The Family (Or most of them)

The Family (Or most of them)
The Family

November 27, 2007

GAK! And it's only November



Bing Crosby is back with his Christmas crooning at WalMart..."It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas."

They plant that thought in our minds, which in super-conglomerate-speak is a subliminal code song to consumers to "don't think, just spend, spend, spend."

And they plant it earlier every year and then fertilize and water beyond belief.

It's like a switch they turn on with the non-stop ads, music and everything else, triggering some device they've surgically inserted in our heads that gets us to comply.

The plastic green and red festive decor crawls along like man-eating vines at the liquor store, in the 7-Eleven, in every mall, stretching its tentacles out to grab us and gobble us up in a buying orgy of outlandish proportions.

And we follow, like the lemmings we are, jumping off a cliff into a sea of debt below, victims of our own need and desire to give so our loved ones will feel good and falling into the trap of consumerism that haunts us everywhere we go.

But everybody knows that. This post, actually, is supposed to be about Christmas and the extended family and my own early encounter with it this year.

And how one of my three sisters, who aptly calls herself "The Big Organizer," made my tiny brain explode on its own long before I've even thought about what I'm going to buy anyone for Christmas.

While I was out of town recently, this sister, who I love dearly, sent out an email to me, our two other sisters and my one brother who lives close enough to us to be part of our annual family Christmas get-together.

In it, she used complicated mathematics principles and theories to detail, in terms I could not understand but which Einstein or others might; four scenarios for buying our collective nine offspring Christmas gifts.

The first email was titled "Christmas Shenanigans." It was about 400 words long.

I gave up about one-third of the way into it when she broke down the spending ratios in a Pythagorean formula that looked something like this:

9 x $40.00 + $8.00 for the one couple that has three as opposed to two kids, divided by the circumference of Pluto minus the 12 beers and 82 bags of chips without any peanut additives WW is assigned to bring=WW's amount owing.

The second email was entitled "More Shenanigans." It further confused me with more mind-numbing possibilities but fortunately, did not attempt to address peace in the Middle East or why I am still single.

The third had a subject line titled "Oops, bossy L has contradicted herself." I didn't even open it.

And yet a fourth was titled, "Extra Xmas Info."

Nowhere have any of these emails stated where this Boxing Day Bedlam is going to occur -- I'm assuming it's at her place -- but that's besides the point.

I'll just buy each of my two kids a $40 gift, wrap them as best I can, label them "from your aunts and uncles," write my sister a cheque in the amount of either $18 or $1,800, whatever she wants, bring the case of beer and truckload of peanut-free chips and show up.

I love being part of a big family. When you get all of us together for any sort of celebration, it's nothing but fun and kidding around and bedlam and bad jokes and the kind of teasing we did as kids.

When it's at Christmas, there's an air of added excitement.

There's the wonder and unbridled happiness of the kids (age range about 12-23) anticipating the loot they're going to get, the almost ho-hum hilarity involving all us siblings, and the presence of our mom and dad to tie it all together.

There's the chatting, the mingling of generations, the joking, the dinner to which we all contribute (some, like me, a lot less than others), the dessert and then, finally, the mass opening of presents, from youngest to oldest.

For our family, it's a very special time, despite all my rants about what Christmas has become in the larger world of consumerism and buy, buy, buy.

We might have fallen victim to its vise-like grip and allure, but that doesn't make it any less compelling a time to give and to be together, and that is the most important thing of all.

WW's Big Adventure (Epilogue)


Yes, the team I grew up cheering for and which I now cover for the biggest newspaper in my province lost our national football championship on Sunday to our rivals from the West.
Oh well. There's always next year, they gave it 110 per cent, the other team just "made more plays than we did," as the incredibly stupid cliches go.
And the football season, finally, is over here in the Great White North.
We are now officially the city with the longest championship drought, now dating back 17 years since we haven't won it in 1990 in Vancouver (I was there for that game too).
Sob, sob. But fans of the other team really deserved to win this. They hadn't won since 1989 in Toronto, another game I covered.
I returned from Toronto late last night, the last straggler from my newspaper to do so, only to find about 122 dishes and pots and pans piled up in the kitchen sink, on the counter, on the couch, courtesy of my son who turned 16 today.
Whilst I contemplate the different ways in which I will wring his neck (figuratively, not literally, although it's tempting...), I thought I'd wrap up the week that least the parts I can remember.
And if I can't remember a lot, it's not because I was inebriated, not even once, except maybe late Sunday night, after the game and my work was all done.
They call this Canada's "Grand National Drunk," or at least they used to. And I certainly did see plenty of people well beyond failing sobriety tests.
But because we had our local university team in Toronto competing for their national championship the same week as the Grey Cup (THEY won), I had to cover two championships in the same week.
That meant 15-hour days and very little time for sight-seeing, drinking or walking about Canada's largest city.
I did get out Tuesday night for a nice supper and Saturday for a bit of carousing, some great Italian food and some blues music.
But for the most part, I was confined to my hotel and room service.
The hotel, as I explained in my previous post, is attached to the Rogers Centre, a 53,000 seat domed stadium that most of Canada still calls SkyDome.
Staying in a hotel attached to the football stadium where the game will be played has its perks, but also its peculiarities.
I was on the seventh floor and the elevator was (I counted) 241 paces from my room. It took me almost two minutes to walk to my room from the elevator.
I expended as much energy doing just that as the players did in their daily practices. Following are some pictures to give you a glimpse...
The tall building on the right is the CN Tower, until recently the world's tallest free-standing structure. The big wide domed building to its left is the Skydome, to which is attached the hotel I stayed at.

