Thursday 31 October 2013


In a recent article, Professor Kathleen Vohls claimed that messy rooms promote creativity (  Einstein’s desk was messy. So was Steve Job’s. Well, maybe that works for scientists and techies, but if you are in politics you’d better clean house. Optics count in government.

Consider Snowden’s revelation that governments spy. I’m shocked, shocked. And even if you think, like National Intelligence Director James Clapper, that spying is Diplomacy 101, you still need to express shock, at least in front of voters. It looks better than shrugging your shoulders.

Yes, friends, looks count in politics.

Why did the Canadian Liberals choose young Trudeau as their leader? Not for his brains, which are luckily invisible. They chose him because his optics are good. He has wavier hair than any Canadian prime minister in recent memory. His chin is cleaner than NDP leader Thomas Mulcair’s. His smile is whiter than Prime Minister Harper’s.

But Thank Goodness It's Halloween, the great equalizer, and everyone can be as ugly as they want and still get a treat.

Tomorrow it’s back to tricks only.

Sunday 27 October 2013


What’s on this weekend in Toronto?
The Zoomer Show, which encourages the 45+ crowd to live big and offers them the lifestyle of their choice. What are the trending topics? According to an ad in the Globe (23 Oct): gardening, alternative health, getting out of debt and winning a vacation. Yes, folks, that’s living big after 45. The show keeps sober hours (Sa 9-5, Su 10-5), but I guess when you are 45+, eight hours of living big is plenty. For entertainment, visitors can listen to Alan Frew, who looks Zoomerish and is wearing the kind of hat you see on Yodelers in the Austrian Alps. I wonder what’s underneath that hat. A bald pate?
I’m asking because that’s one of the lifestyle concerns of Zoomers -- how to avoid baldness and the Yodel hat cover-up. Good news, people! Dr. Colin Jahoda of Durham University just had a scientific breakthrough. He gathered human dermal papilla cells into clusters, transplanted them into foreskin tissue obtained from newborns, and TADA -- new hair follicles. So take heart, Zoomers, you will soon be able to grow new hair, even on your foreskin.

Muscle tone is another area in which Zoomers demand improvement. Maybe that’s why they are into alternative health, but if that doesn’t work and they still can’t perform the way they used to in their 20s, they should consider the world of eSports. According to the Globe (26 Oct) gaming has evolved into legitimate careers causing a new subculture to explode. I wonder--does eSport have a sex division? Just asking, what with alternative health and hairy foreskins.

Another thing Zoomers are into is downsizing. So here is something that should appeal to them: an auction of architect-designed miniature houses, about 3 feet tall. Okay, you can’t live in them, unless you have teeny-tiny fingers and toes, are exceptionally agile and very good at what designer Christopher Leonard calls envisioning a new environment. In any case, those miniature houses are fun to look at and you can furnish them with miniature design furniture you couldn’t afford at full scale. Maybe your kids could use one as a dollhouse? No, no, no! According to collector Christina Ferrara, who has 19 miniature houses (Globe 24 Oct), they are just too personal. Unlike kids who are sort of generic, right?


Wednesday 23 October 2013


I got a comment on my last post wondering why I got no comments. That’s because my most devoted follower is the spam site vampirestat, and their bot is the silent kind. Hey, vampirestat, do I have to explain everything to you? Programme your bot to post exuberant comments like “Greatest blog ever!” or “Most brilliant observation I’ve read in a long time!” I might get carried away and click on your link. And isn’t that the idea behind your spamming?

Another person who does not comment is Mr. Rasouli, a comatose patient at Sunnybrook Hospital for the last three years. Perhaps his family could comment on his behalf. Exuberant thanks to the taxpayer are in order. Mrs. Rasouli has just won a victory in the Supreme Court of Canada, which allows her to defy doctors’ orders to have her husband removed from life support. The court decision forces the doctors to continue maintaining Mr. Rasouli in a state of living death. That service costs 1 million/year, which comes out of the shrinking healthcare budget. GOD WILLS IT, Mrs. Rasouli argues. Yes, but does he supply the breathing machine and the feeding tubes as well? And how come he doesn’t supply more hospital beds for the other patients waiting in line? No comment from God so far.

