Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Maclean's gone wild!

It only took 100 years but Maclean's has finally realized sex sells.

In case you haven't seen it yet, check out this article about the rise of "trashy, raunchy, really, really bad female behaviour."

It's sensationalistic, titillating and totally over-blown. I love it! It's about time Maclean's tarted itself up.

The magazine suddenly seems less boring than it was when I let my subscription run out six years ago. Cover stories about surviving divorce, buying a house and taking care of aging parents just weren't relevant to me.

Not that a story about drunk college chicks dancing topless at bars in the hopes of starring in a Girls Gone Wild video is relevant to me. Or anyone for that matter. But it sure makes for a fun read.

Monday, September 26, 2005

J’adore Montreal

It’s been such a long time since the last time I was in Montreal that I had forgotten what an amazing city it is.

Even though I was there for a conference, I managed to hit most of Montreal’s major attractions. I didn’t get much sleep but I had a lot of fun.

I rented a bike on Friday morning and rode around the city for an hour. Later that night, I walked through old Montreal and marveled at the architecture.

A bunch of us went out to a gay club on Saturday night to see a drag show and ended up closing down a bar on St. Laurent. And, yes, I stuffed myself full of delicious, salty poutine on the way back to the hotel.

I also made a point of addressing everyone in French. Some people would immediately reply in English (is it that obvious?). But most were patient enough to respond in French.

Like the guy behind the counter at Tim Hortons who let me order a toasted honey wheat bagel with butter, an orange juice, a chocolate chip muffin and a medium tea, with two cream and two sugar, entirely in French. It took a few minutes but he let me stumble my way through the order and yelled out "Parfait!" once I finished.

Aside from the language, the nightlife, the architecture and the poutine, what really sets Montreal apart from Vancouver is the men. The men in Montreal make eye contact with women and (gasp!) actually talk to them. Had I stayed any longer, I might have ended up with a Quebecois boyfriend or two.

Luckily for me, I’ll be back in Montreal for two weeks at the end of November for another conference. I never thought I’d say this about a two-week conference, but I can’t wait.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Montreal bound

I’m spending the next four days in Montreal and I’m not very happy about it.

Not because I don’t love Montreal. But because I’ll be trapped inside a conference room listening to esoteric presentations about the "COP11/MOP1 Issues Primer and a Post-2012 Regime." (I didn’t make that up. That’s actually on the agenda.)*

It’s not even the conference I mind so much but the fact it’s being held all day Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Couldn’t they have held the conference during the week?

It seems like a waste to fly all the way out there and not be able to enjoy Montreal’s nightlife or stuff myself full of poutine.

And in case you’re thinking, "Yeah but you can still go out Friday and Saturday night."

My answer is, "No I can’t. Not when I have to get up at 7 a.m. to attend the ‘COP11/MOP1 Issues Primer and a Post-2012 Regime’ presentation the next morning."

Nope. This trip is all business, no pleasure.

* Don’t be intimidated by the title. This is just how policy wonks speak. They like to make really simple concepts unintelligible. That's why they say things like "COP11/MOP1 Issues Primer and a Post-2012 Regime" when all they really mean is "Key issues at the upcoming United Nations climate change conference."

Monday, September 19, 2005

Doing hard time at McGill

Let me get this straight. Paul Coffin defrauds the federal government of $1.5 million. He fesses up, pleads guilty and the judge orders him, amongst other things, to teach a course on business ethics at McGill University.

What? Shouldn’t the judge have ordered him to take an ethics class rather than teach one? It’s like ordering Puff Daddy (or Puffy or P. Diddy or whatever his name is this week) to teach a course on responsible gun ownership. It’s just weird.

“I sentence you to a plum teaching job at one of the best universities in the country.” Some punishment.

Friday, September 16, 2005

It's like a toilet for the shit in my head

I’ve been blogging for a whole year now. To celebrate, I thought I’d compile a list of frequently asked questions about this blog. But then I realized the only question I ever get is "What’s a blog?"

