Tuesday, November 30, 2004

no speedpass today

I suspect I'm every corporation's least-favourite customer - the kind who likes to be left alone to browse at my leisure, or the type who goes in to buy what they need, run through the cash, then go without any further sales pitches. The more a service rep tries to push an "exciting new offer" down my throat, the more likely I'm quick to flash an icy glare. Excessive pitches further, not weaken, my resistance.

Lately, I've noticed that gas stations are becoming more obnoxious in pushing the latest innovations in increasing North American consumer debt loads. Worst offender? Esso stations and their Speedpass. It's a tag you swipe at the pump to pay for your purchase, keyed into a credit card of your choice. Sounds convenient, right? Problem: I'm a luddite and like going in-store to pick-up other things, and have no qualms about physically whipping out a card and seeing it processed. It doesn't seem like the type of thing I can live without.

Esso would like you to believe otherwise.

Two incidents:

1. Stopped at the Bayview/Broadway to fill up and pick up some milk. Go to pay, guy asks if I want a Speedpass. I give a friendly "no thanks". Asked again, which I again refused. He then tried a sympathy ploy by saying he needed one more sign-up to meet his daily Speedpass quota. Nothing turns me off faster than this type of corporate ploy. I glared a bit, grabbed my bill and left.

2. Last week, stopped at the Dupont/Bathurst location. The guy behind the counter was robotic, repeatedly asking if I was interested in a Speedpass. Again, started with a friendly no, then grew icier with each response (especially after they said it was a "must" to have one, though I wasn't in the mood to ask why).

I feel like being a total ass next time and outlining things I have already, then see if I can leave them speechless for any reason I may need one of the durned things.

Maybe it's a new corporate ploy to make in-store staff so obnoxious that you sign up for the damn thing, so that you don't have to deal with them. I can see the memo now...

Attn: Store Agents, Customer Associates
Re: Promotion of ExxonMobilEsso Speedpass at Retail Level

The Corporation has had great success with the Speedpass program since it was introduced. However, we have not yet saturated the market, a goal that can be accomplished with the assistance of all members of the team.

Imaginative techniques to secure new Speedpass clients are strongly recommended. Store employees are encouraged to be enthusiastic about the Speedpass Program to the extreme. Encourage their inner actors by demonstrating methods of over-emphasis and pity ploys. By breaking down consumer resistance with these and other tactics, the Corporation will reach its goal.
- JB

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

the xmas newspaper insert review

If it's Xmas, it's time for my morning Globe and Mail to be loaded with one gift insert after another. You know, those (usually) glossy little mags with gift-giving ideas generally geared towards yuppies, aging boomers or the well-heeled?

The deluge started a few weeks ago with the overpriced gift-basket catalogues. They're not covered here, as I tossed them out after they provide my morning chuckle. Here's a couple that are still lying around my desk:

President's Choice Insider's Report - nowhere near as fun to look through as in the Dave Nichol days. Used to love going through these as a kid, to figure out what to tell Mom to throw in the cart next time we hit Zehrs (back then, it was usually the Kingsville location). The way those inserts were written, you really wanted to go out and try this fantastic stuff they discovered!

Now? Meh.

Though they generously toss exclamation marks through the Report, it doesn't grab your interest like it used too. The back half, featuring home product specials, barely deviates from their regular flyer. If you want a taste of the old Insider Reports, check out the flyer the US chain Trader Joe's sends out (though the old Insider Reports went for goofy cartoons, not turn-of-the-century ads).

Another problem: they keep reusing the same cartoons. The PC Chef dude needs a new range of expressions.

Least-appetizing products: Blueberry Cheesecake Crunch cookies, puff pastry pizza.

Harry Rosen - provides stocking stuffer suggestions. Like a $275 scarf is a stocking stuffer for anybody in my tax bracket. This insert also wins Worst Pun of the Season So Far - a line of UK dress-shirted under the headline SOHO-HO. Despite this, it's a nicely-designed insert.

LCBO Ultimate Holiday Gift Guide - another pretty-looking flyer. This guide covers every budget, from cheap sets of sample bottles to a "Mazzetti Grappa Chess Set in Wooden Case", where each glass chess piece contains a shot of grappa, yours for only $1,500.

