Friday, June 29, 2007

Faith Hill sucks.

I have received a few emails questioning my opinion when it comes to Faith Hill, and I have directed those people to my blog, since I don't want to type this out nine times. Woody attended the Faith Hill-Tim McGraw concert at the Scotiabank Place, and I voiced my distaste for Faith Hill and her brand of "country". First of all, it isn't country, it's pop music. It's ridiculous music. If you really listen to Faith Hill, she is irritating. She is in love with her own voice, which means she believes all she has to do is sing in a wonderful voice, and that's all it takes to make her song a hit. So she doesn't need substance at all. Like a Mariah Carey. And her lyrics are awful! If someone took one of those Chicken Soup For the Soul books and made them into singing books-on-tape, this is what you would get. Listening to Faith Hill is like listening to an unusually hot Tony Robbins, constantly giving you a motivational speech. So many of her songs involve lines like "you'll be the best you you can be as soon as you see yourself for the wonderful you that you are". I paraphrase. In conclusion, garbage. Bite me, Faith Hill.

Golf can be awesome!

I got home late on Tuesday night from the Children's Wish golf tournament, which meant that I had to really force myself to stay awake, after getting up at 2 a.m. and doing the show, then heading out to the Canadian for the Kim Meloche Breast Cancer Fore the Cure tournament. What a blast, though! This time I was golfing with three people who were closer to my skill level. Bob and Barb, who own a Pizza Hut in Orleans, are both very good golfers. Kim, the organizer of the tournament, is a slightly better golfer than I am. But I felt useful. I actually hit shots we used, and even if three of us shanked, the other one would come through with a shot that bailed us out. In the end, we actually won the tournament! We were eleven shots under when we were done. I must say, that is certainly a first for me.

Another highlight was the auctioning off of a butt-painting. I had created a butt-painting specifically for the breast cancer tournament, with pink as the predominant colour. Bob and Barb purchased it, and it is now hanging in the Pizza Hut on Innes Road in Orleans. Between that one and the one at West End Automotive in Stittsville, I'm now bookending Ottawa with my butt cheeks! (I auctioned one off for Children's Wish as well - one of my finer efforts, it raised $175 bucks and outsold a Tiger Woods framed print, which made me happy.) A fine day and a fine tournament, but I came home with the worst heat rash of my life. I was completely covered with giant red spots, which look like a huge minefield of pimples, over my entire torso. My girlfriend and her friend Ashley and my realtor Lorie were all very freaked out when I took my shirt off that night. Not freaked out because I removed my shirt (they're all used to that) but rather because I looked (and still do) like some Creature From The Black Lagoon type horror movie monster.

Golf can suck.

This past week I participated in two golf tournaments, which is why I have not written in my blog for some time and also why I have written so much garbage today. I get pent up, you see. On Wednesday, I was at the Children's Wish Foundation golf tournament at Kanata Lakes, golfing with Jeff from Flagstick magazine and Ian from Golf Town, and Dave, a computer nerd. All three were tremendous golfers, and we finished seven under. We had to use two drives by every player to qualify for the win, so in the 63 shots we took, we used...two. Of mine. Out of necessity, not because those shots were any good. It's a very irritating thing, when all you do is play in tournaments. I don't get any better, because I never go out and play a round for myself, where I have different shots to hit and different clubs to use.



With these three guys in Kanata, I used only four clubs the whole game. My 3-wood, (because my driver broke two years ago and I've never replaced it), my 5-iron off the fairway, my pitching wedge and my putter. That's it. I tagged one with my 3-wood, as hard as I ever have, and it may have gone 210, 215 yards. Every single one of these three guys was 100 yards past me. Even on the par 5s, we were close enough that I used a 5-iron for my second shot. Which meant I wasn't really playing, I was a spectator. Which is kind of boring as hell. I'd like to feel at least somewhat useful. But the tournament was a giant success, and a lot of money was raised for the Children's Wish Foundation, which was great. The best part of the tournament for me though, was Maria. Maria is a small girl whose house is in behind Kanata Lakes, and who set up her lemonade stand, hidden back in the trees a little, in the middle of the ninth fairway! The entrepreneurial spirit was remarkable, so I bought a round of lemonade for my foursome. Cost me 2 bucks, it did. I even tipped two bucks simply as a token of my respect for the enterprising nature of this young girl. Well done, Maria! Don't let the beverage companies force you off the golf course!

