Monday, December 27, 2010

See Ya Next Year

Taking the week or so off, because I can. But I'll be back. I promise. So, go explore the rest of this little internet thing and see you what you can come up with. I expect a full report. . . with PICTURES!!!

Anyway, hope your holidays have been splendid, and look forward to seeing you all back here in 2011!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Um. . . It's The Holidays

Really!?! You can't even take one day off from the internet? I am sure there is a friend you can hug or a family member you could annoy. After all, why did Danny Devito even bother inventing holidays if you aren't even going to use them to fullest?

Well, I am. So, you'll have to find something else to do.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas From Summit The Reindeer

Introducing the lesser known but by far the cutest of all the reindeer, Summit. And he wants to do nothing more than wish you a Merry Christmas.


And maybe get out of this silly costume his 'parents' have forced him in.


Oh yeah, Crosby wants you to have a wonderful h0lidays too, especially since he wasn't trapped in a goofy get up this time.




Okay, enough of this Christmas cheer. Where are the snacks?



Alright folks, you got your token cute animal holiday pictures. Now, you need to spend some quality time with your loved ones.

Friday, December 24, 2010

My Pop Tart Confession

Over the last several weeks, I've made several mentions of Pop Tarts on this blog, Twitter and Facebook. The pastry has been referred to enough times that you'd be led to believe that the frosting covered, fake fruit filled, diabetes inducing pastry snack often finds itself consumed by my always moving mouth. You may envision me constantly gorging on Pop Tarts in a palace completely constructed out of Pop Tarts, while being served Pop Tarts by butlers who are actually mutated Pop Tarts (who I gnaw on when they're distracted by the threatening toaster). You may believe that I live in Pop Tarts heaven, and when I am not writing, I allow the (claiming to be for) breakfast treats to march right into my mouth hole.

The truth is actually the exact opposite. My home is constructed of non Pop Tart ingredients like brick, plaster and woods (none of which have fruit filling). The closest thing I have to butlers are my pets, which actually take food away from me rather than serve it to me (I almost never gnaw on them). As for the gorging of Pop Tarts, I can't even remember the last time I've even had a nibble of a Pop Tart. It definitely was before I got married, and likely it was even a few years before that. My Pop Tart munching days are something from the past.

"But why?!?", I hear you shouting to the heavens. Why has it been so long since I've let that devilish, mass produced pastry access to my tongue and teeth. Part of it is due to the fact there is far too many foods above it on the eating priority list. The other reason, is something I will admit for the very first time. Fear. Yes, fear. I am afraid of the pastry known as the Pop Tart.

I recognize for the most part a Pop Tart is fairly harmless. It almost never pillages and ransacks a village, it never encourages your son to smoke dope, and you don't need to worry about it stealing your collectible Swatches. When compared to many other things in this world, it is a relatively harmless object. Normally, there is no reason to be afraid of a Pop Tart. But I am. Here is why.

My first Pop Tart experience was probably around the late 80s. It was likely after weeks of begging my mother to allow the entrance of those frosted, kind of like fruit filled wonders of humanity. At the time, you couldn't watch a cartoon that did not endorse the awesomeness and pure power of Pop Tarts. I constantly chanted the mantra of the Pop Tart, until my mother relented and allowed the pastry to take up residence in our home. I remember my first intimate experience with the Pop Tart, and how I gently warmed it up in the toaster. It rewarded me with pure, warm, strawberry jam like goodness. It was an explosion of sugary wonder that danced on my tongue, and filled my body with the joys that only a high sugar intake can induce. It was pure magic. It was magic that would constantly return to me over the 90s, as Pop Tarts were sporadically purchased over the decade. It transitioned from the naughty breakfast snack into the midnight watching wrestling snack. Over time I started realizing Pop Tarts were not their own food group, and so it was best to eat them in limited doses. But eat them, I still did (even if it was not a daily ritual of fake fruit mouth explosions). As the 2000s jumped into my life, so did things like post secondary education and rent. So, Pop Tarts started becoming a limited pleasure, and it became more of a long distance relationship. It was probably around 2005ish that I had my last play date with Pop Tarts. It has been over the proceeding years that I started to fear them.

But if I had such a passionate 90s love affair with them, why do I fear them now? What did they do that was so wrong? Well, this is an honest case of it not being them but me in this relationship break up. The best way to explain it is to recount two other previous food love affairs that I once had.

KFC. I never once mistook KFC chicken as fine dining or the epitome of chicken excellence. I did enjoy eating it at picnics or the few times my parents would order it for dinner. I knew the chicken itself wasn't all that spectacular, but the skin was where I believe the magic to exist. There was no other chicken that I remember that tasted quite like the deep fried goodness of KFC. I remember it being a magic journey of special herbs and spices. I remember biting in and being rewarded with a rush of oily but still delicious flavour attacks. My childhood and teen years weren't filled with a lot of KFC experiences, but it was enough that I grew attached with the unhealthy lure of the greasy and fried skin.

Then I moved to Cambridge, and KFC became my neighbour. I could look out my window and see the Colonel smiling back at me. I'd come home from class or work, and the apartment would be bathed in the smell of fried chicken. This was during the time that KFC offered up a 'Toonie Tuesday' deal, which meant for only two bucks I could get a few pieces of chicken and fries. I took advantage of that deal on a few occasions, and even though I am pretty sure that chicken was the pieces that lost the battle to get into the dinner buckets, it still provided the tasty grease explosions I was hankering for. Then I ended up working at the restaurant, which meant I brought home a lot of unsold pieces of chicken or employee discounted buckets. My roommates and I feasted on the oily carcass that was KFC chicken. Life was good, and maybe slightly artery clogging.

I eventually moved away from Cambridge and lived in a town that was rather far away from any KFC. I then ended up dating Emily, who was not one that embraced the idea of ravaging the pieces of KFC chicken on a regular basis. Actually, she usually made gagging noises when the restaurant was even mentioned. Needless to say, I went a while without any deep, fried, oily chicken skins.

It was my mother's family Christmas that I was confronted with the notorious KFC bucket again. Emily immediately read my attentions, and told me to shield myself from the alluring KFC bucket and the Colonel who was proudly plastered on it. She said there was much better food at the table, and the chicken was not only unhealthy but did not taste good. I knew the chicken was dry and sub par, but it was the skin that my stomach was yearning for. So, I did what every man does when advised about unhealthy food by his loved one, I verbally agreed with her and then proceeded to take two pieces. She proceeded to slap my hand, but I still got away with the chicken.

I was now ready for paradise. I was ready for the grease angels to sing glorious praises in my mouth, and was prepared for a taste party to commence. I bit in, and immediately felt the oil gush out. And it was gross. I didn't like it at all. 20 years of positive KFC memories quickly jumped down the proverbial toilet. Somehow, my years away from KFC and habit of eating actually good food, caused my taste buds to turn against the greasy skin of Colonel Sander's pride and joy. It was a disheartening experience. There was no dancing within my mouth, but the skin did vile full frontal assault on my taste buds. Not only did I want to gag, but my childhood and college years have been eternally stained by the trickery performed by KFC. I'll never get those years back.

In high school, there was a specific item that I ate lots of. I mean, LOTS. Pizza Pops. Oh, glorious and delicious, cheese burns the roof of your mouth, Pizza Pops. At first, it was a Saturday lunch, because at that stage in my life, my mom stopped making my lunches. It was an easy and quick thing to eat on the days I wasn't at school and needed to save valuable time for Sega Genesis playing. Then, it started becoming my after school ritual. The piping hot and almost scalding cheese would prance into my mouth and do unbelievable damage, but do it in such a way that I felt the world was truly a better place. The Pizza Pop experience was so delightful that for a minute I knew that cancer would be cured and flux capacitors would be created. It was beyond magic or spirituality. It was a Pizza Pop heaven. I fully embraced the taste journey it took me on. My stomach and taste buds would disco dance all day with joy after their encounter with the power of the Pizza Pop. Life could never be better than my intimate time with Pillsbury's answer to obesity.

Pizza Pops aren't cheap. It stopped being a staple when I entered into the empty wallet years of post secondary and rent paying. There was the occasional Pizza Pop affair, but they started becoming almost as rare as the white tiger. I still remembered the mouth glory that I experienced, but the actual taste experience was only a happy memory. And much like KFC, Pizza Pops weren't really on the "let us eat them until we explode" food list when I began my relationship with Emily. We never sat down over candle light and enjoyed us a romantic meal of Pizza Pops. I am not entirely sure if Emily has ever even ate Pizza Pops. So, my absence from Pizza Pops continued, but my feelings never wavered. I constantly dreamed about encountering them once again.

Last year, Pizza Pops were on sale at Shopper's Drug Mart. So, a fellow employee and I thought it was a genius idea to split a box for lunch one day. I remember preparing myself for the cheese burning heaven that I was about to enter. I thought about taking a bite and having the cheese and pepperoni rush into my mouth and cause the junk food gods rain blessings upon me. Those blessings were meant to be Pizza Pops.

Except that isn't what happened. It was overly doughy. The cheese tasted really fake. The pepperoni would have been far too small for pixies. It was not heaven. It was more like the Star War Prequels; it got me overly excited but ended up only burning me and eye ball punching my childhood. I could hear Emily's voice going on about how it was unhealthy and didn't taste very good. My spirits had been crushed again. Another fond memory turned into nothing but a cruel joke. I started really detesting my taste buds, which have clearly started getting sophisticated without my permission.

This is why I fear Pop Tarts. I don't want to go 0 for 3. I don't want another pleasant junk food memory to be shattered and then reanimated into a nightmare. I want to love Pop Tarts. I want to believe there was one overly expensive and unhealthy vice that actually tasted delicious. It is my last hope. And I don't want it to fail me. So, I've cowered away from it, and allowed my memories to fill that current craving.

But one day, I'll give it a shot. One day, I'll give it a chance to redeem my childhood junk food memories. Oh Pop Tarts, I have faith. You can remain triumphant, when the others have failed. But not today. I am just not ready for the psychological toll to be levied upon me, just yet.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

BlogBack #7: The Post That Almost Made Me Cry

Today's BlogBack spotlighted post is a very interesting one because when I initially started writing it the intention was to throw up a quick blog post so I could make my self enforced quota for the day. Instead, it quickly grew into one of my longest posts, but also became one of my most popular (I got a decent amount e-mails and phone calls about this one, along with the few blog comments). The post I am referring to is my recounting of a childhood experience known as The Day I Was The Hero.

The original reason I even started writing this personal experience was because I thought it would be an easy and quick personal anecdote that I believed some people would find mildly interesting. I had no idea that it was going to become a short story, and be a piece that resonated with so many people. The reason this personal experience was even on my mind was due to the fictional short story that I had been planning on posting here on Halloween. The story was supposed to be a ghost story, but it would have contained some deeper themes. A crucial part of the story was going to be about the boy who was pressured by the bully to enter into the supposedly haunted house. The boy was going to agree to this act because he was partly afraid of what the bully would do if he didn't, but also because he felt it was necessary to do if he would ever be accepted by his peers (the girl he had a crush on would be part of the crowd outside of the haunted house). While I was letting that story stew in the pot that is my mind, it got me thinking about my own experience as a child. I started remembering the times that I was bullied or felt like I didn't fit in with the crowd or was mistreated for not being the mythical normal. This reflection led me to thinking about the event that was told in the Hero post.

I didn't think this little event in my head would turn into the post that it actually became. I definitely did not think it would emotionally hit me the way it did. While writing that story, it really brought back a rush of emotions in me. I started remembering the way I felt when the teachers punished me for not fitting into their mold of what a child should be or when I was robbed weeks of precious recess time with my best friend or most of all, being the target of outright cruelty. It reminded me how much it really hurt to not only be picked on, but get the vibe from others that I was strange thus something was wrong with me. As painful as that memory is, it was just as sweet to recall the moment I stood up to those vile bullies. The act of writing these memories was truly a cathartic experience. It was one that brought forth unexpected emotions, including one that caused a little moistening of the eyes.

It became very clear to me that as awful as it was to be pegged an an outsider at the age of 8 years old, the experience had equipped me with traits that I am very proud of. I believe it is this time period that caused me to be the type of person that always roots for the underdog. It has made me more sensitive to those that are discriminated against or alienated from the majority. It has made me a strong advocate for human rights. It has made me into a man that believes all people deserve rights and love no matter their beliefs, religion or lifestyle (as long as it is not directly harming other people). This blog over the past year has tackled numerous events and subjects that pertain to the treatment of specific groups such as homosexuals or Muslims. I believe that period in my childhood was a major catalyst for this.

I also believe it has helped me in my fiction writing also. It taught me that there isn't truly a normal. Actually, being different is far more interesting. The reality is quirks exist in all of us. They may be things we are ashamed of due to the expectations created by society, but that doesn't actually negate their existence. My childhood made me very aware that there is nothing wrong with doing things slightly different than the rest. This has made me more aware of differences and idiosyncrasies in all people. Actually, it has made me more interested in people with obvious quirks, and I know I prefer characters with flaws or different outlooks in life or have habits that are non traditional. I like reading stories about characters that don't resemble the typical model of 'normal'. This has led me to wanting to write about characters that are original and a little unusual. I feel it allows for much better and interesting storytelling. Even more importantly, I feel it allows those stories to be more accessible to the average reader. It reminds them that it is good to not fit under the unattainable label of 'normal'. I believe these type of characters are far easier to connect with for the majority of readers, because I don't think there are too many people who really believe they are normal. They aren't, and that is good.

I was surprised by how many people were able to relate to my post about the day I stood up to bullies. It lead to some people recounting their own experiences of being picked on or ostracized as a kid. It reminded me that my childhood was far from the exception. I was ecstatic to know that my simple story was able to inspire and encourage others. It's an experience that clearly many have gone through, and can remember their own versions of. I am glad that I was able to offer the same type of cathartic experience for many of my readers. At the very least, it reminded me once again that the most fictional character is the normal person.

I learned from this experience that the underdog or the outsider is an universal story that many people can connect to. There is many that want to cheer for the oppressed and beaten. They want these people to rise above their adversity and have their opportunity to shine. This has inspired me to not only continue to write about the real life matters related to this theme, but also make it a rather big part of my fictional writing. Deep down, we all want the underdog to have their day to be the hero.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

My Ambitious Goals For 2011

When someone asks what I do for a living, I can reply, 'Well, I am a freelance writer. Oh, and of course the inventor of the Pop Tart Cannon."

Build a second home. From cheese.

Sell at least 5 short stories.

Watch at least 200 movies. What, you say that is the opposite of being ambitious? Do you realize how busy I am? It'll take a lot of work to find that much sitting and eating popcorn time.

Make sure that 'Sharp Dressed Man' is played whenever I enter a room.

Convince Emily that bacon is a vegetable and should be included in meals on an almost daily basis.

Solve the Caramilk Secret.

Write an entire novel (because apparently, that is an important step towards getting it published).

Find out once and for all if buried treasure really does lie under the ground of my backyard.

Find another house project for Emiily to do, so that I can accomplish my previously mention goal.

Take a picture of Summit carting Crosby and post it on this blog.

Chew.

Buy a new computer because I am beginning to think that hamsters are now actually running inside my current one.

Land at least 3 consistent clients for my writing career.

Be the kind of husband that deserves a beautiful, funny, intelligent, awesome wife like Emily.

Get several articles published in a print magazine.

Continue to go on long walks with Summit, because the exercise is good for both of us.

Hunt down Carrot Top and ask him, "Why?"

Triple the number of regular readers on this blog. And you can all help by recommending this blog to others who like to spend time looking at words. Let them all know that if they read this blog, then they will get a free awesplosion in their belly!

Read more.

Spend more quality time with those who are awesome

Challenge myself by trying to do writing projects that I've never done before (screenplays, manuals, greeting cards, etc)

Take a radish from Georg Lucas' garden. That'll show him.

Write more poetry.

Sit on my porch and tell random kids to get off my lawn. If no kids are on my lawn, find some kids and put them on my lawn. Then proceed to tell those whippersnappers to get off.

Love.

Write and write and when I'm done that, write some more.

Wish you all the best 2011 ever (though let's enjoy the last bit of this year first, okay?).

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

BlogBack #6: When I Ranted About City Issues That Almost None Of My Readers Would Care About (Or So I Thought)

For the most part, I keep my subject material on this blog away from overly personal material. There is some major exceptions on this blog, but I made the decision at the beginning that I'd try to keep the majority of my material relevant and interesting to as large of a reader base as possible. I usually only resort to personal material when I either believe it will be worthwhile for a large portion of my readers, or I can't think of anything else to write that day (which believe it or not, is something that really can and will happen to me). The city I live in has a population a little under 100, 000 (or a littler over, depending on who you're listening to), which means there is a good chance a large portion of my readers have either never heard of the city (home of Wayne Gretzky and telephones and far too many coffee shops!) or quickly forget it after hearing about it. Even though the news of my city isn't completely personal information, the majority is about as interesting to you as my midnight melted cheese covered pickle cravings or Crosby's litter using habits (which is quite regular, thank you very much). So, I avoided talking about my city for many years, until this past winter when an issue so major took place that it was even covered in the Toronto Star. Today's BlogBack spotlighted post is Uh oh, Big Brother Toronto Noticing Brantford's Skirmishes at the Kiddie Table, aka Opinions and Observations on Brantford's Downtown Debate.

There was essentially three major reasons that I decided to write about the issues that were happening in Brantford's downtown during the first half of this year.

1. I believed it was actually really important news that a lot of people were unaware. At the time, there was major players in Brantford that were threatening to destroy some of the oldest buildings in all of Canada. Not only old buildings, but places that actually had a very rich history. In my opinion, this was an event that was much bigger than the city of Brantford, and worthwhile information for other people to know. Admittedly it was information that was being presented with my slant, and so my readers would also have to read other sources to get a more well rounded view so they could form their own opinions (though I encouraged that with any important news item). I hope by now that people have realized this is a blog and not a newspaper, so you're bound to be getting more opinion pieces rather than news articles. I do think that within these opinion pieces, there is the opportunity to make people aware of valuable information. There is also the great opportunity for debate and discussion. Actually, this post along with a few of my other posts about the Brantford downtown, led to some interesting discussion on this blog and also via e-mil and in person. I'm glad that I was able to reach my goal of informing readers who otherwise would have likely remained oblivious to this rather major issue.

2. For the most part a lot of the outside sources were misreporting the specifics of what was going on. Actually, even the Brantford Expositor had a fairly slanted presentation of what was happening and being discussed downtown. There was fairly big articles written about the downtown debate in the National Post, Toronto Star, Hamilton Spectator and Globe and Mail. I felt they were all good pieces, but also believed either pertinent information was left out or it was being misrepresented. This motivated me to write the piece as a rebuttal. I recognized this post was going to get far less readers than all of the above mentioned publications, but I did hope that if the issues was deemed important enough, I'd catch a few extra Google hits. If I was able to give another view to a few concerned readers, then I felt a job was well done. It did my heart good to know that at one point this article along with a few of my other downtown posts were some of the highest viewed in my blog's history.

3. It was written for cathartic reasons as well. I was completely frustrated and annoyed with how the downtown buildings were being presented to the public. I felt the people who were spearheading the buildings' demolition were going about things dishonestly. To me, it seemed like a very shortsighted solution to a problem that needed far more discussion and debate. The most frustrating part was that the community was largely being ignored and just being told what would be good for them. I needed to rant, and I hoped the rant then could also be used as a way to inform. I had talked about the downtown with a lot of people in this city, and it was amazing how ill informed many of the people were. I hoped the posts would be my chance to let others know the lies and misinformation that was being spread. It was one of those circumstance that I was able to do some venting, while also serving a bigger purpose.

I accomplished all three of those goals, but I also learned something from the experience. It was the discovery that far more readers are interested in the events of my little city than I first believed. Almost every blog post I ever did about Brantford either led to comments on the post or e-mails to me. It caused a lot of discussion and debate. My hit counter programs showed that people where Googling Brantford downtown from all over Ontario. It was clear that people realized that one city's issue can be relevant and important to the rest of the province as well. This motivated me to write more often about my city, such as things like more discussion of the downtown, the closing of another Brantford venue and http://chrisspicer.blogspot.com/2010/10/hey-you-yeah-you-vote.html.

This blog post is significant because it taught me that my posts don't need to be about nation or world wide news to be interesting or relevant to my readers. If the reader have stuck with me this long, then there is a part of them that is interested in me and the things that matter to me as well. It has encouraged me to be a bit more open about the major events of my life and the big issues that effect me personally such as the events of my city. I am proud to have the opportunity to inform more people about the things that effect me daily, but also for the chance to be able to vent and rant about events that are more directly impacting me.

It is unfortunate that in the end, the downtown debate ended in a negative way for me. It did allow me a chance to rant, inform and debate. I am glad that I decided to take the chance on writing about my little city. I am excited for many more opportunities to inform people about this amazing little place known as Brantford.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Survivor Nicaragua Recap: 21 Observations and Thoughts About The Season

Last night was the finale of the 21st season of Survivor. I thought, it would be fitting to toss out 21 thoughts, observations, and reflections on the season that just wrapped up.

1. I am not sure where Survivor: Nicaragua ranks amongst the 20 previous seasons (because I have only watch two previous seasons before this one -- Australian Outback & Heroes vs. Villains), but I do know this season came off a little flat after having to follow Heroes vs. Villains. The previous season was what got me into Survivor after writing it off as crap for the majority of the last decade. There was so many larger than life personalities, and a plenty of shocking twists that made for some really engaging television. Many of the contestants pulled so many different blindsides and power play moves, that you were kept guessing on a weekly basis what would happen next. You had unforgettable contestants like Russell Hantz, Parvati, Rupert, and of course, Coach the Dragon Slayer. There were many memorable moments that you found yourself still talking about the next week (Russell blindsiding Tyson, J.T stupidly giving his idol to Russell, Parvati giving two idols away to pull off a huge blindside). I hated myself for being so engaged by a show I believed I detested for so many years, but even hardcore Survivor fans have claimed it to be one of the best seasons ever. Unfortunately, this season had to try to match that, and it really didn't have a chance. There wasn't any moves that compared to the unbelievable ones from the past season, and there wasn't any characters that were as colourful as the past season. It was a season that I followed from beginning to end, but it definitely proved to me that this is a show that relies on having the right personalities to make it excellent must see programming.

2. Every good show needs a villain. NaOnka was the character that was supposed to provide it this season. She was an abrasive and toxic personality that rubbed everyone the wrong way at some point, and she will be infamously remembered for pushing down a one legged woman. The problem was, she was missing the cunning and conniving skills that previous villains like Russell or Parvati excelled at. It didn't effect the game play in the same way as previous seasons, and rather she was nothing more than a really annoying to most characters (though, never really a threat to win the game). She also never annoyed people enough that it caused for a huge explosion and confrontation at camp -- rather people just whined about her to the camera. She only lasted long because everyone knew they'd win against her in the final voting, rather than any manipulation she did.

2. The few possible engaging and dastardly individuals on the show were voted out far too quickly. It seemed like any time there was a big powerhouse moving up in the tribe, and someone who would really shake things up, this person was then voted out because they got too cocky. Maybe that is the flaw of doing a game like this after 21 seasons. The contestants likely saw previous seasons, and now know what to expect and what must be done when certain personalities and traits start to be revealed. It would have been interesting to see how this season would have turned out if people like Marty and Brenda lasted longer.

3. Sash was the closest thing to a conniving and slimey villain that lasted through the entirety of the show. Even though he was manipulative and a backstabber, he didn't have the over the top personality to make him engaging. Plus he spent a huge amount of his time just laying in the background, and thus never created any memorable game plays or blindsides. Yes, I found myself rooting against him, but he also didn't measure up against a villain like Russell.

4. Fabio was an interesting case, in a character that I initially found myself apathetic towards, then started to root against, and at the end found myself 100% cheering on. He initially just came off as an airheaded beach bum, who appeared to be clueless for the majority of the game. That may have even been the case for a large portion of it. I am sure he was kept around for a long time because he didn't threaten anyone. He really was someone that started to sharpen his skills as the game went on, and he became far more alert to what was happening around him. In the final few episodes, he was the clear underdog as the majority of his alliance had been voted out, and he was going up against a very solid and seemingly tight alliance. He was the guy they were targeting to have voted out, but he continually won the immunity challenges thus saving him from being voted against. It was really impressive seeing the spark be lit under him, and when he was put under pressure, he stepped up his game to an incredible degree. The final episodes were especially sweet as it proved he was starting to see through the lies of Chase and Sash, and started to play them against each other. At that point, I couldn't help, but want to see him win it all.

5. Survivor: Redemption Island is the newest season that will start in February. It is clear the producers probably realize this season was a little stale, and so they've added a new twist to the concept. This time around, the people voted off will go to another island, and eventually compete for a chance to get back in the game. It should provide for some new strategies and a different perspective on the game. From the Survivor experts I've talked to, usually when they modify the game (which they've done quite a bit throughout the seasons) it has improved the quality of the television. It seams unlike most shows, where the producers start panicking about dipping ratings thus add some stunt writing, Survivor may actually improve from their additions. I look forward to it.

6. Jane's flip out, after she learned her alliance was betraying her, was one of the stand out moments. It was great to see her stand up for herself. The best part was seeing the scared faces of her former alliance member. Priceless.

7. A downside of this season, all the pretty and cute women were voted off too early. In the end, I was left having to look at three half naked men. Come on, where is my eye candy? Though, Chase was pretty built.

8. Speaking of Jane, the tribal council where her elimination was pending, she ended up doing one of the best speeches to try to save herself. I loved how she ripped into her entire former alliance, and basically revealed to the other contestants that their goal was to eventually pick each of them off. It was even more classic how Chase basically admitted to this fact, and revealed his alliances plans to the others before the voting even took place. Luckily for Chase, it didn't backfire on him (like it should have), but I am sure this event was one of the things that motivated Fabio to win all his challenges afterward and cause him not trust Chase and Sash again (and to an extent, Holly).

9. Of course, Jane made this great rally with the remaining non alliance tribal members about targeting Holly (which would have forced a tie in the votes) but then not only did the other guys still vote Jane, but Jane decided for some reason to vote a guy who had an immunity idol (and not the person she was telling the others to vote).

10. The challenge where you are strapped to a windmill like device, then forced under water where you must gobble up a mouthful, then spit that mouthful into a bucket, is enough evidence that I am more than happy just to watch this show rather than ever be in it.

11. The cheers that Fabio got at finale, makes me believe they'll bring him back if they can. I'd also not be surprised if they tried to get Marty and Jane back (considering how much they disliked each other, on the same season too). Though I am not sure if Jane would ever want to do this again, but I guarantee you that Marty would want to come back just so he can prove he is a far better player than he was able to show here (which I think he can be).

12. I love the fact they changed the rules about quitting Survivor. From now on, if you quit, then it is up to the producers if the quitter will be allowed on the jury. A really good move, because it never felt right that Purple Kelly and NaOnka would be allowed on the council when they quit the game. This will likely be the last season where two people quit at the same time, just because they were a little chilly.

13. I also love how nervous and evasive Dan got when he was asked how rich he was at the reunion show. You get the feeling his dealings may be the type that would make Baby Jesus cry. Of course, you can only brag about your Ferraris and alligator shoes so many times before someone is going to ask.

14. After this many seasons, there is still a lot of manipulative and strategic players that still haven't completely grasped the social aspect of the game. You have guys like Russel Hantz that are great at backstabbing or tricking people, and then are able to get right to the end, but are surprised they got no votes even though they pissed everyone off on the council. The real key is to be strategic, but make sure people still like you even if you are blindsiding them. Sash lied and tricked so many people, and yet he still felt he had a shot at winning the whole thing. He apparently felt a big apology right when the council was about to vote the winner, would be the best way to erase their memory of all his manipulation and lies. You can never underestimate how long one will hold a grudge.

15. Never knew that Jimmy Johnson was such a huge Survivor fan. Too bad he was eliminated so early in the season, because he could have been an interesting player. Then again, I'm not sure if a well known celebrity will ever do well on a show like this, because their fame makes them an automatic target.

16. Then again, you'd think past winners would be targets, and last season, we had two former winners make it to the final three. Oh wait, this post isn't about Heroes vs. Villains. Sorry. Um. . . do you think Purple Kelly even knew what island she was on? Can you imagine how interesting and vile this season would have been if the hotheaded, bigot Shannon lasted more than two episodes? There, I talked about this season.

17. The best blindside of the season was the one against Benry. I also think this was the major turning point in Fabio actually becoming more alert and aware in the game, since Benry was trying to pull off the blindside on him. It was a great play by the Fearsome Foursome of Sash and company, but it did lack the drama of past season blindsides.

18. Though alliances are a crucial part of surviving in this game (and also make for great drama when one betrays it), but this season is proof that isn't enough to guarantee a win for the entire game. One of the best moments of this game, was seeing the guy on the outs not only survive to the very end thus outlasting members in the seemingly powerful alliance but also be able to win the whole thing (that would mainly be due to the fact he wasn't a conniving weasel and didn't hurt anyone the whole game).

19. Another classic moment is Brenda bragging about how she was running the whole game, but then seeing that cockiness come back to punch her in the eyeball. Seemingly others knew she was controlling the game too, and felt it was time to change that control. This also led to the first real betrayal of the game, as her once tight group voted her out (except for Purple Kelly who was too busy chasing butterflies to know what was happening in the game).

20. It was interesting hearing NaOnka mention how there was actually parents hesitant about her teaching their children after they started seeing her on the show. It shows the power of television. People really need to remember that not only is this a competition that could bring the worst out in people, but it also is a television show that will manipulate the footage in a way to create a specific story. The producers wanted her to be the villain, and so they were going to show the footage that cast her that way. You can't really judge a person by how they are shown on television. Unless they're Glenn Beck, of course.

21. Yep, not only do I watch reality TV now, but I have 21 points to say about it. I really hope 2003 Christopher doesn't find a time machine, or I am screwed!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Now, For Your Sunday Morning Comics

Actually comic.

But on the plus side, it has been created by a warm breakfast cereal. You just can't say that about most other comics. Hop on over to The Oatmeal, and laugh until cereal comes shooting from your nostrils. Then you stare in a complete state of befuddlement, because you had eggs this morning and haven't had cereal since Thursday. But that is how funny The Oatmeal is, he makes you laugh out food you didn't even eat.

Enjoy, and try not to poke someone's eye out.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Ew, This Blog Has Gone Rancid

Which actually isn't a bad thing, because Rancid was probably one of the best 90s mainstream(ish) punk bands. The key word is punk, because that is definitely the rock they peddled. It was mighty fine, and incredibly raw punk music. Just the way it is supposed to be. They were probably the last of 'true' punk bands that got rock radio airplay, because the late 90s was invaded by a horde of pop punk. Now, that is 'ew'. Today is just one of those times that demands some real old school 90s style punk, and Rancid's Ruby Soho fills that spot just dandy fine.

Oi oi.

Friday, December 17, 2010

BlogBack #5: The Post Where I Apparently Have A Time Machine

The BlogBack series has shown that some of my best posts are ideas that have swam about in my mind for several months. Usually they aren't much more than a vague idea, but continue to grow and strengthen when given the room to exercise a bit (my brain provides lots of space). Today's spotlighted post originated from an idea that was designed for something much bigger (and given life much earlier than all my previous BlogBack posts), but eventually, broke away to become something rather different. I am going to reflect upon the creation of my post, Advice I'd Give To 13 Year Old Me.

It was a few years ago that I came up with the idea for a novel that was inspired by stories like It's A Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol or Groundhog Day. A man who perceives that his life has gone to ruins is given the (supernatural) opportunity to redo his teen years. The big twist was that he would retain all his current memories, abilities, and knowledge (except packed into his youthful teenage body). Of course, he would initially see this as a huge advantage as he would already know certain events to expect and thus be able to prepare for them in order to benefit himself in the future. Since everything working out perfectly makes for a rather dull story, he would quickly learn that these old memories and current knowledge applied to his early 90s teen years is more of a curse than a benefit. There was a lot more to this idea (it was more of a supernatural thriller, where there was more global importance for his return to adolescence), but this was the part that really intrigued me. Almost everyone has regrets in life, or likes to ask the big question of, 'What if...". I've heard many people who'll ponder what would have happened if they knew back then what they know now. Almost always these people jump to the conclusion that things would have been a lot better if they had a chance to do it all again. The questions that kept coming back to me was, would it really? Did things turn out this way for a reason? And could too much knowledge about one's future be a detriment? And what is one willing to sacrifice from their current life in order to have a 'better' life? These were all questions that I thought were worth exploring, and got me rather excited to attempt to turn into a novel. In all honesty, it is still a novel I want to write (and is just a matter of stop shying away from it -- but as we've learned from the BlogBack series, my ideas always win out eventually).

As I said, this novel idea has been taking ownership over a small portion of my mind for several years now, which means I've had a lot of time to reflect upon it. I started thinking what if I was that man with the opportunity to change my teen years, thus impacting the rest of my life after. Were there things that I would do differently? Definitely. Would doing those things possibly risk altering things that I accomplished or have in my life now that I am proud of? Maybe. Is that risk worth it? Not sure. But after more and more reflection, it got me thinking about my current life. It made me realize that I have a gorgeous wife, dreams I am beginning to achieve, adorable pets that love me, amazing friends that I adore, a lovely little house that I own (along with the bank), and basically a life that I am proud to say is mine. Yeah, there are things that I could have done differently, but for the most part, these mistakes still led me to my current place, which is a rather spiffy place indeed.

This internal debate was what inspired my post of advice to a 13 year old self. The things that I thought would have been worth me knowing then. For the most part, letting myself know that all those mistakes and fears and blemishes weren't so bad. I turned out all right. Now, of course I'll never have a chance to actually talk to my 13 year old self, but it is probably good things to remind myself today.

This is another blog post that I had a lot of fun writing, and I am pretty proud of how it turned out. Feel free to give it a second (or maybe first) read, and give me your thoughts (or try your own). As for the novel, expect it in a bookstore by 2035 (give or take 20 years or so).

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reviewing The Season Of Amazing Race: Where I No Longer Can Save Face

I am fearful that 2003 Christopher is going to barge through the doors one day, and proceed to slap my fragile face silly. At one time, I was a devout hater of reality television, and claimed it was the downfall of television entertainment. I whined that the airwaves were being plagued by reality shows, and taking away spots for some quality scripted entertainment. Now, I still think scripted television is superior to most reality shows, and that scripted shows can evoke feelings, emotions and thoughts far better than anything done by the reality television. But I also have to admit that there is a few reality shows that I now regularly watch. I've claimed on this blog before that this is partly due to the fact that Emily is a fan of many reality television shows, and thus it was almost inevitable that I'd occasionally have one cross my path and take some of my time away. At the same time, it isn't like my wife tied me down to a chair, taped my eye lids open, and commanded that I watch a reality show until it removed its teats while I begged to suckle it. If that was my defense, I am not sure how I'd explain watching a reality show without Emily being around.

For the most part, I watched the entire season of the Amazing Race 17. I got engrossed in the action. I had my favourites picked out, who I'd cheer on weekly. I had the teams that I regularly cheered against too. You could say I was a fan of the Amazing Race, especially since I hunted down the episodes I missed on Rogers On Demand. It became a show on my weekly viewing list, and I found myself rather engaged in the program, and cared about the outcome (like I said, I had those who I was rooting for). All the while, 2003 Christopher, with rage in his eyes, is shaking his fist at me.

