December 31, 2008


10, 9, 8...

I don't do New Year's Resolutions, mostly because I'm smart enough to realize I'm too old to change much, and too stupid to remember there is always room for improvement.

We all want to be more something, but I figure you don't need a new calendar year to start making changes. Like many people, I thrash around this time of year looking for hints of what may come, and trying to play down the negative impact of things that have passed. Everyone knows it's a slow, slow news time of year - if I see one more Top Ten List, I may just barf.

I'm watching many friends tussle with many changes - job changes, family changes, internal struggles and personal upheavals. I've wandered over several 'year-to-come' horoscope things (told you it was a slow time of year), and I'm getting a little busted up to keep reading the same thing, over and over, for me: I am apparently going to be more vulnerable. Like most of you, I believe a horoscope if it says something I like. I'm not sure if this is good or bad, so I'll let you know if I finish out 2009 in a puddle of tears.

Frankly, unless I start bleeding out of my pores, I'm not sure how much more vulnerable I can become. Nor am I certain I could bear it. I already wear my heart on my sleeve, and I'm spending most of my time trying to jam it back in my chest.

I worry from one end of the spectrum to the other. A friend is navigating a first holiday season after the death of a spouse, a reader is waiting to drop the divorce bomb because, well, January just seems like it might be easier. It isn't. Another friend's young daughter is battling cancer - there are no words.

In the middle, the economy is rumbling beneath all our feet, and I wonder about discussions in too many households when the Christmas bills start arriving. We've had it easy for too long, in too many respects. Every chit eventually gets called in.

At the stupid end, I have a reader busting my chops because I call my boyfriend The Poor Sod. Once and for all, I get that some of you don't like the appellation. Once and for all, it's gonna stay. It is not an insult; it is not derogatory; maybe your upbringing has instilled a different use of the term in you, but grow a sense of humour and get over it - or, here's a thought - if my work offends you so much, skip it. It's quite easy, really. There are writers I don't like. If they have habits that bug me, and their work offers no redeeming value, I don't read. If they have quirks I don't share, but I find something in there anyway, I accept that I don't get to be The Decider for language usage and world interpretation.

I have readers who are sick; I have readers whose families are falling apart; I have readers who have lost their jobs, and these are issues that matter. These are things I care about, and these are things I will bother worrying about. If your moanings and groanings are of inconsequential things, count yourself lucky and move along.

Nope, I'm not worrying about diets and sit-ups and quitting or starting things that may curtail or prolong my life. The best laid plans, and all that, rarely matter in the greater scheme of things. I'll try to create opportunities in matters of business, and recognize them in matters of the heart. My kids laugh at me because I tell friends I love them - often. I hang up the phone, and they ask 'who are you loving now?'. But, they're good words to feel, freeing to say, and better to hear. Don't ration them. You have the power to give someone wings.

My mom used to tell me that you get back twice what you give out. I of course wondered why we couldn't just run around handing out twenty dollar bills and wait for the windfall to find us, and she would just smile. But she was right; a nominal kindness one day is repaid when you expect it the least, and need it the most. A generosity of spirit has nothing to do with money - we can all be rich.

December 26, 2008


Detroit

I've just made reservations for the Detroit Auto Show - and yeah, I pay my own way, for anyone keeping score.

I'll admit to a curiosity factor - Rolls-Royce, Land Rover and many others have pulled out, and L.A. had many darkened booths. Porsche has pulled from Toronto - good thing I'm great at funerals.

But this link isn't about that so much, though it begins with the Detroit of the car era. From The Weekly Standard, it's a riveting piece about Detroit the city. It'll take you half an hour to read - but do it. It's terrific.

The statistics it opens with are alarming, and devastating. It's like reading about some apocalyptic future world, rather than a city just a few hours away. I have a good friend who lives just outside of Detroit, in one of the noted 'rich suburbs'. Yeah, a rich suburb where every house if for sale, and none of them are moving.

