December 29, 2015

The Gaping Maw

Around this time of year, the songs and the spirit of the season encourage us to strive towards peace on earth and goodwill towards all who we share this planet with - the exception of course being turkeys. It comes with a massive degree of irony then that Christmas often brings out the worst in us. In malls, on the roads and on the streets, folks are stressed and fuses are short.

It all seems to begin with the so-called Black Friday sales. People in the US lose their shit as they step on each other's throats to save fifty bucks on a TV, and this is now creeping into Canada, although the antics here are tame by comparison.

Some people on this planet have to walk thirty
miles to get clean drinking water.  
Earlier this month my wife and I were on vacation at a Caribbean resort. As an all inclusive you can eat and drink as much as you desire and a lot of people take that designation quite literally. It appears that some feel short-changed if they don't take advantage of every possible thing offered, even if they normally wouldn't. At the breakfast buffet I saw folks gorging on chicken fajitas, which of course is the first type of food that comes to my mind at 8 in the morning. And everyday around 11 you'd see people walking around drinking some kind of rum concoction in giant coconuts, which apparently were prepared on the beach each morning. What was interesting was the sheer despair on the faces of people who missed out on getting their very own coconuts because the guy on the beach only had a limited amount. Several people were genuinely upset, with their sense of calm only returning when they finally got one the next day. (aka..give baby the tit)

The other day I saw someone put out a giant bowl of food for a dog, which the dog greedily hoovered in about nineteen seconds. Perhaps I'm over reacting, but this reminded me of the human condition. Whether it's global warming or world war 3, it's no secret that if we don't all slow the hell down and show a little discipline with our unquenchable consumption of all things, we may very well exit this planet sooner rather than later. Don't want to be a Debbie Downer (cuz I am not one) but i'm just sayin' is all...just slow down a bit & ease off on the maniacal quest to consume everything, immediately...I'm guessing you might a slightly longer life.. 

December 15, 2015

Radio Killed The Video Star

I find it fascinating just how wrong not only people can be, but an entire industry.

MTV smugly declared itself the new bad ass in town circa 1982 when it launched in the US with The Buggles' one hit wonder, Video Killed The Radio Star.  It suggested of course that video would crush radio's proverbial head and push out it's eyes with it's thumbs, sort of like that scene with the Mountain in Game of Thrones. 

MTV nowadays is just horrifyingly bad reality tv, and the once hip and thriving MuchMusic in Canada has been reduced to two aging technicians who punch things into a computer for an unending sequence of videos on a few linear channels watched by absolutely nobody, mostly still in operation so Bell won't lose their broadcast license.

On the other hand, terrestrial radio seems, in some ways anyway, stronger than ever. I've personally never subscribed to satellite services like Sirius, but I imagine some do as it's still alive. Spotify and other streaming audio services are ok, and I do have a subscription to the latter only because it came as part of my package with Rogers. I listen sometimes, but what it doesn't have is the live, local content, and radio personalities that help bring the music or the news to life so to speak. Don't get me wrong, I find inane morning show banter difficult to listen to, but there's still something immediate about good 'ol fashioned radio.

Bill Johnson, president of NBC
The conventional television model born in the 1950's is obviously dead. Newsrooms and local tv stations have been gutted and that trend will continue. Large North American TV networks and distribution channels have become bloated with their monopolies over the decades, resulting in unwatchable programming. Top shelf content is being produced and broadcast on network and distribution alternatives. With the advent of technology and consumer demand for choice, cable and satellite based companies operating only with the old models are simply a relic of the past.

It's frightening then just how wrong the so called best minds can be about any particular industry. Although urban legend states that it was Bill Gates who is on record for the quote below, the zillionaire nerd never actually said it. It was apparently uttered by some other computer executive in the 80's about the future of computers, so it's an interesting lesson nonetheless:

"640K ought to be enough for anyone"

November 13, 2015

Mexico's Most Wanted

In 3 weeks I'm heading to a lovely resort nestled somewhere between Cancun and Playa Del Carmen, and it seems my chances of slithering off this mortal coil during that time have increased exponentially this week.

If it isn't the Cartels jacking you at roadblocks, hepatitis from the ice cubes, malaria from the mosquitoes or low level thugs masquerading as cops, Mexico's newest and most notorious cold-blooded killer, is the dreaded hot tub.
In the immortal words of The Northern Pikes,
she ain't pretty she just looks that way.

Two Canadian tourists in Mexico seemed to have been electrocuted in one this past week, so I'll steer quite clear of the jacuzzi as I saunter by holding my obnoxious 39 ounce bubba keg filled to the god damn brim with all inclusive top-shelf scotch. Worse is that there tends to be a number of these lucrative looking tubs inconspicuously dotted around the resort grounds, so when I'm greasily shifting around in an attempt to work off the nineteen plates of barbecue ribs, eleven butter drenched lobster tails and four bowls of whip-cream topped chocolate ice cream, I'll need to be on high alert at all times...the second I get cut eye from just one, ahma gonna go all Dolph Lundgren up in that.

Indeed, it seems like the most pleasant things in life are what can creep up and kill ya...

Snakes, Trains and Automobiles

I shit you not. It's the sequel to the infamous Samuel L Jackson film, and it'll be a mashup of that movie's genre and the classic comedy with John Candy and Steve Martin, with a dash of the late John Hughes.

Google that shit.

October 25, 2015

See You Tonight

The title of this entry refers to the slogan of the Keg Steakhouse chain of restaurants. I like the Keg. It's reasonably priced, casual and the food's pretty good overall. I particularly enjoy heading to the Keg Mansion on Toronto's Jarvis street. It's like going back in time, given the enormous house once belonged to one of Toronto's most wealthy families - the Masseys.  It's also said to be haunted. When my wife and I head to the mansion, we always ask for a table in The Library, a fantastic little nook that is quieter than the rest of the beautiful, sprawling 2 level restaurant. But I digress.

