Thursday, 23 June 2011

Too Close a Shave...

Hello Friends.

Two entries in two days, what? I assure you this will never happen again, but I saw this commercial for the 4000th time today and I noticed that, even after 4000 times, something still hits my ear wrong, makes me uncomfortable, and keeps me from shaving. I'm writing this entry not to be funny, clever, or preachy, but to genuinely ask, is this commercial racist? You've probably all seen it, here it is:

Dream: To determine whether or not this commercial is actually racist, if I'm just oversensitive, or, worst of all, if I myself am racist.

Goal: Achievable, with your help. I know I am a shameless self-promoter of this blog, what with the Facebook mention and now the Twittery-tweets, but this time I really, really want people to read this and respond to it. Agree with me? Great. Disagree? GREAT! The best case scenario would be that I'm reading far too much into this stupid ad and that you all could set me straight... but what if I'm not?

Plan: Really break down this 30 second spot to determine what bothers me, and why.

Watch it again, won't you? First, our host picks our African American test subject by calling, “Yo!” outside of what I assume are corporate offices. The subject turns around as all the surrounding white people look at him like, “Did you hear that 'yo'? He must be talking to you!”

Why pick this guy? From what I've seen of the other “ProGlide Challenge” commercials, the other test subjects have been young, fit white guys (nowhere in these or any other shaving commercials have I seen an Asian person, by the way—do they not shave?), so perhaps someone in Marketing said, “We need a black man for the next spot, but find one who's a businessman or something, nothing scary!” Of course I'm joking here, but while the ProGlide people have busted into locker rooms and tennis games in other ads I've seen, they haven't driven up to a pick-up basketball game, for instance, where the subject and spectators have been African American.

Also, this commercial is purportedly to test the effectiveness of a razor, so why pick a guy who's totally clean-shaven? You don't see much of his face before it's covered in shaving cream, but you can see from his reaction to the “Yo!” that he's not bearded or even stubbly, is bald-ass bald, and barely has any eyebrows!

I also notice that our host is particularly energized here. His loud bravado is annoying, but expected in these “step right up!” kind of commercials. But he's not this aggressive with the subject here, for example ( so the loud interchange between him and the African American test subject is weird. “We have a FACE OFF between Disposable and ProGlide.” “Uh-oh!” “UH-HUH!” What's that about? And I couldn't help but notice in viewing 3057 that this exchange is not a two-shot, but includes the African American boom mic operator in the background, smiling like, “It's all good!' during the “Uh-oh!” “UH-HUH!” exchange. I mentioned this to Jon and he said, “Now you're officially making too much of this!” And okay, yes, the boom mic guy in the two-shot is probably a coincidence, but he's effectively obscured in the other ads I watched, so what if it's not?

Lastly, my hackles rose really high at the “He is a BELIEVER!” of the host. Does that not invoke almost instantly the image of the Southern preacher? The boisterous, sweaty, “TESTIFY TO YOUR SI-INS”! Baptist minister? And don't we usually associate that stereotype to black people? “He is a BELIEVER!”, if nothing else, made me question this ad from the first.

So... what? If this commercial is racist, surely it's a drop in the bucket of racial problems in our western society. There are probably thousands of more overt examples out there in tv, movies, and music of not just subtle but blatant racial stereotyping. For instance, when's the last time you saw an interracial relationship depicted anywhere but real life? Honestly, think about that. For that matter, when's the last time you saw an Asian person in a commercial for a product or service that was not, in some way, distinctly Asian? When's the last time you saw a First Nations or Native American person in ANY media anywhere? Ask yourself.

The part that makes me the most uncomfortable, naturally, is examining my own racism. How hypocritical is it, for instance, that yesterday, less than 24 hours ago, I blogged about how Chinese people all aged to look like sun-baked turtles? What the fuck is that if not blatant racial stereotyping? I have removed the section since, aware of my own hypocrisy, but here is the offending passage, in full:

“I work close to Chinatown, and I have to say, the Chinese own oldness. For years, they doggedly pursue youth. I know I'm stereotyping here, but a young Chinese woman is so petite, stylish, and young-looking for so long, that their transformation to old person is shocking and wonderful. There's no mistaking these sun-baked slow-walkers who look like turtles; when you're old in China, you're old!”

