Monday, August 30, 2010

Too Much Stress and Not Enough Time

Greetings Friends,

It's apropos for the end of August to talk about how much everyone bitches about how stressed they are, and how little time they have for themselves. If we were in France right now, most people would be kicked back, relaxing and sipping wine on their traditional August holiday. Some of us would make the snarky comment, "but the French are always on holiday."

One thing I've noticed since I moved to Toronto and started working here, is that the Canadian work ethic is much closer to that of the French and the rest of Europe, as opposed to the "badge of honour" disdain of the 40 hour workweek most Americans wear. When did it become so chic to tout oneself as "so stressed" and severely lacking in "me" time? If anything, the stressed out and overworked are most likely the squeakiest of wheel spinners who constantly complain there are not enough hours in the day. And the sentiment has become so prevalent, that everything from food to cosmetics must be advertised as "time-saving", "multi-tasking", and "convenient".

This is yet another concept I've been ruminating on for a while; granted, I work from home and I don't have any children. But, if the situation were different, and I did have a full-time office job and a couple of kids, I don't believe I would let myself get to the point where I would need to utter that ubiquitous phrase, "there just aren't enough hours in the day." One thing I can honestly say is that I know myself well enough to gauge how much I can handle without getting to that point. And I don't need no stinkin' badges.

When I worked full-time, I gave my all within the parameters of the 40 hour workweek. I worked office jobs, and when I left the workplace in 1999, I was earning a set salary with no overtime. I wasn't your typical in-at-9-out-the-door-at-5 person, but let's just say I wasn't too keen on giving too much more on the arm. 5:30 was usually my limit. Mind you, this was before widespread use of e-mail and smartphones, so for me, there was no extracurricular checking of e-mail or BlackBerrying at 3 am to keep me awake. I put in my required time, and the rest belonged to me. I was able to stay focused and do what needed to be done, but that wasn't always the case for my co-workers. And to make up for that, whether consciously or unconsciously, they could be found at their desks at 7 am, and still sitting there well after business hours. This was interpreted as working hard, and going above and beyond the call of duty. What it was, really, was overcompensating for a lack of focus and too much time wasted. Unfortunately, that mode of behaviour became the American work ethic, and is still the way most people prefer to live their lives. If anything, things have gotten worse; especially in this still floundering economy, where those who still have jobs feel they have to chain themselves to their cubes, in order to demonstrate their gratitude.

I used to work for someone who always admonished his employees to "work smarter, not harder". Those are some smart words; if only the person who uttered them had managed to walk the walk. He was the owner of the company I worked for, and you would always find him at his desk before anyone else, and working late into the night several times a week. Doing what? I always wondered. Suffice it to say, I no longer wonder. The life of a writer is very different from the life of your quintessential office worker. And I am so grateful I am able to make a living at it. Sure, I have deadlines, and I have my fair share of stress; but I am single handedly responsible for my own stress-level, and I don't have anyone else chirping in my ear about not having enough "me" time. I've made peace with the fact that I'll never be Wonder Woman, nor one of those people who "has it all". Let me tell you something: having it all is the biggest load of malarky out there; if you believe in having it all, then you probably still believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. No one has it all; and anyone who tells you they do is lying through their teeth.

Here's what I think it means to have it all: if you can make peace with what you can't accomplish in a given day, and can be proud of what you did accomplish during that same time period, that's a pretty impressive feat. You are always your own worst critic, but if at the end of the day, you can lay your head down on your pillow and say, "today was a good day", then the hell with everything else. To everyone who still wants to bitch and moan about so many things to do, so little time to do them in; have a ball. I won't be upset if my invitation to that pity party never arrives.


Friday, August 27, 2010

GTL = $5,000,000.00

Greetings Friends,

I know, I know...there's that idiot "guido" again. But here's the thing: is he really that stupid? This 29 year-old former nobody from Staten Island has actually become a "sombody" on the premise of "Gym, Tan, Laundry". And I have a Masters degree. What a colossal waste of time.

In a world where abs rule and brains are secondary, this moron pisses me off. He's entitled to make a living just as we all are, but what he's really perpetuating is that the type of living you make is dictated by how you look, how much you drink and who you screw, as long as 5.5 million people tune in every week to watch you. Yes, folks, 5.5 million people have been tuning in every week to MTV, to watch these Jersey Shore morons booze, boink and be blockheads. And all the alliteration in the world couldn't get me noticed if I screamed it from a bullhorn, naked, on the boardwalk in Seaside Heights. These mooks, along with those ridiculous housewives, have me convinced that it won't be nukes, terrorists or Republicans who will bring an end to America; it will be New Jersey. 

