Wednesday, 15 August 2012

I should have gone to Dufferin Mall

So I had my wallet stolen at the Eaton Centre yesterday. Fun times. It happened within the space of less than twenty minutes, so let's have a big round of applause for the thief or thieves. Well done.

Here's what happened:

I bought a pair of work-pants at Old Navy (for $20 marked down from $40 - score!) and paid for them with my debit card. As I was zipping my wallet back into my backpack, some people got in line behind me, and instead of doing a quick and half-assed zip-up job, as I often do when I feel like I'm holding up the line, I moved to an empty cash register to make sure everything was stowed away securely.

I am positive somebody was watching me at this point.

I left the store, and browsed very quickly at RW, Bentley's (I was looking for a purse, how ironic!), Smart Set, and Reitman, before deciding to refuel with a coffee at Starbucks.

I got into line for my coffee, and thought to myself, "Hmmm, let's just check out the cash situation, see if I have any small bills to pay for this coffee" (I know, what was I thinking - small bills at Starbucks? Please!).

I shrugged my backpack off, went to unzip the compartment where I keep my wallet - and was greeted with the gaping, unzipped maw of a pocket containing three mini-Kleenex packs, a digital camera, a gift card for "Milestone's Restaurant", a roll of film, an elastic for my hair, thirteen cents in change, and no wallet.

In retrospect, I'm glad I checked for my wallet before I ordered the coffee, because it would have been terribly embarassing to have discovered its absence after the coffee had been served. "Oh, I'm sorry, I can't pay for this - SOME FUCKHEAD JUST STOLE MY WALLET."

And so to the Information Desk on the main floor of the Eaton Centre, where a very nice clerk gave me all the phone numbers I would need to cancel my credit card (I only use and carry the one, and I hadn't used it in over two months), and my three client card for the two banks I use, one of them for The Bank (i.e. my employer) and two for the Royal Bank (RBC), with whom I will no longer be doing business, for the following reasons:

a) every time I inquired about getting one card for the two accounts so I wouldn't have to carry around two cards, they told me that this would only be possible if I closed my RBC Gold Savings Account or whatever the hell it's called, and this would be bad because RBC phased that type of account out in the early 90s and I would be stupid to give it up because it was better than the new savings account they would have to open for me. When the bank's employees are telling you that the product they're offering you is inferior to the product it replaces, it's time to start banking somewhere else.

b) when I called the Personal Banking people yesterday, in tears, to say that my wallet had been stolen and that I wanted to cancel my two client cards, the Customer Service Representative told me that this wouldn't be necessary because they were both password protected. What?!?!? I don't fucking care - I want to cancel the cards, and when a client says, "I want to cancel my cards because my wallet has been stolen", the appropriate reaction from the Customer Service Representative goes something like this: "Oh, I'm so sorry. Are you OK? Let me take care of this for you. Your new cards will be delivered in five business days."

c) I work for the competition, and I can bank for free with them.

Anyway. So the joyful tasks of cancelling credit cards and bank cards and talking to Toronto Eaton Centre security and the Toronto Police accomplished, I was free to leave. Fortunately, Phabulous Phil was able to come and get me, and took me out for nachos and vodka-based drinks, so all was not lost.

I hope the thieves had a blast with $115 of my honestly-earned money, my cancelled MasterCard, my expired Bloor Cinema membership, my Toronto Public Library card, my FIS copy card, my parents' business cards, my OHIP card, and my Special Libraries Association membership. Bravo.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Across the Pond

So it looks like I'll be in London in January, on vacation. I know, it's crazy, I should go somewhere warm and sunny and not somewhere dark and rainy, but I've wanted to go to London for years, and I'd rather do something that I've always wanted to do and something...authentic.... than one of those fake, whitey-tighty all-inclusive resort things, where you have no or very little sense of how the locals live their daily lives.

