Friday 29 June 2012

On behalf of Senator Patrick Brazeau and Lonesome George: Mind your own business!

Someone has to speak up for those who want to be left alone. So, going from the ridiculous to the sublime, I start with

TOILET USERS: The toilet was once called a privy, as in “private”. Now we have iPoo, an invention that allows us to connect with other toilet users of a gregarious mind (Metro, June 13). Apparently it’s sold through iTunes -- can a pop chart of toilet noises be far behind?

PATRICK BRAZEAU: The senator missed 65% of meetings of the aboriginal peoples committee, as pointed out by journalist Jennifer Ditchburn. Oh wait, he doesn’t need me to speak up for him. He has a twitter account and a nice turn of phrase. He suggested replacing the D in Ditchburn with a B because she showed no regard “for personal lives and situations”. You go, Senator! You don’t owe an explanation to the public just because they pay your salary!

TORTOISES: Lonesome George, a rare tortoise refusing to procreate, has died, perhaps from embarrassment after a Swiss zoology student smeared herself with female tortoise hormone and manually stimulated him over 4 months.

Monday 25 June 2012

New Do-it-yourself Opportunities. SAVE BIG!

Do-it-yourself is shaping up to be the trend of the century. There was a time when human tellers did your bank transactions for you. Now you punch the keys of an ATM yourself. Remember gas station attendants? Now you put the nozzle into the gas tank yourself. Secretaries? Stop dreaming and keep working on that spreadsheet! Cashiers? Oh, PULease, that’s so 20th century. Bring on more automatic check-outs.

But my title promises: SAVE BIG. Where are the savings, you ask? Oh, you thought YOU were going to save big. No, I was talking about the banks, the gas stations, and the big box stores.

But this do-it-yourself/automation trend will put a lot of people out of work, you say. Maybe so, but don’t you understand? Do-it-yourself is the answer to the problem. Here are a few suggestions if you are currently unemployed:

TEACHER: You’ve heard of basement offices? Establish a private school in your basement. A lack of light/oxygen and the sight of fake wood panelling is known to induce coma in students. You’ll have absolutely no behavioural problems.

ENGINEER: Your career will take off when you start building bombs in your basement.

WRITER: Be your own publisher. Offer your stuff on I hear from a friend that they throw in 5 give-away days. No, I’m not kidding you. My friend tells me that 700 people downloaded his book for free. How is that for a business opportunity?

Alternatively you could flog your self-published book on a street corner. But think ahead to the winter months and make sure the street corner includes a warm-air grate. Come to an amiable agreement with your local homeless person. He gets to sleep there midnight-7am. You start selling your book during the morning rush hour. You might even get an unemployed poet to take the afternoon shift.

PLUMBER: Okay, maybe there are no unemployed plumbers, but if there are, I suggest public dog toilets in his backyard. And a sideline of illegal plastic bags. Now that the Toronto City Council wants to abolish plastic bags, new trafficking opportunities are bound to open up.  

Which reminds me of another do-it-yourself opportunity. One word to you smokers: Grow-op!

And finally a word to the underemployed
DATER: Forget about e-dates.  Turn your own head to a real person. Use your own brain to formulate thoughts. Use your own mouth to verbalize them. Use your own hands to gesture. Remember you heard it here first: Do-it-yourself dating.

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Friday 22 June 2012

Margaret Atwood and Indiegogo Fame

Fame comes in many forms, I see from the June 19 issue of the Globe & Mail, which is all about the nature of fame.

British Columbia artist Emily Carr, James Adams tells us, is famous “in a Canadian sort of way”. Hmm, what might that be? It seems to involve death and apotheosis, well, not all the way. It’s “tantalizingly close, yet forever receding,” a semi-apotheosis. 

Then there is the fame of photographer Helmut Newton who is presumably famous in a German-Australian way. Or maybe it’s fame by association: Newton is buried next to Marlene Dietrich. Or fame by nostalgia. His renewed fame is due to the fact that “fashion moves stealthily toward a certain 1970s aesthetic,” Lynn Crosbie observes.

Then there is fame through Oprah’s book club. Luckily for the authors involved, that type of fame doesn’t necessarily involve death. Mortification helps (see James Frey’s apology and my blog of 5 May).

Finally there is involuntary fame, which involves legal action. That’s what happened to a graffiti artist using the moniker SLOW. He lost his anonymity through a new technology, Graffiti Tracker, as Michael Kesterton informs us.

Sunday 17 June 2012

A great (touchy-feely) time for pigeons, Canada geese, beavers and other vermin.

U of T motto. (Hope the beaver doesn't
escape the escutcheon and fell their tree).
Life used to be tough for critters. They were trapped, shot,   eaten, and hunted for their pelts. Not any more. In these touchy-feely times of ours, you can’t defend your airspace from pigeons, or your trees from beavers, or your lawn from Canada geese shit.