Oddball, yet practical item: the Good Host Kit, with all the tolietries your stone-drunk friends will need if they have to sleep off the Xmas bash at your place, with half the retail price going to MADD.

Just Odd: "Pop art" champagne bottles. Because fine art is the only thing you'll want to be thinking of when Dick Clark drops the ball.

Chapters/Indigo: flip through this insert and you might think you'd been handed the LCBO's table scraps. I think this flyer is what the CEO meant by "cultural department store", if your culture is defined by $139 Nigella Lawson mixing bowls and small, "elegant", pricy plastic-wrapped cones of potpourri. A flip through this insert sums up all I despise about Canada's big book chain.

More to come... - JB

best price movers tries a new approach

An update on the Best Price Movers saga. After another break in calls, they've cranked up the phone mail spammer again. Big change - no more pitches from Boris/Janos/Reggie/Tugboat Bill. The past two calls have been a female voice, calling herself Anna on the first, a different name on the second (skipped through it, didn't pay much attention). These calls are done in a normal, non-phony accented voice, and have fewer vocal flubs than her male counterpart. No more "ahhhhs" or "ummmmms".

This doesn't change the fact they're still annoying, especially now that they're less amusing. - JB

Monday, November 22, 2004

santa claus is coming to town

Met up with the gang for our yearly ritual of watching/mocking the Santa Claus Parade. This year's viewing spot: Bloor and Bathurst. Went down to meet everyone, but didn't immediately see them. After a quick phone call, discovered they were around the corner, on the opposite side of the street.

Cue horror movie scene trying to reach them.

The crowd was thick, with little room to move. Right at the corner, movement came to a dead stop. I was squished in the crowd, more crowded than I'd ever been. Two people near me almost put up their dukes, because one guy refused to have his view obstructed for five seconds to let somebody through. Nobody got through, as more tried to push their way in both directions. If anybody had fallen, it would have been curtains.

It was nearly enough to send me back onto the subway.

Somebody finally pushed through and the crawl resume. Finally made it across the street and joined the others. It took awhile for the stress to wear off - when my camera was being temperamental, I flew into a steady stream of language not fit for children's ears.

But hey, it was a nice day.

Choice quotes from the peanut gallery. Those who uttered these phrases shall remain nameless (I didn't write their names down!):
"Hey, take a look at the rod!" - a float featuring a lazy-looking animal fishing, with a very long rod.

"It's an angry woman chasing those poor children...then she got caught in the star and lost half her body" - an accurate description of one float that passed, one that would have beem worthy of destruction in Animal House.

"Hey, it's the United Nations!" - a marching band carrying a dozen-and-a-half flags. We noticed the marching bands were over-enthusiastic this year, with the leaders honing their finest imitations of Robert Preston in The Music Man, with more gusto.

"More children to the fire!" - a float with a bunch of kids sitting in the interior of its midsection - don't remember for sure if it was the train advertising The Polar Express. Whatever it was, it seemed like an advertisement for child labour.

"Is that a business goth?" - on our way over to the Duke of York, passed a woman in black business clothing and very dark makeup. Soon, somebody coined the term "busigoth". Sounds like a idea to build a sketch around...

Suggestions for our own floats were tossed around, such as a tribute to alternative energy (buy tons of baking soda to use for an "erupting" volcano) or a crossing the Santa Claus and Pride parades (folks marching in nothing but Xmas skivvies). I wonder if Caribana has ever thought about lending floats/costumes...

Hey, hey, the gang's all here...except for a couple off to grab some samosas.

We kept running into cute kids fascinated by our merry band of freaks. This girl kept patting and playing with Tipper. She also patted Mark's leg, but we think it was her way of telling him to get out of Tipper's way.

We ran into kid #2 at the Duke of York, after the parade. He quickly became Jess' new boyfriend. He also drooled his lunch into a mound of coats. The kid's ready for higher education.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

i've been pimped!

It's interesting where offhand remarks will lead you.

While driving Nile and Dee home after my last dinner bash, the subject of improving one's wardrobe came up. I guess Nile had been down about career prospects when Dee suggested that he might want to start with his wardrobe. After devouring several style books, he was born again, a man with a mission: to improve others like him.

Guess who said they'd offer to be a guinea pig, in light of recent dating blunders...

So it was with a mixture of bemusement and fear I hopped in the car with Nile and Dee the other weekend. Understand that I've been a conservative, relaxed dresser most of my life, happy with loose shirts and jeans. Sure, I owned a pink sweater during the height of Miami Vice, flannel during the grunge era, etc, but never dragged them out much. Fear of clothing shrink often led to buying clothes that didn't reduce in size, making me look bloated.

We headed out to the scene of his conversion, Orfus Rd. Located near Yorkdale Mall, Orfus is a place where you can experiment for very little, making it ideal for those on a tight budget. I'd only driven down Orfus a couple of times - once to explore, once to play laser tag (which I suck at, but was a lot of fun and a good workout). It's where insane drivers come out to play, struggling to find parking spots and avoid fender-benders. Given how much I love driving in our humble burbs, I hadn't set my sights on going out there again unless others were along.

I guess a couple of things were already working in my favour - my pea coat and what Amy likes to call my "bowling shoes". One thing I had to do - untuck my shirt. This was going to be a no-no. Later discovered Amy's been waiting to tell me the same thing, but didn't want to hurt my feelings. Trust me sis, they ain't gonna be hurt.

I let the style judges pick out stuff they thought would work on me. I wasn't too helpful at first, as I couldn't figure out what exactly I needed. In the back of my mind,I knew a couple of things:

1) For pants, I could still rely on good quality/low cost pairs from the States (good ol' Haggar)
2) Nothing "clingy", given my body shape

I didn't have to fear much, other than wacky sizing. First successful stop was a place called Target (no connection to Tar-zhay), where Nile stocked up on his last run.

Cue the runway model.

Tried a number of shirts, most being too tight or roomy. Bought one, which I almost got for $4 until the cashier realized which rack it came from ($10). Lesson: don't look so puzzled when the price is lower than you expected.

Next: Le Chateau, a chain I had never looked in before. We had an unprintable name for it in high school - let's just say it was a centre that referred to torches. Was surprised to find some half-decent shirts buried at the back of the store. The salesperson didn't seem to mind going through several ceiling-high racks to look for sizes.

How wacky was sizing? I bought an XXXL shirt that was much smaller than a huge XL. My co-conspirators kept handing me shirts to take into the dressing room. Ended up buying two.

Net result of the day: three shirts, $40, brave (and fun) new frontier.

After, we headed back into the city to inagurate this year's edition of the Entertainment coupon book. Nile and I introduced Dee to the magic of Ethiopean food at Queen of Sheba (Bloor, between Dufferin and Dovercourt). So much food for so little - $20 after a 2-for-1 coupon. I managed to scare Nile when I told him his kifto was likely rare beef, which led to repeated pleas to the rest of us to eat it up. He had enjoyed the kifto up to that point...

So, it looks like the next time the gang goes for drinks, the "pimped" out me will be unveiled. We'll see what happens - pictures when available. - JB

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

northern journey

At least once a year I drive aimlessly around Muskoka, usually to catch the fall colour. A busy summer and fall ruled any trips out, so I didn't mind when Dee called up and asked if I could drive her up to her mother's place to pick up her dog, Tipper. No problem.

This shows how far I've come in my relations with the animal kingdom. Don't remember if I've mentioned it, but a bite as a kid resulted in an intense fear of dogs. I froze or sped off in the opposite direction if man's best friend drew near. My fears started to weaken in high school, then accelerated through university when several friends purchased pooches. A peace treaty was signed after Tipper slept in the same tent during last year's Campening trip.

We wolfed down a box of Timbits on the way up. I got off 400 near Aurora, hopped on old 11, then took 11 to Gravenhurst. Took the picturesque back route up to Bracebridge, with Dee pointing out hair-raising curves that had been smoothed out. Even with the leaves falling, it was still a pretty road.

We met up with her mother to unload some boxes at a storage site, then decided it was time to grab something to eat. Had a restaurant picked out downtown.

Not open.

Tried another spot.

Not open.

No restaurants on the main drag were open. Lesson learned: don't go looking for a bite to eat in Muskoka on an out-of-season Sunday. It was as if the old blue laws were still in effect. We ended up at Swiss Chalet, where Dee wanted to maim and mutilate the empty-headed server.

Reunion with Tipper came next, though the dog was interested in everybody but Dee. Relaxed for a few minutes, then loaded Tipper and her stuff into the car. She rested peacefully in the back seat, the occasional snore punctuating the front-seat conversation.

Stopped at a Mac's in Barrie, located below a bar that proclaimed itself "King of Karaoke". Judging the rumble when I went to the cashier, it was more like a club for stampeding elephants. The cashier assured me this was nothing compared to the rest of the weekend.

Back in Toronto, I watched over Tipper while Dee showered, to make sure she didn't bark and upset an antsy neighbour. Tipper stood on guard at the door for a few minutes, then gave up on guard duty and took a rest on the floor. I sat and laughed, both at Tipper and imagining that I would have been shuddering in the corner 10 years ago. - JB

Friday, November 12, 2004

happenings ten years time ago: department

To set the scene: it's my first semester of university and I'm having a ball. Arts House agrees with me, and I'm diving into intramural sports, volunteering at CFRU, building friendships that are still there, etc. Noticing I'm doing the reverse of the "Frosh 15" as I start what would become a 90-pound drop in weight. All is good.

Except for my roommate. Be warned that these excerpts from my university journal may include descriptions of poor hygiene that will make the squeamish squirm.

Why I Hate My Roommate, Part 1 (#27, Dec 5/04)
Maybe it all begins with his personal hygiene, or lack of it. Mike (Horgan) liked my term for it: fermentation. I think I'll stop there.

A messy room wouldn't bother me, as long as it makes the room kinda homey, like the person had been working hard, has an artisitic bent and that it doesn't smell horrendous. None of the above could be applied to my roommate.

Why I Hate My Roommate, Part 2 (#30, Dec 11/04)
Then there's his routine when he goes to sleep. It takes this guy forever to get settled! First, he scatches himself all over very loudly for an eternity. I guess he has to make up for not showering.

He also tends to eat and drink, which can be very loud at four in the morning. The sound of him swirling Carnation Instant Breakfast is enough to keep anybody awake. The other night I couldn't take it anymore and yelled "could you stop eating, I'm trying to get some sleep dammmit!" He stopped crumpling the wrapper of a candy cane and was silent after that.

Another annoying night habit of his is to read his sci-fi books with a night light, snickering loudly as he reads on. If you're going to do that, have a real light on, or go out in the hall.

Why I Hate My Roommate, Part 3 (#35, Dec 13/04)
Then there's personality, if he has one. He's duller than I am, unless you're a Dungeons & Dragons enthusiast, in which case he's fascinating. I'm not, so he's a blank slate to me.

Except for being annoying. He regularly bounces into places and zaps the enjoyment out of anything, especially TV...tends to be a party pooper, such as the five minutes he wasted when he refused to guess who his secret Santa was. Of course, there's his lingering presence, about which little needs to be said.

(Need to explain this one. You could smell the guy a mile away. When he left a room, it took 10-15 minutes for his stench to fade away. He used to like going into Brad Walker and Mark Truelove's room to stare unblinking at their computer - he loved to stare. On day, Brad told him never to enter their room again unless he showered).

My dislike of my roommate began to crystallize after a water polo game, which, like other group sports, he hates. Talking to my teammates, I discovered I wasn't the only person he annoyed. He's the butt of many jokes. People show pity for me because while they only encounter him, I have to live with him.

For a few more days.

I switched rooms at the end of the semester. He couldn't figure out why I wanted to leave. It was one of the strangest, blank looks I'd ever seen when I broke the news. When I came back after Christmas to move out, Mom, Amy and I nearly passed out from the stench. I had left for the holidays before he had, and he hadn't cleaned. It was a microbiologist's amusement park.

No more watching in disbelief as he made cold Chef Boyardee sandwiches. No more hearing the grinding of a cleaning stone that had little effect. No more discovering what forms of music would keep him out of the room when I wanted to work or rest (which was anything except Chris DeBurgh - discovered Pearl Jam, Spike Jones and Frank Zappa were effective). Wizard air fresheners lost a loyal customer when I moved out.

