• You may recall my revolutionary rant against sun-biased weather journalism. I’m delighted to report that some of my leading fans (two of my sisters) bought me a t-shirt of support (derived from a noble t-shirt performance artist on the IT Crowd. Resistance may not be futile, after all.

    May the clouds be with us all!

  • 20160328_131307

    Dear Man on the Skytrain with the Little Bag:

    We were on the same busy train yesterday and I feel that I wronged you. I’m sorry. I was being insensitive. The train was busy, and there wasn’t much room for you to house your little bag, and so, per the symptoms of your condition, you placed your wee friend on one of the few seats available. But I was selfish. I wanted to read my book, so I approached what I honestly thought was an unspoken-for chair so that I could indulge my pastime.

    When I arrived and spotted that the seat already had an owner, I didn’t veer away as any decent person would have done out of respect for your disorder. Instead, I asked with my annoyingly nonchalant voice, “Can I sit here?”

    You looked at me as though I’d shot your friend with bag-piercing bullets. How dare I? With the sulk of an innocent child told not to pull his sister’s hair, you rescued your pet from my invasion, and pulled him close to you. I should have known then that you were afflicted with a painful case of etiquette impairment and left you to suffer with your malady in peace. But no, with the compassion of a fruit fly, I sat myself down in your friend’s chair and read my book.

    Please forgive me. And please ask Mr. Bag for my forgiveness, too. You both deserve better.

    Sincerely,
    Guilty on Skytrain

  • When I was growing up, Halloween seemed magical. (Not just because it was a time that ghosts and witches were imagined to be real, and not just because as kids we could knock on the doors of neighbours and strangers, who subsequently gave us candy that we were allowed to eat.) Every Halloween, during our trick-or-treating years, my mother was able to conjure costumes for my siblings and me out of thin fabric.

    I remember (sometimes on Halloween itself) my mom coming home from work and asking us what we’d like to be as though anything was possible. If we couldn’t think of something, she would suggest some options from her magic workshop, and then upon our making our selections from the future, she would set about creating them. I think that may have been my favourite part: watching my mom create something out of nothing recognizable was both exciting and, in retrospect, inspiring.

    For the Halloween in which I was seven years old, the small town we were living in was feeling rather rainy. So, after work, my mom asked my dad to go to the store to buy a collection of as many coloured garbage bags as he could find, and then, as always, she turned to those of her children still of trick-or-treating age and asked what we’d like to be.

    A few hours later, we travelled into the damp night wearing costumes that were intricately-detailed as always, but also shiny in the dark, and perfectly rain proof because they were made out of plastic bags. The next day, at school, all students in the elementary school were taken in our costumes on a parade of the city. It was still raining, and so while some of my classmates moaned about moist limbs, I remember smiling around every sparkling puddle.

    Perhaps in part due to my warm mood, I won the costume contest (I think it was for the whole school, but my memory might be exaggerating for effect), and I was given a decent prize for it, too. If I may boast for a moment, I was aware that it was unjust for me to win an award for my mother’s talent, and I told her, at the time, that I thought she should get the proceeds, but she insisted that I’d earned it by wearing the costume so well. I’m glad to say that I wasn’t convinced. (In retrospect, I now like to think I learned something that day about how the world sometimes rewards the wrong people.)

    Growing up, my siblings and I knew that my mom could create anything because the evidence was always around us. Instead of buying a Barbie camper or hot wheels race track, my mom built them for us, and they were better than the ones on TV. I think as a result I see creativity not merely as one’s expression of one’s individuality, but more significantly, as a means by which to solve a problem.

    It seems to me that some want to instill creativity in youngsters by telling them they can create anything and then praising whatever they produce. Perhaps this works for some, but it certainly wouldn’t have worked on me. I have never had a natural talent for putting things together, and I was smart enough as a kid to recognize that my four talented siblings could produce results much more impressive than my own. But that doesn’t mean I’m not creative. When I see a problem now, I am able to imagine plenty of possible solutions (and then to choose from them the option that could actually fit my particular limitations).

