Monday, January 30, 2012

Underneath It All

Greetings Friends,

Yes, that is Mario Lopez in his underwear. Why, you ask? Well...because. That's my answer and I'm sticking to it.

I originally intended for this post to be about underwear. I was perusing my favourite news source this morning ( and came across a video of Mario dropping trou on the "Ellen" show. Of course he's promoting his line of men's underwear, "Rated M by Mario Lopez;" not that the guy is particularly shy to begin with. I can recall a vast number of occasions when I turned on the television and saw him in varying states of undress. If I were a guy and I had a body like that, I'd be showing it off, too. For me, it's a toss-up between him and David Beckham - I'd like to be the turkey breast in the middle of that sandwich. Maybe that should be a topic for another day.

Getting back to the underwear: Mario's "Rated M" line of skivvies is "For Manful Men and Their Very Special Guests." To that I must reply, come on! I'm not a girl who's ever been particularly impressed by a man's choice of undergarments, as long as they're clean and in good condition. I've never looked for a specific message on the waistband, and I sure as hell never want to see a pair of those smiley-faced Joe Boxer boxer shorts on a guy if he wants me to respect him in the morning. I prefer my underthings functional and basic. And just for the record, from a female perspective, that doesn't mean I'm into granny panties. If it's lacy and frilly, chances are it's uncomfortable and not worth the bother. Just so we're clear.

The more I thought about writing a post dedicated to underwear, the more I thought I would be wasting my time, literally and figuratively. What interests me more than "boxers or briefs" is what's underneath it all. What is underneath what we show to the world? Not so much the woman wearing the merry widow under her austere business attire, or the man with the cheeky boxers underneath his monkey suit; it became more about who we are underneath the facade we show the rest of the world. Maybe underwear does have something to do with it, and the fact that the pair I have on right now are red with little penguins all over them says something significant about me. If it does, you'll have to let me know. I don't indulge in that level of contemplation; at least not when it comes to undergarments.

How we adorn our bodies defines us as individuals. We all have a certain "style" and some of us take the concept of dressing much more seriously than others. I enjoy all that but I try not to take it too seriously. If I did, I'd be uncomfortable and bitchy as hell. You'll never find me teetering on a pair of six-inch platform stilettos, nor will I ever subject myself to wearing a pair of thong underwear. Thong sandals, on the other hand, are doable; as long as they're not flip flops. What I am interested in, however, is the person underneath it all - not the clothes, and certainly not the underwear. And even if those unfortunate smiley faced boxers were to make an appearance, I'd be willing to ignore them if the person underneath were possessed of a warm heart and a kind soul. I think that's what we're all hoping to find.

In the meantime, boxers or briefs? Despite my stance on underwear, the question still begs to be asked. 


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Random Winter Wednesday

Greetings Friends,

This was the view outside my window a few weeks ago. Granted, it has not been a particularly harsh winter so far, but there is still a long way to go. January is almost over, February manages to pass rather quickly, and March; ugh! March...I hate March!

Cutting to the chase, I don't have a specific topic worthy of devoting an entire post to, so here is another one of my mixed bags:

Cinema Blasé

The Oscar nominations were announced yesterday, and I have not been to see any of the nominated movies. So, that means I am totally devoid of any opinion about who or which movie should win which award. A sentimental favourite, however, is Meryl Streep for "The Iron Lady." Any actress willing to spend many hours deliberately transforming herself into the likeness of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is deserving of any award she can get her hands on. 

Make That Coffee to Go

Another example of Canadians sorely needing to get a life is the hubbub surrounding the introduction of a new, larger size extra-large cup at Tim Hortons. Yesterday, the ubiquitous coffee chain rolled out its new 24-ounce extra-large cup and eliminated the small 8-ounce (I believe) size. Being a regular cross-border traveller, I've known for some time that U.S. Tim's locations have had the 24-ounce cup for a while. Indigenous Canadians are somewhat outraged. Not me; I prefer my coffee in a container significantly larger than a shot glass. That and my bladder is sturdy enough to allow me to hang on to all that liquid much longer than the average person. 

What's Next? Blood and Urine? 

Yesterday, Google announced the unveiling of new changes to its privacy practices that will allow it even more access to your information. What's more is that these practices will be in place across all the company's sites, including the Android smart phone operating system. The beauty part is, there is no opting-out of any of it. You're either in, or you're out in the cold. It's scary how far the Evil Empire will go to violate our right to privacy. What's even scarier is that we continue to allow it. 

