Friday, October 30, 2009

The Toxic Avenger

Toronto audiences are in for a real treat. I saw a preview performance of the quirky, fun and madly entertaining The Toxic Avenger at the Danforth Music Hall last night.

I didn't know what to expect. I knew almost nothing about the musical and I was actually going under duress. It had been a sleepless night and I was dying to go to bed early.

Boy oh boy I'm glad I sucked it up and went to the theatre.

Easily one of the most entertaining nights I've spent at the theatre in a long, long time. And a cast of phenomenally talented world-class performers.

I'd go again. It's that good.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What my brain needs

What my brain needs: sleep.

What my brain got: a night of tossing and turning and mulling over every idea in the sun.

This is the price I paid for too many projects, with not enough time to do them. And concern for a friend who needs some love at the moment.

Today, I can already tell that my brain is going to need a caffeine cattle prod.

Send me positive vibes. And a Tim Bit.

Much obliged.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Countdown to Buddhist Camp

I have ten more working days before I go on silent meditation retreat.

My body is craving the silence, although I've been trying to train for the inevitable physical effects of actually sitting for prolonged periods of time.

On one of the Zen meditation retreats I went on, the abbot would actually walk behind the sitting meditators and, if requested, whack us on the shoulders (kind of like violent shiatsu) with a long stick to help release some of the tensions from sitting. It worked. You'd be surprised how much you look forward to that kind of thing if you've been sitting for a long time.

Friday, October 23, 2009

This Is It

Entertainment Weekly has dubbed the new Michael Jackson documentary: Dead Man Moonwalking.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Devil Creates The September Issue

Doc Soup opened with The September Issue -- the story of the creation of Vogue's behemoth fall issue of the magazine.

The woman at the helm is, of course, the darkly famous Anna Wintour. She was famously portrayed by Meryl Streep in The Devil Wears Prada -- and justly famous for her severe pageboy haircut and the fact that she often wears dark sunglasses indoors. She eats her minions for breakfast.

But the emotional heart of the magazine, and of RJ Cutler's insightful documentary, is Vogue fashion editor Grace Coddington.

Coddington and Wintour started at Vogue on the same day twenty years ago, so the film is as much about their sometimes respectful, sometimes adversarial relationship as it is about the creation of the product. It's a relationship that probably makes the final product as good as it is.

If you're an art director, or someone who appreciates the nuance of styling, you'll love watching Coddington work. After 40 years in the business, she's still as passionate and fiery and excited about the artistic process as we presume she was on day one. When Anna rejects one of her spreads, it's as if she's reached in and tugged Grace's heart clear out of her body.

We've all been there.

The filmmaker RJ Cutler asked for and received unprecedented access to the hallowed halls of Vogue, along with complete creative control.

Even if you only ever shop at Joe Fresh, you'll love this movie. In the end, it's about how you keep something fresh and exciting and relevant, year after year and issue after issue.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bay City Rollers

If you don't remember the Bay City Rollers, you can stop reading this now. You are too young for me. I want to drink your blood and suck out your youthful life force.

The truth is that I remember the Bay City Rollers all too well.

They were the Jonas Brothers during my pivotal and emotional spin through Grade 8. The best thing to come out of Scotland since deep fried Mars bars, single malt whisky, and emotional unavailability.

They were the reason I wore jeans lined with tartan.

This morning at Starbucks, the barista recounted how she'd cracked a rib climbing over the barricade at CHUM, while trying to maul the objects of her desire. The Bay City Rollers were bigger than Scottish Jesus. They were the next best thing to sliced haggis.

My sights were set on handsome lead singer, Les. I loved him best of all.

Handsome. Smiley. An excellent speller. He was all my pimply teenage heart could imagine as a perfect partnership.

Where is Les now, you might ask?

Well you probably wouldn't be surprised to hear that after 30 years of living a secret gay lifestyle, Les checked into rehab. His bill was footed by a reality show. I think he's sobered up now.

If you're not doing anything on July 23 and 24, 2010, we can take a road trip to the official Les McKeown Fan Fest in (wait for it) Savannah, Georgia.

