Thursday, 31 July 2008

I know that it's Thursday, but.....

I know that I usually reserve the Stop the Stupid posts for Fridays, but I am going to be taking a long weekend away and I didn't want you all to miss the abject stupidity that is still pervasive throughout our society. So while it may by 24 hours early, it is no less stupid. So here we go.

1. This week saw the second highest paid female actress in the movies today, the magnificent Keira Knightely, disclose that she has told publicists for her latest movie The Duchess to keep their airbrushes off of her breasts. It seems that in some of her previous films, she was stunned to find her "girls" digitally enhanced from their regular "A" to a more fan-friendly "C"!! Keira isn't telling young girls something that they haven't heard before, in that all of those images of stars, models and various others that appear on magazine covers, movies and television are digitally manipulated to the point that the subjects are sometimes unrecognizable. Kate Winslet, Faith Hill and now Keira Knightley are all women who have benefited from this system and have had the courage to speak out against this disgraceful distortion of women's body images. Until we as a society stop playing into the media's ideas of what is ideal, we will continue sending a dangerous and stupid message to our daughters. Keira Knightley should get a standing ovation and the producers and publicists of her movie should receive a big wet raspberry!!

2. It seems that since the idiot of Pennsylvania Avenue is becoming increasingly marginalized and less relevant, he is covered less by the media. Not only that, it is the summer and even stupidity has the right to take some vacation. In that vein I offer a retro Bushism from 2004. "I'm honored to shake the hand of a brave Iraqi citizen who had his hand cut off by Saddam Hussein." There are just no words!!

3. It was announced yesterday in Beijing, that contrary to both IOC and Beijing organizers repeated assurances, there will in fact be some Internet censorship and media blocks in place throughout the Olympic Games that begin next week. Not only that, it seems that the IOC was complicit in this agreement. Well, DUH!!!!! A moron could have seen that one coming. It seems that the Chinese government is very concerned that the world's media will report on sensitive issues such as human right's violations, the Tibetan monks and the Falun Gong religious sect. The Chinese argue that these stories have nothing to do with the Games and as such have no place in the media centres or on their web-servers. They have also blocked such hate-mongering sites as Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders, a Paris based media watch-dog. I have some very strong opinions about these Games in general, (are you stunned?) but this travesty has been 8 years in the making. The sycophants at the IOC sold these Games for the big bucks and nothing, not China's abhorrent human rights record, nor it's back room support of the Darfur government and it's ongoing complicity in it's genocide was going to move these bastards off of their monetary goals. The fact that any deal was struck to suppress a free and honest media coverage is more than stupid, it is despicable.

4. A Missouri woman is claiming that she found Jesus in a bag of Cheetos! It seems that Kelly Ramey got more than she bargained for from her bag of snacks and that one of her puffs resembles Jesus on the cross to her. Not only that, she has dubbed the puff "Cheesus" and plans to sell it on the internet. Give me a break. Now far be it from me to intrude on anybody's religious beliefs, but I find it very hard to believe that the image of Jesus is in a bag of Cheetos, or on a piece of burned toast or on a bathroom wall at Tim's. When will people understand that the image that we all have of Jesus is an artist's rendering. Given that the man was a semite from the MIddle East, it is more likely he would have resembled my Israeli cousin than Ted Neely who portrayed him in Jesus Christ Superstar! I think that we should leave prayer where it belongs and take it out of the stupid realm of snack food!

5. I just love this story. The governor of Washington state, a lovely looking woman by the name of Chris Gregoire was recently "carded" at a local watering hole in Olympia Washington. It seems that after the governor and some of her staff had served burgers at a state fairgrounds, the group headed for a bar called Hannah's in the downtown core. The governor was stopped at the door by the part-time bouncer and refused entry because she didn't have ID. The problem with this: THE GOVERNOR OF WASHINGTON STATE IS 61 YEARS OLD!!!! Now granted, she is a young looking 61, but 61 is still 61. While I am certain that the governor has found tremendous humour and flattery in this incident, the bouncer and the bar are looking pretty stupid.

6. This week the Gallup organization released two new polls with three separate results as to the preference of American voters in the presidential election. One poll of registered voters showed Obama up by 8 points while another of likely voters showed McCain up by 4 points. The third, an overall poll showed Obama up by as much as 12 points. So, what gives? Most pundits believe absolutely nothing except the ridiculousness of polling. There have been experts falling over themselves to attempt to explain the discrepancies, but it is becoming increasingly clear that polling is becoming much less scientific than in the past. Cell phones, changes in demographics, and out and out lying to the pollsters are some of the reasons. Maybe it is time to stop trusting in stupidity!

7. I cannot end this edition of Stop the Stupid without a shout out to my little bro. I mentioned in an earlier post that it was his intention as a summer project to make pies. He wants to become proficient in the art and science of pie-making. So far, he has made 8 pies of various varieties incorporating both sweet and savoury. The problem in all of this is that he is driving his family to drink!! He is so finicky about the crust and why is this one a bit darker than that one. He needs to understand the gluten content differences between American flour and Canadian flour. He has sent my poor sister-in-law out for supplies so often, that they know her on a first name basis at the kitchen ware store! He told me that in an average year, he probably eats 2 pieces of pie. This summer he has already consumed double digits. There is a lot that is stupid about this, but what gets me the most is that all that pie eating hasn't caused him to gain one f@#$*^g pound!! I think that I have gained more and I haven't eaten a single piece of pie!! Stupid!!!

Enjoy the weekend all. For those of you north of the border enjoy the long weekend!!

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Wii are NOT Amused!!

I had a strange and unexpected pleasure today. I was actually able to purchase a Wii Fit console for the younger son. When searching for a graduation gift for said son, he had indicated (back in May) that he would really like a Wii Fit. Now, it should be noted that younger son has about as much interest in fitness as I do in video games in general, but since he had done so wonderfully throughout his high school career, I was true putty in his hands. I probably would have bought him a bazooka had he asked. The good news was that since he was off to his summer employment directly after graduation, he really didn't require the unit right away and it gave me some time to track it down. Well, it has been eight weeks of looking up and down the streets of greater Toronto. The husband and I have been in every conceivable electronics boutique within a 40 mile radius of our home. Nobody would place our names on a wait list. No need. The damn things magically disappear from the stores within minutes of it being delivered. One store manager actually laughed at me when I asked if there were any in stock. Laughed at me!! Like I was knowledgeable in the quirks associated with video game buying. Now I ask you! Do I, even in the slightest, bear any passing resemblance to a young male adult? One poor clerk took the time to explain to me that Nintendo metes these suckers out with an eyedropper. The stores are given no advance notice as to when they might arrive, for fear that clerks and other workers will notify their friends as to the time and location of the deliveries. When they do make it to the neighbourhood stores, there is no consistent quantity that might arrive. Sometimes they get 2 in and other days 10!! It is basically a hit or miss proposition. Today, while visiting Walmart, (yes, I am still frequenting the devil's haunt!!) I took a chance at the gaming store in the same plaza. Well, today was a hit. They had just gotten in 2 units and for the first time in my life, my timing was bang on!! (For a musician, I have really crappy timing!) I felt like I had actually taken one to "the man"! I "beat the system"! I ruled!!

While posting my success on my Facebook profile earlier this afternoon, a cousin/friend asked me if the unit was "really" for younger son. Last week that answer would have been and unqualified yes, but something has definitely changed in the past 3 days. You see, after decades of avoiding video games due to an ineptness that is legendary, I discovered Guitar Hero!! Now, video games have not always been on my "nyet" list. I loved PacMan. That crazy little yellow mouth gobbling fruit at warp speed. I used to play the first generation of Nintendo with the boys when they were much younger. Back then, all Mario and his brother Luigi did was run and jump. I understood how to move my fingers across two buttons on the controller. The husband bought me a first generation GameBoy complete with Tetrus and Dr. Mario. But, once the games required the use of six fingers on each hand, I gave up. The damn things play music in a continuous loop that would be effective at Guantanemo, and the rapid movements gave me vertigo. We moved the consoles down to the kids lair in the basement, and I rarely intruded. I let it be known that after their 16th birthdays, I would no longer buy video paraphernalia. They were on their own! And to their credit, they never asked, nor did they overspend.

And then Nintendo came out with the Wii. If you haven't seen this thing, it is truly remarkable. The graphics are stunning and the music not annoying. The Wii not only encourages, but demands that the players get off of the couch and become physically interactive with the games. Not only that, this brilliant company realized that they needed to expand their market beyond pre-pubescent boys. Hence, Guitar Hero and now Wii Fit. Guitar Hero is fandamntastic!! For anybody, like me, who has a passing interest in music, it is the ultimate game. It comes with a guitar shaped control pad and allows the player to feel as though they are playing with the greats of rock and roll. Younger son has been all over me for months to play with him, but I have resisted. I was very concerned that if I played, even once, that would be it. I would be hooked! And so it was that I trudged down to the lair on Saturday with First-born Nephew to give me my first lesson on the Wii! I haven't been able to stop. SHIT!!!! What am I going to do when younger son takes his Wii console to school with him? And now the Wii Fit? The husband arrived home and saw it still wrapped in it's box.

