Archive for November, 2010

High Octane Gas a Myth

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Gold. Silver. Bronze. In almost all of life’s categories, save for perhaps pedophilia and that old joke about the Special Olympics, one aspires to always “be” the gold, “get” the gold and so on. The gold medalist (most obviously), the gold card (no limit), the “gold standard”; even the substance itself is ever increasingly valuable these days. In this light are people motivated to purchase Gold gasoline, which is touted as having 91 octane. Its cousin Silver is at 89 octane while the ugly step-sister Bronze (“yech”) is at a lowly 87 octane. Gold is 4 “octanes” better! Sometimes the 91 “premium” gas is given a special science-y sounding name by the provider, like “V-power,” or even gets its own pump at the station.

Whatever the glam, is there a difference behind the wheel or is this just a crude example of marketing? A wise bit of regular car care and mini-tuning, or just a gas station placebo effect ?

“No, no, no- this is a ‘performance engine,’” they say, “The manual specifies that I use premium gas.”

Sure, and the instructions with your couch specify that you use a special leather cleaner once a month too.

Indeed, in a random poll it seems that not one sports car owner has ever risked filling his baby with Bronze, the usual 87 octane gas with which every other car on the road seems to work just fine.

Said one man, the proud owner of a 1997 Mustang GT as well as, he mentioned in low tones, a superlative vintage VHS pornography collection, “Of course I’ve never put it in Cheyenne. You get the cheaper gas, and it’s dirtier. There’s more sediment.”

We asked him if this was a belief stemming from anything other than some graphics he saw in a Shell or Esso commercial(?)

To this, he replied harshly, “HEY- it just makes sense. Octane is the active ingredient in the gas. They get the crude oil, make gasoline out of it somehow, and the nicest stuff is the stuff with the highest octane. It’s like THC and dope. Or scotch. You want the oldest. Of course, there’s also single malt and blended…but…ummm…”

Lost in thought as he was, it was perhaps a bad time to jump the kind gentleman with our final question, this concerning the pricing.

The 87 octane Bronze is currently around $1/liter (for our US friends, it’s $3.20 a gallon), whereas the 91 octane stuff is about $1.20/liter ($3.45/gallon for the janquis) so a little bit of math and it turns out that in Canada one pays 20% more for an ostensible 4.6% lift in performance! In the US it is quite a bit fairer, with a hot rodder paying only a 7.8% premium over regular gas for his <5% shot of placebo.

Putting aside for another day the many possible hypotheses for the price-country differential, one notices immediately that here in Canada you pay 1/5 more for less than 1/20 more in supposed performance! A four times out-sized jump in price for just a lil’ more juice. Wow- pricey!

So does it actually do anything?

“I can feel the car going faster,” said our friend with the ‘Stang, “Serious. I can feel it. Use the cheap stuff. Go ahead. You’ll hear knocking and pinging. Go ahead and try it.”

We asked that since a performance engine is made to sustain higher revs for longer periods, shouldn’t a 4.6% octane difference be irrelevant to its operational integrity? To this, the our pal simply pretended not to hear us.

“I can also tell that the engine is cleaner. Feel that too,” he said.

In related news, the $12 “Ultra” Wash continues to thrive even though there is no meaningful difference between it and the $8 “Basic” Wash. Like the gas, which is either gas or water, you are either in a car wash machine or you are not. It’s clearly just soap and water and the robot arms for both types anyway.

Of course…those flashing colorful lights that only turn on with the Ultra option…certainly they do something…right?

Consumer Rights Advocate…or Whiny As*hole?

Monday, November 29th, 2010

Canadians usually err on the side of kindness. A waiter forgets your salad, messes up your drink, and takes 25 minutes to bring the bill. At one point you were almost certain that he deliberately ignored you when you tried to get his attention, but can’t be sure.

A bad waiter? Perhaps impair the tip? Say, down to 10%?

“No, the kitchen was probably really busy.”

“His section is too big.”

