May 31, 2007

The Evolution of Ridiculous

We were watching Borat the other day, with the kids. Actually, with a friend of theirs as well, after I called his Mom & Dad and asked if it was okay. I do that, because there are things I let my kids watch with me, but I don't pretend to want to be the decider for other people.

Borat is jaw-droppingly rude, but also brilliant. I have don't have much time for the usual poo-poo-caw-caw humour that passes for entertainment these days, and quite frankly snooze through a great deal of the Stiller/Sandler/Murphy stuff that is mostly a bunch of cheap shots strung together and aimed at 13-year-old boys.

As we sat watching, I was a little leery that the sophistication of the irony might sail over young heads, and serve to reinforce the very stereotypes it was mocking. I needn't have worried. I heard the kids discussing how Sasha Cohen, the creator and alter ego of Borat, was the perfect person to tackle Jewish prejudice because he was himself Jewish. Devoutly Jewish. It was nice to see that a 12, 13 and 15-year-old are that dialed in.

So. As I'm trundling along, content in my discovery that the perhaps things aren't as dire as I feared, that perhaps we will all shake out to a higher ground where intelligence and understanding will prevail, I come across this today in Salon.

I have a bruise on my forehead where I have spent the last 20 minutes smacking my head against the keyboard. Please, please tell me this is not real. Please tell me the people with their hands on the voting levers in the biggest democracy in the world are not lining up for tickets to a place called The Creation Museum.

You simply have to read this link. A gigantic 'museum' that features dinosaurs roaming with Adam and Eve, purporting to explain how every aspect of the Bible can be literally interpreted and explained, with absolutely no nodding acquaintance with, nor respect for, astronomy, geology, evolution, not to mention a dozen other scientific disciplines that have been bumped in favour of the Famed Six "C"'s of History: Creation, Corruption, Catastrophe, Confusion, Christ, and Consummation. And not consummation like you're thinking, consummation as in 'we're all going to Hell'. Except of course for the way too many visitors to this religious wonderland who pony up the entry fee to see how a remarkably photogenic Adam and Eve (the Creation Museum's own Barbie and Ken) wrecked it all for the rest of us by casting aside their fig leaves and doing a little consummating of their own.

I swear every kid I know is smarter than most of the adults around them. How and when do we pound the imagination and curiosity out of them, so that they turn out to be adults like the ones quoted in this piece? This is not about religion - this is about information and disinformation.

And now back to smacking my head.

May 30, 2007

"My Porn Experience"

The title's in quotes. It's someone else's experience. But it's hilarious.

Open this this link - it just cracked me up. It's from a New Zealand paper, so some of the references might fly by, but read on. It's a scream.

I thought I was the only one who had such a clinical, detached view of all the stories about porn that douse our media airwaves.

May 29, 2007

China: Bread Basket to the World?

My post a few days back (May 20) went on (and on) about the appalling conditions of China's food legislation bodies, and the deadly impact it is having on nations around the world as the Chinese now supply unprecedented amounts of our food chain.

Further scary news comes in today from The Guardian that the Chinese former head of their Food & Drug administration has been sentenced to death for accepting bribes to push unsafe products into the market. This the guy responsible for all food and drug products in the country. The country that exports billions of dollars worth of both around the world.

Apparently, the stiff sentence (no pun intended) is to allay fears and send out the message that they do indeed take this stuff seriously.

For me? Not seriously enough, and definitely not soon enough.

The Other Mother Lode...

Because I am territorial, and also quite small, I arched an eyebrow in that certain way when a writer over at the Globe and Mail launched a blog a few weeks back called 'Mother Lode'...just like that. I mean, she put a space in it, but still. When you've been writing a column called 'Motherlode' (see the difference? didn't think so) for three and a half years, things like that make you a little itchy.

Like me, Diane Flacks writes about her two sons. But unlike me, her youngest is just a tiny baby, and unfortunately has spent nearly all of his wee life at Sick Kid's hospital.

I just want her to know her little one is in my thoughts.

May 28, 2007

Welcome Aboard!

Welcome to new Motherloders!

Feel free to poke around the site (a new one is under construction), get a feel for the place. You can find a bit of background if you're interested, find some previous columns, chase down my mental wanderings in the blog. I keep the blog most days, unless I'm being felled by yet another monster migraine.

I'm thrilled to be at the Toronto Star - though it's a little freaky venturing out past my Spectator nest. Hope the wings hold.....

