Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Brother Love's Travellin' Salvation Show

I'm still on my Neil Diamond kick, so you can imagine my delight when it was Diamond night on American Idol last night.

Of course none of the Idol finalists came remotely close to matching Neil in suave cool-ability.

There's only one Neil.

Try this little experiment. Download yourself a copy of Brother Love's Travellin' Salvation Show.

Start listening. About a minute in, you'll be shaking your head in disbelief. I couldn't possibly be serious. But stick with it. The embarrassing sex machine that is Neil will suddenly take hold. Within seconds you'll actually start tapping your foot. Your hips will start to move (and god knows, they don't lie). And, before you know it, you'll be clapping your hands above your head. 100% money back guaranteed.

I kid you not. Neil is the new ABBA.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Working from Home

I have some long copy to write today, so I'm working from home. This is a decided pleasure.

Fewer phone calls. No unexpected meetings. And no steady buzz of conversation.

While these things can be comforting, and one of the joys of the workplace, the solitary writerly life is what I've always enjoyed best about the job.

Crafting each sentence and making the piece work as a strong and cohesive whole is part of the distinct pleasures of the job for me. Add to that a steaming hot cup of tea, the love of a good cat, and whir of the washing machine -- another of the pleasures of working from home -- and you pretty much have bliss in a basket.

It's nice to rediscover this joy mid-week.

There's been a lot of chaos at work of late. Chronic staff shorgages. New clients. Big work loads. General hysteria.

We tend to forget the "why" we we're doing the job and concentrate on the "how". A big mistake when you're working in a creative environment.

My boss, for all her many, many fine qualities, can sometimes concentrate on the weeds when there are perfectly beautiful lilies right in front of her.

Today is for lilies.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Big Buddha, and other auspicious signs that we're not in control of what's going on

I visited the ROM on Saturday morning, with my friend and her 2-year old daughter who we affectionately call Bub.

When I got in the car, Bub was already chanting: Big Buddha! Big Buddha! Big Buddha.

Seems that last time they were at the ROM, she couldn't get enough of the giant statue of Buddha in the museum's entrance.

As soon as we arrived, she headed straight for it, as fast as her little legs would carry her.

As soon as she got there, she adopted the Buddha's meditation mudra -- fingers entwined, thumbs together and index fingers pointed upwards.

I won't lie to you. It was a little freaky.

We could barely pull her away from it. No matter where we went in the museum, she was always itching to get back to the Big Buddha. Not even the dinosaurs could compete.

And that was just the START of my weekend!

Friday, April 25, 2008

Libra Rising

I don't know very much about astrology, but my Dad was a Libra and exhibited a lot of the characteristics I've heard assigned to that astrological sign. Primary among them -- an inability to make decisions.

He weighed every option. He belaboured every outcome. He went up one side of a problem and came down the other. He over-thought things to death. Then he often did nothing.

In retrospect, I have a lot of compassion for this.

I think being raised by an emotional distant father with a drinking problem may have made him fearful about choosing incorrectly. He became so afraid of making the wrong decision that he made no decision at all.

Fear immobilizes.

I often think about my Dad when I'm faced with making decisions. Because, even though he had difficulty making decisions for himself, he had absolutely no problem making them for me.

Control was his middle name. It could easily be mine, too, but I'm looking to have it legally removed from my birth certificate.

To do this, I've had to unlearn certain patterns too numerous to mention here, but one of which is this: not making a decision, is actually a decision.

Another is this -- despite deeply resenting being told what to do, sometimes I secretly crave having someone tell me what to do. This makes it so much easier to blame the decision-makers if it turns out to be the wrong decision.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Surprise, surprise

In the last 24 hours, three very surprising and unexpected things have happened.

Good or bad?

As always, it completely depends on your perspective.

For now, I'm trying not to judge.

Fact is, I have zero...I repeat ZERO...control over the outcome. I'd love to think I do, but I know I don't. This is oddly comforting.

What I do know is that I'm often a remarkably capable crisis manager when it comes to the big ticket items, but it's the little events that really throw me for a loop.

Global famine....I'm your girl. Be 10 minutes late for meeting me....I'll have a meltdown.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see what happens.

Either it'll work out. Or, it'll work out.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I'm OK, You're OK

A couple of people have asked me recently if I'm OK.

Have you ever noticed that, even if you're OK, and someone asks you if you're OK, that you suddenly feel not OK?

It's the "You look tired" phenomenon.

You can be going along and having a perfectly normal day until some well-wisher meets you in the staff kitchen and says, "Hey, pack those bags yourself? You look tired?"

Suddenly the life drains out of your body and you're dragging yourself to the next meeting with the fatigue of a day labourer.

Such is the power of suggestion.

