Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Is it only Wednesday?

We are in the slow, dark heart of the longest week in the media year.

For newspapers, endless Top 10s and piffle.

Loot the files, scalp the archives.

More copy! More lists!

2005's Most Exciting Breakups.

The Top 10 Celebrity Sadsacks.

The Year's Cutest/Oddest/Scariest Trends.

The Top 10 Dog Fashions.

The 10 Most Fascinating Scanner Calls, as prepared by the police desk.

Who's IN and who's OUT and do you even know their names?

Pray for the pathetic lugnuts who drew the short straw and must prepare this material and fill the box until readers come back.

I was one once.

Yet I feel their pain.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Moosemas

My moose pal and I are staying in the woods this weekend, being un-naturally wary of hunters, leg-hold traps and airports.

There will be plenty of rum and no relative will dance The Alley Cat.

In short, the best Xmas possible.

May you have one too.

Come on! Try!

Granny's nuts

Everybody comes to granny's house for Christmas.

Granny follows the sound of children's laughter and hurries to their playroom.

"Who'd like some nuts?" the dear old woman chuckles.

Greedy children fight for the treats, devouring every nut in the bowl. She brings them a second serving. "Eat up!" she chirps. "I have lots!"

Granny goes to the den, when family guys are drinking beer and trading b.s. It is a blue zone of belches and farts.

"Anyone for nuts?" Granny asks? She has another bowl! "I'll just leave them here on the table, lads."

Gorilla hands grab for nuts, fill their fists.

Granny goes to the kitchen, where lady relatives cluster.

"Can I offer you girls some nuts?" Granny asks, pulling a huge sack of nuts out of the cupboard and filling yet another bowl. Soon it's empty too.

She refills nut bowls all afternoon, urging kids and adults to eat up. A daughter-in-law sees her yanking another sack from the cupboard.

"Aren't you having any nuts yourself, Gran?" she asks.

"Oh no dear," Granny says. "You know I can't have nuts! I have such terrible gums. And no teeth!"

"Then why do you buy so many?"

Granny smiles sweetly: "I just love the chocolate around them."

Waiting for a train

The Christmas Gloves

Okay, okay.

You knew it was gonna show up here.

It took weeks for the guy to find his girlfriend's perfect Christmas gift.

They'd only dated a few months. He wanted romantic, but nothing cold, creepy or too personal.

He decides on a pair of gloves. Ladylike. Old-fashioned.

He enlists his girlfriend's younger sister to select them at Holt Renfrew. The sister is so delighted by the store, she buys a pair of lace panties for herself.

The salesclerk mixes up the boxes. That's why the guy's girlfriend opens a box of panties on Christmas morning and reads the following hand-written note...

"I chose these because I notice you never wear any when we go out. If it had not been for your sister, I would have chosen longer ones with buttons. But she wears short ones that are easier to remove.

"These are a delicate shade, but the saleslady showed me a pair she'd been wearing for three weeks and they were barely soiled. I had her try yours on for me and she looked really smart.

"I wish I was there to help put them on you the first time, as no doubt other hands will come in contact with them before I see you again.

"When you take them off, remember to blow on them before putting them away. They will naturally be a little damp from wearing. Just think how many times I will kiss them during the coming year. Will you wear them for me New Years Eve?

"P.S... The saleslady says the latest style is to wear them folded down, with a little fur showing."

She fled town on Boxing Day.

Santa's village?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Santa after six beer

Primate news

Are there actually humans desperate to drop $20 on King Kong? The mega-monkey's opening day box office take is judged to be--uhm--disappointing.

I pray this is an omen for TV next week.

Can the ratings for Howie Mandell's Deal/No Deal be less than a dozen?

Sunday, December 04, 2005

O Come All Ye Wallets...

Johnny Big Screen

Two days ago, a buddy and I go into an electronics store.

One of us buys a big screen TV.

This is startling, considering both of us are sober.

We solve that, but only after one of us buys the set. It is a long afternoon.

I find a note from buddy in today's morning e-mail.

"So how do you like Giant TV?" he asks. "Have you slept in the last 36 hours?"

I have replied as follows:

"I am Johnny Big Screen, leader of men.

With my half dozen zappers, I control the universe.

Programmers and satellite geeks tremble before my fingertips.

My life has changed.

I walk the streets as TV cowboy, bow-legged.

Where once there was scorn, there is now only envy.

RIDE programs wave me through.

I have lost 11 pounds in little more than a day.

Women have flashed me four times since I was last in your driveway.

I am impervious to bullets and Ontario winds.

My new god? The S-video cable.

In short, life is good.

I would tell you how good, but you would only (a) weep, then (b) beg stores take three or four grand off you, no change required.

Johnny Big Screen is making a list of new friends.

Big Screen Pals worthy of his budship.

With any luck, you may be on it."

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Who loves Canada most?

Paul Martin: Is a friend to the evergreen, serves baked tundra at parties. Embraces new Canadians and parachute celebrity candidates. Once placed second in a poutine-eating contest--even as horrified American tourists screamed: "You're eating yellow vomit!"

Stephen Harper: Uses maple syrup rinse on hair, sings O Canada in English, French and several multi-cultural languages not yet identified. Has adopted endangered BC marmot he's named Ben, after his favorite Mulroney. Lived two summers in a chip truck.

Jack Layton: Weeps spontaneously at flag-raisings and northern lights, even traffic lights. Continues to add to a beloved childhood maple leaf collection. Once hugged a socially-disadvantaged beaver so hard he broke its rib.

That's how much they love Canada.

Next issue, please?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

As the worms turn...

Prime Minister Dithers, pink and proud as punch, slithers his way back to the office, election writ in hand. Lackies cower in fear, muttering "rhubarb, rhubarb."

"Get out there and work our special interest groups," he commands.

"Beat them hard. Warn what will happen if they choose The Great Satan. The sky will fall. Fear and loathing. Plagues, audits, deportations, tax jiggery-pokery and acne."

In another wing of Canada's Kremlin, The Great Satan considers his own image in a mirror. How best to kickstart approval ratings out of negative digits? He whispers a Daily Affirmation.

"I'm good enough. I'm smart enough. And by golly, I'm really going to try to make people like me." He jumps into a gay pothole and breaks a leg.

Jack Be Nimble--the third little pig--primps at his desk.

When Olivia joins me, he muses, we will be Ottawa's true power couple. Who will care which heiress dates Peter MacKay then? Note to self: buy matching parkas.

In the Great White Darkness, 30 million sheep stir uneasily in their sleep. They poke their dear little tails higher into the chilly night air, as is their habit.

"Ride us," they beg. "Ride us hard."

Monday, November 21, 2005

Jarhead vs. Bell phone punks

So I drive to Kingston for a few days, mostly to see Jarhead.

I mean, why stay in the woods? Two hours from Ottawa, but this is the Third World.

Since the second "windstorm" a week ago, Bell Canada can't keep the phone on.

It hums, it whistles, it plays endless loop tapes of motherly voices urging me to "Please try your call again." In two official languages.

A Bell guy showed Saturday but his ladder "couldn't reach the phone line. I'll need a bucket truck."

His promised return today? Didn't happen.

No web. And I'm tired of screaming over line noise and cross-talk.

Every time Hydro One burps, which happens about three times a day, the auto-zap on the pump goes off. It has to be manually re-set.

So anyway, by the weekend enough was enough.

Off to Kingston, my new favourite smaller Ontario city.

They've kept a good hunk of their waterfront. You can take your bike over to Wolfe Island and ride for miles. They're on the first-run movie circuit, with decent bars, live music. And the draft Guinness is always perfect at the Tir Nan Og.

I admit I liked Anthony Swofford's Gulf War book way too much. But don't let the mixed reviews for Jarhead--the movie--keep you away. Two of the most affecting sequences in the book are beautifully realized in the flick. Yes, the horse is one of them.

I notice guy reviewers all give Jarhead high marks. (Pete Howell gave it 4 in the Star). Women reviewers don't. The National Post harridan should try something harder than spritzers. Or be reassigned to the Harry Potter beat.

Anyway, if you're looking for something ballsy, funny, profane, awful, profound and deeply moving--often all at the same time--you could do far, far worse.

See it on a big screen for the desert sequences. This will not be the same experience on your poster-sized DVD screen.

Jarhead is a hell of a better use of two hours of your time than calling Bell Repair.

Where's a sniper when you need one?

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Election? What election?

Voters excited by prospect of winter election

Good grief!

So a buddy of mine has a very peculiar problem.

The company he worked at for years terminated him this summer.

But every two weeks, as regular as clockwork, his paycheck arrives in the mail. That's right: every 14 days, they send him a check. Just as if he was still in the plant. Doin' his job. But he ain't. They know that.

"How much money are we talkin' about?" I ask.

"Would you believe 10 grand so far?" he laffs.

He puts each newly-issued payroll cheque in a desk drawer.

"I want to see how long it takes them to discover they've screwed up," he claims. "They'll go bananas! Heads will roll!"

"Is it a computer sending you payroll cheques?"

"No!" he sez. "Each cheque has been hand-prepared. Each one has TWO original signatures of company pay execs! It's totally nuts!"

"Cash them all!" I urge. "Let them try to get the money back!"

He just laughs.

