Wednesday, April 30, 2008


One the hardest things to take as a creative worker is when someone tells you no.

If we're any good, if we care at all about what we do, we invest so much of ourselves in it. Creating something out of thin air, combining random influences into something new, is not like any other job. Sure, everyone experiences disappointment and everyone at some point feels like they aren't being listened to, but imagine a career where you're told going in that 80% of what you do will just be no good. With no guideline or yardstick as to what is good, besides your own instinct.

The thing that I think most of us crave more than anything else is external validation. Otherwise, why would be exposing ourselves so vulnerably? I know I get a high when someone I respect tells me they like something I've done.

The flips side of that is how crushing it can be when you don't get that validation. I think people don't understand what it is like to stay in a career path where most of the time, people tell you you're not good. Even when people do like what you've done, there's almost never the level of appreciation that would make the rejections worthwhile. I think maybe, if we were really honest, what we would like most is a deep, heartfelt hug to express the levels of humanity that we revealed through our joke about suitcases.

That's the real problem. There's not enough hugging involved.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hey Jealousy!

I've been hanging out with some of my writer friends the last couple of days, and it turns out that writers have a few things in common.

Every writer, everywhere, is in some way jealous of some other writer, somewhere else.

We are never just content with things.

Why is that?

Myself, I just about fly into a rage when I hear about someone else getting paid to do something I would never in a million years want to touch. "ARG! How dare they get that no talent hack to write and research that scat porno documentary!"

Monday, April 28, 2008

Make money on the internet! Guarenteed! Work from home!

I was going to give you a little rant about happiniess. And it was going to go something like this...

Leo Tolstoy once wrote that "Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

If you want to sound smart, open with a quote. Not only does it make you sound like you once read a book, but it is always easier to steal something from someone smarter than you than to actually say something intrinsically smart.

Then I was going to get into my little pet twist on that. How individuals are unhappy in the same way, but each of us finds happiness in unique ways. We all get down when confronted with money troubles, relationship problems, a job we don't like, but what does it take to make someone truely happy in their life? Ah, that depends on the person, n'est pas? (N.B. using words from another language makes you look smart too. Oh, and using the notation N.B. isn't bad either.)

I was probably going to follow that up with evidence drawn from my own experiences, only keep them vague enough so I avoid mentioning anyone by name. They would probably be circuitous and hard to follow, with some jokes shoehorned in there awkwardly, like a clown performing at a share holders' meeting. You know, in a company that doesn't have clowns. I think if you had a publicly traded clown talent agency, then the clown wouldn't be out of place. But I digress. (Digressions make you look stupid, unless you acknowledge them.)

But I'm not going to do any of that, because as I was Googleing the quote to remind myself who said it (admitting you don't know something equals dumb) I came across a site that sold Term Papers. I think perhaps the name was poorly chosen, because it included plagiarism in the url. Seems to me you're cramping on my plausible deniability, there. (Sometimes, playing dumb is the smartest thing you can do.)

And that's when it hit me - the single greatest business venture of our time. A website that sold prewritten blog entries! Think about it! I'd never have to sweat over another missed deadline because I was too lazy to come up with something! I could just browse on over to www.greatblogideas/, click through the categories until I came up with something on writing; funny; smart; surprising; original... and I'd have it!

What would be even better if you could feed in a quote, or pick one out of a list, and presto, a whole blog would be written for you! Think how many postings you do in a day! The internet would be yours for the taking!

I'm sure there's some code savvy types out there who could do that, no problem. I'm not one of them, but I present this idea to them. Go on, basement dwellers of the world. Pick up this gauntlet I throw down in front of you.

I can't wait. Maybe I'll just do a little copy and paste action in the meantime...

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Weekend Subway Shutdown Ruins Hook-ups

Midnight on Friday April 25, 2008, public transportation shut down, inconveniencing hundreds of suburbanites drinking in Toronto’s downtown core, and putting an end to reportedly dozens of one night stands.

“I totally had this trashed chick convinced I was Ben Affleck’s other brother,” says Steven Holloway of Oakville, “And then she hears the subway’s closed and she has to go.” He shakes his head, and continues. “I never thought I’d get cock-blocked by the TTC.”

