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Well, kids, it’s been fun,

By Alex:

Well, kids, it’s been fun, but I believe that this is my last guest post here on Ye Olde Uppsyde-Downe Hippoe. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve engaged in autonomic biological functions regulated by the ancient reptilian parts of our brains without our conscious control.

I’m sure we’re all waiting with bated breath to hear about David’s path of destruction and wanton violence through the heretofore pristine jungles of Costa Rica – keep reading after I’m gone or he’ll hate me!

At least one of you has asked if I have my own blog. I didn’t before, but I’m starting one now called Canadian Yankee. There’s not much there now and it’s not pretty yet, but be sure to check it out in a day or two and I’ll have some new content, hopefully with pictures and stuff.

Farewell, and may the road rise up to meet the wind beneath your wings, or whatever.

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Today during my lunch break

By Alex:

Today during my lunch break I went to Toronto City Hall to pay my property taxes. Unfortunately, I didn’t realize until it was too late that the large public square I had to cross to get there was hosting an event called “Toronto Kids’ Tuesdays”, so said square was completely enmoppetted, or beurchined, or whatever the proper term is that means “full of small persons with poor impulse control”. Since a not-inconsiderable part of my own self image is wrapped up in being the most immature person in whatever group of people I find myself included, being around that many children makes me feel unpleasantly adult. Ick.

I also noticed that there seems to be a big trend towards day care uniforms these days. I guess that the day care people have found that it’s easier to keep track of their charges in a crowded public space if they’re all dressed in identical brightly-colored t-shirts or vests. The horrifying aspect of this is that there seemed to be no consideration given to what looked good on any particular child – kids who were obvious winters, for example, were given no option whatsoever to opt out if their day care center’s chosen t-shirt color was safety orange. By the time I had crossed the square, I was almost in tears from the pathos of these small children being subjected to such wanton and unthinking sartorial cruelty.
If I ever start a day care center (probably not a good idea, given my aforementioned urge to be the most immature person in the room – within fifteen minutes of the departure of the last parent, my poor day care center probably will have degenerated into something from the last third of Lord of the Flies[*] with yours truly leading the pack, wearing nothing but finger paint and glitter while some unusually mature five-year-old scolds me, “Mister Elliott, mommy says it’s naughty to put Pla-Doh[TM] there!” – but let’s just pretend for a moment that my hypothetical child care career is actually a workable concept rather than an inevitable demonstration that human civilization is just a thin and fragile veneer over our ineluctable animal natures), I’ll definitely include a prominent announcement on the cover of all my brochures stating, “I will never dress your child unflatteringly!”

I’ll make a bundle.

[*] I couldn’t mention Lord of the Flies with out mentioning something that really bothers me about that book, but it was too parenthetical to include in that already parenthetical aside. When I first read LotF in school, I remember being very disturbed indeed – not by any of the parts that are supposed to be disturbing, but by the fact that Piggy was said to be myopic (and he obviously was nearsighted based on the descriptions of his ineptness without his glasses) which meant that his glasses were diverging lenses. You need converging lenses to set fires with sunlight, which pretty much destroys one of LotF‘s key plot elements. I really think that William Golding should have known better since this little myopia factoid is not exactly uncommon knowledge: I discovered it myself at the age of nine when I got my first pair of eyeglasses and empirically determined that they were entirely useless when it came to frying ants. If I ever got a tattoo, I think I would get one on my right buttcheeck that said “Piggy was not hyperopic!” The only thing keeping me from doing so is that the tattoo artist probably wouldn’t spell “hyperopic” correctly and then people in the gym locker room would point at my butt and laugh at the misspelling. People pointing at my butt and laughing is really not what my already fragile ego needs.

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This is David. I am

This is David. I am still in Costa Rica. Yesterday, I came very close to being ON Costa Rica, as in an elongated, David-colored smear across the otherwise beautiful landscape, but that is a story for when I take up residence again in my own blog. (Although you may wonder exactly which hue “David-colored” is, I would not know what to tell you. Perhaps slightly more tan than it was a week ago. I think “Rob-colored” leans more toward the red family. His smear would have been prettier than mine, in any event.)

