Monday, January 31, 2011

Going Broke Sending the Very Best

Greetings Friends,

The Great Electronic Void (how I cheekily like to refer to the Internet) has put a lot of things on the endangered species list. I didn't realize, until yesterday, that greeting cards are one of those things. I wandered into my local Shoppers Drug Mart to pick up a few essentials, and proactively visited to greeting card aisle to grab a few for some February birthdays and Valentines Day. Now, let's be honest: how many of you actually look at the prices of greeting cards? I never have, but I always make a point of turning the card around so the price is visible to the cashier. Yesterday, I almost succumbed to fit of apoplexy when I realized, too late, that I had paid $8.99 for a relatively spartan Valentine's Day card. Since when do greeting cards cost 9 bucks? I can buy a pound of lean ground sirloin for less than that!

For over a decade now, the preferred mode of communication has been e-mail; nobody I know writes letters to anyone, and I personally have three types of instant messaging capabilities loaded into my laptop. Not to mention the 20 or so text messages I get each day. Written communication has become a quaint notion, and now that I've been rudely awakened to the price of greeting cards, I realize these are turning out to be just as quaint as letters. Hell, I just wished a Facebook friend "Happy Birthday" earlier today, but it never dawned on me that greeting cards were almost extinct. Message received; if I have to choose between a greeting card and dinner, the choice is now obvious. And before you start with all the half-price cards and dollar stores out there, I used to be a staunchly loyal Hallmark card sender. Well, read it here first: no more. That goes for all of them. It's come down to principle and my principles are screaming: no more greeting cards no matter what they cost!

There was a lot of online chatter last week about the US Postal Service's decision to shutter about 2,000 post offices to cut costs. Most of them will be in rural American "one stop light" towns where they've been in existence for well over 100 years. It's sad, because not everyone is tech savvy, nor will they endeavor to become so. What blows my mind is that the post office is losing money, despite the advent of e-commerce, Ebay, QVC and all the rest of the cyber-shopping options we're inundated with. There just aren't enough greeting cards being mailed anymore to make up for the fact that we no longer correspond via letters. I've used some of those online "greeting card" sites a few times, but I felt lazy doing so; I mean, how hard is it to go buy a birthday card? Apparently, too hard for a lot of people. 

I used to poke fun at all of these so-called "greeting card holidays" like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day, Father's Day, National Bosses Day...and countless other extraneous days designated in honour of something that is supposed to prompt us to go out and buy greeting cards. I drew the line at Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day. And as a writer, I think the only thing worse that greeting card poetry is mass-produced hotel room art. I know there are many people making an honest living at both, but, again, this is my blog. If the chips were down and I had to take a job writing greeting cards, I would do it; chances are those writers are as endangered as the cards they write for. Sad, but true.

Valentine's Day is two weeks from today; I would start investigating alternatives to that card, box of chocolates and bouquet of roses. The card will get discarded, the chocolates will get eaten, and the flowers will die. Don't say you haven't been warned.


Friday, January 28, 2011

The Great One Turns 50

Greetings Friends,

There was a time when looking at a picture of Wayne Gretzky with the Stanley Cup hoisted over his head felt painful. Now, it doesn't bother me. What bothers me is when hockey pundits call the Gretzky-era Edmonton Oilers the greatest hockey dynasty ever. The Mike Bossy-Bryan Trottier-era New York Islanders would have something to say about that. Now that both teams are staring into the abyss, no one really cares anymore. The reason I'm even bringing it up is because Wayne "The Great One" Gretzky turned 50 on Wednesday, and all of Canada is celebrating. 

I don't think I've ever fully comprehended just how important Gretzky is to Canadians. He's sort of like Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and Jackie Robinson all rolled into one. No matter what he does, Canadians will always sit up and take notice. His age is no exception. All I've been hearing for the past couple of days is how it was only yesterday that he laced up the skates for the first time with the Edmonton Oilers; how all his records still stand, even though he's been retired almost 12 years; how all of Canada watched him marry Janet Jones; how hard it was for him to leave Edmonton for the bright lights of LA; how devastating his failure as part owner and head coach of the Phoenix Coyotes has been; how despite all the successes and failures, he'll always be "The Great One".

