July 31, 2006

Write On

"So, what do you do?" asks New Person.
"I'm a writer," I reply.
"Oh, so, like how do you do that?"

Good question. My sister will tell you it means I surf the net all day and drink tea. I admit it sometimes looks like that, but it is far more involved. I have two papers delivered each morning, and read about 6 more on line. Then I move to my favourite sites (Salon, Go Fug Yourself, The Superficial and a bunch more) because I'm looking for material I tell her.

I drink pot after pot of tea. I'm usually up by 6 or 6:30, unless I'm being felled by another headache. If it's a column day, I've usually been awake a lot in the night starting it in my head. Hard to believe so much thought goes into those, eh?

The hardest days are days like this one. The cover of every paper plastered with the agony of war. 37 children killed. I have to absorb this from the Spec, the Star, the Globe and Mail, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the National Post, the English Indpendent, and the L.A. Times, over and over and over. I usually start my day with a good cry. I'm thinking if you don't, you must be made of stone. These are real people.

I have a ton of respect for the people I know that write books, both fiction and non-fiction. Writers, if they're remotely successful, are a very disciplined lot. We get up early; we write at the same time every day; we work every day; we get crabby if someone mucks with the process.

But whereas what I write can, and is, flavoured by my mood, my book writing friends have to keep in a tone that is consistent. I get to vent and bitch; they don't. I admire that. There is a restraint that is hard to have because much writing is such an emotional pursuit. My work can skitter around between meloncholy and joy, outrage and sarcasm, wonder and disbelief. My emotional attachment is my stock in trade.

It gets very crowded in my brain. Every day I love discovering new things and learning how much more I have to learn. But we live in a painful world and there are days I literally can't rope in everything and make sense of it.

Kettle's whistling...

July 30, 2006

Anybody Seen My Vacuum?

Sorry if you've missed me. Which I doubt, but you never know.

I've been spring cleaning. What begins as 'what's that funny smell?' and ends with a trip to the emergency vet, has a middle part that involves pulling out all the furniture, scrubbing all the floors, and going through the laundry baskets with a nervous hesitancy.

All's well that ends well, JoJo has had her little lady problem all seen to, and I have done my bi-annual filing frenzy. I found the coolest thing under all the crud. A Hamilton Spectator and a Globe and Mail - dated July 19 and July 21 respectively. 1969. My dad kept them because of the lunar landing, and reading through them I'm reminded that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Sharing the front page of the Globe is a politician trapped in a sleazy sex scandal - Ted Kennedy and Chappaquick. Gee. A Kennedy in a sex scandal. Maybe if they'd put paid to this one, all the others wouldn't have followed.

Letters to the Editor of the Spec are complaining about the slant being taken by the editorial staff on the war in the Middle East. I think we really are all just players being circulated through a neverending play.

A page and a half of church listings. Letters with the names withheld. A listing of fire calls and their outcomes ('locked out of house'). Terry rompers at Eatons for $1.74. A woman writing to tell people that women love being ogled, and it's a man's right to do so. The world was way more fun without it's muzzle of political correctness.

Ah, enough fun. Back to clean up and filing. If man can walk on the moon, surely I should be able to get across my living room.

July 28, 2006

Stupid Is as Stupid Does

As any good cult leader knows, the first thing you do when you secure new recruits is cut them off from their families and the rest of the world. You slowly start corrupting their minds with your particular brand of misinformation, until you achieve the ultimate cult leader goal: A squad of humanbots that do anything you say, parrot back your insane teachings, and go forth in the world to procure more loyal followers.

At no cost do you tolerate outside interference. No TV, no radio, no media. The only way your ludicrous teachings will go unchallenged is if the outside world ceases to exist.

Now then. In an effort to curb government spending, the Harper government today announced plans to slash funding to international scholarship programs, including the prestigious Fullbright Scholarship.

You know, I really wish Steve (hey, if Dubya can call him Steve, so can I) would come and live in my house for a day. He could veto for my kids the daily mantra of how important their education is. Oh, I know I'm boring, spouting that garbage about how nobody can take an education away from you, unlike, say, an Ipod or a Mustang convertible, but I waste my breath anyway. Steve could back them up, and make me be quiet. Silly Mommy.

