Thursday, September 28, 2006

Three Men and a Pathetic Waste of $150

Last weekend, two teacher friends of mine decided that we’d just about had it up to here with the lack of women in town and needed some… well, action, to put it bluntly. To that end, we set sail for the wondrous town of Flin Flon, Manitoba and stayed the night

You know, it's sad, in a way, when your town's enduring image constantly emits noxious chemicals. Okay, no, that's just sad in every conceivable way.

You must know that Flin Flon is the closest major town. There is another one closer, called Pelican Narrows, but… it’s a native reserve. So… yes, not quite “major”. It’s two and a half hours away, in another province, and in another time zone. By the time you get there, it’s as if you’ve arrived on a steamer in Calcutta or something. Basically, it ain’t Sandy Bay. You’d be amazed how big a town of 6200 feels after being cooped up here for a week.

It’s a mining town; zinc and copper, near as I can figure out. And there’s a giant smokestack emitting sulfur dioxide at every hour of the day. Picturesque, to say the least. It’s a town built on rock, so there’s a lot of sewer pipes exposed above-ground and stuff. It’s weird. It feels a tad like civilization, what with the Wal Mart and grocery stores that sell Marmite.

It also has bars. These bars have women. These women have, from what I have been told, vaginas. With this knowledge in mind, the teachers and I decided to get a room in town and head out to said bars. Now, I’m not gonna lie to you: Spike was not in full-form this evening. In fact, Spike did rather poorly given that I would estimate the female presence there to be well in excess of 60%. And, you know, for an upper-lower class, blue collar mining town, these women were really rather attractive. I guess genetics don’t discriminate based on class.

I think I have it figured out, though. This is a mining town, through and through. There are no other jobs, basically. Where the miners in your local community are treated as plebian slobs, the people who toil and risk their lives underground all day for a living are treated with respect and admiration in Flin Flon. Surprisingly, there is even a majority of women in town who actively seek out miners, if the conversations I had at the bar in Flin Flon are accurate. These men offer money, they offer job security, and they offer a future for women who live in a town where, again, sewer pipes run above ground. Quite frankly, it’s a no-brainer, and I can’t fault them for wanting to set up shop with them rather than some fresh-faced, educated, immaculately-groomed teacher from a native community two hours away who will, at best, show up in town once a weekend for a year and then take off. So, yes… very strange. Guys who wouldn’t get a second look back in Oshawa, Kingston or London are now getting themselves the highest quality tail within hundreds of kilometers of Flin Flon (okay, maybe not Kingston).

It’s funny, what the mind does to you when placed in a situation like mine. The main reason we went to Flin Flon was so a fellow teacher friend of mine could see and talk to a waitress in Flin Flon he’d been served by the previous weekend. And in the bar I met a lovely young lass with whom I struck up a delightful conversation (which is less than I had anticipated). But, you know, the mind starts playing tricks on you; all of a sudden, you start getting crazy thoughts, like… maybe her and I will go out, and I’ll drive in there every weekend to see her and we’ll have fun and then at the end of the year I’ll rescue her from Flin Flon and we’ll live in Ontario. And maybe her parents and all surviving relatives are dead so that we’ll never, ever have to come back to Flin Flon ever again to see them for the holidays. This is the crap your brain will pull on you. I never understood how those dudes in the Second World War movies got by with just a photo of their gal back home. But now… no, fuck it, that’s still just lame. I mean, a photo? What good’s that gonna do you?

Anyway, I never thought I’d say this, but frigging Flin Flon, Manitoba is now a second home to me. That was the second weekend I spent there in a row, and I do plan on going again this weekend (to stay at George Trevor’s place, whose blog is an excellent counterpart to mine and will be plugged in more detail soon enough). In fact, for reasons beyond my comprehension, my dad has decided to join me for a week here in Sandy Bay.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Since I Won't be Getting Any Women Anyway, Here's a Page-Long Post on James Bond Music

The new Bond song popped up online earlier this week. It’s called “You Know My Name” (because, you know, “Casino Royale” would sound silly), and it’s written by the film’s composer, David Arnold, sung by some guy named Chris Cornell, with lyrics by Don Black (who has been doing them since Thunderball in 1965, for Christ’s sake). It’s altogether not horrendous, but not entirely successful, either.