When we're at the Auto Show, there is a shuttle that takes us across the border back to Windsor each night. Last shuttle is 8pm, and if you're not on it, you are Stuck In Detroit For The Night. Which you are emphatically told you do not want to be. There is the biggest party in the world going on (though I'm thinkin' this year GM will be scaling that baby back...), and everyone runs like Cinderella at ten to 8.

Gazing down from the Cobo Centre, I wondered what it was we were really running from. This article is it. Detroit, from the ground up, from the heart up. Fascinating piece, very well written.

December 24, 2008


Live@5:30 Wednesday

Well, you can't get more festive than talking about kindergarten sex-ed...at least I wore red...

Tune into CHCH 11 at 5:30, repeat at 11:30.

December 21, 2008


Zen and Now

Okay. There's an unwritten rule (come to think of it, it's probably a written one, somewhere, as well) that plugging a book your boss wrote would be unseemly. It would promote much eye-rolling and snickering, if not out-and-out having knee pads pelted at you by fellow writers.

The thing is, I really like Mark Richardson's book Zen and Now. And it defies a genre, which most of my favourite books seem to, so it's important to make sure a broad cross-section of you cross its path.

Who has a copy of The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig on their shelves? Who's read it? Who's tried to? Who's given up once? Twice? Who's returned to it, finally gotten through it, and finally understood it? It's one of those books that has a point, but your personal planets have to align before you can get it. If you even want to. Pirsig was a whackadoodle, frankly, and while fellow whackadoodles might enjoy playing in that sandbox, for others, it can take some heavy lifting to get the point.

It took Richardson a few stabs at it, as he reveals in his own tome. But basically, it's this: Prisig plopped his young son on a motorcycle and made his way across most of the northern States and down into California. Kind of a road trip philosophy lesson, with a whackadoodle driving. His book has remained a classic.

Richardson followed the route on his own bike. Many others have done the route, but Richardson actually found the same people Pirsig stayed with and spoke to. But if this were the whole book, it would just be a road trip feature for the Wheels section.

Instead, this book is for anyone who has been 40, or plans to be. It's for anyone who believes some alone time - fierce alone time - will clear out the demons. It's for anyone who has had the urge to click off the miles and actually feel the wind and the pavement, and focus only on the task at hand. Zen and Now, Richardson's book, isn't really about motorcycles and road trips, though that is the template. No, it's what dangles from that template that makes it worth the read. Not only can you not leave much behind, you can't help but accumulating more as you go. It's like throwing off all your worldly possessions and worries, and finding out they're all boomerangs.

It's an honest piece; men will see themselves, women will learn something about men, and while it may not make you want to learn to ride a motorcycle, it'll make you feel like you did.

Check out his site here. Any gaps under the tree, fill it with this.

December 20, 2008


Christmas Wheels

For anyone interested, click here to find this year's piece from the Wheels cover. Print edition has a nice photo/illustration by Raffi...

It's kind of a companion piece to last year's about Dad and the tree, in the Christmas tab at the left. Only this one stars Mom.

December 19, 2008


2008 in Pictures

I may trade in words, but here's a set of photos from the year past that will take your breath away. More than a few of them left me in tears. Absolutely amazing pics.

Click here
, from the Boston Globe.

December 17, 2008


Garrison Keillor

Warm smile for a cold day. Click here.


103

I know the headlines are all horrendous these days. Our houses (if we have them) are worth less, our jobs are shifting like sand under our feet, our savings are rolling off the table like spilled milk, and we have a Prime Minister who inspires nothing but dread. As we once looked to the U.S. leader with fear of what he might do next, we now look to their incoming leader for some hope and change we know we won't find here.

But, as Christie Blatchford points out so poignantly today, there are more important things. We have dead kids coming home and they're being ignored by television. They should be carrying a live feed. I read the other day that of the over 4800 troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan from the U.S., we rarely see the flag-draped coffins arriving down the ramps of planes. To pay a tiny shred of respect to the dead. That's because ol' W has done his best to keep the truth under wraps, though Freedom of Information Act attacks finally forced him to reverse his stand. Why stir up emotion by having people actually see what's going on? What's the value in getting all sloppy and emotional during a time of war? Now, with the sheer number of dead, he's getting his wish, in a way. They'd practically have to run a loop of these sad images around the clock to keep up. And of course, that would be too boring.

