June 2008

Celebrity Gossip is Nothing New

by Joey deVilla on June 24, 2008

Here’s an old magazine from the late 1960s featuring some hot stars of the time:

  • Leonard Nimoy on “religion and dirty movies”,
  • Barbara Bain and Martin Landau, back when they were still married,
  • William Shatner and his “month-at-a-time” marriage,
  • Frank Sinatra (aren’t you wondering why Ol’ Blue Eyes needed to find the youth pill?) and Mia Farrow (then “Mia Sinatra“, which places this magazine sometime between 1966 and 1968)
  • and my favourite one: Davy Jones from the Monkees, making a desperate bid for rock authenticity by claiming that he had “pills twice as strong as those that got the Rolling Stones in trouble”.

Old magazine: \"TV Star Parade\"
Image courtesy of Miss Fipi Lele.

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The Disadvantages of an Elite Education

by Joey deVilla on June 23, 2008

Cover of the summer 2008 issue of \"The American Scholar\"

Here’s the opening paragraph for The Disadvantages of an Elite Education, an essay published in The American Scholar and written by an English professor who taught at Yale for the past ten years:

It didn’t dawn on me that there might be a few holes in my education until I was about 35. I’d just bought a house, the pipes needed fixing, and the plumber was standing in my kitchen. There he was, a short, beefy guy with a goatee and a Red Sox cap and a thick Boston accent, and I suddenly learned that I didn’t have the slightest idea what to say to someone like him. So alien was his experience to me, so unguessable his values, so mysterious his very language, that I couldn’t succeed in engaging him in a few minutes of small talk before he got down to work. Fourteen years of higher education and a handful of Ivy League dees, and there I was, stiff and stupid, struck dumb by my own dumbness. “Ivy retardation,” a friend of mine calls this. I could carry on conversations with people from other countries, in other languages, but I couldn’t talk to the man who was standing in my own house.

Immediately after reading that first paragraph, my first thought was “Isn’t that like an Ivy Leaguer? He realizes that he can’t communicate with working-class people and what does he do? He agonizes about it in a magazine written for Ivy League professors and people who make large donations to their alma mater.I’m not the only one who made that observation.

(The American Scholar describes itself as “the venerable but lively quarterly magazine of public affairs, literature, science, history, and culture published by the Phi Beta Kappa Society since 1932.” People magazine, it ain’t.)

That quibble aside, there’s a lot of interesting material in the article, not the least of which is its discussion of “entitled mediocrity”, another byproduct of Ivy League schooling and one I saw first-hand at Crazy Go Nuts University: the security offered by a “don’t worry about failing, we’ll take care of you because you’re one of us” environment.

“If Al Gore and John Kerry represent one of the characteristic products of an elite education,” says the article in reference to their inability to communicate with “the common people”, “George W. Bush represents another. It’s no coincidence that our current president, the apotheosis of entitled mediocrity, went to Yale.” Entitled mediocrity is everywhere in the worlds of business and government, from “You’re doing a heckuva job, Brownie” to the big salaries and bonuses paid to C-level executives at failing companies.

There’s some discussion about the article here, and you’re always free to put in your two cents in the comments.

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R.I.P. George Carlin

by Joey deVilla on June 23, 2008

George Carlin

Comedian George Carlin — first Saturday Night Live guest host, creator of the classic “Seven Dirty Words” routine [Warning: language not safe for work*] that started the F.C.C. vs. Pacifica Foundation case and comedic cataloguer of American excess, passed away last night from heart failure. He was 71 years old.

Requiescat in pace, funny guy.

* It’s safe for where I work, but it might not be safe for where you work.

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RubyFringe Guide: Where Did All the Cigarettes Go?

by Joey deVilla on June 23, 2008

Joey’s Unofficial RubyFringe Guide to Toronto

Joey\'s Unofficial RubyFringe Guide to Toronto

In less than a month, the RubyFringe conference will be taking place here in Accordion City (it takes place from July 18th through 20th). RubyFringe is an offbeat conference organized by the offbeat people at Unspace, an offbeat software development shop, with offbeat speakers and MCs (I’m one of them) making some offbeat presentations, which will be followed by offbeat evening events. It stands to reason that it should come with an offbeat guide to its host city, and who better than Yours Truly, one of the city’s most notorious bloggers and a long-time resident, to write one?

