Bathed in Bubba’s tears

bubbawatson1404g_748It was clear by the 17th hole that, barring an unthinkable collapse, Bubba Watson was going to win the 2014 Masters. And yet I stuck it out, not necessarily to watch the conclusive putt but because I wanted to see if Bubba would once again weep like an emotionally fragile bridesmaid. He did not disappoint.

This wasn’t pure gawkerism on my part. It was science. Science, I tell you! About a week earlier, I had decided to document the things that make me weepy. I also wanted to monitor how I react when the going gets mush. Do I let it flow? Or do I fight back tears as though lives were hanging in the balance? And what does it mean to do either? And is this science or psychology? Is psychology a science? Shouldn’t I know that? So many questions!

As enlightened as we pretend to be, society is just not comfortable with men weeping, especially in public. When women weep in public, everybody goes, “Awwwww…!” But when a man weeps, everyone freezes and avoids eye contact, and in our heads we all turn into British military officers: “Good God, man, pull yourself together!”

So back to Sunday’s golf: here was a master weeper if ever there was one, a blubbering Bubba who simply lets the tears spew – doesn’t jam a tee into his thigh to toughen up or anything. Golf makes me want to cry sometimes too, but I can assure you they are not happy tears.

And why shouldn’t Bubba weep? If I had just won $1.6 million playing a game, I might burst into tears as well. Heck, I get pretty excited when my grocery store’s freebie-of-the-week is something practical for once, like toilet paper, so I imagine I would be a wreck if I won that much money, because that would buy a whole lot of toilet paper.

Singer Pharrell Williams teared up in an interview this week with Oprah, but that’s because Oprah punched him square in the nose. Of course she didn’t! Oprah would never do that! Oprah is a saint who could buy $1.6 million worth of gold-stitched toilet paper just like that! What made Williams so emotional was watching a video of fans around the world dancing to his song “Happy,” a song I really like for the first minute-and-a-half and then am pretty much ready for it to be over.

“Why am I crying on ‘Oprah’?” Williams asked. Alas, Oprah would not say because clearly it was a rhetorical question and Oprah does not waste time with rhetorical questions.

The reason for crying likely has to do with evolution (science!), something I could determine for sure if only I researched it, but clearly I’m evolved to be lazy. Crying might originally have been a way to ward off attackers by making them feel pity. Certainly this worked for me in junior high.

Perhaps this is why men hate to cry, because it conveys weakness, even when they are happy tears, or in Pharrell Williams’ case, happy “Happy” tears. Or is it “Happy” happy tears? But this isn’t a punctuation lesson, so let’s get back to sciencology.

Unlike sad tears, happy tears may simply be the manifestation of overwhelming emotional sensations, which are big words. If you’re Bubba Watson, and you’re overcome with joy and relief, your tears would be understandable, certainly more understandable than that hideous Ping golf visor you’re wearing. What doesn’t make sense is why Bubba crying would make some miserable shlub watching at home weepy as well.

And this is specifically what I wanted to document in myself. Why would watching Pharrell Williams go all runny make me feel a tiny twinge in the tear ducts? When I watch a video of two elderly Dutch ladies flying for the first time, it’s not my joy. I’m not the waitress receiving the cash, car and job offer in that “Prank It Forward” video. So why do I well up? Empathy, perhaps, a beautifully human and hopeful quality, and it’s always good to know that I am both beautiful and human.

So I know why I get a lump in my throat, but do I let those emotions flow freely, Bubba-like? Hell, no. What am I, a wimp? (Rhetorical; do not answer.)

So let it all out: What makes you weepy?

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P4ssW()rd f0LL1es

You know what would make a good password? “Security breach.” Because that way if you get hacked, you would at least have that delightful irony to cheer you up in your time of panic.

And yet we have no problem giving our credit card info over the phone to this guy... photo

And yet we have no problem giving our credit card info over the phone to this guy…

I’m all about best practices when it comes to my own password: at least seven characters including a capital letter and a numeral. The fact that I use this same password virtually every time for every new account I create is about as bad a practice as can be, almost as bad as the fact that I list this and my handful of other passwords in a single Word document called “Web Passwords.” So if you know which of my dead pets I’ve based this password on, you can essentially access my life. The fact that I have many, many dead pets is too bad for you, not to mention for my highly traumatized children.

This is a lazy, lazy practice but I suspect I’m not alone. Who can possibly remember a separate password for all those accounts: laptop, phone, email, social media, banking, Netflix, government, Cheese-of-the-Month Club, international drug cartel, the list goes on and on.

And yet, even in the wake of the recent Heartbleed scare, I’m not especially worried. Why? Because there are billions of Internet users with dozens of accounts each, so the chances of getting breached are about the same as owning a cat named PHluffy9378, and I may have just said too much.

