Tuesday, November 30, 2010

On Smoking

I was on the bus a few months ago, and heard a young lad rant about how unfair it was that there was a heavy tax being put on cigarettes. He argued the tax was a giant money grab, and being directed at mostly lower income individuals and families (since a large degree of smokers are in that category -- though by no means are all). He then went on to proposes a new method of taxation that involved ridiculously high amount of taxation towards higher income families. He is ignoring the simple fact that smokers do cause a financial burden on all tax payers considering that our health care is being paid by our tax dollars. The greater issue to me is figuring out exactly where the taxes on cigarettes are going. I personally think it makes the most sense to use that money to go back into the health care system. There is a very good chance that the smokers are going to have some health complications due to their habit, and so it is the logical conclusion they should foot the bill to some extent. This can be done through the extra taxes levied on cigarettes or other tobacco products.

A few years ago, I remember reading an outline on how taxation against smokers should work. I thought it was a brilliant idea, and I'll share a roughly similar idea here. When it comes to buying cigarettes, most are already familiar with the need to show ID before their purchase. So, I feel that the percentage of the taxation should be decided depending on the age of the smoker. For example, anyone who was born prior to about 1965 cannot be held as accountable when it comes to their cigarette addiction. Before then, the damage of cigarettes was largely unknown, and thus a huge amount of the population took to it like it was chewing gum (though probably didn't chew the cigarettes unless they were the Popeye edition). The problem is, cigarettes are incredibly addictive, and curbing an addiction can be about as easy as preventing a St. Bernard from drooling (it may be done, but it is going to be painful and messy). Once the damages of cigarettes became clear then some of those people were able to stop their addiction, but most knew the consequences but were completely hooked. I know a few people that know the physical damage they're doing, but after decades of smoking, they've become dependent. For example, I know how bad it is bad to bite my nails, and I want to stop this very moment. But it has become a habit that most of the time I am not even aware of, and when I become stressed, I'll start having a five course meal on my fingers. Now, my habit doesn't cause cancer thus doesn't provide the same threat to my health, but my nails also don't provide any addictive qualities thus they should be even easier to quit. So, I do think there is a need to be sensitive to the addictive qualities of cigarettes. Especially to those that were born and raised during an era that the public was misinformed to their dangers, Prior to '65 (and especially before the 50s), it was a massive part of the accepted culture, and was advertised in almost every form of media (without any acknowledgment there was harm involved). After all, in the 60s, you had the Flintstones peddling the stuff like they were delicious candy, and so you can really see why so many from that era got hooked.

On the other hand, I am less empathetic to those that were born after 1965. Almost everyone at that point should have been made aware of the harm of cigarettes. Smoking had now becomes a little more taboo among society, and at this point, the dangers were mad clear before you started the habit. By the 70s, there was a ban on them being advertised to children, and I believe were no longer allowed on television or billboards. If they were allowed, there was the infamous surgeon general warning attached. The harms were much clearer. So, I think, when it comes to taxation on cigarettes that there should be a smaller percentage on those who were born before 1965 since they probably got hooked before they knew the harm (and it was now much harder to quit), and a higher taxation on those who were born after 1965. Now, I recognize this is not a foolproof strategy, and there are obvious holes here. I also am not paid to come up with these plans, and did not take weeks planning and formulating it. I am sure with some massive tweaking that it can be more effective than what we have in place now.

In the last few years there have been a few laws and regulations put in place that apparently are supposed to help curb smoking, but I think have been more effective at either annoying non-smokers more or have actually aided in lining the pockets of the bigwig cigarette companies.

A few years ago, the province implemented the strategy of removing all ash trays from public outdoor venues. The ban of smoking in public buildings has been around for almost a decade now, and I do approve of that. More recently has been the ban on smoking outside public buildings or outdoor public places. This means that all ash trays have been removed from places like the bus terminals or parks or the front of government buildings. In theory this is a great idea, because it means that a person waiting for the bus won't be attacked by a legion of cigarette smoke, because there is nowhere to put out the cigarette. But that is the only the ill-conceived theory. The reality is that now the grounds of bus terminals and other outdoor areas are hideously decorated with cigarette butts. There is a sign that is telling people to not smoke near the building or under the shelter, but since many of the employees there smoke, it is not enforced in any way at all. So, basically people smoke just the same as they did before, but now provide the areas with far more litter. The strategy has actually lead to more problems, because now the outdoors looks worse now than they did when ash trays were provided, but with still the same amount of smoke tinged air. It is one of those areas where if they aren't going to enforce the ban on smoking in outdoor places, then they really should just bring back the ash trays, because the current plan is falling under the epic failure category.

There is also a regulation that has been put in place over the last five or so years that the government has touted as a great shot against the big scary cigarette companies, but I also think can be construed as a win-win for them. This is the concealing of tobacco products at convenient or grocery stores. The idea is that since the young and susceptible child can't see the tobacco products that they may believe such things don't exist and thus will never crave the toxic nectar of cigarettes or cigars. But the fact these same kids can still see their peers or their parents or others smoking cigarettes means they actually will still know these products exist and will still find a way to get their grubby little hands on them. It will either mean they'll ask others to purchase it for them, or they will go the illegal black market route (which is far more dangerous and opens them up to other forms of drugs as well).

So, what does the concealing of tobacco products actually do? From my best guess, it causes the buyer to not know what the selection is, and thus more likely to then just choose the big names cigarettes that everyone knows. Rather than just constantly asking the cashier to lift the wall to see, they'll just randomly pick the cigarette name that they have heard of such as Players. What this essentially means is that those big name cigarette companies have secured themselves loyal customers out of the simple fact that customers can't see the other products. The young 19 year old that is in the market for some cancer inducing sticks, will not decide, 'Oh I can't see any cigarettes so I'll just not smoke' but rather, "I'll just say Players because I don't know the other brands." Big Tobacco gets the win.

