Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Things I read on the Internet

As the title suggests, this is a post about things I read on the Internet.

New York magazine cover story on Sarah Palin

New York Magazine’s latest cover story is available in its entirety online. NY Mag is cool like that.
Hey, how mad is everyone going to be when the NY Times actually starts charging for online stories? Have they announced a timeline for this? I can’t imagine it going over well with the Internet generation aka the gimmegimmes aka the we ain’t payin for shit Arthur Ochs Sulzberger Jrs. (That’s the name of the Times Chairman. I had to Google him. Wouldn’t you?)

Would you look at that? It took me all of one sentence to veer off on a tangent. This post isn’t going to go well.

ANYWAY. Sarah Palin. Nope, still not sick of her.
It’s not that Palin the person interests me anymore. What’s continually fascinating is the media’s ongoing and obsessive coverage of her. It can’t stop, won’t stop, party until dawn.

The 24/7 Palin watch is getting ridiculous, but I think there’s an explanation. To bump up fledgling magazine sales, it’s become mandatory for every publication ever to write a Palin-centric cover story. I’m pretty sure she was featured recently on the cover of Truck & Driver magazine.
It’s real!

This month, it’s New York’s turn. Ever avant-garde, the writers at New York approached their story from a new angle – the successful Palin brand.

In case you couldn’t tell, that thing I said about the new angle? That thing right there? Tongue firmly in cheek.

Maybe it’s because I’ve read so much about Palin, that the stories are meshing into one big expose, but there’s a lot of repetition between pieces. A common element I find is the journalist’s insistence on reminding us of her astronomic popularity and how she generates revenue for the media.

From New York: “Though Palin may not like it, she makes money for Democrats and Republicans alike. Across the political spectrum, Palin is a ratings magnet. Whenever she appears on Fox News, ratings tick up by 10 to 15 percent. At MSNBC, she’s also a ratings phenomenon, albeit with opposite adjectives. Tina Fey’s reprisal of her Palin character in early April juiced Saturday Night Live’s ratings, beating prime-time programming, a rare feat. Online, right-wing sites like the Drudge Report frequently plug Palin headlines, while Palin’s presence at liberal outlets like the Huffington Post and Talking Points Memo routinely sparks hundreds of reader comments.”

The next sentence should read, “…and my editor here at New York Magazine is really hoping the web hits generated by this story will buy him his summer home.”

Come on, big money!

Omar Khadr

Omar Khadr’s trial finally FINALLY starts soon (if you count July as soon.) I’ve said it before, but this shit show is a national embarrassment. The Khadr trial will be  the biggest and most interesting international news stories to come out of Canada in my lifetime. I hope Canadians pay attention. The CBC has an excellent recap of Khadr’s situation you should check out. The Globe and Mail (and other papers, I'm sure) has a journo stationed in Guantamo for the trial. Coverage should be top notch, so follow along. Form an opinion. Fight with me about it and I’ll buy you a beer.

The Rumpus

Man, The Rumpus is good. Here’s a one-two punch of excellent essays for you to print out and enjoy:

1. All We Read Is Freaks – essential for book nerds

2. The Eyes of Texas Are upon You – immigration. Interesting to everyone. Especially you, Meg.

The Doha Debates

Now I’m going to talk about something I did in real life. Sometimes I do things that don’t involve a computer. I know.

Last night, I was invited to a taping of the Doha Debates. This is a huge score; these tickets are not an easy get.
What’s the Doha Debates? Why it’s only the most popular weekend programme on the BBC network! It’s like, a super big fancy pants deal. The Doha Debates is a traditional debate show where the intellectual elite meet to square off in a battle of verbiage. Sometimes they yell. Rhetoric really is a lost art.

Last night’s motion was a good one: the house believes Barack Obama is too weak to make peace in the Middle East.
The motion carried.

As a former debate nerd, I had to vote against the motion, no matter my beliefs. The opposition had a harder position to argue and did a better job of staying on message and verbally bitch slapping their opponent. Ninety per cent of audience questions were asked by Arabs, so the result was biased, in my opinion. Don’t hate me.

On a more vapid note, as I sat there watching the eggheads work; I was struck with an excellent summertime idea. It’s actually a drinking game idea. I’m going to call it the first annual debate-beer-wrassle off. *
*Calling it the first annual means it’s sure to happen again and again. Every event organizer person knows that trick. Also, the name is negotiable because that one kind of sucks.