So, Mike "The Situation" Sorrentino is the latest reality television superstar. According to this New York Post article, he's expected to earn $5 million by the end of the year from such endeavours as publishing a book espousing the life lessons of "GTL", countless public appearances at approximately $15,000.00 per, where all he has to do is throw back a few and lift up his t-shirt, along with the $60,000.00 per episode he gets for Jersey Shore, not to mention the six-figure book advance, future workout videos, a clothing line and other endorsements that are supposedly in the works. And we're all standing around scratching our heads wondering why America is a nation of know-nothings.

I wasn't going to give "The Situation" any more face time, but what compelled me to was an entry I read yesterday on The New York Times "Opinionator" blog from Wednesday, written by Timothy Egan, titled Building a Nation of Know-Nothings. This piece literally snapped me awake to the epidemic of ignorance and stupidity that has brought America perilously close to its imminent implosion. Not that I wasn't aware of its existence prior, it's just when you see the words in front of you, whether they're on a page or on a computer screen, you have one of those "holy crap" epiphanies that cements the theory, rather than maintaining it as an abstract notion that has no impact on you. It is especially disturbing at this particular juncture, because 40-somethings like me have reached the point where we're genuinely concerned about the lack of industriousness on the part of the younger generations; when their role models are people like "Snooki" and "The Situation", you can no longer bury your head in the sand wondering why all the smart kids are no longer American. When boys say they "wanna be like Mike", they're no longer referring to Michael Jordan; they want to have abs like "The Situation" and rake in the dough like he does. Gone are the days when guys like him were just neighbourhood superstars; now they're taking over the world. It's sad, especially when kids genuinely believe that emulating this type of behaviour is the way to go. 

Last week, I compared Teresa Giudice, one of the ridiculous "Real Housewives" of New Jersey, and her mind-blowing $10 million personal bankruptcy filing, to the financial shit-storm perpetrated by Goldman Sachs that brought us the great financial collapse of 2008. The degree of irresponsibility there is just astounding. Here, we have a caricature of another segment of society: the 29 year-old witless wonder, who fell into a pile of, what I mentioned above, and is now poised to earn millions for doing absolutely nothing. If this is the example we want to set for the future American generations then we are truly, um, with a capital "F". You know the rest. Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are deserving of the lion's share of the blame for all their rumour-mongering and dissemination of misinformation, but if Americans themselves can't be bothered to seek out the truth, and maintain a healthy curiosity about what's going on in the world around them, we have only ourselves to blame. Same goes for Canadians. All my life I've been squawking about how Canadians really need to refrain from emulating their neighbours to the south; and it is all the more important that they take that advice now. You don't want to wind up like us. We're bad, and we're only going to get worse.

Please read Timothy Egan's blog entry; I know it's disheartening and almost mean-spirited, but the man has a point. Particularly with this: "It's one thing to forget the past, with predictable consequences, as the favorite aphorism goes. But what about those who refuse to comprehend the present?" 

Have a wonderful, and very informed weekend.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Evolution of Friendship

Greetings Friends,

As I come to the end of my fourth full month of blogging, I couldn't remember when I started using the salutation, "Greetings Friends". It was my third entry, from one of the neighbourhood Starbucks I was "posing" in; before my firewall was adjusted to stop blocking the Blogger software, thus enabling me to write from home.

The concept of a "friend" has changed a lot over time. We've begun to compartmentalize our friendships in ways that are indicative of how life itself has become compartmentalized. A plain old friend has morphed into a "work" friend, a "school" friend, a "Facebook" friend...there are so many categories of friends now, it's impossible to keep track. What has happened to that one, true-blue friend who stays with you through all of life's ups and downs, the good, the bad, the ugly, the happy and the sad? If you don't already have one, chances are, you're not going to find one. Assigning friends to specific categories won't make it any easier.

There is infinite commentary about friendships, especially female friendships, out there in the zeitgeist. What does it all mean? All the stereotypical definitions about what a friendship should be, the inevitable Sex and the City comparisons, and how women always manage to screw up their friendships, accomplishes nothing, except to make us feel lacking because of our seemingly inept social skills. Don't misunderstand me; friendships require work; but how much work is too much when it comes to making a friendship work (that's so Sex and the City rhetorical, isn't it)?

When you get on in years, your tolerance for crap deteriorates to the point where you're willing to put up with less and less of it. When you're a kid or a teenager, you're willing to forgive the most inane trespasses in order to hang on to your precious friendships. As you age, the more labour intensive a relationship becomes, the more likely you'll be to say, "the hell with it" and move on. Your radar is tuned to a different frequency, and your willingness to tolerate questionable behaviour decreases. I find myself in a position comparable to that; as my life evolves, so do my relationships, and my tolerance meter isn't capable of much these days. That sounds pretty ruthless, but I prefer to think of it as preservation of my sanity. If we want to speak in astrological terms, I was born under the sign of Taurus, and can be one of the most staunchly loyal people you'll ever encounter. At some point, loyal people like me can turn into schmucks, and you get to that point in life where you need to take stock of who's deserving of your loyalty and who needs to be excised from your life, because they've made you feel luck a schmuck. This is no easy feat, but when you do manage to figure it out, you want to jettison the offenders as quickly and completely as possible. Think of it as cleaning out your closet, attic, basement; whichever cluttered space weighs most heavily on your mind. Sometimes, you find long forgotten gems, and sometimes you unearth useless memorabilia that is better off getting trashed, or donated to a charitable organization, in the hope it will benefit a soul less fortunate than yours. The key here is to be ruthless; there's no sense being a pack rat or a slave to your emotions. They are yours exclusively, and you have every right to dictate what role they play in your life.

