Friday, July 27, 2007

Batboy & Other Children

This post deals with stories involving children and also the demise of the granddaddy of all tabloids. World Weekly News will cease to publish very soon after 28 years of gleefully chronicling the exploits of alien babies, animal-human hybrids and dead celebrities. It is a publication that is part of the empire that includes the National Enquirer and other known supermarket tabloids. There was a time when the outlandish, fabricated stories, that for some reason certain parts of the population were willing to believe, was fashionable and profitable. By the way the folks that actually believed these stories are the same ones who think wrestling is real and the moon landings were fake.

But the growing population of the web and the easy access to various publications around the world online have brought on the demise of such entities that a few years ago seemed to be so strong. In fact World Weekly News, which billed itself as "The World's Only Reliable Newspaper," will continue to live on but only in an online version. Trees will no longer need to die in order for people to get their fix of “Bat Boy.” (You all remember “Bat Boy” the half-bat, half-human child found in a cave, with a face that only a mother could love – and a blind mother at that).

Besides the proliferation of the web one of the other reasons this publication had a shorter shelf life is, ironically, truth is stranger than fiction. The very fact that I have been doing the “Stuph File” for years on the radio and now here online proves this. While we may not always have something as exciting as “Bat Boy” to deal with there have been a slew of stories that some might find hard to believe.

Well in honour of “Bat Boy” we have a couple of stories dealing with kids, but admittedly today they are of the milder variety. First up, the picture of “Bat Boy” might frighten some because of his somewhat grotesque smile. One’s smile is very important, even at an early age and a smile is of course enhanced by one’s teeth so it is important to take care of them even very early on. Do you remember your first dental appointment? How old were you – perhaps three or four?

Well how is this for a freak of nature – little Megan Andrews amazed doctors and her family by being born with teeth! Although Megan is only two weeks old, she has already had two dental appointments. No one noticed until about a half hour after Megan was born that she had chompers. Her mom, 20-year-old Claire Slimming of Brighton, England, who may want to reconsider the whole breast feeding thing, used a midwife to aid in the delivery. The midwife did the usual after-birth inventory; ten fingers – check; ten toes – check. She was then astonished when she put a finger inside her mouth and counted seven teeth. Doctors gently took out four of the teeth because they were falling out anyway and might have choked Megan. The others are pretty secure though so they plan to leave those in for now. No word yet on how soon she might be getting braces.

The other story dealing with children is about the noise they make. I must be one of those rare folk who are not really bothered by the sound of other people’s crying children or a toddler in the grasp of the terrible twos having a supermarket or airline tantrum. Frankly, I’m more concerned about the child that appears to be too quiet. Those are the ones you have to watch closely.

As irony would have it, I am actually writing this on a laptop while waiting for a doctor’s appointment (don’t worry, I’ll live) surrounded by a plethora of maladies and yes, the omnipresent vocalization of a choir of ankle-biters. I revel at the look of agony of some of my fellow citizens who are clearly unimpressed. I, on the other hand, embrace the circle of life – the extremely young struggling to be heard and those at the other end of the grumpy spectrum who are just here to perhaps get the doctor to stamp their final boarding pass.

Speaking of boarding pass, the story deals with a woman who said a flight attendant kicked her and her son off a plane last month because the toddler kept saying "bye-bye plane" to another jet. Kate Penland of Buford, Georgia, was flying from Houston to Oklahoma City on June 16th on a Continental ExpressJet flight that was 11 hours late when her one-and-a-half year old son Garron started saying goodbye to another plane he saw as it taxied on the runway. A flight attendant, who had been giving safety instructions to passengers said, "It's not funny anymore. You need to shut your baby up." The flight attendant then told her, "It's called baby Benadryl," and made a drinking motion.

Well, let’s stop to look at the facts here. Penland’s flight was 11 hours late! We’re all lucky that the only thing the kid was saying was "bye-bye plane." Other passengers on the flight said the kid wasn’t talking any louder than the adult passengers. What really seemed to annoy our air hostess was nobody was listening to her vital speech on safety regulations. (Nobody listens to those announcements. Sadly, we only wish we could remember them when the jet is barrel-rolling us toward the ground!)

Here’s the most bizarre part of the story. Penland rightly said that she wouldn't drug her child. Besides, she explained that Garron would likely fall asleep soon. The toddler wasn't crying or throwing a fit. But the flight attendant was. She had the plane turn around and return to the gate and Penland and her son were ordered to leave. Penland, and for that matter many of the other passengers were alarmed at the turn of events.

According to ExpressJet, the flight crew has the authority to remove passengers who interfere with the safe operation of a flight. Gee, an 18-month-old was simply saying "bye-bye plane.” He didn’t have explosives in his shoes. He didn’t order the flight to Havana. He didn’t sing the Barney song. Those are all good reasons for ejection. He didn’t throw a tantrum or have a meltdown. He was only offering salutations to another flight.

Penland has a difficult time believing she or her son caused that type of problem. Airline officials said they were investigating the matter, and Penland want answers. I think I already have the answer. It’s time for the flight attendant to say "bye-bye plane.”

The truth is stranger than fiction. When I hear stories like this I tend to believe more and more in “Bat Boy.”

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Feline Serial Killer

After sharing my warnings with you in a previous post concerning the evil plot that cats worldwide have against mankind, I quite frankly wasn’t going to write about their plans for world domination so soon. After all, one has to lay low because those who are onto them are of course in danger themselves. However a recent story in the news has alarmed me into taking action once again. Let me tell you about a heinous creature named Oscar – a soldier in their cause who acts like a cat in the wild, preying on the weakest of our herd.

