Saturday, 13 September 2014

Pay television: Canadian style

Did you hear the head honchos from CBC at the CRTC yesterday?
Usually, the CRTC hearings are dry affairs, so you can be excused for not paying attention, but these hearings are both entertaining and important because they will determine how much you will pay for cable service and whether or not you get to "pick and pay" for the services and channels you actually want.
Like the executives at all the other for-profit television networks, the CBC brass are saying that they believe Canadians will pay to subscribe to the nation's broadcaster. The CBC is different, of course, because it is, for the most part, funded by you and me....
Wait, wait.
So the CBC is saying we will be happy to pay to subscribe to the CBC and yet we are already paying for the CBC.
That's stupid, isn't it.?
Public television in the United States is, indeed, paid for by subscribers and also appears as part of a cable package. I watch PBS to see who will die on Downton Abbey as determined by the players who didn't want to renew their contracts. I also watch Mr. Selfridge because I like Jeremy Piven.
But I don't succumb to the siren call of the nerds sitting on card chairs asking me to donate to public television. Lots of people -- rich people, mostly -- do contribute to public television, and I thank them for their contribution.
The CBC could try the same tactic, 24-hour fundraising, but you know it won't do that when it can get the money from the taxpayer. Hell, the CBC even balks at the mere thought of advertising.
Now, I like the CBC and I'm friends with it, not in a formal sense like some like-minded people do who want to associate with it. But I like it.
I like Peter Mansbridge and I watch his show every night he's on, though I turn the news off when I see Wendy Mesley. And Evan Solomon. I also like Rick Mercer, no, that's not true. I don't like the current Rick Mercer who has become little more than a pitchman for Tourism Canada.
I like the old Rick Mercer and the old This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
So I don't watch either.
Reruns of Just for Laughs, again paid for by the taxpayer and all her credits, are also pretty good.
But I can also watch them on the Comedy Network.
So it's the National, I watch. That's it.
Now Peter is looking like he's getting ready to get out the old fishing rod, and volunteer as a stagehand at the Stratford Festival, supporting his wife Cynthia Dale's dubious career, so I'm trying not to be too attached to him.
Which leaves me, as a television viewer, in this spot.
If all I'm watching of the CBC is the National and Peter retires, will I be happy to pay a subscriber fee to get the CBC?
Besides, it's kind of a weird question because I'm already paying for cable and I'm paying through both my nostrils. The whole point of pick and pay is to reduce my cable bill and these yahoos are saying I should be paying more for it.
Here's what Canadians want, I believe.
We want to stop paying ridiculous cable bills that are almost as much as our mortgage payment.
We don't really give a rat's ass about Canadian culture, anymore.
We want to pay just for what we watch, and let's face it, a lot of Canadians -- fair minded, intelligent, ethical people -- are not even prepared to pay for that.
Most people I know steal their television by downloading it.
I don't agree with that just as I don't agree with stealing music or anything else that somebody took the trouble to make.
I'm happy to pay for the basic channels ($40), and a handful of others, like the Food Network, HBO, A&E, Bravo and TSN for the tennis. That's pretty much it.
I never want to see another French channel, twelve more sports channels, and all those lifestyle channels that feature gardening and saying "yes" to the dress, and Duck Dynasty.
As far as subscriptions are concerned, I feel I'm covered just by paying my damned cable bill.
Now I'd like to address the concerns of all the television producers who are squawking that if we get rid of the specialty channels, it will be the end of television production in Canada as we know it. I could see that argument if we were funding fine productions like Downtown Abbey. But we're not.
We're funding reality shows about moving houses, repairing leaky basements and where to plant the best azaleas. Oh yes, we're also funding a shitload of Lifetime movies destined for the U.S. and cop shows that the American networks use as fillers during the summer.
Like Rookie Blue on CBS? You'd better; you paid for it.
I don't know about you, but I am not prepared to subsidize this drivel. Television producers who make this drivel on our dime should be stopped. I don't think I'm alone in saying this.
And I dream of a day I don't have to spend half my night scrawling up and down the dial, zooming past 57 channels with nothing on.
I will be happy to pay for the CBC as part of a basic package on my cable bill ($40).
But I won't pay more for it.
I need that money to pay for Super Channel for six months so I can watch Homeland.


