Thursday, June 30, 2005
Aquarians and drinking don't go together that well (except for water, that is). You have an innate tendency toward know-it-allism, and if you get an idea while sizzled, you're more stubborn than a stain or a stone. If you're throwing a party or organizing an outing, however, you're too preoccupied with your duties to get combative -- and you make perfectly charming drunks in that case. Fortunately, you're usually capital drink-nursers. You also make the best-designated drivers (if people can get you before you start raising your wrist). You are fascinated by drunken people and are capable of holding interesting conversations with soused strangers while sober.
Your Signature Cocktails
Aquarians are likely to order stuff most people have never heard of: a capirinha, Satan's whiskers, a negroni, an Arthur Tompkins. You like to stump the bartender. This sign rules the color electric blue, and you would be pleased by any tipple featuring blue curacao. You also rule the olive tree, so pour the juice into that dirty martini.
Your Celebrity Drinking Buddies
Paris Hilton, Jennifer Aniston, Ellen DeGeneres, Dr. Dre, Ashton Kutcher, Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, and Elijah Wood.
What's Your Alcohoroscope?
Wednesday, June 29, 2005
I delved deep into my CD collection, and discovered that I had exactly five Black Sabbath CDs, which, co-incidentally, is the same number of slots in my CD changer at home. I put all five of them in, hit random, and let 'em rip.
I then sat and watched my son's head bob up and down in time to the music and thought, "Oh. My. God." I have created a heavy metal headbanger.
I mean, I'm glad I have passed my love of music on to him, and I'm happy that we share similar tastes, but I remember being a heavy metal head banger in high school. I remember the kids I used to hang out with. I remember the parties I went to, and the stuff that went on at them. And now I get to spend the next ten or so years worrying about it.
Looking back from this vantage point, I suddenly have some insight into what my parents went through when I was a teenager. I can only shake my head in amazement at how reserved they managed to stay in the face of what must have been overwhelming worry about sex, drugs, and rock and roll.
I only hope I am able to live up to the example they set. Mom and Dad, thanks for being great parents.
Tuesday, June 28, 2005
Well now! Let me catch my breath. This whole Guest Editor gig has been quite an experience. My journal has gone from getting an average of about forty hits per day, to averaging over 300 hits per day the last three days. I've replied via e-mail to about 50 comments, many from people who have never commented here before. In addition to journal comments, I've received dozens of e-mails, some of them forwarded to me from Joe, the Journals Editor, from people who mailed him, thinking they were mailing me.(If I missed responding to you, I am sorry. My inbox has been stuffed to overflowing, and organisation has never been one of my strong suits.) There are currently three entries on the front page with more comments than any entry I have previously written. (Actually, this entry will push one of those into the archives. If you want to read it, it's this one.)
How to maintain that momentum? Keep writing. And keep the fingers crossed. But not at the same time, as that would really slow things down. But I digress.
Today marks the first anniversary of Aurora Walking Vacation. I have been littering the ether with my random thoughts for 365 days. I began this blog as an exercise in regular writing, something I had drifted away from over the years. Only now, a year later, do I feel like I am starting to find my voice. I'm not only writing about things with more confidence, but I'm more confident in choosing the things I wish to write about.
In future, you may find more articles like the one linked to above. Articles about subjects that some might find controversial. While I have strong opinions on many topics, I will try to present those opinions in a way that will not be insulting to those who disagree with me. While it is impossible to please all of the people all of the time, it may be possible, at least, to not piss everybody off.
Oh, and I promise to keep posting pictures of Shadow.
Friday, June 24, 2005
And then, you know, come back here.
I'm verklempt. Give me a minute. Talk amongst yourselves.
I have been given the great honour of being this week's Guest Editor, and making the picks for the six journals to be featured on the main journals page for the next seven days. I'm tickled. Yes, I was verklempt. I'm over it.
I know some of you have speculated that this is simply Journal Editor Joe's way of getting out of doing the work. I like to think that Joe is just so busy working behind the scenes on building and improving our journals community that he plain doesn't have time to read blogs on his own. During our correspondence over the past few days, he made reference to a couple of new initiatives he is working on that sound very interesting, so stay tuned to Magic Smoke for all the developments.