So how can I be a soapbox-loving racism watchdog when I can't even consider my own prejudices? Perhaps because it's easier to blow the whistle on an innocuous commercial than it is to look inside oneself. But big change can come from small victories, so if I'm right here, let's flood the inboxes of the Gillette people. If I'm right, let's think more critically and object more vocally. Let's cut as close as we can to issues of skin colour, with more precision than ever before.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Remebrances of Things Past...

Hello Friends.

I tell you the one thing I like about those hipsters is their propensity to recycle. If not for them, we wouldn't have Polaroid cameras, giant eyeglass frames, or young bearded men to enjoy anymore. While I don't ascribe to the hipster lifestyle (I love a loose-fitting pant and the occasional shower), I do identify with their love of nostalgia. This is not to say that I long for yesterday (the notion of the “good old days” seems like short-sighted mythology from Conservatives), but there are things I wish were still around.

Dream: Bring back a few of the ideas and concepts of yesteryear.

Goal: Achievable. Remember when Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul were judges on a show and people were like “YAAAY!” and then Paula left and was replaced by Ellen and people were like, “WHAAAT?” And then Simon started a new show where he and Paula were judges and people were like “YAAAY!” again? Like that.

Plan: Use that same principle to bring back things I care about. I don't care for Simon or Paula, but I was pleased when strong viewer support brought back Family Guy, got Tina Fey to play Sarah Palin, and stopped Pepsi from making those horrible coffee flavoured energy drinks. So maybe you'll sign a petition, hold a protest, and start movement to bring back things like:

  • Ugly musicians. Have you ever seen a Genesis or Kim Mitchell video? Those dudes looked gross! But how do you not groove on Invisible Touch or Might As Well Go For a Soda? If we judged these boys by the criteria we place on rock stars today, we might never have had a top ten hit utilizing the phrase “Might as well”!
  • The Ab-Tronic. PLEASE, can we keep working on that? To refresh your memory, the Ab-Tronic was the device you strapped over your stomach which supposedly contracted your abdominal muscles and gave you a six pack while you were at the office, watching the game, or just hanging out at home! It was proven to be an ineffective piece of shit (like its users!) but can't we shoot for an Ab-Tronic 2.0? I really, really want a rock hard flat stomach without getting off my fat ass.
  • “No Fear” shirts. That was the closest to a uniform I remember in seventh grade. Finally, all my fashion decisions were made because every kid had one of those shirts that had some falsely inspirational extreme sports reference and then “No Fear” written on it. As I recall, I didn't have a “No Fear” shirt but a knock-off with something like “Lack of Trepidation” written on it. But I'd spend the money this time around for the genuine article.
  • Sitcom studio audiences. I know we've graduated to sophisticated single-camera television comedies like 30 Rock and Hoarders but dammit, I miss being told when to laugh! And I feel like an idiot sitting at home by myself going “WHOOOO!” when people kiss or “UGHHH!” when something bad happens or “AWWW!” when a kid or dog plays with the dog or kid. I even miss the “WhoooOOOOOO-Ugggh!” combo that Saved By the Bell used all the time when somebody kissed, like the canned laughter operator was simultaneously titillated and grossed-out when Slater would mack up on Showgirls.
  • Silvertops and cottonheads. Used to be our old people looked damn-ass old. All elderly men used to agree to slick what was left of their silver hair across their cranium and wear their pants up to their ribs, and ladies got the universally adored thinning white perm and covered it in that old-lady head scarf that, I swear, must have been a government regulation because they all had it. Now, with hair dye, botox, facelifts, walk-in baths, and Viagra, I can't tell a senior from an ugly adult! I don't begrudge people for trying to look younger, god knows I've worn a couple jean jackets and gotten a few pube hi-lites over the years, but after seventy-five, let's say, at least start walking more slowly and applying rouge more liberally. Instead of hiding that inevitability, let's start embracing that shit.
  • Seems to me, people are becoming a little too narcissistic thanks to Facebook these days. I picked five Facebook friends at random, and they each had over 200 photos of themselves. Of themselves! I, too, have over 100 photos of myself on my profile, and those hundred are only the ones I permitted to be tagged in, meaning each one involved me going, “Yeah, that's definitely worthy of posting for the whole world to see. Yeah, look at the way I'm half smiling there, eat it up, ladies!” Ugh. But a few years ago, you got one shot to submit one photo to horornot, and people would judge, on a scale of 1 to 10, whether you were hot or not. I can't remember my exact score, but I was safely in the “not” category. I'm not saying we should all put ourselves in a position to be harshly judged based on a picture of ourselves on the internet, but isn't that what we all do on Facebook anyway?