Once all the clutter is gone, you feel weightless; the encumbrances of friendship can be similar to that metaphorical safe or piano hanging over your head, but once you can look up and see only blue sky, the feeling is incredible. You are now the proud owner of your feelings and you are free to evolve and grow, without anything to hold you back or weigh you down.

I realize that last paragraph sounds a bit new age-y and self help-y in a way I completely detest. Think of it as a small pot of Tomato Sauce for Your Ass, as opposed to "Chicken Soup for Your Soul". Dip a nice, crusty piece of bread in, chew and savour. What you're left with is what gives you solace; what you've discarded can now be someone else's problem. I do not give this advice arbitrarily; it is borne of experience, a lot of laughter, and an equal amount of tears shed. And you men better not think you've got it all figured out; you don't.


Monday, August 23, 2010

Rotten Eggs

Greetings Friends,

These days, you've got to be about as big a twit as Dr. Frank Ryan, M.D. (pending the coroner's report) to not question where your food comes from. 

I found out about the US egg recall the other day; I'm still not paying very close attention to the "bad news", but I find I'm slowly but surely getting sucked back in.

The reports are pretty damning: the factory farm at the source of this latest salmonella outbreak is Galt Iowa's Wright County Egg, whose owner, Jack DeCoster, is pretty high up on the FDA's bad boy list. Wright County Egg has been previously cited for infractions such as unsanitary worker conditions, raids by immigration officials, and improper disposal of hog and chicken manure into a creek near the farm. In fact, former Clinton administration Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, once referred to Wright County Egg as "an agricultural sweatshop".

Anyone who's driven the US Interstate highway system or the Trans Canada Highway has seen livestock transports; they don't look or smell too pleasant: cows standing for hundreds of miles or kilometres on end, pigs flopped together like sacks of flour, and chickens crammed into spaces no bigger than shoe boxes. The view doesn't get much prettier by time these animals reach their destinations; these factory farms aren't exactly Ritz Carltons. And let's not forget about the copious amounts of hormones and antibiotics these animals get shot up with, and the crappy gruel they eat; all in the name of upping production and lowering costs. How does this affect the consumer? Next time you're in your favourite local supermarket, do a little comparison shopping: check the difference in prices between conventional eggs, milk, and meats, and their organic counterparts. Any guess as to which is more expensive? Ding! Ding! Ding! the organic, of course. Now those animals are the ones living large on the Ritz Carlton farms with good food, no meds, and lots of room to roam free. Your average organic farming operation isn't going to produce nearly the yield of a place like Wright County Egg, where the roosters and the hens surely aren't treated like kings and queens. 

When did the American food mantra become "cheap and convenient" as opposed to "healthy and nutritious"? This isn't one we can blame on bogus food shortages or overpopulation. This problem has two rather large and tenacious roots: money and government. The factory farms want to churn out as much product as possible to satisfy the hunger for low-quality prepared and fast foods. Where is all that juiced up beef and chicken destined for? Hooters, McDonalds, Burger King, TGI Fridays, Chili's, Wendy' name it. 

Canada is no better. There are stronger regulations against the use of hormones and antibiotics in livestock, but remember the Mad Cow outbreak? Farmers here find ways around the restrictions, and sometimes, there are issues; and they are beginning to occur with increasing regularity. But the US seems to be churning out tainted food products at an alarming rate, with word leaking out that the offending producers have rap sheets as long as my arm. 

Why is nothing being done about it? If you want to sit there oblivious to the many agricultural lobbying groups funding the re-elections of congresspeople and senators, then you go right ahead and tuck into your Grand Slam salmonella-e-coli-extravaganza breakfast. There's not a damn thing the FDA or the Labor Department can do to stop these monsters as long as the right wheels get greased and the money winds up in the right coffers. I'm no conspiracy theorist, nor am I a vegetarian, but this is just another example of, we won't learn our lesson until something really catastrophic happens, like an entire day care or pre-school getting wiped out by tainted chocolate milk. Or, millions of people struck down by some mutant, food-borne bacteria so resistant to antibiotics that an entire region must be incinerated in order to prevent the spread of devastation (remember the Dustin Hoffman movie, Outbreak?). 