"I always figured the execs never knew what I did when I was there," he sez. "It's no surprise nobody's noticed I'm gone. But, duh! What does that say about me, Dunf? I'm kinda insulted. Still, it's such a hoot. I can't wait to see how it turns out."

"You could call your old company," I laugh. "Beg them to stop."

"To hell with that," sez bud. "I don't work there any more. Why is that my responsibility? To solve their screw-ups? Beg them to stop sending me money? Who fired who? Let it ride, baby! Let it build til it blows!"

So if you were my buddy, would you...

(a) call the company to helpfully point out they're idiots

(b) cash all the cheques immediately

(c) ask your buddy to put it on his blog and solicit advice?

He's chosen C. What would you do?

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Let the campaign begin!

Candidate prepares
for the circus to come.

Yo hosers! DirecTv drops XM Radio bomb

Merry Christmas, satellite TV gray market!

Santa came early for an estimated 1 million Canadians with access to the forbidden DirecTv dishes and receivers that grab US TV signals like ESPN and HBO from the sky.

Santa's brought them ... ho ho ho! ... 72 channels of XM Radio!

The music signals went up this morning.

Not content to watch the forbidden U.S. cable, network and premium movie feeds, rebel DirecTv-watchin' Canadians suddenly have access to dozens of channels of uninterrupted pop, urban, classic and Latin music streams from the American satellite radio service.

Bluegrass, country, club, alternative, jocktalk, old gold, even a 24/7 disco feed.

The 72 XM Radio feeds are included in all three DirecTv subscriber packages, from the monthly base $41.99US to the top tier $93.99US premiere programs buffet.

So much for which Canuck applicant gets on the air first or how much CanCon the CRTC demands of each homegrown satellite radio service? Kind of irrelevant, hosers.

Just as the CRTC dithered away years before licensing Expressvu and Star Choice while DirecTv established a substantial foothold in Canada, the agency's absurd tap-dancing demands for three satellite radio wannabees has allowed history to repeat itself.

XM Radio (US Edition) arrived today in a million Canada homes with the push of a button ... at the DirecTV control bunker in Castle Rock, Colorado. DirecTv claims a U.S. subscriber base of 13 million households.

Can even Howard Stern help rival Sirius play catch-up? Ha! Get a grip.

Complete XM/DirecTV lineup at

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Dazzling Olympics Gear

Have you seen the spiffy new uniforms The Hudson's Bay Co. has unveiled for Canada's 2006 Olympic athletes?

The Bay won the gear contract away from Roots, designers of trendy gear national teams sported in the recent past.

It's back to basics, and not a moment too soon. Goofy elf hats with earflaps complete HBC's winter ensemble, sure to draw admiring glances at Whistler/Blackcomb a year from now.

Gumboots rock!

Hunters Full Moon Special

Friday, November 11, 2005

Hunters! Know your targets!

Not a cow.

Brokeback Mountain toonz

I count the number of music reviews I've put on amazon.com on one hand. But one went up the other day that might be of interest. At the moment, all seven reviewers of the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack album rate it at five stars (highest) ...

***** Heart, heat and a fine ride, November 7, 2005

Reviewer: Gary Dunford (Ontario Canada) - See all my reviews
I am one of those who cringed, learning Brokeback Mountain--Annie Proulx's stark and understated, lean and searing 30 page short story--was being exploded into a movie. The soundtrack arrived this afternoon and I'm feeling a lot better.

Gustavo Santaolalla's original score is easily the equal of his work for The Motorcycle Diaries. The vocal choices included range from clever to inspired. A Variety review this morning claims there wasn't a dry eye in the house at Telluride.

Listening to the tunes and underscoring, a great deal of imagination, art and craft are in evidence. It definitely pulls from the same place within mined by writer Proulx. There will be plenty of people who will refuse to see the movie, largely because of the manufactured promotional controversy over the next month that it is about gay cowboys.

Read Proulx's short story--the last offered in Close Range, now in paperback. It is about heart, heat and lost opportunity. You only have to be human to be touched by that. I look forward to the film's opening Dec. 9. Until then, this aching, funny and wryly sentimental soundtrack touches every correct chord.

It's a keeper.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Carry me back to old Shawinigan

Unidentified lawyer carries large box of previously unexamined Sponsorship Scandal documents from Gomery Commission back to Shawinigan, Quebec

Spill yer guts

Several readers have complained there isn't enough confession here.

Blogs apparently are supposed to be endless grocery lists of what you ate last night (wax beans and salmon), what your emotional temperature is at the moment (better than you'd expect) and especially who you can't stand and why. (Uh. Gee. Can I get back to you on that?) The firewood is in the garage. Does that interest you? I don't have a new dog... yet. The power was out in the big windstorm Sunday night.

