50 phrases I didn’t hear on my 50th birthday


Finally, I can get in!

  1. Preternaturally young looking
  2. “50 is the new 49.”
  3. “How lucky to have been born in the sixties but have absolutely no memories of them.”
  4. Wunderkind
  5. “Take the day off.”
  6. Uncannily virile
  7. “Not everyone is so confident in their firmly established fashion choices year after year, but you…”
  8. “Prime Minister Trudeau on Line 1.”
  9. “So you’re the guy who told Madonna, ‘Try the cones’…”
  10. “The last 10 years sure have crawled by, eh?”
  11. “I don’t care what anyone says, the skin on your neck couldn’t possibly be described as ‘crepe-like.’”
  12. “No, keep singing Toto’s greatest hits. I like it!”
  13. Career opportunities
  14. “I know what’ll make you feel better: look up your hugely successful classmates on Facebook.”
  15. “Excuse me, aren’t you Bradley Cooper?”
  16. “Sorry, I can’t change a hundred-dollar”
  17. A certain gravitas
  18. “Swear to God, Ross, I thought you were dead!”
  19. “Honestly, you can never have too many moles.”
  20. Goodie bags
  21. “No, really, I like the slippers.”
  22. “Let’s skip.”
  23. “It gets better.”
  24. “You should totally go on SnapChat, sir.”
  25. “My recommendation to you: more saturated fats.”
  26. “Can I see some ID, please?”
  27. Trump-like poise
  28. “Those journal entries from your teen years, you should definitely publish them.”
  29. “There’s something sexy about a man in progressive lenses.”
  30. “I’d like to personally thank you and everyone of your generation for fulfilling your promise to make the world a better place.”
  31. “Wanna make out?”
  32. “This is a golden era for middle-aged white guys.”
  33. “Your liver spots are coming in nicely.”
  34. “Grey is good.”
  35. The colon of a 20-year-old
  36. “I can’t wait to be 50!”
  37. “Tell us again about glass milk bottles and home delivery.”
  38. “No, I don’t think you need to have that checked.”
  39. “Most people are just hitting their creative peak at 50.”
  40. “I wouldn’t exactly use the word ‘shriveled.’”
  41. “My God, it’s 3 in the morning! Would you stop dancing and go to bed!”
  42. People Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive!
  43. AARP Magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive!
  44. Sprightly
  45. “No, it’s not your fault; I was mumbling.”
  46. “Oh, that’s better. It was just the way the light was hitting your face.”
  47. “Really, people, those ‘Depends’ jokes are unacceptable.”
  48. “Go ahead. Self-pity is adorable!”
  49. “Grow a ponytail? Absolutely.”
  50. “Mr. Murray, the parade is about to begin.”
Posted in Reading? Ugh! | Tagged , , , , , | 44 Comments

Stop the sky from falling

We’re sitting ducks, I tell you. Blind. We’re gambling with our lives, like blind ducks – blind ducks sitting at a roulette table where the prize is also a duck.

But this isn’t about ducks. It’s about the lax astronomy that puts our lives at risk every single day and most nights as well.

Image via NAIC-Arecibo/NSF.

Image via NAIC-Arecibo/NSF.

When a dead comet streaked by the Earth on October 31, a mere 302,000 miles from Earth or exactly 1.3 times the distance to the moon, we had no idea how close we came.

Scientists learned of the threat of this dead comet – or, as I like to call it, “Death Comet” – only three weeks prior. It could have been a catastrophic collision, one that might not have ended life on Earth as we know it but would definitely have inconvenienced life on Earth as we know it very much indeed.

Who is responsible and, more important, who can I blame? What exactly were all those scientists doing? Duck gambling?

The Death Comet is just one of potentially millions of space objects hurtling through the cosmos like toys at a daycare for hyperactive toddlers. Due to inadequate space security, one of these chunks of debris – many of them as dense as the entire Republican Party – could come crashing into our mostly peace-loving planet at any time.

You could be reading this very column when it happens. Imagine if the last word you ever read was “sphincter.”


