Sunday, January 31, 2010

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS

Better late than never, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke decided to add proven veteran goaltending to the combination of "pugnacity, testosterone and truculence" that he promised would the defining characteristics of the Leafs under his watch. The acquisition of former Conn Smythe Trophy winner and Stanley Cup champion Jean-Sebastien Giguere represents a huge upgrade over the decidedly pedestrian Vesa Toskala or Jonas Gustavsson, who may or may not require a triple bypass on any given day. Dion Phaneuf is a stud on the blue line, but considering that the Leafs gave up six players to get four, who's going to fill in the gaps? I say bring back Rocky Saganiuk and Walt Poddubny.

-When the Canadiens get the official prognosis on Mike Cammalleri, the best they can hope for is that their leading goal scorer's absence is measured in weeks rather than months. If it's as serious as it appeared to be when he went heavily and awkwardly into the boards in Ottawa, Cammalleri's injury will be every bit as detrimental to the Habs as the long-term loss of Andrei Markov earlier this season

-The Jarome Iginla-Sheldon Souray tilt that put the finishing touches on Iginla's Gordie Howe hat trick Saturday was a thing of beauty. Hockey fights are so much more gratifying when they involve legitimate hockey players instead of designated cementheads.

-Even before Tiger Woods retreated into a shameful if temporary obscurity, there was no disputing Roger Federer's distinction as the greatest champion of his generation. Federer's record 16th Grand Slam tennis title - a straight sets dismantling of Andy Murray at the Australian Open - was accomplished with the same combination of athletic transcendence and dignified character that separate him from the rest of the field in ANY sport.

-I didn't watch any of this year's "Hockey Day in Canada" cornball-a-thon on CBC, but I know from previous experience that a live hit with a volunteer ringette coach in Stratford, Ontario can be every bit as clumsy and uninformative as an interview with a zamboni driver in Nanaimo, BC. Ah, the ties that bind...

New Gazette Blog

Ted's Taxi Service

http://communities.canada.com/montrealgazette/blogs/birddroppings/default.aspx

Back on this blog tomorrow with Monday Morning Musings, including thoughts on Cammalleri's injury, the Gordie Howe hat trick and Federer's unrivalled stature in the world of sports.

Friday, January 29, 2010

I OBJECT...TO ME

I now have two blogs - this one and the Montreal Gazette blog - and it hasn't taken long for the two to overlap, because I wanted to share the Andre Dawson piece posted here yesterday with Gazette blog readers who might have missed it. However, in this era of intellectual property rights, I also thought it best to play it safe from a legal perspective, so I've decided to sue myself for copyright infringement. The following is a transcript of the courtroom exchange between LM (lawyer me), DM (defendant me) and JM (Judge me):


LM: Can I state my name for the record?

DM: Ted Bird.

LM: And how long have I been blogging?

DM: I guess about two weeks now.

LM: Am I being financially compensated?

DM: That's none of my business.

LM: Objection!

JM: Overruled. Whether or how much I earn from blogging is only relevant if I'm found liable for damages from theft of intellectual property, and that hasn't been established.

LM: Did I come up with the title "Bird Droppings"?

DM: I know very well I came up with it. I don't even know why I'm asking me that.

LM: Why have I decided to maintain two blogs?

DM: Well, the personal blog is just that - something I'll use to relate my personal experiences, while I envision the Gazette blog as leaning more towards topics of interest to a broader audience, but the two could cross over every once in a while, if I follow what I'm saying.

LM: Oh, I know exactly what I'm saying. I'm stealing from Peter to pay Paul.

DM: I don't even have Pay Pal.

LM: Pay PAUL.

JM: I've had just about enough of me. Case dismissed.

LM: But My Honor...

JM: That's 100 dollars for contempt of court. Would I like to try for 200?

LM: I'll see me in appeals court.

DM: Not if I see me first.


Take that, John Grishman.

