Thursday, 18 December 2014

The history of every computer ever purchased - a personal account

1985   
Salesman - Okay sir, your grand total for the computer and the dot matrix printer comes to $2700, and I’ve signed you up for a college level course in advanced programing, so you’ll know how to operate it.

Me – Then I can play solitaire…right?

1994
Salesman – It’s called Windows 3.1 and it’s much better than DOS. I’m guessing the good folks at Microsoft won’t be able to improve on this operating system at least until the millennium.

Me – I’ll take it! Oh, and throw in that box of 100 floppy discs - those things never go bad.  Plus you never know when you’ll need to transport 1.4 megabytes of data.

1995 
Me – What the hell man….Windows 95? Well if it comes with that internet thingy and solitaire, I’ll take it.

Salesman – And, for an extra $600 you can have that one with a CD burner. You can make mixed CDs which is just like making a mixed tape…only way more complicated.

1999 
Salesman – You‘re buying a computer at exactly the right time. You can skip Windows 97 and 98 and go straight to Windows Millennium – the greatest operating system ever.  Well, either that or Windows 2000.

Me – What’s the difference?

Salesman – I’m not sure, but I can throw in a DVD burner for an extra $600. You can burn your own DVDs and it only takes like…2 days.

2005 
Me - I like that it has 2 USB ports, but are you sure I need a 40 gigabyte hard drive? I’m not running NASA out of my living room you know.

Salesman – You’ll be sorry. There is no such thing as too much hard drive.

2009 
Me - I need a bigger hard drive. I’ve been perfectly legally downloading a lot of movies lately.  

Salesman – This one has a 12 Godzilla-byte hard drive. It will hold 7500 movies, 5 million photos and the entire archives of the Smithsonian Institute.

2014
Me - Ok. I’ll take that one with Windows 8, even though I know you have windows 10 in the back there, and you’re going to roll it out as soon as I walk out the door. Also, I’ll need one with a retinal scanner, warp speed processor, breathalyzer and flux capacitor. And solitaire.”

Salesman – And the cloaking device sir?

Me – How much extra?

Salesman – Only $600 dollars sir.

Me – I’ll take it.


Friday, 7 November 2014

Eight Things That Suck About Being a Grownup


For starters, being over 40 and still having the word “suck” in one’s vocabulary is, in some circles, not considered very grownup. While I’m not actually classifying myself as a grownup yet, I do plan on being one in the future; like by the time I hit fifty. Or fifty-five at the very latest, so that I have some concrete plans for my retirement other than playing Frisbee and listening to the Grateful Dead all day long. I know that sounds idyllic, but I could be arthritic at that point and I might lose interest in Hacky–Sack as a form of recreation, even though I’m totally wicked at it.

Beware the following sucky things. They may come around and harsh your buzz, and your vocabulary….dude.

1. Tennis elbow – yes, it’s actually a real thing and I had it in both arms at once. At one point I thought it was just an expression that people used to get out of helping you move, like “I have a trick knee”, or “I have the scurvy”.  I know scurvy is real now too, thanks to my cousin Tom who was diagnosed after the doctor found out that he survived for an entire semester on Mr. Noodles and Molson Export.

2. Taxes - To simplify, there is this organization in our nation’s capital called Revenue Canada, made up of a bunch of jerk-faces, who think it’s their job to monitor your tax returns. They are completely without humour and do not appreciate receipts submitted in crumpled ball format.

3. Being in Charge of Stuff – With great power comes great responsibility, and so by default, simply being an adult often puts you “in charge” of things that could get you in trouble if you screw up. As in, “you’re in charge of picking up the boy from hockey, so please don’t leave him stranded at the arena…again”.  

4. Setting an Example – Why do I have to always set an example? Isn’t that what crossing guards and that guy from Highway to Heaven are for? Sometimes I just want to lay on the couch in my underwear, eating nachos and binge watching Family Guy without the boy thinking I’m a giant loser.

5. Snow Days – Kids version: Buses are cancelled! WOOHOO! Fruit loops doused in chocolate milk, followed by video-games and the building of snow forts. Grown-up version: Shovel the driveway, find and pay a babysitter because now the kids are home alone, try to avoid 30 car pileup on way to work, get home and shovel the driveway again because the plow has filled it in. That’s a shite deal if you ask me.

6. Cholesterol – Cholesterol is an evil tool that doctors use to try and get you to give up beer and wing night. Apparently the celery and carrots on the side don’t amount to the recommended daily serving of veggies. In my twenties I could do a basket of fries, a pound of suicide wings and a pitcher of beer right before bed and wake up right as rain the next day. If I did that now, I would have heartburn, nightmares and probably wet the bed.