According to his fan site, the weekend will include a buffet dinner, a raffle, and a full length concert featuring Les and his legendary band.

Please come with me. Here's a teaser of what you might hear.

Monday, October 19, 2009

O Christmas Tree

I'm planning to put up my first Christmas tree this year. My first all-by-myself Christmas tree. If you play your cards right, I'll invite you over to help me decorate it.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Blurring the Lines

Twice this week, my Spidey senses have tingled at something I've seen in the media.

The first was a joyful little viral video in which a group of suspiciously good-looking office workers in a boring day at the office used their laptops (and not just any laptops -- APPLE laptops) to do a group rendition of that BSB classic "I want it that way".

In case you're up in the air like Balloon Boy and haven't seen it yet, you can see it here.

I'm not 100% sure -- but I'd put money on this being a viral marketing stunt.

Office 2009 for MAC was released this week. What better way to get some good-natured attention than showing a bunch of cute twenty-somethings having fun in their windowless office? ( the video. What kind of work could they possibly be doing there? Even call centres give their workers the dignity of veal fattening pens.)

The second stunt proved me right within hours.

Yesterday, mid afternoon, every news source was abuzz with the story of an escaped weather balloon that may have contained a six-year old boy named Falcon. (First clue!) It was too bizarre to be true.

As the afternoon unfolded, facts about Balloon Boy's parents began to emerge -- notably that they were high-adrenaline storm chasers and that his Mom had appeared on Wife Swap.

And when the balloon came down in a farmer's field (minus Balloon Boy) the child magically appeared after apparently hiding in the attic all afternoon.

Then, last night on Larry King Live, Balloon Boy's family appeared and the little lad accidentally spilled the beans.

"We did it for the show," he said. You can watch the interview here.

I don't know what this says about us as a society -- aside from the usual "we're going to hell in a handcart". But it certainly makes me question the source of the messages I'm receiving.

To leave you with something "real" but no less incredible, check this out. It really happened. A baby survived after being run over by a train. It's incredible.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009

Happy Blog Action Day, Blog Action Day is an annual event that unites the world's bloggers in posting about the same issue on the same day.

The issue: climate change.

The heat is on our troubled little blue green planet and as world leaders gather in Copenhagen in December to discuss a global response to climate change, the time has come to take bold action.

Actually, the time came a long time ago. But we're just now listening to it. We're slow learners that way.

If you're like me, and wonder what little old you can do to make a big impact on the world as you know it, try out some of these ideas I lifted from Mr. and Mrs. Clever Pants over at "Scientific American". (Now there's a group where you wouldn't expect the Chicken Dance at their Christmas party.)

They're simple and they can make a difference.

Move Closer to Work—Transportation is the second leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. (burning a single gallon of gasoline produces 20 pounds of CO2). But it doesn't have to be that way. One way to dramatically curtail transportation fuel needs is to move closer to work, use mass transit, or switch to walking, cycling or some other mode of transport that does not require anything other than human energy.

In the "yay me" category, I drive a 2001 Suzuki Swift with 30,000 km on it. I walk to work every day of the year or take the TTC when the temps dip to -25C or below. On the "boo me" front, I love airplane travel.

Consume Less—The easiest way to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions is simply to buy less stuff. Whether by forgoing an automobile or employing a reusable grocery sack, cutting back on consumption results in fewer fossil fuels being burned to extract, produce and ship products around the globe.

Unplug—This is an easy one. Believe it or not, U.S. citizens spend more money on electricity to power devices when off than when on. Televisions, stereo equipment, computers, battery chargers and a host of other gadgets and appliances consume more energy when seemingly switched off, so unplug them instead.

Be Efficient—A potentially simpler and even bigger impact can be made by doing more with less. Citizens of many developed countries are profligate wasters of energy, whether by speeding in a gas-guzzling sport-utility vehicle or leaving the lights on when not in a room.

In the "boo me" category, I sometimes leave a light on in my bedroom while I'm watching TV in my living room. That's going to change.

