Saturday 29 December 2012



Please say it ain’t so. Please, someone, tell me this is just a hoax.

  • The top 2012 interests according to were: Hunger Games, Honey Boo Boo, Fifty Shades of Grey, Gangnam style dancing, and American Idol. That may explain the financial problems of institutes of higher education and the fact that
  •  Universities have to adopt a programme of prioritization (Globe & Mail 25 Dec). They will rank courses by DEMAND and STUDENT OUTCOME.  Judging by our 2012 top interests, I guess there will be a demand for courses in American Idol, Advanced Honey Boo, and The Meaning of Gangnam. Please contact Provost Maureen Mancuso at Guelph University. She wants to know about YOUR essentialities. ESSENTIALITIES? – Do I have to use that word to pass American Idol 100? Is that the student outcome they are looking for? Well, maybe I’ll learn Guelph-speak if I live long enough. After all,
  • Aging is a preventable condition, as Aubrey de Grey tells us ( It should be combatted with preventive medicine. We just need to reach LONGEVITY ESCAPE VELOCITY, that is, live long enough until they’ve found a cure for what ails us. Could be a long time until they find a cure for the world's stupidity, egomania, and crass spending, for example on
  • Designer iPhone cases. The blinged Mischa Barton model costs $ 300,000, topping the record holder from Natural Sapphire Co ($ 100,000). iPhones must have a high ATTACH RATE, the measure of the amount of money a manufacturer can make off supplementary goods. You didn’t know the term ATTACH RATE? That’s because you didn't major in American Idol. But there are a lot of ignorant people out there.
  • Italian and French politicians, for example, don’t know anything about sex. Dominique Strauss-Kahn had sex with a hotel maid IN ERROR ( Silvio Berlusconi thought his bunga-bunga parties were ELEGANT DINNERS conducted in an ATMOSPHERE OF GOOD CHEER AND AFFECTION (              
In the NO COMMENT department, we have three cases that weren’t hoaxes:
  • The NRA suggested a remedy for school massacres: Armed guards in every school. 
  • Clint Eastwood talked to an empty chair.
  • Amazon sold you Kindle books, but remains the owner of your books (

 And the biggest hoax that WAS:
  • The Apocalypse. Or did it happen, and we never noticed?

Wednesday 26 December 2012

WHAT I GOT FOR CHRISTMAS. Memories of the Sixties.

Guess what I got for Christmas: a 1968 edition of Dr. Spock’s BABY AND CHILD CARE. And guess who the previous owner was: Harvard University, Department of Social Relations. Department of What? Would that be the forerunner of Facebook?

Here are some nuggets of wisdom from Dr. Spock:

WORKING MOTHERS. Usually their children turn out all right. WHEW! I’M SO RELIEVED.

ROAD TRIPS WITH BABY: LET HIM ROAM! The leg space for the back seat of a car can be filled with luggage, so that a crawling baby or small child has room in which to roam...If children insist on standing, they should stand on the floor, not on the seats.

COMIC BOOKS: OK, NO VIOLENCE, NO SMUT. But the question remains: Will comic books that are merely vulgar or preposterously heroic... ruin their taste for good literature?

SEX IS BAD. Idealism and creativity of human beings is related to the inhibition and sublimation of sexuality.

DIAPERS. First fold lengthwise so that there are 3 thicknesses. Then fold about one third of the end over. As a result, half of the folded diaper has six layers...a boy needs the double thickness in front. NOW WATCH OUT AND DON’T PIN THE DIAPER TO THE BABY! When you put in the pin, slip two fingers of the other hand between the baby and the diaper to prevent sticking him.

HOURS OF FUN IN THE PEN: Let him out of the playpen when he insists...I don’t mean at the first whimper, for if you give him something new to play with, he may be happy there for another hour.

EARLY TOILET TRAINING IS CRUCIAL FOR YOUR CHILD’S CAREER. It is the foundation for his lifelong preference for unsticky hands, for clean clothes, for a neat home, for an orderly way of doing business.

WOMEN ARE EVEN MORE CRUCIAL. Men’s idealization of woman [and their drive to create] are the main inspiration for their creativity in architecture, engineering, technical inventiveness, scientific discovery, literature, drama, music, painting. EVEN ENGINEERING? WOW!

THE REASON WHY WE HAVEN’T TAUGHT OUR CHILDREN THEIR PLACE IN THE WORLD: Most of us are not clear about our own place in the universe or about the meaning of human existence.


Saturday 22 December 2012

Still frantically shopping for Christmas presents? Here are some guaranteed winners:
  • Apocalypse Survival Kit. Available now at deep discounts.
  • membership. No alcohol, no sex, no dancing, no nudity, just sweaty bodies close to you. Plus the thrill of moustache stroking, ear scratching, and footsie tournaments. What can be more fun?
  • Choice of 3 amazing apps: Stupid Actions Undone Service app. Oh, you already tried it, and it doesn’t work? Okay, how about the
  • UFO booking app? Includes green body suit and 50,000 frequent flyer points. No, doesn’t work either? Well, then go for something more down-to-earth that I didn't make up, like
  • Toilet Flush app from Raises toilet seat, pushes lever. Amplified flushing sound not included.
  • Three special gifts for special people: Monkey Shearling coat for the small person in your life.
  • Large-Print edition of Fifty Shades of Gray, boxed set (plus book fork lift for the frail senior in your life)
  • F**K and Other Conversations. A useful phrase book for the teenager in your life.  
  • Gift certificate from, event organizers to the nouveau riche. Bonus: Free limo ride from your front door to the curb.
  • Scissors with etched motivational message “Save now, buy later”. Suitable for cutting up credit cards
  • Custom tattoos. Choose from: TGCIO (Thank Goodness Christmas is Over), TGVRAG (Thank Goodness visiting relatives are gone), TGNMTL (Thank Goodness no more turkey leftovers)

Thursday 20 December 2012

THE END IS NEAR. Unmistakable Signs of the Apocalypse.