Oscar the cat lives in Providence, Rhode Island and according to a recent essay in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, he seems to have an uncanny knack for predicting when nursing home patients are going to die, by curling up next to them during their final hours. His accuracy, observed in 25 cases, has led the staff to call family members once he has chosen someone. It usually means they have less than four hours to live. It’s as if he were a game show host asking them to come on down to make their final bid.

It was Dr. David Dosa, a geriatrician and assistant professor of medicine at Brown University, who wrote the article in question. As he was quoted as saying, “He (Oscar) doesn't make too many mistakes. He seems to understand when patients are about to die. Many family members take some solace from it. They appreciate the companionship that the cat provides for their dying loved one." I, of course, have another theory. Oscar has been snuffing the old folks out!

The two-year-old feline was adopted as a kitten and grew up in a dementia unit at the Steere House Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, one of those many facilities that I like to refer to as “God’s waiting room” (have you ever visited the solarium in one of these establishments? It’s like life at the back of the fridge). This place treats people with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's disease and other illnesses – the slowest gazelles among us. After about six months, the staff noticed Oscar would make his own rounds, just like the doctors and nurses. He'd sniff and observe patients, then sit beside people who would wind up dying in a few hours. Dosa said Oscar seems to take his work seriously and is generally aloof. "This is not a cat that's friendly to people," he said. Gee, a cat that’s aloof. Stop the presses!

Oscar is better at predicting death than the people who work there, said Dr. Joan Teno of Brown University, who treats patients at the nursing home and is an expert on care for the terminally ill. (Is she really an expert? She just said that a cat is better at the job than she is!)

Teno was convinced of Oscar's talent when he made his 13th correct call. While observing one patient, Teno said she noticed the woman wasn't eating, was breathing with difficulty and her legs had a bluish tinge, signs that often mean death is near. Oscar wouldn't stay inside the room though, so Teno thought his streak was broken. Instead, it turned out the doctor's prediction was roughly 10 hours too early. Sure enough, during the patient's final two hours, nurses told Teno that Oscar joined the woman at her bedside.

Just how closely is the staff watching Oscar? How do we know if he’s not unplugging vital equipment, increasing morphine drips or using the time honoured form of attempted homicide that many cats use – planting themselves on the faces of unsuspecting sleeping victims and smothering them like a furry pillow of death? Does anybody even check to find out if these victims might have been allergic to cats?

Has anyone thought of the horrific final moments of these poor souls? They are left at the mercy of a calculating killer who has carte blanche, choosing his victims and dispatching of them in the same heartless way that Dick Cheney eliminates hunting buddies.

Doctors say most of the people who get a visit from the sweet-faced, grey and white cat are so ill they probably don't know he's there, so patients aren't aware he's a harbinger of death. Most families are grateful for the advanced warning, although one wanted Oscar out of the room while a family member died. When Oscar is put outside, he paces and meows his displeasure (of course, he can’t add to his personal morbid body count! He’s not there for his countdown to the last breath).

No one is certain if Oscar's behaviour is scientifically significant or points to a cause. Teno wonders if the cat notices telltale scents or reads something into the behaviour of the nurses who raised him. Nicholas Dodman, who directs an animal behavioural clinic at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine and has read Dosa's article, said the only way to know is to carefully document how Oscar divides his time between the living and dying. If Oscar really is a furry grim reaper, it's also possible his behaviour could be driven by self-centred pleasures like a heated blanket placed on a dying person, Dodman said.

Nursing home staffers aren't concerned with explaining Oscar, so long as he gives families a better chance at saying goodbye to the dying. Oscar recently received a wall plaque publicly commending his "compassionate hospice care."

Just think how satisfied Oscar must feel. He continues to increase his body count and the unsuspecting humans are honouring him for it. Death, where is thy sting? Apparently it comes in the form of a homicidal hairball.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

(Also see: Cats Are Evil! & More Proof Of The Evil Of Felines)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


As I continue my duties with the Just For Laughs festival, I am reminded that Monday night, July 16th, was the 5th anniversary of the death of my mother. It was during the festival in 2002 that she passed away, just one month shy of her 86th birthday.

I’ve always been someone who has a strong sense of duty and, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I also believe strongly in the power of humour, so it was not uncharacteristic of me to have gone to work at a comedy festival on the night of my mother’s passing.

When it is fine to joke and what is fine to joke about are boundary decisions that each individual has to make for themselves. For me personally, there are few boundaries. I can laugh at just about anything and frankly, at just about any time.

Years before my mother died we had a jolly old time going in for a pre-arrange funeral for her. Most people find this to be a morbid topic, but I believe in the practicality of it and hey, why not have a laugh or two about it in the process? As for when I assume room temperature, my own funeral is already planned and paid for – it’s just a matter of chiselling in the right dates on the stone.

We already had the plot since my maternal grandmother was interred there back in 1983. My grandmother was a wonderful woman, who was afraid of thunder and lightening. Imagine the irony that we buried her on a mountain next to a television and radio transmission tower.

Anyway, Mother was instrumental in the planning of her own going away party and the advantages of doing things in advance is you know exactly what you’re getting, the cost will never escalate and most importantly, when the time comes and family members are dealing with grief, the nuts and bolts of planning have all been taken care of – no muss, no fuss. It puts the “fun” back in funeral!

Back in 2002 Mother was not too well (gee, I guess that’s an understatement, given the eventual outcome) but it was still a bit of a surprise when the end did come. My mother suffered from diabetes for the last 30 years or so of her life and her death was a result of complications due to the illness.

I still remember getting the call from the hospital that she had just passed away. It was very early in the morning and it’s always interesting that one seems to have a sixth sense about what awaits at the other end of a ringing phone. I got the news then made the one phone call I had to make for arrangements (when you have a pre-arrange funeral it’s one simple phone call to put everything in motion, from body retrieval and preparation to flower arrangements and death notices. It’s much more difficult to order Chinese food).