I am typing this on a Spanish keyboard. If you have ever seen one, you know that it makes only slightly more sense than the Windows operating system with which I am forced to use it in conjunction. I still have no idea how to get to the “at” sign, although I can see it, plain as day, on the “2” key, along with the double quotation mark. There is a “ñ” where the apostrophe should be, which is fine, because there is an apostrphe where the “-” should be. As I write this, I am making typos left and right. Correcting them is laborious, especially as the space bar on this particular computer seems to have a mind of its own.

Regardless, this only goes to show what I will put up with in order to correspond with you all. I also wanted to mention that, in the case of any future David-colored smears, I bequeath this blog to Alex, whose current efforts I immensely appreciate. (Especially references to The Boyfriend, who used to be my The Boyfriend. My mother adored him, as well, and still asks after him in the context of a certain chocolate rum cake he was famous for producing. Perhaps the secret to his parental appeal was in the rum.)

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My parents are visiting. They’re

By Alex:

My parents are visiting. They’re getting on pretty well with The Boyfriend, which is good, but it is a bit distressing how people can bond by telling embarrassing stories about the person who serves as their mutual connection.

This morning, The Boyfriend asked my mother, “Has he always been such a princess?” To my dismay, my mother nodded her head and said, “Yup.”

And then last night, The Boyfriend was treated to The Bat Story. When I was younger, my parents moved into a big, old, falling-down house (they wanted to experience the joy of do-it-yourself renovation) that was built around the turn of the century. The roof was in particularly poor repair and all sorts of critters – squirrels, starlings, and even bats – would get in through the eaves and nest in the attic. My bedroom was on the third floor of the house, which was a later addition carved out of the attic. It was kind of cool to have sloping wall/ceilings and definitely cool to be the only person in the family sleeping on the floor; but the disadvantage was that I was the first contact for any of these attic-dwelling critters that got lost on its way to the outside.

One night when I was thirteen, I was awakened at about five in the morning by strange thumps and crashes and loud metallic clicking sounds. I turned on the light and saw one of my parents’ cats sitting on the floor, lashing its tail and staring intently into space. Suddenly, a flapping black blur flew through the air – the cat leapt up and swung frantically at it, crashing into as it fell back to the floor. Each time the cat lunged, the bat issued a strange metallic chittering in protest. I think I probably squealed in terror, but if I did, it was so high that only the bat noticed.

I shooed the cat out of the room and turned on all the lights (under the assumption that the bat would think it was daytime and go to sleep). I sat up in my bed, wedged into the corner of the room, clutching a bed sheet. Every time the bat approached my corner of the room, I’d shut my eyes, turn my face away, and frantically wave the sheet in the air (I was such a butch child). Eventually the bat (which was probably exausted from its time as a cat toy) did indeed settle down and perch hanging from a doorframe. When my father finally got up for work at about six, I went to him to take care of the scary bat for me.

This ended up happening about once a year throughout my teen years. It did eventually become routine enough that I could evict the bat all by myself (the secret: put an empty margarine tub over it after it’s settled down and slip the lid underneath), but I really was a scaredy-cat that first time.

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This started out as a

By Alex:

This started out as a response in the comment thread attached to the July 22 post, but it got kind of long so I’m enlarging it even more and making it a post in its own right.

Adrian from Australia (Austradrian?) commented that Canada seems to have a relatively open immigration policy, at least compared to Australia. That’s probably true – and many people from all over the world know that Canada is easier to immigrate to than the United States.

Canada knows that it’s a big, empty country with a less-than-replacement-level birthrate. They also had a fairly restrictive and racist immigration policy for the first half of the 20th century that has left a fair amount of residual guilt that they’re still trying to make up for. That’s also why they introduced the Cosmo quiz points system, since they wanted the process to be less vulnerable to the potential biases of individual immigration officials.