When I was a kid, there were athletes I considered to be heroes. One of them was Mike Bossy, along with the entire New York Islanders team from 1979, until 1985. I lived, breathed, ate, slept, drank, spoke everything Islanders. Naturally, it was devastating for me to watch Gretzky's Oilers de-throne the reigning 4-time Stanley Cup Champion Islanders. I vowed I would hate him forever. Forever is a long time, and none of us will be around that long. As I am a scant 6 years younger than The Great One, I can say with total honesty that I've mellowed with age. I don't hate him anymore. Yeah, he was a superstar athlete, but during a time when superstar athletes weren't really assholes. Today, it's hard to really like a lot of these guys because most of them have that dominant "asshole" personality trait. Also, I am too old to be worshiping athletes. I still admire them, but I wouldn't fall into a dead faint in front of one. Not even in front of The Great One. 

The older I get, the more conscious I seem to be of how old those around me are. If I'm about to turn 44, this person is "x" number of years older or younger than me, is the thought I find floating through my head; even if that person is a total stranger to me. I feel the need to connect my own mortality to that of others around me - like I'm keeping score. I don't think that's a bad thing to do; it serves as a reminder that life is short and we need to make the most of it. I've always assumed that athletes have a particularly difficult time with aging. Look at Brett Favre as an example: the guy refuses to retire. He's not the only star athlete who had trouble leaving the party; many of them can't deal with retirement, even when they know they'll never have to work another day in their lives. I can't imagine what that feels like. When you earn your living literally by the skin of your teeth, and one day, that skin can't perform the way it used to, that realization is more like devastation to a pro athlete. 

Gretzky seems to have handled retirement well, with the exception of his disastrous stint as a coach in Phoenix. He'll always be around hockey, whether he likes it or not. Hockey, and Canadians have claimed ownership of him in a way I've never before witnessed. He belongs to us, and a lot of us belong to him. Even though I lived in the US for all of his career, I was always conscious of how he was Canada's property on loan to fickle American hockey fans who will never revere the game as much as Canadians. They gave him up reluctantly, but when he retired (as a New York Ranger), they embraced him once again as one of their own. It's hard for Americans to grasp the kind of "pride of ownership" Canadians take in their successful citizens. 

No matter how successful we are, Canadians are always going to live in the shadow of America. Never was that truer than when Gretzky spent the better part of his career playing for teams south of the 49th parallel. Now that we have him back, we're never letting him go. Every one of his milestones and accomplishments will always be celebrated. He will forever be The Great One. I used to rail against the love and admiration people had for him. Now, I embrace it. I understand it. 50 is not that far off for me, and I still have to keep score.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Holy Chromosome, Batman! I Have a Sister!

Greetings Friends,

I want all my readers who find Oprah Winfrey annoying to raise their hands. If you do, and don't want to make yourselves known, I understand. Admitting that you can't stand Oprah is tantamount to admitting you hate puppies, kittens and babies. I happen to love all three, but I can't stand Oprah. There; I said it. 

For 25 years this woman has made a career (and several boat-loads of money) out of inflicting herself on millions of television viewers five days a week. Now, she's finally decided to move on, but she can't until she showers the world with every last drop of her narcissism. Then it's on to her OWN network of original programming, which includes her protegees, Gayle King, Suze Orman, Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz. It's gonna be a 24 hour a day Oprah extravaganza. Well, it already is, but Canadians are going to have to wait until March 1. This is one Canadian who won't be tuning in.

The problem I've always had with Oprah is that too many people pay attention to her. Don't get me wrong, I have nothing against zoning out in front of the television, but the intensity with which millions of her viewers hang on her every word and action really bugs me. It's like, whatever she talked about never existed until she discovered it. Everything from liquid diets, to personal chefs and trainers, books, concepts, name it; if I had a dime for every time someone I know started a sentence with, "I saw on Oprah...", I would OWN my own publishing company. 

