October 28, 2014

World's Best Mayor

To all the great cities of the world, I'm sorry to say this, but Toronto has the best mayor on the planet, hands down.

How can I make such a claim? Well today, our incredible Mayor John Tory showed up for work! If that's not enough, he didn't smoke crack all day and as of this writing, has not been videotaped partying with gang members and speaking in a racially insensitive Jamaican patois. And I know, I know, I realize this is probably pushing it, but I'd say there's a relatively decent chance Tory won't be flying to L.A to appear on Jimmy Fallon to be made fun of, thereby embarrassing the great City of Toronto.

Fingers crossed!

You're Lying To Yourself

Dear Tim Horton's.

Each morning when I pop by to see you, please stop asking me if I want to try the Dark Roast. Don't you remember me from the last four hundred and nineteen days in a row I've been here? And after you've interrogated me and we've exhaustingly come to the conclusion that I just want the original flavour, do not ask me if there'll be something else. "Why I'm glad you asked, because I completely forgot that I also wanted to order a thousand timbits."

I'll never put one of these in my mouth ever again, and I'm ok with that.
On a related note, to the lady I see in the lineup frequently - stop lying to yourself. That Bacon Wrap you order every day isn't healthy because it's in a wrap. It's just like the delusional folks who order a big mac, large fries and a diet coke. Don't delude yourself. If you want to eat that shit, eat it. Eat it, and at least have the balls to own it. 

October 26, 2014

Darwin was right

It's no secret our musical preferences are forged in our teen years. The youthful mind is a hungry gorging beast, like a sponge or that giant sand vagina with teeth in Return of The Jedi.

When I was about 13 I was bored with what I was hearing on the radio. I grew up in a time when Top 40 radio was on the AM dial. I hated it all. I didn't relate to Michael Jackson, Pat Benatar or Madonna.  Then I discovered FM accidentally when I tuned in to Toronto's CHUM FM to listen to Theatre Of The Mind late Sunday nights. Musically I'd hear deeper album cuts from bands like The Police and The Boomtown Rats.

It wasn't long after that I discovered the station that changed everything for me. It's branded today as  102.1 The Edge, but then it was the one and only CFNY The Spirit of Radio.  From top to bottom it was free-form radio at it's finest. DJ's would often pick their own music, and once or twice I even remember "The Live Earl Jive" pulling the needle off a record mid-song because he simply didn't want to hear it anymore. Think that would happen today?

I was exposed to punk, new wave and innovative electronica that heavily influenced the alt rock bands of today. Of course there was New Order, The Smiths, The Cure and Depeche Mode, but there was also a lot of obscure artists who wouldn't get airplay anywhere else, because other than a few college stations, it was considered too weird for mainstream radio.  Love and Rockets, Siouxsie and The Banshees, The Cocteau Twins were just so completely different, and I loved it all. CFNY would also spin tunes from Canadian bands who wouldn't get a lot of exposure otherwise like Skinny Puppy, National Velvet and Blue Peter. And, I must admit it's easy to throw on the rose coloured glasses, but in reality some of the music I heard wasn't really to my liking. At the end of the day, it's an artform and up to interpretation.

I know I run the risk of sounding like a cranky old bastard stuck in another musical era, but that wouldn't be accurate. See, I believe in evolution in all its forms.  Today, I embrace new music and listen to bands like Bloc Party, Muse, James, Mother Mother and many others.

Much like Jones The Cat, I too want to end up with only
a couple of teeth in my head.
The point is, for me it's important to never stop growing. This applies to everything that comes along with life, good and bad. Roll with the punches. Adapt or die. Instead of fighting change, choose to change because time will march on anyway.

As Moby so brilliantly said, we are all made of stars, literally. Everything that's happened before this moment has all lead up to what you are this very second. And if it's worked for life on this planet for a few billion years, how can we possibly think otherwise?

October 24, 2014

Phone Phun Phriday

So, my phone stopped working.

As such, I enquired about finally getting out of 1946 to upgrade my iphone4. Relatively speaking I guess it's like I have one of those giant cones old folks would put up to their ear.  I even caught myself saying "What's that sonny?!" in an old man's voice when my wife called me the other day. Yea you know the voice I'm talking about.

What's ironic is that it's financially more sound for me to get an iphone6, rather than just a modest upgrade to a 4C or even a 5. Something tells me that's no mistake.

