Friday, October 24, 2014

A Neat Weird Thing Happened With My Brain The Other Day

I was zesting a lime and the damned thing tore a huge chunk of flesh out of the tip of my middle finger. It was a terrible demon zester. After having also maimed my wife's thumb, we decided it would go in the trash. We made a little photo collage and posted it on Twitter. It was adorable.

Later that night, I sat at the computer to write an email, and realized "Oh hey, one of my key typing fingers is wrapped in paper towel and electrical tape, and now I can't type properly".

I'm mostly a proficient typist, making correct use of all my fingers and typing pretty fast. I don't know the number of words per minute but it's up there. I aced typing class in high school (fun side story: my 1991 class was the last to use electric typewriters before the school switched over to Mac Classics. See? Fun.) and while I make plenty of speed-related errors while typing, I'm equally quick with the backspace button.

So with one gimped finger on my right hand, I had to resort to "hunt and peck" like surly old TV detectives do, but only my right hand. My left hand still made use of all five digits. I was surprised by how quickly I adapted to my handicap, all the while retaining the left hand's typing training. That was pretty rad, but there was something even more rad:

Normally when I make mistakes, I see them on the screen and my right hand quickly jumps up to the backspace key and fixes it. But this time, every time I made a mistake, I'd see it and hit the space bar, expecting it to autocorrect, like on my smartphone. Because I'd switched my right hand to single-digit typing like I do on my phone, my brain seemed to have switched to smartphone mode, and just expected all the errors to be autocorrected. 

How cool is that? It's pretty cool, that's how cool.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Lyric Comprehension 101: I Automatically Fail

I saw this brilliant video by Jonathan Mann this morning, and it drove home something that I've known for a while but couldn't quite put into words: I suck so hard at understanding what people's songs are about.

The gimmick here is that Mann let the iPhone's new autocomplete feature do the writing, and then he added the melody and music afterwards. End product: An extremely catchy song that sounds like it all makes sense unless you pay close attention to the lyrics. This speaks to the brilliance of Jonathan Mann - he has written and posted on YouTube one original song per day since 2009 - check out more here. The guy's a machine, his shit is catchy and you could spend an entire day listening to his catalogue.

What this video made me realize was that, if I didn't know the premise of the song, I would have had NO CLUE that it was intentionally nonsensical. I would have listened half-assedly to the lyrics, said "Hey, this is catchy" and moved on.  I've always known I had a hard time understanding lyrics. I've joked repeatedly that a song needs to include the lines "I have a drug addiction problem, and it is having a negative impact on my life as well as the lives of those around me" for me to recognize what the song is about. If it's not spelled out in black and white, then I have absolutely no clue what's going on.

Here's a fun game: take a look at these two passages and try to guess which one is from the Jonathan Mann video and which one is from the popular song My Body, by Young The Giant (this doesn't work if you listened to the song above and/or are familiar with My Body)

Stop the train is riding down to the station where you lived when we were school kids hey the rails are caught now and I am falling down fools in a spiral round this town of steam
The other hand is the only thing that would have to back and the best way of saying the best thing about it and it was not the only one of my life and death in morning

You, being an intelligent person who knows how words work, could probably figure it out almost instantaneously.  But me, who has tried repeatedly to understand what My Body is about, would almost certainly not be able to tell the difference. They're both random bundles of words that I can't make heads or tails of.

I do pretty ok with words. I write a lot of very lengthy blog posts, as well as the hundred or so country songs I've written over the years. I tend to write in black and white too. It's all I know. My problem is metaphor and symbolism, and interpretation thereof (did I use thereof properly? Now I'm doubting myself, because I set myself up by saying I do pretty ok with words).  I've always been terrible at that sort of thing. English class in high school was a disaster of teachers telling me Shakespeare meant this, Margaret Craven meant that. My head was swimming the entire time. I just couldn't make the connections, and would actually fight with the teacher and say "that's a load of bullshit made up by English teachers just so they could build a lesson plan". Suffice it to say, I was not a joy to teach.

SIDEBAR: One time, I was actually right, and it was glorious. We were reading Cry, The Beloved Country, a 1948 book by Alan Paton set in pre-apartheid South Africa. The phrase "Cry, the beloved country" is repeated several times throughout the book, and our English teacher, Mme Valiquette, asked in class, "Can anyone tell me what the author meant when he chose to repeat the title of the book so often throughout?" I'm sure there's some bullshit "correct" answer, but I saw through that. I put up my hand and said, "If you'd read the introduction, you'd know that the book was initially untitled, and that when the author gave copies to some friends to proof read, they independently suggested that he use "Cry, The Beloved Country" as the title, because it had been repeated so often throughout the book." Glorious. SIDEBAR OVER

As a result of me not knowing what in the hell any song is about, I very rarely pay attention to lyrics. This is funny because a) I'm a songwriter and b) I'm a music fan who has a weekly radio show in which I showcase other songwriters, whose songs I know nothing about other than "I like them".

I very often will say "So-and-so is a great songwriter" because it's the thing I'm supposed to say when someone is popular. Rarely do I ever believe this to be true, only because I don't know what I'm talking about. I'll still love a singer for their vocal styles and they way they use their voice as in instrument, as well the type of music they choose to back them up and whatever band dynamics come in to play, but in the end I usually have no idea what they're going on about.

As for my own songwriting, I've got a particular style that's mine all mine, and I just roll with it and don't try to colour outside the lines too much. I'm more about puns and clever and imaginitive rhymes, and about story telling.  There's very little metaphor or other literary devices in my songs, and where they exist they're pretty in your face.  I do some clever things that I'm quite proud of. Internal rhymes, imaginitive rhymes, clever song building, but in the end there's absolutely no question what my songs are about because I wouldn't know any other way to write them.

Another fun note: possibly as a result of my not knowing or caring what lyrics represent, I'm severely handicapped in my ability to even comprehend what words are being said. It seems like other people learn the words to songs no problem. Me, without the internet, I'm screwed. Here's an example. I like the hit song Take Me To Church by Hozier. The chorus is extremely catchy and a has nice melody with well-placed high points that are shiver-inducing

I'd been singing along to this for weeks on the radio before I finally decided to look up the lyrics to the chorus. I've underlined the parts that I was able to figure out all by myself:

Take me to church
I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies
I'll tell you my sins and you can sharpen your knife
Offer me that deathless death
Good God, let me give you my life
I didn't even get the "Take me to church" part AND THAT'S THE TITLE OF THE SONG.

In case you're wondering, I also have a Masters degree. So I'm not completely retarded.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Who Really Wins Lawsuits? Lawyers

You may or may not know my legal troubles. I won't go into details but if you're not familiar then a search engine is your friend. Here I muse about how being involved in a lawsuit is basically like being rectally penetrated with a cactus, and then somehow a lawyer gets richer because of it.
(updated below)

It should be noted that everything I'm about to say reflects my feelings after having been through a lawsuit, and don't necessarily reflect the realities of the legal profession. Some lawyers are nice. I had the pleasure of dealing with several of the nice ones.

When I first got sued, I reached out to a high-priced lawyer in Toronto for some free legal advice, which he was more than happy to provide. He looked over the particulars of the case and assured me that I was not in the wrong, and gave me a lot of background in this particular field of law.

When news of the lawsuit broke, a friend put me in touch with a lawyer friend of his, who, along with his entire legal team, helped me draft a solid Statement of Defense, which needed to be submitted by a deadline of 30 days after having been served. They all did this free of charge.

I was also contacted out of the blue by a friend of a friend of a friend (we're now actually friends so the middle men have been removed from the equation) - he's a lawyer in Toronto and he wanted to take my case for an extremely reduced rate. Without his help, I could have been ROYALLY FUCKED by legal fees, instead of being gently probed with a beginner's butt plug and a helpful dollop of lube.

All my life I've heard every variation of jokes insinuating that lawyers are sharks, the scum of the earth, etc. I have very little actual experience with lawyers, even after my legal troubles. But I can tell you one thing: regardless of their intentions, whether they're heroes trying to give the underdog a leg up or slimebags trying to corrupt the system for their own gain, the only people that truly win lawsuits are lawyers, because they get paid no matter what.

You want to recoup your legal fees when you win? Think again, sucker

Here's a little known fact: some people think "Oh I'll just take this guy to court and win, and make him pay back my legal fees too. It's risk free!".

No, it's not. One of the first things I learned was that you are rarely awarded your full legal fees when you win a case. Apparently people only recover an average of around 60% of their total costs. And guess what else: if your lawyer has offered you a reduced rate out of pity or whatever, there's a very good chance that part of the agreement is that in the event of a win, any legal fees recouped will go directly to the lawyer to make up for any fees they lost by giving you the reduced rate in the first place.

Let's say for simplicity's sake that the lawyer took your case at $200/h, which is half of their usual rate. When all was said and done, your bill was $10,000. Your lawyer's regular rates would total $20,000 but you only owe them half that. You win your case, and you successfully recover 60% ($6000) from the guy who lost. Your lawyer gets to keep that $6000, bringing their total take up to $16,000. You're still out $10,000 but hey at least you won! You get a big fat settlement!

