Monday, December 20, 2004


I had a rather nice surprise yesterday.
There I was minding my own business, propped up in bed with coffee, dog and paper when up from The Toronto Star’s media column written by Antonia Zerbisias leapt my own blog name under the boldface title: JUST FOR FUN: I goggled at it. Rubbed my eyes in appropriate cartoon fashion and read on: ‘… And for us girls, is a gal pal in your computer; she knows what you’re thinking about; boys, clothes and Bush.’ (Like there’s something else?)
The effect on my tracking numbers was immediate; boom, boom, boom boom boom… browser after browser stopping by for a quick peek – maybe a few gals looking for a new pal – and I’m not sure my regular readers (tiny, hardy bunch that they are) didn’t feel the elbowing and jostling as the newcomers dropped by to rubberneck.
I felt immediate shame and guilt of course; the date at the top of my last entry was a full week beforehand! Gentle readers were graciously dropping by and all I had to offer was a smile and some slightly stale copy. Here was Antonia favouring me with a gratuitous plug and I was still moaning about my busy week and oh aren’t the holidays murder and gosh what wouldn’t I do for a few hours more sleep and dog cuddling. Thin excuses, but mine own.
I emailed her to thank her and told her that next to the seed pearl earrings (from the fabulous designers at ExperiMetal on Queen Street – I can plug with the best of ‘em) given me as an early Christmas gift by a friend, her column mention was my favourite present by far. And weren’t girlfriends just simply THE BEST at gift giving?
She wrote back; her pleasure, no problem. But no actually – in her experience, some of her very best ever gifts had come from men, most recently a set of Pirelli snow tires with steel rims. This, she indicated, was true love.
And on second thought, I have to agree. But seed pearl earrings aside, it’s a lesson it took me some considerable time to learn.
When I was in my early 20’s, my then boyfriend gave me a membership in the CAA for my birthday. I’m pretty sure there was much the same cartoon eye rubbing and looks of shocked disbelief as yesterday, though with a completely different motivation. Membership? In the CAA? Something to do with cars, right? I scrabbled in the box, looking for the real gift under the gag offering and came away with nothing more than a few wisps of tissue paper and sense of having been hoodwinked – what was I supposed to show my girlfriends? How on earth could these dull scraps of paper indicate anything other than a stunning lack of imagination and a serious dearth of romantic sensibility?
When I think now of the real romance and the loving care springing from what was perhaps too active an imagination (visions of me broken down in the middle of nowhere – cold, frightened and helpless) it nearly takes my breath away.
But whether I’ve appreciated it or not, I’ve always been well gifted. In fact, I officially lost the right to complain for all time around my 10th birthday when my father gave me a pony. A pony! And lest you think I was more horribly spoiled than I actually was (which I realize now was considerable) please know – even as I begged and pleaded and left little tearstained notes around, suggesting I might actually pine away and die if I couldn’t have a pony – that it never occurred to me that I might actually get one. It was just too big an idea; too marvelous, too miraculous – too far outside the realm of reality to truly believe.
And then it happened. Paintbox (whimsically named for his pretty colouring) arrived. I’m surprised I didn’t drop dead of shock right then and there – quite honestly, it still rocks me and rekindles those feelings of astounded wonderment that I felt back then. How many ten year olds actually achieve their heart’s desire?
At the age of twelve it happened again.
We were living in England, in a smallish town called Sevenoaks in Kent, and I was attending St Hilary’s School for Girls. (Never before or since did I ever love learning so much, nor do so well; if I had a daughter she’d be in a girl’s school so fast it would make her uniform beret spin on her head like a propeller in a hurricane.) My best friend was Anna – the funniest, sweetest and most popular girl in the entire school.
She was also a scholarship girl. In the complex murky hierarchy that is the English public school system (or was then) there was always space for a few academically gifted nonpaying students, and with the level playing field that uniforms purportedly created, the class lines were supposedly a little less rigidly drawn. But still, think about it: I knew she was a scholarship girl. We all knew.
(Of course being Canadian, I was a little beyond the pale myself, which was probably why Anna so generously went to the trouble of making friends with me in the first place.)
She would also invite me over for tea every now and then – to her tiny little house with her friendly mum and gorgeous big brother (I think he was all of 16, but he’d be nice to us and play with us and I think he’s the reason why David is still my favourite name of all) and the big bottle of ‘Daddy’s Sauce’ always set on the dining room table. (“That’s for daddy!” she’d giggle, each and every time we sat down to tea.)
We had a couple of games that we’d play, like putting her pet tortoise out in the pocket handkerchief-sized back garden and hide our eyes for a while, then go to find where he’d crawled off to. We’d also play a game with a Mars bar, a pair of dice and a pile of her father’s clothes that involved shaking for doubles then dressing up, complete with hat and gloves and scarf and trying to cut a piece off the brown paper and string-wrapped chocolate bar before the next person got a turn. That Mars bar was the one treat Anna received each week; she had no allowance and few extras, but she always shared. David would play with us sometimes, offering up his treat so she could save hers, and I’m sure I fair swooned with pre-pubescent delight, the cause of which having nothing whatsoever to do with chocolate.
After tea, we’d go up to Anna’s room and talk or play or try on her clothes – and it was then that I would begin coveting with a desire that was so strong (and so secret) I often left her lovely home feeling unhappy.
Anna had a bra. A tiny (28 triple ‘A’) pink-rosebud printed bra. A proper bra – not a training bra, like a little abbreviated undershirt with a little silk bow at the front – an actual bra with tiny little cups, and a fastener at the back and straps that could be lengthened or shortened. I adored that bra. I dreamt of that bra. I coveted and longed and pined (I’m a great piner) for that bra with a yearning that also knew it would never be met. For one thing, I had no breasts. For another, it was Anna’s, and as much as I passionately craved those few small ounces of cotton and silk, I knew it was unthinkable that I should wish for her things. Unthinkable too that I should betray my desire to one so generous, so I kept my hunger to myself and took it off after only a few intense glances in the mirror to see my miraculous transformation.
But after two and half years in Sevenoaks, my family were told (with the usual abrupt surprise) that we would be moving again. Back to Canada this time, back to Toronto, where we would live for a further two years, before returning once more to England. (And that’s another story…) We had only a few days to leave school, pack bags and furniture and ship dogs (and the 1948 MG my dad had been having a mid-life crisis within) and start the whole new-girl process over again. I was heartsick. We had to sell my pony and say goodbye and leave all my lovely friends, most especially Anna.
I did it quick. On my last day, I came to clean out my gym locker and return my textbooks and say goodbye, and as wrenching as it was, it was nothing new; this was probably my third major move in the last 5 years. Hugs, tears, then home to help mum wrap the china and glass (and complain and bitch and whimper about the cruelty of parents who clearly made it their business to ruin their children’s blameless lives) and prepare for leaving the house the very next day.
So it was dinner time (and we always got special treats for dinner around the move) and we were having fish and chips in newspapers and making desultory conversation as each contemplated the million things that would never get done before the car came to pick us up on the morrow when there was a knock at the front door.
I went, giving my brother a look that would blister paint, warning him to not even dream of touching my chips, and opened the door to Anna.
She wouldn’t come in. She’d walked over from her house – some distance away – and just wanted to drop something off she said. She wouldn’t even stay to watch me open the weightless froth of tissue paper, just gave me a quick hug and a kiss and ran away.
I never saw her again.
Of course it was the bra. Freshly laundered and gently folded and given with a generousity that still makes my eyes prickle and well and is difficult for me to fathom. I wrack my brain and I don’t think I have ever given so unselfish and great-hearted a gift.
So yes, I agree with Auntie Z – sometimes the best gifts do come from boys, filled with love and care and concern and smelling like the garden hose department at Canadian Tire. But girlfriends – girlfriends will surprise you too.
Thanks again Antonia…