The view from the corporate world...tremendous.

As you can see, I have now officially gone corporate. No ads, thank God. I hope I scared people off with my "my blog is worth this much" counter. But I have left the design and layout of this thing in the hands of the corporate geeks, and not much has changed. I feel good about that. Now there's a CHEZ banner up top, and that's about all they've tweaked. Also, the blog is now white. I guess they felt that this is a more modern, internet-savvy colour, and as such went ahead and made my blog more presentable. I would never tell them this (and I suspect they don't read my blog so much as play with the htmls and the RAM and the bytes on it) but I wanted to make it white from the beginning, and I never figured out how. I am actually pleased with the changes. But don't tell nobody, because my blog is for saying mean things about people, not praising their work.

A follow-up...more sickos

The following is an actual conversation I had with a woman who works in our office this morning:

"I hosted the Sicko premiere last night."
"The Michael Moore movie?"
"Yeah, it was terrific."
"Ugh. I have no time for that liberal propaganda garbage."
"You mean Michael Moore?"
"Yeah. I can't stand that guy."
"How come?"
"Well, you can't possibly watch his movies and think it's the truth, can you?"
"I don't watch them assuming that everything is a lie"
"I watch everything with a very open mind. And he twists the truth."
"Example."
"Well, Fahrenheit 911. He said the reason the US invaded Iraq was because Bush was friends with Osama Bin Laden."
"No he didn't. That wasn't the conclusion he drew at all. These people who attack him are pretty off base. Sure it's one-sided, but it's factual and it needs to be said. And his movies are awfully entertaining!"
"Well, I've never seen one of his movies. I never will, I refuse to."

Then, moments into the show, we get into a discussion about the movie, and the phone rings. There's a guy on the line, and we had virtually the EXACT SAME conversation. "I can't believe you guys would support such blatant stupid propaganda!" He then quoted statistics Moore mentioned in Sicko. Statistics that weren't mentioned in the movie at all. This man was making bold statements about the movie without having seen it, in a one-sided tirade against Michael Moore. The gist of his tirade was that Moore's movies make bold statements about political issues that are distortions of fact and are a one-sided tirade. How perfect! He then admitted that he had never seen a movie done by Michael Moore. However, he was very well-versed on the right-wing anti-Moore websites and the disinformation contained within his films. Socialist propaganda! Communism disguised as entertainment! Anti-Americanism!

Is this the weirdest double standard ever, or am I missing something? Isn't this akin to the persecution of Salman Rushdie by people who have never read The Satanic Verses? I have never read the book, and as such I would feel like a complete idiot trying to pass judgement on it! When I say that the same people hate Michael Moore as hate Al Gore for An Inconvenient Truth, I think I'm bang-on. Someone who says something that you disagree with can be met with only one thing - bile, mistrust and bitter attack. OK, make that three things. The same people who mock An Inconvenient Truth because they don't want to believe global warming is real. The people who have read the study published in the North Beaverbrook Community Gazette, a study done by Dr. Poptop and Dr. Claptrap, scientists in the field of dentistry, who have conclusively disproved global warming, and latch on to that study as though it must be the gospel truth. After all, the names of both guys who wrote it end in PhD! That gives us a reason to ignore the reporting in the New York Times, Time magazine, Macleans, Rolling Stone, The New Yorker, the Chigaco Tribune, the Ottawa Citizen, and so on and so forth.