But maybe no comment is the new comment. And that’s why has created a no comment youTube section.  They believe “in the intelligence of readers” to get the message. Okay, so there is a silent youTube of pop star Morissey signing copies of his autobiography. Don’t authors use words anymore? Oh, he’s keeping mum because he wants you to buy the book and pay for his words.

Politicians are another group favouring silence. Prime Minister Harper had no comment on the Duffy affair. He waited for his spin doctors to come up with the right message. Mayor Ford had no comment when asked recently whether he was under investigation. He redirected the attention of reporters to his pet subject by chanting: Subways! Subways! Subways! (National Post, 8 Oct).

I wonder whether that sort of magical incantation would work for me. I’ll give it a try. Comment! Comment! Comment!

Saturday 19 October 2013

THREE NEW INSIGHTS: memory, hieroglyphs, and things you don't need

This has been a day of significant insights for me.

One: I read that eating popcorn makes us forget advertising in cinemas. Apparently we mouth the name of advertised products to ourselves, to remember them later. Eating suppresses the ability to subvocalize, and thus, the formation of memory, says Prof. Topolinski (

Okay, that explains why I don’t remember anyone who was introduced to me at that reception last week. It wasn’t the drinks. In fact I couldn’t tell you how many drinks I had. Eating those unidentifiable things the wait staff carried around on trays inhibited my subvocalization and left me without memory.

That would also explain why people engage in certain sexual practices that occupy their mouths and keep them from subvocalization – clearly they want to forget their partners.

And it also explain why dentists insert a lot of gear into your mouth before they inflict pain – I always thought it was to keep you from screaming, but now I see the real purpose: the dentist wants you to forget the experience and come back for more.

Two: You notice the proliferation of self-storage buildings in the suburbs? I couldn’t figure out why people suddenly have so much stuff to store away. Then it struck me: it’s because there are a lot of things the garbage pickup doesn’t pick up. Of course some people just let the junk pile up in their closets, basements, or driveways. And then there is Tadashi Kawamata, who piled up his old chairs and called it installation art:

Three: In the past fifty years we’ve gone from writing letters to writing emails to writing texts to tweeting. Every time the message gets shorter, and the emoticons get more play. In fact, chat app LINE has ended the need for words with their upgraded version of emoticons.  Are you groping for the right word? Don’t. Just use the LINE stickers to express yourself (

Okay, that explains the hieroglyphs in Egyptian temples. That ancient civilization was way more advanced than I thought. They were on to emoticons, whereas I’m still using letters. I know it’s pathetic, and I promise to move on right now. So, let me say

Thursday 17 October 2013

PERSONAL SERVICE. Your initials and a Rogers outage

Want to keep mom from checking out your Facebook wall? What about Loews or Hyatt? Apparently hotels now track their guests through social media so that they can provide special touches like stitching their initials into the pillow (Globe, 14 Oct). That’s what you always wanted in a hotel room, right? Never mind the outrageous price, the inconvenient location, or the noisy air conditioner -- as long as you fall asleep with your initials caressing your cheek.

Let me suggest other useful applications for the micropersonal touch:

Supermarkets: preloaded carts with your initials on the wheels. They’ve scraped the web and know what you want and need.  Just remember to give them a warning when you decide to go on a diet. Or should they be able to glean that from the social media?

Clothes shopping in person: pre-stocked dressing rooms with your initials on the privacy curtain. Just let them know that your diet was successful and you lost ten pounds – oh, okay, they already know that through the social media.

Dating: You’ve come up against the thorny question whether no means yes or vice versa? Settle it by scraping the social media for your date’s preferences. And don’t forget to tattoo your initials into his/her arm.

Social media could definitely help ending unwanted relationships. A recent Rogers outage, for example, left poor Will Adams anxious (Globe, Oct 11). He thought his girlfriend had dumped him because she hadn’t texted him in, OMG, two minutes. Will’s logical reasoning gives me an idea. Could we make a 2-minute-plus electronic silence the universal dump sign? Please, Rogers, help me out here. Could you micromanage my texts and zap bullies, boring acquaintances, and penis enlargement offers with a 2-minute-plus deliberate outage?