A little about myself, perhaps. As a start, you could check out the 100 things about me entry, although you may leave there feeling little further ahead. I am 40. That's an average. My brain still thinks I'm twenty, but the rest of my body feels sixty. I am a married father of one, and a Canadian. Don't hold that last against me, we really are nice people. Just ask the French. My birth stone is amethyst, my astrological sign is Aquarius, and my totem animal is the sloth. Right now I am reading Norstrilia, by Cordwainer Smith.
One of the things that attracts me to a journal, or blog, is the quality of the writing. I love reading the writing of someone who has a facility with the language. Sometimes a good story can be ruined bybeing poorly told. Conversely, a mundane story can be very engaging if the storyteller is talented. The six journals featured this week attracted me because their writers use language in an interesting, or engaging way.
Before I get to the journals, let me say this, because panty knottage is not an unknown phenomenon. These picks are not numbered, and the the order in which they appear is random. I made a list of eight or ten journals/blogs. Joe and I discussed them, and these six were chosen from that list because they best fit the theme I had chosen. Their final order is simply the order Joe wrote them down in his last e-mail to me. They all equally qualify as this week's editor's pick.
I've been hanging on to this image for months, looking for the perfect time to use it. Ladies and Gentlemen, that time is now. The man in that picture is Charles Darwin. The monkey is his grandfather. Wait. I'm sorry, that belongs in another post. This post is about a man who does not own a monkey. A man who is not a farmer. A man who is easily amused.
One day, Simon Fraser typed his name into a word document, and the spellcheck told him it was incorrectly spelled. It suggested Simian Farmer as the correct spelling, and history was made. Well, maybe not history, but it turned into a cool name for a blog.
Simian Farmer is a collection of whatever the heck is flitting through Simon's head at any given moment. That can range from pictures and posts about his insufferably cute one year old, to discussions on the nature of God, to stories about scaring the snot out of his neighbours by trying to see just how high he can make the flames from his backyard bonfire really go. Funny, yes, but it is his choice of words, and how he strings them together that keeps me coming back. That, and the fact that he knows things about me that I would prefer my wife never found out.
The next journal is a bit different in that it is not written by a single person. It is hosted by Jodi, who has several journals full of her own writing, but it features articles written by guests, who are invited to speak to a specific topic. Each topic on Point & Counterpoint is addressed by two writers, one a man, and one a woman. Reading the two viewpoints on each topic illustrates how different men and women really are, and how similar. Jodi says she has a great topic saved up for me, and she's just trying to line up the perfect person to write the counterpoint. I'm a little bit afraid.
Dornbrau has a bit of a problem with toilet paper. It seems it keeps disappearing out of her washroom. I think it's ghosts. She has her own suspicions, and reading about her adventures tracking down the offending oompa-loompas keeps me chuckling daily. Dorn has the ability to see the humour inherent in everyone's everyday life. If you have an unbreakable addiction to quality coffee; if your housekeeping skillz aren't quite up to par; if you don't subscribe to the myth that ladies never pass gas, then the Dust Bunny Club Of North America just might be the place for you. I know it's the place for me.
Our next selection, at first glance, might not fit into my definition above, as I've never seen him use words. Yes, that sentence was intentionally misleading. The truth is, I've never seen him use the word: word. He spells it werd. Weird, eh? Slack Back Mack--the log contains the views, and the muse, of one Slac, a self described natural filosofer, writer, and artist. Slac's use of the language, which is his own personal brand of English, is unique and creative, and I find it intriguing and beguiling. There, is that enough adjectives?
The challenge of making a mundane existence interesting to readers is multiplied when thatexistence consists of deciding whether to play euchre or bingo on a Thurday evening, and discovering that eight hours of sleep is more than enough for three nights. Chuck Ferris is almost eighty, but his mind is as quick and as sharp as a man of seventy-eight. He is a World War II veteran, and a retired school teacher, and as alive, and vital as anyone I have ever come across. His journal, Dribble, is filled with wisdom and life experience, as well as daily slice of life stories served up with mischievious humour, and wry self deprecation. When he starts talking about which are the prettiest cars in the parking lot, just smile, and nod politely until he, you know, comes back.