The same story is told all across the downtown core. An estimated 83% decrease in drunken, meaningless promiscuity occurred in the entertainment district alone. Early reports indicate that College Street suffered a less drastic decline, while the crowd at the Drake and the Gladstone seemed remarkably unconcerned. "Subway? EW!" offered 43 year old, Brampton school teacher Shawna Miles, who gave her age as 25.

But it wasn’t only dance club pickups that were effected. Booty calls across the city had to be canceled at the last minute as the horny suddenly found themselves unable to travel to the desperate. This is a phenomenon known as a Breakdown in the Booty Call Process Chain, and is well understood by Arborculturalists, who are often horny and desperate.

Surprisingly, some were able to turn a negative into a positive. Giving lifts, sharing cabs, and walking her home were three ways the surprise strike actually helped to close the deal. One such quick thinker was Patrick Varney, of Oshawa. “I had a cab when I saw this stunner, obviously drunk and primed to pump, come out of the club. So I offered to share it with her. By the time we got to her place her panties were in my breast pocket. And this chick had been partying with Ben Affleck’s other brother.” Mr. Varney’s only regret was in leaving his wallet and all of its contents with the cab driver.

Most men weren’t so lucky, and spent hours making their way home to beat their baby yoghurt into an old sock and go to sleep.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Bueller... Bueller...

"Life moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it."

Thus the philosophy in Ferris Bueller's Day Off laid bare.

But wait a second, Mr. Bueller. I have considered your position, and I find in untenable. Perhaps it is time for a fresh review of this rarely questioned filmic maxim.

Talk about moving fast - how long is your 'day off,' Mr. Bueller? You hang out at home, round up your friends, have lunch, go to ball game, visit the museum, dance in a parade, hoist your friends car on bricks, go swimming, have a life altering epiphany (albeit the actual epiphany is carried out by your ersatz Dr. Watson, undercutting your own, self serving prominent role in your own narrative. Who's the main character now, bitch?) race through various backyards, and are home in bed before the clueless parental metaphors get home.

Phew. I'm exhausted just writing about it. Surely you needed a day off to recover from your day off! This doesn't sound like slowing down to take it all in to me. No, in fact, it suggests that there is some form of time travel involved. Perhaps this movie deserves a place of honour in the canon of science fiction, right between Back to the Future and... er... Back to the Future 2!

Perhaps, Mr. Bueller, if you had slowed yourself down, and taken time to consider the ramifications of your argument, you might have said something like the following...

"Life moves pretty fast. I mean, who woulda thunk that funny teacher with the flat voice woulda gone on to have his own game show and become the Micheal Moore of the raving, wild-eyed right wing?"

Tomorrow I shall re-examine the Jurassic Park series through the lens of Marx's phases of historical progress, Jurassic Park (feudalism), The Lost World (capitalism), Jurassic Park III (communism) and the forth coming Jurassic Park IV (corresponding to the Marxian historical phase of milking-this-until-it-bleeds-ism).

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The dog days of mid to late April

We're a funny people, us Canadians.

It's been warm in Toronto for maybe a week or so, solid. Summer weather, after what many people have termed a winter from hell. (Does that hell has frozen over? If that's the case, I got lots and lots of sex coming my way!)

People are still complaining about the winter weather. People have been loving the warm weather. And then yesterday, it happened. I knew it would, but when it did, it came as a surprise.

During the winter my gal and I hadn't gone out on too many evening strolls. So now that spring is here, we've been trying to get out from behind our desks and outside. So yesterday, around 6ish, when the sun was starting to go down, we were out on the Danforth, waiting at a light to cross the street, when this guy steps up beside us.

He was panting heavily. His thick, round sun glasses were resting on his chin, for what reason I don't know. His thin grey shirt was covered with splotches of sweat, and he carried a much too heavy backpack over his shoulder. He came right up to us, and without preamble or or the slightest level of prompting, said, "It's too hot."

I looked at him in surprise. Huh? He looked at me, and perhaps sensing that I wasn't on the same page as him, said, "When you can't stop seating, it's way too hot." I have recently realized most people appreciate an attempt to understand their point of view, so I started a half hearted lie. "Yeah, I guess it..." and that's as far as I could get. I could not join this squat guy's moral outrage.

The light changed and he crossed the street ahead of us, obviously he had somewhere to be and he'd been going there for some time, in the blazing, mid April setting sun.

And that was it. The first person I heard complain about the warmth.

It didn't even take a month to go from voicing displeasure at the cold to assuring complete strangers that the Earth, shifting on its axis and adjusting the exposure of the northern hemisphere to the sun, was asking too much of us.

I gotta tell you - no one complains like a Canuck.

We should have that as a motto. I wonder how it reads in Latin?

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Is it just me?

Are we in a televisional gulf right now? Why does it seem like there was tons of stuff and now nothing I want to watch? Did I suddenly mature last weekend? ;The only current show we're watching is Canterbury's Law. Yeah, exactly. I guarantee you it was pitched to Fox as "House in a courtroom."

Has the US election dropped off the radar? It used to be everywhere, but the only thing I've heard in the last little while is both Obama and Hillary think the other guy "could still win." What kind of a campaign is that? BRING ME BLOOD!

Was this last winter extremely bad, weather wise? (This one's for my Toronto fans!) I think I must have suffered some level of emotional trauma over the winter, because now with the warmer weather, all I can think of is, "Some day it'll get cold again." I'm like a dog who's been beat too much, right Bruce? Right? I spent half my life just a coverin' up, now.

Juno's soundtrack is great but the movie was just trying way too hard. Or not enough. How many people watched that movie and when they met Jason Bateman's character thought, "Hey! This could work out without any problems!"

Who told Adam "Opera Man" Sandler he was Tom "Bosom Buddy" Hanks? I'm not usually one to bash someone just doing their best to entertain us (at least not publicly) but Adam, buddy, there's a whole emotional range between mumbling and shouting. Oh, yeah, we watched Spanglish last night. Should have opened with that.

Is it easier to write a whole bunch of barely connected things than actually have something to say that could fill up a post on its own? Or that just me?

Do most people decide what colour to paint their walls with more serious thought then they give to getting pregnant and having a child? "Let's get pregnant. Now, should the baby's room be this colour... or this colour? Are you even listening to me?"

Do you think Dubya would dare invite the Pope to the White House if he was worried about getting re-elected? Do you think he was like a kid who has a friend his parent's don't approve of? "But why can't the Pope sleep over? We'll be quiet! I promise!"

What would you do on a sleep over with the Pope? I'd blow up condoms and stuff them in his sleeping bag. And then we'd laugh...

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Sunny Weather!

So, after a hectic week (with no time to post) the sun is out and shining down its' rays of warm warm love to the people.

But I got more work to do. I am beginning to suspect that I will never do anything fun, ever again.

And that's not even why I wanted to talk to you today. No, friends, today's sermon is about something that I think I touched on in a much earlier post. (Oh yeah, for those of you waiting on baited tinder hooks, I will absolutely get back to the writing assignment I had started. The one about the hats. I will. When I run out of things to rant about!)

There's a time in our lives when many of us honestly believe we're going to be big shot famous celebrities. Whether we think singing or sports or acting or (be afraid) writing or whatevschooly, we enjoy it and have a certain talent at it and that's all, right?


You gotta chase it.

Sure, there are some people who are born to famous parents or who are in the right place at the right time, but I'm not talking about them. Because, quite frankly, they're probably not looking for career advice. Even then, if they want to be more than a footnote in Pappy's A&E Biography Special they gotta chase it too. It's just a little easier for them.

It's not enough to have talent. You gotta have drive. You gotta wake up every morning thinking about how you're gonna get closer to where you want to be by the end of the day. And it's hard, especially in the early stages when it feels like nothings happening.

But even that's not what I really wanted to say. That's all setting the scene. You've heard all that before. What I want to touch on is people who seem to have the talent, seem to have the drive... and then drop out of the race.

We've all got a comfort zone. Sure, everyone wants more money, bigger house, faster cars. But different people need a different base lifestyle in order not to panic about it. It's different for everyone. For some people, its money. For others, its owning a house or having kids. For some people, it is finding a relationship as close to your parent's relationship as you can get. And it is weird that one day someone's right there, making plans for this and that and going to classes and putting on shows and then the next day, they just stop pushing.

They've reached their comfort level.

They have decided that what they would have to give up to keep chasing it isn't worth it. Here's where "it's me or the band" comes in. And I'm not talking about people who never achieve any level of success, I include those who get to a certain stage in their career and become content to stay there. They like the money, or maybe the big fish small pond thing. Maybe they got into journalism to break hard hitting stories and expose corruption, but now they're very happy editing for Train Man, the guy's magazine for locomotive buffs. Why did their goals change?

Whatever happened, they found their comfort level.

And we should be happy for them - because they're happy. Just in a different way than they thought they would be.

But I will say this, they are probably out enjoying this sunny day right now, while I'm home writing into a blog.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Being in the know ain't always in the know. You know?

Here’s a hint; if you are referencing pot, don’t make that silly “I’m smoking pot” gesture.

You know the one. You pinch your thumb and forefinger and touch it to your lips. Often, there's some back and forth motions like the gesturer is smoking in an old, handcranked, over-speed, black and white silent movie. I understand that everyone immediately knows what that means. But unless you are trying to score from someone across a linguistic divide, just don’t do it.

How many times have you seen this scenario? You’re at a party and someone party goer invites a fellow party goer they have recently met to join a bunch of them “for a walk.” Or “to go to the basement.” Or “to go and smoke.” Or (my favourite) “to burn some dried hemp and then inhale the smoke in order to derive some level of euphoric intoxication.” The invitee blinks for a moment and then with a visible gathering of their street cred ask “You mean...” and touch their pinched thumb and finger to their lips. Because they have seen How High and Weeds. They know how it goes down.

I’m gonna break the Magicians Code here and pull back the curtains - you have not communicated that you are “with it.” No. You have just broadcasted to everyone sober enough to give a shit that you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about.

It’s like they feel it they say the word “pot” they will instantly get jumped by clever drug cops and immediately deported to Jordan for “questioning.” Dude, it’s not like being at an airport, where in the interest of security certain words are illegal. Chief among them the four letter word “bomb.” Maybe it is the silent “b” that gets people so upset. I understand “pneumatic” is next. I’m not sure how many times I say bomb on any kind of regular basis, but the whole time I’m going through the metal detectors all I can think is, “don’t say bomb. Don’t say bomb.” Okay, that’s not all I’m thinking about. I am also hoping they don’t find the illicit bottle of (liquid) shampoo my fiancĂ©e is smuggling onto the airplane.

To sum up, just say pot. Or weed, or Mary Jane (like Spidey!). Unless you’ve at the airport. Cause then, yeah. Absolutely. You will probably got tackled and sent to Jordan.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Hey Daren!

Hey, Daren Foster! Thanks for reading my blog, Daren Foster!

For those of you know who may not know Daren, he's a very funny, intelligent and (I don't say this lightly) insightful writer whom I happen to count among my favourite people.

And there's two other things you should know about Daren.

One, he reads this blog. The only one, I shouldn't wonder.

Two, he mentioned me in his column, only not by name. Embarrassed, most likely. Not that I blame him. I wouldn't mention myself by name, given the choice. In fact, I haven't.


Mystery Man

Friday, April 11, 2008

There ain't no innoculation against bacterial Eureka

I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about this blog. I often wonder, what am I going to write about? I come with some thing great, something really great and mentally check that item off in the do to list of my mind.

Big mistake.

I walk trough life in a haze - a gut churning feeling that I had the single best idea of my life, but since forgot it. Constantly. I just can't be always writing things down. sometimes my hands are full. Or I'm in the middle of doing the dishes. Or out with friends. I can't constantly be whipping out a voice recorder in the middle of someone's story about their Patagonian vacation. I mean, I write down a lot of ideas - just, it seems, none of the good ones.

I sit down at my 'puter, flex my fingers over the wireless keyboard... and realize that idea I've been dying to add to digital memory all day is gone. And it was good.

Or maybe I only thought it was good. You ever get an idea in the middle of the night that excites you so much you can't go back to sleep, but then in the morning you think about it and it is clearly a steaming pile of tar sap? That happens too.

But some of them surely must be good. Some of the lost ideas. I walk around in a fog borne of evaporated inspiration, the very air around me is largely part oxygen, part nitrogen, part world shattering insights. No matter how hard I scrub my hands, there's always little particles of sub-atomic stories that get on my food, and leave me when I shake hands with people. Or get stuck on a subway pole, only to be transferred to someone else like a bacterial Eureka.

The next time you're on the Bloor/Danforth line and you get a good idea, that's mine you mo-fo!

I'm infecting the world with thoughts trickling out some tiny hole in the back of my head. Every time my cat grooms himself, he's swallowing the solution the second act problems I'm having with my likable villain. I'm sure that once I heard my downstairs neighbour dusting, and suddenly exclaim, "Hey, I know how to interweave the B-story! What's a B-Story!?"

Now, I want you to understand that I'm not paranoid. Just because I've taken to wrapping my head in tin foil to keep the ideas in, doesn't mean anything.

Now, if only I could remember a good subject to write a blog entry about...

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Jury Duty, and no, not the Pauly Shore Movie

Ah, Pauly Shore. His mom owned a comedy club, and he got famous. He dated a porn star, and got upset because he couldn't stay famous. I think there's a tragic story there.

Anyway, I haven't had a chance to post in the last couple of days, and here I am posting that I won't be posting (most likely) for the next little while. I am, for lack of better words, going to jury duty.

Jury duty fascinates many of the people I talk to about it. Beyond, you know, the fact that anything that dribbles out of my mouth is fascinating. People are mystified about jury duty (both the thing and the movie). Where are going? How long will it last? What's the trial? How much do you get paid?

Well... I'll tell you. I'm going to some building downtown - I have the letter here somewhere. They say it'll take at least a week, if not more. They don't say what the trial is. And no, you don't get paid.

And here's the kicker - according to the sparse FAQ the government sends out along with the actual summons, you can't get out of it. If you can prove severe financial hardship, you can delay it. Being a freelance writer, I don't work I don't pay rent. I don't have any vacation pay or sick days or anything like that. And the other side of the coin is that any time I don't hustle setting up work for the future, there's less chance of work coming in. I'm off for a week, I might not get work in again for another two or three weeks.

Our whole system of government is not set up well when it comes to creative entrepreneurs. Our accountant handles creative types, and he describes a sitchuashion where this guy, we'll call him guy, guy works on getting his movie made for five years. For four years he makes almost nothing. On the fifth year he makes a million dollars. (I guess he's making a Tom Cruise movie, who knows). Our accountant feels that for tax purposes, this guy, guy, should be allowed to spread his earnings over the last five tax years, paying out at a lower overall tax bracket.

You know, it sounds a lot more exciting when he says it. I promise to limit my taw stories in the future.

I talked to another guy, but not named guy, who went through a jury duty scare. It took him a long time to convince them that he had to be on set for his TV show during that week. "Couldn't you take some time off, or have someone cover you?" They did not seem to understand that this week of being on set was something he had been working towards for months - if not (in one hyperboliptical way of looking at it) his whole life. Although, eventually he did talk his way out of it.

Maybe I'm being lazy by not fighting against my civic duty, by I'm biting the bullet (so manly!) and going in. Sure, it's causing me problems, but what's interesting is that I have no idea how this is going to go. And neither does anyone I've talked to. This is an entirely uncharted area.

Oh, as I spend a lot of time telling you what everyone always says to me about things, here's what people always say to me about jury duty; tell them you're racist. I know they're joking, that's the common joke you say about Jury Duty - a little like the 'who's there' to a knock knock joke. If people stopped saying 'who's there' the entire culture of knock knock jokes would be extinct, making second grade a much less humourous place.

