Saturday, May 31, 2008

You'd Better Call N-40 or I Swear I Will Kill You

Evgeni Malkin is quite obviously injured. I don't know why his team keeps letting him play shifts of a minute or longer when he's literally moving at half his regular speed. The media is currently playing it up right now as a mental or motivational thing, but come on, you can practically see time slowing down for him every time he tries to lift his legs.

Anyway! Enough on that for now. This is a post about Winnipeg! (Which means it's definitely not a post about the NHL.)

What do you think of when you think of Winnipeg? (You in the back that said 'the Jets', kindly pipe down for now.) What is Winnipeg known for, what does Winnipeg tend to lead the nation or the world in? Slurpees, murder, arson, car theft, hydro consumption, child poverty, days of sunshine (the 'Sunny Manitoba' slogan died over thirty years ago, but the sun apparently didn't get the memo about that) -- and now, bingo. Bingo Capital of Canada!

(Which of you jokesters filed this on Digg?)

This is it, folks! It's all uphill from here. This, no doubt, this above all else is what will finally install a sense of pride in the citizens of our fine metropolis. When the news broke that'd we'd made it and we'd staked our claim to fame, people went nuts! From Perimeter to Perimeter grandmothers and gangsters alike rushed right to their computers, practically tripping over themselves in their haste to proudly proclaim themselves as denizens of THA BINGO CAP.

(Bingo-peg? Bing-ipeg? The, uh... Assini-bingo River?)

Start printing the t-shirts! Start spreading the word! I'm sure the crowds at the Tim Horton's or the Robin's (Ro-bingo's Donuts?) will let out whoops of glee when the good word finally hits the Coffee News, in between a story about a couragous dog and a joke about a man who loves golf.

I've always been more into games of skill than games of chance, myself, so bingo never really appealed to me; by the time I was old enough to use a bingo blotter responsibly instead of blotting everything in range, I'd already found other activities I enjoyed more. Incidentally, if anybody out there wants to play chess, let me know; I'm not really that great at it, but damn if I don't love playing it! And if I can gleam hours of enjoyment from setting up complicated knight traps and then throwing my rooks away like an idiot, I don't see why other folks can't go out and have fun buying thirty grids of squares and only ever getting six numbers total.

You can see from the articles linked above that analysts and commentators have their own theories about our city's bingo fanaticism; they cite Winnipeg's strong Ukranian heritage, its Catholic roots and its prohibitively brutal winters as possible factors. You know what, though? I'm pretty sure that they're all overthinking the matter, and the simpler truth is that we're all just a bunch of people who love the shit out of some bingo.

Say goodbye to "One Great City!" the next time you're driving in; soon enough we'll have the new signs printed and planted. "Winnipeg: A Free Space for Everybody!" I don't know about you, but I'm stoked!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Intelligent Life Goes Thppbbbt

Uptown Magazine! A new delight in every bite! It's been three Thursdays, so there I am.

Remember how I'd assured you last time that my latest article was one hundred per cent true and factually accurate? So too with this one! Albert Einstein, Jose Gabriel Funes, Galileo Galilei, Giordano 'Fireball' Bruno -- madness, the lot of it, yes! But genuine madness, the kind of crazy you can't make up!

I've already received questions about the tagline at the bottom of the article, so this is what I meant by the tongue reference. I would have sworn it was an iconic image, but apparently it's not iconic enough! I'm not cut out for iconography, I guess.

Actually, when I was writing that tagline, I had considered referencing the movie I.Q. instead -- but ultimately I reminded myself that A) nobody's going to get it or care, and B) I.Q. was an awful movie, what the hell, I ought to be ashamed of myself.

The Judeo-Christian god likes aliens better than he likes us! You heard it here second!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

It's a Series of Tubes

Oh, good! I have the internet again.

Ukranian President Victor Yushchenko was in town today, and I didn't get to go check out his Legislature appearance because I had a dentist's appointment. Mind you, had the dentist's appointment not been today, I would have missed it anyway because of work. (Alas.)

