August 30, 2009


Who Needs Learnin' When We Have the Internet?

How we read, what we read, how our kids are learning to read...or not.

As a parent, I struggle with the way my kids are being educated. I'm watching standards fall faster than a broken elevator, material being dumbed down at record speed, and the requirements made of my sons pretty much dissolve.

Why, could someone please explain to me, when access to information has never been better, are we requiring less and less of people? And the problem is not just at schooling levels: people in general are glomming onto the stupidest crap around, and spouting 'wisdom' with an authority they have absolutely no right to?

I have a son who reads; I have son who will fake a head injury to get out of reading. They were raised the same way. I read to both, constantly. We are surrounded by books, magazines, papers, everything. And the results are what you would expect. The reader can toss of an essay that is usually longer than required, and the non-reader sits here sweating the night before.

Schools are trying to adapt, as seen in this article from the NYT. Giving students a choice of what they read, rather than assigning a core book and teaching, in class, the structure, theme, and importance of the text, with it's social implications and historical importance. I've noticed a push in this direction around here, a little. My sons have had some small choices in the past few years, which they both make the way you think they would: The Reader goes with a book he thinks looks interesting; The Non-Reader chooses the book with the fewest pages and the largest print.

I like the idea of choice. There are genres I despise (leave me alone all you Sci-Fi and Fantasy freaks), but here's the thing: I know I don't like them, because I've studied them. And looking back, some of the stuff in there is amongst the best work I've read. What student is ever going to choose the complicated work or Shakespeare or Melville unless it's assigned? And there is too much literature that forms the structure and backbone of all the work that's written today. History, history, history. The English language, and its development, is one of the awesome revelations of our time.

Some teachers are smart, and teach the arc of classic stories. They show their students that Ovid's Pyramus and Thisbe is a precursor of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, which became West Side Story. Heck, many of the kids in those desks are living out their own star-crossed love lives.

I get that teaching something miles above a student's head is pointless; but I'm saddened that instead of bringing the student up, we haul the material down. I like if they can choose from a range of books, and have designated classroom time for reading. But we are doing our children a huge disservice by letting them believe that literature is something they can grab at a drive-thru. There is a reason some things are hard to learn - it's because you don't know it yet.

In my lazy middle age, I might be inclined to let things slide and have my Non-Reader read Captain Underpants as a Main Selection. But that inclination goes away rapidly when I see the level of education in adults. Some sites I read have a pretty decent level of interaction, with some smart, informed people. And then all of a sudden, the idiots pile in. And I've noticed that the fools are increasingly people who have higher education. But they do not know how to read, research and discern amongst the tsunami of information literally available at their fingertips.

Witness the current debate among Americans on health care. Witness people comparing Obama to Hitler. It's astounding. Witness how many people thought Sarah Palin was good enough to speak for them. Witness how easily you can rile up a sector of people with lies, misdirection and FOX News. Witness the Witless.

I do not care what side of the political divide you park yourself on. I am peeved the government in my area that I didn't vote for gutted our schools economically; but I'm just as angry that the current government that I did vote for has gutted them educationally, in a chase for ridiculous standardized scores that reflect little.

But learning to discern substance from garbage begins in our schools. And if our schools allow for too much self-selection as a bromide to 'make them read anything', we will have the generations who believe Danielle Steele writes classics, and Rush Limbaugh is a statesman.

The internet has the ability to make us open-minded and worldly; instead, it seems to be making us stupid, and worse yet, smug and secure in that stupidity. I would say I weep for the future, but the future is already here.

August 29, 2009


If You Weren't Already Pausing Before Hitting 'Send'...

I meant to link this earlier, but the Star picked it up today and I was reminded.

It's about what your work computer reveals about you. None of it should be news, but most of it will be to many people I know.

A new company, Cataphora, has developed a program to help employers investigate lots of interesting things about their employees. Like how productive they are, who really does the most work, who works the most efficiently, and who spends all day long LOLing Lyle in accounting.

