Tuesday, December 28, 2010

See You Next Year

Greetings Friends,
There isn't another image I can think of that epitomizes New Year's Eve more than Times Square. And yes, I stood there one year, when I was 16, in the freezing cold, to watch the ball drop. I won't say which year, but the ball has since gotten schmaltzier, and the event a little too hokey for my comfort level. Back then, there was no stage, no musical act, no Ryan Seacrest standing on a platform freezing his California cookies off. I liked it better that way. Now I can barely tolerate it, and, as much as I hated watching Dick Clark do his countdown back then, it saddens me to see him attempt it in his current physical state. It reminds me that time does not stand still; it passes, all too quickly. 

2011 is a few days away, and this rare Tuesday post will be my last for the year. I'm a day late because I really couldn't bear to devote a post to what a slacker I feel like right now. Starting this blog was one of the best things I did in 2010, and as I've mentioned, there are great things ahead for Ink & Paint in the new year. Slacking off during this last week of the year isn't such a bad thing; the shame would be if I left behind the painful lessons learned, the defeats and missteps, and ultimately the victorious moments of the past year. I will carry them with me, and keep them front and centre in my memory, to guide me on to a more prosperous 2011.

Remember what I said about charity; and remember, above all else, to be true to yourself. When you lay your head on your pillow at night, sleep peacefully. If you can't, ask yourself why.

Happy New Year.


Friday, December 24, 2010

The Real Reason For the Season

Greetings Friends,

The above image is of the painting "Charity" by sixteenth century artist, Cecchino Del Salviati. It hangs in the Uffizi in Florence, a place I hope to get to one day. In the meantime, I can gaze at it whenever I want, and think about the real meaning of charity.

To be charitable is to give of yourself without any expectation of reciprocity. You do it from the heart, even if it might not be the smartest move you've ever made. You do it out of sincerity and the true spirit of goodwill. Charity is never accompanied by empty platitudes, and it does not always involve money. Those who are truly charitable understand that a smile, a nod, or a knowing look count as charitable acts. Even if the recipient of a charitable act is lacking in gratitude, or the decency to at least say "thank you", you can feel good about yourself knowing that you did the right thing. The Jewish people call acts of charity "mitzvahs". When you perform a mitzvah, you know it. That's the most important part.

All the kidding about food, shopping, presents and assorted other "asshattery" aside, we need to remember to always be charitable. That's the real reason for the season.

Merry Christmas.


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Hate My iPod

 Greetings Friends,

I absolutely detest my iPod. It looks just like the one pictured above, has over 2,600 songs on it, and I hate it. Why? Because I am trying valiantly to transfer all 2.600 songs into my iTunes library on my laptop, and am having no success. Why? Because Apple will not allow you to retrieve songs from an iPod that were not purchased on iTunes. Out of the 2,600 songs on my iPod, only 430 of them were purchased on iTunes. The rest are stuck in limbo. Nice. Thank you Apple.

Of course, there are a million "supposed" ways to retrieve your remaining music, but apparently, I am not enough of a geek to figure them out. Or, I am enough of a geek to figure them out, but they just don't work on Windows 7. Or (and this is my favourite), I could spend $25 to download a program that tells me it will retrieve all my music with one click of a mouse. Needless to say I am skeptical. And pissed off. Just as I was thinking I have fully embraced technology, I once again find myself loathing it, and the obstacles it creates, and the time I spend trying to overcome them. I've watched about a dozen YouTube videos, each one depicting a different method to retrieve my music. The four I tried did not work. I know my geek colleagues are going to read this, laugh their collective asses off and call me a "dino" for not being able to figure it out. Hey - at least I tried. Then, I will eventually go, hat, laptop and iPod in hand, to meet one of them, they will perform this musical extraction quickly and painlessly, and I will feel like an impotent ass. I can see it happening.

It is a cold comfort knowing that technology is here in our midst to outsmart us no matter how hard we try to understand it. Some of it has become easier to decipher, but there are always going to be those elements that will flummox you, leaving you frustrated enough to embark on a good old fashioned hair-pulling, foot-stomping, screaming tirade. That was me the other night, after about 2-1/2 hours of attempting to retrieve my music. I have reluctantly given up for the time being, and decided to take to my blog to see if anyone has any suggestions on how to rescue my music. Please, feel free to call me a "dino"; I deserve it. 

The hero or heroine who comes to my rescue will receive honourable mention here at Ink & Paint. And my iPod, for posterity. I've got my eye on a 32GB iPhone 4. After all, I must march on into the technological unknown, waging war until I divide and conquer. 


Monday, December 20, 2010

The Manson Family

Greetings Friends,

It may be an analogy in poor taste, but I can't help thinking about the state of family as it compares to the Manson Family. Yes, they were all certifiable, and they committed heinous crimes at the behest of their whack job leader. But really, at holiday time there are bound to be more than a few of us who find ourselves thinking we all have a little "Manson" in our families.

I have to admit I've been indirectly obsessed with the Manson Family for about a month now, since I watched an installment of the documentary series The Passionate Eye on CBC. The subject was Roman Polanski, who was married to the actress Sharon Tate, who was murdered by members of the Manson Family. This particular doc was a fascinating account of Polanski and his famous sexual misstep, and all the subsequent legal wrangling that has kept him a fugitive from justice in the United States for over 30 years. The tidbit I honed in on was the fact that all his troubles started after Tate's murder. She was 8-1/2 months pregnant when she was killed, and there was footage depicting a devastated Polanski at her funeral. I was an infant when all this happened, and didn't comprehend the who, what, where and why until many years later. I remember the assassination attempt on former President Gerald Ford, but the name "Squeaky Fromme" did not resonate with me at the time. Now, you can put me in front of a documentary of just about anything and you have my complete attention. At the moment, my favorite genre is anything out of the 60s and 70s; the 70s especially, since the older I get, the more I seem to be longing for the innocence of childhood and the indifference to the familial dynamic, and all its associated bullshit.

The holidays mean one other thing besides food and presents: the unavoidable contact with family members you normally eschew, with the exception of weddings, bar mitzvahs, funerals and Christmas. Those are some of the most unavoidable scenarios where you find yourself in a room full of people you would probably like to murder; if committing murder happened to be legal. Instead, you suck it up and deal with it. Your blood pressure rises, and you are likely to have a bit too much to drink, all in the name of having to deal with the stress of seeing people you genuinely loathe.

I'm not suggesting that everyone comes from a Manson Family. I believe you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who loves their entire family - even those fringe relatives whom you don't see very often. It's perfectly normal to have one or two (or half a dozen) questionable relations you'd rather not associate with. We've all got them. It's when your immediate relations fall into that category that you want to dive under a rock and hide there for all eternity. Those are the people for whom this time of year is particularly difficult. I'm not just talking about superficial political and philosophical differences; when those nearest and supposedly dearest are a bunch of people you just cannot stand, you want to swallow a potent sleeping pill now, and wake up on January 2nd. 

The older I get, the more I realize how tricky it is to be part of a family. In some cases, you've got to do some serious cramming to ensure you watch every last "P" and "Q" at holiday gatherings. Further to that, you must also be aware who resides in which camp, and who's got a beef with whom. It's all so senseless and exhausting to keep track of. The larger the family, the more "mishegas" you have to deal with. The longer I live, the more I want to say, "thanks, but no thanks". It's true that you reach a certain point when you just want people to be straight with you, and tell it like it is. Same goes for family. Let us please cease the game playing and the side taking and the declaring of wars. None of us will live forever, and none of us are taking anything with us. The sooner we learn those lessons, the happier we will be. In the meantime, we'll just pick a corner of the room, stay there, and count the minutes until we can escape.