Canada seems to expect different things from its immigrants than the United States does. The dominant metaphor here is not the US-style “melting pot”, but a “cultural mosaic”, where each ethnic/cultural group maintains its distinct identity, but together they make a pretty picture. It’s probably just as much of a fairy tale as the melting pot idea, but at least the ideal is not, “Prepare to be assimilated. Resistance is futile.”

Part of this innate Canadian tolerance for diversity comes from the whole Quebec issue. These days its seen as an English/French cultural division, but before the 1960s it was really more of a Catholic/Protestant religious division (the majority of the English settlers here were hardcore Calvinist Scottish and Scotch-Irish types). Whichever it is, Canada has had more experience with managing a multicultural society with no clear majority culture (as opposed to one with a dominant group and a few minorities thrown in for flavor) than most places. Of course, the converse of this multiculturalism is the continual and often excruciatingly boring agonizing about, “what does it mean to be Canadian?” As far as I can tell, the Canadian cultural identity is almost wholly composed of wondering what the Canadian cultural identity is, along with frequent assertions that whatever it might be, it’s damn well not anything at all like the American cultural identity.

The current per capita immigration rate in Canada is about twice what it is in the US. Most of those immigrants end up in Toronto, which is now about half foreign-born (for comparison, New York City is about one-third foreign-born). This of course means that the restaurant scene here totally rocks. You can get fantastic and often dirt-cheap ethnic food of nearly every variety. Except Mexican – good, cheap, like-your-abuela-would-make Mexican food is one of the things I really miss about the US. It was in Toronto that I learned (the hard way) that eating at a burrito place entirely staffed by Pakistanis is probably a bad idea.

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I have no passport. This

By Alex:

I have no passport. This makes me nervous.

Actually I do “have” a passport, meaning that there exists a passport issued to me, but I don’t have possession of it at the moment. This morning, the two of us sent off our passports to our immigration lawyer who will in turn send to the Canadian consulate in Buffalo. Eventually (and how long “eventually” will be is one of the scary bits) we’ll get them back along with visas to re-enter Canada, after which point we will be Landed Immigrants (that’s Canadian for “having a green card”).

So in the end, this should be a good thing, because it means I’ll be a legal permanent resident in the country where I’m actually living at the moment and I won’t have to worry about being deported if I lose my job (right now I’m here on a temporary employment visa). In the short run it’s scary because I feel like some Mountie will stop me on the street and demand to see my papers and I won’t have them and I’ll get deported anyway, or at least break down in tears in front of a jeering public audience.

I almost sure this won’t happen, but I worry about it all the same (well, occasionally I manage to derail the Mountie-demanding-papers scenario into something a little more titillating and much less worrisome, but I’m almost sure that won’t happen either).

Anyway, if you’ve ever wondered whether you could immigrate to Canada, you too can take the Cosmo quiz that Citizenship and Immigration Canada uses to determine whether or not the Canadians find you desirable. Score at least 75 points and you can bask in the knowledge that Canada wants you!

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Wow – David hasn’t been

By Alex:

Wow – David hasn’t been eaten by monkeys yet!

I just went to the grocery store. Of course, I couldn’t just leave home dressed any old way – I had to dress for the grocery store.

This is of course a side-effect of living in a gay ghetto. The good part is that there’s plenty of eye candy on the street. The bad part is that you have to dress to be seen every time you go outdoors or else risk being treated like a leper.

A couple of weeks ago, during Pride weekend, I discovered that sometimes you have to dress to be seen even if you’re not going outdoors. I got on the elevator in my building to take some recyclables down to the bins in the building loading dock. I had just thrown on a baggy old t-shirt and I hadn’t even done my hair yet. Inside the elevator was the guy who teaches the Tuesday night ab class at the gym. I was mortified – I wanted to explain or to vanish into a puddle of slime or something. I was sure he was going to yell something like, “Hey! Why do you bother going to my ab class if you’re just going to wear baggy t-shirts? I banish you from my class…forever!!” and make some sort of highly impressive banishing gesture.

