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September 12, 2005

  • A Week Full of Rants
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    Recently I wondered if I could branch out and do other stuff than just an always-late column full of musings and remembrances with over-exaggerated details about how prolific Adidas Bags were in the early 1980s. I thought that maybe I could try doing the Gem Geek or Rare Bug Calendar. You know those day-a-page calendars that has a pithy little insight usually boiled down from someone's book or stand-up comic routine? I mean if the Jeff Foxworthy Redneck-a-Day calendar is just so har-dee-har funny after five years surely I must be able to stand a chance.

    So for your reading pleasure here's an excerpt from the 2006 Gem Geek or Rare Bug Rant-A-Day calendar. That's right it's a pithy little rant about something that bugs me every day of the year. It's just the right gift for that person you don't really know and don't really care if they re-gift.

    On Saturday, September 10, 2005 the Toronto Star officially wound up on the list of faceless corporate entities I will harbour a grudge toward for the rest of my life. No it's not the editorial stance. No it's not Rosie Di Manno pissing me off yet again. No it's not even TV Critic Rob Salem getting yet another detail about Doctor Who wrong. On Saturday, September 10, 2005 the Toronto Star drastically altered their weekend colour comics supplement for the second time in decade.

    From roughly the age I could discern ideographic patterns and colours until I was around 29, the Comics section of the Star was a tiny little tabloid section in the middle of the paper. It had two, maybe three comics on a page. You could actually read it. Then in 1998 some accountant had the bright idea to put it in a Toronto Star newspaper-page sized section. They shrank the comics to fit into such a section (Canadian papers are smaller than US or British papers), added a bunch of loser features that lasted about a year that did not justify dumping Andy Capp and banished Peanuts to the back pages to make way for a short-lived comic strip based on The Simpsons that wasn't even funny. It still hurts even today.

    Well, they managed to make it worse. Their most recent revamp changed the section from 6 pages to 4. They had to shrink all the strips even more to fit them (they now fit in three rows across the centre spread) and those Visigoths got rid of Peanuts. That's just blasphemy. Yes I know it's a ‘Classic' strip with reruns since Charles Schulz died in 2000, but a comics section without Peanuts is JUST PLAIN WRONG. I don't care if they put in reruns of Calvin and Hobbes in its place.

    To add insult to injury, the Family Circus is still there, which hasn't been funny since 1981. You take away classic weekend pages of Charlie Brown and Snoopy but we have to put up with more saccharine God-talk and maps of aimless wandering around the house and "Not Me!". Ho ho. Sanctimonious bunch of half-wits.

    The Star hasn't heard the last of this, trust me.

    I just don't get the appeal of House. I mean I have no idea why anyone would need to watch a full hour of it when all you need to do is watch the last 15 minutes. Believe me, I've done just that for months now and pretty much all I need is there. Hugh Laurie does something amazingly bastard like. And just when all is bleak, he pieces the last clue together and says "we need to run an infusion test". And Omar Epps says, week after week, "But we ran that test earlier and it came out negative." And Hugh Laurie says "Yes, but we forgot to test for sodium". And it turns out that there is indeed sodium between the ball and socket joints of the arm. We see this in a special effects demonstration where we discover its presence is causing the joint to explode like a hand grenade. And House saves the day and then there's some montage where he actually acts hospitable to someone at the hospital. Why anyone would waste their time on the other 45 minutes is beyond me.

    Do you know how many full bowling alleys there are in a city the size of Toronto? two. Do you know how many are within 30 minutes of the Downtown core: zero.

    I don't even know why I bother getting up in the morning some days.

    Something that manages to provoke a rage in me the likes of which might make Lou Ferrigno turn into an uber-Hulk has to be Tim Hortons. Don't get me wrong, I love the donuts, and though I'm not a coffee drinker I enjoy theirs best. But they've been on the list since last year when they got rid of their soda fountain and started selling stupidly expensive bottled beverages. In the summer I used to like getting an Iced Tea with my donut but that over-sweetened, over-priced, over-syrupy drink they use for bottled Iced Tea could put me into diabetic coma. But that's not what really bothers me though. No what really bothers me is summed up in two words:

    Steeped Tea.