The fact is that I have been peeling away a few layers of the emotional onion these days. It's hard work. And maybe it's showing. But, truth be told, I'm averaging about a 7.5 to 8.5 on the sliding OK scale.

I think that's pretty good considering the mitigating factors of global warming, market insecurity, Dancing with the Stars upsets, and the discovery that there's 247 calories in a grande Starbucks Frappucino.

So, the answer is "yes". I'm OK. Thanks for asking, though.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Running away

Sometimes I stay somewhere longer than I should, and run away from somewhere where I should stay and sort it out.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Song Sung Blue

My first Hot Doc of the festival was a real barn burner. Song Sung Blue tells the story of a Milwaukee couple who call themselves Thunder and Lightning. They eke out a modest living as a Neil Diamond cover group.

The incredibly likable filmmaker -- who makes a living as a commercial director -- spent eight years documenting the story. And what a story it is!

There's laughter, tears, applause, car crashes, teen pregnancies, amputations and even Eddie Vedder!

It's the story of never giving up on your dream -- no matter how crazy or unrealistic it might seem to everyone else. Even though the screening started at 9 -- which is dangerously close to my Friday night crash and burn time -- it was absolutely riveting.

Part of the joy, of course, is the love that Thunder and Lightning have for the music of Neil Diamond.

Neil Diamond is right up there with ABBA and Barry Manilow for "Music they play in Heaven." Really. It's impossible to be unhappy while listening to tunes from any of these artists.

Back when I started out in agency life, I shared an office with another writer. My lapsed Catholic guilt and his Jewish neuroses made us fast friends. We're still friends.

Whenever one of us did something that could be vaguely construed as disappointing, he would re-enact the scene from Neil Diamond's The Jazz Singer, where Dad, Laurence Olivier, discovers that Yusell (played by Neil) refuses to take over the family Cantoring business.

Bucky would reach for his lapel, pretend to rip, and say in his best melodramatic, Yiddish-inflected voice: "I...don't...have a son!"

Good times.

Friday, April 18, 2008

It appears I'm going to Maui

You might remember Barb from a previous post.

I came in yesterday morning to find the following in my inbox:

Hello friend I might forget if she doesn't come visit soon;

This is to inform you that flights to Maui are cheap on expedia right now.
That Wed to Wed flights are cheaper.
That there's a hula class with our names on it.


So I did something spontaneous and lovely. I booked my ticket.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

All Sung Out

There's really nothing like an old-fashioned sing-a-long as the ultimate stress-reliever.

I barely have a voice left today, after belting out my version of Alannis, Cabaret, I've got you Babe and finally (mercifully) Love is a Battlefield -- complete with the Pat Benatar shoulder shimmy.

Despite my role in organizing last night's shindig, I managed to enjoy myself. A lot.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

The Reluctant Party Planner

I've been helping to plan a party for about 40 people to fete some of our departing co-workers, simply because I happened to look up and lock eyes with our GM when she was talking about it.

Well, that and I have a hard time saying "no".

Note to self: say what you mean, mean what you say.

Anyway, since I could pretty much do what I wanted, I looped in with the primary boy to be feted and determined that karaoke should be the order of the night.

I love karaoke. Everyone loves karaoke. Even if they say they don't, they really do. The people who love it best of all, are generally the ones who shouldn't be within about 400 miles of a microphone, but their enthusiasm tends to fuel us all. That, or self-preservation drives us to pry the microphone out of their cold, grandstanding hands.

Back when my ex and I played together on the Drinking Team with the Baseball Problem, the karaoke day was always my favourite. I became famous for 15 minutes for my rendition of Alannis' "One Hand in My Pocket."

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the stress release of singing loudly.


Thanks for all the wisdom offered yesterday. Mr. Gen Y Me pouted for most of the day, but the work was completed and well-received by the client. In my next life, I'm planning to do something simpler, like sewer worker.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Generation Y

Managing other little humans is like training kittens. Just when you think everything's under control, one of the kittens is out of the box and unfurling the toilet roll.

One of the junior members of our staff is a supremely talented art director who has some time management challenges.

In short, he never thinks it will take him as long to do something as it actually does.

In addition, he's from the generation that believes menial work is beneath him.

As someone who has proudly held the title of Minnow Girl at Land O'Lakes Lodge in Marten River, Ontario, I find this laughable.

So yesterday, junior AD was scheduled for an internal creative review at 1:30 p.m.

At 1, I see him donning his jacket and heading for the door.

"Where are you going?" says I, "Don't we have an internal at 1:30?"

"Out for lunch," says junior AD, "We're bumping it until tomorrow."

"When's the client presentation?" says I.

"Tomorrow," says he.

Not comfortable with that.

The project he's working on, while not overly large, has inherent complexities. It requires the eyes and attention of a lot of people before the client sees it. He was briefed on it a week ago.

So I push the issue, and schedule an internal for 4:30 yesterday afternoon.

