February 26th, 2004

long beard

Laundry Night In Canada

I get to go on an outing with Katie again on Saturday, so I'd better make sure my laundry cycle is at the top, right? Maybe it would be easier in a way if I had less clothes and had to wash everything more often. Nahh. I kind of like these epic washes.

One of the things you adopt, living in the big city, is a sense of environmental responsibility. When I lived on Prince Edward Island, I thought nothing of driving places. Not that you had a choice or anything, but it was completely reasonable and common. Even in the towns there are few pedestrians; you drive down the street even for short distances. The traffic in Charlottetown on a sunny summertime day is usually worse than anything you'd encounter in a Halifax rush hour, and your progress will be quite slow. On the other hand, driving between towns is ridiculously fast. Most of the roads are straight, and there are enough passing opportunities in most regions. Or you can just get on a back road and roar along at 180 km/h (111 mph) and hope your tires don't blow out. I speak as someone who has done this driving to work late.

Anyway, I'm just making a point that people on PEI drive. Everywhere. The irony is that the price of gasoline there is the lowest east of Québec, thanks to regulated prices. Apparently it was someone's bright idea to deregulate gas prices, in the hopes of spurring competition. This was a mistake, to put it mildly. Virtually all the prices in this city, for instance, are about 81¢ a litre. And by about I mean exactly 81-point-something, at every single station. Meanwhile, in PEI the numbers can shift a significant (5 or more) number of cents between stations in the same area. What gives? And doesn't it cost more to deliver gas to PEI just because of geography?

At any rate, I'm here in Halifax (by far the biggest city east of Québec (City) and northeast of Boston) and as a sophisticated city dweller I care about things like the Kyoto protocol. So, I don't drive even when I can - in the name of environmental responsibility, I use the transit system.

Unfortunately, my residence at the moment is about twenty-five-foot-minutes removed from the nearest bus stop. Don't get me wrong; I don't mind walking, and I need the exercise. But sidewalks or something would be nice. And that brings me to the thing I like least about walking, next to the fact that I smell like a locker room by the time I reach the bus stop (I walk fast) if I don't wear scented deodorant (shower or no!): my pantlegs get covered in mud and salt. It causes me to like subzero temperatues because that way everything on the shoulder is frozen.

My jeans are a mess. I pretreated the pantlegs with the liquid detergent before putting them in the *super* wash. So maybe they'll be clean again, if I get lucky. Then they can just get dirtied again by those assholes in the Lexus sport-utes. I cringe every time I see one. The only sport-utes I respect are Jeeps and Hummers because people sometimes actually use those off-road. Let's just say I haven't seen any Mercedes ML320s frequenting the local trail clubs.

But I have faith that things will get straightened out eventually. Soon we won't see people driving their cars and burning up valuable hydrocarbons just to get booze. We'll be able to get booze at the corner stores. Of course, there are no corner stores in my "neighbourhood," just lots of wolverines.
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long beard

(no subject)

I was surfing for news of Osama bin Laden, prompted by a post by revevastars. I found a story about a homely Canadian woman with little hope who converted to Islam and moved to Pakistan in late 2003, and she had this to say:

http://www.paktribune.com/news/index.php?id=48250

I really felt sorry for her, and was aghast to see her wearing ... I should do some research and find out what they're called... anyway, I think she was wrong, but I was happy for her that she felt she finally found peace. But then I read some inflammatory comments; you'll see them at the bottom of the page. Here is/was my reply:

As a "white atheist, enemy to Christianity," I take offense to the comments of Mr. Jabreen. I read this article and thought, "Good for her, at least she feels at peace," even though in some sense I disagree with her. I also don't make a habit of ragging on people about their beliefs because life is short and they don't need me introducing them to thought. And I really am burned by what you say about our "bad habits," because I see no reason why, given this miracle of living, we ought not to live it (albeit with taking on some self-enriching responsibility). And let's hear this woman out - she is telling people not to paint all the adherents of Islam with the same brush, and I think - no, I know - she has a point. Even though I personally would not go her route, what she said about the people is true - some of my best friends are Muslims, and it's always a good idea to remind people that we ought not to be categorizing people by race or creed - you'd think we would have learned that by now. And Mr. Rempel, do all Christians have to be fundamentalists? Did Jesus Christ say, "Thou shalt be a prude and follow an outdated moral compass for all of your days?" No, He wanted people to follow Him, to love one another, and to believe in Him! In your logic, He died to save you, so in a sense aren't you kind of wasting your energy preparing yourself for Heaven when the price has alrady been paid? Ah, the rules of similarites facinate me - it's amazing how Christians are crueller to other kings of Christians then they tend to be to Jews, for instance (at least these days, and I guess I'm only speaking for my own countrymen). And saying that the Islamic faith "routinely murders people" is a tad harsh, especially when you look at pleasant Christian relics of history like the Crusades. Both religions have always operated on the tenet that everyone else is wrong, so violence is inevitable, and it is more a fault of belief in itself than of any relgion in particular.

