Saturday, April 19, 2008

World's warmest snowball fight!

Due to the bizarre weather we've had, it felt like forty degrees outside yesterday, yet there was still a substantial snow pile in our backyard. I had been outside working all day, and the kids came out to join me aftern dinner to play some soccer and some football. One of their friends was over, and very quickly the entire "regular games" thing we were doing devolved into a massive snowball fight between three kids and one "adult". Truly, the best weather imaginable for a snowball fight, since everyone was hot and sweaty already, and wearing shorts and T-shirts. Therefore, the snowballs were more likely to hit exposed skin, which is (from what I understand) far more satisfying, yet not painful because it kind of soothes in that type of heat.

I'm thinking that later on in the summer, when it gets ridiculously hot (and if it's all of a sudden 24 degrees now, then by my calculations, it will be 44 degrees in July), we're going to eschew the traditional methods of cooling off - the boring stuff, like outdoor pools and ice cream - and I'm going to take the kids on a tour of hockey rink parking lots, where the zambonis dump the excess snow outside the doors after cleaning the ice. And we will have snowball fights. Or build a fort.

Just a thought.

In going through my toold shed this spring, I noticed that the previous owner of my house left behind a giant bag full of cow maure, composted into soil. Which is great - better geraniums! Or something. But it got me thinking. How come when cows poop, it gets composted and becomes enriched soil for gardens, but when my dog poops, it sits under the snow and dirt all winter, and when the snow melts, it's still...just a little pile of dog poop?

Thursday, April 17, 2008


In a move that is sure to offend my neighbours as I continue to go shirtless while doing my yard work over the coming five weeks, I was half-sugared today. Sugaring, from what I understand (and from what the lovely Maureen, whom you see here, tells me) is a process that is far better than waxing. Sugaring does something to hair that makes sure none grows back for five weeks or six weeks or something. And it isn't as itchy when it grows back as it would be were I waxed instead. However, I can say (as I don't think too many guys can) that sugaring is more painful than waxing. Waxing (which I once had done...elsewhere...) comes off all at once, in a strip. Sugaring you have to yank and yank and yank, getting a small amount of hair off each time, until the skin is silky smooth. And half my stomach and a portion of my chest are now silky smooth.

Doc and Woody, the barstool philosophers that they are, decided that "which hurts more - chest waxing or ass waxing?" is an age-old question, debated in bars from the Prescott to the Elmdale to the Brig to the Orleans Broadway. And they were going to settle this debate once and for all. By having both done to me. And they were both done to me, this morning. (Count yourself lucky I spared you the ass-sugaring picture. For those of you who are masochists or just freaky, here is a link: that is the photo gallery.) Maureen and Linda came in with their products, some stuff that goes on before the sugar, the stuff that goes on after that stuff, the stuff that makes the sugaring possible...and the cream to make it all better afterward. Maureen, while very sweet, had a real knack for putting me on edge. While we were off the air, Randall was asking her how often she did something like this. She looked at me and said "like this? Oh, never something like this. Usually it's the personal trainer types." At first I thought she meant vain, high-on-themselves guys who are too in love with their bodies, and I was flattered. It turns out, however, she just meant "attractive".

I was worried about the rubber gloves. Was she wearing gloves to protect her hands from the chemicals that she was then going to put on MY skin? No, she said. The gloves were so that she didn't get my blood on her. Thanks! Then she sugared (NOT waxed) my chest, my stomach, and my buttocks, while I enjoyed creeping the guys out in my disposable thong. Yes, someone, somewhere, makes disposable thongs. Who knew. Follow the link above to see one...although I wouldn't recommend it. She was very nice, very professional, and very gentle and sympathetic as she applied the soothing balm afterward. I think this was likely the first time she had done this to someone against their will. And after all of that, I think we are no closer to a real answer to Doc and Woody's "age-old question". The stomach part hurt so much more than either of the other two that when it was over I couldn't remember whether it was the chest or the butt that was more painful.

Police! And changing with the times.