The thing is, I KNOW he won't be ready. He says he will, but I KNOW he won't.

But I also know that part of my job is ensuring that he experience the consequences of his behaviour. His actions have a ripple effect on everyone at the agency.

So the meeting comes around. I've warned the account people that the work is still in progress.

Then I leave the junior AD to do the 'splainin'.

It's a good old-fashioned Salem public shaming. He certainly left the meeting with the knowledge that he's disappointed the account people in his deliverables.

But did he learn anything?

I'm not sure.

To be honest, I think he felt perfectly justified in acting purely out of self interest. I think he was mad at me and mad at the account people for forcing a previous agreement.

So this morning I've come in, and the completed job is in my mailbox.

I definitely plan to follow up with him.

But what to say...

Monday, April 14, 2008

Fair Dinkum

I saw a great Aussie mockumentary yesterday.

It's called Kenny, and it's the story of a Melbourne port-a-potty worker.

The director, Clayton Jacobson, describes Kenny as "the Dalai-Lama of Waste Management, eternally optimistic and always ready to put others before himself. Kenny represents the humbling nature of common decency."

It's a great movie and you won't be surprised to hear that it's filled with lots of toilet humour and lots of strine -- delightful Aussie slang. The version of the film I saw was, quite hysterically, subtitled.

Here's something I love about Aussies -- there isn't one of them that knows all the words to their national anthem. Seriously. They can all sing countless verses of Waltzing Matilda, but just ask them to recite all the words to Advance Australia Fair.

Tidbits for a Monday morning.

Friday, April 11, 2008

When in doubt, don't.

I recently read this simple little quote from Benjamin Franklin.

When in doubt, don't.

Boy, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble if I'd actually followed that advice sooner.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Life is a Cabaret, old chum

I love musicals.

Not musicals with singing cats, per se, but really big, complex, show-stopping musicals that deal with the big issues in life. Things like gaming addictions and co-dependency (Guys and Dolls) gender-bending cabaret performers and the Nazi rise to power (Cabaret) and loveless librarians and the dreamers they long for (The Music Man).

So, you can imagine my excitement when I was briefed on radio ads for two of my faves -- Cabaret and The Music Man. They're appearing at the Stratford Festival this summer.

The client is a bit concerned about the declining numbers (new passport requirements and a teetering economy south of the border) so their appetite for truly bizarre creative is low, but it certainly didn't stop me from marching to work to the music of 76 Trombones this morning. It would be impossible to love this project any more.

And that's not all. I also get to do a couple of spots for the Shakesperian side of the house. Finally...the rewards of reading the Bard's entire canon!

Happy Day in copy land.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Depth of field

Because of a family history of glaucoma and consistently high pressure in my eyes, my optometrist likes to give me a depth of field test every time we meet. Also, she's probably secretly a masochist.

It's the same every time.

Her assistant brings me into a dark room, slaps a patch over one of my eyes (at which time I always ask for a parrot), positions my bony chin in the plastic cup of a big machine that looks like a puppet theatre, and gets me to stare at a small dot of light on the back wall.

In one hand I have a clicker -- so it feels vaguely like Jeopardy -- in the other, a tissue to catch the tears from the pupil dilation.

When the test starts, I'm supposed to continue staring at the dot while little points of light ping around the circumference of the single point.

Every time I see a ping of light, without actually averting my eyes from the centre point, I'm supposed to hit the clicker.

The thing're never supposed to take your eyes off dot. Not even if you're sure you saw something OVER THERE! There it wait, stare at the dot.

Anyway, you can't imagine how hard it is to stare relentlessly at the dot of light. Particularly when the really interesting stuff is actually happening over to the side, or down there, or maybe behind me. It seems unnatural NOT to look.

And the clicker gives you a vague sense of competition. Like, maybe I could actually win something if I become the best depth of field subject in my doctor's tiny office.

What usually happens is I make it through one eye just fine, but by the time I get to eye number two I'm thinking "oh, what the hell", and I'm following the pretty lights all over the back wall.

This is about the time that the machine, and the increasingly more impatient assistant, sound a warning.

Anwyay, you don't need to be an optometrist -- or a brain surgeon -- to figure out that today's topic is all about focus.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Food for thought

My Mom has about five dishes that she rotates on a regular basis, and a handful of desserts that round out her repertoire. She's a bit of a food fussy, so it takes real effort to sneak anything past her that she hasn't seen before.

One of her favourite recipes is Tomato Soup Cake.

Sounds weird, but it's actually quite delicious, especially if you have it when it's fresh and hasn't been kicking around the inside of her fridge for a couple of weeks.

I'm including it here because I'm exhausted today and can't think of anything else to write. Hope your day has been sweet.

1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed tomato soup
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup white sugar
1 egg
1/3 cup butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
1 cup raisins

Combine the tomato soup and the soda in a bowl, and let it stand.
Cream sugar, egg, butter, salt, cinnamon, and cloves. Mix in tomato soup and soda mixture, and then flour. Stir in the raisins, and pour the batter in a greased baking dish.
Bake at 325 degrees F for 1 hour, or until done. Cool the cake, and top with cream cheese icing.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Siren Song

I'm a little worried about what my newfound proximity to Dairy Queen is going to mean to my circumference.

Yesterday, with the windows open, it seemed to be emitting that high pitched whistle only dogs can hear.

Oh well, at least it's an excellent source of calcium.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Double Dutch

When I was a little girl, I was rather good at skipping.

Being good at skipping required a few skills that may have served me well in business, but have wreaked havoc on my personal life.

One of these skills was anticipation.

Double dutch goes like this.

I'd wait at the side while two friends, each holding the ends of two individual skipping ropes, would begin to turn. I'd rock back and forth on my lead foot, judging exactly the right moment to enter. Then, once I'd figured out the rhythm, I'd plunge in.

Everybody has there on way to skip double dutch. Mine was a hop-hop kick. Knees up. Sometimes a little half kick to the side.

But the secret of doing it without stepping on the skipping rope and stopping the action was always the same.

Become one with the rope turners.

Anticipate their feelings. Know what they were going to do...before they even knew it themselves.

The trouble with anticipation is that when you get too good at it, you lose that sense of where you begin and the rope turner ends. It's all about the rope turners.

You focus so much on what they're thinking and feeling and doing, that you lose sight of where you fit into the whole game.

Maybe if you stopped for a moment, you might realize that you're tired of skipping altogether. In fact, maybe you'd rather be bowling.

Thursday, April 3, 2008


I've got a new documentary for you. It's the best one we've seen all year. Do whatever you can to see Young@Heart, the inspiring story of a group of New England senior citizens who sing rock music in a choir. You'll be in love with them from the first note.

If my recommendation isn't enough, perhaps their rousing rendition of the Ramone's classic, I want to be sedated, will do the trick.

Check it out here:

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I love to fly, and it shows

“Why is it,” Jonathan puzzled, “that the hardest thing in the world is to convince a bird that he is free, and that he can prove it for himself if he’d just spend a little time practicing? Why should that be so hard?”
~Jonathan Livingston Seagull

I'm never happier than when I'm planning a trip. I've got two on the go at the moment.

The big one isn't coming until October. It's a trip to Thailand, booked entirely on Aeroplan Points.

I've been saving my points for the past two years for exactly such an adventure.

The last big redemption involved a first class seat to India. I almost used them for a trip to Australia in February, but cancelled it when I bought my new place.

Now I'm taking my BFF on the long-promised 40th birthday trip. Good thing. He'll turn 43 this summer.

While we were discussing the trip, I got in a bit of a whirl about where we'd visit.

Since we were in Southeast Asia, I reasoned, perhaps we should visit Angkor Wat and Vietnam, as well. This makes about as much sense as the "well if I'm already in North America, I might as well visit San Francisco, Boston and Dubuque" approach favoured by some tour groups.

Happily we put the brakes on and decided that Thailand alone was worth a visit.

Two weeks will allow us the joy of meandering...changing our plans on a whim, and taking the path less travelled. We have friends in Bangkok, too, so we'll have some time to connect with them.

Our compromise -- two days in Hong Kong, on the way there. Enough time to stock up on Hello Kitty electric guitars and spatulas, take a harbour cruise, and get over an hour or two of jet lag.

Second trip is to New York City. A weekend adventure. Girls trip.

Here's to happy trails, and living in the moment.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The hardest working writer in Christendom

I have a tendency to exaggerate my pain (see above) but I can assure you that I have little time for frivolities today.

Let my list of things to be grateful for speak for itself.

1) Windows that open. My last two places had windows that stayed firmly shut. This morning it was mild enough to open my windows for the first time. I even heard the bird's chirping. Spring is nature's way of saying "you made it".

2) Perfectly ripe bananas. There's no middle ground with bananas. They go from too green to banana bread fodder seemingly over night. I'm looking at America's Next Top Banana model right now. Morning snack, here I come.

3) Fewer work meetings. Yesterday was back-to-back all day. We meet about the work we need to do and can't do it because we're in a meeting. Today I can sit at my desk and power through. On my favourite CTC job, I just finished Halifax. It's a great place. You should go.

4) Cashew Nut Balls. I discovered these at the health food store on the way to my meeting last night. I'm convinced there's a factory full of angels on an ashram baking them. 150 calories and 5 grams of fibre

5) Meditation. I get up obscenely early every morning to put the "me" in meditation. It's my favourite part of the day. It helps centre me.

That's it. Wishing everyone a superlative day.