So I’m just going to look back at the past year instead, starting with why I decided to create a blog in the first place.

It's not an exciting story. I had been enjoying reading other people’s blogs for a while and began to think, "Hey, I could do this."

Plus, I’ve always liked writing. A blog of my own seemed like a good idea.

This leap from private writing to public blogging is where a lot of people get stuck: "Okay, you like writing but why put it up on the Internet?"

For me, there are lots of reasons. Posting stuff on the Internet helps make writing a habit. If I get lazy or busy and don’t write something for a week, people get on my ass about it. It’s good motivation.

It can be theraputic. This blog is like a toilet for the shit in my head.

Besides, I’ve been doing it for years. I didn’t have any friends when I first moved to Vancouver five years ago. I spent my Friday nights holed up in an Internet cafĂ© writing weekly emails that I called "The Hollywood North Report" to people back east.

Then I joined a gay swim team, was elected social coordinator, made lots of friends and the dispatches back to Ontario and New Brunswick eventually fizzled out.

This blog is a sort of resurrection of the original Hollywood North Report.

At first, the only people who read my blog were my friends and family. Then, complete strangers started reading it and leaving comments. A few of them mailed me chocolate and Tim Hortons gift certificates. Some of them asked for large pictures of my butt.

I even met some of these former strangers face-to-face. Kathryn stumbled across my blog while googling George Stroumboulopoulos. Then I started reading her blog. We became friends on-line and now hang out in the real world too.

The last time I was in Toronto, I met Bill and Kelly, who have two of the finest blogs on the Internet. I doubt I would have ever crossed paths with these guys if it weren’t for the blogosphere.

It hasn't been a completely positive experience, though. I almost shut the whole thing down when I was stalked by a crazy blog stalker.

This person left all kinds of nasty, hateful, abusive and sexually explicit comments on all of my posts. Every time I deleted one of their comments, another one would pop up.

I eventually switched to a different commenting system, which let me weed out the wacko.

Other than that, it’s been awesome and I plan on blogging until I run out of things to say. And just for fun, here are my favourite posts from the past year:

1. Four hours with George Stroumboulopoulos: I meet George and make a fool of myself on national television.

2. Does this mean I have to start censoring myself: I make a glib comment about liking Tim Hortons gift certificates and dark chocolate and suddenly people are mailing me Tim Hortons gift certificates and dark chocolate.

3. The end of an era: The sad yet wonderful experience that was my grandfather’s funeral.

4. A date with Doogie Howser, MD: You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. Who knew a trip to the podiatrist’s office could be so dramatic?

5. The axis of stupidity: The Cardinal, Stephen Harper and Sponge Bob: Right-wing politicians and religious fanatics. A running theme.

6. Vancouver men: I am always complaining about how lame the guys in Vancouver are. This pretty much explains why.

7. Tired of the "boring urban white girl" look: The day I stopped straightening my hair.

8. And I thought you read it for the articles: I have the third biggest butt on the Internet.

9. All I got for my five-year anniversary were these lousy stamps on my sandwich card: The Vancouver Sun quoted part of this post in an article about blogging about work. My boss saw the story and called me into his office. Luckily, he thought it was funny.

10. My first post: This wasn’t even a post at all but an email I sent out to some friends and family after I finished the Ironman last year. For fun, I threw it up on the Internet. It kick-started this whole thing so I feel obligated to mention it.

Thanks for stopping by :)

Monday, September 12, 2005

Stroumboulopoulos jumps ship?

Rumour has it that George Stroumboulopoulos is returning to the airwaves with a new radio show starting September 18.

A reliable source in Toronto tells me CFRB has been running on-air promos for the George Stroumboulopoulos Radio Show. Apparently, it debuts on Sunday night from 9 p.m. to 11 p.m. EST and will be broadcast weekly in the same time slot.