The Queen

No, not me (I can hear my sisters snickering and yelling 'diva!'). The movie. I finally saw it on the weekend. I knew I would like it, because I'm a Helen Mirren junkie. What I wasn't prepared for was the effect it had on me.

The film basically covers the royal (non)reaction when Diana died. I'll be honest - I thought Diana was a shallow media-tweaking twerp. I never bought the poor-little-sheltered-girl garbage. She wanted a prince, and she got one. The fact he looked like a Wallace & Grommit character was secondary. So, while I believed she truly loved her sons, I think the rest of Diana's life was spent best serving Diana.

I've also regarded the Queen with one raised eyebrow. I'm not sure if it's the goofy little purse, the nasty little dogs or the famed distance from her own screwed up kids, but she just doesn't scream 'warm and fuzzy'. As for being the head of a monarchy, well, it looks boring, and I totally get why they like to shoot things, but other than that, it's a pretty cushy life.

So why did I find myself all teary throughout most of this film? I don't get it. I'm not supposed to give a damn about any of these people - and yet, I did. Brilliant script, brilliant performances and thank gawd no Di impersonators. My mother was British, and of the same age as the Queen. She understood better than I that whole stiff-upper-lip stuff, and was steeped (tea joke) in the role of the monarchy in England. I think that's why the film works so well - Mirren gets it.

Mirren apparently turned down an offer by Queen Elizabeth to meet and gab about the film - apparently, with a schedule booked for the next three years, you don't turn down such an offer. Mirren was out of the country, and said 'thanks anyway, can't make it, Liz'. Well, no she wasn't snotty about it, though of course the papers tried to make it look that way.

It was nice to watch a film that lifts the curtain on something we rarely get to see, and doesn't demean its subjects (royal joke) as it does so.

May 27, 2007

Grass & Toads

For reasons I may never understand, I decided to cut the grass today. I don't cut the grass. Marc started doing it a couple of years ago when he became the tallest person in the house, and Brad did it when he moved in years ago. Before that, I did it, but it took me two days and a lot of Tylenol. We have a big yard.

The front yard is all ratty and crappy, and it's like mowing a washboard. The back yard, on the other hand, is a wonderland of new sod (3 years ago), and big enough for the boys to play full out soccer on. The house itself is pretty much falling apart at the seams, but the back yard is my oasis. I usually do the edging with the weedwacker, because I don't trust the boys to not cut the power line.

Marc has been cutting lawns for a couple of other people this year, so I don't think it's fair to make him do ours as well. Brad has been studying and working, so I told Jackson, 12, that it was time for him to step up. He looked at me. He's a wee lad, and our lawnmower is this big Honda that weighs twice what he does. I told him we would split it.

'Splitting it' rapidly became me firing up the lawn mower, and Jackson hopping on his bike and taking off. With the sky clouding over, I wrestled the lawn into shape, carefully avoiding all the toads that keep me company. My stomach flips over thinking that a kid might not be quite so observant.

I sit here typing with shoulders I can barely move. I tried to remember my boxing training, and use my legs to push. Lord knows I have enough butt to power that Honda. The lawn looks great. Jackson showed up ('what, you're already done? I woulda helped') and was told he'd be doing the edging tomorrow.

I'll go ahead of him to warn the toads.

May 26, 2007

Border Patrol

When I lie in bed at night, head exploding from the constant pain of yet another migraine (man, this week has been horrendous for the suffering, no?), this is the kind of thing I contemplate. Who guards the U.S.-Canada border through all the wide open prairies and forests out west?

A retired couple in northern Seattle just found out the hard way. They put up a 4 foot concrete wall to keep their little dogs corralled, and discovered laws, regardless of how obscure and dated, do exist. They live in a yard where you can stick your foot over your property and be in Canada. Only, you're not allowed to do that. I always wondered about that.

I've long imagined that cross-country neighbours must surely have some sort of system for handing off cheap vodka and stuff. I mean, how tough can it be to do a sort of 'hey, neighbour, here's a twenty, bring me back a case of Absolut, would ya?'. Are they allowed to have BBQs and and yard parties? Can their kids play together? If your kid tosses the football too far, are they allowed to throw it back? Or do they have to drive to a proper border crossing every time?

