Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Please visit my other blog!

Hi everyone! Brian Cormier's Blogtastic World is taking a break while I figure out what to do with it. In the meantime, please visit my website/blog for many of the same features you see here, including my columns, featured YouTube videos, etc.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Mexican town goes mad for pointy boots

No, this isn't from The Onion... this is real!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s May 11, 2011, episode — Top 4 performance show

Last night on American Idol, the Top 4 sang songs of inspiration in the first part of the show and — in the second part of the show — performed from the songbook of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller under the mentorship of the one-and-only Lady Gaga.

I think the big question mark tonight is which one of the girls is going home. Can Haley survive again? Will the youngest contestant, Lauren, make it through to the Top 3? Check out my prediction in today’s Idol Chatter column by clicking on one of the links below:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Click here

Tune into Fox tonight at 9 p.m. Atlantic / 8 p.m. Eastern to find out who goes home!

Hump Day: Just because Osama bin Laden is dead, we're not necessarily safer

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

I would dare say that most people in the western world were reasonably pleased to hear of the death of Osama bin Laden. It's difficult to have much pity or sympathy for someone who wanted nothing but death and destruction for our society and way of life.

Still, I felt uneasy about those who waved American flags and cheered in front of the White House two Sunday evenings ago after Mr. bin Laden's death was officially announced by U.S. President Barack Obama. It certainly wasn't because I was sorry to see him go. It just felt odd cheering on the death of someone - anyone.

With that said, I have to admit that there are a couple of people I know whose death would elicit a broad smile from me - albeit when no one is watching. I think we all have a few people in our lives like that.

Sometimes, people just don't mesh - to the point of not caring if they live or die. Particularly toxic relationships with others can lead to strong feelings of dislike - even hatred. I'm not proud of it, but there are few people I would dance a little jig about if I heard they met their maker.

I just don't think I'd do it too publicly. Is standing over a grave of someone you hate while whistling "Ding Dong the Witch Is Dead" from The Wizard of Oz considered to be tacky or in poor taste? It probably is - but only if someone catches you doing it. If I ever end up doing that, you can be sure that I'll do it in the middle of night when there's no one else around in the graveyard except zombies and ghosts.

Oh, it's always harmless fun until someone loses part of their brain to a hungry zombie, eh? Unfortunately for them, the zombies won't have much to munch on with me.

I was impressed by the American administration's restraint at not wanting to show too much glee in Mr. bin Laden's death. Were they happy? Of course! But, I have to admit that I was pleased to hear President Obama proclaim that they didn't have to "spike the ball" by releasing the death photo. (Football players who score a touchdown often throw the football to the ground in celebration immediately afterwards - "spike the ball.")

Had Obama spiked the ball, so to speak, I'm not so sure that the outcome would be terribly different. Mr. bin Laden's sympathizers have already vowed revenge. By not spiking the ball, I doubt America's enemies will be much nicer in the aftermath.

Regardless, it's just all very scary. Terrorist acts have been averted in the past - some by pure luck, others by good intelligence gathering.

Regardless of the U.S. not spiking the ball, I don't think Americans and their allies - including Canadians - can become complacent that the terrorist threat has disappeared because of one man's death.

With that said, it's true that the photo would certainly have been used to incite further hatred toward the U.S. Just imagine! Had President Obama released Mr. bin Laden's death photo, it would be splashed on every protest sign at anti-American protests around the world. As gruesome as the photo likely is, it would have most certainly led to compelling news photos and television coverage.

The visuals of thousands of anti-American demonstrators holding up Mr. bin Laden's death photo would have been dramatic and would have had the effect of throwing gasoline on a fire that's already out of control.

Then there's the matter of the Pakistani government. I mean, really!

It's difficult to believe they didn't suspect Mr. bin Laden was "hiding" practically in plain view. Allied soldiers have been searching caves and mountains for Mr. bin Laden when all they should have done was walk through Abbotabad, Pakistan and peek over a wall surrounding a mansion. It's a stretch, to say the least, to believe that Pakistan knew nothing of this.

Regardless, thousands of soldiers have died or had their lives changed forever by life-altering injuries. Because of Mr. bin Laden's attack on New York City on that beautiful Tuesday morning on Sept. 11, 2001, not only did those who died in the attacks lose their lives, but the lives of their families and friends were changed forever, too.

Mr. bin Laden was never going to stop attacking - or planning to attack - the United States and their allies, including Canada. As a country, Canada is relatively unscathed when it comes to foreign terrorist attacks directly on our soil. Had Mr. bin Laden successfully targeted our country - and there's nothing to say we aren't going to be attacked at some point - I can't help but think we would have been outside cheering his death, too.

Terrorists attack the innocent. They rarely attack "Mr. Big." They attack Joe Lunchbucket and Mary Cookiebaker . . . and their kids . . . and their neighbours. While the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks targeted the Pentagon, the terrorists did so by hijacking a jetliner full of passengers. At least they lived up to their name - terrorists - considering the terror that passengers and crew must have gone through that fateful day.

While the White House's sensible refusal to release Osama bin Laden's death photo (at least so far) seems to be the right decision, it shouldn't be looked at as some sort of altruistic symbol. It's just practical.

Not releasing the photo may prove to be about as effective as pouring a cold glass of water into lava flowing out of a volcano. The difference may be imperceptible and it will not stop terrorism from continuing to erupt violently when we least expect it.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Funny viral video: Ultimate dog tease

Here's the world's latest favourite viral video. Since May 1, it has received more than 11 million views.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Saturday, May 07, 2011

A journey through cancer: Day 1426 since diagnosis - May 7, 2011

Subscribe to Ali Marr's "A Journey Through Cancer" YouTube channel here and follow her family as they live with her father Harley's cancer.

Here's today's episode for May 7, 2011 -- Day 1426 since diagnosis:

Friday, May 06, 2011

A journey through cancer: Day 1425 since diagnosis - May 6, 2011

Subscribe to Ali Marr's "A Journey Through Cancer" YouTube channel here and follow her family as they live with her father Harley's cancer.

Here's today's episode for May 6, 2011 -- Day 1425 since diagnosis:

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s May 5, 2011, episode — Top 5 results show

This week, there was a surprise member of the bottom two — someone who had never been there before this season. They certainly didn’t handle it very well, either, but they weren’t the one sent home, so they’ll get to sing another day!

Who was the surprise member of the bottom two? Who was sent home? Click one of the links below to find out:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here

Daily Gleaner: Click here

Tune in to Fox next Wednesday at 9 p.m. Atlantic / 8 p.m. Eastern to hear the Top 4 perform!

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s May 4, 2011, episode — Top 5 performance show

Last night, the Top 5 remaining contestants on American Idol performed two songs each — one recent and one from the past. It’s a lucky thing that some had two chances because the judges (and sometimes me) were not too pleased with a few of the performances.

As with many seasons of the show, sometimes what we hear through the television at home can sound quite different from what they hear in the studio. The explains some of the very positive comments when the contestant sounded horrible for those of us at home. That was the case last night with a few songs that I thought were just awful — but that the judges lauded.

Regardless, there were three outstanding performances last night. I posted videos here yesterday.