7. Beer Belly – See number 6, but add more beer to the mix. A lot more delicious beer.

8. Hangovers – Ok, yes you can have a hangover when you are a teenager, but it is easily remedied with a greasy breakfast and a jug of Gatorade. If I get a hangover now, it feels like I spent the night in a tequila shot competition against the entire Irish drinking team.

Your homework if you choose to accept it….a lovely rendition of I Don’t Want to Grow Up.






Saturday, 25 October 2014

Teenage Wasteland


“I’ll be 13 in like, 3 months” said the boy to his parents, and quite frankly a little too offhandedly considering the grave ramifications of such a statement. And there it was, out there like a giant elephant, sucking all the air out of the room.  
Up until this point the family was content to exist in a lovely state of denial, devoid of any sullen teenagers and the accompanying eye rolling, incessant texting and schlumping around the house muttering about how their parents are deliberately trying to ruin their lives.

The parents looked at each other and simultaneously attempted to rearrange their facial expressions to something less horror stricken.

 “Mom, are you crying?” asked the boy.

“Dad, why is mom crying? Oh my god…you’re crying too? What is wrong with this family?”

The parents knew then that the winds of change were blowing through the household and troubled winds they were, for they would bring parties with girls, and mood swings and general grief for both child and adult alike, and the parents knew this because they had both been teenagers at one point. They recalled the hormones and acne and moping, and they realized almost at once that it was indeed payback time.

The man, in particular, remembered certain events in his own family that had turned his parent’s hair gray. There were three of them, all two years apart, meaning of course that for a time, all were teenagers at once. Looking back, it wasn’t even really a fair fight and it remains a miracle that the parents never went over the edge and shot any of them.

The sister was the oldest, so her role was to begin wearing down the parents first in order to widen the path for the two brothers. And so, despite her accident prone nature, she somehow managed to get her driver’s license and subsequently had to make the first call home to announce that she had driven the car into – or more accurately through- a snow bank and could someone please come and get her out? In short order, the sister became quite adept at running out of gas and sliding into ditches, but her specialty was bumping into the other vehicles in the driveway. It was a mystery how someone so athletically inclined and who could expertly navigate a sailboat through a crowded start line at a race could not park in a double wide driveway without bashing into at least one other car.                                   
                                        
In the years that followed, the brothers also each managed to crack up different cars to various degrees. At one point, the younger one somehow actually careened off the side of the house, but by that time the wagon was so beat up, the parents may not have even noticed the new scrape. The middle brother nearly wrote off the Toyota, while skipping school no less, thereby earning points for a double whammy. Actually, he was on a lunch break, but by the time the police were finished charging him, it had run into third period thereby requiring a call from the vice principal.  I think by the end, the parents were told by the insurance company that if they filed any more claims, they would have to hand over one of the children to complete a two year internship at the brokerage.
The other unenviable duty the sister had to perform was to be the first to vomit in the car after calling for a ride home after a party. So, not only was the father forced to stay up until midnight to play taxi but he had to drive home in a stinky station wagon. The upshot of this was the parents became wise to the dangers of picking up drunks, and would usually encourage a designated driver amongst the teen’s peers.

The brothers, being boys and exposed to the general short circuiting found in the brains of all teenage males, were prone to wreaking havoc and causing stress for the parents in other areas. Jumping off bridges at the Green River, jumping over cars in the parking lot at the ski-hill and driving around aimlessly at night with four or five other dimwits in the wagon, trying to relieve boredom by committing various acts of mischief and general civic damage.

“Why is there a yield sign in your bedroom?” the father would ask.

“We found it in the ditch.”

“Well. Take it back, and make sure you bolt it on properly. You could cause an accident”

All three of them it seemed, were able to eat their own body weight each week, so the mother took to shopping at the No Frills, stocking up on bulk items with the non-descript yellow labels.  Entire loaves of bread would disappear between after school and dinner time, and enough milk was being consumed to sustain a small village in Tibet.  Amidst this, the house somehow became a favourite hangout for various hungry teens and the brothers were fond of feeding their friends at odd hours.

“Where are all the hamburgers?” the mother would ask.

“We ate them last night when we got home.”

“At midnight? Tell your friend Danny to eat at home once in a while.”

It was around this time that the father started drinking Guinness, the only beer he could find that none of his offspring were willing to steal.

Remarkably during this time there was only one suspension from school, involving the elder brother – a non-incident really - that was more of a misunderstanding between him and the vice principal as to the definition of mooning. The youngest brother did manage to get himself placed on academic probation (or as some may say, kicked out) from university. Twice.  Fortunately, the father had pursued a similar route in his academic career, so this provided a sense of camaraderie between them, thereby lessening the fallout. The mother was not impressed.

The mother was a worrier at heart, so the older two at least had the sense to lie to her when they took the younger one to his first Grateful Dead concert. She found out eventually, but by that time, so many concerts and road trips had passed that her coping strategy was to stay at the cottage all summer thereby avoiding the gory details. She would leave them money for food, which would be subsequently divided into an equitable 80-20 split between beer and food. She had an inkling, but they never looked badly malnourished, so all was well.

To round things out, there were speeding tickets, break-ups and the inevitable crappy fast food jobs, which made the parents realize that whoever had the audacity to say that your teenage years are the best of your life, obviously never vomited out the back window of a Ford Tempo doing 120 km, because the driver refuses to stop, while the other four occupants of the car are singing Iron Maiden’s Run to the Hills at full volume, even though there is no radio.

Remembering all of this, the boy’s father looked at his son, a boy of twelve and three quarters, and realized that it’s not just the parents who will suffer but the teens as well, and this gave him a small measure of comfort.



Then again, the sister did turn out okay with a Doctorate in Rehabilitation Science, although she still insists on driving like a blind person. The youngest (much to his mother’s relief) finished his schooling before he was thirty and found a career as a chef and later became a teacher. The elder brother also became a teacher and actually went to work for the Principal who many years before had suspended him in the name of all things decent. He also keeps a blog, which his son never reads. Hopefully.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

10 types of people who I will never invite to afternoon tea


 Note: I don’t have afternoon tea, but if I did, the following miscreants would not be on the guest list.

1.       People who say they are vegetarians, but eat fish. A fish is not, in fact, a vegetable. This makes you a veggie-poseur and a jerk.

2.       Canadians who are ruining it for the rest of us. In the span of 8 months, Justin Beiber and Rob Ford have somehow managed to eclipse the goodwill established over the last 150 years by the likes of Sir John A. MacDonald, Anne Murray and Alex Trebek.                                                                                             

3.       Kids who are allergic to Peanut Butter. Not to lay a heavy on you if you are peanut allergic, but you have managed to ruin lunchtime for the majority of the free world. Makes me wish I lived in a place where they don’t freak out at every little case of the sniffles, or anaphylactic shock. I’ll bet kids in Russia are still allowed to take PB & J sandwiches to school. If they can get hold of some bread that is.

4.       People who wear track suits with large blingy jewelry. Make up your mind. Are you an athlete, or Liberace? You can’t be both.

5.       Tailgaters. Not the sausage eating Cleveland Browns fans, but the ones who are ramming their car up your arse when you are just trying to pass someone. Dude….it’s a blizzard and I’m already doing 120, so give me more than 2 seconds to get by this 60 foot transport truck.

6.       My ex-neighbor Jimmy. – Don’t worry about it…he knows what he did.

7.       Guys with chin-strap beards. You combo that with flat brimmed ball cap and those shorts that are almost long enough to be pants, but not quite, and you are entering serious d-bag territory.

8.       People who do not understand the concept of the drive through. If you are going to be feeding more than two people, and one of you is ordering anything more complicated than a muffin and a double-double, then you best get out of your vehicle and go speak to the nice people inside. In addition to holding up the convoy, you are spoiling the Tim Hortons “pay it forward” concept with your $55 order.

9.       Anyone who uses Twitter. I’m only saying this because I still don’t really know what Twitter is, and I feel left out.

10.   Self-righteous bloggers who take themselves too seriously. Get a life losers, and stop complaining about every little thing. Nobody cares what you think.


Monday, 11 August 2014

Dental Floss

The last time I went to the dentist I accidentally admitted to the hygienist that I rarely, if ever, flossed, which was apparently a grievous error. She made me promise to floss everyday, and in my weakened state I agreed. I said I would floss daily until our next visit, six months hence

Day One: I’ll show her. I’ve got the resolve of a really petty person who would change his entire oral hygiene ambition just to get back at a bullying dental hygienist.


Day Two: What the hell is up with all this blood?


Day Three: Late for Work! I’ll floss twice tomorrow.


Day Seven: Oops, missed a couple of days. Will floss, like, five times tomorrow.


Day Nine: She’s not the boss of me. I floss on my own terms.


Day 174: Oh God. She’s going to know I haven’t been flossing when I visit tomorrow. Maybe she has been fired since my last visit. Maybe she died.


Day 175: We have agreed to a ceasefire. She will stop badgering me about flossing, and I will not cause a scene again in the dental office. I agreed to take home the free floss anyway.


Day 176: They are trying to trick me with this minty floss.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

How to Ruin Your Child's Life in 12 Minutes

A very brief account of the day I picked my son up from school dressed as Paul Stanley from Kiss.