I know the theory is that kid sees cigarettes on display and now they have the urge to want to buy them and smoke them. But to me, that is a rather faulty idea. Cleaning products and glue are out in the open, but that doesn't mean every kid then has fantasies of sniffing them up in a back room. I also don't see people pushing for cough medicine or Lysol to be kept under lock and key from the sensitive children's eyes. Plus it isn't even like cigarette packages are appealing, unless kids really get excited about the sight of gum disease. The issue isn't about the visibility of the packages, but rather the visibility of seeing people smoke or peer pressure. All this strategy has done is please certain vocal watchdog groups that relish in regulation and red tape, and of course, make the larger cigarette companies rich.

I would not call myself a smoking advocate. For example, I've told myself that I will write almost anything in order to make some sweet, sweet cash, and will not be a writing snob. If it pays well, then I'll likely give it a shot. But I promised myself early on that I would not ever write ads for tobacco companies. I think they do far more harm than good. I feel writing for them would compromise my morals and integrity. So, I think that is evidence I don't endorse smoking. But I do think the current bans and regulations are not necessarily preventing many people from smoking or giving us any actual benefits. I also don't see any value in just banning smoking outright (though the black market would giggle for joy over that). I do think people have a right to smoke, but I also do think my wife and I have a right to breathe clean air too. I think there is a responsibility to keep all informed of the dangers of choosing to use addictive and harmful products like tobacco. At this point, the current strategies against smoking do need a revaluation and in some areas, even an outright overhaul.

Monday, November 29, 2010

RIP Leslie Nielsen: A Tribute To A Canadian Icon

Leslie Nielsen Feb, 11, 1926 - November 28, 2010.

During my time in the senior elementary school grade years, the film Naked Gun was widely regarded as a cinematic masterpiece among myself and my peers. Leslie Nielsen was easily one of the most popular and most loved actors in my circle of friends. Naked Gun was far from the first of the comedic spoof films that relied on sight gags and outright silliness, but it was likely the film that caused the early 90s craze that created several similar films like Hot Shots! or Loaded Weapon (which depending if your teenage boy or not is either a benefit or bane to cinema). In the late 80s and early 90s, Naked Gun and Leslie Nielsen were the reigning kings of goofy spoof comedies. The film lines and scenes were constantly recited on the playground, and often caused uproarious laughter. Essentially, the only thing that rivaled Naked Gun for comedy was an unexpected fart during math class.

Before Naked Gun, my father introduced me to the 1980 classic disaster film spoof, Airplane. Since my first introduction, I am sure I've seen that film close to 10 times now, and many of its moments and lines are firmly implanted in my mind (and still cause me to chuckle). There is many films that have attempted to repeated the success and humour of Airplane, but most have only succeeded at being cheap imitations. There is classic jokes, gags and lines from the film that are still remembered or quoted by many today (even if they are oblivious to where it came from).

"Surely you can't be serious."

"I am serious, and don't call me Shirley."

This is probably an exchange that almost everyone knows, even if they've never seen the film Airplane. One of the things that made that line such a classic, and actually made so much of the humour in Airplane memorable, was Leslie Nielsen's perfect dead pan delivery of the lines. He was performing completely goofy slapstick comedy, but his character was always serious (even if his lines were absurd). I really think this demeanor and presentation is what made everything so much funnier. Airplane and Naked Gun would not be the comedic classics that are still adored today if it wasn't for Leslie Nielsen; he is what made these films so endearing and enjoyable.

In the early 90s, the Naked Gun franchise continued to be a comedy that my friends and I willingly gave up our hard earned grass cutting or grocery cart pushing money for. We flocked to the cinemas for both sequels Naked Gun 2 1/2 and Naked Gun 33 1/3. They progressively got sillier and more brain cell reducing, but provided the necessary ingredients to entertain a teenage boy who consistently laughed at the word 'poop'. I don't think the sequels would entertain me the same way now, but I'll never deny the impact they had on my teen years.

Unfortunately, these films caused Nielsen to be typecast, or at least, in the mainstream work he did. Throughout the 90s, he continued to churn out spoofs that were similar to the Airplane and Naked Gun models, but they progressively became less and less entertaining. Or maybe I just got older, and the films no longer were focused on my demographic. I stopped rushing to the cinema to laugh at Leslie Nielsen, but I always held the Naked Gun and Airplane series dear to me as 'cinematic classics' (which would cause film snobs everywhere to want to gag me with overly buttered burnt popcorn).

In 1994, Leslie Nielsen actually found his way into another form of entertainment that I was consistently enamoured with. Nielsen entered the even campier world of wrestling. During the summer, the WWF had a great mystery about where the real Undertaker was, when he disappeared from the company after losing a casket match to Yokozuna. The company obviously knew how campy the storyline was, and so they got Leslie Nielsen and George Kennedy (comprising their roles from the Naked Gun series in order to promote the third film that was coming to cinemas at the time) to try to solve the mystery. The WWF used their celebrity to help promote the Summerslam main event of Paul Bearer's Undertaker against the Million Dollar Man's Undertaker (you really don't want it explained -- but if you have to know then Google Summerslam '94), and Nielsen used it to advertise Naked Gun 33 1/3. The skits were pretty cheesy and did almost nothing to add to the already campy match, but it was definitely no fault of Nielsen who performed the very best he could. Actually, he was probably the best part of the whole silly storyline (he was at his dead pan comedic best).