To tell the truth, I was in a confessional mood back in July, preparing the last Sun column. I had a good last graph for that column: it began, "Did I ever mention.... " But if I dropped some blockbuster, might they not make me write it another year? This seemed like a bad idea. And it seems more like cat droppings in retrospect.

I will try to be more confessional in the future.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Hunters! Know Your Animals!

Not a cow...

Gomery for Dummies

A brief summary of Justice John Gomery's investigation into the Liberal Sponsorship Scandal...

1. Bad people did bad things.
2. Friends of the government of the day were rewarded.
3. There was no interest, then or now, in exercising any particular caution or control over the partisan squandering of Canadian taxpayers' money.
4. There is no "direct evidence" that any senior hand--say leaders with 30 years political experience or more--left a clear and incriminating clue as to what was done or un-done.
5. The government is pursuing the recovery of $57 million dollars from ad agencies and party hacks involved.
6. The Liberal party proposes to reimburse the national treasury about $570,000--one per cent of the claimed kickback kitty in question.
7. This cash will come from taxpayers who supported the Liberal party with campaign donations and handed with great pride and ceremony to taxpayers who did and didn't.
8. Karl Rove is not involved.

All sheep can now go back to sleep.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Where's my tax surplus cheque?

Wild Kingdom

I spend the afternoon at the Riverview Zoo in Peterborough, while my Nissan X-Trail has its tonsils tickled.

What else can you do in Pete?

I already own one of everything in CanTire and Home Depot.

And you see one lift lock, you've seen them all.

The Riverview zoo is part of a fine, green waterfront park that winds along the banks of the Otanabee River. It's owned and run by the city's utilities commission.

I would pay my water bills promptly and gladly in Peterborough, which is obviously home to some newer branch of the enlightened Medici family.

What has Hydro One ever done for me? God sneezes, my power goes off. In Pete'burgh, the waterworks runs a zoo. Rock on, PUC.

The great yak is delighted to hear Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes are having a baby.

"And thanks to Tom's religious beliefs, it won't even be painful!" I assure him. The yak seems doubtful.

The brown abouti scurries about under pesky spider monkeys. No bigger than a hedgehog, it runs in confused circles like the Canadian electorate.

"Did you know our Liberal masters may send all Canadian taxpayers a cheque?" I ask the sad-eyed rodent. "Our share of the tax surplus, don't you see? They take too much from us, so why not give a tiny portion back! Hooray for the Surplus Allocation Act! Is an election coming? Who knew? Why each cheque might be as much as $133!"

The pot-bellied pig grunts.

"And what a coincidence that Senator Mac Harb--the brightest bulb on the tree--thinks Canadians should be fined for not voting in federal elections!" I laugh. "He suggests $50. And $133 if they don't vote Liberal." We share a fine snort over that.

The zoo's loveable llamas stand in the shade, blinking. It's hot.

When did Ontario turn into sun block country in October?

"Did you hear the latest?" I ask the sweet-faced creatures. "President Bush says he's on a mission from God. Yes! Just like Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd. Bush says God told him to invade Afghanistan and Iraq. It was divine guidance! God's will. Clouds of cherubim and seraphim! Can I get a big a-men on that?"

The brown llama snorts. There will always be doubters.

"I know," I agree. "I'm sure it wasn't God who lied about the weapons of mass destruction. That would be so unlike Him, wouldn't it? Fibbing like that."

The Riverview zoo cougar paces endlessly, waiting for the humming sound of the little go-carts zoo guys use to bring animals food. I entertain him while we wait.

"God's in his heaven," I assure the zoo's big kitty. "Our government promises Martha Stewart they'll hurry her visa paperwork. Hey, we'd do it for our own criminals, right? Now Martha can row a 676-pound pumpkin across Lake Pesaquid in Nova Scotia this weekend. It will be on all the infotainment sideshows and the news. It's really important."

On a late fall afternoon, golden shadows stretching like fingers across the grounds, Riverview zoo is a lovely place to visit.

Spider monkeys pull each falling leaf into their cage, examine it and file it away.

A plated lizard sleeps, just like they do in Ottawa.

Mountain goats grin, immune to the wired world outside.

Would you really want to live outside the zoo?

Samba George

What is a Brazilian?

It's the number President Bush thinks comes after a trillion.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Today's joke

Q. What is George Bush's position on Roe vs. Wade?

A. He really doesn't care how people get out of New Orleans.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Rent me

Air Canada newly offers a two-month travel pass for just shy of $7,000.

But pulling out a calculator, that's $875 of travel a week.

Is $125 a day enough to induce sheep to be prodded, stripped and de-shoe'd at more than 100 world airports?

