Thursday, 27 February 2014

Get Richer Quicker...

Hello Friends.

They say if you believe if, you can achieve it. If you hold tight to your Dreams, they're bound to be realized. If you just put it out there into the universe, it will come back to you. Well I'm here to tell you that's a buttload of hot nonsense. The proof? I had a Dream four years, two months, and eighteen days ago that I've really, really hoped for and it hasn't come true! The very first Big City James entry concerned amassing an obscene amount of wealth but enjoy little responsibility. Well, it still hasn't happened and some 200 entries later, I've proven a fraudster! The blogspot people could review this any day now and say, "He's been claiming Dreams are Achievable for years and he's not obscenely wealthy. What a huckster Huxtable, let's shut him down and turn this blog into cat gifs."

Guys, I don't want to lose my blog and I really could use some obscene wealth. Yes, I'm making a little bit more money now, but I have to work for it, which is disgusting. I'd take the inherent guilt of having heaps of money for no good reason over the satisfaction of a modest paycheque well and truly earned any day of the week.

Dream: Obscene wealth with little responsibility.

Goal: Achievable, dammit! I wonder if it's true what they say, that one percent of the population has more wealth than the other ninety-nine, or if five percent of the population controls ninety-five percent of the wealth. If that's the case, I have the deck stacked in my favour. I'm a white male in a first world country, and I just have to be better than 95 (or 99) other people and I can't do it? Shameful.

Plan: Several more than last time. For instance, I could become wealthy by:

Stealing. I don't mean robbing bank. I have a face too long for most panty-hose masks and I develop a particularly homosexual gait when I'm nervous, so I'd be too easily identified. But there are crooked investors everywhere who pocket their clients' cash then peace out to a beach somewhere. Doc and I don't get the channel MSNBC (or is it CNBC?), but whenever we stay in a hotel or at our parents' homes, we tune in and watch that show American Greed. Have you ever seen it? It's a doc series about just such slimy businessmen and crooked bankers who bilk clients out of millions of dollars. I guess my pesky conscience would get in the way of something like that, but not if I selected my pigeons with a little finesse. Maybe I could find domestic abusers and sex offenders in prison and be like, "I'll knit you a really fashionable sweater for your cold jail nights if you give me $100" and then they would and I'd pocket the money and run away. They couldn't come after me because jail and I wouldn't feel bad because who cares about predators? Even if I got caught, what jury would convict me of stealing a hundy from a raper? And if found 100 prisoners to each give me 100 dollars, that works out to a million dollars, maybe ten million (not a good multiplier).

Inventions. I have so many more ideas for inventions, you guys. What about an alarm that connected your phone, your wallet or purse, and your keys? How often do you leave home without those three things, or with one and not the two others? When you leave your house, you could press a button on your keys, wallet, or phone, and an alarm would sound if you were missing one of the three. Not only that, but the thing you were missing would also start making noise. So if you try to leave your house without your wallet, your wallet starts going WOOOP WOOOP WOOOP until you find it under the sink for some reason. Or you could buy an upgraded version of the same technology that would let you know if you left the oven on or the water running? Or what about a version of Netflix that is free for you if you upload a certain number of movies yourself? I guess that’s ostensibly what a file sharing site is, but something like that which is not filled with viruses or mislabeled pornography. Another invention we could use? Hot ice cream (for when it’s cold outside).

Hard work. Uggggh. As Shakespeare said, “Aye, that’s the fucking thing, right?” I wish I could remember where, but I read a very interesting quote recently, where somebody said, “Everybody wants to have millions of dollars, but would you want the mind of a millionaire?” I interpreted that to mean what we already know about Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs, which is that they may be geniuses, but they aren’t necessarily the most socially well-adjusted, well-rounded people. What would I have to sacrifice, to legitimately acquire a bunch of money? I already feel like me and the Doc don’t see enough of each other, and I only work 40 hours a week. If I ran a company or made savvy investments, I’d be one of those attached-to-my-Blackberry assholes who permanently seem like they’re on the verge of a heart attack. Plus, surely greed follows wealth. Maybe if I woke up tomorrow with seven million dollars I might be like, “Wonder if eight is better. Eight sounds better.” Still, though, give me the chance to find out! Maybe I’m just a Dreamer, but I’m not the only one...

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Out of Time

Hello Friends.
I've been fascinated lately by productivity, and how it relates to what we create and what we consume. Recently, for instance, I listened to a 10 part BBC Radio drama series about a family. It was soap opera-esque, but funny too, and the same writers and cast recorded installments intermittently between 1997 and 2011. I devoured each episode during my commute and downloaded a new one to my ipod almost daily, until I ran out of episodes. Instead of being satisfied with this funny, moving, gripping series, I was almost immediately angry that there wasn't more. "2011?" I thought. "That was three years ago! Come on, people, let's get cracking on some more! I'm bored now!"