One of Oprah's latest revelations is her discovery of a half-sister who was given up for adoption when she was a baby. Again, a scenario that never existed until Miss O herself experienced it. I find it hard to believe that "Patricia" is the first person to crawl out of the woodwork and claim sibling status to a particular celebrity. But, it happened to Oprah, so we are all paying attention. Considering the misery of her childhood, I can't say I'm shocked this happened, but it really doesn't make a difference to me. Maybe if I was the one with the "surprise" sibling, I could relate, but I'm not. I'm one of those people who often wonders whether or not my parents brought the right infant home from the hospital; that would certainly explain a lot. Not that I'm losing any sleep over it; plus, I bear too strong of a resemblance to the rest of my family.

I'm a sucker for good reality TV; shows about hoarding, addiction, behavioural disorders - things like that really grab and hold my attention. I'm really not into playing the role of voyeur in the life of someone like Miss O. I don't want a fleet of cars, a stack of cashmere sweaters and a lifetime supply of her favourite moisturizer. I want to be true to myself. Watching Oprah made me feel weak-minded; if I had to listen to her, I had no business listening to myself. If you're a stickler for detail the way I am, credibility is negligible from someone whom the world perceives to have it all. That point was driven home a couple of weeks ago when I happened to tune in to see Suze Orman berating Nadya "Octomom" Suleman while Oprah held her hand. None of us has the capacity to save everyone. Exploiting someone who obviously requires more care than that from a shrill financial advisor and a billionaire talk show host, accomplishes nothing other than to make those with power feel more powerful. Not only is that wrong, it's downright cruel. 

I look forward to the day when Oprah signs off the air. Maybe the apocalypse will occur soon after. Maybe this is the one event the Mayans weren't counting on. The loss of Oprah might indeed cause the earth to shift its axis or change its rotational direction. If that happens, so be it. I'll stick my head between my legs, kiss my ass good-bye and feel grateful that I never fell under the spell of Miss O. 


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Midnight Blogger

Greetings Friends,

As the clock struck midnight, I remembered that I never got around to my usual Monday post. I think I'm sort of OCD when it comes to the Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule, but not enough to care that much. What I've been obsessing over, rather, since I posed about American Idol last Friday, is how old some of my favourite performers are. I remember honing in on the classic rockers in the early 80s who were all turning 40, and I remembered that John Lennon, had he lived, would have turned 70 in 2010. I'm not trying to be morbid about the ages of our favourite musicians, but in light of Steven Tyler's perceived inappropriateness, I started wondering just how old some of these "alter cocker" (that's Yiddish for OLD!) rockers actually are. 

So, here's another one of my lists:

Gregg Allman (pictured above): 63

Sir Elton John: 63

Eric Clapton: 65

Roger Daltrey: 66

Pete Townshend: 65

Mick Jagger: 67

Keith Richards: 67

Sir Paul McCartney: 68

Robert Plant: 62

Jimmy Page: 67

Steven Tyler: 62

Joe Perry: 60

Don Henley: 63

Glenn Frey: 62

Stevie Nicks: 62

OK, I'm stopping. As old as I feel, I can just imagine how old the people on my list feel. They're all, on average, 20 years older than I am. Most of them don't look like your typical 60-somethings, and for that, I applaud them. I also think heroin might be some sort of magic youth elixir, but I would never try it, or advocate its use. Whatever it is, I think feeling young must have a lot to do with it. Maybe that's something I should try. One thing I really do hate obsessing over is age.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Idol Worshiper? Not Here.

Greetings Friends,

I'd successfully avoided watching more than a few snippets of American Idol up until the 10th season premier the other night. Part of me was morbidly curious about the deluded minions who actually think they can be the next American Idol. My curiosity was stanched after only one episode, despite the fact that Aerosmith has been one of my favourite bands throughout my life, and Steven Tyler as a judge could have been worth his weight in snickers and guffaws. You know who I think would have been a good candidate for a judge? Gene Simmons. Had it been him, I would have been stuck like a pig in the mud. Much as I've always loved Aerosmith, Gene Simmons and KISS have been my obsession since the 5th grade. Think what you will...