And here is the big problem. Please, give me an example if I am wrong here, but this is a uniquely right-wing approach to a political statement. When Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter go off their nut about some topic, intentionally misleading the Americans with out-and-out lies, paper-thin spin tactics and blustery outrage, the left wing responds calmly and rationally, with facts. They point out the falsehoods and the inacuracies in their statements, and they attempt to educate the public about these problems. But Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh and the right-wing windbags in the states, unfortunately come from a position where their stance on a subject is seen by the majority of people to be based in fact. They are on the news channels, for God's sake. NEWS. And although they inspire loathing and fury among the left-wingers, and rightly so, at least those people respond with intelligence. When they see Ann Coulter doing her hate-mongering, fear-mongering, conservative rhetoric thing on TV, they either look up what she says to find out if she's wrong, or they laugh out loud at how dumb the statements she is making are, and move on with their day.

Michael Moore is a film maker. He makes documentaries that deal with important social issues, but they are entertainment. Every one of his movies has made me laugh quite a bit, because he is genuinely funny, even when tackling difficult political problems. And to suggest that he lies in his movies is wrong. What he does is present a one-sided argument for one thing, or against another. Yes, we all know that the film that made him, Roger and Me, was staged in a big way. He tried to interview Roger Smith, the chairman of General Motors, and actually DID get that interview, although he did not include it in his movie. But so what? Did Roger Smith make an excellent argument for shutting down his plant in Flint Michigan, destroying the lives of the workers, and, effectively, destroying the town? Was he so eloquent and thought-provoking in his response to Moore's questions that the film would have been rendered completely ineffective were that footage included? I'm not really going out on a limb here when I say probably not. But the FILM was more effective when that interview was not shown, so an editorial decision was made.

The same is true for Bowling For Columbine and Fahrenheit 911 and Sicko. Of course Michael Moore did not drive the 9/11 rescue workers to Cuba in boats to go to the hopsital. And Cuba's health care system IS worse than that of the US. And the drugs that cost 120 bucks in the States and cost only a nickel in Cuba are possibly of a lesser quality. All these things are given. Fine. But it makes the point as well as a point can be made. If you make 500 bucks a week, and your pills cost you 120 bucks a day, wouldn't it be better to live in Cuba and make ninety cents a week, pay five cents a day for your pills that help you stay alive, and accept that they may be of a slightly lesser quality? The right wingers instinctively distrust everything that comes from Michael Moore, with blatant disregard for facts. Do these same people believe that the gospel truth comes out of Stephen Harper's mouth when he speaks? Ask him how your son will be buried and find out. We Canadians may complain about our health care system, and Moore doesn't show the problems with our system. But that's not the movie he's making. All he shows is that ours is a hell of a lot better than the US, and it's awfully tough to argue with that.

But the right-wingers will. At least, the hardcore right-wingers. They will argue Sicko on general principle. Simply because it's Michael Moore, and he said bad stuff once about the president. Bad, one-sided, biased, true stuff. So they will once again rail against Canada, France, Britain and the rest of the "communist" health care systems in the world, and they will go on paying out of their own pockets for health care, and the American government, HMOs, insurance companies and pharmaceuticals will continue letting people die, encouraging them to die, and in some cases, actively killing them. Only the right wing seems to spew O'Reilly-Coulter-Limbaugh-Falwell-style hatred and bile, in an incredibly distorted way, at anything mildly distorted from the left. Our web geek, Jon Stewart, may be right-wing, he may be a Republican at heart, he may vote for Stephen Harper and he may irritate me on political grounds and in the areas of office decoration and personal hygiene. But I will say this for him: At least he was there on Thursday night to see the movie for himself before deciding whether to lead the lynch mob.

Sickos...they're everywhere.

