Oh Me Oh My

Friday, September 29, 2006


I am not from an emotionally expressive family. It’s not that we don’t love eachother we’re just more likely to build you a bookshelf or make you dinner than to utter the words.

In high school I never hugged anyone, EVER! It was a strict rule of thumb I guess I used to keep my distance from people—assuming wrongfully that one day they wouldn’t be my friends anymore.

Then I entered university and many things changed; I hugged, a lot. Almost any pictures I have from my time at York I am squished into someone else; arms clasped, cheeks mashing into one another and a big goofy smile on my face. I greeted everyone with hugs—not manly battle hugs with back-slapping and shoulder bumping, and bodies as distant as physically possible, but warm, all-encompassing “I am so glad to see you” embraces.

Then I graduated and for some reason I reverted to my old ways. When I greet people I give them the reverse head nod, which is weird because if your arms are extended and you do the same gesture it looks like you’re picking a fight: “Wanna Go!?!”

When I am at a party and I see someone I haven’t seen in a while I do that weird open palm in the air thing that says either “Hey, how’s it going?” or “Pass me a Sprite”.

Worse yet is when you’re leaving. If I am beyond the point of the one giant wave to everyone present and into individual goodbye territory it will inevitably become an awkward dance of figuring out one another’s upcoming action. Hands are half stuck out, cheeks are presented, high fives are lingering in the air and open arms are comin’ at ya. Inevitably I will do the wrong thing, hugging the high-fiver or hand-slapping the cheek-kisser. Awkwaaaaard!

My friend’s boyfriend is the world’s most notorious hugger. His hugs are full-body boa-grips that last an inordinately long time, and though this freaked me out a little initially, I now welcome them because it makes me feel like he’s genuinely happy to see me.

This is why next time I see you and we’re both standing up, I’m going to hug you. It won’t necessarily be a long hug but you’re getting hugged, so this is your heads up. It may seem strange coming from the guy whose heart is 2 sizes too small but in the words of Marcy Park (Earl and Jen, I’m lookin’ at you) I’M NOT ALL BUSINESS!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Why I Heart Chicago

Let me count the ways....

This past weekend Earl, Jen and myself went to visit Byron in Chicago. The trip was fantastic and the following are 10 things that helped make it awesome:

1) The John G. Shedd Aquarium

This was our first stop bright and early Friday morning; a place where man is closest to aquatic nature...

....and Earl is closest to the man, closest to aquatic nature.

One of the most impressive displays was the caribeean reef where hammerheads, stingrays and beautiful tropical fish co-existed. They were however way too fast for my camera so after taking shot after blurry shot I settled on my muse, the giant turtle with a bum leg.

He was having none of it but he was too slow to escape my molasses-like reflexes. Another interesting albeit disturbing display was the "shit that goes down when species that shouldn't mix do" room.

Never flush exotic fish down the toilet because they will breed with local fish and make new fish with eyes beneath their mouths, which are hella-creepy and they will eat your babies.

2) Signs

I couldn't stop laughing when driving through Michigan I kept noticing road signs informing drivers that fines had increased to $7500 if you hit a road worker. Is that really supposed to be a deterrent? Shouldn't, I dunno, killing someone be it's own "watch out" message. Are there actually people out there who are like, "whoa $7500, I'd better reconsider".

All over town signs kept grabbing my attention:

Closer look:

I can't believe someone ripped-off my porno with breakfast idea! Now I have to re-write my entire business plan. What the hell am I going to do with 500 copies of Black Juggs.

We ate at this mexican place after going to a bar and I was happy to see that former boyband sensations were still welcome preparing huevos rancheros for hungry people at 3 a.m.

I was also fascinated that Americans have discovered a new dimension--perhaps spongebob feels you up in the dark! Only one way to find out!