Thursday, 11 September 2014

Hey Bell Media: I've got news. Local is dead .

Bell Media was hoping to scare consumers yesterday, with its pronouncement that local programming could disappear without us paying for it through some sort of subscription plan.
Its head honcho suggested that Bell, Rogers and Shaw will have to find other revenue streams to keep local fare alive; otherwise the local news will be on the chopping block.
But would we really miss it?
Anyone who watches the current local shows knows they are already on live support. Our local CTV affiliate in Ottawa has all but stopped doing remote satellite feeds that once made the audience feel like they were part of the action. Even the host of its once lovely little program Regional Contact has had to resort to covering only stories that are bussable.
CTV Ottawa's noon hour program has been turned into a repeater for news from the night before, and its local segments are nothing more than infomercials for local restaurants and stores. I saw a story last week about a local eatery commenting on the possibility of the city posting health grades. The next day, that same eatery became a half hour segment on the noon news about its great new burgers.
I mean, why tie up two crews when one will do?
Oh well. Guess there's no real local news happening save traffic accidents, already doused fires with uninsured tenants milling about, feeble feeds from the network on international and national news, and weather and sports.
Did ya miss it?
No worries, just go to the website. The same drivel is repeated there like the pickles on those burgers from the local eateries.
I watch it, I can't lie, because I'm sitting around the house answering employment ads while waiting for Candy Crush Saga to let me move to the next level.
If I want real news, I go to Twitter where I can find out what's really happening in my community and in the world.
What's on the local news isn't really news anyway. I could do without the infomercials for Bell services on CTV Ottawa, I could live without seeing dog abuse videos and I could certainly go to sleep at night without worrying about Terry Marcotte's golf game.
Oh yes, and I forgot to mention the constant web videos that they use for filler in between the infomercials. Every television news program -- including Canada AM -- has discovered it can fill precious minutes in newscasts with "what I learned on Twitter" and "what I saw on YouTube".
Fact is, I don't need to watch these during the news.
I can watch them myself on my Smartphone while sitting on the stupid bus or waiting in line for Starbucks. Pretty soon, I can watch them on my iWatch!
It would be one thing if the local news show actually showed video that it paid a reporter and cameraperson to go out and shoot. More and more, local shows prefer to have their reporters standing on the other side of the newsroom telling the story to camera. Or worse, the reporters stand outside the door in front of the newsroom.
Even poor JJ Clarke can hardly get out of the office anymore -- outside -- where weather is actually happening! (Sometimes, they throw him a bone and let him stand on the balcony, which even a poor apartment rat could do on her own.)
The key problem for Bell Media and the others is that nobody wants to advertise on these shows, and advertising used to be the life blood for local programming. The advertising dollar now has to be spread between radio stations and the Internet, on the cheap, and the television stations on the rich.
Also, the local commercials are vile.
They use heavily accented French Canadians to advertise "the buffet de something or other" on "le boulevard de something or other". They even use visual images that have French signs.
These horrendous ads are speckled between spots with the half made bed Trivago guy, reverse mortgages and car commercials. Even the Oprah Winfrey Network has better ads!
And let's face it, we all tape the damned news anyway while we're making dinner, or drinking then fast forward through the stupid parts. (You're never too young, Terry Marcotte's golf game and the YouTube videos you've already seen, plus commercials.)
Hate to say it, Bell, but local is doomed anyway.
It's done.
Stick a fork in it.
Give me Netflix (US) and HBO (not Canada).
Or give me brain death.
I hereby turn in my Canadian content card.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Trip to Bountiful

