Wednesday 27 February 2013

THE ENVELOPE, PLEASE: An Oscar for best ground game.

In America, every child may dream of becoming president. That’s regardless of race, sex, and social standing. Yesss, folks, but not without big money and a good GROUND GAME, as Glenn Whipp explains (LA Times, 25 Feb). He wasn’t talking about Obama, mind you. He was talking about LINCOLN, and why it didn’t make Best Picture.A GOOD GROUND GAME?? You mean QUALITY isn’t the only factor that sways Academy Awards judges? Hey, sorry to destroy your innocence and break your heart, but here’s what the judges are looking for:

HOLLYWOOD. It helps if a picture is about The Industry. Those movie people playing movie people in ARGO -- can it get any better? And it’s gotta be

FEEL GOOD STUFF. Like the great American narrative, LINCOLN? No, no. That was like a high school lesson: bo-ring. How about ZERO DARK THIRTY then? Pu-leeze! It sure didn’t make senators McCain, Feinstein, and Levin feel good. It was false! they said. Grossly misleading! Inaccurate! -- Excuse me, senators. Since when do historical movies have to be accurate? It’s all about

ACTION. That’s what counts. Don’t let the movie drag on, just to make it factually accurate. Look at ARGO, which dealt with a rescue involving the Canadian embassy. Well, you know those Canadians. So low-key. So boring. So the screen writers came up with that bit about the problems at the airport, and WHAMMO: high drama. Those LINCOLN people don’t know sugar from shit. A quiet assassination doesn’t sell. Why didn’t they end the film with a shoot-out between Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth?

SEX. You know why Oscar host Seth MacFarlane got bad press? Because he wasn’t funny enough? Because his jokes were tasteless? Nah. Because he gave away the secret of Hollywood success with his totally uncalled-for song WE’VE SEEN YOUR BOOBS. The rat!

But here is what make a movie a sure winner --
THE GROUND GAME, the arduous job of manipulating opinion: maneuvering behind the scenes, glad-handing here, snubbing there, mass tweeting, huge ads, ear-shattering trailers, posh screening parties, extravagant promises, sweat, lies, and tears. The Academy Awards would be nothing without the men and women who have dedicated their lives to hype.

So, I’m asking you: why is there no OSCAR FOR BEST GROUND GAME?

Saturday 23 February 2013

WEARABLE TECH GADGETS. An open letter to Sergey Brin.

Putting sensors and mini computers into clothes and accessories is THE NEXT FRONTIER, says Google co-founder Sergey Brin (LAT 21 Feb).

I think you should hire me, Sergey, so I can save your company from some big mistakes. For example, the

  • WRIST WATCH which reads out text messages aloud. No. No. No. Imagine Nicole Kidman giving an interview and suddenly her watch goes: “Sorry to hear that your new face doesn’t move, Nicole. Will schedule corrective surgery.” Sergey, listen up: I want a watch with SILENT text messages. Or maybe just a really big wrist band for my cell phone. Then there is the
  • JACKET that heats up when you are cold. Okay, but what if the guy sitting next to me at the conference table has a wrist watch that reads out text messages aloud, and it bleats: That menopausal bitch is having hot flashes again! Sergey, please: Instead of going hot or cold, could my jacket change shape so I can stay in fashion? I’d really appreciate that. As for
  • EYEGLASSES that display directions. Meh. Yes, my brain is deteriorating, Sergey, but my problem is forgetting people’s names. So, instead of directions, could I see the name of my conversation partner displayed on his forehead?

Tech gadgets “can be transformative for your lifestyle,” you say. “That’s our job at Google X.” Sergey, I love you! I was getting so tired of working on my lifestyle, but now I can let Google take over. Or get
  • Fitbit Wireless activity tracker, which helps people lead healthier lives. And, I assume, will read out text messages like: Stop pigging out now, you swine! Or: Heart attack alert! Stop that filthy sex act now!
But before all that can happen, developers say, they’ll have to improve battery life. Or you might find yourself suddenly directionless, like a snowboarder with
  • Jump analytics on a HEAD-MOUNTED DISPLAY – sexy word BTW, no? Just imagine the poor sucker is up in mid-air and the battery in his jump analytics device goes dead. How will he get down to earth? Oh, right. Built-in gravity! Whew. Developers are also working on a
  • Smartphone app that lets you locate and track friends. You mean I can track ALL my Facebook friends? Or just the ones whose jacket changes temperature when I approach?
But as Intel’s USER EXPERIENCE RESEARCHER Cory Booth admits: There is always the risk of overcomplicating things. Cory, you’ve made my day! I’ve done USER EXPERIENCE RESEARCH all my life. Thanks to you, I now understand that this is a career. As I said, SERGEY, HIRE ME. I’ve found my calling!

