Thursday, April 30, 2009

This is a test

You say you've dated an Australian. Prove it by singing alone with this song.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Yesu Nakupenda

God I love African music videos. I especially like the random toothpaste-buying scene at the beginning of this one.

Very catchy.

Beautiful Boy

I've been devouring David Sheff's moving and harrowing account of his son Nic's struggle with addiction.

The title is drawn from the John Lennon song of the same name.

Nic, by all accounts, is a sweet, talented, quirky and loving son and brother. That is until his disease kicks in. Then he becomes a lying, stealing, cheating, over-promising and under-delivering menace to himself and society.

Nic's drug of choice is methamphetamine, alternately known as meth, crystal, ice, crank and glass.

Early on he abused booze, pot, coke and other drugs, but when he found meth, it was like he'd met up with an old friend. It's one of the easiest drugs to get hooked on, and one of the hardest to give up.

What makes Nic's story even more tragic is that with each period of sobriety -- one month, a year and a half, a couple of weeks -- Nic's disease consumes him and he's off again on a destructive path.

David Sheff is a beautiful writer, who captures the pain of realizing that he's powerless over his son's addiction. Of course he had some help in that arena from the good people of Al-Anon. Like most, he came to Al-Anon after literally trying everything, and hitting his own personal bottom.

I haven't finished the book yet. I'm almost afraid to.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

That'll do, pig. That'll do.

There's nothing like a little pandemic to bring out the worst in people.

It certainly doesn't help that the symptoms of the dreaded swine flu could pass for just about anything that ails you.

Fever. Lethargy. Lack of appetite. And let's not forget the ever-present sore throat and nausea. Sounds a lot like Monday to me.

And the midst of trying to get the situation contained, we have this ridiculous interjection from an Israeli health official who says the outbreak of swine flu should be re-named "Mexican" influenza in deference to Muslim and Jewish sensitivities over pork.

You're kidding, right?

Most Torontonians will undoubtedly recall the the deadly SARS outbreak in 2003.

At the time, I was working at a downtown ad agency near St. Michael's Hospital. One chilling day, I recall walking past the hospital on my way to work and the entire hospital had been wrapped in a scene straight out of "Outbreak". They'd closed down the Second Cup coffee house in the lobby and they were only allowing essential workers in. Even families with patients inside were being prevented from visiting.

Toronto learned some important lessons from that experience -- primarily, not to panic.

We were largely guided through the labyrinth by an incredible public health official, Dr. Sheila Basrur, who was a shining example of how calm leadership in times of crisis can help allay public fears. Sadly, Dr. Basrur passed away in June of 2008.

In the end, it was cancer, not SARS, that got her.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Friday, April 24, 2009

Babes of Broadway

With the Susan Boyle vid making the rounds on the internet, it was slightly serendipitous that I went to see a high school production of Les Miserables at a local high school last night.

One of our writers invited me along because I took a look at some fundraising letters she wrote on their behalf.

The production was really, really good. It was a girl's school, but they'd scoured the district for some boys to join the cast. Most of them came from St. Michael's Choir School or local Fame-type arts schools.

They staged a production of a scale and quality that I wouldn't think possible. You could see their parents simply bursting with pride.

With so much being written about where today's generation is failing, it was actually pretty encouraging to see what a group of kids can do when they put their minds to it.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

I Learned Everything I Know From America's Next Top Model

Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a bit of an America's Next Top Model junky.

In fact, I credit the series with teaching me how to pose in photographs See, you barely even notice the elephant in this photo. The protruding hip bone and the awkward stance....all ANTM. Behind the shades, I'm really smiling with my eyes.

So you can imagine my delight when last night the models took their show to Brazil and I learned that The Girl from Ipanema was actually a real person.

Who knew?

Legend has it the song was inspired by Helo Pinheiro (real name: Heloisa Enelda Menezes Paes Pinto) who, barely out of her teens, was a bit of a Lolita. She would stroll the fashionable Rio streets, attracting the attention of bar patrons.

Tall and tan and young and lovely
The girl from Ipanema goes walking
And when she passes, each one she passes goes - ah

Today the real girl from Ipanema is a little older, presumably a little wiser and apparently spends all her free time getting highlights. She's a bit of a celebrity in the country. They've even renamed a bar in her honour.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Zen Master

My Zen Day by Day calendar is like my own tiny therapist.

This morning, as I was headed off for work, it chided me with the following:

Work is love made visible. And if you cannot work with love but only with distaste, it is better that you should leave your work and sit at the gate of the temple and take alms of those who work with joy.

This is exactly what I needed to hear this morning.

I've had a hard time working with love these past few weeks.

It's not entirely my fault, of course. There are plenty of conditions conspiring to make working with love as difficult as possible. (Can you say global economic meltdown?) But the truth is that my attitude will determine how I feel about these events.

I can, as Dylan Thomas suggests, "not go gentle into that good night," or I can relax and enjoy the ride.

