Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Birthday Jesus, take a half day!

Well here we are, Christmas Eve 2007. Much has changed, much has remained the same. Another year come, another year gone. Clearly I have nothing of interest to say hence the reason I'm rambling. Despite my previous post in regards to seeking out the best mall Santa we ended up making our decision based solely on proximity. Charlie can blame the car problems of last weekend for the fact that her first picture with Santa is taken with a St. Nick that could best be described as disinterested. I guess that's not the worst potential defining characteristic. It certainly beats intoxicated, half-naked or beardless. At least he was an actual Santa, not just a creepy bald guy signing "Santa". Be thankful as due to the fallout from subprime mortgages this is all the Santa many people can afford this Christmas.

Sign language for Santa...or your wingman warning you that your blind date has a neck fat issue

Gerrard Square Santa wasn't too bad, though he was clearly ready to punch the clock. Next year we'll definitely make an effort to show up at the beginning of Santa's shift when he's still able to manufacture a smile or a "ho ho ho".

This is probably as good a time as any for my best of 2007 list. Here goes:

Best of 2007: My Daughter

Worst of 2007 (tie): The New England Patriots and war (honorary mention to disease and droughts)

Hottest vegetable: Rapini. Blanch it quickly, pat dry and then set it aside. At that point you can do most anything with it. Sauteed with lemon and chili, finished with sea salt is my favourite.

Gayest thing written: see above

Best movie: Didn't see any (see posts re: new child)

Biggest surprise: Britney Spears and Marcus Vick turn out to be the "good kids" as both see their misdeeds trumped by their idiotic siblings.

Biggest surprise (sarcastic): Frank D'Angelo's Steelback brewery files for bankruptcy. Who would have thought that you couldn't build a successful business on shameless self-promotion and bottled piss? The sad thing is that a number of the cheques that his mouth wrote that had no chance of ever being cashed were written to charities and small community rinks. While we're at it, let's just go ahead and hand him the...

Biggest douche of the year: The aforementioned Frank D'Angelo.

Best play: Bryan Westbrook downing the ball at the Cowboys 1 yard line. In an era where all we hear about is the selfishness of professional athletes Westbrook's decision to forgo personal accomplishment to absolutely ensure his team's victory (in a meaningless game) ranks as the most commendable single sporting play of the year.

Best merger: Sporting goods giant Dick's Sporting Goods buys smaller California rival Chick's for $40 million. $40 million gets you Chicks with Dicks. That could draw some strange traffic.

Most disappointing Google search: 13 individuals from 8 different countries have ended up on The World Wide Net Web looking for "office decorum". They were all likely very disappointed when their search for tips on how to act at the Christmas party or which co-workers you should buy holiday gifts for brought them to my post on dropping a deuce. I guess there isn't much else written on the subject. This should also serve as notice that I know exactly what your keywords are when you google me (I'm talking to you, "World Wide Net Web or Plus-size and topless").

Best new television show: Dirty Sexy Money. I'm not sure if it's got the legs to go on for more than a season or two but it's been a pleasant surprise so far particularly given the fact that it looked like something I would hate.

Most intriguing unanswered question: Do gay guys have two separate stags before they get married/civilly united or do they just have a Jack and Jack party? If so, do you invite your future husband? How could you have a stag without your best mate? Who's going to pay the stripper and buy your beer? Then again the whole idea of a stag is one last night out without the future misses/mister. The whole subject is very thought provoking. This should be the basis for an entire column.

Clearest sign that popular culture has destroyed art: Dirty Dancing: The Musical. This is what passes for "going to the theatre" these days. Bill Shakespeare would be freakin' pissed. The predominance of contest winners, runners-up and Disney stars on the Billboard charts, in a year when The National, Editors and Pela all had new albums, sends the same message. Yes, that was another sad attempt by me to look cool. I've been in bed by 11 on three of the last four Saturday nights. Please don't tear down my facade.

Well that's it for 2007. A great year for me but only an average to mediocre year for the world as a whole. C'mon 2008, step it up!

Happy Holidays everyone.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The lost weekend

In order to avoid reminding myself how miserable my weekend was I won't rehash the litany of misfortunes I suffered through. Let's just say it started with a broken car window and ended with me searching through snow banks for my wedding ring with my father-in-law. Nothing that happened in between those two events went much smoother. I should probably mention that the snowbanks were outside a wretched strip joint and it was during the worst December snow storm in over 60 years. Ah, bad times.

Here's one piece of advice. If you have any suspicion that your car window may be frozen do not try and open it. If that means opening your door at a R.I.D.E. stop of suffering through your own flatulence, so be it. Power windows don't react well to being forced open. Essentially I broke my wife's car with a fart. That's something that no one can take away from me.

As I've said before having a newborn softens the sharp edges of even the most miserable experience. This weekend was a perfect case in point. Given all the crap I suffered through (did I mention the Bills season ended on Sunday and I was so tired from all the digging that I fell asleep missing the whole 4th quarter?) I should be deep in the doldrums. Well I guess I am to some degree, but without the joy I get from staring at little Charlie I would be substantially deeper. In fact, I would look like this guy (the guy in the middle)...

So what happened to cause such a sour face? He, being Portuguese International and Man U player Christiano Ronaldo, didn't win FIFA footballer/soccerer of the year. Poor guy is only the third best in the entire world. No wonder he looks like a ten year old who ended up with a case of dental floss at the end of "pass the parcel". The guy who won (I think he was one of our summer students) and the runner-up (Gerard Depardieu Jr.) seem much happier with their results. Maybe the bronze clashes with Christiano's anklets.

The look on Ronaldo's mug reminds us that occasionally life stinks for all of us and the worst thing that we can do is act like a complete suck about it. Hell, my daughter takes disappointment better than this complete and total douche and she's a few weeks short of her 6 month birthday. It's Christmas for Pete's sake. Buck up and enjoy what you have (I'm talking to myself as much as anyone here). At least be thankful you're not Christiano Ronaldo.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

In a hurry, not a total dick

I had the very unpleasant experience of walking through the Toronto underground yesterday during the panhandling crackdown protests. The unpleasantness was not due to any sort of confrontation or even catching a whiff of one of the anti-globalization, anti-hygiene professional protest groupies. Rather it was more of an internal discomfort. In full business attire, hurriedly on my way to a Bay Street luncheon at Canoe I couldn't have looked more the part of the self-absorbed, money-obsessed finance type. Seemingly I was the prototype of the person they were targeting with this presentation of guilt. What bothers me is that, at least in my mind, that's not me. At the luncheon I felt as out of place sitting in a room of spoiled, arrogant financiers who whined about the presence of the great unwashed in their underground and the great hardships caused by the mild delays, as I did with the homeless guys, OCAPers and anarchists participating in the protest. The question is how do I identify myself as someone who wears a suit but isn't a total dick? For those of us that give a crap about the plight of those less fortunate yet happen to carry a briefcase to work isn't there some way for us to brand ourselves as decent guys? Is there a scarf I can wear or some sort of button?

Outside my office there are always a group of earnest (though pushy) volunteers asking passerbys if they can spare a moment for Sick Kids. How do you answer that? By walking by you are essentially saying, "no, I'm pro-child illness". I don't have the time to stop and explain to them my views on charitable giving, nonetheless how and where I allocate it. I usually don't even have the time to say "sorry I don't have any time". Of course they don't know any of this. They just assume that I'm yet another guy who couldn't care about anything other than minimizing his taxes and maximizing his blackberry reception. Some sort of all-purpose "not a total dick" indicator would somehow express all that a long conversation with exhibits and tax receipts would without any time or energy required, while most importantly eliminating the nasty looks of disdain from the fundraising community. Sometimes people who are raising money will give you a sticker or ribbon to indicate that you have already contributed but that will usually only last for a short period. Over the holidays you may come across the same money-raiser dozens of times over a few week period. There's no way you're going to wake up every morning and remember to put on your Salvation Army ribbon or your "I support those without taste buds" sticker. Besides, there are so many worthwhile charities to support that come Christmas Eve you may look like a well-decorated general. God help you if you want to switch coats. It'll be an hour before you get out of the house with all the pinning, re-pinning, unsticking and sticking. Invariably you'll end up walking by someone you've already given your hard-earned money to with no way of indicating how wonderfully charitable you are. You'll just get the same dirty look that those greedy Bay Street types deservedly receive. I know giving should be done for giving's sake rather than any self-aggrandizing reason (the second wing of the Steve Holt home for Tom Brady's forgotten children will not bare my name) but it would be nice to at least avoid being lumped in with the selfish grinches of the world.

As far as I know no such brand or identifying piece of clothing exists. There are certainly things you can wear that say "I'm probably a decent person" (a Brian Moorman jersey comes to mind, as does a Nun's habit) or the opposite (anything with the words "Bush Cheney 04" or "Red Sox" on it), but nothing that definitively says "I should not be made to feel guilty about walking by fundraisers". I guess we can't have everything we want. As my grandfather once told me, "don't go chasing rainbows as you may run into the side of a gay bar". I don't quite now what he meant by that. Presumably the only solution is to just keep on giving. It's probably better to be a bit short on pocket change and a bit long on charity, than vice versa.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

A Trailblazer gets his due

Given the propensity of the sports media to beat to death any storyline with even the slightest whiff of broader societal implications, I'm shocked the story of one of the newest Toronto Raptors hasn't received more attention. While much has been written and broadcast about the rookie Jamario Moon, with his smalltown upbringing and circuitous route to the NBA, little is known of his teammate, Carlos Delfino.

Fans have taken to Delfino's quiet intensity, quick delivery and surprisingly solid defense. What has gone unnoticed is that Carlos has achieved this success while also carrying the burden of being the first North American professional athlete who happens to be a transsexual. On the court Carlos is just another teammate, busting his tail helping the Raptors in their efforts to repeat as Atlantic Division Champions. The only difference is that before the game while the other players are taping up their ankles and tying up their shoes, Carlos is tweezing his eyebrows and touching up his eyeliner. He's just one of the guys, albeit a much prettier guy.

Good for Carlos. Tranny or not, he's been a great addition to the team. Presumably years of gender confusion have toughened him to the rigors of being a professional basketball player. He certainly seems unfazed by anything that's happened so far this season. A friend of mine tried to convince me that Delfino was just "very metro". I don't buy it. Have you ever seen him and Carmelita from Dirty Sexy Money (a surprisingly good show) in the same place, at the same time ? Didn't think so.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Charlie's First Christmas

With but 21 days until Christmas I already feel stressed that I won't have anytime to actually enjoy the season. Halls remain undecked, eggs have yet to be nogged and I need to build a chimney in a hurry. As far as I can tell Charlie is pretty excited about her first Christmas and I don't want to disappoint her, particularly now when I don't need to spend a great deal of money to make all her holiday wishes come true. I'll wait until she starts asking for expensive electronics or designer clothing to do that. She has started "saying" a great deal recently but, to be honest, I can't understand a single word she says. I think she may be from out east. Regardless of what she's saying the tone is quite clear. She wants to remember this Christmas fondly.

The simplest way to ensure this is to get a photo taken of her with Santa. That should provide her, and us, with a treasured keepsake from her first Noel. Originally I thought this may be a bit of a challenge to orchestrate until I heard that PetSmart is offering pet owners the chance to get a picture of Ol' St. Nick with their cat or dog. I'm assuming it's only cats and dogs but who knows? It seems to me like you've already crossed a line separating ludicrous and non-ludicrous behaviour by facilitating such photography so why not throw in a ferret or a tarantula. This is good news for us as it presents options. If the Mall Santa seems a bit uncomfortable with a squirmy baby we can always head over to PetSmart where I'm sure their Santa would be thrilled to have something diapered on his lap.

That raises an interesting question. Is there a hierarchy of Santas and if so how are ranks determined? The PetSmart gig strikes me as one not particularly high on the list of desirable assignments so how is it determined who has to take it? I saw a gentleman who was clearly of Middle Eastern descent dressed up as Santa waiving a sign outside of a cell phone store in Florida the other week. Let's presume that's the bottom of the ladder. He was slender and had a visible black moustache. At the other end of the spectrum would be the Santa from the parade float. He's the fat guy who grows his own long white beard and has prescription spectacles. Between those two extremes things get a little less clear. Who's to say who deserves the gig at the high-end mall and who's stuck ringing the bell outside the liquor store? Is there a measure of a jolliness that also accounts for creepiness? Is there a scale of redcheekedness that won't favour problem drinkers? I wouldn't know where to begin.

I recall a conversation with a former co-worker who told me that her husband was a rabbi at an old folk's home. This was a position he had "graduated" to after serving as a rabbi on a cruise ship. I found this all very fascinating. Unfortunately I didn't think to ask her what his next logical progression would be nor where he would have been relegated to had he not made the grade on the cruise ship. Presumably with rabbis it would be a bit easier to establish rank based on experience and mastery of the rabbinical texts. What makes a good or bad Santa is a bit less tangible. There's a chance that given the less scientific approach to determining which Santas get the plum gigs and which ones are forced to pose with some idiot's poodle we could end up finding a hidden gem of a Santa somewhere unexpected. If anyone out there knows of a great, clean Santa please let me know as my time to research this is already quite limited.