Friday, February 23, 2007
I trust you are all getting geared up for the Oscars this weekend, dear readers. You may not know this, but the Oscars are a big deal around the Mentok house. Some households stake their social reputation on a big Christmas party or a big summer BBQ. Some odder ducks wow the world with retro 80s costume parties. As for me and my house, we will honour the lords of Hollywood with our annual, kick-ass Oscar party.
It's the one time of year our household is truly on display, so it's a lot of stress for all of us making sure we have the perfect appetizers and that everything looks just so. At times like this I wish there were two of me.
But now that I think about it, there are actually an infinite number of versions of me. It would be nice if those lazy buggers could pitch in once in awhile.
Over at the Contrast Podcast, this week's theme is Alternate Versions. This reminds me of my long-time fascination with quantum theory... or what I think I understand of quantum theory anyway.
As I understand it, quantum theory says that a particle is not just a particle but is also a cross-section of a wave. This means that all other possible states of existence of that particle exist as further sections of that wave. The long and short: everything that can happen does happen in one or more of an infinite number of alternative universes.
Yes, this sounds very science fictiony, and certainly quantum theory has its critics and skeptics but many of its tenets have been measured, demonstrated and vouched for by a host of scientific luminaries, including no less than Einstein himself.
So this whole business of infinite alternate universes has always fascinated me ... and, I must admit, worried me a little. Let me explain.
Nearly 20 years ago, I was beavering away at my first post-college job. Every day, I drove the same route to work, straight down one of our city's main thoroughfare's. A few sections of the route went through residential areas. Sometimes, especially in those areas, there would be traffic snarls. Every day, day in and day out, for two years I drove that route. I knew every detail of it. Every tree, every bus-stop, every graffiti scrawl. There was nothing else for me to see on that route. Or so I thought...
Then one day it appeared: The House. Not a new house, but an elegant old heritage building that must have been pushing a century old. Not a little wee bungalow hidden behind some old trees, but a three-storey brick manor that loomed over all of the other houses on the block and most of the trees. It had clearly been there for as long as the city had been around.
But I had never noticed it before.
Where had it come from? For years, the thought of That House has bothered me. My half-joking explanation is that I must have somehow slipped into an alternate quantum reality. How else to explain it?
To make matters worse, it happened again just last week. I was driving along on the expressway to Home Depot. Believe me, as a homeowner I drive that route a lot. Once again, my eye was suddenly drawn to a huge monster house looming above the trees. The style of the house suggested the 70s and it look weathered enough to have been around for at least that long. Once again, it seemed implausible that I would never have noticed it before.
Later that same day, I was dropping my youngest son off at Beavers and we were very nearly in an accident. Two huge trucks ran afoul of each other on slippery roads and we came within inches of being schmooshed by them.
I thought "Wow, that poor bastard back in that quantum-universe-without-the-big-house is probably dead by now. Lucky thing I phased out of that timeline!"
Of course, I'm not really serious about this quantum-shifting business, but these mystery houses do bug me. How about you, dear reader? Have you ever had an unsettling experience you couldn't explain?
posted by Mentok @ 11:10 AM, ,
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
You know, making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn't you like to get away...?
Today, I'd like to talk about pubs. Not bars, not lounges, not tapas bistros, but your good old local pub where you can feel at home and have a nice pint.
Let me back it up a little. About a year ago, Mrs. Mentok and I rediscovered dating ... each other, I hasten to add. It used to be, for us as for most young couples, going out was a big deal, what with dealing with a sitter and all. But last year we realized that our oldest son had become old enough to be a free, built-in babysitter, so we've been whoopin' 'er up on the weekends ever since.
We quickly grew bored of various trendy bars and we could never feel comfortable at meat-market discos. Finally, we discovered O'Hanlon's and we've been weekend regulars ever since.
The place is a fairly authentic Irish-style pub, since it's run by a real Irishman, Niall O'Hanlon. You can tell he's Irish because he can't even spell his first name properly, stupid fucking Mic. Seriously, according to this bio, the guy is a professional, old-school barkeep and it shows in all the little touches and comforts the place offers.
