Monday, February 28, 2011

Award Shows? Feh... Charlie Sheen? Oh Yeah...

Greetings Friends,

It's been a while since I blogged about the goings on in LA LA Land. Well, I've been remiss in blogging, period. To take my mind off my ongoing living adjustment period, what better topic is there to focus on? Last night's Oscars was the snore-fest everyone predicted it would be, despite the infusion of "young" Hollywood for the hosting duties. By the way: why does everyone have to malign James Franco for his pursuit of a Ph.D. in English? Jealous? 

I did not watch the Oscars. Instead, I periodically checked in at to look at the Oscar night fashions. I'll also be watching Joan Rivers and her "Fashion Police" now that I have access to E! on my cable package. Snark for the sake of snark is sometimes worthless, but when it comes out of the mouth of Joan Rivers, I can't resist it. By the way, I'm glad "The King's Speech" won the top accolades. 

Charlie Sheen has been my latest train-wreck obsession. I don't watch a lot of television, and I think the sitcom is probably the biggest waste of a half hour there is; but I've been a closet fan of Chuck Lorre's work for years, and "Two and a Half Men" has been a show I've gone out of my way to watch. I am simultaneously distraught by Charlie Sheen's recent outbursts about Mr. Lorre, and indulging in a bit of Schadenfreude at watching Sheen destroy his reputation. Then, there's Hollywood and the almighty dollar, which everyone in that business kowtows to. So, the combination of Charlie Sheen lashing out like a schizophrenic who's forgotten to take his meds, and the prospect of millions in lost revenue, has gotten my attention. It sure beats contemplating all the crazies I'm lucky enough to know personally. 

Last year, when Mel Gibson went batshit on his girlfriend, I defended him. This time around, I'm not sure how to feel about Charlie Sheen and his antics. I admire the guy's acting ability; I have since he starred in "Wall Street" over 20 years ago. "Two and a Half Men" is well written, well acted and funny as hell. I think Chuck Lorre and his musings rival those of Larry David and the brilliance that was "Seinfeld". Charlie Sheen has now taken on the role of "fly in the ointment" because of his outlandish personal behaviour, and his inability to slay the demons of drug addiction. By claiming that sobriety is as simple as flipping a switch in your brain, he's exhibiting about as much credibility as all the e-mails I've been getting, proclaiming that I've won 50 million pounds in the "British Lottery". I'm not saying it's easy to admit you have a problem; but ranting, raving and blaming everyone else is never the way to go. It just makes you look like an even bigger schmuck.

I'll be sad if "Two and a Half Men" goes bye-bye. I'd be even sadder at the ultimate demise of Charlie Sheen. It's never fun to watch someone flush their life down the toilet; be it with drugs or other types of destructive behaviour. I've been party to watching people I know behave badly, and it takes a lot of stamina to be the bigger person while others shout you down. I commend Chuck Lorre for keeping a lid on his emotions; were I him, I'd have a lot to say - in private. I hope he's doing that. As for Charlie Sheen, 45 is too old to be acting like a petulant child. It's also a damn shame that he's squandering his talent. He's not the first, and sadly, he certainly will not be the last to do so.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Apartment Building Living 101

Greetings Friends,

Sorry for the absence, but I was busy getting situated in my new apartment. Why is it that images like the one above are never really what your apartment looks like? The example I chose is one you see only in decorating magazines or on sitcoms, where cool single people live and life is perfect. Well, beyond the facade, there are imperfections. Somehow, they never find their way into a script, and nobody ever gets to see them. Apartments in "fantasy land" are always perfect, while in reality, they are far from it. 

This is actually my second apartment in a building. My first two were in houses, and those had an entirely different set of issues. Apartment building living is all right, for the most part, but there are certain challenges. Are house apartments and building apartments similar? Yes. Are they different? Yes. Which one do I prefer? Honestly, neither. As a former homeowner, my goal is to get back there one day. 

In the meantime, "home sweet home" is shaping up rather nicely. During my first week I committed a few faux pas, but nothing too terrible. I mistakenly shoved loose bubble wrap down the garbage chute (no biggie), I blew a fuse while using my electric kettle and toaster simultaneously (again, no biggie), and yesterday, I left a sock trail coming back from the laundry room. My well-meaning next-door neighbour was nice enough to retrieve them and give them back to me. Whew! At least it wasn't underwear! Nevertheless, I was slightly mortified. Is it really any of my neighbour's business what my socks look like?

This place has a very different feel from my last building apartment. For one, this is a much older building, and I don't have my own thermostat. Both my radiators are turned off, and I'm comfortable despite the outdoor cold. The hallways, however, are Turkish steam baths, and I'm already worried that I won't be able to find the proper rectangular model air conditioner I'm going to need come summer. In my last apartment, I had my very own washer and dryer. In this one, I fear I might go broke doing my laundry. It's shaping up to be about a $12 a week proposition. 