Sunday, December 12, 2004

One note nation

It’s one hundred and sixty-something pages of what you might have been led to believe is the wisdom of the ages. A pink-covered, two-authored, based-on-the-TV-series advice tome, promising the answer to questions that have reportedly vexed the imaginations and emotions of women since the first single-celled organism split – and never called back.
What’s a single female to do?
According to authors and, based on their vast experience as television series scriptwriters, experts, Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, accept that ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ – their one-size-fits-all insight into the ways and means of men who won’t call back, and not incidentally, the title of the runaway bestseller and this publishing year’s silly season offering into the pre-remainder bin.
Subtitled ‘The No Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys’, Behrendt and Tuccillo (or Greg and Liz – a consultant and writer for HBO’s sizzling single gal sitcom Sex and the City) apparently need all one hundred and sixty-something pages to deliver one answer – one thought, one response – to any question regarding why he doesn’t call in a timely fashion, agree to commit, or say he loves you: He’s Just Not That Into You.
Though this Pet Rock of print claims to be based on “a popular episode of Sex and the City” even that description overstates its pretensions – it’s actually based on one of a number of story lines in one episode of the popular series. (A story line that incidentally disproves the overarching theory in the final scene.)
Imagine that: spinning gold from such insubstantial dross.
But everyone’s talking about it: Oprah dedicated an entire episode to the book and it’s single-answer premise – and this from a show that couldn’t find 60 minutes to dedicate to “Children who shook the world” and had to plumb the ancient practice of foot-binding and an update on Oprah’s Book Club in order to fill another unforgiving hour.
The morning news shows, talks shows, tabloids, radio call-ins, international publishers and each and every neighbourhood Pennysaver from here to Istanbul seems to have dedicated a segment, a feature or a mention to 2004’s new signature catchphrase “He’s Just Not That Into You”.
And as is the case with virtually every short-lived, simple minded solution – most especially those in advice book format - initial response is huge. (Think: the ‘The’ diets – Scarsdale, Atkins, South Beach, Zone, Cabbage, Grapefruit, Suzanne Somers!) And as is the case with most every simple solution guide, there’s both a grain of truth and a world of hurt. One lightbulb moment does not peace of mind, mended heart or thin thighs make.
But you have to admire the single minded – though depressingly cynical – pursuit of success in publishing such a book. Can’t you just see them in their funky little Manhattan script-writing aerie? All exposed brick and high ceilings and self-consciously styled antique mixed with modern shabby chic furniture sensibility? There they are: Greg and Liz, chortling with glee as they decide to stretch a one note idea into a best seller, coming up with endless variations on the same theme, with a table of contents that by themselves cover the waterfront – no need to actually read all the words that follow.
(Seriously, what amplification do you need of the following chapter headings: He’s Just Not That Into You if …
… he’s not asking you out
… he’s not calling you
… he’s not dating you
… he’s not having sex with you
… he’s having sex with someone else
… he only wants to see you when he’s drunk
… he doesn’t want to marry you
… he’s breaking up with you
… he’s disappeared
… he’s married
… he’s selfish, a jerk, a bully or a really big freak
With the exception of a Q & A and closing remarks from Greg and Liz, I’ve just saved you $19.95 plus tax and delivery charges.)
It’s what people want: the simplest possible solution to a complex problem. “This will save your life!” shrieks Oprah, dazzled by the notion of most famous best gal pal on earth Gail never again calling for those marathon sobfests about why such a nice, pretty (pal of a multi-millionaire media franchise) gal can’t find love.
Because that’s the sub sub-title and central message: stop wasting time; hie thee thither from the silent telephone, the empty e-mail box and the endless supposing and maybe-ing that follow a great date with no actual follow-up… He’s Just Not That Into You.
Talk about a waste.
A waste of space, newsprint, airtime and real time. If a message with the same approximate ‘stop the presses’ urgency as ‘smoking causes cancer’ and ‘Russian roulette can be risky’ needed delivering, surely it would have been more wisely applied to matters of greater moment…
How about:
He’s Just Not That Into You if he…
… starts a war on a dishonest premise
… says the war is about freedom and democracy
… ignores world opinion
… pretends to be interested in one despotic terrorist when he’s really interested in another
… sends improperly armed and trained people into battle
… talks about freedom, then kills civilians
… favours supporters who obey his every wish and whim and ignores solid, sober, experienced voices of reason who differ
… states ‘Mission Accomplished’ then goes back for a whole lot more
… runs an election on issues, but makes sure he wins on values
… attempts to heal rifts by offering an open mind and a ready ear to those who ‘share our goals’
… calls the systematic removal of human rights and freedoms the ‘Patriot Act’
No need to waste another moment trying to figure out why he does these things; why he doesn’t care or call or send flowers or candy, or stop the war or let people who love each other marry or treat other beliefs, values or nations with respect.
He’s Just Not That Into Us.
I’d like to think I’ve just saved you $19.95 plus tax and delivery charges. Sadly, the world of hurt is still being billed.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

No more Ms Nice-guy

It should come as no surprise that the recent Bush visit to Canada has raised my dander to sky-high levels. And the news coverage – which followed every little studiedly self-deprecating aside, insincere thank you, announcement of lifelong friendship and family style American/Canadian love, and deft insertion of missile defense shield politicking into otherwise meaningless twaddle – didn’t do anything to settle said dander southward.
But what really froze my frostables – other than the much-reported south of the border punning on icey Canadian clichés – was the aura of ‘nice’ the President wore like a halo, as he hypocritically glad-handed his way around our customarily cold capitol city, thawing various and sundry with his warm and winning personality.
The man was making a mockery of ‘nice’.
I should know. ‘Nice’ – acting it, showing it, being it – is my thing. And I can trace my association to it with near pinpoint accuracy.
It was on some long-cancelled sitcom, a long, long time ago that I recall a character who got all tongue tied trying to compliment another character; a character of such blinding wholesomeness and goodness, that it was as though the word ‘nice’ had been created especially and lovingly and particularly just for them.
(And in fact, if it indeed wasn’t created especially for them, God himself might pop into his own personal WayBack machine - what’s a little time and space manipulation to the Almighty? – and make sure that for ever and all time, when the word ‘nice’ came up, this character would get a nickel in residuals or at least a footnote for credit.)
“It’s nice,” said the tongue-tied character. “Yes – it’s nice to be nice… to the…nice…”
Were truer words ever spake? I didn’t think so, and subsequently took this shred of episodic televised wisdom and applied it to my entire life. If the nice were going to attract all that reciprocal niceness, I thought, I’d better make it my business to get me some. And to be sure, there were other reasons – a really nice mum for instance, and being Canadian for sure; but whatever the order, the decision was made. And so began a lifetime of endless, stultifying, crippling niceness.
Yes, as fellow good girls and boys will tell you, a lifetime devoted to the pursuit of ultimate niceousity is a lifetime at least half (if not wholly) wasted. Forget taking five minutes off for a little resentment or righteous anger; disabuse yourself of the notion that there will be times when there will be no repercussions for a little blowing off of understandably pent up steam – once nice, always nice. Or else. That’s the rule. That’s the law. That’s the fact.
And nice don’t get no respect. Anyone already shaking and nodding their heads with all the bouncy fervour of a backseat bobble-head, can back me up on this one: to take on the mantle of nice means forever to have signed up on a one-way deal with the delightful. For if the once nice ever attempt even a mini-meltdown, those experiencing the fallout will forever afford the formerly nice an extremely wide berth.
Folk seem to like familiarity, even if that familiarity comes with a side of scary or mean. The scary and mean will never surprise you – and even if they do, by being unaccountably nice every now and then, no one’s ever going to consider re-stereotyping them; mean’s mean – mean will revert to mean just as soon as it’s able. Comfortingly, dependably, familiarly.
Tough, scary and mean get respect – get raises and promotions – get elected. And possibly worst of all, get to put on or remove the mantle of nice whenever it suits them. It’s as though chameleon-like, the rules are different for them, and gravity, E-MC2 and Gold’s Law (if the shoe fits, it’s ugly) seem somehow suspended, or even reversed… just for them.
Take George Bush. (Please!) A friend of mine was at the big dinner in Ottawa Tuesday night and met the fellow himself; exchanged a couple of words with him, got a compliment and enjoyed a plate full of Alberta beef and cheesy mashed potatoes.
“You’d like him,” she said. And of that I have no doubt; it wouldn’t be the first time I’d been charmed by someone I’d normally consider on par with the Devil.
It happened when I was invited into former Premier Mike Harris’s home and was thoroughly beguiled by the man and his wife.
(For those wondering why I didn’t use the opportunity to share a few home truths with him, give him the critique I’d been bleating about for years outside of his hearing – or notice – I have to say I have always believed that if you want to say appalling things, those things should be shouted from the sidewalk, pushed through the mail slot, or written on a paper bag full of flaming dog poo deposited on the welcome mat. It’s simply not appropriate to wait until you have a full glass of red wine and are seated cozily on their rumpus room chesterfield. I may not be Miss Manners, but I know what’s what; it may actually be the exclusive territory of the nice to know how to handle similarly awkward rumpus room situations. Be nice – or be gone.)
And the payoffs for being nice do exist. First and foremost, people will call you nice. They might even tell others tales of your niceness and for the most part will be nice to you in return. Who wants to slap a kitten square in the face? Who wants to shout boo! at a baby? Who wants to club a crying seal?
And therein lies the rub: while most people don’t wish to do any of those awful things, there are many who take a particular pleasure in doing just that. And many more who are either completely indifferent, or simply see them as possibly necessary actions at some undisclosed future time or other. And if the nice continue to play by the rules, the only appropriate response is whimpering, howling, or rolling over and playing dead.
Up to now, with a few rare exceptions, I’ve carried on a rather seamless version of day to day niceness – and I’ve got all the resentment, bottled up rage and sense of mounting futility you’d expect. So far, I’ve kept most of my anger enclosed within the confines of my Mazda 323 – the air blue not with cigarette smoke, but with foul language, epithets and threats to the drivers who seem bent on irritating, putting out, cutting in or somehow or other thwarting me from my daily rounds. I surprise myself with the whip-fast nature of this auto anger; if measured, I’d no doubt have evidence of a pretty good aerobic workout what with the constant raising and lowering of my reactionary heart rate.
Solution? I don’t know. But I don’t want to be the modern day Mikey anymore (ask Jane – she’ll do anything) smiling through disappointment, excusing myself to people who grind their stilettoed heels into my blameless aching arches, or thanking someone for a patently patronizing comment.
But it’s not because I want to become tougher or meaner or stronger; I leave that to the presidents, premiers and taxicab cutter-inners.
It’s because being so cravenly dishonest actually isn’t very nice at all.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

