October 31, 2009


Sam Ion

While in the Yukon this summer, one of the women in our group was a journalist from....Brantford. Sam Ion has been writing for ages - I used to read her Advice to the Working Woman column in the Hamilton Spectator when I was a teenager. I believed I would one day be a Working Woman, and would no doubt be in need of her advice.

When I met her, I did this stupid little squeal and hugged her. Thank god Sam Ion has a sense of humour. And so does her husband, Tom. They were married 30 years ago, divorced, had a few other spouses thrown in there, and remarried last year. It's a long, cool, screwed up story. But if you meet them, you'll know it works. They are crazy, in the best sense of the word.

Anyway. Sam is a total hoot. Melissa and I adored her. She writes travel features. Tom sent me her latest, and no word of a lie, I have never, ever enjoyed a travel review more. I am still laughing so hard as I type this, it may take me a moment to link it for you.

Okay, here
. Picture this little firecracker of a dame with a daughter nearly my age, and let me know what you think.

October 30, 2009


Finally...

One of my all-time favourite writers getting a little more respect.

Shirley Jackson is genius. With the 50th anniversary of her short story, The Lottery, I learned here that they are working on reissuing her a huge volume of her work.

She is outstanding. Though usually noted for her horror work (The Lottery, the novel The Haunting of Hill House), she is an extraordinary short story writer, and her personal pieces from her early days as a columnist (yes, Mommy Columnist) are awesome.

That's all. This made me happy. So I shared.

October 29, 2009


Testicle Festival

No, no pictures. I was at Test Fest yesterday, out at Niagara-on-the-Lake. It's an annual week-long hoe-down where all the manufacturers put up all their cars in a bunch of categories for journalists to drive a)on a road test, and b) on a race track. Which is the air strip down Hwy 55.

It's an AJAC event (Automotive Journalists Association of Canada), so there are the meetings interspersed throughout, and the big bang Awards Banquet which was last night.

I was there as an invitee, which means doing all the fun stuff but not having to do the work. Drivers have to drive every car in at least 3(I think) classes, which takes literally days. As best as I can tell. I was in the tent where the food was. For the part where I wasn't in a big snazzy motorhome with the Jaguar people. It was drizzling and rainy and muddy and horrible weather-wise. It was much fun all the other way wises.

The banquet was quite lovely, with the only misbehaviour coming from a large table near the centre that had Reserved for Toronto Star on it. Figures.

Anyway. I got about 2 hours sleep (I sleep like crap in hotels) and I'm tired and crabby so this is your blog. Oh, and the title (which Roz came up with all on her own, actually, though it turns out it's always been called that) denotes the certain masculine air that can infiltrate a bunch of mainly men slamming new cars around a track and showing off. The words 'Sausage Fest' also drifted past my ears more than once.

Read the Star for the lowdown and highlights. I'll link more on the weekend.

October 24, 2009


This Looks Like a Group of JoJos. In The Dark.













If I did this wrong, will Webgod Jeff please fix it? Thank you.

October 23, 2009


Bitch, Bitch, Bitch.

No, I am not looking in a 3-way mirror.

I was reading this bit from the Chicago Tribune about the ten worst trends in restaurants over the past while. Most of them are great. As in terrible. Stupid frou-frou dishes, overpriced entrees, dumbass mega burgers that come with a side of angioplasty and the like.

But I think we should play our own version, right here. I'll start: I refuse to go to the Keg in Burlington because it's too dark. I can't see a damned thing. I can't read the menu. I carry a little flashlight in my purse because I am aware that my eyes are terrible, but by the time I'm tipping the tiny tealight toward the menu trying to read it, I give up. And when the waitress admits to me that nobody can see, I want to cram their romance lighting up their arse.

Noisy restaurants. If I wanted to go to a high school cafeteria, trust me: I'd go. One of our favourite places has slid off the list for this very reason. I literally cannot hear a thing, which means the entire (huge) place features hundreds of diners screaming at each other. If I want screaming with my meal, we can just stay home and have a family dinner.

Triple priced wine. Forget it. A bottle of 8 dollar plonk should no way be 28 bucks so you can unscrew it for me. Stock a decent house wine, or at least fool me with something I've never heard of.

I was at lunch the other day with a friend. Waiter asked if we wanted dessert. I don't eat dessert, but my friend ordered one. The waiter asked him if he wanted two forks. I said no. He brought two forks. Piss off. Diners are not preschoolers, especially the ones who are downing gin and tonics before dessert.

Hands down my favourite thing at a place we go (Apple Annie's) is when they plunk a whole insulated carafe of coffee on the table. Thank you. When I'm eating breakfast, I like this. Thank you. Have I said thank you?