    For instance, when I was in university, I was invited to a costume party with the theme of “white trash.” I was offended by the idea, and yet I wanted to attend the gathering, so I found a white garbage bag, and with a few incisions, turned it into a shirt. It was the least impressive costume at the event, but it may have been the most creative. I’d learned from the best.

  • Since publishing the transcript of my delightful (yet oddly, not-yet-gone-viral) rant against biased weather journalists, which was first uttered approximately a decade ago on my pre-podcasting-era “radio” show, Life and Seth (on SETH/FM), I have received a request from my former producer (also named Seth) to publish the video of that original rant here. I am happy to do so in honour of the recently retired CKNW comedic grouch, Neil Macrae, after whom ranting Seth was patterned.

    But I should warn you, before I leave you to your enjoyment and agreement, that I was “broadcasting” for radio, not television, which means that, while the rant was on videotape, my attention was focussed on my voice instead of any special eye contact with the audience. In fact, the only reason the footage is on video is because my video camera possessed the best audio recorder at SETH/FM headquarters.

    Stay cool, my friends.

  • On the radio stations I listen to (CKNW and CBC), there have been several interviews recently featuring pundits decrying the anti-social nature of my home metro city of Vancouver. Apparently, we metro Vancouverites aren’t very friendly, or at least it’s difficult to make friends here, and many people are feeling disconnected. In each such discussion, callers to the radio shows have boasted of their methods of increasing interactions with their neighbours.

    In one case, a man was so fed up with his friends’ anti-social tendencies that he was now standing up to them. “They want me to text them instead of at least talking to me on the phone,” he complained to the soothing verbal nods of the radio pundits. So he’s started a program in which he bakes cookies, and then takes himself on a mission to visit with his friends at their homes. “About 50% of them didn’t like that I’d arrived unannounced,” he said, “so no cookies for them.” From there, he explained that his goal was to give his friends a break from whatever project they were working on: who didn’t have 15 minutes to talk face to face and maybe share a cup of tea?

    This cookie ferry was lauded by the radio pundits as someone who was showing merry creativity in his efforts to truly reconnect with his world.

    On a rival radio station, meanwhile, a man called in to say that he too is an advocate of increased social interaction and so he tries to talk to people on the bus even though, he acknowledged sadly, in 9 times out of ten he is rebuffed. In this case, the radio pundits were upset that the social hero had been so mistreated by snobby bus travelers, and they hoped he would maintain his good spirits in pursuit of his good fight.

    Such negative results proved, it seemed, that Vancouver was indeed an unfriendly city where making friends is a daunting pursuit. And apparently it’s getting worse! The highest percentage of people who find friendship-making a challenge are in the young demographic of 25-34 year-olds. This was especially sad to the pundits since, after all, within such youth there should be the greatest promise and opportunity.

    But, just a for moment, might we consider the possibility that 25-34 year olds perceive difficulty in making friends because they no longer have the free-friendship-making services of school, and they haven’t yet learned how to acquire friends in other places? Or maybe this particular crop of 25-34 year-olds, compared with previous generations, has been nurtured into assuming that they deserve a lot of friends at all times.

    “And this,” one pundit remarked, “in spite of social networking.” Their implication of course being that social networking is a false form of human connection; indeed, the pundit now had proof that social networkers were ultimately dissatisfied in spite of their lofty technical connections. The pundit did not consider any other alternative such as, say, perhaps social networkers in that age group are spoiled by the ease of virtual interactions and so they mistakenly assume that it will be equally easy out in the face-to-face world, too.

    Perhaps our city would benefit from greater social engagement than we have, and maybe social networking is hindering more than it’s helping. But if we’re not willing to scientifically interpret the evidence beyond simply taking as gospel a particular group’s self-assessment that they’re lonely, then we really have no way of knowing.

