Thursday, January 31, 2008

Quest for 100k: and the grand total is....

Well today marks the end of January, let's tally up the kilometres to see how close I got to my goal. Alright...add this...and that...carry the 2...adjust for wind resistance....that leaves us with, not even close. Unless I decide to run 34k after work it looks like I'll come up a bit short. In the end, this is not altogether surprising. In fact, two thirds of the way there is about how far I normally get towards the arbitrary goals I set for myself. Usually I lose interest very quickly using the slightest bit of advesity as an excuse to quit. Luckily I'm not running CTU or 24 would be more like 1 and a half. The second episode would most likely have me complaining, "so we disarmed the nuke and killed who we thought was the ringleader but you're telling me I can't go home for another 22 hours? F that, I just shot like a dozen guys. I'll be at the bar". Oops, I just gave away season 7 (except that Jack Bauer then drives home and gets caught by a R.I.D.E. program).

You would imagine that I'd be quite happy with the news that the Bills are on the verge of announcing that they will play 8 games in Toronto over the next five years. Logically given that I am a more than casual fan of the Bills and I live in Toronto this is not an outlandish leap. Your assumption, of course, would be way off. Here are some of the details of this wonderful opportunity. If you commit now you get five regular season games and three pre-season games starting later this year running through 2012. All this for only $250...a seat...per game! That's $2,000...on average. Let's just start with the pre-season games. Have you ever watched pre-season football games? For the most part they have the intensity of a Doogie Howser/Whoopi Goldberg love scene. Have you ever been to the Rogers Centre? It has the atmospere of small claims court. You put that crap in that venue and expect me to pay $500 for a pair. Not only that, its a pair of tickets I can't use for 3 to 5 years and I have to buy three of these? There is overpriced, there is outrageous, there is MLSE and then, there is this. We have reached a level of absurdity that even those used to scoffing down $50 ByMark hamburgers may not even stand for. I don't think there are enough exclamations marks in the world to articulate what an outrage this is. It's enough to make Richard Peddie say "I'm all for screwing people but even I have my limits". I must admit he didn't actually say that. Truthfully, he doesn't have any limits. Who will possibly pay for these? I would imagine corporations would be hesitant to splurge on something they can't use for up to five years. I know this town is flush with cash but at least some of that has to have already been earmarked for platinum lounges and box seats at the ACC.

Must I remind you that this is for Buffalo Bills tickets? You can drive down the road and buy as many as you'd like for around $60. For $250 a group could buy tickets and a hovercraft to get you there and back. Of course you won't get sushi and pinot grigio or the chance to sit beside some douchebag in a scarf, cap and tartan sweater reading text messgaes (yes I'm talking to you, Asian guy sitting courtside across from the Raptors bench on Friday). Instead you'll have to watch a football game with actual football fans. How gauche!

We'll see if these rumoured prices are true. Despite the egregiousness I'm sure they are. I just hope that the money ends up in the hands of the Bills organization rather than the cabal that runs Toronto sports and, more importantly, they use it. The team has been crying poor for years. Now you've got your smitten sugar daddy in the form of the nondiscerning Toronto ticket buyers so go treat yourself. Perhaps the personal shoppers at Holt's will recommend a solid #2 receiver or an outside linebacker?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Surprise, Boston teams can lose! why am I telling you this? I'm not sure really. I just thought you should know. Most people only have one, I have a few. I've never understood why that's such a big deal. Hopefully we can all just move on and be adults about this.

Last night contained the greatest few minutes in recent Toronto sports history. Just before 10PM Jose Calderon turned the corner on a couple of Celts on his way to the winning three-point play. This was followed by one of the most wonderful things I've ever seen. The camera panned to the bench to focus on head coach Sam Mitchell. Luckily the wide screen captured the Raptors assistant coach Jay Triano celebrating in a manner which could only be described as awesome. Triano couldn't constrain his exuberance. He immediately broke in to, rather convulsed in to, a rain dance/dosi-do that would have made even the least rhythmic amongst us cringe. With his left arm he started a Dawg pound sort of twirl, while jumping on his opposite first, all while spinning in a circle. If you've ever been to a wedding in the suburbs you would recognize this move as "half-in-the-bag uncle, dancing to Beyonce". He sure went crazy right then! It was spontaneous, it was spectacular. Moments later the Celtics missed a couple shots and the Raptors escaped with a road win against the best team in the NBA. A quick flip of the channel brought the sight of Captain Mats banging in a rebound with 30 seconds left in the Leafs game. The next half minute of hockey caused some consternation but luckily no damage was done and that game too ended in victory for the good. Late game comeback, awkward white guy, Now, that's a Wednesday night!