Good Luck, Gabby

I can't think of a more inspirational individual than former Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. After making a miraculous recovery from the injuries she sustained when she was shot in the head last year, she is the most prolific example of a person who, when they put their mind to it, can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. She resigned her congressional seat this week to focus on her continued recovery, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who can't wait to witness what this exceptional woman will do next. 

Save a Piece for Me

Every once in a while you need to offer yourself up to someone or something else. I wrote about it recently as "A Leap of Faith." The journey continues...


Monday, January 23, 2012

The Friendship Tango

Greetings Friends,

Friendship is a complicated topic I've ruminated on for most of my adult life. I'm of the mindset that to truly be a friend, and to have friends, is much more difficult than it appears. Friendship, like any relationship, requires work; if either party in the friendship drops the ball at any point, mayhem can ensue, transforming the friendship into a rivalry, or worse - turning the friends into enemies. 

I always begin my blog entries with the salutation, "Greetings Friends" because I like the way it sounds. A friend, to me, is someone who will take the time to read what I write, regardless of whether they mention it to me or leave a comment. I'm not looking for validation; nor do I believe that all my readers are truly my friends. It's just something I like to do. We have reached the point where the word "friend" is bandied about irresponsibly; the real definition has been bastardized by things like MySpace and Facebook - places where we have "friends" but they might be people we barely know, or don't know at all. The term "acquaintance" has all but disappeared from use, leaving us to attempt to decipher who these people who call themselves our friends really are. That's a fairly new conundrum, which I won't even pretend to know how to address at this point. I'm one of those rare individuals who is willing to admit that I might prefer life before social media, even though I've met many lovely people through the medium. 

A solid friendship between two people is something to cherish. The friendship can be between two men, two women, and a man and a woman. Personally, I don't discriminate. A friend is a friend regardless of skin colour, sex, gender, what have you. What makes friendships complicated is not "the sex part" as Billy Crystal attempts to explain to Meg Ryan in the clip I've chosen from When Harry Met Sally... Well, sex can complicate matters, but more often than not, friendships are torn asunder for many different reasons, with sex never entering into the equation. Women can be particularly adept when it comes to wrecking friendships; and as a woman, I've had it happen to me a few times. Specific reasons notwithstanding, I find it much more difficult to be friends with a woman than I do with a man. That's just me. 

My best friend in the world is G., and we've known each other since kindergarten. She's been the one constant in my life for almost 40 years, and no matter what life throws at us, we will always be there for each other. But, she's my only female friend. I have other female "acquaintances;" none that I would categorize in the same way I do her. That's just the way it is. Men friends, however, have always been much easier to come by. I have a handful of those and the friendships have been very rewarding; and completely platonic. None of this "friends with benefits" crap or other juvenile terminology that's pervaded the vernacular since the advent of social media. Just friends - no muss, no fuss. 

I might sound like a raving narcissist for making this statement, but here goes: I know how to be friends with a man. That's not something I've ever been able to explain, nor would I attempt to offer my advice in a workshop setting to women who would twist whatever wisdom I would offer into fodder for how to turn a platonic relationship into a romance. That's why we have Cosmopolitan. That's never been my M.O. A friend is a friend, sex and/or gender be damned. What we do have to keep in mind is that friendships sometimes evolve. When that happens, you have to work even harder to figure out where the relationship is going in order to guide it along the path it has chosen to travel on. That's not an easy task, but it can be accomplished. Again, the two parties involved have to collaborate in order to make it work. Maybe that's the reason why so many friendships and romantic relationships fail: the parties involved are not willing to invest the time and effort required to make them work. Our lives have become all about instant gratification, and most times, we have no idea what we're missing. On the other hand, we have to be realistic with ourselves and acknowledge when a particular friendship is perfect just the way it is. 

None of this is easy, but nothing worth having ever is. I leave you with that to think about. 


