Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gratitude Journal, 2013 (or, List of Good Things)

Dear Reader, I have a real thing for these chocolate toffee rolled-in-Skor green apples purchased from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and my co-workers bought some for me ... This is evidence that they adore me like a deity. A tiny little deity who sings a lot. I rec'd Candy Apples on the following dates:
2-Nov-2012 (2)
4-Nov-2013 (2)
23-Dec-2013 - still haven't eaten this one. Perhaps I should be careful what I wish for...

-At the very beginning of the year, my grandmother's estate was interfered with by a crazy person who didn't want money so much as she wanted attention. Through some miracle it was settled and a key missing piece of paper showed up on a Courthouse Clerk's desk through God's Almighty Grace. I am very grateful.

-A very handsome bachelor said "you're sweet" on my trip to Italy. I hope I marry him forever.

-I rec'd a Papal Blessing this year. From the Pope. No, not that one, the other one.
...and I rec'd a Plenary Dispensation from a priest, which is way more complicated and even better and more rare.

-I am grateful that not all of my dreams are scary; sometimes I dream of Love. In these dreams a handsome man says sweet things to me, like on 23 Jan 2013 I dreamed I was laughing, he touched my knee, told me I deserved good things. Maybe he is my guardian angel.

-I found a lawyer to protect me. He hates the same people I hate as much as I do.

-I took an Air France flight with _____ and she jammed her nail in my head and did puzzles in French etc. It was great.

-I got a great new tenant in condo. He's an amazing human being.

-I am grateful I have a good job with a (mostly) great crowd of people.

-A random man in my office shouted "You look thinner!". This is important information to record.

-I got a load of new stuff in 2013:
1. New space-age mattress with memory foam. I am like a dippy 60s housewife who will buy anything if they tell me it was developed for astronauts on the space shuttle. A mattress for people already floating in space actually doesn't make any sense but now I have one and it's pretty cool.
2. New cheap sofa. 
3. New flat panel TV that my engineer friends installed with a moving bracket on the wall. We pimpin' now.
4. New dehumidifier. If you do not have one of these contraptions, you need to run (not walk) and buy one.
5. I also bought my first classic car this year: 1988 Mercedes-Benz 300 CE. I feel like a Saudi oil baron in it.
6. I also tried to invest in a second (third?) condo this year but it didn't work out, I am grateful for that, too.

-On April 16th I took a walk to my Naturopath appt and it was so warm and springy and beautiful to be alive that it made this list.

-I had a really good friendship weekend 23-25 April

-I am grateful for books and films, the loves of my life.

I also got to go to a couple places completely FREE of charge. As a friend once said, "It doesn't get any better than free..." She was right, and here's where I went:
-I watched a Jays game from the Acura box this summer. They have alcohol and chicken wings. And baseball. I am grateful for baseball.
-I went to The Fifth for a summer cocktail party and it was swanky.

-I started swimming with all my increased energy (thanks to the Naturopaths) this year. I am grateful for swimming and naturopathic medicine.

-I removed a toxic person from my life this year. It was very difficult, mostly because it meant one or two other people had to go as well. It took a long time to plan and execute but it finally happened and I have to say that I am grateful for that.

-I went to Melmira (the fancy lingerie/ bathing suit shoppe) with Adrienne and spent gajillions of dollars on lingerie and bathing suits. I am grateful that I am a sex kitten.

-I went to Bala during Canada Day. I am grateful for both Bala and Canada.

-I bought an imitation Cartier Tiger bracelet at a flea market in the woods and it turned out to be gold-plated.

-I have a new seatmate this year and sometimes she lets me leave early. I hope no one I work with reads the Internet. 

-I ate some BBQ pork from a food truck in early September on the university campus and it was so delicious that it made this list. I am grateful for BBQ pork.

-I am grateful for the summery green silence of the suburbs.
-I am grateful for Summer. 
-I am always grateful for Indian Summer.

-Film seminar: nailed it. Grade: A
-I am grateful I got my 'Fuji' essay so quickly written. Grade: B

-I am grateful for when empty elevator doors open right on cue.

-Sunny Autumn Sundays doing nothing.
-Crisp Fall Sundays without a hangover.

-Mrs. Brahms homemade soup.

-I went to Cuba for my birthday and stayed at a place so fancy that I had my own butler! I met this really nice older couple and swam with dolphins. I am grateful for dolphins.

-I am grateful for migraine medication.

-I sang a duet at Christmas and it was marvelous. I am grateful for chorale music and my church community.

-I went on a 3-day silent retreat with Opus Dei in the country. I am grateful for all the nice people I met and walking in the snowy silent woods.

-I am grateful for my new Christian Louboutin and Nicholas Westwood shoes.

-I am grateful to three honest-to-goodness friends (people I actually know!) who wished me Merry Christmas unprompted via text message on Christmas morning. You have no idea what you mean to me. I am grateful for friends. (Next year I will try for four...)