Blame Weisblott

It’s been two weeks since my last post – the longest I’ve gone without blogging since I kicked off this little personal free-association web site back in March. And now, here, some 9 months and 85 or so entries later, I’m still hooked, still waiting to see what I’ll write next. I feel kind of guilty; kind of itchy (not to mention scratchy) not to have moved heaven and earth to make the time to blog since two Sundays ago.
Because blogging has changed my life. True story. I write differently, read differently, but more than that, I think differently – and better (I think) than I thunk before.
Part of it is the excitement of trusting my own intuition – asking: what do I really think about this? (And not a few times, honestly, coming up with an association or two, an original thought or two, that have then appeared elsewhere; not stolen – but minds I admire thinking some of the same things, coming to the same conclusions. It’s heady stuff.)
Part of it is my lifelong love of words and finally having a place to put them other than the back of my cluttered, chaotic mind.
But the biggest part is simply doing it, and by doing it, becoming more adept at doing it and so enjoying it more. It snowballs you see; building upon itself in all the best ways: self confidence, self awareness and self trust.
And it’s gotten me work! A few months ago when I was at the very height of worrying about the very depths to which I imagined myself economically sinking, when I went so far as to actually write about it (another change: challenging myself to be honest and admitting not all in the garden was blooming lovely) I received a lifeline in the form of an email from a complete stranger; a stranger who suggested we get together for a chat – a chat that resulted in my being hired to work on the creative side of promoting the Griffin Prize for Excellence in Poetry. Poetry for heaven’s sake! And not the ‘moon, June, spoon’ sort – but real, literary, international, written-in-a-garret, not-rhyming-type poetry.
The irony is, I had posted a piece that used the fact that I’d never done PR – though it was a recurring theme in my life that it was always being suggested I take a crack at it… even though I knew nothing about it… in fact was convinced it had something to do with not much more than having lunch and being nice…. but beyond that being totally in the dark about it – as a sort of funny (I laughed, but then, I laugh at all my own jokes) repeating chorus throughout.
But the real irony was that when Vicki emailed me to get together, she wrote ‘so why not PR?’ and we were off to the races.
(I’ve had a snack, a dinner – which I cooked – a couple of cups of coffee and a few glasses of wine since then. No lunch yet; but I’m patient. And hungry. And nice.)
I’ve also been distracted from posting by picking up a significant amount of writing work with a magazine set to debut in a couple of weeks. Though getting it wasn’t blog-related, since then, some of my interview subjects have checked out my blog and as a result a few more assignments are coming my way. (There’s a radio commercial running in Calgary right now that I wrote! I’ve voiced hundreds – but it took the blog to be given the opportunity to write one.) It’s touch and go, hit and miss (overused cliché and unimaginative aphorism) but little by little (that’s enough, ed.) it looks as though this writing thing might actually be a goer.
And did I mention I’ve made friends through this experience? There’s the guy who set this thing up – Marc Weisblott( – a guy of immense talent who whilst being led up the garden path by a certain soulless group of magazine folk, spent some considerable time encouraging friends to start up web logs, which he, Marc, would then promote through his connection with the aforementioned soulless souls. The heathens are gone – but I’ve got this blog, and this work and the sense that my life would be unquestionably poorer without it all. And Marc is completely responsible – not really quite the same as the work and resulting satisfaction he was promised by the garden path-perambulating ingrates, but let’s hope gratitude is currency – the sort that can actually pay off some day.
And then there’s Blamb! (Exclamation point mine!) Brett Lamb ( Every time he mentions my site, I get 100 hits or more – and some of them even come back…
There are others – faithful readers (where do they find the time?) who come back again and again, sometimes offering opinions and kudos, sometimes just coming back again and again.
But now all the stories for the magazine (look for Toronto Living Luxury Lifestyle on your newsstands any day now!) are written, the poetry prize stuff is not set to get underway until the new year, and with the exception of some Christmas and PR type parties, my time is my own for the time being.
So I can write again. I can write about the state of the U.S. – though I pray there’s nothing much to say – the frightening upswing in religion-based hatred (and the new focus on a Christ-less Christianity; turns out there’s nothing like as good a chance for peace as taking the Son of God out of the sermon.) There’s the exciting power of the people in the Ukraine (when eastern European countries show more solidarity and courage in fighting for democracy than the Patriot Act-pushing Americans, you’ve got a sea change acomin’ that’s both beautiful and terrifying to behold. Yay Ukraine!) and the selfless heroism of Victor Yushchenko who ignores even a poisonous assault on his very visage, so focused is he on winning the right of the citizenry to free elections.
I might take a crack at the beyond-ridiculous-bordering-on-creepy ‘Greatest Canadian’ free-for-all that couldn’t find a single woman of a stature ‘great’ enough to be included on a list that sports Don Cherry and David Suzuki (the shame of this alone should have shut the CBC up on this pointless exercise) or perhaps opine upon the cravenness of a Carolyn Parrish who takes a perfectly good position (Bush sucks) and renders it null by choosing to hold it vociferously rather than discuss it fruitfully: somebody tell me – what is the point?
And there’s a word that’s been skittering around my brain like a beetle in a bathtub for the past few months – running around, trying to skip up the side and over, but unable to get purchase it just slides down the sides, madly scratching to escape before circling the plughole and slipping down and out of sight again. The word is ‘entitlement’, and it’s a notion that seems to have gained unhealthy purchase lately – so blindly entitled do so many feel these days that dialogue around morality and ethics (not to mention right and wrong) seem to have left the building along with Elvis. I want to write about entitlement. A lot.
So I’m baaaaack – and ready to roll and write again. I’ve missed this so much… too much; so much so, I sometimes don’t know what to think anymore until I blog about it.
I blame Marc Weisblott.

Sunday, November 14, 2004

Goose stepping for Jesus!

It’s Sunday as I write this and I am (not uncharacteristically) thinking about God.
How can one help it these days? With the power and the glory granted those in the land whose President ostentatiously begs for God’s blessings at the end of each and every address – likely including “Laura, where’re mah socks?” (and with an unremitting fervour that makes you wonder if he knows something... disturbing...) the Almighty is being thrust upon not only Americans, but the rest of the world with a devotion scarcely to be distinguished from tyranny.
It’s frightening to us of a more liberal mien; and far from accepting their victory with a little much needed modesty, and reaching out, and the sort of appeasement that might actually bring us altogether in a ‘Kumbaya’ moment, the winning side are continuing to ram the All Knowing down our collective throats in a manner that could only with the utmost charity be described as immoderate.
Quite apart from the leader himself (who as I wrote in my last offering is reaching out to “those who share out goals”) even the Presidential henchpersons are out on the talk shows, spreading the word with a vehemence that sounds more like ‘or else’.
As Maureen Down shared in an op-ed piece in today’s New York Times (essentially ‘The Communist Manifesto’ to Republicans) she’s not getting much of a ‘… peace, charity, tolerance and forgiveness vibe’ from supporters of the new/old regime. Dowd quoted from a letter written by Bob Jones III (Bob? The third?) president of an eponymously titled fundamentalist college to the President, presumably to congratulate to him, but also to offer a little helpful advice.
“In your re-election, God has graciously granted America – though she doesn’t deserve it – a reprieve from the agenda of paganism. Put you agenda on the front burner and let it boil. You owe the liberals nothing.”
She also mentions the talk show contretemps making the rounds. Seems Dr James Dobson, founder and chairman of ‘Focus on the Family’ was appearing on George Stephanopoulos’s show and gave vent to his feelings about Senator Arlen Spector. Apparently the Republican senator had never been a particular favourite, having voted against Robert Bork in the dim and distant past, supported stem cell research in the present, and most recently had made casual mention of the fact that he thought turning Roe v. Wade around mightn’t be the cakewalk others were predicting.
“He is a problem and must be derailed,” said Dobson with chilling finality.
And then the cocky fundamentalist upped the ante, taking a direct shot at Stephanopoulos when the talk show host asked him if he thought making a nasty crack about Senator Patrick Leahy (calling him if not a God hater, then “… a God’s-people hater”) was much of a Christian thing to do.
“George,” Dr Dobson reportedly snapped back (only just restraining himself from squealing ‘how dare you!’ and smacking the TV host across the face with a gauntlet) “do you think you ought to lecture me on what a Christian is all about?”
Dowd suggests maybe he could, Stephanopoulos being the son of a Greek Orthodox Priest and all, but I think that misses the point. Whether Dobson was aware of Stephanopoulos’s Christian credentials, the overweening imperiousness of such a reply, coupled with his sense of his side’s entitlement to think so, is breathtaking.
Makes one wonder what Christ would think.
For such a Jesus-come-lately, the Son of God surely has attracted a militant bunch of adherents. You’d think it would take at least another couple of thousand years to come up with the sort of Messiah that could confound liberal voters to sweep a bunch of war-loving neo con thugs to victory. But in the new millennium, where fundamentalism is the new normal, this modern version of a Christ bent not only on the destruction of those of an alternate belief, but on the subjugation of those whose views differ even slightly, fits like a glove... an iron glove, covered in pointy spikes and dripping with poison, sure; but a snug fit nonetheless.
Forget that namby-pamby Christ of love, and cheek-turning and neighbour loving and hooker-foot-washing, this Christ doesn’t have time for niceties; this Christ has some non-believer ass whuppin’ to do, and we can hardly be accused of being scaredy souls if we notice the whuppin’ is starting closer to home.
This has become an administration not just of the like-minded, but increasingly of the lock-stepped; and the Devil (and the rest of us) will be lucky to be allowed even the hind-most.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

And one more thing... okay, two...