Canada, under no such directive, is still effectively doing the same thing. I agree with Blatch - TV stations should be paying respect to these returning soldiers. Cut into the soaps or inane newscasts and show people what's going on. Remind people of the sacrifice going on in our name, and show the loss suffered by those families now setting one less place at the table.

Show us the 4-year-old girl whose Daddy won't be taking her skating on Christmas, as planned.

In a time when we are all losing, remind us that some are losing the most.

December 16, 2008


All I Want For Christmas

We are having the same old conversation around here, yet again. As festive as the Christmas tree (which still isn't up - I've had a migraine for 7 straight days), every year the Poor Sod and I say it: "Don't get me anything". This year, I mean it. I'm not much for gifts anyway, but we just had a new garage door put on and I'm still basking in the loveliness of something that doesn't bash me in the head every time I open it.

The old one was as old as the house, which is circa 1958 or so. It was dented and bent, it didn't lock anymore, and the only ones who could open it easily were apparently the raccoons who came in to dine every night. We replaced it with an insulated, lovely slab of metal that is making me entirely too happy. Middle age has officially arrived.

We were shopping for the kids the other night, and the Poor Sod kept launching stuff into the basket - for himself. His 'no gift' rule is stopping at tags with my name on them, it seems. We don't gorge on gifts at Christmas any year; this year, we're scaling back even more in deference to a tanking economy and that aforementioned door. Here's a link to a funny piece in the Timesonline by Caitlin Moran. She nails it for what not to buy.

There's an ad on TV right now featuring a couple who made the useless don't-buy-me-anything deal. He's bought her a singing Christmas tree. She's mortified. He's just so pleased. It is so spot on. We were laughing at it, and then the Poor Sod asked me if I remembered the singing fish that was popular years ago. "That was funny," he said to me. "No, it was not," I replied. Never the twain.

The same woman showed up in another Christmas ad a few minutes later. With a different husband. See? You only get away with one singing Christmas tree.

December 13, 2008


Party Like It's 1999...

Oh, to Christmas-Staff-Party, or not to Christmas-Staff-Party...what do you do?

I was pondering this the other day. Not on a personal level - when you freelance, a staff Christmas party means you drape a tinsel boa on one cat, and let the other one share your tuna sandwich. But I've wondered about the optics for real companies, and have been watching some cut the party (would seem kind of evil to cut staff, but not the party), while others carry on. A piece from the Star considers the impact of both options.

As a kid, we had the huge Dofasco Christmas party, which is pretty much world famous. Well, it was in our world. We'd drive to some far, far away parking lot in Hamilton, wait to get on a shuttle buzz, feet half frozen, then be deposited at the doors of a cavernous warehouse filled - I mean, literally filled - with huge toy booths, clowns, people, candy-cane wielding elves, music and craziness. My father hated it. Not much for parties, that guy, and less for noise and craziness. But we loved it.

The company used to deliver to the house a box containing tins and jars of neat food and treats first, and at the actual party, each kid would be clutching a coupon to get a gift. You'd go up to your booth, hold out your 'Girl - Age 8' and select what you wanted.

And they had good stuff. Expensive stuff. And my mother would implore us not to pick something huge that would have to lugged back on the shuttle. Of course, one year I chose a stuffed toy that was bigger than I was.

My father worked there for 40 years. He was a bricklayer, and Dofasco was a gold ring. The company had profit sharing, a term I understood from the time I was about 7. Employees had stock. They mattered. I used to read the employee newsletter avidly every month - I liked the suggestion box feature where they paid, I think, 50 bucks for the best suggestion. And they actually implemented them, either to save money or improve safety.

Of course, you hear little about anything close to this now. My dad literally got a gold watch - there are no gold watch jobs now. I can't even fathom how a Christmas party of those long-ago dimensions would fly nowadays. When I had my own company, we'd take staff, spouses and friends out for a nice dinner. We were small; it was doable.

WebGod Jeff and I kid that we have our own staff party - sometime over the holidays, we try to get out for a beer. He too works on his own, so we provide each other's staff party.

