nature, therefore it's unlikely they've already been here. In other words, if aliens do show up some day, it will probably only be to plunder our natural resources. Hawking even compared the potential visit to that of the first Europeans coming to North America; and I think we all know how that worked out for the home team. Not  good.

So, all those stories about dudes seeing a light in the sky that sucks them up, or women waking to find a bunch of aliens standing around their room, or a planet inhabited by a race that loves to gamble but can't succumb to Jedi mind tricks? Probably not real. Logically, if aliens come here, it's not going to be to take the odd redneck on a wild, ass-probing ride, but rather to pillage our resources, raze our Starbucks and presumably enslave us. (Double bright-side bonus: no more Starbucks barristas / I look great in a set of chains).

Which makes sense I guess. There were, after all, some fairly odd holes in existing stories about alien visits that I always found disturbing.

Why, for example, are the people that believe they've seen aliens always such mouth-breathing losers? It seems like every "believer" is some dirty-glasses wearing Southerner, slack-jawed redneck, not-quite-all-there former fighter pilot or crazed cabin dweller (or...wait...former Canadian Minister of Defense??).

Even when I half-believed these people, I always wondered, is it that these dumb-dumbs are the only ones who come forward to talk about their close encounters? Or do aliens target dumb people because they're easier prey?

Maybe smart people know better than to shoot their mouths off to TV about being probed.

Or maybe it's just that the aliens are viciously left wing and, when they come down here they target people with pick-up trucks, trailer homes or McCain/Palin bumper stickers. Maybe they take sick pleasure in abducting red-staters and Calgarians.

Or maybe it's just that white trash people who've watched one too many episodes of Unsolved Mysteries think they can get on TV by saying they saw a little grey dude with big eyes.

I like to think it's the third option. Because you have to hope, if alien abduction is real, that the people who come forward and talk about it aren't the ones that were randomly selected by the aliens. Because if aliens think these people are an accurate representation of life down here, it's probably only a matter of time before they come to wipe us out.

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