I then called family members to inform them and then prepared for my duties that night to go to Just For Laughs. Not wanting to be a downer at a comedy festival I told no one except Bruce Hills, the head of the festival, giving him instructions not to pass the information on. I also took my best friend, Mario Leblanc, to work with me, shadowing me just in case I had an emotional relapse of any kind (you know, like blubbering uncontrollably while trying to introduce a comic onstage – wouldn’t that be fun!)

Actually, I did tell one other person, comic Adam Ferrara. Each year the festival is a chance to renew friendships with those who regularly trek to our city for the event, sort of like going to comedy camp. You develop a certain rapport with people when they arrive and in the case of Adam, he would always try to crack me up whenever I had to make a backstage announcement or do anything else that my duties required. I was finally going to get payback at the expense of my mother.

Just seconds before Adam was to hit the stage I gently whispered in his ear, “my Mother just died a couple of hours ago, try and make me laugh now, yah bastard! Have a nice set!” Then I stood in the wings where he could see me from the corner of his eye and stared at him. To his credit he did make me laugh, as I knew he would. It was a very therapeutic evening. (By the way, the next night, comic Joey Elias came up to me to whisper condolences in my ear. He said, “I’m sorry, is it true that your mother died?” I replied, “Yes, she did seven minutes without getting a single laugh.” The initial stunned look on his face before he burst out laughing was priceless).

I made the trip Monday afternoon with one of my sisters to visit with Mom, up on the hill where she rests with her mother and my father, the man she was married to for over six decades. I make the pilgrimage on occasion, visiting on her birthday, the anniversary of her death and also whenever the need arises to talk to her about some issue in my life or to share news. It’s amazing how much wisdom can be imparted and how much more agreeable loved ones can be once they’ve passed on. Even now, she still never lets me down.

I guess at this point I should tell you a bit about my mother. Hilda Ilene Holder was a strong-willed woman who raised five children with love and lots of discipline. She was religious with a well developed sense of right and wrong and she was an ambidextrous disciplinarian. That means you never knew which hand was coming when a spanking was in your vicinity.

Unfortunately, I only got to know my mother later in life, since I was a late baby. She had already spent an entire lifetime raising four daughters by herself in Barbados while my father was here in Canada trying to scrape up enough money to support them, support himself and put a little away to get his family back together. That struggle took eleven years and during that time my parents didn’t see each other at all.

Many people of my parents’ generation endured similar sacrifice, but very few of their contemporaries stuck it out faithfully and remained a nuclear family with all the children sharing the same parents. Families drifted apart due to the distance and time, but that wasn’t the case with my Mother’s family. She just wasn’t going to let that happen – as I said, she was very strong willed.

It takes a special kind of person to endure that kind of hardship – as I mentioned, a person with a strong sense of right and wrong. That’s why I bring up the disciplinarian part of her. In raising four kids, all close in age together, she had seen it all and done it all, so by the time I came around, there was no way I was gettin’ away with nothin’ (and Mom would have cringed at the double negative in that last sentence).

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that she was always hitting me. No, that was far from the case. Sometimes all it took was a look. All of the kids and grandkids in the family knew the look, especially if you did something in public. We were all very well behaved children in public – there was no doubt about it.

I think back to one of the first times when I got the look. It was in church on one of the special occasions when the Sunday School classes would be part of the regular congregation, such as holidays.

I was sitting next to Mom, fidgeting as only a four-year-old can, because you know how exciting church can be for a four-year-old. We had just finished a hymn and sat down, which is when I chose to break the silence by asking Mom a question. As you know, children in church are incapable of whispering. I asked her who Andy was. She ignored me. I asked her again. I got the look. Words need not have been said. That was when I learned there was a time and place for everything and this wasn’t it.

Oh, she did explain who Andy was after the service. She made sure I knew exactly who Andy was. She sat me down with a hymn book in hand and I found out that Andy was actually two words. "And he walks with me, and he talks with me and he tells me I am his own." It was the hymn In The Garden, which has since become one of my favourites.

As religious as she was I know my mother went to a better place, but she will never be forgotten. She left more than just a DNA stamp on the family members she left behind. She imparted her sense of honour, sense of duty, strong faith and a moral compass that allows us to carry on for her and in the right direction. We should all be so lucky to have that kind of legacy to leave behind.

That’s the Stuph – the way I see it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Party Poopers

As many of our listeners to the radio show know, I take a major chunk of my summer holidays during the Just For Laughs Festival, the largest international comedy festival in the world, now enjoying its 25th year.

It’s a passion for me to be part of the festival as I always wanted to be a participant as opposed to just a consumer. I love comedy, I love comedians and I love being around them both in a professional and personal capacity. I enjoy the camaraderie of the backstage experience, the imparting of comedic tips to younger comics from the veterans and the annual feeling of being at some sort of comedy camp.

There are friends I have made in the almost two decades I’ve been working with Just For Laughs that I only see at this time of the year. It’s the renewal of old friendships and the making of new ones.

The city of Montreal is blessed with a plethora of festivals. It is a city known for them. While our summers might be short our festivals are in abundance and they are also year round.

There are too many to mention here, starting with Fête des Neiges in January and running throughout the calendar year. Some of the biggies are the Montreal International Jazz Festival, the International Fireworks Competition, the Montreal Grand Prix, Carifiesta, the Montreal International Reggae Festival, the Montreal World Film Festival and a myriad of others which would make a listing of them too lengthy.

Recently the city of Montreal floated an idea about the needed security at such events. Despite the fact that some of these fests bring in millions and millions of tourist dollars, plus free publicity and prestige to the city, the Mayor of Montreal has given thought to being stingy enough to bill organizers for the added police work – work that usually pertains to events such as outdoor concerts that are free to the audiences they draw, sometimes over a hundred thousand.

