A Positive Spin

February 22, 2011

I like the taste of a cold can of Diet Coke. Really cold. Straight out of the fridge cold. Or out of a really good vending machine.

I like soda crackers. I don’t know what it is – they’re such a simple little food. But I can eat the damn things a sleeve at a time and not even notice it. I’m pretty sure they’re not supposed to be eaten that way. Maybe they should start marketing them as a snack food?

I like the cold and snow, because it means people don’t mill around in front of the restaurant behind my house. I can’t believe I forgot this in my post on civility, but there’s little I find more annoying than the people who plant themselves in large groups smack dab in the middle of the sidewalk. Amazingly, when it’s cold out, they manage to find other places to wait for their tables, or to smoke. I like this.

I like when someone sings a piece at karaoke, and does a better job of it than the original artist. I’m sitting at karaoke as I write this, and this woman just rocked “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes. I’m not a Stripes fan at all, and don’t particularly like the song, but it was fantastic – she had her own interpretation of it, with a bit of flair. It was a joy to listen to.

Conversely, I take a bit of perverse pleasure when someone gets up clearly thinking they’re god’s gift to music, and just shits the bed. But I’m just mean that way…

I like the taste of a Krispy Kreme donut, original glazed, fresh off the conveyor belt, while you’re waiting in line to place your order. The donut itself is amazing enough, but the fact that they’re giving it to you for free – well, it’s like the bartender comping you the first shot of the night, or the drug dealer giving you the first hit to get you hooked.

I like Twitter. Yes, obvious to those who know me, but it’s really true. First off, it forced me to imagine from the group up how I consume information. Second, the 140-character online world brought a wealth of interesting people into my ‘real’ world. Most importantly, though, is the range of amazing sports writing to which I’ve been exposed – some new, some who I’d only read infrequently in the past. Local writers like Bruce Arthur, who’s turning out some of the most intelligent coverage of the Canadian sports scene I’ve seen in years. Ex-pats like Jonah Keri, who I used to read when he was at Baseball Prospectus, but who I’d drifted away from over the last couple of years. The incredible Joe Posnanski, who’s unquestionably the best writer of this generation using sports as a lens. Seriously, while I love Joe the most when he’s writing about baseball – or about life as informed by baseball – but I’d read 3000 words by him on bullfighting, or cricket, or tiddlywinks. Anything. Joe is the late-’50s Montreal Canadiens. He’s Coltrane. He’s Kristin Chenoweth in “Wicked”. He’s Elle Macpherson. He’s “The Rabbit of Seville”.

That same woman, by the way, just crushed some Sam Cooke. Versatile – that’s solid.

I like Brian Burke. Look, it’s easy, even fashionable, to crap on him for the free agent signings that didn’t work out – Komisarek and Lebda foremost among them. Ripping the Kessel trade is low-hanging fruit, and equally lazy. But for the first time in I can’t remember how long, I honestly believe that the Leafs’ GM is doing everything within his abilities to improve the team. That every loss is a punch to the gut, just like for the team’s most loyal fans. That other than his family, nothing is more important in his life than doing what’s necessary to bring Toronto a Stanley Cup, and not just at the corner of Front & Yonge.

I like Alex Anthopoulos. Dude’s a ninja. Sure, the Jose Bautista contract worries me, but it’s not my money – actually, that’s not true. With the amount Rogers gets from us for cable, internet, home phone, cell phones, Jays tickets – well, I figure I’m responsible for just a little less than 1/10th of one percent of his salary this year. But if this is a mistake, it’s his first one as far as I’m concerned. Pretty good batting average.

I like Mini-Wheats. They’re sweet. They’re crunchy. They’re really everything you could want from a breakfast cereal. Or an evening snack.

The point of all this? I often get accused of being too serious, of not having enough fun in life. I just wanted to take a bit of time and space to describe just a few of the things that bring happiness to my life. There are many more, which is another thing I like. What do you like?


On Civility

February 20, 2011

There’s a world that I miss.

It’s a world where men took off their hats when they came indoors.

A world where men got up to give their seat on the bus or subway to a pregnant woman.

A world where people held doors open for each other, instead of letting them swing back into their faces.

A world where people understood that the point of headphones and earphones was so that only they had to listen to their music.

A world where people kept to the right, so that there was room on the sidewalk for everyone.

A world where people paid attention to where they were going.

A world people said “excuse me” when they bumped into you.