Similarly, my new job prizes quick turnaround as much if not more that content. If I can write a good press release in an hour or a great press release in a day, they'd prefer the good press release in an hour, thank you. I don't mind this preference because I tend to work better under pressure and the tighter the deadline, the better I'll perform. As I have just twenty minutes between the end of my work day at job one and the transit to catch and dinner to eat before job two, I wonder how quickly I can crank out quality work.

Dream: Do everything faster.

Goal: Achievable. There are some things I can get done really quickly. A big sandwich, for instance, or a shower at the gym. I don't fuck around and don't need to spend time on this activity. Stands to reason, then, that the same principles can be applied elsewhere.

Plan: Cut corners on the following activities:

Getting ready in the morning. Oh man, they call it the break of dawn because that time of day is broken. Here's what I still can't master about the early rise: a shower that's not a frozen or boiling death cleanse, a breakfast that is a complete breakfast, and making it out the door on time. I've tried showering the night before but for some reason if I start the day without a shower, I look like a homeless prostitute. Right now, I can fry an egg during the time I toast my toast, but I can't savour my coffee like I like. I guess I should slamajam a RedBull with a handful of Honey Nut Cheerios.

Laundry. What at time-waster! Our laundry room has been shut down for over a week because of reports of a gas leak. If true, that's sort of hilarious because if there's gas leaking into the building, perhaps more is at stake than our laundry room, but whatever. Anyway, they've got the washing machines back up, finally, but not the dryers. We washed two loads of laundry, then found every available surface in our apartment and laid our clothes flat. There are wet pajamas on the couch, wet socks in the cupboards, wet underpants in the mail slot (not really, that's gross). It made for a hoarder-looking few days, but everything is dry now and all we had to do was render our apartment inhospitable, which is already kind of is.

This blog. Time ticks away on my free Thursday and while I had hoped to post an entry I've been working on for awhile, I realized I left that draft at home and didn't email it to myself to access from my office over lunch (I usually pack sandwiches for lunch but to save time today, I just threw in some crackers, olives, and a chocolate Santa from 2011).

Truthfully, I'm angry at myself for not being a better life-planner. Now that I have a more consistent schedule, I'm hoping to finally take a yoga class, learn to use my slow-cooker, and get that weird mole looked at. 
Instead, I find myself cutting corners on important things, and devoting too much time to the useless (like Facebook, why can't I stop with the Facebook?). For now, though, a dashed missive before I pack up, and the hope that someday soon, I'll cram quality of life into a quantity of time.

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Silver and Gold...

Hello Friends.

I wish I could say I wasn't watching the Olympics out of some kind of solidarity with my LGBT brothers and sisters as the political climate over there is truly appalling, but really I'm not tuning in because they're boring. I find the Olympics are particularly dull because, in the case of many events, the act itself is less than ten seconds long. I'm talking about ski jumps, high dives, archery, 100 metre runs or swims, and no more examples because I'm not sure how solid this "less than ten seconds long" theory is.

It's snarky and a little too easy to assume that I would be dismissive of athletics because I'm no good at any myself, but it's also correct. Rather than be inspired by our seemingly limitless physical potential, I am dismayed. If someone can do a backflip with a half-turn on a balance beam, how come I can't walk to the back of a moving bus without falling into an East Indian woman?

The only current Olympic event I would like to know how to do is the uneven bars. Something about that event is especially satisfying. Perfect, undulating, limber bodies, using nothing but their own strength and flexibility, take one bar at one height, another at another, and create magic. There are videos on YouTube of Nadia Comaneci performing her uneven bar routine in slow-motion, and they are breathtaking. I would like to learn how to do the bare minimum of uneven bar work. It would be my greatest joy to let go of one bar and catch the other, but if that's an impossibility, I just want the ability to hold one bar and flip myself round and round. What a stress reliever! "Where's James?" "Oh, he's twirling."

I think the appeal of the Olympics for some people is the idea that, in most cases, the competitors aren't rich, famous sport stars, but common folks that trained really, really hard and finally made their way to the biggest competition in the world. We think to ourselves, "Man, if things had gone a little differently, that could be me going round and round." It's not true, of course, but it's a nice thought. But what if it really could be you competing out there? Or, to put it another, more self-centered way, what if it could be me?