Tomorrow the Mayan calendar rolls over, but it’s not the end of the world. I know the icecap is melting and atrocities are being committed every day, but the devil is in the details. And so is the Apocalypse. Watch for these 10 tiny indicators. THE END IS NEAR when

  • Spinach Houses outnumber Steak Houses in New York.
  • Socks emerge from your dryer in matched pairs.
  • A watched kettle boils.
  • Toronto’s Mayor goes on hunger strike. His weight dips below 300 pounds.
  • Monkeys wear shearling coats. (Oh, wait, that one has already happened)
  • The tabloids lose interest in Kate and William.
  • Bryan of The New Normal comes out of the closet: he is heterosexual.
  • Twitter becomes the medium of choice for intellectuals.
  • The number of my blog followers soars.
  • The USA outlaws guns.

In any case, don’t worry. In this virtual age, the Apocalypse takes place on-line. So as long as you don’t turn on your computer tomorrow, you are safe!

Sunday 16 December 2012


We have come a long way since Peter Singer wrote Animal Liberation in 1975. According to an Ipsos-Reid survey (Globe, 14 December), Quebec is now the last bastion of pet traditionalists, who insist on treating their furry friends like animals. The rest of us treat them as equals, realizing that their emancipation offers tremendous career opportunities. We will need:
PHILOLOGISTS to create politically correct dictionaries replacing the words “animals” with PEOPLE OF FUR (POF), “pet owners” with POF ATTENDANTS, and animals used for “breeding” with NATURAL POF PARENTS, etc.
LAWYERS, to get the UN to adopt a declaration of POF rights and to represent POFs in court. When someone gets attacked by a pit bull, why is the dog put down rather than the human? In divorce cases, who gets to keep the pups? And, equally important, the pup house and furnishings – the fine china bowls, the shearling and alpaca coats, the designer leashes?
MUNICIPAL POLITICIANS, to keep children out of public parks and off the sidewalks, or at least put them on leashes. We need advocates for safe POF car seats, separate lanes for cars carrying POFs, and separate seating in restaurants. They provide booster seats for kids, so why not perches for POFs? Separate washrooms are a disputed issue – should POFs allow themselves to be humanized and forced to use litter stations, or should they insist on following their natural fouling instincts?
The discrimination suffered by pets at present is so horrendous we don’t know where to begin. Why are there no pet spas offering Botox for Shar Peis? Why is there no free kindergarten for kittens? What about minimum pay, mandatory holidays, and pension benefits for service dogs?
We’ll need
PHILOSOPHERS, to solve the thorny question of identity. What is a POF? Do Furbies qualify? What about men with hairy backs? Women who don’t wax? But maybe that’s a question for
PSYCHOLOGISTS, when they are not busy with abuse cases. Not every foster parent treats his/her fur kid like a beloved child. Some people have POFs for all the wrong reasons. They are the underdogs in their office and compensate for it by lording it over their fur kids.  We need psychologists to help POFs to deal with the trauma of authoritarian foster parents, teach them to become more assertive about their rights and train them in the effective use of howling, biting, scratching, and gnawing furniture.
Helen Hobbs ( notes that humans have become addicted to screens and handheld devices, so now only POFs can provide a direct and “pure connection”. Let’s call it what it is – not a connection, but an opportunity for inappropriate touching and harassment. Humans ought to remember the first rule about POF dating: Let your POF initiate any contact. Allow him to lick you first before licking back, and don’t go beyond his invitation with unwanted kisses or stroking.
We'll need
THEOLOGIANS. Last Halloween some misguided POF attendant dressed his dog up as Satan. I’m asking you. Why not as God? The God of Fur (GOF), I mean. POFs used to be worshipped. Think of the mummified cats in Egyptian tombs, the biblical golden calf, the Hindu elephant deity Ganesha. The modern Western world, by contrast, is full of human idols. We need a new Dante to unveil the horrors of the POF Inferno and the beauty of the POF Paradise.
And finally, we need
ARCHITECTS, to build a furry cathedral with altars to St. ALPO, patron of hungry POFs, the martyr KING KONG, patron of high rise dwelling POFs, and the Great Enabler, DECADENCE.  

Thursday 13 December 2012

MONKEY BUSINESS. Why was Darwin at IKEA?
What’s a monkey sporting a faux-shearling coat doing in the IKEA parking lot?

He is an early entrant in CTV’s Amazing Race Canada, TV critic John Doyle suggests. Nah. Why come up with far-fetched explanations when there are four perfectly good reasons for him being there.

  • He was trying to find his car. Have you seen the size of those IKEA parking lots?
  • He was protesting IKEA’s unfair practices. They’ve got toy rats. They’ve got toy hedgehogs. But not a single plush monkey. That smacks of species discrimination, don’t you think?
  • He wanted to kick off a SAVE THE SHEEP campaign by sporting a polyester shearling coat. Note: Canadian fashionista Jeanne Beker pronounced the coat DIVINE.
  • He tried to kickstart a career as Houdini 2. He got out of his crate, he got out of his car, he got out of his diaper – well, would have, if people hadn’t started aiming their cell phones at him. Would you want pics of your hairy bum go viral?
But seriously, why get excited about a monkey in a furniture store parking lot, when there are more inspirational specimens on the loose? Like the devout rhesus spotted in a church parking lot in Clearwater? He’s still out there somewhere, and was last seen in the parking lot of a Baptist church in St. Petersburg, according to Clearly this monkey has more elevated career aspirations than going into the Houdini-style show business, unless of course he’s thinking of televangelism.

Then there’s the monkey of Danville (NH) who, according to, has been on the loose for 11 years despite efforts to trap him with bananas and peanuts. An ascetic! You have to admire his noble mind. Unless of course the local dumpsters offer a larger selection of primate food.