    There seems to be an unassailable agreement amongst social interaction pundits that face-to-face meeting with human beings is always better than any other form of communication. Why? Have they never been to a gathering where the conversation is stilted, boring, or overpowered by a narcissist? Do they never wish they were home reading a book, or even watching TV? Moreover, some people are introverts, which I understand means that, unlike extroverts, they are not energized by socializing, so maybe they require less in-person visiting than those who love to be around people. Perhaps, for some people, social media allows them to engage while still possessing an immediate escape route.

    And what about the benefits of engagement provided by digital communication? Each of these unholy media, from phoning, to texting, to e-mail, to Tweeting, has the power to set up plans to meet more efficiently than traditional communication. Imagine how cumbersome it would be to set up a friendly flash mob without the internet.

    Ultimately, I think new forms of communication give us more choice. Maybe today, as the pundits complained, we don’t know our next-door neighbours as well as we used to, but at the same time, instead of acquiring friendships merely based on proximity, we can now interact with people with whom we have something particularly in common, even if they live on another continent. Yes, perhaps these options are too many and are costing us interactions that would be good for us. I too find it often rude and disruptive, for instance, when people are habitually on their texter while officially visiting with someone in person. And maybe some people are addicted to their iBerry to the point that they are harming themselves without being aware of it.

    But we need more evidence for the inferiority of modern communication as a whole beyond simply that it is not face to face. Not everyone wants to interact directly with other people all the time. That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re unfriendly. When I’m on the bus, I like to read or listen to my radio. I’ve met many strangers who have decided that I would be better off talking to them. And rarely in such cases have I found the conversations to be fulfilling. Perhaps that’s because I was enjoying my book or radio program, but it may also be because getting to know someone for the first time is stilted business, and so, if we’re not destined to be great friends, we’re doing the hardest part of socializing without the payoff.

    I find that people on the bus are generally pretty friendly if someone is lost or falls down. We look out for each other if there is a need, but beyond that maybe we’ve decided as a group that we’ll focus our socializing on people with whom we have a relationship, while using our solo bus trips as free time to catch up on the book we’ve been wanting to read or cell phone game we never get to play.

    The truth is it’s not hard to make friends if you’re willing to go to places where stranger-interactions are an assumed part of the activity. Sports, clubs, conferences, volunteer endeavours, and weddings are all fertile contexts for friendship-making. So, instead of imposing oneself on the nearest stranger who already had plans for their transit time, why not go to places where people have chosen to engage with new people?

    And, once people are friends, I applaud those who make the effort to create opportunities to interact, but the the idea that one’s friends should always be ready for a fifteen-minute cup of tea is the most fascist notion in the history of friendship. Dearest cookie-socializer, are there no times when you don’t want to socialize? Maybe you were just getting ready to take a shower after a long bike ride, or were planning to watch a movie with your spouse after a hard day at work; how would you like it if your friends arrived on your door step just then, informing you that it was time to socialize? And let’s be honest: it’s not going to be a “fifteen minute” morsel of time: it’ll be at least an hour before you’ll be allowed to get back to what you had planned for yourself. Perhaps YOU, cookie man, would love such an imposition of impromptu interaction, but can you comprehend the possibility that some people may have chosen their own solitude or company just then? What gives you the right to overrule your friends’ plans with your personal preference to be in their presence at that moment? Next time, just phone (or Tweet) ahead to see if they’re up for a visit, and nobody has to get hurt.

    Perhaps, as the pundits argue, the world would be a better place if we were to visit with each other more often, but those who hold that position would, I submit, have more success in achieving this goal if they were to persuade those of us less inclined by making the socializing inviting instead of obligatory. If we choose it, we will stay.

    P.S. Since typing the above, I forwarded it to the Simi Sara Show on CKNW (whereon some of the SethBlog villains of this piece were originally given their day on radio). As a result, to my delight and nervousness, I was invited onto the Simi Sara show to defend my “anti-social position” (see the below video, “The Simi Sara Show Part 1”). And below that (“The Simi Sara Show Part 2”) is the audience’s reaction to my radical views. Apparently, according to the popular consensus, there is no middle ground between always being social, and being an unfriendly jerk.