So that was too bad, but hey! I'm not too broken up about it. Today may have been an exciting and important ceremonial event for Winnipeggers, but so was yesterday -- because yesterday, as you were no doubt well aware, was 50% off at all Value Village locations in the city.


I know I've mentioned this before, but half-off everything? That shit is like catnip for us Winnipeg folk! And, yes, I'm including myself in that statement; don't expect any rebellious outsider aesthetic from me on this one! The likelihood of finding pants that fit me in a second-hand store is almost statistically insignificant -- because, man, you people are short -- but the hell if I ever turn down the opportunity to look for cheap old stuff, especially given my predilections for discounted music. I'm not gonna pay a lot for this muffler Herb Alpert album!

I headed over to the Pembina location right after work yesterday; I got off work at 6:00 PM, so you can imagine how the store was A) crowded as all hell and B) already mostly looted. Still, not many people go digging specifically through the CDs or cassettes or LPs (or 45s; what the hell am I doing, I can't afford to start collecting 45s), so I went ahead and loaded up on albums.

The albums aren't the main thrust of this post, though; I'll tell you about them another time, especially since I have to get some of these suckers tranferred into MP3 format for you guys. No, the reason I'm writing about my Value Village exploits at such great length is because I literally cannot shut up about this, physically cannot restrain myself from bursting with excitement about my biggest purchase:


It was plugged in at the store's electrical testing area (read: the wall with a working plug in it) when I found it. And it was marked at twenty dollars, which means it was actually ten.

No doubt some of you recognize it immediately, and are most likely laughing at me for even buying it -- but for those of you who haven't identified it, let me open 'er up:

Ha ha ha ha oh my god I own an oldschool synthesizer-organ. Four octaves, fourty-eight keys, all tubes.

I can't stress that last part enough. Technology nowadays is neat, sure; you can buy sophisticated keyboards made out of super-lightweight parts that can passably imitate the noises of all variety of piano-type instruments. But when you want the warm and hilariously dated sound of synthesizers past, like you're living in an old-time radio play or a National Film Board of Canada short, then you need a wacky old tube organ. Well, okay, not 'you' necessarily; I need a wacky old tube organ, or at least I'm certainly convinced that I do, and I don't know how I got along this far without one.

Flip the switch and a bright red light fires up right above it; if you rest your hands on it you can actually feel the tubes and Soviet-era machinery firing to life beneath the wood panelling, like a doomsday device that forgot what it was supposed to be doing and decided to make funny noises instead.

How old is it? Good question! I have no idea how old this thing actually is. I'm sure I'll find out soon enough, once I've scoured the internet for information, but if pressed about its age the best I could do right now is to blurt out "SO OLD" and make incredulous motions with my hands to indicate that, yes, it is very old.

I can't give you a definite year (SO OLD), but I can definitely say that it was a simpler time back then --

-- because the only two options are 'SOFT' and 'LOUD'. No middle ground, no intermediate clicks on the switch; you are either playing softly or you are playing loudly. I guess volume control was a lot more direct back before people invented switches and dials with numbers on them.

I don't actually know how to play the piano, or at least not very well at all, but that's a minor point. Hell with that! I'll learn it as I go along. Right now I can walk up to it, turn it on, and play a single chord that sounds like a plot point in a black-and-white horror film -- and I'm satisfied! I can turn it off again and walk away after that, having already gleamed my ten dollars' worth for the day.

Second-hand stores are awesome, you guys!

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Stanley Cup Finals Begin Tomorrow

Quick, it's almost June! Start the series before everyone goes outside instead!

Stanley Cup Finals

(1) Detroit Red Wings vs. (2) Pittsburgh Penguins

Well, we can definitely be sure the Finals this year are the league's two best teams, because the Conference Finals on both sides were pretty underwhelming stuff. Philadelphia got beat cleanly, and their hypothesized advantage in toughness failed to materialize under the eight layers of unsurprising penalties they took for it (VENGEANCE NOW NEXT TIME GADGET); Dallas went in tired, got shellacked early, fell way behind, and exited with little fuss -- which isn't much different than any year for Dallas, I guess. So, after all of that, the Stanley Cup Finals are between the top team in the Western Conference and the team that would have been atop the Eastern Conference if it weren't for their clever shenanigans.