Saw Bill Safire (along with Maureen Dowd) on a rerun of Meet the Press last night. It was interesting in a sort of academic way; two reasonable human beings, both well spoken, articulate, opinionated and funny, representing both sides in the election aftermath/wake/debriefing all journalists presumably must go through on some talk show or other.
But it got me thinking – which instead of weeping inconsolably was quite a feat – that this might be the first time I could remember listening to thoughtful, respectful disagreement. So moved was I at the notion, I started thinking some more (after wiping away the last tear and giving my nose a proper honk) wondering if perhaps I was getting too het up about this thing. After all, if soft-spoken smarty pants Bill Safire’s pooh-poohing of the blood-spattered electoral map can reduce my galloping fears to a measured trot, perhaps everything really IS okay!
(Even Maureen, whilst putting into words my every anguished thought and hopeless supposition, looked at Bill with all the admiring attention a gal generally reserves for her beloved dad, transforming her opposing point of view into not much more than a laundry list of half-hearted gripes.)
So I toddled off to bed with a little clot of hope plugging up my bleeding heart, only to awake to a story in my morning paper about Southern U.S. Bible Belt schools defending their right to include warnings in science books. That started the blood flowing as smoothly and smartly as Republicans through a voting booth.
This textbook contains material on evolution,” begins the helpful sticker. “Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered.”
Suddenly all thoughts of reasonable old Bill Safire and the possibility of a more measured and inclusive White House evolved themselves right out of my head. Here we go, I thought; now it begins.
To be fair, the story is actually detailing the trial brought about by concerned parents and the American Civil Liberties Union who feel the stickers represent a violation of the separation of church and state. Hopefully, by the end of the trial, the stickers will be removed and children can go about the business of learning about science in science class (studying material which is the result of hundreds of years of combined scientific knowledge, reaching conclusions agreed upon by virtually every sentient human being… outside the raw meat-coloured centre on the current US map) in their workaday world, and spend Sunday in church handling snakes, speaking in tongues and listening to imaginative tales spun by men with questionable grammar and bouffant hairdos. Excellent outcome methinks.
But maybe they won’t.
Maybe after the trial currently ongoing in Atlanta winds up, with law makers upholding the rights of the group that considers original sin a healthier lesson than those developed by folks like Aristotle and Darwin, concerned parents and ACLU representatives can hotfoot it over to Texas where that Board of Education recently approved new health textbooks that have changed their original wording to depict marriage as “the union of a man and a woman” and replacing worrying phrases like “when two people marry” with the legislatedly accurate “when a man and a woman marry”.
It’s little stories like this that give me pause; little tales of basic folks insisting with all the condescension the highest office in the land can confer, that the bible be the source of all truth and fact and that the evolution of not only thought but societal values, be as frozen in time as dinosaur bits and pieces preserved in amber.
It’s as though every cautionary tale from Orwell’s ‘1984’ to Wyndham’s ‘The Chrysalids’ has risen up to munch a big old bite of liberal ass – asses handed back as recently as last Wednesday – when in a post-acceptance speech press conference, the President announced his idea of heaven.
“With the campaign over,” the President shared, “Americans are expecting a bipartisan effort and results. I’ll reach out to everyone who shares our goals.”
And the rest of the country and the world? Presumably they can go to hell.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Fear Factor

Moaning doesn’t help. Groaning doesn’t help. Standing naked in the middle of Yonge Street and beseeching God to explain “Why? Why! WHYYYYYYYY?!” achieves little more than cold feet and curious stares. (And the deep and abiding embarrassment associated with not achieving more…)
Anxious as I’ve been that the worst could happen (oh those halcyon days when hope lived and Ohio had yet to betray the rest of the world…!) I never really thought this would be the outcome. I was worrying as a sort of sop to the gods who plan payback for the tempters of fate – fools! – but deep down inside, my little candy covered coating was protecting a soft, sweet innocent faith that all would be well and all manner of things would be well and not-Bush would prevail.
Thanks a lot Dame Julian of Norwich. (The 14th century ‘Contemplative’ who rather sunnily opined on the healing power of love and the unwavering belief that ‘all would be well’ and so on. Hah.) All is demonstrably not well; and all manner of things? As far as I can see, they’re all on the path to being extremely not very well indeed.
In these brief moments as the rest of the world pauses to catch its collective breath and absorb what the people of the United States (or just over half of those of voting age anyway) have done to us, there is an experience of stillness – of anticipation – of sitting poised on the brink of the abyss; not moving, not participating…just waiting.
Eye of the storm stuff. The strange calmness after the death of a loved one, just before the terrible reality becomes unbearably real. Or perhaps it’s like that part in ‘Titanic’ when after sinking, sinking, sinking (interminably, boringly, will Leonardo be released of his bonds by plucky Kate-ingly blah, blah, blah-ingly) the ship suddenly, dramatically, upends and hovers there (as little, tiny, expendable computer-generated folks going flying off in all directions) then just as suddenly plunges straight down to the bottom of the sea… glub, glub, glub…
That’s us. Steerage passengers (at best) on the Titanic, watching helplessly as the ship hurtles down beneath the waves taking all of us with it, sucked down by the mighty vortex created by its gargantuan size and the unholy speed of its descent.
Of course there’ll be a bunch of first class passengers, millionaires and society types and important folk, just like there were back then, who managed to get a berth in a lifeboat and row speedily away before the final dreadful sinking. Back then it was women and children first; but even then there were some sly, craven creatures ready to throw a shawl over their heads and squeak in a falsetto if it would get them a spot in the boat.
(Interestingly, this is actually how I have always seen Dick Cheney: orchestrating his own exit strategy, all tricked out in a billowing lavender-sprigged housedress, complete with beribboned and be-flowered bonnet perched jauntily atop his wicked cranium – knocking aside women and children and cripples as he leaps aboard, then paddles his Halliburton canoe all the way to a secret Caribbean location, where sacks of money and android babes await his cruel and kinky ministrations. Close your eyes – trust me – you’ll see this image too.)
So when the eye of the storm passes, and the last bubble has popped and the mourners lift their heads, weary but ready to face the horrors ahead – that, fellow fearful world citizens – is when the full, unmitigated weight of what has happened… the truth of what has happened… will hit us like a large wet sack of sand. WHOMP! And the tearful disbelieving days of wide-eyed shock and slack-jawed incomprehension will seem like so many days in Paradise.
All this to say – I can’t bear it.
I can’t bear that when America finally got off its saggy collective butt to take part in democracy, by far the more fervent patriots were the fundamentalist Christian cabal. This election wasn’t fought and won on the war in Iraq, or health care, or jobs, or the economy or any of those things government was supposedly designed for; it was – at the very end – fought and won on ‘family values’; a phrase that might once had denoted fealty and love and support, but now describes judgment and conditions and hatred of the unconventional, the different or the opposite.
There were the adorable liberals (dirty slang for ‘democrats’) beavering away raising consciousness about the economy and tax cuts and the cost of medication for senior citizens and the dangers of launching a dangerous, possibly unwinnable war, and all sorts of things that truly, madly, deeply affect each and every person, whilst the President and his henchpersons were raising suspicions, doubts and fears. Implication. Innuendo. Obfuscation, and – from time to time – outright lies about the intentions of their opponents.
Viewing the scene of the crime now from the advantage of perspective and exit polling, it’s clear not-Bush was never really in the running. Close as the final number of Electoral College votes might have been, the popular vote told a tale of a voting bloc energized, pumped and loaded for bear.
Fear of liberal madness rallied the fervent; stopping same sex marriage (honouring the bond between a man and a woman) limiting stem cell research (honouring the relationship between a cluster of cells and the refrigerator they’ll most likely spend their entire cellular life within) and rolling back the clock on abortion (honouring the right for Americans to wait until a potential human is fully formed before discarding it.) The politics of hate and fear couched in the language of love.
It seems you can attract more wasps with the honeyed words of ‘family values’ and ‘traditional morals’ than you can with sour facts and figures on the economy and health, and the unpalatable truth about the war.
And you know what? It really works; Bush finally succeeded with me. Now I’m scared.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

American Beauty

When I was a little girl I used to love beauty pageants. A competition fought and won with grim determination in sparkly dresses, death defying corsetry and hair that confounded both reason and gravity. A contest surrounded with pomp and ceremony, breathless announcers and weeping winners and losers... a contest whose result didn’t matter one single little bit.
So I’m trying to remember when it happened; when for me, an election day became a day to be enjoyed with all the gee whiz anticipation of Miss America, the Acadeny Awards, or the last game that won the Jays their first World Series. How did an evening watching Dan Rather pore lugubriously over statistical analyses, frighten far flung correspondents with bizarre off-topic, un-researched questions and wax Southern-fried lyrical over the results become popcorn-munching must-see TV?
Maybe I just needed a little more adrenalin; something where winning or losing wasn’t completely forgotten within an hour and no one lived or died by the results.
I must have started to need that odd mixture of expectation, hope and excitement mixed with fear, dread and an upset stomach; a roller coaster ride you want to go on because of all the vicarious thrills and chills, but that still comes with a sickening sense that it could go flying off the rails, a real life horror - complete with blood bath, weeping onlookers and head-scratching officials poking through the debris looking for answers.
I suppose it’s all on a continuum; 7 years old and picking your favourite beauty contestant, 14 and chewing off chipped fingernail polish during the balance beam segment of the gymnastics competition at the Olympics – 21 and actually caring who wins the Oscar for Best Actress.
But political competition has now become far more than a legitimate excuse for buttered popcorn; where before I was satisfied with the ooh and ahh part of a will she/won’t she bun fight, experiencing some small sadness when my candidate Miss Massachusetts had her clock cleaned by a typically tough-as-my-mother’s-roast-beef Miss Texas, this time the stakes are gargantuan. Crunchy snacks offer little comfort now.
As America settles in for tonight’s winner-take-all contest, all bets are off as the competition itself has degenerated into something far uglier than home-made sin. In a race the officials consider too close to call, voters will be deciding the fate of the world based on attack ads, sound bites and commentary from matchstick-shaped news anchor Judy Woodruff on CNN. (And Wolf Blitzer and Paula Zahn and Tucker Carlson and Paul Begala and all the rest of the hair-sprayed, camera-ready pod people offering comment and confusion to a nation still reeling from being forced to choose between the constantly cycling news crawl at the bottom of their TV, and a full screen shot of Larry King’s creepy hairdo.)
Not that it matters what I think. (Really!) After all, like the rest of you FOOLs (Foreigners Out Of Luck) though I regularly immerse myself in American newspapers and political blogs, tune in to American news shows (and personally watched all four debates with the fevered obsession of a geek frothing at the mouth over brand new undiscovered episodes of Dr Who or Star Trek) I won’t have any say in the outcome. That responsibility will be left to people who have actually lived in George Bush’s America for the past four years, many of whom presumably consider a thoroughly isolated, debt ridden, under-employed terrorist-magnet of a country a great place to live.
And how can this be? Here we are, so close to the end we can almost taste the soft chewy centre and according to pollsters, the candidates remain in virtual lockstep. Some 48% of registered voters are ready to vote for the shrub. And it’s not that Kerry is such a glittering alternative; wooden he may be, but if there’s something he’s not – it’s a Bush.
But apparently this significant portion of the population are basing their vote on steady handshakes and hugs for the families of victims of 9/11 and folksy ways and a guy who considers sending soldiers into battle evidence of leadership. Why don’t they want a guy making the hard decisions who has actually been at the receiving end of a hard decision or two himself?
Why don’t they want a guy who isn’t compelled by his (relatively speaking) recently adopted religion to consider that everyone who has NOT chosen Jesus Christ as their personal saviour to have effectively purchased themselves a one way ticket to H.E. double hockey sticks. (And he does you know. It’s required.)
Why don’t they want a guy whose second choice of career was to be Commissioner of Baseball. Doesn’t it rankle at all that the job of president was number 2 on his wish list? (Though as a president, number 2 is definitely an association that rings a bell…)
Why don’t they want a guy who when questions about his service record came up, came up with the answers?
Why don’t they want a guy who if he doesn't care to share the truth about his whereabouts during the time he was supposed to be serving his country, doesn't allow thinly disguised Republican attack veterans to mount negative ad campaigns about his opponent who demonstrably did?
Why don’t they want a guy who when he tells soldiers bound for Iraq that they will always be appreciated and respected and protected by their government to do the same for soldiers of previous wars?
Why don’t they want a guy who will actually stop the war – whatever the result – until those in harm’s way have enough protective gear, armoured vehicles and even bullets with which to defend themselves?
Why don’t they want a guy who wouldn’t even dream of mentioning the words ‘tax cuts’ until those who risk their lives for his principles are at least minimally protected?
Why don’t they want a guy who demands his Vice President comes clean about his areas of possible conflict of interest?
Why don’t they want a guy who would rather stick needles in his eyes (or stay out of a war, or take responsibility, or admit a mistake) than have Karl Rove planning his next Machiavellian move?
Why don’t they want a guy they cannot be positively sure isn’t stoopider than they are?
Why don’t they want a guy who doesn’t consider an endorsement from Arnold Schwarzenegger a coup?
Why don’t they want a guy who can pronounce the word ‘nuclear’? (I know it’s an old well-worn point – I know it’s become a cliché – but I personally think it’s important for the President to be able to pronounce the word that could conceivably send us all to H.E. double-you-know-where…) Besides – it’s not that hard; NEW-CLEE-ARE. There – easy.
Why don’t they want a guy who believes the rest of the world has a stake in the rest of the world?
Why don’t they want not-Bush?
So tonight’s the night and unlike other nights and other years and other bun fights, tonight I’m a little less than excited and a little more than just plain scared. I actually do believe not-Bush will win – but the off-chance, the margin for error, the possibility of ‘Four More Years!’ has me wishing instead for a competition that doesn't matter one little bit.
Now that we’re here, I’d trade all that juicy adrenalin for a who cares who wins contest that could be fought in high heels and bathing suits, with accordion-playing competitors slugging it out for a sash, a crown and an armload of American Beauty roses.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Pap Fiction