"You haven't opened it yet?"

"Afraid to!!"


"If I get hooked on this thing, I will never be able to find another!"

Shit! Wii are not amused!!

Monday, 28 July 2008

What's in a Nickname?

During a very strange and truly unsolicited conversation yesterday, the husband remarked how he has never been bequeathed with a nickname! Now, me being me, I think that this is a truly ok occurrence. I happen to think that nicknames are usually reserved for the lazy, (like W, who gives all of his staff nicknames because he simply does not have the mental capacity to remember their real names! "Brownie" did not do a heck of a job!!) the overly testosteroned, (like athletes with names like Babe, Whitey and Lefty!) and the criminal element! (like Lucky, Bugsy, Babyface and Scarface!) When taken in this context, I cannot understand why anyone would feel the need to have a nickname, but there is anyone and there is the husband, so in that vein I will try and bestow upon him a suitable extra moniker.

1. "Bernie"! In fairness, I have been calling him Bernie since high school. (Yes, we have know each other that long and longer!!) Bernie being a combination of his first and last names, always seemed to me to be a suitable term of endearment. The husband, on the other hand isn't crazy about it and think it makes him sound like an old Jewish man in South Florida who wears his trousers hiked up to his chin and eats at the "early bird" specials! I figure that in a few years he will be an old Jewish man in South Florida who wears his trousers hiked up to his chin and eats at the "early bird" specials, so this just saves us time!!

2. "Baldy"! This is actually a name that the older son bestowed upon the husband a few years back. Yes, it is rather obvious and really doesn't say much about the man himself, but it does offer a nickname that describes his physical appearance. Frankly, I hate nicknames that play on physicality. I don't much like it when people draw attention to my lack of height, (Hey Shorty!! Shortstuff, Little One!!) so this one just seems to border on cruel.

3. "Still"! This is a play on the names Steve (Jobs) and Bill (Gates)! The husband is a true computer whiz. Even as he tries to run from his previous incarnation as a techno-geek into other career paths, he cannot seem to escape his past. Among his other accomplishments in his new venture with Twin Son, he has created an entire business platform program unique to their whisky stuff, and their website. Twin Son's Better Half believes that even if the business doesn't do what they hope, they should be able to sell the software for big bucks. Still, "Still" somewhat traps him in a former life that he desperately would like to escape, so it doesn't really work. Neither do names like "Geek", "Nerd", "Techno-Wiz" etc...

4. "Insert masculine sexual title here"! I absolutely refuse to hang some publicly inappropriate label on my smart, good-looking and upstanding husband, no matter how gorgeous and sexy I believe him to be. Some things are better kept private!!!

So, I open it up to you, the readers to give the husband the nickname that he desperately seems to require to round out his masculinity. The rules are simple. The name needs to be descriptive, non-offensive (either ethnically or linguistically!) and something that you wouldn't mind your 80 year old grandmother hearing or saying. Please respond in the comments section of this post and I will post the clean ones! Have at it, folks!!

Saturday, 26 July 2008

A Quick Bit of Fun to Spice up the Weekend!

Just a short shot to enhance your weekend. Yesterday the family and I met for dinner at a local haunt. There were nine of us in total. As the meal neared it's conclusion, my little bro decided to discover our gambling levels and cohones! Four credit cards were placed into the folder with the bill. The idea was that we would let the waiter choose one at random, and that poor sucker would get stuck with the bill. After all of us agreed on the terms, the die was cast!! Waiter comes to the table and is told without bias, to arbitrarily choose one card. Other Dad drew the short straw!! Like the good sport that he is, he graciously picked up the check despite all of our protestations that this was just a game. He said a bet is a bet and he made good!! If you are looking for a way to combat the boredom, I highly recommend this game, especially if you can get a free meal out of it. It also helps to have a good sport at the table like Other Dad!

Friday, 25 July 2008

Friday--Stop the What?

There is no lull in stupidity in the summer. As a matter of fact, it seems to get worse. People are searching for things to do and say and inevitably end up with a foot or two in the mouth. So for the weekly roll!

1. If W would take some summer vacay then people like me would have nothing to write about! This week at a private fundraiser in Houston, dumbass, thinking that the cameras and recorders were switched off said the following: "There's no question about it. Wall Street got drunk -- that's one of the reasons I asked you to turn off the TV cameras -- it got drunk and now it's got a hangover. The question is how long will it sober up and not try to do all these fancy financial instruments." Huh? George was also caught laughing and rollicking over what he perceived as a big giant "FUNNY"!! Mr. President, millions of people have lost their homes and their life savings. The job market is at it's worst since the Great Depression, and banks are failing with regularity. Gas prices are in the stratosphere and food prices are following along in step and you think it is funny? 1:20:09! Can't come soon enough.

2. Yesterday, the husband and I made another trek down to St. Mickey's for some follow-up to the minor inconvenience of a few weeks ago. We were left waiting over two hours for an x-ray and check-up appointment. When the husband arrived upstairs after finally completing the imaging, the nurses were stunned at the back up in x-ray and could not fathom what was happening down there. Nothing was untoward as far as the hospital was concerned and the doctors and nurses in the clinic were waiting around for their patients to arrive. When will medical personal realize that the patient's time is just as valuable as theirs? We shouldn't have had to book an entire day for a 15 minute appointment. Now most of us can fully understand emergencies take precedent, but this was not the case. There was no emergency. Just a bunch of people standing around twiddling their thumbs. This was truly stupid and a waste of money!!

3. This week saw what I am certain is the first in a long line of hurricanes this season, when Dolly hit the Texas Gulf Coast. The category 1 storm packed fierce winds and rains and forced residents from their homes and business. Entire cities were boarded up and evacuated, save a few network TV idiots. Why is it that every single time that one of these horrific storms hit, the networks shuttle some poor schnook of a weather person down to stand outside in the eye of the hurricane to report how miserable it is? There they are, clad in their inappropriate rainwear, tilting at a 45 degree angle because of the wind and hanging on for dear life, as mailboxes, trees and other debris fly down the streets behind them. This is not news!! This is outright stupidity!!

4. Have you ever noticed the absolutely stupid manner in which the police speak when they are being interviewed by the media? "The person of interested got into an altercation when exiting the location in question. The suspect fled on foot and was believed to have entered the establishment several blocks away. Projectiles were exchanged and the suspect was finally subdued! He was transported to a local area hospital for treatment. Identities are pending." What he really meant to say was there was a fight at this bar and the asshole ran away from the cops into a building up the street. Gunfire was launched until they shot the bastard and he was taken to hospital. They still don't know who he is!!! What is wrong with plain language from our service people? Take a listen sometime, they sound really stupid!!

5. This little item was in the fashion and style section of yesterday's New York Times! Entire bridal parties going for botox, injectables and in, in some extreme cases, plastic surgery! Many times this is at the behest of the bride and in some instances, paid for by the bride. While many bridesmaids are happy to have a little freshening done, there are those who think that this "standing up business" is being take just a bit too far.

But for every accommodating pal, there’s another who feels going under the knife is beyond the duty of bridesmaid. Becky Lee, 39, a Manhattan photographer, declined when a friend asked her — and five other attendants — to have their breasts enhanced. “We’re all Asian and didn’t have a whole lot of cleavage, and she found a doctor in L.A. who was willing to do four for the price of two,” said Ms. Lee, who wore a push-up bra instead.

Now, far be it from me to tell anyone what they should or shouldn't do to themselves in order to feel better. I have no issue with anybody taking it upon themselves to "freshen up" their look. When it is dictated by some "Bridezilla" however, it is another story all together! I am fairly certain that I don't want or need my supposed friend pointing out my facial wrinkles, sagging boobs or crow's feet! I think that this stupidity could certainly end a friendship!

6. In two weeks, Beijing will welcome the world to it's first summer Olympic Games. While there is truly much to be written and said about these Games, I think that I will save that for a later post. What I will comment on, is the lament that these could have been Toronto's games. Thinking back ten years ago, my fair city finished second in the voting to the Chinese capital. At the time, many things were stack against us, including the IOC's desire to bring the games to Asia and a political climate here in Canada that saw anti-poverty groups work against the Toronto bid. If only they had shut up and hoped for the games. Here we are 10 years later without the promised housing, transportation systems, the Gardiner is still being debated and the waterfront is still undeveloped. Our infrastructure would have been upgraded and our roads would have been repaired. There would be the promised link to Pearson and the Eglinton subway would never have been mothballed! Without the Olympics, Toronto is just another 10 years older with the same problems it had before the games were awarded to Beijing! And, we still are fighting about how to fix all this shit and who is going to pay for it! Talk about stupid!!

Shabbat Shalom to all who observe! Let's hope for some sunshine this weekend!!

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Today is My Mother's Favourite Day of the Whole Year!!