“One shouldn’t be punished for forgetfulness. They’re only human.”

When should you be impelled to “stand up” for your rights as a consumer, and when should you “just relax”? As the above example shows, it is often quite difficult to assign blame to a service person with any degree of surety for an underwhelming customer experience.

Indeed, from the service side of the issue, one sees that many people probably should just relax. There is nothing more unappealing than someone power tripping on a customer service person, or taking out their frustrations on them over a minor issue.

“I asked for taupe inserts and this is clearly mocha? Do you think I am so stupid I don’t know the difference between taupe and mocha! Huh!?”

‘Uh, sir, this is taupe. See here, on your options sheet, where it says taupe? Really, the taupe and mocha are both just grey anyways…’


Equally unappealing though, is the meek little man unable to assert himself when he really has been f’ed by a company or a salesman.

“Hi, this is Tom Jenkins, um, again. Yes, I hate to be a bother but the dialysis machine you sent me is still, um, on the fritz and you, uh, haven’t come to look at it yet…like you said, uh, you would. So…if you could please, um, send someone by at your next earliest convenience? Or, um, maybe even, uh, even..replace….replace it? I am really starting to feel, uh, poorly and, uh, I suspect it might be that, uh, your machine is not…um…operating at full efficiency…since it, um, turns off…turns off sometimes and I have to kick it, um, kick it to make it turn, uh, on again. Or, ah, or maybe I just have a cold. Thank you. Sorry to be a bother. See you soon..uh..hopefully. This is Tom, uh, again, by the way. Bye bye.”

So when should you not sweat the small stuff and when are you deserving of a full refund?

It is a case by case thing, that is for sure.

Just don’t throw a tantrum…you’re a grown man after-all.

…Unless, of course, you almost died. Then go ahead and make a scene.

Yuppie Buys a Coffee at Tim Horton’s

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Groundbreaking news from the downtown core: a yuppie entered a Tim Horton’s and purchased a coffee! That’s right! For less than $5! Without whipped milk or any other affectations! Back at his office, where he works as a financial systems integration consultant, the yuppie caused a minor buzz among his colleagues when they beheld the proletariat Tim Horton’s cup in his hand instead of his usual Starbucks “venti” (XL) “latte” (partially steamed milk with a couple espresso shots in it).

Said the yuppie, John Kingsley York-Adelaide, “They handed me the ‘large’ coffee and at first I was like, ‘Owww, no cardboard cup protector?? This is burning my hands!’ but then I noticed some construction guys snickering at me so I pretended it didn’t hurt. Then they snickered some more as I went looking for the milk and sugar area. I searched fruitlessly for a titch until a delightfully helpful gentleman among them in a blue hardhat said, ‘Hey numbnuts- she put the milk in for ya.’ You see; isn’t it amazing? Sub-par coffee with not a trace of bona fide Italian cafe influence yet it is prepared-to-order! ‘Bespoke,’ if you will! Fascinating.”

The yuppie initially claimed that he deigned to enter the Tim Horton’s that day since the line at his usual Starbucks was longer than usual and he was in a rush.

“Why didn’t I walk two minutes to the next nearest Starbucks? …OK you caught me! Mea culpa. I’d always wanted to try a Tim Horton’s and, well, I guess I was just feeling reckless that day!” admitted the yuppie.

Indeed, the fundamental class division of the modern, downtown ant-colony-like working world is nowhere more clearly evident than in a comparison of the clientele of Starbucks to that of Tim Horton’s. The former is literally crammed with white-collar, upper management types. Financiers, lawyers and all manner of executives, they talk in loud voices about “deals” and continually scan the room, comparing one another’s suits. Predominantly men in their 30s, 40s and 50s, the atmosphere is actually more akin to that of a bunch of 13 year old girls in a junior high school cafeteria.