I'm not disputing that American Idol has been phenomenally successful, and that it has produced some legitimately talented individuals. It's just not my cup of tea. I'm usually not one to avert my eyes from a train wreck, but for some reason, watching this show makes me feel as if I have thousands of black flies continuously ripping chunks of my flesh off my body. Seriously; it makes my skin crawl. It hearkens back to an earlier era, and a game show called The Gong Show, a few of you may recall: Three celebrities judged talent, and in the event a contestant sucked huge, they were gonged off the stage. Now that was much more my speed. There was no mistake about it - you sucked, and you left. None of this, well, OK, we'll schlep you out to L.A. and feed your delusions for a bit longer, then tear you down and send the pieces home for you to pick up for the rest of your life. There's a reason why so many of us will only sing in the shower.

Had I been watching all these years, I'd probably would have learned to appreciate the curmudgeonly ways of Simon Cowell. Initial reaction to the latest incarnation of the judging panel has been "kinder" and "gentler", along with outrage at Steven Tyler's mild flirtation with some of the younger contestants. Aerosmith could have opened a lingerie warehouse will all the bras and panties that have been tossed on stage during their concerts. I witnessed said tossing a couple of times over the years. For Tyler, this is just another type of stage. Simon Cowell made a fortune by bitch-slapping whoever would let him, so I really don't get why everyone is so shocked. Then again, I don't get American Idol, period. I believe it is too late for me to join the party. Eventually, all good things must come to an end, and it looks like we need to have to defibrillators on standby. 

To all of you who will hang on every minute of every episode, I applaud you. I will keep my spot on the periphery and stick with the snippets. May the best crooner win.

Enjoy your weekend.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Majority? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Majority!

Greetings Friends,

We're coming up on the 5 year anniversary of Prime Minister Stephen Harper's minority rule here in Canada, and for some reason, it's been deemed worthy of recognition. Historically, minority rule does not last long in a parliamentary system, but somehow, our "buddy Steve" (how former President George W. Bush was known to refer to him) has made it work.

It's taken me a long time to understand the parliamentary system. It is a form of democracy, but with not as many checks and balances as we find in the United States. For example, the Prime Minister, with the Governor General's (that's the fancy title the Monarch's representative gets to tote around) permission, can pull the plug on Parliament whenever he wants to. Harper did so last year, right before the Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and in late 2009, to avoid a vote of "no confidence" that would have triggered a Federal election. Believe it or not, the Canadian Prime Minister has more power than the US President; it takes a mountain to move Congress, but Parliament can bite the dust with disturbing ease. That's just the way it is.

Canada has many more advantages now than it ever has. For one, the country is in much better shape economically, despite a record deficit and things like universal healthcare and GST. Those are two things that would make the heads of many Americans explode, but here they're just part of life. There are more financial regulations in place that prevented a sub-prime mortgage meltdown, because they weren't offered here to begin with.

Don't get me wrong, Canada has its share of problems, but they pale in comparison to the insurmountable woes south of the border. Sometimes I think the Canadian media needs to conjure up some good old fashioned drama in order to compete on the world stage; life here can be somewhat boring, but at this stage, I'll take boring over drama any day. There is no way Canadian politicos could ever ratchet up the drama to the same level as our southern neighbours. They can scream all they want on the floor of the House of Commons, but it can never match the vitriol and rancor of a divided congress. Yes, a minority parliamentary government has its limitations, but Stephen Harper has proven that you can get things done, despite not having a party majority. 

I've never been a huge fan of Stephen Harper, and I wouldn't be so bold as to say he's growing on me, but having endured 8 years of George W. Bush, Canadians should consider themselves lucky that he's nowhere near as volatile, not to mention as dumb, as the 43rd American president. He does have a tendency to be somewhat stiff and milquetoasty, and he'll never win any personality contests. He is an economist by trade, and if anything, he's got the smarts to be where he is. He might not be the guy you would want to shoot the breeze with over a beer, but he probably has a better understanding of finance than most people. The right person for the job might not be the most personable, but especially in a position of power - knowledge counts.

