Sunday, April 23, 2006

Prime Minister Poodle

With temperatures swinging between the high hot teens and the warm, damp pre-teens (kids today…) there really isn’t much doubt: spring has arrived in all its burgeoning pulchritudinous glory, so I say, chances are summer will absolutely, surely, almost certainly likely follow.
I don’t like to be too definite about these things – global warming warnings aside, things are clearly changing out there. We may have to add a new season if only to acknowledge the truth of the heat.
What’s after summer and before fall? Based on the last few years, hell sounds about right by temperature, but hell being a permanent place rather than a transient season, more imagination is required.
Sahummer? Sort of halfway between summer and Sahara? ehn. But since it’ll be at least a couple of decades before we experience full-on desert conditions, I’m plumping for ‘simmer’: summer, almost at - but just off - the boil. Ask anyone who’s stuck their finger in a pot on the bubble – it’s still plenty hot enough to burn.
So it’s time to welcome warmth. Time to disrobe, peel off and strip down.
Most importantly, it’s time to change shoes. Discard socks, throw off hose – and dive into the blistery pleasures of open-toed shoes, sandals and flip flops. I’ve missed my flip flops.
But there are other flip flops I’ve been missing even more. The brave and the quietly, slowly bold – those of the sober second though – the human flip floppers.
If Canada’s newest leader and America’s current and arguably most destructive, the practice of changing one’s mind – or admitting one’s mistakes (or telling the truth) – will remain dead and buried along with those who have lost their lives at the whim of those who pride themselves on split-second decision making.
Personally, I respect flip floppers. Love ‘em with a passion equaled only by the passion of those with whom I disagree love singularity of thought. All my fears that Canada risked electing a leader who aped the worst of the US president’s qualities are gradually materializing.
Beginning with a cabinet and caucus-wide directive that threatens those who disagree publicly with the PM or diverge from any part of the conservative party line with firing or public humiliation, Steven Harper is the iron fist in the iron glove.
(Fully equipped with, according to some wags, a mid-section masquerading as his very own wrought-iron pot belly stove.)
Disturbingly, some journalists have identified these qualities of absolute control and naked power-wielding as responsible for the early perceived successes of the new government. If ‘success’ means appearing to be united without the boring, though necessary requirement of actually being united is the definition, well, then yes.
But how can that not suck?
And how sad must it be now for all those recently elected Tories, excited as kids at summer camp, rubbing their little hands together and chortling with glee as they imagined what they’d say if the voting public would just give them half a chance. Now they know. Nothing. At least nothing that hasn’t been, scripted, tested, checked, re-checked and sanitized for the convenience of conformity – and all that that implies.
One opinion now, and only one. Top down, single-minded, unchanging, unwavering, unapologetic.
Presidential even.
It’s this that confounds me. The immense pride these leaders take in announcing that unlike their rivals they always make up their minds at warp(ed) speed and once made, never change them. The very act of reconsidering a position or plan based on anything from new information to results is sneered at with the same contempt as is asking for advice, working toward compromise, or even letting experts, (let’s say for example, UN arms inspectors) complete their job and report on their findings.
A little slower decision making, a little more information gathering and possibly even a retreat from an erroneously held position and who knows how many wars could remain un-fought, how many more kids provided with safe affordable daycare, how many policies re-thought and polished. How much better, how much more flexible and unrestricted life could be.
The triumph of the new government is further demonstrated by the perceived success of the recent trips the PM and his erstwhile rival and current Foreign Affairs Minister Peter McKay took down south.
What’s been billed as a new closer relationship with the US is on closer examination what looks to be an exercise in flat out obsequiousness. Anyone seeing Peter McKay practically blush and flutter his eyelashes at US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice (I was blushing at any rate) as he drooled over her career and accomplishments, shamelessly sucking up as he described a friendship so chemically, so karmically simpatico, and as he got precisely nothing (save a condescending smile) on Canada/US border restrictions requiring Canadians to carry either a Passport or some sort of identity card when traveling to the US, must have wondered what the hell price getting a US official to smile at one must cost.
The first installment was no doubt adding Canada’s voice to US calls for sanctions on Iran – despite the fact that such a position appeared to have arisen out of the clear blue sky; no discussion raised in parliament, no consensus building with cabinet, caucus or Canadians.