No, that wasn’t an actual impact. That was merely a capitalized word and emphatic punctuation. Lucky for you, because I have many other important words to say.

The threat of inter-stellar space impact (ISSI) is real, and our politicians are hiding their heads in the sand. If an ISSI occurs, sand will not save them. My brother buried my head in the sand once and then whacked me repeatedly with a canoe paddle and, trust me, the sand encasing my head did nothing to soften the blows.

Did you know that every year thousands of meteors enter our Earth’s atmosphere without warning or proper paperwork? Or maybe they’re meteorites. Stalagmites? Facts aren’t important! What’s important is that they make weird streaks across the sky that frighten me a little because I’m never sure if I’m having a stroke.

But most space stalactites are harmless, you say. They simply burst into flame from the extreme pressure of penetrating our upper atmosphere at high speed and disintegrate into a brief trail of burning gas and molten material. Sure, that’s exactly what a meteoractilite would want you to think!

Meteorists and other ISSI objects hate our planet, they hate our gravity, they hate our ducks. They will never be happy until we too are pulverized into space dust without an orbit or even decent video games.

We need our politicians to step up and ensure the safety of our precious Earth by refusing entry for all comets, asteroids, meteor-thingys and other space junk. Go back to where you came from, cosmic detritus, and bombard some other less important planet.

All space objects must be registered so that we know where they are at all times. Yes, even the stars. I look up at the sky one night and they’re in one place, I look up a few weeks later and they’re somewhere else. Stars can’t be trusted.

But surely the moon is all right, you say. We landed on the moon.

Or did we…?

Every space object is an ISSI threat. With proper monitoring and security, we can effectively safeguard against calamities like the Death Comet that almost happened. We can stop other things from almost happening too. Except earthquakes. Can’t do a damn thing about them. Or hurricanes. Or ignorance.

You can call me a space-ist if you like. That’s the price I’m willing to pay to impose my poorly researched views and to protect the people and ducks I love. Maybe I’m wrong, but I’d rather be wrong than say, “If only we had stopped Death Comets from pulverizing our planet.” Except I wouldn’t be able to say it, because BOOM!

Nope, wasn’t real that time either. That was just me making an asteroid of myself.

But next time it might be real! Speak out. Post anti-stellar propaganda on social media. Forget how privileged we are to be floating through space ourselves. Let’s stop ISSI threats from destroying our planet so we can get back to destroying it all by ourselves.

Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 35 Comments

Why we need a little Star Wars

For best results, listen to this while reading:

Something wonderful happens a month from today: The Force Awakens opens, which is an awkward phrase, but what is Star Wars without a little awkwardness?

I still own an original vinyl copy of the Star Wars soundtrack, purchased with my own money in 1977. It was the fourth album I ever bought, preceded by a folk album by Valdy, a Bill Cosby album, and something by Abba. I was a weird kid.

I used to blast Star Wars on the stereo and stare at the pictures inside the double-spread – because it was a double-album, you know; it must have taken weeks of paper routes for me to afford it. I would sit there and listen and recall the drama from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.

Or to be specific, Halifax. That’s where I first saw Star Wars. I was the first person in my Grade 6 class to see it, possibly my entire school. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve told people that. In terms of cool, this is where I peaked. If I ever become single, it’ll be part of my dating profile.

Star Wars is my Woodstock. Star Wars defined how my generation would henceforth demand to be entertained. Star Wars became the yardstick. At church camp that summer, some kid argued with me that Logan’s Run was better than Star Wars. Logan’s Run? Church camp? Yeah, I was awesome cool.

Like that moment of cool, Star Wars would never be replicated, not even by the sequels. Empire was dark; I mean, Han and Leia? Gross! Jedi was okay because the Death Star was back. But Star Wars would always be the best, and I had the soundtrack to prove it… and the posters, and the magazines and the R2-D2 model kit.

The poster: now on my daughter's apartment wall. I'm so proud!

The poster: now on my daughter’s apartment wall. I’m so proud! (And my slippers; not so proud.)

