April 29, 2007

Dean of Omissions

I've been following this story about the Dean of Admissions at M.I.T. who has just stepped down because she said she had 3 college degrees, but it turned out she had none.

She's been with the institute for 28 years, and by all accounts has been an outstanding employee as she made her way up the ranks to Dean. She has implemented processes to help stressed out young applicants, coached and mentored kids as they come to the notoriously difficult-to-get-into college, written a book on trying to get our kids de-stressed at this time of their lives, and basically been an all around fabulous employee.

So. What went wrong? Apparently, when she first came to M.I.T., her low level entry job didn't require any advanced schooling. But based on her capabilities and demonstrated expertise, she quickly climbed the ladder. In other words, she earned her stripes.

But now it's been discovered that she fabricated degrees she didn't have, and obviously felt she would need to keep the accension to loftier offices going. Oops.

Can we speak for a moment about what none of us want to admit, especially to our kids? A degree is overrated. Maybe not in terms of earning power, but absolutely in terms of traits it confers with no proof. Any idiot can get a degree, especially those in my age group who needed nothing more than crappy middling marks and a not-too-large cheque to get in.

Some of my favourite people don't have degrees; most of the smartest people I know don't. I am hypocritically pushing my boys in that general direction for one reason only: a degree is now the equivalent of a high school diploma, and has become the false idol of people and corporations who can't be bothered to actually learn something about the people they hire beyond a beribboned and wax-sealed piece of cardboard.

What did I learn at university? How to play euchre and hearts. That I liked gin. That taking night classes let me reasonably keep the car out late from my mother. That if a test was based on essay answers, you could BS your way through a lot. That you planned your schedule not by subject, but by location of subject to avoid a lot of snow in the winter, and to have Fridays off by second year.

University can't teach you to write. It's a wonderful place to exercise all the sweeping, righteous generalizations you will soon have pounded out of you when instead of getting a D for being wrong, you lose a job. For the right people, university is a fabulous place to find yourself and flourish.

But it's not for everyone, and it shouldn't be mandated that way. For some, it's overwhelming. For others, it's restrictive or boring. Genius is in discovery, not in reiteration.

I'm sorry Marilee Jones lied about her degrees. She sounds like a wonderful Dean who helped many, many kids. But I'd like everyone who is pointing fingers at her to haul out their own C.V.'s and take a closer look.

Are any of us what we say we are?

April 28, 2007

Sarah Polley

Here. Read this. It's about Sarah Polley, and it's a really lovely piece about a really smart, lovely young woman.

I've been on a bit of tirade of late about the sorry state of our media, and the pandering to the lowest common denominator. Celebrity 'news' has ousted real news, and we're all about the red carpet at the cost of knowing what's going on in our world. This article is the balance I've been looking for - a well-written piece about someone who is absolutely in the spotlight - has been all her life, in fact - and yet, is never trashy or irritating. Polley is no emotional or intellectual lightweight.

I'm sick of Alec Baldwin, and I never cared what he yelled at his kid. I'm sick of being told which Olsen twin is swinging from a charm bracelet this week (thanks, EB), and what colour Lindsay Lohan's hair is today. I don't care if Britney is wearing underpants; I don't care if Paris has put out for the whole Raiders team; I don't worry about whether Brad and Angelina can make a go of it.

I'm not sorry if Jenn is lonely. If Katie is being held hostage by Tom, it's her own damned fault. It looks like Anna Nicole won't find any more peace in death than she did in life. England is ramping up for the 10th anniversary of Di's death - for crying out loud, she was a blithering twit who manipulated everyone around her, most effectively the press, and she's still at it.

Sarah Polley, you can land on the cover of my papers anytime. With a little luck, you'll shovel off the far less deserving to the sidelines. And you'll do it in a pair of jeans and with a wisdom beyond your years.

The others should take notes.


If you've ever had pets you may have noticed its the ones that are the most demanding that are the least rewarding. Blogs are like that. You don't get paid so much per word, and yet, every day, there it is, blinking at you wanting to be fed. And some days I just have to tell it "sorry, blog, today you live off of your own body fat". And then people think I've died.

A skipped blog means one of three things: I have a headache that feels like cavemen are carving heiroglyphics on my forehead, I'm busy actually doing something that pays actual money, or there are news stories that I desperately want to flog on, but know my rage will come out wrong to those who don't already know and love me. Both of them.

