February 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Hewitt!!!

Goose and a Grave

My mother had superstitions. Because of that, so do I. She would knock on wood to ward off bad karma, even at that time in the 1970s when everything was made of plastic or pressboard and she would literally have to walk around to find some real wood.

To this day, if somebody sneezes, I say god bless you, or gesundheit if I am channeling my German side. I mean, I say this to complete strangers, who always look at me nervously at first, then decide I am somehow addled and smile at me like I'm a wee injured tot who just fell on my head from the crib.

Something I never knew until this week is that Italian men have a superstition of their own. When a funeral procession goes by, they grab their crotch. They do the same if the conversation they are having mentions disease or catastrophe. Because a man's first thought, apparently, goes here. Not a prayer for their family, or a wish for the injured, or a moment of silence for the deceased. No, it's all about the gonads.

Well, it used to be. An Italian high court has ruled they can't anymore, because it's "an act contrary to public decency, a concept including that nexus of socio-ethical behavioural rules requiring everyone to abstain from conduct potentially offensive to collectively-held feelings of decorum". Or, the short version: It's gross.

I'll admit to not paying a great deal of attention to this in a concerted way. Until I had sons. Then I noticed boys have a grand fascination for the Centre of Their Universe, but I figured it was my motherly duty to remind them to play pat the bunny when they got home, not in No Frills.

The grown up version of little boys don't do this in polite company, until they reach the farting and burping stage of a relationship, by which point the woman is scarcely looking at them anymore anyway. That selective vision kicks in, which is holding hands with selective hearing. But I can't imagine being in a bar or restaurant or sporting event, and watching a bunch of men grab themselves if someone mentions a death or an earthquake.

The guy that tipped the whole ruling forward was a workman who was busted for touching himself 'ostentatiously', which I figure is a euphamism for 'rigorously' on a jobsite.

Maybe he thought he was just knocking on wood.

February 27, 2008


I know that's not all one word, but right now it is. My girlfriend hauls me to a workout class on Wednesday nights (when she can - I am brilliant at inventing excuses), and tonight she got me. I am a klutz. I have zero coordination. So, I stand around and make jokes, hoping nobody will notice that I'm just standing around.

I'm always glad I went, even though I'm rarely glad to go. I have bits and pieces I forgot existed, and it makes me want to get back to my boxing buddies at All Canadian Fitness. I mean, they hurt more, but I love the punching part. Something to consider.

I've been a remiss blogger, but it's tax time. I'm off in the morning to get that sorted - I figure, I'm already in pain, might as well do it all at once. I have a surefire way to get my poop together. I call and make an appointment with my accountant, then I have to be ready by then. For a week or two before, nobody can eat at the dining room table - it's covered with the rubble that keeps this place running all year.

Back in stride tomorrow...promise.

February 26, 2008

Live @5:30 Tuesday

Tune into CHCH TV at 5:30 (repeat at 11:30) for a rollicking roundup of several issues in the news - helmets for tobogganing? no advertising to kids?

Ah, let's just wrap them all in bubble wrap and stuff them in the closet until they're 20...

February 24, 2008

CTS Behind The Story

At 7:00pm tonight, join Behind The Story with host Richard Landau for a round table discussion of current news events. Yes, I am part of that table....

Check your local listings. I always wanted to say that.

February 23, 2008

Where Volvos are Born

Features are in for the Volvo Adventure...check Powershift for the personal side, but here's the link for what was a very cool trip. And no, the only Swedish meatball was me...

February 21, 2008

Why The Rich Are Different From You and Me

I wasn't going to blunder into the stolen dog story in Toronto, but it's getting stupid. The inevitable volley of letters have begun to the editors of the papers, first asking how someone could get so upset over a dog (it's not a kid, after all) and then the lob back (for some of us, our pets are our kids, so shut up).

As a fairly uninterested bystander, I read a guy had his dog stolen. He loved his dog. I'm sure his dog loved him. I also know from experience that dogs can quickly develop a deep and loving passion for anyone who feeds them and lets them sleep on the bed (as can cats and most furry creatures), but I too tell myself that my cats' lives are fabulous only because I am their owner. I too am nutty enough to imbue my cats with human qualities, something I am hesitant to acknowledge even in my children.

So, Huckleberry was taken. Huckleberry's daddy, who by all accounts is rich, and Huckleberry's grandfather, who is even richer, somehow manage to get the cops out looking for a dog. Babies are lying in snowbanks, but a dog merits cops. Whatever. This is the first way the Rich are Different From You and Me.