You may have to fight for your settlement, and you may never get it all

You can't get blood from a stone, and this applies to lawsuit settlements too. You win $1,000,000 from your neighbour because his tree dropped an apple in your yard and you ate the apple and choked on it and are now permanently brain damaged because of temporary asphyxiation. Your neighbour has no money, is currently out of work, and he owns his house outright. You MIGHT get money from the house, somehow, and maybe his shitty car. But if he has no money, he just... has no money. Even if he has a job, the only money you get is from garnished wages, which won't come easily. And if he declares bankruptcy well... good luck with that.  Just because he owes it, doesn't mean you'll get it.

But I don't WANNA get SUUUUED
The really fucked up thing about this lawsuit business is that absolutely anybody can sue anybody, provided they have the cash for a lawyer. Even if the reasons are ridiculous and the lawsuit doesn't have a legal leg to stand on, they can still file it. There's no one that looks at the lawsuit in the early stages and says "This has some merit, I will allow this to proceed" or "What a load of hooey" before throwing it into their garbage can. No, this step doesn't come until UP TO A YEAR after the lawsuit has been filed and you're finally in front of a judge for the first time.

What are you doing in the meantime? Spending thousands of dollars on a lawyer to help you build your case, amassing all the evidence you could possibly need to prove to a judge that the lawsuit is invalid and should never have been filed in the first place. You're submitting forms and documents, you're meeting with the other side to share each other's evidence, you're paying a high-priced mediator to help you settle out of court. All of these things happen BEFORE someone with a law degree and a modicum of common sense can look at the lawsuit and say "I agree, this is clearly bullshit, we're throwing it out".

So no matter what happens, the minute you get sued by the fleeting whims of whatever person decides to sue you, you can just kiss goodbye your sanity and tens of thousands of dollars, EVEN IF YOU END UP SUCCESSFULLY DEFENDING YOURSELF IN THE END.

I don't have any money for a lawyer

Hey don't worry, there's legal aid! Except that it's only for actually poor people. The ones that are dirt broke, homeless, on welfare, etc. Do you have a regular job but are living paycheck to paycheck for various reasons? Good for you, you don't qualify for legal aid because you're rich enough to afford a lawyer! Even though you can't afford to fix the broken power steering pump in your car!

The legal system just assumes that everyone just... HAS... thousands of dollars sitting in a bank account. Want to hire a lawyer? Here's how it works. You send them a cheque for $5000. That's called the retainer fee. Every month, they bill you for how many hours they've worked, and deduct that amount from the $5000. Once that dries up, you send them another $5000. So basically if you want legal help, you need to already have the money in place. How many of you have $5000 just kicking around?

Oh and when you get sued, guess what: you have THIRTY DAYS to submit your Statement of Defense. You have THIRTY DAYS to drop everything, find a lawyer and somehow also find the $5000 to retain them. Good thing we're all rich millionaires with student loans and credit card debt and a disabled wife.

I'll just defend myself, how hard can it be?

Answer: very. The system is set up to be so confusing and jargon-riddled that the average person literally can't make heads or tails of what they have to do next.  You have to be able to draft a legal document in the correct format, using the correct jargon, be super familiar with previous cases of a similar nature to be able to draw upon them as precedent, and so much more.

When I was sued I provided a 6 page document to my lawyer outlining my defense strategy as I saw it. He needed this to be able to properly draft a Statement of Defense. I was pretty proud of my writing. It sounded smart, logical and sound. I truly believed that if a judge read this, he'd say "Lefty your arguments are pretty compelling, I see where you're coming from with this defense strategy". And then my lawyer took all of it and rewrote it in unrecognizable legal jargon that made my head swim when I read it. Any dreams I ever had of defending myself (bear in mind this was lawyer number two, not my final lawyer, as mentioned above) went up in smoke after reading this. There's no way I could have ever written something like that, and this realization took the wind right out of my sails. Any faith I had in myself defending... myself... was just gone. I resigned to the fact that no matter what, I was paying for a lawyer if I wanted any chance whatsoever of fighting this thing.

Maybe we can settle out of court and avoid a lengthy and costly legal battle, and not worry about wasting taxpayer money on an unnecessary trial

Hey smart idea. In fact, in Ottawa and Toronto courts, pre-trial mediation is a required step before you actually go to trial. The province's effort not to bog down the legal system with petty spats between neighbours.  Unfortunately before you get to mediation you still have to spend thousands on a lawyer because the mediation step is much later in the game, after all evidence has been amassed and presented to each other and filed in the courts. Then your lawyer drafts a mediation summary, which outlines the details of the case and explains the basic defense strategy, and sends it off to a mediator. The other side does the same thing. The mediator reads over the background, and then you all get together in the same building but different rooms, and he just bounces back and forth between rooms acting essentially as a haggler, until a dollar amount is settled on that will make the whole thing go away. Our mediator said it best: "No matter what the outcome today, nobody will walk away happy".  Harsh.

Oh hey guess what: the mediator makes THOUSANDS of dollars for his day's work. I won't tell you how much but let's just say it's more than two.

So in the end, no matter what happens, both sides end up having to hire lawyers. And no matter who wins, both lawyers get paid whatever amount they decided you were going to pay them.  And if you're lucky and you get to settle out of court, you get to make a THIRD lawyer rich as mediator.

Bottom line: don't get sued. Don't ever do anything to anyone, ever. Don't leave the house. And if you're considering suing someone, ask yourself if it's really worth the risk of not recovering your legal fees, and possibly not ever getting your settlement.

Oh and if someone sends you a letter saying "Stop doing X or we will sue you" FOR THE LOVE OF GOD JUST STOP DOING X, AND APOLOGIZE. It's not worth it, no matter how much you want to stand up for what you believe in. Just stop doing the thing and walk away.


Here's an example of exactly this kind of bullshit. Olivia Parsons, an Ottawa student, wrote a negative online review against CLV, a real estate rental company, and they threatened to sue if she didn't remove them. She maintains that her comments were true, but she's up against a company that has a legal team on retainer and probably paid $500 for one of them to edit a boilerplate cease and desist letter bullying her into taking down the negative comment. CLV knows full fucking well that she won't fight back because she's a student with no money for a lawyer, so she begrudgingly deletes her comments, because it's her only option.

Hey CLV: if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen, you little bitches.

Readers, if you want to give CLV the bird, head on over to their Facebook page and post a comment, or yell at them on Twitter like I did

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My Million Dollar Plan To Sell Out In The Most Glorious Fashion

By this time next year, I'll be bathing in whatever the champagne is that they keep going on about in rap songs. I assume I'll be surrounded by bikinis and top-shelf chocolate and other signs of immense wealth.

I've had a few neat ideas in my life. Inventions and cool apps, but nothing I could ever get off the ground without way too much pressure and effort. But this one I came up with the other day, it can't possibly lose AND I already know how to do all the things involved in making it happen, which are: play guitar, and look stupid doing it.

The plan is to combine the two worst things to ever happen to music into an unholy union of shit:


It's so simple even Nickelback has already thought of it:

I know what you're thinking: hey, a country cover of Nickelback might not be too bad. NO YOU'RE WRONG. It will be the worst. The reason is, I'm not going to do the good version of country (ie the stuff my friends and I devote our lives to). No, I'm going new country. The newer the better.

My plan is simple: take Nickelback's greatest hits, play them EXACTLY as is, except add fiddle and acoustic guitars and way more plaid shirts.

It's not that far of a stretch. Us (true) country singers have bemoaned for years that new country is just pop music with a fiddle. The Divorcees said it best, in You Ain't Gettin' My Country Without a Fight:

The way new country songs are constructed these days, the overall feel, they're practically indistinguishable from jock rock or candy pop except for a smattering of fiddle or banjo and the odd reference to a truck.

For my plan the work is already half done; the songs are ready made, I don't have to do anything creative. Just hire a fiddle player, put a band together, and I'm Chad Kroeger except I always play acoustic guitar.

New country fans are stupid. They think that as soon as an acoustic guitar shows up, it's a country song. They looked at this piece of shit and said "Oh neat, Nickelback went country":

So my plan is to capitalize on the stupidity of new country fans and that of Nickelback fans, and rake in the millions. Sure there are overhead costs, namely getting the recording rights to Nickelback songs, but that's a lot easier than you'd think. I don't need their permission, I just need to pay a fee to their publisher and I get the rights. Simple as that.

So this is my plan, and don't you dare steal it because I'LL KNOW that you're ripping me off and I'll come to your shows and boo you.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It's OK That I'm Washing Dishes, You Guys. Don't Worry About Me

As most of you know, a combination of my unfortunate legal nightmares and my wife's disability (MRI is next week, fingers crossed that it's something that can be explained and fixed) has left us in a state of financial need over the last year.   I've recently taken a part time job as a dishwasher to make some extra cash. Some folks have a problem with this, but in a good way.
Me in 20 years? Sure why not

There was a great fundraiser back in April, in which all of our friends and family really came through and showed their support. That really helped put a dent in our legal fees, but we still owe various moneys for the undented part. 