As for my roommate? He stayed in the room, with a different roomie who lasted the semester. Despite the wishes of many, he returned to the residence the following year, paired up with another guy who was universally loathed (the dude was a homophobic art student who moaned about our house meetings because they interrupted Monday Night Football, never took part in anything and possibly moved into our res to stalk another inhabitant). Didn't see much of the ex-roomie after that, though he later gained weight and took to wearing a cape around campus. - JB

digging through the archives

Just checking what's lurking on the computer, before I go on a burning spree. This is one of several slides I made for Holy Matrimony, using a few tricks I picked up at a two-day Photoshop course. Technical issues prevented their use, but it was good practice and left me hungry to do more. Other examples will be posted in the next few weeks (and hey, if you're lazily browsing this site and need some graphics work done, I'd love to start freelancing...). Techniques I picked up from night school would have helped, but considering my knowledge of the program at the time, it ain't bad. If you saw the play, consider this the start of the bonus DVD material. - JB

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

warehouse xmas shopping tips

We're back this year with more items available exclusively at JB's Warehouse. Remember - we're there to serve your gift-buying needs!

Jones Soda is launching a limited-edition, no carbs/calories pack of the following holiday-themed flavours:
* Cranberry
* Fruitcake
* Turkey and Gravy
* Mashed Potato and Butter
* Green Bean Cassarole

Mmmmm, artificial green bean cassarole flavour...

Undaunted, the folks in product research here at the Warehouse have come up with their own unique spin on carbonated beverages. Introducing JB's Own Handcrafted Fast Food Sodas!

* Cheeseburger
* Chicken Wing - available in mild, honey garlic and Buffalo varieties
* Nachos with Cheese
* Poutine
* Veggie Dog - for the vegan/vegetarian crowd

Our researchers have also come up with these exotic JB's Handcrafted flavours:

* Mucus - when you want a taste of cold/flu season without the distraction of falling ill!
* Candy Heart - complete with floating messages, just like the candy!
* Pineapple-Glazed Ham - Perfect for Easter! Availale in Kinda Salty and Pump My Veins With Salt strengths
* Communion Wafer - approved by 5 out of 6 dioceses!
* Paczki - remember, you don't have to be Polish to polish off a paczki!
* Arsenic & Old Lace - fool your friends into thinking you're poisoning them! See if they mistakenly will themselves to death! Also available in Cyanide Slide!
* Double Shot Of My Baby's Love - we'll leave it to your imagination as to what flavour this creamy concoction is!
* Milli Vanilla - an imitation of imitation vanilla flavour soda! The drink for post-modernists!

We're still working on the final design, but here's a sample label!

JB's Handcrafted Soda - Mom's Pineapple-Glazed Ham Flavour

JB's Handcrafted Sodas
Guaranteed to Bring a Smile or Your Money Back
If An Accident Occurs, We'll Pay For a Stomach Pump!
- JB

Monday, November 08, 2004

dating daze

Was at a party at the Kensington gang's place Saturday night. Ended up in a conversation with fellow singles about dating. I have gone on four or five dates in the past two years, with not too much to show for it.

This has been the usual pattern:
1) Email/message for a month, which tends to go very well.
2) Talk on the phone a couple of times. Usually goes OK
3) Meet up for coffee or a meal. End of ballgame.

I must have a masochistic streak.

My theories on this cycle:
1) Writing via e-mail or Messenger allows you time to carefully word what you say, giving the brain extra time to come up with a brilliant line or answer any questions. For somebody who's not too fast on their feet, this method is a godsend...but may to great disappointment in the other person if you cover up this problem too well.

2) Since you still aren't in the physical presence of the other person, the phone still allows a little time to refine your response, without quite seeing the other person's reaction. My problem with phones is that, especially with friends, I always call at the wrong moment (they're napping, half-naked after a shower, about to leave the house, etc).

3) The meeting is when self-consciousness hits hard. You start worrying about how you look, your mannerisms, if your brain will malfunction or not. I think I may have torpedoed the last one through a steady stream of mental meltdowns, losing my train of thought

I shouldn't complain, since I've collected a diverse, wacky bunch of friends that can be relied on to battle the rest of the world with.

Out of the people I've met up, I'm still in contact with one.

pumpkin time

(photos to be restored whenever they resurface...)

The Halloween spirit wasn't as strong among the gang this year. Everyone's been busy or globetrotting, so getting ideas together wasn't easy. Topping last year's group effort would have been difficult (go back to the archives). One party was etched in stone, so I went on the usual "get-enough-supplies-for-any-possibility" shopping spree. As the week leading into pumpkin time went on, a few events firmed up.