A world where people paid attention to street signs, like the ones that say ‘no parking’ or ‘no stopping’.

A world where people understood the concept of standing in line.

A world where people didn’t wear jeans to the theatre. Or running shoes. Or hoodies. Or jeans. Did I mention jeans?

A world where people made original music, or at least remade the entire song.

A world where people cancelled reservations that they weren’t going to keep.

A world where we didn’t have Real Housewives and the Shore. Where the rich people on TV were just actors playing rich people. Where the stupid people on TV were just actors playing stupid people… or politicians.

I’m not imagining this, right? That world existed? Where people treated each other with kindness, and respect, and civility? Where shooting to match the lowest common denominator wasn’t the preferred route in life. This wasn’t just something that I saw on TV or in the movies?

Regardless, I miss that world.

Make Suspensions Mean Something

February 13, 2011

There’s a much longer post kicking around in my head – actually, it’s taking shape in my Moleskine, which is also its own separate post someday. The other post is about the whole mess in the Islanders/Penguins game on Friday night, and it’s basically taking shape around the idea that Trevor Gillies is a moron. Because I like to start with an indisputable fact, and work out from there…

In the meantime, the NHL has announced tonight the suspensions resulting from that game. On the whole, not a bad job. Eric Godard’s 10 games was prescribed, so it can’t really be argued. I’ll say, though, that I’d take that suspension every day if I were him and twice on Sundays, if it meant having my goalie’s back. I wish the 4 games that Matt Martin got was more – 6 or 7 felt more appropriate. I can’t argue with 9 games for Trevor Gillies – I’m actually surprised it’s that long, but he deserves every game of it and more because, as I mentioned above, he’s a moron. Nice $100,000 hit to Charles Wang’s pocket, which is just fine. Only thing that surprises me is the lack of any kind of discipline for Isles coach Jack Capuano.

But my purpose here is to throw an idea out for your consideration. It doesn’t feel like it ought to be a new idea, but I’m quite sure I’ve never heard or read it anywhere. So here goes…

NHL teams dress 18 skaters and 2 goalies for every game. When a player gets suspended, they still dress 18 skaters and 2 goalies – they just grab a body out of the press box or, assuming they haven’t completely buggered their cap management, call a guy up from the minors.

But how about this? How about, instead of just losing the suspended player, they lose the spot on the active roster? In other words, for the next 4 games while Matt Martin and Trevor Gillies are suspended, the Islanders would only be allowed to dress 16 skaters and 2 goalies. For the other five games of Gillies’ suspension, they could only dress 17 skaters and 2 goalies.

Think Trevor Gillies is going to think twice before charging a guy with elbow high if he knows that the guy next to him in the dressing room is going to have to double-shift for half the month? More importantly, think Jack Capuano is going to think twice about putting Trevor Gillies into his lineup to begin with is that’s the potential result?

The only way we’re going to get this crap out of the game – the ONLY way – is peer pressure. So let’s use the supplementary discipline system to put some pressure on those peers, so that they’ll put the necessary pressure onto their jackass teammates.

This Weekend is Mother’s Day for Me

September 12, 2010

For better and for worse, I am the man that I am today because of my mother.

I don’t say that lightly, for my father played no small part in my upbringing and I’d like to hope that I’ve been somewhat responsible for what/who I am too.

But it’s quite simple – there is a single, defining event in my life and it has had a hand in shaping everything that’s come since (I guess that’s why they call it a defining event, no?).

On July 22, 1975, my mother lost her fight with breast cancer. She was just 35 years old. I was 6.

Growing up without my mother is why I know how to cook, and clean, and do laundry – my older sister and I pitched in on the chores at a very early age, to help take some of the load off my dad. From everything I’ve been told, my mother is the root of my musical talent – she won awards in local music competitions. As a child, I learned to be polite, quiet, respectful of my elders; really, I learned to be a mini-adult, because it made everything just that much easier.

On the other hand, growing up without my mother is also probably why I got married the day after I turned 22. It’s certainly why it took me two failed marriages and until my mid-thirties (and my current fiancée) to finally get it right with a relationship. It’s why I’ve never said “I love you” to the important people in my life nearly often enough, and why I’ve never said it at all to some of them. A psychoanalyst would probably tell me that growing up without my mother is why I don’t have any interest in having children of my own, although I’d argue I have plenty other good reasons for that.