Last night we decided to  have ourselves an evening at the Keg Mansion. In fact, our day was structured around it. We had to run some errands but we decided to take a long walk through the downtown core as well. We'd eventually make our way north east, first stopping for a cocktail at The Blake House, another mansion sized restaurant/bar on Jarvis (formerly The Red Lion). It too is a fine establishment. We sat in the bar area right beside a cozy wood-burning fireplace, and it was shaping up to be a lovely Saturday evening. I even had a $100 Keg gift card which made things just a smidge sweeter.

Finishing up our drinks we took the 5 minute walk to The Keg. I requested a table in The Library. Other tables were available but we were fine with waiting, and we happily headed upstairs to the bar, as it was to be approximately 45 minutes. Enjoying a glass of wine and conversation, the time flew and soon enough our little vibrating buzzy thing lit up. We were sat at the best table in The Library and ordered some appetizers first. We always order them separately from the mains so we can take our time and enjoy the evening on our schedule, not the restaurant's. We ordered a caesar salad to share and their jumbo shrimp cocktail. And, the complimentary ever delicious warm loaf of bread and butter was also delivered to our table.

As we readied to order our mains, the server came by. She mentioned that there might be a bit of a delay, since the kitchen had just lost all it's power. No problem we thought. We weren't in a rush. Shortly after that I headed to the men's room, and noticed that the place seemed to be getting quieter and when folks were leaving, new customers weren't being seated, which is a bizarre sight for one of Toronto's busiest restaurants, not to mention it was Saturday evening. Hordes of servers gathered chatting in the kitchen serving area, clearly not having anything to do.

Returning to my table, the manager appeared and mentioned that the kitchen was still without power, but not to worry - their on call electrician was on his way...from Whitby. He mentioned it would be about an hour before he might arrive, depending on traffic. Now I'm no high-falutin' CEO of a major restaurant chain, but me thinks it might not be a bad idea to line up a 24-hour emergency electrical firm that is not a billion miles away from the centre of Canada's universe. We're not in some podunk dustbowl here. This is downtown fucking Toronto...in prime fucking time.

But, I thought it best not to make a big fuss, so I slowly pulled the steak knife away from the manager's throat. After all, it wasn't his fault he's a bumbling jackass who couldn't organize a piss up a rope.  As I placed the knife back on the table, I straightened my tie and calmly sat back down. "See that steak knife?", I asked the manager. "Yes sir. Yes I do", he replied shakily. "Do you know what should be sitting beside that steak knife?", I enquired. "A steak, sir?" I snapped back: "You're goddamn right...a goddamn steak is goddamn right!".

At this, the manager cleared his throat and mentioned that our Keg sized 9oz glasses of wine and Keg jumbo cocktail shrimp were on the house, and he even offered to wrap up the remaining bit of Keg complimentary bread.

See you tonight my ass.

October 2, 2015

Apple Wants To Murder Me

Aside from partaking in necessary adult activities like paying my mortgage and attending neighbourhood association meetings, I very much consider myself a big kid, which I believe keeps me youthful. There are, however,  perhaps less desirable characteristics of this attitude towards life. Fortunately I'm not referring to my chronic use of a soother - I do that for completely different reasons.

I'm talking about bedtime stories.

When retiring for the evening, I often find that my mind is racing, focused on the hullaballoo of the work day. This makes it difficult to get to sleep. So, what I do is go out to the streets and bring in elderly homeless people to read to me in bed. Well, I'm in bed..they're just sitting on the bed. They're nude, but they're not under the covers or anything.
Some lonely person spent a lot of time
on this in photoshop.

But sometimes, the local hobos can't be found - perhaps they're off to some low-level caper. In these instances I have to resort to entertaining myself to help me sleep. Thus, I will often throw in the earbuds and listen to old-timey radio shows or podcasts, and I eventually fall asleep. Therein lies the problem.

When I wake up either to go to the bathroom or start the day, I find myself partially strangulated by my iPhone's earbud wires. Being unconscious and twisting and turning throughout the night, the wires will do their wicked deed and creep around my neck, much like the tree branches that violated that woman in Evil Dead. At first I thought this might be a case of a subliminal desire to make like certain dead celebrities' forays into auto erotic aphyxiation, but then I realized that in fact, Apple wants to murder me. This is their ultimate goal. I'm not sure if that giant corporation has decided to murder me and only me, but I've become quite suspicious lately. In fact, just yesterday I had enquired about upgrading my phone, and for it they wanted $1,000.

I declined, which explains everything.

September 20, 2015

Vikings

"Binge watching" is one of those terms nowadays that just about everyone uses, along the same lines as "Hot Karl" or "Sucking Chest Wound".

A screen shot from the show, accurately
depicting a Viking woman.
Just the other day I sat down to take in 3 episodes of the Irish-Canadian produced series Vikings, and I quite enjoyed it. Solid acting, and it took me a while to adjust my thinking to just how primitive it was back in the 9th century. In fact, if a real life Viking hopped into a time machine to 2015, I'm pretty sure he'd lose his mind immediately. This is the time when rudimentary navigational tools were just being crudely shaped and invented. What's not too different is their belief in silly religious deities, and specifically the viking god Thor, who, incidentally I always thought was a DC Comics creation. Who knew?

In any event, one particularly interesting aspect of the show is that it begins in all the regular ways, with  you empathizing with the plight of the poor peasant farmer and his family. But then something happens. I guess you can take the boy out of Scandinavia, but not the Scandinavia out of the boy, because soon enough, this same peasant farmer starts gettin' down to the whole Viking raping and pillaging business. And to make it crystal clear just how brutal these dudes were, one early episode features them rolling up into a peaceful community of Monks to slice, steal, dice and kidnap. As a result, I felt a little conflicted. I mean, those Monks were just living their peaceful little delusional lives, and in comes Grog and his medieval brutes to wipe them out. Having said all that, the Monks did have those terrible Monk haircuts where the crown of their heads are shaved in a tiny circle, so in the final analysis, I suppose that justifies murder.