The fiendish fun began on Friday with holiday festivities at work. We carved a pumpkin with a "Scream" pattern, then entered it in the corporate competition (still don't know the results, other than an unflattering pic put on the internal web site). Great care was taken in creating a backdrop to make the pumpkin look like part of a painting, including a frame hanging from the ceiling.

The pumpkin was displayed as part of HR's yearly haunted floor. This year's theme was fractured fairy tales, which included the seven dwarves on strike, a graveyard of characters, a crossing of Goldilocks & The Three Bears and Trailer Park Boys, and a limey Miss Muffet with an attitude problem. Always seems like the sort of thing we might have dreamed up had AH run a haunted residence.

After work, gathered up Sheila, Stevie D and their temporary housemate Laura for a roadtrip to Rockwood, to see Dayna and Jason's sideshow exhibit at Screamfest. Took back roads most of the way, thanks to devilish traffic on the freeways. Wise choice, as the combination of dark, winding roads and dense drizzle set a spooky atmosphere - good night for ghouls to come running out at us. The roads between Guelph and Milton are great for freaking folks out at night with their sudden curves and drive-off-the-edge-of-the-earth hills. Amy used to freak out whenever I'd take Victoria or Watson Rd on the way back to Mac, her eyes bulging at every hill.

First stopped by a damp Orbax and Harpie, waiting for the night to finish to get into dry clothes. They had their freaks of nature exhibit set up, with hand-crafted versions of classic sideshow museum exhibits. Had a good chuckle at one of the freak creatures spawned in part by exposure to Fermi II (reference to back home - Fermi II is the nuclear plant across the river from A'burg. If it blew up, my family would be fried).

This was the first time I'd ever gone to a "haunted house" - too wussy when I was a kid. Compare that to now, where I was laughing my head off. The mist helped the outside portion, when we being trailed by ghouls.

Next drop by Owen's booth, where he snapped Polaroids of folks calmly being executed. Guess who was picked to be the condemned in our group...

Since it was held on an ostrich farm, had to sample ostrich burgers. Diagnosis: delicious (though I've had them before - Gilligan's in Windsor used to have good ones). We headed back to the car as the place closed. The car was under high light towers, which create great shadows of us. We played with out spectres for 10 minutes, then headed back to TO.

After dropping everyone off, headed over to the Annex. Earlier, Dee sent out an invite for folks to meet up for a pint with her and her father. I arrived just as everyone left. Perfect timing. Wasn't a total loss - it confirmed who was going to show up for the next phase of Halloween fun.

Since zombie movies were a big trend this year, decided to go to Ryan and Paula's housewarming party as one. Costume would be simple, but I could go to town on the makeup.

Zombie Recipe
* 1 container liquid latex
* several tissues of Kleenex
* makeup sponges
* mixture of makeup kits, in case you can't decide which skin tone you want your zombie to be
* old clothes, including a shirt you once thought was too tight but now fits fine

When I unveiled the latex at the last dinner party, jokes were made about S/M or striptease uses(it's the stuff strippers use to keep their pasties on). I'd roamed the web for ideas on wrinkly makeups using the stuff. Could have just used a thin layer for wrinkles, but decided to go the kleenex route for more texture.

It took an hour-and-a-half to throw the goop on. Putting on the latex and kleenex was easier than expected, despite odd corners that wouldn't stay down. Looked like a runaway hospital patient once that part of the makeup was finished. For skin tone, went with a dark grey, as anything more realistic, like mottled yellow/brown, would have taken too long. Didn't need the perfectionist streak to take over and stretch the job out to an all-nighter. Maybe it was too dark, but it worked well enough. Some black around the eyes, a few drops of blood gel around the lips to suggest brain-eating and a light coat of makeup on hands and feet rounded out the job. Tried some "zombie dentures I bought, but the putty didn't set right and the choppers wouldn't stay in. I brushed out my hair, then realized I should have picked up some hairspray to keep it out. Having let it grow out a bit helped - at full tease, I could have gone as Robert Smith had the zombie angle not worked out.