-And the best gift of all: My dear newlywed friend Adrienne just told me that she is expecting a little baby in July! Congratulations Adrienne! (I guess that trip to the lingerie store was helpful!)

~~~Dear Reader, I will let you know next year if I am grateful for babies...

Friday, November 29, 2013

List of Nonsense Sentences Disguised as Coherent Thought

1. A lot of stuff factors into it.
2. Basically.
3. Primarily.
4. It is what it is.
5. You are all I need.
6. I love you.
7. It's all about the music.
8. Thank you for your email.
9. I didn't have anything to drink.
10. I'm going to stop drinking.
11. I have enough to eat at home.

Friday, October 25, 2013

On Kim Kardashian's coveted Hollywood star (or lack thereof)

Last week in "news", Kim was disavowed a star on the Hollywood Blvd. To recap: Kim feels that she has defined a new type of television. She strongly feels that her 5 years of work as the "first" reality person was deserving of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, in the same place as people with larger bodies of work like Shirley Temple, Greta Garbo and Elvis Presley. Kim was disappointed with this turn of events and - rather than retire elegantly and perhaps re-group later - Kanye West became her advocate on national television. This is telling. If you are so famous as to currently deserve a star, should you not be also famous enough to do your own press tours?

Let's back up a step. Are you aware of how a person receives a star in the first place? I am. One must be nominated by a third party, ideally by someone who already has a star, and the fee is upwards of $30,000 USD. Once nominated, one is then subject to review by committee and then either confirmed or denied the privilege.

Kim may be one of the most famous names in reality television but she is not the first, nor did she do it singlehandedly. These would be the kind of things the committee would look for. The first reality stars I can think of off the top of my head would be the cast of the first Survivor. And before that, the father and son from The Bicycle Thief (1948). Then I would imagine the producers would be first in line for "inventing" the idea of reality. That's probably how Hollywood works, fairly in order, right?

The committee seems to lean toward those who have made a significant, tangible and positive impact in film and television. Here Kim falters again because Kim is unknowable (see @ohmeags). If she has a thought, or a value or a moral code or a favorite food or designer, despite the omnipresent camera, she has never shared it with us.

What she has shared is her big floppy body. Kim's is a Cinema of Attraction of the Body and all the ways it can horrify the American puritanical bourgeoisie. First it was overexposed in a pornographic video, where the make up was lovingly applied and subsequently fetishized. Then it was too big in some places, too small in others (think: diet pills). Then it was covered in too much make-up. Interestingly this look was named - to paraphrase another reality television show, Toddlers & Tiaras - Kim's Glam Look™. Like a swamp monster under the florescent light of a police cruiser it was gratifyingly (yet still horrifyingly!) revealed from the make-up whilst bathing. Then it was cast in a series of white dresses (for marriage, then later for divorce), then it wasn't. To speed up a messy divorce she used her body again, by getting pregnant with another man’s child, but it backfired and changed shape too much (big+pregnant+swollen = monster!). Despite a thousand pieces of the world's most expensive fabric and a lifetime of Olympic-style shopping sprees, none were ever, ever draped correctly, so much so that Vogue magazine digitally removed her body from their photographs. The Empress was always naked. If Kim had anything to say to us, she has said it with her body. This makes her a star of the modern silent avant-garde, and yes Kim, you are most definitely the first.

Kim's reality television is Kim's self-created reality. Period. She believed herself to be a "stylist" to the stars, and so she designed a closet for Paris Hilton. Paris had a sex tape, Kim filmed one, too. Paris disavowed her terribly on a radio show - as she did with her other former friend Lindsay Lohan - and Kim shot straight into the national consciousness, effortlessly, without uttering a word. (Kim personally owes everything to Paris Hilton.) Kim fancied herself a married woman and found an overly tall chump to do the honours. Kim is quoted as saying in response to a question about how she caught such an eligible bachelor; "I ignored him. He wasn't used to that". Her silent body, her feminine mystique.

What Kim isn't is an actress, or even a student of the craft. Tangled together (and not Kim alone) the K's are a fascinating pastiche of a middle-class family that married well and managed to spin outrageous personal tragedy into outrageous fortune. Gaming the system to such an extent is a sheer genius. The mother should be teaching MBA seminars at Harvard, not hosting a ridiculous talk show. But these are scripts and Kim is wholly unconvincing. Speaking of which, one of the sisters on the show speaks so slowly I initially thought she was developmentally delayed.

According to the committee, Kim was not even nominated. If this is true, it's hilarious. In Hollywood, like everywhere else in life; if you can't win on talent, or money, or influence, you can win on merit. However, someone from the committee was quoted as saying that no one "really likes her very much". That’s just mean, but you don't send your boyfriend? Babydaddy? Kanye "The President Doesn't Care About Black People" West to shame the establishment for you. This is a man who proclaims himself a genius and a god. Picasso claimed to be a genius, but he did it after producing a coherent body of work over a lifetime. Like Kanye, Picasso was influenced by a fame-hunting and money-seeking woman who milked her relationship with him for all he had. You may want to slow your roll, Kanye. And Kim, you may want to examine why this icon of credibility is something you seek, yet don’t have the courage to ask for. It is one more example of knowing nothing about what you are doing and trying -like toddlers winning tiaras - to glam the world into making it Kim's own.

You see, Kanye is the narcissist mouth that Kim does not use, Kim is the body Kanye wishes to control. They complete each other like a shark meeting a tornado. Her body will continue to orbit his star until a richer, brighter, louder star comes along or until she finds her own voice. Now that would be something to watch! Never fear, Kim, it will happen as all things do in real life: when you are least expecting it.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Anémic-Cinéma (FILM Review)

This is the art.

This is the film.

I am so proud of the seminar I gave this week in my Avante-Garde and Experimental Film class, that I need to post it. It may be helpful to actually watch the silent film here: the footnotes for more details.

My learned colleague has been so kind as to give the pedigree of Marcel Duchamp and for purposes of brevity will agree that she is correct. Instead, we differ on the issue of belonging. In which school and style this film fits may be up for debate and it is this subject that concerns my seminar today. Where my colleague argues that this is a Dadaist film, I argue that it is a Surrealist film for the following reasons. First that it sits squarely with in the Surrealist movement, and second, supported by Marcel Duchamp’s other piece of art "The Large Glass", it deals with Surrealist subject matter by provoking the viewers unconscious sexual desires through words and movement and rhythm.
