Thursday 29 August 2013

EATING HABITS OF THE FIRST WORLD. From Cronuts to designer water.

Last week some 200 people experienced that special Cronut feeling: nausea, vomiting, and stomach cramps. It came with the condiment that goes on top of Cronut burgers: Maple bacon jam. Yup, it’s exactly what it sounds like: a mush of bacon, syrup, and sugar. According to the Wikipedia, a condiment is an edible substance that adds flavor to food. Time to update that definition. It’s an inedible substance that adds flab to your body.

Of course you can’t expect Wikipedia to keep up with the newest trend in monster foods. For that you have to go to Bizarre Foods America on, and Andrew Zimmern will make sure you are up on goat dumplings and bleeding stones. No, I’m not talking about the state of your kidneys after eating Cronut burgers. I’m talking about Chilean seafood, Pyura Chilensis. Check out this bottom-feeder on  It looks like a bleeding stone but the edible part is Pyurean snot made up of digested micro algae. Lost your appetite? Ready for a special diet?

If you want to lose both weight and money, visit the Ray & Stark Bar in Los Angeles and study their elegant water menu, curated by Martin Riese. For $ 12 you can sip a selection of waters from tiny tasting glasses. Or you can fork over $ 20 for a bottle of Berg – harvested from the glacial waters of Greenland under the strictest standards of purity. Or you can pay $ 15 for California’s own Beverly Hills 90H20, a designer water produced in a limited edition and served in individually numbered bottles.

I just hope that Ray & Stark will open a branch bar on the Champs-Elysees – no, not the one in Paris, but its namesake on the main drag of Za-atari, a refugee camp in Jordan (NYer 26 August).  The shops on the boulevard already offer shawarma, chicken, pizza, coffee and tea, but they are missing the big thing: western decadence.  How can they ever become first-world citizens without designer water?

Sunday 25 August 2013

GRACENOTE. The wonderful world of sync-viewing

Gracenote has come out with an entirely new way of keeping you from living your life in the moment: sync-viewing. Check out and see how it’s done. Gracenote will track what you’re watching on TV and offer you comments or insights on a second screen. Just like those annoying people who sit next to you at the theatre and talk through the whole movie. Thanks Gracenote, but I’ll just have the popcorn.

Okay, there may be times when you want distraction. I’m thinking of the saleswoman in a shop I pass every day – she sells ties. Hello? Are there any men left who wear ties? Not in my area. So the poor woman stands at the cash register all day, all by herself -- a prime candidate for Gracenote. She needs to sync-view a video that will bring excitement into her life: someone licking a stamp or pulling weed or typing a novel with one finger.

You know the iconic greeting card message: Wish you were here. Well, how about sync holidays? You sit on the couch watching the shopping channel, and on a second screen your best friend is soaking up the rays on a beach in Cuba. Exciting, huh? And speaking of exciting:

Have you signed up yet for Virgin Galactic’s suborbital space flight? There’s a lot of noise, vibration, and G-forces, Brian Binnie, the pilot of SS1 reports. Okay, here comes Gracenote, and while the skin of your cheeks is pulled to the back of your head and your eardrums reach the maximum endurance point, you can sync-view a silent movie. 

Then there is that bad habit of eating and watching TV, so instead of putting on weight, you could just have a second screen on which you watch yourself putting food into your mouth. Not as satisfying as the real thing? I bet you it would be for those people who ate cronuts at the CNE last week and were doing a lot of heaving into the toilet. With Gracenote, they could have just watched themselves eating bacteria on screen.

Also at the CNE, Toronto Mayor Ford was doing something legal for a change. He took on Hulk Hogan in an arm-wrestling match. I think it would be fun to sync-view him giving the finger to voters. Alternatively the two competitors could sync-view their respective scandals: Hulk’s sex tape in which he frolicks with the wife of a friend and Ford’s crack tape if it ever reappears. If not, I suggest substituting another stinker: the pile of goat manure which combusted spontaneously at a dairy in Vermont (Metro, 23 August).

Thursday 22 August 2013

UNDER SURVEILLANCE. has you covered.

Okay, so you spotted the cop with the radar gun, slowed down at last minute, and escaped a speeding ticket. Enjoy! Because the good times are over. Once Baseline Telematics gets into your car, it will be pay-as-you-drive. They’ll supply your insurance company with up to the minute driving data, how fast you go, how hard you brake, how close you take the corners. – And your insurance will bill you accordingly.  

Of course progress doesn’t stop there. Next, you have Telematics installed in your body. How’s you ticker? Blood pressure – uh-uh. Cholesterol – those bacon burgers are bleeping!  It will be pay-as-you-breathe. All you snowbirds wintering in Florida will have your health insurance adjusted accordingly. And you thought upwardly mobile was a desirable quality.