Remember how Brian Murray acted all butthurt at the start of the playoffs and insisted that the Penguins threw their last game of the regular season to improve their playoff lot? If his accusations were correct, then the Penguins are looking like geniuses right now; it takes a minimum of twelve games or a maximum of twenty-one to make the Stanley Cup Finals, and the Penguins only needed fourteen. (By comparison, Detroit needed sixteen. Slackers!)

Detroit, of course, didn't face any accusations of standings-gerrymandering; they couldn't have finished second in the West without throwing a good four or five games, and the only way they're guilty of rigging the standings is if it's suddenly a crime to beat St. Louis and Chicago like a hundred times every season. So they finished first, like they usually do, but this time it turns out the seeding wasn't misleading after all.

(Incidentally, and as you might expect, the top five pointgetters so far this postseason are Zetterberg, Crosby, Datsyuk, Hossa and Malkin. Anyone else here surprised to see Hossa up there?)

Pittsburgh detractors say that the Penguins are too young and inexperienced; Detroit detractors say that the Red Wings are too old and European. These are valid criticisms, sure, but somebody has to end up wrong! And Detroit is a very classy, very distinguished, very talented team of players who are very good at hockey -- which apparently means that almost nobody is rooting for them to win. The Penguins have two of hockey's three biggest new stars and a continent's worth of newfound fans backing them up, and the Red Wings are having problems even filling their arena these days. (Mostly because general economic downtown and the rapid decline of the automotive industry have swiftly murdered the city's collective pocketbook, but still.)

This series has the potential to be the best Stanley Cup Finals we've seen in years or even decades, so what's most likely to happen is that one team will blow the other team out of the water in four or five games and ruin everything for everyone. It's just been that kind of year for the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

What I'd Want: Pittsburgh in seven nailbiters, and Georges Laraque lifts the Stanley Cup no later than sixth in the rotation.
What I'll Guess: Detroit in five games and it isn't even close, because ha ha we can't have nice things. And the American television ratings for the decisive Game Five are lower than Monday Night RAW, lower than American Gladiators reruns, and lower than whatever statistically meaningless baseball games are on at the time.

It's almost June! Holy crap!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

For the Record: Someday We'll Be Together

Hey, guys! Guess what I just remembered I can do!

Earl Van Dyke - Someday We'll Be Together (Johnny & Jackey) (The Earl of Funk, 1970)
[info | ask your local record store for it, they can probably get it easily]

As you could infer from the above, I was moving stuff around in my room today; the record player and the computer are once again close enough to each other that I can connect them, so I once again get to play with my toys in a somewhat productive manner. Well, okay, 'productive' is a strange way of putting it, because it isn't actually an important or necessary task -- but transferring vinyl to MP3 just feels strangely fulfilling, you know? All I need to do now is hook up a cassette player and an 8-track deck to this box and I'll be capable of digitizing almost any audio recording ever. Humour me and my megalomaniacal hobbies!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It Has... Maps

Long time no see! It's been, what, a whole week? Everything kind of blends together for me this time of year, so I can barely even keep track any more. I work, I play Grand Theft Auto IV, I watch the profoundly underwhelming NHL Conference Finals games, and then I sleep until the cycle restarts.

I'm currently working full time at an entry-level sales job; I've yet to encounter a balanced and steady work day, because the store has precious little middle ground between overflowing with customers and being absolutely stone dead. (I'm working this entire Long Weekend, incidentally.) On one of the days where there was nobody around for miles, I found myself in a bit of a bind; I was on shift alone, I'd wrapped up all the available busywork, I'd already finished the book I'd brought, I'd fully depleted the batteries in my old Game Boy Advance (no I can't afford a DS shut up) and I was majestically hard up for anything to do.

How bored was I, you ask? I was bored enough to start reading the phone book, that's how bored I was.