In all honesty, I dislike having these negative feelings when it comes to family, but I've known enough people and heard enough stories to know I am not the only one who feels this way. A notable character from one of my favourite television series referred to this time of year as "Stressmas". She happened to be a shrink on the show, so she knew what she was talking about. Well, whoever wrote the lines for her character knew the deal. All the gathering, eating, giving and taking add up to one thing for a lot of us: misery. Sad, but infinitely true.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Beached Whale Buffet

Greetings Friends,

Anyone in the Toronto area who loves Chinese food knows the Mandarin Chinese Buffet restaurants. Certain members of my family won't go near them with grappling hooks in their mouths, because the propensity for gluttony is too great and the quality of the food too low. I hadn't been to one in years until tonight. And I got every penny's worth of my $23.99 plus HST. Right now I feel about 13 months pregnant, and the only way I'll be sleeping tonight is on my back. Good thing I was starving before I got there.

Buffets are a very popular dining out experience here in the Great White North and people flock to them as if they were about to eat their last supper. I've never been a big fan for precisely the reasons stated above, but these days I am neither too proud or too picky. The Mandarin has that kind of Vegas buffet feel to it, with koi ponds in the lobby and blinking neon fish on the walls of the dining room. The food is OK for the most part, and once in a while, it's not bad to indulge. Overeating is another matter entirely, but this too shall pass. It was fun, indulgent, and I won't be doing it again for a long time.

In the meantime, the leap I mentioned the other day is in full swing. More about that soon. For now, enjoy your weekend. Stay out of the malls and off the roads if at all possible.


Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Leap Before You Look

Greetings Friends,

I'm watching the Leafs play the Edmonton Oilers right now (fortified by a cup of very strong tea). Oilers rookie Linus Omark and his hot dogging are still the hot topic. I thought I'd keep the topic of leaping before looking alive by taking the bull by the horns - no pun intended - and addressing it.

Who among us hasn't made an impulsive decision now and again? I've made them plenty of times, and my gut has betrayed me on a number of occasions. But here's what I've figured out: the leaps I've made that have been totally self-reliant have worked out well. The leaps I've made at the behest of others, against my better judgment, have been disastrous. Lesson learned? You betcha.

I find myself at the precipice of yet another leap. It doesn't involve anyone other than me, and I'm thinking about going for it. There are drawbacks, of course, as there are with any leap; my gut is telling me it's the right move. It is a move that will give me a greater degree of independence, confidence and self-esteem. I'm a nervous wreck, but I have a good feeling about this one. It will be a rough go and ultimately one I think will be worth it in the long run. Let's invoke a few of my favourite cliches: nothing is ever easy; anything worth doing is worth doing right; if it was easy, everyone would do it; go big or go home. Well, big doesn't literally apply in this case, but in my opinion, it's as big a leap as any I've taken in a very long time. So, I'm going for it.

A recent disastrous leap of faith I made has left me extremely distrustful. I know that will pass, eventually, and in order to put that error in judgment behind me, I need to take another leap to get my groove back. If it fails, I have only myself to answer to, and that's the way it should be. Never let anyone tell you they have your back; you have to have your own back. 

Here I stand. Stay tuned.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Somebody Couldn't Hit the Hot Dog

Greetings Friends,

In case you didn't hear the big boom (maybe all the snow blowing around muffled it), it was the collective heads of the Canadian sports media exploding over Linus Omark's very first NHL goal:

It was his first NHL game, and his first NHL goal. If the kid goes on to be the second coming of Mike Bossy, the NHL should thank its lucky stars. If he goes on to have a whiney, you-should-bend-over-and-kiss-my-ass-for-being-here career like Wayne Gretzky, there will be monuments erected of him in front of every ice rink in Canada. We have reached the point, even in the sports media, where we can't just bask in the magic of the moment; we have to ridicule the kid for having a bit of style and flair in a game that has become so freakin' milquetoasty, I have to down one of those 5 Hour Energy drinks before tuning in to Hockey Night in Canada. I hate to say this, but if not for Mike Milbury and Don Cherry, it would be a bona fide snore-fest.

Speaking of asses, 1,500 hockey fans from Quebec City travelled to Long Island this past Saturday to watch the Islanders play the Atlanta Thrashers. They wanted to show the Nebbishy Little Hobbit from Queens, aka NHL commish Gary Bettman, that they want a team back in QC to replace the long lost Quebec Nordiques, who have since gone on to fame as the Colorado Avalanche. What no one bothered to tell these people, in addition to the fact they should have gone to a Rangers game instead, is that Bettman gives even less of a toss about the Islanders than he does about awarding the fans of Les Nordiques another team. The Canadian media was all over this story, as soon as they finished slamming Linus Omark.

This isn't "rocket surgery", folks. Sad, but true.


Friday, December 10, 2010

What do You Collect?

Greetings Friends,
If you're a fan of the TLC show "Hoarders", you know "collecting" can get you into trouble. There's a distinct difference between someone who hoards possessions and someone who collects things. The lines can definitely become blurred, especially when you find yourself trapped in a corner of your home with little space for anything else besides your possessions. When your loved ones have to stage an intervention and the number, 1-800-GOT-JUNK needs to be called, you know you've got a problem.

Does good old fashioned collecting always turn into hoarding? Not always. I like to collect books and perfume. Actually, let me rephrase that: I LOVE to collect books and perfume. Do I have many books? Yes. Do I have many perfumes? Guilty. I answered "guilty" to having many perfumes because there are some people I know who believe I am somewhat odd for collecting them. I always say, "I gotta be me." I've met many intelligent women and men over the years who love scent, and are intrigued by the way fragrance is created. To me, and to them, there isn't a difference between a great perfume and a great painting. Sure, you hang art on your walls, but how many people realize, when they dab or spray their favourite scents, that they are also wearing art on their skin? I'll save you the history lesson about Cleopatra bathing in milk and anointing herself with oils of frankincense and myrrh. This is not about Cleopatra or any other historical figure. It's about collecting what makes you happy.

When I was a kid, I collected stationery. I really didn't have many people to write to, but I loved all the pretty paper and envelopes. I started collecting fragrances when I was in my 20s. My mother loved her scents, and I've written about how her love of fragrance impacted me as I grew up. I'm not sure if my mother appreciated scent as an art form; I think for her it was another accessory, like shoes or a purse. Me, I admire the talent of the perfumer, and the combination of notes that mesh together seamlessly to form a great scent. Contrarily, I'm not the biggest fan of bottles; even though I chose an image of schmaltzy perfume bottles for this post.

Getting back to the spotlight on hoarding: I've watched many episodes of "Hoarders"; enough to be able to distinguish someone who has a psychological issue, from someone who is a "collector". Jerry Seinfeld collects Porsches; countless anonymous individuals collect shot glasses, key chains, beer steins, whatever...I collect perfume. So there. Maybe my hobby is a little more esoteric and cerebral than most, but hey - it's mine. I'd rather collect perfume than collect dust. What do you collect?

Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Season's Eatings

Greetings Friends,

Everyone thinks the "reason for the season" is peace, love, joy, happiness, understanding, Jesus, what have you. Each person you ask will have a different answer. And don't for a minute think that anyone who gives you the "Jesus" answer hasn't been battling their way through crowded shopping malls to get everyone on their list the perfect gift. I know, that's my cynicism talking, but I believe what I believe. The reason for the season, besides the stressful acquisition of gifts needing to be wrapped, is food.

This post is not going in the direction you think it is; what I've been ruminating on are cleanses. Not enemas, but those juice fasts people go on that are supposed to leave you clean as a whistle. In particular, I stumbled onto CoolerCleanse, a company founded by Eric Helms, the man behind Juice Generation, apparently a New York City juicing institution (I sure as heck never heard of it), and the actress Salma Hayek. Their cleanse consists of fruit juices and nut milks, 6 bottles of which you must ingest, in a certain order, for 3 or 5 days, in order to achieve the desired results. What, pray tell, are the desired results? Honestly, I am afraid to ask. My idea of a cleanse is to eat about a dozen and a half White Castle hamburgers and not wander too far from the nearest bathroom. That particular "cleanse" has been known to cure what ails ya. But, I don't think it would be rubber-stamped by the minions of raw food eaters who will not ingest a morsel unless it is found in the unadulterated, organic state it was grown in. 

By the looks of all these raw food eaters, and people like Salma Hayek, all this cleansing and raw food eating seems to be working. They look amazing, they swear they feel amazing, but even though they're not using their ovens, they remain slaves to the kitchen with all the preparation involved in their raw food lifestyles. There are even charlatan "doctors" running around claiming that raw food diets can cure cancer. I'm not disputing the fact that eating well and living a healthy lifestyle can do us all good, but the bullshit that goes along with it kind of turns me off. For example, if you want to become a "CoolerCleanser", you must invest a minimum of $58 per day and receive two deliveries of fresh juices. As I mentioned, the cleanses only last for 3 or 5 days, but I'm thinking that you're not going to run to McDonalds the second you slurp down that last bottle of Brazil nut milk. Right...you're supposed to eat a diet of raw and vegan foods before beginning the juice cleanse, and after completing it - for $72 a day. 

We all know that leading a healthy lifestyle can be expensive. We also know how polluted the food supply is with antibiotic and hormone enhanced factory farmed animals and genetically modified produce. But, where is there a happy medium? How do we go from White Castle and McDonalds to collard-wrapped enchiladas and carrot, beet and Fuji apple juice? Is the answer in the image above? If you're Martha Stewart, it is; if you're me, the answer is somewhere closer to White Castle and McDonalds. It's not that I deliberately try to abuse my body by feeding it garbage, I just wish there was less garbage out there for me to eat, and more healthy stuff that isn't going to chain me to a juicer or leave me listening for the doorbell twice a day. What is the answer? Like the "reason for the season", everybody has a different one. Mine is, I don't know. You put a plate of holiday food in front of me, I'll eat it; You put a bottle of "essential green" or "essential red" juice, or a plate of "young coconut" Pad Thai in front of me, I'll eat that, too. So what's the problem? By the way, I haven't had a White Castle hamburger in over a decade. 

Maybe, one day, I'll see the light and try a cleanse. Now is not the time. The life of a writer is one of stress, deadlines and solitude. Those three things can make you crazy, but I'm a bit too skeptical to think that juice is going to cure me of all that. But if a basket of holiday goodies happens to land on my doorstep, I wouldn't hesitate to bring them inside. A cooler bag full of fresh-pressed juices and some raw food? Not interested. At least not right now. 


R.I.P. Elizabeth Edwards: After just reading last weekend that her cancer had metastasized, and she was out of treatment options, I read that Elizabeth Edwards, ex-wife of ex-vice presidential candidate (among other things) John Edwards, passed away yesterday at the age of 61. I always hate to hear of anyone succumbing to cancer, because I've lost a number of friends and family members to this dreaded disease. News of her death hit me particularly hard because I continue to watch a number of loved ones struggle with this insidious illness. My heart goes out to her children, especially her two youngest. It is always tough to lose a parent, no matter how old you are, but for young children, the loss is especially brutal. With her courageous battle behind her, may she rest in peace.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Monday Night Blogging; Like Monday Night Football - NOT!

Greetings Friends,

It's been another one of those days today; too much work and not enough time to blog. But, I will give you the latest and greatest info on all my projects, just so you don't think I'm sitting here playing Windows solitaire and streaming QVC all day long. Canada's Shopping Channel is really lame.

Speaking of Monday Night Football, I guess I need to acknowledge the passing of "Dandy" Don Meredith. I was more of a fan of his Lipton tea commercials, but I know there are countless NFL fans mourning his loss right now.

So here goes:

Still working on what has to be the largest Canadian tool and machinery web site on the Internets. I've been at it since July and there is no end in sight. The only thing I could compare it to would be if I had to SEO every page on Sephora.com. Perfumista and beauty product junkie that I am, it would probably make me just as crazy.

Would you buy an engagement ring on the Internets? Believe it or not, people do. And I'm working on a site on which you can click and order an engagement ring.

Working on a plumbing web site, I've learned that yes, you can lower a basement. The question is, why would you want to? The answer to that is, it can stabilize your home's foundation especially if you're in the middle of renovating. I've also learned about "trenchless" pipe replacement, which is very similar to having a colonoscopy. Actually, it's more like installing an in-ground sprinkler system, and there are pipes and a camera involved.

Need a mortgage? Only here in Canada, not in the US. New immigrants are also eligible.

Yes, Virginia, someone has managed to use the word "sofa" as an acronym. That's about all I'm able to say right now.

Additionally, there are articles, press releases and other projects abound. Who knew this writing stuff would keep me so busy?

See you on Wednesday.


Friday, December 3, 2010

'Tis the Season to Be an Asshat

Greetings Friends,

When Adam Sandler referred to Hanukkah as "eight crazy nights", I'm sure he wasn't counting on some wingnut trying to sell a $25.00 doll, the Lalaloopsy pictured above, for $56,000.00 on ebay. Nor would anyone who celebrates a non-commercialized version of Christmas (realistically, is there anyone?) be willing to pay such an exorbitant amount for a doll. Thanks to one of my Facebook friends, I was made aware of the ridiculousness of this particular brand of "asshattery" one individual is indulging in. 

This is yet another example of something I will not dignify with a link. The individual is attempting to sell a similar Lalaloopsy doll with a starting bid of $35,000.00 and a "Buy it Now" price of $56,000.00. Before this nugget landed on my Facebook page, I'd never even heard of a Lalaloopsy. As a matter of fact, earlier today I was listening to what I thought were two "lalaloopsy" university students discussing their lives. I thought that was about as "lalaloopsy" as my day was going to get until I became aware of this auction. 

The person attempting to perpetrate this auction apparently wants to reduce her "debit" - I'll assume she means "debt" - as well as reduce her job status to part time so she can spend more time with her grandchildren, as well as spend 2-3 days a week volunteering in her community. Well, honey, I'd love to lock myself away in a spiffy little one bedroom cabin in Ranier, Washington - yes I saw Linda Evans on Oprah yesterday - and get to work on that novel of mine that I swear will be even greater than those by Henry James, Edith Wharton and Ernest Hemingway combined. Alas, I do not have the scratch at the moment for that particular endeavour, so I must do what the rest of the normal folk do, which is WORK! One day, before my brain cells and my tits fall into my shoes, I hope I can realize that dream, but for now, it's just a dream. The thought of attempting to sell the $25.00 hot toy of the season for as much as a down payment on a decent sized house is just pure, unadulterated asshattery. I must admit, "asshat" and "asshattery" are now my two newest favourite words (even though they're not really words), and I intend to use them as often as possible.

