Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Penny Game

Is mother nature on the rag or what? We had ice, rain and pea-soup fog all at the same time. As if the roads aren't dangerous enough in Ontario with all the bloody Ontarians out there behind the wheel, entirely forgetting that they're behind the wheel.

Are you an Ontarian? Why do you think we're such insufferably bad drivers? What do you mostly do while forgetting you're behind the wheel? Let's take a survey: Do you -

- Talk on the cell phone?
- Admire your smile in the rear-view mirror?
- Explore intricate sexual fantasies?
- Catch up on your knitting?
- Read one of my books? (Just kidding! Never been published!! Ahhh, I kill me...)

I once watched a friend smoke a cigarette, drink a coffee and talk on his cell phone while driving. And the car was a standard. This requires five hands and two brains, I realize. But I swear it's true. Phone and butt in left hand, coffee and gear-shift in the right. The steering wheel received a modicum of attention, sometimes from the right wrist, sometimes the right thigh. He's still alive to this day as far as I know.

To be fair though, there are some drivers who are out there paying attention, who are very alert, always looking eagerly for ways to screw other drivers. Bless them. These are people who's time is more important than mine, I guess because they worship a superior god then mine - or perhaps they are superior gods. Regardless, they're more important than the rest of us so they find crafty ways to bud in front of us during rush-hour.

On my way to work there's a long stretch of highway where an on-ramp runs beside it with just a paved shoulder between. It takes forever and ever to finally connect to the core lanes. It's the longest bloody acceleration lane in all of motoring history. This is a major rush-hour slow-down area which is made exponentially slower because all these superior humans leave the core lanes, cut through the shoulder and fly down the on-ramp to bud in front of us at the other end. It's blatantly illegal of course but really, laws only apply to us regular every-day type people who's time is of no importance.

I love these privileged people. Really. I give them money! It's true. I make a financial donation to each of them who pass me - every day. I keep an ashtray full of pennies, you see. I toss a couple to each of them as they roar past. My assumption is that they'll use this non-taxable income to help pay their traffic fines or for driving lessons - or perhaps to help with those whopping psychiatrist bills. Narcissism takes a long time to treat, I hear.

Unfortunately they rarely stop to pocket my offerings. They just whiz by and let my friendly little missiles ping off their windshield or their hood or door panels. Perhaps you don't need money when you're a superior breed. Maybe they just take everything for free wherever they go. They must be entitled to, wouldn't you think? They're awfully special.

Nevertheless I keep offering the cash. It took a while to master the technique. Their speeds of choice are not all alike. It took a lot of practice to learn to study their rate of approach in the rear-view mirror and launch the donation at just the right moment. I'm now a master of the penny game and I take great joy and pride in it. It's the highlight of my morning. It's what I do while forgetting I'm behind the wheel.


Monday, January 30, 2006

A little faith restored

A quick update on the haircut situation. I went back to work this week despite looking like Bert from Bert & Ernie. Me and my ‘faux-hawk’. The experience is shaping up to be a valuable one. It’s very heart-warming and inspirational to witness people being confronted by a warped-headed individual - a kind of monster - an elephant man, and instead of ridiculing, laughing or screaming and fleeing, everyone is saying very earnestly that it looks good.

“Oh, it makes you look younger. Really. No, really.”

Amazing. The kindness that still exists in this cold cynical world.

On a similar vein, I was out for breakfast yesterday and witnessed a young family leaving the restaurant. You won’t believe this but it’s true, I swear. As they passed my table the young boy said “Thanks for breakfast Dad.”

Dad replied, “Your mom paid for breakfast.”

The boy said, “Thanks Mom!”

I told you you wouldn’t believe me.

I’m still confident the next generation will bring the human race to extinction, if not at least to hell in a handbasket, but at least, for me a bit of faith has been restored.

I hope I’m not dating myself by using the term hell in a handbasket. This is probably not very hip anymore. The other day the president of the company I work for walked into the cafeteria and said, “Boy, this place goes to shit in a handbox when [the receptionist] is away!”

Shit in a handbox? Is that what the cool kids say these days? If you’re a cool kid do let me know. Perhaps Mr President is just ahead of his time. He’s certainly innovative. He’s the president after all.


Sunday, January 29, 2006

Tel-Sales Solutions

Back to the subject of telephone solicitors.

First off - that phrase is just too bulky to keep typing. Let's refer to them as 'phone boy', 'phone girl' or 'phone pirate'. How does that sound? Got a better idea? Let me know. Oh - add 'tel-sales' and 'evil-doers' to the list.

Solutions to the phone-pirate problem. As I said yesterday - the best solution is to have fun with them, thus reaping entertainment value and sacrificing nothing. Time well spent.