Years later, I couldn’t get excited about the prequels. Times and movies had changed. We had become numb to spectacle. But a few months ago, I watched the first teaser for The Force Awakens, and as the Millennium Falcon burst onto the screen accompanied by the opening blast of John Williams’ score, I got goosebumps. I felt giddy. I couldn’t wait.

In preparation for the new film, I decided to watch all six Star Wars again. As I started with Episode 4 , my son, now 20, informed me that he had never seen Star Wars. Never seen Star Wars! Gasp! A new hope. Sit right down, son.

He lasted three minutes.

“Maybe you have to be 12 to get it,” he said, and left the room.

And that’s when it hit me. Star Wars is not that good.

The concept of The Force is as flimsy as Mark Hamel’s acting, the dialogue Jar-Jar stinks, and if you call your ultimate genocidal weapon a “Death Star,” you are not a despotic empire to be taken seriously.

But that very simplicity may be why full-on adults like me are so excited about a new Star Wars. In an age of atrocities complicated by politics, religion and culture, we’ve seen too much of the Grey Side. We long for a pre-ironic age when good and evil were clearly defined, and redemption was not only possible but easy, even for someone who blew up planets for a living.

For kids who grew up with Star Wars, the force is strong in this one, and that force is nostalgia.

I know I should have a bad feeling about this, that there’ll be more cardboard characters and stilted acting and Luke Skywalker is going to go all Atticus Finch on us, but who can pass up the chance to be 12 again?

And if I could manage to be the first person in my office to see it, I will once again be cool.


An audio version of this piece aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway.”


Posted in It Really Did Happen!, Turn that radio on! | Tagged , , , , , | 38 Comments

Hello, Drake? It’s Adele.

“You used to call me on my cel-l-l-l pho-o-o-ne…”

My daughter Abby looked up at me, puzzled, appalled.

“How do you know that song?” she asked, which, now that I think about it, might have been code for, “Please stop singing that song.”

“I’m hip. I’m cool. I know Drake,” I said.

I barely know Drake at all, really. He’s a nice boy from Toronto, he’s a Raptors fan. I think of Drake every time I climb the stairs: “Started from the bottom now we wheeze.” That’s about all I know about Drake.

But Abby doesn’t know that. She doesn’t know that, at the time, I knew the song only from the many parodies of the music video. She doesn’t know that, at the time, I was calling the song “Cell Phone,” when really it’s called “Hotline Bling,” as if that makes any more sense.

And I was pretty certain in the chorus he was singing, “I me feel like chocolate cake!” It’s not my hearing; Drake needs to enunciate.

But it’s a catchy little melody: “You used to call me on my cel-l-l-l pho-o-o-ne…” I just had to hear it the one or two times and I could repeat it. It kind of gets stuck in your head. The cheesy keyboard and the Casio drumbeat to go with it make it perfect Dad-rock, complete with the Dad-rock dance moves.

Now watch me whip. Now watch me nae-nae.”


No whipping or nae-nae-ing, for you, Dad.

Other than being an embarrassment to your children, there’s little benefit to staying on top of this stuff, pretending that you tolerate let alone like what the kids are listening to. I’ve had my musical time in the sun. There’s 60-plus years of rock and roll I can fall back on, including my own crappy Top 40 from back in the day. (“Ra Ra Rasputin,” anyone?)

I don’t need this new stuff. I don’t need to pretend to like Taylor Swift. And I don’t. Believe me, I’ve tried. She’s like a shrill, tinnitus-inducing kindergarten teacher at Karaoke night after a few drinks, and the times I’ve forced myself to listen, I’ve felt like Alex in A Clockwork Orange with my eyes pried open, but with better-quality videos and fewer atrocities.

But still, it feels important for someone who grew up with pop culture not to lose touch with pop culture. Losing touch is just too much for us kids of the eighties. Without pop culture, who are we? We’re just Baby Boomers but without any good stories to tell.