Rebecca and I have been arguing for months about the nature of poetry, and whether or not what she writes is it. Being the pedant that I am, I broke out the dictionary definition of poem:
A verbal composition designed to convey experiences, ideas, or emotions in a vivid and imaginative way, characterized by the use of language chosen for its sound and suggestive power and by the use of literary techniques such as meter, metaphor, and rhyme.I don't know if I won or not, but she stopped arguing. Thankfully, she didn't stop writing. In The Shadow Of The Iris could be just another journal by a single mother of two teenage girls trying to make her way in an inhospitable world. It is the writing that elevates this one well above the madding crowd. Although she writes it as prose, she can't hold back the poetry leaking out of her soul, and Shadow Of The Iris is filled with emotive, picturesque language. Take, for example, this line from a recent entry:
Now, I'm pretty certain my butt does a bit more wiggle than that, but it's close enough, or until I find a better one, or get so dizzy I pass out!Um, maybe that wasn't such a good example, after all. Tell youwhat, just go there and poke around a bit. I guarantee you'll want to stay.
There you have it, the six Editor's Picks for this week. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Before I go, I would like to mention a few other interesting journals and blogs that I read regularly, but didn't quite fit in with the theme I had chosen.
The adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century. In the About This Blog section, Mr. Joey DeVilla writes: Back in high school, after reading Space-Time and Beyond for the umpteenth time and drinking one too many zombies with my friend Henry Dziarmaga, we came up with the theory that in the infinite set of universes -- the multiverse -- there was one particular universe in what happened to us right here was being watched as a TV show over there. We then made a solemn vow to live in such a way that we kept our ratings up. To this end, Mr. DeVilla, a Torontonian, decided that henceforth his trusty accordion would always accompany him in public. Yes, you read that right. For the last ten plus years, Joey DeVilla has never gone out in public without his Accordion. Apparently, it works better than that guy with the name tag.
Now Joey's getting married. Nobody knows if Accordion Guy will survive.
Pharyngula. PZ Myers is a professor at a Minnesota university, an evolutionary biologist, and an outspoken blogger. He is a champion of common sense and critical thinking, and an example of what scientists should be: outgoing, gregarious, and determined to demystify science to the general public. One of his most recent posts begins, "We need to appreciate beer more." How can you not like the guy?
Bad Astronomy Blog. On the same topic, Phil Plait is an astronomer, a skeptic, and a writer, who got so annoyed with hearing people saying silly things about space that he started his own web page, Bad Astronomy, to debunk such outrageous claims as the moon landings were faked, and the solar system was going to be torn apart by a mysterious Planet X. I don't know if he has weighed in with his opinions on beer.
And last, but not least, I would like to welcome those of you who may have made their way here via this week's posting of The Skeptic's Circle at Anne's Anti-Quackery And Science Blog. If you are a bit put out at not being able to comment without signing up for a free AOL Instant Messenger account, I apologise. I honestly have no control over it. Check out the comments and contact info link in the left sidebar for more on that. And to you AOLers who may be unfamiliar with the concept of a blog carnival, click through to Anne's and see what it's all about.
Come to think of it, this post is almost a blog carnival in itself. That's it, the AOL journals weekly Editor's Pick carnival. Sounds more fun that way. I know I've had fun, and I hope all of you have. Thanks a bunch to our Journals Editor, Joe, for letting me run with the ball this week.
Thursday, June 23, 2005
You scored as Heaven. You are headed straight for the Pearly Gates! You love God and respect him and have lived your life as he would want you. You respect other people and aren't materialistic. Well done!
Are you going to Heaven? (Renewed!)
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OK, before any of you say anything (Simon), I know I am using the Morissettian definition of irony, which is wrong, wrong, wrong. Deal.
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
You scored as Verbal/Linguistic. You have highly developed auditory skills, enjoy reading and writing and telling stories, and are good at getting your point across. You learn best by saying and hearing words. People like you include poets, authors, speakers, attorneys, politicians, lecturers and teachers.
The Rogers Indicator of Multiple Intelligences
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Which Harry Potter Character Are You?
You scored as Ron Weasley.
You often feel like second best
and as a result don't have an
awful lot of self confidence, but
a truer more capable friend
would be hard to find.
Ron Weasley 80%
Hermione Granger 80%
Remus Lupin 80%
Harry Potter 75%
Ginny Weasley 70%
Severus Snape 70%
Draco Malfoy 65%
Sirius Black 50%
Albus Dumbledore 45%
Lord Voldemort 20%
Your Harry Potter Alter Ego Is...?
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Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Natural Causes 67%
Cut Throat 7%
How Will You Die??