The availability of cheap and convenient foods notwithstanding, making healthy food choices can sometimes be difficult. Prices can be prohibitive, and interest in nutritional education is profoundly lacking. Gisele Bundchen can scream all she wants about mandatory breast-feeding, but how many new moms realistically have the time to devote to it when they only get a 16 week maternity leave? How many households can survive in 2010 with just one breadwinner? The statistics are staggering. And yes, much as we don't want to admit it, the diabetes and obesity epidemics are a direct result of millions of people eating bad food. I'm not saying I want to see things like salt and Big Macs, and Kentucky Fried Chicken made illegal (though, high fructose corn syrup should be banned!), but we do have to somehow get a handle on ourselves. 

Next time you go to the supermarket, do me a favour: put down the feedbag of potato chips and the tub of ice cream, and go for that carton of organic eggs; I swear on all that is holy you won't regret it. 


Friday, August 20, 2010

What a Twit

Greetings Friends,

I won't even bother apologizing for repeating this, but you can't make this stuff up.

Dr. Frank Ryan, M.D. was a well known Hollywood plastic surgeon who recently gained notoriety for performing 10 concurrent plastic surgery procedures on Heidi Montag (late of the MTV reality show, The Hills), transforming her from a stunning blonde, into a Barbie doll-doppelganger. Well, now the man famous for giving her watermelon-freak show breasts and a cast-iron chin, is dead. He was 50, so maybe you're thinking, heart attack? Alas, he drove his car off a cliff on the Pacific Coast Highway while he was Twittering about his dog. Ironically, the dog was with him in the car, and survived.

In addition to his reputation as a top-flight plastic surgeon, Dr. Ryan was apparently quite the philanthropist. He gave generously of his time and resources to his eponymous foundation, and had quite a roster of celebrity friends (some of them patients as well). So, what made this guy take leave of his senses and start Twittering while driving? And on the Pacific Coast Highway of all places? I've driven part of the PCH in northern California, and I know first hand that disaster is imminent if you're not giving that road your complete attention. I'm sure the same holds true in southern California. The investigation into his crash is ongoing as I write this, so who knows? Maybe he did have a massive coronary behind the wheel and the press is doing their usual bang-up job (pardon the pun) of maligning yet another poor schmuck who apparently couldn't control the urge to drive and Tweet. Not to sound maudlin, but I would be less angry if Dr. Ryan really did have a heart attack, rather than having to add him to the list of morons who do stupid things behind the wheels of cars. I guess I'll have to wait and see.

In the meantime, at least his legacy isn't one of a plastic surgeon who literally butchered his patients. If looking like a Barbie doll was your wish, Dr. Frank Ryan was your fairy godfather.

Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Mosque and the One Term President

Greetings Friends,

In the true spirit of my "American-ness", I'm doing a John Kerryesque flip-flop and writing about politics. I've said previously that I don't want to get overtly political, but in this case, I'm not breaking any campaign promises, and this is my blog. Within the confines of this URL, this blog is not a democracy.

There's been a lot of jabbering about the proposed "Ground Zero" mosque, its offensiveness to the people of New York City, and the memory of those who perished on September 11, 2001. I haven't been following the story that closely; as I've recently lamented, I've deliberately been avoiding the North American media because I've finally grown sick and tired of all the bad news, not to mention the inept delivery of said news. I've been sticking mostly to just looking out the window and partaking of snippets at my favourite online outlets; some of which you can check out here, if you mouse right and scroll down.

I'm weary beyond comprehension when it comes to the blaming of Barack Obama for everything that happens in the US. OK, he's not turning out to be the agent of change Americans who voted for him (including myself) were hoping he'd be, but the mountains of crap the man has to contend with are literally insurmountable. Let's make another list, shall we:

A deficit in the trillions of dollars

Two wars that don't stand a chance of being won

An irretrievably broken health care system

A financial sector that thinks it has the God-given right to steal

An education system that is even more irretrievably broken than the health care system

Rush Limbaugh
Sean Hannity

Glenn Beck

Bill O'Reilly

Sarah Palin

Millions of ignorant Americans who think every word out of the mouths of the individuals listed above is gospel.


The balance of the nation that doesn't listen to the above group, but is still deeply, ideologically divided.

If I had to deal with just the first two items on that list, I'd phone up Dick Cheney to see if he could squeeze in a hunting trip. And now, we have the issue of a Muslim group wanting to erect an Islamic centre near where the World Trade Center towers once stood. In true evasive American democratic style, President Obama commented on this issue by saying Americans have every right to practice their respective religions. He's right on that count, but does a Muslim group have the right to rub salt on the September 11 wound that is far from healed, by wanting to build a mosque so close to where the towers stood? To quote my favourite political satire program, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, would we be as outraged if a Catholic church were to be built next to a playground?