What happened to the "good old days" when you worked for what you wanted? I remember the Cabbage Patch Doll, Tickle Me Elmo and Wii frenzies that whipped parents up into the tizziest of tizzies in their quests to hunt these toys down, cost be damned. In a way, it's admirable to want to give your children what they want, if you're able to, but if you can't, you don't, and your kids will just have to get over it. Whether it's because you just don't have the means to obtain the particular item, or it just cannot be had, it's done. But, to deliberately perpetrate a "please help me so I can help others" plea is the star atop the Christmas tree of asshattery. Maybe Grandma should just consider herself lucky to be where she is in life, and settle for doing the best she can for her grandchildren and her community, within her present set of circumstances. Or, perhaps she should take take that Lalaloopsy doll she bought, return it to WalMart or Toys R Us, take the $25.00 and go buy some lottery tickets. Like the ads in New York say, "Hey, You Never Know". Trying to parlay $25.00 into $56,000.00 on ebay is more asshattery than anyone should have to endure. Well, except for trying to sell off internal organs, which I believe is no longer permitted. In any case, Grandma Asshat should just go away; immediately if not sooner.

I was originally planning to post about how some people are givers and some are takers. Generosity and "schnorring" are two very different modes of behaviour and they both can get a person into trouble if they're not careful. To try to get something for nothing is the ultimate act of "schnorring", and Grandma Asshat and her Lalaloopsy doll is probably the best example of "schnorring" I've seen in a very long time. The person who would even consider bidding on that doll is an even bigger asshat than she is. To give someone something for what is nothing more than an altruistic facade of grandkids and volunteerism is just plain stupid. I pity the fool who falls for it. What I hope for is that ebay will take the auction down, and bar Grandma Asshat from ever doing business on the site again. Merry Christmas to you and yours, Grandma Asshat. 

Have a lovely and asshattery-free weekend.


Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Eight Crazy Nights!

Greetings Jewish Friends,

Tonight marks the start of Hanukkah. My first gift to you - Adam Sandler's Hanukkah Song. One of my all time faves.

Speaking of faves, if anyone wants to volunteer to make me latkes, I'd be much obliged. Last time I attempted them myself I almost burned my house down. With applesauce, please. Sour cream is verboten.

See you on Friday.


Monday, November 29, 2010

20 Games In

Greetings Friends,

Consider this my periodic rant about hockey, along with your handy holiday gift guide. The above image is that of a wine caddy, so if you happen to have a loved one who is both a wine lover and a hockey lover, here's the perfect gift. I'm not giving away the who, what, where and why; you can use Google, just like I did.

Here's the update: both my hockey teams still suck huge. The Toronto Maple Leafs have crashed back down to earth after a surprisingly quick start, and the New York Islanders are as perennially horrible as they've been for (I hate so say this, but it's true) decades. There's no joy in my Kraft Hockeyville and I don't believe there will be for a very long time. My feeling is that the Hockey Gods will be against my teams for time immemorial, and for as long as I live, I will never see either of them have any success, EVER. 

The isn't a "woe is me, the poor hockey fan" post; I'm actually angry about the behind the scenes details that contribute to both my teams being so rotten. It all boils down to this: bad ownership. The Leafs have the luxury of playing in Hockey Mecca West (Hockey Mecca East is Montreal), before a full house for every game, and a seemingly bottomless financial pit that affords them the luxury to not give a damn whether they win or lose. The Islanders, on the other hand, have Daffy Duck for an owner, a man who still can't tell the difference between a hockey puck and a urinal puck. Add to that the fact that Long Island itself is dying a slow death because of the crappy US economy, and an overabundance of right-wing political corruption. It's no wonder I couldn't get away from there fast enough. Well, there were other reasons, but the hockey team surely did not provide sufficient motivation to hang around. As a season ticket holder, I threw so much money away on the Islanders, I probably could have had a sizeable down payment on a decent Hamptons crib. It would have been just that - a crib, but in hindsight, even in these trying times, real estate would have been a much more prudent investment. 

When you're a sports fan, you come to the realization that there are some teams that get it, and some that don't. No team in any sport can be a winner every year. Then there are the teams that are just "good enough" but never seem to win any championships, and there are the ones that may have some past glory, but have been doormats for generations. You endure the cycle year after year, hoping some halfway decent, sentient human being will come along and break it, but if you get your hopes up too high, you end up crushed by the weight of them. Here in Toronto, the great general manager, Brian Burke, and his coach, Ron Wilson, will likely not survive the season. On Long Island, coach Scott Gordon bit the dust 10 games in, and as of Friday, the Islanders managed to stave off the dubious record of 15 consecutive losses by shutting out the NJ Devils, 3-0. Not that I'm turning my nose up at a shut out, but you reach the stage where you have to wonder, what the hell is the point?

One of my all-time favourite sports movies is Penny Marshall's A League of Their Own. Tom Hanks played manager Jimmy Duggan, and uttered this line after being accused of sitting in the dugout scratching his balls for an hour: "Anything worth doing is worth doing right." Ball scratching aside, I have to agree. The Leafs feel obligated to "go for it" every season, but manage to screw the pooch no matter how hard they try. The Islanders can't screw the pooch out of his leash, no matter how hard they try. Both scenarios make for some frustrating fandom, but it's impossible to walk away. No matter how hard I try, there's always going to be that little piece of me that can't help but give a damn. Somebody needs to come up with some sort of methadone-type antidote to that, because the feelings really are inescapable. And don't for a second believe anyone who tells you, yeah, I can totally walk away. 

There you have it. Unless there is some miraculous turnaround by either team, or if Gary Bettman happens to keel over while strolling down 6th Avenue, I've got nothing to left to say until spring. 


Friday, November 26, 2010

Black Friday

Greetings Friends,
I hope everyone had a pleasant day yesterday. If you are in the US, you ingested mounds of turkey and watched 3 football games; if you happen to have the NFL Network on your cable or satellite system. Here in Canada, it was only Thursday.

Today is Black Friday, the day when Americans hoist their stuffed selves out of bed to brave the crowds at the local malls. Shopping for me has never been sport; I like it, but I have to have something specific in mind in order to engage in it. That also doesn't mean I never go; I do, just not on Black Friday. Ever.

There have been too many frenzies created by too-good-to-be-true prices on electronics, toys, and whatever the hot item is consumers are after in a given year. The past few years have become downright scary, with images of crowds rushing into stores trying to grab one of the five 60 inch hi-def colour TVs on sale for $50.00. I'm sorry, I wouldn't care if it was free; I'm not risking my life for a television.