I didn't even have the good phone book! I initially started flipping through this one because I thought it'd be like the actual Yellow Pages -- which occasionally have little boxes with helpful general advice in them, like "slow down on the highway to encourage tailgaters to pass you" or "lighter wallpaper or paint makes a room look bigger". Not so with this book; the E-Z Finder Phonebook instead spends that hint space on desperately and ineffectually promoting itself.

Dang. So much for learning something today.

Even still -- having plenty of time to kill, I shifted my expectations and instead decided to just look through for artwork. Businesses have to promote themselves somehow, right? Good art, bad art, odd art, maybe some funny business names or some typos -- surely there'd be something worth a couple seconds of interest!

I ended up going cover to cover through the whole book, as it turned out. (It was a very slow day, I'm not kidding.) And I was, occasionally, rewarded; there actually are a few surprisingly nice pieces of art in there, even if some of them look to have been torn directly from old training manuals somewhere.

Mind you, the charming pieces are few and far between. It's a thick book! And there are also some very, shall we say, unattractive objets d'art within these pages:

Are those eyelids? What on earth is... no, no, I'm better off not questioning this.

There are a lot of cartoon mascots in here that don't quite sit right; they aren't drawn poorly, necessarily, but I'm pretty sure that I would end up reflexively punching them in the face if I ever met them.

"Y-yeah, sure, it-it-uh... it's a-affordable! W-why would you e-even ask that?"

The extra 'A' there may seem extraneous, but the phone book is a very cruel and cutthroat place! The only way to succeed is to take every advantage available, as these fellows clearly demonstrate:

I didn't call them, because I'm sure it would have ruined the gag for me, but I like to think that they actually answer the phone like that. You've reached the AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH--

Additional A's aren't the only way to get noticed, of course. Other common themes in advertising include: superheroes!

Insipid puns!

Mascots with gigantic heads and really tiny legs!

And, of course -- attractive women in various stages of undress!

The 'urban' look for dudes apparently means wearing all white and slouching a lot. Good luck eating spaghetti, chief.

Oh wait, right, the phonebook advertises this kind of stuff. Whoops! Now, I don't include this picture because I advocate using these services (note to readers: don't do this); rather, you might suspect that I included this picture to point out that she's actually wearing more clothing than the women in other ads. And she is! Good catch on your part.

But the actual reason why I included this picture was to express my astonishment and consternation over the 'mature' categorization system they employ here. Hey, ladies, guess what! When you hit the age of twenty-eight -- surprise! You're old. Sorry!

Hey, can we go back to that one superhero ad for a second? Could we--

Yeah, that one. Check out that grin! It would do my peace of mind no good at night to think that I've left my business alone and unsupervised with a guy who smiles like Bubs from Homestar Runner.

This is hardly an isolated coincidence; there are plenty of lookalikes and cameos to be found in the E-Z Finder Phonebook. Thrill to such luminaries as:

Winnie the Pooh!

Aslan, King of the Beasts!

Mario's brother Luigi!

Dr. McNinja!

The Black Spy from Spy vs. Spy!

And, uh... Kilroy? Well, he needs the work these days, I guess.

Yes, the E-Z Finder Phonebook boasts a star-studded cast -- but that's not all! If incongruities are your bag, then baby, this book has you covered!

When you think 'locksmith', do you think of a penguin in a top hat? Well, you do now!

And affordable towing, naturally, is represented by a cowboy hat. Why? Because shut up, that's why.

Whoever Bill Knight is, he really missed his calling by going into carpet cleaning and not science-fiction B-movies. Hazard suit over here appears to have just opened up a meteorite filled with adorable but radioactive alien puppies, and he is not sure how to react to this new development.

As we all know, flying is just throwing yourself at the ground and missing. Or, in this case, replace 'ground' with 'hot tub'.

The other possibility here, of course, is that somebody needs to call some exorcists pronto. We're dealing with forces beyond our control, here, and those forces hate your new jacuzzi something fierce.

Govoch's? Gowoch's? Gooch's? Guch's? Gwch's? G:Pch's?