Rather than traditional routes of simply copying and reading through vast amounts of email crap, this program instead tags for certain probabilities, all based on math. Some of them are highly interesting, to the secret spies among us: it can track someone who uses CAPS all the time, denoting high emotion. Or, as I call it, being a stupid arse. It can track when an email ends with 'call me instead'..., or even changes languages.

It has the obvious key points - is someone working on their resume? I know a top recruiter, and she is continually amazed at how many clients figure they can work in their current position while openly trolling for their next one. She has to explicitly tell them to shut down ALL (I am demonstrating importance here, not arseholeness) contact with her or even references until they are at home, and off company networks.

The cool thing? It can also track how often bigwigs pass off working by slapping "what do you think of this?" and shooting work from their inbox back into someone else's lap.

It also does something that would probably save many companies the most money: it can detect the initial employee reviews, before they're all softened up and toned down so that nobody cries. You know, the truth.

So riddle me this: why is it I can never, ever locate something, say a column an hour before deadline, that I may have accidentally deleted? Through a flood of tears, I can sit here shaking my computer upside down, run more searches than the Gestapo and still not find it? Why is my delete button so good, and my autosave function as temperamental as any Chrysler from the 70s in the rain?

I guess I should shut up and be thankful my officemates, the cats, can't fire me for emailing stupid chain letters.

August 28, 2009


Ian Park











I've mentioned Ian in my column before - he's our personal greeter at No Frills where we shop. Actually, he's a stock guy, and he's funny and sweet and usually says hello by bashing a cart into the back of my legs while the Poor Sod watches and laughs.

Anyway. He's a character.

He's always had a beard. For 32 years, as it turns out. His daughters have never seen him without it. As a joke one day, one of his co-workers offered him fifty bucks if he'd shave the damned thing off.

And it went from there. Yesterday, Ian had his beard and head shaved, and raised over $1500 for Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital's Maternity & Children's Ward. Awwwww. Whadda guy.

If you want to flip a few bucks to a worthy cause, in honour of a decent guy, here's the link.

*I suck at posting this stuff. These are supposed to be 'BEFORE' and 'AFTER', instead they're 'AFTER' and 'BEFORE'. Oops.

I also don't know how to make it leave more space when I put in pictures. Webgod, where are you???

UPDATE: I fixed it. Because this is a blog entry about a nice guy doing a nice thing, I won't publicly trounce you. WGJ


Buddy, Can You Spare 24 Million?

Here's a great article you won't think you want to read, but you will when you start.

Annie Leibovitz, the photographer famous for snapping the more famous, is in a financial meltdown. That's not fun. But this article from New York Magazine is really, really well written, and a fascinating glimpse into the woman on the other side of the camera.

This magazine prints a lot of garbage, but once in a while they do just great pieces. I'm not sure if I linked this one on Dolly Parton a little while ago - it's awesome, too. And I love Dolly Parton.


First, Kill All The Lawyers...

Always wanted to say that. I mean, for the first two decades of my life, I wanted to be a lawyer, but still.

Interesting little piece in the NYT about how the economy is reshaping people's view of the trades. My dad was a bricklayer. It never occurred to me for a fraction of a second that a life in the trades wasn't a great choice. And not a fallback - a great choice.

The Poor Sod works in a trade. He was late to it, at age 30. We used to call him the world's oldest apprentice when he started, 8 years ago. Now, there's been a noticeable uptick in the age of newbies. Perhaps they've figured out a couple of things: working with your hands, if you've the aptitude, is a damned sight more rewarding than pushing papers around a cubicle, especially if computer monitors and harsh lighting are your idea of hell.

With defined hours, he doesn't tote work home with him. And if projects blow over the finish line, he gets paid to sort it out. I watched my Dad work his shifts for 24 years, which was tough, but he also had almost full time hours to put into his garden, his cottage, and us. When he went onto straight days, the cat knew what time his car would come around the car every night. And that was 4:20.