I did not start out the day expecting to descend on the East Oro Public School in the guise of a lurid, cross-dressed, face painted, high heeled, star-child. My only directive that afternoon was to join my fellow air-band members on stage at our school’s year end assembly and proceed to rock and roll all night (well, period four anyway) and party every day.

Let the record show that I will take any chance I get to play rock star and preen about on the stage, so of course the chance to be Kiss, the Holy Grail of dress-up, was too good to pass over. However, if one is going to tackle impersonating the Motor-city rockers, there is simply no way to go but full throttle, lest one run the risk of making a fool of oneself. (My mantra says squeezing into one’s wife’s black tights is only foolish if you do it badly). Under this counsel, my mates and I went the extra mile to prepare for our big show stopper. Weeks of construction with glue guns and studs, fiber-glassing high boots and searching for just the right wig. I stuck to a steady diet of brown liquor, Red-Bull and Skittles, just to get my body acclimatized to the R&R lifestyle. No one could question our dedication and on the day of the assembly, we were over an hour in costume and makeup getting ready. That’s show biz for you.

We rocked the house in a blur of lights and smoke the likes of which our school stage hasn’t seen since Glass Tiger played the school dance back in 1987. Needless to say, all the effort was too great to be wasted on three minutes of glory, and after the performance, I jokingly announced that I was going to go pick up the boy from school dressed in full regalia. There were some ha ha’s all around, and then I heard the devil on my shoulder say to my endorphin riddled and highly suggestible brain, “Yes, that is a very good idea. You should go pick up the boy dressed like this. It will be cool!”

And so… barring any disregard for my own safety, I hopped in the car with my 5 inch platform boots and headed on down the highway. I probably should have taken at least my right boot off to get some traction on the pedal, but I had too much adrenalin going and plus they are an absolute bitch to get off. I was just leaving the parking lot, when I had a niggling feeling that I should probably call ahead to the school and let them know I was coming, so as not to trigger a Level 5 lockdown as soon as I walked through the doors. I immediately had visions of a swat team being deployed to come and take out the weirdo who had arrived to scare the children. I called ahead and spoke to the secretary, as per protocol, when you are picking up a child early.

“Just wanted to let you know that I will be picking up Kelton at 3pm.”

“That’s fine Mr. McEwen. He’ll be all ready to go. Is there anything else?”

“No. Well yes, sort of. You know Kiss? The Band?”

“Of course. Dreadful band.”

“Well I’m in costume as one of them, and I was hoping to go right down to Kelton’s classroom and sort of…surprise him.”

Okay, now it was starting to sound weird when I had to explain myself to a grownup.

“So, maybe you could let the principal know, you know, just so it doesn’t get weird.”

“I can’t wait.” She said.

I arrived 10 minutes later, parked the car and sat for maybe 30 seconds contemplating what I was about to do. There was no backing out now, so I took a deep breath and headed for the front doors.  As I entered the building, there was a tiny kid, about grade three, coming down the otherwise empty hall towards me. She stopped dead in her tracks when she saw me, as though she had just witnessed an Alien in a fistfight with Santa Claus. Then her survival instinct kicked in and she shot into the girls bathroom, disappearing as quick as a wink. Poor kid, her parents will never believe her.

The secretary immediately burst out laughing when she saw me, which was enough to announce my arrival to the principal who came out of her office with her camera ready. She was very accommodating and I had my picture taken for the fiftieth time that day, presumably for the school website. Then she escorted me down to Kelton’s classroom where apparently, no one had told the teacher Mr. J, exactly what was happening, because he looked pretty shocked when I walked in.

I threw up my hands in the double devil salute and stood there to absolute silence for about 20 seconds. Every mouth was open and all eyes were as big as pie plates. Finally, one girl in the front row blurted out, “KISS!”

“You got it!” I said.

“Hello son!” I said, pointing directly at Kelton, who, for not the first time, was convinced that I was not his real dad. 
Then it was 20 questions for a while.
“Do you always dress up at high school? Where are the other guys? Why are you here?”

So while the boy was grabbing his stuff, the principal insisted that I visit the grade 8 class, so they could bear witness to the crazy times they were sure to encounter at High School next year. Eventually, when I was through my tenure as show and tell object, we left.

I tried to gauge the boy’s reaction on the way home, but he was fairly silent. In awe of his old man probably. Or in shock from emotional trauma. Poor little guy....look at him there, trying not to cry.


                                                                    The whole band....






Sunday, 18 May 2014

Top 10 Dogs in Song

 “Good dags. D’ya like dags?” 
This asked by the near unintelligible character Mickey, played by Brad Pitt in the movie Snatch. Dags, it turns out, is the gypsy pronunciation of dogs. Well, I happen to like dags. I like them a lot. As such, listed in no particular order are some songs that have in the title, are about, or otherwise make reference to those flea bitten, bed-hogging critters that we let into our lives.

