Thursday, April 27, 2006

The Roundup

The Smithy Code

Three weeks ago, a judge in London ruled on the The Da Vinci Code plagiarism case. From the Times:

Justice Peter Smith's 71-page ruling in the recent "Da Vinci Code" copyright case here is notable for many things: the judge's occasional forays into literary criticism, his snippy remarks about witnesses on both sides, and his fluent knowledge not only of copyright law but also of more esoteric topics like the history of the Knights Templar.

But there is more to it than that. Embedded in the first 13½ pages of the ruling is Justice Smith's very own secret code, one that when partly solved reveals its name: the Smithy Code.

The full text of the ruling is here. Maybe it's just me, but I appreciate that this judge actually had some fun with what one would think is a normally boring process, writing 71-page copyright rulings.

Kaavya, Again

Maybe it's just me, but I enjoy reading about liars and plagiarists. In this instance, the case of Kaavya Viswanathan, it's even worse, considering that the end product of her plagiarism is something typically found in a colostomy bag.

Viswanathan's latest excuse is also reported in the Times:

Some of the plagiarism may have happened because she has a photographic memory, Ms. Viswanathan said. "I remember by reading," she said. "I never take notes." In a profile published in The New York Times earlier this month, Ms. Viswanathan's agent, Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, said the plot and writing of "Opal" had been "1,000 percent" Ms. Viswanathan's.

Photographic memory? Anyone who has even slept through an Intro to Psychology course knows that photographic memory is a myth.

Also, a particularly great graf from the article:

The similarities in language between Ms. Viswanathan's books and Ms. McCafferty's is striking, with numerous passages in "Opal" echoing the earlier books. But Ms. Viswanathan insisted that despite seeming similarities in the plot — Ms. McCafferty's book is also about a girl who lives in New Jersey, wants to get into an Ivy League school, has three close girl friends, falls for a scruffy musician and makes a triumphant graduation speech — the story was her own. "It's my plot, my characters," Ms. Viswanathan insisted.

That sounds original enough.

Horrible 'Tween Novels

Maybe it's just me, but I'm fascinated about the publishing world. Here's another article about 'tween novels and how they are created.

In many cases, editors at Alloy — known as a "book packager" — craft proposals for publishers and create plotlines and characters before handing them over to a writer (or a string of writers).

Drunk and Lost

From, you guessed it, the Times:

Two hundred and forty hours of community service or jail and a $500 fine? That was the choice that confronted Michelle Rodriguez, a star of ABC's "Lost," when she appeared on Tuesday in Kaneohe District Court in Hawaii, where she pleaded guilty to drunken driving, The Associated Press reported. Ms. Rodriguez, who plays the hotheaded ex-police officer Ana-Lucia, chose five days in jail and surrendered later in the day to begin her term. "I kind of have to get back to my life, go back to making some money," she said outside the courtroom. Her lawyer, Steven Barta, said Ms. Rodriguez had made a "personal choice." In 2004 Ms. Rodriguez pleaded no contest in Los Angeles to three traffic violations, including drunken driving. She completed a three-month alcohol program and is serving three years of probation.


I'll be back on the other side of next week...


Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Tom Wolfe

The Man in the White Suit

Today's New York Times has a follow-up story on a young author's "unintentional" plagiarism. Kaavya Viswanathan wrote How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, which manages to unintentionally steal passages from Megan McCafferty's two novels (literary classics, really), Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings.

Viswanathan's excuse for stealing another author's words is believable. "I wasn't aware of how much I may have internalized Ms. McCafferty's words," she told the Times. You see, Viswanathan is a huge fan of McCafferty's work, and so in reading it, she memorized, and put it to her own pages.

Here's an example the Times cites:

At one point in "Sloppy Firsts," Ms. McCafferty's heroine unexpectedly encounters her love interest. Ms. McCafferty writes:

"Though I used to see him sometimes at Hope's house, Marcus and I had never, ever acknowledged each other's existence before. So I froze, not knowing whether I should (a) laugh, (b) say something, or (c) ignore him and keep on walking. I chose a brilliant combo of (a) and (b).

" 'Uh, yeah. Ha. Ha. Ha.'

"I turned around and saw that Marcus was smiling at me."

Similarly, Ms. Viswanathan's heroine, Opal, bumps into her love interest, and the two of them spy on one of the school's popular girls.