Dream: Create, compete, and win gold in the Jameslympics

Goal: Achievable. I read somewhere that, from a television ratings standpoint, if CBC in Canada and NBC in the States weren't able to broadcast the Olympics, these networks wouldn't survive (apparently, Sean Saves the World and Little Mosque On the Prairie do not networks make). If that's the case, another version of the Olympics could only be a boon to broadcasters. Also, the current, real Olympics are sponsored by Coca Cola and McDonald's. Why not show two weeks of competition where the competitors actually drink Coca Cola and eat at McDonald's? I had a short time yesterday between a day at new job and an evening shift at old job and so grabbed a Big Mac in between. It didn't give me the energy to complete a 12 work day with vigor, but would've earned me a bronze for time spent in the bathroom.

Plan: Create a series of events in which we slovenly sort could successfully compete. Here are my suggestions for Jameslympic Events:

Pedestrian Crossing. You know how you're at a crosswalk and a car slows down to let you go, so you do that dumb little courtesy jog across? It's not a run, it's slower than a brisk walk, but you kind of pump your arms and give the impression that you're hurrying so the driver can get on with their day.

Shower setting. You get to set the taps for your shower only one time, no adjustments. You and three international judges scrub up together, and the most comfortable, not-too-warm-not-too-cold shower setter wins Gold.

Slipping on the Ice. I compete in this event every winter. Competitors are judged on speed, degree of injury, and flair. Flair's a lock for me. The other day, I slipped on the ice so flamboyantly that the Westboro Baptist Church showed up.

Chip Dip Ratio. Nobody can finish the chips at the exact same time they finish the dip. Or can they?

Hot in the Cold. I live in a very, very cold place this winter. One of the things I miss about living in a slightly warmer place (though the Big City in the midst of its own deep freeze at the mo) is that you can wear something form-fitting, but light enough to still be stylish. I have a fabulous tweed coat, for instance, that is no match for these temperatures. This Christmas, Jon bought me a huge, puffy tan coat that is perfect for these freezing days, but makes me look like a four year old bundled up by his Mom before sledding. I don't care how I look because I am warm, but I marvel at the people who somehow still look really attractive and figure-flattered in full winter gear.

Urination Preparation (Male). Forgive me, as this event has a distinct gender bias, but I can't figure out what the female equivalent of this particular activity is. There are men who, when using public restrooms, especially in bars, time the urination sequence perfectly. What I mean is, they might enter the bathroom already undoing their belt. Without breaking their stride, they start walking to the urinal while simultaneously unbuttoning or unzipping their pants. When I witness this (using all possible discretion, mind you), I always think, "That idiot's gonna take his dink out before he gets there! We're all gonna have to deal with his dink!" But he does nothing untoward. So precise is his pacing and undress that he ends up peeing at just the right time. I wouldn't even place in this event. I'm so self-conscious in a public bathroom that I will approach a urinal, assume a defensive, obscuring posture, then intricately and methodically unbutton the least amount possible of pantaloons. Ladies, I don't think there's a comparable version. I feel like your pants are down around your ankles at a very specific time and there's no real prep involved. Maybe lactating mothers who can quickly unbutton, whip out, and position their breast in order to feed a human person could do that?

That thing where you stand on a chair, put your foot on the back of the chair, shift your weight, and tip the chair over. My friend Ryan used to do that, and it impresses the hell out of me. Actually, while we're talking minimal dexterity, let's throw in a cartwheel. I was in a play once where I was supposed to do a cartwheel and it was so important that they scheduled private sessions with just the choreographer and me to learn it, and I couldn't do it. So instead of the line being, "I'm so happy I could just..." (does impromptu cartwheel, hugs Denise), the sequence ended up, "I'm so happy I could just..." (stands still a moment, hugs Denise).

It's funny that we place such gravitas on the Olympics considering how lethargic and unhealthy most of us are. If we prized intellectualism the way we do athleticism, Jeopardy's Tournament of Champions would get the ratings of the Superbowl. This is a separate conversation, but did you guys read that piece about the winner of The Biggest Loser last week? She lost so much weight that now she looks like this. I suppose it proves that not all competition is healthy, but it also says so much about our society. We're either hopeless fat fucks or sickly with disordered eating or body dysmorphia.

Perhaps there is nothing so equalizing, then, as the physical challenge. No one cares how much money you have or how you look, all that matters is what country you hail from and whether you are harder, better, faster, stronger than everyone else. To that end, maybe we should divert attention away from the Olympics and even the Jameslympics to give due respect and admiration to the Special Olympics. There's no joke here. Some would argue that to be differently abled is to have the deck stacked against you, but these competitors prove that theory wrong with a drive, discipline, and attitude that most of us lack, and the Special Olympics aren't even televised. Keep your TV ratings, keep your medals, the accomplishments of these athletes are worth more than silver and gold, they are simply the best of us. No contest.   

