Monday, September 28, 2009

Word to your Street Mama

One of the reasons I love documentary filmmakers (aside from the obvious: I have a thing for forgotten and lost causes) is their dedication to a subject despite any kind of support or financial compensation. A belief that a story deserves to be told.

For every Michael Moore out there, there are a thousand struggling filmmakers with a shakey handheld and a pocket full of principles.

It's the same with authors.

For every book that manages to make it on to the shelves at Indigo (and make no mistake, making it on to the shelves at Indigo is akin to winning the lottery, if you're a bookie) there are, I'd venture to say, millions of others who are filling notebooks with their writerly musings, waiting for the day when they can share their story with the world.

That's one of the reasons why I love Word on the Street, Toronto's annual book and magazine festival.

It's not just the chance to see the big names -- literary divas like Margaret Atwood and Bonnie Burnard -- it's an opportunity to open a window into a contemporary literary scene that includes the smallest niche magazines and the poorest self-published authors.

I'll be honest -- some of it is crap -- but some of it sings with the voice of angels.

And whether you love it or hate it, everyone's there for the same reason. Our lives have been changed or enhanced because of something we've read. And we're venturing it can happen again.

Dylan Thomas was talking about poetry but he could easily have been talking about any kind of literature when he wrote:

A good poem is a contribution to reality. The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it. A good poem helps to change the shape of the universe, helps to extend everyone's knowledge of himself and the world around him.

That's why you'll see people at Word on the Street that you won't see at other festivals. Quieter people. Librarians. People who get lost in bookstores. Scrabble champions. People who are alternately sceptical and excited about the "Where the Wild Things Are" movie. My people.

I've been out of town for the last few festivals, so I was happy to be back. Word to your mama.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A little musical interlude

Close your eyes. Wishing you peace and harmony. So I give you this.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Changeover

I have a summer purse and a winter purse. This morning I changed over. I feel like I'm committing to fall. least I'm committing to something!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The cupboard is bare

Due to travels out of town this past weekend and being out for dinner the last two nights, my cupboard is bare.

Really bare.

So I've been snacking on things with questionable expiry dates and grateful for the frozens that I stored when my bounty was fuller. You know you've reached a new personal low when you eat rice cakes smothered with tahini for breakfast.

While I was able to MacGyver together a reasonable lunch for today -- leftover chili, the last of the frozen mango, the lone remaining single serve yoghurt and a handful of dried apricots -- it all went horribly wrong when the bottom gave out of my lunch bag on the way to work.

My chili spilled all over the street, like there had been a gangland killing.

It would have been funny. Especially if it was happening to someone else.

For the first few seconds after it happened, I vainly tried to salvage some of the remnants. Then, thinking better of it, I just scooped it up and threw everything - tupperware included - in someone's garbage can.

I guess I'm buying my lunch today.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Big time sensuality

"It takes courage to enjoy it.
The hardcore and the gentle."

So sings Bjork of Swan dress fame. Courage is an interesting word for it.

I've been thinking a lot about sexuality recently - my own and other people's. And thinking is probably what's getting me in trouble.

Maybe I should do it more and think about it less.

I watch with awe as many of my close friends romp with abandon. Yesterday I had two conversations with two entirely different people about their freewheeling sexual escapades.

I want to go to there. I don't judge them. I'd actually like to be them.

I wish, wish, wish I could feel physically free enough to have casual, consensual sex but I feel physically and emotionally blocked when I even think about it.

I don't know if it was repeated viewings of Audrey Hepburn in A Nun's Story as a child, the Scottish Presbyterian influence of my albino great grand parents, or that I'm just one of those animals in the zoo who mates for life.

I'm about as likely to become polyamorous as I am to become a professional hockey player/serial killer.

The thing is that once you do get me in bed, I'm all yours. 110% of flaming Scorpio passion. There's nothing I won't try.

But getting there means I need to trust you emotionally before I let you in.

This kind of nips one night stands in the bud.

The couple of times I've tried it without the emotional connection was about as erotic as doing it with a bug zapper.

I'm actually thinking that I might do well with taking one of those "Learn to strip so you can do it for fun and profit" courses at some safe space like the Women's Bookstore.

It couldn't hurt to unlock my inner passion. Plus, they'll probably serve tea and sandwiches and let me keep my Blundstones on.

Friday, September 18, 2009

The Secret Sale of Bananas

Swine Flu isn't the only thing going viral these days.

Yesterday someone forwarded me an email announcing a two-day only 40% off secret sale at Banana Republic. So I stopped by, on my way to my last film festival movie -- a cruelly long, self-indulgent Portugese film called To Die Like A Man. Don't see it. Ever.

Anyway. Back at Banana. The mayhem!

The line-up for the cash register rivaled Boxing Day. I could barely get in the door. In fact, there was almost no stock remaining on the shelves.

I wonder if this many people would have turned up if they'd simply bought a print ad -- which they did today. Announcing 30% off.

Was it the percentage off or the tactic?