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Monday, June 20, 2005
Today is Shadow's first birthday. At least, June 20th is the date-of-birth written on the paperwork I got from the OSPCA with him. He was a rescue, so they were pretty much just guessing. No reason for us to change it. Happy birthday, big dog.
Sunday, June 19, 2005
Friday, June 17, 2005
An open letter to a friend...
I know, it's all my fault. I started it with that comment in your blog, which I knew was ill-advised when I typed it. I should have been smarter than that, and deleted the bit about the Bible before I clicked publish. But I didn't, and you replied:
Every human plot ever written is in there. It was God inspired. No other book has made the top 100 list every year since it was written. It now seems that what was deemed fiction is being proven. Scientifically. All the good parts went to the guys.And I replied to that:
It's a constant wonder and sometimes a puzzle but it speaks to today as much as it did to the time when it was written, a document for living.
"It now seems that what was deemed fiction is being proven. Scientifically."And then you replied:
I am curious exactly what you mean by that. Could you explain?
Didn't you hear? The entire theory of evolution was a hoax! Man has not evolved in thousands and thousands of years, we will never evolve, we'll just find new ways of killing ourselves off! The earth is younger than we thought! Carbon dating is unproven and dinosaurs are referenced in the bible.To which I again replied:
I can only assume you are joking.To which you replied:
For someone into science fiction I would think that your analytical mind would want proof of everything. Why would you accept theory as fact? There is no proven evidence of man's evolving into anything for thousands of years. We did not descend from animals, if we did, prove it.
There is no proof of the earth's age.
Carbon dating is an unproven method. Show me anywhere scientific or otherwise that the claim is foolproof.
I believe in science when it proves itself.
So far, nothing and if you look at the facts and I'm not trying to argue, just show me facts. Proven facts.
And here we are.
Normally, I would back off from this conversation at this point, as I wish to put friendship ahead of potentially flammable discussions about religion. I want to continue this one a little bit for three reasons.
1) I still think it is possible, even likely, that you are pulling my leg.
2) This will make a great journal entry.
3) This subject is too damn important to just let it slide by.
Please note that what follows is, in no way, an attack on religion. It is merely a defence of science. I believe that the two need not be mutually incompatible.
I would like to address these points one at a time, starting with your question about accepting theory as fact. I have to guess that the theory you are referring to is the theory of evolution. As a starting point, it is important to define terms. When scientists use the word theory, they have a very different definition of the word than when you and I use it casually in a non-scientific conversation.
The word theory, used in a non scientific sense is usually understood to mean a guess, or supposition about something, and may or may not be backed up by any evidence. For example, I have a theory that you did not come up with these arguments on your own, rather you read them in some Christian literature, or heard them at a meeting or a presentation of some kind. I have no evidence to support that theory. I am only guessing, based on the fact that your statements closely resemble well known creationist propaganda that has been around for years and years.
A scientist, however, would not call that a theory. He might call that a hypothesis. Then, he might devote years of study to the matter, collecting evidence in the field, designing and conducting experiments attempting to falsify the hypothesis, and refining it based on the results of those experiments and the evidence that he discovers. He might then publish the results of his years of study in a scientific journal, where it can be read, considered and discussed by other scientists.
Those other scientists might then attempt to duplicate his experimental results. They might pore over his evidence, looking for inconsistencies. They might go into the field too, in an attempt to discover their own evidence that would either support or dispute the hypothesis of their peer. They might also publish their results, and a worldwide dialogue on the topic could be entered into. New evidence might come forward which only partially supported the hypothesis, and it would need to be altered to take that new evidence into account. The original scientist would eagerly accept the new evidence, as well as the modification of his earlier hypothesis. More and more scientists would join in the search for evidence, or reliable, reproducible experimental results.
Eventually, after many, many years of study, having amassed an overwhelming amount of evidence to support it, and in the absence of any compelling evidence refuting it, and with the agreement of the vast majority of working experts in the specific field of study, the hypothesis might be considered a theory.
So it is with evolution. Although the word theory is used to describe it, the scientific community consider evolution to be fact.
This does bring us to the question of why, if it is so strongly supported by the evidence, does evolution meet with such scrutiny and doubt. I think a part of the answer to that lies in the nature of the evidence. A perusal of Pharyngula, the blog of evolutionary biologist, and university professor PZ Myers, leads to posts about acoelomorph flatworms, rhabdomeric and ciliary eyes, niobrara chalk, and pharyngeal arches. What are all those things? Idonot have a freaking clue, and quite frankly, not being a student of evolutionary biology, I have not even read those posts. The problem with the evidence supporting evolution, is that it is so damn...scientific. The average guy (or girl) just does not understand it.