I have commented in the past about the fact that I have two moms. You see, my mother is a twin, and she and her sister have a relationship that defies explanation and logic. Not that anyone needs to understand it or explain it. It is what it is, and we have all lived this familial intertwined, mishmashed existence for our entire lives. It has always been understood that I have two sets of parents and that they have extra kids and grandkids, albeit children for whom they didn't have to endure labour pains! My moms are very much alike in a number of ways. They both wear their hair in similar styles and colour (although other mom wore her hair blond for many years before mom did!) and they both suffer from brutal stomach ailments! (Hint: When going out to eat with these two, it is advisable to take along a list of the "can't digest fully" foods! It will save you time when choosing a restaurant or ordering the meal!) They both have tremendous disdain and intolerance for perfumes and aftershaves, and they both equally abhor wearing sandals that separates their toes!! But, it always strikes me as funny when people say that they cannot tell these two very distinctive women apart. Even funnier is the question that I am often asked, "Do you have trouble telling which one is which?" My often sarcastic response to this insensitivity is, "No! Do you have trouble figuring out who your mother is?" And today, July 24th is a day that they can truly celebrate their differences. You see my two moms, identical twins, celebrate different birthdays!! Yup! You read that correctly. My other mom was born just before midnight on the 24th and my mom was born enough minutes after midnight on the 25th to make a discernible difference in their birth dates. I am certain that this was difficult when they were growing up. I can speak to this quirk of the calendar from direct experience given the fact that little bro and I also celebrate our birthdays a day apart. I know what it must have been like for my mother to have to wait that extra day. To want to have a special day all to herself, only to watch her sister and family expect them to celebrate together. But, I also know that as they have grown and aged, it has become a source of perverse pleasure for my mother to watch her twin turn another year older a full day before she does!! Today is my mother's favourite day of the year. It is better than ice cream, (given that she is lactose intolerant!) better than chocolate, better than peanut butter! So in honour of other mom's birthday, I will count a few of the ways that make this my mother's favourite day!

1. For 24 full hours, other mom is a whole number older! That probably sucked when they were 9 turning 10, but now that they are a few years older than that, it is a delicious source of entertainment. It is even better when they celebrate milestone birthdays as they will next year!!

2. Other mom was able to pay senior's prices a full 24 hours before mom! While this might sound like an advantage, I am certain that my mom was happy to wait the day!

3. Other mom was able to collect old-age and Canada pensions before mom. In order to do this accurately, she had to acknowledge that she is a full 24 hours older!

4. Other mom was able to enter into senior's drug programs, paid for by the government, earlier than mom!

5. She could check off the 65 and over box on forms before mom!

6. She could attend Senior's Day at Shopper's Drug Mart a day before mom!

7. For evermore, her hair, teeth, skin, and all body parts will be 24 hours older than mom's. Which means that all body parts that tend to droop and sag will do so 24 hours before mom's do!

8. Her hearing will tend to diminish 24 hours before mom's and her eyesight will probably fail a day before as well!

9. She will notice a new wrinkle a day before her sister and she will see that new grey hair that day as well!

10. But, she has the advantage of everybody wishing her a Happy Birthday and opening her presents earlier as well! I just hope that her sense of humour doesn't disappear a day early. Happy Birthday Other Mom! (Oh yeah, and you too Mom--tomorrow!!)

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

The Purity Ball Makes My Skin Crawl!!

This week's Time magazine arrived yesterday with this little nugget meriting a three page spread. The idea behind these cockeyed cotillions is for fathers and daughters to make pledges to one another to preserve the young women's "purity" until such time as released by marriage. The thought process is archaic enough to make one wonder why any strong, independent young woman would allow for "daddy" to hold the key to the chastity belt, but the philosophy degenerates even further when it is understood that girls as young as four years of age are participating in a ritual about their virginity!! The story takes on an air of just plain creepy when many of the anecdotes are discussed.

Kylie Miraldi has come from California to celebrate her 18th birthday tonight. She'll be going to San Jose State on a volleyball scholarship next year. Her father, who looks a little like Superman, is on the dance floor with one of her sisters; he turns out to be Dean Miraldi, a former offensive lineman with the Philadelphia Eagles. When Kylie was 13, her parents took her on a hike in Lake Tahoe, Calif. "We discussed what it means to be a teenager in today's world," she says. They gave her a charm for her bracelet--a lock in the shape of a heart. Her father has the key. "On my wedding day, he'll give it to my husband," she explains. "It's a symbol of my father giving up the covering of my heart, protecting me, since it means my husband is now the protector. He becomes like the shield to my heart, to love me as I'm supposed to be loved.

While I am certain that there is no parent out there that would like to think that their young daughters are engaging in sexual activity before they are physically and emotionally prepared to do so, since when is it okay to define a girl's self worth and esteem on whether or not she is sexually active? Isn't it possible that there is a better way for fathers to become engaged in their daughter's lives without becoming defenders of their "purity"? Maybe if frank and honest talks about sexual activity, birth control and emotional commitment replaced archaic philosophies of abstinence and sex as filth, there would be less involvement in this Ozzie and Harriet ritual!! And honestly, where is the male responsibility in all of this? I don't see Time glorifying the virtue of the boy's virginity and their mother's escorting them to some strange dance complete with unnerving symbolism. Is that because a girl's virginity is something to be protected and then gifted, while a boy's virginity is something to overcome on the road to manhood? Women are not chattel to be bartered. The idea that these dances are happening in 2008 is disturbing at best and positively creepy at it's worst!

Monday, 21 July 2008

Shimmy in the Shower!

I have been married since Brian Mulroney was Prime Minister. When the husband and I got hitched, the "me" generation was the cultural buzzword, Oliver North was entangled in Iran-Contra and Duran Duran was a popular rock group! I know that many of you probably have marriages that pre-date this era, but we are fairly proud of our longevity, given the wretched divorce statistics that are pervasive in our society. We were young marrieds certainly under today's definition, and even back then. (And they said it wouldn't last!!! HA!!) I was never much for the whole wedding hoopla. I wasn't one of those girls who dreamt and planned their entire wedding day. I never imagined myself in the dress and I never had visions of floral arrangements or first dances. (the husband and I cannot even recall the song that we danced to at our wedding. If any of you readers out there were present and remember the song we would love to know what it was!!) I simply wanted to get married and the centre of attention stuff was just something that I chalk up to life experience. I remember being a bit put off by the pre-wedding entertainment circuit. I couldn't imagine attending a bunch of showers, teas and parties that:

A. Put me as the focus of everybody's attention where they were forced to laud me with gifts, roasts and tributes or

B. Were women only!!

Hen parties have never been my style. The construction of ridiculous hats out of bows, ribbons and wrapping paper, the playing of slightly off-colour games, the innuendo--not for me! In the ensuing years, bridal showers have taken on a decidedly more masculine bent. It is not uncommon for women to fete their soon-to-be brides with bachelorette parties complete with all of the sophomoric behaviour of their male counterparts. But, there still harkens a need for women to gather and celebrate the ensuing nuptials. And, so it was that a group of women gathered yesterday to welcome a young bride in waiting into the obstructive minefield known as marriage.

When it was announced that a friend's son was engaged, the planning committee went into overdrive. A series of unforeseen life events advanced the wedding date and in it's turn, the shower. I am certain that the bride wondered what this pre-wedding stuff was all about. She barely knows her future mother-in-law's friends, and I can't imagine how uncomfortable she and her mother must have been entering the lair of 22 middle-aged Jewish mothers. But, there we were ready to feed, fete and educated her! The early tension was somewhat evident as the women arrived and the poor girl and her mother were introduced and re-introduced to the entire gaggle. How does anybody even attempt to remember 22 names and match them with 22 faces? We were in desperate need of an ice-breaker. (Either that or some fairly potent booze!!) And then, like a saviour from above, she arrived. Our friend with the skills!! You see, one of our dear friends has been studying and teaching belly-dancing for several years. She is an eclectic woman, this friend. Her interests are varied and her sense of style is impeccable, so when she took to belly-dancing, it neither shocked nor surprised us!! She has travelled around the world trying the dance in it's various forms and purchasing the necessary garb.

Firstly, she provided us all with decorative scarves complete with coinage on the ass!! The sound was unmistakable. The music permeated the room as we waited for friend to return. Where was she? Changing into her costume, of course. She was magnificent. (When I grow up, I want to have a body like my friend!!) For the next half an hour, she proceeded to give us a crash course in the movements of the belly! We shook and shimmied! I moved parts of me that I didn't know could move! (I am not the most coordinated of individuals and discerning my right from my left is a chronic problem!!) We were a sight. A group of middle-aged women attempting to rediscover their pelvises!! We banged into one another and bumped and ground and laughed until we peed!! It was truly liberating and less embarrassing than you might think. It is a workout of mega-proportions (we were sweating pretty good!!) and my abs are quite sore this morning. There is a story to this dance, but I think the fact that we were all women made it that much more exciting!! (Men in the room--sorry! It would have made the experience voyeuristic as opposed to empowering!) It certainly was exactly what the party needed. Once you see your friends shaking their hips, there are no more reservations!! This was a shower that shook and shimmed the ages. Way to go, all and Mazel Tov to the bride and groom!!