I won't go into details but suffice it to say that while we're still in debt, it's mostly consolidated and can be taken care of without either of us suffering too much of a lifestyle change. Both of us tend to hermit and don't eat out much, so it's not too hard to get by with good budgeting. The wife is working part time for the first time since November, and that's really helping us stay in the black each week.

However I wanted a bit of fun money and when a dishwashing job came up at Hintonburg Public House, I jumped at the chance to make a few extra hundred a month. This is my way to put money into a separate bank account for us to be able to treat ourselves and still be responsible about repaying our debts.

For instance, I still need to finish my tattoo. I cancelled my appointments when I got sued. Now I feel like I can go back and finish without being irresponsible about my money. Also, I desperately want to go to Vegas in the spring for their annual rockabilly festival. This gets paid for by the dishwashing gig.

Why am I telling you this?

A few folks are pissed off on my behalf. The general consensus is "I can't believe that guy did this to you and now you have to wash dishes, it's bullshit".

First, I LOVE that everyone's got my back. I just about lost my mind with all the support back when we did the fundraiser. As cocky as I am, I sometimes truly doubt that people actually like me. The fundraiser showed I was wrong.  So when folks are getting all riled up about it, it feels good to know that I've still got someone in my corner.

But second, I just want to assure everyone that I'm in no way shape or form embarrassed that I'm washing dishes in a restaurant. I love the job so far. It keeps me busy at a time when I find myself terribly restless every day when I get home from work. Nature abhors a vacuum and lately I'm nature and the vacuum is sitting around the house watching TV (I just realized: I could be using all this time to vacuum my house). The dishwashing job is a great way for me to blow off steam and make a few bucks for doing it. It's also really good exercise, it's a lot more physically demanding than I thought. I recently lost 20lbs and would like to keep it off while still drinking beer and eating cheeseburgers and pizza, this will help a lot.

Also, I miss working in a restaurant. Since high school, kitchen jobs (cooking, mostly) were my main source of income until I graduated university and got the job I have now. But often part of me thinks "If I get laid off it's all good because I can go work in a kitchen and I miss that shit". Kitchens are great places to work. The high energy, the pressure, the camaraderie, the joking around, the crassness... it's great. I don't get any of that at my day job.

So all this to say, thank you for wanting to stick up for me and for getting pissed off, but rest assured that I like this job, and do it with a smile on my face every shift. Also on my face: little bits of food from people's dirty dishes. Because don't get me wrong, it's a filthy job.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

I Have Written a Song That Might Be About Fucking a Sandwich.

I can't tell if this is stupid or amazing or both. I'm going with stupemazing.

I wrote an instrumental ditty called Double Down Boogie, about the sandwich.

Then I decided it needed words, about the sandwich.

Then I decided it needed lots of obvious sexual innuendo. Possible still about the sandwich.

"Stick it in me, big boy"
So I picked up a pen and this came out almost instantly (the parts in all caps are gang vocals):

Come on baby now come on girl

Order up and double down

Stuck between two hot hot breasts
Baby it sure feels right

Come on let's get dirty girl
It's the double down boogie tonight

Again, I have written a song that might be about fucking a sandwich. I'm a little concerned about how easily that came to me. Anyway, I'm off to KFC. And Mac's.


For condoms. I'm going to fuck the sandwich.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Night Cyclists: Some Day You Will Die By My Hand

It's legal to swerve directly into a night cyclist with no lights or reflectors and straight murder them, right?
Do you see the cyclist? Trick question, he's in the ditch, bleeding to death.

A 10 minute drive down Bank St. at 10pm had some pretty interesting results: I drove past 10 people on bicycles and 8 of them had no lights whatsoever on their bikes. Not even reflectors.  In the dark. On the road, alongside the number one killer of cyclists (number two: wombats). One guy, bless his heart, had, I swear to god, a flashlight in his mouth. 

Now I'm the LAST thing from a bike safety ninny. I don't wear a helmet, I think segregated bike lanes are a waste of money and are counterproductive because they only instill in cyclists a fear of roads that DON'T have a segregated bike lane, and nine times out of ten I give the cyclist half the blame when they get hit by a car, because they probably could have seen it coming (exception: getting hit from behind, and even then you can sort of predict it with frequent shoulder checks or a mirror).

I'm also a frequent and active cyclist - I bike almost every day when there's no snow on the ground, and I love biking amongst the cars on busy roads. I also safely run red lights and stop signs. You probably all hate me right now but I'm telling you all this to qualify the fact that in terms of bike safety, there are a lot of areas where I don't necessarily play ball.

But the one thing I do follow is to have some fuckin' lights on when it's dark out, or at the very least some reflectors. Lights will up the chance that you're spotted from far away, which gives a driver plenty of time to react and prepare to pass you. It's a simple concept, so simple that I feel really weird having to explain it but here we are.

Listen, dummy: you're not nearly as visible as you think, even with streetlights all around. Trust me on this, from a driver's point of view you fade very quickly into the darkness between streetlights. Darkness usually happens at night, along with other night time activities such as drunk driving or falling asleep at the wheel. All it takes is for a driver to look away for a second and then WHOA you pop out of the dark directly in front of them and SPLAT you're roadkill.

So for the love of god get some fucking lights. I bought mine at Dollarama for christ's sake. I have a fucking flashlight taped to my handle bars. You idiots. Holy shit.

I'm actually getting mad as I write this. The drive happened several nights ago but I never got around to finishing the post until today.

I need a nap.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Musings at 140km/h: Fuck the OPP, Fuck the MTO

I was driving down the 401 just outside Toronto, doing 140km/h with everyone else.  I got to thinking about how frustrating it is that the police know full well that everyone drives this fast, and yet do virtually nothing about it.  The thing is, I don't want to them to start enforcing MORE, I want them to stop pretending they give a shit.
We all know the drill: driving from Ottawa to Montreal or Toronto, it's totally cool to go 125km/h or so and you're golden, unless it's a long weekend, in which case LOOK OUT, because there will be speed traps. Of course the speed traps are out in rural areas where it's safe to pull cars over.  Once you're in the outskirts of either city, there's nary a trap to be seen, despite that fact that the top speed for most drivers is 140km/h.  The only people that get pulled over in or around the city are people that are driving like jackasses, with crazy fast speeds and lane weaving. If everyone is driving the same speed and safely, the cops don't bother you.

What does it say that once a month, the cops go out and ticket speeders in name of public safety and education, and then spend the rest of the month doing nothing about it?  If it's such a safety issue, shouldn't you be devoting a lot more time and energy to the other 29 days of the month? Aren't people dying by the hundreds because you're not out there making the world a better place by stopping speeders in their tracks?

They're not out there because they know, just as well as we do, that it's perfectly fine for people to drive 140km/h in good road conditions.  But once in awhile they have to go out and make a very public effort to curb dangerous driving, and issue a big press release at the end saying "We ticketed over 900 this weekend and charged 5 individuals with street racing. Look how good we are at our jobs."  Every. Single. One. of these drivers knows that tomorrow they can drive fast again because they won't see the OPP again until May two four.

This frustrates me to no end because I've been ticketed twice for driving 135km/h, each ticket costing upwards of $300, all because I got caught in a speeding blitz. Equally frustrating is the fact that the extent of my fine is determined by how many km/h I was over the limit. The problem is that the "limit" on the signs is not the real limit and everybody knows it. Drive by the OPP at 120km/h and they won't even blink an eye. That's because 120km/h is the "real" limit. I know it, you know, they know it.

Here's the breakdown of how much you pay, depending on how fast you were going over the speed limit:
1-19 km/h The amount of km over times $2.50 = fine
20-29 km/h The amount of km over times $3.75 = fine
30-49 km/h The amount of km over times $6.00 = fine
If I had my druthers, I'd gladly pay the fine for going 15km/h over the REAL speed limit of 120km/h.  But this sliding scale of bullshit makes me insane, especially on days when I'm driving directly behind an OPP officer who is driving 130km/h but doesn't appear to be responding to a call.

Look I'm not going to argue that fast driving is safer than regular driving. I just want to point out the frustrating hypocrisy that the OPP and the MTO display by pretending to give a shit about speed limits, but only once a month.  If they really gave a shit, there would be hidden speed cameras everywhere down the highway.  There would a no-haggling speed limit with absolutely no way to reduce your fine when you're caught.  This is how it seems to work on the portions of the autobahn that DO have a speed limit. Why can't that work for us?