Maybe he could take down the picture on our fridge of Vianney, the youngster in Rwanda that we help support each month. The kids think up increasingly ingenious ways to cram presents into the only-allowed envelope. Perhaps Steve could explain why my eldest son's plans to one day visit the lad and work in the country that one brave Canadian fought so desperately to save are a waste of time. Oh, and that would be Romeo Dallaire, not you Steve.

I'm exhausted. He could take a turn explaining to my kids the truth of the world - nothing matters beyond their front door. They require an understanding of global issues like I need another migraine. Perhaps Steve would be so good as to explain that fabulous plan that Dubya has so eloquently laid out for him. I believe it's filed under "I Got Mine, Too Bad For You".

Let's see: Leaner, Meaner, Way Less Greener - that's my Canada.

Ever notice how Steve never has a hair out of place? Must be a salon up his butt.

July 27, 2006


Blogger was down until now.

For those of you who think I just got up........

One Ringy-Dingy

I had a note from a reader recently asking me what I thought about cell phones. Specifically, people using them in public. I told her when I have a chance, I'll link her to a couple previous columns trumpeting my revulsion loud and clear. After gently reminding her that I had written about them...stay with me here, people. Sometimes even I don't want to read my stuff twice a week, but still...

This case has been in the news recently. You may have come across it - a woman somehow ends up swallowing her cell phone. She says her boyfriend crammed it down her throat. He says she swallowed it on purpose.

First, if he did that, I can only sympathise. How many times I've wanted to cram a phone down someone's throat (or up somewhere else). Sitting in a Swiss Chalet last night, some little chick on a date has her cell phone go off. Get real. You're already there with some poor sucker, you can't wait until later to betray every intimate detail to your friends?

Back to our story. The guy says his girlfriend swallowed the phone on purpose, so he couldn't see who she was talking to. There's a bunch of things that are tough to swallow, and a phone has to be one of them. Can you imagine if it rang? Can you imagine if she had one of those stupid musical rings on it? Did she send a text message every time she coughed?

A ER doctor had to remove it. Nobody believes anybody else. Seems this is a sign of the apocolypse if there ever was one.

These two deserve each other.

July 26, 2006

Live @ 5:30 Wednesday

Tune in at 5:30 for a bit of jousting on Karla Homolka and the media chase that seems to go on ad nauseum.

In doing some research for the piece, I constantly feel like I have to go take a shower. What a nasty piece of work we're in no danger of ever forgetting about...

July 25, 2006

Did I Miss Anything?

So....just back from 6 glorious days at the cottage. I have just learned what the date is, and thanks to the Middle East gut wrencher, catching up on missed papers just isn't what it used to be.

I will never understand how two gym bags of clothes can translate into three garbage bags of laundry.The boys weren't even with us, but we've managed to come back with an empty cooler, and of course, an empty wallet. Somehow, paying six bucks for Kiwartha Dairies ice cream just seems okay up there.

The owner of the local general store (which was really just for newspapers and bait originally) has amazed us all by getting his liquor license. Overnight, his humble little establishment has become the centre of all things for all people. I have sent off particulars to Queen Elizabeth to see if we can get him knighted.

The phone hasn't been working all year, and we spent three days trying to track down Bell. They make promises like a guy on a first date ("I'll call!") and never did show. After awhile, I decided I liked the place better without a phone anyway.

We saw baby racoons; we fished a tiny little snapping turtle out of the lake, he might have been an inch and a half across. Not so mighty yet - we had one with a two foot shell a few years back, which could have taken your foot off.

After a day or so of withdrawal, I realized I was quite happy with no computer and no phone. This from a woman who spends about ten hours a day at the computer.

If you're getting away this summer, do yourself a favour. Leave all the techno-crap behind. Forget the laptop, the crackberry and numerous phones. Even if you think you're too important to be unwired, aren't the people you're with more important?

July 19, 2006

Light Bright

We bought those little solar lights for the backyard. They look like little lanterns all the way around the edge of the gardens. We needed 18 of them, so we had to wait for them to go on sale. I waited 2 years.

They look very cool, and Jackson and I sit out back on the swing and watch them flicker on at night sometimes. The problem is that this time of year, it stays light out much longer, and if we're lucky we can catch them just dimmly lighting before it's bedtime.