I enjoyed Amazing Race because it is a reality show that is an actual competition. The ability to win had more to do with skill, intellect, and communication. The concept of racing around the world is also incredibly appealing. I enjoyed the various locales, though admittedly there was only a minimal focus on the history and culture. You did end up learning a little about each country, and the scenery was often quite stunning. I also enjoyed watching the various competitions, and often they did incorporate parts of that country's culture and history (at some points, they even participated in sports and games from that area). I also found it fascinating how the competition put an incredibly amount of tension on the couples. There is massive stress coming from the competition, and it definitely put a strain on each relationship at some point. It is an example of how a high stress situation will reveal a person's true character or put a test on the solidity of a relationship. The Amazing Racee seems like a good competition to join if a couple has decided they are far too happy together, and it is time to start adding 'I want to tear your throat out' to the relationship routine.

The Amazing Race
may not be as good as a well told fictional story, but it did have its own drama as well. It had some characters that I got attached to on a weekly basis. My original favourites were the father and son pair, Michael and Kevin, who actually were popular among the YouTube crowd before this show (I'd only been alerted to their videos after I started watching this season). You could really sense the love and respect between the pair, and they were a very likable team. I also rooted for the pair of doctors because not only were they really strong competitors, but they seemed to be respectful to their competition. The doctors were also one of the only teams that never blew up at each other, and always remained encouraging, patient and supportive of each other. I respected that about them, and it made them the team I wanted to root for. Plus they also had the chance to pull off an Amazing Race first by being the first all female team to win.

In any show, if your have favourites then you also need your villains. There was one team that I took a very strong disliking to, or actually, it was only one member of that team that I was particularly opposed to. There was a team that was known as punk rockers because they were all tattooed and pierced. That is definitely not my problem with them, especially since I would love to have tattoos and piercings if it wasn't for the fact it hurts a bit more than a tickle (my pain tolerance). My problem was that this team was the exact opposite compared to the doctors. The boyfriend constantly yelled at his girlfriend, and on many occasions even called her a moron. He would be disrespectful to the citizens of the countries because he felt they weren't driving him fast enough or giving him a fair chance at a competition. He would lie and be disrespectful to his competition as well. For most of the series, I cheered more for their elimination than I did for the victory of my favourite teams. My dislike for them would only make the satisfaction stronger when defeat came their way.

There you go, I have to admit my own defeat, and declare that there is reality shows that I watch on a regular basis (as my blog revealed weeks ago, I've also been watching this season of Survivor). This means there probably won't be anymore anti reality show rants. There actually are times that I get excited and giddy about a new episode (2003 Christopher so wants to punch my eyeball). It seems my hatred of reality TV was harder to keep, when I actually started watching the shows I ranted against. But I will still stand strong to my claim that a good scripted show is far superior than anything reality can throw out there. Or at least, that is my attempt to save a little credibility.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

BlogBack #4: The Attack Of The Troll

I've written numerous blog posts with reflections and opinions on current affairs. Part of that reason is I actually like staying informed and reading the news, thus these items are often on my mind when I decide to write on the blog. A lot of the time there will be a news item that triggers certain feelings or thoughts, and my mind won't allow me peace until I've unleashed a rant. The other reason is far more selfish, and that is the fact writing about hot news items will mean my blog does better on Google searches. I've learned this past year that any time I write an article that relates to a major news event, that my traffic increases an incredible amount that day. The blog that I really learned this was, Why I Am On Ann Coulter's Side Regarding Ottawa.

The first several months of this year was pretty crazy for me, but it was also a situation that was entirely of my doing. At the time I was working an absolutely insane amount of hours at the office, while also still trying to get a steady stream of writing for my fledgling free lance writing business. I realize now that our family was not in such dire financial situations that I needed to spend more intimate time with a computer scanner than is healthy for any grown man. It got to the point where I was saying 'BZZT' rather than 'Hi' when greeting people. Despite pulling my 'lawyer hours', I still attempted to do several hours a day of writing query letters to businesses or actual pay copy. Reflecting back now, I'm realizing that 3 hours a sleep was probably a little too minimal and Emily probably deserved a little more quality time than just me buzzing in her ear. On top of all that, I also had this blog that I wanted to start getting more hits, and potentially use as a way to further my name (I will not rest until there is an International House of Spicer at every truck stop along the information highway!). I realized I didn't have the time to do much manual promoting of the blog, especially since I didn't want to add any ads to the site (thus it was not a direct revenue stream -- thus harder to justify putting more work into it than something that did pay for a box of pop tarts). This was my situation and mind frame at the time when I come across an article about Ann Coulter being forced to cancel a speaking engagement due to protesters. I was pretty upset that many well meaning people made the mistake of causing Coulter (one of the most unsympathetic people I know) come out looking like a victim. After some quick viewing of other sites, I realized there was a lot of hot debate going on about the Ann Coulter situation. I didn't know much about it other than the few articles I quickly stumbled upon. I was also incredibly tired after a long day at work, and was planning to get up in a few hours despite not being in my bed yet. It made the most sense to just let the rant stew in my head for a bit, and get some sleep that night before returning to my taskmaster known as the scanner. So of course, I stayed up and quickly wrote the piece instead.

I can claim the reason was because I knew I couldn't sleep with the rant boiling inside me. I would also have to admit that claim would be complete 2 week old cat litter coated in rotting cabbage (so garbage -- or at least, I hope nobody blurted out, "Mmmm, dessert"). Yes, there was an idea there, and if I let it fester for too long then I am sure it would have turned into a black hole that would have instantly consumed me. I could have survived one night or maybe even a few (as you've learned from this series, I've sat on many an ideas for this blog). I didn't because I realized that it was a hot topic on all the social networking sites, and was positive people were Googling about it. It was also a fairly new topic, thus not as many sites on it, but also knew they would start popping up quickly. So, I abandoned the notion of getting better informed, and spit in the face of sleep, so that I could write up my blog on Ann Coulter. I also made sure to compose a title that I was sure would get the attention of people who agreed with her and despised her.

It worked brilliantly. I remember my excitement of checking my hit tracking programs a few minutes after initially posting, and seeing that already over 20 people had wandered over to the blog either by Google or Twitter. Actually, for a short time (I learned the strategy and thus used it many times since) the Ann Coulter article was the most viewed post on my blog. It also was the source of about a week's worth of ego inflation and also some justification for why I spent much time on the site that generates zero dollars (though, I'll always argue it does generate cash indirectly since I've landed jobs with these ramblings).

I was even more excited when only after a few minutes of being posted, that the article received its first comment. The excitement faded when the comment was a mini essay about why both Ann Coulter and I should do some rather physically impossible things to ourselves. At first, I took it as an upper cut to the groin of my ego. Then I was motivated to respond to this colourful commenter, but then I realized there probably wasn't much of a chance for some deep and insightful dialogue. I then thought I'd just delete the comment, but that didn't quite sit well with me either.

As most people who regularly read this blog will know, I am a huge advocate of free speech and expression of one's views. Even though this is my blog and thus not a democracy, I didn't initially like the idea of just scrapping a comment just because it bothered me. I am sure there was the whole issue that it was the only comment on a post that was designed to attract attention, thus I needed evidence people actually read it. After some thought, I realized it was probably just best to delete the comment, because this wasn't an issue of a person trying to add some insight (that I happened to disagree with), but more likely the case of the troll coming out from under his bridge and being rather bored no goats were around. The fact is, his comments actually proved that he likely just read my title (which would lead you to believe I'd endorse Coulter) then ripped into me for having a view he thought he disagreed with. Of course, if he actually bothered to read all those pretty words that came after the title, then he'd realize I was opposed to Ann Coulter and her brood. I recognized since he didn't bother to read the article, he was never coming back and was completely uninterested in ever entering into a debate. Instead, I would have just been leaving on this obscene comment that made this commenter look like an idiot for totally misunderstanding my actual thesis. For the benefit of the commenter and all of mankind, I disposed of his comment. I realized that I do want to encourage comments that disagree with me (because that is how great discussion is formed), but I wasn't going become the proverbial bridge for the trolls to nest either.

The article was a significant one for me because it not only gave me a strategy for gaining some readers, but it also allowed me to deal with my first obscene criticism. I can proudly say that even though I've gone on to tackle even more controversial topic, I've never had the displeasure of encountering another troll. I've had plenty of commenters that have disagreed with me (and I hope for many more), but they've always remained civil and mature. Now of course, if you happen to agree with me or like my stuff, I don't mind hearing from you either.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

UFC 124 Review: Don't Mess With French Canadians

On Saturday night, I went to a local pub, The Piston Broke (a great place with delicious food and fantastic service), with some buddies to enjoy UFC 124. Many other Brantfordians seemed to have the same idea because the place was packed. This was a good thing because it made for a exciting fight atmosphere and caused me to get into the show even more. Catching a show at a bar is definitely a great experience if you enjoy things like bars and UFC shows (if you hate both, then the combination won't make it any better, I'm sure).