September 11, 2015

Strange Animal

I was in Yorkville for work yesterday. I'm always fascinated with that weird veneer you get from the place. Every thing and every one is pristine. As I was walking in the Four Seasons, the guy who opened the door for me was wearing a $1500 suit. The female guests within were all, and I mean all..unbelievably hot and immaculately dressed. Male guests wore strange short dress pants the rest of us might call floods, with multicoloured socks. There was 1 guy with high top sneakers that appeared to be made of a material that I have never ever seen before, which tells me something about the circles I run in.
When I finished my business and left the area, it reminded me of the time I was a 15 year old McDonald's employee. Hours after finishing a shift you'd still feel this thin layer of grease all over your body, and my friends told me I smelled like a Big Mac.
It's a strange universe over in them parts.

September 4, 2015

R.I.P. Active Surplus

I'd hate to be the guy who has to do closing inventory for Active Surplus on Queen west, given the store's closing soon.
I must say though, that when I've poked and prodded for cheap cables and connectors from this place, I've often thought about the salt-mine like working conditions the parts came from. I think about the poor men, women (and children?) toiling in some shit hole foreign factory, getting a couple of bucks a day, and I must admit I feel guilty...then I see that the price for a 10' HDMI cable is eight bucks, say to myself: WOW THAT'S AWESOME and then I forget all about those people.

September 1, 2015

The Sweetest Fruit...

Well, you know the rest of the saying.

There are a few variations but I have often gone with "The sweetest fruit is out on the limb". I've used it as a mantra of sorts and it's a good philosophy in my view. The basic idea of course is that you've gotta take chances to succeed at whatever it is you're doing.

Herein lies the rub with our Toronto Blue Jays. In this town we're so used to chronic disappointment from our sports teams, so we've become a jaded bunch. Lately, as the Jays have raced to the top of the standings, thousands of bandwagoners have emerged, filling Rogers Centre to capacity on a Monday, unheard of only 2 months ago.

In this photo from city archives, the
Toronto Dandelions capture
the 1867 championship 
I consider myself a true fan, but I don't mind the folks who have hitched their carriage to our ride. Butts in seats help the team - the energy, the noise, the passion. And it would be a bigger problem if the team was winning and people continued to stay away like we've seen in some baseball markets.

Some are still reluctant to emotionally commit though. There's still a lot of baseball to go, and anything can happen, including not making the damn playoffs. My lovely wife is slowly warming to the idea, but she's still hesitant. It sort of feels like the time I suggested we become swingers. At the beginning of the discussion she was horrified, and at the end of the discussion she was still horrified, so that never flew.

But in the end, this is what life is supposed to be about. It's about experiencing everything that comes with it, good or bad. You pays your money, you take your chances. No point in constantly protecting yourself emotionally given the prospect of getting hurt, whether it be a personal relationship or a major life decision. And when you look at it that way, committing emotionally to a silly game makes it all the more easy to do.

August 28, 2015

Brilliant

 With so many screens and so many options it's hard to cut through as an advertiser, particularly with the standard 30 second commercial on "regular" tv, given pvr's, netflix and the like
But just the other day 1 cut through for me, and I only saw it because I was watching the Jays game, which is why sports is so important to broadcasters - sports is pvr proof, increasing the value for advertisers. But I digress.
I'm referring to a Lucky Charms commercial. It's brilliant. It's basically 1 shot - a guy comes into his kitchen to make himself a bowl of cereal, turns to put the milk away and out of the background a guy who was there all the time, camouflaged, sneaks off with his lucky charms.
First, it plays wonderfully on the cereal's marketing history - recall the trickster leprechaun cartoon commercials many of you may remember as kids . But it wisely stays away from the stereotypical irish leprechaun and focuses on the prank angle.
Then, as the commercial finishes, you realize as the viewer you too have been tricked since you don't see the camouflaged guy either..so what do you do..or at least..what did i do?...i re wound the damn commercial...and watched it again so i could see if i could notice the camouflaged guy..
let me repeat..i watched it..again.. that means lucky charms, in theory, got thousands of people to consume their marketing twice in one sitting.. now that's smart.
No i'm not going to buy lucky charms, and i think they're banking on nostalgia (for example i'll go buy a terrible mcdonald's cheeseburger once in a while cuz it reminds me of my childhood), but at least one person, on one blog..is writing about it..

August 24, 2015

WTF happened to summer?

It's opening week of the CNE, there are leaves on the ground, the days feel cooler and we're seeing ads for "back to school". At least one retail chain tried to soften the blow by calling it "back to campus".

Summer of 2015, I hardly knew ye.


August 12, 2015

Hobo Gauntlet Radio - Episode 9

On episode 9 of HGR, you'll have the distinct pleasure of not hearing me speak a single word. Not because I don't have anything to say, but because I don't have anything to say it into.

You see, for previous podcasts I've borrowed a microphone from frequent Hobo Gauntlet commenter Clefto, but Clefto had the gaul to actually want his mic back. That selfish bastard!

In any event, on this 'cast we'll hear from Lemon Jelly, Franz Ferdinand, Chvrches, a modern remix of a Depeche Mode classic, Interpol and the latest from Tame Impala. Oh, and I forgot to mention that it starts at around the :26 mark, either because I'm trying to be artistic or I screwed up. Your choice.


Leader Of The Pack

I've posted about the great Canadian institution Tim Horton's on a few occassions, but here's one more tip.

T-Ho's is perpetually busy and more times than not there is some kind of queue. That means that when you eventually get to the front of said queue, you are in charge. You're the man or the woman making all the necessary decisions to manage the well-being of that line-up. You are most definitely The Leader Of The Pack.

Man has put men on the moon, yet we can't Master the Tim Horton's queue.
This means that as you become #1 in that line, be aware of the exact spot you should be standing in order to keep that damn line running at maximum efficiency. What I see very often is the #1 person standing too far back and unnecessarily creating a backlog which frequently leads to the queue busting at the seams, where people are forced out the internal and external doors unnecessarily. This of course is the catalyst for the awkwardness associated with holding doors open while you wait for the queue to move forward, then handing that duty to the guy behind you like a reverse relay race.

So for the love of jesus almighty in the sky, don't drink and drive, change your fire alarm batteries and look around you once in a while.

August 11, 2015

Of Chip Trucks and Honkys

I've been somewhat negligent in posting due to some vacation time, but better late than never.