Anyhoo. The owner describing herself as Darwin’s mommy desperately wants him back. Hmm. Changing diapers must be more fun than I thought.  

Saturday 8 December 2012

SURVIVORS. Kate Middleton, hyperemesis, and me.


There are Holocaust survivors. There are breast cancer survivors. There are Survivors on TV. And now, brought to you by the Globe & Mail’s Stephanie Nolen, there are HYPEREMESIS SURVIVORS.

But to go all the way from the tragic to SURVIVOR LITE: There’s ME. What have I survived, you ask. After searching my humdrum life, I offer you this list. I have survived

CATCALLS from construction workers who did some risky footwork on the scaffold to praise my boobs. I know. I’m talking about another era, when men had the nerve to notice women’s boobs out loud.

I survived
HIGH HEELS -- although they didn’t always survive me. As in when I fell down the stairs at the Bluma Apple Theatre and broke the heel of my shoe. Since I was visibly pregnant at the time, the management worried. Not about me, but about a potential law suit. I was practically carried to my seat. The shoe was returned to me at intermission, with the heel fully rehabilitated. The baby, in case you are interested, kept his cool and stayed put until due. I wonder: if he develops a phobia for stilettos, can I still sue the theatre, or is there a statute of limitations?

I survived
THE HEARTBREAK OF PSORIASIS. Watch the classic Denorex commercial on YouTube so you can fully appreciate my suffering. I’ll save you the rest of my heartbreaks, or family members will sue me for loss of privacy.

I survived
PETS my children foisted on me. Sometimes THEY survived, too. Like the gerbil that escaped when I cleaned his cage and slipped into the heating duct. Luckily for him it was summer and he re-emerged eventually, dusty but alive.

I survived AIR CANADA food.

I survived MY OWN COOKING during the first year of my marriage when I finally came to realize what my mother had been doing in the kitchen all those years. Survival hints: 1.Involve spouse. 2. Visit frozen food section in supermarket. 3. Order pizza.

I know, I know. My list is pathetic, and I’m still on the bottom rung of survivors.
Come to think of it: I’d like to keep it that way.

Thursday 6 December 2012

LIFE IS BECOMING EASIER. Or I’m becoming smarter.

Time was when I couldn’t get past the first paragraph of a Scientific American article, but now I just brush through the pages. Has my brain expanded to the point where I’ll be able to breeze through medical journals next? Yes, absolutely!

Disappointingly, it’s not because of my brain expanding. It’s because medical journals need more readers. So what are they doing about that? Improve the quality of their articles? Nah. Where is your inner salesperson? They improve the quality of their hype. They make the articles more newsworthy. EGG YOLKS ARE AS BAD AS SMOKING! MULTIVITAMINS CUT CANCER! RESEARCH FINDINGS ARE CRAP! No, wait, that last one shouldn’t have been in capitals. That’s just me talking under the influence of John Ioannidis’ article WHY MOST PUBLISHED RESEARCH FINDINGS ARE FALSE (

So now that I’m able to read medical journals, what else can we dumb down to the level of the unexpanded brain?

TERRORISM. I recommend’s HOW TO MAKE A NUCLEAR BOMB. Helpful hints: you need money and a remote detonator.

UNIVERSITY. Stressless studies are on their way with redesigned courses to make university degrees accessible to all. REDESIGNED? Oh, I see, that’s code for EASIER.

WRITING: Twitter is here for you!

LOVE. I read there are DISTINGUISHED GENTS for hire to dance with you on cruises ( Oh, wait, they are not allowed to flirt. Well, then try Three videos is all it takes.

HAPPINESS. I thought I had that covered with positive thinking. But author Oliver Burkeman has written a whole book to prove that positive thinking won’t do the trick. Bummer, I thought, until I read the alternative he offers: SORT OF LEARN TO RESIST THE URGE TO DO EVERYTHING RIGHT. Oh, well, that’s okay then. I’ve learned that trick long ago.

PERFECT EYEBROWS. Sorry, that’s one area in which I can offer you no short-cuts. According to beauty expert Bahar Niramwalla, you still have to brush your brow hairs, fill the gaps with colour, powder them, and finish with a brow gel to hold them in place. I was on the brink of despair. I’ll never have perfect eyebrows, I thought, until I remembered Burkeman’s advice and RESISTED THE URGE TO DO IT RIGHT.


Sunday 2 December 2012


A couple of years ago, economist Daniel Hamermesh published a study, BEAUTY PAYS. We need a prof from Texas to tell us the obvious?  Beauty is a winning ticket. That’s why Dwight “Triple Chin” Duncan bowed out of the Liberal leadership race, and Justin Trudeau is still smiling full-gleam. That’s why the Democrats picked Mitt Romney as their candidate rather than Newtface Gingrich, although Mitt didn’t come through for them in the end. Maybe his tan wasn’t deep enough.

If beauty is so important, how do you explain the election of 300 pounder Rob Ford or beer-bellied Angela Merkel? Apparently it’s the face that counts, the part you can’t hide, at least not where I live, the part no act of willpower, diet or exercise will change. So how can we level the playing field?
  • Bring on social services. We have welfare to take care of the disadvantaged, don’t we? Let’s have free plastic surgery for the facially challenged. Put HAWK NOSE into the medical dictionary. THIN LIPS are a genetic disease! Why should you have to pay for pumping them up?
  • Believe you are beautiful. Exploit what blogger Aaron S calls the AMERICAN IDOL LOOPHOLE. Seriously untalented people win because they think they can sing. So why not convince yourself you are beautiful?
  • Spread the rumour that hot chicks are stupid. On second thought, don’t bother. It won’t work. Men are so shallow!
  • Remember that age does not improve looks. So become famous early in life and, like The Who, trust in early onset Alzheimer among your groupies. They won’t notice that they aren’t living in the sixties anymore.
  • Let the Mayan calendar take care of things. The world ends in less than 20 days, so what do you care about beauty? -- Can’t get yourself to believe in doomsday? Then:
  • Find work at a call-in centre where all faces are equal. Oh, I forgot. They’ve moved those to New Delhi.
  • Work online and use a fake photo. I tried it. I posted a blog with the cover of PLAYING NAOMI: 22 hits. With a youthful photo of Greta Garbo: 633 hits.   What about the unlikely case of CNN asking me to put in a personal appearance? No problem.
  • Bring on the burka. And wait for my study: BURKA PAYS.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

BE YOUR  *** ing SELF.