Lately, I've been working.

But I still read every day, and I've been saving this NYT story for today. I love it. It's another tunnel story (I really should get that fascination looked into, doncha think?). A tiny town in the Austrian Alps has had no road access, ever. That is about to change when a tunnel is put through next year, providing access to the rest of the world.

With a population of only 30, they've had to hike in and out on foot forever. Shopping, doctor visits, everything has been done on foot. Check out the picture - it looks pretty glorious to me.

As is the usual case, some of the locals are thrilled, others less so. They've survived farming and running small B&Bs for hikers, and the only cars in the village are old ones that were winched up the side of the mountain. There is great concern that the commerce that is inevitable will destroy this last outpost of untouched beauty.

They're probably right; man can't leave well enough alone. For every unadulterated tableau, there is a line up of exploiters eager to adulterate it. Most of these tiny villages and outposts (I read about one every 6 months or so) die off because the young people leave and the old people die. There isn't enough work, and the call of bigger and better things is strong. Not to mention the urge to stir up the dating pool a bit, I would imagine.

What if things started to change, though. What if younger people started coming back to these places, as technology let them create and work? Maybe it's my age showing, but running away to the big city has lost most of its appeal.

I'd far rather strap on my hiking boots and run away to Kaisertal. And maybe they'd even welcome those that want to come and be quiet, not open a WalMart.

April 25, 2007

Mail's Here

I've just brought in the mail. Only, it's no longer mail. It's a daily inundation of flyers and circulars that go directly into my blue box. Why am I trying desperately to reduce, reuse and recycle, and all these idiotic companies continue to fell trees to entice me to buy products I not only don't want, but that I will now purposely go out of my way to avoid?

Today yielded no bills, and no cheques. Fine. I can live with that. But listen up, KFC. There are still those of us who haven't forgotten that 'KFC' stands for Kentucky FRIED chicken - your food is not allowed in this house. Ever. Quit sending me flyers. To LAZBOY Galleries (not a typo - it's spelled that way) - I have never been in your store. When you send me a sheet of paper that says 'exclusive invitation', I'm not buying it. Or your stuff. Get a website, take out an ad in the local paper, quit giving me phoney invites.

To every pizza place on the planet: I have a pizza place. We all do. Families pick pizza places like men pick underwear - pick a brand and stick with it for life. Stop sending me flyers. Advertise in the paper. It's Fruit of the Looms on our arses, and Gino's on our plates.

To Direct Energy and Burlington Hydro: You have both already sent me bills this month. Surely you could have enclosed your circulars and coupons with my bill? Why have I received further folders from both of you? Can you people please get your act together and stop filling my mailbox?

To the local crematorium: Thank you for caring. The fact of the matter, is I'm going to think about this when I have to, and I'll know where to find you. And if I go first, it's not my problem. Stop wrecking my day.

To all the Singles Clubs: Bugger off. Have you heard of a thing called the Internet? If a potential client of yours hasn't, they're too old or too young for your services anyway.

If I have been in your store, you may include me in your mailing list. Unless I've checked that little box that says I prefer to be contacted electronically, which is likely - I'm sick of all of you wasting so much paper. To all the utilities who insist on sending me return envelopes, surely you recognize that most of us pay you on-line or at the bank. For crying out loud - just mail the bill.

I'm not trying to kill the flyer business. The best use for the local paper is to bundle up all those flyers so I can read them on a Saturday morning. I like them. I'm sure I'm going to hell for my guilty pleasure of perusing things I have no intention of buying, but hey, aside from the WalMart one, I may shop there one day.

Just quit stuffing my mailbox and railings with papers that go directly into my blue box. Or, if the wind is just right, that sail around the neighbourhood before they become wedged in someone's fence. One decent ad in the local paper will be far more effective - trust me. Let people enter some contest you run, and build your email list that way. And to any direct mailers that are going to refute me - give it just a little more time. People are going to get steamed at the waste of resources going into this.

April 24, 2007

Take Two Aspirin...

If you know someone, or are someone, who suffers from migraines, you know the pain, the hassle, and the intrustion they pose. I've had migraines since I was 9, and the beat goes on. I've spent decades adding up the downsides to anyone who will listen, a number that now includes only professionals who are paid to listen.