Ms. Viswanathan writes: "Though I had been to school with him for the last three years, Sean Whalen and I had never acknowledged each other's existence before. I froze, unsure of (a) what he was talking about, or (b) what I was supposed to do about it. I stared at him.

" 'Flatirons,' he said. 'At least seven flatirons for that hair.'

" 'Ha, yeah. Uh, ha. Ha.' I looked at the floor and managed a pathetic combination of laughter and monosyllables, then remembered that the object of our mockery was his former best friend.

"I looked up and saw that Sean was grinning."

Is it possible to "internalize" so much if you don't have one of McCafferty's novels open beside you as you type? I'm not sure, but Viswanathan's explanation reads like bullshit.

But beyond the plagiarism lies the origin of Viswanathan's book deal. The Times continues:

In a profile published in The New York Times earlier this month, Ms. Viswanathan said that while she was in high school, her parents hired Katherine Cohen, founder of IvyWise, a private counseling service, to help with the college application process. After reading some of Ms. Viswanathan's writing, Ms. Cohen put her in touch with the William Morris Agency, and Ms. Viswanathan eventually signed with Jennifer Rudolph Walsh, an agent there.

Incredible that line I emphasized. Her writing, seen above, was seen to be particularly good for publication? It's crap. And this isn't a fit of jealousy over Viswanathan's lucrative book deal. I've read better non-published, non-plagiarized writing elsewhere. In the school papers, in weblogs, on napkins discarded at restaurants. And Viswanathan gets a book deal on the strength of weak writing.

But beyond the ersatz writing lies the origin of Viswanathan's novel. The Times continues:

In the Times profile, Ms. Viswanathan said the idea for "Opal" came from her own experiences in high school "surrounded by the stereotype of high-pressure Asian and Indian families trying to get their children into Ivy League schools."

Her own experiences? Enter Tom Wolfe.

Last night, I paid around $40 (yes, too much) to listen to Wolfe speak at the silver and beige Roy Thomson Hall. The Hall features mirrors on most walls and tuxedoed ushers. The Hall's patrons have an estimated mean age of 68.75 years. The looks one gets for being less than a third of that mean age cause a state of spiritual joy. I wanted to get to my seat apparently 10 minutes before the auditorium was to be opened and one Tuxedo nearly came unglued, demanded to see my ticket and told me to return in said 10 minutes. After the auditorium did open, Big Sister pumped through the corridor speakers to notify us paying customers that now, yes, we could sit in our lovely beige seats.

Wolfe came out just after 8 looking like Wolfe. He's the Man in the White Suit.

He began on the subject of Marshall McLuhan's ability to tell three-liners. McLuhan, Wolfe said, told him that Canada's love for Pierre Trudeau came from Trudeau's French name, English thinking and Aboriginal looks.

After Wolfe finished testing the waters of the crowd (approximately 20 minutes), he moved on to the subject of his second novel, A Man in Full, and the bad reviews he received from John Updike, Norman Mailer and John Irving. The three bad reviews indicted Wolfe's novel, Wolfe says, on the basis of its journalistic and commercial approach. But those two principles of Wolfe's style are ones he says we need more from writers (Wolfe's talk really was a mish-mash of ideas he's presented before elsewhere; he told an anecdote about Hunter S. Thompson found here, in a piece written after Thompson's death a year ago).

Wolfe said that while he agrees writers should write what they know, that doesn't mean people shouldn't write only about their personal experience. We all might have one good autobiography, but we don't have two, Wolfe said. And after telling our life story, what's left to talk about if that's all we could ever do? So while Kaavya Viswanathan has secured a book deal, written a novel about her own experiences, and been caught for plagiarism, Wolfe would tell her that a second novel about being a novelist and the hard luck life of being exposed as a cheater shouldn't be the subject of her next novel. There won't be an audience for that. Instead, Wolfe says that writers must go outside and find that weird, bizarre, authentic material and bring that to the page. Because that's what matters.


Sunday, April 23, 2006

The Soldiers

Our Battle?

Back in October, 2004, I was given the assignment to write a profile of a Canadian war photojournalist for The Eyeopener.

I was to meet him at the Rivoli on Queen Street West. I was there on time, but he wasn't. After waiting an hour I stepped out the door, back into the street and walked into Richard Fitoussi, the subject of the profile.

Richard Fitoussi is now Rich Fitoussi, and he's lucky to be alive. His vehicle was behind the one that carried four Canadian soldiers that would die after hitting an explosive.