Mostly I just want to shake the dust of Toronto off of my mukluks for awhile. I need a change of scene. I need to get out of my comfort zone. I briefly considered going to the US - New York or LA or San Francisco or even Miami (they have great Art Deco down there, even if it is God's waiting room), but I don't want to go to any of those places nearly as badly as I want to go to the UK. Also, the US is too familiar. I've been to the States dozens of times (although not since Clinton was in the White House). So I thought, Well, what the hell. I 'll go to England.

I will be going alone, which feels a little surreal. Phil can't get the time off, but it's just as well, because I have a whole list of places I want to see - neighbourhoods mostly. If I go by myself, I can set the agenda.

What fun!

Thursday, 12 July 2012


I've been sick with a cold since Friday night. It's one of those annoying colds that just kind of sucks the life out of you.

It started on Friday afternoon at about 2PM with a twinge on the roof of my mouth. Up to that moment, I was pretty much fine. OK, so I was a little tired, but I chalked that up to having stayed up late the night before. And the night before that. But with that twinge, I knew my weekend was in the toilet. I know myself, and I know how it is when I get sick. So I cancelled Friday's plans (going to Clinton's to hear a friend play).

The next day, my throat was sore, and I was really tired and feverish. I cancelled Saturday's plans (work - am I a workaholic yet?) and stayed at home. By the end of the day, the sneezing phase had started.

The day after that, my throat was more sore and my nose was running like a leaky tap. Ewww. By this point, I'd given up making plans and spent all day at home, sneezing and ripping handfuls of kleenex out of the box and rubbing sanitizer into my hands. I ventured forth in the evening to take the cats to my parents' house, where they will be spending the week while I'm on vacation.

Today: I stayed home again. My thinking was, I've got to rest and give my body a chance to fight this thing off. So I stayed in all day.

At 5.30PM, I decided fresh air and a little bit of exercise was in order. So I went to the library to pick up this week's reading material. I got a good haul - two biographies, one about the creators of the Joy of Cooking (which, by the way, is a great read both inside and outside of the kitchen) and one about two antiquarian booksellers and best friends who discovered some of Louisa May Alcott's anonymous early work; and two novels.

And now, at this writing, my throat is scratchy and my head is all stuffed up. This means I'm getting better, right? Right? I can't believe I'm going on vacation on Wednesday - I am not in a vacation place right now.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

The sound of one ear listening

From the "iTunes -- is there anything it can't do?" Department: a while back, I downloaded the Fats Domino song "I Want to Walk You Home" from the iTunes music store and was disappointed to discover that the track was presented as if it were stereo when in fact it was a two-track recording obviously never meant for stereo. Allow me to explain. Back in the 50s, it became customary in the recording studio to record songs intended to be released on 45 rpm records with two tracks: one for the vocal, one for the instruments (of course, nowadays, there can be many, many tracks), which were then mixed by the producer for the final mono version of the song for the 45. Until the late 60s, nearly all 45s were released in mono, not stereo; the idea of the two tracks was merely to improve the recording and mixing process: to avoid re-doing everything if there was a mistake in either the vocal or the music, and to make sure the instruments didn't drown out the vocal, as could happen if it were all recorded through one microphone. The intent of having two separate tracks was not to create a stereo recording. They could be mixed to create a stereo track. Until the late 60s however, mono was a much more important medium than stereo in rock and pop, mainly due to the importance of the 45 rpm single relative to the more "adult" stereo LP. Singles were carefully mixed in mono to make the maximum noisy impact from a single speaker (a "wall of sound," to coin a phrase) and then, as an afterthought, if at all, mixed for more sedate stereo. For example, the Beatles and their producer George Martin, until the final triumph of stereo in '68-'69, lavished much more attention on the mono mixes, as did Berry Gordy at Motown, where the stereo mixes of songs were slapped together by engineers working the night shift. (Much of the above factual background, when not based on general knowledge or the evidence of my own ears, is based on the book 45 RPM: the History, Heroes, and Villains of a Pop Music Revolution and, as to the Beatles, on Mark Lewisohn's excellent The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. For more, much more, on the Beatles from the standpoint of stereo vs. mono recordings, this article just about covers it.)