What if you're hiking in some godforsaken forest in British Columbia, and stumble over the border? Is there some big electric killing fence like in Lost? (If you don't watch Lost, well, don't worry about it. You can figure it out.)

I'm sure the Americans have invested a lot of resources in their southern border, because everyone knows (if only from the movies) that the Mexicans are dying to become Americans. But the U.S - Canada thing? Not so much. It's mostly a big shrug, unless of course you're an American running from your unit that's just been assigned to further patch up W.'s ego in Iraq.

For now, Shirley-Ann and Herbert have to bide their time staring out their picture window at the fabulous Canadian view, their little dogs secured in cages, while the authorities decide who is going to haul down their little concrete fence that has apparently given a severely underfunded government agency something to waste those precious dollars on.

Good to know what the RCMP is keeping such a close eye on these days.

May 23, 2007

Artistic Folly

Have you ever found yourself staring at a piece of modern art, and thinking, quietly, "really? this is really worth a howevermany million bucks?". Are you of the school of thought that your kid could have done it?

I'm not. Usually. I got angry when this whole head-up-its-butt town I live in killed off the idea of a Keith Haring piece of sculpture because (cue the whining) "that's not art! I don't get it!". I have little patience for people that refuse to do a little research before opening their yaps. Or their minds. If you're not going to like something, at least show a little imagination and enterprise in learning something about it before you slam it. How are your kids ever going to grow beyond you if you don't?

I digress, as usual. There is an artist thoroughly yanking a gallery's chain in Massachusetts. A Swiss guy, Christoph Buchel (there are supposed to be two little do-hickeys over the 'u'), creates these massive installations, and this gallery, the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art is one of the few places big enough to display it. It contains vehicles, houses, a cinema - here's the link - and takes months to complete. The artist has upped the requirements at every turn, and exhausted their budget. They're suing him to open the exhibit without him, finally getting peeved when he added yet another request - a burned out fuselage of a 747. They should have called the set of Lost.

Some are wondering if this refusal to display isn't just another part of the artist's 'vision'. Oi, vey. This is not helping the cause much. But the museum going ahead and displaying the installation with huge tarps over everything, as they're proposing, is a pretty goofy statement in itself.

When I read about stuff like this, I want to slap the artist upside the head, and the bureaucrats who started a car with no brakes, and remind them of that old adage about a tree falling in the unpopulated woods.

Isn't the whole point to get the thing to the people?

May 22, 2007

Great Photos

If you've got kids (and even if you don't) open this link and look at the slideshow to the left - it's deep sea creatures like you wouldn't believe. Now, how about we stop polluting our oceans?

May 20, 2007

You Are What You Eat

Like many of you, when the recent pet food scare occurred I was a little frantic. My two cats are a royal pain in the arse on a daily basis, but like my sons, I've become attached to the little critters.

I was (selfishly) relieved to discover that the food we feed them wasn't on the affected list. After a veterinary intervention last year (hope he likes his new Mercedes we financed), we had to start feeding the girls only this expensive tinned food. Stupid- expensive. But apparently, safe- expensive. If the incident had never happened, they'd have been eating some form of the tainted food, I'm sure.

When it was finally discovered what was killing the pets (melamine, a chemical used in plastics and fertilizer), most of us finally learned that all of this garbage was imported from China. And apparently there are no governing bodies for pet food. Nice. And all we Fluffy and Fido-loving pet owners stupidly think we're keeping our pets healthy.

There's a more terrifying article in today's Star. Apparently this has just been the tip of the iceberg. We are importing huge quantities of food from China - for human consumption. And it seems we don't much care about how they grow that stuff, either. Tons and tons of fruits and vegetables and fish. Much of it coming from millions of small plot farmers, who are adding illegal and dangerous chemicals to increase their yields. It seems we are also importing cancer.

I care where my food comes from. I want local, though that whole '100 mile diet' thing doesn't work particularly well when you get winter. China is bringing in increasing amounts of our food, and they're doing it spectacularly cheaply. Well, when you're growing Chernobyl-quality stuff, how hard can it be? Read the linked piece and tell me if you'll ever buy something marked 'grown in China' ever again. And to our regulating bodies? Earn your bucks. Do your job.

After hunting through the cupboards, I sat down and popped up the New York Times. Oh, here we go. Toothpaste discovered in Panama has diethylene glycol in it - the poison found in antifreeze. Wait for it - toothpaste from China. And two weeks ago, another article
about the same thing being used in cough syrup killed 100 people. Yup, medicine from China.