One of the great delights of life is to tool around to the different farmers' markets, stalls and farms in search of autumn's great bountiful.
This past Sunday didn't disappoint.
I'd been hoping to make a cranberry-apple crisp for a birthday, and we scored some frozen ones at the Ottawa's Farmer's Market along with Carleton's famous jerk rub. Oh yes, and being the farm girl from St. Catharines, how could I pass up the luscious concord grapes that had just arrived from Beamsville?
The corn proved a tad expensive, so we moved down to Cyrville Road where there's a chipwagon and a fresh produce stand with corn from the countrified part of Quebec.
Why stop there? We head down Hawthorne Road to Kiwan Farm, an actual working farm just past Hunt Club Road. We used to get our stuff from across the road, but alas, poor old Ivor, who used to run Limeydale, was felled by a heart attack this year. His farm lays untouched, tractors unridden, crops untended.
How sad, I thought.
But life and farming goes on.
So Kiwan has become our go-to place. The produce is absolutely fresh and spectacular and it's half the price of the market. We scored the biggest cabbage I've ever seen, bushels of tomatoes and peppers and fresh parsley, all for about twenty bucks!
The people who run the farm are from Lebanon and are very proud farmers.
We chatted for a bit, and the lady opened up a box reserved for their special clients.
She pulled out some sort of herb -- she didn't know what it was called in English -- which apparently is God's gift to the people of Lebanon and Egypt. It looked like sorrel; I'm going to look it up before I buy some so I can figure out exactly how to use it.
The nice lady farmer became wistful, talking about her homeland. Her husband described their village, which is in south Lebanon, as "paradise on Earth". The couple then became quiet, thinking about the plight of their people living in a land without hopes and dreams, a place of death and destruction.
As we were driving back with our haul, I got to thinking how lucky we are to live in a city where you can drive a couple of kilometres down the road, past the A&W, past all the industrial sites and find yourself in another world, a place where people sit out on their lawn and cook their lunch, tend to their vegetables and sell them to people like us.
I can't believe how much we take for granted.
The people who own Kiwan Farm don't take one day for granted.
Not one cob of corn or pepper. Not a cabbage, or a tomato.
Not even a little herb that makes the kitchen smell wonderful.
What people a world away wouldn't give to smell that herb, taste that tomato and go to sleep with a belly full.
Food for thought on this spectacular fall day.

Sunday, 7 September 2014

The breast of me

Right now, your BMI is 35, said Dr. Ben. After the breast reduction, you'll be 30.1.
So, I'm not obese?
No, you're just overweight.

I stood in front of Scott the other day, in my underwear, and showed him my rapidly shrinking middle. He couldn't believe it.
I had to show him in my underwear because, to the outside world, I don't look a hell of a lot different.
And that's because of my boobs, cup size G.
They are all you can see when I'm coming at you. They hide the middle, giving off so much shade that it really doesn't matter what the rest of me looks like.
Nothing can live under there.
To repeat a hurtful joke once told to me, I haven't seen my feet in years.
And so it was, at my last physical, I asked Dr. Ben to book me a breast reduction, something I've been fighting for years. I always thought that breast reductions were selfish things in a world when women were losing their lobes to cancer. My superstitious mind kept saying: be careful of what you wish for young lady.
Be grateful that your breasts haven't become the enemy.
But the truth is, they have.
They are crippling me up top, dragging me down like a Quasimodo freak show.
I can't move my neck to the right. The top of my spine has a distinctive curvature, and I've invested thousands of dollars at the local chiropractic clinic.
Walking around with a size G cup is the equivalent of carrying around a couple of musk melons on your chest. Add to that the distinction of having dense breasts, it means that if I get a breast reduction, I'll lose about 15 pounds.
And so the time has come give them back to God.
Thanks for the mammaries, dude, but have them back.
Give them to some deserving girl who is bullied for being a carpenter's delight.

I've come to realize that having a breast reduction is not selfish, it's a medical necessity.
I am now disabled, limited in the scope of my activities, arthritic in the joints.
If I can't exercise, I lose mobility.
So the boobies have to go.