Black Friday has always been the day economists gauge how well the retail sector will do for the holiday season. Battalions of reporters will descend on crowds asking inane questions like, "How much will you be spending this holiday season?" Merchants, bankers and brokers will hold their collective breath hanging on every word, making dire predictions based on whether or not people are going to spend like drunken sailors or frugally drop lumps of coal into the Christmas stockings of their loved ones. There is way too much emphasis on spending and giving, mere hours after we've waxed rhapsodic about all the things we're thankful for. America will always be a heady mix of misguided patriotism combined with self-entitlement. Whether or not we have the means, we will always spend money. Well, maybe not as much now, but Black Friday will forever be looked upon as the financial Groundhog Day, giving prognosticators the yea or nay on the state of the economy. In Canada, that would be Boxing Day, but it makes little sense to me, since it's the day after Christmas, instead of a month before. Either way, it matters not. I just hope I don't turn on the news to see a body bag containing an unfortunate human who finished last in the race for a $50.00 hi-def TV. That's definitely not the reason for the season.

As I sit here digesting my Chinese food (not a turkey to be had, but I'm not complaining), I have to keep reminding myself that in this case, black is good, and red is bad. We are in desperate need of as much good and as little bad as possible. 

Enjoy your weekend and happy shopping. 


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Giving Thanks

Greetings Friends,

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the US. Here, it's just Thursday. I haven't quite decided if I'll be missing the whole American Thanksgiving experience, or better off without it. I'm certainly able to put away my fair share of turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and the rest. Really, I can do that any time if I so desire. 

My best, recent Thanksgiving was 3 years ago when I travelled to Dallas to watch the Cowboys take on the NY Jets on Thanksgiving Day. I'd never before been to a Thanksgiving Day NFL contest, and it was pretty wild. I'll never forget how drunk and rowdy Cowboy fans were, not to mention friendly as anything. Texas Stadium was a bigger dump than I could have imagined, and the city of Dallas itself resembled any nondescript New Jersey town bisected by a major highway. Besides football on Thanksgiving, the most fun I had was meeting up with a friend of mine (who now lives in California), and attending two Dallas Stars hockey games. After all, I am Canadian. 

Overall, I think the message of Thanksgiving gets lost in American consumerism and gluttony. We gorge ourselves, watch football and prepare to do battle with the crowds on Black Friday to see if we can get the best deal on a flat screen television without getting trampled to death. This year (conveniently), WalMart will be open on Thanksgiving Day. I'm guessing they don't want any more bad publicity having to to with an aforementioned trampling. I've never been a Black Friday shopper, and I've never understood the allure of attempting to battle the crowds at the mall. Some people enjoy the frenzy of the hunt. I'd sooner stay home. 

Even though Canadian Thanksgiving has passed, the American in me wants to make a list of what I'm thankful for. Here goes:

My friends, family members and colleagues who have been so empathetic and caring; especially over the past couple of months. You know who you are.

Citalopram. Look it up.

Kraft Dinner, frozen peas and chili sauce. 

Good books: particularly those by Philip Roth, Ken Follett, and Howard Jacobson

Theo Fleury. Bravery like his is an inspiration to us all. 

My cat Lily for being so adaptable, yet so unaware of what's happening around her.

My cuz - the one who went to Cuba a couple of weeks ago. He's tres cool.

Not having to get on an airplane any time soon.

Air in my lungs.

My laptop.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Airport Security?

Greetings Friends,

The week of American Thanksgiving is the busiest of the year for air travel. I'm thanking my lucky stars for not having to get on an airplane, but I've been saying that for years. Although I realize "airport security" isn't going anywhere anytime soon, I am grateful to not have to deal with it on a regular basis. All the uproar over these invasive pat-downs has me pretty steamed, and if it were me subject to one of these gropings, you can bet I would not be happy about it; nor would I find it in my heart to not give a TSA employee a hard time about having to endure a molestation in full view of other passengers. It's just plain wrong.

The degree of humiliation airline passengers must endure in order to board a metal tube loaded with high octane fuel and other inconsiderate passengers, is beyond my comprehension. I haven't been on an airplane in 6 years, and for good reasons. No, I'm not deathly afraid of flying; I just haven't had occasion to step onto a jet bound for a destination I desperately want to travel to. Sure, I've traveled through North America, but via automobile. To me, it is infinitely more pleasurable to hop in a car and drive to my destination, rather than have to put up with the amount of insanity one must cope with in order to board an airplane. The day will come when I will get on an airplane again, bound for a destination that is otherwise unreachable via automobile. Until that time, I will remain on terra firma. Hell, I'd even drive to Alaska if the opportunity presented itself. No, I won't be bunking with the Palins.

While there is not a snowball's chance the methods with which the TSA screens passengers will improve, the tolerance level of American air travellers is rapidly dwindling. After September 11, there was this sense of, "It's for my own safety, and I have no choice". Now, it's full body scanning, groping, sexual abuse, inappropriate touching, "touching the junk", et. al. Even Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said she would not put up with such treatment. But, she has her own plane. Isn't that nice? If the rest of us want to travel from point A to point B, we've got to suck it up. Or do we? The airport is no place to be a shit disturber, but I have to ask? Is all this "security" really necessary? The astronomical costs? The violations of privacy and dignity? In the meantime, you've got terrorist groups laughing their collective asses off while they watch images of Americans and Canadians enduring the pat down, and having their private parts on full display courtesy of those scanning machines. Don't for a second believe that your bits and pieces are "blurred".

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has since announced that they plan to continue their "cheap" terrorist stunts until they succeed in blowing something up. Trying to send explosives via FedEx or UPS from Yemen is far less expensive than what the governments of Canada and the US are spending to attempt to "keep us safe". Maybe we need McGuyver to tell us what the best solution to airport security is. Won't we look like a huge pile of asses if the answer turns out to involve nothing more than a pack of chewing gum and a roll of Scotch tape? I know the answer can't be that simple, but there has to be a better way than this. I'm sure the millions of people who will be travelling this week are looking forward to groping turkey legs and the television remote, rather than getting groped attempting to get there.

If the TSA wants to do us all a favour, they'll issue a ban on farting while on airplanes. That just might get me back in the air sometime soon.


Friday, November 19, 2010

Reckless Abandonment

Greetings Friends,

Yes, it's been an unusually busy week; work piled up to the rafters and not enough hours in the day. I also felt it was worthwhile to leave that picture of Fidel up for longer than normal to let everyone eyeball it to their heart's content. My cousin arrived back from his getaway with some interesting tidbits about life in Havana, along with a sizable cache of Cuban cigars. Life is good.

Besides the workload, nothing much of note going on - except of course if you're a royal watcher - Prince William and Kate Middleton became engaged. I've been ruminating on that all week, and think I'll save that one for Monday. The details are still unfolding, and I want to see what else materializes before I set metaphorical pen to metaphorical paper to write about it. I did watch the last "Wedding of the Century" back in 1981. I do hope this one has a happier ending. More about that next week.

Enjoy your weekend.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Off to Cuba

Greetings Friends,

If there was ever an image that will make you do a double-take, it's the one I've used today. Go ahead, stare at it for a bit...

I'm not writing this communique from "behind the Iron Curtain". Although, I did drop my cousin off at the airport this morning to jet off to Havana for a little R & R this weekend. How I wish I could have gone; for an American, there is nothing more taboo than Cuba. Not as much as it once was, but still; I could not travel there from American soil, unless I boarded a kayak off Mallory Pier in Key West, or via military transport to Guantanamo Bay. 