That's six Canadian soldiers dead now from Our Army's Mission in Afghanistan. I keep on reading stories about Our Army's Mission, and I'm still not sure what it's about. Why did we sign up? What was the benefit to Canadians? These questions, and others about Our Army's Mission are ones that Prime Minister Harper doesn't want to answer.

Here's one more: how many more Canadian soldiers will die before Our Army's Mission is accomplished?


Saturday, April 22, 2006

Earth Day

A Hero Comes Back?

Good timing for a U.S. cable channel to have a marathon of never-before-seen episodes of Captain Planet.

You remember him, right? That theme song that went,

Captain Planet, he's our hero,
Gonna take pollution down to zero,
He's our powers magnified,
And he's fighting on the planet side

Doesn't jog your memory? Does this?

In the article linked above, it says people are petitioning for Captain Planet's return. I wouldn't be opposed to it for the kids. If you've seen Vanity Fair's Green Issue, or looked out the window, or smelled Sewer Ontario, then you know the environment isn't it looking so hot.


Wednesday, April 19, 2006

NHL Playoffs

My First Round Predictions, Sir

If the Leafs had made the playoffs, we all know the City of Toronto would be drafting the parade route. But hell didn't freeze over, so they're not in. But 16 teams are, and here are the match-ups with my predictions. Oh, and if you're team is down below and I've pegged them to lose--believe me, it's personal.

Eastern Conference

(1) Ottawa vs. (8) Tampa Bay
Tampa in seven. Without Hasek, Ottawa doesn't have a chance in these playoffs. And based on their abysmal play against the Leafs last Saturday (proof had there been a Leafs-Sens, Part V, the Leafs would have won), Ottawa will be lucky to hang in seven games with the defending Cup champs. But they will, because of Tampa's equally horrible goaltending situation.

(2) Carolina vs. (7) Montreal
Carolina in five. Montreal has limped into the playoffs, losing four of their last six. The dream run by Huet is over.

(3) New Jersey vs. (6) NY Rangers
New Jersey in six. The Devils are the hottest team going into the playoffs, having won their last 12. If New York is to win, they'll need Jagr to play the best of his career and Lundqvist to play like he did in the Olympics.

(4) Buffalo vs. (5) Philadelphia
Philly in seven. Sorry Sabres fans, did you forget? Buffalo is cursed. This is a city that's had numerous chances to win a championship in football and hockey in the last 16 years (I think the number is five) and they've come up with a big, disgusting Zero. Philly will grind them into the ground.

Western Conference

(1) Detroit vs. (8) Edmonton
Detroit in six. There are some people who think Edmonton will upset Detroit in this series. Those people need to put down their bongs and put away their crack. Dwayne Roloson is Edmonton's goaltender. Do I need to say more?

(2) Dallas vs. (7) Colorado
Dallas in six. The Stars are one of the best teams this season (you can see that with their #2 ranking). The Avs have Jose Theodore. Theodore isn't Roy, and the Avalanche aren't the AVALANCHE without Forsberg.

(3) Calgary vs. (6) Anaheim
Calgary in five. Flames are on a mission. Unfortunately for the Ducks, they're in the way.

(4) Nashville vs. (5) San Jose
San Jose in four. No Vokoun = no chance for Nashville. San Jose is another hot team going into the playoffs.

Stanley Cup winner: it'll be from the Western Conference. Either Detroit, Dallas or Calgary.


Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Seat 915

And Then There Was One

Where did the time go? It's Tuesday, April 18, 2006, 15 to noon, and I've stepped into the last year of school. Of course, marks still need to be distributed, but everything else is finished. Good night, Year Three. You meant well, but you fizzled in the end.

Speaking of marks, after getting back my essay for Love & Sex, it's become apparent that barring a miracle, I will finish with my lowest mark in a course since my days in juvie. And I'm a Leafs fan, so I don't believe in miracles. I don't think I wrote a good essay, but I didn't appreciate Professor Okayright addressing a comment to "Michael." Who is Michael? Huh, 'cause if I stood beside her, she wouldn't know my name. So, no. It's not Michael, Professor Okayright.

Incidentally, today was my last exam ever. I'll miss them...Just wait... I need to take a moment to compose myself. So emotional... uh... Okay. I'm better.

It was Love & Sex in the Metro Toronto Convention Centre at 8 a.m. I was Seat 915. Because of an emergency at the MTCC, everyone had to evacuate the building and the exam was post-poned until 9 a.m. This gave a chance to individuals with presumably small genitalia to yell and scream for everyone to leave. Power: give someone a little, and they'll think they have a lot.