Wednesday, January 18, 2012

In Praise of Fried Cheesecake

Greetings Friends,

The entire North American continent is in the midst of an apoplectic fit over Paula Deen's announcement that she is a Type 2 diabetic. The woman who brought us fried cheesecake and hamburgers with glazed doughnut buns has the ailment brought on  by eating a steady diet of such foods, but it took her three years to share that information with her fans and the world at large. She's currently making the talk show-rounds because not only is she a diagnosed diabetic, she's also the paid spokesperson for the pharmaceutical company Novo Nordisk. She claims she had to "figure things out in her head" before she went public with her diagnosis. My take is that she had to negotiate the contract equivalent of a metric ton of butter before it was worth her while to do so. I know that sounds cynical, so let me tell you why:

I've watched countless episodes of Paula Deen's Food Network shows. I've made exactly none of her recipes. For me, watching those shows was therapeutic in the sense that they settled my brain during a time when life was extremely stressful. Watching her flit about in her kitchen between her griddle and her deep-fryer was something that relaxed me. Sure, I wouldn't refuse a plateful of whatever it was she was dishing up, but to make those Southern culinary delights myself was not something I was willing to do. It was entertainment for me, pure and simple. I know, however, that for others, it is a lifestyle; one that can be harmful if taken too seriously. 

Paula insists that she's no doctor, but not once did I ever hear her utter (or should that be "udder" in her case?) to her audience that her food is best consumed in moderation. She's claiming that's been her message all along, and she's in no way responsible for the North American diabetes epidemic. There are extenuating circumstances when it comes to that disease, absolutely; it runs in families and can strike even the fittest of people when they least expect it. The thing is, eating a steady diet of deep-fried foods and butter-laden dishes is the quickest way to acquire it short of chugging bottles of straight high-fructose corn syrup. The majority of cases don't just appear out of nowhere.

Unfortunately, our tendency as human beings is to blame others for our misfortunes. Instead of taking responsibility for our own actions, we like to scapegoat others for our shortcomings. Paula Deen has long been vilified for encouraging us to eat fat-laden, southern-style foods, even though she comes off as the doyenne of southern hospitality and folksy charm. She has been skewered (pun intended) by the likes of food snob Anthony Bourdain and others, who don't seem to get the entertainment value of her programs. Well, I get it. The thing that doesn't sit right with me is the fact that she waited until she had a deal in place to surface as the saviour of Type 2 diabetics the world over. I've always believed that anyone can sell anything if the price is right. Paula Deen is now just another in a long line of those kinds of people.

I once said I would gladly watch Paula Deen fry up a pair of old tennis shoes. I wouldn't eat them of course, but I would eat a slice of deep-fried cheesecake - once in a blue moon. What I won't do is accept her seemingly altruistic stance of wanting to help the diabetic masses. To be genuinely altruistic never involves a dollar figure. Batter that up and stick it in your deep-fryer, Paula.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Can We Talk?

Greetings Friends,

Does anyone remember what life was like before the chat room, text message, tweet or social media Web site? You know, when people actually talked as opposed to sending typed messages out into the great electronic void, completely lacking tone, inflection, and, dare I say it: feeling?

I think it is apropos to be discussing this topic today of all days: the day set aside in celebration of the birth of iconic civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. His "I Have a Dream" speech is one of the most passionate and prolific ever given; I don't think it would have had quite the same impact had it been delivered via Twitter or Facebook. We should be thankful that those modes of technology did not exist on August 28, 1963. 

My point, as we celebrate what would have been Dr. King's 83rd birthday, is that human speech has become somewhat compromised in the almost 50 years since he gave that speech. We no longer converse with each other face-to-face as our parents and grandparents did. We've forsaken that mode of communication in favour of 140 characters or less in most cases, and the ambiguous nature of an e-mail, chat room or social media page. Yes, these have become vital modes of communication, but they are all lacking one important element: tone. All these methods are devoid of emotion and inflection, making it impossible during the majority of "conversations" to glean any emotion from the exchange. Sure, we have a plethora of silly "emoticons" that are meant to stand in for feelings, but they are hopelessly inadequate substitutions for the real deal. I use them because I have no choice, but there is absolutely no way a smiley face is going to express what I am actually feeling when I speak to someone. 

The more the toneless modes of communication pervade my life, the more they piss me off. There are days when I literally do not speak to anyone; my communication takes place exclusively on Skype, Facebook and a couple other forms of voiceless messaging. Sure, most days I'm grateful for the fact that I can sit here in my pajamas typing a blog entry or performing my duties as a writer, as opposed to worrying about what to wear to work. But, on the flip side, I crave the sound of a human voice more than I ever have. I never thought I would say, er, type that, but it's true. I want to hear laughter, not read "LOL"; I want to hear the smile in a person's voice, not see :-) typed after a sentence. I want to feel the actual emotions, not interpret them with my sometimes overactive imagination. The real deal means more to me now than it ever has. And when I can't have it, I feel bereft; there will never be a substitute for the human voice. 