I stayed a week at a fantastic cottage in Cloyne, Ontario. If you haven't heard of the bustling metropolis that is Cloyne, then you'll most certainly have heard of the nearby larger mega metropolis known as Tweed.

This is why I rent cottages in the summertime.
I have found that there is certainly is a common characteristic of Small Town, Ontario:

1. White. Very white.
2. A single main street, often called Main Street.
3. They love pizza joints and chip trucks. A lot.
4. When not eating pizza and chips, they get real exotic by having a single Chinese food restaurant, often using that stereotypical "chinese" font in the signage
5. The women I've met are manly and will beat you down. The men I've met wear baseball caps,  drive pickups and don't like my kind.
6. Cottage and lakefront properties are breathtakingly beautiful, allowing me to re-charge and appreciate the great outdoors.

Like most Canadians, I love me some cottage getaways, but as the saying goes, they're a great place to rent, but I wouldn't want to buy one.

July 22, 2015

Death For Sale

I was on Craigslist as I am looking at selling a TV, when I came across this:

Burial Plot for 5 Family Members at Park Lawn Cemetery (Toronto)
Private sale of a burial plot for five family members (single plot, double depth, with space for a monument, two caskets and three cremations). 
The plot is conveniently located at the Park Lawn Cemetery among many graves of those of Ukrainian and Polish descent. 
Park Lawn Cemetery is located at 2845 Bloor St. West in Toronto. 
The section where the plot is located is "Preferred Singles No. 9". Plot area is surrounded by beautiful mature trees, away from traffic in a quiet section of the cemetery that provides a peaceful resting place.  Very attractive plot price, significantly less than purchasing directly from the Park Lawn Cemetery. I will pay the transfer fee. Email for details.

July 21, 2015

Toronto Island Cocktails, In Every Sense Of The Word

My lovely wife and I decided to get the hell outta Dodge temporarily for a few hours yesterday.

We didn't go north. We didn't go east, nor west. Instead, we headed immediately south to the Toronto Islands. I always have mixed emotions about going to the Islands. I do enjoy the psychological escape associated with it, but getting there and back kind of sucks. I know I know..it's a lovely ferry ride with a fantastic view of the city, but the giant crowds, line ups and the wired kids going and cranky kids coming back...well, let's just say it's disruptive to our more hedonistic lifestyle.

Anyway, to my highlights and tips:
  • Take a bike. You'll zip around the entire island, enjoy the scenery and get the whole experience. You'll burn out if you try to walk around the whole place (three different groups of people walking asked us where they could rent bikes). We live downtown, so we just picked up a couple of Bikeshare bikes near our house and dropped off afterwards so it worked out perfectly. You can also rent bikes on the island itself.  
  • Take the Hanlan's Point ferry rather than the main one that goes to Centre Island. It's much less crowded and drops you at the western tip of the Island. Being on the bike means you can still cross the island relatively quickly.
  • Speaking of tips, if you aren't particularly interested in seeing the tips of 63 year old gay men, steer clear of the clothing optional beach. We walked up the secluded path that leads to it knowing what we might see on the beach itself, but naked Santa Claus surprised us as we first entered the path, and the surprise didn't include Christmas presents, frankincense or myrrhr,  He wasn't wearing a red suit, and the water must have been very cold. 
Rectory Cafe. Although it looks like she's doing the robot,
she is merely delivering good times to thirsty patrons
  • Bring along some snacks, then hit up one of the more adult oriented places for cocktails (and lunch should you desire it). Most of the places and activities in the "centre" of centre island seem to be geared towards families and tourists, whereas there are a few joints scattered around different fringe areas. We happened upon The Rectory Cafe  as shown in the photo. Great quiet tucked away place surrounded by trees with cold beer and good service. Then, right by our point of departure at the Ward's Island dock, there's another place with a laid back tropical island feel, which was also fantastic.  
  • Do stroll or ride up the little lanes to check out some of the homes and cottages on the east side of the island. It's eclectic and a bit surreal, and you feel like you're in cottage country 400 km north of  Toronto. Yet, you'll come to the end of a lane and the city's entire skyline looms seemingly right in front of you. 
As they say on Game of Thrones, winter is coming. Get outside and capitalize on the summer months whenever and wherever you can. It's a beautiful city with experiences just waiting to be had.  

July 15, 2015

Wires Are For Girls

I need wireless earbuds. Not for cycling. Not for running. Not for the gym.
For sleeping.
See, typically when I go to bed I'm still a bit wired from the day (no pun intended). So, to help me temporarily shuffle off this mortal coil, I'll listen to one of those old-timey horror based radio shows, along the lines of Orson Welles' War of The Worlds, or Lights Out or Strange Tales. My mind focuses on the show and not everyday stressors so I usually fall asleep quickly.
Therein lies the problem. Throughout the night, I'll typically move or turn on my side back and forth a couple of times, and often I've woken up with wires wrapped around my face which is great fun. Or I'll have a dream someone's sticking a gun in my back, where in reality the earbud's lodged itself under me.
The one thing I'll need to ensure though is that they're good at keeping the sound isolated (when in my ears at least) - cheaper earbuds allow it to escape which wakes up my wife. And when I wake up my wife, she beats me mercilessly.


July 13, 2015

Our Present And Future Tax Dollars Hard At Work

I timed the intervals between cigarettes. Six minutes, and each time I heard
a cash register cha-ching sound in my head.

June 30, 2015

WTF happened to service?

Car windshield replacement
Call auto centre. Man gets angry. Says windshield place is next door. Sounds very upset with me and barks phone number at me. As I say thank you, I hear the phone slamming down.

Like the Honey Badger, Grover doesn't give a shit.

Patio door screen replacement
Home Hardware positions itself as friendly local store with good service compared to big box stores. So, I drop screen door at Home Hardware 9am Saturday morning. Man says he doesn't know when it will be ready. Says I will be called. I call late Monday afternoon to enquire about status. Man tells me screen repair man only comes on Fridays. I ask man why other man didn't tell me that, otherwise I would have went somewhere with faster service. Man says he doesn't know. I say to man - "ok so I can pick up my door end of day this Friday?"  Man says he doesn't know. Someone will call me. But if he comes Fridays, why can't I have it Friday? Man says screen repair man's wife died two weeks ago - doesn't know if he's still repairing screen doors. Solution - go to big box store.

June 26, 2015

Nice try Entertainment Industry

Out of the last 4 units of media entertainment I've consumed, I couldn't get through 3, and only remained in 1 due to being held emotional hostage.
The Purge 2: I didn't mind the first one. The sequel began smart enough and built onto an already creepy premise, but it soon spiralled into a hot mess of Mad Max fused with a zombie film.
Jurassic World: I wrote a post on my blog about this. Ninety-eight percent of the big scenes were in the seventy-five trailers you could not unsee anywhere. Characters were 1 dimensional and I 
actually said out loud "oh jesus come on!" during a particularly nauseating scene. See, we all grew up with this film so we're held hostage emotionally.  Slap the word Jurassic on a movie about donkey piss and we'll go see it.
Kingsman: Secret Service - I like Colin Firth - he had the early Michael Caine thing going on, but this turned into The Matrix, and I hate the fucking Matrix.
True Detective, S2,Ep1: Tried hard to be cerebral but was not cerebral. Just confusing. Can't get past the guy from DodgeBall attempting dramatic acting.
On a related note, if you watch Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, and then watch You Gotta Eat Here, you'll realize the producers of the latter have raped and pillaged the producers of the former. The only difference is you have an obnoxious American frat boy with a bit of charm in one, and a nerdy but polite Canadian with a bit of charm in the other.

June 22, 2015

Thank You Mr Ass Face

If you think the subject line sounds harsh, trust me, my first version was harsher. But more importantly, I want to thank Mr Ass Face for crystalizing something for me.

See, over the years I've had sporadic DJ gigs. I've spun at parties, weddings and bars. Mostly they've been personal parties where I play exactly what I want, for friends that I know who appreciate a similar vibe.  But in some instances, there are paid gigs I've had where you play exactly what you don't want, and that's fine of course. It's part of the business.

This weekend I had one of those gigs. It was at a bar in Pickering, a Toronto suburb, so that alone might tell you something. I was told the people who frequent the joint are folks in their 40's and 50's - the standard wasp types - so some mainstream party music from the 70's forward.

Upon arrival, there are only about 12 people in the bar. Upon setup, that number has dropped to about 6, including the owner who was clearly tipsy. This, my friends, does not bode well, and those numbers do not constitute critical mass for a party to break out.  But, whatever, the show must go on, so I start spinning and although not a dancing kind of evening, the people there are listening and I can tell they're into the music.

About 11pm four or five younger people show up - I'm guessing early 20's. They are in more of a dancing mood and they've added some spark. See this is part of what a DJ is paid to do. Go with the flow and create a party. Otherwise, you might as well just put on a jukebox.

A girl approaches me and asks for some Nicki Minaj, of which of course I don't have - remember, I prepared for a different type of audience. However, in that instance what a good DJ does is try to play something at least similar. Maybe that will get people dancing and get a party going. But in this instance, I decided to go one step further. Got on my laptop, downloaded Minaj on the spot, burned a CD and spun the exact tune she wanted.

It worked. Her and a couple of friends started dancing, so I played a couple of more similar, relatively modern hip hop songs to keep things going. It was 50 cent's In Da Club and some other shite I don't like personally, but it wasn't about me. Slowly, a vibe was building.

A few minutes later, the owner walks up to me and says, and I paraphrase. "You know what - this isn't a fucking nightclub. I don't like this fucking music, I don't like the language and I don't want this fucking garbage in my bar". He added a few more words that started with the letter N, so I'll leave that to your imagination.  I thought he was joking. He was not.

At the end of the day, he's the boss. Even though I'm doing my job as a professional by going with the flow to get a party going, it's his bar. For some bizarre reason (and I think alchohol played a factor), he figured that me playing a few hip hop songs meant that his bar was now labelled a gangsta-filled nightclub. Even when 98% of the music I've played has been exactly what's been asked, but instead, he focused on 10 minutes of hip hop.

As I said though, it's his joint. More than anything, it was his aggressive tone and language that really, really pissed me off.  He was incredibly rude and I didn't like it one bit. But, I still hadn't got paid, so I took the high road. "Ok no problem",  I say. "But just so you know, these were requested by the people who came in and wanted to dance, and they danced."

It was at that moment that things became crystal clear. I'll never ever DJ again at a venue that is not my style of music, my crowd,my vibe. It's simply not worth it. On top of that, I was set up to fail since this guy asked me to DJ when there was virtually zero chance of a successful night when 6 people are in the bar.  So, I'm sure you'll never know it Mr Ass Face, but thank you for helping me to have this epiphany.

The upshot? Never again will Kool and The Gang be heard when this DJ is at the helm.

June 15, 2015

Dick The Birthday Boy

Of Spoilers and Surround Sound

It's funny how you see tv show and movie reviews online prefaced by "spoiler alert" to warn readers not to go further if they haven't seen the show or movie.

In the case of Jurassic World, those types of warnings are absolutely unnecessary, because the massive marketing campaign has already done all the spoiling.

I stupidly attended a screening of the film yesterday. Stupid because it was rammed, and despite the promo telling people to shut the hell up during the movie, people still talked. Instead of those fantastic 5:1 movie theatre speaker systems, I got the 8:1 sound. The only audio I want to hear behind me are raptors creeping  through the bushes, not various comments from the ass hats all around me in the auditorium. If you're one of those people, just shut the hell up already.

But my bigger beef is with the fact that we are inundated with trailers weeks before the opening, which I understand is typically necessary to maximize opening weekends. I also understand that nobody forces me to watch them (although that can be tricky if you're caught off guard). But in the case of Jurassic World, it was like going to a huge thanksgiving dinner, where the appetizer was turkey and mashed potatoes. In a nuthsell, I had seen 98% of the movie  before I went to the theatre yesterday.

Hey Hollywood, if you slap "jurassic" on anything, a zillion people will go see it anyway, so maybe surprise me once in a while, and leave a little more for the actual movie ...will ya?


June 9, 2015

Now With Extra Cancer!

I Smell Like A Girl

One of these days in the distant or not so distant future, this planet will succumb to some catastrophic event, whether it be an asteroid or some other natural cause. This is why it's critical that the sharpest minds on earth start planning for future generations, who will eventually need to get out of Dodge.

In the meantime, the majority of us scuffle about living our lives in relative comfort. Global poverty is on the decline, and if you're fortunate enough to live in a country like Canada, most of life's basics are guaranteed to let you sail fairly comfortably.

This of course sounds great in theory, but the downside is that it has made us, as a species, very soft. Tom Hanks and his volleyball lasted 4 years on that island. I honestly don't know if I would have made it 4 weeks. Similarly, over the last few days I've experienced horrors worse than Nazi Germany.

If you have the ability to organize your survival gear and take a lovely
photo like this, chances are you're probably gonna make it.
Read the following at your own peril, but frankly, all you really need to read is the final sentence. So, it was my mom's birthday Sunday so I spent the night at her house. My plan was to leave very early the next morning because I had to drop my car off at the dealership for some basic maintenance ahead of a 4 hour drive we're taking later this week. However, on Monday morning, Murphy being the prick that he is, there was a complete shut down of the transit system, adding additional chaos to the commute that morning, delaying my ability to get to the dealership. Shortly after the shuttle service dropped me back at work, I got the call from the dealership saying that they'd need to keep the car overnight - the delay in getting things going that day meant the parts wouldn't be in until the next day. So, it was late Monday night when I realized that I didn't have some basic items that I needed. See, since I figured I'd have my car, I had left my overnight bag in the trunk, which included simple but critical items like a toothbrush, clothes, deodorant and a small handgun.

Exhausted yet?

As mentioned, I didn't connect the dots on all this until I got home late last night, which left me with few choices for preparing for sleep and going to work this morning. Sure I could have used my wife's toothbrush - after all - we're practically married. But I thought that would be impolite so I brushed my teeth with a pretzel. When it came to deodorant, it was a toss up between Lemon Pledge and some dandelions in our yard. But in the end I used something I found in the cupboard called Nature's Breath, or maybe it was Lady Of The Night. Either way, today I smell like a girl.

So, my point is how frazzled one becomes when a couple of basic things are taken out of the equation. Add a few unforeseen circumstances into the mix and we all might as well slowly walk into a lake. There's a great line in a Chevy Chase movie, Funny Farm, and I'm paraphrasing here, but Chase chastizes his wife because their furniture from their move hasn't arrived yet. He says "come on honey - 100 years ago the Settlers handled things easily enough. If they can do it, so can we."

"The settlers,", she replies, "lived to an average age of 35."





June 4, 2015

An Open Letter To Jack

Driving to work yesterday, I had a fun little interaction with a prick on wheels. The two wheeled variety. Let's call him by name. Let's go with Jack. Jack Ass.

See, Jack Ass incorrectly concluded that I had violated his asphalt real estate while driving by him, so Jack decided to spit on my car, which is when I decided to pull over and confront Jack.

Jack immediately pulls out a phone to film the entire incident, repeatedly citing "you can't split the lane, you can't split the lane." And you know what else you can't do? Spit on someone's car without expecting that someone's blood to get up.

Jack, I'm not a religious man, but I advise you to count your blessings. You seem like the antagonizing type who's done this sort of thing before, so it's only a matter of time before you come across a person who is just a little more volatile than me, and in the heat of the moment, between your bicyle and a vehicle, you will lose. Oh sure you could take legal action and would probably win some kind of cash settlement, which would allow you to spend the rest of your days gloating gleefully while sitting comfortably in your very expensive wheelchair.


June 2, 2015

Anyone Can DJ

As you're fully aware, Monday nights are clearly the biggest party nights in the city yes?

That's why I was happy to host the launch of Anyone Can DJ last night at Toronto's Pacific Junction Hotel. PJH, known affectionately as The Donkey, was rockin' for the inaugral event where anyone...umm..can dj. It's really quite simple. Think of it as karaoke...only way cooler.

Interested? Email carson@girthradio.com to book a slot.

May 27, 2015

Hello? Helllo?? HELLO!!??

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May 25, 2015

Hobo Gauntlet Podcast - Episode 8

As per the post below, on episode 8 I'll touch on good places to hide a body in Toronto, I'll rant about my day at the Jays game, an ass clown update and my ban from Tanki Online.

Musically, episode 8 is all over the map and we'll hear from, among others, The Hawaiian Pups, Ministry, The Stills, Love Spit Love and Suede.




Best Places To Hide A Body In Toronto: #49 - Don River

This cozy little spot is perfect for your first or second murder as it's close to the downtown core, but juuust slightly off the beaten path. I won't tell you exactly where it is because..you know..evidence and all. 


No Shank You

I commented on this over on Toronto Mike.com, who was complaining about tiny coffee cups often found at breakfast diners. I have a related irritant regarding tiny diner coffee cups.
Maybe I'm labelled a pain in the ass by servers who attend to me, but I always prefer a fresh, clean cup when they come around to refill your coffee. In other words, don't pour fresh coffee over the few remaining ounces of cooling coffee in my cup. Servers will often come by and say "would you like me to warm that up for you?" Um, no..no I don't want that hellish alchemy at all thank you very much.
If I'm at a bar and my pint is nearly done, the bartender doesn't say "would you like me to cool that down for you?" and pour new beer over the old beer. If he or she does, that tells me there's an excellent chance I'm getting knifed at that bar.

May 20, 2015

May 19, 2015

Hobo Gauntlet Radio - Episode 7

Musically, Episode 7 of HGR throws the proverbial net wide, ranging from Jonathon Richman and The Modern Lovers to OMD to The Doors to Harvey Danger.

Meanwhile, your host provides an update on his obsession with Tanki Online and how it has delayed the production of new podcasts. He also touches on the unbelievably fantastic sports town that is Toronto, re-lives the summer of ’86 and he shares a story about a cowboy hat as mentioned in the Guilty By Association post below. Episode 7 clocks in at an hour and eight minutes.




