Monday, December 31, 2007

Carving Carver

The Role of the Editor

The story of how editor Gordon Lish shaped Raymond Carver's short stories into award-winning fiction is recounted in an August 1998 Times Magazine story written by D.T. Max. Nine years later, the Times ran another story, this time by Mokoto Rich, about Carver's widow, Tess Gallagher, "spearheading an effort to publish a volume of 17 original Carver stories whose highly edited versions were published in “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.”

Readers finally had a look at one of those stories, "Beginners" aka "What We Talk About When We Talk About Love," in the New Yorker's Winter Fiction issue, out a couple of weeks ago.

On the magazine's website the New Yorker published "Beginners" as well as an illuminating companion, the version of "Beginners" that Lish edited.

After reading both versions, noting the differences, Lish's edit is the stronger story. "What We Talk About" is a concise, quick read compared to "Beginners," which appears bloated, messy and, surprise, unedited.

The point of each story is slightly different, perhaps because the tone of Lish's edited version is darker. "Beginners" at times feels more hopeful, but it is that hope that also makes it seem generic and unoriginal. Lish did his job as an editor and made Carver's work better; Carver's widow may feel the versions readers are familiar with are not the versions her husband liked, but in the example published in the New Yorker, Lish's edit is the version that should stand.

Also worth a look from that issue of the New Yorker:

And from the issue before the Winter Fiction issue, a story about another relationship between an editor and an author.


Saturday, December 29, 2007

Health 2007

The Times Summarizes in a Handy Chart

The Times op-ed section today a great chart summarizing all the health news, showing how much of what we learned this year is contradictory:


Bhutto Coverage

The Star vs. The Times

The front page of the Saturday Star was all Bhuto: three cover stories and a photo. Inside, in the other sections, Bhutto stories and related columns took up another seven pages approximately.

In the New York Times, Bhutto coverage was somehow condensed to one story. Just one.

So, either the Times knows how to summarize and the Star doesn't or the Star is so desperate to fill columns, it doesn't mind producing a paper that could easily be called the Pakistan Star.


Writers Strike

Letterman Gets His Crew Back

With the late night comedians going back to work without their writers, I wonder how the shows will not be painful to watch. But one late night show, David Letterman's, will be back at full strength after the show's producer, Worldwide Pants, agreed to a separate deal with the writers union.

This isn't going to get me to watch Letterman though, because I've never watched his show other than the occasional episode. I will, however, turn on "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" when they both return Jan. 7. I've adjusted my hopes to not expect their typical high quality.


Goalie Trouble

For the Leafs and the Sens

Oh, it seemed not long ago that Leafs fans were saying (or I was saying) that Vesa Toskala, the goaltender the team traded for in the off-season, was a bust. He played poorly to start the season, but rebounded recently, found his form (somewhat; at times he's been suspect), and became the Leafs's No. 1 goalie.

Then he got injured a couple of games ago, and Leafs fans should be worried about the alternative: Andrew Raycroft. Raycroft says he feels more confident going into tonight's game, but that doesn't mean he gives his team confidence. Raycroft was a serial soft-goal offender, finding ways to bury his team by letting shots in that could cause a fan to convulse from disgust.

Leafs fans long for Toskala's return. He's not the saviour as advertised in the summer, but he's better than the guy wearing No. 1.


Also, it appears prima donna goaltender Ray Emery is upset with his team, the Ottawa Senators.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Sports Reporters

No Longer Fantasy: The High-Paid Journalist

From the Monday Times:

The competition for writers has even produced bidding wars, especially for big-name columnists like Rick Reilly (from Sports Illustrated to ESPN), Howard Bryant (from The Post to ESPN) and Selena Roberts (from The New York Times to Sports Illustrated) — but also for less widely known reporters. People who were briefed on the deals said that Mr. Reilly’s contract, easily the biggest of the recent signings, was worth more than $3 million a year.

“It’s the exact same model as what happened to athletes,” said Leigh Steinberg, a top sports agent. “We’re seeing free agency for sports journalists.”

He and Scott Boras, the agent for Alex Rodriguez and other stars, said that change had no doubt already produced an unnoticed milestone: In a sports locker room somewhere, in an interview between a prominent reporter and a low-level player, the scribe is the better-paid person in the conversation.

Yes, the athlete the lesser paid person! The athlete. Of course, this is the U.S., not Canada we speak of, and somehow I doubt the state of Canadian journalism as it stands now would allow for such a bizarre scenario.


A Tumbleblog

The Buzzwords of the Year

Also from the Sunday Times, a look at words that were prominent this year. One word that is relevant to this fine blog:

tumblelog n.

A Web site or blog that is a collection of brief links to, quotes from, or comments about things a person has encountered while Web browsing. It is a sort of digital commonplace book.

Sometimes, I guess, I could describe my blog in these terms. But here, we also have rants. And madness. We're only part tumbleblog.


Digital Storage

The Perils of DVDs

From the Sunday Times:

... DVDs tend to degrade: according to the report, only half of a collection of disks can be expected to last for 15 years, not a reassuring prospect to those who think about centuries.
O.K., why didn't someone tell me this before I bought all those DVDs? (Maybe someone did; you can't remember.)

This is awful news. Oh, that one sentence is part of the larger story on how its much more expensive for movie studios to archive digital movies in comparison to conventional (i.e. old fashioned) film. An interesting read.


Dumb Robots

Less Than Meets the Eye

Last night I finally watched (a part) of the "Transformers" movie released in this past summer. I had received positive reviews from everyone who had seen the movie in theatres, but I also knew that critics savaged the film. So which camp do I fall into after watching (a part) of "Transformers"?

I gave that away too easily.

The problem with the movie is that watching it is no different than taking a hammer to your skull and pounding your temple into mush. The movie is cheesy, illogical, ridiculous and annoying -- simultaneously.

The last movie I saw directed by Michael Bay, was 2003's "Bad Boys II"; which was O.K., but obviously not a four-star masterpiece. In between that film and "Transfomers," Bay directed one feature-length film, "The Island" (also savaged by critics). That tells me that Bay hasn't learned much.

In fact, he's regressed. Bay's attempt to be satirical and realistic in "Transformers" produces a schizophrenic quality - the director not knowing what he wants his film to be. Bay should have cut the high school humour, cut the film by 20 minutes (I gave up at the end and left), and should have had someone actually research the U.S. Department of Defense rather than depict scenes that were less believable than something from a "Saturday Night Live" sketch.

Day turned to night several times in the film, defying simple principles of time. So-called strong women characters were ultimately belittled. And Michael Bay created a movie whose fans must apologize: "Oh, it's just a summer blockbuster."

That doesn't mean it's O.K. to have a B-level script, an A-level budget, and a C-level final cut.


Boxing Day

The Yearly Tradition of Crap on Sale

Boxing Day Week starts officially today. O.K., that's not entirely true because I received numerous emails from Best Buy on Monday night telling me that its Boxing Week sale had started on the store's website .

I used to enjoy Boxing Day. My favourite store to visit was, of all places, Canadian Tire. But then they stopped selling toys I was interested in, and I began to move away from this post-Christmas Spend More Holiday. The sales these days do not compel me to get out of bed early in the morning. to stand in long lines, to interact with people who just may be insane.

I won't pretend I didn't check out my familiar online stores to see what they had on sale for Boxing Week, but I woke up early this morning only to get on with things unrelated to shopping.


Monday, December 24, 2007

Dickens's Christmas

A Small Tradition

I'll use this post as my annual Christmas address.

I'm not going to bother reflecting on this year in some sappy tone.

I'm not going to bother making ridiculous lies called "resolutions."

I'm not going to bother pretending you'd want to read them anyway.

Good, bad, up, down: we all had those moments this year, and mine are no more significant than yours, and you aren't telling them to me.

I'll just talk about one thing. For the past two years, I've read a story from Charles Dickens's "Christmas Books." Last year, I read "The Chimes" and the year before that, the great, "A Christmas Carol." Call it a tradition, or call me a sap, but it's something I like to do. This year, it's "The Cricket on the Hearth." I'm about to crack open the book, and disappear into Dickens's world. From there, I'll take it easy. On Wednesday, I'll be back with a ton of items to blog about, including my much delayed best-of lists.