Check out the photos. I thought about blurring the faces to protect the guilty, but I think that would diminish the empowerment! Anyway, we are all in the same boat, so enjoy!!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

A Follow Up to Jewish Men of Polish Descent With Hairy Legs Wearing Kilts!!

The husband is nothing if not persistent. He is still quite adamant about wearing a kilt someday. He sent me this article from Friday's edition of the Jewish Daily Forward. I still say it is not a good look for him or even pleasant to think about, but you all decide!

Happy Weekend!!

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Friday's Here and so is Stop the Stupid!!!

Welcome back all you mockers of stupidity! You would think that we have seen it all, but then something new and unforeseen pops up and rears it's ridiculously stupid head. Maybe if we all just humbled ourselves a wee bit and stopped believing in our own PR, we would realize that in the end, that we take ourselves way too seriously. Perhaps that is why there is so much stupid in the world. People taking themselves way too seriously end up instead, looking like the business end of a horse. So, here we go!!

1. As the Stupid in Chief left his final G8 summit in Japan last week, he offered these parting words to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and French President Nicholas Sarkozy. "Goodbye, from the world's biggest polluter," he said punching the air and grinning as the two European leaders looked on in disbelief. The man is so disconnected from reality it is truly shocking. We should be used to his playing golf while the world burns or disappearing for five week vacations while men and women are dying in Iraq and Afghanistan, but his level of compartmentalization seems to be hitting new heights. As the stock market plunged this week and gas and food prices rose, the dillweed in the Oval office was seen playing T-ball!!! It gets more stupid by the week.

2. As if it weren't bad enough to have the leader of the world's only superpower mocking his administration's do-nothing environmental policy and ducking the tough questions on the economy, his hopeful successor was following way too closely in his president's shoes. John McCain was trying to show off his humourous and folksy side by telling what he thought was a witty anecdote. "Did you hear the one about the woman who is attacked on the street by a gorilla, beaten senseless, raped repeatedly and left to die? When she finally regains consciousness and tries to speak, her doctor leans over to hear her sigh contently and to feebly ask, 'Where is that marvelous ape?'" So, apparently McCain thinks that women enjoy getting beaten and raped. I think that it is time that these idiots started realizing that unless you can be sure that you are funny, decorum might be the best tact for somebody running for president. I don't think that the world could take 4-8 more years of inferred stupidity! Bob Cesca at The Huffington Post says it far better than I ever could!

3. As the husband was driving north on Yonge Street today, he noticed a disturbing new sign. Right next to the Starbucks at Yonge north of Centre was notification that the Gates of Zion was moving in next door. For those of you who need some background, the Gates of Zion is a messianic Jewish organization--in other words, Jews for Jesus! Their website states their mandate quite clearly: "Opening the Eyes of the Jewish People Worldwide to the Light of the Messiah." It takes big giant brass ones to open such a storefront in the heart of the north Jewish ghetto, but that is their expressed point, to show the world that one can only be Jewish with the acceptance of Jesus as the Messiah, and recruit as many followers as possible. Let me make myself perfectly clear: these people are Christians!!! Nothing wrong with that, but touting themselves as Jews is an affront to me and every other observant Jew!! Jews do not accept Jesus as the Messiah in any recognized form of the religion. These people are attempting to further obfuscate already confused and searching young people with their double speak about a Judaism/Jesus symbiosis. The Jews for Judaism guys are usually right behind these people to debunk their stupidity. One can only hope that they have already rented space across the street.

4. This week, Miss USA competed along with dozens of other young women in the Miss Universe pageant. While I would not normally give a beauty pageant even a few lines of consideration, the young woman representing the US had to feel plenty stupid when this happened to her! The funny thing is, is that the exact same thing happened to her predecessor wearing the Miss USA crown last year! Maybe these women should rethink the stupid shoes they wear.

5. There is word today that the US census bureau has decided in their ultimate wisdom, that even though gay marriage is now legal in two states, these marriages will not be counted as legitimate in the 2010 census. Citing the 1996 federal Defense of Marriage Act, the bureau says they are barred from counting these absolutely legal marriages. They say that they will attempt to count same-sex couples as before, but those who state that they are married will be re-classified as "unmarried same-sex partners." Same-sex couples with no children will not be classified as families, according the bureau's policy. Those with children who are related to the head of the household will be classified as families. When will these right-wing bureaucrats realize that they can't just wish gay people back into the closet. Up here in the frigid north, we have been celebrating same-sex marriages for more than five years now and guess what? The sky hasn't fallen, the locusts have ravaged the earth and the world is still spinning on it's axis!!! Get over it, already. Celebrate love, commitment and family and dispel stupidity and outright hatred and bigotry in all forms.

6. Finally, it is difficult to end this week's sound bites without some mention of the Barack Obama New Yorker cover. While I agree that the cover art itself features some very disturbing and obviously racist images, (intended or not-the pictures were gross characatures) anyone who has ever read the New Yorker has to know that this was an obvious attempt at satire. The problem with satire is that you are going by the assumption that your audience is in on the joke and is wise enough and educated enough to understand your sense of humour. The editors at the New Yorker had to know that they were not dealing with the most educated of populous. These were the people that voted twice for W! Not only that, in these days of nanosecond news bites, the images are the things that stay with people and are remembered, not the stories. While the story was most definitely satirical, the cover art was disturbing and the judgement at the New Yorker was questionable at best. Maybe not entirely stupid, but borders on the brink!

Shabbat Shalom to all who observe!!

Avodah's lessons learned!

It has been said (at least within the parochial world that I live) that one of the greatest scams ever perpetrated on young Jewish youth, is that which my friend the rabbi in Indy has put over on unsuspecting high school juniors for almost thirty years now! You see, my friend the rabbi is a camp director of the highest order. He has run a Jewish study camp in the middle of a corn field since the mid-seventies and he has run it on a shoestring budget, without a lake or waterfront to speak of, and with buildings that were dilapidated when they were originally built in the 1950s. He has also overseen some of the most creative programming, (he got kids to think that it was cool to learn Hebrew, Judaic studies and pray in the middle of their summer vacations!) the rise of a tremendously involved generation of Jewish leaders (many of which got their starts on his staffs) and a musical legacy that has given rise to some of the giants in modern Jewish music today! It is no wonder that he engenders such fierce loyalty from all of those campers, staff members and faculty that have passed through his camp's gates. But, I truly believe that one of his lasting legacies will be the con that has become known as the Avodah program.

Back in the late seventies, my rabbi friend realized that he needed a program that would better service high schoolers that were graduating out of the regular camper program. He knew that these kids were still a wee bit wet behind the ears to really be good CITs and he wanted a bit more distance between them and the oldest campers on camp. Not only that, he was spending a good chunk of the summer budget on salaries for maintenance, kitchen, infirmary and office staffs that were doing little more than partying all summer. So, in 1979 my friend the rabbi created the Avodah program. This was originally a one year program designed for kids entering 11th grade (it is now for high school seniors) and the idea was that under the supervision of unit heads, they would do all of those jobs that were previously done by the maintenance, kitchen, infirmary and office staffs. Not only that, the kids would participate in their own study programs that were laid out by their unit heads and visiting faculty. Oh and the piece de resistance--he would charge each participant the equivalent of one camp session tuition. Yes, you read that correctly! These kids actually would pay for the privilege to wash dishes, type services and clean toilets. Wait!! There's more. The rabbi knew that there would be fierce competition among the kids to get into this program (how he figured that out, is one of life's enduring mysteries!) so he would have them write an essay and gather references from home to vouch for their characters. He was so right. Not only was there a massive outpouring of applicants, the program has survived almost 30 years. Every year, more and more kids fight tooth and nail for the right to scrub the camps toilets and smell like sewage for a summer, and have the best time of their lives!!!

One summer, my rabbi friend actually conned me into serving as one of the unit heads for this motley crew. They were a wonderful group of young people who loved camp so much that they would have done anything that rabbi friend asked. That summer was one of my all-time favourites in my decade at camp. It instilled me with so much, but among all of the memories, the thing I remember and use the most, is my ability to fix a toilet! Yes, I know how to fix a toilet. I can plunge with the best plumber in the biz and I know how to use a toilet snake. Over the years, this little nugget of knowledge has served me well. While the husband is Mr. Fix-it in this house, I am usually the one who deals with the bathroom issues. So, it was with some smug sense of satisfaction that I embarked on fixing the basement commode this afternoon.

After flushing, it became very apparent that the damn thing was clogged. I ran for my handy-dandy little plunger and proceeded to plunge the rubber off of the thing. No dice! Still clogged! Kept at it until my arm ached!! I thought that the water level had decreased, so I made the fatal error of toilet repair, I flushed! AGHHHHHH!!! Water and sewage spewed out and littered the bathroom floor. I shut the f@#$*&g thing off and moved into clean up mode. Once the place was scrubbed, bleached and gleaming, I realized that this was a job for which I did not possess the proper tools. I placed an 911 call to the husband and told him of my "crappy" afternoon. I informed him that we need to procure a toilet snake and he replied that we need a plumber. That is one of the things I love most about the husband. He is truly logical, sane and cool under pressure. Of course it is easy to be cool when you aren't knee deep in shit! I should have remembered what my rabbi friend taught me all those years ago. "When in doubt, get some sucker to pay through the nose for cleaning up somebody else's shit!" Today, I am said sucker!!