Be authentic. Express yourself!
Only one word comes to mind, you say?
Good thing you don’t live in the 60s when you had to spell it F***K. In the 70s they were more creative. Pierre Trudeau, for example, spelled it FUDDLE DUDDLE.

Last week, when a Brampton student tweeted that her teacher was an f***ing loser because he, like, ATE FISH STICKS, she was suspended. According to The Toronto Star, she shrugged off her week-old tweet: It’s so long ago. I don’t know why they’re bringing it up now. I’m amazed, but willing to learn: (1) Fish sticks are for losers. (2) The Toronto Star still doesn’t spell out the teenager’s favourite word. (3) Counting in teenage years, a week-old tweet is, like, totally prehistoric or something.

When Toronto Mayor Rob Ford said to a visitor Who the fuck do you think you are? Are you a fucking teacher? -- nothing happened. But when he used City Hall stationary to raise $3150 for a personal cause, the judge turfed him from office.
By contrast, Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion never said fuck. So, when she used her office to promote a land deal worth millions to her son, the judge ruled it was a BONA FIDE ERROR OF JUDGMENT. I’m amazed, but willing to learn: (1) Don’t bother with piddly sums when abusing your power. Keep it in the six-to-seven-figure range. (2) Never say fuck, and the judge will look kindly on you.

Young Justin Trudeau understood that principle and kept his white teeth clean. Fuck never passed his lips. But he didn’t observe the other all-important rule for politicians: Better have no platform than a platform that gives offense. He spoke his mind, saying he wanted to see more Quebeckers and fewer Albertans in politics. Well, he apologized on the double. But the damage was done. He should have stuck to FUDDLE DUDDLE.

So let me sum up today’s lesson: Be yourself. Speak up. And use plenty of a***s.

Sunday 25 November 2012


Home office used to mean a cluttered desk in the basement. Today, in the era of closet-sized condos, it means a cluttered kitchen counter and pizza crumbs in your laptop.

Or so I thought. But that scene is totally passé, according to Sue Shellbarger. If you are a trendsetter, you’ve moved your mobile devices to a bed with a built-in outlet and are doing your work propped up on pillows. You share your office with a partner? No problem. Get a split model bed. Kluft has just come out with a giant 7x7 footer, which can be your “ gathering place, workplace, comfort zone.”  

Okay, now that you’ve relocated your home office to a bed the size of your condo living room, it's clear that other activities have to be shifted to the mattress. Let’s see what else can we move to your new gathering place?

Sex? Nah. Take that to the basement or the kitchen counter or wherever you did your office work before you got a giant bed.

Indulge your depression? More like it. Glow-worm complexion, produced by keeping your face close to the lit screen, is the perfect depressed look. Diving under the covers to avoid looking at the cruel world would seem the perfect movement to go with it. And should you feel like ending your depression for good, is there a better place to die than in the comfort zone of your bed?

But let’s not be negative. There are other, more active, uses for your giant bed.

Eating and drinking? Definitely. Are you worried about crumbs and gooey stuff -- the stuff that hasn't dropped into your laptop, I mean? Here’s what you do: Combine eating and drinking in bed with keeping a pet. Dogs are best. They’ll scarf up your food remnants no questions asked, unless of course you are a vegetarian, in which case I recommend a pet caterpillar. Very quiet, very unassuming, as long as your underwear is tight and you avoid rolling/squishing motions.

Gym is another excellent use for your bed. Whatever your preference -- wrestling, trampoline, yoga, sauna – a bed is the natural platform for those activities. Put perhaps you are into intellectual activities. Then let me suggest

The literary workout. American Poet Laureate Charles Simic, for example, admits to writing a “shocking amount” of his Pulitzer Prize winning lines in bed. Proust wrote in a cork-lined bedroom, using pen or pencil. Orwell slept with his typewriter. Edith Wharton wrote her novels in bed, tossing the pages on the floor for her secretary to pick up and sort out. So perhaps I should qualify my advice: by all means write in bed, but have a secretary to ensure the dog doesn’t eat the pages. And watch out for the voracious caterpillar!

All of this presupposes that your partner does not require the bed as a gym while you are trying to write the next Booker Prize winner. So I suggest drawing up a schedule. -- Oh, you work from home to escape the tyranny of a schedule? Well, then it's back to the kitchen counter, I'm afraid.

Thursday 22 November 2012

CLEANING MY CLOSET. Things I have and don’t need.

Yesterday I looked through my kitchen drawer for string. No string. But I found four little plastic cups, protective covers for the legs of a table that would be retro-chic if I still had it.

Further back in the same drawer I found a boxful of earrings which amount to A HISTORY OF CUSTOM JEWELLERY in the late 20th century. Remember thin gold hoops that got tangled in your hair? Remember Indian jewellery with little bells that made your ears ring? They still exist, in my kitchen drawer.

Then there is the Mexican straw hat that’s hanging on a nail above my husband’s workbench. If memory serves, it came with a ride on a shaggy donkey parked in front of our hotel in Acapulco. Actually, not a ride, just a sitting for photographic purposes. We have four pics to document that event: the four members of our family each sitting on the same sad animal, wearing the same sad hat that’s in our basement now.