  • As summer ominously approaches for another year and I listen as always to weather reporters proclaim its glory, I am reminded of a rant provided by myself during my radio days at SETH/FM. I have just taken an ear peak at it, and I can confirm that my words then are as true now (if not truer, considering global warming) as the day they were born.

    Since first publishing that rant, I have received many threats (from the sun), and I have feared for my skin’s life. And so I have long resisted re-releasing my resistance material on the internet. However, I recently heard a caller into The Bill Good Show (CKNW) who brilliantly and entertainingly made her own complaints about weather reporters who insist upon decrying rain as though it is a catastrophe. In this age of natural disasters, she asked, “Does it have to be scorching hot for people to be satisfied?” I was delighted by this rare expression of sun resistance in our sun-obsessed culture. Bill, however – who is ordinarily a reasonable man – merely chuckled and called her “grumpy”. Really, would you refer to Martin Luther King, Gandhi, and other oppression opposers as simply being in a bad mood? 😉

    Thus, in defense of my sun-resister-sister, for the first time on the internet, I offer you now the transcript of Seth’s Editorial Rant, “The Sun Burns”:

    I’ve been doing a little bit of research on journalism and what I’ve learned is that journalists are expected, nay, obligated to be impartial in their journaling.  You’ll notice, for instance, when Bob Newsanchor reads the news, he says, “Today Jean Chrétien was named Prime Minister of Canada.  He does not, however, say, “Yippee, I’m glad to see that my favourite guy, J.C., got the job!”

    It is, therefore, with great confusion that I notice that one species of journalist – the weather journalist – seems to believe that they are immune to the rules of journalism; you will notice, that is, that the weather journalist believes he or she has the right to tell us whether the weather news is good or bad.  When the day is to be rain-shining, we are told that it is to be “a miserable day,” while when the day is to be sun-pouring, “it will be beautiful.”  Now I for one hate the sun, always have, and so when I hear that the weather is to be, quote, “nice,” I immediately get both my rain jacket and my singing voice on so that I can get out and do some singing in the rain.*  For 24 years, that has been my habit, and for 24 years I have been disappointed as I discover that, instead of some lovely rain, that ugly yellow disc, that I like to call the burning ball of fire, is out to play.

    *Now, of course, I am being facetious: I know that all weather people revere the sun like we can’t live without it, but I wonder what gives the weather people the right to expect me to worship that same weather that they do?

    As someone who likes overcast best, I feel persecuted for my beliefs.  Sometimes a passing stranger will comment to me, “What nice weather we’re having.” To which I sometimes reply, “What nice weather?! All I can see is a burning ball of fire which is giving me cancer, is causing me to squint, and is making you, kind stranger, sweat like an ice cube in an oven convention!”  To which the stranger will reply, “Oh, come now, we can’t complain about the heat; after all, when it was raining, we all wished for the sun to come out.”  To which I reply, “But I didn’t complain about the rain; in fact I was out there singing in it.”  To which the stranger will reply, “How dare you prefer the rain to the sun! You have no right to live!”

    Needless to say, being a rain fan is not an easy life to live in this country of sun-o-centrics.  Indeed, I often find myself hiding my rain preferences just to protect myself from an anti-rain lecture.  But, on the rainy side, or as the sun-o-files would say, on “the bright side,” by pretending to be a sun-o-file to avoid being discriminated against, I have been able to infiltrate some conversations of sunners, and what I’ve discovered is that many sunners have latent feelings of sun hating.  “What a beautiful day,” they’ll say out loud for the sun to hear, but then they’ll mutter under their breath, “Gosh it sure is hot,” “I’m exhausted,” “I need some water,” and so on.