Monday 14 October 2013

FIGURING OUT THE NOBEL PRIZE. Obama or Merkel? Borges or Munro?

How do the Nobel Prize judges make their decisions?

Why was Obama awarded a Peace Prize and Mother Merkel has so far gone empty-handed? Okay, I can see the rationale here. You have to be involved in a war in order to make peace. The US had several on the go recently -- Iraq, Afghanistan, and briefly, Libya. Germany hasn’t been involved in a war in sixty years plus. So unless the Germans go haywire, Mutti doesn’t have a chance of making peace or making the Nobel Prize.

Also, the judges had to seize the moment and get Obama before he could ruin it all by sending more troops to Afghanistan. You could say the Nobel Peace Prize is a kind of incentive, to give a person something to live up to. It’s like saying, okay right now you don’t have a stellar reputation for keeping the peace, but we believe you’ll improve along the way.

That definitely doesn’t happen with the Nobel Prize for Literature. Authors don’t get Nobel pats on the head just because they might eventually write an iconic novel. It seems unfair, but they have to prove their worth up front and write and write and write for fifty years minimum.

But why did Alice Munro get the Nobel Prize, while Luis Borges who wrote just as many short stories never got beyond being touted as the next Nobel Prize winner? Maybe it was the genre. Borges wrote in the style of fantastic realism, which no one can understand unless they are a little weird themselves. And there was Alice Munro offering accessible, moving stories with quiet epiphanies everyone likes except for the highbrows who read the bleak stories in the New Yorker.

Ditto with the respective bios of Munro and Borges. She stuck to books: a degree in English lit, summer jobs in libraries (we’ll overlook the tobacco picking), founding a bookstore and keeping it going. That’s what I call a perfect narrative arc. Now look at Borges – no degree and sticking his nose into politics, being anti-fascist, anti-communist, anti-Peronist, and after some hesitation, anti-military junta. I mean the guy was against everything. So of course the Nobel Prize judges shied away from Borges. Next thing you know he goes anti-Nobel!

Looking at Alice Munro, the Nobel judges were all smiles. Here was an agreeable woman who never caused trouble. And she won’t embarrass us in future, they thought, because she has vowed to retire from writing.

Of course Nobel Prize winners are notoriously unpredictable. Obama did send more troops to Afghanistan, and Alice Munro has changed her mind about retiring from writing. Let’s just hope she won’t get into that fantastic realism stuff!

Thursday 10 October 2013

3 VIEW. Three is better than one.

Are you seeing a therapist and not getting the therapeutic benefits you expected? That’s because you have only one therapist and you need a trio of advisors, according to 3View, a Toronto practice (Globe & Mail, 8 Oct). Mind you, the three-on-one treatment, which brings triple skills to bear on your problems, will set you back $ 210/session but maybe it’s worth it, and there is something to the three-is-better-than-one theory (let’s call it 3View for short).

For one thing, 3 View has the weight of tradition. It has long been embraced by followers of Islam. That’s why they allow three wives. Triple skills in the kitchen, three-on-one in the bedroom, and all that, you know.

Of course you will need three jobs to pay for your trio of wives and therapists.

And maybe also three drinks for every one you have at present.

But what we all need is triple organs. Three livers would certainly come in handy if you go in for triple drinks. Three brains, I’m not sure about. That might lead to in-fighting, but then again it could provide insider-tips (“Psst, Brain1 is on the frizz”) and triple your IQ.  And any mother of young children will be better off with three hands, although if she and her husband happen to work three jobs, they’ll probably want three nannies instead.

I myself am looking for three publishers vying to buy the manuscript of my next novel, but will likely end up with three editors imposing their conflicting grammatical and stylistic preferences on me.

Now that I’m aware of the 3 View theory, I see it at work everywhere. No doubt it accounts for the heist pulled off by the men who stole 16,000 barrels of maple syrup (Toronto Star, 6 Oct), especially if they were hoping to popularize three-pancake breakfasts.

