23 March 2007

Top Ten Reasons I Love India

Number One: Chicken Tikka Masala

Number Two: Saris

Number Three through Nine: This Ridiculous Video

Number Ten: Mahatma Gandhi

21 March 2007

Budget Has Votes In Mind

The headline says it all really.
(Original TorStar article here).

Bullet-point open letter to Stephen Harper:

Thought: Your budget is smoke and mirrors.

Thought: Your budget has no policy.

Thought: Your budget is designed only to win votes.

Thought: Your American style of smear campaigns and vote pandering have brought Canadian politics to a new low.

Question: Does the billions in "new funding" have something to do with the billions you cut in funding last September? (See here)

Thought: You are a jerk.

Dead to Me: Gilles Duceppe. I already didn't like him anyway, but propping up Harper and his regime of neo-con Bush puppets is inexcusable.

Suggestion: Instead of trying to win a popularity contest like a lame high-schooler, why don't you worry a bit more about –oh I dunno– actually running the country?

18 March 2007


My favourite.

16 March 2007

Reverse TOEIC

Finally, all those hours of beating my head into the wall trying to teach TOEIC and TOEFL to Japanese students is actually going to pay off!

(For those of you not in the know, TOEIC and TOEFL are standardised English tests consisting of a series of exercises in frustration where, as a teacher, you want to scream and throttle the student – "Why can't you pick the right answer stupidhead!!! The answer is so obvious!!" – interspersed with questions of such bizarre impossibilitude that even a native speaker will throw up their hands in give-uppance-ness. Here's a sample.)

My grad school admissions exam for France is structured very similarly to the TOEIC/TOEFL tests. So while I'm underwhlemingly unconfident in my ability to actually pass this ragingly-hard test, at least I know all the tricks of the trade to squeeze every point I can out of the questions.

Fingers crossed!

12 March 2007

Sumo A-Go-Go: A Tokyo Tintin Oriental Report

Way back, oh so many windchill warnings ago, in the magical happy time that was the full-frontal assault on sanity leading up to my Nippon departure, I went for a day of sumo at Ryōgoku Kokugikan Sumo Hall with my friend Clarisol (pictured). Ever the diligent Asian informant, I had wanted to blogofy my experience at that time, but it all got lost in the maelstrom that is trans-continental moving madness. Nevertheless, in the spirit of better late than even later, I now bring you the next in the groundbreaking and thought-provoking series; Tokyo Tintin Oriental Reports — providing you all the answers you need to know, straight from the Frenchie-Cracker-Reverse-Banana’s mouth.

Professional Sumo tournaments take place six times a year; once each in Fukuoka , Osaka and Nagoya and thrice yearly in Tokyo. Each tournament lasts two weeks, and while fights generally last only a few seconds each, hundreds of fights happen over the course of each day, so you do get to pack in a lot of wholesome, flabby, loincloth sumo goodness. The day begins at 10am with the lowest divisions, and younger more inexperienced wrestlers squaring off first. Big name superstar wrestlers only take the ring around 4:30, with heaps of pomp and pageantry associated with the highest divisions. Mega-famous wrestlers like Hakukō, Asashōryū, and my personal favourite Kotoōshū (who is actually Bulgarian) are common household names and can earn millions of yen a month in salary, prize money and endorsement deals for everything from yogurht to Nissan cars. These are the guys that everyone packs in to see, and because of this, most people skip the all the junior division bouts and only start arriving around 4pm. That means that for most of the day you're free to sit in any open seat until the ticket-holder comes along. So for my 15$ general admission ticket I was able to sit ring-side for a while in seats that normally go for +500$. Even after playing some empty seat bingo later on as people starting filing in, I still ended up in a seat not that far from the ring.

While the whole production may seem a bit rediculous at times with the big men in small loincloths pushing each other around, it's actually quite easy to get caught up in the ritual and high drama. Since most matches are of the blink-and-you-miss-it variety, the whole production clips along at a good pace, aided no doubt in part by the many Asahis and Japanese snacks plied on you by the usherettes (who are actually old men wearing traditional clothes).