Good driving—and good car maintenance, such as making sure tires are properly inflated—can limit the amount of greenhouse gas emissions from a vehicle and, perhaps more importantly, lower the frequency of payment at the pump.

Similarly, employing more efficient refrigerators, air conditioners and other appliances, Such efforts can also be usefully employed at work, whether that means installing more efficient turbines at the power plant or turning the lights off when you leave the office.

By the way, if you have a Blog and you haven't signed up for Blog Action Day, it's not too late. Do it here.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The power of prayer

Do you feel better if you know that someone else is thinking about you?

How about praying for you?

Another of the little tidbits I picked up from my weekend reading was this: patients who are prayed for (whether they know about it or not) get better faster than those who aren't. Or at least that's what David Shields believes.

The author cited a 1988 study as the basis for his hypothesis.

But I did a little searching this morning and found the scientific results questionable.

Some later studies suggested no change in clinical outcomes for patients who were prayed for. Sceptics claimed that prayer made no difference whatsoever.

But, as someone noted, "The contribution that hope and belief make to a personal understanding of illness cannot be dismissed so lightly." There's positive thinking again.

And what is prayer, if not whispered hope?

Dr. Chairmaine Griffith from the British Heart Association concurs that, "Further evidence is emerging that people who have a more positive outlook appear to be less affected by stressful events, such as surgery."

I'm thinking about prayer because I attended 7 a.m. mass at St. Michael's this morning. Not for me, but for a colleague's father who is undergoing open heart surgery this week.

I'm hoping it helps. It can't hurt.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The thing about life

I picked up an engaging little book last week and devoured it over two sittings. It's called, "The thing about life is that one day you'll be dead."

It's a meditation on life, aging and death, with equal parts scientific fact (what happens to our bodies as we age) and biography thrown in for good measure.

The author, David Shields (who, among other things, has written for the Village Voice and therefore springs from that New York Neurotic school which I love) explores the human animal's fate here on earth while trying to make sense of his complex relationship with his 97-year old father and his deep love for his athletic daughter.

It's a page turner -- and somewhat sobering -- because you're confronted with your own attitudes to your aging self on every page.

Because let's face it. We're not getting any younger.

This well-researched little tome collects quotes from other of life's meditators -- everyone from Cicero to Woody Allen. What philosopher hasn't pondered life and death?

But one of my favourites was this one attributed to Jackie Kennedy Onnasis. She said, "If I knew I was going to get cancer at 65, I wouldn't have done so many sit-ups."

I like that. It never gets old.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


Things I am thankful for today:

1) A gorgeous sunny day.

2) A perfectly foamy latte from Second Cup, served to me by the girl who always tells me I smell good.

3) Smelling good.

4) The end of a hard fought week, where every woman in my department (if not the entire agency) appeared to have been stabbed with the PMS hormone pen.

5) The glow of Glee.

6) The thrill of a plane ride tomorrow, over the autumn bright tree tops of northern Ontario.

7) The possibility of more travel.

8) Feeling sure that everything's going to be alright, even when it's not at any given moment.

9) Being okay with powerlessness.

10) The prospect of moving to a brand new office on a different floor with an amazing view.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009


I'm having lunch today with a woman who has been very instrumental in my life and in my career choices. I often think about her when I'm faced with a difficult decision or asked to solve a problem involving complex personalities at work.

WWND. What would Nancy do.

There are a few phrases I associate with Nancy.

One is, "I don't read minds." Talk about a simple and effective way to communicate to your staff that if they have a problem they need to communicate to you, it's probably a good idea that they come and talk to you directly rather than trying it in the court of public opinion.

Nancy is also a big proponent of the "full and frank exchange of views", despite the fact that she's schooled in the fine art of diplomacy. She has an unshakable moral code.

She's suspicious of the the next big wow new thing, too, because she comes from sturdy Protestant stock and has a good grounding in the classics. To this day I always laugh when I hear the Unitarians mentioned in conversation. I can almost hear Nancy's voice calling them "the Church of what's happening now."