There's tons of articles floating about now telling you what to wear, and definitely what not to wear, if you have a party to attend. They tell you how much (not) to drink, and to treat the thing as a business meeting regardless of how festive it may appear.

The Wheels department is a bunch of freelancers, and we're lucky that some of the writers are kind enough to pony up a Christmas party. Tonight, Nika is opening the doors of her rather posh home to this grotty crew - I'm deciding the official protocols don't apply - we've all seen each other at our idiotic worst (some would say that's our best, too), so it'll be fun.

But I can't imagine it's a good year for most celebrating - a story out of Vancouver kind of drives that home. A man, recently let go, returned to his former employer's Christmas party and opened fire, killing one. And they were only having chips and dip, apparently.

Have a party, don't have a party - seems there's no right way this year. But in this time of drastic cuts and desperate measures, it's the human part of all of us that is suffering. It's not an option to be defined by your paycheque if you don't have one; it's also worth remembering that no paycheque doesn't equal less person, either.

The wolf isn't just at the door anymore; in many cases, he's in the damned house. Spare a thought and share what you have when you can. It's that human element that can rise above all of this, and remind us that Christmas doesn't start in a mall.

December 11, 2008


Toronto Motorcycle Show - Friday

Ladies are free! That is, they get in free on Ladies Night, Friday December 12th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

I'll be around the Humber College booth by about 7, stop by and say hi, meet some of the great instructors who did the best they could.....

December 10, 2008


The Michael Coren Show

Tune into CTS at 8pm for the Coren Show...see if this lefty can hold her own.

December 8, 2008


One For You, Ten For Me

I believe it is always best to start the week off with a laugh. Here's one for today. And put your coffee down - it's really, really good.

Okay, for those of you too lazy to follow the link, the head cheese from Merrill Lynch & Co - you know the first biggee to announce the big oops at the front door of this banking meltdown in the U.S. - has requested of his board that he get a bonus for the year in the neighbourhood of 10 million. Dollars. Seriously.

Dunno about you, but I think ol' Obama might want to keep on thinking about those bailouts for the rest of the Nimrod Squad if this is the level of 'ooooooooh, now I get it!' that they all have. Seriously. If your head is so firmly up your butt that your company can lose over 11 Billion bucks - on your watch - and you still want your gold star, if you are so desperate for coin that you have to appear before all the hobgoblins in Washington hat in hand - but you fly there in a private jet - if this is what you are doing, you have no clue what the real problem is.

I've heard it remarked upon that even though the banking industry in the U.S. has seen rather large money funneled in to shore it up, it isn't getting through to the average shmoes who are trying to hold onto their houses and businesses. Instead, that area's becoming tighter than the knot in a preschooler's shoelace.

The Exalted will start doling it out just as soon as they all decide what their year-end bonuses will be.

If there's anything left.

December 4, 2008


"Sad Sex"

Need to laugh? Read this. I'm sure they wouldn't let Motherlode publish anything like this....but you better believe my Mom would have been a rich vein of material if they would.

From Salon...

December 3, 2008


Vote Early, Vote Often...

Haven't posted yet on the Ottawa Follies...but for those chomping at the bit, go here and play...bring your friends.

December 1, 2008


Kids Today...

...we take away all the fun.

Check out this list from Radar of the Most Dangerous Toys. Ever. The writing is hilarious.

I think we had all of them. I sure remember lawn darts, and the Creepy Crawlers that you made over an open element. We used to make them with the kids next door. My mom wouldn't buy us that stuff, but Mrs. E. next door would, so we'd just go there. Parents are so dumb, sometimes...

I don't remember the Cabbage Patch dolls that chewed fingers off, but I worked retail during the first Cabbage Patch Nuttiness. I think the parents in that store were far more dangerous than anything on this list.

One of the best has to be the Atomic Energy Lab, from 1951. Seriously. Does this not explain some of the Why Johnny Can't Read problems? Or at least, Why Does Johnny Glow In The Dark?

And, secretly? I would still like the Bat Masterson Derringer Gun Belt. Check your old toy boxes - I'll pay.