Color commentary.

One of the great things about going to high school with people from 60 different countries was that we were all forced to see things, even the small, everyday things we all took for granted, from different perspectives.

I met Andrew on my first day at the school — the next year, we would become roommates — and we immediately bonded over our fandom of delicious food, British comedy, and American sports.

Andrew was from England, and so his experience with American sports was considerably different than mine; while I grew up looking at baseball players and football players like heroes and gods, he saw the same sports as entertainment and diversions. Most of all, I was used to watching games with the inane banter that is characteristic of most American sports commentary: uninspired play-by-play, ridiculous statistics, and forced dialog between broadcasters whose job was to keep the audience occupied, rather than entertain or educate them.

(There are, of course, instances where American sports commentary is entertaining instead of inane, but this is the exception, these days. I could listen to Vin Scully or Ernie Harwell call baseball games all my life, but they are a rarity. There is a lack of poetry in our sports commentary; voices like Harwell’s and Scully’s are a welcome relief from the doldrums.)

A few months into our first year of school together, Andrew and I developed a game we played whenever we watched sports in the small lecture hall that also had a cable television connection. We would put the game on mute, and would instead run our own play-by-play — ours was an over-the-top parody that mocked the sad state of commentary while also providing comic relief to whomever was in the lecture hall with us, watching the game unfold.

We developed characters with rich personas: they had names, backstories. Andrew was JVIII, the play-by-play announcer, a journalism-school-graduate that had never played sports at a high level and relied heavily on statistics and tropes that they taught him in school. He was unbaiased (often, comically so), and did the heavy lifting in our parody. Color commentary was left to me, KA-J, the former professional athlete with a mediocre-at-best career elevated to professional broadcaster after an injury forced me to retire early. I spoke in clichés, was always angling for a coaching job, and could always be counted on to put my foot in my mouth at least once a game.

These characters, this parody, was entertaining to us, and sometimes, to those who joined us during our spectatorship. Occasionally, we would corral one of our fellow classmates/sports fans into being a guest commentator: we were occasionally joined by the former coach, or the analytics expert, or the sideline reporter.

By our second year, we had amassed a small, but enthusiastic crew for our occasional sports-watching. Our commentary characters would sometimes appear outside of the lecture hall — any snarky comments about things we observed on campus would be said in our personas — and we were even invited, once in a while, to provide commentary to some of the pickup basketball games and soccer matches that would take place on weekends. What started as a parody of bad sportscasting turned into our way of giving some play-by-play to life; we had developed our very own Statler and Waldorf alter-egos, with much less grumpiness.

These days, once in a while, I’ll still listen to sports on mute (mostly when I am watching in bed and L is beside me and I don’t want to wake her up) and have my own running commentary running through my head. It isn’t better than what would regularly come through the speakers — in fact, it is often deliberately worse — but it does for me what so much sports commentary fails to do: it entertains.

And sometimes I hear the voice of JVIII in my head, providing play-by-play to my color commentary, making me laugh.

(Originally posted on Medium.)

 

Yes.

I made the best decision of my life this past weekend.

Apart from the congratulations, one of the questions I’ve heard from curious friends has been: when did you know?

The answer is obvious: I’ve always known.

Some part of me has known since the moment I met her that day in late April. But there are moments, small ones, that serve as reminders, that jog your memory and reinforce what you already knew.

When, before we moved in together, she bought crunchy peanut butter and left it in her kitchen because she knew just how much I loved eating it even though she barely did, that’s when I knew.

When she introduced me to her friends at a wedding and they all said, oh, that’s who you’ve been talking about so much these past few months, that’s when I knew.

When we sat there eating take-out from Swiss Chalet in the hospital food court while she was on call and she told me that she loves eating with me, no matter where it was or what we ate, that’s when I knew.

When her dad offered me some of the good scotch after dinner, the stuff he had in his reserve and not what was open in the bar, that’s when I knew.

When her eyes lit up in delight when we first walked into our current home and she turned to me and said, this is where I want to live with you, that’s when I knew.

When we celebrated her 30th birthday with all her friends at our home and she had the biggest smile on her face and all I could think of was wanting to make her smile like that every single day of my life, that’s when I knew.

When the kids from the extended family let me play with their play-dough and we made clay snowmen together after Christmas dinner while she watched and laughed, that’s when I knew.