While I think the Mayor’s comments are some sort of trial balloon that won’t fly in the long run, it is an issue that has raised some attention within the media and that’s actually what I wanted to talk about in this post.

Nowadays it seems in fashion for radio stations, television news and newspapers to constantly poll their audiences about whatever issue floats by, often with some really mind-numbing questions. Recently the local CTV affiliate had a poll question about festivals for their audience to answer.

What I find so outrageous about some of these polls, regardless of what the question is, are the folks I like to call “the party poopers.”

You already know where I stand on the comedy festival, but I concede that probably the biggest festival this city has to offer is the Montreal International Jazz Festival. Here’s a news flash for you. I have absolutely no use for the jazz fest. It’s not something I would gravitate to, it’s not something that interests me and I have no desire to be part of tens of thousands of my fellow Montrealers rubbing up against each other rhythmically to see a live show on the street.

But I see the joy that it brings to those who love it, who almost treat it like a religion, who yearn for it each year like I yearn for the comedy fest. As a tax payer I see the economic benefits, the added pride to the city and the shear joy that it brings to those who enjoy it. As much as I don’t partake in it, I can’t imagine this city without it.

So who are these party poopers who would say that there are too many festivals in the city? I’m always amazed when I see a poll where to me the answer is obvious yet there is always a substantial number on the other side. If a news organization asked in a poll, should we tax oxygen, there would be at least ten to fifteen percent saying “yes, why should the air be free for everybody, what – are we in a communist state!?!”

We all know who these people are. We’ve known them since childhood. Their houses were where Frisbees vanished. When you played ball hockey, if the ball went into their yard Amnesty International was incapable of getting it out safely. These were the people who offered up only apples at Halloween (if you even bothered to go to their door). These were the people who weren’t referred to as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” but rather “Old Man Whatshisface” and “Old Bitty Jones.” When you met them you could never imagine them having fun. They’re the kind of folks who think the Amish are going to hell in a hand basket.

These are the people who vote against everything. The blinds to their homes are always drawn, the blinds to their hearts have never been opened and the metal blinders on their soul are rusted shut. (Here’s the second post in a row now where a personality description has reminded me of Dick Cheney).

They never wish anyone “Merry Christmas” – in fact they rally against it. When they come across service people who dare to say “have a nice day” they strafe them with laser beam eyes. They were put on this earth merely as a reminder to the rest of us as to how bland and miserable life can be.

If there was a human zoo that schools could take field trips to this species would be housed in the cage just down the corridor from the one with the crack whore and next to the Hollywood agent. In all cases teachers would advise the youngsters not to antagonize the creatures and for the love of God don’t make direct eye contact.

But party poopers do serve one vital purpose. They are there to make sure that no poll, no matter how simple or innocuous, can have a vote where everybody agreed. They also help the economy because without them, as a child you wouldn’t have had to buy another Frisbee.

That’s the Stuph - the way I see it.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Cats Are Evil!

Anyone who has listened to our radio show over a period of time knows how I feel about cats. They’re evil – little pieces of evil – plotting to overthrow mankind. I have worked long and hard trying to convince the general population of this but no one is listening. When the invasion starts and the felines all rise up against us you will remember my warning, but alas, it will be too late.

Seriously, you cat owners out there (and nobody really ever “owns” a cat), do you know what your so-called pet is doing when you’re not home? Perhaps you’re one of those people who leave their computer on when they go out. How do you know your cat isn’t sending out emails, mobilizing the forces, and taking further instructions from the Grand Poobah of cats? The signs are all there as to what the cats are doing – you’re just not paying attention. You’re more focused on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, as if they were a match for the Tonkinese and Abyssinians.

I was reminded of this yet again last Thursday. On the radio program we had on a good friend of the show by the name of Ben Patrick Johnson. Before I get to the cat story, let me tell you a little bit about Ben.

Ben Patrick Johnson is a very gifted guy. He is a major voice over talent in the United States, plus he hosts a daily online show called Life On The Left Coast. He’s written several novels, his latest being his third entitled One Size Fits All. He lives in the Hollywood Hills, his next door neighbour is Paris Hilton and he’s a gadget freak (for the love of God, don’t ask him about his iPhone!) As if that weren’t enough he’s a fitness enthusiast with model good looks. If he weren’t such a freakin’ likeable guy you’d just want to hate him.

You’d think a guy like this would not fall prey to the nefarious spell of a little hair-ball producing, furniture scratching, lint inducing creature, but he has a cat named “Annie.” ANNIE! Like that sweet little orphan who doesn’t have eyeballs!

Well on the show Ben and I were having a civilized conversation when all of a sudden the sound of a cat could be heard in the background (one of the gadgets Ben has is the ability to use ISDN broadcast lines from his home – a job requirement – so you can hear a pin drop, or in this case a cat purr). The cat didn’t speak just once but twice!!!

Ben thought it was cute, but I really knew what was going on. CJAD is the number one English AM radio station in Montreal, reaching the Ottawa Valley and parts of three U.S. states, plus we can be heard across the country on Bell Expressvu satellite and around the world on the web. I’m sure Annie was quite aware of this and was taking the opportunity to give commands to felines everywhere at the expense of our powerful broadcast signal and like so many “owners” Ben was totally oblivious to this. CJAD was unwittingly duped into being a sort of feline al jazeera.

Now, I’m not a pet person at all. I guess this comes from my Caribbean background. Although I was born in Canada my entire immersion through my family and siblings, who were all born in the West Indies, is Caribbean and back in Barbados nobody had any pets. Sure they all had cats and dogs, but they served a purpose. Dogs guarded the house, cats killed the mice. They weren’t part of the family.

