Wednesday, March 31, 2004

I Love Company

Is it just me, or has the world lately become a crabbier place? I ask because I know I'm crabbier, and if the world can in any way be embodied by an objectively and scientifically selected representative group (my friends), then we're looking at at least an international incident,if not a universal conflagration.
Fact: Most of us are freelancers in one way or another and as such are nearly always poised on the edge of utter financial ruin.
In large part our current misery is due to the crummy economic climate in Canada, which, while it's done nothing to stem the flow of unpaid bills crammed into our overstuffed letterboxes, has likely done more for the upswing in Distress Centre Suicide Hotline statistics than a convenient cliff does for lemmings. (The Distress Centre: now there's an organisation sure to get their funding renewed. Lucky bastards.)
Fact: Most of us are whiney anyway.
It's true. All of us are Canadian citizens and feel it our personal, not to mention collective duty to observe the rest of the world's various appalling debacles (terrorism, war, starvation, stupid politicians) and provide the official 'tut tut'. The enormous responsibility is exhausting - and since the coronation of GB II, we've hardly had a moment to spare to look at our own soggy, scandalous mess...
Fact: We're tired.
See above.
Fact: Right here in Canada we're in the midst of our own soggy, scandalous mess.
You can tell things have reached desperate proportions when the entire Canadian news media - from whacked out right, to spongey left - are running virtually the same editorials, damning the Liberal government to Hell (aka Ottawa) and back. Further evidence of the shambolic nature of our country's descent into madness will be clinched by the majority government the Liberals are sure to win come election day.
Fact: The media cannot save us.
For everyone counting on a television talkshow-based deliverance from evil... give it up. As media scribe Antonia Zerbisias noted in her Toronto Star column yesterday, referring to the quality of coverage of the recent 9/11 hearings: "No coverage of the testimony has matched that on The Daily Show with Jon'll find journalism far more trenchant than anything on the [American network] Sunday news/talk shows...". It's true. As faithful readers will note, I've been a far more trenchant supporter of Jon Stewart than even his rotten undeserving wife I'll bet - but as I've noted before (and am going to note once again... right now) The Daily Show is on comedy cable; whilst it's true that (for instance) the Messiah's return would receive a far more trenchant response from Comedy Central viewers, were He to reveal Himself in a swirling cloud of fire and smoke, He'd still have to book an appearance on Larry King Live on CNN if He wanted to get the demographics right. Sad but trenchantly true. (Though I have high hopes He'll make time in his apocolyptic schedule to pay Jon a visit - give him his props Saviour!)
Fact: This spring's fashion colours are powder pink, sunshine yellow and loopy lime.
Kool Aid flavours? No. the shade of things to come - and as everybody knows, when the fashion world throws cheerful at us, we're looking at another season or so of economic exigency. Plus, I look like crap in pastels.
Fact: Diets don't work.
Scientific news stories over the past several years credited diet guru Dr Atkins (until his death from a cardiac condition last year...) with the bestest, fastest, tastiest diet ever created. The late doctor's no carbs/all the fat you can eat philosophy made the hearts of fat people the world over beat just a bit louder... but as it also turned out, a bit more sluggishly too. Atkins doesn't work. South Beach doesn't work. Weight watcher's, Jenny Craig, The Scarsdale, The Grapefruit, The disgusting Cabbage Soup diet - none of them work.
Eat less and exercise more - that works. Thank you very much. My tight powder pink pedal pushers thank you too.
Fact: The weather sucks.
Need I say more?

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

J Lo - Oh No

Since I seem to feel the need to begin each rant or rave with the insider information that I'm in love, I'll say right now that I don't love the New York Post... But I sure do like it, especially the top-grade, meanest of meanie mean spirits who contribute to the gossip page.
You can keep your Liz Smiths and Cindy Adamses (I like my gossip columnists like I like my Beaujolais Nouveau - tart, tangy and well ahead of the 'best before' date) the juiciest part of the column is Page Six.
Each and every day, heaping helpings of the worst - and sometimes best, though I skip over that part - antics of NYC's rich and famous are arrayed. I know there are those who think an interest in such meaningless mush the height of pointlessness. To them I say... So's your mother!
(It's the best I can do.)
Can I help it if I find distraction and humour in campy crap? I spend my days (these days) immersed in the details of brain death and organ transplant issues; if I also enjoy hearing about Puffy and Paris, tell me: who gets hurt?
Anyway, today's lead story is worth sharing if only to note the irony and unintentional humour at the heart of so much of that which is crap - the re-jigging of a celebrity's image.
Come on down Jennifer Lopez!
All agog with girlish glee, Page Six smirkily reports that a new 'sympathetic image' is being crafted for the bounteously-bummed popstar. Lopez handlers are working overtime honing the new low-maintenance, low-key 'Jenny From the Block'-style facsimile just days before its proposed launch on the upcoming televised broadcast of Nickleodeon's 'Kid's Choice Awards'.The new, improved, demurer-than-daisies Jenny is apparently looking forward to being slimed with the ubiquitous cartoon channel slathering of green goo, all in an effort to distract the press from the demanding diva image that somehow managed to slip out of the normally tightly buttoned-down pup-tents of Camp Lopez.
Further evidence of the studiedly downmarket transformation has the Grammy winning heartbreaker eschewing the services of her regular beauty parlour operator. According to the Post he's " longer allowed to throw fits or demand limos, airplanes and $20,000 a day." She went to a movie recently (in a public theatre!) with just two bodyguards and one hanger-on. The mind boggles at the sacrifice.
But the self-inflicted personal deprivation doesn't stop there. A source close to Ben Affleck's ex provides the down low on the unprecedented lack of basic requirements.
"There have been no high-diva demands," the source confirms. "There will be no more absurd requests for white lilies in her rooms, 600-thread-count sheets in her hotel rooms or anything like that. She really is just a normal girl."
I'm the nobodiest of nobodies, but even I have the odd contact or two, so I can confirm that an unimpeachable source had the opportunity to observe the lovely Latina from close range in a Los Angeles restaurant. Jenny, so I'm told, breezed in to the popular upscale eatery with nary a reservation, though fully equipped with a posse of 20 or so people-shaped, sycophantic barnacles. After accommodating the (loud, drunken, vulgar) group, my source reports Jenny herself deigned to address the hired help, at least so far as to berate them virtually nonstop from the moment of clamourous arrival, until the last magnum of Cristal was slurped noisily dry. It was a performance, my contact reports, that could have sold more tickets than a regularly scheduled concert and given its audience more than a little insight into the multi-millionaire singing sensation.
But everything happens for a reason, or so I'm told, and perhaps this divestiture of material excesses is just a rehearsal for the future. If 'Jenny From the Block's' teenage fans could see the 'normal girl' for who she really is, they might well stop buying whatever image she sells.

Monday, March 29, 2004

The Cat Came Back

Though in my case, the cat is a dog... and the dog didn't come back - I went to get the dog to chauffeur her home... and had to wrest her away from the warm and loving bosom of the kennel where I'd spent a small fortune to ensure her comfort and joy whilst I myself wrested a weekend away from the forces that normally keep me trapped within the four walls of my (charming, downtown, bachelorette-style) condo.
The reception was chilly.
As the veterinary assistant approached me carrying both the dog and a small pink bag with her personal effects (bunny rabbit, dry and tinned dog food, tiny faux Burberry coat in the event of inclement weather) I saw the familiar defiant little face assume a mask of studied indifference. If I was hoping for some sort of yipping, yapping, doggy-type hullabaloo of pleasure at our reunion, I was to be sorely (though not uncharacteristically) disappointed. The transfer twixt minor teenage veterinary functionary and myself took place without any ado at all. No licks, no barks, no satisfaction.
No surprise.
I've spent the better part of the last ten years trying to win the favour and affection of roughly 6 1/2 pounds of fur, fluff and gristle masquerading as a pet and it took me until today to realise it's never going to change.
(I have of course considered and rejected the option to revisit the tired old saw about old dogs and new tricks... but now I feel I must confess that in the middle of writing that last sentence I responded within a nanosecond of a sharp squeak demanding food. I almost wish I could get her a tiny bell and explain the joke... but she doesn't speak English - which is curious as she's reportedly from Yorkshire.)
And don't think I don't realise how sickening this paen to pampered dogdom is. If one of the princess diarists shovelled out a column of dog poo similar to this, I'd (if I could find the time between walkies and dindins) fire off a letter of complaint... followed by a suggestion that if they were looking for someone to fill the newspaper space more grown-upedly and efficiently, they need look no further. Or farther. Whichever. I'd also swear to invest in a copy of Strunk and White's Elements of Style in order to discover which was which. And I would. When I had time.
But who has the time? In between working to earn the money to provide her with an acceptable lifestyle (the acceptability of same always on the razor's edge of approval/disapproval) providing her with social opportunities, and sneaking in a workout, shower and three meals - plus two snacks - per day, I'm exhausted just trying to figure out where I went so terribly wrong.
I loathe all the doggie magazines and breed manuals and dog training classes. All of them prattle endlessly about the dog's undying affection and loyalty to its master, while I beg and plead and shoot off intense silent signals just to get her to come when I call. Both training classes we've attended suggested I just do what nature intended - and pick her up.
Bunch of quitters... or people obsessed with reality. Same diff.
And yes, I know all about people anthropomorphising their pets - attributing all manner of human thoughts and feelings to creatures, some of whom are operating with brains no larger than your standard peach pit. But what else can one think when being stared down by the business end of a terrier?
I give up.
I give in.
I'm being summoned.
At least one of us has learned the fundamentals of obedience.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