1. Bron-Y-Aur Stomp – Led Zeppelin

Even if you could understand Welsh, a god-awful language characterized by too many y’s and not enough vowels, there is no hidden dog reference in the title. Bron-Y-Aur is a nod to a cottage in Wales where the Zep were doing some writing way back when.
Title aside, in Bron-y-aur stomp, Robert Plant does sing about walking through the countryside with his old Blue Merle Shepard, which I misheard for most of my formative Zeppelin years. I thought he was talking about a girl but it turns out it was a dang dog.  Blue eyed Merle is not a far stretch from blue eyed girl, so you forgive my fault. The long and short of the tale, no pun intended, is that in the world of heartbreak, apparently losing a dog hurts worse than losing a girl. Who knew the Golden God was such a softie?

“When you’re old and your eyes are dim, there ain’t no shep gonna happen again”

A lovely sit-down version from 1975.



2. Dog Days are Over – Florence and the Machine
I have no explanation as to why I love this song so much. Maybe it’s the harp or maybe its just because the video is really cool.  As for the dog days, those are supposed to be the hottest days of the year, characterized by inactivity or sluggishness.  As near as I can tell, Florence’s advice is that these heady days of summer are over and something bad is coming down the pipe.

“Run fast for your mother, run fast for your father, Run for your children, for your sisters and brothers.”

If you haven’t seen this video, it’s a feast for the eyes.



3. Old King – Neil Young

You have to guess that Neil would have a hound dog or two following him around amidst the vintage cars at his ranch. He’s just that kind of a guy, and so when he writes a song about a dog, you know it’s from the heart. Turns out, Old King was a real dog, but his name was Elvis.                                                
This from the Greek in LA, 9/22/92…

After a few warmup chords on the banjo just before Old King...
"This a song about my dog. His name is Elvis. Elvis is riding on Jimi Hendrix's bus now. He traveled with me for many years. Well, I changed his name to 'King' in the song to avoid any confusion.”     (transcript from thrasherswheat.org – thanks!)




4. Black Eyed Dog – Nick Drake

Anything Nick Drake ever wrote is beautiful and usually chilling, with Black Eyed Dog being no exception. If you don’t know about Nick Drake, you are not alone. He died in 1974 after releasing three mostly unheard albums. There is no known video footage of him and he rarely performed live or even consented to be interviewed. His work is recognized now mostly because his song Pink Moon was featured in a VW commercial. He has become cool in a way that Wille Nelson or turntables are cool. We just never knew it before.

This song is 3 minutes and 28 seconds but it might haunt you forever…



5. Pink Floyd – Dogs

Dogs is a full 17 minutes which basically ate up the entire first side of the Animals release. The song is a comparison how human behavior in the cutthroat world of business is no more than that of dogs being beaten down by man. It’s a bit of downer even by Pink Floyd standards, but as with much of their other stuff, never seems to grow old. Possibly this is because of all the crazy chord changes and weird key signatures. Or maybe it’s the intense flashbacks it triggers that are keeping me entertained.
Also of special note, Dogs is featured in agreat scene from WKRP with Dr. Johnny Fever and Arthur Carlson.



6. Spine of a Dog – Moe

Moe is not known for writing songs with strong lyrical content. What they do best is play with such ferocity that their songs could be about boiled potatoes and they would still be mesmerizing. Spine of a Dog has absolutely nothing to do with dogs, and as far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with anything actually. Well…except potatoes and pinball machines. Nonsense lyrics are a vehicle to showcase the jamming talents of these boys from Buffalo.

This version transitions into another song at about 9 minutes, if your head hasn't exploded by then.



7. Black Dog – Led Zeppelin

Legend has it that a black dog kept wandering into the studio during the recording session. There is a 1972 bootleg with the following story told by Plant. (It must be true because I read it on Wikipedia)
“Let me tell you 'bout this poor old dog because he was a retriever in his early days, and the only thing he could ever find in his late days was his old lady who lived two houses away from where we were recording. And he used to go see the old lady quite regularly, but after he'd "boogied" and everything else he couldn't get back. And we used to carry him back.”
I’m trying not to have a man crush on Robert Plant with his ridiculous blouse and truck stop belt buckle, but damn…
                              

8. Hound Dog – Elvis

Hey Elvis, why are you so down on hound dogs? My neighbors had a hound dog, and he was not cryin’ all the time. He was only cryin’ when he was tied up outside in inclement weather.  Hound Dog is a straight up 12 bar blues song written by the exemplary team of Leiber and Stoller, and when placed in the hands of the King, became one of the greatest Rock and Roll songs of all time.  There’s nothing to it really. Two short verses, where the words are mostly repeated, and what passes for a chorus is “You ain’t  never caught a rabbit, and you ain’t no friend of mine.” Lesson to aspiring song writers. Keep it simple, and get an Elvis type of icon to record your song.