So far, these are my only complaints. If that's all there is, then I should consider myself lucky. As long as I do my work, keep to myself and mind my business, I should be fine. The chances of having rocket scientists for neighbours are slim to none. But, I really don't care. As long as the door is closed and no one invades my space, that's quite all right with me. Things are definitely moving in the right direction.


Friday, February 11, 2011

Cardboard Box Blues

Greetings Friends,

This was going to be a post about what a moron I think Lindsay Lohan is. Hence the picture. Then, I remembered, I have to pack. I'm moving on Tuesday.

When you freelance for a living, and life gets in the way, you have to either juggle, or pray that your clients can bear with you for a few days while you sort your life out. I've never moved as a freelancer, so I'm not quite sure what to expect. All I know is, I'm tired of looking at all the boxes.

I've never been a transient sort of person. I like to put down roots and stay for a while. The past few years have been somewhat nomadic, and I'm hoping to give it a rest for a while. Living and working in one place is very appealing to me, and I think the space I'll be living in will be conducive to a productive work/life balance. At least that's how I feel right now.

Writing is a solitary activity, and right now, I crave solitude. So, happy days are ahead. Fingers and toes are crossed.

Have a great weekend.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wednesday is "Share" Day

Greetings Friends,

Things are nuts right now. I'm working my ass off, which I am grateful for, because next Tuesday I move into my new place. Internet access ain't cheap, as I pointed out last week.

I'd like to share with you a gobsmackingly (I know, not a word, but it works here) fascinating article that appears in next week's New Yorker about Canadian writer/director Paul Haggis and his 34 years spent as a Scientologist. Everyone is buzzing about it, including me. I posted the link on my Facebook page yesterday, and now I want to share it here as well. Be prepared to devote at least two hours to reading this piece; it is a whopper, but it is absolutely worth it. Here is the link.

I also found this rebuttal in yesterday's National Post.

See you on Friday.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Who is Arianna Huffington?

Greetings Friends,

The big news on this first Monday in February is the acquisition of The Huffington Post by AOL. Just when I've all but abandoned my almost 20 year-old AOL e-mail account (created back in the days when people didn't use their real names on e-mail), I see that AOL is attempting to become an online news juggernaut with the help of Ms. Huffington and her Post. It's a bold move; one that will breathe new life back into an Internet dinosaur, and turn the former wife of a former Republican congressman, into the left wing "Queen of all Media". So much for Oprah and OWN.

I've long been fascinated by Arianna Huffington for precisely the reason I mentioned above. She was married to former Republican congressman Michael Huffington, a Texan oil millionaire, and member of the Bush family social circle. She was a textbook social conservative in her former life, courting the religious right in her husband's election campaigns. The marriage lasted until 1997, and a year later, Michael Huffington came out as a bisexual. That revelation would make any woman want to switch teams herself; in Huffington's case, she switched political teams and literally transformed herself.

I recall faint mentions of Arianna Stassinopoulos Huffington during the glory days of the Reagan administration; she was a prominent DC socialite at that time. After that, the next time I heard the name "Arianna Huffington" was when she traded in her Lincoln Navigator SUV for a Toyota Prius because she felt driving SUVs financed terrorism. This was shortly after 9/11, when our "addiction to oil" was at the forefront of our troubles. In 2005, she went online with The Huffington Post, which started out as a meandering blog, used to showcase the verbosity of her celebrity friends. It grew from there to what it is today: a full-fledged Internet newspaper, chock full of the same opinions, but augmented with Sports, Entertainment, Style, Food, Travel, Tech, and many of the other features you find in traditional newspapers.

I like Arianna Huffington. She managed to take lemons and make gallons of lemonade. She's educated, she's written books; she's come a long way from traversing the Beltway, to becoming a formidable woman in a world still dominated by men. She is on the cusp of a "Brand New Media Universe"; so says the current banner of her Web site's home page. I'm cheering for her, because Rupert Murdoch is in need of a serious bitch slap. If anyone could do it, I'm betting it will be Arianna. We have to make peace with the fact that traditional forms of media are most likely doomed. We must forge ahead into new and uncharted territory, but be mindful at the same time of our monopolistic media predecessors. Maybe this is a good thing; it remains to be seen, and I would bet my life that Huffington and AOL are going to try like hell to make inroads into Mr. Murdoch's stranglehold on the right. After all, the dinosaurs became extinct. Those who evolve, survive.


Friday, February 4, 2011

Super Hype

Greetings Friends,

What's everyone doing this Sunday? Are you ready for some football?

Yes, it is Super Bowl Sunday, and the world will be watching. Watching everything but football from the looks of it; the pregame festivities, the halftime extravaganza, the post game purchasing of t-shirts and other commodities with "Super Bowl Champions" plastered all over them. By the way, what happens to all the stuff with the wrong team's logo on it? I believe I heard somewhere that it gets donated to charities. I hope so; what a waste if all those t-shirts, sweatshirts and caps never get worn.