My iphone4. 
Regardless, when it's all said and done, I could get a brand new bendable iphone6 for $600, which might be an issue for me personally because I wear unbelievably tight skinny jeans every day of my life. So then I thought - that's crazy. Maybe I should resist the urge to automatically contribute to our throwaway society, and look into repairing my phone.

I figure if the repair is less than say $100, it makes sense for me to go that route. Then when my current contract is done in August, it'll be at least $200 less for me to upgrade to a 6, and perhaps any bugs will be sorted out.

So the repair shop called me back and said they only had to  replace the charger port and it was only 60 bucks. Fantastic. I felt quite proud of myself that I made a Wise Adult Decision. Oh sure, 19 Chinese teenagers threw themselves off the iphone factory roof this week, but hey, 60 bucks is 60 bucks.

October 22, 2014

Grasping At Straws

Maybe it's just me, but I get the feeling the Catholic church is worried. Very worried.

The last few years, Pope Billy Bob McGee seems to be pushing for more acceptance of homosexuals, atheists, other religious groups and even heavy-breathers. Just what the sam-fuck is really going on?

The way I see it, the Catholic church and other major religions are like any large corporation. First off, the dudes at the top are..well..dudes. Second, the Pope of Greenwich Village has to take a 30,000 foot view and look at the health of the corporation 10, 20 and 30 years down the road. They've finally had an epiphany. The reality is that religion is slowly losing it's grip on society as a whole, and that's bad for God business. After all, someone's gotta pay for those fancy robes and paedophile-related lawsuits. At least the incense they use in their rituals is cheap. I recently bought 1000 sticks for like 9 bucks in Chinatown. What a bargain!

Listen, it's just to help my migraines ok. 
So, the Church is spinning it all to tell us they're hip. Hey look - Popey McPope is tweeting out selfies dumping a bucket of ice on his head wearing a YOLO t-shirt, and rumour has it he's hosting SNL next week. Whoop whoop whoop!

Whatever man. I'm onto you.

October 21, 2014

Crappy Tire

To the uninitiated, here in Canada we have a large hardware store chain called Canadian Tire. It's been around since that ape beat that other ape senseless in Kubrick's 2001, so it's a bit of an iconic retail giant in these parts.

Recently I was there to exchange an air conditioner jimmy hat, aka an A/C cover. This is the plastic tarpaulin thingy you throw on it to protect it over the winter when you're done using A/C in the Fall.  As an aside, I'm not sure why it's necessary to protect it from the snow when all summer long raccoon shit and rain beats down mercilessly into the guts of it, but that's a question for science, not me.

Canadian Tire stores are supermarket sized, so searching for a relatively obscure item can be something similar to what your average Hobbit experiences in any given Tolkien novel. Sure, there's signage indicating different departments, but narrowing it down is the challenge. Could be Home Comfort, could be Seasonal. If the latter, because it's nearly November, have A/C products been relegated to the warehouse? I approach one elderly employee nervously stacking boxes on a ladder, which is a surprise in itself since Canadian Tire stores are usually staffed by 17 year-old's who know less than me about home repairs.

He grunts the location to me, so I find my way to the myriad of shapes and sizes of A/C covers. The dimensions shown on each package vary wildly - some expressed in inches, some in millimetres, and some really dusty ones are expressed in latin. And, is it length by width by depth, or some other mind-bending permutation? I'm proud to say I achieved a mensa-level 68% in grade 13 relations and functions, so it was no surprise I ended up selecting the correct size.

Fuck all'yall waiting in line behind me. I'm posing for this stock photo.
But ahead of gloating in that success, I still needed to go to the exchanges desk to swap out my old cover for the new one. It all started off well, but after a few more seconds of her scanning the receipt, she utters "oh my it's really been a long time since you bought this!".  This is true. I purchased it in May, but the reality is, you don't use the product and realize you effed up until you need it - ie The Fall.  She cryptically stares at me, and takes off her reading glasses, suggesting she means business. "Well sir, unfortunately I'll first have to call my manager to authorize this".

In reality, however, I know what's coming. She's playing Jedi mind tricks with me. Of course they'll exchange the goddamn fourteen dollar A/C cover. See, she's been trained to give me the gears for half a second, but ultimately give me what I want so I walk out of that store thinking: Golly Canadian Tire you guys are great! She even picked up the phone and left a voicemail for the manager indicating what she was doing, but in reality, I think the woman faked it.