It will come as no surprise to those who have read this blog from time to time that I am a full-fledged, full-blown, full-grown, dyed in the wool, devoted, and even besotted admirer of Jon Stewart.
(He of the heavenly blue penetrating eyes, mischievous smirk, terrible Johnny Carson impression and – I remain convinced – undeserving wife. He also fronts a little faux news program called ‘The Daily Show’ whose quartet of weekly offerings form the most penetrating and honest examination of the news available on television.)
So when it came to my attention that some character with the unlikely sounding name of Papp (Leslie) was taking gratuitous shots on the editorial page of The Toronto Star at the object of my affection, I raced straight over to the computer – with neither need nor interest in putting on so much as a dressing gown – flipped the switch, found the page and began this entry which begs to disagree entirely with the position of the person named Papp.
(And I offer this advice in what will only be able to provide a hindsight overview for the man himself: if your name is Papp, you must do everything within your power not to present crap.*)
Though unquestionably in no great need of my support or defense (however, when he comes to sweep me off my feet and take me away from all this, it will be nice to be able to point to my constant constancy…) the case presented by Papp regarding Jon’s now infamous appearance on CNN’s Crossfire is so specious as to provide a rather fun opportunity to take it apart piece by, offering it up to Stewart like a daisy game of “He loves me, He loves me not”.
He Loves me…
Papp begins what quickly falls into the category of ill-considered diatribe with an introductory paragraph suggesting that rather than “lecturing on the ills of modern politics and journalism” Jon stick to “what he knows, such as rolling his eyes, mugging in front of a camera and grinning while cracking sarcastic”. It would be too easy simply to suggest Papp leave the media criticism to the media critics, (and think twice before telling a joke at the next dinner party he attends) how about instead opining on the nature of insight and from whence it might spring; quite apart from the mouths of babes, it might just come from an educated (William and Mary College) news junkie with savvy, political connections and an obvious deep and abiding interest in the future of the United States. While covering the political scene for MTV (Stewart’s first foray into political news coverage) might not rate for some as journalistic experience, the truth of the matter is that according to a recent study by the University of Pennsylvania’s National Annenberg Election Survey, viewers who watch ‘The Daily Show’ were more likely to answer questions about politics correctly that those who don’t. The ‘monkey’ as Crossfire’s resident right wing wingnut Tucker Carlson calls the Comedy Central host, must be doing something right. Crack wise he may – crack stupid or ill-informed, he does not.
He loves me not…
Papp continues by getting right into the meat of the Crossfire matter by noting surprise at the Stewart who appeared on the show. “…a serious looking moralizer who chided the media and pleaded for elevated public discourse.” How dare he, Papp seemed to be saying, take advantage of the hosts of the CNN ‘debate’ show; they had been expecting a funnyman on to talk about his New York Times #1 best-selling book (‘America – the Book’) and instead were confronted with a critical viewer who questioned both the dubious premise of the show and the way in which it is routinely presented.
I’m not now sure if Papp has ever watched Crossfire – or The Daily Show for that matter. For anyone who has seen Crossfire, Stewart’s comments were on the money not simply because he was playing the hosts at their own game (take no prisoners confrontation) and winning (both Tucker Carlson ‘for the Right!’ and Paul Begala ‘for the Left!’ were shocked practically witless from the opening salvo to the stumbling, fumbling angry extro) but telling a truth that heretofore hasn’t been heard on the cable news network that routinely treats White House press releases like the results of exhaustive investigative journalism. If the shrieking, screaming, epithet throwing, spin-doctoring, and out and out bullshit that dresses itself up and hits the tiles as debate discourse is the place America is supposed to get its news, well, no wonder most Americans still think Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11 and that the war in Iraq was justified.
He loves me…
I have to admit, there is one aspect of Stewart’s persona and presentation that rings increasingly untrue – the part where he continues to seemingly denigrate his program as “… a little fake news program that follows a show about puppets making crank phone calls”. The fact is that people answer questions about politics correctly after watching The Daily Show because apart from the obviously silly reporter segments – though with more than a touch of truth, whilst never stinting on the ridiculous – the lead in to the show and interview in the second half is consistently fact-based and insightful, offering viewers not just the admitted left-wing leaning opinions of its host, but respectful detailed and researched interviews with those of the polar-opposite stripe. Conservatives may go on the show for a certain amount of hip factor – playing unashamedly to the folks back home – but they come off having had their subject matter treated with if not dignity, then certainly respect. If they still seem to suck – that is decidedly not Stewart’s fault.
And as for the Democrats – those expecting an easy ride will have to pull up their socks, roll up their sleeves and work on some decent answers; Stewart generally reserves the softballs for personages such as the delightfully giggly Daily Show fan Bishop Desmond Tutu, as well as fellow comedians and various and sundry actors. For Vice Presidential nominee John Edwards – who actually declared his intention to run for President on his first appearance on The Daily Show – to subsequent pols and spin-meisters, the humour may come thick and fast, but so too do the zingers.
Truth be told, Stewart is probably on his last season of aw-shucksing. Not that we’re in any danger of losing our laugh out loud reaction to Daily Show headlines, but the “I’m just a comedian on a funny little show” posturing will have to give way to a more realistic approach, lest Jon be confused with other on camera personalities who breathe and mislead with seeming equal frequency.
He loves me not…
Papp. Again.
In further berating the object of my fevered daydreams for having the temerity to appear in public without his big floppy shoes and shiny red nose, Papp seizes on what he considers to be Stewart’s fundamental misunderstanding of what Crossfire is all about: “Stewart must be the only person who turns to Crossfire hoping for an outbreak of civility.” Uhhh…not so much… as Jon himself would no doubt reply. Clearly what he has been fruitlessly hoping for was an outbreak of something resembling honesty.
When children leap into slanging matches, pinching and pummeling and out-shouting each other in order to demand dibs on the bigger piece of pie, a reasonable outcome would be a bit of disappointment on either side as each requires approximately the accurate half they deserve. On Crossfire, to simply hope that each side’s dislocation from accuracy results in equal misunderstanding for the viewer on both sides is a little sad – and not a little dangerous in a country split right down the middle, with opponents ready and willing to swallow any story that suits their side. (Swift Boat Veterans for Truth anybody? Anybody? Bueller?)
And as for Stewart calling Carlson a 'dick' (not just once - but twice!) the strongest criticism I can think of is that for Stewart it was so uncharacteristically unimaginative; some things are just so obviously plainly, painfully true it seems redundant to say them even once.
He loves me…
But perhaps Papp backs off his position just a touch when he admits “It’s pointless to look here – or anywhere else in the media – for grand truths, or for society to be saved through earnest and elevated debate.” I’m with him on the ‘here’ – his own editorial – but ‘anywhere else’? (And I'm dying to know what take Toronto Star media scribe and fellow Daily Show enthusiast Antonia Zerbisias has on all this...) Are his standards and hopes and faith so low as to preclude at least the desire to sort through the cacophony for a couple of still small voices of reason? I’m not saying Stewart’s is an untrammeled shining piece of perfect journalism, but like the pornography Papp himself compares CNN to, I know a certain naked honesty when I hear it.
He loves me not…
Papp’s last shot (Krapp’s Last Tape?) is to tie this bundle of affronted puffery together with a pat on the head for Stewart with a nod to his role as Fool in the King Lear tradition, and to warn him away from any serious discourse (or call for same) reminding him that “… by preaching a moral lesson he shrinks rather than grows.” I’m not entirely sure how he comes to that conclusion – perhaps he’s seen the notoriously tiny Stewart sans his elevator clown shoes – but I think he makes a grave mistake in warning a blower away from a whistle: no one else has seen fit to stand up and point out the atrocities committed on a daily basis by America’s first source for news; this King Lear was naked, and for the Fool the time for fooling had passed.
If Jon Stewart used all his hard won legitimate news currency on one dead shot across the bows of the SS Crossfire, I thank him for it. Someone had to say it; and Papp is too busy – his eye far off the prize, wasting valuable time trying to flatten the Fool - to do it.
He's gotta love me...
(* Pap – worthless or oversimplified ideas.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