However, I know North American culture is different and people love their pets, but at least a dog will be loving, loyal and obedient. What has a cat ever done for you? Oh, they might let you think you’re in charge, but for the most part they will do what they want, they will disregard your existence and with their disagreeable temperament they will snarl at you just for looking at them the wrong way. They have almost the same personality traits as Dick Cheney and are probably plotting just as much.

I fear for my friend Ben who does not know that he, like so many who have cats, are merely hostages in their so-called pets' world. It’s like they’re suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

But since these poor souls can’t or won’t watch out for themselves, it’s up to people like me to keep vigilant – to keep an eye out for what lies “apaw.” Like the Minutemen at the Mexican border watching for illegal aliens, I will be focused on the comings and goings of cats – because I am deeply worried for the safety of Ben Patrick Johnson and many others like him. I have to find a way to break the spell.

That’s the Stuph - the way I see it.

(Also see: Feline Serial Killer & More Proof Of The Evil Of Felines)

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Carifiesta 2007

The sites and sounds of Carifiesta 2007 hit the streets of Montreal on Saturday as the participants swayed to the rhythms and the beats of the Caribbean.

Montreal is a vibrant city that loves its festivals and street fairs. Carifiesta is nestled between the Montreal International Jazz Festival and the Just For Laughs Montreal International Comedy Festival.

In this, the 33rd event to grace our streets, the costumes once again dazzled as the participants gyrated their way down Rene Levesque Blvd with costumes either skimpy and revealing in nature or elaborate, heavy and grandiose in design.

I've had the pleasure of covering the event for television for several years and it's always nice to see how the event has progressed, despite some of the internal turmoil it has had over the years.

Before the start of this year's event I bumped into an old friend, Matthew Cope, who is a screenwriter, photographer and journalist. He is someone that I learned a lot from in the early part of my career.

Matthew's pictures from just before the start of this year's Carifiesta are the ones that grace this posting but they only scratch the surface as to what this event is and what it means to the community.

The picture above for instance is Lenore Caterson. For three decades she has been one of the major highlights of the event, the undisputed queen of Carifiesta. Her costumes are elaborate and are usually quite heavy and like the adopted motto of the post office, she manages to dance her way through rain, sleet and dark of night, not to mention high heat, heavy humidity and strong winds.

These two pictures above however show the future of Carifiesta. Each year there is a junior carnival leading up to Carifiesta where youngsters can also strut their stuff in costume. As it has been in the past, the junior participants of today are the ones who become the "mas" leaders of the future, guaranteeing a strong base for the survival of this event in the future.

As with any event that draws a large crowd, there is of course police and security. What's different in 2007 from three decades ago is the city has begun to understand the unique qualities of Carifiesta and its community, and there certainly is a subtle change in the "face" of some of the officers assigned to the detail. Not only are they officers of colour with Caribbean backgrounds (something that didn't even exist on the force way back when), but after speaking with a few of them and some folks in the crowd it was clear that they seem to enjoy and appreciate the duty as did many of the revellers.

Montreal's Carifiesta is part of a greater series of such Caribbean events in North America that include Toronto's Caribana plus similar events in Ottawa, Boston and Miami just to name a few.

The recently formed World Carnival Commission, whose president is Henry Antoine, the Executive Director of Montreal Carifiesta, is working hard to bring many of these festivals together working in collaboration with the original venue - the granddaddy of them all, February's Carnival in Trinidad. If the organizational skills needed to pull this off are successful, it bodes well for the future of not only Carifiesta but the growth of such events throughout North America.

It's a proud time for the Caribbean community.

That’s the Stuph - the way I see it.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Chuck Lorre - Now There's A Writer!

When I think of the kind of writing I like I can only focus on the work of people I admire. I’ve always been fascinated by scriptwriters in general and comedy scriptwriters in particular.

While there is a plethora of them churning out often innocuous sitcoms, there are some rather brilliant ones. The idea of writing essentially 23 or more three-act plays in a short period of time under network pressures and deadlines can zap the creativity out of the best of souls so those who are successful have to be more than just lucky – they have to be very good.

One of my favourite writers is Chuck Lorre, the creator of a show that I love, Two & A Half Men. He was also the man behind such hit shows as Dharma & Greg, Grace Under Fire, Roseanne and Cybill just to name a few.

While some of his shows might not be your cup of tea, they were all hits and you can’t deny his brilliance as a writer. But I’m drawing attention to him not just for his scripts, but for a little something extra that he does on his shows. I’m talking about his vanity cards.

Vanity cards are the show ending billboards that usually tout the production company of the show in question. Everybody remembers the “sit Ubu, sit” that appeared at the end of Family Ties. That was the vanity card.

Chuck Lorre puts a lot of effort into his vanity cards. They change with almost every episode and the only way you can really appreciate them is to tape the show and then freeze frame it to get a clear picture of his writing talent.

To give you an example, posted below are two such vanity cards from Two & A Half Men. The first one is:

  • CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #126 -- Sitcom Erotica: He tore feverishly at her bodice, ripping it off her sweat-drenched body. Having just bought the bodice, this really bummed her out. Still, she wanted more than anything to be devoured by his earthy passion. Unfortunately the idea of saying "devour me with your earthy passion" creeped her out, so instead she murmured "Hum daddy bow-wow." He had no idea what she was talking about and found himself wondering whether it was positive verbal feedback in regards to his foreplay technique, or signs of early onset dementia. He went with positive feedback because the notion of making love to a woman who would soon be drooling into a cup was not terribly arousing. Not un-doable, but not a big turn on either. Thus resolved, he threw her to the bed, missing high and to the right. Her head careened off the night stand, somehow turning on the clock radio to an easy listening station. Tina Turner was singing "Proud Mary", but just the nice and easy part. They paused briefly to check for signs of a concussion. Not knowing what those signs might be they decided to forge ahead and make love as if they'd never made love before, as if it were the first time. And so they did. They made love in a hurry and badly. Afterwards, she wondered how she could have been foolish enough to leave a good job in the city, working for the man every night and day.

