Monday, June 13, 2005

There is A House in New Orleans, They Call the Rising Butt

I don't have anything especially good to say about TV at the moment. I haven't watched any of the scripted shows that I now have, so maybe we can just wait until I've seen at least one of them. Instead, I shall chronicle Toronto and our 30ish hours in the Queen's Queen city.

We left Apt 18 at about 2:50 on Friday afternoon in very spur of the moment fashion. We gave Hippo some instructions for while we were away (which, one can imagine, is a primary time for the cat to play) and made sure that whatever giant cream party she had everyone behaved safely, no jumping onto the counters intoxicated or taking shots of half-and-half all night. Regardless, we made three stops, at the bank, gas station, and Harvey's. The first two seem fairly self explanatory, but the third deserves at least a second of extra attention. In some respects it is just a regular burger joint, its a similar menu, though the fries are admittedly high quality real-potato style. There are two weird things that deserve explanation. First, you order your burger, they cook it, and then they bring it over to this little area at the end of the counter, that looks a good deal like the Subway fixins area, and they add the fixins, however you want. Its pretty awesome, I do admit, to get some decent control over the quantity of mustard, tomatoes, onions etc. even though the Canadians apparently put pickle relish and hot peppers on their cheeseburgers. The second weird thing I didn't try, though I may just be saving it for a second go-round. Its an interesting but poorly named Quebecois dish called poutine. There isn't a good picture of Harvey's specific poutine, though I can tell you that it costs like 1.50 to upgrade your regular fries to poutine. Technically thats a buck-fitty Canadian, so the poutine is at least 10% off virtually all the time. Here's a decent shot:

After our adventurous bacon cheeseburgers we managed to get through Toronto friday rush-hour traffic and into our hotel room, the heart of downtown, just up the street from the Hockey hall of fame, by 5:30. There was less than 2 hours of driving involved over all, its like the trip from the Southern burbs to St. Cloud, if you've ever made that drive. Anyway, our room at the Courtyard Marriot was hella cheap, thanks to the internet-savvy of one Ms. Kate Marie B-2tha-K. I rolled the car to the weirdly accented Canadian valet and after a quick look at our free wireless internet to determine exactly where we were going (by the way, if you type into a computer when you are connected to Canadian internet, it will take you to, how fucked up is that) we were out the door. I have commented, prolly more than a couple times, that I have never been a fan of mass tranist, but since we were being experimental and I hate driving in big cities, I decided that we would roll the Toronto subway system.

In reality I don't think I've been on a subway for near a decade, I'm just not in cities that have them most of the time. The little time I have spent in Chicago tends to be at Katie's aunt's house, we had no time for the Metro in D.C., and I hate Boston enough when I don't have to listen to Red Sox Nation rubes in a contained space. Regardless, if Katie had been trying to convince me that I would like mass-transit if I ever used an efficient system (and she was) this trip was brilliance to the nuts degree. Seriously, if it wasn't for the fact that I was working with American currency, there would have been no problems at all. The joint was clean, it was fast, it was comfortable, and not outlandishly expensive. I have now been convinced, pretty much entirely by this

that we should move to Canada. I suppose the lack of policy debate and the fact that she would have to go to Canadian law school would mean that Katie is not entirely interested, though you've gotta love the health care and both the academic and personal freedom. If you care to look closely enough at the map, our hotel is located exactly one block from the College St. station on the Yonge line. There's a decent looking apartment building right behind the hotel, I think they have vacancies. I don't know that this makes the dreaded mega cities anymore palatable, but it can't hurt.