And did you know that someone paid $ 45,000 for a set of three chest x-rays of Marilyn Monroe (Globe, 9 Oct)? He must have been motivated by 3 View. I can’t explain it any other way.

The theory is probably also behind Canada’s system of three political parties, although to date their triple skills have affected only the country’s credit rating (down) and taxes (up). That’s probably why some people stubbornly remain in favour of the one party system (see Iran, China, and the Tea Party).

The 3 View theory is however widely accepted in home construction and may account for the lack of interest in Nathan Buhler’s 100 sq ft house, even though it’s a bargain at $ 29,900 (Globe, 3 Oct). Obviously people still cling to the notion that three bedrooms are better than one or none. And desperately needed if you have three wives.


Sunday 6 October 2013

LITTLE ME. The 3D version.

In the news (Metro 3 Oct): English tech startup Levavo offers the opportunity to 3D print a miniature version of yourself, down to the wrinkles on your face and the creases in your t-shirt.
I can see many uses for mini-me, especially if it can be combined with mini-android features and serve as my double.
  • On the mantelpiece of elderly relatives, offering congratulations on their birthday or best wishes for the season.
  • Living in a tiny expensive condo downtown while the real me enjoys a human-sized residence in cheap exurbia.
  • Flying tourist class to Europe. Those seats will be so roomy for mini-me, and the meal portions just right. The little bottle of wine will make me positively heady.
  • Dealing with the tangle of electrical cords under my desk and, while down there, getting rid of the dust bunnies.
  • Taking the subway during rush hour. No wait, I might get trampled. Come to think of it, there might be other dangers, such as meeting the neighbour’s dog face to face. Not to speak of meeting my date face to knee.

Hey, Levavo, how about coming up with a flexible 3D of me that can be shrunk or extended, as needed? Giant-me would come in handy in an encounter with a mugger. A bit of down-sizing could serve in lieu of going on a diet. Voila: thin-me.

And do those 3D versions come in different colours? A black-me would be great when applying for a job with a company favouring minorities.  For Halloween, I’d like an orange-me.

Actually, Levavo, I have a ton of ideas for you. I suggest you take me on as a partner. I’ll be whatever size you want, as long as my payout is giant.


Thursday 3 October 2013

STRANGE BEDFELLOWS. Sponsors from Bosch to Scotiabank.

Have you noticed those little logos in the corners of print advertisements? They are from the co-sponsors of whatever the ads are trying to push on you.  I understand completely. It’s all about sharing the costs. But looking at the Toronto Star (2 Oct), I find the combination of sponsors puzzling.

Take the Princess Margaret Hospital Lottery, which promises “one big prize after another.” Why is it sponsored by the Toronto Maple Leafs? Is the Stanley Cup one of the prizes? Are they looking for an inside track?

The CBC’s Dragons’ Den ad is co-sponsored by Ford Motors and Scotiabank.  Is Ford looking for entrepreneurial talent to prevent another bailout? And is Scotiabank trying to get on CBC’s good side to keep them from reporting on their debit card glitches?

The ad for Bosch Dishwashers comes with a little thingy for Delta Vacations. Do we need a vacation from “German Engineering” or just the “crusty pans” the Bosch machine takes care of?

Then there are the cryptic cooperators. An ad for Transatlantic and European Cruises sports the logos NCL and YMT. Can you give me a hint, guys? NCL, as in Nitrogen Trichloride?  YMT as in the place where you can get “frivolous massages” ( Or is this a rude text message decoded by as “Your Mamma’s Titties”?

A Hudson Bay ad also keeps me guessing. It’s an ad for shoes featuring a picture of designer Sam Edelman. Apparently he’ll autograph the “purchases made on the day of the event.” You mean he’ll write on my stuff? Is this ad co-sponsored by the Association of Vandals and Graffiti Artists?

I think I prefer the ad for Nav Bhatia’s Hyundai dealership, which declares: “Everyone is approved”. This must be co-sponsored by the National Association for Boosting Self-esteem, although I don’t see their logo anywhere.