May 16, 2015

Guilty By Association

Stopping by Betty's yesterday it was busy as usual, so I took up residence at my B location, which is a little standing spot near the bar. I don't mind it at all, and I'll typically grab a table or stool when something opens up.

Now take a look at the photo. As you can see, nestled up right beside me was a hat. Let be more specific. A cowboy hat. When I first got there, I didn't even notice it at all. I don't wear hats. I think once in 1992 I put on a cowboy hat in a store, but that's about it.

In any event, a few minutes later a woman was walking by. She paused, looked at me, then looked at the hat, and then back to me. "Nice hat", she says.

Now a time comes in every man's life when he must make a decision. In nature, they call this phenomena fight or flight. How exactly do I handle this particular situation? Don't get me wrong. I'm married so I'm not trying to conjure up a little tryst or anything, but who am I to argue with millions of years of evolution? After all, I didn't pursue this situation - it found me. My back is up against the wall here. Here I am innocently having a pint (waiting for my wife I might add), and it was what it was.

So just for shits and giggles, let's pretend for a second that I was single. If this woman legitimately likes the hat, then I have to pretend it's mine because I'm already halfway through the door so to speak. So in this case I'd say something like "Thanks. It's from Texas."  Of course, the downside of that is that I have to pretend I own a cowboy hat which, for me, is very embarrassing. On the other hand, if this woman is being sarcastic (and, Betty's being Betty's, this may very well be the case), I have to distance myself from the hat as quickly as possible and respond with: "What hat?" As you can see, the proximity of the hat to myself reduces the believability of this comment, but whatever - I could work that whole angle too by saying, in an Australian accent: "that's not a hat...THIS is a hat", and pulling out a bit of kleenex from my pocket.

Anyway, in the end I opted for a variation of both scenarios. "Why thank you. I just flew in from  Dallas because I left it here by mistake last week." She just looked at me, confused. She wasn't sure if I was being sarcastic. Just then, the rightful owner of the hat stepped in. See, the hat's owner was siting at the bar and must've noticed that two strangers were talking about her hat. So, she intervenes and says "oh.. that's MY hat". She said it to both of us proudly. Like it was a new purchase, and she was over the moon because someone was discussing it. Then, she went on and on about where she got the hat and how it matched her cowboy boots.  "See!!?", she said to us both excitedly, pointing to her shiny black cowboy boots.

You just can't make this sort of shit up.
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May 15, 2015

Hobo Gauntlet Radio

Episode 7 of HGR is on the way - in the meantime, I'm posting episode 6 below since I'm testing a new way of uploading these shows. And, don't forget to visit my fine feathered friends over at Girth Radio.com, where eventually all my podcasts will live too.


9/11 On Ice

No word if Disney will produce it, but based on the new Mirvish show now playing in Toronto,  9/11 On Ice could be making it's way to Broadway, Chicago, London and Toronto at some point. Sure, maybe it'll take a hundred years, but we'll get there.

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May 12, 2015

Bon Voyage Captain John's

Infamous floating Toronto landmark Captain John's Restaurant will be erased from Toronto's history by the end of May. 

You can, however, still get a flavour of the joint if you visit Betty's patio in the city's lower east side. Word is that if you lick the sign, you can taste 50 years of trout that has imprinted itself, forever.

Bon Voyage, and Bon Appetit.


May 3, 2015

Of Atmosphere And Ambience

It's certainly a cliché by now, but one of the wonderful things about living in Toronto is the sheer diversity of ethnic foods you can experience. When I first moved downtown in particular, it was a mouth-watering, eye-opening experience.

This is the beauty of multiculturalism. When we sit at each other's dinner tables, the world becomes just a little smaller, making us collectively appreciate that we have more in common than we have differences.

So, last night my lovely wife and I decided to dine at Young Thailand, a decent restaurant located in Cabbagetown that has never disappointed. The food is always fresh and moderately priced, but one thing that keeps us coming back to this particular establishment is the restaurant itself. It is set up as a tranquil oasis, with Thai inspired furnishings and even a little babbling brook. We also like the dimmed dining room which adds to the relaxed atmosphere.

As we entered last night we noticed our favourite table was waiting for us - tucked in the corner and away from the windows, nestled right beside the babbling brook. We approached the table gleefully and as we sat, we both noticed the serene, dream-like Thai music permeating the room - it was the chillaxin' favourite from Motley Crue: Smokin' In The Boys Room. Yes you read that right.

In about a second the entire atmosphere had changed as we realized the nature of this cacophany coming from the sound system. It was very off-putting, but we figured - maybe an anomaly. But we were soon disappointed again - this time it was Huey Lewis And The News. Sorry let me write that again. Huey Fucking Lewis And The Fucking News. In a Thai restaurant. On a Saturday night.

This is where Guns 'n Roses grew up.
It was soon evident that the place had decided to forego traditional Thai music to match the lovely decor and setting. It was some Saturday night classic rock show on a local radio station complete with voice-tracked morning DJ and even better...commercials.

So then we debated - we shouldn't have to and it's a valid request but do we ask the server to change the music? There are probably a dozen other people in the restaurant and we can't help think they aren't wondering the same thing. When our server does come by, in my best Canadian oh-so-polite passive aggressive way, I say "Do you ever play Thai music over the sound system?". She says "oh no, just the radio."

And it's really too bad, because as usual, the food was outstanding. For appetizers we had the veggie rolls. For mains there was the bbq beef, spicy curry noodle with shrimp and to top it off, a generous helping of Thin Lizzy's The Boys Are Back In Town.
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April 25, 2015

You Can't Handle The Stink

Yesterday I had the opportunity to live out every lawyer's dream. To stand in a court room and boldly defend my rights and freedoms in dramatic fashion not unlike Jack Nicholson in that Tom Cruise movie about needing someone on a wall. You know the one.

Flashback to July 2014 when I find 2 trumped up parking tickets on the car. One is for having an incorrect plate, the other for parking longer than 3 hours. I'll spare you the details but trust me - they're bullshit tickets. So I opted to fight the oppressing bastards and have my day in court.