I don't want to be one of those women I see at the mall, whipping around in a wheelchair, simply giving up on life's possibilities.
I want to run, I want to jump, I want to buy a friggin' bathing suit that wasn't made at Ottawa Tent and Awning.
Sure, there are risks. Remember Kanye West's mom who went in for a breast reduction and a tummy tuck and came out dead? Those things happen, right Joan Rivers? But I'm taking precautions.
I've asked for a doctor who works out of the hospital instead of a clinic.
I'm only having one procedure done because the risk of surgery increases the longer you're down under.
Still, it's major surgery.
Major elective surgery covered by the nice folks who pay taxes in Ontario.
God, I'm lucky to live in Ontario.
So thank you all in advance for supporting me in my quest to go from obese, to overweight, to chubby.
Oh, but don't get too excited. The wait time is over a year.
My doctor has a lineup that goes around the province, a wait time of more than two and a half years.
I don't have that kind of time.
So Dr. Ben put me on the urgent list, God bless his little Belgian soul.
A year's not too long when you consider that I need to lose 30 more pounds before the doctor will operate.
So it's back to the gymnasty this morning.
The circle of life, and hope.
I have a new goal.
And new hope for the first time in decades.
Let's get 'er done.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Thanks Joan Rivers: From sassy-assed women everywhere

Christopher Hitchens, the late gasbag contrarian wrote at least twice in Vanity Fair that women aren't funny.
Joan Rivers might have suggested that perhaps Hitchens water-board himself one more time.
Maybe the next time it would take.
She didn't say that. I just did.
But I said it because of Joan Rivers, the patron saint of sassy-assed women everywhere.
Sure there were foamy-mouthed dames before Joan. Mae West. Totie Fields.
But nobody did it as long and as well as our Joan. She set the bar and kicked it over a few times.

I learned how to be funny because of Joan Rivers. I learned the smart comeback, honed the ability to cut down a stupid man about eight inches with a flick of the tongue, to demolish the swells, and to show the beautiful broads that, after all, their shit does stink.
The high road? Come on. How is the high road funny?
If you haven't got something good to say about anybody, sit next to me.
Joan didn't write that, either.
But she should have.
She was the Everywoman, the Average Joan, the girl who didn't get asked to the prom, the housewife who didn't keep the perfect house, the one who was never invited to be a fourth at bridge.
She emerged kicking and screaming out of the 1950s, where women were expected to live in Pleasantville, in a black-and-white world. Joan took that image and colorized it.
She showed you didn't have to be pretty to rearrange your face.
She spat back at all the posers.
She taught us that smarter was better than pretty.
Joanie was the ultimate Apprentice, the one who learned the trade and took over everything.
She showed us that women could roll with the big boys in comedy.
Don't like me? I'll just whip around and slice you open with my tail.
The key to the genius of Joan Rivers was what all Average Joans learn early.
Make the joke about yourself first, then nobody else can do it.
She made that into an art.
Oh yes, and always have the last word.
About everything.
Thank you, Joan for being the life of my party, and the girl I always wanted to meet in the bathroom.
I'll always have your voice in my head.

Celebrity selfies: All clouds leak

I've been trying to make sense of the debate over the theft of celebrity images.
I've also been trying to find a way to get my point across without pissing off all the right-minded citizens who see this activity as a crime, nothing more, nothing less.
So I've decided to channel Louis C.K. to see how he would have assessed the situation.
Here goes.

Jennifer Lawrence and a hundred other celebrities nobody cares about got their photos hacked off something called the iCloud.

I never use the iCloud but people who are more saavy than me do so to make sure their photos don't disappear when their piece of shit computer batteries melt down. This happened to me twice and nearly caused a fire, so you at Apple don't be so damned smarmy about your technology.

Sometimes even Apple sucks balls.