The great thing about this place is the variety of entertainment. Their own online description says it best: "O'Hanlon's is a Pub. An Irish Pub, that is also a part-time music venue (Thursdays, Fridays), Dance Party Maker (Saturdays), and Trivia host (Sundays). Come have a pint!"
A big chunk of what both Mrs. Mentok and I write about on our respective blogs is inspired by our weekly adventures at O'Hanlons. Remember my essay, Tyranny of Hotties, where I talked about inappropriate touching by a comely waitress? O'Hanlon's. Remember me ragging out the younger generation for being too retro? O'Hanlon's. Mrs. Mentok's observations on our David Lynchian evening out, her entire date nights blog label, my thoughts on the vulture-like Rolling Stones stalkers. Yup, all O'Hanlon's.
The place is about as close to being cool as one can manage in a small centre like this. The stars of a locally-filmed sitcom hang out there. The crew of the local sound stage drink there, so whenever a movie is filming in town (which seems to be more and more often) the stars will often get all incognito and hang with the crew. Visiting big-name bands, such as the Barenaked Ladies, will often pop in for a pint if they have any down-time. All in all, the place has become THE place to go in our city, while still maintaining a comfortable, casual pub atmosphere.
I've become quite patriotic about this little pub of ours. To top it all off, Mrs. M got me an O'Hanlon's hoodie for my birthday. My eldest son claims I look slimmer and younger in it, so it's now become my favourite piece of clothing (even though I know he was just sucking up).
Now it's your turn, dear reader: Have you got a local? Is there some comfortable little place you love to go? Do you have any stories about a truly great bar, past or present?
posted by Mentok @ 10:34 AM, ,
Thursday, February 15, 2007
As promised, the bad-taste valentines have been moved over to Fun With News, so go check 'em out there if you missed them.
Today's topic is prayer. As a Buddhist, I don't actually believe in prayer, I must admit. Buddhism's tough-love party line on this topic is that there isn't really anyone to pray to and, even if there was, He wouldn't intervene in your personal problems, which are all self-inflicted anyway, so your best bet is to sit quietly in the corner, pull your head out of your ass and think about how you're going to solve your own fuckin' problems. Or something like that.
But perhaps I'm being too harsh. After all, I can recall an episode from my youth where prayer apparently worked.
When I was a child back in the early 70s, the good-old CBC broadcast a prime-time public service documentary on the dangers of venereal disease. The show made quite an impression on my young mind. However, since this was the early 70s, the show was very detailed and graphic about the effects of venereal disease but very, very vague about how one contracts such diseases. For all the information the program gave me, I thought venereal diseases were as contagious as colds or the flu.
I was therefore deathly afraid of contracting them. So, as my evangelical Christian mother had taught me, I turned to Lord Jesus to relieve my fear. For several months, in my nightly child-like prayers, right along with "God bless mommy and daddy" I included the line:
"Dear Jesus, please protect me from getting gonorrhea."
My mother became increasingly agitated by these prayers. She tried to tell me to stop, much to my confusion.
"But Mom, you don't want me to get gonorrhea, do you?"
...At which point her head would explode in exasperation.
But my mother's reaction wasn't the worst. One Sunday, our Sunday school teachers asked us to list some of the things we prayed for. I found their gales of laughter to be very hurtful and, frankly, ignorant.
For all the persecution I suffered from my childhood devotion, the prayers did the trick. I am pleased to say that, to this day, I have never suffered from gonorrhea, syphilis or any of your more fashionable modern STDs. Praise Jesus.
And you, dear readers? Have you any tales, serious or humorous, about the effects of religious devotion?
posted by Mentok @ 11:52 AM, ,
Wednesday, February 14, 2007
I've been noticing no one's paying much attention to the content in my other tabs, so today I'm starting a new policy: Affiliated content will start here and then get moved over to its appropriate tab the next day.