The second one was written the day after the 2006 California gubernatorial election that elected incumbent Republican Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to his first full term.

  • CHUCK LORRE PRODUCTIONS, #167 -- November 8, 2006: I'm relieved that he's reached across the aisle to fight global warming. I'm delighted that he's worked to increase the minimum wage, reduce the cost of pharmaceutical drugs, improve the infrastructure, and bring accountability to the school system. My problem, and let me state for the record that it's my problem, not his, is simply this: Whenever I hear the governor of California speak I find myself nervously looking around for a train that will take me to Poland.

Those are just two examples of Chuck Lorre's writing and you can find literally dozens more without having to freeze frame a show. While it is fun to catch each one as it airs, since they are often either timely or relate to the show that just aired, a much easier way is to go to Chuck's website where, lucky for us, he lists them all. His site is at:

When it comes to Chuck Lorre, as a writer I'm not worthy.

That’s the Stuph - the way I see it.

(Listen here for an interview I conducted with Chuck Lorre in 2008):

(For more audio interviews visit the Celebrity Interviews page on my website)

One Should Be Driving, The Other Should Not

Since the summer is clearly here and the warm weather is upon us I thought I would share with you a couple of seasonal stories. Summer brings us the end of the school year, the beginning of the holiday season, and for us here in North America the birthdays of our respective countries. Above the 49th Parallel it was Canada Day on July 1st. Below it was Independence Day on July 4th.

Sadly when it comes to these respective holidays some people have been known to drink too much and then get behind the wheel. On the air during the “Stuph File” we have often shared the stories of DUIs or DWIs which unfortunately are all too common, so it’s rare when one stands out like this one.

On July 4th in Sedalia, Colorado, 79-year-old David Curtis was driving DUI. As I said, not unusual. Curtis was also driving in the wrong direction. Okay, maybe slightly unusual, that does bring it up a notch on the rarity scale. Taking it up another notch would be driving DUI in the wrong direction on a tractor. But what makes this story classic “Stuph File” is driving DUI in the wrong direction, on a tractor, in a parade!

Curtis is accused of hitting a 6-year-old child, while driving a tractor during a Fourth of July Parade. Douglas County Sheriff's Office said according to witness accounts, a group of kids were riding bicycles in the town's Independence Day Parade, when Curtis tilled in the wrong direction, plowing through the kids.

Witnesses yelled at him to stop, to no avail. Curtis ran over the boy's leg, which is where the tractor came to rest. Witnesses were able to get the tire off the boy, but then Curtis just drove off. He stopped about a quarter mile away from the incident and was taken into custody, probably oblivious to what he had done. The 6-year-old was taken to the hospital with minor injuries. Curtis is facing child abuse and DUI charges.

Why is it always kids who get hurt in parades? Why is it never the person playing the glockenspiel? These are the mysteries of life.

Clearly that was a case of someone who shouldn't be driving, but up next is perhaps someone who should be behind the wheel. The second summer-themed story deals with boobs of another kind.

School is out in Italy. Would you like to know what the most common graduation gift for girls who pass their secondary school exams in the land of Catholicism is? Breast enlargements!

Boob jobs have knocked cars and summer holidays back into second and third places respectively. 18-year-old Angelica Pesce from Rome said she and many of her pals would be going under the knife in a few weeks having just finished school. She said: "It's a much more useful present than something like a car, which will break down after a few years, or a holiday, which is over within a week. My new breasts will last a lifetime."

Let’s pause for a moment to ponder that quote. She’s 18 and she thinks her new breast will last a lifetime. Has she talked to her mother or grandmother?

Maybe it’s because I’m a guy that I would rather take the car as a graduation gift, but let’s just look at the cold hard facts. Considering that there are car museums and collectors out there who understand the value of a little body work and proper care, a classic car can still have appeal for generations. There are Studebakers and Hudsons from the 1940s that still command attention and top dollar. Breasts from the 1940s however . . . little value.

So Angelica, keep what God gave you and get the car. A little four-on-the-floor will probably get you much further than two on the chest.

That’s the Stuph - the way I see it.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Trunk Monkey

Keeping a vehicle these days in the urban jungle can be a daunting process. We need all the help we can get. That's why it's a good idea to have a trunk monkey. This is the greatest invention since the cup holder.

There are more trunk monkey commercials, but this one is my favourite. To see others go to or roll your mouse over the stills in the commercial above after the initial one plays.

Love is Blind and Often Dumb

H.L. Mencken once said, "To be in love is merely to be in a state of perceptual anesthesia."

It’s amazing what some people will do in the name of love. People will lie for it, cheat for it, kill for it, die for it. But it’s all fun and games until someone loses and eye - twice!

A Hong Kong woman who blinded her boyfriend in one eye in a fight six years ago has been jailed for jabbing a chopstick into his other eye! Needless to say, he didn’t see that coming.

Last November, Po Shiu-fong, 58, accused long-time boyfriend Kwok Wai-ming, 49, of having an affair. During their argument Po stabbed a plastic chopstick into Kwok’s left eye, which she had already blinded six years ago when she poked it with her finger. Po became hysterical when she saw the recent wound and mopped it with a towel.

Let me take a moment here to address just the men who are reading because I want to get your thoughts on this. We’ve established that Kwok got a chopstick in the eye from his clearly irrational girlfriend - the same eye that this potential bunny boiler jabbed six years before. Having had your eye poked twice by the same person in the same decade, what would you do?

