December 17th @ Free Times Café

Like many people (not everyone, but many) I have a smartphone. To be precise I have a Blackberry, and one that is more than a few years old. So, while I may technically have a smartphone, how smart I am to have that particular smartphone is a discussion for another time (but I do love that physical keyboard).

As you know from watching TV commercials and ads running whenever you try to search anything on the Internet, the smartphones we have today (even my Blackberry) can do lots of amazing things. But when I’m on a bus or subway or train or plane you know what I see most people do with their smartphones – they use it to play solitaire. Now I admit this is not the most scientific survey ever because when I am on a bus or subway or train or plane I am often playing solitaire on my smartphone so it’s not like I’m spending all my time checking out what other folks are doing – but whenever I do look up that’s what I see – people using their incredibly sophisticated smartphones to play solitaire.

Continue reading

November 19th @ Free Times Café

I have to admit I was a little freaked out a few weeks ago when I received an email from my e-reader. Yes, I have an e-reader, and yes I know that there is something magical, nay transcendent, about turning the pages of a real book, and yes, an e-reader can never give off that ineffable – if musty – book smell – although I hear Febreze is working on something like that – but it’s not like I hate books and won’t ever read them, I just like my e-reader so can we just leave it at that please (can you tell I’ve had this discussion before).

Where was I? Oh yeah, I was defending my use of an e-reader and trying to get to the scary e-mail part. Now the email itself was not particularly scary. It’s not like the e-reader threatened to tell everyone what I was reading (not that I have anything to be ashamed of in that regard, really) or even to make up what I was reading – but it could have. The actual email just told me what I had read the past month and how much time I had spent reading on the e-reader. There is nothing particularly frightening or sinister about that, but nor does it give me any information I don’t already have.

Continue reading

October 15th @ Free Times Café

I am sometimes asked whether I have a list of possible topics for my missives, rants, and pensees, or do I think up a new one every month. The answer to this is – a bit of both. I do keep a small unlined notebook covered in a fine leather (or faux leather for vegetarians) and once an idea comes to me I stop, unscrew the top from my exquisite fountain pen, and in an impeccable script, jot down a line or two that will help me recall the topic later. Or at least that’s what I’d like to do but instead I scribble something on a piece of paper that I can’t read five minutes later or just type a note in my phone. Some topics can sit there for a while and are ready for the world to see at some later point but others are time sensitive – they don’t make much sense if they’re not discussed in the appropriate month. Such is the case with this month’s topic, which could only be the topic in October. Why? Because the subject is pumpkins.

A field of pumpkins in the fall sunlight is a lovely thing to behold, but as we know from great works of literature the pumpkin patch at night can be a very scary place (I am here referring of course to the much lauded and esteemed author Charles Schultz who gave us the incredibly complex and richly detailed lives of the Peanuts crew over many decades). Essentially Linus was right (but you knew that all along).

Continue reading

September 17th @ Free Times Café

I am writing this little missive from Dawson City. That’s Dawson City in the Yukon, not Dawson’s Creek the titular location of a popular late 90s TV show that was shot in the U.S. but not in a place called Dawson’s Creek (it was shot in Wilmington, North Carolina) or the real Dawson Creek which is in B.C. I am in Dawson City which is a long way from pretty much anywhere (but don’t worry, I’ll be back for the September Gordon’s Acoustic Living Room show, which will be discussed in greater detail a bit later).

Dawson City is a pretty cool place – which is literally true. As I write this the temperature here is 2 while in Toronto its 17 so cool is perhaps an understatement. For a town of about 1,500 people there is a lot to do and see, much of it of course, based in the incredibly beautiful surroundings in which the city is nestled. Continue reading

August 20th @ Free Times Café

You might have heard that George Romero passed away last month in Toronto. Romero was the writer and director of Night of the Living Dead and other zombie horror films (to distinguish them from zombie rom-coms). Night…, which was made for $114,000 in 1968, ushered in the current wave of interest in all things zombie. While Romero died of cancer, I think what actually killed him was learning that Sony Pictures spent $50,000,000 making The Emoji Move (and this is all I will say about a film whose very existence speaks to the utter bankruptcy of mass popular culture – OK now that is all I will say about it).