I think I get most of my resistance to technology from my mother. It was 1994 when my family became the last on the block to own a microwave. 1996 saw us get a CD player to go along with our turntable, and by 1998 we were equipped with a VCR. Had my mother not moved recently, she would, I am certain, be the last person in all of Ottawa to still have a rotary phone with no touch tone capabilities. I mean, even the automated services you call have stopped giving that option of "if you're calling from a rotary phone, please stay on the line..." The main reason for this, I firmly believe, is that my mom subscribes to two notions. One of nostalgia - the idea that if you hang on to one item, say a rotary phone, for thirty years, then it will have thirty years of memories associated with it. Like, the time Gerry and Kathleen phoned to see if they could get their ladder back. The other is simply a firm adherence to the tenet of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it. Or replace it." I admire this ethos, since I believe my mom may have created less waste in her entire lifetime on Earth than some familes do on any given Super Bowl Sunday.

I realized this when I was over at her house on Tuesday. She was preparing to leave on a trip, and was lending me her car while she was away. We sat and talked in her new kitchen, and I realized, this was the same kitchen I had when I was a child. Different decor, to be sure, but the same pots and pans and dishes and utensils. It was even the same milk jug we used since I was, I assume, an infant. I have no recollection, at any time in my life, of my mom using a milk jug that wasn't that orange plastic 99 cents-at-Dollarama jug! That's at least 25 years worth of use, out of ONE milk jug! Out of ninety-nine cents! How many people get that kind of value in life? I know that I, personally, have broken four milk jugs - many of superior quality to my mom's milk jug - in the past three years. This blows me away. When I parked her car in the station parking lot (it IS a new car - those things don't last forever), I noticed the license plate. Six digits. It was the only plate in the lot that still had six digits. Everyone else was modernized, that seven-digit plate number, starting with A. Not mom. In fact, although it was a new car, this was the same license plate number she had when I was born.

No, scratch that. It was not just the same plate number, it was the same license plate. I know this because as I pulled out of the parking lot this morning, I was pulled over by the police. The officer came to my window and said "you think it's time you replace your plate?" Well, I had just been looking at it in the parking lot! I knew that it was a bit rusty, but you could still read the numbers. This cop, however, could not. He asked to see my license, and I considered asking for his as well, just to see if he was supposed to be wearing glasses. But I did not. He even went around to the front of the car, making a big show of the need to check it again on the front, because he couldn't possibly read the back. Then he took my license and my mom's registration and went back to his car. I listened to Sunday Morning Coming Down by Johnny Cash. Then I listened to Let's Make Out by Does It Offend You, Yeah? Then I listened to a Joy Division song, a Wale song, a Zappa song, and an Allman Brothers song. Now, to be fair, I caught the Johnny Cash at the end, and I skipped most of the Wale, and he left his car midway through In Memory of Elizabeth Reed. It was almost over by the time he reached my window, and by my calculations that means I spent forty-one minutes pulled over on Conroy road. My math may be a little off, but that live version of Elizabeth Reed is long.

How long can it possibly take to print off a warning ticket, check the plates and my license, come up with nothing, and come back to my car? I'm going to guess, not that long. This guy really wanted to get me on something. Eventually, I continued along my merry, rust-plated way. I wished I had a cell phone so I could call my girlfriend and tell her I would be late getting to her work. But I have no cell phone. The one lifestyle accoutrement that my mom had before me!

Spring - The Good (BBQ), The Bad (Gardening), and the Ugly (Me).

I am so terribly suburban. It has been less than a year, and already I am a denizen of the kind of suburbia that aches for golf, craves barbecued food, and maintains his lawn. And this, all in one day, has come home to me in such a way that I am a little overwhelmed. When I purchased my house last fall, the one thing I made very clear to my family was this: I will mow the lawn. I will shovel all the snow. I will fix things that break and I will cook dinners and I will help with homework and I will do all the heavy lifting around the house. But I will not be pulling weeds. As a child, the one thing I hated more than anything else was weeding. I didn't like shoveling the snow, I wasn't fond of mowing the lawn, and I wouldn't have been against the idea of never washing another dish. But I despised pulling weeds. Getting down on your hands and knees, digging through the dirt until your hands were filthy, throwing them into a pile and then raking them up, all so you could see some kind of green plant without the interference of some other kind of green plant. Who cares if the lawn is all crabgrass? I would say. It's green, it's a lawn - where's the problem?

And yet, there I was today, out in the backyard cramming weeds into one of those big paper bags for yard waste, cursing this suburban life that has consumed me, body and soul. Well, mostly body. (As you can see from the picture I intend to put up a few posts from now. Or in that picture I put up with the cheerleader uniform.) My involvement in the yardwork came about more as an appeasement for my girlfriend than out of any desire of my own to have a pretty backyard. I still feel that one green thing is as good as another green thing. But my girlfriend feels strongly that a pretty backyard is essential to her happiness, and her happiness is essential to there we go. In fact, I was itching to get at the centre of the yard, this being my first chance at it since we bought the house. It's a big backyard, of a size where we could conceivably play soccer or catch with the kids (as long as they ease up a little). However, in the middle of the yard is a massive (former) garden, surrounded by rocks and stones and fragments of Gibraltar. It takes up the entire yard, and inside these rocks are useful things like decorative grass and currant bushes. Boy, I would sure like to be able to pick my own currants.

So I have been itching to get at this. Mostly because I want to play soccer with the kids, but also because I want to do some outdoor work. Real work, like digging, not fake work, like weeding. And best of all, it afforded me the opportunity to break out that other most-suburban accoutrement, the barbecue. Of course, every year, you must christen the barbecue with the most tasty thing available, price be damned! But we couldn't find the barbecueable cocktail weinies, so we had steak. This was my break in the yardwork, and we sat by the table, feet up, eating steak and dreaming about golf. At least, I was. I think my girlfriend was likely dreaming about doing more yard work.

After lunch, it was back to work, only now I was sweatier than John Goodman in O Brother Where Art Thou, and I took off my shirt to resume the work. Bizarre situation, isn't it, when it feels like it's 30 degrees outside, yet there's still snow on parts of your lawn. Well, almost as bizarre as my own situation, which involved several children exiting the school bus, looking into my backyard, and then doing a double take as they realized that not only was I fat and sweaty, I was also half hairless. The right half. My left half - still hairy. I'm sure those kids told their parents a fine tale upon their return from school, and I expect a visit, soon, from Neighbourhood Watch. At least when they show up, they might be dazzled by our clean, green yard.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Interview with Sharkwater director Rob Stewart.

On the cynical cinema page, in the “Interviews” section, is an interview I just did with Rob Stewart, the director of the brilliant (and very intense) film Sharkwater. It’s a ten minute interview, and he discusses filming techniques, conservation, gunboats and governments, and the recent controversy over the Canadian seal hunt surrounding the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Paul Watson (who figures prominently in Sharkwater). He’s a well-spoken young guy, and if you watch the movie, you’ll also know he has balls of steel. Here's the direct link to the interview:

Support the troops! I mean, the Senators! No...the troops...whatever. Just decorate your car.

Two things I hear a lot that have absolutely no intrinsic meaning: "Support the Senators" and "support the troops". What, really, do either of these things mean? Judging by the callers to our station, "support the Senators" means one of fifty things. Either it means never saying anything bad about the team (they only have four more wins to go to knock off Pittsbugh!), or perhaps it means constructive criticism (boy, all they need to do get better play from their defencemen, their forwards, their stars, their grinders, their first line, their second line, their third lnie, their penalty kill and their power play, and they're set!). Or maybe support is merely pointing out that there is still a chance. (All they have to do is score more goals than the Penguins do in the next four games, and they move on!) There are forty-seven other permutations that for whomever indicate support for the team, but forty-six of them involve this: Put the flags on your car! THAT's support. True support, the kind that can't be questioned or second-guessed. The kind we give to...

Our troops. Put the right bangle on your car, and people will know you don't want troops to die! You can drive around all day with your red shirt (make it a Senators shirt) and your troops bumper sticker and your Go Sens Go flags in your back windows, and know that you have done your part. Your bases are covered. It is, quite literally, the least you can do. Not that I am equating the two things, they are not the same. But it is the same rhetoric, isn't it. And make no mistake, this type of support for a hockey team is a form of sports-centric "patriotism". The same people who say "how can you question the Senators? You're not a coach or a hockey player" are the same people who say "don't question our government and the war. You are not a politician or a solider." But this is the nature of patriotism, isn't it? The brilliance of democracy and the benefit of free society is the questioning of authority. True patriotism lies in questioning the decisions made by the powers that be, and not in blindly accepting them with apathy or excuses.

So here is what I am going to do. I will continue to cheer for the Senators. I will celebrate their goals, I will be a little downcast when they get scored upon, and I will hope for at least one more victory for them. And I will continue to hope that our soldiers don't die in Afghanistan, and I will be devastated by the deaths I read about in the paper, both of our soldiers and of civilians. And I will cheer, whole-heartedly, for a plan to remove us from harm's way, and an end to the dabacle in Afghanistan, because that is what I believe. And I will also, at the same time, wait for a full-scale withdrawal of the Senators from this playoff series against the Penguins. At least one of the two is a given.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Is this not going to get worse, before it gets better?

Every mention I hear about the Olympics in the news also mentions protests. There is an Olympic torch run going on, it has been marred by protests. Chinese officials have attempted to comment, they have been beset by protests. The Canadian government has been the target of protests, as has the American government, the British government...pretty much every government in the world. And China laughs, and they thumb their noses at the protestors, because, really - who cares? Do the protestors really think they will convince Stephen Harper that boycotting the Olympics is the right thing to do? Or that dealing with China while they continue to make a mockery of human rights is the wrong thing to do? Come on. No government in the world has the balls to go up against China. This country is quickly becoming the most powerful economic force in the world, and what's more important than money? Obviously not human rights. So the protests are for naught.

Even if those protests DO reach China, and put some egg on that corrupt face, they can still laugh it off. No one will do anything that will actually put real pressure on this government to change at all. So they can continue doing whatever they like, and no one will boycott their Olympics, and no one will report on Tibet and involvement with Darfur while they're over there covering the Olympics. No, instead, we will get CBC reports on the old man who has walked the length of the Great Wall four hundred times in his life, and the sweet elderly woman who still makes those straw sombreros, and the Canadian trampoline athlete who overcame childhood chicken pox to make it all the way to the top of her sport. That's what we will see. And yet, this thing may yet get crazy. Craziness begins now: To protest the protests, a protest was held by protestors who were in favour of the Chinese government. You see, they are angry about the politicization of the Olympics, and so...they are protesting. Politically. Against politics. Protesting. Against protests.

And this is why the Chinese government can't possibly be worried about anything that happens in the world outside China. They have managed to control their subversives and eliminate their problems so thoroughly in their country that the ordinary Chinese citizens who go about their daily lives without worrying about anything are unaware that anything is wrong. And when they leave China and move to other countries in the world, they will protest for that country and for it's Olympics. They, of course, are not Tibetan, they are not Falun Gong, they are not from Darfur. But they are very much ready to fall in line, protesting the protests, politicking against the politics, fighting against fights. Demonstrating non-violently, against violent demonstrations, so that their country can continue to demonstrate violent reaction to non-violent protest. And this is act one.

My butt's still got it!

On Friday night, I made my return to the site of one of my most embarassing moments of the past few years. And judging by, say, the picture included with my last post ehre, it takes something substantial to embarass me. I can do cheerleaders, french maids, belly dancers...frankly I think I have ruined every male fantasy out there over the course of my four years with Doc and Woody. But at Hunks With Hammers last year, I did my best to ruin some female fantasies as well. I don't know if overweight-unshaven-artistic-type is a female fantasy on the level of hot-nurse-with-buttons-undone for men. If it is, however, I destroyed it. As I paraded my butt-painting (they were still big at this time last year) up the catwalk at the centre of the Greely arena, some overly-enthusiastic ladies managed to pants me. And then rip down my underwear. To reveal my entire lower body in all it's naked glory.'s naked...whatever is the opposite of glory.

So when I returned to Hunks With Hammers this year, I brought the butt-painting out of retirement, and walked it down the catwalk once again. (I also modelled a Guitar Hero 3 box while a guitar player played You Shook Me All Night Long, which was kinda funny for the first verse, but I think grew tiresome after the fourth.) This year, no one exposed my junk to the ladies of Hunks With Hammers. But boy, did they all remember last year! There was no topping that, really. This year I named my latest butt-painting "Ladies of Greely, You Owe Me", which was a little mis-labelled, since this year the event was held in Vernon. But no matter. Although there was an auctioneer, I took the microphone and cajoled, insulted, and otherwise abused the audience until the painting had reached a reasonable price. In the end, the painting sold to the same group of ladies that had purchased last year's painting - for 120 bucks, which goes toward cancer. I think in general, the value of my butt-paintings has diminished over this past year, but the value of berating a shamed crowd into spending money on one is huge. (As I was last year, I was followed on stage by Pierre Polievre. I have to go on first because his act is tough to follow. As Hendrix was to Monterey, so is Pierre Polievre to the county-fair and arena/barn-fundraiser circuit.)