Imagine my surprise at discovering some remarkable new research that suggests migraine sufferers might actually be getting some kind of bonus for their pain. Apparently, our brain and memory functions are better than the mere non-migrainers among you. So take that.

It's actually interesting, and they have no idea why. Researchers were surprised by their own results, anticipating that migraines would more than likely erode some brain function because of the shock and awe destruction they inflict. Those are my words, not theirs. The heavy duty drugs most of us take to beat back the pain sure don't feel like they're adding to my life span ("do not take this if there is a history of heart disease in your family, because it will blow your heart apart like a pin in a balloon"), so they're chasing down molecular explanations.

From now on, I'm just going to be a little more appreciative of my sore noggin, and demand even more special treatment from those that love me. What everyone else calls me bitchin' is really just my brain re-booting.

Do that, all you non-sufferers.

April 23, 2007

CH Live@5:30 Monday

Am I a better parent than Alec Baldwin? Find out today on Live...

April 22, 2007

CTS Behind The Story

If you're so inclined, I'm a guest on CTS Behind the Story, 7pm tonight. A round table discussion on topics currently in the news, it's an hour long and hits on everything from Virginia Tech to Belinda Stronach.

Watch. You know how I love a decent shot at Belinda....

April 21, 2007

Let's Just Eat In...

Seeing as how I've been hit with three related articles in three different papers this morning, I figured it was a sign. The Spectator is launching a nasty-restaurant report, and while I won't miss a word of it, I admit to reading lists of affected restaurants with trepidation. The writer of this gut-twister, Fred Vallance-Jones, helpfully provides a place on their website to check out your favourite eatery. Or barfery, as the case may be. Click at your own risk.

Grabbing my mug of germ-free tea, I tossed the paper aside and plunked down at the computer. 'Something a little fresher,' I said to myself. I popped up the NYT, and was met with more of the same. This is the saga of what happens when one of those chi-chi restaurants gets slammed. The chef is devestated, and it sounds like the inspector may have had a side order of jerk before he went in, but still, buddy, it's food. As much as I want to pretend what happens behind that door is fabulous and wonderful, I've read too much, and seen too much, to believe it forever.

In one incarnation I worked for a place that cleaned the carpets at restaurants. When those restaurants bothered to clean them. There were several of the restaurants we cleaned that nobody in the company would eat at. The stories the lads came back with was beyond gross. Another friend's son lasted two days at a well-known upper class joint in this town (and this town is full of them) before putting out the word he wouldn't serve meat that had hit the floor.

You should be aware that a '24-hour' bug, as my mother used to call them, is rarely that. It's food poisoning. Food temperatures are a big, big deal, and if your gut's in a roar for a day or so, think back. My kids' Dad had a taco place experience that levelled him for a week. Hospital-levelled.

We have our favourite restaurants, and we're probably boring because we pretty much stick to the same ones. But they're places I trust, and bored is better than sick.

Oh, and the third story? From the Star, a look at getting better street meat. I love this idea. Read some of the proposed ideas - yum. And the thing with the street vendors, is the kitchen is right in front of your eyes. If they drop your weenie on the sidewalk, they don't try to stuff it in a bun and hand it to you anyway. Points for that, right?

April 20, 2007

Biting the Hand That Feeds You

Okay, this pic is for the kids, who think computer animation is the only way to get effective gross-out images....thanks to National Geographic, who just emailed me this.


Sorry. Sorta.

Nice watching all the news organization scrambling over their 'careful and well-thought out decisions' to air the ravings of a madman, no? NBC, chosen through some twisted luck of the draw, chose to air the posturing and rambling of the Virginia Tech murderer. You will never see his name in any of my work. This should be about the victims, not the perpetrator.

I filed a piece yesterday for next week's Motherlode, slamming the way my own paper handled the photos. Yeah, smart for a freelancer, eh? I'm not worried. They're fair. I watched some show (oh, how they all run together these days) trying to suggest that the murderer's self-portraits echoed movie posters - yup, let's blame movies. Let's blame video games. Let's find any reason at all why that couldn't be our kid.

Jackson, 12, came into the kitchen this morning. He was ready for school, the same school I went to at his age. This is our actual conversation.
"Uhm, honey? You now, if you see anyone at your school that, you know, shouldn't be there, you'd tell someone, right?" I asked him. He nodded absentmindedly, stacking his dishes in the dishwasher.
"I mean, if someone was acting weird, even if it was one of your friends, you'd tell a teacher, right?" He nodded again. This was killing me.
"Don't worry, Mom. We have video cameras. We're safe," he calmly told me.