He didn’t say any such thing though. He just said, “Hi,” or maybe, “Hey,” or maybe even, “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.” I was too busy trying to melt into a puddle of slime to hear what he said.
I’ve learned my lesson. There are only two acceptable ways to go to leave the apartment: in a fitted t-shirt or tank top, or carrying a bell and ringing it periodically while shouting, “Unclean! Unclean!”

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David here. Please pardon me

David here.

Please pardon me for interrupting the mutual love fest that is going on in my blog while I am out of the country. This is the first Internet connection I have found in several days (well, the first functioning Internet connection I have found in several days). Anyway, going by the number of comments, I see that you all love Alex more than me. Fine. See if I care. When I get back, you will all be subjected to my vacation photos, and possibly — if you are very unlucky — I will post exerpts from my travel journal.

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This is a story from

By Alex:

This is a story from February 28th of this year, but just I discovered it yesterday:

World’s longest concert gets under way in Germany HALBERSTADT, Germany (AP) – First there was silence – 1½ years of it.

But that was just a brief lead-in for Friday’s playing of the opening notes in what’s planned as the world’s longest concert, a 639-year piece being performed in a former church in east Germany. With 72 years already mapped out, the concert inspired by the American avant-garde composer John Cage challenges the creativity of future generations to keep the music playing.

[…]

The three notes being played Friday – G sharp, B, and G sharp – are the debut for an organ built for Cage’s music, with keys being held down by weights and with organ pipes to be added over the years for new notes.

[…]

As the idea took shape in 2000, backers counted back to the 1361 inauguration of a famous organ in the Halberstadt cathedral – 639 years earlier.

They then stretched Cage’s piece from a 20-minute piano concert to last just as long.

As far as I can tell (the reporter appears not to know much at all about music), the one-and-a-half years of silence were the rests that preceded the pickup notes – so even though the first notes were played in February, the piece technically “began” back on September 5th, 2001 (John Cage’s 88th birthday). The downbeat of the first full measure of music will occur on July 2004.

 

There’s an official project web site, but it’s only in German.

I was going to say silly and sarcastic things about this (after all, I got this guest blog invitation for being silly about conceptual art), but the more I think about it, the cooler it sounds. This is what really hooked me:

Those unable to attend Friday’s gala have plenty of time to hear the opening E major chord, which will play continuously through August 2005. The next notes will be added in July 2004.

Just imagine being there: you’re in this church and that E major chord is playing all around you – actually seeming to play through you, the way organ music always does. This sound goes on and on and on. And on. You could go away for months and when you came back, the sound would still be there. This piece of music has been turned into a nearly physical piece of public art that will continue through a dozen lifetimes. It will last longer than a lot of sculpture does. It’s really pretty mindboggling.

I’m not sure I’d travel to Germany just to visit this piece of music (it’s definitely become something you visit, not something you hear), but I’d probably go out of my way to visit if I were over there anyway. But even just knowing that it exists is pretty awesome – and that’s “awesome” in the original sense of “evoking awe”, not the Valley-speak sense of “like, totally rad, y’know!”

So there’s no silly sarcasm about Organ²/ASLSP (well, the name sucks – they could have done better than that). I like it and I’m glad that people have done it. If that makes me some sort of black-turtleneck-wearing, conceptual-art-loving, intellectually pretentious, PoMo homo, then I guess I’ll have to live with that. To thine own self be true.

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A public service announcement: If

By Alex:

A public service announcement:

If you decide to try on a pair of those low-rise jeans for men that are so popular these days, be careful while putting them on. In particular, do not automatically hike up the waist to the same height as you would with a normal pair of jeans.
Owie!