It's not the first time a woman's faked it.

October 19, 2014

Groundhog Day

While having lunch the other day at my workplace cafeteria, I took a moment to observe. I noticed the same 20 or so people I typically see when I'm at lunch.

There's that loud group of brash non-employee contractors who seemingly have been on campus for years repairing something or the other. Since they're not actually employed by the company,  I suppose they feel ok about being rather voluminous in their lunchtime antics.

There's the reserved looking woman who runs the gym, sitting alone eating carrot sticks and a kale salad. She's wearing her usual yoga pants and sporty zip up gym jacket.

And over there is the group of well dressed, quite attractive late forties'ish women who are fighting their way up the ranks. There's a certain loneliness and desperation about some of them, so perhaps they're experiencing troubled marriages or kids who hate them.

Of course, you can't forget about the cafeteria ladies. There's Mabel - not her real name but it's just as cafeteria'esque as Mabel - she's annoyed as usual because the manager refuses to have anyone help her during lunch rush. And Carla at the cash, the strong, loud and chatty woman who gives people cut eye when they use their interac card to buy a coffee for $1.39.

Then yesterday, I was walking around downtown Toronto when I came across this:

Yes I know I'm in public and working, but this nose isn't gonna pick itself.
See, there's a marathon going on around Toronto, and crews were scattered about setting up barricades, signage and such when I came across this. These are rows and rows of medals for people competing in the marathon. As you can see, there are literally hundreds of them, and likely thousands from what I could see.

What does this have to do with my lunchtime observations at the cafeteria? Everything.

Think back to when you were in school. Just like the contractors, there was always the obnoxious table of loud students - sometimes just extroverted kids or maybe the offensive line of meat heads from the football team.

There were the shy nerdy kids who would eat alone, much like the woman who operates the gym.

And who could forget about the table with the hottest girls in school. They knew every dude was checking them out, and the bitch faces were strong in this group. Despite being attractive, there did always seem to be a certain sadness, not unlike the group of cougars in the cafeteria.

And cafeteria ladies have always looked and behaved the same from the dawn of time, and amazingly all have the same names.

As for the rows and rows of medals at the marathon set up, well, isn't that just like elementary school track meets where everyone gets a ribbon?

When I was a kid, I remember thinking to myself. I can't wait to become an adult, because after school, life's gonna really start and it's gonna be so different and fantastic. But when you really think about it, adult life is nothing new. It's really just the same old shit we experienced when we were kids, except now we pay taxes.

October 15, 2014

Killing Them Softly

If you haven't seen the film Killing Them Softly, I highly recommend it. Nowadays Brad Pitt can afford to take better roles while leveraging his notoriety to send a message if he so chooses. Such is the case with this film.

It's essentially a commentary on how Western society in particular has become de-sensitized to the realities of  war. We have economic interests in some shit-hole part of the world? No problem, just send uneducated grunts who have no future anyway.

But the film gets the message across in a clever, accessible way. It features expendable low-level hoodlums who are just trying to get by, and although they're criminals you still feel a degree of empathy for them since they seem to have no other options in their pathetic lives.

Having said all that, it's easy to point the finger at governments and take the moral high ground. We're all equally guilty because all of us benefit from said economic interests, so we too have blood on our hands. And speaking of blood, there's also a parallel to that delicious rare steak you consumed over the weekend.
Not tonight honey, I've got a headache.

Thanks to Meat Processing Inc., chicken, turkey, fish and beef magically appear in our pristine supermarkets. We conveniently forget about the horror often experienced by these creatures as they shuffled off this mortal coil and directly onto our forks. So you see, we are all killing them softly.

But it's simply a characteristic of where we are in the food chain. Your wife sees a spider on the wall, you're dispatched to kill it. Personally, I will always make an attempt to release any sort of creature into the wild, provided of course it requires nominal effort. And even then, the chances that this insect survives in it's explosively new environment are slim, but at least I'm giving it a fair shot.

So next time you're at the gourmet burger shop and order a ground up cow topped with a double helping of hacked up pig, at least pause and have a little bit of appreciation. In the billions of years since the universe began, things have aligned themselves just so you could shove that greasy burger down your neck.