Spring Has Sprung

It doesn’t take a shadow-shirking gopher to convince me the seasons are changing.
The snow is melting, the little birdies are chirping – the unconscionable jerk across the street has hauled his 9-11 (Porsche) off its winter blocks and is even now vroom vrooming and revving (sans muffler, natch) his hideous, gas-guzzling, neighbourhood-annoying, pretentious tin can on wheels into a state of running readiness - and I am drifting about in a cloud of romantic fantasy.
I’m in love with Richard Clarke.
Heaven knows it was only yesterday I was extolling the myriad, marvelous qualities of the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart (as deserving an object of affection as ever strapped on a microphone) but today, nay, yesterday afternoon – I caught a glimpse of that which is sex personified, adoration-worthy and all around fantasy-inducing: Ladies and Jellybeans – the world’s last honest man, and my sweet baby - Dick ‘American Grandstand’ Clarke. Terror (not counter) of the Republicans and most particularly the Presidential team whose pants are flaming so hellishly they can read the smoke signals in Iraq.
It’s a great day for truth, not to mention love. I just hope my crush survives the crunch.
Richard Clarke. Mmmmm… he’s a donut to a Simpson, the nitrate-filled, artificially-coloured, bacon flavoured treat to the dog, the honey to my bee. And already I’m having to fight for him.
Just this a.m. I had a little bitch-slapping contretemps with a girlfriend who says she called dibs on Dick first (‘my boyfriend’ she calls him in an attempt to needle) but her claim is unquestionably date-stamped yesterday, some few minutes into the September 11th hearings and mine presages her by a few good days and the now infamous edition of last Sunday’s 60 Minutes.
Teach her to trespass on my territory.
But she’s only the first – and I fear not the last; mark my words, there’s going to be a flurry of ‘Against All Enemies’ book-buying by the fairer sex, and suggestions and requests not normally heard in the autograph line-ups when Dick ‘You Can’t Handle the Truth!’ Clarke steps up, pen in hand to receive the accolades – not to mention the record breaking receipts – on his soon to be announced ‘Enemies Tour’.
It’s a fact – there’s nothing sexier than a man willing to stand up in front of God and a congressional committee and tell a truth that no one, save everyone outside of government, wants to hear. His opening salvo – an apology (coincidentally the first) to victims and families of the twin towers tragedy – captured the hearts of America, and the following ‘I’ve made mistakes too, and I intend to take responsibility for them’ remarks captured the affections of Her women.
Trust me – you can keep your Brad Pitts and your Russell Crowes and your Jon Stewarts (but not for long – I’ve still got a few unresolved issues I’d like to… thrash out… with him) the man who is currently making the chicks giggle and preen, and wish they’d seen him first, is the man who makes me spend endless happy hours trying out my stationary. (Mrs. Secret Storm Clarke… Mrs. S.S. Clarke… Mrs. Secret Clarke... Mrs. Storm-Clarke, Mr. Richard Storm…)
I like a man who tells the truth. I love a man who does it regardless of the consequences. I adore a man who takes responsibility for his own actions.

Richard Clarke – hubba hubba.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Stevie Nicks Redux

I love Jon Stewart.
And whether I like it or not, I'm not alone; apparently ratings for his hit 'The Daily Show (with you know who!) are going through the roof. Viewers are abandoning traditional late night talk for the Comedy Central (Comedy Network here in Canada) show that has become the coolest way to get your news and a healthy heaping of yuks four times a week.
Fact is, I think about him on the other three - what would Jon say about this outrage, I wonder; how would Jon (his name lit up in sparklers, announced by a heavenly choir) treat this debacle? I sigh, then I wait for Monday to roll around and find out.
Because so far as I can tell, he hasn't missed a beat nor dropped a metaphorical ball in his bid to spread the word of the clothes-less Emporer of America and his nakedly venal cabal of cabinet co-conspirators. And you can bet if they didn't before, Rumsfelt, Rice, Powell et al are hunkered down in front of their TV sets, just praying Jay or Dave or Conan are featuring naked ladies (I mean real naked ladies) or a Beatles reunion show, 'cos 'B' list celebrities and Howler monkeys (I mean real Howler monkeys) just aren't going to lure viewers away from the downlow no mo'.
Last night, as I sat picking the sequins off an Abercrombie and Fitch T-shirt (hence the Stevie Nicks ref) bathed in the televisual glow of my crush, I was treated to a brilliant contrast and compare, duelling press releases show of force between National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice and White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan. Rice, achieving the nearly impossible feat of appearing on every single national morning news show (seemingly several simultaneously) and McClellan, pontificating from the White House podium, spoke in near identical word by word sound bites in their efforts to discredit Washington scourge Richard Clarke.
(Former anti-terrorism Czar of three - or is it four? - administrations, Clarke himself doing the Condoleezza thang by whizzing around the usual suspects of insider political talk shows, discussing his book 'Against All Enemies' which claims to lay bare the truth about 9/11, Bin Laden, al Qaeda, Iraq, Hussein and Bush. What they knew, when they knew it and what they didn't do about it.)
The question is, why does it take Jon Stewart to point out that the ferocity of the attacks has been stage-managed to such a degree, that all the actors are reading the same lines? One sincerely hopes that at the highest levels of government, each of the interested parties has their own take - their own expertise to bring to bear, their own point of view - each damning in their separate areas of knowledge. But it seems they're all singing (if you can bear another cliche) from the same hymnbook, as believable a group of Republican henchmen and women as those Democratic spokesmonkeys sent out on the 'Save Clinton From Himself' mission a couple of years ago.
You just wish they'd save placing their hands on their hearts and declaiming insider rhetoric for a time when they might really need it... say at their dying Granny's bedside... or at least at something as fair and open as a Fourth of July pie-eating contest.
The problem is - as Stewart's brilliant ego-skewering show so neatly points out - is that it's all a sham; a sham that becomes incresingly obvious with each written, prepared, edited, synthesized, put to committee, then passed out wholesale to the attack dogs explanation. And who else is going to pay attention? Who else is going to watch every press conference and newscast to make the cynical point? The big three main networks? CNN, MSNBC and the rest of the cable ilk? From competitiveness alone, they'd never show another's channel logo. It's left to Stewart and Comedy Central to tell the tale. And tell it 'a spoonful of sugar' funny.
Canadians too have taken Stewart to their bosoms with amazing alacrity and speed. Stewart seemingly able to achieve in a couple of months what thousands of disaffected fans were unable to do over the last three years - throw Mike Bullard (our own and only - and screamingly unfunny - answer to the late night lineup) off the dial. For that alone we thank him.
For bringing an open and equal approach to the right/left discussion - you'll likely never find an interviewer so completely fair or respectful to both sides, nor one so willing to find merit in the individual's point of view - and for bringing both sides of the discussion to the fore, our cracked-open-ever-so-slightly-more minds thoughtfully appreciate him.
But for bringing excellence, intelligence, humour (not to mention a dazzling smile... sigh...) and a manner that suggests we're smart enough to get him, I offer him my undying affection...and all the discarded sparkles from my t-shirt... and all my money, if he wants it... or the dog - yes, he can have the dog!... and my Gucci purse, and my 91 Mazda, and my hand in marriage...
Damn it. He's married.
But you never know...