Part of me is very sad that Barack Obama hasn't done right by America. Another part of me wonders if any politician could at this particular moment in time. What would Hillary Clinton have done differently? What would John McCain have done had he and that half-wit Sarah Palin gotten elected? The truth of the matter is, America's trajectory was cockeyed long before Obama took office, and even long before George W. Bush took office. What we have to realize is that blaming the guy currently sitting in the big chair for generations of misdeeds doesn't solve anything. The system is broken, and unfortunately, it will probably take a tragedy far worse than September 11 to get us to realize that.

As the 9th anniversary of that tragic day approaches, one of my most enduring memories is of Congressional members standing on the steps of the Capitol building singing "God Bless America". One of them made a comment, something to the effect of, "There is no longer any such thing as Republicans or Democrats; only Americans." If only that were true.


Monday, August 16, 2010

The New Jersey Housewife vs. Goldman Sachs

Greetings Friends,

Can I just say how much I love's Archive? It is an unparalleled wealth of cultural zeitgeist going back to their very first issue in March 1974. As a professional procrastinator, I can spend hours on it, reading the stories and looking at the pictures. At least the "People" back then were legitimate public figures, as opposed to the "stars" that dominate their pages today. Case in point: Teresa Giudice (pictured above), a "Real New Jersey" housewife and Carmela Soprano wannabe, who shopped her way to a $10.9 million bankruptcy filing, and is not the least bit shy about telling the world how she got there. 

First of all, why do I care? In the grand scheme of things, I normally get a big jolt out of hearing about this type of garden variety dysfunction. Lately, I've been trying to understand how the gang at Goldman Sachs legally managed to make billions out of sub-prime mortgage derivatives. Realistically, Goldman's behaviour mirrors the behaviour Ms. Giudice is guilty of, although she's really not hurting anyone but herself, her family and her creditors. The Goldman gang blew up the world; Ms. Giudice only took down her little corner of New Jersey. Yet, we all know about it, courtesy of Bravo, and their need to fill the cable universe with bickering, silicone inflated caricatures that are supposed to pass for "real" housewives of Orange County, New York, New Jersey, DC, Atlanta...where, oh where will it end?

I'm not suggesting Goldman Sachs is any less culpable because they set off a financial nuke within the letter of the law. They should be tried at a financial crimes tribunal, found guilty, and executed for their shameless greed. But, should the same fate befall a financially clueless spendaholic like Teresa Giudice? I'm not sure. She and her Tony Soprano-doppelganger of a husband Joe, were living fairly large on his successful business ventures, until they decided to build a 10,000 square foot mansion in some ritzy North Jersey enclave, sparing no expense on every accoutrement and amenity. This, on top of Ms. Giudice's already lavish spending habits that apparently included (according to People) in-vitro fertilization treatments, furs, clothing, shoes, and whatever else contributed to her alleged $80,000.00 in personal credit card debt. Her claim is that she does not understand finance, and her husband could not be bothered to explain it to her, because all the bills were getting paid. When the gravy train pulled into the station, their world exploded, leaving them millions in debt, and Ms. Giudice with what appears to be a severe case of shopaholic's denial. The rest of us are watching, rapt with schadenfreude, waiting to see what befalls Ms. Giudice and her family, now that most of her possessions are being auctioned off to repay creditors. Reality television audiences are snickering away while her comeuppance gets played out for their viewing pleasure. And, yet, she allows it to happen.

Here's what I'd like to see happen: Take the cameras off people like Teresa Giudice and aim them at the modern-day Wall Street robber barons, like the mooks at Goldman Sachs, et al. Stake out their mansions and yachts, and leave people like George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie alone. Let them get a taste of what Hollywood has to deal with every time they go to Starbucks or grocery shopping, or attempt to enjoy a quiet holiday with their families. Really, what is it that fascinates us so? I have no desire to make a living as an actor, nor do I plan on acquiring another advanced degree so I can fully unpack the meaning behind a mortgage backed security. My rudimentary understanding of it is enough to know that none of it should have been legal in the first place. But, no use crying over spilled milk. However, I wouldn't mind seeing the Wall Street set subjected to some intense flashbulb misery above and beyond those ridiculous dog-and-pony show congressional appearances. Those are nothing but a profound waste of taxpayer time and money. Wouldn't it be thrilling to see nebbishy little Lloyd Blankfein get stalked by a pack of paparazzi like Britney Spears? Have his wife followed around while she shops away at Bergdorf's, documenting every penny she spends? 

People like Teresa Giudice bore me; she is nothing more than another unwitting architect of her own misery. Yeah, I enjoy wasting time reading about her ilk, but eventually, I have to put her aside and get on with my life. People like Lloyd Blankfein and his ilk bug the shit out of me. They exploit greed and ignorance within the letter of the law and get away with it. They're the ones who need a financial education, even though they've got diplomas on their walls documenting that they've "been there, done that". It's not enough. Send them back from whence they came, without the millions they "legally" stole, and let them see what it's like to deal with real vilification. I'll be sitting front and centre for that show. 


