Pet Park in Peril



Only chicken wire and wood separate the canines from the under-nines

In what is set to be the battle of the ages, dog owners along Toronto’s Beaches boardwalk are up in arms over an invasion that has them frightened for the safety of their four-legged family members.

A new disease-bearing tick?

Someone leaving poisoned treats?

Marauding coyotes looking for a snack?

Nothing so mundane.

Instead, pet parents are angry that the dog park at the foot of Lee Avenue has been invaded by terrors of the bipedal kind as parents throughout the area have literally unleashed their children within the wood beam and chicken wire compound.

“It’s just not fair,” cries local Peke-a-poo owner Jolene Carpenter. “They have a wooden fortress and wading pool right there in Kew Gardens, and full playgrounds at either end of the boardwalk.”

“How would they like it if we turned their sandboxes into litter boxes?” adds Henry Ratsburg, collie-enthusiast and former cat owner.

As though proving their point, the fence bordering the dog park resembles a sand-covered drive-in as strollers of all sizes, colours and designs sit parked along the fence. Meanwhile, their parental owners relax at the nearby ice cream bar and coffee shop, chatting with other parents while their children run amok beyond the gates.

“I really don’t understand the fuss,” chimes Cyndy Jacobson, mother of two. “My kids need a safe place to run around, and this is the only designated off-leash section of the beach.”


Docile when leashed but muscles braced for freedom

Ironically, the dog park, which is actually comprised of an open sandy section and a larger shrub-laden section, was established by the City of Toronto several years ago after many parents in the area complained about dogs littering their waterfront fun.

“It was a total mess out there,” remembers long-time Beaches resident Jackson Brink. “At best, people would just bury the dog droppings in the sand, but it doesn’t take long on a hot summer’s day to realize you’ve parked your beach towel on a fermenting pile left by a mastiff or Great Dane.”

Play time

Frolicking in the sand or burying the evidence?

The park’s transition from canine to kiddie has been a slow but inexorable one that started with delayed summer temperatures last year and parents’ worries about letting their children play in the frigid surf. One by one, as stressed parents discovered the relative calm of the dog park, they began to release their children into its confines.

“The first few actually showed up with both kids and dogs in tow, but they didn’t fool us,” says Carpenter. “Within minutes, you’d see them skulk out of the park with their dogs, the kids nowhere to be found.”

Several residents have demanded the City step in, if only to deal with the potential health and safety risks.

“They bite; they scratch; they’re full of germs. I just don’t feel that my babies are safe in there,” complains Ratsburg, anxiously stroking the fur of his tri-colour collies.

Rebel lake

Ratsburg and friend in better days

Nobody from the City of Toronto was willing to go on the record, but one unnamed source suggests there is little the City can do given the way current bylaws are written.

“All we can do is caution people to make sure their little ones have all their shots and don’t get trampled,” the source suggests. “Residents with children might want to do the same.”

Auto(populate)bots Assemble!


Reports suggest that within the next two decades, robots will take responsibility for upward of 50% of jobs currently handled by humans, who simply remain inefficient and cannot work 24 hours a day.

Already, we are seeing automation in manufacturing and order-entry kiosks in the services industry. It is assumed the next stage will involve a complete takeover of the social media industry, with timelines auto-filled by trivia and rumour bots.

This post brought to you by the Xorblat 3-11A

Photo stolen without permission from The Robot State blog.

For a legitimate discussion of such topics, check out The NeoHuman Blog.

National Hockey League to address shoot-out debacle

Florida Panthers centre Nick Bjugstad celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal (Alan Diaz/AP)

Florida Panthers centre Nick Bjugstad celebrates after scoring the game-winning goal (Alan Diaz/AP)

New York–The National Hockey League governors have initiated emergency talks in wake of last night’s game between the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals that took an unprecedented 20 shootout rounds to be settled.

“This is completely unacceptable,” said one league official who refused to be named. “Had this happened on a Saturday night, we might have been able to simply shrug off the length of this contest, but it happened on a Tuesday night, when fans need to work the next morning. To have a game go this late into the evening just won’t work for today’s fans.”

Thus, the governors are meeting to discuss ways to further hasten the end of regular season games and reduce the likelihood of such events happening again.

While an official list of possible tactics has not been released, sources close to the central office of the NHL suggest the following are being considered for games that fail to resolve after 5 shootout rounds:

  • Removing the goaltenders and turning the net toward the boards.
  • Strapping the goaltender’s hands and feet to the posts to prevent potential blocking motions.
  • Allowing two shooters to skate on the goaltender at the same time.
  • Resolving the tie on the basis of overall shots on goal, followed by fewest penalty minutes.
  • Awarding the win on the basis of whose fans cheer loudest.
  • Awarding both teams 1.5 points and going home.

The NHL has not set a timeline for resolution of this problem, but they hope to have a solution in place and activated before the 2015 NHL All-Star Weekend, which takes place January 24-25 in Columbus, Ohio.

For more on the game between the Florida Panthers and the Washington Capitals, please see:

NHL record for shootouts set as Panthers outlast Capitals after 20 rounds (!)