I hate places that tart up breakfast. Christer took us for breakfast one day to an American chain place that opened up. Huge menus full of pictures (should have been my first clue), and basically pimped out omelettes for 14 bucks. Bugger off. Breakfast should be cheap, especially if your kid is paying.

Now, you should all be aware that I'm the most laid back customer on the planet. If I'm in a restaurant, it means I'm not cooking. This is a good thing, especially for me. I don't mind if your wait staff are learning on me. Really. It's fine. As long as they are trying and working hard, I'll over-tip and be a sweetheart. But if someone shows up surly for their shift, send 'em home. And if, as a manager or owner, you're peeved because someone scratched your car or the cook is hungover, don't take it out on your staff.

And put a little lamp on the tables, would ya?

Your turn.


The Most Useful Thing You Will Read Today

At least if you use the internet a lot. And you do.

Top Ten Internet Rules & Rules, from The Telegraph.

You've probably heard of the first one - even if you didn't know what it was called. Godwin's Law should be applied and stomped across every single panel show, chat room, pundit meeting (you know, where pundits go to meet), and anywhere else there is the threat of a deteriorating conversation. So, most holiday dinner tables, too. Godwin's Law states the longer a discussion goes on, the higher the likelihood that some idiot will announce that an offered opinion is akin to Hitler specifically, or Nazism in general. It tells you how far removed we are from the heinous events of the past when anyone will compare almost anything to Hitler and the ensuing nightmare.

Read them all; they're a hoot. I like the second one. Unless you use absolute hints like emoticons or dancing graphics when you post a tongue-in-cheek post about fundamentalism, a whole bunch of creationists will believe you are serious. They will quote you. Your words will be used on other sites to bolster nutbar opinions with bogus facts.

Another one we all know: the more exclamation points in an email or post, the more ridiculous it is. I post on a site and there is a blogger who uses CAPITAL LETTERS, italics, underlined words (I don't know how to underline that part) and bold words to make his point. I'm glad he does; he saves me the time of reading anything. It's like putting up a big fence with a sign that reads Please Don't Feed The Ass.

Same with private emails full of exclamation points. You can't possibly be that excited about something. And if you are, I don't think I want to know about it.

Anyway. Fun read.

October 18, 2009


Lake Superior's 'Holy Grail'

Feel free to hum to yourself for this next link, brought to you from the depths of Lorraine's odd little brain. You'll get the use of the word 'depths' in a moment.

I dare anyone not to love that song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I dare you not to love Gordon Lightfoot. I don't know a single Canadian who doesn't belt out the chorus to that song, whenever they hear it played. And they are drunk.

Here's a cool new story about Lake Superior. Apparently, two brand new mindsweepers (no, big boats, not my favourite time-wasting game) went down in a brutal storm in 1918, after leaving Thunder Bay in late November. They were headed to the French coast of the English channel, and were made here in Canada for France.

Three ships set out; only one cleared the storm. The other two have never been found. If you know your history, you know that Lake Superior is the deepest of the Great Lakes, and the most dangerous for ships. It's famous for its monster storms. We actually have something this cool, right here in Canada.

Tom Farnquist, a legendary shipwreck hunter (that's what it says) is going to try to find them. From false reports of sightings and bodies, to purged naval records, to all manner of mystery and intrigue, Farnquist is apparently looking to Ottawa for help in his mission.

Good luck with that, Tom. We've been looking to Ottawa for help for ages. Lights are on, but nobody's home.

But it would be cool if they found these ships. And it would be nice to know why nobody's cared for 90 years what happened to them.

October 17, 2009


Make Another Coffee...You're Gonna Be Here Awhile

I posted this last year sometime, but it's time to post it again.

Actually, it's really lovely outside, so I thought I'd go put the planters away and do some yard work. Then I stuck my nose out and it's cold. So I pulled off my boots and sat back down at the computer because I don't feel like getting cold. I can enjoy the sunshine perfectly well from in here. Of course that won't get my planters put away, unless I can guilt somebody else into doing it. That shouldn't be hard; I'm really good at guilt.

This is a travel site that you play on. You can start with Canada, and you plop little arrows down where you thing something is. It's fun. It's addictive. And you find out how stupid you are. Your best bet is probably to make a kid in grade 6 sit with you and help. That is, if they're still teaching geography anymore. My kids mostly come home and say they've been watching movies or tormenting a substitute most days.

Kids today. Aren't learning a damned thing. But see how you do. It's a great site.

October 16, 2009


CHCH Live @5:30 Friday

Ah, the brat in a bubble. Or maybe not. How about the ridiculous father who leaves things like weather balloons lying around?