During my phase of Nielsen love, what I didn't know was he was once a serious actor before his much more well known comedic spoof career. He starred in the SciFi classic The Forbidden Planet and had a key role in the '72 disaster blockbuster The Poseidon Adventure, and he had roles in hundreds of television shows and dramatic films. Actually, when Airplane hit cinemas, many critics actually felt Nielsen was miscast since it was his very first comedy (which is so interesting to realize now, when he is largely known as a comedic actor). Apparently, even when he was acting in very serious roles, he was known as a prankster on the set. It was this reputation among peers that got him the role in Airplane, and his comedic skills then continually landed him several more roles and essentially gave him a second successful phase in his career (and among most today, the one he is known for).

Nielsen always seemed liked an easy going and fun guy. I obviously did not know him, but I felt like he would be someone I would enjoy spending a few hours clowning around with. The first few decades of his film career proves that he was a talented and gifted actor, and his last several decades proved he never took himself too seriously. Though he seemed to always really have a love for acting, and even during the phase of being known as a comedian, he also tried to take some lesser known dramatic roles that tested his skills as an actor.

Leslie Nielsen wasn't my favourite actor, and I haven't seen a huge catalog of his films. But he did play an important part in my childhood and teen years. He always did seem like a very cool guy to me. I was sad when I read last night that he passed away, and I am now interested in trying to catch some his older work.

As with any celebrity that I personally did not know, his impact on me was significantly less than the one he had on his family and loved ones. So, I send my best wishes and thoughts there way, but I am sure they know he lived a long and happy life. Even now, thinking about him causes me to smile rather than feel sad.

I completely admit that I don't know a lot about the actor other than those films that I cherished when I was younger. So, I want to encourage you to check out this small bio that I read on Roger Ebert's blog, and it also contains a rare screen test that Nielsen did for the classic biblical epic, Ben Hur.

RIP Leslie Nielsen, and thank you for the countless laughs.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Weekend Update With Christopher Spicer

It was good.

It was really, really, really good.

Though I am sure that you know by now that if there is little activity over the weekend on the blog then that probably means lots of wonderful activity happening in the real world. And wonderful activity was the theme of the weekend.

Wonderful things like a parade of delicious food that continuously marched directly into my mouth over the entire weekend. Oh so much food, and oh so marchingly delicious.

Plus I bought jeans. And can you really call it a weekend without the obligatory jean purchase? And if you can't, then I haven't had a weekend in a long, long, oh so long time.

How was your weekend?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Your Required Reading For The Weekend. . .

I'm off to scour the streets of Toronto, and mooch delicious food from my in-laws today. But I'll leave you with some loving and caring people who'll get you through this dark and lonely time.

1. I've told you before that John Scalzi is awesome, and he maintains his awesomeness with this very entertaining Science Fiction Grace. If you know your SciFi films, then you should find this extremely amusing.

2. I keep telling you to check out Subnormality, and if you still haven't got my sledgehammer like hints, then here is yet another comic to attempt to win you over. This one is a rather interesting look at what exactly is maturity -- plus it has mountain goats! Can you go wrong with mountain goats?

3. I just discovered Hyperbole and A Half this week. I find her blog post about her dogs' responses to moving to be particularly fun. Summit and Crosby always start acting differently when we start packing around the house, though Summit still sees car rides as a glorious thing while Crosby is far more melodramatic.

4. Dear Blank, please blank is another site that you can probably do a very effective job of wasting away an afternoon. And it is Saturday, so why not?

Enjoy these suggestions, while I busily stuff my face with glorious authentic Chinese dishes.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Life Is Fragile

After yesterday's lunacy, I am going to go in a much more serious direction today. Because I've been moved to reflect upon how precious and fragile life(hence my title) can really be.

A few days ago, I visited a very dear loved one in the hospital. This is a person that I have very many fond childhood memories of, and a person who played a pretty key role in me being here today. She is family, but she is so much more than that too. Despite all this hyperbole, she had been in the hospital for almost three weeks before I got around to visiting her. When I did visit her, I was completely shaken up at first. I hardly even recognized this was the person I had known my entire life. She was frail, thin, and weak looking. It was that moment that it hit me that she would eventually be passing away, and maybe even sooner than I had allowed myself to believe. Now, I am not saying this person is dying or will be dying really soon. But I am saying that the mortality of life really resonated with me at that moment. It was a hard moment for me.

Then, I started talking to her. We ended up talking for over an hour. Despite how she may have looked, her conversation made her appear completely full of life. She was in high spirits and filled with such a positive attitude. She really was making the very best of her situation, and honestly, who would ever mistake being in a hospital to be a good situation. Yet she held on to a positive attitude, and even gave some glowing reviews to the hospital food (or at least, she liked the muffins).

This interaction left me with a strong feeling of guilt. This person that I love had been in the hospital for such a long time, yet I never found the time to visit her. When I did visit her, I saw how her face lit up and how much she loved that I made the effort to spend time with her. It was then, that I realized I should have done it earlier, and more often. This is a person that won't live for ever, and I only have so many more opportunities to spend with her. I need to cherish those times, but I also have to make sure those times actually happen.

This experience really taught me how precious and fragile life really is. How important it is to spend time with those that you love, because there is the chance they might not be here when the sun falls. I am not trying to be melodramatic (but I am failing in this attempt, I admit), but I do think the visit really did remind me how essential it is to show love to those who are important to you.

I realize that people naturally drift apart or they move away or life gets busy. You can't see someone every single day. Sometimes, it might even be months or years before you see a person again. I don't think that is necessarily wrong (though in my case it is, because she lives in the same city as me), but I do think it is imperative to remember to try to create that time and make it really special. It may be the last time, or it may be just one of a hundred or thousand more. But life doesn't let you know how much longer someone is going to be around. So, it is crucial to not take the time for granted, and really try to display your love to those who matter to you.