This pair of bad-taste Valentines will end up in Fun With News tomorrow, so you won't have to look at them here for too long. (Oops, already gone. Check the archive.)
posted by Mentok @ 3:54 PM, ,
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Damn it all anyway. Today I have to do a bunch of phone interviews but my throat is killing me when I speak above a whisper. All thanks to the Barenaked Ladies and my goddamn sense of duty.
Long-time readers and real-life friends will know that I once worked in politics. Once upon a time, I was seized by a sense of commitment to a Big Cause. Now, that in and of itself is no big deal. Every college student and bored housewife has a Cause these days, usually demonstrated by the heroic act of wearing a rubber band on one's wrist. These things come and go like the latest fashions. People usually make an effort for awhile until they get tired of tilting at windmills or just get bored with it all.
But my case was a little different, since I had an education in How Things Work and How To Make Things Happen. I was deprived of the easy cynicism most people enjoy. I couldn't tell myself "I'm just one person. What can I do? I can't make a difference." I knew full well that I had the skills to make a difference. Along with that knowledge came the curse of knowing that, if my Big Cause failed, it would fail in part because I had not tried hard enough.
The Minstrel Boy - The Clancy Brothers & Tommy Makem
So from that day forward, I was a slave to that Big Cause, much to my woe. Thank god the Big Cause was finally victorious, or I'd still be a slave.
What does any of this have to do with the Barenaked Ladies? It has to do with this goddamn "I can make a difference" delusion I've been saddled with.
The Ladies were in town last night for a concert. Great band! Very down to earth. Even in the midst of a big arena show, they manage to come off like a bunch of your old college drinking buddies who just dropped by to jam and raid your beer fridge.
If I Had a Million Dollars - Barenaked Ladies
But even though BNL put on a great show, the crowd was totally lethargic. The crowds in this town are always lethargic. Maybe it's the cold weather, maybe it's the fact that this is a bureaucratic government town. Whatever the reason, it always seems like pulling teeth to get my fellow citizens off their asses at a concert.
Just like in my Big Cause days, I take this all on myself. I feel a personal responsibility to get the crowd whipped up. I always feel like personally kicking the asses of everyone who has the temerity to stay seated during a rock concert. I don't do that of course but I do whatever I can to encourage people sitting around me to get into the spirit.
My wife hates it, I'm sure. She hates seeing me making an idiot out of myself. And of course my throat hates me because I always go way over the top in setting a personal example for the rest of the crowd.
But it's not really my job, is it? That's what the warm-up act is for. And, if the main act has decent showmanship skills, they should be getting the crowd whipped up on their own.
Rationally, I know it's not my responsibility, but when it comes right down to it I just can't sit on my hands and leave such jobs to others. Never have, maybe never will.
I have a two part question for you, dear readers to go along with this post:
- Do you have any more or less positive qualities that you wish you did not have?
- Do you have any funny anecdotes of lethargic or otherwise inappropriate behaviour at concerts?
posted by Mentok @ 2:01 PM, ,
Friday, February 09, 2007
When I was in college (yes, back in the Crockett and Tubs days), there was for awhile a severe problem of booze thievery at parties. It was probably due to all those actors who, unfortunately, were in our extended circle. In any case, there is nothing more distressing to a young scholar than to head out for an evening of binge drinking only to find your delicious ales vanished before you can get to the second bottle.
One of the strategies my friends and I used to combat this sophomoric crime wave was to imbibe the worst, most vile tasting liquors we could find on the theory that the booze thieves wouldn't like them either and would therefore leave them alone.
Among our favoured booze-thief-proof beverages was the famous Italian vermouth Cinzano. I remembered being singularly repelled by that beverage, almost to the point of giving up drinking altogether (almost).
It has been many years since I have even thought about Cinzano, much less tasted it. The other day in the liquor store, a bottle of Limetto Cinzano caught my eye. I was greatly encouraged by the fact that they now make a lime-flavoured version. The slogans on the bottle were entrancing: "Captures the taste of the Italian sun!" Who could resist?