WHEN BLOGS COLLIDE

The Montreal Gazette has been gracious enough to add Bird Droppings to their blog community.
I'm going to try to keep that blog and this one separate, but every once in a while something I write there will end up here, and vice-versa, depending on time constraints and how up to my elbows I am in laundry, dirty dishes and screaming children.
I'm not sure about the legal ramifications of putting some of the same material on two separate blogs, but if I have to, I'm not afraid to sue myself. (That in itself would make an interesting blog. Stand by.)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

HAWK'S HAT (OR DAWSON'S DILEMMA)

How many more kicks in the teeth do Montreal baseball fans have to endure?
The Expos are long gone, stolen from the city six years ago by an unscrupulous commissioner who let a pair of New York carpetbaggers do his dirty work. The genesis of their demise can be traced to the 1970s, when separarist politics chased a substantial portion of the Expos' fan base out of town, followed by an era of cheapskate ownership drafting and developing talented players and then unloading them to save on salaries when they came of age. A perennial also-ran playing their games well-removed from the city center in a de facto mausoleum with a fixed roof that might or might not partially collapse at any given moment didn't help matters, either.
But the myriad reasons behind the Expos' demise are not the insult that was added to injury yesterday. The latest indignity came courtesy of one of the franchise's greatest players, Andre Dawson, who expressed his disappointment that he'll be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame as an Expo. The Hawk wanted to go in as a Chicago Cub, but the Hall has the final say on such matters, and the keepers of the shrine decided that the impact of Dawson's 10-plus seasons in Montreal outweighed his six seasons in Chicago, where he won the National League MVP Award in 1987.
Dawson has a right to his preference and he certainly had a stronger case to be inducted as a Cub than Gary Carter did to be enshrined as a Met - a request the Hall denied on the basis of Carter's decade-long run in Montreal versus a little more than four seasons in New York. But for Dawson to say publicly that he would have taken greater pride in going in as a Cub is nothing short of insulting to the fans who embraced and supported him while he developed the superstar credentials that he carried into Chicago. It was probably meant more as a compliment to Chicago than it was an intended slight to Montreal, but at this end, it stings.
Andre Dawson is the closest thing the Expos ever had to Jean Beliveau - ability, class and elegance embodied in a professional athlete who knew how to carry himself with equal parts confidence and humility. He's got six months to work on his induction speech and use those character strengths to deliver a message that makes it right with Expos fans. Failing that, the Dawson Hall of Fame saga is just further proof that major league baseball deserved Montreal a lot less than Montreal deserved major league baseball.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

MY WIFE, THE ENABLER

I love my wife.
She's everything I ever coveted in a woman - the symbolic class beauty who never knew I existed in high school but with whom I now share my life. She's drop dead gorgeous, smart, funny and confident enough in herself as a wife, mother and woman not to get hung up on defying traditional domestic role models. (It helps a lot that I do the dishes and the laundry.)
She's also an enabler.
When we got up this morning, Danielle announced to me that she was giving our 8 year old son, Charlie, a "mental health" day away from school. Charlie requested it, and what else was Mom going to say after she gave the 10 year old, Sam, his own mental health day earlier this week?
I tend to go with the flow and stay out of these things, because I'm not so old that I can't remember what it would have meant to me if my mother had told me I could take the day off from school, even if I wasn't sick. That's like Christmas without the tree.
But I also know children (I have four of them) and their gift for manipulation, and the boys play Danielle like a fiddle. A mental health day here and there probably isn't going to affect their eligibility for an Ivy League education (that ship sailed when I quit my relatively high-paying job) but the mental health days are only a symptom of a broader malaise.
The boys are both registered to take the bus to school. Neither one of them ever busts their balls to get to the bus stop on time, though, because they know Mom will drive them to school, whether or not she had time to put on pants and/or underwear. That's a dangerous proposition for a woman who frequently drives around on "empty," a wing and a prayer.
By her own admission, Danielle is not a cook, and I'm here to confirm it. Supper at our house on any given night could be frozen pizza, Frosted Flakes, Oreos, Eggos or any combination of the aforementioned. I think the last time we had fresh vegetables was 2006. That's not teaching the children a great deal about the importance of proper nutrition. I suppose I could do the cooking, but the last time I tried, the pork chops came out of the oven grey, and Charlie gagged and cried.
"Bedtime" at our house is 8:30 in theory, but that's a guideline at best. Last night, even the two year old was still up at 9:45, lying in bed with Charlie and me watching the U.S. 101st Airborne battle the Germans at Eindhoven on Band of Brothers. Again, I could have taken the parental initiative, but we're talking Band of Brothers, Operation Market Garden, WWII, the Big One. If that's not "me" time, what is?
Don't even get me started about the Tooth Fairy, who leaves five dollars(!) per tooth. I don't think my whole upper or lower plate got me five bucks when I was a kid. Do the math: at three children still at home, 5 dollars per tooth and 20 primary teeth per head, that's...(hang on a minute while I access the calculator on my desktop)...300 dollars. Hello?! Unemployed husband to Tooth Fairy: that's money we could be frittering away on food and shelter. I'm not saying leave them a ball of lint or dead bugs under their pillow, but cripes, we're not exactly the Rockefellers here.
So the Bird children muddle on towards an uncertain future, randomly taking days off school when they're not missing the bus with impunity, and being rewarded with inflated payoffs for teeth that are probably falling out prematurely because of poor eating habits.
But there's one thing at our house that is non-negotiable, and that's unconditional love and support for each other, regardless of circumstances (like quitting your relatively high-paying job). The rest is just details, and as long as we have each other's back and the Tooth Fairy gets with the program, we'll figure it out.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

HEY!

The Gazette is picking up my blog. Too bad I'm out of things to say. Ah, I'll think of something. Stand by. I'll keep you posted.

Monday, January 25, 2010

LIFE IMITATES ART IN A-TEAM CRASH

News item: "Martial artist-turned-actor Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson has escaped unscathed following a car crash in California."
You don't say.
The one thing I remember above all else about the 1980s TV series "The A-Team" was that no one - and I mean NO ONE - ever got hurt, at least not in any of the episodes I watched. The villains were the worst shots in the world, emptying clip after clip from their automatic assault rifles without inflicting so much as a scratch on A-Team members John "Hannibal" Smith, Templeton "Face" Peck, "Howling Mad" Murdoch and B.A. Baracus. (How's that for irony? The guy who calls himself Mr. T in real life didn't get a nickname in the show.) The bad guys were equally impervious. I remember one episode where a helicopter that was chasing the A-Team van crashed into the side of a mountain and exploded, and the guys who were inside the chopper ran out of the fireball, brushing off their clothes like they were just coming in from a dust storm.
So it was in keeping with tradition that there were no injuries when Jackson, who stars in the upcoming big screen remake of the A-Team, collided with another car driven by an elderly lady in Orange County, California. There's no immediate word on who or what caused the accident, although Jackson was already on probation for reckless driving follow a police chase in July 2008, when the former UFC champion was arrested for refusing to pull over as he was reportedly weaving in and out of traffic on a flat tire while talking on his cellphone. According to police, Jackson sideswiped at least two other vehicles, ran several red lights and sent pedestrians fleeing in terror before he finally stopped and was arrested at gunpoint. And - you guessed it - there were no injuries. In fact, it was tantamount to a perfect audition for Jackson's A-Team role, if the movie is going to be as ludicrously unrealistic as the TV series.
I love it when a plan comes together.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS

Even Carey Price's most ardent advocates have to admit at this point that the jury is in and the verdict is unanimous: the Canadiens' best hope for making the playoffs is with Jaroslav Halak as the go-to guy in goal. What was already consensus before this weekend is now abundantly clear after Halak was stellar in back-to-back wins over the Devils and Rangers on the heels of another shaky performance by Price in Wednesday's loss to the Blues at the Bell Center, where Price was beaten twice in the first four minutes and lost the game on a soft goal in overtime. If Price needs to play to sort himself out, let him do it in Hamilton.

-I don't know how many times Jean Beliveau had to drop the gloves during his junior and NHL career or how he acquitted himself as a pugilist, but if the man can beat cancer and survive a stroke in his golden years, he presumably was able to handle himself in a hockey fight.

-The running feud between Rangers coach John Tortorella and New York Post hockey writer Larry Brooks was not revisited Saturday at the Bell Center, where there was huge potential for a typical Tortorella explosion after the Habs blew out the Broadway Blueshirts 6-0. Apparently, Brooks skipped Tortorella's post-game news conference in favor of player interviews, which was probably a good choice on his part after the way he was mocked by Tortorella two nights earlier. Both of these guys need to get over themselves.

-There was a lot to like about the way the Indianapolis Colts didn't blink despite trailing by 11 points in the AFC Championship Game against the Jets. Composure in the face of adversity is one of those intangibles that wins championships, and the Colts had it in spades.

