Get well soon, Mayor Ford

by Joey deVilla on September 10, 2014

get well soon mayor ford

Rob Ford, mayor of my old home town, was hospitalized earlier today after complaining of abdominal pain. Doctors found a tumor and will spend this week determining exactly its type. Here’s hoping that it’s benign, that he gets it removed and gets back on his feet, and that his family are comforted during this time.


Go home, Mayor Ford, you look drunk

by Joey deVilla on September 9, 2014

if youre not wated the subway ride is

Here’s a video showing Toronto mayor Rob Ford in an interview on Monday doing some ducking and bobbing that would impress Muhammad Ali. Unfortunately, he’s not in the middle of a sparring match, he’s doing interviews on Toronto’s Sheppard subway line as part of his mayoral campaign.

And lest you think that the subway train is going around some tight corners at high speed, you should know that the Sheppard line is pretty much straight. As my friend Kelly Kay points out, no one else in the video, including the person behind the camera, seems to have any difficulty staying upright.

And now, the video:


substandard orange wine

“Read this,” said my friend Erinn as he welcomed us to his party and handed me the grenade-shaped can pictured below. I had to put the can under a light to be sure, but there it was, just below the alcohol content: substandard orange wine.

“I like the truth in advertising,” I said, “but how is substandard wine legal?”

“If you don’t like substandard wine, there’s another flavor with other than standard wine,” he replied, showing me this can:

other than standard orange wine

Substandard and “other than standard” wine, it turns out, is wine that falls under this definition in the regulations for alcohol, tobacco, and firearms concerning the labeling and advertising of wine, section 4.21:

(2) “Substandard wine” or “other than standard wine” shall bear as a part of its designation the word “substandard,” and shall include: 

(i) Any wine having a volatile acidity in excess of the maximum prescribed therefor in §§ 4.20 to 4.25. 

(ii) Any wine for which no maximum volatile acidity is prescribed in §§ 4.20 to 4.25, inclusive, having a volatile acidity, calculated as acetic acid and exclusive of sulfur dioxide, in excess of 0.14 gram per 100 milliliters (20° C.). 

(iii) Any wine for which a standard of identity is prescribed in this §§ 4.20 to 4.25, inclusive, which, through disease, decomposition, or otherwise, fails to have the composition, color, and clean vinous taste and aroma of normal wines conforming to such standard. 

(iv) Any “grape wine” “citrus wine,” “fruit wine,” or “wine from other agricultural products” to which has been added sugar and water solution in an amount which is in excess of the limitations prescribed in the standards of identity for these products, unless, in the case of “citrus wine,” “fruit wine” and “wine from other agricultural products” the normal acidity of the material from which such wine is produced is 20 parts or more per thousand and the volume of the resulting product has not been increased more than 60 percent by such addition. 

Substandard wine used to be a way for small restaurants and bars that could afford only beer-and-wine licenses in Florida to serve cocktails. Banned from serving hard liquor, they served mixed drinks made with something called “Premium Blend”, a mix of 45% distilled liquor and 55% fermented wine that was labeled “premium substandard orange wine with natural flavors added”. At half the strength of standard liquor, it’s legally a wine.

With the amusingly-shaped can and fruit-drink flavors, “Tropic Chillerz” are clearly being aimed at the underage drinker. As for the taste: I tried some, and let’s just say that if you’re looking for a cheap, fruity drunk, you’re probably better off just mixing Everclear (or alcool, if you’re from Ontario or Quebec) with some Sunny D.


Photo of Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) with quote: 'The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.'

Click the image to see the source.

Thanks to for the find!


joey devilla giant mug

Yours Truly at a friend’s birthday party on Saturday night.

I moved to Florida a mere six months ago, and you may be concerned with the ease with which I’m taking up the lifestyle. The accordion, as you might expect, has been a hit here — it’s helped me strike up more than a few friendships, including one with a local winemaker, not to mention some fans at a Clearwater strip bar (long story). I wear Aloha shirts often, and regularly go for a fortnight without putting on long pants. My mobile worker schedule allows me to enjoy a 10:30 a.m. swim break and an afternoon trip to the gym or a bike ride which typically includes a stop the local farmer’s market. There are swing dancing and shooting lessons in my future. I’m in a townhouse with a younger woman with whom I’m planning my second wedding at a beach resort. I have a perma-tan that would make George Hamilton jealous. And I have developed a fascination with a retirement community called The Villages.