From now until RubyFringe, I’ll be writing a series of articles posted under the banner of Joey’s Unofficial RubyFringe Guide to Toronto, which will cover interesting things to do and see here in Accordion City. It’ll mostly be dedicated to the areas in which RubyFringe and associated events will be taking place and provide useful information about Toronto for people who’ve never been here (or even Canada) before. I’ll also try to cover some interesting stuff that the tourist books and sites don’t. If you’re coming up here — for RubyFringe or some other reason — I hope you’ll find this guide useful.

I thought I’d start the series by covering a topic with which I have almost no familiarity: smoking. It’s a safe bet that at least a few smokers will be coming to the conference from outside Ontario: if you’re one of these people, this article’s for you.

The Rules for Smoking in Ontario

If you really feel like poring over a legal document, you can read the Smoke-Free Ontario Act. If you’d rather not slog through the legalese, they can be boiled down to these two rules:

  • You have to be at least 19 years old to purchase cigrarettes.
  • No smoking indoors in public places.

Canadian Cigarette Brands

You’re going to have to ask someone else about which Canadian brands to smoke. Beyond “quit now,” I can’t really make any recommendations. What I know about Canadian cigarettes versus American ones isn’t much:

  • I am told that American cigarettes are “raunchier” than Canadian cigarettes. Can any cross-border smokers comment on this?
  • If you’re really homesick for Marlboros, you can get “Rooftop” brand cigarettes, which are Marlboros with packaging that makes use of Marlboro’s “rooftop” design but not the word “Marlboro”. The cigarette marketing site Filter Tips explains these “no-name” Marlboros, if you’re interested.

Canadian Cigarette Warning Labels

If you’re a smoker coming in from the United States and don’t travel outside the country much, you might not be aware that your country has the teeniest cigarette warning labels in the world, despite being the first to put warnings on cigarette packs in the first place.

Here in Canada, cigarettes have to devote half the visible surface of cigarette packaging to health warnings, which have livelier copy and are backed with pictures. Here are my two favourite warnings: first, the “mouth cancer” one…

Canadian cigarette warning label: \"Cigarettes cause mouth diseases\"

…and the “trying to stick a marshmallow into a parking meter” one:

Canadian cigarette warning label: \"Tobacco use can make you impotent\"

If you’re going to ignore the warnings, you might as well be entertained by them, right?

Canadian Cigarette Displays

And finally, I’ll come to the title of this post, Where Did All the Cigarettes Go?

If you set foot into a convenience store here, the first thing you’ll notice after the bilingual packaging is that there are no cigarettes to be seen. What you might see is a blank wall behind the shopkeeper that is almost completely devoid of features or markings. It’s a cigarette cabinet:

Artcube cigarette cabinets
An Artcube cigarette cabinet.

This started only a couple of weeks ago in Ontario, when the law banning the open display of cigarettes in stores came into effect. This “out of sight, out of mind”-inspired law requires people who sell cigarettes to store them in featureless cabinets, and it seems that they’re not allowed to post anything on them, even if it’s not tobacco-related. If you wander into a convenience store and are wondering where the cancer sticks are, they’re in the blank cabinets.

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It’s ’60s Black and White Photo Day!

by Joey deVilla on June 21, 2008

Just for kicks, I thought I’d post some ’60s black and white photos that I rather like.

The first one is exactly how I picture my dream rec room (or, perhaps more accurately, “rumpus room”):

Black and white photo of a Bohemian French bar, possibly in the 1960s

Very few men can pull off an exit from one of those teensy European three-wheeled cars. Cary Grant could:

Cary Grant exiting a tiny three-wheeled car

I really love the lines of 1960s cars (my dream car is a 1966 Plymouth Barracuda):

1960s traffic jam

And finally, this photo, which was originally titled “Why don’t you go make Bullitt some eggs?” Steve McQueen was the man.

Steve McQueen and his lady friend

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Spider-Man’s Greatest Bible Stories!

by Joey deVilla on June 20, 2008

Here’s an oldie but a goodie created by the people at The Wittenburg Door, which is quite possibly the funniest religious magazine ever: Spider-Man’s Greatest Bible Stories!

Spider-Man\'s Greatest Bible Stories
Also worth checking out: The Rephrasing Spider-Man!

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Photo of the Day

by Joey deVilla on June 20, 2008

Eddie Murphy's head rolling down a California highway
Photo courtesy of Miss Fipi Lele.

This is probably a promo for Eddie Murphy’s upcoming film, Meet Dave. Or perhaps they’re making an Eddie Murphy remake of Zardoz.

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