Besides, I reckoned my tastes might have changed. After all, I'm older now. As I often explain to my children, as people get older they get bored with things that actually taste good so they start experimenting with things that taste bad just for a change of pace. In addition to my recent discovery of stinky cheese, I have developed a taste for Escorial, a German liquor whose flavour is most diplomatically called "complex".
So why not give good old Cinzano another whirl, I thought. How bad can it be?
Pretty bad. I quite regretted that experiment.
Taste of the Italian sun? Perhaps if the sun was a lump of crap rolled in dirt and then soaked in urine. Perhaps they meant to say that it tastes like something left out in the sun for a long, long time.
But, I had gone and bought the stuff so I'm stuck with it. I figure I can always use it as emergency liquor or serve it to unwelcome guests.
There's my beef of the day. I don't like Cinzano. And you, dear readers? Are there any beverages or cocktails you find particularly awful?
posted by Mentok @ 12:47 PM, ,
Monday, February 05, 2007
"Reality is a commodity".
So said Stephen Colbert in his now-famous challenge to viewers to attempt to change the definition of reality on Wikipedia.
I'm sure my post-modernist blogger friend Liz will be pleased to hear that I have come to agree...at least in terms of reality television.
First, a bit of a confession. Da missus and I have a guilty indulgence of watching Beauty and the Geek. It's the only reality show I can bear to watch week after week (and, yes, of course the eye-candy has something to do with it.)
For those of you blissfully unaware of this very silly show, the premise of the show is that eight total geeks and eight total dumb-bunny hotties are locked up in a mansion, where they go through Survivor-style eliminations in pursuit of a big cash prize.
The show wields a double-edged sword of found comedy by setting us up to laugh at both the geeks' complete lack of social skills and the beauties' almost surreal stupidity. Plus, there's the usual triumph-over-adversity and why-can't-we-all-just-get-along pablum.
From the start of the second season onward, I've been acutely aware of the various reality TV manipulations used on the show, particularly the use of ringers. Some of the beauties are not real airheads. In fact, in any given season, several are college students or young professionals.
On the geek side, there's always a couple "geeks" who start the season wearing unstylish clothes and goofy beards. Then comes the inevitable makeover episode and, 'Voila!', it turns out the bearded "geeks" are actually hunks in disguise.
Each season, at least one beauty-geek romance develops, but those never involve one of the real geeks, only the shamming pretty-boys. Yet I wonder how many lonely young fellows have been further deluded to think that, if only they buy the right (brand name) clothes and get the right haircut, they too can date a Hooters waitress or a professional bikini model.
But it isn't the reality TV manipulations that have piqued my post-modernist curiosity. This season, the show has surreptitiously added a new element ... the Beauty and the Geek Myspace reality. It turns out that the whole cast of the show now has Myspace accounts. You can become their "friends", if you like. You can watch as the post-broadcast characters exchange comments and mail with one another. You can micro-analyze to your heart's content over the significance of which girls include the despised Cecille Gahr in the Friends list and which don't (in our house, whenever Cecille appears on screen, Mrs. Mentok hollers "She's disgusting!").
And you will hardly even notice the product placements for Hawaiian Tropics, Dentyne and MTV.
What a wonder of marketing! Reality entertainment for the Google generation. The deeper you Google into the "lives" of the Beauty and the Geek stars, the more false they become.
Of course, this is hardly new. Old-timers of the Internet will remember that the Blair Witch Project was allegedly based on a "true story", through Internet gossip and carefully planted Web easter eggs.
Beyond that, isn't that what language is all about? Isn't all of our use of myth, legend and story throughout time just a shabby infrastructure for our beliefs.
Whoa! We're almost getting into Attempts at Profundity area. Sorry!
Long and short: Beauty and the Geek is a silly little show that has gone to ridiculous lengths to create an Internet back-story for themselves.
How about you, dear readers? Any observations on the increasingly fluid worlds of TV and Internet? Any favourite or unfavourite examples of the Internet used to blur reality (whatever that is)?
posted by Mentok @ 12:31 PM, ,