The Villages sounds like a nickname, but it’s the actual name of a census-designated place located in central Florida, about 50 miles (80 km) northwest of Orlando and 77 miles (120 km) northeast of Tampa:

villages florida map

Last week, Forbes identified The Villages as the fastest-growing small city in America. Between 2010 and 2013, it doubled its population to nearly 110,000, most of whom are over the age of 55.

villages couple

In a recent piece on BuzzFeed titled Club Meds (ha!), Alex French describes The Villages as:

“a notorious boomtown for boomers who want to spend their golden years with access to 11 a.m. happy hours, thousands of activities, and no-strings-attached sex, all lorded over by one elusive billionaire.”

villages tower

“This is one of the fastest-growing small cities in America, a place so intoxicating that weekend visitors frequently impulse-purchase $200,000 homes,” writes French. “The community real estate office sells about 250 houses every month.”

by the water

“The grass is always a deep Pakistan green. The sunrises and sunsets are so intensely pink and orange and red they look computer-enhanced. The water in the public pools is always the perfect temperature. Residents can play golf on one of 40 courses every day for free.”

villages street

“Happy hour begins at 11 a.m. Musical entertainment can be found in three town squares 365 nights a year. It’s landlocked but somehow still feels coastal. There’s no (visible) poverty or suffering.”

“Free, consensual, noncommittal sex with a new partner every night is an option.”

villages home

“There’s zero litter or dog shit on the sidewalks and hardly any crime and the laws governing the outside world don’t seem to apply here.”

“You can be the you you’ve always dreamed of.”

golf carts aplenty

The first thing you’ll notice when you enter The Villages is that there are golf carts everywhere:

villages - golf carts at day

The place is designed to be a self-contained small town, so a car seems like overkill. If it were in Europe, you’d see more bikes, but this is America, dammit, and right after the rights to big portions of cheap food and assault rifle ownership comes the right to drive anywhere you damn well please.

That bit of social commentary out of the way, I have to say that the custom golf carts they’ve got there — some of which cost as much as $25,000 — are pretty cool, and I want one:

villages golf carts

Since it’s the largest gated over-55 community in the world, life at The Villages is like an ongoing vacation with no shortage of activities. In Club Meds, French says that The Villages has over 2,200 “Resident Lifestyles Groups”, including “19 weekly opportunities for working with clay and 15 clogging groups”, a cheerleading club whose waiting list is two years long, a number of softball leagues,  and unsurprisingly, “no fewer than 39 clubs devoted to line dancing”.

Fans of the old TV series The Prisoner, set in an isolated place called The Village, where ex-spies are expected to live out their days, will be amused that a CIA retirees group that meets on the second Thursday of every month.

villages parade 1

Click the photo to see it at full size.

In a piece published in Slate last year, Tampa Bay Times reporter Craig Pittman writes:

My buddy Jerry has parents who bought a home in the Villages 10 years ago. When Jerry visited his folks after they first moved in, the place creeped him out with its Stepford-like uniformity. “It was like Disney World for old people,” he said. Then about five years ago he started thinking of it as “a college campus for old people. It’s like an expensive party school.” (His dad drove one of the golf carts in the parade that made the Guinness book.) Now, he says, he thinks of it as being “like a landlocked cruise ship. It’s got everything you want to do, 16 hours a day. But then everything shuts down at 10 p.m.”

sarah palin crowd

You’ve probably been asked this hypothetical question late into a party, gathering, or snuggle-fest with someone special, at that point when things get more contemplative: If you knew the world was going to end soon — perhaps tomorrow, in a week, a month or even in a year – what would you do? Many people start with the socially acceptable answer of “I’d spend time with the people I care about most”, but everyone eventually adds in “…and I’d totally cut loose and do what I’ve always wanted to do.”

If you live in The Villages, you’re answering that question every day. And if there’s something a lot of people have always wanted to do, it’s getting laid more. Here’s a key excerpt from Club Meds:

A waitress tells me about key parties at an Italian restaurant on Sumter Landing: “Golf cart keys get put in a fishbowl in the middle of the table, wives wait in the parking lot for their mystery dates.” I’m told about a prostitution ring that has recently been broken up. Orgies are said to be a regular occurrence. I am warned about women prowling around bars indiscriminately offering oral sex. There is reportedly a black market for Viagra. One of Bob’s buddies confesses to watching a couple fuck in a golf cart on a dead-end street. I’m told that sticking a loofah on your cart antenna signifies you’re into swinging. So does wearing a crimson button. According to multiple people, wearing gold shoes or letting your shirt tag stick out in the back signals you’re on the prowl. I hear a story about a scorned woman painting “YOU FUCKING PRICK YOU GAVE ME HERPES!” in red letters on her lover’s garage door. Recently, a married 68-year-old woman became a folk hero after getting arrested with a 49-year-old man for having sex in the square at Lake Sumter Landing. The cops brought her to jail and a Villages restaurant named a drink after her — Sex on the Square. It involves whipped cream and a cherry.

I couldn’t stop laughing at the bit about putting a loofah on your golf cart antenna as a signal that you’re up for some nookie. It reminds me of that Star Trek: The Next Generation episode where Captain Picard went to Risa, the vacation planet where carrying a tiki-like sculpture meant the same thing:

what happens in risa

I also wondered how people there would interpret the antenna-topper currently on my car:

domo-kun antenna topper

Back when I lived in Toronto, I was in a condo that seemed to be a mix of young couples and retirees (“newly-wed and nearly dead,” I used to quip). I was on a floor where most of the people were retirees, and that’s when I learned something about the fear of being along as you get older.