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Why Can't I Remember?

Life is filled with small pleasures and one of mine is sitting down with a good book. I wish that I could tell you that I spend all of my down time curled up on the couch with the latest bestseller in my lap, but that of course would be rather disingenuous. Any devoted consumer of books will tell you that reading comes and goes in waves. Some of this phenomenon is truly time bound. The busier I am in my "real life" the less time or inclination I have to sit down and devour a book. I am also incredibly affected by the weather. The warmth and sun factor are directly proportional to my literary inclination. When I am in the southern home during the miserable months, I find that I am able to read 5 or more books in a month. When I return to the wretchedness that is Toronto in January, my reading immediately ceases. I simply cannot muster up the energy to do much more than carbo-load and watch TV! So, when summer returns to these parts, I have my stack of books ready to devour. But, something interesting has happened on my way to playing "Let's catch up on the reading"! I got stuck in neutral!! I haven't experienced a situation like this one in many years. Herein lies my problem.

The husband, being the devoted and sweet-natured man that he is, ordered me a book from Amazon that he thought that would be right up my alley. Having read a review in the Sunday New York Times, he purchased Girls Like Us: Carole King, Joni Mitchell, Carly Simon-and the Journey of a Generation by Sheila Weller. (Sounds like something I would like, right?) This weighty book is basically the well-researched and thoughtfully considered biographies of three of the most iconic women of rock music. Given that all three of these gifted women made their marks at or around the same time, Weller uses the feminist revolution as backdrop for the book. Without getting too deep into the book itself, (I am not starting my own book club!) I will say that it is well-written and fascinating, especially since I am a true fan of all of these women and their music. It is also interesting to note that all three travelled in the same social and musical circles, so that many of the anecdotes told (and lovers encountered) involve musicians that I grew up admiring if not idolizing! (James is pervasive in this book!!) So, what is the problem, you may ask? Well, I started reading this non-fiction albatross sometime around Mother's Day!! Yup! You read that right! I have been reading this particular book for almost 2 months!! This is very much out of character. When I like and get into a book, it usually takes me no more than a week to journey from cover to cover. This thing is taking me a dog's year to read and I am truly frustrated. I will grant you that it is long; almost 600 pages, but that really shouldn't be holding me up for two months. After about a month, I started on a journey of self-evaluation so as to discern what the problem is concerning this book, and I think that I have finally hit upon the issue. I am aging and can't remember crap!!!

This problem breaks down into several parts. Firstly, I am not usually a non-fiction devotee. My normal reading material is fiction. I can lose myself in the stories and locations without fear that I am losing names and dates in the process. In non-fiction, the people are real and the locations and dates are of primary importance. I find myself losing track of who is who. "Is that the Jake that was Carly's friend from camp, or is that the Jake that was one of Carole's producers?" As well, the author is an expert on all of their songs and liberally quotes from them throughout the book to give credence to her thesis as to their importance within the context of the feminist movement. I feel like I need to go back to all of the liner notes of every album and listen to each song discussed in order to get the full weight of the author's meanings. I am constantly flipping pages trying to recall all of the characters involved and as a result, it sometimes takes me hours to read a few pages. Not only that, but the author spices up many of the pages with footnoted stories at the bottom that either move the narrative along, or provide a bit more history to some of the outer circles. While these asterisks are not necessary to read, they are fascinating. They flesh out more of the history and add time to the reading!

A second problem with the book is the manner by which Weller lays out the story. Rather than give each biography individually, Weller chooses to tell their stories in chronological order and thereby jumps from artist to artist within the confines of a few years at a time. I am consistently lost. I cannot remember who went where with whom and when they did it. Further complicating this mess, is that they all had the same friends, lovers and musicians. James Taylor was Carole's best friend, but was dating Joni around the time that he met Carly. And these are just the famous people!! It is all of those that I have never heard of that are giving me fits! I need f#$@*&g post-it notes and a highlighter!! I have a hundred pages to go, and I am starting to think that it may take me the rest of the summer. What has happened to my memory and my staying power? I don't when it happened! When did the edges start getting fuzzy? When did my quick mind and steel-trap memory (believe me-trivia is my forte!!) start to abandon me? When did I start needing lyric sheets in front of me and crib notes in order to read a book? After this book grinds to a completion, I think that I will delve into something mind-numbing! Chick lit? After this experience, Jane Austen will seem like a cake-walk!!

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Monday, 14 July 2008

Looney Tunes

Music by Mary Chapin Carpenter

The magnificence of nature!! Enjoy!!

Back to Nature!

Several years ago, the Toronto Maple Leafs imported a veteran winger from the Boston area to man the left side of the fourth line. (In typical Leaf fashion, the winger provided grit if not a great deal of scoring!! We Leaf fans seem to be attracted to grit!) Being from the States, the player stated in the press that he and his wife were very excited to relocate to Canada if for no other reason than to see this "cottage" that everybody always spoke of. You see, up here in the Great White North, the entire population relocates to the cottage during the summer months. Ask anybody!!

"Hey! Where ya off to this weekend?"

"Well, I am taking the family to the cottage!"

The American-born hockey player thought it was extremely funny that all of Canada seemed to go to the one and only cottage in the land!! We all go to the cottage as opposed to our cottage or our friend's or family cottage. Well this past weekend, the husband and I were afforded the glorious opportunity to "go to the cottage". Twin son and his better half graciously invited us to spend a few days of intense rest and relaxation at their cottage in the Kawarthas. Now, anybody who knows me well, knows that while I have no issues with the back to nature sort of lifestyle, I do have my limits and my standards. Call me crazy, but electricity is a modern convenience that I will not do without, and the lack of a hot shower is a deal-breaker!! Toilets must flush and remove waste via a sewage system that I can neither see nor smell! My quirks are definitely not at issue with my dear friends' weekend retreat. Their cottage is a rustic and beautifully quaint establishment on almost nine magnificently wooded acres, and it is nestled languidly beside a small and exquisitely quiet lake. It is the perfect getaway from the noise, pollution and chaos of the city. Whenever the husband and I are fortunate enough to be invited, we try to shift around everything in our schedules to make it work, but, I am always amused by the regular cottage going experience. It is truly a uniquely Canadian business! Allow me to elaborate.

First off, city goers are so pumped about getting the hell out of Dodge on Friday afternoons, that they are willing to spend hours and hours in lung-clogging traffic jams in order to make their idyllic escapes a reality. For a 48 hour piece of heaven, cottage goers spend upward of 4 hours each way trapped in traffic with their fellow nature lovers. With the price of gasoline hovering in the stratosphere, one might think that cottage goers would be dissuaded from their weekend pilgrimages, but you would have a hard time convincing all of those poor schnooks stuck on the 400 series highways late on Erev Shabbos!! We decided that due to work commitments and an inability to shop properly, the four of us would head to the wild country early on Saturday morning. Traffic was still quite busy, but at least we were moving at an acceptable pace. Which leads me to quirk number 2 about cottage life. The shopping and meal preparations.

It isn't as though there is a Loblaws on every corner of cottage country. The weekend cottage visitor has to carefully plan and shop for 2-3 days worth of meals and haul the entire contents of their city refrigerators, condiments cupboards and half of the grocery store produce shelves up to the weekend retreat. It is no wonder that most cottage goers drive vans, SUVs, or motor homes. They need the space to carry the food!! You never know when somebody at the cottage might suddenly get a craving for fajitas, so God forbid you should forget the chili powder!! And, this doesn't even address the liquid nourishment. There is the water, the soft drinks, the juices, the BEER (OMG--THE BEER!!!!) the coolers, the hard liquor, the beer (did I mention the beer?) the milk, the beer, the fixings for the other drinks and most importantly, THE BEER!!!! It seems as though you need a vehicle just for the drinks. Which leads me to quirk number 3 about cottage life, the activities.

Other than the obvious R&R, what does one do to occupy one's time at the cottage? Well, you sleep a bit later. You might want to try your hand at boating or swimming or sitting in the sun and reading a good book. But, mostly our time at the cottage is spent in the pursuit of 2 distinct activities--EATING AND DRINKING!! We don't stop. Somebody is always hungry and the food and drink flows as freely as if we were at a Greek orgy! When we aren't eating or drinking, (which consists of the time it takes to clear the dishes off of the table) we are talking about eating and drinking. I have been home for less than 18 hours and I swear to you, I haven't eaten since I walked through the front door. I am simply too full from the past 2 days. The food is delicious! It must be all that weird fresh air and for some reason, those that imbibe, don't seem to feel the effects of the alcohol. (As a matter of course, the alcoholic drinking ceases many many hours before the drive home, just in case some idiot out there thinks that we are irresponsible!!)