The stealing of these images is a terrible, terrible crime.
The people who violate a person's privacy should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.
And some people argue it was not just a theft; it was sex crime.
I can see where they're coming from, though nobody called it a sex crime when Anthony Weiner did it. That, my friends, was a crime against humanity.

Of course, the whole schlamozzle was terrible.
Of course. Of course.

But maybe.
Maybe these young celebrities should stop taking naked photos of themselves and putting them up on a cloud. Maybe they should buy a burner phone and a hard drive and keep the hard drive in an underground safe.
I mean, haven't they watched that terrible movie with Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal?
Haven't they learned anything from Breaking Bad?
Security is everything these days.
There are bad people out there.
Bad ones.
And only the stupid ones get caught.

Clouds are an environmental phenomenon.
They are never permanent.
So if you put a photo of your cooch up in the cloud like every other 23-year-old holding a bottle of tequila and doing that gesture with your hands, the cloud will eventually burst and rain down on your sorry perfect little ass.
It's fucking science.

Look, taking naked pictures of one's self is nothing new.
I've done it.
I was on a beach in Negril and everyone was naked and so my husband at the time took naked photos of us. We all laughed and had them developed, never thinking that the guy at Black's might be tugging his little chubby to them and passing them around to his buddy at Fat Albert's.
And that was before the Internet.
Like most 23-year-olds, I was stupid back then and grew up smarter and didn't have a multi-million dollar studio deal to ride through crowds whilst flames flew off my back.
J-Law has been acting an awfully long time, so unless she was twelve -- in which case, she'd have had a way bigger problem -- she might have expected her photos to end up on TMZ.

I'm not saying J-Law deserved this.
Nobody deserves to be on The Dirty, either.
It's not safe.
For anyone.
And it's not safe, especially if you're Jennifer Lawrence.

It isn't just about the iCloud, after all.
Every woman should ask herself: "Will I be involved with this guy ten days from now?
If I'm married to him, will he post these photos after I break up with him?"
You can't trust men, especially celebrities.
Look at Justin Bieber.
He's not even a man, and he can't be trusted with shit.

Here's the thing:

I'm dating James Franco -- or John Mayer for that matter -- and I want to send him coochies.
Before I do so, I should honestly asked if it's wise.
I would be thinking, that James Franco, he's a real A-hole sometimes and maybe he'd pass the pics around to Seth Rogen, who'd share them with Michael Cera and maybe, oh my Lord, maybe that guy who plays Kenny Powers.
Even if I were involved with a nice guy like Robert Pattison, maybe I'd be thinking he shouldn't be in possession of nude photos of me when he finds out I'm schtupping an old director.
In any case, nude photos should be taken by one of those devices that once you've seen them, they disappear.
Now that's a technology I could get behind.

Regardless, there's a lesson here.
Don't put your shit up in the cloud.
Clouds aren't safe.
They leak.

Anyway, what's done is done.
If I were Jennifer Lawrence, I'd say, what the hell?
Here ya go.
I'm putting them all out on the Internet for everyone to see.
Like Kim Kardashian.
Everyone is so sick of seeing Kim Kardashian's naked little tuckus, nobody looks anymore.
Well, not nobody.
I'm sure Kanye is more than happy to have a boo.
Regardless, Kim's smart.
She's apparently made a book of her selfies, hoping to cash in and beat the pervs.
Taking melons and making melonade.
Now, that's something to think about.

Back to Jennifer Lawrence and her naked pics.
Like I say, the crime was terrible.
Of course.
But maybe, just maybe she'll think twice before she presses the send button.