Last night I hosted the movie premiere for Sicko, the new Michael Moore documentary about the rotten state of health care in the United States. Before the show began, one of our web geeks, Jon, engaged me in conversation about politics. This stood to reason, seeing as it is a Michael Moore movie, and more scathing political viewpoints are rarely put on film. Jon wanted me to realize that Michael Moore, as a filmmaker, was very one-sided, and that he puts a slant on all his movies in order to further his own ends, politically. I agreed, and Jon agreed with me that it doesn't really matter. So Moore stages some things. And he presents but one side of an issue. That doesn't make him wrong. And the people who get enraged over it, and hate on Moore because of his "distortion of facts", strike me as the same sort of right-wing people who deny global warming because they have read 400 articles on the subject, and the 401st states that it is a fabrication of science. Here is the study! I finally found it, and now I can go on believing that this global warming thing is a lot of left-wing baloney.

For a guy named Jon Stewart, our web geek is remarkably right-wing in his politics. He told me that he could find some reasonable justification for the American war in Iraq. I did not have time to find out exactly what that justification was, since I had to start talking. He told me that were he an American, he would be a Republican. I would say he confessed this to me, but it was less of a confession and more of a declaration, one of which he seemed rather proud. I took this as proof positive that not all geeks are necessarily smart. Although he does agree that Ann Coulter and Bill O'Reilly and the rest of the American right-wing talking heads are absolutely ridiculous. Well, Ann Coulter anyway. We never got to O'Reilly, but I certainly hope he invokes the same feelings of disdain in Jon as he does in me.

The film is fantastic. Yes, it's typical Michael Moore rhetoric and grandstanding, but it proves his point in spades. It's something we already know, but something we need to see to believe anyway. Canada's health care system may be flawed, it may not be the best in the world, but it's sensational compared to the Americans'. Ours is flawed, theirs is broken. Almost beyond repair. Of course, being Canadian, the film doesn't really apply to us much, but it still paints a picture of a system that is staggeringly inept at helping those who it purports to help. We know that HMOs are a horrible way to conduct health care. We know that the price of essential drugs in the US is 4000% higher than it need be. We know the pharmaceutical companies control public policy and buy off the American administration with campaign contributions. And that health insurance companies in the States are recording record profits by protecting their bottom line with as much firepower as they have at their disposal.

Sicko paints an even bleaker picture of the system than the one I already had. The insurance companies, by denying people coverage and by not paying those who have coverage, is essentially evil. Moore stops short of calling them murderers, but I wouldn't, were I in his shoes. The people who get railroaded by their own insurance companies, who will do anything not to pay for their medical bills. The insurance executives whose job it is to find grounds for denial of payment for medical issues. There is a woman who gets denied the treatment she needs because, twenty years previous to her current medical problems, she had a yeast infection. She did not report this to her medical insurance firm, Cigna, and so her policy was fraudulent and they could not pay to have her brain tumour removed or whatever it is. Sorry, you die.

Canada seems like paradise in comparison with the States, and really the number ons reason is Universal health care. But our system pales in comparison to those in Britain and especially France. Of course, the cost of living in Europe is much higher, but when you don't have to worry about paying for a dentist, a doctor, a nanny, child care and even University tuition, then how can you not think you're better off? Michael Moore certainly seems to think so. Sicko is standard Moore fare - sad, poignant, funny, one-sided, and a must-see. Say what you will about Michael Moore and his left-wing socialist propaganda BS...the man definitely knows how to find all the funny in some really serious subjects.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I can probably do this myself!