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I’ve now seen the promos

By Alex:

I’ve now seen the promos for a new fall show from CBS called Two and a Half Men about eight thousand times. Apparently, the two men are Charlie Sheen and Jon Cryer (the geeky guy from Pretty In Pink who lusted after Molly Ringwald). I suppose that Charlie Sheen is tolerable in small doses (in fact, I think it would be a good idea if he were chopped up into little bite-sized gobbets of flesh so that we could be assured of only ever being exposed to small doses of Charlie Sheen) but a sitcom actually starring him, especially one in which he’s paired up with a precocious, wise-cracking, ten-year-old nephew (that’s the half in two and a half men), sounds like about as much fun as being poked repeatedly in the eyeballs with a red-hot poker covered with angry scorpions. Precocious, wise-cracking, angry scorpions.

If pairing a carefree bachelor with a sassy boy-child weren’t enough of an original idea that’s never, ever, ever been tried before (really – try to think of more than about four hundred shows or movies with this premise – I’ll bet you can’t!), TaaHM has another twist. Cryer moves in with Sheen because his wife announced that she’s a lesbian and she wants a divorce.

Now, I’m sure the good writers of this show will handle all the issues involved with coming out later in life, the heterosexist assumptions that force many people to deny their sexual orientation, and the difficulties inherent in raising children under such tumultuous situations with all the tact and grace we’ve come to expect from Charlie Sheen vehicles. However, one of the “jokes” in the promo (“Your wife is out picking up chicks, you should be too.”) doesn’t fill me with hope. Slight nausea, yes. Soul-crippling ennui, most definitely. Hope, no.

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I just saw Rick Campanelli

By Alex:

I just saw Rick Campanelli on the street on my way home from work.

Most of you probably have no idea who this guy is, but if you’re a Canadian thirteen-year old girl, you just squealed,

“Omigod! He’s so cute!!!”

Rick Campanelli is a VJ on the cable channel MuchMusic (the Canadian version of MTV). In fact, he’s the host of one of those music video request shows, which makes him basically the Canadian version of Carson Daly, except Rick C. is much cuter.

It’s not too surprising that I saw him on the street, since his show is filmed only two blocks from where I work, but I still stopped to stare. I did manage not to squeal, “Omigod! You’re so cute!!!” but only barely.

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Howdy, bloggerinos! I’ll be substituting

By Alex:

Howdy, bloggerinos!

I’ll be substituting for David over the next few weeks while he’s off in Central America touching the monkeys or whatever.

I am not located in Manhattan like David normally is. I am writing from beautiful, cosmopolitan, SARS-ridden Toronto. I hope all of you are wearing rubber gloves and surgical masks right now. If not, you may as well just quarantine yourself immediately. I hope your wills are up to date.

That’s totally silly of course. Even though many newspapers from outside of Toronto seem to have portrayed this city as a plague-ridden necropolis – like Camus’ Oran except without all those adorable little rats (why hasn’t Disney made The Plague into an animated movie-musical yet?) – it really hasn’t been like that at all.

First of all, most of us who live here know that your risk is near zero unless you’re (a) a healthcare worker, (b) an overnight patient in a hospital, or (c) some kind of weirdo who likes to sneak into ICUs and lick old ladies while they’re asleep. If you’re in that last category you deserve anything you catch, you sick, old-lady-licking freak.

Next, the bulk of the outbreak was in one of Toronto’s “outer boroughs” – a remote and suburbanish part of the city called Scarborough (once popularly known as Outer Scarberia, now more often called SARSborough – ha, ha). We downtown sophisticates would barely notice if Scarborough were sucked into a mysterious space-time vortex, never to be seen again. Being worried about a plague in Scarborough would be like Manhattanites being worried about a plague in Staten Island.

Finally, we haven’t had a new case of SARS up here for weeks and weeks and weeks. The WHO has even taken us off the “active transmission” list. It’s perfectly safe to read this blog. It’s perfectly safe to visit Toronto. In fact, the city is begging people to visit Toronto since the entire tourist industry is teetering on the edge of total bankruptcy. Come visit! Come visit sunny Oran . . . um, I mean Toronto!

