Last night I watched the ESPN 30 for 30 documentary, Muhammad and Larry. Here is a film about a man over-the-hill, clinging to a quickly dimming greatness. Even if you’re not a boxing fan (I am not), it’s hard not to feel sad when footage of the actual fight is shown—footage showing even Larry Holmes not wanting to continue on with the one-sided fight.
Muhammad and Larry is in some ways an interesting contrast to Thriller in Manila, which portrays Ali not as a tragic hero, but instead as an egotistical, vindictive man caught up in a bitter rivalry with Joe Frazier. From this perspective, it is the greatness of Frazier that we watch slip away as he barely loses a second rematch against Ali.
But I suppose there are a million stories like these—in sports, in life. The pursuit of greatness is perhaps what drives us all.. but that greatness is fleeting, isn’t it?
I realize that this theme needs to be fixed in order for any of the code snippets I post to actually be read, so I apologize for that (but not really, because I’m sure no one but me is using this site anyway).
In the meantime,
I’ve got about a week left until I’m out of a job. On Monday, I gave my two-week notice of resignation, and I don’t even have another job lined up yet. I’m not usually like this. I don’t usually like it when things are so… undefined. But I figured maybe it’s time to take a bit of a risk. The worst thing that could possibly happen is I come crawling back to corporate life and get another soul-crusher of a job.
Well, that’s not entirely true. The worst thing that could happen is I could contract flesh-eating disease and die a horribly slow and painful death, but at least my soul would be intact.
“I’ll give you one guess how many people actually give a shit about that,” said my boss. He was looking over my shoulder as I filled out a form on my computer. It was sent to me by our new overlords, Bigcorp.com (not the company’s real name). “ZERO. No one’s ever going to look at it, trust me.”
The company I’ve been employed by for the last four years was recently bought out. It was purchased by a big company. One of the biggest in the world, actually. The form I was filling out was sent to me through the company’s vast email system, from a person I’d never spoken to or even heard of before. She was in the marketing department, she said, and she needed the form back in two days, so she would know where our product fit in with the rest of Bigcorp.com’s offerings. I dutifully filled it out, at least to the best of my ability. Half of the terms that we would now use to describe our software were completely foreign to me. I had to email the mystery sender of the form for clarification on a few of the categories from which I was expected to select.
“I’ll have to look into those,” responded the mystery woman. “Stay tuned!”
That was the last I heard from her, which is now about a month ago. So much for that due date. At least people at Bigcorp.com seemed cheerful.
Now, this has not been a unique experience. Various people I don’t know have emailed me from who-knows-which office of Bigcorp.com telling me that something needs to be done by this day or that week, or that I really must send a pertinent piece of information to so-and-so. And then I never hear from them again. It’s like the company is so big that shit just gets lost in the cracks. The company is huge! Someone else will get around to it. I guess. This same sort of zero-shits-given attitude is spreading to the rest of the people I work with, I can already tell. It’s like a cancer, but instead of attacking your healthy cells, it attacks your sense of purpose in life and makes you lazy. It makes you cheerful, but lazy. Everything is just a little bit too comfortable.
There seems to be a certain kind of anonymity that comes along with working at a super-huge-mega-corp—dealing with faceless emails from people in other timezones doesn’t exactly engender close personal ties. And does that anonymity breed a certain kind of lackadaisical attitude toward doing your job? I don’t know. Maybe. Meh, who cares.
“Oh no, I don’t want to be a PC,” said the girl sitting next to me. She’d inadvertently logged into the Windows 7 install on the dual-booting 27″ Apple iMac she was sitting in front of. “I want to be a Mac.”
It was our first night at this particular class at OCAD. We were here to learn to use Adobe Illustrator. Moments earlier, I had watched her wander the halls with a look on her face that silently exclaimed, “Where the fuck am I supposed to go?” I’m sure I was wearing the exact same expression. To mirror her even further, I also had logged into the Windows instance on my iMac.
“Oh, you’re logged into Windows too?” asked the instructor, as she moved along the row of desks. There was a hint of disappointment in her tone. “That’s OK, you can use Windows or Mac, it doesn’t matter really.” I could tell what she was saying wasn’t what she was thinking.
It felt a bit odd to be sitting in a room full of Apple iMacs—the biggest, shiniest ones Apple makes—because earlier in the week, I’d listened to a This American Life podcast about one of Apple’s factories in Shenzhen, China.
In this podcast, Mike Daisey performs an excerpt of his one-man show, “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs.” He tells of an iPhone that came off the line with its test pictures—pictures from inside the factory in which it was assembled—still intact, and how these images inspired him to find out more about how his beloved Apple products were made.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think Apple is any more or less evil then the myriad of other electronics-producing companies out there. They just make an interesting focal point because everybody loves their slickly designed products. In a time of economic hardships, their products fuel consumerism unlike anything I can personally remember (except for maybe the Cabbage Patch Kid craze of the 80s). But the factories that make Apple products make a lot of other companies’ products, too. Chances are, you own something that was made by Foxconn.