I think we’ll go with skinny Elvis on this one. Bonus tracks -Love Me Tender and Heartbreak Hotel.



9. Diamond Dogs – David Bowie

As a young lad, on numerous occasions I had the Bowie - Changes One record sleeve out, reading the words to Diamond Dogs, but to this day the meaning remains elusive to me. I ‘ve heard the song a thousand times and as near as I can tell, he is talking about a half man, half beast creatures that prowl the streets of New York City. Dogs or no dogs, it’s a great song. Let’s leave it at that.

Below, some typical 1970’s Bowie weirdness, and some cool rehearsal footage.


10. I Love My Dog – Cat Stevens

Interestingly, this was the first song ever released by Cat Stevens. It’s slightly corny like one of those inspirational posters you see in the guidance counselor’s office that has puppies in a basket, and one puppy is clinging to the side and it says “hang in there”. 
The Cat says, “you may fade, but my dog will always come through”, clearly summing up the sentiment of the whole piece, meaning in a contest of companions, the one who showers you with unbridled love and affection will always win out over the one who comes home drunk, smelling like a Parisian brothel. We love our dogs and they love us back, twice as hard.





Thursday, 27 March 2014

Of Quitters, Winners, Whiners, and Sissies.

House rules in our joint dictate that barring any broken limbs, if you start an activity, you finish it, and if you don’t want to go back next year then you don’t have to. You can deal with any post-traumatic stress and repressed emotions in your 30’s like the rest of us. Bear witness to house league soccer, rep soccer, karate, piano lessons, power skating, lacrosse, terrain park skiing and mountain bike camp to name a few.  All cast aside to make room for the promise of more exciting pursuits. At this rate, we’ll be looking at purchasing a wing suit and base jumping lessons just to keep this child’s adrenalin up to acceptable levels.

Letting kids find their thing often seems to be harder on the parents than any of the kids who are actually doing the thing. After going through a heartbreaker with lacrosse one year, I realized how easy it is to turn into an overbearing tiger-mom. Case in point: boy picks up a lacrosse stick for the first time at a skills camp in March, starts the season in April and by July is among the league leaders in points. He’s making the players around him better, he’s seeing the floor in a way the others aren’t and seemingly scoring at will. Then he goes to lacrosse camp in August and wins the coaches award. Well that was all the encouragement I needed.

In my mind, we’re just 8 short years away from a full scholarship at Cornell University. I can see him now, number 11 out on the field among the storied Big Red lacrosse team, smashing those pesky Princeton Tigers to smithereens. Mrs. Rock and Roll Librarian and I will come down on weekends to watch games and bask in the social elitism only an Ivy League school can provide.

Instantly I knew we needed to get him into field lacrosse because that’s the American game. This is where I was cut off at the knees.

“Dad, I don’t think I want to do lacrosse next year”

“What? Why not? You’re awesome at it.” I say through the tears. My tears I mean.

“It’s too rough. I don’t like all the slashing and getting hit from behind.”

“But…how will I ever get to Cornell?” I’m really crying now.

I had hoped perhaps I wouldn’t pass the sissy gene on to the boy but no such luck. Getting cross checked into the boards is not my idea of a good time either, but I thought maybe he would be tougher than me.

“You know, field lacrosse is not nearly as rough as box lacrosse” I say weakly, knowing my dream of living vicariously through the boy is about to evaporate before my eyes. That was a tough one to let go, however briefly it tempted me.

And now, a long basketball season is winding down and spring ball hockey is ramping up, creating an inevitable showdown that threatens the tenuous balance between the two sports. Fate has cruelly intervened to complicate things as the two activities fall on the same night. To make matters worse, the boy is captain of the basketball team, and as such, he needs to be at every practice to demonstrate his commitment and leadership skills. Problem is that we have reached basketball saturation and have become giddy with anticipation of a fresh ball hockey season.

“Do I have to go to basketball practice?”

“Yes. You only have two practices left, and then you can concentrate on ball hockey.”

Cue mumbling under breath, eye rolling and dramatic slamming of objects. I know it’s immature of me, but it’s the only communication they understand.

What we don’t want is for one activity (in our case, basketball) to drag on so long that it becomes a chore. It’s a balance of finding the fun and still showing your stick-to-it-ness. If the kid really wants it, then presumably, they’ll roll with the ups and downs and do it. If they want to move on after the season is over, then in my books that’s fine. I guess that’s how you get well-rounded offspring who can go from band practice to swim practice and all points in between.