We need to be savvy enough to know what “Netflix and chill” means and smart enough to never, ever say it out loud. We want to be cool enough to say “Have you heard the new Grimes?” with a straight face.

So it doesn’t matter whether we like Drake, but it’s important to know Drake.

It’s important to know Adele even if you don’t fully get Adele because God knows you can’t avoid Adele.

Right now, Adele’s “Hello” is the most popular music video on YouTube. It’s been viewed over 300 million times in three weeks. The video tells the age-old story: girl meets boys, girl loses boy, girl sings in gale-force winds.

Thanks to Adele, at long last teenage girls have a new song to belt out at every single variety show you will attend for the next seven months. Someone asked me what the teenage girls were belting out before this new Adele song. Simple: the last Adele song.

I like Adele. She is a strong, independent Brit woman. She’s talented, her voice is sad and powerful and her songs are well written, none of which explains why she’s so popular, because, again, Taylor Swift.

But ours is not to question why. Ours is but to roll our eyes. Because, you see, there’s more to keeping on top of pop music and culture than just maintaining one’s relevance and causing our children to blush. (“Shawty got low, low, low?” No, no, no.)

With 60-plus years of rock history behind us, the real benefit is that we get to be smugly, obnoxiously, parentally instructional.

“You know, since we’re talking songs about phone calls, have a listen to this wacky baroque number called ‘Telephone Line’ by Electric Light Orchestra? Oh, and Adele? How about we VHS and hang with a little friend of mine named… Aretha…”


Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 54 Comments

Why your next employee should be a former non-athlete and probably the one after that too

will work for snacksEmployment-wise, it’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. And why are the dogs eating dogs? Because they’re out of dog food. But surely they could they eat something else, like garbage. Dogs eat garbage all the time. Good dogs, bad dogs, they can’t get enough of garbage. Why do dogs have to resort to gobbling other dogs? The answer, you probably don’t know, is that dogs are delicious. Dogs, strangely enough, do know this.

Thankfully, this reference to dog cannibalism is merely a metaphor for the competitive climate for contemporary job seekers. Too many people chasing after a too small slice of pie.

Pie! Dogs could eat pie instead of other dogs. Someone should start a campaign: more pies for dogs. Let’s get a Facebook group going, make it a dog-eat-pie world. Be the chow you want to see in the world.

Meanwhile, companies looking to hire non-dogs are overwhelmed with résumés from candidates bragging about their previous job experience or trying to parlay that time they went surfing in Maui as “a world-view outlook.” With so many job seekers and so many variables, it’s tempting for companies to listen to conventional wisdom and put team-playing, self-disciplined former athletes at the top of the candidate pile.

WRONG! Hoo boy, are they wrong.

Companies wanting to hire the very best employees should look no further than lifelong non-athletes. Did you know that five out of the last 11 U.S. presidents were non-athletes? Rather than hanging out in the gym at college or missing school for away games, those future commanders-in-chief were in class, taking notes, selling those notes to the jocks, learning about capitalism and how to manipulate the scholastically deprived.

Torn between someone whose dreams of going pro were crushed and someone who never had dreams in the first place, here are five traits that will make you choose the non-athletes:

  1. They’re injury-free
    All that laying about has kept non-athletes’ muscles supple and bones intact, making them less likely to require valuable time off for physiotherapy and more likely to remain slouched at their work stations for long, uninterrupted periods, thereby increasing productivity. Statistically, non-athletes are 70% less likely to arrive at work with a javelin sticking out of their thorax than former athletes, a situation that can cause emotional distress to other employees and breakage within the tight confines of the lunch room. And as an employer, ask yourself: concussion, or no concussion? It’s a no-brainer.
  1. They’re self-disciplined
    Years of resisting social pressure to try out for sports teams, play some pick-up hockey, walk, etc. have transformed former non-athletes into strong-willed individuals who are not afraid to say, “I have stuff that needs… stuffing.” Non-athletes have learned to listen to their body, and what their body says is, “Pass the remote.” In the corporate world, this translates to workers who are willing to stand up for what they believe in, as long as they can do so sitting down.
  1. They’re team players
    I know: irony, right? But non-athletes have never been singled out in their entire lives, have never been rewarded for their accomplishments – or at least none that, you know, matter – have never demanded $6 million salaries for being really good at Dungeons & Dragon. After years of being systematically deprived of approval, non-athletes are primed to throw themselves wholly into that sense of belonging and shared purpose offered by successful companies. And cults.
  1. They’re open-minded
    Goal-oriented, focused on success at all costs, driven – the non-athlete is none of these. Non-athletes understand that sometimes the best thing you can do is give up and have a snack. Is that javelin fellow out of the lunch room yet? Thank God! For non-athletes, failure is part of everyday life. Giving up clears the way for a new start and fresh ideas and a chance to change into sweatpants. Non-athletes don’t give 110% because that, they explain snootily, is technically impossible.
  1. They’re reliable
    Non-athletes aren’t going to act out self-destructively over the bittern or step out of their comfort zone to participate in some bloody marathon or go running off to get they’re masters in sports bloody therapy. They’re not running off anywhere. Plus, you can be guaranteed that a non-athlete will never, ever eat a dog.
Posted in Never Happened | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 25 Comments

The Egging: A Halloween thingy

Troy “The Boil” Doyle blamed society. Consequently, he felt justified in being a jerk, and there was no better time to let your jerk flag fly than Halloween. The little reprobate took full opportunity of the holiday to soap, smash, TP and make smaller kids cry through trick or treachery.

In preparation for his night of holiday hooliganism, The Boil rooted around in the fridge of his mother’s bakery-slash-seafood diner, “Carbs ’n’ Crabs,” until he pulled out a carton of eggs. As dusk turned to dark, he fled the restaurant with his stash of ovoid missiles. He was dressed for Halloween as a demonic delinquent, which was his regular look except with “T-H-U-G” written across the knuckles of his left hand and “G-O-O-L” across the other; The Boil was failing Grade 10 English.

Immediately, The Boil embarked upon his egging spree. Ker-splat! Against the front door of the McBeebly place. Shplook! On Mrs. Merderber mezzanine. Bla-shoom! A bullseye on the windshield of a passing Prius. Ch-ch-ch-chshplANGG! A palpable hit on Old Man Jacobson’s front yard oscillating fan.

Did he hesitate when he came to the gloomy, doomy rooming house of the Widow Wetchard? Did he pause as he pulled back his faux-tattooed, egg-enclasping fist? Did he think about the direction his life was taking? Of course not! He was a punk, a nogoodnik, a lowlife. Spare your sympathy.

But he did jump back a step when, just as the egg shellAMMed against the Widow Wetchard’s door, that very door flung open, as if triggered by some otherworldly power, and there stood the cronish form of the seldom-seen spinster herself. She pointed a bony but surprisingly manicured finger at The Boil and cried:

Ovulum albumen vandalus goo
My portal be runny and you shall be too.”

“Ahh, your mother was a pawnbroker,” jeered The Boil and raced down the street.

He was just about to throw an egg at the storefront window of Nickerson’s Knick Knacks when it slipped out of his hand and fell to the sidewalk. The Boil instinctively looked at his hand. It was… dripping.

“Huh?” he said, which is about what you’d expect.

He raised his other hand. The finger tips were oozing too, coated with a yellow, viscous slime. He flicked his fingers to shake off the substance, but the mucousy tendrils merely seeped further up his wrists.

“Blubba-blubba!” cried The Boil, and he began to desperately wipe his hands and arms on his shirt, his pants, his espadrilles. But to no avail. The translucent goop only spread further, positively Seussian in its relentless oobleckian advance, down his torso, to his thighs, bypassing his knees strangely enough, and straight down to his toes.

“Gemme my Mama!!” shouted the hysterical The Boil as he began racing down the street, leaving an eggy trail behind him. Trick-or-treaters pointed. Some laughed, some cringed, most Instagrammed.