As for me, I already talked with Emily about how we really need to make a return visit. I'll probably try to head back out within a week or so. I know that my visit meant so much to this person. But it also was a treasure for me, because it really opened my eyes to how much I love her.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

In Honour Of Canada's Most Cherished Holiday: The Terrific Thursday Top Ten

First of all, to every single American reader, I want to wish you an absolutely fabulous Thanksgiving. I hope you stuff yourself properly with turkey, cranberry sauce, parades, football, and Pepto Bismol.

But a little known fact, is Canadians have their own little holiday today. We like to call it Thursday. Despite how glorious and festive this day truly is (ingrained with such rich history and tradition), it is widely unknown by most of those outside of the country (and inside), even though it is such a cherished and beloved event here. So, in order to properly inform and teach my wonderful readers, I will now give you the gift of this Terrific Thursday Top Ten -- which is not only an amazing alliteration, but also will help teach you about this special day.

10. There is of course the just as important Thursday Eve, which some like to call Wednesday night. This is the night that children all over the country eagerly anticipate the coming of the Thursday mascot, the pick ax wielding squirrel. In order to show their appreciation for the squirrel, families will leave out year old molded bread (which probably has been left out the entire year anyway) and a fresh glass of window cleaner. Families then excitedly cram themselves into the attic for a night of awful sleep (it is the attic and it is November in Canada), and wait for the arrival of the adored pick ax wielding squirrel. Thursday morning, children will run to their bedrooms, and try to discover which of their undesired toys had been smashed to bits by the ax (children are expected months in advance to send a list of ten toys they would like destroyed and it is up to the squirrel to decide). Of course, the parents get the joy of cleaning the windows that have been smeared with window cleaner soaked moldy bread crumbs.

9. The traditional egg hunt, which is a favourite Thursday event, comes after the smashed toy discovery. The Friday after the Thursday, a neighbour sneaks into the house and hides an egg (in the old days it was often near a radiator, but now one looks for the warmest possible appliance). The egg is then left there for the entire year, until the blessed Thursday arrives. On Thursday, the whole family scours the house for the now beyond rotten egg, and possibly the collection of bugs and maggots that have set up residence. The hunt is usually more of a test of one's smell in order to seek out the egg, but it is harder than you may think; in most cases the putrid egg's odour has killed off most people's ability to decipher smell by March. It is a true battle of attrition to see who still call trace the egg by smell, and then of course, the real fun is the yearly family squabble over who actually will pick up the egg to dispose of it. Typically, the egg is thrown into the trash, and most don't eat the egg unless they are especially festive or traditional (our great ancestors would believe us to be epic wimps for not consuming the Thursday Egg). Now some family have slid away from the hiding of the egg tradition, and have started substituting it with a slab of honey glazed ham. It is also not recommended to eat this.

8. The 'running of the squid' may be the oldest and most honoured Thursday tradition. Despite its heralded status, there has been debate over the actual name, which you will see once I describe the event. This is where the local town crazy comes out of his pizza box constructed hovel for his yearly exposure to light. He brings with him his trusty bag of pet squids. He then proceeds to walk the streets and pelt pedestrians with his squids. You haven't experienced a Thursday until you've had a slimy squid smack you upside the head. The crazy man will run the streets screaming and tossing his squids, while everyone else tries to avoid him. Nothing says community bonding like trying to avoid being hit by a squid. As you can see, it isn't really an event that squids run, but rather a running away from the squids (being tossed by the town crazy).

7. What Canadian doesn't love the "Battle of the Strongest Against the Weakest"? This is where each town in Canada (we don't have cities anymore, ever since Toronto got too big and declared itself its own planet and literally rocketed itself into orbit -- which caused another national day of celebration) has its citizens scour the streets for the largest and strongest looking man. He then is matched up against the town's smallest and most feeble young girl. The town then declares a fight to the death, and the large man is armed with a spiked bat. The whole town is entertained by the plethora of one liners from the strong man. "I really don't think this is right." "I am really uncomfortable with this." "I am not going to kill this young girl." "Where is her family?" And other funny things like that. The girl on the other hand has been kept in a cage for weeks, and was only given enough water and grass to make sure she survived. After the crowd tires of the big man's protests, the mayor rings a dinner bell, and the young girl lungs for the beefy man and proceeds to do her best impersonation of a rabid dog tearing into a sausage on the man's neck. It really is family fun for all, and the girl gets a nice hearty meal out of it.

6. Speaking of sausage, there is also the traditional stuffing of sausage. This is where we purchase an absurd amount of sausage and proceed to stuff them into wool socks. Naturally, we then hang the sausage stuffed wool socks throughout the house. It is quite a site, and it allows us to learn what type of wildlife lives near us as well.

5. It isn't a holiday without a massive festive feast. The traditional feast is usually prepared by the esteemed Swanson family, who are kind enough to leave their meals packaged and ready at most of the local grocery stores. I recommend the Salisbury steak because it comes with a delicious apple strudel like thing.

4. Another tradition is to do top ten lists that are not really top ten lists at all, but rather absurd essays with paragraphs that are broken up by numbers. I've also just been informed it isn't an 'apple strudel like thing' but rather a brownie.

3. The one thing that really makes this holiday stand out from the rest, is the fact you're actually expected to still go to work. The fact you're working on a holiday really does make Thursday stand out from all the ones where you just lie around home all day. Though there was a great fuss way back in the olden days, when in 1997 Coalminer Cole complained that it can't be holiday if his son was still trudging away in the salt mines. People just ignored him though, because nobody knew what the heck a salt mine was.