As I bring this somewhat verbose political rambling to a close, I just got an e-mail alert from The Washington Post telling me that the House of Representatives voted to repeal President Obama's healthcare bill. That won't go over well in the Senate, and if ever there was an example of partisan nonsense, especially with one of their own lying in a hospital bed, miraculously recovering from a gunshot wound to the head, I don't know what is. As bad as a minority government can be, it's nothing compared to a divided congress.

As Canada contemplates 5 years of minority Conservative government, I hope they're taking a good, long look at what's going on in the US right now. Surprising as it is for a minority government to have lasted this long, they should be grateful they're not emulating Americans. One civil war was more than enough.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Blue Monday

Greetings Friends,

Are you depressed? According to a story on last night's installment of CBC's The National, today is "Blue Monday", so designated by a Welsh psychologist to call attention to the mid-winter blues. Winter is by far the toughest season to endure, and here in the Great White North, it can be especially brutal. The days are snowy and gloomy, it's cold, and generally miserable. I'm not disputing any of that, but I'm not pleased by the inclusion of many "manufactured" depressive elements, such as failure to adhere to New Year's resolutions, overwhelming debt, and distance from the holiday season. That, I'm not buying.

During the holiday season, we do our share of complaining about how stressful it all can be. We breathe a collective sigh of relief when it's all over, but we barely give ourselves a break before we find something new to complain about. It's January 17th, and winter has a good 2-1/2 months left to batter us. Personally, I find the month of March the most difficult to endure, partly because it is such a nondescript month, even though it begins still entrenched in winter, and ends with the arrival of spring. Spring is generally delayed in these parts, until sometime in early May. Blame global warming, or whatever you'd like, but until June, the weather can be as easy to predict as when the "big one" will make Denver waterfront property. You seem to wake up one day and start fiddling with the air conditioner, and, poof! summer has arrived.

There's nothing that peeves me more than the segment of the population that looks to complain for the sake of complaining. I'm not saying depression isn't a legitimate ailment; I know for a fact it is. I can understand how difficult life can be in northern locales where, this time of year, there is maybe an hour or two of daylight at most. That would bother me. I could fill the house with those "Seasonal Affected Disorder" light devices, but I seriously doubt they would help raise my mood. I give people who live in those places credit for persevering during this time of year, because the flip-side is near-24 hours of daylight. That would probably drive me nuts as well, but it beats the alternative. As I said last week, life is a trade-off, and we must decide which unpleasant elements we are willing to endure in order to reap the benefits. Why can't someone embark on that type of study? What are humans willing to put up with in order to enjoy the inherent advantages of their surroundings? That, I'd love to know.

I don't think I'd be happy living in a warm, or tropical locale year round. I've made no secret of how much I can't stand Florida, but having spent time in the Nevada desert in summer time, it wasn't quite so terrible. It all boils down to what you're willing to put up with; for me, humidity is a deal-breaker. Dry heat isn't so bad. I'd be willing to take my chances that I might spontaneously combust.

As January drags on, there is much to look forward to, despite the gloom, cold and snow. It won't be long before we're complaining about how hot it is. Our lot is life is to complain; grousing about the weather knows no particular season. In that, we should find comfort. 


Friday, January 14, 2011

Got Ink?

Greetings Friends,

It's Friday, it's late, and I worked the day away before I realized I neglected my duties here at Ink & Paint. However, I do have a post up over at Perfume Posse today, combining perfume with a topic I've been ruminating over for about 20 years. It's gotten some pretty good feedback so far, and I think it's worth a read. If you feel so inclined, surf over to Perfume Posse now.

Have a glorious weekend.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

That Bogeyman called "Healthcare"

Greetings Friends,

Thanks to Calvin Gluck for posting an image of his Ontario health card on his blog. Just so you don't think I swiped the actual card from Calvin (I don't know him personally), here's a link to his original blog post about Canadian healthcare. From what I can tell, Calvin was here in Canada on a work visa, and was entitled to coverage under the Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) while living and working in the province of Ontario.