It's hard to know. I think people like to think they know stuff that other people don't know. I also think they hate to pay full price...especially at over-priced banana.

In case you're wondering....I didn't buy anything. There are only few things I'd stand in line that long for -- the second coming of Christ, an audience with the Dalai Lama, or a new flavour at Baskin Robbins.

Forget Banana. I'm going to Joe Fresh.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cleaning House

One of the guilty pleasures I forfeited after my buying my own place was the services of a cleaning lady.

When I moved into my last rental unit, the departing tenant mentioned that his cleaning lady was really good and reasonably priced. He offered to introduce us. For about $60 every two weeks, she'd come in while I was gone and I'd arrive home to sparkling countertops and floors free from pet dander. It was divine.

But, despite never having had a cleaning lady before (the exception being whilst living in Africa, but that's another story) I very quickly went from "oh the miracle of cleanliness!" to criticism of a job well done. I began to focus not on the many small things she did well, but on the very few things that she did poorly.

It's weird how that happens.

My mind would focus on the thing that was lacking rather than celebrate the many joys associated with a tidy abode. How many other things in life are like this?

I'm becoming increasingly more conscious of my mind's tendency to stray into the oncoming traffic of negative thinking.

Now don't get me wrong. I believe wholeheartedly in the power of positive things. But believing it and practicing it are two entirely separate things.

Case in point. My BFF has been struggling with what he wants to do when he grows up. Finding a full-time gig that ticks all his boxes has been a bit of a challenge. This week he got the happy and miraculous news that he got a great job.

It's spectacular news. The best. And what did I think? After my initial joy and celebration, I thought, "Wow, he's going to have a hard time getting to his job because it starts really early in the morning. I hope he realizes that."

Oh my god. I mean, really, oh my god. Thank god I didn't open my cake hole and say anything to him. Talk about wet blanket thinking.

So today I'm holding the steering wheel tight and keeping myself on my side of the street. Destination: Positivity Ville. Population 1.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Up in the Air

I have a PHd in Loyalty Programs.

Last winter I bought $30 worth of Knorr Soup at Sobeys because of the promise of 500 Club Sobeys points. I accumulate Shopper's Optimum Points with the same fervour that pre-Reformation Catholics accrued indulgences. I regularly transact simply to earn reward miles and If I could, I'd probably marry my CIBC Aerogold Infinite card.

So imagine my delight when I saw a film at the Toronto International Film Festival which deftly weaves loyalty in its many forms through seven strong subplots.

Up in the Air is directed by Jason Reitman (late of Thank You For Not Smoking and Juno) and stars hottie George Clooney as Ryan Bingham, a corporate downsizing specialist.

Clooney is the guy on the other side of the table holding the compensation package that you're getting not because you're "fired", but because you're standing on the precipice of new opportunities. His dispassion for the emotion of his job is turned on its ear when his own high-flying life is threatened...pointedly when he's on the cusp of achieving an incredible frequent flyer milestone.

It's almost impossible to separate the cinematic Clooney from his public persona. But make no mistake. He's too good an actor to give a performance that isn't nuanced.

He's at his best when matched with strong women. Who can forget his onscreen chemistry with Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton? In Up in the Air, he's at his best with Anna Kendrick as Natalie - the fresh faced new recruit whose hiring stands to ground Bingham -- and Vera Farmiga as Alex, one of the strongest female characters to come along in years. Farmiga is Bingham in female form. She holds up a mirror to his commitment issues. And her independence is to be revered.

Up in the Air is worth a viewing. Even multiple viewings. I'd even go so far as to say that Clooney might get a nom for his performance. A film with a script this tight really deserves an audience.

Sadly, Clooney was a no-show at the Sunday morning screening of the film. I guess he couldn't commit.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Leave this Grass

My candle burneth at both ends these days.

By day I fight crime (or rather, sell people things they don't need) while by night I attend screening for films that may or may not change the world.

The cast has been in attendance at some of the screenings. Some major wattage, depending on your perspective.

Last night, Edward Norton (who is very tall) showed up for his movie Leaves of Grass, along with co-star Felicity (Keri Russell -- who, I'll admit it, I'm a little enamoured by). Rhea Perlman and Danny Devito were there to cheer on their daughter Lucy, who played a small but pivotal role in the film. Other stars in the film who didn't show included Susan Sarandon and Richard Dreyfuss.

Too bad the film sucked. A lot.

I guess "uneven" is a good word for anything that involves Greek tragedy, Walt Whitman, marijuana grow-ops, fish gutting, orthodontists, death by cross bow, an exploration of anti-semitism and the Jews of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Norton played two roles -- identical twins with different characters. He's a supremely talented guy. But don't mess with perfection. Hailey Mills did the twin thing in The Parent Trap a long time ago.

There was generous laughter and applause from the crowd. Not surprising since at least half the theatre was taken up by insiders. The other half - stony, confused silence.

Anyway, my guess is Leaves of Grass won't make it to theatres in its current form. And if it does, its audience might wish that they were a twin -- the one who stayed home.