In the vinyl record era, 45 RPM singles usually stayed in print where there was any demand for the song. In the CD and mp3 era, however, vinyl went bye-bye and many 50s and 60s recordings became available only in their inferior stereo versions. Apparently, the record companies must cater to the same type of taste that views all black & white movies as inferior to color. (Check out this compilation of 60s hits, where one of the supposed selling points is that it contains stereo rather than mono versions of the songs.) The original, preferable, mono versions of 50s and 60s songs are tough to find. Only rarely will iTunes specifically list a track as the "Mono Single Version." EMI has made the original mono versions of most of the Beatles' singles available only in a prohibitively expensive box set. Think of that: the most popular rock act ever, and some of their most popular songs cannot be easily heard the way they were originally heard (and were intended by the group to be heard).

Message: they care

I liked this guy's comment (via Powerline) suggesting the Democrats switch to supporting the other side for a change, since, by throwing their, ahem, support to the other side, they actually might help our cause more. I especially liked it because a week or so ago I made a simllar comment to a friend who made a sarcastic comment about the French. I said, "you must be a supporter of the French, under the Democrats' definition of support: you put them down to your friends, you oppose everything they stand for, and you're critical of their actions and motives. "

Not warming to the idea

It's hard to keep up with all the anti-warming warning material; while the global warming hysteria of Al Gore, Jupiter Pluvius, has the support of the Hollywood elite -- the stupidest rich people in the world, not counting certain members of the British royal family -- Gore has lost John Hinderaker of Powerline, who, like me, is old enough to remember the global colding threat of the 70s. Iowahawk is also cool, so to speak, to the hot new idea of buying carbon indulgences. Aussie Tim Blair meanwhile continues to document the bizarre phenomenon of the Gore coldening effect (which seems to have a better empirical basis than carbon emission-created global warming). I'd rather be on Powerline's, and Blair, and Iowahawk's side than Hollywood's any day, so I have to say that's a pleasing development to me. Anyway, Gore should concentrate on getting rid of the carbon emissions by the Martians, who have their own global warming issues.

Movie rambling: Five

Years ago, the TNT Network (back when it ran the classic films now shown on TCM, which didn't exist then) showed the 1951 post-apocalypse movie Five, and I was impressed enough to include it on my list of top 100 films. I hadn't seen it in years, it's never run on TV anymore, and I couldn't find it on DVD. Recently, however, I picked up a DVD copy at a fairly reasonable price on the eBays. It came in a suspiciously generic-looking case, but the print of the film used for the transfer to disc doesn't seem that bad, considering.

A second viewing demonstrated that my top 100 ranking was maybe a little too generous, but it is better than most other atom war survivor movies. The film starts in the immediate aftermath of a nuclear war that has seemingly killed nearly everyone on earth, although who was fighting who over what is never discussed -- a nice touch actually. Five survivors gradually converge on a remote house (conveniently, it's writer/ director Arch Oboler's own Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house). The plot concentrates on the human element, rather than any possible science fiction aspects. The pace is slow at times, and it's a little on the talky side (Oboler's background was in radio) but the performances are superb, and some of the imagery stayed with me days after I watched it. (I'm becoming more inclined to view "imagery staying with me" as one of the more important criteria for evaluating a movie. I didn't think much, for instance, of the Japanese horror movies Ju-On and Dark Water when I first saw them a few months ago, but they both gave me nightmares afterwards, so as horror flicks they must've done something right.) There's a grim, gritty tone about Five that is unusual in a 50s American film; someone on the internet speculated that the look and feel of Five might have inspired that of George Romero's original Night of the Living Dead, and I can also see the similarities. I'd recommend this one to any movie buff if the opportunity to see it presents itself.