To read my full review and who I’m choosing to go home tonight, click one of the links below:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Click here

To find out who goes home, tune in to Fox tonight at 9 p.m. Atlantic / 8 p.m. Eastern. There are only three weeks left!

My low-carb and gluten-free almond cookies video just hit 10,000 views on YouTube!

This is my one-and-only recipe video. It recently hit 10,000 views on YouTube, so I decided to post it again.

This is a recipe for almond cookies that are low-carb, sugar-free and gluten-free. Before you begin, pre-heat your oven to 300F. You'll need:

- 2 cups almond flour (i.e. ground almonds)
- 1/2 cup Splenda (or equivalent liquid Splenda)
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) butter
- 1/2 tsp salt (omit if you used salted butter)
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- 1 tsp pure almond extract

Combine all ingredients. Form dough into walnut-sized balls and place onto greased cookie sheet. Bake for 5 minutes. Press down lightly with fork. (Optional: You may also place an almond in the middle of the cookie.) Return to oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Let cool and enjoy! 30 carbs for entire batch - less if you use liquid Splenda (i.e. Sweetzfree).

You can buy Sweetzfree here.

Original recipe credit: Low Carb Luxury (very slow server).

I messed up the ending a bit, but this took so long to do that I'll just chalk it up to experience and make sure the next video's ending isn't chopped off!

Hump Day: Bringing home a new pet can be a life changing endeavour

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, May 4, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

Changes inside a household can be stressful. Seemingly perfect balances can be upset when someone leaves the home or joins it. A new baby, the death of a loved one, a child going off to college... things like this change the dynamics of how we live.

On the grand scale of things, the change coming to my household this weekend is not earth shattering. It's actually quite exciting, although I have to admit that it's throwing me off my game a bit.

As I wrote a few weeks ago, this is the weekend that a little dog named Milane comes to live with me. A purebred Coton de Tuléar, she's being retired from shows and breeding and I'm taking her in for the next dozen-or-so years of her life. Since she's only four years old, she should have a good 12 years left in her, I think.

Getting a new pet is like getting a new child. You have to care for the animal and feed it. You have to take it to the veterinarian for shots, checkups and - hopefully not too often - emergencies.

New routines also need to be established. With proper food and water, it's easy to leave cats on their own all day. They have a litter box to use if they need to go to the bathroom. Dogs, well, that's a bit more of an issue. They pretty much need to be walked and do their business outdoors. They're more hands-on.

Since I now work from home, I decided that it was the right time to get a dog. I personally didn't like the idea of leaving a dog alone all day home, so getting a dog while I was working for others was not an option for me. That was a personal choice that I made for my own conscience and the dog's quality of life. It's just not something I wanted to do.

Don't get me wrong, I'm quite excited about Milane's arrival. The breeder is happy that she found a good home. She's as cute as a button and usually elicits a series of "Oohs!" and "Ahs!" when I show her photos to people. She's a little white furball with a cute face and - from what I'm told - a great personality.

Since Cotons are also known as a breed that gets along with most people, animals and situations, I'm pretty sure she won't be too neurotic and will adapt easily to the routine that she will enjoy for the next several years.

But, I have to admit, I'm also really nervous about her arrival. I've been looking through pet supply stores for collars, leashes, bowls, crates and all the things required for a new dog. I know what kind of food she eats and have treats already picked out. The trip to the breeder on Saturday is already planned and I'm taking my mother and a couple of aunts with me to greet the new member of the family.

I've been e-mailing the breeder back and forth for advice on a variety of issues. I feel just like a new father who hasn't had a baby before. I haven't owned a dog since I was a kid in the 1970s, so I'm a bit out of practice. I'm sure it will be just like riding a bicycle, though. We'll figure out a routine and I'll make sure she learns a few doggie karate chops to keep the two cats from smothering her with a pillow in her sleep.

Things will be fine. She's small enough that finding a babysitter from time to time will not be a problem. It's not as if she's a big brute who can swallow a small child in one gulp. I just need to be resourceful because owning a dog is much more hands-on than owning a cat. That whole "getting outside for exercise and to use the bathroom" thing will take some getting used to.

But, I'm up for the challenge! I'm actually looking forward to taking Milane on walks around the neighbourhood and heading out to various parks and trails around the area for outings. I think it will be fun. And Lord knows, I could use the exercise. Apparently, Cotons are tough little buggers, so she should enjoy the exercise - and at only four years old, she'll certainly have the stamina.

One irrational fear I have is that she'll be dognapped. I know, I know... unlikely... but I keep hearing of these things happening. Just last week, a dog was stolen from the Greater Moncton SPCA only to be returned later thanks to an onslaught of people looking for her through social media. There are also reports of another dog in Fredericton who was stolen.

Yeah, I can just see myself now. If anyone dares to pet my dog, I'll need identification, fingerprints and a hefty deposit (cash or credit card swipe). I will be the over-protective dog owner from hell. If I leave her to be babysat (dogsat?) anywhere, I'll insist on setting up video surveillance.

I pity the poor fool who feeds her table scraps when I'm not looking instead of the $1-million-per-bag premium dog food she'll be eating. Apparently, she's also used to eating olive oil and yogurt. (Spoiled much?) Oh, who am I kidding? She'll keep getting yogurt and olive oil when she comes to live with me. I'll probably sprinkle it with gold dust while I'm at it and have it blessed by the pope.

When all is said and done, Milane should be in good hands. As long as I teach her those doggie karate chop moves against the cats, she should at least survive the weekend.

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

A journey through cancer: Day 1422 since diagnosis - May 4, 2011

Subscribe to Ali Marr's "A Journey Through Cancer" YouTube channel here and follow her family as they live with her father Harley's cancer.

Here's today's episode for May 4, 2011 -- Day 1422 since diagnosis:

My picks for the top three performanes on American Idol tonight

Check out these videos of my picks for the top three performances from tonight's episode of American Idol. In no particular order:

Scotty McCreery -- Gone:

James Durbin -- Without You:

Haley Reinhart -- House of the Rising Sun:

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

A journey through cancer: Day 1421 since diagnosis - May 3, 2011

Subscribe to Ali Marr's "A Journey Through Cancer" YouTube channel here and follow her family as they live with her father Harley's cancer.

Here's today's episode for May 3, 2011 -- Day 1421 since diagnosis:

Monday, May 02, 2011

Today's election day in Canada: VOTE!

If you're not sure where to vote, click here to visit Elections Canada's website.

A journey through cancer: Day 1420 since diagnosis - May 2, 2011

Subscribe to Ali Marr's "A Journey Through Cancer" YouTube channel here and follow her family as they live with her father Harley's cancer.

Here's today's episode for May 2, 2011 -- Day 1420 since diagnosis:

Sunday, May 01, 2011

A journey through cancer: Day 1419 since diagnosis - May 1, 2011

Subscribe to Ali Marr's "A Journey Through Cancer" YouTube channel here and follow her family as they live with her father Harley's cancer.

Here's today's episode for May 1, 2011 -- Day 1419 since diagnosis:

Seth Meyers delivers keynote address at White House Correspondents' Dinner

Here's a pretty fun speech by Saturday Night Live head writer and cast member Seth Meyers. Notice how Donald Trump doesn't find Meyers's jokes very funny. He'd better learn to laugh at himself or he'll be upset a LOT over the next year if he decides to run for president.

Friday, April 29, 2011

A journey through cancer: Day 1417 since diagnosis - April 29, 2011

Subscribe to Ali Marr's "A Journey Through Cancer" YouTube channel here and follow her family as they live with her father Harley's cancer.

Here's today's episode for April 29, 2011 -- Day 1417 since diagnosis:

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s April 28, 2011, episode — Top 6 results show

Another of this season’s favourites was sent packing last night — although an earlier show foreshadowed the fact that he likely wouldn’t win.

Casey Abrams proved just a bit too unique for American Idol fans and received the lowest number of votes this week.

Please forgive the error in the column. There was no bottom three or bottom two this week. The results were in random order. The “fact” that Scotty was in the bottom two was not correct. I had a migraine on Thursday and my brain was not functioning correctly.

At this point, I do believe that James is the frontrunner for the first time this season, but one barn-burning performance by Scotty will turn that around pretty quickly. I still believe that the last two standing will be James and Scotty.

To read how last night’s show went down, click on one of the links below:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Click here

Tune in to Fox next Wednesday at 9 p.m. Atlantic / 8 p.m. Eastern to watch the Top 5 perform! The big question next week will be whether Jacob Lusk or Haley Reinhart can survive. So far, James Durbin, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina seem like shoo-ins for the Top 3.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

A journey through cancer: Day 1416 since diagnosis - April 28, 2011

Subscribe to Ali Marr's "A Journey Through Cancer" YouTube channel here and follow her family as they live with her father Harley's cancer.

Here's today's episode for April 28, 2011 -- Day 1416 since diagnosis:

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s April 27, 2011, episode — Top 6 performance show

The Top 6 performed songs by music legend Carole King this week.

There were definitely some stellar performances last night, including Scotty McCreery, James Durbin and Lauren Alaina. Casey Abrams went back to his bad habit of growling. Oyyy…

Check out my review and predictions for elimination here:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Click here

Tune in to Fox tonight at 9 p.m. Atlantic / 8 p.m. Eastern for the results!

Hump Day: Honour Canadian democracy and get out to vote on Monday

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, April 27, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial page

Sometimes, I wonder whether or not Canada would be well served by a good old fashioned national tragedy, devastating war or terrorist act on our soil or a government so evil that it partakes in genocide and the systematic dismantling of everything we hold dear, including public health care and education.

I write this because sometimes I think we're way too comfortable.

Why? Because a huge chunk of eligible voters don't even bother to go to the ballot box to take two minutes of their time to mark an "X" next to a candidate's name.

Next Monday, Canadians will go to the polls in the country's 41st general election since Confederation.

Millions of Canadians will exercise their civic duty and mark their ballots. Some will also deliberately spoil their ballots in an attempt to send a message. Fair enough. At least they showed up.

Millions, however, will not even bother to take the time out of their day to pick up that stubby pencil, unfold the ballot, mark their "X" and then fold it back up to give to the poll worker who then tears off the security tab proving it's a legal ballot, followed by you depositing that very important piece of paper in the ballot box.

Let's go through some of the excuses that people use not to vote.

"Didn't have time." People can vote at advance polls and at returning offices for several days before election day. There's no need to wait until May 2 to cast your ballot. Surely within those several days you can find a minute to write a little "X" on a ballot?

"Didn't know where to go." Everyone gets a card in the mail. Even if you've moved, you'll probably get a card destined for the previous resident telling you where and when you can vote. A simple search online will tell you where to vote. Call one of your local candidates, as well. They will give you the right number to call.

"Didn't have a way to get there." You can call any candidate and I can guarantee you that they'll send someone over to pick you up at home and drive you back. If they think you'll vote for them by providing you with a drive, rest assured that they'll treat you nicely. You're under no obligation to vote for the candidate whose team gave you a drive, but it's considered polite to call the candidate you intend to vote for.

"I didn't have identification on me." You need identification to vote. Workers can't just take your word that you're the person whose name is on the voter's card. Taken directly from Elections Canada's website, the following identification options exist:

1. Show one original piece of identification with your photo, name and address. It must be issued by a government agency. (Example: Driver's licence.)

2. Show two original pieces of authorized identification. Both pieces must have your name and one must also have your address. (Examples: New Brunswick Medicare card and utility bill - telephone, cable, electricity).

3. Take an oath and have an elector who knows you vouch for you (both of you will be required to make a sworn statement). This person must have authorized identification and their name must appear on the list of electors in the same polling division as you. This person can only vouch for one person and the person who is vouched for cannot vouch for another elector.

Another reason that people don't vote is, "All politicians are the same." Oh no, they're not. Party platforms differ widely in a variety of areas, including emphasis in certain areas that may impact your life more than others. Do some research. Read the pamphlets that show up in your mailbox. Don't assume everyone's the same. They're not.

"I hate elections." Interesting comment. Many people in Libya, Egypt, China and North Korea would love to have true democratic elections. Talk to any immigrant or refugee from one of those countries and they'll tell you pretty quickly that Canadians are very lucky to be able to vote freely and without threats of violence - or worse.

"I forgot" Really? Not enough wall-to-wall news coverage and election signs on every corner to remind you?

"One vote doesn't make a difference." According to online research I did, the following was decided by one single vote:

King Charles I of England was executed in 1649, a fate decided by one vote.

In 1800, one vote made Thomas Jefferson the U.S. president over Aaron Burr.

One vote can make a difference, including over life or death.

"I can't be bothered." Really? Thankfully, the members of our military didn't say that in the First of Second World Wars. If they couldn't be bothered, how different would Canada be today?

"All politicians are crooks." It drives me crazy to hear people say this. While I understand the cynicism, it's completely untrue. The vast majority of politicians are well-meaning and work very hard every day to help their constituents. Whatever you may think of them, I can assure you that most politicians work seven days per week.

Next Monday, please do your duty for your country as a Canadian citizen. Cast your ballot. Please honour our peaceful democracy by voting.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A journey through cancer: Day 1415 since diagnosis - April 27, 2011

Subscribe to Ali Marr's "A Journey Through Cancer" YouTube channel here and follow her family as they live with her father Harley's cancer.

Here's today's episode for April 27, 2011 -- Day 1415 since diagnosis:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A journey through cancer: Day 5 - April 26, 2011

Subscribe to Ali Marr's "A Journey Through Cancer" YouTube channel here and follow her family as they live with her father Harley's cancer.

Here's today's episode for April 26, 2011:

Monday, April 25, 2011

A journey through cancer: Day 4 - April 25, 2011

Subscribe to Ali Marr's "A Journey Through Cancer" YouTube channel here and follow her family as they live with her father Harley's cancer.

Here's today's episode for April 25, 2011:

Charlieissocoollike: Doctor What

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A journey through cancer: Day 3 - April 24, 2011

Subscribe to Ali Marr's "A Journey Through Cancer" YouTube channel here and follow her family as they live with her father Harley's cancer.

Here's today's episode for April 24, 2011:

A journey through cancer: April 22 and April 23

Harley Marr of Moncton was diagnosed with prostate cancer five years ago. Since then, the cancer has spread to his bones.

His daughter Ali has created what will certainly be a very powerful and intimate look at her family's experience with cancer as they proceed on their journey.