Concert miniPost: Franz Ferdinand

Good, good set by the Scottish band. The type of band who's a lot better live than on disc, which is actually saying a lot in this case.

That's it? I said it was a miniPost.


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Spring Cleaning

Culling the Subscriptions

One of the problems I have is that I often do things by habit well after I'm tired of them. This includes working at no frills for four years, watching CSI: Miami, and going to Philosophy of Love and Sex. Another one was subsrcibing to The Globe and Mail. I say 'was,' because today I performed some spring cleaning and cancelled my subscription. For the last six months, I've been getting the Globe, flipping through it, and barely reading more than three or four articles--stuff that wasn't all that great. My time and money is better spent elsewhere.

My decision to cancel was helped after an interview with a Globe editor. The content analysis assignment I had to do required me to speak to an editor from "Canada's National Newspaper." The interview seemed to be extremely tedious to this editor, and she deleted without reading an email I sent thanking her for spending four minutes barely answering my questions. I came to the realization that a) the Globe doesn't deserve my money and b) if I ever have the opportunity to work for the Globe, I won't even consider it.

Also culled today was Maclean's (don't have the time to read it) and Maisonneuve (a good magazine, but it hasn't published anything that has blown me away).

Freedom from the Globe: feels good.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Philosophy Mondays

All Done Now

It's Week Thirteen now, which means saying good bye to my courses, most of which were dreadful. Class on Mondays, Philosophy Mondays, as I called them, was different.

The first class, Punishment, was interesting with barely any work to speak of. The one problem was the early 8 a.m. slot, which forced me to wake up far too early for a Monday. Another problem was the low level of intelligence common among many of my, gulp, peers. I'm not suggesting I'm a genius (just read this blog, you'll see), but intelligent conversation was centralized among a small set of individuals in that class. Of course, I said nothing, because it wasn't required of me. Somehow, I'll end with a nice participation mark, though.

The second class, Love & Sex, I've written about several times before. I have one final hour of that dreck, and an exam. Not to mention, I need to read something from the course reader; reading page one will be a good start.

And because I know nobody is tired of me writing about Love & Sex, I'll write some more. The professor is the worst I've ever had. I cannot stand her. One thought runs through my mind as she lectures. It's four words. It's not kind.

Besides this professor's inhuman ability to go no more than two sentences without using the words "right" and "okay," she does something else that pisses me off. She patronizes the entire class. To be patronized is one of two things I hate most (someone telling me what I'm thinking is the other). And this professor does it with a tone of voice that makes me feel she thinks she's lecturing a group of deaf, castrated and mentally retarded chimpanzees, all wearing dunce caps. Two examples:

"That's a direct quote. That's why I put it in quotation marks."

"Cyber space is global."

Thank you for reminding me of both of those things. I forgot: I'm a fucking idiot.

The other thing that pisses me off is that this professor has brought up what a "reasonable person" would do. What a reasonable person would do? She can't be serious. This is philosophy--there's no fucking 'reason' involved. If you're talking reason, then you're talking common sense. If you're talking common sense, then you're talking morals. It isn't Morals Mondays, it's Philosophy Mondays. She ought to stick to what's in the calendar, 'cause nobody gives a shit about what she has to say about morality.

One more hour, one more hour...


Part Two

It Was Here

I was supposed to write Part Two about 36 hours ago. Didn't have the time, so I decided I'd write it now. I did. Then this wonderful computer I'm typing on right now, deleted it. So, Part Two is gone for good.

I'll be back later.


Saturday, April 08, 2006

Part One

Review: Heathers (1989)

In an age of dumb, painful-to-watch teen comedies, watching Heathers today should be a refreshing interlude. And the film is, but it’s temporary.

Heathers, released in 1989, has been billed as a great teen black comedy. Teen murder and suicide are the perfect set-up material for punch lines until the movie offers a moral to its story.

And the film’s story is complete with all the necessary clich├ęs for a comedy set in a high school. The movie first focuses on the popular and cruel clique of Veronica Sawyer (Winona Ryder) and three girls named Heather. The group is, of course, called ‘the Heathers.’ After those four girls are introduced, we meet the rest of the two-dimensional cast: the dumb, sex-hungry jocks; the ugly girl; the nerds wearing glasses.