The latter? Well, Tim Horton’s – known by its devotees simply as “Timmy’s” – is where the lower-level administrative staff and assorted blue-collar guys take their coffee breaks. Contrary to popular opinion, both groups equally waste as much time as possible in their respective coffee shops, not just the Tim Horton’s folk. A clutch of Pakistani IT guys in one corner, some overweight 40 year old secretaries (known as “hens”) clucking away in another, the construction guys hamming it up about “last Saturday night” in line- the scene is perhaps more lively than that of “‘Bucks,” but just as ferociously consistent.

Of course, there is a third way. Like India in the Cold War, a very few opt to align themselves with neither of the reigning superpowers. Indeed, they choose instead the weird, Chinese-owned-and-operated independent coffee places, a handful of which are scattered about downtown, often in odd locations. The coffee is worse than either Tim Horton’s or Starbucks, but there is usually a bizarre delicacy available, such as donairs, for the renegades who call themselves customers. The hardcore regulars are the anarchic bicycle couriers, who can be found discussing their latest battle with a disrespectful cabbie, and lounge for hours, stoned, without buying anything. Other rogues appreciate these places too, such as the office oddball, whose choice of lunchtime reading is too offensive for Tim Horton’s (not pornography, just…weird…like the Journal of Insectology). However, the independent – say “Happy Coffee” or “Brake Time” – is never, ever really busy and perhaps this is their most appealing feature in the eyes of the strange characters that regularly frequent them.

Does our yuppie ever plan to go back to Tim Horton’s?

“It was fun but, overall, I felt out of place. Sure, I could save $2,124 a year and, to be honest, it was also Colombian and about as good…but if I don’t go to Starbucks how will anyone know that I can afford to waste $5 on a cup on coffee?”

The yuppie drove a leased BMW 323i and still had a mortgage.

Laudable Letters: Dear Santa, Re: the Municipal Madness…

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Occasionally we here at the Toronto Thymes receive a letter so bizarre and offensive that it is naturally worthy of publication in our Laudable Letters section. The following is a reader’s letter to Santa, in which one can clearly see how the young man has been driven to deranged, homicidal ideation due to municipal gouging.

We at TTT hope the municipal vehicle registration tax is repealed before his tags come due…for all our sakes!

Merry Christmas!

- Ed.

Dear Santa,

In the spirit of generosity, this year instead of giving me any presents, could you please give Mayor Rob Ford an office with a window that opens, a sniper rifle, and plenty of ammunition.

Not more than an hour ago I went to city hall to have my water bill payments transferred into my tenant’s name, as he is responsible for paying utilities. The outgoing mayor has added a charge of $16 PER BILL, to cover what must surely be the superhuman effort required for the city to mail duplicate bills to two addresses (stamps aren’t getting any cheaper!), and for a clerk to enter a few keystrokes in a computer.

Upon leaving the building, I noticed that the skating rink was being flooded, so boys and girls (and presumably, pedophiles) can enjoy themselves gliding around the rink on a gorgeous winter day. Of course, flooding a rink is harder than just spraying it with a hose (as you are undoubtedly aware, Santa). It actually requires hiring a fat man to spray it with a hose, and not one but two other fat men to hold the hose to make sure it doesn’t get kinked. As someone who’s used hoses before, I can totally understand why 3 unionized workers, each earning $45 an hour, are needed to complete such a challenging task (which will probably take at least 6 hours to accomplish).

Strolling along the eastern edge of the property, I was shocked to see that the row of flags were tangled and twisted. Oh no! Must have been that darned wind we had yesterday. If only we could regulate and tax the wind, it would surely go away! Anywho, I was greatly relieved to see that the city shared my concerns over this wind crisis (Flag Gate, as I call it), and were working on fixing the situation by deploying not one, but two unionized fat men and a full sized diesel cherry picker to unfurl the dishevelled flags.

Now, a lot of people might ask, “Why do we need two overpaid, slow-working people to do the work that a 15 year old with an aluminum ladder could do?”

Well, one fat man drove the cherry picker and fixed the flags, while his partner (probably a supervisor for this kind of dangerous work, being paid at least $30 per hour more than his underling) waddled alongside the vehicle, making sure its path was clear of any people who would be in danger of getting run over by an incredibly large, loud machine moving at 2 mph.