Two years I've waited for something I can't stay up late enough to enjoy. I discovered something today though. As I came downstairs at the godawful hour of 5:30, there were my little lights, all shining robustly.

I like being reminded that sometimes all it takes is a change in perspective for something to be wonderful.

I'm out of here for a few days...There are loons calling my name, not to mention the siren song of a vodka and iced tea.

Have a good weekend.

July 18, 2006

Author, Author

My sister and I always butt heads on what constitutes a good movie. She wants to be entertained. She wants to laugh. I like movies where everyone talks a lot, then somebody dies. Preferably quietly.

There is an interesting piece in the New York Times today addressing the weirdness of movie reviews. That 'did they see what I saw?' feeling. A reviewer tries to understand why movies he pans, like the new Pirates movie with Johnny Depp, hauls in more money than the GNP of several small countries. Of course, I could tell him why, for that movie in particular - Johnny Depp. But I digress.

To be honest, I'm totally fed up with crap starring Adam Sandler making a ton of money. When you have to bend down to find the lowest common denominator in a viewing audience, things are looking pretty grim. I've heard that the aim of most movies is to 12-year-old boys. I know 12-year-old boys. I have nothing in common with them. But they outnumber me, so Adam Sandler here we come.

Surprising to no one, I'm a fan of great writing. The best actors, directors and intentions in the world can't save a weak, crappy script. I remember a few months back waiting for the DVD of A Brief History of Violence, by Cronenberg. Great actors in it, I like the director, got rave reviews for the most part.

Liars. It's been a long time since these ears have had such lousy dialogue grated over them. It made it just about unwatchable. I mean, it was always fun to laugh at movies like Top Gun - they weren't supposed to be good.

I don't want movies based on a premise, or an idea. I want a movie based on a script. And for that reviewer who wants to know why he bothers? Because there are still some of us seeking art and knowledge and enlightenment. And some of us still believe you can sometimes craft all that into a good movie.

I appreciate the critics who sit through hours of garbage to find me a diamond. All I have to do is sort through the critics until I find one with sensibilities similar to mine. And therein lies the rub.

July 17, 2006

New Archives...

are up!

My air conditioning is still AWOL, and I still have too many deadlines looming before I go away. If my saviours show up to connect it, I'll happily blog later on...

July 16, 2006

Party On

The morning after a party the night before.

There was a time when that statement referenced a whole litany of smoke-clearing, head-pounding, agonizing revelations. And then, you have kids.

I remember going around the yard many years ago in the bright sunshine of a clear morning, picking up beer cans, scraping up cigarette butts (yuck), the occassional shoe and rinds from a watermelon that had been soaked in rum before consumption. I have found people asleep on my couch. I have found spaghetti on my car windshield. I have fielded phone calls from participants asking if I've found their lost car keys, purses, sunglasses and virginity. The good old days.

Last night was just friends with their kids for dinner. That's as close as we get to a party these days. I walked out back this morning to find all manner of clothing and towels draped over the deck rails. Little socks in little balls. Every T-shirt in the house seems to be out there, in a effort to keep four boys dry.

Do we have a pool you ask? No. Our party prep consisted of a few bottles of wine, a potato salad and a bunch of giant squirt guns. The littlest guy who can't work the trigger just got to use the hose. All four boys spent 6 hours saturated. The lawn got a decent watering, as did parents that didn't duck in time.

Nobody cared about gameboys; no one watched TV; nobody cried, nobody whined. Four boys aged 6 to 14 played on.

Sometimes it's just that simple.

July 15, 2006

Home Game

I watch enough home improvement shows to know that if you want to sell your house, you have to bore it back to beige.

I have leopard skin carpet on my stairs; my entire downstairs in painted in a colour called 'jalapeno'(it's a reddy orange). The kids' rooms reflect their personalities -they are not beige. I have a plant in a wine press, wrough iron hanging on the walls, and dishes in three different colours. We are not beige.

I know when the time comes to sell, I will have to paint over all this'personality', vacate the premises and let a realtor help someone else imagine themselves living here. Or maybe not. I read this article this morning, and realized we really have become devoid of the ability to make up our own minds.

Apparently, some folks are now using actors to stage some event - they mention 'mom's birthday'- for prospective buyers to see. Like knocking down some third wall in a play, actors pretend to be a family in the home for sale.