Cottage going is a communal activity. Everybody pitches in with the cooking, cleaning, bug-zapping and mouse patrol!! True to this kibbutznik mentality, the husband and I made ourselves responsible for a deli lunch. Before we left the friendly confines of Thornhill, the husband trekked over to the local deli to purchase all of the fixings. After having an extremely rude encounter with a fellow customer who was convinced that he stole her order, the husband returned home and we packed the food in the cooler. He should have stopped to look at the order, because it wasn't until we unpacked the lunch that we discovered that he had been given salami instead of corned beef. The husband is not a fan of salami and pouted while he made do with turkey! (Note to husband-always pay attention to screeching Jewish women at deli counters!!) As for the bugs and critters that are naturally a part of cottage life, Mickey, Minnie and their offspring stayed blissfully out of the way this weekend, but we knew that they were there because Twin Son's better half (always the braveheart!) cleaned away some of the presents that they left behind! We were also informed by some other residents of the lake, that bears had been spotted in the area and that we should pay special attention to the disposal of our trash as Yogi and Booboo might be looking for a picnic lunch. Ah--the wonders of nature.

It is amazing to me, how involved in the natural beauty that I get. Three loons were constant visitors this weekend and were fishing in earnest just off of the shore. We think that there may be a nesting ground nearby I was a woman possessed and snapped many pictures that I will post later for all to view. The scenery was truly stunning and a real reminder as to why us city-folk love to escape to the cottage. Yes, I am a city girl to the core, but there is something refreshing about this cottage thing. And, while I have yet to don a bathing suit in all of my trips to the cottage, I will return whenever they will have me. I would love for the weather to be hot, sticky and sunny, but there is true beauty and gluttony in all weather types!! It may not be the beaches of Florida, but it is just as magnificent and just as much fun!! Bring on the long weekend!!!

Thursday, 10 July 2008

The Weekly Stop the Stupid!!!

This weekly post is way to easy to write!! There is so much stupidity in the world!! It is truly pervasive in every news report, political commentary and in the verbiage of every talking head that thinks that there is vast importance in what they say!! So, without further delay, the weekly STOP THE STUPID!!!

1. The weekly idiocy from the Stupid in Chief comes from this week's G8 summit in Japan. You would think that after almost 8 years on the international stage, the dillweed would have learned to curb his sophomoric behaviour. Instead, dumbass draps his arm around the President of Nigeria and yells across the room at our Prime Minister: "Yo, Harper!! Look! The president of Nigeria!" Does this man have absolutely no sense of dignity or decorum? Do not the Prime Minister of Canada and the President of Nigeria deserve to be addressed by their given names by the leader of the world's only superpower? I truly believe that the Commander in Chief of Stupid uses nicknames and the like because he cannot remember who these people are!! 6 months and counting!!!!

2. There was news this week that the American Family Association (a euphemistic title that basically describes an anti-gay, anti-feminist, anti-fun group that cloaks their hatred in the teachings of the church and it's supposed morality) is calling for a boycott of McDonald's. Why, you may ask? It seems that Mickey D's is a charter member of the National Gay and Lesbian chamber of commerce. This group advertises to the gay and lesbian community, a demographic that has been chronically omitted from mainstream advertising and public relation campaigns. As a member of this chamber of commerce, McDonald's is reaching out to this community as matter of good and solid business practice. The right wing stupids at the AFA don't see it that way. They stated that McDonald's is "promoting a gay agenda" and as such is worthy of their 5 million members boycotting. McDonald's stayed out of the fray and refused to comment on this abject stupidity and bald faced hate-mongering!!

3. In a recent survey on what Americans perceived as to what qualities the next president should possess, 41% of respondents stated that it was very important that the head honcho sport an American flag lapel pin. 41%!!! Since when is affixing a pin to one's suit a prerequisite for the presidency? Shouldn't it be more important that the next president have a coherent plan for fixing the economy? Maybe the next prez should know how to get out of Iraq or Afghanistan. May he should understand the health care crisis where 60 million Americans are currently uninsured and tens of millions more are underinsured!! A lapel pin? But then these are the same stupid people who sort of elected W twice!! OY!

4. The husband and I had occasion to visit the downtown core earlier this week, and we saw something that was both disturbing and slightly stupid. Toronto's finest employ officers on bicycles in several areas of the city during the nicer weather. As we rode along Shuter St, we spotted 4 such cops on their two-wheelers. There were two women and two men. The women were strong, fit and looked very comfortable on their Schwinns. The guys on the other hand were grossly out of shape. They were both many pounds overweight and their expansive tushes overflowed the bike saddles. What worried me was that if these two cops had to actually chase anyone down, they might expire! It seems to me that if the Toronto Police Services wants to put their officers on a fitness program, they should find a better way than putting them on bike patrol for the summer. Seems kind of stupid to me.

5. One man was gored and dozens more suffered injuries during the famous running of the bulls in Pamplona Spain this week. There is nothing left to say. Earnest Hemingway romanticized a stupid stupid stupid tradition!

6. The leaders of the G8 countries met in Tokyo this week to discuss the world's problems. As they sat to discuss the world's food crisis and it's rising costs, the leaders were treated to an 18 course dinner. (this followed a 6 course lunch earlier in the day!) The menu included such delicacies as caviar, milk-fed lamb, sea urchin and tuna. The champagne and wine flowed freely. No wonder the world views it's politicians as profoundly and stupidly out of touch.

7. As I have previously blogged, James Taylor was in town on Tuesday and, in spite of the rain, it was a fabulous evening. But, I couldn't let this edition of Stop the Stupid end without one more dig concerning the wasteland that is the Molson Amphitheatre. As 15,000 fans were all departing the venue at the same time, the idiots at Ontario Place only had 1 gate opened at the exit. We watched with mocked amusement as some poor shlub attempted to locate a key to open the others. It took a good five minutes and, in the meantime, we all followed like drowned sheep in single file through the only open door. It was truly stupid!!

Have a restful Shabbat and a glorious weekend!!

James-You've got A Friend

The picture quality is not great due to distance and wet hands, but the voice and the music are unmistakable!! Enjoy!!

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Mr Taylor, Please Build Me an Ark!!!

I like listening to live music as much as, if not more than the average person. I shell out my hard-earned cash to purchase tickets that are hard to come by for musicians that I worship. I think that I have led a fairly righteous life, devoid of any major sin that one might call deal-breaking. So, why is it that every f@#$*%g time that I enter the gates of the Molson Amphitheatre here on the beautiful lakeshore of TO, Mother Nature chooses me as her dartboard target and laughs? I mean, really! For those of you who are regulars to this blog, you will recall that I was a part of the 15,000+ fans freezing our respective genitalia off in May (no less) to the dulcet tones of Eric Clapton. Last night, I saw God! The husband and I, along with our nearest and dearest, took in the James Taylor show down at the lake. Now I have vowed, over and over again, that I was done with this venue. The sightlines suck and the acoustics are only so-so, but I mean, this was JAMES TAYLOR!!! I have spent so much money on this man over the years, I feel like he owes me dinner. I own every album he has ever produced (including those from The Flying Machine days) and I can badly imitate his playing on a few select songs. The husband and I have seen him in concert at least a dozen times and that is without exaggeration. (Of course, this dwarfs the record held by an old friend of mine, who views Sweet Baby James much like some fans view the Grateful Dead or Phish. He follows James around the country, whenever he is able, and has lost count as to how many live performances he has attended. I guarantee you that it is in the high 2 digits!!) I still remember my first time with James, back in the late 70s, when he couldn't put two coherent sentences together on stage that weren't musical, because he was so wasted!! He has evolved into a funny, introspective, highly sophisticated musician, still with that beautiful voice and guitar playing that dazzles. So, if there was any artist that I would brave the Amphitheatre for, it would certainly be James. (I should also add a bit of historical perspective. The last time that I saw James perform live, it was also at the Molson Amphitheatre several summers ago. The husband and I took the offspring, only to be deluged by a summer storm the likes of which we had never experienced. We were treated to thunder, lightning, horizontal rain and cool temperatures. We were so uncomfortable by the break that we left without hearing many of his better known pieces.)