Anyway (as my mom always says) my point is that I just out and out could not sell being racists. It would come out in a mummble, while I'm blushing like mad and stuttering over the juicy bits. They wouldn't believe me. And then that would be more embarrassing than actually being a racist. Because I would be the guy who said horrible, hateful, hurt filled things just to get out of jury duty - and everyone would know it. All my fellow jurers. They'd be shuffling away from me in that wooden box off to the side.

And the twenty year reunion would suck.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Coming Soon! Maybe...

This is just to say that I have been working behind the scenes on a post involving a beloved moment from Sesame Street. I'm only telling you this for the comedy value in the wink wink nod nod understanding between you and me that, in all likelihood, I will never get around to finishing it.


Footloose and Fancy Free!

Much of my life is modeled on the Muppet Movie. A flick that I'm sure will be recovered in a thousand years and turned into a religion. Time will be expressed B.K. and A.K. (Before and After Kermit). Muppets Tonight will be rightly dismissed as Apocrypha. Theologians will argue how many of Gonzo's chickens can dance on the head of a pin, and elaborate rituals will be undertaken to ensure that your protected against the sinful mutterings of Statler and Waldorf. The only part they don't like will be pigs in space, because by that time they will have conclusively proved that pigs can not fly space ships. Cows make much better astronauts.

The reason I'm humming an upbeat number from Kermit and Fonzie is entirely due to the mail. You see, as a self employed freelancer, checking the mail is exactly like playing the lottery. Each time you have big expectations, but most times you are deeply, deeply disappointed. And sometimes, you are in for s big surprise. We never know exactly when money is going to be coming in, so when it does it is like it comes out of nowhere. And it is usually so far behind the actual work that it really does seem divine.

I guess, somewhere, the lord Kermit is watching out for me. Through the intervention of his... uh... nephew Robin. Nephew. Right.

Keeping up with Your Responsibilities is a Very Important Aspect of our Adult Lives

It's late but I have told myself I can't go to bed until I do a blog post.

Huh. That was easy! Good night!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen, Mr. Solomon Burke...; Spaceship Earth, the other kind

I'm listening to a song, right now, that never fails to get me. "None of us are free, if one of us is in chains, none of us our free." By a very overlooked singer that goes by the handle of Solomon Burke.

My fiancee and I just re-watched the Sopranos. I know, there are two things everyone says to me right away. (I always seem to be talking about the things that everyone always says to me. Why is it?) One, is that there were a bunch of bad episodes "in the middle somewhere." But no one can name any of those episodes. The other thing is people say, "I think they all die at the end." Everyone's entitled to their opinions, even when they're wrong. But that's not what I want to talk about. If you've seen the last season, you'll know these words, "We go about in pity for ourselves, when all along a great wind carries us through the sky."

These kinds of things really resonate with me, because it seems painfully obvious to me that we're all in this together. Kinda like the whole Spaceship Earth thing, except not in an environmental kind of way. I think a lot of people pay lip service to this idea, but then go about their day, cursing the guy at Starbucks and their boss and the price of gas at the pump. We tsk tsk at China burning Tibet and get ready to watch our guys win at the Olympics.

I like to think that I'm helping people out, in my chosen profession. I like to think that songs that Mr. Burke's and shows like that of Mr. Chase spread a tiny morsel of insight to unsuspecting audiences. Maybe I can do that, some day. It has become out of fashion to read fiction, or (shudder) watch TV. Like that kind of empty entertainment is only a waste of our valuable time. Instead we could read yet another non-fiction book that tells us how right we already are. So we can all be reading the same book at networking events and see and be seen charity events.

Fiction is the single greatest crowning achievement of humanity.

Fiction lets us step, for however brief or imperfect a time, into another's role. To see the world through their eyes. To understand that our point of view is not the only point of view.

The very act of living vicariously through someone else, even someone fictional, is an act that makes it easier to feel like we are part of something larger. A part of something to which there is no whole.

The more we learn about how others live, the more we understand how we live, the more we understand others.

We're all in this together. It would be better if more of us started to act like it.