Despite all my bitching, I have had no choice but to make peace with modern forms of communication; not that they make me happy, but who among us has a choice? I've made my share of gaffes in chat rooms and in messages on Skype and Facebook, but who hasn't? I may take mine a bit more to heart than others, but I know I am not alone in that. The best I can do is remember to insert that smiley face or whichever emoticon is appropriate, and move on. The other thing I do is repeat to myself, over and over, that there is no tone or emotion, and that's just the way it is. I'm all too aware of the irony that my laptop's keyboard will give out long before I wear down the battery of yet another cordless phone. 

I leave you with this piece of advice: whatever you do, don't type angry. 


Monday, January 9, 2012

"Don't think Meat, just throw."

Greetings Friends,

I've always been a great proponent of thinking. Now, you might be thinking, of course she is; why wouldn't she be? Everyone thinks. Yes, most everyone literally does think, but there are times when we don't. Our actions depict our thoughts and sometimes, we do things without thinking. Then again, some of us are guilty of thinking too much. I place myself in that group. Again, a thought, or rather, a question, might be dancing around in your mind: what the hell does it mean to think too much?

I've supplied a snippet of video from my all-time favourite baseball movie, Bull Durham. It wasn't always my favourite baseball movie, but as I've gotten older, I've come to better understand the cerebral value of many of the messages in it. The one message that's hit home for me, especially in recent years, is, "Don't think Meat, just throw." That was the sage bit of advice Kevin Costner's "Crash Davis" character gave to Tim Robbins' "Nuke LaLoosh" when he was trying too hard to throw perfect pitches. Unfortunately, I could not find a snippet containing the exact line of dialogue, but the scene I chose depicts Nuke's refusal to listen to Crash by throwing the pitch he wants, rather than the one Crash asks for. Fans of the movie know what happens next; the rest of you can watch the clip and learn a valuable lesson.

Thinking too much is a difficult habit to break, especially for someone like myself who does nothing but think all day long. Thinking is a byproduct of writing, obviously, and if you don't think about what you are doing, you'll inevitably look at your screen and find nothing but gibberish staring back at you. 

When you write for a living, it's very easy to think yourself into oblivion; and it's very hard to stop thinking, even when your assignments are completed. Once the wheels start turning, it's almost impossible to get them to stop. Instead of mulling over the work, you move on to mulling over the thoughts in your head. That's when the trouble begins - work is something you need to do - even writers need to differentiate the "need" to write. We write to earn a living, and we write because to not do so would be tantamount to not breathing. 

Some people who are "over-thinkers" need to find ways to distract themselves. I am one of those who welcomes the distractions. My favourite distraction from thinking too much is writing. That might be a tad counterproductive, but it helps; and it's the writing I don't get paid for that gets me over the hurdle of letting my thoughts get the better of me. Music may soothe the savage beast, but for the writer who thinks too much, the appropriate solution is to write some more. 

The Gods may not have blessed me with a "thunderbolt" for an arm, like they did Nuke LaLoosh, but I can understand how thinking too much could lead someone with that particular talent to lose control of a hundred- mile-an-hour fastball. There are times when excess thoughts on a page can be just as destructive. 

My advice to others who tend to think too much is to repeat Crash Davis' mantra of "Don't think Meat, just throw." The beauty of the Church of Baseball is that it provides practical advice for many of life's stickier situations. If you don't believe me, it's time to watch Bull Durham immediately if not sooner. 


Friday, January 6, 2012

If Loving You is Wrong, I Don't Want to Be Right

Greetings Friends,

What you're looking at are bacon doughnuts from an establishment called Cafe Dulce in Los Angeles. Any moderately health conscious individual will most likely get a good chuckle out of this sort of culinary indulgence and would be game enough to try one. Assorted warriors for good health which might include vegans, members of PETA and organic food enthusiasts would run swiftly in the opposite direction and call the local health department to protest the amalgamation of doughnut, glaze and bacon. Me? I say bring them on. I posted the above image on the page of a Facebook friend of mine with the suggestion that we split the tray. All this thanks to another Facebook friend who posted it on his page and started the ball rolling.