Then loaded bleating aboard AC jets where sullen crews force-feed captives their burden, ill-humor and pain?

If I only took one flight a day, that's 60 days of honey pretzels and middle seat.

Seven grand is just not enough.

Oh wait--you say I pay them $7,000--they don't pay me?

Forget it.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Wake up call

High on the ridges, tell-tale alarms ring.
Only the birds probably notice.

Too hot for cable

For those who think North American media don't pull their punches, this flood image appears uniquely in the current Stern, the German news weekly. The caption identifies it as taken in a New Orleans church, as waters recede.

Quite anxious

"Prime Minister Martin expressed his personal condolences on the tragedy and told the President that Canada is actually quite anxious to help."
-- PMO spokesperson Melanie Gruer

Things the PMO forgot to express...

- "Do you have our cellphone number? Just a moment, It's 613-something-something. Does anyone know our emergency 24/7 Actually-Quite-Anxious-To-Help number? Oh dear, can we back to you on that?"

- "Have you seen our new poll numbers?"

- "Gum?"

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Adrift, as usual

The best show on U.S. television is HBO's Real Time, with comedian/ringmaster Bill Maher.

It is must-see TV. (HBO Friday nights, 11 p.m.)

Our Canadian gatekeepers (the CRTC, networks and specialty channels operated on the cheap) think Real Time too Yank-centric and averse to political apathy and consumerism to show northern sheep. God forbid we bleat.

Our gatekeepers are, of course, idiots.

Bill Maher's take on the great New Orleans flood...

- "Finally, convoys of troops and aid have started to arrive on the Gulf coast. Five days after the hurricane! It kind of makes you miss those innocent days when Bush only sat on his ass for seven minutes." (The hapless president sat thru kindergarten story time when he learned skyscrapers were under attack on 9/11)

- "It only took Bush four days to make a plan. Unfortunately it is a faith-based plan. It involves getting two of every animal onto a big boat."

- "He could have made a plan on Saturday when everybody knew a big hurricane was going to hit the city. But Bush thinks the jury is still out on weather forecasting..."

- "There's one big difference between George Bush and Marie Antoinette. When Marie Antoinette said 'Let them eat cake' ...THEY HAD CAKE."

- "He was on the ground today, you saw him hugging the starving. Touring the devasted area. His quote was that New Orleans is more devasted than New York on 9/11. Then Bush grabbed a bull horn and vowed: 'We Will Get Mother Nature! Dead or Alive!'"

- "If you want to help the victims hit hardest by Hurricane Katrina, Fox News has posted the website of the Republican National Committee."

Canada missed a clear opportunity in the early hours of the tragedy to finally jump aboard a US humanitarian issue with both feet and score some Brownie points.

Why is it always ordinary Canadians who out-perform their government now, as in the aftermath of 9/11?

But then Liberals are too busy buying confetti for their glorious re-election. It is good to be petty. Their traditional hate-the-Yanks tune serves them well.

What else does charmless cipher Paul Martin have going for him?

Ideas? Integrity? A vision?

Now there's a joke.

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Small town rodeo

So before God invented skateboards, motorcross and Extreme Everything, God invented rodeo.

He prefers small town rodeo. God is not much for sitting high up in binocular-land, top of a grandstand in some name brand cow town.

At a small town rodeo, every seat offers the sweaty, sweetstink, hoof-eye view, better than a pair of golds at The Hanger. You are nose-to-nose with the stock. And there's always the lucky chance they'll come thru the fencing and give you a swift boot to the head. You've been asking for it.

Who was the first guy who said to his bud: "See that one-ton steer? The snarly one? I bet I can ride it." I mean honestly: how bored were they?

But here walk heroes.

The "thud" is no louder, the fractures and risks no greater in Calgary than in Weasel Breath, Ontario. And when the cowdudes get the ladies sweaty wtih their daring deeds, or somebody makes the eight second horn, the sun shines a little higher, a little brighter.

Holy crap. Did you see that? Who wouldn't want to be a cow hand?

Or so it seems this perfect August Sunday afternoon.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Ontario's big heart

A modest proposal

Quite by accident, I discover the CBC is on strike.

An endless stream of mediocre music fills the radio network airwaves, interrupted by an occasional management voice and moldy oldies like This Is Art. Can Canada keep its begonias alive without the Monday gardening phone-in? Find a way, I say.

Since most agree the CBC's best days are behind it, why not just repeat every show the network has ever broadcast? And never make a new one?

This serves two purposes.

1. A continuing drizzle of public sector ear drool for a loyal, grumpy, shrinking audience of hearing aids.

2. A guaranteed sunset clause for taxpayers. After the CBC exhausts 50 years of archives, let the ship sink slowly in the west.