These are Ali's first two videos posted on April 22 and April 23. I will be posting these videos to my blog as they are available. Please visit Ali's YouTube channel here and click on subscribe.

Click here to visit the Harley's Heroes Relay for Life website. Don't forget to donate!

April 22 (introductory video):

April 23:

Happy Easter!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s April 21, 2011, episode — Top 7 results show

Seven became six this week as American Idol voters eliminated yet another hopeful.

I predicted that Stefano Langone, Jacob Lusk and Haley Reinhart would find themselves in the bottom three — and that’s exactly what happened last night! I also predicted that Stefano’s luck would finally run out after surviving being in the bottom two last week and the week before that.

So, who got the boot? Did Stefano manage to survive again? Check out one of the links below to find out:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Click here

Tune in to Fox at 9 p.m. Atlantic / 8 p.m. Eastern next Wednesday to see the Top 6 perform!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s April 20, 2011, episode — Top 7 performance show

The Top 7 performed songs from the 21st century last night on American Idol. While there were no disasters, I did notice that several contestants kept yanking out their earpieces during their performances. This has happened for the past few weeks. Jacob Lusk complained that he messed up the first part of his song because he heard drums in his earpiece and it threw him off.

I’m not a fan of Jacob, but he’s as honest as the day’s long, so I believe him. I hope producers fix this issue. Something is obviously not working correctly with those huge monstrosities (the earpieces). You’d think that in this day and age — and with American Idol’s budget — they could afford earpieces that are a bit more subtle, not to mention ones that work.

The big question is the ability of Stefano Langone to survive yet another week. He’s been in the bottom two the past two weeks and has knocked off both Pia Toscano and Paul McDonald. Can he do it again? If he does, who will go?

Read my review and predictions for last night’s performance show by clicking one of the links below:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Click here

To find out who goes home this week, tune in to Fox tonight at 9 p.m. Atlantic / 8 p.m. Eastern!

Hump Day: Trying hard to make the best of a tricky tax time situation

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

As far as the government is concerned, it's the most wonderful time of the year. No, it's not Christmas just yet. It's tax season! For people like me who wait until the last minute to do my taxes, it's far from being the most wonderful time of the year. In fact, it's pretty much the most stressful time of the year for me. Because I have a combination personal and business return, it's a bit more complicated than the days when I had one T4 slip and a few charitable donations.

Thankfully, my 2010 return is the final edition of the returns done at the last minute because I've done bought myself a brand spankin' new bookkeeper. Well, maybe I really didn't actually buy her - that would be quite wrong and illegal - but I'm paying her to put my books in order so that we can just push a few buttons come early March 2011 and send in my return nice and early next year.

So far, I've learned some great tricks, including a few deductions I didn't know I could make. I've also learned a few things that I can't do. Those are the difficult things to hear from your bookkeeper or accountant. "What do you mean I can't deduct the toothpicks I bought for my nephew's birthday party? I wrote a column about it. They're deductible. No? Are you sure?"

Well, maybe not to that extreme, but I'll look to her to keep me out of jail - or at least not have to jump off a cliff if I ever get audited by "the man" - that faceless, nameless entity who runs the country.

In the past few years, I've been lucky in that I've been very pleasantly surprised by either the size of the refund I'm getting or the small amount of money I owe. Usually, I go into tax season trying to figure out how many boarders I can fit in my basement to help pay my tax bill. When my accountant calls me to tell me to come in to sign my return, I brace myself for the bad news and it's usually not that bad.

But this year, however, I think I've met my match. The one thing you have to do when working for yourself is to ensure you put aside money from every invoice to pay your taxes. Sure, you have expenses, but the secret is finding enough deductions to cancel out the taxes you may owe. At a certain income level, though, that becomes difficult. I mean, there are only so many (legitimate) business deductions that a person can claim before you start grasping at straws and try to write off jars of pickles as a deduction in order to bring your income down.

I'm not trying to write off jars of pickles as a business expense just yet, but maybe when I get that call from the accountant after my taxes are done and ready to be signed, I may regret not having tried to deduct that bottle of dills.

I usually do all my own calculations and show up at the accountant's office with a bunch of receipts wrapped in adding machine tape, a wad of notes and a few things I have no idea what to do with. Now that I have a bookkeeper, that trip to the accountant next year will be much more orderly. She'll double check everything and make sure everything is kosher, and I'll know far in advance how much I owe.

I wasn't terribly disciplined at putting money aside for taxes last year. That is not a good thing. In order to sleep at night - and in your own bed, not on a prison cot - it's a very good thing to take a certain percentage off the top of everything you receive from clients and deposit it into an account where you won't touch it. That's what I'm doing this year. A percentage comes off the top of every cheque I receive, including the HST that I charged to a client.

It's all too tempting to see that invoice as "all yours" when, in effect, you'd better put some aside for "the man" or find yourself in a bit of pinch paying back taxes and HST. That would be no fun. So far, I've always been pretty fortunate. Like I said, I'm not so sure that it's the case this time.

So besides the boarders I'll have to take in, perhaps I could start doing laundry for people? Maybe some sewing? I could always get a job washing dishes in a restaurant. Maybe I could knock on doors of dog owners in my neighbourhood and ask if they'd like me to clean up the melting poop in their yards!

Oyyy... now I'm making myself nervous. Since I've only become really disciplined at putting money aside for taxes recently, I'd better try to see if I can write off as much as possible for 2010. Toothpicks were already shot down by my bookkeeper. How about toothpaste? I could write a column about toothpaste and make it a business expense! No, I don't spend enough on toothpaste to make the audit worth my while.

Whatever happens, I'll figure out something. I'm sure I could cram 20 or 30 boarders in my basement - skinny ones that don't take up a lot of room. We'd all be one big happy family. The minute my back taxes are paid off, however, they're out on their ear. I don't care if it's Christmas Eve or the middle of summer.

I wonder if my bookkeeper will allow me to erase a few of last year's invoices? If it worked for Richard Nixon, it'll work for me! Oh... wait...

Friday, April 15, 2011

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s April 14, 2011, episode — Top 8 results show

Last night on American Idol, we saw the first male contestant eliminated since the Top 13 began. Was it Stefano Langone — the boy with nine lives — or was it someone else? Click one of the links below to read my recap and find out who was sent home.

Moncton Times & Transcript: Not available online

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Click here

Tune in to Fox next Wednesday at 9 p.m. Atlantic / 8 p.m. Eastern to watch the Top 7!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s April 13, 2011, episode — Top 8 performance show

This week on American Idol, the Top 8 performed songs featured in movies. With fans, contestants and the judges still reeling after last week’s shocking elimination of front-runner Pia Toscano — not to mention Casey Abrams equally surprising near-elimination a few weeks ago — this season is proving to the be the most unpredictable yet. No one is safe.

With Pia’s exit, I believe the position of clear front-runner goes to country boy Scotty McCreery. James Durbin continues to impress week after week. Lauren Alaina is also a stong contender, but I think she’s lacking in the personality department just a bit. But man, has she got a voice!

Last night, I thought Haley tanked. Paul was just weird. Jacob sounded exactly the same as he does every week. Stefano redeemed himself. Casey got a standing ovation from the judges but I somehow doubt his performance connected with young voting fans. Scotty was solid, as usual. James and Lauren were the two standouts.