Besides, even though the flags were mounted only 8 feet off the ground, and really, a ladder would have done the trick, apparently these two individuals haven’t yet completed their mandatory 40 hours of Ladder Operation and Safety training, so it’s a good thing the city is watching out for their welfare.

So, Santa, I fear that Mr. Ford’s efforts to clean up City Hall will be hampered by purposeless bureaucracy and due process. I feel that only you, Santa, can help Mr. Ford stop the gravy train. I don’t want the Mayor to shoot the fat men flooding the rink and fixing the flags, but it would be great if he could shoot around their feet to ‘make them dance’, like in the westerns. Of course, if the outgoing Mayor and his cabinet happen to be caught strolling through Nathan Phillips Square, I think it’s open season on these turkeys.

Thanks Santa. Love you.

Your pal,
Jalec Batewin

P.S. Please also send Mr. Ford your least productive elf, as he may get peckish in his sniper roost and feel the need to feed.

Black Friday Racist

Friday, November 26th, 2010

While most Canadians have never noticed,  November 26th – the day after US Thanksgiving – is popularly known in the US as “Black Friday,” the first official day of the Christmas shopping season. Since the 1970s stores nationwide have motivated Americans out of their post-turkey Barcalounger stupor and into the malls with massive sales campaigns, making Black Friday a day where more money regularly changes hands at retailers than in any other day of the year save for Boxing Day on December 26th, the post-Christmas inventory leftovers sell-off day.

However, a prominent group in the United States dedicated to the cause of anti-racism and Blackism – a term of their own invention – has publicly charged that Black Friday is, in fact, racist. Originally associated with the infamous black rights militant group, The Black Panthers, the founders of the “Ebony Leopards” formed their splinter group because they felt that the Black Panther leadership had grown soft. Specifically, an argument erupted over whether Phil Collins was acceptable background music at Black Panther headquarters.

Said an Ebony Leopard spokesman, Keyon Kamal Natumbo II, “Black Friday? Why is a celebration of white consumerism associated with the proud black people? It should be called “White Friday”! If Christmas fell on a Friday, that’d be Black Friday, ’cause Jesus was black! That’s a Black Friday! You also hear some Beethoven on a Friday? Boom! Black Friday! Beethoven was black! Betchya didn’t know that either?? Oh, groovin’ to a lil of Brother Ludwig on an elevator? Well, thank a black man for that too. ‘Cause Otis stole the idea for the rope elevatah from his butler! That’s right! And you know what else? Penicillin! Why, penicillin-”

We were just barely able to interject upon Keyon’s Malcolm X-esque stream of consciousness long enough to ask what he thought about the generally-accepted theory that “Black” Friday refers to the profits of retailers being “in the black,” as per the accounting shorthand for profits, the sibling to being “in the red” for a loss. That is, that the “black” in Black Friday really refers to black ink(?)

Keyon replied, “Typical European colonial avoidism. When you’re caught being racist, you got an excuse! Well, what is your excuse for slavery? Hmmm? Tractor too expensive? More fun whippin’ a black man than a HORSE? HMMM??”

We replied that Canada never had slavery and, in fact, was the end destination for the Underground Railroad which facilitated the escape of tens of thousands of blacks from slavery, while it existed in the US. We also pointed out that slavery is a human phenomenon which those of African descent hardly have a monopoly upon, that various religions, races and nationalities have been enslaving those of other religions, races and nationalities since the dawn of Man; indeed, that the term actually originated from Ottoman slave collection among the slavic peoples of Eastern Europe. Further we pointed out that most agree that skin pigmentation is not correlated to one’s strength of character. That any similarities between race or ethnicity and advantages like university attendance are actual just coincidental to differing rates of poverty among white, black and Hispanic communities. We explained how this is something that affirmative action  – even though this flies in the face of the notion that race is not related to ability – and the continuing obsolescence of racism as a popular attitude should eventually correct.