Anémic-Cinéma was created by Man Ray and Marcel Duchamp between 1924 and 1926, released in August 1926 at a private screening in Paris. This was the final work of other versions made in 1920 and 1923. In total, it took six years to create 7 minutes of film. Before and during this same time, beginning in 1913 to 1923 Marcel Duchamp had also been working on his sculpture "The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even" piece, known as The Great (or Large) Glass. Let me take a moment to advise that I translate the title differently: The word meme is better translated in this context as “..., Themselves”, meaning The Bride is not helping them in their endeavor, not engaged in the act, or even not present and they are doing it [stripping her] in their heads. The Large Glass is two panes of glass with materials such as lead foil, fuse wire, and dust held together with two wood frames, one atop the other. In his notes from 1934 The Green Box (eight years later), he describes this as a "hilarious picture" intended to depict the erotic encounter between the "Bride," in the upper panel, and her nine bachelors, known as "The Bachelor Machine" gathered timidly below[1]. The Bride in the act of being stripped is essentially a nude, or an "anti-machine", and balanced below is her opposite: the bachelor machine. This is a juxtaposition, a yin and yang effect, which remains balanced as long as the two sides remain in their respective fields. Katrina Martin writes in her essay Marcel Duchamp's Anemic-Cinema, "He portrays sexuality rather as onanism for two, each partner trying to satisfy his/her cravings..."[2] In his own notes, Duchamp writes "The bachelor grinds his chocolate himself", grinds (those of chocolate or coffee) being a metaphor for the clitoris. The work is transparent glass and although the two fields remain forever separate from one another, they are united by whatever landscape or object is seen behind. Duchamp thought of simultaneous reflection as a representation of infinity and often used glass or mirrors in his work as relevant to his idea[3]. In this work then, he manages to negotiate ecstasy and eternity. This is a similar design to the specially treated screen of translucent glass with silver mirror backing he developed for the first screening of Anémic-Cinéma[4].
Both The Large Glass and Anémic-Cinéma were debuted in 1926, at the height of the Surrealist movement, exhibiting an excess that we will not see again in Marcel Duchamp’s career. If Dada was a reaction to the War Machine, then the idea of The Great Glass and perhaps even Anémic-Cinéma was dreamed of much earlier and found its release in the Surrealist period. Co-creator Man Ray is quoted as saying: “In fact I was a surrealist before being a photographer”[5]. Actually, this is not film at all but rather "precision optics". Duchamp wrote that he would be disappointed if these discs were taken as "anything but optics"[6]; placing it by the filmmakers own words with in an optical cinema or abstraction cinema. This is a new way of "seeing" art, rather than relying on cinéma pur to do it for us. Unlike Return to Reason (1923), it is not abstract visually but abstract in the fact that that it refuses a coherent diogesis or story space. The film is elegant in its simplicity. As we already know, it is a series of rotoreliefs rhythmically paced and interplayed with lines of poetry.

How shall we define the words? Are they ready-mades with a camera turned on them? In my research I discovered that the words had been pasted, letter by letter, in a spiral pattern on round black discs that were then glued to phonograph records; slowly revolving[7]. Even a phonograph record, an otherwise finished product of art was "pressed" into service to create still more art. This is the definition of the ready-made. Ready-mades are finished products, a bicycle wheel or ceramic urinal for example, that are taken out of their conventional context and placed in a new one. They are treated by the artist as a raw material for their art, and while they are seemingly easy to procure, they are manifested at the end of a long intellectual process. Dalia Judovitz writes in her essay from the reader, Anemic Vision in Duchamp: Cinema as Readymade, "This decontextualization of the object's functional place draws attention to the creation of this artistic meaning by the choice of the setting and position ascribed to the object[8]. Further Judovitz writes on the subject of ready-mades, "esthetic representation is less about objects proper... then about conceptual operations in visual and discursive contexts"[9]. In short, they represent a deeply intellectual art, rather than a beautiful or “retinal” art that is pleasing to the eye. A retinal retention, if you will. Duchamp is quoted: "...our whole century is completely retinal, except for the Surrealists, who tried to go outside it somewhat..."[10]

Are the words themselves arranged as simple nonsense, acting as objets trouvés and thrown up in front of us? Marcel Duchamp was fascinated by language and "his conception of words as entities separate from meaning"[11]. He explored the use of alliteration (where the front part of a word phonetically rhymes), consonnance (where the back end does) and visual puns in his art. The title Anémic-Cinéma is itself an imperfect mirror of the word cinéma; one word used twice. The poetry is similar to automatic writing, that of writing in an altered or uncontrolled state revealing your deepest unconscious desires. P. Adams Sitney quotes Jean Epstein in The Instant of Love from our reader: The filmmakers experience is tied to an unmasking of the self[12].

Or are the words Intertitles? According to our text book Visionary Film, intertitles are acknowledged in the silent era as a conscious aesthetic problem[13]. At the time it was "standard procedure to introduce each film episode with a title - almost a chapter heading - which would provide whatever information the director thought important in establishing the context, time, place and emphasis of the scene to follow". Let's keep this in mind as we reflect on the nine lines of poetry written by Robert Desnos, as it may become important later. Desnos himself saw the title as an integral part of the art of cinema. "Everything that can be projected on the screen belongs in cinema, letters as well as faces... it is in the mind that the quest for purity must occur"[14]. Quoted later, he says “There was no thought of creating a work of art or a new aesthetic but only of obeying profound, original impulses, consequently necessitating a new form”[15].
(Emphasis mine)
All at once then, these spare lines of poetry are imbued with layers of meaning, "an endless train of associations"[16]. Katrina Martin's essay on Anémic-Cinéma is the foremost authority on what the words mean but it requires a fluency in French, both formal and slang that exceeds the limits and purposes of this class and so I will simply recommend that it is read and I have a brief synopsis of their themes, but I warn you the following is obscene:

1. "Baths of vulgar tea for beauty marks, without too much Ben Gay". A discourse on elegance and vulgarity (i.e. tea and shit), allusion to foreplay without consummation.