Even the Prime Minister failed at achieving any of the goals the close, understanding relationship with the US he promised his government would build would bring – his bravest posture was flying in the face of fashion at the walkabout in Mexico.
Not an inch was gained on softwood lumber, not a millimeter moved on border issues.
The tougher stance taken by the former liberal government may not have earned any friends or gained any ground with the Bush administration, but blind obeisance and awe-struck admiration doesn’t seem to be getting the job done either.
Just allowing someone to be your lapdog doesn’t mean you won’t be kicked to the curb or the doghouse just as soon as it suits your master.
And don’t expect it not to hurt – the President is more likely to be wearing pointy-toed steel-tipped cowboy boots than a pair of open, flexible flip flops.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Oh yes he did...

All the most interesting exchanges in my life right now seem to happen at auditions.
(And for those of you wondering if I got the Viagra singing gig, the answer is no. And to be honest, I’m puzzled; the singers I hear in the commercial sing rather well – and surely that wasn’t the direction the producers intended to go… or was it?! Crap. Déjà vu flop sweat all over again…)
So I’m waiting to go in – this is a spot that requires a male and female and we’re matched up to read together… I get one of the cute stars of the Canada/Russia Hockey movie (rowrr!) – and as I circumspectly listen in on various conversations going on around me, another male voice walks in.
“Bob,” squeaks some chick sitting to my right, reaching up to snag him with a powerful mitt and dragging him down before planting a noisy smooch on his cheek. (All names changed not to protect the innocent, but because I don’t remember them.) “You didn’t call me last Wednesday…” She pouts fetchingly, still gripping him vice-like by the elbow.
“No,” he replies, “I didn’t.”
And that, fellow amateur sociologists, was that.
The end.
No further discussion took place.
I could hardly believe it – where were the excuses? The explanations? The broken ankles, dying relatives, accidental blows to the head? I didn’t know whether to cheer or throw rotten fruit. Where was the socially expected – nay, demanded – dishonest response to an obvious, embarrassing question?
Answer: nowhere. This guy apparently doesn’t do bullshit.
The rest of us (those who apparently still do) were shocked into silence for a few moments, though soon relieved (were we ever) by the producer inviting the non-caller in to read. The non-called woman remained in the outer office with us, talking to another auditioner a little too quickly, clearly acutely embarrassed by Mr. ‘No, I didn’t’; laughing a little too loud and a little too long at a comment about the change in the weather.
Soon enough the negative guy came out and I and my hockey-playing thespian partner went in. Whatever Act II was destined to bring, we weren’t fated to be part of it.
(Which one was it from the CBC conclusion-airing-tonight movie? Well, I’ll give you a hint: the one with the bad 70’s-style wig. Not helping?)
We didn’t need a lot of takes – the two spots (for barbecue sauce) were fairly simple: classic dopey man/long-suffering woman sarcastic exchanges – and hockey boy and I were out of the booth in two shakes.
(Which barbecue sauce was it? I’ll give you a hint: the one with the woman’s name. Not helping?)
To our mutual surprise, Dr. No was still in the waiting area, but Ms Pout had disappeared. Bathroom break? Humbled stumble away from the production company? The mystery continues to this day, unabated.
As the next two clichéd characters were called in, I, Canada ‘72 and the man with neither guile nor apparent need of prevarication left together, walking to the elevators as we hitched on coats and slipped on gloves. (The weather actually hadn’t changed that much yet. Hence, no humour.)
“So what was that about?” asked my ‘classic dopey man’. “Did you forget to call?”
“Was this a date situation,” I threw in, “or a friend-thing?” I wanted to know the extent of the crime.
“Well,” the accused replied, “I met her in a bar downtown and we hung out together and…” (He might just as well have inserted ‘yadda yadda yadda’) “I just didn’t call.”
“Wow,” said the TV movie star.
“And the legend begins,” said I with just a soupcon of sarcasm, getting off the elevator and scooting toward the door ahead of the guys, who were hanging back to talk.
I didn’t want to get into it any further; didn’t want to hear if he was going to boast or explain apologetically, didn’t want to know if he was as pleased with himself as I suspect most of the guys in the audition ante-room were with his solution to morning after (week later) interrogation.
I had just experienced a combination Seinfeld/Sex and the City/He’s Just Not That Into You moment and I needed at least another moment to catch my breath, pause and reflect.