Ewwwwwwwwwwww. Just, yuck. Are we really so enamored of a Ken and Barbie world that we want to imagine living in one? A family that doesn't fight, where nobody clips their toenails, where no kids have farting contests, where cats don't have hairballs, and laundry doesn't pile up in the hallway?

They talk about the actors baking a cake. Cakes come from the store. How stupid do they think we are? And who the hell remembers Mom's birthday anyway? My oldest son, Marc, doesn't want me to ever sell the house, except to him. I was born here, and he figures he deserves the chance to continue living here until he drops dead. I've told him forget it - like most writers, the only thing of value I own is my home.

Then again, if I ever put it on the market, I suppose we could play ourselves in the realty play, and make certain no one would ever buy it.

July 14, 2006

Child's Play

My philosophy on life, which grows stronger as I get older, is to live and let live. I can't pretend to understand others motivations, so I don't spend much time pondering them.

Until I read something like this. Just how many kids can people responsibly raise?

This couple had two kids, took fertility drugs and had triplets, than, apparently unassisted by anything but a glass of wine and a come hither look, proceeded to have quadruplets.

Read further down. They live in a one bedroom apartment. First, I want to know how with 5 kids they found time for any action beyond tearing their hair out. Apparently they always wanted lots of kids. So become a kindergarten teacher.

Remember that nutter couple in, I think, Texas? They had septuplets after using fertilty drugs. The woman then announced that her babies were a gift from God. No they weren't. They were a gift from Big Pharma. I think science being able to assist previously-unable-to-conceive couples is a great thing. I never take lightly the wonder of my two boys.

But is there no consideration taken for the ability of people to raise all these kids? Is adding triplets to a mix of four people in a one bedroom apartment not a reason to pause? I was ripping into the 63 year old British woman recently (in May blogs) who got pregnant. I think there reaches a point where science isn't saying 'how can we help people that truly need help' but 'how freakish can we get while playing God?'

It'll certainly help people like Michael Jackson. Instead of an ongoing battle for his kids (are they his? aren't they? who knows?) he'll just be able to give birth to his own.

July 13, 2006

Just One Look...

Okay, this is going to get me in huge trouble, political correctness-wise. But seeing as how that's never stopped me in the past, here goes...

There have been impressive new developments in scientific and medical circles in assisting paralyzed people. This story today is really pretty amazing. It seems they have developed a brain implant that allows the paralyzed person to just think something, and the action gets carried out.

Now, read it and tell me you didn't think the same thing as me. If I could literally not move a muscle, and yet things would happen, would that not be the epitome of lazy person heaven? I know, I know. I'm sorry. And I'm going to hell for it. But like the commercial says, imagine the possibilities.

One Christmas, my nutty family gave me all-TV based gifts. You know, things like a Chia Pet (I got the sheep), ginzu knives (what the hell is a ginzu, anyway?) and stuff like that. My favourite thing? The Clapper. You could turn off the TV or a light without getting up. Can you say awesome?

Of course the stupid thing hardly worked. I'd lie there clapping like an idiot, and the lamp would stubbornly stare at me unblinkingly. Then I'd hear giggling around the corner and know why they bought me this stuff.

So this discovery is really like a Class A Clapper, I'm figuring. Not sure if I locked the front door? Just imagine it! Forget to turn off the hot water heater at the cottage? Poof! Done. I'd be Uri Geller, The Amazing Kreskin and Bewitched rolled into one. I could work my computer with wine in one hand and food in the other. I could shoo the cat off the table with a look.

My house would be humming with activity, as the vacuum ran itself, the toilet brush gaily flung itself around the bowl, and full laundry baskets marched up the stairs. I'd never have to stack the dishwasher, put away groceries or water plants.

Alright, I'll stop. I just realized if my life took this turn, I'd end up looking like Jabba the Hut, lying in bed in a Zsa Zsa Gabor bed jacket.

July 11, 2006

Best Obit Yet

I am so going to do this before I die...

More Beslan Tears

I'll confess: I often cry while reading the papers each morning. It's not that I'm that soft, it's because this world is that harsh. I was off to a soggy start with stories of kids drowning while on picnics (kids that are just playing should be kept safe by some mystical force) when I read that the bastard that masterminded the Beslan kidnapping in Russia nearly two years ago had been killed.