Wednesday 20 February 2013

NOBODY OUGHT TO SUFFER LIKE THAT. Disasters, from the Carnival cruise ship to the slum of Dharavi.

The weather in Los Angeles: Rain, high of 59. I AM SUFFERING.

But of course things were much, much worse for passengers on the Carnival Cruise. IT WAS HORRIBLE, JUST HORRIBLE, Maria Hernandez said of the conditions on the disabled ship (The Guardian, 15 Feb). People had to CONDUCT BODILY FUNCTIONS in red bags. OMG! They must have suffered, but probably not as much as the people in Dharavi.

Dharavi is a slum in India that covers an area smaller than Central Park (NY Times, 29 Dec 2011). A million people live there. The place is rife with tuberculosis. There are open sewers, drinking water shortages, flies and mosquitoes, families crammed into tiny shacks. And TRAFFIC BLEATING – I know what those people are going through. Noise pollution is a terrible thing. I have a neighbour who plays the organ.

And it must be truly horrible in the crowded Yare prison in Venezuela. “A thick black line of HUMAN EXCREMENT ran down an exterior wall,” the New Yorker reported (28 Jan). I would like take up a collection and send those guys a superpack of IMODIUM. The problem is how to get the medication to the men. We might have to use carrier pigeons. As one guard explained: If you hang around too long, “the inmates might shoot at you.” My advice is: don’t get yourself into unnecessary trouble and don’t suffer if you don’t have to, like

Roald Amundsen, who died on a disastrous expedition to the North Pole in 1925. I can’t say I sympathize with him. Why did he have to go to the Arctic, when he could have checked out and “raced from iceberg to iceberg in a snowmobile?” Or else, he could have explored downtown LA. It’s an adventure, let me tell you. I got lost there twice.

Meanwhile here on the West side, it's raining on and off, and I AM SUFFERING.

So is stunt woman Heidi Pascoe, who shares her experience plunging from a scaffold (LA Times,18 Feb). It’s SO HIGH UP, she notes. If you miss your landing, it FEELS LIKE CONCRETE. No sympathy from me, Heidi. You know the saying: Candy is dandy, but sex doesn’t rot your teeth? Well, all I can say is: Jumping is dandy, but sex doesn’t wreck your joints. Unless you are into Kama Sutra of course.

You all remember the disaster brought on by Hurricane Sandy. Gas shortages, power outages, destruction, sleeping on COTS IN HIGH SCHOOL GYMS (NYer Feb 11) -- I totally sympathize with those folks. I hate camping, too. Meanwhile, I read that

First Lady Sybil died, and now Matthew has lost his life in a fatal accident (LA Times, 16 Feb). It’s a FAMILY TRAGEDY of major proportions. Oh, wait. That happened on DOWNTON ABBEY.

But Christina Applegate suffered for real during her pregnancy ( 26 July 2010). Finding the right dress was incredibly DAUNTING. She went through lots of styles. Nothing fit. IT WAS A DISASTER. I felt so sorry for Christina. I don't know how she got through it all.

Meanwhile the rain has stopped here, but let me tell you, friends:IT WAS INCREDIBLY DAUNTING.

Saturday 16 February 2013

WE REGRET THE ERROR. Corrections and retractions from Dorner to Aspirin.

THE CHRISTOPHER DORNER SAGA in the LA Times. LAPD officers locate Dorner’s Nissan Titan and fire at the murderer. NO, WAIT. That was actually a Toyota Tacoma, and the driver was a 71-year old woman. Police scour Bear Lake area and finally give the all-clear to residents. NO, WAIT, Dorner is actually holed up in one of the chalets there and has kidnapped two cleaning women. NO, WAIT, it’s actually a cleaning couple, husband and wife. NO, WAIT, they are actually the owners of the chalet. Dorner, meanwhile, has died a fiery death. BUT WAIT for news of his resurrection.

THE HELMUT OBERLANDER SAGA in the Toronto Star. The Ukrainian settled in Canada in 1954. NO, WAIT, he was German. NO, WAIT, he was born in the Ukraine, but of German extraction. He is stripped of his Canadian citizenship for withholding his association with the SS (2008). NO, SCRATCH THAT. His citizenship is restored. There is no proof for his collaboration with the Nazis (2009). NO, WAIT, there is. Oberlander stripped of Canadian citizenship – until further notice (2012).