I’m torn. There’s a part of me that gets his action (not calling) but rejects his delivery (point blank, no explanation in a room full of people) whilst simultaneously trying to gauge how I felt about her action (asking a question she really wanted an answer to) balanced against her delivery (point blank, no build up, in a room full of people).
Two crimes at cross purposes.
But much as I’m confused at how I feel about the communication, whether I like what I heard, how it was transmitted, received or overheard, I have no doubt what the non-message means and what it implies.
There is a simplicity of communication that is almost beautiful in its pared-down straightforwardness. He came, he saw, he didn’t call – and you can bet he isn't planning to in the future.
In a world filled with obfuscation, miscommunication and downright, bald-faced lies, the guy who says no and means it is a kind of role model.
We daily hear leaders make promises, commitments and pledges they have no intention of keeping; some rabbit on about ethics, then given a chance, do exactly the same (Stronach/Emerson – Martin/Harper … pot/kettle) whilst others impassively watch the murder of innocents in a war entered into on verifiable falsehood.
The most recent horror in the ongoing Iraq war horrors (besides the horror that calls for impeachment are still so faint and whispery) is the revelation in the filing by Special Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald in the CIA leak case last week, reporting that Scooter Libby, assistant to Vice President Dick Cheney was given direct instructions by the President to leak information to reporters, bolstering the case for war – even as the information in question (that Saddam Hussein was building up stocks of uranium) was being denigrated by senior White House defence advisors including the then Secretary of State Colin Powell.
Following hard on the heels of the heretofore unreleased bombshell memo that revealed the President had told British Prime Minister Tony Blair in the lead up to the war that he was going to go ahead, UN Inspector’s verification reports or no, the Libby admission just piles on the facts, as the lies pile ever skyward.
The political equivalent of broken ankles, dying relatives and homework-snarfing dogs.
Where is the screaming, crying, garment-rending and pitchforks and torches parade on Washington? Where is even the slightest recognition on the part of the President or the administration that fairytales were told to sleepy citizens, some of whom remain, even now, comatose to the truth?
Oh for the elegant clarity of “no.”
No, there is no connection between 9/11 and Saddam Husseim.
No, there are no WMDs.
No, America is not going to war with Iraq.
And now, more than ever, we hope to hear: no, America is not going to war with Iran.
“No, I didn’t.”
Oh yes he did.
Meanwhile, neither I nor my mysterious TV movie voice partner have received a call back on the barbecue sauce commercial.
And I know what it means.
In a world full of ambiguity, it may not be pleasant, but it's helpful.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

WWPD (What Would Pete Do)?

I realize now that I’ve reached a sort of critical mass with my stuff.
There’s just one too many things on the blink, to the extent that I now have to kick, joggle, whack, shake or rattle several key pieces of equipment to get them to work.
This list includes – but is in no way limited to – my VCR (a series of sharp taps on the side with the remote to make the wavy lines subside) the right front headlamp on my car (a fairly firm kick up the side – pause – repeat as necessary ‘til the light comes on) the hard drive on my computer (I sort of gently whack the sides – dislodges dust I’m thinking) and my dishwasher, which after prolonged tinkering I’ve managed to stop (for the time being) from leaking all over the kitchen floor. Most of the time.
There’s more – plenty more – but whatever inborn obsolescence was built into my stuff, for whatever reason, everything seems to have decided to poop out at once.
I wish I was more like Pete Dougherty – erstwhile companion of coked-out supermodel Kate Moss, himself a disaster in a Rat Pack-style pork pie hat, careening from drug bust to drug bust, caroming off the sides of police officers, reporters and minders from New York to London, smoking his crack, snorting his horse, and just for a little variety one assumes, regularly getting pissed as a fart.
The guy’s an immature mess, which makes the name of his band so absolutely perfect it almost beggars the imagination – certainly one has to proffer a tip of the hat, or at least a salute with the crack pipe – being known as the frontman for ‘Babyshambles’.
But Pete now has a new addiction, one I get and one I wish I had the guts to mainline – buying old Jaguars, parking them illegally and then buying replacements when they get towed away.
For about $2000.00, Dougherty purchases beat up old Jags and drives them around until they fall apart, he does, or the London parking authority makes the decision for him. In a ritual reminiscent of hair-washing, instead of lathering rinsing and repeating, he buys, drives, parks and leaves, starting the cycle all over again at a rate that likely exceeds his schedule of hair-washing… or at least based on paparazzi photos, so it would seem.