Anyway, not having a mother and never really getting to know her, Mother’s Day has never held any real meaning for me. However, about 6 1/2 years ago, I came across something that did have some meaning – a roundabout way I could connect with my mother. In September 2004, I took part in the second annual Weekend to End Breast Cancer. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this event, it was a two day, 60 kilometre walk throughout the streets of Toronto, with a minimum fundraising requirement of $2,000. It was, to say the least, a life-changing experience. The weekend itself was a flood of emotions – the people I met, the stories I heard, exhaustion and exhilaration all mixed up together in one package. I raised a boatload of money for a great cause and met some people who’ll be in my life for a long, long time.

It was such a great experience that I came back in 2005 and did it all over again. And then once more in 2007, although circumstances (also known as a blister covering the entire pad of my foot) stopped me from getting the job done after the first day.

I haven’t been back to walk since, for a lot of reasons. The event’s now known as The Weekend to End Women’s Cancers (one of the reasons, in fact) and this year’s edition wrapped up a couple of hours ago. But even if I’ve soured on taking part myself, it doesn’t stop me from being in awe of everyone who does and wanting to get out and support them in the effort. Yesterday morning, I found a nice quiet side street in the Avenue and Lawrence area not too far from home, parked the car, and stationed myself on the sidewalk at about the 19 km mark in front of a row of townhouses. From 10:30 until just after 3:00, I stood there and clapped my hands red for every single one of the 4,623 walkers on the route (okay, I maybe missed the first half-dozen or so while I was getting parked). Young and old, women and men, large groups or lone walkers, pregnant, knees braced, walking poles – they all came by.

Yesterday was my chance to say thanks to a large group of people – today, there are a few in particular who I’d like to make sure know how much I appreciate their sacrifice:

  • Thanks to Deneen Cole-Ashbury – a friend from my first year, and an absolute road-warrior for this cause. This was her 7th year doing the Toronto event, and her 16th event overall – yes, she’s travelled to other cities to walk long distances, and each one of those had the same $2,000 fundraising minimum. Do the math…
  • Thanks to Erin Truax – fellow CIBCer back for her second year
  • Thanks to Jai Cole – friend from what seems like a lifetime ago, queen of the sweeper vehicles – and her daughter Stephanie
  • Thanks to Greg Barry – motorcycle crew man extraordinaire
  • Thanks to Ngaio Potts – castmate from this spring’s production of The Producers
  • Thanks to Meri Rawling-Taylor – one-time boss, now co-worker and friend
  • Thanks to Ana Mae Soquena – our intrepid, ball-of-energy assistant at work
  • Thanks to everyone else from Team CIBC – the ones I know/have met (Sonia, Victor, Leslie, Maureen, Colette, and Martha) and all of the dozens others I don’t/haven’t
  • Thanks to Dee Brun and Lisa – two ladies with long-familiar Twitter handles who I was just twintroduced to last night

To everyone who walked or crewed – but to all of you above especially – thanks for registering, for training, for walking/crewing… thanks for the sore muscles and the blisters… thanks for taking the weekend away from your partners, your children, your pets… thanks for raising almost 11 million dollars this weekend.

Mostly, thanks for doing everything you can to try to create a world where little boys become men because they have their mothers around, not because they don’t.

My P90X Journey – Day 57: The Home Stretch Begins

July 21, 2010

Today, we move into phase 3 of the P90X program. All of the workouts are ones that we’ve seen before, but the combination switches every week from here on out. This week is a repeat of the combination from weeks 1 through 3.

My strategy tonight? Bring the pain. On all the lifts and flys where I was using 12 pound weights before, use 15s this time and try to not drop by too many reps. On the chin-ups and pull-ups where I was using 70 lbs before, use 80 this time. On all of the push-up variations where I’d been staying on my knees so that I could actually get in a decent number of repetitions, do them all from my toes, even if it meant that I could only do 1.

And it all worked. It wasn’t even as big of a change as I would have expected. I mean, the second time through the set of exercises was really hard, but I pushed through it all. I was even able to bang out push-ups – more than I expected I would.

On the downside, I apparently lost my sit-up muscles during this last recovery week. Very annoying…

My P90X Journey – Day 52: Marlee Matlin Likes Me! (or The Power of Celebrity)

July 16, 2010

It’s been an odd day in my P90X blog world…

I made two commitments to myself when I decided to blog about the P90X workouts. First of all, I wouldn’t blog about the blog. I see that quite often, but it just seems a little too self-referential – a little too meta, as the cool kids say. Second, I’d try to keep the blogging focused on P90X – the workouts, and their physical, mental, and emotional effect. I could see a day where I might want to spin off into talking about hockey, or baseball, or lousy drivers, but I wanted to hold back on that until at least day 91.