Keyon replied, “You think a young black man or any other minority has a better shot than a young white man of getting into university? Are you kidding? Why, I’d like to see that. I’d like to see them ask what race you was to correct alllll the historical injustice, right there on the form. Never happen. Mine as well have a black President.”

In related news, The Star happily reports that Toronto’s “Africentric” public school is doing extremely well. Taxpayers are left wondering how exactly black kids learn math differently than everyone else.

Popular Facebook Apps Define One’s Personality

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

The interactive narcissism that is Facebook has hit new highs (or “lows,” depending on your opinion) with a record 10,000+ personality-defining applications or – as the kids say – “apps,” now available.  These free downloadable plug-ins for Facebook are usually in questionnaire form and always playful. They allow one to get the answer to the burning question of, for instance, whether they are “More like Lindsay Lohan or more like Paris Hilton?”

From this example one can discern that these apps are not as easy to create as one would assume. Indeed, here a serious knowledge of the nuances of brainless whoredom would be required to create questions that could properly assign a user to the appropriate brainless whore personality. Others rely not on notorious celebrity personalities but timeless fictional characters, such as the “What kind of Vampire are you?” app. If your most frequent response was “the homo-erotic answer” to the various questions than you would be assigned one of Anne Rice’s vampire characters…perhaps Lestat or whoever Tom Cruise was. If your most common answer was instead the one somehow related to hair products, you would be assigned one of the Twilight teen vampires.

Clearly the options are never ending. Sub-categories within broad genres can provide further time wasting opportunities.

Which Anne Rice vampire are you? Which Twilight vampire are you? Famous baseball player (temper answers = Ty Cobb, food answers = Babe Ruth), pop star (child-themed answers = Michael Jackson, weirdo answers = Lady Gaga), the possibilities are endless.

We selected a particularly interesting one that we found and present it her in text form for the edification of our readers:

Are you more of an Uday or a Qusay?

1) You see an attractive woman on the subway. You…

a)      Do nothing. Her father’s permission is required before you can speak to her.

b)      Check for a wedding ring.

c)      You’re not on the subway, you’re in a limo. You pull her inside.

2) You are at a disco and you do not like the song currently being played. You…

a) Are not at a disco. You are studying intelligence reports concerning American air patrols in the region.

b) Continue to mingle and hope a better tune comes on next.

c) Shoot the DJ.

3) Your waiter spills wine all over your new suit. You…

a) Make a mental note to impair his tip while remaining outwardly calm.

b) Make a scene.

c) Designed the suit yourself; shoot the waiter.

4) You are writing your final exams at University. They are more difficult than expected. You…

a) Trust that you have prepared adequately and will therefore still earn a respectable mark.

b) Are anxious but don’t lose your cool.

c) Are guaranteed an A+ …but that was still unfair; shoot the prof.

5) American special forces have surrounded your mansion and are demanding your immediate surrender.

a) Try to shoot your way out Scarface style.

b) Try to shoot your way out Scarface style.

c) Try to shoot your way out Scarface style.

Please tally your answers now. # A answers __  # B answers __ # C answers __

If you answered more questions with “A” then “C” then you are definitely a Qusay! You are calm, rational and organized.


If you answered more questions with “C” then “A” then you are definitely an Uday. You are spontaneous, fun-loving and uninhibited.


(…if you answered equal number, or no, A’s or C’s and almost all, or all, B’s then go back and quit being so goddamn indecisive you son of a bitch.)

Putin World’s Most Macho Ruler

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Vladimir Putin. The enigmatic de facto Czar of Russia. In a country “unfamiliar” with democracy, to say the least, switching from “President” to “Prime Minister” in early 2008 after eight years in power (ineligible as he was to run for a third “Presidential” term) was a constitutional sleight of hand that more than adequately veneered over the grossly undemocratic continuance of his rule over Russia.

Some might cry, “He’s not some kind of despot, that guy Medvedev is in charge now!”