Then we meet the new-in-school, anti-hero played by Christian Slater, Jason Dean—a sort of Columbo come cowboy with a penchant for black clothing and killing popular students only to cover up the murders as suicides. Sawyer becomes Dean’s unknowing thrill kill partner and both go on a spree.

At the double funeral for the killing duo’s second and third victims, Sawyer has a moral reawakening, which causes Heathers to take a step off its ledge and plummet to the concrete below.

But until then, director Michael Lehmann’s film was shooting on target. All the people we hated in high school were getting what they deserved even if it wasn’t in our high school.

From the wide-padded-shoulder jackets to the spandex body suits to the horrible slang (“How very,” and “What is your damage?”), Heathers wears the 1980s proudly if not painfully.

Also painful is Slater’s weak performance as Dean. While the rest of the cast manage to convincingly portray simple archetypes, Slater annoys with his twangy voice and mannerisms. Maybe that was Slater’s character or maybe Slater can’t act—no evidence exists to contradict either.

Despite Slater’s performance, the film’s real failing is when Sawyer decides that killing all the horrible but popular people in her school is wrong. No, really? Sawyer dumps her sociopath boyfriend, Dean, and is determined to stop him from killing again.

This plot twist kills this supposed black comedy. The moral lessons are already built into the irony of the jokes. Sawyer doing the ‘right thing’ and stopping the killing spree isn’t needed.

The last 40 minutes play as if Lehmann felt his audience would take the comedy seriously and therefore, he needed to inject a moral lesson. But the moral lesson dulls the film’s edge.

For a movie about making an ultimate commitment like suicide, Heathers, ultimately, isn’t willing to commit to being a black comedy. It turns into the joke that silences the room.


Above was the last reporting assignment for the year. Heavy lifting, indeed.

More to come later.


Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Profile

Vietnam In Ink
by Michael Czobit

Cameron Stewart crawls on his hands and knees. It’s harder to breathe in the Viet Cong tunnel. There’s no light, just heat. Before Stewart descended into the darkness, he was told to follow the straight path out. On his way, he takes photos. One of himself shows a wide-eyed Stewart dripping with sweat, terrified.

Then he’s out from the hot tunnel into the hot sun. Soon, Stewart is paying $10 US to use an AK-47. He fires the ten-bullet-clip, which the assault rifle spits out in a flash. Stewart finds no thrill in shooting.

Stewart, 30, is a Toronto comic book artist on a research mission. He’s drawing a five-issue mini-series, The Other Side, set in 1968 and set in the Vietnam War.

The tunnel and the gun are part of Stewart’s trip to Vietnam that he took last summer.

Stewart drinks coffee at a Starbucks near his College Street art studio and talks about his new series, which Jason Aaron wrote. The Other Side leaves the mostly fictional worlds Stewart has depicted—his highest-profile gig was a 10-issue run on the Catwoman series—and has the artist drawing fiction in a real setting.

“When I’m drawing Batman and Gotham City, I can make it up, because there’s no real counterpart to it. So, nobody knows if it’s slightly wrong,” Stewart says. “But if I get the details of this wrong, if I get the type of gun that they’re carrying wrong, or the type of tank wrong, people will know.”

But crawling through a tunnel wasn’t about getting the details of a gun right. “I didn’t have to do that,” Stewart says, but “Google Image Search is only going to get me so far.” Stewart felt he needed to go to Vietnam to get connected to the story and the war it is about.

He spent two weeks in Vietnam taking photos, filming video and talking to people. Stewart went on military tours and visited military museums. And he found that connection, he says.

Six more months of drawing The Other Side await Stewart. “God, it sounds so daunting,” he says. But the art he’s completed for the series is the best of his professional career, which began in 2000.

The Other Side focuses on two soldiers on a seemingly parallel path. One is American; the other, Vietnamese. The artwork for the first issue broods on the horror and darkness of the story. The setting looks authentic and calls the reader in.

Stewart’s style has evolved from his previous work, but he isn’t sure how readers will respond. “The one thing I’m worrying about is that I’m getting too anal, ‘cause a lot of the appeal (for) Catwoman and stuff that I was doing (was) that it was very loose and very quick and not a lot of detail,” Stewart says. “And I’ve gone entirely the other direction now.

“I sometimes wonder, ‘Am I doing the wrong thing? Am I wasting time when I should be stripping down again?’”