Monday, March 22, 2004

Keep Young and Beautiful

They call it the 'Forever Young' syndrome and it doesn't take reading more than a few sentences into the recent newspaper story detailing the 'obsession' this 'cultural disease' has inspired, to see where this missive is moving. (Hint: anything containing with the words 'obsession' or 'disease' generally denotes disdain.)
According to University of Toronto Professor (and academic killjoy) Marcel Danesi, growing up is now linked to growing old - a state of affairs most of North America apparently wants no part of. He's literally written the book about this new phenomenon and 'Forever Young' is its titular (I said tit!) call to arms.
From his research involving interviews with some 200 teenagers and their (decrepit) parents, Danesi concludes that the commercial entertainment media's 'youth sells' preoccupation has infected people so throughly that they're not only trying to look and feel healthier and fitter longer, but they've further decided that adding adolescent immaturity to the mix is the key to immortality.
"Good living," he says, "keeping your youth, having as much fun as you can. It's empty because there is no wisdom behind it."
Double 'Huh?'
He continues. "Everything that keeps the culture thinking, reflecting, seeking understanding is missing."
Triple 'Hu... well, you get the idea.
As I read through the article, pre-packaged phrase follows bullshitty buzzward, amplified by pseudo-academic conclusion, impressing me not so much with its scholarly mien, as with it's style of cherry-picking recent social history, dressed up as legitimate methodology.
There's a name for guys like this - and that name is Crabby Appleton.
How else to explain to explain his 'all fun barred' view of modern middle-age?
There may be something here; there may be the glimmer of a kernel of an idea, but the conclusions he draws seem half-baked; scrawled in crayon, rather than writ in stone.
You have to believe it's generally pretty dangerous to be spouting theories that encompass entire generations; call them edgy, or courageous or daring - but that only makes it risky, not right.
Danesi mines the 20th century, mixing historical fact with personal opinion.
He points out that one hundred years ago most of the world's population simply couldn't afford an adoescence for their children. The struggles of that society precluded an extended period of lighter hearts and fewer responsibilities - children passed into adulthood "almost seamslessly" he observes. (Really?)
Freud stepped in next with theories of adolescents grappling with the anxiety and confusion of accepting their new identities as adults - a theory that may hold whole fistfuls of water balloons, but doesn't exactly draw a straight line between having no adolescence at all, then suddlenly having difficulty accepting th state of adulthood. When did they know they had to get worried? That stage isn't so much glossed over as missed altogether.
There's tons more - so I'll do the cherry-picking - but essentially Daneci continues on his historic tour of youth through the ages, moving us through the 50's (the beginning of a youth culture) the 60's (youthquakers all - dropouts, beatlmaniacs, hippies and potheads and so on) and on through the 70's and 80's and the society we now live in, rife for the first time with troubled teens, bullies, anorexics, druggies and a generation of youth obsessed with their looks. If Danesi was reading the 6 O'clock Evening News he'd holler: "This just in!"
Danesi then focuses on television and the media - the twin threats to our medical and physical health and safety and pulls a few more anecdotal rabbits out of his various hats. He accuses adults of trying to emulate the 'tough and cool' images we are bombarded with along with our children and warns us all that the adolescent ideals we're all coming to embody (egged on by corporate America) then exemplify include those associated with gang violence and the like.
He wraps the mess up with an observation that teens feel nothing but contempt for the middle-aged, and no longer value the folk-wisdom of the elderly.
"Nobody looks to the old for solutions. And nothing has replaced them. Society has lost its anchors," says Danesi unable to keep a hint of panic out of his prose. But he has a solution: he believes authority should return to the family, no through punishment, but by encouraging adults to offer guidance and mature examples for the young. A solution remarkable but for the fact that he isn't its original author - check out Socrates, Plato and Pliny for various diatribes on whippersnapperdom.
How to refute the charges? Read history, then observe current society, examine its endless and imaginative attempts to "... think, to reflect, seeking understanding" through an exploding publishing, film and television world (I'll grant him not all of it worthy of hosannas) then explore a middle-aged generation that like no other before is attempting to place the needs of the elderly and youth at the top of the political agenda. This is a generation that votes, travles, reads the newspaper and participates in its community. If it goes to the gym in between, is that so wrong?
If it weren't for the image Danesi has shoehorned into my mind of gangs of roving elderly Sharks and Jets, dropping out of the pack every so often to have their skin tautened or their bottoms re-inflated, I'd consider the article a complete waste of my (limited) middle-aged time.

Keep Young and Beautiful
(Written for 'Roman Scandals' 1933; Lyric: Al Dubin, Music: Harry Warren)

What's cute about little cutie?
It's her beauty, not brains...
Old father time will never harm you
if your charm still remains...
After you grow old baby,
you don't have to be a cold baby...
Keep Young and Beautiful,
It's your duty to be beautiful...
keep young and beautiful,
if you want to be loved.
Don't fail to do your stuff
with a little powder and a puff.
Keep young and beautiful if you want to be loved.
If you're wise, exercise all the fat off,
take it off, off of here, off of there...
when you're seen anywhere with your hat off,
wear a Marcel wave in your hair...
Take care of all those charms,
and you'll always be in someone's arms
keep young and beautiful if you want to be loved.


Sunday, March 21, 2004

Small Change

I had a long talk the other night with an old boyfriend (as old as me anyway) and the most satisfying thing about it, besides his obvious good health and continued success, was the pure pleasure I felt at the fact that he really hasn't changed at all. After the nearly 20 years that have gone by since we were an item, he was entirely familiar to me.
It's a comforting thought in a cold, calculating world, that there are some people (and some things) that can be counted on to stay the same. A good same - still funny, still hopeful, still looking at the world and describing it (even those distressing differences and changes) in much the same language, punctuating those thoughts with a laugh unchanged by the passage of time. A genuinely good person, who hasn't decided to add cynicism and bitterness to those few gray hairs or additional pounds. (And looks even handsomer with 'em...)
When I think of the terrible changes that have occurred in the last 20 or so years of my life and particularly about the people who have died (the ultimate buzzkill change) what I think most about is the surprise I imagine they'd feel at the way the world has chosen to evolve.
For my mum, gone more than 20 years now, forget explaining the internet, CD ROMs and car seats that warm at the push of a button, it's trying to find the words to describe 9/11, the second (or even the first, come to think of it) Bush presidency, and the enthusiastic return to bigotry - now so juicily enjoyed not only in the more undeveloped parts of the world, but with so much dark and gleeful zeal here in the West. (You would have to go into very great detail and perhaps have to provide supplementary reference materials to explain to her the steadily growing loss of freedoms Americans seem so quietly willing to accept, untroubled by any silly old Bill of Rights/Constitutional issues.)
For my father, who's been dead almost 10 years, it's actually the technolgical innovations that would have fascinated him most. For a man who was on the internet in the early 90's, he'd be gratified to see the ever-exponentially increasing wealth of information and services made available, and pretty much indifferent and unsurprised by the porn and bullshit. He'd have immediately ordered up all the newly published books from the library with just a few mouseclicks, and all from the cozy comfort of his own home. The move to communicating almost exclusively by email would have provided him, an inveterate and witty letter writer, with quicker and easier communication with his fellow correspondents. And if he and my wicked stepmother had been separated by divorce rather than death, he would have plunged whole-heartedly into online dating. He would have been impressed by the greater opportunity to connect with his fellow man... and the corresponding increase in available babes.
A former banker, he'd have hated the way that industry has gone - he always said that as banking itself moved into the future, the only thing that would provide any meaningful measure by which to distinguish our financial institutions, would be their commitment to service and the personalized treatment offered to their customers. He used to think the Toronto Dominion (Now TD Canada Trust - sorry dad!) was marginally the best - I'm not sure he'd notice any differences at all now. He would likely have pronounced it disturbingly Orwellian, and probably have made some grumbling, mumbling reference to the suspicious similarity between pigs and men.
As a gadget-lover he would have been tickled at the usefulness of GPS, cellphone and Blackberry technology, and as a keen follower of scientific news, he would have been over the moon at the unlocking of the genetic code.
As a dying man, the possibilities of stem cell research might have interested him most of all.
I used to collect china horses when I was little, then dictionaries, and until quite recently, it was an overweaning interest in shoes (it's so been there, done that, Sex and the City over ) but now my collection is invisible to the naked eye and for the increase in shelf and closet space alone, I'm grateful.
Now I collect attachments - attachments to the great things that haven't changed.
A sampling:
- Great restaraunts in New York
- The Sunday Times
- The New York Times Review of Books
- The Simpsons
- Brick houses and leafy tree-lined streets in Toronto
- Architecture in Montreal and Quebec City
- Sunshine on a freezing day in Calgary
- The Rockies
- Homemade butter tarts
- Candlelight
- Pringle cashmere sweaters
- Barbour waxed jackets
- Classic handbags
- Chanel perfume
- Clubhouse sandwiches
- MacDonalds fries
- Diet Coke
- Soft-shelled crabs
- A brand new uncracked Vogue magazine
- Reading (and eating) in bed
- Dogs
- Old boyfriends