Continue reading

July 16th @ Free Times Café

There is really annoying car commercial I keep seeing on TV. Now I realize that pretty much all the car commercials on TV are annoying and if they’re not annoying then they’re just boring and forgettable. The same thing goes for the truck commercials too, of course. Except those that feature Sam Elliott doing the voice over. It’s not that the commercials are any good, but that Sam Elliott has just the greatest voice and so when I see those commercials I just think about how cool it would be if I had his voice (I mean he makes the word ‘truck’ seem almost mystical). On the other hand, he doesn’t have a very good singing voice (and that’s being charitable). And you probably don’t believe me because you think I’m just jealous of a guy with such a cool voice and so, if you want proof, you can hear him croak through Tom Petty’s “I Won’t Back Down” – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pdyRPjv-G14 but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Continue reading

June 18th @ Free Times Café

As you will have doubtlessly observed, based on posters around the city and articles everywhere, it is the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album. And I’m sure there are some of you who are thinking “Oh no, not more Beatles, when will this ever end?” to which I can only say “Get over it, they were just the greatest band ever.” And before you go “No they weren’t, it was (insert name of band here)” stop and think for a minute about what you are about to say ———– OK, are we good now?

I get that the 50th anniversary of Sgt. Pepper’s is a big deal; after all it was a really good Beatles album. Yes, I said really good. I understand that reasonable people may differ on what was the greatest album by the greatest band ever – although the answer to that question is Revolver.

Continue reading

May 21st @ Free Times Café

In a bid to keep these missives contemporary and up to date with the latest important information, and as a public service, I am writing today to let folks know that the fastest rising boy’s name in the U.S last year was Kylo. The name has now entered the coveted top 1,000 boy’s names and occupies number 901 due to an amazing 2,368 point jump in popularity (I know I make stuff up all the time but even I couldn’t make this up).

One explanation for the rise is that Kylo is the name of a character in the latest Star Wars series and apparently many Americans (and probably Canadians too) look to Star Wars when deciding what moniker to saddle their children with for the rest of their lives. What makes this particular name significant however is that Kylo is a villain in the series, not a hero. I don’t recall a similar jump in the choice of Darth as a name for boys after the first set of Star Wars films.

Continue reading

April 16th @ Free Times Café

It’s April and that means baseball is back. I realize that there are folks who think that baseball is dull, that nothing happens and that it takes too long. I get that and I respect the fact that there are people who don’t enjoy baseball. Those people, however, are wrong.

As wonderful as baseball is, and it is wonderful on so many different levels, it has become commercialized to almost the nth degree (and why the nth degree, what about the oth degree the pth degree all the way to the zth degree). There is almost no end of merchandise related to baseball – and not only related to baseball in general but also specifically to your beloved Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays will, for a price, add their logo to pretty much anything. Obviously jerseys and caps but also jackets, underwear, briefcases, lamps, wallpaper, toasters, carpets, towels, rocking chairs and caskets (I’m not sure if you can get all of these things with the Jays logo but if not, they’re coming soon). I was recently in an LCBO (for research purposes only) and saw little bottles of rum decked out in teeny tiny Blue Jay uniforms.

Continue reading

March 19th @ Free Times Café

As you are undoubtedly aware, 2017 is the 150th anniversary of something to do with Canada. I am a bit vague on this because it’s actually not easy to figure out what happened 150 years ago that we’re celebrating.

It’s not the discovery of Canada, because the concept of discovery is of course a European conceit that depends on ignoring the obvious fact that there were people here when Europeans arrived – and anyway, Europeans have been in Canada for much more than 150 years (and you thought the folks who said they were visiting for the weekend and stayed a few extra days were a pain). It could be 150 years since Confederation but the whole country wasn’t actually part of Confederation in 1867– in fact most of the country wasn’t, so why would those folks who weren’t in at the time be celebrating?

Continue reading