Contrast to that another well supported theory: Newton's Theory of Universal Gravitation. Like evolution, gravity is 'just a theory.' Unlike evolution, every single person on earth has a ton of experience with gravity. When I jump up, I come back down. When I trip over my own feet, I do a face plant on the ground. Although my cat always lands on her feet, it is never on the ceiling. Gravity is a theory no more well supported by evidence, but much more accepted by the general public, simply because we see the effects of gravity all around us, all the time.
Which brings us to your next point: "there is no proven evidence of man's evolving into anything for thousands of years." Well, yeah, there is. There are evolutionary mechanisms at work in humans, and all living things, all the time. For example, a segment of the Scandinavian population of Europe has developed an innate resistance to AIDS. How? A random, apparently beneficial mutation to the DNA. Those who have it, will pass it on to their progeny. Evolution at work. Can you see it? No, but it is there.
How do I know? Well, I don't. I said before, I am not a student of evolutionary biology or genetics. So, I have to trust someone who apparently does know. Like, say, someone who has spent their entire life studying the topic. That really is not any different from what we do for most things in our everyday life. When my doctor tells me I have a streptococcal throat infection, I do not ask him to see the actual bacterial culture, because it would not mean anything to me. I take his word for it, because I consider him to be an authority in his field.
In order to address your next point, and for that matter, the rest of them, I must first take issue with your use of the word 'prove.' Proof is a word that scientists are loath to use. It really does not apply outside the field of mathematics. Any scientist with a gram of ethics admits that scientific principles are never 'proven.' They are always open to new evidence that might cast a new light on older theories, and require some things to be reconsidered, and reworked. That is a basic tenet of the scientific method. Detractorsalways jump on this as an admission of uncertainty, when it really is not.
The theory of universal gravitation is not 'proven' either. It is open to new evidence that might require it to be re-examined. However, how likely do you think it is that one time, when you jump up, you might not come down? Here is an experiment to try. Flip a coin 100 times. Record the number of times it does not come back down. Try flipping it 1000 times, or 100,000 times. If it comes back down every time, even after 1,000,000 trials, have we 'proven' the theory of gravity? No, it is still a theory. However, if you jump up, you are very confident predicting that you will come back down. Scientists are that confident of predictions they make using the theory of evolution. They have seen such a huge body of evidence in support of it, that, although they will not call it 'proven,' they consider it as close to proven as can be in any scientific discussion.
That huge body includes a preponderance of evidence supporting the theory that we are descended from animals. Evolutionary scientists have seen so much evidence supporting that conclusion, that they consider it no longer in dispute. It is not 'proven,' but it is so certain, that scientists get bored discussing it. They roll their eyes at people who dispute it for exactly the same reason they roll their eyes at people who still claim the world is flat. You would roll your eyes at someone who claimed the world was flat, would you not? The evidence supporting common descent is so strong that anyone disputing it can only do so based on a complete lack of understanding of the topic. I am not saying people who dispute common descent are stupid, I am just saying they are not evolutionary biologists.
Next. You say, "There is no proof of the earth's age," and, "carbon dating is an unproven method," as if those two statements have anything to do with each other. They do not. Radio carbon dating is not one of the methods used to estimate the age of the earth.
While I might not say that carbon dating is unproven, I would say that it has its limits. First, it is only considered accurate for dating things between about 150 and 50,000 years old. Second, it is pretty easy for impurities in a sample to skew the results. However, within these limitations, it is understood to be a very accurate means of determining the age of something.
Actual methods of datingthe earth vary. As a beginning, we are all familiar with counting tree rings, and we have tree ring evidence that shows that trees have been growing on the earth for over 10,000 years. Examination of Antarctic ice core samples, possible because annual ice layers can be counted the way tree rings are, tells us that the current southern polar ice cap is approximately 160,000 years old. A similar method involves coral. Coral displays very consistent growth patterns both daily, and over the course of a year. You can calculate the age of a coral reef in much the same way as you can a tree, and portions of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia have been calculated to be several million years old. Some say as old as 18 million years.