Monday, April 20, 2009

A thought

A little chestnut from Desmond Tutu to end the day:

A time of crisis is not just a time of anxiety and worry. It gives a chance, an opportunity, to choose well or to choose badly.

Peace out.

Amazing Race

Possibly the funniest Amazing Race line ever, uttered in Chinese, by the brother and sister team of Tammy and Victor during the calligraphy challenge:

"We are American-born Chinese. Our parents will cry themselves to death if we don't win this competition."

Even though it's only Monday, I might cry myself to death this week. Just saying...

Friday, April 17, 2009

Vacation Countdown

I'm a little short on time, so I thought I'd share a picture of one of the places I'll be staying while on holiday next month. The small walled structure to the right of the hut is my shower. My friend warned that I might be kept awake by the snorting of the water buffalo nearby.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Trouble in Bangkok

You may have watched in horror as a State of Emergency was called in Bangkok recently. Things looked very tense. I sent a few frantic emails to my friends there to ensure that they were alright.

This picture came today. It would seem that as soon as the Red Shirts left, the jolly Thai army returned to celebrating Songkram, their New Year. The guns they're holding? Water guns.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Don't bug me

I knew I'd reached a new personal low when I considered volunteering with Habitat for Humanity just so I could meet someone who was handy fixing things.

After all the help -- some might even say bullying -- I received when I asked about my kitchen countertops, I thought I'd pose another question to the blogosphere.

It's about my window screens.

I have two window screens that require repair. One has a broken frame and the other has a broken screen.

Now, despite more than ten years of post-secondary education, I don't have the first clue about what to do about this.

The little voice in my head (the one that reads Jane Austin and plays the harpsicord) doesn't want to deal with this at all. I'd really prefer it if someone else figured it out. Someone big and strong.


Is there somewhere where I can go to get someone (Baby Jesus?) to make me a new frame and/or replace my window screen, or do I need to move to another place with perfectly intact window screens?

Really. Help me.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An open letter to account executives

Dear Account Executive(s),

How are you? I am fine. Well, actually, not so fine.

There's something I've been meaning to talk to you about. It's about our apparent lack of interest in managing a) the client and b) the account and c) me and the production of our creative product.

Somewhere along the way you confused the role that you were hired to play.

Contrary to popular belief, you job is not simply to set up meetings, then show up and wait for things to happen. Sadly, that alone would actually suffice, providing you did something in those meetings...say, take a note or two, or follow up with a contact report.

I've been in several meetings recently where multiple account people argue and talk over each other, unable to figure out what the actual assignment is....until finally they give it to the creative team and we work it out.

I'm tired of babysitting you.

I''d rather that we fought ceaselessly about the creative project than wallow in your apathy. There's no room for anyone not giving 110%...especially in this market. Every job needs love.

In conclusion, I'd like to say this -- being an excellent account executive is every bit a creative exercise as coming up with the big dog and pony show. Make it your damn vocation or get out of the business. Bring it, for a change. You might actually find you enjoy it.

Your friend,

Franny Glass

Monday, April 13, 2009


I once went to a client-sponsored event at a local racetrack.

Before each race, the horses would nose up to the gates and then explode out when the doors opened. It was an incredible thing to see. Occasionally, you'd find a horse that grew so excited that it would simply buck and kick, trying to throw its rider or escape the confines of the small space.

This is how I felt this weekend when my mother visited.

My mom's older -- 77 years old -- and she doesn't move as quickly as she used to. Her mobility is seriously limited. I need to be mindful of her limitations when we're together. She can't walk unaided more than half a block, so we need to drive everywhere, park in the handicapped parking spaces, and take frequent breaks.

This sounds like it should be easy, but it isn't.

After a couple of hours moving slowly or relaxing quietly at home, I feel like I need to get up and run around the track a couple of times.

Feeling restrained doesn't bode well for my mental health. It makes me irritable and anxious. And feeling irritable and anxious makes me feel like the absolutely worst daughter in the world.

I don't really know who's judging the worst daughter in the world competition, but there you have it.

I did a few things right this weekend -- I burned off some excess energy with a brisk walk to the vegetable store and a fast turn around the floor in my salsa-dancing class on Saturday -- but I still feel vaguely uneasy about the fact that I could have been better.


Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Liza with a Z

I saw Liza in concert at Roy Thomson Hall last night and I'm not afraid to tell you that it was absolutely thrilling.

I was grinning from ear to ear. This woman is an icon. She isn't just a friend of Dorothy, she's her daughter!

The place was lousy with gay guys. No big surprise there. Liza's a bigger drag queen then most of the guys in the audience.

She clearly knows and loves her fans, too. Which probably explains her show stopping number from Charles Aznavour: What makes a man. Click here for a little gay ed.

I can't remember the last time I saw so many people rush the stage to present flowers and gifts to a performer.

After one fellow presented her with a particularly large and lovely bouquet of tulips, she quipped: "Oh honey, these are expensive!," then (one beat) "I'm just happy when you show up."

So are we, Liza. So are we.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cutting for Stone

I've got a new book for you. Wendy Walnut, this one's especially for you.