-From a storyline perspective, it's too bad Brett Favre and the Vikings came up short against the Saints in the NFC, but I love the Super Bowl matchup. I don't even know yet what the over-under is, but take the over.

-Kelly Kulick, who became the first woman to win a title on the men's pro bowling tour Sunday, says she decided in Grade 5 that she was going to be a professional bowler. That seems awfully early to give up on your other dreams.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

ANSWERS FOR YVAN

Yvan comments regularly on the blog and routinely poses profound questions that I am compelled to answer, to wit:

If someone with a split personality threatens to commit suicide, is it a hostage situation?
Answer: Don't ask me - ask ME.

If it's true we're here to help others, what are others doing here?
Answer: They were cloned by Raelians to undermine our sexual morals. Still waiting for my turn.

Why do we sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" when we're already there?
Answer: I don't know about you, but I sing it on the off chance that eventually, a complete stranger will in fact buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks.

Why doesn't Tarzan have a beard?
Answer: He was stricken with Alopecia areata barbae. (Thank you, Wikipedia).

Q: There are 24 hours in a day and 24 beers in a case. Coincidence?
Answer: No more so than that it only takes me five minutes to smoke a nickel bag.

If we yelled at our plants instead of talking to them, would they still grow, only to be troubled or insecure?
A: Goddamit, I'm watching the game. Ask your mother.

No need to thank me. It's all a public service.

Friday, January 22, 2010

BY GEORGES, I THINK HE'S LOST IT

You had to figure something was amiss with Georges Laraque when he stopped bench-pressing Volkswagens and ingesting livestock in favor of yoga and veganism, the latter two of which are not time-honored pursuits for the traditional hockey enforcer. Try to imagine John Ferguson tucking into a broadbean salad or Tie Domi in the lotus position with his feet behind his ears, and you get the idea.

When the Canadiens signed Laraque in the summer of 2008, it was a good fit. They were (and still are) an undersized team that needed (and still needs) a physical deterrent. At 1.5 million dollars a year over three years, Laraque was paid handsomely to fill that role, but his insistence on adhering to the "enforcer's code" by only fighting in his own weight class undermined the thinking that went into signing him. As general manager Bob Gainey rightly noted in announcing that Laraque's contract was being bought out, the TEAM code trumps whatever understanding might exist within the brotherhood of ham-fisted heavyweights. When Sean Avery or Steve Ott needed to be punched in the mouth, it's Laraque who should have been doing the punching, not Josh Gorges or Tomas Plekanec.

And despite the seeming consensus that he's the NHL's most feared pugilist, it's not as if Laraque acquitted himself with any great distinction in the relative handful of fights he got into as a member of the Canadiens. The encounter I remember best in his year-and-a-half in Montreal is a dance with the Islanders' Mitch Fritz - a 6 foot, 8 inch behemoth who tossed the 245 pound Laraque around like a rag doll.

Laraque probably regrets taking the low road by calling Gainey classless for unloading BGL at a time when he's preoccupied with the disaster in Haiti, where Laraque has roots and relatives who are still unaccounted for after last week's devastating earthquake. Say what you will about Gainey as a general manager, but as a human being, his integrity is beyond reproach, and having suffered through the untimely losses of both his wife and daughter, Gainey more than most is sensitive to personal tragedy. If anything, Gainey has given Laraque the opportunity to make a difference in Haiti by granting him the availability and resources to put his time and his money where his mouth is.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

When I was a kid, two things were guaranteed on my birthday: a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken and a cake in the shape of an animal. At 51, party plans have been revised for a variety of reasons, not least of which are that as much as I still love the taste, the Colonel's recipe would probably kill me in my tracks, and given the limited number of animal species on the planet, my mainstream zoological cake options would have been used up a decade or two ago, leaving my already domestically-challenged wife to decide between ordering gateau de l'iguane from the local patisserie or whipping up her own boll weevil layer cake. (Cut a big slice of THAT baby and watch the kids run for the hills.)