Cuba has been verboten as long as I've been alive. Granted, Castro will not live forever - he might already be dead, and we just don't know about it - and one day before too long, there will be cruise ships and regional jets destined for Cuba from US locales. As a Canadian, I am free to travel there from anywhere in Canada, but it still seems strange to me. If Americans want to relax on a beach they go to Puerto Rico, the Bahamas or Jamaica. No one ever says, "I'm off to Havana this weekend for a little sun and surf."  Even thinking it is weird. Here in Toronto, there are billboards all over the city, and posters in travel agencies advertising vacation packages to Cuba. To me, that's like putting up ads for Oscar Mayer bacon in a Kosher butcher shop. The first thing that pops into my mind is, "Bay of Pigs". Of course, I gave my cousin a rousing sendoff this morning with a hug and a request to "give my regards to Fidel." I couldn't resist.

Weirdness notwithstanding, the most coveted item from Cuba is their cigars. If you've smoked a Cohiba or a Montecristo out of a box bearing that "Habanos" label, you know what I'm talking about. There's just something about a Cuban cigar that makes Davidoff and Nat Sherman comparable to Phillies Blunt. Maybe it's because they're illegal, or maybe there's some secret formula tobacco that can only be grown on Cuban soil that differentiates them to the point of: once you've tried one, there is nothing else that comes close. I've smoked many a cigar in my day, and I can honestly say, a Cuban makes everything else pale in comparison.

You can get Cuban cigars here in Canada; if you're willing to pay the astronomical tobacco taxes. Hell, I've even smuggled them into the US - labels and all. But, that was a long time ago. And I'm not sure that I'd feel comfortable sunning myself in a place where people bear the heavy yoke of a Communist government around their necks. I'd love to get a look at the place, but - I don't know; as an American, there's something that feels very illicit about wanting to vacation in a place where people are making only pennies a day. Then again, if I managed to boycott every product imported from China into North America, I'd be walking around stark naked.

Much as I'd like to, I'd find it too exhausting to be an absolute idealist 24/7. In the meantime, I'll continue to boycott Wal Mart and try to purchase as many products made in Canada or the US as often as possible. Even still, there comes a point when you're reduced to shovelling shit against the tide. I'd like to hope that the G20 leaders might accomplish some sort of economic detente at their latest summit, but I won't hold my breath. I know the likelihood of Cuba turning into the Caribbean outpost of Las Vegas will probably happen before too long. Whether or not I'll go there remains to be seen. But if a Cohiba happens to find its way into my hands next week, you can be sure I'll light that puppy up tout de suite.

Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Remembrance Day

Greetings Friends,

Tomorrow is November 11. It's Remembrance Day here in Canada, the UK and the other Commonwealth nations. It's Veteran's Day in the US. The image above is of the poppy Canadians proudly wear pinned to their garments in remembrance of the sacrifices made by soldiers who fought in past wars, and as a tribute to the troops currently serving in Afghanistan and other places around the world.

Six years ago, I was in London on Remembrance Day. I traversed the poppy "fields" planted in front of Westminster Abbey, and witnessed the laying of the memorial wreaths around the Cenotaph on Whitehall Street on the Sunday following Remembrance Day. After that ceremony, I found myself in a local pub eating fish & chips with a side of mushy peas, and toasting the Queen. The place was full of vets, in uniform, getting drunk and singing what had to be the filthiest songs I'd ever heard in my life. I'm sure those war ditties were what got them through the tough times, and as I downed the shot of whisky I was given, I silently toasted those men, along with my father-in-law, an ex-US Marine, and my dad, a Holocaust survivor. I cannot remember a day when I laughed and cried as much as I did on that one. I've thought of that day often over the past six years, and as I proudly wear my poppy, I am proud to share those memories here with my loyal readers.

In addition to freedom of speech, we must also remember the freedom provided by those who serve in the military branches of our two proud countries, and the men and women who have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve our rights in these democratic societies. We must always remember. Lest we forget...


Monday, November 8, 2010

Don't Burn Me in Effigy

Greetings Friends,

I just finished reading this book, another 1,000 page tome by expert yarn-spinner Ken Follett. It wasn't as good as some of his previous books (in my opinion), but I enjoyed it all the same. Particularly because getting lost in a gargantuan novel soothes me during times of great distress. I find a big, hard-cover book is more comfort food than gooey chocolate cake, mac and cheese, or turkey and stuffing. Not that I would turn my nose up at any of that, but...

I was enthralled with the time period of this book: World War I era Europe, and the inclusion of the woman's suffrage movement as one of the story lines. One of the secondary characters - I do love my secondary characters - was an American female political journalist who befriends a fictional aide to President Woodrow Wilson. She's written as intelligent and strikingly beautiful, but with one permanently closed eye; a facial deformity she was born with and refused to have surgically corrected.

Since this book is the first in a new trilogy Mr.Follett is penning, no character suffers an untimely death, nor do any of them live happily ever after; so your investment of time in reading this book will progress on to the second book, whenever it comes out. At least that's my plan of action. The female reporter and the presidential aide marry, political views and chosen professions be damned. That got me thinking about the potential danger inherent in that relationship: an American writer who operates under the auspices of the First Amendment, and a political operative who could easily get burned by his own spouse while whispering sweet nothings into her ear during an intimate encounter. There would always be the chance of that relationship ending badly.

Since I have no idea when the second book will be published, I can take the speculative liberty of assuming that, at some point, those two characters will find themselves at odds because of their occupations. As a writer, you're always walking a fine line between burying the lead or sacrificing your sources. Journalistic integrity has grown somewhat ambiguous in these modern times, and clearly does not resemble the same ideals it had in the early 20th century. There are so many new and unreliable sources of information out there, they can simultaneously overwhelm and cast doubt onto whatever you might read. If you don't go directly to "the horse's mouth" you can never be 100% sure that what you read is accurate. That's always been true to some extent, but never truer than now.

About a month ago, someone took issue with what I wrote on this blog. I deleted the entry, not because I wanted to, but because it was what I felt was the right move at the time. What I've since found out is that the individual who took issue with what I wrote, never read the entry, but took the word of another party, regarding what it said. That entry has caused me significant grief, and learning that the person never read it for themselves, simultaneously steams my broccoli, twists my knickers and burns my toast. I've effectively been burned in effigy for what I wrote, and my words were never even read by the person who ignited the flames. All I can say to that is: their loss.

When you live in a country where you can practice free speech, you will sometimes take that practice for granted. Ever since I became a full-time writer, not a day goes by when I am not thankful for the ability to write and freely express my opinions. Taking that away from me would be akin to depriving me of oxygen. I am a citizen of two countries that practice free speech; albeit one is slightly more restrictive than the other, but no one will ever show up at my door to arrest me for the blog entries I've been penning. I am free to write what I see fit, and, as I've previously stated, this blog is not a democracy. Last week, I referred to Prime Minister Stephen Harper as an "imperialist dope". Prior to the US midterm elections, I accused Canadians of schadenfreude. I've taken my shots at many public figures in my short time as a blogger, and none of those shots have boomeranged back to bite me in the ass. That's as much validation as I'll ever need. And in the case of my offensive entry of a month ago, well, you win some, you lose some. If everyone loved me, I'd need to find myself an uninhabited island to live on, and another one close by to house my ego. Honestly, much as I love my solitude, I love civilization even more. I have no desire to leave it.

This isn't the first time, nor will it be the last, that will have me burning in effigy. I'm not feeling the flames; nor will I ever. God Bless America, God Bless Canada, and God Save the Queen - who, by the way, now has her own Facebook page.