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

I'd Like to Kiss You But I Just Washed My Hair

Kids today, eh?
I mean, what's up with that? With them?
Selfish, self-centred, self-involved little teen-zine freaks. More money than sense, less taste than Thrills gum, with attention spans that rival a goldfish in a teeny tiny fishtank.
Actually, (which is word one of the schools I attended didn't think was appropriate for use until at least the age of sixteen) I'm crazy about kids. Big fat juicy ones, little skinny slimy ones - whatever's on offer, I'm up for. But their heros and heroines leave a very great deal to be desired - who can blame kids for not having all that very much to aspire to?
Reams have been written on the horrors of pre-pubescent girls gasping after the lifestyles and wardrobes of Brittany, Christina and Jessica; the attentions of Justin and Lance and Nick; not to mention the wealth of Mary Kate and Ashley.
And now little Hilary Duff, a fluffier little teen idol than whom there has likely never been seen, has just launched her very own fashion empire (at Zellers here in Canada) and standards for integrity, style and excellence have just dropped that little infinitesimal bit lower. A plague on her and all her bendable-limbed, lookalike doll-inspiring cohorts.
It's time to introduce the younger set to those whose words and acts and gestures evoked mystery and magic, rather than cheap perfume and sleazy clothes.
There's no law that says we have to admire within the bounds of our own generation or time.
When I wanted to find someone of substance - and fire and music and magic, I went back about seventy years and an entire century (which I assure you was before my time; all my crowd had to look up to was Laurie Partridge and Marie Osmond... we was robbed) - to a time when female role models were more likely to spit in your eye than sell you their eponymously named scent; to Carole Lombard and Vivienne Leigh - and my personal favourite - Bette Davis.
Still modern , still fascinating, still with something to contribute, even dead and even after all these years.
But I'm not gong to justify my love - I'll let the words of the grand dame speak for themself. Because when all is said and done ('at the end of the day' having been done to death) it's what we say and how we say it, that's left behind to remind us of who we once were - and who we could inspire others to be.
Bette Davis is such a one.

From her films:

"Funny business a woman's career. The things you drop on your way up the ladder-so you can move faster-you forget you'll need them again when you go back to being a woman. That's one career all females have in common whether we like it or not. Being a woman. Sooner or later we've got to work at it, no matter what other careers we've had or wanted. And in the last analysis nothing is any good unless you can look up just before dinner-or turn around in bed-and there he is. Without that, you're not a woman. You're something with a French provincial office-or a book full of clippings. But you're not a woman. Slow curtain. The end."

"Oh, Jerry, we have the stars, let's not ask for the moon. "

"Infants behave the way I do, you know. They carry on and misbehave-they'd get drunk if they knew how-when they can't have what they want. When they feel unwanted or insecure-or unloved."

"What a dump!"

"I'll admit I may have seen better days... but I'm still not to be had for the price of a cocktail, like a salted peanut."

"Heaven help me. I love a psychotic!"

"Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy night!"

"I'd like to kiss ya, but I just washed my hair."

And from her own life:

"Love is not enough. It must be the foundation, the cornerstone - but not the complete structure. It is much too pliable, too yielding."

"This became a credo of mine...attempt the impossible in order to improve your work."

"I am doomed to an eternity of compulsive work. No set goal achieved satisfies. Success only breeds a new goal. The golden apple devoured has seeds. It is endless."

"I was thought to be 'stuck up.' I wasn't. I was just sure of myself. This is and always has been an unforgivable quality to the unsure."

"My passions were all gathered together like fingers that made a fist. Drive is considered aggression today; I knew it then as purpose."

"To fulfill a dream, to be allowed to seat over lonely labor, to be given the chance to create, is the meat and potatoes of life. The money is the gravy. As everyone else, I love to dunk my crust in it. But alone, it is not a diet designed to keep body and soul together."

Now that's a role model.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004


There's a 'D' word I'm looking for to describe the stage we appear to be at in the deflection of criticism of the high flying representative to Her Majesty in Canada, Adrienne Clarkson, and said GG's faithful steed (or stud) John Ralston Saul. And no it's not disgraceful, disgusting or despicable (can you hear Daffy Duck? "Disshhpickable!") its more like 'disengenuous'. But now that i think about it, it's disgraceful, disgusting and disshhpickable! too.
Over the past year, the spending habits of her and him-self have received justifiable crtical attention. When a 'circumpolar' PR tour/junket designed to bring Canadian culture along with 22 staffers, the GG, her consort and 59 'prominent Canadians' (a one of which your average Canadian on the street would be hard-pressed to identify) to Russia, Iceland and Greenland exceeded the already over-inflated price of a million or so by another 4 million dollars, taxpayers were naturally curious. Now that recent reports detail the use of government planes to whisk the dollar-grubbing duo to their holiday home in Georgian Bay, those who bottom-line foot the bill, have ramped up from curiousity to: 'What the ****?' Though bless us, we've long since forgotten/forgiven the costs charged back for extensive renos for the private quarters within the GG's home base when she ascended to the throne in '99, not to mention a variety of other odds and sods that add up to approximately $41 million dollars.
Money well spent, says the former TV talk show host. And why is everybody picking on me?
My newspaper of record quotes Her Madge as defending her right to spend millions upon millions of dollars of your money and mine as she sees fit, by blaming media messengers for egregious errors in reportage. Her selfless missions of mercy to outlying communities (apparently not those in cottage country) are deeply important. And whether someone criticizes her for them or not, she intends to continue to minister to said plebes.
The problem as I understand it, is that nobody save La Clarkson has even mentioned the visits to cut-off communities, or ceremonies like the blessing of fishing boats in Cartwright Labrador as a symptom of the outrageous cost overruns emanating from her official residence. I can't imagine they would. But Adrienne clearly thinks differently - her generosity in visiting the remote and the remaindered, in her estimation, has been attacked.
"A lot of little ceremonies [in remote places] that people say, 'What's the importance of that? Who cares about those little things?'" she harumphs, building up a head of indignant steam. "The people who live there care about them, and because I'm Governor-General, I care about it with them."
Such touching sentiment on behalf of the ill and un-considered huddled masses in faraway locales would be moving indeed - had anybody made any such accusations either directly or by insinuation. Trouble is, nobody has. Moot point - or 'bullshit', as the less vocabularily-gifted among us might describe it.
The justifications she and hubby John Ralston Saul (or John Ralston Purina, as the wags would have it) would be funny if they weren't so clearly self-serving. Bait and Switch, obfuscation, distraction - whatever you want to call it, taxpayers seem to be supporting less a representative of Canada, then a sideshow hustler.
Like guessing which pea resides under which cup, or which Joker is arrayed in which position in a three card con, this cynical bit of misdirection is but one in a seemingly bottomless pit of imaginative invention.
And don't think He of dogfood fame hasn't chipped in his two cents (the only affordable costs counted so far) as just the other day, Ralston Saul
appeared on television to defend his mate by answering questions about the couple's questionable use of government funds for personal enterprises, by attacking yet another messenger.
This time CITY TV's Ann Rohmer was the target.
When asked specifically if Clarkson took the government plane on multiple occasions to reach her private destination, Saul responded with a question.
“When is the last time you've been to the north?” he demanded. “Have you been to 41 Arctic communities?”
Rohmer was forced to remind Ralston Saul that in all honesty, she wasn't the Governor General.
One can only hope it didn't come as a complete surprise to the writer and crabby offical companion.
It doesn't look as though we're likely to receive straight answers - or at least those unpunctuated with whines, counter-accusations or excuses - any time soon. We can only hope the current parlimentary review will come up with some explanation... some future guidelines... even some small reason to forestall Canadians hauling the GG through the streets of Ottawa like an aristocrat dragged through the streets of Paris during the French revolution. (A comparison, if not an activity A. Clarkson is bound to enjoy.)
But hey - were used to it; scandal, patronage, out-right stealing from the public pocket - we now know beyond a shadow of a doubt that government integrity is an oxymoron, the emporer has no clothes and the crown is hollow.
Empty G.G. indeed.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Maritally Challenged