I have figured out some blog-related things. Now, anyone who views this blog can post a comment, not just those who have a blog of their own. Also, you can now email a post from this blog to someone when you think that person should read it. Say, for example, you have always maintained that Rush is lousy, yet your obsessive Rush-fan friend will talk your ear off ad nauseum about the various merits of the band until you want to crawl in a hole or smash them with a microwave. Perhaps I make some good points about which you agree when it comes to Rush, and you want your friend to read them. Well, now you can send him the definitive reason Rush is terrible. I'm so computer savvy! Also, I checked out this website that a fellow blogger, Scott, showed me a while ago, that values your blog based on some sort of random criteria. Like, if you were to sell advertising, I suppose. Hey CHEZ web geeks! My blog is worth $1,129.08. Apparently. As such, I expect this much money from the web department if I ever see an advertisement appear somewhere on this page. No more keeping me in the dark in web-related matters, I am now a master of all things technical and nerdy! Of course...I tried to put the little ticker that says the value of my blog onto the front page, but I couldn't figure out how to do that. The website said it was easy! But it wasn't...I just wanted it to sit there as a constant reminder to those who might want to put up advertising just how much it would cost.

Now, that being said, although I am now extremely computer-savvy and web-smart, I have yet to figure out the workings of our inter-office HR system or our performance review software. Or hardware. Or whatever the thing is called that does the stuff. So...CHEZ web geeks! Stop by my office and help me log into my thing where my stuff is! Only then will I have achieved full mastery of my own geekish abilities. I'm afraid though. I suspect that as soon as I am able to use our office computer things, I will immediately develop an unnatural affinity for the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and I will start listening to Rush, and I will begin quoting Obi-Wan Kenobi and swearing in Klingon. But...one step at a time.

Monday, June 25, 2007

There are three ways to get on the Doc and Woody show.

There are three ways to get on the Doc and Woody show. One is to be a hot girl. Doc enjoys hot girls. The rest of us, however, are far too classy to have our heads turned by mere looks, and we would never choose to have a girl on the show simply because of her superficial assets. Doc, however, runs the the show, so every now and then we must succumb to his more base and quite frankly, deplorable inclinations, and allow a woman on our show who is there more for her attractiveness than for any sort of substantial story. While Randall, Woody and myself try to maintain a certain level of media respectability, Doc will readily make a space available for anyone hot. Remember Bella, who "taught" me to belly dance? Harmony, who "taught" Doc how to play guitar? Amber from the ski team who came in for our "who-can-undo-a-bra-fastest" contest? All of them chosen by Doc.

The other way to guarantee getting on the show is to bring us beer. This is because while Doc runs the show, and has final say on who gets air time, the rest of us can sometimes vote him down, three-to-one. And the only way for this to take place is to bring in beer. Lots of beer. Or maybe ribs or burgers. But mostly beer. Doc, you see, doesn't drink beer. He is too busy looking for pictures of hot chicks on the internet for the Doc and Woody fun page, a page the rest of us view with a certain amount of skepticism. Although he purports to be choosing the pictures based on their journalistic relevance at the moment, we suspect that it is just an excuse to find hot pictures for the men out there. So with no time for beer, Doc is not easily swayed by the stuff. But Randall, Woody and myself are long time beer drinkers, who can be led to accept anyone as a guest who comes bearing an amber ale.

And the third way is to have something interesting to say, an interesting event to promote, or something that is journalistically relevant in a way that is up our alley. Perhaps a fundrasier for the Doc and Woody Fund. Perhaps a concert featuring classic Canadian acts in town. Or maybe an attempt to break a Guiness world record of some kind. Or maybe, even, an event that I can attend early in the morning, that would subject me to a humiliation of some sort. All fine ways to get on the radio.

This morning, two girls walked in with all three bases covered. I was coming up the stairs with Ted when we noticed two women looking lost by the front door. Because the Department Of CHEZ 106 Security is very rigid and strict in it's application of our security procedures, I went to the door to sign them in. Were they to walk around without these passes, they might not be recognized, which could lead to some chaos in the halls when our appointed Radio Security Personnel (who masquerade as secretaries and production guys and salespeople the rest of the day) took them down, apprehended them and left them crammed in the storage closet under lock and key until the proper authorities had been alerted and the correct defensive measures had been taken. Security is tight in our building. Unauthorized people are dangerous, as they could make off with all the staplers and paper clips that aren't nailed down.