2. My father always said, "It isn't a holiday if there isn't mass hysteria and relentless panic." So, everyone looks forward to 6:45pm when their regularly scheduled programming is interrupted by a breaking news update that rabid, carnivorous, vegan llamas have invaded the town. Just like any good Canadian is expected to respond during crisis, families immediately start pelting each other with cans of creamed mushroom soup. When the cans have been sufficiently dented by the Canuck noggins, the conscious family members proceed to the neighbour's yard for the traditional pillaging of goods and breaking of bread (and glass and doors and beds and whatever else can be snapped or crushed or smashed). While this festival is taking place, the newest members of the community dress up as llamas and roam the streets while clucking (it was voted back in 2002 that llamas likely clucked). Not only is this essentially a fantastically fun parade for the children (who doesn't like a legion of rabid, carnivorous, vegan llamas), but it is a great initiation for all the new people in the town. As my father always said, "Nothing says welcome to my city than seven baseball bat blows to the head." And oh do the blows ever come fast and furious, as baseball bat wielding citizens declare they will keep their town safe from llamas and will not go down without a fight (town folks are cliche). Though the llamas usually are not much of a threat since it is just frightened newcomers in hard to move death traps disguised as mascot outfits. Often, the enraged citizens get bored very quickly with the quivering masses of llama goo on the street, and so they will start up an impromptu game of "Whack Everyone and Everything With A Bat." After the game, the still mobile members tend to head to the bar for a victory celebration. This event is also a very good way of population control.

1. Since this is such a spectacular and hallowed day, it needs to be sent off in a prestigious and memorable way. So, everyone who is functional and alive, will head over to the town square a few minutes before midnight. This is where a large video screen is set up, and it broadcasts a live fireside reading of The Very Hungry Caterpillar read by Michael Clarke Duncan. There is no other way to end a holiday like this properly.

So, now you know what Canadians do on Thursday. I hope you're not too jealous. I'm off to find my bat now.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Cialis, Because Sometimes You Want To Be Really Late

One major thing I've learned ever since getting cable and starting to listen to the radio at work, is that there is a lot of really idiotic commercials out there. I am talking about the type of idiocy that puts a pie tin on his head, then declares himself the king of New Mexico (despite living in Ontario), and roams the streets wearing nothing but last year's New Year Eve's streamers. It is the type of idiocy that makes you want to fling your shoe towards the device that is allowing such commercials into your home or place of business (until your realize, destroying expensive equipment to spite a 30 second ad is much more idiotic). Out of all the mindless and stupid commercials that are roaming the airwaves waiting to consume your very soul, the reigning emperor of the clan is the series of Cialis commercials.

If you didn't already know what Cialis was, would these commercials help inform you and then motivate you to beg your doctor for a prescription for a fresh batch?

I've seen two different commercials for the drug, and they both basically have the same message. Cialis makes you late for things. Because apparently, there is a market out there for people who are just getting completely frustrated by the fact that they aren't making taxi drivers wait long enough or are arriving to the Opera too early so they end up having to watch the whole show. These people are completely traumatized over the fact they have never missed an engagement or been fired from work because they are just too dang punctual. "Oh if only I arrived an hour late, then I could be upset that I paid $10 to only see a half hour of this movie. Yet here I am enjoying the entire production." Now, if there actually is a market for people who want to be late, then I'd be more than happy to offer my services and provide courses. Emily and I have got the late thing down to a science, and haven't needed any wonder drugs.

Okay, I know that isn't what Cialis is. But the commercial doesn't tell you squat. You either see a couple arrive really late to a show, or another couple who keeps a taxi driver waiting for a long time, then the couples both give each other an awkward kind of look (something like, I really hope the authorities don't start checking out all of those mounds of dirt in our backyard). Then the commercial pops up the Cialis logo, and tells me to ask my doctor if this drug is right for me. Well, I can be late fairly easily on my own, and I also don't need my doctor to tell me how to get my wife to give me awkward looks. Maybe I am just talented, and most need drugs for this.

I am aware that Cialis is for erectile dysfunction, but I did not learn that from these commercials. I can understand the whole 'you now can get aroused and want to win back your naked wrestling championship' thus this hobby makes you late for things. But it doesn't explain why both couples seem to be really uncomfortable around each other. It is almost like the wife is thinking, "I really forgot how awful you were in the sack, and liked it better before when I could finish building my deck." It doesn't really seem like this drug has made their relationship any more intimate or close, but rather just made them late and awkward. Is this really what we want to be selling towards those looking into this type of drug? "Your marriage will probably be worse, but at least you'll miss having to attend your daughter's piano recital."

At first, I thought this commercial was about some drug to cure constipation. It would explain why the man seemed nervous, and the wife was upset when he blamed her for being late. Constipation seems like something that would make a couple a little awkward around each other. I thought, the commercial was telling us that the couple arrived late because the man was spending an hour sweating and grunting in the bathroom (rather than in the bedroom). This awful struggle has made them late and uncomfortable, but Cialis can help. Google says I'm wrong. Apparently, they are selling the drug as a way to get these awkward situations rather than avoid them.

If this is a drug for erectile dysfunction, why isn't there that huge list of problems you may get for taking the drug, just like you get with every other drug commercial. Where is the warnings that Cialis could possibly make my head explode, cause my feet to swell, make me bark like a dog, and give me erectile dysfunction. I thought that was sort of a requirement for drug commercials? And if it isn't, why the heck does every other drug have commercials that warn me about side effects that are worse than the ailment trying to be cured?

Anyway, I think I'll pass on this drug. Partly because everything it provides is not something I am in the market for, and mostly because the commercial doesn't make any sense (yes, if it was an awesome commercial then I'd totally be buying some --maybe -- well, probably not).

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Hmmm. . . So What Kind Of Sex Do I Prefer Today?

I've blogged about sexual preference before, and at this stage, I think my stance is rather clear and obvious. I found this video on the Good Men Project website (under their Good Feed Blog section); the video is a collection of quick interviews with complete strangers on the streets in Colorado Springs. I find the answers and responses from the individuals to be rather revealing and interesting.