I have that exact same card in my wallet, right next to my driver's license. Like Calvin, I have to admit that it provides me with significant peace of mind, knowing that my tax dollars are giving me something useful. I haven't had occasion to use my OHIP card often; there was one instance last year when my ornery, but lovable cat Lily, swatted me, and left a bloody eye in her wake. A trip to the nearest walk-in clinic, a 5 day course of anti-biotic and a tetanus shot later, I was ever so grateful for that OHIP card. No co-pays, no deductibles, and no astronomical emergency room bills to contend with. Unlike a trip to a Nassau County, NY hospital emergency room, which consisted of a diagnosis of kidney stones, a $500.00 deductible, and a fraudulent $5,200.00 bill issued by some scammer at the hospital, claiming that I didn't have insurance coverage at the time of treatment. I passed the kidney stones 24 hours later, but the fraudulent bill took significantly longer to rectify.

I'm not naive enough to believe that Canada's universal healthcare system is perfect. It's far from it. It's shocking sometimes to look down at a receipt for something I've purchased to see 13% sales tax added on to the cost of the item. But, I'll live with it, considering the thousands of dollars I've paid for health insurance over the course of my life, and what I have gotten in return: more grief and aggravation than any actual healing. That's the thing about insurance companies - you think they're there to provide you with peace of mind, but really, what they're doing is scaring you into paying them larcenous premiums on the off-chance you should ever need their assistance. And if you find yourself in need of their assistance because you have a chronic health condition you must contend with, they really show you the love by threatening to drop your coverage. That leaves you high and dry because you won't be able to get insurance from another provider due to your "pre-existing" condition.

Anyone who isn't targeting liberal politicians by scribbling crosshairs over their districts, knows that the insurance industry lobby is one of the most powerful in Washington. It doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out why President Obama's healtcare bill was watered down like a bottle of speed-rack vodka; including the removal of the government option. Everyone was fearful of the government "death panels" and the rationing of surgeries and other treatments because they were all going to be on the government's dime. No one ever mentioned the millions of Americans who are forced into bankruptcy because of catastrophic illnesses and inadequate insurance coverage. Not to mention the millions of Americans who cannot afford health insurance at all. And what about the millions of people trapped in dead-end jobs because they refuse to give up their benefits? 

Wherever you live, there are always going to be trade-offs. Here in the Great White North, I might have to wait a little longer for a non life-threatening procedure, but if I need it, I know I'll get it. I don't have to rely on my employer for health care; good thing, since I'm self-employed. And if, God forbid, I have to contend with a catastrophic illness, I know there won't be some ghoul from my insurance company standing watch over how much their profits are shrinking on account of my misfortune. Best of all, there are no Canadian politicians at risk because of unpopular government healthcare policies. Generations of Canadians have come to rely on the universal healthcare system, and most of them will tell you, they wouldn't trade it for what Americans have - ever. For me, that's even more comforting than my OHIP card.


Monday, January 10, 2011

Tea-Stained Vitriol

Greetings Friends,

First, let me say that I am a fan of neither the US or Canadian governments. But, I'm not going out to buy a Glock and start shooting people. The vast majority of people will follow the same path as me. It's always the one exception that manages to ruin it for the rest of us.

The details are still unfolding as I write this, but the facts are these: Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords is lying in a hospital bed after being shot in the head by 22 year-old Jared Loughner. Federal Judge John Roll was killed, supposedly for just being in the wrong place at the wrong time. A 9 year-old girl named Christina-Taylor Green was also killed. This is an unspeakable tragedy, perpetrated by an individual who had a beef with the US government. A lot of people are not happy with the state of government, but that doesn't give them the right to go out and kill people. Last time I checked, murder was against the law; lately, more harm than good has come from all the political rhetoric in the mainstream, so it was only a matter of time before someone paid the ultimate price for all the crazy-talk.

