Archive for September, 2008

Well, Dave is off to to Spain, so I guess this is how we start off ‘guest blogger fun time’! I figure I’ll start off with as weak of a post as possible and then we will crescendo. That’s right. We’ll get louder as we go. By the end of this we’ll be typing in ALL CAPS!

I laboured for literally minutes on end thinking of a topic to post about and then I realized “Hey, today is the day I can register for the Canadian Do Not Call List.” If you go here then you too can register your phone number. Apparently companies have 31 days to remove you from their list of people to annoy. If all goes well this could save me whatever I’m currently spending on call display to avoid picking up the phone when telemarketers phone the house.

If I accidentally pick up the phone and it is a telemarketer on the other end I try to dispatch them without lying and without being rude. This has probably cost me a few hours of my life that I’ll never get back. I have heard various strategies for getting out of such calls. One guy I work with goes with the old “I’m going to berate you and make you feel small until you either cry or hang up.” Another goes with “I’m going to talk non-nonsensical words to make you think I’m crazy.”

My current strategy lacks any flare, so I suppose I could try something new out for the next 31 days.

Any suggestions?

-Stephen-

Update (9:43AM): Apparently their site has crashed under the weight of all the people scrambling to register. You will have to be patient and try again later.

Comments 1 Comment »

Nearly every checkbox on my many lists now contains a deliberate and dark checkmark.  That means that all my laundry is done, folded and packed away with my camera gear and various other travel must-haves.  In short, I’m ready and it only took most of the weekend.  That’s good news as our flight leaves at 11pm tonight, and by dawn here in Canada, we’ll be eating tapas and paella in the Spanish sunshine.  Giggity.

While we’re gone, you can rest assured that there will be new content in here daily on weekdays thanks to a long list of very gracious guest bloggers who will regale you with tales of… well, whatever they decide to write about.  I don’t really have any idea what that will be, but I trust these guys, so it’ll be good.

To take a break from our packing, we decided to watch a movie we thought would be good, but it wasn’t.  Take it from me, the movie “21” isn’t worth two hours of your life.  At best, it would make a good hour-long episode of TV, but as a movie, it was really slow.  The ending is pretty good, but getting there takes about twice as long as it should… maybe longer.  We paid just over $6 to rent it, and then “Amelie” was on for free as part of the preview package for IFC that was running this weekend. So, if you ever catch yourself wondering if you should watch 21, watch Amelie instead.

I guess that’s it.  I’ll be popping in a couple of times over the next couple of weeks, but for the mort part I’m out.  Wish us bon voyage, and be sure to keep reading!

Comments No Comments »

So Danielle wasn’t feeling so hot last night (thanks to a persistent bug that she claims I brought home), so I called up Marty who was more than glad to come check out the show with me.  He had a floor hockey game and showed up just in time for Cake to hit the stage.

Sadly, I went plenty early and arrived even before the opening band hit the stage.  The Paper Lions sound more like an East Coast pub band, but had a strong stage presence.  With just one album under their belt, I’m sure they have time to improve and will no doubt take their home province of New Brunswick by storm.  Having a Great-Big-Sea-esque band open for Cake was an interesting choice and I think a local rockabilly band might have had a better reception and gotten the crowd a little more frenzied.  Alas, they did a fine job.

speaking of the crowd… what a mix.  Old people, young people, scuzzy rock hippies and CEOs, this was the most diverse rock crowd I’ve ever seen, and everyone was friendly and chatty with one another.  They were just all glad to finally have a chance to see Cake in person, and here’s why…

Their first attempt was playing Edgefest in 2002, where their highbrow humour was lost on the huge crowd of Nickelback fans (did I just say that?) who pelted them with bottles until they had to leave the stage after only two songs.  Nickelback fans, you never cease to disappoint me.  Then, in the summer of 2004, Cake were slated to play Toronto Bluesfest (for some reason), but the entire festival was cancelled at the last minute thanks to poor ticket sales.  I wonder if booking headlining acts that have nothing to do with blues was a contributor.  Anyways, as the old saying goes, “the third time’s the charm”.

So, was the show good?  No.  It was not good.  It was so much more than good, I might have to invent a new word.  It was Cake-a-doodle-do.  Every song was musically very tight and engaged the crowd FULLY.  Banter between the crowd and band was lighthearted and witty and they even stopped the show before the first encore, had everyone hush in the venue and then people raised their hands to guess the type of tree the band had with them on stage.  The winner kept the sapling.  Apparently they’ve been doing this everywhere on their tour and it was hilarious.

I got to hear most of my favourite songs (setlist to follow) and learned that the lead guitarist plays the type of guitar I’ve been coveting for years, the Gretsch although, it’s a solid-body, not hollow like I want.

The band kept my attention through the entire show, kept long instrumental solos from albums to a minimum and even talked between songs to figure out what to play next.  One of their quirks is not having a setlist so that each show is truly unique.  We even got to hear a song off their next album which comes out next year.

Once I got home, I was comparing this show to all the others I’ve ever been to and I can easily say it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.  If you can, go check them out.  They play in Hamilton tonight and then they’re roaming the northern US for a while.