Traditionally, the film’s composer writes the song so that it can show up later on in the film as an action piece or something to play during the romantic bits. John Barry did this to great effect from ’63 to ’87, and is responsible for most of the Bond songs that anyone has an awareness of. Starting in Tomorrow Never Dies 9 years ago, David Arnold began writing the scores to the Bond films, but the producers have consistently screwed him over when it comes to the title songs.
Composer David Arnold nursing a hangover in a promotional photo

A good portion of Arnold’s score to that film centred around a song he wrote sung by k.d. lang. Considering her just a tad too butch (in a bad way) for the mass market, the producers brought Sheryl Crow in at the last minute to whip some piece of crap song together without Arnold’s input. Thus, the movie opens with a forgettable song that is nowhere to be heard in the rest of the film, and it is not until the end credits that you hear k.d. lang’s version. Of course, by then, nobody gives a shit.
k.d. lang (not pictured) looks suspiciously similar to Rob Schneider

For the next one, The World is Not Enough, the producers let Arnold write the title song in conjunction with Garbage. It turned out decent enough (if a tad slow), and the main bonus there is that the frigging title theme is referenced continuously throughout the rest of the movie. I mean, it’s not rocket science here; this is what they should be doing for every movie.

In spite of this, the producers felt they needed a big name for the next movie; someone that would get people talking about the song as much as the movie. Being that the last moderately successful Bond theme was Duran Duran’s A View to a Kill, in 19 frigging 85, this is a fair concern. So, being the geniuses that they are, they brought in Madonna and had her write a song completely independent of Arnold that lacks any sense that it is a main theme to a James Bond movie. Unsurprisingly, what is inarguably the absolute worst Bond theme is never heard from again in the movie after it makes its initial appearance at the start, and the film has no musical cohesion. This is made all the worse when you consider that Arnold had a kick-ass song already written, parts of it you can pick up at various points in the movie’s score.

For Casino Royale, for whatever reason, the producers seem to have magically given full control to Arnold in writing the title song (like World is Not Enough). Given carte blanche, he goes for some guy named Chris Cornell. He is apparently in some band called Audioslave (so you know it has to be great), and he sounds like Chad Kroeger or the guy from Creed. Basically, he is an awful, awful human being. The song itself is reminiscent of Nickleback’s song at the end of the first Spider-Man movie; that is to say that it is pretty bad.

I’ve gotta say that I’m stunned. For years I’d told myself that if they just gave Arnold the freedom to write whatever he wanted, he’d knock it out of the park. Like, I figured maybe he’d go back to Shirley Bassey or Tom Jones or maybe someone contemporary who was interesting, like Goldfrapp or even go the all-instrumental route like On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and team up with the Propellerheads again. Nope. Chris fucking Cornell, I guess, is a guy Arnold thinks is appropriate to sing a Bond song. It’s like when you believe in God, but your infant child gets cancer and dies anyway. Like, seriously, I don’t know what to believe anymore.

The silver lining to the cloud is that while the singing and guitar riffs are terrible, the actual tune is pretty catchy. If you can picture an Arnold-esque techno-fied version of it playing while Bond drives a car really fast, or a slowed-down romantic version while Bond is getting a chick mentally prepared to get fucked by him, then you can see some merit in the tune. The best part is that like Arnold’s rejected main theme from Die Another Day (which was to be called “I Will Return”, which is fucking awesome), this one is also based directly on the Bond theme itself. So while I’m not too excited with it as a title song, I am looking forward to hearing how Arnold works it into the rest of the film.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

All Dead Fish, All the Time

He was somebody's baby, once

So’s, I catch this fish last week. 2.5 pound pickerel, I’m told (why don’t we use metric in weight and height in this country an centigrade for pool temperature, anyway?). Not my first since I’ve been up here, but it was the first one I wanted to kill myself. Generally I will bring the fish up on shore and, like a schoolgirl, get either Robin or Mr. George Trevor, my new chums and experienced fishermen, to get it off my hook and take it out. But, before everyone in town thought I was entirely gay, I figured I had to do this one on my own.
The fish I killed looked suspiciously similar to this one