Well, now it's tears in memory of more tears. For three days, hundreds of children and their parents and teachers were held hostage. When it was finally over, 331 people were dead - 186 of them children.

What kind of sick *#&% targets kids? When this happened, I remember my own boys were about to head back to school for the start of another school year. Following what was taking place in Russia cracked my heart in two. The thought of children desperate with fear is - or should be - anyone's worst nightmare.

There is a difference between adults and children in their reactions to things. Children have infinite reserves of hope. Adults recognize a lost cause, adults quit, adults give up. Those children sitting in that overheated gym for those 3 days, with no food, no water, scared witless by masked men hanging bombs over their heads, still believed they would live. After all, the grown ups in their world would never let anything happen to them.

If only that were true. We let children down every day. We forget how easily the purity of trust can be thrown out the window. I can only imagine the children that survived that massacre - how truncated their emotions must be, how damaged their hearts and souls are. They endured the worst discovery a child can make - that nobody can keep them safe.

I am glad Basayev is dead. I also recognize it makes little difference. The horror masters of this world are like shark's teeth - you cut one down, another moves up to take his place.

July 10, 2006

Gored to Tears

Catching up on the papers when we got in last night, I found a little gem buried in the snippets section of the news. Seems an American was paralyzed after getting gored by a bull in Pamplona.

The Running of the Bulls, and other associated events in Pamplona has become so romanticized and revered that people pay good money to visit a beautiful country and end up hanging from the horns of large, angry animal. Sure. And they say women are hard to understand.

Hemingway wrote about it, but probably by watching from some window. Writers are the original wimps. We observe, we imagine, we make astute comparisons, we contrast and we create. We don't actually do anything. Can't write about it if you're dead.

As for the paralyzed bond trader from New York, all I an say is 'hell of a way to get a story about what you did on your summer vacation, buddy'. Eedjit.

And to think I won't even drink the water when I go away. Probably because I'm not a bond trader.

July 7, 2006

Gone Fishin'

I'm off until Sunday...have a good weekend, talk amongst yourselves...

Stevie & Georgie

So. Their president and our prime minister are buddies. After former PM Martin refused to bring his toys to Bush's sandbox, W is at last thrilled to have someone his own mental size to play with.

It seems George was referring to Stephen Harper as 'Steve'. Snerk. Steve. That's a hoot. I thought even his own parents referred to him as Mr. Harper. Even when he was two. He's got that stick-up-the-bum look that makes you know he always got his homework done on time.

Anyway, it must be an American thing, renaming people who are already adults. Look at Tom Cruise, renaming his Stepford birthing machine 'Kate'. Because she's a childbearing woman now, doncha know. 'Kate' is just so much more edgy than Katie. And apparently, 'Steve' is somebody's homeboy.

Cruise can blame Scientology for his weird brand of scary zeal. Bush can't spell Scientology, nor it seems, Stephen-with-a-ph. He probably thinks it's once of those odd British affectations like favourite, labour, and leftenant. I would love to be a fly on the wall if W ever has to introduce a 'Geoffery'.

Oh well. I should be glad that little Stevie finally found someone to play with. My kids aren't allowed to play with tanks and guns. They're also not allowed to play further trod on the downtrodden, I don't let them bribe me with my own money, and they have to share with everyone, even if they'd rather just give the good stuff to their friends.

Everything I needed to know I learned in the sandbox.

July 5, 2006

Days of Wine and Flies

I was prepared for SARS. I'm totally up to date on the Avian Flu. I know more about ebola, bubonic plague and malaria than anyone I know.

So, what is besieging me? Fruitflies. I am losing my mind, and it appears my sanity is being carried off by miniscule little suckers that apparently reproduce on the fly. So to speak.

As I write this, I have a little jar on the counter covered with plastic wrap. There is a nasty little piece of banana in it, lying in wait. After scouring the Internet, this was the solution that I had all the parts to make. It is not working.

As is perhaps fitting, the only things my fruitflies like is wine. And they don't want the icky leftover wine I put out for them - they want the wine I am drinking. This reminds me of a game we used to play at the cottage. It was called What's The Biggest Thing You Can Fish Out Of Your Drink And Still Drink It?

At home, it is now fruitflies. At the cottage, it's mosquitos. That haven't bit anyone yet.