This is the hotel itself, with the CN Tower, well, towering above it.

These are my feet looking through the glass floor at the top of the CN Tower.

This is me jumping from the CN Tower in my cool red track suit that everyone loved.

Here is another angle of me jumping from the CN Tower.

Here's just another football shot of the winning team celebrating as a pictorial segue to the end of this epic journey by WW to Canada's Centre of the Universe.
I returned to a wintry Winnipeg full of cold, snow and a pile of dishes.
It sure is great to be home.

November 20, 2007

WW's Big Adventure in the Big Smoke -- Day 1


I'm here, doncha know, in Toronto, which the rest of us Canadians like to call The Big Smoke or Hogtown or Tarrana, for Sunday's 95th Grey Cup game.

It features our Winnipeg Blue Bombers playing the Saskatchewan Roughriders in a Battle of the Stubble-Jumpers, which for all you mountain-dwelling bloggers or residents of hilly country is another word for Flatlanders, which is another word for people who live on the Prairies.

This is going to be very quick and down and dirty (well, maybe not dirty). I have no energy to load any pictures. But if I did have that energy, those pictures would be of the CN Tower, until recently the world's tallest free-standing structure, which is right outside my hotel room on Front Street.

Or those pictures would be of Toronto's Skydome, now called Rogers Centre, a domed stadium where Sunday's game will be played. My hotel is attached to the stadium. But my main view is of a series of railroad tracks seven floors below. Harumph.

It's been a crazy day. After being unable to get to sleep in Winnipeg last night, I had to wake up at 3:30 a.m. to catch a 6 a.m. flight to Toronto, which is Canada's largest city. I arrived here around 9 a.m., made it to the hotel, checked in and immediately started writing.

I tried to sleep in the afternoon but couldn't. I caught a cab with a buddy at around 5:30 to go out and greet our team at the airport, did several interviews, came back to the hotel, wrote the rest of my stuff and went out for supper, just returning now.

I will lay my head down to sleep with plenty of steak and two beers to digest. Tomorrow (Wednesday), everything starts in earnest with the teams here and the practices slated to begin.

I'll be back to blog whenever I can.

As they say in Toronto: EH?

November 18, 2007



And I will be there next Sunday, Nov. 25, in Toronto -- Canada's centre of the universe -- to cover it.

In a pair of upsets on Sunday, our team defeated the Toronto club in our divisional final 19-9 in Toronto, even though our top player and quarterback suffered a broken arm and despite Toronto's insistence we would not score 10 points.

Our team was in first place in our division until the final week of the season, when Toronto took over. The week before this, we had beaten Montreal in the semifinal. On Sunday, we beat Toronto in the division final.
Despite the broken arm to our No. 1 quarterback, that gets us into our first Canadian Football League championship game since 2001, when we lost to a team from Calgary when we should have won.

From a Canadian point of view, and certainly from mine, the most fascinating part of the Grey Cup on Sunday will be the two teams facing each other: the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and the Saskatchewan Roughriders.
First, these two teams (and cities) are from the Canadian Prairies. They're among the two smallest major cities in the country. Winnipeg hasn't been to a Grey Cup since 2001, Saskatchewan hasn't been since 1997.
These are underdog cities with underdog, publicly-owned teams. They each beat privately-owned teams from much bigger metropolitan areas to advance to the championship game after years of failure.
The two cities where the teams are based -- Winnipeg and Regina -- are both economically depressed, blue-collar places that are often overlooked when it comes to the best of what Canada is, overshadowed by Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Ottawa, Calgary and Edmonton.
Regina and Winnipeg are Prairie burgs, nothing else, about 500 miles from each other, considered by the mainstream media and therefore a lot of Canadians as just places to bypass on their way east or west.
But these two places are so much alike that they have an annual Labour Day game that is celebrated by each place as an annual test of wills. Saskatchewan beat Winnipeg in Game 1 there, but Winnipeg won Game 2.
Now it comes down to Game 3, in Toronto. Saskatchewan's green and white vs. Winnipeg's blue and gold. I'm looking forward to being there.

November 16, 2007


In a continuing testament to our highly advanced Enterpainment Tonight society, super-developed evolution and values, we refer you to this story, which you've probably already read by now or at least heard about.