Sumo is also a very social event, making friends and chatting with the people in the seats around you, gossipping about the wrestlers performances and private lives. Even though my Japanese sumo-related vocabulary is rather lacking, I was able to learn from my neighbours, as they commended my language skills and showered us with cookies, that Asashōryū broke the mirrors off an opponent's car after losing an important bout to him. A rousing sumo time was had by all.

The only slight marr on the event –which actually quite surprised me– had to do with Bulgarian-born wrestler, Kotoōshū. He is a very talented wrestler and will likely make the title of yokozuna (the super-mega MVP of sumo-dom), but when he entered the ring for his bout, many people in the audience booed him. There had been no other booing whatsoever during the whole course of the day – I was totally taken off guard and not expecting that. I guess people are nervous that a freaded foreign devil might take the top title of Japan's national sport. Shortly before I left, the sumo association passed a regulation that said that each sumo stable could only have one foreign-born wrestler training there — and at the same time the passed a resolution to improve the international profile of sumo wrestling. Ah Japan, Land of a Thousand Contradictions!

09 March 2007

Second-Best Concert Ever!

The first of course being the Scissor Sisters concert in Tokyo in 2005. This show was so high-energy it was crazy! Basically an hour and a half, fast-forward, high-octane, rollercoaster ride. Ana Matronic can work the crowd like nobody’s business and Jake Shears is a showman par excellence — if I had to do a non-stop, singing aerobics routine like he does, I’d probably have an aneurism. A totally amazing show, and it pretty much blows every other band I’ve ever seen out of the water, times ten.

Personal favourite number: 'Comfortably Numb.' Other highlights include 'Paul McCartney', 'Filthy/Gorgeous', and Del Marquis’ pants. The opening band, ‘Wigs on Sticks,’ was also quite good and definitely funny.

The sweaty awesomeness that was this concert was totally worth the five-month postponement from the October original date (rescheduled due to the drummer's bad back). While it'd be pretty hard to top the Tokyo show (we were practically on the stage / Jake threw his towel to my friend Donna after she flashed him her mighty rack / we met Jake and Del as they were leaving the venue and pushed some Japanese schoolgirls out of the way to take photos with them), I'd still unhesitatingly give this concert ten glitterballs and a spanking.

Without a doubt; best performers ever!

07 March 2007

Subway to York

A open letter to the people complaining that federal money for transit is not being well spent:

Are you stupid? Shut the hell up! After years of neglect and disregard, the federal government has finally come up with some money for public transit. So what if the money would be better spent on other projects — it's better than no money being spent at all. Of course political money comes with purse-strings, and I'd much rather the extension to York be built –which been in the works for a long time but perhaps not a top priority– as opposed to nothing being built at all! How can nothing be better than something?!

One thing at a time people! Once we get this funding, maybe Harper will throw some more vote-grab money our way later on. Until then, be happy that we are building the line to York University only twenty years behind schedule instead of building nothing at all.

Honestly, some people! If you want to complain about something really annoying, why not try the 100$ highway robbery metropasses?

06 March 2007


Thanks to a power failure today, I got to leave work early! Totally exciting.

Power failures are my new favourite kind of failures.

Around 10:30 (in the middle of the mini-blizzard) most lights, copiers, computers, etc., went dead and we switched over to emergency power. At noon, Toronto Hydro said we had to switch off the emergency power for them to fix the problem, and we were left with only the super-emergency diesel generator, a handful of lights, and pretty much nothing else. A few hours later Toronto Hydro said they "didn't know what was wrong" and we all got to go home. Super-awesome!

Pretty much the the absolute worst time for a power outage to have happened with the doom and panic of tax season and RRSP contribution deadlines looming large. I'm really broken up about all the work I'm missing.

02 March 2007

‘Alberta’ sounds like a cow's name

Let's face it; we all hate Alberta, even me (and I was born there). Tired of their bloated egos, oil sands self-importance and their conservative yahoos? It's time to show them who's boss. Sign my petition today.