Doesn’t worry you? You brave the Canadian winters and are covered by Mother OHIP? Don’t hold your breath. And not just because Telematics will report you, but because they will soon be in your house, joining the smoke detector on the ceiling in the corridor and reporting on your lifestyle. You’ll pay-as-you-smoke. Better vote for Justin Trudeau and hope he doesn’t lie when he says he’ll decriminalize marijuana use.

Telematics in the home will be a really useful device for religious leaders. When I lived in Utah, I made the mistake of being visible from the curb on a Sunday morning. Immediately, the church brigade knocked on my door and wanted to know, in the nicest possible way, why I wasn’t at the temple and if I wanted an appointment with the bishop. With Telematics, the Latter Day Saints can dispense with that hit-and-miss approach and get you directly with a pray-as-you-go system. As soon as Telematics detects your presence, a loudspeaker will come on: Attention! Attention! Someone in this household isn’t where they are supposed to be. Proceed to the temple immediately! But then they have very nice hiking trails in Utah, and you could hit one of those on a Sunday morning. The mountains will probably stay Telematics-free for a few more years.

But what if your church or your government or your local retailer latches on to socialbots? According to NYT (18 August), only 35 percent of Twitter users are real people. The rest are members of a bot army directed by people with an agenda, who want to channel your thought in their direction. The only defense is to mobilize your own bot army, appropriate their hashtag, flood them with counter tweets, and stop them cold by triggering their spam filter.

Maybe you could get one of those predictive search apps, which anticipate your every wish. They have your calendar entries, email messages, and Google search history memorized and know that you don’t want to go to the temple. Unfortunately, they also know what you want and will make sure you get it—I just hope they mind your credit limit.

Saturday 17 August 2013

LETHAL COMBOS. Meals at the Ex and other killer combinations.

This is the opening weekend of the Canadian National Exhibition, which will bring you dog shows, concerts, aerial acrobats and …food guaranteed to give you a heart attack: The Canuck Burger with three kinds of bacon and cheddar cheese. Add a side of nutella sweet potato fries and, for dessert, a bacon-wrapped deep-fried Mars Bar or a bacon and cheese Cronut, and you’ll top 8000 calories easy. But if you are into suicidal combinations, don’t stop at meals. Here are other deadly mixes:

The beauty mix: Tots & Tiaras? Nah, way too sane. How about beauty queen & moving car & homemade bombs? Kendra McKenzie Gill (Miss Riverton, Utah) was having fun, joy-riding with two friends and tossing plastic bottles filled with toilet-bowl cleaner and shrapnel at stores along the road (

The credit card mix: Roomates Julie Phillips and Geoff Szuszkiewicz of Calgary have started a year of buying nothing ( Come on, people, that’s so dope. Here is a deadly mix: credit card & a year of buying everything & paying for nothing. Start with a Canuck Burger a day, go on to puffing Cuban cigars, drive a racing car while texting, hire a Sherpa and climb a Himalayan peak – all absolutely free. You won’t live long enough to be sued by your creditors.

The political mix. Here’s a combo deadly for your re-election plans:  video with crack pipe & groping unrelated female & giving voters the finger while driving and texting & revealing DUI convictions & skipping council meetings to do personal business. No wait, that’s been done by Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and may not be lethal to his career. He still has a 40% approval rating. What does it take to get rid of a politician?

The vodka mix. Vodka & bacon =BLT Cocktail. Vodka & horseradish= Gogol. Vodka & caviar & olives = Cavitini. Pul-lease! There must be a simpler way to die from alcohol poisoning.

The legal mix.  This just in from the journalistic trenches of the Globe (17 August). Cross off cronuts from your list of lethal combos. Turns out cronut has been trademarked by a Manhatton bakery. So, unlicenced use of  name & lawyer = demise of the Canadian Exhibition cronut?

Thursday 15 August 2013

EFFICIENT SCHEDULES. From schooldays to celeb breakups.

You can get so much more done if you schedule things right. This was brought home to me when I read that the school day in Maryland starts at 7.17 am (Metro, 12 August). Wouldn’t students sleep through the first class, you ask? Very likely, but that matters only if you think education is a priority. In Maryland, school bus schedules are the priority, and afterschool sports, which have to be squeezed in before sundown. In between, they do a bit of educating.

So you see, it’s all about readjusting your priorities.

Eating, for example, can really cut into your schedule. Why do you think people eat and read, or eat and watch TV? Because there isn’t enough time to do them separately. So why not reschedule eating to a more convenient time, say, 4am. That’s guaranteed not to interfere with anything important. Unless you are an early sexer.