It easily could have been the other way around.

October 10, 2014

Cringe Of The Day

If you live in Toronto, I'll start by saying congratulations. You're a citizen of one of the finest cities on the planet. But where there's a yin, there's a yang.

Each weekday morning as I prepare for work, I eat my delicious president's choice whole wheat shreddies, read newsworthy items online, and in the background I typically throw on The Chill Lounge digital music channel. It's a soothing introduction to the gong show that awaits.

But for some reason today, I decided to flip around channels on the television box. As expected, a myriad of awfulness known as morning tv shows was on full display. Shrill is a word I don't use very often, but it applies here. To me it's mind-numbing gun-to-the mouth sort of stuff. I know, I know, I suppose it's entertaining for some people. Who the hell am I to judge right? But the proverbial line must be drawn somewhere, so here I'll point out the worst of the worst.

It's CP24's Dance Party Friday.  To the unfamiliar, various cameras around the station get shots of an endless sea of awkward white people creakily bending to techno beats. The news anchor, the control room crew, and even the honkiest man on the planet Cam Woolley out on highway 400 "dancing" with five OPP cops. It's painful to the nth degree. Each Friday before the segment I can visualize some out of touch producer trying to rally the troops. "Come on everyone, It'll be fun! It's wacky. This is gonna go viral!"

The perfect storm: sober white people bustin' moves at 7:22am 
When watching today, I caught myself cringing deeply, uttering  "no..no..oh no..ahhhh", like the scene in Casino where Robert DeNiro starts juggling when he gets his own tv show as the Food and Beverage Manager of the hotel.

It would be bad enough if this went on for say 20-30 seconds as they kill time going into a break, but it went on for at least a minute or two, seeming like a horrific eternity.

October 7, 2014

I Beat Children

And I'm proud of it. You see, it's no easy task issuing smack-downs on people who didn't exist in the last millenium.

I'm talking of course about the internet based tank-battle game Tanki Online, which I'm completely addicted to. In a nutshell, you create and build a custom military tank and enter various battle scenarios, either in teams or as an individual warrior. Yes, I said warrior.

Demographically speaking, I'd hazard a guess that the average person playing is a twelve year Russian boy. So it truly makes me feel like a man when I annihilate small children.

What's that? I should pick a fight with someone my own mental size? Well how about the animal kingdom? Ever see footage of  a tiger chasing down and eating a baby gazelle?  The way I figure it, if it happens in nature, then it's ok in the virtual world.

Besides, it's no secret that the computer revolution is what truly balances the scales - look how it benefits physically disabled people in the workforce. So, on many occasions while playing Tanki I've had my ass handed to me by these kids, usually because they've been playing the game longer, or have built a superior tank with better ammunition or a stronger hull.

Vaporizing twelve-year olds is way more fun than putting up shelves
or building a deck..
Now I'll be honest and say that at first I felt a bit odd playing the game and getting emotionally invested in winning when I knew I was competing against children. Frankly, the paranoid side of me suggested that the FBI was listening in. For that reason, I stay far and clear from the chat feature, particularly when I'm invited to join other teams due to my unbelievably deadly skills.

The other thing you might ask is, why the hell is a grown ass man playing video games at all? Well, that just goes to prove that I have more in common with the other players than you'd think. You see, these kids are on to something. If you never grow up, you'll always stay young.

October 3, 2014

Strangle You I Must

It seems like every few years, there's a new batch of corporate speak that makes its way through organizations. In fact, it's just like the Ebola virus. You might think it's proprietary to the company you work for, but as different firms communicate to do business with each other, the vernacular creeps its way in like stinking dirty whorish vines on the side of your house. And yes, I fully realize the last part of that sentence might have been harsh, but that's simply what came to mind.

A number of years back, one of the most popular phrases was "think outside of the box".  After several people working in offices were inexplicably stabbed to death with Bic pens, that phrase seemed to dissipate. Recently I've heard "cascade", where some senior corporate chimp issues a directive from the top, and managers are told to "cascade this to your employees".