My baby thinks video cameras will save his life.

We need our healthy children safe, and our sick children helped. We need our schools back.

April 19, 2007

Baseballs & Other Projectiles

Toronto is now mulling over banning trans fats in restaurants, much like the ban introduced by New York City beginning July 1st of this year.

While I despair of the fact that people are too stupid to figure out on their own that if you eat mass amounts of garbage, the result won't be pretty, I'm also teetering on the line of accepting that people are, well, just that stupid. I can't believe the legacy of poor health being handed to our children, and the absolute capitulation of responsibility with which most people bestow that legacy. French fries are not vegetables, folks.

Many great restaurants are freaking out; there are certain things, most notably desserts, than can't be made with substitutes for butter and like substances. It seems in an effort to make the bottom feeders smarten up, the net is catching everything else as well.

Now, I'm not sure if it's the year-round lazy-arse sunshine on the Left Coast that has presented this little marketing gem, but in Los Angeles, the Dodgers have introduced a new idea: All You Can Eat cheap seats. That's right - while we wrestle with reinventing one of the world's biggest wheels, a baseball club is encouraging people to eat their weight in hotdogs and nachos to get their money's worth.

Neal Pollack, writing for Slate, put it to the test. You have to read this piece, if only to remind yourself never, ever to take someone up on a offer like this. I'm pretty much grossed out by the buffet places my teenaged son and his football playing buddies prefer, but this Dodger Disgrace takes the cake. And everything else.

Any time I think I can't further underestimate the intelligence of some of my fellow human beings, something like this rears it's ugly head and gives me a smack. In a hand basket, everyone. We're going in a hand basket....

April 18, 2007

Virginia Tech

No, I'm not immune to the Virginia Tech tragedy. I'm just doing a lot of research on it for a show I'm taping Friday, and the whole thing is just tearing me apart.

Too many questions, too much anger, too many tears.

I'm trying to veer totally off this topic later today for a blog...we'll see.

April 17, 2007

Heart & Soul

When I was a teenager, my favourite uncle had a heart attack. It was a shocking jolt of reality intruding on my self-centred little life, and it was one of the first times I stopped taking for granted that people I loved would always be there.

He survived. But forever after that, I imagined his heart was made of glass. And of course, as is always the way, everywhere I looked after that featured someone having heart troubles. It's like buying a car, then seeing that same car all over the place. You don't notice things until they become personal.

Here's a lovely piece from one of my favourite editors at the Spec, Brent Lawson. He's been a significant part of getting my career boosted, and he's still a touchstone for advice. He told me he'd written a piece about heart attacks. I asked how he knew about heart attacks. He said because he'd had one.

Now, I didn't know this. The Event pre-dated our friendship, and in my usual bluster of me-me-me, he'd never mentioned it. Reading his first person account, which he twists up with his usual humour, I was struck by just how much we take for granted. My buddy Larry is recovering from his heart attack a few months back. Larry, who has always been bigger than life and louder than a foghorn.

Pay attention to the warning signs; get a physical every year, and remember, just like a car, maintenance is smarter than repair. And regardless of your age, don't forget the people that continue to need you.

Warning Signs:
Sudden pain or discomfort in the chest, neck, jaw, shoulder, arms or back. It may feel like burning, squeezing, heaviness, tightness or pressure and in women, the pain may be more vague.
Difficulty when breathing or shortness of breath.
Nausea, indigestion or vomiting.
Sweaty, cool, or clammy skin.
Fear, anxiety or denial.

For more info, go to the Heart & Stroke website.

April 16, 2007

Do You Speak English?

Ah. Apparently the British are retiring the phrase 'war on terror'.

I can think of so many Britishisms I would rather see go - starting with "we're having spotted dick for dessert". And that's after the main course of bangers and mash. I'll leave mushy peas alone.

For the record, my mother was from Birmingham, so I was raised in a bilingual household. We spoke English, and we spoke British. With a smattering of German swearing tossed in from my father, we were ready for any international incident.

But if panties are knickers and chips are crisps, and french fries are chips, what on earth is Natty Bumpo? Every year I'd get my Rupert Bear annual from England, and my friends would wonder why a small yellow bear was wearing tartan shorts. I'd mention that Donald Duck didn't wear any pants, and at least my English bear covered his nether regions.

