Thursday, September 30, 2010

Where's Leboeuf?

With the new release of Wall Street part 2 starring the infamous Michael Douglas and Shia Leboeuf, I have to ask the question: what's the big deal with Shia Leboeuf? How is it that he gets all these plum roles in Hollywood, starring in legendary series like Wall Street and Indiana Jones (as Indy's son, no less!) and big hits like Transformers? What's so special about him?

I've been wondering about this ever since the critics cried foul when he was called in to Indiana Jones and did his 'Born to be Mild' motorcycle entrance in a pitiful rendition of Marlon Brando's Wild One. What the heck was that? Leboeuf doesn't have the manly frame or slick charm of Marlon Brando for one thing, and has nothing of the wit and James-Bond style cool of Harrison Ford that temporarily made archeology the sexiest undergrad study across America during the 80s for another. So how was it that he got the golden role?

On the one hand, I can buy the argument by scouting agents that Shia has that ambiguous boy-man look that makes him appealing to a variety of audiences. When he wears a suit, he can play a man. When he wears a t-shirt and jeans, he can play a boy. That makes him suitable for the 18-30 range of men who go to the movies. Fine. But aren't there other men with this kind of look that can fill this spotlight? And couldn't we find one with more charisma? Shia doesn't ooze charm, charisma, appeal, intelligence- well, he doesn't ooze anything- on screen. In fact, nothing makes him special. That makes him a prime candidate as an extra on film.

Successful ambiguous on-screen men include the likes of John Cusack and Hugh Grant. But these men are charming, irreverent, hilarious and engaging. I have yet to see Shia Leboeuf be any of those things.

This is not to say that Leboeuf doesn't have any talent. I just have yet to see any proof of it. From what I can see, this is a kid that just got lucky and has managed to land more roles than he rightfully deserves, as he has yet to prove that he has any acting chops or specific charm. Maybe his time is yet to come. But in the meantime, the most memorable thing about Shia Leboeuf for me is the fact that he was once arrested for walking into a Walgreen's for no specific reason. That's the one interesting thing about him that I've heard thus far.

Hollywood will always be a mystery to me, so long as couch-jumping love nuts and revolving door rehab stints continue to characterize Hollywood success.

Losing (other peoples') Religion

A recent survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life in United States has shown who knows the most about other people's religions:

"Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest-scoring groups on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history and leading figures of major world religions."

That's right; traditionally perceived as the most ignorant on matters of religious practice, it turns out that non-believers, fence-sitters, Jews and Mormons are the most religion-savvy. That's probably because experience as new, highly persecuted or just plain curiousity-driven people has taught these groups to educate themselves, not just on a faith, but the tenets of the faith. It's no surprise to me that atheists and agnostics alike scored the highest. The constant quest for knowledge about religions drives a theoretical curiosity around religion as institutions and cultural practice, seen from a practical point of view, rather than concentrating on dogma. That's why these people can often answer not only fundamental religious questions about traditional, dominant faiths like Christianity, but also, about Islam and Hinduism.

Being open-minded is the best way to acquire, gain and maintain knowledge. Most religions are inward-focused and only seek to educate those who are members of their flock. But contrary to what some groups think about religious education causing their people to turn away from their faith, studies have shown that education can actually enrich a person's faith and religious belief.

After all, how can one be expected to know what to believe if they don't know what others around them believe? What would be their basis of comparison? And doesn't a knowledge of other people enrich your knowledge of yourself, forcing you to think about what it is that you believe and why? And if what your congregation fears does come true, and you leave their flock in favour of another, isn't that your right to do so as a free individual with your own will and brain?

Even if you don't practice religion, religious knowledge is valuable. It's ingrained in cultural practices, history, language and politics. It can offer important and interesting insights into behaviour, practices and laws. It's expressed in our art and architecture and can be the foundation of some of the most beautiful stories ever told and some of the most magnificent art pieces ever made.

I think it's useful for everyone to learn something about other faiths. It gives a great basis for understanding our fellow man. Even if we don't believe in what they believe in.

Famous Last Words?

Chad Ochocinco of the Cincinnati Bengals may have penned his famous last words as he tweeted to his fans to pick up his cereal and 'start the day with a lil suga'. Given the benefit of the doubt, it would be safe to assume that Ochocinco was not yet aware that the charity phone number on his cereal box to promote the cause of Feed the Children, actually led to a phone sex chat line. This is a classic case of why you should do things yourself rather than trusting people to do them for you; Ochocinco will probably not endorse another charity or associated product without first calling them up himself. A good lesson learned for the future.

As expected, this has caused a little bit of controversy in grocery stores across the U.S, who are madly pulling the cereal boxes off the shelves. The company responsible for this mishap will surely get its knucles rapped for being so negligent. As funny as the situation appears to the average reader, it's a real detriment to the image of the player associated with it and to the charity which will not be benefitting, as promised, from donations. It tarnishes the reputation of everyone involved in what was supposed to be a good cause and would probably make most athletes think twice before signing on for similar good endeavours.

It's unfortunate that this happened out of something that had good, wholesome intentions. But maybe some good can come out of this. Maybe the adult sex chat line will pony up with a donation to the charity- their business must be good, after all, since they're getting so many calls, misdirected as they may be.