So I let in these two beauties. I am told they were gorgeous (by Doc of course), but I did not notice, as attractiveness is the last thing I think of when it comes to a potential guest. No, I was more attracted, initially anyway, by the beer they were carrying. Two small girls, each struggling into our lobby under the weight of a Labatt Blue 28-pack. Ted took one, I took one, and we carried them upstairs. Then we came back for the beer. Not only did they bring two full 28 cases, but once they found out there are four of us, they went back to their cars and grabbed two more cases! Now THAT's the way to get noticed.

And the best way to get on the air, of course, is to have something to say. Randall's commentary this morning, one I agree with completely, is that he is not a hypocrite for supporting the troops while denouncing the war in Afghanistan. And, in a timely fashion, these girls were there to talk about the war. Labatt has sent over tons of beer for our boys and girls in uniform to help them celebrate Canada Day in Afghanistan. And they have set up a website, www.labattblue.ca, where people can send messages to the troops as they peruse the information contained therein on the history of Labatt. A great cause, and a great reason to talk to us.

And one bonus - the cases of 28 are done with retro packaging. That means they look like they did many many years ago, when Labatt was sending beer over to the Canadian war effort in Korea. This does not work very well on me, since I was not drinking beer during the Korean war. But it worked very well on Woody and Randall, since they are very old. So...three ways to get on the air: Be hot, bring beer, and have something to say. It's that easy. It's also a great way to get into my blog.

My childhood home is gone.

My mom has sold her house, and I went over yesterday to her neighbour's place for a big send-off party with the rest of the neighbourhood. It was hosted by Ken and Sandy Duff, our old neighbours from across the street. The community on Java Street was for the most part a fairly close-knit one, and I ran into a whole bunch of people I hadn't seen in a very long time. The first "crush" I remember having was on my old babysitter, Kathlyn, who I thought was the most beautiful girl in the world when I was ten. Now, I'm running into people I used to babysit, and they've become gorgeous young women, which is fairly creepy to think about for some reason. It's strange meeting all these people again now that I'm to some degree an adult, since I still tend to relate to them in some ways the way I did when I was fourteen or fifteen.

My mom was the second-longest running resident of Java street when she moved, thirty-two years she had spent in that house. The longest running resident is a lady down the street, although no one knows her name or what she does. She is outside that circle of neighbours that has conversations with each other, and seems to live alone, possibly with cats. But aside from that, the community is largely as I remember it, where everybody knows everybody. Except the lady who possibly lives with cats. When I was a kid, once a year the street would be closed dow to cars, and we could skateboard or ride bikes or play soccer ON the street, which was a major source of excitement for us. There would be a barbecue, and every single neighbour would bring something, pot-luck style. Today in Kanata, I know the names of four of my neighbours, and even then I know virtually nothing about them.

There used to be big events on our street called "penny auctions". This is where all the ladies in the area got together with unwanted household items and auctioned them off to each other in increments of a nickel at a time. Mom would come home to me with all kinds of treasures - the used toys of my neighbours' kids...sometimes their old underwear...when the events were held at my house, I would go downstairs with the women with my piggy bank and bid on things that I wanted. When my mom felt it was inappropriate for me to own something, like the He-Man Slime Pit, for example, she would simply out-bid me. She always seemed to have more money than I did. The rest of the ladies were very nice to me though, and when I bid a nickel, they would just let me have whatever it was that I was excited about.

I think I'll miss Java Street as much as I'll miss the house itself. My sister was up in Ottawa a few weekends ago, and apparently (although I suspect Mom was exaggerating a little) she bid a tearful and emotional farewell to the house. Me, I just can't seem to feel terrible about it. Sure, I grew up there, and I like the familiarity of knowing where everything is when I visit Mom, but other than that comfort, there's not too much I worry about now that it's gone. Perhaps it's a guy thing, where the only thing that creates that kind of sentiment in us is our old baseball glove or our first really nice car. (I've heard - I have yet to have a first really nice car.) If Mom's old house burned to the ground tomorrow, I don't know how upset I'd be. I mean, she got her stuff out, didn't she? So fine. I don't know what could burn that I would cry about now. Maybe my current house.