Until then, have a good time, enjoy the holiday and ...


Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Coraline" Sneak

Some Footage from a Good Children's Book

The link to "Coraline."

Watch it!


Last-Minute Gifts

What'cha Gonna Do When You're Desperate

It's a hectic time this weekend for shoppers who have waited to the last minute to buy gifts for their loved ones in order to properly celebrate this very Christian holiday. Some readers of this blog have written to me, desperate for suggestions. Here's one such email I received yesterday:

Dear Mr. Czobit,

I have no clue what to get my father for Christmas. He cares more that a gift comes from the hart than the wallet, and so, if you have any suggestions for thoughtful gifts, please, please, please send them to me!


(Name Withheld)

First, (Name Withheld), you spelled "hart" incorrectly. Second, watch your run-on sentences; if you want me to answer your emails regularly, at least read once over before you click 'Send.'

Thankfully, I have a short-list of last-minute gifts that really exemplify the Christmas season. All the items are books, and should be easy to find at your local bookstore. (Why books? Because we all need to read more -- that is the only New Year resolution I will make.)

Here goes, my desperate readers:

"The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins.

As I understand it, this book while controversial is compelling. Here's an appraisal from an unnamed critic on Chapters website: "If I had to identify Dawkins''s cardinal virtues, I would say that he is brilliant, articulate, impassioned, and impolite..."The God Delusion" is a fine and significant book...Dawkins''s irreverent and penetrating work will seem a breath of fresh air."

O.K., not your brother's bag? Here's another option. Nominated for a National (U.S.) Book Award this year, Christopher Hitchens smart look at religion, "God is Not Great."

I have read this last-minute choice, and it's compelling, entertaining and easily the best book on this list to read by the fire. And hell, if you hate it, just throw it in that fire.

Finally, another Hitchens effort also out this year. This time, he merely edited it, "The Portable Atheist." This one is more of a stocking stuffer, but should be much appreciated.

I hope this list makes your last-minute shopping much easier. If not, well, remember: Christmas isn't about presents, it's about... O.K., it's only but presents. But it used to be about something else.


Goodbye, Borat!

The End of an Era for Borat and Ali G

O.K., maybe that's going to far, considering that Borat's era ended after his movie was released, but it's now official:

"When I was being Ali G and Borat I was in character sometimes 14 hours a day and I came to love them, so admitting I am never going to play them again is quite a sad thing," he said. "It is like saying goodbye to a loved one. It is hard, and the problem with success, although it's fantastic, is that every new person who sees the Borat movie is one less person I 'get' with Borat again, so it's a kind of self-defeating form, really.

"It's upsetting, but the success has been great and better than anything I could have dreamed of."

I'll miss him, too:


Steroids Fail

They Don't Just Shrink Your Nuts

An op-ed in the Times today reports statistics that may disappoint juicing ball players:

But in a complex team sport like baseball, do the drugs make a difference sufficient to be detected in the players’ performance records? An examination of the data on the players featured in the Mitchell report suggests that in most cases the drugs had either little or a negative effect.

Specifically about Clemens, the op-ed authors, Jonathan R. Cole and Stephen M. Stigler, write:

Roger Clemens is a case in point: a great pitcher before 1998, a great (if increasingly fragile) pitcher after he is supposed to have received treatment. But when we compared Clemens’s E.R.A. through 1997 with his E.R.A. from 1998 on, it was worse by 0.32 in the later period.

Oh that sucks; sticking a needle in your buttocks and getting no return.


Whale Hunt

Japan Postpones

From, you guessed it, the Times:

Japan, under pressure from the United States and Australia, is delaying plans to kill 50 humpback whales as part of its already contentious annual whale harvest in waters near Antarctica.

Why is Japan's "research" so contentious? Well...

Japan and most maritime countries are bound by a 1986 international moratorium on commercial whaling, but there are exceptions for whales killed for scientific research. For years, Japan has hunted growing numbers of a widening range of species, studying stomach contents and other aspects of the animals taken.

But many countries, environmental groups and biologists oppose the activity, saying the meat ends up sold in Japanese markets. Most of the research, according to many marine biologists, can be done through nonlethal means.

"We're performing research. It's just that the last part is a taste test."


Chris Simon

When It's Time to Retire

Last season, Chris Simon did this:

He was suspended for 25 games.

This season Chris Simon did this:

This time, he received a 30 game suspension. His team, the New York Islanders, have said Simon's attacks have been a cry for help. But if they want to help him, they should release him. He adds nothing to the game, and at 35, he doesn't even have youth on his side. He's an embarrassment to the league, and 30 games should have really been a lifetime ban.

One Other Hockey-Related Item:

Spy Novel

“My goal was to write the most realistic spy novel that had ever been written”

The New York Times has a story about an upcoming spy novel from a former CIA officer, Joseph Weisberg:

To heighten authenticity, he redacted parts of the book, inserting black bars that concealed the names of countries, the particulars of tradecraft and other details that might be classified information, if the story were true. Even the names of two people in the acknowledgments, whom the author thanks for having “trusted me with their story,” are blacked out.
And from the first chapter:

Several months before I was scheduled to leave for ❚❚❚❚ , I was assigned to the ❚❚❚❚❚ office in ❚❚ Division. Depending on scheduling and other bureaucratic considerations, new case officers ❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚ . In my case, I was shipping out in August, so I would be in ❚❚ for most of the summer. It was a busy time in ❚❚❚❚❚ , but the officers running country desks liked to handle their own work. They'd give me an occasional name trace to run, or have me coordinate a cable with another division. But I wasn't busy. I'd read the morning traffic cables from the stations in ❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚ , and what ever ❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚ traffi c was coming in. I'd stop by my friends' offi ces throughout the building or meet them for coffee in the cafeteria. And one or two days a week, I'd take care of various tasks I had to accomplish before going abroad, like ❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚❚ and getting my final medical clearance.

It's a clever gimmick (not, however, the first time a book has been printed with redactions; see Valeria Plume's book published this year), but without reading the entire novel, I'm not sure it will work. This is the type of thing that might be sustained only in a short story.

One Other Book-Related Item:

  • Published in a couple of weeks ago in the New Yorker, Jonathan Lethem's humurous short story, "The King of Sentences" -- worth a read.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Oh God

Um, Frightening - The Westboro Baptist Church (The “God Hates Fags” Crew)

(From Warren Ellis.)

And then people wonder why Christopher Hitchens calls for the end of religion.


Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Movie News

Prequel and Another Prequel

A settlement between Peter Jackson and New Line Cinema was announced yesterday. The settlement will allow the filming of "The Hobbit" and an newly written prequel to the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy.

Though Sam Raimi has stated his interest, it is unclear who will direct the two Hobbit movies, but Mr. Jackson will not. Mr. Jackson and his producing and writing partners, Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, are committed to making “The Lovely Bones” through 2008 and then he is directing “Tintin,” based on the Belgian comic strip, for Steven Spielberg.

But Mr. Jackson and his wife, Ms. Walsh, will be executive producers of the Hobbit films, and they will share with New Line the right to approve all creative elements: director, screenwriter, script, cast, filming location, even the visual-effects company used (as if there were any doubt that his Weta Digital would be chosen). “They can assure that the films will be made with the same level of quality as if they were writing and directing,” Mr. Jackson’s manager, Ken Kamins, said.

It's disappointing that Jackson won't be directing, and I'm not convinced Sam Raimi should be the man in the director's chair. Although, if Raimi were to direct, at least it would keep him away from the Spider-Man franchise, which he squandered with this year's pathetic second sequel.


Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Lists Delay

No One Was Really Waiting, But...

I had a schedule for my super important lists of the year. Unfortunately something came up, and so, the lists have been delayed for a day (maybe two).

They'll get here.


Monday, December 17, 2007

The Trailer...

... I've Been Waiting For



Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dollar Effect?

Strong Dollar = Strong Cross-the-Border Sales? Well, Not So Much

StatsCan released a report today that suggests that the strong Loonie hasn't increased cross-the-border shopping:

Whether measured by the number of same-day auto trips across the US border or the average amount spent on these trips or online shopping, the recent increases in cross-border shopping have been minimal relative to retail sales, according to a study released today in the Canadian Economic Observer.