Is everybody happy?

Sunday, August 14, 2005

One day out

Gone kayaking.

Ready and waiting

Going, going ...

Taking turns

Prime Minister Dithers' delightful appointment of another obscure CBC talking head as governor general raises new hope that George Stroumboulopoulos can become GG in our lifetime.

Thus, Canada's first suspect separatist Governor-General would be followed by George, star of Newsworld's Yo We Be Happin' The Hour: our first pierced GG.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

How hot is it? About five inches

Broken justice

So how much does the NHL care about a broken neck?

Not much.

How about a new rule for the next time somebody like Todd Bertuzzi takes a run at somebody like Steve Moore?

You get to play again whenever the guy you've injured plays again. Simple? Easy to remember? Even for Bobby Clobber?

No 10 games, 13 games, 20, luck of the draw.

No sad hearings and appeals to the commissioner.

You play again whenever the guy you cold cocked does. It might be four games, it might be never.

You think players might focus their energies in a better direction?

Fair disclosure: the above rule would not apply if the object of the hit was NHL boss Gary Bettman. We all want a shot.

Monday, August 08, 2005

That'll do

Dawg days

Oh the happiness. The frisbees. The barking.

Spent three days at the annual Kingston Sheepdog Trials, now in its 18th glorious year.

The pastures at Grassy Creek Park roll down to an unexpected sand beach on the St. Lawrence.

Dogs and trainers move sheep thru gates or try to sort out the few with red collars on.

Dogs play fly-ball.

And since spectator dogs are welcome, for every one of the 100-plus dogs in the herding events and Freestyle Dance (yes!) events, there are another 50 dogs watching, whimpering, barking, straining.

"Let me at the flying fuzzy thing he's got."

"Hey hey hey, that sheep in the back is looking the other way!"

"A little help? I'm here, I'm here! Me!"

The fly-ball demonstration--dog relay teams jumping hurdles--is about 90% airborne.

On a sunny afternoon, double the moving shapes for flying dogs and their scooting shadows three or four feet below.

There is nothing a border collie would not do to grab a rope, a pulltoy or to just get much crazier than usual. Here is the proof.

Perfect weather. Dog people. Happy mutts. Sweet.

Sheep shearing

Ontario's Thousand Islands Casino shears more sheep each year than most wool farms.

This is a mighty mystery.

Follow the signs near Gananoque, and you arrive at what appears to be a failed Wal-Mart or Loblaws in a field. Inside this eyesore box is more security--and less fun--than most airports.

An Unsmiling Uniformed Greeter will decide if you should be allowed in. If she suspects you are under 50, you will be shepherded into a second line-up to produce two pieces of identification for a Large Uniformed Bald Guy. Prove you are 18. People obviously in their 30s and 40s were digging in their wallets when I was there. Or having their cameras confiscated.

Are we having fun yet?

Beyond the doors is an area smaller than a Canadian Tire store, filled with slot machines. It is patrolled by Large Uniformed Security People. A few random table games are under the yawning control of Uniformed Croupiers. You will notice there is much less sound than in a Vegas or Atlantic Casino. No yelling, no laughter. Are we having fun yet?

At the far end of the hall is an entry to the Grill. It is more brightly lit than the casino or most high school cafeterias. Here you will order your overpriced beer and a bump. Do try the Virgin Baah shooter. Thanks to Ontario's arcane liquor laws, drinking and gambling may never be mixed. No cocktails for high rollers.

But then, you can buy beer, wine and booze at many rural groceries. The province insists all city folk buy their drinks from lazy LCBO stores, conveniently located wherever the MPP of the government of the day insisted there be one.

In short, here is a sullen, imitation casino for sheep. It is a sad, insulting imitation of the real thing, where sheep are stripped of their money with Great Joy and Delight.

Ontario is politically correct so it is a "charity casino." The charity of course, is the Ontario government which thanks to your participation, can ignore good causes they really don't give a darn about. You have bought them The Freedom from Guilt.

Aren't you taxed enough? Casinos are a tax on the stupid. Why would you give them a cent? If you are wise, you will just take a nice snapshot of the large rock in parking lot C2. And leave. Shaking your head.

Is it more humiliating to work at the Thousand Islands Charity Casino Penitentiary? Or to actually spend a dime there as a customer? Discuss.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005


Do you believe in ghosts?
Backing out the driveway, I glance at the spot
where my sweetest sheepdog buried his bones.
He died in January.
Nothing ever grew in this spot, mostly because
he'd dig, hide and rearrange his stash on a daily basis,
even thru the coldest winter.
This morning, there is something there.
Yes, I'm spooked.