I had the Dad who used to come on field trips. That never happened with the brigade getting off the GO train each night at 6. He built a cottage neighbour an amazing stone fireplace. It was gorgeous. Of course we didn't have one (cobbler's kids and all that), but my Dad was good.

Tradesmen (and women) are the ones you want to know. I like people that can fix a toilet, change an outlet, patch a wall, shingle a roof. I can do all that stuff, but I'm scared of heights. Or so I say. I've worked in offices - a lot. I've spent days, weeks, months, years, staring out the window, breathing in the fake air and wished for anything but this. That's a pretty good sign that maybe this isn't the way to spend a third of your life - wishing for it to be over. This is the part where I tell everyone to buy a great bed, too. A third of your life is spent there - do not skimp on a good bed and nice linens. Back on topic now.

Ladies, remember back in high school when they made us all take typing and shorthand (I think I might be the last person to take shorthand - YMMV), so that we'd always have something to 'fall back on'? Remember every job being asked if you could type, and hesitating knowing it would destine you for that crappy job if you admitted you could do it?

I took typing. I took shorthand. But I also took 3 years of wood construction. If I was gonna have a fallback, it was going to be something good. I would rather work a table saw than a dictaphone. If you don't know what that is, ask your mother.

If nothing else, this fall-apart economy is reminding us how stupid and useless we've become. Too many people can't fix a washer, change a sparkplug, clean the eaves. I have repeatedly, and expressly, told my boys that the trades are not just an option, they're an excellent one. Apprenticeships are usually 5 years, they're not easy, and the classroom component is serious. But I think they also bring with them the ability to teach someone the many things you can do, rather than wait for some other entity to announce that you're no longer of use.

A Master of the Universe should know how to use tools.

August 25, 2009


Unfortunate Acronyms

I remember when I was a kid, my mom, who was always on one diet or another, tried these silly little chewy candy things called Ayds. Ayds Diet Plan. I think the idea was you tossed two of the nasty little spongey things down your gullet, and they would kill the hunger pangs until you sat down to a tasty lunch of a lettuce leaf, half a cup of lumpy cottage cheese, and a sprig of parsley. At least that's what I recall.

Of course, in the 1980s when Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome reared its ugly, dreadful head, the acronym AIDS was screaming from every headline except Ronald Reagan's to-do list. And the AYDS diet plan? Dead in the water. RIP, AYDS.

I hadn't thought about that in awhile, until I looked at my calendar today. I usually use the Milk calendar, but this year from some reason, they changed the layout and I hate it. So. I'm using one from Subaru, which has the correct layout. Each month features a different car, which I only kind of glance at, to be honest. My calendar is about orthodontist appointments and birthdays, not pictures. Flipping back, I realized that July was an Impreza. An Impreza WRX STI 2009, to be precise. And the large print headline under the car? "Are You STI Ready?"

Remember when sexually transmitted diseases changed names? We went from the Clap to STDs. Well, guess what. They've recently changed it again. To STI. Sexually Transmitted Infections.

And Subaru wants to know if I'm STI ready.

Uhm, no.

Look for a name change come 2010.


Who's a Skanky Ho Now?

Ah. So Google finally threw down the gauntlet, and the first volley in stopping the slander and libelous behaviour we'd all assumed was just part of the fabulous world of the internet.

To recap: A delightful woman in New York City has been trolling around various websites, denouncing another delightful (Canadian) woman in New York City as a ho. And a skanky ho. And a whore. In case anyone missed her point, she (Rosemary Port) started a blog called "Skanks in NYC". Because Anne of Green Gables was taken, I guess.

Now the ho - sorry, model - has shot back. She (Liskula Cohen) made Google cough up the name of the bitch - sorry, blogger - who apparently thought she could remain anonymous.

What should your options be on the internet? I know where I firmly stand on the issue. If you couldn't print it a newspaper or magazine, or say it on TV, you shouldn't be able to post it on a website, anonymously. Period. You are not above laws that have been in place forever, and for very good reasons.