THE PEACHES CHRIST EPISODE in The San Francisco Chronicle. He appeared at Most Holy Redeemer Church with a dildo shaped like a crucifix. Who? Christ or Peaches? NO, WAIT. Neither Christ nor Peaches. “Nor does he use the prop.” Oh. What does he use then?

THE COLONEL JEHLANI SHAFIQ MOMENT in The Australian. “It’s not like 25 years ago. I was killing everybody.” NO, WAIT, they got the punctuation wrong. He meant “It’s not like 25 years ago I was killing everybody.” Say what? Oh, the grammar was wrong too.

  • 1960s: Aspirin touted as an antidote to HOUSEWORK FATIGUE (check out 
  • 1980s: NO, WAIT. It’s only good against FEVERS AND HEADACHES.
  • 1990s: Daily Aspirin will keep STROKES away, too.
  • 2000: NO, WAIT. It may actually induce ischemic strokes, heart attacks, and bleeding in the stomach.
  • 2020: Aspirin shown to EXTEND LIFE in laboratory mice.
  • 2025: Take Aspirin and live to 100.
  • 2030: Too many people living to 100. Pension and health care plans collapse. Aspirin OUTLAWED.
  • 2035: Huge Canadian Aspirin trafficking ring bust. Aspirin DRUG WAR in Mexico continues.

Wednesday 13 February 2013

TRAVEL DESTINATIONS. Rummel’s Trip Hazard Advisory.

Acapulco: Do not venture more than two blocks from the beach. That’s the advice of, but to get the real dirt on travel hazards, read on:

West Coast: FLYING BULLET HAZARD. LAPD hunting a murderer -- Christopher Dorner, black male, driving a gray Nissan Titan -- shot two women in a blue Toyota Tacoma by mistake. After that the murderer abandoned his vehicle. I guess he didn’t feel safe. So take a hint. When in LA, don’t drive a van/pickup of any color. And duck when you see an LAPD car.

East coast: WEATHER HAZARD. Don’t drive a van on the East Coast either. I suggest renting a snow plough sleeping four.

Teheran: UNPREDICTABLE, but watch ARGO for survival tips.

Beijing: INDUSTRIAL POLLUTION HAZARD. Stock up on Chen Guangbiao’s canned air from the pristine regions of north-west China.

Rome: UNDETERMINED POLLUTION HAZARD. Something in the air makes old men give up. Don’t suffer the fate of Pope Benedict. Take along Cheng’s canned air. No, make that Damascus air -- Assad isn’t giving up, right?
Note to GOP: Send Clint Eastwood to Rome ASAP.


By air. If travelling on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, remember: Working BATTERIES NOT INCLUDED.

By car. Watch for VERTIGO introduced by gas prices, as you enter California. They’ve shot up from 3.69 to 4.19 in one month.

By rocket. Check out It’s not happening yet, the cost is stiff, and coming back is dicey, but take my advice:
Start your funding campaign now and send your favourite politician/cardinal/relative on a long trip.


Saturday 9 February 2013

Don’t believe a word they are saying. IT’S A CONSPIRACY.

Let me warn you:
Hamburgers contain horse meat.
Monsanto poisons you with genetically modified food.
And don’t eat chicken. They are injected with water and will give you emphysema if you don’t watch it.

Other conspiracies to watch for, especially if you live in California.
  • Political conspirators balk at spending your tax dollar on an early warning system that will give you 30-60 seconds longer to flee an earthquake. Think what you could do with half a minute! Wake up and CONSCIOUSLY experience the ceiling crushing you. Or, if you’re on the road: stop your car and get rear-ended BEFORE you drop into the giant fissure that has opened up in the highway.
  • And I'm sure Archbishop Gomez thinks it was a conspiracy that records of pedophile priests were made public EXACTLY when he was gearing up for a major fundraiser. Oh, you think it was God’s punishment for Mahony protecting the abusers? Say that out loud, you wretched sinner, and Gomez will make sure you rot in hell!
  • Tet parade organizers are conspiring to exclude LGBT groups ( I advise you to join the Toronto Pride Parade. They are more inclusive. Oh, wait. In 2012, they excluded Jewish groups planning to protest Palestine policy (Globe & Mail, 6 Sept). And Toronto Mayor Robert Ford refused to attend the parade and went to his cabin instead. Leaving town on the weekend of the parade was a family tradition, he said. Bosh! It was a conspiracy.
  • Then there's my novel, PLAYING NAOMI, which did NOT climb the bestseller list. If my next novel, HEAD GAMES, coming out in April, doesn’t sell a million copies, I know for sure it’s a conspiracy. Or else, it’s VOODOO, and someone is punishing me for including a description of a séance. Next thing I’ll turn into my character and, like her, be kidnapped and end up on the border of Bolivia.
         Friends: if I stop posting in April, call Search and Rescue!