When we went snowshoeing in a vineyard and then drank soup, huddled in our jackets, noses red from the cold air and all the wine, that’s when I knew.

When we sat on a bench outside of Versailles and drank cider and ate sausage and cheese from the farmer’s market in the Parisian sun, that’s when I knew.

When her family invited me to their cottage even though she was out of the country and they treated me like I was a family member and not just her boyfriend, that’s when I knew.

When my brother, who never really comments on any part of my life, told my grandmother (in confidence, without me there) that he was happy that I had found someone that not only made me happy, but that he respected and liked, that’s when I knew.

When, in the car on the way to Prince Edward County this past weekend, she said that she liked exploring new things and having adventures with me, that’s when I knew.

When she looked at me, for the briefest of moments, in disbelief, as I waited on one knee on a stone bridge in the middle of a vineyard, before she enthusiastically said yes, that’s when I knew.

This past weekend, I made the best decision of my life. 

There have been thousands of moments over the past two-and-a-half years that made me realize this was the right decision, but the truth is, I didn’t need those little realizations: I’ve always known.

In good hands.

I usually avoid discussing politics, but allow me this indulgence.

Toronto will be electing its new city council and mayor in just under three months; after the circus that has characterized municipal politics in this city for the past four years, this election is extremely important.

I grew up in North Etobicoke. More specifically, I grew up in a part of Etobicoke officially called Kingsview Village, but went by many names: Dixon, Little Mogadishu, Rexdale South, and a few others I can’t quite remember anymore. It was a diverse neighborhood, full of immigrants who had either recently arrived or were just starting to settle in Canada. On my walks to school, I would routinely hear at least ten languages being spoken around me; people from a spectrum of cultures and heritages would sit in the park and interact with each other, even when they couldn’t speak the same language.

Back then, Kingsview Village was designated as a priority neighborhood by the city of Toronto, recognizing that the demographic makeup of the area was marked by lower-than-average levels of employment and higher-than-average levels of poverty. I didn’t realize it as a child, but my neighborhood wasn’t like many of the other regions of the city, even though we always identified ourselves as part of Toronto. As a kid, I thought everyone in Toronto lived like I did, in neighborhoods like mine.

Kingsview Village falls in Ward 2 under the city’s electoral wards; it has been a ward that has long been mostly ignored until Rob Ford, our former city councillor, became the Mayor of the city. I won’t get into what Toronto under the mayorship of Rob Ford has been like, because it has been chronicled very well by writers I respect like Desmond Cole; I will say that Rob Ford and his brother Doug (the current councillor for Ward 2) are not good for my neighborhood, and it pains me to think that another member of the Ford family (who espouses a similar way of thinking as Rob and Doug) may be elected to represent the people in the place that I still call home.

The people who live in Ward 2, like my parents, are good people who work hard and support the people in their community. They invest time and effort into making their neighborhood a better place, and work hard — often, despite their lack of access to capital and wealth — to increase the prosperity of the people with whom they share their space. They are not bigoted, ignorant, or confrontational; they believe in debate, discussion, and coming up with decisions that are in the best interest of their community, and not just the individual.

As such, the Ford brothers are the complete opposite representations of neighborhood where I grew up, and are thus the absolutely wrong people to represent the people in that neighborhood on a municipal level.

I’m not going to chime in on the mayor’s race (though, I wouldn’t mind if you took a good look at what Soknacki could bring to the city) because what I want to do here is look instead at the makeup of city council — the decision-making body of our city.

If the role of a councillor is to represent the people of her/his ward on council, then the most important thing we can do is to ensure that our councillors are truly representative of the neighborhoods, in both their platforms and in their everyday actions. A city councillor needs to not only speak for the people she/he represents, but also understand their underlying ethic.

Which is why I’d like to tell you about Andray Domise.

I have never met Andray before, but I know people who have. They all echo the same sentiment: Andray is more than just his words (and what articulate, excellent words they are), but is a man of principle who cares for this city and especially cares about the people he hopes to represent.

From the research I’ve done, I believe Andray is the kind of person that would perfectly represent my neighborhood: he is interested in coming up with solutions that are of benefit to the community he serves, and believes in coming up with those solutions with the community itself. His words are consistent with his actions, and he owns his mistakes and learns from them.