The debate-beer-wrassle off* is a four-person game, with a fifth player acting as mediator. Teams of two are selected randomly.

First, you have a neutral party decide on a debate topic.
Note – considering players will likely be drunk at the beginning of this game; there will be no debating the Israel-Palestine conflict or some such sort. Fluff or bust. Potential topics include, but are not limited to:

The house believes the Olympic Games are a waste of money

The house believes Toronto Sports teams are cursed

The house believes Demi Moore hasn’t had any work done; she’s just a total bitch

The house believes there will be an Arrested Development movie produced within the decade

The House believes Meredith can deliver her closing arguments while walking around the house carrying her partner fireman style

Hipsters don't actually exist. They're an idea made up by yuppies

Those could probably use some tinkering.

The teams have 20 minutes to prepare their argument. Debate ensues. After the arguments and subsequent rebuttals are delivered, the neutral party decides on a winner. The losing team then has an opportunity to redeem themselves by chugging beer and winning the feats of strength that follow.

Feats of strength include wrestling (Greco-roman, Sumo or Jake the Snake Roberts, whatever your pleasure), barefoot races, and push up contests.

Doesn’t that sound like fun?

It’s a mental and physical fight to the death!! Who’s with me? I’m thinking Canada Day long weekend for the first tournament.

Aaaaaand that’s how you turn a quasi-respectable blog post into a drinking game.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

I have news

I’m moving back to Toronto.

Bah!!

I wrote an explanation yesterday, but my computer ate it. Here’s the ADD version of why I’m leaving Qatar.

  1. It’s Shanghai’s fault. I travelled and remembered how I need to live in a proper city to feel normal.
  2. It was time to leave my job. The universe gave me an exit and I took it. I’ll work for another month, and then it’s go time.
  3. DKM may have some news too. Inquiring minds should ask him about that directly.
  4. Why write it when it’s already been sung?  

I’ve had a wonderful time in Doha. This nutty little country has been my home for 16 months. It will be hard to leave the incredible people here. I will just have to throw one hell of a goodbye party.

Thanks Qatar. It’s been real, it’s been fun. Toronto – you’re mine.

Now let’s get back to the biziness at hand – writing silly things about silly things. 

Thursday, April 8, 2010

All your book are belong to me -- updated!

Twitter triumph! There's a shit ton of books coming my way. Living in the desert and having no life is kind of awesome sometimes. 

The best part of this exercise? I know who recommended each book. If it sucks you better believe they’ll hear about it. If you sent me something and it's not on the list, it's because I've read it. Catch-22 is excellent. 

The books that'll mess me up in the coming months are...

Liars’ Club – Mary Karr 

A Spot of Bother  - Mark Haddon

 Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett

      The Bullpen Gospels – Dirk Hayhurst

 On Boxing – Joyce Carol Oates


7.     Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
     
          Straight Man - Richard Russo

          Microserfs - Douglas Coupland

          Love is a Dog From Hell - Charles Bukowski

         Bastards and Boneheads - Will Ferguson

          Open: An Autobiography - Andre Agassi

          The Game - Ken Dryden

         My Life in and out of the Rough:  -  John Daly

         Unaccustomed Earth: Stories - Jhumpa Lahiri

         Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game - Michael Lewis

         Interpreter of Maladies - Jhumpa Lahiri

         Batman: Year One - Frank Miller

          Monkey Beach: A Novel - Eden Robinson

          Special Topics in Calamity Physics - Marisha Pessl

          The Angel's Game - Carlos Ruiz Zaf√≥n
  
         Sorry about the piss poor formatting. I don't know anything about anything. 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Return to Greatness


**post by DKM**

I’m sorry it had to be Butler. I’m sorry it had to be the hometown school with a student population of less than 4000. I’m sorry it had to be a team full of hard-working, yet baby-faced players. I’m sorry it had to be the team for whom I have cheered for in every other round of this year’s tournament. I'm sorry for Blue II.

But it had to be someone, and I’m not sad Butler lost. As a result, the one sports team I follow who is actually perennially successful, surpassed being just among the elite. Second to none. Champs! Despite all the haters.