Because Huckleberry's daddy hasn't seen the right movies, he instantly offers 15K to get the dog back. You don't do it that way; you wait for the ransom note. Even I know this. I mean, if it was my kid, I might go on TV and intimate that I could lay my hands on some cash (I can't; don't bother), but I sure wouldn't start the bidding. This is another way The Rich are Different From You and Me. I know damned well that if someone had my older lad, they'd figure out how much he costs to feed, and I reckon I could get him back for a hundred bucks and a bag of Peak Freans.

Anyway, this silly story is all over the news. I fully expected to see a Huck Alert as I drove down the highway. And I'll say it now, to save my Comments section an onslaught: I love my pets. I spend too much on vet bills and food, they run the house, and I can't imagine my life without them. But, no, pets are not children. And even anonymous children take precedence over my own pets. Our police should be protecting children, not hunting for dognappers.

Of course, all has ended well. Huckleberry is home, and the cops have even busted the people who so conveniently 'found' him after being woken up by 15K fanning their faces. Charges have been laid to prevent copydog crimes, which is a good thing.

The dognappers' family are all pissy, and told the press 'it's nobody's business'. Funny. They should have thought of that before they heroically, and rather stupidly, grabbed for the reward money. They will be hounded, you can bet on it. I did like the request they made to give 5K to the animal shelter. There is apparently honour among thieves, though I'm interested to know if the shelter ever received the money.

Ransom returned, Bert Clark and Huckleberry (Finn, or Hound, I wonder?) have drifted off into the mist, having used the press for what they wanted and now able to buy themselves some privacy, no doubt. Yet another way the Rich are Different From You and Me.

This Pause Brought to You By...

It seems a New York subway worker in the marketing and information department is responsible for the phrasing of a sign, and at the same time reminding me that I have a dorky kind of love for strange things.

Neil Neches inserted a semi colon in a public service sign. I love this. Apparently, Americans are not so enamoured of semi colons as the more staunchly British-based Canadians. We fling them about with abandon; Americans simply abandon them as ridiculous speedbumps in their narrative.

I don't mind a certain amount of short, stocky sentences, but they soon become punches that after awhile fail to deliver. Too many writers invest in a single form, or style, and after not-too-long, it just gets boring. Some sound like some silly 40's detective novel, shooting out sentences like bullets from a .44. I don't even know what a .44 is, but I figure it'll work for this. It worked for Earnest, because it didn't sound like he was scowling the whole time he wrote. Drunk maybe, but not scowling.

Semi colons are kind of grace notes, those black keys on the piano. They extend a hand over an idea, like a small suspension bridge. I like that idea. I have the time for that idea. I have my foibles as a writer, and each night I say a little thank you to the editors who save me from myself. There is even someone who has the codes to go into this blog and tidy it up - she swears she leaves the words alone and just dusts up my apostrophes - but I have a little parcel of words I always always always hestitate over, and have forever. I can't spell (I'm going to leave them in wrong, for your viewing pleasure) 'seperate', 'reccommendation', 'accommoddation', 'niave', 'ryhththym', 'wear/where' (apparently, I was recently told), and the all- time award winning gaff, 'breaks'. I write for the auto section, and I swear, every time I use the word 'brakes', I put in 'breaks'. One time it got by three auto editors. I of course blamed them.

But this is about semi colons, not a numb-brained writer. Thanks to Neil for the tiny pause in a busy sign. We have a very cool language. We should use more of it, though the very suggestion of that would just make my sons LOL.


February 18, 2008

Move Me

I tend to do all my movie watching during a couple of rainy weekends a year, and this has been one of them. 3:10 to Yuma is one I'd been waiting to see. Love, love, love it. Though I'm not usually a big Russell Crowe fan, he and Christian Bale anchor an amazing cast. Based on an Elmore Leonard short, the whole thing reeks of testosterone and good guys and bad guys (and some that can't make up their minds), but it's great. At one point I called it 3:10 to Yummy, but got a nasty look.

Also saw Eastern Promises (Viggo Mortensen - can you tell I'm the one who went to the video store?), and while I'm glad that Cronenberg has made a film vastly better than A History of Violence (which featured the worst dialogue I've heard in a while), it was still missing...something. Viggo was stellar, of course. And he looks amazing in a rather smart suit throughout. In fact, he only removes it in a bathhouse scene to romp around in his tattoos. I did love the international cast - an air of authenticity that brings some nice texture to a rather standard tale.