My mother would thrill to a jar of marmite tucked in the Christmas package from her sister - seriously, have you ever seen this stuff? She'd tuck that wee jar of tar in the cupboard like she'd have to fight anyone for it. A favourite breakfast was Egg in a Hole, which until I just typed it, had never seemed odd. (You cut out a circle in a piece of bread, flop it into a pan of -what else?- fat, and drop an egg into it to poach). I almost wrote about Toad in the Hole, until my snarky sister forwarded some really gross recipe and I had a flashback to a time I decided not to revisit. I still make my mom's trifle, which was sublime. One friend of my son's called it a big bowl of candy, which isn't far off.

We watch British programs, and see friends stare blankly at the screen. Every bit of humour is quite simple, actually. Everything revolves around food and sex. You may be the only gay in the village, but you will be well fed. My mother used to make 'chips in paper' for us - homemade french fries wrapped in newspaper - and we'd sit in front of the television wondering why Mr. Humphries stared at men's bums on Are You Being Served?

As nostalgia grips me more firmly every year, come to think of it, I'd hate the Brits to retire any snippet of my childhood. But 'war on terror'? They're right. It's so American, so Bush league, I don't blame them. They should just send out their troops to cook for the enemy, and use artery clogging as a weapon of mass destruction.

Anything less would mean the terrorists have won.

April 12, 2007

Moral Issues

There's a guy named Randy Cohen who writes an Ethics column for the NYT. I like it. People write in with something that is perturbing them, ethically speaking, and I get to point and giggle, metaphorically speaking, if I can't believe they'd have to ask.

I took a Moral Issues course at McMaster, and Professor Thomas quietly, as was his way, but forcefully, taught us the true nuts and bolts of ethical dilemmas: If the answer was easy, humans wouldn't struggle. It's not about the wide open spaces on either side of an issue, it's the tiny, tiny stretch of no-man's land that extends along the filament in the middle. The thinnest wedge must bear the greatest weight.

There is a really riveting report in New York magazine about a serial killer, Charles Cullen, who wanted to donate a kidney to a dying father of four. The writer, Charles Graeber, writes an engrossing piece - it's several pages and worth it to find the time to read it.

Cullen may be the worst killer in U.S. history (not sitting in the White House). As a nurse, he killed anywhere from 40 to 300 people - heinous, unthinkable, and for which he's been sentenced to several hundred years in jail. In one of those quirks of fate or nature (take your pick) he ended up being a perfect match for a kidney needed by an ex-girlfriend's dying brother.

He wanted to give it; the judicial system, the hospitals, families of victims and pretty much everyone but the dying guy didn't want him to. They felt they would be 'rewarding' a killer by making him feel good.

I have never lost a loved one to a murderer. But if some sorry, twisted sack of garbage who has stolen so many innocent lives can be used to save one, I'm not sure where the dilemma lies. There is very little creeps like this are worth - I say take what we can as a payment for those lost, not as a redemption for the guilty.

Hot Rods

Here's the link to the Insurance Bureau of Canada's top ten list of stolen cars.

April 10, 2007

One Fish, Two Fish...

To read this link in The Guardian, you're going to have to climb over a serious 'ick' factor.

In some spas in Europe, Japan, China and Turkey, they're introducing a new treatment for skin diseases like psoriasis. You dunk yourself in a warm tank full of tiny little fish that eat all the dead skin away. While it's still on you.

Told you so. Sorry. But the story is cool enough to read all the way to the end, something sorely lacking in a lot of stories these days. Apparently these 'doctor fish' are always starving (something about the water they thrive in being too warm to support many food sources) so when someone plops a crusty ol' foot in there, they scream 'last one at the buffet is a rotten fish!' and go crazy.

You emerge, after several treatments, with your previously affected areas as shiny and soft as a baby's bottom. It's not a cure, but results can last for months. Spa owners are importing buckets of the miracle fish and firing their pedicurists. I made that last part up.

I am intrigued, after the initial wave of nausea, by the idea that within nature's ailments lie nature's cures.

I can also imagine other applications of this idea. For instance, how about if we take Don Imus and drop him off over the Great Barrier Reef in Australia? There are some wonderful big fish there that could clean him up. They're even white.