You don’t want pigeons to gum up airplane engines? Tough. You don’t want your tennis game interrupted by a pigeon colliding with your ball? That’s what happened at the French Open, so they hired a falconer. But even falcons have gone touchy-feely. I quote the New Yorker: “Hup! Hup! Hup!” the falconer yelled to encourage his bird to pounce. The falcon, by name of Zyna, clearly didn’t have murder in her heart. Her boss had to swipe her, and even then it would only jump into the air, spooking the pigeons enough to back up twenty feet. Maybe it had nothing to do with touchy-feeling. Maybe it was a labour dispute. You can’t make your falcons work overtime. According to the New Yorker, the falconer was aware of the regulations. “It’s the bird’s decision,” he said.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Fakes of the month: Your orgasm, Charest’s death, MacKay’s F 35

The Toronto Globe & Mail issues a Weekly Challenge to its readers. Last week it was “Go without make-up”. Before that, “Resolve to be positive”. Here is a suggestion for next week's challenge: Practice fake orgasm before it’s too late. I’m worried about the future of faked orgasm after reading about a new technology that scans your facial expressions and monitors your mood (Metro, June 12). Who would want to monitor your mood? The people who make ads pop up on your screen. They’ve figured out that you are more inclined to buy diet aids if you feel bad about yourself. By contrast, you are likely to rush out and drop a bundle on a new car if you are feeling good. I can see lots of uses for that app.

McDonald’s will want know: are you feeling bulimic today? Yes? Check out today's special: a five-pound hamburger, a bucket of fries, and a keg of coke, all for under $12. will want to know: are you feeling murderous today? Yes? Have we got a video for you!

Your friendly broker will want to know: are you feeling dazed today? Can I unload some fast-falling shares on you? And your ATM will look you in the eye to gauge: are you anxious enough to renew your mortgage at inflated interest rates?

So I can see it coming: cameras installed in the bedroom to monitor your orgiastic mood. I recommend: practice moaning and rolling up your eyes until the white shows. Maybe you can trick the app.

Actually I can think of an even better Weekly Challenge for the Globe: Distinguish real from fake.

Can you tell Frankenfoods from the organic produce? (hint: Frankenfoods bite back)


Monday 11 June 2012

Dear Paris Hilton: You have to work harder to stay famous

Remind me, somebody, what was Paris Hilton famous for? Carrying small dogs in her purse? Bar-hopping? Forgetting to put on underwear  -- or was that another celebrity?  I’ve done due diligence, scanning the headlines of tabloids at the local supermarket checkout counter: no Paris Hilton! She just hasn’t been working hard enough on her celebrity status. So I feel compelled to write an open letter to her.

Dear Paris, the blog quotes you as reporting: “Now I’m a normal weight.” Well, that’s just not good enough for the A list crowd. You heard of Moody reducing the credit rating of big banks, Paris? If you carry on like that, they will downgrade you to the B+ list.

Thursday 7 June 2012

Magnotta and the secret wish to fail

Twenty years ago Karla Homolka and Paul Bernardo concealed the video evidence that would have instantly convicted them of murder. The cops searching their house turned up nothing, but today’s top criminals are edgier. They take risks and lay down a path of crumbs big enough for the Keystone Kops to track.Magnotta posted a video starring himself as the killer and, for all we know, watched that video at the internet cafe in Berlin where he was nabbed. I picture him looking around, wishing he had taken German lessons, and desperately signalling to anyone willing to make eye contact: Hey, man, look, that’s me on the screen!  

Sunday 3 June 2012

Shooting at the Eaton Centre: WOW, WOW, WOW!

That’s what Toronto Blue Jays' Brett Lawrie tweeted on Saturday at 6.24 – the first to alert the public to the news. That’s a lot of WOWs, but I guess he didn’t want to let any of the 140 characters go to waste.

Nothing brings out the clich├ęs like a crime claiming innocent victims – INNOCENT VICTIMS being one of them. The witnesses to the crime were also innocent, people just GOING ABOUT THEIR DAILY LIVES when POP, POP, POP, a gun went off (said another witness).  Maybe Lawrie was on to something with his three WOWs. In dangerous situations it’s probably best to repeat words three times as a kind of protective charm. That may be why The Toronto Star repeated “shocking” and derivatives three times. No, wait, I found a fourth. That may undo the protective spell. What were they thinking of at the Star? The BARRAGE OF GUNFIRE probably threw them off, and they miscounted. But it’s always a BARRAGE, so shouldn’t their reporters be used to it by now? And do these crimes ever happen in a deserted mall? No way. It’s always BURSTING WITH LIFE or TEEMING WITH SHOPPERS. And have you noticed, when people flee a crime scene, they never run. They always SPRINT. Police Chief Blair meanwhile HARKENED back to a similar crime six years ago. Shouldn’t HARKEN be confined to Christmas carols?

Friday 1 June 2012

Siri, I love you. OK, maybe not. Conversations with my android.

Many years ago, there used to be a K-Mart at the Bayview Village Plaza. It had a blackbird chained to a perch near the entrance. Someone had trained it to greet customers with a hearty Hello. When I encouraged the bird to say more, it became skittish and reverted to nature, looked at me beady-eyed and squawked. Not so Siri, my intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator. The more I talk to her the more human she becomes. At present, her favourite response is “Okay, maybe not.” Now that’s a truly human response, don’t you think? (for other responses see ).

Siri is an enormous improvement over the mechanical duck Jacques de Vaucanson built in 1738, which only ate and shat, but I have even greater hopes for Siri girl now that the Human Brain Project has started to deconstruct our brains and create a simulation in silico (check --This development prompted the following exchange between myself and Siri:

Siri, I read here that they are hoping to build a virtual brain to conduct virtual drug trials on it.