When it comes down to it, there's more I don't miss about years gone by than stuff I do miss. I don't miss rewinding VHS tapes, Snackwells, or living at my parents' house. But I do miss weekly trips to the video store, low fat food we thought was actually good for us, and my parents.

On Sunday, Jon and I were driving back from visiting friends in Carleton Place, a small town outside of Ottawa. We were listening to some 80's flashback hour on the radio, baking in a hot car, stuck in traffic on the 401. I had a flash of recognition as we passed a familiar turn off. I remembered this exit as being one we took off the 401 when I was a kid, after visiting my grandmother's house, which we did nearly every Sunday. It registered suddenly, with Huey Lewis and the News playing in the background, that this very scenario could have taken place twenty years ago. How many times was our family car stuck on the 401 with 80s soft rock in the background, and what did it mean that this same situation was reoccurring now? Maybe something, probably nothing, but it made me both miss the good old days and look forward to the days ahead. AWWW!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

What's On Your Mind, Son?

Hello Friends.

Quite a shake-up at the ranch lo these past few weeks. A month or so ago, Jon applied for a truly Cadillac job in Edmonton. As an associate professor on the tenure track, Jon would really have climbed to the top of the heap with a job like this one. The direction of this department and the scope of their research is right in Jon's wheelhouse. We were thrilled when Jon was shortlisted, then interviewed for the position, but became less thrilled when the “you'll know by this day” day came and went. As weeks of no response passed, Jon began looking at lesser jobs closer to home, and we re-signed the lease on our apartment, thereby freezing the rent for another year. Then, last week, the call came, and Jon got the job!

When I related this to a friend, he said, “So you signed a lease and then he got the job? Isn't that always the way?” It is, Mark, it is always the way. But... it kinda works out. When this job was on the horizon, as happy as I was for Jonny, I wasn't and amn't ready to leave the Big City yet. Call it foolish optimism or Swiss Chalet-addiction, but I really think there's still something for me here. That while new opportunities aren't exactly knocking down my door here, there's been enough cracks in the window lately to suggest that I might really have a shot at something, professionally-speaking. The thought of taking a year to just go balls-out for my Dreams is an exciting one (full disclosure: up until now, I've pursued my Dreams with only one ball out, the other tucked behind my thighs).

The other, sadder, softer side of Sears, is the prospect of a year apart for me and the Doctor. He will start his new job in August, and I will stay here until our lease expires next August. Mathematically, that's pretty close to year, I think (I don't have a calender in front of me). He will come back here a lot, though, as university holidays are pretty sweet and with his new salary, he will definitely have the means to do so. And it has often been the case in our relationship that we spend more time apart then together. Even these past two years he rented a room in the small town where he taught five days a week. Before that, he lived with his younger brother and I had my own place and we saw each other on weekends or for the occasional Twonie Tuesday at Taco Time. So, while being apart is not ideal for us, we know it's doable. And we're lucky these kinds of situations befall us now, before the arrival of Someday Kid.

Someday Kid is that kid we might have someday. We both find ourselves cooing at the same babies and sighing when we pass the daycare centre and lactating onto the sheets at night. But we speak of children in very vague, general terms, as if getting too specific might cause us to wake up pregnant the next day, or conversely, damn us to a life of denied adoption applications. Unlike our straight counterparts, nobody ever harasses Jon and me about when a baby is coming, or even if one is coming. We have the luxury of making the Someday Kid decision when we feel it; when both our lines of work are steadier, we're settled wherever we end up, and we stop doing lines of coke off the blade of my pocketknife (just jokes, I don't have a pocketknife). In the meantime, though, I feel like there are things I could be doing to ensure that I'd be a good Dad to Someday Kid if there's a kid in my life someday.

Dream: Become a mentor.