It’s no secret Duke has a whole lot of haters out there. Most of them wear that faggy baby blue colour though, and they should be discounted from all consideration. Any team that wins a national championship one year and fails to qualify for the tournament the next is a joke. A really funny joke.

I have no doubt all the haters will eternally criticize Duke’s flawless run in this year’s tourney.Sure, they may have had the easiest bracket. But what the hell does seeding mean anyhow? IfButler can come within 3 inches of hitting a game winning basket for the championship then it’s clear, seeding means squat. Just ask Northern Iowa. The team who plays the best, most consistent basketball over 6 games wins. And that is no small feat.

I can’t really remember when or why I started liking Duke. I know that in 5th grade I went to National Sports and bought a Blue Devils hat. You know the kind, circa 1995, snap-back, pinstripes, cursive writing.
Yup. Just like that.

I know that despite never wanting to be a doctor, never having had ivy-league like grades, nor never playing competitive basketball, as I entered high school I believed I was going to go to Duke. I know that in 10th grade, on a family trip to Florida we visited Duke’s campus. We did the whole thing with a dorky tour guide: the mess hall, the chapel, the university hospital. It turns out not everyone on the tour just wanted to go to Cameron Indoor. Like a museum, a zoo or even a theme park, the tour conveniently ended at the university store, where I proceeded to buy as much swag as I could get my hands on, some of which I still own to this day.

I also remember that when considering a move to an unnamed country in the Gulf prior to grade 12, I was given a tour of a school by a princess of said country. During a bit of small talk she told me she was going to Duke in the fall. Meeting a royal in an abundantly rich nation didn’t impress me. Going to Duke in the fall?!? I was in awe. I definitely asked her more questions about Duke than about the school we were touring.

Then came University. Surprise! I didn’t end up at Duke. In first year at UWO, I came to the realization that March Madness would be spent planted on the couch, moving only to get beer. I would not be painting my face blue and white and hopping up and down in Cameron Indoor.Duke. Tobias Funke's favorite school.

As a consolation for my choice of Uni,
I met Mere...And so began her lifelong support of Duke-by-association. She still thinks they’re just a bunch of nameless white boys.

My nutty roommate managed to get free cable in our dorm in March 2004. It was some sort of promotion where if you signed up, you got the first month free. I don’t know what EVER gave the cable company the impression that a bunch of broke-ass students living in a dorm weren’t going to cancel it the day they moved out of the dorms, but that’s not for here nor there. We had TV. And it was March. My essay on Jane Austen’s “Emma” (not my choice) might have been handed in two weeks late, but at least I took pride in introducing many people from residence to March Madness. I showed them how to fill out a bracket, and told them it looked ugly if they didn’t have Duke going all the way.

U
nfortunately that year, like most, my will alone couldn’t crown Duke champs. Duke lost in the final seconds of a close game in the Final Four. Meredith was of great support after Duke blew their game-long lead and were booted from a return to the finals. She was genuinely awesome, suggesting things like “oh honey, I know you’re upset. Wanna make out?” and “How about I get you some keg beer?” What a doll.

Over the 6 years since, Mere and I always looked forward to filling out a bracket together. Despite winning a couple pools over that time, I was never fulfilled, as Duke got knocked out either during or before the Sweet 16. Five years in a row. And somehow winning the annual ACC tournament (which is practically a slamdunk deal – no pun intended) just doesn’t cut it if you can’t get more than three games deep in the tourney.

Chalk one up for the haters.

It didn’t help that North Carolina went out and won a couple championships in that span. Life could not get much worse for a Dukie.


The massive amount of Blue Devils clothing I accumulated over the last 10 years was growing tatty, and was worn with diminishing pride.
But this year, something felt different. Certain things couldn’t be ignored. All of a sudden this year, Zoubek was able to stay off crutches. Role players played their role. Smith more than doubled his average point total from last year. Scheyer was now the senior guard and no longer under the shadow of others. Singler turned out to be everything the Duke faithful hoped he would when recruited. And Coach K coached the fuck out of them.

Of course, all the haters still said they’d choke. Journalists encouraged fans to support the underdogs and spit on the contenders. The Butler bandwagon got really crowded.

Haters 2, Dukies 0.