I've been thinking for a while now that the Super Bowl has become so much more hype and entertainment, rather than a sporting event. I was debating with my friends at The Perpetual Post, about how the Super Bowl has become about 95% spectacle and 5% sporting event. I told them I would rather sweat through 2-1/2 months of Stanley Cup playoffs to see my team win (not very likely), rather than the one 10 hour extravaganza the Super Bowl has morphed into. If rock concerts were meant to take place at halftime, there would be one during every NFL contest. All pre-game shows would be 6 hours long and the run-up to each game would last for 2 weeks. Then, we could have football year round. I'm fairly certain that would make many people very happy.

Many fans will be savouring every moment of this year's Super Bowl. The NFL players and owners are set to clash, so next season is already in peril. Personally, I'm hoping that the worst happens. I've long believed that retired NFL players have been getting the shit end of the stick when it comes to health benefits and disability. Many of the older guys suffer the long-term effects of the injuries they sustained as players, and the union they belong to does piteously little to help them. I've mentioned before how the HBO sports documentary series, Real Sports has repeatedly reported on the hideous shape many of these ex-players are in, and the lack of empathy the NFL players' union has for them. The present day players are culpable as well, engaging in a shameless money grab, while their predecessors suffer in silence. Maybe, a lockout/strike will do these guys some good; after all, the guys playing gladiator on the field today, might be in even worse shape than the retirees of today. These guys are bigger, stronger, and more vicious now, than they have ever been.

Regardless of what happens with the NFL players and owners, I do hope the Steelers and Packers give it their all on the field on Sunday, despite all the distractions. It is, after all, a game; not a marketing-product placement-musical extravaganza. I don't care about the commercials, I don't care about the halftime show, and I don't care about the merchandise. Those of us who pride ourselves on our mental "athleticism" wish that we had some physical athleticism to go along with it. I never aspired to be a football player, but I have wished for a bit more physical coordination than I possess. Unfortunately, it was not to be. But for those who are blessed, you should make the most of it for as long as possible. Beware of the consequences; a strong mind goes hand-in-hand with a strong body, not a broken one. It's too bad the NFL players' union doesn't agree with that. Here's hoping one day that will change. In the meantime, enjoy the spectacle - I mean, the game.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Stop the Meter!

Greetings Friends,

While many people are accepting Jesus Christ as their saviour, mine turned out to be the Internet. This is a tool which is crucial to my making a living, and I'm fairly certain this is the case for a lot of you out there. The Internet changed the world; it is not perfect now, nor do I think it ever will be. Regardless of that, it is here, and we are all, in one way or another, dependent upon its existence.

Recently, the CRTC, the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission, has decided that metering your Internet usage might be a good idea - along the same lines as metering your gas, water and electricity usage. Now that people are downloading and uploading music, movies, games, pictures, pretty well anything and everything, they've decided that we need to keep track of our gigabytes, much the same as we do kilowatt hours of electricity. That proposal hasn't gone over well here in Canada, mostly because (and I agree with this 100%), we've been told to embrace technology and do everything online. Now, it will cost us much more than we bargained for.

In two weeks time I am moving into new digs. In preparation for my move, I spent well over an hour on the phone with Rogers Communications, my favourite evil Canadian empire, negotiating a package for my Internet and cable television services. Sadly, what I will be paying for high speed Internet, cable television, and my mobile phone, will top out somewhere in the $200 range on a monthly basis. And that's not for their top of the line services. If I wanted those, the bill would be more like $400 a month. If we were to truly live in a virtual world, that would mean eating virtual food, sleeping on virtual beds, and breathing virtual air. Until then, $200 a month is about all I can afford. And barely, if you want to know the truth.

The CRTC's proposal wants to slam Internet users with astronomical "per gigabyte" charges if they go over a certain allotment. Rogers is already doing that with their usage packages, forcing you to cover your virtual ass, unless you want to pay even more for their services. I signed up for 60GB a month, so I think I'm safe. I do not aspire to be a bandwidth hog, but when you consider the fact that there is an entire generation that grew up with the Internet, I can see how that might be a problem. But, that doesn't mean that the solution to the problem has to involve beating people over the head for fees. Cable companies have been doing that for decades, and now that practice is being considered by the Canadian government. As if taxes weren't enough.

I often find myself lamenting how the speed with which technology advances can be pretty scary. Twenty years ago, we barely knew what the Internet was. Now, it is ubiquitous. Maybe we need to categorize it as one of life's certainties; you know, like death and taxes. Death, Taxes, and the Internet. The three things that will always be for certain. How comforting.

Check out to find out more about the CRTC's plans for Internet usage. And sign the petition to stop them from metering usage.