2. "The child who nurses is a sucker of hot flesh and does not like the cauliflower of the hot glass house." This can be reduced to: The one who gives head does not like prostitutes, or rather a rejection of vaginal sex. Allusion to homosexuality; frustration, oral sex is not consummation.
3. "If I give you a penny, will you give me a pair of scissors?" Banal and obvious: money for sex with a female/castration anxiety where scissors are a woman's legs.
4. "They are asking for some domesticated mosquitoes for the nitrogen cure on the French Riviera". Banal again: a want ad style imbued with new meaning; juxtaposition. Having herpes and allowing the air to cure it.
5. "The only problem with incest is there is too much sex."
6. "Lets us disdain the perversions of Eskimos who have seductive sophistication." Wife-sharing
7. "Have you ever put the marrow of the sword into the stove of the loved one?" Incest. There is also the self-reflexive allusion to the viewer of Anémic-Cinéma as a voyeur or spy, asking this embarrassing question to us directly.
8. Want Ad style again: "Among our articles of lazy hardware, we recommend the faucet stops running when no one is listening to it." This is the frustrated banality of the sexual impulse that can not be controlled by societal restrictions or even free will. This idea is truest in the signature of the author at the end of the film: Rrose Selavy or "Eros, c'est la vie!" translated as Sexual love, that's life! This takes the Freudian view, espoused by the surrealist that one is ultimately a slave to his animal desires.
9. The aspiring one (or candidate) lives in Javel and me; I had my penis in the spiral. There is some understanding that the candidate is drowning, or trying to breath, underneath javelin water (bleach) and that the vortex of the mouth is the spiral. So, to wind up, after our assumed confession to point seven regarding whether we have committed the act of incest or not, Duchamp feels now is a good time for a confession of his own auto-erotic pleasures.

All sources agree on the strong sexual emphasis but Visionary Film argues that it is ultimately an erotic timidity, or anemia, coupled with its rejection of space and human action that results in a frustration rather than release. Katrina Martin agrees that frustration is apparent in The Large Glass. She writes "In The Large Glass, intercourse was never achieved. The Bride was left hanging"[17]. The pulsing eroticism of the spirals has deformed language until it is virtually nonsensical. So, even the purpose of language as signifier is frustrated. Filmically the words are -quite literally! - tightly wound, boxed into a confined space in close up. Compared to these lines, the interlude of rotorelief spirals are relaxing, non-taxing. While the wild subject matter is deeply offensive to moral sensibilities, Duchamp is merely playing at porn; optical precision porn to displace our retinal retention.

As an intellectual cinema this is not a film, or even porn, for the masses. Instead, one must be in on the joke. "In", first physically, by being part of the private screening as a subset of this artist's circle and figuratively "in" that one must be willing to be affronted by what their subconscious or interior may pose. Despite its shock value, none of these sexual unions can produce a viable heir; incest leads to compromised genetics, self-satisfaction and homosexuality can bear no fruit on its own. Ultimately Anémic-Cinéma is a study of all the ways one can find oneself frustrated by sexual impulse. Only the spirals pulse with erotic truth. Instead of rotoreliefs, they should be called "erotic-reliefs".

[2] Katrina Martin, "Marcel Duchamp's Anemic-Cinema", Studio International 189/973 [Jan-Feb. 1975]: 53-60.
[3] Katrina Martin.
[4] Dalia Judovitz, "Anemic Vision in Duchamp: Cinema as Readymade", Dada and Surrealist Film. Kuenzil, Rudon E., ed. New York: Willis Locker & Owens, 1987. pg 46 - 57.
[5] P. Hammond, ed. Man Ray “Cinemage”. The Shadow and its shadow: Surrealist Writings on Cinema. London: BFI, 1978. pg. 85
[6] Katrina Martin.
[8] Dalia Judovitz.
[9] Dalia Judovitz.
[10] Dalia Judovitz.
[11] Dalia Judovitz.
[12] P. Adams Sitney, quoting Jean Epstein. "The Instant of Love: Image and Title in Surrealist Cinema", Modernist Montage. New York: Columbia U. Press, 1990. pg. 17-37.
[13] P. Adams Sitney, Visionary Film: The Avant-Garde [VF]. Revised edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002. pg 372-373.
[14] P. Adams Sitney.
[15] P. Hammond, ed. Robert Desnos “Avant-Garde Cinema”. The Shadow and its shadow: Surrealist Writings on Cinema. London: BFI, 1978. pg. 36-38.
[16] Dalia Judovitz.
[17] Katrina Martin.

Friday, September 6, 2013

All Cheerleaders Die (FILM review)

Ok, so this started 30 minutes late and I was standing outside for close to an hour which irritates me. 

(Big shout-out to my new friend-in-line, Leif!) 

The cheerleaders doing stunts outside were a great gimmick. While it has some clever dialogue, in the absence of a serious plot, they just turned the volume to 10 and hoped for the best. After 90 minutes of waiting, I raced to the abandoned bathroom only to hear the sound of the movie increase as I approached the ladies room door. I thought I was going crazy when suddenly a stunningly beautiful woman, ultra slim, elegantly tanned (every square inch) in a silver floor-length slip-dress burst from the bathroom dragging her fur chubby with a handsome pompadoured man in hot pursuit. Given the perfectly large diamond ring on her delicate left hand, I assumed he was her fiance. She was full tilt screaming and crying. He had to practically hold her up, such was her complete desolation. Her beautiful face was like a scrunched up nose. I suppose they had been in there to gather her composure, but it didn't work. He hugged her while she wailed something about contracts, film shoots and whether or not she "signed anything".
And so begins TIFF... (Ask me about the time Sean Penn almost walked into me)

Friday, August 23, 2013

27-inch waist

Once upon a time, deep in the suburbs, a handsome young man who was gay laughingly described his first sexual experience: 
We were watching TV and the next thing I knew she was riding me”. 
I am reminded of that statement when I tell the following story:

There is a woman in my office with a 27-inch waist. It is not easy. It takes all of her time and concentration to keep it that way. She spent a year whittling it down. Eating less, taking energy powders, extreme gym memberships and most of all, eating less. She started dieting after she was fired from her last job. Generously, they gave her a year of severance. She dieted until her breasts disappeared. She dieted until her skin became dry, her forehead creased and her hair started to thin. She kept dieting until it fell out. When her mother began to complain, she just cut into a short bob so it’s harder to tell how thin it is. She talks about weight loss and new clothes all the time. By the time she arrived at our office, she was wearing 14 inch skirts and 3 inch heels. It’s quite a sight and she had trouble in the beginning getting people to take her seriously.