Thankfully for me, Duke saved their best basketball for the end of the tournament, and truly deserved their first title since 2001. And it feels amazing. I’m now inspired to pass on my middle name, Keay, to one of my future children. But I’m just gonna spell it K.
(Meredith Ed Note. WHAT?)

Hate if you’re gonna hate, haters, but to all the Duke fans out there, kick back and enjoy this.

The Dukies executed down the stretch and overcame the Haters two-point lead for the win.

All your book are belong to me

I’m about to file an Amazon book order that’ll keep me occupied until summer. Before I do, I’d like to ask a little help from my friends.

A plea!

Send me your favourite book recommendations. What’s that horrible Kevin Spacey movie…? Pay it forward.  Send me the good stuff that moved you. Tip me off to something you loved and if I love it I’ll worship you forever.

I should probably tell you how much I enjoy a good humorist, that the writers of the 1920s absolutely slay me (in the good way), I love a suicidal female (Julia Stiles optioned the Bell Jar for a film – does that mean she’s playing Esther? Oh my god someone stop the madness) and am actively looking for the best sports books ever written.

I should tell you these things, but I won’t. If you’re mad for something and take the effort to post about it here, I’ll read it. However, please try to keep me out of the Qatar censor’s office.

Warp my brain. Pleaaase  Here's what's in the Amazon cart so far....   

 Liars’ Club – Mary Karr 

 A Spot of Bother  - Mark Haddon

Unseen Academicals – Terry Pratchett

         The Bullpen Gospels – Dirk Hayhurst

 On Boxing – Joyce Carol Oates


7.      Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole

Blog post for IRL friends

…because anyone who’s never met me won’t care.

Hi friends! Remember when I used to blog about my life? Do you miss that? What? No, there aren’t any Canseco updates. Shut up and listen to me talk about myself.

What’s new? I was in China. I’d love to tell you lots about it, but there are things hindering me…

1.     1.)   How do you catch a moonbeam and hold it in your hand?

2.     2.)   This is not a travel blog. Travel blogs are booooo-ring. We met a few eternal travellers in Beijing and is it just me, or does anyone who’s ever travelled think their experiences are more profound and important than everyone else’s.  They aren’t. And then they make you feel small when you haven't been to the same places as them. It's like "oh, I'm sorry noooo. I haven't been to the secret waterfall in Kuala Lumpur where the fish sing Aretha Franklin songs that is only accessible via three overnight trips on a llama and seven days spent earning the village elder Big Donny's trust by sleeping with his goat herd". Snobs. 
Anyway, our trip wasn’t so much about the travel experience as it was acting the fool.

Our Chinese priorities:

1.       Forget your name and where you came from
2.       See the Great Wall

A personal highlight of the trip was when we convinced the staff at the JW Marriott to let us suntan, drink and smoke on the private roof of the hotel. We wore bathrobes. The deck, which could only be reached by passage through a secret bookcase (the lit nerd in me exploded) was on the 60th floor and had the most incredible view of the city.
While my sleep-deprived companions were basking in the sun’s warm glow, I went back through the bookcase and stood in the middle of the world’s highest library. It was awesome. Think Beauty & the Beast, but smaller and with Chinese literature.
This was the best photo I could find. Fack.

I stood on the book ladder and wheeled it across the walls, then stood in the centre of the room and spun around and around just like Belle.  A moment later, a hotel staff member entered the room. He spoke no English, but I could tell he was down so I mimed to him to show me the best book in the room. He immediately went to the top shelf and pulled down an massive, ancient looking, jewel-adorned book fastened with eye-hooks. He gingerly opened the latches and passed it to me. It was all in Chinese and though I had no idea what was written (it was probably the Twilight saga); I knew that whatever was inside was life changing.  I looked at the Chinese man and said, “wooooowwwww.” He looked back at me, eyes shining, smiling. It was a moment.

Then I went back to the patio and chugged a vodka soda. Moment over.

Shanghai is the most amazing city I’ve ever seen. It looks like the future. Coming back to Doha (a city not without its merits) after ten days of gogogopartypartyparty sucks.

Shanghai < Doha

It’s okay though, DKM is here.

Speaking of DKM...
DUKE.

How happy is DKM? Kiiiiiiind of happy. I asked him to write a blog post on his feelings (haha) about Duke, but you know how that usually works out. Radio silence.  

Sometimes when I use the Internet to call him out, he does what I want.