Goal: Achievable. I don't have a great deal of exposure to children these days, except for my cousins super cute kids and this adorable tow-headed three year old who comes into my store all the time and grins at me. I call him “Smiley Guy” and he calls me “Yofren” because whenever we see eachother at the store, his Filipino nanny says, “Look, iss yo' fren!” (Look, it's your friend) to him. So I say “Hi Smiley Guy” and he says, “Hi Yofren!” But anyway, there are plenty of organizations (Big Brothers... that's all I can think of) that could pair me with a troubled teen to mentor. That's another point; as a twenty-eight year old who leaves the coffee maker on by accident and can't walk in flip-flops, I probably shouldn't set my sights on an infant. I need to find a teen to mentor the shit out of.

Plan(s): Several.

First, teens must be able to relate to me. I've been really devouring the work of Rosalind Wiseman lately. Wiseman works with teens and their parents on issues like bullying, aggression, and self-esteem. She is credited, at least in part, with bringing the issue of secret aggression in girls to the forefront. Her book Queen Bees and Wannabes was the non-fiction inspiration for the fictional film Mean Girls. On her YouTube channel ( she takes questions from teenagers and answers them with such wisdom, honesty, and above all, relatability. I became quickly entrenched in her channel not because I am a troubled teen myself, but I was fascinated by the way both her content and her even her vernacular changed when she answered a question from a 17 year old, then a 13 year old, then a mom, then an 11 year old. And I don't think it's an act, either! I would venture to guess from her work in schools that she becomes so enmeshed in teen culture that the slang and attitude just come flying out of her. I need to be like that. I've downloaded a recent Charlie Rose where he talks to a rapping artist, so I'm hoping to pick up some “urban slang” from that.

I should become involved in a sport, but only insofar as it allows me to wear a jeanjacket, and maybe a cap. Like, I could take the teen fishing, or drive him to a hockey match. The cool Dads in Tim Horton's or Canadian Tire commercials are always jeanjacketing off somewhere with a kid on a cold morning. I could do that, if the kid doesn't mind an early game of street hockey at four in the afternoon (mentors need their sleep).

I need to assure this teen that he or she is supported in their lives. As often as I see my beloved Smiley Guy, I see a group of teenage girls come in on lunch and after school, and they pick on one poor girl relentlessly. “Hurry UP, Sarah!” they complain, or “You're buying that? That's retarded!” Or, “We've two bucks short, give us some money!” (And she does give them money, poor thing). I don't know if or how to intervene, here. I don't know these girls, and they certainly don't want to hear anything from me (I even wrote Rosalind about this who has, perhaps wisely, failed to respond). But my heart breaks for poor Sarah, who just wants to be liked. If I were her mentor, I'd tell her it doesn't matter what these girls think, that she is special and worthy and her candy choices are excellent.

Anyway, I'm all over the map today, I'm afraid. What started as information about Jon's new job and our living arrangements for the next year turned into a meditation on whether or not I'll ever have the Someday Kid, which became a paltry exploration of mentoring. Not my best work. It's times like these, though, when I will grasp at anything for some sense of continuity. Jon is leaving in six weeks for a whole year, I'm searching desperately for some kind of job, situation, opportunity to justify staying here alone. It should go without saying, here, that I know lucky we are to have such “problems.” Jon has the job of his dreams right now, and I get another year in my favourite place to do what I want, but it's just... wait, what was I complaining about? I think if I had a mentor with me right now I'd ask them when my head will clear a bit. When I will make sense of all these crazy changes on the horizon? When will I know what's going to happen? When will I figure out what all of this means? He or she would probably put on a jeanjacket, clap me on the shoulder and sigh, “Someday, kid.”

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Cell Phoning It In...

Hello Friends.

Do you have two quarters? You do? Then you can make phone call on a payphone. Did you know the rate was fifty cents now? Who approved this one hundred percent rate hike and why weren't we sufficiently informed?