Besides, you know, dreaming up and executing the whole thing, Katie's biggest accomplishment for the weekend was finding the Toronto citypass deal, which allowed us to go to alot of area attractions for very litte cash. Stop one: the Art Gallery of Ontario. Alot of the joint was under construction, but we got into the special exhibit, a very impressive display of colorfield art called The Shape of Color. I don't know a tremendous amount about this movement, but thanks to Chip, the Macalester art department, and a course that combined cursory readings of critical theory with alot of Robert Rauschenberg slides, I have at least a cursory understanding of the major 20th century movements. I like this kind of art, even if I don't know the exhibitors involved, but this exhibition did not suffer from such a dilemma. Sol Lewitt, Ellsworth Kelly, and Mark Rothko were all familiar to me. The canvases tend to be huge and are characterized by some incredibly bright and vibrant colors, its the aspect of modernism that Katie enjoys. We couldn't take pictures, jobviously, but there is thankfully a web version of my favorite from the collection:

called Gun Club. Its essentially a rug, made of hand-dyed fabric spread out across a 20x20 or so area of the floor. Really cool overall, it has a very crystalline structure to it that I enjoyed. This old Canadian lady who was volunteering at the AGO talked to me about it for like 5 minutes, which was awkward though friendly.

After the art, we decided to enjoy the early evening air and take a walk down to the CN Tower. While there was no question that I wanted to check this place out, since its the most recognizable aspect of Torono, even on the epic Canadian Idol, I am always kinda wary of things this excessively touristy. We got there about 9-ish and were already pretty exhausted from the walk. We took a leisurely 45 second elevator ride to the top, which out of the windows is really pretty sweet to watch. I have been up in monuments like this, well, like the Arch in St. Louis and the Washington Monument basically, and the thing that tends to unify them is the horrific elevators. They tend to be tiny and claustrophobic, this was not at all the case in Toronto, where it was about the size of a medium-small freight elevator with glass doors and windows and a friendly Canadian tour guide who explained the length of the ride, the brief history of a tall tower, and so on. The observation deck was pretty freaking awesome. Its an incredible view in a very comfortable area, not to mention that Katie really liked it. Here are some pictures from CN:

The first is towards the West from the observation deck. The second was the view from the table at the bar we sat at. Thats right, there is a bar and grille, featuring some plasma TVs (showing the Blue Jays this night) and somewhat reasonably priced drinks 1100 odd feet in the air. Its a wicked cool place to watch the night rise After a good dose of Stoli we took the extra-journey included in our CityPass to the skypod, which is ridiculously high, another couple hundred yards I believe. Here's a little abstract work I did up there:

While I really enjoyed getting to see shit this high up, Katie was a bit frightened and stayed towards the inner wall. She didn't let it ruin her cuteness or attitude. See, for example, here:

To give a bit of perspective of exactly how ricockulously high this was, here are pictures from directly above the SkyDome:

and this one, of approximately the same East/North-East view of before, I know its blurry, but its way high up:

After we took an elevator filled with a bunch of Avril-style Canadian teenage punks down for a minute or two, we hit the glass floor level. Its exactly what it sounds like, and let me tell you that as a really fat guy, its fucking hard to trust that the glass which is below you is not gonna break. Especially when it creaks. Anyway, we didn't take a picture there, since Katie wouldn't come within 10 yards of it, but we did step outside for a quick final pic before our 45 second trip down with a group of (I kid you not) Scottish punks that we traded the Avrils for. So this is Katie on the outdoor observation deck:


We took the subway back to College street and walked a couple blocks looking for food and ultimately selecting this Canadian pizza joint, where we had these calzone-like things. They were pretty good, as was the Canadian coke with real sugar.

I had planned to do this whole trip in one post, but since this one has taken like a week and a million inches of space, I think I will split it up. Hippo is excited to go home tomorrow, so we will see you all from the land of 10K Lakes. Nothing like a 16 hour trip, two people, a persian cat, and a Mazda baby.



Tuesday, June 07, 2005

I Looked Out this Morning and the Sun Was Gone, Turned On Some Music to Start My Butt

Couple more reality show notes to start things off. The season premieres of most of the really intriguing scripted programs are this week or next, so my exclusive focus on reality is only temporary. I have Six Feet Under and The 4400 ready to go whenever Katie isn't watching with me, not to mention The Insider, which premieres Wednesday. Two quick shows that deserve TV takes:

1) The Scholar: Wal-Mart's reality spectacular about smart high school kids competing for a college scholarship. While I totally wish they had this deal when I was going to college (not that I really qualify, but still) this show has a long way to go if it is going to fail at sucking assballs. The kids are somewhat interesting, at least 2-3 potential plotlines that are fun, not to mention at least 4 good characters. Not only does ABC just seem to suck completely at reality but the filming is very badly done and there are some very Wal-Mart touches, it just has the feel of a for-kids-by-kids version of Big Brother or something. I will give it at least one more week.