Friday, September 11, 2009

It is what it isn't

Can I just go on record as saying that I hate the expression: It is what it is.

It isn't.

It is what you think it is. With our thoughts we make our world.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Life's little balancing act

Over the years, I've struggled with both over and under-extending myself.

I either get so deeply involved in a job or task that I completely ignore everything else around me. Or I hermit myself away in sometimes happy solitude.

There's often no middle ground.

The over-extending myself bit happens when my body fails to give the "enough" signal. It's like when there's a bowl of ju jubes around and I unhinge my jaw like a snake and eat them until I want to throw up.

But the "enough" rarely has to do with food. It usually has to do with energy.

The over-extension can manifest itself in workaholism. Or in over-programming my social time. Committing to too much volunteering. Or spending too much time talking on the phone. (This last bit, you'll note, is a real problem for me. The phone is for me what the Dementors were to Harry Potter.)

Where I struggle is often in recognizing true fatigue when it comes along.

Because I know that I have an innate love of solitude and a tendency to isolate, I'm aware that most social events come with a an element of least for the first few minutes. The challenge is realizing when the discomfort is a true signal to slow down, take stock and re-energize.

It's knowing your tank is empty before you truly run out of gas.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Time to go on a literary diet

Okay, the time for eating candy is over. But what a time it was. I decided to usher Labour Day Weekend in with a couple of frolicksome reads.

The first bit of candy actually had some nutritional value. Swish: My Quest to Become the Gayest Person Ever, by Joel Derfner, is a wickedly humorous and keenly insightful look into contemporary gay male culture. It is at once light and airy, and poignant and heartbreaking. Think David Sedaris, if Sedaris had graduated from Harvard and was working in musical theatre. You don't have to be gay or even male to find insight in what Derfner writes. He's tapped into what makes us the big ball of human insecurity that we all are.

Don't judge me. Okay, go ahead. But I actually ended the summer the same way it began -- by reading the latest installment from our favourite 90210 friend, Tori Spelling.

Mommywood is Tori's account of giving birth to her two children with Canadian wife cheater Dean McDermott and how she plans to do things entirely different than her own Mom, whose name (not coincidentally, is really Candy). It's a real page turner.

I actually like Tori a lot -- even though (or especially because) she's the Queen of TMI.

In Mommywood we learn that when she and Dean met, they used to have sex three times a day. Now, with the kids, they're lucky to have sex three times a week. We learn that when Dean's away, Tori's best friend (the man she refers to as her Gay Husband) sleeps over, on Dean's side of the bed. And we learn of the unfortunate demise of Mimi La Rue, her beloved pug, whom Tori insists actually enjoyed dressing up in frilly outfits every day.

You can borrow them if you want. But I'll tell you -- they're best enjoyed when the sun's beating down and you're happily enthroned on a lawn chair. As for me....I'm breaking out the classics.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Michael Bryant's really bad week

Michael Bryant is having a really bad week. In the same week we buried Ted Kennedy, the former Ontario attorney general is facing his Chappaquiddick.

Bryant is now facing criminal negligence causing death and dangerous operation of a motor vehicle charges, after an angry clash with a cyclist on Bloor Street on Monday night.

The cyclist, a bicycle courier named Darcy Allan Sheppard, spent his last few minutes on earth clinging to the side of Bryant's Saab, before being flung into a mailbox and dying in front of the Bloor Street Sephora.

My heart goes out Sheppard's family. It's a tragic and ridiculous way to die.

But I don't think there's a driver in Toronto who doesn't have some heart for Bryant. Who hasn't come close to hitting a cyclist at some time or other? Who hasn't felt some rage when a cyclist darts out in front of your moving vehicle or feared for your own life or the life of the cyclist when you hit the brakes in order to avoid them?

The particular stretch along Bloor where the altercation happened has been torn up, rerouted and narrowed all summer long.

There may even be a mitigating factor -- media reports today are suggesting that police spoke to Sheppard earlier in the evening after an altercation with his ex girlfriend. Alcohol may have been a factor.

But that's no excuse, really. Along with the legal responsibility of driving a motor vehicle comes the moral responsibility.

Bryant might not serve any time, but his career died on that sidewalk along with Sheppard.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

King Tut

This will be short because I'm on my way to a doctor's appointment. I'm also watching my fridge perform a spectacular Wicked Witch of the West number (ie. "I'm melting").

But thought I'd share a little nicety with you.

Part of my beloved membership at the AGO (which is really the best $90 I've ever spent -- I have to tell you) is a free ticket to the upcoming Tutankhamun Show, starting in November. What a steal. My membership paid for itself by the second month, since I regularly stop by the gallery for periods of a half hour or less when my soul cries out for Emily Carr, Lawren Harris or my personal fave, Kurelek.

The Surrealist show (which I think is still on) was terrific -- and even had a a great, rather pertinent advertising component.

But King Tut. That's something kind of special. He's our favourite kind of honky.

So I leave you with this. Click on he title above.