…Yes, and every morning President Medvedev calls Putin to find out what decisions he will be making that day.

Later in 2008, not long after he had become “Prime Minister” Putin, his public usurpation of Medvedev during the skirmish between Georgia and Russia over South Ossetia, a contested region just west of Chechnya, in negotiating with the United States made plain who was still really at the helm.

Many might wonder why the Russian people tolerate such obvious, unchallenged tyranny(?) Well, following the implosion of the suddenly-no-longer-venerable USSR in 1991, the rest of the 90′s fast became a chaotic time of high unemployment and social unrest for Russians. By the end of the decade, President Yeltsin and his pro-Western agenda had lost much of the considerable post-communist credibility that it had originally enjoyed among the people. The promise of capitalist “plenty” had played out in reality as hyper-inflation and soaring job loss. Out of the mess, a handful of oligarchs – who had helped themselves to billions of dollars in state assets during the tumult – and ex-KGB administrators emerged as the new power base with Putin as their ascendant.

A ruler that smashed debate and dissent was far more familiar to the Russian psyche. When one thinks about it in terms of food and electricity, “stability” understandably becomes far more important to the ordinary person on a day-to-day basis than the hot air of conceptual principles such as “democracy.”

Perhaps most luckily for Putin, the despondency of the 90′s was replaced with prosperity for oil-rich Russia as oil prices increased through the 2000′s. Never mind that Putin repeatedly fails to diversify any investment of their oil earnings into other industries while prices are high, and that Russia’s fortunes sink commensurately every time oil falls; since the general trend has been higher priced oil Russia has been generally better off.

So what to do when you are literally a modern-day Czar and the world – or at least half of Europe and half of Asia – your cocoon?

Strut! That’s what!

Indeed, the only discernible change now that an obedient underling is occupying the #1 spot is the amount of time Putin has to work on his image. Specifically, the Czar has taken to appearing shirtless in recent years, whether the activity be fly-fishing or horseback riding…neither of which really require the removal of one’s shirt…especially when they are taking place in Siberia.

Putin reportedly lifts weights religiously every morning before a swim in his Moscow palace. This obvious PR campaign regarding his virility is thought to be an indication that he plans to assume the Presidency once more in 2012 and wants to impress upon Russians that, not only is he “not that old, ” but also still a certified badass. In short, Putin aims to communicate that the position of strongman is obviously best filled by a strong man.

For instance, other vacation activities have included white-water rafting, flying a fighter-jet, piloting a mini-submarine to the bottom of a lake, hunting a tiger, pulling a wheelie with the Moscow Harley-Davidson club, mountain skiing, and, of course, practicing judo, a martial art in which he has long owned a dojo as a sensei.

A ruthless ex-KGB agent-turned-dictator who has exiled, tortured or killed untold thousands of dissidents and made a mockery of the democratic process? Maybe.

A cool mofo who attends UFC matches with his buddy Jean Claude Van-Damme? Definitely.

For more images of Putin being a badass:

In related news a miffed Kim Jong-Il has let it be known that he is the world’s most badassed ruler and (amazingly, for a man who is 5’4″ and 60 lbs. overweight) that he could beat up both Putin and JCVD if he wanted to….

Seatbelts Cost Lives

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

The Canadian Laneways Inspection Thinktank, an independent research group, stunned the automobile safety research community and drivers everywhere with the groundbreaking findings it released today: contrary to all popular belief, seat-belts are in fact unsafe. Indeed, the Thinktank – while a remote group about whom the broader automobile manufacture and safety research community know little – commands extraordinary attention among the public whenever it releases its conclusions, however infrequent this may be. Indeed, the general public shudders and gasps whenever the Thinktank and its highly sensitive findings are accessed.

“Seat-belts are inherently unsafe instruments,” said Dr. Don Johnson (no relation) of the Thinktank, “Our research indicates that for every one person who’s saved by a seat-belt, ten are trapped by them and burn to death. Strapped inside their fiery tomb of twisted sheet metal and supple pleather by the very thing that was suppose to save them. Ironical, really.”