The book opens as a devout young nun, Sister Mary Joseph Praise, gives birth to twin boys in a small underfunded hospital in Addis Ababa. That's page one. And that's not the craziest thing that happens.

The book is a sweeping, dramatically told tale that takes place over several decades and 560 pages. But it's definitely worth the ride.

I found myself thinking while reading that the book reminded me of early John Irving -- back in his World According to Garp and Hotel New Hampshire Days. It has that same quirky sensibility. So imagine my glee when the author, Abraham Verghese, thanked Irving for his guidance and wise counsel in the novel's afterword.

You'll never be bored. At several junctures throughout, I actually uttered an "OH MY GOD," aloud while reading. And I promise you won't be able to make it to the end without going for Ethiopian food.

Monday, April 6, 2009

One Week

I have to admit that I had more than a passing fascination for The Creek (that's Dawson's Creek, for the uninitiated) so you can imagine my glee when I managed to combine several of my passions -- mortality, the geography of Canada and Pacey -- into one rather entertaining and emotional afternoon.

The film poses the question: what would you do if you only had one week to live?

Joshua Jackson (aka Pacey) plays Ben Tyler. After receiving a stage four cancer diagnosis, he hops on a vintage motorcycle and starts driving cross-country.

It doesn't take him long to figure out that he's been settling -- for a job he's not entirely happy with, for a women he never really loved, and for his low expectations of himself.

So, instead of concentrating on the "less-thens" he goes on a tour of the "bigger-thens" -- the Big Nickel, the Wawa Goose, the expansive Praires.

Shot on a budget of about $55 dollars (and a couple of thousand bucks for a suite at the Banff Springs Hotel) the film takes us on an incredible cross-country trip that, Jackson has noted, was shot in sequence with a small, independent crew.

It's part travelogue, part cautionary tale, part celebration of what makes this country great.

Far from being depressing, it's actually encouraging. I found it inspiring...but then again, I love me some Canada with a side of Pacey.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Mortality Play

I met a group of friends last night for what we have come to refer to as LPN -- Ladies Pub Night.

Truth is that it's just a regular reason to get together without spouses or partners and talk. The number of girls who frequent LPN changes from time to time but the one constant is that you need ovaries to participate.

So when one of the husbands texted that he was leaving his work function and thought he'd drop by to say hello, general panic ensued. He didn't show up but our reaction to the threatened infiltration was funny to watch. We circled our wagons.

Last night's talk turned to mortality.

It's a subject that's been on my mind a lot this week, since I've been writing reams and reams of copy for The Canadian Cancer Society. I knew cancer was endemic in our society. I lost my Dad to cancer. Two of the girls out last night had also lost close family members to cancer. But I didn't realize how big it it.

On the basis of current incidence rates, almost 40% of Canadian women and almost 45% of men will develop cancer in their lifetimes.

One out of ever 4 Canadians will die of cancer. There were four of us out last night.

The thing is that we tend to think of cancer as being this singular disease, while the truth is that there are more than 200 different diseases that fall under the cancer umbrella.

Giving to organizations like the Canadian Cancer Society ensures that what is learned about one type of cancer can be applied to others. And it also ensures that adequate funding is diverted to studies that help us reduce cancer risk.

The good news is that at least half of all cancers can be prevented through healthy living like quitting smoking, eating well, wearing sunscreen and being active.

Anyway, that's what girls talk about when they're together. That and hairstyles.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Whale of a Time

About fifteen years ago, my BFF and I were living in Ottawa.

We shared ownership of a little red car - a perky Ford Festiva. It actually looked quite a lot like my current Suzuki Swift. It ran on the smell of a gas rag.

The car was brand new and we wanted to break it in. Our road trip destination of choice was Provincetown.

We didn't have a lot of money to make the trip. In fact, we did it with a mixture of camping and cookouts, and kept to our budget of $40 (yes, that's right) a day. But we did make one splurge. We took a whale-watching trip in Provincetown. It blew the bank. But it also blew our minds.

There's nothing that will make you more in awe of this incredible planet than seeing whales frolicking in their natural habitat. I think we both had tears streaming down our faces by the end of it. Anyway, I thought of that experience this morning when this new ad came across my desk. Give it a watch.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

40 Years of Advertising

The big, big guy who started our agency is celebrating 40 years in advertising today, so there's a special, celebratory Hot Dog Day planned to commemorate the event.

They've put together a little video tribute, set to this song from Team America. OMG it's hilarious. The guy cutting the vid gave me a sneaky peak yesterday and I actually snorted, it was so funny.

Staff are being invited to sport outfits representing the 60s, 70s and 80s and 90s for the recessionary prizing of a free day off. I'm right in there because oh-my-god could I use a day off!

I've got my suede fringe boots, a flower power belt buckle, a BE THE CHANGE t-shirt and an authentic hippie fringe jacket (see above). I'm thinking of going out to buy a bong before the walk off.

Send positive vibes.If I don't win, at least I'll have the bong. And a montage.