To read my entire review, including my prediction for who will be going home, click on one of the links below:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Click here

Tune in to Fox tonight at 9 p.m. Atlantic / 8 p.m. Eastern for the results!

Hump Day: Entrepreneurs have to sell themselves, generate their business

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Since I started my own business last year, I've been pleasantly surprised at the support I've received from my network of contacts. Except for a period in late December and the first couple of weeks of January, I've been quite busy.

Lately, business has just exploded. As an entrepreneur, I'm grateful to my clients and for the fact that they've put their trust in me.

I've always had an entrepreneurial streak in me. I never minded selling tickets door to door for hockey raffles or peddling chocolate bars at the mall entrance for a school fundraiser. It was fun competing with others for the class pizza party. And hey, if you didn't sell them all, at least you could spend your allowance on buying the few bars that were left over.

These days, some of the more lucrative fundraisers are ones that have kids packing groceries at the checkout counter. I've always been impressed at their politeness and care at putting everything properly in the bags. It's nice to have someone do it for you, too.

I usually give them a couple of dollars and ask about what they're raising money for. More often than not, it's for a school band trip to New York, Montreal or New Orleans. Geez, when I was in the school band, we played once across town - and I thought that was thrilling!

I did get in trouble once, though, when selling chocolate bars during junior high with a friend of mine in front of the old Woolco store (now Wal-Mart) at Champlain Place. Most people who didn't want to buy bars were usually pleasant. There were a lot of "I'm allergic" and "I'm diabetic" . . . but our tactics soon turned to telling every woman who walked by us that they were beautiful. And, by the way, "Wanna buy a chocolate bar for my school?"

It charmed many. We actually did get a few chuckles and a few of the ladies bought one from us, perhaps out of pure respect for our sales technique gumption. But, at some point, we told the wrong person they were beautiful and the manager came out to have a chat. While we were allowed to remain, the emotional manipulation had to stop. Subsequently, our sales numbers dropped, but at least we didn't get into more trouble.

Growing up, most of my neighbours were really nice and would usually buy my tickets or bars or whatever I was selling. After I got a few no thanks, I would get discouraged and just start skipping houses. One wonderful neighbour saw me walking by with my wad of unsold tickets and yelled from her door wondering what I was selling. "Tickets on a (whatever it was at the time)!" I replied.

She then jokingly berated me for not knocking on her door. I told her I didn't think she'd want any, but she proved me wrong and bought a few. I never skipped her house after that. At least she was nicer than that neighbour who would literally slam the door in my face. Thank goodness his wife was a real sweetheart. I learned never to knock on their door again if I didn't think she was home.

My entrepreneurial instinct only led me down the path of evil once when I picked a neighbour's flowers and sold the bouquet back to her. Thinking back on it now, she must have known the flowers were hers, but she didn't give me any hint that she knew and handed over a few quarters for (literally) her bouquet. Of course, pure guilt took over afterwards and I never did it again.

My first paid job - other than writing columns for this newspaper during my high school years, was selling ads for the 1983 Kinsmen National Convention that was hosted here in Moncton. Oyyy . . . I just did the math and that's nearly 30 years ago. There was a newspaper being printed for the delegates and my duties were to walk up and down Main Street and sell ads to every merchant who would let me through the door.

I have to admit, I was pretty good at it. I had no qualms about selling. I raised about $1,200 in revenue, which was pretty good back then. These days, though, the thought of selling tickets or ads makes my skin crawl. I'm so glad those days are over. I really do remember enjoying it, but over time the thought of selling doesn't sit well with me.

But when you're in business for yourself, you have to sell whether you like it or not. You have to sell your abilities. You have to sell the benefits of your network, your experience and your background. And you have to produce . . . on time and on budget!

In the consulting world, it's either feast or famine . . . so the months you're going crazy with work will make up for the months when the telephone stops ringing and the only e-mails you get are from Nigerian princes wanting to park their life savings in your bank account - for a fee and for your online banking password.

I've been very fortunate that contracts - so far - have mostly come to me through friends, colleagues, past co-workers and the like. An entrepreneur can only feel incredibly grateful to have such a wonderful, generous network of contacts. Gratitude is a must when you're an entrepreneur because without clients, you have nothing.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Too good to be true!

I was hoping this new invention was real. But alas...

Friday, April 08, 2011

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s April 7, 2011, episode — Top 9 results show

Whoa! No one saw that one coming! After favourite Casey Abrams received the fewest votes a few weeks ago (first Top 11 results show), the judges used their one and only "save" of the season to save him.

Unfortunately for the judges and fans, this left other favourites vulnerable for an early exit. And that's exactly what happened last night when one of the favourites to win -- in fact the #1 favourite to win according to Entertainment Weekly's Top 9 power list -- was sent home a lot earlier than anyone had anticipated.

To find out the shocking results of last night's show that left the audience booing, Jennifer Lopez bawling and Randy Jackson and Steven Tyler angry, click one of the links below:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here.

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Not available online today.

Tune in to Fox next Wednesday, at 9 p.m. Atlantic / 8 p.m. Eastern to hear the Top 8 (minus a favourite!) perform.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Annoying Orange: Kitchen Carnage

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s April 6, 2011, episode — Top 9 performance show

Last night, the Top 9 American Idol contestants performed songs by members of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I thought last night’s episode was one of the best ever… filled with some great performances! James wept. Scotty channeled Elvis. Pia sang something unexpected and up tempo. Haley had one of her best performances of the season!

To find out how everyone did and who I believe will be eliminated tonight, click one of the links below:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here.

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Click here.

Hump Day: That "crazy old cat lady" has done it now and it'll be a dog's life!

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Editorial section

Well, for all of you who've been concerned that I'm a crazy cat lady disguised as a (rich, gorgeous, virile) guy in his (very) extremely late 20s, you'll be pleased to know that I'll soon be making a change in a positive direction.

The cats will still be with me. They're not going anywhere. Besides, being cats, they've somehow managed to get their names on the deed to my house. Those furry little buggers can be uncannily sneaky.

The good news is that, in early May, I'm going to pick up my new dog, a four-year-old Coton de Tuléar, a small white ball of fur with the very pompous-sounding purebred name of Polana Milane Passioncoton ("Milane" for short). I was looking to rescue a Coton a few years ago and even went to visit one at the same breeder from where Milane is coming, but the timing wasn't right.

Now that I work from home in my own business, the bug to get a dog to add to the family became quite strong. I called the breeder a few weeks ago to let her know I'd be interested in rescuing a Coton if one became available. While Milane isn't a rescue, she's being retired from the show circuit and the breeder asked if I would be interested in taking her in as her retirement home. It took me all of three seconds to say, "Yes!"

The cuteness of this little girl cannot be exaggerated. She's to die for. Well, that may be a bad choice of words, because I'm pretty sure that my cat Cindy will want to kill her when they meet. Cindy is the boss of the animal kingdom in the household - an animal kingdom that currently is made up of two cats, the other being the big, floppy and lovable Casey. He's twice Cindy's size and is pretty much her slave.

It will be interesting to introduce a dog to the household. A few years ago, introducing a third cat proved to be a complete and utter disaster. I adopted Charlotte, a beautiful Siamese lynx point mix, and had great hopes that she would blend right in with the other two. We would be one big happy family, so happy that I would get a personally signed Christmas card from God himself every holiday season.