When he drew Catwoman, Stewart could draw a generic cityscape background. For The Other Side, he’s taken a different philosophy: “I’m trying to think of (the background) as an environment and a real kind of three-dimensional space that the characters are a part of.”

Stewart has been part of the comic book industry since he drew an issue of the Scooby-Doo series. Then his aforementioned stint on Catwoman brought him widespread attention from comic book fans, says Don MacPherson, a comic book reviewer at

But when Stewart left that series, he was then able to show his true talent, MacPherson says. “It's Stewart's collaborations with writer Grant Morrison that enabled (him) to really stand out from the crowd.”

With Morrison, Stewart co-created the series Seaguy and worked on the series, Seven Soldiers: The Manhattan Guardian. “Stewart's style is a modern, dynamic and detailed one,” MacPherson says.

Fans and other reviewers have credited Stewart with the ability to make the strange and absurd look real. “I like striking that balance between convincing anatomy, convincing environment (and convincing) details,” Stewart says, “but then also just taking it a little bit into exaggerated, cartoonish kind of stuff.”

Cartooning is a skill that isn’t appreciated, Stewart adds. “People think that because something is cartooned, it’s therefore silly—for children.” But Stewart finds that cartooning makes his art more expressive.

His role as an artist isn’t to simply draw what’s in the script. “The script isn’t engraved in stone. It’s a blueprint. As long as I maintain the purpose of the scene, and I don’t change any of the dialogue or anything, as long as I’m keeping that intact, then I have freedom to play with it,” Stewart says. “It’s my job to push it over the top.”

Hitting the top doesn’t come easy to Stewart, says Chip Zdarsky, who shares Stewart’s studio. "I think like most artists he hits blocks where the page seems insurmountable. But then something clicks and he's on. Like, really on."

When Stewart is on it leads to "bursts of comic-making that only stop because he needs to sleep or eat," Zdarsky says. "He's immensely talented, but like all artists, never truly feels so, which makes him work harder and get even better."

A typical work day doesn’t exist for Stewart, he says. “I try and start early and get to work right away, but that’s always a total failure. That’s the one thing that’s typical in the cycle.” Stewart then draws into the night and tends to be nocturnal, he says.

During the last weekend of April, Stewart will be a guest at the Toronto Comicon held at the National Trade Centre on the CNE Grounds. He’ll be there to sketch and talk to fans.

Stewart’s most requested sketch has been of Catwoman, he says. And despite being known for drawing the character, Stewart doesn’t have a strong bond. “(Catwoman) is just a character that existed for 60 years before me and will likely go on for forever.

“I’ve drawn 400,000 drawings of Catwoman in my life,” Stewart adds wryly. “I would be happy to never have to do it again. But people want it, so I can’t really say no. I’m too soft.”

The Ryersonian link. I wasn't happy with their website presentation, so as you can see, I've posted it here sans the missing punctuation.


Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Mental Disorder

Are You Nuts?

I cut through BCE Place today. CTV was taping a news segment for an announcment of the new website Check Up from the Neck

I received a small flyer complete with a pin of the website's new logo, which is a nut. The ad says,

It's simple on-line test, and it can be the best thing you do all day. Just a few questions can help tell you whether your moody moments are okay, or if a doctor should know about them.

If you waste your time and do take the test, you'll realize how having basic knowledge of psychological disorders makes the test a joke. The test is practically useless except for the humour factor.

And for the record, my results were:

Mania or bipolar disorder

Your answers indicate a low probability that you've experienced mania/bipolar disorder at some point in your past. You may want to follow the links on this site to learn more about mania/bipolar disorder.

Major or clinical depression

You selected none of the initial indicators for depression while taking this check-up.

Panic disorder

You selected none of the initial indicators for panic disorder while taking this check-up.

Generalized anxiety disorder

You selected none of the initial indicators for generalized anxiety disorder while taking this check-up.



Paula Abdul

Further Proof That The Blog Is Degenerating

While America still can't get enough of American Idol, I haven't been watching. The last time I saw an episode was probably back in February when they started auditioning. I saw about a half-hour of one episode. Whether I watch again depends on a number of factors including whether I have the time and whether I have a satisfying supply of Pepto-Bismol.

Apparently Fox has re-signed Paula Abdul to a three-year contract. Vinay Menon dissects the decision:

So Paula, a 43-year-old woman cursed with the insights of a fourth grader, now has at least three more years to complete her mission of bewildering each and every earthling in the western hemisphere.