After our last escapade with this poor excuse for a venue, I decided to better arm myself for the elements. Given that the temperature in the city yesterday was a sticky 33 degrees with humidity much above that, I knew that coldness would not be an issue. My trusty weatherman on CTV had been calling for a major thunderstorm all day, given the barometric pressure. It was supposed to hit in the late afternoon, and clear in time for the concert. (cough cough Bullshit!!) Given that all weather people are well-trained liars, I packed for the elements. i took 2 umbrellas, a yellow shell suitable (so I thought) for rain, and a sweatshirt for both of us, just in case it turned cool. I was sooo smart!! So far ahead of the game. So fucking stupid it was ridiculous. As we headed downtown, we saw the inevitable approach. The clouds were thick and dark and following us south. The wind was picking up steam, so that by the time were inside the grounds it was only a matter of minutes before it hit. The husband brilliantly decided that since he didn't have a poncho, he would splurge the 4 bucks and purchase a garbage bag with arm and head holes. He should have spent another 4 for me, because as I would discover momentarily, my shell had lost whatever waterproof power it had once possessed. Just as James came out and hit his first chord, the heavens opened. Sodden, drenched, sponge-like, soaked, water-logged or any other synonym could not adequately describe how wet I was! The umbrellas were an unmitigated disaster because the water just kept pooling on top and sliding down my back and into my underwear. The shell was useless and didn't cover my legs. My jeans were so wet that I could be seen wringing them out in between songs. My bra was so wet that I had puddles underneath my breasts. I required wipers for my glasses and I kept drying my hands on the husband's jeans, because they were the only dry item left around me. At least it was warm enough that I wasn't miserable. After about 5 minutes, I gave up and just embraced the experience. What else was I going to do? I figured, that if you can't beat it, go with it. James was phenomenal. He was so impressed that 15,000 people would stay and enjoy his music rain and all, that he stayed on stage for 2 1/2 hours. When he started singing "Shower the People" we all just laughed and looked to the heavens.

As we walked to the car, it became quite apparent that I couldn't ride home in this condition, so I threw shame to the wind and removed my pants in the car. Twin son's better half provided me with shelter and the husband's sweatshirt so at least I was covered. I remarked to Twin Son that he better drive the speed limit, because if he got pulled over by Metro's finest, he would have to explain what a half-naked middle aged woman was doing in his rear seat!! Hey JT!! A little Fire with that Rain would have be nice!!

Enjoy the pictures of the drowned rats and there is a video that will follow!!

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Tales From A Hospital Waiting Room

Before I begin, please note that everyone in the family is fine and that my time spent yesterday in a hospital waiting room was more of the wellness type visit as opposed to the "Oh my God, he broke something!!" type of visit. Hospitals have a tendency to exhibit schizophrenic behaviour depending on the reasons for one's stay. Everybody can relate some horror story or another about the ER, but has nothing but hearts and flowers descriptions about maternity. And, because hospitals are places where people often feel like shit and thus, emotions run very hot, the tension in these buildings is thicker than the humidity in Toronto today!! Being that I was merely a casual observer during my visit yesterday, (I was the designated driver!) it gave me the opportunity to really take in the atmosphere of one the premier health care centres in the area.

This was my first occasion to enter the door of the archdiocese run hospital. It isn't that I have any sort of problem with the church run health care facility, (save for their medieval approach to women's reproductive rights-but that is better left for a future posting!) it is due to the fact that this is a small downtown hospital and I have been a suburbanite for most of my life. The first thing that was readily apparent was the dearth of parking! Where is the parking facility at St. Mike's? Anyone, anyone? Please forward your responses to the comments section of this blog, because if I do have need to cross over it's threshold again in the future, I would like to not park at the Eaton's Centre. There is a weird feeling associated with mixing your health care needs (i.e. shlepping one's urine in a plastic jug!) whilst strolling through the mecca of shopping in town. I had a strange compulsion to stop in at the Roots store facing Queen St. to see if they had my purse in black!

The front entrance of the facility is clean, well-lit and fully functioning, with a Timmy Ho's bustling with patrons. (We actually tried to score a java on the way out, but the line was out the door and around the atrium. Jesus must be a Tim's fan!!) Hospitals are very different places when you are scheduled to be there, rather than coming in due to some sort of emergency. Faces are friendly and stress-free. Out-patients are guided through a very different part of the building than the one that services the life and death situations. There is none of that "hospital odour" that seems to be a combination of fear and isopropyl alcohol! But, my God are these institutions massive!! Even a smaller version like St. Mickey's, is huge. You better darn well (damn seemed so inappropriate given that we are in Catholic territory!) know which floor you are headed toward or you might end up with a procedure that you didn't sign up for!!

Once at your destination, you are given instructions for the next leg of the journey. Head back down to x-ray, check in with them, wait to be called (there is a great deal of waiting in hospitals by both visitors and patients alike!) and for God's sake don't lose the little green check-in card. It seems as though your entire hospital life is dependent on this card. The x-ray waiting area is a cramped little area that looks like it hasn't seen a coat of paint in 30 years. 20-30 people were sitting and pretending to read 2 year old Time magazines, while they dreamed of hearing their name called. There is a sign on the wall that informs patients that they may not necessarily get called in the order that they arrived, but rather when their specific sort of imaging room is available. So if you are there along with most others in the room, waiting for a simple abdominal picture, you should have packed a lunch. Only trouble is, you aren't allowed to eat!!! This seems to apply to the designated drivers as well as the patients, because there is no opportunity to purchase even a candy bar anywhere other than the front atrium. I should have paid attention to these first pangs of hunger, because food did not become any more readily available. (There is an old story that exists in family folklore. My mother was in labour with the little bro in the middle of a dark winter's night. Other Dad comes over in the wee hours to babysit with "yours truly" so that parents can go off to hospital to make me a big sister. No more than five minutes pass before Dad is back! "Was the baby born in the car?" Other Dad inquires. "No", replies Dad, "I just came back for an apple in case I got hungry!" Little bro was partially born in the hospital's elevator, but I think I now have a better handle on what my dad was thinking!! Hunger, waiting and hospitals are not a good combination!) Finally the name that you have been waiting for is called, and they usher your loved one towards a changing room to don the most hideous garment ever designed since the fig leaf! The hospital gown is one of those unique items of apparel that makes everyone who wears it look horrible. You can never figure out if it is supposed to tie in the front or the back, but either way some part of you that you were taught to hide from the world, is hanging out for the masses to gape at. The rest of your "real-people" clothes are stuffed into a plastic bag and toted around for the remainder of your stay like garbage.

X-ray is over and we return from whence we came. Patient is ushered in to talk with doctor, while DD is plunked down in yet another waiting area. For the record, this one was much nicer. Cleaner, fresher and with magazines that don't pre-date the current Prime Minister's tenure! Still no food, but at least there is a bathroom that can be accessed without having to track down a nurse or orderly for a key. There is a TV! I think to myself, "Great! Something to pass the time." But, NO!! The TV is there to show you all a video demonstration of the procedure that your loved one is undergoing. It is informative, a bit gross and boring in the way that old health films were boring in high school phys ed class. Fascinating, when you see it once. But the damned (this time I was hungry and aggravated-so damned was truly appropriate!!) thing ran on a loop every twenty minutes. And, since I sat waiting for more than two hours, I watched the f@#$*&g thing 6 TIMES!!!! There was a kid of about 22 sitting with me waiting for his loved one, with his iPod cranked up so loud that the hip hop in his ears was beating me into submission. There was a middle aged woman who vehemently refused to wear both parts of the hospital gown, so that we were treated to way more than nature intended, and a portly middle aged man waiting for hours to see a specific doctor. He spent most of his time on the phone bitching to his wife about his current state of affairs. Thank God for my book!!! I ate every lint covered mint and piece of chocolate in my purse. I should have tried to find food, but there was no real time limit set on the procedure and I didn't want the patient to be left waiting for me, so I stayed put--STARVING!! (Note to self: if I ever have occasion to play DD again, try one of these two things. 1. Pack a lunch! 2. Don't work out before embarking on hospital trip and neglect to eat!!)

Procedure ends and the patient is fine. Little discomfort and a great deal of pain killers. Drugs are good! Good thing too, because we still have to traipse back to the Eaton's Centre to find the car. At least they fed him an egg salad sandwich and a juice. Me? McDonald's at the Centre was looking pretty good to me, but I fulfilled my duties as the DD and returned home, only to devour the entire contents of the refrigerator!!

Sunday, 6 July 2008

What is the World Like Up There?

There is an article on the front page of today's New York Times that describes, in part, John McCain's struggle with the teleprompter. The focus of the article is actually about McCain's somewhat futile attempts to improve his rather poor public speaking in more traditional "front of the audience" forums, rather than the folksy fireside chats that seem to better suit him. What caught my eye was Mr. McCain's problem with the stand lectern. It seems that most of these podiums dwarf the Republican candidate due to his small stature. Finally, there is something about John McCain that I can relate to. You see, I am short. I know that this will come as a shock to many of you who know me, but it is true. I am short. Actually, I am quite short. Yup, I am!! I am not vertically challenged, nor am I small in stature, I am just plain short! I always have been and I always will be. Unlike my weight, there is no fad diet nor magic pill nor elixir that can alter my shortness. Unlike my hair colour, there is no dye that can change my lack of centimetres. I hit this height (a shade under 5ft) when I was 13 and I haven't seen a growth spurt since. In the words of one of the all-time great sailors (just like you Mr. McCain!) "I yam what I yam!!" (Popeye)

Being short hasn't stopped me from pretending. In seventh grade, I actually tried out for the basketball and volleyball teams. I figured, what the hell did I have to lose. At least the coach would be amused. I was quite the sight, next to the amazonian types who could actually put the ball through the hoop and spike over the net! Me, well I could walk under the volleyball net without ducking or it touching the top of my hair. In high school, I shared locker space with the tallest girl in the class due to an accident of the alphabet. My locker mate hit 6ft plus in 10th grade. I came to her waist.