Mssrs. Stewart and Trevor pretend the fish are immigrant workers stealing their jobs

Like Dachau, only with fish

So I have it on the ground, grab a pair of pliers, and start braining it. It’s about as violent as it sounds. You think fish are all squishy and stuff, but their skulls are rather hard and you really feel each whack to the cranium. Then comes the job of slitting its throat, as George Trevor does, so that the blood runs out and you don’t have a mess on your hands while you’re cleaning it. I have it on its back in one hand, filleting knife in the other. This is where it gets real sick, where you can feel the thing’s heart beat (or something), and all its muscles twitching, and I start feeling real guilty for having caught it and bashed its skull in. I have the knife ready to go in, but there’s a mental block. It’s as if its throat were solid concrete or something. No matter how hard I try to cut into it, I just can’t do it. Now, luckily this scene was taking place in the company of many seasoned teachers; so, while I looked like an ass in front of them all, I was able to call one over so he could finish the job himself.

Anyway, not that I’d never eat fish again, or quit fishing, but I definitely will not be killing one ever again.

Feel-Good Time!

Hey, is that a naked lady around that corner? Oh... no. No, it isn't.

Just as there are failed states like Haiti and Somalia, so, too, are there failed towns. Sandy Bay is one such place, and while the dead bodies of American marines aren’t being dragged through its streets, any sane person would feel ill at ease while spending so much as five minutes here.

As soon as you drive into town after spending two hours on one of the worst, most depressing roads known to man, a thought hits you: I’ve made a terrible mistake. Don’t let the satellite dishes fool you, my friend; below them sit some of the most dilapidated houses and squalid living conditions you will ever see this side of Calcutta.

No, Mother Theresa never had it this bad: green water that intermittently shuts off; children who roam the streets in packs at night, long after you’ve gone to bed; buckets of paint thrown on cars, covering the smashed windshields beneath. I’d speak of the view, but with my barred windows covered at all hours behind pinned-down blinds, there isn’t much I could describe. Yes, it’s just about as close as you can get to hell on earth, and you have now committed yourself to living here for another nine months.

You can’t blame the locals for the conditions in which they live. Not entirely, anyway. Basically, we fucked them over about as much as you can fuck a people over just short of outright genocide, and this is where they find themselves a few hundred years later. So, thanks a lot, great-great-great-great grandpa, you fucking cunt scab. You abhorrent piece of feces. I hate you.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I Am Not Dead!

Oh... don't let the friendly sign fool you

Well, I don’t know what to say. Here I am, in Saskatchewan. Well, I’m actually in the Flin Flon home of a friend for the weekend, and that’s in Manitoba. The irony of my finally having something worthwhile and interesting to post about over the past three-four weeks while not having access to the Internet is not lost on me.

At any rate, here I am, teaching in Sandy Bay. Look it up. The drive there will surely give you an appreciation of the expansiveness of the country. I mean, Christ, it’s fucking huge. Why the fuck does anyone live up here, man? We’d have a sweet kick-ass country if we just grabbed all 30 million people in Canada and stretched them from Windsor to… Quebec City or so. But that’s neither here nor there.

Sandy Bay is an interesting place to live. There are certainly some things they leave out of the brochure. Like… if you’re going to have booze, you’d better not fucking tell a soul unless you want some locals breaking into your house. On that topic, if you think you might want to head into town for the weekend (Flin Flon, Manitoba being “town”), then you need to get the groundskeeper to board up your door while you’re away. God… fun times! So fun, in fact, that I can reduce them to chart form:

Action

Result

Enjoying a beer on your patio/inside your home with the blinds open, or moving beer you have bought in town from your car’s trunk to your home while it is not stealthily wrapped in a blanket

Your house will be broken into, and all your worldly possessions will never be seen again (not by you, at any rate)

Driving down a road

The engine mount, the thing that keeps your car’s fucking engine inside it, will be split in two by a small rock

Walking home from a friend’s place after, say, 8 o’clock, or between the morning hours of 6 and 10

You stand the chance of being assaulted (chances of being assaulted increase if it’s welfare payout day in town), according to somewhat-justifiably paranoid Mounties

Having a few drinks with the locals

You will “most likely” be killed eventually, again according to the Mounties. In the locals’ defense, the Mounties are pretty high-strung and blow crime out of proportion to the point where they consider Toronto to be an unsafe city where drive-by shootings are a commonplace occurrence.