Just as my breakfast was settling, the Washington Post continued the theme. They delve into the political reasons North American borders are so porous to such shoddy standards - the apparent lust to trade back to the Chinese. It seems we need a U.S. congressman or Canadian politician of some notable stripe to have a kid get sick. It's only important when it's personal.

Is this what we're heading for? Destroying our own farm land to import uncontrolled poison from half a world away? Importing and exporting can, and should, bring the best of the world to us, and let us send our best out. That's how it works. But there had better be a clear playing field on standards, and consumers should quickly understand you get what you pay for.

People have already had their pets used as canaries. Now we're going to use ourselves?

May 19, 2007

Dangerous Dieting

This piece by Megan Ogilvie in today's Star is just heartbreaking. A Toronto woman has been in a coma for the past seven years, after desperately trying to lose weight and having her heart stop.

Herbal Magic Systems International settled out of court for $3.1 million, admitting no blame. I see their ads everywhere, I see them recruiting for employees all the time, and indeed, they are the leading Canadian chain of weight loss centres.

I can't get past the second word in their title - magic. Obesity is becoming the leading cause of diabetes, heart failure and serious medical ailments in record numbers of Canadians and Americans, and at increasingly younger ages. And we're going to solve it with 'magic'?

We are fat because we've screwed up. We eat garbage, we feed our kids garbage, and we've traded a historically agrarian lifestyle for a sit-on-your-ass one. We watch sports, we don't play them. To achieve anything, we push buttons and pop pills. We encourage our children to do the same. We set ourselves up for failure by worshipping photoshopped pictures of people that don't exist, then assauge our lousy feelings over our inability to measure up by lunging for the Twinkies.

As this devastating article lays out, this is about health, not vanity. We are eating ourselves into early, costly deaths, and being encouraged to avoid that by dangerously medicating ourselves and ending up there anyway.

My mother was always on a diet. She was a wonderfully outgoing person, but always, always on some diet. How I wish I could have had more time with her now talking about anything but the damned diets, and how unhappy she was with the size of her butt. She was beautiful; in the end, when cancer was carving pieces of her off, she was even more beautiful, and finally not dieting.

You shouldn't be a great deal overweight because it's very bad for your health. The sooner you appreciate this, the better. Don't set your kids up for failure by feeding them crap. Learn how to cook - ask someone who can to show you how to make a few basic dinners, and stick with them. Get the kids to help.

If you gain ten pounds, walk it off sooner rather than later. Forget joining gyms, it doesn't work. Just make a promise to yourself to walk more and drive less. I knew a woman who gained ten pounds one year, and couldn't figure out why. Turns out she'd discovered coffee, and started drinking a double-double every day. Ten pounds in one year. Forget the cream - go to milk.

Talk to your doctor. You need an ally in this, and you need someone who will be tough with you. You need your blood pressure monitored, and your cholesterol levels. This is about health, not bikinis. Mark on your calendar one year from today as a goal. Yup. A whole year. Not the one month garbage those stupid ads promise - any lifelong change needs to take hold and be true.

Love yourself enough to do this; if you don't yet, love your children or your mate or your dog enough to realize how much they need you. We all know how to eat properly, or can find out quickly. Whatever you do to push yourself along through the tough times, whether it's food or booze or smokes, please understand that instead of some far-off imagined 'later' when you're dying, it could be tomorrow that you're begging for just one more day with your kids.

And some of us will be left silently begging for one more day with you as well.

May 17, 2007

Bald is Beautiful

So, they're about to cure baldness.

Why? Bald is fabulous. Bald is sexy. I'd rather they cured cancer, or asthma, or when your foot falls asleep and you get that awful tingly feeling that makes you stomp around. Cure that, instead.

As long as I can remember, I've thought bald was a mighty turn on. I remember discovering Ed Harris. Swoon. Then Stanley Tucci. Oh, my. Mitch Pileggi made the X-Files hot. And the best one of all? Terry Quinn. He's on the left. And so as not to be rude, Josh Holloway on the right would make a nice dessert. Up-and-comer hottie Jason Statham is always pleasant to watch too.

So maybe I have a type, though my boyfriend is reading this over my shoulder, running his hand through his full head of hair and wondering if he should pack. Or shave.