Wednesday 6 February 2013

SURPRISE! Nothing prepared me for this.

Nothing prepared Cardinal Mahony for handling the cases of pedophile priests brought to his attention. Apparently his degree, a Master in Social Work, was just interior decorating, something suitable for framing and hanging over his desk.

Event organizer Reza Gerami suffered from a similar handicap. Nothing prepared him for the effects of Ecstasy, which killed a dozen people attending his raves (pardon me: ELECTRONIC MUSIC FESTIVALS). He thought they were SAFE, SECURE, AND FUN (LA Times 3 Feb).

I guess nothing prepared the police for Jimmy Dykes shooting a school bus driver and kidnapping a 5-year old boy other than the fact that he clubbed a dog to death with a lead pipe, watched the street from a deer-stand, and promised to kill people.

And of course nothing whatsoever prepared a Calvary Coach driver for crashing his 12 ft high bus into a Boston bridge, except possibly a sign alerting him to the height of the bridge: 10 ft.

Then again, a man on Sullivan’s Island (SC) saved a child from being carried out to sea by a riptide. Nothing prepared Robert Proffitt for it. He didn’t have time to think, he said. He just acted.

And there is Campbellford (ON) contractor Jamie Bell who got a MOXIE AWARD (EMC, 31 Dec). I was amazed to hear that she didn’t have a degree in dry-walling. She’s a printer by trade.

Other moxie candidates:
  • Gustave Eiffel who built the famous tower in Paris without a degree in architecture.
  •  Bernard Shaw who wrote his plays without a degree in creative writing.
  • And remind me, what degree did Mother Teresa have? A master in SAINTOLOGY?
It’s an inexplicable situation, a complete riddle, but let me take a stab. Is there such a thing as native intelligence, native decency, native compassion -- or am I totally off the map?

Sunday 3 February 2013

HEY! A word from your trend spotter.

Message to all traditionalists who start their emails with HI. Time to switch to HEY. I’ve just received an email from Bulgaria using that trendy greeting. Yup, the American vernacular has reached the shores of Kozloduy. Check it out on a map of Bulgaria. Zoom in. It’s that little speck by the Danube. Kozloduyans are saying HEY to you.

Other trendy words: SUBSTANTIAL ADVANCE PLANNING. No, we are not talking about mortgages here. We are talking about gay couples. Opposite sex partners, you see, have a UNIQUE SOCIAL DIFFICULTY: unplanned pregnancies. For some reason that never happens to gay couples. And now, thanks to an article in the LA Times (26 Jan), I know why: they are good at SUBSTANTIAL ADVANCE PLANNING.

TREND SPOTTING has been around for a while and has become a marketable skill. Even people like me are catching on. So let me tell you about a new trend in CHARITY MARKETING.

Hollow-eyed waifs, severed limbs, keening grandmothers, and other DISASTER PORN is no longer working. People want to be cheered up with bathroom humour or scantily clad nymphets pumping iron or whatever. OK, so the charity business can’t go there, but they are starting to use beautiful landscapes on their letterhead, sunsets, palms, and the like. If you ask me, that’s so lame.

Here is an idea for an exciting CHARITY AUCTION. Winner (vetted by the Church of Scientology of course) gets to spend a night with Tom Cruise. Might be good for both parties, right? Could serve as a reality check.

Tom: Never knew so much flab could hang off one body. Made me puke.
She:  Tom puked all over my carpet. I give up on men. 

No? This approach won’t fly? Then I suggest using corporate sponsors. How does PRADA FOR AIDS sound? But what does PRADA get in return for their money? More than fuzzy good feelings. They get PRODUCT PLACEMENT. The charity promises to show their boots in every African village. Oh, the women don’t wear boots there? They should! A kick in the groin with stiletto heels discourages the most determined rapist. What? Brass knuckles are cheaper? OK, moving on to…

TASMANIA, where David Walsh has elevated the combination of sex and death to art. That’s the theme of his collection. His Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) has become a big tourist attraction, according to the NYer. So why not get him to sponsor AIDS charities? Oh. Running MONA costs 12 Million Dollars/year and makes only 4 Million. Walsh will be a charity case himself soon. But don’t take out your credit card yet. Walsh needs something else. He is deeply disappointed that NONE OF THE HATRED AND CONTEMPT HE EXPECTED HAS EVENTUATED.

HEY, feeling generous? Hate the guy already! Spit on him if you must. But first somebody tell me: Is EVENTUATE a trendy word?