2) Hit Me Baby One More Time has the makings of the reality hit of the summer. It truly succeeds in all the places that Dancing With the Stars, for instance, fails. The basic idea is a bunch of blast from the past bands play their big hits and some contemporary cover tunes. The audience votes, all America's Funniest Home Videos style, and somebody gets some money for a charity and hopefully a boost in old record sales and better bookings than the Oberlin, Colorado Apple Harvest Festival. I recorded my observations from the premiere episode in order, hopefully to give you both a stream of consciousness impression as to my mental status as well as to get you the feel of this program:

Here we are sitting down to watch the premiere episode of Hit Me Baby One More Time. First I press list, then play. Why is this show hosted by a big British wad. He has a haircut like Rob Thomas, sounds like Noel Gallagher after a gallon of whiskey, and is generally a complete knob.

Loverboy takes the stage first: they are really old. The dudes from Loverboy apparently do 100 shows a year, thats means approximately 100*Whoa whoa whoa, the dude from Flock of Seagulls is wearing a hat. Here's a list of analogies that don't quite capture how ridiculous it is that the dude from Flock of Seagulls, who, despite the success of "I Ran," is only famous because of his hair, re-appears on national TV wearing a hat. Its like:

--Gallagher smashing grapes
--Gene Simmons singing through his teeth
--Xtina wearing a burka
--Eminem in blackface
--the Smurfs wearing khakis
--Ron Jeremy in a Disney movie
--Keri Russell shaving her head
--Rockappella unplugged
--Cuba Gooding Jr. looking directly at the money
--Gwen Stefani as a hollaback girl

Regardless, its outlandish. Arrested Development completely trounced everyone this evening. I mean serious pwnzing. Not only is Tenessee probably the best of the original songs being performed (maybe "I Think We're Alone Now" can take a run) but their cover is the only one which is in any way interesting. Alright, who knocked up Tiffany? Seriously, I think the act of putting a serious boning to Tiffany requires the mind of a pedophile, even if she was in Playboy and, to paraphrase the House of Champions (TM) was blessed by the breast fairy. Regardless, she appears to be knocked up. I'm psyched for next week, which features Vanilla Ice among others. Without the OC or Survivor you should have time to check it out Thursday night.

As an update from last time, I should note that my newfound root beer fanboyism is getting pounded by at least two people online. Not that they are normal people by the way, specifically they are this guy and Winner McTavish over here. I mean, I dig on the root beer, but I don't know if I can match up to these homies, so I think I will just stick to casual enjoyment. I loves me my food and my drink but I have never really had the devotion to try that many of anything. I mean, I have tried prolly 20 or so different wing joints in this town, and I think I have a pretty good view of the scene, but I'm no 259 root beer cat. Maybe I could have disproven myself cheesesteak style, but not for now.

I am preparing an epic saga detailing our trip to Toronto this weekend. It was brief but exciting and I plan on getting some photojournalism up in the heezy. Regardless, the multitude of stories would be best not seperated, so you must have patience. Take a lesson from Hippo, who had to wait almost 10 minutes for her dinner while I swiffered the floor this evening. Instead of meowing and meowing and meowing and trying to scratch me or something, she lay in wait until I had sat down, then she tried to steal my quiche. She failed, but the lesson is still well taken.



Thursday, June 02, 2005

I Want to Thank You, For Giving Me the Best Days of My Butt

Todays TV Takes will be entirely reality driven. They will also be brief, because the summer reality season is only beginning to really get under way.