And I complain when nobody puts their laundry away.

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

October 15, 2009


I Kid You Not...

Christopher came in at lunch and told me he was going to apply for a job at a nearby hotel. A friend of his works there, and said they may be hiring. This is good news. Kid needs a job. I need a kid who has a job.

It's a large hotel, part of a huge chain. I've been there for seminars and banquets and stuff. No No-tell Mo-tell for my boy.

Then I pop up the Spec to do some reading a few minutes ago, and find this: a member of this chain in Buffalo, at Niagara Falls, has come under nasty publicity for a massive 4-day convention they've booked.

Swingers. All 263 rooms booked for swingers. With local uptights in ranting and raving mode, the management assures everyone that they don't judge, they often book conventions of all types, and that nobody under the age of 18 will be let in the hotel during this convention.

What about staff?

Actually, I read through the whole piece, searching for titillation. Come on, didn't you? Frankly, the thought of 263 rooms filled with a bunch of swingers playing musical spouses is more than even I can grasp. I mean, there's always someone left out, right? And can you imagine every single door knob with a Do Not Disturb sign on it? All the time? Do they switch just for the event? Or every hour? Does someone blow a whistle?

I don't think I'd like to play. Well, that is until I read further, and got really excited. They have different talks and demonstrations. But, they also have a euchre tournament. Don't trump my bower, and I'm all yours.


I Wish I Could Write Like This

Brilliant short story from Julian Barnes in The New Yorker.

The man does an absolute minuet from King Lear (how could I have forgotten "Out, vile jelly!" as Gloucester's eyeball rolls across the stage?) to young boys' interpreting a stern parental warning (if for no other reason, read this piece for "pause on the curb"), to falling in love.

Maybe. Almost. Painfully.

This is gorgeous.

October 13, 2009


We're Number Four!

With everyone here over Thanksgiving, conversation turned to that latest national rankings of how great a country is to live in. Canada placed 4th, behind Norway, Australia and Iceland. Out of the medals, but I guess if Norway is unable to fulfill her duties in the coming year, maybe we'll move up a notch. Actually, tallying was done before Iceland upended like the Titanic and sank earlier this year, a victim of fishermen becoming bankers and buying too many Land Rovers. Read a fabulous Vanity Fair article on it here.

I still think these surveys are weird. How do you possibly factor in every tangible - and more importantly, intangible - thing and arrive at a number? I decided they should just look at something very basic: How much is a human life worth in a given country?

Because when I see reports like this one out of China, where 1000 kids are sick because of their smelting operations, I wonder. China has so many people that when mining accidents happen, they just move up another row of workers like shark's teeth. They simply don't care. They are running many of their manufacturing operations like something from the early 1900s in North America. I don't care how fast their economy is booming - any country that puts so little consideration into worker's health and their citizen's well-being doesn't even begin to be somewhere I'd want to live.

I won't go to Mexico. Tourists in Mexico get murdered, and nobody cares. Authorities there do not investigate. The consulates have no power, or at least none they will exercise. This Canadian couple murdered in 2006 at their daughter's wedding? Still not solved. Never will be.

Maybe that's what these surveys try to do, without telling us. Maybe they really are just arriving at a number on our foreheads that designates our worth. Are you worthy enough to be fed if you're hungry, cared for if you're sick, protected if you're persecuted?

I often tell my kids they've already won the lottery by being born in Canada.

Now, I think I need to go find something happier to write about it. Too sunny out to be so crabby.

October 10, 2009


Your Tax Dollars....

Did you catch this one yet? The trucker busted for having a smoke?

And eagle-eyed OPP officer in Windsor-Essex County did the dramatic take down. Seems a trucker having a smoke is breaking the law. You can't smoke in any workplace. Even if that workplace is the cab of your own truck.

I don't smoke. But I guess technically, that would mean I couldn't smoke in my own kitchen, if the mood struck me. Dumber still? The quote from the OPP spokesperson who said "smoking while driving is unsafe because you need to take your hands off the wheel to light a cigarette and look down to butt it out."

Yeah. Like the same hand you take off the wheel to change a radio station? Or adjust your seatbelt? Or scratch your nose?

They've finally introduced legislation to outlaw handheld phones and other nuisances from drivers. Even though it's been proven for over a decade that remote conversations of any kind are just as deadly. If this province is going to continue to be so giddy-up stupid about laws for everything, couldn't they at least get them right?


Buy Cheaper Balls?

Or maybe just join a better club.

A South Carolina golfer lost his arm reaching into a pond to retrieve his golf ball. That lousy shot cost him more than the hole. A ten foot alligator ripped his arm off.