The Case Against the Organ Grinder's Monkey

These days, you can’t just watch the debates – you have to put them in context with each of the last ones, add daily news spin, subtract rhetoric and multiply by the number of times your favourite candidate wears a red tie. Half the time, you could lose the thread of the conversation by simply watching the non-speaking candidate on his half of the splitscreen trying not to make the sorts of faces his handlers have done all but call the plastic surgeons in to correct.
Over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking forward to each of the debates much the same way I used to look forward to new episodes of The Partridge Family way back when – right down to putting in a quick call to my girlfriend to see if she also saw Keith’s pimples or the little fleck of spittle adorning the right corner of Bush’s pursed little sneer. (She did.)
Last night’s was probably the most substantive and the most boring. At this point, I know so much on each of their positions (domestic and foreign) from the debates themselves, daily scrutinizing of the Washington Post, The New York Times, The Toronto Star and Page Six of The New York Post (for the all-important behind the scenes snippy gossip about the presidential daughters) and of course the only credible news source on Anerican television these days (TM) - The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (sponsored now by the venerable State Farm Insurance - no kidding...) that what I really want is for one of them to have an on-air meltdown, or simply shudder to an exhausted, stumbling halt like a wind-up toy coming unwound.
I’m even beginning to know the lies. With a little help from the pundits and fact checkers during the debriefing segment following the debates, I’ve come to recognize the Kerry fact-fudging when it comes to what percentage of taxpayers pay what percentage of taxes, to Bush’s outright obfuscation on Kerry’s senate record. Either way, it’s a pointless exercise, as accurate facts end up being shrouded in the same fog of uncertainty that cloaks the crap; in this as in a number of sadly predictable ways, the campaigns are running neck and neck.
On points, I – like most of quick polls moments after the final time we were to see the Kerry’s and the Bush’s greet and air kiss each other like long lost relatives at a family rebellion – felt Kerry won the third and final set-to. He would have done better, particularly after a few fine spiritual moments (things that make you go “sniff”) over the separation of church and state, had Bush’s pass/fail performance expectations not been based almost entirely on whether the President would be able to control himself enough not to stamp his little foot when vexed.
But there were a few deviations from the script, and sadly, I have to give most of them to Bush. Though I wouldn’t put him in the same category as a Bob Hope or a Jerry Seinfeld, he was able to get off a few good ones, though only - it should be noted - when they were about himself. Sarcasm, as I’m sure everyone’s mother has oft reminded them, is the lowest form of humour; in a debate with an audience forbidden to laugh, it falls flatter than a two dollar perm.
But I couldn’t help myself from chuckling as toward the end of the evening he began to punctuate his answers repeatedly with little staccato desk thumpings; he’d clearly been told that to slam the desk with cockroach-killing intensity wasn’t likely to play well, so his weak mechanical little slaps looked like nothing so much as a wind-up toy monkey beating a tin drum. No one with features that elicit the description of ‘simian’ should ever risk either a tiny red fez or anything that could be compared to timpanic accompaniment. Trust me on this.
In juxtaposition, there is nothing – I repeat nothing – funny about Kerry. Still wooden –though miles ahead of his Night of the Living Dead routine from just a few short weeks ago – his speech and delivery is now much more human and personal, whilst still maintaining a degree of articulateness that falls just short of superhuman. But there’s always the dead giveaway of the body in motion: an elbows fair stitched to the body wood-chopping action, interspersed with palms up backing and forthing and measuring and indicating and finger counting that will not have to be altered or exaggerated one single whit once they are transferred straight to whatever comedian will be parodying him this weekend on Saturday Night Live. The man’s a stiff. Deal with it.
So here we are at the end. The polls suggest pretty much a dead heat. The three major states up for grabs (Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio) all have a number of variables that are making the outcome far from a gimme for either candidate. The undecided’s are either some of the dopiest voters ever to be polled (could the two Presidential hopefuls be more opposite?) or opportunists looking for airtime. So there’s only really the company each keeps as a wild card factor – and there I am more certain than ever: the stiff brings optimism, dedication, intelligence, enthusiasm and a can-do attitude which until recently seemed to have all but gone out of style.
But the monkey brings the organ-grinder. And if the polls are tied about everything else, on this they are daily more convincing than ever: quite enough bodies and limbs and minds and organs have been ground up since the 43rd president and his Vice President took office. Whatever you think about education, jobs, the economy and a woman’s right to choose, most people now agree that the killing has simply got to stop.

Friday, October 08, 2004

Daily Affirmations: or, what I learned about saying things often enough from the unscrupulous leaders of the free world - and you can too!

“I’m good enough, smart enough and people like me…”
It’s a bit thin, but it’s a place to start.
At least Stewart Smiley’s daily affirmation has the benefit of being true. I am good enough, I am smart enough, and I do have signed affidavits from people who were willing to admit that they like me. (At least at the moments when they signed and initialed the documents.In two places.) So saying it over and over is as good a way as any I guess, to mind-meld myself into more or less believing such a statement most of the time. If I say it often enough, or so the theory goes, it will simply become a fact – as true as my height, my eye colour or my social insurance number.
It’s just not terribly ambitious is it?
As I reflect back on the election rhetoric of the past few weeks, I have come to know what wide-eyed passionately pitched affirmations can really do: they can affect memory, minds and polls. They can make working to end a wicked war cowardly, and attempting to reach out to allies unpatriotic. They can make black white... dark light... wrong right...
Powerful stuff affirmations.
So I’m looking for a better affirmation… a bigger affirmation… a mind boggling, teeth rattling, all or nothing, earth shattering, life changing affirmation that I can affix to some internal mental loop and play over and over and over until it becomes a proven fact – as true as my hair colour, my lip colour, or my eyelash length.
“I am the most beeeoootiful woman in the world…”
How’s that? Roughly equivalent to “We were right to go to war with Iraq – Saddam posed a serious threat… I’d make the same decision again in a heartbeat”? I mean there’s a kernel of truth in both those statements – the words are spelled right, I am a woman – Iraq exists on a map, the US went to war with ‘em – some people think I’m cute on a good day in a good light, some certifiable idiots and republicans agree with the Prez and Vice-Prez about Iraq… it’s just those annoying links, isn’t it? The connections made between words and ideas that just don’t pass the ‘Global Test’. (Or even the 'Mom' test: “You are the most beeeoootiful little girl in the world my angel!” “You were right to go and spend billions of dollars and end the lives of idealistic young soldiers and innocent civilians and garner the world’s collective derision and contempt and all to track down one smelly old dictator who lived in a hole in the ground and neither had WMD’s, nor the power to create them, nor any link whatsoever to the terrorists who attacked the US on September 11th, and to effectively let those terrorists disappear into the hills with neither recriminations nor a parting shot my sweetie, darling lovey-dovey pumpkin face!”)
“The universe will provide me with a million dollars…”
Positive – it’s positive all right, you’ve got to give me that. But realistic? Well, it’s at least as realistic as the Bush/Cheney contention that the economy is on the upswing and that worries about affordable health care, edumacation and full employment are soon to become silly old things of the past. On the brink of it really – watch: in the next five minutes, the economy will… okay, wait; after the election! Yes, after the election when the public can put aside all their fears that the gay girlie-men with all the hair (and particularly the one with the lugubrious manner and unearthly white rictus of a grin) won’t be around to frighten Americans, ruin the economy, trample on the flag, have sex with animals and offer comfort and sandwiches to our enemies. You just watch!
"Brad Pitt loves me…"
And how can you argue with that? He might not love me now – heck, he doesn’t even know me! – but he could, if the stars were all in alignment and if I said the affirmation often enough and sort of hypnotized him and maybe kidnapped him and held him in an underground cell (with all the ventilation and water and nude pictures of me he could ever want) and MADE him love me… even if he didn’t exactly feel like it... It could happen.
It’s at least as likely as Dick Cheney’s upbeat vision of Afghanistan and the elections he promises are right on track! Nearly 50% of the voters will be women! Of course the figures aren’t perfect – these are soft numbers… sure to firm up in the weeks and months to come. The fact that nearly 90% of Afghani women polled (the ones whose husbands allowed them to go outside) said they had to ask their husband’s permission to vote… and that their husbands said no. Human Rights Watch reports crabbily dispute the VP’s statement, suggesting women who try to register are routinely beaten, made prisoners in their own homes – more concerned with survival than democracy. Party poopers and bad sports I say. They should lighten up, develop a more positive attitude...
Let’s hope Brad Pitt develops a more positive attitude in the weeks and months to come - he’s going to need it…