We asked about the millions of people who would have broken their nose – or worse – but for seatbelts, to which Don replied, “In decades past? Maybe they had value in a fender-bender, sure. Now? You got an airbag! It deploys any time you get in a  minor crash bad enough to risk a busted face. Wearing a seat-belt at the same time is literally like wearing suspenders and a belt.”

“Surely wearing one’s seat-belt is beneficial in a major collision, burning wrecks aside?” we implored.

“Ah,” cried the good doctor, “that is where you are most wrong. In the event of a major collision our research shows that you want to be thrown clear of the wreck! Not encumbered by some primitive, medieval strappery. Consider all those who suffered serious – or even fatal – inner organ damage from the seat-belt itself? Certainly a little trip though the windshield cannot even begin to compare with lung scrunch or liver mash. Have you ever seen a crunched kidney? How about a pulverised pancreas? Well I can tell you that I have, sir, and it is not a pretty sight.”

We pointed out that the Ontario government still requires seat-belts to be used at all times, regardless of the Thinktank’s findings.

Don grew indignant at this point, stating icily, “We men of science have little time for the flapping and widdering of a fundamentally totalitarian state. Tickets translate into state revenue. The state has little compunction propagating scientific fallacies in order to better rationalize these tickets and so better earn the revenue.”

Dr. Johnson estimates that about 2.5 million lives have been needlessly lost since seat-belts were first introduced in automobiles in the mid 1960s. He reasons that countries which introduce seat-belt legislation witness their annual traffic fatalities increase, on-average, by 40%.

“Plus they’re uncomfortable as hell,” added the doctor, “especially if you’re not wearing a shirt. …Or perhaps a Hawaiian shirt, but open.”

Limited Concern for Trapped New Zealand Miners

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

“Again?” This was the response given by most when confronted with the news that another group of miners had become trapped halfway across the world, this time in New Zealand, in the man-on-the-street interviews we recently conducted. Indeed 29 “Kiwi” miners became trapped underground Friday when an accidental explosion occurred deep within their mine, located in Pike River, New Zealand. The incident is almost identical to the mining accident that occurred in early August in Chile, in which it eventually took 69 days to finally rescue the 33 men trapped underneath the earth.

Thus, instead of “Oh my God, are they OK??” many people responded to news of the crisis with “Oh my God, that’s sooo ‘last summer’!” (with varying degrees of Valley Girl intonation).

Said Danek Zhou Riccardi, a veteran journalist with OMNI news, “Variety is the spice of life. Miners? Trapped? Again? People are sick of this story. It’s been played out. Typically, the miners thing can only command the headlines twice a decade at most.”

Danek paused to take a bite out of his sausage and rice panini, then added, “It is nice to see that it’s going down in a global context. Chile – now New Zealand – instead of just Pennsylvania or West Virginia all the time. But still: twice a decade. It’s a rule.”

Other pedestrians queried at random were not only uncaring; they were skeptical.

A fat caucasian man commented, “It’s probably a scam. Once them kangaroo-f*ckers saw how much money them beaners made off’a book deals, they drummed up this lil ‘splosion. Hell, I bet they got a TV down there.”*

Another was more circumscribed in her suspicions. “People will do anything to get on Oprah,” she stated with a blank face.

One man was visibly excited at the thought of the cannibalism that the miners might eventually be reduced to.

“Think they’ll eat each other?? I bet…I bet they’ll have to eat each other!” he repeated incessantly, while tightly grasping our wrist. (Eventually our correspondent shook free and sprinted away.)

A random poll conducted during the Chilean miner crisis showed that approximately 47% of people could not locate Chile on a map in less than five seconds. Many vainly scanned the African continent. Others disputed that an actual country was “named after food.” Similarly, another random poll conducted just this weekend showed that about half of people queried could not locate New Zealand on a map. Indeed, a few even asked if it was in the same spot the “Old Zealand was at?” Others asked “Was that where Crocodile Dundee was from?” then getting lost in speculation as to the possibility of “them making” another film in the franchise.