I broke that second commitment a couple of days ago with the radio station post. I just couldn’t help myself – I actually emailed a slightly different version of that to the station originally, but it didn’t get the desired effect. Then I remembered that I had a platform. Okay, it’s not big enough to be a platform, per se, but you get the point. Hence, the radio station post. Off topic, but it seemed to interest people enough that a decent number of you clicked through to read it.

Today, I’m going to break the first commitment. I’m about to get meta on y’all.

As you may know, I’m on Twitter (@sboulton, if you’re also there and looking to give a follow). I have a rather varied roster of people that I follow – sports writers, athletes, tech bloggers, interesting people who I’ve met around town, and the odd celebrity or two. One of the celebrities I follow is Marlee Matlin – she’s a great actress (loved her in The West Wing) and she has a very interesting perspective on activism.

Today, Marlee Matlin tweeted that she was “Making a Change”. When I clicked through on the link that she provided, I saw that she’s registered herself as a BeachBody coach – BeachBody.com are the folks who offer the range of fitness products that includes P90X – and that she’s challenged herself to a fitness regimen. She’s currently doing Power 90, and she plans to start P90X on August 1st.

I thought that was pretty interesting, including that she was brave enough to post her “before” picture on her coach page. So, I sent her a tweet to say attaboy, that it’s a fantastic program, and that I was going through my own P90X journey. It’s the type of tweet that I’ve sent out to other celebrities before – “hey, liked you in that movie”, that sort of thing. I generally figure that it goes out into the ether without making any impact.

I could not have been more wrong…

Much to my surprise, Marlee Matlin retweeted my tweet to her. If you’re not familiar with how Twitter works, a retweet is when you read a tweet by someone who you’re following, and then you turn around and send it out so that all the people who are following you can see it too. Reading stuff that’s retweeted by the people you follow is how you often find new people to follow – if someone’s interesting to them, they might also be interesting to you.

Now, Marlee Matlin has more than 46,000 people following her tweets. She’s also in another 2,700-odd twitter lists, plus she turns up in aggregator streams on websites for magazines like People and Entertainment Weekly. In other words, lots of people see her tweets.

This blog, on the other hand, is usually seen by very few people. If I get a dozen people reading the average post, it’s a good day. In fact, the last two days, I’d set new highs for myself in terms of page views. “Highs” is a relative term – yesterday topped out at 54, and the day before that at 40. In other words, I don’t exactly have a broad reach.

Today, this blog had 219 page views, and that number is still growing as I’m writing this…

Suffice to say, Marlee Matlin is an 800-pound gorilla and I, I am the tick riding along perched on the back of the gorilla’s neck. Pretty insignificant in the grand scheme of things but, for one day at least, it’s been a fun ride.

Oh, yeah – about the P90X for today. It was kenpo day and, thankfully, I did not feel like an uncoordinated clod throughout it like I did during week 7. Another nice hard workout – sweated up a river – that felt really good. Tomorrow, I have my first massage appointment in about a month-and-a-half – ahhhh – followed by the chiropractor. And then, it’s a stretch day. I’m a happy boy.

My P90X Journey – Day 50: Evangelism

July 14, 2010

The gospel is spreading. It started as just two friends from The Producers, Erin, and me. Slowly, ever so slowly, more people have been sucked into the P90X web:

  • Erin’s brother James was first – he’s been with us since the beginning
  • Two people from my team at work were interested in all or part of it, and one of them had day 2 today
  • Another cast mate is going to give it a go
  • One of my oldest friends is taking a look

Pretty much every time that we’re down in the gym, someone or another remarks on how hard the workout looks, or asks about what we’re doing. Tonight, as James was out front for a smoke before we headed down for yoga, he ran into one of the other guys from the building who’s often in the gym when we are. He’s already ridiculously fit – works out like an animal – but asked what we were doing tonight and if he could try it out. So, tonight we had a yoga buddy.

Good yoga workout tonight. I’m still not sure what’s going to happen on day 91, or day 92, but I can see this being something that I come back to from time to time. Being able to hold a position better than the time before, or being able to hold a position for the first time, is extremely satisfying. And needless to say, it’s an incredibly intense routine.