Cross-border shopping volumes in 2007 pale by comparison with the phenomenon observed two decades ago.

A relatively small rise in the exchange rate in the late 1980s and early 1990s provoked a huge increase in same-day auto trips to the United States. By comparison, since 2002 the largest appreciation of the exchange rate ever has been accompanied by a relatively small rise in same-day auto trips.

The close relationship between the exchange rate and same-day auto trips from 1986 to 2001 weakened substantially as border security tightened following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks and has not been re-established since.

I will say this: the idea of going to the U.S. to buy things that are quite often minimally higher in a Canadian store defies logic. The cost of gas and the aggravation of crossing the border is enough for me to pay a dollar more here.


Steroid Era

The Mitchell Report Comes Out

With the release of the Mitchell Report this afternoon (it can be read in it's glorious 409-page entirety here) comes the obvious question: who was juicing?

For a die-hard baseball fan, finding out which of your heroes cheated (and probably is still cheating by using growth hormone, as the report now suggests is the enhancing drug of choice) could be nauseating or enjoyable.

Of course, some of the names we already knew or suspected (Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, Giambi, Canseco). The newly confirmed cheaters include Roger Clemes, Andy Pettitte, Chuck Knoblauch, Eric Gagne, and Troy Glaus.

Losers (actually some won championships): all.

UPDATE: Here's a fill list of the names, new and old:


Chad Allen
Mike Bell
Gary Bennett
Larry Bigbie
Kevin Brown
Alex Cabrera
Mark Carreon
Jason Christiansen
Howie Clark
Roger Clemens
Jack Cust
Brendan Donnelly
Chris Donnels
Matt Franco
Eric Gagne
Matt Herges
Phil Hiatt
Glenallen Hill
Todd Hundley
Mike Judd
David Justice
Chuck Knoblauch
Tim Laker
Mike Lansing
Paul Lo Duca
Nook Logan
Josias Manzanillo
Cody McKay
Kent Mercker
Bart Miadich
Hal Morris
Daniel Naulty
Denny Neagle
Jim Parque
Andy Pettitte
Adam Piatt
Todd Pratt
Stephen Randolph
Adam Riggs
Armando Rios
Brian Roberts
F.P. Santangelo
Mike Stanton
Ricky Stone
Miguel Tejada
Ismael Valdez
Mo Vaughn
Ron Villone
Fernando Vina
Rondell White
Jeff Williams
Todd Williams
Steve Woodard
Kevin Young
Gregg Zaun


Manny Alexander
Rick Ankiel
David Bell
Marvin Benard
Barry Bonds
Ricky Bones
Paul Byrd
Jose Canseco
Paxton Crawford
Lenny Dykstra
Bobby Estalella
Ryan Franklin
Jason Giambi
Jeremy Giambi
Jay Gibbons
Troy Glaus
Juan Gonzalez
Jason Grimsley
Jose Guillen
Jerry Hairston Jr.
Darren Holmes
Ryan Jorgensen
Gary Matthews Jr.
Rafael Palmeiro
John Rocker
Benito Santiago
Scott Schoeneweis
David Segui
Gary Sheffield
Randy Velarde
Matt Williams


The Lists

Because I'm Terribly Lazy, A Schedule to Stick By

It's that time of year when every newspaper/magazine/website/bastard reveals its year-end best of lists, and here at I'm The Villain ?/./! we're no different (note the use of the plural pronoun despite the blog being written by one person).

Here's is my schedule:

Monday, Dec. 17 - Music
Tuesday, Dec. 18 - Film
Wednesday, Dec. 19 - Printed Materials

I'm sure you will check back then to figure out what you should have liked from this year.


Wednesday, December 12, 2007

iTunes TV

Was I Sleeping When This Happened?

I was wasting time on iTunes, just browsing, when I came upon a link for CBC's "Little Mosque on the Prairie." I clicked it expecting to be shuffled off to some bizarre "Little Mosque" podcast, but instead I arrived at a page where I could buy episodes of the show. A first, you see, because I didn't think Canadians could buy TV episodes on iTunes.

I did a bit more exploring (use of this word in this context is an insult to actual explorers, but they're not reading so...) and found that on Canada's iTunes, the following TV can be bought for $1.99:

  • "The Sarah Silverman Program"
  • "Drawn Together"
  • "Stanley Cup Classics"
  • "No Opportunity Wasted"
  • "South Park"
  • "Instant Star"
  • "The Rick Mercer Report"
  • "The Hills"
  • "Corner Gas"
  • "Dragon's Den"
  • "Robson Arms"
  • "Degrassi: The Next Generation"
I have no interest in the initial offering of programs as I don't watch any of them (I watched the first season of Silverman's show but wasn't impressed). But it's good to see that we're finally getting the option in Canada to watch TV through iTunes. Offer some stronger American programs, and I just might click 'Buy Episode.'


Monday, December 10, 2007

Quitting = Healthy

A Scientifically Proven Excuse

It turns out all my self-destructive behaviour -- times when I've tried only so I could quit trying -- has all been for the better:

... new research suggests that success — or more specifically, the persistence required to achieve hard-to-reach goals — may not be worth it.

In a paper published in the September issue of the journal Psychological Science, Gregory Miller of the University of British Columbia and Carsten Wrosch of Concordia University found that teenage girls who are unable to disengage themselves from trying to attain hard-to-reach goals exhibited increased levels of the inflammatory molecule C-reactive protein (C.R.P.), which in adults is linked with diabetes, heart disease and early aging. “There’s this traditional idea in Western culture and science literature that being persistent is good, that if you work hard, you can achieve anything,” says Miller, who has published several papers with Wrosch on the psychology of quitting. “Our take is that persistence is good, but there are times where the most adaptive thing is to say, ‘This goal is not going to work out.’ ”

At the outset of their experiment, Miller and Wrosch asked each teenage subject what would count for her as adversity and what would count as success. Then the researchers tracked how the young women dealt with their own setbacks and adversity over the course of a year. What mattered, it turned out, was not whether the subjects achieved success but what they had to endure to get there. “We found that the girls who were best able to disengage when a goal became difficult or unattainable are those who have constant levels of C.R.P.,” Miller says. Teenagers who persisted — even if they eventually attained their goals — had significantly elevated levels. “Success in some cases is going to be costly,” he adds...

I was always just looking to stay healthy.


Monday News

A Round-Up of News and Miscellany

First from minutes ago: Conrad Black sentenced to 6 1/2 years in jail.

Second from yesterday: Robert Pickton guilty.

I'm surprised about the length of Black's sentence. For some reason I didn't expect him to get much more than a couple of years, but confession: I didn't pay much attention to the post-conviction hypothesizing.

Pickton's conviction wasn't a surprise. The TV coverage after the conviction was read yesterday was at best unbearable to watch. Both the CBC and CTV had parades of people commenting on the verdict, with each successive person having an increasingly tenuous connection to the victims of Pickton's crime.

Other links:
  • Investigative journalism is dying.
  • People are flying, or at least are delusional enough to try.
  • George Saunders wrote about Daniil Kharms. Who? George Saunders wrote about ...
  • Jose Mourinho says no to England.
  • And watch a dumb video below:


Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Um, Batman

An Otherwise Pointless Post


Tuesday, December 04, 2007

England, Football

A Frenchman Attacks English Football

An amusing article where Chelsea winger Florent Malouda assesses English football and the country:

'During the actual games [in England] it is as though everybody's brains are switched off,' said Malouda. 'People play by instinct, spontaneously, in the way they did when they first discovered football. Training sessions here are terrifying. They are just like matches, and you go flat out.'

'The people at Chelsea don't control what the players eat,' he added. 'You can help yourself to whatever you like, drink Coke or anything. It is a good job I have come over here at the age of 27 and so haven't been following the same diet as the rest of the club's players.'
I wonder if he'll stick around...


Schizophrenic Journalism

Following Up Iran with the Leafs

Last week after the Toronto Maple Leafs lost in a shoot-out against the Montreal Canadians, the accepted version of reality for the Leafs was it was still a team stuck in misery.