Monday, 1 September 2014

My Ottawa Kitchen Nightmare

Gordon Ramsay has put me off eating in restaurants, and staying in hotels.
We watch Kitchen Nightmares and Hotel Hell religiously, giggling as we follow Ramsay dumpster-diving into the kitchens of restaurants throughout the U.S.
After seeing what happens behind the scenes, I've been seriously reluctant to enter into any dining establishment.
Even a few years ago, we didn't really care if the pizza was cold or the crust was a bit gooey, or even if there was toilet paper on the floor with overflowing toilets. We sort of saw this as part of the experience of visiting the local dive. As long as it had cold beer, we didn't really care.
But Ramsay scared us straight as he took us to the back-of-the-house to show us what some restaurants were actually serving. I learned never to order the special because "it" was the piece of meat rotting and swimming in its own gruelly sauce in the fridge or laying at the bottom of the freezer with third degree freezer burn.
I now know enough to stick to the dishes that the restaurant's chefs are good at making. If it's Chinese, stick to Chinese. If its Indian, keep with the butter chicken. The rest of the stuff on the menu likely came out of a package made in a dung laden Asian factory somewhere.
Oh yes, and you can always tell the state of the kitchen by how clean the bathrooms are.
I realize that, as a former devotee of restaurants, I'm lucky to be alive and not dead in an alley somewhere from eating at restaurants that have more botulism in their bins than I have in my face.
The City of Ottawa recently suggested that the cleanliness grade of a restaurant be posted on the front door. I am in total agreement with that. I once went to a posh Chinese spot in Toronto with a Minister of the Crown, who was, in fact, Chinese, raised waiting tables in his Dad's restaurant. As Bob was talking, he lifted the bamboo cover off of one of the dishes and a gigantic cockroach skittered over his plate. Bob didn't miss a beat; he slammed down his hand on the critter, swept it off the table and continued to talk.
I don't think I've had Chinese since.
I never got over that.
These days, due to the economic downturn and the Hydro rate upturn, I rarely frequent restaurants unless I am on business out-of-town.
Which is never.
I don't mind.
I would rather have a Scott meal any day, or a dinner made by my own hands. It's a lot cheaper, and I know exactly what went into making it.
But sometimes, you just have to put yourself out there.
Last week, my lovely daughter Marissa got married in a lovely posh restaurant in the Byward Market. I had to go. I had to eat. I had no choice.
The wedding was lovely, and the place was wonderful and clean.
I was ready to really enjoy myself.
Until the menu came.
You don't expect great food at a wedding. You expect rubber chicken and cold vegetables, and hopefully a nice dessert made off the premises.
But this place.
First, I ordered a bottle of wine that I regularly buy at the LCBO for $7.84. It's called Cesari and I like it because it's 12 percent alcohol and doesn't taste like grapejuice. The restaurant had it listed for $48.
Now, I don't know about you, but that seems to me to be an outrageous price for uncorking a cheap Italian. In my local Kelsey's it would sell for $28.
No matter. I was really looking forward to the food.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure what we got was really food.
It was disgusting.
Most of us ordered the beef, at the pleading of our server, who could not be blamed for anything that was about to happen. Don't order the ravioli, we were advised; you only get four small pieces.
There were two salads, one a familiar Boccocini laced tomato salad with tasteless vegetables -- unbelievable for tomatoes in August in Ottawa -- and a couple hunks of mozzarella. It was okay. But the other salad, a mixed salad had a whiff of watered down dressing. It was nothing more than a few hunks of iceberg and a couple tasteless tomatoes.
Then came the beef, oh, the beef.
It looked and tasted like slop on a plate with a cut of really cheap meat swimming in gravy sitting on top of runny mashed potatoes. Awful.
Then the dessert. Thankfully, mine was fine -- cheesecake made off the premises, as I suspected -- but the chocolate cake was all icing, "lard" as Scott called it.
This pricey meal was bad enough. But then the restaurant's wedding planner called in the middle of the reception to my daughter's cellphone to say that there weren't enough people eating, so she was going to charge her an extra two hundred dollars!
Marissa is no slouch and complained to the management who brought her, like five bottles of complimentary wine. I suspect the planner was fired.
All in all, it was a great wedding. Lots of love. Family and friends.
But we won't be going back to that restaurant anytime soon.
I might even call Gordon Ramsay to see if he wants to take a boo.
That's if the place is still around by next year.
I won't call it out, but the name rhymes with Umpire Bill.