Peruse the comments sections of most of our major newspapers. Oh, my. How strident and witty are the cowards. The Globe and Mail has some absolute gems, as does the Star and everyone else. Over and over again, the same bunch of losers, posting away on subjects they have no original thought about, and in many cases, no clue either. All brazen and cocksure, throwing about insults and judgment from the comfort of their basements.

Is there not enough hatred in this world for some people? Do people not feel judged enough already, persecuted, marginalized, left out, left behind and beaten down? Are people really so desperate to feel mighty they will trash anyone, at anytime, with little or no insight?

Newspapers have long had a policy for their Letters to the Editor section. Letters must be verified, and signed. Names may be withheld on request on contentious issues, sometimes, but editors know the source. If it is important that you have your say, there are many ways you can go about it.

Now, what happens in most Editorial Sections is that letters are received, and sorted. Witless garbage is tossed. Roughly, most (okay, not all, but most notable) papers will run a letters page that reflects mail they receive. Volume against topic, and numbers of letters representative for or against. Now, on-line comment sites are far less rigid, hence the garbage that seeps in. If your Letter to the Editor has never, ever appeared in print, and you have written dozens, there is a reason: it is a waste of space, you are not only alone in your view but nor can you coherently express it, or the paper is kindly protecting you from a libel suit.

But when I read the comments sections of way too many websites, I weep for the future. Racist, sexist, misogynist, elitist, vile drivel. Mean. The internet was supposed to be a profound instrument of communication and information, instead of the sewage canal it has become. If you have nothing of value to add to an obviously inflammatory issue, why would you sit there like a jackass tossing gas onto it?

Ms. Post, what was your point? What is the upside, the value, the gain, in calling another woman a ho? Who is she to you, that you need to let the world know you think she's a skank? Call her whatever you want to her face. Maybe Hallmark even has a card ("To A Skank on Her 34th Birthday") that could say it for you.

My biggest fear, however, is not that people aren't minding their manners on the 'net. It's that they will become inured to what they are writing, or reading, and our level of discourse will sink to the level of a bunch of Neanderthals.

I was talking about bullies yesterday, and I was surprised to hear adults believe it was a childhood problem. Does anyone really not see that this is bullying taken to wondrous technological heights?

Name yourself anything you like in an ongoing forum. But the second you start slandering and libeling another, you had better be prepared to put your name behind it. Otherwise, your opinion is worth what you are - zip.

August 24, 2009


Live@5:30 Monday

Bullies.

Is your kid being bullied? Is your kid a bully? One mother has given her long-taunted son karate lessons, and permission to 'beat the snot' out of his tormentor.

Join us on CHCH 11 at 5:30, repeat at 11:30.

And hang on till the end - hear the fallout from my defence of legalizing drugs from Friday's show.

August 23, 2009


Splinters & Bird Poop

The title is only referring to the wooden swing at the foot of my yard. I love it. It's covered in poop, unless I haul the hose down there and shoot all the crap off.

The weather has been up and down all day, but it's still my favourite place to sit and read Vanity Fair.

Speaking of poop, you have to read this piece on Farrah Fawcett. The issue comes in a choice of two covers: Michael Jackson, or Farrah. I guess the Ed McMahon issue sold out before I got there - it was such a card trumping month for celebrity deaths. Poor Larry King (there's a piece on him, as well...the ol' lizard), he must have been spinning in his chair as the bodies piled up.

Anyway. Farrah. I remember where I was when the famous nipple poster came out - high school caf. I tried for the hair, the braces made sure I would never have the teeth, and well, we won't talk about the nipples. But one thing Farrah had I'm damned thankful I never had? Ryan O'Neal. Whatta scuz. Read the link, then tell me if you have even a modicum of respect for this turd.