I am especially a fan of the folks that seem rather positive that gays must have chosen their lifestyle, but then are forced to quickly backtrack their stance once asked when they chose to be straight. Because you know what? Straight people don't choose to be straight, but rather, they find themselves naturally physically attracted to the opposite sex. The only ones that are likely to be choosing from the smorgasbord of human flesh would be your bisexuals, who find themselves getting hot and bothered by both sides. The majority of people don't wake up in the morning and say to themselves, "Today, I am going to decide to be attracted to female boobies, because Tuesday is loving the boobies day!" It is the same reason that certain people find themselves attracted to a type of person. They didn't just come to conclusion that they wanted to be drawn to short blonds with large feet, but rather it was an attraction that couldn't be reasoned or debated with. It was there, and now they deal with it.

The best way I can explain it, is from personal experience. The other night I was watching the cinematic masterpiece, Commando with Emily. In the film, a rather buff and well toned Arnold Schwarzenegger took off his shirt and allowed the world to gaze upon his abs and muscular pecs. Emily let out a little squeal of delight, and made it rather clear that she enjoyed the image that was on the television. Meanwhile, I pondered if I could take on Schwarzenegger in a fight if I was properly armed with a 50lb sledgehammer that shot out flaming flying monkeys. What I didn't do was, 'Oh my goodness, I want a piece of his glorious man muscles, and a side of his guy glory!" Because even though I recognized he was a strong and strapping lad, I wasn't drawn to him like a fly to an electric zapper (he just didn't charge me up). On another occasion, our television screen was filled with a rather voluptuous lass, who decided to squeeze her figure into a itsy bitsy bikini. I don't recall Emily making any noises of delight, and I definitely wasn't thinking about fighting her with my flaming monkey hammer of pain. Instead, I not only recognized her to be a rather beautiful and shapely woman, but parts of my body got a little tingly.

In both those cases, I didn't choose to not be physically attracted to Arnie's bulging physique or be attracted to curvaceous bikini gal. It was just that I found myself drawn to one, and not so much to the other. There really wasn't a whole lot of hard thought involved. A man doesn't pick up a swimsuit issue, and tell himself that, "Today, I am going to get really excited looking at these ladies, but tomorrow, I might drool over some Hanes underwear ads." Just like I never had to sit myself down, and decide that I would be insanely, physically attracted with my wife (rather than my male roommate at the time). It wasn't a matter of any debate, but instead, I found myself finding her extremely gorgeous and someone I wouldn't mind doing some naked wrestling with. As for the roommate, as great and awesome as he was, I never at any point had to decide if I wanted to kiss him or not. I never did, and I never had to think about it.

When I was 13 years old, I was cursed with the puberty and hormones just like almost every other budding teenager. There was a point when my body decided not to corporate with me. It was during this time that there was a potential for embarrassment and awkwardness. When I was around certain attractive people, I needed to hide or shield certain things, because my body decided it wanted to inform the world that I was physically attracted. But you know what? It always happened when I was in the presence of really cute and beautiful girls (or women). During high school, I was in countless locker rooms where several attractive men got completely unclothed. Yet, I never had the need to hide or be afraid of awkwardness. Yes, the men may have been attractive to certain people, but I wasn't feeling that vibe. I was off being too busily attracted to all the cute girls, and probably wishing I could change with them instead (though, also realizing it would then be much harder to hide my excitement). In all this, I never had to decide that I'd be drawn to pretty ladies, but rather uninterested in handsome men. It was just the way it was. It has always been that way.

The part of the video I really enjoyed, and I think is something certain people really need to ponder, is when the pair of ladies talked about why they don't think it is a choice. Because why would a person choose a lifestyle that is so hard to live in current society? Why choose a lifestyle that is constantly protested against or demonized or ostracized? Society has progressed to the point that homosexuality is more accepted, or at least, it is legal to practice that lifestyle. But for certain parts in this continent, it is still illegal to be able to marry the love of your life if they happen to be the same sex as you. You are still not allowed to apply for certain jobs if you happen to be open about being gay. There is still certain religious groups (or even non religious) that would make you believe homosexuality is a cancer that is destroying the free world. Why would anyone choose to be a part of that? Being bullied and ostracized kind of sucks, so why would you freely choose a lifestyle that guarantees you're going to likely experience that your whole life to some degree? Why would a person choose to be attracted to someone, and know that they will have to hide it from their family and community because they will likely be shunned? It isn't easy being gay. The only reason I can see someone choosing that life, is because they really are uncontrollable attracted to someone of that gender (or attracted to that specific type).

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, love is awesome. I am so thankful I've got a beautiful and wonderful wife, who I am hopelessly attracted to. I can tell you attributes about her that I love. I can explain things that I am attracted about in her, or reasons why I like her. But I can't tell you exactly why I am more attracted to her than maybe my ex roommate who is also a marvelous person. Other than, I am. I am glad that I am. And I hope that everyone can experience a similar kind of attraction and love I have for her. I wouldn't want to ever rob that from someone else. No matter what gender they are attracted to, I hope a person can have the chance to be in a loving and consensual relationship. Because even if you don't entirely know why you're attracted to who you are, it is pretty awesome to be able to openly express that love.

Monday, November 22, 2010

BlogBack: A Look At The Year Of Random And Slightly Insane Blog Posts

I wanted to do something on the blog that could be a proper send off to the year 2010. And since I am a self centred and egotistical writer, I decided it should be something that is heavily focused on me. Then I got thinking, 'What exactly has been the one thing this year that has always had my involvement, and largely been about me and my opinions?' Then I told myself to stop talking to myself, and quickly realized, that was probably the worst approach in order to stop that. So, then I just quit.