A final lesson: be careful what you tweet.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Should have been a banker

I should have been a banker. Not only can you fully recover from a financial crisis through government subsidies that you can later ignore, 'talented' bankers can choose whether or not to settle for a half a million dollar salary a year. Citigroup, still struggling even after its bailout from Washington, has argued in favour of increases for its staff based on the fierce competition from Wall Street. As such, they've decided to subsidize the $500,000 annual salary cap of a talented banker with stocks and other incentives that aren't based in cash.

The greed of Wall Street is legendary, along with the fat salaries that go with the job. It's been popularized in the media with films and exposed in the media more recently with scandals. A couple of years back, bankers were the scum of the earth as far as the rest of the population goes, and it was tough to be one. But for $500,000 a year, I think that I could handle a little hate.

It's been tough on bankers, having to scale back their lives to accommodate the salary cap. It's been even tougher on the rest of the population that pretty much lost everything, their homes, their savings, their jobs, their futures. And yet, here we are again where we were before the crisis happened, with the talented bankers arguing their inflated worth, saying that the world is competitive and that you have to retain the best talent with the most money.

I wish that I had been a banker. If I could do it all over again, I would go straight to the money jobs. Sure, when you're young and idealistic, you think that money doesn't matter and that you would like something more meaningful. You think that you'd rather work for not-for-profit groups that bring water to towns in Africa and you have great images of yourself pumping clean water for happy, smiling children.

But that's not what happens. Those groups pay peanuts and are up for renewal every 3 years, so you don't even know if you'll have a job, and those do-good groups are always the first to get slashed in a time of financial weakness. And the water rarely ever gets there. You can spend years in some cubicle fighting over semantics with government agencies and filling out blue forms in triplicate. And the water pump may never be a reality.

Even if you do some good in these countries, you do it at enormous risk and then there are the people that don't want you to help in the first place or who have a vested interest in your groups not being helped. Because corporate interests always find a way to trump charity and charity has little power or appeal stacked up to cold, hard cash.

But if I had become a banker, I could have coasted through years of handling other people's money and treating life like a big board of monopoly and then have all my errors erased through a bailout package by the government. In good times, the money is all play and you can have champagne at lunch. In bad times, you don't make waves and you wait it out for that time, keeping your Prada bags in the closet. You wear a sympathetic face and wear more black and talk to clients in a somber manner, like the guy who runs the funeral home and you wait for better times to come around. And then when you get your $500,000 contract offer, you can decide whether or not you can take that kind of paycut, or if you'd rather swim with the big boys on Wall Street.

Some tough choices. Straggle along on the half a million a year, or work yourself to death on Wall Street for a heck of a lot more?

It's the same old story; the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It's just that this time around, the rich are getting richer at the expense of the poorer who are subsidizing their mistakes.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cinema Verite?

The Social Network is being promoted as one of the best films of the year. It's strange, then, that the main character on which the film revolves, CEO and founder of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, is not only refusing to see the film, but actively refuting its accuracy. Imitation is apparenly not the sincerest form of flattery in this situation, and it's hard to tell whether or not this film is worth seeing, controversy and all.

Here are some good reasons for and against seeing this film.


1- It's about Facebook. Blah.

2- For a film that's supposed to be so good, the previews look incredibly formulaic. It could be just the way the previews are structured, but there's pretty much no doubt as to how the film will roll out and we all know how the story ends.

3- The main character on which the film is based has openly said that it's grossly inaccurate. Not a great endorsement.

4- How interesting can 2 hours of a computer geek's life really be? Granted, you get to skip the hours in the basement eating cheeseburgers and programming while debating the merits of Star Wars. But it's still about that kind of guy. How much social awkwardness does one person need to experience in a theatre? Isn't going on a date there good enough?


1- The critics say it's good. That sometimes means it's true.

2- The main character doesn't like how he's portrayed. Doesn't that make you curious to see just how bad he looks?

3- Justin Timberlake is in it. That ups the cool factor right there, even though it's hard to see him in a film without imagining that he's suddenly going to break out into SexyBack in the middle of a scene. Which we would all pay to see.

All in all, it's going to be coin toss. If the film lives up to the critics claims, it will be noteworthy, if not a true cinematic experience. If it doesn't, it will just be more time wasted- like Facebook.

The French know how to do it

Another good reason to move to Montreal: the women there have more sexy time than any other province in the country. 55% of women in Montreal reported being sexually active, the highest percentage in the country, followed closely by Vancouver at 47%, showing that they carry much more than the Olympic flame.

Sadly, Ontario, home to small town farms, overworked Torontonians and sad-eyed public servants, came in dead last at 42%. Not a significant percentage drop, except when you consider the how often scale (once a week, twice a week, up to 3-4 times a week).

The poll was conducted by a Vancouver-based company and reveals what we pretty much already know about the bedroom tendencies of the nation. The French know how to do it. Not just how to get more sexy time; but how to live. That's their joie de vivre philosophy: good food, good wine, good company and you can add good lovelife to that equation. Unlike the anglophone trinity of work hard, save your pennies and try not to die before you get your pension.

Vancouver is also unique with its grassroots, eco-friendly, activist filled population. It makes sense that these people love more because they care more. They're more engaged on every scale: they're politically active, they're environmentally conscious, they have causes and they fight for what they think is right. Of course that translates well into the bedroom. These people care about things. They care about each other. If they didn't, there wouldn't be any reason to fight for anything.

Then there's the Prairies that follow with a reasonable number and finally, Ontario, the province that fun forgot. It seems to me that the Ontario women need to take a cue from their Quebecois counterparts and let their hair down once or twice a week, grab a glass (or two) of wine and take a night off from laundry and Blackberries. It would do them the world of good.

Another reason to love vegetables

There's another reason to love vegetables: they can save your life. A woman in Montana successfully fended off a bear attack in her home by throwing a large zucchini at it during a scuffle. The bear had entered her backyard in order to eat apples off her tree. When she let out her dogs for their nightly ritual, the dogs barked at the bear and the confrontation ensued.

Parents are always telling their children to eat their vegetables because they're good for you and because they help you to grow strong and fit. Growing your own vegetables is even better, because then you can avoid chemicals and pesticides and enjoy the freshest crops. And now, you can defend yourself with them.

If this woman was a couch potato, she would not have been able to fend off a bear with a bag of chips. That would not have worked. She would have had to throw them at the bear and then the bear would have eaten them off the floor and then he would have moved in and she would have had to live the rest of her natural life with her dogs and the bear and they would watch tv every night on the couch with chips.

The simple moral of this story is that it's better to be healthy and to be active, because you never know what will happen next in life and when you might have to defend yourself with locally grown produce. It may also be helpful to learn to run. You never know when you might need to bail on a wild animal attack- and it's helpful if the zombie apocaplypse occurs.

A palace in need

It appears that the recession has affected everyone, rich and poor alike, as the Queen herself has asked for funds destined for the poor to be re-directed towards covering the heating bills for her palaces. Yes, the royal family has a state grant of $15 million pounds that has been described by her aides as being 'inadequate.'

The heating and gas bills for the Queen's residences have increased by 50 percent. This is quite the coincidence, since heating and gas bills for regular people have risen by the same proportion and they are the ones subsidizing the Queen. But now it appears that the British people are not only expected to live on less and spend more to keep the economy going, they're also expected to further subsidize the Queen so that she doesn't shiver through the winter in her palace.

Granted, heating for a large residence is expensive and a life of leisure is harder and harder to maintain, what with inflation and wage freezes and budget cuts. Things that the royal family would surely know about if they were actually a part of Britain's working force. But the people would not be so heartless as to let an elderly woman freeze, especially since she's such an important symbol. Surely that justifies the reverse Robin Hood mentality of taking from the poor to give to the rich?

The Labour Party initially agreed to this measure and then retracted, in consideration of the possible fallout from the public. A last minute of reflection seems to have triggered in the Labour Party that this move would be a public relations disaster. Not to mention that it would make them look like unscrupulous doormats to the Queen who are willing to steal from the common working man and his family in order to pay palace bills.

In a modern age where the royal family rules from afar and only symbolically, it seems ridiculous to keep subsidizing their lifestyle. Decadent monarchies are a thing of the past, just like powdered wigs and mercury tainted wine goblets. In terms of the value for the money that the Queen and her royal family provides, their biggest asset is the entertainment value that they bring into our lives by being such great tabloid fodder. And in my opinion, that contribution is largely 'inadequate.'

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Going to Hell in a (Fabulous!) Handcart

A gay couple in the NorthWest Territories has won their case with the Human Rights Commission when their landlord refused them after he found out that they were a gay couple. He claimed that his justification for doing so was that he feared hell's reprisals for lodging a gay couple and tried to declare that his right to religious freedom trumped the couple's right to dignity.

Here's a great excerpt:
The tribunal heard Goertzen referred to gay people as "an abomination and one of the reasons the world is going to hell in a hand basket."

I think what he means is a FAH-bulous hand basket. Because you see, if we're going down with the gays, we should be going down in style.

It's incredible how there are still small-minded people out there who believe in such outmoded ideas about people and their sexual orientation. But this isn't the only part of the story that makes this man look bad. Not only did he refuse to honour the tenant agreement that was already signed, he immediately put the property back on the market upon his discovery that the couple was gay. No warning, no due diligence, and no obligation to honour the contract that he also signed as a landlord. He also didn't reimburse the couple their two week deposit after they had unknowingly been evicted; because it's not ok to harbour gays, but apparently it is ok to take their money.

He essentially left this couple homeless and took their money, reneged on their agreement, and then tried to hide behind his religious beliefs for what are somewhat unscrupulous acts. Granted, given that this amounts to lying and petty theft, maybe this man has a legitimate reason to fear hell. But it appears that sheltering gays will be the least of his problems when he gets there.

It's funny how religion can be interpreted so conveniently, how this man seems to beleive that God will forgive him from stealing and lying to people who rent from him, but not if those people are gay.

What do we really have to fear from gay people anyway? Mainstream media has basically taught us that the threat of gay people usually results in more interior decorating stores, and can God really hate interior decorating that much?

I'm glad that this couple won their case and that the court recognized discriminatory and unnecessary behavior when they saw it. Because not everyone does.

Yoga is not Duct Tape- it doesn't fix it

Cambridge has decided to take the edge off the bitter news of receiving a parking ticket by including yoga instructions with them. See related article:

I have to say that this offends me. Not because of being a victim to parking tickets, but because I hate yoga. I think it's one of the most prissy new age pretentious exercises which is so far removed from the original Buddhist concept of yoga and has since been diluted and trendified in an effort to get people to pay $80 for pants made out of seaweed and I just hate it. So you can imagine that the last thing that would calm me down if I've been served a ticket is the suggestion that I do yoga.

First of all, this suggestion is condescending. There's nothing worse than being really upset or having a horrible day and being told to just 'get over it.' There are many variations of this helpful advice: 'have a drink', 'forget about it, 'calm down' and 'grow up.' What if you don't want to calm down? What if you've had the most crap day of your life? You know those days, rotten meat in the fridge, your boss yells at you for a half hour, your boyfriend tells you you've put on weight and the stick thin neighbour has just bought herself a $500 winter coat while yours keeps losing buttons.

THOSE days. Those infuriating days that serves you the parking ticket when you're 5 minutes over the meter because you didn't have enough change because the time that your boss spent yelling at you was the time that you had orignally allotted to going to the bank, but by the time the yelling stopped, you were so bewildered that you thought you could get through the day without money and you had a rice cake for lunch. THOSE days.

So when that happens at the end of a horrible day, you WANT to get mad. You WANT to be upset. Why not? Don't you have every reason to be? But then you turn the parking ticket around and there's some snot in the tree position telling you to be happy and that should really be the final straw.

I may not be as smart as the Cambridge researchers, but my guess is this: nobody wants to be told to do yoga when they get a parking ticket. Parking tickets are annoying, unnecessary and usually expensive. We often feel persecuted unfairly or just plain bothered when it happens. So let the people feel that way. They're going to feel that way anyway, even if you put chocolate mints on them. Parking tickets suck.

Yoga is not duct tape- it doesn't fix all. People's emotions are way more complex than that and you have to let them feel it. People also have their own way of dealing with their emotions; they don't need to be told on the back of parking tickets how to forget the ticket. If they need to go for a run when something upsets them, they'll do it. If they need a beer, they'll have a beer. People know their own emotions and know how to calm them. Don't treat them like out of shape babies that need to stretch and breathe. That's like being told to grow up when your day is plain garbage. It's not helpful.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Flirting with Success

A recent article on Forbes has caused outrage because it claims that flirting, a known workplace no-no, can be used as a tool for women to get the corner office. The attached commentary on this article points out some really interesting things.

The first is the fact that there's a Forbes Women section. I find this really interesting because I find it hard to believe that our so-called egalitarian society still requires a separate section for women, as if women needed particular career and financial advice. I guess we really need our own special section of the paper to tell us how high the hemlines on our skirts must be. Of course, there are issues that women have in the workplace that aren't necessarily applicable to men, such as how much makeup we can wear before we're considered to be of questionable morality and how to juggle mom duties with work duties.

But even assuming that there are enough issues particular to women to actually fill an entire section or bimonthly publication, how many of these issues are entirely gender-specific? After all, men deal with family obligations as well and balancing a lifestyle is not just a woman's problem. And even if there are issues specifically for women in the workplace, who's to say that men aren't interested? Who's to say that they don't have a stake in this? A man in the workplace may be just as interested in finding out what an appropriate dress code is within their office or daycare services. Workplace issues are as diverse as the people who occupy them and can have an impact on the workers as a whole- so they do affect everyone.

A second thing that boggles my mind is the fact that what this woman suggests is actually not flirting at all. It appears that either she has a very broad interpretation of flirting or that she perceives regular human interaction to have some sort of flirtatious connotation, regardless of the source or purpose.

Flirting is generally defined as the manner in which a human would act in order to attract a potential mate. While there's a fair bit of overlap between what can be considered a simple friendly gesture and a flirtation, a lot of this depends on the context, the person, the situation and the person's motivation. Flirtation is actually more complex than a wink of the eye. A lot of it depends on factors that have little or nothing to do with the act itself. A wink could mean that you're hoping the person will ask you on a date and it could also mean that your contacts have been in too long.

As the article smartly points out, being courteous, dressing well and maintaining eye contact are all common sense moves that we use in the workplace in the interest of being professional. And the author plainly knows what real flirting is all about: dangling the shoe off the toe, for example, a move which can only be described as hot if it's done properly. Compared to that, it appears that the original columnist has learned how to flirt from Mormons.

Clearly the article that should have been featured in Cosmopolitan was written with a spectacular title to attract attention, but falls way short on substance. It's just like the other articles that you see featured on Cosmo, promising you 1600 new sex positions and only featuring 5. It's a classic bait and switch tactic used on women's magazines to make a sexy cover that over-promises and ultimately, under-delivers.

Flirting, the real stuff, is not appropriate in the office. The pitfalls of dating in the workplace are many and they are especially difficult when they fall between management and underlings. Also keep in mind that sexual harassment policies are in place and that they work both ways; even the mere suggestion of inappropriate or unwanted attention in the workplace can be a career-killer. And that's not just useful advice for the ladies.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Defending Defense

It appears that the Canadian Tory government is having a hard time selling the new F-35 plane to Canadians, a $9 billion dollar project that will bring stealth fighters to Canada's air space. The Tory government claims that the new stealth fighter will allow us to see threats before they see us and that this is the right time to make this sort of investment.

Fear-mongering works well in the US, but it's a tough sell in Canad. Here's why:

1- We're not afraid enough.

The US has a constant fear machine with 24 hour news stations like CNN and Fox, churning out the threats to the nation with flashy lighting and stock images. They also have pundits, who make a living out of striking fear into the heart of the nation by telling them that free radicals are attacking the country. If you watch enough of that stuff, you'll start believing that Bin Laden can be hiding inside your taco. Canada doesn't have that kind of fear machine on hand. We're just blissfully unaware, living our lives and our news anchors are like people we invite into our living rooms at night, not the brandisher of evil news. They put on their serious face when they talk about the silly stuff that the city council wants to do, but most of the time, their reports are light.

2- What exactly are we afraid of?

The US makes a lot of enemies, particularly through invasive foreign policy or punitive economic measures. They also have a bad reputation on the international stage. Canada doesn't have such famous or spectacular enemies. Yes, we follow other countries into war-ravaged zones, but in the interest of lending a helping hand, not forcing Canadian values on others. It's hard to argue for more protection for the country because we don't have a clear sense of who we're protecting ourselves from.

3- Economies of Scale

9 billion dollars? Really? Most Canadians can't fathom what that kind of money looks like. Unlike the US, which can funnel billions of dollars into large portfolios such as Homeland Security, Canada doesn't have that kind of money to hide within its overall budget. An amount that large doesn't go unnoticed by the Canadian population which is significantly smaller than that of the US. So you better believe that if that amount of ressources is being pooled into something, we will know about it and we will have something to say. And considering that we're not scared enough as a nation, quivering in our collective boots, and that we're not even sure who exactly we're so scared of, it's not going to be an easy sell to invest $9 billion into this.

This is a two front battle for the Tories, and it's not just the cost or the utility of the investment that's causing problems, but also, the lack of a competitive process to buy this plane. There has been no bidding process due to the fact that there is apparently no other plane that fits the government's specifications and then the Tories have gone ahead and used their oldest trick: the US did it, so why can't we?

Arguing that the US decided to use Lockheed Martin as their supplier without a competitive process is glossing over some pretty important facts, such as the fact that members of the government had investments within the company and stood to make a personal profit from the supply contract. It also glosses over the fact that this contract was designed for American needs and not adapted to Canadian and that a competitive process would have proven whether or not the supplier was up to this task.

Finally, it goes against the government's promise of transparency to the public by not conducting an open bid process for this important contract that the public hasn't asked for. The public has not demanded this service from the government and it has not voiced fighter planes as a priority. I think that if you asked the average Canadian what was top of mind for them, it would be the economy and health care, rather than aerospace defense. Too bad the government didn't bother to ask that essential question.

Diet Dilemma

Every form of print media in the world has new research that indicates diet myths, secrets and tricks. The problem is, they all contradict each other at some point and they're a confusing mess of information that doesn't help anyone. As well, the research on which it is based is generally a small, controlled, experiment-based project with no more real implications than a survey of who likes bread.

Who's right? Is it true that it's worse to eat at night than during the day? Is it true that crabs make you fat? Is it true that eggs are safe? What about nuts, the new 'it' snack for women? Do fad diets work? Is detox safe and effective? Are those super skinny models people we should look up to and emulate, or are they really the vitamin-deficient zombies that doctors claim they are?

As a woman, it's beyond frustrating to read article after article claiming that certain diet tricks really work, then find the ones that contradict that advice, then turn to the page in the magazine that has the model who is the same shape as a starving Ethiopian and then turn to the celebrity diet page where Elizabeth Hurley tells you to eat watercress soup for the rest of your natural life.

Let's get one thing straight- do not take advice from the stars. They are stars. They have the kind of money and ressources that normal people can only dream of. Trainers to keep you motivated, cooks to prep your meals and dieticians to make you dedicated meal and training plans are not accessible to the average working woman. Nor is it plausible to consider doing 2 hours at the gym every single day on two pieces of lettuce when you work a 9 to 5, commute, run your own errands and clean your own house. So forget that.

Forget the celebrity cleanses as well. As impressive as the results may be, and as much as Gwyneth Paltrow claims to feel terrific afterwards, they are not safe and not efficient. Some of their side effects include spontaneous rectal bleeding. Others include such strange and exotic items, you would need to import them or special order them online. Doctors also have chimed in, saying that they're dangerously lacking in nutrients. No wonder.

There are so many diet myths and fads out there, I think that the only advice to follow is the truly practical. They are:

1-Do not strive to be any other size than what you naturally are.

This is the most important diet advice I would give to anyone. Everyone is built differently and everyone has their beauty strengths and weaknesses. It should be all about acceptance and attitude. Accentuate your great assets, down play the rest, and remember that there's always Spanx for emergencies. And a woman with curves? That's one hot mama and that's the way women are supposed to look.

2- Exercise

You don't have to have a 'regime' or train for marathons. It doesn't matter when you exercise. The most important thing to do is have some form of it that you enjoy and try to do it as regularly as possible. Exercise has the added benefit of having a positive effect on our moods and revs us up when we have to tackle a lot of projects-like that long to-do list on the weekends. It doesn't have to be strenuous and it doesn't have to be expensive. It can be as simple as a brisk walk or a few lazy stretches during commercial breaks on tv. You can even do jumping jacks and push ups in your living room. But close the blinds, or else your neighbours might think you're crazy.

3- Be reasonable, but don't deprive yourself

Food is a pleasure. It's meant to be enjoyed. It's not just fuel. Don't rack your brain counting calories or portions or measuring your meat portions to look like a deck of cards. Be reasonable about what you eat. Have more fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains.

One of the best rules to follow is the 80-20 rule. Make sure that you're good most of the time (roughly 80%) and give yourself a free pass some of the time (roughly 20%). That way, you can still enjoy a sloppy burger or an ice cream treat- just not every day.

I've given up on diet information produced by the media. I'm sticking to these.

One less Twit on Twitter

There's good news on the internet today: John Mayer has quit Twitter. Apparently, the singer has decided to leave behind his 3.7 million followers on the social networking site in favour of doing more constructive things.

"According to OK!, Mayer also cited being frustrated by negative replies from users: "I might as well spend that time making a sandwich or building a model ship or something.""

Apparently, one of the internet's biggest douchebags can't take a little criticism. Considering that he's been made famous for saying outrageous things, like how he won't sleep with black women and trash talking his famous, gorgeous exes who are all too good for him anyway, it's funny that he can't take negative feedback via an online social networking site. Imagine how he would react to criticism in person. His head would explode like a crushed grape.

And I applaud the fact that he wants to do more constructive things like making sandwiches. Sandwiches are good. They nourish people. Perhaps he should consider a part time job as a sandwich artist at Subway. He could make sandwiches all day and feel like a useful person instead of a self-absorbed tool who sings douchebag songs about love. Because the world doesn't need more love songs; it needs more sandwiches. Clearly.

While I was breathing a sigh of relief that John Mayer was quitting Twitter, I was shocked to read that he's decided to forego Twitter in favour of Tumblr, a blog spot where he will be able to post his 'thoughts' without the inconvenience of interaction of any kind with his audience. It was my sincere hope that the internet would be rid of Mayer; it was probably also the hope of Jennifer Aniston, Jessica Simpson and Jennifer Love Hewitt. But it's no big deal. They're all over him. Just like the rest of the world.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Shark Love

A group of shark attack victims have since become the animal's newest, most passionate advocate. There are about nine of them, all ocean enthousiasts, who are familiar with the dangers of open water, but embrace them while surfing and diving. These victims claim that they were at the wrong place at the wrong time, but that protecting sharks from humans is more important than protecting humans from sharks.

It's a fair point. Shark attacks are rare, but when they do happen, they're spectacular. They reside in people's minds mostly due to the negative media images of Jaws and other predators, prowling around in the water to the sound of philharmonic orchestras. And yet, sharks are the species on the decline and it's the humans that are driving them down.

The lucrative market in Asia for shark fin soup is one of the most shameless demonstrations of a wasteful and abusive human population, who cut off the fins of the shark and throw the living body back in the water to die. The fins are flavourless. The flavour in the shark fin soup is usually a chicken broth and the fins are added for texture, but their most important function is one of the oldest practices in human history: showing off.

The symbolic nature of the shark fin is the fact that it is a great predator, taken down by humans. As such, it is rare, valuable and expensive. It's not valued for what it actually is and it serves no purpose in the soup. Just like ivory taken from elephant tusks, all it does is fulfill a vain purpose and feed the appetite for luxury of a selecct, arrogant, unscrupulous people. There's no need for it.

The fact that this group of people who love the ocean are enlightened enough to overcome the trauma of an attack to come back and advocate for their attackers is incredible. The shark is an endangered species. It's one of the oldest creatures in the ocean and has evolved dramatically over millions of years. It maintains a certain balance within the ecosystem and helps to preserve the ocean.

It is also greatly misunderstood. Sharks have often been shown as dumb, bloodthirsty animals. A drop of blood will not cause a shark frenzy in the ocean, regardless of what you see on TV. They're also incredibly intelligent and have well-developed instincts that allow them to communicate and remember things. They're also not as solitary as people think. Some species of sharks travel in packs in order to find feeding grounds.

Sharks are also incredibly afraid of people. They don't tend to linger in areas where people are, and that's mostly because of the danger that we pose with our boats, nets and hooks. The one in a million shark encounter is about as rare as getting hit by lightning or winning the lottery. And most shark encounters are not attacks- they're merely that, encounters, where the shark swims around, takes a tiny nibble to see if we're fit, or, in some cases, the sharks do mistake humans for fish. We're definitely not as tasty as fish, though, and human meat can be very gamey.

You ever wonder why Shark Week is every second week on the Discovery Channel? It's because they fascinate us and scare us. It's because there's something intriguing about this underwater predator that we so rarely get a chance to see and whose power is so awesome compared with our flimsy human selves. And because the mysteries of the ocean make us dream about the possibilities of hidden worlds and sea kingdoms and what it would feel like to be the king of the Deep Blue Sea.

We should be doing more to protect this species. Learning about it is a first step, so that we can shed our ignorance. Advocating is even better, particularly from those who have the severed limbs to show for it. It takes a really special kind of person to advocate for their aggressor and to defend them.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Activity Network

Poker is not a sport. No matter what you say, it isn't and it does not deserve to steal airtime from real sports on the sports networks. Think about it. How is poker different from chess? They're both activities that require skill, concentration, bluffing, strategy and the most likely injury that you're going to have is eye strain. The big difference between chess and poker is money. Most people don't play high stakes chess, but if they did, it would basically be poker with lower lighting.

There's only way to settle this debate. The sports networks have to kick poker out in favour of sports where the actual potential for injury includes concussions. And poker needs it own network.

Of course, poker is very popular these days, particularly because it feeds into our fantasies of winning big and never having to work again. But it's not popular enough to fill in hours of air time. But chess, being so similar to poker, could be included in this network, along with other less injury prone low impact games like pinball, shuffleboard and pictionary. They could make up the lineup for the Activity Network.

That's right: the Activity Network. It's the lazy man's sports network. Featuring intense poker tournaments, chess marathons, pinball wizard contests, extreme full contact shuffleboard and pictionary smackdowns. During those lull hours, such as the 6pm news and dinner hour, they could air bingo.

It's not such a bad idea, all things considered. There are specialized networks for just about everything out there, so why not have one for miscellaneous activities that are difficult to classify? There may be a whole community of people out there who are interested in watching hours of this. It's like the sports network, with less shouting, colours, and excitement. But the activities could still be sexied up with instant replays, commentary, game analysis and opinionated panels of heavily testosterone charged men.

It might look something like this:

"And he's looking at the rook, he's concentrating intensely, he's thinking about moving it, he's moving his hand as if to move it, he's pulling his hand back, his opponent is watching and not missing a trick, his hand goes back towards the rook, hesitates, his hand is starting to look more committal, he's pressing the top of the rook, he's going to do it, yes, folks, he's about to move it and he's moved it!"

Imagine the intensity. Imagine the rivalries. Imagine the drama.

And for real sports fans- imagine turning on to the sports network and never seeing poker on again.


Judge not lest it be Ye

The recent controversy surrounding a Florida pastor's call to burn the Qur'an on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks has caused a media firestorm and world leaders have chosen to speak out against this outrage. While it's a positive thing that world leaders have decided to speak out on this issue, in a call for reason and tolerance, it's surprising that nobody has bothered to point out the obvious hypocrisy that exists between the Christian dominated Western world and the Muslim dominated Eastern world. The pastor has since retracted his call to burn the book and defends his actions by stating that his outrageous call to burn the holy book of millions of people on the planet by stating that he wanted to bring attention to the radical and dangerous aspects of the Muslim religion.

Does nobody else think that this is a classic case of calling the kettle black? What if some imam decided that he wanted to burn the Bible in order to show that there was something radical and dangerous about the Christian religion? Does nobody remember a little incident called the Crusades? The Spanish Inquisition? Thousands of altar boy scandals abused by Catholic priests? The Salem Witch Trials?

It's so typical of one religion to pretend that it's lily white in its purity of heart and to paint other religions with the devil's black brush. One thing that doesn't lie? History. And you can't hide from the fact that every religion has its black mark, a dark period where religious fanaticism has gone too far and killed innocent people in the process. Every religion has it, just as every nation has it.

Religious fundamentals are quick to point out the flaws of other religions, but a little less enthousiastic about pointing out their own. Fair enough, that's human nature and there are always enough critics out there to do it for us. But to do something like this, calling on people to basically commit a hate crime by publicly burning something which is holy to a group of people, is truly despicable.

The Qur'an and the Bible are both based on the same holy book. History traces back the origins of both religions to the same root, as it does with the Torah. They're all loosely based on the same principles of monotheism. They have much more in common than they have differences.

The Qur'an and the Bible are not only holy scriptures which are of spiritual value to millions of people, it is also a historical artifact. On both those levels, it should be highly respected. Even if its contents are deemed silly or unimportant to some people and is interpreted in many strange ways, there is no denying their symbolic importance.

It seems unlikely to me that a pastor would be unaware of these essential facts, as it seems unlikely that he would lack the moral conscience to understand that there is something fundamentally wrong with burning the holy book of another religious group. It seems more likely to me that this man is searching for attention, in the same way that shock jocks do- creating a controversy where there is none by making outrageous public statements on sensitive issues when the nation is most vulnerable.

We should treat these people the same way that we treat crazy bag ladies in the street- we should acknowledge them, but not take them seriously. We are a group of people who are smart enough, educated enough and enlightened enough to know that hate is an unnecessary evil and that we can overcome it with intelligence and understanding. We are a society that can rise above hate. We've done it before and we will do it again.

Don't give people like this a platform on which to spread their poisonous ideas. Educate yourself and others around you. The only way to fight this kind of ignorance is with knowledge and compassion.

Unfortunately, it seems that even with the knowledge that all religions are fundamentally the same, these controversies still occur. It's a shame when spiritual leaders forget the most basic tenet of their faith: judge not lest we be judged. It seems that they would prefer to lash out at others and judge everyone but themselves harshly for the ills in the world.

On this anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I hope that people look at their religion not as an expression of the morally righteous who will fight to be God's people, but that they will acknowledge that the human race is God's people and that we wouldn't want our supreme deity to see us acting like this.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Hamburger Havoc

See attached article for full report:

It appears that there are vandals out there who have decided to forego the rotten eggs and toilet paper in favour of McDonald's hamburgers. There have been incidents of the burgers being rubbed all over vandalized vehicles and soda being thrown. Normally, I would condemn this as a waste of food by a typically arrogant and overfed Western civilization. But in this case, I think it sends an even more important message: McDonald's is not food.

I congratulate the vandals for making good use of hamburger projectiles, as they show what McDonald's food is truly worth. McDonald's is a trash diet fit for broke and hung over teenagers. It's also a great place to go for Happy Meals toys. But it hardly deserves to be called real food. It's so loaded down with sugar, salt, preservatives and saturated fats, it's probably got the nutritional value of some toothpastes. And even their so-called 'nutritious' menus are loaded with unnecessary sugars and salt, more than any human body needs.

As a teenager, I loved Big Macs. I also had a cast-iron stomach at the time and thought that leftover cold pizza was an excellent choice at breakfast and after a long night of partying, cheetos made a good dinner. I probably had the stomach lining of a billy goat and could probably also eat tins to get by. Throughout university, most meals were a mix of spaghetti in cans, Subway, and those cheap noodle packages that are probably re-processed Japanese newspapers.

Having grown into adulthood and developed an actual palette, I can barely make eye contact with a McDonald's now. I know that eating there will just make me feel sick and heavy and that a detox may be necessary at the end. The only exception that I'll make is for their McFlurry's, which are still a valuable source of iced water and Smarties.

The vandals and their hamburger havoc have shown that there are many uses for McDonald's, but the primary one is not food or nutrition. While vandalism is not something to be encouraged, neither is eating at this plastic establishment.

Some may argue that McDonald's is a corporate America symbol and that the vandals may be anti-capitalists trying to send out a message. That may be true as well. They could also be homegrown terrorists who hate freedom and freedom fries. Either way, the message is loud and clear. McDonald's is crap.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

More Money than Brains

See related article here:

In an effort to up the economy, Russia's government has issued calls to the public to drink more and smoke more. It appears that the government's brilliant new scheme to keep the economy afloat is to introduce skyrocketing excise tax (known in North America as the 'sin' tax) on cigarettes and alcohol. It's expected that revenue from these tax sources will help support social programs and other much needed services to the public provided through government funds.

This is a classic example of a group of people with more money than brains being entrusted to make decisions that affect the population that they seem clueless to provide for. Russia is already the centre of the world's billionnaires, with more billionnaires than any other nation, the highest property prices in the world in Moscow and the famous KHL, the Kontinental Hockey League which offers multi-million, multi-year contracts of the likes that caused the famous NHL lockout. It's no wonder that their economy is suffering because of a widening gap between the ultra rich and the poor and that they're unable to balance the books.

The Russian economy is probably the most similar to the feudal age of any other nation's economy today. The staggering wealth of the chosen few oligarchs and their numerous inventive tax evasions and breaks is costing the country dearly, but the proposed solution is looking worse than the current problem.

You cannot create new taxes on smoking and alcohol, encourage the masses to indulge themselves to death and then offer them the social programs to help them in return. Those social programs would not be necessary if the people weren't encouraged to drop into addiction in the first place. Furthermore, the genuises in the seats of power didn't stop to consider what the costs of lowered productivity from sick and drunken workers would do to the economy, or the costs of increased accidents. They also didn't consider what would happen if these same people dropped into debts in an effort to subsidize their habits. They are familiar with foreclosure in Russia, are they not?

The worst consequence of this type of degeneration is the harm that it does to the people themselves. Addiction rips families apart, drains bank accounts, causes hardworking people to lose their jobs and homes and alienates them from the rest of society as they sink further and further into debt and despair.

Now, to be fair, Russia is more than familiar with both debt and despair, given the cruelty of past regimes and the two world wars. They're not exactly known as the sunshine nation and there's already a solid base of both smokers and vodka swillers within the country. But the fact that the government wants to take advantage of these people by digging further into their pockets for tax money and also wants to push them harder to the brink of substance dependency, is morally despicable and
socially irresponsible.

What kind of government exploits their nation's pain by taking unfair advantage of the things that they turn to for comfort in tough times? And what kind of government encourages vices that could lead to peoples' deaths, only to offer them the services that might help them later? Isn't this like Thomas More's Utopia, where a society creates thieves and then imprisons them?

I think the real solution for Russia is to drop the cigarettes, limit the alcohol and get physically healthy fast. Then their government will be forced to support more of them longer, as they get healthy, lean and mean. And while quitting can be hard, just sit and think of all the money that the government won't get and quitting may be the sweetest thing you've ever done.