UFC is hugely popular right now, but I am sure a big reason why the pub was jammed with testosterone was because the MMA Canadian hero George St. Pierre (GSP) was defending his UFC welterweight championship. Not only is GSP a huge star in Canada, but he was going up against a man that many fans have been waiting months to see get beat up, Josh Koschek. This main event was built up through the reality show The Ultimate Fighter, where the two guys were opposing coaches. The show concept is absolutely genius, because it not only creates new stars to fill up the promotion but it also becomes a great way to build up a big pay per view (PPV) fight. The show consists of two teams, which are assembled by a bunch of fighters who hope to get a contract with the UFC. The fights are done in tournament format, and in the finals the winner gets a six figure deal with UFC. This allows several weeks of their personalities to get out, and causes the viewer to get to know these fighters that otherwise would unlikely remain anonymous their entire careers. For the fighters who would have always made it big, this show helps elevate them even quicker. The best part is when you either have a guy with tons of charisma or a lot of great fighting ability, because it creates an instant star the UFC can market after the show is complete. The program has created some pretty huge stars who are now some of the companies big draws (Koschek actually being one of them). The show also gets to be a weekly way to promote the big fight against the coaches, and really allows the coaches a great chance to build excitement for the fight (and to connect with the viewers). It works the best when the two coaches begin to clash, which allows for tension to mount thus create more anticipation for the fight.

This season was a perfect example of how the formula helps build fights. Koscheck came off as a stereotypical immature high school jock (except over ten years older), and probably quickly became the personality people most wanted to punch in the eye ball. The problem is, it is usually bad for your health to punch a MMA fighter in the eye ball. This is where George St. Pierre comes in, as he is one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world (and also one of the companies top draws). GSP is a humble and extremely likable guy, who just happens to be able to beat the crap out you (but luckily, he keeps that to his job rather than hobby). The entire season GSP had to put up with Koschek's obnoxious pranks and mindless insults. GSP never really responded, and he knew he'd get his revenge come fight time. That was exactly what millions of viewers had hoped for (especially in Canada where Koschek threw out a few insults to the country). Of course, GSP is a huge star here, because he is a French Canadian. Which is another thing that makes this fight so special, because it was being held in Montreal. You know the atmosphere was going to be electric, and GSP would be the heavy crowd favourite.

On The Ultimate Fighter, George St. Pierre got some sweet revenge in the form of his team winning the majority of the fights over Koschek's team. In the finals, it ended up being both of GSP's guys, Michael Johnson and Jonathan Brookins. Brookins ended up winning the whole thing, and is definitely a guy I ended up being a fan of. He is humble and easy going, but also a great fighter on the ground. I feel with some experience and work on his stand up, he'll end up having a decent shot in UFC. The show also created a few other potential future stars in the likes of Nam Phan (the Koschek fighter that got to the semifinals) and Cody Mackenzie (a fighter with a unique charisma and fighting style). I thought it was a great season with some fun fights, and interesting characters, but most of all, it really made we want to see the GSP v. Koschek fight.

This fight was so highly anticipated and so well built up (Koschek did his job of becoming one of the most hated guys in UFC), that UFC didn't even need to bother filling up the rest of the card with any other recognizable stars. So they didn't. This was the definition of a one match show, but what a match it was. Yes, everyone in that bar was only there for the main event, but they ended up being treated to a rather exciting night of fights.

Thiago Alves vs. Ron Howard: I was surprised they put this fight on first, because it was the only other fight on the card that I knew both fighters. I'd say my knowledge is about the same as the casual UFC fan, and so I'm sure many were like me in their fighter recognition on this card (as in, they knew almost no one besides the main eventers). In retrospect, this was actually a pretty good choice to kick off the PPV portion of the card (as I said in the UFC 121 review, there is many non televised fights beforehand). The crowd was pretty hot for the fight, and both guys really went at it. Alves ended up proving to be the much stronger fighter on this night, as he started taking apart Howard's legs with some pretty stiff kicks. Luckily, the judges here realized you can win by leg kicks, and gave Alves the decision. This would have to be considered a pretty big win for Alves and set him up with some bigger profile fights to lead to an eventual title shot.


Joe Stevenson vs. Mac Danzig: This is actually a fight between two former Ultimate Fighter winners. It was also a fight that I predicted would start out really fast, and end very quickly. I unfortunately, didn't realize how fast it would be, and ended up missing the finish because I thought it was the perfect time to turn and talk to my friend. He also missed the finish, due to my choice. Remember folks, your choices can harm others. Luckily, I saw the replay, and have to say I still kind of missed the finish. It is obvious Danzig won by knock out from a punch, but the punch came out of nowhere and is actually even really hard to see depending on the angle you get. It was a glancing blow, but one that knocked Stevenson in the right spot. The interesting thing about it is that Stevenson was on the offensive, but must have let his guard down, and allowed a perfect chance for Danzig to ding him. Danzig was notably jacked after the fight, and I am sure that is partly because he knew there was a good chance he would be let go if he lost tonight (UFC roster is so bloated that they usually cut guys if they have a few losses in a row).

Charles Oliveira vs. Jim Miller:
This was an interesting fight because it contained a fighter that UFC wants to groom into one of their next big stars in Charles Oliveira. But he is really young still, 22 years old, and he was up against a fighter who would really test him. I'd only heard of both guys while trying to learn about the undercard, but I got the impression this could have been the fight of the night. Unfortunately, it didn't last long enough for that. Oliveira was trying to get various submission holds on Miller while on the ground, but ended up getting his own leg trapped. Miller cinched in the leg bar, and got the tap out victory in the first round. It was short, but exciting. I have to say that for the most part, actual finishes (rather than decisions) tend to make for a more exciting card.

Matt Riddle vs. Sean Pierson: This was actually on before the PPV broadcast, but the series of quick finishes freed up lots of time to air other fights. This one ended up being the fight of the night. Pierson laid in some really intense shots on Riddle, but the man kept coming at him. There was pretty quick and aggressive exchanges on the ground. It was a great fight because the guys kept going at each other, and were actually trying to win the fight (rather than just run out the clock). There was a visually impressive moment in the fight, that I again missed because I was busy not looking at the TV. Luckily, it was impressive enough that it got replays. Riddle tried to jump at Pierson with a high knee, but Pierson didn't like that stuff so he punched him right in the face while Riddle was in mid air. It was pretty cool, and you should try to find it on YouTube this instant. It was a really great fight, and in the end the crowd was pleased, because the Canadian boy won, Sean Pierson, by decision.

Sean McCorkle vs. Stefan Struve: This fight was unique because all the build and trash talk was done over Twitter. Welcome to the new era. Even now, that has to be considered pretty geeky. Geeky or not, these where some big boys, and I'd refrain from giving them my thoughts in person. This was another quick fight, as McCorkle was trying to get some submission on the ground, but Struve would rather just pound him in the face. Struve go his way, and so he won by TKO in the first via ground and pound.

Dustin Hazelett vs. Mark Bocek: This fight was also before the broadcast, but they had time to fill before the main event. Not much time apparently though, as this was over pretty quick too. The only thing I remember is the finish, where Bocek got Hazelett in a triangle choke and held on until Havelett tapped out. And no, he didn't choke out Hazelett with a shape. Instead, he grabbed one of Hazelett's arms and then wrapped him legs around the neck of Hazelett thus forming a sort of triangle. I am pretty sure I did the worse description of the move ever, but consider me still pretty new to the whole MMA techniques and such.

George St. Pierre vs. Josh Koscheck: It was time for the whole reason we came to the bar. I have to say, the atmosphere for this fight was unbelievable, both at the arena and in our bar. The bar was full of cheering and screaming and singing. Despite how loud the pub was, you could still hear the crowd on TV. It was just an unbelievable experience to see how amped up everyone was for this fight.

I have to say something about one of my friends that came with me to this show. He is the MMA expert for our gorup, and he predicted the lay out of this match perfectly. He stated that GSP typically uses the first two rounds to pick apart his opponent, and then gears into finishing mode around the third round where he gets far more aggressive. This is exactly the type of fight we saw from GSP. He patiently picked apart Koschek at the start, and then really ramped things up by the 3rd or 4rth round. This isn't to say Koschek didn't get a beating before those rounds though. By the third round, Koschek already had one of his eyes almost entirely closed due to the cut GSP created, and a doctor was threatening to end the fight.. Koschek's face did a rather nice punching bag impersonation, and hopefully, he didn't have a hot date for after the fight.

GSP had proven to be one of the most brilliant fighters in all of MMA. He is amazing at strategy. He proved in the Ultimate Fighter show, and he proved it here. In the previous fight between GSP v. Koschek, GSP took down Koschek at will and won the fight with his ability to control Koschek on the ground. This was incredible impressive because GSP has no formal amateur wrestling background, but Koschek was actually a top NCAA wrestler. This time around, I believe Koschek worked really hard on his take down defense and was prepared for GSP to try that again. GSP proved his diversity by keeping most of the fight standing and picking him apart with punches. Koschek seemed to not be ready for that, and it really took him out. Koschek did get a token victory by taking GSP down at one point, which something many couldn't do before him. Plus he did stop a few of GSP's attempts to take him down, but in the end, it was GSP out boxing him that decided the fight. In the final two rounds, GSP really turned things up another notch and at that point, he was even slamming Koschek hard to the mat with take downs.

When the fight ended, one man looked fairly unphased, and the other looked like the elephant man. GSP won an easy decision, and the fans got the satisfaction they clamoured for. Koschek got beat, and he got beat bad. It was the perfect ending to a rather exciting night of fights, and a main event that kept up the energy and excitement all the way through. Now, would the fight have been as exciting if it wasn't for these personalities? Probably not. That is just the reality of the sport. A big part of it is the build, and how you connect to those fighters. The connection was clear here, and it caused for a very hot atmosphere with every fan really into the fight.

UFC 124 was a really fun and high octane night of fights. I think, I actually liked this better than UFC 121, because there wasn't any dreadfully boring fights like the Shields' match. A lot of fighters came out looking strong, and hopefully, builds to some exciting stuff in the future. It was a good night, and one that I learned it is important to keep looking at the TV.

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Kind Of Day Has It Been?

One of those.

You know the ones?

I do. It was today.

Did lots, but was left wondering exactly what.

Obviously, none of that was bloggy or internety type stuff. No, it was more like pay for mortgagey type stuff. And some work that hopefully leads to paying for the already addressed mortgage.

So, not a 'good' day, but a necessary one.

How was your day?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Here, Have A 90s Mainstream Hit With Profound And Relevant Lyrics

I am not sure what ever happened to Everlast after 1998, but the man produced two major hits with "Jump Around" (along with his then group House of Pain) and his solo hit, "What It's Like." I was a fan of both songs, though it is pretty obvious which one had the deeper lyrics. Actually, it was a bit of a shock at the time when the former House of Pain frontman came out with such a different and thought provoking song. I still don't mind listening to it today, and I definitely believe the lyrics have the same power and importance they carried over 10 years ago. Even if he isn't your style, I recommend that you give today's video a look. Its message is fairly similar to my post, It's Not Okay. Enjoy and give some thought to Everlast's "What It's Like".

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Comic That Shows How Cats Are Ultimately In Control

I'm going to send you over to the Oatmeal again, because its funny and just the right way to start your day (just ask Mr. Quaker). This comic will especially be funny if you have cats, or actually even dogs. Crosby will always resort to numerous ways to get my attention when I am writing, which include the laying on the keyboard which makes for some hard typing. Summit has quickly learned some strategies for getting attention, which include inserting his 'brother' into his mouth (basically the big dog equivalent of cat scratching couch).

Have a spiff-a-licious Saturday!

Friday, December 10, 2010

BlogBack #3: My Most Heartfelt Post That Was Inspired By My Dog Eating An Ice Cream Cone

I've written a lot of blog posts on here that I was passionate about and I sprinkled an ample piece of my heart into(which reminds me, my monitor really needs cleaning now). Today's BlogBack post is probably the one I put the most emotion into. It just so happened to be inspired by Summit doing a bunch of stuff he wasn't supposed to. The BlogBack spotlight is none other than my sort of a poem post, It's Not Okay.

Last winter, we didn't have a fence up and Summit was less than a year old (and not his full size yet). This meant that Summit was not totally aware of his boundaries, and was under the misunderstanding that all he could see was his backyard. This meant that when it came down to doing his 'business', he thought he had an assortment of great locations to choose. Naturally, he didn't want to mess up the places he was allowed to run and play, and so he tended to favour the plots of land that happened to be our neighbours. Now, we clearly knew that encouraging this was probably step one in creating harsh relations, but also, we really wanted to enforce what was Summit's property. There was one side of neighbours that Summit preferred to do his thing, and would sometimes try to wander halfway on to their property. We always corrected Summit, and tried to get him back on our yard. There was several times that the father of the house would try to wave us off, and let us know it was okay that Summit decorated his lawn. "It's okay, it's okay." But we tried to assure him that it isn't okay. We would tell hie that even if he didn't mind, it bothered us because not only was it rude but we were trying to teach our dog proper behaviour. He usually just brushed us off with another, "It's okay."

Usually, we made sure to take Summit out on a leash, because there was always a chance someone would be walking on the sidewalk, and Summit would believe he needed to greet this people on 'his property' (despite the fact the sidewalk was two homes away). There were a few times at night that either we decided to not leash him, or he snuck out the open door before we were ready. With this freedom, he often chose to run over to the back door of the previously mentioned neighbour. They usually left their garbage outside, which meant lots of delicious treats. They also tended to allow him in the house, despite the fact we constantly asked them not to do that since it only encouraged Summit to want to go over more. Guess what the father told us, that's right, "It's okay."

One evening, Summit was free in the backyard and decided to go visit his neighbour friends. By the time I got out to stop him, he was already in the house. When I got there, I told the father that Summit really can't be in here, because it is reinforcing behaviour I don't want. The father told me that Summit was only a puppy and it's okay. Summit then proceeded to run up and down their hallway, because I am pretty sure he was busting with joy over being able to get away with puppy sin. During this time, the father was licking away at a massive chocolate ice cream cone. Summit came over to him, and did his cute little begging puppy routine ("Woe is me, I am cute and am only fed 2 pounds of food a day"). I assumed the father knew that ice cream wasn't a part of Summit's diet, especially chocolate which is toxic to dogs, but you know what they say about assuming. Summit devoured the entire ice cream along with the cone in about 4 seconds flat. The kids and I both immediately told the father how foolish that was, and how it wasn't good for the dog to eat that (plus it taught Summit begging gets him treats). The father just brushed me off with a, "It's okay." At that point, it was a waste of my time, but I did make it clear that it wasn't okay and Summit can never go in this house again. I left that house not only with my dog but with a boiling temper.

Though that was the point that I was the most frustrated, it did take one more act that really took me over the edge. A few days later, Summit was out on his long leash that allowed him to roam our yard. I suddenly notice there was something just out of reach that Summit was trying to get to. I went outside, and notice it was the scraps of a t-bone steak that had some meat left on it. Considering what side the t-bone was on, and of course the rep those neighbours now had, I came to a rather quick conclusion how it got there. This upset me for two reasons. The first being I don't really appreciate someone throwing garbage on my property even if it is intended for my dog. The second is that a cooked t-bone is incredibly harmful to a dog.

A lot of people assume that dogs like to chew on bones. That is what dogs do in the cartoons, and if you give them a bone, that appears to be what they're doing. Some people must believe they just like the feeling on their teeth or jaws or something. The actual fact is, dogs like to eat bones. Especially my dog who I give raw diet to, which means he often eats entire chicken frames (which is lots of bone). The thing is, dogs don't know that a cooked bone is very different from a raw bone. A cooked bone will break differently, and cause there to be bone shards that can lodge in the dogs throat. Needless to say, I was not impressed with that t-bone steak on my property. I let the neighbour know my disgust, and he gave me his, "It's okay."

In the shower that night, I started formulating a rough version of "It's Not Okay" (there we go again, something about that tub, maybe I should do all my writing in there). It was entirely about Summit and the neighbour, and why all these things were not okay. About halfway in my rant, I started realizing how self centred this was. I reflected about all the First Nations land disputes in our city, and how many people think it is okay the First Nations aren't being compensated for their land. I started to think about numerous other people who have to put up with abuse and wrongs every single day, but most people just brush off their hurt with a, "It's okay." I started forming a rough list of all the groups that have to put up with that condescending "It's okay" rather than actually have real change implemented. The scary part is that some of these groups probably even started to believe that it was okay.

The more I thought about it that night in bed, the more I got really excited about the opportunity to write something like this (it also meant the more I didn't actually sleep). I also knew that I didn't want this to be a rant. I wanted it to be more creative and even a little poetic. I wanted to address these wrongs against particular groups, but I also wanted to do it in a way that triggered emotions and thoughts. I didn't want to outright state the problems or groups, but rather make the reader have to come up with them based off what was written. I thought it was a really great idea, and I also was pretty scared about it.

I have never been all that nervous about just ripping off a rant and throwing it up on the blog. When it comes to creative writing though, I usually want to make sure it is of the highest quality. Plus I find creative writing is something that comes much deeper from the heart, and really is a window into your soul. Yeah, I am being dramatic again, but I really do believe that is what makes that type of writing so beautiful. It is a way to express yourself and also make yourself vulnerable. It also makes me a little more anxious about throwing it up on the blog. You never know how it might turn out or how others might perceive it. It can be a very stress inducing process.

So, I came up with excuses and held off a really long time. This idea was conceived in the winter, but I was able to come up with excuses to ignore it until the fall. Like any good idea, it never leaves you. It actually continually haunts you until you finally release it through the writing process. It was always in the back of my mind, and begging me to let it out for the world to see. I continually hesitated, but was never able to get rid of it.

I believe it was during the whole burning the Quran crisis that it took control of my thoughts and mind again. All this ugliness and insensitivity was coming to the forefront in our society. It was really sickening me. It was also during a time that SunTV was trying to push its far right news station, and the head was going about things in a less than professional manner. There just seemed to be a lot of injustice at that exact moment. I started talking about all this with a good friend, and during this conversation, I could no longer stand it anymore. I finally decided it was time to write, "It's Not Okay." Once I started, it was written in quick fashion. I instantly fell in love with the piece, and decided it was good enough for the world to see. I posted it right after I had finished the piece, and I really felt it was some of my best work.

I know I shouldn't care what others think, but when you post stuff publicly, you can't help but hope to garner some attention and responses. Though, I loved what I wrote and it was very dear to me, I wasn't sure how others would take it. That is why it was really rewarding how many people gave me positive feedback on the piece through several e-mails and a few blog comments. I was glad and proud that the work could connect with so many people, and they understood what I was trying to convey. It has been a few months since I wrote that 'poem', but even now, it is still probably my favourite thing I've written for this blog.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Review: Is It The Great American Novel?

Mark Twain, in his typical tongue in cheek fashion, warns the reader at the very beginning of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (right before the table of contents) that nobody should try to find motive, moral or plot within the story. Despite the very clear command, it has been ignored by countless scholars and literary types ever since it was first published. This is not only a novel still debated today, but has entire courses devoted to it. This would make you think that Twain would be rather annoyed how much attention and discussion his novel has gotten over the years, but then again, Twain also expressed a disdain for romanticism in literature, yet I am not sure his novel could embrace a concept much more. Maybe you aren't supposed to take those words at face value, just like you aren't with his characters like the Duke and the Dauphin. Twain must have known he created a work of literature that would grasp the attention of the public and cause an excessive amount of dialogue among many (which may be the very reason he has the warning put in place).

The greatest amount of dialogue has been over the fact a mere 'children' story could be considered The Great American Novel. Of course, there is also a fair amount of debate over if the novel really is a children book, let alone if it is suitable for children. Speaking of trying to keep the book from children, can The Great American Novel also be one of the most banned books in public schools? That leads to the question of what really qualifies for a book to be The Great American Novel? On the back cover of the copy I own, Ernest Hemingway is quoted saying, "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn." Coming from an author with Hemingway's reputation, that is an incredibly powerful endorsement. Then there is the whole debate over if Hemingway is even right. At some point you just grab an Advil for the growing headache and nausea, and decide to watch The Weekend at Bernie's instead.

First things first, lets address the obvious, and affirm that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an excellent book (as if someone who read it would be willing to actually challenge that point). Even this many decades later, it still has a charm and uniqueness about it that goes completely unrivaled (which is impressive considering how often you have to take a film from the 80s or even 90s, and attach a comment like 'it was original or cutting edge for its time'). Despite being a novel that inspired countless works and is arguable one of the most well known (if not read) books of all time, there isn't another story that is quite like it. The novel created theme, tropes and ideas that have been used by almost every great work since. Its contribution to literature is not debatable (but rather the exact level or its overall significance), or its impact on any form of story telling that has been used since its publication. All those things are great to know for an university essay, but the really important part is to remember its greatest achievement is being an entertaining read.

Despite Twain's apparent leanings towards realism in literature, Huckleberry Finn is pure fantasy and embraces most young boys dreams and desires to run off to have adventures. It is not only an adventure, but the noblest kind because Huck is on a mission to free his good friend, Jim. The river raft journey to the free states is one of the most iconic and remembered pars of this story, and definitely the portion that my younger self eagerly wished could reenact. This is probably why it is so startling to realize that the river raft portion is probably only a little over half of the story (and I might be giving it too much). The fascinating part for me is how there is probably so much more to this novel than most readers even remember, and it really does not just follow one singular plot(as Twain so aptly warns us from trying to find). The novel is really a compilation of episodes that happen to seamlessly transition into each other. I am sure a part of that reason is Twain ended up veering away from his original story after he had written several pages (according to the introduction I have in my copy, the plan was for the story to more closely resemble The Adventures of Tom Sawyer -- and it was to include an elephant, DRATS to veering off course!). Maybe an even bigger reason for the episodic feel is Twain not only took over a decade to write this entire novel, but he actually had substantial breaks from it (which might have been over his own wrestling with the direction he wanted to take). In the end it creates for a different kind of book, and one with numerous fantastic adventures that reminded me of my own childhood (not that I saved a lot of slaves by escaping on a raft, but more that many of the events where the type I fantasized or played out as a kid).

I felt it would be important to address some of the novel's flaws. And yes, the possible Great American Novel is not free from such things. The biggest and most glaring flaw in the work is Twain's reliance upon far fetched coincidence and deus ex machina. At certain points in the book, the use of both devices are over the top, eye-rollingly bad. They're so blatant and poorly executed that they could risk pulling you out of the entire story. Reflecting back on the novel, the only excuse I can think of was Twain was so caught in a corner at certain scenes but at the same time knew where he wanted to jump to next, thus orchestrated these contrivances as a way to quickly move on. The coincidences and deus ex machina that are perpetuated at key points in the novel are so glaring, that if they were used in almost any other novel it would destroy the credibility of the tale and possibly the author. It doesn't do that here. Actually, you are entirely willing to forgive and ignore the crime every single time. This is completely due to it being an engaging and well written masterpiece otherwise. Plus it is Mark Twain, and who is going to argue with Mark Twain (besides the fact it is really bad etiquette to debate with a corpse).

There is probably another flaw in the novel that you expect me to address. The very flaw that has got it banned numerous times, and makes it a hated book among some circles. It's racist. Or at least, some believe it to be an offensive and racially insensitive book. To those that believe that, I could not disagree more and argue these people are perfecting the art of completely missing the point.

I realize the major contention of the novel is the excessive use of the 'n' word. There is probably also some issues with how some characters describe black people. I will heartily agree that the 'n' word is a vile one, and my disgust for it is the very reason I refuse to write it here. But it did not offend me at all when reading this novel. Part of that is due to the fact the word was part of the accepted vocabulary at the time, and so with a novel that has a prominent black character, it would have been almost impossible to omit it (and I'm sure such a thing would not have crossed Twain's mind, even if he hated the word). The bigger reason for why I feel it isn't offensive in the novel, is the authenticity of the characters, time frame and setting demands the words use. It is the word that would be used by every character in the novel, and the story would seem unrealistic if another word was chosen. I do hate the word, but I also can't ignore it is a word that is used by modern bigots and a word that was common usage even less than a century ago among certain people. The fact is, if I am ever compelled to write a story that contains a racist slime ball or the story is set over a hundred years ago then there is a good chance I'd use the word. I think there has to be some allowance when it comes to art, in order to capture a period or setting properly.

If you look past the use of the word, you will quickly notice the novel is far from racist. The greatest value of the story may be that it is outright anti-racist. The easiest way to prove this is to look at the character, Jim. Jim is probably one of the most wise, loyal, goodhearted, honest, likable and pure characters in all of literature. Every other character in this novel has glaring and ugly flaws, but it is hard to find any in the character of Jim. And if he does have one, it would be he is too trusting and loyal (and such virtues are rather hard to ever be cast as actual legitimate flaws).

I believe it is easy to argue the novel is one of the earliest works that speaks out for equality and rights in America. It doesn't do it in a blatant way, and the flawed Huck who grows and learns at some points does cause his good friend, Jim, some humiliations due to the influence of Tom Sawyer (who causes the protagonist to almost forget all he learned previous). On the other hand, Huck Finn (especially when he is free from the clutches of Sawyer's mischief) proves to be a mature and virtuous (at heart) figure. His loyalty demonstrated to Jim is not only a great example for race relations, but also an example of true love and morality. I think the most fascinating part of this is that Huck doesn't see it that way. He believes he is an immoral and devilish boy bound for hell, because he chooses to help a friend rather than obey the law of the time. Huck is socially conditioned to see blacks as slaves and the property of whites. His 'conscious' constantly eats at him because he knows he is 'stealing' a nice white ladies' property, and doing something he is led to believe is the ultimate sin. I find the internal struggle to be incredibly deep, and one of the truly great moments in literature. It is a definite commentary on social justice, but also a look at how some of morality is clearly a creation of the society. In today's society Huck did the right thing when he rescued Jim, and even when he lies throughout in order to protect his friend (because otherwise, his friend would be recaptured which in our eyes is the greater sin). Huck never believes he is in the right, but decides he'd rather go to hell and do the wrong thing by putting his friend over morality. It is the ultimate of noble sacrifice to choose the worse of fates, in order to protect one you love.

It is deep themes like this that prove Huckleberry Finn isn't really a childhood story at all. It is adult literature that happens to have a juvenile as the protagonist. Though it is a story I would have no problem reading to my child, it would be one that demands explanation and patience. For example, one of the things that makes this book so engaging to me is how Twain so expertly captures the dialect of each character (or so I assumed he is doing it correctly), and changes his writing style to fit each individual. You instantly get the accent and verbal habits from the way it is written. But it is language that would be hard for a younger reader to grasp, and I even found myself having to reread paragraphs. I do believe it is a great strength in the novel, but I also feel it is something that causes the book to alienate some readers (especially children or young adults).

I have now written all this, and still avoided answering the questions I laid out earlier. I definitely have not made any affirmation towards if The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is The Great American Novel. That is due to the fact, I really don't think that can ever be fully agreed upon. Huckleberry Finn is a book that everyone needs to read once. It truly is one of the rarest of gems among literary history. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is an entertaining story of adventure that packs deep meaning that is relevant and crucial for all types of readers and generations.