Frankly, I would be prone to at the very least, seek medical attention and while I was at the hospital see if there was a two-for-one bargain being offered where I could get my girlfriend the serious psychiatric help that she clearly needs. If that option were not available to me I would definitely remove all sharp objects from the house and perhaps duct-tape oven mitts onto my girlfriend’s hands. I certainly would not go to sleep, but that’s just me.

After the most recent eye gouging, Po and Kwok simply went to bed.

The next morning they had another argument in which she grabbed a chopstick and stabbed Kwok's right eye. Two days later - that’s right, 48 hours of probably stumbling into furniture - Kwok finally sought medical treatment and filed a police report against Po, whom he had dated since 1993. Apparently he didn't report the attack six years ago, telling the court his silence was "a love sacrifice."

Kwok lost 10-20% vision in his right eye. Po was jailed for six months. While Kwok may have lost some vision he is apparently finally seeing Po clearly. He was quoted as saying, "If I forgive her, God would not forgive me. No matter what, nothing could compensate for the loss of my eye."

Where was this rational thinking six years ago? Heck, where was it the night of the second poking when he just went to sleep?

In an attempt to be an equal opportunity blogger I think it’s only fair to bring you another story of irrational love. Women can be just as dumb in forgiving too quickly when it comes to love.

They say that true love always wins and I guess that’s correct – even if your husband held you hostage at gun point for ten hours. That was the fate of 35-year-old Christina Ribeiro whose estranged husband, Ribeiro da Silva, held her hostage at gunpoint on a bus in Rio De Janeiro along with dozens of passengers last year. But she's decided to take him back and said, "I forgave him out of love. I believe it was an irrational act and that we can resume our life in peace."

Gee, do you think she has some self esteem issues? Do you think the other passengers on the bus now want to track her down just to slap her real hard?

During the incident, he accused his wife of having cheated on him and threatened to kill her and then commit suicide. The two had been married for ten years and separated four months earlier

Well Christina may have to wait awhile for a happy reunion. Hubby could end up in jail. He was paroled from prison in late April and is awaiting trial. But I somehow get the feeling that Christina will be waiting for him. I am reminded of the eloquence of 15-year-old Little Peggy March who in 1963 said those immortal words:

I will follow him
Follow him wherever he may go,
And near him, I always will be
For nothing can keep me away,
He is my destiny.

I will follow him,
Ever since he touched my heart I knew,

There isn't an ocean too deep,
A mountain so high it can keep,
Keep me away, away from his love.

Apparently not even a bus load of panicky hostages can get in the way either.

That’s the Stuph - the way I see it.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

“Hey, That’s Not The Topping I Ordered!!”

Winnipeg, Manitoba is known in Canada for one of the coldest and windiest intersections on the planet. Portage and Main can be bitterly cold when the winter winds strike.

But the city as a whole might be heating up considerably, thanks to a new pizza restaurant. The aptly named Porno Pizza actually delivers pornography with every pie and they have once again proven the adage: sex sells.

Porno Pizza has been doing brisk business since opening last week, titillating the hungry with racy pictures at the bottom of every pizza box. Think of it as a striptease, with each slice representing an article of clothing – revealing more and more of what lies beneath. I’d be willing to bet that some people have never eaten so fast in their lives.

According to pizzeria owner Corey Wildeman the pies range from the soft porn nudity we’re mostly accustomed to as in Playboy, to raunchy, hardcore photos that would have a sailor running for cover – or perhaps penicillin.

As you can pretty well guess, not everybody in Winnipeg is thrilled with the idea of porn with their pepperoni. According to Roz Prober of the child advocacy group Beyond Borders, "We live in a society that is so steeped in porn that people have it delivered to the dinner table." One can assume that Roz doesn’t have Porno Pizza on speed dial.

But where some see a road that leads to Sodom and Gomorrah, others see a road paved with riches. Indeed, Wildeman is already in talks with potential partners to open franchises across Canada after selling hundreds of pizzas in one week. Yes, hundreds! Wildeman summed it up best by saying, "You'll never go broke appealing to the lowest common denominator,” (isn’t that similar to what politicians say around election time?)

You’re probably wondering where such an idea came from and why you didn’t think of it first. Wildeman said he came up with the idea while talking with friends about classic porn flicks in which "pizza delivery guys meet lonely ladies and deliver more than just pizza" (really, somebody ought to copyright that plotline – they’d make a mint!)

Unexpectedly, more than 75% of Wildeman’s customers turned out to be women, which leads me to believe that the most vulnerable people in Winnipeg will be those pimple-faced, vocally cracking adolescents who are actually delivering the pizzas. I wonder what they’re getting for tips?

That’s the Stuph - the way I see it.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

"Mr. DeMille, I'm Ready For My Close-up!"

Kids go off to college to get an education - to become more worldly. There is a lot to be said for "book learnin" but one must also rely on common sense. I’ve had the pleasure to work with some highly educated people who were brilliant in their field, yet dumb as a brick. These were people you could take for a ride. So when I hear of stories that deal with students who seem gullible at best, and at worst slow as the day is long, I’m not really that surprised.

For instance, hypothetically, if I was your landlord and you were a nubile young student living in my building, and I gave you advice as to where to stand in the shower and at which angle, won’t that set off alarm bells for you?

Well, get a load of this. After noticing a red flickering light in a black sphere on the ceiling of her bathroom, an unnamed 20-year-old woman student at the International Islamic University Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur pulled it off the ceiling to see what it was. Yes, it was a camera, pointed at the shower. She said the landlord would stop by for the rent every month, and each time would spend 10 to 15 minutes in each of the three bathrooms in the house.