I'm single.
This comes as no surprise, naturally, to friends and family - the people who know me and (to my everlasting gratitude and surprise) love me. Even my neighbours could offer a pretty accurate picture of my living circumstances should the police or the tabloids, or a biographer knock upon their door.
I, it seems, am the only person living in a state of semi-permanent shock that life has turned out this way. Or more accurately, hasn't turned out another.
There was a time when I was engaged (translation: 3 times) which probably more than anything contributed to my mistaking singlehood as a temporary state; just one more diamond ring away from settling down with the hoard. As it turned out, I was just that one diamond ring (emerald cut, set in platinum) wrong. So reading recently of a potential bride who ran screaming from a televised, surprise ballpark proposal (scoreboard lights, hopeful groom dressed as a chicken or some other such mascot - trailing only sticking the ring in a restaurant dessert as the way to suggest living together forever in holy matrimony) made me realise the error of my ways. ('She said NO!' screamed the scoreboard as the chicken stood alone in wilted dismay.)
Now that I'm officially 'The New 35' (translation: early 40's) I'm beginning to take my spinster status seriously - with the result that I live in shrinking horror of my uncertain, seemingly exiled to Lonely-town future. And if she's not careful , the runaway chicken-shirker might be in danger of moving in next door.
So shoot me for being dramatic. Fact is, I'm finally coming smack dab up against reality - the reality that I'm living wrong; I took an accidental turn at some point, on some twisty, barely-trod path that led inexhorably to this place - a place that neither marketeers, nor demographics experts view with anything other than headshaking pity. Lonelytown (unadjacent to Funkytown, trust me): that crazy, whacked-out locale, somewhere between Yikes!burg and Nowheresville.
Like characters in a Stephen King novel (or roaches in a trap) citizens check in, but after the age of 'The New 35', rarely check out.
Certainly there are other men and women living alone, but they're the fortunate - those with a ruined marriage, or the devastating loss of a partner in their past. Lucky bastards. Folks that fit neatly and nicely into easily recognizable, appropriately identifiable categories. Having had a wife or a husband gives you street cred; an address in Lonelytown denotes your secret shame.
(And now that gays are getting married, shutters are going up on neighbouring windows once nattily curtained and swagged, and For Sale signs are hammered into lawns with more bravado than hope that anyone will choose to buy in.)
They're not making movies about us (even The Runaway Bride got hitched) nor designing cars for our special needs (in some provinces there's a bylaw against selling us minivans) nor are they creating delicious meals for one. (Those individual TV Dinners are for divorced men - and don't let anyone try to tell you different.) We're off the map, out of the survey, exiled to a box ticked 'other'.
I know - you're thinking of exceptions, but you'd be wrong: Club Med (strictly for the young and/or divorced, and/or adultrous) Stouffer's Lean Cuisine (secretly destined for families too busy to cook, and too unpleasingly plump to risk the Colonel) and double beds (too small for a couple, true - just the right size, however, for an old maid and two cats.)
Here's what is on offer to we of little hope:
Yorkshire Terriers: compact, apartment-sized creatures, nearly human, horribly judgemental - just what we deserve.
I have one.
Large one-bedroom apartments: once you've named your disease, the relief in just accepting your fate and needing no more than one parking space ever, is comforting.
I live in one.
Reality-based television programming (see below): for those without a life, an entire TV schedule of pseudo-living.
I watch it.
Large package tour cruise ships: depressing, distressing, and all you can eat.
I have nightmares about it.
My fate is sealed.
But for those of you who fit into the age group designated as The New 20's (translation: your 30's) I advise you to run, run as fast as you can to altar, town hall or drive-thru chapel of love. If you see a giant chicken gaining on you, unglove your left hand and flex the third finger.
Learn from my example, or sure as your 50's are The New 40's, I'll see you in the buffet line on a Carnival Cruise.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

It's Not Easy Being Green

Far from enjoying a frisson of pleasure at discovering the cleverness, or brilliance, or aptness of someone else's work, I rarely feel anything other than an unpleasantly familiar sinking sensation. (And it pisses me off that someone came up with the absolutely perfect phrase to describe that elevator-going-down physical manifestation of recognition and jealousy.)
I am sick to the back teeth, had it up to here, mad as hell and can’t take it any more furious that people keep coming up with great ideas - and I don’t.
Case in point: this morning’s newspaper. Happily skimming through the news of the day and sunnily enjoying the guilty pleasure of just a hint ‘o schadenfreude at the falling fortunes of a couple of shamed politicians, fired TV Host Mike Bullard, and perennial dolt Dilbert, I came across a review of a recently released book on the (generally ignored) topic of the proper use of grammar and punctuation.
It’s a touchy subject for me anyway; I know a few of the rules, but conduct my writing life with a sort of dueling banjos, idiot savant style of playing by ear. I’m often right. And often wrong – but when I am, I don’t know it and blithely move on to the next misplaced modifier or dangling something or other. Tra la la, la la….
So anyway, this tome wouldn’t have bothered me overmuch had it not had an absolutely fabulous title: Eats, Shoots and Leaves with the image of a cartoon Panda messing around with a comma. The meaning is explained in a fairly well known, well-worth-a-laugh joke having to do with the antics of a Panda who goes to a restaurant, eats a sandwich, kills someone with a gun and strolls out the door. Clearly, had he not been led astray by a misplaced comma in a wildlife handbook, he would have undoubtedly have been found somewhere in China with a mitt full of bamboo and a satisfied expression on his adorable bandit face.
It’s only the perfect title for such a book: catchy, funny, and after taking a moment to get it, a relationship has already developed between author and reader. The subtext is – we get each other, we laugh at the same things, aren’t we droll? Do you like Pina Coladas? The purchase is virtually guaranteed and visions of buzz-producing press conferences, rave reviews and unheard of sales figures, coupled with a 'goes without saying' nod to the author’s humour, intelligence and cleverness leave me with a taste in my mouth somehow reminiscent of the juice at the bottom of an old jar of cocktail onions. This is the taste of gall.
I’m irked.
And now it all comes flooding back: Helen Fielding’s knowing, original style with Bridget Jones’s Diary – imagine organizing a journal-type novel by noting the heroine’s daily weight, and alcohol and cigarette intake? It’s brilliant is what it is. I hate her. And how about the head-bangingly, breathtakingly, fantastic title of Dave Eggers’ debut book - A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. I wanted to kill him when I first heard of it. I still sort of do… And Jay McInerny’s breakout hit with Bright Lights, Big City at the hideously, impossibly, wickedly young age of 26? Granted, that success has been mitigated by subsequent mediocrity, but the fact remains that if he once had what it took to do something like Bright Lights, he gets to know that about himself forever.
I seethe.
I feel like Salieri reading The Vienna Bugle the morning after the opening of yet another brilliant Mozart concert; Tonya Harding watching Nancy Kerrigan triumph in Lillehammer; I am all of Scarlett O’Hara’s sisters rolled into one.
I’m jealous.
And this is to be my gift to the world? My special, second-to-none talent? The ability to spot that which is good and feel that which is bad?
I’m going to need another cocktail onion – and a cocktail to go with it.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Reality Life

I'm not embarrassed to admit I watch reality-based television programming.
I am slightly embarrassed that I'm not embarrassed.
What happened to my pride? My self esteem? My too cool for school, too socially desirable to have time to watch television, much less crappy, cheaply made, humiliation as amusement-type shows persona?
(And it's not as if I don't discern; you'd never carch me watching America's Funniest Home Videos, or Regis and Kelly - or The Royal Canadian Air Farce. I have standards!)
And who has time to think about such things, when a brand new Reality program is about to begin?
Playing it Straight, which debuts tonight on the Fox network, pits sweet n' single Jackie against 14 potential mates, all in the name of love... and a million dollars. (A million dollars. Every time I hear the ubiquitous sum announced as the prize for outwitting or outlasting or out-bitching fellow contestants, I have an image of the Austin Powers franchise star Dr Evil in my head: "One miiiiiilliiiiioooonnnnn dollars!" the decades later thawed-out evil mastermind demands for not destroying the world - only to discover that like everything, inflation has hit evil geniuses, and the cost of the world has increased a billion-fold or so. But for reality-based television programming the cost of literally selling out your grandma to win - and it's been done, as dedicated Survivor-ites can attest - remains stuck at a chill mil.)
But Jackie has a tough row to hoe in winkling out her perfect mate (ostensibly more important than the dough... puhleaze...) as she discovers that an undisclosed number of her suitors are (gasp) gay and hellbent on foolin' her. The producers are no doubt sure that this little winkle wrinkle will have viewers tuning in with gobsmacked abandon each and every week. For myself, one viewing will probably suffice; as a Reality program afficianado, before I commit, I taste and savour before spitting out (or spitting on) the tasteless offerings.
I'd much prefer to have seen the cable series upon which Playing it Straight is nominally based. On Boy Meets Boy, a gay man was the focus of the show that provided him with 15 potentials, some of whom (he was unaware) were straight! Now that's a show where drama, laughter, tears and triumph could ensue with unmatched panache and Queer Eye style. A better dressed, better coiffed, better able to rip their co-competitors to hilarious shreds group, was doubtless never gathered together. Excepting the straights of course; to my way of thinking, it's a mighty rare straight man who could not only dish a guy, but do him... even at the prospect of 'one miiiiilllliiiioooonnn dollars!'.
My career with Reality (the capital 'R' distinguishes the televised from the non-Nielson rated human consciousness-based) began as it no doubt did for most of you, with the original Survivor. After that, appetite whetted, Big Brother entered my life, followed by - I hope I'm getting this chronologically accurate - the first in the series of The Bachelors, followed by a couple of The Bachelorettes, then the Average Joes and so on and so forth until we arrive at the gay/straight shows that will now presumably litter the dial until some other permutation of man/woman, pretty/ugly, gay/straight occurs to this new generation of overnight millionaire producers. (Who, it is hoped, have listened to their moms and are saving their pennies for the rainy days when some new cable phenomenon will send second-rate Reality into the recycling bin of TV history. I don't see a museum retrospective of this shite showing up anytime soon. Save blooper shows, of course...)
The observant amongst you will have no doubt registered the absence of a couple of programs many think fit the requirements of the Reality list: American (and obviously, to a lesser extent, Canadian) Idol, and the really observant - or possibly shut-in contingent of readers - will be searching for a mention of 'Joe Schmo'. Sorry, gentle readers, I won't place any of those on the Reality Register. The Idols are based on talent (or the imagined hilarious lack of it) and 'Joe Schmo' was a joke. Though I admit I enjoyed what I saw of it; kudos to the casting bods who managed to find what appeared to be a genuinely innocent sweet slob, and by doing so, removing nearly all the nasty sting at the final reveal.
I've also nixed The Apprentice,Fear Factor and My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance; the first because it has yet to complete an initial series, the second because it's gross, the third because it was stupid. Hey - it's my list.
But now I've both good news and better news to report. A new program was recently shopped to networks, then pitched to the precise principles upon which it would be based. The good news is it's not gonna happen. The better news is, we've heard about it, so without the smell and the mess of having to actually see it, we can instead imagine what weekly madcap antics Liza Minnelli and David Gest would have displayed had they agreed to argue their divorce (and contractually agree to meekly accept the verdict of the jury) as they were offered the opportunity to do on "Celebrity Justice". It's just too delicious to imagine - and too horrifying to contemplate actually watching.
Because that's where I draw my line in the Malibu Beach sand of Reality TV; I like it clean - or as clean as the filthy dirty, wicked, alliance-betraying, machination-fixated, lying, cheating, no holds barred, honest competition of Survivor and Big Brother display.
The others are crap - and I cannot imagine why you people waste your time watching them.
Get a life!

Thursday, March 11, 2004

The Rich (Girls) are Different From You and Me

If you were just about to spend your hard earned, less-than-a-man-makes-doing the-same-job dough on some sort of musical entertainment type product, STOP. Keep your Vuitton knock-off snapped shut just a little while longer.
Page Six breathlessly reports today that larger than life – though so nutritionally challenged it’s a wonder she has the strength to tote around a Chihuahua in miniature boots and a $7000 Hermes handbag – Hilton heiress Paris, is poised to release her new single titled ‘Screwed’.
Now let’s be clear: there’s no way on God’s green earth – or even in the Bizarro universe - you could ever hope to resemble anyone remotely like Paris Hilton (even with the hair of an entire poverty stricken Third World village transformed into dyed blonde extensions glued to your tiny head) but think - you might be able to own a little of the skinny socialite's mystique by purchasing her pearls of musical wisdom.
But be warned - they’re likely better packaged than they are performed; the worst kept secret of the obscenely wealthy is that with enough family money, the qualities of talent, experience and hard work are unnecessary – the world is already your oyster. (A magical oyster that burps out whole strings of perfectly matched and graded Mikimoto pearls, rather than the lacklustre singles thee and me might hope to prise from a toughened shell.)
So what’s wrong with privilege and plenty? Nothing - so long as you don’t take us not-so privileged plodders on a ride as you glide over us on your relentless (yet short-haul) limo trip to the top.
The rich girls really are different from you and me.
It’s not the same with rich boys – the bad lads tend toward the screw-up, the drug addict or the womanizer. The good ones toward knowing their limitations.
(You won’t catch Ben Mulroney aspiring to a career more challenging than asking Paris Hilton how she feels about being rich and… being Paris. The Trudeau boys have gone the radical route of actually getting themselves educated, getting jobs and working for a living whilst popping up every now and again to lend their names and their efforts to worthy causes.)
It’s the girls who keep their eyes on the prizes.
Scion-ette Belinda Stronach – she of the Magna megabucks – evinces no such restraint. She’s decided to parlay her experience as a highly placed executive (emphasis on the ‘placed’) in her father’s company into a position at the Prime Ministerial pinnacle of Canadian government.
Troubled thoughts of zero experience crease her botoxed brow not at all. According to Belinda, not having experience is really the best experience of all. No need to tread the path of the meanie-pants cynics. She clearly believes if you’ve never done anything at all – not gamely contributed quietly behind the scenes, nor worked to support a fellow pol, nor considered the radical notion of actually running as an MP first – it all adds up to one thing: leadership material.
Don’t know French? No problem. Haven’t spent time with the plebeian grass roots of your organization? Relax. Unable to answer any questions more complex than “What would be the main policy of your administration if you were elected Prime Minister?” (More good, less bad is the strategy I hear.) Don’t worry your pretty head. You’re a rich girl – go for it!
And cheque this out – you don’t have to be born into the ‘no need to ask, you can afford it’ wealthy world to make good on someone else’s money.
Right now in downtown Toronto, Millionaire Canadian fashion designer, and arguable idiot Peter Nygaard is being sued for additional child support payments from one of his various ex-lovers for an increase in payments for one of his various children.
Former flight attendant Kaarina Pakka has dragged the style mogul (or more accurately, his legal advocates) into an increasingly uncivil suit, arguing that her teenaged son deserves to live in a style to which he has yet to become accustomed. After watching an episode of 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' (I am not making this up) the child wanted to know why he couldn’t live in a fantasy Bahamian bachelor pad, just like dad – or failing that, why his mother couldn’t set aside the $15,000 a month she was currently receiving from Nygaard, in exchange for an increased $68,000 a month and a further $5.5 million in retroactive payments.
Detailed questioning in court revealed many of the expenses and reasons for this increase. For one, they need a new car.
“A minivan is not appealing to a 16 year old boy,” was the ‘Duh’ explanation Pakka offered. And further she wailed, the child had been forced for reasons of parsimony to wear second hand clothes. After all, a great deal of money was required for renovations on the sprawling $700,000 lakefront Oakville manse she had purchased for the two to hunker down in – and they had yet to build the requisite sauna in the basement.
I’m sure had Nygaard been in court yesterday, he might have become involved in a spirited discussion on the nature of a mother’s choices – and they might have agreed on at least one point: the priorities had ended up somewhere warm and moist.
It’s just a little disheartening - and not a pretty picture.
With so many women working so hard to break into traditionally male-dominated bastions like politics, so many eking out truly diminished lives while they attempt to encourage their deadbeat exes to come up with something approaching a fair share for their genuinely needy children, and so many starving artists (save those on the various Idol extravaganzas) struggling to get just the tiniest minim of recognition for their years of practice and hard work, watching those given so much, do so disingenuously little with it – and expect so much in return from the rest of us - is unattractive in the extreme.
And that's the downside of being a rich girl; nobody works very hard to understand you!
But in the meantime, as we trudge along limo-less in our less than glamourous, decidedly pedestrian lives, it will be interesting to watch the Hilton heiress promote her single; depending on how hard Paris works, quite a few people could get ‘Screwed’.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

If I Had A Club...

Think of me as a female Will Rogers (but cute... and less cornpone - if I were corn, I'd be Peaches and Cream. And if I were a tree I'd be...) it was Rogers who said:"All I know is what I read in the newspapers" - but what I read in today's newspaper made me wonder if somebody hadn't pulled an elaborate switcheroo, and instead of the March 10, 2004 edition I felt sleepily safe in expecting, slapped a copy of The Toronto Star circa 1945 on my front doorstep early this a.m..
On the front page of section 2 (or B, or GTA or whatever...) as large as life and twice as 'Too Good For the Likes of You' - a shot of the venerable front gates of that bastion of patrician Toronto society: The Rosedale Golf Club. Below the image capturing the elegant gatepost and long sweeping driveway, unravels the story of former general manager Michael Geluch, who as I write is warming a seat at his specially reserved table, smack dab at the front of the courtroom, where day three of his wrongful dismissal trial is underway.
Geluch's civil suit would be unlikely to raise interest, much less eyebrows or boldface if it weren't for the fact that at the core of his defence is his contention that the club (hereinafter referred to as 'the club') divested themselves of his services not, as they allege, because he was over-familiar with female staff or light-fingered with the club's food and wine, but rather because he fought what he saw as the potential blackballing of membership applicant George Cohon when the McDonald's Canada President applied in 1996, and again successfully, in 1997.
Mr Cohon, he alleges the club alleged - is Jewish.
A Jew so powerful, he could possibly " the floodgates to allowing more Jewish members." (A segment of society that has, coincidentally, not enjoyed access since the club's inception in 1897.) The fear that this possibility clearly struck into the hearts of the club's membership committee was apparantly a vision almost too horrendous to imagine. (It's interesting that they also noted that Mr Cohon was "...loud, aggressive, and not a very good golfer.")
I personally don't know the truth of this matter - whether Geluch, employed by the club for 12 years, pinched food and secretaries with equal abandon (though for such a crappy employee, the club was generous enough to provide him with an $8000 bonus in addition to his $137,000 annual salary only the year before Mr Cohon had the unmitigated gall to apply for membership) whether he lied about the membership committee's satement about Cohon's potential Moses-like, thin-edge-of-the-wedge abilities to bring in carloads of putter-armed Jews, or even if Mr Cohon is a lousy golfer, with a shrill voice, and the manners of a pushy buffet line cutter-inner.
All of these things remain a mystery to me.
But apparently the report of a no-Jews policy at Rosedale is accurate. Here in Toronto in 2004, there is an institution that unashamedly (if not completely transparently) discriminates against Jews. A club wherein behind its gilded gates, runs an undercurrent that supports the worst, ugliest, most ignorant form of racism that (I pray) we've all been praying for to end to since it was quite openly practiced for much of the last century.
Canada has a lot of dirty little secrets - some not so secret - and our record for accepting Jewish refugees both during and following the second World War is a record steeped in shame. When I came to Toronto 12 years ago, I was told there was a core of anti-semites in some of the swankiest homes and businesses in the city. I didn't believe it. No society is immune to stupidity and ignorance, but surely, I thought, no educated, modern, unbelievably lucky society of individuals would support openly - or even covertly - racism against its fellow citizens. It just didn't make logical sense.
But since then I have heard and seen just that. From the educated - lawyers, doctors, professionals of all stripes - the crudest sort of Jews are cheap, Jews are different, Jews aren't like you and I.... comments. Comments that I found even more offensive because they came from people who not only didn't check to see if I might be offended, but shared their insights in a manner that suggested we all knew this, we all thought this... we were all in this together. I made it clear then I hope - but just in case I didn't:
Fuck off you fucking fucked up fuckers (a beautifully evocative phrase I've stolen whole from a dear friend) you're on your own. Please feel free to stay that way.
At the end of the day (clearly telegraphing the end of this rant, eh?) clubs like The Rosedale Golf Club, and the people who join them, are - or should be identified as - anachronistic, misguided figures of pity (and maybe the recipients of a rotten tomato or two...) devoid of imagination, empathy and understanding.
The policy the members of this fancy schmancy golf club tolerate just isn't cricket.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004