A plan so simple it just might work.
I have dreams of doing the dishes just once more, then quietly and stealthily defenestrating my Eaton Viking dishwasher up and over in the dead of night.
Leaving Sylvia my car by the side of the road, (in the bike and taxi lane tee hee!) then running to catch the Red Rocket (Toronto has a great public transit system, so who really needs an automobile?) leaving the car, wonky headlight and steadily encroaching puddle of oil for someone else to deal with.
Don’t get me started on the VCR – long may it corrode in some far away landfill.
Everybody says we live in a disposable society, but how many people have the Pete Dougherty guts to actually throw things away?
About two years ago I wrote about a piece of cardboard I wanted to hang onto against the advice of a tidy boyfriend who wanted to throw it away (along with a raft of other things – let’s face it, the guy was clearly OC) since I wasn’t using it. Not at that minute I wasn’t, but come on. It was a nice, clean, beautifully flat (the secret to good cardboard) unmarked, glossy, shiny piece of perfect pristine cardboard. The type of cardboard you could only have prayed your mother would hang onto so you could use it for a million different craft projects; (when instead you really only usually got the kind of crappy card that came back with your father’s shirts from the dry cleaners) glue, paste, sparkles, stickers, poster paint, beads, bits of tinsel, felt, leaves, buttons – why anything would stick to it. And beautify it. The possibilities were endless. They still are.
Which is why I still have the cardboard, and the boyfriend, as I indicated back then, not so much.
But that’s only the beginning. I delight in wearing clothes I wore in high school – and not only for the thrill of still fitting into them. It’s true what they said: everything really does come around again and I’m one of those people who aren’t standing around moaning about their old platform shoes: I’m ready for virtually any fashion comeback from the 70’s, 80’s or 90’s.
Jackets with shoulder pads? Check. Skinny-ankle stone-wash Guess jeans? Check. Below the knee hippie boho granny skirts with matching tapestry vests? Check. Giant disco-era earrings? Check, check, and check!
I still feel sick about the pair of Frye boots I wore circa 1975 that I’m positive my father threw into a garage sale (along with my stuffed dog, pony books, board games – and heaven knows how much pieces of pristine cardboard) back in the 80’s when I wasn’t looking – and a similar pair of Frye boots (‘Campus’ style in ‘Banana’) that will now cost you in the neighbourhood of $253.00 – and that’s American – and before tax and shipping charges, so who’s sorry now?
(My father – the garage sale guy – is dead, so actually, we’re sorry on a lot of levels.)
I have a slight magazine habit that I’m trying desperately to quit. But how can I throw away a 1999 Allure with a photo of Heather Locklear on the cover (she and Richie Sambora, still so happy!) when there’s an article inside about the PERFECT ab exercises? I mean, when is an article about perfect ab exercises ever going to come along again? Or a turn of the century Cosmo with tips on how to REALLY please a man? That stuff is radio-active, once in a lifetime gold people!
But the laundry room in my condo has a sort of take a penny, leave a penny book and magazine swap area, and just when I think I know all I really need to know about Brangelina, along comes laundry day and in between cycles, I’m not only reading, I’m taking. And not leaving on the return trip either.
What would Pete Dougherty do? (After getting stoned I mean.) Why he’d throw it all away… and get more!
This is the part I have to remember as I fear filling garbage bags with treasures from the wardrobe fashion forgot… divesting of at least half of the paperbacks I readily admit I will never read…. and shipping any Vanity Fair published before the 43rd President of the United States took up politics (and I mean pre-Governor of Texas days) down to the laundry room to torture some other misbegotten packrat with more storage space and less sense: there’s plenty more stuff where that came from. More vintage clothing stores, more out of print bookshops, more second hand cars and smirky smug salesmen to sell them.
I have a new role model who seems to have got half the equation right – he’s adept at getting rid of stuff. But I worry about the other half. The re-acquiring habit.
Here’s where I can help: I could kick, joggle, whack or shake Pete Dougherty out of his built-in obsolescence, until he was so rattled he’d never touch another drug again so long as he lived.
And then we could pull together all my old magazines and books and fabric and beads and stuff… and do a little craft project together. A little scrapbooking maybe. I know where we could get a nice pristine piece of cardboard if needs be…
That’s what Jane would do.
So it’s all good.