Two wins later, and the Leafs, who are still below .500, are "on a roll."

Some might say this is Toronto, this is the Maple Leafs: it's O.K. to write one thing and then less than seven days later write the exact opposite. After all, the Leafs are playing better and it's not wrong for journalism to reflect the present.

But tolerating this schizophrenic journalism that does nothing but undermine all journalism is a mistake. I have the belief that when journalists provide opinions, which happens more often in sports writing, they should be conservative.


The Bomb

What Does it Mean?

The bomb dropped on Iran's nuclear aspirations came yesterday with the release of the 2007 U.S. intelligence assessment. Turns out in 2005 when that year's assessment stated that Iran was actively pursuing a nuclear weapon, the 'rogue' country had in fact shelved their atomic weapons program two years earlier.

This revelation creates a problem for Bush's plans to add Iran to the list of countries he starts wars he fails to finish during his two terms as president.

One question: should anyone trust the latest intelligence assessments? As it's pointed out in the first article I linked to, this is the same assessment that helped make the case in Bush's mind the strike Iraq. And anyways, new assessment or not, the hawks still live.


Monday, December 03, 2007

Monday Miscellany

So Much To T. About in the Times

First, I noticed in both the NYTBR's notables lists (Top 100 and Children's) that comics are listed. I doubt this is the first time its happened (because if it was, maybe people would make a bigger deal of it) but it's nice to see that at least at the Times, comics aren't being categorized apart from traditional literature.

Also today the Times had a story that was covered a bit in a Quillblog post in May about comic publishers releasing often gorgeous (do I use that word?) comic collections.

Another thing to read, this time from the NYT magazine, William Safire's gift suggestions for "Bibliogifts."

In yesterday's Times (do I only read the Times?), Frank Rich made the argument for Barrack Obama to be the Democrats choice for president, and his reasoning is persuasive. I like Clinton, and would like to see a woman president, but I wonder whether she's the right choice to win the presidency. And sure, I'm in Canada, but only a fool would think we all don't have a reason to care about next year's U.S. presidential election.


That's all.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Near Unemployed

So Much, So Much

It would seem after the team's latest loss (another Hope-Followed-by-Inevitable-Disappointment-Effort), the coach and general manager of the lowly Toronto Maple Leafs should both be fired now. And if not now, then now+the smallest of mores. How can you be so inept at a job and continue to keep it? (Am I really asking this? The answer to any Leafs fan is obvious.)

Speaking of near unemployed, I work but 17 days in December, which easily could be less if my boss wasn't generous, but I feel I need to work more. And so, I may have to consider picking up a second job. The plan originally was to sustain myself on regular part-time work at The C_______ P____, and supplement my income through brilliant freelance work, but I have neither a) the will or b) the knowhow to do the freelance thing. Of course, I've tried. Failed. I'll try again tomorrow to land something.

I had this great (always a hyperbolic adjective when used before the word) idea to write a rollicking pornographically violent literary novel. The whole point is to provoke disgust, and at the same time, justify the violence within the book by the style used. Distasteful, but he didn't use quotation marks; therefore: brilliance.

I'm working on it. Maybe I'll give up on it or maybe I'll fall in, sucked into the novel's disgusting being, disappear and become some pulp fiction writer in age when there's no money in the profession. (Was there ever? Could there still be? Someone tell me! I'm near unemployed and I need something to do.)


Monday, November 19, 2007

The Kindle

The New It Gadget

Amazon released its new gadget for electronic books. The video sell is good and the device seems promising.

I'm guessing at some point, the Kindle will be released in Canada, but I doubt I would rush to get one. For one thing, I have many books (the real, i.e. paper kind) lying around to be read. And I'm not sure I would want to migrate my reading material to a screen. I dislike reading books from websites like Project Gutenberg. I need the paper in my hands.

Maybe I'm not young enough for this thing.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

Great Saves

First In a Series (Yeah, Right...)


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Return; Miscellany

Oh, Somethingorother

I have one of those Brita water filters. I pour water in, don't wait for it to actually filter, and when I pour water into my cup, it spills everywhere. Clear? No? That's not the point, which, by the way is this: if I were writing a novel or even a short fictional story, I might use this repeated action to illustrate a character's impatience. Instead, I'm using it to illustrate mine.

At 22, and oh so ready to Get On With It, that I have no patience for the Entry-Level or the Beginning. Get me to the Middle, and I will get to the Glorious End. I fail to think that any of my fellow graduates from this past June are in a position less favourable than mine. I'm always thinking they are closer to 'making it' then I am; or, at least, they are content in working through the Beginning. I want more, and now.

So, I took a little more than a week off from the blog to celebrate my birthdate. A day passed and I automatically became wiser, and by some measure, a greater failure. I mean, damn, 22 and still not found My Thing To Do?

What I should do is stop talking (or writing) about this unfavourable milieu that I surround my thoughts in, and start acting: I've written this precisely 1,000 times. Or more. Not so precise, but what in life is?

Finishing Roth

I've finished Philip Roth's Zuckerman series of novels, the majority of which were enjoyable with the exception of "I Married a Communist" and "The Prague Orgy" (really, a short story, or if stretching, a novella). The final two, "The Human Stain" and "Exit Ghost" were strong. "Stain" closer to "American Pastoral" and "Ghost" closer to the first of the series, "The Ghost Writer."

Roth's final Zuckerman novel wasn't savaged by all critics; it was most praised with reservations or criticized with none. In the end, critics don't matter at all in comparison to what Roth has given literature. Sounds clichéish, but I mean it.

Starting War

Up next on my reading list is the behemoth "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy, and recently published with a new translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. This is the first Russian novel I will have ever read, which shows how poor my schooling has been. Perhaps taken on the most prominent of Russian novels first before trying something smaller is a risk, but I am up for it. I will report with my thoughts at a later date.

Not Finishing War

Last night, I watched the documentary "No End in Sight," about the quagmire called the Iraq war. I have to recommend it without reservation (to borrow a phrase I borrowed earlier above) if someone wants to know how U.S. President Bush and his team of military experts bungled the war.

After watching the doc, I had the disappointing thought that if Bush's team had spent more time preparing for post-invasion Iraq and had made an attempt to speak to officials in in the country from the start of the invasion, then Iraq could easily be the shining beacon of democracy in the Middle East that Bush envisioned it would become.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Birthday Wishes

The Rules and Regulations Of

As faithful readers of this blog know, it will soon be my birthday. It's number something in the twenties, but the first in my Facebook Age. This of course means that I have printed a list of my Facebook "Friends" and will check each one off as he or she sends me birthday wishes via Facebook or e-mail or phone call or regular mail or by simply donating a portion of his or her paycheque to my PayPal account (e-mail for details).

Why am I going to check off each of my friends as they send me birthday wishes? Obvious: To make sure they're still my friends.

This is what social networking sites are about: they provide a convenient list of people who owe you two words once a year. Same date. Same sentiment. And if I don't get them, then those people automatically fall into my Bad Book, which doesn't exist but will after my birthday passes.

Oh, sure, you may say, "Mr. Czobit, isn't it unfair to expect all of your friends to wish you a happy birthday?" My response: "Yes, but fuck you." Simple.

And then you may say, "But Mr. Czobit, isn't a 'happy birthday' message on Facebook an empty sentiment? After all, everyone sees birthday reminders and usually mindlessly posts a pointless two-word message on your wall." My response: "Correct, but I live for empty sentiments, and I demand them every birthday. Oh, and fuck you."

I've set the rules and regulations for my birthday this year. Pay up with your well wishes or prepare to never call me a Facebook "Friend" again.

I know, I'm shaking at that threat, too.


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Giving Up

Another Post About Television

That's it! I can't take it any more. So, I'm going to, as cliché artists say, throw in the towel and just accept that I can't put myself through this horrible mess.

This being The Czobit Blog., I'm referring to watching the remainder of two HBO series -- "Lucky Louie" and "Dane Cook's Tourgasm." I'm midway through both DVD collections and both are unlike typical HBO shows as they both horribly suck. Real grown-up talk, Mr. Czobit.