Friday, November 5, 2010

Friday Fudge

Greetings Friends,

Years ago, I worked for a fudge company for about 5 years. That's all I'm going to say. Talk amongst yourselves.

I'm at a loss for some material today, but I do have a post up over at Perfume Posse if you're so inclined to surf on over there. I spent most of today working, so once again, blogging had to take a backseat.

I will disclose that there are some big things on the horizon for Ink & Paint. I won't say what specifically, so you'll just have to keep checking back. It's all good, and I am really excited.

In the meantime, Have a great weekend. I'll see you back here on Monday.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Next Chapter

Greetings Friends,

They say the older you get, the more quickly time passes. A scant 2 years ago, we were drunk on hope and change; now we're once again getting ready for political Armageddon. There is something even more sinister about the tone of American politics now, more so than when George W. Bush and Republican cronyism ruled Washington. That says a lot, considering most reasonable people believe Dick Cheney is the devil.

I succeeded in not paying close attention to the returns last night; I figured the inevitable would happen, and it did. Republicans made huge gains in the House of Representatives, the likes of which have not been seen in over 60 years. The Democrats barely held on to control of the Senate. If you thought Congress was blocked before yesterday, you ain't seen nothin' yet. This is not Parliament, folks; there will be no forming of coalitions or striking of deals. It would take a mountain of prunes the size of Everest to get these people moving again. Or, a good terrorist attack. I'd much prefer the prunes.

Welcome to the chapter of the Tea Party; Americans have decided they want the Constitution to be interpreted as literally as the Bible, and God save us from the consequences. Look forward to more isolationist tactics that will throw up invisible force fields along the southern border, and human road blocks along the northern one. Expect the painful deaths of health care and financial reforms, and the rise of Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin. I'm being fatalistic here, but right now, I can't help myself. The environment is literally so toxic, I'm having trouble breathing.

Personally, I've learned to be careful what I wish for; things never work out the way you want them to, and maybe, just maybe, that will be the case in Congress. My only fear is contemplating what it would take for all these constitutionalist Tea Party boobs to get their heads out of their asses and wake up. I don't even want to imagine.

In the meantime, life goes on. Guys like Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and Bill Maher were worried 2 years ago about the lack of material they'd have to work with. There's another group that got their wish. They'll be struggling to keep up with the rancor and rhetoric even more than they were during the Bush administration. And for the rest of the world - it will be business as usual. Stay tuned.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Hoser Schadenfreude

Greetings Friends,

Here we are again on the eve of another "MidTerm Midtacular", as Jon Stewart referred to the US midterm elections 4 years ago when the Democrats wrested control of Congress away from the Republicans. Funny how it's the exact same scenario 4 years later, with the exception of the Democrats being the party about to lose all their power. Why, oh why are we so incapable of learning from our mistakes?

All kidding aside, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous about the impending doom being predicted for tomorrow. Things have gotten even uglier than they were back in the "good 'ol boy" days of the George W. Bush administration. Sarah Palin is now on the scene, whipping the mama grizzlies into an ignorant frenzy, Fox News has become even more powerful, and I moved to Canada. God, the world really is off its axis.

Speaking of Canada, the Canadian identity crisis has never been more evident to me now that I'm living here; much as Canadians believe they want to be more American, they will run for the hills faster than the Road Runner from Wyle E. Coyote when the shit hits the fan - like now. I was surprised when I turned on CBC's The National last night to see the entire program devoted to tomorrow's elections. Weekend anchor Wendy Mesley seemed to have a bright schadenfreude-y gleam in her eye, as she introduced herself in a segment filmed on the streets of Manhattan, and in the CNN studios, the offices of the Daily News and The New York Times. Her angle was the involvement of the American media in the political fray, and to my shame and embarrassment, she did manage to expose these vultures for what they are: willing participants in the dissemination of misinformation and fear mongering. The only shred of credibility her segment contained was a short talk with the always-credible Times editorialist Frank Rich. Instead of cloning sheep, we should clone him, form battalions, and let armies of Frank Riches clean up America. It's a pipe dream, I know, but one I would rather have than waking up to the nightmare that would be "President Palin". Perish that thought about a jillion times.

All Wendy Mesley's little stroll around Manhattan accomplished (curiously, she was not allowed access to the Fox News evil empire), was to prove that Canadians are loving life just above the fray, and are never too busy clubbing baby seals or huffing Lysol on Aboriginal lands to indulge in a little America-bashing when it suits them. Yes, we have an imperialist dope as a Prime Minister, but he's our prime minister. The leader of the opposition is nothing more than an even uglier caricature of Senator John Kerry, and Parliament is a bigger dog-and-pony show than Congress. But, it's our dog-and-pony show, and when it comes down to it, we know no one gives a toss when we go to the polls. But when America votes, the world watches, and Canada is no exception. They're all just waiting to see what happens next, so they can gossip like wash-women while the US decides the latest version of its fate. It all makes for a great news story; like waiting times for hip replacement surgery.

As far as I am concerned, Americans have no one to blame but themselves. That's one thing Canadians and the rest of the world have every right to call us on. We screwed up big time; our consumerism, our debt, our narcissism, our ignorance, our patriotism, our fear... all got us to where we are now. The rest of the world really is laughing at us, indulging in the guilty pleasure of enjoying our vast misfortune. What is the solution? A parka, a toque, and lots of beer. Bob and Doug McKenzie know the score. Cheers from the Great White North.


Friday, October 29, 2010

Scary, Scary, Scary (not because it's Halloween).

Greetings Friends,

Before I lived in Toronto, I was in Fairfax Virginia for less than a year. During that time, Barack Obama was inaugurated as the 44th President of the United States, and many of us thought things would be taking a turn for the better. Now, I live in Toronto. If I were still residing in the Washington DC area, you can bet your boots I'd be attending Jon Stewart's and Stephen Colbert's mock political rally tomorrow. After all, some of us have to stand up as Americans and prove the rest of the world wrong about the nutty Tea Party. Maybe Glenn Beck wants his America back, but despite the current mess, I think mine is much better.

But, Nava, you left. Yeah, I did. I have my reasons, but they really don't mean a hill of beans in the face of America reaching yet another frightening turning point with Tuesday's mid-term elections. And, Canada's political machine, such as it is, follows in the footsteps of the United States. This past Monday, the city of Toronto elected a new Conservative mayor who sounds scarily similar to an American Republican. Prime Minister Stephen Harper may think he's doing a "heck of a job", but in fact, he's ruling the greatest kingdom of obfuscation since Henry VIII's wives all started dying. North American politics has become more frightening than the all-time scariest movie (in my opinion), The Exorcist. Every time I see Prime Minister Harper on television, he has that look of depraved indifference that could mean his head is going to start spinning around, or he might be plotting the mysterious demise of some of his cabinet ministers.

In the US, John Boehner, and his perpetual day-glow orange tan, are on the campaign trail with a boner the size of a flag pole. I cannot even begin to imagine that man as Speaker of the House. Nancy Pelosi turned out to be an unequivocal disaster, and I do believe Congressman Boehner has even less brain cells to rub together. On the other hand, some political pundits believe that a Republican House might benefit the US right now. If you believe that, I have a bridge to sell you; and it's not the Peace Bridge.