    Such words are calls for help.  The fact is, most people are terrified to come out of the rain closet.  You see, when it comes to weather, Canada is much more a cult than a country.  We have, that is, been brainwashed to believe that we must love and adore the sun.  Who is to blame for the brainwashing?  Why, the aforementioned weather reporters, of course.  Those quirky folks with wacky ties who stand in front of weather maps pretending to know how to interpret the weather.  Yes, it is they who tell us that sun is good, rain is bad.  It is they who have forced upon our society this one-dimensional image of weather beauty.  And it is they who must be stopped.

    We must stand up and tell the weather reporters that we will no longer allow them to tell us what weather we should like and what weather we should dislike.  I’m not asking the weathermen and women to enjoy a good overcast day, I’m just asking they that don’t infringe upon my right to enjoy it.  I’m just asking that, like all other journalists, they report what they see, not what they think.

    Well put, previous Seth! Well put, indeed.

    Portal to my update on this rant.

  • As we reach the eve of Christmas this year
    I ask you to lay down your holiday sneer

    I realize that some environmentalists may have a legitimate beef with our annual holiday upgrade in consuming products, but, aside from that inconvenient gaggle of apocolapse-alerters, I’m not sure why so many seem to talk of resenting the commercial aspect of Christmas.

    We live in a world where things come in handy, but at Christmas participants don’t look for these items for ourselves (well, we don’t set out to anyway), but instead we spend time thinking about our favourite people and then trying to find a thing or two that that may not normally buy for themselves, but which they may nevertheless enjoy. And so, various entrepreneurs, big and small, lineup to provide locations for us to set our annual scavenger hunt. I have no quibble with such service with a profit.

    I’m told that the results are rather healthy for the economy, too, as retailers apparently can acquire up to 40% of their yearly profit from the pleasin’ season. Given the world’s current financial troubles, maybe that’s a good thing? (Although, once again, if David Suzuki or Peter Singer want to blog me down that I’m missing the greater ethical point, I will bow to their greater brains.)

    Meanwhile, on a social level, where I think the collective Bah-hum-bug crowd is really directing most of their disapproval, I will admit that I find Christmas shopping in the malls to be fun. And I’m someone who hates shopping like a slow-walker in my way! As I walked through congested nostrils of the Megatron Mall today, I felt a sense of cultural community: we were all in it together. And, in a town where we normally don’t like to look each other in the eye too often, we strangers smiled at each other like we were old friends. In fact, I was even patient with the slow-walkers – apparently late-minute gift-collecting is one habitat in which all speed of walkers can co-exist peacefully. If there was stress in the air, I didn’t smell it; and if my random acts of smiling were annoying anyone, they didn’t frown so.

    So Merry Christmas (Eve) shopping, everyone, and a happy new sneer!

  • You may remember from my chippy post, “THE CHIPS WILL BE DOWN“, that I along, with my like-initialed sister, entered a commercial writing contest to complete the script for a Doritos’ advertisement.

    Strangely, none of S.McDonough’s entries made it to the final 14, so the above link no longer offers access to our profound entires and instead will take you only to those who must have used flavour-based hypnosis to get to the commercial-writing championship.

    For posterity, then, I offer you my failed attempts (you’ll have to plead with my sister to acquire hers)…

    THE BACK STORY:

    So, you may recall (or simply visit the above link to learn) that the completed portion of the commercial takes us to “Doritos’ Research Facility” where the two chip makers (Onion Rings N’ Ketchup vs Buffalo Wings N’ Ranch) are called to the dark and elegant, witch-looking Flavour Master so that she can inspect their chip creations, which are held in dark vs light mechanical containers. The Flavour Master receives, from a robotic arm, a sample of each brand. She likes them both, but notes there can only be one selection. A scary wind swirls in the room, and the commercial goes dark awaiting its conclusion. The contest makers then tell us that one of the two chip flavours must be destroyed (taken off the shelves forever), while the victorious brand will make a go at chip fame and fortune.