Here’s the quote from another student that tells me just how slow these girls are: "He also gave us strange advice, like where to stand in the shower area while we are bathing and which angles to face."

The house was rented by 19 women, all students at the university. Police found cameras in the other bathrooms, too, and arrested the landlord. What was the explanation he gave to police as to why there were cameras in the show? He wanted to keep tab on water usage! Hey buddy, I believe there are meters that can do that!

By the way, the cameras had been in operation for almost two years. Isn’t this how Big Brother started on television?

And that’s the Stuph - the way I see it.

Fun In Cars

I wasn’t planning on posting so soon after my first post, but hey, we’re on a roll. Actually I have a couple of stories from the "Stuph File" that I’m putting together because they both deal with cars . . . kinda, and they both deal with sex . . . kinda.

An item out of the Rapid City Journal in Rapid City South Dakota tells of the story of a car stopped by police at about 1am on June 5th. Police found behind the wheel a female-looking driver who appeared to be intoxicated and, at 18, too young to drink (notice I did say female-looking).

The passenger of the car was local alderman Tom Johnson, who called the driver his "helper" at his middle-of-the-night task of personally putting up yard signs for his campaign for mayor.

According to the paper, Johnson continually referred to the driver as a woman, but police later learned that the driver was a man dressed as a woman, which Johnson claimed he was shocked to find out.

When asked if he had a sexual relationship with the driver, Johnson said, "It's probably out of bounds, but the answer is no. Obviously, if I had a sexual relationship with this individual, I'd know it was a man, wouldn't I? I'm not interested in men, period."

Both the driver and Johnson were given breathalyzer tests. Johnson passed and was allowed to leave in the vehicle. The driver failed and was arrested and charged.

By the way it should be noted that Johnson was unsuccessful in his bid to become the mayor. This story reminds me of the old political adage, "When running for office it’s never good to be found in bed with a dead girl or a live boy."

Our second story deals with a pair of Bonnie & Clyde wannabes who decided it would be a good idea to steal a deputy sheriff’s pickup truck.

Sheriff's deputies in Hilmar, California, arrested 30-year-old Tasha Silvain back in April and charged her with stealing the pickup. However, she wasn’t alone. Proving once again that chivalry is dead, her boyfriend and co-suspect, Marcus Schulze, fled.

According to the sheriff's office, the couple drove away, thought they were in the clear, and stopped to have sex in the truck, but left the engine idling. The truck ran out of gas before they did. When deputies finally spotted the truck, the couple had to flee on foot, and only Schulze escaped.

Now, perhaps it’s the fact that I come from the "Frozen North" of Canada, but even though this story takes place in April, we are talking central California here. If you wanted to get all hot and sticky in a vehicle, do you really need to keep the motor running in order to get your motor running? This could be the explanation as to America’s dependence of foreign oil. Rent a room kids!

And that’s the Stuph –– the way I see it.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Welcome To My Blog

Hello and welcome to the first posting in my brand new blog. I have hesitated for the longest time to add my voice to the myriad of bloggers that are out there because I have often thought that I really don't have anything to say (ironic since I host both a nightly radio show and a weekly television show).

As a matter of fact a close friend of mine and a frequent radio guest by the name of Evan Berle has often mentioned that I should have a blog of some kind. So if you enjoy what you read here in this space, you can thank Evan for nudging me into this pixel jungle. If you don't like what you see here, feel free to gather up pitchforks and torches to storm Evan's place.

What this space will be, at least in the early going, are some of my takes on the more bizarre news stories that I share nightly with our listening audience in a segment we like to call "The Stuph File."

Back in the early days of news, these used to be known as kicker stories, but with the explosion of the cable networks and the Internet, they have proliferated to the point where there are whole sites like Fark and a library full of books that are devoted to the news that used to be off the beaten path.

I don't know if it's because the serious news is just too much of a downer for people, or human nature is such that we like a taste for the absurd, but whatever the reason, you can now add me to the pile of people who seem to fulfill the prophecies of Jerry Seinfeld in that here is yet another entity that is about nothing.

What kind of stories are bizarre? Well how about this one found on the Ananova news service about the teacher who was handing out marks to write about Angelina Jolie's breasts (where were these teachers when I was in school?)

It appears that a Bulgarian professor has promised students "A" grades if they write about Angelina Jolie's boobs and buy a copy of his new book. Professor Stefan Karastoyanov, of the Geology and Geography Department of Sofia University, made the promise as a protest after he was not paid for three months because of cash problems. He said: "If they write about Angelina Jolie's boobs and buy my book they'll get an A." So far 80 of the 120 students sitting his classes have ordered his book. I'm going on the assumption that the remaining 40 students are either female or gay - not that there's anything wrong with that (okay, that's the second Seinfeld reference in this post, so I'll stop now!)

I actually checked on and found that you can purchase the book. It's called Chechenya: Political & Geographic Portrait. The cover price is actually pretty steep at $89.50 US. While I am all for helping out the educational process, I think I'll pass on this one.

So that's the kind of thing I'll be talking about here. Most of the time I'll deal with stories of the world adding a bit of humour. Now I know there are those who occasionally might be offended with some of the views or comments I will make. Even though this site will remain relatively PG with no profanity, there might be some who are touchy; the kind of people who would find something to complain about even if you were talking about dryer lint. While some comments might be risqué I hope never to cross the line, but that being said, hey it is my opinion.

But if you’re looking for an ongoing brain vomit, gnashing of teeth or a vein popping diatribe, then you’ve really come to the wrong place. That’s just not the kind of guy I am.

I hope to post here every week, perhaps even more as the life of this blog matures, learns to roll over, sit up, take its first steps and hopefully at one point run full stride without slipping on a banana peel – but we’ll see. For now I'll just take it one day at a time.

And that’s the Stuph – the way I see it.