How she got to this place is how a lot of women find themselves on the cusp of thirty. If single and stuck in their career, they overcompensate by becoming very controlling of their environment. She controls everything she does. She even controls what other people do. I once ate a salad with her and she complained that I hadn’t mixed it enough. She complained so many times, that I let her mix it for me. Right there in public she attacked my $15 salad with a fork and all of her stick-thin arm muscles for a whole minute, cracking and stabbing and stirring with all her might. She is fairly high strung.

There are women out there who, upon mention of The Rules, exclaim “Oh yeah, I know ALL The Rules”. Ms. 27-inch waist is one of them. Then again there are close to 40 rules… There are only 10 commandments and I have yet to meet a person who can name all of them on the first try. Because she succeeded in losing so much weight and getting a new job, she felt she knew everything. She had a lingering residue of superiority that greased everything she touched. And so here’s what happened…

One of the Rules is that if you like a man, stop communicating that to everyone, most of all him. Especially of he works in your office. This means, do not talk about him to your colleagues, do not flirt with him, do not send him cute emails and do not approach his desk for any reason. And keep it to a minimum if your job absolutely requires it. Well, that’s not what she did. Ms. 27-inch waist wiggled her way around the office and leaned against his cubicle partition with her arms dangling engaging him in conversation every afternoon at 3pm. She liked him because he worked out. She invited him to her gym. She arranged lunch dates. She asked him over to her apartment and she initiated sex. She encouraged him to get a better car and move out of his parent’s basement. She treated him like my salad: a work-in-progress that she needed to improve upon with her good ideas. In exchange, she started attending church with him on Sundays. She thought this was fair.

There was only one problem. 
He hadn’t broken up with his girlfriend (GF) yet
He thought that was fair.

Well, that’s not true. He had mentally decided he was no longer going to be her boyfriend, but he had not stopped sleeping with her. And GF had not stopped attending church with his family, or going to Sunday dinner afterwards. And neither one had stopped calling the other whenever they needed something. That’s because he had done this before and GF knew that if she sat tight she would eventually be that last one standing.

For him, the frenzy of the new relationship lasted for 30 days. They did not date. He came over and they had sex. That was the extent of the relationship. For Ms. 27-inch waist, during the same 30 days she started talking about marriage to anyone who would listen. She said things like “Last year was all about my health, this year is all about marriage”, the common theme being herself. She also explained how she met the old girlfriend and forgave her beau for not advising GF that he had moved on with Ms. 27-inch waist. She was very polite. She said she took the high road. (Interesting I have just finished a book written by a PhD called "Fierce Conversations", in it she describes the phrase "taking the high road" as permission to have an inauthentic conversation.)

As the sexual thrill wore off, he began to pull back to catch his breath. The Rules are prepared for this. They advise that you acknowledge what is happening and follow his example, get busy with other things (like the life you abandoned to fit this dude in) and the endeavor to take a breath before you do something you may regret. This is a prime opportunity to determine with a clear head if this guy is really a part of your future. If he is, he will seek you out so that you have no doubts. This is the wisdom of the Rules.

Unfortunately, Ms. 27-inch waist did not take this in stride. She began to call him asking where he was, what he was doing and when he would come over. To appease her, they planned a road trip to Florida for a week to visit his bartender friend (see above: he didn’t have a road-worthy car). She had hang ups about alcohol, afraid it would interfere with her weight. Boozing all day on the beach was not her idea of fun. But when they fought, he called her high-strung and she agreed with him, blaming herself.

Upon their return, he stopped taking her calls. He told her that he was ultimately looking for someone with less sexual experience than she had. He threw her sexual availability back in her face. She tried to talk him out of his position, but he held firm knowing that he had his GF waiting in the wings. She was devastated.

None of this would have happened if she had done the Rules. Like many people, she chose her partner based on his looks, and it went poorly. She wanted a boyfriend who worked out and this dude fit the bill. She did absolutely nothing to determine what kind of person he was. She didn’t ask anyone’s opinion. She did not even allow him to take her out on a date, deciding instead to lead with her vagina. She ignored obvious red flags when he clearly had another GF and didn’t take her alcohol concerns into account. She just barreled in, believing that she could control this situation. Here’s the crazy thing: while the woman is a royal pain in the ass, I think they might have had a chance if she had relaxed her grip and let him come to her without the promise of easy sex.  This woman failed because she tried to hogtie a man who is obviously destined for someone else (and I do not necessarily mean GF), rather than look around for the one who might be looking for her. I know that life is only worth living if it is lived authentically and trying to talk a guy into your idea of marriage is a recipe for disaster.

But not one to surrender, Ms. 27-inch waist has continued to stoke the fire and the relationship has limped along as all useless endeavors do. She invites him to the odd work function (read: free food and drink) and sometimes he shows up. When he doesn’t I have heard that she mopes about leaving comments in her wake like “my personal life is in ruins”. Now she is entering the drama-infused portion of the non-relationship. The Rules are prepared for this as well; they call it a Fantasy Relationship. This is a relationship that exists entirely in your own head. It never stops being attractive because it’s entirely safe and controllable. You will recognize it because it will be entirely one-sided. The Rules recommend that when you find yourself in a Fantasy Relationship, to immediately get a grip and stop lying to yourself. The result is that this woman has become talked about in the office, so now her bad choices are affecting her career. This is a slippery slope. I would love to reach out to her, but she’s not one to take anyone’s advice. We all know women like that.

UPDATE: The man transferred to another office a few months ago and they apparently broke up. Ms. 27-inch waist has been spotted draped attractively (in very tight pants) over the desk of another eligible bachelor.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Canyons (FILM Review)

That's her spirit leaving her body.

Dear {insert name},

You missed a doozy. It’s immediately going to become a cult classic. I actually was experiencing all the feelings so I’m not even sure my distillation will be satisfactory.
1.The extreme over-acting by all the males in the film.
2. Lilo is puffy-faced and still drug-addicted, so her little head fidgets and she wipes her nose during takes involuntarily.
3. To counteract this, she got botox which seriously undermines her facial movements and she insisted on that heavy black Cleopatra makeup which was distracting and poorly done. Result = She has the largest double-chin in celluloid history.
4. The lighting was amateurish and the camera kept swaying in the breeze for no apparent reason.

  1. The sex. Tons of male full-frontal. The rumours are true: James Deen is well-hung.
  2. The gloriously seedy underbelly of ultra rich young Hollywood.
  3. Lilo’s still got her acting chops. Still. There. Underneath. It. All.
 So think back: Remember American Psycho? This is American Psycho: LA.

Christian is in LA, still hating his father, still abusing women and still using his trust fund for drugs and sex. He lives in a magnificent home in the Hollywood Hills (I imagine?) with his girlfriend of about a year, Tara (Lilo). The entire movie is EXPOSITION. The actors are telling us a story, quite literally, and badly. We are filled in on timelines running from 1 month ago eventually stretching back to 3 years ago when all the real action happened. (They is why the writer BEE sucks. He is under the impression that such vapid characters would retain wounds that are really ancient history. It’s a fiction that all his stupid novels are based on. Today’s twenty-somethings can’t remember their own phone numbers much less what they were feeling 3 years ago.)

Anyway, in an effort to impress his father Christian becomes involved with a production company and a small-budget film looking for a male lead. As a lark, between “shopping and fucking”, Tara gets involved and helps choose the lead – Ryan - and then disappears back to doing nothing at Christan’s house. The production assistant misses her and invites her to lunch to talk. Tara is nervous but happy and sings Christian’s praises. We learn that this was set up by Christian and all Tara’s words are being recorded for Christian in his fast Audi blazing down the sun-drenched highway to his mistress, his “yoga instructor”. Christian is also stealing Tara’s phone and having her followed.

Turns out – through unbelievable holes in the plot – that the male lead and Tara shared a happy history living together 3 years ago when they were broke and in love. But neither of them hit it big and she sold her soul to be some rich man’s muse and abandoned Ryan to his life of bartending/ auditions and when times really get tough – male prostitution. Now  that they’ve re-connected he won’t leave her alone and they have a month long affair; which she tearfully – she’s always wet in this movie – can’t live with and can’t live without.

To separate her from Christian, Ryan has the yoga mistress tell Tara that Christian is dangerous, roofied her, ran a train on her and she ended up in the hospital. Tara with typically bravado laughs in the girls face and then spits this info back at Christian.

Should I spoil the plot? Here goes…


Christian retaliates by killing yoga mistress and weakly framing Ryan. This killing *may* have been precipitated by the previous nights se>< adventure wherein Christian brought another couple to bed and a 4-way ensues (nothing to report, lots of blurred images and red light) EXCEPT Tara engineers Christian to engage in homo se>< which he really enjoys. Tara appears to know Christian better than he knows himself and the plot flirts with the idea that perhaps Tara has been in control all along. This unmans him and he awakes by knocking Tara against a wall. When he returns from his killing, Tara has bags packed and begs for her release. Christian gives it in exchange for a steel trap alibi as to his whereabouts for the previous few hours and finally: That she never see Ryan again or Christian will kill him and will get away with it.

So we are abruptly thrown forward in time one year (?) and the closing scene opens as the movie opened, with two couples finishing up dinner in LA. Tara has just returned from Dubai with her current man who spent the time in “meetings”. The other female begins to quiz Tara on the events of her and Christian’s relationship ending with the death of yoga mistress …etc. Tara is nervous and fidgety, sticks to the story. The female gets up and goes to the washroom and calls a man – presumably Christian – to report all that she said. But it’s not Christian …it’s Ryan she is speaking to. The virus of obsession has transferred and infected the onetime golden boy, sitting cold and alone in an empty room.

This is the spirit being re-inserted.

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Buffoon of Bay Street

I don’t really respect one of the people in my office and here’s why…

  1. Tells a client that he has computer problems so that he is unable to book a meeting in his calendar. I call a tech, at which point he admits there are no computer issues. He then reminds me to call the client and book the meeting.
  2. Ignores his phone when a client calls, then pretends to be on the phone when I try to transfer the call. So, I take a message. Then he calls me and asks what the client said. When I tell him “Nothing, just left his number for you to call him” he says “Oh” and hangs up. He does not call the client back.
  3. He never wants anyone’s help but always wants a free lunch.
  4. The discomfiting sounds of grunting and sighing emanate from his office about twice a day.
  5. Convinced that he should receive different/special treatment for routine tasks. Ends up taking twice as long, with triple the confusion.
  6. Reminds me to tell the summer student to file his stuff alphabetically. For the third time. The summer student graduated with honors from the University of Toronto in Finance, where they taught him – among other things – the entire alphabet. Reader’s Note: This from a man who used to file his stuff by a system he invented (and keeps!) in his own head, which is why the summer student was hired in first place when auditors could not find what they were looking for.
  7. I file documents using the new system. He then rips them up and shreds them.
  8. Complains when I use all caps to complete a client application. (WTF)
  9. Oddly obsessed with the word “Executive”. Like executive class, executive golf course (only nine holes) or executive chef. He uses it every chance he gets. He will mark his client’s occupations as “Executive” even when another term is more appropriate.
  10. Uses a ton of words and never manages to make sense. Both verbally and via email.
  11. Tries to use legal terms in regular conversation. Uses them incorrectly.
  12. When typing an email inquiry, he refuses to use question marks. I feel like punching him in the face.
  13. Managed to get a large influential client and recommends a course of action. Action fails. Client leaves.
  14. He is friends with a misogynist Asshole who is going through a messy painful divorce. The Asshole pretends my name ends in a “Y” so it sounds stupid. I pretend to ignore him. No work gets done.
  15. He spends most of his day sitting very still, staring at a spreadsheet he built. Or getting coffee with the Misogynist Asshole. No work gets done.
  16. When asked to call a client, fill out a form or sign a document, his hands begin to shake. No work gets done.
  17. He is always late for client meetings. The client gets irritated at waiting and leaves. He loses the client. No work gets done.
  18. He buys coffees for clients to apologize for being late. The client has already left so he offers the cold coffee to me. I don’t drink coffee.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Tiny CEO (or, Athena vs. Hestia)