Thursday, 6 February 2014


Hello Friends.

Have you seen your Facebook Movie? I haven't watched any yet, or had mine made, because I could barely sit through the other Facebook Movie where some hot twins got mad and Justin Timberlake was like, "I'm the founder of Napster" in a totally believable performance. But I would imagine the conceit of the Facebook Movie is that a bunch of your status and photos glide by set to music. If that's true, let's skip it, as a good picture of me existing somewhere is as rare as a solid Timberlake acting performance.

I had to have my picture taken at work today, as part of a "Meet the New Guy" feature in the corporate newsletter (which, funnily enough, will fall to me to write). I knew the photo was to be taken today, so I put on a clean suit and put product in my hair instead of bacon grease (you can't beat the shine and hold). I am clean-shaven and free of noticeable blemishes, but 'twas all for naught. As soon as the gal taking the photo set up all her stuff, sat me down and said, "Okay, smile!" I knew we hadn't a hope of creating everything good. It's like I forget how my mouth works. I went, "bohhhh?" and exposed by bottom teeth. Then I said, "nuuuu" and puffed up my cheeks real big. Then I said, "yipyipyee" and made my neck veins pop out. Frightened, the photographer took a few snaps and scurried away, and I'm certain the only feeling she captured was one of intense awkwardness.

Dream: Take a good picture.

Goal: Achievable. Look, I know I'm not a mythical Horsebeast of Ugliness or anything. My lengthy canvas of face can be arranged somewhat presentably. My friend Dan is a photographer who managed to coax a good picture of me simply because we were hanging out and probably laughing about something, thus rendering an expression organically. But I can't rush to Dan and make jokes about boners every time I need a snap done. This is a task that falls to me.

Plan: Determine just what makes a good picture. Feel free to use this yourself.

Capturing the genuine feeling of the person being photographed. This advice seems like a no-brainer, but rarely happens. The burden falls on the subject here, I'm afraid. The best photographers in the world can't make a good picture out of a false sentiment. When  I was taking Theatre in University, all of the acting students would put on shows there. We had a great rate from a professional headshot photographer who would print out professional-looking, black and white 8x10s that were displayed in the lobby outside the theatre space. Anyway, the results were slick, but often hilarious. My fellow actors and I took ourselves extremely seriously and most of us opted for a penetrating, dour stare. This particular brand of faux-intensity is quite popular among young actors, but also popular among young actors is drinking, wearing sweat pants, and behaving like a cat or dog as per class instruction. My old headshots are embarrassing facsimiles of a gravitas I never possessed as an actor. Plus, I was eighteen and happy, what did I have to be so stern about?

Find your "side." Most people don't have the perfectly symmetrical face of a movie star, but that's no reason not to have their vanity. I think we all have a side of our face that photographs better than the other. Barbara Walters, for instance, insists on being shot only from the left. Tina Fey prefers to be filmed on her right side to help conceal a facial scar on her left. Who would begrudge these famous ladies their preference. I have one side of my face where my features seem to come together proportionally, but another side where mouth and eye holes seem to have been punctured onto a large kidney bean. The trouble is, I always forget which is which, and my instinct is always wrong.

When it comes to pictures of yourself, less is more. We all have that friend on Facebook or Instagram who posts way too many selfies. I don't mean people who posts pictures of their family and friends all the time, or the people that have pictures of themselves enjoying activities like mountain-climbing or watermelon-deseeding. I mean those folks who position a camera above or across from themselves, make a sexy/pouty/smiley face, click, and post. I understand that Facebook is literally meant for our faces, but I don't have to see so many of yours. I think my least favourite selfie of late is the one where the subject makes a fake, "My life is so wacky!" expression. You know the one. Usually, it's big (sometimes rolled) eyes and a small, straight-line mouth suggesting sentiments like, "Oh brother!" and "Here we go again!" I don't like the contrived exasperation because it seems to say, "Everything is so crazy but I still had time to take a picture lol j/k omg!" At least the duck-facers and the come-hither poses are more obvious in their vanity.

Other people. The best pictures that exist of me are shots of me with other people. I guess I'm at my happiest and most relaxed with friends or family, and that comes across. In fact, for many profile pictures on Facebook or Twitter, I have taken a picture of me with someone else, cut off their head and replaced it with my own--just as vain as a selfie but with hilarious results!

I really like the idea that the best pictures of me are part of pictures of someone else. It complements the idea that I'm happier with people than alone and I'd rather be a part of something bigger than myself instead of being the sole focus. Keep your fancy equipment and your Photoshop, I get by with a little help from my Friends.