Well Nancy this deliverables report is good, but you forgot to include The Hot Karl you gave me
at the office Christmas party last year.  
But over the last couple of years, there's one phrase in particular I've been hearing, and it's time for it to die. It's "reach out", as in "I'll reach out to ABC company to discuss marketing initiatives."  I never liked the term from the get go, and the person issuing it was fabulously talented at other nebulous corporate speak, so I was suspicious about it permeating and spreading. I'd attend meeting after meeting and each time it was uttered, it was like a tiny tiny needle sticking into the back of my neck. Not enough to draw blood, but an irritant nonetheless.

Having said that, who am I to tell people what they can or cannot say? If I was Hitler, a James Bond Villain or even one of those bad guys on Scooby Doo who only dress up as a ghost, I guess then I could dictate what people can say. But until that day comes, free fucking Willy. Say what you like, but do so at your own peril. Because after awhile, corporate speak can sometimes illustrate something very interesting. It says that you've heard it on some Zig Zigler motivational cassette, or read it on a smart ass T shirt purchased on Queen West, and sadly, you end up sounding rather vacuous.

But, at the end of the day, let the chips fall where they may, que sera sera and it is what it is...

October 2, 2014

That Can't Be Right

Welcome to this morning's episode of That Can't Be Right!  It's the show that will amaze and baffle you at the same time when you're told something that can't possibly be right!

Today we bring you a true tale of wonder, courtesy of my friendly neighbourhood car dealership.

You see, for a while now I've told myself that I should really get a spare key for the car. It's one of those things you put off and put off until one day it bites you square in the ass.
Someone actually took quite a long time to set up, light, focus 
and frame this photo. Show some respect.

But no not me. I'm a responsible person after all, so I wisely and pro actively contacted the dealership about the replacement so that if I ever lose my keys, I wouldn't be in a bind because I've got a spare! 

Similarly, a few months back I popped over to my local hardware establishment for house keys. Nine bucks later I had four keys. Now that's some responsible adultin'.

So about an hour after I emailed the dealership, the service manager writes me back. No problem, he tells me. We can get you a replacement key for you for $538, plus tax! 

Nooo..that can't be right! Right? Oh but it is friendo, it is.

October 1, 2014

Encounter at Fowlpoint

Perhaps it's just me, but I feel rather uncomfortable in supermarkets when they have in store demonstrators giving out tiny morsels of food.

Recently I was in one on a Sunday morning just before noon. There weren't many people about (which is why I decided to go that early), and as I came around a corner with my cart I see one of these guys at his little booth.  His easy bake oven is all fired up, cooking some type of chicken slathered in some sauce. Since there's nobody else around he immediately looks at me as I turn the corner and our eyes lock. Although he's feigning enthusiasm, in reality he just wants to give out all his goddamn chicken so he can go home to watch the Packers game. But I can't do it.  I just had a bowl of Shreddies and I really don't feel like eating glazed chicken. Yet strangely, I feel all committed now.

Part of me wants to dart down the nearest aisle to escape the situation, but another part of me wants to help the poor guy out by letting him do this thing. After all, my Sunday morning started about 9am, relaxing with coffee and reading the news. His probably started about two hours earlier than mine where he woke up thinkingJesus Christ I've got to go hand out glazed chicken today.  

So, I decide to make a compromise. I continue past his booth and smile, at least acknowledging the guy. I get about halfway and then I hear the pitch. I can tell I'm his first of the day. He stumbles with his script and refers to his notes. But I feel for the fella. I've had similar gigs..in fact I've had much worse gigs.

Thanks to my university education, I'm wearing a bowtie in a supermarket
Anyway, I tell him no thanks, but I still feel the need to give him a reason. Sort of like when a hobo asks you for change. You tell him you don't have any, but you both know that's a lie. But I'm honest. I tell him I just had some Shreddies, with blueberries, hoping that will convey the idea that all that business just wouldn't mix with chicken. I still feel a little bad so I make a weak attempt at comedy. I ask him if I can take some to go. You know, instead of a tiny bit in a crappy paper cup, maybe he can cook me a whole chicken breast and wrap it up so I can have it for lunch tomorrow. As is often the case in these situations, he clearly didn't realize I was joking and frowned at my suggestion.

I was exhausted by this point. Instead of explaining I was kidding, I thought it was best to just walk away. I stopped by aisle 14 for swiffers. Then over to aisle 20 for cat litter. When it was all over, I walked out of that supermarket on that crisp Sunday morning, and never looked back at him once.