Thursday, September 30, 2004

The Nation that Mistook a Dangerous Zealot for a President

As regular gentle readers will know (that’s you Bob!) I’ve been AWOL from discussion of Bush, Kerry and the election for some time now.
Burn out, depression, same old-same old – who knows? All I know is that I couldn’t sustain the level of horror and disbelief required to continue watching the sad, sick sideshow that the war, the candidates and the run up to the election has become.
(Well, I watched it… fairly pathologically… but I couldn’t think of a single thing to say.)
And then I saw respected investigative journalist, author and New Yorker magazine contributor Seymour Hersh on Jon last night, touting his latest offering, the sobering ‘Chain of Command – The Road from 9/11 to Abu Grhaib’ and I found new heights (or depths) for my horror to grow.
(My horror is like the biggest fatty you ever saw – sometimes I give it bonbons in the form of reading the Op Ed section of the New York Times and sometimes I put it on a diet by religiously clicking past CNN without a peep or a peek. But I’m inconsistent – it’s why my horror is consistently flabby…)
Hersh, a veteran commentator (he originally broke the story of the My Lai massacre, winning a Pulitzer for his troubles so many historically ignored moons ago) was appearing on the Daily Show to discuss the book that details the White House’s single-minded pursuit of an attack on Iraq following through to the prison scandal in Abu Grhaib.
There was plenty there to discuss, plenty to ratchet up my already over-loaded horror quotient (or HQ as I now think of it) with speculation on the raw sewage that’s going to enter the atmosphere on wings when the truth about the even more horrific goings on at the Guantanamo prison come to light… the political nature of virtually every decision that surrounded covering up the various nightmares… and the fingerprints traceable to Vice President Dick Cheney visible on nearly every revolting, spine-chilling incident.
It’s funny – I’ve heard so much of it before (though with a few new twists and tweaks each time) that it’s beginning to sound like rote. It’s what makes the situation bearable though; all these ‘no surprises’
surprises, my eye fixed firmly on the White House and the American public, and trying, trying, trying to understand why a good 50% of them don’t see what the rest of Americans and the rest of the world see. How they can be sound asleep to the disconnect between Afghanistan and Iraq, Bin Laden and Saddam, serving in the military and allowing influence to include you out. You know – the usual.
So I guess in a way I’ve become saturated –there’s only so much insanity you can take before you have to step back and start taping 30-something reruns… letting the ‘same old, same old’ discussion swirl about you like so many buzzing, blundering bumble bees. But then Hersh said something that made me sit up and stop speculating on how Jon would look in a double-breasted navy pinstripe set off with a red tie, taking horrible notice of a truth I seriously hadn’t considered.
It’s not about oil and money.
According to Hersh, the real truth, the real horror - and the sorrow and the pity - is that people are on the wrong track if they believe in the conspiracy theories – theories so old and so familiar, they’re in danger of becoming as comfortable as a lullaby.
It’s not a conspiracy… it’s much, much worse.
The real road, the actual path to truth and righteousness, and the reason more than a thousand Americans and well over 10,000 Iraqis have lost their lives (and thousands upon thousands of others are injured or maimed or driven mad by the sights they’ve seen) is that Bush, Cheney, and the gang of neo-con ‘Zealots and Utopians’ that run the White House actually believe that they were right to go to Iraq. Right to bring death and destruction and misery raining down from above. Right to believe – and still believe - they can bring shiny American democracy into the lives of those they have literally and figuratively tortured for going on 2 years now.
That ‘flowers in the street, happy Iraqis welcoming the troops’ crap? They believed it. Setting up a government and patting it into place (and on the head) before cheerily saying a hail and farewell and trotting off to do the same thing to the rest of the Middle East? All in the original plan. Improving the US reputation as the planet Earth’s moral authority? You betcha. Getting the support of Americans who would march like sleepwalkers into the polling booths to endorse four more years of the same? Priceless.
And it’s happening right now.
The first of the debates is tonight and most of the pundits are already handing it to Bush, along with the oath of office and an order of fries – but there’s still hope: Americans must wake up. I believe it, Hersh believes it – he has to.
It reminds me of the film – a true story – about possibly the most famous sleepers ever, described by Dr Oliver Sacks (based on a chapter in his book: ‘The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat’ and played by Robin Williams in the 1990 movie) who brought them back from frozen eternity for a few short months, before they slipped back into twilight.
There’s a scene that occurs before the ‘Awakenings’ when Sacks (Dr. Sayer in the film) consults with a doctor who had diagnosed many of the patients with the mysterious sleeping sickness years before; Sayer asks the doctor (Max von Sydow if memory serves) if he thinks the patients are are sentient – conscious, aware - inside the bodies that hold them prisoner. The doctor replies that of course they are not. But Sayer persists – why, he wants to know, is the doctor so sure?
“Because the alternative,’ the doctor replies, “is unthinkable.”
Rise and shine America.

Saturday, September 25, 2004

Dream a little dream...

It always happens this way; just as soon as things on the work front start to pick up (not that there’s all that much – bits and pieces, odds and sods, this and that…) and I find my near constant worry-level that it’s ‘next stop the gutter!’ dropping ever-so-slightly, fully fledged and out of seemingly nowhere come my love anxieties.
It began last week with my stampede away from the now elusive elevator boy, and has continued this week with a series of dreams (not re-runs thank God!) centred on my new celebrity love-interest, cable TV star Larry David.
Larry David – that’s right, Seinfeld creator and producer, Curb Your Enthusiasm’s creator and lead actor, misanthrope, whiner, misunderstood humanitarian, keeper of the societal rules that govern who pays the tab, makes the call, sits facing the door, uses the bathroom, wears the shirt, tells folks when the terrorist attack is coming… (and so on) and world class kvetch – Larry David. I had not my first erotic dream about him last night and I have to tell you, it’s not curbing my love anxieties one little bit.
(I’d tell you about the dream, but for the most part it was about Larry and me sewing blankets and mine had more than the standard two sides and I got a little preoccupied with that and other mysteries of the universe and the erotic part of the dream lost some of its momentum. Typical.)
So when I add the runaway elevator interlude in with the weird inappropriate-type dreams, I’m sure you understand how I wonder if our heroine will ever get the love machine back on the rails. It’s a matter of confidence you see, and times like these last couple of years have tested mine to the breaking point.
But Larry's not my first dream lover. I’ve always been attracted to off-beat types; celebrity-wise there was the Gene Hackman period (Gene circa the 80’s), the Mickey Rooney flirtation (Mickey during the Andy Hardy years… or perhaps more correctly, Andy Hardy himself), the John Goodman fixation, and on and off for years the Robbie Coltrane obsession (but only as Cracker.) Lately that Jacob Hoggard kid from Canadian Idol has captured my attention in a way I’m sure his mother wouldn’t approve.
Eclectic? Odd? Strange even? Yes, yes, yes – but there’s a thread; a thread of sexual confidence despite the vagaries of weight or appearance or human frailty; a thread of humour – the big belly laugh kind of taking the world on at its own game; and success, or semi-success (or even just carrying on following earth-shattering failure) because somewhere inside, these guys - these characters – know they’re special.
And special is, well… special.
I crave those moments when I feel indisputably special; when I am picked or chosen or complimented or recognized, or included, or singled out for attention.
I like it better than money, better than shoes, better than fries. I like it so much, and fear not getting it so much that sometimes what I most want is to be in the audience being thanked by whoever is winning the prize for really being responsible for it all – “this one’s for you baby!” he says as he waves his Oscar in the air – that’d satisfy.
But Larry David. Where does Larry David fit into all this? Granted he’s funny and confident out of all proportion to his abilities (Larry David the character I mean – Larry David the multi-squillionaire seems to be pretty darn able altogether) but he’s got just a scintilla too much of the ‘Out of Towners’ agony. (See the film if you haven’t seen it – but if you walk away at the end without a tension headache and an upset stomach, you must have dozed off somewhere around the time Jack Lemmon loses the cap on his tooth and has to go to a job interview with one shoe, whistling like a steam kettle.)
It’s agonizing to watch Larry line up a screw-up, then follow through with classic insane bravado; to observe him as he deliberately takes a stand on the basis of some archane unwritten rule of behaviour, then gets his ass handed back to him week after week. Actually, sometimes I have to almost brace myself to watch him. But then – oh then, fellow cable aficionados – he does that thing that I find almost as irresistible as a foot massage accompanied by a plate of crispy fried potatoes: he goes on with confidence.
Could it be – is it possible – my dreams are telling me something… and it’s not to take the first flight out to Manchester and pull Robbie Coltrane drunk and disorderly out of a gambling parlour, putting out his cigarette before he can burn a hole in his egg-stained tie, then propping him against something extremely substantial in order to bellow into his drunken, red-veined face: save me!
Am I supposed to be saving myself – having confidence when none seems available, going forward when it all feels like another trip to the blood-stained wall for yet another session of head-banging, continuing to write it out and post it and try to get as close to my own personal truth as I can without self-immolating?
Yeah. Maybe. But maybe it was just a dream…

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Idiots and whatnot...