Bacon is one of those foods that, admittedly, is not good for you, and as such, is loved and revered by millions. Of course, there are those pesky cultural and religious dietary restrictions that prohibit some from ingesting anything that comes from the divine swine, so if you're in one of those camps, you might want to come back next week. If not, I want to talk a little bit about why it is we love bacon so much, in spite of it being a practically verboten food item.

A quick Google of "bacon" yields three possibilities: information about the artist Francis Bacon, actor Kevin Bacon, and countless web sites devoted to the love of this localized section of the pig. One in particular that caught my attention is Bacon Today for two reasons. One, it is cogent, well-written, comprehensive and informative. Two, it is somewhat optimized and appeared third on the first page of my Google query (shameless plug for my occupation!). Plus, you have to love a site that gives a shout-out to another of its brethren that sells Swine Swag to the masses. It just doesn't get any better than that. 

Seriously folks, bacon just tastes good and lends flavour to just about anything you pair it with. Yes, even donuts and, gasp! chocolate. Anyone who's had a Vosges Mo's Bacon Bar knows what I'm talking about. If you're a salty/sweet person like I am, you're willing to try just about anything that combines sweet and savoury. Mind you, that can get a tad freaky - I happen to love putting tuna fish on cinnamon raisin bagels. That might make some of you squeamish, but my feeling is, don't knock it 'til you've tried it. 

Ultimately, this isn't about a pedestrian plate of bacon and eggs, or even the British/Canadian love of peameal, or back bacon, on a bun. This is about expanding your horizons and finding new things to enjoy. Life is too short to endure the same old, same old, and so long as you find reasonable ways to add some fun to your diet, there's nothing wrong with the occasional bacon donut or chocolate bar. Or bacon cheeseburger; or bacon on just about anything. Since we're so hung up on universality and pleasing the masses, maybe bacon is indeed the world's most perfect food. I leave it up to you to decide. 

Come back next week when I'll be waxing rhapsodic about macaroni and cheese.

Have a wonderful weekend. 


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

A Leap of Faith

Greetings Friends,

I know; it's been forever (6 months, actually), and I've returned from hiatus to wish you all a Happy New Year.

Much has happened during the time I've been absent from this space, and there's no need to bore you with the details. Work has been status quo, but there have been some things going on that have taken me down roads I didn't foresee myself travelling on at this particular point in time. I'm still sans wheels, but these metaphorical travels of mine have been an interesting journey nevertheless. Sometimes, those are the best kind to take; you don't necessarily have to get on a plane or behind the wheel of a car to go somewhere that inspires you, particularly if that journey involves a leap of faith.

What is a leap of faith exactly? There are many definitions in the zeitgeist, but they don't particularly interest me. I'm more interested in what it means to me personally. I've taken many leaps of faith over the course of my life - the most recent ones were relocating here to Toronto and starting my own business. Those were leaps I was glad to take, and even though the going has been rough at times, I consider them successful. The chain of events they triggered has brought me to a new precipice, where I am currently standing poised to take yet another leap. This one, however, is a bit different. It doesn't involve a relocation or a business deal, it involves something riskier and closer to a life-giving force that is strong but infinitely fragile. It performs a necessary task that keeps each one of us going day after day, but if you allow certain things to get too close to it, it will shatter into a million pieces. You can give it to someone or even something, but you have to be sure you know what you're doing before you blindly hand it over. That's the tough part; entrusting it to another entity leaves you vulnerable, and scared.

The tricky thing about this latest leap of faith is that I'm not certain if the life-giving force is strong enough to handle so much as a hairline crack. It's been shattered and still not in a place I would consider strong. As a matter of fact, it's looking and feeling a bit like a beat-up pair of sneakers or that old clunker that still gets you from point A to point B with relatively little trouble. But, in the back of your mind you're constantly wondering when it will breathe its last breath and leave you stranded somewhere. When that happens, no amount of mechanical genius or duct tape will save it; you'll have to leave it on the side of the road and move on. Unfortunately, you can't do that with what I'm talking about, so you have to stare into that precipice and decide if the leap is worth taking.

At this very moment, I'm pretty confident the leap I am contemplating will be worth it. You can never be one hundred percent certain, but let's just say I am more than halfway there. And the journey has just begun.