Of course, birthday parties after 30 (30 at the OUTSIDE) should be low-key affairs. It's okay to make a grown-up fuss about milestone birthdays (40, 50 etc.) but for the in-betweeners, celebrations at our house are geared towards making it fun for the kids, something that can easily be accomplished with a few balloons, a cake, candles and a rousing rendition of "Happy Birthday" sung sufficiently in key to keep the two year old from bursting into tears and the dog from turning in a circle several times before pissing on the carpet. (By the way, I realize that at 51 I'm a little long in the tooth to have small children, but I have an attractive wife 12 years my junior who can't keep track of her own ovulation cycle.)

The first and last rule in making it fun for the kids is to remove alcohol from the equation. While they might not fully grasp the implications, kids are instinctively uncomfortable with liquor-fuelled screaming matches, impromptu wife-swapping and Uncle Billy falling down the stairs. Also, as amusing as a drunken toddler might be careening across the living room after finishing off a half-full rum and coke left unattended on a low-lying coffee table, it's probably also grounds for the wee one's removal from the home by child welfare authorities.

Gifting should be optional for adult birthdays, the notable exception being wives, on whom gifts should be randomly lavished throughout the year so as to accrue goodwill in the event that a well-meaning but professionally preoccupied breadwinner forgets his espoused's actual birthday.

I couldn't care less about getting gifts for my birthday, a relatively recent change in attitude that my family and friends honored this year by getting me a combined total of one (count 'em, one) present - a book called "Order of Battle: The Red Army in World War II." Sounds like quite the page-turner. I'll read it to Allie tonight, because there's nothing two year olds like better than Russian Front bedtime stories.

"And then all the Germans surrendered and were marched into captivity in Siberia, where most of them perished from mistreatment and malnutrition. The end. Sweet dreams!"

Like I said, it's all about the kids.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

HOCKEY'S SHAME

If the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League decides to make Patrice Cormier's indefinite suspension permanent, the next logical step in Cormier's career would be to turn pro and starting drawing a paycheque. Welcome to justice, hockey-style.

I've never seen anything in hockey as sickening as the aftermath of the elbow to the head that Cormier laid on Mikael Tam, who was left convulsing on the ice before being removed by stretcher and rushed to the hospital during Sunday's Quebec Remparts-Rouyn Noranda Huskies game. No, wait. I HAVE seen things as sickening, or awfully close to it, and on a regular basis. There was the Michael Liambis hit on Ben Fanelli in the Erie-Kitchener OHL game in October, within a week of Philadelphia's Mike Richards almost decapitating Florida's David Booth earlier this NHL season. Take your pick of any number of checks-from-behind that pitchfork players head-first into the boards.

Every time it happens, the media dutifully puts on a grave face and influential members of the hockey fraternity engage in a few days of obligatory hand-wringing, and then it's back to business as usual until the next time an unsuspecting player is blindsided into near-oblivion, and the exercise in angst is repeated all over again.

There are two fundamental schools of thought on head shots. One is that they should be policed rigorously but that rule-makers have to be careful not to impose penalties that might detract from the physical nature of the sport. The other is that punishment for head shots should be severe and uncompromising to the point of lifetime suspensions for players who deliberately and maliciously disregard the physical well-being of an opponent. But despite the intensity of the debate, nothing ever changes, and the wheel of rhetoric spins 'round and 'round 'till someone inevitably asks whether it's going to take a player being killed before something meaningful is done.

Evidently, that's exactly what it's going to take.

Monday, January 18, 2010

THE AWESOMENESS OF MY OFFSPRING

Facebook response to my unsolicited request for blog ideas and topics:

"The awesomeness of your offspring."
(signed)Lauren Bird

Such a shameless self-promotor, but that's Daddy's (big) little girl.

Lauren got the short end of the notoriety stick in my 25 years on Montreal morning radio. She was 3 when her mother and I split up, and as a non-custodial parent, I wasn't privy to the everyday joys I get to experience with my three children with Danielle, whose misadventures CHOM listeners were exposed to ad nauseam for the past eight years. Not that Lauren and I didn't cultivate a relationship, but from a weekend and once-or-twice-during-the-week Dad in elementary school to even less time spent together in her early to mid-teens, there were substantial gaps relative to the custodial father-daughter connection.

Happily, our relationship has had a nice renaissance in the past three years or so, and if there was a turning point, I'd have to say it was the night of her birthday (16th or 17th, I forget which), when I clumsily told her how proud I am that she's smart, funny and "not a whore." Coming from a long line of emotionally-repressed New Brunswick Protestants, I have a difficult time with heartfelt sentiment, and applauding her for not working the Main was the best I could muster for my coming-of-age first born. There was magic to the moment, though: after an awkward beat pause, we both laughed our asses off, and there has since been an unspoken understanding between us that Dad loves and cherishes her dearly, even if he doesn't always know how to express it verbally. That she is cut from the same reticent cloth underscores the unspokenness of the understanding.

Today, Lauren is a first year fine arts student at Concordia with an exemplary academic record and a gift for visual aesthetics that she certainly didn't inherit from me. My artistic development hit a wall in Grade 3, never to progress beyond crude sketches of German stick men being blown out of tanks by RAF planes with wings on the top and bottom of the fuselage rather than on the sides(in my art world, it's nothing short of a miracle that the Allies won the war). She's also a rabid Canadiens fan - a passion she developed through no encouragement from me but which we now share, sometimes to the point of indiscretion, like the time Maxim Lapierre's name came up and she informed me that she would "tap that in a heartbeat."

There are some things better left unsaid in the father-daughter dynamic, and whom one would "tap" ranks second only to whom one has in fact tapped. That doesn't detract from her awesomeness; I just don't want to know.

MONDAY MORNING MUSINGS

When I solicited blog ideas a couple of days ago, Martin Duval wrote "How about something on why Max Pacioretty and Matt D'Agostini are still in the NHL?" An excellent question, and one that Canadiens coach Jacques Martin and general manager Bob Gainey are in a better position than I'm in to answer. As a sixth round draft pick, it's entirely possible that the 23 year old D'Agostini overachieved as a rookie and that his actual worth is somewhere between last season's splashy debut and this year's sophmore letdown. Pacioretty, 21, LOOKS like an NHL player and SKATES like an NHL player and SHOOTS like an NHL player, but lacks the polish and/or confidence that comes with time spent at minor league finishing school. Trouble is, a cursory look at the numbers for the Habs' AHL affiliate in Hamilton suggests that no one's lighting up the Steel City to the point of warranting a promotion to Montreal.

-Seconds after Dallas quarterback Tony Romo turned the ball over for the third time whilst tanking against Minnesota yesterday, I received the following e-mail from longtime friend, colleague and mentor Mark Burns:

"Bird,
I understand that Roger Staubach is contemplating suicide for the sheer pleasure of spinning in his grave."

Mark should still be on the radio somewhere. Meanwhile, if head coach Wade Phillips' goose is cooked in Dallas, Romo's should at the very least be stuffed and basted.

-I realize football is a game of emotion and that the intensity level multiplies during the playoffs, but when a running back jumps up and down and pounds his chest to celebrate a four yard gain on first down, isn't it a bit like a CLSC nurse doing a sack dance after taking someone's blood pressure? Self-exalting histrionics should be reserved for the remarkable rather than the mundane, if there's a place for it at all. I still like guys who celebrate touchdowns by casually tossing the ball to the nearest official and jogging back to the huddle for the extra point. That's cocksure without making a spectacle of yourself.

-That burgundy velour smoking jacket Shannon Sharpe was wearing on the Saturday edition of the NFL Today on CBS looked exactly like the upholstery in my father's 1976 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency, minus the coffee stains and cigarette burns. (Okay, there might have been some beer stains and roach burns as well, but those weren't Dad's.)

-Roman Hamrlik would be a good porn star name (although it would have to be spelled "Hammerlick"). Dit Clapper...not so much.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

WOULD YOU LIKE A LAST STRAW WITH YOUR DRINK?

Cabin fever finally got the best of us last year.

The Wall Street Journal reports that for the first time since 2002, consumers spent more money on movie theater tickets than we did on buying movies to watch at home. (Those are U.S. figures, but for expediency's sake we'll proceed on the shopworn assumption that Canadians are just Americans with a heavier tax burden. Way heavier). Relative to other forms of outside-the-home entertainment, you still get a decent bang for your buck at the cinema...right up until you get to the candy counter.

I'm okay with dropping 10 to 15 dollars on popcorn and a drink as long as I'm getting something close to a decent count ("count" being 1970s drugspeak for whether your dealer padded your dimebag with stalks and seeds, but I digress), but that party is apparently over.

I took one of my boys to the movies over the Christmas holidays, and ordered my usual small soft drink, expecting and accepting that I'm going to get something of equivalent size to a regular can or bottle at a ridiculously exorbitant mark-up. What I got was an oversized Dixie Cup - about half of what a small drink used to be at the same theater - for $3.93.

But that's not the worst of it. When I gave the kid working the candy counter four dollars, HE ASKED ME IF I WOULD LIKE MY SEVEN CENTS CHANGE. Honest to sweet baby Jesus. I was dumbfounded. I don't know whether it's theater policy or if he wanted the seven cents for himself, but I immediately and instinctively lapsed into people-pleaser mode and HANDED HIM ANOTHER 50 CENTS so I wouldn't be a cheap tipper.

Okay, I'm an idiot for coughing up the extra 57 cents, and I didn't have to buy the drink in the first place. I could have smuggled in my own drink. I get all of that. But come on.

For a lot of us, loading up with snacks at the candy counter is an integral and time-honored aspect of the movie-going experience, and I've long since come to terms with the price-gouging. But they've finally crossed the line. Not only do they hose me for a glorified thimble of Diet Coke, but they guilt me into letting them keep the change. I don't care if the kid was doing it on his own initiative. As an employee, he represents the theater, and if he asks me if I want my change, he's exercising theater policy. Shame on them, and shame on me. I recently resigned from a relatively lucrative job on principle, but I won't stand up for myself over seven cents.

Oh well, at least I got to see Alvin and the Chipmunks.

2.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

HELP!

I'd like to put some more structure and content into this blog and I'm wide open to suggestions. Whether or not you listened to me on CHOM or in any of my previous radio incarnations and you have any thoughts, ideas or criticisms, I would happily welcome them with no hurt feelings. Bring it on. I'd like this blog and anything it leads to to be as much about what you want from me as it is what I think I can give to you. (I said that to Danielle in bed last night; she rolled over and pointed at the door.)

Friday, January 15, 2010

AMS POPEYE REALLY ALL THAT HE YAMS?

As expressions of guilt and remorse go, Mark McGwire's long overdue admission that he was on steroids when he broke baseball's single season home run record was about as surprising as O.J. Simpson coming clean on the Nicole Brown/Ron Goldman murders(which O.J. hasn't yet confessed to because he was too busy looking for the "real killer" on different golf courses and aboard various cruise ships before going to the can for armed robbery, kidnapping etc.).

The circumstantial evidence that something was chemically amiss in baseball has existed for years, primarily in the form of before-and-after photographs of McGwire, Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and other home run hitters whose physical transformation from lean, mean hitting machines to freak show colossi makes those old Charles Atlas comic book ads credible by comparison. (If you're too young to remember, get a load of this).

Which brings us Popeye. While he's technically fictional and as such has never had to answer to the same standards of integrity by which McGwire must abide, that doesn't lessen Popeye's impact as a role model. Take it from me. As a skinny, bespectacled kid who got picked on in elementary school in the 1960s, I bought into Popeye and the power of spinach, right up until the first time I choked down a couple of cans of the stuff, picked a fight with Eddie Martin, who was about 17 and had muttonchop sideburns in Grade 5, and got the living daylights beaten out of me.

So there I am, with my broken glasses hanging sideways off my face and blood spattered all over my "Feelin' Groovy" t-shirt, feeling completely betrayed by a pipe-smoking cartoon sailor with one good eye and alarmingly disproportionate forearms. Look, I know it's my own fault, and even as a kid with a wild imagination I was usually pretty good at separating the real from the unreal. I never shot myself out of a cannon to catch a roadrunner, and I knew that when my Dad flew out of town on business, he wasn't on a pterodactyl. But I really dropped the ball on the Popeye thing, because spinach is real, it's good for you, and Popeye always won the day against Bluto and always got the chick (such as she was - somebody get that broad a pork chop).