And speaking of workbenches. Do we really need three screwdrivers, each with pockets of exchangeable bits? Yes, we do. Or did. Because either they couldn’t be found when needed, or the required exchangeable bit was missing from the set. Could we discard two of them now? No way. According to my husband, you can never have enough screwdrivers.
Nonsense, I said.
But I’m only quoting you! he said.

He was referring to a recent conversation we had about my bedroom closet. But clothes aren’t screwdrivers! On second look, I grant you: I’ll probably never wear that brown business suit again. I don’t know why I bought it in the first place. I have nothing to go with it. I loathe brown. I bought it for a conference in LA and wore it exactly once.

For that occasion, I unearthed a bank-breaking pair of snake leather shoes which I had bought ten years earlier and worn exactly once because I loathe brown. I dug them out because they went with the brown suit.
When I landed in LA and stepped into the neon light of the arrival lounge, I noticed that the tips of my snake shoes looked brittle. By the time I got into the taxi, my toes were visible through the rapidly shredding tips of my shoes. I made it to my hotel room before they turned to dust. I guess snakes can’t survive in a closet for ten years. Anyway: I spent the remainder of the evening shopping for brown shoes. Has anyone told you that they don’t carry size 10 in fashionable shops in LA? I ended up with an unfashionable pair, which I wore exactly once and, for all I know, are still at the back of my closet. But I’m hoping they turned to dust and got sucked into the vacuum cleaner.

Which brings me to my bathroom closet, that is to say, THE HISTORY OF MY HEALTH. A quick survey shows that I had many colds and often suffered from heart burn, that I favour Aspirin (2 empty bottles) over Ibuprofen (one full bottle), that I thought I needed calming down (Manerix, full bottle) but had second thoughts and preferred to keep up to speed, that I did not follow doctor’s instructions and failed to take all of my antibiotics right up to Day 10. That I once believed in the possibility of improving my memory with pills (forgotten now if it were not for three packages of foil embedded stuff gone powdery). Also, that I believed in the possibility of strengthening my nails and hair. But I reserve that for another blog on THE HISTORY OF MY BEAUTY.

Sunday 18 November 2012

THE IMPORTANT THINGS IN LIFE. Wisdom gleaned from The Globe & Mail.

Eons ago, before we got our news online, when we still had to pick up the paper-paper from our doorstep, there was no escaping the bad news. You saw them at a glance on Page One: demonstrators being tear-gassed, missiles dropping on cities and killing civilians, tsunamis wreaking havoc, politicians lying through their teeth on the campaign trail. Day after day. On the front page. Thank God that era is over, and you can get your news online, where the logo of your favourite daily covers most of the home page. So as long as you don’t scroll down, you are safe and don’t have to look at gory pictures and appalling headlines or even at Petraeus’ follies which turn out to be less exciting than we thought. Alas, no Clintonesque goings-on below the desk. Just hundreds of emails, and nary a jpeg attachment of the general bare-chested or in his army-issue underwear. No, forget about what passes for news nowadays. Just click on the menu and go right to the stuff that really matters. Like, on November 16:

DO KIDS MAKE US HAPPY? ANSWER: YES (WE THINK). Now that’s the sort of magical thinking you need as you scrape crayon marks/poop/food fight remnants off the wall.

Or maybe go to: FOR A STRESS-FREE HOLIDAY, PACK A NANNY. Mind you, it’s a little pricey: $ 250/day for up to two children, plus travel expenses.

Maybe we’ll move on to November 17 and Dr. Sacks’ advice: IT’S OKAY TO HALLUCINATE. It’s an essential part of our human nature. Not to mention, much cheaper than reality. So, go ahead and hallucinate a travel nanny. No charge.

Meanwhile, being the careless type, I picked up the paper version of the Globe & Mail and couldn’t avoid seeing an article on AVOIDING HOME RENOVATION PITFALLS. The warning lights went on. Why get into that aggravating subject? Because I can’t pass up a special, and this article was marked SPECIAL. Oh, thanks for telling me: That’s just a fancy word for ADVERTISING. Still, there were some philosophical nuggets buried in the advertising muck. Indecision during the renovation process can lead to budget nightmares, says the MANAGING DIRECTOR OF REAL ESTATE SECURED LENDING AT SCOTIABANK. Wow! Is that a real job title or am I hallucinating?

But the section that truly takes the reality load off your shoulders is STYLE. Christmas is just around the corner, so read up on THE SECRET TO A WELL-STYLED HOLIDAY MANTEL. What you need here is good taste, right? Wrong. You need Mounted Antlers ($ 55) and a vintage white sleigh ($125). Don’t have that kind of money to spend on Christmas decorations? Move on to that all-important question: HOW TO PULL OFF HOUNDSTOOTH. No, we are not talking canine dentistry here. We are talking about the GROOVY PATTERN that looks good on Arab keffiyahs but somehow makes the rest of us look torn-to-pieces. So we’ll put that aside. In any case, I’m sure you agree that the paramount problem in your life are zits. The solution is simple, as it turns out. All you need is tomatoes. They contain a natural acne fighting antioxidant. That would be $ 1.50 for three nice Roma tomatoes, right? No, my friend, we aren’t talking about real tomatoes. That would be too cheap. You need to buy a ROLLERBALL thingy for 10.99. And another problem that spoils many a promising day in our lives: bangs that go frizzy on a rainy day. Now do not, I repeat DO NOT wait for sunshine, because that would cost you nothing whatsoever. No, apply FRIZZ FREE KERATIN SMOOTHING TREATMENT for 11.99. That’s cheaper than salon treatment, as the helpful columnist points out – that’s in case you were thinking of calling in sick and sneaking off to a salon for an instant fix.