So far, we’ve been lucky in that he hasn’t shown any interest in the drum kit that resides in our basement, or asked for bagpipe lessons. I’m sure I can handle driving to tournaments 2 hours away better than I can handle the screech of the pipes.

Don’t get me wrong. Every day I count myself lucky to have a great kid who is athletic and smart and interested in a multitude of things, including the not so desirable stuff like video games and junk food. So what if he has dashed my dreams of being the dad to a Cornell student? At least I’m not the dad to a mid-season quitter.


Monday, 10 March 2014

Dear winter...you win.

Congratulations winter…you have finally broken my spirit. Are you happy now?

This revelation came without fanfare or really even a fight, but I knew it was over when I quit shoveling about five weeks ago. I just didn’t care anymore.

Normally I love to fire up my snow blower and clear the driveway, but after the last significant snowfall, I just didn’t have it in me. Then the plow went by and left an extra foot at the end of the driveway, and I knew I couldn’t face it. We just drove over it, and now the ruts are so deep it looks like we staged a tractor pull there. After cleaning off the hot tub lid and deck on a near daily basis, I gave that up too. All it’s doing now is festering under two feet of snow and running up the hydro meter. The sheds are inaccessible, the barbeque is buried and we only have one door out of four we can still use. We’re one more good snowfall away from being completely cut off from civilization. What are we, in Timmins for God sake? (Sorry Timmins, but…you know).

My kid is now going to grow up and be able to say to his kids, “When I was your age, we still had four feet of snow in the back yard in the middle of May, and my dad nearly turned into Jack Nicholson in The Shining when the snow slid off the roof and crushed his barbeque.”

This is Canada. It’s supposed to be cold. It’s also March and there is still so much snow out back that the dogs won’t even leave the poop trail. That’s right…the designated area for dogs to relieve themselves amounts to a series of channels carved out of the snow. It looks like World War One trench warfare out there, and it has been shrinking since December, creating an increasingly concentrated toxic area which is going to be very unpleasant when the snow finally does melt. March is supposed to be melty and sunny and a time of joyous laughter. Instead, it’s all crappy and grey and filled with ice dams and misery. Oh did I forget to mention the ice dam? At a house we rent out in town, there is an ice blockage on the roof the size of a small glacier. One of the bedroom ceilings is ready to collapse and insurance doesn't cover it.

Maybe it’s global warming or El Nino or maybe I just didn't build my winter solstice fire big enough to appease the Gods. Either way, if this happens again, I’m going to have to consider applying for a green card and moving to Texas. I could handle hurricanes, republicans and no hockey if it meant doing it at 85 °.

I have tried to embrace you winter, I really have. I've been out snowshoeing, cross country skiing, and skating on the pond. Your embrace unfortunately, has turned into a creepy, too long bear hug and you are making me uncomfortable. It’s time to let go and we’ll see you next year.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Top 10 Bands that Dress to Kill

Elvis wore a leather jacket, Jim Morrison wore leather pants and Nash the Slash...remember him?
Well, he wore surgical bandages all over his head, a white top hat and sunglasses. Some bands use clothes as part of the act, and for some, it becomes the act. In no particular order, here are 10 bands that took their fashion choices to the next level. Remember, we're not here to judge, as it probably seemed like a good idea at the time and also they were very likely high out of their minds on cocaine.

1. Judas Priest

Before there was Megadeath, Motley Crue and Metallica, there was the Priest. Judas Priest that is. Sometime late in the 70’s, they started taking their metal image very seriously and began to dress the part. Think S & M club meets a really skinny, slightly effeminate motorcycle gang. We had seen leather pants on lots of dudes before but Judas Priest really went the extra mile, adding studs to everything and upping the tightness factor. Right or wrong, they may have been solely responsible for the fashion choices of countless 80’s metal bands that followed. The Scorpions, Whitesnake, Slaughter, Ratt, and those of that ilk. That’s a lot of leather legacy.

2. Primus

They have been labeled the weirdest band in the world. If that means singing Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver dressed up as pigs, then yes, they may be contenders to the title. The madness of Primus is directly proportional to the amount of Les Claypool in the mix. If we follow him through his career of solo projects and side bands, a dress up theme is never far off. Claypool seems to pull oddball characters into his orbit like a giant black hole of weirdness. Members of Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade have been known to wear Planet of the Apes masks, reptilian costumes  and other critter themed gear during concerts. And yes, in the Bucket of Bernie Brains band, he had a guitar player that wore a KFC bucket over his head.



3. Devo

Devo put a nerd-rock twist on the dress up game and often sported what looked like B-movie Hazmat suits and plastic planters on their heads. They loved outfits and they loved symmetry, always uniform in their dress. As kids, maybe they all wanted to be astronauts when they grew up because there seems to be a science fiction theme going on with all those outfits.