1) Beauty and the Geek is promising. Praising Ashton Kutcher's potential right now is trendy like Lindsay Lohan's total lack of breasts, or body phat, or internal organs--but regardless the show is not bad. The dudes are about equally split between moderate dorks and extreme dorks. The former are really no different than smart dudes who aren't particularly good looking, they're not butt ugly by any means and while they prolly have interests that lean towards geekish, they don't perpetually talk Star Trek etc. The other half is really quite impressive, one dude wants to use the prize money to buy the General Lee (as a side note, his name does not start with a "K" and end with an "aya" not to mention that his father has likely never responded "woop woop" to anything in a bread bag) and one dude got 2 bloody noses in the premiere while explaining the medical circumstances which would lead up to such an event (the word "mucosa" aired for arguably the first time on a Fresh WB Wednesday). Regardless, the show has alot of the potential of Average Joe but with a younger feel. No fat guys though, which means we don't get yet another opportunity to prove that even when compared only to other ugly dudes fat guys take the cake. But prolly cuz we were gonna eat it.

2) I suggested earlier that Dancing With The Stars was the worst idea ever conceived for a television program, or, for that matter, a middle school play, or a Christian video game. Evander Holyfield, Jay Peterman, some soap chick, Trista, Rachel Hunter, and Joey McIntyre ballroom dancing in primetime television. Wow, its horrible. It can be entertainingly horrible at times, since the judges are really really bad and the host is the same guy who does America's Funniest Home Videos since Bob Sagat made his fateful Half Baked career move. I think soap opera chick is going home but since she was the least famous in a group of not famous people, it matters little. They also do the dances to these really horrific covers of popular songs and there is nothing like the former heavyweight champion of the world doing the cha-cha to a cheap Idaho barroom version of "Crazy in Love" with the skankiest ballroom dance champion in history. Since there is shit else on Wednesdays at nine you might as well tivo it.

3) Candian Idol has gotten not better at all. They have 180ish people going to Hollyw...Toronto and my estimate is that 20 of them would have gotten through on American Idol. In all fairness I will give them one thing, though it will be a quintessentially Canadian thing to give them: they are way way better dealing with people who have tragic stories or whatever. They recognize what, for the sake of brevity I will call "cultural diversity" in the uses and sounds of different ethnic or national or reasons for music and find a way to respectfully say that they are not right for this competition. There have been alot of people whose voices are not nearly good enough to be on this show, but who use music in socially transformative ways or in reflection of some important/tragic life event and everyone comes out looking good, the judges, the competitors, and the audience. You know how you felt kinda dirty when you laughed at William Hung, CI has solved that problem (though at the expense of quality talent, interesting judges, and hosts with decent catch phrases).

Longer than I thought it would be wasn't it. I am gonna start watching "Hit Me Baby 1 More Time" soon, but I will reserve comment for the next edition. It appears that our summer schedule has already gotten briefly thrown off track since we are no longer on our way to Philly next week. This will save us money, allow us to go home sooner, and is less work/driving/etc. but it means that I will be unable to conduct my comprehensive survey of Philly cheesesteaks, at least for the time being. It is then likely that we will be on our way back to the TC earlier than planned, which roxrz.

My long running (2 or so day) conversation with Pete in regard to free office soft drinks has set me adrift on memory bliss of root beer. By which I mean that I would very much like to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the world's best root beers. This one would be roughly site generic, since I think I can get alot of these things by mail order, but prolly a little pricey to ship. I doubt there is any demand for a root beer specialist, even less than for a beer specialist, which in turn has less than a sommelier. If there is, I have found my new calling, cuz I freaking love a good root beer. Jones, IBC, Sprecher are all classics not to mention your 1919s and such. Root beer, much more than its alcoholic counterpart, has alot of mass-produced quality specimens. I've never been a Mug fan, but A+W and Barq's are tasty, not to mention the oft-overlooked Dad's, which may have been just a Minnesota thing.

Hippo is curious about this "root beer" of which we humans speak, so I am gonna explain it to her, starting from the frosty mug concept and proceeding all the way to the classic "Oh he is a root-bear."