Ryan and Paula's party had been scheduled for 6, in case anybody wanted to head elsewhere later. Knowing that nobody would show that early, I didn't arrive until 7:30.

True to form, I was the first to show up.

I spent the next hour trying to reassure them people would should up - it's just that our friends are not the timeliest folks on Earth. They worried about being bad hosts while getting a large spread ready, but it was no different than when I scurry to get everything ready when I invite people over for dinner. It meant more goodies for the earlybirds.

This created a challenge, as the makeup tightened my face, so that I had to push food in. Reminded me of the fun I had eating at a Detroit jazz festival after my wisdom teeth were pulled. Other than that, it was comfortable.

About midway through the evening, having feasted on tasty hors d'oeuvres and brains.

By the time most folks showed up at 9, I think the hosts' worries were put at ease. Drumroll, maestro:

Posh and Becks, the Queen of Hearts and Recycales, the god of recycling.

The hosts, aka the Pyjama Princess (originally Paper Bag, but she got a makeover) and Ron Jeremy. Ryan shaved the front of his head to get the balding effect, then later was "Costanza'd" in a preview of what he might look like 30 years down the line. Funny stuff. Nice apartment. Good time.

Halloween itself was quiet - the usual Sunday constitutional. Not too many folks in costume in stores. Rented second box set of SCTV. Picked up veggies and cheese in Kensington, 1940s comics on Queen. Settled in at home to work on my final project for night school, which earned a decent mark.

Took a quick break for air and to see how many trick-or-treaters were in the nabe. Most were bundled, some to the point where you couldn't see the kid's costume (unless they were pretending to be the kid whose arms stuck out in his parka in A Christmas Story).

Now to find creative uses for all the leftover goo sitting around the apartment...if Robot Dog starts filming again, makeup should not be a problem. - JB

Friday, November 05, 2004

when boston cremes fail

It was Night Of The Grey Faces.

It started out with hope for those wishing for Dubya's defeat. True, the alternative wasn't awe-inspiring, but with the world watching, Americans couldn't be dumb enough to re-elect an administration that has caused so much havoc.


Arrived at Jess and Mark's around 8:30 to join the gang to watch the results. For once, I wasn't the first one there. Found everyone sacked out on couches, settling in to watch Global's election counter-programming, politically-themed episodes of The Simpsons. The "Bill Clin-Ton/Bobdole" Treehouse of Terror installment ("Citizen Kang") felt more relevant than back in '96, especially the joke about abortions ("Bobdole" first tries to woo a crowd of votes by promising abortions for all. Boos. He then says no abortions. More boos. Finally decides on abortions for some, small flags for others. Cheers).

Somebody brought a box of Tim Hortons Boston Creme donuts, in honour of Kerry. They weren't as creme-filled as we anticipated. This should have been an omen (can anybody tell me if the execs at Wendy's, who owns Tim Hortons, are Republicans? I smell a conspiracy...)

Flipped over to Jon Stewart at 10. We prepped by watching the Crossfire interview, which gets funnier with each viewing. You could tell his heart was sinking as the results trickled in. The treasure map was as useful as any other graphic of the evening. Stephen Colbert's final words made a good point - maybe we do need 60s style mass protests again to give democracy a swift kick in the ass.

Switched over to CBC at 11. As the evening wore on, faces grew greyer, the colour draining away as the red electoral votes continued to stay ahead of the blue. Recurring comments from the room:

"How could Americans be so stupid?"
"They get the president they deserve."
"Jon Stewart for President!"
"Would somebody fix the sound system behind Neil McDonald?"
"We're about due for another political assassination".

Also pondered: the mystery of young Republicans in Canada. The mystery of Rex Murphy's glass eye.

On the bright side (if there is one), maybe (a) the GOP's chickens will come home to roost in the next four years, (b) the Dems finally get it into their head that blandness and moving further right doesn't work, (c) a viable, third-party candidate emerges next time, somebody of the stature of, say, Teddy Roosevelt in 1912 (Ralph Nader need not apply).

One other small note of reassurance - the American cities I frequent (Detroit, Buffalo) were blue. Still debating whether to skip any family daytrips to Ohio until the Shrub is gone.

Welcome to four years of hell. If any of you have a Handmaid's Tale-ish dystopian story you've been working on, look forward to plenty of real-life material to spur you on. - JB