4. Slipknot

I don’t know anything about Slipknot or their music, except that they scare the crap out of me. From the state of their outfits, I’m guessing thrash metal mixed with a dash of crazy. Like Kiss, this is one of those bands that says “to hell with dress up, we’re going deep into character and we’re not coming out until we’re washed up and ready for our own reality show.” Thumbs up for the commitment boys.



5.Village People

When I was in grade four, I got a copy of the Village People for my birthday.
I was fascinated by the cover photo, depicting them as the heroic looking macho men that they were. Then sometime later, my sister revealed to me that they were in fact, super gay.

 “No they’re not.” I replied, because the only gay person I knew was Jack Tripper from Three’s Company (even though he was faking) and he did not dress cool like the village people.

“Look at how tough looking the construction guy is.” I countered.

“His jeans are ripped. And look at the motorcycle guy…he has all that leather and a moustache.”

“That’s what gay men dress like.” She said.

“Do you really think you could ride a motorcycle in pants with no butt coverage?”

I was not convinced. Regardless, setting aside the actual functionality of the outfits and the cultural stereotyping, they still managed to sell 100 million records along the way. Political correctness wouldn’t be invented for a few years yet, so no harm no foul I suppose.



6. Kiss

To merely say that Kiss wore costumes is a bit like saying Muhammad Ali merely boxed. Kiss took what Alice Cooper was doing in the wardrobe department, multiplied it by 10 and suddenly they became game changers. They added make-up and became comic book characters that could sing and play (sort of). The outfits did change over the years by the way. I learned about some of the nuances and evolution of the Kiss costumes one year when I was researching for an airband performance. (Yes, it was that serious). Any Kiss fanatic will be able to match the era with the costume variations, but I’m not in that camp. I do know however, that between 1973 and 1983, they never played a show without the costumes and make-up, igniting a furious marketing storm that still goes on to this day. They still play live occasionally, but those first 10 years were what made them.



7. Gwar

Gwar is hard to explain if you have never seen what they wear. Think of low budget special effects creatures like the ones in the old Power Rangers t.v. show and you are pretty much there. There is a comedic aspect to them that goes along with their graphic lyrics so at least they're consistent in their ridiculousness. They are not scary like Slipknot, but they are original and they beat them to the punch. They upped the ante from Kiss and Alice Cooper and turned it into a freak show latex-extravaganza of metal. In the family tree of dress up,
No Gwar = no Slipknot.



8. Abba

This band had a couple of things going for them that created the perfect storm of outfits. First off, it was the disco era, so one wasn’t limited by good taste. Secondly, they had that strange incestuous couples thing going on, which provided endless combinations of outfits. The guys would match one day, the blonds would match the next, and then they would all dress the same the following. Their costume designer must have been in heaven with all those rhinestones and sequins. Maybe he had a be-dazzler. If you want to see exactly the extent of the jumpsuit madness, do a Google image search and prepare to be astounded by what you can do with polyester.



9. George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic

Where to begin? This band is one great big potpourri of space trippin’ eccentrics. Their fearless leader, George Clinton himself, stirring the funk soul stew. They rode on the Mothership in some seriously unfiltered outfits. Unlike some of the other large ensemble bands of the day, P-Funk had no rhyme or reason to the clothes, with everyone making a personal statement. They seemed to have toned things down in the later years, but any of the old photos from the 70’s show some truly inspired wardrobe choices.



10. Earth, Wind and Fire

These cats were all about unity. Whether they were wearing dashikis, gold lame or those crazy robes, they did it with style. Even the afros were coifed to the same length. There was a lot of Motown sensibility to their dress code that they carried through their career. These guys could bring it and they had the dance steps to match.



Your homework…one of my favorites. Shining Star by Earth, Wind and Fire.


Saturday, 22 February 2014

26 miles

Lyrics to a song I wrote and hope to record....


Thirty years ago, I saw it on TV
When he dipped his foot, right into the sea
He was just a boy, acting like a man
Escorted out of town, by a yellow van

I’ll tell you what it means, to be all alone
A lonely West Coast boy, three thousand miles from home
30 days of rain, all along the way
26 miles he ran, each and every day

Chorus

What I didn’t know
What no one dared to say
He might not make it
Might not make it to Thunder Bay

Sometime in July, on highway sixty nine
Headed up to Timmins, when we passed him by
Collecting money, from beside the van
I reached out the window, threw a dollar in the can

Chorus

I still see him now, always on the run
A forever memory, forever twenty one
Heroes don’t come easy, it takes a lot of might
They sometimes win the battle, and sometimes lose the fight

What I didn’t know
What no one dared to say
He never made it
Never made it past halfway


(But the)The whole world knows your name today