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.