Of course you can always do like Dr. Sacks, take a little amphetamine and hallucinate your bangs straight.       

Thursday 15 November 2012

What I like about the Petraeus Affair.

Monday was Remembrance Day. Not coincidentally, there were a lot of military faces in the media, average age creeping up to 90. So, you know what’s really heartening about the Petraeus affair? Two women, 40 and under, are at the centre of it. Yup. Youngish. Women. With toned arms. And hair you could lose your hand in (quoting Junot Diaz here). Yet those types don’t often make it to the top of the military news. Even Entertainment news, traditionally reserved for the young and bodacious, has been invaded by old-timers. You don’t think so? Read my post of 30 August on Geriatric Movies.

The dental implant smile is everywhere, oldsters looking into the cameras, beagle-eyed, sadly painful, nutcracker-style.

IN POLITICS Castro,86, half-dead and scoffing at death rumours. Baroness Thatcher,85, brain-dead, but reanimated in a bio pic by Meryl Streep. And Mao, fully dead but still staring down on the Forbidden City from IMAX-sized posters.

IN RELIGION, the Pope,85, recently declared that IT IS BEAUTIFUL TO BE He and the Dalai Lama, a youthful 77, rule their congregations de facto, while Ayatollah Khomeini is only present in the spirit and in glowering images, shaggy brows disapproving of all fun.

IN MUSIC, the average age of oldsters drops to the 70s. OK, Leonard Cohen is an elegant old codger and still has poetry in his heart. But can we get over Mick (“I got nasty habits”) Jagger and Wrinkled Richards? And what’s with Ancient Babyface Paul McCartney, rumoured to be dead since ’69 and surfacing alive once again after a terrifying experience. His helicopter became DISORIENTATED, as tells us. So, please, please, can we move on to tech-house music now? The synthesizers always look good.

IN LITERATURE, kudos to Alice Munro. She’s the exception to the old-timer rule. Refused to be considered for the Giller Prize, remembered that there is a next generation.
No kudos for octogenarian Tom Wolfe, author of Bonfire of the Vanities, best-seller of yore and master of overstuffed prose today. What can I say about his latest book, BACK TO BLOOD? Let me quote the master himself: AahhhuhwaaaAHHHHHock! I second the Globe & Mail reviewer: Toss Wolfe’s mimetic nonsense on the bonfire.
And then there is Herman Wouk, another former best-selling author. Reviewer Michael Posner coyly admits he thought Wouk was dead, but he’s 97 and alive. So, OK, I’ll go with Posner on that one. Respect your elders and concede: At that age WOUK SHOULD BE SALUTED FOR GETTING OUT OF BED, let alone writing a novel.

The merciful thing about authors: You don’t have to look at their faces. Skip the author photo on the back cover of their books. Don’t go there, and you’ll be fine on the aesthetic front. As for literary taste, consult your inner lit.crit.

Sunday 11 November 2012


Couldn’t think of anything funny to say on Remembrance Day. War isn’t funny. The last war Canadians fought with any discernable moral thrust was WWII. We are talking 1939-1945, when they didn’t even have TV. Pre-history practically. Whoa, hold on. I almost stepped into funny country there. Back to the subject. The other wars Canadians slid into were about power, corporate interests, and killing people because it's a job. Or maybe wars were always about power and money. In any case, my minute of silence isn’t for the gunners. It’s for the victims who lived in the wrong place and found themselves centre- stage in the military theatre. They didn't apply for that job.

Thursday 8 November 2012

Nope, sorry, nothing here on the US election. As Lincoln said, The Prayers of both could not be answered, and I don’t want you to OD on politics. Instead, I offer you sage advice on child rearing.

Awaken your child’s inner CEO. Guide to Help. We’ve Got Kids. Part II.

GROOMING. Make sure your child’s closet is filled with haute couture so that she can discover her INNER FASHIONISTA: page 28. Male or female, help your children EXPRESS THEIR STYLE AND INDEPENDENCE THROUGH THEIR CLOTHING: page 106. Choosing expensive stuff trains them in the executive DECISION-MAKING PROCESS: page 106. Now they can resolve questions such as: BLINGED ACCESSORIES or 18k GOLD JEWELLERY: pages 150, 152.

And never ever take them to a generic hair salon. MOBILE HAIR CUTTING is a possibility. Let the experts come to you. Better still go to a Children’s Hair Salon, preferably one that pampers your child with hand-made ITALIAN BRUSHES and offers mani-pedis, ear-piercing, and GREAT HAIR ACCESSORIES: pages 155, 160. But there is one listing that caught me by surprise -- I don’t know how it got past the editors: LICE SQUAD CANADA. Are you serious? No way would I risk taking my alpha kid to a place whose CEO couldn’t think of a better name for his establishment, something scientific like Pedicularian Institute, or a couple of innocuous initials like P.I. Am I right or am I right?

COUNSELLING. For optimal performance, your children need professional coaching. They will teach them the skills to OUTWIT, OUTRUN, AND OUT-TRICK their problems: page 112. Let them find their BETTER SELVES or, to be on the safe side, develop the ability to WALK ON WATER: page 141. Alternatively, yoga for all ages might work. And they mean ALL AGES, FROM O UP: PAGE 159. In any case, whatever you do, keep a MEDICAL JOURNAL to record those pleasant moments when your friendly pharmacist FLAVOURS ANY PRESCRIPTION to your taste: page 157. Umm, yummy medicine!

SPORTS. As soon as your child hits the age of 16 months, find a place that will use developmentally appropriate method to introduce practice, refine gross motor skills, and reinforce the benefits of teamwork: page 203. For skating lessons, you have to wait until they are 2.5 years old. Luckily: NO EXPERIENCE REQUIRED: page 213. The GOAL IS TO PROGRESS YOUR TRAINING GOALS(excuse me for asking, but is PROGRESS a transitive verb?): page 214. Or organize swimming lessons for your children in the comfort of your own home – the ad isn’t specific, but we assume they don’t mean your bathtub: page 217. If you don’t have an indoor pool, there are places that feature an AUTHENTIC BEACH ATMOSPHERE with 2000 tons of sand and tropical murals.