The other day, I passed Korean grocery store who was selling Doritos for a dollar a bag! There are several Korean and Chinese grocers in my area, and they're all like bad members of Contestant's Row on The Price is Right. They all have very similar prices for obscure items like eggplant and mango, but throw in some other items and they just guess blindly. “Paper Towels? Uh...nine-fifty.” “I say four-fifty!” “One dollar, Bob!” Their lack of common sense means I keep my good eye on their junk food prices and one dollar Doritos is like winning the lottery during a vacation while having an orgasm. I stocked up well for myself, but suddenly thought to call Jon because I couldn't remember his specific Dorito preference (fun fact: MS Office recognizes “Doritos” but gives you the squiggly red spelling error line under “Dorito”). So I found a disgusting payphone, dug out fifty cents and called home (where he wasn't), and then his cell (where he was). Jon failed to understand the significance of the dollar Dorito (he's got the bargain instincts of a Korean) but pointed out, after giving his flavour preference, that I had spent just as much money calling him as I would then spend on his snackfood. “Bugger!” I thought. “You are right, but I can't admit it.” Conceding his point would reopen a discussion we've had many times, and will occasionally just trot out when there's nothing on TV: James needs a cell phone.

Dream: Successfully avoid getting a cell phone.

Goal: Achievable, maybe? When I moved to this Big City, it was with the understanding that I would be able to transfer my cell phone contract from one provider to the other. Apparently, this was possible when I initially signed the contract in the prairies, but a dissolved partnership between two companies meant that this transfer was no longer an option. I was told by the snarky, disinterested Bell employee who had weirdly long fingernails and the name Jerzy that I would have to buy out my old contract (a few hundys) and start a new one (more hundys!). Too many hundys would have to be spent for this, so I begrudgingly bought out the old contract and stuck with my landline. By the way, Jerzy is no pseudonym, because what are the chances he ever reads this, but if he ever does: Dude, cut your fingernails!

Plan: Proponents of the cell will often point to situations like the Doritos bargains or the time I got on the wrong streetcar and missed a movie date with a friend as evidence that I should just bite the bullet and get one, but I plan to stand firm and silence these pro-cell persons by arguing the following points:

Texting will ruin us. Though the run-on sentences throughout this blog indicate otherwise, I really am a stickler for spelling and grammar, both of which are effectively obliterated by text messages. And they certainly aren't cost-effective either! Unless you're on some kind of plan, isn't it ten cents to send a text? A girl I work with left her text correspondence (I think that's what you call it) on the screen of her phone, which she left behind in the break room. The back and forth was something like.
“Sum1 tell lance to stfu!”
“omg i no!”
There's fifty cents right there, girls! Not to mention that one of you could simply call Lance and instruct him to shut the fuck up. But there's another point: the prevalence of text messaging has saved us from ever having to talk to each other. Talking on the phone is now the exception, it seems, not the rule. Whenever I call a friend's phone, they answer tentatively, like it must be an emergency of some kind: “Hello??? Are you okay, where are you? Do you need me to pick you up?!” This same girl at work (quite a bit younger than me, it is worth pointing out) will receive text messages all night but is sufficiently shocked when her phone actually rings. “Who the hell would be calling me?” she wonders aloud, before going back to her barrage of text messages. But I worry that texting is the wave of the future that I'm just stubbornly ignoring at my peril. For instance, in a play that I wrote recently for high-school kids, a major plot point hinges on the fact that a boy gets text messages and his ex-girlfriend wants to figure out who they're from. Seeing the play onstage a few months ago, I inwardly cringed when I heard lines like, “So who sent you the text messages?” Or, “Are you saying you didn't text message him?” Those poor teens, reading my stunted dialogue. Texting has become a verb, and the lines should read “Who texted you?” or “Are you saying you didn't text him?” Goodness knows what else I'm missing out on by hitching my buggy to an old horse while everyone else speeds by on motorcoaches.

Though I'm glad to be missing out on sexting. (My adults only version of that teen play has lines like, “Who sent you the sext-message?”) This aptly-named Congressman Weiner who sent ladies pictures of his erect congressman is just the latest in a barrage of people photographing their nakedness and getting into trouble. Like this Blake Lively girl! I've never seen Gossip Girl but I've always kinda liked her. For a blonde starlet, she seems more often to be relaxed and smiling with her tousled hair and California cool demeanour rather than the forced, contrived pouty faux-sexiness of her contemporaries. Plus, she's something of a fashionista; it's no small feat for a twenty-three year old non-model to land two covers of Vogue in one year. So why does she have to taint this goodwill with grainy self-portraits of her boobs and bum? With no stylist, photoshop and (especially) clothes, she looks... sort of trashy. I understand the publication of these was probably unintentional, but if you're that freakin' famous, why risk it? This is to say nothing of the sixteen year-olds taking pictures of their goods to send to their high-school sweethearts only to have the sweethearts face charges of child pornography (an extremely overblown reaction, in my opinion. Treating horny teenagers like sex offenders serves to ruin more lives than sex offender registries were originally put in place to protect). And not to be holier-than-thou about it (I've definitely perused that Guys with iPhones site as much as the next gay), but what's so titillating about close-up junk? If I opened my phone one day to find a fullscreen wiener pic, I think my first thought would be that a penis was somehow trying to contact me; that balls had evolved to figure out dialing on those little keypads and had an urgent message.