I just wish everyone, women as well as men, would quit focusing on things they think are negatives and recognize two of the most valuable traits in attractiveness are hygiene and humour, not hair. Unless of course you have hair in odd places, in which case you might want to get that looked at. Men worrying about being bald is like women worrying about having little boobs - get over it. Nobody cares but you, and if you actually believe 'fixing' something so superficial is gonna help, you haven't begun to understand your real problem.

And now, I'm going to go back to Googling 'images'....hubba.

May 14, 2007

Live @ 5:30 Monday

If a gunman broke into your child's school, you'd expect the teachers to do whatever they could to protect them, no?

Well, in Tennessee, it's the teachers themselves scaring the life out of the children...with a fake lockdown they decided to tell a bunch of 11-year-olds was real.

Oh my.

Dirty Watching

You know you've wasted the weekend when you realize you've watched the same movie three times. And it's not only an old movie, it's a bad one.

The W Network (or, as one of my sons calls it, the 'girl station') runs movies they consider romantic and sloppy over and over again. This weekend it was Dirty Dancing.
I confess: I've never seen the whole thing through. It was only a month ago that I finally saw Titanic, and there are countless others I'm sure I should have seen, but haven't. Part of the problem is having sons; my girlfriends with daughters watch these movies to death.

Anyway, I got caught watching the middle thirty minutes of Dirty Dancing on Saturday afternoon. It's goopy and stupid, but the music caught me. The boys asked what I was doing. I guiltily changed the channel. Later that night, it was running again, and I caught the ending. Brad asked what I was watching. Flip.

Sunday morning, you guessed it. I got the beginning. And I got caught. It's at best a sweet little movie, but that's a strain. The dialogue is banal, the acting is atrocious and the story is contrived. But I couldn't very well confess to this household that I was bewitched by Patrick Swayze's glorious ass.

Come to think of it, it was Mother's Day. Maybe I'm entitled to gaze upon whatever the W Network dishes up without explanation.

I wonder what they'll be running next Mother's Day.

May 13, 2007

Prozac Patient

Ever taken Prozac?

Doctors hand it out like candy (I'll get back to this point, doctors, relax), so I'd be mildly surprised if you, or someone close to you, hasn't been on it at some point.

Great article today in The Guardian's Observer magazine by Anna Moore. For twenty years now (where has the time gone?) Prozac has been the go-to drug of choice for, well, almost everything. The article does a step by step process questioning the science, the social impact and the personal factors that all end up nestled in the emotional house of a Prozac guzzling world.

Originally thought to be easily controlled and dose-applicable across all spectrums, family doctors were hit hard with a campaign for this safe, reliable cheerer-upper. And they responded. Bubble packs were handed out like chicklets, and the world commenced a pretty much self-medicated journey to wellness.

Or did they? There's a reason most brain drugs are prescribed by psychiatrists. The science is too spongy, the factors are too complicated, and the clientele too diverse. In today's world, there are just far too many people who never want to feel sad, or be fat, or get sick, or have a zit. The race to the doctor to get the pill is hard-wired into too many of us, and even more of our kids.

I blame a lot of things. I blame society's reaction to genuine mental illness, which should never be shameful to those who suffer. I blame the past decade of But It's Not My Fault Lit, where writers vomit their transgressions, and more blatantly the transgressions of others, across page after page in the world's worst game of Show & Tell. If broken and damaged lands you on Oprah, start writing your book.

I blame a lazy public who accept, like spoon-fed 6-month-olds, any kind of pap that is fed to us. I take that back; even a 6-month-old will spit out crap.

I like the linked piece for succinctly laying out what Prozac has been a precursor to as well as a proponent of: Big Pharma will make you all better, even if you don't rightly know what ails you.

Moore nicely weaves the fact with the wit. Prozac has been found in the British water system, so highly concentrated is it in the sewage. She quotes the governments talking heads, and adds her own snarky turn:
"The government's Drinking Water Inspectorate said the quantities were too diluted to have an effect (and poured themselves yet another glass, laughing maniacally through rolling eyeballs)."

Read it and think.

May 12, 2007

The Mechanism

While I've always had a deep and abiding passion for ancient history, I never had the marks to match the love. I found all things Greek and Roman fascinating, and spent more time being awed then actually memorizing the dates and the names of the armless statues.