April 9, 2007

"My Backroad Memorial"

Often when I'm writing the Power Shift pieces, I stumble over some memory that I usually end up editing or censoring. Many of the best things that involve cars are pretty much illegal, or at the very best, not something a loving mother of two should suggest as an option.

I came on this piece in Salon today. It's great. Wonderfully written with a core of honesty that's refreshing in this day and age of 'I-only-give-them-whole-wheat' and 'pilates-is-me-time' crapola.

For a century, the car has been a defining part of our heritage. The link is one woman's memory of her brother - always in a car, always going too fast, crisscrossing the country and being someone else. Until that someone else dies the only way they could - behind the wheel. It evokes what I've been bumping around far less eloquently for a year now - the car is a symbolic vehicle of so many other things.

April 8, 2007

Ask The Pilot

When I started writing Power Shift over a year ago, everyone, including me, figured I could keep the theme up for a month. Maybe two. I mean, a column restricted (loosely) to car things that didn't feature test drives?

And yet on I trundle, to the delight of some and no doubt the consternation of others.

Salon has a columnist who writes a piece called Ask the Pilot. When it debuted awhile back, I wondered to myself 'how long can this get written?'. I doubted the Pilot as I doubted the Power Shift. Instead, I have found a terrific weekly take on all things associated with flying, and while I have no distinct interest in the subject, I find that I still have a connection with it.

This week's piece is a stunner. Read this and tell me if you don't get chills. Sometimes you have to remember to venture off the path to find something new.

This is me wandering.

April 7, 2007

The Homicide Report

I flipped to this page in the LA Times this morning, and for a moment couldn't figure out what I was reading. It's the Homicide Report - they have so many, they can apparently make it a daily feature.

Read it, though. They classify the victims by race. Just like that. I blinked. What is this, Mississippi in the middle of the last century? They have a FAQ section that addresses why they do this. They say it's to give some context to the numbers - there is a hugely disproportionate number of blacks and Latinos killed in relation to the population.

I'm not buying it. Delicate explanations that pretend this is to make people care more don't cut it - if an under-represented white population sees mainly Latino and black homicides, they are more, not less, likely to look the other way and decide it doesn't affect them. A city with a crime rate out of control is not going to solve it by branding the victims 'them'.

How on earth are you supposed to make people care more by fueling the fires of racism and stigma? I'm all for bold statements and innovative risks to move out of the rhetoric. But to me this is not progressive - it's a step back to times that have left a stain that will never be erased.

April 5, 2007

Fudging History

The History channel is getting reprimanded for running the forensic cop show CSI New York 18 times a week. The channel has tried to circumvent content rules by declaring that the show, which at best is indistinguishable from the other 47,569 CSI shows on TV and at worst an execrable piece of junk writing (sorry, am I showing my bias?), "offers a critically acclaimed look at forensic policing in New York post 9/11".

What a load. If you can't hit the content requirements of your channel without importing 18 hours a week of something not even remotely related, give it up. At this rate, they'll be able to run The Facts of Life soon, because, well, at least it's older. And at least it's got George Clooney, mullet and all.

I still remember when the channels used to flip to a test pattern after the news and Johnny. Like everything else, they closed up shop for the day. I also remember when City-TV started up, and began running anything they could get their hands on to fill up the hours. Who knew this would be the precursor for most of the channels now on TV?

I pretend to watch Arts & Entertainment for edgy documentary on the arts. What I really like is the girl-in-a-dumpster show that Bill Kurtis gently guides me through. Everyone can yell and scream about the CBC, but the fact remains that without Coronation Street every day (or the Sunday morning marathon) there would be some mighty unhappy people. And the fact they've been running Arrested Development before the news has made me very happy. Is it Canadian? Nope. But it's excellent, and I like to think it's a Canadian channel recognizing excellence.

You should know what you're getting for your buck when you subscribe to these channels. If you get The Learning Channel, you know you're in for a certain amount of gaping chest wounds and cheesily decorated homes. If you watch anything on Fox other than House, you should know your head will be stuck in a right-wing vice of nasty. Though I will admit a secret love of the swapping wife shows. They crack me up.

Discovery should be showing me things to discover, and if I had my way those things wouldn't be motorcycles with flames painted on the side. The Comedy Channel is allowed to be edgy and cutting - if I wanted standard pap, I could watch According to Jim, which just might be the biggest steaming pile on TV this moment. Which is saying something.