But why wait until your children become executives? Believe in them and THROW THE BASH OF THE CENTURY now with popping machines, magic castles, a smash cake and, most importantly, a TRIBUTE DVD: page 139. Come to think of it, that’s what I want for my next birthday: a TRIBUTE DVD. Heck, I’ll even take an TRIBUTE POEM. Ode to Rummel anyone?

Sunday 4 November 2012

A Book For Our Times: Help! We’ve Got Kids. 269pp. No charge.

Of course it’s advertising. What did you think? 269 pages of ads for parents of Alpha kids and future CEOs.

You want your children to succeed? Start early. First off, announce their birth with a 7-foot stork on your front lawn: page 153. Then get help for Alpha mom to help her ACHIEVE HER BREASTFEEDING GOALS (produce supermilk to speed up CEO development?): page 73. That hurdle overcome, we proceed to Phase Two:

DAYCARE. We are not talking about your child toddling around and wasting precious time. No, we are talking about guided activities that will foster CREATIVITY AND SELF CONFIDENCE, activities that will help your children to realize their TRUE POTENTIAL: page 13. A few ads mention fun, which is a mistake in my opinion even if they stress their activities are both RECREATIONAL AND COMPETITIVE. I myself would go for something more sophisticated, activities that have CULTURAL VALUE. What you want for your tot is the FINEST PERFORMING ARTS EXPERIENCE: page 8/9. And remember: it’s never too soon to teach them ballroom dancing. Or build up an art portfolio. Those Alpha tots ARE LITTLE GENIUSES AND BRING HOME MASTER PIECES: page 26. You can’t put them to work soon enough – so on to Phase Three:

EVENTS or parties as they used to be called in the olden days before parents hired professional organizers. These guys will make your children DIG UP FOSSILS, BUILD WOODEN CARS, and direct them to MAKE THEIR OWN TEDDYBEARS, in other words, stuff they can list on their cv when applying to that coveted private school: pages 53, 63. Certified balloon artists will go only so far if you want to develop your child’s CEO potential. Bug parties are more educational and make your tot ECOLOGICALLY AWARE: page 48/9. Although I’m asking myself – is that a good thing? What if your kid ends up with a career in the oil patch? No, I’d go with INTERACTIVE ENTERTAINMENT such as WRESTLEMANIA or the UNFORGETTABLE FIGHTER PILOT EXPERIENCE: page 58. Or DRAMATIC HORSEMANSHIP: page 63. Or the magic of SIXTY PERCUSSION INSTRUMENTS: pages 55. Especially if your kid’s room is sound-proof. Which it ought to be if you have hired the right interior decorator. That brings us to

PERSONAL SPACE. Custom room design is a must for the future executive. Ambitious parents will go for a THEMED ROOM to express their children’s dreams. Ensure MATCHING FABRICS and instal MOTIVATIONAL PRINTS. Make it posh, personal and handpainted, and watch your child’s SPACE COME ALIVE: pages 116-117.

So now we’re about half way through the Kiddie Yellow Pages. Watch for the next instalment of my guide to your kid’s CEO future.

Thursday 1 November 2012

Halloween. It’s not too late.

 It’s actually right on. I am dressed as Yesterday’s Woman, you see.

I was going to celebrate Halloween last night, like everyone else, but that was before I read Nestruck’s article on politically correct costumes: AVOID THE HALLOWEEN HALL OF SHAME (Globe 31 Oct). His list of no-nos was so long, I got scared.

The idea of Halloween is to change your appearance and look like someone/something else, right? But you can’t change you COLOUR. Don’t even think about it. Minority costumes are out. No brown-faced banditos or white-faced geishas. No black-faced Afro-Canadians unless a tanning studio will do it for you. No Red Indians unless you are permanently embarrassed. And being colour blind is no excuse!

Actually, you can go as an Indian, says aboriginal playwright Yvette Nolan, as long as you are not a GENERIC Indian. She’s happy to see you as Tecumseh, for example. In fact you can go as any minority, as long as you mean to be IRONIC, like Robert Downey who got an Oscar nomination for his blackface in Tropical Thunder.

But don’t speak with an ACCENT. If you have one, too bad. Play it safe and keep your mouth shut in case people think you are faking it and punch you in the nose before you can explain that you are being IRONIC.

A few groups can still be safely dissed: Bankers – no, wait, the minority rule applies to them. Catholics -- maybe not GENERIC Catholics, but surely the Pope. Women -- as long as you are an IRONIC transgender person.

What other transformations are safe? Can you change your IQ? Nope. DON’T DRESS LIKE AN IDIOT, Nestruck advises.

Change your age? Ageist! Shame on you!
Change your car? Expensive unless you go out and steal one. But remember, no brown-faced banditos!
Change your marital status? Only if you are prepared to split your assets.
Change your vital signs? Okay, lower your blood pressure, but everything else is against medical advice.
Change your mental state? Check local drug laws.
OMG it’s complicated!

See that’s why I crossed Halloween off the calendar yesterday and am sitting here as Yesterday’s Woman.  No sloshing through puddles or wet leaves. No temptation to pig out on left-over candy. No costume required. Just read a hardcover book and everyone will recognize you: Yesterday’s Woman!

Sunday 28 October 2012

Secrets of the Tabloid World II. From Khloe Kardashian to J.Lo.

Today we turn to STAR and OK for three more insights into the secret Tabloid World.