There is debate about whether or not companies like Foxconn are actually good for the people in the towns in which they operate their factories, but even so, I think it’s healthy to know where the stuff you buy comes from. I guess what it comes down to is this: I want to strive to be the smallest asshole that I can be. I think, if I’m going to be an asshole, I should at least recognize that I’m being an asshole. If my consumerism is being made possible by some 13 year-old girl working her little hands into carpel tunnel syndrome hell, then the very least I can do is not ignore that that’s happening. How could I possibly aspire to become less of an asshole if I don’t even recognize that I am one to begin with?
My boss found the podcast so interesting/moving that he lent me a copy of Shenzhen – A Travelogue From China, by Guy Delisle. It’s a graphic novel he adapted from the journals he’d kept during the 3 months he spent in Shenzhen. So far it’s really good. He’s also written one about Pyongyang, North Korea, which I think I will buy. I don’t think there are any 13 year-old girls slaving away at making these books, but I guess I should look into that.
A group of us went to see Louis CK this weekend at the Sony Centre (apparently one of the city-owned properties that Rob Ford wanted to sell, but that’s another story..). I don’t really know how this happened, but Louis CK is really hot shit right now. Not like he just came on the scene, or something. He was one of those guys I’d see on late night talk shows, but no one really knew who he was and probably most people often got him confused with Lewis Black until fairly recently. I mean, they’re both kind of abrasive and angry and their names are kind of similar. OK, maybe it was just me, but that’s neither here nor there.
Here’s a clip of Louis CK doing stand up from fifteen years ago, just to prove I’m not full of shit:
But I guess that kind of thing happens. Here’s Zach Galifianakis, roughly 10 years before you heard of him:
My roommate and I laughed at that scratch ‘n sniff head shot joke for about a month after we saw it back in college.
Anyway, I guess the point of all this is maybe sometimes it takes a really long time to succeed, so you gotta keep on plugging away.
One thing that bugs me about going to big-name comedy gigs (this was only my second one, the first being Dave Chappelle at Massey Hall) is that there are always a bunch of douche bags in the crowd who apparently think they’re at a hockey game. These are the guys who seem possessed of the idea that yelling out in the middle of a joke is really funny and that maybe after yelling out, they’ll have the opportunity to high five their brothers from alternate mothers or something. This happened at both the Louis CK show and Dave Chappelle show, and both times the comedians were pissed off and more or less told the respective yeller-outters to shut the fuck up. I guess it’s not really a well known thing, but stand-up comedians rehearse their shit like theatre actors. Even though it looks like they’re just up there telling random stories, every word and pause and inflection is completely deliberate. If you watch the documentary Comedian, you’ll get a glimpse into what these people go through. So please, if you find yourself at a big comedy show with the urge to yell something out, don’t do it. I, and the 3000 other people in the theatre, paid $60 to hear jokes from a professional, not your drunken dumb ass.
We went to Fran’s afterwards, because it was across the street.
Checked out Nuit Blanche last night. I think it ran earlier in the year than it did last time around, but mother nature still managed to make it way too cold to be out in the streets all night. Nuit Blanche would really do much better in the summer.
I wound up at some after hours bar at five in the morning. I’d never been to an after hours before. In my mind, I’d imagined after hours bars to be the kind of place filled with weird and sketchy people, high on all kinds of drugs. So when we got there, I was only mildly surprised to find the place filled with weird and sketchy people, high on all kinds of drugs. The walls were made of plywood, the washrooms had no doors, and people were SMOKING INSIDE. I found that stranger than the fact that people were doing lines right off the tables, in plain sight.
I met a friendly fellow named Tyler who was wearing a top hat. He looked like a street magician, except the only trick he performed was speaking about 15 word per second. I imagine this trick was made possible by copious amounts of cocaine or some other stimulant. He seemed quite knowledgeable about the after hours scene. He told me the owner of the place was paying off the cops to keep the “business” running. At least, I think that’s what he said. It was a bit tricky to tell because allofhiswordswerecomingoutlikethis.
I think the take-away from all this is that people on drugs are pretty friendly, which make after hours bars a nice place to visit. But I wouldn’t want to live there.
I stumbled across a Serge Gainsbourg and Jane Birkin album that was recorded in the 60s somewhat recently and been giving it some serious spin time on the ol’ iTunes. It’s all in French, so I don’t find it distracting when I’m trying to get some work done. It’s got such a great 60s vibe to it and makes me want to drink wine, smoke cigarettes and drive around on a Vespa, all at the same time.