Antisocial media


Oh, hey. Didn’t expect to see you here.

Love to talk but I have to run…I am completely jammed with social media today.

On the off chance that my face-to-face friends never see me again, do not worry. I am probably safe and sitting in my underwear in front of my computer, typing into one form of social media or another.

In the next little while, I will be initiating no fewer than two social media campaigns. One for a friend’s company and television show on which I am working and the other, a completely self-serving campaign to get a world-renown puppet company to come to Toronto (oh, you’ll know it when you see it).

But what that means is, I will cease to be a human in the visceral sense.

In my ironic efforts to reach out to friends and acquaintances, I will cease to actually reach out and do so much as shake a hand or give a hug.

Social media…people living in basements exchanging information with people living in basements, whether figurative or literal.

And note, I said exchanging information rather than communicating. Communication is possible with social media, but for the most part, it merely serves the role once served by the notice board in your local grocery store (if you have no idea what I just said, talk to your parents or grandparents).

It is a place to post things that are important to you and hope someone reads it. It is a place that allows you to yell loudly at everyone you know without actually straining your vocal chords. Case in point, this very post.

And the ability to interconnect social media streams (egad, I’m paraphrasing Ghostbusters) is tantamount to the echo of that voice off the electronic canyon walls.

So, must dash…you’ll be hearing from me, if not literally hearing from me.

Eight Simple Steps to Counting to Seven


1. Say “one”.

2. Say “two”. (not going too fast for you, am I?)

3. Say “three”. (don’t try to anticipate me!)

4. Say “four”.

5. Say “five”. (out loud! don’t just think it in your head)

6. Say “six”. (not “sex”, it’s important to enunciate“six”)

7. Say “seven”.

8. Repeat Steps 1-7 without reading them.

Congratulations, you can now count to seven (or you have failed miserably and have to be held back…either way, I get paid).

Tune in tomorrow when we work on self-esteem issues in a lesson I like to call: “You don’t count”.

Today’s lesson was brought to you by the number OF THE BEAST and by the letter “Dear Penthouse, I always thought these letters were made up, but…”

Covering your ass-ets

So often, when I start a new series of classes or attend a conference on screenwriting, I hear the same refrain: How can I register my stuff so no one steals my ideas?

And, as logic would dictate, the question always comes from the most junior writers in the room, if they have yet to write at all.

There is no denying that the universe is a dangerous place. Global climate change necessitates we choose higher floors in a high-rise to ensure our laptops are not flooded by rising sea levels. I always write with my back to the wall so that people in the condos across the street can’t take telephoto shots of what I’m writing. And whenever I publicly speak the word “tadpole”, I actually mean screenplay…likewise, “garlic”, “symbiont” and “purse” for protagonist, antagonist and onomatopoeia. (Don’t bother memorizing those; I have already changed them.)

All in an effort to make sure that no one steals my ideas. They are mine. I created them. They are owned by me. (Much as with Miss Ann Elk’s theory about the brontosaurus.)

Ah, but wait a tic. Just a mo’. Hold your horses and tell them that you love them.

I forgot one teensy little thing.  A bit of a fly in the old ointment. You see: YOU CAN’T PROTECT IDEAS!

1) I defy you to actually show me a completely new idea, and not just something old that you’ve redecorated.

2) The idea is not the important bit…it’s what you do with the idea. Give 12 people the same idea and you will end up with 12 very different stories.

3) There is every reason to believe that your idea is shit. No offense intended. Most of my ideas are shit. That’s how you find the truly brilliant ones, by moving the shit out of the way so the good ones are more visible. (See also: Miss Ann Elk’s theory about the brontosaurus.)

I applaud you for having ideas, shit or otherwise, because it’s not easy to do and is a valuable first step in your art. But not until you’ve completed your story, however, do you have something to protect.

You have completed your story, haven’t you? If your idea was solid, then you should be anxious to tell the story. If your idea is good, I want to hear your story. Seriously. No kidding. We need more good stories.

The story—not the idea—is where you will shine as an artist. The story tells me everything about you. It puts multiple facets of your personality and belief system on display and says: Hey universe! Here I am!

That, my friends, is worth protecting. That is what you register somewhere so that no one can tell exactly your story without your permission.

Once you’ve reached that point, I then recommend:

Writers’ Guild of America – West (web site is easier to use than the East chapter)

Writers Guild of Canada

The organizations have a reciprocal agreement, so registry with one is sufficient for both the United States and Canada.

Unfortunately, I only know of these two organizations, so if anyone wants to contribute others in Europe, Asia or anywhere else, please do.

Yes, you want to protect your assets, but you’ll be a lot better off putting your energies into creating assets that are worth protecting.

Fort Knox isn’t meant to be a kitty litter box.

A strange jobs program in British Columbia. (Whistler)

A strange jobs program in British Columbia. (Whistler)


Every once in a while you see a sign that seems so amazing, so eye-catching, that you have to wonder if the owners could really be so oblivious to its irony.

This was one such day for me, as I wandered past a little restaurant called Social Reform.

By the way, I don’t necessarily hold myself above my condescension, walking by with my digital camera and full belly, but I do what I can to help.