I chose the Farrah cover, because I was sick of Michael Jackson long before he moonwalked into the ether. Really. There is nothing I will miss, because it was over long before it was over. VF still does a piece of regurgitated interviews with their music critic and Jackson, but it's old.

The series they've been doing for the past 3 months on Madoff and his sons and wife is a blast, if only because they reportedly have Ruth Madoff spitting mad. Suck it up, lady. And with a mistress now coming out of the woodwork to announce that Bernie was a little underfunded in another sense can't be helping matters much. Oh, the rich....

I'll keep my wooden swing, with its splinters and bird poop and wasps. It squeaks when I swing, and that's just fine.

August 21, 2009


Live @5:30 Friday

Co-hosting today.

Tune into CHCH at 5:30, re-reun at 11:30.

I'll post topics a bit later...

August 17, 2009


Sedaris & Kookabburras

I *dare* you not to start singing that song, right about now.

David Sedaris is always searingly funny, until he pushes those pointy little thoughts in there that make you wince. It's been wonderful growing up alongside him; his work is wonderful because his pain is so true.

Here's his take on Australia (his visit to Daylesford - 'if Dodge City had been founded and maintained by homosexuals'), and the understanding of his father, who had little for him. I will always marvel at a writer who can use the word 'underpants' with a straight face, especially when describing his father.

Lovely read; and start singing now.

EDIT: FOR ALL THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE FORGOTTEN THEIR CHILDHOODS...

Listen here.

August 15, 2009


Yukon!

Grab a Toronto Star today if you want to read about my Yukon excursion for Go RVing Canada and Yukon Tourism.

I'll be putting up my own 'Adventures' section on it shortly (note to Webgod Jeff - that's what we'll be working on this week, honey), the feature is here, my column is here.

There are more pics in the hard copy.

August 14, 2009


Healthcare, Americans & David Frum

I am not a fan of David Frum. Maybe its his snotty demeanor as one of Bush's speechwriters ('axis of evil', anyone?), but, ugh.

Anyway. He's waded into the current American debate on revising health care. I like the use of the word 'revise', actually, considering 47 million Americans are uninsured - and that's the number from 2008, which of course has no doubt increased with the subsequent crash of the economy. So. Revising is one term; actually getting any is probably more on point.

Frum writes in the Timesonline here his take on why Americans are right (well, right wing Americans) in getting angry enough to arm themselves at townhall meetings.

Now, read the Frum piece and explain something to me. He makes no frigging sense at all. He notes that Medicare and Medicaid scoop up the poorest people (and provide the poorest coverage), and people with good insurance get good care, even fantastic care. Oh, and those tens of millions - and growing - in the middle? Oops. Whatever.

He notes that they do get care. Emergency room care, the most expensive kind. But hey, at least they get some. And apparently, that glut of people in the middle - they yous and mes - don't deserve day to day, preventative, decent medical care. The kind that prevents major diseases with early detection, screenings, and all those things that happen when untended moles become mountains.

Oh, he says that laws make medical care prohibitive, and those pesky states lob on more requirements to the federal statutes. "Fifteen of the 50 states require insurers to cover fertility treatments. Twenty-four states require coverage of eating disorders. Thirty-five states require coverage of reconstructive surgery after a mastectomy. New York state requires insurers to charge the same rate for all customers, regardless of health conditions, while 11 other states tightly restrict the ability to charge more for more sick patients."

Man, how horrid is that? Forcing coverage for surgery after a mastectomy? Stupid women thinking they deserve something frivolous. Your kid is anorexic? Tough. Not being able to charge more for sick patients? That's positively un-American.

Oh, and that damned Obama, daring to point out that 80% of funds go into patients literally in the final days of their lives. See, that's just the truth. We have this belief that our bodies are supposed to last forever, at any price.

I have several friends in the medical community, and they are obligated to provide strenuous, full out care on any patient. Regardless of diagnosis, age, condition or, in most cases, even against the patient's wishes. And this is the real debate, I think.