In Las Vegas, open carry alcohol is tolerated. It's not technically legal, but it's tolerated. I spent a week there and did not see a single act of drunken public debauchery.  Everyone behaved and had fun, all while walking down the street, in and out of bars and casinos, drink in hand. I don't know how long it's been like this but clearly it shows that the city won't burn down in a hellfire of anarchy because of people drinking beer in the streets.

Now imagine that once a month, Vegas cops hid behind corners and jumped out at tourists and wrote them tickets for drinking in public, and then did absolutely nothing for the next 29 days.  Well that's what the OPP is doing to us with this bullshit hypocritical speed limit enforcement.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ice Bucket Challenge: Thanks But I'll Pass

Apparently I've been nominated. I'm not going to do it. Call me a spoil sport, I'm ok with that, I've been called worse. Recently I was called a condescending jackass.

I think the ice bucket challenge is great. I want to shake the hand of the guy or gal who came up with the concept - it's brilliant. I want to congratulate everyone who's donated so far, and who donates in the future.

But I'm not going do it, nor am I going to contribute to the cause. I don't have the kind of money to spare for such a thing, AND my wife already did the challenge and is making a contribution. Since we share income I say hey, good enough. Check out the video below, featuring Mrs Lefty (Headmistress Holly Sin, far left), Randi Rouge and Betty Bright Eyes. It's not safe for work, what with all the hot wet t-shirt action. I filmed it. It was hot.

I contribute to other charities enough not to feel guilty about skipping this one. I also don't contribute to the annual United Way fund they run at my work every year, and they have yet to burn me at the stake.

Why not just do the video to nominate more people, and just kinda silently not make a donation, because hey who would ever know? Because I don't want to, and I think that's a great reason. I'm not interested in falsely representing myself on the internet.

Look, the challenge is going to peter off eventually, it can't go on forever.  Consider me to be one of the people that stops clapping first at the end of a great show.

If you have a heart of gold, go and donate to Canadian ALS research, it's a good cause.

If you have a black heart like me, you might enjoy this song, wherein I name drop Lou Gehrig. Download a copy if you like.  I know this is pointless because no one will bite, but any music sales I make this week will be donated to ALS.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

I Lost 20lbs With One Neat Trick, And So Can You

Big thanks to Mica for getting me, and several other friends, on this plan. I feel great, and my clothes don't fucking fit anymore, god dammit

I made one change to my lifestyle and dropped 20 pounds in about 3 months:


That's it. That's all.

Ok, there are some details but that's the basics of it. Keep your daily caloric intake below a certain level and you WILL lose weight. I guarantee it or your money back.

I used a free program called MyFitnessPal. It's all the rage these days. Set up is simple. Put in your weight and other information and tell it how much you'd like to lose (or maintain), and it programs how many calories you're allowed to eat in a day. Then you enter what you eat, and enter any exercise you do, and it keeps track. Dead simple. Keep under your goal and you'll lose weight.

You can use exercise to up your calorie limit for the day. Right now, my limit is 2140 calories but I can easily boost that to 2500 with a 30 minute bike ride.

It can be hard at times, and you need a lot of will power. You have to really want to lose weight. This app won't brainwash you into a healthy lifestyle, it just makes attaining that healthy lifestyle a lot easier.

How? Because it shows you which shitty foods not to eat too much of.  In the end, that's how it worked for me. We all eat shitty food sometimes, but we don't have a concept of HOW shitty it is for you. Using a calorie tracking app helps you see, with concrete numbers, which foods are contributing to your daily calorie overloads, and then you can start to modify your diet as a result.
I'm trying not to make this too long-winded, so here's a bunch of pointers, in random order.

  • Exercise is a huge factor in this. If you ONLY change your diet, it could be really hard for you. I use exercise to buy myself extra calories. If I know I'm going out drinking tonight, I'll take a 40 minute bike ride and buy myself 500 calories for later use. 
  • For me the biggest offenders were bread, pasta and beer. All carb heavy. I've been cutting down on each ever since. For beer, switch to light beer and if it's a bit flavorless, add a squirt of lime juice. Tasty!
  • Eat lots of raw vegetables. Full of fiber, which fills you up. Full of vitamins too. 
  • I only counted calories, I didn't bother with daily protein or sodium or fat goals. That's not fun. However, if that's your bag you can use the app for that too. It even sends little passive aggressive reminders, like "Just so you know, that Big Mac has 1000mg of sodium and your daily limit is 1500mg"
  • If it's too much of a shock at first, I suggest maintaining instead of trying to lose weight for the first few weeks. It'll give you an idea of your eating habits, and allow you time to plan for a better diet.
  • Don't be afraid to treat yourself once in awhile, and don't panic if you go over, just don't do it a lot. Your weight loss goal is a lot lower than your weight maintenance goal, so you can buy a few more calories by electing to stay the same weight for another day.  It's important to treat yourself because the last thing you want is to grow to hate your diet. If you resent it, you're more likely to ignore it.
  • Learn to push through the hunger. Actively engage in the process when you're hungry between meals. Tell yourself that that's what burning fat feels like. It's not true, but it is at the same time. Drink a glass of water or fill up on raw vegetables between meals.
  • Find out which foods are highest in protein (to fill you up) and lowest in calories. There examples a-plenty. My favourite is a bowl of cottage cheese with some berry flavoured yogurt and a spoonful of milled flax seed. Fucking tasty, and super healthy. Here, I did the research for you
  • This fuckin' guy, who ate at McDonald's for 3 months and lost 37 pounds by monitoring his caloric intake. Just look at this picture:
This is from 3 months of McDonald's AKA molester of children's mouths

Friday, August 22, 2014

Dying With Dignity: The Only Way To Go

UPDATE: Holy fuck. Supreme Court strikes down Canada’s assisted suicide laws

My Mom posted this article on Facebook yesterday. It's about a woman who chose to die with dignity instead of living the rest of her life wasting away with dementia.

By the end of the second paragraph my jaw had literally dropped, and my eyes had started to well up:
On Monday morning shortly before noon, Gillian Bennett dragged a foam mattress from her home on Bowen Island to one of her favourite spots on the grass, facing a craggy rock cliff, the place she had chosen to die.
Bennett, who was 85 and in the early stages of dementia, chose to take her own life with a draught of good whiskey, a dose of Nembutal mixed with water and her husband of 60 years by her side.
Holy shit. That's some powerful stuff. The thing is, those tears that almost but didn't come out because I'm not some little bitch, those were tears of sadness and joy all at the same time. Up until I read that, I didn't know that was even a thing. Tears of joy, sure. I've had that watching puppies or a nice sunrise. Tears of sadness, duh. But both at the same time? Mind blowing.

I don't have a lot of strong opinions on major issues because I don't consider myself educated enough, or I can see both sides of the story. Death penalty is a good example. For the life of me I can't decide if I'm pro or con. Some days I think it's the most barbaric thing in the world, other days I think it's a damn good idea. I seriously cannot make up my mind.

But there are a few fundamental human rights that are controversial to some, but no question for me: gay marriage, abortion and euthanasia.

Everyone is stuck with the body they're dealt at birth. Sometimes that body is great (case in point: mine). Sometimes that body is not so great (case in point: my wife, who looks great but is more fragile than peace in the Middle East).  Modern medicine allows us to make changes to our bodies, be it plastic surgery or insulin shots, in order to lead more productive lives, but medicine has its limits and sometimes there's nothing you can do but suffer in your shitty shitty body.

Everyone should have the choice about whether they want to keep living in their shitty bodies. We have the ability to make all the other choices: haircuts, tattoos, weight gain, gender reassignment, glasses, kidney donation.  We're in control of our bodies in every way except the ultimate one: we're not allowed to legally give up on our bodies. Or at least, we're not allowed to ask for help. As a result, people end up having to do it on their own, which means that their loved ones end up stumbling upon their bodies, which is just not right. Especially if they chose chainsaw.  Dying with dignity means being able to choose how and when (already allowed) and to be able to ask for help so that you don't make a mess or traumatize anyone (not allowed). In the above mentioned story, the woman had her husband by her side, but:
“She wouldn’t let me help her, and I didn’t wish to,” said Jonathan. “I don’t know where she got the Nembutal or the instructions; she didn’t tell me.” Nor did she let him help her drag the mattress outside, although that final effort was physically difficult for her... He and his wife knew that if anyone assisted her, they would be breaking the law. “Gillian and I both disliked and disapproved of the laws making it impossible to help a loved one with something as important as death.”
Jesus christ.

Some people will say "Think about who you're leaving behind". To that I say screw that shit. If my loved ones would rather I stay alive in a constant state of suffering so that they don't have to cry for a week, then they're not really the kind of loved ones I'd stay alive for.

My death plan, if I can manage it, is this: The Irish Goodbye. I'd duck out to my favourite place, the wilderness, and just fend for myself until I decide I'm done. I'd leave a note for whoever's left behind:
Dear loved ones: Thank you so much for helping me enjoy my time on Earth. We've had many great adventures and we'll live on in each other's hearts and minds.  I want you to be happy that I've run off to finish existing under my terms. I will die soon, and I will die happy. Take that to your graves. I love you all.
I don't know how I'll off myself, I'll probably get creative. I might even try death by moose. However I've already decided that when the time comes, I'm going to start smoking again. I really miss smoking, but common sense prevents me from starting up. When I'm going out under my own terms? Smoke 'em if you got 'em. Also booze.