Lastly, to always have a phone at your side is to be literally constantly on-call. Except in rare occasions, if I'm out of the house, it's because I'm doing something necessary (like running errands or working) or I'm paying a social call. Neither of things need interruption. And, as I've whined about before, nothing honks me off more than someone on the phone while I'm interacting with them. Those people that unload their sundries at my till and whip out their debit card without even acknowledging me really bug me. “I'm a person!” I want to yell, “Whoever you're talking to can wait five minutes while I bag your tampons!” Plus, it's been proven that hearing a one-sided phone conversation actually stimulates and frustrates part of our brain. The same impulse we have to finish a Law & Order we start when nothing else is on controls our need to figure out what's going on with the stranger on the cell. When given some of the information and withheld the rest, our brains work to understand the circumstances, even if the circumstances aren't important to us. Jon has a brand new cell with all the bells and whistles, and it is apparently prone to pocket-dialing. That's when, though your phone is safely in your pocket or even your manpurse, something is triggered and it dials your contacts who pick up their phone and can only hear whatever is going on in the background. The first time it happened, Jon's dad called our house phone, worried that Jon was in some kind of trouble. I laughed and explained that Jon had just come home from a trip and he had his phone in his bag. He laughed too and said, “I figured it was something like that. I heard what sounded like a door opening and him saying, 'Hello, love!' That must have been him coming home to you!” That's what it was, I thought, smiling, and wondered if cell phones had a worse reputation than they deserved.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Willing to work for it...

Hello Friends.

Did you ever see that show, Inside the Actor's Studio? They used to parody it on Saturday Night Live. The crux of the show (and parody) is that James Lipton interviews an actor for an hour and fawns over them relentlessly. Depending on the guest, it can be a really interesting show. The fawning gets a little much, though, especially when the actors just sit there and take it, as if Matthew Modine really is the second coming of Brando, or Rosie O'Donnell was actually transcendent in A League of Their Own. The program always concludes with the questionnaire that Lipton Frenchily says was made famous by “Francois Jambon in his program Pamplemousse. It's a series of faux-deep questions, sort of a lightning round of pretension, and it always includes the puzzler, “What profession, other than your own, would you like to attempt?” The rich and famous guests always say something noble like AIDS-curer or Peacekeeper, with such conviction and phoney grace that one suspects they actually believe they are capable of this. Then there are the cutesy answers. Sarah Jessica Parker said she would just love to be a “grocery store proprietor”, which just cooked my noodle.

“You do not want to be a grocery store proprietor!” I yelled at the tv, setting down my english muffin pizza with a clatter. “You really want to stock shelves all night so you can hawk cheap wares to bargain-hunting old ladies who will try to get a discount on a can of soup because part of the label is torn? You want to carry bags of groceries to some douche's car so he can watch you load stuff into his trunk and offer the timely advice 'Don't touch my shit'? That's the plan? And will you do it all with that breathy, Minnie Mouse voice and little high-heeled baby step thing you do? Proprietor indeed!”