Friday, August 13, 2010

Moms from Hell

Greetings Friends,

Before I get to the nut of today's post, I must admit my technological skills are not as advanced as they should be, so please forgive me for providing a link, rather than an embedded video. Once I figure out how to accomplish that task, I'll give you something worth watching. Like my favourite Monty Python Spam clip. For now, please click here to view footage of Dina Lohan from this morning's Today show, where she speaks to Matt Lauer about her daughter Lindsay's situation. In my opinion, Nassau County New York's child welfare services failed that family miserably. Dina and Michael Lohan weren't fit to raise snakes.

I'll never understand what possesses parents to put their children through the meat grinder that is Hollywood, except of course, if it is on some level to live vicariously through them. I watched Dina Lohan's interview with Matt Lauer this morning, and I thought to myself: there has got to be some sort of law against stuff like this. Lindsay Lohan is 6 years past the age of majority, but I can't help but feel that more responsible parenting would have saved this girl from all the boozing, drugs, and God knows what else, and ultimately would have kept her out of the tabloids, jail, and now a fourth stint in rehab. But, Dina Lohan, in all her cluelessness, was content to sit there and toss up ambiguities, blaming the judge, the press, the man-in-the-moon, and everyone else for her daughter's shameful station in life. Again, here is a case of someone who could have given herself truckloads of credibility by saying, "You know what? I screwed up. I shouldn't have gone out partying with my daughter all those times, making her think that dressing like a skank and guzzling vodka at 17 were things all mothers and daughters do for fun; like having tea parties and braiding each others hair." Instead, it's everyone else's fault but hers. Thanks Dina; that's 10 minutes of my life I'll never get back; not to mention the 20 minutes it took me to bang out this post. Then again, if it wasn't for you, I would have punted another one today.

Stage parenting isn't going anywhere. Neither is helicopter parenting, overbearing parenting, and parenting in general. When I think about all the child stars who are irretrievably broken because of all the bad decisions their parents made, it's a wonder anyone today would let their kids loose in Hollywood. For every Brooke Shields, who managed to survive the "mother" of all stage moms, there's a Michael Jackson, a Gary Coleman, a Macaulay Culkin, a Cory Haim, a Britney Spears and now, a Lindsay Lohan. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olson might be billionaires with their DualStar empire and their Dumpster-chic style, but can those two possibly be happy? My guess is no.

Sure it's easy to blame the press and just about everyone else, but the bottom line is: if mommy and daddy can't hack it in the real world, plying your children in show business is not the answer. Take responsibility for your actions and parent to the best of your ability. Attempting to turn your kids into meal tickets should be a recognized form of child abuse. I'm sure Christina Crawford would agree.

Enjoy your weekend.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Reputation, Reputation...

Greetings Friends,

As I look at Gene Wilder collapsed in defeat as Dr. Frankenstein, I think to myself: that will not be me; I have my reputation as a freelance writer to consider.

So, with that in mind, I must get back to my work. I have deadlines, on top of deadlines, and more deadlines after that. Could be worse...could be raining.

See you on Friday.


Monday, August 9, 2010

Writing on the Arm

Greetings Friends,

Sometimes, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do. That statement can cover a wide variety of topics, but when it comes to writing, you have to make peace with the fact that there will not always be a paycheck at the end of every project. I'm not advocating writing everything "on the arm" (for free), but in the name of hitting the ground running, there is always going to be a scenario or two, where your intellectual property must be submitted without the promise of monetary compensation.

A few weeks ago, I was invited to join an online community of writers at The Perpetual Post. My first two contributions will be appearing there this week, one in Sports, and another in Arts & Culture. I am in very esteemed company in that group, including that of Howard Megdal, the irreverent New York sports writer, whose blog link appears on this blog, and who, at this time, aspires to get elected the next general manager of the New York Mets. Howard doesn't really want to be the next GM of the Mets, but he does love the Mets enough to give of his time, gratis, to make his feelings known about his displeasure with the job current Mets' GM Omar Minaya is doing.

I was indirectly "introduced" to Howard by one of my former Hofstra University professors, whose blog is also on my list. Dr. Dana Brand has written two books about the New York Mets, and blogs about the team regularly on Dana Brand's Mets Fan Blog. Since I am a Mets fan, and I read Dana's blog, I found out about Howard's campaign to become the next Mets GM. I e-mailed Howard to offer my support for his campaign, and to tell him I admire what he is doing. Little did I know that Howard was the founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Perpetual Post. The rest is history...