Canadians are worried about the impact this election will have on our economy. There was a story on CBC's The National this week about how heightened security measures have all but neutralized NAFTA, bringing cross-border commerce to a grinding halt. It has become so difficult to get Canadian goods into the US that some manufacturers cannot afford to keep trying. I'm not referring to BlackBerries and hockey pucks; I'm talking about goods that keep both countries humming along without any of us giving them a second thought: things like caster wheels and other machine parts that most of us wouldn't know what to do with unless we held advanced degrees in engineering. Those are the people who are suffering - big time.

Regardless of what happens this Tuesday, there will be a segment of North America that will not be happy with the results. This is the very first time in my life as a voter that I will be missing a significant election. My vote didn't help elect the guy I thought would have made a pretty good mayor of Toronto, and the absence of my vote will not stop the narrow-minded and ignorant from attempting to "take back America". I feel like I've had my arms and legs chopped off.

"Yes We Can" was the rallying cry America responded to a short 2 years ago. On Wednesday night, President Obama was made to eat those words on The Daily Show by saying, "Yes we can, but not in 18 months." The American people don't want to hear that. As a dual citizen, I'm not crazy about it, either. But, what choice did we have? I'm not saying Barack Obama won by default; historically, change does not happen overnight. The events that bring about change tend to happen in the blink of an eye, but dealing with the fallout can take years. We got ourselves into some pretty big messes, and it's not fair to think one man can just snap his fingers and right them. We have to take responsibility for ourselves. Americans and Canadians both.

If anyone reading this is near the DC area tomorrow, go to the rally for me. Do an expat American a favour. There's a free Blackberry in it for you...NOT!

Have a great weekend, and a safe Halloween.


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

What is Evil?

Greetings Friends,

For the past week, Canada has been preoccupied with Russell Williams. He's the Canadian Forces colonel who murdered two women, raped others, and broke into 80 homes near the Ontario Canadian Forces base at which he was in charge. He plead guilty to all the charges levelled at him, was stripped of his rank, pay and medals (but not his pension), and will spend the rest of his natural life behind bars. I'm not trying to make light of the situation by using a picture of Mike Myers as the "Dr. Evil" character from his Austin Powers films. Just looking at pictures of Russell Williams gives me the creeps, and I have no wish to denigrate my blog with his image.

Richard Handler, the Ideas Guy at CBC, wrote this column on CBC's web site yesterday, debating the use of the word "evil" to describe Williams. I agree with his opinion that evil is hard to quantify, and the comparison he made of Williams to Robert Louis Stevenson's famous literary characters, "the rational Dr. Jekyll, and the murderous Mr. Hyde". Truly, Russell Williams was leading the quintessential double life.

Handler goes on to make the typical theological comparisons between good and evil, but those always ring hollow to my ears. The most devout people often have sinister sides to them, as do those who are secular for the most part. Religion and morality have little to do with the capacity to do harm to other human beings, whether it involves murder, or other dastardly deeds. The person is ultimately responsible for their actions. The trigger, I believe, comes from within, and the wrath exhibited by the individual has nothing to do with the God of Abraham, Jesus, Allah, Buddha, whoever. It has to do with the misfiring of synapses that causes the person to commit abhorrent acts. Those acts can be murder, rape, robbery, or infliction of other types of physical and emotional distress. But do those actions really constitute true evil?

Handler, talented writer that he is, sought out the opinions of Terry Eagleton, a prominent British literary critic, and author of more than 40 books. His most recent, On Evil, offers an argument about the existence of evil, and what constitutes true evil. We've all used evil as an adjective to describe people, things, places, times...but when we call something evil, does that mean it is truly evil? Your guess is as good as mine.

God and literary criticism notwithstanding, nothing will ever stop us from referring to people and things as "evil". We may think it is an accurate descriptor, but more often than not, we will be off the mark by quite a bit. To understand the root causes of someone's torment is not something most of us have the time or the inclination to contemplate. In the case of Russell Williams, I'm sure the Canadian prison system will be analyzing his behaviour quite closely over the course of the rest of his life, to see if there is anything they can glean from his actions. Right now, he's shown no remorse for what he's done, but I'm sure that will change once the scientists get a hold of him. I only hope that by studying him, there will be some good that will come that might be of use, to help those who may not be at the same level of wickedness, but who might be warming up in the tormented bullpen.

I'm one of those people who wants to know the root causes of abhorrent behaviour. Depending on the scenario, I seek them out so I can learn from them. I'm no saint or angel by any means, but when someone's not right, their behaviour is a dead giveaway. Thankfully, I've never had exposure to someone like Russell Williams, but I do, unfortunately, have experience in the realm of having emotional distress inflicted on me by others. Are those people evil? I don't know.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Control is an Illusion

Greetings Friends,

In my Internet travels, I came across a blog by a former college student that talked about her Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) issues. She wrote that a psychologist explained OCD to her in terms of being like a flashlight: "A small, strong beam of light, rather than a broad, warm light." I like this analogy because I think it sums up the issue quite well. In total darkness, a flashlight shines a concentrated beam of light onto whatever you're poinitng it at; as opposed to a lamp or an overhead light, which is capable of partial or complete illumination.

We all know people who look at life in "black and white", choosing to ignore the gray areas. As I writer, I live for the gray areas, because in them, you find the best material. The absolutes reside in the black and white, and there isn't much you can do to change them. When you strive for total control, you believe that everyone and everything must bend to your personal will.

There are times when you have "no control"; that's a given. But having "total control" does not exist. The person who thinks they have "total control" is in some serious denial. Of course, there are armies of co-dependents that allow the individual in question to believe he or she has total control, but God help the person who comes along and attempts to challenge that person's illusion of "total control". The scenario can either resemble slamming your head repeatedly into a brick wall, or provide some serious amusement. Either way, challenging a control freak is not a pleasurable leisure time activity; it can be downright infuriating.

The more people I meet, and the better I get to know myself, the more I start to feel like there are less and less people in the world worth knowing. I always like to say, I hate people, but love individuals. The older I get the truer I find that to be. It's like the Facebook friend conundrum: does the more Facebook "friends" a person has validate their existence? You've got 200+ people you call "friends" listed on Facebook, but how many of them do you really know? Give me a handful of genuine people I know I can count on and the other 190 of them can go "friend" someone else. Instead, we (including me) keep those "friends" because we want others to see how popular we are. In a sense, we are controlling our online facade to make it seem like we're so desirable, that all these people want to call themselves our "friends". The reality of the situation is, we don't have a clue who most of them are.

Facebook is one small element in the control universe. Most control freaks don't like the Internet because it represents something they cannot control. But, if you're a control freak looking for a facade, it doesn't get any better than the electronic void. Here, you can be anyone you'd like, as long as you understand how to manipulate the image others are viewing.

The pervasiveness of technology shows us how much is actually not in our control. From a web content perspective, we're all trying to figure out Google's next step; We think we know what it might be, then Google pulls the rug out from under us and we're left groping for the proverbial flashlight. It's frustrating, and we learn to adapt; those who think they will one day conquer Google have a firm grasp on the flashlight, but a very shaky grip on reality. The rest of us just deal with it and move on.

Moving on is a very important part of life. Nothing lasts forever, including control. There comes a time when, even if you don't want to face it, you have to give up what you think you have control over and deal with reality. One person cannot rule the world. They may think they can, but the sooner they realize control is an illusion, they'll move on to something else. You just have to hope that something else is outside your personal realm, and you never have to deal with that individual again. Me? I've decided to ditch my flashlight and gather up some candles. I prefer a broad, warm light anyway.