Channels that advertise retro stuff are allowed to show the Brady Bunch and Family Affair. I still admit I am happy to Leave it to Beaver - I love that show. But if you're going for the toffee-nosed crowd with Biography and A&E and History, you better get some respectable toffee.

Canadian history is great stuff. If it hasn't been documented properly, perhaps we've been marketing it too politely. I mean, look at all the attention the American Civil War still gets. Now, that was a war that had the hell marketed out of it. Of course in the process, most of the facts were marketed out of it too, but hey, at least every kid knows where Gettysburg is.

As for the people that produced the spin explaining how CSI-NY is a historical show, I suggest they've missed their true calling. Get out of network television, and get into politics, where you belong. This kind of subterfuge isn't just welcome, it gets you voted into office.

April 4, 2007

A Cup of Perspective

My son is getting his braces on today.

I'm working on a piece about hybrid cars.

I got stuck in traffic this morning and missed a meeting.

I had to do some photos yesterday and digital photography shows every damned wrinkle around my eyes.

My accountant called and I owe money for last year, which I will steal from this year to pay, and start a chain that will only end with death. And probably not even then.

I am happyhappyhappy to see my tulips nudging up, even though I hear we're getting more snow.

I opened this article in the Globe & Mail and fell apart. What the hell kind of existence lets me harp for a second on any of the above thoughts while things like this are taking place? There is so much shame behind my tears.

One More Set...

Ever since I did that boxing thing last year, the boys at All Canadian Fitness email me and call me. They tell me to come in to work out. It worked for a while, and I indeed continued to darken their doorstep in my sneakers, red boxing gloves dangling from my neck.

Then, like most relationships, the calls came further and further apart. It was mostly my fault; every time they asked, I gave them a firm 'sometime next week' answer. I am inertia personified - a body in motion is likely to stay in motion, a body not at motion is likely to sit on the couch eating chips and watching "Wife Swap".

This morning, I am going. I have at last accepted that I can't just wear higher and higher heels and wider and wider shoulder pads to disguise the fact my rear is taking over my body. There will be cussing and yelling. There will be pain, there will be much blood, some sweat and many tears. And that will just be getting my gym bag into the van.

Adam will be waiting with that tiny glint in his eye. He's the boxer. He will pretend to be happy to see me, until he realizes I have forgotten everything he so diligently taught me.

Everything will hurt, and I will wonder why I waited so long to get back here. I am booking firm appointments before I leave - they will give me a program to do at home, which I will put in my glove box and scrawl phone numbers on with a crayon at stoplights.

I think I may get a T-shirt of Sisyphus, the Greek hero who was damned to push a rock up a hill for all eternity. He stopped looking at it as punishment; so will I.

April 2, 2007

We Are Family

In today's round-up of Loons, there's this article in the NYT about nutters who are using DNA to chase down extended family members. No, make that very distant family members, and sometimes dead family members.

I hope it's just the people they happened to interview (though I doubt it) but it appears that basically, women in their 50's and 60's are staking out McDonalds and hunting down strangers to try to hijack a piece of their DNA. They are obsessed with figuring out their family geneology. Now I know who's falling for those annoying pop-ups that are just as prevalent as potions to make your penis bigger. Ever wonder what a visitor to this planet would think if they saw the proliferation of ads on our computer screens? Bigger boobs, bigger penii, getting a date, then tracing yourself back to the Vikings.

There's a reason people usually just hand down an oral history ("and then yer great Aunt Brenda came over from Ireland and met yer Uncle Bob....") - 'cause it's mostly nonsense. Family lines have so many off ramps and on ramps it'd make your head spin. The stories are the purist thing about the lineage - the blood sure isn't.

This story creeped me out. Pulling hair from dead people, pestering strangers to hand over a cheek swab - get out of my face. Literally. This is a tango - you both have to want to dance to make it work.

I blame all these stupid shows on TV that have police labs handing over results in 20 minutes. The body isn't cold, and the comely detective is in her lab (yeah, like detectives hunch over a microscope much) discovering the killer had a rare disease carried by only 0.0002% of the population - and it's a match for the receptionist downstairs!

Maybe I'm looking at this all wrong. Maybe I'm cranky because no one is trying to prove they are related to me.