I should have added that the history of Christianity could not be more warlike, since the commentor was harping on about Islamic violence. It's my own opinion that the western world got a couple hundred years ahead of the arab world - post-Rome, ironically, it was the other way around - but I certainly wasn't going to say that on a Pakistani website! =)

Let's hope I don't get letter-bombed by all these Christian lovers of peace and liberty. Sheesh, they're their own worst enemies!
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long beard

01366, Thou Art Kaput

I suppose it's time to elaborate about my own Canadian Idol expereince, sharing with all of you some of the things I've learned. I'm not going to go on about it as long as I previously thought, though.

First of all, I will give you advice for next year's show, and one of my top pieces of advice is: come super early. If you live in a city hosting auditions (as I did), then you have no excuse not to camp out overnight. In the case of Halifax, they were letting people line up at 3pm the previous afternoon (Sunday). This is something I might have done were it not for my responsibilities, overall (lack of) preparedness, and the fact that there was no bus service and that the downtown was closed to all vehicles and pedestrians! I mean, reallly, now.

I would also advise you not to drink caffeinated beverages of any kind (cola, coffee, Barq's, Dr. Pepper) because that will exacerbate your natural nervousness. In my case, I was literally shaking all morning, and people were asking me if I was okay - I was, and I told them, "Well, I can't help it, I get like this watching CPAC." (the Canadian equivalent of C-SPAN) One of Edgar's fast friends offered me a steep of his Tim Horton's herbal tea, which calmed me down quite a bit, but I started shaking again as soon as the tea ran out. By then I was in the line for the groups-of-5 auditions and I could not go back for more hot water. (Those Tim Horton's herbal tea bags kick ass - I got three steeps out of it and was still drinking good tea. Just don't add milk - milk and hot water make a natural sedative. So now I know why I get sleepy after drinking tea (which doesn't normally even have caffeine to begin with) and why coffee doesn't last as long as it ought to. I am exceptionally sensitive to stimulants and depressants (and hallucinogens, but that is another story) of all kinds, so I have to really be smart and selective with those things, especially in public where I am always more excitable than usual. I am now drinking both coffee and tea without milk or sugar (sugar is for wimps).

My other advice, and they will tell you this, is that you have to own the room when you audition. Pick a song that you feel passionate about and that has a really juicy verse and chorous (that's all you'll get to sing in your first audition - complete songs come later on in the process if you manage to jump through the hurdles). You should also dress well.

But most important above all, you have to figure out how to work the system. Look at _juju_ for an excellent example. I haven't heard him sing, and maybe he's pretty good, but I can't weigh in on that either way. But he knew how to stand out, and last year he even got on TV. This year he got to go to the celebrity judges. In fact, he worked the system so well that he got a pink slip even though he orginally wasn't going to get one - it's all about who you talk to!

My friend Edgar also got a pink slip. I kept whispering to him to be more careful when the executive producer was asking us questions, since he and his producer lakeys were most likely watching our every move. "When do we get paid?" he once asked. Then he said to me, "You gotta stand out, Will." I should have listened. It's so ironic that any failiure of mine could be partly due to not standing out. When the executive producer asked, "Why are you here?" my first impulse was to shout part of the truth: "To lose my virginity!" Of course that would have made it a manifest prophecy in reverse, though I probably would have been labelled as a character, and that would have helped me. I confided what I was going to say to Edgar, and he laughed. His shouted response to the question was, "I want the free trip to Toronto!" (Of course, getting to Toronto and back by air costs barely more than $200 CDN these days if you book ahead, but that doesn't make it any less of a wonderful, magical place.) The whole time I was afraid I would be labelled as a nutcase since I was sitting with Edgar and our new friend. It turned out I was afraid of the wrong thing. So, next year I intend to be as crazy as I feel like.

Moving ahead to the audition, I was in a group with two foxy women and two pretty-good looking ones. "What great framing!" I said as I got into the line. Sitting next to the Doors to Doom, the girl on my right, 01367, mentioned that she had a cold. The girl on my left, 01365, kept asking about the next steps, as if she would be proceeding through all of them. Then we watched the group before us all pile out, no pink slips among them. Then it was our turn. 01363 sang "Blue Moon Kentucky," 01364 sang "Amazing Grace," and 01365 sang "My Immortal." Then it was... gulp! my turn!

All the time leading up to my turn I was wondering if I should lead off with "The Last Saskatchewan Pirate," a song I feel really passionate about. But instead I went with my original plan and sang the first bit of "America." I stepped up to the X and started to sing, maybe not being so very encouraged that he said he liked Simon & Garfunkel. And while my pitch was on and my voice was clear, all my determination to be composed and own the room flew out the window. I could barely keep from trembling. I couldn't look the executive producer in the face.

I stepped away, and the girls cheered for me. Then 01367 sang "You Make Me Feel (Like a Natural Woman)" very well, despite her cold. And then she was asked to stay and the rest of us were thanked for coming. Well, I had a feeling about her. I told her we were lucky after we had been told we were getting the executive producer himself.

I do have lots more things to say, but I must go rehearse now.
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