Here's the irony of the whole thing: if Mark McGwire had laid off the steroids and eaten spinach, he still would have had a productive major league baseball career and retired with his honor and reputation intact. If I had taken steroids instead of eating spinach in Grade 5, I probably would have kicked the shit out of Eddie Martin. It's a wiggly world.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

HITLER DOESN'T SHARE HIS COOKIES

A few years ago I was watching the History Channel, as is my wont, and there was Hitler in front of 100 thousand strong at Nuremberg, spouting the usual schiesse about the master race and Aryan destiny, when my 3 and 5 year old sons walked into the living room, pointed at the TV and said "Who's that?" I explained that Hitler was a very bad man who started a world war and killed a lot of innocent people but that he's been dead for a long time and the world is better off without him.

Flash forward a week or two and I'm driving around with Charlie, the 3 year old, who's munching cookies in his toddler seat in the back of the car and asks me if I want one. "That's nice, Charlie," I say, "you're a good boy to share your cookies." And he fixes me with the kind of earnest look that only a wonderfully naive 3 year old can muster and says "Hitler doesn't share his cookies."

And that's the title of my first book - Hitler Doesn't Share His Cookies. If I were a musician, I'd put out a CD called Hitler Doesn't Share His Cookies. If I were a movie mogul, I'd finance a feature film called Hitler Doesn't Share His Cookies. But I'm an unemployed radio announcer with a blog, so even a book is probably a longshot, but it's the most realistic goal.

All need now is an outline. And a plot. And all the other elements professional authors weave into the creation of a best-selling novel. But I know Hitler's going to be in the book, and I know that he's going to have cookies, and that he might or might not share them, depending on what kind of curveball I decide to throw at the end. Interestingly (or not), Hitler was a vegetarian with a great fondness for pastries, so I could alternatively name the book Hitler Doesn't Share His Apfelstrudel or Hitler Doesn't Share His Kartoffelpfannkuchen. But I'm less interested in historical accuracy than I am in honoring a 3 year old's generosity of spirit and remarkably simplistic but compelling take on history's greatest despot. Because I'll bet you Hitler DIDN'T share his cookies. Whether relaxing in lederhosen with his Nazi party cronies at the Obersalzberg or meeting with the high command at the Wolfschanze to plot strategy for the Eastern Front, I'll bet der Fuhrer hoarded every sweetbread in the place and told Goering to get his own cookies, not that Goering needed any, the fat f***.

I realize that Hitler is a touchy subject and I don't mean to make light of wars of aggression or crimes against humanity, but remember that I'm trying to pitch a book here, and Hitler Doesn't Share His Cookies is a catchier title than Churchill Doesn't Share His Brandy or Roosevelt Doesn't Share His Wheelchair. Now THAT's offensive.

Putting the "OG" in BLOG

Welcome to the web version of animal drawings on cave walls. Nothing fancy here. My internet parameters to this point have been largely confined to surfing for hockey scores and pornography, so generating my own content is a work in progress. Most of what you'll find here is a random series of thoughts, opinions and ideas, occasionally explored in some depth, but more often than not abbreviated by the pressing demands of my two year old daughter. ("Daddy...poo.")

So, at the risk of repeating myself (again) for anyone who's been following me on Twitter or Facebook, here's a brief synopsis of what's gone on since I walked the radio plank:

-have received promisorry notes totalling more than $20 million from dormant accounts in Burkina Faso and Cote d'Ivoire in exchange for personal banking data. God takes care of those who can't take care of themselves.

-considering applying for work at CBC, pending surgical procedure(s) to become a differently-abled African Canadian lesbian dwarf.

-tried to get out of laundry duty by citing "creative differences." No takers.

-threw out my shoulder emptying the dishwasher, underscoring the urgency of using newfound free time to get back in shape.

-came to the mathematical conclusion that if each of my Facebook friends and Twitter followers bought me lunch, I could eat for 15 months. (that's now up to 17 1/2 months).

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I can't get over the amount of support I've received since resigning as co-host of the morning show on CHOM January 1st. I consider this blog a pretty good test of whether there's still an audience out there for me, or if - as someone in a position of influence supposedly remarked after I left - I'll be forgotten in 48 hours. That was 264 hours ago, by the way.

Daddy...poo.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Can you hear me now? How about now?

Say, friends.
Welcome to the blog. Thanks to Nadia Lawand for helping me set it up. She wants to go home now, so I'm posting this just to make sure we're up and running.
Thanks to everyone who offered their support after I fell on my sword at CHOM. I'm going to use this blog as a creative outlet until I get a real job. I'll post some actual content tomorrow.