I don’t know whether this is just something to keep George from losing the black t-shirt off his back during the CBC lockout or if it’s a more permanent gig.

I emailed CFRB to see if the station would confirm or deny the rumour but I haven’t gotten a reply yet. There’s no info about this on the CFRB website. Anyone know anything?

UPDATE: Got an email back from Carlo Massaro at CFRB who confirms George’s new show does indeed begin this Sunday. Even better, it will be broadcast on the station's website so those of us who don’t live in Toronto can tune in too!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

The perfect ride

Between my commuter bike and my racing bike, I have logged more than 10,000 km of riding in the past three years. Some of those rides have been amazing. Some have been horrible. But nothing compares to yesterday.

I have finally experienced the perfect ride. I found it along the ribbon of highway that winds its way up to the base of Mount Baker in Washington State.

The newly paved road was buttery soft and almost car free. The sun was warm without being hot. The scenery -- forbidding mountains and glaciers -- was the most spectacular I have ever seen from the seat of a bicycle. The company was pretty good too.

It didn’t start out smoothly though. The plan was to drive to Abbotsford and ride our bikes across the border. We thought it would be faster to get into the U.S. that way. But it turns out that spandex-clad cyclists are now a potential terrorist threat.

We were detained for an hour because the American border guards didn’t like Jonathan’s British passport. He was fingerprinted, interviewed, subjected to a background search and forced to fork over $65. Once we got the warm welcome over with, we were on our way (that’s me in the middle).

The goal was to ride to the base of Mt. Baker, about 75 km away, within three and a half hours. As the only girl in the group, I knew I would get dropped once the real hill climbing began. But only four of us made it all the way to the top and I was one of them.

I spent most of the long ascent alone feeling completely dwarfed by the mountains. I realized this -- the open road, the stunning mountains, a day spent with friends -- was about as good as it gets. Who needs a boyfriend when you have a bike?

The return trip wasn’t as fun. The descent was long, cold and full of hairpin turns. John and I rode back together and we were both nearly hypothermic by the time we hit flat ground. And then once our legs thawed out, our quads started cramping.

So we just put our heads down and rode back to Sumas, knowing beer and burgers were waiting for us. It was the perfect end to the perfect ride.

Friday, September 09, 2005

What happened?

Here’s a hypothetical situation. Let’s say you met a guy while hiking the West Coast Trail this summer. A guy who happened to be funny and smart and cute and interesting.

Let’s say the two of you hit it off and sparks fly. But he lives in Calgary and you live in Vancouver. So you exchange phone numbers and email addresses, with a promise to keep in touch.

And you do. Long, flirtatious emails fly back and forth for about a month. He talks about coming to Vancouver. You start thinking, “Hey, maybe this could go somewhere.”

And then, suddenly, silence. You don’t hear from him in more than two weeks. At first you assume he’s just busy. After a few days, you wonder if you said something in your last email that offended him.

So you re-read it five, six, seven times, picking apart each sentence and looking at it from every angle until you’re 86 per cent sure only an overly sensitive, quivering mass of jelly could be offended by what you wrote.

Then you wonder if maybe he didn’t get your email at all, that it got blocked or lost, and he’s sitting there in Calgary thinking you’re the one who’s not interested. You want to ask him if he got your last email but decide not to because it seems sort of pathetic and desperate -- two things you most definitely are not.

Then you wonder if maybe he started seeing someone in Calgary. And while this makes you a little sad, you’re okay with it. You’re a romantic but you’re also a realist and you know these long-distance things rarely work out in the end.

You just want to know what happened before you close the door. Not knowing is driving you crazy.

So what do you do? Hypothetically speaking, of course.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

I want my CBC

I have a confession to make. I didn’t really miss the CBC all that much during the first few weeks of the lockout.

But then the disaster in New Orleans happened and I suddenly found myself lost without Peter Mansbridge.

I’ve been following all of the awfulness online and in the newspapers. But it isn’t the same. This is a story that belongs to television.