I hope to publish a book one day titled: 101 Fun Things To Do With Telephone Solicitors. Illustrated of course. I'm very serious about that. The problem is - I fear the tel-sales companies will buy up the books in order to draft counter-strategies which could make the book redundant quickly. Perhaps I could price the book at $100,000 and offer a $99,995 discount to any purchaser who can prove they are in no way associated with phone pirates. I'm not sure if that's legal. I have to put more thought into this.

In the mean time...

Solution 1: Sing show tunes at them

As soon as you identify the caller as a phone pirate, ignore what they say. Start singing 'Oklahoma' or whatever. If you want to lose them real fast, sing over them as they try to talk. If you want them to stick around longer and be tortured, stop singing whenever they talk, then, when they ask you the next question, pick up the song right where you left off.

I confess two things. One, this was not my own original idea. I think a radio DJ suggested it. Two, I don't know the words to any show tune whatsoever.

I did, however start singing Dylan's 'Mr Tambourine Man' once. Surprisingly, phone-boy's attention lasted longer than my knowledge of the lyrics could take me. So I started making up words on the spot. Something entirely idiotic came out. Something like this:

Hey Mr Trampoline Man
Bounce around for me
In the jingle jangle morning
I'll go bouncing with you...

That's where he hung up. I fell apart laughing. It was great.

Solution 2: Let someone else sing at them

Though less effective than solution 1, this is perfect if you're too shy to behave like a small child in front of an alleged adult that you hardly know (though really, there's no reason to be shy. The evil-doer doesn't know you and never will. You're just one of hundreds of voices he'll hear that day. You're just a potential meal ticket).

Tell the phone boy, "Yeah, sounds good. Let me get my credit card. I'll put you on hold."

Then place the phone in front of your stereo speaker and turn it on at a very light volume. Leave it like that for 20 seconds or so. He might be suspicious but he may be optimistic and assuming you run a hair salon business out of your home or something like that and are thus equipped with telephone Muzak. Then, start raising the volume - higher and higher and higher. He'll hang up before his ears start to bleed.

I did this. It worked. Unfortunately I don't know how long he stuck around. The first time I checked, he was gone.

Solution 3: The 1-2 punch

This is a musical combo. If you know what CD is currently in the player and what the first song is and what the first few lyrics are - start singing them at phone girl while you get the CD playing. Then place the phone in front of the speaker and let Madonna or whoever take over.

This is simply a more intriguing scenario from the pirate's point of view and it will make for a more entertaining story for her to tell her boyfriend later that night over their meal of kraft dinner and ketchup. I haven't tried this yet.

Solution 4: The excuse

This is what I most commonly resort to. I've never found a situation where it wouldn't work. No matter what the pirate is selling, there is always an alleged reason why it wouldn't be applicable to you. It usually takes about 1 second to think of one.

A fellow was pushing magazine subscriptions. I said I can't read. He sounded embarrassed and quickly ended the call.

A girl was selling duct cleaning services. I told her I had no ducts. She insisted I did and wondered if I understood what she meant by 'ducts'. I insisted I knew very well what she meant and that I lived in an igloo and there were no ducts. She didn't believe me but I insisted and she had to back down.

This is especially amusing if you live in Texas or Florida. But if you're more comfortable with a more believable story, say Tee-pee instead of igloo.

A girl called pushing family portraits. I told her I do my own portraits as I was a professional photographer and a famous one at that. "Jack Shlookums," I said, "You've probably heard of me." I told her to watch for my work at the McMichael Gallery or the Art Gallery of Ontario. She assured me she would.

The thing to remember is - the more outrageous the excuse - the more entertainment value you get out of it. A perfectly ordinary excuse will only abbreviate your victimization without bringing any joy.

Solution 5: The silent treatment

This was one of my early experiments. The results were surprising. It began as a standard solution 4. Phone-boy was offering subscriptions to the National Post newspaper. Stupidly, instead of claiming that I couldn't read, I said that we already subscribe to the National Post at the office and that I read it there. Thanks anyway.

I was shocked that he was not swayed. He said "Oh, we get it here at the office too. But I still subscribe at home. Believe me, it's great to get home and read it again when you can relax and take your time!"
I was stunned. I'd been had. I quietly placed the phone on my desk and walked away. I looked through the freezer and selected something for dinner. I went back to the phone. He had hung up. I thought that was the end of it. Oh no.

The very next day I got a call from a girl at the same place wanting to sell me the National Post. So again I said that I get it at the office already. What do you think she said?

"Oh, we get it here at the office too. But I still subscribe at home. Believe me, it's great to get home and read it again when you can relax and take your time!"

