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Sunday, December 29th, 2002: Click here to see the best Christmas gift ever!
Tuesday, December 24th, 2002: A little addendum to that Toys 'R' Us story... In gathering evidence from the Yonge & Eglinton store, I found out that while I was busy arguing with the prickish manager at Yonge & Queen, the item I wanted was sitting on a shelf upstairs, waiting for me! Fuckers...

But please, don't let my pain stop you from enjoying the happiest of holidays. Santa's blessed me with a seat sale to Tokyo, and a buddy to travel with!

Sunday, December 22nd, 2002: Here's a cautionary tale for anybody shopping at a big, faceless retail chain:

I'd been checking a few Toys 'R' Us locations around town, looking for the perfect gift for one of my nieces. Like the others I'd checked, the Yonge & Eglinton store was sold out of this popular item, but the helpful sales lady there called up the store at Yonge & Queen. Turns out they had but one left, and agreed to hold it for me until closing.

But when I arrived at said store, I was told rather bluntly that it was store policy not to put things on hold. I asked to see a manager, and the ensuing conversation burns so painfully in my mind that I can pretty much recite it verbatim:

JOHN, the manager, who wouldn't give me his last name: "We don't hold things." Stares blankly at me.
ME, spending ten minutes convincing him to at least take a look in the back of the store.
JOHN, returning ten minutes later: "There's nothing back there.
ME: "Do you know my name?"
JOHN: "No."
ME: "Do you know the name of the item you're looking for?"
JOHN: "No."
ME: "The item was supposed to have my name on it. Without that, or even knowing what it is you're looking for, how could you possibly find it?"
JOHN: "Doesn't matter. We don't put things on hold."
ME, getting wise to his work ethic: "So how do I know you even looked? For all I know, you could've been having a smoke in the alley for the past ten minutes."
JOHN: "That's true."
ME. after a deep breath: "So, as manager of this store, are you going to do anything to help me out here?"
JOHN: "We don't put things on hold."

My persistence eventually revealed that John had an on-site superior, a director that was out on his dinner break. I waited for this person for over half an hour.

ME, to JOHN, after more than half an hour: "That's a pretty long dinner break, huh?"
JOHN shrugs.
ME: "So there's no way you can get in contact with him?"
JOHN: "No."
ME: "Even if the store was burning down?"
JOHN: "No."

At this point I could have really used a flamethrower, but it was getting late and pointless so I left with a promise that this incident would be remembered.

The good news is that I found an even better gift for my niece at The Bay, but the lesson to be learned from my Toys 'R' Us experience is this: Take your business elsewhere!

Thursday, December 19th, 2002: Being a bit of a world traveller myself, it was with great interest (and nothing else to do) that I sat down to watch last night's season finale of The Amazing Race. While I took great sadistic pleasure in the emergent uselessness of Flo, to me those gay brothers deserved to win -- I mean, these things are fixed, aren't they?

More troubling was the big picture. What good is a show that gives you the world if its participants spend all their time rushing through it on the hunt for orange flags? And how can you even call it a race around the world if it doesn't include Australia or South America? Stupid Americans...

Saturday, December 14th, 2002: At left is the only photographic record of my performances in Singapore last month, courtesy of Ray Deonandan. Rest assured that I filled my own quota of funny faces in our best-of Second City show.

To see the first photographic records of my new Hong Kong-tailored suit, you can visit Darryl Gold's DarrylCAM page.

Wednesday, December 11th, 2002: Every time someone tells me how cute those Telus ads are, I shake my head in dismay. While it's true enough that not everybody needs a mobile handset that can work in 190 countries, cell phone users that don't sign up for GSM networks are missing out on possibly the biggest revolution in communication since email -- text messaging, or SMS.

SMS probably hasn't caught on here in North America because voice calls on mobile devices are much cheaper than in the rest of the world. That's too bad; texting is a much more polite way of carrying on a conversation in a public place than wandering around like an idiot yelling "can you hear me now?" It gets better... With SMS, there are no long distance charges -- you're only billed for the second or so that it takes for your 160-character message to be transmitted! This should also be the case with the new MMS standard, allowing photos (even video!) to be transmitted between mobiles equipped with built-in cameras.

The social ramifications of such technology are already becoming apparent. My current read details how a corrupt government in the Philippines was brought down by mass protests organized via SMS.

As for me, remember the young lady I met in Singapore? I've spent much of this past week texting her, from Toronto and Bermuda. For these few brief, intoxicating moments, it seems like we can share some small part of our lives together, in almost synchronous time, on completely opposite sides of the planet. And if you ask me, that's pretty damn cool!

Friday, December 6th, 2002: I'm writing today's entry from my brother's oceanfront mansion in Bermuda. Outside the huge bay windows to my right, clouds are gathering over the Atlantic Ocean and heading inland for a coming storm. I was supposed to have done my grocery shopping by now, and be ready to hunker down with enough food and beer until my brother comes home from work. But my so-called "Rolls Royce" of scooters, the Scarabeo, won't start.

Maybe the white-knuckle ride here from the airport killed it. My plan was to divert the extra thirty bucks U.S. that I would've spent in cabs to Hamilton towards a more convenient (and expensive) scooter rental at Kindley Airfield. Not even a severe weather warning from my brother, or a plane ride beside an E.R. nurse who deals almost exclusively in scooter-related injuries could dissuade me from visiting the Fly 'N' Ride booth when we landed. But sure enough, five minutes into my ride, the downpour began. Then I noticed that my speedometer wasn't working. Then I realized that my only rearview mirror was loose and couldn't hold its position. Then I realized I was going in the wrong direction. And through all this, the only thing I could think of was my poor Treo, and whether it was adequately protected from all this moisture.

So now it's pouring rain, and Lloyd, the scooter guy from Eve's Cycles, has shown up with a replacement ride. Turns out that, um... I had the ignition key in the wrong hole. Nonetheless, I jumped on the chance to downgrade to a choke-less Hyosung bike with dual headlights and funky purple paint; it's looks like something the Yakuza might ride! And ride it I would, even in the rain, but I've just helped myself to the only beer my brother had in his fridge, one that I had bought during my last visit here in June! It tastes like the hops have turned, and in looking around for something more solid all I can find are these awful lemon-flavoured whey protein bars. Is this what it takes to be a high-powered executive?

Thursday, December 5th, 2002: Must fight jet lag... Must post photos... Fate of the free world depends on it... Okay, maybe not, but nonetheless... Must post photos...
Wednesday, December 4th, 2002: Some short videos from Singapore are now up on my treats page. I also taped an interview with local documentary filmmaker Andrew Chew, but will wait until he sends me his interview with me so's I can show you both of them together.

The spectre of jet lag has reared its ugly head; fortunately, waking up at 4am will serve me well for catching my flight to Bermuda this Friday. A weekend in warmer weather will do me good, too -- it's been a bit of shocker going from +40 to -20 degrees Celsius!

Monday, December 2nd, 2002: Our last morning in Singapore was spent shopping in Chinatown, which clearly wasn't enough -- I had to duck back before the show to pick up some beckoning cats.

After that we were invited to the home of our producer, for a delicious home-cooked lunch and a sari fashion show by the ladies in our troupe. The kind hospitality of our hosts didn't end there. After the show I had the distinct pleasure of spending the evening -- well, pretty much up to an hour before our departure -- in the company of a delightful young lady who just happens to be our producer's intern. While the others enjoyed a late-night nosh at the Newton Hawker Centre, I was whisked off in a tricked-out Jetta (whose driver was, shall we say, "nicely toasted") to Zouk, home base for Singapore party people. The complex holds at least three clubs, each with different themes and music; we made it to two of them. As befitting a temple of dance culture, each room had a central stage that kids could hop up on to be seen. Under the influence of a few drinks myself, I was coerced into doing just that, and no sooner did I take my position when a blast of cold steam blinded me from above, in time to the pounding jungle rhythms. Any mojo that I had enjoyed up to that point was instantly lost; I shrieked liked an old lady!

I'm still not sure how I managed to make the 6:50am flight to Hong Kong, but I persevered, and was rewarded with the chance to visit Sham Shui Po and The Golden Centre, yet another massive electronics mall. Never before have I seen rows of people staring thoughtfully at displays of bare circuit boards and processors, but my personal favourite was the pirated software in the basement, their packaging disguised with animated characters -- who wouldn't want a copy of Microsoft Office with the Power-Puff Girls on the box?

Before heading back to the airport I stopped in to pick up my finished suit. For about $600 Canadian, I am now the proud owner of a hand-tailored three-piece cashmere suit, plus a built-to-order cotton shirt and complimentary tie. The proprietor does a brisk business, so if you're planning a visit to Hong Kong, let Malik the suit man know you're coming!

Back at the airport, our Air Canada sugar daddy arranged for us to get passes to the executive lounge while we waited for our flight. We actually had a choice of the Royal Thai Orchid Lounge or United's Red Carpet Club, but once inside either of them, we had to stay there. We chose poorly -- UA's airport oasis offered only oreos for food, and two beer fountains that didn't work! But all was forgiven when our entire posse got bumped up to business class, for both legs of the journey home. I've divided my time between sleeping and writing this... Now I'm going to watch my Singapore movies on VCD!