Take this desk and shove it

Charles Gerba, a microbiologist at the University of Arizona, found the typical office desk harbors some 400 times more disease-causing bacteria than the average toilet seat.

Hey Bob! I'm moving my computer.
If anybody wants me, I'll be out back.

Saturday, July 30, 2005


Doors open.
Doors close.
Sheepdogs sleep.

Just sent column 7,127 down the pipe.
I'm okay with it.
Saved this photo for this day. Sweet.
It looks at me every time I turn on my computer.
These columns kept him in kibble.

Guess I should also save a complete file copy here--in case it's not posted to the canoe website Sunday. By accident, of course.

EXIT RIFF: This is my last column for the Toronto Sun.

Those who just muttered "Good" can probably stop reading.

The first dunf column surfaced in the third issue of the Sunday Sun. That was September 1973--about 7,127 columns ago. Not bad for a part-time job.

From Trudeaumania to Prime Minister Dithers and Premier McFib, from the Tiny Perfect Mayor and North York Bananaman to Amiel, the Black Queen of King Street, it has been an all-too-enjoyable ride. Did I hear somebody request the Christmas Glove joke? Too late.

If you remember any of those columns, get to a clinic. You may be what we doctors call "an effin' boomer." Boomers are despised by ad agencies and young alike. Quick, get in the van. Enjoy our ride to the dump.

The clever columnist keeps two file folders.

One is the Alibi File, in which you place any favorable mention. Notes from Allan Slaight, Leonard Asper, Gary Lautens, Jim Carrey and years of in-house high fives. You frantically wave this folder the day you zig when you should have zagged and fear they might fire you. Mercy!

The other folder is labeled Last Column. Here, you save any final effort by a Royko, a Breslin that manages to touch your heart or shows some class, a generosity of spirit. You hope to marshal the same. If you can't, you can always scalp theirs. Hey, just kidding. That would be wrong.

Many exit columns celebrate mentors and guardians. Daily columns can only be grown by master gardeners. Mine would include the amazing Kathy Brooks, insightful pal John Downing, wise Trudy Eagan and quarterback Peter Worthington--who saved me from ever being sacked by a Bassett. And of course, tabloid newsdom's founding god of grins, Doug Creighton.

Barbara Amiel once wrote that to survive at the Sun you have to learn ballroom dancing and how to be a good sport. She danced with Doug. I once danced with Eagan. They were kind enough not to laugh. Or demand to see our Alibi Files. They were good sports. But hey, I've mastered the limbo.

To be a happy Sun reader, you need two things. Good toonz and good teeth. Try the new CD by jazz singer Chiara Civello for the first. And if you fear dentists more than a Liberal majority, find Anesthesia Associates in North York. Superhero "Dr. Dave" was not an invention. Dr. David Isen is real. So is being zonked, dentalphobes. Anyone for pre-med? Me!

I'm sorry we never solved the mystery of Mickey Mouse's dog, Pluto. He's half Mickey's size. Is Mickey a giant mouse? Or is Pluto no bigger than a thimble? Goofy--Mickey's next-door neighbor--is also a dog but walks on two legs. Does Pluto never look over the fence and cry: "Hey, I got a dog house. Look what that dog has! You're my pet now, cheese-breath."

Please, no sobbing, Sparky. There's no key to turn me off. Did I mention I've been blogging for a month? See proof at www.dunf.blogspot.com

Eight years ago, my late, great accountant asked how long I planned to write a column.

"Until they beg me to stop," I joked. "The Sun's been very good to me." Arthur Gelgoot, guru to so many media idiots, let a gentle smile flicker about his cozy Bay St. office. "You can stop any time, you know."

I nodded. He meant financially. I thought emotionally.

Years later, I had a conversation with somebody at the Sun I suspected might be my boss. A freelance writer, I never really knew who was my boss. Nobody ever talked to me about yesterday's column. Nobody asked what was in tomorrow's. They left me alone. AND paid me. Holy crap. Unique.

"Hey, when the day comes, just say the word," I assured one of the editors. "I won't go away mad. I'll just go away."

"Like hell you will," he laughed. "Everybody goes away mad." Wrong, dude. Page Six died screaming. But not me.

Exit laughing. Y'all have a great life. Thanks for the ride, gang.

Beer? dunf

Dunf's e-mail: pagesix@aol.com

Friday, July 29, 2005

Ontario, off the grid

High Falls, Algonquin Park

Paddled with a pal yesterday into High Falls on the east side of Algonquin Park.

Pines, pools, perfect blue sky, no bugs.
And hardly any people! It's high summer! What gives?

I guess everybody's home, playing Grand Theft Auto.