Dateline Los Angeles, the land of La-La Levity, three-month marriages and what have you.

The subject? Not Britney Spears. No way O.J. Tom Cruise is not the answer either. It's not about any of THOSE particular nutcases that fascinate us and are exposed to us by the media.

No, today's revolting personality is Lindsay Lohan and her spending less than one hour in jail in what appears to be just another photo opportunity to sell yet more advertising; to fill our dulled souls with nothingness.

It's destined to be the lead story, potentially, on what for millions seems to have become the real suppertime news: Entertainment Tonight or its copy-cat, mindless impersonators.

To be put up to public ridicule, where she can be laughed at, swallowed whole, digested like some little dysfunctional soundbyte...

...A movie star, a beautifully attractive woman with a whole bunch of problems, thrown into the lion's den to be gawked at, jeered, pitied, admired, I don't know.

Or whatever you feel about her or any of these other "beautiful people" who are really little more than and adored versions of the tallest or fattest or shortest people in the world from those freak shows of days past.

But what does our fascination with them say about us?

What are the motivations we have for watching and caring, and for the media to want to make us care and watch while these human trainwrecks run amok and fall off the rails and crash and burn and explode and implode?

Is it all for our amusement, some shallow, base thing inside of us that makes us like to see other people suffering or doing stupid, ugly things so that we don't have to focus on our own muddled, blurred existences?

Should we ask ourselves why we would even want or need to focus on someone else's stupidity or inability to cope with being too rich or famous?

Is it to try to get us to concentrate on the lives of public figures like Lindsay Lohan so we don't have to even think about what's really happening to our own lives as a result of the actions all around us and what we might be pretending isn't happening?

Is this kind of drivel shown to us because we've demanded to see it and the media is just meeting our hunger for the bizarre and bone-headed, or are we lapping up the only sustenance they're offering us, with some ulterior motive?

As in, diverting us from wars we shouldn't be in, the War on Terror governments aren't dealing with in our own societies (let alone those from other peoples), the military industrial complex, high taxes, poverty, lax gun laws, etc.

Why are we given all this pap that, in large part, that seems to be intended to get us to focus on the big loser? As in reality shows that embarrass people, where a bunch of obese people compete to see who can (or can't) lose the most weight?

Who's as smart as a fifth-grader? Who CAN'T sing or dance and then gets insulted by the judges? Why would we tune into a bunch of has-been actors/singers all living together with their lip rings, plastic boobs and totally washed out careers?
What is it about us that we'll tune into such crap where they present people for what appears to be little more than failure and ridicule?

Is it because we want and need to see people fail and look stupid? They call these "reality" shows. Is that because we all feel we're failing and helpless, and so we need to see other people fail on a bigger scale, to somehow make us feel we're not doing so badly?

Why is Dr. Phil so popular? He focuses on solving problems that a lot of people encounter. He's our psychologist for the masses, like some TV god sent down from above to administer free counselling for a society gone crazy.

Is being dysfunctional cool? Or is watching dysfunctional people be dysfunctional some sort of reassurance that we can't be as dysfunctional as them?

Is not being able to cope -- as Lindsay Lohan has shown she can't -- some reflection of who we are and where we're at, a message that if she can screw up with all that money, fame and beauty, then it's OK for us to be that way too?

November 4, 2007


He's no Jimi Hendrix or Eric Clapton...yet. And he probably barely knows who those two guys are anyway.

But today, my 15-year-old son took one step closer to world fame when we went out and bought him his first electric guitar, which he is partly paying for.

Like any young teenage guy, my son's a dork. I love him incredibly, and he's got girls crawling all over him, but he's a dork. And he knows it. I remind him of this all the time. And now he's going to complicate things.

He's the lead singer in a band with a name that changes every week, and now he's decided that he may not continue singing, but he might just play guitar and do backup vocals for a lead singer his band doesn't have yet.

So all that money I spent on singing lessons, apparently, will now be transferred over to guitar lessons. "That's OK, Dad, I'm taking choral at school, it's just like singing lessons."


It's a nice Ibanez, whatever that means in the world of guitars, not the top of the line, but he's just starting out. With the amplifier (which his bandmates and friends loved) and all the other accessories, it cost a pretty penny.

The guitar is all black, the amp's all black, the leather guitar strap is all black, and my pocketbook is in the red. How does that work?

I played it a bit does sound pretty good. Part of it is a gift from me, but part of it he'll have to pay for himself, plus interest, every month, just like an adult.
So he gets something he claims he absolutely wants, but at a cost that requires responsibility.

I have not yet directed him to the Rolling Stones song, You Can't Always Get What You Want.

Maybe he'll discover that one on his own.

After playing with his buddies all night, he wanted to show me how it sounded when he got home. But he was very tired and went to bed soon after.
He's a kid with big, if ever-changing, dreams. This may be just another one of those. I'm glad he went to bed full of them.