Ow.

Somebody ran for help. Somebody else got the arm. I guess the fourth got the cart.

See why I don't golf? It's dangerous business.

October 7, 2009


Top Gear Hosts Try to Kill Each Other

Part of the fun of writing for the Wheels section in general, and Mark Richardson in particular, is that you never know what's going to happen next. I mean, I know I have to have something filed by noon every Tuesday, but when you get a phone call every once in a while and an English accent says to you, "Lorraine. Would you like to go to X?" Only he doesn't say 'X', he says a place. And when I pee myself with excitement and say 'yes, yes, yes!', he usually says, "Well, I'm sure you would, but I was kidding." (The other editor, Andrew Meeson, sent me to San Francisco and didn't even pretend he was kidding. Andrew is kinder than Mark.)

But then he let's me go. And it's as awesome as you think.

The best part of driving cars and writing car features is when things go crazy. When things don't go according to the very detailed itinerary they always give you. Things can and do go sideways - literally and figuratively - and the best stories are in the sideways.

You have to read this from Top Gear's Richard Hammond. I'm aware that Jeremy Clarkson gets most of the buzz from this show, but Hammond is actually terrifically funny, and rather cute. Of course the antics on Top Gear are just way more fabulous than the antics I get up to (I would probably die or something on Top Gear. And they'd let me; it'd be good for ratings), and you just know there has to be some blow back.

The three of them - Clarkson, Hammond and James May - were doing a cross country trek in three beaters in the southern U.S. They decided to make life hell for each other and paint slogans across each other's cars. Slogans that might get the back of the locals up a little.

Just a little.

Oh, and here's review of the Corvette by Hammond. I love it. Thanks to Alex for the link.


Is it Brillig in Your Slithy Toves?

You know when your brain does all those annoying bendy things and won't remember information you need, or offer up a word like 'circumvent' or 'dialysis' when you really need it? It's a pain to watch yourself flailing around and have to settle for 'go around' or 'that blood cleansing process' when you just know there's a better way to put it.

Anyway. That happens to me all the time. Or a name. Or trying to pinpoint where I saw something in the ether that is my short term memory. But ever notice if you look away - metaphorically speaking - you can sometimes re-jig your brain into thinking properly? Like wiggling the wires or re-booting it. It works. A very cool study done by Travis Proulx at UC and Steven J. Heine at the University of B.C.suggests something I have long suspected - forcing your mind down tunnels it can't readily interpret is very good for re-jigging learning.

They used a piece of writing by Franz Kafka that was crazy, impossible to follow and demented (wow. what a change for Kafka), and after reading it, participants were able to sort out seemingly un-patterned strings of letters into new patterns. Our brains automatically search for known patterns - our comfort zones - and when they're removed, we're forced to seek out alternative reasoning.

And that, folks, is when we get smarter.

Processing information in only one way can be dangerous. When you're confronted with something strange, something you have no prior system in place to deal with, you freeze. Or freak out. Or cry. Okay, I cry. You may not.

But giving your mind a break from the known and feeding it a dose of nonsense (yes, they quote Jabberwocky) is like a breath of fresh air. We should all do variations of this every day. Like when the guy who only wears grey suits switches it up with a sweater vest.

Anyway. I just like mind-bendy things. You should to.

October 6, 2009


Lynn Crosbie

Oh, there are days when Lynn Crosbie in the G&M just makes me laugh and laugh. Today is one of those days.

Her column is a round-up of all the general buffoonery in the press lately, from old men behaving badly to front page news about toddlers who aren't missing, or even prodigies.

She slams head on into why the hell young, beautiful women are willing to trade their fabulousness off to some old crone "who can play hacky sack with his own genitals". Ah. Word pictures.

She's sick of being inundated with free roaming children wherever she goes, regardless of the hour. Her favourite bar has a Mommy and Baby Play Day. I'm a mother; I'm with her.

She laments that we speak ill of the dead (Patrick Swayze's halo tilted before he was in the ground), that we give a crap whether Whitney Houston still thinks crack is whack, and whether Kirsty Alley's weight should be weighing so heavily on our collective conscience.

Ah, when she's on, she's on.

October 3, 2009


For Curious George

Hi George. You sent a question about vanity plates to my Blame it on Lorraine section, which has a blind email, so I can't answer you directly without going through the rigamarole of posting it as a letter. It's about my Wheels column today regarding vanity plates.

You asked:

If George has 1 vanity plate and wants to sell it to Lorraine who has none, how long do George and Lorraine have to spend in the licensing office if George returns the plates to the ministry while Lorraine simultaneously orders them?