All the best things are off the grid.
If you can hike 45 minutes one way, or canoe or kayak about five hours round trip, you can see and share this not-so-secret place.
Water, cascading over monumental rock faces.
Sit in the bubbles. Try the natural slide.
A perfect place.

Location: up the east road from Pembroke into Algonquin Park.
To canoe/kayak, start from the Achray launch ramp.
Between two and three hours by water with one quick liftover around a damn.
To hike: find the unmarked trail halfway between the park gate and Achray at about mile 16. Any Algonquin staffer will be happy to help.

Yes, it's even better than in the photos.
Most Ontarians will never see it.

"The world stands out on either side,
no wider than the heart is wide...
Above the earth is stretched the sky,
No higher than the heart is high..."

Stephen Harper's favorite joke

Why do Albertans turn the sides of their cowboy hats up?

To fit three in the front seat of a pick-up.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Canada Day

Canada is eating toy food at 30,000 feet and looking down on the most amazing herringbone of blacks and whites that turn out to be the Rocky Mountains.

Canada is coming home from Kensington Market with a vegetable that looks like a carrot, smells like a melon, feels like a banana but may be a potato. The lady next door knows how to cook it. You give her half.

Canada's lying on your stomach on a raft and watching shy fish circle below, safely hiding in your shadow.

Canada is slogging down a narrow, snow-clogged street in Quebec City, watching a midnight traffic jam of ice floes in the St. Lawrence.

Canada's sitting on the shore of Newfoundland's Grand Lake, sucking at a bottle of Star while a pal balances a bottle of Moosehead on his forehead. Laughter tickles the stubby pines.

Canada is paddling three hard days only to discover two other tents are already pitched at your "secret" place. Windlocked, you'll meet the strangers you meet there again each summer for the next 20 years.

Canada is Muskol. A hell of a lot of Muskol.

Canada is patching the hole in the tent and killing the last mosquito at 5.23 a.m. to finally fall asleep. The sun rises at 5.33.

Canada is climbing a tree with two friends in August and waiting two long hours to drop a balloon filled with water on your best pal.

Canada is a sharp green stick with one brown hot dog on it. The first frank falls in the fire but the second is perfect.

Canada is an amazing red trillium in a hillside army of white ones. Sprawl in the foot-high flowers and it takes them 15 minutes to find you.

Canada is poring over your priceless pile of 44 maps of lakes and portages in front of a roaring fire in January and never thinking about a black fly.

Canada is a metal mug of coffee too hot to hold, on a misty morning that's too cold to be there.

Canada is standing on the deck of the last B.C. ferry of the night, watching the water slide by. From somewhere deep inside the ship, a door closes. Or opens. Stars wink at reflected twins in the sea. Time stops.

Canada is meeting a bear at the rural garbage dump. You consider each other thoughtfully for long moments. The bear has other things to do.

Canada is dogs wading in lakes, sitting in shallow water to cool their bums.

Canada's the lightning storm that scares you witless.

Canada is whipping into a beach on one water ski to land at the exact edge of the sand ... just ... so. Keep your stomach sucked in: those girls are watching.

Canada is one perfect fiddlehead green. So small, so fixed in your mind as a fragile growing thing, you dare not pick it.

Canada is discovering the dog has eaten all the marshmallows.The marshmallows are already upchucked in your sleeping bag.

Canada is unpacking Christmas lights in a chilly attic.Canada is watching the field mouse run up to, then over your girlfriend's sleeping bag and never telling her when she wakes up.

Canada is one ear of yellow corn, a plate of butter and a napkin. You feel yellow a long time after.

Canada is sitting in a privy, hoping porkies don't come for another 10 minutes. Swallows have torn the toilet paper into confetti, no piece big enough to hold.

Canada is a deep lake, a sloping rock, a warm sun and a perfect curve of time. Afternoons arch to the horizon.

Canada is a brown envelope from Revenue Canada. And the modest boat you christen ... Rebate.

Canada is whitecaps on the lake, cold smoke spirals above winter chimneys, the speckled rocks at the bottom of a clear, glassy stream.

Canada is a big secret.


Friday, June 24, 2005

turn back? never!

Today's spring canoe challenge...

You have conned your good buddy into being the first canoe down the Opeongo River.
One car is parked at the top of the route near a dam.
The second car is parked at the bottom pullout near a bridge.
The water is running fast at top and bottom.
This photo is taken in the middle, about an hour from either car. It is a river of rocks.
Do you:
(a) turn back upstream where you know you'll have to wade/swim the canoe to the top car
(b) live on grubs and berries til the water rises and/or the bear comes
(c) keep going downstream thru the rocks in the photo

We chose C.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Countdown begins

So this is where it begins.
In 30 days, I will disappear from one area of the web and reappear in this one.
I'm looking forward to it.