The death of Heath Ledger is rather disturbing. People around the office, myself included, were genuinely upset when the news broke, more so than I would have imagined. From what anyone could tell, he seemed like a decent guy (he was Australian after all) and was a talented actor. The fact that he had a young kid probably explains much of why people seem more affected by his death than that of his ilk. I know its been a while but I don't recall such an outpouring of sympathy after River Phoenix kicked it or Chris Farley dropped dead. Personally I felt quite guilty when the news broke as I had recently been convinced to join a dead pool by an old acquaintance. While I had not picked Ledger the news still made me feel rather ghoulish. I have since decided to withdraw my name from the pool. I had a terrible vision of running into someone that I had in my pool and bringing up that fact in a bid to make conversation. I've heard professional athletes mention how awkward it is when fantasy sports geeks talk to them about being on their teams. This would be infinitely worse. Telling a guy he should steal more bases is one thing. Telling him you think he's going to die this year and that you are, in a way, hoping for such an outcome is a whole new level of poor taste. Admittedly its a bizarre thought but who's to say Tara Reid wouldn't be in town for...whatever it is that she does these days. What if I was right and bumped into the widow of one of my selections in an elevator. My penchant for inappropriate conversation would make it very likely I would mention this. What's the etiquette in such a situation? It wouldn't be right to thank them, would it? Regardless, the best thing to do is to bow out now before I get any further into this devilish game. This is not really the type of thing a Dad should be involved in.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

CBC's hot new show: Not completely terrible, yet!

..."Ha, ha" I said in a clearly sarcastic tone. "oh by the way" I added "have you been assigned a specific suicide bomber for all eternity and if so have you set up some sort of time-sharing arrangement with all his other virgins?" That shut him up. I know it may have been a bit harsh but he needed to be brought down a peg. Who cares if he was only 13.

Oh, the things a writer's strike and a brand new TV will make you watch. I have had this wonderful new television for only a couple days so I am still at a point where I watch things based on the availability of high-def programming versus the actual content. We're definitely both in the honeymoon phase where just being together makes us happy. Of course, by "us" I mean the TV and I. So far I have watched college basketball games that I had no interest in, a National Geographic program on the gangs of El Salvador and a great deal of the Australian Open. I must say, there is a very good chance that HD was invented with leggy Russian tennis players in mind. None of these things would have been on my radar screen in my old life, my standard definition life. Last night I watched something that even surprised the new HD me. I watched, from start to finish, the premier of "The Border" on the CBC. As you have probably seen from the numerous promos during hockey games or plastered all over the subways, The Border is Canada's 24 (about -4 depending on wind chill). I'm not sure why I watched, perhaps it was some sort of misguided nationalism. Regardless of what drove me to this strange behaviour I might as well tell you what I thought. In a word, not nearly as bad as I would have imagined. The production values were higher than I would have guessed with a couple of decent explosions and some reasonable gunplay. Unlike most Canadian programming I didn't immediately recognize all the actors/actresses from commercials or The Air Farce. That being said there was the obligatory Canadian Stage over-acting and occasionally terrible writing that are to be expected, but neither were bad enough to force me to turn the channel. Like most high-quality US cop/action shows the female characters were all much better looking than they would be in real life. My gut tells me that the CBC put all their budget and energy into the first episode. By week 2 we'll probably see Colin Mochrie playing the terrorist mastermind with the production values back to Street Legal-levels. Hopefully I'm wrong and they can actually develop the show into something worth watching even when stuff isn't blowing up.

Just one quick note on the upcoming Super Bowl. Today's big dish is that America's Dad, Tom Brady was seen walking around New York with a cast. I guarantee this is nothing but gamesmanship by Belichick and the forces of evil. He's fine. Remember how bad wrestlers in the 80s would feign injury knowing that good wrestlers would not attack them. It was a standard weasel move made famous by the likes of The Million Dollar Man and Ric Flair. They would then sneak up behind their opponent with a ring bell or chair. This is exactly what Brady is doing now. He's preying on the good sportsmanship of his opponents. I fully expect him to take off the cast and use it as a foreign object or, at a minimum, to create an even more painful figure four. Over the next week or so I imagine Rodney Harrison will be seen wearing a neck brace and Richard Seymour will start walking with a heavily-jewelled cane. Whatever you do Eli Manning, don't accept any invitations to Piper's Pit. It's a trap.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Super Bowl XLII: Eli vs. Evil

...that brief switchover between songs was all the time I needed to run onstage, grab the mic and unroll the banner. The audience was clearly there for a good time but they still needed to be educated about Darfur. Security was surprisingly slow and I ended up with a good 20 seconds before they shut down the audio and wrestled me away. I spent a couple hours in holding and was let off with just a warning. Of course, I've been given a lifetime ban from the karaoke bar but that's a small penalty to pay. I know Mr. Kowaguchi and the other 5 gentlemen in his party will go home tonight with something to think about.

Firstly, happy Martin Luther King day to all the American readers. Enjoy the day off before all of your investment portfolios disappear. In case you haven't noticed all the world's stock markets are simultaneously imploding. This whole capitalism thing was fun while it lasted, wasn't it. At least we've got Super Bowl XLII (interestingly, also Rogers Clemens' hat size) to look forward to. Not surprisingly, the AFC will be represented by the New England Patriots. More surprisingly, the NFC will be represented by the resurgent New York Giants. The matchup reminds me of a movie I saw once, I think it was called Star Wars. Giants' Quarterback Eli Manning is an unlikely hero and not one I would have chosen a few months ago but hey, why the Hell not? Luke Skywalker was just an awkward kid who kinda dressed like a pixie before Obi-Wan discovered him. He, like Eli, had not previously displayed any of the phenomenal talents afforded to him by his lineage. Now he's finally starting to get it just when he is being called upon to defeat the bad guys and save the world. With his imposing size and strange voice Michael Strahan is clearly Chewbacca. For sake of simplicity let's just say Coach Tom Coughlin is C3PO, placekicker Laurence Tynes is a lightsaber and Offensive Coordinator Kevin Gilbride is the Oscar-winning score. The Patriots' resemblance to the dark side is so obvious that to point it out would be condescending to you my readers. Let me just leave you with one thought. The guy in charge where's a hoodie...

Somehow Belichick looks even more miserable when he smiles.

If I recall the Death Star was a 14 point favourite as well, and wasn't there a scene where one of the bad guys slapped Princess Leia around (I think it was Lt. Moss)? The parallels are uncanny. Let's just hope the results are the same.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

World Issues: no longer just a BS OAC course

..."Apparently the Leafs are still referring to it as an upper body injury". I told President Musharraf that I didn't think that was very funny or appropriate and that he should keep it down until the end of the funeral. Secretly, I actually thought it was quite funny and made a mental note to steal the joke.

Speaking of Pervez, I wonder if he goes by Perv for short. If he does let's hope, for his sake, he doesn't come to North America when he steps down/goes into exile/is overthrown. It would be a huge culture shock for Perv. Every eVite he would send out would sound like a Toronto Sun headline. Imagine his housewarming. "Perv has moved to your neighborhood". Poor Perv would have no idea why no one showed up. Say he wanted to volunteer to get involved in his new community.

Charity director: "This new guy seems to have a lot of experience in leadership positions. He seems like the perfect guy to run our youth centre. All we need is a background check."
Volunteer #1: "Don't bother"
Charity director: " Why, is he a perv?".
Volunteer #1: "He's a total perv. He wrote it down right on his application".

Perv would be completely shunned through no fault of his own. Poor guy. Hopefully there's some arm within the Citizenship and Immigration ministry that helps those with names that sound dirty in English come up with alternatives. Craig Musharraf would have people lined up at the door for his housewarming party.

I thank my lucky stars that I am no longer a single man. I would not relish having to compete for women's affection with this guy.

Sure, but can he cook?

So let me get this straight...he's a prince and will one day be the King of England, he has one of those proper accents, he's tall, he's very dreamy and now he's freakin' Top Gun!?! How does this guy not have every girl in the world and I mean every last one? All the committed woman out there must be kicking themselves right now for settling.....and thank God they did.

Travel Advisory

...his lawyer claimed it was some sort of exercise, "Tie chee" or something like that. As far as I was concerned he and his gang were starting something so I defended myself. Hopefully the judge sees it the same way.

On the ride to work this morning I was listening to a band called "Explosions in the Sky". If you've ever seen Friday Night Lights, the movie or the TV show, you'll recognize their music. If I was a more articulate man I would probably describe it as ethereal, like what Sigur Ros would sound like if they grew up in the South (the American South, not the Icelandic South). It's very good background music. I wonder, however, how many out of town fans they get at their shows particularly in the US. If they were playing in say, Atlanta, what would you tell the customs guy if you were flying down to see them? I imagine the conversation would be brief:

Customs agent: "Why are you flying to Atlanta?"
Indie rock fan: "I'm going to see explosions in the sky."
Taser: "Bzzzzzzzzhhhhhhh"

Unfortunately where you'll be going the opening act will be waterboarding and the headliner will be sleep deprivation. You'll disappear faster than Haley Joel Osment's career with even less chance of coming back. No concert is worth the risk of being tortured in Guantanamo, particularly one with no vocals.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

WWNW pre-emptive movie review: I bet this will suck

....Ini Kamoze? Ini freakin' Kamoze? That's your answer? Of all the possible choices in the world you went with the Hotstepper, the lyrical gangster? I know six months have passed but I'm still extremely angry about that. You completely ruined a perfectly good evening.

Is anybody else somewhat surprised that Jason Statham has become the next Jean-Claude Van Damme? On the subway this morning I saw a poster for the new release he is headlining (something about castles and swords). The rest of the cast was Ron Perlman, Leelee Sobieski, Mathew Lillard and Claire Forlani. Apparently Alan Thicke and Judd Nelson were unavailable. Shockingly two others were given special mention (you know how the poster puts "with" or "and" before some veteran actor's name and the end of the cast to give a movie legitimacy). They were, get this, Ray Liotta and Burt Reynolds. That's the best you could do? Pacino will show up and scream for a minute or two for under fifteen grand these days.

Obviously this movie is going to be awful. The most surprising thing on the poster were the words "in theatres". This stinker seems to have "direct to video" written all over it. Statham was the guy who's career started in Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels which he followed up with the comparable, but not as good, Snatch. Since then its been nothing but brainless action movies usually centred around Statham and the little Chinese guy trying to beat each other up. Perhaps it is simply that all things associated with Guy Ritchie have been completely soiled. The absolute and total destruction of his credibility given his relationship with, and subsequent marriage to, Madonna has been well chronicled. Is it possible that her presence has become so venomous that it not only destroys those around but also those one step removed? That could explain how Statham has gone from character actor in critically acclaimed movies to Van Damme with an English accent.

That's about all you'll ever get out of me in regards to movie reviews. As I've said before I don't go to movies given my Dad duties. If I have a free night that would be about number 18 on my to do list even if it was a movie I wanted to see. Hollywood writers, please end the strike soon so we don't even have to contemplate watching something like this.

Monday, January 14, 2008

It's never too make an ass of one's self

...watching at home you could never fully appreciate how loud the music actually is, to the point that the desperate screams of the crowd are completely indecipherable. Just a garbled rarrrr, arrrrr is all you can really make out above the yodeling. Perhaps it was this chaos that caused him to lose his focus. All the months we spent walking up and down aisles memorizing prices, the flashcards we went over and over on the long drive to Burbank, the countless hours we spent building up to that big day. In the end, none of it mattered. He froze. How could he not see my hand gestures? I clearly signalled 7-9 in reference to the Braun electric shaver and yet he blurts out "14 dollars!". His one chance at glory came to a crushing end as that little mountain climber eased past the number 25 and toppled over the edge into an abyss of failed dreams. This image forces its way into my mind every time I look at my old dinette set. It serves as a brutal reminder of what could have been. To this day, part of me believes he chose to fail. But why? How could he not want the same things that I did?

The last few days have been busy for little Charlotte as she blew threw a couple more firsts. Earlier in the week she started sitting up on her own while yesterday marked her first foray into eating real food. That's more than most kids manage in a month! At this pace no record is safe. Within a few months I fully expect her to be walking, while an explanation of the difference between "empathy" and "sympathy" written in alphabet blocks would not be out of the question by the time Labour Day rolls around. Her Bonds-like pursuit of personal milestones (in terms of its prolific-nature not any pharamceutical help, although her head has gotten bigger and she did get two shots at the doctors last week...) has even given me a bit of a kick in the pants to work harder towards my own goals. Not surprisingly I am well behind pace in my pursuit of 100k but with the help of Charlie's shining example I am slowly catching up. 29 down, 71 to go.

My other current personal endeavour comes with an embarrassing admission and represents something I should have done long ago. I, at 31 years and having lived all but about 9 months of my life in Canada, am just now learning how to skate. When I tell people this they don't fully grasp it. The say things like "so you're learning to play hockey?" or "you're working on your backwards crossovers?". No, I'm actually learning how to skate, as in I'm learning how to propel myself forward while on ice skates without toppling over. I grew up in Vancouver during a bizarre era when the parents in my neighborhood put their kids in soccer instead of hockey. The legacy of that new age, West Coast hippieness is that as soon as I step on the ice I look like a Chilean soccer player, except that I'm not falling on purpose. As the only non-New Canadian in my adult "learn to skate" program my failure as a native son of this country is impossible to hide. I've even been tempted to fake an accent in a lame effort to hide my shame. The whole thing is all very humiliating particularly during the warm up when I have to share the ice with five year olds, soccer moms and old guys. Did I mention that they are all skating circles around me?

Nevertheless, I soldier on. The longer I put this off the more difficult it will become. The ramifications of falling on the ice will provide more and more discouragement as every year passes. If I wait any longer I may end up breaking a hip. After two lessons I think I'm making some progress. My instructor seemed quite pleased with how far I've come. That being said, he's 16 years old so he may just be humouring me.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Mother Nature is a dirty tease needless to say I'm no longer welcome in any of Toronto's public libraries. As far as I'm concerned it was a simple misunderstanding but unfortunately they don't see it that way. Bunch of fascists!

In other news, what's with the weather? I keep having to remind myself that it is January (Hell it's not even mid-January!) despite the fact that I was able to walk to the subway without an overcoat this morning. Invariably when I step outside and don't shudder from the bonechilling cold my mind shifts to all things Spring. Sitting on patios, playing golf, the arrival of better produce, having sunlight after 5 PM. Of course, those things are still months away. This unusually warm spell is nothing but a tease to make the coming weeks of snow, ice and slush that much more unbearable. Thanks for the reminder of what we're missing. Quit screwing with me Mother Nature! The false hope is soul crushing, much like when you wake up in the morning thinking its a Saturday only to suddenly realize its Monday, and that its noon, and you're in prison, and that's not your wife's hand. I took out the garbage the other night in a t-shirt (and pants). It was 14 degrees for Chrissakes! I swear I heard a pack of hyenas laughing in the distance. On Tuesday we hit a high of 15, 4 degrees hotter than it was in Baghdad. I'm sure it will take time to tally up the damage but I'm presuming we've had at least a couple of species die off given this absurd weather. I haven't seen a pigeon or squirrel in the last couple of days so I'm hoping it's one (or both) of them.

Don't listen kid, Mother Nature is just f-ing with you

When Spring does actually arrive it seems increasingly likely that it will once again not signal the start of a Leafs playoff run. Up until a few years ago spring brought with it the optimism of car flags, spontaneous honking and random high fives. It was a great time to be in the city. 2008 will, unfortunately, mark the four year anniversary of the last time there was any such merriment. The current state of the Maple Leafs represents a new ten year low. Mediocrity was the previous nadir, but this year they've plunged right through, now wallowing in a previously unseen level of undeniable shittiness. Even their most blindly optimistic supports, a group in which I would include myself, can no longer find any silver linings or reasons for optimism. The saddest thing about this year's debacle is that it is now painfully clear that the Mats Sundin era is about to come to an end without him ever even reaching the finals as a Maple Leaf. Mats is one of the classiest star players we've ever had in Toronto (in any sport). The fact that he has never been fully embraced by the city despite being the best player to ever don the Blue and White in the modern era is probably as much a commentary on Leafs fans than it is on any of his relatively non-existent shortcomings. Seeing Mats leading another team through the playoffs will give the guys in the Tucker and Domi jerseys a little sense of what they're missing. I believe it was Cinderella that said it best: "You don't know what you got (til it's gone)".

One day soon we will pick up the paper only to read that Mats Sundin has been traded. From that day forth all car flags will fly at half mast.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Thanks America

Here's a piece of great news I inexcusably missed from late last year. Chipotle Mexican Grill, the greatest quick service restaurant the world has ever seen, has announced that they will be opening their first restaurant outside the contiguous 48 States by the end of this year. The location....Toronto, Ontario (or Toronto, Canada as American TV often refers to it. I'll complain about that next time I'm in New York City, America). For the uninitiated, Chipotle offers amazing Mexican food. Comparing it to Taco Bell is an affront to Mexico and to cookery. Mentioning the Chipotle Carnitas burrito (carnitas is/are a beautifully slow-cooked pork) in the same paragraph as something like border fries is akin to lumping Steve Nash and Clifford Olson together simply because they're both from out West. Chipotle uses much higher-quality ingredients and more authentic recipes than any Mexican chain before it. Trust me, if you haven't had it before you're in for a treat. So far, no other details about location or exact opening dates have been released. I'm hoping for something close, but not too close. A couple of subway stops or a long walk away would be ideal. Anything closer and within six months I will likely take on a decidedly more Rubinesque physique. That is to say, I will grow one of these and a couple of those.

They're real and they're fabulous

So the next year or two will see two of the five greatest things about America (being Chipotle and the Buffalo Bills) being shared across the 49th parallel. I haven't figured out what the other three are but let's just go with a responsive service culture, self determination and TV commercial producers. What will we give them in return? Oil, wheat and Little Mosque on the Prairie. Seems to me like we're making out like bandits with this trade.

Here's something else I'll gladly throw in - Newmarket, Ontario native Steve Downie. Downie won two gold medals with our Canadian junior hockey team and scored 92 points in only 45 games last season. Oh and one other thing, he sucker punches guys with cancer. Downie, who's checkered past includes being suspended for 20 games to begin this season and beating the crap out of a teamate in junior, threw a punch at Maple Leafs forward Jason Blake while he (being Blake) had his arms restrained by a linesman.

Downie completing misinterpreting the call to help beat cancer

America, or whoever else wants him, he's all yours.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

2008: 10 years since 1998!

The new year welcomed us with a bitter, "freeze the snot in your nose" cold this morning. My face actually hurt at the conclusion of the twelve minute walk to the subway. The shift in the weather happened all very suddenly as last night was actually quite pleasant. I was even able to go for a run. In an attempt to force myself to exercise I set the somewhat arbitrary goal of running 100kms in January (cumulatively, not all at once). If successful I would up the target by 5k every month with the goal stretching to a realistically unachievable mark of 200k by November. By 2026 I will be running a marathon every day the very same year I turn 50! Pretty impressive, isn't it. I haven't decided whether or not to adjust the targets by the number of days in the month but let's cross that bridge when we come to it. Right now the over/under on how many months I reach my target is set at 1 with the smart money coming in heavily on the under. So far I've got 6 down and 94 to go. Hopefully I don't put myself in a position where I have to run to Brampton and back on the 31st as it'll be a Thursday and that's not a particularly scenic route...and I'd die.

Other than that I don't really have any restrictive resolutions for the new year. Instead I've decided to set some resolutions that will require no effort whatsoever. Firstly, no more Panda (except on vacation). Secondly, I will not Arabic or Farsi. Thirdly, no John Mayer concerts and finally, 2008 will be completely Sloe Gin-free (unless I'm forced to break my third resolution). Clean living will clearly be my mantra for this year. Let my sacrifices inspire and guide you each and every day.