But to those of us who aren't Modines, O'Donnells or Jessica Parker Cougar Mellencamps, a career change is a very real and frightening prospect. We've had a tough couple of days here at the ranch. Jon's search for another job is not going as smoothly as it should, and my hours have been cut again. Rent was due today and I couldn't make my half, which is humiliating. Jon is understanding, but can only be so up to a point (specifically, the point where his current contract runs out and our only source of income is my now 20 hour workweek). Embarrassingly, my lack of income is not for lack of trying. Auditions for legit acting jobs notwithstanding, a quick scan of my sent emails in the past two weeks reveals twenty-one cover letters, cv's, and portfolios sent out for twenty-one jobs for copy editors, freelancers, bloggers, article-writers, proofreaders, technical writers, assistants, receptionists, moderators, breast inspectors and con-artists. A lack of twenty-one responses means I've had to set my sights considerably lower, but the plethora of students out of school for the summer means there are no openings to be had at coffee shops, bookstores, record stores, clothing stores and furriers, and today I had to sit down and write a cover letter to Harvey's. Harvey's, should you be unfamiliar, is a chain akin to McDonald's or Wendy's whose slogan is “Harvey's makes your hamburger a beautiful thing.” And they do make a delicious hamburger, but a terrible life choice.

While I was explaining how my education as a theatre major would make me an ideal burger-flipper, I began to wonder about the statistic that a person changes careers five or six times in their lives. If my present career has yet to be established, could I still “change” careers? Why the hell not?

Dream: Have a successful and stimulating career change.

Goal: Achievable. This guy I know was once a football playing punk rocker and now he's an accountant, filling his Facebook statuses with comments like, “It's RRSP time again! Call me and let's talk!” I need some S to start an RRSP and this guy seems pretty happy in his life, so I shall take my cue from him and make a few changes.

Plan: Go balls out into new employment fields and hope my staggering lack of qualifications don't catch up with me.

I could be a doctor. Like a good one, a GP you'd wait eighteen months to get a spot with. I'd build my practice on warm hands, and a pleasant bedside manner. When and how do these doctors forget to hold regular conversations with people? For my last check-up (which was too many years ago now), I met with Dr. Ranasari, who kept calling me Mister James, like I was a five year-old. Dr. Ranasari went through the requisite list of embarrassing sex life questions, then started in on the embarrassing drug questions. This grew tedious in its specificity. “Have you ever injected heroin, Mister James? Have you ever consumed angel dust, Mister James?” By the way, what is angel dust? I mean, I know it's bad, but I can't believe that's what we call it; we need to give it a more threatening name. To overdose on angel dust sounds like participating in too many good deeds or something (“Three walkathons in two weeks? You're just knee-deep in angel dust!”). Anyway, I cut off Dr. Ranasari and said, “I don't do any illegal drugs, you don't need to keep asking me these questions!” So he got all huffy and said, “I am required, for the sake of your health and wellness, to ask these questions of you. It is my duty as your doctor!” I apologized and he continued, after which he said, super-condescendingly, “Now I know you're a private man, Mister James, but now I need to examine your testicles.” Good times. Come to think of it, he may not have been a doctor.

I could be a lawyer. Recently, I attended a dinner party at the home of a big city lawyer and four of his big city lawyer coworkers. It was a really fun and very classy affair. This is to say that I found it classy, but I got the impression that for these legal-eagles, it was just another dinner with friends. For instance, the host determined we were short on vodka and texted a latecomer, asking him to pick some up on his way. No sweat for our guest, who brought in a forty of Grey Goose like it ain't no thang. I couldn't believe it. I'd only read about Grey Goose in books! I took a shot straight, but sipped it like Turkish coffee, savouring each drop like a pretentious connoisseur. For comparison's sake, when someone asks me to bring something to drink for a party, I pick up a bottle of Sprite and take it home when I leave. I think the best part of being a lawyer would be using all that legal jargon. If, for instance, a Harvey's employee asked if I wanted fries with my burger, I'd say, “I'm going to allow it.” But then if they put vinegar on the fries, I would scream “Objection!” and call for a sidebar.

Finally, I could be a James Lipton. In spite of my lack of beard and little blue cards, I have a genuine interest in what actors do. If I get nothing else from my theatre training, I will always have the friendships I have cultivated with people who have become legitimate actors inside their studios. I know it seems pretentious and self-indulgent to talk about an actor or writer's “process” (well, it seems that way because it is), but I really am fascinated by what it takes for somebody to become or create somebody else. If I don't get to practice these processes myself as much as I'd like, too bad, so sad, but theatre tickets are cheap if you know the right people (and I do!) and for the moment I may not have a lot of money, but I've plenty of time. So invite me to your summer shows, friends (and if you have any job leads, for the love of God, share them with me!). Even if I'm making your burger this summer, let's keep our friendship a beautiful thing.