That is exactly how I would describe the people of Ward 2: hard working, collaborative, community-focused, always willing to share and learn.

I will be speaking to my parents and their friends who live in the neighborhood about Andray, and about how they need to release themselves from the cycle of anger that has propelled the Ford family into their political success so far. I will tell them that because of people like Andray — and so many other council hopefuls across the city, like Idil Burale in Ward 1, Alex Mazer in Ward 18, and Keegan Henry-Mathieu in Ward 7, to name a few—Toronto can be in good hands.

I will tell them that they need to elect someone that is a representation of who they are; they need to choose someone who will make them feel proud to live in Kingsview Village, and show the rest of the city just how wonderful a place it truly is.

Toronto can be in good hands, if we just let ourselves.

(Originally posted on Medium.)

Collected.

The web is full of great things to read, great videos to watch, great links to explore. Here are a few of my favorites that I discovered this past month:

To all those people who have asked my why I think Friday Night Lights is one of the best shows ever to grace a television screen, please read this:

There are a handful of shows I ask everyone I talk to about television if they have seen: The Wire, Mad Men, Friday Night Lights. But when I ask them if they’ve watched and loved Friday Night Lights, what I mean is are you my kind of person? Are you all heart? Are you bothered by this 21st-century lack of earnestness, our abundance of irony? Do you wonder how we forgive and coach ourselves to do better? How we can strive again for valor and loyalty and daring and redemption?

I fear we are defaulting to needless negativity as some kind of social currency. But Friday Night Lights is the most earnest show I’ve ever watched. Not sentimental, however: these characters aren’t perfect. In fact, this show is incredibly astute at allowing humans to have stratums of complexity: to have character and occasionally act without it, and then to live in the mire of their own dumb choices. Do I adore Coach? Yes. Do I think, as Tammy says, he is a molder of men and a husband of fierce devotion? Absolutely. Do I also think he can also be a self-involved, sexist prick who values his career over his wife’s? No question.

Regardless of the scale of the battle, the stakes in Friday Night Lights are rarely phony or contrived. It’s about winning games, sure, but its scope far exceeds that. This is a show that tests and reflects commitment not just on the football field, but back in the locker room. And in Street’s rehab room, and Saracen’s grandmother’s living room, and Julie’s bedroom, and eventually out to Luke’s farm and Tim’s prison and Tammy’s dream in Philadelphia. This commitment is not about obligation, but something more sacred. Duty. The hidden gale that blusters and grows within us and makes us yearn to give someone else exactly what they need.

Think what you want about the man and his music, but sometimes, Kanye West has a knack for saying things in the oddest, but most perfect, way:

When a kid falls in love with an airplane or a bike or a dinosaur—especially if you're an only child and it's not because of the book that the sibling was reading—it's like, fuck, you mean to tell me that the dinosaurs walked the earth and stuff like that?! That's amazing! You mean to tell me that these giant multi-ton crafts can fly that fast and that loud, and they can flip, and there's danger, the possibility of them exploding? That's fucking cool! You mean to tell me that this girl with this fucking body and this face is also into style, and she's a nice person, and she has her own money and is family-oriented? That's just as cool as a fucking fighter jet or dinosaur! And just as rarely seen.

With the Michael Sam reaction and the Ray Rice situation, it has been a tough few weeks to be a football fan. Even harder to be a fan of sports media, right now, especially ESPN:

If you’re left scratching your head wondering why Smith hasn’t been penalized at all, you’re probably unfamiliar with both the culture of ESPN—a boy’s club where reports of egregious incidents/remarks by its commentators vis-à-vis the treatment of women have plagued the network for years—and the strange corporate apparatus itself: a hyperbolic spin machine masquerading as a “news network.” It is, simply put, the Fox News of Sports.

I love helping other people, but have trouble asking for help myself. Jon Crowley captures that sentiment perfectly:

When someone asks me for advice, or a friend is in trouble, I don't feel like I'm offering advice, or parachuting in to offer perspective. I feel responsible for helping them through this, at their own pace, until things are on a better footing for them. I will feel this responsibility constantly, for years at times, if the past is any indicator.

I don't feel comfortable putting that burden on anyone else, and I don't always feel comfortable with taking it on myself, but that's who I appear to be.