    Thus, hopeful writers such as myself were offered to write up to two conclusions for the advert – one with each of the chip-makers prevailing. So, with epic stories as my muse, I decided to continue the commercial’s theme of light vs dark, utilizing its standard metaphorical translation (good vs bad) to create the following two masterpieces (limited by the contest’s oppressive 400 character limit)…

    THE DARK VICTORY

    Flavour Master summons a robotic vacuum tube from above.

    “Wait!” Onion Man yells. “Can’t we have both?”

    Everyone smirks.

    FM glares: “You question my taste?” She directs the vacuum over his head; he drops his chips in fear.

    “Wait!” Wing Man yells. He hands Onion Man the chips: “Now he’s ready.”

    FM smiles. The vacuum swallows Onion Man & chips. FM beckons Wing Man & chips with a curl of her finger.

    THE LIGHT TOUCH

    Flavour Master summons a robotic chair. “Sit!” she commands.

    Wing Man pops his chip bag in Onion Man’s eyes and then dives for the seat.

    FM glares at Wing Man: “You sacrifice your creation for your life?”

    Wing Man is terrified: “So that I can make more!”

    FM shakes her head: “No you won’t.” The chair closes on him like a venus flytrap. A new back grows from the seat.

    “Sit,” FM smiles at Onion Man.

    THE ENDS

  • Many years ago, I decided to try online dating. I assumed that it would be a place that one could get to know another person through electronic conversation better than they could in, say, a bar or a club where music tends to overpower the human voice.

    As it turned out, I was quite right that one could communicate with words instead of gestures online, but I was startled to discover that many women were shy about saying anything unique about themselves, and instead would simply state that they “loved to laugh” or “live life to the fullest”. In spite of the popularity of these claims, I found them to be surprisingly empty. How many people, after all, don’t enjoy a good laugh now and then, and who among us isn’t hoping for a life that’s full to the brim with fun stuff? Thus, rather nobly, I decided to sacrifice my own profile by turning it into a profile-makeover column wherein I ever-so-helpfully offered suggestions to people for how they might describe themselves beyond cliches so that prospective suitors could get a distinguishing sense of them.

    Predictably, few people responded to my efforts, but I nevertheless felt that I was doing my part for the greater good of the online dating community.

    Finally, one day, I received a reply from a woman who said she liked my profile a lot. After brief e-mail correspondence, she asked me to call her. I did so and soon after found myself on a date, which was so unusual in its results that it provoked the cultivation of my dating motto: “Don’t worry too much about a date in advance – it’ll either be a good date or a good story”.

    I don’t want to give away which of those two categories this particular date fell into, but I will say that, nearly a decade later, I’ve entered it into CBC’s Bad Date Story Contest.

    If you’re interested to learn the details, my story, which begins from the above-mentioned phone call, can be found here.

    Note: given the CBC contest is now closed, you are invited to share, via comments here, any bad date tales that you think could have topped mine on the CBC charts.

  • Dear, SethBlogs (and Sister Site) Fans:

    You knew all this free blog reading was too good to be true! I now have something to ask of you:

    My sister Sorrel (of JamColouredGlasses rival blog fame) and I have both entered the Doritos’ “Write the End” Contest, wherein they would like their customers to supply endings to a commercial already in progress.

    The candidates will be voted until they have 14 finalists. From these, their professional commercial makers will select a winning commercial ending. They will then make that commercial conclusion, paying off the writer with $25,000.

    I intend S.McDonough to be the winner, but unfortunately, we’re not the only contestants, so we need your votes!

    Check out (and vote for?) our entries below: you can vote for as many entries as you like once per day.

    Seth’s Entry A

    Seth’s Entry B

    Sorrel’s Entry

    Thanks for your immediate voting on this matter!
    SethBlogs

    UPDATE!
    These links now take you to the finalists… see “THE CHIPS WILL BE DOWN: A SETHBLOGS UPDATE” for a discussion of whether the S.McDonough entries made it there.

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