As a child of a single mother, the continued employment of the main breadwinner is of tantamount import. This is far too much reality for a small child, but in the age of the quickie no-fault no-contest divorce when a checked-out or dead father is the norm and the vicissitudes of the workplace affect children as much as playground gossip as it swirls in the ambient noise of a childhood. Or so it was for me. The problem was that my mother was already old, that had been raised to be a housewife, that she was raised wealthy and she was not prepared for this to happen to her. She never had the ambitious corporate spirit and she never managed to cultivate it. As a result, the most she could manage was an endless series of temp jobs, were no one be-friended her. Like the hallways of any school, no one wants to sit near the loser. For a lonely and scared woman this was torturous hell. And yet we were lucky that she got those jobs, because it was scarier when those dried up.

My mother had dreamed that she would be the wife of an aeronautical engineer, moving from place to place as airplanes needed designing and testing – perhaps even getting hired at NASA which was not unheard of - and she would be a homemaker. My mother married this man and for a short time she had this life. My mother is a Le Cordon Bleu level chef. She can cook every recipe in the The Joy of Cooking. She can invent any household item out of another household item and keeps a spotless home. Within it, she is always cheerful and jolly, filling me in on hilarious stories of her day, the antics of our cat, and the ridiculous movements of our inbred neighbors. My mother wanted more that one child and she wanted to keep the home fires burning. My mother is Hestia.

Hestia is the goddess of the hearth. She is the original domestic goddess. Hestia is in charge of the fireplace at home, she literally keeps the home fires burning for those who will return; husbands out working, soldiering and hunting; children running playing learning and growing up, Hestia stays home and chooses not leave. Within the walls of her warm home, she insists on camaraderie and patience. Once is even required to soften ones’ voice around Hestia. When we are telling children to use their inside voice, we are literally telling them to observe the rituals of Hestian hearth.

In talking about my mother I want to be clear that she is not the only woman I watched being tortured in the corporate hells. I watched - in no particular order – the exact same story played out by every woman in my sphere: my grandmother, her sister, my godmother, her sister, three of my old (normal) neighbours and two of my current ones. They were bounced from jobs for getting married and having kids and then begged for less than those jobs when the men left them flat. As a child I watched all this with large eyes and decided quickly and efficiently and without any qualms that I would not concern myself with such ludicrous nonsense as what did I *want* to be when I grew up. I would simply become whatever the world paid for, end of discussion. A woman needs to have her own money, control her own money, and have a sense of enfranchisement towards money that does not include her looks. I would be Athena.

Athena is everything a goddess should be. She is single, powerful, the favorite daughter of Zeus, the virgin goddess of the moon. The most powerful city in Greece was named after her. She is the goddess of wisdom, the chaste companion of heroes, has an owl as a pet and runs riot in the forest. She was fearsome in her power, the air crackled with electricity when she was in your presence.  She was the almighty bitch that got shit done. And this is what the corporate world asks of us women. 

Which is fine …and yet. 

It is very rare and very hard to find a happily married woman with children who also is senior management at her firm, regardless of the industry. If she is married, she has no kids; if she has a child, she is divorced. If she has both, she is a temp. Quietly and without a sound, the Hestia is being beaten out of us. There is no world that pays for it. There is no western society that values it. And there are no females who have reached the mountaintop who are telling us to carve out a space for it. Instead, they write foolish books called “Lean In” telling us how to try harder (not succeed but just try fucking harder) at a corporate world that hates us and disembowels us of what makes us women (“don’t cry at work, don’t talk about your period, don’t talk about your problems, don’t dress too sexy, don’t laugh too loud”) and leaves us for dead. And the women claiming to be modern day Hestia’s are bleached-toothed, rail-thin skeletons on cooking/shopping shows with collar bones that bounce when they talk. It’s distracting. Or Martha Stewart, an Athena in Hestia’s clothing, who has done time in prison for corporate fraud. (This is where she actually did nothing wrong, panicked and then lied about it. It’s the lying she went to prison for, not insider trading.)

If you missed it this week, Eva Longoria received a Master’s Degree in Chicano studies from the University of California, Northridge. I want to point out that she is both enormously wealthy from her previous career that valued her beauty, and also twice divorced. Eva said it herself as reported by The Times of India in August of 2008, that she was a “terrible wife”.  I want to point out that all the money, education, beauty and success does not make you a good wife, or a good Hestia, but it makes you a great Athena. Being Athena isn’t bad but I question the necessity in the face of how much it costs women to achieve at the expense of the Hestia in her soul. Do I think I can be both in my life as needed? Absolutely not. But I imagine I will design something new: The Tiny CEO. I only need to be the best for MY world, not THE world. I want the freedom to say NO to “having it all” on such a grand scale. A woman can’t be all things to all people and to try to do so exhausts her and masks her true identity. Every second you spend trying to convince the world that you can be both a dynamo in the boardroom and a vixen is the sack is one less moment you spend being authentic to yourself. I want to move away from a world that requires regular women to be goddesses, and yet honours the goddesses within. Maybe I want too much. Athena would be proud.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Reasons Why We Shouldn't Be Supporting Toronto's Local 79

In the immortal words of the great feminist philosopher Snooki:
"Where's The Beach?"

Toronto used to be a swimming town. After WW2 and during the baby boom, a pool was built at every school, community centre and park they could find. Before they started building condos everywhere, they built pools. Pools are great for physical fitness but they were also used for rehab of polio victims - the process was actually developed in Toronto. All kinds of people who have trouble walking usually enjoy swimming, both for fun and therapy. As a result, Toronto is littered with pools, so many in fact that they are now being decommissioned and closed down because there are not enough kids swimming to keep them open. The pools are kept perfectly, echo chambers of Toronto’s proud past, but the average family is involved in so many activities that swimming – despite being a life skill and not necessarily a sport – has become less popular. There are two Olympic pools in the GTA, an indoor one at the Etobicoke Olympium in the west end and an outdoor one in The Beach. I will let you guess which gets more action throughout a Canadian winter. When Mayor Mel Lastman changed the swimming format from colours to numbers and made all swimming lessons free for a year, even parents smelled a rat. “It should cost something” I remember one bewildered parent saying to me.