Plus, Heartbleed has shown us two things: One, that the names of bugs, viruses and Trojans could easily serve as the names of death metal bands: Heartbleed! Doomjuice! Creeper! I suspect as much thought goes into naming these bugs as the programming itself. For future consideration, might I suggest something really terrifying like Puppy Mill Fan Club! or Rob Ford Country Album! “VapoRub” has a nice cyber-ring to it.

The second thing that Heartbleed has shown is that, no matter what security precautions you take, the hackers will find a way. These latest attacks resulted in major security breaches, for instance, at email providers like Yahoo mail and Gmail. Incidentally, AOL was not affected, so all six of you can breathe easy.

But dozens of other companies from Amazon to Dropbox were also affected. And the recommendation after all of this? You should change your password. This is like discovering your umbrella has holes in it and then being told you should replace it with another umbrella with different holes in it.

They say we’re fast approaching the day when accounts will be accessed by retinal scans, but I think we’ve all seen enough James Bond movies to know that this is just one forcefully extracted eyeball away from disaster.

Internet insecurity is the modern-day boogeyman, and every time there’s a security breach like Heartbleed, we freak out that our private information is suddenly vulnerable and exposed. One of the companies affected last week was OK Cupid, the online dating site. So, the vulnerable information would be… that you like taking long walks on the beach and that sideburns make you feel “oogy”?

We fret about having our privacy taken away from us but we do a pretty good job of giving it away voluntarily. Imagine a program that exposes all your personal information, everything you do or have done for the past five years, all your secret-most thoughts and opinions, your photos, your address and phone number. Oh wait: it’s called Facebook.

So that’s why I’m not too worried about my lame password. There’s not really much left to hide. So, hackers, have fun looking at my topless vacation photos (me topless). And if you do access my credit card info, enjoy that single tank of gas, because that’s about all it can handle before it bursts into flames.


A version of this post originally appeared on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.”

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BookStackWe’re still three months away from Summer Beach Reading Season, but you don’t have to wait that long to read the books that everyone else is reading because other people told them to read them and you should too. That’s because it’s Spring Snow Bank Reading Season!

Here’s a list of must-read books perfect for perusing in partially melted back yard snow drifts while obstinately wearing shorts and sandals because it’s spring, dammit! And by “must-read,” I mean go now. Right now. Don’t even finish this article; take it with you. No! Stop ordering online! Too slow. Go get these books this instant. Get the hell out! Git! And thank you for supporting your independent book store.

The Burghermeister’s Burger by Isabelllllll Plechette

The fourth in her Possessives series (The Baker’s Forklift, The Alchemist’s Bassoon, The Crossing Guard’s Gelato), Plechette expands her exploration of people who own things, what they own, the relationships between the owner and the thing owned, the byzantine nature of small claims courts and the inherently awkward nature of literary sex scenes. Set against the backdrop of the Great Salmonella Scare of 1974, Plechette asks whether love, like hamburger, can simply be too rare.

The Intransigents by Jonathan Jonathanson

A group of friends reunite for their 20-year college reunion only to discover that they have not changed even the tiniest bit, not their political views, not their taste in music, not even their willful preference for the original “Star Trek” over “Star Trek: TNG.” Jonathanson bravely breaks new ground by writing a 400-page book with zero character arc and no letter L, leading to a last chapter that [SPOILER ALERT] transforms into a pop-up book. [BIGGER SPOILER ALERT] Everyone dies quietly in their sleep from carbon monoxide poisoning. But in a good way.

The Layer Effect by Mitchell Goodbetter (non-fiction)

In this treatise on the psychology of hair care, journalist Goodbetter introduces the notion that a haircut is like lasagna: always better the next day. He then goes on to belabour this point for 220 more pages.

In the Pagoda With Your Lips on My Skin and A Dog Lying Nearby in February by Mirakowa Hibachi

The Japanese master of alienation and super-long titles returns with his 640-page masterpiece that critics are calling “obliquely beautiful” and “really heavy.” Alternating between post-apocalyptic Tokyo and Brooklyn’s largest broom closet circa 1937, Hibachi tells the tale of Riku, a lightly bearded haberdasher who becomes lost in a labyrinth of sea urchins, eventually leading to a vast hill, which turns out to be a giant tongue that talks/imparts wisdom/sings the blues before sending Riku on a quest for a cat that doesn’t kick litter all over the damn place. Hibachi uses the technique of defenestration to explore what it means to wear hats in the 21st century.

Is Your Basement Wet Or Are You Just Glad to See Me? By O.O. Beedoe

Self-published, then unpublished, then self-published again, selfishly published shortly thereafter, then shelved indefinitely until a major publisher shelled out for the rights after it was banned in Dublin for being “too moist,” IYBWOAYJGTSM (as it’s known for short) combines the sub-genres of soft-core S&M erotica and DIY plumbing. Will our frigid heroine Justine finally tap into her steamy source? Will she be showered with pleasure? Or will she flush true love goodbye? And what’s he going to do with that hose clamp? Voted “Best Use of the Term ‘Drain Snake’” by the Naughty Writers Association of America.

The Needy Book of Celebrities Who Are Canadian (non-fiction)

This winner of the 2013 Canada Skims competition is a compendium of biographies of actors, musicians, directors and other artists who work in the United States but were born in Canada. The book goes out of its way to identify each one of them as “the Canadian actress” or “Canadian-born choreographer,” just like Canada’s self-esteem-starved media does. Every. Single. Time.

Romaine Hearts by Marj Onovairer

A chef, a delivery girl, a distraction, a severed limb, a plot to kill the president, a shipment of walnuts, a dyslexic poet, a nation divided, an epic journey, a new beginning, a love betrayed, a dinner invitation, a health inspector, a game of Yahtzee, Dom DeLuise. Romaine Hearts will touch you. And if so, you should probably call the cops.




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Seriously, what the hell is maple milk?

I took a short vacation from Facebook recently. More like throttled back. Facebook, to put it simply, was driving me nuts. And what happened next you won’t believe!

Yeah, that was the kind of link bait nonsense that was driving me nuts, that and the inane and hateful political comments, particularly regarding Quebec politics as we headed into the current provincial election campaign.

A real thing.

A real thing.

During my Lenten-election-blood-pressure-Facebook-fast, the only thing I really missed was polling my constituents, as it were, about the unknown. As many of you know, I live in maple syrup country. This time of year, the stores are filled with maple — maple fudge, maple candy, maple cones, maple butter. But for the first time this season, I’ve seen maple milk. “What the hell is maple milk?” I wondered. And more important, how does it taste? Alas, without Facebook or actually buying some (no thanks), there was no way to find out.

It didn’t take long to fall off the Facebook wagon. I knew I was doomed when I rushed to inform a Gwyneth-hating Facebook friend about this “conscious uncoupling” business. (Being a Gwyneth-hater, of course, she was already aware. And gloating.) And before long I was sucked back into the politics — the angry, miserable, self-loathing politics of Quebec.

But miserable politics makes for good satire. For those of you, then, who follow Quebec politics (and why the hell would you?), here’s my latest piece at Life in Quebec. For the rest of you: is it just me or does “maple milk” sound kind of dirty?



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Abby ate a cow

The parking in heaven must be hell. All those dead people who ever lived looking for a spot to hear Mozart and Gershwin in concert, with Keith Moon on drums. Imagine the honking, although this being heaven, the honking is surely mellifluous.

This is how the mind wanders when stuck on a side street in Montreal, trying, along with the other unbudging cars, to find a spot reasonably close to the hospital. Walking distance was looking increasingly unlikely. After I made a U-turn, drove several blocks and jammed my car into a snow bank beneath a sign that read “Stationnement 15 minutes,” I settled for sprinting distance.

Here’s why we were at the hospital:

TYR Coolers


Abby’s metabolic condition, tyrosinemia, is controlled through medication and strict diet (specialty foods, no meat, dairy, soy or legumes, minimal protein all around). She also consumes supplemental drinks that are universally blechy, whether the barfy so-called “milk” or the gaggy coolers. Gross or not, these drinks have all the nutrition she needs minus the amino acid tyrosine, which her body can’t metabolize. Even with medication, too much tyrosine can cause serious complications. Continue reading

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Three dirty cups of coffee

I don’t like to brag, but I have a huge desk. It is, without question, the largest desk at my workplace. It’s an L-shaped desk, and how it came to be mine, several species down in the workplace food chain, is a long story and unimportant. What is important is that, if I needed to, I could sleep on top of it. With a guest. When the great flood comes, I’ll be able to set sail on the thing. “Welcome aboard the Queen Murray,” I’ll say.( Wait, I don’t want that phrase getting around. Scratch that…)

My desk, after a recent tidying.

My desk, after a recent tidying.

But, as the saying goes, with great surface comes great clutterability, and the wide open range of my desk tends to fill up with the by-products of my workday: paperclips, pens, batteries, books, restraining orders, headphones, coffee cups, snack containers and various sticky and powdery residues. I look at it sometimes and think I should take a Dustbuster to it, but I like to imagine that this is its natural state, and, as we all know, nature hates a vacuum. Continue reading

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Home alone… with pets

Whatever you do, don’t compliment dads on their parenting skills. I’ve read a couple of moms who have been outraged – outraged, I tell you! – because their menfolk were publicly commended for parenting tasks such as tying their daughters’ braids or attending their kids’ school events or not driving away with the baby on top of the car, basic stuff like that.

These moms were indignant that they never get credit for these same duties even though they do them every single day. Obviously they’ve never seen a dad with big, oafish fingers making a ponytail, because that is pure adorable! I mean, look at him sticking his tongue out in concentration. Come on! Continue reading

Posted in Family - whadya gonna do?, It Really Did Happen! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 65 Comments