Lost in all the talk about the American showing at the World Cup this past month was the fact that the US women actually dominate international soccer:

Only one thing mars my enjoyment of watching the World Cup, and it's the absence of one small word. Just a tiny qualifier in a statistic that really should be corrected as our men's team continues to gain respect internationally. So I ask the American commentators, please stop announcing that Landon Donovan is the "all-time U.S. leading goal scorer." He is not. With 57 international goals, he's not even in the Top Five.

The all-time U.S. leading goal scorer is Abby Wambach, with 167 goals, followed by Mia Hamm (158), Kristine Lilly (130), Michelle Akers (105) and Tiffeny Milbrett (100). In fact, Abby Wambach is the all-time leading goal scorer in the world, among all soccer players, male or female.

We're rapidly approaching a municipal election, and Desmond Cole has consistently been one of the smartest, most thoughtful voices on municipal issues in this city:

One of the reasons it is so difficult to address bigotry is that we tend to focus on the abusers rather than the abused. We spend a lot of time debating whether individual people are racist, misogynistic, or homophobic; we parse their words in search of hidden meanings, dispute whether there’s a difference between making a racist remark and being a racist. Meanwhile, the legion of real people who have been slurred fade into abstraction. Victims of discrimination become points of reference instead of individuals whose vilification deserves immediate attention, opposition, and remedy.

After refusing to address his countless insults and denigrations, and in the face of years of evidence to the contrary, Rob Ford and his say-anything brother Doug are now claiming that the chief magistrate of Toronto is not a raging bigot. Rob Ford is, of course, a world-class bigot. About this there can no longer be any dispute.

Lots of good discussion about watching porn here, but it was this passage that stood out most for me:

There are always going to be people who are smarter, sexier, wealthier or whatever than we are, & at the same time, there are always going to be people who are not as smart, sexy or wealthy as us. Does it make a difference in our daily lives? No, not really. Knowing, for example, that you have a higher IQ than the guy down the road is not exactly a source of pride or security. It doesn’t alter your reality in any way. You still have problems. We all do. So, what I’m saying is that it doesn’t matter where you are on the sliding scale of beauty, intellect or wealth. We all have our issues.

Comparing yourself to other people sucks & it hurts. Some people are caught in a constant loop of comparison with others, & ultimately, they are always trying to be someone they’re not. It is such a waste of life. You can only be you. Everyone else is taken!

As a fan of cheeseburgers, I'm of the opinion that big food and fast food aren't evil, it's how we engage with them:

I believe in a world where cheeseburgers are healthy and chocolate cake is what you deserve on your birthday and makes your life better. And you should have ice cream.

I've long been fascinated by how we decide what to keep, what to delete, what to cherish, what to erase. Turns out, this is a fascination that has existed for ages:

I accidentally delete things all the time: an email I meant to send, a phrase I wrote but replaced, or a hard drive I thought I was fixing—only to realize I erased my computer’s operating system.

Yet, I find I can take comfort in the fact that humans have had this problem for hundreds of years. I also take comfort in the fact that even things erases can sometimes be found again. Whether on hard drives or on centuries-old parchment, what appears to be lost is often only hidden. And the technology we use—both to record information in the first place and to recover it when it’s gone—reflect the fundamental values of our time.

A Dutch physicist takes colored x-rays of flora and fauna, and the resulting artwork is beautiful:

The Guardian: Arie van't Riet's X-Ray Artwork

The Guardian: Arie van't Riet's X-Ray Artwork

This Coca-Cola ad from the World Cup made me tear up a little:

An illustrated history of password-use, over thousands of years:

The Morning News: Who Goes There

The Morning News: Who Goes There

A few more, before you go:

In case that's not enough, check out Squandrous.com. There's more to see there, almost every day.

#theeveryday in July

Over on Squandrous, I occasionally post half-baked thoughts and little anecdotes about life under the tag #theeverday. Here's a roundup of some of those posts from July.

06: I have some really, really talented friends. Some of them can act, some can sing, some can write, some can cook, some can dance, some can paint, some can play a mean trumpet. Whatever they do, I love being surrounded by supremely talented people who inspire me every day.

My friend Joe is in an improv group called Sex T-Rex, and this past weekend, we went to check out his show, Watch out Wildkat!, at Toronto’s Fringe Festival. It was hilarious; I laughed and laughed continuously for the entire hour. If you’re looking for something to do this week, I highly recommend checking it out.

