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Nothing any regular Hall of Famer wouldn’t jot down between innings.

This week Alex Rodriguez, retired Major League Baseball player and human steroid depository, made his debut in the broadcast booth. In typical A-Rod fashion, what should have been an easy home run became a bizarre scandal, with sharp-eyed viewers zooming in on his notebook only to see cryptic references to “birth control,” “baby”, and most-tantalizingly, “pull out stuff.” What all of this means, and why Rodriguez had this on his mind rather than a meaningless May baseball game, remains a mystery, but the other question we’re all wondering is, what else is in that notebook? The Center for Poor Karma & Pain’s crack researchers and spies are, as always, on the job and offer this exclusive look beyond the news.

p. 23 – “Where are my taco-flavoured kisses?”

p. 30 – “Find out: how many home runs wd potential baby have to hit to pass Griffeys for all-time father/son record?”

p. 37 – “A-Rod2 or 2Rod?”

p. 41 – “are purple lips hereditary or recessive?”

p. 43 – “move Phil Rizzutto to back of monument park? who is more beloved? hit more home runs than him after all”

p. 51 – “why can’t I have everything and Jeter have nothing?”

"Oh look over there! Canadian values!"

“Oh look over there! Canadian values!”

Oh, Kellie Leitch, you strange, unique, visionary xenophobe. I’ve been watching your video today. You know the one; everyone’s talking about it, and they’re not saying anything nice. In my favourite riff on this thing that you’ve unleashed on the world and that you no doubt believe is true and moving, someone has slowed it down by 40%, making you appear to talk like someone’s drunk aunt. And maybe that’s exactly what you are–no judgements here, because that would be mean and a barbaric cultural practice.

Kellie, you’ve been around for quite a while now, beating your drum about how Canada needs to have face-to-face interviews with every immigrant, refugee–and now you’re apparently adding visitors to that list?!–to screen for Canadian values. Do you have any other policies that the mainstream media isn’t reporting on because it’s fixated on this one batshit crazy one? I understand that you’re trying to carve out a space for yourself amongst too many candidates for the Conservative Party leadership, but won’t you need other ideas when you become Prime Minister? (By the way, it’s totally adorable that you think you’ll ever be Prime Minister, and please keep on saying you will be at every opportunity… I hope it’s the first thing you say when you wake up in the morning and the last thing you say before you drift off to sleep, perchance to dream about being Prime Minister, which as I said, is never going to happen.)

But Kellie, I notice you never really say–beyond meaningless buzz words and platitudes–what the Canadian values you hold so dear are. And so I’m here to help. Please feel free to use any or all of the following as examples of Canadian values.

  • Rolling up the rim
  • Knowing which parts of Alberta where it’s safe to cheer for the Oilers
  • How to correctly pronounce “about”
  • This Hour Has 22 Minutes used to be funnier
  • Feeling inferior to Americans while using humour to pretend we’re not
  • Margaret Atwood is a goddamn national treasure
  • Knowing that Windsor, ON is at the same latitude as Northern California
  • Canada has the real Niagara Falls
  • “50 Mission Cap” is the ultimate Tragically Hip song; “Wheat Kings” is also acceptable
  • Our beer is better than American beer
  • Knowing whether to vote for Kellie Leitch

Those are the values all real Canadians possess. Oh, and the last one? Real Canadians know the answer to that, too.

Although I am a middle-aged white North American male, I know the pain of being broken down solely on the basis of my looks, my entire personality rendered meaningless and subsumed by a single piece of my anatomy. In my case, it’s my hair. Specifically, my pony tail.

Since I was young I’ve always wanted long hair. As a child I was never allowed to grow it long, but when I became a teenager and had the faintest hint of independence in how I dressed and groomed, I started to let my hair grow. Unfortunately the fine, straight hair that I’d been blessed with started changing with the advent of puberty, and become wavy and unruly. Just when I had the freedom to let it flow, it had gained a mind of its own.

I hated my hair.

It refused to behave as I wanted it to, and so I went back to cutting it short. I was defeated.

But, years later, I decided to try again. In the meantime, I’d developed a minor phobia for going to the barber: I dreaded the expectation to make conversation and the odd intimacy of a stranger touching me and hovering around me as my locks were shorn. Also, I hated spending $15 for the traumatic experience. I stopped going to the barber.

If anything, my hair had become wavier, almost curly, but I discovered that if I let it grow long enough, I could tie it back in a pony tail, controlling its most chaotic urges. It might not have been the best look for me, but it was low maintenance, and free. I could go months without a haircut, and even when I decided my hair was too much to handle, I’d simply shave it all off and start from scratch. I’d never had much romantic success and, looking back, my hair probably didn’t help. But I was more at peace with it, after hating myself and the way I looked throughout adolescence and high school. I’d found a hairstyle that might not have been attractive, but at least it didn’t bother me any more.