The sniveling little liars were reading off the same cue card!

Again I placed the phone quietly down.

I went and flicked on the TV and surfed to see if M*A*S*H was on. No luck. I went back to the phone and picked it up. She was still talking.

I went to the bathroom and put some gel in my hair and gave it a combing. I washed my hands and returned to the phone. She was still talking! I sat down and listened, utterly intrigued that someone could possibly deliver such a giant monologue. It didn't last much longer.

"Hello...? Hello...? Hello...?" She hung up. But oh, the adventure does not end.

Day 3. Yet another phone call re the National Post. Another woman. She sounded older than the first.

"Excuse me!" I harshly interrupted her. "This is the third day in a row you people have called me! Why are you harassing me? Why are you stocking me? There's a law against this you know!"

"Oh! Oh my!" she stammered. "I'm so sorry. It says in the notes section here that you asked us to call back the next day!"

Ah ha! I thought. So they were punishing me for my stunt by arranging for someone else to call me back. Or perhaps they were sabotaging their co-workers for reasons around performance ratings and related bonuses or what not.

"I most certainly did not!" I said. "She hung up on me yesterday!" (true but misleading). "You guys call me one more time and I'm going to the police. Have I made myself clear?"

She was very apologetic.

Well, I have dozens more solutions and believe me - they only get better from here. But five is enough for one day.

Do give them a try and post a message back to me to let me know how it went. I'd love to hear about it.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

The Evils of Telephone Solicitation

When asking a co-worker about the latest fortunes of her teenage daughter I was told matter-of-factly that the young woman had taken a new job - that of telephone solicitor. My reaction was one of shock and horror. My hands flew to my cheeks.

I reacted in the same manner I would had she stated her daughter was kidnapped by aliens - or that she'd found herself in a scrape with the law, accused of bludgeoning nine schoolchildren to death.

Why such a strong reaction?

Because I despise telephone solicitation as much as I despise murder or violent rape or drivers toddling in the passing lane. This is not a pet peeve. This is the only crime against humanity yet to be identified as such by our wayward politicians or their distracted constituents (neither statement being redundant, I plead, as there are rare exceptions to both - though far too few to make a difference).

I do not despise telephone solicitors themselves so fiercely because I suspect that most fail to understand what evil they do. But, that they are in league with murderers and bank robbers is entirely clear.

Oh! But Fantasy-Writer-Guy! Murder and bank robbery? How can you suggest such a thing? You are overzealous! You are silly!

Not so, my friend. These trespasses are precisely the same thing in principle and differ, if at all, only by degree. Stick around and I will convince you!

What is murder?

The taking of one's life? No! Not at all. If I murder you, I do not then possess your life. Neither have you lost your life. Life is a temporary state. Everyone must die. It is unavoidable. It is not evil to bring about what is already inevitable. Murder is a terrible thing but murder is only this: The stealing of one's TIME. When I murder you I negate all the time that remained for you between the day I pulled the trigger and the day you would have died otherwise.

Scenario 1: Murder equals the theft of time, one individual's remaining life's-worth of time.

Bank robbery is also the theft of time. Hopefully you realize already that time equals money. If you're so enlightened, skip the following paragraph. If not, it's a subject for another occasion but here's the short version:

"Time is money" is not just some cute expression for the likes of the Donald Trumps of the world. Time and money are precisely the same thing. Time is precisely what money was created to measure and what it still measures today (though the formulas are deeply fucked up in our capitalist society but that's not important now). Money is not tangible. It's a certificate that measures how much time you've donated to society and thus, how much product of other people's time you're entitled to take from society. This is commerce. This is trade. This is the carpenter building the blacksmith a table and the blacksmith shoeing the carpenter's horse. Money just aids the process of trade as a ledger - for instances where the blacksmith needs a table but the carpenter has no horse. Get it?

Time = money

Bank robbery is the theft of money. Thus bank robbery is the theft of time. Might it differ from murder by degree? Certainly. But look at this scenario:

A bank robber steals $150,000. The money is reimbursed by an insurance company. The theft is ultimately from the customers of that insurance company. Those customers are destined to earn an average of $150,000 each over the course of their remaining lives. The bank robber has thus stolen one individual's remaining life's-worth of time.

A recap:

Scenario 1: The murderer has stolen one individual's remaining life's-worth of time.

Scenario 2: The bank robber has stolen one individual's remaining life's-worth of time.

Following me?

Now! Telephone solicitation!

I own my time of course. It is the only precious commodity in the world and what all other commodities boil down to. I can choose not to look at a billboard. But If I do choose to, I'm volunteering my time. I can choose not to look at an ad in the newspaper. I can choose to decline participation in any form of solicitation unless the solicitor trespasses on my private domain - be it my front door or my telephone. Those are my properties. I choose whom to give my phone number or address to because I trust those people with my time.