Anything Don Cheadle shows up in is better for having him in it (Talk To Me was fab, and Hotel Rwanda still haunts this household) - and Reign Over Me is no exception. I still can't get my head around Adam Sandler not being an arsehole. I'm not sure how many stupid movies you are allowed to make before you lose your invitation to the Serious Boys Club. Maybe he should ask Jim Carrey. Not that he knows.

Can't remember what's on the slate today, but I want to go get the Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford with Brad Pitt. I'm not a huge Pitt fan (I mean, I can stand it....)but, I'm just in a western kind of mood. Maybe I'll just grab a handful of Lonesome Dove and head home.

February 17, 2008

Batting at Low Hanging Fruit

Oh, how I hate this. Politicians whacking away at issues that are total gimmes. Here in Halton, we now have John Tory and Joyce Savoline steadfastly asserting that removing due dates is a terrible thing in our schools. Well, duh. Your own party has been complicit in it...it's been gestating for a decade. So, shut up. I'm so sick of our kids' education becoming a political soapbox for politicians gamely grasping for a vine that's not there, or one that finds one in her hand and for the life of her can't remember what she did to earn it.

Where are all the mavericks? Where are people that set the schedule, rather than chase after a bus that pulled out long ago? Where is someone with the balls to stand up and say that party politics is ruining us? Just once, I would like to see someone stand up in Queen's Park, look across the aisle, and say "you know, that's not a bad idea". Instead, we're stuck with voting between Dumb and Dumber, and knowing we will instead be treated to an eternal loop of "I know you are, but what am I?". Sigh.

Our schools are being trashed. Your children are not learning enough, and they're not learning it well. A report just last week from Ontario Colleges announced that math students are failing at a rate of over 30% - kids that came from high school with sturdy grades. Colleges are now scrambling to supply bridge courses to make up the ground. I think that's very generous of the colleges. I would be turning with the fury of a thousand dragons to the Secondary School Boards - all of them - and demanding to know why they are graduating seniors that know nothing.

Education Minister Kathleen Wynne has expressed her profound belief that this is about graduating as many students as possible, because after all, that is the education system's goal. That might be a noble sentiment, if it weren't mired in a grand game of Cover Your Ass. Where we used to speak of raising the bar to compete in a global economy, it seems we are now just playing a game of cruise ship Limbo - how low can you go?

See, there is a precious thing called a funding formula that schools must use. It's a process that hands over money based on how many bums are in the seats. Bums in Seats - let's call it BS for short. So, administrations and school boards want to make it appear there are bums in seats to get money. And to do so, they are busily erasing boundaries and playing three card Monte with the rules. Not actually in the seat? Don't worry - the teacher will customize a package of work just for you to make up for those 53 absences. Hour late to an exam? Not to worry, the teacher will let you start late, and stay until you've had the full time.

Never actually done the work? Not a problem. You now have the entire term to get to it, and with a little luck, you've befriended a kid who did do it and you can now plagiarize their stuff and hand in your own, whenever you feel like it. And your teacher doesn't mind waiting until the last minute to mark whatever you decide to hand in - the Goverment says so.

But let's ask ourselves the really important question here: What's the point? What's the value of a diploma that, as the colleges are pointing out, is comprised of totally bogus standards? It reminds me of the first game you come to on the midway. I remember as a kid, for a dime, you got to fish for a prize, and everyone won. You got this little gnome doll thing, creepy actually, but a prize nonetheless.

As you got further down the midway, you soon realized that your prize was no prize - the mud around the exit gate would be littered with trashed little gnomes - and that if you wanted to test your abilities you had to have considerably more skill than a magnet conveniently tied to the end of a string.

Ah, but not in Halton, and from my mail, across most of Canada. No, here, everyone wins.

February 14, 2008

Sappy Valentine's Day

I just came in from Shopper's, where there were actually two guys at the checkout buying Valentine's cards. One was opting for the 'size matters' selection, while the other was trying not to let something sparkly rub off on his hands.

Ah, I shouldn't be such an ogre. I did my share of hounding deer-in-the-headlights lads when I was a teenager. I remember once baking a chocolate cake (!) in a heart-shaped pan for some poor guy, and piping the words 'I Love You' in florid pink script onto it. I dunno where that pan came from; my mother was the baker, not I. But I do know I never saw it again, leading me to believe she'd had enough of teenage girls declaring those kind of sentiments on baked goods.

I remember in high school they had this cruel, cruel practice of allowing people to send roses to each other, and they'd be delivered during your homeroom. Of course, we nerd girls would sit there watching Cheerleader and Easygirl be presented with their posies, and we finally figured out to start sending them to ourselves, or each other, anonymously. And you wonder why high school leaves scars.