Fast forward to years later, and I mostly have long hair that I tie back in public. It’s messy because I don’t even get it trimmed, but it’s sort of become my “look.” I know I’m starting to go bald on top, and I’m aware that I’ll eventually look like a stereotypical aging hippy (if I don’t already) but, for the most part, I don’t care. I used to be extremely self-conscious, worrying too much about what everyone thought of me, and whether they were judging me. I’m still self-conscious, and know I’m not good-looking, but I don’t worry about other people so much now; I’ve grown more comfortable in my flabby, pasty, hairy skin.

I’ve started to go to a new pub to watch Chelsea football games. It’s very nice, but they don’t know me by name yet, and there are a lot of us, so understandably they’re struggling a bit to get to know us and make sure the right person gets the right breakfast and bill. This weekend I learned that the bartender has his own tricks for keeping us straight. He’s picked out defining features, since telling the waitress to bring the Carlsberg to “the guy in the Chelsea shirt” won’t get them very far. My defining feature? My pony tail.

I kind of like that. It took me years to grow it, and now it’s sort of my “thing.” My only complaint is that somehow I became “pony2” on my bill, and I wonder how I lost out to “pony1.” Maybe I need to do what my family is always threatening to do to me, and cut off his pony tail. It might be the only way up in this tonsorial world.

I love football (that’s soccer to you North Americans!) so much and the Euro championship is second only to the World Cup in international competitions for me. Every four years the best of the best in Europe face off for bragging rights.

I like to think that I know a little bit about football, and hopefully I’m learning more all the time, so I was excited to try to predict who would win each group, and who would qualify for the knockout rounds. I’m happy to report that I did incredibly well… I’m sure all the so-called experts will be amazed at how unerring my picks were!

With a feisty performance, Croatia came out ahead of Spain, who has won the last two Euros. Not many would have picked Croatia to top Group D, and I was not one of them.

Fuck.

I may be Canadian, but my spiritual home is England, and I think they’re going to go all the way this year, winning their first international tournament since World Cup 1966. I have so much confidence I knew they could purposely draw to Russia and Slovakia, allowing Wales to lead Group B, putting the whole competition right where they want them, and setting up a matchup with the overachieving Iceland.

God damn it.

You say Hungary hasn’t been good since they were world-beating in the 1950s? I totally knew they’d fool everyone and beat their former imperial partner Austria as well as achieve a high-scoring draw with Portugal and their star and arguably the best player in the world, Christiano Ronaldo.

Are you fucking kidding me? Hungary?!

Wales, Republic of Ireland, and Northern Ireland all moving on to the Round of 16? Called it!

I also predicted Golden State beating Cleveland in four straight, and that’s exactly what happened, right? I’m so confident in that prediction that I didn’t even bother watching the NBA Finals!

I didn’t enter a pool at work this year, or show any other living being my picks, so you’ll just have to trust me that I picked all sixteen brackets and no doubt have every slot all the way to the final correct. That’s pretty amazing, considering all the upsets and underachievers, don’t you think?

Piss on a stick.

 

Carefree Wherever You May Be

“Carefree Wherever You May Be” with model Rollie from ninjakillercat.co.uk

Although I grew up with dogs as pets and a baseball fan, tastes change, and now I love cats and soccer. Lately I’ve been thinking about getting another cat, and the thought of naming it to honour my favourite team, Chelsea, has crossed my mind. Cat lovers, above all other pet owners, seem to be fond of giving their furry companions grandiose and/or punny names. And I’m certainly at a time in my life when I should be allowed to be eccentric… Keep the Freak Flag Flying High! So here’s what I’ve come up with so far:

  • Super, Super Furry Lampard – after the song for club legend “Super Frankie” Lampard
  • Gary Cat-ill – this is just horrible, and I know it, don’t worry!
  • Thibault Cat-ois – is he the best goalie in the world? Is kitty got the fluffiest tummy?
  • Tabby Courtois – keep in mind that I don’t have the cat yet, and this only works if it’s a tabby
  • Florent Meow-louda – Malouda played for Chelsea when I first started watching them
  • Stam-fur Bridge – the home of Chelsea since their inception in 1905, Stamford Bridge

These are all OK (except Gary Cat-ill, of course), but I’ve saved the best for last:

  • Jose Meow-rinho
  • Kitty A. Drogba

Help me choose between them! But keep in mind, this poor cat will have to live with this silly name, whether Chelsea are winning the league at a canter like in 2014-15, or losing in every possible way in 2015-16.