Telephone solicitors steal my time. I have not invited them to my private front door or my private phone. Whether I answer the phone or go to it to check the call display or go to it to delete the message - My time has been stolen, never to be returned.

Scenario 3: A telephone solicitation company employs 35 callers for 4 years, thus stealing roughly 40 years worth of time combined from thousands of victims. If the average victim had roughly 40 years to live this would equal one individual's remaining life's-worth of time.

A recap:

Scenario 1: The murderer has stolen one individual's remaining life's-worth of time.

Scenario 2: The bank robber has stolen one individual's remaining life's-worth of time.

Scenario 3: The telephone solicitation company has stolen one individual's remaining life's-worth of time.

There you have it. Whether, in reality, the math evolves as such is irrelevant. All three evil-doings are paramount in principle.

Were I a man of stronger conviction I might kill the owners of a telephone solicitation company just as I might go back in time and kill Adolph Hitler - given the rather unlikely opportunity for either.

And yet the company I work for once employed door-to-door commissioned salesmen and I did not resign nor did I object except in private discussion. Thus I am perhaps a coward and perhaps a hypocrite! Ah, well. Nobody's perfect.

But folks, do not despair! As with any crime, there are ways to protect one’s self from victimization.

1. Wait for politicians to enact appropriate legislation. They will eventually. Perhaps it will even happen in your children's lifetime.

2. Stop purchasing products or services through telephone solicitors. If every insufferable twit who did this would just stop, it would render the whole concept useless and the telephone calls would immediately cease.

Okay - these solutions are beyond your sphere of control, right? How can you directly protect yourself, you ask?

3. Add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry. In the USA solicitors are required by law to subscribe to and observe the list and ensure that they do not phone any number on it. Sign up. Here's the link:

In the USA: http://www.donotcall.gov/default.aspx

This does not absolutely protect you from time-theft as there's no guarantee of compliance to the law by all perpetrators. They are evil-doers after all! It gives you a fighting chance though.

In Canada, we're a little behind. We have a list but not yet the legislation. It's probable that tel-sales scum are obeying the list regardless as it should make for more efficient sales results.

In Canada: http://www.donotcall.ca/default.htm

4. The fool-proof method: What if you actually enjoyed getting calls from telephone solicitors? What if you were happy to volunteer your time? It would not be theft in that case. You would not lose. Sound far-fetched? Not at all. Watch this space in the coming days and I will reveal some of my best secrets, many of them tested and proven -- how to have great fun with telephone solicitors!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Some Interesting Quotes

Some rather amusing quotes that come to mind:

Musician Louis Armstrong, replying to his host, Pope John Paul at the Vatican:
"No sir, I don't have kids. But it's sure been fun tryin'!"

From the story Gospel Song by Dorothy Allison, author of books Bastard Out of Carolina and Trash:
"Lord! But that child is ugly... They should keep her at home... I don't care if the Lord loves a charitable heart. The Lord didn't intend for me to get nauseous in the middle of Sunday services. That child is a shock to the digestion!"

Blogger known only as Movies-In-My-Mind (http://movies-in-my-mind.blogspot.com). I can’t even describe the context:
"But honey, when have you ever seen such an abundance of raccoons?"

David Hunt - data analyst, musician, orator and proud Newfoundlander, in response to the accusation that he was a bad influence and the ‘child my mother warned me not to associate with’:
"That's nothing. How do you think I felt? My mother always told me David, you're a bad influence. Don't hang around with anyone."

A deep thought attributed to ‘Jack Handy’:
“The face of a child can say it all, especially the mouth part…”

Stephen King, from the book On Writing - A Memoir of the Craft:
"Wasps had constructed a small nest in the cinderblock. One of them flew out and stung me on the ear. It was the worst pain I had ever suffered in my short life, but it only held top spot for a few seconds. When I dropped the cinderblock on my bare foot."

Proprietor David Rose, spoken in thick mock-German accent while driving through the village of Novar, Ontario:
"Gentlemen, vee are in ze middle of novar."

Anonymous female caller to radio station, in conclusion to her complaint regarding the level of vulgarity and poor taste recently exhibited over the air, spoken heretofore in a prim and dignified manner:
“Oh, and suck my finger, cheese-dick!”

I especially like the last one, not only for its appreciable shock-value, coming out of 'left-field' as it did, but for its cleverness in delivering a slam that bears all the thrust and insinuation of “suck my dick!” while remaining anatomically correct. Bravo!