Oh and in the event that I'm incapacitated and can't make the trek out to the woods, no problem because I'll have my living will tattooed across my chest:

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Vadge vs. Vag: The Most Important Debate In Human History

I believe, with a conviction deeper than the Mariana Trench, that the short form of the word "vagina" should be spelled "vadge" and not "vag" as most people spell it. Here, I present the reasons why I'm right and why you should all obey me. This is a long read, so if you don't have the patience, here's the short version: I'm right on this. Trust me.
First off: neither spelling is listed in the dictionary. Well, not the one that comes up first on Google. I'm not going to bother with paper books. The closest I could come is a search for "vadge" redirecting to the definition of "vagina".  Note that a search for "vag" on the same dictionary shows that it's apparently shorthand for "vagrant". We're in a unique situation where the word has entered common parlance without yet being included in the dictionary. There's a word for that: neologism, or "...the name for a newly coined term, word, or phrase that may be in the process of entering common use but that has not yet been accepted into mainstream language". Someday "vadge" will be included in the dictionary, I'm sure of it. After all, "cunty" made it this year. But for now, we're left to decide how it's properly spelled.

My main argument is that "vadge" rhymes with "badge" and "vag" rhymes with "bag". Pretty straightforward, right? Except that when I posed the following question on Facebook...
When you shorten vagina, do you write vag or vadge? Think about the words bag and badge when answering.

...every single person replied "vag".  Not a single person agreed with me. I thought for sure it'd be 50/50, but I was surprised that even after I laid out a few arguments, people still replied "vag". The hint, the most basic clue to how right I am, was right there in the question, yet every person said "Sure there's that whole rhyming thing but whatever, I spell it "vag" and I've never questioned this."

The reason why otherwise spelling-capable adults are making this mistake is that they're great at memorizing HOW a word is spelled, but not at understanding WHY it's spelled a certain way, which brings us to...

1. Follow the rules, children

We all were supposed to have learned spelling rules in grade 3, but as is evident by our Facebook feeds, it didn't stick for a lot of folks. That's fine, we expect the stupid people to spell everything wrong, but this is a different situation where people who are otherwise great with spelling still fail to spell "vadge" correctly.

This website lists a bunch of spelling rules, let's cherry pick the one we need:

There's no denying that the /j/ sound in "vadge" is the exact same sound as in "badge" or any of these other listed words.  As for the hard /g/ sound in "-ag", let's use the songwriter's best friend, the rhyming dictionary:

Ok yes, there are a lot of made up words in that list, but the ones in blue are real words and they ALL end with the "-ag" sound. Of course, that's because I used a rhyming dictionary, but do you want to know something?  If you put "badge" in the rhyming dictionary you get only four words: cadge, hajj, madge, maj . I don't know what any of those mean, but I think this proves my point. If something is going to make a /j/ sound at the end of a word or after a short vowel, English spelling rules say that it must be spelled "-dge".

2) Hey Lefty, spelling rules are great and all but there are so many exceptions in the English language, why can't we just make an exception here, you gorgeous hunk of man meat that makes me question my own sexuality?

The English language is very fucked up. I've heard that it's one of the hardest languages for foreigners to learn.  This topic has been covered at great length over at Let's take a look at the history of spelling rules, courtesy of Cracked writer Kate Peregrina:

In the 11th century, English had developed its own standardized set of spelling conventions that had an almost perfectly phonemic orthography -- meaning that each letter had a specific sound it made, regardless of what word it appeared in or what other letters were around it. People went around saying things, and the things they said looked like the things you'd see on signs and whatnot... 
Then, in 1066, the Norman conquest happened. William the Conqueror invaded with an army of French, Norman, and Breton soldiers, who quickly established Latin and French as the standard languages throughout the British Isles. French and Latin words were absorbed into English like fried Twinkies in a county fair goer's stomach -- that is to say, poorly, and with much regret. "Seize" and "siege," for example: In French, those words (and those vowel combinations) have very different pronunciations. But that distinction didn't survive the migration to the new language, even though the spelling did. Now we write them totally differently but say them the same, because we're just giant wrecks here and nobody is coming to help us.

The problems continued: Norman scribes convinced English speakers to change "cwen" to "queen" and "cwic" to "quick," because, English being the language of the lower class, French speakers were the only ones who could afford any books. Naturally, those original spellings look stupid to you now, but that's only because you're not used to them -- if you're thinking in terms of logic and accessibility, why would you just start throwing "k"s and "q"s around like that? Someone's gonna get hurt. The "k" has those big sharp pointy arms, and that "q" may look soft and round, but it's clearly trying to hide some sort of little club behind its back. Don't you trust the bastard
Read the whole article here 
My point? Exceptions happened because of idiots a thousand years ago.  You know what else happened a thousand years ago? The Motherfucking Crusades. In modern times, we've adapted to a language that, for the most part, follows basic spelling rules, with a bunch of difficult-to-memorize exceptions.  I'm arguing that for any NEW words, we should stick to the spelling rules that we've all learned. Why complicate things for immigrants who need to spell the word "vadge"?

Who decides if "vadge" becomes a new word?  A new word gets in the dictionary by tracking its usage among regular people. If enough people use the word in the same context, it just "becomes" an official word. I'm fighting for proper spelling so that when "vadge" gets put in the dictionary next year (mark my words), it'll be spelled correctly. I'm not too worried though, because I'm assuming that folk over at the dictionary will look at the word, regardless of how it's spelled commonly, and heed common spelling rules in favour of "vadge".

3) Hey Lefty, "vadge" is a terrible abbreviation, it's only one letter less than "vagina", whereas "vag" is three. I can count. 

First off, "vadge" is not an abbreviation in the typical sense of the word. This distinction is necessary because several people have brought up this numerical "proof". Let's all take a second to learn what an abbreviation is:
abbreviation [uh-bree-vee-ey-shuh n], noun: a shortened or contracted form of a word or phrase, used to represent the whole, as Dr. for Doctor, U.S. for United States, lb. for pound.
While it doesn't explicitly say so in this definition, it's pretty evident from this list of abbreviations in the Websters Unabridged Dictionary that abbreviations are, for the most part, written and not spoken. Look at the list and see if you can find a single abbreviation that can be used in spoken word. Properly, I mean. Any of us can open our mouths and say "agric". I can also say "ungbatulark".

What I'm trying to say is, most abbreviations are meant to be shortened in the written word only. When the text is read aloud, we read the word that the abbreviation is meant to represent. Read this aloud: "I took my R.V. down Main St. to visit Dr. Feelgood so he could take a look at this growth on my vadge."

"Vadge" as we know it is most likely a word that started out spoken, and had to be retrofitted with proper spelling. As a spoken word, it's three syllables shorter than the root word, just like caf/cafeteria* and info/information. I'd bet you four dollars that caf and info started as spoken too. The spelling of their shortened forms were much more intuitive and therefore never became a hot button issue like vadge/vag.

*[edit: it's been brought to my attention that "caf" might be incorrect, alongside the word "prof" for professor, and that they should both end in double f's. The latter, spelled that way, should rhyme with "of", not "off". "Caf" is a different story because it doesn't seem to rhyme (spelling-wise) with anything. If you use "calf" in a rhyming dictionary, you get a whole mess of rhyming words with a bunch of different spellings. Note that not all words ending in "f" make the same sound. Of/if, for example. Now that I think of it, ARE there any other words that end with "-of" and make the same sound? Rhyming dictionary says no, and all rhyming words end with "-ove". Maybe the word OF itself is wrong. Same thing for "-if". If this has taught us anything, it's that English is indeed a fucked up language.]

4) Hey Lefty, you can't just change or add letters to a word when you're making it shorter, just to fit a pronunciation scheme. 

Just Watch Me, a story by me Lefty:
Stephen, an out-and-proud lesbian alcoholic, went to the refrigerator and pulled out a slice of baloney. "Hey Steve," said the baloney. "If you're going to eat me, you'll need some mustard, which is on the second shelf of the fridge, ya big old alky lez". The end.

5) What about spelling reform, you hyper-intelligent being from another, sexier dimension?

Holy crap, spelling reform. Some people think that they can actually change the English language.  There's a light hearted take on this over at Suffice it to say it's possible, with enough pressure, to change the spelling of pre-existing words whose spelling makes no sense in the context of English spelling rules, but I doubt anyone will make it happen within our lifetimes.

It's a neat idea but it doesn't apply here, because spelling reform "seeks to change English spelling so that it is more consistent, matches pronunciation better, and follows the alphabetic principle." It wants to take previously fucked up spellings and make them more intuitive.

