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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

The ultimate meaning of life is to embrace that which compels you to act in spite of fear.

Friday, December 30, 2005

Reads, Blogs & Leaves

I used my Chapters Indigo gift certificate to buy some books. There is something exciting about purchasing a crisp new book. And it only seemed proper that I should obtain a fresh copy of Eats, Shoots & Leaves by British journalist and writer Lynne Truss.

She is a stickler, after all.

You may've heard about this book. It's Truss's (I hope I got that right!) attack on the growing misuse of punctuation. And it's her battle cry to "sticklers" - those who are punctilious about apostrophes, commas, semicolons, etc. It's also a highly entertaining journey into the history of punctuation and a vehement denunciation of the rise of illiteracy in England.

My own writing is not flawless. I'm afraid I do not possess that Mozart-like ability to craft a perfect piece in one go. Particularly when it comes to the small details, which I admit ARE very important. Suffice it say, I'm so glad there are editors and other sticklers out there. They help me sleep at night. Though I catch most of my mistakes, I do count on others for final edits. I rely on the eyes and minds of those strange and vigilant creatures known as copyeditors. They would rather die than fail to detect an error. They are the beat cops of literacy, making sure our words behave properly in society.

Which doesn't mean I'm off the hook. It behooves me to clean up my own messes. I am accountable. And so I apologize if you find any mistakes in this post. I would like to say it's just a damn blog post and I have my life to live; but I'm afraid Lynne Truss will hunt me down, box my ears, and tell me all copy is important and smarten up!

So if your faillible lik me, or you're writing could use tuching up because its ripe with errers, than I suggest you give Truss' book a reed. Youll be glad you di'd.

And if the last sentence angered the crap out of you then pick up Truss's book and join the worldwide legion of sticklers.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Holidays

Season's Greetings and Happy New Year!

Another Christmas has passed and a new year approaches. Thanks to an adverse reaction to crab meat this Christmas Eve, my system was a little too tender for gorging. So I haven't managed to put on the extra few pounds I usually do around this time of year. It's just as well. I'll need to be lean and nimble for my romp through the woods. I'm interviewing a photographer tomorrow. I've got my boots and my trusty new Sony recorder, so I'm set for a walking Q & A. Maybe I will eat a few extra cookies for fuel. Yup.

On Wendesday another family visit. Hm, maybe I'll go easy on the cookies.


Thursday, December 22, 2005

Unexplained Canada reminder

Just a reminder that Unexplained Canada premieres on Space on January 4, 2006. It will also be showing on CBC Country Canada at some point in the future.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Not the Final Vinyl

No, I'm not talking about LP records. Well, not directly. I'm talking about Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe books. Many who know McLean's well-known show on CBC Radio show also know about his books, which look in on the lives of record store owner Dave, his wife Morley, and their two children, Stephanie and Sam. I got three Vinyl Cafe books for Christmas last year.

My brother and his wife had chosen wisely, and they were correct when they asked, "You like that kind of stuff, right?"

Having heard the radio show a few times before, I read the first book immediately, saving the second and third for later. I like to savour really good stories, the way I take my time with a sweet and delicious dessert.

When I read about Dave's screw-ups and misadventures, I nod and grin with pleasure. I could say a lot about McLean's brillant storytelling, his honest insight, and his impeccable timing. But I'll just say this: few writers can make me laugh by the end of the first sentence, and then choke me up as I read the last sentence... I know, I'm a medium-size softie.

I'm already looking forward to next Christmas!

Maybe I won't wait that long.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Sprawling Past

On yesterday's The Current, Anna Maria Tremonti interviewed a chap named Robert Bruegmann. They chatted about urban sprawl. It was an interesting discussion, so I decided to take a quick look in some our family photo archives.

Here are two photos of Toronto's Forest Hill in the early 1900s. These shots were taken from Bathurst Street, northwest of Casa Loma, about a century ago.

Suburban monster homes of yesteryear:

Back then wealthy people wanted to get out of the city. Today many wealthy people want to remain in (or move into) the city. People have left Forest Hill (people like my mom's family, long ago), to be replaced by newer money. Which is the one constant -- money. In Forest Hill, I mean. Not in my bank account! Our Forest Hill days ended in the early 1930s. I eat Kraft Dinner and take the TTC like so many others.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


I enjoyed King Kong, which opens tomorrow (we had passes to the advance screening).

Though the fight scene between Kong and the dinosaurs is a little overdone, it is fun to watch. And the relationship between Ann Darrow (played by Naomi Watts) and King Kong has more depth to it than in previous Kong flicks. At times I got a little tired of her wordless, doe-eyed stares. But then it occurred to me she's looking for beauty IN the beast, to restore her faith in something, anything, perhaps herself. And besides, just what kind of conversation can you really have with a giant gorilla? Less is more in the dialogue department, I think. And there are times when her acting is radiant. Other performances I enjoyed were those of Adrien Brody and Jack Black, who play the writer and producer respectively. Watch for the scene in which the group is attacked by giant insects. Note the unflinching ferocity with which Brody and Black (and other characters) fight back. The creepy crawlies are deeply horrifying. But this doesn't stop the determined writer and the savvy producer from New York. They don't look like tough guys, but they are. They toil in a tough industry, in a tough city, in a tough era (The Great Depression). Yes, Kong's world is a savage place, and I side with him in his noble fight. But the beasts on his island have never run up against the brutality of men who are driven by the terrifying prospect of utter failure.

Kong never stood a chance.