Thursday, January 26, 2006

My Xiphisternum

A few years ago I went to my Doctor - Doctor Rhamadhamadhingdhong, or something to that effect. I liked her very much because she seemed to have very few patients and always spent lots of time with me, being very thorough.

All my previous doctors were the same. You'd be strapped to a conveyor belt that rushed, very fast toward a square door in the middle of the wall - it was much like airport luggage roulette. You would yell out your symptoms as you were approaching and rushing through the rubber door flaps and the doctor was in the next room, waiting to staple a prescription to your forehead. Then the belt whizzed you away through the next portal into a room where you could get dressed again. One time I came through the first hatch shouting "YYZ!" but the doctor was not fond of airport humor. He was very cross and charged me double.

Okay, I took a fair bit of artistic license with that last paragraph but the essence is true.

Also, Dr Rhamadhamadhingdhong never found anything wrong with me, which was quite pleasant.

As I was saying, I went to her once and said, "Look. Feel. I have a lump in my chest. Right here. See?"

She was rather patronizing, which was not typical of her.

"I'd like to be sure it isn't cancer or something nasty," I said.

"You have no lump in your chest," she stated, and sent me away.

I mention this because I was at my new Doctor's just the other day - Dr Harry (That's his last name) - he's a strange fellow. I quite like him. I like strange people. You should meet my friends. They're all weirdoes.

Dr Harry also takes his time with me. There's no rush - though his waiting room is always packed solid. Whether he's an inefficient businessman or is just fond of me, I don't know.

He asked me about the lump on my chest. He poked and prodded and prodded and poked and signed me up for every test he could think of.

He's confident it's a harmless 'lipoma' but doesn't want to take any chances. I'm cool with that.

'Lipoma' is one of those medical/anatomical type words. You know right away because it sounds very serious and difficult and alien. They're all the same.
Lipoma. Duodenum. Vertebrate. Encephalopathy...

But here's an exception: The doc wants me to get an x-ray of my xiphisternum. Now don't be fooled by the spelling of the word xiphisternum. It's a lot more fun than you realize. He pronounced it very casually - like 'ziffy sternum'. As if he'd just said to me 'quickie mart' or 'jiffy pop' or 'zippo lighter'.

He said it with gay frivolity as if he were merely saying 'punchbuggy, no punchbacks' or
'Scooby doo, where are you?'

"...I'm sure it's nothing, Mr Anderson. But we'll just take a little x-ray of your scooby-duodenum to be safe..."

I'm looking forward to this x-ray. It will probably be fun.

Of course there will be nothing fun about it if it turns out to be cancer instead of a lipoma. In that case Dr Rhamadhamadhingdhong is gonna get an earful - since I went to her way back and she didn't believe me. In that case - if I'm gonna die, you can bet I'm taking her with me. I'll go to her office with a gun and two bullets - one with my name on it and one with hers. Well, her name wouldn't fit on a bullet of course but I'll just write Dr. R for short. I think she'll get the idea.

* YYZ is the international destination code for Toronto's Pearson International Airport.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blinded by the Light

On the drive to work this morning the song Blinded by the Light came on the radio - the Manfred Mann version, not Springsteen. It was a bitter-sweet moment for me.

This song holds a unique place in my psyche.

It's the only song of which I stand at the threshold, peering in, wanting to love the song as I should, with all it's resonance and soaring melodies and vibrant lyrics. But alas, I can not love it though I dearly want to.

Wrapped up like a douche

How in all hell can you love a song with the line wrapped up like a douche in it?

Honestly, what was Springsteen thinking?

Wrapped up like a douche?


It torments me still, as it has for decades.

I once lamented this to a dear friend who is very knowledgeable on the subject of music. Perhaps he would have an answer to my plight.

Not so. He confessed to having the very same problem himself with that song though, surprisingly, not due to the douche word. No. It was the phrase anal curly-whirlies that bothered him.

I looked at him like he had three heads (he has but one of course - a well-proportioned one of which I am jealous).

"Yes. Anal curlie whirlies," he repeated.

Anal curly-whirlies? That's disgusting, I thought. How could I have missed that? Then I thought about it some more.

"No," I said to him. "It's not anal curly-whirlies, you dumbass. It's IN HIS curly whirlie! As in ...little Urly Burly came by IN HIS CURLY WHIRLIE and asked me if I needed a ride..."

So now there is yet another line in the song I cannot bear to hear. Friends are good to turn to in times of trouble but sometimes they can just make things worse. I'm sure his heart was in the right place.

I know I'm not alone in this. I once heard a radio commercial where they tackled this very phenomenon. The announcer said with disdain, as if all of us douche-hearers were tiresome and partly insane, that the lyrics were - something - I don't remember exactly, but the critical word was DEUCE, not DOUCHE.