Actually, the biggest thing I have pulled out of my wine and still managed to drink it was my sister, but that's another story.

I have taken to putting out a decoy glass for the flies, which of course has prompted my son Jackson to ask why I'm drinking two glasses of wine at once. There isn't a believable answer to that, so I won't bother.

If you have any tips on fruit flies, please send them my way. Until then, I'm drinking a very nice Soave out of a sippy cup.

Wednesday Live@5:30

Got the spine to tell a friend they're making a bad choice at the altar? How about the way they're raising their kids?

Join us on CHTV 11 for Live@5:30 today...

July 4, 2006

Hot Stuff

Guys: I know it's hot out. Really, really hot. But do me a favour, and don't walk around with no shirt on. It's not shirtless, it's half naked. I just got in from Toronto, and let me tell you, there are some very secure men in that town. They think they look great. They don't. And when they have it all hanging out like that, they invite nasty comments, like these.

Years ago a woman here in southern Ontario, Gwen Jacobs, fought for the right to walk around shirtless. Because men could, women should be granted the same freedom. She made her point (or points), but nothing changed. We women aren't that stupid. Just like with the guys, it is never, ever the women you want to see naked that avail themselves of this law. If I see one more Sweaty Naked Man strolling down the street, I may have to run him over.

July 3, 2006

Can't Buy Me Love...

Can money buy happiness? This article today in the Washington Post says no. I agree with it.

I've been broke, and I've been less broke. I've known people who were staring at the poverty line (from both sides), and I've known people who were rich enough to make you gasp. I'll never downplay the sense of security a little extra can offer, but as far as happiness goes, there's not a chance that the money could fill that hole.

Many couples fight over money, but the quantity of it won't change that dynamic. If you fight when there isn't enough, you're still going to fight if there's a bunch. That marriage curse is actually about values, not money. Different beasts.

I don't know a single kid who has everything they ask for that is any happier than my poor, deprived sons who hear 'no' more often than a telemarketer. Too many parents remove the sense of accomplishment, the sense of anticipation, and the sense of delayed gratification that comes from a kid actually achieving a goal - like working and saving for a new bike.

I've learned, by my advanced age, two secrets in attaining happiness around money. Find a job you love, and learn how to leave it behind at the end of the day. Take the biggest, blackest marker you can find to delineate the line between work and not-work. Do not steal from people you love the only thing they really want - your time and undivided attention.

The second thing is to resist buying crap. Things may hold a momentary thrill, but most things are a stop-gap; you're looking for something else, and you aren't going to find it at the mall. Live a life you can afford, and if you increase the money coming into the household, continue to live the same way. Save the rest so you can live comfortably regardless of what the future brings.

Walk, don't drive. Get a pet. Get off the phone and meet the person you're babbling to. Turn off your cell phone, and teach your children that nothing is more important than knowing they are loved, and that they are safe.

Money can't buy happiness because we use it to insulate ourselves from the things that do - people we love, new experiences, and a fundamental connection to the planet we're standing on.

Sorry for preaching. Sermon's over.

July 2, 2006


You don't realize how much you like air conditioning until you don't have it.

I don't really like air conditioning, much to my oldest son's chagrin. He would live in a meat locker if I'd let him. When I bought the house ten years ago, my Mom warned me that the air conditioning compressor thing was on it's last legs. She said I might get a year or two out of it, if I was lucky.

Well, I nursed it for ten years, until it finally conked out last week. I called my brother-in-law, who is wise in these ways, and told him to make the cold air blow again. He delivered a new compressor, but we have to find an HVAC person to hook it up. Until then, as Marc put it, 'our air conditioning is windows'. Fine by me; Marc slept with ice packs all around him last night, like some vital organ being transported for surgery.

A few years back, we had a swing out in the yard, the grown up kind with a canopy. When we resodded it had to go, and ever since I've been wanting one of those big rustic cedar ones. I decided yesterday, in the absence of air conditioning, it was the perfect day to get a swing.

After Brad wrangled it out of the box and assembled it (as Jackson ran blindly around the yard with the box on his head, two feet sticking out)I plunked my sorry arse down and pronounced it heaven. It's at the foot of the yard, positioned so that I can see the house, but not hear the complaints.

I now have a new way to run away from home. And with a little leg action, I also have air conditioning again.