There are all these forums in the States, where Sarah Idiot Palin has decided to fluff up the morons and tell them a panel will pull the plug on the weak, the old, the infirm, the addled. Oh, please. Have any of you ever actually dealt with someone in the final stages of their lives? Do you know how many of them would welcome an honest conversation about their prognosis, how many would like the pain to stop, how many would like the dignity to decide for themselves? How many would like to go home? Rip out the damned tubes, opt out of the surgeries that can't save them, and stop the pretense that they're going to get better?

My mother was this person; my father was not. But my father had the option to keep fighting, and my mother did not. It's time somebody asked the people who's opinion matters the most on this: talk to the terminally ill, the bedridden, and the people who are tired of superhuman efforts to prolong their lives. If they want to fight, more power to them. But if they don't, please consider their wishes.

And I know there will be no Death Panel, no grim reaper passing out death sentences. If there were, Palin would be the first to go, under the 'addled' heading.

This woman needs to have her platform yanked, and soon. And guys like David Frum need to stop writing their smug bylines from the comfort of their insured nests.

August 11, 2009


Yardwork

"Tenacious, aggressive, hardworking..."

This is the ad on the TV right now, for some stupid lawyer who has to troll the slip-and-fall candidates laid out on their couches watching Seinfeld reruns, or a Judge Show, or whatever channel this is.

I only looked up because I realized those words could apply to me. Tenacious, aggressive, hardworking...and why you might wonder? Because I just cut the back yard. Well, half of it. It's a big yard. I went out to do the edging part, which I like to do, because the boys take turns doing the cutting part, which I don't like to do. The boys are both at work, so, it fell to me.

We got a new weedwhacker. Well, the Poor Sod went and got it. The last one was a hundred years old and was crap. So he bought me a new one. It's very cool. But I don't know how to start it. I tried. I put on the headphones. It comes with headphones. How cool is that? But I can't tell which sign the little lever should be pointing at for 'choke', so I flip it back and forth, pulling the cord and praying for the best. Then I got tired, and just put it back in the shed and got out the lawnmower. I'd already put on the sunscreen, figured I shouldn't waste it.

Well. Cutting our backyard is exhausting. It's incredibly hot out there. The grass is up to my knees, because of the rain. But we have friends coming for a BBQ on the weekend, so it must be done.

I sweated, I cursed, I hauled that lawnmower around the yard. It's a heavy one. Our yard is jungle-like around all the edges, so the plants have left streaks of odd brown and red stuff on my arms, in the sunscreen. And the gas, which jumped back out of the little spout when I filled it up. I smell like gas. And sweat. And sunscreen.

I didn't get it finished, and realized I needed water. I could feel myself dehydrating, which always gives me a headache. Me getting a headache is like a centipede getting athlete's foot. It's never minor.

So, I came in, flopped down in my chair in time to be rewarded with the TV calling me tenacious, aggressive and hardworking. And then I glanced at the clock. Half an hour. I'd been outside half an hour.

August 9, 2009


And I Get Mail...

Once in a while, I'll get a comment in to my Blame it on Lorraine section that has nothing to do with advice, and everything to do with someone wanting to get to say something to me through a blind email. BIOL comes to me blank on the return email line; my other contact points reveal who your are, or at least as much as _badger@hotmail.com or something reveals.

Anyway, I occasionally get a note from someone venting, which is fine. I don't publish them in the BIOL part, because I pay Webgod Jeff to format that all pretty-like for you guys, and I'm not wasting his time nor my money on the vents.

Yesterday's was interesting though. Here.
"Dear Lorraine;

Your article on parking in Toronto displays a rather bleak view of life-

-On the other hand it is a familiar view that seems to be the lot of the average white female in North America -namely an over-exaggerated sense of entitlement- spoiled rotten with nothing to do but complain-

Stick in a jab against your husband or partner or whatever you call them these days- and you have the formula for, or at least the reason why so many single women are around these days- just no fun to be around- sorry but that is the view from down below-"


Now, if you follow the link to the column, you'll see that it was a candy piece - just a little bitching about prepaid parking in lots and garages, which is a pain. I had lots of mail agreeing, some helpful advice about a cell phone service some airports provide so you can call when you get in, and the like. It's what I usually get, especially after a piece like that.