Of course I don't believe that crap for a moment. It all sounds very conspiratorial and I wonder was that spot funded by a government agency and not really a brewery?

Wrapped up like a DEUCE?

Is that possible? How might a 'deuce' be wrapped up?

If anyone can explain how wrapped up like a 'deuce' makes any sense at all, please please let me know. Or if you have any other perspective on this - Please. My sanity may depend on it. Thank you.


Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Morning After

Bloc Quebecois...51

A few months ago, when it became apparent our national Liberal minority government would fall - I made this prediction:

That Harper's conservative party would win a minority at the next election but would fall quickly - in a number of months (due to an eventual frustrated attempt at pushing their mandate with no other seat in the house sharing their Neolithic values). And at the following election, the Liberals and New Democrats would take at least 155 seats combined and, their mandates being mostly compatible, would form a coalition majority government for 4 years (motivated by the fear that Canadians would not tolerate a 4th election in 3 years).

Note: For those outside Canada (or possibly those within): A natural majority government will be almost impossible for the foreseeable future. With the Bloc Quebecois locking up the Quebec seats and running no where else, this leaves the eventual ruling party needing two-thirds of the english vote to obtain a simple majority - and there's just not enough swing voters to accommodate this.

I'm taking this opportunity to brag about the first stage of my prediction coming true because there's little hope I'll get the rest right!

Where I've faltered is in over-estimating the political savvy of Canadians. Now that's something I never dreamed I'd hear myself say! I've long been aware that Canadians are on average the most politically ignorant people in the entire world (and I'm confident
there’s at least one study that documents it). And I understand that this stems rather innocently from our being so spoiled for so long, having nary a threat to our relatively utopian (and thoroughly unappreciated) existence in 60 years.

Well, apparently TWO elections is already too much! An acquaintance of mine whose support I rather arrogantly assumed would go to my beloved socialists informed me indignantly that he blamed the NDP for allowing another election and that he would thus present his vote to a more disserving party.

This is an interesting and common phenomenon. Many Canadian voters feel that political parties are their children - to be rewarded or punished as they behave nice or naughty.

For the record - another Major camp are the ones who listen to campaign promises and decide which vote will serve their own personal interests best - the rest of the country be-damned - and then sacrifice their vote, rather laughably, somehow forgetting or not understanding that political campaigns are more densely packed with bullshit than anything else in the modern world - the long line of Canadian cattle queued up at the American border notwithstanding.

And the last camp - by far the biggest, of course - are the ones who presume they need not vote at all - generally 40%.

Here's my own take on things.

I understand it's a thoroughly remarkable privilege to live in such a wealthy, free and democratic society. I understand that my ancestors gave their blood and their lives for it. I would feel like a thorough ingrate to take this blessing, this gift, so much for granted as to not even get off my sorry ass and vote - the very least I can do to contribute to this wonderful process and claim to disserve the bounty I obviously reap from it.

I wonder, do non-voters realize that if everyone stayed home and didn't vote that our democracy would immediately cease to exist?

Furthermore - I don't listen to campaigns. I run a tight ship in life. I have some principles that will not be undermined. Among them:

#1: I don't add any bullshit to the world.
#2: I don't accept any bullshit that I can possibly avoid.

The collective record of promise-keeping from Canadian politicians is abysmal.

I cast an informed vote based on record - the party's record in general, not the candidate's. I choose the party who has the record of voting in the manner that has, to the best I can interpret, most respected the country, all it's peoples and it's future and the best interests of such - on the assumption they'd be the best bet for continuing to do so.

I don't see any other way. And yet I feel very alone in this.

If this new session of parliament does not work I fear that the climax of my rather hopeful prediction will not get it's fair opportunity to come to fruition. And why?

Because an election costs Canadians $8 per eligible voter - including all remuneration costs and partial campaign reimbursements, and it seems the average typical Canadian would rather put $5 of that in his gas tank and take little Michael to his hockey game instead of spending a few minutes to tend to our democracy and to little Michael's future.

Oh - the remaining $3, by the way, goes to Tim Hortons for the obligatory pre-game, and post-game coffees.

Fantasy Writer Guy is sad today. The prospect of a hand-tied Harper at the helm for a couple years is a blandly depressing one. Though not, thank goodness, as terrifying a prospect as a hell-bent Harper in majority power. At least the time has not yet come for me to flee to Sweden seeking political asylum. That remains on the back-burner. My contingency plan!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Eye Clicking

I woke up this morning and the first thing I did was rub my eyes. This sounds rather an iconic sort of episode doesn't it? One not grounded in reality. Like the start of a really bad novel:

'Rex awoke and rose from his bed and rubbed his eyes. He blinked sleepily and turned his head away from the violent rays of the morning sun that pierced...'