11: One of the best bars of chocolate I have ever eaten was a Mast Brothers bar that had sea salt and fennel seed and some other stuff I can’t remember right now — I do remember that it was delicious and I still crave it, months later. It was a special edition chocolate bar, so I can’t buy it anymore; instead, I buy other bars of Mast Brothers chocolate and enjoy them immensely. They never do capture the same feeling of that fennel seed bar, but they are still delicious.

12: We call them tokens, or gestures: “what a lovely gesture, thank you for your token of kindness.”

These words are diminutive. That small gesture, that seemingly-insignificant token can be the world. The little things that we do to remind people that we care, that we are thinking of them, that their presence in our lives — in no matter what capacity it may be — makes our world a better place, those are things that resonate long after their immediate impact is felt.

That card that came in the mail is not just a pretty piece of stationery, but instead a reminder that someone is missing you, that without you nearby there is a small absence in their heart. That plant left on your desk is not just something to brighten up the office, but a way to show appreciation for the mentorship and guidance you have given someone, guidance that has helped them find a new path.

They are tokens, gestures; we may forget them quickly, but the feelings behind them linger long after that gesture or token has faded from memory.

19: I try to get out of the city as much as I can, but I inevitably have the same destinations: Muskoka, the Twenty Valley, Niagara-on-the-Lake. I know those regions well, so my escapes are comfortable.

A few days ago, I took a trip to Hamilton for a work meeting. Hamilton, for me, is usually a drive-by town on my way elsewhere; I know it by the highways I use to drive through.

After my meeting, I took some time to explore the downtown, get a feel for the place — and thoroughly enjoyed myself. The people were friendly, the shops unique and interesting. I ate well, picked up some regional postcards, and played catch in the park. I’ll have to return soon to discover more.

19: L made peri peri chicken yesterday for dinner, and it was incredibly delicious. Super spicy (my tongue was on fire for a little while), but super tasty. Cooking with her is one of my favorite things to do.

20: When we moved to Toronto, money was tight. Most of my recreation time was spent in public parks, or in free drop-in programs in neighborhood recreation centers. When my dad and I used to hang out, we played catch in the park or hung out at the library. Once in a while, however, we’d go to the ball game.

My dad found a job at CIBC when he moved here, and back then, CIBC was the official sponsor of the Toronto Blue Jays. From time to time, my dad would get free or highly-discounted tickets to the ball game, and we’d take the subway down to the Skydome and spend the afternoon watching baseball in the sunshine together. It was glorious. Baseball isn’t my absolute favorite sport — I love it, but football still holds the fondest part of my heart — but watching a ball game is one of my favorite ways to spend a Sunday afternoon.

A trip to the ball park isn’t just a reminder of afternoons with my dad over twenty years ago, but also an excuse to enjoy the sun and eat junk food and spend time with people we love.

24: I will write you love letters, Charlie Brown.

27: Inspired by Samantha’s meal from a few days ago, L and I decided to make grits for dinner last night. It’s no surprise that I’m a fan of grits — the cuisine of the southern United States has always been among my favorites — and the recipe that Sam shared looked delicious and not-too-complicated, either.

We picked up some scallops from a local fishmonger — and, while we were there, some fresh Arctic char that had just been flown in on Friday from Nunavut — and set to work. All in all, the dinner was a success (so delicious!) and reminded me once again that there are very few things in life better than spending time in the kitchen with someone you love.

28: The Rusholme Lawn Bowling club has existed in its current location for over a hundred years, but this is the first I’ve ever heard of it. I’ve walked by it dozens of times, but it is hidden behind houses in a residential neighborhood, inconspicuous to anyone who wasn’t explicitly looking for a lawn bowling club.

Yesterday was my first time ever lawn bowling; before we arrived, I actually asked L if lawn bowling involved knocking down pins. Such was the extent of my familiarity with the sport.

In keeping with my word of the year, I learned how to lawn bowl, and within a few minutes, I was hooked. I didn’t want to stop. Sure, I wasn’t really any good at it, but it was fun to be outside in the sun with friends and loved ones, trying something new, something relatively active, something different.

I will no longer walk by the Rusholme Lawn Bowling club and be ignorant of what sits behind the old house in the front. I will return, there, or at some other club in the city, to bowl again.

29: It's easy to forget, sometimes.