Dating/Fucking a local

100% chance of being killed by jealous ex-boyfriend/current boyfriend/brother/father/person you are fucking. Again, make no mistake of it: that’s one-hundred percent.

Enjoying the local environment

A bear might eat you

Wanting to leave your house unoccupied overnight

A giant plank of wood will be drilled over your door using special bolts that only the groundskeeper (good guy) can screw out

Wanting to eat meat that isn’t elk steaks, like, say… boneless chicken breast. Or cream cheese that doesn’t come in those annoying rectangles covered in tinfoil.

You will drive 2.5 hours across the most treacherous road you can think of, into another fucking province, to get these items

Wanting to talk to friends and loved ones in the privacy of your home rather than, say, the payphone in the front hall at school

You will have to wait 3 weeks for the man from SaskTel to come to SandyBay

So there you have it. In all seriousness, I have enjoyed my time so far, don’t feel too terribly unsafe (maybe just a tad), and think that the Mounties tend to exaggerate the risks associated with some recreational activities. Not to say that the area isn’t without its massive, deep-seated problems that have bored their way through and grown their roots into every level of society here, but… I guess they’re working on it or something? Basically, if you want to piss away all the excitement you had about teaching as a career after graduating Teacher’s College, gang, this is a decent place to start.

You know, come to think of it, everything not associated with teaching during my daily routine is rather fun. Daily fishing trips up the to the dam, catching and eating fresh pickerel, hiking, climbing shit, and… all that sorta business is enjoyable. At least until it gets to be 30 below. And I seem to be making friends with people on staff, though… the average age there is over 50. So… yeah. There are two gents in their early 30s I’ve been hanging around, and I think the three of us make an enjoyable lot. Note that I said they were “gents” rather than “people with vaginas”, because other than the girl my age who is dating a fucking Mountie in town, the next youngest woman is, literally, 20 years older (I’m talking about people on staff – remember what I said about fucking the locals). Not quite the fuckfest I was hoping for.

I’m told Saskatchewan has a population of one million. This amuses me. It also means that, unlike Ontario, the teacher’s union here can hold a yearly convention and most of the teachers in the province will actually be able to go (because there ain’t that many of us here, comparatively). Every year, the whole week after Thanksgiving, all the schools in the province shut down and teachers gather in some godforsaken city (this year it’s Prince Albert) to… I dunno. Look at powerpoints by the union or something? I neither care, nor know. Basically in one month I’ll have the chance to get out of here, go out drinking with the teachers without fear of being knifed, get a haircut (that’s another thing I hadn’t considered before I came here), eat a few lunches and breakfasts covered by the union and, presumably, screw someone? I dunno. Fingers crossed, gang! You could at least set a good movie at one of these conventions. Good human condition stuff, you know? Anyway, just gotta make sure I keep it together until the second week of October.

The school board will pay travel costs to get here. Driving around 3000 Km and staying in 3 hotels cost me $600. However, for reasons well beyond my understanding, they pay you a mileage rate that is well beyond what it actually costs to get here (like, more than four times greater than it needs to be). Thus, I will get a sweet $900 or so just for driving here, after deducting the $600. So I assume someone’s gotta be losing their job over this or something, because that’s fucking retarded. On their end. Works out great for me.

Well, that last paragraph is a good sign I’ve run out of worthwhile things to talk about. Hopefully now that the blog is back in shape, and I have moderately interesting things to discuss (or at least a cool photo or two), this won’t be the last of it. So in the words of the late Hal Johnson, “keep fit, and have fun.”

Mike