Even though it’s all in French and I’ve purged all the Francais I’d learned in school since that time I fell asleep during a French exam in grade eleven, I’m pretty sure this album is all about bangin’.
I would not recommend playing that last one out loud unless you are surrounded by people who enjoying hearing a French woman having a fake orgasm, or, you’re trying to get into the mood for some bangin’.
I finally got a french press to make coffee in quantities that I can actually consume. I do enjoy the taste of coffee, but can’t take too much caffeine.
Small bag of Dormans coffee I bought while I was in Kenya:
On the topic of great-tasting stuff, these banana/blueberry pancakes were pretty delicious:
Alice had some French toast with some kind of fruit compote. I’ve only been twice, but OK OK Diner serves up some tasty food, and there seems to be less of a chance of a line up than some of the other more high-profile east end brunch spots.
Last week I decided to finally begin to undertake the task of getting my house into organized, usable shape, instead of keeping it looking like it does today. (Today, it looks like someone moved a bunch of stuff in, but instead of unpacking it all, the new tenants just decided to drink many cases of beer. It looks this way because that is more or less what actually happened.)
The first step in this process was to paint the second bedroom that would serve as my workspace. I haven’t tested this theory against any sort of metrics, but the lavender paint scheme the old tenants left behind just didn’t strike me as conducive to me getting a lot of work done. I have never done any interior painting before. I’ve seen my dad do it. I’ve also seen interior painting done by young couples in movies where they inevitably wind up painting each other’s noses playfully, right before having passionate sex. So it didn’t really seem that serious of a task. At the very least, I figured, it would be a learning experience.
The main thing I learned is that I suck at painting stuff. I had asked my boss beforehand how long he thought it might take to paint a bedroom. “3 hours?” was his guess. I’m pretty sure I have spent at least 8 hours and so far, only 1 of the walls is painted. There is also a big blotch of brown paint on the bottom of my foot. I’m not sure how it got there, but it won’t come off.
While I was waiting for that first coat of paint to dry, I googled “how to paint a wall”. It was at this point that I realized I did everything incorrectly and in the wrong order.
Anyway, I’m going to finish the room this weekend. The remaining three walls are all going to be the same colour, so how hard could it be, really?
I went on a 4-hour booze cruise last night with the software development team from work. Team-building, I guess. Except it was less of a booze cruise and more of a fruit-juice-and-soda-pop cruise, because the developers are just that crazy. We lit up the Toronto skyline and partied ’til the brink of 10 PM. The two barmaids on our ferry must have thought we were pretty lame, especially since it’s hard to tip them when you’re paying with a drink ticket.
What’s eaten at the Ex, stays at the Ex. (Mostly in their toilets, mere minutes after ingestion). I’ve come to realize that the annual Canadian National Exhibition (CNE) is just an excuse for people to gorge themselves on the most ridiculous/disgusting food concoctions ever invented. Last year, the big new thing was deep-fried balls of pure butter, drizzled with syrup. (My friend Daniel said he almost insta-puked upon trying one). This year, the longest line formed for a 1000-calorie hamburger that uses donuts in the place of a bun (as seen here).
But who am I to buck tradition? When in Rome, hoover as Romans do, as they say. So I ate one of these:
“The Lumberjack” — poutine topped with a fried egg and a pair of breakfast sausages.
Eating something like this is kind of like crossing a valley. The downhill part is easy and fun, but once you cross the river at the bottom, you just kind of hate yourself.
Kendall came to visit me this weekend. I told her I’d take her cycling around the city, since I still have my dad’s old cruiser kicking around. I Autoshare’d a car to go pick her up from the bus station, but I thought I’d pick up a set of old toolchests I found on Craigslist first.
These things were way heavier than I thought, so I had to have poor Kendall help me lug them up my condo’s flight of stairs. She was a champ. “Do this kind of thing everyday at work,” she said. Somehow I doubted that.
Anyway, I got that old heap for $100, hopefully she cleans up nice and I’ll finally have a place for all these bike tools I’ve been collecting. My dining room is a complete mess right now. The fact that a rusty, old, dust-and-spider-web-infested tool chest is supposed to help my dining room look nicer kind of says a lot about its current state.
We had brunch at Lady Marmalade on Queen St. E. There was a line out the door when we got there, but those scrambled eggs were totally worth it. Slowly but surely—I will conquer you, east end.
Tonight I took an idea from my mother and put some sesame seed oil infused cucumbers in with my rice and stir-fried flank steak.
Didn’t quite get it right as the cucumbers should sit in a drizzling of sesame seed oil (and some garlic) over night for the flavours to completely infuse, but it was still decent. Serve cold and enjoy. Very summery.