In the case of "vadge", I'm just trying to fit it into the pre-existing mold determined by our spelling rules.  If you want to spell it purely phonetically, you could try "vaj" on for size, but the problem with that is that a j at the end of a word brings to mind a soft /j/ sound as in Taj Mahal. The difference is subtle but does exist: soft /j/ is used in French, as in the word jus (ie au jus), whereas in English it's a harder /j/, as in "juice".  So in English, we use "-dge" to denote the hard /j/ sound at the end of the word, even though we don't even use the soft /j/ so the distinction isn't necessarily... necessary.

Critics of spelling reform say that the written word, and not the spoken word, should dictate language. To that I say "I ain't tellin' ya to git the fuck outta here, but y'all should git the fuck outta here".  The evolution of language begins with the spoken word, evidenced by regional dialects of a single language within the same country. Those dialects don't come from groups of people living in an isolated part of the country and, within a period of several decades, coincidentally coming up with new words in writing, independently of each other. These new words come from people talking out in the streets or down at the bar or at the lacrosse match, and someone eventually deciding to write them down.

Joual is a GREAT example of this. Quebeckers are renowned for their complete butchery of the French language with their incomprehensible slang, to the point where you can almost call it a separate language. This Quebec slang is called Joual, and has its roots in the spoken word, not the written word. In the 60's, playwright Michel Tremblay published Les Belles-Soeurs, a play wherein the dialogue is written in Joual, and it blew everybody's minds. Here's an excerpt:
"J'pense que j'vas prendre le rouge avec des étoiles dorées. J'sais pas si tu l'as vu... Y'est assez beau, aie ! J'vas avoir des chaudrons, une coutellerie, un set de vaiselle, des salières, des poivrières, des verres en verre taillé avec le motif « Caprice » là, t'sais si y sont beaux... Madame de Courval en a eu l'année passée. A disait qu'a l'avait payé ça cher sans bon sens... Moé, j'vas toute avoir pour rien ! A va être en beau verrat ! Hein ? Oui, a vient, à soir ! J'ai vu des pots en verre chromé pour mettre le sel, le poivre, le thé, le café, le sucre, pis toute la patente, là. Oui, j'vas toute prendre ça..."                               For more Joual craziness, click here

My regular readers know I suck at conclusions, and that I tend to just end my writings abruptly.

Monday, August 18, 2014

The word "pie" may be used euphemistically in reference to female genitalia, but it is considered silly and outdated

Abstract: The word "pie" was proposed by a second party as a proper euphemism for the word "vagina". A formal survey of the author's social network revealed that while it may be used in this context, it may be considered to be a dated reference, particularly in reference to the 1999 movie American Pie, best known for the character Stifler's Mom, portrayed by Jennifer Coolidge.

Introduction: A burlesque performance on August 16, 2014 portrayed a joke wherein, during a mathematics-themed striptease, a pair of underwear were revealed displaying the symbol π in the crotch area, denoting the Greek letter pi, and more specifically the mathematical constant popular in geometry. The performer/costume designer was confident in the audience's ability to interpret the meaning of the symbol and to infer the punchline of the joke, specifically that "pi" is a play on words with the intended word being "pie", as a euphemism for the vagina (hence the placement of the symbol on the crotch).

Upon viewing the photographic evidence, the author called into question the use of the word "pie" as a euphemism for "vagina". To be clear, the author understood the meaning of the play on words, but was dubious as to its proper use as a euphemism in this context.  

Methods: The following question was asked of the researcher's social network, specifically the forums of Twitter and Facebook: "DROP EVERYTHING AND ANSWER THIS: Is "pie" a common euphemism for vagina?" Respondents freely offered their opinions using the reply button over an 11 hour period. Data was gathered and tabulated in Microsoft Excel 2010. A total of 17 respondents offered their opinions, 4 female and 12 male and 1 transgender.

Results: 70.6% responded  positively that "pie" was an acceptable euphemism for the word vagina (Figure 1).  There was no significant correlation between gender and final answer (data not shown).  Furthermore, there was no correlation between the final answer and the social media platform upon which the data was gathered (data not shown).

Discussion: These data indicate that the majority of the population within the author's social network believe that "pie" is an appropriate euphemism for the word "vagina". However it should be noted that several (n=3) respondents indicated that the reference was outdated, leading to the conclusion that while the reference may be historically correct, the use of a more contemporary euphemism is advised. For example, Fuckingham Palace.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Getting your music played on college radio

So you made a record and you want college stations to play your music.  Here are some pointers. I'm no expert, but I've been in college radio for several years now as a DJ (catch me on Friday Nite Truck Stop on CKCU y'all) and I've got some pointers that, while not universally true for every station or DJ, is a good place to start.

I'm not going to tell you how to find radio stations, that's what Google is for. There are resources and lists, just go look it up.

On to the pointers...

1. Contact individual DJs one at a time, letting them know that you've sent them a CD and asking them to consider your stuff for airplay. You may not hear back, but don't construe that as ignoring you, the DJs have a lot of emails of this type to sift through and might not have a chance to reply. If you can't send multiple CDs for whatever reason, alert the DJ to the presence of your CD in their library, and offer to email them mp3s or their own copy if they really want one. You're probably safe to follow up once, about 2 weeks after your first email (asking if they've received it, had a chance to listen to it). This will remind them if they've been meaning to listen but haven't yet. After this you should probably stop bugging them with unsolicited emails, it'll start to get annoying.

2. Two weeks after you sent the CD, contact the music director during their tracking hours (they usually set aside a time of the week to field these calls, it's typically available on the website). When you call, you ask if they'd had a chance to enter your album into the library. If they have, ask them what kind of airplay it's getting. This step doesn't get you airplay, but lets you follow up and know the status of your recording. If it hasn't entered the library yet, call back every week until either it's in the library or whether they've decided not to include it. Either way, you'll know its fate.

Things to think about when submitting your album:
-Your chances of getting a burned CDR of demos into the charts are pretty slim, even if the music is top notch some people will assume it's amateur and not even give it a listen. It might not even get entered into the library, they usually only put official releases in there... if you just want transient airplay then submit the demo to DJs and let them know when they can expect a full-length album. Sometimes you can even just email mp3s if it's easier for everyone. But for getting on the charts, send in the real deal.

-Include a one-sheet (on 1 piece of paper, duh). Make your one-sheet as easy to read as possible, as your album is one of hundreds that the music director has to go through in one sitting. Include the following information:
  1. Brief bio + picture. Include something important sounding, like "Featuring former members of Hobo Knife Fight and Vagenda (as if people should know who these bands are) or "Juno-nominees blah blah blah". Don't lie though. Also include 1 or 2 quotes from someone in the media who's reviewed your album or live show. Highlight these separately from the main body of the bio.
  2. Description of the type of music (some music directors appreciate this as they now don't have to think about creative ways to say "yet another indie band"). Don't get too flowery here. Be succinct and clear. Nothing bothers me more than reading a description like "'s like nothing you've ever heard before" or "genre-bending sensibilities". No, just write Punk/Hip-hop/etc so they know what pile to throw it in.
  3. RIYL ("recommended if you like") - compare yourself to established indie artists that might catch the interest of DJs. This is another way for them to gauge what kind of music they're going to play. I know it's not rock and roll to compare yourself to others music, but you kinda just have to, really. Write it out like this: "RIYL Englebert Humerdinck, Celine Dion, Whitesnake."
  4. Track listing, including song durations. Highlight in bold which 3 or 4 songs are recommended for airplay. This gives a DJ a quick idea of what you think are the best songs on the album. Without that information, a DJ will usually play the first song on the album, because most indie bands will put their best one first, for that whole attention-grabbing thing (more on that below)
  5. If there's foul language or obscene material on some of your songs, you may want to consider indicating which songs are clean for airplay (especially if you're looking for airplay on US stations, where sometimes cussing is actually illegal)
  6. Consider doing two versions of your one-sheet (printed on either side of the same piece of paper): a short version (for the music director to quickly peruse) and a long version (for DJs that like your stuff and want to mention something about you or your album after they play your song). I haven't seen many people do this but I did on my last album (example here). I also included descriptions of the song feel and content, in order for anyone to quickly figure out what song they should play on the air. Admittedly the whole is very gimmicky but that was the point: I wanted my one-sheet to stand out from the rest
-It's a good idea to include a sticker on the front of the album that has a very abbreviated version of the one-sheet. Something like "Butthero's debut album, From The Devil's Armpit, is a triumphant display of accordian prowess and expertly played spoons. RIYL Stompin' Tom, Ernest Tubb. Tracks for airplay: 1,2,5"

-If you have some small merch, throw it in with the CD. Buttons, sticker, patches, that sort of thing. DJs like free goodies.