But this, this is cool. In 1900, a sunken ship was discovered off the coast near Greece. Artifacts found on board indicated it had gone down during the first half of the first century A.D. With marble, bronze and coins among the stash, there was also a weird mystery imbedded in several pieces of corroded material. It took over a hundred years, and eventually a high tech X-ray machine, to finally understand what it was.

Referred to as the Mechanism, it is hauling into question everything we believed we knew about ancient inventors and scholars. Apparently, it is the first evidence of a complicated system predicated on the solar and lunar calendars. Scientifically precise metal gears were not thought to have been invented until 1400 years after the ship went down.

This is an excellent article. It traces how many discoveries were made because of the aesthetic value they added to lives - rather than as time-saving devices. It's a neat contrast to the way we live today, where the only things we value are those that can make us do something faster, or not at all. A discussion of ancient weaponry recognizes that the ancient Greeks valued bravery in the war arena, hence weapons of mass destruction were not sought. Good thing. They probably wouldn't have found any there, either.

I follow debates about how long we can now live, and how our standard of living has increased. And then I read a piece like this and realize how little our designer, spoiled, selfish lives really matter.

Constable Dean

Here's the piece in the Wheels section in today's Toronto Star.

May 10, 2007

Powershift & Linda Dean

Today's Powershift is a companion piece to a feature that will run in the Toronto Star on Saturday.

Dean races in the Thundercar Class at Flamborough, and the cover of the Wheels section will be a Mother's Day story that I've had a blast writing.

I'll link it here on Saturday; but pick one up for some great racing pics by Tory Zimmerman.

May 8, 2007

Motherlode @ The Toronto Star

Finally hauled 'er over the finish line.

Motherlode debuts in the Toronto Star on May 28.

I am flattered and excited, and will shut up now.

May 7, 2007

Safety on the 'Net

Kathy Sierra is a female blogger in the U.S. who ran a tech support site that, by everything I can find, was a great resource. She recently shut it down because of the vile, threatening posts that were made to her site, and to others about her.

I've steered around this because it's a hornet's nest. If you're going to put yourself out there, you take the shots. I believe this, and my skin has thickened a million times over these past three years. However.

The nature of the threats made to Sierra were evil. They were sexual, misogynistic, hateful and totally outside the arena of what her site is even about. She isn't some Amanda Marcotte engaging in good ol' male bashing (and, ergo, leaves the door open) or some Ann Coulter pretend-talking head who we can only wish would go away. No, her site was for and about computer software designers and users.

There are some who say she overreacted. Bull. In Slate today, there is finally a decent summation of this whole thing, which I believe has taken a few weeks to surface because its taken a few weeks for this to settle for all of us.

The fact that anonymous forums exist does not give carte blanche to every evil twisted sick psycho to post at will and remain above the law. And here's a head's up: if we can't differentiate your intent, we'll err on the side of safety.

I get a lot of mail (no, not computer crashing amounts, but mail) and for 99.9% of it, it's great. I let posters post in my blog, and I leave up the nasty bits. If they swear, I'll take it down, but I can take someone telling me I'm a crappy writer. I can take being called an idiot, or being told I'm ugly. It goes with the territory. For the .1% that is unacceptable, I go to the authorities. Count on it.

But if you deliver a spewing screed full of bile, it won't end here. No woman should have to tolerate or excuse being threatened, or having her family threatened. Kathy Sierra did what she had to; to anyone faulting her decision, I say receive even a fraction of what she did, and let me know how you'd react. I also believe anyone encouraging such behaviour under 'free speech' acts is full of it. The Internet is not your portal to finally be big and important. For some it seems it is their chance to display all their woman-hating, twisted thoughts.

Who the hell raised these men?

May 6, 2007

Shopping Carts and Shoes

Where I shop for groceries, you have to pay a quarter to spring a shopping cart free from captivity. We keep a quarter in the cupholder, and heaven help anyone who spends that quarter. To be running around the parking lot with dimes, nickels and pennies begging someone to sell you their cart is a time-consuming soul-sucking experience. That, and they look at your untidy offering of coinage with a sigh. Every time.

I don't think much about shopping carts, unless they're not working properly. Apparently Murray Whyte does, though. He has a piece in the Star today about their invention. They weren't invented until the late 1930's, which makes me wonder how people with a gazillion kids ever did their shopping.

Whyte writes about a photographer who has produced a book about abandoned/stolen carts. He actually classifies them according to theft, plow damage, home lots, foreign lots and other things. Sure. And I thought this other story on shoes hanging from overhead wires was odd, and interesting. Wait. It's by Whyte too. He's been looking at a lot of picture books this week.