3) Jerker - (Byron's Play)

It's not like I was unprepared for the nudity or the subject matter but Jerker was still a bit of a shock to the system which is perhaps why when By asked how I liked the play the first thing that spilled out was "It was difficult to watch". It's one thing to watch someone you don't know play out erotic phone-sex fantasies and threaten to piss in some dude's mouth, it's another entirely to watch your good friend simulate masturbation for the first 40 minutes and then accidentally see his nuts when his back is turned to the audience. In the end though Byron was brilliant; he took a vulnerable, difficult and very visceral role and ran with it. My hat goes off to you as always.

Since I think Earl was exposed to a good 10 years worth of gay in an hour and a half I suggested we just skip boystown and instead just drove through. The street was lined with these cool spaceships:

This of course spawned the "rainbow rocket to Uranus* tagline I knew the photo was destined for.

4) Sightseeing

Byron was good enough to be the host of both our walking and driving tours of Chicago. From standing outside Oprah's Harpo studios and being mocked by a passing cyclist

to posing with the Michael Jordan statue (apparently melting his competition as he leaps over them) outside the Chicago Sporting Place of some sort.

At Navy Pier Earl was trying to announce "Land-Ho" as he spotted the Chicago skyline. His arm was always just out of my shot and I kept telling him to bring it in which resulted in this picture:

Millennium Park houses this giant metal bean. It's actually really cool and sorta brings the open space together somehow. You'll also notice in the background the building with the split in the middle. According to Byron this was an intentional counter to all the tall phallic towers, one metal vagina in a sea of dick; which brings us to...

5) Architecture

Chicago has some breathtaking modern and classic architecture. Every street is a postcard in the downtown area, in many ways it's everything Toronto has the potential to be if only it got its act together:

From Navy Pier you can see the Hancock Observatory and in the fog that tower is frickin' forboding.

I kept picturing a cabal of very powerful people steepling their fingers on the top floor watching the people below and cackling. I however have an overactive imagination which makes itself clear in the next category.

6) Quotes

Any good time comes with a few good quotes. Since we'd all slept like 3 hoours the night before we decided a quick snooze Friday evening would energize us for the night. I however had a random night terror (something only my family has had the misfortune of witnessing). I woke up and was convinced the giant octopus from the aquarium was on the ceiling and it was crawling into Byron's room. I logically start screaming something like "Oh No Oh God Oh No!" before I snapped out of it. As per usual I apologize profusely and pass-out instantly. The next day this was the subject of much mocking.

Mocking was also in order when, while watching a sea of Chicagoans cross a busy street I remarked "I would love to be invisible and see where they go and what they do". While I intended to communicate that I kinda wanted to "Being John Malkovich" into their heads and see how they live, it came across more like I wanted to follow them home and watch them pee.

On Friday night we were approached by a sorta slutty looking girl and her friend who asked us, "Do you think my friend looks like a hooker?" to which Byron very diplomatically replied "We're not going to answer that". It was so "no comment". I of course lied and said she looked lovely so they would go away. We did see the girl later at the club and the girl's dancing totally overrode any lies we tried to tell.

While eating a pint of ice cream each inside the beautiful Hyatt Hotel we noticed a lot of people wearing all white and many had yarmulkes on so I was like "oh it's probably like a Jew convention". Jen acted all offended by the word "Jew" which made me crack up as it reminded me of Michael on "The Office" asking Oscar if there was a less offensive word than "Mexican" to refer to someone from Mexico--HA! In the end it WAS a Jew convention.

This picture spawned the phrase, "Holy Stained Glass Titties" usable in all situtations of shock and surprise: "Holy stained glass titties that's hot!" or "Holy stained glass titties Batman!" This is Byron fondling the stained glass boob, what you don't see is the disapproving stares of passersby.