Insight # 1: IT’S A WAR ZONE.
Exploding BOMBSHELLS are an everyday thing, as O.J. Simpson, Monica Lewinski, and Angie can attest, but Matt Lauer went nuclear and had a MASSIVE MELTDOWN. Khloe K. and Lamar were lucky: they reached only the BOILING POINT although they had a BLOWOUT fight. And poor Britney can’t even have a mani-pedi without experiencing MAYHEM and screaming at people in a BRITISH ACCENT, OK tells us. I’m just glad Arnie Schwarzenegger wasn’t there. He would have screamed in a German accent, which is much much scarier.

Will there ever be peace in the Tabloid World? No, it’s a bloody battlefield out there, and everyone is just so DISTRAUGHT. Ashton and Mila Kunis, for example, had a HUGE BATTLE because she’s no longer pin-thin and he has GANGED UP on her with Dior. Meanwhile Lindsay and her mom got their pics into both STAR and OK because of their NEVER-ENDING WOES and permanent arguments that ESCALATED into a fight. Other celebs manage to keep it down to a FEUD, like Vanessa Hudgens and Selena Gomez. Mind you, feuds are no fun either. They always come with a NEMESIS, and can be a regular SMACKDOWN.

Thank God for babies which bring joy to tabloid photogs, whether they come in HOT STROLLERS like Jenny Alba’s or HAND-ME DOWN T-shirts like tightwad Angie’s or are being DROPPED by scary mom Britney. Some like their babies cute, but Clare Danes and husband Hugh Dancy are just glad theirs is a HUMAN BEING and they felt profound relief. In fact, we are all breathing a profound sigh of relief because new mom Snooki has gotten used to NOT SLEEPING. By contrast, poor J.Lo feels no relief because she has BABY FEVER, according to OK. Watch out J.Lo or you’ll infect your baby! That’s what happened to Nick Lachey’s son who caught CINCINNATI BENGAL FEVER. To avoid all risk, we advise sticking with a PROSTHETIC BUMP like the one Sofia Vergara carried in Modern Family. Or even better, forget baby and opt for a dog, like Marissa Jaret Winokur, whose Lola is a regular show girl.

Insight # 3: OLD AGE.
Yes, amazingly and in spite of everything, some people in the Tabloid World are aging, and horrible things happen to them. Liam Neeson’s KNEES CREAK, Julianne Moore CAN’T STOP SWEATING. Matt Lauer (who had a massive meltdown, see above Insight # 1) makes CATASTROPHIC MISTAKES and BARKS at his staff. Arnie Schwarzenegger only looks like he’s barking, but that’s because his dentist made catastrophic mistakes. Andy Cohen has turned into a CAMERA HOG and sneaks into celebrity photo ops. Only Brad has escaped the ravages of old age. His former golden locks “might be more salt and pepper now,” the Star says, but it adds to his SOPHISTICATION.

Great coverage, you say? No, I’m deeply disappointed with STAR and OK. They forgot to include THEN and NOW photos, which as the ENQUIRER knows are essential to age-related features. So how can I be sure that Liam wasn’t born with creaky knees and Brad was less sophisticated in former days?

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Secrets of the Tabloid World. From Sarah Palin to Brad and Angie.

Inching forward in the queue at the checkout counter I’ve often stared at tabloid covers and asked myself: who are those alien-looking people in the blurry insets? I finally caved and bought a copy of the National Enquirer, and, yup, it’s as I suspected. The tabloid scene unspools in a world of its own. Let me guide you through the main features:

TIME passes for all of us, but in the tabs it comes with THEN and NOW photos. We, the ordinary people, generally age, while the tab people become younger. This isn’t because they live in a time warp, as I thought at first, but because they have cosmetic surgery. Now this stuff goes on in the real world as well, but in the tabs, cosmetic surgery, although always DRASTIC, remains a SECRET until REVEALED in a tabloid. By then it has turned into a a woman's WORST NIGHTMARE, like Chris Jenner’s surgery, which will DESTROY HER LOOKS.

WEIGHT is a problem for many of us, but in the tabs weight gain or loss is much like cosmetic surgery: DRASTIC and never without THEN and NOW photos. And it’s always indicative of SECRET developments. Monica Lewinsky, for example, is going through a cancer drama, at least in the eyes of the check-out counter readers. Insiders who shell out money for the tabloid, discover that she doesn’t have cancer after all (whew!) although medical experts tell us that obesity puts her at risk and makes her a WALKING TIME BOMB. Now you’d think that people who lose weight will avoid those health risks, but that’s because you don’t understand the secret world of tabloids. In that environment, weight loss doesn’t make you slim and fit. It makes you SCARY-SKINNY and a SHADOW OF YOUR FORMER SELF, like Sarah Palin who is WASTING AWAY. Her cheeks are sunken and her hips have disappeared. I’m not surprised she’s sparked a HEALTH ALARM. Matt Lauer and Matthew McConaughey haven't sparked alarms yet, although one looks FRAIL and GAUNT and the other has WASHED AWAY to skin and bones.

BODY LANGUAGE. Watch out, celebs! In the tabloid world, reporters have x-ray vision and can read your every move. So here are some things you mustn't do under any circumstances:

Touch your tummy. That means you are PREGNANT. Celebs who carelessly put their hands on their tummies run the risk of up to ten pregnancies a year in the tab world.

Lean forward. No one ever “leans forward” in tabs. They SLUMP and COLLAPSE, are STRICKEN with sadness and depression, or else are BOOZE-PLAGUED and end up in rehab.

Pull a carry-on. That means you are moving out on your lover. Your relationship is DOOMED and IN TATTERS, like Brad’s, who is doing all sorts of things behind Angie’s back (BOOZE AND DRUG BOMBSHELL!) and will cause her to lean forward and collapse in tears. It also means the tab is obliged to offer photos of the pair in happier times (THEN and NOW!), before they had a BLOWUP and went BERSERK.

More insights into the SECRETS of the tabloid world in my next post!