Unfortunately, Charlotte's stay was about as peaceful as an atom bomb being dropped into an erupting volcano. We all talk about "cat fights" between people as if they're something terrible. Cat fights between real cats are beyond scary to watch. That's what I had to deal with for seven months before I made the painful decision to re-home Charlotte for her own safety - and my sanity. It was a huge relief for everyone.

The thing about cats is that they're very territorial. Ironically, cats and dogs - despite the cliché - sometimes get along better than cats and cats because they don't see each other as competition for territory, mates and food.

And then there was Daisy the cockatiel. Again, I'm not sure what the heck I was thinking when I got a bird when I already had two cats. It would be like hiring a mouse to babysit your favourite block of cheddar cheese. Sure, there was peace in the valley while I was in the room and my eyes were on them, but the minute I left the room Casey would charge poor Daisy's cage and try to get at her to eat her like an after-dinner mint.

You've heard of jelly donuts? The cage was the donut. Daisy was the feathery jelly. And Casey wanted that donut filling no matter what!

The cage would rattle. Daisy would scream. Casey would be trying to get through the bars. Thank goodness I never let him watch Tweety and Sylvester cartoons. At some point, I would be yanking Daisy out of his mouth, I'm sure.

I hope the third time is the charm with little Milane. The cats won't find her delicious (I hope) and the territorial issues shouldn't be too bad. They've only met one dog - my friend Bob's dog Riley, a sweet dog who loves cats. Casey got used to Riley in about an hour and was ready to be lifelong pals.

Meanwhile, Cindy was still slinking around with her back up in the air and hissing. Let's just say that she was more than a little bit out of sorts.

When Milane arrives, she'll have everything a dog could love: toys, good food, a nice bed - and a built-in set of siblings, one who'll love her from the get-go, and the other who will plot to kill her in her sleep à la Stewie vs. Lois on Family Guy.

There will definitely be an adjustment period for everyone. Me, especially! While I'm excited to be finally getting a dog, I'm also more than a little nervous as to how the other two fur balls will take to her. I don't want to wake up one morning to find the cats' claws full of mud and a fresh grave dug in the garden with a little white tail sticking out.

I'm looking forward to taking Milane for walks and bringing her to visit friends and family. She's hypoallergenic and apparently great with children, so finding a babysitter shouldn't be too difficult from time to time.

And I've already told my Facebook friends that if I ever put ribbons in her hair to make it look like she has pigtails, then do me a favour and shoot me. Just tell the RCMP it was justifiable homicide. You know what those crazy dog people are like!

Friday, April 01, 2011

Nasty April Fool's joke in Moncton... a snow storm!

While most April Fool's jokes today were harmless pranks, this was the real thing! Not a snow storm to be seen in the entire month of March in Moncton, but this is what we got on April 1! Sheesh!

Video courtesy of Newschaser.

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s March 31, 2011, episode — Second Top 11 results show

This week on American Idol, two contestants were eliminated because of last week’s “Judges’ Save” that kept Casey Abrams from being sent home much earlier than anyone thought he would be.

This week, the Top 11 contestants sang the songs of music legend Sir Elton John. (The producers originally picked a generic 80s theme but changed it afterwards.) I picked Naima Adedapo and Thia Megia to go home this week. Naima’s horrible reggae rendition of I’m Still Standing will likely go down in Idol history as a disaster. Thia’s bland performance of Daniel also put her in danger, I believed.

Was I right? Click one of the links below to read my review of last night’s performance show:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Click here
Also, here is the text of my review of the second Top 11 performance show that aired Wednesday, March 30. The column was printed in the newspapers but never made it to the online editions. For the record, here’s my review of this week’s performances:

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s March 30, 2011, episode — Second Top 11 performance show

After last week’s shocking near elimination of fan-favourite Casey Abrams, two contestants are on the chopping block this week. Tonight, we’ll be down to nine singers after 11 performed songs from the repertoire of one of the world’s great music legends, Sir Elton John. Host Ryan Seacrest was joined by the usual trio of judges: Steven Tyler, Jennifer Lopez and Randy Jackson.

Scotty McCreery (17, Garner NC) – Country Comfort: This is Sir Elton’s only country song, so obviously Scotty chose it. His fan base would love this and he did a great job. Loved the bass note at the end. Killed it! Steven: Loves everything about his voice! Jennifer: Amazing instincts. Randy: He’s so in the zone!

Naima Adedapo (26, Milwaukee WI) – I’m Still Standing: I love Naima, but this reggae version of one of Sir Elton’s iconic tunes was a mistake. She even used the Jamaican accent. This will go down as a horrible moment in American Idol history. Just awful! Steven: The song fit her. Jennifer: The song wasn’t suited to reggae. Randy: Corny.

Paul McDonald (26, Nashville TN) – Rocket Man. Beautiful song! I love Paul, but I didn’t this song suited him. It was choppy and disconnected, but I liked the way he whispered the final word. Steven: This was the one song on Paul’s album that wouldn’t work. Jennifer: He could push a bit more. Randy: Felt he was holding back.

Pia Toscano (22, Howard Beach NY) – Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me: Another power ballad. I’m getting bored with Pia, but she sings so well that you can’t deny her immense talent. At some point, she’ll have to bring some excitement, though. Steven: She nailed it! Jennifer: Goose bumps! Randy: Unbelievable!

Stefano Langone (22, Kent WA) – Tiny Dancer. Not a fan of this song. Can’t imagine what he was thinking, but I really liked this version after all. This was really great. Pleasantly surprised! The kid’s got charm to spare. Steven: He has a very sweet voice. Jennifer: Felt like he moved the crowd. Randy: Liked that he kept his eyes open for once!

Lauren Alaina (16, Rossville GA) – Candle in the Wind: Lauren has a beautiful and powerful voice. There was country lilt to this performance that suited her very well. I loved this! This was crazy good. Steven: It was perfect. Jennifer: Amazing and gorgeous! Randy: One of her best performances.

James Durbin (22, Santa Cruz CA) – Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting: James is always so much fun to watch. His joy is infectious. He truly loves singing and because of that, we love him, too! Perfect choice for him. Steven: A good thing! Jennifer: A performance of a great song by a great artist. Randy: A great performance!

Thia Megia (16, Mountain House CA) – Daniel. I don’t think a female should be singing this song. It’s more poignant for a man to sing it. I didn’t think this connected at all. Her voice was good, but I didn’t feel it. Steven: Sang a great Elton John song well. Jennifer: A beautiful moment for her. Randy: Too safe.

Casey Abrams (20, Idyllwild CA) – Your Song: A beautiful song. He needed to prove himself after a near-death experience last week. The new Casey was subdued and looked great with a trimmed beard and haircut. What a nice and humble performance. Hallelujah! He’s back! Steven: A true artist. Jennifer: It was very Casey! Randy: Brilliant and tender.

Jacob Lusk (23, Compton CA) – Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word: All of Jacob’s performances are starting to sound alike to me. Big emotional ballads with lots of drama. A bit overdone. Steven: Jacob slays him. Jennifer: Great last note. Randy: Needs to pick one spot in every song where he gives it his all.