“Look, Mommy,” said a little girl. “He is the eggman, he is the eggman.”

“He is the walrus,” her mother corrected. “Now, shoo, shoo, sh-shoo.” Stupid mother…

In panic, screaming and blubbering, The Boil kept running, always running, very runny. “Stop it! Stop it!” he screamed at passersby, but with his egg-gummed mouth, it sounded like he was saying, “Omelet! Omelet!” so they only replied, “Yes, you are,” and continued on.

Frittata at last, The Boil lurched towards his mother’s diner, the egg coating growing thicker and denser, Trump-like, making movement and breathing ever more difficult. The diner was closed, but The Boil managed to scramble through a partly opened window in the rear. A mere shell of his former self, he stumbled blindly in the kitchen, bashing into the bins of flour, coating himself with the white powder until, with one last gurgle, he collapsed in a yolky heap onto the griddle.

That’s where his mother found him early the next morning, though by then he was unrecognizable. Distraught, horrified, annoyed by the mess, she called the police. They arrived within minutes, eager to crack the case.

“Turn him over – easy,” said the chief inspector. He prodded the flour-and-egg-coated body with a spatula. “Hmmm, looks like he’s been badly battered.”

“Beaten, sergeant?” asked his colleague.

“So it seems. Let’s whisk him out of here and… unless… unless… Anyone else hungry?”

Because breakfast, after all, is the most important meal of the day.

Posted in Holidays, Reading? Ugh! | Tagged , , , , , , , | 36 Comments

Montessori’s Revenge: A Halloween tale

A mild tremor rumbled beneath the Funky Dreadlock Centre for Childhood Exploration. It wasn’t strong enough to disturb the children’s self-discovery on the possibilities of what 3 plus 4 might add up to. But it was strong enough to awaken something. Something evil.

Directly beneath the school, a chasm split open, and seeping from it like an evil seeping thing seeped a toxin, a toxin more toxic than aspartame, beef, traditional education, and reality television combined.

The fumes filtered upward, eventually snaking into the building and into the Manual Dexterity Celebration Room where the children were learning about civil rights by creating figures of Gandhi and Mandela out of chickpea paste. The children’s brains were like sponges — and they soaked up the evil toxin.

Within the hour, the children began to change. One minute they were singing, “This old man, he played six, he played knick-knack on his military-industrial complex,” and the next they were drooling, vacant, babbling — even more than usual.

“Now children,” said the adult facilitator, “let’s all sit on our hemp mats and discuss our feelings about the alphabet.”

As one, the children turned their heads toward her. There was silence. Somewhere in the distance, a gecko barked. “Gllrrarrgh…,” gurgled a girl menacingly.

“Very good, Mashika,” said the teacher. “Does anyone know another word that starts with ‘gllrr’?”

And with that the children advanced, growling with sinister intent, their teeth bared and gnashing.

“Hmmm,” said the teacher, “It’s good that you’re expressing yourselves dentally as well as orally. Though, I must say the eyes rolled into the back of your heads? A bit off-putting. Who wants to go outside and fondle the grass?”

The children staggered closer, flinging aside hemp mats and free-form mobiles. “NRRGLLRBBH!” they growled. They stretched out their arms and grasped blindly with their hands.

“My, what an excellent homage to the cinematic zombie genre,” the early childhood educator stuttered nervously, backing towards the Cooperative Board Game Corner. “It’s good that you’re role-playing but how are we all feeling about encroaching my personal space? And who can tell me what ‘encroaching’ means?”

The infected children, some of them armed with homemade clay-dough, others savagely munching pastels, advanced.

“Children! Let’s assimilate some competencies!” stammered the teacher as the snarling children began tearing at her. “Ouch! No, children! AAGGH! No! We’re vegetarians! YAARG! THINK OF YOUR SELF-ESTEEM!!!”

The moral of the story: Those who can, do; those who can’t, get eaten.


From Don’t Everyone Jump at Once, available through Amazon and by asking me nicely.

Posted in Holidays, Reading? Ugh! | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments