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Welcome to Bookshelf Buzz, where I read and write stories. email: bryanduffett@gmail.com

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Olympic Over-reaction and a New Toy

When life hands you lemons, make a stiff double rum and coke.

That's what I did last night when the mini-storm cancelled my evening's commitment. I dedicated the free time to my blog - EVERYBODY WINS! 

I really really really wanted to discuss Olympic Hockey on my blog. We just witnessed hockey history, and I wanted to give my insights. Unfortunately, I couldn't find the time to write about it (writing takes time). 

So I came up with a better idea: I'll talk about it.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great excitement that I bring you the inaugural Bookshelf Buzz Podcast.

In this episode I discuss:
  • Valentine's flowers
  • public speaking
  • recent reads from the bookshelf
  • Sidney Crosby's parents
  • Olympic hockey (SHAME on the doubters!)
  • My new part time job - Hockey Referee (Bryan ref'ing middle aged men with short tempers - a recipe for great stories!)
  • An email I received from a school teacher
Simply click on the link below and hit the orange PLAY button.

If you're new to the world of podcasting, you've been missing out! I listen to them ALL THE TIME; at work with my headphones, in my car (plug-in to car radio), or when there's nothing on TV. They make the most boring tasks enjoyable!

For your listening pleasure AND convenience, this podcast is available in two formats; the PODCAST version OR the VIDEO version.

(My recommendation: if you're streaming from a mobile device or tablet, use the podcast version. If you're on a desktop PC, the video version is better.)


VIDEO LINK (via YouTube)

Or, just watch below:



I hope you enjoy! In the words of Tony Kornheiser, "I'll try and do better next time."

-BD

I'm on twitter. Follow @BryanDuffett

PS: I got into a Twitter exchange with my favorite comedian, Bill Burr this week! Bill's from the States, and he's a huge hockey fan. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Year One: Happy 1st Birthday, Bookshelf Buzz

May God bless and keep you,
Happy Birthday to you!

Bookshelf Buzz is one year old this week! Can you believe it? If this was Facebook, I'd already have 38 notifications by now. Is that not the laziest way to wish someone happy birthday? Some people don't even spell it out. They'll just type 'HBD.' Come on! At least throw in an exclamation point!

One year old! It seems like just yesterday I pushed this blog out of my swollen vaginal canal, and now look at it; crawling, and spitting, and shitting everywhere. What a jewel. I haven't slept in months. Who wants cake?

Sorry about that disgusting baby metaphor. It's a little over the top, but it's actually a fitting personal description of Bookshelf Buzz over these first twelve months. 

As the blogs creator, I can say this little bundle of joy has brought with it a Swiss Army knife of emotion. Like a Justin Beiber after hours party, there have been highs and lows. Now, I'm no parent (unless you're one of those psychos who consider owning a dog or cat parental -- I'm not. "That's my little bay-bee!" No, that's a Labrador Retriever. It just fucked the rug.) but isn't that what having kids is all about? The highs and the lows? While we're on the subject: people who have twitter accounts for your pets -- what is wrong with you? 

Most of the time your kids make you very proud: "That's my boy" you'll say. Or "girl". They make you laugh: "Look at what you did! ha ha ha" They surprise you: "You did that! Oh my goodness!"  

Wait a minute! 

There are also the darker days. 

THE DAYS WHEN THE PRESSURE IS JUST TOO MUCH TO BEAR! You have to take a long walk, or a long drive, or a long nap. But you can't take a nap. What about the kids? 

The days when you can't believe how DUMB those kids are! But hey, you raised them. So if they're dumb, you must be at least equally as dumb -- maybe dumber.

The days when you feel like a failure. Because you said you would take the kid to The Park and you broke your promise and YOU SHOULD NEVER BREAK A PROMISE. (The kid is looking at you with those Michelle Tanner eyes and a quivering bottom lip...and...there they are: the tears.) You piece of shit, you.

Then, there are the even DARKER days.

The days when you want to quit. Give it all up and walk away. Leave it all behind and fetch that midnight train to Georgia. Or maybe you plot a psychotic murder-suicide scheme, where you kill your kid, kill your wife, and then kill yourself. That would fix everything. 

I'M JOKING! 

GOD, haven't you learned to take everything I say with at least seven grains of salt by now?!

There's nothing funny about murder. I KNOW THAT.

Actually, I'm reading the Rob Delaney book this week. If this blog has proved anything, it's that my brain is not unlike that of a six year old: If I see something I like, I emulate. (Notice how I didn't say the word 'copy'.) Delaney, a master of shock humor, is rubbing off on me.


If you're one of those people who can't find the humor in every single molecule of life, you won't appreciate the brilliance of Rob Delaney. Nothing is off limits with that guy.

I'm green.   

When I read Jeremy Roenick, I wrote like Jeremy Roenick. When I read John Niven, I wrote like John Niven. And when I read F. Scott Fitzgerald, I wrote like F. Scott Fitzgerald (ya Bryan, IN YOUR DREAMS, pal.)

Now I'm reading Rob Delaney and his writing style has engulfed my brain like a beautiful fungus. I should read Warren Buffett; then I'd write like Warren Buffett, accumulate massive amounts of wealth, pay the rent ALL BY MYSELF, and my parents can finish remodelling their bathroom.


*     *     *

OK everyone, the parenting analogy is over -- you can stop scrolling down now.

When I go back and re-read older posts from the inaugural  year of Bookshelf Buzz, the first thing that jumps out at me is 'The Evolution' of the thing. Today, the blog is very different than it was six months ago. Completely different than it was twelve months ago. Yes, books still drive the convo. But my tone, attitude, style, and objectives have all evolved, for better or worse. I'll let you be the judge.

I'll admit there has been a lot of flip flopping, broken promises, and surprises. Part of that has to do with me being a rookie blogger. Part of that has to do with my aforementioned green brain, and my tendency to copy what I like. Part of that has to do with me having no idea what I'm doing with my life. Part of that is because I'm an idiot. Part of that is because I care about what people think too much. Part of that is because I'm an awesome human being. 

In my first book discussion (Jeremy Roenick) I said I was only going to use profanity when it was 100% crucial to the story. I broke a promise to my baby on that one. Here comes the water works and Michelle Tanner eyes. 

This made for some head-shaking moments over Alana's rookie year as a 'blog editor'.

Alana: "You're saying 'fuck' too much in this one, Bryan."

Bryan: "But I spelled it right, yes?"

That's a very minor example of my inability to keep a promise. I also said I would write a short story for the Cuffer Prize contest, which I did not. I broke a bunch of promises on books I said I'd read and didn't get around to. I said I would finish my Back to School series, which I have not either. 

Understand that I haven't given up on Back to School. The first three entries in the series were very well received, but I found it extremely challenging to revisit those teenage memories week after week and produce material I could honestly deem entertaining (or appropriate). On the fourth post of the series, I found myself writing about my earliest experience with masturbation. My brain started waving giant red flags inside my head. It was like "OKAY, TIME TO TAKE A LITTLE BREAK HERE," and quietly, I closed my laptop and collapsed into the fetal position, sucking my thumb. I imagine my readers behaving in a similar fashion if they read what I wrote that day. Yikes!

The batteries are currently drained on the B2S series, and I'll insert them again when they're safely charged -- and not a moment too soon, believe me.

*     *     *

And now we're going to dim the lights and sing Happy Birthday together. 1, 2, 3, Ha-ppy Birth-day to yo-... 

OK, STOP. Something a little less horrible, please. 

Lots of people ask me why/how I got the idea for the blog. Well, it was 2013, so fuck if I'm the first person to write one. Ten years ago it would have been cool and original. Today, it's just another fish in the sea. But I've never been cool or original, so that's not what I'm trying to accomplish here. What am I trying to accomplish? Good question. I'll tell you the story:

I'd been kicking around the idea of a blog for a couple years. 

I'd been a closet writer my entire life. As a kid, I would write stories and hide them away -- terrified someone would uncover my hobby. Why the hell was I so afraid? Other than a musician, a writer is the coolest thing anyone can be. I didn't see it that way. I was stuck inside the cookie cutter template of high school popular -- petrified of what would happen if I broke the batter.

Do I sound like an asshole or what? I hope this doesn't come off as some sort of complaint -- I had an easy childhood, and I'm aware most people aren't so lucky. But whatever, everybody has a story that can break your heart (Amanda Marshall). Ahh, do I ever miss the female singers of the 90's...Jewel. Jewel was so good.

Slowly, I started becoming more comfortable with my writing. I believe I was around twenty years old when Alana and I had the Dream Job conversation. Out of left field, I announced my Dream Job was to be a Successful Writer, with a very strict emphasis on the word 'successful'. You talk about a shocked woman! She had no idea. This knowledge improved our relationship. When we'd get in fights, I'd stop the yelling and screaming and write down how I felt. Then I'd slide the piece of paper across the table of tears, where she was sitting on the other side. Argument over! Folks, I encourage this method of conflict resolution with your significant other. She started seeing me in 3D, whereas previously it was a static black and white picture. The written word is a powerful thing.

By the way, I'm engaged now, so I'm allowed to give relationship advice. It says that in the Marriage Manual that came with the ring I bought. Only the really expensive rings come with Marriage Manuals.

Since our Dream Job conversation, my perspective on many things has changed -- a simple, yet significant change being my definition of the word 'successful'.

I used to think successful meant having lots of money. I've learned that having lots of money is the definition of rich. There's a large and important difference. I've learned the distinction through observation of course, not practical experience!

Nothing wrong with being rich, though! If your particular version of success brings you riches, all the fucking power to you. I even admit that I'm a little jealous.

The other day I was talking to my father. He was telling me about a guy he grew up with, who now owns a condo in California, an impressive collection of European cars, a boat, a massive log cabin, etc, etc, etc.  This guy HAS IT ALL, Dad said.

I replied, "wow, that guy must be really happy." 

It sounds like jealous sarcasm, I know. But I had a point. I consider my father one of the most successful people I've known. He could never have any of that fancy shit in a million years. It's just not in the cards. He's also one of the happiest people I know, too. Success and rich; not the same thing. Study your key terms! If you don't like society's definition, make up your own! Then, sit back and let happiness reign.

A younger version of myself wouldn't have been able to comprehend that last paragraph.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is me evolving. I'm gaining experience, becoming wiser, my penis is getting darker and larger, and I'm growing hair in places where there was no hair before.

Why hello there, page 63 of my seventh grade health book! Nice to know you've burned your way into a small pocket of my brain, and are liable to jump out at any waking minute.

Back on topic: my writing confession to Alana coincided with my love affair with reading books, which conveniently added gallons of gasoline to the writing fire. I read a lot of autobiographies at first, which is why I believe I get such positive feedback from the blogs I write autobiographically. On the flip side, I've only recently taken an interest in fiction and that's why my fictional writing sucks. It's new territory. Fictional writing is also much harder and requires tremendous skill and discipline. Next year for Christmas, I'm asking for Skill and Discipline.   

Alana gave me the confidence I needed to come out of the writing closet, for lack of a better metaphor. I got to a point where I knew I wanted to start blogging, I just needed a subject, or a theme.

I actually started a Golfing blog where I aimed to write about my golf adventures. I still had one leg in the closet at this point, so I used a fictional name. 'Jack the Golfer'. AND YOU THOUGHT THIS BLOG WAS LAME?!?! Jesus Christ.

I also entertained the thought of writing about my trials and tribulations with the provincial senior hockey leagues. This is actually a good idea, because it's 100% original, I know I could make it funny, and there is an endless supply of jaw dropping material. Once again though, I was still half in the closet, and chickened out.

Bookshelf Buzz was conceived when two of my growing interests; reading and writing, got drunk and made passionate love over Stephen King's classic book On Writing. In it, he says there are two ways to become a better writer: 1) read a lot, and 2) write a lot. 

That was all I needed to learn. I did want to become a better writer, and I already loved to read. Bookshelf Buzz was born. Read a lot and write a lot. It was that simple. I wrote this blog about reading, and as Ricky from the Trailer Park Boys would say, "got two birds stoned at once."

*     *     *


In Closing...

Thanks for reading my shit. It's been an interesting year. Some of you have written in to say you think I have talent. This has led me to believe I have talent. Thank you for that. Some of you think I'm a god damn loser and there is more talent in a Boston Cream donut. You people have not written in. Thank you for that.

Blogging has been (and will continue to be, Lord willin') an incredibly rewarding experience. If you've ever thought about writing one, do it. Don't be a closet writer. Don't be afraid to show the world your brain. Your brain is an incredible machine -- it will surprise the hell out of you. Don't be afraid to embarrass yourself. Jerry Seinfeld once said that he feels tremendous embarrassment after every performance. Hearing that somehow eased my nervous feelings about 'life after clicking the post button'.

And yes, I just put myself in the same sentence as Jerry Seinfeld. The power of blogging!

We hope you live to be 100!

- BD
I'm on twitter. Follow @BryanDuffett

If you're new to this blog and are wondering what the hell you're looking at, I've compiled a list of my 10 favorite posts from Year One. Knock yourself out:

10. The Beginning
My first post. I lose my blogging virginity and come out of the writing closet. 

9. Teaching - It's Harder Than It Looks
Comedian Gerry D inspires me to take a closer look at a profession that impacts everyone: The Teacher.

8. The Blind Side
My favorite non-fiction author, Michael Lewis, inspires me to take a closer look at sports and life.

7. Neil Young vs. Fort McMurray
Neil Young's in the news, and Neil Young's in the blog. I read his book and test the lukewarm waters of political writing.

6. Tradecentre Story - The Time I Was Traded
It's NHL Trade Deadline day, and I reflect on the time I was traded from the Southern Shore Breakers to the Bell Island Wave. It's Newfoundland Senior Hockey, bitch.

5. The Great Gatsby
Boring book, exciting post! I re-live eighth grade as part of my Back to School series.

4. The Grammar Police
I rebel against those pesky Grammar Police in this post. Grammar Girl stops by with some tips. This post was especially fun because I got to critique an actual email I sent my sister from 2007. Oh boy.

3. Terry Ryan Interview
I caught up with local author and hockey legend, Terry Ryan, for this discussion on his new book Tales of a First Round Nothing. What a guy! FYI, this is my 'most viewed' post by NOT EVEN CLOSE!

2. Bryan's Advice To High School Grads
My second 'most viewed' post. I thought this advice was so good I emailed it to the local newspaper. The editor wrote back immediately: "I love it! What's your number, I'd like to have a chat." I emailed her my phone number right away. She never did call...

1. The Amateurs
I read this book for Father's Day. I re-live some classic father-son memories from my childhood. Author, John Niven instantly becomes my favorite fiction writer. I love this book. 

Friday, 24 January 2014

Neil Young vs. Fort McMurray

It was supposed to be Bobby Orr week on the blog, but certain events transpired which turned my attention onto other subjects. I'll discuss Bobby next week -- I know a lot of you received his book for Christmas.

(Once, during a November visit to Chapters, I was looking for a recently published hockey book. I couldn't find it, so I asked a clerk for assistance. She sarcastically replied "Huh. You know Christmas is coming when people start buying hockey books." I was kind of offended! Go fuck yourself, misses.)

Kinfolk Said "Neil, Move Away From There!"

Add Neil Young to the list of "Canadians Who All Canadians Hate". Put him right up there with Chad Kroeger, Stephen Harper, Ben Mulroney, Claude Lemieux, and the entire Vancouver Canucks roster.

It's 100% true what they say though: There's no such thing as bad publicity.

Young's book sat in a dusty corner of my bookshelf for the past four months. One night he showed up on the news, and suddenly, I couldn't put the book down.

I have a suggestion for Bobby Orr: Take a stance on gay marriage. Guaranteed to boost sales!

A lot of people have taken their punches at Young over the past few days, and that's totally understandable. It might be just another philanthropic effort for Neil, but it's life and death for the thousands of folks who earn their livings off that Texas Tea. (Is oil still considered Texas Tea if it comes from Alberta? Great, now I have the Beverly Hillbillies theme song in my head.)

To the folks burning Young's records: relax! It's not like Harper's going to shut down the oil sands because Neil Young says so. In this country, only Wayne Gretzky has that kind of pull. There are way too many dollar bills involved, and no matter how much Young sings, the money will always talk. I'm not saying I agree or disagree with that, it's just how I've come to see things from my vantage point here in the nose bleeds.

As an old friend used to say: "I'm just gonna sit back and see what happens."