Of course the world was not designed for us short people, as Mr. McCain is discovering. When I was learning how to drive way back in the polyester days of the 70s, car seats didn't adjust well enough for me to reach the pedals effectively or see over the dashboard comfortably. When the husband was attempting to teach me to drive a manual transmission, I literally had to stand upright on the clutch to depress it to the floor. Basic kitchen or bathroom countertops are usually placed an inch or two too high for me to safely cut vegetables without standing on my toes or to put on make up without a boost. The latest trend in many stores, is to place the check out areas on raised podiums so that the counters for payment are literally at my eye level. I almost need to stand on a box to sign my VISA slips. And, please don't get me started about banks! I often use the wheelchair accessible sinks in public restrooms so that I don't wet my clothes and look ridiculous.

My feet don't reach the floor on most chairs. I often remove my shoes in restaurants because my legs get cramped from freely swinging under the table. Instead, I now just sit cross-legged on my seat while eating my meals. The husband has had to scrounge under many a restaurant table searching for my other shoe after dinner. I can't reach any shelf in my home without my trusty step ladder. I have been known to bellow on many occasions for the husband or the sons to come and "be my height"!! I need to shorten petite clothes and I can't find shoes that fit unless I want to wear mary-janes! I stand on a box at high holidays to see over the podium and I need a Rubbermaid stool to read the Torah!! (Take that Mr. McCain!!!)

I have heard all the jokes and then some. I refuse to listen to the morons who want to know if I am a Hobbit or if my relatives are garden gnomes. Randy Newman: "BITE ME"!! I would never ask the tall guy "Does your nose bleed at that altitude" so why is it ok to try and carry me around. I am short, not afflicted!! I am quite comfortable with who I am and it has never been something that I saw as a handicap. Maybe Mr. McCain can use this tremendous opportunity of running for president to affect some serious changes for us shorties!! His first order of business should be to commission the building of a lectern that doesn't make him look like less than he is. He can let his speeches take care of that!!!

Friday, 4 July 2008

An Addendum to Stop the Stupid!

Sorry for the intrusion folks, but there are just some things that absolutely cannot go unsaid. I very much need to comment on the ridiculous debate that is taking place this week as to the appropriateness of Dr. Henry Morgenthaler's appointment to the Order of Canada. To those of you somewhat out of the loop, The Order of Canada is our country's highest civilian honour, bestowed upon the best, brightest, most influential, most groundbreaking, most creative and most involved in public service. Dr. Morgenthaler is the brave and dedicated man who ignited the abortion rights and pro-choice movements in Canada, and that ultimately led to the striking down of restrictive abortion laws by our Supreme Court. As a direct result of his crusade to provide unfettered access to clean and safe terminations for women across Canada, we here in Canada have not had abortion laws on the books since 1988. While there are many in the country that may disagree with abortion on moral or religious grounds, it must be said that as a direct result of Dr. Morgenthaler's bravery and gumption, women across Canada have reclaimed control over their own bodies and reproductive rights. When Dr. Morgenthaler was finally awarded with the Order this week, the outcry from religious groups (especially the Catholic Church!) was resounding. The hope that they could persuade the Governor General to reverse her decision was loud and boisterous. I must wholeheartedly object! Not only do I believe that Dr. Morgenthaler's appointment to the Order is long overdue, but it is disingenuous to suggest that only those who have worked towards ideals that everyone agrees with should be feted. Past officers of the Order have included activists for gay rights, homosexual marriage, left wing unionist and right wing fiscal and social conservatives. Former Prime Ministers, whose very name sparks outrage and animus, are officers of the Order, as are scientists who have pioneered work in stem-cell research. Business people whose practices have bordered on questionable are members, as are marginally talented entertainers. Dr. Morgerthaler has worked his entire life to advance the rights of women. He richly deserves the honour.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Guess What? It's Friday--So Stop the Stupid!!!

Sorry to have left you all hanging for the past couple of days, but I took a brief respite in the guise of a road trip. I will update you all on that little excursion in an upcoming blog, but since Friday is once again upon us it is time for our weekly feature of Stop the Stupid!! You would think that since it is a holiday week on both sides of the border, that the stupid would at the very least subside, but unfortunately stupid abounds. So let's get to it!

1. The weekly stupidity from the "Stupid in Chief" shows once again that stupid flows from the top down. "We've got a lot of relations with countries in our neighbourhood!" Dumbass said this in a speech to the government body of Slovenia. It makes me wonder if the higher learning institutions Yale and Harvard ever wish they could recall the degrees they conferred on this moron. The man cannot put together a coherent sentence. Oh my God--he is so stupid!!

2. Last Saturday, the husband and I decided to run a couple of errands in and around our neighbourhood. While we are far from a Shomer Shabbos household, shopping on Saturday is something that we have tried to consciously avoid over the past few years. It is really nice to shun the consumerism at least one day of the week, but we are realists and we live in the modern world and as such, every so often we find ourselves perilously close to starving on a Saturday and in need of groceries. We live in an area that is often referred to as the north Jewish ghetto, filled with the most observant of Jewish families. On Saturday, these families can be seen walking to and from synagogue, playing in the parks with their friends and generally just enjoying the day of rest. None of this is stupid. On the way home from our errands, the husband and I spotted an extended orthodox family walking toward the driveway of their home. Once there, one of the men, decked out in kippah and tzitzit, opened the door of his black Lincoln, proceeded to start the engine and drove off with his wife. He had obviously parked in his friend's driveway, so that none of the pious would spy him driving to shul. An hour later, the husband and I observed a young orthodox man walking home from shul carrying his tallit and his recent purchases from Shopper's Drug Mart!! Oy, the hypocrisy and the stupidity!!!

3. Christie Brinkley has been in the news this week, as her extraordinarily sensational divorce trial has begun weaving it's way through the court. Among the smarmy allegations that the former Uptown Girl is slinging at her soon to be ex, is that he engaged in a prolonged affair with an eighteen year old high school senior and that he spent much of his spare time trolling the net on porn sites searching for similar liaisons. At stake is the custody of the couple's two children. When will this ridiculous celebrities realize that playing out their filthy laundry in the public forum and feeding the insatiable publicity beast, is a prescription for years of psychotherapy for their offspring. Those poor children are going to pay the price for their parents abject stupidity. Stupid and so sad!

4. As I have already stated, a friend and I fulfilled one of my summer list promises by partaking in a two day road trip. Believe me, there is a great deal to relate, but one incident really fits with stop the stupid. As we returned to Canadian soil from our sojourn to the land of the free and the home of the Dumbass in Chief, we needed to stop in a Canadian custom to pay our taxes. Yup, the government of Canada dinged me for $18.00. As I willingly paid off the graft, friend inquires as to the location of the facilities before we proceeded on our way. We were directed out of the customs building and around the back. As we stepped over clusters of insects, a foul scent greeted us as we opened the ladies room door. The washroom reeked of odours that can best be described as emitting from some human function, there was toilet paper littering the floor, the floors were wet and sticky, there was no soap and the counters and sink were wet and grungy. It seems to me that my federal government could certainly spring for a minimum wage worker or two to keep their facilities in decent working order. I have an idea; they can use my 18 bucks as a starter to the "Clean Up our Federal Bathrooms" fund!! This was embarrassing, disgusting and stupid!

5. While there is no doubt that Canada Day should absolutely be celebrated on July the first as it was so designated, it was a very strange first long weekend of the summer. In fact, given that the holiday fell on Tuesday, there really was no long weekend. Many companies felt this disparity and gave their employees a full four-day weekend, but just as many enforced Monday as a regular workday and reeled people back from their cottages a day early. The solution to this strange calendar quirk seems simple. Allow people to take lieu days in exchange for working on July 1st. This way, the idea of a long weekend in July can be preserved and companies do not suffer from a day off. But NO!!! The government has mandated that July 1st is a statutory holiday, so working on that day is tantamount to high treason. There must be a way to settle this nonsense without the rampant stupidity. Next year, it gets worse as July 1st falls on a Wednesday.

6. Summer television has never really been a cultural bastion, but this summer seems to be far worse than usual for us regular TV viewers. In past years, TV watchers could at least look forward to a gem or two. HBO premiered The Sopranos and Six Feet Under in the summer and former hits like Northern Exposure began their runs as summer replacement shows. This summer is a wasteland. In part due to the recent Hollywood writer's strike and in part due to the networks' frugality, we are being subjected to disgraceful displays like Celebrity Circus, American Gladiators, Wipeout, and I Survived a Japanese Game Show! There are dozens more inanities, many starring "D" list celebrities like Denise Richards trying to prove to Charlie Sheen that she is not a whore or the Kardashian sisters (who?) showing off their overly privileged lives and their overly collagened asses! TV may not be important to everybody, but it is a vital part of our culture. I feel stupid for having written about some of this shit!!!

Have a wonderfully restful Shabbat all and hopefully a warm and sunny weekend!