Alls I know is that I’m going to spend the next few weeks humming their songs and looking online for a decent b00tle9 of the show, so I can relive it time and time again.  Cake-a-doodle-do.

Comments No Comments »

Since my good ‘ol University days (1997-2001), I’ve been a big fan of the band Cake.  You would probably know them best for their rockin’ cover of Gloria Gaynor’s disco-era hit “I Will Survive“, or for the race-car themed love song “Going the Distance” (“he’s going for speed, she’s all alone [all alone] in her time of need”).

Their six albums of musical goodness (that reach back to 1994) have been my long-distance driving soundtrack since the days before my iPod was even a twinkle in Steve Jobs’ eye.  It’s the perfect driving music.  There are fast songs, slow ballads and everything is super easy to sing-along with, which is perfect when you’re trying to stay awake on Hwy. 28 north of Bancroft at midnight and there isn’t so much as a streetlight to keep you company.  Danielle and I spent so much time listening to Cake in the car, that we used the song “Love You Madly” as the background music when we danced our way into our wedding reception.

Cake is so enjoyable and so perfectly suited to any musical situation, that it’s my iPod default for anytime I want some music to listen to… as a distraction, to get me pumped, to calm me down or just to have playing in the background, they’re awesome.

So a month ago, I heard they were finally coming to Toronto, but the tickets here were sold out.  My heart sank.  Then I found out that they would be playing a show in Hamilton and my spirits rose, until I learned that the show was during our planned window for our fall vacation.  Again, my heart sank.  I was inconsolable.  Even listening to Cake didn’t help and Danielle was seeking out professional help.

All that changed yesterday.  Thanks to Torontoist, I learned that the Toronto show had tickets available, and I scooped up two of ’em for my lady and me.  So tonight we’ll be dancing and swaying to some of my favourite music while it’s played in person.  Freaking. Awesome.

Sadly, there’s one drawback to all of this.  The show is at the newly named ‘Sound Academy’, which is a bit of a misnomer.  SA used to just be called ‘The Docks’ and it’s probably one of the worst venues in the city for live music.  Entry and exit procedures are cumbersome at best and the sound quality inside is near abysmal.  We’re going to have to get pretty close to the stage in order to get a good mix. Still, it’ll be worth it.

Ah, the lengths I’ll go to for a nice piece of Cake.

Comments 6 Comments »

When I first wrote about the ShamWow last week, I did a quick Google search in order to include a link to the infomercial, and that first page of search results was chock full of awesome links about this nefarious product.  After posting, I read through some of them and realized that buying the product, even for the sole purpose of disproving the clearly-dubious claims, was going to be a huge waste of my hard-earned money, so instead of posting my own review, I’m going to write a bit about what I found out.

First of all, every consumer review I read likened the ShamWow’s absorption power to be no better than that of a cloth rag.  Essentially, an old raggedy t-shirt would do better at sucking up soda from a carpet spill and it holds far from its own weight in liquid, let alone the claim of ten times its own weight.  Nearly every comment also played on the fact that the ShamWow only lives up to the first part of its name.

Many of these reviews were personal comments by individuals on blogs or in web forums who purchased ShamWow over the phone from the TV ad, and about half were people like me, who wanted to try it for a laugh.  All were disappointed.  Other reviews were by consumer test groups and TV station news segments about consumer protection.  Also, disappointment was the theme.

Out of everything I read, nearly all of it was people ranting about how this product didn’t even come close to living up to the claims made by ‘Vince’, the tradeshow-style hawker.  They also commented on his insane style and his crazy headset, but one article was very different from the rest.

Seth Stevenson at Slate Magazine didn’t even try the ShamWow (as far as I can tell), but wrote a great piece back in May of this year called “Salesjerk: Meet the Next Great TV Pitchman” that focusses on what struck me most about the informercial, how Vince’s sales style is so different from informercial pitchmen in the past.  He’s no Ron Popeil (The Pocket Fisherman, The Ronco Rotisserie Grill, etc.) or Billy Mays (Orange Glow and OxiClean, or should I say “OXICLEAN!”), so rather than trying to woo the audience, he practically taunts you like you’re an idiot, and it’s spellbinding.

Aside from Stevenson’s awesome insight into what makes this infomercial stand out in the world of TV-based pressure sales, he also introduced me to one of the most intriguing characters of our time… Mr. Vince Offer.

Aside from being blown away that he used his real first name in the infomercial (although it does add to the realism of the Coney Island sales presentation), I learned that Offer did sales presentations at swap meets in order to fund his own movie, The Underground Comedy Movie, which sounds like one of the most unwatchable movies in the long history of moving pictures.  To say that I’m now tempted to watch it is an understatement, but I’m conflicted about seeing that much of the writer and director’s work in which he’s also an actor.  In lieu of actually watching the movie, just read this NY Times review and be sure to check out the credits at the bottom for even more laughs, especially thanks to Academy Award nominee Michael Clarke Duncan’s character title.