To be fair, the friend was referring to Sunday afternoon football -- but the quote resonates with many areas of life where I give just enough fucks to pay attention, but not enough to actually act or attempt change. The environment. Religion. Math. You know, things like that.

After listening to Neil Young's interview with the CBC, my love for the man has reached even greater heights. I know I'm in the minority on that one...

I knew I was going to write about Young for this blog entry, so at hockey this week I sent out a few feelers, and asked the guys what they thought. Every single guy on the team responded with "He's an asshole!"

I don't think he's an asshole. (See what I'm doing here? New Year's Resolution # 6: Think for myself.)

First, we need to clear up some of the misinformation surrounding the issue. From my Google and Wikipedia research, it seems Neil Young is not trying to shut down the oil sands. What he's protesting against is the proposed expansion of the Royal Dutch Shell's Jackpine oil-sands mine -- which apparently, violate some First Nations treaties that have been in place since this country was founded. Hence the name of Young's cross-country tour, "Honour The Treaties".

Says Young:

 “Honour the Treaties is not an anti-tar sands crusade as the [Calgary] Herald claims. Its purpose is to bring light to the fact that the treaties with First Nations peoples’ are not being honoured by Canada."

"Our tour across Canada is to bring awareness that the First Nations treaties must be honoured if tar sands expansion is to take place.”

Link to full article

In my opinion, he's just standing up for the little guy. Since when was standing up for the little guy frowned upon? 

When I was in fifth grade, I got harassed daily by this bigger kid who said he wanted to beat me up. Every day he'd tell me so. I was shit-baked, but put on a brave face and told the kid I'd fight him anytime. I perfected the art of the 2:25PM bathroom break -- get the hell out of there before the bell rings. Hey, I wasn't a coward, the guy had 50 pounds on me. It wasn't a fair fight, god damn it. Anyway, the bully caught up to me one day in the school yard, ready to throw down. I thought "OK, every kid gets his face beat in once in life, I guess this is my time." Just then, another kid from class jumped in and took care of the bully for me. And by took care I don't mean he slipped the guy a twenty. He gave the bully a taste of his own medicine. This didn't go over very well with several interested parties; mainly, the school, my friends parents, and the bully's shitty parents. The school suspended my friend for a week, and his parents grounded him for a month.

You might be asking: what does this have to do with Neil Young? I don't know, I just love telling that story! I'll never forget it. You should have seen that cocksucker's face! He never bothered me again!

There's honour in standing up for the little guy, I guess is my point -- even if it's not deemed popular by the masses.

The "little guy" in this case is two-fold. The First Nations people, yes. But also the environment. Can the oil companies be doing this a little greener? My guess is yes.

Are my grandchildren going to know what blue sky looks like? I have no fucking idea. Neil Young is worried about that, and I'd say his concern is valid.

Important to note: I have no problem with the oil sands. Jesus Christ, one of the things that motivated my ass through five years of business classes was a fantasy that one day I'd land a job with a big oil firm -- set up that address on Easy Street. Big screen TV, the whole nine. (Hey, when I started university, only rich people had big screen TVs.) I support what Young is saying, but if Shell called me tomorrow and offered a six figure accounting gig, I'd be on the first flight to Fort Mac. One condition: I want an office with a good view. I hear it's lovely there.  

If you give a shit about this issue at all, I highly recommend listening to Young's interview with the CBC. Neil Young does not give an easy interview, but Jian Ghomeshi is the best in the business, and does a fantastic job with the questions. Please listen to the full interview too, not just sound bites The SUN News Network take and twist around in pathetic attempts to draw ratings.

Hiroshima. If you can't decipher a simple metaphor, then I can't help ya. I've never been to Fort Mac personally, but I know at least fifty people who have lived there at one point or another and they all say it's the biggest shit hole they've ever seen. So when Young metaphorically referred to the area as a "waste-land", was he out of line? Or was he 100% dead on the nose? My buddy who just got home from his 3-1 rotation and is buying the whole bar a round of jager bombs says the latter.

And to the folks ripping Young for riding around the country in a gas guzzling tour bus...that's just pettiness -- defense mechanisms that have nothing to do with the real issue...the guy sells out arenas -- what the fuck is he supposed to drive, a god damn Smart Car?     

Just the intensity and passion that spills from Young's voice in that interview! Talk about inspiring. He's a stubborn prick, there's no debating that. But it's that very same pricky stubbornness which led to songs like Ohio, Southern Man, and Keep on Rocking in the Free World, so how the hell can we fault him? I'm proud he's Canadian. 

People knock celebrities when they take a stance on world issues, and I'll never understand that. "That miserable old man should stick to signing songs," they say. Once again, I couldn't disagree more.

I must have read a dozen articles since this Young - Fort Mac feud broke, and I haven't missed the news once. I never watch the news! Would I have approached the issue with this much interest if some cookie cutter politician from Regina was leading the parade? No sir.

Celebrities bring awareness to issues, and that can only be seen as a positive thing. You don't have to agree with them. You're free to make your own opinions. You don't have to agree with me. You're free to make your own opinions. 

Please share them.

Oh Canada!  

-BD

I'm about half-way through Young's book, Waging Heavy Peace. I'll provide a synopsis in next week's ramble.

I'm on twitter. Follow @BryanDuffett

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Back on the Grid, Back on the Grind (Part 2)

Welcome to Part 2 of the "Back on the Grid, Back on the Grind" post. If you're just getting your power back and missed last week, you can catch up here. Make sure you take notes because there's gonna be a quiz at the end.

I received some feedback on the New Year's Resolutions I set for myself last week. A number of you even offered suggestions on things I should add. Go to hell. I make the decisions around here. My job is to do the writing, your job is to do the reading.

Just kidding. I love the feedback. I encourage more of it. Don't be afraid.

A friend of mine suggested one resolution I missed was to "be on time" for things. Hard to disagree with the guy. It's a bad habit which only reminds me of my ugliest character traits: laziness, immaturity, unreliability. Alana actually says that my tardiness "turns her off." Yikes! I called Newfoundland Power customer service to figure out how to "turn her back on" again. They told me to sit tight -- probably just a rolling blackout.

Another reader suggested I "become more politically aware", and I couldn't agree more with that one. It's important to know what the hell is going on in the world, politically. It really is. I understand that. And honestly, as a person who enjoys cracking jokes, I could do worse than take an occasional glance at the Newfoundland Government for inspiration. Nothing cures a bad case of writer's block like a Kathy Dunderdale public address. Jesus, I feel bad even touching the subject. It reminds me of the time my dad and I were walking in the woods and came upon a wounded moose lying on the edge of a pond. It was obvious the moose had been lying there for quite some time. He had two bullet holes in his side (some hunter with a lousy shot), and was pathetically waiting to die. The moose had white puss oozing from his wounds and was being eaten alive by tiny insects. Me, being nine years old, picked up a long stick and started poking the moose in the gut. Dad immediately put a stop to my antics. After all, this wasn't some twisted game of Operation on Family Game Night.

"Don't torture the poor guy, son," he said. "Step aside."

He then dispatched his 12 gauge shotgun and deposited a bullet directly between Bullwinkle's two eyes.

"Never beat a dead horse, son."

Anyway, every time I see Dunderdale on the news, backpedaling through another question period, I'm reminded of that poor moose lying on the damp pond-shore, just waiting for someone to put him out of his misery.

"Never beat a dead horse, son. Never beat a dead horse."

2014 MLB Hall of Fame Inductions

Speaking of dead horses, how about that Roger Clemens?

Snubbed from the Hall again! Along with Bonds, McGuire, Sosa, Piazza, etc.

The HOF inductions are always a horrible time of year to be a baseball fan because they push the steroid era back into the spotlight. Can we move on from this already? The answer is sadly "NO", because as long as guys like Barry Bonds are on the outside of the Hall of Fame, looking in, there is going to be controversy.

That's Barry Bonds, the greatest ball player of all time. Don't give me any of that Babe Ruth nonsense. Those guys played in the "all-white" era. If you ask me, those statistics are the ones that deserve the asterisk. Are you telling me Babe Ruth could have jogged his fat ass around the bases 714 times if he was going up against some of the pitchers from the Negro League? 

OK, he probably could have, but I think you see my point. Every era has its baggage.

So Barry doesn't get in because he was "juiced." OK. Fair enough. What the hell was Frank Thomas then? Organic? Don't try and tell me that beast was all-natural. His nickname was THE BIG HURT! He played in the steroid era, and BIG was his name. 

Whatever, I'm done with it now. Opening Day is 70 days away -- come on with it.

Thoughts on Team Canada

I'm very proud of everyone -- we were able to keep our bitching and moaning with regards to Steve Yzerman's Team Canada selections to a minimum. Good job!

After all, don't you think Yzerman and company know what's best? 

I am a little surprised over how much heat Yzerman took for the decision to leave Marty St. Louis off the roster. It seems pretty simple to me. Yzerman is St. Louis's General Manager in Tampa. Is that not the definition of a conflict of interest? I'd say Yzerman simply let the other guys (Lowe, Chiarelli, etc.) make the decision on St. Louis, because Yzerman's opinion was obviously a biased one. At least, I'd like to think that's how it went down. This is Team Canada folks, not some under-16 Team Newfoundland tryout. There are no politics involved. Nobody makes the team because their father does the General Manager's taxes. The players that deserve to make the team, make the team.

BTW, I like how my parents handled those situations when I was growing up. Whenever I was cut from a team, they didn't fill my head up with all this "political" bullshit. They told me straight up: "Bryan, you're just not good enough. You're delusional if you think you deserve to make that Canada Games team. Stop crying."

It may sound harsh, but those cuts prepared me for what was to come later in life. When I was unemployed and was rejected from my 22nd job interview in a row, I didn't quit, or blame anyone else. I kept my head up and went on the 23rd interview. Now look at me. I have my very own website!

Some parents took a different approach. I'm reminded of a conversation I had with a fellow hockey player while I was in eleventh grade:

Guy: "Mom and Dad said there was a lot of politics involved with the selection of the provincial team. They said I didn't make it because I'm not from St. John's."

Bryan: "Oh really, I thought you didn't make it because you can't skate backwards."

2014 New Year's Resolutions (continued)

To recap, here are the resolutions from last week:

1) Get Up Earlier
2) Commit To Stuff
3) Follow Sports (more)
4) Exercise

Now, moving right along...

5) Walk Fast -- (Walk fast, are ya kiddin', Bryan?) I feel like this resolution is the bunny slope of resolutions. If I can't do this, I may as well kick off my skis and take a seat in the lodge, while I sip hot cocoa with my little pinky finger stuck out.

I'm serious though. I worked with a guy once who always walked really fast and I admired him for it. It's not like he was running around like a chicken with his head sliced off -- it was more like he walked with a purpose. This was a guy who knew where he was going. When he showed up in the morning, his head was up, and his two feet were turning over like a well oiled engine. He always spoke loud and clear. He didn't complain about things that were out of his control. Instead, he focused on the things he could control. There was a certain positive energy flowing from him, and let me tell you, it was fucking contagious. All of a sudden, my droopy head became a little lighter; the bags under my eyes, a little less puffed. The guy didn't even drink coffee! Did he have some sort of secret cocaine stash tucked in his drawer? Perhaps, but there was little evidence of it. 