The score of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado won't stop circling my mind like water down a plughole - and it's The Mikado himself who sings (if you can call what is required of a character in a G & S Operetta 'singing'):
"My object all sublime,
I shall achieve in time
To make the punishment fit the crime,
The punishment fit the crime!"
The libretto then goes on to elaborate on a series of crimes and criminals and the imaginative punishments created most especially for them; fairer, bien sur, than those traditionally meted out.
I like the one about the cheating pool player who gets locked up in a cell and can only play:
"On a cloth untrue,
With a twisted cue,
And elliptical billiard balls!"
"The advertising quack who wearies,
With tales of countless cures,
His teeth, I've enacted,
Shall all be extracted
By terrified amateurs!"
And The Mikado's a fun judge - you've got to love a guy whose final twist in the tale of judgment is:
"To make each prisoner pent
Unwillingly represent
A source of innocent merriment!
Of innocent merriment!"
Humiliation for them, entertainment for us: sounds fair to me.
What doesn't sound so very fair to me is the punishment so far exacted on Martha Stewart. And understand as I write this, I am surprised myself at the feelings of injustice that rise unbidden within my bosom on her behalf. Because the fact is, I don't like her - probably for much the same reasons most people don't like her;she strikes me as a bit of a phony, I've heard she's unpleasant to underlings, and her storied perfectionism just makes me feel exhausted and inadequate. Also, to be honest, I'm just the teensiest, weensiest bit... um - how shall I put it? Judgmental and punitive? That'll do. (And that might well be understating the decidedly unattractive adamancy of my opinions.)
For instance, I was the only soul in my group (and there are an unaccountably large contingent of conservatives in my posse) who was infuriated by former U.S. President Clinton for his behaviour during Monica-gate. I was disgusted, not by any sexual favours he may have dispensed or received (in, out, or hanging from a chandelier in the Oval Office) but rather by the fact that he lied about it. And that character flaw might not have bothered me overmuch had the lies not been in service to the saving of his own skin in a considerably more serious and disturbing matter - an investigation into allegations of sexual abuse he may or may not have committed against Paula Jones.
I could go on (Please? Please? Anyone want to hear more?) but that's a burr long worn out from the friction under my saddle and relevant only in that we're considering the divergent fates of two high profile people - one a public citizen, the other private; one a man, the other a woman; one a multi-millionaire, popular after dinner speaker and much admired bon vivant, and the other... following the loss of several hundreds of millions of dollars, her business, affiliations, respect and reputation, is this minute (with the help of a parole officer and in front of several hundreds of millions of citizens worldwide) contemplating a significant amount of time in a federal hoosegow. And I'm not the only one who has connected the dots (fashionable this season) between the two - the cable pundits (and where do they advertise those jobs, by the by?) have also made the connection - though their connection being: famous people under investigation and intense scrutiny - tee hee, giggle, giggle -ain't it awful? HOW ABOUT THEM RATINGS!!!!
So for me, it's the amount of vitriol, the volume of the discourse, the unconscionable glee of the commentators and the enormity of the personal loss that have set my internal alarm bells ringing like the insistent beating of The Telltale Heart.
It's too much. The punishment - and by all accounts, there's more to come, above and beyond the amount of time she'll be sentenced to in the near future - does most emphatically not, in my opinion, fit the crime.
How about:
"The proud domestic diva
Despised more than Babylon's whores,
Shall spend eternity,
Locked in the absurdity,
Of Walmart 'Designer' stores!"
Well, why not? I'd be satisfied. And I could get back to the business of heaping unsolicited judgment on other worthies. There's a whole sponsorship scandal to be mulling, an interesting presidential race brewing south of the 49th, not to mention it's Wild Card night on American Idol - and I've yet to have my second cup of coffee...

Monday, March 08, 2004


Perish the thought that I should be old enough to have actually seen 50's TV game show curiousity 'Queen for a Day' - but relentless (though youthful) trivial-ite that I am, the show and its creepy premise made quite an impression on me when I first heard about it some years ago. It had all the black and white, nostalgia-drenched, phony-baloney elements I imagined permeated television programming back then - and all the drama, tears and winner/loser juxtaposing that TV is so good at today. As a spectacle, a 'blast from the past' memory, and a rerun, I found the notion fascinating.
Recently, current TV talkshow sensation Oprah Winfrey has launched a similarly themed recurring episode, providing scepters, robes, tiaras and shiny gifts to the downtrodden. (Who can presumably now add 'humiliated' to their resume.) 50 years on, TV can provide an even better video-version of private tragedy, but in the years the original show was broadcast, even with the technological limitations of the era, the programs produced heroines with stories so hankie-wringingly tragic it was nearly impossible (though not quite) to avert your empathetically brimming eyes.
TV Guide called it 'The number 1 mesmerizer of middle-aged females and the most relentless dispenser of free washing machines'. Years later, its producer called it "Vulgar and sleazy and filled with bathos and bad taste; it was exactly what the public wanted.'
Actually, it was exactly what the producers wanted - it was a hit.
Back in the carefree 50's, women (no men allowed!) came to the Pantages Theatre in Los Angeles and vied for the free tickets that were handed out on the day of production. Standing in line to await entree to the studio theatre, the women were asked to write down their one 'wish' (clearly, those who asked for the program sponsor's appliances or goods had a better chance of seeing their dream come true) and would be given an impromptu interview to see just how shitty their lives were. The best (or worst) five stories were selected and the women brought up on stage to pitch their woe to America.
That was (and remains) the premise of Queen for a Day: the woman with the most heart-rending, pathetic, horrendous excuse for a life would be chosen (by audience applause-o-meter) to win the royal title and be gowned in velvet and ermine, topped with a gaudy crown and gratefully accept a washing machine as the culmination of her most fervent fantastical wishes... not to mention ample reward for her suffering.
It's hard to imagine a more grotesque spectacle; hard to imagine too, the woman who would want to parade her tragedies for all the world and her neighbours to see. (Harder still to imagine the feelings of the four women whose stories were deemed not quite dreadful enough to win. Did they get consolation prizes? Were they consoled?)
And producers were careful to ensure that all the disaster and failure-filled stories were real: some naughty contestants had in the past embroidered, or even created faux sadness out of whole cloth. One infers they would be summarily shown the meaning of true sadness and humiliation...
So now here we are - 2004 - modern times... The world has moved on and a washing machine will no longer provide the answer to harsh reality and the hideous vagaries of cruel chance.
These days, it takes at least a Minivan or an SUV.
And by now we've all heard of the most recently crowned queen of pity - Myriam Bedard. Though everyone now knows that the former Olympic champion is a) married, and b) the ostensible victim of diversionary tactics by a cornered politico, it's interesting that said politico thought the most damaging epithet he could sling around Bedard's neck was 'single mother'. His interpretation said it all: 'Pitiable'. I'm sure it stuck in many the craw of a single mother. I don't have a single child - though I am pitiably single myself - but my craw is just about filled to choking.
Then last night I found myself flipping channels, then flipping back, then sticking with - to the very heart-rending end - the presentation of a recent award-winning documentary on CBC Newsworld. A documentary that in its initial moments of viewing seemd to exemplify the very core and meaning of 'pitiable'.
Titled: "My Flesh and Blood" the doc covered a year in the life of an unusual American family: Susan Tom and her 11 adopted special needs children. I won't go into all the grim day to day detail - mostly because it's not so grim ('awe-inspiring' is the word that comes to mind) but suffice it to say that it's an unflinching insight into the life of one particular single mother and the children she loves so deeply: the little girls without legs; the little girl without many facial features - the result of a crib fire she survived as an infant; the little girl now entering her teens with the mental age of six; the boy suffering from a terminal, mind-boggling illness that causes his skin to erupt in agonising blisters from the slightest friction... the barest movement of his clothes on his skin sufficient to open a gaping sore; and the son who fought a daily battle with crippling mental illness, topped off with more than a painful soupcon of cystic fibrosis.
I could go on - there's lots more. But after beginning to watch it with much the same horror and fascination I would have approached an episode of 'Queen for a Day', I soon experienced a sensation much like Susan Tom's kids must experience every day: a sense of love and dedication and spirit and humour and patience and commitment and normalcy and hope and hard work and fun and... Majesty.