Once I regained a semblance of my sanity (or at least as much as I've ever had), I thought it would be interesting to do a little recap of this here blog. I've done a rather spiffy job of staying pretty consistent with this blog, and have been able to put something up daily since the last day of January. And once I accomplish my life goal of changing the modern calendar, that will mean I shot out a blog post every single day this year (but until that glorious day, I've just had a daily blog post since the end of January). This means that I've compiled a rather hefty collection of posts over this year, though one may argue that a picture of a cute puppy or a post about how I am not posting on that day shouldn't really count. But nobody said anything about quality, so I am counting them. So there.

The crazy thing about consistently blogging, is that it actually allows you to have a reader base. Apparently, readers actually want something to read (crazy readers). Over the last several months, I've seen my daily hits increase by some decent amounts (by my very humble and feeble site standards, mind you). It also means that there is a good chance some of the newer readers may have missed out on the pure blogging gold that emerged on this site. Or a reader had a really hectic laundry day last week, and missed out on some of the more recent symphony of words. Or the more likely case, my ego has taken complete control of my sanity, and I now think showcasing old posts is the best way to reflect upon this passing year.

And that my fine readers, is exactly what I plan to do. Over the next several weeks, I plan to showcase 10 past blog posts from this year. Even though that picture with Summit wearing a hat was the cuteness, my plan is to post links of the works that I was either extra proud of or thought generated some controversy or feel have some relevance in bringing up again. Even though it would make for a very easy day to just put up a link and call that the daily post, there is an added bonus I want to attach to each of these upcoming 10 blog posts.

I've always really enjoyed reading the author notes at the end of a novel or short story or collection of works. It probably is just my literary geekiness showing, but I'm interested to find out what the writer's thought process was or what it was that inspired them to write the piece. I think it is great to see what type of things motivate or stimulate a writer in coming up with creative ideas. I also feel it is helpful in being able to see a part of another writer's journey.

There is a chance I may be the only person who is interested in that thing, but in case I am not, I decided to attempt the same thing with the 10 blog posts I'll showcase over the remainder of this year. I've been asked several times what motivated me to write a certain piece or how I came up with a crazy idea. I've got enough of those questions, that I started thinking it might be good to answer them (it might end the awkward silence during dinner). And so, for 10 specific blog posts I'll be giving those answers. I'll either explain what motivated me to write a piece or how I was inspired or even, the thoughts or emotions I was encountered with during the writing process. It could be fascinating or it could be a massive train wreck just waiting to happen. Either way, you should bring the popcorn.

Now, the thing is, I have an idea of what pieces I want to talk about, but I am far from decided on most of them. So, if there is post that you were intrigued by or maybe even confused about, then this is your chance to have it explained. I will take requests (and possibly proceed to ignore them) for this little trip down blogging lane. Since I still have a few weeks before the year is kaput, I probably won't be starting right way, so you've got a chance to ask what the heck was up with that spider.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Clear Evidence For Why Take Out Is Better Than Home Cooking

Or at least if I am the one expected to do the cooking.

Here is a rather funny comic from the king of the funny, The Oatmeal. Though this probably won't be enough evidence to convince Emily for us to go on a 10 day pizza binger, but it should at least bring the giggles.


Saturday, November 20, 2010

It Was Only A Little Over A Year Ago. . .

Summit was approximately the same size as Crosby.

And now Crosby is just a little bigger than Summit's head. Oh how they grow up so fast. And furry.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chilling Music For A Chilly Season

This is 'Capable' by the artist KO, and he seems to like his weed. Which I am not endorsing in anyway, but I do think he can compose some of that very chilling and grooving music that all the kids love. Or at least, I love the song. And the constant playing of it on radio makes me think I am not the only one that has got hooked. Warning, there is a strong possibility that you could be offended by the video and the lyrics. Then you'll quickly get irritated with me because the song will be firmly implanted in your head and you'll be humming those offensive lyrics all day.

But if you're in a mood for some relaxing music with some addictive licks, then enjoy yourself silly.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Completely Misleading But Still Accurate Descriptions Of Famous Movies

John Scalzi recently wrote an article where he took well known movies, and wrote accurate but misleading movie descriptions. I think the idea is absolutely brilliant, and so I decided to try my hand at it too. Feel free to join in the fun after reading, by offering up your own movie descriptions.

50 First Dates: A traumatized woman is relentlessly pursued by a man she does not know.

Aladdin: Jafar attempts to stop a lying and deceptive thief from marrying the same woman he desires.

Back to the Future II: A teenager’s attraction to gambling ends up destroying his family.

Big: After a case of mistaken identity, a young man is forced to go on the run.

Braveheart: A once peaceful Scotsman goes on a massive killing spree after the death of his wife.

Carrie: A quiet and lonely girl is finally noticed by the boy of her dreams and ends up having a phenomenal night.

Cujo: A woman, whose marriage is struggling, goes with her son to a farm, where she encounters an energetic dog that changes her outlook on life.

Die Hard: A typical office Christmas party becomes lively when crashed by crazy Europeans looking for a good time.

Goonies: A group of kids attempt to steal the possessions of a dead man, which causes pain and grief for several other people.

Halloween: After years away from his hometown, Michael returns in order to visit his young sister, but his doctor, who hates him, makes every possible attempt to stop this meeting.

Home Alone: A boy abandoned by his family spends the holidays with two outcasts.

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom: An American spends some time with Indian royalty, and refuses to respect or follow their customs and traditions.

Jaws: Three men try to impress their town by catching the largest fish they’ve ever seen.

Nightmare on Elm Street: Several teens have their dreams come true.

Predator: A collection of armed men hunt down a foreigner when they disagree with his lifestyle choice.

Red Dawn: A group of teenagers run away from school in order to hide in the woods, and kill several people who attempt to find them.

Return of the Jedi: A man tries to reconnect with his estranged father, but during their meeting, he must fight urges to kill him.