One nice side benefit of Mom moving is that I have now outfitted my house with all the stuff from her place that I love. And some stuff I wasn't even aware she had. I now have some native paintings and some inuit carvings and some furniture that I needed and wanted. Then, yesterday, during the final big push to clear out the house, Mom gave me all her old records. I flipped through them quickly, thinking they'd all be Stravinsky and Ravel and Sibelius, and for the most part they were. Which is great - I will listen to those also. Mom played in the Ottawa Symphony, and growing up the closest we got to rock music in the house was Stephane Grappelli. But there, buried at the bottom of the stack, was some pure gold. Brand new, some not-even-opened, records of all kinds from the sixties. The Easy Rider soundtrack. Simon and Garfunkel. Cat Stevens. And then, the motherlode. Every single Beatles album. Every one. Up to and including some post-Beatles efforts, such as All Things Must Pass! The only one that even looked like it had ever been played was Sergeant Pepper. I had no idea Mom had this stuff. She actually had a hard time parting with it, although I assured her it was going to a good, loving home where the utmost care would be taken to protect these treasures. I don't really get the difficulty in parting with this stuff, since she told me she had not even listened to them since 1970.

All in all, a successful day. I met the old neighbours I grew up with, I scored a mint in Beatles records, I saw Mom off in her old house, and I met the new neighbours who had moved to the street since I lived there. Very nice folks, but I guess I'll likely never see them again. I hope Java street invites me to the next event they have. I don't need to go see my olf bedroom, just my old stomping grounds.

The culture of the backyard campfire...

Saturday night I was invited to my friend Sarah's birthday party, being held at her mom's place in the backyard. Her mom has this spectacular gigantic backyard, which is a full acre of gardens and flowers and has a fire pit. The bonfire got under way soon after I arrived, and the night was spent sitting around it drinking lots of beer. Sarah's friends and neighbours were all there, and one of the neighbours, a young 18-year-old kid named Matthew, plugged in his electric guitar and gave Sarah a rousing rendition of Happy Birthday, Hendrix-style. Campfires and electric guitars - not something I'm used to, but it worked very nicely.

Every time I've gone camping, I've been there with my buddy Dave, who brings his acoustic guitar out every time. But rather than playing a pile of songs everyone knows, and starting some sort of sing-a-long, he will noodle away at the guitar in an entirely anti-social way, playing songs only he and four other human beings know, or deciding he needs to break down the solo in his latest demo, so he will sit there plugging away at that, while the rest of us just wait for him to be finished. It kills the conversation, the mood, and he won't notice for hours unless someone takes the guitar from him. And by someone, I mean usually me. It's not that he's generally inconsiderate, it's that he's an artist, and his brain is more preoccupied with art than it is with entertaining others. I used to live in the same building as Dave, and when the blackout hit Ottawa a couple of years back, the first thing we did was hide his acoustic guitar. We knew he was coming to our place, along with half the building, and we didn't need that kind of distraction. We forgot to give it back to him until we moved.

But this campfire was comfortable and friendly. Which was great, but at a certain point it struck me as very odd. There is something very low-brow and trailer-parkish about having a campfire in your own backyard. But at the same time there something very upper-crust snooty about having it among gigantic gardens and hedges trimmed to look like things. As the night went on, this dichotomy became more and more pronounced, as we began discussing the works of Neitzche and Albert Camus over ice-cold Labatt 50. We spoke about political issues and social upheaval as illegal, crummy cigarettes were passed around. We ate strawberries and chocolate, roasted marshmallows and had a great time. I woke up the next morning, absolutely hungover, and watched Charlie Chaplin movies with a soundtrack from ZZ Top.