Hey cute guy! Whoo – hooo! Cute guy! Over here… that’s right – here on this blog; how clever of you to have found me without my name, phone number, or actually any identifying information whatsoever…
As if.
Oops, I did it again. In my relentless pursuit of never letting anyone know I’m remotely interested in them, or could in any way be identified as single and desperate, I blew off another opportunity to meet someone I actually did find attractive and for whom the reverse could maybe/probably/likely be assumed to be true.
It was easy. Because I am the best. The ne plus ultra of cool characters – the unreadable, un eye-catchable, what-me-worry-I’ll-never-get-a-date-again-as-long-as-I-live, most permanent semi-living singleton semi-alive.
If you’d like to know how it’s done, let me illustrate with a scene right out of my own sorry life…
So there I was at 317 Adelaide this afternoon, coming out of a 4th floor studio, having just recorded the voice-over for a television commercial introducing a new drug (“R____ may cause side effects including nausea, dizziness, internal bleeding, temporary psychosis, war in the Middle East…”) when as the elevator doors slid open I espied that rare and elusive creature: the attractive male of reasonable age. (Please God - let him not be in is 20’s!) And what’s more to the point, he saw me.
I hopped on and immediately faked going through my purse, looking for something-or-other (keys, notepad, pencil, tranquilizers…) just so’s I wouldn’t stare and drool.
(I’m nearly paranoid about looking needy you see; that, plus I’ve seen far too many Doris Day movies where the hero will do anything – from hiring detective agencies, to having his apartment redecorated, to posing as an insecure Texas cowboy, all alone in the big city – ANYTHING in order to find the gorgeous creature he glimpsed briefly from across the automat (10 cents for pie!) and must now have for his very own. So when you think about it, a girl should never really actually have to do anything...)
But this time I was to be saved; knowing I was going directly on to my volunteer shift, I was wearing the green vest with security pass looped around my neck and it was this gear that offered him the opportunity to pose a question.
“HSC,” said the Adonis of my dreams. “What’s that?”
“The Hospital for Sick Children,” I offer breathlessly (or breathily maybe) “I’m a volunteer there.”
“Oh,” replies the Greek God come to life. “How terrific! I’ve always thought I’d be interested in that.”
As the elevator hurtles toward the ground floor and the end of this romantic exchange, his buddy pipes up. Did I mention there was someone else in the elevator? Maybe not. Surrounding him there was absolutely no pixie dust whatsoever.
“Yes,” he said. “Didn’t that friend of yours do it?”
Before Mr. Wonderful can even respond I’m burbling away – the busiest little brook 317 Adelaide has ever had flow through it before.
“Yes! You should do it! We’re always looking for men…there are already so many women there and the guys want a male presence, somebody to play Nintendo with… or Battleships… or just to hang out with…”
I rattle on, practically defending a Masters thesis on the psychological benefits of male role models on young boys, and I carry on… and on.
Finally we hit ground zero and as the doors open and the three of us emerge, the man who could one day proudly bear the name ‘Mr. Storm’ asks me for my card – so he can find out more information he says. (Ha ha! Really?)
I have no cards. How could I? I do things that don’t fit into any known category or description under two paragraphs; the one time I had cards, they were made by a friend and had my name, address and telephone number and underneath in quotations and italics: “Advice and Whatnot”. Perfect. Love it. Whatnot!
But sadly, not a single dog-eared identifier remains.
I could have done a number of things: I could have asked him for his card… I could have offered him my phone number and told him to call for all the help (wink, wink) he’d need to get fixed up for the next intake and orientation… I could have scribbled it on his arm, his shirt tail or his buddy’s forehead. I could have done any of these things, but instead I told him I didn’t have any cards and gave him the web address for the hospital.
“I guess I could have found that for myself,” he twinkled.
Did I stop then? Did I roll back the tape and consider options a, b or c? I did not. Like the fool I am, I carried on straight out the door, zooming along in that ‘places to go’ way I think makes me look so independent and un-needy.
“Do sign up – we really need volunteers!” I toss over my shoulder as I actually RUN to get across the street on a flashing ‘Don’t Walk’ sign.
I don’t get it. I really don’t. I thought self-sabotage was supposed to be subconscious – at the very least, slightly less than practically deliberate. But yours truly is moving so fast, and worrying so hard about possibly looking as though I might like to meet somebody, some day maybe, that I whip past all my prospects like Hurricane Jane, never letting anyone see inside.
And you wonder why they call me Secret Storm.
But cute guy, in case you’ve found me completely by accident (and you’d have to be one of those monkeys typing for a million years and coming up with every play Shakespeare ever wrote before you’d get to… and there was nothing even vaguely simian about you… sigh…) don’t forget – it’s click on Volunteer Resources…
Oops, I did it again.

Monday, September 13, 2004

101 things I don't get...

1. The appeal of Justin Timberlake.
2. Ordering a hamburger – with a salad.
3. Car racing – whether you’re watching it on television (endless
drone) or at a raceway (head-splitting drone) the cars are just
going around and around. Who wants to watch that?
4. Why in cartoons ladies all have the same shaped breasts, while in
real life, the variation is a lot more extreme.
5. Capers. (The eating kind. Cutting ‘em, going on ‘em – that I get.)
6. Bitters. (The drinking kind. The pissy, disappointed, cynical,
whiney, “nothing good ever happens to me” kind – that I get.)
7. European shiny industrial-type toilet paper.
8. Stinky cheese. (Though I heartily approve of ‘The Stinky Cheese
Man’ story book.)
9. Any kind of cheese, really.
10. Hiking into a frozen wilderness.
11. Cricket. (The game. The pests – those I get.)
12. Game shows that make you eat live bugs.
13. Why PETA isn’t all in a state about live bug eating.
13. Sylvester Stallone.
14. Vicious, depressed, bitter people who choose a career in customer service.
15. Why the dog, who loves treats, begs for treats – essentially lives
for treats – and who will eat almost any disgusting thing, has to
sniff the treat I offer her before she’ll eat it.
16. Why dentists need to be told that you are afraid of pain.
17. How even in a relatively small group picked randomly, you
invariably always get all the personality types from A to ZZZZZ…
but always more A’s
18. The career of Courtney Love.
19. The music of Courtney Love.
20. Why (according to Henri Charriere who wrote Papillon) if you put
things in your bottom, the one you put in first comes out first.
21. Cheez Wiz.
22. How they figured out to put snails in garlic butter.
24. How Alan Greenspan knows the things he knows.
25. Where the Giant Squid hides.
26. Why people watch Fox News.
27. Why guys soup up the engines of their cars and motorbikes so it
sounds like they’re broken and the guy is too cheap to fix it.
28. Wagner’s Ring Cycle.
29. Lava lamps
30. Lavalife
31. Men with beards but no moustaches. WHY?!
32. Companies that advertise on Popups – they piss EVERYBODY off.
33. Blank verse.
34. Why planes stay up in the air.
35. Why I always get a toothache on long weekends.
36. The appeal of most things Prada – especially the shoes.
37. The popularity of the sitcom Full House.
38. How the Air Farce is funny.
39. Orlando Bloom.
40. How under the headline “In praise of older women” there was a
picture of 46 year old Annette Bening.
42. Why in game shows where contestants vote each other off, people
feel betrayed when it happens to them.
43. Why people bring a breakfast consisting of 2 pounds of bacon, a
loaf of buttered bread and a dozen eggs (scrambled with cream) to
people who are confined to their beds by morbid obesity.
44. 14 year olds.
45. People tattooing their faces.
46. The Gotti’s.
47. George Hamilton-style tanning.
48. Calculus.
49. Global warming.
50. The mystery of the Loch Ness Monster; is it there or not?
51. Why tomatoes – even the expensive ones – taste like crap these
52. Why everyone acted like it was the end of the world when
‘Friends’ ended.
53. Why everyone thought Phoebe was so charming and wacky, when
really she was a stupid, mean girl who often stole things.
54. Why John Roberts is going to replace Dan Rather on the CBS
Evening News.
55. Incredibly expensive magazines about minimalist design.
56. Mel Lastman.
57. How as you get older, time really does go by faster.
58. Why if I’m vacuuming up a bunch of stuff, if a penny gets sucked
up I have to empty the bag to get it back. (Part two: why do I
believe that it’s against the law to throw away money? Is it?)
(Part three: especially when I have at least a dozen outfits I’ve
bought and never worn.)
59. Why the past seems so wonderful.
60. Arnold Scharwzenegar
61. Why Maria Shriver married the above.
62. How rich privileged people like Barbara Amiel Black feel so
comfortable passing judgment on the poor. Wouldn’t it be funny
if the reverse were to happen!
63. What Sass Jordan on Canadian Idol has to be so pompous about.
64. Ditto Zack Werner. Who the heck is he anyway?
65. How to get ahead.
66. How some people are so tidy. Naturally.
67. Why every time I get on the highway and drive to my girlfriend’s
cottage, my muffler breaks. Is it her? Is it the cottage?
68. Why if I have a nice speaking voice (and I do) I sing like a
strangled cat.
69. My accountant’s obsession with collecting every receipt, bill,
invoice and bank statement. She should relax and just round it all
70. Why I can never remember the weather like other people – what
years were hot or cold or wet; they’re all hot and cold and wet to
one degree or another. Right?
71. How I collected all these bits of paper.
72. The metric system.
73. Beer. It smells like skunk to me.
74. Why Jon Stewart can balance the absurdity of politics with the
weirdness of the American psyche on a little satirical news
program and the gigantic cable networks can’t.
75. The sneakiness of not picking up your dog’s poo.
76. Boiled root vegetables. Yuk.
77. How republicans can so successfully denigrate our health system
while millions of Americans simply cannot afford to get sick.
78. Why some Canadian politicians seem bound and determined to
take us down the same path.
79. What kind of sub-human creatures sexually abuse people in
their care and happily pose for snaps whilst doing it.
80. The sexual appeal of Fred Durst. Or Kate Hudson’s husband, or
that weird Dave Navarro guy.
81. How fast Britney Spears is falling apart.
82. How stringy Madonna looks.
83. Why Jeff Bridges is so undervalued as an actor.
84. How I can go months – even years – without sunflower seeds,
then go on a weeklong binge until my eyes are so puffed up
by all the salt I can’t see to go to the store and get some more.
85. How they get the ship in the bottle.
86. The secret of telling jokes well.
87. Why more people don’t see the similarity between Bob Hope and
Kelsey Grammar.
88. Why Kelsey Grammar always seems to marry strippers.
89. Why anyone cares where the red fern grows.
90. Why ‘Cow and Chicken’ was cancelled. (And therefore ‘I Am
Weasel’ too.)
91. How we managed before answering machines, voicemail and call
display. I understand people just picked up the phone when it
92. How life goes on when someone we love dies.
93. Why good things happen to bad people. All the time!
94. Why movie theatre popcorn, store bought birthday cake and
franchise purchased fried chicken tastes so much better than
95. Why people think ‘The West Wing’ is so true to life.
96. Donatella Versace.
97. Seriously pointy-toed shoes.
98. Fake boobs beyond the visual appeal. (Or reconstructive.)
99. Why there really are two ways of doing things: the easy way… and
the right way.
100. Why women are still second class citizens. They are you know.
101. How George W. Bush became the leader of the free world – and
how it looks as though he’s going to do it again.