Now, keeping that in mind, note the tone of the BIOL note. Whaaa? Apparently, because I hate prepaid parking garages, I'm an average white N.A. female with an over-exaggerated sense of entitlement, and I do nothing but complain. And that's why so many of us are single, because we're no fun to be around.

Buddy, I'm a ball of fun. A veritable basket of good times.

Not quite understanding where this barrage of BS was being flung from (unless I can presume that Australian men find me particularly loathesome), I remembered my blog posting from yesterday. Angry men.

Ah. And there we have it.

To my 'blind' email ranters - say what you want. But have the balls to stand behind what you say. Everyone else does.

August 8, 2009


For Heidi, Jody & Elizabeth

Because those are the names that really matter, regardless of how many times the headlines scream out the name of their murderer, the psychopathic misogynistic bastard who ended their lives as they worked out at a gym in Pittsburgh earlier this week.

It's the usual pattern; first blame your mother, then blame the 30 million women who have rejected you in your lifetime. That's his estimate: 30 million.

It's emerging now that he was a devotee of some ass named R. Don Steele, a dating guru who told seminars full of men how to get women. Rule One? Don't be a nice guy. Well, Mr. Murderer nicely ticked that box, doncha think? Maybe it's just me, but anyone who offers up seminars and books with titles like How To Get Rich, or How To Get Women, is never going to teach anyone, anything. I might buy something entitled How To Build a Shed, or something like that, but anything that promises to teach you how to manipulate other people is destined to be a bust. The only person in that room who has mastered that is the person taking your cheque at the door.

Mr. Murderer was angry; insanely angry. Here he was, fit, presentable, apparently good looking enough to not make small children cry, and yet, he couldn't get a girlfriend. Now 48, he hadn't had a girlfriend since 1984, nor had sex since 1990. Left out of this equation is something I think is really important: did he not have any friends of either sex? I'm thinking not, and there might be a tiny inkling that it's not your flavour of aftershave or the fact that you eat pizza with a knife and fork. Maybe your social skills are somewhat circumspect; maybe women don't like you because THEY CAN TELL IN THE FIRST VERBAL EXCHANGE THAT YOU ARE AN ANGRY WOMAN HATER WHO IS CAPABLE OF TAKING A GUN AND BLOWING AWAY WOMEN YOU DON'T EVEN KNOW.

Rage rolls off people in waves. I don't care how white your teeth are, how nicely you're dressed, or what the actual words are coming from your mouth. Most women have hate radar, which helps them stay alive. It's quite simple: if we stay away from angry men, we get to live longer. If we learn to develop a way of seeing that rage beneath the flowers and the apologies, we get to live longer.

The love of a good woman will not change the course of a river - may delay it, may submerge it, but it can't change it.

And here we have Mr. Murderer, taking tips from that fraud R. Don Steele (why don't people drop the 'R', anyway? It's stupid), that reinforce his belief that women are to blame for the fact he hasn't been laid in 20 years. Because believe me, there's nothing quite so attractive as a man who wants to get laid. Really. It's a beautiful thing to behold, like long walks on the beach. It's so great when they look at you as a possible replacement for a blowup doll or a hooker.

I refuse to get into a peeing match about successful women being threatening, or feminists being man-haters or any of the other tired, lazy stupid excuses that get thrown around. Most men and women I know are pretty much looking for the same thing, and work hard at maintaining it if they have it, or work hard at becoming the mate they'd like to attract. It may not be rocket science, but it is chemistry. The funny thing is, that chemistry is created in odd places. Through friendships, through proximity, through kindness.