The most common method of dating the age of the earth is radiometric examination of rocks. Based on the fact that uranium decays into isotopes of lead at known rates, scientists examining the ratios between the uranium and three different isotopes of lead calculate an approximate age of the earth at 4.5 billion years. That estimate holds up through multiple examinations of the same rock samples by several different, independent laboratories, and across tests done on thousands of different rock samples of both terrestrial and extraterrestrial origin. So, not only is the earth about 4.5 billion years old, so is the rest of the rocky material in our solar system. These findings are not in dispute. At least not by anyone with the understanding of geological science, and radiometric processes, sufficient to speak authoritatively on the matter.
I am sorry I was not able to provide you with any 'proven facts,' but rest assured that no one, anywhere, has presented any evidence that would call any of these things into dispute. None. As for the appearance of dinosaurs in the Bible... I have read the Bible, and I don't remember any. Of course, I am not a biblical scholar, so I cannot say for sure. I am willing to examine any evidence you might provide.
And if you were joking, well, you got me.
tags: Skepticism, Evolution
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
I have been remiss. It's been how long since I showed you a picture of Shadow? Weeks and weeks it seems. I know you all are having the most horrible cuteness withdrawl pains. I apologise. Here is your fix.
We had been over to the local farmer's property we call the 'dog park,' and he had gone and rolled in something really smelly. Can anybody tell me why they do that? Anyway, here he is getting the nasty smell Papaya/Mango shampooed away. Apparently, it is yummy stuff.
My wife will be upset that I put this picture up. She will claim that this is a bad picture of her. I have never seen a picture of her about which she did not make that claim. Oh, and just a size reference, she's not a midget. Shadow really is that big.
Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Golf is an infuriating game, and might just be, in and of itself, a definitive proof of the existence of God. Not the namby-pamby, all loving God of the New Testament, but the wrathful, jealous God of the Old Testament. You know, the one who turned Lot's wife into a pillar of salt for failing to keep her head down. The one who killed all of Job's livestock, and family, and caused him to be stricken with leprosy, just for bragging about his handicap.
Of course, he is much more subtle today than he was three thousand years ago. Oh yeah, there is no turning the water hazards to blood, or loosing plagues of locusts on the fairway these days. Today, the Punishment Of The Lord is simple. He keeps you coming back.
There is no other way to explain it. When have you ever seen a golfer walking off the eighteenth green claiming to be happy about his game? But, we keep going back...voluntarily. So figure it out. Why would someone willingly and wilfully continue to engage in an activity that they do not enjoy?
I think it is because of that one perfect shot a round. The five wood off the deck that sails high and straight, and leaves you a 75 yard pitch to the green, or the seven iron off the par three tee that rolls up to within six inches of the pin. That one shot that keeps you coming back, even though you blew the putt anyway. Every round has one of those shots in it, and therein lies the proof.
After adding up the scorecard, and having to admit to your playing partner that your 122 has left the two of you one stroke shy of your opponents; after having to buy a new putter in the pro shop because your old one is beside the thirteenth green in two pieces; after gingerly peeling off your socks to expose the blister on your heel that you still get every round, even though your shoes should have been worked in two years ago; on the drive home you suddenly smile, and remember that one shot, and pick up the cell phone, and call to make a tee time for the following weekend. It is that one shot that somehow gets slipped into every round that keeps you coming back for more of the most exquisite punishment this universe can dole out that proves the existence of God. The Bastard!
Monday, June 13, 2005
You're a slightly tarnished metal key, and you
unlock the wardrobe. At first glance, you seem
to present only simple, everyday things, but
anyone who looks deeper will find much more.
Just don't expect everyone to believe in you,
and those who don't may not grasp your worth.
What sort of key are you and what do you unlock?
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Thanks for the reminder, Simon. I updated my list of 100 things about me. Updated, hell, I finished the damn thing! Link is in the sidebar if you really want to see.
Friday, June 10, 2005
My earliest memories of listening to the radio are of 1050 CHUM-AM. It would have been mid-seventies sometime. I couldn't have been more than ten or eleven years old. CHUM had been playing top 40 rock and roll music since 1957. I can remember laying in my bed at night listening to songs like Fame, by David Bowie, Ballroom Blitz, by Sweet, Pinball Wizard, by Elton John; and more whimsical ditties, like Disco Duck, by Rick Dees, and Monster Mash by Bobby 'Boris' Pickett. And, because we were in Canada, there were homegrown hits, like Last Song, by Edward Bear, Takin' Care of Business, by Bachman Turner Overdrive, and Hot Child in the City, by Nick Gilder.