Because I have basic cable, I haven’t been able to watch CNN or any of the other all-news channels. The local newscasts are useless. Unless you’re interested in weather and traffic and inane banter about pig-catching contests.

CTV national news is supposed to be good but it’s not on until 11 p.m. and that’s way past my bedtime. Over on Newsworld, it’s nothing but chirping crickets.

The New Orleans disaster has made me realize, among other things, how much I miss The National.

It was on at a reasonable hour. It was in-depth (or as in-depth as television news can be). It seemed balanced and fair. Maybe even a little boring, which is way better than the alternative -- flashy graphics and helmet hair and warp-speed pacing.

I tried watching the BBC “World” Report but found it too Euro-centric (hello? cricket scores?).

We know New Orleans will never be the same again. But what will happen to the CBC when the lockout is over?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Farewell to summer

Holy crap! It’s September. How the heck did that happen? I know it’s a clichĂ© but, dammit, time really does fly when you’re having fun.

At least we said goodbye to summer in style last weekend. There we were, two chicks cruising down the highway in a VW station wagon with our bikes strapped to the roof and a cooler full of bananas and Doritos in the back seat. This is the part where I’d write about how our hair was blowing in the wind but I can’t because the windows were up and the air conditioning was on.

The five-hour drive from Vancouver to Penticton is one of my favourites. Mostly because of the dramatic change of scenery along the way. The drive starts in a temperate rainforest and ends in a parched desert. Along the way, the mountains get smaller, the trees recede, the air gets drier and the sun gets hotter as the cool, wet, green coast slips further away in the rearview mirror. Ahead is nothing but sage grass and dust and crumbly rock.

It’s just too bad that one of the most beautiful places in the province also happens to be its Bible belt. This is Stockwell Day territory. There’s even a massive billboard on the way into town plastered with Stock’s grinning face, which had the unintended effect of causing Annelle and I to shudder simultaneously.

Shuddering aside, the purpose of our trip was threefold:
1. Have fun.
2. Watch the Ironman.
3. Cruise for guys.

I should clarify that goal #3 was strictly for my benefit as Annelle is married and her husband reads this blog (hi, John!). I may have failed math in Grade 9 but it didn’t take me long to put two and two together:

Small town + thousands of hard-bodied triathletes = hot action.

So we did what everyone does in Penticton on Friday and Saturday nights -- we cruised the strip ("the strip" being a three-block stretch of Lakeshore Drive crammed with dingy motels and drunk teenagers).

The cutest thing we saw was a middle-aged man pushing a pug in a baby stroller. We laughed, which seemed to upset the dog’s owner who explained, "He’s old. He can’t breathe. He’s blind in one eye." Talk about a mood killer.

The thing is, the Ironman is a terrible place to meet men because they’re all in bed by 8 p.m. and they don’t drink.

There were, however, plenty of men at our campground but . . . um . . . how do I put this in politically correct terms? They were rednecks. Call me crazy but my idea of camping does not include cigarettes and cable TV and yelling across the lake at 3 a.m.

I actually wasn’t planning on writing this much about last weekend. Annelle took dozens of pictures and I was just going to post a photo essay. But her husband (hi again, John!) took the liberty of erasing some of the best pictures to clear up room on the camera. So you’ll have to visualize the redneck campground for yourself.

And instead of photos of the actual Ironman athletes, you’re stuck with a picture of me pretending to cross the finish line.

And a picture of Annelle swimming in the lake.

It’s kind of sad to admit that another summer is over. It’s cool and rainy as I sit here typing this. We knew it was coming. While we were swimming in Okanagan Lake last weekend, we stopped a few hundred metres from the shore and treaded water for a bit. Annelle looked over at me and said, "So I guess this is our last lake swim of the year."

And while it would be nice to live in a climate where you could swim in a lake all year, I don’t think I’d want to. Fall, winter and spring are what make summer so sweet.