It's one thing to exercise your right to vote in a democratic society, but to combine it with violence-tinged campaign rhetoric is just plain wrong. The use of gun-related euphemisms, such as Sarah Palin's "Don't retreat; reload", and her use of cross hairs in images on her Web site may or may not have incited violence among right wing Americans. Their use was completely inappropriate, not to mention disturbing. We've spent enough time bastardizing the First and Second Amendments of the Constitution, and now 6 individuals are dead, and about a dozen others are injured because of it. Threats against politicians have increased exponentially. Why? Because a bunch of ignorant Americans are afraid of the government having a say in their health care. Give a certain segment of the population any excuse to insert a firearm into the equation, and this is what you get.

I come from a place where guns were never a part of my life. I understand that's not the case for all of us. Our life experiences notwithstanding, none of us has the right to take the responsibility of gun ownership lightly. We all bear the burden of responsibility for places where gun laws are lax and liberal (for lack of a better term), by giving access to people who in no way deserve to have it. The irresponsibility of soft gun laws gives access to people like Jared Loughner, and Seung-Hui Cho, who legally purchased guns, but had no business doing so. The gun laws in the states of Virginia and Arizona allowed this to happen. And if nothing is done to shore up soft gun laws, this will keep happening again, and again, and again. The NRA can squawk all it wants about how "people kill people, not guns", but the reality is, the person is pulling the trigger of, you guessed it: A GUN.

There will be much more rhetoric about this tragedy in the coming days, and by writing a blog entry, I am contributing to it. I realize that is my right, as both a Canadian and an American citizen. Much as I'd like to place the blame squarely on the head of Sarah Palin, I can't do that. There are many forces at play here, especially the profound ignorance that runs rampant through both the US and Canada. 

It's too much to expect to believe everyone pays attention to what exactly it is government does, but too many are focused on what it is government does wrong. The 24 hour news cycle doesn't help, nor do loudmouth, ignorant agenda pushers like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity and Keith Olbermann. Yeah, Olbermann belongs in that group because, even the left has its loudmouths. I don't even know how to categorize Sarah Palin; I just hope she goes away. If there is anything good that could possibly come out of this horrific scenario, it would be for her to crawl under a glacier, never to be heard from again. Like remedying ignorance, that might be a bit too much to ask. 

My heart goes out to the people who were affected by Saturday's tragedies. My fear is that, going forward, things will get much worse before they get better. The underlying reasons for why this happened are speculative at best, and although I have an opinion, I don't think it is appropriate for me to share it at this time. What I will say is that I consider myself lucky to have both an American and a Canadian perspective about things like government, health care, and the cultural differences between the two countries. Having this perspective makes me understand why things like single-payer health care and liberal government can be scary, but at the same time, they have their advantages. Change can be a tough thing, but if you open your mind, and do your homework, you can embrace it, just like anything else. How I wish more people felt that way. 


Friday, January 7, 2011

Do You Care About Your Content?

Greetings Friends,

I had lunch with "Lord Geek" the other day, and the main topic of conversation was, how important is content to a Web site? L.G. definitely resides on the dark side, because he told me that link building has content beat by a country mile. That's not exactly what any writer wants to hear, particularly as this is how I've chosen to make my living. I've vowed to find a way to make content matter just as much, if not more than visibility. Of course visibility is important; who wants to write amazing content if nobody is going to read it? So therein lies the conundrum: how do you get the world to care about  content, as much as they care about pleasing Google? I haven't yet figured that out.

There are countless blogs and Web sites out there that have absolutely atrocious content. The untrained eye may not notice, but the trained eyeballs (mine) pop out of their sockets every time they read content that's grammatically incorrect, stuffed with SEO keywords and was probably written by someone in Manila who is severely underpaid and under appreciated. Bad content is like those bags of Chinese-made gym socks for $1.99 you buy at Wal Mart. You wash them twice, then your big toe shreds them on the third wearing. You're definitely not getting your money's worth.