Just the guy's presence alone was enough to boost office efficiency. How special is that? Ladies and gentlemen, that's what they refer to as the little things. With some effort, I feel like I could add this one to my game.

No more walking around like a puppy with an injured paw.

Next!  

6) Think For Myself -- I'm getting better at this, but I still slip up from time to time. I'll give you a minor example of what I mean:

Last Christmas, I was browsing through my dad's CD collection, looking for some albums to import onto my laptop. Dad has a great collection and I indulged. The Eagles. U2. The Band. Neil Young. I've said this before: though unappreciated at the time, today I feel privileged to have grown up with these artists blasting in the background -- like a soundtrack to my childhood. I knew Johnny Cash before Walk The Line. Home of the Blues was my favorite Cash tune. Of course, this was before I paid any attention to lyrics whatsoever. I didn't know what the hell these artists were saying. You might hear me singing Robert Palmer from the shower:

"Might as well face it, you're a dick with a glove..."  

Not a big Palmer fan, but that is a catchy song. Dad has some stinkers in the collection too. Although, he'll tell you all those albums belong to Peg.

I remember the first time a lyric actually struck a chord with me. I had recently been dumped, and Dad was playing his new Rolling Stones album, the classic collection: Forty Licks (I'd tell you it was a "great album" but honestly, who the hell doesn't already know that?). I was woken from a deep sleep at around 11 in the morning to Mick Jagger holding the "i" in the Wild Horses chorus. I stumbled to the stereo and started reading the liner notes inside the CD. The Stones have been a favorite band of mine ever since. 

Anyway, one of the albums I chose to import onto my laptop was Journey's Greatest Hits. I had recently attended a wedding where the married couple's first dance was to Faithfully. Maybe all the love floating in the air numbed my taste, I don't know, but I liked what I heard. Of course I was well aware of the classic Don't Stop Believing, which may go down in history as the greatest "Song to Sing When You're Wasted". 

Those two songs concluded my knowledge of Journey. They were enough to have me grabbing the CD from Dad's collection, curious for more. Just then, my sister walked in and asked what I was up to. 

"Journey?" she asked with a raised eyebrow. 

"Yeah -- I figured I'd give them a shot," I replied.

Angela didn't think twice; she was like some sarcastic character from Almost Famous...

"They're like, one of those eighties bands that are so terrible, they're actually kind of good."

Typical millennial, hey? What the fuck does that mean, Angela? So terrible, they're kind of good? Is that like when hipsters wear those awful skinny jeans, and I think, "Jesus, man, can you loosen those things up a little? If you take three more strides towards me, I feel like your junk is gonna pop out like a Jack in the Box." And then: "I guess it is kind of cool."

Guess what I did next? Took the CD and put it back on Dad's shelf. I didn't even listen to it once! I just took Angela's word for it.

Folks, that's not the embarrassing part. I do respect Angela's opinions. She is smart, and I trust her taste. 

Here's the part of the story where I hate myself:

A couple months later, I was having lunch with a buddy of mine at Green Sleeves. It was one of those early Friday lunches -- where you're shooting the shit, the beer tastes good, and you're seriously considering blowing off the rest of the afternoon and setting up camp at the bar. 

Come to think of it, that's the exact scenario which inspired Alan Jackson to write 5 O'clock Somewhere. 

I could pay off my tab
for myself and a cab
and be back to work before two.
At a moment like this,
I can't help but wonder
What would Bryan Duffett do?

(I always envision myself singing that song at an open mic and changing the lyrics like that. Too bad my singing voice sounds like a bag of cats being hurled against a brick wall.) 

Anyway, what should come on the sound system at Greensleaves but Journey's Don't Stop Believing. 

"I love Journey," my buddy says.

I gave him a look.

"Journey?" I reply. "They're like, one of those eighties bands that are so terrible, they're actually kind of good."

Am I the biggest loser you've ever known or what?

I'm like a little kid, who is playing in the garage and overhears his father bring the hammer down on his thumb.

"COCK SUCKING FUCK!" the father screams.

The next day, I receive my science test back from Ms. Frizzle, and upon seeing the big "F" inked in red pen, I scream: "COCK SUCKING FUCK! COCK SUCKING FUCK!"

Next thing you know, there's a parent-teacher meeting, and my permanent file is forever marked: "SERIOUS ISSUES AT HOME. WE SUSPECT THE FATHER." 

Honestly though, what the hell is my problem? Why can't I draw my own god damn conclusions? Offer my own insights? I copied what my sister said because I thought it sounded cool. Pathetic.

The best part is, my buddy called me on it. And I'm glad he did.

"What do you mean?" he asked. "Why do you think they're so terrible?"

As if I had a fucking answer.

Call the damn cab, I'm going back to work.    

*     *     *

Well folks, that concludes my resolutions. I feel like the guy from My Name is Earl. I'm just trying to be a better person.

I'll leave you with a quote from a movie I saw this week:

"The art of survival is a story that never ends."

Bring on 2014.

-BD

(Quote from David O'Russell (American Hustle))

I'm on Twitter! Follow @BryanDuffett

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Back on the Grid, Back on the Grind

"IS IT A CRISIS YET?"

2014 has certainly come in like a lion. Hopefully the power stays on long enough for me to finish this post. I'm just getting the sensation back in my fingers.