Thus, it is mathematical fact that virtually nobody knows where both Chile and New Zealand are. It is likely that the obscure and distant locale of the crisis reduces its impact among Westerners. Simply put, the typical cable news viewer is far more receptive to the familiar and comforting North Carolina-child-kidnapping-case narrative, in which the obese mother pins it on “a black male” before it is eventually revealed that she deliberately drowned the children in a nearby lake by driving her Bonneville into it with the children still buckled inside.

However thin public interest may be, the more pressing concern is obviously that of the miners’ extrication. The families of the miners are confident that, not being South American, a rescue should be completed in less than two entire months.

*Indeed, technology played a vital role in the maintenance of the Chilean miners’ sanity. For more on this Summer’s miner rescue, see:

Death of the Sitcom

Friday, November 19th, 2010

The traditional situation comedy format or “sitcom” has been officially declared dead in an article that appeared in Variety this week. “Yet,” one would ask, “what of the many, popular non-reality television programs that seem to follow a sitcom format? Surely these prove that the format endures?” Well, according to these Hollywood experts, these are not actually sitcoms. For instance, Two & a Half Men is actually  a “titcom” since the astounding amount of tits’n’ass splashed onto the screen is really the driving force behind the show, rather than the enduring, comical relationships between a group of familiar characters.  Other shows that masquerade as sitcoms  designed to appeal to everyone, but are in reality even more unpalatable to women than “titcoms” because of their often crude subject matter, such as How I Met Your Mother, are in fact “dickcoms,” not sitcoms. Conversely, the few sitcoms that target women viewers with strong female-oriented content and female leads such as The New Adventures of Old Christine and that grab-bag of Sex and the City offspring are in fact “slitcoms.”

Other would-be sitcoms fall into more obscure categories. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is not only set in a bar but is well-known to be best enjoyed drunk, thus it is a “litcom.”  A few like Scrubs are really only watched by teenagers and are thus “zitcoms.”  Golden Girls? “Knitcom.”

And every few years one recurring, so-called sitcom hits the airwaves that is so overwhelmingly objectionable that it qualifies as a “shitcom,” such as Ugly Betty.

The genre was supposedly saved from the enveloping abyss of reality TV with the turn to an irreverent and satirical comedy style that began earlier last decade with sensationally popular The Office. Shot in a “you are there” Blair Witch one-handed camcorder style, where characters often acknowledge the presence of the camera, the show was ground-breaking. Unfortunately it was so overwhelmingly popular that viewers tuned in just to see what the fuss was about, not, for instance, to hear what hilarious scheme Cliff and Norm might get Sam into “this week” on Cheers. It was edgy and new, not comforting. Hence, it was in fact a “hitcom.” It’s NBC cousin program 30 Rock, which debuted at the same time, took the irreverent new style to even higher heights with dialogue so ironic it hurt and, in that respect, is in fact a “hipcom,” where university aged people congratulate themselves on getting the jokes.

Indeed, The Office was so popular that the dependable sitcom formula of Cheers, Seinfeld and Friends was forever abandoned in favor of producing a slew of obvious clones, each shot and written in exactly the same fashion. Indeed, once the single camera and quirky dialogue was in place, the setting and story lines were largely irrelevant. Witness Parks & Recreation, Community and Modern Family.

A recurring cast experiencing comedic situations on a weekly basis. A sitcom, right?

Wrong. Comedic ripoffs. Hence, “ripcoms.”

One might think that now that The Office is showing its grays, many years into syndication, with themes growing stale and characters old and pudgy, that it’s less of a hit and perhaps now a true sitcom(?) Unfortunately, no. It probably should have been canceled by now, and will almost surely be canceled after a Michael Scott-less last gasp next year.

Thus it is not a sitcom. It is a “quitcom.”

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