-This is something to consider before tracking your album: make sure the first 3 songs are among your strongest (you should probably ask your engineer or producer for input on this - they won't be biased). Music directors and DJs have to go through mountains of music, and generally need a quick sample of quality to determine yay or nay on whether to even listen to the rest of the album. If your first song is 2 minutes of experimental noise and static or a weird ballad leading into a strong second song, there's a good chance it'll get dismissed. Once you're mildly famous and people know your name, then you can experiment with album structure. But when you're unknown, just put the really good stuff up front.

-Another thing, for your mail-out:  If you're mailing CDs across the country, get bubble envelopes from the dollar store. They're generally lighter and obviously cheaper than the ones from Staples or Canada Post. When you mail them, try your damndest to keep the weight under 100 grams. That's the dividing line between cheap and expensive rates at Canada post. I've actually gone to the trouble of trimming the excess envelope (there's usually a couple of extra inches because they start off as rectangular) in order to more snugly fit the CD. This really helped keep it under 100 grams.

Incidentally, for another take on this exact same thing, by someone who took more time to write their post, click here

So I was sexually assaulted last night, I guess

(Originally posted 8/6/14)

I was at the latest edition of Wacky Wednesday Fungasm at the Rainbow Bistro. For the uninitiated, it's a night of extreme fun with bar-wide Cards Against Humanity, Tic-Tac-Tits on bikini models, lip sync battles, Twister tournaments and so much more. It's always fun. Except for the guy that kept grabbing my ass.

I don't know who he was or who he was there with. He knew me by name but I didn't recognize him. This isn't uncommon, I have the memory of an Alzheimer's patient who already had bad memory to begin with. He was bold and confident, two traits I generally approve of.  Except when that that boldness and confidence leads to uninvited ass grabbing.

It started in the Twister tournament. We were on opposing teams, next to each other on stage with two separate Twister mats. Just as the game started he reached over and grabbed my ass and tickled it, kind of also in the scrotal or taintal area. All this to distract me, to tease me into failing at Twister. I brushed it off, yelling something like "anal intimidation is cheating". Maybe my lightheartedness about it just invited more because at least three other times throughout the night my ass was grabbed and/or massaged by this guy.

I'm generally OK with a bit of grab-ass amongst pals who have an understanding that it's hilarious and not an actual come-on. I'm not threatened if a dude touches my intimates if we have an understanding, but in the case of a guy that I don't know... well it just felt wrong.

The weird thing is, I'm mostly OK with what happened. I never felt threatened, just really confused as to how this guy thought it was OK to grab me like he did, repeatedly. That kind of behaviour would get someone's ass kicked six ways from Sunday if it were done to a homophobe. Me, I'm not the slightest bit gay or homophobic but I've been in enough interesting sexual situations to not be intimidated by a male hand on my ass. But he had no way of knowing that I'd be OK with this.

The double standard is that if a guy did this to a girl, she'd be perfectly justified in yelling "ASSAULT" and having his ass thrown out of the bar. But as a dude I feel like I have a responsibility to roll with it without making a stink. To play it cool, no big deal, you know? I guess this is the main problem with male rape victims - they're generally reluctant to speak out because there's this popular notion of "How can you rape a guy? Every guy wants to have sex all the time".  I suppose fellas should speak up more, but they don't and won't and male rape will probably forever be a dark little punchline for humanity.

I walked away from the bar tonight not feeling violated, but feeling like I SHOULD feel violated. Does that make sense?

For more on Wacky Wednesday Fungasm, join the Facebook group here. Don't worry, it's generally very anti-rape. Unless the right cards come up in Cards Against Humanity.

How to help your friend's band/art/business with one click of the mouse

I originally posted this on Facebook and people seem to like it, so I thought I'd share it with the rest of the world. Note that this only applies to Facebook. However on Twitter there's always "retweet" but it's not the same thing as what I'm talking about here. (Originally posted 6/25/14)

PSA: if your friend posts a gig through their band page or personal page, and you like your friend's band and want to take a second to help them spread the word, click the Like button. It's that simple. Same thing goes for regular posts, like "Hey tune in to my radio show tonight" or "I'm selling my art to pay rent"

See, when they post it, only a fraction of their friends and fans see the post (this is called reach, and it's usually in the neighbourhood of <10% of total fans/friends )

However, when people start clicking the Like button (or better yet, Share), the reach starts getting bigger and bigger. Suddenly your post goes from "Seen by 16 people" to "seen by 200". This is because Facebook loves all the interconnectivity

So help out a friend who's a struggling musician/artist/business owner by clicking the damn Like button, and your kindness will be rewarded in karma points

A white man's useless opinions on the phrase "person of colour"

(Originally published 6/25/14)

I was reading Jezebel  yesterday and I came across this terrible, tragic story:

Trans Woman of Color Murdered, Set on Fire, Then Dumped in Trash

It's sad, just as sad as any murder of someone who didn't deserve it. The tone of the article supposes that it was a hate crime, and the author takes the police to task for assuming it's not. I have no opinion on that either way, seeing as I have literally zero evidence for either side.

But something rubbed me the wrong way: the use of the phrase "woman of colour" to denote a black woman. It just seems... more offensive?

Sidebar #1: I'm usually the first to cry foul when people start getting offended on behalf of minorities when the minorities really don't give a shit.

Sidebar #2: I know that my opinion will be instantly dismissed by many because I'm a white man of privilege. But anyone with a modicum of common sense will at least hear me out, and understand that I'm not demanding that everyone change what they're saying, just that they think about whether they're actually being respectful or not when talking about non-whites.

I see white people use "person of colour" a lot when they're trying to show us how sensitive they are, and it's always made me cringe but until now I didn't know why. I figured it out: it's really just saying "non-white". It's that simple. Take a step back and think about who "person of colour" encompasses: blacks, asians, browns, natives (am I even allowed to say these words?). So when you say "person of colour" you're essentially saying "a non-white person". By specifically calling out the fact that they're not white, you're insinuating that they're an aberration from the norm.

I'm white. I'm proud of being white, and I like being white. I'm sure that all other things being equal, if I were black, I'd be proud of my blackness. It's just about liking who you are and where you came from. If I were black, I'm pretty sure I'd be annoyed by the term "person of colour" because it strips away the pride I take in my identity by saying "Sure you're black technicially, but in my eyes, you're actually just something other than white".

Let's all remember that back in the old days, our grandparents were using terms like "coloured" until it was decided that "negro" was more suitable.  This was followed by "black" and then "African American" and now, apparently "person of colour". So, full circle?

Incidentally, I used to take issue with the term "African American". To me it seemed like only white people used it, and that it really said "American*" and then in the footnotes (*but not fully American, just one that lives here but remember, your ancestors came from Africa so you're different). However, it turns out that my taking offense on the part of black African Americans is moot because historically, they're fine with either term. Still, I'd be curious to know their thoughts about "person of colour".

An Actual Conversation I Had With Someone Who Has a PhD

We'll call her Doc for today's purposes.  It also helps if you picture this with a thick Chinese accent (her) and a tone of increasingly trying to hide my frustration (me)
(Originally published 6/12/14)

Doc: Hey you ordered a new kind of test tube, but it seems like there are less tubes in each bag than the previous type.

Me: Oh yeah? How many?

Doc: I didn't count, but it seems like there's less.

Me: Well there were twenty-five per bag for the old tubes, how many for these ones? I think they're about the same, it's pretty standard.

Doc: I'm pretty sure it's less. I'm just letting you know so that when you order next time, you get more than you normally would.

Me: Why don't you count them? The bags are in that drawer right there.

Doc (comes back with bag, shows it to me): See, it's less. (note: the bag is a clear ziplock type bag, and it takes about 5 seconds to count the tubes)

Me: How many are in that bag?

Doc (shows me bag again): I think it's around twenty.

Me: Did you count them?

Doc: No

Me: Why don't you count them?

Doc: *whisper whisper whisper whisper* Twenty-five.

Me: *facepalm*

An Open Letter to Date Rape McJockstrap, Habs Fan

(Originally published 5/14/14)
An open letter to Date Rape McJockstrap, who yelled "Go Habs Go!" at me from the passenger seat of his buddy Doug's Cavalier while I was biking down the road at a substantial clip, and scared the fuck out of me, nearly causing me to wipe out:

I too hope the Habs win the cup, and while you and Doug and your bros are out for a rip in celebration, you drink so much Labatt's Blue that you wind up in a hospital, where you contract a C. difficile infection from the stomach pump and your insides melt and you die a slow agonizing death in a pile of your own toxic diarrhea, you ignorant fuck. 

Five ways Ottawans are being molested, violated and sexually assaulted but definitely not raped by traffic

Here are five of the biggest causes of traffic SNAFUS in Ottawa, in my opinion
(Originally published 3/27/14)

5. Buses that don't signal when pulling over to pick up passengers.
If traffic is a living organism, then turn signals are the words (horns are the middle fingers). Vehicles proceed in a straight predictable line but can turn off at any given moment. The only thing to keep it all cohesive is turns signals, they keep everyone on the same page at all times. Certainly there are people who don't use turn signals, and there's a special place in hell for them, but the buses are a different story. Once upon a time, a bus would signal right, pull over and pick up passengers, signalling right the whole time. When they were done, they'd signal left and merge back into traffic. During the pickup, cars would be passing the bus on the left hand side if safe to do so.