The thing about Canada is that up until a little while ago, things were built to with pride and they were built to last. This is completely true of the Etobicoke Olympium. It was built at the top of late 1960s technology. It has a 10 metre diving tower, a depth of 15 feet and window in the basement that used to look right into the deepest part of the pool as people were swimming or diving; but because that was really cool and kids loved it, they closed it down as fast as possible. It was an excellent pool for swim-meets and synchro-meets until the coaches began to complain that it was too dark. That’s right; the room that housed the pool could not generate enough electricity to adequately light the depth of the pool. The Olympic Synchro Team practices there. But the other pool – referred to as the “patio pool” - is mostly used for film shoots, commercials and Saturday morning swimming lessons.

Etobicoke has always been a rich borough. Before the amalgamation, Etobicoke had it all and after it had more. Nepotism is that norm in that environment. Children of union stewards could expect good jobs with union starting salaries and full pensions. They did not need experience or proof of ability. When the pool became cloudy they would dump chemicals in there like they were baking a cake hoping for the correct formula. When all else failed, they simply closed the pool. No matter, with a union job everybody still got paid. And of course, with young good looking kids from excellent families and even better art schools come together it can be expected that everybody slept with each other. It was like working as a scuba instructor at Club Med; hot- and cold-running pussy all the time.

It is theoretically impossible to get fired from Local 79. You do not have to work or even show up to warrant a warning. I have personally known young men who were caught smoking marijuana on a pool deck before their shift who were not fired, simply re-assigned to a different pool. I once took over for a man who was so drunk on deck that he could no longer be described as conscious. He was not actually fired, either; one day his parents arrived and bundled him off to rehab. Management moves in much the same way. They are promoted or moved on as needed in the environment but not actually fired for doing a terrible job. Managers so viciously cruel and strange have been “packaged off” in a series of lay-offs without actually being held accountable for their actions. Managers have had picnics with their boyfriends in the pool office interfering with pool activities and nothing is done when employees complain. Managers have had underage girls in their apartments for parties after hours. Managers have sent lifeguards to get an order at McDonald’s while the pool with people in it remains understaffed. At Local 79 it is okay to hide from customers (known as patrons) when they have a complaint. No complaint is ever actioned. When irritated by complaining parents, employees engage in a game known as “magic clock” where they advance the hands of the clock ahead in order to clear the pool early and then loaft the rest of the time. I worked there for 3 years before a manager had the MBA-level idea of keeping a daily log of activity at the pool. But then the employees just filled it with a list of jokes and stories about insect infestations that nothing was ever done about.

And so it came as no surprise to me this Family Day, when at Centennial Hill they were completely unprepared for the number of people that showed up to ski with their kids. The line ups were over an hour long. There were three employees in T shirts wandering around aimlessly but not actually doing anything. There was a young man who tipped the scales at 250 lbs sitting on his duff eating a sandwich wearing a T-shirt that read SKI PATROL while sweating parents and kids lined up to buy tickets for the hill.
There are three things wrong with this picture.
1. Don’t eat where people can see you, you have a lunch room.
2. You don’t look capable of patrolling anything, my friend.
3. Would you book ski lessons for your child from a fat kid?
They didn’t even open more than one cash register despite being asked twice to do so, not even a cash box. They were completely unprepared for the level of activity that day. But Why? Family Day in Ontario is the one day of the year when they can make a serious killing. The snow was on the ground, the sun was shining, and everyone had a day off. They should have made money hand over fist. When I asked the manager for the address of the Director of the facility so that I could write a letter of complaint, she came back with a telephone number. This is the kind of stupidity I am talking about. They all carry around walky-talkies but no actual communication is happening. This is problem with Union-Automatons: None of these people could hack it in the private sector because they are not trained to care about the client experience.

The weirdest thing about Local 79, known as “Toronto’s Inside Workers”, is that the sense of entitlement is somehow linked to their moral high ground. You can see it in the underlying messages of the commercials they can afford to broadcast on TV. This is not a cheap endeavor which just proves how rich they are. The commercials ask for Toronto’s help in fighting the government who wants to legislate them back to work. They claim this is a “right” to negotiate a fair union deal for all union workers. It is if we are talking about a fair transparent system that measures success and has strategies for those who are not succeeding, then yes, any fool would agree with you. The only problem is that the future is now. Like the vast empty pools that sit perfectly unused throughout Toronto, a lot of human capital is sitting unused and costing Toronto in forward progress, more than money. Local 79 is acting like the Auto Workers and a lot of how unions “negotiate” today results in gridlock and disunity and ultimately disparity between those at the bottom (like I was) and management at the top. Remember we are talking about a rich suburb of a rich city in a rich country in a rich part of the world. We are talking about people who are already at the top of the food chain. This is hardly a scene out of “The Grapes of Wrath”, and Local 79 looks stupid begging us for help when it can help itself.

Everything changes, even Popes. Like the new Pope, we need a union model for a Digital Age. We need to set the tone for how these jobs should be awarded and maintained for the future. Obviously we should support the Local 79 but I would argue “not in its current format”. In short, these good union jobs are being abused by bad union workers. This is a known quantity when it comes to unions, so I ask what is their process to combat that? Outline your strategy for fixing what is wrong rather than outlining how much of a victim you are and I will be very eager to endorse it. Continue to eat a sandwich while people watch and I will continue to be embarrassed that Local 79 is a part of Toronto's identity.