At the top, a decent if uninspired drawing on an advertisement for cleaning services. At the bottom, an otherwise docile office worker flipping out and destroying his workplace with a devastating crucifix powerbomb.


Either my windows are going to be partially obscured by a series of flaps or I'm about to get the living shit kicked out of me by an eighty-year-old kung-fu artist.

I don't know what DOS game this is, but I obviously just got killed in it!

This business is genuinely trying to get sued. There is no other possible explanation for this logo. Really, now.


I'm sorry, I can't possibly order anything from here. That is the most heartbreaking 'okay' sign I have ever seen. I need to lie down.

The funny thing about this ad is that it has two drawings on it, done in completely different styles, one of which is pretty good and one of which is quite rubbish; the piece on the right is the better of the two and looks a lot like they ripped it from a clip art gallery or an old instruction sheet on how to install doorknobs.

So imagine my astonishment when I flipped to the next page and once again saw the... other drawing, being used by a completely different company with some hilariously goofy buzzwords written around it.


When the Barbershop franchise began to flag, moviemakers knew that they needed to find another concept to latch onto. It didn't take them long!

what the hell is this

what the hell is

I know, I know. You're looking at that dude's face and thinking I must have photographed the page wrong, aren't you? Well, have another look; the text in the image is perfectly clear. You're not going to believe me when I tell you this, but it's the truth -- this is what the ad actually looks like. I don't know how, and I don't know why, but the book's printers downloaded a picture of this man's face that was obviously pixelated and then put it in the ad anyway. If you open the E-Z Finder Phonebook and look for real estate agents, you're going to find a listing for an agent who looks like a character portrait from a Super Nintendo RPG.

Think that's weird? That's not even the weirdest thing you'll see in that section, because

I haven't decided yet whether I'm irrationally amused or irrationally terrified by this. Leaning toward the latter right now!

The Winnipeg scenery included there makes me chortle a little, but that's because I'm thinking about a different advertising medium entirely.

You know that one local television spot for the Hampton Inn -- I'm pretty sure it's the Hampton, anyway -- where it shows a dude in a shirt and tie wandering around the hotel? The ad lists a few of the features of the place, like its in-room internet and its hot tub, and then the baritone announcer -- who handles the rest of his duties perfectly fine -- suddenly finds himself forced to deliver the line "Do business in Winnipeg!" And he doesn't know how to do it! He doesn't know how he's supposed to sell the idea, so he ends up completely overplaying it; the line comes out hilariously overblown, like "Do business -- in WIN-NI-PEEEEG!"

And even though I'm laughing every time I hear it, because he makes it sound like the most sarcastic suggestion ever made, I still feel bad for the dude. I mean, come on, the hell is he supposed to do with a line like that. The poor guy.

I don't have any cute side comments to make about this one, I just thought that header was really awesome. Explosives! Hell yes!

Anyway, this might come as a surprise to you, but I don't recommend sitting and reading the whole book. It drags in a lot of spots, the cast is misused, the nudity scenes just come across as gratuitous, and it ends suddenly without ever resolving any of the plot threads. Just jump in and skim a couple of pages, you'll get the general idea.

Perhaps the most telling sign is that even the book itself has trouble finding its selling points. When pressed to outline its comparative usefulness against other phone listings, or even to justify its own existence, the book thought for a second before describing itself with this glowing endorsement:

Well played, E-Z Finder Phonebook. I guess I can't argue with that.

Pete Shelley - Telephone Operator (XL1, 1983)
[buy | site | info | myspace | uh, second myspace]

David Mead - Chatterbox (Tangerine, 2006)
[buy | site | info | myspace]

Hey - Hanging on the Telephone (The Nerves) ([sic!], 2001)
[buy, if you have any zloty on you | site | info]

Phoenix - Long Distance Call (25 Hours a Day Remix) (Long Distance Call Maxi-CD, 2006)
[buy | site | info | myspace]

Ha ha, geez, I'm gone for a week and my big comeback is writing about the phone book. Maybe for my next trick I can liveblog about watching paint dry!