Anyway, those shopping carts cost about 200 bucks each to replace. Some stores put an electronic fence around their lots so you can't take them. I'd like to seem them employ something similar to keep kids in the front little seat part, frankly. For some kids, including one of mine years ago, the only way to keep them from dangling over the edge like a pinata dressed in Old Navy toddler clothes was to rip open a bag of something to shut them up. And the check out clerks so calmly scan a half bag of fishy crackers, you know they do it all the time.

The guy that invented the shopping cart was the owner of Piggley Wiggley. I just like saying that.

But I have to admit, the person who made me truly look at shopping carts in a whole new light was Bubbles.

May 3, 2007

Oh, ferchristsakes....

Last year, my youngest son was mad at his older brother. Little brother sputtering mad, where nobody, NOBODY gets how mad he is. Stomp, stomp, stomp.

Big brother Marc takes off with his friends, leaving little brother Jackson to stew in his own juices and get over it.

Or not.

When Marc returned home a couple of hours later, there, for all the world to see (and more importantly, girls) was a pair of his boxer shorts flying from our flagpole.

I hadn't noticed the sneaky little bugger doing it, and I didn't know he even knew how to work the flagpole ropes. Never underestimate the power of a peeved little brother. I'm sure Marc got even, though I can't remember how. The teeter totter balance sheet of evil brotherhood is still flipping away madly as we speak.

There's an article in a Texas paper about a bunch of high schoolers who basically did the same thing. School prank. But they got busted for it. The school called in the cops.

Are we there yet? This was a senior prank (they also toilet papered the halls, moved a cabinet, put fish bait in a case, and broke a door). By the school's admission, there was little damage. The judge dismissed the case. Ya think? Haul the little buggers in there by their ears, call their parents, pay for the fixing, and ground 'em. Calling the cops? What are you going to do when someone brings a gun or a bomb to school? You know, a real problem?

Kids have adults so spooked now they are fully aware of who is running the show. Our laws are such that they can literally get away with murder, but get jail time for running their underwear up a flagpole.

Who's running the asylum?

May 2, 2007

Nerd Alert

You've been warned.

I love words, and everything they convey. I love the linguistics, the history, the quirkiness and endless ability that words give us. So it stands to reason that I also adore dictionaries, the ultimate word playgrounds.

There's a cool article today in Slate about a guy who wrote a dictionary while in prison. Street Talk took 8 years and is a compilation of urban slang written by inmate Randy Kearse. As a writer, I can actually see how fabulous, in a weird and warped way, it would be to have nothing to do but write. Someone would do dinner, drive the kids to school, top seed the lawn....okay, I'm a little off today. I have a project I'm trying to dig up time for every day, and it's making me jealous of someone in her head a shake.

But read the piece - it's fascinating for anyone who believes, or is even remotely intrigued by, the power of language. I read another book a few years back called The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester, which is about the beginning of the Oxford English Dictionary (yeah, in a post awhile back, I confessed that it's one of my life goals to own a copy of the OED - I live on the edge). It too is a tale of murder and madness and jail cells. Maybe it's something in the water...

I'm just thinking both of these are examples of how many pathways we have in our minds, and just how many discoveries are there for those who look inward for amusement rather than outward for entertainment. It's tough to advocate forced incarceration to make people use their brains, but I know in my house a PS2 sure isn't resulting in any world-changing wonders.

Anyway, I recommend the link, and the book as well.

May 1, 2007

Tony Almeida

Last week when TTC worker Tony Almeida was killed while on the job, I was reading stories of traffic snarls and irate commuters and practically trying to reach through my newspaper to throttle them all. A man had died, and all these people could do was bitch. The story was all about them.

Jim Coyle said it for me, and he said it well (as always).

The funeral was held yesterday, with hundreds of transit workers lining the streets to the church. They know only too well the dangers they face every day. This photo ripped my heart out. It's not the fallen man's family, though I'm not sure how a 5-year-old girl and an 9-year-old boy go forward from here without their dad, and my heart goes out to them too.

It's one of his co-workers, also hurt. No words can reveal this grief as deeply as this photo, snapped by Carlos Osorio. I have a lot of admiration for the great photographers that work in this business, because sometimes words are not only not enough, they're just not needed.