Haley Reinhart (20, Wheeling IL) – Benny and the Jets: I didn’t like this at first, but she proved she has a seriously awesome singing voice here. Very Janis Joplin! She should be safe this week. Steven: She sings sexy! Jennifer: That was it!! Randy: Best performance of the night!

I’ll pick Naima for her disastrous reggae performance and Thia for her bland version of Daniel to be the ones on their way home to wait out the rest of the season before the Top 11 go on tour this summer. Tune in to Fox tonight at 9 p.m. for the results.

BULLETIN: Bono leaving U2 and won't appear in Moncton this summer

Fans who've been snatching up tickets to U2 in Moncton like they were hotcakes may want to consider getting refunds. Bono made it official on CNN last night that he's leaving the iconic Irish group -- the biggest touring band in the world right now.

Replacing Bono as lead singer of U2 for the Moncton concert will be 1980s pop star Rick Astley, who had a worldwide hit with "Never Gonna Give You Up" in 1987. In fact, the song hit #1 in 24 countries around the world.

"Rick Astley and I have been friends for 25 years," Bono told CNN. "We're huge fans of each other and he knows all our songs by heart. He's the perfect replacement and has a simply mad voice. Fans will be pleasantly surprised."

Moncton is the last date of U2's current tour. Bono told CNN he is retiring just before the show and is passing along lead singer duties to Astley only for the Moncton gig.

"I'm asking fans in Moncton to give Rick a chance and not ask for refunds. I think they'll love him," Bono said. For more on the CNN report, click here.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hump Day: If you love Mondays you must be doing something right

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Moncton Times & Transcript
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Editorial section

I sometimes wonder how people who have lost the desire to be in their jobs and feel trapped get through the day. It must be awful.

There are many people who keep their jobs just because of the salary. It's worse when you have a job you hate but make so much money that it's the only reason you stay. If you're not making a lot of money, I can imagine you would find it hard to feel sorry for someone who hates their job and is making close to $100,000 per year. Poor baby, right?

I've known people who've been making close to that and who leave their job because their heart wasn't in it. It wasn't their passion. They were dying inside and they weren't fulfilled. Sure, their wallet was in good shape, but their heart and mind weren't.

It's important to work in something you're passionate about.

Like many people, I've had well-paid jobs in the past that I just wasn't very excited about. One in particular, I remember as not being a good fit from the get-go. I knew it wasn't for me even when I applied for it, but being financially stressed at the time (as opposed to making the Oprah-level money I am now), I didn't care. All I saw were the dollar signs.

Unfortunately, dollar signs didn't equal passion when I eventually got the job and found myself behind a desk doing something I could not have cared less about. I was bored out of my tree. The duties didn't interest me in the least. I could barely muster up the courage to show up at work. Don't get me wrong, it was an important job, but I had applied for all the wrong reasons. Well, there was only one reason: the almighty dollar.

I often wonder why people who so clearly detest what they do stay in their jobs. Perhaps it's the money. Perhaps it's the routine. Maybe the comfort, even. Either you need the job to actually put food on the table, or you make so much that you need to keep the job to maintain the lifestyle to which you are accustomed.

The best option - at least theoretically - is that you're working in a job that you love, that pays a fortune and that fulfills you to an unlimited degree. Who wouldn't want that, after all? When you see people going above and beyond and working crazy hours at a job they love, it really isn't work for them. It's joy.

Life is too short to be doing something you hate. It isn't worth it. Depending on what religion you adhere to, we (may) only have one life to live on this Earth. Even if you believe - like some do - that we return to live many lives, then at least it's important to make this particular life worth it - even if you'll be back soon for another mission.

As much as I love social networking websites such as Facebook, I'm always dismayed at the number of negative messages every Monday morning. "Mondays suck!" "Mondays are awful!" "I hate Mondays!" If you hate Mondays that much, you should do yourself a favour (and I mean that literally) and get another job.

We're supposed to look forward to the future. We're supposed to look forward to Mondays. If you love your job, Monday should be the best day of the week, not the worst. I loved school and loved being with my friends during the school year. While I looked forward to weekends, I always remember loving Mondays ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper. It's the start of new week, new opportunities and new possibilities.

Everyone has bad weeks, but bad weeks aren't supposed to last forever. Bad weeks aren't supposed to turn into bad months... and bad years... and then a bad lifetime. I'm sure you've heard of those who spend their entire lives in a job they hate just because of the pension. There's nothing sadder than that. And then when they finally retire and are able to live their real life, they get sick... or drop dead.

Working just to retire is no way to live, unless of course you love what you do. And if you're lucky enough to be one of those people, you are very fortunate.

Working in a job you love isn't always possible. Sometimes you just have to eat and pay the rent. We've all done that. And, quite frankly, there's nothing wrong with that. There's dignity in work. There's honour in good hard work. We learn things. We get things accomplished. We meet people - many of whom become friends.

But it's not normal to want to be sick to your stomach before you walk through the doors of your office at the beginning of every week.

Some of my best writing gigs right now don't pay as much when compared to some corporate work I do, but they're fun and I look forward to them. In short, I love them because they are part of my passion.

I've been writing since I was a kid. I used to scribble gibberish on paper (some would say that I still do that) because I thought that was "handwriting." Today, I love the fact that writing has become my career. I look forward to every moment of it - whether it's for the newspaper or another client.

I used to have a cleaning lady who told me point blank: "I love to clean!" In fact, you could have performed surgery on my floors after she was done with them. I always admired what she said that day. It doesn't matter what you do as long as it's your passion.

If Monday is your favourite day of the week, you're doing something right!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Sam Tsui: Born This Way (cover)

Here's another great video by Sam Tsui -- this time a cover of Lady Gaga's Born This Way.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Beloved Canadian actor and comedian Roger Abbott dies at 64

Fans of Royal Canadian Air Farce will be deeply saddened and shocked to hear of the untimely death of Roger Abbott, one of the founders of the comedy troupe. He was 64. He died Saturday night in Toronto after secretly battling leukemia for 14 years. Other than to a few close friends and family, he only disclosed his illness about a week ago. A truly sad day for Canadian culture and entertainment. Click here for a CBC News report on his death.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s March 24, 2011, episode — Top 11 results show

Wow! Shock eliminations on American Idol don’t normally happen this early in the season, but it happened last night in what will go down as a night of surprises. One of the clear frontrunners found himself singing for his survival during the Judges’ Save. What went so badly for Casey Abrams?

Click one of the links below to read about what happened on a night of high drama!

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Click here

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s March 23, 2011, episode — Top 11 performance show

Last night on American Idol, the Top 11 contestants sang not only for their future on the show itself, but for a pretty lucrative summer job: the American Idol Top 10 summer tour.

Even though there was a Top 13 this year, only the Top 10 get to go on tour across the U.S. -- with a few Canadian cities usually thrown in there, too.

Overall, the quality of the performances last night was outstanding, with a few standout performances by Paul, Scotty, James, Lauren and Naima.

How did everyone do? What did the judges have to say? Who did I pick to go home? Click one of the links below to read my review:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Click here

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Charlieissocoollike: Thoughts from home

Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor dead at 79

Actress Elizabeth Taylor, winner of two Oscars for best actress, died today at the age of 79. She had been ill for some time with congestive heart failure. Here she is in one of her most famous roles as Cleopatra.