* * * * *

Just for fun, in case I can ever afford to live in a house and can get a dog (I still love them, too!), here are a few Chelsea dog names:

  • Os-cur
  • John Terrier
  • Didier Dogba

After months of writing and editing and rewriting, my first book is finally done, and available to purchase online!

What I (Don't) Know About Every Country in the World

What I (Don’t) Know About Every Country in the World

“There are 193 countries on Earth and Robert James Bell knows something about all of them. This brilliant, maddening, and all-too-often stupid exploration of the world’s nations artfully combines history, geography, sociology, and prevarication to provide insight into our global neighbours that is essential for travelers or anyone who wants to be a better person. Yes, you.”

“This is a very foolish book, apparently written by an idiot.” —Simon Winchester

“I couldn’t decide whether to put it in geography or humour, so in the end I just didn’t order it.” —Chief Buyer, Globo Books

“It brings the entire field of human knowledge into disrepute.” —National Geographic

“When in doubt, assume it’s a dick joke.” –the Author

These are the names of actual baseball players on the Texas Rangers roster in 2015:

Rougned (Roogie, Stinky) Odor

Stolmy Pimentel

Keone Kela

Tanner Scheppers

Okay, I have to admit, “Stinky” Odor is one of the best nicknames of all time, right up there with Johnny “Ugly” Dickshot. Well done.

“bundled in the box”
“that went in from a very tight angle”
“false 9”
“fullback”
“dead ball”
“top of the table”
“scoring from set pieces”
“come-backer off the post”
“studs up”
“nutmeg”
“marking his man”
“hand ball”
“Hotspur”
“he was adjudged to have handled the ball”

cincinnati redsChicago Cubs – There was a time when baseball was America’s pastime and the sport held the allegiance of all right-thinking people, but football has since supplanted it in the hearts of an increasingly conservative populace. In a more innocent age, Cubs were a perfectly acceptable mascot, but football demanded more machismo, and so it was that Chicago’s team became the Bears, in an effort to one-up the beloved baseball team. Bears were big, burly, and tough, while Cubs–or worse still, Cubbies–were derided as less manly. Of course, after the sexual revolution of the 1970s, the irony of big, hairy men who rolled around in the grass together and were prone to patting each other on their butts being seen as exemplars of heterosexual toughness became apparent. The Cubs, meanwhile, remain simple adorable losers, with little sexual identity whatsoever.

Milwaukee Brewers – During Prohibition, Milwaukee, which had long been known as a centre of beer production, struggled mightily. Looking to save their businesses, the breweries diversified their products to include colas and root beers. Al Capone took advantage of the situation and arranged for the smuggling of illicit booze into Chicago from nearby Milwaukee. Always eager to conceal his criminal operations behind a veneer of legitimate business, Capone owned a company that supplied public school cafeterias with soft drinks. In 1927 his entire operation was almost brought to its knees when alcohol meant for speakeasies was accidentally shipped to grammar schools, resulting in mass drunkenness amongst Chicago’s 5 to 8-year olds. Capone managed to shift the blame to the Milwaukee breweries, which were shut down for the remainder of Prohibition, and the entire city, by extension, was vilified as a den of iniquity. In Chicago, ever since, a “Milwaukee Brewer” has meant someone who serves alcohol to minors.

St. Louis Cardinals – Catholics were once viewed with as much suspicion in America as Muslims and Scientologists are today. In fact, the main targets of the Ku Klux Klan after African Americans were Catholics. St. Louis, for a time the biggest city on the Frontier, and the Gateway to the West, once had two baseball teams: the Browns and the still-extant Cardinals. Much like Rangers and Celtic in Glasgow, the teams garnered support from opposite sides of the spiritual divide. The pious and unprepossessing Browns were the choice of dour Protestants, while the Cardinals, as much as they tried to hide their papal allegiance behind their bird mascot, were Catholic to the marrow. For the many born-again Christians who don’t believe Catholics are Christians, the Cardinals still represent a fifth column in the heart of the Mid-West.

Pittsburgh Pirates – At the height of their success in the nineteen-oughts, the Pirates were the preeminent base stealers in baseball, but off the diamond were notorious ladies men, apt to steal your best gal from under your nose. This reputation took a severe hit in the 1970s with the rise to prominence of the homely Kent Tekulve, and was well and truly put to rest with the addition of the monstrously ugly Zane Smith in the 1980s.

Cincinnati Reds – Dirty Commies. Still, twenty-five years after the fall of the Berlin Wall? You betcha.

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