First, "Lucky Louie": A crass "sitcom," but it doesn't qualify as that because the stand-up routine of which it is adapted from is unfunny in this format. I hoped for so much and got pointless male full-frontal nudity, pedestrian plots, and profanity for the sake of profanity. (A quick look at the IMDB page for this show, which I linked above, has it rated 8.2 out of 10 based on more than 600 votes; apparently it's loved on the Internet and the only people who dislike it are prudes. So, I'm a prude. But with taste for fuck's sake.)

Second, "Tourgasm": Is anyone else sick of Dane Cook? Yes, and I'm sure if I put effort into this weblog I could pull up numerous postings at other weblogs castigating Cook for being over-hyped, over-exposed and just plain over. But actual effort for the sake of Dane Cook criticism? Why bother when it's clear that Cook put no effort into this abysmal reality show.

Summary: Avoid these shows.


Saturday, November 03, 2007

More Television

Happy Failings and Happy Returns

It appears "Heroes" -- the c0mic book rip-off apparently not conceived by reading comic books according to the series creator -- is faltering.

Today, in the Star, a reporter/loyal viewer wrote a list of what should be done to fix the show now that it's fallen into a sophomore season ratings slump. Left off the list, my suggestion, to simply cancel the program.

Why? Yes, "Heroes" is a pathetic mish-mash of comic book clichés wrapped around the false idea that It's About Something. But the real reason to cancel now would be compassion. Why continue to dirty that "great" first season; leave the show's audience with the better memories now being pissed away with season's two worse-than-the-first writing.

Additional evidence of the show's fall from (insert cliché here, "Heroes" writers), is the cancellation of a spin-off mini-series called "Heroes: Origins." Apparently an upcoming writer's strike plus regular "Heroes" low ratings forced NBC to act and spare us "Heroes" Haters another show to, uh, hate.

In good television news, "The Amazing Race" returns Sunday.

O.K., enough about TV.


Friday, November 02, 2007

The Sopranos

Final Thoughts

I finished watching the last nine episodes of "The Sopranos" released on DVD last week. The infamous ending had been ruined a number of times before I was able to watch it this afternoon. So I knew what to expect, and yet, the way David Chase ended his magnum opus television series still grabbed me, still achieved the emotion I think Chase tried to impel from the audience.

That I understand the end to the show, and that I liked it, may put me in a minority. Some wanted a ending similar to the one in the final Harry Potter novel, but even that epilogue has been criticized. What people really wanted from Chase was to end the saga of Tony Soprano in a definitive manner -- the only true definitive manner, which comes with six-foot-hole in the ground.

Death would tie everything up? Probably not, but it would have tied things up more. I'll take the end as it came -- sudden, full-stop blackness. That's death.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Halloween Costumes

If I Did Dress Up

Obviously I'm far too cool and too old to dress up for Halloween. What would the neighbours think? Oh, that's right: fuck my neighbours. Morons, they are.

But if I were to dress up for Halloween, I would wear a suit. And then when someone guessed what I was -- lawyer, gangster, douche bag wearing a suit -- I would say, No, I'm going to a funeral later.

Then the questioner would feel awful. That's the spirit of Halloween, right?

Or am I missing the point?


Monday, October 29, 2007

Risk Aversion

Do You Roll?

I asked myself today: Have I ever taken a real risk in life?

Some people say, Getting up in the morning is taking a risk. These people do not take risks.

I'm talking Risk -- the kind if you fail, you're fucked. That kind. And I can't remember ever taking that kind of risk, putting it all on one colour, one number and not crossing my fingers, because after all, that's superstitious bullshit that gets you from A to Nothing.

I've never heard the rattle of the die. I've never flipped the coin and said, This is final. Have you?

My point: Most successful people say they took a risk before they succeeded; some took risks and failed before they took another with a better outcome. Most successful people say this to make every shabby loser, such as myself, feel inadequate. I don't have the balls to go for it all. Critics are saying this about Barack Obama's presidential bid; he wants it but not enough to get covered in It. So what to do? Suck it up? Hold my breathe and step off?

Huh? How many clichés about success can one take?

One more, two more, three...



October Music

First, The Concert Post-Part

October was a good month for concerts. On three successive Mondays I had the pleasure to take in Against Me!, Hot Hot Heat, and Spoon. If I paid, which I did, you can guess I liked the music. Performance-wise, I would lean towards Spoon or Against Me! but that's mostly because Hot Hot Heat played on Thanksgiving Monday and only a small crowd took in the show and lessened the club show atmosphere.

Last Friday I took in my last October concert -- a Matt Good acoustic set at Massey Hall. Good's more-than-two-hour-set and double encore made the show the best of October. Sure, his music can be a bit depressing but it's fantastic live. And he has a bit of a stand-up streak between songs.

New CDs


That should be enough, but some people don't like the album, which is fine that they do but they are wrong. Also wrong: disliking the band and still wanting to download the album presumably to be part of their no-label choice. Also dumb: complaining that you have to pay first before you can download the music -- that's generally how transactions work on the Internet. Pay then gut stuff.

Serj Tankian. Good, good album and it warmed me to his band's stuff, too. Should have liked them sooner.

Babyshambles. Enjoyable but it also whispers "holding pattern."

All I can think of now. I've heard more this month.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Verve

A Not So Great Return

On the strength of one fantastic album--"Urban Hymns"--and a collection of other songs, the British band the Verve became of of my Favourites, whatever that means.

They broke up after "Hymns" was released, but are now back together.

Their first jam session (I think that's the best how to call out) is online for free here.

Didn't care for it. I hope they get back to writing actual songs.


Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Zuckerman Novels

A Bit About Roth

I'm now half-way through reading all of Philip Roth's Zuckerman novels. The strongest, most enjoyable have been the original, "The Ghost Writer," "The Counterlife," and "American Pastoral."

If you've never read any of Roth's Zuckerman novels. then I should tell you that the books center on or are narrated by one of the author's alter egos, Nathan Zuckerman.

Within the books, there is discussion on the role of the writer and how life reflects in fiction. Roth clearly has a handle on the writer-as-protagonist genre, and I would find it hard to muster the desire to want to read someone else try out that genre. To match Roth would be hard; to surpass him, impossible.


Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Moving Pictures

Good and Assumed Awful

Last night I saw "Michael Clayton." The good reviews were right, especially what David Denby wrote in his review in the New Yorker a few weeks ago that the dialogue is especially strong and enjoyable in the film.

Before the film I saw two trailers of note because of how awful they look. The first is a type of geriatric buddy film starring Jack Nicholson as "Jack Nicholson" and Morgan Freeman as "Somebodywhoknows" in "The Bucket List." Can there really be audience for this boredom?

The other film is the type of vanity project Oscar winners are allowed to make. This time it's Hillary Swank in a movie that will surely be called a "chic flick" and surely be as awful as that label suggests. The title has the added of significance as doubling as the reason why no person should see the film called "P.S. I Love You." (I can't find a link to the trailer; be thankful.)

Both of those Assumed Awfuls are out on Christmas Day giving another reason to stay home with your family.


Monday, October 22, 2007

Youth Beat

The Widening Divide

Today I became a victim to the cutting edge of pedestrian traffic violations.

The scene: The avenue attached to my boulevard.

Time: Just past noon, eastern standard.

The incident: As I drove down the street, a group of youths, perhaps 10 or 12, stretched across the street making it difficult to get by.

My reaction: I was terrified. Here, in my town! The youths had devised a sinister plan that threatened to disrupt traffic. It was a brilliant idea thought, and a brilliant idea executed. I kept my head down as I cautiously drove past the crowd. I avoided making all eye contact, because I’m a coward. Finally, I rushed home and wrote this blog entry.

I’m lucky. These kids are the new Badasses of the world and they will fuck with Anybody provided Anybody is driving a car even if it’s a cheap, beat-up rumbler.

But then I thought: Making it difficult for a person to drive by—that’s their best rebellion? Pathetic, really. Hell, unless a tank is rolling in their direction, these youths aren’t rebelling; they’re acting like a group of annoying asshole adolescents.[i]

But maybe I’m just getting old. After all, I’m a coward[ii] for not shaking my fist at any of these kids. I didn’t even honk.

The sad truth is I wake up each morning and measure the size of my prostate: Once one has crossed the Age Line I have, one cannot get into the habit quick enough.

Some days I like to pretend I’m young again: I apply thick layers of clay to my face to cover my many depressing wrinkles.

But the cliché is youth isn’t your age, it’s a state of mind.[iii] But this delusion was probably first uttered by an octogenarian in the middle of getting his diaper changed.

Truth: I’m getting old and so are my ideas. Because I was born in a year before 1990, any idea I have automatically ages at least 10 years upon the act of saying it or writing it. These Old Man Ideas are evidence of my early on-set decrepitness and/or how I’m a prude.

For instance, an idea for youths reading this: If your parents ever catch you masturbating, simply use the excuse that you were checking for testicular tumours.[iv] Too graphic? Who’s the prude now?

All I’m asking for is today’s youth to try harder. Making it difficult for cars to get by on a street is the least exciting rebellion I can think of; it’s a failure of imagination. I want the youth of today to cause real fear and give me something different to write about other than my prostate.


[i] Points for alliteration.

[ii] Second time I call myself a "coward" in the same post.

[iii] I think that’s the cliché; who gives a fuck if I got it wrong?

[iv] Girls can also use this excuse: Simply feign ignorance and blame your school for not providing enough sex ed, specifically a unit about female anatomy.

Me: Write?

You! Yes, you! I'm Talking to You!

My god, who would think I would ever come back here? O.K., other than me.

The Blog Bug has resurfaced. Once a day: a promise to you, the gracious audience.



Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Mr. Ford

November 14, 1958 - September 16, 2007

Ten days ago, the most important teacher I had in high school died in a diving accident.

I wrote "most important"; I could have written "favourite" or "best" or any number of words that would all fail to convey how important it was that Michael Ford was my teacher for two classes.

Today I went to his funeral visitation. I'm not familiar with the way those things go in a family that isn't Ukrainian. I walked in and saw people politely talking in groups. I didn't recognize anyone. I wasn't there to catch up with a run-in from high school. I signed the visitation book. I moved to the casket.

As I drove away I thought of the last terrifying moments in Mr. Ford's life, I thought of how his two young boys will be changed by his absence, and how I'm often not appreciative of the luck I've had in life. That's what death does: it makes us remember a person and be thankful of what he added to life.

Since I've heard of his death, I've repeatedly replayed an important memory I have of Mr. Ford. I won't write it here because I can't forget it. And besides my words would fail me trying to recall that day and that man.


Sunday, September 23, 2007

Walter Gretzky

Getting Back

I won a contest run by Molson to go to a pre-season Toronto Maple Leafs party at the Air Canada Centre last Thursday. The pre-season is the best time for Maple Leafs fans to celebrate, with our hope unadulterated before the long period of disappointment called the regular season begins.

At the party, we dined on horrible, greasy foods that came in the size of hors d'oeuvre. We quenched our thirst with two free beers. We had photos taken with Wendel Clark and Darryl Sittler. And we heard the Maple Leafs head coach, Paul Maurice, blabber on about something. I could barely hear him.

One other thing: my friend, who I brought along to this heady party, won us tickets to that night's friendly against the Wayne Gretzky-coached Phoenix Coyotes. O.K.: we were all assured tickets before we agreed to come to the party, but my friend got us gold seats a mere 13 rows from the ice.

We sat a couple rows ahead of Gretzky's father, Walter. I assume Walter sat at his usual seats for Leafs games, as he is quite often there. It must have been fun to watch his son coach. Well, if he ever saw any of the game.

From the second period to the end of the night, Walter Gretzky was pestered for autographs and photos, and he happily signed and posed for all of them. This part I don't understand: Walter Gretzky never scored a goal or tallied an assist in the NHL. And yet people worship him. The man had five children; one of them was bound to become the greatest hockey player who ever lived.

With about eight minutes left in the game it was clear the Leafs would lose. As what I can only assume was retribution for his son coaching the winning team, someone threw a cup of coke on Walter Gretzky. The cup may have come from as far high up as the upper level. I'm not exactly sure. Some of it splashed on my arm, but Walter's back was, according to him, soaked.

The point in all of this: imagine this wasn't a meaningless pre-season friendly but a regular season match between Toronto and Phoenix. What then when it's clear the Leafs are headed for a loss?

Probably toss beer; a cup of that goes for $9 or so.


Saturday, September 01, 2007

It's September....

(Cue the Obvious)

... and now's the time to get things done (said for the many-i-eth time). I'm sure the reality of never again going to school will settle and I'll wonder why all the free time I thought I would have without school can never be grasped. But that's life.

So, will I crash and burn? Or will I make myself a champion in the following months? Or will I struggle some place in between never fully realizing the potential I've attached to my own name? And why have I written this paragraph as a series of questions?

Anyways, I feel an energy (that will surely dissipate) and it's burning my insides to get some words down on a screen. Weird I never fill this page up.

I should get going...


Monday, August 13, 2007

Literary Novel

The Great Pursuit

In Stephen King's review of the final Harry Potter book, he writes

But reading was never dead with the kids. Au contraire, right now it's probably healthier than the adult version, which has to cope with what seems like at least 400 boring and pretentious ''literary novels'' each year.

King makes a good point. While I think most popular authors would prefer favourable reviews from critics (or in some cases, to not be ignored by the important book reviews), the novelists who actually move books off the shelves are ones who don't care about being considered literary, who don't care about being typecast as a genre writer.

The writers who pore over every last sentence in attempt to provide some majestic image often write incomprehensible prose that is rendered meaningless because nothing ever happens in the novel. Sure, these are real life novels, but why does real life have to be boring? Yes, it's easy of me to make this accusation without the support of an example but I haven't read a book that would exemplify the type of book I'm railing against. And I doubt most people have read these types of books, but there are dozens of reviews of them each week in the Times, Globe and Mail, etc.

In sum, a great story needs a plot. J.K. Rowling failed to write wonderful prose, but she did have plot; at times, the plot took shortcuts and meandered, but at the end of the day, she told a story. That is the measuring stick after reading a novel: has the author told a story? If not, then the book is just a waste of time.


Premier League

The New Season

This past weekend the new English Premier League season began. Commentators have called the season the most anticipated in a long while. Normally I'd brush that off as typical pre-season hype, but in comparison to last year, people do seem more interested for the start of this season.

I would suggest that the difference stems from most fans anticipating last year that Chelsea would claim its third straight championship after the team had signed Andriy Shevchenko and Michael Ballack.

Both Sheva and Ballack were busts last year, Chelsea ran into injury problems, and Manchester United ended the season as champions. Man U deserved the trophy; the team played entertaining (i.e. attacking) football, and looked like a team that should be atop the Premier League table.

Man U's win proved Chelsea could be beat, and after a number of Premier League clubs went on spending sprees during this summer's transfer period, which is still open, the expectations of last year's also-rans have been lifted.

So we get to this weekend, which was fun to watch. My club (because I own it), Chelsea, won their first match, while Man U settled for a draw after the club lost Wayne Rooney to a broken foot. Rooney's injury, obviously, is great news. A bit morbid, but this is a sport and being morbid is permitted (not that I shy away from being morbid in 'life').

Chelsea goes for win number two on Wednesday.


Thursday, August 09, 2007

Do Nothing

The Unsuccessful Day Off

Today is my day off and I have done nothing. I want to say that surprises me. It doesn't.

Last week I wrote a list of things to do this week, most of which I would have to accomplish during my two days off (Tuesday was the first), and I've crossed only one item off that list.

This is my typical behaviour in the summer. Plan. Promise to accomplish plan. Accomplish, at most, less then what I planned.

My concern, of course, is not that I've settled (in August) into a lazy summer routine, but that this summer funk could last longer than it should, well past October. It could be months, maybe years before I break this cycle of non-accomplishment.

Maybe I'm just tired and that's why I can't open the 600-page book sitting 10 inches from me? Or maybe I'm entering my first phase of being a slacker.

I had the uncomfortable thought this morning that I will never accomplish anything in my life. That I'm doomed to failure because I can't summon the energy to work hard enough for what I want.

I had that same uncomfortable thought about 30 minutes ago. I'm rambling, can't you see?

And a week ago I felt confident. I could make things work. I would succeed.

But what was a feeling a week ago is not the same seven days later. Isn't that right?


Thursday, August 02, 2007

Concert Post

Silverchair @ The Phoenix, Aug. 1, 2007

I usually skip concerts at the Phoenix for a couple of reasons: one, the place is on the sketchy side in a sketchy neighbourhood; two, the washroom (yes, this is a huge consideration) is a filthy pit. Because I found it unlikely Silverchair would return to Toronto any time soon (this was their second show here in a few months), I had to put my distaste for the venue aside.

It's believed that Silverchair is an irrelevant band. That it's a group of Aussies who had a few hits in the mid-90s, and now found themselves writing songs not worth a listen. But the band's newest album (in Canada since last Tuesday), is proof to the contrary, that Silverchair has matured and found a sound in new, worth-listening-to style.

Their set at the Phoenix ran under 90 minutes, but was strong featuring some of their best tracks off the new album (I would have liked to hear them perform "Strange Behaviour"), some early grunge tracks (which I never heard before), and some of their bigger hits from earlier albums. The band closed their encore with an audience-inclusive performance of "Freak." Definitely worth the visit to the Phoenix.


Tuesday, July 31, 2007

"300" Ughs

The Ugh Comic, Now an Ugh Movie, Now an Ugh DVD

I've suffered several movie disappointments this year, one being the awful adaptation of the graphic novel, "300." The source material was weak in comparison to its writer/illustrator's other efforts, and the movie was even a lower effort.

The graphic novel was beautifully illustrated, and the film recreated that atmosphere with the story's major flaw: no story. What "300" is is a series of successive fight scenes that build to nothing. And now the movie is on DVD, and will probably be a success as it was at the box office.

But the reason I bring up "300" is that a couple of weeks ago I was sent out on "assignment" to cover a media event promoting the DVD release. The video I shot can be found here.

And, yes, it was far more campy in person than through that small screen.


Abandoning Facebook

A Non-Shocker

While I will continue to maintain a profile on Facebook, I have decided that I will not regularly check my account. This won't be a hard change to adapt to because I haven't checked my account regularly for the past two months. After school finished, I was still wasting at least an hour each day checking in and out of the website, but as summer has progressed my time spent there has decreased steadily.

Why? I have innumerable reasons, and I don't care to waste your time describing them here. At most I'm willing to reply occasionally to FB messages and wall posts, however few come my way.


Saturday, July 28, 2007

Clear Frontier

A New Bestseller

Published earlier this month, it hasn't taken long for Alan Weisman's "The World Without Us" to become a bestseller (according to the Globe and Mail).

The book describes how the earth would be if the human race died out. This is certainly a compelling idea. In tomorrow's Washington Post, Michael Grunwald writes that the book is well written, but suffers from a fundamental flaw: "Who cares?"

Ultimately, The World Without Us is trivia masquerading as wisdom. By journeying around the world to interview biologists and paleontologists, engineers and curators, Zápara elders and Masai ecoguides, Weisman has done a remarkably thorough job of answering a question that doesn't particularly matter.

Yes, that's about right.


Friday, July 27, 2007

The Story

The Moving is Slow Going

When I declared what I wanted to do after I graduated from Ryerson, I challenged myself and created ridiculous expectations. Because I had said I wanted to do this, why couldn't I do this after I left Ryerson for the last time as a student?

What's followed has been about three months of false starts. I spent time writing things, awful things, trying to work out my Ryerson-related anger. I read more than I had in the last four years, and watched very little. I thought, and I scribbled. I saw the problems and I'm working towards fixing them.

The cryptic quality of this post is intentional, because declaring now that I'm ready to move forward could be another false start and I wouldn't want another failure, this time a public one, to ponder.

But I believe I have figured it out, at last. And now, I can start to tell the story.


Thursday, July 26, 2007

Derivative Sums

The New Album That Sounds Old

I'm not sure why I felt compelled to click "BUY ALBUM" in iTunes to download Sum 41's new album, "Underclass Hero." It wasn't the 4.5 star average review it now has, and it wasn't on the strength of what I had already heard off the album. Maybe it was the bonus track or the relatively inexpensive $9.99-tag? It's hard to locate a definite reason.

After listening to the album, I have many more ideas why I shouldn't have bothered adding 15 "new" Sum 41 tracks to my iPod: The album is as derivative as they come; Sum 41 sounds like a band desperate to grab the audience Green Day entertained with their last album, "American Idiot."

Sum's tracks evoke that underdog, let's-all-chant-as-one fervor that Green Day previously achieved. Not to say that Green Day's album was free of influences, but they built upon those influences and created a stronger album.

Sum 41 just sounds like the band playing catch up. My Chemical Romance released "The Black Parade" last fall, which was another album that was influenced by "American Idiot" (Rob Cavallo produced both albums), but the band made the music their own.

Listening to Sum 41 battle the same opponents as Green Day would be OK if something new was said. But in this effort it's the same old.

This of course happens all the time. The number of "Da Vinci Code" ripoffs that have been published since Dan Brown's novel became popular is disgusting. And now that Harry Potter is wrapped up, the media will be out to find something that can be called the Next Harry Potter; there have already been a number of articles about this void.

The Original, or at least the sum of many influences that is called the Original, will be imitated poorly as "artists" attempt to make whatever money is left to be had from the current trend. Crap is on its way if it's not already here.

But the Potter series and Green Day's "American Idiot" were surprise success stories. Poor imitations are just cheap formulas that are forgotten soon after.


Sunday, June 03, 2007

Sgt. Pepper

Captions for the Cover

A link.


Friday, June 01, 2007

Been Away

Or Have I?

It seems like months since I last posted regularly here. Maybe it was all a plan: post sporadically until you stopped checking, and then when you thought this place was dead, come back to the audience I could call Loyal.

Of course, I'm full of shit, and I got a) partly lazy and b) partly at a loss for meaningful words to put my name beside. But I've become aware to the fact that I'll likely never have meaningful words to put my name to, so I might as well just put some words down beside my name and damn the people who take offense or see that I have nothing to say. Life is subjective after all.

And so, it being the first of a new month, I pledge (yes, pledge!) that I will post again on what you can call a "regular basis," 'cause Sugar, no one is going to pay me to write and fuck them, right? Write: that's what I'll do.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A Review

"Falling Man" by Don DeLillo

What's disappointing about Don DeLillo's "Falling Man" is that after we read it, we say, "That's a good impression of what DeLillo would write about 9/11. If only he'd write a book about 9/11... ." Of course, "Falling Man" is what we have been given. It is without question a DeLillo novel in voice and style.

But the plot suffers in the last part of the novel, when DeLillo jumps forward three years after the attacks without much explanation of the intervening years. And the characters lack believability (Claire Messud's "The Emperor's Children" provides a group of characters who react more naturally to 9/11; well as much as we could expect people to react to a terrorist attack).

DeLillo's fragmented story could be forgivable if he provided the final revelation we want him to give us: the one that explains what happened to the people in those towers that September morning. Ultimately, though, DeLillo offers a predictable conclusion, one not fitting an author of his insight.


Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Virginia Tech

Don't Be Offended, But...

When I found out about the Virginia Tech shootings yesterday, the first thing I did was call all of my friends at the school to see if they were O.K. After I spent zero seconds doing that, I turned off CNN, and got on with my life.

Too soon?

Yes, cable news companies and newspapers will do everything to ensure this latest massacre in the U.S. stays fresh in our minds so we mindlessly continue to watch hour upon hour of programming, but the outpouring of sympathy and sending of hearts out to victims will only last a couple of days. Then everyone will be in the stage of grief I'm already at: forgetting.

What's ridiculous about the coverage of this massacre is the relative non-coverage and ignorance of daily massacres in Iraq and other states around the world. Where are our hearts for those victims? Oh, I know: We care, it's just that this is Virginia Tech! We like their basketball team. And, and, well, this happened in America. This isn't supposed to happen in America.

Check out the side-bars in most of the sensationalized newspapers this morning and you realize this shoot-up isn't exactly unique in America. It's probably more shocking that a massacre doesn't happen more often in a country in love with guns. Anyone who wants to use the Virginia Tech killings as evidence for the need for stricter gun-control laws in the U.S. ought to realize it could have been 92 dead instead of 32, and it wouldn't make a difference.

In the end, the killings make great television. CNN executives probably locked themselves in a meeting room yesterday afternoon and enjoyed a large, fun circle jerk dreaming about the great ratings this "tragedy" will give the network. And that goes for every cable news network and every newspaper who trades its profits on dead bodies. Red equals green, and it's a wonder all the dead Iraqis barely register in our minds. I guess we're just more used to it.


Monday, April 09, 2007

A Relief

Another Long Summer

Commentators have been quick to point out that the elimination of the Toronto Maple Leafs from playoff contention means that the club will have failed to win the Stanley Cup for 40 years. I'll be quick to point out that had the Leafs made the playoffs, the team still would have failed to win the Cup in 40 years.

We knew before yesterday's game between New Jersey and the New York Islanders that if the Leafs did in fact qualify for the playoffs, they would play the best team in the league, the Buffalo Sabres. Average hockey fans knew the Leafs would have a long shot at beating the Sabres, but we thought that the resilience of this year's Leafs team would make them The One -- defy odds and win the Cup.

When New Jersey tied the Islanders with one second left in the game, I even thought this year's Leafs may be the Team of Destiny. But that was delusion: how many times since 1967 have Leafs fans thought that year's team was destined to win the Cup?

But missing the playoffs, it feels like being castrated. And commentators and fans will call for firings, and trades, and people foolish enough to think their plan, the one that will guarantee a Cup parade next summer in Toronto, should be implemented are wasting their time daydreaming and worrying about a team that knows more about disappointment than destiny.

Some sympathetic Leafs fans will suggest this year's team struggled because of injuries. Yes, there were many, but the reason the Leafs are packing their lockers today for a long summer is their Jekyll and Hyde approach to playing games. At times, they were good enough to fool the most skeptical Leafs fans. At times, the Leafs looked like a failed suicide attempt -- losing streaks, blown games, undisciplined play. In the end, added up, they succeeded.

Yesterday, after the Islanders won the shoot-out to clinch a playoff berth, I was surprised at how quickly I recovered from the disappointment. I was surprised in my relief. Now, I could put away my silly game-day superstitions for another five months, take a deep breathe, and worry about something I could change by myself.


Saturday, March 24, 2007

Answering Phones

Dealing With The Special Breed

One of my jobs when I work a shift on the weekend is to answer the stray phone calls that everyone else in the newsroom avoids to pick up. Sometimes, like today, I hear the phone ring and say, I'll let it ring some more. Coincidentally, about an hour ago, I said that to myself. I had an excuse other than laziness: I was in the middle of writing a nasty e-mail to a co-worker; I was aiming for tears. Anyways, the phone rang and rang, and I finally decided to lift my receiver only so I could transfer the call and get back to writing hurt into life.

If you've never had the pleasure of working with journalists, then you may not know how to tolerate them. For the most part, journalists are regular people: capable of laughing, breathing and not taking themselves too seriously. But there is a group of journalists who Believe in Journalism, and believe in their own self-hype. The size of this group is no different than in any group of professionals where you'll come across arrogant, egomaniacal freaks.

In journalism, many of these egomaniacs are foreign correspondents or reporters on a foreign correspondence stint. Quite often, they'll call HQ in a moody blaze; they miss their family, their friends, their home, their favourite foods, their favourite illicit drugs, and so on. I have no sympathy for these people. The worst part though is that these foreign correspondents believe that when they call HQ everyone - everyone! - is waiting for their call. The truth: nah, not really. We've actually forgot they had left the country.

So, more than an hour ago, when I finally answered the phone, I should have expected a moody asshole. The Unnamed Foreign Correspondent in a War Zone calling said he wanted to be transferred to the world desk. I put him on hold, and proceeded to find out what the world desk's local extension was because I rarely ever transfer to the world desk; usually, people who want to speak to the world desk call the world desk.

After I found out the extension, I prepared to transfer the call and saw that the UFCWZ had hung up. Back to writing my e-mail-intended-to-hurt. Ring. Oh, it must be UFCWZ.

"CP Online."

"It's (UFCWZ)."

"Yes, let me transf--"

"Wait a minute."


"I've tried to call the world desk three times in the last five minutes. It's (UFCWZ) in (war zone: don't worry, UFCW is in little danger). Now, I want to be transferred to the world desk."

"O.K. I was about to transfer you the last time you called, but you hung up."

"I didn't."

"Oh, O.K."

The whole minute-long exchange between me and the moody UFCWZ ruined my mood: I had to put aside that cruel e-mail I was writing, and get back to doing my job. But if you analyze my conversation with the UFCWZ, you'll realize I did nothing wrong.

First, I could have missed the first two of the UFCWZ's calls because I was away from my desk. I wasn't, but the UFCWZ never asked if I was, which is a sign of his complete arrogance. Second, if the UFCWZ wanted to speak to the world desk, then he should call the world desk directly (yes, I made this point earlier). I have a hard time believing the UFCWZ went all the way to the war zone without the phone number he'd have to call most often. Third, who cares I didn't pick up? Only the UFCWZ. Since when did I care about him?

Now, with this out of the way, back to that e-mail.


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

iPod Dead

August 2005 to March 2007

This morning I dropped my iPod answering the question: "How many times can you drop your iPod before it dies?"

Despite its case, despite the fall being small, my iPod could not survive.

I spent about 20 minutes today considering options of how to replace it; but the cost seems too steep at this time. After all, I'm going to be unemployed at the end of August. Must save.


Thursday, March 15, 2007

Fucking Spam

O.K., I'm Only Posting This So I Could Title It "Fucking Spam"

Today, I received e-mail notification that "Anonymous" had commented on one of my posts.

The comment: "That's a great story. Waiting for more."

Then "Anonymous" left a link to presumably his or her blog. I did not click on the link, and will not provide it in this post.

Why? Well, not because "Anonymous" is some loser who has set up a cheap program to leave spam messages with links to his or her blog so he or she can receive more traffic and a higher rating on Google. No, that's not it.

My problem with that link is that I cannot trust the content of the blog, because the comment is factually wrong.

Here is the blog post in question:

Monday, July 17, 2006
Summer Cold

The Dreaded Return

Last summer, I managed to work four months in a freezer without getting a cold. Or at least I can't remember having a cold. Now that I'm working in an air-conditioned office space, I've contracted a dreaded summer cold.

It's great; really, I enjoy the excess mucous, the uncontrolled sneezing and the general horrible feeling.

I refuse, however, to take any sort of cold medication, lest I make it official that I do have a summer cold.

So, ignore this post. It doesn't exist.


Posted by Czobit at 3:39 PM

Problem 1: "That's a great story." The post is not a story. Only a few of my posts are stories; most stories I write are fabricated or highly exaggerated to show me in a good light. Also, that post is more akin to a rant, which is my preferred blog post style.

Problem 2: "Waiting for more." Sure, I've slowed down my blog post publishing but since that post was published way back in fucking July last year, I've posted 79 "more." Now, 80.

So, really, before I start clicking links and providing them to my loyal audience (are you still reading?), I need to be sure I'm not sending them into the waiting arms of a loser/liar/all-around-douche-bag.*

*Sorry, I didn't have another "L" word insult.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Post Discrepancy

Is This A Correction?

In my last post, I said it was #200. But when I added the post count to the left of the screen (178 for 2006 and 21 for 2007), the total was one short of that number. On the Blogger Dashboard it says 200 posts.

So, this is #201 according to the Dashboard, and #200 according to the actual blog you see.

As far as #200s go, this post is awful.

Thank you for reading.


Friday, March 09, 2007

Final Exam

The Last Day Is Set

On Thursday, April 19, I will have my final exam ever; this one is English 700. Sometime around 2 p.m. that afternoon I will cease to be a university student.

For a while, I will have to introduce myself like this: "Hi, my name is Michael Czobit. I'm a recovering journalism student."

(And for people who keep track of these things, this is post #200. I never thought I would stumble upon it.)