And here she is from a television commercial for her perfume White Diamonds:

Monday, March 21, 2011

American Idol castoff Karen Rodriguez to fans: "Keep Following Me!"

Hairy Tease Productions' Sylvia will make you howl with laughter!

(Click on the poster for a larger version.)

If you've ever loved a dog, don't miss Hairy Tease Productions' presentation of the Broadway comedy Sylvia from Tuesday, March 29, through Saturday, April 2, at Théâtre l'Escaouette, 170 Botsford Street, Moncton (855-0001).

Written by A.R. Gurney, Sylvia is a hilarious play centred around a four-legged, salty-mouthed home-wrecking Labradoodle named Sylvia who bounds into the life of a middle-aged couple and turns it upside down. Sarah Jessica Parker originated the Broadway role of Sylvia to rave critical reviews.

"I can honestly say the character of Sylvia is one of the funniest theatrical roles ever created for an actress... and Jane Messervier nails it!" says Hairy Tease director Mike Granville of Messervier, a Moncton teacher who plays the title role.

"Lawren Campbell's three roles as macho dog owner, uppity society matron and an androgynous psychotherapist are pure outrageous fun, while Rhonda Whittaker and Wayne Fairchild are wonderfully real as the dog-besieged couple."

Because the fictional Sylvia was rescued as a stray, Hairy Tease Productions is devoting part of its lobby space to photos and information about real-life Greater Moncton SPCA pets available for adoption. Patrons are also welcome to make donations to the Greater Moncton SPCA while at the show.

Tickets are going fast, especially for the Friday and Saturday shows. Tickets are $15 (plus service charge) and are now on sale at all Moncton Ticketing Network outlets as well as Read's Newsstand in Riverview.

For more information about past and upcoming, click here to visit the Hairy Tease Productions website.

Country singer Ferlin Husky dead at 85

Country singer Ferlin Husky (1925-2011) died on Thursday, March 17, at the age of 85. Here he is singing one of his best-known hits:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Welcome spring 2011!

If you're reading this, it means it's spring -- which arrived at 8:21 p.m. Atlantic / 7:21 p.m. Eastern this evening! Happy spring!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Annoying Orange: Fortune cookie

Idol Chatter review of American Idol’s March 17, 2011, episode — Top 12 results show

Last night, the Top 12 found out who was safe… and who was going home. One unlucky contestant was shown the door and was not saved by the judges — although it wasn’t unanimous and the contestant did have support from at least one judge. I got the bottom three right: Haley Reinhart, Karen Rodriguez and Naima Adedapo… and chose Haley to go home. While I managed to get the bottom three right, though, was Haley the contestant sent home?

Click one of the links below to find out:

Moncton Times & Transcript: Click here.

Fredericton Daily Gleaner: Not available online.

Watch the Top 11 perform next Wednesday at 9 p.m. Atlantic / 8 p.m. Eastern on Fox. The contestant eliminated next week will just miss out on being part of the Top 10 summer tour.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Hump Day: As the world gets smaller and smaller, people get ever closer

Hump Day
By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Moncton Times & Transcript
Editorial section

This week, many columns you read will likely be about the recent Japanese earthquake and tsunami that have devastated many communities, killed tens of thousands of people and changed lives forever.

It’s almost unfathomable. Online videos show the unforgiving force of the tsunamis pushing water at hundreds of kilometres per hour toward shore . . . then striking with unforgiving viciousness, dragging homes, cars, people and animals along with it to almost certain death and destruction.

Some wonder whether or not God is trying to tell us something – that, somehow, he is sending us a message to “smarten up and fly right,” so to speak. Others say it’s just nature – and nature causes as much havoc around the world as it ever has.

Every year, natural disasters strike innocent people. They always have and they always will.

If you read old newspapers from the 1700s and 1800s before Morse code via telegraph became common, you would have likely read sentences such as this: “Word has reached this newspaper of a great natural disaster in the far-away country of China that has caused great damage. Many thousands of Chinese people have perished, including innocent women and children. The disaster happened six weeks ago and was told to a local newspaper editor who met sailors unloading goods at the local dock.”

Before there was a telegraph on every corner, all we had was word of mouth.

Oh, how those who lived back then would sit in amazement at today’s technology!

Not only would you know about the event almost immediately through Twitter and Facebook, but you’d actually see images within minutes via YouTube or breathtaking photos taken from outer space and broadcast on one of the many 24/7 news channels.

Back then, people just didn’t hear of these things. I remember my aunt telling me that, as a girl, she had a pen pal in Minto. They would write back and forth to each other. While the drive between Prince Edward Island and Minto these days is done all the time, in the 1930s and 1940s it was a major undertaking. Minto might as well have been China and I remember my aunt telling me how “exotic” it was – if you can imagine Minto ever being called that – to be corresponding with someone from so far away.

The world is such a small place these days.

You can hop on a plane and be on the other end of the world in less than day. You can talk over the Internet to loved ones for free, bypassing the telephone companies who years ago would have charged you a fortune for doing that. Today, using programs such as Skype, we can talk to – and see! – people next door or on the other side of the planet for nothing more than the monthly Internet bill that you’re paying anyway.

One of the banes of my existence years ago was the telephone bill. Some people are serial killers. I was a serial talker. I loved keeping in touch with friends and family. The easiest and fastest way to do so was by calling long distance. I’d easily rack up $150 to $200 per month in long distance bills every single month.

Today, you’d have to practically live on a telephone 24/7 to get a long distance bill like that – especially if you’re calling from a landline at home. Long distance rates on cell phones are another matter and remain quite expensive.

But you can get long distance rates these days that are next to nothing and even sometimes included in the price of your monthly service.

I’m upgrading my home telecom services to fibre optic in the next couple of weeks and come to find out that long distance calls within the province are included in the price! It’s amazing . . . because years ago I would have killed for that.

If you’re like me and you’re on Facebook a lot or send text messages, you’ve probably noticed quite an interesting phenomenon: your telephone rarely rings anymore.

The art of the spoken conversation has moved online. No need to call your friend to find out what he or she did today . . . just check their Facebook status update!

I have an aunt who’s new to Facebook and my uncle mentioned that their telephone had stopped ringing since she started keeping in touch with their children and grandchildren on Facebook.

Today, everything is so instantaneous. We know everything. It’s information overload. I think we can be forgiven if that sometimes it hurts our heads!

The things people worry about today – like an earthquake in Japan – never even registered with people in the 1700s. Some overcome with the sadness and horror of the images coming out of Japan this week may think those in the 1700s had it easy.

But then again, you could have died from an infected tooth abscess back then, whereas today you take few days’ worth of antibiotics and you’re better.

Centuries ago, just because people didn’t know about awful things happening at the other end of the world, it didn’t mean they weren’t happening. They were. Women were still being raped. Prisoners of war were still being tortured. Ignorance isn’t bliss.

The world is so much smaller than it once was.

While it may have led to information overload, it has made us more human and, I dare say, more compassionate.

In 1945, we revelled in beating the Japanese, our sworn enemy in the Second World War.

Who back then would have ever thought that, in 2011, we would be weeping for them and sending them money and prayers to help them in their hour of dire need?