Okay, Sorry for that.

But it's true. I sometimes rub my eyes in the morning. I suspect that many people do this, often in fact, but don't realize that they do this because they're always half asleep when they do it and never, in wakefulness, come to realize they've been doing it.

But I take notice of it and I'll tell you why. Because my eyes sometimes 'click' when I rub them. It's true. It seems to only happen when I've had too little sleep.

Is 'click' the right word? 'Tick' perhaps? 'Pulse'? It's an internal sound - surely not audible to anyone else in the room. It's a pattern of creaky kind of ticks - I might get six or eight of them and then it won't happen again.

Maybe this happens to everyone and I'm being entirely lame by bragging about it. Do your eyeballs click? Please let me know. I must find out if this is a common phenomenon or not. I shall do a survey and get back to you with the results. I will - for sure. I'm not one to make plans and not keep them. You'll see.

This brings to mind a marvelous short cartoon where an old couple is sitting at a table playing cards - or chess - or something. Battleship perhaps. Scrabble maybe. They each have a really bad nervous habit. He - I don't know - something about his teeth I think. He grinds his teeth or something - and she - get this - she continually grabs her cartoon eyes, pulls them away from her head and rattles them like a maraca. Isn't that marvelous!

Her eyes rattle. Mine click.


"STOP -" you know - doing whatever it is he does, she screams back.

Outside there's a war going on but they don't notice 'cause they got their own little war going on inside. A little symmetry you see. A little metaphor if you will. Finally both wars climax. They send their game board or whatever crashing off the table. This prompts the woman to burst into tears. A great fountain of tears from her rattle-able eyeballs. Outside, unnoticed, there's a tremendous explosion. Mushroom cloud and all. The husband gets all tender and rushes to his distressed wife and comforts her and they're all lovey-dovey. The game is destroyed so they decide to go outside for a nice walk together. They open the door just as the thermonuclear wave hits them and fries them alive. They sprout gossamer wings and sail up to heaven. I think it ends with the angel lady removing her eyes and giving them a good shake.

Do you think I'll be able to click my eyes in heaven? I somehow doubt it.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Souls Departing

On the subject of the souls departing:

I've heard it said that some gentleman, a religious aficionado, claims to have determined the precise mass of the human soul.

He did so by comparing the weight of a freshly expired corpse and it's weight a moment later, given just enough time for the soul to depart. It is common knowledge, you see, the timing and duration of the soul departation process, but not the physical weight of said soul.

Until now, that is.

Does such an experiment sound improbable to you? Don't be skeptical. Access to fresh corpses is guaranteed under the Freedom of Religion section of the Canadian Charter of Rights - at least I assume so. And I strongly suspect that there is equivalent legislation somewhere in American federal law - probably the same document that protects good Americans from the inevitable pain and atrocity inherent in the marriage of any neighboring homosexuals.

(Although I believe the word 'homosexual' is not used in American federal law but rather the term 'fruitcake'. This has lead to understandable confusion - especially at the christmas season - and since no federal law has ever been intended to prohibit the marriage of bakery products, this has lead to a national ban on actual fruitcakes. Such a ban, I think, is a wonderful idea though not for the aforementioned reasons.)

But I digress.

Our dear experimenter found that there is consistently a subtle loss of mass and that this difference is logically the mass of the soul.

Of course, I've also heard it said - from mere physicians mind you, not the likes of bona fide religious aficionados - that something else departs from the body upon expiry; One's feces and urine. It's hard to dismiss this claim as all muscles quite obviously relax upon death.

I think it's safe to assume that our dear experimenter properly weighed all applicable excrement and factored in those results. Don't you think?

So then - what is the weight of the human soul, you ask?

I've forgotten. But if you happen to know, I'm keen to be reminded.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Kitchen Disaster

A 10-minute 'prompt' exercise from our writers' group meeting.
The prompt was:
A kitchen disaster.
The story is true though boldly embellished.