To make the jump from strange to outright weird, Offer’s life story also includes a lawsuit against the Farelly brothers alleging that they stole 14 of his movie’s scenes for use in “There’s Something About Mary”, and a massive falling out with the Church of Scientology over defamation and the resulting financial ruin that culminated in him suing the church.  I can’t make this stuff up, people.  This is one man’s life… in summary… on Wikipedia, just read it for yourself.

So, the next time you see Vince on TV telling you that you’re overspending on your paper towel budget, just remember that he’s a cultural icon in the making and you’ll soon see him headlining in a piece on Hard Copy (if it’s even still on the air), or hosting a talk show where paternity and lie detector tests are the norm.  Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Vince Offer.

Now, I’ve gotta go.  I’ve got a pesky soda stain on my carpet that I’ve got to take care of ASAP.

Comments No Comments »

The ability to mark milestones in our lives is what separates us from the animals.  Well, that and opposable thumbs.  Today I’m setting myself apart from the animal kingdom by typing this post with my opposable thumbs and marking a significant anniversary in my professional life.  On this date 6 years ago, I began working full-time in my first real career-type job, and today I’m still with the same company.

My title has changed at least 6 times, and my job has changed (effectively) 4 times.  I’ve gone from being a business analyst to a policy writer to a employee communications writer to a marketing buget guy in what felt like a remarkably short time.

Still, six years is nothing to shake a stick at.  If I had given birth on my first day of work here, my child would be currently enrolled in the first grade.  Man, kids grow up fast, eh?  Pretty soon he or she will have a career of their own and I’ll wish they called and visited more.

I’m going to celebrate by treating today like any other day, since that’s probably the best thing to do on your 6 year employment anniversary.  Ignoring it is the best way to stay sane.

In case you’re wondering, I’m not actually tracking how long I’ve been working here.  My hiring date is used as part of a security logon for some internal HR services, so I see it pretty often.  Even I’m not crazy enough to track something like that.

Comments 1 Comment »

I know how much you guys love when I announce the equinoxes (is that the plural of equinox?) and solstices, so sit back and enjoy hearing that today is the autumnal equinox.

As of 15:44 UTC (which is 10:44am here in Toronto.  Feel free to do the math for your local timezone), we will have crossed the lunar barrier between cold, wet summer and cool, refreshing fall.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that starting tomorrow and running until the vernal equinox (in late March), every day will have less daylight than darkness.  It culminates on December 21st during the winter solstice which is the shortest day of daylight in the entire year.

That sounds like bad news, but there’s plenty to look forward to between now and spring, so chin up and start learning all the words to your favourite Christmas carols. The only really crappy part about all this for me is the shift off of Daylight Savings Time.  That screws me up for close to a week, but that won’t happen until the first Sunday in November, so I have time to act like it won’t happen at all.

For those of you who have been griping about how crappy our summer was weather-wise, all this should come as good news.  The season is over and we’re starting with a fresh slate.  Cool weather and a bit of rain is the perfect fall weather, so if things stay on course from June, we’re in good shape for a really picturesque autumn.

Of course, we could just get winter early and then everyone but me would be really upset.  Hmmm.  Maybe I should just shut up before I start alienating some of you and receiving death threats from the rest.  Perhaps this wasn’t the best idea for a Monday morning post.

To apologize for bringing you down, I’ll let you know that this week will see posts that include a second-hand review of last Friday’s ‘New Kids on the Block’ concert here in Toronto and a long-winded research article of what I found out when I read all the hits on the first page of a Google search for ‘ShamWow’.  Exciting stuff.  Tell your friends!

Comments No Comments »

It’s not that often that I see a commercial and think to myself “man, that is a product that I really need to try out”, but I’ve found just a product.  Even more embarrassing, it’s from an infomercial starring a young man who quite clearly has a fondness for crystal meth.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you ShamWow!  It’s the last cleaning cloth you’ll ever need to buy (for 10 years), it’s made in Germany (so you know it’s good) and if you’re spending $20 a month on paper towels (which means going through a roll about every 4 hours), then it’s just the cleaning product you need.  But don’t take MY word for it, just sit back and enjoy the actual infomercial in all its meth-fueled glory (courtesy of YouTube):

Can it really soak up that much liquid with the greatest of ease?  Will it really last 10 years and function as a not-disgusting bathmat?  These are questions that are just begging to be answered… by me… with photos and video… and on this blog.  Oh yes, they are.

There are also questions that I just can’t answer, like if the ShamWow is so great, and the people glowing about it love it so much, then why do they have brand new, unopened ShamWows in their hands?  Shouldn’t they be perfectly happy with their ShamWows they already have at home? (Note that the first-person testimonials aren’t in this YouTube version, but are in the version airing on TV)

So, now all I need to do is check some local “As Seen on TV” type stores to see if they carry these delightful little thingamajigs or else order a set online and then abuse them like they’ve never been abused before your delight and wonderment.  I’m only thinking of you, my readers, and not the hours of enjoyment it would give me to see if the ShamWow really lives up to the hype.  Are you following me here, camera guy?

Comments 6 Comments »