Ever since I started this blog, I have deliberately refrained from writing about SEO and other technical subjects because I find them boring. Also, opinions are like assholes; everyone has one. Talk to 6 people about SEO, and 6 people will tell you they've got it all figured out. Talk to me, and I'll tell you, yeah, I've got a firm grasp on it, but there's a lot about it that I have yet to unpack. I have this annoying habit of relating a lot of what I find in life to great novels and other forms of literature. For instance, a Facebook friend of mine posted the other day about how much he hated the series finale of The Sopranos. I happened to love it. Why? Because the ambiguity of it left us with a lifetime of "what ifs" and a million different interpretations of what it meant. The beauty of an ambiguous ending is that it makes you think. Life itself rarely wraps up into nice, neat little packages. Television shows have always done that; when one came along that didn't, we got angry. We weren't given a definitive ending. Read the great novel The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James and you'll understand what I'm talking about. Study the work of John Milton and you might get where I'm going with SEO. Laugh at me all you want, but it takes more than a geek to make all this work. The geeks of the world need help from people like me. And heaven only knows where all this might take us.

The playing field is constantly shifting, and we all need to have our game faces on 24/7. That's why Ink & Paint is evolving. Remember, if we don't evolve, we become extinct; and I for one am by no means ready to leave the party. I've got so much I want to accomplish; I hope you'll all be coming along for the ride.

Do me a favour: read a few Web sites - I mean, really read them. And drop a comment here to let me know what you find.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

New and Exciting

Greetings Friends,

The domain name,, has been purchased. The next step will be expanding the blog. It's in the works; it's happening; it's so exciting!

In the meantime, enjoy Jessica Rabbit singing at The Ink & Paint Club, from Who Framed Roger Rabbit? See you on Friday.


Monday, January 3, 2011

The Great Epidemic

Greetings Friends,

I've been waiting in the weeds to broach the subject of the disturbingly epidemic numbers of divorces in the news lately. Every day, you read about yet another celebrity couple calling it quits, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. What is it about marriage that makes it impossible for people to stay together anymore? It's an almost asinine question to be asking, given that 1 in 2 marriages is doomed to fail. I tried to tackle that question by relating it to the celebrity factor in a piece I wrote for The Perpetual Post, but I don't think I really did the topic justice. Yes, many of us go out of our way to emulate our favourite celebrities, but do we really want to emulate them so much, that we will divorce our spouses because that is what they do? Ultimately, I don't believe there is a concrete answer to that question, but divorce has become so ubiquitous amongst the common folk that I do scratch my head in wonder on occasion. 

For the past few months I've been hanging out with a divorced cousin of mine, the majority of whose friends number among the walking wounded. They all got married in their late 20s or early 30s, had kids, and are now residing in "Splitsville". Of course the "coulda, woulda, shoulda" laments are plentiful, and as a woman, I can't help but wonder what the opposite spouse has to say about their role in the demise of the union. Neither party is ever totally blameless, and the writer in me is always hankering to hear both sides. Since I do not have access to the "exes", I am prone to make certain assumptions, which I know I shouldn't do. Men scorned are no different from women scorned, and when you don't hear both sides of the story, you begin to sympathize with the one side you are privy to. 

The one component of this scenario that surprises me is the ease with which the female halves of these broken relationships have moved on to new relationships that are supposedly on the fast-track to marriage. The men, however, are out there on the myriad online dating sites, having coffee, drinks and the occasional hook-up, but nothing more serious than that. Is it because despite the failure of one union, women still ultimately yearn for that "happily ever after" togetherness? Or, are they just incapable of surviving on their own? Since I cannot speak to any of this from personal experience, it has become the great mystery of my current station in life. These particular men all seem to have positive qualities to offer a potential partner, but their intial forays into matrimony all ended in disaster. Does this prove the hypothesis that humans aren't meant to be monogamous? Is romance the great societal myth? 

I'm not attempting to start the New Year off on a cynical note; this is just my usual writerly inquisitiveness getting the better of me. I have no wish to dissect relationships a la Dr. Phil or Oprah; I am genuinely curious as to why relationships are so combustible. In my former life, many of the married couples I knew are still together. In my present circumstances, most of them have been torn asunder. As we forge further ahead into the 21st century, I find myself contemplating what the future holds for matrimony, along with many other things. This seemed as good a place to start as any. Stay tuned...