Take this quizzical gem from a few weeks ago. While attempting to explain an elimination, Paula said: "Simon gave me advice and said on The X Factor he always refers to a fortune cookie and says the moth who finds the melon finds the cornflake always finds the melon, and one of you didn't pick the right fortune."


"Paula's warm and nurturing nature is vital to the balance of the show," said Fox exec Mike Darnell.

Right. You know, in the same way poutine is vital to a balanced diet. The truth is, producers could now replace Paula with a grinning, big-haired mannequin and nobody would be the wiser.


Poor Paula. There she is, week after week, cutting off the other judges ("No, it was not terrible!"), sputtering drivel ("I'm your biggest fan!") or spewing hyperbole ("There's a new religion and 40 million people have now joined the church of Mandisa!").

When she isn't yammering, she might be found in a solitary standing ovation, clapping with rigid, spread-apart fingers and a smile so wide it looks like two invisible hooks are yanking on either side of her mouth.


I'll be watching Heathers (1989) for my final reporting assignment, which happens to be a movie review. (These assignments get harder by the week.) I'm excited about seeing the film. My friend, who just returned from a 10-month self-imposed exile to Australia, demanded I watch the movie well over a year ago. So, it's time.


Sunday, April 02, 2006

Reading Files

The New York Folder

Here we go...

"Up With Grups*"

A New York piece on a new breed of parent:

He owns eleven pairs of sneakers, hasn’t worn anything but jeans in a year, and won’t shut up about the latest Death Cab for Cutie CD. But he is no kid. He is among the ascendant breed of grown-up who has redefined adulthood as we once knew it and killed off the generation gap... More.

"The Ground Zero Grassy Knoll"

Another New York piece on a always a fun topic: conspiracy theories. This time, it's 9/11:

Now here we are again, contemplating the seemingly unthinkable events of September 11. An official explanation has been offered up: The nation was attacked by the forces of radical Islam led by Osama bin Laden and his Al Qaeda jihadists. Again, this narrative has been accepted by many.

But not all... More.

"Matt Kennedy, 101, Dies; Stalwart of Coney Island"

I've never been to Coney Island, but I'll be damned if I hadn't heard it mentioned more times than I can count in stories set in New York:

But as Coney Island deteriorated in the 1970's, as businesses deserted and crime raged, Mr. Kennedy's tales of seeing Theodore Roosevelt during a 1912 visit lost relevance. From his dreary office with window bars and paint-chipped walls at 15th Street and Surf Avenue, he led the struggle, often alone, to rescue Coney Island — or at least to remind people that the fabled playground still existed... More.

"After Luck With Poker, ESPN Bets on New York Dominoes"

Television gets more boring:

The games almost always draw spectators, so perhaps it is no surprise that the ESPN sports network has declared dominoes the next big spectator sport and is promoting it as both a colorful cultural touchstone and a highly competitive game, complete with rankings, formal tournaments, celebrity events and sponsors... More.

"Aaron's Ultimate Challenger May Be a Natural After All"

Now Bonds will have to increase his drug use:

But considering the curious way Bonds has improved his home-run hitting late in his career, baseball may be better off if he merely rents the record. Years from now, the owner may be the Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, who has never been linked to performance-enhancing drugs and has a renowned work ethic... More.

"A Fruit's Stand"

I remember Fiona Possell. She's the helpful Pom Wonderful media person who promised me an interview only to avoid answering my emails for two weeks. I'm not the Times, I guess. But here's the story from the New York Times Magazine, which I essentially wrote last year. And for the record, that's right--I beat the NY Times Magazine by one year(!):

The company insisted on making pure pomegranate juice, even if that meant it had to be refrigerated in grocery stores (otherwise it turns brown) and on associating the drink with fruit, not with other beverages. The Pom-backed research took all this to a level that no doubt fueled many stories about pomegranates in the last few years, and that's sort of the point: the company didn't aim to glom onto a pomegranate trend but to create one... More.

I'm Guessing They Won't Be Selling Any 'Fruit Explosion' Muffins For A While

"One person is dead after an explosion inside a Tim Hortons in the downtown core Sunday afternoon... ." The rest is here.

The rumour I over heard in an office was that the dead man strapped himself with explosives.

Then the jokes began:

"There was a second explosion. It was a double-double." (Weak, I know)

"They're not sure if he's a Canadian, an American or a Dutchie."

"He rolled up the rim, and it said, 'Boom!'"

"He couldn't have met a Crueller fate."