So to Heidi Overmier, Jody Billingsley, and Elizabeth Gannon - you bore the final outrage of a man who hated all of us. To their families, I'm so sorry.

And to R. Don? Stop promising hopeful men, desperate men, and hateful men the idea that women are like cars, and you just have to learn the art of the deal.

August 5, 2009


Garden Herpes and Jeremy Clarkson

You miss a lot when you're out of touch. I tried to get hold of newspapers while I was away, but it's tough. That, and the same edition of the Whitehorse paper was all I could find for 5 straight days. And it was 2 days old when I got there.

If you want to learn about any place you visit, the best thing to do is grab the local paper and flip to the classifieds. You learn many things. How much rents are. What kinds of jobs are available (in Whitehorse, there are many, many jobs for Chinese restaurant workers. But they only want Chinese people to fill them). I learned that housing and rent prices are higher than I thought they would be, and that was the reason that Alex, our hotel shuttle driver, drove a city bus in the days, and the hotel shuttles at night. And the last flights land after 1 am. You have to work hard in Whitehorse to carve out a living.

My favourite in the Wanteds? "Wanted: Rhubarb plants. Willing to pay, will dig em up."

I'd like them to try to get rhubarb plants out. They are garden herpes, the luggage of the plant world. Rhubarb is forever. I know - I still have my Dad's in the corner of the yard.

So what did I miss? Well, four women got busted for superglue-ing a guy's penis to his leg. He was married to one, boffing the others. They got even. Ouch. Oh wait, I just re-read. They glued it to his stomach. Huh. Well, that explains the 3 mistresses part...

Paula Abdul won't be back on American Idol. Which leaves us with that annoying new chick, the annoying 'dude' guy, and Simon Cowell, who I bizarrely adore. I think Paula should continue on down the crazy track of self-medication, and everything will be just fine. At least nobody glued her head to the desk.

Jeremy Clarkson is in a spot of bother. (There's a great book you can find for cheap at Chapter's called Spot of Bother. Funny as hell, written by Mark Haddon. I highly recommend it.)

Anyway. Here's Clarkson's list of top ten eff ups. I dunno. While I realize calling the Prime Minister the c word would never promote my career, in England that word is thrown around practically with love. Practically.

And that list of Clarkson's spot of bother leads to today's news that possibly Top Gear is done. Can you hear the howls of sobs from my son? The timing is suspect, as always. Slow news time of year.
And Clarkson may be one of the most polarizing individuals in the industry (some just love to hate him out of some pompous misdirected belief that you can't drive cars, run into trees, kill prostitutes and still have a good time), while the rest of us just hoot and wish we had his job.

Top Gear is going nowhere. These are three grown men paid lavishly to do things like call the PM a c___. And make cars into boats. And drink gin while they drive. And apologize later, because we all know it's easier than asking for permission.

*I've had to add an edit after reading this again. I love Top Gear. I love Jeremy Clarkson. I would do what they do in a heartbeat, if I could. I realize that saying 'Top Gear is going nowhere' I mean quite literally - I don't think it's leaving the airwaves any time soon. And I'm glad :)

August 3, 2009


...and never wore the boots.


Howdy. Back from the land of tiny towns, big mountains, endless sunlight and dirt roads called "highways".

Awesome trip. Not knowing what to expect is always the best way to go anywhere new, so I enter these adventures with a clear head and an open heart. Never disappointed. I took my friend Melissa Weber along for the ride; she owns a new ad agency in Michigan, and while it was a lousy time for her to leave her responsibilities, it was a chance not to be missed so she spent 19 hours flying to meet me in Whitehorse. Did I mention that she's a trooper?

Missy and I rarely see each other these days, though we've been friends for 25 years. It takes a certain someone to sign up to co-habitate in an RV for a week. And especially to sign up with me. We had a blast. Official version will run in the Star, unofficial version will run under my Adventures when I sort through the pics.

For now, this one - just two friends against an unbelievable backdrop.