Then one day the City of Ottawa introduced a new law that said you had to give right-of-way to a merging bus that's finished picking up passengers. Seems fair, right? They need to get back in, so not everyone gets a turn to pass, otherwise the bus would be there all day. Except that seemingly at the same time, buses just suddenly stopped signalling before and during their pullover. Now they just... stop. You're driving behind a bus and it's just... stopped.  Previously, the turn signals meant "I'm pulled over, go ahead and pass" but now with a lack of signal, nobody has any clue what the bus is doing. So these lines of cars just pile up behind the bus stopping every 200 feet because no one knows whether it's ok to pass, or if they should hang back because the bus is about to merge. Nobody knows what in the hell is going on, and cluelessness leads to bad traffic flow.

4. No right turn on red, 24/7
I understand that in a busy urban environment, there are times when turning right on a red light is detrimental to the flow of traffic. Cars block crosswalks waiting for a hole in the perpendicular traffic flow so they can jump in. You also see a lot of these "no right on red" signs in double lane roads that end in a T (ie both lanes turn right, the left lane also turns left). The logic, I think, is that you can't have someone from the left lane turning right on a red because they have to cross a whole other perpendicular lane to do so, and that's not safe when oncoming traffic from the left is going straight. It pretty much doubles the chance of a collision.  A good example is Dalhousie when it meets Besserer:

But instead of having a totally common sense rule like "You can only turn right on a red light if you're in the far right lane", they decided "We should ban all right turns on red, ever, even at 3 AM". My point is that there's a time and a place for traffic control, and there's a time and a place when drivers can use their common sense to proceed safely. How is that drivers are trusted to come to a complete stop at a STOP sign but can't be trusted to turn right on a red light at 3am?

For that matter, I'm not even entirely sure that red lights should count after midnight, period. But that's a whole other thing.

3. Bike squares
These are new things that are popping up downtown and the west end, and maybe elsewhere that I don't know about. It's a green square painted on the other side of the stop line where cars stop for a red light. Here's an example where Bay meets Wellington. Google Street View isn't up to date on it, so I drew the damn thing in myself

The way it works is that bikes go in front of the cars at the red light, and they get to go first when they're trying to turn left.  The idea is that when you're in the right lane on your bike, a lane which has people going right and left in their cars, there's potential for you to get run over by a right turner as you go out. Well you know what? Pedestrians face the same risk every day, and yet magically they don't get destroyed by cars and end up needing a big giant box that gives them the right of way. Fucking suck it up. There a billion times in your bike trip from home to work and back when you have to look out for cars going in a different direction than you are. If you can't make this totally easy turn on your own, then use the damn crosswalk and THEN turn left. Pedestrians navigate this all the time, and you can't on your bike? Eat shit. These green boxes make for an automatic "no right turn on red" and guess what: that shit's 24/7 AND applies in the winter when only 3 insanely brave people bike to work.  As you can imagine, all this rage came from an experience where I waited to turn right at a red light at 3pm on a January Sunday afternoon at Holland and Tyndall because of one of these fucking boxes.

2. Merging improperly when a lane ends
This is an ongoing debate pretty much everywhere. The lane up ahead is ending because of construction. Do you a) drive to the end of the lane and wait for someone to let you in (the zipper merge, a well proven method that is best for traffic flow) or do you b) fuck everything up by merging at some random spot 500 meters back that no one could have predicted?  Look, the fact is, they closed that lane where they closed it for a reason. Because that's where the road ends. If you want to merge 500 meters back, what in the hell do you think the rest of the lane is for? Sunbathing? 

Look, if everybody played ball with the zipper merge, then it'd be easy because everyone knows exactly what is going on at all times.  Enjoy a theatrical recreation:

Zipper merge:
Left lane driver: "I am approaching the place where the lane ends, and that fellow in the right lane wants to merge in front of me. I predicted this because the fellow in front of him merged in front of the fellow in front of me."
Right lane driver: "My lane is about to end, I am indicating my desire to merge right now but really it is unnecessary because everyone knows what's up because we're all doing the zipper merge. Thank you kind sir for letting me in front of you, as expected."

Non-zipper merge:
Right lane driver: "Oh this lane ends in 500 meters. This seems as good a place as any, I'll just go now, I guess."
Left lane driver who is being merged in front of: "Oh you're merging now, unexpectedly? Because I didn't expect it, I was caught off guard and I've tromped my brake slightly, setting off a chain reaction of increasingly longer brake pedal tromps until traffic comes to a dead stop 30 cars back. All because you decided some random place where you were going to merge."
Left lane driver who used to be in the right lane: "Look at that jackass cheater in the right lane, zipping past us as we wait at a standstill which was caused by everyone else merging too early. He is a bad driver."

And don't tell me "the zipper merge only works in free flowing traffic, once traffic's at a standstill the zipper merge is useless". Because if you do I'll say "No, predictability is the cornerstone of smooth traffic flow, and in absolutely all cases, merging where you're expected to merge is always better than merging at some random place determined by reading chicken guts"

1. Buses during rush hour
I know the city is trying to fix this with the tunnel thing, but I have a much easier solution that would have saved the taxpayers easily one zillion dollars: move all those god awful express buses out of the downtown core.

Every. Single. Bus. That goes through downtown has to pile into one lane between Hurdman and Lebreton. After that they start to go their separate ways.  Hurdman and Lebreton are smack dab in the middle of fields. Expand those stations and have all the express buses pick up there instead of clogging the downtown core.

Make a series of express buses that only run between the two stations.  They fill up on their way through the downtown core with people who want to go everywhere. These people can also take regular buses like the 95, etc. They get off at Hurdman or Lebreton and catch their damned express bus there. Everybody wins, no tunnel.

Oh also: don't let STO come to Ottawa anymore, or if you do, just have one bus, called "This Bus Goes to Gatineau". Quebec residents get on at Rideau and get off somewhere across the river and transfer to your specific bus there. I think they may have done this with the new Rapi-bus system, but I haven't seen it in action so I'm not sure how it works.

Honourable mentions:
No turn signals, a billion cars lined up for kilometers to pile onto one bridge, forgetting they're allowed to turn right on red, piling up kilometers in advance for an eventual left turn, tailgating and yet being terrified to speed in Ontario... truly Quebec is fucking us.

Condo lane hogs
I don't understand how it's legal for a condo developer to shut down an entire lane of road for two years to store their dumpsters and extra equipment. Shouldn't rule #1 of condo building be "Figure out a way to do it without blocking traffic with all your bullshit?"

Left lane cruisers 
You know 'em, you love to hate 'em. The dipshit in the left lane of the Queensway doing 100, despite the fact that there are 12 cars directly behind him and no one in front of him. No amount of headlight flicking, honking or tailgating will get him to move over because he is intentionally going 100 in order to police the roads because he honestly believes that people shouldn't go faster than 100 or children will die. As you pass him on the right, take a look at his face - he looks really dumb. He never looks cool, or rad. He looks like a lame shit.

People that merge onto the Queensway at less than 100km/h 
Jesus Christ lady. Gas pedal. Use it. 

People that change lanes without speeding up to match the speed of the next lane
If you're changing lanes and not accelerating to do so, you're doing it wrong. You probably fuck the exact same way, you weiner.
Parallel parking anarchy
Years ago, they removed all the parking meters and replaced them with those ticket machines. Fine. But at the same time some mongoloid at city hall said "Hey now that we don't have a meter for each space, let's just remove all the lines except at the start and the end of the parking area. Now where did I put my lunch? Oh here it is in my shoe. Oh, lunch IS my shoe. Oh well. *chomp chomp chomp*". Because of this decision, people just kind of put their cars wherever, and you end up with a bunch of strange spaces that don't fit cars. Or spaces that are EXACTLY one car length but only Ace Ventura could actually get his car in there. The worst offenders are those at the start and end of the parking area, and they leave 4-5 feet between themselves and the line, fucking it up for everyone else.

Early goers
You're waiting to turn left, the lane closest to you is clear but you're waiting for me to go by in the other lane so you can get behind me. You calculate how much time it'll take me to go past, and you start going early accordingly, so that by the time you cross the empty lane, I'll have just driven by and you can scoot in. The problem is that YOU DO THIS SO QUICKLY THAT YOU GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK BECAUSE I THINK YOU'RE ABOUT TO HIT ME. I get it, you've got all the speeds figured out, but for christ's sake, do your thing at a crawl instead of just lunging towards me. Same thing goes for pedestrians jaywalking. Have at 'er, just do it in a way that shows me that you're aware of my presence as I barrel towards you at deadly speeds.

Wow, there are more honourable mentions than actual list items. 

Screw it, I'm done writing. Will probably add more. Make this a "living document" or whatever.