But sex, I say, confers important benefits and should therefore be moved into prime time. Check out Science World ads on Ejaculation fights colds! Orgasm kills pain! Let me add: and increases the blood flow. That in turn will re-jig your brain and get you through a sluggish afternoon at the office. So sex at 2pm sounds about right. Forward thinking bosses will schedule nookie time – finally a good reason to have cubicles instead of airy corner offices.

Marital fights: My advice is to schedule them when one partner is sleeping. No annoying backtalk. No aggravating tears. No need for counseling. It will all be over in the blink of an eye.

Fighting with your teenager: Don’t complain when he stays out until 3am and sleeps in until 2pm. I think that’s inspired scheduling. It minimizes opportunities for personal contact and thus, fighting. I know: teachers’ unions will want to have the same deal, but hey, guys, you are getting paid for face time with teenagers!

Here are more scheduling improvements:

Firefighters: No more down-time. Let’s have scheduled blazes.

Celebrity events: When Kate gives birth to a princeling, we can’t have Lindsay Lohan go into rehab or Justin Bieber break up with Selena Gomez. That’s lousy scheduling. There’s only so much space in tabloids, so get your act together, guys!

Ditto with Thanksgiving. Scheduling family dinners can be problematic. It’s a good thing Canadians celebrate the holiday in October and Americans in November. But why not spread it out a bit more, and have it, like birthdays, year-round?

Jet lag: Reschedule Europe to coincide with North America?

Sunday 11 August 2013


You’ve heard about Jennifer Aniston’s  #nomakeup photo. This could be the start of a beautiful phase in my life. If that’s what it takes to generate a viral hit, I’ve got the hashtags and the instagrams. I could go for a general

#notalent and treat the public to my kids’ fridge art or my karaoke voice, but perhaps we need something more specific like

#norise: cakes that didn’t make it.

No wait, I have an even better idea. You know those before and after diet pics? Forget about after. Let’s just go for

#nodiet. What looks like a baby bump is actually my authentic stomach. And that’s what it’s all about, right? Authenticity!

Or maybe not, because I see that fake proposals are going over big, at least at the ball game. The screenshot of the girl who said no at the Rock Cats baseball game was viewed by millions of people, although her acting was lousy. So maybe

#nolove would make a good hashtag. But we already have about two friends becoming friends with benefits or whatever it takes to go viral. They even had a couple session with a marriage counselor. But they aren’t married, you say. That’s totally beside the point. In fact I’m thinking of asking my dentist to do a couple session with me. I mean we definitely have relationship problems. Our conversations are totally one-sided. He talks. I say “uhnn” through the wadding in my cheek. Maybe I should do I bet you it would be a big hit with the S&M set.

#nobrains. Too late. There’s already a site. It’s a gift idea generator. I checked “recent tweets” on the site. There were none. I’m impressed. Most authentic site I’ve visited in a long time.

Thursday 8 August 2013


Are you up for an experiment in audience participation? Then here is an encounter for you. In an event called Hello For Dummies, the audience is split up into random pairs. They sit on benches and carry on a conversation without looking at each other. The lines are fed to them through earphones. According to, this will free them from the tyranny of facial expressions and get them happily unstuck.

Alternatively you could escape the tyranny of facial expressions by using a phone and talking to Beverly Smith, sight unseen. She will pay for your long-distance call if you find the bottle with her husband Gordon’s ashes, currently afloat somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean ( As for Gordon, he’s already happily unstuck.

Or else, you could escape the tyranny of facial expressions by avoiding people altogether and reading a book entitled Unstuck. It’s available on and promises to get you happily unstuck from your money problems. Let me know if it works.

The other day I watched a performance of Joe Orton’s Entertaining Mr. Sloane. I wonder whether Stuart Hughes (playing Sloane) was also trying to escape the tyranny of facial expressions. It looked like he was wearing a punk mask which, unhappily, never came unstuck.

Maybe he should have visited and gotten the new app Unstuck, which gives you instant personal growth through on-demand coaching and makes you see all the possibilities if, for example, you can’t find time to see your friends. But isn’t that one way of escaping the tyranny of their facial expressions?  

Meanwhile Kate Woolstenhulme, who packs a gun, was stuck with unfashionable holsters (NYer, 5 August). So she created Designer Concealed Carry, which allow the fashion-conscious gunwoman to draw her weapon from a fancy ostrich or crocodile skin purse. That’s one happy way of getting your face unstuck.