In these interesting journalistic times, writers regularly explore new frontiers of communication, testing the waters to see what works and what doesn't. In doing so, we find we must donate generously of our time and talents in order to navigate the new roads of creativity that are constantly shifting beneath our desks. We are not forsaking our day jobs; we still need as many shekels as we can get to keep food on our tables, clothes on our backs and the bills paid. So what if we guzzle buckets of coffee and are sleep deprived because of all our extra-curricular writing? It's an important part of who we are and what we do. It took me a long time to realize that; with sleep deprivation comes opportunity - both paid and unpaid. For the sake of nurturing our talents and keeping our voices relevant, we write. And let's not forget about how much we love it.

So, look for me this week on The Perpetual Post. Remember how life always leads you down roads you don't necessarily think are the right ones, but somehow, they turn out to be. That and a comfortable snoozing chair can make all the difference.


Friday, August 6, 2010

The Dog Days Have Arrived

Greetings Friends,

August is one of those weird months; it's still summer, but there's that feeling of impending gloom as the clock ticks towards the new school year, cold weather, and 12 more months gone by. It's been almost a full turn of the calendar since I put down roots here in the Great White North, and although I've found myself a job I really enjoy, I still don't feel very "settled". Does anyone ever really feel settled? What does it mean to be settled anyway? If there are cogent answers to that question, please, by all means, make yourself heard.

In the meantime, I feel the need to make a list. It's something I have yet to do as a blogger, and now is as good a time as any:

I haven't read a newspaper in weeks; I can't bear to watch CNN, and even venerable CBC News anchorman Peter Mansbridge isn't doing it for me anymore. Clearly I am not well.

When I started this blog back in April, I had 49 Facebook friends. I now have 88. Does that mean I am 39 times more relevant than I was 4 months ago?

I spent all of yesterday within close reach of a Cinnabon pastry and never touched it. I swear.

I don't think I'll ever feel as Canadian as I do American. Although, I wish I could do a better job developing a Canadian accent. I hate getting busted for sounding so "Brooklyn".

Everyone is going on vacation by August 20th, except me. Am I in France or am I in Canada?

I am a huge Lady Gaga fan; think what you will.

I have more work than I know what to do with. If I had stayed in the US I'd most likely be unemployed.

Embracing social media wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. I actually enjoy it now.

I want an iPhone 4 more now than when I wrote about it.

and last but not least...

I am "emotionally exhausted and morally bankrupt." Anyone who can tell me where that line is from wins an all expenses-paid trip to the Cayman Islands and a set of steak knives.

Have a lovely weekend.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Tomato Sauce for Your Ass

Greetings Friends,

I am embarrassed to say I actually own a copy of the above book. I think I purchased it when I was about to finish my undergraduate degree, or right before I started graduate school. I can't remember. That just goes to show you how important a volume it is in my collection. I pitched lots of books in the moves I've made over the past couple of years, and somehow, this one survived. It's a wonder it didn't wind up in the Goodwill store, but I'll just chalk it up to being one of those random mysteries of life. Like how my Uncle Matt's Brooklyn bookmark has been with me for about 8 years now. It's the only bookmark I use. 

As for the title of today's post, please don't be offended by my use of the word "ass". It has a most distinguished pedigree in this context, and I'll get to that later on.

Knowledge is important to me. It is an essential tool in the battle against ignorance, as is having an open mind and an empathetic heart. I came to my acquisition of serious knowledge a bit late in life; I went back to school at 32, and got my Masters degree at 40. I know this is far from extraordinary, but I acquired my knowledge during extraordinary times. I wasn't exactly a model student in my younger days, and last week, I confessed how important the acquisition of money was, back in the Halcyon Days of my late teens/early 20s. I was merely responding to the times I lived in, and in the late 80s, "greed [was] good", remember? 

Now, as I try to make my way in the world plying my talent as a writer, I feel so much better about myself than I did when I was a nondescript office worker, with my own ass spreading rapidly on a less than ergonomically correct chair. If I may place my revisionist historian hat atop my head once again, I will say I hated every minute of my time in the corporate world. I wasn't ever cut out for that station in life. I disliked my superiors, my co-workers, and especially a select group of individuals who thought they had all the answers, while the rest of us were no more than nameless, faceless automatons who were nothing except a financial, but necessary, burden. That sounds harsh, but - boil it down - things haven't gotten better, they've gotten worse. The Corporate American Kool Aid you must now drink tastes even more vile than it did when I landed in the workplace, a little over 20 years ago. Now, you work even harder, you get even less, and all you can do is bitch a hell of a lot more.