I'd like to start by thanking everyone for not robbing every item of value from my apartment the week of Dec 23rd through Jan 1st. I arrived back in St. John's to find my back door wide open, inches of snow and ice accumulated on the kitchen canvas. Fuck it -- not my house. The benefits of being a renter. Fare thee well, damage deposit.

However, I was very relieved to find nothing was stolen. The TV, the Playstation, the books...yup, that concludes the list of valuable things I've collected through my 26 years on this planet. It's all here! And the mouse that was living in the cupboard seems to have packed up his shit and left too. Happy trails, little fella.

The Holidays

It was another enjoyable holiday season. All kinds of free food and drink; time with family and friends. That's what it's all about folks.

I had several pleasant comments on the blog. (And by "several" I mean at least 4.) Thanks for them! Believe it or not there are people out there who were inspired by some of this crap. People went out and read books based on my thoughts. Which would make this blog a positive contribution to society. Fascinating, isn't it? I'd say that's my second favorite reason for writing the blog. The first, of course, is the piles and piles of money I'm making off it.

And now, for the question everyone wants to know...what did Santa bring?

He was his typical self, exceeding every one of my wildest expectations.  My mother and I shared an awkward Christmas morning moment when we discovered we gave each other the exact same present. A copy of Caught by Lisa Moore. I guess great minds think alike? Whatever, I'm looking forward to reading the thing. Whether or not I do a written entry for Caught remains to be seen. Moore's writing is too smart for me, and often times my brain struggles to offer anything even remotely insightful on such deep material. Still, the back cover pumped me up. I'll let you know how it goes.

And I'm happy to say I didn't cheap out, return my copy to the bookstore, and just read mom's, which I could very well have done. Thirty bucks can get me a nice steak dinner. Trust me, if it was a John Grisham, Stephen King, or some other scribbler with more wealth than a Swiss bank, I'd be at The Keg right now. But no, Moore is a talented Newfoundland artist and I'm happy to support her. We have to support our own, people! It is important. 

*     *     *

My favorite gift was my "Word a Day Calendar" from Alana Claus. If all goes as planned, I'll have 365 new additions to the old vocabulary by this time next year. If you read any words that appear out of character, you can chalk it up to my Word of the Day. 

Ex: The skies clouded, depositing an inch of thick graupel on the window ledge.

See?

Graupel (def): soft snow pellets. 

Thanks Santa! I can feel my intelligence expanding. And perhaps my likability from others diminishing. (There's nothing worse than a wordy dick who sounds like he grew up at the Webster's.)

Alana also got me a pair of burgundy jeans so look for those babies to make an appearance at a sexy pub near you.

*     *     *

Our annual Christmas Rec Hockey Tournament went off without a hitch, which always warms the heart. Laughs were shared, a little blood shed (sorry Donny, you know I never meant to catch you with my elbow. Part of the game, pal), and money raised for the next generation of hockey stars. Where would I be without the game? Geez, I don't even want to imagine. That's why it's always great to support the Dean Little Fund, so kids in the area can grow up and collect those minor hockey memories they all deserve.

Funny, because after seven years of this, people tend to forget the details. While we all look pretty decent with our efforts today (giving back to the sport which gave us so much), as my friend hilariously pointed out; this whole tournament started because in the summer of 2008 a bunch of hyenas from Bonavista traveled to Vancouver and represented Newfoundland at the National Ball Hockey Championships. Initially, the Christmas Tournament was a fundraiser to pay off the thousands of credit card debt we accumulated on that trip. Extra charges for damages to rental vans. Extra charges for damages to hotel rooms. You'd swear we roomed with the 1998 US Olympic Hockey Team. Needless to say, the trip came in well over-budget. I don't know what's worse, the fact we trashed the god damn place, or the fact that only two people on the entire team were responsible enough to possess credit cards with enough credit to get us the hell home. 

We started the Christmas Hockey Tournament to pay off those two credit cards and the rest is history. To date we've raised over $10,000 for the Dean Little Fund -- providing hockey equipment and registration to kids who need the financial help.  Bunch'a Mother Teresa's we are. 

I was 20 years old on that Vancouver trip, and thinking about the memory always makes me smile. Always. Even though we were mercy'ed every game except one, and generally made complete asses of ourselves at every opportunity. These days, blogs and websites always encourage young people to travel and see the world. Even if you're broke, you should see the world. Not sure where they expect the money to come from, but that's what they say. I haven't been lucky enough to do so. I don't know, maybe I'm not ambitious enough. That Vancouver trip serves as my life's equivalent to a "Semester Abroad". Where I seen some shit and did some shit that doesn't happen on your average foggy Bonavista day. 

Most of the guys on the trip were a few years older than me and it was fun to be the young guy, sitting back, taking it all in. If something went wrong, nobody was looking at me for answers. I think that's the one thing that sucks about growing up. Suddenly, you become accountable. A shrug of the shoulders isn't good enough anymore.

To this point, I've lived my life with that "take it all in" philosophy. The quiet guy; a wallflower; never trying too hard, or thinking too much; absorbing memories like water. Writing this blog allows me to reflect on it all -- an opportunity to squeeze the sponge.

With that, I drafted up a list of New Years Resolutions. That's right -- plural. Because I want the memories to keep on coming, and as I've grown up, I've noticed some areas in my life which need improvement, or attention. I know they say you're only supposed to have ONE New Year's Resolution, but fuck them. I don't like those odds. If I have ten, there is a greater chance I might actually accomplish one. I may not be ambitious, but I could always dream big.

I'd like to share my resolutions with you.