To class it up some this quote was etched on the front of a building which I found inspirational:

Chicago, City of serendipitous inspiration and perversion :)

7) The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee

I loved loved loved this musical. There was audience participation, improv, free snacks, memorable songs, and brilliant performances by the actors. I have since listened to the Broadway Cast Recording and the Chicago cast kicks their ass. While broadway actors are too busy Christina Aguilleraing their lines to show their range, the Chicago cast actually sang and performed with emotion. My two faves were Olive and Leaf Coneybear (above). God I want to see this again I have not laughed that hard at a play in years!

8) Food

Can't write about a trip to Chicago without mentioning the food. I was getting over a stomach flu so my appetite was nil but I still managed to cram in as much as I could. The pinnacle of Chicago dining is the deep dish pizza at Giordano's

It was so good and so filling and so cheese-filled that inevitably we ate far too much and ended up looking like this:

That is except for Jen who has been on a diet for the last few months resulting in her experience being even more pleasurable than ours:

Feel it in your soul Jen, feel it in your soul.

We ate at late-night Mexican joints, Pogue Mahone's where Byron works, sushi, burgers and iced custard (damn tasty) but before we left we had to stop at an institution of American cuisine:

Where I took this picture:

Later I spotted the "Crave Crate" which holds an alarming and sorta vile 100 burgers. Oh those Americans.

9) The City Itself

Chicago is a City built around its people instead of people cramming into an illogically constructed City. It has a gorgeous waterfront, a 24-hour transit system, free trolley cars to major destinations, a bustling art and sports scene and more places to eat than one weekend would ever allow. What Chicago also has is a strong history; not just the standard stuff, but places like Second City have produced some of my all-time comedy favourites. Looking at the pictures inside it seemed like the funniest members of SNL, MadTV, SCTV and Strangers With Candy all got their starts at Chicago's Second City:

Steve Carell and Amy Sedaris used to perform toegther! Oh to have seen it then!

10) Friends

I've gone and saved the best for laaaaaaaast.

Nothing like a road trip and time away with friends to make you appreciate them. Byron and Cheryl for letting us stay with you and taking so much time to show us the City.

Earl for driving the full 8 hours both there and back and in the City and Jen, I'd like to think our friendship has grown now that you have physically assaulted me and I have farted in your general direction.

This was an awesome trip! Thanks guys for making it so memorable!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Why The Simpsons Needs to be Cancelled


I never thought I would utter those words, but after Sunday’s episode I realize more than ever that the show has been over for years, and what remains is a sad shell of its former glory.

In an episode of Buffy (wow Simpsons & Buffy in one post—nerd fanboy alert!) Buffy’s sister misses their recently deceased mother so much that she conjures a spell to bring her back to life. It is understood that this is a mistake as the resurrected creature will be soulless, but a mourning Dawn completes the spell anyway. As we see the shadow of their mother approach the door Buffy and Dawn tearfully accept that they will never see their true mother again and tear up the picture of her used in the spell; the shadow disappears and they weep.

It’s time The Simpsons’ picture was ripped up (arguably it was time like 7 seasons ago). The problem is the same. The show that appears Sundays at 8:00 p.m. is like the shadow outside the door; lacking a soul it’s just a random string of poorly written jokes joined by a barely coherent storyline. We watch because it looks so much like the show that was once so sharp and witty—a biting satire so subtle it could take aim at major targets like religion or the government, or even the very network it was on and get away with it. The Simpsons felt realer than any lame sitcom family because the characters made you care. Now it’s painfully clear they’re just caricatures—cartoons; flat pictures with missing dimensions.

This Sunday I barely smiled during The Simpsons but found myself laughing throughout Family Guy. Nothing against FG, but even its funniest gags can’t hold a candle to The Simpsons in its prime. If you watch FG in repeats you’ll see what I mean. A pop culture joke or an “I can’t believe they went there” gag, both funny at the time, grow a bit stale on repeat viewings. Fans of The Simpsons not only reference the show but it becomes part of their vernacular; they refer to it without even knowing they are, in that way it sorta permeated popular culture and worked its way into our everyday. The fact that books have been written using The Simpsons to debate theology, philosophy and politics speaks volumes about its ability to cross cultural lines.