I actually get to spend the day with my Valentine; I alternately call him Poor Sod, or Brad, or a collection of other things that aren't his real name either. He's home sick. At first, I thought he was making me intricate flowers (he's an artist in one of his incarnations), until I realized those rosettes were just tissues that had missed the garbage. Don't get all cranky - I will make him soup and pet his head and take care of him. I used to buy Marc and Jackson Valentine's stuff when they were little, probably just following my mother's practice. Nothing big, just a little reminder. They are both daily put in a headlock by me and told I love them, but it never hurts to say it again.

All this Hallmark Valentine's crapathon sucks some of the life out of the idea; it's not even based on anything real. I remember in university sitting in a lit course, studying (or trying to study) Chaucer. The prof was having the damndest time making us understand that Chaucer was a rude old bugger, and everything - everything - was based on sex. With that secret decoder ring finally on, we dove in and realized it wasn't our generation after all that had discovered sex. Once again, some guy finding a reason to get a little. If he'd been smart, he would have declared a single day a year off limits to sex, rather than a single one that came with a guarantee.

There will be no heart-shaped cakes around here today - thankfully. The harsh days of high school are done, we don't do flowers because Maggie the cat eats them and gets a sore tummy. Instead of all the usual commotion, here's a thought: If you love someone, just tell them.

Just like that. No charge.

February 13, 2008

Toronto Auto Show

Just got in from the show, been posting blog entries directly to the Toronto Star site. Here ya go...

February 11, 2008

Marry Him? Why?

Settling. The word has such blah connotations. When the kids eat all the junk food, I settle for an apple. When you build a new house and it starts to settle, all the cracks show up. As we age, our weight seems to redistribute, because it's....settling.

I wasn't going to give this crackpot story any airplay, but it's peeved me. I like The Atlantic, a great magazine for fiction and some insightful pieces. But, man, when they let loose with their version of women's issues, it makes me nuts. If it's not Caitlin Flanagan nattering at women to stay home with their kids while she writes books and lets nannies raise her kids (judge much?) then it's this whackjob Lori Gottleib telling women to just marry. Marry anyone, just do it, because she knows we are all desperate to be wed, and we are just too picky. Good enough is good enough.

Cripes. Where does she think all the divorces have been coming from? Why the heck does anyone have to be married, especially if they don't feel like it? Why isn't single okay? I get tired of women telling me what I want, and pretending to speak for all women. You want to get married? Fine. Shut up and do it. Your ovaries are screaming at you to reproduce as they keep time with the ticking of your biological clock? Have a kid. I don't care. But quit telling other women what they want or need. If someone chooses not to have kids, that's fine. Better to know you don't want them, then to have them at everyone else's behest and be stuck.

The whole marriage thing? Whatever. I wouldn't even settle on a couch that was the wrong colour. Why would you ever instruct a woman to marry someone, anyone, just to be married?

Gottlieb actually - actually - starts talking about TV characters. Really. Ross and Rachael are real, doncha know. Oh, and Will and Grace. Is this woman for real? It brought to mind Dan Quayle getting all pissy about Murphy Brown.

The day we get a script is the day we all get it right. Until then, stop giving readers a supposed 'sneak peak' into every woman's brain - cuz honey, you're playing to an empty room.

February 8, 2008

Of Lapplanders and Laundry

I'm back. Internet was splotchy, and I couldn't blog. Actually, it was my brain that kept disconnecting, but it's easier to blame Swedish/Norwegian/Danish technology.

Had an awesome time traipsing around the top of the world in two very cool Volvos, eating odd things, wearing clothing that usually makes me laugh at other people, and saying things like 'hey, there's another reindeer!' and 'please, not fish again'.

It was truly an amazing place. We were throwing cars around a frozen lake, taking road trips around fjords, and generally having a blast. Thank you, Volvo.

Everyone back home survived, though I came home to Marc limping ('I twisted my ankle taking laundry downstairs' - sure). I was greeted with hugs and laundry, as always, and one cat loving me and one not quite sure who I was.

My Monday column filled up my inbox like crazy. Stupid new educational legislation created by the Education Minister and handed down by the Halton Board (meaning, in my mind, not stopped by the Board, frankly), has people hopping mad. I heard from dozens of parents, teachers, former teachers and even students. I had one letter disagreeing with me, and everything else was as angry as my original piece. No due dates? No deadlines? Are they kidding? Oh, and 'they're doing it everywhere'? You know what? Our entire education system is a total mess. The fact the crap has all settled at the same level everywhere hardly inspires confidence.

Enough bitching. I have deadlines to meet and laundry to do.

I'll check in later...