I arrive at the Scarborough court room amongst a hundred other people with the same idea. Right off the bat, the prosecutor says to everyone that they'll reduce any fines by 1/3 if you plead guilty, which is fine by me. See, at first I had thought my tickets were a total of $80 which are worth fighting in my view. At closer inspection they totalled  $60, so it's getting close to the point where it's not worth the hassle.

Anyway, even though I took the express deal, you still have to sit and listen to the judge go through the details of everyone's case. The shifty looking paralegals get first priority, largely defending new Canadians who don't speak English. One guy gets up with his paralegal and the judge goes on and on, only to reveal that the original ticket was for $15. Fifteen. I wanna strangle this guy on principle.

This shit never happens in real life.
But wait, there's more. As I sat waiting for my name to be called, a creeping stench wafted it's way into my nostrils. I then realized I was smack dab in the middle of the kind of mosh pit you never wanna dance in.  Think about any movie you've seen set in 17th century medieval England, where the peasants with black teeth throw rotten vegetables. Over fifty years ago man landed on the moon, yet some members of the human race have yet to discover basic hygiene.

And so it went. As things droned on, I looked at the bored-looking judge and wondered if she was thinking about the time she was a young bright eyed lawyer, ready to Erin Brockovich the shit out of any asshole who got in her way. Is this how she figured her dynamic legal career would end up?

In any event, my name was finally called.  I noticed earlier that when one guy was called up, he bowed when he approached and left the "presence" of the judge. Not only that, but he even walked backwards before turning around and leaving. What the hell is this? Game of Fucking Thrones?

But, I get it..it's meant to be symbollic, respectful and such. Fair enough, but then I also noticed the defendant's podium with a bible, where you're supposed to place your hand on it and swear to some Marshmallowey-white man in a robe who lives in the clouds. Maybe I was over thinking things, but this reminded me of the dangers of Dogma, and since I've already cut the deal with the Prosecutor, I figure I'm just gonna go up and be polite, but no bowing crap.

In the end, my tickets were reduced to $20. But then I start thinking and pull out a calculator. Let's add up the cost of being away from work, the cost of gas, the aggravation of everything, and then add $100 for the stench...

In the immortal words of The Clash, I fought the law, and the law won.

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April 21, 2015

Tim Hortons Tales #2,356

You've gotta hand it to Tim Horton's. Since there is such a cross section of people that frequent it, the joint is like a bubbling cauldron of awkwardness and misadventure.

Today's tale is subtle, but a classic. As I was in line this morning, there were three or four people waiting for their bagels or breakfast sandwiches to be made. At the best of times this can be a chaotic ritual, given how busy T-Ho's gets.

So there was this one guy who looked like he just rolled out of bed from a trashcan. I'd say he was about 45, with greasy unkempt hair, dirty oily hands, rough and ready clothing and a wild-eyed look about him. Next to him was this pretty young blonde woman about 25. The server announces that some kind of bagel is ready and the dirty dude takes his sandwich, but he stays since he's clearly waiting for another item. The server then brings up a couple of more items, none of which belong to the blonde woman. At this point, it's become clear that there's been some confusion - the young woman's sandwich is MIA. She proceeds to enquire about the fate of her breakfast, and the server says she's already brought that particular item out....which is when it became clear that Fleabag McGee mistook her bagel for his, and has had his greasy mitts all over it for about a minute.

I look at the young woman the instant she realizes what's what. She was trying to be polite, but for a split second she flashed a look of  deep, deep disappointment, only to be replaced by disgust when the guy handed the sandwich back to her.

In the end, at least the woman can tell the story about the day she went for breakfast at Tim Horton's, patiently waited in line for ten minutes, paid for it and as she walked out the door, threw it directly into the trash.
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April 17, 2015

Chewie still can't afford pants

Indeed - that new Star Wars trailer is certainly something the neckbeards can rub one out to (and probably have three or four times already).

Sorry if that sounded harsh. But you gotta give credit to Disney, Lucas et al for giving generations of fans exactly what they want. Star Wars is very much the gold standard of movie franchises, and it's even more impressive given how it went off the rails for several years.

I was watching clips of the fan kick off event in Anaheim, and the one thing that struck me (other than feeling kind of sorry for people who camped outside a convention centre the night before to get in), was the sheer glow you could see in the faces of the newest cast members. Hamill, Ford, Fisher - during filming they more than likely had a few late night cocktails with the new cast (well maybe not Fisher), and told them that life, as they know it, will never be the same.

April 15, 2015

I've Got A New Complaint

Not exactly new, but it's related to the unending self-centredness you see from people every day.

This morning while driving in to work, I stopped by Tim Horton's and decided to use the drive-thru since there were only one or two cars in the queue. At most drive-thru's nowadays, before you scream your order into the metallic squawk box, there are trash receptables. Great idea right? Well they are, in theory. Theory doesn't always take society's ass-clowns into account.

As the car in front of me inched forward, you could see him or her gathering up stuff to dump into the trash. Now, there's about 3 or 4 feet between your car and the receptacle - if you have a coffee cup to discard, I'd say you've got a decent chance of hitting your mark by tossing it, especially since these bins have been engineered for the lazy ass bastards of the world.

But if you've got three large drink cups, a few styrofoam containers, napkins and other loose debris all in a large paper bag, throwing it from your car is probably not the best idea. So as I sit and observe this, out of the blue I see this sizeable McDonald's bag fly out of his window in the general direction of the bin. It smashes into the almost full receptacle and cups and trash bounce back and onto the ground.

So at this point, my thinking is..admit you're a jackass, put your car in park, open your goddamn door and put the crap in the bin.  But no, not this guy. He just rolls along merrily to place his order which will result in more trash he'll be missing the mark on tomorrow. As I roll my car forward, I hear the cacophonous crunch of plastic bottles and styrofoam containers underneath my tires. I open my door and the ground is completely strewn with trash.

To me, karma is as fictitious as sasquatch, but at times like this I wish karma stepped it's ass up and taught pricks like this a lesson.
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