Running Man: An angry contestant attempts to hunt down and kill the game show host.

Scream: A bunch of beautiful teenagers have a wild party that contains voyeurism, sex and costumes.

Sixth Sense: When a man's marriage falls apart, he begins a very unique relationship with a young boy.

Terminator 2 Judgement Day: A boy bonds with an immigrant, and teaches him about American culture.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Wannabe Career Writer Offering Career Writing Advice

In September, I ended up unexpectedly seeing a former fellow University student when I was enjoying myself in the lovely Brantford downtown. We got talking for a few minutes, and she revealed to me that she has spent the last year writing a book. Considering this is very much a dream of mine, I was quite interested in hearing about her journey and attempts to get the book published. What I found out was absolutely cringe worthy, and the perfect example of what not to do in order to achieve financial success through writing. Unfortunately, since I didn't know this person very well, and felt like she probably wouldn't want advice from an amateur, I decided to bite my tongue and say nothing. Immediately after the conversation, I felt guilty holding on to what I had to say. So, I've decided I will attempt to redeem myself in some small way through my blog, by offering the advice now that I should have given in person several months ago.

First, it is incredibly important to actually let you know what my advice pertains to (because usually, advice works best when you know where to apply it). After my acquaintance told me about the book and I asked if she shopped it to publishers, she informed me the last few months (and dollars) had been spent dealing with a lawyer in order to get a copyright. At this point the book is apparently now copyrighted, and the look for a few publishers had started. This is where she told me that she had been in contact with a publisher, and was made aware how much it would cost her to get the book published with them. After the lawyer and this apparent publishing deal, the writer is now going to be several and several thousands in the hole. I was assured this was okay, because she knew her book would not only recoup all the costs back but she has been promised she'll end up making over a hundred thousand dollars on the sales of her book. At this point I was speechless, but I probably should have been full of words. Words of advice. Here is what I should have said.

The first problem is going to a lawyer to get your book copyrighted, and spending the numerous hours and money to get this done. I am sure if you call up any lawyer, they will be more than happy to go through the work to get your masterpiece copyrighted. It is something they can do, and it is really easy money for them. But for the most part, it really is money you should be spending anywhere else (or saving, since you want to be a writer after all). The fact the lawyer is probably leaving out when your plopping down your several thousands of dollars is that once you write or type something down, that written work is your property. The work is already copyrighted, and it is illegal for anyone to copy and steal those exact words (and it costs you a lot less than thousands of dollars).

I am sure a few of you are screaming out, but where is the proof that I wrote this! Well, if you're paranoid someone may take your words of pure wisdom, then there is a few easy steps you can take. If you're writing on your website (or a blog), you can put at the bottom of your site that all the following works are copyrighted along with the handy ©, and after each entry include your name and the year of publication. You're now covered. If you're still uncomfortable there is more actions you can take, but there is no need to be filling the pockets of a fat cat lawyer with thousands of dollars.

In the case of a manuscript for a book, you wouldn't have that lying around on the internet for all that can see, anyway. It is probably safely stowed away on your hard drive, thus even less of a reason to take too much action to copyright it. You finish that work, and you now have the choice to either go hunting for a literary agent or if you want to fly solo, you shop your masterpiece to publishers that accept unagented material.

This leads me to the next problem with what this poor and naive writer had done. When you've created a product, your next step is to sell that product. It isn't for you to pay people to take it from you. To me, that sounds like a rather detrimental business model for financial success. When you're shopping your written material around, what you're doing is trying to sell your manuscript (or at least the right for it to be published -- you should not be selling off your copyright). Garage sales would not exist today if the seller was paying people to take away his crap -- even if maybe that is the way they should be run sometimes. This also means a writer is not destined for much financial prosperity if she pays others to publish her works.

There is vanity presses out there that essentially will publish anything as long as you pay a fee. So, you can then see your lovely hard work turned into a pretty and glossy book. These presses may even give you promises of making thousands and thousands of dollars, and being the big break your writing career needs. The problem is, why would they be overly motivated to sell and promote your work if they already got some money out of it? The even bigger problem is, most books don't sell incredibly well, which means your likelihood of swimming in a sea of hundreds isn't very high. If your manuscript actually is worth thousands and thousands of dollars then it is worth the time and effort to actually try to sell it to a reputable publisher (and not one owned by Dr. Claw or Cobra Commander). Then you hopefully can negotiate a nice advance, and then if your publisher truly believes in your work, then it will be properly promoted and maybe sell at a decent level. Though the reality is, a book rarely makes back its advance, and thus a writer should see that as the only money they'll ever get out of that book. But if you've not got an advance but instead gave one to the publisher, then you're probably just looking at debt.

This is the same policy that should be used if you're looking for an agent too. If an agent is telling you that you have the next Harry Potter on your hands, and all you have to do is plop down a few thousand for his services, then it is time for a flying tiger punch to his eye ball. You should not be paying your agent squat for his services upfront. He gets his money when you sell your manuscript (by agreeing on getting a certain percentage of your advance -- just like a real estate agent). If your work is truly the equivalent of golden fairies dancing in the streets of heaven while gumdrops are farted out of flying unicorns, then you don't need to pay people for it to be agented or published, because they will perceive it will make them money on sales. And if it isn't, then you go back to your computer and edit it until it is.

If you have dreams of making money as a writer, then you need to remember this thing is a business. You need to not be suckered in with promises of fame and fortune, but only after you pay a nominal fee of $5,000. The writing business is like any other business in that there are people who will happily take advantage of your naivety. It is your job to do the research and to know your business. It is also your job to make sure you read and fully understand the contract you're about to sign. But most importantly, it is your job to make sure you're not throwing your money into the wind before you're even earning any (though, probably not good to do that even when you make some).