    Those two words make my blood boil every time. Partially because they remind me of two other words: price gouging.

    I'm amazed no one has screamed from the rooftops the con at work here. In the days before Steeped Tea, you would get your tea as boiled water and a tea bag and it would cost the same no matter what size it was. I mean, after all it's just more boiled water and a slightly bigger cup. The tea bag is always the same size.

    But now with their Steeped Tea, which seems to be tea genetically modified to not get strong, Tim Horton's brews the tea for you, like coffee. Now it's not just more boiled water, it's more beverage. Hence, they can charge you extra depending on the size.

    Like getting rid of the soda fountains, it's probably more profit-conducive. But it's annoying as hell. And you even if you don't accept their Steeped Tea, they've now priced it so you're paying extra for each size even if its boiled water, so you may as well surrender now Dorothy.

    If they've banned Pit Bulls in the Province of Ontario, then why the hell haven't they banned Future Shop sales associates? Or is it a case where if they banned one breed they'd have to ban even more including customer service, tech support, management… Let me just make one thing clear: I DON'T WANT YOUR FUCKING ‘EXTENDED' WARRANTY. STOP BUGGING ME.

    Quantum Leap is my favourite American television series of all time. So why do I not care that the Fourth Season is coming out on DVD this December?

    The answer is that I'm still appalled by the crime against television watching humanity Universal Home Video committed on the Quantum Leap second season box set. Like most DVD Box Sets produced cheaply by Universal, Quantum Leap had most of its source music replaced with replacement tracks. So where in broadcast form you might have a radio playing "Call Me" by Blondie, the DVD has elevator music replacing it. Which in a show about Time Travel is hugely problematic. Music establishes mood and setting, particularly in a program like Quantum Leap. You get a real sense of a story set in 1981 with a Blondie soundtrack; you do not with elevator music. And it's not just that Universal replaced the music with something that vaguely had the same tone (The Greatest American Hero box sets attempted that)—it's that they replaced it with the cheapest, nastiest elevator music imaginable, some of which just doesn't even sound right for the era it's supposed to be in. And so I suffered listening to shows set in the Disco era where Ersatz muzak was now used instead of "The Hustle" and stories in the 1950s which replaced Rock and Roll with the same muzak as the stories set in the Disco era.

    But the real gut-wrenching, heartbreaking, I've-been-totally-ripped-off moment came when I watched that season's finale. The story is about how one character, who can only be seen by the lead, winds up in a situation where he has to say goodbye to the woman he loves possibly forever (it's a lot more complicated than that, but trust me on this) In the broadcast version he ‘dances' with her to "Georgia" by Ray Charles. It's one of the greatest moments in the show—hell, it's one of the most heartbreaking moments in television—as he dances with her to this most romantic song.

    Except in the DVD version they're dancing to pappy upbeat elevator music.

    It's not that they went and replaced a beautiful song that accompanied one of the most beautiful scenes in the whole series, but that they replaced it with the cheesiest, nastiest, downright ugliest instrumental elevator music track ever that doesn't even sound like it was made in the 1960s when the story is set.

    What's really frustrating about this is that Universal put out the Quantum Leap box-set at a stupidly low suggested retail price (the second season costs the same as the first even though it has three times the episodes!). If they had priced it higher like Paramount did with their releases (there isn't a lot of music replacement on the Happy Days sets) the fans would have bought it. Now you have a situation where many fans are like me; they're not bothering to buy any future Quantum Leap DVD for fear of seeing them screw up any more episodes.

    One day the Criterion Collection will start restoring TV series like they do with movies and I will pay the hundreds of extra dollars just to hear that dance performed to the song it was meant to be heard.

    There are three things I hate most in the world: my self-imposed deadline for this column, writer's block and page-a-day calendars. But then I'm in something of a foul mood, as by now I'll have gone a week without seeing Peanuts in the Toronto Star weekend comics. Bastards.


    Posted by graeme | (0) Comments | Permalink

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