(I'd love to take credit for that Sponge analogy, but I must admit, I read it somewhere. As Steve Jobs said, "Great artists steal". I don't really believe the Jobs quote, I just really liked the sponge analogy.)

2014 New Year's Resolutions

1) Get Up Earlier -- Seems simple enough, doesn't it? God, I'm a loser. I should cut myself some slack, from Monday to Friday, I'm up with the birds. Work starts at 8AM. But on most weekends, you can find me lying in bed like a wrapped up turd until noon. By the time I get up and use the bathroom, the weekend is over. BRUTAL! This must stop! I've got dreams, damn it, and if I'm serious about accomplishing them, I need those eight morning hours on Saturday and Sunday. 

This is an important one, people, and in all likelihood, serves as a prerequisite for most of the other resolutions. Get. The. Fuck. Up. You. Lazy. Piece. Of. Shit.

2) Commit To Stuff -- Allow me to explain: Like everyone, I've got a lot going on. Job-School-Wife(to be)-Writing-Reading-TV Shows-Sports Teams-Extra Curricular-Dreams-etc. I'm sick of living my life, walking around the pool, occasionally dipping my toe in the water, but never actually diving in. Even if I like how the water feels, I'll never jump in. I'll go back to the Playstation. Or that movie I've seen a dozen times. Which gets me nowhere.  

Bryan: "It's a great day to get some shit done...Ah...Fuck my dreams." (Turns on Playstation.)

The result is: I have a million things on the go, and my heart isn't in any of them. I'm just la-de-da-ing around, doing just enough work in each activity to say I'm doing it. This blog is a great example. School, an even better one. How about that novel I'm writing? Jesus Christ. A woman asked me about it over Christmas and I almost puked. "Well, my Bible has less dust on it, if that gives you any indication..." Why can't I simply commit myself to the activities fully, and get the most out of them? 

Well, god damn it, that's what I'm going to do in 2014. CANON BALL!!!!....annnndd Splash!

OK, who peed in the pool?

Oh god, I swallowed it.

3) Follow Sports (more) -- I'm almost embarrassed to admit this, but I haven't watched a hockey game all year. I don't have a clue what just happened at the World Juniors. I'm missing out! Sidney Crosby is out there in his prime, and I'm here taking a nap on the couch. One day I'm going to look back and regret all this, I just know it. Like the way people wish they could go back and watch Gretzky again. How about just enjoying this super-star we have right now playing every second night?! Not just Crosby either, the NHL is the best league in the world. It's time I renewed my vows.

(Que Willie Nelson's You Were Always On My Mind.)

A couple weeks back, I sat down to write "Bryan's Team Canada" like every other armchair asshole in this country, and I drew a blank. Embarrassing! I rolled up the sheet of loose leaf and tossed it in the trash next to my empty tube of acne cream. From some external research I gathered this much: Crosby is the first line centre, Toews is playing every second shift, and if you don't think Subban deserves to be on the team, you're clearly a racist prick.

Baseball season is coming up and I'd like to offer some thoughts on the Jays from time to time. That's going to require me actually tuning in. I'm not like all those other assholes who offer their dreadful opinions based on a twenty minute TSN highlight show. Sad to say, but the Blue Jays have the worst fans in all of sports. You (which includes me) don't deserve another championship you bunch of whining dummies. The baseball god's smiled on us in 92-93, and now they've seen what a bunch of fucks we are, and have collectively shunned us for the last two decades.

(OK, maybe I shouldn't offer my opinion on the Jays. This might get ugly...)

The reason this one is so important to me is because sports is my thing, and it has gotten away from me a bit. I can't talk to you about hunting or fishing, skidoos, music, fashion, politics, history, business, cooking, etc, without sounding like a rambling donkey. But I actually know shit about sports, primarily hockey and baseball. It would be nice if I could have a conversation with someone and the words flowing from my mouth not be 99% bullshit. Like they are at school and work. Turning on Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights would be a hell of a start.

The puck/ball drops again in 2014!! 

4) Exercise -- Fuck the gym. I've already did the walk of shame into Goodlife to cancel a membership twice in my life, and the second time, I swore it would be the last. I'm not a gym person. Accepted it. Not me. Fine with it.

I am athletic though, and I feel like I need to embrace that in 2014.

I'll accomplish this resolution by actually participating in sports in 2014. Right now, my weekly exercise schedule consists of one hour of rec hockey a week. I would accept that if I was 76 years old. At 26, it's just not good enough.

So, more tennis, golf, hiking, running, walking, hockey, basketball, etc this year. 

I'm terrified of this saying: "If you don't use it, you lose it." 

AHHH! Just reading it scares me. Delete it! Delete it now.

I don't want to be a pot-bellied accountant, with no ass, and a slice of bologna, complaining about the price of gas, worrying about the loonie, and asking if you've heard the forecast because I have to get the snow blower back from Canadian Tire before the next 10 centimeters falls on my beige SUV.

Is sports the answer to that paragraph? hahahaha I don't know, man... 

And no, local senior hockey teams, I will not be coming out of retirement, despite all your pleas for my services. I don't want to win an Allan Cup anyway (ha!).

My name is Bryan R. Duffett. The "R" stands for Rec.

*     *     *

LARD, how many words is that? Is any of this even the slightest bit entertaining?

I'm not even close to finished yet. I'm going to have to make this a "two part" post. 

Come back next week, when I'll continue my list of resolutions (they get better -- I'm easing you in), and talk about a few more things I have going on in 20 fourteen.

Talk soon,

-BD

(If one more person tells me to "Stay Warm" I'm going to lose it!)