Monday, December 12, 2005

More great singing

Louise and I went to see the Exultate Chamber Singers on Friday night. Rather, we went to listen to their glorious singing. Warm voices on a cold night. Very nice. However, I was a little disappointed during the intermission when I discovered that there were in fact no mince tarts to be had, as CBC's Steve Wadhams, a tenor with the choir, had led me to believe during his amusing speech to the audience. In all likelihood he was joking and I was simply to dim to realize it. Or maybe I was lulled by Exultate's dulcet harmonies. Yeah, that must be it.

Clinton Sings Imagine

A friend sent this to me.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

The Philosopher and the Ad Exec

Today, while listening to DNTO on CBC Radio, I wrote this imaginary exchange between a philosopher and an advertising executive:

P: I think, therefore—
A: You think less of yourself.
P: Do you mean that thinking inevitably leads to self doubt? Or do you mean that simply knowing I’m a thinker will lead to self doubt?
A: What do you think?
P: I think you’re trying to play with me.
A: No. You think, therefore you think I’m trying to play with you.
P: Are you trying to play with me?
A: I already am playing with you.
P: You play, therefore—
A: You get played.
P: Do you mean that I get played generally speaking? Or do you mean I am getting played at this very moment?
A: That very moment has passed. And if you’re going to speak generally and not make your thoughts clear, then you will get played.
P: So will I get played in the future?
A: I don’t know your future.
P: Aren’t advertising people paid to make the future happen?
A: We’re paid to play. And the future will happen. Are these two related?
P: Now you’re playing MY game.
A: Surely by now this is our game. It takes two to make this work.
P: Those two are the player and the played?
A: Now you’re getting my game.
P: I think I already got your game.
A: You think, therefore you got my game.
P: Therefore I have played your game.
A: You think?
P: Therefore I am.
A: Played.
P: Well played.
A: You're beautiful.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

My Gleaner Column

A little bit more about me.

I write a column for a small community newspaper called The Village Gleaner. In my column, Divercity, I explore and profile various ethnic and cultural communities in Toronto's west end - Parkdale, High Park, Bloor West Village, and eastern Etobicoke.

Here's just one, which was reprinted on this blog.

I've also written for the other two Gleaner monthlies - The Annex Gleaner and The Liberty Gleaner. In my humble, and biased, opinion, these are great newspapers. The editorial staff - Annemarie Brissenden (editor-in-chief), Karen Mackenzie, Peter Armstrong, Lydia Hanson, and staff photographer Brendan Donaghey - and the freelancers really roll up their sleeves, learn about their communities, and put together some interesting stories. It's a great team. Karen Mackenzie is the managing editor at The Village Gleaner, and has also contributed to James Koole's blog.

As for my contribution to the Gleaner papers, you can read more of my stories here. Just click on the Articles tab.

Okay. I've plugged three gigs. That should do for now.


Tuesday, December 06, 2005

300 Dollar Divorce

Yesterday I was going south on the Royal York bus. When we stopped at Eglinton Avenue West, I glanced out the window.

On the side of the bus shelter there was a small poster which read: "Divorce $300!" There was a phone number. The graphics were even a little jaunty and playful. Hm. Cheap divorce services. Get 'em here!

So, the key two-part question: Who's buying, and who's selling?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Let's face it...

Last night I felt like this:

Except I didn't have a little woman at the back of my head...

But my cold never materialized. I had a small brandy and went to bed. Slept like a log. My headache, burning eyes, and sore, er, throat, were all gone this morning. Maybe I just needed a good night's sleep.

Today I woke up feeling like:

And I played with some fun face recognition software Matt Watts links to in his blog. The software matches your face to a celebrity's. Well, as Matt suggests, it's not very accurate. The best result I got was a 59 per cent match with Gene Hackman:

Hey, maybe it is accurate after all. Kidding. Wait. Something just occurred to me. If you mixed a big, happy snow bear with Kong, and then added in personality, cool, and amazing acting ability, would you get Hackman?

Think about it.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


I have a headache. My eyes are burning. I'm getting chills. And, worst of all, my nasopharynx is sore and raw.

Which probably means I'm coming down with a cold.


One of the things I hate most about colds is that they force me to think about my nasopharynx! I mean, why else would I think about this strange and transitional part of my anatomy? Really, who among us, apart from a nose, ear, and throat specialist, would give any thought whatsoever to the nasopharynx? So I am asking you to think about it now. Yours. Mine. Plato's perfect nasopharynx. Hell, we're here now, so any one of them will do.

But we're in tricky territory. You see, even Wikipedia was reluctant to talk about it. And given Wiki is a public forum, I can only assume its standards are those of society! When I did a search for the term nasopharynx, the site redirected me to the general search term, pharynx, apparently a more acceptable, more... palatable area of the body. I know, in polite society one does not broach the subject of one's nasopharyngeal problems.

So am I like that guy who gets drunk and emotional at a dinner party, causing everyone else to stare at each for confirmation of their social superiority! Please tell me I haven't crossed that line! You see what happens when you look inward and start gazing at your nasopharynx? You lose perspective and judgement.

Thankfully, there are drugs. If this becomes a full-blown cold, I will pick me up some powerful antihistimines. I assure you, when I take those, my focus will be quite outward. Spacey, in fact. And I won't think about my nasopharynx again ... until my next cold.

Thursday, December 01, 2005


My good buddy Kris Westerlaken - graphic designer, lover of literature, and trenchant social critic - has a new comic strip called Kamalot. Check it out. And give him some feedback, if you wish.

He is also the man who created my logo.