Sunday 4 August 2013


Every Friday the Globe & Mail carries a real estate section. So I decided to study the 1 August issue to learn the secrets of contemporary architecture. I and the bank co-own an old house, a place real estate agents call lived in, and not in a good sense. So maybe it’s time to do a reno or at least learn the lingo that goes with it.  What’s hot today?

First of all, right angles and straight lines. Oh. I thought that was part of Architecture 101. At least in the real world. The stage is different of course. I once saw The Tales of Hoffmann performed on a slanted stage. I totally missed out on the music, as I waited for the performers to slide into the orchestra pit, but they hung in. And now I read in the NYer (5 August) that the play Our Late Night calls for a living room set that looks like it might tip over.  Apparently the playwright, Wallace Shawn, wants us to give up certain comforts such as recognizable feelings and sights.

Okay, maybe that works for the stage, but in real life, if a place is out of plumb and has slanting floors and crooked walls, it’s just plain lived in. No, wait, my real estate parlance is out of date. According to the Globe, if a house is no longer an angular presence on the land, it’s called bruised.

Of course some people like a touch of drama in their lives. They don’t mind a slightly goofy piece of massing. Not sure what that means. Is it a synonym of bruised? Would it look like the Monde Condos, which resemble a snub-nosed wedge of cheese? Or would it just be really big, so big it feels like making a trek through an airport?

In any case, you want the interior of your house to look sophisticated. How can you tell it’s sophisticated? Simple, if you read the Globe: Because it’s imported. Okay, so as long as we stay away from the cheap Canadian stuff, we are safe.

There is another article in the Globe with the heading Euclidean geometry. That’s what I want in my house: EG. If you have Euclidean Geometry, the sun’s rays won’t go straight as in boring old non-EG houses. They’ll cascade in. And the noise won’t reverberate down the staircase, as it might in tired and dated non-EG homes.

You also want to make sure the behaviour in your neighbourhood is decent. Some streets, according to the Globe, are cohabited by residential and commercial properties and, worse, people hang out back on the laneway. That sounds very disorderly to me. It’s probably the kind of neighbourhood where they sell crack videos of Mayor Ford.

Maybe I should forget about real houses altogether and invest my money in a painting of a house, like the one Ron Flarity bought on eBay for 500 dollars (Globe, 3 August). He hopes to sell it for a few million dollars as soon as he has established that it is the work of famed American painter Edward Hopper. It’s a modest clapboard house, but it comes with two women (one naked) and a frisky dog. One thing that makes me uneasy, though, is the signature, which looks like Edward Hoprer. I’m forgetful myself, but so far I’ve always managed to remember the spelling of my name. My credit card signature may look a little wobbly after a few drinks, you might even call it bruised, but it still reads Rummel and not Rumpel or some such.

Hmm. Wonder if I could sell my novels for a few million dollars if I signed them Rumpel.  


Thursday 1 August 2013


The power of limbs. That’s why therapist Nicola Goldsmith encourages us to exercise our most precious limbs. I don’t think Anthony Weiner needs your encouragement, Nicola. Oh wait – she isn’t talking about that limb. She’s talking about our thumbs. Apparently smartphone users are experiencing thumb fatigue (, 29 July). This worries mobile phone provider O2. They want to roll out new devices and make sure their customers are ready. To help them meet the challenge, they have developed thumbells. Okay now we are all set.

Blood. (Globe 30 July) After submitting to a scrubbing lady at a Moroccan hammam – a public  bathhouse, Melanie Chambers reports broken blood vessels and bruises. But she was willing to pay the price for cultural immersion. Besides, it makes for a good Facebook story.

Stigma. Pope Francis is ready to embrace homosexuals. Who am I to judge? he asks. Oh, good. Maybe we can have women priests, too. Nope. John Paul II has definitely closed the door on that issue. Well, someone had to do the dirty work, so that Francis can play rock star to the nuns (NYTimes, 28 July).

Sleep -- by a couple with a neighbor playing porn movies after midnight. Luckily Toronto Life runs an advice column, The Urban Diplomat. He counsels them to be, well, diplomatic. I say, turn the other cheek. That’s a quote from the bible, in case you thought I was being ironic.

Property value -- due to a neighbour’s weekly ragbag garage sale. In that case, the Urban Diplomat advises hypocrisy. Play the charming and sympathetic neighbor to their face, call the bylaw officer behind their back. I say: skip the charm.

Game -- at the Backyard Axe-throwing League. I'd lose that game, but maybe you have axe throwing potential. Check out the reviews on and heal your inner primal man. Apparently it’s a form of satisfying hurling, as opposed to the other kind of hurling.

The Canadian senate. The NDP is calling for the Senate to be scrapped (Globe August 1st). Would love to lose those deadweights, but so far it's just a gleam in the NDP's eye.