I clearly remember listening one night to a statement read by one of the station personnel explaining why 1050 CHUM did not, and would never, play Disco. Unfortunately, the realities of running a business often trump the idealism of those on the front line, and less rock-like music gradually crept onto the air. The runaway success of Saturday Night Fever in 1978 put The Bee Gees at numbers one and two on that year's top 100 chart. From that moment on, the music on CHUM began to erode. While they didn't relinquish their claim to be a rock station immediately, the eighties saw music from bands like Spandua Ballet, Human League, and ABC in frequent rotation alongside more rocky artists, such as Joan Jett, John Cougar, and Van Halen.
Long before the big hair eighties got underway, I had deserted CHUM-AM in search of a more consistent rock playlist, and found it in the same company. CHUM-FM, which had started out life as a classical music station, had been playing more progressive, album based rock since 1969, and by 1977 were an industry leader in the category. That year, however, found a new kid on the block: Q107.
CILQ-FM, 107.1 on the dial, was an upstart challenging the legendary champion of North American album rock broadcasting. They knew their place, and played to it. If Canadian author William Gibson was describing them, he'd say they were "all edge." Their DJs were just a little bit cooler. Their music was just a little bit harder. To paraphrase Robert Duvall's character in Days of Thunder, they were fast, loose, and on the edge of out of control. It was the beginning of the war.
CHUM-FM and Q107 spent the better part of five years battling for the hearts, and ears of Toronto's rock and roll fans. It's funny how outside observers can always tell when these things are over long before the parties involved can. I think it was the Station IDs that first let us know that something was going to break. For years, CHUM had been Toronto's Rock. "You're listening to Toronto's Rock, CHUM-FM." Riffing on that, and just being obnoxious, Q107 started calling themselves Toronto's Best Rock. Around about the time CHUM scored the coup of simulcasting The Who's 1982 farewell concert from Maple Leaf Gardens, CHUM had upped the ante to "Toronto's Ultimate Rock!" Yes, ultimate. It was so patently ridiculous that everyone knew the end was near.
My memory of the time span may be somewhat compressed, but it seems to me that the Who concert simulcast was the last thing CHUM-FM ever did that could be even remotely referred to as rock. Almost immediately after that event, they changed their format to Top40 pop/dance. Suddenly, Q107 was the only true Rock and Roll station in town, and quickly adopted the appropriate station ID: "Toronto's Only Rock."
High school is a time of rapid social development for young people; A time when the question, "who am I?" is often answered by what clique or group one belongs to. Many of those groups are defined by the music they listen to. Sometimes, the music they listen to is dictated by image they want to project.
At my high school, there were several distinct groups. In addition to the Jocks and Cheerleaders, and the Geeks and Cool Kids, there were the Rockers, the Discos, the New Wavers, and the Punkers. Now, in real life, the lines between those music genres are blurry, but in high school, they are drawn in black and white. A new song that combined elements of more than one musical style would quickly be claimed by one group or another, usually based on whatever genre the band was generally considered to fall into based on prior releases. Once claimed, by the New Wavers for example, a song must be vehemently derided by the Punkers and Rockers, regardless of how much they privately may have liked it.
I was a Rocker. I wore faded blue jeans, and t-shirts, and tried to grow my hair long. I went to concerts, and always bought the obligatory long sleeved, black and white concert T, which then got put into heavy apparel rotation for the next several weeks. I hated Disco, because "Disco Sucks!" I considered New Wavers simply misguided, and thought I could show them the error of their ways. I generally ignored the Punkers. There were never enough of them to worry about, anyway.
I do get a chuckle, however, whenever I see a young person walking down the street with an extreme mohawk haircut, too much black makeup, Doc Martens, and ripped, black fishnet stockings, or ripped black jeans. They think they are expressing their originality, but in reality, they are simply conforming to a fashion that has been around for almost thirty years.
As an impressionable teen, the music I listened to was influenced by the other teens around me. A group of guys a year or two older were in a band, and were Led Zeppelin fanatics. Another buddy of mine was a huge Black Sabbath fan. A guy I worked with listened to Iron Maiden, and Def Leppard. Being Canadian, I was exposed to bands like April Wine, Rush, Triumph, and Saga on the radio. And don't forget The Beatles. A buddy and I used to spend nights in his basement with a guitar, and the Beatles Complete song book. Looking back, I'm surprised he could stand my singing. On the other hand, he's probably surprised I could stand his.