Checking the roast
It makes me nervous
I don't know why

Peeling the potatoes
Gouging out those devious little eyes
They try to get away from me
Scurrying around to the back of the spud as I turn it in my hand
Insolent little buggers
I go on to the next potato
Not really sure whether I'd finished blinding the last one

Checking the roast
It seems okay
Seems fine
On the surface

Washing the lettuce
The sandy dirt surrenders without fuss
Rinses away without so much as a whimper
No bugs in there
That's good
My darling must have bought it at The Barn instead of No Frills
Ah yes, It's more green than brown
The Barn indeed

Checking the roast
Did it wink at me just now?
It's plotting something ungodly
I just know it

Chopping potatoes
They suffer in silence
Even when my fork impales them
But when I fling them alive into the boiling water
I hear them scream

Checking the roast
It sits there very still
All innocent-like
As if it hasn't been up to something while my back was turned

Back to the lettuce
Chop or rip?
My guests are there at the table now
Drinking beer and wine
Oblivious to the life-and-death struggle all around them
Rip, I decide
For a guest may be covertly watching
to see if I'm a lettuce chopping anarchist or something
I am of course but I won't be outed on this day
A-ripping I go

Dragging the charred lifeless bacon from the pan
And into a coffin of paper towel

Breaking out the pre-packaged croutons
No blood on my hands there

I had selected the oily caesar dressing
Not the creamy
Oh how decisions can come back to haunt you

Shaking the bottle furiously
Dimly hearing the shouting behind me
Shaking the life out of that bottle
Why does it grow lighter in my hand?
Is that its soul departing?
The shouting reaches a climactic fervor
Oh horror of horrors
I spy the treacherous lid of the dressing bottle
Sitting on the counter all alone
The last place it is needed
I turn around and face my silent moistened guests

Oil oil everywhere
And not a guest was spared

Friday, January 20, 2006

Bad Haircut

I got a free haircut today. Actually I had to pay for it up front but eventually I calmed down enough to make a phone call and - wait. That's not exactly true. I had to leave a message and by the time the Ye Olde Haircutting Company head office called me back I had calmed down enough to talk civilly to the girl and she offered me a refund.

What I really wanted was for somebody to die for what was done to me - to my head, but I'm not a monarch in some ultra dictatorial medieval society - which is a shame, really. I think I'd make a good one but I'm not, so nobody dies every time I get pissed off. Like when I walk into Ye Olde Haircutting Co with a big flowing head of hair and say "Hi! How are ya! Just clean it up a bit please!" and the girl goes and buzzes me just about bald. Yes, this pisses me off.

I have a full beard, you see, and glasses and a fairly wide head to begin with - well, it started off a nicely proportioned head if I may boast but when 2 decades of beer and carbohydrates throws an extra hundred pounds your way, some of it goes to the face. Anyway, a face like that has a lot going on and requires a good amount of hair for the right balance. When it's reduced to a subtle hint of fuzz on the sides and a slightly mohawk-esque strip of longer fuzz over the top - which, by the way, is actually blended very artfully to the hint-o'-fuzz and gently builds to a point at the centre - well - it's just bloody ridiculous and now I'm locked in the house for the next two weeks. Me and my miniature cone-head.

Let's face it. I'm a freak now. This sort of cut might be passable on the latest military recruit or on some slow-eyed psycho pointy-headed teenager with pimples and army fatigue pants and no better ambitions in life than to make a blood bath of his high school - but on me - yeah. Freak.

Perhaps I should just live up to the look. I could throw on a lot of olive green and a pair of boots and just burst into the Ye Olde Haircutting Co with my assault rifles and blow holes in everybody. Okay, that's just a really bad idea. I apologize for that. Anyway I don't have an assault rifle and wouldn't know where to get one. Oh - you know what? I could just use their scissors and stab them all to pieces and - Sorry. Bad idea.

Although, if you're a writer of thrillers and think this would make a good plot - by all means - use it. Take it. No compensation required. You don't even have to mention me on the acknowledgements page. If it makes money you can do a sequel where he goes to the head office and hunts down the head office refund girl.

By the way - they're not really called the Ye Olde Haircutting Co. I just don't want to get slammed for libel so I won't mention their name. Let's just say that they've been my FIRST CHOICE in haircutting places since I moved to this neck-of-the-woods a couple years ago.

And I'll go back to them again. Not just because I'm a sucker. Because now I'm expecting a voucher for a free haircut to arrive in the mail. That's right. I wanted someone to die as retribution. They offered a complete refund. And we somehow negotiated our way to a voucher. I realize this settlement is no where near a compromise and falls entirely outside our initial range and fully on their side of things. What can I say? I can't negotiate for shit. I'm a poor negotiator. I hope you'll overlook that if you happen to be a recruiter looking to fill a position of 'King'. I realize a king should be a skilled negotiator. I realize this is a core competency but please be assured - I'm willing to learn. And I'm a fast learner.

The worst part is - it'll be months before I need another haircut and the voucher will surely expire by then. Maybe I can scalp it
(ha ha. no pun intended).

So if you see a fat guy with glasses, beard and a tiny built-in yarmulke on an otherwise bald head the next time you visit your first choice in haircutters - do stop and say 'Hi' and consider buying my voucher. Thanks.