What I am trying to to with my life is not easy. However, it is honest. I don't profess to being the best writer in the world; in fact, I know I'm far from it. I do think I have a pleasing style that's straightforward and easy on the eyes. You'll never go running for the dictionary when you read something I write, nor will you always like everything I have to say. What I've learned is, "subjective" makes the world go round. You'll never get everyone to agree, simultaneously, that you're the best thing since sliced bread, and that you miraculously have more insight and talent than the editorial staff at the New Yorker. It's OK to have lofty aspirations, but you need to remain realistic as well. I may not ever be published beyond the garden variety home services or pharmaceutical products web site, but you know what? I'm fine with that. When I go online and look at what I've done, I'm proud if it. If my writing prompts one person to call and schedule an appointment for air duct cleaning, or to buy the particular brand of hemorrhoid cream I wrote about, then my job is done. Task accomplished. It's not exactly the pinnacle of The New York Times bestseller list, but honestly, I'd prefer to be a New York Times "Notable Book". Those usually kick ass. I like to think of myself as a "Trade" paperback, rather than "Mass Market". Much as I love chicken soup, it warms my tummy; it doesn't "feed" my soul.

Now for an explanation of my title: In Season 1 of The Sopranos, Tony's "goomah" or "goomar" (could a "Cujjin" or a "Guido" please step forward to help me out with that one?), Irina, reads a copy of Chicken Soup for the Soul while they are in bed together. He tells her she should read "Tomato Sauce for Your Ass", the Italian version, instead. I know he was being snarky, and it would take me hours to explain how brilliant I think that series is, but the sentiment is glaring (at least to me): Genuine self-help and inspiration comes from within; you'll never, ever find it in a book.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Could We Live Forever?

Greetings Friends,

One of my lovely Facebook friends posted a link to this article that appeared on Saturday, on The New York Times web site. It got me thinking about how real life is so very different from the fictional lives of Don and Betty Draper on the series Mad Men. That's another show I cottoned to early on, but lost interest in. Now, as the whole world obsessively tunes in, I would rather watch my Sopranos DVDs ad nauseam; despite my ability to quote most of the episodes verbatim.

The Times article suggests our love for Mad Men stems from our vicarious need to watch others court disaster with the inappropriate behaviour we ourselves would love to indulge in. There's a fine line between inappropriate and indulgent. In 2010, we know that drinking alcohol while pregnant and smoking cigarettes are verboten. But what of three martini lunches or casual adulterous trysts? Today, you can't come back from lunch three sheets to the wind, or cheat on your spouse without suffering the consequences of technology Don Draper could never fathom. Maybe that's why we revel vicariously in that behaviour: we know how hard it is to get away with in 2010, rather than in the early 1960s. I'm sure that just ups the ante for all you adrenaline junkies, but for me, it's not worth the risk. Escaping the consequences are virtually impossible today.

The cigarettes and alcohol consumption aside, what about the obsessive health consciousness that dominates today's society? The damage has been irreparable over the last 40 or so years, with all the genetically modified foods, hormone-saturated meats and high fructose corn syrup we North Americans have been known to ingest. If you're lucky enough, or gullible enough (depending on who you talk to), to be able to buy all organic from your milk to your clothing, are you really benefiting from spending the extra money? There are all kinds of theories out there, from what to eat and how much of it, to what to "avoid like the plague" - actual advice as part of a "plant-based" diet. It's about as confusing as choosing a mobile phone plan, because you never pay attention to the fine print until the first bill shows up, and it ends up costing twice what you thought it would.

Now that I've lived long enough to see 5 decades, I think I've made it through with flying colours so far. Is there the potential for me to develop a softball sized tumour somewhere in my body? I'd be kidding myself if I said, hell no. I don't subsist on an all Swedish fish and Kentucky Fried Chicken diet, but I'm not ingesting tofu, wheat grass, spirulina, Maca powder and hemp seeds on a regular basis, either. I'm trying to locate the happy medium, and so far, I haven't been very successful.

I like to hearken back to some of George Carlin's classic comedy, like when he said, "Maybe the kid who swallowed the marbles wasn't meant to make it anyway." Or, "Kids wearing bicycle helmets? I swam in the Hudson River as a kid for God's sake!" I'm not of George Carlin's generation, and as of right now, I'm still in the land of the living. But, I have to agree with what he said because, I didn't wear a bicycle helmet, and I survived countless skinned knees, a broken wrist and a badly pulled thigh muscle that kept me off the Varsity fencing team in high school. And here I still am telling you about it. I realize none of that is cancer, but I'm not sure I buy into all the propaganda out there about the food we eat. Just for the record, I don't believe Barack Obama is a Muslim, either.

Here in Canada, our "Socialist" government has a keen interest in keeping the population healthy because our health care costs are mostly on their dime. In the US, the government is waging a pitch-battle with the insurance industry to do away with things like pre-existing conditions, co-pays, deductibles and monetary health insurance policy limits. Who will emerge victorious? It will be interesting to see. In the meantime, Don and Betty, and the rest of the characters of Mad Men, will go on waging their morality wars of yesteryear, while we secretly wish we were them.

I have to ask: Is it worthwhile to worry about what you can't see coming? I plan on ruminating on that one over a bucket of chicken.

Check out the "Mad Men Me" I created here.