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All right, I have officially

All right, I have officially Had It. I am leaving the country and not coming back.

Okay, I am coming back . . . in three weeks.

For the duration of my absence, I have threatened and cajoled people to take over various aspects of my life. My greatest fear, of course, is that everyone will like them more than they like me.

Your guest blogger for the next few weeks will be Alex, the boyfriend of my ex-boyfriend Erich and stepfather to my ex-cat, R2D2.

Be nice to him, but don’t like him more than me.

(Oh, and I may check in from time to time while I’m in Costa Rica.)

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I am at the center

I am at the center of a supernatural, fourth-dimensional vortex. How else could you explain this remarkable coincidence? Last year on 5 July, I went to see the Shakespeare play in Central Park. This year on 5 July, I also went to see the Shakespeare play in Central Park.

Spooky, eh?

Last year (and you can read my blog archive to confirm this), Rob and I went down to wait in line for tickets at 5:30 AM. Likewise yesterday. They distribute the tickets at 1:00 PM, which left us seven and a half hours of waiting amongst intense humidity, insecticide fumes, and numerous Loudmouth Know-It-Alls™. I brought my computer so I could get some work done. The same annoying flautist showed up. Petitioners (for eliminating motorized traffic in the park) and pamphlet distributors (for Jews for Jesus) patrolled the line. A dog tried to eat our food. Someone shrieked “Shut up!” at the flautist. Liev Shrieber drove up on his bicycle.

In other words, a typical New York City morning.

We got fabulous seats, and the play, Henry V, was brilliantly staged.

The best part was that Bronson Pinchot played one of the minor characters, Pistol; a few weeks ago, I saw Mark Linn-Baker, who was Toad in Frog and Toad.

It’s “Perfect Strangers” Reunion Summer in New York!

Now that’s what I call a supernatural, fourth-dimensional vortex.

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Scandalous, I know . .

Scandalous, I know . . . days without an update to everyone’s favorite Upside-down Hippopotamus. I blame Verizon, a company so evil its spokesman is Darth Vader, and which apparently has more pressing business than activating the phone service in my new apartment. I must come down to Starbucks daily to check email and soothe my battered spirit with a Vanilla Crème Frappuccino.

I was going to launch into a tirade today about how no one cares about providing good service anymore. Verizon . . . the three pharmacists I spoke to yesterday about filling my prescription (a special order), who each treated me as if I were Hannibal Lechter in a face mask . . . the woman in Circuit City who could not be bothered to answer a simple question with civility (when I asked her if they had an item I had seen in Best Buy, she sneered, “We’re not Best Buy!”) . . . the cashier in Bed, Bath, and Beyond whose talon-like fingernail I grabbed instead of the pen she proffered (I was not watching what I was doing, but the only one who needs a fingernail that long is Wolverine).

But then I remembered that I am not one to talk, being so unforgivably behind in all of my own work projects that I will need to hire people to work on them while I am on my upcoming three-week vacation.

I wonder if Darth Vader is available.

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Yes, I moved. Yes, I

Yes, I moved. Yes, I am alive. The hideous, throbbing pain in my strained back and broken toe testify to this.
All I can say is that, when moving day comes and one suddenly realizes that one has forgotten both to pack one’s possessions and hire movers, than one is in deep doo doo. Luckily, I have a wonderful boyfriend who spent two sweltering days helping me haul all of my possessions up five narrow flights of stairs. And I did eventually develop the presence of mind to hire two strong men to carry the heaviest pieces of furniture up on the third day.

All that is left to do is make the apartment my own and purify it of any lingering karma from the previous occupants. To this end, Rob gave me some sage to burn, and Joe recommended I eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the space as soon as possible.

I have done neither of these as of yet, preferring to expend my energy on finding a couch. My current plan is to stick a net out the window and see if I can snag one that is flying past.

I hope it’s leather.