An Open Letter to Morning Drive-Time Radio

July 13, 2010

Dear local radio station whose name shall be withheld to protect the less-than-innocent,

I couldn’t call in this morning because I was driving to work, but I was listening to your discussion about Mel Gibson and his taped comments that have been leaked. I had two thoughts that I wanted to share with you.

First, while it’s true that the nature of his comments (and his previous actions) tells us a lot about Mel Gibson as a man, that was supposed to be a private conversation between a husband and a wife (or are they just dating?). It’s none of anyone’s business except theirs. It may have even been recorded illegally – unlike in Canada, as far as I’m aware it’s illegal in most U.S. states for anyone other than law enforcement to record someone without their knowledge and consent. Beyond the fact that it’s salacious, which equals controversy and ratings, why should we care?

Second, and most importantly, it struck me that you followed up your discussion about Mel Gibson’s hateful comments by playing right afterward the song “Love the Way You Lie” by Rihanna and Eminem. Among Eminen’s lyrics are this gem – “If she ever tries to f***ing leave again, I’mma tie her to the bed and set the house on fire.”. I think it was Shakespeare that first wrote those words, wasn’t it?

I’m assuming there’s not really a link between the music you play and the topics you discuss on your morning show, so I’m guessing that you weren’t trying to be ironic. So, I can only say that it takes a special kind of hypocrisy to demonize hurtful speech and domestic violence one second and then turn around and glorify it the next. It’s particularly disappointing when the two artists recording the song with those lyrics each have their own histories with tumultuous or violent relationships, whether perpetrator or victim.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that you’re in the entertainment business and that it’s ultimately about ratings. You’re going to play songs that people want to hear, whether it’s “Love the Way You Lie”, or Pitbull’s “Hotel Room”, with all its bragging about infidelity and sex without respect for the other person.

But your station does a lot of great work, whether through the causes you support or shows like the one you did a while back for teens to call in and ask questions about sex. You had an opportunity here to have a similar impact with regard to the issue of domestic violence, which is enormously important and occurs with alarming frequency among your demographic. I just think it’s really unfortunate that you didn’t take advantage of that opportunity – that, in fact, you decided to use it as the jumping-off point for sophomoric song parodies and unoriginal insults. It’s even more unfortunate that we don’t live in a world where you’d be able to have your playlist reflect the values you otherwise try to model for your listeners.

Hmm, I’m starting to sound like my father here.

Anyway, thanks for listening. I’m not sure I will be for much longer…

My P90X Journey – Day 49: Hey Jackie… Phhttt…

July 13, 2010

…Yeah, I said phhttt. No, I didn’t get the workout in on Saturday night when we got home. Yes, I should have done it in the morning before we came to the party. Yes, that means that I’m down to P86X now. Still, phhttt.

Good hard kenpo workout yesterday, but it wasn’t particularly satisfying. Felt really uncoordinated through the whole thing, like I was doing everything with my left hand.

Today’s stretch routine was much better. I’m still really happy with how much more flexible I’m getting, particularly laterally.

And so we hit the end of week 7, rolling over to another recovery week starting tomorrow. A little more weight loss (20 pounds total this year), which means the BMI comes a little closer to getting out of the overweight range. A little more of a drop in body fat percentage. Everything confirming what I’d been feeling – this is still working. Perhaps not as quickly or as consistently as I’d like, but it’s still working. And in 11 days, more photos.


My P90X Journey – Day 45: Momentum

July 9, 2010

Plyometrics yesterday? Um, hard. Not disheartening hard, but hard enough that I couldn’t get through as much as I’d have wanted to of each exercise. Knees are the problem these days, and for the last couple of weeks for that matter. Actually, probably not the knees themselves – I’d wager that it’s likely the IT bands, which have been a problem for me for years.

But when your knees, or IT bands, hurt, it makes it tough to get down into a decent squat. It makes it uncomfortable to do a lot of movements that involve leaving your feet, which is really what plyo is all about.

Plus, it’s freaking hot right now. Sucks the life right out of you, and a perfect breeding ground for an exercise-induced asthma flare-up.

Today’s back/biceps/abs? Much, much better. The good type of hard. More reps of almost everything. More situps than Tuesday, instead of sliding back to not being able to do any like two weeks ago. 15 mason twists, almost halfway to what’s in the program.

I am tired, but satisfied.

Now, let’s see how well I can manage the life/workout balance this weekend. Dad’s in town Friday night for the Jays game, which means I probably won’t be able to get to the scheduled yoga. Pick it up on Monday’s rest day instead?