Today The Simpsons runs on implausible side stories, minor character histories, and thin predictable archetypes. For years I have watched and waited, hoping that The Simpsons of old would return—and though for a while there were smatterings of laughter I think I have finally come to terms with the death of what I consider the greatest comedy in television history. I will watch until the bitter end because much like a children’s recital, you go not because it’s good, but because you love the people performing, even if they’re not very good.

Simpsons of old, thanks for teaching us that comedy is nothing more than an incisive observation humorously phrased and delivered with impeccable timing. Simpsons of new, here’s hoping this is your last season.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Not Just For Flipping The Bird

Other fingers all have respectable reputations: the index finger is the primary function finger, the ring finger is sort of like a figurehead waiting to be crowned. The pinky is small and cute and the thumb most notably seperates us from the rest of the animal kingdom, but the middle finger is known for one thing alone.

It is not until I developed a paronychia (finger infection) on my left middle finger that I realized how often we use this finger in our day to day lives. this is mainly due to the fact that using it sends a strong shockwave of pain which reminds me that it is far more useful than I ever would have assumed. Using my turn signal for instance has always involved my left middle finger. Wringing out a cloth, tying my shoe, or even the simple act of shampooing my head, all excruciating reminders that the vulgar finger on the less useful hand ain't so useless afterall.

In about an hour I'm likely having the infection lanced. It'll hurt like a bitch but the pus-squeezed remnants will serve as a constant reminder to never take it for granted again. So thank your left middle finger, give it some lotion, swear at a stranger with it, but DO NOT bite its nail off, as a paronychia hurts like a mother fucker.

The more you know folks.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Secret Lives of Mannequins

In the vast majority of fashion shows the models are expressionless. They are a living canvas for the clothes and too much going on with the face can distract from what the designer wants you to focus on. This is normally true of mannequins as well; most have a distant blank stare, if they have faces or heads at all, but yesterday while walking through the mall my friend Sean pointed out this one:

There is a definite expression in her face—it sort of says “I can’t believe YOU were invited”. I’m kind of unclear on the motivation for a bitchy looking mannequin. Where does one even place her? I was thinking she would be prefect outside of the dressing rooms—each person emerging, looking for validation and meeting only her chilly disapproving gaze: “Culottes….isn’t that an interesting choice”.

This began my search for other expressive mannequins (which was not an easy task as snapping phone pics of 6 foot tall plastic ladies doesn’t speak well for your mental stability. Then we stumbled across her:

I have dubbed her Lindsay (not sure why) and I was intrigued by the fact that she looked like she was going to start crying. Once again the motivation for a forlorn looking model escapes me but I couldn’t help wonder what was making her so sad. Did the previous mannequin dis her zebra-stripe ascot? Was she just hot in that coat? Then it became clear. She was stood up. Lindsay has been waiting for that guy for weeks now, and it has only just dawned on her that he is not coming.
Internal dialogue:
“Keep it together Linz
Do not cry….do NOT cry”.

In contrast to Lindsay is Regan:

It is fitting that the picture turned out so blurry and bright because in my eyes Regan is tanked out of her mind. Unable to find the friends she came with she has accepted an invite to “party” with the boys from the Parasuco window. Unbeknownst to her one of those cads has slipped a roofie in her vodka-cran. Luckily she makes her escape as they do not have legs with which to give chase. You made it out this time Regan…be vigilant in the future!

And finally there’s Rob.erta, Roberta…ROBERTA! She’s a recent post-op transsexual and this is her first major social event since her surgery:

Unable to enjoy herself, Roberta is wracked with paranoia that people won’t adjust to the new her:
“A vest! Roberta, what were you thinking!? You want people to embrace the new you and you show up dressed like you’re ready for your first day at an all-boys boarding school!
“Keep it cool Robby
Do not cry….do NOT cry”.