Bands like Led Zeppelin led me to an interest in the old blues music that inspired them, like Muddy Waters, and Howlin' Wolf. At the same time, my father was playing jazz records at home on his stereo; things like Ed Bickert, Al Hirt, and Larry Coryell. Somewhere along the line, I developed an interest in classical music as well. I suspect John Williams had something to do with that, as I practically wore out the grooves of my Star Wars soundtrack album. It wasn't until years later that I realised he'd basically ripped off Holst's ThePlanets for the whole thing.
So there you have it; a quick run through of a small sampling of my musical influences. Now, to answer the first question, right now I am listening to a variety of things. Currently in my car are albums by Jethro Tull, Robert Plant, and Lucia Micarelli. I've already mentioned Skindred...and Big Sugar for that matter. When I'm listening to the radio in the car, it's "Classic Rock," Q-107. At home, on the satellite, it's either the Gold Rock station on Galaxie, or the Rock station on Max Trax. Or blues...or jazz...or classical... You get the picture.
Oh yeah. Never forget ACTIVATE.
Dornbrau introduced me to a nifty little website called Sloganizer.net. You enter any line of text, and it will automatically generate a slogan incorporating that text. I entered "Aurora Walking Vacation." The several slogans listed below are among the many results returned. Help me choose a new slogan for this journal. Vote for your favourite of these in the comments section.
Aurora Walking Vacation is your safe place in an unsafe world!
Aurora Walking Vacation, i want it all.
Aurora Walking Vacation is the only way to be happy.
With a name like Aurora Walking Vacation, it has to be good.
Aurora Walking Vacation is rolling, the others are stoned.
There's only one true Aurora Walking Vacation!
I like the first one. What do you like?
Friday, June 3, 2005
Before popping the top on this beer for the first time, I noticed that the word Trappist appeared on the label, directly below the name of the beer. Now, in the beer world, Trappist usually refers to a distinctive style of ale brewed in Belgian abbeys by Trappist Monks. Belgian ales traditionally have a unique fruity and spicy characteristic. Many tasters will detect banana, apricot, and cherry-like flavours, as well as a hint of cloves, and sometimes orange rind or coriander. Certainly an unlikely thing to find in a traditional American lager. Upon tasting the beer, I did, indeed, detect hints of fruity sweetness, cloves, and spice. A very unique and interesting beer to be sure.
A couple of days later, I was putting some more beer into the fridge, and discovered that the label of the Millstone Lager did not, as I had originally thought, say Trappist on it at all. It said Trapper. A little internet investigation led me to the conclusion that the beer had recently been re-branded, and that Trapper Lager was simply the old name. Niagara Brewing had kept it on the label to provide some continuity for those who had enjoyed it in the past, and it refered to the beer's North American heritage, not to any imagined connection to Belgian monks.
Imagine my consternation when, upon tasting the beer again, I found that there was no trace of the Belgian ale characteristics I had previously detected. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it is a darn good beer, and I gave it a strong rating in my review of it. But, my initial tasting experience had been completely coloured by my expectations based on misreading the label. I tasted flavours that were not there, because I expected them to be there.
The mind is truly a strange and wonderful place.
So I'm doing it, that thing John was talking about, what did he call it, ego surfing? And I'm checking out Technorati, to see who's linking to me, and I come across this guy. He's added me to his 'daily reading' blogroll. And I'm wondering, do I know this guy? He does live in Toronto, according to his profile, and he's pretty close to me in age...
Of course, he also lists GTAbloggers, as I do, on his site. It's possible he came across my listing there. But I'm curious. I tried to leave a comment at his blog, but he has comments restricted to blogger users, and I'm not about to go through the hassle of registering an account with them just to leave one little comment on somebody's blog. At least not at two thirty in the morning, when I should be doing more important things, like sleeping.
So 42 year old loser...or are you? If you happen by, drop me a line and say hello. I know, I know; there's no way you're going through the hassle of signing up for an AIM account just to satisfy my curiosity, but click over there on the left sidebar where it says contact info and send me an e-mail. Or don't; you are kinda mysterious that way.