I've travelled in Africa a few times with her. She always has gin in a little flask and manages to find tonic wherever she is. For the malaria, of course.

She is one of the smartest and warmest and most caring women I know. She was successful in business at a time when few others were. And she's generously shared everything she ever learned with every woman who ever worked with her.

I gush. But I love her.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

It's all about We

I spent yesterday celebrating We Day with 16,000 of my closest friends at the ACC.

We Day, if you don't know, is the brainchild of those uber energetic Kielburger kids.

Craig Kielburger started the organization Free the Children when, as a boy of barely twelve, he read a newspaper article about a child his own age who'd been forced into child labour and brutally murdered. His brother Mark is no less impressive. He's a Rhodes scholar and counts a couple of honourary doctorates to his name.

Their parents must be back-slapping each other a million times a day at the thought of spawning two kids with such extraordinary humanitarian leanings.

Both boys are hovering around thirty now, which is posing an interesting dilemma for an organization that hinges on being run by and for youth.

The philosophy of the Me to We Movement, which the Kielburgers champion, is quite simply this: if you stop thinking about yourself for a change and channel your energy into the greater good, there's no telling what we can accomplish together.

What they're saying isn't new, but it's never really been packaged in this way and delivered to youth in exactly this fashion.

I like to think of it as Buddhism Light. Social activism with a little Oprah, Degrassi and Jonas Brothers thrown in for good measure.

Yesterday's We Day was the biggest one yet.

I was there the first year, but missed last year, so I was astonished at how large it has become. And I have to say that I'm growing just a titch concerned about corporate involvement.

Fancy that, an advertiser growing concerned about corporate involvement!

The event -- which lasted from about 9 to 3 -- featured a series of inspirational speakers and a few (too few, if you ask me) musical acts and entertainers.

The thing is -- and this is where I'm growing concerned -- is that every one of the major sponsors got a few minutes to address the kids with their own Me to We message.

So Heather Reisman got a change to let the throngs know that they could buy Elie Weisel's book at Indigo, the book store chain that she owns. And a few other profiteers got to deliver their own messages while their logos were projected bright and large on the jumbo screen behind them.

I don't know about the kids, but I was beginning to feel that a large part of this event seemed to be designed to appease the sponsors.

Look, I know that it's REALLY expensive to put on an event like this. And I know that it's virtually impossible without the partnership of caring companies, but...bigger isn't necessarily better.

While most of the sponsors seemed to be nice people, genuinely interested in doing some social good, I'm not sure there particular brand of philanthropy was really suited for a group of high schoolers.

It was as fair as pre-Christmas toy advertising to the Saturday morning cartoon set.

The high schoolers responded to the "real" leaders -- the Pinball Clemens and Elie Weisel's who, despite their age, matched the youth in their energy, enthusiasm and open-heartedness.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Fight Back

My Father died three years ago today on what would have been his birthday. He had cancer. Lymphoma.

This week, my agency launched a campaign (the creation of which I had a small part) for the Canadian Cancer Society. You can see it here.

If you've got the heart for it, I'd suggest you scroll down to the right of the site and watch the TV spot called Fight. It's 2 minutes and 40 seconds long, so it's not going to get a lot of play on air, but we're hoping it'll make the rounds virally.

The important thing to note is that no one in that Fight spot is an actor.

Every single person who appears in any one of these spots is an ordinary Canadian whose life has been touched by cancer. With 2 of 5 Canadians developing some form of cancer in their lifetime, they aren't hard to find.

We put out the call and people came. Some of them came straight from their chemo appointments. Others had to be helped into the audition rooms. There were mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. There were patients and physicians, researchers and kids barely out of high school.

Even I auditioned for that spot. It was one of the few times I've ever told the story of the day my Dad died. When I was done, I went back to my car and cried like a baby.

The two burly creative guys who worked on this spot are crazy talented. They're more accustomed to selling credit cards and motor cars, then creating a movement against cancer. Yet both of them have said their lives are permanently changed by the experience of staring cancer straight in the eye.

I know I can say the same.