See, that's the thing. You can't sell me GEORGE for any amount, nor can you return it to the ministry to get them to sell it to me. That's the stupid part of the whole thing: even if you don't want it anymore, you can only transfer it within you family. I've had a couple of readers say they've transferred vanity plates to strangers: that wasn't what I was told by the spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation, so I'm still looking into it. I know you can apply to transfer them, but I was told it's a whole hullabalo to do so.

Our government won't let you make money from something you own, nor are they smart enough to make money themselves from it.

October 2, 2009


Non-Sense

The New York Times has a regular feature in the Science section that puts some long-held beliefs to the test. Real or myth? they ask. Can getting wet feet give you a cold? Can wearing a hat keep you warmer? All those things my mother told me, they debunk or try to prove.

I didn't even need to read past the headline of today's feature. Does being blind heighten your other senses? Darn tootin'.

While I am not blind, I am severely near-sighted, far-sighted and damned near no-sighted. I have thick glasses that sharpen my vision, and when removed everything dissolves into a milky dream sequence from a bad movie. They're not thick like Bubbles on Trailer Park Boys (click on that. Really. I'll wait). But they're thick. And though I wear contacts often, with that whole bifocal thing going on now, I realize we can put a man on the moon, have 2-in-1 shampoo, cold water detergent, cell phones as thin as a credit card and steaks as fat as my head, but we still can't get contact lenses that let me read the paper and see traffic signs - and no, not at the same time.

Stumbling in the night has led me to sharpen my other senses. I can smell smoke where I couldn't even see fire; I can hear a small child sigh in his sleep, but I can't find my pillow if it falls on the floor. Once I'm actually awake, I can't do anything without my glasses on, so I think my superhero-ness dangles in the ether between consciousnesses.

I went to a birthday party when I was little. It was strange, and memorable for all the wrong reasons. My all-time most unfavourite game was the oddest thing I've ever been subjected to before or since. Wearing a blindfold, all these little 8-year-olds were supposed to obediently stick out their tongues to guess what was being deposited. You might think it would be pixie sticks and potato chips, but you would be wrong.

For some reason, Odd Mom fed us things like mustard and kielbasa. It was a weird party. But I learned instantly that when I couldn't see what was being jammed in my mouth, it tasted ten times worse. Mustard, people. Geez.

I still reach for my glasses fast if I wake up, but I then rely on sight as my first instinct, and let my other senses take a back seat. Unless I promptly fall over Stupid Cat, at which point pain figures prominently. Actually, I just remembered something. Christopher used to smell all of his food before he ate it when he was little. Sniff, eat. Sniff, eat. Sniff, eat. We thought it was cute.

It was probably just an early detection system guarding against my cooking.

October 1, 2009


Score One For The Animals...

Aw. A poor woman was gored by a reindeer she's purchased to haul a Victorian sled around at Christmas parties. Because everyone knows that's what reindeer yearn to do. She already owns horses, doves and elephants that she rents out for weddings.

Am I missing something here? I mean, she was hurt. The thing gored her badly. She lived, but apparently it's rutting season and I guess she was dressed like a provocative girl reindeer, and Mr. Frosty went for it. That's his name: Mr. Frosty.

But why on earth would she want a frigging reindeer to prance around liked a trained pony? Hell, why would anyone want a trained pony to prance around like a trained pony? You really think you can pimp out horses, doves and elephants and not have one of them finally go all Lord of the Flies on you?

She hadn't had Mr. Frosty long; my guess is the other inmates met him, saw his impressive rack, and said 'do it. Do it for all of us. But save yourself...'. Like that moron who had a pet orangutan, and the thing went nuts and tore her friend's face off.

Turns out she'd had the chimp on Xanax but taken him off. Because everyone feeds their pets Xanax. Especially when you have a 200 pound pet monkey you dress up, sleep with and pretend is human. You say marriage, I say potato....

Don't get me wrong. I love my cats. Especially Maggie. JoJo can't read, so this is safe to say. But have you ever seen a cat go for a mouse or a bird? Feral. Feral to the last bone in their cuddly little bodies. And Maggie is 6 pounds of feral when she's peeved, and I can't imagine if she were 200. And you better believe I wouldn't be trying to harness her up to a Christmas sleigh if she weighed 250 pounds (like Mr. Frosty) and had a set of antlers not normally seen outside a roadhouse.

Speaking of which, Road House is still my all time favourite Patrick Swayze movie for out and out terribleness. Since you asked.

Anyway. Mr. Frosty took down the warden, I'm sure to applause all around. I've seen herds of reindeer, and they don't look all that impressive. They're kind of small and weird looking. But I sure wouldn't try to embarrass one - we just ate it instead.