Sunday, March 07, 2004


Thank God for the royal family.
With the exception of the religious (bless their hearts) the professional (your basic fireman, policeman, fry-cook, squillionaire baseball player) and the environmentally challenged (that's us!) hats are clearly under suspicion... though actually over, or poised atop, exceedingly little.
Nobody (with the possible exception of the Queen) wears a hat - a proper hat - any more.
I'm just old enough to remember my father sporting a Fedora on his way to work in all seasons; my grandma had a hat (and bag and shoes) to match every outfit she possessed; and our pre-school picture books revealed adults wearing hats for virtually everything save sex and doing the dishes. You could identify a person by their hat. (Neat, eh? Those were the days when NOT being identified had yet to be understood as a human right. Or even a desire.)
Up until I was six or seven, I wore a little hat to church on Sunday. (Also gloves - and a small handbag in which there reposed a dime, a hankie and a hair comb.I remember wracking my brain trying to think of other little necessities to place in my purse. I've figured it out now,as my right shoulder - significantly lower than my left - bears mute testimony.)
But sometime in the sixties, general public hat-wearing went the way of the spat, the girdle and the suspender. Loose, free and easy went the thinking I guess - personally I never thought about it much.
But there was a headcovering that stayed; a headcovering that served many a purpose from concealment to protection and, so the thinking clearly went, transformed the wearer into something between Grace Kelly in a sportscar and Audrey Hepburn in a... well... in a sports car.
The scarf!
My mother wore them everywhere. Over curlers to conceal the fact hair curling was taking place, then over her curled hair to protect the integrity of those hard-earned curls. The style was Babushka circa 1901 - folded into a triangle, then knotted under the chin. I'm sure there were supermarkets stretching north of the 49th, south of the Mason-Dixon, side to side and everywhere in between, where not a single patron regularly grocery shopped un-scarved.
But as with the hat, at a certain point (possibly around the time hair curlers went the way of the hat and the spat, and so on...) scarves slowly slipped from our heads - only to reappear briefly in the 80's, tied or draped about our necks in a series of elaborate styles that required a video 'how-to' to perfect. (Luckily, the artful scarf soon joined the shoulder pad - another observation, for another time - in the dustbin of fashion history.)
But now the scarf is front and centre again. Topping the headlines - front page news, and the possible cause of rioting in the streets of Paris, where schoolgirls quietly observing their faith are being summarily ordered to remove the head-covering.
Or else.
Why the French have chosen to force the non-wearing of religious ephemera (crosses, stars of David and other religious-type jewellery over a certain inoffensive size also having been banned) to vouchsafe the 'principles of secularism and equality' loses me somewhere in the translation. I don't know if my high-school French could ever have been equal to the argument, because it appears as if it's not really about overlarge personal demonstrations of religion - it's about Muslims... it's about the headscarf. And so, ergo, QED - it's about girls. Potentially some of the most vulnerable individuals in any population.
I have no affiliation with any church - and no love for religion per se. It seems on all sides and all faiths (with the possible exception of Buddhism, though an exiled Tibetan might disagree) to be at the centre of all the agony and strife, misery, madness and killing in the world today - and pretty much always has been.
But those little girls.
Those girls whose religion - certainly at school-going age - is not a personal decision, right or choice, are being flung onto the front lines of a vicious adult confrontation. Whatever they believe - even whether they believe, or are mature enough to understand the argument, is unarguably still the informed and conscious choice of an older person.
I hope and wish and pray that some day, every little girl has the freedom to choose to wear, or not to wear a symbol of her religious affiliation. And that her family, her culture and her country of origin will make no choices on her behalf, or punish her for those choices... or even for making a choice - any choice - in the first place.
But until then - I suggest we all choose to take up the headscarf - for a day, or a month, or until a piece of triangular cloth no longer poses any threat whatsoever. Let's tie one on and show them choice. Let's show them freedom.
Let's show them support.
As Princess Anne is my witness, I'll never (or more acurately, until this gets sorted out) go scarf-less again.

Saturday, March 06, 2004


Nothing like a shot of reality with your morning paper to make the day explode with a whine. (i.e."Why is my life so shitty? What ever happened to being special... to destiny - a good destiny, natch - to simple justice? I want my life back - the good one, natch - and I want it back now! Oh - nearly forgot: the cash that went with it, if you'd be so kind.")
ITEM: Toronto Star, March 6, 2004 - Dateline: Toronto. (Page freakin' 2) 'More papers taking Ellie's good advice', and following, the story: how a simple, sweet, loving soul did the world a selfless favour by stepping into the abandoned Spring-o-lators of the ex ('cos she's dead) Ann Landers. A cool cloth on a fevered brow, a warm hug for the hugless, a sop to those who need 2 paragraphs and a 'You go girl' encouraging sign off to figure out whether or not they should leave the guy beating the shit out of them with the same approximate regularity as the Star publishes. (Answer - umm, yes.)
Ellie. The cow who took my column. No apologies, no explanations, not so much as a 'pardon me - do you mind if I take $15,000 from your pocket, the last half dozen unanswered letters from your readers, and your sense that all's right with the world?' No. Nope. None of that. Just a deadly silence punctuated by the mind-bending reality of pics of her smiling self decorating every bus, newspaper box and trash can (!) from here to eternity. (Or as The Star described it:From Collingwood to St Catherines.) But that was then. This A.M. it's simply the announcement that 20 more newspapers have signed on to my nightmare. (And hey, that's not just my nightmare - many of the journalistically inclined have confided that they have received the torture of a thousand cuts from her wicked - not wickedly - sharp tongue. Maybe they should have written a letter....?)
Am I bitter? Am I? Ummm, yes...
But I go on. I take a slurp of coffee, a nibble of toast (pumpernickel - low on the glycemic scale, I'm up on all the trends of the minute; I read the papers, I watch TV... to my everlasting sorrow) and wade through 20 or so more pages of real news - death, destruction, Martha - only to discover that an ex-roommate and one of the meanest girls I ever knew, is celebrating the 3000th episode of her nationally syndicated television program. A full page of The Star (MY Star) details with breathless wonder (if not totally accurate detail - if she's 45, I'm still playing with a hoop and stick) her unparralleled, un-hindered, UNBELIEVABLY (undeservedly!) wonderful, marvelous fantastic success story.
Bitter? Ummm...yes.
I'm practically a cocktail garnish. I could take on Angostura any time, any place. I'm ready for my wide-shot, fade to black, boo hoo hoo Mr DeMille... Mr DeMille? (Dead? Typical.)
The only remotely positive detail I can pick from the ruins of this morning is that the ex-roomie's plastic surgery has clearly gone radically wrong and The Star's editors are being somewhat economical with the truth (the confidence shared that half of the advice columnist's correspondants are male and between the demographically worshipped ages of 20 to 45 doesn't seem altogether... well, accurate exactly) and so encouraged, I turn to world news, my horoscope, The Family Circus, and Mayor David Miller's success. (Bastard. Actually, I really like him; worked on his campaign... but right now success - other people's that is - is a concept I'm just not getting jiggy with this morning.)
I finish the paper. I make another cup of coffee. I sign on to my computer, check my email and discover this fabulous blog - up and running and just waiting for my scintillating thoughts. Understand there's no money, no recognition and at this point absolutely no readers, but there is room to vent. To blow and bluster, whine and whimper, gnash and gnatter - a place to stand, a place to grow ('Ontaryaryary-O!') a place to see if my thoughts and observations hang together in anything resembling a remotely interesting style. So, give me a minute, and I'll just go to the top and read it all back........
(Later) Well, it's all it promised to be - whiney, complaining and umm, yes... bitter. Yikes.
I may just be on to something...!