When my wife left me, I ended up in the hospital. The older folks on my floor, who generally called me “Jose”, “Joe”, or “Accordion Man”, found out through the grapevine. After I got home from the hospital, I found myself inundated with casserole dishes from my neighbors and feasted well on Polish, Ukrainian, and Yugoslav meat-and-potato meals for a month.

I winced with a little self-recognition at this passage in Club Meds:

Cork moved down here four years ago; we get to talking about his wife of 37 years and the day that she learned that she had cancer and was going to die. “She was here and then she was gone,” he says. After her death, he got lost. His two sons got him through it. He spent a few months up in Maryland working on his oldest son’s house. They finished a room over the garage — kitchen, plumbing, the whole kit and kaboodle. When they were done, Cork’s son asked him stay there for good. He wasn’t about to put himself out to pasture. He had to make a new life for himself. “We busted our asses for retirement. We saved. She died so suddenly and now I’m reaping the benefits of all that hard work and I feel so guilty.”

He wound up down here. “When I moved, a friend asks me, ‘How many fridges you got?’ I says, ‘Two.’ He says, ‘Once the ladies find out you’re unattached they’re going to start bringing casseroles!’” And they did.

Yours Truly in the hospital, January 2011.

I shouldn’t be here. If the super-flu I caught at the start of 2011 had done its job properly, you wouldn’t be reading this because I wouldn’t have been here to write it. Every moment from that time onwards is bonus time, and I live with that awareness every day. Maybe that’s why I get what the people in The Villages are up to.

That awareness is what led me to go on two dozen flights in 2011, move to Ottawa for the summer, start dating a lovely young lady in Florida, take a chance of starting a business with an old friend (now ex-friend) from high school, and pull up roots and start over in Tampa, and I’m still a decade away from being eligible to live in The Villages. The people who live there have retired, and live with daily reminders that there are likely fewer days ahead of them than behind them, and they’re living in the best way they know how. Given that it’s Florida, where no idea is a bad one, and that they have fewer reasons to worry about what other people will think than ever before, many of them are living large.

They’re all facing the question “How do I want to spend my final years?”, and some of their answers are spectacular.

welcome to the villages

There’s a lot more in the Club Meds article, and I recommend it for your Monday reading. In the spirit of The Villages and as an expression of my own philosophy, I’ll close with this little ditty from 1997:

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Following up on The Economist’s infamous book review

by Joey deVilla on September 7, 2014


boingboing logo

Thousands of readers paid a visit to this site yesterday, thanks to Cory Doctorow’s article, The Economist defends America’s enslavement of Africans, which referred them to my article on the matter. Thanks, Cory!

I can’t think of a better description

A photo of my legroom in United’s “Economy Minus” class.

If you ever need to describe The Economist to someone, you might do well to borrow Leah Finnegan’s lede from her recent article:

The Economist is an intentionally fusty British news-aggregation magazine for people who pretend their Economy Plus airline seat is a wing chair by the roaring fire in a manor house.

The funny #economistbookreviews continue!


If there’s an upside to The Economist’s terrible book review, it’s that it’s given rise to a burst of creative writing. Ever since they published the review, and even more so after their retraction, Twitter users have been writing capsule reviews of well-known works (tagged with #EconomistBookReviews), in ways they imagine The Economist would’ve written them:

The other hashtag: #NotAllSlaveOwners

The other popular hashtag made in response to The Economist’s review is #NotAllSlaveOwners, which plays on the recent #NotAllMen, which summarizes this attitude:

Hipster Reagan was Economisting before it was cool

ronald reagan

Rick Perlstein observes:

So The Economist got in trouble for a review that complained a book on slavery was unkind to the people who owned the slaves. Guess who said something similar about “Roots”? Ronald Reagan, quoted in the Washington Post, February 14, 1977, p. A3:

“Very frankly, I thought the bias of all the good people being one color and all the bad people being another was rather destructive.”

Thanks to for the find!



This video shows the first (or fourth, depending on your point of view) Star Wars film — Episode IV: A New Hope — recut so that its dialogue is sorted into alphabetical order. Each word is displayed on screen along with a count of its occurrences in the script. It runs 43 minutes and change, although you probably wouldn’t want to sit through the entire thing:

Everyone associates lightsabers with Star Wars, so you might be surprised that the word is used only once in the film:


Even Wedge — one of the few rebels who survives the original trilogy — gets mentioned more than lightsabers in the first film:


This is a project you wouldn’t want to do purely manually. If I were assigned this task, I’d write a program that would make use of the subtitle file to identify and sort every word in the dialogue, and the approximate time — give or take some fractions of a second — when each word is uttered. Courtesy of the people behind the Matroska file format for videos, here’s a sample of a subtitle file, which should give you an idea of the information they hold. Oddly enough, it features dialogue from another Star Wars film:

00:02:17,440 –> 00:02:20,375
Senator, we’re making our final approach into Coruscant.

00:02:20,476 –> 00:02:22,501
Very good, Lieutenant.