The Humanoids: Bright Lights, Bigger City

As I’m wont to do when I get to travel to the centre of the universe, occasionally also referred to as Toronto, today’s column focuses on the small town perspective of the big city. I don’t really get to Toronto very often but I find it such a fascinating place to go. It’s so different from what I’m used to in my daily routine that it really can be a bit of a shock. After all, I come from a town where public transit consists of bus routes where you see the bus once an hour. Toronto has buses, subways, GO trains and streetcars. The big city certainly is a strange place.

Are taxi drivers exempt from traffic laws?
I can honestly say that I’ve never had a good taxi driver. On my way from Pearson to downtown Toronto, my cabbie drove the highways at about 140 km/h and didn’t care who he had to cut in front of to move that fast. Last I checked, the posted speed limit on 400-series highways is only 100 km/h. That makes is a four-point penalty. If he was doing 50 km/h over, that’s six points, a roadside vehicle impounding and a license suspension.

Then there’s the fact that about half of cabbies don’t seem to understand how to smoothly apply the throttle or brakes. I swear that I’ve had whiplash from cabbies who stomp on the throttle and stand on the brake. And if it wasn’t whiplash, then it was just severe neck pain that required a couple of days of Advil to make bearable to live with. While the stereotype is that most cabbies are over-qualified for their jobs, it’s only half-true. They’re over-qualified for being cabbies but most of them are not over-qualified as cabbies. If you can’t drive, chances are that you’re perfect as a cabbie. And, yes, they do use GPS. A friend told me that her driver tried selling her his spare GPS unit for $10. Apparently, he could make a profit on the transaction because he knew a guy that could provide brand-name GPSs for about $7. Best not to ask questions where the source gets them for so cheap.

How do Torontonians not find downtown obscenely busy?
One thing I noticed is that if you walk the sidewalks of Toronto any time after about noon, the sidewalks are crowded with people. In my hometown, sidewalks are only really busy at lunch… And even then, you might come across only two or three people heading in the opposite direction as you. In Toronto, it’s hundreds of people heading in every which direction.

What constantly amazes me about the denizens of downtown Toronto is not the lack of complaints about how busy it is to walk or drive through Toronto. It’s that none of them seem to think that they could maintain their sanity in any place less busy than downtown Toronto. You can’t go anywhere in downtown Toronto without having to navigate a mob of people but doing anything else would be dull and boring. There may be a thousand and one different stores in downtown Toronto that you don’t go into but if they aren’t there, like in a small town, there’s no where in town to shop. I’m not saying that small town life if better than the big city. I’m just saying that maybe these guys should try it before writing it off.

If the Blue Jays are stealing signs, why do they suck so much?
There are three types of lies: Lies, damned lies and statistics. A lot of people call me old-fashioned for limiting my reliance on baseball statistics for hitters to batting average, home runs, RBIs and on-base percentage. So when two ESPN reporters tried to back-up accusations by opposing players that the Jays were stealing pitch signs, they immediately when straight for statistics for people with Masters degrees in statistics like OPS and park factors. They compared home and road splits for a handful of players. But for all the look at power, the reporters ignored the fact that if you knew what was coming, you’d hit it. That would mean a difference in home vs. road batting average. I think there’s a good reason why that particular stat is omitted.

The thing is that hitting statistics don’t win games. Stealing signs don’t actually matter unless the Jays win games. In 2009, the season before ESPN starts looking at sign stealing, the Jays played 0.543 at home or 7 games above 0.500%. In 2010, they improved to 0.577 or 12 games above 0.500% in three fewer games played at home (For whatever inexplicable reason, the Jays played six more games on the road in 2010. Let’s see the MLB schedule makers come up with a reasonable explanation for that.). This year, when the Jays have been accused of doing sign stealing publicly, they’re only 2 games over 0.500% at home for a home winning percentage of 0.517%. Toronto was sub-0.500% on the road in 2009 and 2010. Wins are the single most important statistic over the course of a season. So why did ESPN’s reporters omit this?

I did actually see the Jays play in person last week. If that was the Jays stealing signs, they should probably withhold payments. The Jays managed one run off six hits against the A’s. The Jays’ offensive performance was so bad that the game was over in two-and-a-half hours. If it wasn’t for the kid next to me getting a home run ball and a couple of good defensive plays, I’d have asked for my money back.

Should Cee Lo Green be considered for the next James Bond movie theme?
If we can all be honest, the theme to Quantum of Solace was atrocious. It was so bad that I named it the second-worst Bond movie theme of all-time. I don’t what the producers were thinking when they approved Another Way to Die but I know that it sure as hell didn’t help anyone’s impression of the movie. People talk about good movies and people watching Bond movies will always talk about a Bond theme. After all, The World Is Not Enough isn’t anywhere close to a good film but it had a pretty good theme.

Anyway, Daniel Craig’s choice for the theme of the eventual 23rd Bond movie is Kings of Leon. I don’t think that’s a horrible idea but I think I have a better one. Cee Lo Green’s latest song, which is coincidentally called Bright Lights Bigger City, has a little big of Bond in it. If it wasn’t for the bad music video, I probably wouldn’t have noticed it but he’s definitely on the right path with this one. It’s got a big voice, big strings and big brass instruments. That’s a textbook formula for a Bond theme. And we know he’s a soul-ish singer which would help him fit in with the Bond themes of old.

But above Cee Lo, I think we have a really good Canadian singer that should be at the top of the producer’s list for Bond 23. And let me stop you before you cut me off by suggesting Bublé. I’ve got someone way better than that. I say the Bond 23 theme is sung by Matt Dusk. He’s drawn comparisons to Frank Sinatra. If that isn’t the type of singer that you want singing a Bond theme, then you probably think Madonna’s Die Another Day was good. Just listen to some of his stuff and tell me I’m wrong. Then I will proceed to call you a liar (or worse if you deserve it).

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